(continued from last week’s entry)
Aside from seeing Sleep at Sled Island, one thing I was really looking forward to in Cowtown was checking out Flames Central, a massive sports bar dedicated to the best hockey team in Alberta. I figured it would be something like Real Sports, but I’d never been. They hadn’t even built the place when I left town in ’05.
Unfortunately, like many downtown eateries, Flames Central isn’t open for lunch on Saturday–or, at least not at 11:15. (My body was still on Eastern Time, what can I say?) So I went out walking, in the direction of Sloth Records on 17th Ave SW, just east of 7th St, hoping to stop for steak somewhere along the way.
I didn’t find much at first. Without the business lunch crowd, most places don’t open till 4:30 or 5 on the weekend. And it didn’t help that 7th is mainly a residential street. But right before I hit 12th Ave, I spotted a converted house in an otherwise vacant lot decked out with Unibroue beer label signs. I figured it wouldn’t be a bad place to check out.
The establishment in question is the Laurier Lounge, which has won some local alt-weekly awards for best brunch. But I really wasn’t feeling like an omelette–I needed some Alberta beef. So I went for the Montreal Filet Mignon Hambourgeois, a thick, juicy, 16-dollar burger with seasoned french fries. Washed down with a coupla Blanche de Chamblys made for a decent 30-dollar lunch. (Hey, those Quebec microbrews ain’t cheap!)
I reached my destination a couple blocks later. Since I’ve been gone, local music institutions like Megatunes and A&B Sound have gone tits-up, leaving Sloth as the only independent record dealer in the downtown area. Picture a second-story Rotate This (pre-CD selloff), and you’ll get the picture. They also sell tickets for local gigs, including Sled Island, along with t-shirts–which is more Sonic Boom than Rotate This, I suppose. But they’ve got your stereotypical snobbish indie record store staff, to be sure. I scoured the place for a couple hours, and came across a slightly-faded copy of Def Leppard’s On Through the Night for eight bucks–along with some reasonably-priced punk records. (Their CDs were fucking expensive–18 to 25 dollars!) Let’s just say that I was given some grief for my lone metal purchase, and I had to explain myself by saying that it’s the only Def Lep record that doesn’t suck. The clerk said she’d take my word for it…
Flames Central still wasn’t open by 5:30, so I headed down the street to the Unicorn, which has the distinction of being Calgary’s oldest pub. That said, if you’ve seen one basement Irish-themed sports bar, you’ve seen ’em all. I had the 15-dollar steak sandwich, and I gotta say, it kicked the shit outta any steak sandwich I’ve eaten at comparable establishments in Toronto. Good ol’ Alberta beef, how I missed thee!
There were five bands playing the Distillery that evening, and aside from the local death/grind group who took the stage at 9, they were all solid supporting acts for The Sword. Not that there was anything wrong with said grindcore band, they were just a little outta place stylistically.
On the other hand, Edmonton’s Black Mastiff was a heavy rocker’s best friend. A laid-back, bluesy power trio with some great bass grooves–I liked ’em so much that I bought a CD. The next band, Biblical, hails from TO, though I hadn’t seen ’em before cuz these guys are pretty new. An impressive rock pedigree, however, with one-third of The Illuminati in their ranks–and you can hear their influence in the thick, syrupy, riff rock of Biblical proportions.
As the main support act, Relapse recording artists Red Fang were on fire, shocking the crowd into submission with their high-voltage rock and roll. Last time I saw ’em, they were only a three-piece, since singer/guitarist Bryan Giles had to drop off the Metalliance tour for personal reasons. Man, I gotta say, they’re much better as a quartet–and a really tough act to follow!
As it turns out, The Sword had some technical troubles early in their set. J.D. Cronise’s Laney head blew up during the first song, and it took some time to determine the source of that terrible screeching sound–which led to an impromptu cover of “Surprise! You’re Dead!” by Faith No More. Right as he was about to give up, someone lent him a Marshall, and the show got back on track.
It seemed like they skipped a few songs due to the downtime, launching right into “How Heavy This Axe” offa their second album. We also heard another cover, ZZ Top’s “Cheap Sunglasses,” which, I gotta say, sounded pretty badass. But in the end, The Sword didn’t cut things short–they played on well past the 2 o’clock endtime, and came back for an encore after the club turned the lites on at 2:30. While a lotta people had left by then, I gotta say that the place was pretty packed for the duration. There was a whole helluva lot more people than the half-dozen who were dancing to dubstep next door!