Archive for November, 2019

November 11, 2019

The problem with trying to blog regularly is that you need things to blog about. I don’t do interesting things. This weekend, I went to a concert, which I’ll have to write about separately, but it’s one of those ones where I don’t really have much to say. Beyond that, I played some Pokémon Go, I went to yoga, I watched some wrestling, I read most of a book. I had a cat sleep on me for much of the book time and wrestling time. None of it is of interest to you probably.

Instead, let’s go back to last winter when I flew home from BC. My memory isn’t that great; I just told this story to Dave (of Ol’ Shitty Dick fame) at the time, and I never empty out my sent mail. I remember wanting to post it here but it seems I never did.

Looking back at this now, it’s interesting how certain constraints shape your writing. A higher-up at my work likes excessive commas, so I find them slipping into my personal writing too. Meanwhile, the phrase “likes excessive commas” would result in an email to Dave not being delivered because his work has an overzealous email filter and that phrase has the letters s-e-x in that order so the filter thinks it’s spam or porn or something. Similarly, emailing him has resulted in me often avoiding contractions because “but it is” works fine, but “but it’s” has t-i-t-s (with a space, punctuation, and a complete lack of prurient context, but still).

Anyway. I was in BC. My flight home was three hops. Victoria to Vancouver, fine. Vancouver to Calgary, fine. Calgary to Regina… I’m sitting in my window seat. This girl comes down the aisle, having trouble figuring out where she should be. It’s next to me. She doesn’t sit down so much as she falls ass-first into the seat, bodychecking me against the wall.

“I’m sssssssssooooooorrry,” she says. “Thass my fault.”

At this point, I realize she’s completely hammered, and there are no open seats on the plane, so there’s no avoiding this. I can either hate my life or try to find the comedy in this.

“You and me, we’re gonna have a discussion right away. ‘Cause we’re gonna get reeeeeeeeeal close.”

She continues along this line for a while. Tells me that she got the very last seat on this plane and that means God meant for us to be sitting together and that I’m her patron. I think she means “patron saint” but do not correct her. I mean, it wouldn’t really be correct either way. She goes for a handshake. I awkwardly reach across myself to shake her hand. She asks if she can kiss my hand. And does so.

I’m a big dude and plane seats are small, so I try to keep myself as compact as possible. She notices this. Tells me I need to let it all out. And demonstrates by grunting and slumping down in her seat and sticking one leg in the aisle, one onto my side. The visual is funny, at least.

I have, to this point, said very little to her beyond “okay,” “I’m good,” and “it’s all good” about a dozen times each.

I text Mika about my situation. Mika’s advice? “Don’t engage.” I was not given this option. My new friend has already suggested she might fall asleep on me. As that might be the best outcome for everyone involved, I said I was okay with this. She is delighted and calls me her big teddy bear.

My new friend looks up and down the aisle at all the passengers. “Man. So many stories in this fuckin’ tube,” she says. This attracts the attention of a flight attendant, who advises her to watch her language. She says she will. The flight attendant turns to leave.

“What the fuck was that about?”

The flight attendant turns back. Another warning.

When the flight attendant makes her next pass, my new friend tries to buy earbuds. But it is a tiny plane with no in-flight entertainment, so there are none for sale. This is a tragedy. I offer to loan mine but she won’t take them. I need them. Wouldn’t be fair.

Now the flight attendant returns. Two of them, actually. They ask if we are travelling together. I assure them we are not.

One of the flight attendants crouches down, and the entire plane goes stone silent. Everyone wants to hear this.

“We need you to know that we’re aware that you’re a little intoxicated,” she says. I almost laughed because there’s nothing little about this.

“Normally, we wouldn’t let you board,” she continues, “but-”

My new friend is quietly weeping. “You’re going to ruin my LIFE!”

“No, we’re not, we just need to know there won’t be-”

“You’ve got my life in your hands.”

“Okay, you need to not interrupt me. We need to know there won’t be an incident.”

“There won’t be, there wasn’t anything since the last time you talked to me.”

This goes on for a few minutes. We’re still at the gate, I should mention. Then we have to taxi over to the de-icer. And finally, takeoff.

My new friend is still crying softly to herself, muttering about how she’s dumb, so dumb, she’s not a drunk, she’s just a bad flyer and she had some shhhhhhhhhhhhhots and everyone on the plane is judging her. She alternates that with being angry about her treatment, saying “I paid $700 for this flight, I should be treated with some respect like the Queen, it’s not like I fucked the President.”

