I can write this in 15 minutes before bed, right?
A little better than 20 years ago (god), Pat invited me to go see The Tea Party with him at Louis’. I didn’t know anything about The Tea Party and I didn’t really know Pat that well – it was the first time we ever hung out without Deserée around – but he had a spare ticket and knew that I was generally up to go see any band for any reason. Apart from being historic in my friendship with Pat, this gig was fondly remembered because it was Halloween and there was a girl there in a genie costume (think Barbara Eden) that remains memorable to this day. Even without that, I had a fine time though Pat was somewhat disgusted that I was so ignorant about the band yet still found myself with a coveted ticket for the sold-out show.
Back in 2011, 6 years and 110 reviews ago, I saw The Tea Party for the second time, this time because Mika wanted to go. During that 15-year span between concerts, the band went on hiatus for many years. I was barely more familiar with them the second time out and wasn’t really super pumped to go, but they put on a really good (and, again, sold out) show. Though they sounded the same as ever, their personalities had softened over the years and that was a pleasant surprise. Also, I’m pretty sure that this was the last show I ever went to at the Distrikt but if I have 15 minutes, I’m not about to fact-check that.
Now it is 2017. There’s been another Tea Party album since then. They still own teaparty.com and I don’t imagine that’s as valuable as it would have been back in 2011 but it’s still probably worth something. They’ve moved from the late lamented Distrikt to the much larger casino but this show still sold out a month in advance. This makes three straight shows where I’ve been surprised by how popular they are and you’d think maybe I’d learn something from this.
It was also the first time I’ve ever been to a sold-out show at the casino where they offered general admission standing room on the floor. You can fit a lot of people in there. And there were some characters. Mixed in with a ton of people who looked like me (old doughy dudes in Louis CK cosplay), there were definitely some interesting choices of attire, haircut, and makeout technique. It was some of the best people watching I’ve had outside of Las Vegas.
The Tea Party has been around for quite a while, and this was the 20th anniversary tour for their album Transmission. I had an earlier album, The Edges of Twilight, but was only familiar with Temptation, the big single from Transmission. I had big plans of giving the album a once-through before the show, but when I went into my Apple Music, one of my daily playlists it chose for me was Jukebox Hits: ’90s Alt, Vol. 1, so sorry guys, you lost out to Spacehog and Marcy Playground.
Someday I’ll remember that whenever I hear a song that sounds vaguely familiar, like the most generic 90s alt-rock song possible, it’s always, always Silverchair. But I digress.
Anyway, as one would expect, The Tea Party played all of Transmission, though not in order. This nicely solved the issue that can develop with these play-the-whole-album anniversary shows; namely, everyone knows the hits from the first half of the album and nobody knows the back half. This let them build to and close with Temptation instead of starting with it.
After no opener and a bit of a late start (20 minutes – not even worth noting at most shows but an eternity in casino time), playing Transmission took about an hour. After that, they took an intermission and came back for the second half. Or the third third, really, since the second part was only about a half-dozen songs. There were a few more songs I knew (Heaven Coming Down, Sister Awake, The Bazaar) and also a selection of covers, including Heroes and Paint It, Black.
I mentioned before that the band’s personalities had softened over the years. Back in the day, they wrote dark, moody, mysterious songs. Now, they joke about writing dark, moody, mysterious songs. I can’t see The Tea Party of 20 years ago doing that, and I especially can’t see them starting Sister Awake and using that to segue into U2’s With or Without You because it was St. Patrick’s Day yesterday and it kind of fits, so why not?
Like at the previous shows, I was not really the intended audience but I still thought they were quite good. If you want actual musical opinions, I don’t know. I liked the harder stuff better than the more ballady parts. The Middle Eastern influences that have always been their differentiators are always interesting. They mentioned some of their 90s contemporaries like I Mother Earth and Moist, and I liked The Tea Party’s show better than when we saw those bands at the casino. (Mika liked I Mother Earth best of the three. But we still appreciated your efforts, guys from Moist.)
Back in the day, I’d go to shows with Pat and he’d go to the bathroom and come back and report on weird goings-on. As such, it was only fitting that Mika came back from the bathroom to let me know that someone was loudly complaining that the casino was cleaning the bathroom during intermission (note: this was not actually happening) and that if the four people ahead of her in line didn’t hurry up, she was going to piss in the sink. This is not something that I’ve ever encountered in the men’s room. I wondered what kind of person does that, since most drunk dudes I encounter at concerts just want to be loud and don’t bother with making words. Luckily, I was able to find out! As we were leaving, a very tipsy but very friendly lady told us how much she liked our glasses (specifically Mika’s; I only got added into the compliment through some initial confusion) and wished us a good night. I was later informed that this was piss-in-the-sink lady. I was pleased to make her acquaintance and glad that, wherever she eventually wound up peeing, she had a pleasant evening.
• Bill & Joel Plaskett w/Mayhemingways (March 23)
• Lisa LeBlanc (March 30)
• I Love The 90s feat. Salt N Pepa, Vanilla Ice, Color Me Badd, Young MC, and Rob Base (April 1)
• The Last Waltz Remembered feat. Corb Lund, Matt Andersen, Amy Helm, & the Russell Broom House Band (April 5)
• BA Johnston w/Napalmpom (April 28)
• kd lang (August 26)
• Guns N’ Roses (August 27)
• Martha Wainwright (October 22)
I started university in Windsor in 1993, and it seemed like everyone from there wanted to claim they knew these guys. Maybe they did, I dunno. But there was a lot of excitement about their hometown boys. Me, I never did get the first release, but I did buy this one and I’ve always loved every inch of it.
