SLCR #306: Michael Bernard Fitzgerald (November 29, 2017)

December 5, 2017

“Two days! Just two days until @ilovembf is back in the Exchange.” tweeted the Exchange.

This was on Monday. And I was sure they were mistaken. I’d planned all week to go see Michael Bernard Fitzgerald on Thursday night. I was about to point out their error when a tiny voice buried in the back of my brain pointed out that maybe… just maybe… *I* was wrong?!

Sure enough, Fitzgerald was here on Wednesday, not Thursday. I even wrote down Wednesday in the text file I use to organize my life (if only this phone had a calendar app), but for some reason, I was convinced the show was on Thursday. Never one to wisely hide my foolishness, I thanked the Exchange for saving me from a sad Thursday evening discovery. They replied, “Glad we did! Especially since Thursday is Austrian metal band Belphegor, so pretty different than MBF unless he’s really changed directions.”

In fairness, I’d pay to see MBF play Austrian metal at least once.

Anyway, for a dirt cheap $10 ticket, I somehow found myself at the Exchange on the correct night. Mika was in school so I was flying solo again. I prepared myself for a raucous evening of misbehaviour by grabbing a raspberry iced tea – the kind with real sugar and everything (on a Wednesday?!) – and went to find myself a chair. As luck would have it, I again ran into Rob and his wife, who once again let me crash their night out. They were joined by Carver and Rob actually properly introduced us to each other, ending a years-long running joke I had with myself. (I’m lots of fun.)

Regina’s own Danny Olliver was added as an opener earlier in the day. The last time I saw him was also in an opening spot for Fitzgerald, who produced Olliver’s albums. He played a short set of singer-songwriter type stuff – kind of on the folkier side – while showing off some impressive guitar work. Not much different than the last time I saw him, but I liked that time and enjoyed this round too.

Though really, if this set is to be remembered for anything, it’ll be salmon. Olliver took audience questions – because that always goes well – and someone asked him what his favourite food was. He said salmon and was immediately cut off by a girl at a nearby table not-quietly-enough exclaiming “oh God, I love salmon too.” They then tried to have a back-and-forth about salmon but the table quickly resumed talking amongst itself (about salmon) and the show went on.

At least salmon table was invested. Somewhat. It was not a particularly lively or enthusiastic crowd all night. When Olliver said “Are you ready for Michael Bernard Fitzgerald,” you could hear crickets. The crowd was a little bigger than for Nomadic Massive, but there, it seemed like people collectively decided “there aren’t many people here, we need to make up for it in enthusiasm.” There was no such thought at this show. MBF later said “you do not seem like a crowd that is interested in answering questions.”

The two openers both complemented Fitzgerald well. In Olliver, you could hear traces of MBF’s folkier side, and the second opener, The Middle Coast, were stylistically a lot closer to Fitzgerald’s more upbeat songs. I’d call them a three-piece from Winnipeg, but there was a pillar blocking the far right hand side of the stage for me, so I’ll just assume that the two people I could see were actually talking to someone else. Could have been twenty people behind that pillar. Or maybe they’re a duo and a robot or a tape deck or a ghost? However it shakes out, all three (?) took turns on lead vocals, and they did their best to bring up the energy level of a room that wasn’t real into cooperating. I liked these folks and would see them again. They earned bonus points for talking up local favourite eateries (even if their pronunciation gave their out-of-towner status away) and for disparaging their own album cover, a shot of the three of them making dinner (it was curry!) taken by someone who, I can only assume, was squatting atop the fridge. Sounds both dangerous and unsanitary, if you ask me.

One brief break and mere moments later, the Middle Coast returned, serving as MBF’s band – now with a keyboard player who could possibly have been there all along (see above, re: pillar). They all did a fine job in this role and, not being a musician, I’m always a little amazed at that sort of thing. Sure, we’ll learn an entire set of your tunes and play them flawlessly for a three-week tour – never before and never again. I mean, I know they’re not super musically complex songs or anything but that still seems daunting to me. But the only instrument I can play is one loud piercing note on a tin whistle that I use to scare the cat sometimes.

We were promised some new songs and we got them! Always a treat to hear new stuff from a favourite singer. We were not promised any old songs, so no promise was broken – I’m not sure he played anything that came out before his 2015 album Yes. (Okay some of those songs were on an earlier EP but that detracts from my point so shut it.) Luckily, I like his two newest albums – though the older tunes would have been welcome too.

I didn’t take notes but the more energetic songs included I Wanna Make it With You, This Isn’t It, and Last Train to Georgia, which was probably the standout to me. It’s never been in my favourites of his but I got a new appreciation for it on this night. The folkier songs included Follow, One Love, Love is an Easy Thing to Miss, and I think he played Reach You? Maybe? I’ve been listening to all my MBF songs on shuffle while writing this and may have confused myself. I feel like he did play Reach You and it was the only song from before Yes but who can tell now? Rob or Carver, maybe. I wonder if they’re available at 12:15am for factchecking.

I didn’t list a ton of songs up there, and it was a short set, clocking in at just around an hour. Fitzgerald never seems to play for too long, at least when I see him. I’d have happily listened a bit longer, but I do appreciate someone doesn’t leave ’em wanting less, and I can’t imagine the crowd was particularly inspiring. At one point, MBF addressed a couple who’d just gotten engaged and said that they were going to be at the show – no response. Then he talked about someone’s girlfriend’s birthday – also no response. Then he vowed to quit paying attention to things people say to him on Facebook. Not a crowd that’s interested in answering questions, indeed. At least he got a good laugh whenever he mentioned salmon.

