Posts Tagged ‘bahamas’

SLCR #226: Bahamas (November 17, 2015)

November 22, 2015

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

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

selfie

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

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

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

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

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

bahamas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SLCR #220: Regina Folk Festival (August 7-9, 2015)

August 10, 2015

Thursday
8:17 a.m.: Can I write an entire concert review on my phone? While the festival is going on? No. That would be dumb. But I can do everything but the conclusion and the final editing on my phone, and maybe this thing won’t take three weeks to get posted.

Here’s what we all need to know about this year’s festival:

  • Sinéad O’Connor was scheduled to headline, but cancelled a few weeks out, leaving the festival scrambling for a replacement. They got Blind Boys of Alabama, who I’m sure will be good, but I was really looking forward to the bizarre novelty of seeing Sinéad O’Connor singing in a park in downtown Regina after being introduced by a shitty children’s entertainer. PHOTO OP PHOTO OP PHOTO OP
  • I am most looking forward to seeing Bahamas, Jenny Lewis, Blue Rodeo, Basia Bulat, Andy Shauf, and the Karpinka Brothers (one of whom I went to high school with)
  • I don’t know what a Vance Joy is but I gather he was a big “get”
  • I need to remember to put in the bullets for these here bullet points
  • Kettle corn is rad

Friday
5:20 p.m.: We are in our usual chairs in our usual spots. The grass is damp from days of rain, but it’s not swamplike as I was expecting so I’ll take it. Too many wasps around, though.

Probably should have charged my phone this afternoon.

Expected attendees: Mark and Arlette, Other James, Glenn and Shelan, Colin, and surely some cameos from work and Toastmasters folks.

Mika wants me to tell you that she carried both chairs from the car to the entrance line and that I am very thankful.

5:58 p.m.: I went straight to the park from work and I finally managed to take my bag to the car. Already bought a Bahamas record (Pink Strat). You know, since I had to put stuff in the car and all, it only made sense to do some early shopping.

Ran into Other James and made a joke about his predilection for snarking at people to keep the walkway clear. I can’t make too much fun; I already did some of that too. Plus he was kind enough to murder a wasp with his bare hands for us.

The host is Jeffery Straker. His mic is too loud but he seems fine otherwise. Energetic and charismatic.

6:52 p.m.: Got rained on. Am cold and damp. Not bringing a jacket was a poor choice.

Forgot to mention that the line to get in was much more organized this year. So, kudos! I like to think it was all because of my perpetual whining in previous years.

First band was The Dead South, a local bluegrass four-piece. Played all originals, as far as I know. They were real good! Would see again. There was one very loud superfan down in front and he was a nice added bonus.

Danny Olliver is playing a teaser set right now. I’ve seen him before and liked him too. Successful evening so far.

Good sound for the music. I still think the volume is turned up a bit high for the talky parts though.

I find that on the phone, I feel justified in saying very little about each individual act. I trust this will continue. Also, I have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the text file every time I open this. Minor irritant.

SO many babies in ear protectors. The one nearest us has the best sweater. I want it in my size.

Alysha Brilla up next.

7:57 p.m.: If I go to jail for murdering the loudass stupid unfunny fucker behind me, know it was deliberate and enjoyed and I would happily do it again.

Until then, I’ll get you caught up. Alysha Brilla seems like a very nice person. Very positive and earnest. Almost aggressively so. Her music wasn’t really my thing, though. Upbeat pop with a horn section and a keyboard too. After a while, we each left for food. Mika got Afghani and I went for Indian. It was lovely but eating curry in the wind might have rendered this shirt splattered and unwearable for work. I hope not. I like it.

I came back with dinner as Brilla got people to cheer for equality. Would have been awkward if they didn’t, I guess.

Little Criminals’ teaser set (as we speak) is pretty good. A local two-piece, guitar and violin, both singing. I really want the joke about them winning a Kenaston Grammy to be secretly, amazingly true.

Basia Bulat is up next. She once opened for a friend of a friend’s band at Amigo’s, which seemed odd at the time and downright insane now. Will I finally learn how to pronounce her name?

8:17 p.m.: “basha boo-la,” apparently

9:04 p.m.: Nope, “boo-lot.”

She was quite good but it was just her and whatever instrument she was playing at any time (guitar, keyboard, Autoharp). It sounded a little sparse for this big park. Would have been great in a more intimate setting but I was finding it awful hard to remain attentive. Was still good though.

Have chatted with Other James, Mark, and Colin so far. Waved at Arlette and Dan. Saw Paul and David and one of my former neighbours. None of those names mean anything to you.

Saturday
4:06 p.m.: The problem with my phone concert review plan is not the battery (it held out) or the rain (we waited it out), it’s that it gets chilly at night and I was not about to bring my hands out from under my blanket until it was time to leave. If I didn’t even spend time with my one true love (kettle corn), I’m not about to take time to write to you. Sorry, but you should never have expected otherwise. Anyway, I’m playing catch-up on the computer now.

So yeah, the guy behind me was a giant d-bag. He was only there to see the Sheepdogs, which he said repeatedly and loudly. Actually, he said everything repeatedly and loudly, including his ace-in-the-hole #1 joke: that there were a lot of people at the festival who look like the guy from Coldplay. He said this one over and over and was very proud of himself every time. “I think he thinks that’s what hipsters listen to,” said Mika, who added that she didn’t see a lot of guys who looked like Chris Martin unless you loosened the definition to encompass “men with t-shirts, jeans, and haircuts.”

The dude immediately to Mika’s left was giving the loud guy a run for his money in the obnoxious department. A stumbling slobbering drunk who once went fifteen whole minutes without visiting the beer gardens, this dude would not stay seated for any length of time, so he was always falling into people (literally). And when he was in his chair, he was always kneeing/elbowing/leaning on someone. Usually Mika, though he did try to break my chair at one point when gravity got the best of him. I texted Mark about my murderin’ plans and he graciously offered the use of his shovel. That’s what friends are for!

Bahamas is one of my favourite guys, but I don’t have a ton to say about his set. It was real good and he played most of his bigger songs (no Hockey Teeth, but pretty much anything else you’d expect), though I didn’t know the D’Angelo cover. He said that Regina has a very nice Hudson’s Bay store, which may have been the biggest lie ever told. He didn’t talk a lot, though, which is a bit of a shame. I know he had limited time (it felt like his hour flew by) but his stories are always delightful. And if you’re wondering what Jason Tait is doing in his post-Weakerthans career, he’s drumming with Bahamas. And presumably doing lots of other stuff too, that dude was always busy.

Steph Cameron played a teaser set before Bahamas and I liked her well enough. Would see again. Her one song, Sad-Eyed Lonesome Lady, seemed really familiar to me; not sure where I would have heard it before. Colter Wall played a teaser set after Bahamas and I thought he was decent, though it didn’t help that there were folks onstage setting up for the Sheepdogs while he was playing. I expect he’ll be in a ton of future reviews; it does seem like this kid is playing all over the place these days. I’m sure his last name has nothing to do with anything.

Finally, the evening ended with the Sheepdogs, who I could not care less about. They got a ton of hype in their/my hometown of Saskatoon for winning a contest to get themselves on the cover of Rolling Stone. I have heard a bit of their music and it sure is music, alright. 70s-inspired rock that I’m just not interested in. Plus it doesn’t help that I’ve noticed a distinct correlation between people who are really into the Sheepdogs and people who could die in a ditch as far as I am concerned. It’s not 1:1 but there’s something there that’s beyond coincidental. We stuck around for three or four songs and called it a night. Mark and Arlette did the same. Actually, there seemed to be a significant post-Bahamas exodus.

And now I need to put on some proper pants and find a jacket and head back out for Day Two.

7:08 p.m.: Son of a bitch of a phone crashed and died and ate a paragraph. Paragraphs are time consuming on this thing!

ANYWAY. Before I was so rudely interrupted, I was saying that the theme of the night thus far has been distant brushes with fame. The first act was Birds of Chicago, one of whom is Mika’s cousin’s cousin, or something to that effect. They were followed by the Karpinka Brothers, and as I mentioned, I went to high school with one of them (Shawn). We weren’t close pals, but I remember him being a decent human being, which put him far above most people there, myself included. I think the last time I talked to him was probably a decade ago at one of these here folk festivals.

