The Johnstones Can't Be Trusted
03-Nov-2009 12:00 am
Contributed by: pete
It was probably more than two years ago when one of the members from The Johnstones first contacted me about their band. I checked out their MySpace and was interested, but already had something scheduled the night they were playing. I kept them on my radar and would sometimes notice upcoming concert dates, but our schedules just seemed destined to conflict. I even met Ryan Long (vocals, drums) and Jarek Hardy (guitar, vocals) at the Artist Sanctuary in July. Then, when I saw they were playing a late afternoon slot during the War Child Busking For Change event not far from my day job, I made sure to get there in time for their set. Even though that was unplugged, it was a lot of fun to watch. And just a few weeks later, I ended up at this CD release party of theirs at The MOD Club, which was effectively the start of a month long tour through Canada and the States.
It turns out that The Johnstones have a bit of a reputation for unpredictable behavior, including what they wear on stage. Just from meeting Long and Hardy (imagine me giggling like Beavis at this point), I probably could have guessed they were capable of the unpredictable behavior, but I didn't know anything about their attitude toward attire, so I was surprised to see the band hit the stage dressed in bathrobes. The bathrobes themselves only managed to stay on for a few songs, though, varying depending on which band member you were watching. But that wasn't the only costume surprise they had planned. Half way through the show, the band ran off-stage for what turned out to be a very a short break. They returned only minutes later, wearing mostly white clothes, giving the show a different look. For the encore, the band returned to stage wearing ill-fitting children's Halloween costumes. No kidding. You're not going to find a lot bands willing to look that silly on stage, but for The Johnstones, it just seemed to fit in with the character of the show.
I didn't really know any of their music, and honestly, it was so fun watching and photographing them that only a couple of songs stuck with me. Their style of ska-punk music has all the usual instruments and raspy vocals, but also a fair share of trumpet and trombone. Their stage show is very visual, with lots of cross-stage movement, jumps, and general mischief. The crowd followed suit, with all sorts of bad behavior, including the one girl who got up on her friends shoulders and pulled her top down. In fact, no matter where I turned, there was always something a little wild happening.
Although Long is quite the drummer, as proven by his antics behind the drums in the second half of the show, he spent most of the performance front and center, doing what he does best: Working up the crowd. The show was sold out, and as the excitement near the front built up, people started to surf their way onto stage and then stage dive back into the crowd. At one point, security spent some effort trying to stop it, but when members of the band started stage diving themselves, security gave up. A word of caution to future stage divers, though, be sure that the people where you're about to jump are prepared. At one point a guy who surfed to stage stood up on the platform the band had near the left of the stage and leapt high and far into the crowd right near where I was standing. With my hands filled with camera equipment, I adjusted my stance to my left to get out of his path, but I wasn't the only one who moved. The space cleared and the only person left to break his fall was one poor girl who I guess didn't see him coming. What happened to those two is probably a good analogy for the night: It was a crazy move with a bit of a hard landing, but everyone seemed to come out of it alright.
In addition to the band, Ryan and Jarek host a podcast available on iTunes that covers topics such as biting testicles, hangovers, and music.
Info: The Johnstones | Connect: MySpace, Facebook, Twitter