|Everyone is hard at work|
Actually, I had two shows to play. I’ve been doing double duty for most of the tour, filling in the rhythm section for Alexei Martov and singing for the Argyles. At least tonight I knew I would get a break, with local bands You Are OK and Reijo rounding out the bill.
|Nice job, anonymous poster maker!|
The Argyles were headlining. I know because I read it on the poster outside. Rolling into a bar you’ve never been to before to play a show can be a confusing experience, and descending into Dickens, I wondered who the heck had made this poster for us. Still, buoyed by the confidence of seeing my name in ink, I strode straight up to the bar and asked the pirate-esque barmaid where we should load our equipment in.
“Just in the front,” she asserted and upon sizing me up, amended: “who are you?”
“The Argyles,” I replied, doing my telekinetic best to draw her eyes to the poster prominently displayed on the wall behind me.
“Oh,” she said. “Your shirt has Pac Men ghosts on it. That’s funny.”
Looking down, I had to admit that she had a point.
Being in a rock band without roadies is a lot like being a professional house mover, the heavy lifting only broken up by monotonous hours in the van. And like a professional mover taking a break to chat up the client’s attractive daughter, actually playing songs is just the Argyles taking time out for a little transcendence.
|I have no idea what key we are in|
But the transcendence would have to wait, because the Argyles were fourth on the bill. Alexei Martov started the night off with a bluesy kick, while Matt and my limited knowledge of how to actually play the songs lent a 'free jazz' element to the rhythmic accompaniment. You Are OK followed with three slow post-rock builders turned burners, led by R Kent’s bearded yowl. The night was off at a good clip.
|R Kent, mountain man|
Then show organizers Reijo took the stage. Their name had been something of a mystery to me: was it Finnish? Spanish? It took mere seconds to quell my curiosity; whatever language it was, it meant “sounds like U2.” And from the cowboy hat to the sunglasses to the acres of rackmount gear, guitarist Storm & Co. weren’t afraid to wear their influences on their rhinestoned sleeves. After soundchecking “Vertigo,” they worked their way through nearly a dozen original songs, with pre-recorded bass parts replacing their newly-fired bassist.
|Fun fact: there are no Joshua trees in Calgary|
By the time Reijo had finished playing and packed up their gear, most of You Are OK’s audience had decamped, along with a good portion of Reijo's own audience (working early, no doubt). So the Argyles had only a hard core of bartenders, barflies, and musicians (whose gear was still on stage) to watch us. The soundman apologetically told me that we only had 20 minutes.
“Play a punk version of your set,” he joked.
I informed the remaining band members (Ryan had fled outside during Reijo’s set) that we had time for six songs. While irked, GD displayed his customary resourcefulness by quickly proposing a workable setlist. I congratulated him on his quick thinking, despite his obvious inebriation. I was designated driver for the night, but the band had powered through our complimentary beer in short order. In short, we were ready to rock.
|GD pauses to think about the setlist|
But now the soundman had disappeared, and our mics were dead. I took our time constraints seriously, though, so we launched into ‘Cigarette 2 Step’ anyway. By the third verse, the soundman was back from his cigarette break and the audience could hear us. And by the third song, I could hear myself as well. Everything was going well.
So well, in fact, that I attempted to indulge in a little stage banter. My banter is much-maligned, and not unreasonably so; I am often unable to pithily convey the meanings of my songs due to my own intoxication. But tonight I was clear headed, and before the agreed-upon last song I launched in:
“This song is about…”
“What are we playing?” GD interjected.
“Sorry,” I apologized to the audience. “This song is called…”
“WHAT are we playing?” GD brayed.
“LIGHTS! The song is called Lights!” I shouted exasperatedly. GD had come up with the setlist, but was too soused to recall it. I gave up my feeble attempt at banter. "It goes like this!"