I thought Birds of Chicago were pretty great, continuing a trend of really enjoying the first band of the evening. The pressure’s on for tomorrow, Andy Shauf! I don’t know how I’d describe them, because I am bad at my self-assigned job, but they were quite enjoyable. Would see again.

The Karpinkas were two guys with guitars and sounded like two guys with guitars. Nice harmonies. I’d say that I’ll think about coming down for their full band show tomorrow morning, but I suspect that seems like a better idea right now than it will when I’m laying in bed tomorrow.

Cécile Doo-Kingué is playing now and is singing about an ass whipping so I should probably listen.

7:57 p.m.: I got Thai pork skewers and injured myself on a skewer 😦

Aside from that, I’m enjoying The Mariachi Ghost’s teaser set. They put “mariachi” right in their name, saving me from having to describe them to you. How kind!

Zarqa Nawaz from Little Mosque is our host. She’s a little stiff but not nearly as loud as Straker was, so take your pick. And while I was writing that sentence, she disappeared? It was like she stopped mid-introduction and got raptured and now Vox Sambou is playing. Either that or I got so into writing this that I lost time. Either way, time to join the Guilty Remnant.

Sambou is in Nomadic Massive, who I really liked two years ago. I didn’t know this until just now, so that’s a delightful surprise.

10:34 p.m.: Did you guys know that Jenny Lewis ruuuuuuuuules? Best set of the festival so far. Great voice great band great songs the best. Mika thought I only knew one song but I knew THREE like some sort of G D music expert (Portions For Foxes, One of the Guys, Rise Up With Fists). But they were all great. Must get albums. Hopefully Mika already has them?

I asked and she’s checking.

Yay, she’s buying the newest album so I don’t have to!

They sent a bunch of giant balloons into the crowd and Lewis said “balloons are so fun!” and that’s a bigger lie than saying our Bay store isn’t a dump. Though to be fair, everyone in the Boogie Zone seemed to enjoy them.

She also said something like “We’re going to play a new song for you, it’s called ‘Girl on Girl'” and a voice from behind me said, curmudgeonly, “I don’t approve,” and I didn’t see who said it so I can’t say with 100% certainty that it was a big name in local politics. But 99% certainty? Sure, I’m good with that. Was he joking? I don’t know. He didn’t sound like it but speaking as a guy who is often taken seriously when not meant that way, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Some of us just have the male version of resting bitchface. (And the song didn’t even mean it in THAT way.)

Whoever that guy was, he also really enjoyed Jeffery Straker’s teaser set. So if he wasn’t kidding, well…

Also they hauled some screaming crying drunk lady out of here and she was fighting and then sobbing and hollering and it was some kind of scene. I had no idea Jenny Lewis attracted such a rough crowd.

Vox Sambou was really good too. Super energetic. And like I said, Jeffery Straker played a teaser set and he was pretty good. I have also decided that he was the better emcee of the two nights.

I still haven’t had any kettle corn. I don’t even really feel like any. I got a popcorn ball instead. Is something wrong with me? I find this confusing and frightening. Should I go to the library and get a book to explain these weird feelings?

Mike Edel is playing right now and he’s pretty good! Singer songwriter stuff, two guitars and a violinist.

Blue Rodeo is coming up next. I suspect they will play some songs I know and some I don’t, and they’ll all be good. I know how this goes wait wait OMG wait I mean… THIS ISN’T MY FIRST RODEO ahahahaha nailed it

Sunday
1:32 a.m.: Home. I was right about Blue Rodeo but also I was wrong in that they were waaaaay better than I was expecting. If you have only ever heard them on CD or the radio, you’re missing out. They played a greatest hits set, but I thought Diamond Mine was their best song, though I don’t know if I’d ever heard it before. Certainly not often if I have.

The crowd loved them, singing the entire first verse and chorus of Hasn’t Hit Me Yet with no vocal accompaniment from the band. I think that happened the last time I saw them too. Maybe they were this great then too and I’ve just forgotten? Will need to reread my old review. I forget things. A few weeks ago I was going through old reviews and discovered that Mika and I saw the Mountain Goats. They were opening for the New Pornographers. I have zero recollection of this – when I found the review, I swore loudly in surprise – but my review says I liked them, so that’s good. I hope they come back sometime.

[Okay, so I re-read that old review, and I thought Blue Rodeo was way better this time out. Though last time they had guest vocalists in Cuff The Duke, Sarah Slean, and Amy Millan – and the fans sang Hasn’t Hit Me Yet that time too.]

Mika just asked if I am working on my review right now. I think she’s making fun of me, but she’s watching a taped football game where we already know who wins. I mean, I don’t think anyone’s told her who wins, but it is the Riders. So, y’know, you know. But despite me knowing the result, her enthusiasm is making this exciting. But, you know, also heartbreaking. She still has hope. Poor girl.

But Blue Rodeo! Wonderful. The one-two of them and Jenny Lewis was sensational. This would be one of the better nights in my RFF history. We’ll see if tomorrow can compare. If we even go.

5:43 p.m.: We’re back. The line to get in snaked all the way down Scarth Street to Pat’s Patio. Bonkers. They kept it moving real well, though.

For next year, they do need to make a longer playlist for the stretch before the shows. I have heard Bahamas’ Lost In The Light, Steph Cameron’s Sad-Eyed Lonesome Lady, and Alysha Brilla’s Immigrant at least 10 times each. They’re all good songs, but mix it up maybe?

6:46 p.m.: I’d seen Andy Shauf before, but not with a full band. I thought he was really good, but very quiet for the size of the park. Another set that was a little hard to focus on, but would have been fantastic in a smaller venue.

Our host is Kirby Wirchenko, who seems to have hit the sweet spot between Straker and Nawaz, in that he’s confident and energetic, but still relaxed, all without being painfully loud. No children’s acts as hosts this year? A treat!

Veronique Poulin (aka Vaero) is playing a teaser set right now. The schedule for the rest of the night is Lisa Leblanc, George Leach (teaser), Geomungo Factory, Malika Tirolien (teaser), Blind Boys of Alabama, Kim Harris (teaser), and Vance Joy. I mention all this now because I feel like I’m about to half-ass the evening with not much to say or interest in saying it. We’ll see if I’m right.

Vaero’s stuff seems nice. Pretty. French.

7:16 p.m.: And then she plays two songs in English. Gotta make me a liar. And now Lisa Leblanc is killing it – guitar, banjo, and drums, singing in French and English and French again (#gaston). There are always people milling around the park and the food/shopping area, but after the first notes, Mika said “now watch everyone come streaming back in.” This rules and I’d rather listen to it than talk to you so bye

7:43 p.m.: Her band just played Ace of Spades and it was the best. THE BEST.

7:47 p.m.: I think she asploded her guitar. Her last song was supposed to have an outro but she rocked her guitar to death so they were just done. She got a standing ovation. That was fantastic and I am so glad we came tonight. Now to do some iTunes shopping since she sold out at the merch tent. RULED RULED RULED

8:35 p.m.: In line for kettle corn, mostly out of tradition and obligation. Geomungo Factory is playing instrumental South Korean music which is lovely but hard to pay attention to. Anyone following Leblanc would have problems, I think. Though George Leach’s teaser was really good – the guy’s a great guitarist.

8:52 p.m.: I got chocolate-dipped cheesecake and bought Mika some kettle corn. I tried some and it’s great as always, but I’m just not feeling it this year. I say that knowing I will surely down the remainder of the bag before bed.

The host runs the Broadway Theatre in Saskatoon, and he just told us Bahamas is playing there on November 19. They’re making the public announcement tomorrow. If I get my act together and post this all quick like, I can scoop them on the Internet, breaking the news to my fives of readers!

Malika Tirolien is playing piano and singing and it’s lovely.

9:59 p.m.: Blind Boys of Alabama were amazing. I suspect this is not the first time someone has held this bold opinion. I can’t imagine Sinéad O’Connor would have been as good or received such a great reaction. People LOVED these guys. Even the hipster looking dork with his mustache and dumb sweater like the guy from Coldplay.

The festival’s artistic director is talking now. Did I win the 50/50? No? Well hell dammit anyway.

10:25 p.m.: Holy hell so much teen girl screeching for Vance Joy. So high pitched.

11:57 p.m.: Home now. We lasted halfway through Vance Joy. He was perfectly acceptable but nothing to write home about, either. The shrieking teens would disagree. To listen to them, you’d think every song he played was a #1 hit. He’d say “this next song is called _____________________” and they’d go “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” Every time.

