Nomeansno at the Royale Banquet Hall
April 3rd By Allan MacInnis
Tom Holliston of Nomeansno is a baseball fan, so it was fortunate for him that the band’s recent Japanese tour - only their second in their 30 year history - took place just after Japan won the World Baseball Classic; many Japanese were eager to talk baseball. “They take it really seriously over there,” he said to me at the merch table before the April 3rd gig began. “Ichiro could be the Emperor - he’s for Japan what Gordie Howe is for Canadians, or Jean Béliveau!” Tom reports that the band had a fine time on their tour - which included between-gig visits to a Japanese whiskey distillery and to Nijō Castle in Kyoto, and saw them reunited with former touring partners (and former Alternative Tentacles label-mates) Ultra Bide. John Wright happily asked the audience for a show of hands from behind his drum kit: “How many of you have just returned from Japan?”
Since there is no new album to tour, the band assembled a setlist for the Japanese drawn from various stages in their career, which we assume was what the Vancouver audience heard: several were tunes they have not played here for some time, like “All Lies” and “Oh No Bruno,” off Wrong, “Everyday I Start to Ooze,” off 0+2=1; and their deeply therapeutic “Self-Pity,” off Sex Mad. We were also treated to a few songs from their proposed next release, tentatively titled Codename: Old, including the loping “Old,” which opened their set, "Faceless May" and “Jubilation,” a brand-new demo for which appears on the band's Myspace page (www.myspace.com/myspaceiswrong). Bassist/lead vocalist Rob Wright describes it as “a bit of a punk rock anthem about the joys of losing everything, and being without all that encumbrance.” These songs suggest that the next Nomeansno album, for which Rob has been writing songs on ProTools, will see the band venturing into new musical territory; certainly “Old” marks an entirely different direction for the band. “It’s in waltz time,” Rob explains. “That’s one reason why it sounds a little different.”
Nearing the end of the show, many moshers elected to rest through a couple of the band’s more obscure tunes, like “Madness and Death” or “Kill Everyone Now” (which I like better as a t-shirt); but the crowd erupted for “Rags and Bones,” with a rare female stage diver risking a bruised boob as she plunged face-first into the audience. Rob - who observed when I last interviewed him that “music has always been about transcending the individuals in a community and bringing them together into one sort of body” - laughed heartily when I asked him if the lyrics of “Rags and Bones” (“The beast has arisen/ All sins are forgiven/ In the belly of the beast/ I shall be released”) were intended as a hymn to the mosh pit. “Yeah! Good - but I’m thinking more Jonah and the whale. There’s a lot of seafaring imagery in that song; I really don’t know why. It’s about release -- to be thrown into the fire and come through transformed: to be swallowed into the belly of the whale and then spit up again on shore.”
Rob continues: “A lot of our songs seem very dark - and the early albums were quite angry, in that punk rock way, because we were all sort of young and mad about one thing or the other. But instead of dwelling on it, it was always something to burn through and get through and come out the other side a little better,” he tells me, saying that all of Nomeansno’s work, in some regard, is about “transcendence.” "Our songs all tend to be about getting out, getting beyond."
Encores included John Wright singing a revamped cover of the Ramones’ “Commando,” with references to Guantanamo Bay, kosher salami, Sunni Muslims, and Pakistan; and the tuneful ditty “So Low." The final song of the night was the cathartic, brooding “Graveyard Shift,” off One, after which we were released, exhausted and happy, into the night.
Last minute venue substitute the Royale Banquet Hall, with impressive chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and mirrors on the walls, appeared to have survived the gig unscathed, though one suspects that attendees at the Indian wedding the next day may have found the place a bit smelly. It has never before been used as a venue for a punk gig, I’m told, and I’m very curious to see if it ever will be again.
Posted: Apr 17, 2009