Archive for November, 2015

SLCR #226: Bahamas (November 17, 2015)

November 22, 2015

I had really good intentions of having another go at writing this in bed last night, but yeah, fell asleep again. So now I am sitting up at the kitchen table, but in the interest of repeating past mistakes, I am once again overloading on chips and salsa. To further increase the degree of difficulty here, I am watching WWE Network on my iPad and typing this on my phone. I still have my Bluetooth keyboard, sure, but there’s an ongoing distraction and a wee little screen. So if this sucks, that’s why. Now I just need to think of an excuse for every other time.

While we’re talking about degrees of difficulty, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the walk to the C-Train was like a skating rink. I had gone out in the afternoon and the weather was wonderful. Two hours at home and I go to leave and the world had iced over. I took a fairly miserable looking selfie on the train – red cheeks, fogged glasses, snowy toque, the whole deal.

selfie

I didn’t consider staying home, though. I was pretty excited for this show. My original plan for the Calgary trip was to go a few weeks earlier, but that got bumped for the usual work-related reasons. (Did I mention I start my new job in three weeks? Did I mention I am looking forward to it?)

Really, though, the change was for the best. That week, there were no shows that really appealed to me. I could have seen Barenaked Ladies with Great Big Sea lead singer Alan Doyle opening, and that could have been a fun trip back in time to 1997 James’ favourites, but I really haven’t listened to much of anything from either band in years.

Anyway, a few slips and slides aside, the C-Train trip was uneventful. At least for me – there was an accident somewhere downtown so when I got on the train, I had a nice long sitdown before we slooooowly made our way. I didn’t hear anything about it on the news (and I am staying with my grandma, so I have seen a lot of local news) (also Jeopardy and Wheel, Pawn Stars and Storage Wars, and Chopped) so I am hoping nobody was hurt. The delay meant nothing to me since I was only going two stops anyway.

The Jack Singer Concert Hall is in the same complex – the Arts Commons – as the Big Secret Theatre where I saw Hawksley Workman’s The God That Comes a few years ago, as well as a number of other venues. It’s really easy to get to and just a great idea. I wish we had something like this in Regina.

I found my way in and took a look at the stuff table. There were your usual records, CDs, shirts, etc. – nothing new from John K. Samson, unfortunately – and there was also a selection of drawings used in Bahamas’ video for Bitter Memories. I bought one; a piece of original art seemed like a really neat souvenir. It’s a sparse pencil drawing of a guitarist who may or may not be Bahamas (I have never actually seen this video, which is what I should be watching right now instead of old wrestling). I hope that description suffices, as I will likely be too lazy to attach a picture here. Or not. Who knows? I’m watching wrestling and typing on a phone, I can’t think of logistics right now.

bahamas

I checked my coat (which I always hate doing, but it was pretty damp), took my drawing and found my spot – dead centre in the back row of the floor seating. Not bad for buying a ticket a week or two out. I don’t think the show was sold out, but it was close.

As I hinted at above, the opener was John K. Samson, the lead singer of the Weakerthans. Or “former” lead singer of the Weakerthans, I guess. Boo. But be that as it may, this ruled. He played a handful of Weakerthans songs (Plea from a Cat Named Virtute, Everything Must Go!, Reconstruction Site) and a few songs from his solo album (including Cruise Night), but most of his set was devoted to new songs. I was hopeful for one, but we got five or six and I was delighted. He only mentioned titles for two of those songs, but I had some guesses at the others: Winter Wheat; On the 21st Day; Fellow Traveler; Select All, Delete, and Post-Doc Blues. He didn’t mention a new album but I hope the new songs mean one is coming sooner rather than later.

If a big ol’ pile of new John K. songs wasn’t enough, he was also joined for about half his set by Jason Tait, Weakerthans drummer (ex-drummer) (boo) who has also been drumming for Bahamas of late. This was the best and I just wish it hadn’t been a 40-minute opening set. I could have easily watched another hour.

