Posts Tagged ‘casino regina’

SLCR #257: Billy Bob Thornton & The Boxmasters (September 6, 2016)

September 19, 2016

I don’t really understand how this happened.

I mean, logically, I get the rationale behind it. I was at the casino anyway, buying a ticket to Prozzäk – in itself, probably a questionable choice – and I got carried away. I’d probably just gotten paid or something. Or not. I mean, I don’t think that hard about my finances, which is something I should probably work on if I don’t want to alternate my time between concert venues and a refrigerator box in the alley.

Really, what I was thinking about was wanting to hit 40 concerts in my 40th year. That, and the whole Jian Ghomeshi thing.

Not THAT thing. The other thing.

Remember that other thing? Billy Bob Thornton and the Boxmasters were guests on Q, Ghomeshi had the temerity to mention in passing that Thornton was famous for acting, and Thornton immediately turned defensive and basically shut the interview down like a petulant child. THAT thing. Who’d have guessed that Thornton would ultimately gain the PR upper hand in this battle?

Anyway, I wound up at this show for a combination of stupid reasons, is what I’m getting at. Mika opted out. Not due to school, or homework, or fatigue, or a prior commitment. No reason was given and none was needed. I got it. But I was curious. What if these dudes are really good? Low expectations can sometimes lead to great experiences. And what else was I going to do on a Tuesday night?

The first thing I noticed upon arriving at the casino was that I have never seen their parkade so empty. I had written up a big long description of the parking garage but who could care about that? It was largely empty. This is all you need to know.

I had a seat by myself in the upper level. I mean this nearly literally. The balcony is split into two halves; there were three people in my half, including myself. It didn’t look like the other half was any more crowded. The floor looked reasonably full but wasn’t sold out.

As with most casino shows, there was no opening act. The emcee was a local DJ who made a bunch of jokes about the miserable performance of our football team, particularly the kicker who missed a crucial conversion that would have tied the most recent game. Given that our team HAS been pretty terrible this year, you wouldn’t think these jokes would have died quite the death they did, but I don’t think anyone really felt like piling on.

Now that we were all warmed up (?), Billy Bob Thornton and the Boxmasters took the stage. Thornton’s stage presence as a lead singer could be generously described as “aloof.” He kept his sunglasses on for the entire set, standing there, barely moving, looking down at the ground. He came across as either being disinterested or trying to look cool. I’m going to go with the latter, since between songs, he’d talk with the audience and he was actually pretty engaging and funny. He walked out on the floor and chatted with audience members at one point, and gently handled one die-hard fan who tried to rush onto the stage at another.

(He also talked a lot about having never played Regina before, which I’m pretty sure isn’t true? I feel certain that they had a previous casino date at one point. Maybe it got postponed? Or maybe I’m imagining things – if they were scheduled to be here, I never even mentioned it in a previous review.)

The Boxmasters were quite good, despite having a late substitution when their normal drummer found himself unable to cross into Canada for… reasons. However, I really don’t know how to rate Thornton’s performance as a singer, except to say it seemed like his mic was kept quite low and I found myself wondering if maybe that wasn’t intentional. I mean, I never thought he was terrible, but nothing stood out as being particularly good, either.

They played all original numbers, I think; if there were any covers, I didn’t pick up on them. The songs were like the vocals, in that nothing stood out as being particularly awful or particularly interesting. Is it super insulting to say that if they had a frontman who brought some energy to the performance, they could be a really great bar band? Because I don’t mean that in a dick way but it probably sounds like it. Oh well.

I don’t feel like I was alone in my lack of enthusiasm for this show. After they finished their set, there was the most tepid applause for an encore that I’ve ever heard, like “we all know what happens now and we are playing our roles” but there was no enthusiasm behind it. And then something really telling happened. The band (minus Thornton) came back out on stage to some cheers, and they began to play. Thornton followed, and when he walked out, there was no spike in cheers at all. I’ve never seen that happen before. Some bands try to paint everyone as equals, and others are the Front Man and the Other Guys. This was clearly meant to be Front Man and the Other Guys. And yet, when the Front Man came back, there was no reaction from the crowd to indicate that he was a bigger star than anyone else on stage. And really, if you’re bringing one person out separately, you’re presenting that one person as the star and trying to get that big reaction. And I’ve never seen it not work.

So yeah. This was an interesting experiment but not so hot and not really my thing. Which is about what I was expecting.

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SLCR #255: 54-40 (August 19, 2016)

August 20, 2016

I turn 40 in two- wait. That won’t work twice. And it’s 20 minutes to midnight anyway.

This was a last-minute decision for me. I had forgotten the show was even happening until it popped up on Facebook a little while ago, and I only bought my ticket a few hours before the show. I like 54-40 well enough and all, but I saw them a few years ago and described it as the most just-a-show show that I’d maybe ever seen. I really wasn’t sure that I needed to pay to see that again. Plus Mika didn’t feel like going, even when good seats opened up on the day of the show.

But then I was looking them up online, which can be a bit tricky, because if you google 54-40, you get 14. But I still found their website and it described this show as acoustic. “Featuring intimate and unplugged versions of 54-40’s greatest hits performed as you’ve never heard them before.” That would make sense – their newest album is a collection of acoustic reworkings of their biggest hits. I haven’t heard it, but Aaron says it’s good. This intrigued me, as it would be a different show from the last time I saw them. On the other hand, the last show dragged until it got to the more high-energy second half. Should I risk the $37.13? I asked Aaron, which meant I already knew what I wanted the answer to be, because what was he going to say? No?

So I got my ticket, rushed through a dinner of Indian food while finishing off the Weird Al review, and made my way to the casino. I was up in the balcony. The show wasn’t sold out, and I had an entire row to myself. Actually, several rows as pretty much everything behind me was also open. This is a fine way to watch a show.

Right at 8:00, some local radio guy introduced the band and we were underway. The first thing I must note is that there was nothing acoustic at all about this show. This was a straight up rock show, and oddly (considering last time), the crowd was into it right from the start. By the second song, there were people standing up at the front of the stage, with more joining with every song. By the end of it, the people at the first few rows of tables wouldn’t have been able to see anything and those tables were largely abandoned.

