Posts Tagged ‘july talk’

SLCR Social Distancing Special #2

September 23, 2020

Hello. I got that haircut I was wanting. And then another haircut. And then another haircut. It’s been a while, is my point.

The Regina Folk Festival, the SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival, the Gateway Festival, and most other enjoyable things didn’t happen this year. There were lots of streaming concerts, but it’s not the same. Still, in a bid for normalcy, I had good intentions of writing up reviews for them anyway – or at least one per artist, which is one of those mandatory-chicken type rules that I can ignore as I see fit. And I wrote some. Made notes for others. Definitely wrote down some dates in a text file with good intentions. Felt kinda bad about not finishing these for, oh, five months or so. Not bad enough, apparently.

I liked the idea of sending out mini-reviews with the idea that if something sounded interesting to you, you could watch it yourself. With the move to paid concerts you can only watch live, that’s not as easy. Maybe that’s why I lost my motivation months ago, or maybe it’s just that I can’t fathom you caring about what I’ve been watching on my computer. Nonetheless, here we are. Or here we were months ago.


Danny Michel (May 3, 2020)
buy tickets: https://www.dannymichel.com/shows2
buy music: https://dannymichel.bandcamp.com/

For the first few weeks of the shutdown, Danny Michel seemed pretty adamant that we didn’t need to use this time to put on concerts or write great novels – just getting by was enough. And he’s still not into writing new stuff at the moment, but he did a one-off Zoom show and found it so invigorating to see his fans that he made it a weekly thing. So if you have $7 US, you can join in every Sunday. Well, you’d need several $7s to join in every Sunday. Also, this took me so long to send out, he’s done with his weekly shows. So there’s that too. Luckily for you, there’s one more show coming on October 11, so get on it.

Michel performs live from his studio, surrounded by a variety of instruments and, on occasion, by a variety of wacky Zoom backgrounds. For the most part, Danny’s on guitar, but this time he broke out a banjo for the song Rye Whiskey & Wine (by special request of Olympic cyclist Curt Harnett, who also joined Danny for an impromptu chat). Another new addition this week was an applause track that he would play via sampler pedal to mark the end of songs, or jokes, or just to amuse himself.

Danny Michel is one of those musicians who always seems to play 15 songs from a possible pool of 20, despite having written hundreds. But as with Steven Page, Michel is taking this opportunity to take fan requests and dig into the back catalogue. Mika was surprised when she tried to guess the set list and couldn’t do it. I wish I had recorded her list of guesses because the series of “the one about” was pretty entertaining. Not as good as when she tried to tell me what happens in Star Wars without having seen Star Wars, but still. The new songs were welcome and I’d like to hear more of the old favourites in weeks to come. And if Danny’s cat Larry David wants to make another mid-song appearance, so much the better.

Here’s that setlist:

  • Sweet Things
  • A Cold Road
  • The Right Thing
  • Feather, Fur, & Fin
  • Rye Whiskey & Wine
  • Born in the Wild
  • Luckiest Man in the World
  • Click Click
  • Nobody Rules You
  • What a Wonderful World

For what one could call an encore, Danny opened up ProTools and went track by track through the song What Colour Are You. It was pretty neat to see how it was all put together and you could hear all sorts of little touches I’d never noticed before. Then he took some questions and chatted with the audience before wrapping up. He suggested that one of these weeks, he might stay online talking for hours just to see who the last person in the audience is. It’s not like I’ve got any place to go.


Hawksley Workman (May 21, 2020)
buy tickets: https://hawksleyworkman.com/live/
buy music: https://hawksleyworkman.bandcamp.com/

Having recently moved from Montréal, Hawksley and his wife were staying at her father’s house in Peterborough as they searched the city for a place of their own. When the pandemic hit, house-hunting was put on hold. Months later, Don’s basement was the setting for the first Hawksley Night in Canada show.

Despite not being in their own place, this turned out to be one of the slicker setups I’ve seen in these shows. I don’t know if Hawksley brought his own light-up applause sign or if his father-in-law just had one laying about, but either way, it came in handy for the ambience. There were a handful of simple lighting effects (literally, turning lamps on and off) that helped make the show feel like more than just a webcam feed. And there were hand-made stop-motion title cards for the Hawk Talk and Pet Songs segments, as well as the show itself.