I don’t know how I was thinking “it’s not like I __________” would end, but it wasn’t that. Nearly lost it.

She switches back and forth between sad shame and indignation for a while. She mentions that this is the third time this month she’s had to make a last-minute trip to Regina. I ask why. She says that she had a car accident here 4 years ago and is contesting it. I’m not inclined to believe she wasn’t at fault but I might not be seeing her at her best.

Eventually, I offer up my earbuds again, and she borrows them. Watches a Netflix show. Most of the flight is uneventful. I collect my earbuds and we land.

Unrelated to anything else, the second we touch down, the guy across from us stands up to retrieve his bag, resulting in a flight attendant running over, yelling NO. NO. YOU SIT DOWN NOW. It was great.

They let us turn cellular back on and my new friend makes a call. Her phone was never actually in airplane mode, but whatever. Her ride is not at the airport yet but is on her way and they should meet “at the doors.” She gets off the phone. This is unacceptable. “Meet me at THE DOORS?! What the fuck, does Regina Airport only have one door?!”

I mean, technically no, but basically, yeah.

She then goes to unbuckle her seatbelt and discovers she was never buckled in.

“This wassssn’t my fault! They INTERRUPTED ME. I’m HONEST about this. I thought it was done. And it’s their fault. I paid $700 for this flight, and you see how they treat me, but when it comes to my SAFETY, does anybody care? Noooooooooooooooobody cares. And fuckin’ Air Canada, man, they WANT you to drink, they have all these places, they want your money, but then you see how they treated me.”

She’s not wrong about the number of places to drink at an airport, to be fair.

Anyway, she gets up and apologizes to me for being stuck with her, earning one last “it’s all good” in the process, and off she goes. Inside the airport, she heads straight for the doors. I guess she found them.

I meet up with Mika. “I have so much to tell you when we get to the car.”

As we’re paying for parking, I point out my new friend waiting outside. Another guy from my flight sees me doing this and has the biggest grin. He knows exactly who I’m pointing out and why.

We leave, and she doesn’t see me, but we can hear her yelling into her phone about her $700 flight.

November 7, 2019

It takes a lot for me to use this here blogging space for actual blogging and not just cross-posting concert reviews. But my therapist told me that I need to exercise a creative outlet more often than just (two weeks) after concerts, so here we are. Maybe I’ll start posting more regularly again. Maybe I’ll tell this one story and disappear for another few years.

I woke up this morning, and as I do on workdays, I got up, walked to the bathroom, turned on the light, and walked away. It’s too bright, first thing in the morning. Gotta let my eyes adjust.

I went to the living room and looked at my phone. I had one new text message, sent at 3:01 am, from my friend Dave. It read:

Ol’ Shitty Dick

That’s it. No context. No explanation why he was up at 3:00 in the morning. Just Ol’ Shitty Dick.

I could not handle Ol’ Shitty Dick. Not then. Not before showering, not before coffee. I put the phone down and set about getting ready.

Once at work, I tried to figure out what to do about Ol’ Shitty Dick. Was it a reference to something? It sounded vaguely familiar, but from where? Or was it just familiar because this is totally the kind of thing we’d text each other?

I replied as follows:

wake up

stumble to living room

look at phone

1 new text message

Ol’ Shitty Dick

received: 3:01 am

set down phone

walk away

Dave was confused. I thought I had been clear, but apparently not, so I explained:

Well

I got a text from you

At 3:01 am

That read, in its entirety, Ol’ Shitty Dick

And I recounted my discovery of this message and subsequent confusion

Dave denied sending any message, let alone Ol’ Shitty Dick. I sent a screenshot showing he had. He sent a screenshot showing he hadn’t. A stalemate. I briefly contemplated the existence of ghosts, but then thought maybe that Dave’s wife got up, sent the message, immediately deleted it from Dave’s texts, and went back to bed, knowing that she’d messed with both of us. But while Jen is very funny, this would require her to be funnier than anyone I’ve ever met. Not impossible but a high bar.

I did also consider doing just this from my wife’s phone; logging in as her, sending a weird text at weird hours to one of her friends, then deleting the evidence and denying all knowledge. Obviously, by virtue of posting this here, I’m now unable to do that. It’s a free idea for you, though.

