Posts Tagged ‘darke hall’

SLCR #228: Whitehorse (January 22, 2016)

January 28, 2016

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SLCR #223: Hawksley Workman (October 16, 2015)

October 18, 2015

SLCR #75 (April 15, 2004) was my fifth time seeing Hawksley Workman and I didn’t have much to say because I’d seen him so many times already. This was my 18th show. I have things to say about this show.

Beforehand, DeserĂ©e and Mika and I met Colin for dinner at Beer Bros. I skipped the chicken fingers and mozza sticks that I don’t think they even have in favour of my standard bacon cheeseburger. We discovered that Colin knows everyone in town and also knows all of the rules to every sport except possibly cricket. And we watched part of the Jays game, only I wasn’t facing a TV so I was watching it in a mirror, and mirror baseball is weird. Everyone runs the wrong direction and it’s never not startling.

We drove past my old apartment to Darke Hall, my favourite concert venue in Regina and particularly my favourite Hawksley venue. I think this was the fourth time I’ve seen him there and the crowd is great, the place is attractive, the sound is good, and sometimes there’s stomping for no apparent reason. We didn’t get any stomping on this evening, which was fine, really. It should happen because it happens, not because we’re expected to do it.

We got there with lots of time to spare. I dropped off some socks at the stuff table (they’re doing a sock drive for local shelters; it’s not just me going “hey, I bet Hawksley would like these socks I found”) and I checked out the things for sale. I had all the music so I went home empty-handed. We spent a lengthy stretch in our seats where Dez and I talked nonsense while she mourned being stuck behind a tall guy with a big head despite her best efforts to avoid the same, and Mika learned more about Colin’s life than I have in 10 years of knowing him. I should ask more questions, maybe? He also explained to her how tennis works. At some point, Mika and I waved to Mark and Arlette, who we never actually got to talk to.

Our opener was English singer Fiona Bevan, who played a brief solo set. This is her first time in Canada, so the idea of a six-hour drive between cities (the tour started the night before in Winnipeg) was a bit of a culture shock. Winnipeg and Regina are 100 miles further apart than London and Paris, and there’s no high-speed train. But despite the long trip, she was in good spirits and played a really enjoyable set. Her album is Talk To Strangers, and I know she played the title track and at least the first four songs – Rebel Without a Cause, Slo Mo Tiger Glo, Us and the Darkness, and the first single, The Machine.

So this Hawksley show. This was a weird show. Not entirely surprising, as he’s touring in support of Old Cheetah, which is a weird album. I definitely did not take to it initially, but I gave it some time (since I didn’t take to Hawksley’s first album initially either), and I think I have come around on it. Mika was the reverse, liking it initially and then caring for it less and less the more I played it. And Dez just isn’t a fan. It’s certainly not the first album I’d give someone who asked me about Hawksley’s music. But unlike some Hawksley stuff where I think “he is trying hard to have a hit song with this,” I feel like he just made the album he felt like making, and that’s always good.

This show was my first real Hawksley concert in three years, and it’s been over five since I’ve seen him with a full band. Mr. Lonely was there as ever, along with Derek Brady on bass (it was his birthday!) and drummer Brad Kilpatrick.

I was expecting lots of Old Cheetah songs, and we got those, mostly at the start and near the end of the set. Make Up Your Mind Tonight, Teenage Cats, Don’t Take Yourself Away, We’re Not Broken Yet, and Winter Bird, at least. He did NOT play I Just So Happen To Believe, which includes the line “you’ll titty-fuck the cake,” inspiring a lengthy Twitter conversation between me, Dez, Hawksley, and the occasional stranger (and I think Steve Bays of Mounties/Hot Hot Heat was faving tweets at one point) about the logistics thereof; namely, doesn’t one need TWO cakes for titty-fucking? Or at least one irregularly shaped cake? Because aren’t you just fucking a cake otherwise? I think I put more thought into this than Hawksley did when he wrote the line. I mean, I put a LOT of thought into this.

I think I digressed in a way I might not want to attach my name to, but OH WELL there it is now.

Anyway, I was expecting Old Cheetah songs. I was not expecting the rest of the night’s songs, which included no singles. At all. No Striptease, no Anger as Beauty, no Jealous of Your Cigarette, no We Will Still Need A Song, no Smoke Baby, no Piano Blink, no We’ll Make Time. There are some songs he always plays – except this time. No Safe & Sound, no Don’t Be Crushed, no Your Beauty Must Be Rubbing Off. And none of my hopeful picks – no Claire Fontaine (or anything from Almost a Full Moon), nothing from The God That Comes, no Warhol’s Portrait of Gretzky. He opened with a loud, chugging version of Tonight Romanticize The Automobile, and in between the Cheetah songs, we got the weirdest collection of deep cuts. All The Trees Are Hers, Song For Sarah Jane, Ilfracombe, Paper Shoes, Baby Mosquito, When These Mountains Were The Seashore. He sang Old Bloody Orange with Fiona Bevan, and he did a medley of Bullets and… I think it was Dirty & True? When the show was over, Colin said he didn’t recognize a single song. For the borderline obsessive diehard (i.e., this guy), it was bonkers. I am not used to hearing the opening notes of a Hawksley song and not being able to immediately place it. I had forgotten that General January was ever a song, and when we got to that point, I entirely gave up trying to guess what else we were getting. I’d have been all kinds of wrong anyway.

