Live show

[Live Music] The Watchmen – Danforth Music Hall, Toronto, ON, 12/14/18

Some people will always be in your life, and no matter how long you have been apart, when you get together it’s like not a day has gone by. That is my friendship with Jenn, a special person in my life I met when we went to Western together a long time ago. Our friendship has always been effortless. It helps to have similar interests, as well as an ability to find twisted humour in practically everything; Jenn is a kindred spirit in that regard. We have always shared a love for the trifecta of Canadian 90s bands: the Watchmen, the Odds and the Headstones. These are three bands we would go to see very frequently during our uni days. We’d scrape together the scratch to buy tix at the downtown London, ON watering hole, Call the Office and be right there fighting the mosh pits to witness greatness in the front row.

The Watchmen was the one band we went to see the most frequently; at least four times in four years. It wasn’t until October 2008 when Jenn and I reunited to see the Watchmen perform at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto. Then, we hadn’t attended a Watchmen concert together until January 2016 when they performed at the Danforth Music Hall (which I wrote about here). And so it goes, life has been extremely busy for both of us…we hadn’t really talked again until this past September when Jenn contacted me on Facebook Messenger that the Watchmen were returning to the DMH in December…did I want to go? Umm…YES!!

The week leading up to the event, I was planning my route and making some decisions. Jenn had moved since our last concert, and there was no driveway parking like I had last time…She still lives in East York,  but just south of the Danforth where there is half street parking and half “Green P” public parking. Both can be dicy and writhe with an errant parking ticket if you aren’t careful. Yeah, driving and parking in Toronto is not fun. I can manage riding the subway, but I’d have a long ride back to my car late after the event. I decided to chance it and weather the Friday night traffic to her place and park on the street, so I could simply take off home after the show. This ended up being the best decision, and really wasn’t that bad after all.

Just some of the interesting things found at Jenn’s

I arrived at Jenn’s place to be greeted by her bright and talkative 5-year-old daughter, who is the cutest. A  hug and a homemade cosmopolitan welcomed me into Jenn’s warm and eclectic two bedroom apartment, filled with interesting things. We talked and reminisced while waiting for the babysitter to arrive, and it was certainly like old times. The sitter arrived and Jenn and I ventured into the light of the Danforth.

The last time we went to the Watchmen, we grabbed a bite at the Detroit Eatery, a greasy spoon along the strip. We decided to relive our night in 2016 and go visit it again. Fish and chips, and a brew were what we had, and they were delicious. We caught up on what was going on in each other’s lives and as expected, time passed way too quickly.

We headed down to the DMH, and had missed the opening act, Ron Hawkins (Lowest of the Low). We had just enough time to check our coats and stroll by the merch table before the Watchmen took to the stage at 9 PM sharp.

The first song of the evening was Must to Be Free. The crowd went nuts, and so did we! The Watchmen still have it, and delivered a tight show. Their major hits were paid props including Boneyard Tree, Run & Hide, Slomotion, Incarnate, Stereo and All Uncovered. The Watchmen managed to showcase their talent, hitting the hits and adding several well-known cover songs to their set, including the Johnny Nash hit, I Can See Clearly Now, Tom Petty’s Square One, as well as Superman by R.E.M. The band also paid respect to the Hip’s Gord Downie, performing a cover of Wheat Kings, which stoked the audience. The opener, Ron Hawkins, came out and did an excellent duet with the band of the song A New England (originally by Billy Bragg; I’m familiar with it via Kirsty MacColl). This concert was really something to see and hear live…

When we had gone to see the Watchmen in 2016, Jenn and I had trouble with the Amazonian-sized dudes around us who enjoyed bathing in Axe Body Spray. Passing out from the cologne fumes, we escaped to the right side of the stage, and this action ended up being the best thing at the time. We had great line of sight, and plenty of room to dance. Would we be lucky a second time with that same spot? This evening, as the Watchmen took to the stage, we quickly rushed to the right side of the auditorium…and so did everyone else. It was a packed house with a lot of fans. We are both around the same height and obviously not 5 ft 8, but It was fine, I thought; we could see in between the heads at Danny and the boys somewhat comfortably. That was until the phones came out.

