“Hey man, can you play ‘Monkey Bars’ again?”

Why you might want to skip the next Coney Hatch show at the Cocamo

Carl Dixon really feels the music.
Carl Dixon really feels the music.
Photos courtesy of carldixon.com

We have all grown familiar with The Cocamo during our brief time at Queen’s, and indeed, some of us have even made our peace with it.

Being not the biggest fan of rubbing/grinding/wiping my sweat onto unfamiliar and under-clothed people, I had not been to Kingston’s premier ballroom for dancing purposes since first year.

Year-round Kingstonians, however, can testify that the Limestone City is a very different place in the summer. Which sort of explains —but not really—how I ended up at the ‘Mo on August 13 to experience a concert put on by Canadian rock demi-gods Coney Hatch.

To be fair, I have a fond appreciation for old rockers either so sleazy or so Canadian that my parents don’t even remember them. I have seen the immortal April Wine five times in my lifetime, narrowly avoided Trooper this summer due to a stomach bug and once showed up for a Boston show only to discover it was sold out.

But, this did not prepare me for the wonder and the horror that was Coney Hatch.

I won tickets for this presentation through K-Rock, a very nice local radio station best known for playing my request of Led Zeppelin’s “The Immigrant Song” two years ago. For those unable to be fifth caller, let me state that I have no idea how much these tickets went for. It was probably more than four dollars though, which automatically makes me apprehensive. I dislike paying more than two dollars per song-I-know, and the Hatch pretty much max out at “Monkey Bars.” Technically, they had another pseudo-hit called “Hey Operator,” but if either of you reading this article have ever heard this song, I will probably eat my own pancreas in disbelief.

In any event, the opening act was none other than The Kings, whom I promptly identified by looking at their shirts, all of which smartly read “The Kings.” I only caught the last two songs of their set, both of which were difficult to hear over the sixty-odd people in the Cocamo. The final song was indeed their lone radio hit “Switching to Glide/This Beat Goes On,” which eloquently begins with the classic lines:

Hey Judy / Get Trudy

You said to call you up if I was feelin’ moody

Hey little Donna / still wanna?

Said to call you up if I was in Toronto (pronounced Chraw-nuh)

The sound was absolutely wretched for The Kings as the vocal peaked on the P.A. system constantly, but the singer more than made up for it with his jollity. They informed “the crowd”—and I apply that term liberally—that they’d be playing the park across the street the next day at 2 p.m. for free, and I didn’t doubt that for a second.

Let me tell you a little bit about Coney Hatch. They’re awful.

The Hatch took to the stage, opening with “Looking Positively Wretched, As If They Had all been Thrown Out of their Girlfriend’s Basements for Playing Monkey Bars Too Much.”

They followed this up by playing very poorly.

Again, I couldn’t make out any of the notes in any of the solos because the sound was woefully inadequate. At one point, lead singer Carl Dixon said, “We’re going to play a song by Judas Priest”—and maybe they did. Who can say?

In between each song, a group of young—meaning 40-ish—rowdy males yelled for Monkey Bars. Carl patiently explained he was going to play that later, at which point requests were shouted from all over the bar, mostly for songs by either the bands Chilliwack or Prism, and then the original yeller shouted “Play what you want, man.”

Not one minute later, someone else yelled for “Monkey Bars!”

It was that kind of night.

Carl replied, “Yeah, I hear you, bud,” and then they started playing an extremely forgettable riff, and Carl started laughing as the Hatch stumbled through the first verse.

Then—I swear this is true—Carl stopped the song before the chorus, much to the confusion of both the audience and the rest of Coney Hatch.

“What are you guys doing?” he asked. “I thought we were doing Monkey Bars.”

And so they stopped playing whatever atrocity they were attempting and subjected the remaining people in the bar to “Monkey Bars.” The 40 year old guy who had so earnestly requested it danced poorly on a table.

