Archive for June, 2016

SLCR #249: Northcote (June 22, 2016)

June 25, 2016

I was supposed to go see The Besnard Lakes yesterday. About a week ago, I was going through all of my tickets for upcoming shows, of which I have many. As I have previously mentioned, they’re always in the cheese drawer in the fridge, and the drawer was getting cluttered with no room for cheese. I got everything sorted out, but couldn’t find my Besnard Lakes tickets. Thought maybe I forgot to print them off. Checked my Ticketfly account, but no – no tickets there. I just entirely forgot to buy them. It’s not like I couldn’t have done so right then – it was another show where I’m betting attendance was soft, judging from the tweets and Facebook posts I saw – but this week was a busy one and we leave on vacation right away. Just decided against going.

I was also supposed to see BA Johnston tonight – I should be there right now, in fact. He was my favourite new musical discovery last year and I was busy the last time he came through town, but… I don’t know. I just don’t feel like standing around a bar by myself tonight, I guess. Feeling kind of self-conscious and awkward about being the weird old guy alone in the corner. I’m sure nobody would actually care but it still bugs me sometimes, especially when it’s in a place I’m not familiar with. Hopefully I can see him next time.

But among cancellations of all sorts, we did get out to see Northcote this week. You may recall that I saw him/them (like City and Colour, it’s a deal where it’s a band but it is primarily one guy, in this case a guy named Matt Goud) (no, Jeff, I did not throw a shue at him) (maybe I need to start this paragraph over)

But among cancellations of all sorts, we did get out to see Northcote this week. You may recall that I saw him earlier this year in Calgary, opening for Frank Turner. He seemed like a delightful fella, positive and energetic. I listened to some of his records when I got home and they were fun enough, but lacked a bit of that spark that a live show has, so I was looking forward to this.

With doors at 8:00, we expected the show to start at 9:00. We got there a few minutes before 9:00, just in time to catch the last few notes from some guy on stage. We would later learn this was Josiah. I will assume he was fantastic – as I do every time I miss an opening act – but we did get a chance to see him later on.

Between sets, we stumbled through the dark to the stack of chairs against the wall, took two, and made ourselves a place to sit. I then stumbled back to the bar for a Diet Pepsi for me and a raspberry iced tea for Mika. They had peach iced too and it sounded better than Diet Pepsi and I should have had it instead. It was a hard-partying Wednesday night is what I’m getting at here.

We were supposed to see Jordan Klassen earlier this year at a Library Voices show that we ultimately didn’t go to, and I’m always glad to catch an artist that I missed, of which there might be many if this skipping shows trend keeps up. Klassen was accompanied by Todd; Todd’s name was invoked repeatedly but no last name was ever given. I don’t know what Todd actually did – I’m assuming guitar, but there was a support beam directly between me and him so I only ever saw him walk onto and off of the stage. Anyway, Klassen played some singer-songwritery stuff. Mika recognized at least one song from CBC Radio 3. This was all very pleasant if not super memorable.

As mentioned, Matt Goud is energetic. Two songs into his set and he had jumped into the crowd with the mic stand – not just the mic, but the whole stand – to get people to sing along. It wasn’t long before he was dripping with sweat. I’m not super familiar with his stuff but I recognized some songs from last year’s Hope is Made of Steel, including the title track and You Could Never Let Me Down.

In what is becoming a trend among Canadian musicians of a certain age, they played a Tragically Hip cover – in this case, Springtime in Vienna. That’s now four acts I’ve heard doing Hip songs since Gord Downie’s diagnosis (City and Colour played Bobcaygeon when I saw them, and Feist covered Flamenco and Hey Rosetta! did Ahead by a Century). The varied selections are a testament to the quality of the Hip’s output over the decades. It’s not just everyone doing their own versions of New Orleans is Sinking or something.

Northcote immediately followed the Hip cover with a version of the Weakerthans’ Left and Leaving. It was real nice, but… John K. Samson is doing okay, right? Health-wise? This is just a song Matt Goud likes, right?

