Posts Tagged ‘artesian on 13th’

SLCR #275: Lisa LeBlanc (March 30, 2017)

April 12, 2017

I forgot to mention this in the Joel Plaskett review, but I was talking to Josy and he noted how much I hate writing these things. Mika has said something similar. I’m concerned that this belief has spread, so let me clear some air here. I like writing at least half of these things unconditionally. This happens when I get excited about an artist and want to convince you to check them out too. Like this one right here. I also really like writing the reviews when crazy stuff happens. Unfortunately, this happens much less often the older I get, but if this is your thing, you might enjoy the next review.

For some of the reviews, I get lazy and fall behind and then it becomes a bit of a chore. This is my own fault, and it may be worth mentioning that it’s 2:43 am right now. And for some, I just don’t have a whole lot to say. This usually means I don’t know the artist well and they were neither off-the-charts good nor bad, so I likely had a nice night out but don’t have hundreds of words to share about the experience (but will try, whether or not it’s a good idea). This was exacerbated last year when the number of concerts I saw ramped way up and I was a lot more willing to go see almost anyone I’d ever heard of. I’ve tried to dial that back some this year, mostly for financial reasons, but I did start this year with a number of “it was good, what more do you want” shows. And there will always be those.

I believe Josy wanted an exact percentage of how many reviews I enjoyed writing but I’m not doing that when my alarm is set to go off in under 3 hours.

Onto the show. Lisa LeBlanc played the folk festival here in 2015. At the time, I had no idea who she was, and seemingly neither did anyone else. As she prepared for her set, people wandered off to the bar, the port-a-potties, the food trucks, wherever. I would have gone too but I am a seasoned veteran and I know that you never leave before hearing a new-to-you artist’s first songs. Wait until they’re a few tunes in and the lines will have died down. But when LeBlanc played her first song and blew the roof off the place (because there is normally a roof over the open-air park), Mika elbowed me and gestured to the gates where people were swarming back in. LeBlanc was my favourite performer at the festival that year, or as I wrote at the time, “RULED RULED RULED.” I’d been looking forward to her coming back ever since.

On my way into the Artesian, I ran into Mark and Arlette because of course I did. They weren’t going to the show, they were just sort of there. I tried to convince them to come with me, but Mark was going home to finish working on his performance appraisal, which is the lamest excuse I’ve ever heard for missing a show, and that includes all of my “it’s late” and “it’s cold” and “I’m tired” and “I don’t feel like it.”

Please note that when I have skipped a concert due to a work obligation, it’s always been 100% justified. That’s different.

Into the venue, I took a seat at the top of the pews, nicely tucked away in a corner where I could play Yahtzee in peace and wait for the show to start.

The opener was Eliza Mary Doyle, a banjo player from Saskatoon. She’s been touring as part of The Dead South as of late, though on this night, she had her own band consisting of a guitarist and an upright bassist. By which I mean “someone who plays the upright bass” and not “a bassist who has good posture.” Not that I want to call her posture into question.

Doyle only had about 30 minutes so she mentioned that she’d have to keep her stories to a minimum. She did, but mostly because the bassist would shush her to try and keep things moving along.

Anyway, this was fantastic and one of those rare sets that I wish had more time. I think I might really like banjos? I’m not sure how I feel about that, discovering something so profound about myself at 40. I should probably just appreciate the insight it offers.

Should I buy a banjo and take lessons? I hear the banjo is particularly hard.

I’m now looking up banjos on banjobuyingguide.com and I should never have access to the internet and a MasterCard this late at night.

A compromise: no banjos at least until I get to Calgary so I can save the sales tax.

Lisa LeBlanc also plays the banjo. In fact, her and Doyle became pals at that folk festival a few years ago, when Doyle was there as a volunteer and they got to talking. Banjo talking. Though for most of LeBlanc’s set, she was on guitar with a full band backing her up.

LeBlanc is Acadian and bilingual. She switched back and forth between English and French for most of the night, offering what she called “the true Government of Canada experience.” It seemed to me that the French speakers in attendance were far more enthusiastic. Specifically the women – in a venue with no real standing area, there were clusters of girls off to the sides and at the back of the hall, all dancing and very into everything.

LeBlanc played a lot from her new English album, though fewer songs than I would have expected. I suppose that happens, given limited time and wanting to ensure a good number of French songs are included too. I find her songwriting interesting – almost nothing ever rhymes. I don’t know if that’s just a stylistic choice or maybe something to do with writing in a second language? I haven’t paid enough attention to her French songs to see if those rhyme. Now I’m curious.

The banjo made its appearance partway through the set for a few songs, including my favourite of hers, You Look Like Trouble (But I Guess I Do Too), as well as a cover of Ace of Spades that gets all the fire emoji. So great. “RULED RULED RULED” as a wise man once said.

