SLCR #226: Bahamas (November 17, 2015)

November 22, 2015

I had really good intentions of having another go at writing this in bed last night, but yeah, fell asleep again. So now I am sitting up at the kitchen table, but in the interest of repeating past mistakes, I am once again overloading on chips and salsa. To further increase the degree of difficulty here, I am watching WWE Network on my iPad and typing this on my phone. I still have my Bluetooth keyboard, sure, but there’s an ongoing distraction and a wee little screen. So if this sucks, that’s why. Now I just need to think of an excuse for every other time.

While we’re talking about degrees of difficulty, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the walk to the C-Train was like a skating rink. I had gone out in the afternoon and the weather was wonderful. Two hours at home and I go to leave and the world had iced over. I took a fairly miserable looking selfie on the train – red cheeks, fogged glasses, snowy toque, the whole deal.


I didn’t consider staying home, though. I was pretty excited for this show. My original plan for the Calgary trip was to go a few weeks earlier, but that got bumped for the usual work-related reasons. (Did I mention I start my new job in three weeks? Did I mention I am looking forward to it?)

Really, though, the change was for the best. That week, there were no shows that really appealed to me. I could have seen Barenaked Ladies with Great Big Sea lead singer Alan Doyle opening, and that could have been a fun trip back in time to 1997 James’ favourites, but I really haven’t listened to much of anything from either band in years.

Anyway, a few slips and slides aside, the C-Train trip was uneventful. At least for me – there was an accident somewhere downtown so when I got on the train, I had a nice long sitdown before we slooooowly made our way. I didn’t hear anything about it on the news (and I am staying with my grandma, so I have seen a lot of local news) (also Jeopardy and Wheel, Pawn Stars and Storage Wars, and Chopped) so I am hoping nobody was hurt. The delay meant nothing to me since I was only going two stops anyway.

The Jack Singer Concert Hall is in the same complex – the Arts Commons – as the Big Secret Theatre where I saw Hawksley Workman’s The God That Comes a few years ago, as well as a number of other venues. It’s really easy to get to and just a great idea. I wish we had something like this in Regina.

I found my way in and took a look at the stuff table. There were your usual records, CDs, shirts, etc. – nothing new from John K. Samson, unfortunately – and there was also a selection of drawings used in Bahamas’ video for Bitter Memories. I bought one; a piece of original art seemed like a really neat souvenir. It’s a sparse pencil drawing of a guitarist who may or may not be Bahamas (I have never actually seen this video, which is what I should be watching right now instead of old wrestling). I hope that description suffices, as I will likely be too lazy to attach a picture here. Or not. Who knows? I’m watching wrestling and typing on a phone, I can’t think of logistics right now.


I checked my coat (which I always hate doing, but it was pretty damp), took my drawing and found my spot – dead centre in the back row of the floor seating. Not bad for buying a ticket a week or two out. I don’t think the show was sold out, but it was close.

As I hinted at above, the opener was John K. Samson, the lead singer of the Weakerthans. Or “former” lead singer of the Weakerthans, I guess. Boo. But be that as it may, this ruled. He played a handful of Weakerthans songs (Plea from a Cat Named Virtute, Everything Must Go!, Reconstruction Site) and a few songs from his solo album (including Cruise Night), but most of his set was devoted to new songs. I was hopeful for one, but we got five or six and I was delighted. He only mentioned titles for two of those songs, but I had some guesses at the others: Winter Wheat; On the 21st Day; Fellow Traveler; Select All, Delete, and Post-Doc Blues. He didn’t mention a new album but I hope the new songs mean one is coming sooner rather than later.

If a big ol’ pile of new John K. songs wasn’t enough, he was also joined for about half his set by Jason Tait, Weakerthans drummer (ex-drummer) (boo) who has also been drumming for Bahamas of late. This was the best and I just wish it hadn’t been a 40-minute opening set. I could have easily watched another hour.

I don’t think I was in the majority, though. Before I left for Calgary, Mika said that Samson seemed like an odd choice to be opening for Bahamas. I disagreed – I mean, *I* like both of them, and who could disagree with me? – but the audience was very much Bahamas’ crowd. John K. had his fans, but there were little things – pauses after songs ended because people didn’t realize that he was done and it was time to applaud, or people giggling at lyrics that I don’t think of as funny. In that way, it reminded me of seeing Hawksley Workman perform as part of Stuart McLean’s Christmas show – there’s a very different crowd reaction than at one of his own shows, if that makes sense.

Brief intermission. I took a picture of the drawing I bought and texted it to some folks while simultaneously pondering how, exactly, I was going to get this thing home in the snow on the C-Train. (Answer: carefully. Tucked into my coat. Luckily, it was wrapped in plastic.)

Bahamas took the stage. I assume. Someone was up there, but they were in silhouette and fog. Playing Lost in the Light. A little on the nose, possibly, but I don’t care. It looked cool.

I have mentioned this problem before. In the age of the iPhone (and the iPod before it), I don’t know what songs are called. As far as I am concerned, the titles of most Bahamas songs start with “the one that goes like” and then I hum something. In the quest to give you a list of what he played (while still typing on my phone and watching wrestling on my iPad), I’m going to have to get my work phone involved so I can look up song titles. This is becoming a three-screen experience and it is getting ridiculous. I wonder if there’s any way if I can involve my Nintendo 3DS in this?

As I’m procrastinating looking up song titles, I will mention that he played a new song and asked us not to record it since it was a work in progress and may change a lot or may wind up discarded entirely. I will go one better and not describe it at all. I mention it only to point out that I got to hear it and you didn’t.

He talked a lot about the process of writing one song and going back and forth about how he loved it one day and hated it the next, and how it went through numerous different revisions. When he finally played the song, which turned out to be recent single Stronger Than That, he added back a chord that was excluded from the recorded version – a chord which he called the Golden Girls chord because it came out of nowhere, kind of like Blanche Devereaux. I do not entirely understand the logic but I am not about to decline a Golden Girls reference. And I am especially not going to decline Bahamas singing the Golden Girls theme and critiquing the lyrics (“You’re a pal and a confidant. Isn’t that a nice thing to say to someone?”). He also threatened to play the theme from Growing Pains but only made it one line in. I would have been perfectly fine with an entire show of Bahamas singing TV themes.

There was one really weird moment while Bahamas was talking. I don’t know if it was something he specifically said or what, but he was talking, and for a split second, his voice sounded just like what I hear when I hear my own recorded voice and it seriously creeped me out. For real – it made me uncomfortable like when I have to listen to a recording of myself. I have no idea how this happened – I have seen Bahamas numerous times and have never thought of anything like this, and I listened for it as the show went on and didn’t hear it again. It was just really odd.

I’d blame the sound system but the sound was excellent all night – remarkably so. The concert hall isn’t as ornate as some that I’ve seen but the sound was stellar for both Bahamas and Samson. Really, everything about this show was great, start to finish. I will use that wording as a loophole to exclude the fact that I juuuuuuust missed the train going home and had a 15-minute wait for the next one.

Okay, I finally broke out my work phone and here are some other songs I know he played: Bitter Memories; Can’t Take You With Me; All The Time; Southern Drawl; I Got You Babe. That is not many songs; and yet, he played many songs. Come hang out sometime and we’ll play Bahamas records and I’ll say “that one!” and then we can try to memorize what the song is called and it will be good times. Can we maybe go for donairs? I could go for one.

• Blue Rodeo w/Terra Lightfoot (January 14)
• Whitehorse w/Andy Shauf and Emily Wells (January 22)
• Corb Lund (February 9)
• Hawksley Workman & The Art of Time Ensemble (May 13)

SLCR #225: Ryan Boldt (November 15, 2015)

November 22, 2015

I have written reviews at work and in airports and okay so I thought I could list more interesting places than that but I guess I can’t.

I was going to expand on that thought by talking about how I was making history by writing a concert review in bed for the first time, but that one sentence was literally all I wrote before falling sleep. I am not kidding about this. Some bad ideas do not become evident until you put them into action.

Another bad idea was picking up chips and salsa on the way home twenty minutes ago. I mean, it was kind of a great idea, but I have found them to be distracting me from the task at hand; namely, squeezing out two reviews in one evening. Time to put the chips away.

And return with chocolate, apparently. Writing is an indulgent profession. Or at least procrastinating is.

I find the hardest reviews to write to be the ones that boil down to “it was a show,” and this was one of those. Sometimes it’s just nice to get out of the house and listen to some things for a while, you know? Doesn’t mean I have to have deep thoughts about it.

We got to the Artesian sometime between “doors at 7:00” and “show at 8:00.” Other James was thinking about attending, and we pulled up just as he was arriving, so if you really care what time we got there, just ask him. You can find him by going into literally any downtown Regina business and asking if they know someone named James. They will.

We made our way to the bar downstairs, pausing only to let James greet several dozen of his closest friends. Eventually, we got our red wine, cherry cola, and iced tea. Respectively, I mean. Though if I had all three in front of me right now, I’d combine them and tell you how it is. Should I name this new cocktail after Other James or after the Artesian or Ryan Boldt who brought us all together?

