I can think of precisely nothing interesting for a backstory. I am not the biggest Tegan & Sara fan on Earth, but I like them well enough. Mika likes some of their songs and not others. The concert was announced and I didn’t buy tickets. Then an ad caught me at a weak moment and I bought tickets. When the day of the show rolled around, I half thought it wouldn’t happen because there had been a big ol’ blizzard the day before and T&S had to make it in from Edmonton, which is about an eight-hour drive (and, in my experience, longer when a good chunk of the roads are marked as “travel not recommended”). But I looked at their Twitter and their Twitter said they made it so the show was a go.
Between Sarah Slean last week and Tegan & Sara this week, I’m starting to feel slightly insecure about my masculinity in regards to my music choices. We’re off to see Leonard Cohen tomorrow, and while Cohen himself is surely manly, I’m not that going to his show says anything about me other than “wow, there’s a lot of grey around those temples.”
…and that’s all I had written as of Friday morning. Just before leaving work on Friday afternoon, I found out that Leonard Cohen’s show had been postponed until the end of April. Friday evening, I discovered that I would likely need to reschedule what day I went to Hawksley Workman’s musical. This, of course, is all my fault for prepping a half-dozen text files for upcoming reviews, all of which now need editing. In protest of this extra work, I put off this concert review until now. Now I need to get it done and I need to write a speech for Toastmasters on Wednesday and I need to spend all Tuesday in training for work so I’m pretty much well under the gun. Good job, me! At least I got that quality Bejeweled Blitz time in yesterday.
The last time I saw Tegan & Sara was in the basement of the Conexus Arts Centre. This time, they’d graduated to the main stage. I’d suggest that their fans got older and more appreciative of sitting down, but that was very much not the case. The crowd was very female and very young (Mika: “SO MANY LEGGINGS”) and I felt quite out of place. I was hoping I could cling onto Mika’s arm and get away with looking like a guy who’d been dragged there, but I don’t think anyone bought that, largely because I don’t think anyone gave the slightest care one way or the other.
When I bought the tickets, I bought the best available aisle seats. It turns out that Row L is number one and the best. There are no seats directly in front of the two seats on the end, so we didn’t have to do any of that stand-sit-stand-sit-stand-sit nonsense as other people came and went. Row L for Legroom (rejected name: “Row L for Lots of space for our legs”) was a great discovery and if I can’t get front row, I want Row L aisle seats. It’s a good thing I’ve done such a poor job of making friends in Regina; otherwise, I’d be afraid that someone might steal these seats on me.
The opening act was Diana. We were never sure if Diana was the singer’s name, the band’s name, or both. I suppose I could look now, but… y’know. They played some 80’s-sounding dancey pop (complete with drum machine and a saxophone solo) and it was fine enough. Not so much my thing, but then I don’t really listen to a lot of music that one could dance to. I did enjoy when they shilled for Tegan & Sara’s new record and either Tegan or Sara yelled “earn your keep!” from the side of the stage.
There has to be a smooth way to segue into how “I don’t really listen to a lot of music that one could dance to” and that “Tegan & Sara’s new record” is just that and how it hasn’t really been a hit with me so far, but that will do. Really, I’ve never been an album guy with Tegan & Sara. Give me some time with one single and I’ll usually grow to really like it, but listening to a whole album in one go just doesn’t do it for me. It all kinda blends together and I lose interest. They’re not the only band I’m like that with, but it feels more pronounced with this record. It was made to be poppier and dancier and I assume that’s why. I have read a bit on the internet about how this was more Sara’s album and most of my favourite T&S songs are ones that Tegan wrote. I haven’t done enough research to see if there was any truth whatsoever to this, though. It is a pretty rare album that makes me think “Yeah! Research!”
Tegan & Sara opened with two of their bigger singles, Back In Your Head and Walking With a Ghost. There were a handful of other older tracks during the show, including an encore medley which featured Speak Slow, You Wouldn’t Like Me, On Directing, Arrow, and others. (No sign of Hell, which is probably my favourite of their songs; oh well.) But most of the show was dedicated to their new record (if they didn’t play the whole thing, they played almost all of it), and I felt about the same watching it live as I did hearing the album: I didn’t dislike any of it, but none of the new songs really stood out either.
There were three non-musical highlights on this particular evening:
- This one guy who came to dance and didn’t care that nobody around him was dancing. He was super passionate about his dance mission; so much so that Tegan or Sara or whoever handles their Twitter account singled him out after the show.