Apart from sharing songs he likes, Goud also seems gracious about sharing the stage. When I saw him in Calgary, he brought Mo Kenney back out to do a song or two with him, and at this show, he brought both Jordan Klassen (and Todd!) and Josiah back out to do an extra song during his set. He was also wearing a Josiah t-shirt. In both cases, he let the guests take centre stage and gave them a little extra time in the spotlight. I can confirm that Josiah probably would have been good to see earlier; also, I have no idea how he crossed the border into Canada without being accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Anyway, I have to get to bed so I can get up and drive forever, and I don’t have much more to say anyway. Northcote is real fun and you should go see him. Get the peach iced tea. Don’t skip concerts, especially for dumb reasons. I’d say you should put that all on my tombstone when I die but I don’t want a tombstone, so, I don’t know, skywrite it or something.
UPCOMING CONCERTS
• Gateway Festival w/Sloan, Corb Lund, Limblifter, Shotgun Jimmie, Bry Webb, more (July 22)
• The Tragically Hip (August 1)
• Regina Folk Festival w/The Head and The Heart, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Sam Roberts Band, The Mavericks, Bettye LaVette, The Cat Empire, The Strumbellas, Frazey Ford, more (August 5-7)
• “Weird Al” Yankovic (August 14)
• Billy Bob Thornton & The Boxmasters (September 6)
• Dolly Parton (September 13)
• Prozzäk (September 22)
• Hayden (September 29)
• Fred Eaglesmith (October 1)
• Basia Bulat (October 5)
• I Mother Earth (October 8)

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SLCR #248: City and Colour (June 12, 2016)

June 16, 2016

We were supposed to go see Meat Loaf at Mosaic Place in Moose Jaw on Saturday night. I had clearly underestimated the demand for Meat Loaf in 2016 – the show sold out in about 10 minutes. That’s approximately 5,000 tickets. It was easier to get tickets for the Tragically Hip’s summer (farewell?) tour – at least you can buy those from scalpers if you really want to. But if you missed out on those first ten minutes of Meat Loaf ticket sales, you were out of luck. Lucky for me that Josy, possibly the biggest Meat Loaf fan there is, was on the ball. But it turned out that my stepmom really wanted to go too and all of the usual sources were dry. StubHub had nothing. Tickets posted to Kijiji sold in minutes. Remembering the George Thorogood show, I checked the Mosaic Place website daily in hopes that some last minute tickets would be released. And they were! Finally, success! I grabbed her two tickets and was very pleased with myself.

Josy and his people drove from Saskatoon to Regina, picked me up, and we hit the road for another 40 minutes to Moose Jaw. We parked the car and it occurred to me that there seemed to be a lot of people walking away from the arena. Sure enough, there were “ushers” stationed all around to let people know that the show had been postponed and would be rescheduled soon.

We picked up our tickets from Will Call anyway, then wandered back out and chatted with one of the ushers. He told us that the show was called off ten minutes before doors were set to open and that Meat Loaf had been taken from the arena on a stretcher. Later on, a Twitter search showed someone claiming that Meat Loaf had been transported to Regina and was hospitalized there. I have no idea if any of this is true. One rumour said he suffered a heart attack and was in intensive care. Another said that it was nothing serious, he was resting in a hotel and would resume the tour as soon as he’s feeling up to it.

As I’m writing this (five days after Meat Loaf and four after City and Colour), there’s been no real update on Meat’s health, but I guess he’s doing okay. The Calgary show on Monday night was also postponed, but he’s supposed to play Edmonton tonight, and thus far, it looks like that show is going ahead. As for our show, I just got an email announcing that it has been rescheduled for Saturday, July 2. Good for Meat, but not great for me – we’re away and I won’t be able to go.

Having said that, I was looking up reviews of earlier Meat Loaf shows on this tour, and hoo-boy, “unkind” is putting it mildly. Lots of “worst concert I’ve ever seen,” “time to hang it up,” “we walked out after three songs,” and disturbingly, a number of comments about how Meat looked like he was in pain, couldn’t walk, seemed ready to collapse. So maybe I dodged a bullet here. Whatever, I hope he puts on a great show for Josy and that the complainers on the internet don’t reflect the views of the majority. And now I’m going to rush through the actual concert review that I’m supposed to be working on because I’ve rewritten this section nearly daily as new info has come out and I really have no need for a Meat Loaf-themed text file that only I get to see.

So. City and Colour. Yep. I don’t really know anything about him, apart from his name (Dallas Green) and that he’s also the lead singer of Alexisonfire. You may note that “Dallas” and “green” are a city and a colour, respectively. I am ashamed at how long I’ve known about City and Colour without putting that together. I had to be told.

We were supposed to see him some years back at the Regina Folk Festival, but he got rained out. I wasn’t all that disappointed – Buck 65 was the big draw for me that evening, and Buck wrapped up right before they called it a night – but I still feel good whenever I get caught up on a missed show like this. Later this summer, Sam Roberts – the other headliner who got rained out of a Folk Festival we attended – will be playing there again. If all goes well, that’s two names checked off the missed list. What if they become my new favourite singers, and I almost missed out on seeing them?

