That’s what the poster called it so that’s what I’m calling it, at least once. And probably never again.
Let us briefly recap my history with Fred Eaglesmith, such as it is. For a long time, people have told me that I’d like his music. How long? The first song of his I ever heard was Time to Get a Gun, which Apple Music tells me came out 21 years ago. That was also the only song of his I heard for years. There were always other shows to go to, other CDs to buy. I don’t know what my excuse was in the Napster era but I clearly had one. Finally, two years ago (to the day, as I’m writing this), he came through town and the stars aligned (meaning I bought an advance ticket so I wasn’t likely to back out at the last minute) and I got the chance to see him. And sure enough, I had a really enjoyable time.
This time out, I got to the Exchange a few minutes before the show was set to start. It seemed a fair bit less busy than last time; I don’t attribute that to anything other than it being harder to get people out on a Sunday night than a Saturday. I took a seat in the back along the wall.
Right on time, we were joined by Fred Eaglesmith and Tif Ginn. And a kid? Their kid, specifically. Or so they said. I mean, I don’t know this kid. He’s in Grade 4 (home-schooled, or rather, “bus-schooled”) and his name is Blue, and he also has a real name that’s not Blue, but does that matter? All three of them sang two songs, then Blue sang a song by himself that he wrote about a puppy, then all three sang another song. Just as I was thinking “so… is the whole show going to be this?” Blue was done. Eaglesmith made what I thought was a joke about sending Blue to work the merch table, but I’m pretty sure that’s what he actually did.
This was, thus far, not my thing. One song would have been cute. Four? And it wasn’t like the kid was bad. It’s just… let me tell you this. When I was roughly that kid’s age, my dad bought me my first cassette player. He also got me two tapes, which I can only describe as wild-ass guesses as to my 10-year-old musical tastes: a Mini-Pops collection (if you’re younger than me, or possibly not Canadian, think Kidz Bop) and the greatest hits of Kenny Rogers. Despite only owning two cassettes for a while, I never even once made it through the first side of that Mini-Pops tape. Not my thing. I listened to a LOT of Kenny Rogers.
I may as well add here that when I was in high school, my dad also got me my first CD player and made a similar wild-ass guess as to what I’d like for my first two CDs and they were Tone-Loc’s Loc’ed After Dark and the Days of Thunder soundtrack. Days of Thunder got played only slightly longer than the Mini-Pops but at least it had Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door on it.
Anyway, back to the topic at hand. The rest of the show was pretty much exactly like that one two years ago. I recognized some of the same songs. He told some of the same jokes. Ginn sang a song or two on her own and sassed him a bit and played everything from ukulele to melodica to accordion to drums.
And like before, Fred spent a lot of time talking to the audience. The theme of “let’s all get along and everybody be nice to each other” is coming up a lot at these shows lately, and I get why, and I’m going to endorse it every time out (even though I don’t always do the best job of living it myself). The talk about “can you believe people buy expensive TVs to watch millionaires throw the ball around,” though – kinda hackneyed and also not real high on my list of pressing concerns these days.
I don’t generally mind when a show feels a lot like one that came before it, as long as the one that came before it was good. This time, though, I wasn’t feeling the start and so it took me quite a while to warm up to things. Which isn’t really fair – most of the show was what I was wanting. Eaglesmith mixes equal parts storytelling, humour, and commentary, an appealing mix which makes his songs quite listenable. And the sound at the Exchange was fantastic; I’m hardly even an Eaglesmith neophyte, much less an expert, but I could easily make out every word. The music sounded great as well. Really, everything was fine, just felt a bit like a rerun that I wasn’t quite as into the second time around.
Three behind! Again! For a place I don’t like to be, I sure find myself here often enough. I procrastinate, that’s kind of my thing. And I suppose it’s kind of fitting for this show. Fred Eaglesmith is a dude I’ve been meaning to see for something like 15 years.
I don’t know who first recommended Eaglesmith to me. Probably Jason, aka “Your Librarian Friend” in Mika code. We’ve known each other online for a very long time, and he’s been a Fred fan for far longer than that. I remember Josy hearing Fred songs at the radio station and telling me that I’d like him. Other folks have said so too. And yet, I never made the effort. I heard one song and enjoyed it, though it was so long ago that I don’t really remember it. And it’s not like he’s never come through town; I’ve just been busy, or broke, or something. Always something. So when this show got announced – I’m sure it was six months ago – I picked us up a pair of tickets right away. If I get tickets, we’ll go, right?
Okay, so that doesn’t always happen. Didn’t quite happen here either, as Mika wound up with a ticket to the Rams/Huskies game that was the inaugural event at our fancy-if-not-quite-finished new stadium. It was in the afternoon, so she could have gone to both, but with limited non-school personal time available, she picked the football game. Fair enough. Judging from Facebook, she was there with every person I know. Luckily, Other James was available in the evening and made sure her extra ticket got a good home.
We met at the Exchange shortly before the show was to begin and there was a line out the door. Doors at 7:30 apparently weren’t. Other James was more reserved than usual. He was feeling a little worse for wear after a late night out the night before, followed by a full day of sunshine in the garden. As I’m writing this, I’m watching it snow, as it’s been doing for the better part of the past week. I know this review is late, but it feels this show was a million years ago, weather-wise.
We found our way inside and the place was pretty packed. I don’t think it was a sellout but it couldn’t have been far from it. Other James got us some drinks and we found a nice slab of wall to stand against.
Based on the advertising, I thought Tif Ginn was our opening act. I thought wrong. She did get a few songs by herself after intermission, and they were real good, but for the most part she was playing along with and singing backup for Eaglesmith. They’re also married, which everyone probably already knows, but that was news to me. Though we’ve established that I didn’t know much about what I was getting myself into.
This was a delightful show. As predicted, I really enjoyed Eaglesmith’s songs, but I didn’t know he’d be quite such a showman. So many stories. So many jokes. I clearly should have taken that advice 15 years ago, but maybe it needed to happen now? Eaglesmith laughed about the age of his audience, essentially suggesting that they die off with some regularity, but there are always new people in their 40s discovering his music. “They borrow their dad’s car, put in a CD, and bam, I’ve got them.”
Not that everyone there was 40 and up. There was a wee lad in attendance – he looked to be maybe 3 or so – and he wandered up to the front, hopped right up on stage, and shook hands with Eaglesmith. That was pretty cute. Then he tried to talk to Ginn during her songs, then wandered back on stage when Fred came back out after intermission, and finally requested the song Freight Train. I don’t know from Eaglesmith songs but people seemed to think this was a pretty solid choice. The kid hung out at the front of the stage for a few more songs after Freight Train until Eaglesmith asked that he be given earplugs or taken to the back to protect his hearing. This got some applause that led me to believe that maybe some other people were also thinking that maybe this had become too much of a good thing, and also, where were this kid’s parents anyway? One of them took the kid back to their seats, at which point he began loudly whining about wanting to go back up to the front. It was deemed to be bedtime and home they want. He still outlasted Other James, who pulled the pin at intermission.
After Other James left, Your Librarian Friend and I chatted over Twitter about the concert. I would have gone over and talked with him in person, but I thought intermission would be over more quickly, so I probably just came across as standoffish. Hahaha whoops. Oh well, we got to catch up a bit after the show.
I haven’t talked a ton about the music because like I ever know what to say? It was real good. There. Straightforward country-ish songs that told little stories, with lots of humourous asides and tales of life on the road. Luckily, the sound at the Exchange was excellent, making it easy to hear the lyrics and the everything else.
That still doesn’t say much. And this week I have to write two more reviews for artists I know equally little about, so you might want to just skip past this whole week, really.