For the record, I did not spend my Thursday night with Austrian metal band Belphegor. Instead, after work, I went to Costco. Much more expensive. Harder to navigate through the crowds. Worse parking. To be fair, Belphegor probably doesn’t sell iTunes cards at 20% off, but it would be unfair to ask them to.

Advertisements

SLCR #305: Regina Symphony Orchestra feat. Tanya Tagaq (November 25, 2017)

December 3, 2017

Hey, now here’s something I have no business talking about! I mean, I can’t play Rock Band above medium without failing out; whatever made 20-year-old me think I should start reviewing concerts is beyond me. But talking about a symphony orchestra seems especially like overstepping my boundaries.

“whatever made 20-year-old me think I should start reviewing concerts” – Pat was drunk and it was funny and I wanted people to laugh at him, that was mostly it

Anyway, this was part of the Regina Symphony’s Masterworks series, a performance of Dvorák New World Symphony (should that be “Dvorák’s” when you’re using it in a sentence?). My symphony-going experience, because I am a mature grown-up adult, is mostly limited to one-off novelties. Video game themes, or songs from kids shows, or the orchestra is accompaniment to mainstream pop/rock musicians (Ben Folds, Sarah Slean, Crash Test Dummies). Seeing that Tanya Tagaq was here, I think I was expecting something closer to those latter performances. This wasn’t that. Mika said that the evening was basically exactly what she was expecting, so I attribute this to me seeing Tagaq’s name and doing no further research at all.

Here’s what the program says:

Dòchas – Laura Pettigrew
Trumpet Concerto – John Estacio
Qiksaaktuq – Christine Duncan & Jean Martin
Intermission
Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 (From the New World) – Antonin Dvorák

I was surprised to find, when we got there, that we were sitting in the front row. I mean, I chose the seats, so it shouldn’t have surprised me, but that was five months ago now. I forget things. The online shopping experience through the Symphony’s website is not ideal – it’s tricky to pick the seats you want. I could call in or stop by their offices, but if I’m going to spend 20 minutes going back on forth on price vs. location, I’d like to be alone with my shame, thanks. Also, when you get your tickets emailed to you, they look like printouts of a website from 1996, with lots of blue underlined Arial text. These particular tickets also had a space at the bottom with the text, “A message from our Venue.” I guess the Conexus Arts Centre had nothing to say to me.

Anyway, they were good seats or not so good seats, depending on what you wanted to see. Not so great if you wanted to see the brass section, real good if you wanted to watch the conductor and the cellos and the violins and Tanya Tagaq. Also real good if you wanted to compare the shininess of everyone’s shoes. The conductor? Very shiny shoes.

Look, I’m not even going to try to seriously critique anything here. I enjoyed everything and have no deep thoughts about most of the music beyond “that was nice” and “maybe I should have dressed up at least a little.” Thank goodness they hand out programs so I can make a half-assed attempt to at least spell things right. That said, please note that putting the accent on the R in Dvorák is not going to happen and that is how it is. Dude’s dead, he doesn’t care.

The trumpet concerto was commissioned for Canada 150 and performed by symphonies across Canada throughout 2017, so it was neat to hear the one time it was performed here. The featured musician was the regular Principal Trumpet of the orchestra; though he’s a local (and a he), they still gave him a bouquet of flowers when he was done. He seemed very surprised.

Of the four pieces, I was unsurprisingly most interested in Qiksaaktuq; that was the one featuring Tanya Tagaq. She’s an Inuit throat singer who won the Polaris Prize a few years back, and this piece was described as a lament for missing and murdered Indigenous women. This was very moving and very unique – I gather that semi-improvisational pieces with two conductors and a throat singer are not so common. This was well worth the cost of admission alone, which is good since it was the reason we were there. It did seem like a fair number of people left once Tagaq was done.

The day before, Mika told me that the fourth movement of the New World Symphony was the inspiration for the music from Star Wars and I was supposed to let her know if I could hear the influence. Sort of, though I don’t know if I’d have noticed it if I hadn’t been prompted. Really, if I heard any John Williams in there, it was one brief part that clearly inspired the theme to Jaws.

And that was our grand symphony adventure. Honestly, if I’d fully realized what the night was going to entail, I wouldn’t have planned a write-up for it since I have no business doing so and it’s so far removed from a normal concert. But here we are. I did enjoy it! Would go again, which is good, since they’re doing selections from West Side Story in May and someone might have opinions about whether we should go to that. Would probably at least wear a shirt with a collar. Would prefer to not sit in the front row.

But the big takeaway, from the conversation in the car on the drive back home, is that you’re not supposed to clap between movements. People did anyway. Certain people who may have an interest in West Side Story may also hold strong opinions about this. I don’t have a dog in this fight. I clap when other people clap. I stand when other people stand. I know better than to try to start anything.

SLCR #304: Corb Lund (November 23, 2017)

November 29, 2017

I like Corb Lund. Saw him before and enjoyed it. Wanted to see him again. Not everything is interesting.

With Mika in school, on this night I was accompanied by Jason and Melissa, a friend from work and his wife. You may recall them from when we went to see the UFC in Saskatoon together, except that wasn’t a concert so I didn’t tell you about that. Jason was kind enough to not only let me invite myself along with them but he even picked up our tickets. He put us in the front row of the balcony; fine work.

The last time I saw Corb Lund at the casino, you may remember that I complained about all the big-ass trucks in the parking lot. It turns out that I didn’t know from big-ass trucks; when you go see a country singer while Agribition is on, it’s a whole ‘nother level. Of trucks. As is becoming tradition, I composed and sang a song to myself during the ever-frustrating drive through the casino parkade. It had swears.