I realize this means nothing to any of you. But really, the set list was just so bizarre that I tried to look up the Winnipeg show from the night before to see if he is doing this set every night or if he’s just picking things entirely at random. I saw him on two consecutive nights once, long ago, and it was the same show both nights. But if he was mixing things up significantly, I’d have gone to see him in Swift Current on Saturday, and I still haven’t ruled out seeing him in Saskatoon on Tuesday, but I haven’t been able to find anyone talking about those other shows. So disappointing. I do not have patience for lazy concert reviewers. Work for it! Respect your audience!

He did play Autumn’s Here for the encore, which is one of his standards. And while it fit the season and fully expected it (at the start of the evening, I mean – I was all out of guesses by the end), Mika does not care for that song at all and was hopeful that she’d finally escaped a Hawksley show without hearing it. Next time. Maybe.

Of course, in between songs, Hawksley talked. And talked. Always a delight. The primary topic of conversation was the venue itself, which was very weirdly lit – four white spotlights at the back of the room lit up the stage. That was it, really. (It was also very cool, temperature-wise, and it would have been quite possible to have a nap if one were so inclined.) Anyway, the darkness of Darke Hall was commented on, which – obviously – led to a story about being a kid and being driven to the dump at night to watch the bears eat garbage. “And it’s like we’re the bears and it’s a slow night at the dump. Only two cars.” Someone suggested that the darkness was romantic, but they did so by yelling out “ROMANCE” and Hawksley pondered how some words lose their inherent meaning when shouted. Later on, during Paper Shoes, he paused after “my moves are” so that someone in the audience could suggest the missing lyric (“amazing”), and someone did, but after the next pause someone yelled out “ROMANTIC” which cracked up everyone. Possibly the most effective yelling I’ve ever heard at a rock show. Not as funny as “YOU SUCK” “I WOULD HAVE TO CONCUR” from years ago at the Weakerthans’ opening act, Albatross, but not as many people heard that one.

Yeah, so anyway, this ruled. This all ruled. It was a long show, too – Bevan started at 8:30 and we didn’t get home until after midnight. I had good intentions of entertaining folks after the show, but instead we are old and just went to sleep. I still have two bags of “there are guests coming so let’s use that as an excuse for chips” chips. Good thing I didn’t buy that microwave pot roast. You know, just in case.

UPCOMING SHOWS

  • LeE HARVeY OsMOND (November 7)
  • Blue Rodeo (January 14)
  • Corb Lund (February 9)
  • Hawksley Workman & The Art of Time Ensemble (May 13)

SLCR #214: Joel Plaskett Emergency (May 15, 2015)

June 8, 2015

I knew this show would be really great, and it was. And I’m tempted to just stop here.

Here are some people and things that I dig. You already know I dig them:

  • Joel Plaskett
  • Mo Kenney
  • Darke Hall
  • concerts
  • any mixed and/or matched combination of the above

Liking things is great! But my stock in trade is disliking things, or at least making fun of things. Or as some people would call it, “generally being unpleasant to be around.” Being pleasant (or at least tolerable) and productive is hard, but my alternate option – namely, staring at a blank text file for the better part of a month – wasn’t getting the job done.

Having said that, I have so little to say about this show that at this point in writing this review, I just stopped and skipped ahead to write my Charley Pride review in its entirety instead. I had some things to say about that show and that day as a whole. But that is for another time; namely, it is for five minutes after I finish writing and posting this thing, so I best get a move on.

So what do you need to know? Well, Plaskett was touring in support of his newest album, The Park Avenue Sobriety Test. He’d debuted the title track (at least to my ears) at last year’s folk festival, and I really liked it. The new album is a good one, though I need to spend some more time with it. Thus far, I can safely recommend it if you like Joel’s previous work and also like swear words. There’s a marked increase; not overwhelming, but noticeable.

In fact, both Mo and Joel – which doesn’t quite rhyme well enough to bother repeating – have relatively new albums, and I’d seen both performers in concert within the past year. In that sense, this show was a bit of a re-run, as there wasn’t much that I hadn’t seen before. This is not a bad thing, since I loved both of those shows, but I WAS tempted to just copy and paste old reviews and see if anyone noticed. Mind you, there are enough repeating themes and turns of phrase in my reviews that most of you likely think I do that already.

