SLCR #216: Danny Michel (June 13, 2015)

June 15, 2015

I bought my first Danny Michel CD about 12 years ago. I’d never heard any of his music before. The purchase was based entirely on two factors; 1) I’d heard this guy’s name somewhere, and 2) I had some credit at the used CD place and little else was calling out to me. It was an excellent find. I got a few other CDs on that trip, most of which wound up eventually returning to the bins from whence they came. But that copy of Fibsville has stuck around and I’ve been a fan ever since.

Looking through old reviews, it occurs to me that I have told some variant of this story any time I’ve ever had to mention Danny Michel in one of these reviews. Whatever. At least I’m consistent.

Anyway, I think I’ve bought all of his albums since then, and have enjoyed them all. However, the live experience, at least in my experience, hasn’t always been able to measure up. The first few times I saw him, I thought he was fantastic, but the last few times I’ve seen him weren’t so hot. One time, he was clearly exhausted after driving something like 10 hours to get to a show with an apathetic crowd in a half-filled Exchange. Most recently, I saw him as part of the Songwriters’ Circle at Junofest, where he was good, but I found him upstaged by the likes of Kathleen Edwards and Bahamas.

But this would be my first chance to see a proper Danny solo show in… my goodness, seven years? And this is a special tour. Have you ever seen something stupid and amazing and ridiculous online and daydreamed about buying it? The short version is that unlike most of us*, Danny Michel has some follow-through. And that is how he bought a 1970s van airbrushed with Star Trek murals. And with a red velvet interior. Yes. He’s taking it on tour across Canada and filming a web series along the way, with people like 54-40, Jann Arden, Chris Hadfield, and Barney Bentall recording songs in the space van. On the very day of our show, he was in a parade in Vulcan, Alberta, because of course he would have to be. So I had high hopes.

*I own a set of four prints I bought off Etsy featuring the cast of The Golden Girls as zombies. This does not compare to the financial commitment of buying a space van, nor the intestinal fortitude required to take the dang thing on a cross-country tour, but I can’t throw dumb-purchase stones without acknowledging my own glass house.

Sadly, the curse of the Danny Michel show struck again. A curse of… mild disappointment. Which is a pretty good curse to have if one has to have a curse, I guess. But still.

I will preface my whinging by saying that none of this was Danny’s fault. I thought he was delightful and was on pace to be up there with the better shows of his that I’d seen. But the environment left enough to be desired that we ultimately didn’t stick around.

We parked about a block from the venue and I took a few pictures of the sweet space van before we went inside. It was everything I’d hoped it would be; namely, a really awesome van that I am very glad I’m not responsible for.

Again, let me state for the record that I thought Danny was great. He played a set of about 45 minutes before taking a break; in that time, we got Whale of a Tale (from Fibsville), Sweet Things, Feather Fur & Fin, and Wish Willy, among others. He told some fun stories about the space van tour and about the work he’s done with a school in Belize. And most importantly, he asked the crowd to quiet down, which didn’t happen to the degree anyone would have wanted, but I appreciated the effort.

We’ve been to the Artful Dodger twice, for Mo Kenney and for Greg MacPherson. This was quite a while ago now, back when the place was very new. The finishing wasn’t done, and they weren’t serving meals yet. They’ve come a long way since then and I’ve heard lots of great reviews of the food and the venue. Unfortunately, everyone else has apparently heard the same things. Our tickets said 8:00 p.m., which could mean anything from a start time of 8:00 to midnight, in my concert-going experience (in this case, it was around 8:30). We got there at 7:45 and the place was full. Wall-to-wall, no seats open, packed with diners. And the thing about the Artful Dodger is that there is no good place to stand. The stage is small, the floor in front of it is filled with tables, and there are bleachers in the back of the room. Walking from Point A to Point B is difficult and you cannot stand anywhere without being obnoxiously and obviously in someone’s way. We took the best spot that we could in the back of the room but this still put in in the path of the servers and I don’t think 30 seconds went by without one of us (most often Mika) having to move out of someone’s way.

I’m not sure what the rules are at the Artful Dodger. If someone comes in for dinner at 6:00, do they get to stay for the show at 8:00 without buying a ticket? My suspicion is yes; this would explain why we were in between three groups of people, two of which had no interest in the show at all and were just going to keep on having their conversations despite the guy on stage trying to play guitar and sing some songs. There is no crowd so disrespectful as those that did not pay to attend.

