SLCR #208: Spirit of the West (November 21, 2014)

December 11, 2014

I don’t imagine there’s anything interesting about how I pick which shows to go to. I go see bands I already know I like, or I go see bands I’ve heard good things about. Price matters. The schedule of the rest of my life matters. My general levels of old-man fatigue matter.

The ticket-buying decision for Spirit of the West was a little bit different. I first saw them when they headlined the 2004 Regina Folk Festival. Before then, I was familiar with many of their bigger singles, as most Canadians would be. I don’t think you can legally hold a wedding dance in Canada without playing Home for a Rest. I had a great time at the Folk Festival show, and assumed I’d go see them again sometime.

Of course, that didn’t happen. There was always an excuse. No money, no time, too tired, something else going on, just don’t feel like it right now, whatever. Next thing you know, it had been a decade. These things happen. I’ve never been to the RCMP Museum or the Tunnels of Moose Jaw either, and I only made it to the Milky Way for the first time last year. Fantastic ice cream and it took me nine years to get around to it.

I had some excuse for not going to this Spirit of the West show too. I don’t remember what it was. I knew they were coming and I knew tickets went on sale, but I didn’t buy. Some combination of time/money/interest/whatever. And then in early September, lead singer John Mann went public with the news that, at 51, he’d been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. The Globe & Mail article where I first learned the news was heartbreaking. I have no idea how someone could face something like that at all, much less in front of the world.

I had barely finished reading the article when I bought the show tickets. It felt almost ghoulish. I’ve made jokes about seeing certain performers because “if I don’t do it now, I’m not likely to get another chance,” but this was the first time it felt like that was what I was actually doing.

In his official statement, Mann said, “Hearing the news has been a difficult blow. My family and I have taken some time to try and absorb the ramifications as we struggle to come to terms with the changes that have occurred and are yet to come. But I don’t want to spend any more energy trying to hide my symptoms. I don’t want to feel embarrassed. I want to accept what has happened and live. I will continue to make music and I will continue to do shows. I need to use an iPad now to help with the lyrics, and for my solo shows, either Al Rodger or Tobin Frank will accompany and support me with their diverse and abundance of talents. My Spirit of the West band mates have circled me with care and we will forge ahead as we’ve been doing the last 30 odd years with humour and friendship, playing our hearts out. I will continue to write and tour, because this is what I do and what I love.”

That sounds like someone who isn’t giving up without a fight. And it sounds like someone who’d think that this whole stupid review thing sounds a bit too much like a eulogy, thank you very much.

When you go to shows at the casino, you sit in the balcony or you sit at a table. For most of my recent shows there, we’ve had a full table of four. But since this was just going to be the two of us, we had to split a table with strangers. I saw all kinds of people that I know at this show – internet friends, work friends, Toastmasters friends. We did not luck into sitting with any of them.

Upon arriving at the casino, we noticed a ton of people with nametags, wearing suits and fancy dresses. The people were, I mean. The nametags were pretty plain. We were joined at our table by a suit/dress couple. She seemed nice. He very much seemed like he didn’t want to be sitting with us. I don’t blame him; we were woefully underdressed. Mika got the impression that they seemed like they might be on an awkward first date. When the dude left to get drinks, Mika asked the lady if they were with the nametag people. She said yes, and told us that they were with KPMG’s Christmas party. Not sure how we wound up at their table, but whatever. Thanks for letting us crash your party, KPMG. Next time, can we have drink tickets too?

Google tells me that KPMG are certified public accountants. KPMG’s website tells me that “KPMG combines our multi-disciplinary approach with deep practical industry knowledge to help clients meet challenges and respond to opportunities.” Score one for Google. I suppose it’s presumptuous of me to suggest that I can write website copy better than KPMG can, but I can, so suck it.

There was no opening act. Spirit of the West took the stage right on time. I suppose the first question is, would I have known anything was up if I hadn’t read that article? Yes, I would have, if only because while singing, Mann never took his eyes off the iPad. I knew it would be there and why it was there, but I wasn’t expecting him to be quite so glued to it. He didn’t do much talking; he told one story close to the end of the set, but it was apparent he was reading that as well. But beyond that, his voice was there, his trademark dancing was there, it was a full-energy Spirit of the West show. No asterisk.

They played pretty much everything that this casual fan would have wanted. I didn’t take notes, and right now it’s very late and I don’t think Mika would appreciate it if I woke her up to say “hey, they played Is This Where I Come In, right?” I will say that the only notable (to me) omission was Two Headed, which I’ve always had a soft spot for.

I shouldn’t even need to mention that they closed with Home for a Rest. There would have been a mutiny if they hadn’t. I filmed it and stuck it on YouTube, in case you want to see it (or want to see the rowdiest crowd I’ve ever seen at a casino show, which admittedly isn’t saying much, but still – it’s very much a sit-down-applaud-politely kind of place):

During the show, no mention was made of Mann’s condition until just before the encore, when Geoffrey Kelly introduced Mann as “the bravest man I’ve ever known.” There was no doubt that everyone in the audience knew exactly what he meant and Mann got the longest standing ovation I’ve ever seen. It might still be going on now, in fact. In all seriousness, it was enough to make your eyes well up. Kelly thanked everyone, saying that it was incredible to have the support of an entire country behind them. And then another member of the band made a joke about getting lost in the restaurant.

All night, Kelly handled most of the on-stage banter, which led to one moment I found amusing. At one point he said something like “last night, we played in Regina, and tonight we’re here with all of you.” Now, I know he just misspoke, but for a second there, I was left wondering if I had gotten confused about which band member had come down with Alzheimer’s.

Hey, they made a joke too. And mine was better.

UPCOMING SHOWS
• Big Sugar (February 14)
• Dan Mangan + Blacksmith w/Hayden and Astral Swans (March 7)

SLCR #207: Buck 65 (November 14, 2014)

December 11, 2014

You should be following Buck 65 on Facebook. Even if you don’t like his music (or any music), the guy is a fantastic storyteller. I like all kinds of bands but follow very few on Facebook because self-promotion doesn’t benefit me, but Buck has it figured out. Forget release dates or Black Friday t-shirt sales, I’m more interested in hearing about him throwing out the first pitch at a Cubs game or finding a box of records on his roof.

Sometime back around January of this year, Buck mentioned that he was at work on a new album and would be touring to support it and asked where he should play. Whenever I’ve seen a musician do this, there are inevitably several hundred responses from fans, and then the artist goes and tours wherever the artist was going to go anyway. It always seems so pointless, but for whatever reason, I felt like playing along this time. I posted that Buck should come back to Regina because everyone skips over it. A short while later, he replied with “I’ll come back to Regina, James. I promise.” So, you know, you’re welcome, everyone who was there. Clearly this show was 100% my doing.

We hit a bit of a snafu upon arriving at the Exchange. All along, they’d said doors at 7:30, show at 8:00. So fine, we got there a little after 7:30, only to find that the outer doors were open, but the inner doors were not. And the lobby was crammed full of people who read the same thing about the times. And it was -30 with the windchill. There was room enough to let one last person into the lobby, so I let Mika stand inside while I waited outside. One by one, other folks joined me and asked about the doors, asked why we were stuck outside, asked who the opening act was, asked about the doors some more, asked when I thought the show would start. It turned out that the Exchange and the Regina Folk Festival tried to get the proper times out via Twitter in the hours before the show, but I hadn’t seen them. But no matter – by the time the inside doors opened to let us all in, I’d been holding court with a dozen of my new best friends and was a little sad that it was over.

We found some seats and I got us iced teas because it was a Friday night and that’s how we do it up. Colin stopped by to say hi, which gave me a chance to show off my rap skills. Colin had seen my rap skills at lunch earlier that day, and Mika is already very (overly?) familiar with my rap skills, but I was not about to let this opportunity pass me by.

The opener was Winnipeg’s Sc Mira. These folks had an interesting visual aesthetic going on, which is a way of saying that someone around me announced “they look like douchebags” as soon as the band took the stage. In fairness, the drummer looked like a completely normal guy and was unfairly lumped in with the rest. In my opinion. Anyway, I was expecting my usual opening act “they were fine” without much else to say, but then they were kind of great? Just a really tight female-fronted rock band with catchy songs. Good stuff. Would go see again. And I will surely get the chance, since their Facebook tells me that they recently toured with Indigo Joseph, and I’m due to see those guys again soon since it’s been a few weeks. I don’t go find them; they find me. Not complaining. It’s just how life is.

