Posts Tagged ‘steven page’

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 #336: Steven Page and the Regina Symphony Orchestra (March 3, 2019)

March 19, 2019

This was a real last-minute call for me. Steven Page announced a big ol’ spring Canadian tour, and he wasn’t coming here. Disappointing, but months later, the symphony booked this show, taking place before said tour. It sounded like very much my thing, but I didn’t really know what it would entail. Remembering Tanya Tagaq’s appearance with the symphony, where she was a highlight of the evening but not the focus, I was pretty sure that it wasn’t going to just be a whole night of Steven Page playing Steven Page songs with the orchestra. Instead of rushing out to buy tickets, I decided to wait on it and find out more. Then I promptly forgot about it.

Jump ahead to the afternoon of the concert, and there’s a picture on Instagram of Page, guitarist Craig Northey (of Odds), and cellist Kevin Fox eating lunch at a Regina pizza chain. I felt like they should be made aware of some better dining options, but that’s just my preferences. Possibly more importantly, I realized that the concert – whatever it was – was that evening. Tickets were cheap, so I decided to go.

I thought it a bit odd that there was no option to pick up a ticket at the box office, only to realize (well after I bought the ticket, but thankfully, before I left the house) that there was no box office. Instead of the usual concert hall, Page and the orchestra were at the Mâmawêyatitân Centre, a community centre in Regina’s North Central neighbourhood. For those unfamiliar, this neighbourhood doesn’t have a sparkling reputation, which is a nice way of tiptoeing around the fact that a certain national news magazine once named it the worst neighbourhood in Canada. That this neighbourhood currently seems to be doing better than said magazine is a little funny to me. The centre itself is relatively new and very nice. The name means “let’s all be together,” and the complex is home to a high school, public library, daycare, recreational facilities, and numerous community groups.

The email and the ticket PDF all told me to print my ticket, but nothing in our house is connected to our 15-year-old printer and I wasn’t about to sort that out. I showed up, flashed my phone, and was let inside. I’m pretty sure they saw the Gmail app on my phone and just called it good. Inside, the orchestra was setting up in a large open area, with chairs on the floor facing them and extra seating available up some stairs off to the side. This was nice and sparsely occupied so that’s where I went, though it did leave me facing Page’s back while he played piano.

The concert was scheduled as part of the Forward Currents Festival, an annual (twice counts as annual) series of concerts aiming to spark conversation about topics of societal importance. This year’s theme was “music and mental health.” There had also been a talk on the subject before the concert, though I didn’t attend that part.

The music director opened the show and briefly outlined that there would be two musical pieces in the first half, followed by Steven Page after the intermission. The first piece was Tchaikovsky’s “Mozartina” orchestral suite, while the second was called My Name is Amanda Todd, composed by Jocelyn Morlock and written about a BC teen who died by suicide after being bullied and assaulted. I generally don’t comment on performances of classical music because what the heck do I know, really, but I will say that it was all very lovely and nobody applauded in the breaks between the four miniatures that make up the orchestral suite and certain people I know would be very pleased by that. From where I was sitting, I was mostly watching the percussionists; one in particular was all over the place, moving from instrument to instrument, hitting things and quickly silencing them and hitting other things. This is probably not the deep appreciation that I should have for this music but it was fun to watch. Also, re-reading this paragraph, you can easily tell which words came from the program (“orchestral suite”) and which came from me (“hitting things and other things”).

Between sets which I know isn’t the right word, people near me were meeting internet-only friends in person for the first time and making other new friends and this all seemed nice.

