The Smugglers 15th Anniversary Party Weekend

 

*a note to the reader from the Smugglers: sorry this report took so long to post – we lost it for awhile in an email computer mess but here it is. Hope you dig.

 Labour Day Weekend, Aug 29, 30, 31 2003.

Hoo boy. 15 years. That of course means that our fifth anniversary, which felt like a remarkable milestone at the time, is now a decade behind us, way back at the little Hastings Community Centre. Our tenth anniversary was an over-the-top amazing time at the Starfish Room and does NOT seem like five years ago. How does time slip by so quickly? Carpe diem, folks. Seriously. Live for now. Or in our case, yesterday.

And so since this band has filled up fifteen fun years, and we are lovers of certain traditions and staging the “big event”, we couldn’t NOT throw a fifteenth anniversary party.

Although we did debate it. Is fifteen years a shit-hot achievement or just too damn long to be around?

Fuck it, let’s party.

For these types of bashes we always try to bring in a favourite band of ours –a band that means something special to us- and this anniversary was no exception: flying in from Toronto was the truly legendary, recently reformed two piece rock’n’roll attack known as the Leather Uppers. Classy Craig Daniels and Groovy Greg Tymoshenko.

 

Fri Aug 29, the “Welcoming Party”

Just as they did five years ago, Grant’s parents begrudgingly handed over the keys to their home (the site of the original Smugglers bedroom and basement practice spaces from about 88 – 93) to allow us to throw the pre-gig bash for all of our close friends, and the kind fans who flew in from out of town. Our entire Vancouver summer of 2003 was one long incredible stretch of sunshine, and the stunning weather continued on this gorgeous late summer weekend.

Sizzling on the BBQ were several delicious marinated salmon (with Smuggler Nick as chef) accented with corn on the cob, mashed yams, salads a plenty, a barrel full of ice-cold Coronas, and a table of red wine. Guests present were from as close as down the street to around the world, with New York, London, Berlin, Paris, Olympia, Montreal, Sacramento, San Francisco, and Toronto all represented.

Beez’ other band, his string quintet the Beauticians, set up on the lawn near the ocean and serenaded us all at sunset as we sipped wine and savoured scrumptious salmon. It was a beautiful moment, but looking around we had to ask ourselves…. is this what inevitably happens when a band turns fifteen? String quintets and red wine, with little kids and babies running around? I guess that’s the progression of life – I’m just happy that we’re celebrating it all together under the banner of music, friendship, and a dumb little band. (Stat: between the Smugglers and the Evaporators, there are now four kids, five wives, one YTV achievement award, and one Nardwuar).

After the sun set and Beez got his rocks off, the garden party wrapped up and the booze started flowing furiously. It was time for Grant’s brother-in-law to break out his seriously flawed “Singing Machine”, an early karaoke prototype that is essentially a portable box that plays eight tracks and CDs that one can sing along to. Problem is I don’t think anyone had used it since we dusted it off at our tenth anniversary and so the CDs and eight tracks were a mess and the lyrics books completely out of order.

Nonetheless, Grant got the party started with a perfect rendition of Buddy Holly’s “Rave On” (word-for-word without the lyrics, thank you very much) then Groovy Greg from the Uppers got up and violently ass-raped Chuck Berry’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Music”. Dave Carswell did a beautiful rendition of “D.I.V.O.R.C.E.” and then reprised his karaoke- medley staple, “Dave’s Favourite Reggae Moments” much to the delight and then chagrin of the crowd. Nardwuar and pal “Soft” Mike Ledwidge (from Zumpano; also plays keyboards on the new Smugglers record) did a totally bizarre and extremely loud duet of “Hello Dolly”. Classy Craig then butchered Kristofferson’s once-brilliant “Sunday Morning Coming Down” and had to be removed from the stage, and Nick attempted, and then seriously soiled, Bananarama's cover of "Venus"

The thing with karaoke however, is that it’s gotta keep moving. You gotta keep the songs flowing and the singing soaring. Any lapses and you’re looking at long gaps of “party-silence” as everyone waits for Dave to match lyrics with music. As I mentioned, the “Singing Machine” is not only seriously flawed, it also has the potential to kill an otherwise swinging party with that sheer downtime between songs.  I suddenly have a new found respect for the 350 pound she-male that hosts gay karaoke at the Dufferin every Monday night. Put it this way: after the “Singing Machine”’s squealing feedback alone had pretty much effectively sobered everybody up and drove them from the party, only Nick remained, sitting cross-legged in the corner, directly in front of the “Singing Machine”, eyes shut, rocking slowing back and forth like a kid in a horror movie, quietly singing a falsetto version of “For Your Eyes Only”… to himself.

