Posts Tagged ‘corb lund’

SLCR #277: The Last Waltz Remembered (April 5, 2017)

April 14, 2017

When I go to Calgary, I like unique concert experiences. It’s always good to see a band I like, but if I’m going to be in a bigger city anyway, I may as well go see something that isn’t going to come to Regina. And I’m pretty sure this all-star affair was a one-off.

You’re familiar with The Band, yes? And their farewell concert, the Last Waltz? Am I asking rhetorical questions so as to hide how little I actually know? Am I trying to avoid rewriting a Wikipedia article in a futile attempt to appear knowledgeable?

Replace Wikipedia with books and that was pretty much my entire university career, really.

Anyway, yes. Very famous farewell concert. 40 years ago. This show was to be a bunch of songs from that night, performed by Corb Lund, Amy Helm, Matt Andersen, and the Russell Broom House Band.

The show was at Jack Singer Concert Hall in Arts Commons. I’ve been there before but always took the train. This time, after an exceptionally lazy afternoon, I walked it. Took about 40 minutes. I wish I had something more exciting for you, but I like my walks to be uneventful, so really, I don’t.

The hall was mostly sold out. I was sitting in the first row of the mezzanine, far off to the right. After the Lyle Lovett/John Hyatt show, I was a bit concerned about my seating choice but this wasn’t really off ground level at all, so that was nice.

There was no opener, and the show got started right on time. This was my first time seeing both Andersen and Helm. Andersen had a bit of a rough start in the first song, Up On Cripple Creek, as he very clearly forgot the words to his part. As he tried to talk to Helm to figure out his spot, Corb jumped in and took over. Andersen seemed to have a good sense of humour about it – really, there’s no better option – and he redeemed himself later in the show.

Helm is the daughter of Levon Helm of The Band, a fact which became less relevant as the show went on. She may have been brought in for her name, but she has a fantastic voice and more than deserved her spot for that alone.

The first half of the show flew by. Like I hinted at, I’m not super familiar with The Last Waltz – I’ve never watched the movie or listened to the soundtrack album – but there were so many classic songs from that night that you probably know some of them. The first half included The Shape I’m In and Ophelia. Andersen, Helm, and Lund all got to perform some of their own material during the show, and during the first half, Lund played The Weight (dramatic pause) of the Gun. Possibly chosen solely so he could make that joke. The whoops from the crowd suggested that possibly Corb was the one who drew the audience.

During intermission, I could have gone for a bottle of water. However, I stopped to look at the merch table and as I did so, the lobby area filled up with an ungodly sea of humanity. Just making it back to my seat felt like a genuine achievement.

The second half was much the same as the first. Corb’s own song was This Is My Prairie, but he also did a fantastic version of Ian Tyson’s Four Small Winds. But the second half was mostly the Matt Andersen show, with a great version of Neil Young’s Helpless, followed by another song that drew a mid-set standing ovation.

The three singers would walk off stage for songs where they weren’t needed. Upon one return for Lund, someone yelled “CORB YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL,” to which Andersen simply replied “meh.” Perfectly timed.

Before the last song, Russell Broom introduced the house band, which was pretty sizeable. Including the singers, they maxed out at 11 people on stage, including a horn section and an organist who also played accordion when called for. It also turned out that the band included Chris Byrne of the Road Hammers, as well as Joey Landreth. This clarified things for me, as Landreth got to sing on a few songs and whenever he did, the folks sitting to my left were really excited.

They closed with The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, and came back for an encore of I Shall Be Released and The Weight, and it was over too soon. What a great show. Fantastic performances from the three singers, and the band killed it. Highest recommendation. I mean, you’ll never get to see this, but hypothetically.

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SLCR #251: Gateway Festival (July 22, 2016)

July 29, 2016

Hey, so this was fun. There’s a tiny town in Saskatchewan called Bengough and they host a music festival every summer and we’ve never been but now we’ve been! And I suppose I could stop right there but then you’d miss out on the murdering part.

I was actually ready to murder before we ever left Regina. The day before the festival, Mika’s friend Shannon came to visit and she complained bitterly about the difficulty of navigating the Regina traffic with all the summer construction. And while I was sure it was bad, I figured she was exaggerating. She was not. Not even close. She was being kind. Getting gas, avoiding the worst road, actually getting out of town, all of those things were much more difficult and infuriating than they needed to be.

