Archive for September, 2013

SLCR #193: Mo Kenney (September 24, 2013)

September 28, 2013

In recent reviews, I have complained about how I feel like I’m not getting into a lot new music these days. Between the increasing fragmentation of mass media, the fact that new pop music just isn’t meant for me, and my old-man reluctance to try something that I don’t already know and love, it often feels like the only new albums I hear are from my old favourites.

Luckily, Mika listens to CBC Radio 3. Last year, whenever we had to drive somewhere, she started loading up her iPhone with a few installments of their countdown show, the R3-30. It has its share of stuff that I don’t care for, but the hits-to-misses ratio is surprisingly decent. I just made a new CD for the car – because I am old and set in my ways and dang it, I enjoy my outdated technology – and close to half of it is composed of songs I first heard on the R3-30.

One of the first standouts from those podcasts was Mo Kenney’s song Déjà Vu, a song so catchy that I’ll go through the effort of adding the accents even though this is America and we speak English here. I probably first heard the song over a year ago, but I seemingly can’t make myself sick of it. It’s like pizza, which is a comparison that I’m not certain Kenney would appreciate, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Mika bought her debut album – not specifically because it was produced by Joel Plaskett, but that certainly didn’t hurt – and I really enjoyed it, so I was excited for the show. I’d say that the $10 tickets certainly didn’t hurt, but I hate reusing my clichés so close to each other.

We got to the Artful Dodger mere moments after Other James had arrived. We bought drinks and got caught up, by which I mean we mostly swapped cat stories. They climb so high and land so hard and talk so much, but my cat kills birds. Other James would not stand for such behaviour.

Other James had red wine and Mika got a rum and Coke. In my true boring fashion, I opted for a Diet Coke. They served it in this heavy clay glass that got insanely cold. I had to keep switching hands. I fell in love with this glass. People on the internet who don’t know me might think this is a weird statement. People who know me closely will think it is even weirder. I mean, I am 37 and my primary drinking glasses came from Rogers Video and had the logos of James Bond movies emblazoned on them. I am not even kidding about this. You just can’t tell because they’ve gone through the dishwasher often enough to take off most of the lead paint. Other James – because he knows everyone in the province – told me that my glass was made by Martin Tagseth, an artist from Lake Lenore. I cannot prove this to be true and some preliminary googling raises a very important issue; namely, I can’t see a restaurant or bar paying those kinds of prices considering how often glasses get smashed. However, I am gonna put this link right here in case the glass was made by Tagseth, he puts something similar up for sale someday, and a wealthy benefactor wants me to have drinkware that I can also use to kill a man:

Man. I wanted to steal the glass and Mika said “no” and I wasn’t really going to do it anyway but now that I had to relive its heft and coldness, I’m sad that I didn’t.

Our opener was Andy Shauf, a singer-songwriter from Regina. I didn’t know a whole lot about him, though I’d seen his name everywhere; it seems like he is one of those Indigo Joseph/Julia McDougall types who plays a ton of shows here and you’ll wind up seeing him every now and then, even if by accident. In voice and mannerisms, he reminded me of some sort of bizarre cross between Will Forte and my friend Colin, a comparison which means precisely nothing to anyone on Earth apart from me. And maybe Colin, if he watched Saturday Night Live a few years ago. But I don’t think he did. Anyway, I thought his songs were pretty decent, though I occasionally had a hard time making out the lyrics and I had a feeling that I might actually prefer the recorded versions. I’m currently listening to a few of his tunes on the Bandcamp page for his newest album – because apparently I’m linking to everything today – and it seems like that might be the case.

I see that his page has five tags: pop, dark, folk, Regina, and clarinet. There was, indeed, a clarinet on stage. When Mika first saw the clarinet, she was skeptical. Other James, on the other hand, was delighted. But when is he not?

Between sets, Other James spent part of the evening chatting with roller derby girls, and he also pointed out the lead singer of Library Voices in the crowd. Like I said, everyone in the province.

