Posts Tagged ‘regina’

SLCR #359: TEKE::TEKE (March 31, 2022)

April 20, 2022

The description of TEKE::TEKE from the email announcing the folk festival‘s annual Winterruption concert series was intriguing enough to make me want to go see them, even though I’d never heard of them before.

Except I had. CRZ played them on his radio show, and Mika was disappointed at being scooped by him since she’d had them on her list of bands to request but he beat her to them. I vaguely remember this happening, but had no idea that TEKE::TEKE was the band at the heart of the issue. I think I might be admitting that I haven’t paid enough attention to several people here.

This show was scheduled for January but got bumped out due to covid, which is how we wound up celebrating Winterruption mid-spring. The Artesian has thus far kept all its covid policies in place; namely, mandatory vaccines (it had been so long since I’d gone anywhere that I’d almost forgotten how to use the app) and masks. Plus, let’s say that the attendance allowed for a respectable amount of social distancing. Wasn’t a bad turnout, but there was room for more.

One person who didn’t stay for the show was this dude near us who was talking on his phone, mask down, waiting for the show to start. A volunteer working the show asked him to pull his mask up. The guy said he would when he wasn’t on the phone; the volunteer pointed out that this was not actually a request per se, to which the guy said “why are you having a FUCKING concert if you’re going to be so uptight?” The volunteer, who had the patience of a saint while doing the Lord’s work, asked the guy to leave, which he did, swearing all the way. Bon voyage, dicknose.

Someone else near us sympathized with Swearing Man, grumbling through the whole show, sarcastically berating the emcee for not wearing a mask while talking to the crowd, and pulling his own mask down whenever there were no volunteers around. Too cowardly to have an actual confrontation, too delicate to just wear the god damned mask already. At least Swearing Man stood by his convictions. His stupid, stupid convictions.

Our openers were local band Snake River, playing their first show together since before the pandemic. I’d heard the name but hadn’t seen them before. Country-tinged rock, or maybe vice versa. I quite enjoyed their set, probably more so because it had been so long since I’d been out listening to something like this. The highlight was a cover of the Sadies’ A Good Flying Day in memory of singer and guitarist Dallas Good. Not only did Snake River cite the Sadies as an influence (“every Sadies show was the best show ever”), but the Sadies were actually scheduled to play as part of Winterruption, but their show also got postponed from January and Good passed away in February. This was a really nice – if bittersweet – tribute.

Back to that description of TEKE::TEKE: “Featuring traditional Japanese instruments, flute and trombone alongside raging guitars and a pulsing rhythm section, TEKE::TEKE creates a sound reminiscent of 1960’s and 70’s era psychedelic Japanese soundtracks, with a frenetic, modern twist.” And sure, let’s go with that, it’s better than anything I’d come up with. They also mentioned during the show that they’d begun as a Takeshi Terauchi cover band before moving on to their own originals. As a Philistine, this meant nothing to me but maybe you are more worldly than I.

Anyway, the short version is that this completely ruled. I don’t really know how to describe it – if I did, I wouldn’t be stealing bands’ own descriptions of themselves from their websites in place of using my own words – so I’ll just say that quote above is accurate but undersells just how good they are at it. The energy was great and they were enthralling to watch. Would go again, would recommend to others, have already done so, am recommending to you now.

Based on crowd response, I don’t think I’m alone in my assessment. They got a terrific reaction. As we were leaving, there wasn’t a line for merchandise so much as a swarm. It looked like everyone who was there was buying something on the way out. I’m not sure when I last spent actual paper money, but this showed it still has use; sometimes you need to buy a record and holding up the exact amount in cash (it was $20, they made it easy) is the international sign of “I will get out of your way quickly.” Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy your way home to bed five minutes sooner.

SLCR #358: Glass Tiger (March 10, 2022)

April 5, 2022

Deserée is bonkers over Glass Tiger. I present this information merely as context; a way of explaining why, exactly, I was at a Glass Tiger show in 2022. She was there to watch the band, and the rest of us were there to watch her watch the band.

I updated the year, but otherwise, that’s how I started my last Glass Tiger review. In my mind, this was maybe 4 years ago, but no, it was more than 7 years ago. As if I need more evidence that the past few years have completely destroyed my sense of time. Is this review late? The calendar suggests so. But as far as I can tell, I was at this concert two days ago and also late last year. I don’t know anymore.

When I got the tickets, it felt like maybe we were coming out of this. Isn’t that quaint? We’d had tickets to see Glass Tiger back in early 2020, but it was one of the first shows that cancelled when the world went to pot. And now they were coming back, Mika and I were heading out to see them, and we were… not excited, really. Kind of anxious. I can handle doing stuff (to some degree), but I think it’ll be a while before I’m really INTO the idea of doing stuff.

This marked my first trip to the casino since all the everything. They’d used the downtime to renovate, so it was a bit disorienting. Looked nice in spots, had weird traffic flows in others. Mika and I both got smacked by this old woman’s bag and she seemed real indignant that we’d dare get in its way. “Old bag’s bag” would have worked better but I’m being kind and showing restraint.

We met up with Dez and Reagan, collected as many free slot play vouchers as we could (I wound up cashing out with $17 in free money) and took our seats. I got us a table up at the front; this was deemed acceptable. A local DJ introduced the show and we were off.

The place was nearly sold out and it was weird being around quite so many people. For the most part, it wasn’t a big deal – the only standing area was off to the side behind these bike rack style barricades. The beleaguered security staff was in charge of keeping the tipsy dancing ladies confined to the designated dancing zones; this proved difficult and eventually a gentleman in a blazer had to be summoned to provide reinforcements.

For the record, if you ever want to meet a whole lot of tipsy dancing ladies who are just slightly older than me, you could do a lot worse than a Glass Tiger concert.

