Montreal Calling – Unforgettable Night of Clash Tributes

Tommy Stinson - Jesse Malin - John Kastner (shot by Randal)

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HMW in St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu is where I bought London Calling from The Clash.  I remember as if it were yesterday, such was the impact of that record in my life.  

The epic cover shot of Paul Simonon smashing his Fender Bass is regarded as one of the best Rock-n-Roll photographs of all time.  That image, for me, represented the frustration we all felt at some point, in those early years of becoming an adult.  

How do you celebrate an album that has touched the lives of so many as it turns 40?  You gather some of the best musicians Montreal has to offer, including some close friends of the scene, and you present a 5-hour concert marathon.

On a night such as this, that is about celebration, we are reminded by a few musicians that 30 years ago, an unfathomable display of violence was perpetrated against 14 women who were cheated of life on December 6th, 1989.  This anti-feminist attack also left scars on survivors that may never heal.

“I don’t have any other message than don’t forget you are alive.”

Joe Strummer

While we mourn such a vicious loss of life, we reflect on what a gift it is to be alive, tonight, in this theatre.

Sean “Riot” Ryan gave me a hug and encapsulated the feeling of the musicians.  “To play at such a historic event, for this album, with your friends around you…is overwhelming.”  

Like the other musicians that stepped on the stage, this album is a thread that weaves in and out of each of their lives and brings them together.

The Clash’s musical styles and influences were one of extreme variety, unifying different peoples and paying respect to so many genres.  

The Montreal Calling stage would reflect this with a variety of styles, all paying homage to this great album and the many other bands from that era.

Paul Cargnello

Paul Cargnello
Paul Cargnello (shot by Kieron Yates)

I arrived at 7h30 PM to Paul Cargnello performing Guns of Brixton, with the house band comprised of Shane Murphy on guitar, Anthony Lombardi on bass and Marc Beland on drums.

The mood was set with some reggae infused Clash, right out of the gate.

Devan KM & The Sunset Drip

Devan KM & The Sunset Drip
Devan KM & The Sunset Drip (shot by Kieron Yates)

Devan KM & The Sunset Drip played a rousing version of Janie Jones with high energy and the best fuzzy red coat I’ve ever seen.  I could have easily listened to a few more from them.  

Devan K-M
Devan K-M (shot by Kieron Yates)

Annakin Slayd

Annakin Slayd
Annakin Slayd (shot by Kieron Yates)

We next had hip-hop/rap viral sensation Annakin Slayd (Andrew Farrar) play a slightly faster version of The Magnificent Seven, which fits his style perfectly.

K-Man & The 45s

K-Man & The 45s
K-Man & The 45s (shot by Kieron Yates)

K-Man & The 45s were the perfect choice to play Bankrobber as their ska sound gave the song its due justice.

They also covered The Cramps What’s Inside a Girl.

Kristin said of the show: “It was really fantastic to sing these songs, that for a lifetime, you loved so much and to have everyone enthusiastically singing them with us, realizing other people might actually love them as much as we do.  Funny how this was the music I turned to when I was young and felt alone.  Turns out, I wasn’t the only one!”

“Funny how this was the music I turned to when I was young and felt alone.  Turns out, I wasn’t the only one!” – Kristin K-Man McNulty

K-Man & his 45s always deliver the goods and had the crowd skankin in no time.

Mountain Dust

Mountain Dust brought a different vibe to evening with a psychedelic rock version of The Sound of Sinners followed by I Need Somebody from The Stooges.

It was fascinating to hear how different genres can still render justice to such great songs.

Mountain Dust
Mountain Dust (shot by Kieron Yates)

I’m sure if Joe Strummer was in the audience, he would be rocking his head up and down to the heavy sounds like the rest of us.

“It was a great night; hats off to everyone involved for getting it done.  There was a strong team effort going on, for it to move along so smoothly. The last time we were at Corona Theatre, we were shooting our video for Stop Screaming, so there was a very absorbing contrast of going from playing a single song over the course of an entire day to no one, to quickly playing a couple songs to a full house. We’re very glad we got to be a part of it.”

Mountain Dust

The Mahones

Finny McConnell - The Mahones (shot by Randal Wark)
Finny McConnell – The Mahones (shot by Randal)

The Mahones brought the Irish Punk to the party, and we all loved it.  A well-worn cover of theirs is Teenage Kicks which followed with a Corona sing-a-long to Dirty Old Town by The Pogues and ended with Spanish Bombs.  

Sean "Riot" Ryan - The Mahones
Sean “Riot” Ryan – The Mahones (shot by Kieron Yates)

That seems to be one of the songs that stuck in my head the next day.