Mo Kenney has had two songs that did really well on the R3-30 (that I’ve heard, anyway; I tend to skip the show for weeks at a time). One thing I’ve noticed is that people who’ve heard both seem to have distinct preferences for one or the other – Sucker or Déjà Vu. I’ve already established myself as being firmly in the Déjà Vu camp, but I have a newfound appreciation for Sucker after having learned that it was written while drunk, dumped, and depressed about making pizzas for Sobey’s. It all makes sense now.

Kenney’s album has ten songs and clocks in at only about 34 minutes, so it’s not surprising that she played the whole thing. She was on her first tour with a band – a bass player and a drummer – though they left the stage for about the middle third of the set so Kenney could do some songs by herself. Like on the album, In My Lungs segued into Déjà Vu. Before playing Eden, she mentioned making a video for it with director Greg Jackson; she did not say that this was NOT the same Greg Jackson who is Georges St-Pierre’s coach, so I choose to assume that it was. This was for a contest and they won, so let’s continue with today’s linkfest:

The songs from the record were supplemented by some new songs that she’d recently written with some Swedes, as well as a cover of Joel Plaskett’s Somewhere Else. I half-thought Mika might consider this to be blasphemy, but she doesn’t have the no-covering-my-favourites rule that some of my other friends have. Kenney also played Five Years, introducing it as “the first song on a record that my dad gave me; I won’t tell you what it is.” I decided it was a Leonard Cohen song and then I googled it to make sure and haha no whoops it’s David Bowie and probably everyone on Earth knew that but it turns out I sometimes don’t know things about things at all. I suppose this is how one learns.

Kenney seemed a little nervous at times, especially when she was talking between songs. She seemed to loosen up a bit as the show went on, and she also has a dry sense of humour that I found really appealing. Mika noted that her voice seemed the strongest when she was singing other people’s songs. I’m not sure about that; maybe it’s just that most of her own songs are quieter and aren’t really designed to be belted out.

The band closed with a cover of Shakin’ All Over, which was a fun and energetic way to end a really good show. The only real negative during the evening was the crowd; there seemed to be quite a few people who either left as the show was getting going or who just weren’t interested in paying attention. I think some people were only there to see Andy Shauf (I get that; he’s local and he was good and all), and the low ticket prices probably didn’t help matters either. I’ve said before that I’d rather pay to go to a show rather than go to a free show, since the cost weeds out some of the people who aren’t really interested in being there. Maybe raising ticket prices – even $5 or so – might have kept a few not-really-interested people out but brought in as much money? Who knows how these things work.

Kenney said she was planning to stick around after the show and sell CDs, and she also said that people could just talk with her or they could “embrace.” We didn’t stay for that, since Mika already bought the album, and the Artful Dodger had been really warm (which is one reason why I loved that cold glass so much) and it seemed cruel and unfair to ask anyone to embrace me at that point. Other James hung around for a bit; I haven’t talked to him since the show, but I assume him and Mo Kenney are bestest friends now, since that’s just how he works.

• Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls w/The Smith Street Band & Koo Koo Kanga Roo (October 22)
• Loretta Lynn (October 23)
• Herman’s Hermits (the Peter Noone version) (November 20)
• Ben Folds & Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (May 21, 2014)

SLCR #192: Bobby Curtola (September 6, 2013)

September 10, 2013

Travel with me, if you will, back in time to some indeterminate point in the middle of 2013. Those were good days. It was roughly six weeks after Mika and I saw Dr. John at Casino Regina, and I was struggling for content so I could finally scratch the concert review off my to-do list. Digressing from my main point (that being “Dr. John was fine. Hey, what’s new to read on the internet?”), I wrote out the following:

We got to the casino to discover that Bobby Curtola will be playing there in September. I texted my dad with this news. As I suspected/feared, he immediately insisted that we all go together as a family. Yes. And we’re doing this. Given our (I should probably be polite here) divergent tastes in music, I suppose it isn’t surprising that it will have taken 190+ reviews for my dad to make his official SLCR debut, but let me tell you, I am pumped for this opportunity. Half of that review is already written in my head and we’re still almost two months out.

