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SLCR #156: The Arrogant Worms (March 5, 2011)

Let’s get one thing out of the way. I am a big stickler for accuracy (except in cases where being accurate would take fact-checking or any other form of effort), but I’m just going to have to get rid of that exclamation point right now. "Hey Rosetta" it is, because "Hey Rosetta!" will make Word stick little green squigglies under a bunch of my sentences and that would just about drive me nuts. I don’t know if that’s going to change how you read this – maybe it will be less exciting as a result – but that’s a risk I’m going to have to take.

I just thought of something – if it’s supposed to be "Hey Rosetta!", why isn’t it "Hey, Rosetta!"? Actually, "Hey, Rosetta!?" would be the best one of all – the interrobang conveys a nice sense of befuddlement. And I know that having two separate symbols means it’s not a proper interrobang, but I haven’t had the chance to use that word in a while and I’m not about to pass it up now.

I actually started the review before going to the show – work has been a bit nutty for a few weeks and I expect this week will be much the same, so I wanted to get as much of a head start as I could. Though I generally have nothing more than good intentions, this time I’m actually listening to Hey Rosetta’s new album, Seeds, before the show. No less an authority than CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi (multiple-time SLCR subject and occasional SLCR correspondent) has already declared Seeds to be the album of the year – a strong statement seeing as how it was made before the first day of March. After the first go-through, I’m not prepared to be quite that bold, but it is really good.

Now, the problem with starting a review before the show is that sometimes you don’t actually wind up going to the show. Or you go, but you’re tired from a week and a half of working late and you really would rather just sell the tickets and go home, but they still have a few tickets at the door so nobody wants to buy yours, so you resolve to stick around for the opening act just so the money wasn’t a complete waste. And that’s the story of how I did NOT manage to see Hey Rosetta last week. The lesson: never do your work in advance.

Really, I think the lesson might be "don’t buy concert tickets in advance for shows on work nights, since you’re just going to cancel out anyway, or wish that you could." You’d think I’d have learned my lesson with the Jason Collett show I skipped out on, or the Our Lady Peace show that left me pulling an all-nighter at work. Give me a few months and I’ll surely write this paragraph over again.

Having said that, I can use those opening paragraphs to pad my word count. And I’ll even describe that night’s opening act, Gramercy Riffs, in the interest of concert review completeness:

They were a band.

Does that sound mean? It wasn’t meant to. I liked them just fine. Guitars and drums and keyboards and bass and vocals. Perfectly designed for Rock Band, which is really how I experience most of my music these days, it seems. It’s just that – and I’m really playing fast and loose with the chronology in this thing – it’s now been over four weeks since the Hey Rosetta show that wasn’t and three weeks since the Arrogant Worms show that was, and I don’t remember a whole lot and I really need to get this thing over with before 54-40 tomorrow night. This might have set a new record for concert review lateness.

When I’m reviewing a show by a band that I’ve liked for a long time, I usually make some comment about how I don’t know how I’d feel about the band if I discovered them for the first time today. "Weird Al" Yankovic is a great example. I was probably 9 or 10 when I heard my first Weird Al song, and that’s really the perfect age to do so. Accordions and Hawaiian shirts will never be funnier than when you’re a 10-year-old boy.

But what would I think of Weird Al today if I’d never listened to him until now? Well, this show is about as close as I could come to finding out. For whatever reason, I pretty much missed out on the whole Arrogant Worms thing. I’m not sure how. I like songs, and I like funny, and I especially like funny songs. I knew their song The Last Saskatchewan Pirate because I have, in fact, been to a wedding dance in Saskatchewan before, and your marriage isn’t legal until that song has been played. As an internet minister not legally allowed to perform weddings in Saskatchewan, I am very familiar with these rules.

But aside from Last Saskatchewan Pirate – and for that matter, the version of Pirate that I had most often heard was actually performed by Captain Tractor – I remained unfamiliar with the Arrogant Worms for a long time. I guess the best explanation I can offer is that from an early age, I fell into the Radio Free Vestibule camp in the great family-friendly, CBC-approved comedic Canadian song wars. The Arrogant Worms lost out by default. Mika played me a few songs, but the band has been around for 20 years, so I was largely going in blind. 

