We are in the "Ambitious City" of the early 1800's when George Hamilton founded the settlement that was going to unsettle the Iroquois nation once and for all. (Five Nations at the time, could have used that 6th Nation to shore up the defence but it's unsure if the Tuscarora would have tilted the balance.) Later, as industry took over, it was the "Birmingham of Canada" which was cool until they turned on the water hoses in the southern version.
Put the shameful history of our cultural genocide behind and what you have now is "Lunchbucket City", made up of salt-of-the-earth blue-collar workers, soon to be on display at the ROM, next to the dinosaurs.
"Steeltown" has just seen it's workers locked out of the US Steel plant this past week.
"Hammertown" is getting close to puttin' the "Hammer" down.
Well, that's my eulogy and I'm all out of nicknames.
In town to breathe some life into this shut-down-at-sundown city are CR Avery and friends. Dinner at a local Vietnamase eatery, 15 minutes of Roger Marin's set, too much of some other guys set, and not a minute before 11 pm the show starts.
Starts strong too with a punchy Boxer Who Just Returned From London. At this point it seemed like the middling-sized crowd was in the mood. But it was early.
Back in 1980 Iggy Pop taught me something when he walked out on a concert 23 minutes into the set, yelling at the audience, telling them that if they didn't want to rock, well then, neither did he. Shortest show ever! The lesson? The audience often gets what they deserve. Or, from a more positive perspective, the audience is an integral part of making a show great. Without the energy pouring back from the seats it's just a bunch of sweating guys pumping out chords.
This Disclosure, with a hook/melody borrowed from Small Town, is a gender-bending excercise in failed relationships.
CR gives a shout out to the less than 'magazine beautiful' in Promiscuous Women. Sensing the crowd is not yet engaged he first strokes them, telling them they look like a good Tuesday night crowd, then gently admonishes them, letting them know the fate of the show rests in their hands as much as his. He calls out for their help to elevate this set above mediocrity. A slightly better than half-hearted sing-a-long threatens to make this ploy a success.
But this crowd ain't that interested.
Very Sarah Palin starts as a diatribe and ends as an all out rockabilly blast. The band leaves the crowd behind half way through this song. They're gonna have fun and no one can stop 'em.
Dungeon of Love keeps up the pace.
Dinner For One is this tours litmus test. Rude, crude, and I'm guessing someone's tattooed. This is the song that lets the band know if there's life beyond the lights or if dead people really can smoke. (old joke, don't work no more in this new age of smokeless bars) Tonight's response from the girls was, let's say embarrassed, in a giggly way. It's much better when the women howl. The men howled, in a drunken lasvicious manner, which didn't make it any less embarrassing. Great '50's girl group' style to this song, complete with the shoo-be-doo-wops.
CR's still working hard. In a final effort to involve the crowd he brings the show to them, stepping off stage for an unplugged version of his 'Fanfare for the Common Man', Make It Count On Election Day. A tip of the hat goes out to CR's good friend Corin Raymond, who reminds us there will always be a small time as long as they are singing in the parlours. A little down-home country stomp-along for the populist crowd.
Back to the stage for a new rap, the Dylan Meets Pryor intro to a raucous version of Folk Singer.
The night closes with I'm On to Something and the band continues to rock.
Despite a drunken cry for 'one more song' from the one guy who was not paying attention all night, the crowd thinned out and CR was just about to do the same.
You can set 'em up but you can't knock 'em out every night.
Now on a totally unrelated note CR was gracious enough to allow me a soundboard patch of this show, as he did last time we were at This Ain't Hollywood. That time I mentioned to the sound guy that there was no feed to my recorder. He insisted there must be because everything was set as it should be. Until he realized it wasn't, with about 3 songs left in the set. This go round it seemed like all was well, I was getting a good signal, though I did not have headphones on, I was relying on my monitor. Turns out that when he cut the preshow canned music from the PA's he failed to shut it out of the soundboard, so it continues to play over the band. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, I won't get fooled again. Seriously though, shit happens, big thanks to everyone for the effort and the sound inside the venue was pretty good, except for that low hiss, which is what matters.
So these samples are from my audience recording I was capturing simultaneously because I trust no one.
Boxer Who Just Returned From London
This Disclosure (Small Town Redux)
Very Sarah Palin
Dungeon of Love
Dinner For One
Make It Count On Election Day
I'm On To Something