All in all, a very successful festival. I left with one LP (Bahamas) and three iTunes albums (The Dead South and two Lisa Leblanc), a massive bag of kettle corn we haven’t really gotten into (but the night is young), one tiny skewer scar on my upper lip, tired thumbs from a weekend of popping in and out of the Notes app on my phone, and a new appreciation for a bunch of bands. Fine work! Now we wait eight months or so to see who they announce for next year. At one point, a volunteer came around with a survey that asked (among other things) for artist suggestions. And I gave them some. So when the White Stripes shock the world by reuniting for one show only in a park in downtown Regina, well, you’re welcome.

UPCOMING SHOWS

  • Chad VanGaalen (September 24)
  • Chubby Checker & The Wildcats (September 26)
  • Ron Sexsmith (September 30)
  • Hawksley Workman (October 16)
  • Lee Harvey Osmond (November 7)

SLCR #191: Regina Folk Festival (August 9-11, 2013)

September 4, 2013

I should start by saying that if you’re at all interested in what happened at the Regina Folk Festival this year, you should definitely check out soundsalvationarmy.com. I know nothing about the person or persons behind it, but he/she/they did a fine job of reporting on the festival using such cutting-edge journalism techniques as “knowing things” and “looking up things you don’t know” and “writing things down while they’re fresh in your memories” and “caring about things other than food and stupidities.” I don’t know if this style of writing will catch on, but it makes for an interesting change of pace.

After last year’s festival, I wasn’t really excited about this year, even passing on the cheap pre-Christmas tickets. Then they announced the line-up and I was in. I knew that would happen. That pretty much always happens. You’d think I’d learn. I suspect I won’t.

We showed up on Friday night, hauling our nifty new lawn chairs and fleece blankets that Mika picked up for us. These are some solid chairs and they’re pretty cumbersome to tote around. This bothered me right up until the point that we got to our usual spot and I actually sat in one of the chairs. These are better than most chairs I have ever owned and made for some fiiiiiiiine sittin’.

The Friday night host was a kids’ entertainer (and – coincidentally? – Feist’s high school classmate) named Bubba B The MC. Now, a few years ago, Fred Penner was one of the hosts and everybody loved him. Ever since then, there seems to have been a preponderance of kids’ entertainers as main stage hosts. It makes sense, I suppose. You bring them in to work the daytime kids’ stages, so they’re there anyway. The thing is, Fred Penner is a beloved icon for people of a certain age (namely, people a few years younger than me). Bubba B The MC is not. “You’re either gonna love me or you’re gonna hate me,” he said as he took the stage. Between repeatedly shilling his CD and hollering “PHOTO OP, PHOTO OP, PHOTO OP” the second that every act finished up, I don’t think I heard a single person with anything positive to say about his hosting performance. I’ve possibly been spoiled by having Carolyn Mark as the main stage host on the first night of the first festival I ever went to.

The happiest and saddest moment of the festival occurred right as it began. You may remember that a few years ago, we sat near a guy who yelled HO! HO! HO! HO! instead of applauding and this guy was awesome. Well. When Bubba B said something to welcome us to the festival, a guy sitting near us yelled HO! and Mika and I turned to each other in pure delight. He was back!! And… then he never said HO! again all weekend. So sad. But at least we got one.

I won’t go into detail about all 15 main stage performances from the weekend because there’s only so many times I can type “I knew nothing about this artist, but they were good! I couldn’t tell you what they played, though.” Maybe I will just copy and paste.

I knew nothing about Elisapie, but she was good! I couldn’t tell you what she played, though. She was born in northern Québec and sang lovely songs in multiple languages, including English, French, and… okay, I’m going to guess Inuktitut but the internet is not confirming this and so I might be very wrong. Regardless, this was a fine opener and I’d go see her again. One lady who was sitting ahead of us on the Saturday night felt more strongly about the subject, judging by the amount of Elisapie records she bought.

I saw Hayden once before, in 1998. I was tired, declared him to be “not my thing,” and left early. But I’m nothing if not about second chances, and hey, it turns out this guy is really good after all. Maybe 21-year-old me just sucked? (yes) Mika said Hayden’s set was one of the best all weekend and was delighted that he played all the hits (it might be notable that she put “hits” in quotation marks). She specifically mentioned Bad As They Seem, The Hazards Of Sitting Beneath Palm Trees, Tree’s Lounge, and Home By Saturday. Now she is lost in Wikipedia, reading about Hayden. I’ll miss her.

Somewhere in here, I got some vegetable pad thai and fresh rolls. Anyone looking to buy my love (or at least my lunch), take note: fresh rolls might be my secret weakness. No shrimp, please.

For me, the idea of finally seeing Man Man was what sold me on this year’s festival. The short version is that they were in Regina a while ago opening for Modest Mouse. I went to the show and was even there in time to see Man Man, but wound up hanging out in the lobby with Colin and some of his friends instead. This was deemed to be the wise course of action because opening acts are often not very good. Of course, what happened was everyone left saying that Modest Mouse was okay but Man Man was crazy and great and the best. I had to live with my regret for six years and I am so delighted to get that one off the must-see checklist.

After all this time, they didn’t seem as crazy as I expected them to be, though it’s worth noting that we were sitting pretty far back and someone who was close up might have seen all kinds of things that I did not. There was a point where it appeared that a giant puppet was dancing with the band and I had no idea if the band brought it with them or if someone in the crowd was all “hey, you know what we should bring? Giant puppet.”

I expected Man Man to be good, and they were. I did not expect them to be immediately bested by the very next band. Nomadic Massive is a hip-hop group from Montréal. I went into the evening being so familiar with their work that I complained about the lack of hip-hop at this year’s festival. Oops. Maybe I should quit exposing my ignorance and talk about things I know about instead.

Mika bought me kettle corn and it was good!

Nomadic Massive. Yes. I knew nothing about this artist, but they were good! I couldn’t tell you what they played, though. The crowd was already pretty pumped from Man Man, and Nomadic Massive played an energetic set that won everyone over. Great musicianship, too, which is not something you can say about every rap artist. Fine stuff. Another bilingual act that I’d gladly see again. Fine work on this evening, Québec.

After four great sets, I was thinking this was on pace to be the best single night of the folk festival that I’ve seen. And I’d seen Feist before and was confident that she would deliver a fine capper. Unfortunately, I just didn’t think this measured up to what came before it. The momentum of the evening came to a dead stop as the crew took a half-hour to set up the most complicated stage I’ve seen at the Regina Folk Festival. It still didn’t compare to an arena rock show, but there were big screens, a riser, and more complex lighting effects. It all looked good, mind you, but seemed unnecessary. It especially left a bad taste in my mouth when Feist mentioned having to cut her set short. This is an outdoor event and there are noise curfews; maybe spending a half-hour on the stage setup isn’t the best use of your limited time.

I also found big sections of Feist’s set to be pretty dull. I shouldn’t have been surprised by this, as I didn’t much care for her newest album for the same reason (I believe the Sound Salvation Army folks described it as “challenging” and it is fair to say that I never gave it much of a chance to grow on me). The set wasn’t BAD by any stretch – Sea Lion Woman and My Moon My Man in particular were fantastic, and I wished we could have had more of that.

Saturday! Our main stage host was another children’s’ entertainer, Al Simmons. Al hosted last year and I wasn’t a fan. But was he worse than Bubba B The MC? Luckily (?), having back-to-back performances allowed for some degree of folk festival science and our jury of peer reviewers (me and Mika, pretty much) agree that Al Simmons is, in fact, better than Bubba B The MC. Sure, he talked way too much about the importance of cleaning up after yourself, but a) so did Fred Penner and I didn’t give HIM grief over it, b) on Sunday, we were told that the festival grounds were left cleaner than they’d ever been, and c) it beats PHOTO OP, PHOTO OP by a mile. So one point for you, Al Simmons.

I knew nothing about H’Sao, but they were good! I couldn’t tell you what they played, though. I know that while they currently live in Montréal (I’m sensing a theme), they’re originally from Chad. I know this because I felt the immediate need to text Chad (the person) and tell him about this band from Chad (the country). He declared them to be obviously great and who am I to argue?

I think I got some poutine around this point because I hate myself.

