The Smugglers Tenth Anniversary Weekend
Friday September 18 - Sunday September 20, 1998
Vancouver, BC, Canada

Before this weekend diary kicks off, there should be some clarification in regards to Your Smugglers. In direct contradiction to what the liner notes say in our new album "Growing Up Smuggler," the official line up of the Smugglers is once again Nick Thomas and David Carswell on guitar, me Grant Lawrence on voice, and ... believe or not... Beez on bass, and yes, Bryce Dunn on drums. At least that's the line up we presented for this ten year anniversary show. Beez even has a new pair of Buddy Holly glasses that are so huge, heavy, square and black that they weigh down his face, make his neck sore and cause dizziness! He's back!06_Nick_Beez.gif (14222 bytes) As for our two members who took Bryce and Beez' place for a year, drummer Danny Fazio and John Collins, they are still both our good friends and were present throughout the events of this weekend and will always be considered Official Smugglers, if that means anything at all. Now, when the Smugglers get back to your town, there's no guarantee who'll be on stage, but it'll be someone from the growing Smuggler Family Rockers, and it'll be as much a rock'n'roll spectacle as possible, we promise. Without further delay, here's the run-through report of the events from the fabulous Smugglers anniversary weekend that took place in September 1998.

There was lots of action going on that weekend besides the show. For one thing, it was the official release date of our new album that chronicles the ten years we were celebrating this weekend. The other occurrance that took us by surprise was the amount of Smugglers fans and friends who decided to come to Vancouver and help celebrate, as well as the distance some of them travelled, some from as close as Seattle or Portland, and others from around the world! We had folks in town from Italy, Japan, England, and all over the USA and Canada. It was truly flattering, and as it became apparent that all these folks were coming, along with the bands we played with, the Hi-Fives and the Donnas, that we decided to turn the event into an entire weekend of festivies. A Friday night bbq, some daytime fun on Saturday, the show Saturday night, and a Tomahawk BBQ brunch on Sunday. Here's what happened:

Friday September 18: BBQ!
The day started off fairly nuts, with all the Smugglers in organization mode, driving all over the city, picking people up and dropping them off, last minute errands, booze runs, condom pick ups, you name it. Lots of people were flying in, and we were trying to pick up as many as possible. Dave and I were out at the airport several times to meet folks, including the fabulous Donnas, as well as most of the staff from our record label Lookout (Cathy, Chris A., Molly, Tristin, and her friend Katy), and... San Francisco's very own cross between Fred Flintstone and Fonzie... the Hugh Hefner of Hot Rods... Mike LaVella from Gearhead magazine (once he finally managed to bash his way through customs -- twice -- after leaving his tickets on the plane "Listen, mountie, I'm a fuckin' AMERICAN! A YANK! A CARD CARRYING RED BLOODED ELVIS LOVING MOTHERFUCKING SON OF A BITCH CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!!! LET ME THROUGH! WE OWN YOU PEOPLE!"). Once the Canadian flag lapel pins were handed out and all the "aboot" and "eh" jokes were rudely hurled at us we were on our way.

 

In my car were The Donnas, who had never been in Canada before, so I tried to give them a quick Canadian low-down (our money/John Candy/hockey, etc) but eventually the conversation steered to the recent season premiere of "Beverly Hills 90210," where I tried desperately to impress the Donnas by telling them that the Smugglers "party frequently" (once) with fellow-Canadian Jason Priestly. When I tried to make the connection between "90210" and "Little House On The Prairie" (Brenda was on both) to talk about how great THAT show was, the Donnas answered with cold hard stares and an uncomfortable silence. Guess they're not into overtly religious farming dramas. Thank god I had the new Slik Toxik album cued up in the tape deck!

Once the Donnas and the Lookout gang were safely settled in their hotel rooms, I zipped back over to my parents' house (who were nice enough to donate the p-pad for the BBQ) where I found Smuggler 01_BBQ.gif (14653 bytes)Nick had not only already set up the keg but was slumped on the floor beside it, legs outstretched, having taken several sample pints to make sure "the carbonation was just right." He still wasn't sure, so he kept on a-chuggin'.

