Posts Tagged ‘conexus arts centre’

SLCR #229: Blue Rodeo (January 14, 2016)

January 31, 2016

It’s 9:45 a.m. on Friday, January 22. I’m washing down my Robaxacet with Diet Pepsi, and The Guy (capitalized because I’m pretty sure that’s his legal name) is fixing the burnt-out element on our stove. I have better things to do than write a concert review right now (sleep) (that’s it), but I had to be up to let The Guy in, and this hard kitchen chair is the best thing for my back, so here we are. And I need to get this done, because we’re less than 12 hours away from the next show. And then 4 days from the next. And so on.

Seriously. I normally bury my list of upcoming shows at the bottom of the review, and don’t include it in the final copy that I save for the book I’ll never compile, but look at this. How did this happen?

  • Whitehorse w/Andy Shauf and Emily Wells (January 22)
  • Headstones (January 26)
  • Corb Lund (February 9)
  • Elliott Brood w/Nick Faye (February 10)
  • Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls w/Mo Kenney & Northcote (March 5)
  • Amelia Curran (March 8)
  • The Watchmen (March 25)
  • Metric w/Death Cab for Cutie (March 28)
  • Spirit of the West (March 31)
  • I Mother Earth (April 23)
  • Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids (April 25)
  • Ben Folds & yMusic w/Dotan (May 11)
  • Hawksley Workman & The Art of Time Ensemble (May 13)
  • City and Colour w/Shakey Graves (June 12)
  • Regina Folk Festival (August 5-7)

Those aren’t maybes. Those are all things I have tickets for (except for Grownups, and that’s only because tickets haven’t gone on sale yet). My goodness.

Anyway. Blue Rodeo. Canadian (rock? country?) legends. If you were born in this country or have ever visited it, you likely know their hits. I saw them ages ago at the Folk Festival and they were good, didn’t blow me away or anything. Then I saw them again at the Folk Festival this past year, and they were great. So so great. This would be my first time seeing them at their own show (if that makes sense), and I had high hopes for a repeat of this summer’s experience.

Having said that, my attendance at this show was sort of decided for me. I got the email notification that they were coming, and I thought “hey, Mark really liked Blue Rodeo at the Folk Festival too, I should send him this,” so I did, and he said “Great! Get us tickets and I’ll pay you back.” Now, at this point, I hadn’t actually decided whether or not I was going to go to this show, but I took this as a sign from God that I was meant to be there. Even as an atheist, I can find signs from God in all sorts of things whenever I want to do something anyway. Remember, your work fire drill is just God’s way of saying that it’s time to go try the DQ Blizzard of the Month. Anyway, I can tell God approved because we got really good seats.

With each of the four tickets, I was entitled to a free download of a Blue Rodeo album. I wanted to pick up the classics – meaning, the ones that had the songs I actually know – whereas Mark wanted newer stuff. We compromised, by which I mean he left it entirely up to me. That’s good teamwork. I picked their new live album, their two most recent studio albums, and Five Days in July. I listened to precisely none of these in preparation for the show. Mika and I did, however, listen to some Blue Rodeo themed station on Apple Music on the night before. And mostly I paid attention to the songs I actually know.

We got to the Conexus Arts Centre fairly early with lots of time to check out the stuff table. Lots of vinyl, lots of shirts, all the stuff you’d expect. Didn’t get anything. We checked our coats, which I hate doing because then you’re stuck there forever when it’s time to go home, but the alternative in this weather is either to freeze to death on the way to and/or from the show, or boil up until you evaporate during the show itself. And I wanted to see the show. I’d hate to have… mist it.

I think maybe I’m tired.

