Those who've seen Colin Brunton's 1978 concert film The Last Pogo will no doubt remember the Viletones and Teenage Head's venom-fuelled performances upon the Horseshoe stage. But it was the charming harmonies and blatant Velvet Underground filch of Toronto's the Scenics that truly gave Brunton's film its eclectic flavour. Thirty-three years later, the Scenics stopped in Ottawa amid a four-city tour, looking as unsuspecting and bleary-eyed as ever.
As a member of Ottawa garage rockers 40 watt Monkey was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery, fellow Ottawans the Big Bend promptly filled the opening slot, playing only their second show since forming earlier this year. Featuring veteran musicians who've played numerous Ottawa stages over the last three decades, the Big Bend delivered a set of power-chorded rock reminiscent of Canada's '80s college rock pioneers like 54-40 and the Tragically Hip.
Joined by former band-mates Mike Young on bass and Mark Perkell on drums, the core singer/guitarists of the Scenics - Ken Badger and Andy Meyers - kicked off their set with a trio of decadent pop songs, including a cover of the Velvet Underground's "What Goes On." Riding that wave between noisy and loose, Badger and Meyers, switching vocal duties, covered a majority of songs from the 1979 debut Underneath the Door, complete with should-have-been classics "O Boy," "Do the Wait" and "In the Summer," which outright steals its main riff and melody from the VU's "Waiting for My Man" (made even stranger by the fact that "Waiting" was covered earlier in the set).
Although the Zaphod crowd never eclipsed 20 people, there seemed to be a sense of accomplishment within the four members of the Scenics. Knowledge in the realization that starting over in 2009 will be easier than starting from scratch was in 1978.