Dave and Jen talked it over and thought it must just be some weird glitch. Which is what I’d say if I’d sent a prank text from someone else’s phone too. But like I said, it did sound familiar. I scrolled back through old texts, but made it to the start of April without finding anything.

Then I had a meeting. One of those ones that I didn’t really need to be in and they weren’t feeding us. Bored, I looked at Twitter, and Alex Goldman, co-host of Reply All, my favourite podcast, tweeted:

 

If you’re wondering if I DMed him about Ol’ Shitty Dick, of course I did.

This tweet had been up for an hour by the time I first saw it, and he was on the case. Lots of people had received random messages overnight. And when they could be identified, they all seemed to be from Valentine’s Day, nearly 9 months ago. Maybe I just hadn’t scrolled back far enough. Were Dave and I texting on Valentine’s Day? If so, about what?

Well, we were. We were talking football. He was telling me about the Toronto Argonauts’ latest signing: a defensive tackle named Poop Johnson.

Technically, it’s Cory Johnson. Nicknamed Poop. Because he poops so much. The source of the nickname isn’t really relevant to my personal text message situation but I figured you’d want to know.

So, yeah. We were making jokes about Poop Johnson. First name: Poop. Last name: Johnson. Or, to put it another way, Ol’ Shitty Dick. Of the thousands of texts I send or receive in a year, that was the one the system held onto. The one it saved for me. It couldn’t possibly have been more perfect.

SLCR #351: NHL Heritage Classic (October 26, 2019)

November 3, 2019

I’m writing this on October 27. Right now, I’m four reviews behind, not yet done writing about Said The Whale. With only a few weeks until Kim Churchill, I really should be cleaning up my backlog and not jumping the line and making more work for myself because I think the idea of writing a concert review of a hockey game is funny. But hey, there were bands.

If you’re wondering why I went to hockey when I famously don’t care about hockey, well, I like going to things. And also I didn’t know what it would cost when Dave asked if I wanted him to pick up tickets for me and Mika when he was buying his. This would rank among the most expensive concerts I’ve ever been to, and this time I didn’t get to see Neil Young or meet Weird Al. Also, it wasn’t a concert. Except when it was.

Dave and Jen and Jen’s friend and Jen’s dad all drove in for the game, arriving early afternoon. We had a nice visit, by which I mean Carl did, as he’s the most popular and entertaining member of this family. Eventually, we all put on our long underwear (separately; this wasn’t a group activity) (though we pretty much all did it at once) and headed out to Brewster’s for a 4:00 pm supper like the elderly that we are. I had chicken, so yeah, official concert. My sandwich came with a fried pickle, which 1) should be standard with every sandwich, and 2) should be the new requirement for official concert status.

The game started at 8:00 with doors opening at 6:00. We were done eating at 5:00, but with 33,000 people attending, we figured that heading to the stadium early wasn’t the worst idea. We’d bought parking passes, so this would be my first time parking there. Mika and I always take the bus for Rider games and concerts, and for the soccer game, we just parked downtown and walked forever. We arrived a little before 5:30 and parking was easy, but I figured leaving would be a lot different. Dave’s carload all put their jerseys on over their parkas and we went exploring.

It was -4C, but felt like -11C with the windchill. 24.8F and 12.2F, respectively. And we were going to be outside until the game ended. I had gloves on my gloves with packs of those disposable handwarmers to shove inside them, as well as a new-to-me technological innovation – the same thing, but for your feet. I had also planned on buying some Winnipeg Jets gear to taunt Calgary Flames-loving Dave, but even though my strike is over for now (and hopefully for good), I decided that I didn’t need to make a stupid purchase just for fun, so I skipped it and just wore my Crash Test Dummies toque from 1995. They’re from Winnipeg and it’s the right colour to support the Jets, it counts. Plus, that toque is warm as heck and still in great shape for being old enough to be done college. It might be the most durable, well-designed article of clothing I own.

We walked to the grounds, passing the NHL Mobile Refrigeration Unit, which might have been very necessary the day before when it was +15, but just seemed needlessly cruel at -4 and windy. Even this early, there was a nice long line to get into the exhibits. We had our bags checked, went through metal detectors, and were surveilled by a very nice security guard who told us that “if you have weapons, you should go home, and if you’re cold like me, you should go home.”

