It’s been eighteen years in the making but The Spitfires have finally managed to release “Live at the Pic,” recorded by producer Howard Redekopp (Tegan and Sara, Mother Mother, New Pornographers) on his mobile recording studio at Vancouver’s infamous Piccadilly Pub in 2003. The album celebrates their 25th anniversary and the accompanying video showcases a time-capsulized look at the Canadian underground rock ‘n’ roll scene of the era. The live footage for video “Down On It” was shot via Danny Nowack (Hard Core Logo) and Doug Donut (Death Sentence) in the sweatiest, smokiest, mainstay-venue of Vancouver’s “Gunk Punk” revolution: The Pic.
The Spitfires made a name for themselves in the late 90’s and early 00’s not only for their raucous, beer-soaked live shows, but also for their well-crafted rock songs. They shared stages with contemporaries like The Hellacopters, The Murder City Devils, The Black Halos, and the New Bomb Turks while winning awards from the Georgia Straight, and CFOX radio’s Seeds competition. The band toured extensively in the United States, the U.K. and Canada, but unfortunately they’ll probably be most remembered for the night they were banned in Toronto.
In 2002 The Spitfires signed on with one of Canada’s premier booking agents at The Agency Group. The band was firing on all cylinders, touring with the Headstones (ruining their attempt at sobriety) and being courted by labels in the United States and Europe. They were invited to the Canadian Music Week festival in Toronto, where NOW Magazine offered them “pick of the week” for their headlining show at The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern. Celebrities like Robbie Robertson, Chad Kroeger and Brittany Murphy were in attendance, sharing drinks with the band backstage. Upon commencing their performance, singer Jason Solyom shot off a chemical-filled fire extinguisher which choked the crowd and created a panicked rush to the exit. This all occurred very shortly after the Great White nightclub fire in Rhode Island, and concert goers were justifiably on edge. It effectively ended their career. They were dropped by their agent, their label, and banned by most clubs in the Toronto area. Their agent is rumoured to have said “I’ve never seen a band shoot themselves in the foot like this in my life.”
The Spitfires had all but thrown in the towel on the project until singer Jason Solyom discovered the lost recordings while spring cleaning in 2020. It was only fitting that Tony Lima at Yeah Right! Records should release the album. His infamous rock club Call The Office hosted The Spitfires repeatedly and was arguably one of the best rock ‘n’ roll venues in Canada at the time. “Live at the Pic” captures the band in their heyday, right after a European tour and right before they imploded at the Horseshoe. They were a band you either loved or hated. If you were from Toronto, probably the latter. It’s been eighteen years and the Spitfires have to wonder, “are we still banned in Toronto?”
Luckily the careers of the Spitfires weren’t completely ruined. Jason Solyom went on to join stoner rock outfit La Chinga, CC Voltage joined new wave act Autogramm, and Jay Millette has continued with the Black Halos, Midnight Towers and his solo project, Silver Receiver.