THAT JOKE WAS GREAT AND I AM LEAVING IT IN DESPITE ALL INSTINCTS

ANYWAY WHATEVER

WHEN MARK AND ARLETTE GOT THERE MARK ASKED FOR DORITOS AND I THINK HE WAS KIDDING BUT ARLETTE BOUGHT HIM DORITOS ANYWAY BECAUSE ARLETTE GETS SHIT DONE AND THEN MARK HAD TO EAT THE DORITOS WHICH IS A PRETTY GOOD OUTCOME FOR A JOKE I HAVE TO SAY

I didn’t get Doritos. Or help Mark with his Doritos. We’d just had Wok Box. It was good. Would go again. And will do so in about 7 hours or so, in fact. This concert review brought to you by Wok Box. “Wok Box: for when you get old and you can’t eat mozza sticks and chicken fingers every day because you are scared of your doctor.”

The bar, apart from Doritos, also had a drink called a PineApple Upside Down Cake (their spelling choices) which was pineapple juice, birthday cake vodka, and 7-Up. I couldn’t tell if I wanted one really badly or if I wanted to punch the guy who thought this up. I settled on “I don’t want to have to pee during the show.”

Our opener was Terra Lightfoot. After last year, I was leery of people named Lightfoot but she was really good. She occupies a similar part-country/part-rock space like Blue Rodeo. Do I know from song titles? Not at all, apart from a song called NFB, which I liked, but is accidentally not on her “limited edition” vinyl. She mentioned that the last time she played Regina was at O’Hanlon’s, so the Conexus Arts Centre is a big step up in terms of prominence, but I bet her show at O’Hanlon’s would have been killer.

I took a break from writing this to bus downtown and watch my work friends play with their toy helicopters. I picked Lightfoot’s album, Every Time My Mind Runs Wild, as the soundtrack. It was quite good; well worth checking out if it’s on your streaming service of choice. Or you could buy it. That’s still an option in places.

Unfortunately, this break of mine has now lasted eight days and counting. The Whitehorse and Headstones shows have come and gone and both have even been reviewed. I am apparently now far enough behind to bend the fabric of space and time. This was inevitable. Much like when I started this thing, I would like to be asleep, but no! I soldier on in hopes of sleeping tomorrow.

Blue Rodeo had, like, six lamps on the stage. This is important for you to know. Now you feel like you were there. I think this is like that VR stuff you hear about on blogs. An immersive experience. To complete the illusion, surround yourself with assholes. Seriously, this show had the loudest, most obnoxious drunks I’d encountered in some time. Oh, did they yell. They wanted to go into great detail about how much they love Blue Rodeo and how happy they were that Blue Rodeo was playing there. I kind of rolled my eyes at this, but secretly, I just wanted it to escalate to the point where there were five-minute audience monologues between songs. “THIS MESSAGE IS FOR ALL MEMBERS OF THE MUSICAL ENSEMBLE BLUE RODEO. ON BEHALF OF THE CITIZENS OF REGINA, SASKATCHEWAN, I WANT TO PROFESS MY PROFOUND GRATITUDE FOR YOUR APPEARANCE HERE THIS EVENING. AS YOU MAY KNOW, REGINA WAS ESTABLISHED IN 1882 AND WAS NAMED IN HONOUR OF QUEEN VICTORIA…”

The drunks also yelled song requests, to which Jim Cuddy said “Thanks. We wouldn’t have thought of playing that.” He responded to a request for Try by saying that they were, as hard as they could. I couldn’t tell if the band was amused or irritated by these outbursts. Maybe a bit of both?

I didn’t have any run-ins with the drunks personally. The closest I had was the lady to my right who was VERY excited for Blue Rodeo and for our great seats. She went “EEEEEEEEEE” at me when they played one of their hits, and I thought “man, when we get to the show-ending crowd singalong of Hasn’t Hit Me Yet, she’s going to LOSE HER MIND.” Which, pretty much, yeah.

So yeah, the show was a little bit predictable, but not entirely. I got my phone out to record what I thought would be said singalong, but they swerved me and brought out Terra Lightfoot and her band to join them on Lost Together first. Which is here:

See? Lamps.

