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DOA’s final show the end of an era

Local hardcore punk legends D.O.A. play their final show in Vancouver

The infamous Joey “Shithead” Keithley

The infamous Joey “Shithead” Keithley – Courtesy of Jamie Cessford

There was a lot of skepticism swirling around Saturday’s show at the Rickshaw Theatre. What had been billed as seminal hardcore punk band D.O.A.’s final show turned into a kick-off for a two week long farewell tour, angering some and raising questions about the band’s motives.

When the band announced that another Vancouver date had been added to the night after what was supposed to be their final show in the lower mainland, no one was sure if the benefit was for die-hard fans or for the band’s pocketbooks.

Judging by the size and enthusiasm of the crowd, the question didn’t weigh too heavily on their minds.

I don’t know what was strangest: the bass player was young enough to be Keithley’s son, the stage manager’s only job appeared to be picking up beer cans thrown at Keithley, or the Bachmann-Turner Overdrive and Edwin Starr covers. All this amounted to a far cry from the brazen, in-your-face disregard for decorum, custom and safety that characterized the band’s early years.

At least Joey “Shithead” Keithley was wearing his traditional sleeveless denim vest and T-shirt. It’s going to be strange to see him wearing a suit every day if he’s successful in his bid for the NDP MLA nomination in Coquitlam-Burke Mountain.

The first hour of D.O.A.’s performance was hard-hitting, energetic, and engaging, but after they had been playing for almost two hours, my interest waned. Don’t get me wrong—I don’t think there’s anyone out there who’s better at writing four-to-the-floor hardcore punk anthems than Joe Keithley, but when you reach song number twenty-three, it starts to blur together.

There’s a reason Hardcore ’81 (D.O.A.’s genre-naming classic album) and the best of the Circle Jerks’ and Black Flag’s discographies clock in under a half-hour: hardcore punk is best served in short, rapid fire bursts that shock and captivate the listener just long enough to get their message across.

When a punk band starts to edge towards The Wall-length sets, it’s easy to get distracted and wonder if it would kill the band to throw in a bridge or a fourth chord in every once in a while.

The crowd loved every minute of D.O.A.’s howling distortion, crashing cymbals and guttural yelping from the trio, calling them back for two encores once the main set had finished.

Classics like “Police Brutality” and “Slumlord” made sure the band’s staunch leftist stance was clearly on display, and Keithley helped out by proselytizing and pontificating between sets, urging the crowd to rise up and engage with their political and social realities.

The front man’s call to arms was met with roars of approval and fists in the air, but it’s hard to see the patrons who paid $20 for their tickets and $5 for their beers following through with Keithley’s appeal for a “General Strike”.

Issues of relevance and authenticity aside, D.O.A. put on a phenomenally well-staged and executed farewell show, trotting out all the right material and guest players, delivering their signature brand of angry, abrasive punk rock that forces you to pay attention.[hr]

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