Times I’ve seen the National pt two…

  1. April 2011 – Coachella, CA
  2. Nov 2011 – ACC
  3. Dec 2011 – Beacon Theatre, NY
  4. May 2013 – Sasquatch, WA
  5. Sept 2013 – Laneway, MI
  6. Mar 2014 – Massey Hall
  7. Mar 2014 – Massey Hall
  8. Mar 2014 – Massey Hall
  9. Sept 2014 – Riot Fest, TO
  10. Oct 2014 – Dream Serenade
  11. June 2015 – NXNE
  12. Nov 2015 – EL VY at the Opera House
  13. June 2016 – Hamilton Church
  14. June 2016 – Field Trip
  15. July 2015 – Eaux Claires Music Festival, WI
  16. Dec 2017 – Hamilton, ON
  17. Dec 2017 – Niagara Falls, NY
  18. Aug 2018 – Toronto, ON
  19. April 2019 – Toronto, ON
  20. June 2019 – Hamilton, ON
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Gush: “Sisyphus” by Andrew Bird

Sisyphus was a cruel Greek king who was punished to push a large rock up on a steep hill, only to find it rolling back on nearing the top. Ever since, he has been known for pushing the rock tirelessly till eternity (source)

I’ve been internet searching all kinds of album titles this year. This sweet little tune is the best thing I’ve heard in a while. From it’s “Let it roll…” bit, which I feel may reference George Harrison’s “Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let it Roll)” and to the Radiohead “Karma Police”-type piano layer. And the bass line reference I can’t quite put my mind on (I will report back on this later). This song is lush, as Andrew Bird so often does, but it’s fast-spitted words makes it more exciting and different.

This is a keeper. The album drops next week. I’ve ordered multiple copies to my beautiful record store. 

Sarah Harmer on the Environment

I recall musician Sarah Harmer being an activist with the release of her concert and documentary film, The Escapement Blues. Great to see thirteen years later she’s still using her voice to make change.

Sarah warned: “We need to understand the threats in Bill 66 that concerned so many of us are the same that we have with the endangered species act review,”

Gush: “Ballad of El Goodo” by Big Star

Four minutes and twenty seconds of chills. I’ll never forget hearing this song for the first time at the Choir! Choir! Choir!/Jody Stephens event at the Great Hall.

The C!C!C! team had rehearsed the back up vocals to join in as Jody played this song. . They were also in the crowd and could actually sing, so it was a very welcome contribution. It was a delightful change up from singing “Thirteen” about one hundred times that evening

Times I’ve Seen the National play…

  1. April 2011 – Coachella, CA
  2. Nov 2011 – ACC
  3. Dec 2011 – Beacon Theatre, NY
  4. May 2013 – Sasquatch, WA
  5. Sept 2013 – Laneway, MI
  6. Mar 2014 – Massey Hall
  7. Mar 2014 – Massey Hall
  8. Mar 2014 – Massey Hall
  9. Sept 2014 – Riot Fest, TO
  10. Oct 2014 – Dream Serenade
  11. June 2015 – NXNE
  12. Nov 2015 – EL VY at the Opera House
  13. June 2016 – Hamilton Church
  14. June 2016 – Field Trip
  15. July 2015 – Eaux Claires Music Festival, WI
  16. Dec 2017 – Hamilton, ON
  17. Dec 2017 – Niagara Falls, NY

The National at FirstOntario Concert Hall; Sunday December 11, 2017

I did the big count this morning to realize that I’ve seen the National play seventeen times. That’s seventeen times across five American states and countless Toronto gigs.

I have seen them play a wide variety of settings, including:

  • Formal concert setting
  • Festival setting
  • Full-band charity benefit setting
  • Stripped-down charity benefit setting
  • Church show
  • Free show

Sunday’s Hamilton show was a formal concert – fancy light displays, jumbotron-type backdrops and the National’s trademark uniform, business casual attire. As the band ages, they adopt a more relaxed attire, although front-person, Matt Berninger, still black leather dress shoes. All other members seem a bit more relaxed – drummer Bryan Devendorf wore his usual trucker hat, but in highlighter yellow. The Dessners with their scrappy and wispy hair – Bryce’s just a bit more kept than Aaron’s.

Fashion aside, they played a dynamite set, comprised of mostly tunes from the darker, more monotone new album, Sleep Well Beast. They played a variety of songs from older albums, but showed no preference for their older catalogue. This tour, unlikely any other gig I’ve seen, had the agenda to promote the new material. At all past National gigs, I knew that I’d hear certain older songs. Thanks to extensive set list posting on their Instagram page, I sadly and excitedly had expectations that sets would vary and that new material would be in full swing.

Low – Very little from High Violet and Trouble Will Find Me; Despite being in the third row, the venue refused to let anyone into the front area of the stage. Everyone diligently stood on the ground floor as the National entered the stage.

High – Roomy floor section seats! When Berninger hopped into the audience for Mr. November, he knocked off Adam’s hat. I chuckled as my date was clothes-lined by my favourite band; the National’s pump up music prior to taking the stage was “Sadly Beautiful” by the Replacements and as they walked on the stage was “Shark Smile” by one of my favourites, Big Thief. I was in absolutely gleeful knowing that the National dug the same tunes that I do. I shamelessly sang along to the catchy chorus of the tune.

Angel Olsen at the Phoenix; Wednesday December 6, 2017

At thirty years old, Angel Olsen has reached a point in her very established career where she can release an album of B-Sides. With four full-length recordings to date, Olsen is an artist that varies her style, but never at the cost of quality of sound.

Being my third time seeing Olsen live, I found this time to be more playful and lighter spirited. Somehow, with minimal audience engagement and a tight hour and a half-long set. Olsen jested to the crowd “We’ll be playing here again tomorrow”, as if she was playing a regular residency at a tiny club.

Early on in the set Olsen showed some love for one of her guitarists, acknowledging that it was his birthday. Some extra hoots and woos were given and the guitarist playfully pointed at his heavy left hand that donned a ring on its fourth finger. Upon filing back on stage for the encore, the guitarist cheekily said to the crowd “No one’s sang me Happy Birthday yet.” Immediately the audience started singing and a bit disorderly, Olsen chimed in with the same song at a different pace.

I suspect part of this enjoyment and a playfulness came from a place of comfort and establishment as a musician. Unlike the last few times I’ve seen her, she wore a race car driver body suit, except in solid metallic gold. Her hair was its usual messy half up style with trimmed bangs that look like she cut them herself in a dim lit bathroom. Upon returning for her encore, she reentered the stage with the silver tinsel wig she wore in the video for “Shut Up and Kiss Me.”

The band were in their modest country band frocks – powder blue suits

A major high was watching Olsen’s band rock out. Two lead guitarists flanked the stage at both sides. Their sound was playful and fun and while separated, they sounded incredible playing off each other.

Another major high was watching the set closer (before the encore) wrap up with a cover of the Velvet Underground’s “I Found a Reason.” Olsen asked the audience to sing along, especially to the hard-to-hit low parts, and to be nice to those singing around following it with a half thought through comment: “because it’s hard”.

A major low was helping catch a middle-aged Mom that fainted at the show. My knee-jerk reaction was to help, so I cradled her head as her lifeless body descended to the floor. She eventually woke, surprised to hear that she had briefly passed out, she immediately said that needed some fresh air. Space and sight lines are always so limited at the Phoenix. I am so grateful for intensified bookings at the Danforth Music Hall.

Required listening:

Required listening after you listen to the above video.

This sparkly gem wasn’t played last night, but it’s one of my favourite songs… ever: