Viagra Boys at Corona Theatre, Montreal

February 20, 2023

The Viagra Boys coming to town was a night I had marked on my calendar the moment it was announced and one I was eagerly awaiting. With new-comers The Steens in tow, there was no way this wasn’t going to be a memorable occasion.

Tonight’s concert almost didn’t take place, thanks to our infamous boarder agents that have been wreaking havoc on touring agents for decades now, denying entrance to artists for the slightest of reasons, like a twenty-year old driving infraction or other such nonsense – especially when you take into consideration, the amount of artists that are denied entry due to things such as ancient drunk driving charges, while they roll about from state to state, province to province, in a tour bus driven by a professional bus driver. Not the drunken teenage bass player that went for a spin decades ago.

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Sure, a crime is a crime but few are those that can claim to have never made a mistake in their lives. There truly needs to be a reassessment on what constitutes a denial into this country by the power-happy ego tripping boarder patrol agents.

The Steens

Although The Steens are a fairly new and unknown commodity, I thoroughly expect that to have changed exponentially by the time these young Californians find their way back to Canadian shores. Formed in 2021, this brothers-led duo comprised of Elijah and Isaiah Steen have but five recorded songs so far into their career, yet are already touring North America, as the support act for Sweden’s Viagra Boys, and while that is probably in part due to the father of the Steen brothers being an A&R artist manager, which one would assume builds quite the repertoire of contacts – it is mainly due to the fact that The Steens kick ass.

The Steen brothers have fleshed out the group into a five-piece, and their live show bring as much energy as their recorded material does, an to be honest – I wasn’t expecting that. Their set only last about twenty minutes but during that time, they won over the capacity crowd using raw energy and showmanship. Not only was the music up tempo, like a blend of 80s hardcore and 90s Seattle style Grunge, but their onstage antics were a refreshing blast of attitude and spunk – like a prime Iggy Pop blended with the feisty battery of Slipknot in their early days, and the energy of Ho99o9 (if you’ve seen them live, you know what I mean).

The band is so fresh that there is little information about them to be found. I couldn’t even find the names of the other three band members. The mystery bass player and one of The Steens; the one that sings – smashed each other about stage in a playful yet no holds barred outpouring of energetic youth angst, that at one point lead to the bass player falling flat on his arse, and having to resort to playing a few licks while flat on his back. Extremely entertaining.

Following their set, the band members jumped the security fence to mosh with their audience while Nirvana’s Stay Away played over the PA system. To summarize, this is a young up and coming band that is currently doing everything right and I am looking forward to seeing what comes next. The Steens most certainly have my utmost attention.

Viagra Boys

If raw energy was the theme of the night in the first half, you can bet it was in the latter frame too. Sweden’s Viagra Boys are on their third recording, and thanks to their song Punk Rock Loser, off their latest recording, 2022’s Cave World, are now a hot commodity in the music realm. They drew a strange ensemble from different walks of life, from punk rock fans, and those sporting metal shirts – to the stereotypical hipster just along for the ride – which must mean something about the Viagra Boys is ironic or some such nonsense.

Whatever the case, from the opening notes, the floor of the Corona theatre was off to the races, jumping and bouncing about like rabid rabbits, hopped up and ready to dance. It was a beautiful thing to witness, as was the sexy salutary dancing and beer-gut rubbing of the heavily tattooed frontman Sebastian Murphy, who for the entirety of their set, wasn’t once seen without a can of White Claw clamped in his right hand.

Just minutes in, and an audience member throws a big bag of what appears to be weed onto the stage, and by the facial expression of Murphy after opening the bag and giving it a good sniff, and appreciative nod in the direction of the unidentified flying object, a bag of the good stuff. This is Montreal after all.

After their second track, Ain’t Nice, Murphy began a tirade against Canadian police and the boarder patrol officers that gave the group a tough time when entering the country, refusing to believe that the band didn’t have criminal records. When pressed further, with the boarder agents demanding to know if Murphy had ever had a DUI (driving while under the influence) he retorted that he had never so much as held a drivers license. At this point, the crowd is hanging on every word, and somebody yells out “kill the pigs“, which Murphy handled beautifully by responding¬†“No no, don’t kill them, we’re a peaceful band… but we can hate them“.

So there they were, held up at our now infamous boarder, being harassed and judged on their looks and little else, while agents riffle through their tour bus. One of these agents returns with boisterous glee with a huge zip lock bag that, according to Murphy, “looked like a huge bag of cocaine”. Thinking they had found the damning proof that the Viagra Boys were in fact smuggling drugs across the border, the over confident security guard eventually returned with the news that the white substance they had seized, was in fact laundry detergent and not the drug bust of the year so far. Threats of jail time quickly disappeared.

“We are now a political anti-Canadian cop band” said Murphy, to a loud cheer.

It’s already a hard life as an artist, when modern times are against you at every turn. From being robbed blind by streaming services, having to pay a textile tax on merchandise sold at venues, a further taxing of those sales at the boarder, being imitated and robbed by this new wave of A.I criminal filth copying their talents without these jerks at the Canadian / American boarder treating people like criminals over their appearances.

Next up, was their runaway hit, Punk Rock Loser, which garnered a rowdy response from that those that had come out for that one song and that one track only. They left, however, with the knowledge that all of the bands material is as good as this new hit song is. There’s comfort in that. During Baby Criminal, Murphy borrowed a creepy little doll that somebody had brought in, did a little dance with it and returned it back to it’s mother, for lack of a better metaphor.

As the night went on, Murphy seemed to grow more and more intoxicated which somehow fits the imagine and sound of the band. I too wanted to drink, which I suppose is just testament to the quality of the band – they make you want to enjoy yourself, and everyone that was present can vouch for that. His stage banter was fun throughout the night, and truly helps cement an image into my memory that’ll surely recall whenever I listen to the Viagra Boys studio recordings. The boys are just pure fun.

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The stage, now littered with Murphy’s depleted tinnies, is looking more and more like a gutter, complete with Murphy curled up in a ball, looking like a vagrant yet still getting his vocal duties done. I can’t imagine he’s as drunk and my imagination is portraying him to be – he’s drinking fucking seltzers after all. Like Budweiser, it is physically impossible to get shit-faced on such liquids. Try as you may, you’ll never get properly pissed on that shite. Murphy is just a hell of a showman.

On a night that was almost ruined by over-zealous boarder agents, a party-like atmosphere broke out, in a town that needs little to no invitation to partake in such celebration. We are still Canada’s sin city, and we always proudly will be.