When I saw The Smugglers at the Lookouting in January, I was so blown away that I told myself if they ever played any more shows, I had to find a way to be there. They said the Lookouting was their first performance in 13 years, and I was afraid I’d discovered them too late. Another band already broken up by the time I became a fan.
But as my luck would have it, frontman Grant Lawrence wrote a book of his tour diaries, Dirty Windshields, and he wanted to celebrate it with a book launch show. The Smugglers are reuniting for one night only in their hometown of Vancouver, Canada, so I guess I’m going international.
What’s Up Hot Dogs
I should have known that Lookout Records founder Larry Livermore would be in Vancouver for the show as well. But it wasn’t until I was in the San Francisco airport waiting to board my plane that I saw him posting pictures from Canada and pieced that together. I did a little digging and found out that Grant Lawrence was doing a reading at What’s Up Hot Dogs (a whole 15 minute walk from where I’m staying—remember Kelly from the Coheed show in Seattle? I took her up on her offer to crash with her) that same night, and Larry was a special guest at the event.
Sometimes I worry that Larry’s tired of seeing my face all the time. Oh well.
Of course I couldn’t miss it.
Since I found out about it late and was just flying in that day, I got to the hot dog place a little late and missed Grant’s reading. Whoops.
Everyone there seemed to know each other to some extent, and here I am just derping around by myself as per usual. I found out about the event online, so I was hoping it wasn’t “Invitation Only” (hehe. I’ll see myself out now).
I was there in time for Larry’s “reading” however. But he didn’t actually read from How to Ru(i)n a Record Label. He just told stories.
Grant had the microphone most of the night and he told plenty of stories, too. He told one about Nirvana crashing at his parents’ house, which was pretty great.
He gave away the last few copies of his book he had with him by doing trivia for each book. One contestant got one question. I was too chicken to volunteer to play, and it’s good that I didn’t, because I was only sure of one answer.
After trivia, I wiggled my way through the tiny restaurant to ask Grant if he had any books left for sale. As I’d expected, he gave them all away. Looks like I’m buying one at the show, which was the original plan anyway.
Show days are a weird thing for me when I’m alone in a new place. There’s a part of me that wants to spend the day exploring the city, but there’s another bigger part of me that says, “Well can’t you explore the part of the city the venue is in?”
So I walked from Kelly’s house to downtown and scoped out the Commodore Ballroom, where the show would be that night. Of course no one’s in line yet. I didn’t expect them to be. So why am I here at noon again?
Downtown Vancouver was really nice. There was a lot to see, and I made sure to get some poutine. When in Canada, do as the Canadians do. It was alright. I liked the cheese curds, but I was less than thrilled with the gravy, and all the foods together was just kinda weird to me.
This is how you do an international show, ladies and gentlemen.
It was getting closer to time for doors, so I made my way back to the venue. There’s another venue not even a full block away from the Commodore, the Vogue Theater, and apparently Jojo had a show there the same night. The line at the Vogue was crazy long, around the corner and down the block at least, if not longer. There were only 5 people in line for the Smugglers before doors opened. What a comparison. I love not being a pop fan.
The hallway of the Commodore was lined with old Smugglers fliers. I loved it.
I bought two CDs from merch as well as Dirty Windshields, finally. I had Grant sign it and make it out to me, and he told me he remembered me from the night before. He also wrote “Thanks for supporting ‘no-hit’ rock’n’roll!” which is definitely the greatest book dedication I’ve ever received.
Grant read some of Dirty Windshields onstage before the first band came out, and it sounds so funny. I can’t wait to read it. He told stories about sneaking into venues that put me to shame, and another story about Cub‘s merch selling better than theirs and the Smugglers suspicions as to why that could be.
The first band was Needles/Pins. I found wifi in the bathroom of the venue, so I missed pretty much their entire set. Whoops.
Following Needles/Pins was Chixdiggit. I decided to be a normal human and actually go watch their set rather than live on the internet, and I’m really glad I did. I was super impressed by them. They’re pop punk and high energy, and they cracked me up. They were a lot of fun. I would check them out again if given the chance.
“We don’t know how to play this song, let’s hear it for Chixdiggit everybody!”
“This guy’s heckling me now, but I’m not gonna marry you.”