Soon folks started arriving, the booze started flowing and party started rocking. Mike LaVella instantly jimmied my parents' liquor cabinet open with his switchblade (comb) to make a tasty shit-mix punch, Heather and Frank from New York cooked up some lovely corn on the cob, Bryce brought a crispy veggie platter, and Nick was selling the sizzle by cookin' mounds and mounds of meat and tofu on the BBQ. Since sampling the first eight or nine pints from the keg, Nick wasn't exactly the sharpest patio-daddy-o, and was constantly burning people's dinner to a charred black and hardened chunk, much to the disgust of most diners. This only left more area in the tummies for hootch, and folks got more and more loaded and sexed up as the evening wore on. Smuggler Dave replayed his karaoke host role from the Lookout 10 year anniversary, bustin' out my brother-in-law's early eight track karaoke prototype "The Singing Machine." To break the ice, each Smuggler sang a song, with Dave initiating with Babs Streisand's "Evergreen," then me Grant doing "The Peppermint Twist," Beez singing Anne Murray's "Snowbird," Nick slurring out "Jack And Diane" and Bryce doing his signature karaoke/spoken-word staple "Love Potion Number Nine". Everytime the karaoke slowed down, Dave's threat to the crowd was if no one came up and sang, the punishment would be a "reggae jam." At one point he rasta'ed for thirty minutes straight, covering "I Shot The Sheriff," "We Jammin'," "Stir It Up" and a bong-load more, until Smuggler Danny rescued the party by screeching out Van Halen's anthemic "Jump!" After several other singers (Smugglers pals Megan doing "Fame," ex-DOA Ford Pier stealing the show with "Hopelessly Devoted To You" and pugnastic Pete Bastard cranking out a dangerous version of "My Way" his way) the karaoke wrapped up with a heartfelt duet between Chris Appelgren and Dave chiming together, arm in arm, on Sade's "Diamond Life."

Another attraction at the party was the complete volumes of Smugglers photo albums from the past ten years that Nick diligently maintains. Almost everyone at the party was pictured in the albums at some point, and coupled with the booze, it created many mushy moments for party patrons. "Yes! I do remember the time I puked in your van, and it's great to see a photo of it!" As far as I know, besides Nick and his girlfriend's after-party shag in the first vacant room they could find, there was unfortunately little hanky panky to report. Though I must admit when Lookout's simply glamourous publicist Tristin and her s.e.x.y. friend Katy needed a place to rest and retired to a guest room, it provided interesting possibilites, sort of a two-to-one, American/Canadian exchange rate in the bedroom type thing, but hosting duties prevailed. 02_Cathy.gif (12878 bytes)

Folks continued to eat, drink and smoke into the wee hours, and when everyone finally filed out, I cleaned up til 5:00AM, then sat down with a six pack, a bottle of red wine and the photo albums and got all mushy myself. I soon passed out, rolled off the couch, and much to my horror, was woken by my shrieking mom the next morning, as I was face down with my pants around my ankles in a puddle of red wine and piss in the centre of the living room rug. Whoops! Sorry ma, I.O.U. one 24' x 34' rug!

 

Saturday September 19: soccer, the Beauticians, The Big Show!
I felt as sick as Dave Parasite, but I got up anyway and took off for the day to run errands for the show, and never actually made it to either of the events scheduled for the day. Seems that the only out-of-towners that showed up for Nick's weekly soccer game were Anthony and Sam (all the way from San Juan Capistrano, California!), but lots of the regular players were there and I heard it was a great game.

Across town at a local health food store's parking lot was a scheduled afternoon performance by Beez' other band the Beauticians, of which he's the lead singer and writes pretty much all the songs, and together they perform what I like to call light and bouncy, ELO-esque space pop. Basically higher-quality stuff that doesn't usually gel with the Smugglers frantic, brain-dead frat rock. Most of the out-of-towners showed up for the show, and I later flew into a jealous rage when I heard the Beauticians wore their new, two-piece gold lamee matching suits, a fantastic look that is sort of a cross between Ravi Shankar and Elvis. It's some of the hottest stage apparel I've ever seen and surely puts the Smugglers collection of matching soiled rags to shame!

Okay -- night time, the right time. As darkness fell on Vancouver, the line was already starting to form at the Starfish Room, just kitty-corner to the Chicago Pizza Works, the now-defunct venue where we debuted ten years ago at the "International Scooter Portage." We decided not to sell advance tickets for this show and boy did that ever create chaos. What we did do, mainly to accommodate and guarantee entry to the out-of-towners, family and close friends, was create this fucking "ticket reserve list" which caused the club's doormen huge bouts of confusion and fury throughout the night, much to the chagrin of the 700 people who showed up (with 525 exactly actually making it into the club). Out of the dozens of folks that I've spoken to about the show, everyone of them has a different story about making it in, not getting in, bribing the doorman, standing in line for hours only to be turned away, sneaking in the back door, fighting with bouncers, you name it. Almost everyone was pissed off by the rough treatment from the club's door staff. We've discussed it with management, and believe us folks, even after the adventure of actually getting through the front door, it's still the best club in Vancouver.

Present to kick things off was our roadie and usual merch man Ska-T, the Canadian King of Ska. Ska-T is also famous around town under another title: DJ Ska-T. Bill and Randy from Mint Records manned the merchandise booth, leaving Ska-T to be our DJ/MC for the night. After warming up the crowd with some ska tunes that could only be comparable to weak tea, the first person he introduced was the one and only Nardwuar The Human Serviette. Always forefront in the lifespan of the Smugglers, ever since suggesting our band name, getting us our first gig, and putting out our first record, Nardy and the other Goblin kicked off the evening sharply at 10:00PM. After a few tunes of their rudimentary organ and drum rock, they were joined by the San Francisco chapter of the Ska-blins (Gary and Chris from the Hi-Fives on trumpet and guitar, plus Evaporators/Ska-blins/Smugglers John on trombone and Dave on bass). The Ska-blins skanked out some vicious vibes, much to the joy of Ska-T who celebrated by lighting up a massive joint and fumigating the club with some of the finest British Columbian "rolled gold" he could find for five bucks a bag. Speaking of fun-bags, Ska-T brought a date to the show! (More on that later.) After the Ska-blins, Nardwuar brought out the latest members of the Goblins family, the Discoblins, a hilarious, authentic instrumental disco combo, complete with shimmery lamee headbands, capes, and cop sunglasses.

Once Goblins Etc had retired it was time for the group that had a whole lotta people in Vancouver very excited, turning the anniversary into even more of an event. No folks, the Smugglers didn't go on early... ladies and gentlemen, it was now time for the Canadian debut of... The Donnas!!! The only problem was, it was tough to actually get them out on stage. Bless their hearts, those sweet Donnas still have a wee touch of stage fright! As they peeked out the stage door to survey the stage and the packed house crowded up against it, the Donnas nervously tuned and re-tuned their guitars, all the while giddily chanting "Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god," grabbing each other and hopping up and down. Check it out: these girls have played sold-out shows all over the world and they still get nervous! Now THAT'S endearing! These days all the Smugglers do is yawn, burp, and shit before shows.

03_Donnas.gif (12989 bytes)Any iota of pre-show jitters simply vanished into the Vancouver night once these four party rockin' she-devils from Palo Alto, California stormed the stage. They totally destroyed the place, and the Canadians, as far as I could tell, loved every second of it. The Donnas played old hits and new, from both albums, plus a couple of brand new blasters that had the crowd head banging madly. Ska-T got so excited that, besides getting a raging hard on, he gobbled down his entire bag of magic mushrooms that were supposed to last all night! That's JUST the kind of overwhelming effect the Donnas have on an audience. Thanks for coming, Donnas, you were great!

It was certainly a stellar moment when the next band hit the stage. Our pals the Hi-Fives made a special trip up the west coast to play this show. It's been well documented in liner notes and elsewhere, that as soon as the Smugglers and the Hi-Fives hooked up years ago, we've had instant camaraderie and friendship. Our music is similiar in spirit and style, our suited look is pretty much a match, and we have a great time together whenever we collide. On this night, the Hi-Fives were on fire! They played a bunch of new songs from their excellent new album "Get Down!" as well as plenty rave-ups from their first two. They're a great, great band and all of us Smugglers agreed that it was the best time we had ever seen the Hi-Fives -- they were so rockin' -- and we sure appreciated that they pulled off such a hot one at our anniversary. About three quarters of the way through the Hi-Fives' set, us Smugglers met in the backstage room as we always do to disrobe, massage each other, and then and get changed into the outfits and discuss our set. Upon entering the back stage area we were greeted by a wall of pot smoke and Ska-T emerging from the back stage bathroom, zipping up his pants with one hand, leading his date with the other, with his joint still puffin' away in his mouth. Seems Ska-T was so sexed up that he and she dropped acid, then Ska-T had his date relieve his Donna-boner via a psychedelic blowjob on the john!

