by Nikki Phipps (Host of RCMP, Thursdays 4-5pm)
Witness today’s youth and young college-going adults, tentatively raising a shaking middle finger to the “man,” not sure if they actually mean it, but insisting they mean something, anything at all.
Through the resurgence of Doc Martens, chokers, and their parents’ flannel, or perhaps the flannel they bought from places like Ardene, Le Chateau, and the Bay, (a throwback to Vogue capitalizing on grunge… so nothing’s really changed?), it’s a resurgence of cool. Girls in baggy shirts and crop tops, high waisted jeans; boys in baggy, though buttoned-up jeans and t-shirts with wallet chains. Lip liner is back, and so, potentially, is the music that wore it. With bands like Frigs, Dilly Dally and even home grown efforts like the budding talent of The Sex Geckos working the scene, it seems like rock is once again fashionable. If the youth were really into it, really wanting to experience the same fever and rush of let loose hardcore, then they should have been at Amigos on Saturday night for part of this year’s Nightshirt four-day music festival, where they would have seen a band that could give them an experience they’ve only seen on their parent’s posters. The band is Vancouver's NEEDS, and if you'll pardon the pun, they are sorely needed.
I jumped at the opportunity to see this band as I had seen them twice before, both shows incredibly memorable. My first experience seeing them only lasted a short 10 minutes on stage before their lead singer was physically dragged out of the venue, still singing, the band still playing. This set the tone for the rest of the night and it was a night on fire, something I’d talk about for years later (I'm doing it now!). The second show, a return to the same festival, saw them banned for their antics. I was excited and in disbelief to hear NEEDs would be coming to Saskatoon, and they didn’t disappoint, giving the unfortunately small crowd at Amigos a rock show to remember.
NEEDS are currently doing a short seven show tour and had the larger intention of playing in Winnipeg but added Saskatoon as a “what the heck/why not?” stop, first billed on Sunday then changing the date once made aware of the festival. The pace and frequency of their touring, I found out, is largely dependent on their work schedules, something anyone in the working class can appreciate. When I asked frontman Sean Orr if living in Vancouver’s economic situation helped or hindered the music scene he jumped to defend it, saying it was a great scene but it is difficult to be creative when you’re working 2-3 jobs just to live. He suggested being unemployed was largely more fruitful for creativity.
The Amigos crowd that night was made up of half onlookers and half bands playing that night. Typical sway and watch behaviour, with some toe tapping and head nodding. NEEDs offstage is much like the crowd, mild mannered and likeable. They’re chatty, unassuming, and friendly. On stage, however, they morph into monsters.
Outrageous doesn’t even begin to describe the show I saw Saturday night. High-voltage. Incensed. Enough electricity to light the room and make your blood bubble. Grindcore. Punk. Hardcore. Contagious. A long-winded sound check led to a bit of confusion of when the band would start, the vocalist checking last, sputtering low hum and then high pitched shrieks. Finally, guitars and drums struck up and vocalist Sean Orr, an unassuming presence cloaked in a canvas windbreaker and worn out ball cap, like he just came in off the street, started to prowl the floor. He was circling and winding almost like a breakdance hype-up. The crowd made room and got closer, intrigued. Once the downbeat was struck, Sean went into full force, leaping onto the stage like a wild animal. The music was thick, cutting, dredging, and relentless. Sean crouched then openrf his chest, arms raising like a winged thing, puffing and posturing until he reached the crowd, leaned in and let loose. The mouths of babes were wide open and they were wide eyed, hooked; he had ‘em. Forty-five minutes of antics. Forty-five minutes of jam packed noise. Forty-five minutes of the small crowd at Amigos loosening up a bit, but not sure how to engage. It appeared that Sean knew exactly what he wanted from the crowd and if he wasn’t going to get it from them, he’d do it himself while the band sweat their asses off pushing and grinding the music behind him. Leaping from the stage to a cowering audience, rolling on the floor, banging into tables, chairs, people, disrobing to various degrees, foaming at the mouth, spitting up and onto his shirt, nearly erotic movements of hedonistic exhibition which were gross and provoking enough to put everyone on edge without revealing too much. It was breathless and intoxicating.
Saskatoon, if you’re looking for an experience, if you’re looking for rock and roll, see this band. NEEDS is what we need, right now, regardless of what’s fashionable.