Welcome to my Gratitude Series, wherein I go through the loveliness I have received for my birthday this year! Here we have goodness from James. Check it out!
Mo Kenney – Mo Kenney
Here we have Mo Kenney’s 2012 debut album, another brilliant birthday gift to me from James! Kenney’s name has turned up in the KMA pages a few times already, in James’ concert reviews. I don’t know how many times he’s seen her perform, but based on this record, even once would be brilliant.
The songs here have an ethereal, floating quality to them. It’s her beautiful voice, a little breathy but not affectedly so. Paste that over some sweet and pure pop tunes, mix in gorgeous acoustic guitar passages, and some brilliant slow and thoughtful tunes, and you’ll get some idea of what this record offers.
She reminds me, actually, of the brilliant Zee Avi, song-wise. Yet comparison is dangerous – she has her own strong sound, too. It’s impossible to not be swept up in everything going on in these tracks. Produced by Joel Plaskett, this is an absolute gem of an album.
Wiki tells me she has one other record, called In My Dreams, and it’s going straight to my search list for Toronto (in the fall, with Mike) immediately!
Thanks heaps, James!
A guy named Kim and a girl named Mo walk into a bar. They put on a good show and everyone has a good time.
I am the worst at jokes.
Mo Kenney is a protégé of sorts of Joel Plaskett. Mika and Other James and I saw her last year and it was good times. She has a new album out and I like it. And Kim Churchill is Australian. Now you are caught up, or at least as caught up as I was.
Kenney also played the Regina Folk Festival this year, but not while I was there. Other James had backstage passes for the weekend and he got to chat with her for a bit. He said she was very nice and very gracious, even when mainstage host Al Simmons said “Mo Kenney – that guy is great!” This story made me laugh much harder than it should have. When I told Mika, it had a similar effect. I guess we will take any excuse to make fun of Al Simmons, who is still much better as a festival host (and probably all other areas of life) than Bubba B The MC. PHOTO OP PHOTO OP PHOTO OP PHOTO OP
Oh well. They can’t all be Fred Penner.
Anyway. I’ve been complaining about bands skipping over Regina, so I’ve been trying to make a point of going to more shows. The best way to get more bands to come here is to go see the ones who do, right? But it’s cold now, and I get lazy, and it’s real easy to bail out if I haven’t made concrete plans. So in a moment of enthusiasm – by which I mean while I was briefly awake and energetic and aware of my surroundings – I popped online to buy a ticket to this show. There have been times when I was willing to take the financial hit by skipping out, and I’m sure it will happen again, but buying in advance in moments of enthusiasm helps the odds.
If you read the MBF review, this evening started off much the same. Mika went to school. I took a bus downtown. Walked through the cold to The Exchange. Bought an iced tea when I got there. The cold is colder now, with no way to avoid wearing a parka, but there were lots of open seats so I had someplace to park my coat. And my butt. I appreciated having a place for both. I sat around for a bit, probably getting caught up on iPhone games (it’s been several weeks since this show – I really don’t know what I did – but that’s almost always a pretty good guess at concerts) (and at home, at work, in airports, at funerals, etc.) until Mark and Other James arrived. We chatted for a bit before they found their pals and took their seats.
Kenney was here with a band this time. I don’t know if it was having a few other people on stage with her, or if it was just the result of a year of recording and touring, but she came across much more confident this time out. Beyond that, her show felt much the same as the one the year before despite the addition of a new album’s worth of songs. This is not a bad thing! I liked both shows; there were just no real surprises this time (apart from the story of the drawing on the drum, which I’ll keep to myself so as not to wreck the eventual comic book). They played many of the same songs as last time, including the same covers of Shakin’ All Over and Five Years. I suppose her new single Telephones is a cover too, but I didn’t know that until yesterday (it’s by a band named Mardeen, who I had never heard of until writing this very sentence) so it doesn’t count. Because I get to decide what counts. I’m listening to the Mardeen version right now and it’s good! So we’re all learning something here today. Or maybe I’m slow and thus the only one.
