"Attention…Mon Ami…Fa-Lala-Lala-La-La"

Last night, following Montreal’s disappointing game 5 overtime loss to Boston — which I got to experience in Kilgour’s, probably the only Montreal Canadiens fan bar in Toronto — my buddy Joe and I strolled down the block to see Godspeed You! Black Emperor at Lee’s Palace. GY!BE had been on hiatus since 2003, so when these tickets went on sale last fall we snapped them up.

We weren’t worried about staying through the entire hockey game, including one and a half overtime periods, because we knew very well they wouldn’t hit the stage until 11:30 or so. As it turns out they began taking the stage around 11:45 and began playing at about 11:50. By the way: it takes them five minutes to take the stage because there are nine of them, and they came on a few at a time and began playing their instruments. That tuning and tweaking turned into “Hope Drones” before drifting, some fifteen minutes later, into “Gathering Storm”, the best part of their best song from their best album and one of my favourite songs of all time (honorable mention). I could have left right after that and felt like I got my money’s worth.

But they kept going, obviously, playing seven more songs over the next couple of hours (their songs tend to be in the 15-20 minute range, and all instrumental, with black and white film footage looped behind them) from F#A#∞ and Slow Riot For New Zer0 Canada and more from Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven and one more song (“Albanian”) that apparently is only ever played live. Nothing from their last album Yanqui U.X.O. though, which was disappointing…they’d played “Rockets Fall on Rocket Falls”, their second-best song, the night before.

Just after 2AM they wrapped up, and I walked out feeling a little underwhelmed. I’m glad I saw it — this may be my last chance as they’re obviously pretty mercurial — but it just didn’t feel like as big an experience as I’d hoped for. Maybe it was being at the back, kind of blocked (distracted?) by the film projectors. Maybe it was being too near the bar and all the assholes who feel entitled to yell inanities to each other that could surely wait until they’re outside. Maybe it was that my mind kept making the obvious comparison to Mogwai, who thumps me mercilessly every time I see them, unlike last night’s show.

Like I said, I’m glad I went. I guess I was just hoping for more of a storm.

The playlist, according to the internets:

  • “Hope Drone”
  • “Gathering Storm”
  • “Monheim”
  • “Albanian”
  • “Chart #3”
  • “World Police and Friendly Fire”
  • “Dead Metheny”
  • “Moya”
  • “Blaise Bailey Finnegan III”

Right here what we've had is a good thing and it will last

Friday night Nellie and I went to see The Rural Alberta Advantage (site | myspace) at Lee’s Palace with Joe and Sheila (who must be gold member frequent RAA concert miles collectors by now). I’d heard loads about their shows, as they play Toronto a lot, but decided I had to experience it for myself.

Because of a birthday dinner we were late getting up to Lee’s and showed up at the tail end of the set by second opener Bahamas (myspace), just in time for a singalong cover of “Purple Rain”, which I did not see coming from a guy wearing a mesh-back Larvacide hat.

Then, the main event. As I said, I’d already heard about RAA shows: even more rapid-fire than their album, with a surplus of sweat and emotion. The benefit of actually being there, though, is the little extras: understanding how it is that Paul Banwatt’s drum sound is so tight, seeing all the blood rush to singer Nils Edenloff’s face and neck as he wailed through some of the more challenging choruses, realizing how Amy Cole makes accent and harmony core to the songs instead of just adding bells and whistles.

Of course they ran the table on Hometowns, but played some new stuff as well. There was even a cover of the Littlest Hobo theme song, cementing my assertion last month that they’re the most Canadian band playing today. The set was short, but I was still sweaty and happy when they closed with The Dethbridge in Lethbridge after an hour or so. I also somehow found myself missing Alberta terribly, even though I’ve only been there twice. I came home and started flipping through travel books about Peter Lougheed Provincial Park and mapping the route to Frank, AB.

Great show, great time. I feel more Canadian now than I did when I woke up Friday morning.

[all linked photos by Chromewaves, who I finally met on Friday and thanked, essentially for being my personal radio station for several years]