Black Betty @ The Railway Club, April 5, 2008
Black Betty @ The Railway Club – April 5, 2008
There is an ancient myth that tells us that man and woman were originally one being: four legs, four arms, two heads, two hearts. But the gods witnessed the great strength of men and women together and severed them forever. Now, we walk the Earth, seeking our “other half” to regain the strength the gods feared so greatly. Let this stand as a warning to the gods: Jonas and Ana have found each other and they make the Earth rumble.
Jonas Fairley and Ana Serena, collectively known as Black Betty, started the rumble in the fall of 2005. She was an avid metal fan and he had some musical ideas that never made it into the repertoire of his previous band, Sir Hedgehog.
I’ve known Jonas for about 17 years, having met him during the glory days of West Vancouver’s (now defunct) Sandy Cove Cabaret. I was fronting Drag the River and Jonas was keeping the beat for Upper Levels (Jonas would later join up with Paul Slater, Drag the River’s guitar player, and the rhythm section from The Binge to form Sir Hedgehog). Those were the days. We were old enough to know, too young to care, and completely indifferent to terrible clichés in music reviews.
I’m excited about going to The Railway Club tonight. I haven’t been in a while and I always enjoy myself. Everyone goes to The Railway Club. Tonight the bar is packed with the crowd I suppose I’d expected: those with a feeling of what “cool” is without being told. There are girls with sleeve tattoos, men and women with spikes on their wrists and heads, and university type aesthetes with a sense of garage chic that might be the only thing that keeps them going. Out on the deck, I have a smoke beside a fashion original who wears a black bandana and what appears to be a sniper’s gilly suit designed by Betsy Johnson.
I sit and have a couple drinks with Jonas before his set. He is searching for the “fire in the gut” before he plays. I figure this is both literal and metaphorical. I have seen Jonas play many times and he uses his drums like a spelunker uses a karabiner – he takes them to deep dark places then treats them like shit, always trusting that they will bring him home again. The literal gut fire is stoked by Mark Tompkins, the one-time singer of Upper Levels, and a round of tequila shots. The three of us discuss the pros and cons of the upcoming Pemberton Music Festival (Jonas, Mark, and I share the distinction of having played a show where someone died, not too far from the Pemberton Festival site).
Jonas and Ana take the stage. After a quick glance and a smile, Jonas announces that this is their first gig in “5 years,” garnering a good chuckle from the assembled audience. I notice that ex- Sandy Cover, Ian Ferguson, has arrived. He has lost his 90s hair and hands me a real estate business card but as soon as Black Betty kicks in, I see his head begin to bounce and I know that Ian can still mix live, off-the-floor with the best of them.
Black Betty pound through an impressive set. Ana’s guitar plays like a poor man’s pipe bomb – it is cold, hard, dirty metal that rips through you at the speed of sound. I am constantly pleasantly surprised at the amount of sound that today’s 2-pieces are generating. It is as though they have found the secret recipe to strip away all the garbage the late 70s and 80s added to music. It is stripped down and fast, an avalanche that lasts for forty-five minutes.
Jonas wails into the mic from behind his drums. He manages to combine Ozzy, Bruce Dickinson, and an odd dash of Roger Hodgeson. Halfway through the set his shirt disappears, normal for Jonas. He’s not necessarily a nudist, but definitely a naturalist behind the kit. After the set, he laments that he is not as ripped as he was in the days when he first started playing but for my two-cents worth, he’s still looking pretty good.
As for looking good, there is nothing sexier than a woman who knows how to handle an SG and, after the set, the smoking deck is filled with wide-eyed metal fans gushing about “that girl rocking out!”
I say my good-byes and catch the last bus home. The last bus “home,” however, doesn’t get me all the way there and I find myself walking along the most dangerous strip of West Vancouver’s Marine Drive at two in the morning. As I approach another blind corner, I feel no fear. I think back to Black Betty’s set: a madman drummer and stoic guitarist who plays her Gibson like a loaded AK-47. After surviving that, there’s not much left to rattle you on a dark, empty street.