“We are Starter Kit and we’ve been playing together for 24 hours—and some of us have only been playing our instruments for 24 hours,” said Geordie Miller, lead singer and bassist of The Bad Subjects, formerly known as Starter Kit. These words may have been enough for a group of sane audience members to flee Thunder & Lightning, but the substantial crowd that had gathered was not so easily scared away. The Bad Subjects – Miller, Mike Laurence on guitar and Mike Roy on drums – kicked off Thursday evening’s T&L Fest show.
Here’s the concept: Combine individuals who have little or no prior musical experience, have them pick up instruments they have never played before, write an original song, and perform an opening set in front of a crowd. And voila: You have one ‘Starter Kit.’ The Bad Subjects, despite having very little time together, had already developed a strong sense of their vibe as a band, describing themselves as an eco-feminist, socialist, rambunctious, post-carbon tax, humanitarian group, among a handful of other descriptors that they rattled off too quickly to catch.
After a few minutes of stalling the band kicked off their set with some words of confidence: “I think it’s time to play the notes we know,” said Miller. The anticipation was further enhanced when the band had to start over as the bass amp had not been turned on, only a minor oversight.
The band’s “original” song sounded strangely familiar. The lyrics were suspiciously reminiscent of Len’s 1999 trip-hop one-hit wonder, “Steal my Sunshine,” done in an infinitely more saddening tone. (Hopefully The Bad Subjects made enough money from their set to pay the retainer on a copyright infringement lawyer.) Regardless, the band’s rendition of this song conveyed a truly poetic sound. The slow and forceful delivery of the lyrics amplified the song’s daunting and dismal representation of life and the human condition. The set was moving, slowly turning a few laughs into soft tears, and finally wailing sobs.
Miller didn’t actually sing a single note; rather, he spoke the song’s gloomy lyrics. This forcefulness was complemented by Roy on the drums. For a first timer, his skills were impressive, reminiscent of a military drummer after one too many pints. This was matched by the strangely tight guitar playing; Laurence, contrary to the guidelines of the set, was curiously more skilled on the guitar than expected.
It isn’t certain whether it was the alcohol or The Bad Subjects’ raw talent that drove the crowd to copious amounts of applause at the end of the one-song set. It may have been the overwhelming gratitude of the band for the support of local music. However, one can be sure that The Bad Subjects will be sorely missed, as they have just announced their hiatus. Just remember, as told by the band’s one and only hit: “There will be consequences if you steal my sunshine.”