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SLCR #126: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists (10/17/2007)

I first found out that these guys were coming to Regina through a now-familiar chain of events; Mika reads Pitchfork, Mika emails me, I buy tickets.  This system works well for me.  I don’t have to wade through Pitchfork’s indie hipster douchebaggery myself, but I still get early notice about all the hot concerts.

And was this ever a hot concert.  I got the “Ted Leo is coming!” email.  I sent “Ted Leo is coming!” emails to several friends.  I received “Ted who?” emails in return.  This wasn’t a scattering of “Ted who?,” this was “Ted who?” straight across the board.  None of my very select group of Regina friends (they are a very select group because, in general, people don’t like me) had heard of Ted Leo.  It was looking like another go-by-myself night until I offered Colin a money-back guarantee, whereby I would refund the cost of his ticket if the show wasn’t to his liking.  Even with this guarantee in place, I was kind of surprised that he agreed to go to a show on my recommendation after that whole Geoff Berner debacle, but I guess I’ve effectively rebuilt my reputation over the past year.

Anyway, Ted Leo.  Since I’ve directed a touch of scorn at my uncultured friends, it’s only fair to disclose the full degree of my Ted Leo fandom.  Before the day that I got the initial “Ted Leo is coming!” email, I’d… um… kind of… heard… one… song.  Feely had sent it to me long ago.  It’s a good song.  I’d also heard a wacky joke cover song, but that doesn’t really count.

Colin seemed pretty perplexed when I finally explained this to him. 

“You seemed so excited to go see this guy.”

“I was!  And I am!”

“And yet, you’ve heard one song.”


“So… why, exactly, are you so excited to see this guy?”

I tried explaining that he doesn’t come to these parts often, and that he came very highly recommended by people who often have really good taste, including Mika.  I did not add Feely and Scott to the good-taste list, because then I’d have to explain who they are, and we were in line at the pita place at the time, and that requires a lot of attention.  I didn’t have time to get into the full history of the Feely Top Forty or the repeated invasions of Poland.

Showtime rolled around.  Colin picked me up around 9:00 and we headed to the Distrikt.  By that time, I had gotten my act together enough to listen to Ted Leo’s newest album.  Once.  It was good. 

It’s hard to pick the appropriate arrival time.  I didn’t want to stand around forever, but the show was all-ages which meant it might start early, but I’m old and no longer understand the concepts of “early” and “late.”  Turns out we were right on time, which is to say we missed the opening act.  Sorry, Northern Frost.   If it’s any consolation, you’ll probably go on to great fame and I will have to talk about the time you were opening for Ted Leo and I missed you.

We walked in and Ted Leo was on stage, explaining that there had been some confusion about the start time, so they were going to wait a few minutes.  And they did.  In the interim, he came over to the Stuff Table and I nearly bumped into him.  But then I didn’t, because I am smooth like that.

Bar music was playing.  We saw the monitor.  The bar music was controlled by Winamp.  This probably wasn’t funny but I sure thought it was funny.

I’ve gone into shows with low expectations and been blown away, and I’ve gone into shows with high expectations and been let down.  Here, I didn’t even know what my expectations were.  I heard he was awesome – high expectations!  I didn’t know any of his music – low expectations!  It turns out that Ted Leo is pretty awesome and great and beat my high expectations, if indeed I had high expectations.  He beat the low ones too, but that’s not saying as much.  I’d speak to the individual songs, but… yeah.  I’m ig’nant.  He didn’t play that one song that I know.  I did recognize a lot of the songs from the new album.

Between songs, we’d sometimes get stories.  At one point, someone yelled out “SOY!”  A Facebook note later revealed the SOY!-yelling culprit to be none other than Travis, who is one of those people who I am Facebook friends with, but in real life, we’re only mildly aware of each others’ existence.  But never mind that.  The yelling of SOY! prompted many yells of “TACO BELL!,” as Ted Leo found himself in a bit of a mix-up with the Taco Bell people in the week before our show.  Ted declined to comment, saying that this was a discussion best reserved for the blogosphere.  This got laughter and applause, which makes me think that I’m missing part of the story.  Really, I only know the part that was explained on Pitchfork, in an article appropriately entitled “Ted Leo to Taco Bell: ‘WTF?’

At another point between songs, we faced a lull, which resulted in Ted Leo being taunted by a Pharmacist, which eventually led to a fan getting up on stage and doing the Three Amigos salute.  Sadly, this wasn’t Travis.

I haven’t spoken much of the Pharmacists, and it is not that I don’t (heart) them too.  It’s just that “Ted Leo and the Pharmacists” is a long-ass name, and saying it all the time would be tiresome, not to mention grammatically challenging.  But they were cool guys too.  The bass player looked like a svelte Seth Rogen.  And the drummer… well, as Colin put it, “how did they get the Burt’s Bees guy to play drums?”  This was the best reference I had ever heard all time all my life, for numerous reasons:

 – How does Colin know what the Burt’s Bees guy looks like?
 – Why would Colin think I know what the Burt’s Bees guy looks like?
 – Why DO I know what the Burt’s Bees guy looks like?

He told me this, and it was hilarious and great.  And I had to fight to stop from laughing, as just then, the band and the crowd all quieted down at once.  You know that moment where everyone at the party all shuts up at once, just as you say something you shouldn’t and you’re louder than you should be?  We almost had that moment.  But we didn’t.  Again, smooth.  On the way out to the car later, Colin explained that he’d recognized the Burt’s Bees guy because he spends a lot of time in the drugstore (he has a mild Altoids addiction), and since Ted Leo associates with PHARMACISTS, he made the connection.  After that, I was even more impressed.  It worked on so many levels.

So yeah.  The show was a rollicking good time, and I’d totally go back.  I hope the other people would too, and moreover, I hope they’d bring their friends, since the one thing this show was lacking was a kickass crowd.  The place wasn’t close to full – the upstairs was closed off entirely, and I’d estimate they’d have been lucky to have one-third the attendance of the New Pornographers and Danko Jones shows I’d seen there.  Which was a shame – I am not a fan of being surrounded by drunken rowdy yahoos, but a few rowdies in this crowd could only have helped.  Hopefully, there will be more people next time, and more hopefully, I hope there were still enough people to ensure that there will be a next time.

(KMA-exclusive note: I have been writing Stupid Little Concert Reviews – SLCRs – for over ten years, and I’ve kept them archived on my personal website.   I’m soon going to start moving those reviews over to here, and I’d hate to lose that piece of stupid little history, so the acronym has made its way over here.  I’m certain you care.)

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