On our way up to our seats – or pews, as it were – Other James made friends with pretty much everyone, or at least everyone who he didn’t already know. He chatted with everyone around him. He introduecd us to Clayton of Kacy & Clayton, our night’s opening act. Truly, Other James is a man of the people. I do not know how a person gets to be like that but maybe I should be more like that. Somehow.

So! Yes. Kacy & Clayton. Local folks whose names I knew but had never seen before. They’re cousins, and we were sitting in front of relatives. Kacy was born in 1997. I know this because the relatives were discussing (and threatening to shout out) random facts about them. I thought this was pretty funny when it didn’t make my soul ache from pondering the incessant march of time. We’re all getting old, you guys. Bad indoor lighting reveals that my hair is more grey than it is other colours, and I just paid cash money to see a musician who was not even yet alive when I graduated from university.*

*okay maybe she was barely alive, I don’t know, I am not about to look up her birthday if such a thing is even possible when I don’t even know what her last name is

Anyway, he played guitar, she sang. After a while, some other dude played drums, and some other other dude (Shuyler Jansen, speaking of people whose names I know but who I have never seen) played bass. Clayton handled most of the talking, but mostly that just meant he asked if anyone here liked Cajun seasoning. I guess I do? I’ve never really thought about it. I prefer my Five Guys fries without it so maybe saying I do is a lie. Or at least makes me some kind of poseur.

Why does poseur have a U? Is it British? And why does Shuyler have a U, for that matter?

Whatever. This was all fine.

Brief intermission. I played my Yahtzee With Buddies games. Other James got more wine, I think. Or at least went in search of more wine. Come to think of it, I don’t recall if he was successful.

Shortly, Ryan Boldt took the stage with… the exact same band. Kacy and Clayton and Shuylueur and the other guy. The Artesian website did say that Boldt was debuting his new band, and it also said that this band had a name, but I don’t know what it is. I saw it long ago, but the show has not yet been posted in Past Shows but is too far in the past to be in Upcoming Shows. So maybe it never happened.

Mika says she thinks Clayton played with Boldt the last time we saw him (early this year, opening for Amelia Curran). She is likely right. Boldt did have another guitarist with him then, though I only know this because I mentioned it in my review, which I just skimmed. How she knew it, I have no idea. She “remembers” things, especially music things. I have to write them down or else they are lost forever. But she can see a band play an entirely new-to-her song one time and then remember it when she hears it again two years later. I could only maybe do this for my most favourite bands and even then, I am not real confidant.

Part of me wants to write a fake concert review and see if, twenty years down the road, I believe it to be true.

I bet I have suggested that idea in a past review and don’t remember doing so.

Anyway, this new band was pretty good! I just spent 20 minutes staring off into space thinking about random topics in hopes of inspiring a second sentence but I am not sure one is coming. They sounded like what you’d expect from guitars bass drums being kinda folky kinda rocky. Boldt did not retell the story about Bram being a dick. Because that is the kind of thing I remember instead of the music I paid to see.

I dunno, what else do you want to know? Everyone on stage is part of (and I think co-owners of) a new record label. They didn’t play an encore or make a joke about not doing so. There were a ton of senior citizens there and only some were related to the musicians. And that is about all I know except that also I ate too many chips earlier and now I need to go have a lie down. Or maybe it’s a delayed side effect from the merry-go-round I rode this afternoon (this really happened). Anyway, it’s 1:18 a.m. and the Bahamas review can wait until tomorrow since I won’t post these until I get home from Calgary anyway.

SLCR #224: LeE HARVeY OsMOND (November 7, 2015)

November 16, 2015

I will make a token concession to the “proper” spelling up in the title, but don’t get used to it. If you want me to spell your name in a non-standard way, you’d better make it easy on me. lee harvey osmond? Fine. I mean, kd lang doesn’t make me reach for the Shift key. LEE HARVEY OSMOND? I could live with that. But LeE HARVeY OsMOND? You’re pushing your luck, pal.

Here is what I can tell you about Lee Harvey Osmond, apart from being named after the guy who killed Hitler for dropping an atomic bomb on Pearl Harbor: he’s Tom Wilson, also of both Blackie & The Rodeo Kings and Junkhouse. I know nothing about any of these bands. Mika will now try to remind me of Junkhouse songs I know and it will fail. I don’t know things, really. There’s one Lee Harvey Osmond song that Hawksley Workman sings on (Break Your Body); I found it by searching iTunes for new-to-me Hawksley songs. I like it well enough; better than the other Hawksley collaboration I found that day.

As ignorant as I am about Lee Harvey Osmond, I knew even less about our opener, Thompson Wilson. I saw Thompson’s name listed on the Exchange website and set about Googling. Not much came up for the first few pages. Eventually, I discovered that Thompson Wilson had opened for Tom Wilson before. Somewhere around here I put the name thing together and spent way too much time trying to decide if “Thompson Wilson” was just Tom Wilson playing another set under a different name, or if this was all some crazy coincidence. You probably guessed that Thompson is Tom’s son. You probably had that figured out by the end of the first sentence. I did not. It took me way too long to get to that point, to be honest. And then I felt dumb. And now I am sharing the dumb. May as well.

Though I am in danger of making this a new catchphrase, I have to say that this show very nearly didn’t happen for me. And for once, it wasn’t due to my innate laziness. I had a bit of a stomachache on Friday night. Thought little of it. Assumed I had eaten too much garbage. Still had it on Saturday morning. Still didn’t think much of it. Met my dad for lunch and ate more garbage. Did some shopping. Stomach got worse. By the time I came home with treasures (gluten-free bread and squares; new rear windshield wiper) (also presumably gluten-free), I was not feeling so hot and decided to have a lie-down. This was around 3:00. At 7:00, Mika checked on me but I didn’t feel much like moving. I texted Mark and told him I wasn’t likely to show up. But I got up and walked around and felt okay, and then decided to have some supper to see how that went. One big salad and a piece of cake later, and I was feeling… not GOOD, per se, but no worse than before. I opted to brave the show, thinking that I could always leave if I wasn’t feeling it.

The ticket – an actual paper ticket! – said that it was doors at 8:00, show at 9:00. I got there around 8:45 and Thompson Wilson was already playing. They took my ticket at the door and ripped it. That will teach that no-good lying ticket. I’ll take the half that I got to keep and display it as a warning to others.

I found a seat by the stuff table and within a minute, was listening to Wilson sing a song about a girl, specifically mentioning that “convict movies make her horny.” This was 1) hilarious and 2) oddly familiar to me. The song, I mean. I don’t get all worked up about convict movies. Are convict movies even really a thing? Like, there are enough of them to define a genre? I suppose humour is found in specificity. Anyway, Wilson mentioned that the song was called “In Spite of Ourselves” and a quick search of my iTunes playlist showed that it was a John Prine song – but I only knew of it because Geoff Berner covered it on his out-of-print live CD. I’m going to assume you all knew it was a Prine song because whenever I think “hey, did you know…” the answer is yes. Always, always yes.

Anyway, the rest of his set – at least what I saw of it – was quite enjoyable. Just him and a guitar, playing and singing his own songs. Why I mention this, I do not know. I trust you know how musicians work. Anyway, he had a CD at the stuff table and I’d have bought it had I stolen enough cash from Mika to buy anything more than a Diet Pepsi. I did check the iTunes store in hopes of making a cashless transaction, but it wasn’t on there. Later on, Tom Wilson noted that Thompson had spent the flight out west been burning his own CDs to sell. “I know he’s a man, but it was the cutest shit I’ve ever seen.”

As soon as Thompson finished up, the lady working the stuff table told me that there was never supposed to be a chair where my chair was, so she took it away and I was adrift. I bought the aforementioned Diet Pepsi and went for a stroll, soon finding Mark and everyone that he knew, which amounted to, seriously, like half the people there. Arlette was very concerned for my well-being. Mark and Jim were very concerned that I was not contagious. But I assured them I wasn’t (and, you know, I was pretty sure that I was probably telling the truth), so they found me a place to sit in their area.

Tom Wilson is an incredibly charismatic performer and if you ever get the chance to see him in any of his incarnations, I highly recommend it. He’s a great talker with a commanding presence. I won’t go into detail about what he said, but I will mention that his life story is balls-out insane and I’m looking forward to the memoir he’s releasing next year. Close to the end of the show, he read us the opening pages and I’m sad I don’t have the book right now.

He also talked about Carver, another of Mark’s friends. Carver and Wilson became friends somehow a while back, and it was through Carver (via Mark) that I bought my ticket in the first place. And yet he’s one of those guys I’ve probably been at 20 shows with but I don’t think we’ve ever actually been introduced. Or if it happened, it was years ago. Who knows? I should talk to the guy sometime when I don’t feel like I’ve just swallowed a ball of knives.

