(*not a real shoe, not actual teenagers)
If the title is slightly awkward, that’s because it describes me when I arrived at the legendary Horseshoe Tavern on the last Friday of April, back when we still believed in spring. Allow me to explain: Indie88 volunteers were giving away (free) high-fives but, wanting to be different, I went for props, which were met with little enthusiasm. “What’s wrong with props?” I said in the defense of my choice in greeting. A simple question, that would have sounded perfectly normal if the band hadn’t just stopped playing and my shrill voice hadn’t echoed throughout the entire venue, like that of a movie villain. I had made my bed, time to go lay in it.
In an attempt to not be the crazed super-fan that arrives at “doors open” time, I overshot in the direction of “fashionably late” and now had no idea which band was about to go on stage. Sometimes I like surprises. Surely the band would introduce themselves… well, they had more fun confusing the hell out of everyone except the cluster of friends that came to loudly and rowdily support them. “We’re Christian Punk Band. No, I’m just kidding, we’re Poor Young Things.” said a skinny, buttoned up singer, who stood at the side of the stage, in half darkness. (Note: They were indeed Christian Punk Band) Whoever they were, they played a tight set of solid garage punk… Wait a minute! The band played only to their friends off to the side and in between songs, addressed the same group with either cryptic inside jokes or simply failed attempts at being funny. Sadly, the only relatable moment was the revelation that the singer’s cat had peed on his guitar strap.
I had been listening to Teenage Kicks‘ new album for days and was doubtful of a smooth transition to their danceable yet powerful rock’n’roll. But even grumpy reviewers can be proven wrong. The real Poor Young Things made the stage their home and their palpable excitement got my feet tapping along. Here was a band that seemed to have been born on stage, that’s how confident yet relaxed they were while delivering driving rhythms, hooky guitars and well-rehearsed chops. I like my rock on the harder side, but Poor Young Things’ tinge of country to their sometimes angsty rock seemed just right and truly got the audience moving. Unlike in the kitchen, expertly mixing unlikely ingredients on stage gets nods of appreciation for originality; the nods turn into head-bobbing and, before you know it, you can’t stop dancing or sweating. Charismatic and synergistic, these “poor things” are going places.
At this point the audience had tripled and the Horseshoe had finally given in and provided some ventilation. Moving through the bar had become difficult, a mission of dodging elbows and spilt beer; Matrix moves would have surely come in handy. The crowd was cheering wildly when Teenage Kicks made their way onto stage and started playing right away. Their back-to-basics rock’n’roll sound has a lot more kick to it live than expected and the sold out venue was more than excited to see them play in celebration of the upcoming release of their album, Spoils of Youth, on April 29th. The band had made the album available for streaming through the CBC music website, to the delight of fans that would now be able to sing along to even the newest songs! The confident quartet delivered a no-nonsense but fun party that resulted in crowd-surfing and a very concerned Peter Van Helvoort, “Be careful, you’re going to hurt yourself!”, he said before launching into another addictive song that even made me want to attempt crowd-surfing, warm empty beer bottle in hand. The band seemed equally dedicated to each song they were playing and the crowd certainly responded with equal amounts enthusiasm and sweat. Teenage Kicks are excellent musicians that manage to communicate their passion through a down-to-earth but highly engaging and highly charged performance.