The Smalls West End Cultural Centre, Winnipeg MB, October 23

The Smalls West End Cultural Centre, Winnipeg MB, October 23
Photo: Greg Gallinger
Prairie punks from across Manitoba flocked to the West End Cultural Centre in Winnipeg last night (October 23) for the Smalls' reunion tour's lone, sold-out performance in the Keystone province. The dirty denim and black hooded faithful were treated to a loud evening full of classic Smalls jams, with a tasteful SNFU cover thrown in for good measure.

While much of the sellout crowd failed to arrive in time to catch the openers, or were milling about outside smoking during their set, Edmonton's Black Mastiff nevertheless held their own with a solid set of sludgy stoner rock.

But the bodies packed themselves tightly into the West End as the Smalls took the stage. The excitement was palpable, if somewhat trepidatious, as singer Mike Caldwell ambled on stage wearing a thick, grey hoodie and industrial ear protectors. And while 13 years had passed since, his voice rang out as hauntingly crisp and clear as it ever did as the band dove headlong into a lengthy set filled with cuts from all four of their now-classic albums.

The set list may have favoured selections from My Dear Little Angle more heavily than other records, but few favourites were left out; "Murdering Me," "Chords Like This" and "Payload" hit home like an overloaded prairie freight train. If the pace of a tune here or there may have been played a hair slower than it would have in the '90s, nobody seemed to mind, and despite the advancing age of much of the crowd, a rowdy pit was in full swing throughout the evening.

When the set was over, encore complete, the sweaty, black-hooded, denim-clad faithful poured back out into the dark prairie night, ears ringing, hungry for more and wondering just where the hell those last 13 years went.