It was so bad that when we initially stopped for gas and Mika asked if I was going to get a snack, I said “No. Too angry.” But then I saw the hot dog-flavoured Pringles. The flavour scientists have worked their magic yet again. You can really taste the wiener.

The actual drive was smooth an uneventful once we got out of town. It was a fine way to spend an evening and we weren’t even there yet. I almost never speed to any real degree but I went 130 km/h pretty much the whole way. We listened to podcasts and tunes, and the GPS recovered from its miserable performance on our recent drive into Calgary where it tried to make us cross a river without the use of a bridge.

They had lots of signs up to let us know where to go, and a ton of volunteers to help with the wristbands and parking. It’s a smaller festival than the local folk festival we attend every year, but it seemed really well run. Also, the wristbands were these nice cloth ones and not that waxy paper you get everywhere else.

We stopped at the campground restroom on the way into the grounds. There was a sign outside the women’s washroom advising the ladies not to have water fights in the bathrooms. Women, amirite? Though I suppose it’s worth noting that both washrooms had signs saying that you’d be “punished and banned” for putting sand or dirt in the sinks.

We found our way into the grounds and met up with Jeff and his wife. Despite the traffic woes, we got out of town earlier than I had been expecting, so we showed up in time for the end of Quinton Blair’s set. I didn’t see much of it but enjoyed what I saw. Countryish singer-songwritery stuff, with a good sense of humour when chatting between sets. That says very little!

Unlike the folk festival here, the Gateway Festival has two stages, so as soon as one act ends, the next one starts up right away with no delay. Bands alternate between the main stage and the slightly smaller stage that faces the beer gardens. It’s a pretty good system, though sometimes it results in things like Fred Penner playing to the beer gardens.

To be fair, it was still early and that section of the grounds was not yet closed off to minors. But still.

Jeff’s wife disappeared as soon as Penner started playing; we didn’t see her again until well into Limblifter’s set, when she returned with a picture of her and Fred together. This was not the first time she’d met Fred Penner. We may have a superfan on our hands. As one who is less of a Penner diehard, I took this time to get some dinner. The wiener Pringles weren’t gonna cut it. I wound up with a grilled chicken wrap that was actually pretty great. Kudos, chicken wrap stand! Mika went for a gluten-free salad from another stand; “gluten-free salad” was its actual name on the menu and maybe that should have been a red flag. The server also said something like “I don’t know what’s in it and nobody’s ordered it yet, so come back and tell me how it is!” which was equally ineffective at inspiring confidence. Mika did not go back and tell her how it was. She did tell me and Jeff – not directly, but she said “have you ever wanted to open a can of chickpeas and eat it with a spoon?” which I think says enough.

As a reward for surviving the salad (or about half of it, anyway), Mika went and got some cotton candy. I made her bring me some too. I have never eaten cotton candy while having a beard before. I did not anticipate that it would be so challenging.

I don’t know what to say about Fred Penner. He’s Fred Penner. Maybe he is a cherished part of your childhood? I’m a few years too old for that, and as he was playing, it occurred to Jeff and I that we knew very few Fred Penner songs. The first one I recognized was about sandwiches and I’m pretty sure the only reason I knew that was because he played the folk festival a few years ago. At least I think he played songs there. Mostly I remember him chastising us to pick up after ourselves.

I did eventually recognize Puff the Magic Dragon. Also, the Cat Came Back, which Penner amended with cat-themed versions of Happy Together and Hit the Road, Jack. This was not dissimilar to every song Mika ever sings, as they all have the lyrics changed to be about Carl.

The cover songs led us to talking about the recent trend of bands I see covering the Tragically Hip, and who would do it this weekend, and what songs. This turned into talk of Penner covering the Hip, and what the best (read: most inappropriate) song would be. At the risk of sounding immodest, I declare that my pick of 38 Years Old was the winner.

For the record, I heard no Hip songs at the festival (though I am hopeful that the next show will deliver at least one). But Mika and I only came to the Friday night; Jeff did report that on Saturday, Odds snuck the chorus of Poets into the end of Make You Mad.

Next up was Limblifter, which you’d have known if you read that bit up there. Ryan Dahle, who we saw with Age of Electric a few months ago, was back with his other band. Or one of them, anyway. Jeff said he might have been the only person there who knew more Limblifter songs than Sloan songs, but I bet Dahle did too. Actually, maybe not – there are a LOT of Sloan songs that Dahle might know. Me, I knew Tinfoil because heck yeah Big Shiny Tunes. Also Ariel vs. Lotus and Screwed It Up. So maybe I never listened to a whole lot of Limblifter – and somehow, I’d never managed to see them in concert before now. No time like the present, I suppose. We stood right down at the front and had a great view, and this was all quite delightful. Would see again. (I did maybe like Age of Electric better, though.)

