The smalls: After 13 years they’ve still got “it”. “It”, in this case, being a lot of broody energy
There are exactly three things you need to know about legendary Edmonton band the smalls.
One: Back in the late 1980s and early ’90s, the group toured Western Canada relentlessly, playing now-legendary shows at countless underground venues. These were the kind of shows that got sweaty really, really quickly – for whatever reason, the smalls drew a bizarrely diverse audience. Punks, skaters, metalheads and jocks alike would all flock to these shows to shove each other, occasionally riot, and rock the fuck out.
Two: When the smalls announced their reunion earlier this year, skids across the prairies issued a collective blood-curdling scream of glee. Apparently a lot of a lot of fucks were still given. And when the first show in Saskatoon was announced, Louis’ reportedly sold out of tickets within five hours, shattering their previous records. A second show was added, which also sold out. Unless you were willing to pay $100 on Kijiji for tickets.
Three: Having broken up 13-years ago, they’ve still got it.
As the band walked on stage the audience immediately erupted in cheers and beer – I counted at least eight glasses of the stuff thrown throughout the night. A tightly-shorn Corb Lund seemed particularly swaggery while singer Mike Caldwell looked like he could have come from sound check with a backwoods chainsaw crew.
A band with official ‘back-in-the-day’ status, it seems fair to say that you had to be there during the smalls’ heyday to really ‘get’ it. But that’s actually not entirely true. Despite the average age of the audience running between 30-45 (with an average bedtime running between 10pm-11pm), there was also a good dose of people there who could have filtered in to the band’s catalogue at any point during the past 13 years.
The smalls have long been known for their groovy grunge-flavoured riffs, careening somewhere in-between metal, punk and, gasp, country. Guitarist Dug Bevans was in fine form the entire set, perfectly de-tuning mid-song during the first track. Lund’s bass playing also sounded solid, especially on classic tunes such as “Pity the Man With the Fast Right Hand”.
Compared to the band’s flat-sounding set earlier this summer at Edmonton’s Sonic Boom festival, the show at Louis’ was entirely energetic and wild. A great night that leads to a slow morning at work the next day for most, I would imagine.
Openers Shooting Guns, meanwhile, unleashed a dazzling display of their usual doomy blend of guttural guitar riffs and pummelling rhythms.
“We have a guitar strap problem but it’s the least if our problems,” said guitarist Keith Doepker. No problems on our end. Despite a shifting line-up, the Saskatoon band continually puts on a solid performance with plenty of hair-shakes coming from both on and off stage. Word on the street is that their latest LP, the Wolfcop soundtrack, is almost sold out on vinyl. Hopefully there’s still a couple of copies floating around out there, especially since I forgot to pick one up on my way out last night. Doh.
– The smalls will play their second show at Louis’ on Saturday, Oct. 25 with Black Mastiff. Get tickets ‘er what?