Our first St. John’s local tribute band will hit the stage this month. Phil Churchill gets to the bottom of it.
I am parked in front of the home of producer/engineer/side-musician extraordinaire Don Ellis. It stands alone in the west end, twixt some two-storey small-time industry, and within mourning distance of a funeral home.
This is a house that rock didn’t necessarily build, but rather happened upon and squat inside.
From the front step, I hear the un-amplified, semi-certain voice of c2c theatre’s Artistic Associate Brad Hodder and the authoritative thud of Fur Packed Action Hero Geoff Younghusband’s four-string mothertrucker. The newbie and the Old Hand are cracking open the vault of time and finding Hardliner inside.
I walk in and turn the corner to the living room and it looks like the rental department at some kind of vintage Long & McQuade. A kit is where the couch should be. Where the fireplace was, there’s a Marshall half stack in a coital embrace with a huge PA which rivals that in most downtown bars.
“You two the first ones here?” I ask.
“Usually Don is, but he’s at his daughter’s Christmas concert,” says Geoff.
It was while working on the set of the Irish-Newfoundland co-production Love and Savagery in the spring of this year that they first breathed the beast’s name. Don Ellis, Sean Panting, and Geoff Younghusband were working on the film, and the abominable idea of a Newfoundland rock cover band began to take shape.
Originally, the brute was to be called G’WON—a Newfoundland version of mid-80s sci-fi/horror theme band GWAR—complete with hellish dark-ages battle garb and giant sponge foam weapons. Unfortunately, it was to be a hell of an undertaking for guys who, between them, have five kids, a recording studio, a theatre company, multiple day and night jobs, other bands, and have lived nearly 200 years of life.
So they bailed on the foam swords.
But the essence of the idea had sunk its teeth in.
8:21pm heralds the arrival of ex-pat and ex-drummer for Toronto’s rock triumvirate C’Mon, Randy Curnew. (When you’ve been gone for 20-odd years, what’s 21 minutes?) He nods a grin to the b’ys and starts unpacking a snare that has seen more of Canada than most geese.
Questions, questions. I start with the name. Why call the band …It Came From The Harbour?
Younghusband explains it a bit, and then begins excitedly reminiscing about the salad days.
He brings up the FTP site he hosted, which had recordings from many of the bands from the mid to late 90s. Coupled with the “Newfoundland music mp3s” bit torrent his Potbelly bandmate Doug Jones’ had compiled of tapes, demos, and live recordings of 80s and 90s Newfoundland rock bands…
Now, years later, the music of these bands has become ICFTH’s playlist.
At each rehearsal, the band rips through more than a dozen St. John’s bands from times of now, yore, and before.
The boys start with Newfoundland and Labrador’s first punk band, Da Slyme, circa 1977, then heads all the way up to Mercy, the Sexton and Hey Rosetta! with a ton in between, except bands that any of them have been in or are in. Those are off the table. For now.
Panting and Ellis come through the door. The band is all together now. As a group, they look two hobbits short of a Fellowship. For a moment, I see them blood-soaked and armed with foam blades. But this fades.
The kids are in bed, the Christmas concerts attended, responsibilities fulfilled. They plug in and tune up. It’s time to raise Bung from the dead and run them over with a Sheavy.
I ask what song is first, but when my mouth moves, all I hear is guitar. It’s thick, heavy, and loud.
It’s pointless to ask any more questions.
Time no longer has meaning. The past is surging through wall sockets and screeching from 4X10 cabinets. The songs I hear have been tortured and argued over long ago: where to put the bridge, how many bars to play this riff. The CD player is the ultimate authority these guys are under now.
Geoff said before this onslaught began “not to expect better versions of these songs. This is the movie of the book.” But I call bullshit. These are seasoned craftsmen at their peak, and this band is a big deal.
Christmas will come, Boxing Day will go, and the 5-headed, 10-armed, 33 foot tall Man-Thing will Come From The Harbour to cover nearly 20 bands and uncover the past. They will take our hearing and our $7, but give us our memories and our youth, to show the kiddies how it was, is, and ever shall be.
On December 27th…
…it comes for you.
See ICFTH w/ 2 Guitars Clash at The Rock House on Saturday, December 27. $7 at the door.
(Thanks to Geoff for the posters!)