Archive for April, 2015

SLCR #213: Danko Jones (April 10, 2015)

April 21, 2015

 

 

I think you can click these guys to see them full-sized.

Danko SLCR part 1

20150410Danko2

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SLCR #212: The God That Comes (April 3, 2015)

April 8, 2015

This marks the third time I have seen Hawksley Workman’s musical/cabaret/ode to debauchery The God That Comes (and it would have also been the fourth time, had Mark’s sinuses not revolted earlier in the week), so you already know what I think of this (it ruled) so I will forego a full review but must touch on some highlights.

By “highlights,” I mostly mean I want to complain about my old neighbourhood. I moved to Regina in 2004, and lived in the same apartment until buying a house around five years ago. You know how people go back home after a long time away and they’re sad about what happened to their old stomping grounds? Well, that’s me, but not because everything there went to hell. No. Since I moved out of that neighbourhood, they renovated the grocery store and drug store, opened a Subway, opened a coffee shop, opened a CAKE SHOP for God’s sake. All within easy walking distance. I could be picking up a cake on the way home from work every day instead of riding the bus to a house like a chump. It’s like the whole neighbourhood hated me and couldn’t wait for me to leave. Which is not impossible.

The daycare just down the block from my apartment is gone too, having been renovated and turned into Shynok, an authentic Ukrainian restaurant. I say “authentic” despite knowing very little about the food of my people because DeserĂ©e has been to the Ukraine and reports that the restaurant’s salads are authentically full of beets.

We went to Shynok before The God That Comes (“so THAT’S your point”) and it was fantastic. Best borscht. Best perogies that aren’t my grandpa’s recipe. Tasty cabbage rolls. Perogies for dessert! Colin drank some bizarre prune beverage and we were all concerned about its possible after-effects. I have not heard from him since that evening. I am not certain if no news is good news in this case.

The show was at the Artesian, which is a lovely venue and was well suited for the play. There were tables down in front with raised benches (pews?) in the back. We managed to get seated right up close and in the centre, near some other work people. Everyone but me had wine, which means I am now Hawksley’s least favourite amongst our little club. This makes me sad, but we’ll always have Twitter dolloping.

As for the play itself, it hadn’t changed much since I saw it in Calgary. I won’t go into too much detail – the soundtrack CD includes all of the night’s songs, but I think there are still parts of the show that are best kept under wraps. I say this mostly because I had forgotten about one of the little surprises (even though it was hinted at) and the crowd reaction to it was my favourite part of the show.

There were a few little tweaks from before. The show felt a little longer this time, due largely to a few spots where Hawksley padded things out a little bit. Notably, there was an audience call-and-response part added during one song that everyone seemed to enjoy (complete with a little impromptu back-and-forth during our show) (that might sort of be a double entendre). The introduction to the show-closer, They Decided Not To Like Us, was changed up a little and while I still think that the song feels tacked on, the new lead-in did help it a bit. I wonder if it might be best to end the play after He’s Mine and come back to perform Decided as an encore.

Oh, also, Hawksley said “fuck” way more this time. I kind of wish that I’d been charting the frequency of his swearing through the years. He goes through phases, and I’d love to figure out if they’re connected to sunspots or something.

UPCOMING SHOWS

  • Danko Jones w/The Lazys (April 10)
  • The Joel Plaskett Emergency w/Mo Kenney (May 15)
  • Charley Pride (May 20)
  • Danny Michel (June 13)
  • Regina Folk Festival feat. Sinead O’Connor, Jenny Lewis, Vance Joy, Blue Rodeo, Bahamas, Basia Bulat, The Sheepdogs, more (August 7-9)
  • Chubby Checker & The Wildcats (September 26)

SLCR #211: Amelia Curran (March 27, 2015)

April 8, 2015

There are shows where I think “dang, I am not going to have anything to write about.” This was one of those times. The sum total of what I knew about Amelia Curran is that Mika liked her. Mika also liked the opener, Ryan Boldt, about whom I knew precisely one other thing, which is that he is the lead singer of Deep Dark Woods. I know one song that they do, and it’s off a compilation album. So clearly we were off to a fine start.

One thing I did not know is if I’d actually seen Amelia Curran before. The answer would become clear to me later on, but she’s one of those people I’ve heard about forever, you know? The kind of person who would maybe tour with someone else I like, or who would play at the Folk Festival – this show was part of the Festival concert series, in fact. But while it seemed plausible, a quick scan of old reviews reveals that her only mention was from when we were supposed to see her at Junofest but she was playing at the Six Shooter event that we couldn’t get into, so now I’m mad about that, and that’s awesome.