I never know what to actually say about the actual bands, especially ones I don’t know well, and I have about 10 minutes before we leave to see Ryan Boldt and Kacy & Clayton (speaking of musicians I don’t know well) so can I skip to the end and say this show was GREAT? Because it was super great. There was a full band (including Thompson on bass – “sometimes you have to make your own bass player”), though they came and went as the show went on, so there were solo songs, songs with just Wilson and the drummer, various combinations. With no Hawksley in attendance, they didn’t play Break Your Body, and I only recognized one song all night – Blue Moon Drive, and I only knew of it since the Prairie Dog was kind enough to link to the video of it before the show. Oh, and they skipped the leaving-the-stage part of the encore, opting to take a bow and immediately close out the show with a cover of “Six Days on the Road.” Anyway, this was just a great band, great songs, a fantastic evening.

Mika didn’t come with me – she opted against buying a ticket, thinking it wouldn’t be her thing. Maybe it wouldn’t? I think it would have been, but maybe staying home and getting caught up on Jane the Virgin is more her thing. I don’t know. Anyway, I went home and excitedly told her about what she missed. At this point, I was feeling pretty good. Healed by the power of music! Having beaten my illness into the ground, I decided to celebrate with some popcorn and hot chocolate. 10 minutes later, the knives returned and I spent the night in the guest room, thrashing around in gut discomfort. Don’t taunt the stomach knives.

SLCR #223: Hawksley Workman (October 16, 2015)

October 18, 2015

SLCR #75 (April 15, 2004) was my fifth time seeing Hawksley Workman and I didn’t have much to say because I’d seen him so many times already. This was my 18th show. I have things to say about this show.

Beforehand, Deserée and Mika and I met Colin for dinner at Beer Bros. I skipped the chicken fingers and mozza sticks that I don’t think they even have in favour of my standard bacon cheeseburger. We discovered that Colin knows everyone in town and also knows all of the rules to every sport except possibly cricket. And we watched part of the Jays game, only I wasn’t facing a TV so I was watching it in a mirror, and mirror baseball is weird. Everyone runs the wrong direction and it’s never not startling.

We drove past my old apartment to Darke Hall, my favourite concert venue in Regina and particularly my favourite Hawksley venue. I think this was the fourth time I’ve seen him there and the crowd is great, the place is attractive, the sound is good, and sometimes there’s stomping for no apparent reason. We didn’t get any stomping on this evening, which was fine, really. It should happen because it happens, not because we’re expected to do it.

We got there with lots of time to spare. I dropped off some socks at the stuff table (they’re doing a sock drive for local shelters; it’s not just me going “hey, I bet Hawksley would like these socks I found”) and I checked out the things for sale. I had all the music so I went home empty-handed. We spent a lengthy stretch in our seats where Dez and I talked nonsense while she mourned being stuck behind a tall guy with a big head despite her best efforts to avoid the same, and Mika learned more about Colin’s life than I have in 10 years of knowing him. I should ask more questions, maybe? He also explained to her how tennis works. At some point, Mika and I waved to Mark and Arlette, who we never actually got to talk to.

Our opener was English singer Fiona Bevan, who played a brief solo set. This is her first time in Canada, so the idea of a six-hour drive between cities (the tour started the night before in Winnipeg) was a bit of a culture shock. Winnipeg and Regina are 100 miles further apart than London and Paris, and there’s no high-speed train. But despite the long trip, she was in good spirits and played a really enjoyable set. Her album is Talk To Strangers, and I know she played the title track and at least the first four songs – Rebel Without a Cause, Slo Mo Tiger Glo, Us and the Darkness, and the first single, The Machine.

So this Hawksley show. This was a weird show. Not entirely surprising, as he’s touring in support of Old Cheetah, which is a weird album. I definitely did not take to it initially, but I gave it some time (since I didn’t take to Hawksley’s first album initially either), and I think I have come around on it. Mika was the reverse, liking it initially and then caring for it less and less the more I played it. And Dez just isn’t a fan. It’s certainly not the first album I’d give someone who asked me about Hawksley’s music. But unlike some Hawksley stuff where I think “he is trying hard to have a hit song with this,” I feel like he just made the album he felt like making, and that’s always good.

This show was my first real Hawksley concert in three years, and it’s been over five since I’ve seen him with a full band. Mr. Lonely was there as ever, along with Derek Brady on bass (it was his birthday!) and drummer Brad Kilpatrick.

I was expecting lots of Old Cheetah songs, and we got those, mostly at the start and near the end of the set. Make Up Your Mind Tonight, Teenage Cats, Don’t Take Yourself Away, We’re Not Broken Yet, and Winter Bird, at least. He did NOT play I Just So Happen To Believe, which includes the line “you’ll titty-fuck the cake,” inspiring a lengthy Twitter conversation between me, Dez, Hawksley, and the occasional stranger (and I think Steve Bays of Mounties/Hot Hot Heat was faving tweets at one point) about the logistics thereof; namely, doesn’t one need TWO cakes for titty-fucking? Or at least one irregularly shaped cake? Because aren’t you just fucking a cake otherwise? I think I put more thought into this than Hawksley did when he wrote the line. I mean, I put a LOT of thought into this.

I think I digressed in a way I might not want to attach my name to, but OH WELL there it is now.

Anyway, I was expecting Old Cheetah songs. I was not expecting the rest of the night’s songs, which included no singles. At all. No Striptease, no Anger as Beauty, no Jealous of Your Cigarette, no We Will Still Need A Song, no Smoke Baby, no Piano Blink, no We’ll Make Time. There are some songs he always plays – except this time. No Safe & Sound, no Don’t Be Crushed, no Your Beauty Must Be Rubbing Off. And none of my hopeful picks – no Claire Fontaine (or anything from Almost a Full Moon), nothing from The God That Comes, no Warhol’s Portrait of Gretzky. He opened with a loud, chugging version of Tonight Romanticize The Automobile, and in between the Cheetah songs, we got the weirdest collection of deep cuts. All The Trees Are Hers, Song For Sarah Jane, Ilfracombe, Paper Shoes, Baby Mosquito, When These Mountains Were The Seashore. He sang Old Bloody Orange with Fiona Bevan, and he did a medley of Bullets and… I think it was Dirty & True? When the show was over, Colin said he didn’t recognize a single song. For the borderline obsessive diehard (i.e., this guy), it was bonkers. I am not used to hearing the opening notes of a Hawksley song and not being able to immediately place it. I had forgotten that General January was ever a song, and when we got to that point, I entirely gave up trying to guess what else we were getting. I’d have been all kinds of wrong anyway.

I realize this means nothing to any of you. But really, the set list was just so bizarre that I tried to look up the Winnipeg show from the night before to see if he is doing this set every night or if he’s just picking things entirely at random. I saw him on two consecutive nights once, long ago, and it was the same show both nights. But if he was mixing things up significantly, I’d have gone to see him in Swift Current on Saturday, and I still haven’t ruled out seeing him in Saskatoon on Tuesday, but I haven’t been able to find anyone talking about those other shows. So disappointing. I do not have patience for lazy concert reviewers. Work for it! Respect your audience!

He did play Autumn’s Here for the encore, which is one of his standards. And while it fit the season and fully expected it (at the start of the evening, I mean – I was all out of guesses by the end), Mika does not care for that song at all and was hopeful that she’d finally escaped a Hawksley show without hearing it. Next time. Maybe.

Of course, in between songs, Hawksley talked. And talked. Always a delight. The primary topic of conversation was the venue itself, which was very weirdly lit – four white spotlights at the back of the room lit up the stage. That was it, really. (It was also very cool, temperature-wise, and it would have been quite possible to have a nap if one were so inclined.) Anyway, the darkness of Darke Hall was commented on, which – obviously – led to a story about being a kid and being driven to the dump at night to watch the bears eat garbage. “And it’s like we’re the bears and it’s a slow night at the dump. Only two cars.” Someone suggested that the darkness was romantic, but they did so by yelling out “ROMANCE” and Hawksley pondered how some words lose their inherent meaning when shouted. Later on, during Paper Shoes, he paused after “my moves are” so that someone in the audience could suggest the missing lyric (“amazing”), and someone did, but after the next pause someone yelled out “ROMANTIC” which cracked up everyone. Possibly the most effective yelling I’ve ever heard at a rock show. Not as funny as “YOU SUCK” “I WOULD HAVE TO CONCUR” from years ago at the Weakerthans’ opening act, Albatross, but not as many people heard that one.

Yeah, so anyway, this ruled. This all ruled. It was a long show, too – Bevan started at 8:30 and we didn’t get home until after midnight. I had good intentions of entertaining folks after the show, but instead we are old and just went to sleep. I still have two bags of “there are guests coming so let’s use that as an excuse for chips” chips. Good thing I didn’t buy that microwave pot roast. You know, just in case.