I was a little concerned that Buck 65 wasn’t going to make it to the show. His tour diary suggested that they’d lost the keys to the van the night before and weren’t sure what to do about it. But he found a way:

Had to hire a new van. Blew the last one up. Warmed my hands with the fire.

I drove and drove and drove and drove… I drove across the Badlands of Alberta. I drove across Saskatchewan – where they say you can watch your dog run away for three days; where they say that if you stand on a paint can, you can see the back of your own head. I saw horses and cattle. I saw roadkill. I also saw big, shadowless houses with two hours of nothing on either side. I assume mad men live inside. The roads were straight as arrows. The snow blew high and whited everything out. Hard not to think lonely thoughts when everywhere you look there’s nothing. During a few long stretches, I was too far from anywhere for the radio to pick up anyone’s song. For hours it felt like I wasn’t making any progress at all. I thought I was driving on a giant treadmill.

When I finally arrived in Regina, I heard the news that Jose Canseco’s finger fell off.

Saskatchewan people: have you ever actually heard anyone say that it’s so flat that “if you stand on a paint can, you can see the back of your own head?” The dog running away one, yeah, everyone knows that, but the paint can bit was new to me. It reminded me of PK at work telling me that someone was “so short, she’d need to stand on a brick to kick a duck in the ass.” I love that so much. Not only is it delightful to say “brick” and “kick” and “duck” in short order, but it’s just so specific. Why a brick? Who stands on a brick? And what did that duck ever do to you? Geese, in my experience, are much more worthy of kicks.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Buck brought up this expression during his set. He brought up a lot of things. It was a very interesting show. I have seen Buck three times before, and I never before saw him so focused on sex and boobs and centaur penis and sideboob and other parts. He made several references to living in a “post-Ghomeshi world;” the show was sponsored by the CBC and he seemed fixated on the poster they put up. A creepy sex education record (which was not really meant to be used for education, at least not in the traditional sense) soundtracked a lengthy part of the show.

After the fact, Buck himself seemed to think it was a strange show:

When I arrived at the venue, I smelled the worst smell I’ve ever smelled. It might have been a dead raccoon wrapped up in a soiled diaper. Maybe that had something to do with the show being so different from all of the others. Some other energy took over. It somehow turned into a bizarre comedy show or something. And my approach to the songs was completely different. I don’t know what came over me. But it seemed to work. Laughs were had and everyone seemed to go home happy.

Buck played for quite a while – his set came close to two-and-a-half hours with a ton of old songs, new songs, b-sides, all kinds of stuff. Fans of his older stuff were treated to Blood of a Young Wolf (not “Young Worf” as I had initially typed; I am certain Buck will never read this, but if he does, and he happens to be working on an album inspired by Star Trek: The Next Generation, he’s welcome to that one). He also played Roses & Blue Jays, Wicked & Weird, and an absolutely deadly version of 463. Loved it.

It goes without saying that he played a lot from his new record, Neverlove. He opened his set with Gates of Hell, and I knew he’d close with Super Pretty Naughty – it’s a completely atypical Buck 65 song, an incredibly danceable party anthem with inane lyrics (“hey do you like sports and also did you used to be a baby?”) that is somehow worse and better than anything on the radio. I wasn’t counting on NSFW Music Video, but we got that one too and I was delighted by its non-stop double (and sometimes single) entendres. Others from Neverlove included Love Will Fuck You Up, A Case for Us, Only War, and Heart of Stone. He was joined on stage by Tiger Rosa and they played pretty much everything that she sings on from the album, though there seemed to be some sort of technical issues going on. It seemed like she kept gesturing at the sound guy to turn the volume up. There were also parts where it almost seemed like her mouth didn’t match what she was singing. Not making accusations – something just seemed off.

Buck has been making music forever. With a huge body of work to draw from, he would move from song to song by using snippets of other songs as segues – sometimes he’d play half the song and sometimes it would only be a line or two. I counted Zombie Delight, Dang, Shutter Buggin’, and Indestructible Sam, among others.

Ultimately, as alluded to above, I had a good time and some laughs and went home happy. It was a different sort of show, but a fun one. Buck pretty much guarantees a good time. I didn’t stick around after the show to meet him – I’m sure he would have wanted to thank me for making the show happen – but it sounded like he wasn’t hurting for company:

Afterwards, I met two different people with whom I have an incredible amount in common. It’s as if I’m living a parallel life with two different people who live in Saskatchewan. I also met a cobbler from my hometown of Mt. Uniacke, Nova Scotia. He had a good handshake and told me he likes the song “Craftsmanship.” That felt good. Regina has always been good to me. I hope to get back soon.

SLCR #206: Kim Churchill w/Mo Kenney (November 13, 2014)

December 5, 2014

A guy named Kim and a girl named Mo walk into a bar. They put on a good show and everyone has a good time.

I am the worst at jokes.

Mo Kenney is a protégé of sorts of Joel Plaskett. Mika and Other James and I saw her last year and it was good times. She has a new album out and I like it. And Kim Churchill is Australian. Now you are caught up, or at least as caught up as I was.

Kenney also played the Regina Folk Festival this year, but not while I was there. Other James had backstage passes for the weekend and he got to chat with her for a bit. He said she was very nice and very gracious, even when mainstage host Al Simmons said “Mo Kenney – that guy is great!” This story made me laugh much harder than it should have. When I told Mika, it had a similar effect. I guess we will take any excuse to make fun of Al Simmons, who is still much better as a festival host (and probably all other areas of life) than Bubba B The MC. PHOTO OP PHOTO OP PHOTO OP PHOTO OP

Oh well. They can’t all be Fred Penner.

Anyway. I’ve been complaining about bands skipping over Regina, so I’ve been trying to make a point of going to more shows. The best way to get more bands to come here is to go see the ones who do, right? But it’s cold now, and I get lazy, and it’s real easy to bail out if I haven’t made concrete plans. So in a moment of enthusiasm – by which I mean while I was briefly awake and energetic and aware of my surroundings – I popped online to buy a ticket to this show. There have been times when I was willing to take the financial hit by skipping out, and I’m sure it will happen again, but buying in advance in moments of enthusiasm helps the odds.

If you read the MBF review, this evening started off much the same. Mika went to school. I took a bus downtown. Walked through the cold to The Exchange. Bought an iced tea when I got there. The cold is colder now, with no way to avoid wearing a parka, but there were lots of open seats so I had someplace to park my coat. And my butt. I appreciated having a place for both. I sat around for a bit, probably getting caught up on iPhone games (it’s been several weeks since this show – I really don’t know what I did – but that’s almost always a pretty good guess at concerts) (and at home, at work, in airports, at funerals, etc.) until Mark and Other James arrived. We chatted for a bit before they found their pals and took their seats.

Kenney was here with a band this time. I don’t know if it was having a few other people on stage with her, or if it was just the result of a year of recording and touring, but she came across much more confident this time out. Beyond that, her show felt much the same as the one the year before despite the addition of a new album’s worth of songs. This is not a bad thing! I liked both shows; there were just no real surprises this time (apart from the story of the drawing on the drum, which I’ll keep to myself so as not to wreck the eventual comic book). They played many of the same songs as last time, including the same covers of Shakin’ All Over and Five Years. I suppose her new single Telephones is a cover too, but I didn’t know that until yesterday (it’s by a band named Mardeen, who I had never heard of until writing this very sentence) so it doesn’t count. Because I get to decide what counts. I’m listening to the Mardeen version right now and it’s good! So we’re all learning something here today. Or maybe I’m slow and thus the only one.

The hits from the last album – Déjà Vu and Sucker – got the big reactions, of course. And I don’t believe she played my favourite song from the new album – Take Me Outside – so that will be something to look forward to for next time.

Between sets, a dude walked through the crowd selling Kenney’s CDs. I admired the hustle – don’t wait for me to come to the stuff table, bring the stuff to me! I already had both of Kenney’s albums, but I’d see that salesman again later.

During the break, I got to chat some more with Mark. I had bought my ticket to see Kenney and really knew nothing about Kim Churchill. I was prepared to give the guy a shot but was also quite willing to leave early if I wasn’t into it. Mark echoed my sentiments. He then told me that he couldn’t come to the Buck 65 show the following night because he had plans. These plans included “setting up a craft show” and “cutting up a deer.” I think we live very different lives. Mine has much less venison.