Despite having lived in Regina for what feels like forever, this was actually my first time seeing Rah Rah. Sort of. They played the Folk Festival a few years ago as one of the “teaser” acts between main stage performers, and the whole band wasn’t there and it was only okay. But this, this was pretty great. The hometown stars played a fun set with a lot of songs from their newest album, but stretched all the way back to Tentacles, which the first song of theirs that I ever heard (I think it was a freebie on iTunes one week, maybe?). One complaint: finally seeing them left “The Poet’s Dead” stuck in my head for about three days – but not the whole song, just two lines. Over and over. I forget what Mika finally played to dislodge it from my brain, but whatever it was couldn’t have been an upgrade.

Is it a surprise that Calypso Rose sang calypso music? I knew nothing about Calypso Rose, but she was good! And I can tell you one song that she played, Senior Citizens’ Day.  I have no idea why I would remember this song in particular but hey, that’s what happens when I don’t take notes. This was very energetic and fun, which was a(nother) recurring theme for the festival this year. I don’t know if it’s particularly folky, but I approve; last year’s festival felt like it was lacking energy and you couldn’t say the same for this year’s edition. Was it the selection of artists? Better audio quality?  Just happened that way? Was I just in a better headspace to begin with? Probably some combination thereof.

The Saturday night headliner, as far as I was concerned, was Bahamas. Short version: I had always avoided seeing him (not intentionally; it just worked out that way) until Junos weekend where I discovered that he was great. And he was great here too.

“Are you ready to rock?” (yay!) “Well… we’re not that kind of band.”

You wouldn’t expect songs so sweet and sincere from someone so funny (or vice-versa), but the combination makes Bahamas a great performer. He played a full set of his originals (can I remember what? of course not), sarcastically endorsed the SaskTel network (they really should hire Bahamas as a spokesperson in place of the Little Red commercials), and closed with fun covers of Hey Ya and Wonderful Tonight.

Loreena McKennit was up next, but we didn’t stick around for her. Not our thing.

Sunday! The hosts for the evening were local troupe FadaDance. They’re not exclusively kids’ entertainers, but they do seem to be around to work the children’s stage every year. They kicked off the night’s festivities with this prolonged marching band entrance that grabbed attention, and then they largely stayed out of the way. I approve.

Don, my coworker, had told me that Carolina Chocolate Drops were great, and he was right. For my money, this was the top act of the whole festival. The short version is that they explore the history of African-Americans in bluegrass music, but that only scratches the surface. One song was sung in Haitian Creole, while another was Gaelic, and they traded instruments as they went. Incredible talent on display here. If you get the chance, go see them.

Niyaz was really the only main stage act I saw that just didn’t click with me. They sang very pretty Persian-influenced songs and the twirling dancer was hypnotic, but a lot of this all sounded the same to me and I kind of lost interest. Maybe it’s just me; Other James and Mark were there all weekend, and I think this might have been Other James’ favourite act of the weekend. I think he was in love with the dancer.

I can’t say that I didn’t know anything about Rosanne Cash. Next-to-nothing, maybe. I really had no idea just how impressive her career has been.

She has a new album coming out soon, but her most recent album was a collection of covers. Her dad had made her a list of 100 country songs that she needed to know (do you need me to tell you that her dad was Johnny Cash? because I will, but I feel kind of stupid doing so) and she covered 12 of those songs on an album (appropriately titled The List). As such, we got about 50% originals and 50% country classics, and both were great. There was no band; just Cash on guitar with another guitarist for accompaniment.  Clean, clear performances of some wonderful songs.

A good chunk of the crowd left after Cash was done, which meant they missed out on Charles Bradley. Bradley’s story is becoming well-known, thanks to a documentary about his life called “Charles Bradley: Soul of America.” The gist of it is that he had a really hard life, worked as a James Brown impersonator for a time, and finally released his first solo record in 2011, when he was already in his 60s. The preceding sentence may include lies or half-truths, seeing as how I haven’t actually watched said documentary (it’s not on Canadian Netflix yet), but that’s what I was going on.

The band came out and played an instrumental number, then one of them introduced Bradley in dramatic fashion (is there any other way when you’re “the Screaming Eagle of Soul?”). Bradley sang, he danced, he did the splits. He left the stage and was re-introduced wearing a different outfit. I believe he wore a cape at one point. He sang his own original songs, but the James Brown influence was strong, to say the least. Almost a bit much at times, really.

Before Neko Case took the stage to close down the evening, the festival’s Artistic Director, Sandra Butel, addressed the crowd. She polled the crowd as to who the best acts were, and… okay, you know how if someone on stage asks the crowd a question, they just get unintelligible yelling in response? When she asked about the best act Saturday night, it seemed like everyone there yelled “Bahamas!” in unison. It was as clear as can be. I had to laugh; I have never heard such consensus from the masses before.

For the record, when she asked about Friday night, most people yelled for Nomadic Massive, but there was a small but VERY vocal contingent of Man Man supporters.

Neko Case’s new album came out yesterday. This sentence will only be true if I finally get off (on?) my ass and finish this review and post it today, but whatever. If I don’t, let’s just assume I can bend time to my will. Maybe I will sit on this review for five years and keep Case’s record in limbo for that long. Take THAT, Neko Case and Neko Case fans. That’s for probably wronging me somehow.

Point being, I pre-ordered said album (“The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You”) (Deluxe Edition) on iTunes, and as such, it downloaded to my PC today, but I haven’t listened to it yet. And yet… I have. Kind of. Case’s show-closing set was comprised mainly of songs from the new record. The two songs I’d heard online, Man and Night Still Comes, were great live, as was the rest of the new tunes. We also got a few songs that she co-wrote with the Sadies (they got a nice cheer every time their name was mentioned), a few singles (including Hold On, Hold On and People Got a Lotta Nerve), and one song that she wrote for her dad, but “got turned into a vampire fuck theme for TV.”

“Oh, the world and the things it does,” she said.

THIS I made note of to share with you later. Did I write down what song it actually was? No, but I was 99% sure that it was “I Wish I Was the Moon Tonight.” I am now 100% sure after Googling “neko case true blood.” Time to clear my search history. Again.

Point being, if my imaginary band ever releases an imaginary album, “Vampire Fuck Themes for TV” is likely to be the imaginary album title.

I will say that between all the new songs and all the time Case spent tuning her guitar, this felt almost like a tune-up for the “real” tour that will surely be coming. This kept her set from being among my favourites of the weekend, but it was still a mighty fine time.

With that, we packed up our lawn chairs and headed home. As we were leaving, the show-closing finale was taking place. This included Rah Rah returning to cover the Traveling Wilburys’ Handle With Care, because why not? From what we saw, the finale was not quite as raucous as in previous years, but we didn’t stick around to the bitter end. We’re old, you know. And comfy chairs were proving to be no substitute for a comfy bed.

As we walked to the car, another group of festival goers were gathered around a statue, posing for a picture. One of them hollered “PHOTO OP, PHOTO OP, PHOTO OP!” We laughed, as did everyone else nearby. Bubba B The MC may have achieved immortality.

SLCR #188: Junos Weekend (April 18-21, 2013)

April 30, 2013

PART 1: Q WITH JIAN GHOMESHI (Thursday, April 18)

I’m going to tell you right now, the Q section of this here review is LONG. You may want to skip the whole thing and just download the audio. It’s free, and it will take less time to listen to a two-hour show than to read this wall of words. Enjoy: http://www.cbc.ca/q/blog/2013/04/19/listen-to-q-live-in-regina/

Junos weekend kicked off with the one event that Mika predicted months ago. Normally taped in their comfy Toronto studio, Q tends to hit the road for special Juno-themed shows. Their infrequent live shows tend to sell out quickly, so Mika suggested that if she heard about tickets going on sale, she’d buy them right away and consult me later. I was fine with this.

Being as I am a key member of the Twitterverse, I was actually the one that heard about the show first. And – because of course it would – it was scheduled for the exact same stretch of time as one of her final exams. I was all set to opt out, thinking that it would be mean of me to go to the show without her, especially when she’s off doing something that’s no fun at all… but then I looked. Maybe shouldn’t have looked. Looking causes dilemmas. When are tickets going on sale, anyway? (Right now.) And how much are they? (Quite reasonable.) And what kind of seats are available? (Front row centre.) She sent me a text telling me that she didn’t want me to miss out on the show and that I should go, which was good, because I was already filling out the online ticket purchase form.

