SLCR #250: Mother Mother (July 1, 2016)

July 18, 2016

TWOOOOOOOOOOOO HUNDRED AND FIFTY! My goodness. To celebrate the occasion, Mika and I celebrated Canada’s birthday with Mother Mother. And my mother! And Mika’s mother! And Mika’s dad and brother, who are no less important, except in the context of this story where they totally are.

To make this review extra special, I have spent the past two+ weeks perfecting it and totally not procrastinating at all. I have not spent this weekend paying too much attention to Mika’s repeats of Grey’s Anatomy when I should have been writing this. Don’t believe what anyone tells you.

But seriously why does Arizona gotta be such a b to Callie

We were in Victoria, British Columbia for Canada Day at about the half-way point of our summer vacation. All in all, it was a delightful trip – lots of driving through gorgeous scenery and onto SEVERAL boats, lots of family time and friend time and a wedding and a podcast taping (not at the same time) (that I know of) and I saw seals up close and whales from a distance and an otter who PEED and you should really be following my Instagram if you’re interested in otter pee action.

We were staying with Mika’s family at a place we were renting in Victoria. Canada Day started when she and I went to pick my mom up at the ferry before catching up with everyone else for breakfast at the Days Inn near the house. I had some deal where they put poached eggs on samosas and topped it with a curry sauce and the whole thing was a bit on the salty side but in an amazing way? I don’t think this dish will ever be common enough to replace chicken fingers as the official food of the SLCR series but maybe it should.

Then we did what people do on Canada Day – walk around with a billion other people in red and white shirts and hats and whatever else. Our group was very conspicuously non-patriotic with only one red shirt in the bunch and I’m pretty sure that one was accidental. But our home base was a block from the legislature buildings where all the festivities were taking place, so we looked at all the vendors (Mika bought a painting), roamed the grounds of the legislature, and took our picture with a Mountie in full dress uniform which is about as Canadian a thing as there is. Satisfied with our Canada Day experience thus far, we returned (via a most circuitous route) to the Days Inn to do some drinking.

Suitably refreshed, we headed back out. There were bands playing for Canada Day – in case you were wondering what the heck the point of this overlong unnecessary blog post was – and we came across the merchandise stand. It was suggested that maybe the Mother Mother “I’m not antisocial, I’m just tired of the people” shirt would be an appropriate purchase for me. What are you trying to say, MOM?

We wandered over to where the bands were playing. Mika left to find a washroom and came back to report she saw someone getting arrested for being too drunk, and when he cops were frisking him, he was giggling “tee hee hee, I’m ticklish!” and this was great and I’m sad that I missed it.

We hung out there for about an hour and saw a local, no-audition choir called The Choir who sings all your favourite pop hits. I was… let’s say, skeptical. But they opened with Birdhouse in Your Soul by They Might Be Giants and that won me over. They sang for about 45 minutes, including Call Me Maybe, With or Without You, Dancing in the Dark, Summer of ’69, and Mass Romantic. There was a David Bowie song and a Taylor Swift song and as is now mandatory in Canada, a Tragically Hip cover – this time, Wheat Kings. Which, I gotta say, is maybe not the fun-time summer jam I would have picked.

As it had at this point been a good 90 minutes since we’d shoved anything into our face holes, we wandered away in search of food. On our way, we watched another drunk get arrested – unfortunately, this one wasn’t amusingly ticklish. We met up with more of Mika’s family at some place I don’t remember the name of, but the burger I had was good, so get that if you go there. Wherever it was.

While there, we were treated to exclusively Canadian music in the background – lots more Hip, but also everything from Anne Murray to Gordon Lightfoot, Rush, Sarah McLachlan, Great Big Sea, and whatever else. This all inspired me to look up what was happening back home in Regina. Victoria got Mother Mother, and Regina’s Canada Day headliners were Doug and the Slugs. Yes. I then had to do research to determine if this was the original lineup, and it was not. Sadly, Doug has passed away. He was replaced with a new singer who is not even named Doug. In fairness, I can see how making it mandatory would limit their options.

HEY there was a kid eating with us and he had chicken fingers I’m pretty sure! I legitimately just realized this now and I am oddly delighted about this thing that I completely forget about nine reviews out of ten these days.

Anyway. With dinner done, we wandered back to the legislature and oh my. I had thought it was busy there before. I did not even know. It was now completely mobbed with people in their finest red and white dollar store novelty Canadian flag t-shirts. We wandered down to the docks to find a place to sit and watch some girl get raised to the top of a boat’s mast so she could take selfies at the top. Mika’s brother and I went in search of mini-donuts, but returned empty handed as I’m quite certain it would have taken an hour to get through the mini-donut line and nobody needs mini-donuts that badly. Though a lot of people seemed to think they do.

While we were on this mission, George Leach was playing. He played a fine set of rock that I really have nothing to say about. There were a million people all over and we never even saw the stage and we were searching for mini-donuts and trying to stop my mom from kidnapping someone’s dog and trying to stop Mika’s mom from kidnapping someone’s baby. It was busy work and we didn’t really pay the music much attention. I mean, I listened enough to think “this is good” but nothing beyond that.

In between sets, there were some nattering DJs from a local radio station. The lady was in a band called Carmanah and she sang a few songs and she was fine.

When it was time for Mother Mother to start, Mika and I wandered away from the docks and off toward the stage. This was maybe not the most effective thing we have ever done. I mean, we got closer, close enough to even see the stage, though it was still pretty hard to discern the actual humans who were performing. We could have gotten closer if we really wanted to swing some elbows, but staying further back seemed preferable. We were on the street, with me in a prime spot to watch people nearly turf it as they didn’t realize they were stepping off a curb. This happened 50 times and was never not funny.

I am not the biggest Mother Mother fan in the world – I don’t dislike them either, they’re just one of those bands that are good but who I don’t think about a lot. I saw them once before at the Regina Folk Festival and liked it, and this set was really fun too – lots of energy and a really enthusiastic crowd. And at least where we were, an oddly well-behaved crowd given what I’m sure they’d all been consuming. Anyway, we got the handful of Mother Mother songs I know – Monkey Tree, Let’s Fall in Love, and later on, Get Out the Way. No Hip song (though I thought one was coming at one point), but we did get Nirvana’s In Bloom for some reason.

It wasn’t a super long set – about 45 minutes or so as per the schedule. This was fine by me – they didn’t overstay their welcome and had to wrap things up in time for fireworks. They were nice – maybe a little better than what we get for Canada Day at home, but not much. The fireworks were out over the water and our folks probably had a better view than we did, but I am certain we got to smell way more pot stink, so that’s a thing. There wasn’t much when the bands were playing, but my goodness, the fireworks brought it out.

We had agreed that the house would be our rendezvous point after everything was over. This turned out to be wise, as there was no way we could have swam upstream to meet up with our people. Instead, we joined the hordes leaving the grounds, listening to throngs of drunks singing O Canada. One recurring theme of the day that I’ve yet to mention is that they recently changed the lyrics from “in all thy sons command” to “in all of us command” and nobody seemed sure whether this is actually an official thing yet, so the crowd-approved technique is just to quietly mumble your way through that line and hope everyone else carries it. Unfortunately, everyone else singing has the same idea, so it’s a lot of O Canada / our home and native land / true patriot love / in allllaaaahhmmmmuhhhh command – which at least has the benefit of not needing to be translated into French.

We got back to the house and everyone else met us there. We hung out for a while and got into the chips while the crowd dispersed. I have been stuck in traffic for hours leaving Canada Day celebrations in Saskatoon, so I was really impressed with how quickly they cleared everything out. We drove my mom to her hotel after a short while, and you’d never know there’d been a big party just an hour or so before. Except for getting spot-checked three times over the course of the drive. That was a clue.