With advancements in technology and the advent of social media, a green monster has emerged, compelling users to compulsively take shot after shot – never mind video recording entire segments – of the show with their cell phones. I expect some picture-taking (I snapped a few myself), but I also hope for discretion. I was in the unenviable position of standing behind two people obsessed with their phones. I hazard they watched the entire show through their cell screens from song one…and sadly, for a portion of the show, so did I. In true Canadian fashion, instead of confronting them, I swallowed my ire and tried to ignore it. What are you going to do? I didn’t want any trouble. So, when a space next to Jenn opened up, I moved over to allow a tall dude with a fat head on my left to block my peripheral view of their phones. Huzzah!

Back to the band, do these guys drink from the fountain of youth? Lead singer, Danny Greaves has not aged in 25 years; he continues to be his trim self. Ken Tizzard was the only one whose appearance has changed – from a fine moustache, to a wicked beard with extended goatee. But, these guys are getting older; the show was done in an hour and a half, and Danny cited a “curfew” as the reason for the show ending when it did. After all with over 20 songs and two encores under their belt for the evening, these guys were allowed to “exit stage right.”

When the house lights went up, Jenn and I doubled back to the merch table one last time to check out the wares; Watchmen t-shirts were for sale, as well as some solo projects on vinyl by the band. Jenn purchased a Christmas card with a downloadable song sung by Danny with all proceeds going to charity.

Overall, this was another memorable evening with Jenn and the Watchmen. I totally look forward to more experiences with Jenn in the near future and I am also certain we’ll be going to see the Watchmen again, whenever they stop in Toronto.

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[Live Music] Sloan – The KEE to Bala, Bala, ON, 05/19/18

It’s a collaboration post for the ages! Caught Me Gaming and Buried On Mars take on Sloan! Sarca reviews the Sloan May 19, 2018 show at the KEE to Bala, and Kevin reviews Sloan’s latest album, 12! Make sure to check out his review here! But, first: Leetsa go!

For the better part of this morning, I have been wracking my brains trying to remember when I first saw Sloan in concert. I remember it was around July 1996 in London, Ontario, to promote their One Chord to Another album. I think I went with my friend Sandra and it was held at a newly opened venue on Wharncliffe Rd North (now called Cowboy’s Ranch / London Concert Theatre) whose name from back in the day escapes me. Thanks Google Maps! I have a faint hazy memory of the evening singing Underwhelmed and I am the Cancer at the top of my lungs thanks to some alky hall drinkies and the ravages of time (ha!). I remember taking the bus downtown the next day to HMV to pick up the new One Chord to Another on CD.

That’s the real ticket stub from back in the day!

In 1999 I was living with my new fiance, Buried On Mars, in Barrie, Ontario. I remember he got us tickets to see Sloan at the KEE to Bala in Bala a couple of days after my birthday, and I couldn’t have been more excited. Having thoroughly enjoyed Sloan’s most recent release at the time, Navy Blues, and being very familiar with their past efforts, I was excited to see them perform again in concert as they were promoting their soon-to-be-released album, Between the Bridges. Details are in sepia: I don’t remember too much about the venue except for really enjoying the show and scoring some rippin’ seats that gave us an excellent view of the stage.

This past winter, close to 19 years later, the hubs scored tickets to the Sheepdogs this coming August 2018 at the KEE. Planning our summer concert calendar, he also discovered Sloan is performing at the KEE to Bala in May, and lined up tix for that event too. Sloan was due to release their twelfth album in April, appropriately named 12 and were touring to promote it. It had been a long time since we last saw them, and we have since moved an extra hour away from the KEE, so this was going to be sort of a “dry run” for us for future concerts up in that area. A two hour drive to and from the late show in the pitch dark on our weary bones may be the impetus to get us a reservation for the Ho-Jo after the Show…

The KEE to Bala is located in Bala, Ontario, a small hamlet in cottage country off the shores of Lake Muskoka. The building is situated along a small strip that has a couple of eateries, including a bar that boasts the best ribs in Muskoka. The KEE itself has a long history of hosting big acts like RUSH and Snoop Dogg. The night of the show, we arrived to discover the only real parking was a full lot of 20 cars across the street from the place, so we drove further down the street to find a good spot. As we drove by the KEE, who did I recognize strolling down the street but Chris Murphy, singer and guitarist for Sloan, right there! I was star-struck, and couldn’t even remember his name to say to the hubs, hey there’s Chris Murphy! Instead, it was, “Hey, it’s that guy! From Sloan!”