She was missing the show by a fluke of timing, and I was able to attend because of one. I had been scheduled to fly to Calgary on the day of the Q show, but I had rescheduled my trip to March so I could go to Hawksley’s musical instead. Win/win! For me, anyway.

Mika dropped me off at the Conexus Arts Centre on the way to her exam. I remained confident in my belief that my evening was going to be more fun than hers. Luckily, she was too distracted to be outwardly bitter.

Waiting for the show to start, I ran into a bunch of people – Pat from work, Joseph from Toastmasters, and some guy who slid down a banister at me and was revealed to be Colin. He was wearing glasses, which I’ve never seen him do before, and I swear I could have walked right past him and not known it was him. I had always doubted that whole Clark Kent/Superman nonsense but I have seen it in action and it’s surprisingly effective.

I don’t have any great story to go along with this, but while we were in the lobby, a friend of Colin’s walked by, said hi, and wandered directly into the ladies’ washroom. Colin tried to stop him at the last minute, but it was too late. I don’t know this guy, have never seen him before, may never see him again, couldn’t pick him out of a lineup, but this still needs to be recorded for posterity.

The show was set to start at 7:00, in that “if you’re not in the auditorium you will not be let in” kind of way. Once inside, they asked us to not leave during the duration of the taping if we could help it. I am a fan of this. Lay down the law. Start the show when you say you will. Promise to mock people whose phones ring. Show us who’s boss.

Local CBC morning show host Sheila Coles introduced Jian Ghomeshi to a great ovation. Ghomeshi was making his SLCR return for the first time since 1999, by my count, back when I saw his old band, Moxy Früvous, at shows in Saskatoon and Regina over two nights.

Looooooooong-time readers may recall an incident where, when talking to Jian after a show, I made some “brown-guy reference” (it’s been 15 years but I’m pretty sure those were his exact words) and in the review, tried to figure out whether or not I’d offended him, because I’m all paranoid and awkward and whatnot. Long story short, I hadn’t, and he wound up reading the review and wrote me a very nice email where he was super kind and flattering and encouraging about my writing. I don’t know if I’ve saved many emails for 15 years, but that one I kept.

For you non-Canadians, Ghomeshi (and Q itself) might be best known for an incident a few years ago where Billy Bob Thornton and his band were guests on the program. Thornton acted like a petulant dick and the video of the interview went viral. Ghomeshi got a lot of praise for how he handled the situation; not that I’ve done much in the way of critical media research, but at the time, I distinctly recall reading at least FIVE YouTube comments that didn’t include any misspellings, cuss words, or racial or homophobic slurs. That might be a site record and it speaks to how well Jian has taken to his no-longer-new role as radio show host.

In fact, possibly the best indication I can think of showing his success as the host of Q is this. On Thursday, Jian flew into Regina and mentioned on Twitter that he was heading straight to the casino from the airport in order to perform a duet with Serena Ryder. My first thought was “neat, I didn’t know he can sing.” And my second was “you saw Moxy Früvous in concert like ten times, idiot.”

Jian took the stage and talked about how great it was to be in Saskatoon. The crowd laughed, and once again I had a Moxy Früvous flashback. When I saw those back-to-back shows in 1999, Jian told the Saskatoon crowd that they’d be playing Regina the next night and everyone booed. The next night in Regina, sensing he was onto something, he said “Last night we were in Saskatoon…” and left a spot for boos that never came. You could hear crickets. The Saskatoon vs. Regina rivalry largely only operates in one direction; Saskatoon thinks they’re better and is jealous that Regina is the capital city and has the Roughriders. Regina agrees that Saskatoon is better and would probably be fine with sending the politicians up north. And really, the whole province shares the football team already.

After spirited applause (due in part to the fear of being judged against other Q live audiences), Jian kicked off the show with an opening essay about the Junos and the wide-reaching successes of the Canadian music scene. He then introduced our first guests, Dragonette, to perform their new single, My Legs. The song was fun and kicked off the show in fine fashion.

Before the show, I blew Colin’s mind when I mentioned that Jian used to be a member of Moxy Früvous. I was glad that I’d done so because Jian referenced Früvous on several occasions throughout the interview, what with it being a music-themed show and all, and I wouldn’t have wanted Colin’s head to explode all over the crowd. But when Jian introduced the lead singer of Dragonette as Martina Sorbara, my mind nearly went kaboom. Many years ago, during my first ever trip to the Vinyl Diner with Aaron, I picked up a half-dozen used CDs. Four of them were pretty much junk, but two became favourites, and both were tied to Ghomeshi in a way. One was my first Danny Michel CD, Fibsville, which I bought because I’d seen him as a guest alongside Ghomeshi on a talk show, and he seemed like a good dude. The other was (what I thought was) Martina Sorbara’s debut CD, The Cure for Bad Deeds, which I knew of because Jian produced it. I loved that record and then I never heard anything from her ever again. Years ago, before Dragonette was a thing, I Googled her name to see if I could figure out what she was up to, and all the internet knew was that she had put her solo career on hold to be in some band that I’d never heard of. I have no idea if this band was Dragonette or became Dragonette or was something else entirely.

On top of that, I’m not really familiar with Dragonette, apart from knowing they covered “Won’t You Be My Neighbour?” for the first Canadian Target commercial. On the heels of this discovery, I did some more searching online to find out that she sang on this song, Hello, which was one of those songs that was in every commercial and all over the radio for the past two years, but I never knew who did it (Martin Solveig! I’m learning so much today). Also, The Cure for Bad Deeds was Sorbara’s second album; the title of the first, Unplaceables, has been shared with Aaron for the next time he makes a pilgrimage to Toronto to dig through used CD bins. It’s out of print and I want it.

The interview with Sorbara and Dan Kurtz was pretty short and mostly focused on their Juno nomination, though when Ghomeshi mentioned that Perez Hilton said that the new Dragonette album was “the album that No Doubt should have made but didn’t,” they let slip that they were going to open for No Doubt on a 20-city tour, including a stop in Regina, but No Doubt cancelled the shows. When I told Mika this, she seemed much more disappointed to miss out on No Doubt than she did to miss out on Q. Sorry, Jian.

When Sorbara left the stage, she kissed Jian on the cheek and he spent the rest of the evening with a lipstick kiss on the side of his face. This was never not delightful.

Next up was the local content, as Jian interviewed Sandra Butel, the artistic director of the Regina Folk Festival, and local comedian Jayden Pfeiffer. The discussion centered around Regina’s growing population and booming economy, and how that’s fuelling the local artistic scene. Examples included the exponential growth of the Folk Festival, with this year’s lineup arguably being its strongest ever (I’m personally looking forward to Feist, Neko Case, and Man Man), along with Pfeiffer’s monthly variety show, Red Hot Riot. The Regina arts scene was praised for its opportunities and its DIY work ethic (created in no small part by the fact that we don’t have everything that larger cities do, which gives us the freedom to create them for ourselves).

k.d. lang was the undisputed star of the show. After a glowing introduction, she sang the Jane Siberry song The Valley and earned a standing ovation. Jian later said that it was his favourite moment at any live Q taping and I didn’t have a hard time believing him.

Ghomeshi and lang have clearly known each other a long time and are very comfortable around each other. The interview was loose and conversational, starting with a discussion of how she felt about getting inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame (happening during the Juno Awards ceremony itself). This led into a lengthier discussion of the nature of celebrity and how hard it is to maintain, and how she chose to take a step back from that lifestyle. It was noted that lang and recently deceased Canadian musical icons Rita MacNeil and Stompin’ Tom Connors don’t fit any of the expectations about what people expect a celebrity to look like or act like, and how they likely would never have been as successful in the States.

There were a few exchanges that I was especially fond of:

lang: “There are millions of singers who are better than me.”
crowd: “Noooooooo!”
lang: “No, there are! Maybe not in Canada, but…”
crowd: LOL

Ghomeshi: “You said once that when you got old you were going to drink a lot and smoke pot, so how’s that coming along?”
lang: “I also said I’d eat a steak and sleep with a man, so I’ve got a lot to look forward to.”
Ghomeshi: “Don’t be so sure.”

She also said that songs like Helpless and Hallelujah were easy to sing because they were such great songs. Jian agreed that this was a feeling we could all relate to. “It’s just a song” became a bit of a running joke throughout the evening.