I’ve mostly never been to Agribition. Doesn’t seem like my thing. One time I walked past a bunch of closed exhibits to go see Willie Nelson at the Brandt Centre, but I don’t think that counts. I know very little about it other than when it’s on, you can’t find a hotel room in town. Folks from all over the province come in big-ass trucks to see… I don’t know, whatever there is to see at an agricultural exhibition. They also like going to country shows.

I got to the casino with 10 minutes to spare and met up with Jason and Melissa in the balcony. The last Corb show at the casino had floor seating too, which wasn’t quite ideal for a crowd that wanted to get drunk and rowdy. This time, they’d left the floor as standing-room, which… again, not quite ideal. You can’t win, casino. Earlier in the day, I read that this show and tour was called “BS With CL” – instead of a full band, Corb was going to be out there by himself with just a guitar. There was a phone number where you could text Corb your questions and he’d answer some of them and tell stories as the show went on. I thought it was a little odd that there was no mention of this in any of the casino’s advertising for the show (at least, nothing that I saw). Had I not seen that one Facebook post, I’d have been expecting a normal concert. Don’t get me wrong – I’d rather see something unique. I just think if an artist is going to be doing something markedly different from normal, you might want to tell people before they buy tickets. The casino is very upfront about Weird Al’s upcoming show being a significant departure from his usual shenanigans, and Saskatoon’s Broadway Theatre used the BS With CL name and description in advertising, so I don’t know what happened here.

I wasn’t sure if we were getting an opener, but the show was kicked off by Mike Plume. I knew the name, not sure from where. He’s pals with Corb and I suspect if you like one, you’d like them both. He sang a short set with a lot of Canadiana – songs about hockey and Stompin’ Tom and working in Fort Mac and Remembrance Day and the country itself. It seemed like he won the crowd over by the end of it – the ode to Stompin’ Tom was a particular favourite and has been stuck in my head off and on since then.

Corb was out after a noticeably brief intermission, and yep, the whole set was just him and a guitar (apart from a few songs where he was joined by Plume, so it was two guys with guitars). I don’t think you could complain about the setlist – it was packed with old and new favourites and there wasn’t much you could have been left wanting. Looking over Corb’s discography now, it occurs to me that 1) I’ve listened to a fair bit of his music, 2) it’s real good, and 3) he sampled pretty evenly from all his records. Really, if you wanted the Corb Lund starter kit, this setlist was perfect. The biggest reactions were saved for Five-Dollar Bill and The Truck Got Stuck, as well as anything that mentioned Saskatchewan or places therein (Hurtin’ Albertan, Long Gone to Saskatchewan, and the one Plume song they did together, The Big American Headliner). Really, between Lund and Plume, there’s no way I’ve been to a show with more local references, and they’re both no-good Albertans. Plume may be a transplant from New Brunswick, but still. No-good Albertan.

As far as the BS part went, there really wasn’t a ton. Corb had his phone on stage and checked it for questions, but there wasn’t much more talking than a normal show. He went into a little detail about Talkin’ Veterinarian Blues, Family Reunion, The Truck Got Stuck, and personal favourite S Lazy H. A lot of his stories centred on which of the songs are based on true stories. Answer: a lot of them, though they have made-up parts too. Which is what you’d expect.

I thought this was great, but it did seem like maybe this wasn’t the show the Agribition crowd wanted. You could hear an awful lot of distracting talking coming from the folks on the floor. I think there was a pretty sizable contingent that wanted to get drunk and rowdy and this didn’t really provide the opportunity. I mean, some did anyway, but nowhere near what you’d expect. I really dig Corb but find his fans to be a bit much sometimes. I keep going to see him, since he’s great and all, but you need to prepare yourself for the drunken yahoos you may encounter. This seemed like it was less of a show for them and more for me, so, y’know, no complaints here.

I say “Corb Lund fans” as if I’m not one, but somehow, Corb became one of my favourite musicians. I didn’t even really realize it until I was thinking about it today and realized just how much of his stuff I know well and enjoy. I’ve liked him for a long time, but I wouldn’t have ever thought to list him among my very favourites, but somehow, that happened and I didn’t even realize it.

Or to put it all another way, enjoyed it. Want to see him again.

SLCR #303: Andy Shauf (November 18, 2017)

November 28, 2017

Until this show, I liked Andy Shauf, but I never really got Andy Shauf.

For those who don’t know the name, he’s a singer-songwriter from here in Regina. The first time we saw him was in 2013, when he opened for Mo Kenney at a half-full Artful Dodger. By that point, he was already well known around these parts. We later saw him at the 2015 Regina Folk Festival and then again opening for Whitehorse in 2016. In all cases, I thought he was good and very likable and I wanted him to do well, but there was always something that didn’t quite work for me – he’s real quiet, and I sometimes found him hard to hear and that everything kinda sounded the same. He’s one of many people where I thought I could really get into him if only I spent some time with his albums, but we all know I’ll talk about that but likely never do it.

I did think he was best suited to small, intimate venues. This time, he was headlining at the Exchange, which seemed to be the ideal place. That it was a sold-out hometown show could only help.

I suspect this will be the last time we can see Shauf at a place this small. Even now, I’m guessing he only played the Exchange because he used to work there. They said he was the only person ever to serve as caretaker and also headline a show there. This was the second last stop on his tour; the only remaining date was in Toronto’s Massey Hall. When I looked, you could only buy single seats for that one.

Watching his rise has really been something. When Hawksley Workman discovered Shauf and praised him, I wasn’t that surprised. But to see Reggie Watts do the same thing, it really illustrated how far Shauf was going.

Several days before they show, they announced that Steph Cameron would be opening. This was a delightful surprise. We saw her at the very same 2015 Regina Folk Festival. As opposed to all the other Regina Folk Festivals that year. I really liked her short set and later bought her album, Sad-Eyed Lonesome Lady. She was back in Regina only a few weeks ago, opening for Little Miss Higgins, but we were already booked that night, so this was a treat.