After the break, we got, well, Steven Page playing Steven Page songs with the orchestra, along with Northey and Fox. They played six songs, alternating between Page’s solo tunes (There’s a Melody, No Song Left to Save Me, and Looking for the Light) and ones he wrote while with Barenaked Ladies (Call & Answer, War on Drugs, and Brian Wilson). Mental illness is a recurring theme in these songs, though it’s more obvious in some cases than others (before explaining the connection to one song, Page joked “let me ruin this one for you too”). He also talked a lot about his own challenges with mental illness, and the importance of being there for people who are struggling, going into detail about a time whenfriends were there for him during a challenging period in his life. Or as he put it, “if you don’t know what I’m talking about, I was arrested on drug charges ten years ago. Google it,” before jokingly adding “the charges were dismissed – that means I didn’t do it, right?”

The songs were all very nicely done. The ones from the BNL days were more famous, but it was nice to get a mix of the old and the new. And though Brian Wilson might be his most famous song and Call & Answer has that one yelly part I really like, I think War on Drugs was my favourite. It wasn’t a single, but I remember liking it back when it came out (despite my BNL fandom waning at that time), and it fit the evening well and the new arrangement (done by Page’s son) was quite good. I think I preferred it to the original.

All told, it was a delightful and thought-provoking evening that I could easily have missed out on if not for Page’s habit of taking pictures of soup. If you’ve ever seen some asshole in a restaurant who has to Instagram his lunch before he can eat it, be kind; he might be accidentally doing someone a favour.

SLCR #315: Gateway Festival (July 28, 2018)

August 15, 2018

This show could have waited a few days and I’d have been fine with it. As far as festivals go, it had one of the most James-specific lineups I’d ever seen, so I should have been more excited, but it had been a really long week. I got home on time on Monday evening. Worked late and got home after 9:00 on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Only left an hour late on Friday to begin my two-week vacation (woo) but spent Friday night mowing the lawn, cleaning house, and doing all the other stuff I’d been putting off before my in-laws’ flight got in at midnight. Mika had worked late all week too. We needed groceries and I wound up buying bananas and milk at Shoppers Drug Mart at 11:30pm, which I think is a nice summary of how that week went.

All of which was great preparation for driving two hours to Bengough, watching a bunch of bands, and driving two hours back after midnight. I was actually feeling better on Saturday than I was expecting; sleeping in until 12:30 helped.

Soon enough, tickets in hand and lawnchairs in trunk, we were on the road. The drive was uneventful, which doesn’t give me anything to talk about but that’s still probably for the best. I mean, it’s fun to tell the story of how I hit a duck in the ass with the car on the way home from Bengough a few years ago, but I’d still have preferred to not hit the duck.

I had promised Mika we’d make it there in time for Library Voices’ set at 5:15 but that was before I was slow and lazy in the morning. And afternoon. And pretty much always. But I was still pretty sure that we’d make it, and they started their first song as we were walking into the grounds. Close enough. We found a place to park our lawn chairs and sat back for the show. Library Voices are one of the bigger bands to come out of Regina in the past decade, and yet, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a proper concert by them, just short festival sets where they never play the few songs I know. Needless to say, that didn’t change here, but this was a quick fun hit of power-pop that started our festival experience off on a good note.

Onto the parade of mostly-local people I don’t really know much about and don’t have much to say about! Country singer Ellen Froese was up next with a mix of covers and originals. I enjoyed her set and she’s local, so I imagine I’ll see her again soon. She was followed by Seth Anderson. No band – just him and a guitar. He had a good sense of humour, playing off the sounds of soundcheck happening on the other stage during his set. (He may also have dropped a few f-bombs during one of his songs and it looked like maybe someone suggested that he please stop doing so, since we hadn’t hit the drunkening hour yet – but I digress.) I liked this too. Would see again.