So how was the show? Well, it was very good. This should not surprise. Blue Rodeo are very talented musicians and songwriters. You do not need me to tell you that. (You need me to tell you about their lamps.) But it wasn’t as good as this year’s Folk Festival show. It felt like both shows had the same amount of energy, only this time, it had to be spread twice as far. They would go long stretches playing only new material, which again was GOOD, but not what most people were there to hear. And things like the show-closing singalong were great the first time. Now they’re still fun, but an expected part of the show. But then putting those two points next to each other suggests that I don’t want to see stuff I’ve seen before but I also am not very interested in anything new. So what the hell do you do with that? Go to a show, have a good time, and maybe don’t think too hard about it.

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SLCR #197: Neil Young w/Diana Krall (January 17, 2014)

January 27, 2014

“Should I get tickets to Neil Young?”

This was a trick question; not in how it was asked, but that it was asked at all. I asked it of my coworkers for whom shopping is something of a lifestyle. It’s their favourite hobby. You might wonder how they can afford this, and if you did, I would point out that “returning things” is their second favourite. At any rate, I knew they’d say “yes,” and sometimes I need a push.

I don’t usually need a push when it comes to concert tickets. This may sound hypocritical coming from someone who has so much stuff, but I would much rather have experiences than things. However, this was not a particularly cheap experience – the two tickets were going to run us around $375 once you got the taxes and fees in there. And my history with Neil Young is relatively limited. Of course, I know he’s a Canadian legend and I’ve heard most of his more famous songs, but I don’t think I’ve ever thought “man, you know what I could really stand to listen to right now? Some Neil Young.” But whatever, it’s only money, I can always make more. And besides, Neil is, in fact, not young, so who knows how many more chances I’ll get to see him? He also had Diana Krall as his opening act, and she’s a pretty big star in her own right. Plus, the show was in the Conexus Arts Centre, a smaller concert venue (holds 2,000 or thereabouts) and not at a big hockey rink. And finally, this tour was for a good cause.

Yeah, so about that cause. This concert was one of four that were held across Canada to raise funds for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, which is locked in perpetual legal fights against the federal government and the oil companies which aim to expand tar sands development, some of which could impact the band’s traditional land and could have serious environmental consequences. Young took no payment for the shows, and the Honour The Treaties tour raised over $500,000 for the band’s legal fund.

However, two of the shows took place in Regina and Calgary, major cities in oil-rich (and, let’s be honest here, highly racist) provinces. This led to the concerts stirring up a giant mess of controversy, which was compounded by Young in several interviews where he did things like comparing the mine sites to Hiroshima after the atomic bomb hit. Newspapers were filled with angry editorials and letters. These were accompanied by shocking exposés (?) that revealed that the alleged environmentalist Young sometimes flies on private planes and that his tour buses were left running during the Calgary show, despite being empty. Also, Neil Young is a rock star, which apparently invalidates his opinions on any other subject.

I can’t imagine anyone giving a damn about my opinion on such things, but I can’t imagine you giving a damn about whether or not I thought a concert was any good and here you are, so:

 

  • No matter how much oil is still in the ground, it’s a finite amount, so the priority really should be finding/improving alternate sources of energy.
  • If you’re going to tell other people what to do, don’t be surprised when they hold you to those standards.
  • If you’re going to tell other people what to do, don’t be surprised when they find reasons to not like you.
  • If you don’t want to honour treaties, then you’d best renegotiate them instead of just doing whatever you feel like.
  • One person (or group of people) using wasteful transportation methods is a small problem; treaty rights, the environment, how much energy we (as a society) use, where this energy comes from, and what are the consequences – those are all big problems.
  • Small problems have a funny way of distracting people from big problems.
  • I really just wanted to hear Heart of Gold.

Enough politicizing.

We got to the Conexus Arts Centre about a half-hour before the show began. I didn’t get tickets right when they went on sale, so we missed out on the two seats at the end of the fabled Row L for Legroom. Not that I would have paid that much anyway – I choked a bit on the $375 and that only got us into the cheap seats. Based on the seating chart on venue’s online ticketing system, I went for the two seats at the end of Row R, as it appeared to stand for Room, Leg. No such luck. Instead, we stood (and sat, and stood, and sat – that’s what happens if you take the aisle seats and show up early).

