Toronto's Lowest of the Low enjoy the distinction of being one of Canada's most successful and enduring independent alternative rock acts. Though the band's outspoken punk DNA traces back to the early eighties, it was the Low's 1991 debut release, Shakespeare My Butt, that became the best-selling independent album in Canadian history, receiving gold certification in 2008. Recently, the band was even the subject of a feature-length documentary film, Subversives: The History of Lowest of the Low by independent filmmaker Simon Head.
On the heels of their latest album release, Welcome To The Plunderdome (Sonic Envy/Warner Music Canada), Lowest of the Low's Ron Hawkins recalls the importance of Kingston to the band's early success. "Our first show outside of Toronto was at The Toucan. We were 22 or 23 and it wasn't weird to be like, 'We're gonna do a weekend every month at The Toucan.' And those shows were crazy, just madness, and you know how small it is at the back of The Toucan," Hawkins reminisces. The Lowest of the Low went on to amass legions of loyal fans across the country, playing to larger audiences at bigger venues and festivals. "[The Toucan] was really important to us. If we hadn't started out at The Toucan, we wouldn't have ever played Massey Hall."
Released October 6, 2023, Welcome To The Plunderdome picks up where 2019's Agitpop left off: An upbeat, punk-spirited, ska-infused, alt-pop rallying cry against the "cowards and liars and Holocaust deniers" (to reference the album's opening track, Brave New World). Suitably returning on Plunderdome is the brass trio of Ruhee Dewji (sax), Stephen Dyte (trumpet) and Christian Overton (trombone), affectionately dubbed The Legitimizers by the band.
Hawkins acknowledges the substance of Welcome to the Plunderdome being rooted in Social Insecurity and Popular Front, two successive band iterations from which the Lowest of the Low formed, and an angst for society at present. "The world has just gotten so bat shit crazy," declares Hawkins. "I'm always riding this surfboard of like, completely enraged 24/7, and then trying to be a happy, gratitude-filled guy at the same time. It's a real balancing act."
Stylistically, Plunderdome also recognizes the Low's ska-punk pedigree. "Ska is such a hopeful sound. [Social Insecurity were playing] lots of that kind of stuff because we were involved in Rock Against Racism in Toronto," recounts Hawkins. "It's a great delivery system for songs about inequality and trying to dismantle the system, because you can manage to deliver a really dark message and it still feels like there's hope there."
Despite the throwbacks, Welcome to the Plunderdome isn't just a nostalgia trip. If anything, the album's music and message underscores the Lowest of the Low's continued relevance and enduring enthusiasm. "I am so incredibly confident in what we're doing and what I'm doing personally. I feel more than relevant, lyrically. I think more people need to be addressing this stuff, and they're not," rebukes Hawkins. "A bunch of middle aged white dudes playing guitars is not exactly cutting-edge, but if you pair that with the kind of energy, compassion and interest we have in the world, I think it makes it new. Or it at least makes it relevant."
Throughout the various iterations of the band, lively energy and authenticity continue to be hallmarks of the Lowest of the Low's live performances. As Hawkins explains, "It's pretty spontaneous. Stuff happens, and we just go places, and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But people seem to be cool with that, I think because it's real. We're not a bunch of holograms up there expertly executing our songs."
The current Lowest of the Low lineup has been recording and performing—and apparently having a blast—together for the past six years. "I'm just so happy with this new unit," extols Hawkins on his current bandmates, David Alexander, Lawrence Nichols, Greg Smith and Michael McKenzie. "Not since the very first 1.0 unit of Lowest of Low have I felt as engaged with an all-engines-firing-in-the-same-direction kind of vibe."
Expect Lowest of the Low to be fully fired-up on October 12, 2023 when KPP Concerts presents the in concert at The Broom Factory in Kingston alongside longtime Toronto pals By Divine Right. "We've always tried to lead our fans on a little journey. [We'll be] leaning into [Welcome to the Plunderdome] and Agitpop, and then a bunch of Shakespeare My Butt and stuff throughout the catalog," anticipates Hawkins, who also shared that their performance will feature visual projections created by Low drummer David Alexander.
Attendees should anticipate a high-octane show that will arouse ardent fans anxiously awaiting the Lowest of the Low's return to Kingston. "Lawrence posted something like, 'A better world is not gonna happen unless we fight for it.' And as melodramatic as that sounds for a live show, that's part of it," Hawkins adds. "We wanna get people inspired and we want them to leave feeling strong and feeling ready to take on the struggles that we gotta take on."
Tickets for Lowest of the Low's October 12 show at The Broom Factory with By Divine Right are $30 in advance, and are available for purchase online here: web link
Posted: Oct 9, 2023
Originally Published: Oct 9, 2023