Doors opened at 8:00, which really isn’t that late, but it feels like it is if you’re used to the early-starting concerts the Folk Festival puts on. We got in at around 8:30 and had lots of time to stand around and critique the fashion choices of today’s youth. Tye Dillinger’s haircut was a standout, as was a jacket that read SAME SHIT, DIFFERENT DAY in large letters on the back. One girl was there in short shorts; I question her wisdom but admire her commitment when it’s -20 with the windchill.

Someone from the Board of Directors for the Exchange welcomed us to the show, since this was one of a series of concerts marking their 30th anniversary. She seemed nervous. Didn’t need to be. She did fine!

Cameron started around 9:00 and played for about a half-hour, mostly material from her brand new album, Daybreak Over Jackson Street, about her time living in one of Vancouver’s worst neighbourhoods. I didn’t even know she had a new album, so that was another nice surprise. Or maybe a continuation of the first one. She did a fine job despite a crowd that left something to be desired. Even the folks at the very front were talking and looking at their phones. By now, I should just have a boilerplate paragraph that covers this. You know the deal. If you’re going to do that, why don’t you just leave? Or not show up in the first place? There are lots of places that won’t charge you $25/person cover to stand around and be a dick. But standing dicks notwithstanding, she was real good. Last time I saw her, my verdict was “would see again” and that hasn’t changed. Even if she didn’t play the one song Mika knew.

Speaking of standing dicks, we had about 45 minutes of standing around time before Shauf and band took the stage. I won’t lie to you; I was ready to leave well before this point. The standing, the inattentive crowd, the heat of a packed, sold-out venue, and the fact that I’d never been super into Shauf before were all combining to kill my enthusiasm for the evening, such as it was.

Armed with a full band – including TWO clarinetists, as one does – Shauf returned to his hometown if not quite a conquering hero, at least well on his way. And this was where it all came together for me. Great sound in the venue combined with a crowd that was surprisingly quiet and respectful to create the perfect atmosphere to listen to Shauf’s lyrics. Hometown Hero and Wendell Walker became new favourites for me, but I enjoyed all of it.

Shauf’s stage presence is quite reserved. He’s not someone who will ever put on shows described as electrifying – they’re for listening, not for dancing. Throughout this review, I kept looking for the right place to put the term “low-key” since it kind of applies everywhere. But he does display a subtle sense of humour when talking to the crowd which breaks things up a little. Every time I’ve seen him, he’s asked the audience if they have any questions. This time, it was something about Star Trek. I liked it better last time when someone yelled “what do you have against horses?”

But that was the only part of the show that wasn’t quite as good as before. It’s telling that I liked the show at all, given the mood I was in before it began, but this was fantastic. It took me a while – I’m late to the party, perhaps – but I’m finally on the Andy Shauf bandwagon. Better get on now, before he takes over the world so quietly that nobody even notices.

SLCR #302: Headstones (November 17, 2017)

November 21, 2017

We’ve seen a lot of 90s Can-rock shows of late. Of them all – Watchmen, I Mother Earth, Big Wreck, Our Lady Peace, Limblifter, Age of Electric, Big Sugar, The Tea Party – I enjoyed the Headstones the best. They weren’t my favourite of that list back in the day – that would be Our Lady Peace – but the Headstones stuff holds up the best for me. I really enjoyed their show last year and was looking forward to their return.

This time out, they were paired with SNAKEandtheCHAIN. I didn’t pick the spacing and capitalization. When we arrived at the casino, there was a Headstones banner on stage, partially covered by a SNAKEandtheCHAIN banner. It looked like we were there to see HEASNAKEandtheCHAINNES.

You may recall that I saw Bif Naked on the night of the US election – how it is possible that was only a year ago? – and that night, her guitarist was her husband, Snake. If I didn’t call him Snake Naked then, I apologize. I should have. Anyway, he’s the Snake (or SNAKE) of SNAKEandtheCHAIN. At one point, they got referred to as “SNAKEandtheCHAIN featuring Bif Naked,” so I assume the third guy, Kuryakin, is the chain. Or CHAIN. And Bif’s just Bif.

I mentioned this last year but here’s a quick refresher regarding my feelings about Bif Naked: I used to like some of her stuff before losing interest. It was nice to see her last year, but I didn’t leave that show feeling like I’d rekindled my fandom or anything. Still, I was interested to see what her new band was all about.

The show started with Snake and Kuryakin. Snake hooked up an iPhone and lip-synched I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You. I guess he did sing some of it, since he tried to sing “take my hand” over the “shall I stay” part. Let’s assume they were just going for something silly here.

Bif Naked joined them and they launched into their first proper song, Heavy. Over the kind of music a wrestler would have entered the ring to in 1999, Bif told us, over and over, that her baby, she likes it heavy.

Then she asked who there had a safeword. “MORE is my safeword,” said Snake. Did you think that was a clever joke? Would you still think that was a clever joke after a song that repeated it over and over?

Somewhere in the crowd was JP, a guy I know from work. I’d say “a friend from work” but we never actually talk, apart from when I email him to tell him that the Headstones are coming to town, and he emails me back to let me know that he already knew (but thanks). I sent him a note on Facebook. I NEEDED to know his opinion of what we were watching.

Before the next song, Snake Naked said “you can’t even look at a woman these days without getting arrested.” Now, I’m a reasonable person. I’m willing to accept that this was said in jest. But it sure didn’t sound like it, and apart from one fellow who was in vocal agreement, the crowd didn’t really seem to know how to take it. This led into a song “about a bad boy named Frankie” who “forgot to thank me” and is “gonna get a spanking.” You may note that Frankie, thank me, and spanking all kind of rhyme. We eventually found out that Frankie forgot to thank Bif Naked for, among two other things, “swallowing your cum.” This went on for… I mean, it couldn’t possibly have been a half-hour, but it didn’t feel any less.