- This one balding guy in the crowd who had a straight line of hair down the middle of his bald spot, giving his head the appearance of being a butt.
- Storytime! I enjoyed Sara talking about riding the Mindbender roller coaster at West Edmonton Mall (and Tegan wondering what, exactly, this had to do with Regina), but the best story – and indeed, the best part of the whole night – was the story about Tegan & Sara’s one and only solo show. Years ago (I think the year before I moved to Regina), Tegan & Sara were to perform at the Regina Folk Festival. However, a massive blackout hit the eastern part of North America, grounding flights. So when Tegan got to Regina (from Vancouver, I think), she found out that Sara wasn’t going to make it but everyone (meaning Sara, their mom, and their manager) encouraged her to play the show by herself. Tegan got as far as mentioning being picked up at the airport by a Folk Festival volunteer when someone yelled from the crowd, “that was me!” Tegan asked for proof, and the fan responded with more than enough details to confirm her identity. The volunteer talked about going to Walmart and picking up art supplies, then coming back to the Folk Festival where Tegan gave her Sara’s backstage pass. Tegan then lay down on some cardboard and the volunteer traced her (Sara: “For those that can’t hear, they basically made a Bristol board me and taped it to a mic stand”) and “when I traced between your legs, you said ‘do you know how many people want to be you right now?'” (Sara: “Sounds like her.”) and apparently Tegan threw up from nerves before doing the show, and she didn’t know Sara’s parts so the crowd sang them, and everything was great. Tegan seemed completely delighted by this story. The whole thing went over so well you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a rehearsed bit that happens at every show.
This makes it sound like I didn’t like the show, or at least the singing bits. This is not true! The day after the show, Dave asked me how it was and I said “it was a perfectly fine performance by a band I like well enough,” and I think that’s fair. There are shows where I’m blown away and there are shows I have no patience for. And then there are shows where I go “that was fine.”
Remember when these reviews used to be full of drunken adventures? Mostly other people’s drunken adventures, but still. They entertained. I clearly need to spend more time with drunks. This is an open invitation to any of my friends who haven’t got their shit together yet: come to shows with me.
- • The God That Comes (Thursday, March 21? Friday, March 22? Both?)
- • Michael Bernard Fitzgerald’s Birthday Spectacular (with Teddy Celebration, Mark Mills, Scenic Route to Alaska, and Cole Hruska – Saturday, March 23)
- • presumably some sort of Junofest stuff over Junos weekend, which I’ll combine with the review of the
- • JUNO Songwriters Circle (Sunday, April 21)
- • Leonard Cohen (Sunday, April 28)
- • They Might Be Giants (Saturday, June 1)
You know how I often start by talking about how I had to go to a show by myself, and I didn’t want to go to the show by myself, but then I went and I had a good time? I’d say we can skip right past that bit this time, but I think it is vital for your understanding of my evening.
I’ve said before that if it looks like I have to choose between going by myself or not going at all, I will buy myself a ticket during the initial burst of on-sale enthusiasm. That way, when the day rolls around and I inevitably don’t want to go, I will force myself to go because I already paid for the show and it would be a waste of good cash moneys.
As expected, nobody wanted to go to Tegan and Sara with me. And as expected, I didn’t really want to go when the show rolled around. I knew from past experience that I’d probably have a good time if I went, but… here’s the thing. Tegan and Sara tend to attract an audience that’s significantly younger and somewhat more female than I am. So not only was I going to be standing around by myself, but I was going to be standing around in the midst of a bunch of girls who were half my age. Nobody wants to be THAT guy.
Secretly, I bet I know some people who would love to be that guy.
But whatever. I took the long way home from work, I had a long shower, I dawdled in putting supper together – it was a can of soup, so that was a challenge – I played a bunch of Facebook Scrabble, and I ate a pudding cup. I even watched half of TNA Xplosion, for God’s sake. XPLOSION. In short, I did everything possible to put off going to this show. In the end, though, I just couldn’t let the ticket go to waste. To the best of my knowledge, I have only ever once skipped out on a show when I had tickets, and even in that case, I had won the tickets so I wasn’t out any money. Plus, I was flying to another continent the day after the show, so I figured some sleep might be nice. The band in question was Days of the New; incidentally, they’re playing here on Friday in case I feel like finally seeing them, almost ten years since I missed out the first time.
I don’t feel like it, if you were wondering.
