I entered the Rickshaw Theatre on Friday, October 2 with a slight misgiving that my experience of seeing a legendary and influential band would fall short of my expectations. I sat at the back of the room under a vine of pale gold lights, listening to the garage rock lilting from the speakers and, looking at the near empty room, wondered if anyone else had the same concerns. The theatre was pretty empty and still, with the only movement being the fierce and enthusiastic air drumming of the man behind the bar to the left of the stage.
Small clusters of people soon made their way in as The Flintettes started their set before a sparse crowd with gaps that slowly filled in as the three-piece Vancouver band’s pop began to throw punches. Their sound was a clean, tight, joyful clout to the head as bassist Marissa Johnson and drummer CC Rose generated a tidy rumbling beneath the lightheartedness that rang out of Mike Flintoff’s Vox amplifier, calling to mind a young Elvis Costello – both in delivery and appearance.
The set was neat and solid, despite Flintoff having stated that he was completely thrown off by The Sonics as they casually walked through the crowd. Flintoff also paid his respects to The Evaporators, who could sadly not play the show. Nardwuar and his band received a vehement round of applause.
In place of The Evaporators, Thee Manipulators – a band that included ex-members of the New Town Animals and The Gung-Hos – stepped on stage and played through a set of garage rock grit while apologizing multiple times for being four years out of practice. They looked like they were still getting accustomed to playing together as a band after a long hiatus, but managed to move the crowd with their intensity. There were moments where effort fell flat, like when the guitar player brought out a bag of assorted plastic tambourines and shakers and threw them at the confused and non-participatory crowd.
The crowd swelled to the front of the room as The Sonics lay hold of the stage. The 1960s punk legends opened with “Cinderella” as the room dinned with voices of all ages. The band, which included three original members, continued with an array of their solid singles from the records: Boom and Here are The Sonics, such as “Have Love, Will Travel,” “He’s Waitin,’” “Psycho,” and “Boss Hoss” amid songs from their most recent album – recorded with Detroit producer Jim Diamond – that were as sonically muscular as their original proto-punk riffs from the ’60s. They sneakily introduced a song from their new album, but instead went into a gnarly rendition of the classic “Louie Louie.”
I witnessed the music inspire popular dance moves of the ’60’s such as “The Temptation Walk” and even “The Mashed Potato” for a moment. To fully inform me that The Sonics had not lost any of their appeal or apparent status as musical dreamboats, a bra was hurled on stage, which was then twirled on a drumstick. The owner of the bra was then told to report backstage after the show to receive a stern talking to by all band members.
The band played an encore of “Witch” and the atmosphere was something different than that of a usual punk show at the Rickshaw. The silver haired danced with the fresh faced, and the music once described as “Teenage zit rock angst” by Nardwuar the Human Serviette leveled the age bracket. Age didn’t really mean anything amongst the thrashing assembly. Everyone could appreciate and participate in the raw, cradling power of rock ‘n’ roll.