In fact, I think copying and pasting would have been much better than this:

  • The ticket people said that I’d need my order number and photo ID to pick up my tickets, and I had no idea what my order number was, but I emailed them and they told me. And then they just checked my photo ID at the door anyway.
  • There was a food truck outside the venue. We didn’t get any food.
  • There was a lots of stuff at the stuff table, including tons of vinyl – Kenney’s newest album and most of Plaskett’s catalogue. Neither of us bought anything. I would have bought my favourite Plaskett album – Ashtray Rock – on vinyl, but I already had it on order from MapleMusic.
  • The host of the show was some local CBC person. At one point, she tried to talk, but her mic was turned off. Then the sound guy turned it on.

I am very tempted to rewrite the entire review so that the whole thing is comprised of the dullest bullet points imaginable.

Mo Kenney’s set was very similar to when I saw her last fall, though she played for a bit longer and managed to include the song Take Me Outside, which was sadly missing last time. I feel like it might have replaced the cover of Five Years, which is a fair trade-off in my books. I like both but Take Me Outside is one of my favourites of hers. She told a few of the same stories (such as the origin of the creature on the drum kit – though this version seemed to have been expanded a bit), but there were some fun unique moments interacting with the crowd. At one point, Kenney showed off her new guitar; so new that it didn’t even have a name yet. Someone from the crowd yelled out his suggestion – something along the lines of “Red Lucille.” Kenney replied with the most polite “that could work” which was so transparently a secret code for “no” that even she cracked up. She then went on to name the guitar “Foot,” which, why not?

She also plugged her new record. “Will you sign it?” asked a random person. “Absolutely,” said Mo, quickly adding “Oh… you meant right now” as the aforementioned person rushed the stage with a record and a Sharpie.

Also, she was wearing an “Italians Do It Better” shirt which I believe was from Christie’s Bakery in Saskatoon. “I am not Italian. And I have no knowledge of whether they do it better.”

If anything stood out from this set, it’s that the improvement in Kenney’s confidence and stage presence from the first time we saw her to now is amazing. I am delighted for her as she is a lovely human who writes and sings great songs and deserves to be well-known and successful. I am, however, a little fearful. This progression cannot be allowed to… um… progress unchecked. Otherwise, give her another few years and she’ll be leading cults.

Joel Plaskett is also a lovely human, but I’ve been a fan for long enough now that I’m just used to him being completely charming. Maybe that means I’m already in a cult? Whatever. The entertainment is top-notch and there’s a food truck on site. I’ve got no complaints.

Plaskett had much more time than he had at the Folk Festival, and he used it to play most of the tunes off the new album, as one would expect. There was about a 50/50 mix of new stuff and old favourites, which never vary all that much. Compared to the Folk Festival, we got the same Do Wa Diddy Diddy intro into Work Out Fine, but no Mamma Yamma Fashionable People – I don’t think we got Fashionable People at all, come to think of it, but most of the usuals were played.

As per usual, the older stuff got the best reactions, but there was one family there who was trying their damndest to balance everything out. I have never seen so many Joel Plaskett superfans in one group. All ages. Standing, dancing, singing along with every song, leaving notes on the stage, the whole shebang. I bought our tickets for this show back in December and I don’t remember what they cost, but at one point I was trying to figure out just how many people were part of this clan and whether the bill for the evening would have topped $1,000. Wouldn’t have been impossible. It was kind of remarkable, really.

So yes, a good time was had by all. Especially by those folks. It would be really hard to have a bad time at a Joel Plaskett show, and I should know. I once tried and ultimately couldn’t do it. The guy comes across as the nicest dude ever and writes catchy songs that are made to be sun along with. A++++ would go again – but you already knew that.

SLCR #210: Dan Mangan + Blacksmith (March 7, 2015)

April 8, 2015

One of my great regrets in life is missing Dan Mangan’s last show in Regina. It was about a year and a half ago at Knox Metropolitan United Church. We had tickets, but it was the first really gross wintry day of the fall, and at the end of a long week, skipping out was much easier than leaving the house. I know some people who went to the show, and they all raved about it. Which is fine, that doesn’t really mean anything, doesn’t mean I’d have had a good time. But one of those jerks (hi Mark) took some video. And showed me the video. And it really did look phenomenal. And then I was sad. Ever since then, “remember Dan Mangan” has been a mantra whenever I feel like being lazy or reclusive or whatever.