 

Sat Aug 30, The Polynesian Room, Waldorf Hotel, Vancouver (w/ the Leather Uppers, Los Furios, and the Highballs)

 The night of the gig had arrived and everything was running smoothly. The Waldorf is Vancouver’s last and only bastion of “tiki” culture – and you’d never know it by looking at the drab outside of this non-descript hotel bar in East Vancouver. Inside however, an enchanted, somewhat musty world of bamboo, fish nets, coral and south seas carvings await, and it’s all original from the 40s and 50s, virtually untouched! Four full rooms of it!

The reason why the place is in such immaculate condition is basically for the fact that this is a family operation and when the room is open to the public (which is rare in of itself) the staff treat the customers like guests in their own living room. As soon as we arrived to load our gear in, the woman in charge, the owner’s daughter, an uptight little blonde, lay down the rules: no backstage change room, no access to anywhere but the main rooms, no private bathroom, no free drinks, no eating, no smoking, and no posters on the walls. I explained that a friend had prepared a large cake for us, and that we had hoped to serve pieces of it to the crowd, to which she begrudgingly agreed to help serve later on. I also told her that we had a box full of original, double, and duplicate copies of fifteen years of gig posters which I wanted to stick up and display inside, but she said ‘absolutely not’. We eventually agreed to the OUTside wall, at the front entrance, and so as people walked in they could view an assortment of our various gig posters from our very first gig at the Chicago Pizza Works right up to this one.

Before long all the preparations were made, the merch was set up, the bands had soundchecked, the room looked beautiful, the people began filling it up and we were ready to roll.

Up first was a band filled with old friends of ours (from the Hard Rock Miners / Royal Grand Prix / Show Business Giants etc) called the High Balls. They basically do this piss-take on mariachi / spaghetti western / Speedy Gonzales type rock, with the fake Mexican accents and sombreros and trumpets, tuxedo jackets and the whole deal. Even say they are from Tijuana. On he whole, very entertaining and light-hearted.

The next band however, is the real Latino deal. Los Furios are a six-piece high-energy socio-political ska-punk party band whose lead singer/trombonist Pedro is a recent El Salvadorian immigrant to Canada who had it ROUGH before making it to Canada. Needless to say, Pedro was MORBIDLY OFFENDED with the High Balls’ “dumb Mexican” routine and went so far as to lambaste the High Balls between songs, angrily dedicating the Furios’ tune “Gringo” directly to those fiesta-lovin’ cucaracha-kooks.

The other statement Los Furios made was to simply jam-pack the dance floor and get EVERYBODY moving. Soon the Polynesian Room was a mass of sweaty bodies, blaring brass and ska music.

Two other interesting points about Los Furios: 1) Pedro first heard of the Smugglers in El Salvador, when a friend gave him a mix tape with some of our songs on it when he was just a kid and 2) our dear old merch man and road manager DJ Ska-T is now the manager of Los Furios, one of the hottest new bands, if not thee hottest new band, in BC right now. Watch for Nardwuar to sink his claws into them real soon.

Los Furios tore the Waldorf apart so much, the Leather Uppers were looking at the packed dance floor wondering how they were supposed to follow it up. Classy Craig and Groovy Greg had nothing to fear of course. As soon as the two Toronto titans took to the foot-high stage, the crowd was theirs, as they powered out classic Uppers tunes like “Smokin’ Monkey” (which of course the Smugglers lovingly covered on “Growing Up Smuggler” – first song!), “Frustrated Pimp”, “1000 Lashes”, “Cut Off Vest”, “Don’t Sell Hot Dogs Tonight” and many others. Always the purveyors of high fashion, tonight the Uppers were adorned in matching one piece heavy duty polyester brown and orange pant suits with neckerchiefs that would make Mr. Furley jizz.