The Mahones
The Mahones (shot by Kieron Yates)

When The Mahones are in the house…it’s officially a party.  

Slaves on Dope

Jason Rockman - Slaves on Dope
Jason Rockman – Slaves on Dope (shot by Kieron Yates)

One of the highlights of this evening was seeing a few bands reunite for a brief moment.  Slaves on Dope is one of those bands.  CHOM FM was kind enough to lend us Jason Rockman for the evening, and he put on quite the performance.  His intensity reminded me of Zack de la Rocha.  

Kick Out The Jams started us off with a burst of raw energy.  Anarchy In The UK truly shined as Jason embodied Johnny Rotten perfectly.  

Jason Rockman - Slaves on Dope (Shot by Randal)
Jason Rockman – Slaves on Dope (Shot by Randal)

I Wanna Be Sedated finished their set and it was great to see Jason high five his son in the audience.  Jason was probably that age when punk became important in his life.  To pass on the tradition to the younger generation is rock-and-roll education right there!

“When we walked onstage at the Corona, we had one goal: We wanted to torch the place. It was the best 9 minutes and 24 seconds I’ve had in a while.”

Jason Rockman

Sadly, no Clash song was performed, but yet another powerhouse performance.  The night just kept getting better and better.

The Nils

Carlos Soria - The Nils
Carlos Soria – The Nils (shot by Kieron Yates)

We were now digging into the past of the Montreal scene with The Nils.  Sadly, Alex Soria, who founded the band, is no longer with us, but his brother Carlos is keeping the legacy alive.

Loved their rendition of Brand New Cadillac and Silly Thing by the Pistols.  

The Nils brought the fun to the event.

We had a blast and let’s hope there’s gonna be more nights like Friday. Was fun seeing everyone from way back. Thanks to Mitch for inviting us and all the staff. Cheers!

Carlos Soria

The Alternative All-Stars

Paul Stickles - Titus Andronicus
Paul Stickles – Titus Andronicus (shot by Kieron Yates)

A one-time supergroup formed with Howard Bilerman (Hotel2Tango/Arcade Fire), Paul Stickles (Titus Andronicus) Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade/Handsome Furs/Operators) and Tim Kingsbury (Arcade Fire/Sam Patch) performed next.

Dan Boeckner - The Alternative All-Stars
Dan Boeckner – The Alternative All-Stars (shot by Kieron Yates)

They started us off with Whole Wide World from Wreckless Eric, followed by Alternative Ulster by Stiff Little Fingers.  

Dan Boeckner & Howard Bilerman (shot by Randal)
Dan Boeckner & Howard Bilerman (shot by Randal)

For their Clash selections, they chose a mild version of Lost In The Supermarket and a perfect version of Train in Vain.  

They left us with a desire to hear more, they sounded so tight.  Yet another highlight to a night full of surprises.

The Clampdown

Rebecca Sevrin
Rebecca Sevrin (shot by Randal)

What’s a male supergroup without the female counterpart?  Rebecca Sevrin (Vocals/Guitar – No Policy), Isabelle Banos (Bass – Caveboy), Carrie Haber (Guitar – Goldfish) and Jackie “the Jackhammer” (Drums – Lesbians on Ecstasy) are The Clampdown.

Isabelle Banos
Isabelle Banos (shot by Kieron Yates)

They wasted little time bringing three back to back Clash classic to the forefront.  What’s My Name, Career Opportunities and Complete Control.

The Clampdown
The Clampdown (shot by Kieron Yates)

They definitely kept the energy going, and the crowd singing along.

Tommy Youngsteen

Tommy Youngsteen
Tommy Youngsteen (shot by Randal)

Canada’s tribute to The Boss, Tommy Youngsteen, started us off with a Tom Petty song, Refugee, followed by a Clash classic, I Fought the Law.

His versions borrowed from the vibe of both The Boss and Tom Petty’s era. 

Shane Murphy

Shane Murphy (shot by Randal)

Shane Murphy was MC, backing band guitarist and performed two songs on his own.  Straight to Hell and probably one of the best known songs by people who don’t know The Clash, Should I Stay or Should I Go. This was a song that made sure a mosh pit was alive and well.

Although Shane did great, his shining moments would happen a little later in the evening.

Andrea Ramolo

Andrea Romolo
Andrea Romolo (shot by Kieron Yates)

Andrea Ramolo unleashed her voice and tackled Because The Night by Patti Smith and I Hate Myself For Loving You by Joan Jett.  Her stage presence embodied these two powerhouse artists.

