By Jean Graham
One night recently I was watching a Benji movie on TV, worrying about the likelihood of sugar coma setting in. A friend called, with this invitation to see some band called Dog Meat B-B-Q. A timely enough offer; I accepted with a renewed faith in cosmic justice. Take that, Benji. Heh-heh-heh.
What's a Dog Meat B-B-Q? If you're being formal, they're Dr. God's International Dog Meat Barbecue [sic]. They're a bunch of guys, very loud, who make a show of being on the edges of society. That's about where their music is. Most of them were connected with Da Slyme in previous lives.
Dog Meat B-B-Q is Justin Hall, Wallace Hammond, Mike O'Brien, Tony Richards and Duncan Snowden.
Judging from the show I saw, they havemore fun playing together than most groups do. They like what they're doing, and they certainly don't have any of those niggling musician-type worries about whether what they do to get paid is compromising their musical ethics.
I saw Dog Meat B-B-Q perform at the Corner Stone. To be honest, I would go see practically anyone in the acoustically-superb Corner Stone, maybe even Lionel Ritchie if the warm-up band was half-good. Dog Meat B-B-Q used the facilities well, cranking the volume to a level almost too high, and supporting the music with anon-stop video presentation.
There was a surprisingly large crowd there that night, many of them not people who usually go to the Corner Stone. Spiked hair and black clothes were rampant, but by no means exclusive attire. The timing of the show was particularly good; Dog Meat Day at the Corner Stone was also MUN student grant day. People were looking forward to Dog Meat B-B-Q. One young woman whispered with almost breathless anticipation, "I hear they're going to do twenty- seven original songs."
So now you're dying to know what they play. Most people there would say "punk:, and who am I to argue? Their fan was right - they do a lot of original music. Any band that does this in St. John's deserves some kind of medal, particularly if they do it as well as the B-B-Q does. Their live sound has a very deliberate roughness, underscored by practiced - dare I say "superbly polished"? - instrumentals.
It's easy enough to be a bad band. It's a lot harder to pretend to be bad when you actually know what you're doing. It would be all too simple for aband like Dog Meat B-B-Q to overpower itself with harmony lines. However, Justin Hall's drums and Duncan Snowden's bass are integral components of, rather than distractions from, the total sound.
One of the most entertaining aspects of the evening was the video production. It started with a couple of videos from bands you've probably never heard of. Next, accompanying the B-B-Q onto the stage, was a man I recognized: Brother Gagnon, he of the Miracle Temple. He sang and Hallelujahed, and his parishioners leaped and shuffled as Dog Meat B-B-Q entered. I was going to like these guys, even if I hadn't been watching that Benji movie the night before.
All through the show, songs were enhanced with this clever presentation. Ronald Reagan made an appearance. "Meat Wars" started with clips of Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam, and ended up with a quote from Clausewitz. These guys are versatile, if nothing else.
So. Dog Meat B-B-Q live were terrific. I had a lot of fun, everyone else watching had a lot of fun, and even the band were enjoying themselves.
I grabbed a minute or two of their time during a break to talk to them. Dog Meat B-B-Q is just as used to being interviewed as I am to doing it. I remembered to ask who compiled the video.
"Me and Wallace," says Mike. Did it take long, I wonder?
"Oh yeah. Most of a weekend." Less than your average Madonna video, which runs 30 times as long, and clever on top of it all.
Who writes the songs?
"Me and Wallace," says Mike again. "well, I do the bass lines," says Duncan. Tony adds that he does harmonica arrangements.
Seriously speaking, Dog Meat B-B-Q has a lot to say. Listening to them perform, though, it's kind of hard to pick out most of the lyrics. Fortunately for the discerning public, the B-B-Q has a cassette tape on the market: Dead Dogs of the Summer of Love... It comes with a brilliantly-designed lyric booklet. The whole mess comes in a handy re-usable Ziploc sandwich bag...
Listening to the tape, one gets a sense of both the group's talent and the meaning of what they're saying. Most songs are underlined by real live social commentary, on both global and local scales. "cruisin'" takes a stream-of-consciousness trip through the mind of a crazed truck driver carrying a load of "used plutonium".
"Johnny Was a Hero" reflects a common theme, one central in Timothy Findlay's The Wars. "C, D & G", (which I first thought would be about the three chords they know best, but is actually a culinary tour of some of St. John's finer diners) reflects life for a large part of the Newfoundland population. Only a native group could throw in lyrics like "Thursday I pick up the welfare check/ and cash it as fast as I can," and expect most people to understand.
Other choice B-B-Q songs include "Star Kist Tunie" (subtitled "You may think that I'm some kind of loonie/ But I never voted for Brian Mulroney"), "Gods" (which you won't like if you've ever even considered being religious), and "Kiss Me Godzilla" (fun, fun, fun). Live, they played Dylan's "Maggie's Farm". The B-B-Q arrangement is sort of like what Hendrix did with "All Along the Watchtower", except a little more electric.
The first song on Dead Dogs is "No Talent". It starts off, "We got no talent and we don't expect applause/ We're out of tune and our sound is a lost cause." Don't let them fool you.
If you're one of those who likes other to believe that you're up on the local music scene, especially the non-mainstream sounds, you owe it to your image to check out Dr. God's International Dog Meat Barbecue. You'll look cool, you'll always have something to talk about - and Benji movies won't bother you half as much.
This article appeared in The Newfoundland Herald, 28