Needless to say, when Dan Mangan (and Blacksmith, his newly-named backing band) announced a return date, I was all over it. That it was at Darke Hall, my favourite Regina concert venue, was even better. I ordered our tickets online and got them bundled with a download of his new album, Club Meds. And I listened to it a million times as soon as it came out – in no way did I give it one half-assed listen on the day before the show while not really paying much attention to it. That certainly wasn’t a thing I did at all.

Our show tickets weren’t actual tickets – we were just to show up at Darke Hall and my name would be on a list. Allegedly. I was not really feeling this. I have learned to accept that these days, 95% of the time, I will have printed-out PDFs instead of proper tickets as God intended, but trusting in some phantom list is something else entirely. Everything worked out, I was on the list, we got in, Dan Mangan’s website people are on the ball, but I feel confident in my ability to exchange physical tokens for access to restricted areas and don’t really understand why we need any other system.

The artistic director of the Regina Folk Festival opened the show to welcome us all there and read off the list of the night’s sponsors, as usually happens at one of these shows. She also noted that this was the first time they’d been allowed in Darke Hall since they last had Hawksley Workman there, which was (looks through old reviews) five years ago last month?! That seems impossible and yet it clearly is not. Maybe we all stomped too hard and caused structural damage? Anyway, she mentioned that the University of Regina is fundraising with the goal of renovating its downtown campus, including Darke Hall. I would love for this place to remain available for concerts, and while I don’t have $5 million to spare, maybe you do? http://www.uregina.ca/building-knowledge/

There were actually three artists on the bill. I’d seen Dan Mangan and Hayden before, both at the Regina Folk Festival (and I saw Hayden at Louis’ nearly 20 years ago), but as for the night’s opener, Astral Swans, I’d only heard the name. Astral Swans is one human from Calgary, which meant that I’d been lied to three times by the time he took the stage. Lucky for him, I’m a forgiving sort, mostly because he was real good. He played a very short set, just him and a guitar for around 20 minutes. I couldn’t tell you what songs he played, apart from a cover of Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain, which I guess is something you could expect from someone whose debut album is titled “All my Favourite Singers are Willie Nelson.”

We then had the shortest set change I’ve ever seen. There is no way five minutes elapsed between the end of Astral Swans and Hayden taking the stage. As one who stayed sitting, I was pleased, but I felt bad for anyone who thought they had ample time to pee. I bet a lot of folks got caught unaware midstream.

In 1998, I saw Hayden at Louis’, declared him to be “not my thing,” and left early. A few years ago, he was at the Folk Festival and I came around on him. But this time, I really got it. This was a fantastic set of often dismal and depressing songs. Even the funniest moment had a dark undercurrent; he introduced the song No Happy Birthday by saying that his daughter makes the sign for “that’s enough” as soon as he starts playing songs that he’s written for her. To be fair, I didn’t get into him right away either.

In fact, I’ve had 17 years to get into Hayden and I’ve apparently squandered that time, so I don’t know what other songs he played, apart from knowing that Birthday and several others were from his newest record, Hey Love. I’d ask Mika for the titles of others – she rattled off a list when we left the show – but she’s asleep right now and it’s now been over a month anyway. (Since the concert, I mean; not since she’s been asleep.) She has told me that Hayden has gotten progressively better and better throughout his career, so maybe picking now as a starting point isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever done.

Dan Mangan was great! High expectations: met. I don’t even really know how to describe it except that it was a great show from start to finish. He played a lot of songs from Club Meds, had a pretty swank light show, played something that he described as “a lot of songs all in a row,” and made a comment about the Knox Met show I missed (“We’ll probably never be allowed back there”) that made the ol’ regret flare up again.

At one point, Mangan invited the crowd to stand up and dance; precisely one guy did so. He danced up from his seat, down the aisle, to the front of the stage, all the way back up the aisle, past his seat, out the door, and all the way home. Or, you know, he just walked back to his seat and I didn’t notice because he wasn’t The Only Guy Dancing at that point. I prefer my version.

I would have liked more songs from my favourite Mangan album, Nice, Nice, Very Nice, but for the first song of the encore, he came out without Blacksmith and played Basket by himself and Basket is my favourite song of his. Up above, I referenced dismal and depressing songs, and this one is fantastically awful in the best way. That would have been enough to send me home happy in a miserable way (or miserable in a happy way) but he brought Blacksmith, Hayden and his band, and Astral Swans all back for a show-closing sing-along that was probably a better way to end the night.

So yes, this was a fantastic night of music; the kind of show that reminds you that it’s worth it to brave going out on gross wintry days. Except it had been very slushy during this particular day and it froze while we were at the show and the walk back to the car was life threatening and finally I had to leave Mika standing in one spot holding onto a tree while I slid down the street to retrieve the car so I could pick her up and really, we should all just force Dan Mangan to tour in the summer from now on.