By Patrick "The Shanker" Shanks
Ottawa's Surf and Turf Fest celebrates cool garage, punk, surf and instrumental rock music from all over. To celebrate this years fest we're going to talk about a very small handful of Canada's coolest punk, garage and/or instro acts. Dig in.
At the top of the Canadian neo-garage heap sit The Gruesomes, hands down the kings of trashy 60s punk. Fuelled by junk food, bad TV and even worse old records Montréal's "Goresome Foursome" blazed a trail from coast to coast during the 80s and 90s, blasting out wailing 60s sounding punk, R&B, surf and jangly pop sounds. University radio, catchy tunes, heavy video play on MuchMusic and relentless touring made them a cult favourite and a highly influential band (especially among me and my high school buddies). They wrote fun songs that are totally 'twistable' and paid tribute to their heroes by always including a few classic garage nuggets on each of their excellent LPs.
These West Vancouverites started out playing Cramps & Sonics covers while still in high school in the 80s, setting up teen garage punk shows, booking their fave bands and releasing records on their very own Nardwuar Records label. Fronted by frenetic singer, organ player, cub reporter and all around pop culture junkie Nardwuar the Human Serviette, The Evaporators have been releasing killer garage punk records for over 3 decades now, even managing a release on famed punk label Alternative Tentacles. Their songs are cool, crazed and catchy as hell. Try not to sing along! Easily Canada's most underrated band.
Starting out playing the same West Van teen dances as their pals The Evaporators, The Smugglers have gained international acclaim releasing cool records and touring all over the world. Their raving harmonica driven R&B garage approach evolved into scrappy guitar punk/powerpop… a nice fit with their eventual Lookout Records label mates. Great recordings & legendary live shows made them a fan fave. These guys are definitely the kings of the party! A reunion show is in the works for early 2017 on the west coast, & a book by frontman Grant Lawrence, documenting the bands infamous touring history, is currently in the works. Canada's ambassadors for good time music!
Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet
Neither surf nor garage, Toronto's Shadowy Men played very good, very clever instrumental rock. They gained national attention via their amazing musicianship, catchy melodic tunes, fun videos on MuchMusic and their work providing music on the Kids in The Hall TV show. They are back on the road these days with Dallas Good of The Sadies filling in for the late great Reid Diamond on bass guitar. They also know a guy named Larry.
The Leather Uppers
We are thrilled that legendary punk duo The Leather Uppers are headlining the Saturday "Turf" night of Surf & Turf Fest. Classy Craig and Groovy Greg came out of Toronto's punk scene in the early 90s. As a guitar & drums duo they both write and sing their fun songs and switch instruments every show. For two well dressed dudes the Uppers sound is huge! Hard to describe it so you've got to come check them out. You wish your band was as cool as these guys!
Leather Uppers Fun Facts:
They were the first Canadian band signed to Sympathy For The Record Industry. Andrew WK and The Smugglers have recorded their songs. Danko Jones sings their praises every chance he gets. San Francisco band Men's Club scored a record deal with Edwin Collins' label based on a song called Leather Uppers, written about the band! Their most recent LP is on famed Memphis label Goner Records. They have many songs about Wizards, making them an immediate House of Targ favourite! Designer jeans = Sexy Time!
See you at SURF & TURF 2016 - FRI NOV 11 and SAT NOV 12 at House of TARG
This article appeared in Issue #32 of TARG Zine available throughout November at House of TARG
ABOUT SURF & TURF 2016
Surf & Turf: Ottawa's Surf, Instro and Garage Rock Festival returns to the House of TARG for its 2016 edition. New bands, same good times!
The Tsunamibots + The Randy Shenanigans + The Obsidians + The Leather Uppers + Mississippi Grover + Shanker & The Frontenacs