Conventional thinking may lead you to believe metalheads are an insular bunch: black clothing only, nothing under 180 beats per minute and certainly no musical interests outside of the genre.
A New Year’s Eve gig at the Rickshaw should dispel at least some of those notions.
Some of the city’s more well-known punk, hardcore and metal musicians will get together to honour the legacy of Gord Downie, and by extension, the Tragically Hip. Downie died in October from an aggressive form of brain cancer.
The all-star cast includes three bands consisting of members from Bison, S.T.R.E.E.T.S, Black Mountain, Needles/Pins, Pride Tiger, Seven Nines and Tens and Blackout Lights.
Each band will perform tunes spanning the Hip’s entire catalogue and all proceeds are going to the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund. The show is being dubbed as “Metropolis Noir,” a nod to the Hip track “Greasy Jungle.”
“I know lots of metalheads who are fans,” said show co-organizer Dave Cotton. “The fact that they’re such a revered band makes it that much easier to dive in regardless of what genre of music you listen to.”
Cotton’s main gig is with the post-hardcore outfit Seven Nines and Tens, and his crew will perform alongside fellow hardcore mates, the Waning Light. Members of the two bands took part in similar fundraiser in September 2016, and it was after seeing video of their performance and the crowd reception after the fact they opted to do it again.
“With my band we are like this wall of sound, where with the Hip it’s three or four chord rock and roll that’s done impeccably well,” Cotton said.
At 38, Cotton’s entry point to the Hip came close to three decades ago. He heard “Little Bones” on a Hockey Night in Canada broadcast, and saw Gord and company live for the first time at Maple Leaf Gardens on the Trouble at the Henhouse Tour.
Save for some back bacon and a beaver, it doesn’t get much more Canadian than that.
“I couldn’t really wrap my head around the fact that this music was being made in my home country given the fact that I was raised around Bryan Adams, Glass Tiger and Bootsauce,” he said. “I’m sure they’re all lovely humans but their music really doesn’t want to make me go out and wave the Canadian flag in honour of their craftsmanship.”
A self-described “aging punk rocker,” Bison’s James Farwell has been a member of Camp Hip since day one. He cut class from the University of Manitoba in 1990 to take in a pair of matinee sets the band played on campus and was at one of their farewell gigs last summer.
“Those concerts are full of backwards baseball cap wearing, Molson Canadian drinking dudes that I probably wouldn’t go out for a beer with,” he said. “Regardless, when we’re watching that band together, it affects us all in the same way. That’s real music — it’s unpolarizing, it brings us together. I’ve never seen something like that before.”
Farwell has toured the U.S. several times over the last 25 years. Mentioning the Hip elicits crickets in most locales south of the 49th parallel, outside of select northern states. Far from pissing him off, that disconnect is almost empowering. It gives any working band the confidence to know that honing in on a Canadian fanbase is doable rather than a Debbie Downer.
“I’ve had my own relationship with taking my music to America… and it’s just not worked,” Farwell said. “An American audience does not dictate what’s good music, nor does it dictate if you’re excelling at your craft. Because they’ve concentrated on Canada as their home, I’m happy enough to do the same. They’ve been very inspiring to me that way.”
Metropolis Noir kicks off at 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. Tickets are $25 at the door, or $17 in advance at Red Cat, Zulu, Neptoon and Highlife Records. Online tickets are available via Ticketfly.