Next up was Bry Webb of the Constantines. Formerly of the Constantines? I don’t know what they are doing nowadays. I won’t lie; I paid very little attention to this. What I heard was fine.

I think it was in here that I went looking at the stuff table. I mean, I went a few times, but was hopeful that I’d discover a copy of Sloan’s One Chord box set, as I had promised to check for Mike. No dice. No Sloan stuff at all, actually. But I did pick up two records: Corb Lund’s Counterfeit Blues, and also You Can Count on Me by the Karpinka Brothers, a band out of Saskatoon who were here hosting the side stage. I went to high school with Shawn Karpinka, and actually ran into him on the way to the merch tent. We chatted for a few minutes and it was nice to get caught up – I don’t think we’d talked in a decade. We weren’t super close friends in high school, but he was never a dick and that is higher praise than it sounds like.

I rushed the records back to the car. Luckily, the host of the main stage was asked to stall for a few minutes before Sloan began. I can only assume this was specifically to give me time to get back. So considerate! But then Sloan came out and the dude kept talking. And then it would look like he was about to stop, and then he’d talk some more. I was never able to tell if this was needlessly aggravating or hilarious trolling.

But whatever. You know it’s a festival show because of the lack of people yelling SLOOOOOOOOO-OOOOOOOOAN. Also because Sloan knows enough to know that a festival crowd doesn’t want the deep cuts – this was pretty much a greatest hits collection. No Underwhelmed, because of course there wasn’t, but there was most every other single you’d want – Money City Maniacs, The Good in Everyone, Everything You’ve Done Wrong, The Lines you Amend, The Other Man, Unkind, If it Feels Good Do It, People of the Sky, Coax Me, Losing California, The Rest of my Life, Who Taught You to Live Like That… there was more but you get it.

So yeah, in a shocker, Sloan played Sloan songs.

I don’t know what was talked about beforehand, but when the band traded off instruments and Chris Murphy got on drums, dude was determined to prove a point. I have seen him play drums before but never with this much showboating. Jeff accused him of showing off to the “cute girl” at the back of the stage, but then we figured out it was actually the drummer from Limblifter. He’s got some nice long blonde hair, but I don’t know if I’d say “cute.” Maybe just not my type.

I’d have to read old reviews but I’d have to think that this wasn’t the best Sloan show I’ve seen – if nothing else, there seemed to be sound issues where it was hard to hear the vocals every time they switched who was singing – but I don’t remember getting their songs so doggedly stuck in my head before. The past week in my brain has been pretty much non-stop Maniacs or California or Everyone or Underwhelmed and they didn’t even play Underwhelmed, I just like it.

Once they wrapped up, I was off to the side stage for Shotgun Jimmie. Mika described Jimmie as “if Joel Plaskett fronted a BA Johnston tribute band” and I love that description and you have no idea how badly I want to actually see this happen. Shotgun Jimmie is someone I know very little about. Every time I hear one of his songs, I think “this is a dude I could really dig if I gave him half a chance” and then somehow I never remember to do so. Gotta change that. This was great fun. He opened with Late Last Year, basically the only song of his that I could actually say I know, and then played his new song Join the Band, making it the second time in a few months I’ve heard someone sing “experience Regina.” I enjoyed it all, though I did duck out before the last song or two in order to get a good spot for Corb Lund, a move that was a mistake in several ways.

First off, Corb Lund might be my #1 reason to constantly quote Sloan: “It’s not the band I hate, it’s their fans.” The casino show earlier this year wasn’t too bad, but there have been a few times where the drunken yahoo assholery in the audience has been too much for me. Although I can maybe forgive it this time due to the excellence that happened when a drunk girl staggered over to near where we were and slurred (not to us) “is this the party zone?”

“No?” said Jeff.

“It’s the standing and listening respectfully zone,” added Mika.

The drunk girl stumbled away, saying “I hate it when old people are rude.”

Died. I’m dead now. That killed me and I am reporting back from the afterlife. I hate it when old people are rude. Oh my god. This was the best the best the best the best. I am bad at coming up with titles and I have never liked “Stupid Little Concert Reviews” so now I want to rename all of these to “When Old People are Rude.” When Old People are Rude, Volume CCLI: the Gateway Festival.