After a six-minute break so they could slot in the news when the show aired the next day, Jian introduced Bahamas to sing his song Lost in the Light, accompanied by kd lang on backing vocals. Not only was it a great song, but the very idea of this Hall-of-Fame musical icon with a 30-year career taking a modest supporting role behind an indy singer/songwriter that, probably, a good portion of the crowd hadn’t even heard of, was amazing. Jian might believe that lang singing The Valley was the best moment in any live Q taping, but for me, it wasn’t even the best moment of the night.

Another Canadian Music Hall-of-Famer, Tom Cochrane, was in town to receive  the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award for his work with World Vision and other charities. The interview segment focused on the work he’s done and how it’s changed his perspective on life over the years. He spoke of going to Africa and seeing his daughters in the eyes of a young girl there who was cradling her mother’s head as she died. It was dark stuff, and easy to understand how something like that would change a person.

Cochrane finished by playing a new song, Pink Time, for the first time ever in public. He admitted that he was “scared shitless” to play it by himself, and joked that following k.d. lang wasn’t helping. The song was about a trucker and his wife who lived on Georgian Bay, and how he’d come back from trips and she was starting to forget who he was. They went down to the water at pink time – the time right before dusk when the sky turns pink – and didn’t come back. I haven’t really kept up with Tom Cochrane’s music since the early 90s and his biggest hit, Life is a Highway, so I don’t know if this song was representative of what he’s been doing lately, but it felt like a pretty drastic shift since those days. It was a really good song, but quite the tear jerker.

The next guests were retired Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo and retired NHL player Gary Roberts, there to discuss the Juno Cup, an annual hockey game between musicians and retired players (and for the first time this year, members of the Canadian national women’s hockey team) to raise funds for MusiCounts.  Like lang, Cuddy seemed really comfortable talking to Jian and it’s likely they’d have known each other for a long time. Roberts was a bit stiffer, as is to be expected, but he won the crowd over when talking about the importance of letting kids play without taking it too seriously, and exposing them to other sports.

The game isn’t an overly serious affair, but Cuddy did make sure to note that the musicians actually won one year (and Roberts was just as quick to point out that he wasn’t a part of the losing team) and suggested that the NHL Greats would continue toying with The Rockers but would never let that happen again. Sure enough, when the game took place, the NHL Greats won 9-8.

The final official guest was country singer Corb Lund, who played Gettin’ Down on the Mountain, from his new album Cabin Fever. The guy’s a great musician but seemed to have little interest in the interview segment, though he did point out that Saskatchewan had potash and gophers (and then corrected himself – “Richardson’s ground squirrels” – so he’d clearly done his gopher homework). He’d recently been on tour in the US, opening for Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley in giant arenas full of people who didn’t know who he was, but he didn’t seem overly concerned about trying to win them over. It was interesting – I don’t think he was trying to be difficult or that he didn’t want to participate, he just seems generally disinterested in the music scene apart from spending time with his friends. Jian seemed amused by this and teased him, finally asking in mock exasperation, “What DO you like? Is there anything you care about?” Lund responded quietly, “I like horses,” which might have been the funniest line of the evening. 

Corb got a big laugh when he said that he had no interest in country music and never listened to it, but I can see it – he mentioned liking weirder music, and he’s friends with Geoff Berner and the folks from Shout Out Out Out Out and Whitey Houston. Commercial country music probably holds little interest for someone like that (despite the fact that his newest album hit #1 on the Canadian charts the week it was released). He also used to be in a metal/punk band called The Smalls, and as Jian was trying to wrap up the interview, Lund noted that there was a “75%-80% chance” of a Smalls reunion. I honestly don’t know much about them, but if they headed this way, I’d check them out.

With that, the largest live Q taping in the show’s history came to a close. Jian had promised a Q&A segment after the taping was done, though I suspected that some folks wouldn’t stick around for it. This is why I initially didn’t think anything of the crazy lady who walked up to the front of the stage and stood directly in front of me. I thought she was leaving, and maybe she wanted to wave goodbye to Jian before she left, but no. She wanted to talk to him, and she wanted a hug, and Jian seemed a bit perplexed by this but gave her a hug and asked her name. “I no have name,” she said, in some sort of Eastern-European-type accent. “That’s odd, most people do,” mused Jian, as his smiling producer strolled over to usher the lady back to her seat. She hugged him too. Jian promised that he’d meet people out in the lobby and chat and sign books later, and told the nameless Soviet that he’d remember her. I’m sure crazy things happen to him all the time, but I have no doubt that this one will stick with him for a few days.

Before launching into the Q&A, Jian brought Bahamas back out to sing “I Must Be in a Good Place Now,” which isn’t on his albums, as far as I can tell, but is on a new iTunes-exclusive EP. It’s a very pretty song, as Bahamas songs tend to be (I had heard two in my life, by this point, so I am an expert), but in chatting with Jian, Bahamas seemed like he had quite the sense of humour too. More on that later.

The Q&A went pretty well. Jian told a story about Rush (it’s in his book, so go get it – I’m not giving that away on him), talked about dealing with difficult guests (noting that Whitney Houston’s mother was harder to deal with than Billy Bob Thornton, because Thornton was hostile but would at least talk), and confirmed that he did miss being in a band. He said that especially when he has bands on his show, he always wants to jump in and play drums and sing harmonies. I think it is great that he feels this way and clearly, the only answer is one more Moxy Früvous album. And tour. Or at least a one-off show here.

I was set to head home once everything was done. The plan was for me to leave the Conexus Arts Centre on foot, walk to someplace that Mika could find (and wouldn’t be overrun with post-show traffic), and she’d meet me there. I got about three steps out of the building when I decided that it was cold, snowing, slippery, and if it was going to be forever until she picked me up, she might as well just pick me up there. Besides, like I said, me and Jian, we go way back, so I thought I should take the opportunity to thank him for being so nice to me all those years ago.

I took my spot in line and spent about an hour slowly inching my way to the front. Finally, there were only two people ahead of me. The guy at the front was getting his Moxy Früvous Bargainville CD booklet signed. Jian flipped through the pictures and seemed quite nostalgic for a second there. (See? New record! Tour! Great idea!)

But that’s not my point. Sitting next to Jian was a girl who was selling copies of his book, 1982. While Bargainville Guy was getting his booklet signed, the guy behind me was buying a book for Jian to sign. And this guy, out of nowhere, brings up Jonovision, a late-90s Canadian talk show aimed at high school-age kids, hosted by Jonathan Torrens of Street Cents and Trailer Park Boys fame. And this girl was delighted to be recognized from her time on Jonovision, and I was like… there were girls on Jonovision? There was anyone beyond Jon on Jonovision? Granted, I was a bit old for Jonovision by the time it launched, but not THAT far out of the target demographic. Meanwhile, I don’t know if this guy saw every episode or what, but there was no “hey, aren’t you…” or “maybe I’m crazy, but you look like…” Nope, he KNEW this girl on sight. It was the damnedest thing. I was almost disappointed when it was my turn to talk to Jian because I wanted to hang around and eavesdrop on these folks talking Jonovision.

I had probably two minutes to chat with Jian, which was very generous of him when you figure he’d been awake early enough to appear on the local CBC morning show, he’d just taped a two-hour show, and had been signing autographs and posing for pictures for an hour. I got to thank him for taking the time to write me so long ago. He seemed to appreciate the story and looked pleased to have made such an impact. I got a quick picture with him and headed to the doors to wait for Mika, who confirmed that I’d had more fun that night than she had. I bought her a Frosty and some fries to make up for it, so we’re all square now, right?

PART 2: JUNOFEST (Friday, April 19)

The deal with Junofest is that you buy a wristband and it gives you weekend-long access to any of a number of venues. There were a number of intriguing options on the schedule, but our top pick – and it wasn’t even close – was the annual Six Shooter Records showcase, Outlaws & Gunslingers. This year, it was being held at the Exchange, which is not that big a venue, especially considering the lineup. Personal favourites and SLCR veterans Danny Michel, Corb Lund, and Sarah Slean were joined by Amelia Curran, Jason Plumb & The Willing, Jim Cuddy (of Blue Rodeo), Mike Plume, and Royal Wood. We saw that roster and knew it was where we wanted to be. Six Shooter, however, must have been unconvinced, as a week or two before the show, I saw a poster online which included all of the above PLUS Great Lake Swimmers, NQ Arbuckle, Rose Cousins, Devin Cuddy, Belle Starr, Kevin Parent, and The Strumbellas. At this point, I was concerned that even some of the musicians would wind up turned away for lack of space.

