Wednesday, July 1, 2009

An East Coast Extravaganza! Really!

Now, last night there was a free show on the Boardwalk in uptown Saint John, in a celebration of the stroke of midnight on the 1st of July. (Me, I don't buy into this whole Canada Day celebration, but! Music is music!) Most of the lineup, too, was unremarkable, but two names on those posters had me awfully excited: The Got to Get Got and Joel Plaskett Emergency. The last few times I'd seen Joel play, it had been either solo or, most recently on his tour backing "Three", a rather interesting mostly-acoustic setup--but back with the Emergency, this had me excited. TGTGG sealed the deal. Oh, and it was free.

I missed most of the first act, Laurie Jones, but what I did hear was good enough. I liked her voice, I suppose. That's what you get when you start a show at 5:30, I guess.

Greg MacPherson, out of Winnipeg, has some ties to the Maritimes but I'm not entirely sure what they are. I think his wife may be from around these parts, but I'm not sure. Don't quote me on that. His set happened to happen at the same time as I was eating dinner, but I ate on the patio by the stage--Oh!

I should mention that this was at the waterfront in Saint John, on the Market Square Boardwalk, where we have a little stage built. It was an all-ages haven growing up in Saint John, and these days I can partake in the fare of one of the many pubs across from the stage--I think there are four!--and have a beer while the band plays.

In any case, during Greg's set I was sitting on the patio with a friend, having dinner. The sky looked slightly ominous. I rather liked his voice but his music left something to be lacking. Maybe if I had paid slightly more attention to the set it would have been more enjoyable--but I didn't hate it! And, as I said, I did rather enjoy his voice.

But really, what I was waiting for was Mark Mullane and The Got to Get Got. After Greg's set I finished my beer and headed up to the stage, as they were setting up. No Brad LaHead, as he is on tour with "his other band" (presumably Tomcat Combat, though I didn't know he was still in the band) so they played a one-guitar set. It still sounded absolutely ace. These guys know how to bring the rock, and get people moving. During the previous sets, very few people were standing at the stage and no one was moving. For this set, I'd guess about forty people were standing, and they really made us feel welcome--throwing CDs and t-shirts into the audience. It was a great experience, I'd say.

TGTGG did a really interesting one-guitar rendition of their song "Gettin' Dirty in the Afterlife", which you might know as a pretty rockin' ditty. They didn't slow it down, but rather they changed up the instrumentation, relying more on the cello and violin to drive the song. Even missing a member, there were still six people up there on stage, there was still a mighty full band. They even got everybody to yell along with the build-up in "Rattle Off", and it just turned into a wild cobblestone-and-brick dance party.

I might also note that they had pre-release copies of their new album, "Sahalee" available for sale, and played most of the tracks from that album (they opened, for instance, with "Bethpage Black" and I recall "Rare Rain" being a particularly rad performance--they didn't leave us longer-term fans hanging, though: they played "Tenerife" from their EP). A friend of mine bought one--but as a poor umemployed university student I couldn't shell out the $20, and just bought the $8 7" single. Which is on white vinyl. And is fantastic. Hunt one down--I hear they're in stores in Halifax.

The David Myles Band was up next--we had gone for a walk between sets and missed the start of his, but that was surely not a problem. He played an excruciatingly long set. At first, I was really enjoying his stuff. A dozen or so songs in, when he had begun to rely on new and obscure Bob Dylan covers (such as "Things Have Changed") it became tedious. Of course, that wasn't the end of it. He played probably for about 90 minutes. I will say this: he looked like he was having a fantastic time--the grin never left his face, which was nice--and the girl playing the electric piano was some kind of talented.

By this point it was dark, and the space in front of the stage was absolutely packed. There were definitely upwards of 200 people, and even that is probably an estimate on the low end of things. There were a lot of comings and goings during David's set, and then the next band started setting up the equipment. A friend of mine said to me, 'Joel Plaskett, handpicked by Paul McCartney to open his only Canadian tour date, still sets up his own gear'. I like that in a musician, but I don't think I'd trust other people handling my gear, anyway. Along with Dave and Chris (the Emergency), Joel was joined onstage by Rose Cousins, and someone who I consider a legend, but no one I've talked to has heard of.

Peter Elkas was once a Montrealer, but has made a new home for himself in Halifax. His old band, Local Rabbits, likewise made the move. This man come from away has made a real name for himself as a musician of the Maritimes over the last fifteen-or-so years, now engaged in a solo career and, it seems, as a member of Joel Plaskett's touring band. He acted as a multi-instrumentalist, handling the keys, the second guitar, and the harmonica.

They opened the set with, interestingly enough, the first Joel Plaskett song I'd ever heard, back in '03: "Work Out Fine". The set as a whole was a neat fusion of rocking out and folking out, as one might put it, and they covered material from all across his solo career. The usual suspects--"Fashionable People", "Nowhere With You", "Love This Town"... they were all represented, but so were some songs that I haven't heard live in years. I don't think I've seen Joel play "Come On, Teacher" since 2006.

The whole thing was just such a wonderful experience. Joel is a great entertainer, he knows how to make the crowd happy, and he's just got this awfully quirky stage persona. He always seems a bit awkward, to me, which is nice. It got a bit surreal when he and Rose did a duet on "Happen Now", just the two of them and their acoustic guitars--midway through the song, the skies opened up and it started to rain. Not a heavy rain, but a steady one. A refreshing rain. This took us to midnight, Joel counting us down with a broken clock... and then the show went on!

Like I said, it was a fantastic show, and it was great to see Joel rocking out again. Between the venue, the material, the weather--just everything, it made for one of my favourite Joel Plaskett concerts, anyway. I only wish I had pictures. Oh well, someone will supply me with them, I'm sure! And then they'll appear on this blog.

But for now, farewell!


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