About the drummer, Tyler: “His name’s Tyler. What’s his name? He can’t hear you! It’s Tyler!”
I don’t know the frontman’s name, but I know the drummer’s name is Tyler.
The final band before the Smugglers was the Muffs, led by Kim Shattuck. I loved her. She screams sometimes and I was into it. They were really good.
Kim was dressed as a schoolgirl. I can’t remember if she gave us a reason why or not, but I’ll go with it.
By this point I had inched by way super close to the stage. Considering I missed the first band entirely, I was really proud of how far I’d made it through the pit. But this close to the stage, there was a drunk guy solo-moshing behind us. It was really obnoxious/annoying/unnecessary, but it is what it is.
Finally it was time for the Smugglers. A spot opened up on the stage, so there I was. I have no idea how I swung that. I think Grant knew probably 90% of the crowd somehow, but here I am in the front row singing along. I think I might’ve made an impression on him just by being a fan he doesn’t know personally, so that’s pretty cool.
They all came out wearing suits and boots. When bands talk about having an image, this is kinda the perfect example of what having an image looks like.
They opened with “Rosie,” which cracks me up because live it’s two guys singing at each other rather than a guy and a girl. If you listen to the lyrics, you’ll understand. The song cracks me up to begin with. I love it.
The Smugglers are an AMAZING band live. They have tons of energy, and Grant has crazy dance moves. They’re ridiculously entertaining. They even all danced in unison at one point, during “Vancouver, BC.”
Grant flipped off the drum stand and fell on his back, knocking over the mic in the process. It looked completely unintentional, but he didn’t seem to care. For a band that has played one other show in the past 13 years, they had more energy than I would’ve anticipated, and they absolutely killed it.
There was also a good amount of crowd interaction, which is the best. Grant kissed my hand during “Flying Buttress of Love,” and there was a dance contest during “She Ain’t No Egyptian.” Grant plays hockey in addition to music, so the winner of the dance contest was one of his hockey buddies. Kim Shattuck judged the competition and Grant joked that he’d probably know anyone in the room anyway, so he was bound to know the winner.
For “Buddy Holly Convention,” Grant wore Buddy Holly-style glasses, of course.
Do all Canadians really love “Alan Thicke“? Between the jokes on How I Met Your Mother and the Smugglers’ song, I’m starting to wonder if that’s just a thing.
“Larry, Where Are You?” Okay, but really, where are you, Larry? I saw him during the reading before the first band, but hadn’t seen him since.
They closed with “Rock’n’Roll Was Never this Fun” and left the stage. That’s as far as the setlist got (I could see it from where I stood) so I wasn’t expecting them to come back out, but after a quick outfit change, they did.
They wore pink polka dotted shirts for the encore, I think the same ones from their video for “Your Mom’s the Devil.”
“Pearl Jam has the same shirts in yellow!”
They played “Melee in Madrid,” and in honor of Mother’s Day the next day, closed with “Your Mom’s the Devil.”
I thought “Rock’n’Roll Was Never this Fun” was a perfect closing song, but this was somehow even better. Grant let me (as well as many others in the front row) sing a line, which was really cool. And when they were done playing, he grabbed our heads in the front row as he passed by walking off stage.
You can tell they had as much fun as we did. They should play more shows. (*cough*)
I was standing right in front of Grant’s setlist all night, and was obviously eyeing it. Another guy grabbed for it too, but I made puppy dog eyes at him and scored it. He had lyric notes written for himself on it, so it’s kinda awesome that this is the one I walked away with.
A woman I met earlier in the night asked me if I was glad I came to Canada by myself for this show. I told her I had a blast. She knew I would. How could I not?
While I’ve been to London twice previously, this was my first ever time in Canada, and my first ever time traveling internationally solely for a music adventure. It was the perfect international show experience, and of course I’m happy I went.
I had seen a handful of Smugglers posters on telephone poles in the days leading up to the show. I wouldn’t dare take one before the show because the point is to advertise. They had the same posters available for free at the show, but there’s something about finding a poster in the wild and ripping it off yourself that’s just more fulfilling for me, so I spent the day after the show wandering around downtown Vancouver trying to remember where I saw them.
And again, as my luck would ever have it, I walked right past Muffs frontwoman Kim Shattuck at the airport on my way back to San Francisco later that day. This is my life.