I don’t think I was in the majority, though. Before I left for Calgary, Mika said that Samson seemed like an odd choice to be opening for Bahamas. I disagreed – I mean, *I* like both of them, and who could disagree with me? – but the audience was very much Bahamas’ crowd. John K. had his fans, but there were little things – pauses after songs ended because people didn’t realize that he was done and it was time to applaud, or people giggling at lyrics that I don’t think of as funny. In that way, it reminded me of seeing Hawksley Workman perform as part of Stuart McLean’s Christmas show – there’s a very different crowd reaction than at one of his own shows, if that makes sense.

Brief intermission. I took a picture of the drawing I bought and texted it to some folks while simultaneously pondering how, exactly, I was going to get this thing home in the snow on the C-Train. (Answer: carefully. Tucked into my coat. Luckily, it was wrapped in plastic.)

Bahamas took the stage. I assume. Someone was up there, but they were in silhouette and fog. Playing Lost in the Light. A little on the nose, possibly, but I don’t care. It looked cool.

I have mentioned this problem before. In the age of the iPhone (and the iPod before it), I don’t know what songs are called. As far as I am concerned, the titles of most Bahamas songs start with “the one that goes like” and then I hum something. In the quest to give you a list of what he played (while still typing on my phone and watching wrestling on my iPad), I’m going to have to get my work phone involved so I can look up song titles. This is becoming a three-screen experience and it is getting ridiculous. I wonder if there’s any way if I can involve my Nintendo 3DS in this?

As I’m procrastinating looking up song titles, I will mention that he played a new song and asked us not to record it since it was a work in progress and may change a lot or may wind up discarded entirely. I will go one better and not describe it at all. I mention it only to point out that I got to hear it and you didn’t.

He talked a lot about the process of writing one song and going back and forth about how he loved it one day and hated it the next, and how it went through numerous different revisions. When he finally played the song, which turned out to be recent single Stronger Than That, he added back a chord that was excluded from the recorded version – a chord which he called the Golden Girls chord because it came out of nowhere, kind of like Blanche Devereaux. I do not entirely understand the logic but I am not about to decline a Golden Girls reference. And I am especially not going to decline Bahamas singing the Golden Girls theme and critiquing the lyrics (“You’re a pal and a confidant. Isn’t that a nice thing to say to someone?”). He also threatened to play the theme from Growing Pains but only made it one line in. I would have been perfectly fine with an entire show of Bahamas singing TV themes.

There was one really weird moment while Bahamas was talking. I don’t know if it was something he specifically said or what, but he was talking, and for a split second, his voice sounded just like what I hear when I hear my own recorded voice and it seriously creeped me out. For real – it made me uncomfortable like when I have to listen to a recording of myself. I have no idea how this happened – I have seen Bahamas numerous times and have never thought of anything like this, and I listened for it as the show went on and didn’t hear it again. It was just really odd.

I’d blame the sound system but the sound was excellent all night – remarkably so. The concert hall isn’t as ornate as some that I’ve seen but the sound was stellar for both Bahamas and Samson. Really, everything about this show was great, start to finish. I will use that wording as a loophole to exclude the fact that I juuuuuuust missed the train going home and had a 15-minute wait for the next one.

Okay, I finally broke out my work phone and here are some other songs I know he played: Bitter Memories; Can’t Take You With Me; All The Time; Southern Drawl; I Got You Babe. That is not many songs; and yet, he played many songs. Come hang out sometime and we’ll play Bahamas records and I’ll say “that one!” and then we can try to memorize what the song is called and it will be good times. Can we maybe go for donairs? I could go for one.

UPCOMING SHOWS
• Blue Rodeo w/Terra Lightfoot (January 14)
• Whitehorse w/Andy Shauf and Emily Wells (January 22)
• Corb Lund (February 9)
• Hawksley Workman & The Art of Time Ensemble (May 13)

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SLCR #225: Ryan Boldt (November 15, 2015)

November 22, 2015

I have written reviews at work and in airports and okay so I thought I could list more interesting places than that but I guess I can’t.