Kim Churchill looks Australian. He has Australian hair. If that makes you think of Yahoo Serious on the box for the Young Einstein videotape, 1) you’re wrong, but not by as much as you might think, and 2) when did we get so old?

Unlike Kenney, Churchill was alone on the stage, but though he was just one man, he was indeed a one-man band. He played guitar and sang, wore a harmonica on a harness around his neck, played drums and sampling pedals with his feet, and had some chimes set up by his elbow. I on the other hand, cannot pat my head and rub my stomach at the same time. I was impressed enough that he could do this at all, and then it turned out he was really good on top of it. Dude can play. And I just tested that patting/rubbing thing and wound up punching myself in the balls and poking an eyeball.

Seriously, Churchill put on a great performance. I couldn’t tell you what he played, apart from recognizing the one song I’d listened to one time before the show (Window to the Sky). Didn’t matter. This was great. I recorded a video of one song and put it up on YouTube. No idea what the song is called. Don’t care. Great. You should watch it, and if he ever comes to your town, you should go. There should have been more people there for this.

I caught up with Mark and Other James after the show and they were both suitably blown away. Mark picked up all three Churchill CDs, as the salesman cut him a package deal. They left, and I browsed the stuff table while waiting for Mika to come and get me. I decided to pick up a CD. “Which one?” asked the salesman. I had no idea so I went for the newest one. The salesman smelled blood and pretty soon I had the package deal too. I can’t even be upset about it. He did his job amazingly well. And as I only had $48 in cash on me, I got the CDs for $2 less than Mark did. VICTORY!

With time to spare, I decided to talk to Churchill for a minute and get my CDs signed. By this point, there were only a handful of people left in The Exchange. I was patiently waiting my turn when I was joined by someone who I had never seen before in my life.

If Cathy reads this, she will tell me that the following story would only ever happen to me. I think she might be right.

So. Bald guy. About my height. Has a mustache that he doesn’t appear to be fully committed to so I assume it was for Movember. He’s drinking a beer. And he says to me, “Fuck, man, what a great fuckin’ show, man. That song about the darkness? Fuck, man, I’ve been there. I was out by fuckin’ Radville earlier today, and I blew a fuckin’ tire, so man, I’m fuckin’ lucky to be alive.”

At this point I was convinced that this fellow was the most fascinating man I had ever met. I was also a little bit terrified. But mostly fascinated.

“Man, you never fuckin’ know. Like that song about the fuckin’ darkness? It’s fuckin’ out there, but music, man, music will help you fuckin’ keep it together. Music can save your fuckin’ life, man. It saved mine.”

-pause-

“I was in a persistent vegetative state for three months and when I woke up, I didn’t recognize my own father. But they gave me a toilet paper tube, right? And I could do my fingering exercises from when I used to play the violin.”

He demonstrated on an invisible toilet paper tube.

He then asked if I was musical (no, though I’ve never made an honest effort to try to be) and told me about some of the groups he plays with. One of them sounded familiar and I asked if we might know the same person – one of my workplace’s multitude of Dougs.

“YOU KNOW DOUGIE?!”

-big hug-

Kim Churchill was now waiting to talk to us. I will always very much wonder what he thought of this whole situation. We all chatted for a bit but I quickly took my leave as Mika showed up, and besides, my enthusiastic new best friend had loads of questions about Churchill’s stage setup and I had nothing to contribute to this conversation. But I will always remember the last thing I heard him say: “So THAT’S where the fuckin’ snare comes from!”

SLCR #205: Gordon Lightfoot (November 7, 2014)

November 10, 2014

He showed up! I was not entirely expecting that. My very limited knowledge of Gordon Lightfoot suggests that he has, in the past, been prone to booking concerts in Regina and then cancelling. This may be entirely apocryphal, or maybe it only ever happened one time and for some reason it really stuck with me. Whatever. My point is that I am a wealth of Gordon Lightfoot facts. Others include:

  • According to my pal who owns a bakery here, Gordon Lightfoot likes his whole wheat bread fresh, sliced, and delivered before noon.
  • You need to has five bucks for the Homestarmy in case Gordon Lightfoot is creeping around YOUR back stair.
  • One time, I tried talking about Gordon Lightfoot in an email or text or something and it came out as “Gordon Lightfood” and I like that a lot better. I might do a find-and-replace so that I remove all instances of Lightfood (except in this bullet) but I most likely won’t.
  • This other time, I was challenged to write a song about a guy who went to the computer school I taught at. I did so – it was a parody of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. It was obscene and some of my finest work ever.
  • The Edmund Fitzgerald sank 39 years ago today! I wrote this review yesterday and didn’t intentionally hold off on posting it for a day to tie into the anniversary, but I would have if I’d known.

See? Super knowledgeable over here.

My dad and stepmom picked us up and we went for dinner at the casino. I was prepared for the usual eternal wait to get seated, rushed meal, and mad dash to the show lounge, but actually got through everything in decent time. Surprising, seeing as how the Lightfoot show was long since sold out and every senior citizen in Regina was in attendance.

A nice lady from the CBC introduced the show. I have gotten in trouble before for using the internet to repeat jokes that nice CBC ladies make, so I won’t say which nice CBC lady it was or what she said. Suffice to say that it was a joke about a topic I didn’t think CBC people would be allowed to joke about, and the crowd didn’t really know what to make of it. My dad thought it was super funny, though. And I laughed too. I have no shame.

Lightfoot and his four-piece band took the stage in short order, saying that rumours of his death had been greatly exaggerated – an amusing nod to the Lightfoot death hoax that circulated online a few years ago while Lightfoot, unaware, was happily at the dentist. Or at least I assume it was happily, considering the alternative.

With long gray hair and sporting a red velour jacket over a black collared shirt, Lightfoot looked for all the world like an old man anime Dracula. Like, maybe this is what the boss of a Castlevania game would turn into after you defeat him. Or maybe I just had a lot of time to think about these things.

During dinner, my dad mentioned a newspaper writeup about the show, where Lightfoot said that he normally played two-hour shows, and sometimes went longer if the audience wanted it. At about the 20-minute mark, I found myself hoping that this was an exaggeration.

Gordon Lightfoot is a legend and I’m really glad that I got the chance to see him. However, as you might expect from a 75-year-old, he has seen better days. This show did a fine job of hammering home what a miracle modern Leonard Cohen really is. With a weak voice, Lightfoot mumbled his way through a 90-minute set. Mika suggested that the sound was poorly mixed – that Lightfoot could sometimes not be heard over the drums – but I think Lightfoot just can’t project anymore. He also seemed to lose his train of thought repeatedly while talking between songs, and he took a break for some nasal spray at one point. I get it – he’s 75 – but this joins Dr. John and Mavis Staples and Loretta Lynn in the pantheon of “I wish I’d seen them way back when” shows.

I’m much less familiar with Lightfoot’s songs than I thought I was. I really only recognized Sundown, Carefree Highway, If You Could Read My Mind, and Edmund Fitzgerald; the latter was a nice surprise as I didn’t think we’d get it because it’s a longer song. Mika said she wasn’t expecting it because it gets a little loud, but noted that they toned it down. This was a running theme and did not help the show. I was excited to hear Sundown, but when they played it, all I thought was “yeah, I could stand to see Luke Doucet again.”

It didn’t help that Lightfoot’s band didn’t have much to do. They all had simple parts to play and were never really given chances to show off. The lead guitarist got a solo. That’s about it. The songs themselves could have been freshened up by losing the 1980s keyboards, or at least tweaking their sound.

You may want to ask about other hits and I will shrug cluelessly. I know he played Early Morning Rain and Cotton Jenny, but only because my dad and Mika said so, respectively. There were a number of songs where the opening notes got a nice reaction from the crowd, but they didn’t mean anything to me. Some of them sounded kind of familiar. I have listened to more than my share of Canadian AM radio in my day, so there is no excuse for my ignorance. Once I get this stupid iTunes working on this computer, I’ll check out a Lightfoot greatest hits collection. Probably should have done that a week ago.

UPCOMING SHOWS

  • Kim Churchill w/Mo Kenney (November 13)
  • Buck 65 (November 14)
  • Spirit of the West (November 21)
  • Dan Mangan + Blacksmith w/Hayden and Astral Swans (March 7)

SLCR #204: Michael Bernard Fitzgerald (October 28, 2014)

November 10, 2014

We are entering winter, which is the worst season for concerts. Not only does nobody want to come to town when it’s -40 and the highway might ice over – and I don’t blame them – but actually going to a show is a pain. What do you wear? Do you dress for the chilly weather, or do you dress for the inevitable sweatbox that is whatever venue you’re going to? Basically, you have to be really uncomfortable, but when?

