Rock ‘n’ roll is aging along with many of its iconic heroes. For many music fans across Canada, Hamilton’s Teenage Head are thought of with the same awe reserved for renowned bands like the Ramones, or even the Beatles and Rolling Stones.
If only Teenage Head would have gotten their start in another time, in another city, their catchy brand of rock ‘n’ roll may have taken them elsewhere.
Not that they are complaining about where they are, still filling venues with rabid fans over four decades after they started.
The question for these fans might be – should we be the ones to complain? Does there come a time when these old rock ‘n’ rollers should hang up their guitars and drop the microphone for good?
As a music fan who grew up listening to Teenage Head and who got to see them play at least a quarter of a century ago, the first time being an unannounced set at Lulu’s Roadhouse in Kitchener opening for the Ramones. That was a brilliant, vibrant night, but will they still be able to perform with the energy their songs deserve?
When I walked into the Starlight in Waterloo on Nov. 17 the dim room was closer to empty than full. The Starlight is kind of classy as far as music joints are concerned. It’s the type of place where you can visit the washrooms without being afraid you’ll be up to your ankles in piss at the end of the night because the urinals are clogged with paper towel and vomit. The patrons respect the venue and the owners respect the artists. It’s a nice change from the average music venue.
So along with that respectability comes great sound for a live venue making it the perfect place to judge whether Teenage Head should turn it up or turn it off.
As Mad Ones ran through their set warming up the audience the room continued to fill up. A steady flow of people already decked out in Teenage Head gear started to fill the empty spaces giving hope they’re still on their game.
Mad Ones gave me hope too, for the future. They are a young band playing guitar-driven indie rock that sounded like it came straight out of the early ’90s. Opening bands are a real hit or miss thing. Most of the time it’s a miss, if only because the audience is salivating for the main course. Mad Ones weren’t a miss. They were right on target. It’s a great feeling when you find something new, something unexpected and it knocks you on your ass.
By the time Mad Ones left the stage the room was half full, still not the best sign for a band with the reputation Teenage Head has.
I know the band is still getting a kick out of what they are doing but I found myself wondering if the audience would get that same kick out of the band. Does there come a time when these old folks carrying their rock ‘n’ roll flame are only carrying it for themselves?
Once Teenage Head hit the stage and crashed into “First Time” – a song chock full of sing-a-long hooks that even the uninitiated can figure out – oh whoa oh oh – the audience, which now filled the room, was into it.
The band was blazing with passion and power, probably more enthusiastic than any other time I’ve seen them. They blasted through fan favourites like “Picture My Face,” “Let’s Shake” and “Disgusteen.” They happily tossed songs they said they never play now like “Infected” into the set to appease a group of young fans who had been yelling out the request all night.
Their hair is greyer, and they are more wrinkled than when they began in 1975, but they are playing with a passion and love of the music that is impressive, and infectious. It spread through the sweaty mob of people gathered at The Starlight, an audience that spanned generations from baby boomers in their 60s, maybe even some longtime fans in their 70s, down to millennials barely old enough to drink. They all gathered to give Teenage Head the respect they have earned.