Sparkmarker reunion will give '90s band closure
Sparkmarker’s one-off reunion show this week acts as a welcome return and a proper farewell for the band. That’s because the ’90s post-hardcore group’s last show didn’t take place on home turf, but across the pond in Belgium. Thinking back to the 1997 gig, singer-guitarist Kim Kinakin recalls that the final performance was unplanned, and notes the band didn’t have anything left to knock it out one last time locally.
“Jason [Craig] was quitting the band, and whether we wanted to continue…there were a lot of personal issues at hand, and financial reasons,” he says on the line from his Vancouver home. “Instead of getting a new bass player, we said, ‘Let’s just end it.’ ”
Fifteen years later, though, Sparkmarker has decided to reconvene for a gig that’ll show off two distinct periods of the band, which formed back in 1990. Kinakin, drummer Rob Zgaljic, and bassist Craig will play the whole way through, but the set will alternate between songs Kinakin sang on the band’s 1997 swan song, 500wattburner@seven, and tracks from its iconic and groove-laden powerhouse debut, Products and Accessories, which showcase original screamer Ryan Scott. This will be the first time he’s fronted the band since departing shortly after that album’s release in 1994.
Regrettably, not all of the band’s members will be present at the performance: roadie-turned-guitarist Jordan Stuttard passed away from cystic fibrosis in 2005. The group has recruited Jahmeel Russell, who plays in Zgaljic’s current rock project Red Vienna, to play in his stead, and proceeds from the show will go to Cystic Fibrosis Canada.
Throughout Sparkmarker’s initial seven-year stretch, the unit’s singles and LPs served up full-body-bobbing bangers rife with chunkified, palm-muted guitar work and punishingly pounded mid-tempo beats. Early songs like the slow-building sonic steamroller “Character 1” and the raged-out, for-the-throat riff fest “Memorenda” were marked with Scott’s emotive screams, not to mention his quasi-yogic stage moves. Kinakin’s vocal work took on more of a sing-speak tone, but was no less powerful on subversively melodic, herky-jerk blazer “Chrysanthemum” and the AIDS-awareness track “Sawed-Off But Silent”.
While the guitarist is most excited to play material from Products and Accessories, noting that most of it was abandoned when Scott left the outfit, Kinakin explained that late-period number “Keep the Quarter” will resonate extra personally when he sings it at the performance.
“That song in many ways is about recognizing differences in friendships and personalities. I think that came from Ryan leaving the band, and that decision to part ways,” he says of the track, which entwines ear-blistering washes of six-string feedback with Zgaljic’s propulsive, minimalist thud.
While this week’s set reunites the four friends on-stage, Kinakin is hoping scores of old scenesters show up for the party as well, magnanimously offering that Sparkmarker was but one part of Vancouver’s larger punk landscape in the ’90s.
“We weren’t just a band, we were part of that community as well,” he says of the anticipated local punk-rock love-in. “There were other bands that played, and people put out zines and had their creative input as well. I look at it as a community reunion.”
Sparkmarker’s reunion show takes place Friday (September 28) at the Rickshaw Theatre.