Recently I took a walk down Queen Street West to my favorite record store, Kops Records. My mission? To find The Sonics on vinyl, and I was successful, going home with Here are the Sonics and Boom. And why these records, among the thousands stacked at Kops? Because I saw the Sonics live in Toronto, and I now I can’t live without them.
Fans of any and all new rock, punk, and grunge music owe a debt to the Sonics. The Tacoma, Washington natives are universally credited as the grandfathers of punk and garage music, and for good reason. Coming up in the same era as Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Little Richard, the Sonics took music to a dark, raw and powerful place that other bands and artists were afraid to venture to. Despite taking early retirement from the business in the seventies, the Sonics left a legacy spread by dedicated fans who shared their music for decades. After multiple shortlived reunions, 2007 saw the Sonics explode back onto the music scene for real, with two sold out shows in April, before going back into the studio to finally give fans what they were craving: new music, and soon after, a North American tour.
In late April the Sonics, now comprised of Jerry Roslie (keyboards/vocals) Larry Parypa (guitar/vocals); Rob Lind (saxophone/harp/vocals); Dusty Watson (drums/vocal) and Freddie Dennis (bass/vocals) took the stage in front of a huge crowd for a sold out appearance at Lee’s Palace, marking the band’s only Canadian appearance on this tour. Not to sound ageist, but I did go into this show wondering if, in their winter years, the Sonics would be able to put on the rockin’ show their music demands. Their latest record This is the Sonics sounds incredible, but that was recorded in a studio. Live, I thought, may be a very different story. But with an open mind and a heart full of hope, I walked into Lee’s Palace, to have that hope not only fulfilled but blown sky high in the best way possible.
With the crowd warmed up by Toronto indie rock darlings (and one of my favorites) catl., the Sonics sauntered onto the stage, a pack of non-descript older gentleman rockin some pretty sweet vintage western shirts. Instruments in hand, the set opened with “Cinderella” and it was ON. To my and every other fan’s delight, the Sonics belted, pounded, thrashed and ROCKED every ounce of sound out every song they played, giving us all a stomp to our feet, a sway to our hips and a cheer in our voices. The set list spanned their wide discography, from vintage covers like “Have love will travel” and “Louie Louie” to originals like “Boss Hoss” and “Psycho”. But perhaps the most surprising and well received songs of the night were the gems from This is the Sonics. The fast paced beat of “Sugaree”, the brawny vocals behind “Look at little sister and the undeniable punk power of “The Hard Way” were just as hard hitting as the tunes they spun in the sixties. Closing their formidable set with their sinister signature single “The Witch”, their performance proved that while the band wasn’t going to be stage diving that night, musically the Sonics were as mighty as ever.
Thank you to my music loving friends from Montreal’s Bar Nesta for turning me onto the Sonics and forever renewing my faith in music old and young. If you’re ever anywhere near St. Laurent street, make sure to drop by and have a drink at one of my favorite bars in that French town. You’ll surely hear the Sonics playing at some point in the night too.