Archive for December, 2012

SLCR #180: Metric (November 16, 2012)

December 17, 2012

Shit. Four behind again. I said I wouldn’t let this happen but procrastination wins the day. Shit shit shit.

If you pay attention to that UPCOMING CONCERTS blurb that I sometimes post at the end of these, you might notice that we skipped out on Dan Mangan and Plants & Animals. The weather has not been kind and I’ve been lazy. I still feel a bit bad about missing Dan Mangan; Mark went and posted a video of the song Robots (which is great) and it looked like a super fun show. I think he only posted this to make me feel bad about wimping out. Mission accomplished, sir. I’m glad he didn’t go to Plants & Animals or I’d feel bad about that one too.

It’s still cold and I’m still lazy, but Mika wasn’t about to miss out on Metric. I like them a lot as well – we accidentally bought two copies of their new album, Synthetica – but her more so. I don’t think this is exclusively because her score for her vocal performance of Combat Baby in Rock Band has been described as “untouchable,” but she does seem pleased by that.  

I’d only seen Metric once before, at the Odeon in Saskatoon, seven years ago. Now they’re playing the Brandt Centre, Regina’s big hockey arena, which is a step up. Of course, Regina is a step down, but I think this would still be a net positive.

I was a little concerned that the hockey arena wasn’t the best venue. Apart from the recurring issue of the acoustics in a hockey arena, I really have no sense of how big Metric is. They’ve been around for a while, and I’ve seen American websites talking about them. Did they become enormously huge rock stars when I wasn’t looking? Or were they just playing the Brandt Centre because of Regina’s relative lack of concert space? I saw Weird Al in a hockey arena many years ago, and while the crowd wasn’t embarrassing (um… at least in quantity), having 75% of the seats unfilled did take away from the atmosphere. You really do need to match the attraction to the venue.

I’d peg the crowd at being somewhere around 3,000-4,000. The floor and most of the lower level was full, and there was barely anyone on the upper level. A very respectable turnout. We were decidedly among the older people at the show, though I’m pretty sure that we’re younger than anyone in either of the bands. I’d say 75% of the audience was made up of young punk hooligans in inappropriate clothing. I don’t think I’m a prude, though; just practical. If you’re going to wear a midriff-exposing tanktop outside in weather that’s well below freezing, you must be really committed to smoking. I wouldn’t even pull my loved ones out of the way of a speeding car without putting on a jacket first. 

The opening act was Stars, lending credence to the idea that Metric had become way more famous than I’d thought. Before the show, I’d have guessed that Metric and Stars were at about the same level of popularity. Mika is probably reading this and shaking her head. What can I say? I don’t pay attention to things anymore. I don’t have to. I’m old and thus justified in my refusal to acknowledge change.

I saw Stars at the Regina Folk Festival this summer, where they weren’t my thing. Of course, the whole festival wasn’t my thing so I was looking forward to seeing them again to see if I liked them any better in another setting. I did not. Part of this may have been the venue’s fault, or the sound mix – the vocals were really muddy and drowned out. But it may just be the case that Stars are not really my thing. Other, similar bands are my thing. It’s just how it goes.

Metric, evidently, is my thing, as they tore the roof off the place, putting on one of the best shows of the year. I suppose that stands to reason since they played pretty much all of Synthetica, which is one of the best albums that I’ve heard this year (which is, admittedly, drawing from a pretty small pool). The only song I know they didn’t play was The Void, which I am pretty familiar with because it’s been on CBC Radio 3 (which results in Mika playing it in the car) and because it starts off with a very close approximation of Strong Bad’s lightswitch rave music.

From previous albums, I only noted a few songs, including the singles Monster Hospital and Help I’m Alive. I like Monster Hospital a lot and was hoping they’d play it. Then they played it (either as the last pre-encore song or the first one after, I forget which) and I immediately decided that I liked the newer stuff better, which is the opposite of pretty much every concert I’ve been to. So fickle.

I thought the sound was better for Metric than for Stars, but it’s not really a fair comparison. Metric’s music is much less acoustic (with one notable exception) and was a fair bit louder overall. You wouldn’t notice a lack of clarity so much.

There was a big lighting setup on stage behind the band, with a grid of segmented lights blinking on and off. The overall look reminded me of a digital alarm clock. And then as soon as the band left the stage, the lights switched to a clock showing 2:30, signaling two minutes and thirty seconds until the beginning of the encore. And indeed, the band retook the stage as soon as the clock hit zero. I hate the artificiality of the encore and while I’ve seen bands make jokes about that, the on-stage countdown clock blatantly showing just how precisely the break was timed was a new and neat idea.

After a fun show, they closed out the evening with an acoustic version of the song Gimme Sympathy – just an acoustic guitar, Emily Haines’ voice, and a crowd that she repeatedly encouraged to sing along. It was a fun way to end the show, and I was glad to get a different version of that specific song. The album version was used in a commercial for the Ontario Media Development Corporation; somehow, Mika and I both misremembered this as being an ad for some online school, so we’d hear the first notes of the album version and make jokes about how the song made us feel like signing up for courses. Point being, the album version of the song has kinda been spoiled for us, so it was nice to get something different. And I don’t see this joke dying off just because it isn’t that good and we were completely wrong – that’s just not how we roll.