Leather Uppers.jpg (47514 bytes)Finally it was our turn, and none too soon as it was starting to get late. The venue was packed out and hot and we were starting to worry people might begin to lilt on this hot August night. As Joel Plaskett would say, everything worked out fine. We started our show with “The Get Up Syndrome”, a hot number from our upcoming album (which features a smoking Beez bass solo, always a crowd pleaser) and kept rolling from there. One little gag we did tonight was bring along a sack full of beach balls to throw into the crowd to beam around. It was Nick’s idea, but I had to go pick them up. When Nick saw what I bought… four children’s sized inflatable beach balls, he said “what the fuck is this? I wanted BIG BALLS, like FLAMING LIPS size!! This is pathetic!” Nonetheless they would have to do, so we tossed them out and sure enough, people had fun bouncing them around and spiking them to and fro, much like the water polo scene in “Meet The Parents”. Our dear friends from New York City, Frank and Heather Peavey-Leone, were right at the front of the stage as usual. Now, Frank is quite a tall, imposing muscular fellow, with a shaved head and a heart of gold. Unfortunately, the stage was rather LOW and some of the Smugglers are somewhat SHORT and Frank may have been slightly obstructing the view with his outrageous shoulders alone. And so of course, Frank’s shining, muscular dome was a target for many a beamed beach ball. Between songs, I made a point of saying something like “Hey! Stop throwing beach balls at Frank’s head! This guy is from New York City, THE BRONX, and you don’t want to fuck with him!” Of course, the next song starts up and Frank immediately gets viciously spiked in the back of the melon four times in a row. Frank is livid, but every time he turns around to catch the culprits, it’s a frothy sea of dancing bodies. Sorry Frank!!

And so the show powered on and we played an assortment of songs new and old, requests, and a good chunk from the upcoming record. Groovy Greg from the Leather Uppers was our honourary dance contest judge, and so after everyone shook it to “Coffee Tea Or Me?”, a lovely girl named Nina from Berlin won the specially engraved 15th anniversary trophy.

A little later on in a break between songs, the lights dimmed and Frank Rumbletone, the promoter and MC of the show, gingerly pranced down the side stairs and onto the stage holding a giant cake filled with candles that said “Happy Anniversary Smugglers”. How sweet. We blew out the candles and Frank took the cake to the back counter to slice and serve. Just as he departed some very kind fans approached the stage and handed us a gift: a little black rubber boot with a white “S” on one side and the message “We Love You Smugglers Happy 15th” on the other. We really appreciated that!

Back at our tenth anniversary, we gave away a dream date (the results of which can be reviewed on this web site). A nice young lady from North Vancouver won, and the prize entailed all five Smugglers picking her up at her house, taking her to dinner, then a movie (“A Simple Plan”), followed by bowling and boozing. Then we all fucked her. Just kidding. Only Bryce fucked her. Just kidding again. Only Ska-T fucked her. I’m NOT kidding. Anyhow, we thought we’d do the same thing tonight and so we gave away a date with the promise that the winner would get to go out with all of us at once, where “Beez will bore you, Nick will whore you, and Dave will ignore you… and Grant and Graham will act like perfect gentlemen”. A lovely foxy young lady named Krista won it, but, uh… she has yet to collect on her prize for some reason.

After everything was wrapped up and the show was completed, the crowd staggered out and the members of all four bands and various friends all relaxed around the Polynesian Room to drink a few beers. We had a couple of mini-kegs going, but the place seemed to have run out of clean glasses so we were pouring beer and guzzling from anything we could find – pots and pans, soup bowls, coffee pots, all to the unbridled rage of the club manager who flipped out on Nick when she found him nestled in the back bar chugging beer from the Waldorf tip jar. He was shittin’ nickels for a week!

As we were loading out, the uptight female manager continued to ride our ass about various things, including all the posters we had stuck on the outside wall.

“I want every single one of those horrible posters removed, including the tape!”

Whatever.

And just as we were all about to pull out of the parking lot, she came running out of the club and latched on to my arm like a bird of prey.

“GET BACK INSIDE MY CLUB RIGHT NOW”.

“What the hell is your problem now?”

“THE REMAINDER OF THE HUGE CAKE YOU SERVED WAS SHOVED OFF THE COUNTER BY ONE OF YOUR DRUNKEN IDIOT FANS. IT FLIPPED UPSIDE DOWN ONTO OUR CARPET AND IS NOW GROUND INTO IT THROUGHOUT OUR CLUB”.