Doors were scheduled to open at 8:00. We got there at about 7:40, which was later than I’d initially wanted to arrive. There were good reasons (our cat was sick with sneezes and it was hard to leave the poor little guy – plus it was stupidly cold out for April) and bad (the inherent laziness and apathy which has made me the man I am today). By the time we got to the Exchange, the line was out the door and around the corner. It wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, really, but I still only gave us a 50/50 shot at getting in.

As we approached, I thought “hey, I think that’s Mandi at the end of the line.” It was, but we didn’t get to talk, as a half-dozen of the worst people wound up between us. These guys. Holy shit. They were loud and they were stupid, drinking outside and leaving a trail of crushed beer cans behind them, letting all their friends into the line, spitting all over, pissing on the side of the building, farting NOT on the side of the building, and just generally being tremendous douchebags. On a weekend when Tom Cochrane was being honoured for humanitarian work and k.d. lang was held up as a shining example of the value of being true to yourself, I wanted these dickbags to get the flesh-eating disease and I wanted to spend the weekend watching it run its course.

In all fairness to said dickbags, everyone was letting people into the line. And that’s the story of how we made it into the building’s external doors but not into the Exchange itself. Denied. If anyone had been policing the line, we likely would have made it.

We debated hanging around to see how long it would take people to leave – with the wristbands, there was a one-in, one-out policy – but we figured that nobody who got in would want to risk leaving. Instead, we turned around, fought through the mass of people (the line still stretched back to the point where we’d originally started), and went to the car in hopes of finding someplace more accommodating. We took solace in the knowledge that the dickbags didn’t get in either – and if they stuck around, they were going to be really sad to learn that it wasn’t a Corb Lund solo show like they all thought.

Our backup choice was the University of Regina campus bar, the Owl. I hadn’t been there in years but remembered it being a lot more sizeable than the Exchange. And indeed, it was. We were among the first people to arrive (the show there was starting an hour later than at the Exchange) and we even snagged a table.

Killing time before Indigo Joseph began, Mika had taken my phone and was scrolling through my Instagram pictures when some guy came by our table. I thought he was asking to take the empty chair, but no, he wanted to join us. He was on the Junos organizing committee and was doing a survey. Mika slid my phone to me, still on, face-up, still in Instagram. And the picture on display for our guest was a screenshot of a Draw Something game where I’d been tasked with drawing “laxative” and I (of course) drew a stickman launching himself into the air over a toilet via diarrhea rocket propulsion. Like a jetpack, kinda, but with poop. Our new Junos friend either didn’t see this or was kind enough to ignore it. When I pointed all this out to Mika later, she looked prouder than I’ve ever seen her. 

We told Survey Man what events we were planning on taking in over the weekend, and related the details of the gong show at the Exchange. I had also snarked at Six Shooter and the Exchange on Twitter (though I sat on the tweet for five minutes and my path-of-rage tweet had calmed down to an I-love-you-guys-but-hey-maybe-do-something-else-next-time, which I figure was for the best).

There are more wristband shenanigans to come, but this seems like as good a place as any to say that the whole wristband process just didn’t work for us. During our time at the Owl, I kept checking Twitter for updates. At 11:30, there were people still lined up to get into the Exchange who’d been there when we left at 8:00. The Owl was eventually backed up out the door and bouncers were advising people to go elsewhere. And it was the same pretty much everywhere – a 15-minute line here, a 30-minute line there. I stand by my original statement that the Six Shooter showcase should have been at a larger venue (though, admittedly, I found myself stumped when they asked me to recommend one), but as the night went on, it seemed like the too-small-venue issue was widespread. If the goal of the wristbands is to encourage people to venue-hop, it failed, at least for us. The only workable strategy I could see was to pick one place, show up early, and stay there. Once inside, why would you ever leave and risk spending the next hour lined up in sub-zero weather instead of listening to bands? I’m sure there are lots of people who went from place to place and had a great time and saw everyone they wanted to see, but not me.

I’m sorry that CBC didn’t record my rantings so you could have listened to an MP3 and skipped all that.

There were four acts scheduled for the Owl, and after all that whining above, I don’t have all that much to say about them.

Indigo Joseph is a local band who I had thought we’d just seen, but I have no sense of time and it was actually over a year ago (they opened for Michael Bernard Fitzgerald at the Exchange last March). I thought they’d improved a fair bit since last year, and I liked them well enough then. They’re really talented musicians and if they keep on this path, they might not be “just” a local band before too long.

Next up was Rococode, and I couldn’t really tell you anything about them. They reminded me of Stars, in the sense that there was absolutely nothing about them that I should have any reason to dislike, but I just wasn’t feeling it. They were perfectly fine, but it didn’t click with me. I assume it’s just me and I’d be willing to give them a try on another night (they stuck around Regina and played another show a few days later, which I did not make it to, but do not let that detract from the veracity of my previous statement).

I’d heard lots of praise for Hannah Georgas and she was really good. Is it wrong if I stop there and say nothing else? No? Good.

We stuck it out for most of Georgas’ set before getting tired (we’re old) and going home. The fourth band was Yukon Blonde and I will assume they were great.

PART 3: JUNOFEST (Saturday, April 20)

Okay, let’s try this again. After a semi-successful (at best) Friday, we got ourselves all pumped up for round two. This time, we’d be early. This time, we’d get in. This time, we’d see our first picks.

As I am old, my first choice was the show at Casino Regina – The Minnow, The Waltons, and Odds. Two bands I knew from when I was in high school and an early start time (and end time). This seemed feasible.

We got to the casino shortly after doors opened, for more Fun With Wristbands™. Those of us who’d bought the passes were shoved off to one side while they let in people who’d purchased tickets just for this one show. Now, if you read the official JunoFest schedule, you’d see that there were some shows that were only letting in fifty people with wristbands; otherwise, you had to buy a separate ticket to get in. This show, however, had no such disclaimer. And for all shows without that disclaimer, wristbands were supposed to get you priority access, and the venues weren’t even supposed to sell individual show tickets unless there was capacity available.

I also saw the casino’s poster for the show, which did state that only a “limited number” of people with wristbands would be allowed in. It didn’t say how many wristband people would get in, and it’s not like the poster was everywhere – I saw it on the casino’s Facebook page, and that’s it.

Mika and I had debated what to do if we couldn’t get in with wristbands. I didn’t really want to have to buy separate tickets for this show, since as much as I like Odds, I’ve seen them a few times before, and tickets were $30 each and we’d already paid $30 apiece for the wristbands. And it was looking like we’d have to make the call, since we were stuck in that line. At least we were inside and the people ahead of us in line weren’t spitting and farting. That I know of.

But then a wonderful thing happened. The lady at the front of the wristband line pitched a giant fit about how this wristband thing was garbage and they should let us in because otherwise what is the point of these wristbands and here’s the schedule and YOU SHOW ME where it says that you’re only letting in so many people with wristbands and on and on. The casino people said “this isn’t our event” and tried to avoid making a decision but Loud Lady was an unstoppable force and eventually they just waved us in. As the evening progressed, it seemed like more and more wristband people showed up – possibly they’d been turned away from other venues? – so I am assuming that the casino was just letting everyone in if they had a wristband, and it was all because of one loud lady. I salute you, crusader for justice, champion of consumers’ rights, and fan of early-90s CanCon. 

The first band was The Minnow and the internet has failed in telling me much about them. As far as I can tell, they were kind of big in Regina in the early 90s as The S.S. Minnow, but Gilligan’s lawyers made them change their name. They don’t play together much anymore – one of them said that this was their first show in 10 years, but I thought I’d read that they played the closing of The Distrikt. Either way, they played a short set (35 minutes) of Waltons-sounding rock (I guess that’s just the sound of early-90s Regina?) and a cover of Flo Rida’s Low (for which they awarded themselves the Juno for Mediocre Rap Performance by a Middle-Aged White Band) and it was perfectly fine.