I was going to expand on that thought by talking about how I was making history by writing a concert review in bed for the first time, but that one sentence was literally all I wrote before falling sleep. I am not kidding about this. Some bad ideas do not become evident until you put them into action.

Another bad idea was picking up chips and salsa on the way home twenty minutes ago. I mean, it was kind of a great idea, but I have found them to be distracting me from the task at hand; namely, squeezing out two reviews in one evening. Time to put the chips away.

And return with chocolate, apparently. Writing is an indulgent profession. Or at least procrastinating is.

I find the hardest reviews to write to be the ones that boil down to “it was a show,” and this was one of those. Sometimes it’s just nice to get out of the house and listen to some things for a while, you know? Doesn’t mean I have to have deep thoughts about it.

We got to the Artesian sometime between “doors at 7:00” and “show at 8:00.” Other James was thinking about attending, and we pulled up just as he was arriving, so if you really care what time we got there, just ask him. You can find him by going into literally any downtown Regina business and asking if they know someone named James. They will.

We made our way to the bar downstairs, pausing only to let James greet several dozen of his closest friends. Eventually, we got our red wine, cherry cola, and iced tea. Respectively, I mean. Though if I had all three in front of me right now, I’d combine them and tell you how it is. Should I name this new cocktail after Other James or after the Artesian or Ryan Boldt who brought us all together?

On our way up to our seats – or pews, as it were – Other James made friends with pretty much everyone, or at least everyone who he didn’t already know. He chatted with everyone around him. He introduecd us to Clayton of Kacy & Clayton, our night’s opening act. Truly, Other James is a man of the people. I do not know how a person gets to be like that but maybe I should be more like that. Somehow.

So! Yes. Kacy & Clayton. Local folks whose names I knew but had never seen before. They’re cousins, and we were sitting in front of relatives. Kacy was born in 1997. I know this because the relatives were discussing (and threatening to shout out) random facts about them. I thought this was pretty funny when it didn’t make my soul ache from pondering the incessant march of time. We’re all getting old, you guys. Bad indoor lighting reveals that my hair is more grey than it is other colours, and I just paid cash money to see a musician who was not even yet alive when I graduated from university.*

*okay maybe she was barely alive, I don’t know, I am not about to look up her birthday if such a thing is even possible when I don’t even know what her last name is

Anyway, he played guitar, she sang. After a while, some other dude played drums, and some other other dude (Shuyler Jansen, speaking of people whose names I know but who I have never seen) played bass. Clayton handled most of the talking, but mostly that just meant he asked if anyone here liked Cajun seasoning. I guess I do? I’ve never really thought about it. I prefer my Five Guys fries without it so maybe saying I do is a lie. Or at least makes me some kind of poseur.

Why does poseur have a U? Is it British? And why does Shuyler have a U, for that matter?

Whatever. This was all fine.

Brief intermission. I played my Yahtzee With Buddies games. Other James got more wine, I think. Or at least went in search of more wine. Come to think of it, I don’t recall if he was successful.

Shortly, Ryan Boldt took the stage with… the exact same band. Kacy and Clayton and Shuylueur and the other guy. The Artesian website did say that Boldt was debuting his new band, and it also said that this band had a name, but I don’t know what it is. I saw it long ago, but the show has not yet been posted in Past Shows but is too far in the past to be in Upcoming Shows. So maybe it never happened.

Mika says she thinks Clayton played with Boldt the last time we saw him (early this year, opening for Amelia Curran). She is likely right. Boldt did have another guitarist with him then, though I only know this because I mentioned it in my review, which I just skimmed. How she knew it, I have no idea. She “remembers” things, especially music things. I have to write them down or else they are lost forever. But she can see a band play an entirely new-to-her song one time and then remember it when she hears it again two years later. I could only maybe do this for my most favourite bands and even then, I am not real confidant.