Next, Bif started telling a story about how Snake broke free from a Siberian prison to be here today. Mika asked if I’d like to go get drinks in the lobby instead. So we did. The bar in the casino lobby is famously slow. It took over 20 minutes to get our drinks with only maybe 10 people in front of us. I didn’t mind. We could have been back in the show lounge listening to SNAKEandtheCHAIN. Things could have been worse.

I will say that some people seemed into the show. These people were wrong, but they definitely existed. Meanwhile, we were throwing around “what the fuck was that,” “I feel embarrassed for them,” “worst band I’ve seen in years and maybe ever,” “I’m starting to reconsider my feelings about Cage the Elephant,” “do you think he’s holding Bif Naked hostage,” and “but seriously, what the fuck was that?”

On Facebook, JP replied that he’d found a good spot to stand, otherwise he’d have left too. I guess the standing spot wasn’t THAT good as we eventually saw him and his brother in the lobby. We traded theories about what we had just seen. Mika suggested that the Headstones owed Bif Naked money and so they had to let her band come on tour.

As we nursed our drinks in the lobby, we could faintly hear that they were playing Bif Naked hits Spaceman and I Love Myself Today. I choose to assume they were done well. I considered going back to listen to them but thought better of it.

I try to be positive when I write these things and I accept that some things just aren’t going to be my jam. So I will say that the sound system was good and we could hear all of the insipid repetitive lyrics really clearly. And Bif Naked seems like a really nice lady and I feel kind of bad about this whole thing. But this was terrible.

Drinks done, SNAKEandtheCHAIN (and their banner) gone, we went back into the show lounge. What can I even say about the Headstones after all that? They were exactly what you’d expect and exactly what I wanted from them. Loud, all their hits, all the fan favourites, some new stuff. And a few covers – they did The Gambler which they said they’ve been playing live ever since doing it in Regina last time and the crowd went nuts for it. And in various songs, they did part of Low Rider and two Hip classics, Blow at High Dough and New Orleans is Sinking. The show sold out a while back and people were really into it.

For a bunch of the early songs, there was one guy whose whole job seemed to be microphone cord wrangler so that Hugh Dillon could run out into the crowd. Eventually they got him a wireless mic. Dillon ran right past us, brushing past me, then came back and was singing Low Rider about four feet from us. This was all very cool.

Fun time, would go again. And yet, I couldn’t help but feel they were overshadowed by SNAKEandtheCHAIN. I mean, I enjoyed the Headstones but I’ll remember SNAKEandtheCHAIN for years.

On the way out, we walked by someone who said that Hugh Dillon was a badass and that the Headstones would chew up SNAKEandtheCHAIN and spit them out. Which, really, is all you need to know. There’s a lesson there about being concise; one I will surely ignore.

SLCR #301: Nomadic Massive (November 10, 2017)

November 20, 2017

This was a delightful surprise. Years ago, we saw Nomadic Massive at the Regina Folk Festival. I knew nothing at all about them but they wound up stealing the show that night and you could make a solid case that they were the best of that year’s whole festival. That was in 2013; as far as I know, this show was their first time back here. I didn’t rush to get tickets – lots of concerts and lots of expenses left me thinking that I’d wait and see how I felt on the day. However, fate had other plans. The Prairie Dog had a pair of tickets to give away in a Facebook contest. They asked for comments on their post, so I posted “This is a comment.” A day later, they PM’d me to let me know I’d won. I looked back at the contest, and saw that I was the only entrant. So thank you to Prairie Dog, and thank you especially to the Facebook algorithm that decided that I was the only person who needed to see that post.

When the day came, I really didn’t feel like going. It’s cold and icy here, and I was sleepy even though I’d had the day off and didn’t do anything more strenuous than grocery shopping and getting a flu shot. As I dozed in front of the TV, I could easily have been talked out of going. But off we went.

We got to the Exchange and once seated, I got us some drinks, popcorn, and 50/50 tickets (didn’t win). May as well contribute a little since we got in for free. The popcorn was tasty but I question its proclaimed status as the world’s best.

The band hit the stage noting that though the crowd was small, we’d get rowdy. There were, unfortunately, not a ton of people there. Maybe 50 when the show started and not quite 100 at the peak, if I’m guessing. It’s a real shame; if people don’t come out, the bands won’t come back (said the guy who didn’t pay to be there). That said, it did seem like the people who were there were determined to make up the difference, with lots of people leaving their seats to go dance at the front of the stage. Some good participation – crowds at Folk Festival-promoted shows (or just shows here in general) sometimes tend to be on the reserved side.

Nomadic Massive bring high-energy rap out of Montréal in multiple languages. You should check that out if it sounds like your thing. Or maybe even if it doesn’t? I mean, that’s not something I listen to much, but I possibly should, since this was fantastic.

I’m not very familiar with Nomadic Massive so if you want to know what they played, I’m not your guy. I recognized one song and it wasn’t even their own – there was a bit of The Choice is Yours by Black Sheep (which I very much appreciated – that album was one of my Grade 10 favourites). They also did part of Alright by Kendrick Lamar but I wouldn’t even have picked up on that if Mika hadn’t told me. You don’t read these for informed opinions.

I’ll keep this one short since I have a big ol’ review backlog again and because I don’t know a thing about things anyway, but this was one of the best shows I’ve seen this year. Mika went one better, naming it her favourite this year. On the drive home, we talked about how neither of us really felt like spending the night out, but we both had a great time and were feeling energized when it was done. Apparently it was just what we needed.