UPCOMING CONCERTS
• Gateway Festival w/Sloan, Corb Lund, Limblifter, Shotgun Jimmie, Bry Webb, more (July 22)
• The Tragically Hip (August 1)
• Regina Folk Festival w/The Head and The Heart, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Sam Roberts Band, The Mavericks, Bettye LaVette, The Cat Empire, The Strumbellas, Frazey Ford, more (August 5-7)
• “Weird Al” Yankovic (August 14)
• Billy Bob Thornton & The Boxmasters (September 6)
• Dolly Parton (September 13)
• Prozzäk (September 22)
• Hayden (September 29)
• Fred Eaglesmith (October 1)
• Basia Bulat (October 5)
• I Mother Earth (October 8)

SLCR #249: Northcote (June 22, 2016)

June 25, 2016

I was supposed to go see The Besnard Lakes yesterday. About a week ago, I was going through all of my tickets for upcoming shows, of which I have many. As I have previously mentioned, they’re always in the cheese drawer in the fridge, and the drawer was getting cluttered with no room for cheese. I got everything sorted out, but couldn’t find my Besnard Lakes tickets. Thought maybe I forgot to print them off. Checked my Ticketfly account, but no – no tickets there. I just entirely forgot to buy them. It’s not like I couldn’t have done so right then – it was another show where I’m betting attendance was soft, judging from the tweets and Facebook posts I saw – but this week was a busy one and we leave on vacation right away. Just decided against going.

I was also supposed to see BA Johnston tonight – I should be there right now, in fact. He was my favourite new musical discovery last year and I was busy the last time he came through town, but… I don’t know. I just don’t feel like standing around a bar by myself tonight, I guess. Feeling kind of self-conscious and awkward about being the weird old guy alone in the corner. I’m sure nobody would actually care but it still bugs me sometimes, especially when it’s in a place I’m not familiar with. Hopefully I can see him next time.

But among cancellations of all sorts, we did get out to see Northcote this week. You may recall that I saw him/them (like City and Colour, it’s a deal where it’s a band but it is primarily one guy, in this case a guy named Matt Goud) (no, Jeff, I did not throw a shue at him) (maybe I need to start this paragraph over)

But among cancellations of all sorts, we did get out to see Northcote this week. You may recall that I saw him earlier this year in Calgary, opening for Frank Turner. He seemed like a delightful fella, positive and energetic. I listened to some of his records when I got home and they were fun enough, but lacked a bit of that spark that a live show has, so I was looking forward to this.

With doors at 8:00, we expected the show to start at 9:00. We got there a few minutes before 9:00, just in time to catch the last few notes from some guy on stage. We would later learn this was Josiah. I will assume he was fantastic – as I do every time I miss an opening act – but we did get a chance to see him later on.

Between sets, we stumbled through the dark to the stack of chairs against the wall, took two, and made ourselves a place to sit. I then stumbled back to the bar for a Diet Pepsi for me and a raspberry iced tea for Mika. They had peach iced too and it sounded better than Diet Pepsi and I should have had it instead. It was a hard-partying Wednesday night is what I’m getting at here.

We were supposed to see Jordan Klassen earlier this year at a Library Voices show that we ultimately didn’t go to, and I’m always glad to catch an artist that I missed, of which there might be many if this skipping shows trend keeps up. Klassen was accompanied by Todd; Todd’s name was invoked repeatedly but no last name was ever given. I don’t know what Todd actually did – I’m assuming guitar, but there was a support beam directly between me and him so I only ever saw him walk onto and off of the stage. Anyway, Klassen played some singer-songwritery stuff. Mika recognized at least one song from CBC Radio 3. This was all very pleasant if not super memorable.

As mentioned, Matt Goud is energetic. Two songs into his set and he had jumped into the crowd with the mic stand – not just the mic, but the whole stand – to get people to sing along. It wasn’t long before he was dripping with sweat. I’m not super familiar with his stuff but I recognized some songs from last year’s Hope is Made of Steel, including the title track and You Could Never Let Me Down.

In what is becoming a trend among Canadian musicians of a certain age, they played a Tragically Hip cover – in this case, Springtime in Vienna. That’s now four acts I’ve heard doing Hip songs since Gord Downie’s diagnosis (City and Colour played Bobcaygeon when I saw them, and Feist covered Flamenco and Hey Rosetta! did Ahead by a Century). The varied selections are a testament to the quality of the Hip’s output over the decades. It’s not just everyone doing their own versions of New Orleans is Sinking or something.

Northcote immediately followed the Hip cover with a version of the Weakerthans’ Left and Leaving. It was real nice, but… John K. Samson is doing okay, right? Health-wise? This is just a song Matt Goud likes, right?

Apart from sharing songs he likes, Goud also seems gracious about sharing the stage. When I saw him in Calgary, he brought Mo Kenney back out to do a song or two with him, and at this show, he brought both Jordan Klassen (and Todd!) and Josiah back out to do an extra song during his set. He was also wearing a Josiah t-shirt. In both cases, he let the guests take centre stage and gave them a little extra time in the spotlight. I can confirm that Josiah probably would have been good to see earlier; also, I have no idea how he crossed the border into Canada without being accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Anyway, I have to get to bed so I can get up and drive forever, and I don’t have much more to say anyway. Northcote is real fun and you should go see him. Get the peach iced tea. Don’t skip concerts, especially for dumb reasons. I’d say you should put that all on my tombstone when I die but I don’t want a tombstone, so, I don’t know, skywrite it or something.
UPCOMING CONCERTS
• Gateway Festival w/Sloan, Corb Lund, Limblifter, Shotgun Jimmie, Bry Webb, more (July 22)
• The Tragically Hip (August 1)
• Regina Folk Festival w/The Head and The Heart, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Sam Roberts Band, The Mavericks, Bettye LaVette, The Cat Empire, The Strumbellas, Frazey Ford, more (August 5-7)
• “Weird Al” Yankovic (August 14)
• Billy Bob Thornton & The Boxmasters (September 6)
• Dolly Parton (September 13)
• Prozzäk (September 22)
• Hayden (September 29)
• Fred Eaglesmith (October 1)
• Basia Bulat (October 5)
• I Mother Earth (October 8)

SLCR #248: City and Colour (June 12, 2016)

June 16, 2016

We were supposed to go see Meat Loaf at Mosaic Place in Moose Jaw on Saturday night. I had clearly underestimated the demand for Meat Loaf in 2016 – the show sold out in about 10 minutes. That’s approximately 5,000 tickets. It was easier to get tickets for the Tragically Hip’s summer (farewell?) tour – at least you can buy those from scalpers if you really want to. But if you missed out on those first ten minutes of Meat Loaf ticket sales, you were out of luck. Lucky for me that Josy, possibly the biggest Meat Loaf fan there is, was on the ball. But it turned out that my stepmom really wanted to go too and all of the usual sources were dry. StubHub had nothing. Tickets posted to Kijiji sold in minutes. Remembering the George Thorogood show, I checked the Mosaic Place website daily in hopes that some last minute tickets would be released. And they were! Finally, success! I grabbed her two tickets and was very pleased with myself.

Josy and his people drove from Saskatoon to Regina, picked me up, and we hit the road for another 40 minutes to Moose Jaw. We parked the car and it occurred to me that there seemed to be a lot of people walking away from the arena. Sure enough, there were “ushers” stationed all around to let people know that the show had been postponed and would be rescheduled soon.

We picked up our tickets from Will Call anyway, then wandered back out and chatted with one of the ushers. He told us that the show was called off ten minutes before doors were set to open and that Meat Loaf had been taken from the arena on a stretcher. Later on, a Twitter search showed someone claiming that Meat Loaf had been transported to Regina and was hospitalized there. I have no idea if any of this is true. One rumour said he suffered a heart attack and was in intensive care. Another said that it was nothing serious, he was resting in a hotel and would resume the tour as soon as he’s feeling up to it.

As I’m writing this (five days after Meat Loaf and four after City and Colour), there’s been no real update on Meat’s health, but I guess he’s doing okay. The Calgary show on Monday night was also postponed, but he’s supposed to play Edmonton tonight, and thus far, it looks like that show is going ahead. As for our show, I just got an email announcing that it has been rescheduled for Saturday, July 2. Good for Meat, but not great for me – we’re away and I won’t be able to go.

Having said that, I was looking up reviews of earlier Meat Loaf shows on this tour, and hoo-boy, “unkind” is putting it mildly. Lots of “worst concert I’ve ever seen,” “time to hang it up,” “we walked out after three songs,” and disturbingly, a number of comments about how Meat looked like he was in pain, couldn’t walk, seemed ready to collapse. So maybe I dodged a bullet here. Whatever, I hope he puts on a great show for Josy and that the complainers on the internet don’t reflect the views of the majority. And now I’m going to rush through the actual concert review that I’m supposed to be working on because I’ve rewritten this section nearly daily as new info has come out and I really have no need for a Meat Loaf-themed text file that only I get to see.