  • LeE HARVeY OsMOND (November 7)
  • Blue Rodeo (January 14)
  • Corb Lund (February 9)
  • Hawksley Workman & The Art of Time Ensemble (May 13)

SLCR #222: Chubby Checker (September 26, 2015)

October 18, 2015

Here are some predictions, written on the day before the concert:

  • The casino food can be summed up as “yep, that’s food, alright”
  • Chubby Checker will play not only his own songs, but random songs from that era
  • He will close his set with The Twist
  • My dad will sing along with random lines from random songs in exaggerated fashion, and then laugh self-consciously to himself
  • At 39, I will be among the 10 youngest attendees
  • I will leave feeling that this would have been a great show had I seen it decades ago
  • I will cash in our ticket stubs (or PDFs, whatever) for slot vouchers but will win nothing of note

Here is a review, written on the day after the concert:

ahahaha “written on the day after the concert” you hubristic dink, you don’t get to change that to “22 days after the concert,” leave your laziness and shame for the world to see

ANYWAY this is a show about which I have some feelings and opinions. Let us review those above points in no particular order:

  • The casino food can be summed up as “yep, that’s food, alright”

Presumably this would have been true, had we eaten at the casino. What with Mika having Celiac disease and the casino restaurant feeling not particularly trustworthy on that front (it is a restaurant in the technical sense of the term; infer my opinions from that statement as you wish), we decided to skip the casino dinner in favour of a big salad at home. This was one of the wiser things I’ve ever done because the casino food is as previously described and my mom’s salad dressing recipe is great.

  • At 39, I will be among the 10 youngest attendees

This was almost certainly true.

  • I will cash in our ticket stubs (or PDFs, whatever) for slot vouchers but will win nothing of note

Shockingly false! I didn’t cash in the stubs that night, but went to the casino at coffee time a few days later and won $25. Delightful!

  • I will leave feeling that this would have been a great show had I seen it decades ago

You know, I am not certain about this. I think Chubby Checker might have been as good on this night as he would ever have been. I mean this positively. I had a really fun time at this show and it was the best of the shows I’ve seen with my dad. I rank them 1. Chubby Checker, 2. Herman’s Hermits, 3. Bobby Curtola, 4. Charley Pride. This is a stunning upset victory of which Bobby Curtola should be very proud.

But I digress. We had an actual opening act, which doesn’t happen at the casino all that often. It was Roberta Nichol, a local folk singer and retired schoolteacher singing lighthearted songs about loving food and getting old and loving her pets. This was… not expected, let’s say. At one point, I looked at my dad and he looked at me and we didn’t say anything but we both burst out laughing. I had bought these tickets as his Fathers’ Day present and he thanked me for the memorable gift. Then Mika hit the server call button so we could get more booze and we both laughed again.

It was a short set. She played three original songs and two covers; one of which was If I Had A Hammer and I thiiiiiink the other was Walkin’ After Midnight but it’s a month later now, you know? “You know, she’s actually not that bad,” said my dad. This is true. Just… yeah, like I said. Not expected. But maybe a good fit considering the audience? I mean, it is worth noting that the table directly in front of us LOVED this woman. Cheered wildly for every song, laughing until crying at all her jokes. They were also basically orgasmic over Chubby Checker too. They were enjoying their evening more than I have ever enjoyed anything (combined). Good on them.

  • Chubby Checker will play not only his own songs, but random songs from that era

Of course this is true. This is what everyone my dad goes to seems to do. I wonder if in 2065, Justin Bieber will be playing shows for senior citizens at casinos? And if he does, will he play a medley of Uptown Funk and Fancy and Thrift Shop and Call Me Maybe and Get Lucky and Gangnam Style and Blurred Lines because the seniors will remember those songs, even though they’re not his?

But as far as I am concerned, Chubby Checker can do whatever he feels like. He earned it. Unlike some of his casino contemporaries, his voice has held up. And he spent a lot of time interacting with the crowd, walking through the audience singing, shaking hands, getting hugs, making people dance and sing, and getting iPhones the hell out of his face. Yes. As he was walking and singing, some guy was recording this on his phone and Checker grabbed the phone out of his hand and put it down on the table. Chubby Checker does not want to be in your video. I thought this was the best thing I’d seen all day. That lasted for about 20 minutes.

At one point, Checker sang Limbo Rock, which is the famous limbo song (I never knew the title!), obviously popularized by an episode of Perfect Strangers where the lyrics were changed to be about the Myposian pastry called the bibbibabka. How I remember this, I have no idea. How there are SO MANY references to this online, I guess I can chalk up to “because the internet.” I am seriously in awe of the Perfect Strangers episode guide I am reading right now.

ANYWAY. Limbo Rock. And there was a dude in the crowd with a Chubby Checker Limbo Rock record – maybe even an original from the looks of it. Dude got very excited to hear this song. He waved the record. Chubby didn’t see it. He waved and waved the record some more. Still nothing. Because when you’re on a brightly-lit stage and the audience is darkened, you can’t see past the second row, much less 50 feet back. But this dude was undeterred. He walked up to the front, still holding his record high in the air, and walked the length of the stage with it. Finally, Chubby saw it, and though he didn’t say anything at the time (he was singing and all), he gave this guy the absolute most perfect “what the fuck are you doing, idiot?” look. This was so great. So so great. Mika leaned in and excitedly whispered “CHUBBY CHECKER IS AWESOME” and I so agree. There have been better concerts this year but not better moments.

After the song was done, he did offer to sign the guy’s record.

Anyway, yeah, this was what you’d expect in terms of songs. Lots of fun-time songs about dancing and partying and twisting, and various other songs from that era because why not? And all delivered better than I was expecting. Fine work.

  • He will close his set with The Twist

No, idiot. He closed his set with The Twist followed by Let’s Twist Again. Shoulda seen that coming.

  • My dad will sing along with random lines from random songs in exaggerated fashion, and then laugh self-consciously to himself

I don’t know that this happened? But mayyyyybe the four of us and most of the rest of the casino all danced The Twist when it was time to do so? That might have happened. I do not believe there to be video evidence of this and for that I am thankful. And we did not get up on stage to do it, unlike a bunch of people, one of whom I believe to be either Saskatchewan Roughriders legend George Reed or the safety guy from my office.

SLCR #221: Chad VanGaalen (September 24, 2015)

October 18, 2015

It was pretty good. I don’t know.

I am almost a month late and three reviews behind because I didn’t have much to say beyond the above sentence. But I brewed a pot of coffee (and have already drank most of it) and got some chips and dip (and have already eaten most of the chips and as much of the dip as I wanted, which wasn’t that much) and I have read almost everything in my Feedly, including watching all the videos that had been sitting here for a week, and our cable is out, and iTunes is updating, and I have about procrastinated all I can, so here we are. Can I blast through three of these things in an afternoon? Will I get my 10,000 steps today? Will I even shower today? Stay tuned!

Many years ago, I saw Chad VanGaalen open for Feist and I thought he was pretty good. I resolved to track down more of his music, and then spent years thinking very little about him until I read an interview on the AV Club where he discussed being on Letterman’s Stupid Human Tricks in the days before his musical career took off. That was neat. And then I bought tickets to this show. Now you are caught up.

We got to the Exchange and parked a little over a block away, since I hate fighting for parking spaces. This was not necessary. There was, like, nobody there. We got there about 10-15 minutes after doors opened and the place was a ghost town. We grabbed some chairs and bought some iced teas (work night) and settled in. Somehow, I still wound up with an obstructed view. I texted Mark and Other James and invited them to join us, but both were busy. As was, apparently, most of the rest of Regina. By the time VanGaalen started, there were a little over 100 people there – I did a quick count. Still lower than I would have expected, but respectable and the place no longer looked so empty.

The opener was Faith Healer, who I only knew of from seeing tweets retweeted by… Six Shooter Records? Mint Records? Someone else entirely? I don’t know. Anyway, our version of Faith Healer was a five-piece, but I gather from some internet reading that the band is basically lead singer Jessica Jalbert and whoever she collaborates with; primarily Renny Wilson on the album. I have no idea what he looks like and if he was part of the band at our show. Not knowing this probably makes me look dumb.

But here is something that makes me look dumber. Having never heard Faith Healer, I didn’t know any of their songs, except one. When they said “this is a cover song,” I was hoping for something like… I don’t know. Imagine, maybe? Thriller, Hey Jude, something super familiar. “We just want to clarify that this is a cover song; we did not write Twist and Shout ourselves.” But no, it was a song called Cry that was a hit on Canadian radio in the 90s. I was 99% certain that this was by the Philosopher Kings, but when I looked it up right now, I found out that it was a cover when THEY did it and the song was originally by Godley & Creme. I had no idea. I feel like I have been living a lie since 1997.

Anyway, I realize that this doesn’t say anything about Faith Healer, but they were good! Would go see again. Maybe listen to their album, or even buy it if you have $7 Canadian lying around. I just started streaming it right now and I’m enjoying it.

Chad VanGaalen’s band was called either the Beach Wipes or the Bleach Wipes, depending on where you read about the concert. He never actually called them by name, though, so I don’t know if it matters all that much.

As we’ve established, I don’t know much about VanGaalen, so I don’t know whether we saw a typical show and can’t tell you what he even played. Mika is more likely to know his songs but she is outside raking leaves right now and I do not want to risk interrupting this endeavour, lest the leaves become my problem. His second song was about a giant penis made of rocks and sticks and clay, if that means anything to you. And he told stories of the tour, the boringly easy highway and the noisy van and the humanoid at the Co-op station. In other words, it was a show. Enjoyable and a fun night out but not one that stood out in any real way.

