Those lucky enough to have caught the Little Guitar Army live will remember that Bert Man brought a striking amount of craziness onto the stage, where he was the stable—if you could call him that—male singer alongside a rotating crew of female leads, from Gerry-Jenn Wilson to Linda Stang to Mellow Friesen.
Considering how wild a frontman he was, and how many times I caught the band live, it’s a bit of an oddity that the performance of his that stands out most in my memory was not with the Little Guitar Army at all.
I can vividly recall the wild-eyed singer onstage at Funkys with the Strugglers, opening for SNFU at a Chris Walter booklaunch in 2012. Maybe it’s just that he was in no danger of being upstaged by a horde of equally weird co-performers, like a co-lead vocalist strutting around in a military pro-domme costume like Ilsa, She Wolf of East Van.
But it might also have something to do with the fact that Man came onstage in a plush green lizard suit and gradually denuded himself as the set progressed.
By the time the band got around to “Sonic Reducer”—one of a stable of classic punk covers they unleashed, amidst a few originals—he had stripped down to the tiniest ginch you’d ever want to see him in, unless maybe you were hot for the guy (not my type, Bert, not my type).
The Strugglers struggle on, with a host of gigs announced for the fall, also featuring LGA alum Orchard Pinkish (aka “Richie”). There’s also Crummy, Bert Man’s other project, whom attentive Vancouverites likely caught at the first Rickshaw David Bowie tribute, belting out Iggy Pop’s (Bowie-produced) “Some Weird Sin”. (They also are known for doing “Search and Destroy” and Bowie’s “Andy Warhol,” he says, opining that too many bands elect to do “shitty originals” instead of choice covers, which has not been a problem with any band Bert has been in, apparently.)
They may have long since imploded, but you can’t interview Bert Man without asking him about his time in the LGA, which, he tells the Straight, “just seems too surreal now. If it seemed out of control or crazy, it's because it totally was,” he says with a laugh. “I describe it as a many headed monster that devoured itself before we could unleash it on the general population.”
Are there any particularly wild moments? Man reflects that he “saw [band leader and little guitar designer] Cal [Thompson] fall offstage at the Rickshaw and land his head on the concrete,” splitting it open badly. As Man recalls, Cal crawled back onstage and finished the show “concussed and bleeding.”
That’s not even one of the many bonafide horror stories about the LGA Man is electing not to tell, but rather “business as usual… it was a miracle we made it as long as we did.”
Man confirms that when it all fell apart, “quite spectacularly one afternoon,” there “were a few good songs in the can” for what was to be the Little Guitar Army’s second album, but they may never see the light of day now.
Bert Man was born in Chile, he explains—confirming something the Straight overheard once upon a time. “My real name is Roberto Fernando Canete Medina, but I had a buddy who called me Bert, man, as in, ‘Let’s get a drink, Bert, man.’ It was the dumbest DJ name I could think of,” which he chose “because it was so uncool and silly. Twenty years later I’m still the Bertman.”
He arrived in Vancouver from Saskatoon in the winter of 1987, soon joining the band Jack Feels Fine, and catching shows by the Ramones, Jesus Lizard, and Fugazi (at “that hall in North Van where I got into a fist fight on acid, causing them to stop the show.”)
Man may have toned down on the substance abuse since that time—he jokes that since he quit drinking, he doesn’t hang out with LGA alum anymore, Pinkish notwithstanding—but there are moments on the new Crummy album that are as wild as anything he’s done. “Fucken Disaster” (I like to think it’s a deliberate misspelling) is a straight-up punk classic, Man’s voice even growlier and rougher than in his LGA days. “Ransack” sounds like Chuck Berry jamming with GG Allin. There’s even a six minute closer that riffs just the teeniest bit on “Interstellar Overdrive” and boasts echo effects and a delicate acoustic outro, earning it the title of “Punk Floyd”.
The CD is called Bitch, alluding to the fact that Bert is supposedly “difficult to work with,” and featuring a shot on the cover of the man in drag (still not my type).
”Crummy is my baby,” he says proudly. “I created it from nothing,” recruiting local legend Randy Bowman (of the Enigmas, Scramblers, and post-Gerry Hannah/ Jim Imagawa Subhumans) and Michelle Duff (of the Bombshells and the Shit Talkers). “I got a little beach guitar for my 40th birthday and started working towards it. The name was simply because I wanted to say, ‘Hi, we're Crummy,’ thus leaving us open to heckling… Instead our hecklers are polite and encouraging.”
Crummy will play November 4 at the Rickshaw as part of the Vangiv’er Food Bank Benefit, also featuring Death Sentence, Wett Stilettos, Trailerhawk, and Eddy D & the Sex Bombs, among others. Meantime, you can catch the Strugglers, with a new lineup, still featuring Orchard, on Friday (October 21) at the SBC Cabaret, and then at a Not Yer Buddy anniversary show at the Rickshaw on November 10.
A point of curiosity: over his many years on the Vancouver music scene—also featuring stints in Motorama and the “instrumental surf space trio" Chopper and the Saucermen—what’s the most money Bert has made on a gig? Turns out he “once made $1300 with Jack Feels Fine in the early 1990’s at the Cruel Elephant.”
He pauses and then adds: “There may have been some okay payouts with LGA, but I never ever saw a penny. They didn't let me handle the money!”