Junkhouse at the Town Pump evokes the Beat Farmers’ Glad & Greasy

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, SEPT. 14, 1995

It’s midnight on a Friday (September 8) at the Town Pump. The brew has been flowing freely for hours already, and the hard-rocking headlining band is about to take the stage. The crowd is definitely stoked for some good old…spoken-word performance?

Apparently, Junkhouse singer-songwriter Tom Wilson thought it would be nice to precede his band’s appearance with a lengthy spoken-word tape, but the problem was, you couldn’t make out a line the guy said. Wilson’s deep voice combined with the PA’s heavy low-end sound to make whatever he was saying indecipherable, and after about five minutes, the mumbo jumbo took its toll.

“Hey, we came for music!” bellowed one guy, and in my mind I jumped up and hollered “Yeah!”

When the Hamilton quartet finally took the stage, I was reminded of that great old Beat Farmers EP, Glad & Greasy—I was glad to see ’em, and they sure looked greasy. Sporting the type of jester’s tuque favoured by the most depraved of snowboarders, the scraggly-bearded Wilson led the band directly into the first single from its new Birthday Boy CD, “Be Someone”, and any grudges arising from the spoken-word debacle were quickly swept away in the roaring chorus of “aye, aye, aye, aye”.

Junkhouse followed up with what is arguably the best cut on its 1993 Strays debut, “Praying for the Rain”, wherein drummer Ray Farrugia handily re-created the stick-against-trash-can rumble that propels the song. On another standout Strays selection, “Gimme the Love”, guitarist Dan Achen stole the show with some highly rude and barely controlled feedback.

Perhaps the most memorable performance came from Wilson himself, as his cryptic vocal on “Burned Out Car” managed to capture the profound sadness of that beautifully bleak tune. (On Birthday Boy’s version of the song, which was cowritten by Murray McLauchlan, Wilson gets some classy vocal assistance from Vancouver’s own Sarah McLachlan.)

The biggest letdown of Junkhouse’s weekend doubleheader at the Pump was the news that scheduled openers the Barstool Prophets had cancelled the dates to play a convention. In their place was a noisy punk-thrash quartet called Punch Buggy that didn’t offer much to set it apart from the multitudes of other acts sweating it out at local alternative joints such as the Hungry Eye, the Niagara, and the Pit Pub. Nonetheless, Punch Buggy’s purposely messy originals got the toes unwittingly tapping along, and the band ended on a high note with a raunched-up version of Men at Work’s 1982 hit “Who Can It Be Now?”.

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