SLCR #220: Regina Folk Festival (August 7-9, 2015)

August 10, 2015

8:17 a.m.: Can I write an entire concert review on my phone? While the festival is going on? No. That would be dumb. But I can do everything but the conclusion and the final editing on my phone, and maybe this thing won’t take three weeks to get posted.

Here’s what we all need to know about this year’s festival:

  • Sinéad O’Connor was scheduled to headline, but cancelled a few weeks out, leaving the festival scrambling for a replacement. They got Blind Boys of Alabama, who I’m sure will be good, but I was really looking forward to the bizarre novelty of seeing Sinéad O’Connor singing in a park in downtown Regina after being introduced by a shitty children’s entertainer. PHOTO OP PHOTO OP PHOTO OP
  • I am most looking forward to seeing Bahamas, Jenny Lewis, Blue Rodeo, Basia Bulat, Andy Shauf, and the Karpinka Brothers (one of whom I went to high school with)
  • I don’t know what a Vance Joy is but I gather he was a big “get”
  • I need to remember to put in the bullets for these here bullet points
  • Kettle corn is rad

5:20 p.m.: We are in our usual chairs in our usual spots. The grass is damp from days of rain, but it’s not swamplike as I was expecting so I’ll take it. Too many wasps around, though.

Probably should have charged my phone this afternoon.

Expected attendees: Mark and Arlette, Other James, Glenn and Shelan, Colin, and surely some cameos from work and Toastmasters folks.

Mika wants me to tell you that she carried both chairs from the car to the entrance line and that I am very thankful.

5:58 p.m.: I went straight to the park from work and I finally managed to take my bag to the car. Already bought a Bahamas record (Pink Strat). You know, since I had to put stuff in the car and all, it only made sense to do some early shopping.

Ran into Other James and made a joke about his predilection for snarking at people to keep the walkway clear. I can’t make too much fun; I already did some of that too. Plus he was kind enough to murder a wasp with his bare hands for us.

The host is Jeffery Straker. His mic is too loud but he seems fine otherwise. Energetic and charismatic.

6:52 p.m.: Got rained on. Am cold and damp. Not bringing a jacket was a poor choice.

Forgot to mention that the line to get in was much more organized this year. So, kudos! I like to think it was all because of my perpetual whining in previous years.

First band was The Dead South, a local bluegrass four-piece. Played all originals, as far as I know. They were real good! Would see again. There was one very loud superfan down in front and he was a nice added bonus.

Danny Olliver is playing a teaser set right now. I’ve seen him before and liked him too. Successful evening so far.

Good sound for the music. I still think the volume is turned up a bit high for the talky parts though.

I find that on the phone, I feel justified in saying very little about each individual act. I trust this will continue. Also, I have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the text file every time I open this. Minor irritant.

SO many babies in ear protectors. The one nearest us has the best sweater. I want it in my size.

Alysha Brilla up next.

7:57 p.m.: If I go to jail for murdering the loudass stupid unfunny fucker behind me, know it was deliberate and enjoyed and I would happily do it again.

Until then, I’ll get you caught up. Alysha Brilla seems like a very nice person. Very positive and earnest. Almost aggressively so. Her music wasn’t really my thing, though. Upbeat pop with a horn section and a keyboard too. After a while, we each left for food. Mika got Afghani and I went for Indian. It was lovely but eating curry in the wind might have rendered this shirt splattered and unwearable for work. I hope not. I like it.

I came back with dinner as Brilla got people to cheer for equality. Would have been awkward if they didn’t, I guess.

Little Criminals’ teaser set (as we speak) is pretty good. A local two-piece, guitar and violin, both singing. I really want the joke about them winning a Kenaston Grammy to be secretly, amazingly true.

Basia Bulat is up next. She once opened for a friend of a friend’s band at Amigo’s, which seemed odd at the time and downright insane now. Will I finally learn how to pronounce her name?

8:17 p.m.: “basha boo-la,” apparently

9:04 p.m.: Nope, “boo-lot.”

She was quite good but it was just her and whatever instrument she was playing at any time (guitar, keyboard, Autoharp). It sounded a little sparse for this big park. Would have been great in a more intimate setting but I was finding it awful hard to remain attentive. Was still good though.

Have chatted with Other James, Mark, and Colin so far. Waved at Arlette and Dan. Saw Paul and David and one of my former neighbours. None of those names mean anything to you.

4:06 p.m.: The problem with my phone concert review plan is not the battery (it held out) or the rain (we waited it out), it’s that it gets chilly at night and I was not about to bring my hands out from under my blanket until it was time to leave. If I didn’t even spend time with my one true love (kettle corn), I’m not about to take time to write to you. Sorry, but you should never have expected otherwise. Anyway, I’m playing catch-up on the computer now.

So yeah, the guy behind me was a giant d-bag. He was only there to see the Sheepdogs, which he said repeatedly and loudly. Actually, he said everything repeatedly and loudly, including his ace-in-the-hole #1 joke: that there were a lot of people at the festival who look like the guy from Coldplay. He said this one over and over and was very proud of himself every time. “I think he thinks that’s what hipsters listen to,” said Mika, who added that she didn’t see a lot of guys who looked like Chris Martin unless you loosened the definition to encompass “men with t-shirts, jeans, and haircuts.”

The dude immediately to Mika’s left was giving the loud guy a run for his money in the obnoxious department. A stumbling slobbering drunk who once went fifteen whole minutes without visiting the beer gardens, this dude would not stay seated for any length of time, so he was always falling into people (literally). And when he was in his chair, he was always kneeing/elbowing/leaning on someone. Usually Mika, though he did try to break my chair at one point when gravity got the best of him. I texted Mark about my murderin’ plans and he graciously offered the use of his shovel. That’s what friends are for!

Bahamas is one of my favourite guys, but I don’t have a ton to say about his set. It was real good and he played most of his bigger songs (no Hockey Teeth, but pretty much anything else you’d expect), though I didn’t know the D’Angelo cover. He said that Regina has a very nice Hudson’s Bay store, which may have been the biggest lie ever told. He didn’t talk a lot, though, which is a bit of a shame. I know he had limited time (it felt like his hour flew by) but his stories are always delightful. And if you’re wondering what Jason Tait is doing in his post-Weakerthans career, he’s drumming with Bahamas. And presumably doing lots of other stuff too, that dude was always busy.

Steph Cameron played a teaser set before Bahamas and I liked her well enough. Would see again. Her one song, Sad-Eyed Lonesome Lady, seemed really familiar to me; not sure where I would have heard it before. Colter Wall played a teaser set after Bahamas and I thought he was decent, though it didn’t help that there were folks onstage setting up for the Sheepdogs while he was playing. I expect he’ll be in a ton of future reviews; it does seem like this kid is playing all over the place these days. I’m sure his last name has nothing to do with anything.

Finally, the evening ended with the Sheepdogs, who I could not care less about. They got a ton of hype in their/my hometown of Saskatoon for winning a contest to get themselves on the cover of Rolling Stone. I have heard a bit of their music and it sure is music, alright. 70s-inspired rock that I’m just not interested in. Plus it doesn’t help that I’ve noticed a distinct correlation between people who are really into the Sheepdogs and people who could die in a ditch as far as I am concerned. It’s not 1:1 but there’s something there that’s beyond coincidental. We stuck around for three or four songs and called it a night. Mark and Arlette did the same. Actually, there seemed to be a significant post-Bahamas exodus.

And now I need to put on some proper pants and find a jacket and head back out for Day Two.

7:08 p.m.: Son of a bitch of a phone crashed and died and ate a paragraph. Paragraphs are time consuming on this thing!

ANYWAY. Before I was so rudely interrupted, I was saying that the theme of the night thus far has been distant brushes with fame. The first act was Birds of Chicago, one of whom is Mika’s cousin’s cousin, or something to that effect. They were followed by the Karpinka Brothers, and as I mentioned, I went to high school with one of them (Shawn). We weren’t close pals, but I remember him being a decent human being, which put him far above most people there, myself included. I think the last time I talked to him was probably a decade ago at one of these here folk festivals.

I thought Birds of Chicago were pretty great, continuing a trend of really enjoying the first band of the evening. The pressure’s on for tomorrow, Andy Shauf! I don’t know how I’d describe them, because I am bad at my self-assigned job, but they were quite enjoyable. Would see again.

The Karpinkas were two guys with guitars and sounded like two guys with guitars. Nice harmonies. I’d say that I’ll think about coming down for their full band show tomorrow morning, but I suspect that seems like a better idea right now than it will when I’m laying in bed tomorrow.

Cécile Doo-Kingué is playing now and is singing about an ass whipping so I should probably listen.

7:57 p.m.: I got Thai pork skewers and injured myself on a skewer :(

Aside from that, I’m enjoying The Mariachi Ghost’s teaser set. They put “mariachi” right in their name, saving me from having to describe them to you. How kind!

Zarqa Nawaz from Little Mosque is our host. She’s a little stiff but not nearly as loud as Straker was, so take your pick. And while I was writing that sentence, she disappeared? It was like she stopped mid-introduction and got raptured and now Vox Sambou is playing. Either that or I got so into writing this that I lost time. Either way, time to join the Guilty Remnant.