I didn’t take notes about the set list, but I’m pretty sure they opened with Easy to Love and from there, it was all hits, all the time. I didn’t keep track of the setlist, but if you know a 54-40 song, they played it. I mean, not if you’re some kind of superfan or something. But if you know only the radio songs, like me? They didn’t leave you wanting much. I Go Blind, Since When, Baby Ran, Crossing a Canyon, Lies to Me, Love You All, One Day in Your Life, Ocean Pearl, Nice to Luv You, Crossing a Canyon, One Gun, She-La, Radio Luv Song, Blame Your Parents, Casual Viewin’… it turns out that 54-40 had way more hits than I realized, and I knew pretty much everything.

I guess there was one song that wasn’t a hit – a new song from their upcoming album. The song was based on a Winston Churchill quote: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” The song was probably called something like Keep Walking, while lead singer Neil Osborne offered the suggested title of “Grizzled, Chiseled, and the Wine is Fine” for the new album; about this, I can only say it received the reaction it deserved. Interpret that as you will.

Questionable album title aside, the new song was good, and the whole show was great – much better than last time out. There were big singalongs for Ocean Pearl and Casual Viewin’, but there was much more energy from both the band and the fans as compared to before. I don’t know what changed in the crowd, but whatever it was, it was there right from the start. It’s amazing the difference that the atmosphere makes. It created this loop where the band was having more fun because the crowd was really into it, and because the band was enjoying themselves, the crowd got MORE into it. It’s too bad the show ended after 90 minutes (plus a two-song encore) because we could have been on the verge of discovering some sort of perpetual energy machine.

UPCOMING CONCERTS
• Greg MacPherson w/Dan Holbrow & Leo Keiser (September 1)
• Billy Bob Thornton & The Boxmasters (September 6)
• Dolly Parton (September 13)
• Prozzäk (September 22)
• Hayden (September 29)
• Fred Eaglesmith (October 1)
• Basia Bulat w/Oh Pep! (October 5)
• I Mother Earth featuring Edwin w/The Standstills (October 8)
• Sarah Slean with the Regina Symphony (October 22)
• Bush w/The Dead Deads (October 27)

SLCR #239: Spirit of the West (March 31, 2016)

April 9, 2016

This was destined to be bittersweet. The last time I saw Spirit of the West, lead singer John Mann had recently been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. We went, in part, expecting it to be our last chance to see the band. But that night, they promised they’d be back on a proper farewell tour. A year and a half later, here we are. Within minutes of tickets going on sale, they were snapped up and I got one of the last tables for four available. Not the best seats I’ve ever managed – we were off to the very far left – but I knew it wouldn’t matter since everyone would be standing anyway.

With Mika under the weather, Colin took her spot at the last minute to join Mark and Arlette and I. In exchange for the ticket, I gave him the important job of reminding me to pick up a sundae for Mika on the trip home. I saw a number of other work folks scattered throughout the casino.

The band took the stage right at 8:00 with no opener. Normally it takes a few songs to get people out of their seats at the casino, but not tonight. People crowded around the front right from the get-go and security didn’t hassle anyone. Probably because they’d pretty much be forced to hassle everyone.

The setlist was much the same as last time. I say this because I don’t know much Spirit of the West beyond their singles, but pretty much everything here sounded familiar. I suppose it’s the type of situation that doesn’t lend itself to a lot of variation. Really, the show was mostly a rerun from the last time out. You got most of your big hits – And If Venice Is Sinking, Sadness Grows, Is This Where I Come In – mixed in with fan favourites. I know they played Political, The Joneses, The Old Sod, Another Happy New Year, and The Rites of Man. Geoffrey Kelly handled pretty much all of the talking between songs. John Mann was glued to the iPad with the lyrics, but was a ball of crazy dancing energy otherwise. His “FUCK ALZHEIMER’S (in the arse)” shirt was new and got a great reaction.

So how was it? The band was as good as ever but if I’m being honest, you could see some deterioration from the last time. It looked like Mann had a little more difficulty following along with the lyrics now. Have you ever sung along with the radio, only you start singing a bit early and you have to hold back, or you start the wrong verse and you have to quickly switch it up? I noticed a few parts like that, or places where Mann just wasn’t singing where I thought he should be. He barely talked at all when not singing, but he still repeated himself at one point. Now, all of these could be nothing, you know? You hope it’s nothing. Stuff that I’m blowing out of proportion because I was specifically watching to see how he was doing.

I think that would be one of the worst parts about Alzheimer’s. Every little slip would seem like a portent of doom. You know? Forget your watch at home one day and it would feel like a terrible sign. I do it and it just means it’s Thursday.

Anyway, I don’t want to make it sound like it was a bad show or anything. Mann’s still got his voice and the band is still great, I just noticed a few moments. And the crowd was not going to be anything but 100% loving and supportive, dancing and yelling and cheers and we love yous all night.

I said the setlist was the same but they actually mixed up the ending a bit. Drummer Vince Ditrich sang a few songs while most of the band took a break. When everyone came back out, they said they’d wrap things up with two oldies. Okay. It was not going to be a surprise what songs those were, and I figured Dietrich’s intermission was done to set up this “encore.” Mark and Arlette got up and went to the stage – it felt like half the people with floor “seating” were there already – and Colin and I soon followed. Of course, it was Save This House followed by Home For A Rest. Mark demanded we pogo. We pogoed. Everyone else in the place was up and dancing and singing anyway. It was a great way to end an emotional show, so I was surprised that they came back out for two more songs. The Crawl is a fine song to end on, but it’s not Home For A Rest, you know? Seemed like a strange choice.

With that, they thanked the crowd and took their final bows. It was an emotional night and both Ditrich and Mann looked like they might have shed a few tears. I can’t imagine what their farewell shows next week in Vancouver will be like.

But the important thing is, I remembered that sundae.

SLCR #237: The Watchmen (March 25, 2016)

April 8, 2016

Dang. I’m much better at getting these out on time when I’m on vacation.