Next was Zachary Lucky. Country singer. Deep voice. Probably something I’d really dig but I didn’t get to see much of him. I decided that I should get something to eat before the Karpinka Brothers, which seemed like a solid enough plan but it went awry. First I went to the merch stand to take a peek. Didn’t get anything this year. Next, I made the arduous trek back to the car – like, almost three or four whole minutes each way, some sort of death march – so I could get my glasses. I have regular glasses and sunglasses and whichever pair is not currently on my head is inevitably forgotten in the car. Finally, I had to survey the food options, settling on a food truck that made a waffle hashbrown sandwich. Basically, you get bacon and cheese inside two waffles made out of hashbrowns. It needed an egg for breakfast sandwich perfection but this was still pretty great and I’m going to try making hashbrowns like that here sometime. This, however, was not the speediest process – or possibly this truck had some efficiency issues – anyway, by the time I was back at my chair, the Karpinka Brothers were nearly done.

I went to high school with one of the Karpinkas (probably both, really, but Shawn was in my grade). I’ve run into Shawn a few times since high school. He’s always been nice and I’m always happy to see him and that’s not something I’d say about 95% of my graduating class. Before this, though, I’d never actually seen them play (apart from maybe a few songs in a Regina Folk Festival teaser set, but I’m not even 100% certain about that and it’s way too late for me to be fact-checking now). I still can’t say I really saw them, but I could hear them from the food truck of eternal wait and they sounded really fun. I’ll have to make it a priority to get to one of their shows soon.

I saw Megan Nash earlier this year and was looking forward to her set. She’s one of my favourite local musicians. She had a strict 30-minute set so she wasn’t as talkative as last time (or maybe it’s that she wasn’t all hopped up on cold medication), but this was still really good.

Onto the folks you may have heard of! First up was former Weakerthans lead singer John K. Samson, a self-described “lefty talk-singer from Winnipeg.” It sounded like there were some Winnipegers near us who were very happy to learn where he was from. Then he opened with Weakerthans classic One Great City!, which says “The Guess Who sucked, the Jets were lousy anyway” and has a singalong chorus of “I hate Winnipeg.” I’d say it’s still kind of a love letter to the city but said Winnipegers seemed to disagree. Anyway, I’ve seen John K. as a solo act before and he was all about playing his own songs and very few Weakerthans songs, but we got the opposite here. There were a handful of his solo songs, including Post-Doc Blues and Vampire Alberta Blues (neither of which are particularly bluesy), but most were Weakerthans favourites. A personal highlight was hearing Samson play all three songs about Virtute the cat in a row. Looking up the lyrics of Virtute at Rest, I saw on Samson’s website that the human from those songs is the same person in the song 17th Street Treatment Centre, which makes perfect sense but still blew my mind a little. As an aside, he played that one too. And he also played Aside.

Samson’s set started at 8:15 and in retrospect, when it was done, we should have moved our chairs from the beer garden side of the park to the all-ages side. 8:00pm is the magic hour where the hipsters and families disappear and the people who’ve been drinking at their campsites all day show up. Plus then we’d be nice and close to the main stage but still comfortably on our respective butts. Though I suppose we’d have missed out on some… colourful characters.

When the Gateway Festival released the initial teaser poster for the event, all of the musicians’ names were blacked out but some were done in such a way that you could kinda make a guess at who they were. I was 99% sure one was Kathleen Edwards. This got me hyped and I may have spent several days meticulously poring over the poster like it was the Zapruder film. Mika and I saw Kathleen Edwards at the Exchange many years ago and it was a great great show. Moreover, a few years ago, she essentially retired from music to open up a coffee shop called Quitter’s in Stittsville, Ontario.

If you think I’m going to make a joke about Stittsville, think again. I’m far too mature for that. Plus I live in Regina, so, you know. Plus Kathleen Edwards made all those jokes already.

ANYWAY my point is that while Edwards has done a handful of concerts since her self-imposed retirement, I really didn’t think she’d ever come out this way again. And here she was! This was exciting enough that we actually left our chairs and went down to the main stage. Edwards was in fine form and seemed to be relaxed and really enjoying herself. There was a nice mix of songs spanning her whole career (Sidecars was a personal favourite) and one new one she wrote about turning 40. After Empty Threat, she asked if there were any Americans there since we were less than an hour from the border, which led to a story about opening for Bob Dylan in Montana. She also dedicated the song Hockey Skates to everyone affected by the Humboldt Broncos tragedy earlier this year. Kathleen Edwards is a treasure.