Sambou is in Nomadic Massive, who I really liked two years ago. I didn’t know this until just now, so that’s a delightful surprise.

10:34 p.m.: Did you guys know that Jenny Lewis ruuuuuuuuules? Best set of the festival so far. Great voice great band great songs the best. Mika thought I only knew one song but I knew THREE like some sort of G D music expert (Portions For Foxes, One of the Guys, Rise Up With Fists). But they were all great. Must get albums. Hopefully Mika already has them?

I asked and she’s checking.

Yay, she’s buying the newest album so I don’t have to!

They sent a bunch of giant balloons into the crowd and Lewis said “balloons are so fun!” and that’s a bigger lie than saying our Bay store isn’t a dump. Though to be fair, everyone in the Boogie Zone seemed to enjoy them.

She also said something like “We’re going to play a new song for you, it’s called ‘Girl on Girl'” and a voice from behind me said, curmudgeonly, “I don’t approve,” and I didn’t see who said it so I can’t say with 100% certainty that it was a big name in local politics. But 99% certainty? Sure, I’m good with that. Was he joking? I don’t know. He didn’t sound like it but speaking as a guy who is often taken seriously when not meant that way, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Some of us just have the male version of resting bitchface. (And the song didn’t even mean it in THAT way.)

Whoever that guy was, he also really enjoyed Jeffery Straker’s teaser set. So if he wasn’t kidding, well…

Also they hauled some screaming crying drunk lady out of here and she was fighting and then sobbing and hollering and it was some kind of scene. I had no idea Jenny Lewis attracted such a rough crowd.

Vox Sambou was really good too. Super energetic. And like I said, Jeffery Straker played a teaser set and he was pretty good. I have also decided that he was the better emcee of the two nights.

I still haven’t had any kettle corn. I don’t even really feel like any. I got a popcorn ball instead. Is something wrong with me? I find this confusing and frightening. Should I go to the library and get a book to explain these weird feelings?

Mike Edel is playing right now and he’s pretty good! Singer songwriter stuff, two guitars and a violinist.

Blue Rodeo is coming up next. I suspect they will play some songs I know and some I don’t, and they’ll all be good. I know how this goes wait wait OMG wait I mean… THIS ISN’T MY FIRST RODEO ahahahaha nailed it

1:32 a.m.: Home. I was right about Blue Rodeo but also I was wrong in that they were waaaaay better than I was expecting. If you have only ever heard them on CD or the radio, you’re missing out. They played a greatest hits set, but I thought Diamond Mine was their best song, though I don’t know if I’d ever heard it before. Certainly not often if I have.

The crowd loved them, singing the entire first verse and chorus of Hasn’t Hit Me Yet with no vocal accompaniment from the band. I think that happened the last time I saw them too. Maybe they were this great then too and I’ve just forgotten? Will need to reread my old review. I forget things. A few weeks ago I was going through old reviews and discovered that Mika and I saw the Mountain Goats. They were opening for the New Pornographers. I have zero recollection of this – when I found the review, I swore loudly in surprise – but my review says I liked them, so that’s good. I hope they come back sometime.

[Okay, so I re-read that old review, and I thought Blue Rodeo was way better this time out. Though last time they had guest vocalists in Cuff The Duke, Sarah Slean, and Amy Millan – and the fans sang Hasn’t Hit Me Yet that time too.]

Mika just asked if I am working on my review right now. I think she’s making fun of me, but she’s watching a taped football game where we already know who wins. I mean, I don’t think anyone’s told her who wins, but it is the Riders. So, y’know, you know. But despite me knowing the result, her enthusiasm is making this exciting. But, you know, also heartbreaking. She still has hope. Poor girl.

But Blue Rodeo! Wonderful. The one-two of them and Jenny Lewis was sensational. This would be one of the better nights in my RFF history. We’ll see if tomorrow can compare. If we even go.

5:43 p.m.: We’re back. The line to get in snaked all the way down Scarth Street to Pat’s Patio. Bonkers. They kept it moving real well, though.

For next year, they do need to make a longer playlist for the stretch before the shows. I have heard Bahamas’ Lost In The Light, Steph Cameron’s Sad-Eyed Lonesome Lady, and Alysha Brilla’s Immigrant at least 10 times each. They’re all good songs, but mix it up maybe?

6:46 p.m.: I’d seen Andy Shauf before, but not with a full band. I thought he was really good, but very quiet for the size of the park. Another set that was a little hard to focus on, but would have been fantastic in a smaller venue.

Our host is Kirby Wirchenko, who seems to have hit the sweet spot between Straker and Nawaz, in that he’s confident and energetic, but still relaxed, all without being painfully loud. No children’s acts as hosts this year? A treat!

Veronique Poulin (aka Vaero) is playing a teaser set right now. The schedule for the rest of the night is Lisa Leblanc, George Leach (teaser), Geomungo Factory, Malika Tirolien (teaser), Blind Boys of Alabama, Kim Harris (teaser), and Vance Joy. I mention all this now because I feel like I’m about to half-ass the evening with not much to say or interest in saying it. We’ll see if I’m right.

Vaero’s stuff seems nice. Pretty. French.

7:16 p.m.: And then she plays two songs in English. Gotta make me a liar. And now Lisa Leblanc is killing it – guitar, banjo, and drums, singing in French and English and French again (#gaston). There are always people milling around the park and the food/shopping area, but after the first notes, Mika said “now watch everyone come streaming back in.” This rules and I’d rather listen to it than talk to you so bye

7:43 p.m.: Her band just played Ace of Spades and it was the best. THE BEST.

7:47 p.m.: I think she asploded her guitar. Her last song was supposed to have an outro but she rocked her guitar to death so they were just done. She got a standing ovation. That was fantastic and I am so glad we came tonight. Now to do some iTunes shopping since she sold out at the merch tent. RULED RULED RULED

8:35 p.m.: In line for kettle corn, mostly out of tradition and obligation. Geomungo Factory is playing instrumental South Korean music which is lovely but hard to pay attention to. Anyone following Leblanc would have problems, I think. Though George Leach’s teaser was really good – the guy’s a great guitarist.

8:52 p.m.: I got chocolate-dipped cheesecake and bought Mika some kettle corn. I tried some and it’s great as always, but I’m just not feeling it this year. I say that knowing I will surely down the remainder of the bag before bed.

The host runs the Broadway Theatre in Saskatoon, and he just told us Bahamas is playing there on November 19. They’re making the public announcement tomorrow. If I get my act together and post this all quick like, I can scoop them on the Internet, breaking the news to my fives of readers!

Malika Tirolien is playing piano and singing and it’s lovely.

9:59 p.m.: Blind Boys of Alabama were amazing. I suspect this is not the first time someone has held this bold opinion. I can’t imagine Sinéad O’Connor would have been as good or received such a great reaction. People LOVED these guys. Even the hipster looking dork with his mustache and dumb sweater like the guy from Coldplay.

The festival’s artistic director is talking now. Did I win the 50/50? No? Well hell dammit anyway.

10:25 p.m.: Holy hell so much teen girl screeching for Vance Joy. So high pitched.

11:57 p.m.: Home now. We lasted halfway through Vance Joy. He was perfectly acceptable but nothing to write home about, either. The shrieking teens would disagree. To listen to them, you’d think every song he played was a #1 hit. He’d say “this next song is called _____________________” and they’d go “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” Every time.

All in all, a very successful festival. I left with one LP (Bahamas) and three iTunes albums (The Dead South and two Lisa Leblanc), a massive bag of kettle corn we haven’t really gotten into (but the night is young), one tiny skewer scar on my upper lip, tired thumbs from a weekend of popping in and out of the Notes app on my phone, and a new appreciation for a bunch of bands. Fine work! Now we wait eight months or so to see who they announce for next year. At one point, a volunteer came around with a survey that asked (among other things) for artist suggestions. And I gave them some. So when the White Stripes shock the world by reuniting for one show only in a park in downtown Regina, well, you’re welcome.


  • Chad VanGaalen (September 24)
  • Chubby Checker & The Wildcats (September 26)
  • Ron Sexsmith (September 30)
  • Hawksley Workman (October 16)
  • Lee Harvey Osmond (November 7)

SLCR #219 – Gin Blossoms (July 31, 2015)

August 6, 2015

That is one misleading title. You’d think that seeing the Gin Blossoms in 2015 would be enough for one day, but this was not just the Gin Blossoms, oh no. It was the Gin Blossoms AND Fastball AND the Rembrandts. Outdoors at the Queen City Ex. Yes.

Two years ago, we went to South Dakota for a summer trip to Mount Rushmore, and Smash Mouth was playing the fair in Rapid City. On my birthday. We did not go to this. It had been a long day of riding jackalopes and petting goats and doing other touristy junk. While I still had enough energy to go watch a band that I was honestly interested to see, I wasn’t really up for a few hours at the fair just to be able to say “I drove eight hours to South Dakota to see Smash Mouth play a fair on my birthday.” I do kind of regret this, especially since that time a few months ago where Smash Mouth played some other fair and got bombarded with bread thrown by drunks and the lead singer swore a bunch while the band played the starting notes to All Star for like ten minutes in hopes that things would turn around. That was a very good day on the internet.

