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 was completely faulty logic. The final night was outstanding (as this recording shows), not least because it was so much longer!
The quality of this recording is really good. Dave is in fun form, commenting and joking with the audience. At the end of “Six (Cello For A Winter’s Day),” the band goes a little nutty with noise and after the jazzy ending, Dave says that “playing fake jazz is way more fun than real jazz” because you gotta know stuff.
They thank everyone during this break. Dave introduces Martin: “You got Martin Tielli back… look at a him, he’s a good boy.” Someone shouts, “We miss you!” and Dave responds, “We miss you very much, especially you, sir, with the loud voice.”
As they’ve noted, the break here is because they’re playing the album as if it were two sides. So do what ever you do between the two sides of records. “urinate? I guess? or make a sandwich?” Kevin chimes in: “wash some dishes.” “Look around outside make sure no one is stealing your stuff or inside in case you’re living with a dodgy housemate.”
Later, Dave sends a Hi “to the mother’s lounge up there.” Tim’s mom and Dave’s mom are there. Dave quips, “they’re in the mother’s lounge getting hammered.”
Each night there was a new piece of information added to the history oft he Go7 album. This night’s was a thank you to “Winchell Price, an artist friend of Don Kerr’s who did all of the spoken sections on the album. (It was Don’s decision to add him to the record). Price was vegan in 1919 totally ahead of the curve. They are happy to raise the spirit and the ghost of the Go7–and their rebellious form of art when rebelliousness was discouraged in Canadian culture.
Before one of the songs Dave dedicates the night to his kids: “Lorenzo and Cecilia you weren’t here 20 years ago but you’re here now and life is beautiful because of it.”
The encores tonight were many: “Bad Time To Be Poor,” “Green Sprouts Theme,” “Stolen Car,” “Legal Age Life At Variety Store,” “Christopher,” “Claire” and “Horses.”
After a great version of “Bad Time to be Poor,” with cello and acoustic guitar, Dave introduces “The Professor Tim Vesely… now that Neil Peart has retired, Tim can become The Professor.” Tim retorts, “I prefer the Mad Chap from Mississauga.” Dave: “That’s Don. You’re from Etobicoke.” Then they tell us, “Don was the mad chap on tour for… one hour. Back in his neck beard days. “I can’t believe we’re about to discuss the neck beard days–an underappreciated era.”
Dave notices someone whistling the Green Sprouts Theme Song, so the band plays it. And then they launch into a great version of “Stolen Car.” “Legal Age Life,” is a lot of fun, of course, with everyone getting a solo. And then after the disastrous “Christopher” the previous night, they played a near perfect “Christopher.”
Martin thanks everyone and says it “really meant a lot to us and to me, thanks a lot.” While Dave is thanking everyone involved with the shows, Kevin plays some nice “Oscar wrap up trills.”
Tim rather sheepishly tells everyone they’re going to play “Claire.” Dave comments, “Tim is warning you that we’re going to do Claire–come on back in everyone.” It’s a really great version, and I love that just before the solo, Dave says, “Martin, paint us a picture.”
And then they wrap up the night and the whole series with a blistering version of “Horses.” During the middle section, Dave goes on a major rant about the upcoming election:
We must be free…. Imagine the beauty of October 20 Imagine a country where scientists keep their jobs for believing in science. Imagine a country where the great first nations of our country don’t have to look over their shoulder at the prison cell behind them. Imagine a country where the cops take orders from us not from some security company put in power by Stephen Harper, the most evil man in the history of Canada
And the crowd loves it.
