THE FLESHTONES
@ the Railway Club,
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
December 11, 2005

By ROY PEARL

Here’s a simple question: are the Fleshtones the best band on the planet? Before you leap ill-advisedly to an answer, consider these few points:

• The Fleshtones are about to celebrate their 30th anniversary as a band. That’s 30 years of touring, with 16 albums released over that time span, and yet here they were appearing for a one-shot Canadian date in a club only slightly smaller than your average suburban living room - and for a ticket price of twelve bucks.

• Tickets were $12.

• I figured there'd be a line-up for this gig, so I dragged my wife to the club five hours before the band was scheduled to appear on stage.

That, I'll admit, may have been a slight miscalculation on my part. As it was, the place was totally empty except for the two of us, the bartender, and the Fleshtones themselves. When we bought some of their merch (including a copy of their new disc Beachhead), frontman Peter Zaremba came over and humbly asked if we wanted him to sign the CD - and then took it over to the rest of the band for each one of them to sign.

• And then the Fleshtones got on that tiny Railway stage. There wasn't enough room for all four of them so Zaremba stood off the riser in front - and the crowd probably numbered no more than 60. In our chat earlier Zaremba had said how he thought the size of the club was perfect, and I'd argued a little with him that it was a tad on the small side. "Naw," he said "It's perfect." And, goddammit, he was right. The band proceeded to put on an incredible, sweat-drenched show as if they were playing for thousands.

• The crowd probably numbered no more than 60.

• Tickets were $12.

• The Fleshtones had a blast on that tiny stage. They opened with “Hard Lovin’ Man” and barely stopped for a breath during a set of their R&B-infused garage punk “super rock” that turned the Railway into a six-kegger house party. Keith Streng and Ken Fox spent much of the evening playing their wireless guitars among the dancing crowd or on top of tables. Zaremba was all over the place. The band did push-ups; the crowd did push-ups - and, man, what’s a concert without push-ups? Drummer Bill Milhizer kept the whole wild affair from descending into chaos. At one point, the singer for local openers the Hung Jury blew harmonica while Zaremba laughed and exclaimed "this is better than Bellingham!"

• They played Bellingham the previous night.

• This night was a total party, and the Vancouver crowd responded with the sort of uninhibited, dance-crazy good vibes seldom witnessed in this city. In the face of the Fleshtones' choreographed stage moves, call-and-response vocals, and infectious attitude there was none of the usual hipster reserve, just a lot of moving body parts. And smiles. Seriously, when was the last time you looked around a venue and noticed everybody smiling? After a too-short set the Fleshtones only did one encore because they were heading back to Seattle at 4 in the morning to catch a flight back to Noo Yawk.

• The Fleshtones had to head back to Seattle at 4 in the morning to catch a flight back to New York.

• Tickets were $12.

So now, are the Fleshtones the best band on the planet? When you're witnessing them live - FUCK YES, most definitely.






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