Archive for September, 2012

SLCR #175: Sloan (September 18, 2012)

September 20, 2012

This marked my fourth time seeing Sloan. Compared to Mika, who guessed that this was somewhere around show #13 for her, I’m still an amateur. I’ll always be older than her, and she’ll always have seen Sloan more times than I have. I wonder if there’s a way we can work on reversing these roles.

At least Sloan was playing in Regina. When they toured last year, they skipped over Regina entirely. The list of past shows on their website suggests that happens more often than not. And lately, it seems bands of all kinds are playing anywhere other than here. Hawksley Workman and Joel Plaskett are both coming to Swift Current (population: 15,503) but bypassing Regina, while Danko Jones has no time for Saskatchewan at all. Not having to make a road trip for this show was a treat.

And I was ready for a treat. After several late nights and one extended workday, I was half-dead going into this show. Mika picked me up at work and I changed out of my work shirt while she drove. She was tired too, and supremely irritated at our cat (Carl, a.k.a. Carly, Carlo, Carlito, Bites McGee, Fights McGee, Flops McGee, Snowball, and/or Shit-for-Brains, among other names) for darting outside repeatedly and making her late in picking me up.

“Late,” here, being a relative term. The doors were at 7:00 and we didn’t arrive at The Pump until almost 8:00, but some delightful friends had beaten us there and saved us seats. The show also didn’t start until somewhere around 9:45, so really, the cat could have spent another hour hiding in the plants and we would have been fine.

I had never been to The Pump before, for good reason – it’s a country bar. A Canadian Country Music Award-winning country bar, no less. I also hear tell that people get the crap kicked out of them there on a regular basis. When I told people about the Sloan show, the response of “eww, The Pump?” was a constant. Of course, Sloan is not a country band, which made this show an odd fit, but then Sloan fans aren’t generally crap-kicker-outers either, so whatever. Maybe there just aren’t any other similar-sized venues left in town now that The Distrikt is closed? Big Sugar is playing at The Pump soon too, as is famed country superstar Everlast; at least he recommended appropriate footwear for the place back in his House of Pain days.

This country bar also had a washroom attendant, or so I was told. I did not see this for myself; I cut myself off after one beer and thus never found myself in the position of paying a man for paper towels and soap.

The opening act consisted of about an hour of guys in Sloan tour jumpsuits futzing about with a ladder and the lighting setup. While this was going on, the country bar treated us to music by the likes of Blur and Guided By Voices. This may have been on par with some of the other opening acts I’ve seen through the years.

When they finally got the lights working and subsequently dimmed them, Mika and I went to go stand up by the front of the stage. I haven’t done that to my poor feet in forever. She pointed out that we may as well, because otherwise, someone tall was just going to stand in front of us anyway. This was sound logic; unfortunately, we didn’t account for the massive bouncer taking a position on the stage next to the speakers. This dude could have blocked out the sun, so shielding Patrick Pentland from our view was no challenge for him. This development was really irritating, but at the same time, it was hilarious and perfect. Of COURSE he’d come along and stand right there for the entire show. Why wouldn’t he?

The bouncer was able to block our view because we, too, were right by one of the giant stacks of speakers. I felt a twinge of sadness when Mika pulled a set of earplugs out of her purse. “I have some more, but they’ve been rolling around in the bottom of my purse for months now,” she said. I am not proud. Earplugs were dusted and ears were plugged.

Just before the show started, I once again got to chat with my neighbours from the apartment. I hadn’t seen them in over a year, and now here they were twice in four days. If I see them next week in Minneapolis, I’m really going think that something is up. I was coherent as I could possibly be, given the earplugs. The crappiness of The Pump as a venue was pointed out to me and I have to agree – the stage is tucked away in one corner, with the aforementioned giant stacks of speakers positioned perfectly to cut sight lines right down.

This was Sloan’s Twice Removed tour – they rereleased the album as a super deluxe vinyl box set, and on this tour, they started each show by performing the album from start to finish. Twice Removed is an album to which I have no nostalgic attachment whatsoever. Two songs from it, Coax Me and People of the Sky, wound up on Sloan’s singles collection, A Sides Win. I had never heard either song before buying said singles collection. I did make a point of listening to some of the album before the show, but it was still largely unfamiliar to me when Sloan played. I liked it fine enough, but even the band kinda made it sound like this was something we all had to get through together before the real show began. “Congratulations, you listened to an entire album in the age of singles,” said Chris Murphy.