It was another short set, going just over an hour. I would have been fine with more – I would be fine if it was still going on – but it was not to be. She ended with a Fleetwood Mac cover. Because I don’t take notes right after the show like I should, I am 99% certain it was Never Going Back Again but my attempts to verify this using the internet have been stymied because it seems she really likes covering Fleetwood Mac songs.

Whatever it was (275 of these things and I am STILL SO BAD AT THIS), I dug it. This was an early contender for my favourite show of the year. Fantastic tunes and some unexpected self-discovery. And now I need to sleep and not buy a banjo. Yet.

SLCR #269: Winterruption 2017 (January 19-21, 2017)

February 7, 2017

Hola, amigos. How’s it hangin’? I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya. Before this, my last concert was Bif Naked, on the night of the US election. From there, I took a break until January 19, aka the day before Inauguration Day. This was coincidental though I don’t blame anyone for thinking I had sworn off my music-loving ways and runnoft to live in a cabin in the woods with a shotgun and some water purification tablets.

I mean, last time out I said “I will hope against all logic and reason that the next four years are mostly okay and not the racist, misogynist, transphobic, anti-immigrant pants-shittingly reckless dumpster fire that this campaign and Trump’s entire life would lead one to expect.” To which I now say hahahahahahahaha naive idiot, you had hope, you’re dumb. Hope is dumb.

But whatever. When last we talked – and for all of last year, really – I talked about trying to see 40 concerts in my 40th year. That year is over and my final concert tally for the year is… 39. So it goes. I had lots of opportunities to get to 40 – and probably 52 without much more effort – but by the end of the year, I was finding myself kinda broke and all concerted out. So I’m 39 and holding, I guess. I’ll take that. The break was appreciated, but I am back with an all-new slate of upcoming shows and we’ll keep this thing going for the foreseeable future.

To make up for my two-month absence, I am combining an entire weekend worth of shows (by which I mean “two”) into one review. Why? To give you the supersize concert review experience that you’ve been missing, and because there are only so many times and ways I can pad out “they were good.”

Winterruption is a new annual concert series put on by the Regina Folk Festival and the Broadway Theatre in Saskatoon. This is only its second year; you may recall that last year Mika and I saw Whitehorse with Andy Shauf and Emily Wells opening in what was a fantastic show at Darke Hall. It was a little bigger event this year, which unfortunately led to us having to make the hard choices, but it would have been even harder were we in Saskatoon. For the most part, the Regina and Saskatoon Winterruptions share acts, but Saskatoon is a bigger city and has more venues so Regina missed out on concerts by TUNS and Holy Fuck, as well as the Canadaland podcast taping, among other events. But even with the lesser lineup, Regina had three nights of shows spanning multiple venues. And you surely want to know everything we saw and what I thought of it all, right? You’re not just bored at work, skimming this because it looks enough like email to fool anyone who’s checking out your screen, right?

THURSDAY: Elliott BROOD with IsKwé and Begonia

The first hard choice I made was to not go to anything on the Thursday night. We saw Elliott Brood last year (and like last year, you only get all-caps once), and while they were good, I’m trying to cut back on my concert expenses a bit. Plus I never know how much I’ll feel like leaving the house in the middle of January. But I did really like them last time out, so I decided to leave it to the whims of fate; namely, I entered a few Facebook and Twitter like/share/retweet contests for tickets. And fate (and Prairie Dog magazine) really wanted me to see this show, I guess. Mika had schoolwork to do and/or recover from and wasn’t up to going, so I checked with a few of my usuals, but everyone else had plans (such as “not being interested”) so I wound up going alone. Not the first time, won’t be the last. The Exchange is a good place for weird loners. I bought myself a Diet Pepsi and found a table near the back with an excellent view.

The opener was IsKwé, who we saw at last year’s folk festival. From Winnipeg and of Cree/Dene descent, IsKwé and her band played hip-hop-influenced pop touching on a number of indiginious issues. The smaller, more intimate setting was a much better fit than the outdoor folk festival stage, and the videos projected on screen behind them added weight to their message.

By comparison, the next act joked about how IsKwé was singing about powerful issues while she was singing about a hot dog stand. This was Begonia, the solo project of Alexa Dirks from Chic Gamine. This was much more straightforward pop and I thought it was fine, though nothing really stood out to me (though I thought the hot dog stand song was delightful). More than anything, I thought Dirks seemed like a really likeable person, and not just because she made the first Experience Regina reference of the new SLCR year.

Finally, we got to Elliott Brood. They started things off a lot slower-paced than last year, opening with some quieter songs. They repeatedly brought up the political situation in the US and it seemed like everything really had taken the wind out of their sails a bit. Can’t blame them. That said, I also think they recognized this and played Oh Alberta pretty early on, as that always gets things going. I’m still not super familiar with too many of their songs, so I couldn’t tell you a ton of what they played, though I do know they played a song from their upcoming new album and… it didn’t go well. They tried, bless ’em, but they weren’t on the same page and joked about it for the rest of the night, which more than made up for the song itself. Plus they led everyone in singing happy birthday to IsKwé, and the dancing little kid Elliott Brood superfan was back from last year. All in all, it was a fun show, if a half-step off from the year before.

