Sunday, April 26, 2009

three bands, no love

Oh Susanna, the Constantines, the Weakerthans
MacEwan Hall, Calgary - April 25/09

If you were on BLIP.FM this morning, you would know what I and some of my fellow Calgary blippers thought of the Weakerthans/Constantines concert at Mac Hall last night. Here's a sample of some of the exchanges:

Me: to my boyfriends the Cons - sorry the audience was so lame last night - I love you
Also me: to my boyfriends the Weakerthans - great show, sorry about the lame crowd
Mandaleah: doesn't calgary have like the worse crowds... this city is full of douchery
Me: yes, Calgary is full of assholes who show the Constantines no love at all at concerts wtf
Fated: But on the bright side I now have wicked commie themed constantines hoodie

This is the fifth time I have seen both the Constantines and the Weakerthans in concert, and the second time I have seen them perform on the same bill. This first time was at a much smaller venue, where the audience was so engaged that I witnessed tears as people sang lustily along. That night was magical.

Last night was sort of sad. The show opened with a short set by Oh Susanna, who was accompanied by Chantal Vitalis (she of Kris Demeanor and his Crack Band fame). It was a decent set, very heartfelt singer-songwriterly stuff in which all the songs were very personal and earnest, but definitely stuck to a theme.
The crowd was politer than one usually sees for a first opener, but unfortunately, never really got past that polite but reserved stance all night.

I'm not really sure what the problem was. Maybe what the Resident Offspring said is true and
Weakerthans fans are actually bigger assholes than one would expect. She did hear a couple of Neanderthals scoff when Steve Lambke was singing, and question his sexual orientation. That's certainly not the Weakerthans' fan way.

Admittedly, the Constantines did play quite a few of their more reserved songs, and I wish they had let rip with National Hum, but still it wasn't until Nighttime/Anytime (It's Alright), which was about 7 or 8 songs into the set, that there was any sustained clapping along. And I didn't see any fist pumping until the final song. There were only a handful of us who raised arms in respect.

There did appear to be a tiny enclave of Constantines' fans way on the other side of the hall, and I should have made my way over there to lend solidarity. I could have stood beside the dude who yelled out "I like your shirt, Bry", because I had just finished asking the Spousal Unit "does Bry Webb even own a shirt that isn't plaid?" We could have exchanged notes.

Sweet moment: John K Samson joining the Constantines to sing Little Instruments. Sadly, the Constantines did not return the favour to join the Weakerthans on stage for an encore, as they did so magnificently when I first saw them share a bill, or as they did at other shows on this tour. The Spousal Unit saw JKS trying to encourage them to come back onstage and evidently they declined. I don't blame them one bit though.

I figured the audience was saving up their love and their energy for the Weakerthans, and the hall certainly became packed for their set. I spent most of the time glaring at the back of the tall woman with the freakishly big head who parked herself directly in front of me. I'm sure she and her gentleman friend, who talked the whole set, were not intentionally trying to piss me off, but when they would suck on each other's faces every two minutes, thereby effectively blocking any chance of my seeing the stage, I found it hard not to take it personally.

The audience were certainly much louder for the Weakerthans' set, but I saw hardly any dancing. I think I was just in the company of a bunch of toadstools last night. Or perhaps mashed potatoes without gravy.

The Weakerthans though did seem to enjoy themselves. The band were exceedingly tight, and the grin never left JKS' face. And even though the Resident Offspring claims he looks more and more like a junior high social teacher every year, he is still bad-ass.

It should have been such a magnificent concert. But every live performance depends on some give and take between the performers and the audience. And last night, the audience phoned in their part.


Anonymous said...

Steve Lambke is fierce as hale, and anyone who doesn't agree will get a squid dropped on them.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

A pox of squids upon their asses, Anony! Steve Lambke is way fiercer than those knuckle-draggers!

John Mutford said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Allison said...

"Does Brian Webb even own a shirt that isn't plaid." Hahaha! Doubtful.

That's such a shame the audience was lackluster. That really does have a great affect on your enjoyment. At least you've seen The Cons and Weakerthans with a receptive audience.

Sidenote: I'm Blip addicted. I blame you, in part. ;)

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I have never seen him in anything other than a plaid shirt, Al, tis true. Happily, he wears them well.
It really is hard being the only person wooting and clapping like mad. Everybody needs to help, damn it.
Sorry about the blip addiction thing. Next time I will offer crack instead.

mashel of the wild frontier said...