Bobby Curtola, for those among you who aren’t eligible for the Denny’s senior’s discount, had a series of hit songs in the 60s. Fortune Teller was the biggest of the bunch. If you don’t know it, go look it up on YouTube and you’ll likely go “ohhhh, THAT one.”

Curtola’s peak of popularity occurred just as my father was becoming a teenager, and my dad was a big fan. It is now roughly a billion years later and the bands I liked in my 20s now only get played on the radio as ironic Retro Jams (I am assuming that “radio” is still a thing), but my dad never got off the Curtola train.

It’s weird. I remember my dad always listening to music when I was a kid. He played multiple instruments, he was in bands before I was born, and yet he’s largely shown no interest in new music. He likes what he likes, and in 2013, that’s largely certain country music and the Elvis satellite radio station. I won’t say that he’s out of touch, but he once famously said “CSI must be really popular; I heard the theme song on the radio today.”

This is where people tell me to quit making up stories. I assure you I did no such thing.

More time traveling. Let me tell you about the early 90s. Garth Brooks was selling millions of records and leading a commercial revival of country music. My dad went to the Calgary Stampede in 1993 or thereabouts, and who should be playing there but Bobby Curtola. Hoping to ride the new-country wave of success, Curtola had just released a new record, called “Gotta Get Used to Being Country.” The combination of Curtola and country proved irresistible, and my dad brought the CD home.

Actually, he brought the CD into his car, which was worse. I didn’t live with him but I did drive places with him. I heard that record a lot. In fact, it was the only thing my dad played for months, apart from breaking out the song 18-Wheeler by Alabama for special occasions.

In my advancing age, I’m hesitant to call a band or an album “bad” when it doesn’t do it for me. I don’t feel qualified; I can’t play an instrument, I can’t sing, I can’t tell a genuinely good musician from someone who’s just putting on a big show. But I feel confident in stating, unequivocally, that Gotta Get Used to Being Country is… SO VERY MUCH not my thing. If you get what I mean.

Its greatest offense was that it just felt so disingenuous. I have nothing against Curtola’s older songs and I wouldn’t have cared if he genuinely wanted to record some country songs for whatever reason, but it felt like trend-hopping in the hope of a quick cash-in. Even the album cover, with Curtola posing awkwardly in western wear, just grated on me. Bear in mind that at the time, I was listening mainly to Nirvana and Public Enemy*, so, y’know. Not my thing.

* it’s my review and I can choose to single out the bands that have retained their high critical praise if I feel like it and you can’t stop me

It has been many, many years since I’ve heard or even seen that record. I have no idea if my dad still has it or if it has been lost to time. And I had no idea what this show would actually be like. I asked my dad “I wonder if he’s used to being country yet?” and I wasn’t being facetious. I really did want to know. And after twenty years – TWENTY YEARS, GOOD LORD – I was about to find out.

My dad and stepmom picked us up and drove us to Casino Regina – correction, the SOLD OUT Casino Regina – to have dinner before the show. We were there in plenty of time, or so I thought, but it seemed like everyone else who was going to the show had the same idea. I shouldn’t have been surprised; it’s a restaurant in a casino on the night of a concert by a 60s star, no wonder the place was packed like the Co-op on seniors’ day. We waited in line for a while for a table, but the casino restaurant staff are pros at this sort of thing and we wound up seated and fed with time to spare. I had chicken, making this the first official concert since… I can’t even remember when. Since the last time I remembered that thing from early concert reviews about chicken being a requirement, I guess.

Our server asked my dad about Bobby Curtola’s biggest songs. He effortlessly rattled off a half-dozen titles. “But what was his biggest,” she asked, and he drew a blank. I felt a twinge of self-consciousness which kept me from jumping in with “Ooh! Ooh! I know! Fortune Teller!” And it’s good that I didn’t, because otherwise, she wouldn’t have sang it to us. She turned to me and Mika. “You’re too young! You don’t know what you missed out on.” Lady, you have no idea.