The show didn’t seem like it sold out – there was tons of open space for IsKwé, and though it did fill up as the night went on, it also seemed like lots of people were leaving early. Still a work night, I guess.

FRIDAY: Grownups Read Things They Wrote As Kids podcast taping

This was another one of the hard choices, as the Grownups recording at the Artesian was up against the Said The Whale / Northcote / The Garrys triple bill at the Exchange. And I really enjoy me some Northcote and at least one Said The Whale song, but Grownups is one of our favourite podcasts and we couldn’t pass it up.

I’d describe Grownups Read Things They Wrote As Kids except I just did. It started as a CBC summer replacement series a few years ago, and I didn’t think I’d enjoy it; I was expecting cringe humour which is not my favourite. But it’s not that at all – aside from the fact that not all of the readers bring funny pieces to the show, the audience is very supportive and everyone’s sharing the experience of looking back in time at who you once were.

To that end, a few weeks after we bought our tickets, they were still looking for readers, and I had been graced with a box of stuff from my mom’s basement when she moved, so I bit the bullet and signed up to read. I went through my pile of stuff and settled on a choose-your-own-adventure space epic entitled Misson [sic]: Ring Rescue. The backstory is that a girl in my Grade 6 class wrote a long story and got a lot of praise from the teacher. I like praise too, so I decided I’d write a long story as well, but I also liked not putting any effort into things, so I used the choose-your-own-adventure format to camouflage the lack of actual content. This fooled nobody. To put it in perspective, I wrote an eight-page story, but when I typed it up for ease of reading on stage, it fit onto one sheet of paper with room for me to add comments and to enlarge the font.

I won’t give a detailed review of the whole show. Comedy is best if it’s not wrecked for you, after all. But I will say that I was pleased with how my reading went but I don’t know if I’ll make it onto the podcast. This was my third time seeing a Grownups live show and it was easily the best of the bunch. Seventeen readers and not a dud among them. Paring down those 90-ish minutes to a 30-minute podcast will mean a lot of good stuff hits the floor.

Luckily for you, you can watch all of it: https://youtu.be/Y5oI-d1rCMs

I start at 37:21 but the whole thing is worth it. Bear in mind that I haven’t actually watched the video and I likely never will (my own human voice, how horrific), so I hope you enjoy and I hope I didn’t suck.

SATURDAY: Danny Michel with Mohsin Zaman and William Prince

This was either the Danny Michel show or the William Prince show, depending on if you were talking to me or Mika. I’ve been a fan of Michel for a long time now, whereas we saw Prince for the first time last fall when he won Aboriginal Artist of the Year at BreakOutWest, and she knew some of his songs from CBC Radio.

All of which leaves out poor Mohsin Zaman, but hey, he was new to both of us. Zaman is of Pakistani heritage but comes from Dubai by way of the only slightly less exotic Edmonton. He shared his life story while talking about giving up a banking career for a much riskier life as a musician. The choice is starting to pay off, as he was named the 2016 Male Artist of the Year in the Edmonton Music Awards. The set was just Zaman and his guitar, playing mostly his original tunes, though there were two covers thrown into the mix as well – Springsteen’s I’m On Fire (which is kind of actually a really creepy song if you think about it) and, yes, Aaron’s favourite cover song ever, Cohen’s Hallelujah. Both of the covers were different enough from the original versions to be interesting and Zaman is an excellent guitarist, but all in all, this was reminiscent of Begonia, where I left thinking Zaman seemed like a good guy more than being really into the music.

Like with Grownups, the Artesian was again sold out for this show, and between sets, they asked to find seats for a few people who didn’t have them yet. Which is fine, I get that. If it’s a seated show and you bought a ticket, you deserve a seat. (On a related note, ask me sometime why I will never buy a ticket for a show at the Artful Dodger again, and indeed, why you couldn’t pay me to go there! It’ll be fun, I’ll swear a lot.) That said, they were asking people who were already seated to scrunch in together to make room, and… no? You don’t inconvenience the people who bother to show up on time to accommodate the latecomers. But maybe I’m just irritated because we watched the artistic director of the folk festival ask some people to move over, and it’s like, I’m a big guy. I sit on an aisle seat for a reason. And I bet this dude did too. And then after he did shove down, the lady who showed up late sulked and sighed because she wasn’t sitting with her husband. You want to sit with your husband? Show up on time for the sold-out show.