There were displays and merchandise shops and sponsors’ booths set up. We mostly skipped them, though I did get a 5c/litre discount card for Esso, so that’s nice. I don’t shop there, but still, nice. There were two Tim Hortons trucks – one in Flames red and one in Jets blue – offering free coffee. There was also a Safeway truck which was not offering free groceries, as far as I could tell, so that was a disappointment. And the Kubota display? No free tractors. There were also hockey-related games and a big inflatable hockey player and Lanny McDonald and his mustache signing autographs and a cover band playing Surrender by Cheap Trick. They were fine. I like that song.

Once inside the stadium, we immediately saw Don Cherry which provoked “hey neat” and “ugh” feelings in equal measure. Kind of like that time I saw the Queen. We then took a walk around the stadium (not with Don Cherry, which was probably for the best; dude’s moving slowly these days). It was a first-time visit for Dave and Jen and Jen’s dad, and they seemed to think it was a nice place, especially enjoying the giant picture of a certain relative of Jen and her dad celebrating a certain championship win in a certain sport. I know that through 350 concert reviews, I’ve given out enough personal information to let all of you steal my identity, but if you want my friends’ too, you’ll have to work for it a little bit.

We found our seats. Lower bowl, section 136. Pretty good, though it was just kind of weird in general to have so much space between the rink and the fans. I think they should have had to play in a special rink the size of the full football field. There were loud drunks behind us (and, really, all over everywhere) but they were funny? They spent the entire game beaking at each other and the players in comical fashion, marking the first time in recorded human history that any situation has been improved by the presence of loud drunks.

About an hour out from the scheduled start time, according to one of three conflicting countdowns we would see on the Maxtron, the band Toque was introduced. The name sounded familiar, and Mika’s googling turned up why – it was local boy Todd Kerns’ 80s Canadian rock cover band. Kerns is more famous for being in Age of Electric and Static in Stereo, as well as touring with Slash. Anyway, to everyone’s surprise, the 80s Canadian rock cover band played 80s Canadian rock songs including Raise a Little Hell, Go For Soda, and personal favourites New Girl Now and that one that I think is called Gone Gone Gone She Been Gone So Long She Been Gone Gone Gone So Long (I Wonder If I’m Ever Gonna See My Girl). This was… pretty good, actually? I mean, it’s a cover band, you know what you’re going to get, but everything was fun and done well. Would see again, even intentionally. They came out a few times during the game to play more songs to fill time, but never for very long, so if you ever wanted to hear a version of Summer of ’69 that ends before the “me and some guys from school” part, this was your chance.

As we approached game time, Jess Moskaluke and the Hunter Brothers came out and did a song together. It was fine. Then the Hunter Brothers sang the national anthem. It was also fine and I enjoyed the fireworks, especially because they were both pretty and relatively quiet. We didn’t need loud jets doing a loud flyover of the stadium but there we were. Also, I know they said to remove your headwear for the anthem but man, it was cold. I put in my handwarmers. I also put my footwarmers in my shoes. I had learned about them at work, where I was also told that they look like maxipads. Can confirm. I was cautioned not to confuse the two, but honestly, they probably both give off the same amount of heat. My feet were cold, is what I’m saying.

First period: the Jets and Flames played hockey. Nobody scored.

Before we’d left the house, I asked Dave if there were bands playing at this thing, and the one he knew of was the Sheepdogs and I rolled my eyes. Of course it’s the Sheepdogs. They’re from Saskatoon and they’re at every event in Saskatchewan. Anyway, between periods, they came out and played a few songs, including the singles Feeling Good and I Don’t Know. I liked the fireworks. And really, this was all fine, I have no real complaints. I just don’t care about the Sheepdogs, and it wasn’t like when we saw Colin James and I had to admit that while he may be another Saskatchewan boy who’s at every local event, if you can ignore that, he really is super talented.

Second period: the Jets and Flames played more hockey. The Flames scored once. Dave was happy.

At one point, they played The Last Saskatchewan Pirate over the PA system, which gave me PTSD flashbacks from Rider games. They play it there for the fourth-quarter stretch and it always features an appearance from Work Safe Bob, a mascot whose existence eats away at my very being. He makes me hate the fourth quarter and all football and safety and being safe and life itself and I’ve given him an obscene nickname that I will not repeat here.