Or maybe I’m not the right person to be writing this. Maybe Mika should, or Jeff, or Jeremy. Or maybe anyone else who was at this show. To me, the Watchmen were just one of those bands that were on the radio sometimes. A good band, one I liked well enough, but not one I ever really sought out. I don’t think I ever owned any of their albums, I never saw them in concert, I didn’t know anything beyond the radio hits. And because I am a dumb, I just kind of assumed that everyone felt the same way I did, because why would I ever consider another person’s perspective? So it came as a surprise to me when I went to buy our tickets – the day they opened the advance sale for casino Players Club members, two days before tickets went on sale to the general public – and I couldn’t get a table for four. The only way to get four seats together was to split a table for eight, further back from the stage. And I understand that Players Club cards are free and everyone in Regina has one so they can get $5 casino breakfasts, but still, it seemed fast. I seriously underestimated the demand for the Watchmen. I’m pretty sure the show sold out within days.

And so it was that I found myself at the casino with three people – and surrounded by hundreds more – who liked the Watchmen so much more than I do. Which is not to say that I dislike them at all! I don’t! They’re good! But I was out of my depth. There were favourite-album discussions, and hopes of hearing specific deep cuts, and debates about which anniversary of which album this show was celebrating, and there I was, thinking “hey, Stereo, that’s a song I know. And… um…”

Okay, so I had to check Wikipedia for a quick refresher of some titles (and, in some cases, check YouTube to match titles to songs): Boneyard Tree, Shut Up, All Uncovered, Incarnate, Any Day Now, Absolutely Anytime. At least I knew enough to not be tricked when I Googled “Watchmen singles” and it gave me the Watchmen movie soundtrack.

So we’re sitting at the long table, Jeff and Jeremy making friends with the other four randos who had joined us, and the voice of God booms. Or… it drones, maybe. God didn’t sound real into things. I suppose he’s seen it all. “Ladies and gentlemen. The Watchmen are here. But first-” and there were boos! Not that many or anything, but there were a handful of cheesed off people who had not counted on an opener and were NOT down with the idea of waiting even longer for the Watchmen. I haven’t heard the mere concept of an opening band get booed since the last time I saw the Tragically Hip.

The openers turned out to be fellow Winnipeggers Yes We Mystic, a name that seemed to confuse everyone. They were good enough to silence the handful of skeptics and that is pretty much all I can tell you about them. That, and the lead singer had a yellow and black checkered jacket that I couldn’t tell if I loved or hated. They were perfectly fine, playing rock with some folk influences, mixing some unexpected instruments into the usual guitar/bass/drums mix. Recommended if you like any of the songs played by Portland Cloud Orchestra in Guitar Hero Live.

So you know how I said I only know Watchmen singles, right? Well, after about 45 minutes of their set, I heard the first song I knew, not counting when they did a bit of Down Under for some reason. Meanwhile, everyone else at our table got to hear all the songs they were hoping for. Or so Mika tells me. How would I know?

The casino has recently started having general admission shows (I think the Headstones might have been the first one), and it would have maybe been a good choice here. As the show went on, people started to gather down at the front of the stage, as they will do. And security sent them all back to sit in their assigned seats, as THEY will do (to the amazement of people who haven’t seen this bit of party pooping before). So then one lady gets back up and everyone cheers. Security sits her back down. Two more women run along the front of the stage. Finally, the song ends, and singer Daniel Greaves says “I don’t know, it seems reasonable to me to stand up for a bit.” ROAR goes the crowd and everyone in the place pops to their feet. He seemed appreciative. “There, that seems more like… every other show we’ve ever done.”

The timing of it was surely coincidental, but once everyone got up and loosened up, the second half of the show became much more of a greatest-hits set. This was a delight for me but really, there wasn’t a bad song in the bunch, even out of the ones I was unfamiliar with. The Watchmen still sound as good as they used to and it’s a sound that holds up better than some of their contemporaries. It was a really solid show – lots of hits, lots of fan favourites, and a devoted crowd. I’d be surprised if tickets didn’t go even faster next time.

SLCR #230: Corb Lund (February 9, 2016)

February 16, 2016

It is Monday night, and I have to give a speech at Toastmasters on Wednesday, and I made the last-minute call to see Yukon Blonde tomorrow so I know I’ll be out late with no time to prep a speech, so that’s what I should be doing right now. So I made nachos and made breakfast and lunch for tomorrow and wrote some emails and did dishes and now I’m writing a concert review while Raw drags on for hours in the background. And playing games on my phone. Obviously.

I have sort of seen Corb Lund twice before; once with his old not-at-all country band the smalls (preferred – but irritating – capitalization invoked due to this being the only time I will mention them) and once by himself at the Exchange, years ago, where things got started late and we tapped out early. Luckily, the casino runs on old-man time. Not that Corb Lund attracts the greyhairs in the way that, say, Chubby Checker or Bobby Curtola did. I DID note that I had never seen that many pickup trucks in the casino parking lot before, but I suppose that was to be expected.

The theme of this winter’s concert series seems to be Folk/Country – only The Headstones are outliers so far (and looking only at my first concerts of the year, you’d get a really skewed sense of my tastes). Alternately, it could be Shows I Went to Without Mika Because She Was in School. That only includes two of the first five shows, but there are at least two more coming, and others that I am seeing out of town. I offered to buy her a ticket to come see local indie wrestling with me next week, but she declined my generous offer. Some people just don’t appreciate the comedic stylings of Colt “Boom Boom” Cabana, I guess.

On this night, I would luckily not have to go stag – Jeff picked up tickets for me and two of his friends. I did not catch their names because I am bad at hearing and worse at remembering, but they seemed like lovely people. He mentioned that this was his first time at a casino show (he was as delighted as I to learn that the casino keeps a strict schedule for us senior citizens) and now we’d be going three times in short order. I bought tickets to The Watchmen, he bought the Corb tix, and we each bought our own for I Mother Earth. I suggest we schedule a WebEx to discuss these methods in order to determine optimal efficiency and also whether we will ever see an American musician again. First order of business is selecting lunch.

Our hosts were local country radio DJs – I assume – whose wacky banter can only be described as having died a death. Oh well, they can’t all be the ad writer from the rock station who introduces all the rock bands, a concept that still seems weird to me, but whatever. Maybe I’m just jealous because my work never taps me to introduce bands. All I ever got to do was write a letter to Leonard Nimoy once.

