Posts Tagged ‘slcr’

SLCR Social Distancing Special

May 3, 2020

Hello! I miss you. I hope you’re well and healthy, staying in touch with people at a rate that’s acceptable for you, and that your hands aren’t all cracked and dry from excessive washing.

We’re doing fine here. Staying home, playing Animal Crossing or clearing movies off the DVR. Sometimes I play Pokémon Go from the car at some of my favourite parking spots. I go to Safeway every 10 days or so, and one time I went to London Drugs just to buy an uncommon size of battery for the smoke detector, which legitimately felt thrilling. (They had sugar too!) I need a haircut and I’ve never been so caught up on laundry.

I’m working from home, if you want to call what I do “work.” It doesn’t feel particularly essential at the best of times, and these aren’t the best of times. At least, I really hope they aren’t. But I dutifully sit at my desk in my 70s basement with my coworkers Ken and Carl (a spider plant and our fabled cat, respectively) and send out emails to tell people to watch Schitt’s Creek. (Available on demand!)

It turns out that I have no opportunity to write concert reviews when there aren’t any concerts. Glass Tiger, Corb Lund, and Matthew Good all cancelled. Joel Plaskett and Alice Cooper rescheduled to the fall. I can’t imagine BA Johnston will be here this month, so I’m spared from feeling bad about being too tired to go. That leaves July’s old-man show of Canadian 90s rock icons and SLCR veterans The Tea Party, Moist, Big Wreck, and The Headstones. I’m hopeful that we can go see at least 25% of them, but I don’t expect it to happen.

Which leads me here! A lot of musicians I like are doing shows online and I’d like to signal-boost them a bit. I don’t really know how many I’m going to cover or when I’m going to post this or if I’m going to do more than one. I think the review parts will be pretty short since, for the most part, you should be able to check these out yourself if you’re really so inclined.


 

Geoff Berner (April 11, 2020)
concert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvOQ8nxTPpQ
buy music: https://geoffberner.bandcamp.com/
but he’d rather you donate: https://www.comingtogethervancouver.org/

This show was recorded at Or Shalom synagogue, an appropriate venue for the klezmer half of Berner’s klezmer-punk music. I suspect it hasn’t played host to a lot of songs that translate into “Fuck the Police,” but I don’t know, I’ve never been to a synagogue before. Which reminds me of the time I tried to buy a button that said “Kiss me, I’m Jewish” at a garage sale because I wanted to lie for kisses, not thinking that most of the time, the owner of a “Kiss me, I’m Jewish” button would be an actual Jew, who in this case was very excited to meet me and curious as to why he’d never seen me at the synagogue before. But I digress.

Obviously, these productions won’t compare to actually going out to see live music. But despite the lack of audience and minimal crew, Berner put on quite the enjoyable hour-long set. There were techs handling audio and video with minimal hiccups, and someone “who lives in my house” (a son, I think?) manning a second camera that was able to get in closer. A small touch that made this a lot more watchable by not restricting us to one static viewpoint. The sound quality was good, and Berner seemed relaxed and in good spirits, jokingly playing to the imaginary crowd and telling stories about each song.

I’ve seen Berner many times before and he’s an acquired taste. Most of my friends who have tried to acquire this taste have failed. I watched this show with earbuds in while Mika watched TV and we were both happier that way. But who knows? Maybe you’ll enjoy a lefter-than-left-wing accordion player with a wry, pessimistic sense of humour and a penchant for playing the occasional song in Yiddish. He usually translates them as he goes along, you’ll be fine.


 

Ben Folds (April 18, 2020)
concert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwSerpoR-o4
buy music: https://benfolds.bandcamp.com/

If you’ve got extra time to fill during this here shutdown, Ben Folds is your guy. He was supposed to be performing with Australian orchestras when this all went down. Due to ever-changing conditions, he found himself missing the window to return home to the US. No problem – he rented an apartment in Sydney, bought an electric piano and a webcam, and set up for weekly free performances every Saturday on YouTube at 5pm my time. That’s 7pm Eastern and Sunday morning in Australia; you figure out the rest.