So. City and Colour. Yep. I don’t really know anything about him, apart from his name (Dallas Green) and that he’s also the lead singer of Alexisonfire. You may note that “Dallas” and “green” are a city and a colour, respectively. I am ashamed at how long I’ve known about City and Colour without putting that together. I had to be told.

We were supposed to see him some years back at the Regina Folk Festival, but he got rained out. I wasn’t all that disappointed – Buck 65 was the big draw for me that evening, and Buck wrapped up right before they called it a night – but I still feel good whenever I get caught up on a missed show like this. Later this summer, Sam Roberts – the other headliner who got rained out of a Folk Festival we attended – will be playing there again. If all goes well, that’s two names checked off the missed list. What if they become my new favourite singers, and I almost missed out on seeing them?

I mean, I know the odds aren’t great. There can only be one favourite at a time. And I bought Mika two City and Colour CDs at the CJTR sale last year and haven’t actually managed to listen to them yet, which doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with them, but my motivation isn’t there. She was excited to go to this, and I will go to pretty much anything; that’s how I looked at this evening.

We left the house fairly early, as a few days ago, I got an email saying that there wasn’t going to be any on-site parking at the arena because they were already set up for the Farm Progress Show. Welcome to Saskatchewan. The email suggested parking downtown and walking. This seemed like a decent idea until we actually got downtown and realized just how far the arena still was. We ultimately parked at the field house – still a bit of a hike, but not that bad. We were much closer to the arena than we were to our proposed downtown parking space. This was all well and good until we had to climb over a fallen chain link fence while ducking under barbed wire to get onto the grounds. “And we only looked somewhat old in doing so,” Mika said.

Yeah, this was very much a show where I was the creepy old guy in the corner. I’m pretty sure the average age of the attendees was about half of my own. I wasn’t expecting anything else, but I definitely felt it strongly – I got too used to casino and Folk Festival shows.

Anyway, once inside, we walked a loop around the arena, past the one merch table that had probably a couple hundred people in line. I got the merch that counted – an excessively salty soft pretzel and a Coke Zero with ice crystals in it. The day was officially a success.

We hiked up to our seats in the bottom row of the upper level. Not too bad. A good view of the stage, decent leg room, minimal people walking past us, and a place to rest our drinks.

Shakey Graves was the opener, and okay, you know how everyone who comes to Regina for the first time has to joke about it rhyming with vagina? Well, I have never seen someone take such delight in doing so. In general, the locals seem to be tiring of it – the other week, Werewolves Beware heard crickets after busting out the tired old “city that rhymes with fun” line – but Shakey Graves was so pleased with this situation that we all just let him get away with it.

It helped that he was really fun. He did the first few songs by himself and then brought out a band. The sound wasn’t ideal – I found the vocals really hard to make out, and it didn’t help that I was completely unfamiliar with him – but there was great energy and he was very entertaining. The crowd really seemed to enjoy him and I think he’d be sensational in a smaller venue.

Before the show and during the intermission, I was texting with Feely, who referenced the City and Colour song Save Your Scissors. Sure, he did it in a way intended to make me feel super old, but he reminded me that the song existed and, therefore, I actually did know one City and Colour song. Needless to say, he didn’t play it. “He” bring City and Colour, and not Feely.

He did play a few things where I thought “hey, I think I’ve heard this before.” And they were fine. This was all fine, I guess. I don’t know. Mika said she liked it. That’s good. I thought it was all kind of dull, but a pleasant dull. It went by quickly and never dragged, and I never thought he or his band were bad in any way, but it was never really that interesting to me.

It’s weird. “Dull” is usually much more my speed than hers.

For the first song of the encore, they played Bobcaygeon as a tribute to ailing Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie, which was really nice, but even that lacked something. The sentiment was there and appreciated, but given the circumstances, it felt to me like there should have been more emotion to it. I don’t know. Needed more oomph.

Which is kind of how I felt about the whole thing, really. Needed more oomph. Though it seemed I was in the minority. It looked to me like everyone else enjoyed themselves. I was clearly not the target audience for City and Colour and he just wasn’t my thing. At least Shakey Graves was a delightful discovery.

UPCOMING CONCERTS
• Northcote w/Jordan Klassen and Josiah (June 22)
• BA Johnston w/Partner (June 24)
• Gateway Festival w/Sloan, Corb Lund, Limblifter, Shotgun Jimmie, Bry Webb, more (July 22)
• The Tragically Hip (August 1)
• Regina Folk Festival w/The Head and The Heart, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Sam Roberts Band, The Mavericks, Bettye LaVette, The Cat Empire, The Strumbellas, Frazey Ford, more (August 5-7)
• “Weird Al” Yankovic (August 14)
• Billy Bob Thornton & The Boxmasters (September 6)
• Dolly Parton (September 13)
• Prozzäk (September 22)
• Hayden (September 29)
• Fred Eaglesmith (October 1)
• Basia Bulat (October 5)
• I Mother Earth (October 8)

SLCR #247: The Pack a.d. (May 28, 2016)

June 2, 2016

One day after the Age of Electric, a little sleepy and still half-deaf, Mika and I headed back to the Exchange for the Pack a.d.

Then we headed away from the Exchange and drove around for an hour. Tickets said doors at 8:00, but Twitter and Facebook said doors at 7:00, and presumably those were accurate since they added two openers and you can’t update a ticket once it’s been printed, but you can update a social media post whenever, right? So yeah, doors at 8:00. I will never understand why something so simple is wrong so often, but people probably say that about me, so whatever. The drive was nice.

We returned to a street as devoid of parked cars as when we left. I had noticed a lot of plugs for this show on Facebook and Twitter, and had guessed that tickets were moving slowly. At its peak, I don’t think there were half as many people there as at the sold-out Age of Electric show the night before. There were maybe 30 people there in time for the start of the opening act.

Those that didn’t show up early missed out on the Ultimate Power Duo. They hail from Saskatoon and I am very glad that someone asked the question I needed answered: “Why are there three of you?” “Because we’re the ULTIMATE Power Duo,” was the reply, which somehow made no sense and complete sense at the same time. According to them, they play “destruction rock,” which is very loud and sometimes involves just picking up the bass guitar and punching it to make noise. Their newest album is the soundtrack to their graphic novel about fighting evil robot space Nazis. There’s an hour-long video you can watch if you want this experience for yourself – I just found out about this but hope to check it out soon. Anyway, these guys had tons of energy, lots of charisma, and were entertaining as all get out. Would go see again.

The second band was Werewolves Beware, or WEREWOLVES BEWARE, or Werewolves, Beware! depending on what source you choose when you google their name. I’m going with Werewolves Beware so as to not muck up my pretty sentences, though that comma really changes things. Is “werewolves, beware” a warning TO werewolves or ABOUT werewolves? And these folks DID howl when they took the stage, so maybe they were warning us about themselves? Very considerate, though we were a week removed from a full moon so we were probably safe.

Anyway, this is a duo from Calgary (I think?). He plays guitar, she plays synths. And they howl, as mentioned. There’s some singing too, but most of the songs were largely instrumental. If you like synth-heavy dancy pop, this might be your thing. It wasn’t so much mine.

Finally, The Pack a.d. took the stage; specifically, a stage festooned with Dollarama party decorations. I am not sure that the budget surpassed five dollars. Thankfully, one of their choices was a sign reading THE PARTY IS HERE which was handy for assuring us that we were in the right place.

I went into this show not knowing a ton about them. I feel like I got one of their CDs for free from Mint Records some years back (Funeral Mixtape, maybe?), but if so, I can’t find it. And if I did, I honestly don’t know if I ever listened to it. Not for any good reason; I just sometimes don’t get around to things. And then I get around to things and wonder what took me so long. Really, I don’t need to buy another CD, book, or video game for years. I’ve got a backlog that will surely outlive me.

But enough about my failings. I listened to the newest Pack a.d. album and enjoyed it, then we went to the show and I dug that too. Mika suggested that it was more of a her-show than a me-show, and that’s probably fair. She does tend to like rockier stuff than I do, and the combination of my relative unfamiliarity with the source material and the somewhat muddy sound meant I couldn’t really hear the lyrics well, resulting in it all sounding kind of samey after a while. But a good samey. Loud and driving and fun. Not sure I have a ton to say about them, or this evening as a whole, but so it goes.