The Waltons’ big song was Nothing Colder Than You, and it’s what they opened with. Lead singer Jason Pumb (also of Jason Plumb & The Willing, and/or that Steven Page show a few months back) launched into it, saying “here’s a song you just heard playing out in the lobby.” Off the top of my head, I really only remembered two Waltons songs; that one, and a cover of The Boxer which got a lot of radio play when I was in Grade 11. They didn’t play The Boxer but there were a handful of other songs that I recognized during their 35-minute set, and I finally got a definitive answer regarding how to pronounce the first word of their album Lik My Trakter (it’s “like,” not “lick”). There was also a brief mention of a part played on one of their albums by their former keyboardist, “our friend, Todd Lumley” (a.k.a. Mr. Lonely). These guys don’t play together all that often anymore either – though I KNOW they were at the closing of the Distrikt – and it was pretty cool to finally see them. 

After two really short sets, I was hoping that Odds would play for a while, since they were going on last. And they did! Instead of the evening’s standard of 35 minutes, they made it all the way to 45 minutes! At least their set was all hits in front of an appreciative crowd. Apart from one new song (Write It In Lightning; “new” apparently means “five years old”) and the theme to Corner Gas, the setlist was alarmingly similar to an Odds mixtape I made partway through university. Odds on one side, Wide Mouth Mason on the other. Often listened to while mowing the lawn. Someone Who’s Cool, indeed.

I held out hope that we’d get The Last Drink for the encore, which I’ve never heard played live (I love it, but it is admittedly not a fun-times party song). No surprise, we didn’t get it. Instead, Odds were joined for one last song by long-time pal and collaborator, Regina’s own Colin James. I’ve lived in Regina for almost 10 years and lived in Saskatchewan my whole life and somehow I’d made it this long without actually seeing Colin James. Between him and the Waltons, it was a good evening for getting caught up on the local zeitgeist of 1994. I look forward to seeing Rah Rah and Library Voices at the 2032 Junos.

With the evening’s early end, we considered trying our luck at the Owl or the downtown tent, but it was sleeting and windy and we decided to pack it in and cut the stupid wristbands off. I was a little disappointed to get home and find out that Classified was joined on stage by Maestro Fresh Wes (I don’t want to hear anything about any shortened name). Grade school me still has a Maestro Fresh Wes concert on his bucket list, along with getting a complete set of WWF stickers from Hostess chip bags, and inventing a Nintendo that also plays Sega games.

PART 4: SONGWRITERS’ CIRCLE (Sunday, April 21)

Again, feel free to skip this part: http://music.cbc.ca/concerts/2013-Juno-Songwriters-Circle-2013-04-21

I bought tickets to the Songwriters’ Circle well before the lineup was announced. I haven’t paid attention to past years’ shows, but Mika said that they can be hit or miss. I’m sure she was leaning towards miss when they announced the performers on the radio and somehow forgot to mention Kathleen Edwards, Danny Michel, and Classified.

We drove downtown on Sunday morning and parked by the porn store near the casino. If there’s one thing I know, there’s always good parking to be had by the porn store. You could tell the Junos were in town because the mannequins in the porn store window were holding musical instruments. “Gonna Get Loud,” indeed.

We got to the casino shortly before noon. Due to the hellacious wind, we entered through the closest doors instead of the ones by the show lounge. I’m always amazed at how many people are up and at’em, ready to gamble a Sunday morning away. I can see a Vegas vacation being a special occasion, but this is essentially an abandoned train station which has been converted into a warehouse full of VLTs. Maybe I’m still bitter about the time that Price Is Right slot machine took away thirty of my dollars in, like, two spins. 

The ever-present Sheila Coles took to the stage right at noon to introduce the day’s host, Tom Cochrane, and the first round of guests: country singer Crystal Shawanda (with guitarist Gary Dewayne), Colin James, Classified, and David Myles. The format was pretty simple; each person would take a turn talking about one of their songs and then playing it. Knowing nothing about Shawanda, I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed her songs. She had a real roughness in her voice and paired well with Cochrane on his song from Q, Pink Time. (She noted that after he played it for her backstage, she had to get her makeup redone.)

The real stars of the first half were Classified and David Myles. The pair, likened to “Eminem meets Buddy Holly” by Tom Cochrane, are a bit of an odd couple, but the rapper/folk singer partnership has landed them a big hit song in Inner Ninja. Myles seemed greatly amused at the idea that he’d won a Juno award for Best Rap Recording, noting that he’d performed at lots of hip-hop shows and was so pleased to turn the tables on Classified and let HIM be the fish out of water for a change. Their acoustic versions of Inner Ninja and The Day Doesn’t Die were crowd pleasers, and I talked to more than one person after the show who said they had no interest in rap and were surprised at how much they enjoyed these two.

The radio broadcast was to be split into two parts, so after the first hour, the guests left and were replaced with Bahamas, Kathleen Edwards, and Danny Michel. I’ve loved Michel’s music since the first time I heard it, and I thought Edwards’ album Voyageur was the best record of 2012 and criminally under-represented at the Junos if you think that sort of thing actually means anything (answer: only when it validates my existing opinions), so I wasn’t expecting Bahamas to steal the show, but indeed, he did. This was made all the more impressive because Edwards wasn’t about to give up the show without a fight – she walked on stage, sat down, and immediately turned to Tom Cochrane and asked if people ever called him “The Cock.”

Cochrane: “I like that!”
Edwards: “I BET you do.”
Cochrane: “I do need a title for my next album…”
Michel: “Greatest Hits?”
Edwards (off-mic to Michel): “Greatest Cocks!”

I’m truly saddened that this exchange didn’t make the radio broadcast. But if you listen to that streaming audio link above and you can’t make out what Edwards is saying as Cochrane starts playing Back in the Game Again, now you know. She’s saying “greatest cocks.”

At least the broadcast left in the part where she accused Fred Penner of getting “totally shitfaced” the night before.

I was supposed to be talking about Bahamas here, but I got distracted by cocks. Bahamas was born Afie Jurvanen, which is much harder to spell and remember (unless you’re Finnish) (I think). He’s come through Regina several times and every time, Mark has tried to get me to go, and every time, I had something better to do, such as not leaving the house and doing things. I see now that this was a mistake. He’s a compelling mix of quick, dry wit and sweet, sincere songs. He charmed everyone when he revealed (well, when Kathleen Edwards made him reveal) that he had a lock of his wife’s hair woven into his guitar strap. His story about writing a song after smoking a joint had people rolling, but I was more entertained by his explanation of casino policies; Danny Michel said that the darkened theatre made it hard to know what time it was and Bahamas said “that’s how they get all your money.” He responded to the awkward laughter with a sincere “it’s by design, you know?” He may not get invited back to play the casino, but he will be at the Regina Folk Festival this summer and I’m looking forward to being there.

The Songwriters’ Circle came to a close with a group performance of Cochrane’s classic Life is a Highway. I wonder if he gets tired of that? I mean, I’m still tired of it, nearly twenty years removed from when it dominated the radio, and I don’t get asked to play it every day.

For posterity, here’s the full setlist:

Tom Cochrane – Big League (Cochrane)
Crystal Shawanda – Dirty
Colin James – National Steel
Classified & David Myles – The Day Doesn’t Die
Tom Cochrane & Crystal Shawanda – Pink Time
Crystal Shawanda – Chains
Colin James – Heaven Knows Your Name
Classified & David Myles – Inner Ninja
Tom Cochrane – Back In The Game Again
Bahamas – Sobering Love
Kathleen Edwards – Asking For Flowers
Danny Michel – Sad and Beautiful World
Tom Cochrane – Good Times
Bahamas – Sunshine Blues
Kathleen Edwards – Empty Threat (Edwards)
Danny Michel – Who’s Gonna Miss You
Tom Cochrane – Life Is A Highway

Set free into downtown Regina at 2:30 in the afternoon, Mika and I did the only sensible thing; we went for breakfast. Fresh & Sweet is highly recommended. Full of red velvet pancake and white chocolate banana bread, we lurched our way home, settled into food comas, and prepared ourselves for the evening.

PART 5: THE JUNO AWARDS (Sunday, April 21)

Didn’t go. Never even considered trying to get tickets. I suppose I might have if they’d announced k.d. lang, Serena Ryder, Hannah Georgas, and Metric as performers BEFORE tickets went on sale, but really, this sort of show just isn’t my thing. I followed updates for a while on Twitter as the night progressed, which was kind of weird since I do own a TV – two, in fact – and never once considered tuning in. I hear tell some people won some awards. Good for them!