The third group could be described as Danny Michel superfans and though I rolled my eyes a bit at their… let’s go with “intensity” – they were really into the show and I find it hard to find fault with that. Especially when there were so many other people nearby with whom I could find all kinds of fault.

Anyway. Like I said, Danny played for 45 minutes before taking a bit of a breather, promising to come back for a second set. I will assume he did and I will assume it was great, but I wouldn’t know. We took the opportunity at the break to call it a night. I gave it a fair shot. I made it to intermission, I enjoyed some songs, I laughed at some stories (especially the Wish Willy one), I had as good a time as I was going to have given the surroundings. Which wasn’t enough to justify staying. The full restaurant and its wood-fired oven meant that it was awfully warm in there. To counteract that, there was a big fan directly behind us, blowing in cool air from the street. Between the ignorant jackasses at the tables around us, the fan noise from behind us, and the general not-ideal standing spot we found ourselves in, we really couldn’t hear all that well, and it was hot (though the wood smoke did lend a certain ambience to the nature-themed Feather Fur & Fin), and it just wasn’t that fun. Mika isn’t a big Danny Michel fan anyway, so instead, I took her for ice cream. I think there’s a lesson there. If you can’t answer yes to “is this better than getting ice cream?” then you may as well just go get ice cream.

space van

space van

red velvet

red velvet

the space shirt is a space magnet to cover painted-on space boobs

the space shirt is a space magnet to cover painted-on space boobs

UPCOMING SHOWS
• Moist (July 11)
• Geoff Berner w/Whiskey Jerks (July 29)
• Lucinda Williams (July 30)
• Gin Blossoms w/ Fastball & The Rembrandts (July 31)
• Fred Eaglesmith w/Tif Ginn (August 2)
• Regina Folk Festival feat. Sinead O’Connor, Jenny Lewis, Vance Joy, Blue Rodeo, Bahamas, more (August 7-9)
• Chubby Checker & The Wildcats (September 26)
• Hawksley Workman (October 16)

SLCR #215: Charley Pride (May 20, 2015)

June 8, 2015

“Do you want to go see Charley Pride?” asked my dad.

“I’ve got school that day,” said Mika.

It’s worth noting that at this point, none of us knew exactly when the concert was. Though in her defense, that statement is true as often as not. A safe bet, as it were.

Me, I can’t say that seeing Charley Pride was #1 on my list of things to do either. But the guy is a legend, and I was getting my ticket paid for, and none of us are getting any younger, so what the heck, you know? I was substantially less keen on the idea when I realized it meant missing out on watching the NXT special* live, but whatever. I could watch it when I got home, right?

*(a wrestling thing – you either already knew that or don’t care)

And so it was me, my dad, and my stepmom’s parents, immortalized together in a concert review at last. Mika, as it turned out, did have school on the evening of the show. And my stepmom gets up too early for work on weekdays to make it through an evening concert, even one that keeps reasonable casino hours. Or at least this is what I was told. If I were to someday learn that secretly they got together and drank wine and laughed at us for going to this show, I would not be shocked.

The plan was to forego the standard pre-show casino meal and mad dash to the show lounge in favour of getting a pizza after the concert. From a scheduling point, I was a fan of this idea. Not so much the pizza part, as these days, I’m trying to eat in a manner vaguely resembling that of a normal human (do not ask how many cookies I had today) (as it was a lot) (a lot of cookies) and pizza can be hard to fit into that regimen. Especially late-day pizza. But some carefully limited eating ensured that I could at least have some pizza, assuming I blatantly lied to myself regarding how many calories pizza has. One sacrifices where one must.

My dad picked me up first and we set out to collect the in-laws. I hadn’t seen them since before Christmas, and, well, there are some mobility issues that weren’t there the last time I saw them. She looked to be doing okay, but him… just getting from the apartment door and into the car proved challenging. I suppose this is just one of those things that happens, but it was a bit shocking that it seemingly came on so fast.

Needless to say, the walk from the parking lot was out. My dad dropped us off by the door, and while he went to park the car, it was my job to keep everyone upright or sitting down until it was time to move again. I tried to suggest that we could find a place to sit inside, but no – my stepmom’s dad found a ledge, sat down, and made friends with everyone else who got dropped off while the more mobile were parking and walking.

While we were waiting, Charley Pride walked right past us into the casino, about 15 feet from where I was standing. I appeared to be the only one who noticed.

Eventually, my dad found us – after looking around inside, where he might have reasonably expected to find us – and we made the slow trek into the show lounge. I could see why trying to make it from the restaurant in time would have been a struggle. I tried to keep a pleasant conversation going while my inside voice was screaming “stop walking so fast he can’t walk that fast why aren’t these people watching where they’re going quit getting in the way AAAAAAAAAAAAAA” and yeah anyway I was pretty glad when we got to our seats. Normally I would collect our tickets and trade them for free slot play vouchers, and maybe check out the merch table, but I didn’t want to leave anyone by themselves or try to drag them with me.

On the way in, we were handed brochures, listing tour dates and merchandise (of course), and introducing our opening act, Stephen Pride. Our guess was that this was Charley’s son, but later found out it was his brother. He played for about a half-hour; a few originals but mostly covers of older country songs. He seemed a little awkward when talking with the crowd – tripped over his words a few times – but by and large I thought he was okay enough. Not particularly of interest to me, not great, but also not awful. The rest of my table, however, just wanted to talk about how he didn’t have Charley’s voice or Charley’s presence. Which wasn’t untrue, I guess, but it bothered me less than it did them. Not the first time I’d disagree with the consensus viewpoint on this night. We were, however, all in agreement that the highlight of the set was sitting near the sound booth and watching Charley Pride chat with the sound tech for a good 10 minutes.

Between sets, I amused myself by playing a game of “Who Here is Younger Than Me?” The goal was to find someone – a paid attendee, not someone working there – who was obviously younger than 38-year-old me. I couldn’t do it. I saw a few people that MIGHT have been younger but not definitively so. Obviously, casino shows tend to skew old just based on who performs at casinos, but I’ve seen Wayne Newton and Bobby Curtola and Dr. John and Gordon Lightfood and Herman Hermit and this was the oldest audience of them all.

So I said I disagreed with the consensus of the table. Let me just say that if you’re tired of the concert review trope of “I wish I’d seen him back when,” you can pretty much close this down and hope I get my Danny Michel review written in under a month. Basically, from the time Charley Pride finished until I got dropped off at home, I lied. I said he put on a great show. I agreed that he still had his voice. I talked about what a fan I had become. I was not about to do anything to take away from anyone’s enjoyment of the concert. But man…. this was not very good at all. Pride sang for 90 minutes, which would have been impressive enough except he really only had 60 minutes in him. The first hour was okay, though it seemed apparent to me that his voice wasn’t what it once was. Not that it would be fair to expect it to be – the guy is pushing 80, after all. But he had this trick of ending songs by singing them really low, and it was an obvious cover that he couldn’t hit the high notes anymore. This got worse in the last half-hour, which also had him telling stories and getting lost halfway through. Or he had these cards with people’s birthdays on them, and he’d say happy birthday to them, only he’d get the names wrong, and couldn’t see them if they waved at him and wasn’t listening when his band tried to help him out, and then he’d just throw the cards on the floor and kind of mutter about it.

But you know. I was not a Charley Pride fan going into the evening. I looked up some of his singles online before the show, thinking that I’d know a bunch of them – this is the kind of music my dad always liked, so surely I heard lots of it growing up, right? Apparently not; I only knew a few of his biggest hits. So I wasn’t coming at this from a place of nostalgia. The rest of my table was. I think my dad sang along with every song. His mother-in-law said that the show was the “highlight of the year.” And the guy got a standing ovation. So… maybe it was just me? I don’t know. Maybe I was just grumpy and hungry. I thought this was a Lightfoot-level show and I do not mean that in a complimentary way. But a room full of people disagreed with me – or, actually, two rooms full of people, since he was booked for a second night.

I did a bit of reading on Charley Pride when putting this together, and this guy lived on heck of an interesting life. If Wikipedia isn’t lying to me, he played Negro League baseball, was the first black performer at the Grand Ol’ Opry in over 20 years, is part owner of the Texas Rangers, and did a show in Belfast at the height of the IRA conflict. And The Rock is making a movie about his life. I’d watch that, and my tolerance for Rock movies is pretty minimal.

So yeah, I wish I’d seen him back when.

Anyway, we headed to the lobby to wait while my dad got the car. This took only slightly less than forever since everyone was leaving the show at once. We got everyone loaded into the car with much nervousness on my part but finally got everyone settled – just in time to see an old lady leave the casino and wipe out face-first. My dad and I went over to help her out, but she was fine; a little embarrassed, and disappointed that she cracked the cases of her new CDs, but otherwise okay.

We went for that post-show pizza, only the find that the pizza place closes at 11:00 and it was 10:55 when we got there. Oh well. At least it meant I got home in time to grab some chips and watch the NXT special. Except that when I went downstairs to get said chips, I found that there had been water leaking into the basement for two days. Not enough to cause any real damage, but a mess. And enough to incite mild-to-moderate stress which took me out of the mood to watch the show or eat anything, so I went to bed, looking forward to my already-booked vacation day which was now to be spent dealing with the plumber.

This was not a very good day, is what I’m saying.

(Postscript: my dad still talks about the greatness of this concert. His mother-in-law was so pleased that she baked him a pie. The plumber arrived promptly and the problem tap has been fixed. The NXT special was really good and I even managed to avoid spoilers. I’m still due for some pizza.)

UPCOMING SHOWS

  • Danny Michel (June 13)
  • Moist (July 11)
  • Geoff Berner w/Whiskey Jerks (July 29)
  • Fred Eaglesmith w/Tif Ginn (August 2)
  • Regina Folk Festival feat. Sinead O’Connor, Jenny Lewis, Vance Joy, Blue Rodeo, Bahamas, more (August 7-9)
  • Chubby Checker & The Wildcats (September 26)
  • Hawksley Workman (October 16)

SLCR #214: Joel Plaskett Emergency (May 15, 2015)

June 8, 2015

I knew this show would be really great, and it was. And I’m tempted to just stop here.

Here are some people and things that I dig. You already know I dig them:

  • Joel Plaskett
  • Mo Kenney
  • Darke Hall
  • concerts
  • any mixed and/or matched combination of the above

Liking things is great! But my stock in trade is disliking things, or at least making fun of things. Or as some people would call it, “generally being unpleasant to be around.” Being pleasant (or at least tolerable) and productive is hard, but my alternate option – namely, staring at a blank text file for the better part of a month – wasn’t getting the job done.

Having said that, I have so little to say about this show that at this point in writing this review, I just stopped and skipped ahead to write my Charley Pride review in its entirety instead. I had some things to say about that show and that day as a whole. But that is for another time; namely, it is for five minutes after I finish writing and posting this thing, so I best get a move on.

So what do you need to know? Well, Plaskett was touring in support of his newest album, The Park Avenue Sobriety Test. He’d debuted the title track (at least to my ears) at last year’s folk festival, and I really liked it. The new album is a good one, though I need to spend some more time with it. Thus far, I can safely recommend it if you like Joel’s previous work and also like swear words. There’s a marked increase; not overwhelming, but noticeable.

In fact, both Mo and Joel – which doesn’t quite rhyme well enough to bother repeating – have relatively new albums, and I’d seen both performers in concert within the past year. In that sense, this show was a bit of a re-run, as there wasn’t much that I hadn’t seen before. This is not a bad thing, since I loved both of those shows, but I WAS tempted to just copy and paste old reviews and see if anyone noticed. Mind you, there are enough repeating themes and turns of phrase in my reviews that most of you likely think I do that already.

In fact, I think copying and pasting would have been much better than this:

  • The ticket people said that I’d need my order number and photo ID to pick up my tickets, and I had no idea what my order number was, but I emailed them and they told me. And then they just checked my photo ID at the door anyway.
  • There was a food truck outside the venue. We didn’t get any food.
  • There was a lots of stuff at the stuff table, including tons of vinyl – Kenney’s newest album and most of Plaskett’s catalogue. Neither of us bought anything. I would have bought my favourite Plaskett album – Ashtray Rock – on vinyl, but I already had it on order from MapleMusic.
  • The host of the show was some local CBC person. At one point, she tried to talk, but her mic was turned off. Then the sound guy turned it on.

I am very tempted to rewrite the entire review so that the whole thing is comprised of the dullest bullet points imaginable.

Mo Kenney’s set was very similar to when I saw her last fall, though she played for a bit longer and managed to include the song Take Me Outside, which was sadly missing last time. I feel like it might have replaced the cover of Five Years, which is a fair trade-off in my books. I like both but Take Me Outside is one of my favourites of hers. She told a few of the same stories (such as the origin of the creature on the drum kit – though this version seemed to have been expanded a bit), but there were some fun unique moments interacting with the crowd. At one point, Kenney showed off her new guitar; so new that it didn’t even have a name yet. Someone from the crowd yelled out his suggestion – something along the lines of “Red Lucille.” Kenney replied with the most polite “that could work” which was so transparently a secret code for “no” that even she cracked up. She then went on to name the guitar “Foot,” which, why not?

She also plugged her new record. “Will you sign it?” asked a random person. “Absolutely,” said Mo, quickly adding “Oh… you meant right now” as the aforementioned person rushed the stage with a record and a Sharpie.

Also, she was wearing an “Italians Do It Better” shirt which I believe was from Christie’s Bakery in Saskatoon. “I am not Italian. And I have no knowledge of whether they do it better.”

If anything stood out from this set, it’s that the improvement in Kenney’s confidence and stage presence from the first time we saw her to now is amazing. I am delighted for her as she is a lovely human who writes and sings great songs and deserves to be well-known and successful. I am, however, a little fearful. This progression cannot be allowed to… um… progress unchecked. Otherwise, give her another few years and she’ll be leading cults.

Joel Plaskett is also a lovely human, but I’ve been a fan for long enough now that I’m just used to him being completely charming. Maybe that means I’m already in a cult? Whatever. The entertainment is top-notch and there’s a food truck on site. I’ve got no complaints.

Plaskett had much more time than he had at the Folk Festival, and he used it to play most of the tunes off the new album, as one would expect. There was about a 50/50 mix of new stuff and old favourites, which never vary all that much. Compared to the Folk Festival, we got the same Do Wa Diddy Diddy intro into Work Out Fine, but no Mamma Yamma Fashionable People – I don’t think we got Fashionable People at all, come to think of it, but most of the usuals were played.

As per usual, the older stuff got the best reactions, but there was one family there who was trying their damndest to balance everything out. I have never seen so many Joel Plaskett superfans in one group. All ages. Standing, dancing, singing along with every song, leaving notes on the stage, the whole shebang. I bought our tickets for this show back in December and I don’t remember what they cost, but at one point I was trying to figure out just how many people were part of this clan and whether the bill for the evening would have topped $1,000. Wouldn’t have been impossible. It was kind of remarkable, really.

So yes, a good time was had by all. Especially by those folks. It would be really hard to have a bad time at a Joel Plaskett show, and I should know. I once tried and ultimately couldn’t do it. The guy comes across as the nicest dude ever and writes catchy songs that are made to be sun along with. A++++ would go again – but you already knew that.

SLCR #213: Danko Jones (April 10, 2015)

April 21, 2015

 

 

I think you can click these guys to see them full-sized.

Danko SLCR part 1

20150410Danko2

SLCR #212: The God That Comes (April 3, 2015)

April 8, 2015

This marks the third time I have seen Hawksley Workman’s musical/cabaret/ode to debauchery The God That Comes (and it would have also been the fourth time, had Mark’s sinuses not revolted earlier in the week), so you already know what I think of this (it ruled) so I will forego a full review but must touch on some highlights.

By “highlights,” I mostly mean I want to complain about my old neighbourhood. I moved to Regina in 2004, and lived in the same apartment until buying a house around five years ago. You know how people go back home after a long time away and they’re sad about what happened to their old stomping grounds? Well, that’s me, but not because everything there went to hell. No. Since I moved out of that neighbourhood, they renovated the grocery store and drug store, opened a Subway, opened a coffee shop, opened a CAKE SHOP for God’s sake. All within easy walking distance. I could be picking up a cake on the way home from work every day instead of riding the bus to a house like a chump. It’s like the whole neighbourhood hated me and couldn’t wait for me to leave. Which is not impossible.

The daycare just down the block from my apartment is gone too, having been renovated and turned into Shynok, an authentic Ukrainian restaurant. I say “authentic” despite knowing very little about the food of my people because Deserée has been to the Ukraine and reports that the restaurant’s salads are authentically full of beets.

We went to Shynok before The God That Comes (“so THAT’S your point”) and it was fantastic. Best borscht. Best perogies that aren’t my grandpa’s recipe. Tasty cabbage rolls. Perogies for dessert! Colin drank some bizarre prune beverage and we were all concerned about its possible after-effects. I have not heard from him since that evening. I am not certain if no news is good news in this case.

The show was at the Artesian, which is a lovely venue and was well suited for the play. There were tables down in front with raised benches (pews?) in the back. We managed to get seated right up close and in the centre, near some other work people. Everyone but me had wine, which means I am now Hawksley’s least favourite amongst our little club. This makes me sad, but we’ll always have Twitter dolloping.

As for the play itself, it hadn’t changed much since I saw it in Calgary. I won’t go into too much detail – the soundtrack CD includes all of the night’s songs, but I think there are still parts of the show that are best kept under wraps. I say this mostly because I had forgotten about one of the little surprises (even though it was hinted at) and the crowd reaction to it was my favourite part of the show.

There were a few little tweaks from before. The show felt a little longer this time, due largely to a few spots where Hawksley padded things out a little bit. Notably, there was an audience call-and-response part added during one song that everyone seemed to enjoy (complete with a little impromptu back-and-forth during our show) (that might sort of be a double entendre). The introduction to the show-closer, They Decided Not To Like Us, was changed up a little and while I still think that the song feels tacked on, the new lead-in did help it a bit. I wonder if it might be best to end the play after He’s Mine and come back to perform Decided as an encore.

Oh, also, Hawksley said “fuck” way more this time. I kind of wish that I’d been charting the frequency of his swearing through the years. He goes through phases, and I’d love to figure out if they’re connected to sunspots or something.

UPCOMING SHOWS

  • Danko Jones w/The Lazys (April 10)
  • The Joel Plaskett Emergency w/Mo Kenney (May 15)
  • Charley Pride (May 20)
  • Danny Michel (June 13)
  • Regina Folk Festival feat. Sinead O’Connor, Jenny Lewis, Vance Joy, Blue Rodeo, Bahamas, Basia Bulat, The Sheepdogs, more (August 7-9)
  • Chubby Checker & The Wildcats (September 26)

SLCR #211: Amelia Curran (March 27, 2015)

April 8, 2015

There are shows where I think “dang, I am not going to have anything to write about.” This was one of those times. The sum total of what I knew about Amelia Curran is that Mika liked her. Mika also liked the opener, Ryan Boldt, about whom I knew precisely one other thing, which is that he is the lead singer of Deep Dark Woods. I know one song that they do, and it’s off a compilation album. So clearly we were off to a fine start.

One thing I did not know is if I’d actually seen Amelia Curran before. The answer would become clear to me later on, but she’s one of those people I’ve heard about forever, you know? The kind of person who would maybe tour with someone else I like, or who would play at the Folk Festival – this show was part of the Festival concert series, in fact. But while it seemed plausible, a quick scan of old reviews reveals that her only mention was from when we were supposed to see her at Junofest but she was playing at the Six Shooter event that we couldn’t get into, so now I’m mad about that, and that’s awesome.

We got to the Exchange with plenty of time to get good seats. The place got pretty busy but never truly filled up. Having room to move and breathe delighted me, but later on, I just felt bad for people who missed out. But I will get to that. If I cannot fill this review with shenanigans, I will at least take up space with repeated foreshadowing.

Mark did not miss out. With about 15 minutes left before the show started, it struck me to text him and let him know that we were at the Exchange and that he should pop by if he was bored at home. I assumed he’d be off cutting up a deer or something – unlike me, Mark has hobbies – and in no way did I actually expect a response of “Save us seats. On our way.” but I was delighted to receive it. The Artistic Director of the Folk Festival introduced the show; this always involves the reading of a long list of upcoming concerts and a longer list of sponsors. That gave Mark and Arlette precious extra minutes which enabled them to take their seats just as the show was starting.