Then we were back to the side stages for Elliott BROOD and as ever, I’ll play along with the spelling once. I should listen to these guys more but I always seem to forget how much I like them. Their energy was especially welcome coming after a series of folkier artists. They’re coming back to Regina in the fall and I was thinking about skipping out since I’ve seen them a few times in the past few years but this was fun enough that I might just reconsider.

Somewhere in here I went to use the bathroom and found that apart from the portapotties, there were also two urinals, of sorts. Big covered tanks with funnels sticking out of them. As they say, when in Rome, pee in a funnel and then go find some hand sanitizer.

Finally, we had the last addition to the festival lineup, recent inductee to the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and former Barenaked Lady, Steven Page. I’d seen one of his solo shows with Mary a few years ago and really enjoyed it, so when they added him to an already stacked festival, I was stoked. Much like with Samson, there were more Barenaked Ladies songs than Page solo songs, including Jane, Enid, The Old Apartment, Break Your Heart, It’s All Been Done, Alcohol, and I Live With It Every Day. He closed with Brian Wilson, which you had to expect. For solo stuff, he played Surprise Surprise, Manchild, Linda Ronstadt in the 70s, and A New Shore, among others.

There was also a bit where he did some happy strumming on his guitar and Page and the rest of his band took turns singing bits of different popular songs that fit the music. And while I’m sure this is a bit he does often, I suspect the snippet of Virtute the Cat Explains Her Departure that Page sang was specifically because Samson was there. I mean, it’s not a happy song and it didn’t fit the music, but I know Page likes it and had previously recorded it with the Art of Time Ensemble.

Page didn’t play If I Had $1,000,000, much to the frustration of some of the folks around us who were expecting a Barenaked Ladies greatest hits show. I don’t know who wrote what in Barenaked Ladies, but I suspect Page only played stuff that he wrote (or at least co-wrote). Tough break for anyone who was expecting the chimpanzee song. But hey, he still played a lot of hits. Possibly too many for some folks’ tastes – Page was about 20 minutes over his allotted time when it looked like someone notified him it was time to wrap it up. Even then, after Brian Wilson, as we were starting to leave, just as I overheard a festival volunteer say “there hasn’t been an encore all weekend, there won’t be one now,” Page and his band came back out and played Call and Answer. The Badland Country Band was set to go on at midnight and it was nearing 12:30 and a handful of folks were growing impatient. One of the aforementioned colourful characters tried to start a “BADLAND BADLAND” chant but it was as successful as you might expect. “Sorry guys, we’ll be quick,” said Page to the Badlands when he came back out. I’m sure he meant it, but Call and Answer is a six-minute song and I cackled. I dug this whole thing, though to be fair, going over time? Not cool. But I’ll chalk it up to miscommunication somewhere along the way, mostly because we weren’t staying around for the Badland Country Band anyway. As we walked back to the car, we heard them start into a cover of You May Be Right and I’m pretty sure they messed up the words. Timing must have thrown them off.

The drive home was duckless and uneventful, which is exactly how I wanted to wrap up the day.

I should mention that the entire two-day festival was packed with musicians I like and basically consisted of one big SLCR all-star reunion show. I’m not a camping person and Bengough is a long drive from Regina – it would be pretty taxing to take in both nights if you’re going to drive home each night. So we skipped the Friday, since the organizers were kind enough to put all my nice-to-sees on Friday and my must-sees on Saturday. But seriously – Friday night had Big Sugar, Terra Lightfoot, William Prince, Belle Plaine, and Yukon Blonde (along with The Kentucky Headhunters and Chixdiggit, who I’ve never seen before). In Bengough! Population: 337! This whole festival is kind of ridiculous!

