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DOA has a new album out. It’s called Fight Back and, as usual, they mean it. The band is organizing the first annual Fight Back Festival, a 10 band multimedia extravaganza featuring artists contributing their talents across two stages to create a seamless, non-stop punk marathon. For most bands, a full day of music and art would be enough on its own. Not DOA. Frontman and fountainhead Joe Keithley states the band wants this all to mean something.
The festival promotes action against racism, sexism, hatred and greed. Keithley says it’s for a “grassroots democracy.” He states Willie Nelson’s long running Farm Aid event in support of American farmers was his rough model. As it’s a bit late to save Vancouver’s farmland, Keithley nominates the housing affordability crisis as the festival’s central focus. In his opinion, the crisis is “more important right now than the next four or five issues put together.” Asked if he has any concrete goals for the event, Keithley says he’s content with feeling it out as they go. “We want to let it grow annually as a vehicle of protest.”
The new release has been getting its fair share of praise, one critic calling it their most vital record since 1982’s War On 45. When asked if he feels it marks a signal return to an earlier, more stripped down punk rock sound, Keithley insists they never really strayed far from that, but a couple things were different this time around. The first was getting Cecil English on board, the band’s first time working with their original studio co-conspirator since 2002’s Win the Battle. Getting down to specifics, he emphasizes the time they spent getting the drum sound just right to backstop their traditional “deadly, crunchy, punch you in the teeth” sonic assault.
Fight Back’s video single, “You Need an Ass Kickin Right Now,” features stock footage of a diverse rogue’s gallery: Xi Jinping, Donald Trump, Kanye West, Kevin Spacey, Mussolini, Ronald Reagan, Bill Cosby, Alex Jones, Harvey Weinstein, Kim Jong Un, Martin Shkreli, Betsy Devos and Adolf Hitler, to name a few, are all packed in a minute and a half of punk rager.
Keithley muses that exploitation of inequality and lack of accountability for those in positions of power are the unifying themes of the video and the song, and the album generally. Is it a literal call to violence? Hardly. Ass kicking just sounds better in a punk song than building communities and spreading awareness to effect real change, the core of DOA’s message all along. Pressed, Keithley doesn’t absolutely rule out a good right hook to the Richard Spencer’s of the world though.
It’s impossible to avoid asking how the recent tragic deaths of DOA alumni Dave Gregg, Brad Kent and Brian Goble have affected Joe and the band. Understandably, he has little to say on the subject other than they were three of his best friends, he misses them everyday and the song “The Last Beer” on the new album is dedicated to them.
Joe’s running for mayor of Burnaby on the Green ticket. Apart from housing affordability, he sees the Kinder Morgan Pipeline expansion as the biggest issue facing voters. Coincidentally, we’re talking on the day the Fed announces its plan to buy the pipeline and Keithley is voluble in his shock and disgust. He grew up two blocks from the evil oil snake, so the issue couldn’t strike closer to home for him.
Billing Fight Back festival as an annual event is a pretty good indication Joe Keithley and DOA aren’t going away any time soon. Still, there’s a feeling on the street that DOA has had its absolutely last show ever almost as many times as Keithley’s fired rampage. I ask him if he’s aware of the reputation and if he thinks it’s in any way deserved. That’s a lot of ill-informed people talking, he insists. The band only retired twice, in 1990 and 2012. Fat Mike rode him pretty hard about it at Punk Rock Bowling once, he muses. He’s probably to blame.
Fight Back Festival takes places at the Rickshaw Theatre on July 6. Featuring performances by DOA, Roots Roundup, In the Whale, Ford Pier, Catlow, Chief State, Sore Points, Jesse Lebourdais, David M and Doug Andrew, and will feature artwork by Bev Davies and more.DOA, Rickshaw Theatre