Legends of Vancouver rock – three must-see shows in May!

Art Bergmann plays a show to mark the re-release of his 1991 self-titled album at the Rickshaw Theatre May 19. Lisa Macintosh photo.

Want a crash course in the Vancouver music scene? You could do worse than check out some shows this May. In what is probably a coincidence but may be a cosmic alignment, this month’s concerts include a long-awaited reunion by one of the city’s most popular live bands, a tribute to a rockabilly legend, and what may be the “last electric” show by a songwriter many consider to be one of the best Vancouver has produced.

The Smugglers (May 13 at the Commodore Ballroom, 868 Granville St.) – One of the most rambunctious live bands to come out of Vancouver’s ’90s music scene, The Smugglers are reuniting for a show at the Commodore Ballroom. It’s the band’s first hometown gig since hanging up its hip-waders over 13 years ago. The occasion is the publication this month of Dirty Windshields, Smugglers’ lead singer Grant Lawrence’s attempt to recollect the details from the band’s international touring years (1988-2004, when The Smugglers released eight albums). Hailed (probably by Lawrence himself) as “Canadian Ambassadors of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” the North Vancouver group rocked and rolled with a plethora of alternative music acts, including the Hives, Mudhoney, Fugazi, and more. Also on the May 13 all-star pop-punk bill are L.A.’s The Muffs (their first performance in Vancouver in almost 20 years), Calgary’s Chixdiggit (celebrating their own 25th anniversary in 2017), and Vancouver’s own NEEDLES//PINS. Doors: 7 p.m., show at 8. Tickets are $25 in advance here.

Great Shakin’ Fever: A Tribute to Ray Condo (May 16 at the WISE Hall, 1882 Adanac St.) – The Ottawa-raised Ray Condo (b. 1950, d. 2004) was a Vancouver mainstay for over two decades, and helped create the city’s vibrant roots/rockabilly music scene. The evening features local musicians paying tribute to Condo, who many feel never got the recognition he deserved, with highlights such as an instrumental set by a core collection of Condo’s backup band The Ricochets and two sets of the band fronted by Paul Pigat and Bloodshot Bill. The event will showcase songs from various eras of Condo’s career, as well as a sampling of his animated and visual work.

Art Bergmann (May 19 at the Rickshaw Theatre, 254 E. Hastings St.) – While Condo helped create Canada’s rockabilly scene and The Smugglers contributed to Vancouver’s pop-punk output, Art Bergmann was the West Coast’s answer to the rough-edged, cheeky post-punk of The Replacements. Bergmann’s tough ‘n’ tender compositions made him a contender in the ’90s, before bad luck and a refusal to play the music industry game led to a self-enforced, semi-retirement in the wilds of Alberta. In the last few years though Bergman has been playing live again, putting on well-received shows and releasing The Apostate in 2016, an acclaimed album featuring his first new material in almost 20 years. On May 12, Weewerk Recordings is re-releasing his 1991 self-titled album as Remember Her Name; to mark the release, Bergmann is playing the Rickshaw Theatre. Notably, the evening is billed as his “last electric” show. Doors: 8 p.m. Tickets: $20 advance at ticketfly.com and Red Cat (both locations), Highlife, Zulu and Neptoon record stores, $25 at the door.

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