I note, with some amusement, that my Apple Watch didn’t consider the half-hour I spent shoveling snow earlier in the day to be exercise. It did, however, give me credit for butt-dancing in my chair at this show. This is either a testament to how much I enjoyed myself or the inherent unreliability of fitness trackers. I suppose it can be two things.

SLCR #300: David Myles (October 24, 2017)

November 2, 2017

Three hundred! My goodness. It feels like I just did a milestone post last year. And I’ve run out of gimmicks, I’m not going to promise a book that we all know I’ll never deliver, and I can’t even threaten to quit doing these things because I’ve been doing that for at least 15 years already. So let’s just talk about this guy I’m completely unfamiliar with.

The only thing I knew about David Myles is that a few years back, he had a hit with the song Inner Ninja, a collaboration with the Canadian rapper Classified (Myles did the non-rapping parts). I saw them perform the song at the Junos Songwriters’ Circle, where host Tom Cochrane referred to the pair as “Eminem meets Buddy Holly.” This was fun, but they only got to do a few songs, Classified was presented as the star of the pair, and Myles didn’t get to perform any of his own stuff.

So once again, I was basically going in blind. However, I did hear that Myles put on a great live show. Of course, I heard that from the advertising FOR said show. Clearly an unbiased source. But whatever, I guess I believed it, I bought a ticket and all.

Telling this story (such as it is) now, I really can’t identify why, exactly, I decided to go to this. He’s a guy I barely heard of and I only knew one song – which he wouldn’t even be able to perform unless he brought a surprise rapper in his carry-on. Plus Mika couldn’t go so I was flying solo. I’m not sure what part of this made me think this was a good idea. Though I suppose that’s never stopped me before. Apart from all the times where it stopped me.

I got to the Artesian and wandered in at the same time as Mark’s friend Rob, who I met at the New Pornographers show and didn’t tell you about. We work together, though I don’t believe our paths have ever crossed in an official capacity. At any rate, he was there with his wife, and seeing that I was unaccompanied, he invited me to sit with them. What delightful folks! I was pleased to take them up on their offer, though I did keep a seat between us since the place wasn’t sold out and I was pretty sure the offer didn’t include cuddling. Maybe next time.

The openers were Port Cities. This was a folk trio consisting of three singer-songwriters who’ve joined forces – Dylan Guthro, Breagh MacKinnon, and Carleton Stone. That last name sounded super familiar to me – some quick Googling confirmed that Hawksley Workman had produced one of Stone’s solo albums and he’d talked a fair bit about it when it came out. I feel like I listened to that album back then? Not sure. Though of the three, MacKinnon sounded the most familiar, with a voice exactly like… someone I couldn’t place. Still can’t.

This was the first night of their tour with Myles and their first time in Regina as a group. They played most of their first album, with Back to the Bottom and On the Nights You Stay Home as a few standouts. The highlight of their short set was the last song, where they all left the stage and performed the last song off-mic, on the floor. That was a great way to close things and make a big impression. I’d see these folks again. And maybe I will? They draw once a year for a free house concert from the names signed up for their email list. I don’t know that my house is well suited to that but maybe I could knock out some walls or something.

David Myles is a different sort of guy. He’s a folk singer from New Brunswick who has both a Latin Grammy and a Juno for Rap Recording of the Year. In 2017, he released a new album inspired by 50s and 60s rock and country. He once did a 24-stop tour of Saskatchewan without playing Saskatoon or Regina. And his live show is a blast.

Drawing from the new album, the show had the sound of late 50s/early 60s rock, with a diversion into doo-wop (with backing vocals from his very game band) and even a bluegrass take on another of his collaborations with Classified. He also brought out MacKinnon to do a song they’d written together – performed live for the first time ever. In between songs, he told stories and self-deprecating jokes, heaped praise on Port Cities and his band, and came across like the most likable guy ever. It was a high-energy show with a lot of humour, and I quickly went from “I’m not sure why I’m here” to “I’m very glad I’m here” to “next time, I need to get more people here.” Great songs, very entertaining, and even a high-tech light show (white Christmas lights wrapped around TWO mics). Highly recommended.

UPCOMING CONCERTS:
• Headstones w/SNAKEandtheCHAIN (November 17)
• Andy Shauf (November 18)
• Corb Lund (November 23)
• Cold Specks w/LA timpa (November 24)
• Tanya Tagaq & the Regina Symphony Orchestra (November 25)
• Hawksley Workman (December 9)
• Tom Wilson w/Mariel Buckley and Belle Plaine (January 19)
• Mo Kenney w/Lindi Ortega and Megan Nash (January 20)
• The Dears (March 17)
• “Weird Al” Yankovic w/Emo Philips (June 1)

SLCR #299: Martha Wainwright (October 22, 2017)

October 24, 2017

I heard Martha Wainwright was coming to town and thought “ooh, that sounds good, we should get tickets.” And I don’t know WHY, really. What do I know about Martha Wainwright, beyond her name and who some of her relatives are? I’ve heard a half-dozen Rufus Wainwright songs, enough to make me think that I could really get into the guy if I made the effort. This is not much and yet this is substantially more than what I know about Martha Wainwright, which amounts to the fact that I saw her do a few songs on his Christmas special, and I don’t remember what songs they were. Or was he doing songs on her Christmas special? Or was it a Wainwright/McGarrigle family Christmas special? I know it had to be at least seven years ago. I think.

Last week I told you I’d never seen Kris Demeanor before, but it turns out I had, 12 years ago. So glad I write these things down.

Anyway. I bought these tickets last December for a show that was supposed to happen in April. Then it got postponed for reasons. I don’t know, I’m not her biographer. She didn’t feel like coming to Regina, maybe. Does anyone? Regina in the springtime?