Actually, there’s one thing – and I noticed this at Age of Electric too so it was unrelated to the bands – the Exchange seems to have bought themselves a new lighting rig. And they seem very proud of it. And that’s great! I like lights. Lights are pretty. But goddamn if you could quit shining them directly into my eyes every 17 seconds, that would be swell. Though I didn’t have it as bad as the security guard positioned at the corner of the stage. Where he was sitting, he took a blast right in the eyes from about a foot away, over and over and over. He looked like this was possibly not what he thought life would be like. I tried to get a picture of this but failed miserably and it is a regret I will carry to my grave.

UPCOMING CONCERTS
• Meat Loaf (June 11)
• City and Colour w/Shakey Graves (June 12)
• Northcote w/Jordan Klassen and Josiah (June 22)
• The Besnard Lakes w/ Traces and Slow Down Molasses (June 23)
• BA Johnston (June 24)
• The Tragically Hip (August 1)
• Regina Folk Festival w/The Head and The Heart; Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder; Sam Roberts Band; The Mavericks; Bettye LaVette; The Cat Empire; The Strumbellas; Frazey Ford; more (August 5-7)
• “Weird Al” Yankovic (August 14)
• Dolly Parton (September 13)
• Fred Eaglesmith (October 1)
• I Mother Earth (October 8)

SLCR #246: The Age of Electric (May 27, 2016)

May 30, 2016

Last week, I learned that the Age of Electric will be coming to the Saskatoon Event Centre on July 28. According to the poster, this will be their first show in Saskatchewan in 18 years.

This seems unlikely.

Unless maybe impostors played in Regina on Friday? On one hand, I can think of better people to impersonate. But then this show sold out in a hurry, so maybe I actually can’t. If you want to move tickets, you can do worse than the triumphant return of semi-hometown heroes after nearly two decades.

I didn’t see that last Saskatchewan show 18 years ago, but I did see Age of Electric once before. It was September 4, 1997 – or, to use me-specific dating, SLCR #21. I have mentioned before that I am glad that I’ve been writing these reviews because they contain all kinds of memories even after my own flawed human meat brain lets them go. Almost 19 years later, it’s a show I barely remember and Zuckerbaby was the opener AND I only paid $8 for my ticket with my student ID, so surely Mika is reading this and cursing the fact that I went to this show and didn’t even appreciate it like she would have. At least I had a good time, or so the review says. I’d share it with you, but it is really not my finest work. Even by my usual “doesn’t actually review concerts” and “doesn’t know anything about music” standards. If I ever get around to compiling these things into a book, that one might need to be accidentally left out.

On the way to the show, I got Mika to walk me through the history of the Age of Electric and at least some of the members’ other bands. It gets complicated and I never really understood it. A graphic might have helped. Basically, AoE (look at me using the shorthand like a cool guy) are comprised of the Dahle brothers from Regina and the Kearns brothers from Lanigan. Kurt Dahle was the drummer for New Pornographers and Ryan Dahle is in Mounties. Together, they were both in Limblifter. Todd and John Kearns were also in Static in Stereo. This is not everything, but it might be enough to get by. Or it might be very wrong.

Also, the Kearns brothers look like rock n’ roll degenerates. The Dahle brothers look like they should be building a soapbox derby racer or something. Maybe launching model rockets in the park? It’s not hard to pick out who’s related, is my point.

We got to the Exchange about a half-hour after the doors opened and the place was already packed. We got some ciders and found ourselves a decent place to stand. That review from 1997 is full of drunken shenanigans (not mine, but still). This one has us nursing one drink each while playing iPhone Yahtzee with each other to kill time before the show. This is what getting old is. It’s iPhone Yahtzee. And complaining about the heat in the place. Even in rain-inappropriate shorts, I was sweltering.

The openers were a local band, Almost Alien (not, to Mika’s chagrin, Hep Alien). They made me feel like I was in even more of a time warp, as they were the kind of band you’d have seen opening at Louis’ back in the day. And of all the venues I regularly go to, the Exchange does come the closest to simulating the Louis’ dank. It’s not a perfect replica – you can’t get anything deep fried, the layout of the Exchange generally makes sense, and I’m not convinced that anyone in Almost Alien was alive as of the last time I saw Age of Electric, but whatever. You get my point. These guys had an enjoyable 90s pop-punk sound that fit the evening. Having said that, it was interesting to me that what I liked was pretty different from back when I was (counts on fingers) 21. They had one song about bad roommates which had the lyrics (and I’m paraphrasing here) “fuck those fucking assholes / fuck those fucking fucks” and at 21, I’d have thought that was hilarious and rushed to buy their new EP (oh yeah, this was the launch party for their new EP). At 39, I rolled my eyes at that bit and mostly didn’t listen to the rest of the lyrics, paying much more attention to the music.

This is the part where I’d say it was a “brief intermission” but it wasn’t that brief and we were dying of heatstroke. Eventually Mika bought us bottled waters and they were delightful.

The Age of Electric eventually took the stage to a heroes’ welcome. This was loud and great – the band hadn’t lost a step and the crowd was into everything – even the new stuff. They played at least three new songs – Elephant in the Room, Kids Break Bones, and Kings (or “Keys,” maybe?). Of these, I thought Kids Break Bones was the best; however, I strongly encourage you to not Google it in hopes of finding a recording. There might be one out there. That is not what I found.

As for everything else, Mika said “they played ALL the singles.” I will take her word for it. I was as unprepared for this show as I was for that one in 1997. I knew Ugly once it got to the chorus. And of course I knew Remote Control (and of course it was the last song of the night), but as Todd Kearns said, “If you don’t know this song, why the fuck are you here?”

There were some funny moments over the course of the night. At one point, a girl up in the front row demanded to tell her Age of Electric story. This went on for a while. Todd eventually gave her the mic. This did not speed things up any. I do not really know what her story was – I think she was at a 7-Eleven in Lloydminster and the band stopped there? Looking around the crowd, all you could see is people asking each other what was happening. I think someone was actually doing the Steve Austin “WHAT?” at one point.

But the best comedy of the night came when Todd led a singalong. Not of one of their songs (or is it?!), but Experience Regina, a video from the “Tourism Board of Saskatchewan” (possibly not a thing?). Jeff and I had been joking about the video earlier in the week, so when Todd sang this – completely out of nowhere – I about died. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Mika has spent most of the time since the show with this song in her head. Just the subject line of this review will be enough to set it off again.

The most amazing part of this was walking back to the car, I mentioned the video and she said “…there’s a video?”

I am talking too much about fake tourism videos and not this show. This show was great, even for those of us who had 19 years to prepare and completely failed to do so. The band tore it up and I’ll gladly go see them again when I’m 57.

SLCR #245: Hawksley Workman & the Art of Time Ensemble (May 13, 2016)

May 27, 2016

This was a pleasant surprise. There was no big announcement for this show – at least not one that I saw. Instead, I heard about it on Twitter – really, just offhandedly retweeted – a unique one-off concert with a favourite singer joining forces with the Art of Time Ensemble to perform an evening of covers of one of their biggest inspirations. I didn’t seriously think I could go – I mean, I’d have to hop on a plane for it – but I checked the ticket availability just to satisfy my own curiosity and dang if there wasn’t one seat still available in the very front row. It was a sign from a god that I don’t believe in except for when I need justification for doing something extravagant.

So yeah, I got on a plane and spent a week in Toronto, which should not surprise you if you read the other reviews I’ve been posting this week. And if you didn’t, you’re probably not reading this one either, so I don’t know why I’m addressing you. At any rate, after a week of touristy stuff and hanging out and the Hydraulic Press Channel and record shopping and food, it was time for the show that set this whole week in motion.

Steve and I took the subway and then the other subway and then failed to take a streetcar to the show. We waited in line at the stop for about 20 minutes while the sign told us that the next streetcar was 7 minutes away, then 6, then 5, then 7 again, then 5, then 12 somehow? Steve checked the transit tracking app thing and it looked like there was something stopping up all the streetcars – presumably an accident. Hopefully nothing serious. By this point, there was a pretty significant number of people waiting for the streetcar, so we abandoned our transit plans and set out on foot.

