When it comes to self-deprecating punk rock, few bands do it better than Iron Chic and Off With Their Heads — so perhaps it was only time before the two joined forces for a co-headlining Western Canadian tour.
Up first of the two last night (November 26) at Calgary's Nite Owl were Iron Chic (pictured above), who haven't really done much touring in this half of Canada but still received a warm welcome from the packed venue. They kicked things off with "Cutesy Monster Man" from their 2010 full-length debut Not Like This before launching into "My Best Friend (Is a Nihilist)" from last month's brand new You Can't Stay Here. If anything, the new songs actually sounded better live, as singer Jason Lubrano's vocals weren't as muffled as they are on their raw new recordings.
Iron Chic's three full-lengths got a decent amount of love throughout their set. The crowd went wild during "Wolf Dix Rd," and the slower "(Castle) Numbskull" was jokingly referred to as a song fit for dancing at a prom by guitarist Phil Douglas — maybe because the Nite Owl has a legit disco ball hanging from the ceiling. Other than that, the band kept pretty quiet and let the music do the real talking. To keep up with the band's sombre mood, Lubrano performed the songs stumbling around on stage, never smiling and usually keeping his eyes closed; he also turned his back to the crowd to take big swigs of beer during instrumentals flawlessly pulled off by Douglas and the rest of the band. Even at the very end when the crowd was singing along to "Time Keeps on Slipping Into the (Cosmic) Future," he maintained the depressing tone of the song and never showed much emotion.
Ryan Young from Off With Their Heads writes lyrics that are just as depressing, but his stage persona is much more upbeat in comparison. Looking like he stumbled onstage with a hangover and a serious case of bedhead, the band still pulled off a solid set. Young was just in Calgary in June for an acoustic show, and OWTH aren't total strangers to the Prairies, which is probably why they played last, even if their most recent full-length was released in 2013. The band kicked things off with popular cuts like "Drive," "The Eyes of Death" and "Fuck This, I'm Out" before deciding to do some improvisation and take requests from the crowd. Someone shouted out "Don't Make Me Go" and after some hesitation the band hammered out something that was much louder than the softly recorded original (a song about not feeling like you fit in where you grew up and one of the standouts from Home).
As the band played on with tunes like "Die Today" and "Focus on Your Own Family," the crowd just seemed to be getting more and more into it. As with Iron Chic, there wasn't much in the way of banter aside from talking about how messed up things are in the States and how Canada is so much better — except for "stabby" Winnipeg, as Young poked fun at the former murder capital of Canada to the Alberta audience.
Because it was a co-headlining set there was no encore, but in true fashion, the last two songs featured the most stage dives and sing-alongs of the night. First they played "Nightlife," then ended with "Clear the Air," which has been a staple for years. Young talked about how the song was anti-suicide before going into the opening line and flinging himself into the crowd. It's nothing Off With Their Heads fans haven't seen before, but at least the band still sound good and seem sincerely enthusiastic to still be up there.
Opening duties were given to Mobina Galore, who might best be compared to the gruffness of the Distillers. Over the last year, the band have gone from playing local shows in their Winnipeg hometown to touring Europe and the U.S. with Against Me!, which is a pretty big accomplishment. Guitarist Jenna Priestner and drummer Marcia Hanson seem more confident than they were three years ago and sounded better than ever onstage playing to a packed room that was actually there early to see them perform. It probably didn't hurt that the band's newest record, Feeling Disconnected, was a huge step up from 2014's Cities Away. Most of the band's set was comprised of new songs like "Vancouver," "Going Out Alone" and "Spend My Day," but the odd older track like "You're Not 23 Anymore" made the cut too.
The Alberta band on the bill was the Allovers, who play an older style of cheesy power-pop-punk songs using words like "rinky dink." Compared to the other three, it was obvious they were just a local band having a bit of fun singing about how it's "Tub Time," one of the only recorded tracks on a Bandcamp page they made four years ago.