“Well, I hope you and your cleaning staff have a great, great time cleaning it all up”. I mean, what the fuck does the venue rental fee pay for at this place anyway? If you spill a glass of wine in a club, are you expected to clean it up? We just packed her bar and sold a zillion over-priced exotic drinks for her and she can’t roll with a little wear and tear? Fuck that!

I shook her pathetic kung-fu grip and we all left.

Our promoter Frank was not so defiant. The last sight of the night was poor Frank Rumbletone, on all fours with a bucket and a sponge, desperately scrubbing “Happy Anniversary Smugglers” cake out of the carpet of the Waldorf Polynesian Room at 4:00AM.

 

Sun Aug 31, Tomahawk BBQ Brunch, North Vancouver

As is traditional with these anniversary things, we all converged onto the Tomahawk for brunch – the North Shore landmark made (in)famous by playing backdrop to many of Nardwuar’s celebrity interviews. It’s also the last place to employed Bryan Adams in a day job – as dishwasher – before he struck it big in rock n roll.

On this glorious late summer morning it was the Smugglers turn to return for some celebratory chunder, along with a groggy gaggle of fans, family and friends.

Nardwuar is really the Tomahawk Ambassador, having eaten at the ‘Hawk almost every Saturday since early childhood. He discovered condoms here, he has the menu memorized, the owners love him, he basically gets the run of the place, so that’s why we call this part of the weekend the “Nardwuar hosted brunch”.

But on this important morning, the Nard was LATE. Very fucking late! So late was Nardwuar that eager American fan Sacramento Sandra was the first person there and, seeing it was such a lovely day, made an executive decision on outside seating – one long table, enough to seat the thirty or so expected participants. Most of the Smugglers arrived next, then some of the Evaporators, then the Leather Uppers, then some fans from the States, then some Vancouver friends, and FINALLY Nardwuar rolled in his flashy convertible Fiat Spider, finding everyone already seated comfortably outside.

He freaked out.

“NOOOOOOOOOO! What are you DOING? WHY are you sitting outside? What the FUCK is this? When you eat at the ‘Hawk, you sit INSIDE!! Did Fugazi, Billy Childish, Rod Stewart, Southern Culture On The Skids, or the Gruesomes eat OUTSIDE??? NO!!!! Did the Untamed Youth, Sloan, NOFX, the Hi-Fives, Girl Trouble, Furnaceface, the Rolling Stones or Rancid eat outside??? NOOOOO!!! They ate INSIDE!! Everyone has to GET UP and move inside!! NOW, MOTHERFUCKERS!! Pick up those milkshakes and super-sized Cokes and get inside! I DEMAND to know who chose to sit outside!!”

When it was pointed out that Sacramento Sandra chose the outdoor seating, Nardwuar lessened his attack a bit, then stormed inside to arrange new tables but as he made his way inside he found it completely packed out with the Sunday brunch crowd, and not even his formidable influence could do anything about it. On this day anyway, the party would have to proceed outside.

And so Nardwuar began his frothing Tomahawk Speech, stalking up and down the length of the table like a mad trapper, making it clear that there were only two items on the menu he wanted people to eat – both legendary – the Skookumchief Hamburger, a massive burger that combines all three meals in one, and the almost inedible Mixed Grill breakfast, a massive fried feast of breakfast meats, served on a 16” round platter.

When all was said and done, out of the 35 people in attendance 10 Skookumchiefs were ordered. Nardwuar announced that whoever finished their Skookumchief first would win the new Lookout DVD – and for those keeping score, it was a greasy, bloated tie between DJ Ska-T and Groovy Greg from the Leather Uppers.

And so once the plates were licked and the milkshakes slurped and the bills paid and the group photo shot, it was time for everyone present (from Olympia, Nanaimo, Montreal, New York, Toronto, Paris, California, Detroit, Berlin and Vancouver) to say goodbye. The Leather Uppers headed for the airport, others went to the border, some to the beach and others back to bed.

 The Smugglers wish to thank everyone who took part in this weekend – it was an amazing, gratifying, extremely fun time for all five of us. For those of you who took part, we hope it was the same for you too. For those of you who didn’t, we hope you’re jealous, and maybe we’ll see you at uh… the twentieth anniversary?? Oh man….

 

See you in the front row,

Love,

Your Smugglers