Okay okay, I know, this show was a month ago and I’m super behind on photos. Maybe I just couldn’t handle the brilliance of this gig. Maybe I just wasn’t ready for the head-exploding prospect of revisiting this show, a show I never thought I would get to see, after so many years of clasping this band in a warm, aural hug, making do with the various (indeed also generally great) new/side/alternate projects. Oh sure, I got close a couple times… indeed, one of the first bands I ever photographed at the long-gone Starfish Room back in 1999 was the lovely Blinker the Star – at the time, a Ken-Andrews-produced band that also happened to include Kellii Scott on drums. A few years later, I got to head to Seattle and check out Year of the Rabbit on tour, including (gasp) actually communicating with the band at an in-store record shop gig beforehand, and after the main show itself. That was exciting and mesmerizing and was, I thought, as good as it was going to get.
Over the years, I bonded with many musicians over a shared love of Failure. Despite a lot of my casual music-fan friends not having ever heard of the band, among the indie rock musicians I ran in the same circles with, they were a massive influence that everyone missed dearly. I remember the first time, at the Brickyard pub in Vancouver, that my old buddies in a band called Retrograde struck up with the opening riff of “Stuck On You” while I was at the back of the room chatting with another friend. My jaw hit the floor and I quickly excused myself to dash to the front of the room to take in what SURELY I thought would be the only way I would hear this song live. Retrograde was also the group with whom I journeyed to Seattle for the YotR shows a couple years later.
Then there was the time I was interviewing the band .moneen. and we had a co-flipout moment over them that went a little something like this:
Me: This is kind of an aside, ‘cause I don’t really have anything in particular to ask about it, but you’ve cited Failure as an influence, and I just think that’s really cool.
moneen: You know Failure??!
Me: You’d said Ken Andrews is one of the people you’d like to meet the most.
moneen: I almost did. He was in his tour bus at a roadside stop around Syracuse, and we were at the same one. Just this old busted up tour bus. And we were like, ‘Man, that’s gotta be a band. That’s a weird tour bus.’ And then we were inside and some of the roadie guys were getting food, and we started talking to them and they were like, ‘Yeah we’re with the band Year of the Rabbit.’ I was like, ‘What the hell, what are you talking about??’ I’m like, ‘Ken Andrews is in that bus right now? He’s in that bus? He’s in that bus. Oh my god, he’s in that bus!’ and then, uh, he was sleeping at the time so I didn’t get to meet him.
moneen: But they were all, even the band was like, ‘cause the tech guys went up and were like, ‘Hey there’s some guys that know you out here.’ And they were all so surprised, like, ‘Wow, someone actually knows our band?’ They were on the [A] Perfect Circle tour, and the funny thing is that, they were talking about how they were like the opening band and no one knew them, you know and whether people cared or not, you don’t know, it’s… you just gotta play for yourself pretty much in a situation like that. And we were on the Saves The Day/Taking Back Sunday tour at the time, so it was a lot the same, for us. It was like we had to play our friggin’ butts off every night. Because everyone that was there knew that Taking Back Sunday was playing after us. It’s like, ‘Who is this band in front of me right now? I wanna see Taking Back Sunday and Saves The Day.’ And uh, but it went over really well. I don’t know how it went for you. But for us it went over well. But yeah, I listened to [Failure album] Fantastic Planet the other day and I forgot how amazing that record is. (shouts into mic) How do you get that bass tone?!? We tried today and it didn’t work!!!
Anyhow… we all love Failure. So weren’t we all going ballistic when not only did it start to bleed out that they were making some new music together, but actually going on tour! And furthermore, playing a show in humble little Vancouver! Well, I was sure to be there, and lucked out hugely by being granted access to photograph the thing, so that is what I did. And it was SO INCREDIBLE. Oh, those songs! They are just. So. Good.
The show began with a 20 minute video full of clips of things that influenced them and their music, things that ranged from, unsurprisingly, the film Fantastic Planet, to, more surprisingly, Ren & Stimpy’s ‘Space Madness’ cartoon, interspersed with a mash-up of old James Bond ‘The Spy Who Loved Me” clips and similar clips modified from the “Stuck On You” video. The stage was lit up with remote-controlled colour-changing tube lights wrapped around mic stands and instruments, and shortly, the band came on out and proceeded to rock our collective faces off. The set was enormous, almost 2 hours, with a 20 minute intermission in the middle. They played all the tunes we know and love, plus some new material. It stands up – the old tunes sound just as fresh and grand as they ever have, and the new stuff blends right in. Banter was light but appreciative – it was all about the music tonight, but at the end of the set, the band chucked out picks and sticks and high-fived the audience.
Speaking of the audience, they were the one thing that surprised me… it was a pretty hardcore crowd of super dudes smoking a ton of drugs and roaring like drunk football fans, but they looked really metal, and they knew EVERY FRICKING SONG. This wasn’t just some pile of intense bulky dudes who always end up at the Rickshaw on any given evening to headbang and get loaded… they were true, sing-along Failure fans and that kind of blew my mind. This city still surprises me from time to time.