Point being, it was high time I saw a band at the fair. I have never done so, unless you count five minutes of some local metal band I saw when I was 10 or so. I didn’t do concert reviews then but they were memorable enough; imagine if Kiss sucked and was fat and didn’t try very hard with their makeup. There you go.

In fact, I hadn’t even been to the fair at all in about 20 years by my estimation. I’m not much of a ride guy, and while I AM a games guy and also an eat-garbage guy, they both seem like bad ideas. The fair is expensive, the prizes are cheap, and the food will most likely kill you slowly. But it had been 20 years, so what the heck.

We got to the fair around 5:30 p.m. on a Friday evening and parking was… shockingly easy? I did not expect that. The whole process was painless. We took a big ol’ walk around, checking out rides and games and foods and whatnot. Ultimately, I passed on all the really epic-sounding treats – donut grilled cheese, maple bacon donut burger, deep-fried Philly cheesesteak – it seems I have limits. And also I’d gone to Regina’s new Carl’s Jr. earlier in the day (vacation woo). I did get a corn dog, but didn’t even make it through half of it before realizing that corn dogs are so much better in theory than in practice. Sad. But a caramel apple made things better.

Our first concert experience of the day was listening to some cover band play Van Halen and Def Leppard. They were better than the corndog and worse than the caramel apple. If they ever find this by googling whatever (not their name, since I neither know nor care what it is), they should know that I like caramel apples a lot. But on the flipside, it was a really disappointing corndog so that was a low bar to clear.

Eventually we wandered over to the concert stage where we were joined by… very few others. At the start, there were probably about as many people as at the Geoff Berner show. I was pretty surprised by this. I mean, I get that these bands were big (to whatever degree) 20 years ago, but it was a free show, and I’d seen recent pictures from the Saskatoon Ex of what appeared to be massive crowds for shows by Our Lady Peace and Great Big Sea (both of whom are certainly bigger in Canada and they’re also still making music and all, but still).

I should mention that a while back, Colin had suggested that he might be interested in coming to the show with us were he available. However, when I texted to let him know that we were, in fact, committed to going, he’d already made other plans and was actually on his way to Edmonton to see the Roughriders play.

The stage was big, the park-type area had room for lots of people, and there was even a big screen for those of us who were further back. It was a pretty nice setup. Our host was a local radio DJ who I only know of because he posted some screencaps to Facebook a month or two ago where he’d been texting back and forth with a scammer who was claiming to be trapped in Uganda. Most of their conversation centered around trying to get Kamala’s autograph. Papa Shango was also mentioned. I approved.

First up were The Rembrandts, or as you may know them, The “Theme from Friends” Band. More than one person I know suggested that they’d walk out, play I’ll Be There For You, and leave the stage. Justin Shapiro, noted Friends superfan, offered up the instrumental end credits version of IBTFY as a second song (and, in fact, he DID use that acronym when doing so; luckily, I was able to deduce its meaning from context and didn’t have to out myself as a Friends poseur). This one-song idea, of course, is vastly unfair to the Rembrandts, who also covered Making Plans for Nigel on an XTC tribute album I have. Plus, there’s… hmmm… did I mention they did the theme from Friends?

I sent Colin a picture of the very sparsely populated front-of-stage area. He said that it was good that we were there for them, because it clearly hasn’t been their day, their week, their month, or even their year. At this point, a random Edmonton number texted me to suggest that their job’s a joke, they’re broke, their love life’s DOA. I did not know who this was. Eventually, this person revealed himself to be Colin’s old roommate. This was an interesting development because he was texting me jokes all night (and the occasional complaint about the Riders) and… you know, I don’t think I know this guy or have even ever met him before. I think I’ve only ever met one of Colin’s roommates and that was only one time – back when Colin’s car got locked up in the parking lot of the mean hockey equipment store and his roommate had to come rescue us.

Jokes and asides aside, I actually read a really interesting article about the Rembrandts on AV Club about six weeks ago, about how they’d had some success before Friends, weren’t really sold on the idea of performing a TV show theme (one which they didn’t write), and wound up overwhelmed and burdened by it when it took off. You should check it out if you want to read some real writing from a real writer.

Anyway, the Rembrandts played for a little better than a half an hour, just the two guys on guitars and vocals. The sound started off a little shrill, but it improved as the set went on. I thought I recognized one other song, and Mika did too (but a different other song). Looking over their singles online, I know they played Rollin’ Down the Hill and Just The Way It Is, Baby, and I think they played This House Is Not A Home. They were reminiscent of the less-rockier Odds songs, and that’s not a bad thing. I did think that having some drums to fill out the sound might have helped – when they closed with IBTFY, they even joked about not being able to hear the drums. And you can’t really help the attendance, but when the crowd is small and the venue is big, maybe trying a singalong part isn’t the best plan. It might have sounded good to the 50 people at the front of the stage, but we were a little further back (by a tree! optimal sitting/leaning spot) and you couldn’t really hear the response part of the call-and-response bit.

Fastball took the stage about ten minutes before their scheduled 8:00 p.m. start time, causing one of the cameramen to have to sprint back into position. Like the Rembrandts, Fastball is primarily known for one song (The Way), but they did have more radio success with some followups, namely Out of My Head, You’re an Ocean, and Fire Escape. They played all those, and also Warren Zevon’s hockey song Hit Somebody – unsure if that is a standard part of their set or if they threw it in to appeal to the locals. A quick Google search for “fastball hit somebody” just brings up videos of baseball accidents (like that time Randy Johnson made a bird explode!) so I’m guessing it was special for us – the song itself kinda made me roll my eyes but I will always give a band credit for trying something special in concert. They seemed alternately confused and amused regarding the pronunciation of Regina, as Americans so often do. The full-band sound and slowly-increasing attendance helped their set, but a lot of the time, they felt like they just weren’t quite in sync. Like a new band that hasn’t gelled yet, or like they were rusty after a long layoff. There was one song in particular where it felt like they were all a half-second off from each other; this coincided with some singing that wasn’t quite in tune and yeah that song was really not very good. Mostly they were okay enough, but I figure the Rembrandts were better overall, despite not being as well suited to the venue.

Between sets, Mika ducked out to get some fair nachos and they were the exact opposite of my sad corndog, in that they were delicious. The chips were still warm from the fryer and they were topped with a fresh tomato salsa. I only stole a few chips but could have easily gone through the whole thing. This was shockingly good; the nacho stand apparently didn’t get the memo that fair food is supposed to be garbage. I then snuck away for some poutine and a Cherry Coke. Tasty, but I really can’t do full-sugar soda anymore. (Full-fat poutine is not a problem, it seems.)

By the time I came back with my bounty, the field had filled out nicely with fans. The Gin Blossoms started a little late, so I had time to finish eating and even text Colin and his roommate some more about the other bands we were expecting to see (Monster Magnet, Lifehouse, Better Than Ezra, Harvey Danger, Marcy Playground, Chumbawamba).

I can’t lie. I’d have been pretty excited for Marcy Playground. Or Chumbawamba. Or Better Than Ezra. Or Harvey Danger if they promise to play their Christmas song.

Seconds into the Gin Blossoms, something happened right by us. I didn’t see exactly what happened but it looked like some dude took a swing at some girl or shoved her or whatever, and WHAM – Security was right there to hammerlock said dude and drag him out of the fair. It was dark, there was a lot of ground to cover, it had finally become crowded, the band was playing, but Security was still right on top of things. It was impressive.

The Gin Blossoms, it seemed, had had a hard day. I gather they’d been playing out in the Maritimes the day before, and today, they learned about one of the problems that come with living in Saskatchewan – namely, there aren’t that many flights in and out of here. The singer complained on a few occasions about how they’d have to get up at 3:00 a.m. to make their flight out of town. But the real issue was that one of their flights into town was cancelled, leaving some of the Gin Blossoms crew stuck out east. With their drummer. Local sound techs and equipment guys were enlisted, as was the drummer for Fastball, who’d spent the afternoon learning all of their songs. I know they’re not super complex drum parts, but something like that still blows my mind. Want to play an entire set of songs you’ve barely practiced? Like, this evening? You could see a few moments between songs where the lead singer was coaching the drummer a bit, but all things considered, he did a fine job.

This was the best of the night’s three acts. The atmosphere had finally come together and the band was the right fit for the venue. It helped that the Gin Blossoms had a few big hits – the singer mentioned that while they’d had no #1 hits in the US, they had two in Canada. Of course, they closed their set with one (Hey Jealousy) and came back out to play the other one (Follow You Down) for the encore. Alison Road and Until I Hear It From You were big songs here too. Unlike the vast majority of people who were alive in the 90s, I never had the Gin Blossoms’ two big records; I suspect that those who did would have known far more songs. They did seem like a bit more of a party band than I would have suspected – lots of getting people to clap along or sing out certain lines (I don’t think the singer ever once said “let the cops chase us around”) – but the crowd seemed really into everything, so it all worked.

