In honour of my new play, BIG IN GERMANY, which is all about Canadian rock music and growing up in Toronto in the 1990s, I’m going to share a CanCon music video everyday. BIG IN GERMANY plays at Buddies in Bad Times April 9-21. Get tickets here.
Around the time Triptych came out, my sister took me to a Tea Party concert at the Guvernment as a birthday present. The opening act was a band called Danko Jones, who had just released their first EP with a single called “Bounce” that received a lot of airplay. I wish I could find the official video (I’ve even contacted Danko Jones’ web master for help to no avail). Here’s some audio.
Truly if there were two rock bands that made an unlikely concert billing, it was The Tea Party and Danko Jones. The Tea Party had by this point spent a decade cultivating an image of Very Serious Artists who write Very Serious And Often Depressing Music for a fanbase of people who dress in black and silver and wear ankh necklaces. It’s unlikely that anyone who bought tickets to a Tea Party concert in 2000 was interested in hearing Danko Jones shout-sing party anthems about sexy ladies at them.
Credit where it’s due, Danko worked really hard to get the audience on board but all I remember of their set is a bunch of confused and appalled young men and women dressed in black wondering who the hell the guy on stage thought he was shouting all these sexual come-ons at them between songs.
As it turned out, “Bounce” was Danko Jones’ biggest single in Canada and they faded back into obscurity here. However, overseas, the band really started taking off in Germany and Scandinavia later in the decade — they’ve release five more albums and have played to sold-0ut arenas and festivals over in Germany. Still, domestic success has largely eluded them — undeservedly. Their later albums are actually great fun.
I likely wouldn’t have found out any of this if I hadn’t stumbled across Stuart Berman’s book Too Much Trouble: A Very Oral History of Danko Jones last year while doing rewrites of Big In Germany. It’s a fascinating insider portrait of the life and struggles of artists trying to break it in Toronto. While reading it, I couldn’t help but notice a bunch of parallels between Danko Jones and the band in Big In Germany, The Omnipotents — (all from drafts completed before I read Too Much Trouble, to be clear). Both are largely two-man outfits with a rotating string of drummers, both the Omnipotents and Danko worked in a porn shop on Yonge Street before they got their first musical successes, I’d even built lead singer Alex’s stage persona into a hyper-sexual and overly confident clown much like Danko. Diving deeper into Danko Jones’ history really made me feel like I was on the right track.
Get BIG IN GERMANY tickets here.