And yes, I get that some places have coat checks. I do not care. Waiting to get your coat back is a MILD INCONVENIENCE that I do not have time for. Also, they sometimes want you to pay for it. Outrageous, I say.

On this evening, I opted to wear something that would be tolerable whilst indoors, which made the walk from the bus stop a frosty one. After two years of being an unofficial single-car household, we’ve finally sold off the one car after it tried to die on us one too many times. This works really well about 98% of the time. And then you have nights when Mika has school, and I want to go to a show, and the timing doesn’t work out that well, and all of the other usual concert suspects are sick or tired or disinterested or in other cities or whatnot. So I caught a bus to work and walked to the Exchange from there. I’m sure I could have caught another bus that would have taken me closer, but that would require learning a new bus route and I know two already and I’m just one guy, you know? So I walked. I’m trying to get 10,000 steps a day anyway.

The previous week, I collected some of those steps by walking to the record store to buy my ticket for the show – an actual physical ticket. Not a PDF. That doesn’t happen much anymore. And then, at the door, instead of taking the ticket stub, they took the whole thing. And so it goes.

Along with my 10,000 steps a day, I have also given up soda. A friend of mine went four months without. I said “I could do that.” Mika did not agree – I don’t know who would have – and so here we are. It’s been two months. Most days, this isn’t too bad. But sometimes you wind up at the bar and you don’t want to drink booze because then you’re not the creepy old guy alone at the show, you’re the creepy old guy drinking alone at the show, which seems worse. And you can’t have pop, and you dislike paying for bottled water on principle, and you’re not sick and thus can’t qualify for the sickness Gatorade exemption and they don’t have Gatorade ANYWAY. Your options are limited, is what I’m saying. Or at least mine were. I don’t know about yours. But there is a brand of unsweetened iced tea you can get here now – this is not a common thing in Canada – and it has helped me through many a soda-related jam. And they have it at the Exchange, and I don’t know why they have it anywhere, because I have never once seen anyone drink it but me. But I’m glad it’s there.

As I was buying my iced tea, I noticed the sign behind the bar which said that you had to be born before this date in 1995 in order to buy alcohol. This did a fantastic job of making me feel like the oldest person on earth. I took my iced tea and found a nice quiet spot in which to sit my old bones down. The attendance was decent, but the place was far from packed, so I had no problem getting a good spot.

One thing I’ve noticed about MBF’s shows is that he really seems to like to give exposure to up-and-coming bands. There were four openers before his birthday show in Calgary, and we had two for this show. First up was Layten Kramer, who MBF later said was from Canmore, Alberta, “where life moves a little bit slower.” I am not sure Kramer is ready for the pace of big city life, as he told an extended story about being at Boston Pizza earlier in the day, and his band order schooners of booze, which meant he had to drive, and he was so frustrated by this development that he punched his pasta. He also didn’t finish said pasta, as he offered to get it from the pasta-scented van and show it to us.

Also, there were songs! Not about pasta. The band was a three-piece, with Kramer singing and playing guitar, a guy named Dean on bass, and someone who I initially thought was named Conway on drums. Kramer said the drummer’s name again later in the set, and I was disappointed to learn that it was not Conway, so I am refusing to write his real name out of spite. Take that, drummer who had nothing to do with this situation. The music was pretty good, though the band had a bit of a tendency to drift off into extended instrumental bits which aren’t so much my thing.

Next up was Danny Olliver from Regina. He warned us that the night might get wild, but also graciously invited us to stay sitting. Mostly, it was just him and a guitar, though he was joined by his sister Samantha who sang on a number of the songs. There was a large contingent there to see him, and I assumed they were family, especially when Olliver introduced one song as being “about a dad – not OUR dad, just A dad.” Eventually, he introduced his dad, after a fashion (“My dad hasn’t even yelled anything tonight.” “WOOOOOOOO.” “There we go.”) and it was who I expected. His dad, like most dads, could use a lesson regarding the effectiveness of the built-in camera flash.

I’m pretty sure that somewhere around this point, Layten Kramer went to his van and came back with the pasta.

Olliver’s songs are singer-songwriter type stuff, complemented by some flashes of impressive guitar playing. He especially won people over with his last song, an untitled instrumental number where he played the guitar like a drum while strumming the neck. He also had a good story about meeting and going watersliding with MBF’s band earlier in the day, and one of the band members – apparently named Alec Baldwin (with the emphasis on the “lec”) – grabbing his leg and tickling his foot underwater in a case of mistaken foot identity.

Between sets, I bought another unsweetened iced tea because I am a wild man.

Fitzgerald took the stage by himself, opening with Love is an Easy Thing to Miss, which I always think sounds like Follow at the start. He thanked us for coming out on whatever night it was… Tuesday?

Some girl, right up at the front: “TUESDAY WOO”

MBF: “I feel like that is going to be your role all evening.”

That was pretty funny, but it was no “This song is best enjoyed in silence.” That remains one of my favourite things that anyone has ever said from the stage during a show.

Over the next three songs, his bandmates joined one by one. I have no last names for anyone, but Lisa came out first to play keys on I Will, and then Alec (again, this is pronounced aLEK) Baldwin came out for Follow. On a few occasions, aLEC was accidentally referred to as “Andrew,” which goes to show what I’ve known all along – there are no real Alecs. If you say your name is Alec, you’re a no-good dirty liar. Finally, Adam joined the band – both Adam and aLEC were on drums, with Lisa spending most of her time on bass.

So we had Love is an Easy Thing to Miss, I Will, and Follow. As MBF said, they got the love jams out of the way first. It was suggested that if you were there with a special someone, you should grab them by the earlobe and then shove them away. Play hard-to-get. I have yet to try this with my special someone but I will let you know how it goes. Maybe I should practice on the cat first.

I Will is that song that maybe you recognize from Additionelle commercials if you watch TV and live in Canada and don’t skip commercials for lady clothes. Or, I guess, if you saw some reference to the ads online like I did. I am iffy about songs in ads. I probably would not be if I needed to make money from music in order to pay rent and punch food or do whatever it is musicians do. So far, the ad hasn’t tainted the song for me, mainly because I have only ever seen the ad twice – once in that story online and then once on TV when I was skipping by (via the DVR, not on foot) and thought “hey, I bet that ad has that song.” We aren’t at the point yet like with Gimme Sympathy by Metric, where I hear the song and it only ever makes me think of that ad for… whatever it was. Advertising is super effective.

More songs! I didn’t take notes, but I know they played Firecracker, Man Overboard, In Your Room Tonight, World of Black and White, Last Train to Georgia, Reach You, and Movie Life, along with several new songs that I didn’t recognize but enjoyed. As per usual, he played a bit of Low before moving into Dancing in the Dark. I had also hoped for Brand New Spaces so I could stomp (and stomp and stomp) and clap and was not disappointed. I wonder if the stomping (and stomping and stomping) added extra steps to my pedometer? I hope so – that Wii Fit U walking tour of Italy isn’t going to walk itself.

The full band and extra percussion really brought the energy up and these were the best versions of these songs that I’d heard. Fine work all around. Fitzgerald mentioned that the band had left Lethbridge, Alberta after midnight the night before to arrive in Regina in time for an appearance on CTV – “In retrospect, this was not a wise idea” – but the fatigue, if any, did not hold them back.

We also got an extended version of the waterslide story from earlier – “it is not possible to nap in a hotel that has waterslides.” Apparently the Travelodge pool has a tunnel to a second waterslide, which they used even though it was out of commission. MBF went first down the dry slide, and those that followed used his wetness. Actually, I think this whole story was an excuse to use the phrase “used my wetness” as often as possible and to that end, he was quite successful, so kudos there.

The encore was – as it usually seems to be – Care For You, though this one got interrupted by the sound of a nearby train. MBF told a story about one time they’d played the Exchange (I think this would be the last time I saw him there? Not sure) where a girl, upon leaving the show, got her car hung up on the train tracks (I think a snowbank was involved?) and everyone had to help move the car lest a train come. “THAT WAS ME” yelled someone from far behind me. All involved were glad to see that she and her car were both okay.