If one show a week isn’t enough, sign up for his Patreon. $10/month gets you 3 additional weekly shows and 4 Rock This Bitch song downloads. (They’re improvised live songs. It’s a whole thing I could explain but won’t.) One of the extra shows is meant for musicians and music teachers, with an over-the-shoulder view showing how he plays certain songs. In another, he makes up songs with fan-submitted lyrics. The third is a Patreon-only request show, which – unlike the others – I’ve actually watched. He’s very game to try any song from his back catalogue, even if he has to look up the lyrics or listen to a snippet on his phone to remember what chord it’s in. There’s a lot of messing up and a lot of swearing.

On that note, the show linked above – his fourth weekly public concert since the shutdown – is titled “TRYING AGAIN” and opens with him on his phone, squinting at his computer, saying “the current resolution is not optimal – well then, tell me what fucking IS optimal?!” We’ve all been there. Ben’s also currently clean-shaven because he tried to trim his beard and messed it up. Very relatable.

Between notoriously poor Australian internet – basically, it’s like if my house was a country – and Folds having to do all his own setup and hands-on technical support, there can be some snafus with these. You never know when he’ll switch from one of his songs to an ad-libbed musical complaint about how the pedals are sliding away and that doesn’t happen with a real piano.

That said, this was a really fun show. With upgraded mics and camera, the sound and video quality have greatly improved since these began. But more importantly, Folds is a fan-friendly performer, taking requests from the illegibly scrolling chat, dropping fans’ names into songs, running a drinking game (take a drink every time he messes up) (do not do this, you’ll die), enjoying morning beers, and doing several greatest hits albums’ worth of songs in one medley. It’s intimate and unrehearsed and feels like just hanging out as much a concert.


 

BA Johnston: (April 25, 2020)
concert: https://www.facebook.com/groups/10859965103
buy music: https://bajohnston.bandcamp.com/

Before this was announced, I’d actually singled out BA Johnston as someone who wouldn’t be putting on streaming shows. He releases albums, sure, but you really need the full live experience to understand BA, and that includes significant crowd interaction. You need the beer and the sweat and the Cheezies and the sparklers and the screaming and the same jokes every time.

And yet, here we are. Airing live from This Ain’t Hollywood in his hometown of Hamilton, Ontario (and with messages of support from owners of various bars that BA frequents, including Amigo’s in Saskatoon), BA did his best to put on his full live show in front of an audience of the two guys handling sound and video. The jokes, the costume changes, the whole schtick was still there. He even closed the set in the bathroom, though he did wrap things up with uncharacteristic sincerity and well wishes.

There was a long stretch of technical issues before everything began – feel free to skip that part. When they did get it working, both the sound and video were the weakest of the of the shows I’ve seen. Though I will say that I watched this in two halves – the first part live streaming to my TV, and the second on replay with headphones on my computer – and the sound came in a lot better on the replay. I’m not sure if the live showing was having bandwidth issues, or if I just don’t expect as much coming out of a little Facebook window.

The technical issues mean that if you’re new to BA Johnston, this might not be your best introduction, but that aside, it’s still a night of funny, catchy songs that will stick in your head for days – classics like GST Cheque, new ones like We’re All Going to Jail (Except Pete, He’s Gonna Die), and even unreleased songs from his upcoming album, Werewolves of London, Ontario. Plus, you’ll wind up way less sweaty than if you go see him in person, mostly because he can’t sweat on you if you’re watching at home on your Acer laptop.


 

Steven Page (May 2, 2020)
buy tickets: https://sidedooraccess.com/home
buy music: https://stevenpage.bandcamp.com/

This show was held over Zoom, that video conferencing software that was probably created by the same people who created this virus. It makes sense if you think about it. Follow the money, sheeple.

Side Door was founded by Dan Mangan to help touring musicians set up and sell tickets to house concerts. That’s not happening at the moment, so it’s pivoted to online shows. They’re not expensive – this was $8 US – but it helps make a little money while there’s no touring. A bunch of Canadian artists have been performing on there, including Terra Lightfoot, Said The Whale, Jill Barber, Danny Michel, Sarah Slean, and Mangan himself. And Steven Page. Which you likely figured out.

