They say the show must go on, but that of course is not always the case – one of the many cruel lessons of COVID-19. In British Columbia, some bands returning to the stage after a long pandemic intermission have found another test to that adage, given the deadly mudslides that have closed key routes and made travel challenging – or impossible.
Legendary B.C. punk band D.O.A. was supposed to play a pair of gigs this past weekend to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their seminal album Hardcore ’81. On Friday night, they were due to play in Hope, B.C. That was to be followed by a big homecoming show at the Rickshaw Theatre in Vancouver the next day – a manageable drive west on the highway, in normal times.
“It’s an hour-and-a-half,” said the band’s front man, Joe Keithley. “Unless you have a giant mudslide.”
The show in Hope – where many people were stranded because of the flooding – was cancelled. But the Vancouver show was still a go.
The only problem was getting there. D.O.A. drummer Paddy Duddy and bass guitarist Mike Hodsall live hours away in Nelson, B.C. They kept waiting for news that routes would reopen so they could drive to Vancouver. “We were hoping against hope – no pun intended,” Mr. Keithley said.
By late in the week, it became clear that flying would be their only option. The band felt it had no choice but to shell out an unusually large amount for the flights – almost $2,000 for the two band members. Getting their instruments to Vancouver from Nelson, however, was proving impossible.
Mr. Keithley sent out a note to the opening acts, including fellow Vancouver band Bishops Green, asking if anyone had any gear they could borrow. “They said, ‘Of course.’ We’re all like one big family – you’re always welcome to use our equipment,” said Mr. Keithley, who lives in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby, where he is also a city councillor.
All the band members made it to the venue late Saturday afternoon. “We just plugged in and did a sound check. And everybody used the same equipment all night long, all four bands,” Mr. Keithley said Monday morning.
“There’s a real family-type approach to punk rock,” he added. “People have a funny view of punk rock, but there’s a lot of kindness and helping people out despite the reputation or image that it has – the spirit belies the image.”
He and his bandmates had joked that if Mr. Duddy and Mr. Hodsall couldn’t make it, Mr. Keithley would have gone up onstage for a solo a cappella set. “Not quite what people expected,” the veteran punk rocker said.
Also late last week, Canadian singer-songwriter Afie Jurvanen, who performs as Bahamas, had three nights scheduled at the Vogue in Vancouver. But, as he told the crowd at Thursday night’s show, the tour bus couldn’t make it. So he made an impromptu visit to a local Long & McQuade store that morning to pick up rental gear.
Scot Buchanan, Long & McQuade’s regional district manager for B.C., heard about Bahamas’s hat tip to the store from a colleague who was at the show. (Mr. Jurvanen declined The Globe and Mail’s request for an interview.)
“We are the triage for last-minute tour problems – whether it’s a [vehicle] breakdown, or stuff stuck behind a rock slide,” Mr. Buchanan said.
Road closures because of catastrophic flooding are not the usual reason for last-minute gear needs – let alone in the midst of a pandemic. For D.O.A., it had been 20 months since they had abruptly ended their last tour, flying back to Canada from the U.S. on March 13, 2020, cancelling gigs that included New York and Boston. So being back onstage at the Rickshaw was particularly meaningful, Mr. Keithley said.
“Music, to me, is the one unifying thing that everybody around the Earth understands, despite the fact we’re in a super troubled time with lots of racial prejudice, climate change, trade disruptions,” he said. “But music has always had the ability to transcend that.”
The hometown show was great, he says – if a little unusual. Because of COVID-19, dancing was prohibited, so there was none of the usual mosh pits or stage-diving the band’s gigs are known for. Instead, chairs filled the dance-floor space. By the end of the night, the chairs were still standing – even if they weren’t in tidy rows anymore, Mr. Keithley said.
“I’m glad we could borrow the gear. I’m glad we played the show. That made everybody happy, including us.”