D.O.A. are an institution. Having been a lynchpin in the West coast music scene for 35 years, their importance cannot be overstated. Not only did they help lay the foundation of the hardcore punk movement in the early '80s, many credit them with naming the genre. Thanks to former mayor Larry Campbell, Vancouver even celebrates "D.O.A. Day" on December 21. Over the years, the band have only had one consistent member, the ever-outspoken lead singer and guitarist Joey "Shithead" Keithley. That is the reason why D.O.A. called this show their last and final. Following through on the D.O.A. motto of "talk minus action equals zero," Keithley is throwing his hat into the political ring, running for provincial legislature.
This is not the first time he's done this, with Keithley having run (and lost) in 1996 and 2001, but there's an air of permanency about this one in particular. Where Keithley previously ran for the B.C. Green party, he's running for the NDP this time, which makes even more sense than Schwarzenegger running for the Republicans. Furthermore, Keithley's musical history makes Bill Clinton playing the sax look like Martin Prince playing a lute (read: more lame than lame). Plus, an artist of his stature running now, at a time when so many of the province's cultural institutions are under attack from developers and its own government, his success would be seen as a victory not only for federally persecuted leftists, but for artistic culture of the province.
As such, there was a nostalgic yet purposeful atmosphere in the Rickshaw this evening. Wearing his trademark cut-off jean jacket, Shithead took the stage to see a well-mixed crowd, from the impressive ensemble of first generation punks at the back to a toddler with protective earmuffs in his dad's arms by the stage. A youthful mosh pit boiled over by "Slumlord" (from their highly influential ) about 20 minutes in, but from the start, they offered Shithead a chance to hone his rabble-rousing.
A steady flow of half-full beer-cans flew onstage from the get-go, compelling Keithley to note on more than one occasion that he took offense to this stupidity, and would start kicking this shit out of people he caught doing it. Coming from an angst-ridden pop-punk suburbanite, this would seem an idle threat, but one could hear the determination in Keithley's voice. This aside, much of his banter leaned on his informed political stance, labeling racism as evil, calling out hate as a bad situation, deriding greedy landlords, giving his definition of "power to the people," and briefly tracing the Canadian history of the general strike to Winnipeg in 1919. To not take this man seriously would be a grievous mistake.
With 35 years and 14 studio albums to draw from, D.O.A.'s set list this evening drew from across their catalogue, from "World War 3" (heard on their 1980 debut album Something Better Change) to "He's Got A Gun" (from their most recent 2012 record We Come in Peace). All told, they ended up playing most of their 1982 release War on 45, noted as Keithley's personal favourite, including the reggae-tinged "War in the East", a groovy lull that divided their set nicely. One could sense the thoughtfulness of the set list, from a personal and historical perspective. Backed up by bassist "Dirty" Dan Yaremko and drummer Floor Tom Jones, Keithley performed not as a man taking his final bow, but with the vigour of phoenix rising from ashes. He shows a lot of flash, shredding behind his head on their first track, and occasionally tossing in windmill moves and ascending Jones's riser. Though he played with abandon, Keithley did not leave it all onstage. He started a fire that he will stoke all the way to the British Columbia Parliament.