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Big Sugar – Hit And Run

I’m a fan of Big Sugar from way back. Probably their first two records are my favourites (which makes me sound like a snob… ah well) but all of them are great!

This disc is a hits set spanning everything up to 2003. If you’ve been following the career of this band at all, most of the songs you’ve heard on the radio or in your friend’s car are all here. What a feast of great jazzy bluesy rawkin’ tunes and guitar mayhem. It covers all the band’s sounds and styles (they have changed a bit, over the years) but it all still works together fantastically.

Apparently this was a 2CD set, Hit being the first disc, which I have here, and Run being a live concert disc (which I did not receive in this copy)… Still, I can’t complain, it was $1.50.

I loved this set, it was awesome. I think this comment on Amazon for this CD summed it up best: “Love it. But don’t play while driving. Got stopped for speeding.”

Track Listings:

Hit

1 Sleep in Late
2 Ride Like Hell
3 I’m a Ram
4 Dear Mr. Fantasy
5 Diggin’ a Hole
6 If I Had My Way
7 Opem Up Baby
8 The Scene
9 Better Get Used to It
10 Turn the Lights On
11 Red Rover
12 Nicotina (She’s All That)
13 All Hell for a Basement
14 I Want You Now*
15 Trouble in the City*
16 Three Minute Song*

* Unreleased songs.

Run

1 Goodbye Train / Hammer in My Hand
2 Skull Ring / Joe Louis / Nashville Grass
3 I’m a Ram / Rambo
4 Groundhog Day / Armagideon Time
5 Where I Stand / In My Time of Dying

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SLCR #162: Big Sugar (November 2, 2011)

These guys. My goodness.

Many years ago – all the way back in SLCR #8 – I saw Big Sugar and they were way too loud for the venue. Alternate (and equally possible) history: I was a giant wimp. My ears hurt for three days after the show, and I wrote what would prove to be the most negative concert review in my long and storied history. "Mediocre music at head-flattening decibels," I said. "The lead singer was a real prick," I said. "The most annoying band in Canadian music history."

Okay, even acknowledging that it was written in an innocent, pre-Bieber era, that last one was ridiculously ridiculous. I was just in a bad mood. Regardless, one day's surly opinion was on the internet forever, and it proved to be very controversial. I got upwards of TWO negative emails from random web surfing Big Sugar fans. Sadly, all I saved for the ages was an exchange with Sexy Studmuffin (s_studmuffin@hotmail.com), who – in between telling me about the sex that he has with ladies – said "Big Sugar is the only reason I ever read your boring web-hole. Don’t come to a Big Sugar show. WE DON’T WANT YOU THERE!"

Since he was kind enough to give me the gift of a wonderful quote I can put on the back of the concert review collection book that I will never actually put together, I assured him I would never go back to a Big Sugar show. And 14 years later, I went back on my word. I hope he can forgive me.

See, I never really hated those guys. I liked some songs of theirs before the concert, and I liked some of their newer songs after that night. It was just wrong show, wrong night, and while it left me with a bad impression, I really wondered what it would be like to see them again. They split up for some time, but when the inevitable reunion tour brought them to the casino, I knew I had to go. And I bought earplugs within minutes of ordering the tickets online. Not that I needed to – when the server brought us our drinks before she show, she warned us that it was going to be loud and earplugs were available at the merchandise table. I never went and looked, but if they were actual Big Sugar-branded earplugs, I'm a little sorry I didn't buy any.

The first time I saw Big Sugar was also my first time seeing Big Rude Jake, which made the whole evening a net positive no matter how much my ears hurt. This time, our opener took us all the way back to SLCR #7 and Wide Mouth Mason. Like Big Rude Jake, they became an instant favourite from the first time I saw them. Opening for Big Sugar would mark the eighth time I've seen them, and the first show since bassist Earl Pereira left the band, only to be replaced by… Big Sugar's Gordie Johnson. Convenient, that.

This is the part where I'd like to talk about how much I enjoyed Wide Mouth Mason's set. Instead, it's the part where I get to talk about how it was the weakest Wide Mouth Mason show I've ever seen and was enough to make me think that I'd skip them next time they're in town. And I'm not willing to pin all the blame on Gordie, either.

I knew we were in trouble when I listened to No Bad Days, the newest Wide Mouth Mason album. Actually, I knew it even before that, when I saw the album artwork – a top contender for the worst I've ever seen. I haven't had any luck finding a decent high-resolution copy online (haven't looked real hard, either), but Gordie and drummer Safwan Javed are shooting lasers out of their eyes at photoshopped graffiti. Meanwhile, if lead singer Shaun Verrault murdered the person who did… THAT to his hair, no jury would convict him. The only acceptable excuse for that hair is if you're wrestling on the Superstation and you want a blade job to show up well on camera.

Setting aside the aesthetics, I didn't care for the sound of the album either. It seemed like they'd given up on writing interesting songs and instead figured they could say anything as long as they tried to play all funky-like. I understand that, but it's not my thing. "I dare anyone to tell us it's not the best record we've ever made," said Verrault from the stage. Well, I'm here to tell you that… I pussed out entirely. I mean, I have no interest in starting a fight with the guy, you know? Instead, I'll hide behind the internet and say that No Bad Days wasn't all that good. That'll show him.

I will say that live, I enjoyed the new songs better than the old ones. I had no expectations for the new songs. The old songs, though, the ones I know and like, they were off. They all felt like they were being played too slowly, and not in a "stylistic choice" sort of way. Verrault, in particular, seemed a lot more interested in making guitar solo faces and poses than actually playing. So that was disappointing.

One brief intermission and I popped my earplugs in. Big Sugar (including Verrault and Javed) took the stage and launched into their first song. It sounded pretty good! Tentatively, I removed an earplug, and…

When I was a little kid, I saw a horror/suspense movie on Superchannel called Visiting Hours. It scared the tar out of me, so my dad liked to torment me by putting the movie on, or even just telling me that it was about to come on. About 25 years later, I saw that the movie was playing on TV. I had to tape it! I knew that it wouldn't be the same as it was when I was 8 (or thereabouts), but I had to watch it and see if it was even remotely scary to adult me. And I had my answer as soon as the opening credits made it to "also starring William Shatner." And this is as close as I can come to explaining the feeling I had when I took my earplugs out. All that fuss for THIS? It was pretty loud for a casino show, but that's not saying too much. But I suppose the band's lineup is different, they've all aged, and the casino probably doesn't lend itself well to playing as loud as you possibly can. At any rate, secure in the knowledge that my ears would be just fine, I left my earplugs out for the duration of the show. 

It was an odd mix of people on stage. I looked over my old review, and I don't remember Gordie Johnson looking quite so much like a cross between Willie Nelson and Silent Bob. And I definitely don't remember the white guy with the dreadlocks singing in the faux-Jamaican accent. I don't know how I feel about this guy. I mean, he seemed really happy and I'm sure he's a nice guy. But to quote this weekend's Saturday Night Live (I knew writing this review two months late would pay off), "if there's such a thing as a loving form of racism, I think you've found it."

But having said all that, I thought Big Sugar was pretty decent. They played most of their hits and a selection of their new songs (I wonder if I can make a macro that will insert that sentence into every concert review I ever write) and I really don't feel like nitpicking any more than I already have. I enjoyed all the songs, the band is obviously very talented, and the crowd loved them. And they even brought their (pre-encore) broadcast day to a close with a rendition of O Canada, which was a nice touch. So yeah, me and Big Sugar, I think we're cool now. Not so sure that Wide Mouth Mason will feel the same, though.

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