I also saw the guy I always see at casino old-man rock concerts, the guy who looks like Ricky Morton. Truly, nature is healing.

As for the show itself, I could probably copy and paste most of my old review and it would all hold true. I still know more Glass Tiger songs than I realize and they’re still real catchy. They played pretty much all the hits you’d expect. And once again, the sound was a bit too loud for the venue. I can only say that with confidence after reading that I’d felt the same way last time; with no big concerts over the past few years, I couldn’t tell if maybe my judgment was just shot.

They did play a few new-to-me covers – Right Here Right Now and Heroes. The latter was prefaced by Alan Frew saying that “David” was missed, leading to – as I was later told – a conversation about who this mysterious David could possibly be. I’ll let you figure that one out on your own.

The show closer, to no surprise, was Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone. I haven’t learned where the parentheses go since last time and I’m not about to look it up now. This was the song where the not-particularly-strong-or-real dam of security guards and bike racks gave way and fans rushed up to the stage. At that point, I was pretty pleased with my decision to keep my mask on throughout the show.
Frew led a singalong and was thoroughly disappointed in the crowd’s inability to mimic a slightly longer than normal pause before the “my heart would break” part. I didn’t see what was so difficult about this and I famously can’t sing. Maybe I shouldn’t have spent all my skill points on “accurate pause lengths.” Eventually, he wanted just the men to sing “my heart would break,” at which point a stranger (presumably one of the tipsy dancing ladies, but I can’t keep track of everyone) turned to me and hollered “WE NEED YOU!” It turns out that not only do masks help stop you from getting and giving illnesses, but they also allow people to assume you’re singing when you’re merely miming for their approval. Mika seemed amused by the attention I was getting, saying “See? You’d be fine if I died.” She made me promise to include this part. She didn’t make me promise to explain it, however. Anyway, the women had to sing “my heart would break” next and the stranger was very encouraging to Mika as well. This led to more questions that shall not be answered or, indeed, contemplated here.

After the show, we waited around as the crowd thinned out, allowing Dez to get a picture with Alan Frew and an autograph on her stolen setlist. That worked out nicely for her and the other folks who were late in leaving. Maybe not so much for Frew, who probably just came out to visit with friends, but so it goes. He saw those tipsy dancing ladies, he knew the risks.

SLCR #357: The Weather Station (November 19, 2021)

December 14, 2021

Well. Hello there.

It’s been a year since my last concert and you’d think I’d have some exciting news for you. I do not. I’m not even sure how these work anymore.

I’m writing this several weeks after the fact. That feels right. Nostalgic. And I’m out of practice at coming up with ways to say “we saw a band I don’t know a ton about; it was good,” so I think this one will be short. At least I made Mika tell me everything she remembered about the show, most of which I’d forgotten. That’s the only reason this is getting done at all.

This was the first concert we bought tickets to since we saw Michael Bernard Fitzgerald last year and everything else got cancelled. I wasn’t 100% confident it would happen, nor 100% confident that we’d want to go if it did. But the day rolled around, and the venue had a mandatory vaccine and mask policy, and we don’t do anything ever, so why not go do a thing?

We arrived at the Artesian about 20 minutes before showtime and were met outside by the fine (if chilly) folks who checked our vaccine records and photo IDs. Tickets were handled separately inside, by which I mean my name was on a big list and there was a PDF on my phone that they didn’t look at.

I know this is ultimately more convenient, but I’ll miss physical tickets when they go away for good. Nobody wants to see my PDF collection. (Nobody wants to see my ticket collection either but it’s easier to imagine that someone might.)

We got inside and took our usual spots. These became our usual spots, I think, since nobody else wanted them. They’re towards the back, not up off the ground, and you’re kind of in everyone else’s way as they go to and from their own seats. Also they’re old church pews. We need to find better seats, is my point. Mika was at least smart enough to roll up her bunnyhug and use it as lumbar support.

The crowd trickled in and eventually the place looked pretty close to full. The start time of 8:00pm came and went before one guy decided he could will the show into beginning by clapping loudly. This… worked, somehow? Out came the band for the first of two sets of mellow, artsy pop. (He tried again after the intermission and wasn’t nearly as effective. Shouldn’t push your luck.)

Looking up The Weather Station now, and they’ve been a thing since 2006? That’s not recent anymore. I’m quite late to this party, really having been introduced to their music this year via the only two ways I hear any new music anymore, CRZ’s radio show and whatever Mika plays in the car.

According to Mika, most of what they played was off their new album Ignorance, which came out at the start of the year and has wound up on a bunch of year-end best-of lists and got shortlisted for the Polaris Prize. I could have guessed that, both because I know how concerts work and because of the number of songs where I went “hey, I know this from the car and/or radio show.”

It’s worth noting that the show came close to not happening at all. The tour started out west and they only narrowly made it out of BC before landslides shut down roads. Given that the new album is all about climate change, this was a little on the nose.

Anyway, I don’t have a ton to say about the show itself but I really enjoyed it. Everyone else seemed to as well, but it’s going to sound dismissive and I don’t mean it as such when I say that people seemed happy just to be out at all. One person even yelled something like “it’s so good to be out listening to live music again.” I don’t know that it needed to be hollered, but I’m anti-hollering most of the time and I can’t disagree with the sentiment.