Andrea Ramolo (shot by Randal)
Andrea Ramolo (shot by Randal)

Jesse Malin

Jesse Malin
Jesse Malin (shot by Kieron Yates)

Jesse Malin was quite the deceiving package…in a good way.  He started with a Clash song, Stay Free on the acoustic guitar.  It was a powerful, yet subdued performance.  

He followed up with You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory from Johnny Thunders, which was equally mellow, but mesmerizing all the same.  

Jesse shifted to a higher gear with Rudy Can’t Fail, bringing a newfound energy to the stage.

He then downshifted into 1st gear with the roar of the engine going into the redline.  Sonic Reducer by the Dead Boys was as intense as it was entertaining.  Something right out of CBGB’s happened before our very eyes and ears.  It was superb.  In retrospect, the best song of the night.

Alejandro Escovedo

Alejandro Escovedo
Alejandro Escovedo (shot by Kieron Yates)

Alejandro Escovedo came on stage with the aura of a Rockstar.  The house band was in full swing, and the guitar antics between Alejandro and Shane Murphy brought the house down.  That was where Shane really shined, reading his headliner and perfectly complementing his style, while not overpowering him.

Alejandro sang songs off his powerful album The Crossing.  Songs like Fire and Fury look at what happened to America. Teenage Luggage is about the immigration travels of the fictional characters, Diego and Salvo, who find out the bitter truth, while in Texas, that the promise land isn’t quite what was promised.

Alejandro Escovedo
Alejandro Escovedo (shot by Randal)

Chelsea Hotel ’78 touches on Sid and Nancy, the tragic punk love story that was doomed to fail.  

Before his solo career, Alejandro was in the punk band The Nuns, whose claim to fame was to play the final Sex Pistols show at San Francisco’s Winterland.

As he played these songs, you could tell Alejandro was born with a guitar in hand. The effortless performance showed a lifetime of touring and playing before audiences. He ended his set with the infamous windmill strumming motion that Pete Townshend made famous.

If you didn’t know about Alejandro Escovedo before entering the Corona Theatre, you would never forget him when leaving.

Tommy Stinson

Tommy Stinson
Tommy Stinson (shot by Randal)

Tommy Stinson is best known as the bassist for The Replacements, but he was also part of Guns N’ Roses for 16 years.

He chose The Kids Are Alright by The Who, performing solo with his electric guitar.  He followed with Friday Night (Is Killing Me) by Bash & Pop, a band he formed, which lasted two years before dying.  The band was revived in 2016 and is active now.  

With the bio Tommy has, we felt we were seeing rock royalty perform.

The Asexuals

John Kastner (shot by Randal)
John Kastner (shot by Randal)

I remember going to an Asexuals show in Montreal, in my younger years, and playing my concert prep cassette tape.  It featured a constant rotation of songs from 3 bands:  The Ramones, The Sex Pistols and The Clash.

John Kastner (Vocals/Guitar), Sean Friesen (Guitar), T.J. Collins (Bass) and Paul Remington (Drums) ended the night in style, with as much energy as their younger selves in the mid-80s.

John Kastner - The Asexuals (shot by Randal)
John Kastner – The Asexuals (shot by Randal)

Safe European Home was the first song they would perform for us, followed by Pressure Drop.  

Sean Friesen - The Asexuals
Sean Friesen – The Asexuals (shot by Kieron Yates)

It was somewhere around this time that a woman who had visited the bar more times than her body could handle, pushed me aside and proclaimed her love to John while dousing him with her water bottle.  First, it was a good move that she chose to switch to water, but a bad move to splash your favorite artist with water while they are playing an ELECTRIC guitar!  

After toweling off the guitar, the band continued with Clampdown.  

Tommy Stinson joined them for Hateful, which had the crowd dancing like the night would never end.

Tommy Stinson - Jesse Malin - John Kastner (shot by Randal)
Tommy Stinson – Jesse Malin – John Kastner (shot by Randal)

Jesse Malin was added for Death or Glory.  

The night would end with the title song of that unforgettable album, London Calling.  

Coming full circle, Paul Cargnello would perform an encore with (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais.  

Montreal Calling was a once in a lifetime event that brought together Montreal’s best musicians in a 5-hour jam in honour of The Clash and their contemporaries.

The nostalgia trip was first class entertainment from a group of musicians that will forever be a part of Montreal lore.  If I can make it to the 80th anniversary, you can bet I will be there.

Couple (shot by Kieron Yates)
Couple (shot by Kieron Yates)
DJs (shot by Kieron Yates)

Review & iPhone Photos: Randal Wark is a Professional Speaker and MasterMind Facilitator with a passion for live music.  You can follow him on InstagramTwitter and YouTube. His new Podcast RockStar Today helps musicians quit their days jobs is coming soon.

Shots: Kieron Yates

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