Friends, Enemies, and Internet Losers: I have returned.

The Dreadnoughts (w/ Second-rate Rejects), The Balmoral Pub/Hotel, Vancouver, BC

I have never really been a big fan of pirates. This probably has something to do with my kindergarten class, in which, the children who needed special help were known as “The Pirates’ Club.” To this day, I still equate pirates with short buses and blunt-nosed scissors (needless to say, the movie, “The Goonies”, didn’t do much to revert these feelings). Tonight, however, I am looking to change these old prejudices.
Where else would one expect to find a band of pirates but in a charming dive, located firmly in the underbelly of a beautiful port city? I am at The Balmoral Hotel on East Hastings tonight and I am here to see The Dreadnoughts play.
The Dreadnoughts first sailed on to my radar in October of 2007 when I saw their fiddle player, Seamus O’Flanahan, playing with The Town Pants at The Cambie Pub. His skill and style really put the hooks in me that night and I promised myself I’d go see The Dreadnoughts play the first chance I got.
To say that the pub in The Balmoral Hotel is “interesting” isn’t quite sufficient. The bartender had me pegged the second I walked in. Despite my best efforts to not look like I had just come from tutoring in the British Properties, in a bar with 12 customers, it isn’t difficult to pick out someone who isn’t a regular.
“You’re here for the show?” she asks, the owner eyeing me sceptically from his chair behind the bar.
“Um… yeah.” I order “anything that looks and tastes like a beer” and settle in.
The pre-show consists of an overweight girl doing a clothed (I use that term loosely though her clothes were anything but) strip routine on the dancer floor. It is strangely titillating though some people really shouldn’t do cartwheels.
I run into the owner again in the smoking room. He’s an unhappy man. He strikes me as a bachelor, allergic to cats, who has just moved in with his two unmarried aunts. He may have bought this bed but I am fairly certain he doesn’t like to sleep in it.
The first band up is Second-rate Rejects from Maple Ridge. Their music isn’t for everybody, but you won’t catch the Roxy crowd down here anyways. People go to the Roxy to get it in. People listen to bands like Second-rate Rejects to get it out. Besides, angst will never go out of style.
After their set, I talk to Fuzzy Roes, the lead guitarist, in the smoking room. We chat about bands that need to be seen (Athica, Ninja Spy, Likely Rads, and Alien Nation) and about 30 seconds into our conversation, I am guessing that “Fuzzy” might just be a gig-night, neurological statement as opposed to a physical one.
The Dreadnoughts climb up on stage (literally) and kick into their set. Their MySpace profile describes them as “Rancid’s tour bus […] hijacked by a horde of drunken gypsies” and it’s a description not far from the mark. After a couple of songs, their lead singer, Nicky Dread, proclaims that “Celtic music is okay but I sure love this punk stuff.” The crowd loves it too. They bounce in front of the stage like they’re standing on a seizure-wracked trampoline, complete with the Mohawk sporting members roaming the mass with elbows and knees uplifted in that “walk” common to all mosh pit veterans.
The music is a tight hybrid of classic punk and Celtic seafaring songs. And, like many bands of their genre, the music and stage show are imbued with a real sense of humour and honest fun. Despite the fact that some of the saddest songs ever penned can be played on a fiddle and mandolin, their inclusion in a punk band seems to quell any nihilism that may be lurking. Any band that titles a song “Mary, the One-Eyed Prostitute, Who Fought the Colossal Squid and Saved Us from Certain Death on the High Seas, God Rest Her One-Eyed Soul” doesn’t take themselves too seriously and are, therefore, a joy to watch on stage.
Though many of their fans admitted to missing the show due to its location, The Dreadnoughts and The Balmoral have a certain zeitgeist when combined. Graffiti above the urinal in The Balmoral’s washroom reads: Laugh now – pay later. Sounds like a pirate motto if I ever heard one…yar!

For more info and concert listings, check out The Dreadnoughts’ MySpace site @ www.myspace.com/vancitydreadnoughts

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