There’s a huge sound here, like it’s all being played perfectly in a big cave in, I dunno, Morocco or something. Whatever, it’s just so satisfying. And the tunes tell tales, smartly written, poetry really, and the music adroitly matches each. Sure, they have their tricks, those things they do that make them sound like only they can sound – Jeff Martin’s yelp, those drum fills, the song structures themselves, often enough… More than a few people said they had their Zeppelin moments in those Eastern-sounding riffs… But then they throw a curveball at you, like the drenched blues of Sun Going Down. Damn it all to hell, I love that tune.
Anyway, the hits here were huge, and the other tracks shoulda been. Not one fault on this record. Not a damn one.
Here’s all you need to know:
The River * Midsummer Day * A Certain Slant of Light * Winter Solstice * Save Me * Sun Going Down * In This Time * Dreams Of Reason * Raven Skies * Haze On The Hills * The Majestic Song.
Every time I play this, it take me back to the halls of residence, first year university. Everyone around me drunk, on the make, and listening to this album. Heady times… This band went on to do many other, very interesting things. But this is the record to which I always return.
The Splendor Solis is an alchemical text, sure, but this album has an alchemy all its own. If you don’t have this, go get you some immediately.
We were doing the dishes tonight, and the conversation was on concerts we’d attended, and my lovely wife tells me how one time in university she went to see the Tea Party in concert. I remembered that story. And she adds, well, it was about the same as when we saw them in Montreal, but that time was with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra…
What? We saw the Tea Party in Montreal? Oh yeah, she says. For Canada Day. Talking it through, we worked it out to it probably would’ve been the year 2000 because of who was with us and where they were in their relationship, as well as the years we lived in that city. But that’s not the real issue here:
I cannot remember seeing the Tea Party in concert. AT ALL.
So she says oh yeah, it was really hot that day. And apparently I liked the symphony part but thought the Tea Party’s performance wasn’t so great. She remembers what I thought of it? I don’t even remember being there!!
I am very disconcerted (pun intended) about all of this. I mean, I pay attention to music. And if I attend a concert, I’m fairly certain I’ll remember at least some of it! That I went to a major national celebration in one of our country’s largest cities, (probably) in a millenium year no less, and saw a band I would think that I would remember except that I don’t remember anything about it…
I have to take her word for it but damn, this is disturbing.
You need to know two things about The Tea Party:
1)- I saw them in concert at the campus bar on Halloween 15 years ago. There was a girl there in a Jeannie costume (as in "I Dream Of…") and that remains one of the highlights of my concert-going history.
2)- They own teaparty.com which means that they're essentially instant millionaires if they sell now, and the internet tells me that they're going to. Does that mean we can rule out "for the money" if I wonder why they're back together after a lengthy hiatus?
You also need to know that I didn't feel like going to this show. I often don't; I buy tickets well in advance, and then the day rolls around, and then I think that maybe laying around doing nothing would be pretty good too. It is my area of expertise and I like what I know. But this time, I had never had any interest in going. Mika wanted to see them and I was pretty much just along for the ride. She paid, so I was fine with this.
The opener was The Reason, a band I'd never heard of. We showed up after they were already done. I will assume they were great and will go on to immediate massive fame and will never come back here. I make this joke every time I miss the opening act, I think. And I think I make this observation every time as well.
Given that I wasn't too gung-ho about the show in the first place, we really timed our arrival perfectly. We walked in, took our spots at the back of a massive wall of people, and the Tea Party took the stage about five minutes later. I wish I wrote this review the day after the show instead of six weeks after, so I could document exactly what time we got there. It would be quite the handy time to know.
The wall of people did surprise me. I am not exaggerating when I said that I last saw The Tea Party 15 years ago, and I really don't know what they've done since then. I know there was a lengthy breakup somewhere along the line. I'd ask Mika for details but she's playing LA Noire, and I'd search the internet except I don't really care. As far as I was concerned, they put out one CD that I listened to somewhere around 1996 (The Edges of Twilight – I had to look it up), followed it up with a few more albums that I never bothered with, and then I forgot about them entirely. I figured that's how it was for everyone else too; I forget sometimes that the whole world doesn't consist solely of things that I see and know about. There was an entire sold-out club full of people who hadn't forgotten about The Tea Party.
And these people were drunk. My goodness. It has been a long time since I have been around that many people who were that drunk and that loud. There was shouting, shoving, stumbling, and presumably a wide range of other S-words. I am not opposed to the drink, but if I'm driving, I'm not going to be drinking. And like everyone, my tolerance for drunks depends entirely on my own state. This is a roundabout way of saying that I wanted to stab a whole lot of people by the time the night was over.
Anyway, the show. I wouldn't say The Tea Party was the best show I saw all year, but it might have been the one that most exceeded my expectations. Granted, I'd set the bar pretty low, but as much as I hate surprises, I do like being pleasantly surprised.
The first half of the show was pretty much straight-up rock, which I wouldn't have guessed. Back when I half-heartedly followed the band, they had the reputation for being pretentious. The band was known for incorporating Middle Eastern influences into their music, and lead singer Jeff Martin seemed to fancy himself a Jim Morrison type. But there really wasn't much of that at this show. The band seemed almost laid-back, with Martin chatting amiably with the crowd. The second half of the show did feature more of the old songs that I knew, which was nice, but those songs did kinda drag on compared to the newer ones. At least to me; Mika liked the older stuff better.
Also, there was a theremin somewhere in here, which was neat.
We left shortly into the encore. Being old, I was fine with this, but I would also have been fine with sticking it out to the bitter end. I have to score this as quite the victory for The Tea Party, since I was ready to leave pretty much as soon as I got there.