SLCR #183: Steven Page (December 12, 2012)

January 14, 2013

Sarah Slean is coming here in February. While looking at the Artesian’s website to determine if I should be buying tickets now (answer: probably, but I still haven’t yet done so), I saw that Steven Page would be here three nights later. I knew Mika wasn’t interested, so I asked Mark and James if they wanted to go. When they couldn’t make it, I made plans to spend the night of the show finishing up my Christmas shopping. But Mark told Mary that I was going (which was not, technically speaking, true), and so on Wednesday afternoon, plans changed.

I was glad to get the chance to go. My fandom of Barenaked Ladies has waned greatly over the years. I saw them a few years ago and still had a good time, but I really only went because Joel Plaskett was opening. I think the departure of Steven Page from BNL is a big part of why my interest has lessened. Barenaked Ladies’ first record without Steven Page was decidedly not my thing, but I liked Steven Page’s first post-BNL solo record, Page One, a fair bit. I hadn’t seen him live since the split and had wanted to see what his shows were like. In fact, in one of those weird coincidence things, I’d been wondering what he was up to just one day before finding out about the show.

Mika dropped me off at Mary’s house so she could carry on with Christmas shopping while Mary and I set out for the Artesian. On the way to the show, Mary told me the most amazing story about the time she met Steven Page 20 years ago. Most of the details must unfortunately be left off the internet; let’s just say that the part where he was riding in her Volvo to a Fishbone concert while they all sang Word Up by Cameo wasn’t even the highlight.

The Artesian is a relatively new venue and it was a lovely, cozy little place. I believe it’s a converted church. There’s a bar downstairs where Mary treated us to Stellas and we chatted with the owner. She said that the place holds about 160 people at capacity. Upstairs, there’s a decently-sized stage with raised benches at the back of the room. The floor had seating for the show, but it could have been removed if a dancier band was playing. By the time the show began, I figure there was around 100 people there. Since we made it early, we were able to snag two seats in the front row.

The opener, for lack of a better term, took the stage about ten minutes after the scheduled start time. Just as I’m thinking “hey, that guy looks really familiar,” he introduced himself as Craig Northey from Odds. I liked them a bunch and had no idea he’d be here, so I was pretty delighted by this development. He opened with a song that he’d co-written with Jesse Valenzuela of the Gin Blossoms; given our proximity to the fictional town of Dog River/real-life town (and film site) of Rouleau, I was half-expecting it to be the theme to Corner Gas but that was not the case. He then played a new song from the upcoming Odds record which I really enjoyed. Steven Page joined in on melodica halfway through the song, at which point the show began in earnest.

When talking about this show with friends, the thing they ask most often is “so, did he just play Barenaked Ladies songs?” Probably about half the show was BNL classics, but it was interesting to see which ones. I’m not about to go digging through liner notes right now to see who wrote or co-wrote what, but the BNL songs Page played in Regina had a distinct lack of their trademark silliness. It wasn’t one week since anything, there were no postcards from chimpanzees, this was not him in Grade 9. We got a lot of the songs that always made me feel like there was a real band behind their on-stage goofiness: Brian Wilson, Jane, The Old Apartment, What A Good Boy, Alternative Girlfriend, Break Your Heart, Call and Answer. These songs are similar in tone to the ones on his solo records Page One and The Vanity Project, and tracks from these albums comprised most of the rest of the show. Page also played a few new songs and Northey sang two Odds hits (Someone Who’s Cool and It Falls Apart). I could have done with more Odds songs, but it’s not really fair to ask for that when it wasn’t an Odds show.

And Page talked. The show ran about three hours with a brief intermission, and a lot of that time was spent conversing with Northey and the crowd. The night before in Swift Current (seriously, why does everyone play Swift Current these days?), someone had suggested to Page that maybe he should spend less time talking while he’s on stage, and I’m glad he didn’t listen. The small crowd and intimate venue made the show feel very personal, and the ongoing dialogue only helped enhance that mood. He cracked jokes and talked about everything from his inspirations to road stories to life with his kids.

