Archive for October, 2015

SLCR #223: Hawksley Workman (October 16, 2015)

October 18, 2015

SLCR #75 (April 15, 2004) was my fifth time seeing Hawksley Workman and I didn’t have much to say because I’d seen him so many times already. This was my 18th show. I have things to say about this show.

Beforehand, Deserée and Mika and I met Colin for dinner at Beer Bros. I skipped the chicken fingers and mozza sticks that I don’t think they even have in favour of my standard bacon cheeseburger. We discovered that Colin knows everyone in town and also knows all of the rules to every sport except possibly cricket. And we watched part of the Jays game, only I wasn’t facing a TV so I was watching it in a mirror, and mirror baseball is weird. Everyone runs the wrong direction and it’s never not startling.

We drove past my old apartment to Darke Hall, my favourite concert venue in Regina and particularly my favourite Hawksley venue. I think this was the fourth time I’ve seen him there and the crowd is great, the place is attractive, the sound is good, and sometimes there’s stomping for no apparent reason. We didn’t get any stomping on this evening, which was fine, really. It should happen because it happens, not because we’re expected to do it.

We got there with lots of time to spare. I dropped off some socks at the stuff table (they’re doing a sock drive for local shelters; it’s not just me going “hey, I bet Hawksley would like these socks I found”) and I checked out the things for sale. I had all the music so I went home empty-handed. We spent a lengthy stretch in our seats where Dez and I talked nonsense while she mourned being stuck behind a tall guy with a big head despite her best efforts to avoid the same, and Mika learned more about Colin’s life than I have in 10 years of knowing him. I should ask more questions, maybe? He also explained to her how tennis works. At some point, Mika and I waved to Mark and Arlette, who we never actually got to talk to.

Our opener was English singer Fiona Bevan, who played a brief solo set. This is her first time in Canada, so the idea of a six-hour drive between cities (the tour started the night before in Winnipeg) was a bit of a culture shock. Winnipeg and Regina are 100 miles further apart than London and Paris, and there’s no high-speed train. But despite the long trip, she was in good spirits and played a really enjoyable set. Her album is Talk To Strangers, and I know she played the title track and at least the first four songs – Rebel Without a Cause, Slo Mo Tiger Glo, Us and the Darkness, and the first single, The Machine.

So this Hawksley show. This was a weird show. Not entirely surprising, as he’s touring in support of Old Cheetah, which is a weird album. I definitely did not take to it initially, but I gave it some time (since I didn’t take to Hawksley’s first album initially either), and I think I have come around on it. Mika was the reverse, liking it initially and then caring for it less and less the more I played it. And Dez just isn’t a fan. It’s certainly not the first album I’d give someone who asked me about Hawksley’s music. But unlike some Hawksley stuff where I think “he is trying hard to have a hit song with this,” I feel like he just made the album he felt like making, and that’s always good.

This show was my first real Hawksley concert in three years, and it’s been over five since I’ve seen him with a full band. Mr. Lonely was there as ever, along with Derek Brady on bass (it was his birthday!) and drummer Brad Kilpatrick.

I was expecting lots of Old Cheetah songs, and we got those, mostly at the start and near the end of the set. Make Up Your Mind Tonight, Teenage Cats, Don’t Take Yourself Away, We’re Not Broken Yet, and Winter Bird, at least. He did NOT play I Just So Happen To Believe, which includes the line “you’ll titty-fuck the cake,” inspiring a lengthy Twitter conversation between me, Dez, Hawksley, and the occasional stranger (and I think Steve Bays of Mounties/Hot Hot Heat was faving tweets at one point) about the logistics thereof; namely, doesn’t one need TWO cakes for titty-fucking? Or at least one irregularly shaped cake? Because aren’t you just fucking a cake otherwise? I think I put more thought into this than Hawksley did when he wrote the line. I mean, I put a LOT of thought into this.

I think I digressed in a way I might not want to attach my name to, but OH WELL there it is now.

