I can’t be the only one who enjoys watching bands at smaller and more intimate venues. Dickens in Calgary is one of THE BEST places to host some ragers. This last year has seen some fantastic acts come through. This was such a fun night with Strung Out, The Bombpops, and local supporters Mandible Klaw.
At first glance, the venue doesn’t look like much. Tucked underground, older pool tables and dim lighting would have you initially believe that it’s just another downtown watering hole for the unsuspecting divorcee. But once people start pouring in, the ambient music starts playing, and you experience the service, Dickens offers more than meets the eye. The room will fit you near 300 people and on this night it was packed heavy. Highly recommended before any dance floor shenanigans is a tasty cold brew, and some delightful chicken quesadilla. I needed my fuel before shooting the show, what can I say? The stage faces a wide open floor that brings you right up to the front with the acts. Audience interaction with the acts is easy, and the security guys are pretty damn cool which is not always the case with smaller venues. Maybe that’s just in my own experience, but I feel it has to be said that the staff at Dickens is top drawer. (I;m looking at you two ‘Awesome Sue’ and ‘Mr. Chris Hewitt’).
First up to play was Mandible Klaw. Now, I have given some thought to how not to compare Mandible Klaw to bands like PEARS, but I’ll allow it. And perhaps it’s really only the fact that the lead singer throws himself into overdrive with the theatrics on stage (and off when he decides to go airborne) that reminds me of that. Drawing influence from 80s hardcore bands yet presenting themselves completely of their own merit, Mandible Klaw is the way to open a show like this. These guys are always a great time to catch live. I could have done without the auto-asphyxiation bit near the end of the set when the singer jumped into the crowd. But hey, different strokes amiright?
I have been curious about Counterpunch for some time since I had never seen them live. First of all, if you ever get a chance to meet them, do so. They are some of the most welcoming and gracious fellas out there. I don’t entirely know why, and maybe it’s just me, but when I meet somebody from a band I am there to support and they don’t hold themselves above you in anyway, it somehow makes the music that much better. Counterpunch isn’t just another run of the mill act in the genre, and they are clearly no stranger to live performance. Stage presence from these boys was strong and they are a ton of fun to watch while they do their thing. I can’t say for sure, but I think some of that also comes from the beards in this band. It may be the secret to their powers, just sayin’. But in all seriousness, Counterpunch is gonna be on rotation for a long time in my playlist. Harmonious and fast punk rock done right in my opinion.
Pop-punk has seen its share of bands come and go over the years.But that just won’t be the case with SoCal delights The Bombpops. My dudes, these ladies (and gents of course) know how to party with the crowd. The vocal harmonies from Poli and Jen work so well together with the gritty ‘chug chug’ of the guitars. Couple that with a commanding stage presence, Jen’s ‘kiss-a-stranger-from-the-crowd’ and some meathead getting shut down for shouting “suck my dick” (yeah, that was a thing) and it was a time to be had. The Bombpops are a welcome addition to the Fat Wreck family and are such a great live act. Pop-punk isn’t a largely complicated formula, but that doesn’t mean much when you kick this much ass onstage.
If you have been listening to punk rock for any length of time since the 90s, it would be hard to say that you’ve never heard of punk rock veterans Strung Out. It was such a delight to see these boys run through my favorite S.O. wreck-chord (see what I did there? It’s probably lame but I don’t care) and open up the set to more of their tunes. As soon the opening guitar chords to “Too Close To See” rang out, the crowd exploded into a frenzy of elbows-first in the pit, and fists in the air. Crowd interaction was on point as Jason Cruz leaned into the crowd to sing along with ecstatic fans, backed by the shredding licks from Jake Kiley and Rob Ramos. There was just no break with these guys. Start to finish, Strung Out was on. After being on the road for almost 30 years, S.O there is just no sign of them slowing down.
Check out the below photos from the show!