Possibly the most notable part of the first set for me was that Murphy played for a while without his trademark massive glasses. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him without them on before. Without them, he kinda looks like Bill Nye’s rebellious ne’er-do-well younger brother, the one that turned his back on the family business (science, obviously) to pursue dreams of rock-and-roll stardom. “Dad really wishes you’d come back home. There’s a job for you at the science factory.”

The band left the stage for a bit, and someone standing in front of me swiped one of the Twice Removed setlists, revealing the list for the second half of the show. A quick scan revealed no Underwhelmed; I wasn’t surprised. I’ve been going to Sloan shows for almost a decade and they’ve never played the song when I was there. Mika read an interview where the band had talked about retiring the song. I can understand getting really sick of something and not wanting to play it anymore, but this is the same band that regularly plays Theme From George Strombolopolous Tonight and Theme From Future Shop Commercials.

The second set was pretty much a greatest-hits set with a few album tracks from their newest albums mixed in. We did get The Good In Everyone and Money City Maniacs, as expected, along with The Rest of My Life, Losing California, Who Taught you To Live Like That, Unkind, and Everything You’ve Done Wrong.

We also got The Other Man. I tell this story in every Sloan review; I was never a fan of the song until I realized just how much Aaron hates it. Now it’s become one of my favourites, if only because saying so is one of the best ways to bait him into a rage. I bet he’s turning red right now, in fact. I wonder how far I can push this? Guided By Voices might be okay if they had someone to cherry pick the good songs instead of recording and releasing every noise that popped into Robert Pollard’s head. Leonard Cohen should thank k.d. lang for showing the world how good Hallelujah can be when someone sings it properly. Henry Rollins wishes he could write as well as Paul Simon.

While we’re on the subject of anger, there was a blue balloon bouncing around the crowd; this may or may not have had anything to do with the show taking place on keyboardist Gregory Macdonald’s birthday. At one point, a fan spiked the balloon into the rafters, never to be seen again. Well. One scrawny 19-year-old in a red Fred Durst ballcap and muscle shirt (protip, kid: it’s not just a name, it’s a requirement for wearing) spent a good 45 seconds flipping off the balloon spiker. This was serious balloon business.

I appear to have gotten off track.

So! Sloan. Good! Lots of songs that I liked. Had a good time. Yes. For the last song of the evening, Murphy thanked us for coming out and noted how much they like seeing younger fans at shows, but they were ending on an old song. “She was underwhelmed if that’s a word…”

And it was nuts. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a reaction like that for one specific song. The whole place went insane – it was as if every single person there had been to four straight Sloan shows without ever hearing this song. It was like being able to see the reaction inside my head. I sang along as loud as I could but wasn’t able to hear my own voice (and I did take my earplugs out for this, which I guess means that Underwhelmed ranks higher than conversing with my ex-neighbours on some sort of scale). I often find it hard to compare shows, but this tipped the scales and made this the best Sloan show I’ve been to. And now it is two days later and I am still sleepy, but we used that as an excuse to order in Indian food last night, so even that’s a win.

SLCR #174: Greg MacPherson (September 14, 2012)

September 18, 2012

This was the kind of show that I just love – you go in with high expectations and they’re blown away.

I didn’t love only finding out about this show that morning. The Artful Dodger is a new venue and I haven’t yet gotten into the habit of checking their website or Facebook for upcoming shows. Luckily, the local indie paper’s website had my back. I assume the paper itself would have too, but reading one whole newspaper a week is hard, you guys.

Because of the last-minute discovery, I had to make the call – did we dare go out two evenings in a row? Sure, Friday isn’t a work night, but on the other hand, we’re old and lazy. Knowing that I’d likely want to wimp out if I went home after work, I made the call to buy tickets online and force our hand.

I love how I make “sitting on my ass listening to music” sound so much like hard work. No wonder I never learned how to actually play an instrument.

Mika met me downtown after work and we dined on the finest food court fare. I know how to treat a lady. (Also, I made her pay for her own.)

