Monday, November 19th, 2012
The Super Friendz and The Meligrove Band at Lee’s Palace in Toronto
Frank YangThat whole, “Halifax is the new Seattle” thing that went down in the early ’90s is better known these days for simply having happened than for much of the music that came out of it. Sloan precipitated it and continue to endure, and the likes of Thrush Hermit and Eric’s Trip are still remembered fondly by many and their principals continue to make music, but most Maritime acts who were tipped as the next big, fuzzy, plaid-clad thing some 15 to 20 years ago simply called it a day after a release or two, to be remembered only by faded t-shirts and CD store dollar bins and A&R types who could actually tell you what a donair was.
If The Super Friendz had emerged with their 1995 debut Mock Up Scale Down just a couple years earlier, they could well have rode that Atlantic wave to… something, but as it was, they missed that brief, international feeding frenzy and even if they hadn’t, their ultra-melodic, classically-styled, jangle power-pop probably would have been deemed not nearly grungy enough and left on the vine. As it was, they had to settle for becoming domestic college rock darlings, at least for a couple years. Following a more ambitious yet still eminently hummable second album in Slide Show, the band politely hung it up to do other things. Frontman Matt Murphy would pursue a similar if more ’70s-than-’60s vibe with The Flashing Lights and while the Super Friendz did the reunion thing before the reunion thing was hip – releasing the decidedly more rawk Love Energy in 2003 – it was to be short-lived, but not the end. The quartet accepted an invitation to get back together for this year’s Halifax Pop Explosion – their first show in nine years – and since anything worth doing once is worth doing twice, they added another date in Toronto for this past Friday night.
Opening up were local fixtures The Meligrove Band, whom I’m a bit astonished to find I hadn’t seen live since 2005 though not as astonished as I was to confirm that bassist Michael Small was, indeed, wearing the same t-shirt. Completely apropos of nothing, but it does speak to my ability to retain utterly useless information in my brain. In any case, their set of power-pop – emphasis on the power side of things – was a fine warm-up as well as a reminder that their 2010 release Shimmering Lights was quite good. And if there was any doubt that they were huge fans of their Can-indie forebears, they were put to rest with their closing trifecta of murderecords covers of The Inbreds, Thrush Hermit, and Local Rabbits. They were targeting a pretty specific demographic niche with that, to be sure, but it was a niche that was piled into Lee’s Palace right then and there.
The only explanation I have for having never seen The Super Friendz the first time around was that they never quite made it to Waterloo on the university circuit, at least not while I was on a school term; goodness knows I would have been there if they had. I had caught The Flashing Lights a few times but skipped the 2003 reunion show on account of really not liking Love Energy all that much. Song selection wasn’t going to a problem this time out, though – the front half of the show was Mock Up as far as the eye could see and ear could hear. They opened up with the Charles Austin-sung “When They Paid Me”, then tagging in guitarist Drew Yamada for “Undertow” before Matt Murphy took the mic for “One Day”. I have to admit I never appreciated how spread out the singing and songwriting credits on the records were – a real testament to how well their respective styles gelled into one.
Also remarkable was how well they’ve aged, both the band and the songs. The tunes still brim with youthful energy, evoking a simpler, more innocent time where you could write a song called “Karate Man” and it could be awesome, full stop. Songs were played fairly faithfully to their recorded versions with the exception of some extended guitar breaks by Murphy and a Meligrove stage invasion during “The World’s Most Embarrassing Moment” and while the overall song selection could have featured a little (or a lot) more Slide Show and a little (or a lot) less Love Energy – and the omission of “Forever A Day” was almost criminal – it was hard not to spend most of the night bopping up and down whilst wearing a goofy grin, particularly when they wrapped the main set with “10 lbs” – a moment only matched when the wrapped the encore with “Up & Running”. Two of the best Canadian songs of the ’90s; this is not open to debate.
I hope it’s not taken as dismissive to say that this was primarily a nostalgia show; hundreds of people who either never got to see them live or hadn’t had the opportunity to do so in a decade and a half got their chance. Memories were rekindled and some great songs that hadn’t been played live anywhere by anyone in far too long got to ring out again. I don’t think anyone left Lee’s clamoring for a new record – you can’t go back to being 21 and in university again – but if they wanted to put Mock Up and Slide Show back in print, perhaps on vinyl, well that’d be alright.
Photos: The Super Friendz, The Meligrove Band @ Lee’s Palace – November 16, 2012
MP3: The Meligrove Band – “Half Light”
MP3: The Meligrove Band – “Bones Attack!!!”
Video: The Super Friendz – “Up And Running”
Video: The Super Friendz – “Rescue Us From Boredom”
Video: The Super Friendz – “10 lbs”
Video: The Meligrove Band – “Bones Attack”
Video: The Meligrove Band – “Really Want It”
Video: The Meligrove Band – “Racing To Shimmering Lights”
Video: The Meligrove Band – “Everyone’s A Winner”
Video: The Meligrove Band – “Our Love Will Make The World Go Round”
Video: The Meligrove Band – “Before We Arrive”
Stream: The Super Friendz / Mock Up Scale Down
Stream: The Super Friendz / Slide Show
Stream: The Super Friendz / Love Energy
Rheostatics have added a third show to their own reunion stand at The Horseshoe next month. They’ll play an early show on December 6 at 6:30PM, tickets $29.50 on sale this morning at 10AM. The December 5 and late December 6 shows are completely sold out.