We had initially tried to avoid that whole scene, thinking we could wait in the lobby until the show started. However, there was an unannounced opening act of sorts. From the lobby, we could hear someone talking so we took our seats. A Native man with a guitar – if he said his name, we missed it – was talking about the drive from the north to the show. He then brought out someone who I assume was a Chief – again, I didn’t catch the name, but as soon as he walked out on stage, every First Nations person in the audience immediately stood up, followed by about two-thirds of the white people in attendance who were much more tentative about it.

I should note that despite the racial makeup of the province, this might be the first show I’ve ever attended where a significant percentage of the audience was First Nations. Many of them were wearing “Got Land? Thank an Indian” hoodies in support of a local student who was (briefly) banned from wearing the hoodie to school. I suspect we’ll see some of those next month when A Tribe Called Red is at The Exchange.

Anyway, the man who I thought was a Chief spoke in a language I did not understand. I assume he was opening the evening with a prayer, because when he finished speaking, there was no applause – he just walked off and everyone sat back down. The guy with the guitar came back and sang a song which he dedicated to water. Then he left, at which point they dimmed the lights, closed the doors, and began the show in earnest.

I have never listened to Diana Krall. Apart from the fact that one time, she was a jerk to a friend of Mika’s, I had always assumed that I would think “wow, that was very well done and not my thing at all.” Sometimes I am right about things. She played some piano and sang some songs. No band, just her. She told a few stories and seemed kind of nervous when she talked. I was not familiar with the Fats Waller song Your Feet’s Too Big but it was a delight. She also sang Don’t Fence Me In, a song which has forever been ruined for me because I first heard it on the old Air Farce radio show and their lyrics – “give me fish, lots of fish, and a great big jug of beer / don’t piss me off” – have always stuck with me for God-knows-what reason. These are the extent of my thoughts on Diana Krall.

I do have thoughts about the people who can’t show up on time for things and make entire rows of people stand up to accommodate them. You know what those thoughts are. Furthermore, I have thoughts about the crabby lady who told the latecomers to wait until between songs to take their seats. Those thoughts consist primarily of high-fives.

I also have thoughts about people who hang out in the lobby, open the doors, look to see if Neil Young is playing yet, leave, and repeat this action every five minutes. These thoughts are like high-fives, only with a closed hand. So they’re more like a fist-bump, but instead of hitting the other person’s fist, you go for their face or balls.

We hung out in the lobby during intermission until, again, we could hear someone on stage. We came back to watch a drum circle, but this time we were smart enough to lean against a wall and not even bother with the sit-stand-sit-stand routine.

Finally, Neil Young took the stage. Again, no band – just him, two pianos, and a multitude of guitars. He told stories about both pianos and some of the guitars. Everything has a history.

I had always understood Young to be kind of, well, a cantankerous old grouch. I don’t know if this is a commonly held opinion or just something I picked up somewhere. Instead, he was quite funny and seemed very laid-back and even a little self-deprecating. I was surprised at how likable he came across. And despite the cause he was promoting, there was no sermonizing during the show.

Young is 68. I know this from Wikipedia, as much as anyone can know anything that comes from Wikipedia. Despite his age, when Neil Young sings, he still sounds just like Neil Young, for better or worse – you decide which. Mika said she knew about half the songs he played; I did not. I can come up with a longer list of songs he didn’t play: Harvest Moon, Hey Hey My My, Rockin’ in the Free World, The Needle and the Damage Done, Cinnamon Girl. Luckily, Young is popular enough that someone out in the vast internets filled in a setlist of questionable accuracy for the less-informed of us:

  • From Hank to Hendrix
  • On the Way Home (Buffalo Springfield)
  • Only Love Can Break Your Heart
  • Love in Mind
  • Mellow My Mind
  • Are You Ready for the Country
  • Someday
  • Changes (Phil Ochs)
  • Harvest
  • Old Man
  • A Man Needs a Maid
  • Ohio
  • Southern Man
  • Mr. Soul (Buffalo Springfield)
  • Pocahontas
  • Four Strong Winds (Ian & Sylvia)
  • Heart of Gold