We got to the Exchange with plenty of time to get good seats. The place got pretty busy but never truly filled up. Having room to move and breathe delighted me, but later on, I just felt bad for people who missed out. But I will get to that. If I cannot fill this review with shenanigans, I will at least take up space with repeated foreshadowing.

Mark did not miss out. With about 15 minutes left before the show started, it struck me to text him and let him know that we were at the Exchange and that he should pop by if he was bored at home. I assumed he’d be off cutting up a deer or something – unlike me, Mark has hobbies – and in no way did I actually expect a response of “Save us seats. On our way.” but I was delighted to receive it. The Artistic Director of the Folk Festival introduced the show; this always involves the reading of a long list of upcoming concerts and a longer list of sponsors. That gave Mark and Arlette precious extra minutes which enabled them to take their seats just as the show was starting.

Ryan Boldt played a selection of Deep Dark Woods songs, as well as traditional songs from his album Broadside Ballads. I mean, I’m assuming he did. Like I’d know? It seems like a safe thing to say. He played guitar and was accompanied by another guitarist, and it was a relatively laid-back affair. After the first few songs, Boldt got a little chattier with the crowd, with a dry delivery that made him come across quite likeable.

Not so likeable? Bram. What a dick that guy turned out to be.

Anyway, I thought he was real good. If you want an assessment of this performance from people who actually know things about things, Mark said that Boldt was worth the admission price by himself, and at one point during the show, Mika disappeared for a minute and came back with his album. Unanimous approval from our little crew.

Between sets, Mark chatted with Boldt while Arlette took a picture of a sweater (I know that is not exactly the right word for what this thing was) with a bulldozer on it. I am not sure who made better use of their time. I took the opportunity to pee, so maybe me?

As soon as Amelia Curran took the stage, I realized that I had never seen her before, because I would have remembered someone that charming and funny and delightful. And also I apparently have been pronouncing her last name wrong for as long as I’ve known of her existence and I like to think that I would have fixed that somewhere along the way had I known.

Anyway. She was great! I am a lyrics guy and she writes great songs.

(Let us take a moment to praise both The Exchange and the sound guy here. I could hear the singer clearly! Fine work! I wish all venues and techs, respectively, were like you.)

Great songs. Yes. As with Boldt, I was entirely unfamiliar with the music going into the evening, but I am listening to her newest album now (“They Promised You Mercy,” which Mika also bought) and she played pretty much all of these. And I know she played The Mistress because she mentioned the title when introducing the song with a fun story that I won’t spoil here. iTunes lists this as her #1 most popular single. Maybe you know it? I did not but it was real good.

Curran was backed by a full band that was as good as they were untalkative. The drummer declared at one point that he was “good,” or maybe “fine,” I forget. Beyond that, they let Curran do all the talking, which was fine because she came across really well on stage. She seemed a bit nervous in an endearing way with a great sense of humour and I was totally disappointed in my fellow Reginans that more people didn’t laugh at the Simpsons reference. But she did promise/threaten a series of Kiss covers which didn’t materialize (in favour of “more sad songs about my feelings”) and I did think it was a shame we missed out on something that Mike would consider so sacrilegious.

Overall, this night was one of the great underdog success stories of the SLCR series. I hung out with good people and got introduced to new favourites and in a no-drunken-shenanigans, infrequent-chicken-fingers era, what more can one ask for? (Aside from drunken shenanigans and chicken fingers, I mean.) I knew Dan Mangan would be in the running for my show of the year, and I have high hopes for Joel Plaskett, but we have a new surprise contender. The year is off to a good start.

SLCR #210: Dan Mangan + Blacksmith (March 7, 2015)

April 8, 2015

One of my great regrets in life is missing Dan Mangan’s last show in Regina. It was about a year and a half ago at Knox Metropolitan United Church. We had tickets, but it was the first really gross wintry day of the fall, and at the end of a long week, skipping out was much easier than leaving the house. I know some people who went to the show, and they all raved about it. Which is fine, that doesn’t really mean anything, doesn’t mean I’d have had a good time. But one of those jerks (hi Mark) took some video. And showed me the video. And it really did look phenomenal. And then I was sad. Ever since then, “remember Dan Mangan” has been a mantra whenever I feel like being lazy or reclusive or whatever.

Needless to say, when Dan Mangan (and Blacksmith, his newly-named backing band) announced a return date, I was all over it. That it was at Darke Hall, my favourite Regina concert venue, was even better. I ordered our tickets online and got them bundled with a download of his new album, Club Meds. And I listened to it a million times as soon as it came out – in no way did I give it one half-assed listen on the day before the show while not really paying much attention to it. That certainly wasn’t a thing I did at all.