Anyway, I was expecting Old Cheetah songs. I was not expecting the rest of the night’s songs, which included no singles. At all. No Striptease, no Anger as Beauty, no Jealous of Your Cigarette, no We Will Still Need A Song, no Smoke Baby, no Piano Blink, no We’ll Make Time. There are some songs he always plays – except this time. No Safe & Sound, no Don’t Be Crushed, no Your Beauty Must Be Rubbing Off. And none of my hopeful picks – no Claire Fontaine (or anything from Almost a Full Moon), nothing from The God That Comes, no Warhol’s Portrait of Gretzky. He opened with a loud, chugging version of Tonight Romanticize The Automobile, and in between the Cheetah songs, we got the weirdest collection of deep cuts. All The Trees Are Hers, Song For Sarah Jane, Ilfracombe, Paper Shoes, Baby Mosquito, When These Mountains Were The Seashore. He sang Old Bloody Orange with Fiona Bevan, and he did a medley of Bullets and… I think it was Dirty & True? When the show was over, Colin said he didn’t recognize a single song. For the borderline obsessive diehard (i.e., this guy), it was bonkers. I am not used to hearing the opening notes of a Hawksley song and not being able to immediately place it. I had forgotten that General January was ever a song, and when we got to that point, I entirely gave up trying to guess what else we were getting. I’d have been all kinds of wrong anyway.

I realize this means nothing to any of you. But really, the set list was just so bizarre that I tried to look up the Winnipeg show from the night before to see if he is doing this set every night or if he’s just picking things entirely at random. I saw him on two consecutive nights once, long ago, and it was the same show both nights. But if he was mixing things up significantly, I’d have gone to see him in Swift Current on Saturday, and I still haven’t ruled out seeing him in Saskatoon on Tuesday, but I haven’t been able to find anyone talking about those other shows. So disappointing. I do not have patience for lazy concert reviewers. Work for it! Respect your audience!

He did play Autumn’s Here for the encore, which is one of his standards. And while it fit the season and fully expected it (at the start of the evening, I mean – I was all out of guesses by the end), Mika does not care for that song at all and was hopeful that she’d finally escaped a Hawksley show without hearing it. Next time. Maybe.

Of course, in between songs, Hawksley talked. And talked. Always a delight. The primary topic of conversation was the venue itself, which was very weirdly lit – four white spotlights at the back of the room lit up the stage. That was it, really. (It was also very cool, temperature-wise, and it would have been quite possible to have a nap if one were so inclined.) Anyway, the darkness of Darke Hall was commented on, which – obviously – led to a story about being a kid and being driven to the dump at night to watch the bears eat garbage. “And it’s like we’re the bears and it’s a slow night at the dump. Only two cars.” Someone suggested that the darkness was romantic, but they did so by yelling out “ROMANCE” and Hawksley pondered how some words lose their inherent meaning when shouted. Later on, during Paper Shoes, he paused after “my moves are” so that someone in the audience could suggest the missing lyric (“amazing”), and someone did, but after the next pause someone yelled out “ROMANTIC” which cracked up everyone. Possibly the most effective yelling I’ve ever heard at a rock show. Not as funny as “YOU SUCK” “I WOULD HAVE TO CONCUR” from years ago at the Weakerthans’ opening act, Albatross, but not as many people heard that one.

Yeah, so anyway, this ruled. This all ruled. It was a long show, too – Bevan started at 8:30 and we didn’t get home until after midnight. I had good intentions of entertaining folks after the show, but instead we are old and just went to sleep. I still have two bags of “there are guests coming so let’s use that as an excuse for chips” chips. Good thing I didn’t buy that microwave pot roast. You know, just in case.

UPCOMING SHOWS

  • LeE HARVeY OsMOND (November 7)
  • Blue Rodeo (January 14)
  • Corb Lund (February 9)
  • Hawksley Workman & The Art of Time Ensemble (May 13)

SLCR #222: Chubby Checker (September 26, 2015)

October 18, 2015

Here are some predictions, written on the day before the concert:

  • The casino food can be summed up as “yep, that’s food, alright”
  • Chubby Checker will play not only his own songs, but random songs from that era
  • He will close his set with The Twist
  • My dad will sing along with random lines from random songs in exaggerated fashion, and then laugh self-consciously to himself
  • At 39, I will be among the 10 youngest attendees
  • I will leave feeling that this would have been a great show had I seen it decades ago
  • I will cash in our ticket stubs (or PDFs, whatever) for slot vouchers but will win nothing of note

Here is a review, written on the day after the concert:

ahahaha “written on the day after the concert” you hubristic dink, you don’t get to change that to “22 days after the concert,” leave your laziness and shame for the world to see

ANYWAY this is a show about which I have some feelings and opinions. Let us review those above points in no particular order:

  • The casino food can be summed up as “yep, that’s food, alright”

Presumably this would have been true, had we eaten at the casino. What with Mika having Celiac disease and the casino restaurant feeling not particularly trustworthy on that front (it is a restaurant in the technical sense of the term; infer my opinions from that statement as you wish), we decided to skip the casino dinner in favour of a big salad at home. This was one of the wiser things I’ve ever done because the casino food is as previously described and my mom’s salad dressing recipe is great.