Both of those segments were pretty self-explanatory. In the days leading up to the show, Hawksley had shared an email address where people could send stories and pictures of their pets so he could write songs about them. And no, I didn’t send in anything about Carl. Yet. Maybe next time. For this show, Hawksley wrote and recorded a song about a rescue dog named Thurman and made a music video with the pictures and video clips. Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWZJCXo1vJI

When the show began, I joked that I hoped nobody phoned the landline in the background while the show was on. And then my phone immediately rang because I cursed myself. As it turned out, Hawksley’s phone (well, Don’s phone) wound up in play later on for Hawk Talk, the audience participation segment. He gave the phone number out and had chats with fans from Vancouver, Kingston, Regina (again, this was not me), and Guelph. Hawksley also kicked off the segment by phoning Mr. Lonely. For added fun, one of Hawksley’s cats (The Donger) (not its actual name) wandered into the set for a visit. I don’t know if anyone has tried calling that number in the days since to see if they can just have a nice chat with Hawksley and family, but one of you should try it.

I suppose there were also songs! Here’s the setlist:

  • No Sissies
  • Piano Blink
  • Your Beauty Must Be Rubbing Off
  • Warhol’s Portrait of Gretzky
  • PET SONGS: Thurman
  • Safe and Sound
  • You and the Candles
  • Chemical
  • Ukelady Boy
  • Battlefords
  • HAWK TALK
  • We Will Still Need A Song
  • Birds in Train Stations
  • Don’t Be Crushed

Except for the pet song, it was all Hawksley on acoustic guitar. For some of these, it was how I’m used to hearing them; others sounded entirely different stripped down. Chemical, in particular, was a whole new song. There was also a nice mix of concert usuals and surprises, from personal favourite Piano Blink to the unnervingly prescient You and the Candles to Ukelady Boy from Hawksley’s musical, The God That Comes. And both the sound and video were among the best of these quarantine concerts, making this a home run all around. Since this one, he’s been doing them monthly and they’ve all been a delight. Highly and unsurprisingly recommended.


Dan Mangan (May 23, 2020)
buy tickets: https://sidedooraccess.com/home
buy music: https://danmangan.bandcamp.com/

This spring, Dan Mangan was to be going on tour to mark the 10th anniversary of his debut album, Nice, Nice, Very Nice. He was skipping Regina, which – as ever – was as disappointing as it was understandable. Then the world ended and here we are.

This show was live from Mangan’s basement, but still managed to feature a few special guests. First was Dan’s son, who wandered in looking for help with his Nintendo Switch. He got sent to find his mother. Didn’t even sing anything. Neither did Dan’s moms or sister, though their appearances were at least planned. Veda Hille, Dan’s neighbour, joined in on The Indie Queens are Waiting, just as she did on the album. Well… not “just,” probably. I bet she didn’t have to sit outside the house and sing through a window when the album was recorded. And partway through, Noble Son was brought on to play a pair of songs. Not quite an opening act. Halftime show, maybe?

I’d give you the setlist but you could just look up the tracklist for the album. Robots, always a fan favourite. Basket, one of my very favourite songs, always a heartbreaker. He did forget the song Some People, playing it after Pine for Cedars once he realized his mistake. Noble Son’s songs, Sleepin’ and Sad Dumb Lovesick Young Kid, came in after Fair Verona. After the show, Mangan took fan questions and eventually played a new song, In Your Corner, in memory of Scott Hutchinson of Frightened Rabbit who died in 2018.

I really enjoyed this set, and it was a nice make-up for skipping us on the tour that didn’t happen. And he’s since rescheduled his tour dates, and now he’s fitting us in. The show is scheduled for mid-January. We’ll see if it happens. We’ll see if I’m brave and/or foolish enough to go.