The Artesian sold out in the days before the show. I was glad, because it’s a delightful little place and I want it to do well. It did, however, mean we needed to get there early to sort out seating. Mika and I wound up in the front row of the pews at the back, which left us in an ideal spot to greet Mark, Arlette, and Other James as they arrived. It also meant a lot of people shuffling in front of us and no height advantage over the floor seats, so arriving a little earlier might have been ideal. So it goes.

I can’t say we felt old at this show. At least two-thirds of the audience looked to be of retirement age. I’m not sure who I expected to see at this concert, but that wasn’t it. But as we’ve established, I was going into this about as ignorant as humanly possible, so the fact that I had expectations at all is a little ridiculous.

I’ve been all bronchitis’d up since returning from Calgary, which is not ideal for concerts. Or for existing. I don’t recommend it. To keep my coughing in check, I stuffed my pockets with a flavour sampler of cough candies and washed them down with a tasty pear cider from the bar. This worked reasonably well so I recommend that you combine all your medicine with alcohol for maximum effect. Science shows it works.

The openers were Mappe Of, making their first ever stop in Regina (while on their first-ever cross-Canada tour). They were described as “folk;” that’s not how I’d classify them, but I’m not sure where they fit. Very atmospheric music, lots of falsetto in the vocals, plenty of neat tricks (like playing the electric bass with a bow) to create unique sounds. There were moments of big energy but for the most part, it was something to listen to, not to dance to. It was well suited to the small room, too. Mika said it would be good Sunday morning music. This was all really good and quite interesting; not something I’d want to listen to all the time, but ideal in the right setting. Recommended if you’re looking for something a little different. Mark and Arlette were way into this, and they’re trustworthy humans.

During the break, I was avoiding social media because I had again skipped out on watching wrestling and I didn’t want it spoiled for me. So instead of looking up cute animals on Instagram, I checked Pokémon GO and found that the last of the new Halloween Pokémon that I needed was nearby. Mika said she figured I had ten minutes before Wainwright would start; I caught it and was back with time to spare. I’m always surprised when things work out well, even though half of my concert reviews are just me being surprised when things aren’t completely ruined. The quick walk in the cool night air was refreshing too.

Martha Wainwright came out and did a song by herself, just on guitar, before bringing out her band. They joined her for most of the show, but she did a handful of songs with just the pianist. I don’t really know which songs, for the most part – remember, I’m dumb – though she mentioned some were from her newest album, Goodnight City, including Around the Bend and two songs about her son Francis.

And I will say what I always say; namely, that this was an enjoyable night out. It wasn’t an overly long set – probably about 80 minutes with the encore – but enough to get a good introduction to Wainwright’s music without overstaying her welcome. Much like with Sarah Slean last week, the intimate venue and great sound really helped the evening. Also like Slean, Wainwright is very emotive with some vocal flourishes; things that could either make you a bigger fan or push you away. You pick.

She also had more of a sense of humour than I was expecting, telling lots of stories and also sharing that as a recent divorcée, she was finding it very therapeutic to be touring around with her band “talking about cum.” You were not expecting that sentence to end that way and neither were we. This got the best delayed reaction I’ve ever heard – few immediate laughs, but then they kept popping up all over. I like to think that a number of the more elderly fans in attendance didn’t quite hear it and needed it explained to them. Hopefully by their kids. Also, her poor bass player was doubled over laughing and also maybe looked a little mortified.

wait

omg

wait

Is the band’s NAME Talking About Cum? Because that wasn’t how I interpreted it initially but maybe? It fits with how she phrased it, depending on where you put the comma. I don’t have proof of this, though. The band wasn’t credited on the tickets and posters but I suppose there are community standards that need to be upheld. Unlike, say, here.

I think we best wrap things up.

SLCR #298: Sarah Slean (October 14, 2017)

October 19, 2017

Home again, and I wasted no time getting back at it. Back in the saddle. On the horse. The concert horse. My flight got in around 4:00 on Saturday afternoon and by 8:00, I was sitting in the Artesian awaiting Sarah Slean. I had my concert ticket before I booked the trip, so I scheduled my return flight accordingly and everything – somewhat surprisingly – worked out. Even if my seatmate did steal my aisle seat, leaving me squooshed up against the window.

By comparison, I had no seatmate at this show, which is always better than cuddling with strangers. The place wasn’t quite sold out, and though I arrived too late to get a seat in the… well, I guess they’re like a combination of bleachers and pews – anyway, they were full, but I got a seat at the back of the floor. The venue is small enough that there aren’t really any bad seats there.

Sarah and her band (guitar, bass, drums) started right at 8:00 with no opener. They played two sets that were about 45 minutes each, plus the requisite encore. A lot of the songs came from Slean’s new album, Metaphysics; it looks like she played most of the record. There were also some older songs like Pilgrim and California that (of course) got the best reactions. I did like all the new tunes, though. Slean was on the piano (or the piano-sounding keyboard if you’re a stickler for details) for every song except one – her version of Wayfaring Stranger that opened the second set.

For the encore, Slean first returned by herself and asked for requests. This turned into a remarkably well-organized three-way shouting match between the guy ahead of me who yelled for Book Smart, Street Stupid, someone behind me yelling for Willow, and someone up at the front yelling for Sweet Ones. I knew we weren’t getting Sweet Ones unless the band came back out, so it came down to two. “Book Smart, that’s interesting,” said Slean. “Yes,” said the guy, very emphatically. Not like he was excited that she might play it; he was just strongly in agreement. She opted to play it and hoped she wouldn’t forget the words. She only got lost once and the guy helped her out. Then the band came back out and they played Sweet Ones to close the show. That was the big crowd pleaser and I guess it’s her biggest song? I dunno, it’s real good, but I like Lucky Me more and she didn’t play that one. Shoulda yelled.