Encore:

  • Comes a Time
  • Long May You Run

I will say that I had absolutely no idea what to make of A Man Needs a Maid. But the rest of the show was pretty great – very simple and stripped down. Just a guy, some songs, a few stories, and a completely devoted audience. I suppose you might have to expect that, given the ticket prices. Young got a standing ovation just for showing up. People yelled “thank you!” and “we love you!” and hooted and hollered for every song, especially the hits. It’s a bit weird to greet Ohio with screams of delight. Maybe people don’t know the words?

As for the effectiveness of the concert at getting his message across… well, he got people talking, so that’s good. There’s more shouting than talking and not enough listening, but that was pretty much a given. If nothing else, the environmental message gave us a big laugh when we were leaving the parking lot and found ourselves behind a giant Hummer.

UPCOMING SHOWS

  • A Tribe Called Red (Tuesday, February 18)
  • Mounties w/Rich Aucoin (Friday, March 28)
  • Ben Folds & Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (Wednesday, May 21)
  • Regina Folk Festival (Friday, August 8 to Sunday, August 10)

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!

SLCR #185: Tegan & Sara (March 4, 2013)

March 10, 2013

I can think of precisely nothing interesting for a backstory. I am not the biggest Tegan & Sara fan on Earth, but I like them well enough. Mika likes some of their songs and not others. The concert was announced and I didn’t buy tickets. Then an ad caught me at a weak moment and I bought tickets. When the day of the show rolled around, I half thought it wouldn’t happen because there had been a big ol’ blizzard the day before and T&S had to make it in from Edmonton, which is about an eight-hour drive (and, in my experience, longer when a good chunk of the roads are marked as “travel not recommended”). But I looked at their Twitter and their Twitter said they made it so the show was a go.

Between Sarah Slean last week and Tegan & Sara this week, I’m starting to feel slightly insecure about my masculinity in regards to my music choices. We’re off to see Leonard Cohen tomorrow, and while Cohen himself is surely manly, I’m not that going to his show says anything about me other than “wow, there’s a lot of grey around those temples.”

…and that’s all I had written as of Friday morning. Just before leaving work on Friday afternoon, I found out that Leonard Cohen’s show had been postponed until the end of April. Friday evening, I discovered that I would likely need to reschedule what day I went to Hawksley Workman’s musical. This, of course, is all my fault for prepping a half-dozen text files for upcoming reviews, all of which now need editing. In protest of this extra work, I put off this concert review until now. Now I need to get it done and I need to write a speech for Toastmasters on Wednesday and I need to spend all Tuesday in training for work so I’m pretty much well under the gun. Good job, me! At least I got that quality Bejeweled Blitz time in yesterday.

The last time I saw Tegan & Sara was in the basement of the Conexus Arts Centre. This time, they’d graduated to the main stage. I’d suggest that their fans got older and more appreciative of sitting down, but that was very much not the case. The crowd was very female and very young (Mika: “SO MANY LEGGINGS”) and I felt quite out of place. I was hoping I could cling onto Mika’s arm and get away with looking like a guy who’d been dragged there, but I don’t think anyone bought that, largely because I don’t think anyone gave the slightest care one way or the other.

When I bought the tickets, I bought the best available aisle seats. It turns out that Row L is number one and the best. There are no seats directly in front of the two seats on the end, so we didn’t have to do any of that stand-sit-stand-sit-stand-sit nonsense as other people came and went. Row L for Legroom (rejected name: “Row L for Lots of space for our legs”) was a great discovery and if I can’t get front row, I want Row L aisle seats. It’s a good thing I’ve done such a poor job of making friends in Regina; otherwise, I’d be afraid that someone might steal these seats on me.