This mall trip was the best because the old lady who sounds like Carol Channing was back working the watch repair kiosk at The Bay. I hadn’t seen her there in months and was concerned that she’d retired. But no, she was there and I was so delighted that I made Mika replace her home security keyfob battery even though it wasn’t yet dead, just so we could talk to Carol Channing. (I made Mika pay for this too.)

Hey, I did pay for her ticket to the show. And I bought her a beer when we got there. Which is only fair, given that Greg MacPherson isn’t really her thing and she was only going to be nice.

Like I said, the Artful Dodger is a new venue – so new that it looks like they still have to finish up a few things. There looked to be some light fixtures that still needed to be installed, and the evening’s menu (beer, wine, pop, and wings) was a bit lacking. But it’s still very nice so far, with several rows of raised padded benches in a semi-circle in front of the stage. Between standing and seating areas, I bet you could fit 150 people in the place for a show before it really felt overcrowded.

By my count, there were probably about 75 people there for Greg MacPherson (with the standard caveat that I am terrible at estimating these sorts of things). This doesn’t sound like many, but we were the first two people to arrive and for a while, I was concerned that we’d be the only two. Depending on where you looked, it was either doors at 7:30, or doors at 7:00 and the show at 7:30. We got there at 7:15 which was probably too early, but on the other hand, we got personally greeted by Greg in the middle of his “extended soundcheck.” It was almost like having a private concert, albeit one with monotonous guitar and nonsensical lyrics.

Among the attendees were the couple who lived down the hall from me in the apartment. I used to see them at shows all the time, but it’s probably been over a year now. We briefly got caught up, which was way funnier than it should have been for reasons I probably shouldn’t put online. Ask me sometime and I’ll tell you. It’s a shame that these reviews have bitten me in the ass a half-dozen times (deservedly so, I might add) because I’m leaving out the best part.

Greg MacPherson started around 8:30 and like I said, this just blew me away. I’d seen him twice before – once at the 2004 Regina Folk Festival and opening for Hawksley Workman in Winnipeg in 2009 – but this show was so much better than either of those. It wasn’t a full band – just Greg on guitar and Rob Gardiner on drums – but they didn’t need anyone else. Greg’s an incredibly talented songwriter and we got a nice mix of songs from his earliest releases to new stuff that hasn’t made it onto a record yet.

The show really kicked into high gear with First Class, which might be my favourite song of his. He then began taking audience requests, and played most of them. Folks called out for Slow Stroke, Bankrobber, and Company Store, which was nice, because it spared me from having to do so. We got two out of those three, which is pretty good, since Greg remarked that those were the hardest ones to play. Another request was for Heatwave; this wasn’t a song I’d been familiar with, but Greg seemed really pleased that someone would ask for it and told us that he never played that one.

Before the last song, someone else yelled for Company Store. Greg explained that the song was really difficult for him to play because it was a true story; he’d written it for his grandparents and he played it whenever he was out east (he was born in the Maritimes) and it always broke him up, and… “well, I can’t NOT play it after building it up like that.” After warning us not to clap along because it might mess him up, he tore into Company Store for what he said was the first time in over a year. Absolutely intense and absolutely sensational. It put the show over the top from great to awesome.

On the way out, I stopped by the stuff table to pick up one of Greg’s records on vinyl. I shouldn’t take such delight in buying the last one that they had, but I’m a jerk like that. A great show and a great day – and to think, I’d have been satisfied just by spotting the watch-repair lady.

SLCR #173: k.d. lang & The Siss Boom Bang (September 13, 2012)

September 18, 2012

We got to the Conexus Arts Centre with a half-hour to spare and the traffic was already bonkers. I thought this was weird for a show with assigned seating, but it turned out that half of the theatre’s parking lot was ripped up and unusable. No signage on site, no advertising (that I saw, anyway), just one lonely Commissionaire directing traffic – after people had already got caught in the jam. I wound up following some cars who all arbitrarily decided to park on the street in a no-parking zone. I joined in, hoping that they wouldn’t ticket all of us.

Spoiler: they didn’t.

And though there was one hairy moment when leaving when we were being passed by oncoming traffic on both sides of the car, the whole thing went surprisingly smoothly despite some poor (or, rather, non-existent) planning on the Centre’s part. There went my vitriol, and with it, my pre-planned review opening. So instead I jumped straight into the (lack of) action. I hope that was good enough, because the writing isn’t going to get any better from here.

