This gig was originally scheduled to take place at the Mod Club but was switched to Sneaky Dee’s, likely due to a lack of advance ticket sales. In any case, the capacity crowd tucked inside the cosy little rectangle up above Sneaks’ restaurant weren’t complaining. On a good night Sneaky Dee’s cannot be beaten for a sweaty, fun rock show – tonight was a very good night.
Local boys The Delinquints and The Artist Life had warmed the crowd up with their respective brands of punk rock n’ roll. I’d only caught the dying moments of the latter.
Fans were rubbing shoulders and stepping on toes as they battled for a piece of optimum floor space ready for the headliners. Meanwhile the main support took to the stage. A glance at the condensation on the windows provided visual evidence of the sauna-like heat being generated inside the venue. Lemuria would raise the mercury further. Opening with “Pants”, this Buffalo, NY powerpop trio soon had me misty-eyed as I stood soaking up their sound. It was love at first listen.
“The beats give Lemuria a pulse, and something to twitch to but it’s the words that give their music life, and something to cling to.”
There’s a bittersweet quality to much of Lemuria’s music; sometimes delivered with a tongue-in-cheek, sometimes with a raised middle-finger, sometimes with a wink, but always with an honest, if a little twisted, backbone. With just guitar, bass and drums, Lemuria have a straightforward sound but they managed to conjure up several different moods throughout their set by means of subtle variations in tempo and tone. The beats give Lemuria a pulse, and something to twitch to but it’s the words that give their music life, and something to cling to. Lyrically, things range from the deceptively clever, like the aforementioned “Pants”, to the more straight-forward “Lipstick”; two songs offering polarizing dialogues about love and sex, and both of which with lyrics that were easy to latch onto at first listen. The vocals are shared by guitarist Sheena Ozella, whose voice is bright, light and quiet, while drummer Alex Kerns backs up with a low and dreary tone that compliments the overall subdued vocal delivery of Lemuria.
The band has a mix of the warped and the sweet that reminds me of The Vaselines. In fact, seeing as I was too flat skint to be able to buy any of their music at the show, it was The Vaselines that I turned to listen to when I got home. Sheena – she was born to be a punk rocker with a name like that – said that this was only their second time in Toronto. I’m sure I’m not the only one who became a fan of Lemuria tonight. I hope they return soon.
And so to Anti-Flag. I have fond memories of seeing these guys four years ago at The Garage in Glasgow, Scotland. The Garage is a medium size venue with a capacity of around 600, so it’s about the same as the Mod Club – so, it was a whole different experience to see Anti-Flag play in the tighter confines of Sneaky Dee’s, which has a maximum capacity of around 250 at an absolute squeeze. I caught a glance of drummer Pat Thetic warming up by playing on a little rubber drum pad while he was standing in the small corridor that runs alongside the wall next to the stage – there’s no backstage area at Sneaks.
Anti-Flag kicked off with “Die For Your Govermnent”, sparking an instant frenzy among the crowd. Fans surged to front with only the monitors on the stage in the way to separate them from the band. Fans moshed and stepped over one another to get closer to the stage, but generally the atmosphere was kept fun and friendly. During the middle of the set, one guy at the front got aggressive towards a photographer next to him, but the band reacted by stopping and telling the guy to kindly leave, via stage right. The only other sparks that flew were those coming from the overheating camera flashes of a few machine-gun photographers, with bassist Chris #2 getting visibly agitated by them, and at one point he politely asking one of these photographers to lower his strobe. I trust the members of Anti-Flag managed to survive the night without their retinas being permanently scarred. (For the record, I wasn’t using flash and I never, ever have done – this is the reason why flash photography is banned at most shows. It’s annoying as fuck for the bands.)
The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania punk rock band played through a 20 song setlist which got progressively better. Anti-Flag did not let up for one second. A big highlight from the middle of their set was “Fuck Police Brutality”, a song which Justin Sane introduced by talking about the G20 in Toronto, as if the crowd needed any kind of reminder of the events in June – the key lyric of that song was shouted along by all. Later on, another G20 reference was made when Justin Sane dedicated “This Is The End” to a girl in the audience who had been accosted by police at the G20 for having a bottle of saline solution (for contact lenses) on her possession. [For those interested, or for readers unaware of events of the G20 summit in Toronto, please check out my own G20 photo-video below.]
Anti-Flag wrapped up with “The Modern Rome Burning” before taking a quick breather and returning for an encore that included a cover of The Clash’s classic “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?”. The night ended as drummer Pat Thetic walked into the crowd and made it clear that he wanted some space opened up on the floor, much to the confusion of one fan who got on his hands and knees, seemingly thinking that Pat wanted to build a pyramid. Instead, Pat had his bass and snare drum moved to the floor where he played out surrounded by a jubilant crowd.
I scarcely listen to Anti-Flag much on record but live they are a whole different beast. Tonight’s show was the best I’ve witnessed in Sneaky Dee’s since Fucked Up’s wild outing here last Halloween. An enthralling set from Anti-Flag and the discovery of a fantastic indie pop trio? A stupendous night.
© Brian Banks, Editor, Music Vice
Pictures of Anti-Flag and Lemuria at Sneaky Dee’s:
G20 video – a selection of photos taken by me at the G20 summit in Toronto: