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.

SLCR #240: Sloan (April 9, 2016)

April 13, 2016

This was… I dunno. A noble idea? An experiment, not to be repeated?

Sloan – Canadian rock royalty Sloan – were hitting the road to mark the 20th anniversary of their legendary One Chord To Another album (and sell some obscenely expensive deluxe vinyl reissues along the way). And they weren’t coming here. I wasn’t so concerned about the record (I got a pre-order link and thusly I pre-ordered – it’s a very nice set), but seeing the show sounded like it would be a good time. They were playing in Saskatoon, but it was on a Sunday night so it would have meant a late night drive back with work the next day. But Winnipeg was on a Saturday. We could leave after Mika was done at school in the morning, go on a bit of a road trip adventure, see the show, spend a night in a hotel… the idea seemed like a decent one on its surface. But it’s Winnipeg, so you know.

Saturday morning came and we got on the road in decent time. I held us up a bit by being sleepy and lazy but not so much that it mattered. We were on our way!

…and on. And on. One forgets just low long and monotonous that drive is. It doesn’t help that the built-in iPhone podcast app will just cut chunks off your podcasts for no apparent reason. Like podcasts? Have an iPhone? Switch to Overcast. It does all your podcast stuff right. There’s also Downcast, which has this hilarious thing going where every new version fixes one problem and creates another, but it too is better than the built-in app.

Anyway. The best thing I can say about the drive was that I got a Wunderbar at the Moosomin Co-op. Or was it the Whitewood Co-op? The Broadview Co-op? I know it was a Saskatchewan Wunderbar. Gotta keep my candy bar money in the province.

Rob, you’ll never read this, but if you do, I demand that you define the “Saskatchewan Wunderbar” and put it up on Urban Dictionary.

Our talking car robot lady led us into Winnipeg and to our hotel with only a minimum of “why is it taking us this way.” The hotel was the Delta, which I will name because it was nice enough. It was Fine. My hotel standards are really pretty low. I want a bed and a toilet and a shower and I want it to not be gross. These checkboxes were all checked.

With doors at 8:00 and me believing for some dumb reason that the show was starting at 8:30, we didn’t have a ton of time for dinner, so we just ate at the hotel restaurant. It, too, was Fine. Though after dinner, I looked at Sloan’s Twitter and realized that they weren’t planning on taking the stage until 10:00, so I guess we could have gone anywhere in the city and had lots of time. We could even have gone to Olive Garden like fancy big city folk.

The venue was the Pyramid – not shaped like its namesake – which was walking distance from our hotel. We found it with only one wrong turn, which was good, because it was getting pretty frosty out for April. Inside was the neon sign for the Spectrum Cabaret, which I believe was the Pyramid in a former life. It was one of those places like the Blue Note that I read about back in the day, integral to the early days of the Crash Test Dummies. There was also a signed Dummies poster behind the bar, old enough that everyone still had long hair and Mitch Dorge hadn’t joined the band yet. Beyond that, it seemed kind of like a larger version of the Exchange in Regina. Some of that old Louis’ dank but in a room that’s basically just a big box with a stage.

There was no opener. We waited around for a while and the length of the day really took its toll on me. The Pyramid was also sold out, and people were packed in tight, so we went from the freezing walk to being way too hot in short order. I could have gone to bed right then.

Sloan finally took the stage somewhere around 10:15-10:30 and I got an immediate second wind. The first set was the One Chord album in its entirety. In preparation for the show, I gave this album a listen, and then a few more because it turns out it’s real good. Groundbreaking and controversial opinion, I know, but that’s what you come here for. It has a few big singles in Everything You’ve Done Wrong and The Good In Everyone but really, you can’t go wrong with the whole thing. The live version didn’t stray too far from the recordings – they even brought in outside horn players whose names Chris totally knew and weren’t written on his hand in Sharpie at all. This was all fun and one of the better Sloan sets I’ve ever seen.

sloan2016

There was an extended break between sets during which I was feeling pretty awake but would have been willing to murder someone for a bottled water. Instead, I gave the bartender some cash money and got us some orange Gatorades, which seems in hindsight like a better plan now that I’m not currently thirsty OR in jail.

The second set was all over the place. “Career-spanning,” I think they called it. I recognized some songs – Money City Maniacs being the big one, but also Unkind, Coax Me, and Losing California, among others. Mika said that the second set was heavy on songs from Between the Bridges and correctly surmised that I wouldn’t know lots of them. No The Other Man – I know Aaron will be disappointed. Also no Underwhelmed or The Rest Of My Life, which are both personal and crowd favourites.

To be fair, they may actually have played any or all of the above – we wound up bailing on the encore. I know. But we were exhausted from the drive and I have to say, there are some real dicks in Winnipeg* who will just shove you hard and not give a shit at all. Or they’ll scream along to the music. I don’t mind if they sing – even if they (like me) can’t sing well – as long as you’re not just hollering for the sake of hearing your own drunk voice and then laughing at your loudness. It got to be a bit much. “It’s not the band I hate, it’s their fans,” indeed. It was also the loudest I’ve ever heard Sloan, and the volume completely drowned Jay out when he was singing. Mika’s favourite Sloan song is False Alarm, and they played it, but she was disappointed that you couldn’t really hear it.

*okay they weren’t really Winnipeg-specific, they were just drunk b-holes and those are everywhere and these days I don’t go to many shows where they’re prevalent anymore so they bother me more than they likely should

I hate ending on the negative stuff because then people go “man, that show sounded terrible” and it certainly wasn’t! It was just a long day and the venue was hot (I don’t even blame them – it was packed) and some people were kinda turds. Most people weren’t turds. But it doesn’t take many turds, you know? Friggin’ turds.

So what else can I tell you? Well, Patrick (who had apparently celebrated numerous birthdays at the Pyramid/Spectrum in years past) has a long grey beard and Chris introduced him as Dumbledore. They had a basic light show set up with a disco ball, which I don’t think I’ve seen at a Sloan show before. It was nothing fancy but gave the whole thing some nice visual variety. At one point someone threw a big handful of ice into the crowd, confusing everyone, including the band. And apparently Craig Northey of Odds was at our show; I didn’t see him there, but he was posting pictures from the show on Instagram. I know he was in Winnipeg with Steven Page et al doing that Art of Time Ensemble Sgt. Pepper show, the one I saw in Calgary.

Anyway, after the chilly walk back to the hotel, we were more than done for the night. And the next morning it was snowing and windy because it is Winnipeg, so rather than brave the Ikea or the Human Rights Museum (and what does it say about us that those were our preferred choices? I feel like this could be a lengthy discussion all its own), we hit the road as soon as we were up and about. Our tourist stop for the day was at the finest Boston Pizza in Brandon, followed up with a second Saskatchewan Wunderbar when we stopped for gas.

UPCOMING CONCERTS
• Jason Collett & Zeus w/Kalle Mattson (April 19)
• Ben Folds & yMusic w/Dotan (May 11)
• Danny Michel (May 12)
• Hawksley Workman & The Art of Time Ensemble (May 13)
• The Pack a.d. (May 28)
• Meat Loaf (June 11)
• City and Colour w/Shakey Graves (June 12)
• Regina Folk Festival w/The Head and The Heart; Ry Cooder, Sharon White, & Ricky Skaggs; Sam Roberts Band; The Mavericks; Bettye LaVette; The Cat Empire; The Strumbellas, and more (August 5-7)
• “Weird Al” Yankovic (August 14)
• Fred Eaglesmith (October 1)
• I Mother Earth with Edwin (October 8)

SLCR #239: Spirit of the West (March 31, 2016)

April 9, 2016

This was destined to be bittersweet. The last time I saw Spirit of the West, lead singer John Mann had recently been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. We went, in part, expecting it to be our last chance to see the band. But that night, they promised they’d be back on a proper farewell tour. A year and a half later, here we are. Within minutes of tickets going on sale, they were snapped up and I got one of the last tables for four available. Not the best seats I’ve ever managed – we were off to the very far left – but I knew it wouldn’t matter since everyone would be standing anyway.

With Mika under the weather, Colin took her spot at the last minute to join Mark and Arlette and I. In exchange for the ticket, I gave him the important job of reminding me to pick up a sundae for Mika on the trip home. I saw a number of other work folks scattered throughout the casino.

The band took the stage right at 8:00 with no opener. Normally it takes a few songs to get people out of their seats at the casino, but not tonight. People crowded around the front right from the get-go and security didn’t hassle anyone. Probably because they’d pretty much be forced to hassle everyone.

The setlist was much the same as last time. I say this because I don’t know much Spirit of the West beyond their singles, but pretty much everything here sounded familiar. I suppose it’s the type of situation that doesn’t lend itself to a lot of variation. Really, the show was mostly a rerun from the last time out. You got most of your big hits – And If Venice Is Sinking, Sadness Grows, Is This Where I Come In – mixed in with fan favourites. I know they played Political, The Joneses, The Old Sod, Another Happy New Year, and The Rites of Man. Geoffrey Kelly handled pretty much all of the talking between songs. John Mann was glued to the iPad with the lyrics, but was a ball of crazy dancing energy otherwise. His “FUCK ALZHEIMER’S (in the arse)” shirt was new and got a great reaction.

So how was it? The band was as good as ever but if I’m being honest, you could see some deterioration from the last time. It looked like Mann had a little more difficulty following along with the lyrics now. Have you ever sung along with the radio, only you start singing a bit early and you have to hold back, or you start the wrong verse and you have to quickly switch it up? I noticed a few parts like that, or places where Mann just wasn’t singing where I thought he should be. He barely talked at all when not singing, but he still repeated himself at one point. Now, all of these could be nothing, you know? You hope it’s nothing. Stuff that I’m blowing out of proportion because I was specifically watching to see how he was doing.

I think that would be one of the worst parts about Alzheimer’s. Every little slip would seem like a portent of doom. You know? Forget your watch at home one day and it would feel like a terrible sign. I do it and it just means it’s Thursday.

Anyway, I don’t want to make it sound like it was a bad show or anything. Mann’s still got his voice and the band is still great, I just noticed a few moments. And the crowd was not going to be anything but 100% loving and supportive, dancing and yelling and cheers and we love yous all night.

I said the setlist was the same but they actually mixed up the ending a bit. Drummer Vince Ditrich sang a few songs while most of the band took a break. When everyone came back out, they said they’d wrap things up with two oldies. Okay. It was not going to be a surprise what songs those were, and I figured Dietrich’s intermission was done to set up this “encore.” Mark and Arlette got up and went to the stage – it felt like half the people with floor “seating” were there already – and Colin and I soon followed. Of course, it was Save This House followed by Home For A Rest. Mark demanded we pogo. We pogoed. Everyone else in the place was up and dancing and singing anyway. It was a great way to end an emotional show, so I was surprised that they came back out for two more songs. The Crawl is a fine song to end on, but it’s not Home For A Rest, you know? Seemed like a strange choice.

With that, they thanked the crowd and took their final bows. It was an emotional night and both Ditrich and Mann looked like they might have shed a few tears. I can’t imagine what their farewell shows next week in Vancouver will be like.

But the important thing is, I remembered that sundae.

SLCR #238: Metric & Death Cab for Cutie (March 28, 2016)

April 9, 2016

To be honest, I wasn’t really excited for this show. I like Metric well enough to have seen them a few times before, but their newest album just doesn’t do it for me. If something can be described as “electronic synth pop,” I think it’s a safe bet that I won’t like it.

Now someone will point out that term could be used to describe all of Metric’s music, maybe, and I like an awful lot of it, including their previous album, Synthetica. So I don’t know. All’s I know is lots of bands I like are moving toward a new sound and it’s the same sound and it’s one I don’t care for. But I like enough older Metric stuff that when Mika asked if I wanted to go, I was quick to agree – especially when she got our coveted Row L For Legroom end seats.

I didn’t know at the time that Death Cab For Cutie was also on this tour. I’ve never heard much of their stuff, and what I have hasn’t inspired me to seek out more. Just not my thing. Probably an age thing – I was too old to be paying attention when they first came along and I never bothered to make an effort. Everyone I know who likes them is five to ten years younger than me. But I know they’re a big deal and I was surprised to see that they were playing before Metric.

Really, my #1 Death Cab memory comes from the days of the Delphi boards:

Albert: (mentions “DCFC” when talking music)
someone: “What’s DCFC?”
Albert: “Death Cab For Cutie! One of my favorite bands!”
Scott: “Death Cab For Cutie! One of Albert’s favorite bands! I think they suck!”

Not that funny, but I don’t know. I’ve forgotten lots of great chattery material but that one has stuck with me since day one. Maybe that’s why I never got into Death Cab. Afraid of what Scott might think.

We got to the Conexus Arts Centre in time to enjoy our legroom for 6:45, the bizarre stated start time on the tickets. And at 6:45:01, the lights dimmed. We got three bands tonight, no time to mess around.

With the vast majority of fans not yet in attendance, the openers were Leisure Cruise. They are from Brooklyn. I know this because they said so. I know nothing else about them except their lead singer took the stage wearing a coat that appeared to be made out of fifty pounds of silver Christmas tinsel. Mika said she kind of wanted it. I will not get it for her. Carl spends too much time trying to get our attention by pulling coats down as it is.

In front of a giant screen and what appeared to be two giant white beachballs with stuff projected onto them, Leisure Cruise played electronic pop that made them a good fit as openers for Metric. Nothing I ran out to buy or anything, but it was fine. I have nothing else to say about that.

I can pretty much review Death Cab by saying that I went into their set not giving a shit about them, and I left not giving a shit about them, but they were much better than I had given them credit for. They played two songs I recognized, both about hearts. Ultimately still not my thing, but clearly very talented and the crowd loved them – they got a standing ovation and fans were really disappointed there was no encore. It was obvious that people saw them as the big stars of the evening. There wasn’t a huge number of people who left right after Death Cab were done, but there were some – and people trickled out throughout Metric’s performance.

Between sets, I went exploring and briefly ran into Mark and Other James. Mark gushed over Death Cab so maybe they’re the best and there’s just something wrong with me?

So yeah, Metric ran the risk of being upstaged by their co-headliners. When they took the stage, they almost had to beg people to stand up and get into the show. And it didn’t help that the sound seemed better for Death Cab than for Metric – they buried Emily Haines’ vocals to a degree.

But once they got going, the show was a lot of fun. The new songs worked a lot better for me in the live setting and there were lots of older songs that I knew well and enjoyed. Mika said she thought the newer material worked better than the older stuff, and I can see where she’s coming from. They mixed up the old stuff a lot – but I’d rather hear that than just note-for-note renditions of the album versions. And the staging was great – probably the best light show I’ve ever seen at a rock show. Apologies to anyone who had to sit through my Instagram flood that night – but you didn’t even get to see the confetti cannons.

Not that everything worked. Fans who bought VIP tickets were invited on stage to serve as a chorus backing the song Dreams So Real. I know that nobody buys music anymore and you’ve gotta make your money where you can. So I understand offering VIP packages where people can pay more to meet the band, watch the soundcheck, get exclusive stuff, or just get fancy parking or something. But inviting people on stage… I’m not so sure that’s a good idea. Some of those folks looked terrified. It’s an experiment that was worth trying but probably not repeating.

But that was one song in a long night of music. By and large, the show was a good time and the evening exceeded my expectations. Really, all three bands wound up better than I thought they’d be. And after twenty minutes of sitting here trying to come up with a better conclusion than that, I’m going to accept that I don’t have one and just be done with this.

SLCR #237: The Watchmen (March 25, 2016)

April 8, 2016

Dang. I’m much better at getting these out on time when I’m on vacation.

Or maybe I’m not the right person to be writing this. Maybe Mika should, or Jeff, or Jeremy. Or maybe anyone else who was at this show. To me, the Watchmen were just one of those bands that were on the radio sometimes. A good band, one I liked well enough, but not one I ever really sought out. I don’t think I ever owned any of their albums, I never saw them in concert, I didn’t know anything beyond the radio hits. And because I am a dumb, I just kind of assumed that everyone felt the same way I did, because why would I ever consider another person’s perspective? So it came as a surprise to me when I went to buy our tickets – the day they opened the advance sale for casino Players Club members, two days before tickets went on sale to the general public – and I couldn’t get a table for four. The only way to get four seats together was to split a table for eight, further back from the stage. And I understand that Players Club cards are free and everyone in Regina has one so they can get $5 casino breakfasts, but still, it seemed fast. I seriously underestimated the demand for the Watchmen. I’m pretty sure the show sold out within days.

And so it was that I found myself at the casino with three people – and surrounded by hundreds more – who liked the Watchmen so much more than I do. Which is not to say that I dislike them at all! I don’t! They’re good! But I was out of my depth. There were favourite-album discussions, and hopes of hearing specific deep cuts, and debates about which anniversary of which album this show was celebrating, and there I was, thinking “hey, Stereo, that’s a song I know. And… um…”

Okay, so I had to check Wikipedia for a quick refresher of some titles (and, in some cases, check YouTube to match titles to songs): Boneyard Tree, Shut Up, All Uncovered, Incarnate, Any Day Now, Absolutely Anytime. At least I knew enough to not be tricked when I Googled “Watchmen singles” and it gave me the Watchmen movie soundtrack.

So we’re sitting at the long table, Jeff and Jeremy making friends with the other four randos who had joined us, and the voice of God booms. Or… it drones, maybe. God didn’t sound real into things. I suppose he’s seen it all. “Ladies and gentlemen. The Watchmen are here. But first-” and there were boos! Not that many or anything, but there were a handful of cheesed off people who had not counted on an opener and were NOT down with the idea of waiting even longer for the Watchmen. I haven’t heard the mere concept of an opening band get booed since the last time I saw the Tragically Hip.

The openers turned out to be fellow Winnipeggers Yes We Mystic, a name that seemed to confuse everyone. They were good enough to silence the handful of skeptics and that is pretty much all I can tell you about them. That, and the lead singer had a yellow and black checkered jacket that I couldn’t tell if I loved or hated. They were perfectly fine, playing rock with some folk influences, mixing some unexpected instruments into the usual guitar/bass/drums mix. Recommended if you like any of the songs played by Portland Cloud Orchestra in Guitar Hero Live.

So you know how I said I only know Watchmen singles, right? Well, after about 45 minutes of their set, I heard the first song I knew, not counting when they did a bit of Down Under for some reason. Meanwhile, everyone else at our table got to hear all the songs they were hoping for. Or so Mika tells me. How would I know?

The casino has recently started having general admission shows (I think the Headstones might have been the first one), and it would have maybe been a good choice here. As the show went on, people started to gather down at the front of the stage, as they will do. And security sent them all back to sit in their assigned seats, as THEY will do (to the amazement of people who haven’t seen this bit of party pooping before). So then one lady gets back up and everyone cheers. Security sits her back down. Two more women run along the front of the stage. Finally, the song ends, and singer Daniel Greaves says “I don’t know, it seems reasonable to me to stand up for a bit.” ROAR goes the crowd and everyone in the place pops to their feet. He seemed appreciative. “There, that seems more like… every other show we’ve ever done.”

The timing of it was surely coincidental, but once everyone got up and loosened up, the second half of the show became much more of a greatest-hits set. This was a delight for me but really, there wasn’t a bad song in the bunch, even out of the ones I was unfamiliar with. The Watchmen still sound as good as they used to and it’s a sound that holds up better than some of their contemporaries. It was a really solid show – lots of hits, lots of fan favourites, and a devoted crowd. I’d be surprised if tickets didn’t go even faster next time.


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