Part of me wants to write a fake concert review and see if, twenty years down the road, I believe it to be true.

I bet I have suggested that idea in a past review and don’t remember doing so.

Anyway, this new band was pretty good! I just spent 20 minutes staring off into space thinking about random topics in hopes of inspiring a second sentence but I am not sure one is coming. They sounded like what you’d expect from guitars bass drums being kinda folky kinda rocky. Boldt did not retell the story about Bram being a dick. Because that is the kind of thing I remember instead of the music I paid to see.

I dunno, what else do you want to know? Everyone on stage is part of (and I think co-owners of) a new record label. They didn’t play an encore or make a joke about not doing so. There were a ton of senior citizens there and only some were related to the musicians. And that is about all I know except that also I ate too many chips earlier and now I need to go have a lie down. Or maybe it’s a delayed side effect from the merry-go-round I rode this afternoon (this really happened). Anyway, it’s 1:18 a.m. and the Bahamas review can wait until tomorrow since I won’t post these until I get home from Calgary anyway.

SLCR #224: LeE HARVeY OsMOND (November 7, 2015)

November 16, 2015

I will make a token concession to the “proper” spelling up in the title, but don’t get used to it. If you want me to spell your name in a non-standard way, you’d better make it easy on me. lee harvey osmond? Fine. I mean, kd lang doesn’t make me reach for the Shift key. LEE HARVEY OSMOND? I could live with that. But LeE HARVeY OsMOND? You’re pushing your luck, pal.

Here is what I can tell you about Lee Harvey Osmond, apart from being named after the guy who killed Hitler for dropping an atomic bomb on Pearl Harbor: he’s Tom Wilson, also of both Blackie & The Rodeo Kings and Junkhouse. I know nothing about any of these bands. Mika will now try to remind me of Junkhouse songs I know and it will fail. I don’t know things, really. There’s one Lee Harvey Osmond song that Hawksley Workman sings on (Break Your Body); I found it by searching iTunes for new-to-me Hawksley songs. I like it well enough; better than the other Hawksley collaboration I found that day.

As ignorant as I am about Lee Harvey Osmond, I knew even less about our opener, Thompson Wilson. I saw Thompson’s name listed on the Exchange website and set about Googling. Not much came up for the first few pages. Eventually, I discovered that Thompson Wilson had opened for Tom Wilson before. Somewhere around here I put the name thing together and spent way too much time trying to decide if “Thompson Wilson” was just Tom Wilson playing another set under a different name, or if this was all some crazy coincidence. You probably guessed that Thompson is Tom’s son. You probably had that figured out by the end of the first sentence. I did not. It took me way too long to get to that point, to be honest. And then I felt dumb. And now I am sharing the dumb. May as well.

Though I am in danger of making this a new catchphrase, I have to say that this show very nearly didn’t happen for me. And for once, it wasn’t due to my innate laziness. I had a bit of a stomachache on Friday night. Thought little of it. Assumed I had eaten too much garbage. Still had it on Saturday morning. Still didn’t think much of it. Met my dad for lunch and ate more garbage. Did some shopping. Stomach got worse. By the time I came home with treasures (gluten-free bread and squares; new rear windshield wiper) (also presumably gluten-free), I was not feeling so hot and decided to have a lie-down. This was around 3:00. At 7:00, Mika checked on me but I didn’t feel much like moving. I texted Mark and told him I wasn’t likely to show up. But I got up and walked around and felt okay, and then decided to have some supper to see how that went. One big salad and a piece of cake later, and I was feeling… not GOOD, per se, but no worse than before. I opted to brave the show, thinking that I could always leave if I wasn’t feeling it.

The ticket – an actual paper ticket! – said that it was doors at 8:00, show at 9:00. I got there around 8:45 and Thompson Wilson was already playing. They took my ticket at the door and ripped it. That will teach that no-good lying ticket. I’ll take the half that I got to keep and display it as a warning to others.

I found a seat by the stuff table and within a minute, was listening to Wilson sing a song about a girl, specifically mentioning that “convict movies make her horny.” This was 1) hilarious and 2) oddly familiar to me. The song, I mean. I don’t get all worked up about convict movies. Are convict movies even really a thing? Like, there are enough of them to define a genre? I suppose humour is found in specificity. Anyway, Wilson mentioned that the song was called “In Spite of Ourselves” and a quick search of my iTunes playlist showed that it was a John Prine song – but I only knew of it because Geoff Berner covered it on his out-of-print live CD. I’m going to assume you all knew it was a Prine song because whenever I think “hey, did you know…” the answer is yes. Always, always yes.

Anyway, the rest of his set – at least what I saw of it – was quite enjoyable. Just him and a guitar, playing and singing his own songs. Why I mention this, I do not know. I trust you know how musicians work. Anyway, he had a CD at the stuff table and I’d have bought it had I stolen enough cash from Mika to buy anything more than a Diet Pepsi. I did check the iTunes store in hopes of making a cashless transaction, but it wasn’t on there. Later on, Tom Wilson noted that Thompson had spent the flight out west been burning his own CDs to sell. “I know he’s a man, but it was the cutest shit I’ve ever seen.”

As soon as Thompson finished up, the lady working the stuff table told me that there was never supposed to be a chair where my chair was, so she took it away and I was adrift. I bought the aforementioned Diet Pepsi and went for a stroll, soon finding Mark and everyone that he knew, which amounted to, seriously, like half the people there. Arlette was very concerned for my well-being. Mark and Jim were very concerned that I was not contagious. But I assured them I wasn’t (and, you know, I was pretty sure that I was probably telling the truth), so they found me a place to sit in their area.

Tom Wilson is an incredibly charismatic performer and if you ever get the chance to see him in any of his incarnations, I highly recommend it. He’s a great talker with a commanding presence. I won’t go into detail about what he said, but I will mention that his life story is balls-out insane and I’m looking forward to the memoir he’s releasing next year. Close to the end of the show, he read us the opening pages and I’m sad I don’t have the book right now.

He also talked about Carver, another of Mark’s friends. Carver and Wilson became friends somehow a while back, and it was through Carver (via Mark) that I bought my ticket in the first place. And yet he’s one of those guys I’ve probably been at 20 shows with but I don’t think we’ve ever actually been introduced. Or if it happened, it was years ago. Who knows? I should talk to the guy sometime when I don’t feel like I’ve just swallowed a ball of knives.

I never know what to actually say about the actual bands, especially ones I don’t know well, and I have about 10 minutes before we leave to see Ryan Boldt and Kacy & Clayton (speaking of musicians I don’t know well) so can I skip to the end and say this show was GREAT? Because it was super great. There was a full band (including Thompson on bass – “sometimes you have to make your own bass player”), though they came and went as the show went on, so there were solo songs, songs with just Wilson and the drummer, various combinations. With no Hawksley in attendance, they didn’t play Break Your Body, and I only recognized one song all night – Blue Moon Drive, and I only knew of it since the Prairie Dog was kind enough to link to the video of it before the show. Oh, and they skipped the leaving-the-stage part of the encore, opting to take a bow and immediately close out the show with a cover of “Six Days on the Road.” Anyway, this was just a great band, great songs, a fantastic evening.

Mika didn’t come with me – she opted against buying a ticket, thinking it wouldn’t be her thing. Maybe it wouldn’t? I think it would have been, but maybe staying home and getting caught up on Jane the Virgin is more her thing. I don’t know. Anyway, I went home and excitedly told her about what she missed. At this point, I was feeling pretty good. Healed by the power of music! Having beaten my illness into the ground, I decided to celebrate with some popcorn and hot chocolate. 10 minutes later, the knives returned and I spent the night in the guest room, thrashing around in gut discomfort. Don’t taunt the stomach knives.