Post-pandemic punk rock: Passerby and Wine Lips at The Cure￼
A staff member’s evening experience of local punk in Regina
I headed downtown to see a punk rock show at The Cure the evening of June 22. I arrived around 8:30 and the sun was still blaring down my neck. Thankfully, The Cure is dim and cool. Inside, there’s a sizeable crowd of maskless faces. I pulled up a stool at the bar and made the acquaintance of an exceptionally jovial, welcoming, and loquacious patron sitting beside me. We made some moderate, merry small talk and discussed the music scene in Regina, allegedly toxic amounts of irradiation in the cannabis supply, and the nonfiction writing of Aldous Huxley. After a couple of icy ciders – which, note to self, the Carillon does not consider a legitimate business expense – sound checks began.
The rollicking drums and hissing cymbal crashes produced a sudden and complete mood shift in the bar. The older patrons, palpably irked, sighed in chorus. A cacophony of shifting plates and pint glasses signalled the imminent arrival of servers with bills. Around the same time began a procession of younger characters donning spiky leather jackets, rugged vests adorned with iron-on patches, and handsomely imposing black boots. It was time.
Passerby took the stage first. The punk trio is one of Regina’s own – Mikey sings, plays guitar, and writes the lyrics; Colin plays bass; and Cullen plays drums. Pensive but erratic, Passerby delivered a distilled punk performance. Authentically angsty in a characteristically punk way, but without any of the exhausting affect that becomes the bane of any live show. Rugged vocals had the charming tendency of soaring in long-held notes, left chillingly suspended in the bar’s air. Bassist and drummer played tightly enough. Cullen is an impressive and high-energy drummer, while Colin fulfills his role strongly and without ornamentation. Altogether, Passerby is a quintessential and unpretentious punk experience.
The headliner, Wine Lips, hit the stage running and did not miss a step for the next 30 minutes. Dynamic was the word that kept entering my mind while watching them. Relentless and whimsical, it was clear that Wine Lips has expert control over their craft. The band consisted of three: guitar/vocals, bass, and drums, just like Passerby. Wine Lips’ chemistry is undeniable. The vocals were strong, whiny, and meandering. The bassist effortlessly strolled up and down the fretboard. The drummer had magnificent dynamism that inexorably rolled the rhythm along. The band’s manic energy made Passerby seem a bit sleepy by comparison. Importantly, the two bands had quite divergent styles. Different strokes for different folks.
After the music had finished, Passerby was gracious enough to sit for a brief interview – in a side alley only metres away from an array of dumpsters; it was all very punk rock. Here are some salient moments from the conversation with Mikey.
What are some of Passerby’s musical inspirations?
Jawbreaker and Jets to Brazil […] and Jason Shevchuk of None More Black, and Kid Dynamite. I think he has some of the most interesting melodies and word schemes that anyone’s ever come out with, and he’s probably one of the most underrated writers of the last few decades, I think.
How long has Passerby been a band?
I wrote most of the songs and I was really close with Colin, and we started getting together and figuring things out. You know, it could be a better part of ten years that the songs have existed. But the core part of the band has existed for about three years or so.
It was nearing midnight and The Cure was beginning to look bare. I managed to briefly ask another local musician his views on the post-pandemic live music scene. Justice Ausum – the mastermind of Regina’s pre-eminent shoegaze project, Celia’s Dream – bestowed on me a world-weary quip. He says it’s good to be back and that he’s nearly forgotten what it’s like “to make $200 a show, split it three ways, and then have five people tell you ‘good show’ and then immediately try to bum a smoke off of you.” I’m inclined to agree with Mr. Ausum. It is very good to be back. You can find Passerby on Instagram: @passerbyandby. They play next at O’Hanlon’s on July 15. Wine Lips is on Spotify and Instagram as @winelipsband.