Now, if you want complaints (and who doesn’t, they’re super fun to read and also completely relevant to everyone and never tiresome at all), William Prince was a dude who had some complaints. He was not having a great day when we saw him, having spent the week touring Saskatchewan schools and consequently being infected with a cold from our germy, germy children. He apologized for this repeatedly; Mika said it was obvious he had a cold, but to be honest, I don’t know if I’d have ever caught on if he hadn’t said anything. He was also struggling for a while with getting the sound he wanted through his monitor, which wasn’t helping his mood any. Despite all this, I thought his set was really good. Again, this was just him and a guitar (at one point, he made mention of a part where he’d play harmonica if only he’d remembered to put it around his neck before the song began), playing all originals. In particular, I’ve had the song Breathless stuck in my head for two weeks plus. Highly recommended if you like roots/folk singer/songwriter stuff. Would see again, and we’ll likely get the chance – he wink-wink hinted that he’ll be back in town for the folk festival this summer.

Last up was Danny Michel, who was promoting his new album Khlebnikov (recorded on a Russian icebreaker with an astronaut), which came out the day before. For what was essentially an album-release party, you’d expect a bunch of new songs, but no, he only played the title track. Beyond that, it was a lot like the last time we saw him, only we had seats and most of the people in attendance were less obnoxious. He played the one token old song (Whale of a Tale) and lots of stuff from more recent albums (Feather Fur & Fin, What Colour Are You, Click Click, Who’s Gonna Miss You When You’re Gone). He told a few stories I’d heard before (regarding Wish Willy and Samantha in the Sky with Diamonds) and even played an Elvis cover I’d heard him do before. That said, it might have been the familiarity with the material that boosted his confidence; it was one of the better Michel shows I’d seen and he was a lot more charismatic on stage than I’d seen before. He usually seems a little reserved but not on this night.

I said that most fans were less obnoxious but I am not counting the dude standing right next to me who let out a monster belch so loud that it brought the show to a halt right before the encore. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m a little impressed, but c’mon. Or maybe we should own it? Make that part of our new tourism campaign, perhaps. William Prince and Danny Michel got to experience Regina and one got infected and the other got burped at. Who knows what delights will await you?

UPCOMING CONCERTS

  • Big Wreck w/Ascot Royals (February 9)
  • Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt (March 1)
  • Blackie & the Rodeo Kings (March 8)
  • The Tea Party (March 18)
  • Bill & Joel Plaskett w/Mayhemingways (March 23)
  • Lisa LeBlanc (March 30)
  • I Love The 90s feat. Salt N Pepa, Vanilla Ice, Color Me Badd, Young MC, and Rob Base (April 1)
  • The Last Waltz Remembered feat. Corb Lund, Matt Andersen, Amy Helm, & the Russell Broom House Band (April 5)
  • Martha Wainwright (April 20)
  • BA Johnston w/Napalmpom (April 28)
  • Guns N’ Roses (August 27)

SLCR #260: Hayden (September 29, 2016)

October 5, 2016

Two things to start, based on your feedback:

1. On my quest to hit 40 concerts in my 40th year, this show was concert #31. I saw Fred Eaglesmith on Saturday, so that was #32. My roadmap to #40 is set, though there could always be shows cancelled/skipped or new shows added:

UPCOMING CONCERTS, INSERTED EARLY IN THE REVIEW AS VALUABLE FILLER
• Basia Bulat w/Oh Pep! (October 5)
• I Mother Earth featuring Edwin w/The Standstills (October 8)
• BreakOut West (October 14-16)
• Sarah Slean and the Regina Symphony Orchestra (October 22)
• Bush w/The Dead Deads (October 27)
• Steve Earle & The Dukes (November 3)
• Bif Naked w/Jordan Alexander (November 8)
• Duotang (December 2)

2. Dang, you people really don’t like Prozzäk. I totally get it, but I listen to a lot of garbage and that was the first review in a long time that stirred up quite so much outrage. Like, just at its very existence. And they’re not even entirely real.

I have very little to say about Hayden (“he’s good, you’d like him”) so I will tell the same story I tell every time. I first saw him in 1998, but I was tired and not into the show so I wound up leaving early. For many years, I thought Hayden wasn’t my thing. In 2013 he played the Regina Folk Festival which gave me an easy opportunity to give the guy a second chance, and I was really impressed. Last year, he opened for Dan Mangan and was great. And this was a great show too, so never listen to 22-year-olds. They’re sleepy and dumb.

Anyway. I bought our tickets for this show before they technically went on sale. The show was announced on a Tuesday with tickets going on sale that Friday, but I guessed that he was coming here and found the ticket selling page while it was being finalized and hadn’t been properly locked down yet. I was very pleased with myself for a day and then promptly forgot about it. Ultimately, it didn’t matter, as I don’t think the Artesian quite sold out, though it was close. Mika and I sat in the back with Mark and Arlette, and Mark and I reminisced about all the shows we’d seen there that he never took Arlette to.

There was no opening act, and Hayden had no band with him. The songs were just him and guitar or piano. And yeah, like I already said, this was great.

This was the 20th anniversary tour for his debut album, Everything I Long For, so he was playing it in its entirety. Sort of. Until the show, I didn’t realize that I had never heard the whole thing. In between songs, he encouraged questions and one person asked which version of the album we were getting. It turns out the first release had two songs (“Bunkbed” and “I Almost Cried”) that were left off subsequent editions because he was never happy with them. Apparently Bunkbed is one of the more popular songs to longtime fans. Mika says it’s good. She thinks she has a copy of the original release tucked away somewhere, so I may have to dig it up. Or, you know, I’m sure it’s on YouTube, which requires significantly less movement from my current butt-seated position. I’ll look someday, probably.

