Almost exactly one year ago, my family traveled to Toronto as a mini-vacation. The impetus was my scoring tickets to see The Rheostatics live for the first for me (and potentially–but not in reality–last) time.
They had called it quits 8 years earlier and were reuniting for the 20th Anniversary of their Group of 7 album–a soundtrack of sorts that was created to celebrate the works of the great Group of 7 artists. They were scheduled to perform three nights at the Art Gallery of Toronto.
I purchased tickets to the second night assuming that the first night they might be a little rusty and the final night they might be burnt out.
Well, it turns out that the first night was really strong. There are two recordings of the show on the Rheostatics Live site. Obviously the content is the same, but the sound is different in each one. (The Eric Mac Innis recording is quite muffled and bass heavy so you can’t really hear any of the spoken stuff).
The main content of the show-the music from the Group of 7 album is pretty consistent through all three nights. It’s mostly the length that varies on a couple of tracks and some little details that change from night to night. On this night for instance the opening speech that in which the man says “every Canadian” does not repeat like it does on the other nights. It also seems like “Six (Cello for a Winter’s Day)” doesn’t get quite as crazy and loud before the “jazzy” section comes in.
Before they get to “Northern Wish,” Dave introduces “Northern Wish,” by talking about how he wrote it: “The amazing thing about Canada is that every time you leave the door an incredible impossible journey is waiting for you not far from your house.”
They didn’t play “Ten (Lightning)” the first night, so it’s fun to hear all of the audience whoops and wolf howls during the set.
Dave Bidini is in great banter mode, which is no surprise really.
He first starts talking after track six. “Nice to see you again, you’ve all age well.” After welcoming everyone he jokes “Really tonight’s about hooking up. Last night as a bit of a meat market.” This causes Martin to ask, incredulously, “you’re kidding.”
Upon introducing the record properly he says that this was “music commissioned 20 years ago–remember 1995?” Someone shouts “Don’t forget the vinyl, Dave.” So he jokes, “We’ve only been inactive for 8 years and in that time vinyl has made a resurgence.”
They only performed this album “four times over the course of their speckled career.” Interesting that they will do it three more over the next three nights.
So that leaves the bonus tracks. The first night they played four: “Claire,” “Easy To Be With You,” “Christopher” and “Horses.”
Before starting “Claire” there’s a little down time so Dave introduces Kevin Hearn and asks him what his favorite snack is. Kevin: “Have you heard of ants on a log?” Dave says his is a Cadbury Crunchy bar which “lasts a half hour if you nurse it.” MT: “What kind of chocolate bar eater are you?” Then Dave asks, “Shall we go around the horn?” to much laughter. He speculates, “Tim’s gonna say …” But Tim says “home-grown carrots” which elicits an “ewww.” Dave says, Tim you’ve changed so.”
As they start “Claire,” Martin introduces Hugh Marsh on the violin. He says that at the first concert he ever went to Hugh was playing with Bruce Cockburn and now they are very very very close friends.” He then mentions their other band, Nick Buzz (which Hugh plays in) and he says Nick Buzz “only played four gigs on our career.” “Claire” is played wonderfully. They talk about it being kind of obvious (“interesting because it’s totally obvious”) that they’d play it. But “Easy to Be with You” a track from Harmelodia is a pretty surprising choice–a popular song sure, but certainly not a huge one. Before the song, he sings Happy Birthday to him mom: “Happy birthday to Sheila / Happy birthday to my mom / She’s 75 years old / and she’s standing right there.” In the middle of the song Bidini comments that Stephen Harper is not the Prime Minster of Harmelodia (indeed, he is not).
Dave asks is anyone under the age of 7 is there. Kevin says: “My dad’s here.” Dave asks, “Is he a leap year baby?” Then Kevin explains that it is his dad who is reading the “Tall White Pine” poem. Then they ask Don if he has any family there. Don says “All of them.” Dave says “Don’s four families are here.”
The Jeff Robson recording has some weird digital feedback and static. It’s mostly during the chatting parts, but it does impact the songs a little. There’s some static on “Christopher,” but otherwise it sounds pretty good.
Before “Horses”someone asks “who should we vote for?” Dave says “Never listen to a pop star when it comes to politics. Tomorrow will be political night.”
And “Horses” is a dynamite version, notable mostly for the fact that Bidini doesn’t do a spoken word section in the middle of the song (keeping it unpolitical).
01. One (Kevin’s Waltz) 1:47
02. Two (Earth (Almost)) 7:33
03. Three (Boxcar Song (Weiners and Beans)) 6:16
04. Four (Landscape And Sky) 0:42
05. Five (Blue Hysteria) 4:33
06. Six (Cello For A Winter’s Day) 6:01
07. Chat 5:40
08. Seven (Northern Wish) 5:35
09. Eight (Snow) 1:18
10. Nine (Biplanes and Bombs) 6:13
11. Ten (Lightning) 6:30
12. Eleven (Yellow Days Under A Lemon Sun) 4:50
13. Clarie Intro 1:21
14. Claire 4:47
15. Chat 2:56
16. Easy To Be With You 3:32
17. Chat 3:19
18. Christopher 6:08
19. Horses 8:07
[READ: August 19, 2016] “Never Too Late”
The July/August Summer Reading Issue of The Walrus has a theme of “Love and Lust.” The theme promised to be a bit more upbeat than the darker stories in the last few issues.
Bev is a man who is long divorced. He couldn’t provide his wife with children so she left him. He doesn’t seem very bitter about it and is even still friendly with her as well as her new husband and their children.
Bev owns a farm–he has some horses and cows. On a cold morning in April, a strange dog appears on his property. It’s a friendly dog but he wants to get it to its owner so he brings it into town and learns that it belongs to Janice and “She loses her [dog] at least once a week.”
He goes to Janice’s house and she is very happy that Bev found “Keller.” He brings the dog upstairs to her place and is surprised to see that she is in an electric wheelchair. He notices that she is too young to be in it due to age. And, she’s also very attractive.
She says she can’t give him a reward but she does offer him some noodles and they sit and talk. She’s pretty direct–asking if he’s married (he says he was) and then saying that she misses the sex. “You don’t have to be married to have sex but it’s easier.” People think because she’s in a wheelchair, she can’t have sex. Not true.
This whole line of talk makes Bev uncomfortable, so he bides his time and then leaves.
That week he was filling in at an auction and Janice showed up at the auction house. He gives her a ride home and when he drops her off she tells him that he should hold on to the planks that he used to wheel her chair into his truck.
The next night they go out for dinner and she says that she likes that he’s not particular–not turned off by a gimp. That night she asks if she can stay at his place He says he has only one bed and she says its perfect.
They see each other every day for a week. And things are going pretty well.
Then one day at the ranch, a car drives up and Jack–Janice’s ex husband–tells him to stay away from Janice. Bev isn’t impressed “Last I heard you were married to another woman.” But Jack says he’s concerned that Bev is Janice’s money. Jack knows that Bev has been having some financial problems at his ranch.
Bev is turned off by the whole thing and doesn’t call Janice for several days. When they finally talk, he tells her about Jack visiting him and she says “And you’re going to obey him?”
The end of the story is a battle of wills–two (or three) stubborn people who will not be denied. And, yes it gets kinda dark, too.
I really enjoyed the way the story evolved and ended. But it left so many questions!