Pat Blythe – The Distillers, Starcrawler, a Crazy Road Trip …and Music!

I have a confession to make. I attended my first ever….and I mean first ever…..punk rock concert on Sunday night. How crazy is that?! While punk rock was exploding both here and across the pond, I was busy raising my son and wasn’t deep into the scene. By the time I moved to Toronto it was beginning to fade although Chris was still photographing The Battered Wives and Teenage Head. I was busy hitting the clubs and listening to Rhinegold, Cinema Face, The Imps, The Kings, The Lincolns, etc. Larger concerts were Queen, Sparks, Santana, The Cars, Long John Baldry, Savoy Brown, Spirit…..you get my drift. The punk scene, for me, was book-ended by life….as a very young mom and Chris. Pretty good bookends actually.

So……Sunday night and off I head, armed with information I had gleaned from a bit of research, to see The Distillers. I hadn’t a clue who the opening act was. Access arranged, photo/after show pass in hand….here I go. Now, I had a bit of an idea what to expect but….. Note to self: ALWAYS wear your earplugs, even when you don’t think you have to. Camera ready, I patiently waited, my eyes taking in the huge, multi-flavoured crowd behind me. In a split second, with no warning, an ear-splitting blast emitted from the speaker that was (unknowingly) inches from my ear. It blew my eardrums clear to the other side of the Phoenix. After I peeled them off the wall and reinserted them, the earplugs rapidly followed. Holy shit!!!! Even Nazareth wasn’t that deafening. I was completely unaware the opening act was on stage, plugged in and ready to go (it was dark okay) and I don’t think the rest of the crowd were either judging by some of their reactions.

The show……

The Phoenix Concert Theatre was packed to the rafters and I do mean rafters. Even the catwalk was hair-to-hair people. It was a leather-lovers, spikes-and-chains, hair extravaganza wet dream.  Speaking of hair….some very interesting and dramatic styles…..and the age range of the crowd covered about three generations.

…..back

…..front

Did anybody say “mosh pit”? Bodies were swimming above the crowd, tossed about by eager hands and spilling over the barricades where rather large, burly security guys were waiting to retrieve them. I kept to one side of the so-called photo pit as incoming were landing fast and furious. Any thoughts of trying to capture it from above on the catwalk or balcony were promptly squashed when I realized I would have to wade, duck and weave (with my gear) through a rather rambunctious and riotous crowd.  Oddly enough, I didn’t see any other professional photographers that night.

We’re ready for ya…..

Incoming!

Gotcha!

Arrow de Wilde

The first band to decimate my eardrums was L.A. punk band Starcrawler. With absolutely no expectations I watched in fascination as their young female singer, Arrow de Wilde weaved and sometimes jerked around the stage collapsing in a heap at the end of each song. Tall, and extremely lean, almost ethereal, the wee wisp of a thing has a surprisingly powerful voice as the songs almost overwhelm her. She uses her body and costuming to great dramatic effect and pours her everything out on stage. A student of Los Angeles’ Grand Arts High School and the daughter of renowned music photographer Autumn de Wilde and drummer Aaron Sperske, I am not all surprised.  Watch the video Chicken Women (in the music section)…..this was my introduction to de Wilde and Starcrawler live.

……what Shirley Manson has to say about the band….

Shirley Manson on Starcrawler

l-r – Henri Cash, Arrow de Wilde, Tim Franco

Arrow de Wilde

Formed in 2015/2016 by de Wilde and drummer Austin Smith, they recruited former tuba player, guitarist Henri Cash and bassist Tim Franco. Their first self-titled debut album was recorded at famed L.A. studio Sunset Sound using the old analogue two-inch tape machines. Produced by Ryan Adams (Whiskeytown), the album was released on both white and black vinyl. Prior to the full-length album, the band released their first, limited edition 7” Ants/Used To Know in 2017.

Guitarist Henri Cash with drummer Austin Smith

I’ve been around many many bands over the past 40+ years when on-stage antics continue off stage. It seems times have changes and rather for the better (although I’m sure there are exceptions….but that’s what they are…..exceptions). I had the pleasure of meeting de Wilde and the rest of the band after the show. Very young and rather soft-spoken….a direct contradiction from her stage persona…..she was extremely polite and courteous, she introduced herself to me, shook my hand and proceeded to introduce me to the rest of the band followed by an offer of food and beverage. That was class!

l-r – Austin Smith, Henri Cash, Arrow de Wilde, Tim Franco

Their music? Again, no expectations but there were a few general, preconceived notions. I did have one gigantic speaker throbbing in my left ear which tended to distort somewhat. However after searching them out on YouTube, two of their songs are now residing quite happily on rotation on my phone so……yes, I like them. Grunge, punk, rock, maybe even infused with a hint of dare I say “pop”, it’s all there. Power and passion…..a very good mix!

Arrow de Wilde and Tim Franco

Now on tour opening for The Distillers, Starcrawler is making huge waves across North America and across the pond. A welcome beacon of change and hope by many (including David Grohl and Elton John) that there may be some originality still left in the music business after all. Reminiscent of Courtney Love (both voice….especially live…..and presentation) de Wilde herself is following her own muse and unwittingly grabbing the reins and forging ahead. Yes, women can spit blood too!