The opener was Daniel Romano, about whom I knew nothing except Mika seemed jealous that I got to see him and she did not. That is the only way I know whether or I not I am listening to something good. That is why I bought a ticket for Yukon Blonde. She is not jealous that she missed out on Koo Koo Kanga Roo’s Cat Party. Though she should be.

Anyway, Romano is a singer-songwriter country type, as you might expect. He was accompanied by a pair of guitarists. His music was a little more sedate than Corb’s stuff tends to be, and I’m not sure how to say that his lyrics are a bit more serious and emotional and less “fun” without it sounding like a negative, which it isn’t. I enjoyed his set and he was quite well received at our table, judging by the mass exodus to buy CDs as soon as he was done. I’m looking forward to spending some time with his albums, of which there appear to be quite a few, judging from the big ol’ list in the iTunes store.

On a somewhat related topic, our group discussed the fine art of deciding which album to get when you’re interested in an artist but don’t know where to begin. We settled on “just get the second album,” thinking that first albums don’t have all the kinks worked out yet, and nobody cares about your new songs if you have old ones. This makes me want to go through all the artists I like enough to know about their albums to see if that holds up. Word tells me that sentence is confusing, but you know what I mean. Or you don’t. I’m okay with that.

At one point, Jeff asked how to pronounce Romano’s last name – Ro-MA-no, or Ro-MAH-no. I said, as though I actually knew, that it was Ro-MAH-no, “like Ray or cheese.” “And not,” said Jeff, “like when you find out who’s headlining Wrestlemania.” About 10 seconds later, I inadvertently inhaled Diet Pepsi into my sinuses. I can be a bit slow, sometimes.

Corb opened with four songs off his newest album, Things That Can’t be Undone, including Goodbye Colorado, Run This Town, and Weight of a Gun. He then moved into older stuff and the crowd started to wake up. It’s weird that there were more rowdy drunks at Blue Rodeo at the Centre of the Arts than at Corb Lund at a casino, though there were certainly a few. But I am getting ahead of myself.

The older songs at the start included Shine Up My Boots and Five-Dollar Bill. As for the rest of the night, I didn’t keep a detailed tracklist, but I know he played (in no particular order) Roughest Neck Around, Little Foothills Heaven, Sunbeam, Washed-Up Rock Star Factory Blues, Cows Around, Dig Gravedigger Dig, and Gettin’ Down on the Mountain. He followed Hurtin’ Albertan with Long Gone to Saskatchewan, which he noted the band always has to dust off and tune up around Medicine Hat.

Before finishing off his main set, Corb sent his band to the back so he could do a few songs by himself. The first, S Lazy H, is a newer – and completely depressing! – song about the life of a rancher. The next song was… decidedly not that. Jeff mentioned seeing Corb play Five-Dollar Bill before it was ever recorded, and now it is a favourite “older song” and oh God we’re all getting so old so fast make it stop. I may have added that last bit. Anyway, my point is that after S Lazy H, Corb played a new unreleased song for us and I can see myself having that feeling far off in the future when it is an old favourite. This was a highlight of the night. I found a video of the song online, recorded a few days earlier in Edmonton, and it’s a shame that the title of the song is shown because it was fun to hear the lyrics and try to work out where he was going with it.

(but I can turn off the title when embedding it here!)

Anyway, after that delightful number, the band came back to close out the show with I Wanna Be in the Cavalry (which he said was called “Please God Buy a T-shirt so we Don’t Have to Ship Them Back to Toronto at the End of the Tour”), followed by the allegedly religious number Time to Switch to Whiskey. This seems like a great point to introduce our new best friend. I mentioned that there were surprisingly few drunks in the crowd. Luckily, we were close to one. He started early on with some timid pointing in the air, which grew into increasingly enthusiastic fist pumps as the night went on. He moved on to shouting out song titles and raising his drink in the air every time alcohol was mentioned, which was often. All four of us at our table became aware of this man individually, only gradually realizing that we were all watching him. When Corb said he was going to play some songs off Cabin Fever, our friend yelled “GRAVEDIGGER,” which Corb acknowledged with a wink and a nod before launching into the song. This may have been the best moment of this fella’s life. At another point, he hollered something incomprehensible, to which Corb deadpanned “…wow” and I don’t remember what happened for about five minutes after that because I think I died.

Also, at one point, he may have been riding an imaginary horse.

Anyhoo. Our guy also liked to gesture to the people around him to try to get them to stand up and appreciate Corb to an appropriate degree. Somewhere on the other side of the casino, another fella had the same idea, only he got up and walked around the front of the stage, trying to get people to stand up. This made Corb crack up and dedicate one of the last songs to him, which made our guy jealously gesture in a “what about ME” sort of way. Our guy then stood up, sat down, got back up, held himself awkwardly between standing and sitting for a bit, before finally taking his lady’s hand and pulling her towards the front of the stage. There was some brief discussion about whether this was a terrible idea or (obviously) the BEST idea. Anyway, they danced, by which I mean he smashed himself against her and did sort of an Elvis swivel. I was so full of joy.

After that and a quick encore break (and change of shirt, I think), they played a handful more: Good Copenhagen, The Truck Got Stuck (with a notable lyric switch from “nothing better to do… except ranch” to “…except bitch about the new government” which is probably quite true to the 2016 Alberta experience), Seven Spanish Angels, and Hair in My Eyes Like a Highland Steer. Which will now be in my head for several days just because I wrote out the title. He said that’s where they normally end the show, but by special request, we got one last song – Counterfeiter’s Blues. This show started off a little slowly but by the end it was the best and I was loving life and music and drunks who are close enough to be entertaining but far enough away to not be my problem.

We didn’t stick around long enough to see if Corb fulfilled his promise of spending the rest of the evening at the tables, but I’ve heard Geoff Berner’s song “Don’t Play Cards for Money with Corby Lund” so I think it’s a safe bet. But what do I know about bets? I lost my $5 free slot play voucher in two spins and called it a night.