After booting Ska-T back to the DJ booth, it was our turn (to take the stage), so away we went. (We've heard since that apparently Bryce [who starts drumming before the rest of us take the stage for "Rock With The Smugglers Tonight"] tried lighting some fireworks, but we completely missed it). We had a ball - besides the recording session for "Buddy Holly Convention" and some fun recent practicing, it was the first time the five of us had played together since March of '97. It turned out that only I forgot the lyrics and moves (to about eight songs) but managed to cover them up by sticking my hands in the air and screaming "Let's rock!" or "Let's party!" or "Group photo!" so only the most die-hard fan would have caught the slips. We did several costume changes throughout the night, six in total, representing all of our looks good and bad over the years. First it was the heavy wool pea jackets and toques for the original "smuggler" look, then it was the very fey pink polka dot shirts that we picked up at a thrift store our first time through Athens, Georgia (the big story behind them is that Pearl Jam had just been in days before and bought matching yellow ones... needless to say I don't remember seeing their yellows grace a Pearl Jam record the way we shamelessly pranced about in those pink numbers). Up next were our white custom Smugglers bowling shirts, then our suits, then the Sheraton bell hop jackets, and then the most recent Smuggler smock/silver nehru coats we've worn in the last year or so, made by Soraya "She Ain't No Egyptian" Tayob.

04_Nick_string.gif (16785 bytes)We tried to play songs that spanned all the records, and in order to do so we played a pretty lengthy set of about 25 or 26 songs, which is probably a little too long by usual Smugglers and Smuggler fans' attention span, but hey, it was the ten year thing, we had to play a bunch. Our dance contest winner was a kid named Nate who drove up from Bend, Oregon (when I asked him where he was from I was at first shocked and appalled as I thought he yelled "BEND OVER!!!" in my face), as selected by Kristen, a 1996 Kingston, Ontario dance contest alumni winner, and our kissing contest winner was Molly from Lookout (when I picked her from the back of the room I SWEAR I didn't know it was Molly!!!) who kissed Beez (our contest was "guess the oldest Smuggler" but when everyone yelled out in unison "BEEEEEZZZZ!!!!" I guess it wasn't much of a contest, much to Beez' annoyance). Throughout our set we were also having a raffle, where, if you filled out a ballot at the merchandise booth, you had a chance to win an all-expense paid date with all five Smugglers at once. We all pick you up at your house, we take you to dinner, we then take you to a movie of your choice, we then take you bowling, then we drive you home and walk you to the door where you have the OPTION of kissing us (all five). And you are not allowed to bring a friend, just the five Smugglers and you. Anyhow, we did the draw, and surprisingly there were a ton of entries, and though a few of the ballot slips did say things like "Go fuck yourselves," and "I hate the fuckin Smugglers," we drew the name "DAWN OSERDCHUK" from the box. Dawn excitedly scrambled up on stage when we announced her name, and we informed her that we'd be calling her etc, but I guess she... uh... sobered up or something because she hasn't returned our phone calls.... Ah, the life of the Smuggler. Pathetic, even in times of celebration!

Now, the other thing that I must clarify for all those in attendance that seemed to cause quite a bit of confusion was the little on-stage gag that Dave and I cooked up. Okay, most of us Smugglers are fans of this TV program called "The Larry Sanders Show," a behind-the-scenes fake talk show thing. The hilarious Hank "Hey Now!" Kingsley is Larry's sidekick. Now, Hank always wants to make these emotional speeches during the show, at which point the hard- nosed producer Artie books a "walk-on" guest to literally walk in on the middle of Hank's speech, as a big surprise, like "Hey, it's Jerry Seinfeld!!" or whatever, causing much pain to Hank and much laughs for everyone else. Anyhow, this is what Dave and I decided to do, and that it would be hysterical. A real laugh riot. So Dave starts in on this big emotional babble about how he doesn't say too much that often but he's really loved his time in the Smugglers etc, and then I would rudely interrupt and yell "Hey look it's Mike Lavella from San Francisco with a birthday cake!" or "Hey let's bring on those Hi-Fives for a coupla numbers!!!" Anyhow, Dave's hurt look was very convincing, hence the gag basically completely BOMBED and everyone wanted to know why the hell I was being such an asshole to Dave throughout the show. Listen, I WASN'T! It was just a really bad inside gag, the worst kind. Sorry. When all was said and done, we finally finished the show, and the ten year capper was complete. It was a hell of a time. And now, more partying. After saying good bye and thanks to many people who came, both local and out of town, the Starfish was nice enough to let us host a little after-hours dance party to those thirty or so who happened to be slow to leave. We served the boot-shaped cake lovingly hand-crafted by Mint's trusty volunteer Shahera (which Ska-T almost swallowed whole since the mescalin-munchies were kicking in - and he thought the cake was a hallucinogenic dragon or something), had some more booze, the Italians (Andrea and Sandro!) passed out Cuban cigars, Bryce spun some records, Ska-T snorted some cheap coke, a few folks did a little dancin', but it had been a long night and soon it was time to pack it in. Everyone went their seperate ways, through the back door of the club, and after it was all over I finally climbed into my car in the back alley and proceeded to pass out in the front seat from total exhaustion, falling face first on the horn

