Published Mar 26, 2016When pop punk was at its peak, the majority of concertgoers would make carpool plans for their parents to drop them off at a nondescript community centre. Upon arrival, they'd buy their favourite band's T-shirt and wear it over the clothes they came in, only to have it stretched and made soaking wet in the moshpit. Then, as per a previously arranged agreement, a different set of parents would drive them home. Shows like these may seem like a distant memory, but they still take place. Now, however, they happen at casinos, and the attendees leave their children with babysitters and drive themselves.
The Grey Eagle Resort and Casino is located approximately 12 kilometres from Calgary's city centre. Inside, a Trooper cover band called Suicide Blonde was setting up to perform on a stage above a small bar. The band members were hard to see, blocked by a hue of indoor smoke and half-a-dozen large white screens displaying a curling match. One member was wearing shiny silver dress pants — think full-length trousers made from the same material as basketball shorts — and shredded on a guitar with a metallic flame decal.
Arriving at the actual concert hall was no less surreal, its din comprising homophobic slurs, people pronouncing "fuck" like "fock," and Albertan Gen Xers reminiscing about the good ol' days. In the foyer, around 8 p.m., a tall man decked out in skateboarding attire passed out from partying too hard.
All of this is to say that Langley, B.C.'s Gob is a wonderful band. Sure, quirky CanCon hit "Soda" is as much a punch line as an anthem, and guitarist Theo Goutzinakis continues to make the same goofball smirk that he's done since the '90s. But founding members Goutzinakis and Tom Thacker write deceptively complex pop songs, offering unique arrangements and memorable hooks that demonstrate a sophistication that goes far deeper than one might expect. Backed by longtime drummer Gabe Mantle (Brand New Unit) and bassist Steven Fairweather (By a Thread), they were a force to be reckoned with.
It helps that they've got an arsenal of hits. Leading up to the "Soda" climax (duh), Gob offered an onslaught of crowd-pleasers ranging from Too Late No Friends to Foot in Mouth Disease, occasionally drawing on some deep cuts from the perennially underrated How Far Shallow Takes You. When the band revisited their 2014 album Apt. 13, the audience quieted a little, but that makes perfect sense — the pop appeal of that material is clouded by Thacker's admirable songwriting ambition. Still, every song was expertly written and perfectly delivered, further suggesting that Gob are a timeless Canrock gem hidden behind a toilet bowl logo.
Casually dressed and displaying their name on a hand-painted kickdrum, Gob were somewhat humble and unassuming onstage, like a local band who made it to the big leagues. The Offspring, on the other hand, were a much more slickly oiled machine.
The California punk band's flaming skull logo adorned a massive banner that ominously draped over the hall, becoming even more illuminated when the house lights came on after the indoor smokers set off a fire alarm. Fortunately, the room eventually went black, allowing Dexter Holland, Noodles, Greg K. and two other guys to blast out their grunge-tinted punk pop.
It's a dubious task to try and determine whether something's "punk" or not, but it's still awfully fun to talk about. The Offspring are undeniably a "punk" band, but it's punk in the same way that having a Thrasher subscription on your iPad or wearing a distressed CBGBs tanktop is punk. With their studio-quality guitars, pitch-perfect vocals and professional delivery, the Offspring's live show was in the same league as Shania Twain or 5 Seconds of Summer or any other equally slick stadium band.
Of course, they delivered their own fair share of hits, managing to maintain high energy as they acrobatically maneuvered from "whoa-oh-oh" skate punk tracks ("All I Want," "The Kids Aren't Alright") to mid-tempo, borderline-Weird Al novelty songs ("Pretty Fly for a White Guy") to karaoke classics ("Why Don't You Get a Job?") to their own go-to classic closer ("Self-Esteem"). Though it was overly practiced and free of edges, there's no denying that the Offspring were a crowd-pleasing band.
Most of us remember the Offspring as one of the quintessential gateway bands that eventually introduced us to the world of punk and hardcore and, on a larger scale, independent music. But some people never ended up travelling through that gateway. Instead they're happy to stick with the tunes they recognize, getting drunk in a pop culture purgatory. On Friday night, those people could be found at an at-capacity casino in Calgary.