SLCR #227: The Headstones (January 26, 2016)

January 28, 2016

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SLCR #222: Chubby Checker (September 26, 2015)

October 18, 2015

Here are some predictions, written on the day before the concert:

  • The casino food can be summed up as “yep, that’s food, alright”
  • Chubby Checker will play not only his own songs, but random songs from that era
  • He will close his set with The Twist
  • My dad will sing along with random lines from random songs in exaggerated fashion, and then laugh self-consciously to himself
  • At 39, I will be among the 10 youngest attendees
  • I will leave feeling that this would have been a great show had I seen it decades ago
  • I will cash in our ticket stubs (or PDFs, whatever) for slot vouchers but will win nothing of note

Here is a review, written on the day after the concert:

ahahaha “written on the day after the concert” you hubristic dink, you don’t get to change that to “22 days after the concert,” leave your laziness and shame for the world to see

ANYWAY this is a show about which I have some feelings and opinions. Let us review those above points in no particular order:

  • The casino food can be summed up as “yep, that’s food, alright”

Presumably this would have been true, had we eaten at the casino. What with Mika having Celiac disease and the casino restaurant feeling not particularly trustworthy on that front (it is a restaurant in the technical sense of the term; infer my opinions from that statement as you wish), we decided to skip the casino dinner in favour of a big salad at home. This was one of the wiser things I’ve ever done because the casino food is as previously described and my mom’s salad dressing recipe is great.

  • At 39, I will be among the 10 youngest attendees

This was almost certainly true.

  • I will cash in our ticket stubs (or PDFs, whatever) for slot vouchers but will win nothing of note

Shockingly false! I didn’t cash in the stubs that night, but went to the casino at coffee time a few days later and won $25. Delightful!

  • I will leave feeling that this would have been a great show had I seen it decades ago

You know, I am not certain about this. I think Chubby Checker might have been as good on this night as he would ever have been. I mean this positively. I had a really fun time at this show and it was the best of the shows I’ve seen with my dad. I rank them 1. Chubby Checker, 2. Herman’s Hermits, 3. Bobby Curtola, 4. Charley Pride. This is a stunning upset victory of which Bobby Curtola should be very proud.

But I digress. We had an actual opening act, which doesn’t happen at the casino all that often. It was Roberta Nichol, a local folk singer and retired schoolteacher singing lighthearted songs about loving food and getting old and loving her pets. This was… not expected, let’s say. At one point, I looked at my dad and he looked at me and we didn’t say anything but we both burst out laughing. I had bought these tickets as his Fathers’ Day present and he thanked me for the memorable gift. Then Mika hit the server call button so we could get more booze and we both laughed again.

It was a short set. She played three original songs and two covers; one of which was If I Had A Hammer and I thiiiiiink the other was Walkin’ After Midnight but it’s a month later now, you know? “You know, she’s actually not that bad,” said my dad. This is true. Just… yeah, like I said. Not expected. But maybe a good fit considering the audience? I mean, it is worth noting that the table directly in front of us LOVED this woman. Cheered wildly for every song, laughing until crying at all her jokes. They were also basically orgasmic over Chubby Checker too. They were enjoying their evening more than I have ever enjoyed anything (combined). Good on them.

  • Chubby Checker will play not only his own songs, but random songs from that era

Of course this is true. This is what everyone my dad goes to seems to do. I wonder if in 2065, Justin Bieber will be playing shows for senior citizens at casinos? And if he does, will he play a medley of Uptown Funk and Fancy and Thrift Shop and Call Me Maybe and Get Lucky and Gangnam Style and Blurred Lines because the seniors will remember those songs, even though they’re not his?

But as far as I am concerned, Chubby Checker can do whatever he feels like. He earned it. Unlike some of his casino contemporaries, his voice has held up. And he spent a lot of time interacting with the crowd, walking through the audience singing, shaking hands, getting hugs, making people dance and sing, and getting iPhones the hell out of his face. Yes. As he was walking and singing, some guy was recording this on his phone and Checker grabbed the phone out of his hand and put it down on the table. Chubby Checker does not want to be in your video. I thought this was the best thing I’d seen all day. That lasted for about 20 minutes.

At one point, Checker sang Limbo Rock, which is the famous limbo song (I never knew the title!), obviously popularized by an episode of Perfect Strangers where the lyrics were changed to be about the Myposian pastry called the bibbibabka. How I remember this, I have no idea. How there are SO MANY references to this online, I guess I can chalk up to “because the internet.” I am seriously in awe of the Perfect Strangers episode guide I am reading right now.

ANYWAY. Limbo Rock. And there was a dude in the crowd with a Chubby Checker Limbo Rock record – maybe even an original from the looks of it. Dude got very excited to hear this song. He waved the record. Chubby didn’t see it. He waved and waved the record some more. Still nothing. Because when you’re on a brightly-lit stage and the audience is darkened, you can’t see past the second row, much less 50 feet back. But this dude was undeterred. He walked up to the front, still holding his record high in the air, and walked the length of the stage with it. Finally, Chubby saw it, and though he didn’t say anything at the time (he was singing and all), he gave this guy the absolute most perfect “what the fuck are you doing, idiot?” look. This was so great. So so great. Mika leaned in and excitedly whispered “CHUBBY CHECKER IS AWESOME” and I so agree. There have been better concerts this year but not better moments.

After the song was done, he did offer to sign the guy’s record.

Anyway, yeah, this was what you’d expect in terms of songs. Lots of fun-time songs about dancing and partying and twisting, and various other songs from that era because why not? And all delivered better than I was expecting. Fine work.

  • He will close his set with The Twist

No, idiot. He closed his set with The Twist followed by Let’s Twist Again. Shoulda seen that coming.

  • My dad will sing along with random lines from random songs in exaggerated fashion, and then laugh self-consciously to himself

I don’t know that this happened? But mayyyyybe the four of us and most of the rest of the casino all danced The Twist when it was time to do so? That might have happened. I do not believe there to be video evidence of this and for that I am thankful. And we did not get up on stage to do it, unlike a bunch of people, one of whom I believe to be either Saskatchewan Roughriders legend George Reed or the safety guy from my office.