The good news is that this took us past the beaver tail stand. The bad news is that I was still so full from supper that I just couldn’t do it. Steve seemed a little disappointed. I was disappointed in myself. It would be closed by the time the show was over, and we would not be able to return. Godspeed, fried dough.

The Harbourfront Centre is a lovely place and I arrived feeling underdressed for the occasion, despite wearing one of my very limited number of shirts with “buttons” and a “collar.” Could have at least tucked it in, I guess, but if I’m going to bother with that, it’s only out of fear of fire, and I figured that my scare from the night before would keep me alert. And I didn’t catch fire even once so this worked out swimmingly.

Steve got us tasty sodas and we hung out in the lobby until it was time to go our separate ways. I got my front row seat on the day tickets went on sale, but having procrastinated when it came to getting Steve’s ticket, he wound up with an “obstructed view” seat in the balcony. At least it was cheap. And also, they don’t know what “obstructed” means, as he was at a bit of a weird angle – basically viewing the stage from the side – but could see quite well. And while I was closer to the stage, I was far right and Hawksley was far left, so I spent most of the show looking off to the side. No matter. I persevered.

It was clearly a special night for Hawksley. I believe his wife was in attendance (more on that later) and he mentioned that his brother was there too. I’ve heard him say before that Cockburn was a major inspiration in his decision to become a musician. He talked about how that all started for him, talked about meeting him, reading his memoir, and recently interviewing him for the Globe and Mail. Hawksley always tends to go off on delightful tangents and this night was no exception. The tangents just had a theme.

I am familiar with Bruce Cockburn singles, and not so much the back catalogue. There wound up being four songs I knew: Call it Democracy, If a Tree Falls, If I Had a Rocket Launcher, and Waiting for a Miracle. There are a few obvious exclusions there (Wondering Where the Lions Are, Tokyo, Lovers in a Dangerous Time) but this was meant to be a night of protest songs and not so much a greatest hits collection. The rest of the songs – I know this because they listed them in the program – were Beautiful Creatures, Burn, Gavin’s Woodpile, Going Down Slow, Red Brother Red Sister, Rose Above the Sky, Stolen Land, and The Trouble with Normal.

Of all of them, the only one I’d heard Hawksley sing before was Call It Democracy, which he played on the Strombo Show last year. You can see the video here  – this is all you get, sorry. The Art of Time shows have a “no photography” rule and while I don’t know how seriously they take it, sitting front row left me too exposed to take chances. Though it would be hilarious to fly three hours to go to a show and get thrown out for an illicit 15-second smartphone video clip. I took a picture of what the stage looked like before everyone came out and that’s it.

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That video doesn’t give you the full experience, though. The Art of Time Ensemble consisted of six musicians, including Artistic Director Andrew Burashko on piano – he was there in Calgary for the Sgt. Pepper show a few months back. I can’t speak to the songs I was hearing for the first time, but the singles, at least, had been creatively arranged. Of the four, I only picked up on If A Tree Falls from the very first notes; for the rest, I needed to get to the lyrics. The musicians were incredibly talented and it was a really interesting way to hear (or discover) these songs. Great stuff and I really hope they recorded the show. I have some other Art of Time CDs with folks like Steven Page and Sarah Slean and would love to add this one to the collection.

There were a few extra tunes as well. There were two sets with an intermission, and at the start of each, the Art of Time performed an instrumental piece based off an old chain gang song. And Hawksley is not known for protest songs, but for the encore, they played his take on the genre with We’re Not Broken Yet, his own song from last year’s Old Cheetah album.

We stuck around after the show so that I could chat with Hawksley for a bit. Waiting, I picked up a vinyl copy of For Him And The Girls, Hawksley’s first album and my leading contender for all-time favourite album. I already have it on vinyl; this was for Steve and Audrey. I gave them strict instructions that they had to listen to it twice because once doesn’t work. It won’t click for you the first time. It takes two times. This was true for me and that, of course, means it is true for everyone.

Of course, if they like it straight away, they can stop listening to it after the first time.

Hawksley came out after a little while and wound up entering near where we were standing. I’ve talked to him after shows a few times, though I usually don’t bother because what could I say that anyone would care about? But the guy and his music means a lot to me after so long, and it’s good to say that sometimes, you know? I mean, and I said this much to him, what Cockburn was to him, he is to me. I don’t fly across the country for shows by just anyone. I mentioned coming in from Regina for this and Hawksley gave me a big hug.

Then I brought up titty-fucking cakes.

Did I explain this after the last Hawksley show? I can’t remember and I can’t be bothered to go look right now. Here’s the thing. On his newest album, Hawksley has a song (I Just So Happen to Believe) with the line “you’ll gorge upon the starters, you’ll titty-fuck the cake” and I was not expecting that on first listen! Then I started wondering how this would work. I mean, you need two cakes for this, right? Can’t do it with one cake. Then I pestered Hawksley (and Deserée) about this on Twitter for the better part of a day. Strangers got involved. Steve Bays of Hot Hot Heat and Mounties was liking tweets. I discovered that I was devoutly committed to opinions that I had never considered. I don’t want to hear about novelty cake pans. We’re talking about normal cakes here. Several people suggested you could titty-fuck the layers of a layer cake. No. You cannot. Then you’re just fucking a cake. There are STANDARDS.

note to self: bookmark this review for the next time I apply for a job that requires a writing sample

Anyway, I mentioned how much I enjoyed our time discussing titty-fucking cake logistics and he doubled over laughing. That day made an impression on both of us, it seems. I was greatly amused. He called a lady over.

Hawksley: “This guy came in from Regina for this, and one time, he had a tweet about titty-f-”

the aforementioned lady: “Titty-fucking cakes!”

SO greatly amused.

I am assuming this was Hawksley’s wife, because really, who else do you talk about titty-fucking cake tweets with? At any rate, we chatted for a bit and she was a delight.

Steve and I left shortly thereafter – I didn’t want to take up a ton of their time and I said all I wanted to (and probably more than I should have – the next time I go to a Hawksley show, I expect to see my picture at the door on a sign reading “DO NOT LET THIS MAN IN (RE: CAKE)”). I think I told that joke in the last Hawksley review too, and also, that punctuation got real wonky. I think it is time I hit “save” and go to bed.

SLCR #244: Danny Michel (May 12, 2016)

May 24, 2016

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“Shit is crazy, isn’t it? Shit’s bonkers.”

I don’t usually take notes while a show is going on. That mostly happens either between sets or, more often, after I get home. But I made a point of writing down that quote from Danny Michel, and I’m glad I did. It was in reference to the current political situation in the US, and it sums that whole thing up nicely, but it was also fitting for a night where Danny Michel saved me from catching fire.

I always seem to have some weird or awkward moment at a Danny Michel show. More than my own innate awkwardness would suggest, I mean. I have never before, however, come close to catching fire in front of him.

But that was after the show. Before the show, Steve and I went from subway to streetcar to the Lula Lounge, a venue that was new for both of us. Now, when I travel, I usually go through my wallet before I leave and ditch everything I won’t need on vacation – things like my city bus pass and library card. Well, somehow, I thought “I won’t be driving, I won’t need my driver’s licence” and left it at home too. Luckily, I brought my passport to use as ID at the airport, and even more luckily, I thought to keep my passport with me in case we went to one of those venues that cards everyone. And I did need to present photo ID at the Lula Lounge, since there were no tickets – just my name on a list. The guy working at the door loved this and took the opportunity to ask if I was importing any fruits or vegetables into the venue.

The coda to this whole stupid story is that my driver’s licence was in my wallet all along – I’d been looking at the empty space where my bus pass normally goes, not my licence.

Luckily, this whole situation distracted the bouncer from my footwear – Lula Lounge has a dress code of no ball caps and no running shoes. I’m glad he didn’t enforce the shoe situation, as all of my other shoes were in Saskatchewan. We’d have been in enough trouble if they’d been back at Steve’s place at the other end of Toronto.

We walked into the place and I immediately spotted Ed Robertson of Barenaked Ladies. I half expected Danny to have some surprise guests at this show – he does a semi-regular series of shows in Toronto called School Night Mondays where there’s always a special guest and the shows end at a reasonable hour – but no, Ed was just there to enjoy himself. I think this might be the first time I’ve ever spotted a celebrity in the wild. We saw him again two days later going into the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, so clearly I know all the best places to go in Toronto and rock stars look to me for recommendations.

