SLCR #199: Bastille w/To Kill a King (April 4, 2014)
Review Number One-Ninety-Nine was supposed to be Mounties. A Canadian indie-rock supergroup of sorts, Mounties (is? are?) my favourite guy Hawksley Workman, Steve Bays from Hot Hot Heat, and Ryan Dahle from Limblifter and Age of Electric. Over the past year, they’ve released a few songs online and just put out Thrash Rock Legacy, their first album (hence the tour). It’s catchy dancey pop that sometimes wanders off into extended jams. Unsurprisingly, there are parts of the album that sound like Hawksley got to sing on some Hot Hot Heat songs, but that doesn’t quite describe it unless you add in those jams, and also a time machine. These are kids of the 80s.
Unfortunately, Mounties skipped Regina in favour of a Saskatoon show at Amigo’s. I knew what that meant but bought tickets anyway. It’s Hawksley, right? I’ll work for it. My fears were confirmed when I Twittered at @mountiesband to find out what time they would take the stage. “Midnight!” was the brief but enthusiastic response. That was about what I was expecting – if anything, that’s early for Amigo’s. But the concert came at the tail end of the two busiest weeks of Mika’s classes, and the night before the show, I came down with a crippling stomach bug. The good news is that we’re both okay – school is winding down for the semester and WebMD diagnosed me with a case of “maybe you shouldn’t have eaten ALL the spring rolls, fatass” – but neither of us were really up for a three-hour highway drive in the dark for a show that wouldn’t let us get to sleep until 3:00 a.m. so we passed. Deserée was coming with us but opted out after we did. I hear the show sold out. I hope it was awesome, and if you went, I hope you enjoy the extra breathing room that three absentees provided.
I won’t lie; I was pretty disappointed about this one. I get it. I do. There will always be new 19-year-olds to replace those of us who age out of staying awake forever. Maybe Amigo’s isn’t meant for me. Maybe this earring isn’t meant for me. Maybe this goatee isn’t hiding any chins and maybe it’s half-grey anyway. Maybe I should avoid Amigo’s because they only have almond chicken fingers at lunchtime and only on Tuesdays and I don’t live in Saskatoon so when am I ever going to have those again, assuming they even offer them anymore, how would I know, I haven’t eaten at Amigo’s in years and I haven’t seen a show there since the second night of JunoFest, seven years ago.
Maybe I should avoid Amigo’s because it instills existential angst and dread.
Anyway, when the Mounties show fell through, I briefly considered going to Kings of Leon in Calgary. (I was going to go be in Calgary anyway, which I’ll get to.) My general thought on Kings of Leon is “I give no shits as it pertains to Kings of Leon” – I don’t hate them, I don’t love them, I don’t know much about them. They’re just there. I know Sex on Fire and it’s okay enough. Mika tells me that I’ve heard other Kings of Leon songs, but I can’t prove it. Mark told me that their newest album is good, and I trust his judgment, but the biggest selling point for the show was that I could get a nosebleed seat for cheap and the Saddledome is within walking distance of my grandparents’ place. However, I eventually opted to skip this show too; not because I didn’t really care about it, but because I mistakenly thought the show was on Wednesday. That morning, I was thinking “I really need to decide if I want to go do this” when I opened the newspaper and saw their review of the show. Apparently, it was good.
That brings us to Bastille. To see this show, I did something that I’ve never done before: way overpaid for a ticket from a scalper. I’ve only ever bought tickets through legitimate means. But I wanted to go to Calgary to visit my grandparents, as I will do, and there weren’t a lot of bands playing that interested me. Bastille interested me.
Because I am an Old and I associate almost exclusively with fellow Olds, I didn’t know of Bastille until their January appearance on Saturday Night Live. I asked Mika the same question I ask her regarding every SNL musical act: “What’s a Bastille? Will I hate it?”
She said that I might not. Promising!
And indeed, I liked their first song, Pompeii (the one you’ve heard if you’ve heard one), enough to pick it up on iTunes. I wasn’t as sold on their other song (Oblivion) right away – Oblivion is a slower song and Pompeii is ridiculously catchy and full of hooks and probably not any good, depending on who you ask, but you’re asking me, and who asked you?
Anyway. I YouTubed some of their other singles and was convinced to Complete My Album. It’s good! Then I saw the concert listed on Pollstar.
It’s worth noting that I had no idea if Bastille was a Big Deal at all. They had to be some sort of Deal if they were playing on SNL, but their Calgary show was scheduled for the MacEwan Ballroom (relatively small) and tickets were a reasonable $27.50. I decided to buy one and hope the timing of the trip worked out.
You are probably aware that this line of thinking was foolish.