The hits from the last album – Déjà Vu and Sucker – got the big reactions, of course. And I don’t believe she played my favourite song from the new album – Take Me Outside – so that will be something to look forward to for next time.
Between sets, a dude walked through the crowd selling Kenney’s CDs. I admired the hustle – don’t wait for me to come to the stuff table, bring the stuff to me! I already had both of Kenney’s albums, but I’d see that salesman again later.
During the break, I got to chat some more with Mark. I had bought my ticket to see Kenney and really knew nothing about Kim Churchill. I was prepared to give the guy a shot but was also quite willing to leave early if I wasn’t into it. Mark echoed my sentiments. He then told me that he couldn’t come to the Buck 65 show the following night because he had plans. These plans included “setting up a craft show” and “cutting up a deer.” I think we live very different lives. Mine has much less venison.
Kim Churchill looks Australian. He has Australian hair. If that makes you think of Yahoo Serious on the box for the Young Einstein videotape, 1) you’re wrong, but not by as much as you might think, and 2) when did we get so old?
Unlike Kenney, Churchill was alone on the stage, but though he was just one man, he was indeed a one-man band. He played guitar and sang, wore a harmonica on a harness around his neck, played drums and sampling pedals with his feet, and had some chimes set up by his elbow. I on the other hand, cannot pat my head and rub my stomach at the same time. I was impressed enough that he could do this at all, and then it turned out he was really good on top of it. Dude can play. And I just tested that patting/rubbing thing and wound up punching myself in the balls and poking an eyeball.
Seriously, Churchill put on a great performance. I couldn’t tell you what he played, apart from recognizing the one song I’d listened to one time before the show (Window to the Sky). Didn’t matter. This was great. I recorded a video of one song and put it up on YouTube. No idea what the song is called. Don’t care. Great. You should watch it, and if he ever comes to your town, you should go. There should have been more people there for this.
I caught up with Mark and Other James after the show and they were both suitably blown away. Mark picked up all three Churchill CDs, as the salesman cut him a package deal. They left, and I browsed the stuff table while waiting for Mika to come and get me. I decided to pick up a CD. “Which one?” asked the salesman. I had no idea so I went for the newest one. The salesman smelled blood and pretty soon I had the package deal too. I can’t even be upset about it. He did his job amazingly well. And as I only had $48 in cash on me, I got the CDs for $2 less than Mark did. VICTORY!
With time to spare, I decided to talk to Churchill for a minute and get my CDs signed. By this point, there were only a handful of people left in The Exchange. I was patiently waiting my turn when I was joined by someone who I had never seen before in my life.
If Cathy reads this, she will tell me that the following story would only ever happen to me. I think she might be right.
So. Bald guy. About my height. Has a mustache that he doesn’t appear to be fully committed to so I assume it was for Movember. He’s drinking a beer. And he says to me, “Fuck, man, what a great fuckin’ show, man. That song about the darkness? Fuck, man, I’ve been there. I was out by fuckin’ Radville earlier today, and I blew a fuckin’ tire, so man, I’m fuckin’ lucky to be alive.”
At this point I was convinced that this fellow was the most fascinating man I had ever met. I was also a little bit terrified. But mostly fascinated.
“Man, you never fuckin’ know. Like that song about the fuckin’ darkness? It’s fuckin’ out there, but music, man, music will help you fuckin’ keep it together. Music can save your fuckin’ life, man. It saved mine.”
“I was in a persistent vegetative state for three months and when I woke up, I didn’t recognize my own father. But they gave me a toilet paper tube, right? And I could do my fingering exercises from when I used to play the violin.”
He demonstrated on an invisible toilet paper tube.
He then asked if I was musical (no, though I’ve never made an honest effort to try to be) and told me about some of the groups he plays with. One of them sounded familiar and I asked if we might know the same person – one of my workplace’s multitude of Dougs.