For all the times I’ve seen Danny, I’m pretty sure this was the first time he had a band with him. It’s always been just him and a guitar and maybe some sampler pedals. There was no opener – instead, he and his band basically opened for themselves, playing a short set, taking a cake break, and then coming back out for more.

Cake! This show was the record release party for Michel’s new album, Matadora, and a rep from Six Shooter Records showed up with a giant cake with the album cover on it. Danny got a taste of the icing, and his guitar neck did too (he was still finding icing on the guitar the next day, judging from his Instagram). Steve figured that if you got the slice where Danny poked the icing, that meant good luck, like if you got the wax-paper wrapped quarter in the birthday cake. We got cake between the two sets, and though we didn’t get the lucky piece, it was very tasty cake. On Instagram, Danny later said that he didn’t actually get a slice, which was too bad for him, but he and the band did get a round of shooters in the middle of the show. I’d say that’s just as good, but he said it tasted like gasoline and later blamed it when he let a cuss word or two slip out, so yeah, that’s probably a step down from tasty cake.

Of all the Michel shows I’ve seen, I think this was the best one – the band had lots of energy and seemed to be having a really good time. They played lots from Matadora, of course, but there were songs from throughout Danny’s career. He opened with Wish Willy (didn’t tell the delightful story from last time) and White Lightning before getting into the new tunes. After the show, I tried to get a picture of Danny’s red guitar, the one painted with “this machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.” The picture didn’t turn out that well, but since I was there anyway, I snagged Danny’s setlist. As such, I have a list of what was played, but even so, it still takes some translation to deduce that “RUBY” means he played Rubicon, or that “TENNIS” is Tennessee Tobacco, things like that. They also started into Suspicious Minds after making an Elvis reference, but Danny called a stop to it pretty quickly, to the seeming disappointment of his bandmates.

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After the show, I went to buy a vinyl copy of the new album, which seemed like the thing to do at an album release party. Amid the cluster of people near the door, I wound up standing next to Ed from BNL, so I chatted with him for a few seconds. Dude was very friendly.

I got close to the front of the line and saw that there was a sign next to the stack of stuff that suggested that the records and money had been unmanned for the evening and that we were on the honour system. That kind of faith in humanity made me smile. And also if you want some Danny Michel CDs, email me, I have a few dozen to get rid of.

Finally, I made it to the front and bought my record. I got him to sign it and the setlist, which he took a picture of before I was allowed to abscond with it. I probably should have offered to give it back to him, seeing as how it was actually, y’know, HIS, but oh well. Anyway, I was leaning in to chat with Danny, talking about one of our previous wacky occurrences, when he pushed me back a bit and pulled a candle away – my untucked shirt (so slovenly!) was dangling around the flame. I thought he was just being overly cautious until I touched said shirt tail and “oh, shit, that’s actually hot.” So yeah. Nearly caught fire. It derailed whatever I was trying to tell him but I am pretty sure that nearly catching fire was more interesting than anything I could have said anyway. After the first time I saw him, I joked that he owed me a Sharpie; after a more recent show, he said he’d buy me a drink. But after preventing my untimely demise in some sort of one-man inferno, I think we’re square.

SLCR #243: Ben Folds & yMusic (May 11, 2016)

May 23, 2016

Hello. I am back home after my week in Toronto. I went to many shows, and while I took many notes (usually on my iPad before bed), I somehow found that doing “anything else” was preferable to writing reviews while I was there. I was too busy hanging out with pals and doing touristy things and eating delicious foods and walking 120,000+ steps, if my Fitbit is to be believed. My legs and feet suggest that it is accurate. But now I am home and have been home for a week and it is time to knock these guys out so that they’re done before the next shows come.

What generally happens with Toronto is I book a trip for one reason (in this case, a rash ticket purchase for a special Hawksley Workman show) and then other stuff magically happens to happen. In this case, I got an email from Ben Folds (well, presumably not directly from Ben Folds) announcing tour dates, and I thought “hey, wouldn’t it be rad if he was playing Toronto when I’m there?” And this is where Jeff says “fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck youuuuuuuuuuuu.”

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this picture got a “fuuuuuuuuuuck youuuuuuuuuu” as well

In honesty, I hadn’t booked my plane tickets yet. The original plan was to fly in on Thursday, fly home on Sunday. Folds’ Wednesday show extended the trip a bit; I ultimately settled in Monday to Sunday, as Monday to Forever wasn’t financially sustainable. I wish it was. So many shows! So many tasty foods! To think that I could also have gone to see Pearl Jam AND Sloan AND Ring of Honor wrestling AND a Canadaland taping and goodness knows what else. I can’t tell what would happen if we moved to Toronto – would we either be busy and broke all the time? Or would the novelty wear off, resulting in us never leaving the house?

Hahahaha I said “house.” As if we wouldn’t be living in a refrigerator box. Toronto isn’t cheap.

Anyway. After a day spent touring Casa Loma, eating a fancy burger, record store browsing, and taking one last spin through Honest Ed’s, I took the subway back to meet up with my delightful hosts, Steve and Audrey. We took the train to a BBQ place for dinner, where I had a fried chicken sandwich, and it occurs to me that I ate chicken before all three concerts this week, so I can go back to making that a requirement for an official concert, until I forget or don’t care or whatever.

From there, we were a short walk to the Danforth Music Hall. Steve used to work there, so I was seeing a vital part of Steve history. We got inside and I pined over the list of upcoming shows, particularly case/lang/veirs. Toronto, you get all the nice things. Like when we went into the hall proper, it had TWO bars; East Bar and West Bar. We debated drinking at both bars so as to sample the regional differences.

The opener was Dotan (and Mark), a Dutch singer making his first-ever appearance in Canada. It was a stripped-down set; he mentioned that normally he has a six-piece band, but on this day, there was Mark. Mark had a guitar. Dotan also had a guitar. It was a short set – about 30 minutes – but delightful. Dotan (and Mark) was touring in support of his record 7 Layers, and played us some tunes from it, including the title track, which he said was the most personal song he’d ever written. If I wrote a song with that title, it would be about having to pick the black olives off your nacho chips. That is why I am not a songwriter. That and my complete lack of musical aptitude. He closed with the song Home, which had a crowd singalong bit, which most everyone took part in. It was a very nice crowd, I thought – more on that in a second. But yeah, Dotan (and Mark) was a fine opener. Would see again.

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Dotan (and Mark) – this was the best picture I got

So the crowd. Remember how I went to Sloan and everyone was shovy drunk dickheads? Well, everyone here was… nice. We had a drunk near us – there always has to be at least one – but even he was just really excited to see Ben Folds. Okay, so he accidentally smacked into someone. That wasn’t great. But it seemed to me like it was out of musical enthusiasm and not just dickishness. So that’s something. And at one point, he asked Audrey to hold his spot (so he could get another beer) (which he really did not need at this point), and there was no need – the space just didn’t fill in. The vultures in Winnipeg would have trampled innocent bystanders for those few square feet of unoccupied floor. And I know vultures don’t trample things, technically, but it is a METAPHOR. One that says that Toronto is lovely and Winnipeg is a dump.

I’ve only ever seen one Ben Folds solo show, but I’ve also been to a Ben Folds Five reunion concert, and I saw Ben twice Ben with the Edmonton Symphony. This show, with yMusic (and a drummer who was neither Ben Folds nor part of yMusic and thus was uncredited), was different still – somewhere between Ben Folds Five and a symphony show. yMusic is an orchestral six-piece from New York; Ben partnered with them for his last album, So There. Of course, they played almost all the pop songs from the album – seven out of eight – but didn’t get into Ben’s piano concerto, and they skipped the smutty musical pun F10-D-A.

After the show, the drummer handed out the performers’ setlists, and I was lucky enough to get one. As such, I can give you the detailed breakdown of what they played, but be warned that this set list isn’t quite right:

1. Beautiful Mechanical – yMusic
2. So There
3. Long Way To Go
4. Not A Fan
5. Effington
6. Yes Man
7. Phone In A Pool
8. Mess
9. Music In Circles – yMusic
10. I’m Not The Man
11. Erase Me
12. Song For The Dumped
13. Capable Of Anything
14. Steven’s Last Night In Town
15. You Don’t Know Me

Evaporated
Army
Not The Same

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or, you know, just look at this

To start with, Evaporated was played earlier in the set, and Still Fighting It took its place as the first song of the encore. This worked out well – Audrey, who wasn’t super familiar with Ben Folds going into the show, late said that Fighting was her favourite song of the evening.

