Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Slackers, still going strong...

You can tell that this great act from New York has been crafting it's art for a while now. The Slackers offer a mixture of sounds that any Mod craves: ska, rocksteady, RnB, soul, reggae and good old rock. They are polished, confident and they know how to whip up a crowd into a frenzy. One thing they are not, slackers! Over the years, they have built up quite a following here in Montreal. They even took requests during their encore and they looked overwhelmed by all the different choices the crowd threw at them.

The band members seemed grateful and certainly gave their all. In fact, they were so exhausted by the end of the show that a little rest was in order. Well, not quite... But I'm sure you get the picture.

I have to acknowledge the incredible performance of the saxophonist, David Hillyard. His solos are out of this world! He's a true professional that has a certain raw edge. Although the organ player, Vic Ruggerio, sings most of the repertoire and has a very solid voice, I was most impressed with the smooth, cool, soulful, crooner type voice of the trombone player, Glen Pine.

Rare are the bands that can still innovate and have a current sound, all the while having a firm grasp of the past. The Slackers is such a band.

Check out what I mean here:

The Slackers live in Montreal

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Having a bespoke Mod suit made: Part II

Only 42 days after meeting with Mr. Sethinamvong from Bangkok's Prince Henry Tailors, I received my suit via UPS. Just like with the previous suits I ordered from them, I'm gleaming with anticipation. I feel like a 10 year old at Christmas. The timing is perfect because I will get to wear it for the first time at the Slackers show. A 4-button hand made Mod suit is exactly what I need to go see this great New York ska band.

What makes a Mod suit stand out? It's attention to detail. In fact, it's all in the details. The fabric is  black lightweight wool with a thin grey stripe. It's perfect for dancing the night away. Two 5-inch vents compliment the back. The single breasted 4-button jacket is slightly shorter then the previous one I had made to give it a more distinctive English look. I had the buttons covered to add a touch more flair. The sleeves have 5 buttons but I didn't think of mentioning to my tailor that I wanted them to be functional. Shame on me! I won't make that mistake twice!

I asked that my lapels be 2 inches wide. That way I can be hired as an extra on the set of Mad Men at a minute's notice.

The pocket flaps are 2 inches wide and slightly slanted. The extra ticket pocket makes a true Mod statement. And this one is functional! I saw a decent looking Ben Sherman houndstooth jacket on sale this weekend and I was disappointed to see that the ticket pocket was in fact just a flap.

The pants have the traditional frogmouth pocket and front crease. I made sure that the pants were tapered with a 7 inch opening at the bottom.

I will most likely wear the suit with a white Oxford button-down shirt and a plain colored tie. I will certainly not wear a tie with an intricate pattern that will contrast with the pin stripe. As for the shoes, a nice pair of winkle pickers, chelsea boots or brogues will complete the look. I will most likely end up with my trusty black suede Clarks desert boots.

You want to find out more about the distinctive Mod suit? I urge you to have a look at this very interesting clip by the BBC.

The mod suit - British Style Genius

To find out when Prince Henry Tailors will visit your city next or to place an order directly from the internet, make sure to hop over to their website.

To all my Montreal Mod and Skinhead friends, they will visit our fair city on November 30th (12:30 pm onwards). They will greet us at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Montreal, 208 Saint Antoine West. Let me know if you intend to go and we can meet-up. I have a few shirts I would like custom made.

Now go on and suit up!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My Mod Daily Rider - 1959 Vespa VNB

I acquired this beauty 2 years ago after a 13-year gap without a scooter. My last chariot was a yellow Lambretta GP200. I had bought it in 1997 for my 15-day trek across the continent. A bunch of mechanical problems and the fact that a scooter mate had ended up in the hospital after being run over by a car while riding his Lambretta LI150, pushed me to hang up my helmet for a while.
In 2003, I took a sabbatical from teaching and embarked in a backpacking trip across Asia and Australia. While I was in Thailand and Vietnam, I noticed a significant amount of those vintage Italian marvels roaming around. In Bangkok, I was surprised to see that there was a thriving scooter scene with its own café and rallies. 

In Vietnam, I came across a young man that was selling a restored Vespa and Lambretta. I remember explaining to him how unfortunate it was that he had repainted an original Silver Special. It was now two-tone, white and blue. Sacrilege! I had no idea, back in 2003, that those scooters, restored with questionable parts and unqualified mechanics, were deathtraps on wheels.

T-shirt bought in Bangkok. See anything unusual?
That trip did trigger, once again, my lust for those 2-stroke pieces of rolling art. The scooter bug had struck again! I had been searching the Internet, far and wide, in order to find that perfect Mod accessory. I ended up buying my first Vespa from a neighbor living a block away!

He had done a superb job of redoing the whole engine by putting in a very responsive 180cc DR kit and coverting it to a 12V system. The best part was that he sold it to me with most of the original sixties accessories you see here.