We strolled over to the show lounge and found our table. True to casino form, the show started right on time. Curtola’s band, the Sensational Hot Rods, took the stage to play The Twist while Mika and I wondered if Chubby Checker was still alive. (Wikipedia says he is.) After the song, one of the Rods (*snicker*) introduced “Canada’s rock-n-roll legend.” This was how Curtola was introduced at the start of the second set and at the end of the encore as well, which is good, because up until the very last time I heard it, I was convinced the guy was saying “Canada’s rock-n-roll engine.” and that seemed weird. It kinda makes sense, though. Maybe?

Curtola took the stage wearing a smile that never once wavered, even for a second. I have to think his face must hurt by the end of a show. He played a mix of tunes. Maybe one-third were ones he was famous for, including Corrina Corrina, Three Rows Over, Hand In Hand With You, and Fortune Teller (of course). No country, but they did play a Coke jingle, which made my dad sad that he didn’t bring his record (which he got at the Red Deer, Alberta Coca-Cola plant) to get signed. The majority of the songs were various hits from the 60s, all stuff you’d know. Covers of Paul Anka, Roy Orbison, Louis Armstrong, Ben E. King, and a pair of medleys.

Curtola came across like someone who truly loves his job. And why wouldn’t he? 50 years removed from his biggest hit, here he was, still doing his thing in front of a sold-out crowd. From the ages in attendance, you could tell that the vast majority of the people there were fans dating back to when he first hit it big. At one point, he introduced a lady who’d been the president of his fan club in 1960.

There was a lot of audience interaction, some of it amazing and awesome and the best. Curtola would walk through the floor of the show lounge, singing. When he got to a repeating chorus, he’d sing it and then hold the mic to an audience member to give them a shot. Some did well. Some did… not. There was some screeching. One gentleman did not understand that microphones amplify your voice and thus there was no need to yell. This was great.

While singing Mambo Italiano, Curtola and one of the Rods danced on stage with big stuffed animals. I had no idea what to make of this. Then they threw them into the crowd, causing mini stampedes. I feared for hips, but nobody got hurt. One of the stuffed animals was a blue hippo! I wanted that one, but we were too far removed from the splash zone.

Near the end, the hippo made his return. Curtola started singing Old-Time Rock n’ Roll, then segued into The Loco-motion. He went out onto the floor and found the lady who caught my hippo, and invited her to do said Loco-motion with him (you gotta swing your hips now). She brought the hippo along. So there’s Bobby Curtola leading a three-person conga line of himself, one lady, and a stuffed blue hippo. This proved to be irresistible to a certain demographic, and women from all over the show lounge ran up to join in. He moved into singing Mony Mony but the train kept a-rollin’. There were probably 15-20 people at its peak. I tried offering Mika $100 to join the chain but wasn’t even allowed to finish the sentence. She did suggest that I ask my dad, which I did. He thought this idea was hilarious but declined to take me up on the offer. Anyway, Curtola eventually went back up onto the stage and most of the women dispersed, but there was one who followed him up the ramp and was REAL mad that none of the other women would rush the stage with her. So great.

Curtola has probably done 10,000 shows by now, so much of the evening felt like it was “just part of the show,” if that makes sense. When he’d chat with his band members, you knew that they have the same conversation every night. The impromptu moments, like the lady wanting to rush the stage, were the most fun for me. My favourite was when he was talking to the crowd and found a man who was from Italy. The band tried to start into the next song (they always seemed to start in about a sentence or two too early when Curtola was talking) but Curtola cut them off. He talked to the fan, telling him what his parents’ last names were and what part of Italy they were from, and then said “I’ll just do this without the band” and sang a brief song in Italian for him. This was a pretty cool moment. Mika noted after the show that Curtola’s voice actually seemed the strongest when he was singing in Italian, and I had noticed that too.