I mean, I know the odds aren’t great. There can only be one favourite at a time. And I bought Mika two City and Colour CDs at the CJTR sale last year and haven’t actually managed to listen to them yet, which doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with them, but my motivation isn’t there. She was excited to go to this, and I will go to pretty much anything; that’s how I looked at this evening.

We left the house fairly early, as a few days ago, I got an email saying that there wasn’t going to be any on-site parking at the arena because they were already set up for the Farm Progress Show. Welcome to Saskatchewan. The email suggested parking downtown and walking. This seemed like a decent idea until we actually got downtown and realized just how far the arena still was. We ultimately parked at the field house – still a bit of a hike, but not that bad. We were much closer to the arena than we were to our proposed downtown parking space. This was all well and good until we had to climb over a fallen chain link fence while ducking under barbed wire to get onto the grounds. “And we only looked somewhat old in doing so,” Mika said.

Yeah, this was very much a show where I was the creepy old guy in the corner. I’m pretty sure the average age of the attendees was about half of my own. I wasn’t expecting anything else, but I definitely felt it strongly – I got too used to casino and Folk Festival shows.

Anyway, once inside, we walked a loop around the arena, past the one merch table that had probably a couple hundred people in line. I got the merch that counted – an excessively salty soft pretzel and a Coke Zero with ice crystals in it. The day was officially a success.

We hiked up to our seats in the bottom row of the upper level. Not too bad. A good view of the stage, decent leg room, minimal people walking past us, and a place to rest our drinks.

Shakey Graves was the opener, and okay, you know how everyone who comes to Regina for the first time has to joke about it rhyming with vagina? Well, I have never seen someone take such delight in doing so. In general, the locals seem to be tiring of it – the other week, Werewolves Beware heard crickets after busting out the tired old “city that rhymes with fun” line – but Shakey Graves was so pleased with this situation that we all just let him get away with it.

It helped that he was really fun. He did the first few songs by himself and then brought out a band. The sound wasn’t ideal – I found the vocals really hard to make out, and it didn’t help that I was completely unfamiliar with him – but there was great energy and he was very entertaining. The crowd really seemed to enjoy him and I think he’d be sensational in a smaller venue.

Before the show and during the intermission, I was texting with Feely, who referenced the City and Colour song Save Your Scissors. Sure, he did it in a way intended to make me feel super old, but he reminded me that the song existed and, therefore, I actually did know one City and Colour song. Needless to say, he didn’t play it. “He” bring City and Colour, and not Feely.

He did play a few things where I thought “hey, I think I’ve heard this before.” And they were fine. This was all fine, I guess. I don’t know. Mika said she liked it. That’s good. I thought it was all kind of dull, but a pleasant dull. It went by quickly and never dragged, and I never thought he or his band were bad in any way, but it was never really that interesting to me.

It’s weird. “Dull” is usually much more my speed than hers.

For the first song of the encore, they played Bobcaygeon as a tribute to ailing Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie, which was really nice, but even that lacked something. The sentiment was there and appreciated, but given the circumstances, it felt to me like there should have been more emotion to it. I don’t know. Needed more oomph.

Which is kind of how I felt about the whole thing, really. Needed more oomph. Though it seemed I was in the minority. It looked to me like everyone else enjoyed themselves. I was clearly not the target audience for City and Colour and he just wasn’t my thing. At least Shakey Graves was a delightful discovery.

UPCOMING CONCERTS
• Northcote w/Jordan Klassen and Josiah (June 22)
• BA Johnston w/Partner (June 24)
• Gateway Festival w/Sloan, Corb Lund, Limblifter, Shotgun Jimmie, Bry Webb, more (July 22)
• The Tragically Hip (August 1)
• Regina Folk Festival w/The Head and The Heart, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Sam Roberts Band, The Mavericks, Bettye LaVette, The Cat Empire, The Strumbellas, Frazey Ford, more (August 5-7)
• “Weird Al” Yankovic (August 14)
• Billy Bob Thornton & The Boxmasters (September 6)
• Dolly Parton (September 13)
• Prozzäk (September 22)
• Hayden (September 29)
• Fred Eaglesmith (October 1)
• Basia Bulat (October 5)
• I Mother Earth (October 8)

SLCR #247: The Pack a.d. (May 28, 2016)

June 2, 2016

One day after the Age of Electric, a little sleepy and still half-deaf, Mika and I headed back to the Exchange for the Pack a.d.

