If you live in Toronto, and listen to any kind of rock music, chances are you’ve at least heard of the 3Tards. The ‘Tards are a local punk rock institution, gaining notoriety over the past eight years for (among other things) conducting an on-stage marriage ceremony between their bass player and singer–who are both guys–and holding up a “You Still Suck” sign at a Sex Pistols concert that made Johnny Rotten walk off the stage in anger. They’ve opened for the Misfits, Dayglo Abortions, Forgotten Rebels, SNFU and DOA, and are proud of the fact that NOW Magazine called them “stage diving idiots with absolutely nothing of consequence to say.” But on July 18th, they called it a day.
At least they went out with a bang.
The first time I saw the 3Tards was at the Kathedral, back in 2006. DOA was in town, with a handful of local supporting acts. I had been living in Toronto for less than a year, and although I’d been to the Reverb a couple times (Gates of Hell fest with Anvil, Razor, Piledriver and Nuclear Assault is still a standout show in my mind), it was the first time I’d gone downstairs at the big purple building on the corner of Queen and Bathurst. I wasn’t quite sure what to think when the co-headling band hung a big Hanson banner over the stage and made their entrance to the strains of “Mmm-Bop,” but once their performance ended, I rushed over to the merch table and bought a copy of their Crystal Balls CD.
Fast forward three years. I’m back at the Kathedral, only this time the 3Tards are the main attraction, with a solid supporting cast. Maple Street Impressions started things off, announcing that they too were playing their last show. They had a couple songs I liked, but I wasn’t really digging their ska/poppy stuff.
Random Killing was up next, and they pointed out that the vast majority of the audience wasn’t born when they started out in 1984. A friend of mine (who now lives in Florida, I’m pretty sure) likes to tell the story of how he would’ve been the drummer for Random Killing if he hadn’t shown up at the audition with the smallest bag of coke out of all the applicants. Anyways, it was good to finally see the band he kept talking about. The punk rock veterans dealt with old age in songs like “Dude, Where’s My Hair?” and “It’s Not Cool To Be A Punk Anymore,” while their singer bugged the other members to play some of the older stuff. A solid set from a band still going strong with their long-standing lineup.
After Random Killing’s set, the crowd was treated to Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back In Town” played full-blast over the PA system. The song had particular meaning on this nite, as it signified that The Antics were back in action! I had seen these guys open for DOA as well, and was impressed with the size of their mohawks. Alas, the band had cut their hair during their three-year hiatus. Their guitar player took the stage with a buzzcut while their bassist hid his ponytail under a baseball cap. Joe Dick wouldn’t be impressed that he didn’t even go to the effort to cut it…
Nevertheless, The Antics played an amazing set! There’s no pretentions about their straight-forward, three-chord, three-piece frantic punk rock, with all three members sharing lead and backing vocal duties. A handful of fans (including a couple 3Tards) got up on stage for singalong number “Herpes Lasts Forever,” and set closer “Ugly, Fat, Drunk and Horny” whipped the pit into a frenzy. In fact, several mohawk-headed punks left the venue after their set, skipping the headliners altogether.
I should state that while the 3Tards are generally classified as a punk rock band, I can see why their music doesn’t appeal to the pickiest big-haired punks. But it’s for those same reasons that they have a broader appeal–and why I’m a 3Tards fan. Their music is muddy, heavy, dirty riff rock, with immaturely obscene lyrics and plenty of blazing guitar solos. And there’s no denying their metal influences. From the thrashy instrumental that opens Crystal Balls to “Gay Heavy Metal Singer,” their ode to Rob Halford, to the tongue-firmly-in-cheek title track of their new album 333 Halfway To Hell, there are plenty of 3Tards tunes to bang yer head to. Alas, I wasn’t surprised to see a dozen or so long-haired bangers in attendance, with T-Shirts ranging from Helix to black metalers Wolven Ancestry. The band even busted out a cover of “Ace of Spades,” announcing it as a Metallica song, and played the first verse of “You Got Another Thing Coming” as an introduction to the aformentioned “Gay Heavy Metal Singer.”
The 3Tards’ set included several new songs alongside fan favourites like “Stuck On You,” “Crystal Balls” and “Manrapist.” The on-stage antics were kept to a minimum, although singer John Tard took the stage in a nun’s outfit and an elephant mascot’s head–a nod to SNFU’s Chi Pig, perhaps?–and rocked a police officer’s uniform and a beer helmet during the set. The band’s two-song encore consisted of “333 Halfway To Hell” and their anthem “3Tarded” before they left the stage for the last time and the crowd filed out the doors to the Pizza Pizza across the street.
Listening to 333 for the first time, it still hasn’t sunk in that the 3Tards are no more. They’ve certainly left a big void in the Toronto punk scene, one that might never be filled. While this city has other punk institutions like Bunchofuckingoofs, they don’t cater to the kids with the all-ages, all-day punk shows that the Tards were known for putting on regularly. Other bands like Outbred Inlaws, Rehab For Quitters and the Delinquints have the right sound to appeal to a broader audience, but lack the over-the-top theatricality that made the 3Tards famous. And bands like Drunkula and Maximum RNR have that fuzz-punk sound I dig, but it doesn’t appeal to everyone. I don’t know if any local artist will ever be called “The Next 3Tards,” but I’m convinced that group isn’t out there yet. Anybody wanna start a punk rock band?
(If ya need a singer who can’t sing in key, I’m down…)