SLCR #217 – Moist (July 11, 2015)

August 5, 2015

It has now been several weeks since the Moist concert. As of this writing, I am a little better than an hour away from going to see Geoff Berner (or deciding against doing the same), and I don’t want these reviews to pile up, so here we go.

The last time I saw Moist was in 1999. It was in Toronto, and they were the headliners of a day-long free outdoor concert which also included Jeff Healey, Moxy Früvous, Tal Bachman, Kim Stockwood, and others. After spending the whole day outside listening to music, our little group was about done, so when another friend joined us and wanted to go foraging for food, we all left with him. I’m pretty sure I lasted for about two songs of Moist’s set. Couldn’t tell you which songs.

Don’t feel bad, Moist. I didn’t see Emm Gryner’s set either.

Moist was never one of my favourite bands, but they were fine. Via Columbia House, I had their first album, Silver (or “Sliver,” depending on which one of the CD case spines you chose to believe). Mika, on the other hand, liked them a bunch and was really looking forward to seeing them again. The four-year age gap between us isn’t that significant, but I suspect it played a role here. Gender gap too.

The show was at the casino. We are at an age where the bands we liked in high school now play early-ending shows at the casino. Perhaps more significantly, we are at an age where this mostly sounds perfectly fine.

As is the standard with casino shows, it started right on time. There was no opener. The MC was an ad writer for a local radio station – maybe all the on-air talent had somewhere better to be. I actually knew of the writer guy through work; the professional thing to do would probably have been to find him and introduce myself. I did no such thing. You should not be surprised.

Moist took the stage and launched into one of their hits. I probably should have taken notes as to what got played in what order, but that would have required knowing more than their biggest singles. So it goes. A handful of women stood up at the front of the stage, soon joined by others. The crowd was close to an even split, but the most ardent (read: loud) fans were female by a 10:1 ratio. I tells ya, if you ever wanted to meet a bunch of (what’s a polite word for “horny?” Hmm, let’s go with) interested women in their late 30s, go to a Moist show. Any guy who knew the deep cuts from Mercedes 5 and Dime was set.

The crowd at the stage grew throughout the night, and as our view diminished, Mika joined them. I stayed back at the table to guard drinks and purses. Well, “drink and purse,” singular – though my services were available had anyone else cared to take me up on them.

I thought this whole thing was fine. They played well. I knew some of the songs but didn’t know most of them. They sounded like they always did and their newer material (from last year’s Glory Under Dangerous Skies) meshed well with everything else. David Usher wandered out into the crowd and sang while posing for selfies. They closed with Push because of course they did. The night ended early – they played under 90 minutes including the encore. I was fine with that too. Really, this was the very definition of “just a show” for me and not in a negative way at all.

If nothing else, I got to hear one of my OWF themes played live for the first and most likely only time in my life. I am not sure how this sentence makes me feel nor am I super confident regarding its inclusion here. Luckily, anyone who gets it was there too. Besides, if I want to feel dumb, I can point out that though I was disappointed that this show was concurrent with UFC 189 (featuring the Conor McGregor title win), it never once occurred to me that I could simply order the replay when I got home, nor did I think to order and DVR the original broadcast. A colossal lack of imagination resulted in the failure to resolve the simplest problem. Oh well, hopefully it will be on Fight Pass before my subscription expires. And so concludes the most “pad the word count” paragraph I’ve ever written.

SLCR #215: Charley Pride (May 20, 2015)

June 8, 2015

“Do you want to go see Charley Pride?” asked my dad.

“I’ve got school that day,” said Mika.

It’s worth noting that at this point, none of us knew exactly when the concert was. Though in her defense, that statement is true as often as not. A safe bet, as it were.

Me, I can’t say that seeing Charley Pride was #1 on my list of things to do either. But the guy is a legend, and I was getting my ticket paid for, and none of us are getting any younger, so what the heck, you know? I was substantially less keen on the idea when I realized it meant missing out on watching the NXT special* live, but whatever. I could watch it when I got home, right?

*(a wrestling thing – you either already knew that or don’t care)

And so it was me, my dad, and my stepmom’s parents, immortalized together in a concert review at last. Mika, as it turned out, did have school on the evening of the show. And my stepmom gets up too early for work on weekdays to make it through an evening concert, even one that keeps reasonable casino hours. Or at least this is what I was told. If I were to someday learn that secretly they got together and drank wine and laughed at us for going to this show, I would not be shocked.

The plan was to forego the standard pre-show casino meal and mad dash to the show lounge in favour of getting a pizza after the concert. From a scheduling point, I was a fan of this idea. Not so much the pizza part, as these days, I’m trying to eat in a manner vaguely resembling that of a normal human (do not ask how many cookies I had today) (as it was a lot) (a lot of cookies) and pizza can be hard to fit into that regimen. Especially late-day pizza. But some carefully limited eating ensured that I could at least have some pizza, assuming I blatantly lied to myself regarding how many calories pizza has. One sacrifices where one must.

My dad picked me up first and we set out to collect the in-laws. I hadn’t seen them since before Christmas, and, well, there are some mobility issues that weren’t there the last time I saw them. She looked to be doing okay, but him… just getting from the apartment door and into the car proved challenging. I suppose this is just one of those things that happens, but it was a bit shocking that it seemingly came on so fast.

Needless to say, the walk from the parking lot was out. My dad dropped us off by the door, and while he went to park the car, it was my job to keep everyone upright or sitting down until it was time to move again. I tried to suggest that we could find a place to sit inside, but no – my stepmom’s dad found a ledge, sat down, and made friends with everyone else who got dropped off while the more mobile were parking and walking.

While we were waiting, Charley Pride walked right past us into the casino, about 15 feet from where I was standing. I appeared to be the only one who noticed.

Eventually, my dad found us – after looking around inside, where he might have reasonably expected to find us – and we made the slow trek into the show lounge. I could see why trying to make it from the restaurant in time would have been a struggle. I tried to keep a pleasant conversation going while my inside voice was screaming “stop walking so fast he can’t walk that fast why aren’t these people watching where they’re going quit getting in the way AAAAAAAAAAAAAA” and yeah anyway I was pretty glad when we got to our seats. Normally I would collect our tickets and trade them for free slot play vouchers, and maybe check out the merch table, but I didn’t want to leave anyone by themselves or try to drag them with me.