NATURE IS HEALING OR ELSE WE’VE JUST SURRENDERED TO FATE; EITHER WAY, UPCOMING CONCERTS:

  • Regina Symphony Orchestra (January 22)
  • TEKE::TEKE w/Snake River (January 27)
  • The Sadies w/The Garrys (January 28)
  • Glass Tiger (March 10)
  • Hawksley Workman (April 21)
  • “Weird Al” Yankovic (July 8)
  • Joel Plaskett w/Mo Kenney (September 17)

SLCR #356: Michael Bernard Fitzgerald (September 24, 2020)

October 8, 2020

Mika and I had dinner in an actual restaurant at the end of June. There were no active COVID cases in the city and we went to a place that already had a good track record for safety. That was nice. And I think that was the first time we’d left the house together since returning from vacation early in March.

Two months later, we went to Nuit Blanche, which reinvented itself this year as a drive-thru event. We waited in a long line of cars to look at art installations, a handful of which didn’t look like screensavers or Winamp visualizers. As far as outings go, this certainly was one. Technically.

We also renewed our mortgage. Even though we were really pleased with the rate, I still don’t think this counts as a fun date night. Besides, it was in the afternoon, we drove to the bank separately, and Mika had to go back to the office once we were done.

But this, this was a concert! The first one since seeing Whitehorse in January! A real one, in person, without having to enter a Zoom password and kick all my other devices off the Wi-Fi! And one entirely unlike anything I’d been to before, because of… all the… you know. Everything. Literally everything.

I bought our tickets back in the middle of June. By then, we’d had several concerts cancelled and others delayed. Some were delayed and THEN cancelled, which is thorough. But this tour was designed for These Uncertain And Unprecedented Times, and I held out hope that it would actually happen.

Let us review the protocols. The concert was to be held at a farm near Regina, but we wouldn’t be told where until the day of the show. It would be in a big tent, semi open air. Tickets were only purchasable in blocks of 4, to be shared amongst the people in your bubble. Capacity was capped at 24 fans – 6 blocks – though 2 of the groups (including ours) only had 2 people. You had to sanitize your hands before entering, and masks were required when not in your seat. Drinks and snacks were available if you ordered beforehand and they’d be waiting at your row (every block got their own row) in sanitized buckets. There was washroom access “for emergency use only,” I’m guessing in the farmhouse. I don’t think anyone needed it. I assume it was sanitized too, but I also assume that in an emergency, you may not care.

Just before lunch, I was emailed directions to Fenek Farms, which is about 15 minutes north of town. I’d never heard of them, but they do hayrides and petting zoo type stuff. As to whether they regularly host touring concerts in the middle of a pandemic, the internet isn’t clear.

As we approached the farm, it was already dark out. I saw some kind of creature skulk across the road and into a ditch – some kind of small mammal. I’ll never know for sure, but I’m just gonna assume it was a cat. Partly because the only other animals we saw were geese in a barn. And partly because there were cats everywhere.

We hung out in the car until around 8:00, while torches were lit to line the pathway to the Greenbriar, which is what you name your big tent when you have to name a big tent. We masked up, sanitized, and found our row with our beverage bucket. I’d treated myself and Mika to two of the finest bottled waters available from, I dunno, probably Superstore or Costco.

Fitzgerald was already sitting at the front of the tent when we arrived. Also in the tent was Jellybean, a black kitten who had zero fear of humans and an intense curiosity about what was transpiring. Fitzgerald, decidedly not a cat person, was nonplussed about this intrusion, though most of the fans were delighted. You know I was delighted. And Jellybean made sure to visit everyone, including spending some time hopping back and forth between my lap and Mika’s.

It was determined, however, that “Jellybean” was not a good name for this kitten, who received a series of new names throughout the evening, including Blackie, Shadow, Nightfall, and Nightshade, the latter seemingly due to Fitzgerald’s inability to remember Nightfall.

There was also a grey cat who patrolled the tent. He (?) was less interested in the humans, but I did get to give him a little scritch as he went past. Fitzgerald had to name that cat too, pausing for a second before settling on… Grey. “I really messed up that cat’s name.” But Grey stuck.

There was one other person there with Fitzgerald – I think her name was Kay, or at least that’s who I ordered our waters from – and she spent a good part of the evening wrangling cats and removing them from the tent. The cats spent a good part of the evening returning in nonchalant defiance.

Songs! There were songs. Not just cats. This tour was to promote Fitzgerald’s new record, Love Valley, which is out this Friday, October 9, 2020. And now I have to finish this thing on time. I’d heard a few of the songs before the show, and was pleased that they were stripped down, a little folkier and more in line with some of his older records. Most of the songs seem to be about buying a farmhouse and moving into it with a lady who will occasionally take her clothes off, but I’d have to hear the whole thing before declaring it a concept album. I did buy a copy of the record when I ordered our waters, but since we were a few weeks out from the release date, I have to wait for it to arrive in the mail.

The farmhouse needs a string of lights along the back porch, this is important.

Everything was acoustic, just MBF and his guitar. Most of what he played was from the new album, though there were a handful of older songs; notably, Care For You and Follow. And there was a cover of Robyn’s Dancing on My Own that was so reworked into Fitzgerald’s style that I didn’t even recognize it at first. Very cool.

Fitzgerald said he wanted to make it more like a house concert, with lots of interaction between songs. It took a bit for everyone to figure out how the night would go – after the first song, he joked “I love the sound of muted applause.” But soon everyone settled in. People were making requests, opening their drinks at appropriate times (mostly while MBF was tuning), talking about their 4Runners, playing with the farm cats.

As ever, his stories were delightful, about the challenges of livestreaming performances from your backyard (ill-timed garbage trucks), or a secret Regina artisan pizza house – literally, a house – that was so exclusive, none of us had heard of it. (I did some googling, and it definitely exists, or at least did as of 2015.) And he talked about playing the folk festival here, and as a fan, I appreciated his unsolicited opinion that Hawksley Workman is a nice guy.