Then we headed away from the Exchange and drove around for an hour. Tickets said doors at 8:00, but Twitter and Facebook said doors at 7:00, and presumably those were accurate since they added two openers and you can’t update a ticket once it’s been printed, but you can update a social media post whenever, right? So yeah, doors at 8:00. I will never understand why something so simple is wrong so often, but people probably say that about me, so whatever. The drive was nice.

We returned to a street as devoid of parked cars as when we left. I had noticed a lot of plugs for this show on Facebook and Twitter, and had guessed that tickets were moving slowly. At its peak, I don’t think there were half as many people there as at the sold-out Age of Electric show the night before. There were maybe 30 people there in time for the start of the opening act.

Those that didn’t show up early missed out on the Ultimate Power Duo. They hail from Saskatoon and I am very glad that someone asked the question I needed answered: “Why are there three of you?” “Because we’re the ULTIMATE Power Duo,” was the reply, which somehow made no sense and complete sense at the same time. According to them, they play “destruction rock,” which is very loud and sometimes involves just picking up the bass guitar and punching it to make noise. Their newest album is the soundtrack to their graphic novel about fighting evil robot space Nazis. There’s an hour-long video you can watch if you want this experience for yourself – I just found out about this but hope to check it out soon. Anyway, these guys had tons of energy, lots of charisma, and were entertaining as all get out. Would go see again.

The second band was Werewolves Beware, or WEREWOLVES BEWARE, or Werewolves, Beware! depending on what source you choose when you google their name. I’m going with Werewolves Beware so as to not muck up my pretty sentences, though that comma really changes things. Is “werewolves, beware” a warning TO werewolves or ABOUT werewolves? And these folks DID howl when they took the stage, so maybe they were warning us about themselves? Very considerate, though we were a week removed from a full moon so we were probably safe.

Anyway, this is a duo from Calgary (I think?). He plays guitar, she plays synths. And they howl, as mentioned. There’s some singing too, but most of the songs were largely instrumental. If you like synth-heavy dancy pop, this might be your thing. It wasn’t so much mine.

Finally, The Pack a.d. took the stage; specifically, a stage festooned with Dollarama party decorations. I am not sure that the budget surpassed five dollars. Thankfully, one of their choices was a sign reading THE PARTY IS HERE which was handy for assuring us that we were in the right place.

I went into this show not knowing a ton about them. I feel like I got one of their CDs for free from Mint Records some years back (Funeral Mixtape, maybe?), but if so, I can’t find it. And if I did, I honestly don’t know if I ever listened to it. Not for any good reason; I just sometimes don’t get around to things. And then I get around to things and wonder what took me so long. Really, I don’t need to buy another CD, book, or video game for years. I’ve got a backlog that will surely outlive me.

But enough about my failings. I listened to the newest Pack a.d. album and enjoyed it, then we went to the show and I dug that too. Mika suggested that it was more of a her-show than a me-show, and that’s probably fair. She does tend to like rockier stuff than I do, and the combination of my relative unfamiliarity with the source material and the somewhat muddy sound meant I couldn’t really hear the lyrics well, resulting in it all sounding kind of samey after a while. But a good samey. Loud and driving and fun. Not sure I have a ton to say about them, or this evening as a whole, but so it goes.

Actually, there’s one thing – and I noticed this at Age of Electric too so it was unrelated to the bands – the Exchange seems to have bought themselves a new lighting rig. And they seem very proud of it. And that’s great! I like lights. Lights are pretty. But goddamn if you could quit shining them directly into my eyes every 17 seconds, that would be swell. Though I didn’t have it as bad as the security guard positioned at the corner of the stage. Where he was sitting, he took a blast right in the eyes from about a foot away, over and over and over. He looked like this was possibly not what he thought life would be like. I tried to get a picture of this but failed miserably and it is a regret I will carry to my grave.

UPCOMING CONCERTS
• Meat Loaf (June 11)
• City and Colour w/Shakey Graves (June 12)
• Northcote w/Jordan Klassen and Josiah (June 22)
• The Besnard Lakes w/ Traces and Slow Down Molasses (June 23)
• BA Johnston (June 24)
• The Tragically Hip (August 1)
• Regina Folk Festival w/The Head and The Heart; Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder; Sam Roberts Band; The Mavericks; Bettye LaVette; The Cat Empire; The Strumbellas; Frazey Ford; more (August 5-7)
• “Weird Al” Yankovic (August 14)
• Dolly Parton (September 13)
• Fred Eaglesmith (October 1)
• I Mother Earth (October 8)