SLCR #204: Michael Bernard Fitzgerald (October 28, 2014)
We are entering winter, which is the worst season for concerts. Not only does nobody want to come to town when it’s -40 and the highway might ice over – and I don’t blame them – but actually going to a show is a pain. What do you wear? Do you dress for the chilly weather, or do you dress for the inevitable sweatbox that is whatever venue you’re going to? Basically, you have to be really uncomfortable, but when?
And yes, I get that some places have coat checks. I do not care. Waiting to get your coat back is a MILD INCONVENIENCE that I do not have time for. Also, they sometimes want you to pay for it. Outrageous, I say.
On this evening, I opted to wear something that would be tolerable whilst indoors, which made the walk from the bus stop a frosty one. After two years of being an unofficial single-car household, we’ve finally sold off the one car after it tried to die on us one too many times. This works really well about 98% of the time. And then you have nights when Mika has school, and I want to go to a show, and the timing doesn’t work out that well, and all of the other usual concert suspects are sick or tired or disinterested or in other cities or whatnot. So I caught a bus to work and walked to the Exchange from there. I’m sure I could have caught another bus that would have taken me closer, but that would require learning a new bus route and I know two already and I’m just one guy, you know? So I walked. I’m trying to get 10,000 steps a day anyway.
The previous week, I collected some of those steps by walking to the record store to buy my ticket for the show – an actual physical ticket. Not a PDF. That doesn’t happen much anymore. And then, at the door, instead of taking the ticket stub, they took the whole thing. And so it goes.
Along with my 10,000 steps a day, I have also given up soda. A friend of mine went four months without. I said “I could do that.” Mika did not agree – I don’t know who would have – and so here we are. It’s been two months. Most days, this isn’t too bad. But sometimes you wind up at the bar and you don’t want to drink booze because then you’re not the creepy old guy alone at the show, you’re the creepy old guy drinking alone at the show, which seems worse. And you can’t have pop, and you dislike paying for bottled water on principle, and you’re not sick and thus can’t qualify for the sickness Gatorade exemption and they don’t have Gatorade ANYWAY. Your options are limited, is what I’m saying. Or at least mine were. I don’t know about yours. But there is a brand of unsweetened iced tea you can get here now – this is not a common thing in Canada – and it has helped me through many a soda-related jam. And they have it at the Exchange, and I don’t know why they have it anywhere, because I have never once seen anyone drink it but me. But I’m glad it’s there.
As I was buying my iced tea, I noticed the sign behind the bar which said that you had to be born before this date in 1995 in order to buy alcohol. This did a fantastic job of making me feel like the oldest person on earth. I took my iced tea and found a nice quiet spot in which to sit my old bones down. The attendance was decent, but the place was far from packed, so I had no problem getting a good spot.
One thing I’ve noticed about MBF’s shows is that he really seems to like to give exposure to up-and-coming bands. There were four openers before his birthday show in Calgary, and we had two for this show. First up was Layten Kramer, who MBF later said was from Canmore, Alberta, “where life moves a little bit slower.” I am not sure Kramer is ready for the pace of big city life, as he told an extended story about being at Boston Pizza earlier in the day, and his band order schooners of booze, which meant he had to drive, and he was so frustrated by this development that he punched his pasta. He also didn’t finish said pasta, as he offered to get it from the pasta-scented van and show it to us.
Also, there were songs! Not about pasta. The band was a three-piece, with Kramer singing and playing guitar, a guy named Dean on bass, and someone who I initially thought was named Conway on drums. Kramer said the drummer’s name again later in the set, and I was disappointed to learn that it was not Conway, so I am refusing to write his real name out of spite. Take that, drummer who had nothing to do with this situation. The music was pretty good, though the band had a bit of a tendency to drift off into extended instrumental bits which aren’t so much my thing.
Next up was Danny Olliver from Regina. He warned us that the night might get wild, but also graciously invited us to stay sitting. Mostly, it was just him and a guitar, though he was joined by his sister Samantha who sang on a number of the songs. There was a large contingent there to see him, and I assumed they were family, especially when Olliver introduced one song as being “about a dad – not OUR dad, just A dad.” Eventually, he introduced his dad, after a fashion (“My dad hasn’t even yelled anything tonight.” “WOOOOOOOO.” “There we go.”) and it was who I expected. His dad, like most dads, could use a lesson regarding the effectiveness of the built-in camera flash.
I’m pretty sure that somewhere around this point, Layten Kramer went to his van and came back with the pasta.
Olliver’s songs are singer-songwriter type stuff, complemented by some flashes of impressive guitar playing. He especially won people over with his last song, an untitled instrumental number where he played the guitar like a drum while strumming the neck. He also had a good story about meeting and going watersliding with MBF’s band earlier in the day, and one of the band members – apparently named Alec Baldwin (with the emphasis on the “lec”) – grabbing his leg and tickling his foot underwater in a case of mistaken foot identity.
