Toronto is a multicultural city where music aficionados can hear whatever they’d like on any day of the week. But on Jan. 30, 2014 at the Mod Club, a special night was on tap as ska/reggae/rock band Random Order celebrated the release of their latest CD, “Black Lipstick Kiss.”
“We sat down,” frontwoman Lynn Phillips starts, “and said, ‘what are we going to call the album?’ And [trombonist John Jowett] said, ‘Well, Black Lipstick Kiss, of course.’ And with the custom USB sticks, it was clear that we were onto something here, that nobody else had done it. I checked this out—nobody had done a custom USB lipstick stick or done a song called ‘Black Lipstick Kiss’…until tonight.”
The CD itself has been a year in the making, culminating after a tumultuous period of illnesses and production member changes. But once those 12 months had passed, Random Order found themselves with a record they really liked and were eager to finally put it on display to the public.
“It’s finally here [and] I’m kind of in shock,” confessed Phillips, “but I’m really happy with it. The whole album is organic in how it went.”
If Phillips was feeling any nerves, they didn’t show during the performance, which was a high-energy, well-tuned show, albeit a little on the short side at about an hour. And though the crowd at the Mod Club was a little sparse, everyone was involved and dancing along due to Random Order’s ability to read a crowd and turn on the magic.
“It’s about connecting with people,” said Phillips, “and making them laugh. We once did this show in Montreal and there were six people, and they had all sat on stools in the middle of the dance floor. So, I grabbed a stool right off the stage and sat in front of them, and did a sit-down show—which I never do. But it was really fun and memorable.”
Part of the show’s appeal is the band members have known each other for decades, having first met at a Pride dinner party in 1989, and genuinely like and appreciate each other. There’s also the kind of gentle ribbing that comes from deep familiarity, with a funny moment arising when Lynn was asked how a trombone came to be a featured instrument in Random Order.
“NOW Magazine,” she replied immediately, and both she and Jowett burst into raucous laughter.
“There was a listing in the classifieds that said, ‘Looking for trombone player for ska band; LGBT friendly’, and I thought, ‘Okay, this is the band for me,’” recounted Jowett, followed by more giggling.
“And we haven’t been able to get rid of him since,” chimed in Phillips, “and we’ve tried.”
It’s a good thing, too, they’ve hung onto Jowett—and everyone else—for he added an element of energy that made the Mod Club crackle, particularly after the lacklustre performance of the two opening bands. Fans danced with a kind of abandon rarely seen at shows, sung the words to songs, and were even treated to two belly dancers onstage.
But the real highlight of the night was the music itself, a compilation of songs that were innovative, well-sung, catchy and precisely performed.
It was the kind of show that could compel even the most hardened winter averters to leave the warm confines of their homes and venture out into a dampishly cold January night.