13 Engines are runaway locomotives at the Town Pump in Vancouver

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, AUG. 15, 1991

13 Engines once played a gig in Memphis to a total of two people, which is less of a crowd than most bands get at rehearsals. But the Toronto foursome did a heckuva lot better than that at the Town Pump last week (August 7), pulling in roughly 300 bodies on a rain-soaked Wednesday. And if the crowd response and band performance were anything to go by, we’ll be seeing a lot bigger numbers at future Vancouver shows.

Can you say “Five nights at the Commodore”?

Well, maybe that’s a little premature, but lemme tell ya—these guys have what it takes to be the next Canadian superband. They have the dynamic guitar storm of current faves the Tragically Hip, but they temper that with a Grapes of Wrath-style knack for succulent pop melodies. There’s even a feedback-laden tribute to Neil Young & Crazy Horse (not too surprising, since long-time Young producer David Briggs was at the controls for the band’s latest album).

But enough comparisons. When 13 Engines hit their stride—which took them all of one song at the Pump—they become runaway locomotives. Singer/guitarist John Critchley, lead guitarist Mike Robbins, and bassist Jim Hughes are one dangerous string section, and drummer Grant Ethier in particular was a real dynamo, anchoring the band—and most often just plain driving it—on tunes from the new disc, A Blur to Me Now.

“Mike’s got a phaser pedal and he’s gonna use it!” warned Critchley at one point, but the frolicking crowd just inched closer to the stage, laughing in the face of deaf. And if the partying patrons weren’t silly enough when they got there, 13 Engines made sure they were rocked that way by night’s end.

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