Then, after they made him get down, he and his friend entered the very, very vacant dance floor and had what can only be described as an air-guitar tango duel. Squaring up the way two flamenco dancers might, they each had their arms up in classic right-handed air guitar positioning and sort of circled each other, occasionally stepping forth violently in a completely unorganized manner.

They careened into each other like two drunken oil tankers until the song reached its all-too-welcome conclusion and they attempted a double-high-five, missing both hands and instead striking each other in the ear.

Doubled over in hysterics, my friend and I left after five songs, not knowing whether or not “Hey Operator” made the setlist or not.

So what can be gleaned from this experience? I’d be hard-pressed to find a moral in this anywhere, although I heard a K-Rock ad for a show at the Cocamo featuring Vince Neil from Motley Crue for the low, low, price of $39. Anyone?

Five bizarre moments in Canadian Rock

1. Glass Tiger lead singer Alan Frew’s solo career.

After abandoning his decade-long career—and mullet—with the delightfully cheesy Glass Tiger, Frew went on to one of the most pretentious and lame solo careers imaginable. His website is a particular treat, featuring “introspective” quotes such as: “All negative emotions come from anger and blame. ... our thoughts are the currency of our destiny.” His photo gallery also features pictures of the aging 50-something posing for nude portraits. Shudder! You can go see for yourself at alanfrew.com, although God knows why you would ever, ever want to. Ever.

2. Steppenwolf storms Los Angeles airports, celebrates furry fetish.

In his online memoirs, Three Dog Night guitarist Michael Allsup recalls walking with Toronto’s Steppenwolf through a Los Angeles airport in 1969 —while the Step’s bass player Nick St. Nicholas was dressed in a full-bodied pink bunny suit with booties and a tail. As an aside, he adds that there was “a jock strap over it.” Perhaps most amusingly, no one said a word to the bassist in his moment of temporary insanity. “Nobody dared,” Allsup says.


3. Sass Jordan changes her name. No one cares.

Long before Sass was exposing her cleavage to Jacob Hoggard as a Canadian Idol judge, the plucky blonde songstress was attempting to re-vitalize her flaccid career with the release of an album called Hot Gossip in 2000. In conjunction with the album’s release, Sass decided to drop the last “s” from her celebrated first name. The reason? She was tired of seeing her name vandalized to “Ass Jordan” on her concert marquees. The truth hurts, don’t it, Sas(s)?


4. Carole Pope, there’s a little phrase called “too much information.”

In 2000, Pope, the famed lead singer of seminal Canadian punk act Rough Trade (most famous for the randy tunes “High School Confidential” and “What’s the Furor About The Fuhrer?”) published her memoirs. The book, entitled “Anti-Diva,” is a no-holds-barred chronicle of Pope’s early exploits in 1970s Yorkville, including her copious sexual flights with various actors, musicians and other iconoclast of the era. High (or low) lights, depending on how you see it: A naughty encounter with Tim Curry on the Toronto Island Ferry, her induction of SCTV actress Andrea Martin into the world of lesbian sex and her surprisingly poignant account of her longtime relationship with the sultry and doomed Dusty Springfield.

5. Trooper keep raising hell on Sesame Street, This Hour Has 22 Minutes.

Trooper are perhaps the most noteworthy band on this list as they draw big crowds to this day and are still clinging to their last shreds of credibility. Thus, their career milestones have been more amusing than shameful. Their song “Raise a Little Hell” refuses to die. Fans of Canadian television will recall a segment of the show This Hour Has 22 Minutes featuring politicians such as Jean Chretien singing along to the rowdy anthem. Your humble Postscript Editor was also amused to learn that “Raise a Little Hell” has been immortalized on none other than Sesame Street! Of course, they don’t say “hell”—instead, they changed the chorus to “Where’s the letter L, where’s the letter L, where’s the letter L?” What better way to learn the alphabet than from a group of motley Canadian guitar shredders? Trooper, may you live on forever.


Compiled by Alison Lang of the seminal Canadian punk act “Postscript”

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