The opening act was Diana. We were never sure if Diana was the singer’s name, the band’s name, or both. I suppose I could look now, but… y’know. They played some 80’s-sounding dancey pop (complete with drum machine and a saxophone solo) and it was fine enough. Not so much my thing, but then I don’t really listen to a lot of music that one could dance to. I did enjoy when they shilled for Tegan & Sara’s new record and either Tegan or Sara yelled “earn your keep!” from the side of the stage.

There has to be a smooth way to segue into how “I don’t really listen to a lot of music that one could dance to” and that “Tegan & Sara’s new record” is just that and how it hasn’t really been a hit with me so far, but that will do. Really, I’ve never been an album guy with Tegan & Sara. Give me some time with one single and I’ll usually grow to really like it, but listening to a whole album in one go just doesn’t do it for me. It all kinda blends together and I lose interest. They’re not the only band I’m like that with, but it feels more pronounced with this record. It was made to be poppier and dancier and I assume that’s why. I have read a bit on the internet about how this was more Sara’s album and most of my favourite T&S songs are ones that Tegan wrote. I haven’t done enough research to see if there was any truth whatsoever to this, though. It is a pretty rare album that makes me think “Yeah! Research!”

Tegan & Sara opened with two of their bigger singles, Back In Your Head and Walking With a Ghost. There were a handful of other older tracks during the show, including an encore medley which featured Speak Slow, You Wouldn’t Like Me, On Directing, Arrow, and others. (No sign of Hell, which is probably my favourite of their songs; oh well.) But most of the show was dedicated to their new record (if they didn’t play the whole thing, they played almost all of it), and I felt about the same watching it live as I did hearing the album: I didn’t dislike any of it, but none of the new songs really stood out either.

There were three non-musical highlights on this particular evening:

  1. This one guy who came to dance and didn’t care that nobody around him was dancing. He was super passionate about his dance mission; so much so that Tegan or Sara or whoever handles their Twitter account singled him out after the show.
  2. This one balding guy in the crowd who had a straight line of hair down the middle of his bald spot, giving his head the appearance of being a butt.
  3. Storytime! I enjoyed Sara talking about riding the Mindbender roller coaster at West Edmonton Mall (and Tegan wondering what, exactly, this had to do with Regina), but the best story – and indeed, the best part of the whole night – was the story about Tegan & Sara’s one and only solo show. Years ago (I think the year before I moved to Regina), Tegan & Sara were to perform at the Regina Folk Festival. However, a massive blackout hit the eastern part of North America, grounding flights. So when Tegan got to Regina (from Vancouver, I think), she found out that Sara wasn’t going to make it but everyone (meaning Sara, their mom, and their manager) encouraged her to play the show by herself. Tegan got as far as mentioning being picked up at the airport by a Folk Festival volunteer when someone yelled from the crowd, “that was me!” Tegan asked for proof, and the fan responded with more than enough details to confirm her identity. The volunteer talked about going to Walmart and picking up art supplies, then coming back to the Folk Festival where Tegan gave her Sara’s backstage pass. Tegan then lay down on some cardboard and the volunteer traced her (Sara: “For those that can’t hear, they basically made a Bristol board me and taped it to a mic stand”) and “when I traced between your legs, you said ‘do you know how many people want to be you right now?'” (Sara: “Sounds like her.”) and apparently Tegan threw up from nerves before doing the show, and she didn’t know Sara’s parts so the crowd sang them, and everything was great. Tegan seemed completely delighted by this story. The whole thing went over so well you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a rehearsed bit that happens at every show.

This makes it sound like I didn’t like the show, or at least the singing bits. This is not true! The day after the show, Dave asked me how it was and I said “it was a perfectly fine performance by a band I like well enough,” and I think that’s fair. There are shows where I’m blown away and there are shows I have no patience for. And then there are shows where I go “that was fine.”

Remember when these reviews used to be full of drunken adventures? Mostly other people’s drunken adventures, but still. They entertained. I clearly need to spend more time with drunks. This is an open invitation to any of my friends who haven’t got their shit together yet: come to shows with me.