The ticket said that the doors opened at 7:00 and the show started at 8:00, so I figured my best plan was to leave the house as late as possible so as to minimize the bored standing time. I armed myself with my cell phone and a pack of gum, and I left for the show, not entirely convinced that I’d even go. I figured I’d drive around and see how I felt once I got there. That’s just kind of how I operate. I never once stayed home from university, but I sure skipped my share of classes.
I was wearing my New Pornographers t-shirt, which I somehow felt made me look like less of a creepy old pervert. I’m not entirely sure how I got to that conclusion, but it made sense at the time. My best guess is that I was hoping the shirt would make a statement; specifically, “I like some other bands, so clearly I am just here to see the band!”
This is revealing way too much of my mysterious inner workings, which are much better off remaining mysterious.
Also, I’m using the one-sentence paragraph way too often.
Like right now.
Did you get the joke there?
Oh man, I just did it again.
I am on fire tonight!
I arrived at the Centre of the Arts about five minutes after 8:00 and there was still a bit of a line to get downstairs. This was because of the mandatory coat check, which, what the hell? Seriously. Mandatory? I did not feel like checking my bunny hug, so I figured I’d claim that it was a sweater and not a coat. This was never an issue, as bunny hugs and hoodies were given free admittance to the… well, it wasn’t really a theatre. Let’s call it the music room.
I opted to get a wristband in case I wanted to drink. I’m not really certain why – I hate those waterproof indestructible paper wristbands, and I can’t drink anymore, and even if I could, I wouldn’t, because I was driving. But I got one anyway. And they carded me. So I took that as a good sign. Maybe I wouldn’t look like a creepy old weirdo? Maybe just a creepy weirdo? Hey, I’ll take what I can get.
I was downstairs by 8:10, and Northern State had already started playing. My first thought upon entering the music room was that it will be a great place to see Modest Mouse. It’s small, but they can pack a lot of people in there.
Feely was very excited to hear that I was going to see Northern State. I was not, as I had no idea who they were. Let us take you back to last week:
OMG its Feely: oh man you are going to see NORTHERN STATE
JamesEarthquake: who is that
OMG its Feely: oh my god
OMG its Feely: okay
OMG its Feely: they are three Jewish girls from a very rich neighborhood a few towns over
OMG its Feely: well, Jewish twenty-something women
OMG its Feely: and are named after the local Northern State Parkway
OMG its Feely: and they started out trying to be the Beastie Boys
OMG its Feely: and it was AMAZINGLY HORRIBLE
OMG its Feely: Albert sent me an album ironically, I made it through half of track one
OMG its Feely: now
OMG its Feely: the thing is
OMG its Feely: they just released a new album
OMG its Feely: and they are ripping off Luscious Jackson and it’s actually very good
Sadly, I don’t know anything about Luscious Jackson, so that taught me nothing. I do, however, know some Beastie Boys, so that gave me an idea of what Northern State might sound like. The first song I heard – which was probably their third or so – sounded like… well, you know how sometimes Barenaked Ladies have those songs where they sing pretty quickly, but you wouldn’t think of them as rappers? It made me think of that. I was expecting rap and that was not what I got. I was kind of disappointed that young Thomas Aloysius Feely had led me astray.
Of course, every song after the first one made me think that they were covering the Beastie Boys. Specifically, Brass Monkey.
Also, I like how I can give Feely the fake middle name of Aloysius, but his real middle name is more hilarious and awesome and great.
This is not to say I didn’t like them. They were entertaining enough for the 20 minutes or so that I saw. I don’t know what they were singing about – after one song, they asked if we could hear them clearly, which I could as long as they were just talking, so I had no idea how to answer that one. “YES. I mean, NO. I mean, KIND OF. I mean, RIGHT NOW, SURE.”
They said they’d be selling their CDs after they were done. When they finished, I wanted to kill some time so I wandered over to look at the Stuff Table, and, wow, they weren’t kidding. They – the band themselves – were over there selling CDs within seconds of stepping off the stage. I didn’t even notice until one of them said hi to me. I said hi back. Didn’t buy anything, though, so I bet that little interaction did not live up to her expectations. That’s me, always disappointing the ladies.
I left the enclave that adjoined the music room and went back to the music room. I was a bit bored, so I killed time by destroying my unnecessary wristband. This was more of a challenge than you’d think. Then I took off my bunnyhug, hoping that the music room staff would not notice that I was carrying a coat-like substance in direct violation of the mandatory coat check – which, I should mention, was starting to feel like a good idea as it was getting plenty warm in there.