Speaking of stories that don’t mean anything to anyone but me, on Wednesday, I was looking at Hawksley Workman’s Twitter feed. He had replied to someone named Lindi Ortega, and for whatever reason, I clicked through to her Twitter, found out she was a country singer, and wondered if she ever came out this way. Then the next night, we went to k.d. lang and she was the opener. Isn’t that just the most amazing disinteresting and unverifiable story? Remember when these reviews used to be full of hilarious drunken goings-on? Now it’s mild Twitter coincidences.

Anyway, I thought Lindi Ortega was pretty good. There was one awkwardly hilarious moment when she said that the Regina crowd was good-looking, and some yokel in the front row (presumably not from Regina) shouted out “you’re in Saskatchewan.” It sounded like he was correcting her, leading to mass confusion for all concerned.

When that happened, I thought it might make for an amusing anecdote but reading it back, man, I couldn’t make that sound interesting to save my life. I’ve got nothing tonight. So what can I say about k.d. lang, other than she’s really good? I suppose the best endorsement I can give is that it was worth taking abuse from the guys at work the next day:

Scott: “Last night, we had our last football game of the season. Once it was over, we all sat around outside and drank beers for hours. I thought we’d brought enough, but at one point, we had to send a guy out for another 30-pack.”

James: “Last night, I went to see k.d. lang. That’s about as manly, right?”

Apparently, it is not. I didn’t even mention the part where I stood around holding Mika’s purse while she was in the washroom.

The purse-holding took place after Lindi Ortega’s set. A kindly Ontarian took pity on me while he was waiting for his wife – I didn’t notice if he was holding a purse too – and we had a nice chat about how nice the people are in Regina. I’m not sure what it says about me that I now consider every random encounter with a stranger to be a perfect chance to practice my impromptu speaking skills, but it does make me chattier. Toastmasters works in mysterious ways. I’m not sure how well it works when I spend an evening writing concert reviews instead of writing my humourous speech contest entry, though.

Speaking of humour or the lack thereof, k.d. lang and her band, The Siss Boom Bang, were introduced by someone with a fake wacky German accent. He was also wearing a tie with a banjo on it. A BANJO!!! I did not quite know what to make of this. Luckily, we got down to the singing parts pretty quickly, and – I’m sure I’m breaking news here, guys – she’s good at that.

As far as song selection went, it was like an extended version of her set from the Folk Festival last year. And much like I said then, I don’t really understand why she sings Hallelujah in the middle of the set. I know she didn’t write it, but it’s THE song that everyone was there to see. People cheer as soon as they recognize it and then go deathly silent until the extended standing ovation at the end of the song. I am certain she could walk out on stage, sing Hallelujah, and call it a night, and 90% of the people there would go home happy. But we also got close to two hours of her most famous songs, new ones, and covers, including Heaven by The Talking Heads which she joked she sang as penance. “Mostly because I don’t want to lose my Chick-fil-A sponsorship,” she added, which amused and confused the crowd in equal measure.

k.d. really does have an incredible stage presence. I don’t know if it’s something that can be taught, or if it just develops after years of performing, or if you’re born with it. All I know is that while I have no vocal skills and even less range, I’m pretty sure I could match lang in oddball dance moves – except nobody’d care if I did them. Maybe this is something else I could try out at the next Toastmasters meeting.

SLCR #172: Regina Folk Festival (August 10-12, 2012)

September 12, 2012

I have been putting this off forever because I have next to nothing to say. There are a ton of shows coming up that I am looking forward to seeing, and in a few cases, even looking forward to writing about. This was not that. But I unexpectedly find myself alone in Saskatoon on a Sunday night, mere days away from the next show and I hate review backlogs, so let’s do this.

I’m sure I mention this every year, but I buy our Folk Festival tickets every December. There’s a huge discount when you buy them that early, and part of the reason is that you don’t yet know who’s going to be playing there. I figure this is a smart move; by the time they announce the lineup, the tickets have gone up in price, meaning it’s easy to sell yours if you don’t want to go.

And to be honest, I kind of felt like selling mine. The lineup this year wasn’t bad in any way; I just wasn’t feeling it. There were no old favourites, and there were no names that I was really looking forward to. Not a bad thing, necessarily – I always discover someone new every year – but I just didn’t have that anticipation that I’m used to.