UPCOMING SHOWS

  • The God That Comes (Thursday, March 21? Friday, March 22? Both?)
  • Michael Bernard Fitzgerald’s Birthday Spectacular (with Teddy Celebration, Mark Mills, Scenic Route to Alaska, and Cole Hruska – Saturday, March 23)
  • presumably some sort of Junofest stuff over Junos weekend, which I’ll combine with the review of the
  • JUNO Songwriters Circle (Sunday, April 21)
  • Leonard Cohen (Sunday, April 28)
  • They Might Be Giants (Saturday, June 1)

SLCR #182: Stuart McLean (December 5, 2012)

January 14, 2013

When I write concert reviews, I like to listen to the artist in question. I’m not sure if it would work so well if I was just listening to stories instead of music, but it doesn’t matter. Mika has discovered Songza, and we’ve spent the last two days listening to nothing but the hits of the 90s. Two full days of How Bizarre, Walking in Memphis, In the Meantime, Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm, Machinehead, Cumbersome, Counting Blue Cars, One Headlight, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s has done nothing to put me in the Christmas spirit. That it’s the middle of January isn’t helping matters either. Better get the headphones and the Christmas music and get this underway.

I don’t know if going two years in a row is enough to make the Vinyl Cafe Christmas concert a “tradition,” exactly. My dad thinks we go every year, and I have no reason to think that we won’t go again this year, so I guess it’s as good as descriptor as any. In keeping with tradition, the format of this year’s show was almost exactly the same as last year’s. The core of the show is Stuart McLean telling Dave and Morley stories – some new, some old favourites – interspersed with songs by the Vinylettes and a guest musician. At about the halfway point of the show, McLean chats with the audience and gives away books and CDs to the youngest and oldest people in attendance. He also introduces the band and gives them a bit of the spotlight for themselves, he leads the Vinylettes in a medley of Christmas songs, and everyone in the show joins in the closing number. About the only significant change this year was replacing the listener-submitted story (maybe they only do those when they’re recording the show for radio?) with a song by a local contest winner.

I don’t listen to enough Vinyl Cafe to know which stories were reruns, so they were all new to me. We got Dave making snow (this was the best of the bunch; we heard an older, extended version of this one over our Christmas vacation), Dave and Stephanie going on a yoga retreat (I wasn’t a fan of this one – too many poop/fart jokes), and the family having Christmas dinner with Stephanie’s boyfriend’s family. As ever, I won’t go into details so as not to spoil anything for you – check the CBC podcasts on iTunes if you want to hear any of these for yourself.

Last year, the guest musician was Hawksley Workman which was what inspired me to go to the show in the first place. Before this year’s show, Mika read some reviews online, and I guess Hawksley was not necessarily appreciated by everyone. I’m not overly surprised; the Vinyl Cafe crowd skews old and Hawksley’s a weirdo. This year, the guest musician was Reid Jamieson. His songs were a lot more straightforward and traditional. Less interesting for me, but probably a better overall fit for the show. Both Jamieson and Workman have toured with the Vinyl Cafe repeatedly in the past; I bet it will be either Jill Barber or Danny Michel’s turn this year.

And… that’s about all I have to say about the evening, really. This might be a record. It’s not that I didn’t have a good time – the stories were generally entertaining, the songs were well done, and the show as a whole is a nice way to kick off the Christmas season. It was just so similar to the previous year’s show that I don’t have anything to say. I had originally thought that it would be funny to just copy and paste last year’s review with a handful of edits; in retrospect, that idea was a solid one. Maybe I’ll do that next year and see if any of you are paying attention. Or maybe I’ll just go to the show and not bother reviewing it. Or maybe the next Christmas concert will be some kind of drug-fueled bacchanalia that culminates with McLean being shot naked out of a cannon into the audience and I’ll have no choice but to report back to all y’all.