“YOU KNOW DOUGIE?!”
Kim Churchill was now waiting to talk to us. I will always very much wonder what he thought of this whole situation. We all chatted for a bit but I quickly took my leave as Mika showed up, and besides, my enthusiastic new best friend had loads of questions about Churchill’s stage setup and I had nothing to contribute to this conversation. But I will always remember the last thing I heard him say: “So THAT’S where the fuckin’ snare comes from!”
In recent reviews, I have complained about how I feel like I’m not getting into a lot new music these days. Between the increasing fragmentation of mass media, the fact that new pop music just isn’t meant for me, and my old-man reluctance to try something that I don’t already know and love, it often feels like the only new albums I hear are from my old favourites.
Luckily, Mika listens to CBC Radio 3. Last year, whenever we had to drive somewhere, she started loading up her iPhone with a few installments of their countdown show, the R3-30. It has its share of stuff that I don’t care for, but the hits-to-misses ratio is surprisingly decent. I just made a new CD for the car – because I am old and set in my ways and dang it, I enjoy my outdated technology – and close to half of it is composed of songs I first heard on the R3-30.
One of the first standouts from those podcasts was Mo Kenney’s song Déjà Vu, a song so catchy that I’ll go through the effort of adding the accents even though this is America and we speak English here. I probably first heard the song over a year ago, but I seemingly can’t make myself sick of it. It’s like pizza, which is a comparison that I’m not certain Kenney would appreciate, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Mika bought her debut album – not specifically because it was produced by Joel Plaskett, but that certainly didn’t hurt – and I really enjoyed it, so I was excited for the show. I’d say that the $10 tickets certainly didn’t hurt, but I hate reusing my clichés so close to each other.
We got to the Artful Dodger mere moments after Other James had arrived. We bought drinks and got caught up, by which I mean we mostly swapped cat stories. They climb so high and land so hard and talk so much, but my cat kills birds. Other James would not stand for such behaviour.
Other James had red wine and Mika got a rum and Coke. In my true boring fashion, I opted for a Diet Coke. They served it in this heavy clay glass that got insanely cold. I had to keep switching hands. I fell in love with this glass. People on the internet who don’t know me might think this is a weird statement. People who know me closely will think it is even weirder. I mean, I am 37 and my primary drinking glasses came from Rogers Video and had the logos of James Bond movies emblazoned on them. I am not even kidding about this. You just can’t tell because they’ve gone through the dishwasher often enough to take off most of the lead paint. Other James – because he knows everyone in the province – told me that my glass was made by Martin Tagseth, an artist from Lake Lenore. I cannot prove this to be true and some preliminary googling raises a very important issue; namely, I can’t see a restaurant or bar paying those kinds of prices considering how often glasses get smashed. However, I am gonna put this link right here in case the glass was made by Tagseth, he puts something similar up for sale someday, and a wealthy benefactor wants me to have drinkware that I can also use to kill a man: http://www.mysteria.ca/Artist-Detail.cfm?ArtistsID=702&ppage=120
Man. I wanted to steal the glass and Mika said “no” and I wasn’t really going to do it anyway but now that I had to relive its heft and coldness, I’m sad that I didn’t.
Our opener was Andy Shauf, a singer-songwriter from Regina. I didn’t know a whole lot about him, though I’d seen his name everywhere; it seems like he is one of those Indigo Joseph/Julia McDougall types who plays a ton of shows here and you’ll wind up seeing him every now and then, even if by accident. In voice and mannerisms, he reminded me of some sort of bizarre cross between Will Forte and my friend Colin, a comparison which means precisely nothing to anyone on Earth apart from me. And maybe Colin, if he watched Saturday Night Live a few years ago. But I don’t think he did. Anyway, I thought his songs were pretty decent, though I occasionally had a hard time making out the lyrics and I had a feeling that I might actually prefer the recorded versions. I’m currently listening to a few of his tunes on the Bandcamp page for his newest album – http://andyshauf.bandcamp.com/album/the-bearer-of-bad-news because apparently I’m linking to everything today – and it seems like that might be the case.