This is where you say “shut up and get to the music” and I WOULD say “I hate it when old people are rude” but you have a point in that I am not talking about music BUT I have no more music to talk about. The dark night sky was seeing more and more lightning, so they made the call to delay Corb’s set. As the lightning got worse, Jeff and his wife (and their friends – they had friends there too! I never mentioned them before but they were there) the hell was I talking about? Oh, right. All those people left.

Then I made a plan. Let’s take the chairs to the car now – since we weren’t planning on staying after Corb anyway – so either we can then leave, or we can go back, listen to Corb, and then have an easier time leaving later. So we did. Chairs to car. They’re still in the car now, a week later, in fact, because I am bad at simple human tasks. But we sat there for a bit as the lightning got worse and the thunder got louder. I decided that the show was likely not going to happen and so we left.

Corb did play. I don’t know how long the delay was. Jeff said the grounds were bone dry the next day. This amazed me, as the drive home took us through the worst rainstorm I’ve ever driven in, and it lasted almost the whole way. At one point, I had to pull over. I made up for my 130 km/h earlier by going 50 km/h for long stretches. It all averages out. That’s the law. The law of averages.

The rain brought out the animals – I saw a badger, three deer, a raccoon, some frogs, and oddly, ducks. The water had pooled on the road, and we drove by a duck just sitting in the water, seemingly disinterested in the big loud metal headlight machine that went whipping past it. We remarked on the stupidity of this duck. Then we saw no fewer than three other ducks at various points, all sitting in road puddles. Two of them are probably still ducks to this day. One of them took its sweet time getting out of my way, and I didn’t feel like swerving into either the oncoming car or the ditch, so the duck bounced off our bumper. Sorry, duck. I mean, it was your own fault for being an idiot, but I guess all ducks are stupid so you couldn’t help that. At least the rain washed off any pieces of you that got stuck to the car.

So yeah, it started with a bad drive getting out of town and ended with a bad drive all the way back, but everything in between was pretty great. The festival site was nice, there were decent food options (skip the chickpea salad), the bands were good, the weather was nice (right up until it wasn’t, anyway), would go again. And there was a whole other day of fun that we missed out on. 21 bands, just on the Saturday alone. Lots of local artists, as well as Odds, Mo Kenney, Chixdiggit, the Stampeders, and way more. (Hey Jeff, how was it?) Mika and I aren’t camping people so to go both nights means a lot of driving, but we had a good time so we’ll see what the lineup is like next year. There are too many ducks anyway.

UPCOMING CONCERTS
• The Tragically Hip (August 1)
• Regina Folk Festival w/The Head and The Heart, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Sam Roberts Band, The Mavericks, Bettye LaVette, The Cat Empire, The Strumbellas, Frazey Ford, more (August 5-7)
• “Weird Al” Yankovic (August 14)
• Billy Bob Thornton & The Boxmasters (September 6)
• Dolly Parton (September 13)
• Prozzäk (September 22)
• Hayden (September 29)
• Fred Eaglesmith (October 1)
• Basia Bulat (October 5)
• I Mother Earth (October 8)

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 #203: the smalls (October 24, 2014)

November 3, 2014

Back before Corb Lund was a country star, he played in a punk band. They broke up long ago, but at the Q taping that was part of Junos week last year, Lund said that the band might reunite for a small tour.

These possibly inaccurate sentences are the only things that I know about The Smalls. Well, I know one more thing if you count the fact that I know that I’m supposed to spell “the smalls” in all lowercase, but I choose not to. And Mika likes them. That’s a thing I know.

I read on Facebook that The Smalls were coming to Regina and that their Saskatoon show had already sold out. I checked with Mika and confirmed that getting tickets NOW was a good idea. So I did. I then mentioned the show on Twitter, partly to show off my indie cred which is 100% a fictional construct, partly to taunt any ticketless Saskatonians, but mostly to make fun of the tickets themselves for saying that the doors would open at 1:00 a.m. and the show would start at 8:00 a.m. Later that day, a very excited Jeff texted me about the show – I hadn’t thought to tell him that I was getting tickets because I don’t generally care about other people unless they are directly in front of my face, and even then, it’s iffy – and by the time he’d seen my tweet, the show was sold out. Sadness!

