In the 13 years since Canadian pop-punks the Smugglers last performed in Vancouver, much has changed—but just as much has stayed the same. Bands around the nation are still broke, drunk, and sweaty, crammed into their touring vans as they travel from city to city searching for that big break, or at least a crowd of more than a dozen.
On May 13, 2017 at the Commodore Ballroom (which they haven’t played in 17 years), the Smugglers will once again give faith to their legions of fans—who now span two generations—proving that their punk dream is still alive (even though they haven’t received a single Pitchfork review). The band, which formed in the late-1980s in West Vancouver, is back in the city for one night only to celebrate the launch of frontman and CBC Radio 3 personality Grant Lawrence’s new book, Dirty Windshields (Douglas & McIntyre). The memoir chronicles the band’s touring days, starting with that oft-dreaded cross-Canada tour, all the way to their stints through America, Europe, Asia, and the Pacific. It’s a celebration of nostalgia that will probably wind down after the third beer for these punk rock dads and moms.
The Smugglers—one of the earliest bands signed to Vancouver’s Mint Records, and only one of two Canadian bands on the iconic label Lookout Records (Green Day, Operation Ivy)—brought a long-lasting dose of pop-punk cred up past the 49th parallel in a way that hadn’t been embraced before. Up against the no-fun tyranny of grunge in the ’90s, the Smugglers succeeded in bringing energetic and lighthearted music to the Pacific Northwest. Their legacy can still be heard shining through in local Vancouver acts such as Needles//Pins, who are opening for the band on May 13; also on the bill are Smugglers peers Chixdiggit from Calgary, who are still way more fun then Henry Rollins.
Lawrence has travelled the world from behind the dirty windshield of a touring van for years, and now the respected frontman, author, and radio celebrity is bringing it back home—and promises to make things clear for one more night of pure fun.
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