Maybe this is just how I am, sometimes? One year, about five years ago, the Weakerthans played the Regina Folk Festival. I didn’t have a ticket that year, but you can hang out in the park and listen for free. I went for 10 minutes, got bored, and went home. And I love the Weakerthans.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying that we didn’t even go to the Sunday night portion. Wasn’t feeling it. I bet it was awesome, and I bet I wouldn’t have thought so.

Man, this is getting depressing! I’m generally not this miserable-sounding, I promise. So rather than going act-by-act through two nights of shows that I barely remember, I am going to call attention to two standouts: Shad and Rich Aucoin.

Rich Aucoin, I had never heard of this dude. He only played a few songs since he was a between-sets guy (a “teaser,” they’re called) but he was energetic and fun and a little weird and he brought a parachute for the crowd to play with. I didn’t get a great sense of his music but I was really intrigued and wanted to see more. He wasn’t even playing one of the daytime stages over the weekend – just the teaser set and the afterparty, and I am too old to stay up concert-late most nights, to say nothing of afterparty-late. And I haven’t listened to more Rich Aucoin since that brief set, but I will get to it someday! You can too at, which I only mention because the .com takes you to a website for a Massachusetts Libertarian of the same name.

According to one of his songs, Shad “hate[s] the catchphrase ‘Canadian rap sensation'” so instead I will call him… Shad… that guy… who does stuff. I’m writing the review a month late and this is the best that I can do. Anyway, over the two nights, Shad was really the only guy who felt like he was actually playing for a large crowd. I hate to say “energetic” again but that’s really what stood out for me. That, and the songs off his new digital EP “Melancholy and the Infinite Shadness,” which I’ve probably listened to more than any other album released this year. I guess I really like Milli Vanilli samples?

Another teaser act, Regina’s own Julia and Her Piano, seemed like one that I might enjoy hearing more of and I’ll try to take her in sometime when she’s playing somewhere a little cozier than a big downtown park.

The idea of “I’d rather watch this singer/band in a club” was one I kept going to. Maybe it’s just that we were sitting pretty far back from the stage (though we sat in the same spots last year and didn’t have this issue), but I often found that the music was hard to hear, like it wasn’t loud enough and people were talking over it. The talking can certainly be an issue at any show, but it wouldn’t be so hard to keep focused on the music in a smaller, more intimate setting. The Friday night opener, Cold Specks, really suffered from this. Her music is self-described as “doom soul,” and can be dark and haunting. But here she was, playing in the sunlight, barely audible over crowds of people still getting their lawn chairs set up, greeting friends, buying dinner. I found it really hard to pay attention, and I felt that way through most of the sets this year. We saw Timber Timbre, Austra, Stars, and Great Lake Swimmers, and I’d struggle to say much of anything about any of them. We’re seeing Stars again in a few months, opening for Metric, so we’ll get some idea whether it was the bands (doubtful) or the venue (somewhat), or it was just me (99% this).

I don’t really dig on being negative in reviews because I’m old now and the idea of being a jerk on the internet has mostly lost its novelty. Besides, I didn’t even get super pumped for the kettle corn truck, so you know the problem was on my end. So I’ll wrap this up by saying I still intend to buy tickets for next year and I’m sure there will be no bands I’ve heard of and I’m sure it will rain all weekend long and I’m sure we’ll have a wonderful time. People are dumb and I’m people.

SLCR #171: The Dandy Warhols (May 23, 2012)

September 12, 2012

I was on the fence about this one. When I got corporate approval to attend a week-long conference in Dallas, I was pretty excited for the possibility of seeing some bands that don’t ever tour anywhere near me. Dallas is big, right? They must get all kinds of shows. Then I got on Pollstar, and discovered that I was seemingly there for Canadian Week. It was like they knew I was coming. I have nothing against Great Lake Swimmers, but they play Regina fairly regularly. And I DO have something against Theory Of A Deadman. That basically left the Dandy Warhols and Kristin Chenoweth, and while I liked GCB as much as the next guy (which probably isn’t a whole lot), I decided to opt for the band I vaguely knew.

Much like Kasabian, this was a case of me knowing a whole two of a band’s songs before the show. I also thought that going to the show might make Mika jealous, but it turns out that she only knew two songs too. The same two: Bohemian Like You and We Used To Be Friends. I got both songs from Feely back in the day, which means that it was way too long ago and I am a sad old man. Good songs, though.

