I experienced a broken social scene before I even got to see the band Broken Social Scene play on Friday night.
A good friend’s girlfriend has been a big fan for some time. He’s currently off overseas and suggested I might want to go along so she wouldn’t have to go alone. I wasn’t that familiar with their work (except the odd stuff I’ve caught on 95BFM), but she was indirectly responsible for me getting into a bunch of indy rock bands over the past couple of years, so I was keen.
Then my good friend and his girlfriend went and broke up a couple of days before the concert. Ah, fuck.
But hey, I’d paid $50 for the ticket she was holding for me and why let other people’s relationship woes get in the way of more important issues, like rocking and rolling. So yeah, still went. And we’re all grown-ups, so it was all fine.
And the music was also all fine.
Local three-piece Dictaphone Blues were the opening act. They’ve generated some hype over the past year and they’re certainly talented musicians. Even if the front man did have a pink guitar, which I guess he must have borrowed from his little sister or something, but at least he treated it with suitable disrespect. He’d also jump onto a keyboard regularly to add a touch of electronica. Seems everyone has a keyboard these days. Their specialty for harmonics was a fitting lead-in to the Canadian indy rockers who followed.
As someone who knew little of Broken Social Scene, there was a little WTF moment as two drummers and four guitar players took the stage. That presence later swelled to 11 on stage at once as horn players, keyboards and singer chicks joined in.
It initially reminded me of another Canadian band, The Arcade Fire, whom I saw perform with a band of 12, each belting out the song as if they were the front man. But even then you still knew who was really in charge.
It was performance of a different kind with the Broken Social Scene, though. The lead vocal duties were interchangeable, with singing rights changing up to three times during songs, and even instrumental duties would be swapped between numbers.
It was an unconventional happy head-trip.
Their songs are centered around a strong harmony, although I still can’t get the infectious melodies of Texico Bitches and Forced to Love out of my head.
The band members interacted well with the crowd and even indulged a couple of the requests being shouted at them. They were near the end of a long tour, but were in an obliging mood.
Founding member Kevin Drew even tried a brief bout of crowd-walking, and singing from down among the masses, before thinking better of it and heading back to the stage.
I like The Kings Arms as a venue, but it was its usual oversold self. I’ve been a number of times, and, as someone who usually hates crowds, have always found myself amazed at how laid back and unaggressive the indy rock fans are, despite everyone being in a constant mosh pit.
Unfortunately that amazement was about to end with this gig, after I had to go get rid of a couple of pints half-way through a rare ballad.
As I came back a couple of minutes later and was trying to make my way back to where I originally was, I immediately started getting pushed by some drunk who was convinced that I was trying to force my way in front of him in order to block his view with my tallness. I accidentally stood on some chick’s foot in the process. Got sworn at for that. Got pushed again. After the fourth time (why don’t I ever simply retaliate after the first?) I pushed him back. And then, weirdness. He suddenly changed his mind and wanted to be my friend. Started telling me that that song they were now playing wasn’t as good as how it was played on youtube. That it was an anthem that was meant to be played in a cathedral, or something.
I just smiled and nodded to humour him. And then the other founding member, Brendan Canning apologized to the crowd for that performance sucking and not being played as good as usual.
Wow. Drunken pushy guy actually knew his stuff. I wouldn’t have known any different.
I never made it back to where I was originally. Just stayed there for the rest of the night. Blocking short peoples’ views. Sorry.
Broken Social Scene finished off with an encore of a couple of songs and then Drew hung back to talk to the audience. He offered up a crowd singalong, but the best anyone could suggest was the Exponent’s Why Does Love Do This To Me?, and Drew didn’t know that one.
So instead he jumped onto the drums (he plays drums as well?!) and was joined on stage by some of the other band members who engaged in a loose extended jam. Which was cool, but for me it was a jam too far and reminded me of, dare I say, Spinal Tap’s Jazz Odyssey. I was tired OK goddammit and it was past my bedtime. But I expect others loved it and lapped it up.
Still went home with plenty of BSS goodness ringning in my ears, though.