To recap, I am a big poseur who knows nothing about anything, couldn’t name a Smalls song if my life depended on it – have probably never even heard one, in fact – but I’m off to the show, while Jeff is a big fan who finds himself on the outside because he actually does work while at work instead of dinking around on the internet. But as was well documented when we went to see Ben Folds in Fargo, Jeff – like love – always finds a way. Only a day or two later, The Smalls announced second shows in both Regina and Saskatoon. Jeff nabbed tickets, and his show would actually take place before ours. This was a fantastic development, because seeing the first show would allow him to provide me with exclusive top-secret information. On the day of his show (two days before mine), I texted him and demanded a report of who was opening, what time the show actually started, and how it was.

9:18 p.m.: Opening act just started.

9:23 p.m.: Thanks! Who is it?

9:24 p.m.: Some guys

You know how people on the internet say LOL when something is funny, but they did not, actually, laugh out loud? This was not one of those times. Mika can confirm. “Some guys” killed me.

9:37 p.m. I think they said that they were called “White Women.” That’s not a joke, because I’m not that funny.

This led me and Mika to the internet in a race to determine who this band was. She took to Google while I went straight to iTunes. iTunes suggested that maybe I wanted “Your Woman” by White Town, which, no, but also yes? As Mika kept Googling, I listened to the free sample of Your Woman in the iTunes store despite owning the album and having the whole song on my computer, because I am the laziest person alive and even extra clicks are too much work for me. Anyway, while I bopped back and forth, enjoying the song, Mika found out that a band named White Women had played Sled Island. The Sled Island site listed them as being from Regina, so it looked like we’d found our culprits.

In order to find out more, I googled “white women regina” and I must say, you do get some interesting results. You take this information and do what you gotta do. Personally, I decided it was best to halt this enquiry, let the band be a surprise for my show, and spend some time getting more creative and descriptive with my Google searches. I did, however, ask Jeff his opinion of White Women. “Unremarkable,” he said, “alternate answer: not enough junk in the trunk.” Fair enough. With this assessment in mind, Mika and I didn’t rush to catch their set when we went to our show.

On our way to the Owl, I remarked that I couldn’t believe we were actually going. Not because we were both really tired from the week, but because I’d written the previous half of the review in advance. Whenever I do that, we wind up skipping out. I will spoil things now and say that we actually got to see The Smalls. Not so much White Women, because after all of that nonsense up there, we got a different opening act. So it goes. At least I got to hear Your Woman. Or part of it, anyway.

Our opening act was Black Mastiff. We got there in time for their last three or four songs. They play that 70s stoner rock that dudes with beards like to play and it was all perfectly fine, in a not-so-much-my-thing kind of way. I wouldn’t be sad if I saw them open for someone else. Also, one song sounded like it had the lyrics “I would buy smokes for you” so, you know, they’re caring people. So that’s nice.

As I mentioned, The Smalls haven’t been a thing for something like fifteen years, which means that this show was attended not just by the young punks you’d expect on a university campus, but also old punks. If you get a chance to see The Smalls, I recommend you do it just for the people-watching. I gravitated towards the individual weirdoes, like the spherical bouncer, the red flowered bucket hat guy, the dude who was determined to fit his whole hand in his girlfriend’s butt, and the self-described Asian gangster. Mika, on the other hand, pointed out the crusty punks with their fancy purses, and the guys in SNFU shirts that had clearly been in the closet for years. The shirts, I mean, not the guys. Or at least that’s what I assume she meant. She was also amazed by two really tall dudes, but then we figured out they were standing on chairs. It was dark and the room was filled with either dry ice fog or pot smoke or some combination thereof.

And so, The Smalls. They were real good! I mean, I don’t know anything from anything. I couldn’t tell you what they played. Just a bunch of songs that I liked.

Jeff told me that the lead singer was a loon, but he didn’t really do anything that exciting during our show. I mean, he wore a hoodie that obscured his face for a good long while, with ear protectors slung around his neck (but never over his ears) – and when he took the hoodie off, you could see he was already wearing earplugs – but that’s not that weird. And okay, maybe when he was talking to the other band members, I thought it might be made-up gibberish – but I think we can attribute that to the overall sound quality. Jeff also mentioned that the dude sang the opera part of some song really well, but they didn’t play anything like that during our show. Or else they did and we, being old punks (or old poseurs trying to pass as old punks) left before they played that song. I’d blame it on being a worknight, but it was a Friday. Just a night. Sometimes that’s enough.

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!