The show began with Andrew Vincent and the Pirates. Ttheir jangly garage crunch and pleas for love were well-received. At every show of theirs I go to I seem to overhear someone unfamiliar with the band lamenting they hadn’t heard them earlier. Smugglers frontman Grant Lawrence accurately described them as one of the most underrated bands in the country.

But the quality of AV and co. aside, most of the people in the sellout crowd were there to see Vancouver’s the Smugglers.

The Smugglers are frequent visitors to Ottawa — particularly when you consider they have to cross the world’s second-largest country to get here from their hometown; they have plenty of friends in town and they paid tribute to one of them, Glads frontman Pat Shanks, and the Dominion Tavern with their opening number, the hardhitting 'Shock The Shanker'.

From there the quintet continued into a hard-rocking set; louder than their usual garage rock. They dedicated 'Rock Thy Neighbour' to the Dom ( perhaps a bit of a jab at the neighbouring indie music dance club, Zaphod Beeblebrox).

There was also some audience participation. Many local musicians work at music store Songbird Music, and four of them got on stage to bare their chests — inscribed with the title of the next Smugglers song 'Kings of the Party' — which the band duly launched into. A little later the foursome got on stage again to drop their pants ...  fortunately the title to the Smugglers’ 'Boozecan' fit perfectly with one letter per buttock.  “Did you guys write anything on your d**ks?” Lawrence jokingly asked “You know, we have a lot of short songs” to gales of laughter from the audience.

Add in their longstanding award to the best dancer in the audience and you had a heck of a party.

On previous occasions, the Smugglers were headliners, but this time they were a warm-up for the Evaporators, a band led by Nardwuar the Human Serviette.

Nardwuar is probably Canada’s most off-the-wall media personality. His interviews with personalities from the world of music and entertainment (too many names to mention) are always hilariously entertaining and, fortunately, many are archived at his website, www.nardwuar.com. He also gave the Smugglers their name (though apparently he told them to call themselves 'The Snugglers', and they misheard).

While his band (including Smuggler Dave Carswell on guitar) kick out the jams in a heavy duty style bordering on hardcore, Nardwuar pogos around on stage with a goofy grin on his face. Despite the hard edge to the music, Nardwuar isn’t interested in the usual punk tropes. Instead, you get songs about Canadian landmarks (such as Ripple Rock, a West Coast navigational hazard blown to smithereens in the largest planned conventional explosion prior to 1958) and songs about Canadian history (show-closer 'United Empire Loyalists' recasts the American Revolution  as the first American civil war, with the losers heading off to Canada. 'Gerda Munsinger' references a sex-for-secrets scandal, not unlike Britain’s Profumo affair).  Along with songs about having a rash, references to his copious body hair and unhappy school days you can safely say the Evaporators are a one-of-a-kind musical experience.

If you can imagine Rick Moranis singing that he’s 'Addicted To Cheese!' , backed by Black Flag , then you’re close to imagining the Evaporators musical impact. Nardwuar is big on engaging the crowd. First, he was carried around on a showgoer's shoulders “Thanks, that was fun!” . Then he  crowd surfed ... while playing his keyboard, also held aloft by helpful audience members.

The band left the stage, returned for their encore after a quick costume change — Nardwuar stripped down to his skivvies on stage — before he once again headed into the audience for some coordinated getting down and jumping up.

A very fun and occasionally goofy show, with some surprisingly heavy music to boot.


The photographs that accompany this article were taken by Andrew Carver













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