Learn from Experience II

Tom Smith

tom smith | make green bay weird | march 2019

The SmugglersWhen I last left you, I had just boarded my connecting flight in Detroit to Seattle, my final destination for the Seattle Pop Punk Festival to see perhaps The Smugglers for the last time ever. In part one I referenced the Twilight Zone and I must reference that show again because, for me, traveling to see The Smugglers without my passport after needing it to see them the last three times was a shade Twilight Zoney to me. I was disappointed to be at the Detroit airport and not have the chance to go through their weird light and sound tunnel that has a Logan's Run vibe to it.

My flight arrives in Seattle and I'm off to meet up with ex-Green Bay native Joe Decker. Joe has been in Seattle for a number of years now. Last time I was in Seattle was to see the Supersuckers (speaking of the Supersuckers they are playing Green Bay at the Lyric Room on Monday, March 11 as part of their 30thAnniversary Tour. They will be playing their first two albums and a country set. Dirty Deuce is opening this can't-miss show) at the Tractor Tavern. Joe was cool enough to give me a ride to my hotel (back when I normally would get a room when traveling). I used Seattle's light rail and met Joe in the city. Joe then proceeded to take me to El Chupacabra (the name of this Mexican restaurant made me think of the bands Chixdiggit and the Groovie Ghoulies). We walk in and Public Image Limited is playing on the stereo so I already like the place. I tried something I never had before and had the torta (I think my meat choice was carne asada). The torta was delicious and combined with some guacamole I was properly fueled up for the Seattle Pop Punk Fest. I would definitely eat there again.

The venue this fest was being held at is EL Corazon/The Funhouse. This venue has two separate rooms and eventually I learn this was two different venues combined. The third day of the Seattle Pop Punk Fest had a great lineup with a number of bands I was not too familiar with that impressed me. Some of those bands that tickled my fancy were Ol' Doris, Amsterdam Seattle, The Subjunctives, The Stand GT and the Skates. The Skates reminded me of the Jetty Boys and not just because their frontperson had the look and stage charisma of female Drew of the Jetty Boys. I would not be surprised if we all hear much more about this band in the future and I hope they get to play with the Jetty Boys sometime. I dug this club and the staff was friendly (especially how they let people meander around after the show was over). The patrons were a friendly sort also, not shocking because I didn't expect a lot of pent up hostility at a Pop Punk Fest. At this point of the night the second-to-last band, The Smugglers, is about to hit the stage. This was the first time of my four trips to see The Smugglers that they were not the headliner and I think either consciously or subconsciously they put an extra effort to rock even harder. When the headliner is the Young Fresh Fellows, any band would want to bring their A-game. The Smugglers not being the headliner caused their set to be a little shorter than the other three shows but they made up for that with a once again ferocious set of party rock 'n' roll. They had a guest star sing with them that night and that was the one and only Lisa Marr, who with her band Cub, rocked Green Bay at the Concert Cafe. Lisa sang on “Flyin' Buttress of Love." Lisa played on the Friday of the Seattle Pop Punk Fest and I admit I messed up by not getting to Seattle a day earlier. Not only would I have seen her perform, but I would have missed out on my close call of almost missing my connecting flight in Detroit. The next time I go to a festival I won't blow off a day of it until after I study who is playing.

Towards the end of The Smugglers' set I got the impression they are playing like this actually could be their last show. They changed the order of what their set has been the last two years and saved a song that was usually very early in the set to be the very last song they played. If this was to be the last show by The Smugglers or the last time I see them, the song they ended with was the perfect choice. That song, which also is one of my absolute favorites by them, was “Rock 'N' Roll Was Never This Fun." Which is so appropriate because The Smugglers performance that night and every night I have ever seen them makes me ask the question: Has rock 'n' Roll ever been this fun? The answer may be no. I honestly could not have enjoyed their set any more than I did. Their performance of this song that night had a heaping extra helping dose of infectious urgency that really had to be experienced. I was asked by Grant Lawrence, singer of The Smugglers, later that evening to rank for him the four shows I have seen by them over the last two years. Previously, I ranked the show at Amigos in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, No. 1 and I'm leaving that show ranked at No. 1. As I said previously, that show had the feel of a show at the Concert Café in Green Bay in the '90s and that keeps it at the top spot. No. 2 would have to be the show in May of 2017 in Vancouver. BC. That show was my first time seeing them in 16 years and having The Muffs (another one of my favorite bands of all time) on the bill with Chixdiggit (who also have a 5-star rating from me) and Needles//Pins, who opened the show, really sweetened the pot. This was also my first time in Vancouver and let me put it this way, that is a city that is really easy to fall in love with. No. 3 is the show in Seattle as I just said they were on fire and on a mission that night and if that would be their Swan Song it couldn't have been more epic. No. 4: The show at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, Ontario. This show is ranked No. 4 but don't let that make you think it's some redheaded stepchild in this ranking. That show was a total blast and the only show of the four that they played possibly my favorite song by them, “Pick 'Em up Truck." I even got to see them practice it at the soundcheck. I must confess, I kind of bugged them to do this song and they were cool enough to accommodate their biggest fan from Wisconsin. I loved hanging out on Queen Street before and after their show in Toronto. They also had a great lineup of openers. Duotang (who I hadn't seen since they played the Concert Café), The New Enchanters (who blew me away) and another great set from Needles//Pins.

Up next in Seattle was the Young Fresh Fellows. If the RNRHOF wasn't total bunk, the YFF would have been inducted years ago and their performance in Seattle proved this point with ease. One of my biggest regrets in life is missing them the one time they played in Green Bay at the Riverside Ballroom with the Red Hot Chile Peppers in 1989. Needless to say, I was in music nirvana during their set. The last time I enjoyed a band this much that I was seeing for the first time, who I had been wanting to see since the '80s, was Redd Kross in Milwaukee at the Cactus Club a couple of years ago. That is the highest compliment I can pay a band for a live performance. I'm also a giant fan of YFF guitarist Kurt Bloch and this was my first time seeing him perform live. The reason why I missed the one time I had the chance to see his band the Fastbacks is a story for another day. The YFF played one great song after another that I hadn't thought about in a while that brought this instant rush of me thinking I love this song!

After the show I had the honor and privilege to met YFF singer and guitarist Scott McCaughey and besides telling him how much I loved their performance, I told him how I just rectified a mistake I had made by missing them in GB in 1989. Scott looked at me, smiled, and without a pause said tonight was a better show. Perfect ending to a perfect night. After the show I eventually just went to the airport to wait for my 8 a.m. flight. I kept hearing this PSA for TSA which went like this: “Hi, this is Duff McKagan of Guns N' Roses," which I kept changing in my mind to “Hi this is Duff McKagan of the Fastbacks." Live Long and how much about last night do you remember?


Since 1984, when he first began selling records at Galaxy of Sound inside the Port Plaza Mall, Tom Smith has been part of the Green Bay music scene. Promoting his first show in 1986 and hitting his stride with the Concert Café (1995-2001), Smith continues to promote shows in Green Bay. He first honed his journalistic chops while serving as a student DJ at WGBW, interviewing such icons as Motörhead and the Ramones. Today you can find him championing live music and managing The Exclusive Company in Green Bay.

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