All in all, a fun night. Maybe next year they’ll bring in Smash Mouth and I can live the dream.

Actually, who are we kidding? I’m already living the dream – on our way back to the car, we stopped to play a round of Whack-a-Mole and I WON A COW. His name is Bob. Or her name. I’m not sure. I won Bob on the first try, so he only cost me $4. I am very proud of this. Also very ashamed that I heard “$4 for one game of Whack-a-Mole” and thought this was a good idea.

I also won a giraffe by shooting water into a clown’s mouth, but one of the other players looked sad to lose so I gave her the giraffe. Mika later said “she was probably like ‘what a nice old man!'” This is depressingly true, in most aspects. I mean, I was old enough to be her dad and she was old enough to be done with high school. But I’m not so sure about nice. I mean, that giraffe felt pretty cheap. No way I’d have given up my cow.

• Regina Folk Festival feat. Sinéad O’Connor, Vance Joy, Jenny Lewis, Bahamas, Blue Rodeo, Blind Boys of Alabama, Basia Bulat, more (August 7-9)
• Chad VanGaalen (September 24)
• Chubby Checker & The Wildcats (September 26)
• Ron Sexsmith (September 30)
• Hawksley Workman (October 16)
• Lee Harvey Osmond (November 7)

SLCR #218 – Geoff Berner (July 29, 2015)

August 6, 2015

I was on the fence about this one.

PRO: The first time I saw Geoff Berner was a fantastic night of music that made me a fan of Ford Pier, and then made me a fan of Berner, and then made me a fan of Carolyn Mark, and it’s in my top 10 shows ever

CON: One time I saw Berner at O’Hanlon’s and it was full of people who didn’t pay to get in and didn’t know who he was and weren’t interested in his weirdness or his accordion or his politics and he responded by not caring in kind

PRO: The Artful Dodger is a nice venue, much more suited to Berner

CON: I thought it would be well suited to Danny Michel too, but it was full of people who didn’t appear to pay cover and weren’t interested in listening and wouldn’t get out of my way

CON: Nobody wanted to go with me

PRO: It was during my vacation week from work so what the hell

That last one only brings it up to a tie and really shouldn’t count anyway, but it pushed me over the line somehow. VACATION WOO

So yeah. I went alone to the Artful Dodger for the show. I wandered in past an unattended pile of CDs and books, and hit the bar to pay for my ticket and get the least beer-flavoured beer I could identify (Shock Top). My fears of Berner being drowned out by the chatty supper crowd were unfounded. I got there right before the scheduled 8:00 start time – the opening act was already on stage, doing their soundcheck while Berner sat at a table down in front with some friends – and I was the first person to sit in the bench seats at the back. At the peak of the evening, I don’t think there were more than 70 people in attendance, including the staff and musicians. I am pretty bad at guessing attendance, but I had time enough to count people, so I think this one is reasonably accurate.

The openers were the Whiskey Jerks, a six-piece from Saskatoon. They brought a nice mix of instruments with them, including an accordion, a violin, a standing bass, and a range of wind instruments (he said, hiding his inability to confidently identify anything beyond a flute). It was folk music that had a real swing to it, delivered with a good sense of humour. These folks seemed like they were having a good time and that was contagious. They played for about 45 minutes or so, stopping at one point to ask Berner how much time they had left (he didn’t know and didn’t seem the slightest bit concerned). I was only familiar with the last song they played, which was one of Berner’s. This all worked out well. You could tell they really liked that song, Berner seemed to enjoy the tribute (they’d obviously cleared it with him beforehand), and I got to hear one of my favourite Berner songs, Wealthy Poet. That was actually the third time I’d heard someone else play that one; it’s performed by Maria in the Shower on the Festival Man album (a collection of Berner songs performed by other artists), and I heard some random band playing it on Scarth Street one noon hour a few years ago. It’s a good one. A nice mix of catchy and horrifically bleak.

I think Geoff Berner has opinions. I say “I think” because lyrics are poetry and poetry is subjective, right? I’m an English major, I know that you can bullshit any sort of “meaning” out of any random collection of words. But I am reasonably confident when I say that Geoff Berner has opinions. He played a new song with what he described as a subtle political message. This song was called “I Think That We Should Probably Just Vote NDP This Time.” This song has not yet been released, so I don’t know if “When we get proportional representation, then you can go ahead and vote your Greens” was part of the official title. Maybe in parentheses?

If you’re still unclear about Berner’s political leanings, another new song included the lines “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious / I hope Stephen Harper dies of multiple sclerosis,” to which he added “preferably in a First Nations health centre in a reserve in northern Ontario. Or a ditch!”

That song was about one the great joys of being Jewish; namely, you get to dance and celebrate when bad things befall your enemies. He also played a new one called “I Feel Less Mad At God When I See You In Your Summer Dress,” as well as the song he opened his set with, “We Are Going To Bremen To Be Musicians.” That one is the theme song to the new children’s book he just put out. Because of course he did and of course it is. Really, the majority of the show was made up of new songs; I have all of Berner’s albums, and I still only recognized a handful of tunes – That’s What Keeps The Rent Down Baby, Maginot Line, Mayn Rue Platz, and the closing number, When DD Gets Her Donkey, Everything Will Be Alright. And Daloy Polizei, which translates into “fuck the police.” Berner graciously offered other klezmer bands the opportunity to cover the song and replace some of the lyrics with their own stories of police brutality, “you know, for that local flavour. There’s lots to choose from right now.”

I was a little disappointed that the set was so short. He shut things down after about an hour, which surprised me. He has a ton of songs, and despite the relatively low turnout, the folks who did show up were really into it. That, or it’s just easy to get people to shout along to “STUPID, STUPID” or “FUCK THE POLICE.” Either way, I had a good time.

SLCR #217 – Moist (July 11, 2015)

August 5, 2015

It has now been several weeks since the Moist concert. As of this writing, I am a little better than an hour away from going to see Geoff Berner (or deciding against doing the same), and I don’t want these reviews to pile up, so here we go.

The last time I saw Moist was in 1999. It was in Toronto, and they were the headliners of a day-long free outdoor concert which also included Jeff Healey, Moxy Früvous, Tal Bachman, Kim Stockwood, and others. After spending the whole day outside listening to music, our little group was about done, so when another friend joined us and wanted to go foraging for food, we all left with him. I’m pretty sure I lasted for about two songs of Moist’s set. Couldn’t tell you which songs.

Don’t feel bad, Moist. I didn’t see Emm Gryner’s set either.

Moist was never one of my favourite bands, but they were fine. Via Columbia House, I had their first album, Silver (or “Sliver,” depending on which one of the CD case spines you chose to believe). Mika, on the other hand, liked them a bunch and was really looking forward to seeing them again. The four-year age gap between us isn’t that significant, but I suspect it played a role here. Gender gap too.

The show was at the casino. We are at an age where the bands we liked in high school now play early-ending shows at the casino. Perhaps more significantly, we are at an age where this mostly sounds perfectly fine.

As is the standard with casino shows, it started right on time. There was no opener. The MC was an ad writer for a local radio station – maybe all the on-air talent had somewhere better to be. I actually knew of the writer guy through work; the professional thing to do would probably have been to find him and introduce myself. I did no such thing. You should not be surprised.

Moist took the stage and launched into one of their hits. I probably should have taken notes as to what got played in what order, but that would have required knowing more than their biggest singles. So it goes. A handful of women stood up at the front of the stage, soon joined by others. The crowd was close to an even split, but the most ardent (read: loud) fans were female by a 10:1 ratio. I tells ya, if you ever wanted to meet a bunch of (what’s a polite word for “horny?” Hmm, let’s go with) interested women in their late 30s, go to a Moist show. Any guy who knew the deep cuts from Mercedes 5 and Dime was set.

The crowd at the stage grew throughout the night, and as our view diminished, Mika joined them. I stayed back at the table to guard drinks and purses. Well, “drink and purse,” singular – though my services were available had anyone else cared to take me up on them.

I thought this whole thing was fine. They played well. I knew some of the songs but didn’t know most of them. They sounded like they always did and their newer material (from last year’s Glory Under Dangerous Skies) meshed well with everything else. David Usher wandered out into the crowd and sang while posing for selfies. They closed with Push because of course they did. The night ended early – they played under 90 minutes including the encore. I was fine with that too. Really, this was the very definition of “just a show” for me and not in a negative way at all.

If nothing else, I got to hear one of my OWF themes played live for the first and most likely only time in my life. I am not sure how this sentence makes me feel nor am I super confident regarding its inclusion here. Luckily, anyone who gets it was there too. Besides, if I want to feel dumb, I can point out that though I was disappointed that this show was concurrent with UFC 189 (featuring the Conor McGregor title win), it never once occurred to me that I could simply order the replay when I got home, nor did I think to order and DVR the original broadcast. A colossal lack of imagination resulted in the failure to resolve the simplest problem. Oh well, hopefully it will be on Fight Pass before my subscription expires. And so concludes the most “pad the word count” paragraph I’ve ever written.


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