I bought the ticket in advance and figured I’d go to the show if I felt like it and if a better option didn’t come along. The first few days in Dallas felt a bit isolating; much like in Regina (but on a much bigger scale, of course), downtown seemed to empty out at 5:00 p.m. The first night, I was lucky to find a Subway that stayed open until 7:30. I had resigned myself to evenings of pricey flaky hotel Wi-Fi, but after Wednesday’s presentations, I went exploring and saw some really pretty architecture (and had a kickass burger). Mood renewed, I decided to take in the show.

I knew the House of Blues was within walking distance, but not knowing the neighborhood, I opted for a $10 cab ride. I can live with that.

The restaurant part of the House of Blues was booked for a private function, so I didn’t get to see it. Instead, they sent us in through the back – which I suspect is normal if you’re going to shows there. I was really impressed by the venue; really good acoustics and sight lines. It was just generally an attractive place – and very cool (in the temperature sense, I mean). I’m not sure why, in the middle of a Canadian winter, I go to a show and I’m sweating in minutes, but Dallas can keep a club so cool that you almost wish you’d brought a sweater.

My experience with Dallas indicates that the Texans have mastered the fine art of air conditioning. In fact, I’d suggest that the hotel was a little overzealous; I saw one conference attendee on Twitter threaten to make herself a hobo blanket out of conference evaluation forms.

Other things Texans like: Dr. Pepper, spicy chips, lime-flavoured chips, spicy lime-flavoured chips, and referencing God at every opportunity. I have been blessed so many times, you have no idea. I had thought GCB was supposed to be satire but mayhaps it was a documentary? At any rate, after the first day, I switched my clock radio to a Top 40 station. I’d rather wake up to the racket that the kids listen to today than news stories about “abortion-inducing drugs” and “so-called gay marriage.” USA USA USA

Anyway. Enough filler and editorializing. Our opening band was called 1776, or at least I assume they weren’t Seventeen Seventy-Six. I am not going to pay airplane Wi-Fi fees in order to do research and resolve this issue. I had been prepared to say “generic rock band with 80s metal haircuts,” but damned if they weren’t kinda catchy. I sense some potential in these ones. They closed with a cover of Aerosmith’s Train Kept A-Rollin’, which left me with a big smile on my face. That song was in one of the early Guitar Heroes and it had a reputation among my friends for coming up “randomly” about every third song. Not only did that amuse, but this was easily 1776’s best song of the evening. I would have liked to see a bit of that energy in their originals.

As far as I knew, The Dandy Warhols had a few hits some years ago and then kinda disappeared. That’s what happens when you rely on Feely for your new music – he eventually finds better things to do with his time and you just assume that nobody is making new songs anymore. But here they were, with a bunch of CDs I’d never heard (including a brand new one) and a club packed with fans. And there had evidently been more hits that I didn’t know about, since we got the requisite moments where they’d play a few notes and everyone would go bonkers and I’d be all “…yeah! Notes!”

Halfway through their first song, a girl pulled me aside and asked if they’d played (Song I’ve Never Heard Of). I told her that this was their first song, and I have never seen such delight. She disappeared into the crowd soon after; I hope they played whatever it was.

I do know they played We Used To Be Friends right near the opening, and Bohemian Like You right before the end. In between, there was a nice mix of tunes that I could try to describe, but really, why bother? Some songs were fast and energetic and some were slow; see also: pretty much every show ever.

I couldn’t understand the words for many of the songs, but that may have been by design. There were times when the lead singer would belt things out and other times he seemed big into mumbling.

He was also left by himself for two songs when everyone else went to take a pee break. Amusingly, they later said “can we just count these last two songs as the encore to save us the effort of leaving and coming back?” This is exactly what they did, and it is a practice I highly endorse. It feels so much less phony on everyone’s part.

The band seemed to have a good time in general. Apart from the usual talk about what a great crowd we were and what a great place this was, there was something going on at the front of the stage. I don’t know what someone in the crowd was doing or wearing or whatever, but the band ordered the house lights raised so they could take a picture of it. They seemed greatly amused. And not “greatly abused” like AutoCorrect tried to have you believe.

