By Shari Burnett
WHO: The Real McKenzies
WHERE: The Boot
WHEN: Sunday, April 1
Some would say you go to see the Real McKenzies, not for the music, but for the spectacle. Kilts, unrestrained genitals, beer-spraying and audience abuse seems to pack the house every time.
"Well, the music is better now than it was before," laughs Dirty Kurt Robertson, vocalist and guitarist. "But the live show definitely is what intrigues people. We attract age groups from 15 to 65. No matter what age you are, you want to be entertained."
However, I cannot fathom my 55-year-old father enveloped in the thrashing, writhing and moshing that erupts at the McKenzies' shows from song one. Who am I kidding? I can't imagine myself leaping off a stage to surf that chaos.
"We've actually always tried to encourage the women to come to the front. We don't like to see a bunch of burly guys throwing elbows," says Robertson.
And since the boys have been heard to open their shows with Show Us Yer Tits! the more women the better.
Europe and the U.K. have been particularly kind to the Real McKenzies, albeit musically, not physically.
"We just got back from Scotland. In Leaven, they had actually taken tartan sheets and sewn 'Punk Rock Scotland' on it. Someone must have spent days creating that stage for us. They burned the Union Jack while we were playing. A lot of the songs we play are songs of their homeland so we were interested to see what they would make of us playing their traditional songs. People just seemed really happy to see the kilts out. and in one town we even heard little kids running down the street singing Dunna' Lose Yer Trousers."
The rest of Europe, however, was a bumpy ride at times.
"During The Clash of the Tartans tour, I broke my leg, cracked two ribs, sprained my ankle and threw my back out. It gets so crazy sometimes. You can fall off the stage. Lighting equipment falls on you. But we don't attack the audience - anymore."
Robertson recalls a particularly bloody show in Austria that ended with teeth on the floor and gaping grins.
"People in Europe just really enjoy their rowdy music and rowdy shows."
The Real McKenzies just finished recording their next CD entitled Raise the Banner . In the past, the band has received some criticism from those who see them live before hearing their recordings, saying that the CD wasn't as aggressive as the live act. Robertson says their last effort , Clash of the Tartans , was their most commercial attempt at a radio-friendly sound, and not very indicative of where their talents really lie. The McKenzies made a conscious effort with the new album to translate that energy into the CD.
"We've cranked up the rock and cranked up the punk and cranked up the Celtic. It's a little like Pogues meet Motorhead. We went in there sweating and sneering and this album will definitely have a raw edge to it."
The band decided to bring back their first producer, Johnny Dunleavey, but has signed on to a new label, Honest Don's. They had been on Joe Shithead's label, Sudden Death Records, but faced the dilemna so many Canadian bands do.
"We just needed bigger distribution. It's the old brain drain scenario. That's where the help is. We would've like to have stayed Canadian but (Honest Don's) has the ability to get us on record shelves all over the world." Expect to see Raise the Banner on sale by early June.
"We've been kicking around a long time, so we're really happy to have these new songs. We're doing a show with Shane McGowan in Vancouver April 7 th and a couple shows in the States and then we're heading back over to Europe."
Whistler will be the battleground to unleash about 3/4 of The Real McKenzies' new arsenal and Robertson instructs everyone to be prepared.
"The Whistler show isn't going to be buying us real estate or anything, so we're just coming up there for ourselves, to have fun, for a good hoot," laughs Robertson. "Everyone should refrain from getting too pissed on Saturday since we'll be playing on the Sunday. And for all of those in attendance, we have a Get Off Work card. We're always happy to write a note for you in case you can't make it to work or school the next day."