After the show, I stopped by the stuff table to buy a copy of Live at the Grand, an MBF live CD that I assume is relatively new. Most of the songs are from his last studio album, so maybe this is new for this tour? I do love tour-only treats at the stuff table. I think I have the rest of his records, so I skipped the cassette tape from the future, but that looked like a heck of a deal. Anyway, MBF was taking pictures and whatnot and I had to wait for my ride to get there, so I took the opportunity to get my CD signed and thank him for coming through Regina. Over the past few months, I can think of a half-dozen bands I would have seen who’ve skipped over Regina on tour. I don’t know if it’s a lack of quality venues, or if nobody here wants to book bands, or if it’s just that nobody shows up when bands do come to town – and I have been to several shows that should have had a lot more people there (including this one) – but whatever the reason, it’s become a real treat just to have someone I like come to town. And when a show was this good, so much the better.

SLCR #203: the smalls (October 24, 2014)

November 3, 2014

Back before Corb Lund was a country star, he played in a punk band. They broke up long ago, but at the Q taping that was part of Junos week last year, Lund said that the band might reunite for a small tour.

These possibly inaccurate sentences are the only things that I know about The Smalls. Well, I know one more thing if you count the fact that I know that I’m supposed to spell “the smalls” in all lowercase, but I choose not to. And Mika likes them. That’s a thing I know.

I read on Facebook that The Smalls were coming to Regina and that their Saskatoon show had already sold out. I checked with Mika and confirmed that getting tickets NOW was a good idea. So I did. I then mentioned the show on Twitter, partly to show off my indie cred which is 100% a fictional construct, partly to taunt any ticketless Saskatonians, but mostly to make fun of the tickets themselves for saying that the doors would open at 1:00 a.m. and the show would start at 8:00 a.m. Later that day, a very excited Jeff texted me about the show – I hadn’t thought to tell him that I was getting tickets because I don’t generally care about other people unless they are directly in front of my face, and even then, it’s iffy – and by the time he’d seen my tweet, the show was sold out. Sadness!

To recap, I am a big poseur who knows nothing about anything, couldn’t name a Smalls song if my life depended on it – have probably never even heard one, in fact – but I’m off to the show, while Jeff is a big fan who finds himself on the outside because he actually does work while at work instead of dinking around on the internet. But as was well documented when we went to see Ben Folds in Fargo, Jeff – like love – always finds a way. Only a day or two later, The Smalls announced second shows in both Regina and Saskatoon. Jeff nabbed tickets, and his show would actually take place before ours. This was a fantastic development, because seeing the first show would allow him to provide me with exclusive top-secret information. On the day of his show (two days before mine), I texted him and demanded a report of who was opening, what time the show actually started, and how it was.

9:18 p.m.: Opening act just started.

9:23 p.m.: Thanks! Who is it?

9:24 p.m.: Some guys

You know how people on the internet say LOL when something is funny, but they did not, actually, laugh out loud? This was not one of those times. Mika can confirm. “Some guys” killed me.

9:37 p.m. I think they said that they were called “White Women.” That’s not a joke, because I’m not that funny.

This led me and Mika to the internet in a race to determine who this band was. She took to Google while I went straight to iTunes. iTunes suggested that maybe I wanted “Your Woman” by White Town, which, no, but also yes? As Mika kept Googling, I listened to the free sample of Your Woman in the iTunes store despite owning the album and having the whole song on my computer, because I am the laziest person alive and even extra clicks are too much work for me. Anyway, while I bopped back and forth, enjoying the song, Mika found out that a band named White Women had played Sled Island. The Sled Island site listed them as being from Regina, so it looked like we’d found our culprits.

In order to find out more, I googled “white women regina” and I must say, you do get some interesting results. You take this information and do what you gotta do. Personally, I decided it was best to halt this enquiry, let the band be a surprise for my show, and spend some time getting more creative and descriptive with my Google searches. I did, however, ask Jeff his opinion of White Women. “Unremarkable,” he said, “alternate answer: not enough junk in the trunk.” Fair enough. With this assessment in mind, Mika and I didn’t rush to catch their set when we went to our show.

On our way to the Owl, I remarked that I couldn’t believe we were actually going. Not because we were both really tired from the week, but because I’d written the previous half of the review in advance. Whenever I do that, we wind up skipping out. I will spoil things now and say that we actually got to see The Smalls. Not so much White Women, because after all of that nonsense up there, we got a different opening act. So it goes. At least I got to hear Your Woman. Or part of it, anyway.

Our opening act was Black Mastiff. We got there in time for their last three or four songs. They play that 70s stoner rock that dudes with beards like to play and it was all perfectly fine, in a not-so-much-my-thing kind of way. I wouldn’t be sad if I saw them open for someone else. Also, one song sounded like it had the lyrics “I would buy smokes for you” so, you know, they’re caring people. So that’s nice.

As I mentioned, The Smalls haven’t been a thing for something like fifteen years, which means that this show was attended not just by the young punks you’d expect on a university campus, but also old punks. If you get a chance to see The Smalls, I recommend you do it just for the people-watching. I gravitated towards the individual weirdoes, like the spherical bouncer, the red flowered bucket hat guy, the dude who was determined to fit his whole hand in his girlfriend’s butt, and the self-described Asian gangster. Mika, on the other hand, pointed out the crusty punks with their fancy purses, and the guys in SNFU shirts that had clearly been in the closet for years. The shirts, I mean, not the guys. Or at least that’s what I assume she meant. She was also amazed by two really tall dudes, but then we figured out they were standing on chairs. It was dark and the room was filled with either dry ice fog or pot smoke or some combination thereof.

And so, The Smalls. They were real good! I mean, I don’t know anything from anything. I couldn’t tell you what they played. Just a bunch of songs that I liked.

Jeff told me that the lead singer was a loon, but he didn’t really do anything that exciting during our show. I mean, he wore a hoodie that obscured his face for a good long while, with ear protectors slung around his neck (but never over his ears) – and when he took the hoodie off, you could see he was already wearing earplugs – but that’s not that weird. And okay, maybe when he was talking to the other band members, I thought it might be made-up gibberish – but I think we can attribute that to the overall sound quality. Jeff also mentioned that the dude sang the opera part of some song really well, but they didn’t play anything like that during our show. Or else they did and we, being old punks (or old poseurs trying to pass as old punks) left before they played that song. I’d blame it on being a worknight, but it was a Friday. Just a night. Sometimes that’s enough.

Jian Ghomeshi, Part 2

November 3, 2014

I posted this at Keeps Me Alive on October 30, 2014 –  four days after the Ghomeshi story broke – and I decided I wanted a copy of it here. I don’t intend to update the links here any more than I already have, and the post at KMA has quite the extensive comment thread going, so maybe go read it there instead. This is just a copy in my own space for my own records.


I have two concert reviews to finish, but they can wait. Don’t they always?

Here’s a picture that I’ve already regretted posting once this week:

james-jian

That’s me with Jian Ghomeshi after a live Q taping in Regina last spring, done in association with the Juno Awards. I’m the taller one. Pinker in face and greyer in hair.

Making jokes is not helping in the way that making jokes usually does.

I’m not usually big into chatting with celebrities – I’m endlessly awkward and never have anything to say other than “durrr, good show tonight” even if it wasn’t a good show because what else am I going to say? I can’t usually come up with anything interesting and celebrities are surrounded by people who can.

But I really wanted to talk to Jian that night, because I wanted to thank him. Many years ago, I was big into his band, Moxy Früvous (shut it, Mike) and after seeing them for the first time, I wrote a review and posted it on the Moxy Früvous newsgroup, back in 1998 when newsgroups were a thing and I would sometimes finish a concert review within 24 hours. And then I received this:

i don’t often get involved in these things but i *had* to tell you that i LOVED your review of our Saskatoon show last week. You had me laughing out loud in front of my handy dandy laptop here in my hotel room in Edmonton. So thanks for being a fan of ours…i’m flattered when somebody so clearly smart and satirical enjoys our stuff.

There was more – a few jokes and points of clarification – but this is the part that I remember. I copied and pasted the above but could have typed it up from memory. If I hadn’t been a fan before, that would have done it – it meant a ton to me that he would take a few minutes out of his day to reach out. He was encouraging and funny and kind. I saw Früvous in concert a few times the next year; he remembered me and made a point of saying “hi” and chatting for a few minutes. It was important to me to stick around after the Q taping and let him know how much I still appreciated that.

