Sunday, May 21, 2006

"I didn't know what rock and roll WAS until I heard the Constantines"
- Chad Van Gaalen
Warning: extreme gushing ahead
How can I do a review of the Constantines' concert on Saturday night without resorting to delirium? The fact of the matter is, I can't, so if gushing disturbs you, please stop reading now.
The Constantines must love to play to a live audience.
That's the only explanation I can think of as to why they tour endlessly. It's certainly not the money. They charge the most ridiculously low ticket prices I've ever encountered. But it's obvious from the energy and the passion and the joy that they put into their performances, that this is what they exist to do. Perhaps they are just trying to save money on gym membership fees, because, believe me, these boys don't need any more of a workout than what they are getting every night on stage, but I suspect there is far more to it than that.
Saturday's show was everything I had hoped for and more. I knew there would be aggressive drum-heavy driving beats, I knew there would be political and intelligent anthems, I knew there would be sweat and spit from five guys playing with all their strength and all their souls. And there was also compassion and community and love.

The openers, Blood Meridian, who have ties to Black Mountains/Pink Mountaintops, had moments before arrived off a plane from the UK where they had been touring for 5 weeks (and frankly they looked it). Borrowing the Constantines' instruments, and oblivious to their disturbing physical resemblance to the Manson family, they launched their set of hippy-druggy-alt country-rock. Their presence made for the addition of trucker-hippy wear among the usual patented scenester indie-kid outfits in the audience.
When local boy, Chad Van Gaalen, took over, it was to an obvious home-coming, complete with one really enthusiastic fan-boy. Eva spent the night with her elbows right up on stage, so she was privy to this exchange during equipment setup. Apparently the fan-boy, who was right behind her, had brought his mom into the mosh pit to meet Chad Van Gaalen:
"Chad, Chad, this is my mom! Mom, this is Chad Van Gaalen! Chad, I brought you some sunglasses! I love you, man; I chose my high school because you went there!"
I'm a little miffed that Eva didn't invite me into the mosh pit to introduce me to Bryan Webb. Except that I would be the one saying "Bry, Bry, this is my daughter! I love you, man; I brought you some cookies!"
Bry actually played bass during Van Gaalen's set and had been doing so for the last four shows. See that's what this band is all about: community, comradery, dedication. And how great is Bryan Webb, the frontman? His staggeringly powerful voice is legendary, his lyrics are intelligent and political and meaningful. It's been said of Bryan Webb that he is 'the only white dude who could pull off lyrics like "Can I get a witness?" and "sister, don't reduce yourself" with any kind of authority'. His vocals cover the range from punk howler to impassioned activist to gentle lover. He also has the dubious honour of being voted Sexiest Musician by a poll conducted on this site a few months ago.
But I digress into gushdom.
The Constantines opened their set with Draw Us Lines, a song dedicated to the writer and activist Starhawk. It's a song with an unusual musical structure of an extended line of feedback, overlayed with driving drums and a single bass line. It was a really powerful and effective opening to the set, the feedback reverberating on the darkened stage, as we waited for our heroes to take the stage and deliver what was the most aggressive, driving, impassioned attack of music I have ever witnessed. I came out of there with sore hands, a raw throat, ringing ears, and aching feet; I can't imagine how the boys feel after night upon night of this kind of raw energy.
Oh, I also came away with this t-shirt. You can't tell from this photo, but the vines among the leaves spell "Constantines". And I really really wish that I was a mechanic, as the band was having van troubles on route from Saskatoon to Calgary and sent out a plea for anyone who knew a mechanic who was willing to work on the Sunday morning of a long weekend. I still feel badly that I couldn't help. I should have taken up a collection or something.
If you are at all curious about the Constantines, please, I implore you, spend that 18 bucks and go see them when they are in your town, because, I can assure you, they will be there soon.
I have not done the show or this band any justice with this review, as words fail me when I think about how fantastic they are and I am reduced to babbling. I know that it is a cliche to say you really have to see them perform live to truly appreciate them, but in the case of the Constantines, it is the gospel truth. You owe it to yourself to experience this band and to feel the love.
"[The Constantines] work the great miracle of rock 'n' roll: Kill it, then bring it back to life. This is important."
- Magnet Magazine
previous Constantines posts:


Evelyne said...

It seems that you had a great time. It's always fun to be at a show where there's good band with a good stage presence.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I love live shows, Evelyne. That's how I spend all my extra money and time. The energy and good vibes keep me going.

Allison said...

Conversion story ahead...I can just feel it coming, thanks to your excitment :) Now that's what I call doing the band justice!

John Mutford said...

So did you like the Constantines or not? Stop beating around the bush already!

Barbara said...

lol @ John. Yeah I think she liked them.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

That is great to hear, Allison! I hope you do make it to the show. They will sell themselves; at that point they won't need my gushing anymore.

hahaha John. No, I did not like the Constantines, for your information. I LOVE THEM!!!!!

hehe Barbara W, am I giving that impression?

Barbara said...

Barbara B have you heard the news?
A baby boy goat has been born and his name has been chosen. See evelyne's blog for more details.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

She doesn't seem to have published this late-breaking news yet, Barbara W.

Alana said...

Hey Barbara, I'm pumped for you that you loved the show so much, I've never seen them live myself but everyone I know who has says the same thing about their stage presence and their visible passion for performing. That's kick ass, WOOOOO for you!!!