What can I say about The Distillers that hasn’t already been said? Influential, unforgettable, evocative, compelling, primitive, deafening and by Sunday night’s attendance, much loved….. the heart of The Distillers is Brody Dalle.

Brody Dalle

Time for a little Distillers history….. Los Angeles, 1998….formed out of a deep love for punk rock by Dalle and bassist Kim Chi, two more members were soon recruited and their first, self-titled, album was recorded and released in 2000. Album number two, Sing Sing Death House, although recorded in 2000 was re-released in 2004. Album number three, Coral Fang, with various members new and departed, was released in 2003. By 2005 The Distillers were down to two members, Dalle and guitarist Tony (Bradley) Bevilacqua and by 2006 it was formerly announced The Distillers were no longer.

Tony (Bradley) Bevilacqua

Brody Dalle

Dalle and Bradley went on to form Spinnerette. According to Dalle, “Spinnerette isn’t a band, it’s me and whichever musicians I want to work with at the time,” later clarifying  she was referring to the touring band only. An EP Ghetto Love was released in 2008 followed by one album, Spinnerette in 2009. Fast forward to 2018, a new hubby and three children later and The Distillers are back and on the road again!!!

Andy Granelli

Previous members, drummer Andy Granelli, bassist Ryan Sinn and guitarist Tony (Bradley) Bevilacqua re-joined Dalle and they performed their first show in over 13 years at the The Casbah in San Diego in April 2018. The band’s first single, Man vs. Magnet/Blood In Gutters, was released on iTunes in September 2018. There you have it, a 21-year snapshot which brings me to Sunday, May 26 at The Phoenix.

l-r – Tony (Bradley) Bevilacqua , Brody Dalle, Ryan Sinn

With a scream that can pierce your soul and a voice that caresses and pours over you like warm golden honey…..raw, sultry, pouty, provocative with a sexy raspiness….Dalle can segue from one to the other or combine them all in a heartbeat. A kind of female Rod Stewart (don’t shoot me…..it’s a compliment). Along with Dalle’s voice, fierce drumming, manic guitar playing and a booming bass all combine to create the definitive sound that is The Distillers.

Ryan Sinn

My favourite part of their show was the encore. They performed three songs, all of which the audience sang along with. I watched the crowd, faces riveted to the stage, singing their hearts out. Happy and satisfied, they filed out, hunger sated.  Both sides had been waiting a long time for this.

l-r – Andy Granelli, Tony (Bradley) Bevilacqua, Brody Dalle, Ryan Sinn

The Distillers’ current tour ends June 29, giving the band a break. It picks up again in August and includes a jaunt overseas to perform in England at the Leeds Festival on August 23 and the Reading Festival August 25. Now that would be a couple of shows to photograph…..yoo hoo….I have a British passport…..just sayin’……

Brody Dalle

Thank you once again to Cherish, owner of Cherry Cola’s in Toronto, who arranged this photo shoot as well as the after show meet-and-greet.

Pre concert drive from hell……

One more note to self: Never purchase footwear in another city that you can’t return in the city you live in. That two-day vacation in Kingston….I purchased three pairs of shoes. Now, I’m not a big shopper, especially for shoes so when I find something I love that fits….. Yes I tried them on in the store and they were fine, actually they were great…..not so great after wearing them around the house for an hour or so. I was so disappointed and dammit, they looked good too!! But I had to return them and the closest store was in Orillia. Not too bad. Just over an hour drive and Sunday was a lovely sunny day for a bit of a road trip. I could be back by 3:30 latest. Not so fast Zippy!

Woofstock, a major Toronto artery closed (the Don Valley Parkway), construction, TTC issues, a horrendous accident on the 400 southbound that forced detours for north and southbound traffic, Sunday drivers who decided to sally forth UNDER the speed limit all conspired to keep me  on my now very numb ass, behind the wheel of my vehicle for 6.5 hours. By the time I got home, hungry, cranky and tired I was ready for a slice of pizza and a G&T. Yep, you guessed it. I got the message my photo pass had been arranged……the rest you’ve just waded through.

But these….one of the three pair…..a salute to the Betty and Veronica DBAWIS team…..I simply couldn’t resist these!

Man vs. Magnet – The Distillers

Hall of Mirrors – The Distillers

The Hunger – The Distillers

She Gets Around – Starcrawler

I Love L.A. – Starcrawler

Chicken Woman – Starcrawler

Violet – Hole

Let’s Shake – Teenage Head

Picture My Face – Teenage Head

Jenny of Oldstones – Florence & The Machine (from GOT)

Hunger – Florence & The Machine

Cheers!

All photographs ©2019 Pat Blythe, A Girl With A Camera

=PB=

Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Please scroll down and leave a comment. Thank you.

dbawis-button7“Music and photography….my heart, my passions.” After an extended absence —  33 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry — Pat has turned her focus back to the music scene. Immersing herself in the local club circuit, attending the many diverse music festivals, listening to some great music, photographing and writing once again, she is eager to spread the word about this great Music City of ours…..Toronto. Together for 34 years, Pat little-red-headed-dancing-girlalso worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who, beginning in the early 70s, photographed much of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, BB Gabor, the first Police Picnic, Buzzsaw, Hellfield, Shooter, The Segarini Band….) as well as national and international acts. Pat is currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, 20 of which are a photographic history of the local GTA music scene beginning in 1974. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance! 

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