Wednesday, October 29, 2008

keeping things as awkward as possible, because that seems to turn people on these days

Chad VanGaalen - Uptown Theatre, Oct 25/08

Despite his pronouncement in the local papers the day before about his intention to keep things awkward at his cd release party, it was actually a pretty sublime affair. Sure there were half-started stories and restarted songs, there was a gentle mocking of the audience ("every time I do that, you guys are like wooooo!") and astonishment at his own popularity ("I'm just some guy"), not to mention the fact that the rest of his band (who are all members of other bands) had forgotten about the concert and were busy elsewhere, but the love and appreciation for this local hero were so palpable that it felt more like we had all been invited over to the VanGaalen living room (or maybe the basement) to hang out and listen to the new album.

Things got off to a bit of a dicey start, in that there was still a film (Man on Wire, I believe)
playing in the theatre in which the concert was being held, so we had to line up for a good half hour after door time. Nobody got overly owly about it, despite some grumbling, and it was all forgotten once we settled ourselves into the intimate theatre which boasts only great seats.

Local band, Ghostkeeper, were the openers. Boy on guitar, girl on drums. She had a really decent voice, but he sang most of the songs and I could barely hear him. I don't know if it was a tech problem with his mic, or if he just doesn't have the capacity, but the real problem actually lay in the songs themselves. They were rather disjointed, switching up rhythms and melodies seemingly randomly and I'm afraid they just didn't work for me.

But of course we were all there to hear Chad anyway. Stating that he was trying to kill some time, he started things off by showing a 10 minute unfinished animation. And if you have ever experienced his animations, you know what strange and wonderful beings they are.

We were then treated to an impressive number of brand new songs, and then, amongst the stories of breaking Ian Russell's (head of Flemish Eye records) headphones while out recording train sounds with his baby strapped to him in a "front pocket thing", dog in tow, and a bag full of recording equipment to schlep around, Chad played pretty much every song from Soft Airplane. To make up for a lack of a backing band, Chad was accompanied for part of the show by a cellist. As she clambered onto the stage initially, and picked up an accordion, someone in the audience sagely pointed out "that's a funny looking cello". Someone in the audience will always make a sage observation at a Chad VanGaalen concert. It's a law, I think.

Sadly, I can't recall the cellist's name, but she was an accomplished multi-instrumentalist and she and Chad played well together, despite the fact that he kept jumping up to bring her a powder-blue Strawberry Shortcake xylophone or to show her how to plug in his circuit-bent keyboard. Because you know the home-made instruments were well represented that night.

Even though I think I have seen Chad VanGaalen perform more times than any other musician, I could never get mundane about his shows. Perhaps because he never set out to be a performer, he has a way of connecting intimately with an audience. His little tales of personal failures that go off onto extreme tangents feel like the sorts of conversations we have in the urban assault vehicle every morning, but we don't sing near as well.

Saturday's cd release party felt like a sublime trip on a errant school bus. And the inner eight-year-old in me is very pleased.


Sean Wraight said...

I think the thing that most appeals to me about our man Chad is his unerring committment to all things creative. The man clearly thinks on a different plain than we do and that is such a refreshing thing. He truly does not have a peer by which to compare. (At least I could not think of one...)

That's really great about a CBC broadcast too. You will have to let us know if you hear any details. I would love to hear that.

I'm curious... Have you ever met and spoken to Chad?

Great post as always Barb. Very good read.


Gifted Typist said...

This is just a guess, but are you tellin us you like this Chad guy or somethin'

I'm very intuitive

Remi said...

Now that's a show I really wish I could have seen.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

He is indeed his own genre, Sean.
The concert will be broadcast on The Key of A, which is a provincial program, but it will also be on Concerts on Demand on Radio 2.
I have never actually met Chad, but I have exchanged emails with his label head (who still owes me a cup of coffee).

Nothing gets past you, Gifted!

It was really worthwhile, Remi. His concerts are always a feast for the senses, and so interactive. Sadly he does not tour much.

Anonymous said...

That blue thing would be a glockenspiel (as a xylophone would be roughly the size of a medium-sized coffee table, and a little higher), and surprisingly, many of the good quality ones are that Fisher-Price blue plastic. I always thought everyone I knew was playing relics from their childhood.

Glad to hear the show was awesome -- I can't believe they did it at the Uptown, that must have been terrific!! I am jealous. Nice review.

Bridget Jones said...

He is darn cute! Thanks for the review, BArbara.

bloody awful poetry said...

I am ashamed to say that I have never really gotten into much -or indeed any- of Chad van Gaaaaaaaaaaaalen's stuff. But this review is certainly a kick up the rear, and I'm going to do some Gaaaaalensearching right nows.
And he sounds like a super nice dude as well!

Karen's Mouth said...

I read that as "he was trying to kill someone". Not sure what that says about me. To be fair I've just woken up and got no glasses on. I figured it was some properly scary animation or something. Then I reread it and decided that animation is definitely better at killing time than a someone.

Great review, makes me REALLY wish I got invited to those kinds of parties. Sounds like a glorious venue also.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

It WAS a glockenspiel, Ruh, you are absolutely right! I had no idea that the quality glockenspiels looked like kiddie toys. I wonder why that is? Although it is charming.
The Uptown is great for a CVG concert. He had his last release party there as well.

He is pretty adorable, Bridget, no question.

Good luck with the Gaaaaaaaaalensearching, BAP, let me know if you need any help in that regard.

Fortunately he kept his homicidal tendencies under control that evening, Karen.
You should have come down for the concert!

Allison said...

Funny, I do believe I left a comment here before.

Anyway, glad to hear that the cd release party was a blast. I still have yet to really give his cd a proper listen. I shall burn it immediately and place it in my car! :)

justacoolcat said...

Sounds like a great show. I wish our local theaters would host bands. I guess the Fitzgerald does, but that's it and usually bands are pretty big names before they can get on that stage.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

It's a really good cd, Al, definitely a contender for album of the year in my humble opinion.
Blogger has been really screwy as of late.

Theatres are a really fabulous place for a concert, JustA, especially the old art house ones with oodles of character, that are right downtown. Talk to your city councellors!