Ben Heller said...

"I have not done the show or this band any justice with this review, as words fail me when I think about how fantastic they are and I am reduced to babbling." - Barb

Barbara, that's the best quote of the lot. You're review was great, passionate, and most of all, made the reader feel like they should be there at the concert. You know now, that next time they come to UK, I'll be there. Great stuff

Jas Bhambra said...

We wantsss to stalksss Bry Webb!

Wear this shirt to work, Barb.

Jas Bhambra said...

LOL @ the "Quote of the day"

Barbara said...

You have to look at the "She needs a name...any ideas" post on evelyne's blog Barbara B. The happy news is there. There will soon be pictures of 'Stroumbo the kid' there too. lol

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Oh I can't stop gushing about these guys, Alana. Somebody shut me up already. They played Winnipeg on May 17, so it will likely be a few months before they are back there. I just realised they played Canmore last night and I thought shit, I should have gone, it's only an hour's drive. Oh well.

Thanks for the kind words, Ben. I do feel like I kind of missed the mark, but it may just that this band is beyond description. They'll be in London on May 31 with Editors. THAT would be a great show.

haha Jas, it's not "stalking", it's "promoting" haha. I'll wear the shirt today because it doesn't actually look like a rock shirt.
I heard Lordi interviewed on As It Happens last night - they were hilarious.

okay Barbara W, thanks.

Jetson Stamina said...

It's gushing reviews like this that turn people into fans, not radio or what the MuchMusic VJ's are talking about.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Just doing what I can to pimp Canadian music, Jetson. Get yourself a band together and I will gush about you as well, but I want a free t-shirt.

Barbara said...

You deserve a free tshirt Barbara B.!

kelly said...

wow...from seething to gushing..

Will said...


That was an awesome review ... makes me want to devote A LOT of serious time to this band. Maybe see them live if I can.

Awesome ... I feel like I was there.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Be careful what you say, Barbara W. Have you SEEN Jetson's t-shirts? I'll tell you right now, there'd be no wearing those ones to work.

I know Kelly, it's kinda scary isn't it? Some things in this world deserve seething scorn (like my arch nemesis with the oxygen tank at Safeway) while other things deserve gushing adoration (like the Constantines). It all evens out.

Thanks, Will, that means a lot to me, coming from you. You CAN see them live:
Jun 09 - San Francisco, CA CAFE DU NORD (with Oakley Hall)
You guys aren't busy that night, are you? I know I've said it before, ad nauseum, but they are incredible live.

BWH999 said...

Thanks for the comment. I can't wait to see them at Spaceland.

Jas Bhambra said...

Barb, I meant I want to stalk Bry Webb! :)

Barbara Bruederlin said...

That's great bhw999! Will you let me know what you think of the show? You've got pretty exquisite musical taste; and I'd be very curious to hear what you think of the Constantines.

No no no, Jas - there'll be no musician stalking on my watch. Or you'll regret it when I have to come visit you in jail with a cake with a file baked into it.

Jas Bhambra said...

Stalk him in a good way! :)

Barbara Bruederlin said...

hahaha,Jas - there's a good way to stalk?

michelle said...

There's nothing like an excellent show to get the adrenaline flowing and the pulse thumping - you had a GREAT time! It doesn't just sound like you had the vibe, girl it owned you!

I didn't make it to Sasquatch. :( But that's ok, I think I'd rather see The Constantines up north with friends.

By the way, what's the story with the 2 baseballs in the curio shelf? Are they autographed?

Most diggin' concert review, Barbara. I feel like I can smell Bry's sweat through my monitor *sniiiiffffff*

Barbara Bruederlin said...

hahaha - you got me sniffing my monitor now, Michelle! And the speakers!

Too bad about Sasquatch, I know you were going to have a tough time making it there anyway. We should make a date for the next time the Cons are here. Deal? We could embarrass the hell out of the girls - one of my favourite activities!

Oh and the balls - One of the balls was caught by our former neighbour in London at the old Tiger stadium in Detroit, and the other is an official Triple A ball from the London Tigers. They were given to Eva when she was wee. (you've got eagle eyes, girl!)

michelle said...

Oooh, that would be totally FAB to visit Calgary, see a dear friend, and check out a show that will destroy all other memories of concerts! Must get those credit card balances down because I'm buying up all Constantine swag. It's all mine. And yours & Eva's, I'll share of course.

Embarassing the girls, isn't that just the kangaroo's pouch? I can't think of a warmer feeling than teenage girls with beet red faces snarling "STOP it, mom" in their most deadly whispers. hahaha, it scares me so...

GOB just informed me that the London Tigers are a farm team for the Detroit Tigers, n'est ce pas? What cool gifts for a kid, that rocks! Actually what caught my eye initially was the curio shelf because I used to have a near identical one that showcased these little ceramic animals that I collected. The baseballs screamed "there's a story there!" so I had to ask. Well, that & I'm admittedly nosy.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

haha Michelle "the kangaroo's pouch" - that's great.

Yeah, I like how they won't look you in the eye directly, but sort of use their peripheral vision to make sure you are still there. That way they can pretend they don't know you, but still get a ride home and ask you for money for a shirt.

GOB is pretty scary with his Canuckophilia, isn't he? He is dead on right (of course).

You had a cabinet like that too? Neat. Ours is actually a drawer from an old desk that was in the basement of the house we had in London. I think it must have been a printer's desk or something.

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