I had a good time too! But I think the guy who had the best time was the middle-aged man standing directly in front of me. (By “middle-aged,” I mean the guy was probably my age but I’ve held on to my hair a little better. God, I’m old.) This dude was clearly a diehard fan. He clapped (off beat) and sang (off key) and danced (if you want to call it that) and at one point said “time to drop some acid!” in a way that left me thinking that he’s not entirely sure what acid is. I think he might believe that one drops acid by adding a base in order to neutralize it. But whatever; this dude seemingly had the time of his life (his wife, maybe less so) and enthusiasm like that can’t help but spread.

Following the show, a nice House of Blues employee kindly directed me to a cab. And I did need direction, since I had absolutely no idea where he was pointing to. Silly tourist. In Texas, cabs park… along the side of the road just like they do everywhere else. I blame fatigue and cultural ignorance. Everything’s bigger in Texas, including my confusion.

SLCR #170: The Joel Plaskett Emergency (April 20, 2012)

September 12, 2012

Poor neglected middle child. I wrote the Dandy Warhols review on the plane earlier today since it was freshest in my mind. The Kasabian review has been 4/5ths done for over a month, so I tuned it up and finished it off next. And then there’s this show, one about which I had very strong opinions at the time. I wonder if I can remember any of them?

With this show, two months of rapid-fire concerts came to close. It didn’t go exactly as planned; Kathleen Edwards had some issues with her voice and postponed her show until October, and I missed out on both Whitehorse and Electric Six due to work being work. These disappointments were mitigated by a killer Ben Folds show and Kasabian, Michael Bernard Fitzgerald, and John K. Samson far exceeding my expectations. All in all, it’s been a good run.

Mika picked me up at work so we could skip town in a timely fashion. If Joel Plaskett won’t come to Mika, she will go to him. I am fine with this, since I dig Plaskett quite a bit, and I’m always down for a road trip and road trip snacks (but let this review document that no matter how many times I try them, Combos are never a good idea).

We made it to Louis’, my old stomping grounds, with plenty of time to spare. This would have been awesome if it didn’t mean lining up outside in the cold. I think it was cold? Maybe even drizzly? I have no idea. What did YOU do in the evening 36 days ago?

They eventually let us in, where we scanned the stuff table before meeting up with Laura and Heather and Heather’s friend Heather. Or was Heather’s friend also named Laura? I think she was Heather. I know it was a repeat and she wasn’t named Mika or James. We found a good (or so we thought) standing spot near the bar on the far side from the doors.
Our opening act was Frank Turner. I knew nothing about him, but one of Laura’s friends went to the show specifically to see him. And then a few days before the show, I was reading an interview with WWE wrestler Daniel Bryan, who singled out Turner as a musician that he was really enjoying these days. With these two endorsements from people I don’t know and whose musical tastes I know nothing about, I was hopeful. But even my heightened expectations were exceeded, as Turner, playing by himself, tore the house down.

Not everyone went into this set as ignorant as I; there was a small but very vocal contingent who were thrilled to see Frank Turner and who sang along with every song. Turner seemed genuinely surprised that there were people here who knew his songs; he fed off their energy and they fed off his. I was a convert well before the end of his set, and once he was done, I muscled my way over to the stuff table to pick up the two albums he had for sale.

Muscle was needed as Louis’ was packed. The show sold out well before the day, and it felt like it. Joel Plaskett has always done well in Saskatoon and this was no exception. Really, I would have preferred to see him in a larger venue, which is not how I usually feel after a show.

This was the last show at Louis’ before it shuts down for renovations. It feels like only yesterday that they were closed for months to get rid of the dank. I assume that’s what they’re doing again, as the dank was back with a vengeance. Sure, it still looked like new Louis’, all metallic and angular and generally poorly suited to hosting concerts, but it smelled like raw sewage. Intermittently at first, but increasing as the evening went on. This did not enhance the concert experience.

And sadly, it was a concert experience that could have used some enhancing. About a half- hour in, I was ready to take off. Between the date (4:20) and the fact that we were on a campus bar at the end of finals, we were surrounded by the loudest, stinkiest, most obnoxious collection of drunks and stoners that you ever did see. I do not want to smell your stale-smoke dreadlocks. I do not want to be spilled upon or shoved. I did not pay to hear you shrieking along with the band.