When I saw Barenaked Ladies a few years ago, they seemed determined to show their fans that despite Page’s departure, nothing had really changed. They played all of their old songs with Ed Robertson taking over where Page used to sing lead vocals, but I preferred the handful of songs where Kevin Hearn took over. Page and Hearn sound nothing alike and the songs had to change accordingly. It was more interesting to hear the familiar songs with a completely new voice instead of Robertson’s (perfectly adequate) Page impression.

I mention this because Page’s approach is the complete opposite. Not only did he play songs that the Barenaked Ladies made famous, he openly discussed his removal from the band. He told stories from the past and came across like he remembered that time with fondness, but he also went into detail about how he’d disappointed people along the way and how difficult, in retrospect, he’d been to work with. The openness helped contribute to the personal feel of the show, but I suppose there’s no reason for him to try and avoid anything. His drug arrest (charges were eventually dropped) and subsequent departure from the band were well-known, and his solo career really is like starting over, in a way. Even now, over a decade removed from Barenaked Ladies’ greatest commercial success, they come to Regina and still play a 2,000-seat theatre. That’s a step down from the hockey arena I’d previously seen them at, but it’s still twenty times the people who were at Page’s solo show. But if nothing else, it does give him the freedom to do what he wants instead of what the crowd expects.

For the encore, Page and Northey were joined by Regina’s Jason Plumb and his iPad. Plumb was a member of The Waltons, officially completing the Canadian mid-90s trifecta – how did we not get a Crash Test Dummy on stage for this? Was the guy from Wide Mouth Mason busy? What about the non-Jians from Moxy Früvous? Barenaked Ladies, The Waltons, and Odds had played together in various combinations before, but this marked the first time these three played on stage together. They covered Better Be Home Soon by Crowded House and Throw Your Arms Around Me by Hunters & Collectors, with the iPad providing lyrics.

After the show, we went back to the Artesian’s basement to meet up with Page so Mary could reminisce with him about that Fishbone show (and all the events surrounding it). I first got to chat a bit with Jason Plumb; the first time I saw Barenaked Ladies, they covered the Waltons’ song Nothing Colder Than You but rewrote the lyrics to commemorate a time that Plumb had accidentally sat on the hot rocks in a sauna (alcohol may have been a factor) and burnt his ass. It turns out that Plumb was actually at that show – and on a first date, no less. “I’m so glad someone remembers that,” he said, in a way that suggested he may not have been entirely truthful. A friend he was talking to joined in with “I’ve never burnt my ass,” said in the most deadpan, matter-of-fact manner. I thought this was about the funniest thing ever. I’d say “you had to be there” but even those that were there seemed unaffected.

Anyway, after a quick chat with Plumb, we got to spend a minute talking to Page and Northey. I talked to Northey about the time I saw Odds in Saskatoon and they didn’t turn off the TVs in the bar and the band was distractedly watching WCW Monday Nitro while playing. “Did I comment on the wrestling?” Northey asked. I assured him that he had. Specifically, he asked if there was anyone out there who could stop Meng. Before reliving memories of the Fishbone show with Page, Mary grabbed a few pictures of me with Page and Northey, and while I look like a tremendous goofball in both shots, I’m glad to have them as souvenirs of the evening. Plumb, Northey, and Page were all very gracious and came across like really nice guys.

On the drive home, Mary repeatedly said that she had a great time and was glad that we went, and I had to agree. I figured the show would be decent, but I was blown away. Page was entertaining from start to finish, we got a nice diverse mix of songs, and the sound at the Artesian was great. The appearances of Northey and Plumb were great surprises. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a three-hour show, and even longer since I went to one and wasn’t ready to leave well before the artist was done. This was right up there with the best shows of the year.