Much like how I felt about the country CD years ago, Curtola seemed at his best when he wasn’t trying to be someone else. His voice isn’t quite what it once was, but it seemed at its weakest when he was singing covers. If you’re singing Stand By Me or What A Wonderful World or Oh Pretty Woman, you’re setting the bar pretty high for yourself. And it’s anecdotal, but I could really tell that my dad enjoyed the Curtola originals much more than the covers. Makes sense, right? He IS who we were there to see, after all.

Curtola also made a few off-hand remarks along the lines of “You never expect a song to take off like this one did… and I’ll tell you, you don’t realize when it’s over, either.” The brief hints at introspection were intriguing and I’d have been interested to hear him talk more about this sort of thing, but I suppose that’s not what anyone was there for.

There was an undeniable Vegas show lounge feel to this concert – the permanent smile, the rehearsed patter, so much audience interaction – if I’ve ever seen a show that I would compare this to, it would be seeing Wayne Newton at the same casino a few years ago. Which, I suppose, is not bad company for Curtola to be in.

As for my dad, he declared loudly after the show that he’d had a fine time. 17-year-old me might kick my ass for saying this (not true; he’d just scowl and make fun behind my back), but for something that was not my thing, I did too. We’re going to head out again in a few months when Herman’s Hermits (the Peter Noone version, even) come to town, so we’ll see if lightning strikes twice.

SLCR #191: Regina Folk Festival (August 9-11, 2013)

September 4, 2013

I should start by saying that if you’re at all interested in what happened at the Regina Folk Festival this year, you should definitely check out I know nothing about the person or persons behind it, but he/she/they did a fine job of reporting on the festival using such cutting-edge journalism techniques as “knowing things” and “looking up things you don’t know” and “writing things down while they’re fresh in your memories” and “caring about things other than food and stupidities.” I don’t know if this style of writing will catch on, but it makes for an interesting change of pace.

After last year’s festival, I wasn’t really excited about this year, even passing on the cheap pre-Christmas tickets. Then they announced the line-up and I was in. I knew that would happen. That pretty much always happens. You’d think I’d learn. I suspect I won’t.

We showed up on Friday night, hauling our nifty new lawn chairs and fleece blankets that Mika picked up for us. These are some solid chairs and they’re pretty cumbersome to tote around. This bothered me right up until the point that we got to our usual spot and I actually sat in one of the chairs. These are better than most chairs I have ever owned and made for some fiiiiiiiine sittin’.

The Friday night host was a kids’ entertainer (and – coincidentally? – Feist’s high school classmate) named Bubba B The MC. Now, a few years ago, Fred Penner was one of the hosts and everybody loved him. Ever since then, there seems to have been a preponderance of kids’ entertainers as main stage hosts. It makes sense, I suppose. You bring them in to work the daytime kids’ stages, so they’re there anyway. The thing is, Fred Penner is a beloved icon for people of a certain age (namely, people a few years younger than me). Bubba B The MC is not. “You’re either gonna love me or you’re gonna hate me,” he said as he took the stage. Between repeatedly shilling his CD and hollering “PHOTO OP, PHOTO OP, PHOTO OP” the second that every act finished up, I don’t think I heard a single person with anything positive to say about his hosting performance. I’ve possibly been spoiled by having Carolyn Mark as the main stage host on the first night of the first festival I ever went to.

The happiest and saddest moment of the festival occurred right as it began. You may remember that a few years ago, we sat near a guy who yelled HO! HO! HO! HO! instead of applauding and this guy was awesome. Well. When Bubba B said something to welcome us to the festival, a guy sitting near us yelled HO! and Mika and I turned to each other in pure delight. He was back!! And… then he never said HO! again all weekend. So sad. But at least we got one.

I won’t go into detail about all 15 main stage performances from the weekend because there’s only so many times I can type “I knew nothing about this artist, but they were good! I couldn’t tell you what they played, though.” Maybe I will just copy and paste.