Near as I can tell, they sold out the MacEwan Ballroom right away, were moved one floor down to the larger MacEwan Hall, and then sold THAT out right away too. There were no tickets anywhere. With no assigned seating, I had no hope of picking up a single ticket that nobody else wanted. I poked around Twitter, Craigslist, StubHub, and Kijiji, and learned valuable lessons about supply and demand.
Remembering last year’s costly The God That Comes mistake, I hadn’t bought plane tickets yet, so my schedule was wide open. I went back to Pollstar, determined to find a show I’d like even better. There just wasn’t much of anything, though. Lots of “yeah, I could go see them, I guess” types of shows. Kings of Leon types of shows.
Bastille was the only show that really stood out to me. Plus, the timing of everything worked out perfectly – drive to Saskatoon with Mika, see Mounties (or, you know, not), spend time with family, Mika goes home, I fly from Saskatoon to Calgary, spend a week, fly back to Saskatoon, watch Wrestlemania with the usual people because we never grow up and we never learn, catch a bus back to Regina. It’s like three trips in one.
It was so stupid, really. I found plane tickets. They cost X. The concert cost Y. X + Y = Z. Does it really matter what X and Y are, as long as I’m fine with Z? Stupid algebra, convincing me to spend $97.90 (!) USD (!!) for a $27.50 CDN ticket. This show needed to be good or I was going to be SO CROSS.
Off I went to MacEwan Hall, and dang, these guys don’t mess around. The ticket said 8:00; I got there around 8:05 and the opening act, To Kill A King, had already started. I really liked these guys! I’d never heard of them before, so it was a delightful surprise. They sounded very much like a band that would be opening for Bastille, if that makes any sense. English folk-rock. Like Bastille with a smaller budget, so you didn’t get the rock band light show. More vocal harmonies too. Quite nice. Would see again.
Between sets, I decided to pick up the TKAK album (is this an acronym anyone uses? It is now, I guess) and discovered that there was a Jugo Juice across from the stuff table. And it was open! As someone who doesn’t drink a whole lot of beers and doesn’t want to fight the bar crowd for a soda, this was a godsend. I picked up a smoothie and texted Mika and declared that every concert venue needed a Jugo Juice. Unfortunately, the instant I finished the smoothie, the last drop landed inside me with a thud and I spent a good chunk of time wondering if it was going to stay put. As such, I can’t give the Jugo Juice my full endorsement, though I am fully prepared to blame a week of Calgary eating or even residual spring roll aftereffects.
But before I hit that point, I had to get the TKAK CD. By the time I got my smoothie, the 19-year-old girls who had been waiting at the stuff table had moved on, so a few members of the band were just hanging out, chatting with people and signing stuff. I wound up with a few seconds to talk to the lead singer, the amazingly-named Ralph Pelleymounter. Autocorrect doesn’t even KNOW what to do with that. I felt way too old to be doing such things, but regardless, he was a delightful fellow. Good chat.
Back I went into the concert hall, CD in hand. Smoothie in other hand. Jacket over arm, phone in pocket, wallet also in pocket, keys there too, glasses on face, shoes on feet, all non-jacket clothes in their appropriate places, really… ready for the show.
The highlight of the show – and one of the highlights of my entire life – came close to the end of the evening. During their song Flaws, the lead singer of Bastille (whose name is probably not as great as “Ralph Pelleymounter” and I am not about to look it up to confirm/deny) jumped into the crowd and ran around singing among the people. For most of this, I couldn’t see anything. I knew where he was, roughly, from the general movement of the crowd. But then he came near where I was standing. And he’s singing, and people are patting him on the back, and… I don’t know if he was going for a high-five or what, but he managed to completely pie-face this girl about two feet from where I was standing. He hugged her in apology and never stopped singing. For what it’s worth, she was unhurt and, really, seemed completely delighted by this whole sequence of events.
I wouldn’t pay extra for someone to get smacked in the face at every show I attend, but as a one-off? What the heck.
As for the rest of the show, it was about what you’d expect. Energetic pop. Young band. Young crowd. I felt exceedingly old. Fancy lights. Good sound. Very professionally done. No real spontaneity. I liked Oblivion better here than on SNL. Most of the singles were slotted in towards the end of the show, with the biggest hit saved for the encore. They brought out To Kill a King at the end to sing Pompeii with them, which I thought was a nice touch. A relatively short show, which is to be expected when there’s only one album (albeit with an optional bonus disc) to draw from.
It was definitely better than a $27.50 show. It wasn’t the revelatory, new-number-one-fan-forever experience that I would have hoped for, but I had a fine time. I’d see them again, preferably for the advertised price. And with more face-punching.
• Ben Folds & Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (May 21)
• Regina Folk Festival (Serena Ryder, Joel Plaskett Emergency, Sam Roberts Band, Indigo Girls, Los Lobos, Mo Kenney, Geoff Berner, more – August 8-10)
• Gordon Lightfoot (November 7)