It was a little odd to waltz into the Grand Theatre just before showtime, expecting to plop ourselves against our favourite wall and up in the mosh area respectively, only to discover that there was seating. We had to rapidly adjust our expectations. Fortunately we are resilient when called upon to be, and even more fortunately we scored seats in the front row, which had been left empty by virtue of a “this seat reserved” sign on a third empty seat. However, as it did specifically state “this” seat, and I was prepared to debate semantics if questioned, we scooped up the other two empty seats.
Lorrie Matheson opened the night with an oddly sombre set. Now, I love Lorrie as a personality and a righteous curmudgeon, and as the bushy-headed dude who works at Hot Wax Used Records. He’s a fixture in the Calgary music scene. And he’s glorious when he’s belting out rants which rip against local politicians and the state of life under a perpetually Conservative Alberta government. But that side of Lorrie wasn’t really prevalent that night; perhaps it was the departure of Ralph Klein as our fearless premier or maybe it was that the songs he chose were largely focussed on suicide and sadness, but there seemed to be a lack of spark in his music. I wanted to like his set more than I did.
Dan Bern, the American singer-songwriter, headlined the evening, and I recall him being very funny and kind of adorable at the folk festival last year. And he was largely entertaining; he has a quirky outlook on life and my favourite pieces of his were those odd and rambling songs in which he sang about things like what he would do each day in his first two weeks as President of the US.
And then, just before Dan Bern’s last song of his encore, Kris Demeanor’s dad totally stole the show. Dan was just introducing a song he had written about Roger Federer, when he launched into a rambling explanation as to how he came to write the song. He had heard Kris Demeanor (another Calgary musical institution) at the folk festival last summer singing about how he and his dad were harassed by a group of juvenile delinquents while they were trying to play a game of tennis.
Dan stopped his explanation, called out “Kris, are you here tonight” and got a “yup” from deep within the audience. “Come on up here and play that song, will you?”
Now I heard this song at the folk fest as well, and I remember almost peeing myself at the hilarity and the pitch-perfect German accent that Kris used while speaking in his father’s character. On Saturday night, Kris completely changed the final part of the song so that his father’s final monologue, in which he completely crushes these kids albeit in a very measure and polite manner, was entirely different from the first time I heard it. I couldn’t even begin to do it justice by attempting to describe it, but suffice it to say that the audience was roaring. Kris’ dad totally and utterly stole the show, and he wasn’t even there.
And it must have been more than a little hard for Dan Bern to come back and sing his final song after being upstaged like that, but he seemed to take it well in stride.
Generally, it was a pretty good concert, and I’m glad we went, but it was really more suited to taking in whilst sitting in the shade, leaning against a tree. It was a folk festival performance and ultimately it was a little lost in the darkness of a funky downtown venue on a Saturday night.