SAFETY FUCKER. His name is SAFETY FUCKER. It’s spelled in all caps. I hate him so much.

Let me lighten the mood. I think it was in here that the in-game host came on the Maxtron and told us to “circle the bowl” to go to the merchandise stands and restaurants and then immediately switched to “circle the concourse” once he realized what he’d said. I laughed.

Jess Moskaluke came back out to sing a few songs before the third period. She’s another local that you see all over the place, though it has been neat to watch her progress from relative unknown to an actual star. Or at least I think she is? I don’t know from country. Either she is or they’re doing a good job of convincing me she is, which is as good as the real thing as far as it impacts my life, which is not at all. Anyway, she played Cheap Wine and Cigarettes, as well as Country Girls, as well as other songs I forget. This was not really my thing but it was fine and I enjoyed the fireworks, a recurring theme. She seemed woefully underdressed for the weather, which would normally imply she was wearing something skimpy, but here just meant it was normal clothes and not a full snowsuit and I bet she was cold as balls.

Third period: the most important part of the evening happened; namely, the mascots for both teams came up the stairs by us and I was able to high-five both the current Jets mascot (Mick E. Moose) and the original Jets mascot (Benny) (as in Benny and the Jets) (it’s spelled wrong but that’s still pretty good). Harvey the Hound, meanwhile, took a picture with some folks across from us and I didn’t get to high-five him. I was already half-cheering the Jets since someone needed to balance out our group, but that cemented it.

Also, the Jets and Flames played more hockey. The Jets scored once. Dave was sad and declined my high-five of consolation but did accept a fist bump of consolation, though it was a dud and didn’t explode. I was happy because I’m a Jets fan now and forever, but was also very cold and didn’t relish the idea of overtime. Also, they didn’t have a band ready to play in the event of overtime. They didn’t even bring Toque back out to play the first 30 seconds of Moonlight Desires.

Overtime: the Jets and Flames played more hockey. A Flame tripped a Jet and the Jets scored on a power play and won. Dave was sad. I got to learn how overtime works. We got the best fireworks of the night.

Then we want back to our cars. Or rather, Mika and I went past our car because we were following Dave and his crew and we went past where the cars were and then they were behind us somehow? This got all the more confusing after fighting our way through the snarl of traffic leaving the stadium, getting out of there well ahead of Dave, and yet somehow getting home after they arrived. Jen said they took Ring Road, which doesn’t make sense to me. Google Maps backs me up, but I guess they’d have faced less post-game traffic and that would make the difference. So it obviously makes perfect sense. I got to learn all kinds of things.

This was fine. I liked the fireworks.

SLCR #350: Jeremy Dutcher & the Regina Symphony Orchestra (October 19, 2019)

November 3, 2019

Jeremy Dutcher won the Polaris Prize for his album Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa, which means “The Songs of the People of the Beautiful River.” It combines his singing and piano with wax cylinder recordings of Indigenous songs from over 100 years ago. Several friends recommended it to me and it’s fascinating – unlike anything I’ve ever heard, and an excellent fit to be performed with the symphony.

We got to the Conexus Arts Centre and I was delighted to discover I’d bought us good seats. It had been a while and I’d forgotten, but we were dead centre, five rows back in a row with extra legroom. Fine work, me. Though it’s a little weird being so close. There’s so many people in the orchestra and they can all see you. They likely won’t, they have things to do, but still. They could. It’s unnerving.

Symphony shows are hard to write about. They start on time. You have assigned seats. There are no drunken louts. No inexplicable opening acts. No wacky misadventures and no deep-fried anything. In short, no shenanigans, and I get my word count from shenanigans. I mean, the Executive Director of the symphony introduced the performance, then was presented with a bouquet as she’s moving on to a fancier job at one of the major American symphonies. That’s a nice moment but nothing I can work with. I need some loud drunks and maybe a fistfight.

Also, the more formal the music, the less I know about it. And I’m not really suited to intelligently critique rock shows in bars by artists I’ve seen ten times over already.

Anyway, the performance had a pattern. The symphony performed a few pieces, then Dutcher would join for some, then he’d leave for one, then come back, then repeat. Dutcher was an engaging performer – not only a very talented singer and pianist, but charmingly funny as well. He had a recurring bit during the second half where his desire to stay hydrated slowly escalated as the night went on. I have to describe it in vague terms because it doesn’t sound funny if I say he came out with a glass of water, returned a while later with the pitcher, and then finally drank from the pitcher before the encore. See? Not funny. But it was funny when it happened.