(*this is secret Master Persuader wizardry that will hypnotize Aaron into looking it up for me; I am very smart and handsome and can tell the future)

Not only have I not heard Bunkbed (or I Almost Cried, which nobody seemed to notice/care was missing), but I had also never heard the hidden tracks from the original release. They played as Hayden first took the stage and tuned his guitar; ad-libbed joke recipes for Kraft Dinner and a frozen-lettuce club sandwich. It didn’t sound like most people there recognized them but they were enjoyed just the same.

There was one song he said he didn’t perform often due to requiring a second person’s help, so he recruited a fan from the front row and didn’t tell her beforehand what she’d need to do. It turned out that he wanted someone who didn’t play guitar to play guitar. She seemed equal parts excited and mortified by the situation she found herself in, which, yeah, that’s fair. It wasn’t anything too complicated so he walked her through it and it was a fun break in the show.

Pretty much, the show was just him playing through the album. I dunno what else to tell you. I’ve heard the record and enjoyed it but am not so familiar with it that I could tell you what he changed up, if anything, apart from knowing that he skipped the song Driveway due to finding the lyrics stupid and not worth bothering with.

He did add on a few extra songs at the end, including No Happy Birthday, which always gets me right in the feels. And he played two covers as well; The Garage by Eric’s Trip came partway through the set (I only know this because Mika knows things and sometimes tells them to me) and he closed the main set with a cover of Ahead By A Century by the Tragically Hip. In a summer (shut up it’s not snowing YOU’RE SNOWING) of Hip covers, this was one of the best. Just Hayden and a piano, a great arrangement that brought out both the regret and the hope in the song.

And that’s it, really. Not the longest or most elaborate show, just an entertaining and enjoyable evening from a guy who makes me into more of a fan every time out.

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 #212: The God That Comes (April 3, 2015)

April 8, 2015

This marks the third time I have seen Hawksley Workman’s musical/cabaret/ode to debauchery The God That Comes (and it would have also been the fourth time, had Mark’s sinuses not revolted earlier in the week), so you already know what I think of this (it ruled) so I will forego a full review but must touch on some highlights.

By “highlights,” I mostly mean I want to complain about my old neighbourhood. I moved to Regina in 2004, and lived in the same apartment until buying a house around five years ago. You know how people go back home after a long time away and they’re sad about what happened to their old stomping grounds? Well, that’s me, but not because everything there went to hell. No. Since I moved out of that neighbourhood, they renovated the grocery store and drug store, opened a Subway, opened a coffee shop, opened a CAKE SHOP for God’s sake. All within easy walking distance. I could be picking up a cake on the way home from work every day instead of riding the bus to a house like a chump. It’s like the whole neighbourhood hated me and couldn’t wait for me to leave. Which is not impossible.

The daycare just down the block from my apartment is gone too, having been renovated and turned into Shynok, an authentic Ukrainian restaurant. I say “authentic” despite knowing very little about the food of my people because Deserée has been to the Ukraine and reports that the restaurant’s salads are authentically full of beets.

We went to Shynok before The God That Comes (“so THAT’S your point”) and it was fantastic. Best borscht. Best perogies that aren’t my grandpa’s recipe. Tasty cabbage rolls. Perogies for dessert! Colin drank some bizarre prune beverage and we were all concerned about its possible after-effects. I have not heard from him since that evening. I am not certain if no news is good news in this case.

The show was at the Artesian, which is a lovely venue and was well suited for the play. There were tables down in front with raised benches (pews?) in the back. We managed to get seated right up close and in the centre, near some other work people. Everyone but me had wine, which means I am now Hawksley’s least favourite amongst our little club. This makes me sad, but we’ll always have Twitter dolloping.

As for the play itself, it hadn’t changed much since I saw it in Calgary. I won’t go into too much detail – the soundtrack CD includes all of the night’s songs, but I think there are still parts of the show that are best kept under wraps. I say this mostly because I had forgotten about one of the little surprises (even though it was hinted at) and the crowd reaction to it was my favourite part of the show.

There were a few little tweaks from before. The show felt a little longer this time, due largely to a few spots where Hawksley padded things out a little bit. Notably, there was an audience call-and-response part added during one song that everyone seemed to enjoy (complete with a little impromptu back-and-forth during our show) (that might sort of be a double entendre). The introduction to the show-closer, They Decided Not To Like Us, was changed up a little and while I still think that the song feels tacked on, the new lead-in did help it a bit. I wonder if it might be best to end the play after He’s Mine and come back to perform Decided as an encore.