I knew nothing about Elisapie, but she was good! I couldn’t tell you what she played, though. She was born in northern Québec and sang lovely songs in multiple languages, including English, French, and… okay, I’m going to guess Inuktitut but the internet is not confirming this and so I might be very wrong. Regardless, this was a fine opener and I’d go see her again. One lady who was sitting ahead of us on the Saturday night felt more strongly about the subject, judging by the amount of Elisapie records she bought.

I saw Hayden once before, in 1998. I was tired, declared him to be “not my thing,” and left early. But I’m nothing if not about second chances, and hey, it turns out this guy is really good after all. Maybe 21-year-old me just sucked? (yes) Mika said Hayden’s set was one of the best all weekend and was delighted that he played all the hits (it might be notable that she put “hits” in quotation marks). She specifically mentioned Bad As They Seem, The Hazards Of Sitting Beneath Palm Trees, Tree’s Lounge, and Home By Saturday. Now she is lost in Wikipedia, reading about Hayden. I’ll miss her.

Somewhere in here, I got some vegetable pad thai and fresh rolls. Anyone looking to buy my love (or at least my lunch), take note: fresh rolls might be my secret weakness. No shrimp, please.

For me, the idea of finally seeing Man Man was what sold me on this year’s festival. The short version is that they were in Regina a while ago opening for Modest Mouse. I went to the show and was even there in time to see Man Man, but wound up hanging out in the lobby with Colin and some of his friends instead. This was deemed to be the wise course of action because opening acts are often not very good. Of course, what happened was everyone left saying that Modest Mouse was okay but Man Man was crazy and great and the best. I had to live with my regret for six years and I am so delighted to get that one off the must-see checklist.

After all this time, they didn’t seem as crazy as I expected them to be, though it’s worth noting that we were sitting pretty far back and someone who was close up might have seen all kinds of things that I did not. There was a point where it appeared that a giant puppet was dancing with the band and I had no idea if the band brought it with them or if someone in the crowd was all “hey, you know what we should bring? Giant puppet.”

I expected Man Man to be good, and they were. I did not expect them to be immediately bested by the very next band. Nomadic Massive is a hip-hop group from Montréal. I went into the evening being so familiar with their work that I complained about the lack of hip-hop at this year’s festival. Oops. Maybe I should quit exposing my ignorance and talk about things I know about instead.

Mika bought me kettle corn and it was good!

Nomadic Massive. Yes. I knew nothing about this artist, but they were good! I couldn’t tell you what they played, though. The crowd was already pretty pumped from Man Man, and Nomadic Massive played an energetic set that won everyone over. Great musicianship, too, which is not something you can say about every rap artist. Fine stuff. Another bilingual act that I’d gladly see again. Fine work on this evening, Québec.

After four great sets, I was thinking this was on pace to be the best single night of the folk festival that I’ve seen. And I’d seen Feist before and was confident that she would deliver a fine capper. Unfortunately, I just didn’t think this measured up to what came before it. The momentum of the evening came to a dead stop as the crew took a half-hour to set up the most complicated stage I’ve seen at the Regina Folk Festival. It still didn’t compare to an arena rock show, but there were big screens, a riser, and more complex lighting effects. It all looked good, mind you, but seemed unnecessary. It especially left a bad taste in my mouth when Feist mentioned having to cut her set short. This is an outdoor event and there are noise curfews; maybe spending a half-hour on the stage setup isn’t the best use of your limited time.

I also found big sections of Feist’s set to be pretty dull. I shouldn’t have been surprised by this, as I didn’t much care for her newest album for the same reason (I believe the Sound Salvation Army folks described it as “challenging” and it is fair to say that I never gave it much of a chance to grow on me). The set wasn’t BAD by any stretch – Sea Lion Woman and My Moon My Man in particular were fantastic, and I wished we could have had more of that.