Son of Dave (June 5, 2020)
concert: https://www.facebook.com/ospreyartscentre/videos/2451242958508166/
buy music: https://sonofdave.bandcamp.com/

These concerts are either free on YouTube or Facebook or something, or they’re ticketed. If you pay, you get a link and a unique code. Easy enough. I paid for this show, got the email, and didn’t look at it until the day of, only to find that my link had expired. Uh-oh. Frantic emails ensued, only to find out that the show was just on the Osprey Arts Centre’s Facebook page and a human was manually checking to see if the folks watching the show were entitled to be doing so. Based on the attendance, let’s just say this was not as demanding a job as one might hope. Eventually, they asked us to share the link around in hopes that more people would show up and contribute to the virtual tip jar.

Son of Dave (nee Benjamin Darvill) is a harmonica-playing, beatboxing bluesman and showman. This was a fun show that made for a good introduction to his music, though to get the full experience, you need the interaction that comes with seeing him in person. Nothing’s stopping you from having a conga line through your house while watching this, but it’s not the same if he’s not insisting you do it. And he can’t invite you up on stage and feed you chocolate remotely.

In a weird twist, the show wasn’t actually live. It was recorded especially for the venue, but fear of a bad overseas internet connection (justifiable, based on some of these shows) led to it being sent in ahead of time. This led to the unique situation of Son of Dave joining fans in the live chat to watch himself in concert. He said it sounded better in his head. I can’t say he’s wrong, but I liked how it sounded to the rest of us.


Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls (August 9, 2020)
concerts, but not this one: https://www.youtube.com/c/FrankTurner/videos
buy music: https://frank-turner.bandcamp.com

I’m guessing that this is not how Frank Turner expected to celebrate his 2,500th concert. In an alternate dimension, it’s a big extravaganza. In this one, it’s him and his regular band, separated by plexiglass dividers, tearing it up in an empty hall.

That said, they weren’t about to let a little thing like everything stop them from putting on one of the best live concerts you’ll see. Even without a live crowd to feed off of, there was no lack of energy. There were more pauses for conversation and banter between bandmates than at a usual show, but I just attributed that to their enjoyment of actually being in the same place as each other.

I’d give you a setlist but Turner has surpassed the Weakerthans as my #1 artist where I know very few song titles and have to describe them all with snippets of lyrics that I may have misheard. Every song title starts with “The One That Goes Like” as far as I’m concerned. The key things are we got the song that made me a fan (Try This at Home), my favourite of his (Get Better), and the thematically-appropriate Recovery. And a bunch more. This was a delight and I’d recommend his live shows to anyone.


July Talk (August 13, 2020)
website: https://www.julytalk.com/
buy music: https://julytalk.bandcamp.com/
donate: https://my.charitableimpact.com/charities/street-worker-s-advocacy-project-regina-inc

This show escaped the confines of basements and studios and empty bars, taking place with a full audience at a drive-in theatre. It looked like people were allowed to stand beside their cars, though most remained inside. It’s been weird to hear concerts with no applause after each song, but honking in appreciation is new too.

I had rushed to get dinner made in time for the show, but needn’t have bothered. The show opened with a collection of music videos, concert footage, and animation that served as a leadup to the concert proper. This was actually pretty entertaining, though unusual to hear versions of songs that they were just going to play live later anyway. Doesn’t really register on the unusual charts for this year, I guess.

I am an old man who doesn’t like new bands so it’s weird that I like this new band so much. Though at three albums in, new is relative. Compared to me, they’re new. So are most things. Anyway, July Talk puts on a killer show. This show was, I guess, their tour to promote their new album, Pray For It, so we heard lots from it, but got all the older favourites as well. You know. How concerts work. They did that.

Shot in black and white on eight cameras, we have a runaway winner in terms of quarantine concert production values. In the most memorable moment, singer Leah Fay walked out among the cars, had people turn their hazard lights on, climbed on top of one car (she asked first and is also wee), and sang a song. At the end, she laid down on the roof of the car. This was filmed from above by a drone rising into the sky, giving us a shot of a tiny figure in all white in the darkness, getting smaller and smaller, surrounded by rows of blinking lights. It was stunning. You could easily have passed this off as a fully-edited concert video.


Kathleen Edwards (August 14, 2020)
concert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KmHuzQxjFg
buy music: https://kathleenedwards.bandcamp.com/

Kathleen Edwards famously quit music to open up a coffee shop. Years later, she has a new album (Total Freedom) and the coffee shop doubles as her own personal performance venue because she can’t tour.

This was shown on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch. Allegedly. I opted for YouTube, which erupted into chaos when the concert began and there was no sound. You have never seen a chat so panicked. Word was sent that Facebook had audio, so I went there, but Facebook streaming video is sometimes fine and sometimes super choppy and this was the latter. Off to Twitch I went, which meant figuring out where I’d hidden the Twitch app on my iPad, and then figuring out what my username and password were, and then figuring out where the stream was, and then 30 seconds later, it ended, seemingly accidentally. So I went back to YouTube which was now fine.

The show was Edwards and her full band playing the new album front to back, with a few extra songs at the end. Once the initial issues were sorted out, everything sounded great. It’s Kathleen Edwards, she’s not going to sound not great. It seemed like she was enjoying herself, and had great chemistry with the band.

The chatroom was completely enamoured with her and the show. I am skeptical about the number of claims of being brought to tears by the concert, but maybe some folks just get moved by music more than I do. Some folks also have very strong opinions about what Kathleen Edwards should do with her personal life. It’s best to always mute the chat. Though I agreed with their assertions that she should swear more because it’s fun.


Rae Spoon (September 17, 2020)
buy music: https://raespoon.bandcamp.com/

This was brought to us by the Regina Public Library. Finally, something of value! No more dumb books. What did books ever do for us?

The show was held over Zoom, with Rae having selected an image of the downtown library for their backdrop. It’s like they were really there! Outside. And years ago. It wasn’t the newest picture. Rae played guitar and sang, ad-libbing through audience participation spots where necessary, and telling stories to give context to everything. The show seemed to breeze by.

I’ve seen Spoon a few times now and despite the general weirdness of playing a show to no audible reaction from a remote location, this was still my favourite performance of theirs. Due to some serious health issues, they hadn’t been playing live for a while. Maybe they were happy to be back and feeling better, or more comfortable to be playing from home, or maybe I was just imagining things. Who knows. There was a spark that wasn’t there in their previous shows and it was delightful to see it.


And we’re caught up. Briefly. For something that’s been in the works since May, I wrote an embarrassing amount of this last night. I suspect I won’t review other streaming shows, but who knows. Normal could be a ways off and I might feel the need to alert you, once again, to the existence of YouTube. Just in case you forget about it.

SLCR #288: Queen City Ex (August 3-4, 2017)

August 18, 2017

When I wrote the big long recap of the Jazz Festival (and, like, a million other things), my intent was to group a bunch of shows together so that I could keep each section relatively short. And I failed miserably. So I can see why you might be leery now. So if you don’t read any of the rest of this, just know that July Talk is now in the lead for Show of the Year in my non-existent year-end awards. So good.

But you should probably read the rest of this because it’s mostly about disgusting delicious fair foods. And I promise I will not start three straight sentences with “so” again in this. (But six straight sentences starting with conjunctions, on the other hand…)

The Queen City Ex is our local fair. Rides, contests, garbage food, bands, you know the deal. Despite what the title above might indicate, it runs for five days. We only went for two, cherry-picking solid lineups for our visits: July Talk with The Zolas on Thursday, and a double-bill of The Watchmen and I Mother Earth on Friday. This left us skipping (in order) Gord Bamford with Nice Horse, Ruth B with Christian Hudson, and Brett Kissel with hypnotist Wayne Lee and why is a hypnotist opening for a country singer? Too late to find out now even if I wanted to. And I don’t really want to.

Thursday was not only our first day at the fair, but it was also Mika’s birthday. I took her to a place with next to no gluten-free options and she got to watch me eat stuff she would have enjoyed, and then we saw a band I really like. Don’t ever say that I don’t know how to treat my wife on her special day.

As we both had to work on Thursday, we got to the fair fairly (oh man that’s some good comedy) late. We strolled around and pondered our food options while searching for the Great Western Stage, which was not where we remembered it. After making our way from one end of the Ex to the other, we checked our little map to discover that they’d moved it into the Brandt Centre. Seating! Air conditioning! No chance of getting rained out (as happened to the July Talk show at the Edmonton fair)! This was a pretty decent deal. And I suppose it makes sense – during our last fair visit two years ago, you didn’t have to deal with the giant new stadium on the fairgrounds.

The Thursday night openers were The Zolas and we got there just in time for them to begin. I knew one song, Swooner, but the rest of their stuff was new to me. Mika, however, was surprised to discover how many of their songs she’d heard – I gather they’re CBC Radio 3 favourites. Pop-rock, heavy on the keyboards and made me feel like I might be just a bit too old to really get into them, though the singer gained some bonus points by getting everyone to clap along to a song and then saying “now keep doing that until it’s awkward.” I mean, that’s what we do, but I’d never heard it spelled out so plainly before. These guys were fun enough, though they were probably my least-favourite set of the two nights. But that shouldn’t be taken as a knock – they were just up against some stiff competition.

Between sets, we headed back out onto the midway in an attempt to give ourselves coronaries. We were both saddened to discover that the nacho truck from our last fair visit was nowhere to be found. Tasty warm homemade chips with fresh toppings, right by the entrance to the Great Western Stage. You were too beautiful to live, nacho truck. Mika eventually found a place that made fries and didn’t fry anything else, so she could eat them. And they were good, but they’re not as ridiculous as you want from the fair, you know?

However, as mentioned, I had my pick of absolute crap. Last time, I started with a corndog and realized that I don’t like corn dogs as much as I think I do. This time, I went back for the corndogs, but with a twist – they stuck a dill pickle in there too. The perfect solution. I also got something called “bacon pickle balls” but they turned out to be just smaller pickle corn dogs that had an infinitesimal amount of bacon in there somewhere. Still good.

We made our way back to the Brandt Centre for July Talk. I first heard of them when the AV Club had the premiere of their video for Summer Dress, and – for reasons unknown to me – I actually bothered to watch the thing instead of skipping it like I do most web videos. (Sorry, people who ever send me links to anything.) I really dug it, which is not something I say about new bands these days because I am a miserable old fart who is set in his ways. And then I liked their album. And then their new album. So I was looking forward to this, was my point.

We’d sat in the stands for The Zolas, but moved down to the floor for July Talk, passing Mark and Arlette on the way down. The crowd for The Zolas was pretty respectable, but it had to be at least double that for July Talk. Sometimes good things become popular and that is rad!

The band took the stage and started by welcoming “ladies, gentlemen, trans, non-binary and genderfluid folk” before acknowledging that we were on Treaty 4 land. And then they blew the roof off the place. They played Summer Dress two songs in and I thought that would be the highlight for me but then it just kept getting better. Ridiculous levels of energy all night long. Two very different singers, with Leah Fay’s sultry vocals providing a sharp contrast to Peter Dreimanis’ guttural rasp. Great, catchy songs. Great musicians. Charismatic performers. This was the kind of show that made me want to tell everyone I know that they should have been there. I did text that to some of you. Not sorry.

At one point, Fay walked out into the crowd and asked everyone on the floor to sit down, and they all just did it. (I mean, WE didn’t, that floor is kinda nasty – but we were also far enough back so as to remain somewhat inconspicuous.) And then she rode back to the stage on a fan’s shoulders. She asked his name and he was the most excited Bob you ever did hear.

And then the encore. A fan threw something onto the stage. I couldn’t see what, but I assumed it was a stuffed animal, since we’re at the fair and all (even though most of the prizes were either Pokémon plushies or fidget spinners as far as I could tell). But no. Fay picked it up and said “If there’s one thing I’ve learned about being in a band, you never give the people what they want right away. But I like you.” And she put on a rubber horse mask. And Fay and Dreimanis did a song together – the only one all night with just the two of them – with her in this horse mask. I use the word “ridiculous” a lot, and this was, but it is just as true to say it was amazing. Then Horse Fan (she had a name but that is not relevant right now) got to come up on stage and dance with the band for the last song. In the horse mask.

