Wednesday, January 26, 2005

i'm trying to sail away, but i'm drowning in a sea of alcohol

Boy with Shaker
January 20, The Grad Club

So, my friend Vanessa and I have this band. Actually, it's a "band," in that we can barely play our instruments (I mainly speak for myself and my triangle issues here) and are happy with our performances as long as people laugh with us rather than at us. The first time we had a "real gig" at our friend's kegger, somebody happened to drink too much before we went on stage and rather lost her ability to play guitar correctly. As a result, it was kind of a disaster, but it's not like we were much better to begin with, and no one really cared. I mean, people were there to drink beer, not to see us.

But I still have this weird thing when I go to see real bands where I kind of expect them to be mostly competent even while drunk, since I paid to see them and stuff. Call me crazy, but it's true. And as a result, I didn't enjoy the Boy show very much.

The evening was opened by Shaker, who also played New Music Night on the 11th. On that bill, they followed a horrible, tuneless band called The Visit which basically cleared the place. I think there were about seven people left when they went on stage, but they gave'r anyway in an impressive display of professionalism while wearing loafers and matching flared jeans that looked like they came from the women's section of Value Village. Things weren't much different at The Grad Club, except there were more people there. Shaker play good-natured, inoffensive pop-rock with nice vocal harmonies that's sort of like a cross between The Trews and Sloan (on an uninspired day). They're kind of like an unremarkable but dependable domestic beer: it's palatable enough and does what it's there to do, but you're probably just buying it because you're cheap and you've gotten in the habit of drinking it. That said, sometimes I'm a sucker for that sort of stuff, and I enjoyed their set. (And I feel sorry for them because they are from Kitchener.) However, the rock posturing sometimes got to be a little bit much; goofy rock jumps and attempted scissorkicks are fine, but taking yourself seriously while using these moves is not. I would also like to note that they are pleasingly symmetrical, because the guitarist on the left of the stage was playing a left-handed Gibson SG.

I've seen Boy play a couple of times before, opening for Sloan and Matt Barber. Frontman Stephen Kozmeniuk had lacked stage presence at times, but their Anglophilic indie pop material was usually strong enough to compensate and I was looking forward to seeing them headline. I hadn't been too impressed with "Same Old Song," the first single from their new album Every Page You turn, so I figured I'd decide whether or not to give it a listen based on what I thought of it at The Grad Club.

What managed to emerge through the feedback, slightly off-pitch singing, and the fumbled drunken attempts to play guitar wasn't very impressive. Boy's self-titled debut wasn't the most original album ever produced, but at least it had melody, personality and charm, from the baroque lilt of "French Diplomacy" to the whooping "Punk Ethic". Based on what I could gather from the performance, that's all been traded in for generic and not particularly catchy bar-rock, in the manner of a neutered Sam Roberts (which, in my opinion, is kind of what happened when Brenndan McGuire got his hands on We Were Born In A Flame).

There was at least a lot of spectacle, as Stephen and one of the guitarists roamed the audience, and Stephen used faux-Libertines-style homoeroticism to its fullest effect with all of his fellow strapping young minstrels. He certainly had stage presence, just little musical substance to actually pay attention to. The drummer was very entertaining to watch, since his movements and facial expressions were cartoonish and accompanied by a lot of exaggerated huffing and puffing. He also wasn't pleased that his band's lead singer was a drunken wasteland, which made for several entertaining exchanges and comments. He didn't have a mic, but I was close enough to the stage to be able to hear him:

STEPHEN: Why isn't my guitar working?
MAURIE: Because you trampled it?

STEPHEN: (later) Hey, why isn't my guitar working again?

MAURIE: Okay, who wants their money back?
(On the way out, I also heard another one of the band members apologizing to a fan he knew about the poor quality of the show: "It had a few good moments . . ." "Yeah, but they're all supposed to be good moments.")

MAURIE: Hey, thanks a lot for telling me what song we're playing, I'm only the drummer.

STEPHEN: Oh no, they're making me play my guitar again. Uh . . .

Maurie was also none too pleased when Stephen made a grand gesture with his arm while holding a bottle of beer and spilled a bunch of Stella over the drummer's cymbals and part of the kick drum.

Boy only played two songs from their first album, "Punk Ethic" (which I guess it's appropriate to do a sloppy job with) and "Sea of Alcohol" as an encore, which could not have been more appropriate. Stephen then announced he was going to go play piano in the other main floor room of The Grad Club and invited the rest of us to join him. I cringed at the mere thought of the sounds that might result and decided to go pick up some groceries at A&P. If I am making a grocery list in my head during your encore, while using the rest of my brain to marvel that you can still stand up? You are not putting on a good show.

Rob liked this show a lot more than I did, so if I was too cranky for you, there's another perspective.

I have little to say about Death From Above 1979's show on Friday except that they are still apparently jerks, they are still very loud, they are still pretty awesome, and HOLY CRAP PEOPLE CROWD-SURFED AT THE GRAD CLUB DOUBLE-YEW TEE EFF MATE. I was like "Whoa, where did all these hardcore kids come from?" and the hardcore kids were all like "Whoa, where did all these sissy indie rock kids come from?" and then we had a Sharks and Jets style dance-off. Well, not really, but almost.

Next week, The Local Black & Red goes all MP3-blog on your hiney with Top 5 Songs About Rejection (not precipitated by personal events, in which case it would be "Top 5 Songs About People Being Inexplicably Full Of It" instead).

I love you. Stay warm.

*Boy, "Sea of Alcohol"