I parked a bit further away than I would have liked, but we survived. The show started right on time, as casino shows tend to do. We had chairs. They brought us drinks. It was nicely comfortable. I expect I can copy and paste this sentence into the 54-40 review tomorrow. I’d do it now, but I’ve learned my lesson about starting these things early.

The show was divided into two 45-minute sets. That’s relatively common with casino shows, but it seemed like it didn’t do much but pad out the evening, which was still over pretty quickly. There was no opening act either. The first set was fine enough. Nothing special. I’d tell you what songs were played, but really, like I can remember? The second half had the songs that I’d actually heard before, including Carrot Juice Is Murder, and Jesus’ Brother Bob. Last Saskatchewan Pirate was the encore, which it would pretty much have to be here.

The songs and jokes are exactly as you’d expect based on their titles. Even if you’ve never heard them, you already know if you like them or not. I know that some of you were rolling your eyes just reading them. Me, I thought all of their songs were fine. Wait, I used "fine" to describe that other band earlier. How about, hmm… "pleasant." There were some chuckles but no belly laughs, no wiping away of tears. A good time but not a life-changing experience.

The best part of the show was the series of running jokes about the empty table right by the stage – someone bought tickets and missed the entire first set. They walked in partway through the second set to what was probably the loudest applause of the evening. I hope they enjoyed the five songs they were there for.

 – 54-40 (April 3)
 – Regina Folk Festival feat. kd lang, Hawksley Workman, KT Tunstall, Andrew Bird, Taj Mahal, Fred Penner, and more (August 5-7)


Carolyn & NQ, Arrogant Worms, It Might Get Loud and SLOOOOAAN!

Another long while between blasts. It’s about bloody time I got at least something up here…

Carolyn Mark & NQ Arbuckle – Let’s Just Stay Here

I’ve loved this disc from the get-go. And I was writing initial reviews of it in my head right after I got it. Obviously, I never got around to the actual writing part. But now I realize that this negligence has actually been a blessing in disguise. Sure, I’d have raved about this record at the time. It’s a solid, engaging and excellent effort that definitely has its own feel, creates its own space to breathe and be all the awesome that it is and then goes for it full-on. But the added advantage I have in waiting until now to post this is in getting to tell you just how much of a good friend this record has become with repeated listens. Damn, man. This rules. The trademark humour, the harmonies, the excellent music from the band. It sounds equally great in my iPod, my stereo, and in my rumbly old truck. Yeah baby, this is the real deal.

Arrogant Worms – Three Worms And An Orchestra

A fun DVD, exactly as you’d expect: the group’s goofy songs with full arrangements from the Edmonton SO. They underhand-pitch most of their schtick between songs, and fair enough. Good family fun. The song ‘Celine Dion’ still makes me howl.

It Might Get Loud

A mostly cool meeting of three generations of guitar biggies; Jack White, The Edge and Jimmy Page. They play, talk, reminisce…

It was nice to see the elder-statesman Page still so enthralled with the music, and he seemed a good sport about this gig. He gets paid the least attention, though, which is odd given his legacy.

It’s hard to take somebody who calls himself The Edge seriously, especially since he’s been playing essentially the same damn riff for twenty years. All his effects and knob-twiddlings fail to interest me.

White came out best in this, to my mind. The brash impatience and energy, the studied acknowledgement of the dark corners of the blues, the wavering between respect and arrogance. We laughed when he said, on the way to this historic meeting, that he expected a fistfight. Haha. Yeah, if the future remains in his hands we’ll be alright.

Recommended viewing, even if they do totally butcher ‘The Weight’ during the end credits.

Sloan – Hit & Run EP

Sloan has a new EP and a B-Sides collection available for cheap on their web site. You should go buy them right now.

This EP is a thoughtful collection of new material in that inimitable Sloan style. Strong writing, gorgeous song construction and instrumentations, incredibly catchy hooks, and the sense that while these songs are great on the EP, they’ll be even better live. Yeah baby! SLOOOOAANN!!!

I’ll get to writing about the b-sides collection after I give it another full spin.

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