Review: Save Ferris at VENUE
“What the hell have you been up to for 15 years, Vancouver?” asked Monique Powell. “As for me– Oh you know. Blow, cigars, strip clubs… making shit happen!” The jokes and one-liners coming out of her mouth would not stop for the next 90 minutes, competing only with the great tunes that were about to take over the room.
The ginger-haired, passionate vocalist from Orange County ska outfit Save Ferris addressed the elephant in the room as soon as she busted onstage by mentioning the band’s departure from music over the past few decades. It has been a long time coming since the legendary punk-infused ska group have popped up, despite being huge players in the ska revival of the mid-late ’90s that saw bands like No Doubt and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones racing to the top of the charts.
After a tumultuous couple of decades, Powell and Save Ferris are definitely back in a big way. With a mostly new lineup aside from Powell herself, the new members have breathed new life into the band and its music. It’s easy to see how thrilled Powell is about playing these tunes again, strutting the stage and showing absolutely no signs of slowing down. Having resurfaced with the new lineup in 2013, Save Ferris’ return is a triumphant one following a rough patch of health troubles, legal proceedings, and unfortunate drama with former band members. But with Save Ferris, the passion and excitement in the tunes was always so crystal clear, and what a delight it is to see these songs having a second life, with Powell at the helm once again.
The beautiful, sunshine-laden tunes from the band’s two studio albums (1997 debut It Means Everything and 1999 follow-up Modified) were presented tonight in a big way, with a focus on brilliant musicality and showmanship.
Classic Save Ferris tunes like “What You See Is What You Get” were infused with new energy in a live setting, with Powell lassoing her microphone stand with the cord like a farmyard wrangler. On “Goodbye”, Powell performed a sexy striptease during an onstage costume change before seductively canoodling with her microphone stand in a more-than-suggestive manner that had the entire crowd either hot and bothered or in stitches (or in some cases, probably both?).
She followed the song by declaring “We should have called this tour the ‘One Million and One Things You Can Do With A Mic Stand Tour,'” then making a cheeky joke about life being lonely out on the road. “You gotta take what you can get, Vancouver.”
But as enigmatic as Powell is onstage, it’s clear she curated this new incarnation of Save Ferris with an onslaught of players who are equally fun to watch and talented. “Superspy” saw bassist Gordon Bash performing wild tricks with a standup bass, swinging it around his neck before jumping on its back and choking its strings in a wild fury. Guitarist Patrick Ferguson performed intensely, while the horn section (Alexander Mathias on trumpet and Erik Hughes on trombone) really painted the ska-punk tones of Save Ferris in the perfect light. A cohesive unit, Save Ferris is a show stopping force that must be seen firsthand to truly understand just how exciting and impressive they are.
The band also performed four of the five tracks off their brand new EP Checkered Past, which Powell shyly pointed out was the band’s “first new music in seventeen years… oops!” Opening track “Anything” might just be Save Ferris embracing their ska roots more than ever, featuring wild blasts of horn, optimistic lovey-dovey lyrics (“My parents think that you are a prince … and my cats think that you are the shit”), and even a couple “Oi! Oi!” shouts for good measure. “Golden Silence” invokes the fire and kiss off vibe reminiscent of empowering Save Ferris classics from their early albums. “Do I Even Like You?” back pedalled on Powell’s earlier loving lyrics, particularly when she opened the song by asking “Really, do I? I don’t fuckin’ know.”
Later in the show, Powell name dropped a fan favourite teen movie that Save Ferris had ties to. “Save Ferris performed in this little movie called 10 Things I Hate About You… We didn’t know what that little movie would grow up to be. Apparently people still watch this thing. I would know ’cause I get a fuckin’ cheque in the mail for six cents every couple of months,” she joked before performing “I Know”, the tune Save Ferris originally played at teenage Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles’ prom in the film. Thinking of that entertainment climate from the film versus now really made it evident just how legendary and resilient Powell and her band truly are.
On “Everything I Want To Be”, the closing track from the band’s debut, Powell yearns to be a notable entity in life and entertainment. “Maybe one day I’ll be special,” she sings. But Monique Powell truly is special, and Save Ferris is a collective gift to music fans.
The evening of pop, punk, and ska was a much needed reprieve from the real world, which Powell commented on by touching on the state of the band’s home country of America. “It’s really fucked up there right now… we need ska now more than ever.” Save Ferris then ended the show, of course, with their pristine version of Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ “Come On Eileen”. The cover was a radio hit upon its release in 1997 and helped put the band on the international music landscape.
And now, twenty years later, Monique Powell and her band stand taller than ever, positioned optimistically at the road ahead, ready to rock out bigger and better than ever.