He also told us about performing songs for some sort of project that wouldn’t let him use brand names in songs, so he had to alter the lyrics on the fly. Despite lacking some syllables, “2000 Toyota” became “2000 truck.” “It’s not like Toyota rhymed with anything, it’s just fun to say.” But “2000 truck” is also fun to say and soon became the name of an orange cat who joined the tent. Then there was a second orange cat – a decoy. During the last song, a third orange cat showed up (2000 Truck and two decoys! And Nightshade! And Grey!), Fitzgerald was exasperated, and I was utterly joyous. The songs were great, the stories were funny, the cats were great AND funny. I even got to cuddle 2000 Truck (or a decoy) after unhooking him from Mika’s side after he tried jumping into her lap and didn’t quite make it.

I feel the need to stress that this would have been a great night out even without the cats. They’re just fun to talk about! And to pick up and snuggle and scritch them behind their little ears, who’s a good 2000 Truck, you are, yes you are. But cats aside, this was such a unique and intimate show, perfectly suited to the new tunes.

And I’d better savor it – I don’t see much live music on the horizon. I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable going to normal concerts right now, and the opportunities for creative shows like this one are fading as the weather turns. This was a special, cat-laden night, but I don’t know how many people could make something like this possible. MBF said that he decided to undertake the tour after realizing it was something he’d want to do even without the pandemic. You can see his passion for the idea in the ridiculous amount of effort it requires. The tent takes 3 hours to set up and 3 hours to tear down. Fitzgerald was towing it from town to town himself, on a 48-date cross-Canada tour. Even just the logistics of booking venues – how does one make arrangements with 48 farms? And while ticket prices were up a little from his usual shows, they weren’t extravagant, so he could only be making so much money playing to 24 people a night. That’s a ton of work for little immediate reward. I mean, I’m sure playing shows is rewarding in itself, but food and shelter are good too.

UPCOMING CONCERTS THAT SURE, WE CAN PRETEND WILL HAPPEN AS SCHEDULED
• Saints & Sinners Tour: Headstones, Moist, The Tea Party, & Big Wreck (January 25)
• Joel Plaskett w/Mo Kenney (September 18)

SLCR #355: Whitehorse (January 25, 2020)

February 11, 2020

You may remember that the Friday night of last year’s folk festival was hit with a big thunderstorm, causing Weaves to end their set before it really got underway. Unsurprising, then, that they’d be asked to return for Winterruption, to give us a second chance to see them. But alas, they were booked opposite a Whitehorse show, and I had to make the tough choices. It will be interesting to see what acts of God keep me away from their shows in the future.

We’d seen Whitehorse before at Darke Hall and really enjoyed it, and I didn’t want to pass up the chance to see them at the much smaller Artesian. I don’t think they play a lot of venues this… let’s go with “intimate,” and figured it could be a special show.

As it sold out well in advance, our usual plan of showing up whenever wasn’t going to work. The bar in the basement opened at 7:00 and the doors to the hall were to open at 7:30 for an 8:00 start. We got there right as the hall was to open, and couldn’t get in. Everyone else had got there before us, gone to the bar, and then filled the lobby. We hung out on the steps until people started moving, then swam upstream to get to the stairs to the balcony. That seemed like the best bet to guarantee a seat, since the show was advertised as having a mix of seated and standing areas, but when we got up there, we saw the whole floor was filled with chairs. I’m not sure where these mythical standing areas were, not that I care. We had a good view and the sound was terrific.

The show was two sets of Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet – no opener, no other musicians. None needed. This was great. They exist somewhere in between rock and country. Americana, maybe, except they’re Canadian. Doucet was dressed like a cowboy, but, like, a fancy cowboy. McClelland wore a t-shirt reading “Satan is a woman.” They covered traditional blues and Springsteen and both fit equally well into a lineup of great original tunes. Both are excellent songwriters and very talented musicians and this was the kind of show where you’re constantly reminded that these folks are great and you’re a dummy for not listening to them more often. Or maybe that’s just me.

Downsides? Well, they didn’t play Boys Like You, which I enjoy. Beyond that, they took audience questions and asked for requests, which encouraged certain fans to believe themselves to be part of the show. But even that wasn’t overly disruptive. Just led to a few eyerolls, is all.

Even with that, the audience participation led to the band sharing family secrets (“the kids are at home, they’re good”) and valuable insights into forming a band and going on tour with your spouse (“don’t”). And the questions brought up an interesting discussion about their respective solo material. They’d both had extensive careers but shelved most of their solo stuff when forming Whitehorse, though they’re now talking about revisiting some for a future tour. That could make for a fun show; it’s worth noting that the one solo song they played, Doucet’s hit Broken One, got the biggest reaction of the night. It’s also worth noting that song is about Doucet’s ex-girlfriend, or at least McClelland felt the need to laughingly point that out. Playing the classics can lead to an interesting trip down memory lane.

UPCOMING CONCERTS:
• Glass Tiger (March 19)
• Matthew Good and his band w/Ria Mae (March 31)
• Alice Cooper w/Lita Ford (April 13)
• Joel Plaskett w/Mo Kenney (May 2)
• Corb Lund (May 14)
• BA Johnston (May 29)
• Saints and Sinners 2020 Tour feat. Big Wreck, Moist, The Headstones, and The Tea Party (July 3)

SLCR #354: Rah Rah (December 29, 2019)

January 20, 2020

::creates text file::

::wanders away::

::returns three weeks later::

Well, that didn’t work. Better do this the old-fashioned way. As if procrastinating for weeks isn’t the old-fashioned way.

For a very brief period of time, this was set to be the last-ever Rah Rah show. After a few years of relative inactivity, they got the band back together for a proper farewell. And, as will happen, it sold out quickly. They then added a second show on the following night, which also sold out. It turns out that the secret to success is to do nothing for a long time and promise that more nothing is on its way.

Despite them living where I live and me also living where I live, I’d only managed to see Rah Rah twice before, and one of those was a Folk Festival teaser set where they only played a few songs and I don’t think the whole band was there and I didn’t dig it that much. The other time was also at the Folk Festival – this time a full set – and I enjoyed it a lot more. But that was 2013, which is somehow now long ago. They went off to do their own things, and I listened to other things. One time I thought “hey I wonder what those guys are up to now” and promptly forgot to look for an answer.

There were two openers; Suncliffs (who I’ve seen) and Big Day (who I’ve not). We skipped both, opting to arrive just before Rah Rah started, so tradition dictates I tell you that they were both very good. It was a work night, and a sold-out Exchange gets very warm, and outside was very not, and I was older than the last time I went to a concert, and it would be all standing, so we opted to maximize comfort. I feel like I should have some regrets but I’m okay with all this.

I went into the show wondering how many of their songs I actually knew, and how much I’d enjoy myself. Answers: more than I realized, and a whole lot. It had been a while since I’d listened to Rah Rah, and I kind of forgot that they have a ton of great songs. Which seems like a stupid thing to forget maybe? Or maybe it just feels that way because I got to hear a bunch of them all in a row and say “oh hey, this one, I like this one” to myself over and over. My inner monologue is very rich. At least I never yelled out for a Library Voices song by mistake, though I’m a little disappointed in myself that I didn’t think to do it on purpose.

I could list off some of my favourites that they played, and I will, because this is going to be a relatively short write-up – Tentacles, Art and a Wife, Henry, The Poet’s Dead, Arrows – but possibly my highlight was Chip off the Heart. I already liked those other songs, but that one never did much for me until I heard it live. The added energy really made it work for me. It’s one of my favourite things about going to concerts, when you get a new appreciation for a song like that. Or a band overall.

They were clearly excited to play in front of the sold-out hometown crowd, despite one of them bring pregnant and another one having just put himself through a table in some sort of nap-related mishap. They switched off singing, told stories, threw mylar balloons spelling their name into the crowd, and overall seemed to be having a really good time. It looked like lots of their families were in attendance, which was nice for them and also raised the average age of the room to one I was comfortable with, which is a rare treat anymore. The enthusiastic audience also contributed to the atmosphere; literally, in the case of the secret farter who stood near us and let one fly. But apart from that generous soul, this show was a delight. Easily the best of their shows that I’ve seen, and I left a bigger fan than when I arrived. Go see them if you get the chance, except you won’t so you can’t. But if.

SLCR #353: Hawksley Workman (November 29, 2019)

December 3, 2019

You’d think it might be hard for me to find something to say about a Hawksley Workman show, having now seen him 25 times. You’d be completely right.

Doors were at 7:30 and Mika and I arrived about ten minutes after. The place was already starting to fill up nicely, despite a near-complete lack of the regulars that get passing mentions in these things. Only Erin was there from my usual crew of Hawksley associates. Hawksociates. She technically came to the show by herself but told her husband that she didn’t need to go with anyone to a Hawksley concert since she’d just find people there. It looked like an effective strategy.

Mika and I found chairs and I left to get us drinks and to eyeball the stuff table. Lots of vinyl and all of his CDs, all at decent prices, but I had it all already. I got myself a Diet Pepsi and Mika an iced tea because we know how to have a good time.

Before the show began, the host came out and asked for “the owner of a red Mazda-” and we both fought off minor panic attacks but it was some other red Mazda and it didn’t even get hit, it was just blocking the alley. All was well.

The show started right on time because it was put on by the Folk Festival and shows start right on time and we all want to go to bed at a reasonable hour (he wrote, at 12:19 am on a work night). After opening with No Sissies, Hawksley picked up a recorder, suggested it was a tool of governments looking to find a reason to cut funding for music programs, and then played us a song on it. Specifically, the theme to The Friendly Giant. This was, admittedly, not on my list of songs I was expecting to hear. The next one, Safe and Sound, very much was.

From there, it was mostly selections from the pool of tunes he normally picks from for concerts. Everything was done well, though I don’t know if anything stood out as being exceptionally better or different from everything else. We got less off his newest album, Median Age Wasteland, than I would have expected – only three songs. He put out a new single recently (Around Here) and didn’t play that one either. Mr. Lonely sang backup through a voice modulator for a few songs, including the “somewhere on the outside” part of Smoke Baby, which I don’t think I’ve seen before and that was neat. Battlefords really seemed to connect with people when it came out, so it was a good choice to open the second half of the show – something to grab people’s attention after the thrilling rush of the 50/50 draw during intermission. Claire Fontaine is a personal favourite, which you likely know if you’ve bothered to read this far, so I was delighted to get that one, especially because he gave it a nice long intro so I had time to capture the whole thing on video. Despite a few attempts through the years, I just don’t want to be the guy with his phone out at a show for too long – but I made an exception for this one. Mika, once again, was unable to avoid Autumn’s Here. Hawksley told stories about his dad and his grandma and why you shouldn’t leave your windows open when you leave the country for months on end – all things I’d heard before, but they’re good stories and he tells them well, so I’m good with it.

He offered to sell some of his unplayed guitars, though he quickly clarified that he was kidding, as he’d had to crush the Christmas shopping dreams of a drunken fan at another show that week.

“Libidinous” is French for “the business.”

Here’s the complete set list:

No Sissies
Theme from The Friendly Giant
Safe and Sound
Birds in Train Stations
Your Beauty Must Be Rubbing Off
1983
Oh You Delicate Heart
Smoke Baby
-intermission-
Battlefords
Goodbye to Radio
A House or Maybe a Boat
Claire Fontaine
Jealous of Your Cigarette
Autumn’s Here
No Beginning No End
-encore-
The City is a Drag (w/Karma Chameleon, We Built This City)
Ice Age

I greatly enjoyed this. And you knew that. I’ve even done the opening “I don’t know what to talk about” and the closing “you already know that I enjoyed this” bits before. And there was a joke about getting wild and crazy drinking not-booze, and a mention that Folk Festival shows start on time. Someone needs to feed all my reviews into an AI and we’ll see if I can make myself completely useless in the process, as opposed to just mostly useless.

I suppose there was always the chance I could have had a bad time. That would have been interesting. But it would also be a bad time, and who wants that?

This was a straight-ahead Hawksley show; no orchestra, no night of Bruce Cockburn covers, no weird setlist of the deepest cuts, not a non-concert where he just chatted about drumming. He’s been doing this a long time, and I’ve been going to his shows for almost as long. I know what pool of songs he’s likely to pull from. I know a lot of his stories. On this show, he was playing with Mr. Lonely, Derek Brady on bass, and Brad Kilpatrick on drums – a combo I’ve seen before. This was, in essence, the concert equivalent of comfort food, or maybe finding a movie on APTN that you’ve seen a million times before and watching it again because it’s there and you like it better than anything else on TV and you just want to.

I know nobody watches traditional TV anymore so that example doesn’t resonate like it used to. And it doesn’t technically have to be APTN, but if it is, the movie will be either Demolition Man or Maverick, and while I don’t want every movie to be Demolition Man or Maverick, most of them could be and I’d be okay with that.

UPCOMING CONCERTS:
• Whitehorse (January 25)
• Andy Shauf w/Molly Sarlé (March 3)
• Glass Tiger (March 19)
• Joel Plaskett (May 2)

SLCR #352: Kim Churchill (November 8, 2019)

November 25, 2019

Five years ago – almost to the day – I saw Kim Churchill at the Exchange because Mo Kenney was opening. I didn’t know who he was and was prepared to skip out early, but I wound up really enjoying his set and bought some CDs. You’d think I’d be more prepared for this show as a result, but no. Haven’t listened to those CDs in forever. Didn’t stream any of his new stuff. Really, I bought these tickets based on half-remembered feelings of having a good time. And also they were pretty cheap.

The show was at the Artesian, and nothing of interest happened in the lead-up to the show or the drive there or finding our seats or whatever. I mean, Mika and I sat in our usual spot, then moved to a slightly different spot in hopes of a better view, but you likely don’t care about that. Even though it mostly worked (there are tall people everywhere).

The openers were Victoria folk duo Ocie Elliott. Dude on guitar, lady on keyboard (more specifically, a Mellotron), neither one is named Ocie or Elliott. They were very laid-back and I was amidst conflicting opinions. One person sitting near me said that he had come to the show already as a fan (they were here opening for Carmanah in February, apparently), but this set had been completely won him over and spent the whole time “fangirling” – his word. Another absolutely hated them, with a wide range of complaints (mostly funny ones) that I really don’t need to repeat since I don’t want to unfairly influence anyone who might read this before seeing them. Maybe I’m getting tame in my old age. Or maybe “absolutely hated them” about covers it and the details are not necessary. As for me, I wound up somewhere in between the two, both physically and opinionally. I thought it was mostly pleasant if completely forgettable. I did come dangerously close to falling asleep a few times. Two songs into Kim Churchill, I realized that I had no recollection of what Ocie Elliott sang about. So yeah, somewhere in the middle, leaning towards “not my thing.”

Intermission. Mika left for the washroom and asked if I wanted anything if she stopped at the bar on the way back. I said sure, not actually expecting anything because who wants to deal with lines? Apparently she did and we had ciders. I like ciders. My favourites are the ones that taste like bubbly apple juice because I don’t drink grown-up drinks.

The first thing you notice about Kim Churchill is that he’s a really good guitarist. Or maybe it’s that he’s an Australian hippie. There are two types of Australians, I think; the Kim Churchills and the Crocodile Dundees. The Yahoo Seriouses and the That Guy From The 80s Energizer Ads. Steve Irwin might have been both, doubtless contributing to his enduring popularity.

I digress. Guitar. Real good at it. And sampler pedals and occasional harmonica. Very earnest songs. Very positive. Seems like a good dude. Barefoot (see above re: uneducated stereotypes regarding Australian hippies). It turns out shoes aren’t required for sampler pedals. I really enjoyed this set. Not as much as one lady who was sitting up near the front who recorded much of the show and cheered like mad for her favourite songs, but I had a good time.

That said, I’m not sure I see a future deviation from the established pattern: see Kim Churchill, enjoy show, kind of forget about it until he comes back to town, repeat. I suppose that doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, but he sells a ticket every time out, and I get to be pleasantly surprised each time.

SLCR #351: NHL Heritage Classic (October 26, 2019)

November 3, 2019

I’m writing this on October 27. Right now, I’m four reviews behind, not yet done writing about Said The Whale. With only a few weeks until Kim Churchill, I really should be cleaning up my backlog and not jumping the line and making more work for myself because I think the idea of writing a concert review of a hockey game is funny. But hey, there were bands.

If you’re wondering why I went to hockey when I famously don’t care about hockey, well, I like going to things. And also I didn’t know what it would cost when Dave asked if I wanted him to pick up tickets for me and Mika when he was buying his. This would rank among the most expensive concerts I’ve ever been to, and this time I didn’t get to see Neil Young or meet Weird Al. Also, it wasn’t a concert. Except when it was.

Dave and Jen and Jen’s friend and Jen’s dad all drove in for the game, arriving early afternoon. We had a nice visit, by which I mean Carl did, as he’s the most popular and entertaining member of this family. Eventually, we all put on our long underwear (separately; this wasn’t a group activity) (though we pretty much all did it at once) and headed out to Brewster’s for a 4:00 pm supper like the elderly that we are. I had chicken, so yeah, official concert. My sandwich came with a fried pickle, which 1) should be standard with every sandwich, and 2) should be the new requirement for official concert status.

The game started at 8:00 with doors opening at 6:00. We were done eating at 5:00, but with 33,000 people attending, we figured that heading to the stadium early wasn’t the worst idea. We’d bought parking passes, so this would be my first time parking there. Mika and I always take the bus for Rider games and concerts, and for the soccer game, we just parked downtown and walked forever. We arrived a little before 5:30 and parking was easy, but I figured leaving would be a lot different. Dave’s carload all put their jerseys on over their parkas and we went exploring.

It was -4C, but felt like -11C with the windchill. 24.8F and 12.2F, respectively. And we were going to be outside until the game ended. I had gloves on my gloves with packs of those disposable handwarmers to shove inside them, as well as a new-to-me technological innovation – the same thing, but for your feet. I had also planned on buying some Winnipeg Jets gear to taunt Calgary Flames-loving Dave, but even though my strike is over for now (and hopefully for good), I decided that I didn’t need to make a stupid purchase just for fun, so I skipped it and just wore my Crash Test Dummies toque from 1995. They’re from Winnipeg and it’s the right colour to support the Jets, it counts. Plus, that toque is warm as heck and still in great shape for being old enough to be done college. It might be the most durable, well-designed article of clothing I own.

We walked to the grounds, passing the NHL Mobile Refrigeration Unit, which might have been very necessary the day before when it was +15, but just seemed needlessly cruel at -4 and windy. Even this early, there was a nice long line to get into the exhibits. We had our bags checked, went through metal detectors, and were surveilled by a very nice security guard who told us that “if you have weapons, you should go home, and if you’re cold like me, you should go home.”

There were displays and merchandise shops and sponsors’ booths set up. We mostly skipped them, though I did get a 5c/litre discount card for Esso, so that’s nice. I don’t shop there, but still, nice. There were two Tim Hortons trucks – one in Flames red and one in Jets blue – offering free coffee. There was also a Safeway truck which was not offering free groceries, as far as I could tell, so that was a disappointment. And the Kubota display? No free tractors. There were also hockey-related games and a big inflatable hockey player and Lanny McDonald and his mustache signing autographs and a cover band playing Surrender by Cheap Trick. They were fine. I like that song.

Once inside the stadium, we immediately saw Don Cherry which provoked “hey neat” and “ugh” feelings in equal measure. Kind of like that time I saw the Queen. We then took a walk around the stadium (not with Don Cherry, which was probably for the best; dude’s moving slowly these days). It was a first-time visit for Dave and Jen and Jen’s dad, and they seemed to think it was a nice place, especially enjoying the giant picture of a certain relative of Jen and her dad celebrating a certain championship win in a certain sport. I know that through 350 concert reviews, I’ve given out enough personal information to let all of you steal my identity, but if you want my friends’ too, you’ll have to work for it a little bit.

We found our seats. Lower bowl, section 136. Pretty good, though it was just kind of weird in general to have so much space between the rink and the fans. I think they should have had to play in a special rink the size of the full football field. There were loud drunks behind us (and, really, all over everywhere) but they were funny? They spent the entire game beaking at each other and the players in comical fashion, marking the first time in recorded human history that any situation has been improved by the presence of loud drunks.

About an hour out from the scheduled start time, according to one of three conflicting countdowns we would see on the Maxtron, the band Toque was introduced. The name sounded familiar, and Mika’s googling turned up why – it was local boy Todd Kerns’ 80s Canadian rock cover band. Kerns is more famous for being in Age of Electric and Static in Stereo, as well as touring with Slash. Anyway, to everyone’s surprise, the 80s Canadian rock cover band played 80s Canadian rock songs including Raise a Little Hell, Go For Soda, and personal favourites New Girl Now and that one that I think is called Gone Gone Gone She Been Gone So Long She Been Gone Gone Gone So Long (I Wonder If I’m Ever Gonna See My Girl). This was… pretty good, actually? I mean, it’s a cover band, you know what you’re going to get, but everything was fun and done well. Would see again, even intentionally. They came out a few times during the game to play more songs to fill time, but never for very long, so if you ever wanted to hear a version of Summer of ’69 that ends before the “me and some guys from school” part, this was your chance.

As we approached game time, Jess Moskaluke and the Hunter Brothers came out and did a song together. It was fine. Then the Hunter Brothers sang the national anthem. It was also fine and I enjoyed the fireworks, especially because they were both pretty and relatively quiet. We didn’t need loud jets doing a loud flyover of the stadium but there we were. Also, I know they said to remove your headwear for the anthem but man, it was cold. I put in my handwarmers. I also put my footwarmers in my shoes. I had learned about them at work, where I was also told that they look like maxipads. Can confirm. I was cautioned not to confuse the two, but honestly, they probably both give off the same amount of heat. My feet were cold, is what I’m saying.

First period: the Jets and Flames played hockey. Nobody scored.

Before we’d left the house, I asked Dave if there were bands playing at this thing, and the one he knew of was the Sheepdogs and I rolled my eyes. Of course it’s the Sheepdogs. They’re from Saskatoon and they’re at every event in Saskatchewan. Anyway, between periods, they came out and played a few songs, including the singles Feeling Good and I Don’t Know. I liked the fireworks. And really, this was all fine, I have no real complaints. I just don’t care about the Sheepdogs, and it wasn’t like when we saw Colin James and I had to admit that while he may be another Saskatchewan boy who’s at every local event, if you can ignore that, he really is super talented.

Second period: the Jets and Flames played more hockey. The Flames scored once. Dave was happy.

At one point, they played The Last Saskatchewan Pirate over the PA system, which gave me PTSD flashbacks from Rider games. They play it there for the fourth-quarter stretch and it always features an appearance from Work Safe Bob, a mascot whose existence eats away at my very being. He makes me hate the fourth quarter and all football and safety and being safe and life itself and I’ve given him an obscene nickname that I will not repeat here.

SAFETY FUCKER. His name is SAFETY FUCKER. It’s spelled in all caps. I hate him so much.

Let me lighten the mood. I think it was in here that the in-game host came on the Maxtron and told us to “circle the bowl” to go to the merchandise stands and restaurants and then immediately switched to “circle the concourse” once he realized what he’d said. I laughed.

Jess Moskaluke came back out to sing a few songs before the third period. She’s another local that you see all over the place, though it has been neat to watch her progress from relative unknown to an actual star. Or at least I think she is? I don’t know from country. Either she is or they’re doing a good job of convincing me she is, which is as good as the real thing as far as it impacts my life, which is not at all. Anyway, she played Cheap Wine and Cigarettes, as well as Country Girls, as well as other songs I forget. This was not really my thing but it was fine and I enjoyed the fireworks, a recurring theme. She seemed woefully underdressed for the weather, which would normally imply she was wearing something skimpy, but here just meant it was normal clothes and not a full snowsuit and I bet she was cold as balls.

Third period: the most important part of the evening happened; namely, the mascots for both teams came up the stairs by us and I was able to high-five both the current Jets mascot (Mick E. Moose) and the original Jets mascot (Benny) (as in Benny and the Jets) (it’s spelled wrong but that’s still pretty good). Harvey the Hound, meanwhile, took a picture with some folks across from us and I didn’t get to high-five him. I was already half-cheering the Jets since someone needed to balance out our group, but that cemented it.

Also, the Jets and Flames played more hockey. The Jets scored once. Dave was sad and declined my high-five of consolation but did accept a fist bump of consolation, though it was a dud and didn’t explode. I was happy because I’m a Jets fan now and forever, but was also very cold and didn’t relish the idea of overtime. Also, they didn’t have a band ready to play in the event of overtime. They didn’t even bring Toque back out to play the first 30 seconds of Moonlight Desires.

Overtime: the Jets and Flames played more hockey. A Flame tripped a Jet and the Jets scored on a power play and won. Dave was sad. I got to learn how overtime works. We got the best fireworks of the night.

Then we want back to our cars. Or rather, Mika and I went past our car because we were following Dave and his crew and we went past where the cars were and then they were behind us somehow? This got all the more confusing after fighting our way through the snarl of traffic leaving the stadium, getting out of there well ahead of Dave, and yet somehow getting home after they arrived. Jen said they took Ring Road, which doesn’t make sense to me. Google Maps backs me up, but I guess they’d have faced less post-game traffic and that would make the difference. So it obviously makes perfect sense. I got to learn all kinds of things.

This was fine. I liked the fireworks.

SLCR #350: Jeremy Dutcher & the Regina Symphony Orchestra (October 19, 2019)

November 3, 2019

Jeremy Dutcher won the Polaris Prize for his album Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa, which means “The Songs of the People of the Beautiful River.” It combines his singing and piano with wax cylinder recordings of Indigenous songs from over 100 years ago. Several friends recommended it to me and it’s fascinating – unlike anything I’ve ever heard, and an excellent fit to be performed with the symphony.

We got to the Conexus Arts Centre and I was delighted to discover I’d bought us good seats. It had been a while and I’d forgotten, but we were dead centre, five rows back in a row with extra legroom. Fine work, me. Though it’s a little weird being so close. There’s so many people in the orchestra and they can all see you. They likely won’t, they have things to do, but still. They could. It’s unnerving.

Symphony shows are hard to write about. They start on time. You have assigned seats. There are no drunken louts. No inexplicable opening acts. No wacky misadventures and no deep-fried anything. In short, no shenanigans, and I get my word count from shenanigans. I mean, the Executive Director of the symphony introduced the performance, then was presented with a bouquet as she’s moving on to a fancier job at one of the major American symphonies. That’s a nice moment but nothing I can work with. I need some loud drunks and maybe a fistfight.

Also, the more formal the music, the less I know about it. And I’m not really suited to intelligently critique rock shows in bars by artists I’ve seen ten times over already.

Anyway, the performance had a pattern. The symphony performed a few pieces, then Dutcher would join for some, then he’d leave for one, then come back, then repeat. Dutcher was an engaging performer – not only a very talented singer and pianist, but charmingly funny as well. He had a recurring bit during the second half where his desire to stay hydrated slowly escalated as the night went on. I have to describe it in vague terms because it doesn’t sound funny if I say he came out with a glass of water, returned a while later with the pitcher, and then finally drank from the pitcher before the encore. See? Not funny. But it was funny when it happened.

For the first half, he wore what appeared to be a beaded jacket, but he emerged for the second half wearing a full-length floral robe. I mention this only because symphony patrons were all in for this robe. This robe was a star. This robe could have headlined the show without help.

Wait, right, music, yeah. The point of this all, not water and robes, even exceptional robes. It was what I expected – beautiful and haunting, expertly sung and performed.

Most of the evening was Dutcher’s songs. This should be the part where I get to cheat and transcribe the program, except – gasp – it’s wrong. At least slightly; it lists Up Where We Belong by Buffy Sainte-Marie, and they didn’t play that, though they did perform Until it’s Time for You to Go, another of hers. There was also a Dvorák piece, and one by Cris Derksen. But Dutcher was the star, reimagining historical music in a modern context, then blending it with the orchestra in a memorable performance.