  • At 39, I will be among the 10 youngest attendees

This was almost certainly true.

  • I will cash in our ticket stubs (or PDFs, whatever) for slot vouchers but will win nothing of note

Shockingly false! I didn’t cash in the stubs that night, but went to the casino at coffee time a few days later and won $25. Delightful!

  • I will leave feeling that this would have been a great show had I seen it decades ago

You know, I am not certain about this. I think Chubby Checker might have been as good on this night as he would ever have been. I mean this positively. I had a really fun time at this show and it was the best of the shows I’ve seen with my dad. I rank them 1. Chubby Checker, 2. Herman’s Hermits, 3. Bobby Curtola, 4. Charley Pride. This is a stunning upset victory of which Bobby Curtola should be very proud.

But I digress. We had an actual opening act, which doesn’t happen at the casino all that often. It was Roberta Nichol, a local folk singer and retired schoolteacher singing lighthearted songs about loving food and getting old and loving her pets. This was… not expected, let’s say. At one point, I looked at my dad and he looked at me and we didn’t say anything but we both burst out laughing. I had bought these tickets as his Fathers’ Day present and he thanked me for the memorable gift. Then Mika hit the server call button so we could get more booze and we both laughed again.

It was a short set. She played three original songs and two covers; one of which was If I Had A Hammer and I thiiiiiink the other was Walkin’ After Midnight but it’s a month later now, you know? “You know, she’s actually not that bad,” said my dad. This is true. Just… yeah, like I said. Not expected. But maybe a good fit considering the audience? I mean, it is worth noting that the table directly in front of us LOVED this woman. Cheered wildly for every song, laughing until crying at all her jokes. They were also basically orgasmic over Chubby Checker too. They were enjoying their evening more than I have ever enjoyed anything (combined). Good on them.

  • Chubby Checker will play not only his own songs, but random songs from that era

Of course this is true. This is what everyone my dad goes to seems to do. I wonder if in 2065, Justin Bieber will be playing shows for senior citizens at casinos? And if he does, will he play a medley of Uptown Funk and Fancy and Thrift Shop and Call Me Maybe and Get Lucky and Gangnam Style and Blurred Lines because the seniors will remember those songs, even though they’re not his?

But as far as I am concerned, Chubby Checker can do whatever he feels like. He earned it. Unlike some of his casino contemporaries, his voice has held up. And he spent a lot of time interacting with the crowd, walking through the audience singing, shaking hands, getting hugs, making people dance and sing, and getting iPhones the hell out of his face. Yes. As he was walking and singing, some guy was recording this on his phone and Checker grabbed the phone out of his hand and put it down on the table. Chubby Checker does not want to be in your video. I thought this was the best thing I’d seen all day. That lasted for about 20 minutes.

At one point, Checker sang Limbo Rock, which is the famous limbo song (I never knew the title!), obviously popularized by an episode of Perfect Strangers where the lyrics were changed to be about the Myposian pastry called the bibbibabka. How I remember this, I have no idea. How there are SO MANY references to this online, I guess I can chalk up to “because the internet.” I am seriously in awe of the Perfect Strangers episode guide I am reading right now.

ANYWAY. Limbo Rock. And there was a dude in the crowd with a Chubby Checker Limbo Rock record – maybe even an original from the looks of it. Dude got very excited to hear this song. He waved the record. Chubby didn’t see it. He waved and waved the record some more. Still nothing. Because when you’re on a brightly-lit stage and the audience is darkened, you can’t see past the second row, much less 50 feet back. But this dude was undeterred. He walked up to the front, still holding his record high in the air, and walked the length of the stage with it. Finally, Chubby saw it, and though he didn’t say anything at the time (he was singing and all), he gave this guy the absolute most perfect “what the fuck are you doing, idiot?” look. This was so great. So so great. Mika leaned in and excitedly whispered “CHUBBY CHECKER IS AWESOME” and I so agree. There have been better concerts this year but not better moments.

After the song was done, he did offer to sign the guy’s record.

Anyway, yeah, this was what you’d expect in terms of songs. Lots of fun-time songs about dancing and partying and twisting, and various other songs from that era because why not? And all delivered better than I was expecting. Fine work.

  • He will close his set with The Twist

No, idiot. He closed his set with The Twist followed by Let’s Twist Again. Shoulda seen that coming.

  • My dad will sing along with random lines from random songs in exaggerated fashion, and then laugh self-consciously to himself

I don’t know that this happened? But mayyyyybe the four of us and most of the rest of the casino all danced The Twist when it was time to do so? That might have happened. I do not believe there to be video evidence of this and for that I am thankful. And we did not get up on stage to do it, unlike a bunch of people, one of whom I believe to be either Saskatchewan Roughriders legend George Reed or the safety guy from my office.

SLCR #221: Chad VanGaalen (September 24, 2015)

October 18, 2015

It was pretty good. I don’t know.

I am almost a month late and three reviews behind because I didn’t have much to say beyond the above sentence. But I brewed a pot of coffee (and have already drank most of it) and got some chips and dip (and have already eaten most of the chips and as much of the dip as I wanted, which wasn’t that much) and I have read almost everything in my Feedly, including watching all the videos that had been sitting here for a week, and our cable is out, and iTunes is updating, and I have about procrastinated all I can, so here we are. Can I blast through three of these things in an afternoon? Will I get my 10,000 steps today? Will I even shower today? Stay tuned!

Many years ago, I saw Chad VanGaalen open for Feist and I thought he was pretty good. I resolved to track down more of his music, and then spent years thinking very little about him until I read an interview on the AV Club where he discussed being on Letterman’s Stupid Human Tricks in the days before his musical career took off. That was neat. And then I bought tickets to this show. Now you are caught up.

We got to the Exchange and parked a little over a block away, since I hate fighting for parking spaces. This was not necessary. There was, like, nobody there. We got there about 10-15 minutes after doors opened and the place was a ghost town. We grabbed some chairs and bought some iced teas (work night) and settled in. Somehow, I still wound up with an obstructed view. I texted Mark and Other James and invited them to join us, but both were busy. As was, apparently, most of the rest of Regina. By the time VanGaalen started, there were a little over 100 people there – I did a quick count. Still lower than I would have expected, but respectable and the place no longer looked so empty.

The opener was Faith Healer, who I only knew of from seeing tweets retweeted by… Six Shooter Records? Mint Records? Someone else entirely? I don’t know. Anyway, our version of Faith Healer was a five-piece, but I gather from some internet reading that the band is basically lead singer Jessica Jalbert and whoever she collaborates with; primarily Renny Wilson on the album. I have no idea what he looks like and if he was part of the band at our show. Not knowing this probably makes me look dumb.

But here is something that makes me look dumber. Having never heard Faith Healer, I didn’t know any of their songs, except one. When they said “this is a cover song,” I was hoping for something like… I don’t know. Imagine, maybe? Thriller, Hey Jude, something super familiar. “We just want to clarify that this is a cover song; we did not write Twist and Shout ourselves.” But no, it was a song called Cry that was a hit on Canadian radio in the 90s. I was 99% certain that this was by the Philosopher Kings, but when I looked it up right now, I found out that it was a cover when THEY did it and the song was originally by Godley & Creme. I had no idea. I feel like I have been living a lie since 1997.

Anyway, I realize that this doesn’t say anything about Faith Healer, but they were good! Would go see again. Maybe listen to their album, or even buy it if you have $7 Canadian lying around. I just started streaming it right now and I’m enjoying it.

Chad VanGaalen’s band was called either the Beach Wipes or the Bleach Wipes, depending on where you read about the concert. He never actually called them by name, though, so I don’t know if it matters all that much.

As we’ve established, I don’t know much about VanGaalen, so I don’t know whether we saw a typical show and can’t tell you what he even played. Mika is more likely to know his songs but she is outside raking leaves right now and I do not want to risk interrupting this endeavour, lest the leaves become my problem. His second song was about a giant penis made of rocks and sticks and clay, if that means anything to you. And he told stories of the tour, the boringly easy highway and the noisy van and the humanoid at the Co-op station. In other words, it was a show. Enjoyable and a fun night out but not one that stood out in any real way.