Ryan Boldt played a selection of Deep Dark Woods songs, as well as traditional songs from his album Broadside Ballads. I mean, I’m assuming he did. Like I’d know? It seems like a safe thing to say. He played guitar and was accompanied by another guitarist, and it was a relatively laid-back affair. After the first few songs, Boldt got a little chattier with the crowd, with a dry delivery that made him come across quite likeable.

Not so likeable? Bram. What a dick that guy turned out to be.

Anyway, I thought he was real good. If you want an assessment of this performance from people who actually know things about things, Mark said that Boldt was worth the admission price by himself, and at one point during the show, Mika disappeared for a minute and came back with his album. Unanimous approval from our little crew.

Between sets, Mark chatted with Boldt while Arlette took a picture of a sweater (I know that is not exactly the right word for what this thing was) with a bulldozer on it. I am not sure who made better use of their time. I took the opportunity to pee, so maybe me?

As soon as Amelia Curran took the stage, I realized that I had never seen her before, because I would have remembered someone that charming and funny and delightful. And also I apparently have been pronouncing her last name wrong for as long as I’ve known of her existence and I like to think that I would have fixed that somewhere along the way had I known.

Anyway. She was great! I am a lyrics guy and she writes great songs.

(Let us take a moment to praise both The Exchange and the sound guy here. I could hear the singer clearly! Fine work! I wish all venues and techs, respectively, were like you.)

Great songs. Yes. As with Boldt, I was entirely unfamiliar with the music going into the evening, but I am listening to her newest album now (“They Promised You Mercy,” which Mika also bought) and she played pretty much all of these. And I know she played The Mistress because she mentioned the title when introducing the song with a fun story that I won’t spoil here. iTunes lists this as her #1 most popular single. Maybe you know it? I did not but it was real good.

Curran was backed by a full band that was as good as they were untalkative. The drummer declared at one point that he was “good,” or maybe “fine,” I forget. Beyond that, they let Curran do all the talking, which was fine because she came across really well on stage. She seemed a bit nervous in an endearing way with a great sense of humour and I was totally disappointed in my fellow Reginans that more people didn’t laugh at the Simpsons reference. But she did promise/threaten a series of Kiss covers which didn’t materialize (in favour of “more sad songs about my feelings”) and I did think it was a shame we missed out on something that Mike would consider so sacrilegious.

Overall, this night was one of the great underdog success stories of the SLCR series. I hung out with good people and got introduced to new favourites and in a no-drunken-shenanigans, infrequent-chicken-fingers era, what more can one ask for? (Aside from drunken shenanigans and chicken fingers, I mean.) I knew Dan Mangan would be in the running for my show of the year, and I have high hopes for Joel Plaskett, but we have a new surprise contender. The year is off to a good start.

SLCR #210: Dan Mangan + Blacksmith (March 7, 2015)

April 8, 2015

One of my great regrets in life is missing Dan Mangan’s last show in Regina. It was about a year and a half ago at Knox Metropolitan United Church. We had tickets, but it was the first really gross wintry day of the fall, and at the end of a long week, skipping out was much easier than leaving the house. I know some people who went to the show, and they all raved about it. Which is fine, that doesn’t really mean anything, doesn’t mean I’d have had a good time. But one of those jerks (hi Mark) took some video. And showed me the video. And it really did look phenomenal. And then I was sad. Ever since then, “remember Dan Mangan” has been a mantra whenever I feel like being lazy or reclusive or whatever.

Needless to say, when Dan Mangan (and Blacksmith, his newly-named backing band) announced a return date, I was all over it. That it was at Darke Hall, my favourite Regina concert venue, was even better. I ordered our tickets online and got them bundled with a download of his new album, Club Meds. And I listened to it a million times as soon as it came out – in no way did I give it one half-assed listen on the day before the show while not really paying much attention to it. That certainly wasn’t a thing I did at all.

Our show tickets weren’t actual tickets – we were just to show up at Darke Hall and my name would be on a list. Allegedly. I was not really feeling this. I have learned to accept that these days, 95% of the time, I will have printed-out PDFs instead of proper tickets as God intended, but trusting in some phantom list is something else entirely. Everything worked out, I was on the list, we got in, Dan Mangan’s website people are on the ball, but I feel confident in my ability to exchange physical tokens for access to restricted areas and don’t really understand why we need any other system.

