The Teenagers live – Ukula (2.10.08)

Deflating the Hype Balloon

words – Scott Tavener & Chris Bilton

Do you remember that scene in 24 Hour Party People when Tony Wilson (Steve Coogan) went to the Sex Pistols gig? He looked around the sparse, 42-person crowd and pointed out notables. In attendance were everyone from Ian Curtis and Peter Hook to Morrissey and Mick Hucknall. The show itself became a legend, with 70s/80s Mancunian musical luminaries citing it as a major creative impetus. The Teenagers recent Great Hall gig was nothing like that.

1976’s mythic Free Trade Hall gig properly introduced punk to a handful of would-bes, generating a bevy of reactive excitement. Conversely, the Teenagers Great Hall show came with a swarm of pre-game expectation. I mean come on, the only reason to see Paris’s premiere hipster hype-gasm was to attain I-Was-There cred, just in case they happened to live up to the blog fellatio (I know, the suspense is killing you). But did it need to cost $16.50? The last Bloc Party show was less than that and at least those dudes have earned it.

This “show” felt more like one of those modeling scams where they tell you that you have “A Look” and bring you in for an interview and then suggest that you should shovel over something in the neighbourhood of $500 for head shots so that your agent will be able to get you some auditions. Only here there is no audition; you’ve already got the gig and all you have to do is fill a one-foot square space with your best ironic-haircut-plus-oversize-glasses look and pretend you’re having a good time (drink a few beers while you’re at it). But first we have to get there.

Thankfully, for those of us late to the ticket wicket, the gig was moved from its initial cozy locale to the tragically underused Great Hall at Queen and Dovercourt. So, there was no line-up, no pawing for guest-list entry scraps, and no nasty scenes out front. Just a mandatory coat-check and a line-up for the boys’ toilet. Nice.

The show was in the upstairs hall rather than the two-storey basement, which made perfect sense considering the last show I saw in the subterranean confines was a DIY no-wave onslaught, featuring some of Toronto’s finest noise, with no cover charge and a hardcore fanbase. The ornate and spacious upstairs, with its massive Smirnov billboard hovering over the stage, security guards posted on the balcony, and a carnival-invoking drink-ticket set-up, had an ad hoc feeling of fabrication accentuated by pre-set indie rave blasts.

The Teenagers took the stage, ran through four quick songs – including a lacklustre, wink-and-nod rendition of mini-hit “Starlett Johansson” – then fucked around for a while, eventually bringing four girls on stage to sing along. For their part, the quintet (nee trio) seemed to be in on the joke (nee absurdity), shrugging and grinning guiltily between tracks and poses. With a tongue-and-cheek infectiousness, the songs themselves are well-suited to turntables and clandestine headphones, especially when limited to a four-track MySpace statute of limitations. However, when given the live treatment – particularly in the hands of far-from-stellar instrumentalists – they’re thinner than smack heads.

There will be a point years from now when we look back and say things like “Remember American Apparel? Ha Ha Ha Ha. Remember going to see that Teenagers thing? Ha Ha Ha Ha. Remember recycling? Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha. Man, we really thought shit mattered back then.” Well, at least two of those three won’t be worth reflecting on for any reason than to flog our own gullibility (I freaking hope, anyway).

Originally published in Ukula.

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