But even more fun is that later that they’ll be at the Monarch Tavern. If I had gone to this show instead of Saturday night’s, I totally would have gone to the Monarch which sounds like it was a blast and half. The write up from the Rheostatics Live site notes:
After an amazing show Saturday night with some special moments at the end that most would never know occurred, [I wonder if the statute of limitations has run out so we can finally find out what happened that night?] the rheos came out tonight and played the best night of the 4 day GO7 run. GO7 was followed by Bad Time To Be Poor with Hugh Marsh on violin and Don on Cello, and impromptu version of Green Sprouts. Stolen Car, Legal Age Life, a redemptive Christopher and then a 2nd encore of Claire and Horses closed the 4 night run of rheos magic time machine glory at the AGO.
After that, around 12:30AM the band reconvened at The Monarch Tavern to play what was without a doubt the ending true fans were hoping for: a sloppy, magnificent set of hot bar room rheos songs that if it had to be the end was exactly the way they should go out. Song of Flight led into The Ballad Of Wendel Clark Part 2 and Bridge Came Tumbling Down. After sorting out the monitor kinks they went into Soul Glue…. Kevin Hearn took them through I’m Waiting For My Man, Ring Of Fire, Monkeybird, and Lou Reed’s Down at the Arcade…. Northern Wish was absolutely slayed by Terra Lightfoot, and then Mike O’Brien did the same with We Went West. Selina Martin killed Dope Fiends and Mary Margaret O’Hara singing RDA….
Of course, I was long asleep by then. But I hope they keep doing little shows like this and one day I’ll get back up to Toronto to see one.
01. One (Kevin’s Waltz) 1:54
02. Two (Earth (Almost)) 7:50
03. Three (Boxcar Song (Weiners and Beans)) 7:16
04. Four (Landscape And Sky) 0:48
05. Five (Blue Hysteria) 3:40
06. Six (Cello For A Winter’s Day) 8:09
07. Chat 6:20
08. Seven (Northern Wish) 5:17
09. Eight (Snow) 4:10
10. Nine (Biplanes and Bombs) 5:38
11. Ten (Lightning) 8:20
12. Eleven (Yellow Days Under A Lemon Sun) 6:10
13. Bad Time To Be Poor 3:48
14. Chat and Thanks 1:46
15. Green Sprouts Theme 0:52
16. Stolen Car 6:01
17. Legal Age Life At Variety Store 5:13
18. Christopher 6:50
19. Claire 5:38
20. Horses 10:05
[READ: August 19, 2016] “Three Tshakapesh Dreams”
After the lighthearted love and lust theme of the summer issue of The Walrus, it was time for a story about drugs and death! This one is set in Quebec and was translated from the French by Donald Winkler.
A boy, Simon, was found in the Frontenac Library with a needle sticking out of his arm. Brisebois was the policeman who notified people of the death. And he notified The Indian who was an undercover cop. But the Indian said to Breisbois, “Simon may have had his faults but he knew how to shoot up.”
He made Breisbois check the stash. It turned out to contain coke an almost pure heroin.
The Indian tried to find information at the AA meeting he went to as part of his cover. He talked to Kim, the girl who knew Simon best. She didn’t know anything but knew that Steve wouldn’t make a mistake about what he was shooting up.
The Indian called himself Dave Tshakapesh–an Indian legend Tshakapesh was born prematurely when a black bear killed his parents. His sister found him still alive in his mother’s uterus. The baby crawled out and asked for a weapon to avenge his parents. Dave liked that story.
The next day Dave went to see Big Derek, a huge man who was a dealer and a bouncer and a very scary dude. Big Derek is no one to judge but he offers some (casual) suggestions about what might have happened with Simon. This involved a kingpin named Teddy Bear.
Dave got close to Teddy Bear. Soon enough, Teddy Bear asked him to do something for him–if he had been wearing a wire, this might have been all the evidence they needed. And yet, Dave was suspicious of the whole thing.
And that’s when he decides to take matters into his own hands.
What’s interesting is that this story is told to us by Dave’s neighbor, something that’s not exactly relevant until the end of the story when his closeness makes a big impact.
This was a dark story and there was a kind of hopelessness to it, but it didn’t end in a dark place. In fact, the final few lines are strangely uplifting.