09_Plate.gif (17344 bytes)Sunday September 20, the Tomahawk BBQ, and goodbyes.
I woke with the horn blaring and the sun streaming through my car's windshield, turning the interior into a sauna and me into a sweaty, stinky, suited lump. After regaining my dulled senses I realized I had spent the night in a tretcherous Vancouver alley with my car door and window open, the gig money strewn across the dashboard!! I had to hightail it to the Tomahawk BBQ over in North Van to meet Nardwuar to make sure there was seating ready for 50.

08_Nard.gif (15152 bytes)To set up this final Smugglers party weekend event, the Tomahawk BBQ is a famous little family restaurant that is just off the Indian reservation in North Vancouver. It's been there since 1912, has been owned by the same family the whole time, and is all decked out in 'vintage' indian gear (some tacky, some authentic). The restaurant has two claims to fame: the first is that rock star Bryan Adams worked as a dishwasher right before his first big hit, and the second is that Nardwuar has taken the restaurant under his wing, and for the last fifteen years, has taken every possible touring band to the place for the legendary three-meals-in-one Skookumchief Hamburger for the hungry, the massive Mixed Grill for the famished, or the Papoose for light eater. The Gruesomes, Untamed Youth, A-Bones, Teengenerate, Fugazi, Furnaceface and the Young Fresh Fellows have all sampled the Skookumchiefs, Billy Childish and Thee Headcoats had the rainbow trout and Southern Culture On The Skids had the Teriyaki Tomahawk. Hell, Nardwuar even named an album after the place ("Skookumchief Powered Teenaged Zit Rock Angst" comp, 1994) and has worked various menu items into his every-day vocabulary! ("Okay then! Have a good Papoose, eh?").

On this day, we had the whole Smugglers crew come on down, and even though we were in the middle of the Sunday brunch rush, owner Chuck Chamberlain and his young hesher staff made room for the entire gang, as we slowly took over the entire dining room. To top it off, the Tomahawk also gives out colorful indian head dresses for dining, so it was a sea of paper feathers a top the heads of many a hung over Smugglers fan.

Nardwuar held court, demanding that everyone either order the extremely meat-heavy Mixed Grill or the Skookumchief, even if one was a vegetarian. No exceptions! To quote Nardwuar, "This morning, vegans can fuck right off." It turned out that only Nard and Mike "Gearhead" LaVella went for the mega M.G., which arrives on a massive 20" plate, and is filled with three types of bacon, three types of ham, several sausages, nine hot dogs, half a dozen eggs, hashbrowns, toast, onions, mushrooms, fruit, and, to quote Nardwuar again, "for no apparent reason," two hamburger patties smothered in cheese. Skinny Nardwuar The Human Serviette managed to scarf down every single bite, even the garnish, while ol' LaVella, King Of The Greasy Spoon, stalled and choked in disgust on the second hamburger patty and bowed out at one quarter plate remaining. Still, the owner was so impressed that a Mixed Grill Virgin could shovel so much back he presented Mike with the plate! (Mike did not eat again until four days later, and now demands that all his meals be served on that 20" plate from the Tomahawk).

07_Skookum.gif (16385 bytes)About twenty people order the towering Skookumchief burger (bun, three patties, bacon, ham, weiners, egg, lettuce tomato, cheese and pickle), including all the Hi-Fives and their booking agent "BrownChad," and most of The Smugglers, The Evaporators, the Italians, the New Yorkers, the Oregonians, and the Lookout crew.

During the latter stages of the meal, Nardwuar ran around the restaurant shrieking, making sure all food was forcibly swallowed, showing off his licked-clean empty platter as an example, then initiating several rounds of applause after the completion of each Skookumchief. Bloated and sick, we all piled out of the restaurant, posed with the entire restaurant staff who Nardwuar corralled outside (even the exhausted teenaged cook) for a massive "group photo" in front of the Tomahawk's authentic fiberglass totem poles, and then began our goodbyes.

A lot of people came from a long way for this weekend, and for that all of us Smugglers felt pretty good. It makes us feel fine that we work with very supportive record labels like Mint and Lookout, where almost the whole staff will be present to party. It's also cool that over the years we've got fans that have become friends that would travel to see us put on something like this. Thanks to everyone who made the trip, and I guess we'll see you all in another ten years? How about five...?

Until then, see you in the front row,

Grant Lawrence
Your Smugglers