Our show tickets weren’t actual tickets – we were just to show up at Darke Hall and my name would be on a list. Allegedly. I was not really feeling this. I have learned to accept that these days, 95% of the time, I will have printed-out PDFs instead of proper tickets as God intended, but trusting in some phantom list is something else entirely. Everything worked out, I was on the list, we got in, Dan Mangan’s website people are on the ball, but I feel confident in my ability to exchange physical tokens for access to restricted areas and don’t really understand why we need any other system.

The artistic director of the Regina Folk Festival opened the show to welcome us all there and read off the list of the night’s sponsors, as usually happens at one of these shows. She also noted that this was the first time they’d been allowed in Darke Hall since they last had Hawksley Workman there, which was (looks through old reviews) five years ago last month?! That seems impossible and yet it clearly is not. Maybe we all stomped too hard and caused structural damage? Anyway, she mentioned that the University of Regina is fundraising with the goal of renovating its downtown campus, including Darke Hall. I would love for this place to remain available for concerts, and while I don’t have $5 million to spare, maybe you do? http://www.uregina.ca/building-knowledge/

There were actually three artists on the bill. I’d seen Dan Mangan and Hayden before, both at the Regina Folk Festival (and I saw Hayden at Louis’ nearly 20 years ago), but as for the night’s opener, Astral Swans, I’d only heard the name. Astral Swans is one human from Calgary, which meant that I’d been lied to three times by the time he took the stage. Lucky for him, I’m a forgiving sort, mostly because he was real good. He played a very short set, just him and a guitar for around 20 minutes. I couldn’t tell you what songs he played, apart from a cover of Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain, which I guess is something you could expect from someone whose debut album is titled “All my Favourite Singers are Willie Nelson.”

We then had the shortest set change I’ve ever seen. There is no way five minutes elapsed between the end of Astral Swans and Hayden taking the stage. As one who stayed sitting, I was pleased, but I felt bad for anyone who thought they had ample time to pee. I bet a lot of folks got caught unaware midstream.

In 1998, I saw Hayden at Louis’, declared him to be “not my thing,” and left early. A few years ago, he was at the Folk Festival and I came around on him. But this time, I really got it. This was a fantastic set of often dismal and depressing songs. Even the funniest moment had a dark undercurrent; he introduced the song No Happy Birthday by saying that his daughter makes the sign for “that’s enough” as soon as he starts playing songs that he’s written for her. To be fair, I didn’t get into him right away either.

In fact, I’ve had 17 years to get into Hayden and I’ve apparently squandered that time, so I don’t know what other songs he played, apart from knowing that Birthday and several others were from his newest record, Hey Love. I’d ask Mika for the titles of others – she rattled off a list when we left the show – but she’s asleep right now and it’s now been over a month anyway. (Since the concert, I mean; not since she’s been asleep.) She has told me that Hayden has gotten progressively better and better throughout his career, so maybe picking now as a starting point isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever done.

Dan Mangan was great! High expectations: met. I don’t even really know how to describe it except that it was a great show from start to finish. He played a lot of songs from Club Meds, had a pretty swank light show, played something that he described as “a lot of songs all in a row,” and made a comment about the Knox Met show I missed (“We’ll probably never be allowed back there”) that made the ol’ regret flare up again.

At one point, Mangan invited the crowd to stand up and dance; precisely one guy did so. He danced up from his seat, down the aisle, to the front of the stage, all the way back up the aisle, past his seat, out the door, and all the way home. Or, you know, he just walked back to his seat and I didn’t notice because he wasn’t The Only Guy Dancing at that point. I prefer my version.

I would have liked more songs from my favourite Mangan album, Nice, Nice, Very Nice, but for the first song of the encore, he came out without Blacksmith and played Basket by himself and Basket is my favourite song of his. Up above, I referenced dismal and depressing songs, and this one is fantastically awful in the best way. That would have been enough to send me home happy in a miserable way (or miserable in a happy way) but he brought Blacksmith, Hayden and his band, and Astral Swans all back for a show-closing sing-along that was probably a better way to end the night.

So yes, this was a fantastic night of music; the kind of show that reminds you that it’s worth it to brave going out on gross wintry days. Except it had been very slushy during this particular day and it froze while we were at the show and the walk back to the car was life threatening and finally I had to leave Mika standing in one spot holding onto a tree while I slid down the street to retrieve the car so I could pick her up and really, we should all just force Dan Mangan to tour in the summer from now on.