Saturday! Our main stage host was another children’s’ entertainer, Al Simmons. Al hosted last year and I wasn’t a fan. But was he worse than Bubba B The MC? Luckily (?), having back-to-back performances allowed for some degree of folk festival science and our jury of peer reviewers (me and Mika, pretty much) agree that Al Simmons is, in fact, better than Bubba B The MC. Sure, he talked way too much about the importance of cleaning up after yourself, but a) so did Fred Penner and I didn’t give HIM grief over it, b) on Sunday, we were told that the festival grounds were left cleaner than they’d ever been, and c) it beats PHOTO OP, PHOTO OP by a mile. So one point for you, Al Simmons.

I knew nothing about H’Sao, but they were good! I couldn’t tell you what they played, though. I know that while they currently live in Montréal (I’m sensing a theme), they’re originally from Chad. I know this because I felt the immediate need to text Chad (the person) and tell him about this band from Chad (the country). He declared them to be obviously great and who am I to argue?

I think I got some poutine around this point because I hate myself.

Despite having lived in Regina for what feels like forever, this was actually my first time seeing Rah Rah. Sort of. They played the Folk Festival a few years ago as one of the “teaser” acts between main stage performers, and the whole band wasn’t there and it was only okay. But this, this was pretty great. The hometown stars played a fun set with a lot of songs from their newest album, but stretched all the way back to Tentacles, which the first song of theirs that I ever heard (I think it was a freebie on iTunes one week, maybe?). One complaint: finally seeing them left “The Poet’s Dead” stuck in my head for about three days – but not the whole song, just two lines. Over and over. I forget what Mika finally played to dislodge it from my brain, but whatever it was couldn’t have been an upgrade.

Is it a surprise that Calypso Rose sang calypso music? I knew nothing about Calypso Rose, but she was good! And I can tell you one song that she played, Senior Citizens’ Day.  I have no idea why I would remember this song in particular but hey, that’s what happens when I don’t take notes. This was very energetic and fun, which was a(nother) recurring theme for the festival this year. I don’t know if it’s particularly folky, but I approve; last year’s festival felt like it was lacking energy and you couldn’t say the same for this year’s edition. Was it the selection of artists? Better audio quality?  Just happened that way? Was I just in a better headspace to begin with? Probably some combination thereof.

The Saturday night headliner, as far as I was concerned, was Bahamas. Short version: I had always avoided seeing him (not intentionally; it just worked out that way) until Junos weekend where I discovered that he was great. And he was great here too.

“Are you ready to rock?” (yay!) “Well… we’re not that kind of band.”

You wouldn’t expect songs so sweet and sincere from someone so funny (or vice-versa), but the combination makes Bahamas a great performer. He played a full set of his originals (can I remember what? of course not), sarcastically endorsed the SaskTel network (they really should hire Bahamas as a spokesperson in place of the Little Red commercials), and closed with fun covers of Hey Ya and Wonderful Tonight.

Loreena McKennit was up next, but we didn’t stick around for her. Not our thing.

Sunday! The hosts for the evening were local troupe FadaDance. They’re not exclusively kids’ entertainers, but they do seem to be around to work the children’s stage every year. They kicked off the night’s festivities with this prolonged marching band entrance that grabbed attention, and then they largely stayed out of the way. I approve.

Don, my coworker, had told me that Carolina Chocolate Drops were great, and he was right. For my money, this was the top act of the whole festival. The short version is that they explore the history of African-Americans in bluegrass music, but that only scratches the surface. One song was sung in Haitian Creole, while another was Gaelic, and they traded instruments as they went. Incredible talent on display here. If you get the chance, go see them.

Niyaz was really the only main stage act I saw that just didn’t click with me. They sang very pretty Persian-influenced songs and the twirling dancer was hypnotic, but a lot of this all sounded the same to me and I kind of lost interest. Maybe it’s just me; Other James and Mark were there all weekend, and I think this might have been Other James’ favourite act of the weekend. I think he was in love with the dancer.

I can’t say that I didn’t know anything about Rosanne Cash. Next-to-nothing, maybe. I really had no idea just how impressive her career has been.

