I never thought I’d get to this point in my relationship with Big Sugar. I went over this in my last Big Sugar review, but to briefly recap: I saw them eons ago and it was way too loud and I was overly bitter about it for a long-ass time. I begrudgingly admitted that they were good before I finally saw them again a few years ago and liked them just fine. Now we are here. They’re just a band that comes to town sometimes, and we went because we kinda felt like it. How mature and boring.
The real reason we went to this show was because a friend from Saskatoon had tickets, but wound up wanting to unload them when Big Sugar subsequently booked a Saskatoon date. Being a magnanimous sort, I bought her tickets because there’s nothing I like more than helping out a friend when it involves no effort whatsoever on my part. I really am a great person. She’s lucky to know me.
I have mentioned before that I buy tickets in advance in order to force myself to go to things; staying home almost always seems like the better option when showtime rolls around, even for shows I like. And on this particular day, my goodness. Not only was it Valentine’s Day – a day when I would much rather not go anywhere that people are – but as luck would have it, it snowed a ton. It started right as I woke up and carried on all damn day. I was very tempted to call the whole thing off, but Mika had a great idea for a Valentine’s Day present for me – she got us a cab to and from the show. This was possibly the best idea ever had. I am not certain my car would have made it. The cab driver had troubles, including an inability to pull into my driveway for fear that he’d never make it back out.
This idea was not without its flaws. We decided to eat supper at the casino, because I don’t learn from my father’s questionable ideas. This plan was put into jeopardy when everyone else in the city had the same idea to call a cab at the same time, and it took nearly an hour for the cab to show up. And once we were on the way, the driver asked if he could stop at his house to grab his cellphone and a shovel, in case he got stuck. I said that was fine. It’s winter in Saskatchewan, so that’s what you do. I guess. He turned the meter off, which I guess is what’s important. We arrived late to the casino and checked out the line at the restaurant, which turned out to be non-existent. I guess that makes sense. Seniors like to eat at the casino; Big Sugar does not attract seniors, so there was room for us. I shoved a clubhouse sandwich down my foodhole and we raced to the show lounge, walking in to applause because we arrived at the exact same time as the band. Now I know how Dave felt after peeing during The Mist.
We took our seats and found that we had no tablemates. A delightful surprise, though there were a small number of visible empty seats in the crowd. I’m guessing a lot of people didn’t want to venture out in the weather (or couldn’t – highways around Regina were closed).
The table nearest us, I… you know, I don’t even know if I wish they hadn’t shown up or if I’m super glad they did. I just don’t know. It was two couples. The first girl took selfies all night long. She bought us a round of drinks. She high-fived people on her way to the bathroom and back. Upon returning, she said “if Security asks, I’ve been here all along.” The two guys were as excited for Big Sugar as anyone I’ve ever seen, with lots of WOOs and YEAHs. Actually, the whole table was like that. They ordered 38 beers among the four of them. I do not know why she bought us drinks. Random friendly gesture? A pre-emptive make-good since they were expecting to be obnoxious? Can we be bought with a Diet Coke and a rum & Coke? Pretty much, yes. Anyway, they were something else.
Back (?) to the show. The band was gathered all on stage, all dressed head to toe in white. The look was unexpected and eye-catching; it also made Mika think that they all kind of looked like they were members of the Guilty Remnant. Even better, she came to this realization during the song 100 Cigarettes.
There was no sign of Shaun Verrault and Safwan Javed of Wide Mouth Mason, who have played with the band in the past and who I thought might have become permanent band members. I must confess I am do not keep up to date on the Big Sugar starting roster. But even keeping that in mind, I did not expect there to be three children in the band. And not “children” like how I refer to 20-year-olds because I am aging and defensive; literal children. Lead singer Gordie Johnson’s children, as it turned out; his son on drums and two daughters singing backup.
In my last Big Sugar recap, I raised an eyebrow about the skinny white dreadlocked guy singing in the faux-Jamaican accent, looking like a Rastafarian version of Mr. Lonely. I did the same thing time. I don’t think he’s a bad guy or anything, I just see that and I think “…you sure about this?” If nobody else has a problem with this, then I shouldn’t either, I guess.
In the interest of not getting off on a bad foot with my Big Sugar pals, I’ll mention now that at their merchandise table, they have it set up so that fans can sign up with WorldVision and sponsor needy children in Jarso, Ethiopia. You can check out more information here: http://artistcollective.ca/artists/big-sugar/
As for the show itself, it was an all-acoustic set, which was about as far removed from that first Big Sugar show as it could be. It started off on a dubious note for me, as they were sounding less like a rock band with some reggae influences and more like a reggae band. Which is great, if that’s your thing. It’s not really my thing. Eventually, they moved into more of a straight up (acoustic) rock show. They didn’t play a ton of singles – not that I’ve ever been a big fan, but I only recognized three songs all night (Diggin’ A Hole, All Hell For A Basement, and Little Bit a All Right). I think Mika knew a few more. They didn’t close with O Canada, which is something I thought they always did. I know they also played a Grady song, but I only know that because Gordie said so. He also ad-libbed a few jokey bits (in that way where it probably wasn’t an ad-lib, but something he does at every show); one about run-ins with cops (“they really like that Diggin’ A Hole song/but they don’t like that our tour bus smells like Cheech & Chong”) and a few lines of an impression of Gordon Lightfoot singing All Hell For A Basement. I thought that part was super funny and now I really want to hear Lightfoot cover that song. I think it could possibly work really well. And at one point, Gordie said “alllllright” and the girl who bought us drinks loudly said “alllllright” and Gordie asked if they were making fun of him, but he acknowledged that he’d worked his entire career just to make a woman say “alllllright.”
Ultimately, I declare this show to be “fine.” I preferred the last Big Sugar show. I know two people who attended the Saskatoon show and they were blown away by it, and I assume the shows were pretty similar, so maybe you should listen to them and not to me. I don’t think “fine” is a negative review, but these folks were raving. I’m not raving. It was fine. Glad we went. Glad we took a cab.
You may remember the drunken texts I was on the receiving end of during the Glass Tiger show. Well, watching TV after Big Sugar, I texted that fellow – to let him know that the Soorp Asdvadzadzin Armenian Apostolic Church in Boston was closed due to snow, of course – and I found that he’d been drinking. I told him about the Big Sugar show and he replied “Glad thencpncertbwas good despite the whites” which is about the best way I’ve ever heard an evening described.
• Dan Mangan + Blacksmith w/Hayden and Astral Swans (March 7)
• Amelia Curran w/Ryan Boldt (March 27)
• The God That Comes (April 3)
• Danko Jones w/The Lazys (April 10)
• The Joel Plaskett Emergency w/Mo Kenney (May 15)
• Charley Pride (May 20)
• Chubby Checker & The Wildcats (September 26)