The Mint Records Ridiculously Early Xmas Party with Tough Age, Jay Arner, the Evaporators and Renny Wilson Ukrainian Hall, Vancouver BC, November 30

The Mint Records Ridiculously Early Xmas Party with Tough Age, Jay Arner, the Evaporators and Renny Wilson Ukrainian Hall, Vancouver BC, November 30
Mint Records has been a jewel of the Vancouver indie music scene for over 20 years, and they've been doing these Xmas parties, often ridiculously early, for almost half that time. While occasionally featuring surprise guests like Andrew W.K. and Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos, the event is primarily interesting as a showcase for the continuing evolution of the Mint Records roster (as well as a major distribution of Pocky treats).

While the current crop of artists may not yet compare to John Belushi/Bill Murray days of SNL, like how history has begun to view the Organ/New Pornographers era of Mint circa 2003, judging from this party, Mint is entering a phase akin to the Chris Farley/Mike Myers SNL renaissance.

Jay Arner, Renny Wilson and Tough Age represent a bold new vision for the label, while honouring its affably independent legacy. All three acts released their debut full-lengths this year, which were instantly adored by the hip, taste-making elite of music publications.

While Arner's eponymous debut album was entirely self-performed, he was supported here by a four-piece band in bringing his songs to life. Their sound was a little chunky at first, but they settled in by captivating single "Midnight on South Granville" to ultimately deliver a much more present and rocking performance than his set at this year's Music Waste festival.

Renny Wilson may have performed selections from his solo debut, Sugarglider, accompanied only by pre-recorded instrumentals, but he obscured that instrumental limitation as best he could by making a disco spectacle of himself. Donning a bulky wig and his girlfriend's shiny cat suit, unbuttoned all the way down to his belly button, he could have passed for a young Gary Glitter.

While the music was canned and his singing erratic, Wilson sold it. Incessantly and seductively wiggling his hips, he hammed it up hard, kneeling down and serenading people right in their faces. During "Could've It Been Me," with Jay Arner and friend storming the stage for an impromptu dance party behind him, Wilson accidentally unplugged his mic, but rather than freeze, he sang a few lines into the XLR cable plug with the same vigour.

Also mostly playing selections from their eponymous debut, Tough Age were fucking fierce. Since they were battling curfew, Jarrett K. Samson couldn't work his humorous banter like he usually does live, but the time crunch added an urgency to their already spirited surf-punk sound; if San Francisco caught wind of "Sea of White," particularly how it was played this evening, the band would probably get kidnapped, never to return. Near the end of their set, in the Xmas spirit, they brought their buddy Chris-a-riffic to lay down some keyboards on a couple tracks.

Representing the old guard, in the wake of the unfortunate cancelation of the Ramblin' Ambassadors, Nicholas Krgovich (of P:ano fame) brought out his Christmastime character Chris Mastheim (get it?). With a Roland synth midi accompaniment, he covered the season's standards solo. It was a little on the flat and cheesy side, but, given the source material, it was an appropriate treatment that perfectly fit his obscure genius vibe.

As ever, the Evaporators brought the show to a close. Helmed by the legendary Nardwuar, they are known as one of Mint's greatest ever live bands, and they delivered their usual lunacy. Nardwuar would occasionally lay down a melody at his Ace Tone organ, but he mostly amped up the crowd with his animated hand gestures, his trademark smile splayed across his face whenever he wasn't singing. He progressed through several costume changes, from a Budweiser sweater with a Canada helmet to a lacy American flag vest.

He spent half the time running around the crowd or hoisted on their shoulders, later making them churn in a circle around him. Meanwhile, the band delivered fan favourites like "Addicted to Cheese" and "I Don't Need My Friends to Tell Me Who My Friends Are" alongside covers of "Higgle-dy Piggle-dy" by the Monks and "Hang on Sloopy" (with Sloopy swapped for Randy, in loving support of Mint co-founder Randy Iwata). Even after all these years, Nardwuar shows no signs of age, just like Mint Records itself.