She has a new album coming out soon, but her most recent album was a collection of covers. Her dad had made her a list of 100 country songs that she needed to know (do you need me to tell you that her dad was Johnny Cash? because I will, but I feel kind of stupid doing so) and she covered 12 of those songs on an album (appropriately titled The List). As such, we got about 50% originals and 50% country classics, and both were great. There was no band; just Cash on guitar with another guitarist for accompaniment.  Clean, clear performances of some wonderful songs.

A good chunk of the crowd left after Cash was done, which meant they missed out on Charles Bradley. Bradley’s story is becoming well-known, thanks to a documentary about his life called “Charles Bradley: Soul of America.” The gist of it is that he had a really hard life, worked as a James Brown impersonator for a time, and finally released his first solo record in 2011, when he was already in his 60s. The preceding sentence may include lies or half-truths, seeing as how I haven’t actually watched said documentary (it’s not on Canadian Netflix yet), but that’s what I was going on.

The band came out and played an instrumental number, then one of them introduced Bradley in dramatic fashion (is there any other way when you’re “the Screaming Eagle of Soul?”). Bradley sang, he danced, he did the splits. He left the stage and was re-introduced wearing a different outfit. I believe he wore a cape at one point. He sang his own original songs, but the James Brown influence was strong, to say the least. Almost a bit much at times, really.

Before Neko Case took the stage to close down the evening, the festival’s Artistic Director, Sandra Butel, addressed the crowd. She polled the crowd as to who the best acts were, and… okay, you know how if someone on stage asks the crowd a question, they just get unintelligible yelling in response? When she asked about the best act Saturday night, it seemed like everyone there yelled “Bahamas!” in unison. It was as clear as can be. I had to laugh; I have never heard such consensus from the masses before.

For the record, when she asked about Friday night, most people yelled for Nomadic Massive, but there was a small but VERY vocal contingent of Man Man supporters.

Neko Case’s new album came out yesterday. This sentence will only be true if I finally get off (on?) my ass and finish this review and post it today, but whatever. If I don’t, let’s just assume I can bend time to my will. Maybe I will sit on this review for five years and keep Case’s record in limbo for that long. Take THAT, Neko Case and Neko Case fans. That’s for probably wronging me somehow.

Point being, I pre-ordered said album (“The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You”) (Deluxe Edition) on iTunes, and as such, it downloaded to my PC today, but I haven’t listened to it yet. And yet… I have. Kind of. Case’s show-closing set was comprised mainly of songs from the new record. The two songs I’d heard online, Man and Night Still Comes, were great live, as was the rest of the new tunes. We also got a few songs that she co-wrote with the Sadies (they got a nice cheer every time their name was mentioned), a few singles (including Hold On, Hold On and People Got a Lotta Nerve), and one song that she wrote for her dad, but “got turned into a vampire fuck theme for TV.”

“Oh, the world and the things it does,” she said.

THIS I made note of to share with you later. Did I write down what song it actually was? No, but I was 99% sure that it was “I Wish I Was the Moon Tonight.” I am now 100% sure after Googling “neko case true blood.” Time to clear my search history. Again.

Point being, if my imaginary band ever releases an imaginary album, “Vampire Fuck Themes for TV” is likely to be the imaginary album title.

I will say that between all the new songs and all the time Case spent tuning her guitar, this felt almost like a tune-up for the “real” tour that will surely be coming. This kept her set from being among my favourites of the weekend, but it was still a mighty fine time.

With that, we packed up our lawn chairs and headed home. As we were leaving, the show-closing finale was taking place. This included Rah Rah returning to cover the Traveling Wilburys’ Handle With Care, because why not? From what we saw, the finale was not quite as raucous as in previous years, but we didn’t stick around to the bitter end. We’re old, you know. And comfy chairs were proving to be no substitute for a comfy bed.

As we walked to the car, another group of festival goers were gathered around a statue, posing for a picture. One of them hollered “PHOTO OP, PHOTO OP, PHOTO OP!” We laughed, as did everyone else nearby. Bubba B The MC may have achieved immortality.