Original Falbo horncast cover
Original Stadium Mirror
Piaggio grips
Vigano legshield trim
Vigano crashbar

Ardor cowl embelishers

It's been my daily rider ever since. It may not be the showroom quality, trophy winning Vespa some of you have but I'm very happy with it. Let's just say that it's a work in progress. Some evidence suggests that the scooter used to be a seafoam green. The local scooter shop has brought to my attention the fact that it might not be a '59 but of a later year. The papers show that it has always been registered as a 1959. The former owner also explained to me that it was previously used by the Shriners organization in parades.
Now, it's my turn to parade around town…

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Golden dreams: The first vintage scooter I rode

It was quite the day for "first times"... On that overcast spring day in 1997, I not only rode on my first vintage scooter but I also lost my rally virginity. My chariot was a stock Lambretta Golden Special in all its original glory. The occasion was the infamous Niagara Falls Rally. Back in the day, it was probably one of the biggest gatherings on the East Coast and surely one of the most popular in Canada (with the Victoria Rally). Of course, it pales in comparison with an Isle of Wight rally but it was still a weekend you marked on your calendar well in advance.

I was supposed to go on a brand new SIL Lambretta GP200. I had bought it a year earlier from Performance Scooters in Montreal and a bunch of problems prevented me from having it on time. Obviously I wasn't very happy with the situation, especially since I had been spending every weekend at the shop for months, helping out, without being paid. I had seen the Golden Special in the showroom and was seriously considering swapping my GP200 and just leave with the sixties vintage scooter. I eventually convinced Darren, the owner, to let me have it for the weekend.
 My main concern was the papers. I was most probably riding with dealer plates and I didn't ask too many questions about the insurance on the bike. Plus, I was in the middle of finishing my motorcycle-driving course and since I was driving in another province, I wasn't sure about the legality of it all. Since Niagara Falls is right on the border between Ontario and New York State, I thought to myself: "If we don't cross the border to the US side, what are the chances I will be pulled over and asked for my papers?"

I was looking forward to my first ever group ride on that Saturday afternoon. We all left from that tacky motel the rally had taken over. Mind you, I have been riding motorcycles and quads since I was 14. My grand father had a 70s blue Honda Daz ST70 that I use to ride around the cottage. The thing is, my foot was used to do the shifting and not my wrist.

Still some snow outside and I'm ready to ride my Honda Daz
Five minutes into the ride, everything seemed to go according to plan when suddenly a side panel flew off in the middle of traffic. Luckily, it didn't cause an accident and no truck ran over it. I spent the rest of our stroll, straddling the side panels and holding them with my legs. I thought to myself: "As long as we don't cross the border, I'll be fine." Murphy's law #132,5: Be careful for what you don't wish for. Of course, this is exactly where the group was heading.

Nowhere to run by Martha and the Vandellas started playing in my head and my heart was following the beat. As we were lining up at the border crossing, I was looking for an escape route but couldn't find one. The border officer just waved us by. Crisis averted. Ah! The pre 9-11 days! How I miss you!

My piece of mind was short lived since I started worrying about entering back in my own country. So I can't tell you about the interesting scenery. My mind was too preoccupied. We were not racing but my mind was! In the end, the same scenario ended up repeating itself. *Sigh*

The day ended with your typical rally debauchery: loud music, lots of beer, good laughs and a few hours of sleep on a crappy motel floor. Good times!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Bronco Bullfrog - A piece of Suedehead history

The Who's Quadrophenia has to be one of the major reasons why I got so involved in the Mod culture when I was a teen. Jimmy's character spoke to me. Just like him, I always wanted to be part of the "in-crowd" and being French speaking, I always felt a bit like an outsider. For so many of you out there, that was part of the Mod Revival, probably felt the same way. There's no denying it, Quadrophenia is THE Mod movie. The same could probably be said of Suedeheads in Bronco Bullfrog.
I never had the chance to see it before. Released in British theaters in 1969 for only a short time, it achieved cult status almost instantly. It was never commercialized before this summer on video or DVD and its rarity made certain that it retained its cult movie standing.
Bronco Bullfrog is one of the rare and most honest depictions of the Suedehead culture. Suedeheads are the natural evolution and close cousins of the Mods. When Mods were becoming out-of-date in the late sixties, they eventually branched out into the Hard Mods, the Soul Boys or the Suedeheads.
I had heard there was going to be a one time showing of the movie at Blue Sunshine, Montreal's Psychotronic Film Center. What is a psychotronic film center exactly? Well... It's basically a third floor apartment on St-Laurent Blvd where a couple of movie buffs show some real underground stuff.
I met my friend Stéphane there and was invited to the kitchen for some beer and then to take place in the living room turned movie theater. We were treated to some Small Faces 60s concert footage while we were waiting for the movie to start. Quite a pleasant and unexpected bonus, I might add.

Our hostess then put the film in context by reading an excerpt of Richard Allen's novel Suedehead. Wow! She did her homework! She also explained how she obtained the rights to show the film. The story is quite simple. She wrote director Barney Platts-Mills prior to a trip to London and asked him if they could meet for coffee. He accepted! I thought her story was as captivating as the movie itself. She also warned us that she obtained the subtitled version. Really? Do we absolutely need subtitles? You bet we do!

Our hosts

The cast is composed of amateur actors that had no previous training. It is said that some of the dialogue was also improvised. Does this mean that I witnessed one of the first pieces of reality entertainment? Not quite, but for the untrained ear, the subtitles are obligatory.

The story revolves around the growing pains of Del Walker and his mates. Set in London's East End, the gang follows Bronco to pull off a heist. I found the film fascinating and touching. It won't be the type of movie I will likely watch dozens of times but I did escape to another time during 86 minutes. I wish that the soundtrack was more indicative of the Suedehead movement but overall I enjoyed it.

You can have a look at the trailer of the movie here:

Bronco Bullfrog - The trailer

You should also check out the good folks at Blue Sunshine for the upcoming events.