The artistic director of the Regina Folk Festival opened the show to welcome us all there and read off the list of the night’s sponsors, as usually happens at one of these shows. She also noted that this was the first time they’d been allowed in Darke Hall since they last had Hawksley Workman there, which was (looks through old reviews) five years ago last month?! That seems impossible and yet it clearly is not. Maybe we all stomped too hard and caused structural damage? Anyway, she mentioned that the University of Regina is fundraising with the goal of renovating its downtown campus, including Darke Hall. I would love for this place to remain available for concerts, and while I don’t have $5 million to spare, maybe you do? http://www.uregina.ca/building-knowledge/

There were actually three artists on the bill. I’d seen Dan Mangan and Hayden before, both at the Regina Folk Festival (and I saw Hayden at Louis’ nearly 20 years ago), but as for the night’s opener, Astral Swans, I’d only heard the name. Astral Swans is one human from Calgary, which meant that I’d been lied to three times by the time he took the stage. Lucky for him, I’m a forgiving sort, mostly because he was real good. He played a very short set, just him and a guitar for around 20 minutes. I couldn’t tell you what songs he played, apart from a cover of Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain, which I guess is something you could expect from someone whose debut album is titled “All my Favourite Singers are Willie Nelson.”

We then had the shortest set change I’ve ever seen. There is no way five minutes elapsed between the end of Astral Swans and Hayden taking the stage. As one who stayed sitting, I was pleased, but I felt bad for anyone who thought they had ample time to pee. I bet a lot of folks got caught unaware midstream.

In 1998, I saw Hayden at Louis’, declared him to be “not my thing,” and left early. A few years ago, he was at the Folk Festival and I came around on him. But this time, I really got it. This was a fantastic set of often dismal and depressing songs. Even the funniest moment had a dark undercurrent; he introduced the song No Happy Birthday by saying that his daughter makes the sign for “that’s enough” as soon as he starts playing songs that he’s written for her. To be fair, I didn’t get into him right away either.

In fact, I’ve had 17 years to get into Hayden and I’ve apparently squandered that time, so I don’t know what other songs he played, apart from knowing that Birthday and several others were from his newest record, Hey Love. I’d ask Mika for the titles of others – she rattled off a list when we left the show – but she’s asleep right now and it’s now been over a month anyway. (Since the concert, I mean; not since she’s been asleep.) She has told me that Hayden has gotten progressively better and better throughout his career, so maybe picking now as a starting point isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever done.

Dan Mangan was great! High expectations: met. I don’t even really know how to describe it except that it was a great show from start to finish. He played a lot of songs from Club Meds, had a pretty swank light show, played something that he described as “a lot of songs all in a row,” and made a comment about the Knox Met show I missed (“We’ll probably never be allowed back there”) that made the ol’ regret flare up again.

At one point, Mangan invited the crowd to stand up and dance; precisely one guy did so. He danced up from his seat, down the aisle, to the front of the stage, all the way back up the aisle, past his seat, out the door, and all the way home. Or, you know, he just walked back to his seat and I didn’t notice because he wasn’t The Only Guy Dancing at that point. I prefer my version.

I would have liked more songs from my favourite Mangan album, Nice, Nice, Very Nice, but for the first song of the encore, he came out without Blacksmith and played Basket by himself and Basket is my favourite song of his. Up above, I referenced dismal and depressing songs, and this one is fantastically awful in the best way. That would have been enough to send me home happy in a miserable way (or miserable in a happy way) but he brought Blacksmith, Hayden and his band, and Astral Swans all back for a show-closing sing-along that was probably a better way to end the night.

So yes, this was a fantastic night of music; the kind of show that reminds you that it’s worth it to brave going out on gross wintry days. Except it had been very slushy during this particular day and it froze while we were at the show and the walk back to the car was life threatening and finally I had to leave Mika standing in one spot holding onto a tree while I slid down the street to retrieve the car so I could pick her up and really, we should all just force Dan Mangan to tour in the summer from now on.

SLCR #209: Big Sugar (February 14, 2015)

March 5, 2015

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.

UPCOMING SHOWS
• 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)

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

December 11, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 11, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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