Friday, 2 March 2012

Goddamn, Anagram!

Jeff Peers, Anagram bass god, recently announced the band's last show would be Friday, April 13 at the Silver Dollar in Toronto with Sun Ra Ra Ra The Soupcans and Cut Flowers ($10, 9pm, no advance tickets). With the band members living in different places and at different points in their lives, I'd heard rumours that a break-up was a possibility (so the news did not come as a complete shock) but it's still makes me really sad and not a little bit angry as well, I'm surprised to say.

Can I talk about them in the past tense? It reads weird to me but -

Anagram were better than just a good band or even just a really good band. They exemplified a certain indefinable quality the best bands have, a spirit and creativity that seems tied to the zeitgeist in which they operate; they are of a time and place. I certainly didn't have the world's greatest show attendance in the last decade but, given what it was, I have no problem stating that Anagram were the best live band in Toronto and parts beyond. Who was better?

They had their own sound and they explored it intelligently and with a solid sense of style over a series of consistently great recordings; they knew each other live as players and could effortlessly jam out awesome slabs of noise seemingly tirelessly. Their songs have urgency and energy, pitching Matt Mason's growl against his brother Willie's angular guitar grooves into crescendoes that never ceased to get crowds jumping and moshing (or stumbling around into each other at the very least).

For me personally, Anagram had a huge amount of resonance. Drummer Clayton Churcher had bootlegged my first band Starkweather's tape to CDR years ago (and did a very nice job at that), and three-quarters of Anagram were in Panzram's Ghost, who played our songs. I felt really honoured, not just for the recognition and the (admittedly very nice) idea that you'd inspired someone - but for the prescient fact that these Anagram guys were actually really good at what they were doing and fun to watch and listen to right from the get-go.

They were kind enough to say I'd influenced them early on and I can return the compliment by noting that they inspired me to start No No Zero going in the first place - because they made going to shows fun again and made playing music look fun again and I wanted in on this energy and I wanted in on these shows. Without Anagram, it's fair to say there probably wouldn't have been a No No Zero.

So that's a bit of why I'm sad about the news. In a nutshell, because they put on fun shows and made great records and I'll miss that. I'm angry as well because they deserved better, more recognition, both from this city and the music world in general. I'm not naive enough to think the music industry or scene or whatever has anything to do with fairness or who deserves what - but, still, as I'm at pains to point out, Anagram were a pretty unique case to me.

They were special. Not only a really good band but one from my hometown of Oshawa, and not only that, but they acknowledged this and even sang about it. That is so rare as to be quite noteable. They were cool, down to earth people, they played great music and we got to play a lot of shows together and have a lot of good times.

I'm bummed because I felt sure that they were going to 'break through' and attain some higher level of success and I felt (and feel) they deserved it and could've really made a go of it. No No Zero played Montreal a few months ago and Anagram were the band people kept asking me about: why don't they come to Montreal? When are they going to play here?

I'm a greedy fan and I can't help wishing they had another album in them - but Majewski was a powerful note to end on, and their covers 7" is a fun cap to that. I am so glad the world got a recorded version of Anagram doing The Cleavers' "Fish" (not to mention Leonard Cohen's "The Butcher"). When you're done, you're done, and I respect that. Everything ends. I hate to leave my house nowadays, but I will be there April 13 and I will drink and jump and mosh and stumble around awkwardly.

To make this show even more of a must-attend/bummer, Sun Ra Ra Ra will also be playing their last set this night. These guys came along later in the timeline but No No Zero played a few shows with them too, and I always loved their crazy noisey psychedelic sets and felt like they were kindred spirits. They were great to see and cool guys too, and I am very sad to hear of their passing also. Also they were the best band at Four Corners 2.

Nuff respect, Sun Ra Ra Ra.