Have I tried writing one of these things in an airport before? Specifically, the Regina airport? For a second, I thought we were breaking new ground here, but this now seems awfully familiar.
Things seeming awfully familiar may become a theme here. This is now the XXth time that I’ve seen Hawksley in concert – I’d look up the exact number, but I’m not paying $10 for a half-hour of weak airport Wi-Fi – and I really feel like I’ve seen all of his tricks before. This is not a bad thing, necessarily – I love his tricks; if I didn’t, I wouldn’t keep going back. But it really kind of left me feeling like I didn’t have a lot to write about. We are now almost two weeks removed from the show, and the only reason that I’ve finally started into the review is because I have been conditioned to get to airports way earlier than necessary, I’ve already finished my bagel, and the aforementioned ridiculous cost of Wi-Fi here.
The first time Hawksley played Darke Hall, four years ago, I wound up having friends over unexpectedly after the show and I had nothing to feed them. Last time, two years ago, I was prepared. But this time out, things were tricky. There were a lot of people I knew at this show. And they were bringing friends. At the peak, it looked like there would be 18 friends (or friends-of) at the show, and that’s too many to cram into my one-bedroom apartment. When the show was announced, back in… December, I think, I gave serious thought to whether I could buy a house, get moved in, and have it party-ready for March 19. This seemed like a very bad reason to buy a house, but I bought a car because it was yellow, so it would be keeping in character. Ultimately, I decided that the best thing I could do was invite the friends who were visiting from Saskatoon and call it good. Hopefully I’ll have a house by the time his next show rolls around. Good thing he’s not playing the Folk Festival this year.
You can’t review Hawksley in Darke Hall without comparing it to the two other shows that he’s played there. There’s something about the combination of the performer and the venue that guarantees a special night. There were three friends in attendance who’d driven up from Saskatoon for the show, even though he played Saskatoon the night before.
One thing this show most certainly did not have going for it was the weather. Last time out, our special tickets from the website let us wait inside the building’s main doors well before they started actually taking tickets. This time, with a windchill well below freezing, it didn’t work. We still got in 15 minutes before the masses with their normal tickets, but my desire for good seats and hopefulness that they’d actually let us wait inside left us very chilly. I would rather be early than late, but this doesn’t always pan out either.
While waiting, we ran into Jeff and Mandi, who did not have the special tickets, and opted to wait in Jeff’s gloriously heated car rather than in line outside like us chumps. I did not think of telling him to just drive the car into the line, so I will tell him now. It seems like an idea that can’t possibly go wrong. We also ran into Heather and her friend, who had tickets waiting at the will-call. Once they got their tickets, they disappeared into the normal ticket line. Or possibly they just left and got coffees. So I guess what we’ve established is that everyone is smarter than me.
That is, excluding the nice girl who detached our ticket stubs, threw the tickets in the garbage, and gave us our stubs back. I collect those, I wasn’t impressed. Everyone else got to keep their tickets except Mika and me.
So after a long wait in the cold, we got some nice second-row seats. Deserée, Reagan, and Jenn all had the special tickets too and wound up in the same row, as did Mark and Chad. And Colin, since we saved a seat for him. Really, we just kind of took over the whole second row. It wasn’t planned, it just kind of happened. Meanwhile, Jeff and Mandi, finally brave enough to tackle the elements and the longer, later line, walked right in and took two seats in the front row. I found this awfully amusing; more so when Heather and her friend showed up and took two more front row seats. Lesson: if you don’t get the special first-day website tickets and you don’t wait outside forever in the cold, the universe will provide for you anyway. I assume I will not remember this in two years when he plays here again, which goes back to our previous lesson: "everyone is smarter than me."
Before the show, Deserée and I took a brief trip to the stuff table. With no ticket, I had to rely on my handstamp to get back in. Given that the same girl was working the door, I wasn’t confident that this would work. I became less confident when the girl refused to issue Deserée a handstamp unless she showed her ticket. "It’s in the auditorium," Dez replied, "the one you just saw me walk out of." The girl mulled this over while we looked at CDs and shirts. I thought about getting Hawksley’s new album on vinyl but decided I didn’t feel like carrying it around all evening. Also, I don’t (yet) own a record player. I snuck back to my seat while the ticket-taking girl was looking at something shiny.
The last time I saw Hawksley was last year in Winnipeg. On the way there, I listened to an interview with him where he pointed out that he’d recorded something like 200 songs, but only ever played the same 20 or so in concert. After, in the review, I noted that this was true – there was nothing new or unusual played during that show. This show started with Mr. Lonely playing a piano medley of some of Hawksley’s most famous songs. And that was all we would hear of them.
With one and three-quarters new albums out (stupid releasing a single every week online nonsense) not long before the show, there were a lot of new songs available, and he played most of them. This was fine for me, but it was a bit of a disappointment to the first-timers there. There was no Anger As Beauty, no Striptease, no Jealous Of Your Cigarette, no We Will Still Need A Song, no Bullets, and no Safe And Sound. There was no Autumn’s Here, which is a shocker for a show Mika attended. And despite Deserée’s passionate one-woman Twitter campaign, there was still no Baby This Night. At this point, I like to think he’s doing it on purpose.
The full band was back, including Derrick Brady on bass and Jesse Zubot on violin. And a drummer whose name I don’t recall; Hawksley has to come up with a funny name for him. At one point, while everyone else was changing into bedazzled jumpsuits (yes), Zubot got an extended solo – according to a setlist Dez found on Twitter, this is called the "Zubocalypse." I laughed.
Despite all the new tunes, I’d kind of seen it all before. Hilarious chatting with the audience. Mid-show costume change. Hawksley songs interrupted by snippets of covers – this time out, it was Surrender by Cheap Trick, Raspberry Beret by Prince, and I’ve Got A Secret by… someone. Hopefully I will remember to look up the artist before I post this. Or maybe I will hilariously leave this in? Can you tell I still have a half-hour to kill before I can board?
And no stomping! What the heck, Regina, I love it when you stomp at Hawksley and he loves it too. And don’t try to pass off your stomping during the applause before the first encore – that does not count. Stomp in time with a song for no discernable reason. That is awesome.
This sounds like an awfully grumpy review, doesn’t it? I assure you it is not. I had a great time at the show, I would be first in line to go again, my feet warmed up nicely once we were inside, there were tons of good people there, I made too much food after the show, and the concert was the start of my vacation; one which I’m still on (and have only been sick for most of). I do not want to sound disappointed because the show hit the expected level of awesome but did not surpass it. But I will note that the first-timers seemed the most impressed. Maybe now they’ll believe me when I say something is awesome. Or maybe they figure that I’m a blind clock or a broken squirrel or something.
Upcoming Showsoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooollllllllllliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii <- that was me cleaning off my keyboard
– Barenaked Ladies w/Joel Plaskett in a little under two weeks
– Conan O’Brien, which isn’t technically a concert but I don’t care; anyway, it’s about a week after BNL
– Our Lady Peace playing an album I really liked when I was 20 or so; I think it’s about six weeks away
This has nothing to do with anything, but there’s a woman in this airport lobby whose voice sounds like a recording. I can’t explain it. The sound, the tone, I don’t know from the right words but if you heard it, you’d know what I mean. It’s like she has a built-in echo in her own throat. It is amazing.