Well, it’s the second intermission in the Detroit / Edmonton game (Edmonton up 3-2 after two surprising goals in the last 5 minutes), and I lay my lesson plan aside to talk about my Friday night. Peach’s last day of practicum was on Friday, and she was very excited and happy to be done. If it was any other night, I would have been there to take her somewhere nice to eat and given her congratulatory presents, but this Friday, I had to wait. This Friday was part of the Sidetrack Café’s grand re-opening weekend, with four shows in four days, all with no cover charge. Thursday night my friends the Fabulous BeeFeeders kicked off the weekend, and the only thing that kept me away from that show was an attack of stomach cramps (if any of y’all still read this, I hear from all accounts it was a good show, and I’ll be at the next Edmonton show). But Friday night was the NHL Kickoff Party, with crazy Happy Hour specials, the first Oilers playoff game, and one of my favourite bands taking the stage: The Hanson Brothers.
(For those who don’t know: The Hanson Brothers are a side project of Victoria punk legends NoMeansNo. Rob and John Wright of NMN really loved the Ramones, and decided that they wanted to do a Canadian version in tribute – based off the lovable goombahs from Slap Shot. The Ramones played 3-chord songs about sniffing glue, drugs, and girls; The Hanson Brothers play 3-chord songs about playing hockey, beer, and girls. You can’t get much better than that, my friends.)
The show was delayed about 30 minutes because the game went into double overtime: Detroit ended up beating us, which gave the crowd a melancholy air. I’m not trying to bad-mouth the venue, as the old ‘Track was one of the best places to catch live music in town, but the new location didn’t live up to my (admittedly high) standards. The place looked much smaller, with only 1 bar and a slightly cramped dinner area. I took a high table and some stools beside the bar with a few of my friends, and we didn’t get service for over forty minutes. Other people all around us were drinking and eating, but we didn’t even get so much as a nod. We finally asked for some beer and menus, but the service was shoddy all night: the server came back to see us only two times, one of my friends got the wrong order, and the waitress asked us to clear up the bill because she was getting off shift soon – and then didn’t leave for another 2.5 hours. I’m not going to judge the place too harshly, because the grand re-opening seemed a little rushed and it was probably busier than they’d expected because of the game, but still: not a great first impression.
The two opening bands were okay. Nothing special, but they were average to better-than-average for most of the night. Tommy Holliston (a.k.a. Tommy Hanson) set up the merch stand on the pool table, so I bought the last Hansons record (My Game) and chatted with him for a bit. He said he hoped I would enjoy the show, and I told him “Oh, I’d better!”, which may have struck him as a little odd, but he smiled and nodded anyhow.
The Hansons took the stage and knocked every single song out of the park. (Well, that’s not a very appropriate metaphor. I’ll start again.) Every Hanson Bros. song was a screaming one-timer that always made it through the short side. (That’s not a very good metaphor, but it’s more apt.) The band got up to some crazy antics, including throwing a cabbage with a sparkler jammed in the top into a plastic bag about 20 feet away, the ref (yes, they have a ref on the sidelines) putting an audience member into the broom closet on a penalty, and Johnny drinking three beers in about five minutes. Rowdy, rough, and loud punk music. It even took my mind off the five underage drunk girls, one of whom thought that it would be a good idea to run into the pit and start pushing people. (Yeah, she learned her lesson the hard way.) I wish I had as much energy as those guys have when I’m pushing fifty.
Just before the end of the show, Johnny announced that it was Tommy’s birthday, so the entire crowd sang him “Happy Birthday”, and at the very end, Tommy stood onstage and dropped his Hansons persona. He was just this happy, kind of shy guy who stood onstage and thanked the audience for making his birthday really special. As he left, he shook the hand of every single person standing in the front row, and we each wished him happy birthday again, this time individually. He left with the biggest grin on his face.
The Hanson Brothers were the first band I really remember seeing live (my brother says we saw U2 before we saw them, but I think it was the other way around). If you counted NMN and The Hansons together, they’re the band I’ve seen live more times than any other (individually they’re #2 and #4 respectively). And no matter how many times I see them, I never get disappointed or bored. Nice show, boys. Maybe I’ll be able to get more people out next time.
(Edited for hyperlink addition and to verify the final score: Edmonton wins 4-2 after an empty-net goal with less than 30 seconds to go. Hooray for surprising wins!)