Oh, Canada! Fleshtones are still Bigger and Better than we'll ever be
The Fleshtones joined by Miriam Linna (and Dave Champion at right of stage) . Photo: LePetitRusse
The “Wheel of Talent” was spinning in northern Ontario, Canada, baby. Oh yeah!
I very rarely open the newsletters and catalogs I get from various labels and bands but for some reason I was drawn to this month’s from Norton Records.
What do I see but that the mighty Fleshtones are playing two hours from home. And Sudbury hometown girl, Miriam Linna (head honcho at Norton Records, ex-Cramps drummer and solo artist in her own right), was going to be joining them. On stage. So, yeah, I had to go.
The Fleshtones need no introduction to anyone reading i94bar.com. For more than 40 years they’ve travelled the world bringing the rock to the masses and this weekend was no different than the hundred or so other times I’ve witnessed their brand of Super Rock. The last time was in Stockholm in 2007 so I was long overdue.
Openers Fashionism have a great sound. A little bit of Clash with the first three Jam albums mixed in. Excellent band who have a few releases, all worth getting.
Just before going onstage Peter Zaremba pulled me aside and said: “Be ready”. I had no idea what he meant and as he was putting on a cape and preparing to go into his alter ego as “Le Compte du Saguenay” I thought I’d keep a low profile.
That didn’t work. Right after they stormed through the opener “Bigger and Better” he pulled me onstage and said “Hey Mr. Lightman, turn out the lights. I wanna see if Dave Champion glows in the dark”.
For the past few years I’ve been living in a part of Canada known as “The Uranium Capital of the World”, something of great amusement to the band. I then made a big show of removing his cape and he whispers: “I need you to stay up here to make sure things don’t fall over”. At least my ears would survive, sitting behind the backline.
One thing I love about the Fleshtones is their attitude. They’ll never be rich from this but you can tell they enjoy it. The band’s unofficial motto is: “We have knocked on the door of success…and had it slammed in our face”. The audience loved it too. Ate it up. Within five minutes, the whistle was blowing, the harmonica wailing, Zaremba yelling “Up Here” to some weisenheimer in the crowd asking for “Way Down South”. Highlight for me was watching them do “Remember the Ramones”.
Ken Fox has long been one of my favourite bassists but man, he’s transcended, throwing extra notes in. That he arches his back to an almost 90 degree angle makes him one of my favourite gymnasts as well. He and Bill Milheizer had it locked in from start to finish. Both night’s setlists are posted and they kept to them….ahem, until the encores where anything went…and did.
After the show, I was talking to Alex Sharpe and his wife, Kim, longtime West Oshawa scenesters who, two years ago, had the Fleshtones pay on their 80 acre farm. Of course, Alex had photos of the band playing on top of haystacks and various other farm implements. Great people.
Alex also told me that guitar slinger, Rob Sweeney, formerly of Durango 95, Purple Toads, Crummy Stuff and a dozen or so other bands, would be playing with the Fleshtones Saturday night. Durango 95 and the Toads are two of my favourite bands so this started to sound good.
Saturday afternoon was filled with Miriam and her brother Jack, accompanied by Zaremba, on a voyage of rediscovery. The Linnas moved to Ohio in 1966 and apart from a brief visit in the early 80s, she hadn’t been back to Sudbury since. Mission: Find the old Linna family home which, as it turned out, was 666 St. Clair Street.
An old neighbor was still about and told the crew that “after you moved the city was petitioned to change the street number. Can’t have the devil’s number on a house here”. Miriam also made a new friend, the heretofore unseen black Norton panther (Norton pantheris)
Miriam and the Panther. Peter Zaremba photo
Some 20 years ago the Fleshtones played Sudbury to all of 9 people, sleeping in the basement of the same venue that was now packed. Before the show, Rob Sweeney and I got a long history of Zaremba’s teenage years working for a bigtime promoter in NY. Stories of Ike and Tina Turner in Central Park had everybody enthralled.
But for me, from a humour standpoint, his story of Edgar Winter live, calling the audience to “Give it up for my brother, Johnny….he just got out of the clinic today” had me in stitches.
Opener Dirty Princes had this Wire/Velvet Underground thing going. I didn’t see them but you couldn’t miss their sound.
I knew nothing about Dany Laj and the Looks before they played but I became a quick fan. Bassist Jeanette Dowling is not only a great player but her vocal harmonies with Dany won the crowd over. I kept thinking how great it would be to get them in the studio with the Alleycats guitar slinger, Randy Stodola, at the helm. Great band.
So, come 1am and the Fleshtones are gently reminded it’s time to play. And if Friday night was smoking, Saturday’s show was on fire. Opening up with “Hitsburg USA” they didn’t let up. Keith Streng did his usual walk into the audience, with mic and stand and did a number in the middle of the crowd. Yeah, they also did “The Dreg” and “Theme from the Vindicators”.
Rob was brought onstage and the band stormed through Canadian bluesman, David Wilcox’s, “Layin’ Pipe”. If there was ever a song that demanded a Fleshtones’ cover, well, “Layin’ Pipe’ was it. Rob stayed on stage while Miriam Linna joined the band for a version of “My Love is Gone” off her 2014 solo album, “Nobody’s Baby”.
Two encores later it was 2:30am and the security fellows were gently encouraging the audience to leave. The night ended with Alex, Kim and I standing on the street reciting our favourite Beat Farmers lyrics. Alex: “If I said little Spot got hit by a car you’d say?”
Hubba, Hubba, Hubba, Hubba!