Stylus vs. NXNE, Day 2 – Patrick Sees Thee Oh Sees

By Patrick Michalishyn

I got a Facebook message back from Ralph Alfonso of Bongo Beat that he would be in town for the world premiere of Circa ’77: The Diodes a half-hour doc about the beginnings of the Diodes, as well as their end and the renewed interest and resurgence of this fantastic Toronto punk band. Lots of archival footage of them performing at the Crash & Burn Club (Canada’s first punk venue), interviews from their heyday, and lots of history. This all leads up to a reunion at NXNE a few years ago.

The movie kind of felt like an episode of really great TV, in the way that it packed in so much and covered so much ground in its short (27-minute) runtime. Hopefully it’ll come out with the Action/Reaction reissue (coming soon—hopefully—on Bongo Beat). So not only did I meet Ralph, who I’d been bugging about music stuff since I was 15, but three quarters of the Diodes were there for a Q&A.
Later that night was the Kelp Records Showcase at Clinton’s Bar. Local non-Kelpers Jennifer LFO played opened the show at 8 p.m.—playing to me, the bartender, the NXNE volunteer, and eventually Toronto Liam that I met at Jersey Boys a few nights before. It was a crying shame more people didn’t see them, but they played tight pop-rock with Acid Mothers guitar freakouts and Liz Phair-like duo-femme vocals. Liam an I went hoarse and had raw hands, giving them the volume-recognition they deserved. They thanked me by giving me their drink tickets. Unneccesary, but appreciated!

Near the end of that set, all of the Ottawans finally showed up: Andrew Swan, Jim Bryson, Mr. Kelp Records himself Jon Bartlett, Camp Radio and the man I’ve been listening to since I added “teen” to my age, Chris Page. You know when you meet someone who makes you love music so much that you pick up an instrument and learn to play their stuff? That’s who Chris Page is to me. He went up as soon as he walked through the door and played a half-hour solo set, sprinkled with songs from his four albums, plus a bunch of rarities found on the annual Kelp comps. I grinned like an idiot through the whole set, sang along, called out requests (and got a little tease of a Trapped song).

Then it was time for Camp Radio to take stage. Special surprise, they beefed up the power trio with two more guitarists (Jim Bryson and another guy I talked to for 20 minutes but forgot his name). It was gonna kill. I bought their album as soon as I heard it and couldn’t get enough. Now here, they kicked out more new songs from the forthcoming album than the old ones I’ve memorized and I couldn’t be more excited. They’re like a mix of the Nils and Superchunk, boundless energy, and a very beardy drummer. After they finished, it was hugs all around, and I kinda felt like the cousin who doesn’t get out to visit. I hope I get to see these guys again soon.
With two bands off my bucket list of “Bands to see before I die,” I walked over to the Great Hall to catch Thee Oh Sees. Brigid is more gorgeous than her pictures, Petey’s got that punk/intellect thing down, and the-man-that-never-rests John Dwyer, well he’s one of the coolest cats I’ve ever met. If you’ve never heard of the Oh Sees, here’s a quick overview. They’re from San Fran, their “breakthrough” album was called The Master’s Bedroom Is Worth Spending a Night In, and it’s a hell of a lot more frenetic than EVERYTHING that came before. Reverby surfy garagy punkrock’n’roll. They have records coming out every other month and everything sounds wonderful and unique.

Thee Oh Sees

I was right at the front of the stage, singing/sweating/dancing. They played a few songs from Master’s, “Block Oof Ice” getting the largest response. “Tidal Wave,” from the 7″ of the same name, got peoplethrashing and yelping. They even played the epic 15-minuter mind-melter “Warm Slime.” Some dude threw about 20 drinks on Dwyer and drummer Mike, and they got him back with one right in the face. The whole concert was absolutely insane. The only disappointment was that they played on the stage. Usually Thee Oh Sees set up in the middle of the floor, or in the bar, or in the lobby, or in the bathroom, and then just let’r rip, fans circling them and singing and playing their instruments. The stage show was still fantastic though, and after the show I got to hang out with them for about 45 minutes. I’m like a kid at Disneyworld right now, nothing’s gonna bring me down. If they ever come through Winnipeg, or if you ever have a chance to see Thee Oh Sees, never EVER pass it up. I’m gonna try and get some sleep now.