This was the only real stretch of standing around that I had to do, and it was fine. There were hundreds of people standing around too, and – of course – I don’t imagine even one of them gave any kind of care that I was there. Lots of heat-generating people, all densely packed in. And more guys than I expected. Tall guys. In my new shoes, I’m probably 6’2″, and I seemed to be about average height among the male contingent. It made seeing the stage a challenge for most of the evening. Case in point – when Tegan and Sara and their band came out, I saw that Sara was wearing a shirt that read THE
I bet it really read THE (SOMETHING) but I couldn’t tell you what. I never got a better look.
There were lots of guys, but I do think that most of them were there for the girls. So many girls. So LOUD. When the lights dimmed and Tegan and Sara took the stage, oh my. You have never heard such a high-pitched squeal in all your life. It was like if Jeff Hardy’s entrance ran over a cat. There would be similar squeals all throughout the evening, say, if people recognized the opening notes of a favourite song. Or any song. Or if Tegan or Sara said anything. Or did anything. Or, really, existed. People LOVED Sara (as evidenced by the shriek of “WE LOVE YOU SARA,” to which she said thanks) and I am certain they loved Tegan as well.
So they played lots of songs, and I knew most of them, which surprised me. I guess I like them more than I thought I did? I mean, I do own two of their albums as well as their DVD, but still. I didn’t think I was quite so familiar with their oeuvre… either that, or they knew I was coming and created a setlist just for me. If so, wow, that was really sweet of them. And everyone there seemed to have a good time, so I guess it worked out for everyone.
Apparently Regina was a much more raucous (I think this means “squealing”) crowd than in Saskatoon the night before. People in Regina have finally figured out that Saskatoon and Regina are supposed to be at war, so the Reginans squealed when they learned of their superiority. I’m not sure how I feel about this battle anymore. I have divided loyalties. Maybe I should move to Davidson, work in Regina, spend free time in Saskatoon, and just enjoy wherever I am whenever I happen to be there. Besides, Laura said the Saskatoon show was great. She also revealed the wacky encore cover song – Umbrella by Rihanna – which was lucky for me, because otherwise, I wouldn’t have known why people were laughing.
Between songs, there were stories. Sara was afraid that geese would swoop down from the skies and steal her away. Tegan once played a solo show at the Regina Folk Festival when Sara got stuck in a Montreal blackout. Apparently, someone fainted; Sara took the credit. Tegan related the story of the time she fainted after having her wisdom teeth out. I could be mixing up the storytellers, but I’m sure that happens with identical twins – especially when you can only see them from about the chin up. Like I said, lots of tall people in attendance.
They announced that they were going to do an encore – nobody really pretends otherwise anymore – but we were told that if we wanted an encore, instead of making noise, we should be really quiet. I thought this was a fascinating plan. I have been to shows where I did not care to see an encore. In those cases, it’s easy to protest – just shut up. You’re not contributing to the encore, and nobody else notices or cares because they’re too busy clapping and cheering and chanting and whatnot. But here, if you didn’t want an encore, you had to make a lot of noise while everyone around you wasn’t. Did you dislike the show? How much? Enough to argue your viewpoint to hundreds of rabid, silent fans? Luckily, I liked the show, I was glad to be there, and was happy to hear more. You’d think there’s a lesson in here that I would remember the next time I go to a show by myself, but you’d be mistaken.
Anyway, this whole encore idea got better when the final (pre-encore) song was finished and everyone erupted into applause, and then… it was like you could hear everyone in attendance say “oh, right, uh… whoops” all at once. It was never really silent, though. There were hundreds of people there, many were talking, and some were shushing. The talkers didn’t stop talking, so the shushers progressed to yelling BE QUIET to SHUT UP to SHUT THE FUCK UP. Which also isn’t very quiet. Either way, the band came back right away so it didn’t escalate into violence or anything. We were told that we weren’t really very quiet but we got points for trying.
After a few more songs, the show was over for real. I stepped outside into the cool night air, and then it hit me. The best part of the mandatory coat check: no traffic. Hundreds of people had to wait to get hundreds of coats before they could go to hundreds of cars. I was out of the parking lot in seconds. What a great victory. I shall have to remember this strategy when Modest Mouse comes to town. This plan is foolproof – the only real problem could arise if it somehow gets colder outside by the middle of November, but I can’t see that happening.