Being a Ben Folds show, some of the changes were impromptu. Obviously, someone had to yell out for Rock This Bitch – this came fairly early on, I want to say it was after Effington. This particular version of Rock This Bitch (it’s different every time) made reference to traveling from the West Bar where they serve Budweiser to the East Bar where they serve Budweiser. This was tremendous and made my night right there. He then went on to sing about crossing into Canada and getting the dreaded Canada-style cavity search at the border. The crowd loved it. “Encore!” yelled some guy (possibly the guy who had called for Rock This Bitch in the first place), so Ben immediately launched into another minute or two of the East Bar West Bar Cavity Search Rock This Bitch. Tremendous.

Later on, someone (and I really hope it was just the same guy over and over) yelled for Bitches Ain’t Shit. “They don’t know that one,” said Ben, “but it’s a special night so I think we can figure it out.” I don’t know if someone yells for this at every show (it’s not the first time I’ve seen it happen), but Ben went through the motions of quickly teaching yMusic a few necessary chords before launching into the song – and then when it got to Snoop’s verse, the drummer took over and nailed it. So there mayyyy have been some advance preparation, is what I’m saying.

Anyway. This show was great! I suppose that is unsurprising as I always think Folds’ shows are great. The crowd seemed to love it. The whole thing was a big singalong, with the usual aaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAA during Not The Same and a slower version of Song for the Dumped being particular favourites. I thought the song of the night was a killer version of Steven’s Last Night in Town. And each member of yMusic (and the drummer) had a chance to shine – the clarinet player, in particular, stole the show. I have never heard anyone (same guy again?!) yell “that was some badass clarinet!” at a rock show before but there is a first time for everything.

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Ben, leading the aaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAA part – note the badass clarinet

Goddamn laptop touchpad just made me delete like two paragraphs so I shut it off. Let that be a lesson to everything else in my life that irritates me. If I can figure out where your shut-off button is in the control panel, you’re in for it.

Oh well, all that was left was the closing. After the show ended, we hung out a bit to let the crowd disperse, which gave me time to snag that setlist from the drummer. On our way out, Dotan (and Mark) was selling albums at the stuff table, so Audrey and I each bought one and got them signed. Nice guys. Handsome too. Before the show, Audrey put a picture of herself, Steve, and I on Facebook saying we were waiting for the show, and a friend in Edmonton – early SLCR favourite Spiky Tom – said he was jealous. I said he’d have an hour to make it to Toronto if he didn’t mind kissing the opener. This, of course, was an autocorrect, but I think that maybe my iPhone might have been onto something. Siri, you’ve done worse.

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handsome signatures

SLCR #242: George Thorogood & the Destroyers (April 29, 2016)

May 1, 2016

This one, this is even more inexplicable than Black Sabbath. At least Sabbath was within walking distance. Plus I knew seeing them would make Aaron jealous and that counts for something. Probably counted for too much in my internal decision-making process, if I’m being honest. And Sabbath was cheaper too.

Thing is, there’s a local weekly paper called the Prairie Dog. Their website has daily blog posts about upcoming events, and on Tuesday, they talked about George Thorogood playing the Conexus Arts Centre on Friday. More out of curiosity than anything, I clicked over to the Arts Centre’s website, just to see how much tickets were and see how well they were selling. Oddly, they looked pretty close to sold out – but with four open seats in the front row. I assume there were some tickets set aside for promotional uses that wound up not being used, and I happened to check at just the right time. After confirming that Mika had no interest in going, I picked myself up a ticket.

I’m well on pace to set a new personal record for concerts seen this year, so somewhere along the way I got the idea that I should see if I can see 52 shows in 2016. I think it’s possible but it will require moving out of my comfort zone and seeing some bands I’d normally skip. This is show #14 for the year, but I’d need to have seen 17 or 18 by now to be on pace. Gonna have to work on it.

I suppose if 52 isn’t doable due to finances, time, or opportunity, I’d accept 40 for godforsaken birthday reasons. This seems like a better midlife crisis than a tattoo.

Anyway, that’s all how I found myself sitting front row for George Thorogood & the Destroyers. But James, you ask, do you actually know any George Thorogood songs? Apart from Bad to the Bone? And I answer yes. I know Get a Haircut. I mean, I know all the songs everyone knows, pretty much, but I especially know Get a Haircut. When I was in high school, I knew a dude who love love LOVED George Thorogood. And in Grade 12 English class, we had to play a song and provide the class with the lyrics, and then provide our interpretation of the lyrics. Get a Haircut was the song that he picked:

I was a rebel from the day I left school
Grew my hair long and broke all the rules
I’d sit and listen to my records all day
With big ambitions of when I could play

My parents taught me what life was about
So I grew up the type they warned me about
They said my friends were just an unruly mob
And I should get a haircut and get a real job

Get a haircut and get a real job
Clean your act up and don’t be a slob
Get it together like your big brother Bob
Why don’t you get a haircut and get a real job

I even tried that 9-to-5 scene
I told myself that it was all a bad dream
I found a band and some good songs to play
Now I party all night, I sleep all day

I met this chick, she was my number-one fan
She took me home to meet her mommy and dad
They took one look at me and said “oh my god
Get a haircut and get a real job”

Get a haircut and get a real job
Clean your act up and don’t be a slob
Get it together like your big brother Bob
Why don’t you get a haircut and get a real job

I hit the big time with my rock ‘n’ roll band
The future’s brighter now than I’d ever planned
I’m ten times richer than my big brother Bob
But he’s got a haircut, he’s got a real job

Get a haircut and get a real job
Clean your act up and don’t be a slob
Get it together like your big brother Bob
Why don’t you get a haircut and get a real job

Personally, I’m not sure how much interpretation is required to understand the deeper meaning therein, but when it came time to critique poetry, this dude picked an eight-line poem by Red Green, so he had a type. I chose the song The Boxer by Simon & Garfunkel, which is much easier to bullshit symbolism about, though also pretty straightforward in retrospect. Mostly I remember people asking why I played the original and not the cover by The Waltons which was a big radio hit locally at the time.

Another girl picked Dust in the Wind and was shocked to discover that maybe it shouldn’t be her wedding song after all.

I was curious as to what the audience for this show would be like, a question that was answered within seconds of arriving when I ran into a lady from work, and then another once inside. In general, the audience was older, skewing slightly female, but with lots of couples. I had some college-age bros to my right. Behind me were some women who really wanted to complain about the state of music today and how they’d like to see those teenyboppers today go like Keith Richards when they’re his age!!!

The openers were the Ben Miller Band and I am glad that I was sitting close enough to the front to get some decent pictures because I’m not sure I can describe them adequately. To the far left was Scott Leeper, a very bearded man in a plaid shirt and suspenders playing a one-string washtub bass. Next to him was Smilin’ Bob Lewis, who appeared to be a survivalist Dr. Demento in a tie-dye t-shirt covered in kittens. This was accessorized with a long white coat that had shiny reflective cactuses on it, as well as a tall red top hat with black brim. Miller himself looked like Ozark Sheamus and yet barely stood out by comparison. Finally, we had Rachel Ammons, a fiddle player who had hair down past her ass and her own wind-blowing-machine-thingy* to make it fly around while she played.

*it took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that I could just call it a “fan” so I’m leaving the original description in

Anyway. I had no idea who these folks were and no idea what to make of them. And then… they KILLED IT. Unbelievable. It took a few songs for them to warm up and for the crowd to get into them, but around the third song, everything clicked and they blew the roof off the place. They had 45 minutes or so and they made the most of it. “Bluegrass-infused rock” is my short description but that doesn’t cover it – on their Facebook page, they list their genre as “who knows, who cares.” But seriously. They traded off instruments all night and everyone got a chance to sing. There was a banjo. There was a WASHBOARD. There was a bluegrass cover of House of the Rising Sun and another of Black Betty. There was incredible energy and the crowd responded in kind, going from polite applause for the first song to a standing ovation for the last one. When they were over, I was thinking that Thorogood was going to have an awfully hard time following them. I could have gone home at this point and it would have been worth it. Never skip the openers, kids.