The weather was not cooperative this evening. After we parked the car, we quickly headed over to the KEE as the clouds opened up and started pouring down on us. We rushed to the building and found refuge under the eaves, along with another couple; the four of us were the only ones waiting – I guess we’re early! I thought Sloan was to take the stage at 9 PM – turns out, doors open at 9! So, we were out in the elements for another 45 minutes as other Sloan fans began to appear and line up right behind us in the rain. I couldn’t help but notice our contemporaries in the crowd – those of us who remember Sloan in the formative years, saw them live in campus bars and dives, and continued to listen to them as we got degrees, worked on careers and pursued partners and families. Like Sloan, we’ve since hung up our grunge flannel, grown a little older, fatter and grayer, but we still know how to rock.

The KEE’s venue consists of a large dance floor with a stage that is raised at least 8 feet off the floor. There is seating located upstairs in the balcony section that is essentially long picnic tables. If you are quick, you can score one that provides a ripping view of the stage – and like that time in 1999, thankfully the hubs and I were quick to get one. Evidently, it pays to be early! This seating arrangement, however, also has a downside…

When a couple is seated at a long table at a communal environment like a bar, sometimes you have no choice but to be open to the possibility of allowing strangers to sit with you. Along came 4 loud and liquored up people who asked if they could sit next to us at our table. (Gulp!) Sure…They were rowdy; I foreshadowed how my evening was going to go with them next to us. But thankfully they were only with us for a minute – they knew the couple the next table over, and decided to sit with them instead. I gave the hubs the ol’ “we dodged a bullet” look. A moment later, another couple came by and asked to sit with us – Derek (?) and Andrea (?)(it was loud in there) from Barrie. Derek, a cross between Matthew Modine and Ed Begley Jr. in the appearance department, took pictures and talked a lot, but overall he was nice.

Because we had time to kill, I was able to hit the merch table early…

I also took this time to study the audience down below. Looked like there was a Bachelor party – at least 5 guys with large foam ten-gallon hats dancing, drinking and fooling around. Quite entertaining!

Giddy up!

Festivities started at 10 PM. The first act to take the stage was Taylor Knox, a guy who performed with a bassist and a drummer. I don’t know much about Knox; he has an album out and has had his music used in Canadian television, but what I heard, the man could rock! He has a similar sound to Sloan and entertained the audience for about 40 minutes.

Taylor Knox

By the time the Sloan crew got everything ready, the band took the stage close to 11 PM and started in with Spin Our Wheels, a song from their new album, 12; a ripping tune that got the crowd rocking and the night took off from there at a rapid pace. Right away though, I noticed something not quite right about the band. When my eyes scanned the left corner of the stage where Patrick Pentland usually stands court, I found a stranger in his place – a stockier balding guy!?! It was not Patrick! Immediately, I thought something happened here – where is he? Did he quit the band?

Turns out, Patrick announced via Twitter only four days ago that he is having to pull away from touring for the next little while due to a family illness. In his place is musician Gregory Macdonald who has performed with Sloan since 2006 on keyboards. I don’t think he was expecting to have to pick up extra duties, but all things considered, he did excellent work on guitar, keyboards and backing vocals. There was some scrambling of the playlist on the fly, and an obvious reluctance to perform any songs that are fronted by Patrick, but with an acknowledgement of Patrick’s absence, and a hat tip with a performance of You See the Good in Everyone sung by Chris, the crowd hardly noticed and got down to the task of rocking. Of course there was the band’s signature “switching of musical instruments,” particularly between Chris and drummer Andrew Scott, as well as the band’s affable brand of humour in between songs.

Sloan dedicated play time to music on their new album (a rocking ride full of fantastic basslines) while also recognizing some main staples of their back catalogue; such hits as Coax Me, The Other Man, Who Taught You to Live Like That, The Rest of My Life and the Lines You Amend. I was also excited to hear them perform Underwhelmed from their first album, Smeared, an album that developed my taste for grunge before Nirvana was even on my radar. It was fun singing along to these tunes.

Sloan’s tight performance continues to impress. Overall it was an excellent show, and I hope not to wait another 19 years before seeing them again!

CODA: It was a late night for us after the show let out at 1…Got home after 3 AM…We’ll be thinking about that Ho-Jo reservation for next time!

Thanks for reading! Now proceed to my hubs’ blog Buried On Mars and read a complete review on Sloan’s latest album, 12!