I think many of the "fans" who go to concerts these days aren't... they're bored primadonna consumers who want more than what they paid for & it's like omg wtf - shut the hell up about your complaining & let the rest of us who see humans performing on stage enjoy the moment, douchenugget.

A friend of a friend got punched out at a concert recently... I have a soapbox, ohgodwatchout. :D

The R.Goddess.O. has a great point... but she's ahead of her time, of course she does.

I keep referencing The Constantines as "The Christmastimes" 'cuz you introduced them to me via a CD you sent within a week of sending us an xmas card... so every single time I visualize the band I see them in green.

There must be a cure for this.

Sean Wraight said...

Wow... I was truly expecting a glowing review of all aspects of the evening. One that saw you glistening in rock star sweat and struggling with a voice made hoarse from song after sing-a-long songs. But instead, this.

How very disappointing for you and the rest of the Zombie clan. You raise such interesting points though; particularly with regards to the role of the audience at any show. I'm quite shocked at the reaction of the crowd this time out. My experience just a month ago bordered on the religious. In no small part due to the awesome set the Cons put on.

I feel bad for you Barb. This should have been a special evening and instead you get "douchery".

[Insert head shakes and trademark Allison fist shakes here.]

Come to London next time, where the flannel is revered!


Remi said...

How can someone not get into a Weakerthans performance?


Barbara Bruederlin said...

"the Christmastimes"! Oh that is so precious, Michelle! I love it, and I am sure the Constantines would too.
I think you make a good point about the overly developed sense of entitlement that a lot of concert goers have. But don't you dare expect them to stop talking loudly.

I am booking my ticket to London and going shopping for an all-plaid outfit as we speak, Sean!
I was pretty stunned by the lukewarm audience, no question, but it is some comfort to know that the London concert was a completely different story. And I will always have the fond memories of the great concert from a couple of years ago, when I first saw the Weakerthans and the Cons perform together. That will sustain me till next time.

Well, to be honest, the Weakerthans certainly got a warmer reception than the Constantines did, Remi. But even so it was pretty lacklustre. Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I would not have believed it.

Gifted Typist said...

Two fine bands -

I don't like to evoke the words of a self-important a**hole but perhaps there might very well be something to the Canadian audiences being potato without the gravy thing

John Mutford said...

Mine's the deleted comment. I'd first blamed the bands somewhat, but rethought it. I still think they hold some responsibility, but I think it's a case of people just paying to see one band. Hard to believe Constantines fans wouldn't be into the Weakerthans and vice versa though. It's not like a Miley Cyrus/ Radiohead double bill.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

It looks like it depends on the night, and maybe on the city, Gifted. Apparently the London crowd was right on board. Wish I had been there instead.

It's not like a Miley Cyrus/ Radiohead double bill. - I would pay good money to do some crowd-watching at that one, John!
Yeah, it should have been a fairly uniform crowd, they have played together before, but the Weakerthans are a little more all-ages I guess. I did see an older couple leave the Cons' set. Everybody else just stood there.

bloody awful poetry said...

Aw man. I'm not the biggest fan of The Weakerthans or The Constantines (though I adore that one song about how work will make a man out of you or something) but it sure must have sucked to deal with a crowd like that =( My condolences.

Karen's Mouth said...

Boo. I once spent a Josh Ritter concert trying to peer round a couple who were dirty dancing (to Josh Ritter! I know!) and sucking face a lot. The guy, who frankly seemed a bit of a meat head hooligan, came up for air only to yell "Kathleeeeeeeeen" like he was at a football match or something. It was still an awesome concert.

I liked my little visit to Blip but it was very brief, only had the office to myself for a bit. 's good though. I will be back.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Soon Enough - yeah, that's a great song, BAP. Hmmmm, obviously I need to apply a little mindmeld to you so that you can love the Weakerthans and the Constantines as much as I do.
Otherwise, how are you ever going to be a proper Canadian?

At a Josh Ritter concert, Kees? That would hilarious if it weren't so unfathomable. There's little worse than trying not to notice the face-sucking going on two inches from your own face, while trying to catch a glimpse of the stage. Brings out my homicidal tendencies.
I do hope you come back to blip when you get some time!