On the way in, we were handed brochures, listing tour dates and merchandise (of course), and introducing our opening act, Stephen Pride. Our guess was that this was Charley’s son, but later found out it was his brother. He played for about a half-hour; a few originals but mostly covers of older country songs. He seemed a little awkward when talking with the crowd – tripped over his words a few times – but by and large I thought he was okay enough. Not particularly of interest to me, not great, but also not awful. The rest of my table, however, just wanted to talk about how he didn’t have Charley’s voice or Charley’s presence. Which wasn’t untrue, I guess, but it bothered me less than it did them. Not the first time I’d disagree with the consensus viewpoint on this night. We were, however, all in agreement that the highlight of the set was sitting near the sound booth and watching Charley Pride chat with the sound tech for a good 10 minutes.

Between sets, I amused myself by playing a game of “Who Here is Younger Than Me?” The goal was to find someone – a paid attendee, not someone working there – who was obviously younger than 38-year-old me. I couldn’t do it. I saw a few people that MIGHT have been younger but not definitively so. Obviously, casino shows tend to skew old just based on who performs at casinos, but I’ve seen Wayne Newton and Bobby Curtola and Dr. John and Gordon Lightfood and Herman Hermit and this was the oldest audience of them all.

So I said I disagreed with the consensus of the table. Let me just say that if you’re tired of the concert review trope of “I wish I’d seen him back when,” you can pretty much close this down and hope I get my Danny Michel review written in under a month. Basically, from the time Charley Pride finished until I got dropped off at home, I lied. I said he put on a great show. I agreed that he still had his voice. I talked about what a fan I had become. I was not about to do anything to take away from anyone’s enjoyment of the concert. But man…. this was not very good at all. Pride sang for 90 minutes, which would have been impressive enough except he really only had 60 minutes in him. The first hour was okay, though it seemed apparent to me that his voice wasn’t what it once was. Not that it would be fair to expect it to be – the guy is pushing 80, after all. But he had this trick of ending songs by singing them really low, and it was an obvious cover that he couldn’t hit the high notes anymore. This got worse in the last half-hour, which also had him telling stories and getting lost halfway through. Or he had these cards with people’s birthdays on them, and he’d say happy birthday to them, only he’d get the names wrong, and couldn’t see them if they waved at him and wasn’t listening when his band tried to help him out, and then he’d just throw the cards on the floor and kind of mutter about it.

But you know. I was not a Charley Pride fan going into the evening. I looked up some of his singles online before the show, thinking that I’d know a bunch of them – this is the kind of music my dad always liked, so surely I heard lots of it growing up, right? Apparently not; I only knew a few of his biggest hits. So I wasn’t coming at this from a place of nostalgia. The rest of my table was. I think my dad sang along with every song. His mother-in-law said that the show was the “highlight of the year.” And the guy got a standing ovation. So… maybe it was just me? I don’t know. Maybe I was just grumpy and hungry. I thought this was a Lightfoot-level show and I do not mean that in a complimentary way. But a room full of people disagreed with me – or, actually, two rooms full of people, since he was booked for a second night.

I did a bit of reading on Charley Pride when putting this together, and this guy lived on heck of an interesting life. If Wikipedia isn’t lying to me, he played Negro League baseball, was the first black performer at the Grand Ol’ Opry in over 20 years, is part owner of the Texas Rangers, and did a show in Belfast at the height of the IRA conflict. And The Rock is making a movie about his life. I’d watch that, and my tolerance for Rock movies is pretty minimal.

So yeah, I wish I’d seen him back when.

Anyway, we headed to the lobby to wait while my dad got the car. This took only slightly less than forever since everyone was leaving the show at once. We got everyone loaded into the car with much nervousness on my part but finally got everyone settled – just in time to see an old lady leave the casino and wipe out face-first. My dad and I went over to help her out, but she was fine; a little embarrassed, and disappointed that she cracked the cases of her new CDs, but otherwise okay.

We went for that post-show pizza, only the find that the pizza place closes at 11:00 and it was 10:55 when we got there. Oh well. At least it meant I got home in time to grab some chips and watch the NXT special. Except that when I went downstairs to get said chips, I found that there had been water leaking into the basement for two days. Not enough to cause any real damage, but a mess. And enough to incite mild-to-moderate stress which took me out of the mood to watch the show or eat anything, so I went to bed, looking forward to my already-booked vacation day which was now to be spent dealing with the plumber.

This was not a very good day, is what I’m saying.

(Postscript: my dad still talks about the greatness of this concert. His mother-in-law was so pleased that she baked him a pie. The plumber arrived promptly and the problem tap has been fixed. The NXT special was really good and I even managed to avoid spoilers. I’m still due for some pizza.)

UPCOMING SHOWS

  • Danny Michel (June 13)
  • Moist (July 11)
  • Geoff Berner w/Whiskey Jerks (July 29)
  • Fred Eaglesmith w/Tif Ginn (August 2)
  • Regina Folk Festival feat. Sinead O’Connor, Jenny Lewis, Vance Joy, Blue Rodeo, Bahamas, more (August 7-9)
  • Chubby Checker & The Wildcats (September 26)
  • Hawksley Workman (October 16)

SLCR #209: Big Sugar (February 14, 2015)

March 5, 2015

I never thought I’d get to this point in my relationship with Big Sugar. I went over this in my last Big Sugar review, but to briefly recap: I saw them eons ago and it was way too loud and I was overly bitter about it for a long-ass time. I begrudgingly admitted that they were good before I finally saw them again a few years ago and liked them just fine. Now we are here. They’re just a band that comes to town sometimes, and we went because we kinda felt like it. How mature and boring.

The real reason we went to this show was because a friend from Saskatoon had tickets, but wound up wanting to unload them when Big Sugar subsequently booked a Saskatoon date. Being a magnanimous sort, I bought her tickets because there’s nothing I like more than helping out a friend when it involves no effort whatsoever on my part. I really am a great person. She’s lucky to know me.