This ruled. This all ruled. The horse mask was just the icing on the cake. Horse icing. It cost $37 to get into the fair (two adults at $15 each, plus one car at $7) and I would have paid more than that for one ticket to July Talk and it would have been a deal. Go see them.

We ran into Mark and Arlette again on the way out – by which I mean I saw them leaving and chased after them – and we got to chat for a bit. Then with the show over, we set out to make some more bad decisions. Mika got a lemonade (again, tame by fair standards) while I went for the more ridiculous deep fried cookie dough. It was pretty good. Then I packed up my regrets and we went home, ready to do it all over again the next day.

Sometimes people ask me “how’s work?” and all you need to know is that on Thursday before the concert, I went from “I can come in this weekend” to “I’m taking tomorrow off because everything’s so broken that I can’t do anything” in the span of about 15 minutes. So I had Friday off, which was nice and restful. It let me prepare myself for another day of punishing my eardrums and my stomach.

Speaking of which, on Thursday, we discovered that one of the BBQ places was selling corn on the cob coated in Flammin’ [sic] Hot Cheetos dust. We reported this to Jeff and he had a day to build this up in his mind. By the time we got to the fair on Friday, he was already there, had already eaten the Flammin’ Hot Cheetos corn, and reported that it lived up to his imagination. Mika tried to have some too, but they misheard her order and gave her regular corn instead. She also got some blue slushie drink. Again, good but not fair-worthy craziness.

I, on the other hand, took my time to find the ideal monstrosity for dinner, and found the perfect combination of ridiculous and a short line – the bacon-wrapped foot-long hot dog topped with macaroni and cheese. With the optional fried onions, for… vitamins. Or fiber or something. Antioxidants? This was as delicious as it was challenging to eat. I wound up with mac and cheese on my nose and my hat. Not surprised. Didn’t care. Worth it.

We made our way to the Brandt Centre for the Watchmen, stopping to sample some apple whiskey on the way in. Not bad.

This was the only night where the two bands were given equal billing, though in essence, the Watchmen were opening. We debated whether the Watchmen or I Mother Earth should have gone on last, with Jeff firmly on the side of the Watchmen. I wasn’t sold on this. I mean, I know way more Watchmen songs than I Mother Earth songs, and having seen both bands recently, I liked the Watchmen better, but I figured that was just me. I Mother Earth just seem like the bigger band to me. And I was way wrong. There were tons of people in there for the Watchmen, on par with the crowd for July Talk. They opened with Boneyard Tree and closed with Stereo – in between, you got most of the singles you’d want (Incarnate, Any Day Now, All Uncovered, Absolutely Anytime and more) with some interesting covers, including The Only Living Boy in New York by Simon and Garfunkel and part of Superman by R.E.M.. This was a great set.

I’m writing this weeks after the fact. I think we got dessert between Watchmen and I Mother Earth, but I could be wrong. Maybe it was before? Who cares, if I’m wrong, only two people will know and they can write their own reviews if they’re so concerned about historical accuracy. Either way, I had red velvet mini donuts and Jeff got an Oreo churro. The mini donut people got my donuts from somewhere behind their stand. I don’t know where or why. I didn’t really want to know.

Having seen I Mother Earth last year, I realized that I only know one of their songs and also I only have so much interest in guitar solos. This show didn’t really change my opinion. That song was good! And the guitar solos were well done and all, but I can only care to a degree. I called this set “very good but not entirely my thing.” And I love this format of cramming tons of shows into one review because I can stop there, but I do need to mention that the crowd for I Mother Earth was shockingly smaller than it was for the Watchmen. At one point near the end of the set, I turned around and realized how bad it would look if they turned up the lights. They had maaaaaaybe half the crowd that the Watchmen did.

As soon I Mother Earth was over, Mika went to the bathroom and Jeff left, which was a real shame. The leaving part, I mean, not the bathroom part. Because if Jeff had left the arena with us, he’d have been treated to one lady’s rant about people bringing their fuckin’ kids to loud concerts and it’s not good for their hearing and you should get a fuckin’ babysitter or else just suck it the fuck up and don’t come – made all the better when I realized that some guy and his kids were 10 feet behind us. Then I got a caramel apple because I never learn anything.