Monday, July 31st, 2006
Somehow, it’s been five years since I last saw The Weakerthans live. No excuse, they’ve been through town lots of times. I’ve just never gone. Which is weird, since I really do like them and think John K Samson is one of the top songwriters this country has to offer right now – the fact that his band also rocks out is gravy. But as their headlining show at the “From The Peg” festival at Harbourfront (celebrating the city of Winnipeg) showed, it has been far far too long.
Fittingly, Samson opened the show solo with the affectionate and ironic ode to his hometown, “One Great City!”. But once joined onstage by the rest of the band the Weakerthans ratcheted up the tempo for the next hour fifteen with selections from all three of their records and a handful of new songs which will hopefully see the light of day sooner than later – it’s already been three years since Reconstruction Site. While the grinning Samson mostly played the shy boy frontman, his bandmates were a whirling rock machine, striking poses, doing windmills, the whole bit. I know it’d been half a decade since I’d seen them last, but I really don’t remember them being such… extroverts. Samson did step up on a riser for his one guitar solo but for the most part, was content to let his words speak for him.
It’s amazing that a band that at first listen sounds so straightforward can actually possess so much depth. You could call them emo-punk, power-pop or indie-rock and they’d be all reasonably accurate descriptors but at the core of it all, Samson is really a folk singer and poet of the people. Maybe because he grafts them to music so simple, energetic and melodic they can get overlooked but Samson’s lyrics are some of the most splendid in contemporary music. Whether channelling a cat concerned for its owner or an Antarctic explorer, his words are never less than literate, wry and warm but never come off as overly-earnest, pretentious or cloying. He’s got an almost unnatural gift in his ability to capture in words the frailty, poignancy and very essence of the human heart. I know how high-faluting that probably sounds but it’s true. I don’t know if the show necessarily convinced me to book my next vacation for Winnipeg, but it did remind me that The Weakerthans are a band I always forget how much I love until I hear them. Almost without fail, if I listen to one album I need to hear the other two straight after before I can move on. It surely won’t be five years before I see them live again.
MP3: The Weakerthans – “Plea From A Cat Named Virtue”
MP3: The Weakerthans – “Aside”
MP3: The Weakerthans – “The Last Last One”
Video: The Weakerthans – “The Reasons”
Video: The Weakerthans – “Psalm For The Elks Lodge”
MySpace: The Weakerthans
Billboard talks to Eric Bachmann about creating To The Races, his solo album due out August 22. I got a copy of this last week and can say without hesitation that if this is what living in a van does for your creative muse, everyone should do it. It’s an amazing record. He’s at the Horseshoe on September 16.
This month’s Exclaim! cover story tells tale of The Sadies, country music and their live album In Concert, Volume 1, out August 8. Tickets for the Sadies’ shows at the Horseshoe September 8 and 9 are now on sale for $15.
Filter breaks news of Swan Lake, a new project featuring Dan Bejar (Destroyer/The New Pornographers), Carey Mercer (Frog Eyes) and Spencer Krug (Sunset Rubdown/Wolf Parade). Why do I get the feeling that there’s going to be yelping on this one?
Couple show announcements – …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead (Trail Of Dead to their friends) are at the Phoenix on November 5 with The Blood Brothers and Gang Gang Dance are at Lee’s for a Hallowe’en show October 31.
np – The Hold Steady / Almost Killed Me