For the first half, he wore what appeared to be a beaded jacket, but he emerged for the second half wearing a full-length floral robe. I mention this only because symphony patrons were all in for this robe. This robe was a star. This robe could have headlined the show without help.

Wait, right, music, yeah. The point of this all, not water and robes, even exceptional robes. It was what I expected – beautiful and haunting, expertly sung and performed.

Most of the evening was Dutcher’s songs. This should be the part where I get to cheat and transcribe the program, except – gasp – it’s wrong. At least slightly; it lists Up Where We Belong by Buffy Sainte-Marie, and they didn’t play that, though they did perform Until it’s Time for You to Go, another of hers. There was also a Dvorák piece, and one by Cris Derksen. But Dutcher was the star, reimagining historical music in a modern context, then blending it with the orchestra in a memorable performance.

SLCR #349: Hollerado (October 18, 2019)

November 2, 2019

My first time seeing Hollerado will be my last time seeing Hollerado.

I’ve known of them for at least a decade, as their song Juliette was a mainstay on the Canadian indie rock satellite radio station way back when. Their name would come up every once in a while, often tied to some sort of a gimmick. Their album Record In A Bag was packaged in an actual plastic bag with confetti, and the covers for White Paint were cut from big paint-splattered sheets so each cover was unique. There was also a special White Paint package you could get where the band would write a custom song about you. These were collected and released as 111 Songs.

I liked what I’d heard of them and they came through town regularly enough, but somehow, I never managed to make it out to see them. And then they announced they would be breaking up following the release of the album Retaliation Vacation and the subsequent One Last Time Tour, so this became a now-or-never situation.

Doors were at 8:00 and Mika and I had our usual debate about what time to actually show up. I pick 8:01, she says midnight, and we negotiate from there. I think we showed up close to 9:00, and… we parked close to the door, let’s put it that way. Either we were way too early or there weren’t going to be a lot of people there. As it happened, we were a little early and the place filled up some, though it wasn’t a huge crowd. Later on, the band laughingly said it was actually the biggest crowd they’d ever drawn here. If that’s true (and they didn’t sound like they were kidding), 1) yikes, 2) we suck here, myself included, and 3) it’s pretty admirable that they came back on this tour anyway.

We took our seats and got Friday night wild party drinks consisting of an iced tea and a Diet Pepsi, which felt like the height of luxury because I was still on strike at that point and austerity measures were in place. Thankfully, we’re back at work now and I’m back to neglecting all common financial sense.

The openers were Little Junior. Rockier than power-pop but not quite pop-punk, I wanted to hate them because they looked very young and made me feel very old. But I didn’t hate them! I think I hated their haircuts, but I’m old so I think I’m supposed to. Also, it was two weeks ago now and I can’t remember if I even really did. Whatever. This wasn’t really aimed at me but it was fine.

Hollerado, meanwhile, was a ton of fun. It’s the kind of high-energy rock that really hits my sweet spot; having listened to some earlier in the day, Mika and I were both surprised that I hadn’t spent more time listening to them. Though I went in not knowing a ton of their stuff (as is so often the case; it kind of makes you wonder why I do this), I really enjoyed myself. They really put on a show, with the lead singer jumping into the crowd a few times, including once trying to get audience members to play jump rope with the microphone cord. And a long-time fan was in the audience and was invited up onto the stage to play along with them.

In between songs, they cracked jokes (including one so bad they blamed it on the opening act) and opened themselves up for audience questions, but all anyone wanted to know was why they were breaking up. After a few joke answers, they said “nobody’s sixth album is any good” and said it was time to make space for up-and-coming bands like Little Junior. On the one hand, I get it. On the other, I’m late to the party and disappointed that I won’t get another chance to see them. That is, at least not until the inevitable anniversary reunion tour some round number of years from now.

SLCR #348: The Dead South (October 12, 2019)

November 1, 2019

Andino Suns are a great live band and you should definitely go see them if you’re able.

I’m mentioning this up front because I feel like much of my time is going to be spent on variations of “it’s not the band I hate, it’s their fans,” and I find that whenever I complain about things in one of these, the complaint becomes the takeaway. And Andino Suns were really good and that shouldn’t get lost.