Oh, also, Hawksley said “fuck” way more this time. I kind of wish that I’d been charting the frequency of his swearing through the years. He goes through phases, and I’d love to figure out if they’re connected to sunspots or something.

UPCOMING SHOWS

  • Danko Jones w/The Lazys (April 10)
  • The Joel Plaskett Emergency w/Mo Kenney (May 15)
  • Charley Pride (May 20)
  • Danny Michel (June 13)
  • Regina Folk Festival feat. Sinead O’Connor, Jenny Lewis, Vance Joy, Blue Rodeo, Bahamas, Basia Bulat, The Sheepdogs, more (August 7-9)
  • Chubby Checker & The Wildcats (September 26)

SLCR #184: Sarah Slean (February 22, 2013)

March 8, 2013

I was pretty sure this one wasn’t going to happen. Tickets had been on sale for weeks and I kept putting off buying them. There were just too many shows last year that we wound up skipping out on. Finally, Mark offered to pick up tickets for me and (the other) James. This was on a Friday. On Monday, I got the Artesian’s email newsletter which mentioned the show being sold out.

I suppose trying for suspense is a useless endeavour, given that I’m posting a review of the show? Fine. Mark came through, snagging us some tickets right before they ran out.

And when the day of the show rolled around, I was almost a little disappointed that he did. This is where I’d insert my usual speech about being a tired old man who just wants to sleep his life away if I thought you hadn’t heard it 50 times already. But I had yet to pay Mark for the ticket and I would have felt bad about standing him up, so off I went.

We met at the Freehouse. I was about 20 minutes late, leaving me no time to grab a beer before the show. Instead, I picked at Mark’s sweet potato fries (not a euphemism) while James hugged all the servers goodbye. Mark and James both live downtown and appear to be on a first-name basis with every server in every restaurant within walking distance of their respective dwellings. Or at least the attractive lady servers.

We walked the cold, windy block to the Artesian. Once inside, Mark immediately disappeared while James and I checked our coats. We stumbled blindly into the hall, which was already half full, to discover that somehow, Mark had secured himself a seat in the second row, and two seats for James and me in the very front row. I have no idea how he was able to pull this off. Did he have to kill a man? Or maybe three men? If so, what did he do with the bodies? How did nobody see? Or did he scare everyone into silence? He IS both intimidating and resourceful…

Anyway, point being, I wound up in the exact same seat that I had for the Steven Page show. I immediately texted Mary to brag about this. Mark and James, meanwhile, were busy making friends with the people sitting all around us. I have never been that outgoing and I suspect I never will be. I’m not sure if that’s something you’re born with or if you can train yourself. Is there a course I can take? Preferably online so I don’t have to talk to anyone?

Our opening act was Ian Kelly, a singer-songwriter type from Montreal; specifically, the same neighbourhood in Montreal where Mark’s girlfriend lives. Of COURSE James and Mark would find this out within seconds of talking to him (or someone working the stuff table, or someone who had heard of him, or some random person). Why wouldn’t they?

Kelly took the stage, thanked us for our applause, and promised a fine round of depressing songs. He only had a short set, a half-hour or so, and spent a fair bit of the time just chatting with the crowd, at least in part about the really good lasagna he’d had backstage. This line of conversation continued when we briefly met with him on our way out after the show. “It had sweet potatoes in it!”

note to self: sweet potatoes in 2013 concert reviews could be the new chicken fingers in 1998 concert reviews – think about ways to beat joke to death

I was unfamiliar with Ian Kelly’s music (this is a nice way of saying I had never heard of this guy before), but the standout song was I Would Have You, a witty number about jetski love, dreams of opening for Rush, and not becoming an asshole. I later bought the song on iTunes and Mika said “it sounds like your kind of song.” I choose to take that as a compliment and I also choose to not think too hard about that choice. At any rate, I found Ian Kelly pretty entertaining and he was the rare opening act who understayed his welcome. I’d make a point of going to see him if he came back.

Sarah Slean was touring in support of her newest record, a double album called Land & Sea. Specifically, she was touring in support of Sea, the more mellow, orchestral disc. To recreate the sound in a live setting, there were eight or nine people packed onto the Artesian’s small stage; among them, a few violinists, a stand-up bassist (meaning that he was playing the stand-up bass, not that he was forthright) (although I don’t know that he wasn’t), a drummer, a backing vocalist, and Slean herself on piano. Apparently on some shows, Slean included additional local musicians, but here, there was literally no place for them. As it was, when Slean would step away from her piano and trade places with her backup singer, it took some creative maneuvering to make it across the stage.

Whether at the piano or the microphone, Slean was directly right in front of where we were sitting. Mark had managed to secure the two best seats in the house for James and I. He seemed quite pleased with himself, and deservedly so. He also noted that we appeared to be the only men at the concert who hadn’t been dragged there. He might have been right with that one. The crowd was predominantly female, and this was never more obvious then when Slean said she was tired of wearing heels and kicked her shoes off, and the crowd responded with a high-pitched squeal of appreciation and understanding.

