What's In Your Fridge: Grant Lawrence
What’s in Your Fridge is where the Straight asks interesting Vancouverites about their life-changing concerts, favourite albums, and, most importantly, what’s sitting beside the Heinz Ketchup in their custom-made Big Chill Retropolitan 20.6 cubic-foot refrigerators.
On the grill
Who are you
Known for having one of the quickest wits in Vancouver, Grant Lawrence first roared out of West Van as the leader of much-loved garage-rock faves the Smugglers. He’s since gone on to become a king-of-all media powerbroker. When not proving himself one of the most popular and influential hosts on CBC Radio, he’s emceeing awards shows like the Polaris Prize gala and topping the book bestseller charts with award-winning works like Adventures in Solitude and The Lonely End of the Rink: Confessions of a Reluctant Goalie.
He also plays goal for the ice hockey team the Vancouver Flying Vees. Good luck getting him to show up as a drop-in netminder for your next pick-up game. Add fatherhood to his already overloaded plate, and Lawrence is more than a tad busy.
My parents weren't really into music (especially live music) so my first concert wasn't until I was 14 years old. The band was ZZ Top, the venue was the Pacific Coliseum. It was "The Eliminator" tour. We were West Van kids so it was more than a little intimidating for us when my dad dropped me and my three mega-dork friends off on Renfrew Street into a sea of unruly bangers who were preparing to rock in ways we had never seen or smelled before.
What compounded the situation considerably was this: not only was I probably the tiniest bespectacled nerd in the entire crowd but I was also in TWO straight leg casts and on crutches (I had fallen off a cliff a few weeks earlier and broke both kneecaps). My friends gingerly helped clear a path to get us to our seats, where I had to sit sideways to fit the casts in. When the lights went down and the volume went up, the show absolutely blew our minds. We were there from the second the opening band--The Headpins--started to the final chords of ZZ Top's third encore.
Leaving the venue, we emerged from a massive cloud of the bangers' celebratory pot smoke, each of us wearing fake ZZ Top beards bought at the merch table over our huge smiles, to find my dad waiting by the car. Laying my head down on my pillow about an hour or so later safely back within the confines of West Van, I'll never forget that first-time sensation of both ears ringing loudly. It was amazing. I loved it.
By the time I was 16, I had graduated from stadium rock, discovered punk and garage rock, and had formed my own band called the Smugglers. We were hugely into a Montreal band called the Gruesomes who were one of the top touring club acts in the late 1980s in Canada. When my pal Nardwuar and I saw they were coming to Club Soda, a bar in downtown Vancouver, we knew we had to go, even though it was 19+. To prepare, I spent two months growing a "beard", though the final result basically looked like I had glued somebody's pubic hair to my face. Nardwuar was already wildly hirsute and never got ID'd.
I'll never forget pulling back on the heavy wooden doors of the club and hearing the din from above... climbing those sticky carpeted stairs... seeing the bouncer staring down at us... we held our breath... he nonchalantly waved us past, pointing at the cashier. We paid and we were IN.
It was a whole other world... a room painted black with no windows. Cigarette smoke thick in the air. The smell of urinal pucks and stale beer. Black leather, spiked mohawks, and thick rubber creepers everywhere. It was an early show and the Gruesomes had just started. We pushed our way through the madly slam dancing crowd to the very front, so we were standing right under the sweaty, head-shaking lead singer Bobby Beaton. The rock 'n' roll they were playing was so loud, powerful, and danceable that we both looked at each other with massive grins on our faces and threw ourselves into the dance pit, bouncing off the energy of the crowd.
It is a night that has always stuck with me. The next day at school, still riding high from the show, I gathered up the members of the baby-faced Smugglers, eagerly described the show, and announced that we were going to put out records and tour the country, just like the Gruesomes.
Top three records
The Sonics Here Are The Sonics I call this album "The Blue Print". It is the greatest rock 'n' roll album ever made, from the greatest punk rock band of all time, filled with the most searing songs and solos and singing and drumming that influenced every generation of rock 'n' roll musicians that followed, from the MC5 to Bruce Springsteen to the Gruesomes to Mudhoney to the Smugglers to the Hives to the Black Keys. And Smugglers' guitarist Nick Thomas's sister found this ultra-rare album at a used bookstore in West Van in the mid-1980s... for .25 cents!! Mint! She thought Nick would probably like it. He still has it. Besides his kids, he considers it his most treasured possession.
The New Pornographers Mass Romantic This is one of the most bombastic and celebratory explosions of sound ever laid down to tape, containing my all-time favourite Canadian song "Letter From An Occupant". Neko Case is at her most siren-like, and Carl Newman taps into every great pop influence he's ever had all at once, creating a wall of sound that is a full blast combination of Fleetwood Mac, Cheap Trick, Redd Kross, Harry Nilsson, Guided By Voices, and the La's. The greatest.
The Rezillos Can't Stand The Rezillos This is just an absolutely stunning, high energy pop-punk album front to back from a crazy Scottish band. The greatest bass playing ever can be found within its grooves. I picked this one up in perfect condition in the used bin of Scratch Records in the early 1990s. Henceforth, I desperately wanted the Smugglers to be a combination of the Sonics and the Rezillos. Pretty sure we never really get close to either, but I still truly love this album.
All-time favourite video
The Beastie Boys “Sabotage” I was never really into videos... ever. I grew up in the era of Soundproof, Good Rockin' Tonight, and Video Hits and thought most videos were totally, painfully boring compared to the records or the live show, whereas my wife grew up in the era of MuchMusic and religiously watched The Wedge after school every day and loved those videos. I think I got turned off from the very start because Culture Club videos gave me nightmares. But if I had to choose, it would be the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage". Any video that tributes 70s cop shows gets top marks from me. And that director Spike Jonze went on to some other stuff, didn't he?
What's in your fridge
Salted dark chocolate made by Gallerie Au Chocolat from Montreal. Totally the best. I have about one or two squares off of a bar each night for dessert. I sometimes get so excited eating it that it results in near immediate diarrhea. Worth it.
Chopped kale. We grow kale in our garden year-round and my wife makes all sorts of delicious stuff with it. Mostly salads, but also baked kale chips and tossed in pasta and as pizza toppings. I love to eat it raw.
Earth's Best Green Beans and Brown Rice pablum. Yes, we have a baby now, and yes, it eats food. Word to the wise: Unlike a half empty jar of pasta sauce, which we all know can sit comfortably in your fridge for up to two years and still be good, a jar of opened baby food can only be in the fridge for like a couple of days max. A rip-off, I know.