Between sets, I bought another unsweetened iced tea because I am a wild man.
Fitzgerald took the stage by himself, opening with Love is an Easy Thing to Miss, which I always think sounds like Follow at the start. He thanked us for coming out on whatever night it was… Tuesday?
Some girl, right up at the front: “TUESDAY WOO”
MBF: “I feel like that is going to be your role all evening.”
That was pretty funny, but it was no “This song is best enjoyed in silence.” That remains one of my favourite things that anyone has ever said from the stage during a show.
Over the next three songs, his bandmates joined one by one. I have no last names for anyone, but Lisa came out first to play keys on I Will, and then Alec (again, this is pronounced aLEK) Baldwin came out for Follow. On a few occasions, aLEC was accidentally referred to as “Andrew,” which goes to show what I’ve known all along – there are no real Alecs. If you say your name is Alec, you’re a no-good dirty liar. Finally, Adam joined the band – both Adam and aLEC were on drums, with Lisa spending most of her time on bass.
So we had Love is an Easy Thing to Miss, I Will, and Follow. As MBF said, they got the love jams out of the way first. It was suggested that if you were there with a special someone, you should grab them by the earlobe and then shove them away. Play hard-to-get. I have yet to try this with my special someone but I will let you know how it goes. Maybe I should practice on the cat first.
I Will is that song that maybe you recognize from Additionelle commercials if you watch TV and live in Canada and don’t skip commercials for lady clothes. Or, I guess, if you saw some reference to the ads online like I did. I am iffy about songs in ads. I probably would not be if I needed to make money from music in order to pay rent and punch food or do whatever it is musicians do. So far, the ad hasn’t tainted the song for me, mainly because I have only ever seen the ad twice – once in that story online and then once on TV when I was skipping by (via the DVR, not on foot) and thought “hey, I bet that ad has that song.” We aren’t at the point yet like with Gimme Sympathy by Metric, where I hear the song and it only ever makes me think of that ad for… whatever it was. Advertising is super effective.
More songs! I didn’t take notes, but I know they played Firecracker, Man Overboard, In Your Room Tonight, World of Black and White, Last Train to Georgia, Reach You, and Movie Life, along with several new songs that I didn’t recognize but enjoyed. As per usual, he played a bit of Low before moving into Dancing in the Dark. I had also hoped for Brand New Spaces so I could stomp (and stomp and stomp) and clap and was not disappointed. I wonder if the stomping (and stomping and stomping) added extra steps to my pedometer? I hope so – that Wii Fit U walking tour of Italy isn’t going to walk itself.
The full band and extra percussion really brought the energy up and these were the best versions of these songs that I’d heard. Fine work all around. Fitzgerald mentioned that the band had left Lethbridge, Alberta after midnight the night before to arrive in Regina in time for an appearance on CTV – “In retrospect, this was not a wise idea” – but the fatigue, if any, did not hold them back.
We also got an extended version of the waterslide story from earlier – “it is not possible to nap in a hotel that has waterslides.” Apparently the Travelodge pool has a tunnel to a second waterslide, which they used even though it was out of commission. MBF went first down the dry slide, and those that followed used his wetness. Actually, I think this whole story was an excuse to use the phrase “used my wetness” as often as possible and to that end, he was quite successful, so kudos there.
The encore was – as it usually seems to be – Care For You, though this one got interrupted by the sound of a nearby train. MBF told a story about one time they’d played the Exchange (I think this would be the last time I saw him there? Not sure) where a girl, upon leaving the show, got her car hung up on the train tracks (I think a snowbank was involved?) and everyone had to help move the car lest a train come. “THAT WAS ME” yelled someone from far behind me. All involved were glad to see that she and her car were both okay.
After the show, I stopped by the stuff table to buy a copy of Live at the Grand, an MBF live CD that I assume is relatively new. Most of the songs are from his last studio album, so maybe this is new for this tour? I do love tour-only treats at the stuff table. I think I have the rest of his records, so I skipped the cassette tape from the future, but that looked like a heck of a deal. Anyway, MBF was taking pictures and whatnot and I had to wait for my ride to get there, so I took the opportunity to get my CD signed and thank him for coming through Regina. Over the past few months, I can think of a half-dozen bands I would have seen who’ve skipped over Regina on tour. I don’t know if it’s a lack of quality venues, or if nobody here wants to book bands, or if it’s just that nobody shows up when bands do come to town – and I have been to several shows that should have had a lot more people there (including this one) – but whatever the reason, it’s become a real treat just to have someone I like come to town. And when a show was this good, so much the better.