SLCR #223: Hawksley Workman (October 16, 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)
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