Tuesday, April 17th, 2012
Adventures In Your Own Backyard
Patrick Watson at The Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto
September 2007, Toronto, Ontario – Watson wins the second Polaris Music Prize with his second album Close To Paradise, an album I was almost wholly unfamiliar with despite the fact that, as a juror, I probably should have been. I generally resent him for this because I was sure that Feist was going to take it with The Reminder and now I felt kid of dumb.
September 2009, Toronto, Ontario – Watson is now riding a two-album Polaris shortlist streak although odds of Wooden Arms repeating are long. And while my interest in his music hasn’t really grown over the past couple years, I admit to being won over some by his performance at the gala as he and his band opt to wander through the audience like steampunk troubadours rather than play on the stage.
October 2011, Reykjavik, Iceland – Even though he’s not even performing at the festival, Watson shows up for Esmerine’s set at the Canadian Blast day show for Iceland Airwaves and sings on a couple of songs from their album La Lechuza, dedicated to the memory of Montreal singer Lhasa de Sela. He sounded great, and geez – who the hell just happens to show up in Iceland?
March 2012, Austin, Texas – Failure to get into The Jesus & Mary Chain’s set at SXSW meant that I needed a fallback plan and thanks to a confluence of timing and geography, I ended up at Watson’s show in a small church where he was showcasing his third album Adventures In Your Own Backyard, still not due out for a month at that point. It was beautiful, and I think I began to finally, properly get Patrick Watson.
It’s strange that it should have taken me so long – after all, it’s not as thought what he does is outside of my wheelhouse at all. Pretty, ornate, classical/jazz-pop that doesn’t go out of its way to be difficult or anything besides what it is, you’d be hard-pressed to find an artist more comfortable in his skin and his sound than Watson. It also helps that Adventures is a beautiful record; sonically dense, intimate in feel, thematically opaque enough to intrigue and with a sly sense of playfulness running throughout. There are points where I do wish it were a little less… airy, but those complaints are as minor as they are irrelevant.
One of the things that made that aforementioned SXSW show so great was how Patrick Watson was able to infuse that Austin church sanctuary with the spirit of an impromptu carnival and its attendant sense of wonder. It wasn’t reasonable to expect them to to do the same with the CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio last Wednesday night where they performed for a radio broadcast to go with Adventures‘ release this week, but that didn’t mean they weren’t going to try. The show opened in pitch blackness with the band playing the new record’s opening track “Lighthouse” guided only by small flashlights affixed to their hands before being lit up by the stage lights at the song’s crescendo. It was a dramatic moment, certainly, but notable in being exactly the sort of grand gesture that they don’t need to make to impress.
What I’ve found in my re-examination of what it is that Patrick Watson (the band) excels at is that they’re at their best when making music on a micro scale. The exquisite detail of their compositions seems best appreciated under a magnifying glass, where you can really take in and appreciate how intricately it’s all assembled. You definitely get a sense of that watching the five-piece band onstage, where the meticulous orchestration and sequencing of the performance – to say nothing of their collective musicianship – is astonishing to behold despite the sort of casual, lassiez faire vibe they like to affect. Along those same lines, Patrick Watson (the man) interjected many amusing and occasionally rambling asides and anecdotes into the hour-long set that were both charming and disarming.
They played almost all of the new record and a couple from Wooden Arms that offered a little more punch amidst Adventures‘ dreamier tone, and really if there were any more reservations I had about coming around on Patrick Watson, they were gone by the time they were done. Will this earn them a place on my Polaris ballot? Hard to say, but I also get the feeling that they won’t need my help making a third shortlist appearance.
The entire concert is already available to stream at CBC Music and the whole of Adventures In Your Own Backyard is also available to stream, along with some videos of the performance. If that’s not enough, there’s a studio session for Q available to stream at and “Blackwind” from the new record is available to download for free at iTunes.
Adventures In Your Own Backyard is out today in Canada, April 30 in most other territories and May 1 in the USA. They’ll be back in Toronto for a show at the Music Hall on May 29.
Photos: Patrick Watson @ The Glenn Gould Studio – April 11, 2012
MP3: Patrick Watson – “Into Giants”
Video: Patrick Watson – “Fireweed”
Video: Patrick Watson – “The Storm”
Video: Patrick Watson – “Drifters”
Video: Patrick Watson – “The Great Escape”
Stream: Patrick Watson / Adventures In Your Own Backyard
McGill Tribune talks to Cold Specks, whose debut I Predict A Graceful Expulsion is out May 22; i-D also has a video session and interview. They play June 2 at the Music Hall opening up for Great Lake Swimmers.
I’d speculated that following his show in support of Metronomy earlier this month that Sandro Perri would be announced as support for Destroyer at The Opera House on June 23 since he was doing so for the other Canadian dates on the tour. That might yet happen, but not before Perri plays a couple shows of his own – he’s at The Tranzac on May 14 and 15.
The countdown timer on the Bruce Peninsula website implies that something is coming on April 24 – their Facebook also confirms as much – but it’s not a concert announcement; that’s already here. They’ve slated a May 24 show at The Great Hall, tickets $12 in advance.
There’s still no precise details on the second Wilderness Of Manitoba record besides that it exists and should be out this Summer, but their next local show will be June 30 on the Toronto Islands as part of the New Traditions Festival… no precise details on that, either.
Local artist Maggie MacDonald may be better known for her tenure in The Hidden Cameras and fronting Betty Burke, but she also works in theatre and her latest endeavour is a musical collaboration with Stevie Jackson of Belle & Sebastian, and he’ll be on hand – along with a number of other local artists – for their performance of Paper Laced with Gold at Harbourfront Centre on April 28; tickets $15.