I followed Moxy Früvous until they went on a hiatus which I think is now in its 15th year. I bought Jian’s solo EP, and listened to him from time to time on Q. I wasn’t a regular listener, but always enjoyed him when I got the chance. I remember when Billy Bob Thornton had his snit on the show, and reading comments online from Americans who were so impressed with how Jian handled the situation. Hell, I toasted the guy in my Toastmasters club, which might be the nerdiest sentence I’ve ever written.

And now we have this.

Aaron said that my comment on his post should have BEEN the post, but I disagree. It’s a big ol’ internet, there’s lots of room for anything we want to dump on it, so I’ll just make my own post, plagiarizing from myself wherever needed.

My initial comments:

I don’t know if anyone will ever know what happened apart from those directly involved, who may not say or even believe the same thing anyway. We’ll see what comes out.

I don’t have any problem believing that CBC would fire someone for a stupid reason, especially if it’s a highly-paid someone. I don’t have any problem believing that people get unnecessarily scandalized by other people’s sex lives. I know that vengeful exes exist. And if I wanted to destroy a celebrity’s reputation, this is how I’d go about it.

At at the same time, rapists/abusive partners are far more common than vengeful exes who make up stories. And if I knew I was about to have those accusations levied against me, I’d do exactly what Jian did. He sues the CBC, making the mainstream story “Jian vs. CBC” instead of “Jian vs. four women accusing him of non-consensual violent sexual behaviour.” He posts a statement before the news story breaks, painting himself as the victim with lots of “you’ll hear people say” this and that to try and colour how those claims are heard. He confesses to behaviour that most people wouldn’t publicly admit to – boy, that makes him seem like an (embarrasse d but otherwise) honest guy, doesn’t it?

I note that so far, no woman has come forward to say that she dated Ghomeshi and defends him, but who’d want to jump in on this? And anecdotally, I’ve heard all kinds of rumours about the guy for a long time, but rumours don’t mean anything, necessarily.

I hope that the allegations are untrue because 1) that kind of shitty behaviour shouldn’t happen (shitty in terms of the non-consensual nature; people can do whatever they like as long as all involved are okay with it) and 2) in my limited personal dealings with Jian, he was friendly, encouraging, funny, and kind. And shitty things feel a lot worse coming from someone you thought was one of the good guys.

Now it’s a few days later. There are now eight women who’ve come forward with accusations, including one who’s doing so openly. (Edit on 10/31/2014: make that two.) From the looks of the most recent Toronto Star article, several of the women independently corroborated the others’ details.

My thought that the lawsuit was intended to spin the story as Jian vs. CBC appears to be true, as Jian can’t actually sue the CBC for that amount, based on the terms of his collective agreement. He and his lawyers would have known that. But hey, it worked – when I was watching the CTV morning news on Monday, the story was all about Jian getting fired and suing the CBC. The Toronto Star article and the women it references weren’t even mentioned.

I don’t know how anyone can defend him at this point. And I don’t know how anyone cannot believe his accusers. Explain how you can believe that many women are just conspirators. Explain what could they hope to get out of this. Explain why women keep coming out of the woodwork to side with the accusers, but so far, nobody has said “yeah, I dated Jian – we did kinky stuff and he was communicative and caring and safe.” Explain the rumours that have been going around for years; things about inappropriate touching and an interest in inordinately young girls, and that dating him was not a good idea – rumours I had heard years ago. Rumours that Jann Arden and Tara Spencer-Nairn and Owen Pallett and Carl Wilson and Steve Murray had heard long ago. Explain the Twitter account that was posting accusations against Jian in April.

[edited to add: “but so far, nobody has said ‘yeah, I dated Jian – we did kinky stuff and he was communicative and caring and safe.’” Here’s Dan Savage with an interview with a woman who dated Jian and supports him: http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2014/10/29/interviews-with-two-women-who-dated-jian-ghomeshi ]

I would love to believe Jian’s story, that this is all a smear campaign from a jilted ex. I want him to be who I thought he was and not who it seems he is. And if additional information comes to light, maybe posting all this will seem ridiculous. Maybe it already does. Maybe the possibility, however remote, that “several women conspired to destroy a star’s reputation and career” is the BEST-CASE SCENARIO says it all about how fucked up this all is.

I keep calling him “Jian” instead of “Ghomeshi” like we’re friends or something. And that’s the stupid thing – it almost felt like we were. Three or four emails and maybe 10 minutes of talking over a 15-year span will do that to a guy, I guess.

When I heard on Sunday that Jian got fired from the CBC, I set that picture as my Facebook profile pic. As the day went on, I became more and more certain that this would soon become a very bad idea. I swapped the picture out in short order, but I didn’t delete it – not from Facebook, not from Instagram, and I posted it here today. Partly, it’s the internet where everything lives forever anyway. But I think deleting the picture would be too easy. So you wipe him off the face of the earth. Pretend he never existed. Good news, ladies! We found the last Bad Guy that had infiltrated the Good Guy ranks and took care of him for you. All clear, shields down.

I’m leaving the picture up because it makes me uncomfortable because he was friendly, encouraging, funny, and kind. Because of what I didn’t see. Because of what I had heard and had excused away because it wasn’t provable (and, let’s be honest here, because it was unpleasant and inconvenient). Something to remember the next time I find myself thinking “that doesn’t sound like him” or “that’s not the guy I know.”

In the comments section of Aaron’s post, I started a reading list of interesting and important links. I’ll include it here, but divided into two batches (and may add more over time). The first articles are the “newsworthy” ones, for lack of a better word (it’s 2:30 a.m. as I finish this off):

The second list of articles are recommended reading:

WTF Search Terms: Ghomeshi Edition

November 3, 2014

Sorry for stealing your shtick, Mike.

I was about to upload my concert review for The Smalls (sorry, “the smalls”) and happened to notice the top search terms that are leading people to this blog:

search

Dang. Poor Martina Sorbara.

 

SLCR #202: Glass Tiger (September 27, 2014)

October 14, 2014

Deserée is bonkers over Glass Tiger. I present this information merely as context; a way of explaining why, exactly, I was at a Glass Tiger show in 2014. She was there to watch the band, and the rest of us were there to watch her watch the band. I am not here to make fun. Much. I have my things too. We all have our things. Sometimes Glass Tiger is one of those things, and what the heck, I’ll go to that.

Her fandom is pretty much the only reason why I even remember Glass Tiger in 2014. Otherwise, they’d occupy a sort of Honeymoon Suite/Platinum Blonde place in my mind – I remember the name, I remember liking them well enough when they were on Video Hits with Samantha Taylor (the only version of Video Hits worth watching), but I was never what you’d really call a fan. Glass Tiger has more songs that I remember than those other bands, but that’s probably just due to my age and when I started being aware of music.

We made plans for dinner at Beer Bros at 6:00. Mid-afternoon, I was advised that Deserée and crew might arrive closer to 6:15. I later found out that this had to do with… pants and soup? I think? I was never entirely clear on that. But whatever.

It is at this point that I could quit writing and tell the story entirely in copied and pasted text messages. There were three conversations going on over the course of the night: James/Deserée as to why people weren’t at the restaurant yet, James/Aaron comparing concerts (Aaron and Cindy were out at Big Rude Jake for their anniversary), and James/friend who shall remain nameless because he had just completed a stressful few weeks at work and was unwinding with a UFC show and numerous beers which contributed fantastic opinions and typos. I think who’s who should be obvious. If it helps, I don’t quote Aaron in here.

Say what you will about people being addicted to their smartphones and missing out on real life, but this text record of the evening is fantastic. I rarely take notes at concerts and then I forget all the stuff I wanted to write about. No chance of that anymore.

6:04 p.m. “We haven’t left the house.”
6:06 p.m. “I think we’re going… no wait, camera…”
6:07 p.m. “Phone…”
6:08 p.m. “Oh boy… k, phone found.”

There’s more of this but you get the idea. 6:00 became 6:15 which became 6:30 as Deserée became increasingly agitated with her traveling companions.

Mika and I used the time alone to share an order of deep fried pickles. Time well spent.

Eventually everyone showed up and got fed. Dinner was delightful as it always is there. Aaron suggested I get chicken, but I just got a burger because I am boring like that, and because SLCR canon doesn’t hold in the face of Beer Bros bacon. I don’t know if they buy something special or they just know what to do it, but either way, fine work. And besides, the pickles were a enough of a callback to the deep fried days of Louis’ Pub and the first concert reviews.

