Down two flights of stairs in a non-descript building standing alone amongst empty lots in downtown Hamilton is The Underground. With it's steel walls and red-chintz curtains, it's the venue of choice for many bands as they make their way into, or out of, Canada. Quite startling in it's size (it claims capacity at 300) the stage sits just beyond the main entrance, open like a red wound flounced by seating rails and house speakers.
And this past Saturday night, trounced by psycho-debutantes, bucolic pixies and Mexican Wrestlers.
Battlestar, a five-piece band featuring the Day-glo Abortions Gymbo on bass, put on a high-calibre, engaging performance. It didn't hurt that their lead vocalist has the voice of a cannon and the moves of Twyla Tharp. This is meant as a compliment. Not merely content to warm the stage in one place, this modern version of an 80's Blitz Girl played stilted movement and confident posturing into a intriguing visual display while aurally evoking a youthful Hope Nicholls (Silverfish, Sugarsmack) with her gusty vocal power. A deft mash of melodic punk, searing Grrrl sensibility with a hint of ska and ironic thoughtfulness - "Would You Cry?" A sensitive, acapella closer that saw gentle inquisitiveness bashed apart by scornful derision - Battlestar thoroughly owned their time slot at the Underground had both the songs and the ingenuity to keep things interesting for the whole duration of their set.
In what was a back-to-back showdown of frontwoman, Battlestar's affability was crushed by Pantychrist's onslaught of hard-driven angry punk. Lead-screamer, Dan Yell, was a blustering fury tearing everyone and everything in her real or imagined way a new asshole. While being very dramatic convulsing on stage or heaving the microphone against her body, her theatrics leaned more towards therapeutic than entertaining. It will be interesting to see how Dan Yell matures as a singer - the current chip on her shoulder does more to weigh her down than it does to empower her - as otherwise she is quite a interesting figure when combined with the honest bone-crushing of drummer Patty. Until then, don't fuck with the Pantychirst.
You may be wondering what playoff hockey has to do with music. Lots. It totally batters attendance everywhere. Even when the Tijuana Bibles are giving the best performance of their goddamned lives.
The Bibles invaded The Underground for one reason and one reason only, to bring their custom made, limo riding, folding chair smashing rocka-surfabilly to Hamilton. That, and to support their recently released third album Fists of Fury. Whichever comes first.
Obviously noticeable from the get go, was The Crippler's eccentric performance, which in previous gigs has been muted. Bruising his man-fur chest on the wooden planks of The Underground's dance floor, The Crippler slid out from stage right, and grappled his way to the stage. The antics continued through the set, which included a heavy dose of the new album, plus inclusions from Custom Made and Apartment Wrestling.
Also, different this time out is the addition of a second luchador de la mujer to the Bibles group of paisans. La Chupacabra, in full batwear, doubled up the skillful horn section on trumpet and even took the lead if not on vocals, then on maracas. Downplayed this show was skins-man Super Destroyer's schticky banter in favour of The Crippler's Mexican ju-jitsu and free-form trubabdorian instrumental salutes like "Operation Hot Pants".
A good line-up of gig-ready bands, The Tijuana Bibles capped off a loud night of loud music at The Underground. Looks like it's time to grab the passports and follow the Bibles south of the border for the long haul. ¿Donde esta los burritos y tequila?