By all accounts, The Flatliners have every reason to avoid Winnipeg when they hit the western leg of a Canadian tour.
They’ve had their van windows smashed, they’ve seen roving gangs of drunks beat up random strangers downtown, and have had a number of scheduled shows moved or cancelled by shady promoters the day they roll into town.
Oh, they also insist they’re wanted by the city’s Lebanese mafia, following a run-in nearly six years ago during their first trip to the city.
“That was a crazy time,” laughed Chris Cresswell, vocalist and guitarist for the Toronto-based punk band, over the phone outside a show in Quebec City last week.
“We were heading to a friend’s house, and (guitarist) Scott (Brigham) was skateboarding and he hit a pretty gnarly crack in the concrete. His deck just flew into this grocery store, through a full pane window. And of course, we’re 17 at the time, and we just run, because it’s what we’re used to doing.”
Cresswell, now turning 23, struggles to remember the street and area of the city where it all took place, but still remembers vividly what happened.
“All of a sudden these big guys chase after us, and surround (Scott), shoving him around. Slowly but surely, we started to realize this place was a mafia joint.”
What followed was a tense two hours for the band – rounded out by bassist Jon Darby and drummer Paul Ramirez – as Brigham and the band’s manager at the time were held in the store.
“It felt like we were in Goodfellas. John and Paul and I were all locked outside and we had no idea what was happening,” Cresswell said. “We were so freaked after that happened. We were supposed to have a show the next day but we took off and just skipped town.”
The band hasn’t skipped a Winnipeg date since, and don’t plan to miss their Thursday, Sept. 16 date at the Garrick.
“To be honest, the shows themselves have been awesome,” Cresswell said. “In the past, we were kind of nervous and apprehensive, but things have improved. We have friends in town, so it’s been a fun time.
“When you’re doing a western tour, you play Winnipeg. It would just be stupid not to and turn a really long drive into an even longer drive with no fun in between.”
Since forming in 2002, The Flatliners have amassed a handful of quirky facts that have come to define the band’s history: they are the youngest band to sign to punk label Fat Wreck Chords; they wrote most of their first album when they were 14; their first show was a Beatles cover show; and they went on their first tour before they were legal to drive.
“We’re lucky to have started as young as we did and see how things have come along,” Cresswell said. “We’ve been given the chance to go on tour with a lot of bands we grew up listening to, and have befriended them, which to us, is the best part.
“None of us wanted to go to school when we were in school, and when we were done school we didn’t want to go back to school,” he continued. “All of us wanted to play music and that’s why we’ve stuck together.
“We’ve run into old high school friends who are surprised to see that we’re still playing music. They’re not condescending, but shocked. And we’re like, ‘Yeah, really. What the hell else are we going to do?’”
Published in Volume 65, Number 3 of The Uniter (September 16, 2010)