SLCR #173: k.d. lang & The Siss Boom Bang (September 13, 2012)

September 18, 2012

We got to the Conexus Arts Centre with a half-hour to spare and the traffic was already bonkers. I thought this was weird for a show with assigned seating, but it turned out that half of the theatre’s parking lot was ripped up and unusable. No signage on site, no advertising (that I saw, anyway), just one lonely Commissionaire directing traffic – after people had already got caught in the jam. I wound up following some cars who all arbitrarily decided to park on the street in a no-parking zone. I joined in, hoping that they wouldn’t ticket all of us.

Spoiler: they didn’t.

And though there was one hairy moment when leaving when we were being passed by oncoming traffic on both sides of the car, the whole thing went surprisingly smoothly despite some poor (or, rather, non-existent) planning on the Centre’s part. There went my vitriol, and with it, my pre-planned review opening. So instead I jumped straight into the (lack of) action. I hope that was good enough, because the writing isn’t going to get any better from here.

Speaking of stories that don’t mean anything to anyone but me, on Wednesday, I was looking at Hawksley Workman’s Twitter feed. He had replied to someone named Lindi Ortega, and for whatever reason, I clicked through to her Twitter, found out she was a country singer, and wondered if she ever came out this way. Then the next night, we went to k.d. lang and she was the opener. Isn’t that just the most amazing disinteresting and unverifiable story? Remember when these reviews used to be full of hilarious drunken goings-on? Now it’s mild Twitter coincidences.

Anyway, I thought Lindi Ortega was pretty good. There was one awkwardly hilarious moment when she said that the Regina crowd was good-looking, and some yokel in the front row (presumably not from Regina) shouted out “you’re in Saskatchewan.” It sounded like he was correcting her, leading to mass confusion for all concerned.

When that happened, I thought it might make for an amusing anecdote but reading it back, man, I couldn’t make that sound interesting to save my life. I’ve got nothing tonight. So what can I say about k.d. lang, other than she’s really good? I suppose the best endorsement I can give is that it was worth taking abuse from the guys at work the next day:

Scott: “Last night, we had our last football game of the season. Once it was over, we all sat around outside and drank beers for hours. I thought we’d brought enough, but at one point, we had to send a guy out for another 30-pack.”

James: “Last night, I went to see k.d. lang. That’s about as manly, right?”

Apparently, it is not. I didn’t even mention the part where I stood around holding Mika’s purse while she was in the washroom.

The purse-holding took place after Lindi Ortega’s set. A kindly Ontarian took pity on me while he was waiting for his wife – I didn’t notice if he was holding a purse too – and we had a nice chat about how nice the people are in Regina. I’m not sure what it says about me that I now consider every random encounter with a stranger to be a perfect chance to practice my impromptu speaking skills, but it does make me chattier. Toastmasters works in mysterious ways. I’m not sure how well it works when I spend an evening writing concert reviews instead of writing my humourous speech contest entry, though.

Speaking of humour or the lack thereof, k.d. lang and her band, The Siss Boom Bang, were introduced by someone with a fake wacky German accent. He was also wearing a tie with a banjo on it. A BANJO!!! I did not quite know what to make of this. Luckily, we got down to the singing parts pretty quickly, and – I’m sure I’m breaking news here, guys – she’s good at that.

As far as song selection went, it was like an extended version of her set from the Folk Festival last year. And much like I said then, I don’t really understand why she sings Hallelujah in the middle of the set. I know she didn’t write it, but it’s THE song that everyone was there to see. People cheer as soon as they recognize it and then go deathly silent until the extended standing ovation at the end of the song. I am certain she could walk out on stage, sing Hallelujah, and call it a night, and 90% of the people there would go home happy. But we also got close to two hours of her most famous songs, new ones, and covers, including Heaven by The Talking Heads which she joked she sang as penance. “Mostly because I don’t want to lose my Chick-fil-A sponsorship,” she added, which amused and confused the crowd in equal measure.

k.d. really does have an incredible stage presence. I don’t know if it’s something that can be taught, or if it just develops after years of performing, or if you’re born with it. All I know is that while I have no vocal skills and even less range, I’m pretty sure I could match lang in oddball dance moves – except nobody’d care if I did them. Maybe this is something else I could try out at the next Toastmasters meeting.