She had more of a sense of humour than I would have guessed. This should not be, considering I copied and pasted that sentence out of my review from the first time I saw her. That was almost eight years and 100 reviews ago and I’ve only seen her once more since then, so I suppose I should allow myself a little forgetfulness, but c’mon now. She sings pretty songs, that doesn’t mean she can’t make jokes.

Hey, I suppose you want to know how the songs went. They were good!

iknowiknowican’tstoptherewhydon’tyoupeopleeverletmestopthere

I had never picked up Land & Sea, so I was going into the show blind. I figured you guys were probably tired of me saying “I bought the album and had good intentions of listening to it before the show, but then I never did,” so I decided to just skip that whole “good intentions” part. Gotta mix things up, keep it fresh.

With that in mind, I liked all the new songs, though I don’t know that any one in particular really stood out for me. I’m boring and predictable; my favourites were the few songs I already knew (primarily, a handful of songs off Day One). I do gravitate to the familiar and comfortable and non-threatening, and you’re all like “dude, you were at a Sarah Slean show, could that be any less threatening?” and I’m all “did you ever notice that the first line of Pilgrim is ‘a little blood and vomit on the car seat’ because I never really thought about that before and judging from the crowd all giggling out their ‘ewww’s, I’m guessing they didn’t either” and you’re all “but is that really THREATENING, per se?” and I’m all like “no, imaginary person, but I started making up this conversation with you before I had an ending in mind” and so here we are.

All of which is a long-winded, occasionally confusing, and possibly poorly punctuated way of saying that I liked the show. I’ll not likely get to see those songs performed in that way again, so that was really cool. She usually seems to do shows by herself on piano or with a more traditional pop band. But here’s the thing – saying “liked” might indicate that I was the least satisfied customer in attendance. I mean, there were people there who were completely blown away by what they’d seen. I almost felt guilty for merely “liking.”

After the show, James grabbed Sarah’s setlist. Each musician left one behind, but she’d marked up hers with last-minute changes and notes. He promised to get me a print-quality picture or scan that I could use when I someday put all my concert reviews in a book. I don’t intend to ever change this paragraph – you’ll have to wait until then to know whether or not he came through. Give me a decade or two.

SLCR #183: Steven Page (December 12, 2012)

January 14, 2013

Sarah Slean is coming here in February. While looking at the Artesian’s website to determine if I should be buying tickets now (answer: probably, but I still haven’t yet done so), I saw that Steven Page would be here three nights later. I knew Mika wasn’t interested, so I asked Mark and James if they wanted to go. When they couldn’t make it, I made plans to spend the night of the show finishing up my Christmas shopping. But Mark told Mary that I was going (which was not, technically speaking, true), and so on Wednesday afternoon, plans changed.

I was glad to get the chance to go. My fandom of Barenaked Ladies has waned greatly over the years. I saw them a few years ago and still had a good time, but I really only went because Joel Plaskett was opening. I think the departure of Steven Page from BNL is a big part of why my interest has lessened. Barenaked Ladies’ first record without Steven Page was decidedly not my thing, but I liked Steven Page’s first post-BNL solo record, Page One, a fair bit. I hadn’t seen him live since the split and had wanted to see what his shows were like. In fact, in one of those weird coincidence things, I’d been wondering what he was up to just one day before finding out about the show.

Mika dropped me off at Mary’s house so she could carry on with Christmas shopping while Mary and I set out for the Artesian. On the way to the show, Mary told me the most amazing story about the time she met Steven Page 20 years ago. Most of the details must unfortunately be left off the internet; let’s just say that the part where he was riding in her Volvo to a Fishbone concert while they all sang Word Up by Cameo wasn’t even the highlight.

The Artesian is a relatively new venue and it was a lovely, cozy little place. I believe it’s a converted church. There’s a bar downstairs where Mary treated us to Stellas and we chatted with the owner. She said that the place holds about 160 people at capacity. Upstairs, there’s a decently-sized stage with raised benches at the back of the room. The floor had seating for the show, but it could have been removed if a dancier band was playing. By the time the show began, I figure there was around 100 people there. Since we made it early, we were able to snag two seats in the front row.

The opener, for lack of a better term, took the stage about ten minutes after the scheduled start time. Just as I’m thinking “hey, that guy looks really familiar,” he introduced himself as Craig Northey from Odds. I liked them a bunch and had no idea he’d be here, so I was pretty delighted by this development. He opened with a song that he’d co-written with Jesse Valenzuela of the Gin Blossoms; given our proximity to the fictional town of Dog River/real-life town (and film site) of Rouleau, I was half-expecting it to be the theme to Corner Gas but that was not the case. He then played a new song from the upcoming Odds record which I really enjoyed. Steven Page joined in on melodica halfway through the song, at which point the show began in earnest.

