Wednesday, November 07, 2007

10/30/07 The Weakerthans @ Webster Hall

It's funny what good music can do to you. Interestingly the whole morning I was actually annoyed I had to go see The Weakerthans. I don't know what kind of funk had come over me, but I couldn't help but gripe to myself that I couldn't believe I was going. This is shocking since I consider The Weakerthans to be "the band that saved my life." Luckily enough, by the time they were to take the stage I was so excited that I forgot all about the funk I was in. As they played on it felt like I was cured of all the malaise of the past couple of days.

Webster Hall is as gaudy as ever. It looks like a Thelemite bought out a disco hall that died an ignoble death after hosting one too many club kid parties in the 90s and decided he was gonna go with "Opium den meets strip club run by whatever planet Daft Punk presumes to be from." I overheard a mom (cutely) comment to her daughter, "Wow, they must be getting ready for Halloween."

Oh, if only you knew, lady, if only you knew. I mean, there were some Halloween type decor added to the place, but quite honestly it was pretty minimal and flimsy. The crazy you see, is the crazy that's always there. The gold relief with like Buddha wrestlin' with a scorpion and shit? That's there all year round.

I stared at the "you're old enough to drink" wristbands we'd gotten and noticed that it was "Wristcutters" themed. I just saw that movie recently as an early release and rather liked the premise of it, but wasn't sure if I was too keen on the ending or the film's entirety for that matter. Your "punishment" for suicide is to go to an afterlife that is no different from your current except slightly worse? Interesting and pretty smart. The look of them film? Slightly washed out and the character makeup/costumes were intriguing because there was the pallor of death about them. It was noticeable, but not overdone like, I don't know, the waiting room scene from "Beetlejuice." Very low-key in a way that I thought was cool. The characters? Thought they were pretty neat too, especially since like the whole pallor of death makeup you see them separate from their suicides. Besides, one of the characters is based off of Eugene Hutz and they use songs performed by Gogol Bordello in the movie. Just in the film though and not in the original story from what I learned later, which makes me curious as to why and how and all that. It makes me think that the filmmaker was either a great fan or a great friend of Eugene Hutz. But my impression of the film overall? Slightly underwhelming.

But enough on that derail. The point was I thought to myself, "Wristband for 'Wristcutters'? Ha, pretty genius."

Jim Bryson from Ottawa opened, and let me just say that the man has a fantastic voice. He was pulling double duty both as opening act and support for The Weakerthans. He had great stage banter, talking from everything about the new hat he had purchased while in the neighborhood as well as being confused by running into costumed people and even joking about how this was his first paying U.S. gig as a performer. He attributed his banter to nerves, but if that's nerves talking being nervous does wonders for him because he seemed like a genuinely nice and funny guy.

He jumped back and forth between two mics and switched a bit between playing his guitar and playing a keyboard. He even had a harmonica ready, but then sheepishly explained, "I always forget to put it on before I play and it creates for awkward moments." During certain intervals of songs he quipped affably, "This would be a moment when the harmonica would be nice to have.

Though Jason Tait jumped in for certain songs, Bryson got some audience participation going for rhythm on some of the songs, using a combination of the drum machine and audience clapping for "Fallen Leaves." He even managed to get a venue full of people to fade out. For another song he pulled up some audience members to play eggs and branched out to other shaking instruments as more than the intended amount of volunteers came up. He promised that some volunteers would have to do something, "They might not like doing," and as soon as the last of them came on stage, he explained, "You see, I got some gifts for purchasing my hat today..."

He pulled out some animal masks and handed them to some of the participants explaining, "This will be cool. It'll be like Flaming Lips light."

I particularly liked "Pissing on Everything" as well as "Sleeping in Toronto." And I must say I like how he sounds live more than how he sounds when I hear recorded versions. Probably why I'm going to try and make it to The Living Room and listen to him live when he's back in town in a week or so.

The next act was Last Town Chorus. Another act with a decent voice heading it and a chick on lap steel. On paper something I loved, but overall wasn't my bag. It was a good set, and the voice was decent as in pretty, but not something I'd personally listen to all the time.

Cover of "Modern Love" was well-done. And I really liked "It's Not Over." It was the last song to round out the set and Jim Bryson, Greg Smith and Stephen Carroll came out to join in.

I listened to the song again on Myspace. It's a remixed version. Good, but the version I heard live was great. It was lush and the instrumental was particularly haunting. Unfortunately, there's no way of recreating the version that was played that evening.

The Weakerthans finally took the stage and I was giddy as a little girl. They had these round filters/drum skin looking things illuminated from the back, and with the starry night look the back of the stage took when all the lights were off it was kind of a nice look. Looked like a bunch of full moons, or it felt kind of like a late summer/early autumn night standing out under the stars. Great set, with two encores. One of the great things about watching The Weakerthans play is how happy John K. Samson looks just to be playing. He just always looks happy and grateful that people even showed up to the show.

My funk had totally dissipated and I was happily singing along to every song. AND they played "Pamphleteer" for the second encore. I was so happy. I almost cried. No correction, I did cry. I wasn't bawling, but tears were definitely present. Especially when they broke it down with an extended instrumental at the end. I don't know, music does that to you. As soon as I'd hear the opening chords for one song, then another, it'd just take me back. It's weird, I've only been out of school for a little over two years and it already feels like a million years ago. It reminded me of how back in college, late one night I was watching some SNL rerun or best of. It was REM performing "What's the Frequency" and in a split second I was transported back to those summers when I'd sit outside during summer break armed with a book and a walkman and listen to it all day and all night.

Anyway, it made me look up the old photo I took with John K. Samson in front of Logan Square Auditorium a couple of years back (Man, I can't believe that show was a couple of years ago). I look different. Hell, he looks different. We ALL look different. It was a little jarring. I dug up pictures of me and shared them with Kelly only to have her reaction be "HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA OMG WHO THE HELL ARE YOU???" And I had to laugh too because, really, I didn't realize until then how different I look now. You think you won't change with the years and you feel like you're in the same place, but you just aren't.

And I'm going to end with this. Is it just me, or did John K. look like Thom Yorke at certain angles thanks to the scruffiness he was sporting?


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