Canadian proto-grunge band Slow are back, planning new music, playing shows
Vancouver punks Slow were around for just a few years in the mid-’80s, during which time they released just one single and one EP that have been considered highly influential on the development of Seattle grunge. “Were Slow influential? Absolutely. When I was coming up in the early and mid-’80s, everybody went to every good show, and whenever Slow came to Seattle, they put on a great show,” Sub Pop co-founder Jonathan Poneman told The Georgia Straight. Though Slow vocalist Tom Anselmi has resisted the “grunge” title, drummer Terry Russell did admit to Vancouver Sun, “We were opening for Green River, and they were all wearing spandex and headbands and stuff. We show up in our flannel and jeans and the next thing you know you’ve got (bands like) Mudhoney and Pearl Jam all wearing flannel and jeans, and it’s the grunge look.” Slow were contemporaries and bill-sharers of early grunge bands like Soul Asylum and Malfunkshun too.
Their signature song “Have Not Been the Same” was used as the title for the 2011 book on Canadian rock, Have Not Been the Same: The Canrock Renaissance 1985-1995, and in that book, Anselmi discussed the band’s most legendary show, their infamous performance at Vancouver’s 1986 World’s Fair, Expo 86. “We were asked to play and we figured, if they’re stupid enough to ask us then we’re gonna play,” Anselmi said. Here’s more from the book:
As the band played, Ansemli ultimately followed through with the plan to take his clothes off and organizers instantly pulled the plug. But by then the audience was already wrapped up in the spirit of the performance and turned their energy to other targets once the music stopped. Anselmi continues, “The kids rioted; they were shaking the BCTV pavilion where they were broadcasting the news. The feature movie that night was Rock’n’Roll High School and they had to put it on 20 minutes early. The next day we left on tour. It was a very serendipitous event for us.”
An article on Beatroute adds:
Expo 86 shut the power and cancelled the night’s festivities. This led to audience havoc, resulting in chants of “Expo sucks!” outside of the BCTV onsite studio. Despite having a week left, Expo 86 cancelled the remainder of the event entirely. Slow was detained for indecent exposure and was later released. After a plethora of negative press received after the event, the band soon disbanded in 1987.
Members went on to form or join Copyright, Mirror, Tankhog, and The Scramblers, and after 30 years of refusing to reunite, Slow finally got back together last year. They reissued their Against the Glass EP, with the tracks from their first single tacked on, on Artoffact Records, and they did a short run of Canadian shows. So far, the feedback for their reunion shows has been very positive. A review on Vancouver Sun reads, “The quintet is as lethal as ever live. Slow played a secret show at the opening of the Polygon Gallery in North Vancouver on Nov. 18 and they were absolutely fire-breathing, rocking and rolling through a set that mixed old and new songs, with a cover of Gimme Shelter by the Rolling Stones.” (They used to do that cover a lot back in the day, too.)
They’re also working on new music, and have been recording with producer (and former Skinny Puppy member) Dave Ogilvie, who also recorded Tankhog in the ’90s. From Adrian Mack’s feature in The Georgia Straight about their return:
I’m barrelling down Vancouver’s East 2nd Avenue listening to the first new music Slow has made in 31 years.
The song is called “The Asphalt Plane”, and even though it was recorded in a basement on an iPhone, this driving, alchemical wedding of melody, mystery, and sweet Stooges-like violence sounds unmistakably like Slow. It’s ferocious. I want to pee my pants.
When I convey this information a few days later in separate calls to Sub Pop president Jonathan Poneman and Elliott Lefko of mammoth, L.A.-based concert promoters Goldenvoice, they both respond in exactly the same way: with a reverent “Wow”.
Slow are keeping the reunion going and they currently have four upcoming shows, all in Canada: an Exclaim-presented Canadian Music Week Toronto show on May 9 at Phoenix Concert Theatre with two great newer Canadian punk bands, The Dirty Nil and Single Mothers (tickets), a Montreal show on May 12 with Dearly Beloved and Invités (tickets), a June 23rd show in Edmonton (tickets), and Calgary festival Sled Island that same June week. Hopefully they’ll play the U.S. soon, too.
Stream the expanded Against the Glass reissue and watch the “Have Not Been The Same” video, below.
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