When talking about this show with friends, the thing they ask most often is “so, did he just play Barenaked Ladies songs?” Probably about half the show was BNL classics, but it was interesting to see which ones. I’m not about to go digging through liner notes right now to see who wrote or co-wrote what, but the BNL songs Page played in Regina had a distinct lack of their trademark silliness. It wasn’t one week since anything, there were no postcards from chimpanzees, this was not him in Grade 9. We got a lot of the songs that always made me feel like there was a real band behind their on-stage goofiness: Brian Wilson, Jane, The Old Apartment, What A Good Boy, Alternative Girlfriend, Break Your Heart, Call and Answer. These songs are similar in tone to the ones on his solo records Page One and The Vanity Project, and tracks from these albums comprised most of the rest of the show. Page also played a few new songs and Northey sang two Odds hits (Someone Who’s Cool and It Falls Apart). I could have done with more Odds songs, but it’s not really fair to ask for that when it wasn’t an Odds show.

And Page talked. The show ran about three hours with a brief intermission, and a lot of that time was spent conversing with Northey and the crowd. The night before in Swift Current (seriously, why does everyone play Swift Current these days?), someone had suggested to Page that maybe he should spend less time talking while he’s on stage, and I’m glad he didn’t listen. The small crowd and intimate venue made the show feel very personal, and the ongoing dialogue only helped enhance that mood. He cracked jokes and talked about everything from his inspirations to road stories to life with his kids.

When I saw Barenaked Ladies a few years ago, they seemed determined to show their fans that despite Page’s departure, nothing had really changed. They played all of their old songs with Ed Robertson taking over where Page used to sing lead vocals, but I preferred the handful of songs where Kevin Hearn took over. Page and Hearn sound nothing alike and the songs had to change accordingly. It was more interesting to hear the familiar songs with a completely new voice instead of Robertson’s (perfectly adequate) Page impression.

I mention this because Page’s approach is the complete opposite. Not only did he play songs that the Barenaked Ladies made famous, he openly discussed his removal from the band. He told stories from the past and came across like he remembered that time with fondness, but he also went into detail about how he’d disappointed people along the way and how difficult, in retrospect, he’d been to work with. The openness helped contribute to the personal feel of the show, but I suppose there’s no reason for him to try and avoid anything. His drug arrest (charges were eventually dropped) and subsequent departure from the band were well-known, and his solo career really is like starting over, in a way. Even now, over a decade removed from Barenaked Ladies’ greatest commercial success, they come to Regina and still play a 2,000-seat theatre. That’s a step down from the hockey arena I’d previously seen them at, but it’s still twenty times the people who were at Page’s solo show. But if nothing else, it does give him the freedom to do what he wants instead of what the crowd expects.

For the encore, Page and Northey were joined by Regina’s Jason Plumb and his iPad. Plumb was a member of The Waltons, officially completing the Canadian mid-90s trifecta – how did we not get a Crash Test Dummy on stage for this? Was the guy from Wide Mouth Mason busy? What about the non-Jians from Moxy Früvous? Barenaked Ladies, The Waltons, and Odds had played together in various combinations before, but this marked the first time these three played on stage together. They covered Better Be Home Soon by Crowded House and Throw Your Arms Around Me by Hunters & Collectors, with the iPad providing lyrics.

After the show, we went back to the Artesian’s basement to meet up with Page so Mary could reminisce with him about that Fishbone show (and all the events surrounding it). I first got to chat a bit with Jason Plumb; the first time I saw Barenaked Ladies, they covered the Waltons’ song Nothing Colder Than You but rewrote the lyrics to commemorate a time that Plumb had accidentally sat on the hot rocks in a sauna (alcohol may have been a factor) and burnt his ass. It turns out that Plumb was actually at that show – and on a first date, no less. “I’m so glad someone remembers that,” he said, in a way that suggested he may not have been entirely truthful. A friend he was talking to joined in with “I’ve never burnt my ass,” said in the most deadpan, matter-of-fact manner. I thought this was about the funniest thing ever. I’d say “you had to be there” but even those that were there seemed unaffected.

Anyway, after a quick chat with Plumb, we got to spend a minute talking to Page and Northey. I talked to Northey about the time I saw Odds in Saskatoon and they didn’t turn off the TVs in the bar and the band was distractedly watching WCW Monday Nitro while playing. “Did I comment on the wrestling?” Northey asked. I assured him that he had. Specifically, he asked if there was anyone out there who could stop Meng. Before reliving memories of the Fishbone show with Page, Mary grabbed a few pictures of me with Page and Northey, and while I look like a tremendous goofball in both shots, I’m glad to have them as souvenirs of the evening. Plumb, Northey, and Page were all very gracious and came across like really nice guys.

On the drive home, Mary repeatedly said that she had a great time and was glad that we went, and I had to agree. I figured the show would be decent, but I was blown away. Page was entertaining from start to finish, we got a nice diverse mix of songs, and the sound at the Artesian was great. The appearances of Northey and Plumb were great surprises. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a three-hour show, and even longer since I went to one and wasn’t ready to leave well before the artist was done. This was right up there with the best shows of the year.