So yeah, I spent a good part of the show fantasizing about knifing everyone in sight, burning the place down, tweeting snark, etc. It’s a testament to how good Joel Plaskett really is that I managed to enjoy the music despite it all. It was a standard concert setlist – heavy emphasis on the new record with enough old favorites to keep people entertained. It was my first opportunity to hear the new stuff and I quite enjoyed it. Highlights included a very extended version of Love This Town, several songs with lyrics changed to be about Saskatoon, and – of course – a toy monkey with cymbals. Joel had the monkey wired up so he could turn it on and off with a foot pedal, which he called the best $70 he’d ever spent. I can see why; I mean, I want one and I don’t even have a stage to decorate.

SLCR #169: Kasabian (April 7, 2012)

September 12, 2012

Upon second viewing, the University LRT station has very clear directional signs, and I only took the wrong train on the way back from The Cat Empire because I’m a dumbass. “These things happen, especially to me” definitely still applies, though.

I started this text file over a month ago and the paragraph above would have worked a lot better had I sent this review out the day after the last one instead of six weeks later. I had good intentions. I also had work being work and keeping me there all hours again. Mind you, I also had DrawSomething and Words With Friends and Scramble With Friends and Jetpack Joyride and (most recently) Prose With Bros. Maybe I’ll play a real video game someday.

I used up most of my standard filler to set the scene for the last review, so this one might be short. I have made my peace with this. Besides, I really need to get this review thing off my conscience.

What I know about Kasabian: about twice as much as what I know about The Cat Empire, in so far as I knew TWO of their songs. Club Foot is in Rock Band, and Days Are Forgotten was used for some WWE pay-per-view last fall. She’s much better than I am when it comes to recognizing and remembering songs, but I still find it hilarious that Mika remembered this and I did not. When I looked it up online, I had no recollection of ever hearing it before. Apparently, their song Fast Fuse was used for a WWE show a few years before. I didn’t remember that either. Songs Are Forgotten.

Having used the previous night’s show as a Calgary Transit trial run, I got the timing down perfect and made it to the MacEwan Centre with just enough time to buy the new Kasabian CD, Velociraptor!, and find a place to stand and play my DrawSomething words. The venue layout had changed a bit from the night before, as there was no seating area this time. Essentially, it was a big warehouse with no chairs.

Our opening act was Hacienda, and I am struggling to even finish off this sentence. They were the quintessential opening act, in that I had never heard of them before, I never once thought “I dislike this,” and I never once thought “I need to hear more of this.” They played for their half-hour and it was fine. I feel like I’ve written this paragraph 50 times before with different band names. I wonder if I could make up my own Mad Libs to speed up future review writing.

Before the opener, as I was on my way to an empty piece of wall I could lean against, I ran into a friend from work, which is not something you expect when you’re 500 miles from home. We had a bit of a chance to chat between sets, which was nice. I have no real problem attending shows by myself (even if, as in the case of The Cat Empire, it does take away from the overall experience), but it was good to see someone I could talk to for a bit.

In England, Kasabian sells out arenas and headlines festivals. In Canada, they play chairless warehouses, but their big-stage history shone through. Sometimes too brightly, as it appeared that they brought their arena lighting kit with them and occasionally it hurt. The stage also featured a banner showing the artwork from their newest CD, which looks like four Whiplashes – you know, Whiplash, the He-Man character from 30 years ago – in a circle all eating each other.

Like I said, I really wasn’t that familiar with them, so I couldn’t tell you what they played. I got the two songs I knew, but I enjoyed everything else as well. It was loud and fast and fun from start to finish. I’ve been listening to that CD, and it’s not bad or anything, but doesn’t compare to the live show.

Although speaking of the finish, I will say that the show ended on an odd note. You know the normal routine: the band ends with a hit song, they really give ‘er for the finish, they leave, everyone cheers, they come back and play a few more. But at the end of Kasabian’s set, they just wandered off, one by one. It was the opposite of a big climax – an anti-climax, if you will – and the crowd wasn’t sure what to make of it. Despite the crowd going nuts for the whole show, there was very little reaction when it was over. I think people really just didn’t get that the main show was done. And then there was more of the same after the encore. It didn’t wreck the show, by any stretch, but it was a slightly confusing end to what had been a fantastic show.