While at dinner, I gave Deserée a Glass Tiger 45 for the song I Will Be There that I found at Value Village earlier in the week. There’s a piece of masking tape on the front that indicates this was once sold at a garage sale for 50 cents, which means that Value Village actually marked it up. Clearly, they knew they had a treasure on their hands.

Finally, it was time to head to the show, and as it always seems to wind up with casino shows, we were cutting it pretty fine. I wish I had text messages detailing the decisiveness with which it was decided we did not have time for dessert. The law was LAID DOWN.

I had been invited to watch the night’s UFC card, and I had actually accepted before remembering the Glass Tiger show. Despite the weak main event, the strong undercard made me a little sad to miss out. Luckily, I got updates as the night went on so I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. Really, I think I got the best of both worlds.

7:58 p.m. “THIS UFC CARD WILL ROCK. THE RETURN OF DRUNK TEXTING”
7:59 p.m. “THIS WILL BEDTBTHE SLEPPY HOLLOW UNFIRVEN CAVRMAN FORBAWESOME. FUCKNSPELL CHECK”

I reminded my pal where I was.

8:03 p.m. “Looooool hpe Desiree meets Alan Frew #ew”

“#ew” absolutely slayed me.

Glass Tiger started right on time, as casino shows will do. No opener. I think the first song was Someday; I could be wrong on that. It was a song I knew, I remember that much. Deserée was grinning and practically vibrating from excitement. She did not rush the stage right away, though. I lost that bet.

8:11 p.m. “Durst fight is cat zingano vsm amanda nunes. Love rhe womens fights. Chipnon theirsgoulse..greatbstart”

I think it was four or five songs in when she actually went up to the front, for the song Diamond Sun. There were other folks already up there – maybe 10 in total. So, of course, an old man security guard came and shooed everyone back to their seats. Can’t have people getting too rowdy here. At some point, some lady decided that she was going to go back up to the front, old man security guard be damned. She stood there. He talked to her. He walked away, defeated. Who knew that’s all it took?

Around this time I had a lengthy conversation with my drunken pal and his girlfriend about UFC fighter Tim Kennedy and his legs. She liked them. He said they were “Not heslous” but when I agreed that they were nice legs (she sent me a picture) (see above re: the wonderful ever-connected age in which we live), I got called a “fucking petbert jeking off to tim kennefy’s legs lol.”

8:47 p.m. “Animal heaaaaaarr”

Sure, make fun of me for going to…

8:54 p.m. “Glass toger in 2014″

…but I didn’t even remember Animal Heart was a song of theirs. Who’s the superfan now?

9:13 p.m. “Its THEIR ONLY SOMG :)”

This is not true. Their only song was Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone. I feel like I might be forgetting some parentheses in there? Not sure it matters. They actually had a lot of hits and played pretty much all of them. I already mentioned Someday and Animal Heart and Diamond Sun. There was My Town and The Thin Red Line and I’m Still Searching. Maybe that’s the one they started with? Who can remember. Spoiler: the encore was (a very extended version of) Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone, because of course it would be.

It was during this encore that Alan Frew took off his jacket to reveal a Glass Tiger t-shirt. They say you should not be that guy who wears the band’s shirt to the band’s concert. I don’t know if you get a free pass if you’re in the band, or if it’s worse. But that is not relevant right now. It was also during this encore that a ton of people were up at the front, and it was then that Alan Frew stole Deserée’s phone and wandered around the stage with it, shooting video. This was pretty cool – and would have been better had her phone not crapped out halfway through. Still, the video is pretty neat to see.

10:23 p.m. “Thus ends drunkbtexting :) hopenconcert wad good”

I did think that the sound quality was disappointing. The band was way too loud for the style of music they were playing. Not in an “ow, my freakin’ ears” sort of way – more in a “the music is distorted and drowning out the vocals” way. I’m not sure if it got better over the course of the evening or if I just got used to it.

The concert was short, only about 90 minutes including the encore. It was an all-hits affair, as I mentioned, apart from a few new songs that fit well with everything else. Really, the whole night was fun enough. It was fun to hear a bunch of songs I’d kind of forgotten about and everyone there seemed to have a good time.

After the show, we sat around and discussed how much we’d have to pay Alan Frew to score and record a song that I would hypothetically write. Apparently this is a thing one can do and I am very down with this idea. I currently have $25 and some Sobeys coupons in my wallet. I also cashed in everybody’s free slot play vouchers after the show and walked away with $12.50 ($12 from the slots, plus I found 50 cents in the change tray at the ticket redemption machine). That brings me up to $37.50 I am willing to contribute. I bet it costs more than that, but how much more? I would be willing to start a Kickstarter for this. I am also taking lyric suggestions.

Glass Tiger was in the lobby after the show, and by the time we were done with the songwriting proposal and the slot machines, the line to meet them was fairly reasonable. As much as Mika wanted to know how the backup singer got her hair to be that way, we opted to go home, leaving Deserée to get her record signed. I haven’t seen her since. I hope she’s enjoying her new life.

UPCOMING SHOWS
• The Smalls (October 24)
• Michael Bernard Fitzgerald (October 28)
• Gordon Lightfoot (November 7)
• Buck 65 (November 14)
• Spirit of the West (November 21)

SLCR #201: Regina Folk Festival (August 15, 2014)

September 5, 2014

Didn’t quit yet. Maybe someday. Just late. Very late. As I will be.

We didn’t see much of the Folk Festival this year. I had bought weekend passes around Christmastime, but when they announced the Festival schedule, we found that we were really only excited for Friday night. We talked about selling the weekend passes and just buying Friday night passes instead. We went back and forth about this until I had reason to be out of town on the Saturday, which made the decision for us. Most folks I talked to were similarly most excited about Friday night, but I’ve heard that Saturday night was the first to sell out (Serena Ryder and Indigo Girls were headlining) so that tells you just how seriously to take my opinion on anything.

The Friday night main stage stuff started an hour earlier than in previous years (gates at 5:00, show at 6:00), which meant I wouldn’t have time to go home before the show. I loaded the lawn chairs into the car the night before so Mika could meet me downtown, and I had to bring a full change of clothes to the office. An inconvenience, but little did I know how much that extra hour would pay off. Foreshadowing!

Mika was able to skip out of work early and wait in the line which stretched from the main gate, down the corner, and around the block. With the two other writers in my office both away for an extended period, work had been a bit of a mess for me, but I skipped out as early as I could (which is to say, I left at my scheduled time, which was early for that week). Once inside the park, we nabbed a prime spot right by the sidewalk. We were quickly joined by Other James, along with concert review rookies Glenn (another coworker pal) and his wife. Mika reminded me that last year, Other James made it his life’s goal to keep the pathway clear so people could get to their seats. He did not have to do that this year. Clearly, his reputation had spread – though not quite far enough, as he did have to tell one dude to get out of the way at one point.

Apart from my usual Folk Festival goals of watching the show and marrying the kettle corn truck (I will not be denied!), I also had to meet up with Geoff Berner. Eons ago, I contributed towards a crowdfunding campaign for Berner’s first novel, Festival Man. I promptly forgot about this until one day, the book showed up in the mail. “Hooray,” I thought, “I got a book!” And unlike most books I buy, I actually read this one. It’s good! Funny. A quick read. Probably not as exaggerated as one might hope.

In conjunction with the novel, Geoff organized an album of covers of his own songs by folks like Corb Lund, Carolyn Mark, and Rae Spoon. I am on Geoff’s mailing list, and I follow him on Twitter, so I saw numerous messages saying that he’d been sending out Festival Man records, and if yours hadn’t arrived, you should let him know. I paid these no mind. They did not apply to me. I got a book! Then Geoff messaged me personally on Facebook to see if my record had arrived yet. Puzzled, I went back two years into my email archives to discover that I had, in fact, ordered a record. I got a record! And Geoff offered to hand it to me personally at the Folk Festival. He probably came to regret this decision once I started pestering him with other questions. Sorry, Aaron – the Live in Oslo album really IS as out-of-print as it gets.

But back to the Folk Festival. Our host was… who the hell was our host? It’s been so long, I have to look it up. The internet says it is Colby Richardson and he is a local comedian and improv guy. Sounds right. He didn’t leave any great impression on me. This sounds like a negative. I assure you it is not. I want the host to run the show, not try to BE the show. PHOTO OP PHOTO OP PHOTO OP

The first band was Elliott Brood. I was glad they were on the bill because I remember seeing them at Amigo’s years ago and really liking them. The only problem with this is that… um… apparently I never did? I was sure that I had. Mika was there. And Megan and Ian. I’m certain of this. Maybe I made plans to go but they fell through? I just did a detailed search through all 200 previous concert reviews, and nothing. Not even a mention of them. It seems impossible that I haven’t used the word “brood” once in 200 reviews, but Word doesn’t lie. Does it? The find-and-replace thingy is finding other words just fine. I feel disillusioned. What is true?