Zoom works well for this type of setup. The host takes up most of the screen, and viewers (at least the ones who don’t turn their cameras off like I do) appear in a row of little boxes at the top of the screen, not dissimilar to a Press Your Luck board. That said, you may have heard of Zoombombing, where hackers take advantage of Zoom’s many security flaws to invade conference calls. I watched Page’s show last week too, and mid-song, the chat suddenly got REAL racist, and one of the video streams began showing gay porn. So that was fun. They had more moderators this week, and there are added security steps for next week’s show. Which does nothing for you, since that show’s already sold out, but I bet there’ll be more shows, if you have eight bucks kicking around.

I had good plans to write up last week’s show but then a week went by and I, uh, didn’t. So you get this one instead. Both were fun, live from Page’s basement with him mostly playing guitar but also on keys for a bit. The sound is pretty good; I find the video a little choppy but I also have trash internet. There were songs spanning Page’s entire career, with a nice mix of Barenaked Ladies songs and all his solo stuff. Plus, since he was taking requests, it wasn’t just all the hits, which is either a big positive or a big negative for you.

Since you can’t just go watch this one, I’ll go through the setlist:

  • Shoebox (if you want to feel old, sing along with “you’re so 1990 and it’s 1994”)
  • Straw Hat and Old Dirty Hank (Page noted that this might be the first time he ever played this song solo)
  • Manchild
  • In The Car
  • Break Your Heart
  • Jane
  • Tonight is the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel (with a bit of So Political by Spirit of the West)
  • So Young, So Wrong, So Long
  • Over Joy
  • The War on Drugs
  • The Old Apartment (He messed this up over and over last week, and noted that he got requests to “play it right this week”) (He messed it up again and cracked himself up real good)
  • Powder Blue
  • Maybe You’re Right
  • What A Good Boy
  • White Noise
  • The Chorus Girl (I don’t know this one that well, but oh man, the chat was so happy he played this one. He talked a lot about what it was about. Then he had everyone unmuted so everyone could sing along with the “la la la” part and man, having 800+ people unmuted at once sounded like what you’d hear when you open the gates of hell. Then they tried muting everyone again – including Page – but a few people couldn’t be muted and didn’t know how to mute themselves and kept talking while the chat got super mad at them. Then the chat got hacked and racist.)
  • Enid

I thought this was good fun. Mika said it was fine. The cat didn’t appreciate being woken up.

This feels like a good place to stop for now. More to come.

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.

SLCR #349: Hollerado (October 18, 2019)

November 2, 2019

My first time seeing Hollerado will be my last time seeing Hollerado.

I’ve known of them for at least a decade, as their song Juliette was a mainstay on the Canadian indie rock satellite radio station way back when. Their name would come up every once in a while, often tied to some sort of a gimmick. Their album Record In A Bag was packaged in an actual plastic bag with confetti, and the covers for White Paint were cut from big paint-splattered sheets so each cover was unique. There was also a special White Paint package you could get where the band would write a custom song about you. These were collected and released as 111 Songs.

I liked what I’d heard of them and they came through town regularly enough, but somehow, I never managed to make it out to see them. And then they announced they would be breaking up following the release of the album Retaliation Vacation and the subsequent One Last Time Tour, so this became a now-or-never situation.

Doors were at 8:00 and Mika and I had our usual debate about what time to actually show up. I pick 8:01, she says midnight, and we negotiate from there. I think we showed up close to 9:00, and… we parked close to the door, let’s put it that way. Either we were way too early or there weren’t going to be a lot of people there. As it happened, we were a little early and the place filled up some, though it wasn’t a huge crowd. Later on, the band laughingly said it was actually the biggest crowd they’d ever drawn here. If that’s true (and they didn’t sound like they were kidding), 1) yikes, 2) we suck here, myself included, and 3) it’s pretty admirable that they came back on this tour anyway.

We took our seats and got Friday night wild party drinks consisting of an iced tea and a Diet Pepsi, which felt like the height of luxury because I was still on strike at that point and austerity measures were in place. Thankfully, we’re back at work now and I’m back to neglecting all common financial sense.

The openers were Little Junior. Rockier than power-pop but not quite pop-punk, I wanted to hate them because they looked very young and made me feel very old. But I didn’t hate them! I think I hated their haircuts, but I’m old so I think I’m supposed to. Also, it was two weeks ago now and I can’t remember if I even really did. Whatever. This wasn’t really aimed at me but it was fine.

Hollerado, meanwhile, was a ton of fun. It’s the kind of high-energy rock that really hits my sweet spot; having listened to some earlier in the day, Mika and I were both surprised that I hadn’t spent more time listening to them. Though I went in not knowing a ton of their stuff (as is so often the case; it kind of makes you wonder why I do this), I really enjoyed myself. They really put on a show, with the lead singer jumping into the crowd a few times, including once trying to get audience members to play jump rope with the microphone cord. And a long-time fan was in the audience and was invited up onto the stage to play along with them.

In between songs, they cracked jokes (including one so bad they blamed it on the opening act) and opened themselves up for audience questions, but all anyone wanted to know was why they were breaking up. After a few joke answers, they said “nobody’s sixth album is any good” and said it was time to make space for up-and-coming bands like Little Junior. On the one hand, I get it. On the other, I’m late to the party and disappointed that I won’t get another chance to see them. That is, at least not until the inevitable anniversary reunion tour some round number of years from now.

SLCR #348: The Dead South (October 12, 2019)

November 1, 2019

Andino Suns are a great live band and you should definitely go see them if you’re able.

I’m mentioning this up front because I feel like much of my time is going to be spent on variations of “it’s not the band I hate, it’s their fans,” and I find that whenever I complain about things in one of these, the complaint becomes the takeaway. And Andino Suns were really good and that shouldn’t get lost.

Anyway, The Dead South. They are locals who made good, a bluegrass band from around these parts that’s gone on to tour the world. This was the sold-out first night of their Canadian tour for their new album, Sugar & Joy. When Mika and I were in Toronto for Thrush Hermit, we saw a poster for their (then-upcoming) (and possibly still upcoming, depending on what time I send this out) (update: whoops) Halloween show, showing them as zombies – The Undead South.

We saw them last at the Regina Folk Festival this summer, where they played a storm-delayed abbreviated set in front a crowd who gave them one of the most raucous ovations I’ve ever heard. I was a little surprised that they were back so soon, but no complaints – though their rising popularity meant that we wound up missing out on my favourite seats at the end of Row L For Legroom. Instead, we settled on Row M and its Maverage Legroom.

Before the show, we did some digging, trying to find out who the opener would be. The poster in Toronto advertised Elliott BROOD; no such luck here, though I was happy with who we got. The first band didn’t tell us who they were for a long time, and when they did, they had two names. Normally known as Beach Body, they released a country-tinged EP as the Southside Coyote Boys and were asked to perform as them, so it’s possible that this was technically their first performance. I liked this well enough, though their laid-back sound might have been better suited for a smaller venue. Really, the best part was that the lead singer had bought his mom Dead South tickets for her birthday but “accidentally” neglected to tell her that he was playing on the show too.

This set was also the start of some especially disrespectful audience behaviour. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard people yell for an opening act to get off the stage, but here we were. Not many people, but there were a handful of drunk girls behind us who couldn’t wait for the Dead South and weren’t shy about screaming so. Multiple people complained to the ushers, whose collective response was “…meh.”

Andino Suns were up next, and these guys were great! High-energy Chilean music from Moose Jaw, which I know is a cliché by now but I have no better way to put it. These guys tore the roof off the place and made tons of new fans. I’d heard their names around here for a while now but somehow we’d never made it out to see them before. That’s a shame, as it turns out. Gotta take advantage of having them around before they’re too big to keep playing here.

During the break, we went out into the lobby. Mika left for the bathroom, and as I was waiting for her to return, a couple in front of me started having an argument. I’m not entirely sure about what, but I think someone called someone a bitch. Or implied it. Or whatever. Mika returned and I immediately shushed her so we could watch this drama unfold. All around us, other couples and groups were frozen mid-conversation, trying to pretend that they weren’t watching what we were all watching. Mika said she saw the girl smack the guy; I missed it and that makes me sad. Security rushed to the scene (one guy ambled up) for this amazing conversation:

“I hear you’re hitting people.”
“Only a little.”
“You’re not allowed to do that here.”
“I didn’t know that.”

Alas, ignorance of the law is not a defense, and she was escorted from the building. I was pretty sure she was one of the loud drunks sitting behind us and was devastated to later learn this was not the case.

Finally, it was time for the Dead South, which meant that the drunks behind us could quit screaming for the opening acts to leave and instead scream for the Dead South to take off their shirts and have their babies. For the record, this was girls screaming at guys; progress, I guess. We also had a new group of top fans, the four people who insisted on standing when everyone else was sitting. Look, it’s not hard. Stand when other people stand, sit when other people sit. But no, they were going to stand the whole time. Of course they were in our way, but I felt worse for the little kid who was right behind them. The ushers weren’t going to make them sit down, but they were there in a hurry if the kid tried to stand on his chair or in the aisle so he could see too.

And I understand that the Conexus Arts Centre really wasn’t a good venue for this show. It’s a sit-down place and the Dead South are a get-up-and-dance band. This should have been in the hall downstairs, even if it holds fewer people. But come on. It’s like they say, it takes fewer muscles to smile than to be a prick.

As for the band, they were great. It’s why we went, after all; we’d just seen them and they were great then too. This time was like that, but with fancy lights and stained glass backdrops and a big sign with their name on it. And it was indoors and we were sitting and hadn’t just spent 90 minutes sheltering in the car. But otherwise, same idea. And much like at the Folk Festival, they were greeted as hometown heroes and the crowd went nuts for everything they did. Case in point: the show closed with the song Banjo Odyssey; I think if you can get hundreds of people to sing along with the refrain “I guess she’s my cousin but she needs some sweet lovin’ anyway,” it’s a telling testament to your popularity. Or your fanbase.

SLCR #347: Said The Whale (October 9, 2019)

October 30, 2019

I signed up for Wednesday night yoga a while back. When I did, this show was my one outstanding obligation, so I knew hard choices would have to be made. I was looking forward to this show, but really only knew a few Said The Whale songs, and I wanted to get my yoga money’s worth. Then I went on strike and wound up walking about 15 kilometres a day while picketing, and I figured that gave me licence to skip yoga and go to the show.

We got to the Artesian right before the show was going to start and for the first time I’d seen there, there was no floor seating. It made sense, given the style of music, but my legs were tired and I was dismayed. Fortunately, they’d set up the stuff table in front of the stairs, so few people had ventured up. We squeezed past the rack of shirts and headed up, where I promptly cracked my head on the ceiling. Tight quarters up there. We moved over to the other side, more suitable for tall folks.

The opener was Dave Monks, the lead singer of Tokyo Police Club, touring his new solo album, On A Wave. It wasn’t actually out yet, but it was available for sale at the show, though it’s since been released, so your chance to hear it early and feel special has come and gone. He played acoustic guitar with accompaniment from an electric guitarist (by which I mean she was playing an electric guitar, not that she was some sort of robot) (not that I can prove otherwise) and honestly, this didn’t really click with me. I think I might have enjoyed this more if it had been just acoustic. Though it’s worth noting (also “worth nothing” as I’d originally typed) that I’d had a long day and was feeling out of sorts so it could have been 100% on me.

Said The Whale, on the other hand, turned out to be just what I was in the mood for. I can’t shake the feeling that “playing in front of a giant View-Master reel” sounds like such a promising start to a Stefon routine, so I understand if you’re let down when I just describe them as high-energy power-pop with a good sense of humour. But for real, this was a blast. I went in largely unfamiliar, but it didn’t matter; they shook me out of my funk and won me over. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing, but the show ended on a high note with the one-two punch of UnAmerican and I Love You, the two songs of theirs I know best. UnAmerican, in particular, was a big improvement over the already-fun studio version – louder and rockier and would have made a fine closer on its own.

This is one of those times where going to random shows pays off; I went in ignorant and half-interested, mostly just for something to do, but left a convert. These folks are great fun and you should go see them.