Man, I love it when I go into a show not knowing an artist and leave as a fan. The chance of these kinds of discoveries is a big part of what keeps me going to all these shows. That, and I have no common sense.

As they left the stage, the lady behind me screamed “HEY JUSTIN BIEBER! I’D LIKE TO SEE YOU… DO… WHAT WE JUST SAW.” I endorse the sentiment but maybe make sure you’ve decided on what you’re going to yell before you start yelling.

During the intermission, I just hung around in my seat. I thought about going to the stuff table to get a record from the Ben Miller Band, but they said they’d be around after the show too, so I figured I had plenty of opportunity. You know how this goes.

After a short break, the lights dimmed. The bros to my right returned, having smoked all the weed there is. Sorry, world. We’re out. The lady behind me screamed “OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! MY IDOL!” Yes. But she would have to wait, as first they shone a spotlight on the drum kit and played Eve of Destruction in its entirety. Only once that was done did we get the booming voice of a wrestling announcer, introducing the heavyweight rock and roll champions of the world.

I won’t lie. This was fun as heck. Now, admittedly, a huge part of that had to do with the front row seat. And not just front row, but right off centre, which meant that when Thorogood was walking around, he was often dead set right in front of me. At one point, he played about a two-minute guitar solo, lights dimmed, spotlight on him, his guitar two feet from my face the whole time. I could have hated his music and still had a blast. This would still have been fun from my traditional seat in Row L For Legroom but not nearly the same. This bodes well for Weird Al, as we have similar seats in August.

Now, being so close DID mean that I was also dangerously near some tongue waggling and some pelvic thrusts. Such are the risks when you are sitting in the splash zone. I do not believe I was ever splashed. Wouldn’t complain if I was. I knew the dangers.

Anyway, you surely know what George Thorogood sounds like and whether you like him or not. Of course he closed the main set with Bad to the Bone (complete with BONE lights behind him). And he played pretty much exactly what his fans would want to hear – Move it on Over; Who do you Love; I Drink Alone; One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer. He played Get a Haircut and I was overjoyed.

He hammed it up as only an experienced frontman can – dancing around, making faces, posing, talking about what a fiiiiiiiiiiiiine city this is, dropping the name “Regina” into as many songs as he could (he’ll “make an old woman blush and a Regina girl squeal”). And people ate it up. There was one lady who was convinced she was part of the show and ran up to dance in front of everyone over and over, to the point that security quit trying to stop her from rushing the stage because the people she was with resigned themselves to handling it. At another time, when a bunch of people were standing and dancing, one guy hopped on one foot for the length of the stage, playing air guitar all the while. This was one of the most tremendous things I have ever seen. Dude looked like he was in a trance. Compelled by the power of the rock.

So yeah, this was great fun. And yet, I still have to give the Ben Miller Band the nod for the evening. They had more energy and great presence and didn’t have the advantage of, you know, people already knowing and liking them, but they still stole the show. On the way out, I got caught up in the rush of people leaving and never made it to the stuff table and I’m still a little disappointed about that, but oh well, there’s always iTunes.

UPCOMING CONCERTS

  • Ben Folds & yMusic w/Dotan (May 11)
  • Danny Michel (May 12)
  • Hawksley Workman & The Art of Time Ensemble (May 13)
  • Age of Electric (May 27)
  • The Pack a.d. (May 28)
  • Meat Loaf (June 11)
  • City and Colour w/Shakey Graves (June 12)
  • Northcote w/Jordan Klassen and Josiah (June 22)
  • BA Johnston (June 24)
  • Regina Folk Festival w/The Head and The Heart; Ry Cooder, Ricky Skaggs, & Sharon White (cancelled); Sam Roberts Band; The Mavericks; Bettye LaVette; The Cat Empire; The Strumbellas; more (August 5-7)
  • “Weird Al” Yankovic (August 14)
  • Fred Eaglesmith (October 1)
  • I Mother Earth (October 8)

TOO MANY PICTURES: BEN MILLER BAND

 

TOO MANY PICTURES: GEORGE THOROGOOD & THE DESTROYERS

SLCR #241: Jason Collett & Zeus (April 19, 2016)

April 29, 2016

This was a long-awaited gig for me. Jason Collett is one of those people who’s come to Regina seemingly a dozen times since I’ve been here, but I’ve always found a way to miss out. Mark, in particular, is a fan and has tried to get me to go on multiple occasions – so, of course, I finally buy tickets and this time Mark’s out of town. Oh well, I hope he had fun seeing Sloan in Vancouver and eating all the ducks.

Having said that – the part about the long-awaited show, not the part about Mark eating ducks – for all I’ve heard about Collett and as much as his singer-songwritery vibe should be right up my alley, I’d heard very little of his music. A handful of singles from CBC Radio 3, that’s about it, so I was looking forward to hearing more. You know, as if there wasn’t a vast collection of his recorded output at my fingertips.

We got to the Exchange about 15 minutes before the opener, Kalle Matteson, was to begin. Finding parking was not exactly difficult. I wasn’t surprised – given the number of ticket giveaway contests I saw, and the number of “hey, we got this show coming up, don’t forget” tweets, it seemed like tickets were moving a little slowly. Indeed, we had no trouble finding a place to sit once we arrived. It filled in reasonably well as the night progressed but wasn’t close to selling out, I don’t think.

This wasn’t put on by the folk festival people but it still started right on time. Our opener was Kalle Mattson; nobody seemed to know who he was, to the point that when he said his name, he paused for applause that was awfully late in arriving. His sense of humour about this situation won me over. “Tonight I’m going to play some old songs, play some new songs… which I am certain is completely irrelevant to all of you.” Later on, he said he was originally from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and scoffed at the one person who WOOed that.

This was the first night of the Mattson/Collett tour pairing and, I gather, the first show in a while for both musicians. Mattson played a sad song called Astronaut, which he wrote for his grandmother. In introducing the song, he said that this was its world premiere. After he finished, when someone in the crowd said they needed a Kleenex, Mattson offered to sell the fan a t-shirt. “You can do whatever you want with it.”

Going into this show, I knew very little about Mattson. I listened to a few of his songs on Apple Music before the show, including a cover of Hotline Bling he didn’t play at our show. Musically, he reminded me a bit of Andy Shauf – quiet guy with a guitar – only Matteson’s songs are a little sadder and he’s got a drier sense of humour when chatting between songs. He said “if you do know anything about me, you know I sing a lot about death” and I suppose that backs up both points. Anyway, this dude was good! Recommended.

After a brief intermission during which time we probably played iPhone Yahtzee and fed our iPhone cats, Jason Collett and his backing band Zeus were up. The sound wasn’t the best – the vocals seemed kinda muddy. I didn’t notice that during Mattson’s set, and they sounded better later on when Collett did a song or two by himself, so I’m not sure what the issue was. Whatever it was, it was tied to the vocals – Zeus sounded real good.

I recognized a few of the first songs – I Wanna Rob a Bank and I’ll Bring the Sun. We had also listened to his newest album, Song & Dance Man, and of course he played lots from it, including the title track, Forever Young is Getting Old, Singing American, and Black Oak Savannah. There was also a cover of She’s Gone by Hall & Oates, and like Mattson, Collett said that one of the new songs was being played in public for the first time ever. It maybe took them three tries to start it off right, but these things happen.

If you want a more complete setlist with a bunch of pictures from the show, my former neighbours were at the show and one of them posted a bunch of pictures to the local weekly paper’s website.

As for the show… I don’t know. Maybe I needed Mark to be there so I could get a dose of second-hand enthusiasm. I think at one point Collett referred to the crowd being “respectful,” which I’m pretty sure means “make some noise, you dopes.” Well, there was this one guy who yelled “YES!” at the opening notes of a bunch of Collett’s songs, but it soon became apparent that he was more into yelling YES than he was into Collett himself. Good to have hobbies.

But yeah, I enjoyed the show, but didn’t love it. The sound issues didn’t help any, but I don’t think that was it. It just wasn’t my thing. Not sure why it shouldn’t be – I like lots of musicians who would be in the same Canadian indie singer-songwriter category as Collett. And while this show was fine, it just didn’t really grab me. So it goes.


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