This was all delightful. For a while now, Slean has been someone that I seem to see every time she’s in town, and then I never listen to her music until the next time I go see her. This was a pleasant reminder that she has some good songs and I should spend more time listening to them. Her band was really good too. And the set lengths were just right for me; I got enough to make it worth the money and it never dragged, plus I wasn’t in the mood to stay out forever.

I will say that I know some people who really dislike Slean and this show wouldn’t have changed their minds. She has some affectations when she talks and sings and that’s part of what puts them off. Last time I saw her, I was sitting near two groups of people; one praised her for being “emotive” and the other derided her as “a ham” and though I told that story last time, I can think of no better way to sum up the issue. I can’t say it bugs me, though I see what they’re getting at and it did make me wonder how much of it is a persona and how much is just her.

The venue really upped my enjoyment of the evening. I believe the polite term for “this place is tiny” is “an intimate setting.” I might just call it cozy. It’s a nice looking space where you’re never too far from the stage or overrun by idiots. And the sound was fantastic, with the clearest vocals I’ve heard at a show in a long time. The instruments all sounded great too. My next two concerts are also at the Artesian and this pleases me.

While this all was going on, elsewhere in Regina, friends of mine were at the Brandt Centre watching wrestling. I skipped out to watch a tiny lady play piano. I’m not sure this is something that 16-year-old me would be able to fathom. But whatever; they had fun and I had fun.

UPCOMING CONCERTS:

  • Martha Wainwright w/Mappe Of (October 22)
  • David Myles w/Port Cities (October 24)
  • Headstones w/SNAKEandtheCHAIN (November 17)
  • Andy Shauf (November 18)
  • Corb Lund (November 23)
  • Cold Specks w/LA timpa (November 24)
  • Tanya Tagaq & the Regina Symphony Orchestra (November 25)
  • Hawksley Workman (December 9)
  • “Weird Al” Yankovic w/Emo Philips (June 1)

SLCR #297: Japandroids (October 13, 2017)

October 18, 2017

You may recall that I set myself a goal of seeing 40 concerts in the year that I turned 40 (last year). You may also recall that near the end of the year, I got concerted out and didn’t quite make it.

I feel like I’m getting to that point again. Or maybe that’s not quite right. I’ve seen a ton of great stuff lately by artists I know well and really enjoy, but looking at my upcoming shows, there’s an awful lot of “I’ve heard of this person and this is a thing to do that I’m sure will be pleasant but I don’t really know much about them” coming up. Which is fine, but I may have scheduled in a bit too much of a good thing for myself.

Like these here Japandroids. I’d heard one song – The House that Heaven Built. It’s super great. I’d meant to listen to more of their stuff since I really dig that one song. Never really got around to it. Got a ticket anyway since it was really convenient of them to play the night after Arcade Fire so I could cram a bunch of music into my earholes in one Calgary trip.

But then the day came, and I’ve been walking a ton all week and my feet are now in a state of full rebellion (I complained about my plantar fasciitis last time and I might just keep doing it because it seems like a super interesting topic for everyone) and I knew I’d be walking to and from the train and I’d be standing all night at the show, and, again, I only knew that one song. Point being, this seemed like a much better idea several weeks ago when I got the ticket.

But I persevered. For you. And because I already paid for the ticket. And because Japandroids seem like a band I could really dig if I gave them half a shot. But mostly because I’d already paid.

I am now an old pro at the C-Train and have nothing to say about the trip there, except I juuuuuust missed the train on the way there and had to wait six whole minutes for another one. And also a train ride is an easy way to refill your Pokémon GO items.

The show was at the university in the MacEwan Ballroom, the smaller of the two venues there. It wasn’t sold out but was pretty close, I’m guessing. Tons of people there. And every other person had bought Japandroids vinyl from the looks of it.

Because I’d been less than motivated to get to the show, I dawdled and eventually missed the start of the opener, Cloud Nothings. They were way louder than I was expecting – which is dumb, because why would I expect anything, I knew nothing about them. Four guys playing straightforward, high-energy rock. I thought all of the songs sounded a bit alike, but I liked them all, so no complaints. If you like Japandroids, you’d like these guys, and vice versa. And for at least the next while, if you see one, you’ll likely see both, since it sounded like this was the first show of a seven-week tour they’d be doing together.

“I thought all of the songs sounded a bit alike, but I liked them all, so no complaints” could also be my Japandroids review. I’ll add in I liked them well enough that I still want to spend some time with their music and get to know it a bit better. Maybe go for coffee with it, and a walk by the lake. Something casual. I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about anymore.

I didn’t recognize any songs apart from The House that Heaven Built, though they mentioned that one song was called No Known Drink or Drug, which I’d at least heard of. It was good. Someone held up a sign asking for a song of their first album. I don’t know what it was called but I liked it a bunch and the crowd seemed real into it. They closed with the song I knew. It was real good. There was no encore, which seemed to disappoint people, especially those chanting “one more song,” but I was okay with it.

Does this mean I get to go to bed?

NO. I must pad this out at least a bit. Uhh… shit. Okay. Well. I walked into the hall partway through Cloud Nothings’ set and stood at the back of the crowd. Within seconds of showing up, some girl walked out of the crowd and tore her shirt off right in front of me as she went past. I’d like to say I have that effect on women all the time but the “what the heck is happening here?” expression that was surely on my face might lead one to believe otherwise.

(I think she was just overheated. I was too, but didn’t feel that following suit would have been the best course of action for anyone. When in Rome, I’m most likely keeping my toga on.)