Radical Dudez bid farewell to Kingston

The Radical Dudez’s Adam Bell gives it his all.
The Radical Dudez’s Adam Bell gives it his all.
Courty of the Radical Dudez

Left to his own devices, Adam Bell would only give you three reasons to attend The Radical Dudez farewell-to-Queen’s show at Clark Hall Pub on Wednesday: cake and party favours, a fun time full of “hijinks,” and the warm karmic glow of helping his band recover from the recent theft of cymbals worth $1,000. He wouldn’t try to convince you that the last of about 75 Dudez shows in Kingston is a momentous occasion. He wouldn’t say anything self-important about their contribution to the campus music scene. He wouldn’t claim that the Dudez were going to rock as they had never rocked before. He’s just going to offer you some cake.

Of course, you can afford to be a little laid-back about self-promotion if you also happen to be something of a pop genius.

The Radical Dudez have spent the last four years refining their ultra-catchy power pop, with Bell balancing out tongue-in-cheek cleverness and emotional neuroses over melodies that might have driven a lesser band into Brian Wilson-like hibernation. Most famous in Kingston for combining hip-hop with a ukulele, the Dudez are equally adept with buoyant keyboards and big guitars, while remaining smart, sentimental and summer-obsessed. But since the release of their self-titled independent album in 2005, they’ve been working further off the radar from the campus music scene and concentrating instead on a handful of Toronto shows, including a well-reviewed concert at Canadian Music Week and multiple engagements at the infamous Horseshoe Tavern.

Singer, songwriter and guitarist Bell told the Journal this was partly due to personal schedules that allowed less time for rehearsal, and partly because “I think we exhausted people in Kingston—they’re like, “Oh, not that band again.’”

Bell said the band’s approach to booking success in Toronto was straightforward.

“I e-mailed the show guy, and I said, ‘I know Bedouin Soundclash,’ and it worked! And I do know them, so it wasn’t a lie. Eon [Sinclair] was in my frosh group, and he told me he plays bass, and I said ‘Are you gonna play in a band?’ and he said, ‘Probably not.’”

The band recently demonstrated their close ties to the campus music scene while filming a video for “The First Place.” Phil Troop of Whiskey Steve and the Steves plays a boy cast as a tree in a highschool production of Robin Hood trying to win the love of Emma Hunter, who plays Maid Marian. He also gets some help from a dancing guitar ensemble featuring members of the Steves, The Laginsky Reunion, Tomate Potate and the Clark Hall Pub staff.

“We’re really hoping that people can request to see it on [Much Music’s] The Wedge. I know they will be able to. I don’t know when ... but that’s the plan, to get some play and get some attention.”

Despite the Dudez and all of the aforementioned bands either breaking up or leaving Kingston next year, Bell and drummer Steve McKay still aren’t concerned about a sudden drought of live local music.

“If there’s an opportunity to play, somebody’s gonna put a band together,” McKay shrugged.

“Not to sound like a jerk, but there’s an endless supply of guys who want to impress girls with their guitar.”

“Whereas before bands were more kinda like, polished ... people thought you had to be way better to play in a band ... now it seems like people are like ‘Yeah, whatever, let’s play,’” Bell said. “And I think as long as indie bands are cool, that’ll keep going for a while. You can suck, and it’s alright!”

“Those bands are way more fun, ’cause they’re relaxed,” McKay added.

While the Dudez have developed into a consistent live act, Bell’s favourite shows “are when we’re just awful and out-of-tune and people don’t care, and we have pinatas, or something like that.” Reflecting on a live history including everything from women’s figure skating costumes to a 2004-2005 QEA Battle of the Bands win, along with countless fundraising events, he’s grateful that they kept finding an audience.

“As one of the guys that’s been around for four years, I would like to say thank you to anyone who ever came to more than one of our shows, because it means that they either got dragged out to two charity functions, or wanted to come back.”

In September, McKay and Bell plan to move to Toronto and rejoin former-turned-current bass player Andy Landen. “I think we’re going to try to keep playing, if possible. We’re old,” Bell said, who’s finishing his M. Ed., “so who knows.”

“Dire Straits broke through when they were all like 40 years old,” McKay said.

Bell laughed. “And we easily write better songs than them.”

For one last time on Wednesday night, The Radical Dudez get money for nothing and the chicks for free. Let them eat cake.

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