Anyway, The Dead South. They are locals who made good, a bluegrass band from around these parts that’s gone on to tour the world. This was the sold-out first night of their Canadian tour for their new album, Sugar & Joy. When Mika and I were in Toronto for Thrush Hermit, we saw a poster for their (then-upcoming) (and possibly still upcoming, depending on what time I send this out) (update: whoops) Halloween show, showing them as zombies – The Undead South.

We saw them last at the Regina Folk Festival this summer, where they played a storm-delayed abbreviated set in front a crowd who gave them one of the most raucous ovations I’ve ever heard. I was a little surprised that they were back so soon, but no complaints – though their rising popularity meant that we wound up missing out on my favourite seats at the end of Row L For Legroom. Instead, we settled on Row M and its Maverage Legroom.

Before the show, we did some digging, trying to find out who the opener would be. The poster in Toronto advertised Elliott BROOD; no such luck here, though I was happy with who we got. The first band didn’t tell us who they were for a long time, and when they did, they had two names. Normally known as Beach Body, they released a country-tinged EP as the Southside Coyote Boys and were asked to perform as them, so it’s possible that this was technically their first performance. I liked this well enough, though their laid-back sound might have been better suited for a smaller venue. Really, the best part was that the lead singer had bought his mom Dead South tickets for her birthday but “accidentally” neglected to tell her that he was playing on the show too.

This set was also the start of some especially disrespectful audience behaviour. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard people yell for an opening act to get off the stage, but here we were. Not many people, but there were a handful of drunk girls behind us who couldn’t wait for the Dead South and weren’t shy about screaming so. Multiple people complained to the ushers, whose collective response was “…meh.”

Andino Suns were up next, and these guys were great! High-energy Chilean music from Moose Jaw, which I know is a cliché by now but I have no better way to put it. These guys tore the roof off the place and made tons of new fans. I’d heard their names around here for a while now but somehow we’d never made it out to see them before. That’s a shame, as it turns out. Gotta take advantage of having them around before they’re too big to keep playing here.

During the break, we went out into the lobby. Mika left for the bathroom, and as I was waiting for her to return, a couple in front of me started having an argument. I’m not entirely sure about what, but I think someone called someone a bitch. Or implied it. Or whatever. Mika returned and I immediately shushed her so we could watch this drama unfold. All around us, other couples and groups were frozen mid-conversation, trying to pretend that they weren’t watching what we were all watching. Mika said she saw the girl smack the guy; I missed it and that makes me sad. Security rushed to the scene (one guy ambled up) for this amazing conversation:

“I hear you’re hitting people.”
“Only a little.”
“You’re not allowed to do that here.”
“I didn’t know that.”

Alas, ignorance of the law is not a defense, and she was escorted from the building. I was pretty sure she was one of the loud drunks sitting behind us and was devastated to later learn this was not the case.

Finally, it was time for the Dead South, which meant that the drunks behind us could quit screaming for the opening acts to leave and instead scream for the Dead South to take off their shirts and have their babies. For the record, this was girls screaming at guys; progress, I guess. We also had a new group of top fans, the four people who insisted on standing when everyone else was sitting. Look, it’s not hard. Stand when other people stand, sit when other people sit. But no, they were going to stand the whole time. Of course they were in our way, but I felt worse for the little kid who was right behind them. The ushers weren’t going to make them sit down, but they were there in a hurry if the kid tried to stand on his chair or in the aisle so he could see too.

And I understand that the Conexus Arts Centre really wasn’t a good venue for this show. It’s a sit-down place and the Dead South are a get-up-and-dance band. This should have been in the hall downstairs, even if it holds fewer people. But come on. It’s like they say, it takes fewer muscles to smile than to be a prick.

As for the band, they were great. It’s why we went, after all; we’d just seen them and they were great then too. This time was like that, but with fancy lights and stained glass backdrops and a big sign with their name on it. And it was indoors and we were sitting and hadn’t just spent 90 minutes sheltering in the car. But otherwise, same idea. And much like at the Folk Festival, they were greeted as hometown heroes and the crowd went nuts for everything they did. Case in point: the show closed with the song Banjo Odyssey; I think if you can get hundreds of people to sing along with the refrain “I guess she’s my cousin but she needs some sweet lovin’ anyway,” it’s a telling testament to your popularity. Or your fanbase.