Anyway, if I really never did see Elliott Brood before this, it’s a shame. They were really good. Mika was surprised at how many of their songs she knew, while I only knew one (Oh, Alberta – which I think is the one song everyone who knows only one Elliott Brood song is likely to know – and also, if I only know one song, maybe I never did see them before? You’d think I’d have picked up another one somewhere along the way). It sounded like they were playing a lot of newer songs. At one point, something happened to an amp (I think the technical term is “it broke”) and they switched seamlessly into a semi-acoustic set. Probably stressful for the band (though they didn’t show it) but one of those things that’s neat for the audience. Something a little different from the norm.

I cannot handle this situation. Did I Eternal Sunshine that Amigo’s show right out of existence? Because I wish I hadn’t. I like these guys.

Children’s entertainer and perennial RFF host Al Simmons did the teaser set between acts. Around this time, I got a text from Geoff asking me to meet him stage left. Perfect timing. I met up with him, though only after learning that stage left is the PERFORMER’S left, not the audience’s left. Bit of a detour. I picked up my record and we chatted for a bit. Friendly guy! Almost came across as shy to talk to in person. He had a teaser set scheduled for later in the evening and was wondering what he should play. If I’d been quicker on the ball, I’d have made actual requests (Iron Grey and Wealthy Poet are favourites) instead of suggesting the song he wrote for the Vancouver Olympics. If you’ve never heard this song, all you really need to know is it’s subtitled “The Dead Children Were Worth It!” And there’s a children’s choir. Because of course there is. There has to be.

I got back to my seat just in time for the start of Mexican Institute of Sound. This was electronic dance music that I paid precisely no attention to and, thus, this will be the only time I mention it. Colin stopped by to tell me that he’d had a few beers and found himself greatly enjoying the music of Al Simmons. Wisely, he recognized that maybe this was a sign that he needed to eat something. I left with him – he needed some sobering up starches and I had promised Aaron I’d buy him a copy of the Festival Man LP, as well as a copy of the novel. Colin was baffled by Aaron’s love of Geoff Berner, which reminded me that he had come with me to a Berner show in 2006 at O’Hanlon’s that could politely be described as “a goddamned mess.” I am honestly not sure if Colin has come with me to a concert since then.

I sent Colin on his way and picked up Aaron’s stuff, as promised. While in the stuff tent, I also got myself Berner’s Victory Party on vinyl, as well as his 7″ When DD Gets Her Donkey, Everything Will Be Alright. The last one! Maybe ever? Probably not. Regardless. I had hopes of finding some Joel Plaskett vinyl too, but was denied.

Back to our spot again and Mika left in search of food. She was gone approximately twenty-seven hours. While she was gone, Colin returned with food and Evelyn stopped by too. Basically, everyone in the park was someone I work with, at least as far as you know. We discussed Colin’s everyman appearance and how I see Colin variants all over the place. Just today, I saw Fat Colin, one of the regulars at the mall. I have also seen Tall Colin and Old Colin around. Evelyn added that Sam Roberts could pass for Famous Colin. I looked forward to seeing this for myself. Foreshadowing!

Mika returned, complaining that all the lines were too long so she opted for a hot dog because it was the quickest option. I went to get my own dinner and found that the lines had dissipated. I got Afghan Cuisine falafels and rice. Tasty. Needed some kind of sauce though. After I was done, I went back for kettle corn but didn’t actually get into it until the next day. You don’t want to rush kettle corn. You want to savour kettle corn. It only comes around once a year. (“actually, they’re at the Farmer’s Market som-“) IT ONLY COMES AROUND ONCE A YEAR. OTHERWISE THERE WOULD BE PROBLEMS. GLUTTONY PROBLEMS.

Geoff Berner played his teaser set, but unfortunately only got time for two songs – Condos and The Rich Will Move To The High Ground. Both good; neither are my favourites. This was a much more fitting venue than O’Hanlon’s but I still got the sense that people didn’t know what to make of him. Understandable. I think he’s very much a love-him-or-hate-him act. I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to make his daytime solo set the next day. He works best with smaller crowds.

Joel Plaskett Emergency was up next and this might have been my all-time favourite set in RFF history. Joel Plaskett is the best guy. He played a whole bunch of songs I know and like (though nothing that would be really surprising if you’ve seen him in concert before). Among the highlights were two new songs that aren’t out yet. You know how nobody wants to hear a band play the new songs? These new songs were both great and I want them right now. One was called Park Avenue Sobriety Test; I’m blanking on the name of the other. I really should take notes for these things and/or not wait to write reviews a month after the fact. It’s shameful how much time I spent putting the meeting Geoff Berner / talking to Colin / talking to Colin and Evelyn / Mika getting food / me getting food segments in chronological order.

Anyway. After a bunch of songs, Plaskett sent the band to the back to do a song by himself. But rather than playing his guitar, he plugged in iPod and sang Fashionable People. Specifically, the kids’ version from the CBC. Where he sings with a talking yam. This was #1 and the greatest thing I’ve ever seen. I have never felt such delight.

I’m a hot dog
And dressing up is fun
So let’s
get
dressed
in a
hot dog bun

I’m seriously super happy right now just thinking about it. I don’t even care about my Elliott Brood mental degeneration crisis anymore.

DRESSED UP IN RED
DRESSED UP IN GREEN
DRESSED UP IN BLUE
THINGS

And then the band came back and played the bass line to Work Out Fine while Joel sang Royals. And Oowatanite. And Kung Fu Fighting. And then he introduced the band as being the cast of Stripes. And then Do Wa Diddy Diddy. “She looked good (looked good), she looked fine (looked fine), she looked good, she looked fine, here’s a song called Work Out Fine.” And then Cupid and then Work Out Fine some more. Wonderful. The whole set could have been the Mamma Yamma Fashionable People and snippets of 100 songs sang over the bass line to Work Out Fine and it would have been the best show I’d ever seen. Joel Plaskett is a delightful human being and he really should move out to Saskatchewan and play here every day.

Leonard Sumner came out for his teaser set and it started to rain a little bit. Mika suggested that I take the records and book to the car. Smart thinking. Gotta save your treasures and also get a frozen banana if you’re up anyway. I ran into Mary. She thought my banana was hilarious. If I had a nickel…

My banana and I returned a few minutes into the set by Blitz the Ambassador, a Ghanan hip-hop artist. I was just starting to get into the show when our MC took the stage to announce that because of the lightning in the area, they were temporarily shutting the show down. We weren’t in any immediate danger, we were told, but they had to wait and see what the weather was going to do. About fifteen minutes later, we got the word that the rest of the night was cancelled. No Sam Roberts for us. We packed up and off we went.

Now, the Regina Folk Festival always has an after-party. Elliott Brood, Mexican Institute of Sound, and Royal Canoe were scheduled to play there. I briefly considered going, thinking that Sam Roberts might play there, but we opted to just go home. From what I heard, Sam Roberts tried play a few songs at the after-party, only to have the power go out and the after-party shut down too. It almost sounded like they were kicking everyone out when the power came back on and he eventually did play a few songs. At that point, that’s above and beyond the call of duty.

As for us, on the way to the car, we wound up walking alongside Geoff Berner, who assured me that he didn’t HAVE to leave, he was just following people. We wished each other well and Mika and I went home. We were inside our house for about five minutes before the rain hit. The power went out about 5 minutes after that. The wind and rain sounded like it was going to rip the house apart. For Glenn and his wife, who live out in White City, it kind of did. He later said the damage wasn’t severe, but the cab had to drop them off two kilometres from home; it couldn’t get any closer due to downed trees and power lines. This was after they had gone for drinks with Other James and wound up using patio tables to build a sort of dam to keep water out of the restaurant’s storage room. Eventful night. Not sure he’ll come to a show with me anymore either.

UPCOMING SHOWS THAT NEITHER GLENN NOR COLIN WILL ATTEND WITH ME, AS FAR AS I KNOW
• Glass Tiger (September 27)
• The Smalls (October 24)
• Gordon Lightfoot (November 7)
• Buck 65 (November 14)


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