Now Look What You've Done

Halifax Pop Explosion 2006, part four

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I’m really sorry.

I suspect there are people who enjoyed themselves last night at the McInnis Room, and if you’re one of them, you should probably stop reading at the end of this paragraph. I’m glad you had a good time.

I did not.

I haven’t seen The Weakerthans before, and was really looking forward to this performance. Psyched for it. I headed out in one of those moods when I needed to rock the eff out, big time. The whole bus ride over, there was a classroom of grade one kids in my head, pounding their fists on their desks and chanting “Come on! Bring the noise!! Come on! Bring the noise!!”

Those kids went home crying.

Let’s go back to the beginning. The venue. A nice big room, no smoking, plenty of room for people to dance (a big complaint at the last Weakerthans show was how crowded it was), a decent show time…plenty of promise. The ticket prices were a little steep, I overheard some say, but since I sold blood on the black market to get my pass, I didn’t pay them any mind.

There was an awful lot of security. A friend commented that it felt like walking through a prison maze. Another said it felt like going to a high school dance with too much supervision. Then I heard about the beer rules. You can’t buy beer unless you’re from Dal. Or if you know someone from Dal. But your Dal friend can only bring ONE person to the beer drinking area. Which was in a different room altogether. With music that was not the concert. Music playing loudly so you couldn’t hear the concert.

(It should be noted that I am allergic to beer so these comments do not reflect my personal disappointment. I’m just saying some beer drinkers were not thrilled.)

Dog Day started playing just as I scarfed down an energy bar (well, chocolate bars give you energy, don’t they?). I didn’t like them the first time I saw them ages ago, with the Holy Shroud at Reflections, but then I saw them again and I really liked them and I still like them. They are good musicians and they write good songs. I’m glad I came early enough to watch their set. A colleague commented at the start of the set that he just wasn’t feeling it, but when I saw him afterwards, he’d come around to the ways of the Dog Day, particularly since he thought the last song of the set was so awesome. Which it was. Thank YOU, Dog Day, for trying your best to make this night a good one.

Christine Fellows played second. A friend from out west had hooked me up with her record Paper Anniversary a while back, and it didn’t do anything for me then. I had hoped Ms. Fellows would prove me wrong and that I would be writing something today about how she hypnotized the audience with her magical sounds or what a fantastic stage presence she had or something—anything!—nice. But since I don’t have anything nice to say, I won’t say anything at all.

The Weakerthans. Hey, I really wanted to like these guys. I really did. I liked that at some point during the show the bassist and non-singing guitarist were pogoing on stage, and that that same guitarist was doing all kinds of rock and roll moves during a few songs. I liked some of the songs. It’s just…overall, it felt flat. Like there was no tension, no dynamics to the set. No surprises, no “wow,” no hit-me-in-the-gut/heart/head. Just straight ahead let’s go and get this done with. I heard that they had a good time playing and I know there are people who had a good time watching and listening. I wish that had been my experience. I guess I was expecting a lot more than what was delivered. Maybe I wanted something that they used to be but that they have moved on from since. I don’t know. I do know I’m not alone in those sentiments. I left the building with three others and by the time we had crossed the street we were all admitting how disappointed we felt. It turned into a 20-minute discussion about what was missing, what felt false, what felt empty. By the time my bus came, I felt better thanks to the cathartic bitch fest so at least there’s that.

Every year a couple of groups come out to the Halifax Pop Explosion from the Prairies, my former home. I always do a little secret cheer for these groups, hoping they’ll do “our” little neck of the woods (er, flatlands) proud. Anyone remember when Hot Little Rocket came to the Pavilion in 2002? THAT was what I was hoping for. Full on explosive energy.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go make those grade one kids shut up with their crying already.

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