Mish Way, the singer for the Vancouver punk crew White Lung, apologized for arriving on the stage at Toronto’s Garrison club a bit late on Sunday night, not that anyone had been checking their watches. She also had a request for the soundman: “Could you give me 100 milliseconds of delay on the vocals?” she asked, and then quickly apologized. “I know, that’s diva-like.”
The band of three women and one man kicked in hard with Drown With the Monster, the furious, breakneck lead cut off the band’s third album, Deep Fantasy. “Ride with the monster, run from my score,” she shouted, like a Courtney Love, but one with a hypodermic needle half-full of gasoline still in her neck. The song is about the fight. Who’s keeping score? Everybody is keeping score.
Online taste-making music site Pitchfork recently rated Deep Fantasy an 8.6 out of 10 , lauding the disc as savvy, “thus ensuring its staunch ideals are delivered by a riveting, relatable frontwoman and 22 minutes of vicious, compact musicianship and addictive melody.” The reviewer went on to describe the album as an “uncompromising feminist punk record that can be grasped by anyone who finds themselves compelled by kickass rock music and basic human decency.”
Kickass rock music and basic human decency – empires have been built upon less. And if Way was late to the stage at the Garrison, her reputation had preceded her. The head on her shoulders is not just for banging; she writes for various blogs and publications, on such things as The Office finale for the National Post or on women, desire and self-objectification for Vice.com.
In an interview for Aux.tv she conducted with the California rapper Antwon, Way brought up sites such as Pitchfork, which create darlings of the underground press who are “broke but credible and kind of known to a select group.” Which basically describes the young lions of Canadian punk: Japandroids, Metz, PUP and White Lung.
Punk rock was built as a wrecking ball to the corporate rock of the 1970s. As such, today it might be seen as an anachronism, in terms of punk music as something relevant and rock music in general being not being the commercial force it once was. There are a few loudies still selling records and concert tickets (such as Jack White, Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age), but, in general, rock is fringe.
Also in Pitchfork, May’s heroine Courtney Love spoke of younger acts whom she had inspired, through her music and through her badassery. “I'd hope they achieve some sort of mainstream success, so people start picking up instruments again,” said Love, when White Lung was brought to her attention. “Because there is a reward for it.”
I don’t know what awards, rewards or validations White Lung is shooting for. On stage, Way was all business. At one point she scolded her audience, telling them that if they weren’t going to move her, to paraphrase, she wouldn’t be able to move them. She wanted a reaction, some life from her crowd. White Lung was doing its best, but punk music was never meant to be a spectator sport.
The band left the stage after a high-velocity 45 minutes, with no encore. Frankly I’m not sure we deserved one. Way’s the one riding the monster and a wave. She’s putting in the work and the thought. One-hundred milliseconds delayed, whatever. She’s arrived, right on time.