I have mentioned before that I buy tickets in advance in order to force myself to go to things; staying home almost always seems like the better option when showtime rolls around, even for shows I like. And on this particular day, my goodness. Not only was it Valentine’s Day – a day when I would much rather not go anywhere that people are – but as luck would have it, it snowed a ton. It started right as I woke up and carried on all damn day. I was very tempted to call the whole thing off, but Mika had a great idea for a Valentine’s Day present for me – she got us a cab to and from the show. This was possibly the best idea ever had. I am not certain my car would have made it. The cab driver had troubles, including an inability to pull into my driveway for fear that he’d never make it back out.

This idea was not without its flaws. We decided to eat supper at the casino, because I don’t learn from my father’s questionable ideas. This plan was put into jeopardy when everyone else in the city had the same idea to call a cab at the same time, and it took nearly an hour for the cab to show up. And once we were on the way, the driver asked if he could stop at his house to grab his cellphone and a shovel, in case he got stuck. I said that was fine. It’s winter in Saskatchewan, so that’s what you do. I guess. He turned the meter off, which I guess is what’s important. We arrived late to the casino and checked out the line at the restaurant, which turned out to be non-existent. I guess that makes sense. Seniors like to eat at the casino; Big Sugar does not attract seniors, so there was room for us. I shoved a clubhouse sandwich down my foodhole and we raced to the show lounge, walking in to applause because we arrived at the exact same time as the band. Now I know how Dave felt after peeing during The Mist.

We took our seats and found that we had no tablemates. A delightful surprise, though there were a small number of visible empty seats in the crowd. I’m guessing a lot of people didn’t want to venture out in the weather (or couldn’t – highways around Regina were closed).

The table nearest us, I… you know, I don’t even know if I wish they hadn’t shown up or if I’m super glad they did. I just don’t know. It was two couples. The first girl took selfies all night long. She bought us a round of drinks. She high-fived people on her way to the bathroom and back. Upon returning, she said “if Security asks, I’ve been here all along.” The two guys were as excited for Big Sugar as anyone I’ve ever seen, with lots of WOOs and YEAHs. Actually, the whole table was like that. They ordered 38 beers among the four of them. I do not know why she bought us drinks. Random friendly gesture? A pre-emptive make-good since they were expecting to be obnoxious? Can we be bought with a Diet Coke and a rum & Coke? Pretty much, yes. Anyway, they were something else.

Back (?) to the show. The band was gathered all on stage, all dressed head to toe in white. The look was unexpected and eye-catching; it also made Mika think that they all kind of looked like they were members of the Guilty Remnant. Even better, she came to this realization during the song 100 Cigarettes.

There was no sign of Shaun Verrault and Safwan Javed of Wide Mouth Mason, who have played with the band in the past and who I thought might have become permanent band members. I must confess I am do not keep up to date on the Big Sugar starting roster. But even keeping that in mind, I did not expect there to be three children in the band. And not “children” like how I refer to 20-year-olds because I am aging and defensive; literal children. Lead singer Gordie Johnson’s children, as it turned out; his son on drums and two daughters singing backup.

In my last Big Sugar recap, I raised an eyebrow about the skinny white dreadlocked guy singing in the faux-Jamaican accent, looking like a Rastafarian version of Mr. Lonely. I did the same thing time. I don’t think he’s a bad guy or anything, I just see that and I think “…you sure about this?” If nobody else has a problem with this, then I shouldn’t either, I guess.

In the interest of not getting off on a bad foot with my Big Sugar pals, I’ll mention now that at their merchandise table, they have it set up so that fans can sign up with WorldVision and sponsor needy children in Jarso, Ethiopia. You can check out more information here: http://artistcollective.ca/artists/big-sugar/

As for the show itself, it was an all-acoustic set, which was about as far removed from that first Big Sugar show as it could be. It started off on a dubious note for me, as they were sounding less like a rock band with some reggae influences and more like a reggae band. Which is great, if that’s your thing. It’s not really my thing. Eventually, they moved into more of a straight up (acoustic) rock show. They didn’t play a ton of singles – not that I’ve ever been a big fan, but I only recognized three songs all night (Diggin’ A Hole, All Hell For A Basement, and Little Bit a All Right). I think Mika knew a few more. They didn’t close with O Canada, which is something I thought they always did. I know they also played a Grady song, but I only know that because Gordie said so. He also ad-libbed a few jokey bits (in that way where it probably wasn’t an ad-lib, but something he does at every show); one about run-ins with cops (“they really like that Diggin’ A Hole song/but they don’t like that our tour bus smells like Cheech & Chong”) and a few lines of an impression of Gordon Lightfoot singing All Hell For A Basement. I thought that part was super funny and now I really want to hear Lightfoot cover that song. I think it could possibly work really well. And at one point, Gordie said “alllllright” and the girl who bought us drinks loudly said “alllllright” and Gordie asked if they were making fun of him, but he acknowledged that he’d worked his entire career just to make a woman say “alllllright.”

Ultimately, I declare this show to be “fine.” I preferred the last Big Sugar show. I know two people who attended the Saskatoon show and they were blown away by it, and I assume the shows were pretty similar, so maybe you should listen to them and not to me. I don’t think “fine” is a negative review, but these folks were raving. I’m not raving. It was fine. Glad we went. Glad we took a cab.

You may remember the drunken texts I was on the receiving end of during the Glass Tiger show. Well, watching TV after Big Sugar, I texted that fellow – to let him know that the Soorp Asdvadzadzin Armenian Apostolic Church in Boston was closed due to snow, of course – and I found that he’d been drinking. I told him about the Big Sugar show and he replied “Glad thencpncertbwas good despite the whites” which is about the best way I’ve ever heard an evening described.

UPCOMING SHOWS
• Dan Mangan + Blacksmith w/Hayden and Astral Swans (March 7)
• Amelia Curran w/Ryan Boldt (March 27)
• The God That Comes (April 3)
• Danko Jones w/The Lazys (April 10)
• The Joel Plaskett Emergency w/Mo Kenney (May 15)
• Charley Pride (May 20)
• Chubby Checker & The Wildcats (September 26)