I see that his page has five tags: pop, dark, folk, Regina, and clarinet. There was, indeed, a clarinet on stage. When Mika first saw the clarinet, she was skeptical. Other James, on the other hand, was delighted. But when is he not?
Between sets, Other James spent part of the evening chatting with roller derby girls, and he also pointed out the lead singer of Library Voices in the crowd. Like I said, everyone in the province.
Mo Kenney has had two songs that did really well on the R3-30 (that I’ve heard, anyway; I tend to skip the show for weeks at a time). One thing I’ve noticed is that people who’ve heard both seem to have distinct preferences for one or the other – Sucker or Déjà Vu. I’ve already established myself as being firmly in the Déjà Vu camp, but I have a newfound appreciation for Sucker after having learned that it was written while drunk, dumped, and depressed about making pizzas for Sobey’s. It all makes sense now.
Kenney’s album has ten songs and clocks in at only about 34 minutes, so it’s not surprising that she played the whole thing. She was on her first tour with a band – a bass player and a drummer – though they left the stage for about the middle third of the set so Kenney could do some songs by herself. Like on the album, In My Lungs segued into Déjà Vu. Before playing Eden, she mentioned making a video for it with director Greg Jackson; she did not say that this was NOT the same Greg Jackson who is Georges St-Pierre’s coach, so I choose to assume that it was. This was for a contest and they won, so let’s continue with today’s linkfest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=em6JaCq44nY
The songs from the record were supplemented by some new songs that she’d recently written with some Swedes, as well as a cover of Joel Plaskett’s Somewhere Else. I half-thought Mika might consider this to be blasphemy, but she doesn’t have the no-covering-my-favourites rule that some of my other friends have. Kenney also played Five Years, introducing it as “the first song on a record that my dad gave me; I won’t tell you what it is.” I decided it was a Leonard Cohen song and then I googled it to make sure and haha no whoops it’s David Bowie and probably everyone on Earth knew that but it turns out I sometimes don’t know things about things at all. I suppose this is how one learns.
Kenney seemed a little nervous at times, especially when she was talking between songs. She seemed to loosen up a bit as the show went on, and she also has a dry sense of humour that I found really appealing. Mika noted that her voice seemed the strongest when she was singing other people’s songs. I’m not sure about that; maybe it’s just that most of her own songs are quieter and aren’t really designed to be belted out.
The band closed with a cover of Shakin’ All Over, which was a fun and energetic way to end a really good show. The only real negative during the evening was the crowd; there seemed to be quite a few people who either left as the show was getting going or who just weren’t interested in paying attention. I think some people were only there to see Andy Shauf (I get that; he’s local and he was good and all), and the low ticket prices probably didn’t help matters either. I’ve said before that I’d rather pay to go to a show rather than go to a free show, since the cost weeds out some of the people who aren’t really interested in being there. Maybe raising ticket prices – even $5 or so – might have kept a few not-really-interested people out but brought in as much money? Who knows how these things work.
Kenney said she was planning to stick around after the show and sell CDs, and she also said that people could just talk with her or they could “embrace.” We didn’t stay for that, since Mika already bought the album, and the Artful Dodger had been really warm (which is one reason why I loved that cold glass so much) and it seemed cruel and unfair to ask anyone to embrace me at that point. Other James hung around for a bit; I haven’t talked to him since the show, but I assume him and Mo Kenney are bestest friends now, since that’s just how he works.
• Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls w/The Smith Street Band & Koo Koo Kanga Roo (October 22)
• Loretta Lynn (October 23)
• Herman’s Hermits (the Peter Noone version) (November 20)
• Ben Folds & Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (May 21, 2014)