When I was younger, I would feel an electric charge of excitement in anticipation of a concert. Now that I see an average of 3 or 4 concerts a week, there’s little time for that excitement to build up. Some concerts actually just feel like a fix to feed my crazy, crazy addiction.
By the time I got to Mercury Lounge last night, I was starting to feel that rare energetic surge of excitement. My friend and I had just witnessed a less than spectacular performance by Fiery Furnaces at the East River Amphitheater, and were looking to finish our Thursday night with something a bit more memorable.
After a short wait outside, with a group of overly-excited/obnoxious guys, we worked our way into the venue, through the narrow hallway alongside the bar, and into the performance space. Gentleman Reg was on stage, and our initial reaction was negative, but by the time we settled into a spot right up front, his performance became much more satisfying. But we were there for one reason, Broken Social Scene.
Just as the band took the stage, my friend turned to me and pointed out how funny it was to see me so excited for a show.
None of us knew exactly who Broken Social Scene would consist of on this night. The concert was originally billed as a Brendan Canning concert, with Canning promoting his new album "Something For All Of Us…" (part of the "Broken Social Scene Presents" series). On record, Broken Social Scene has an infinite roster consisting of some of Canada’s best indie musicians. Live, the lineup depends on who’s available, with Canning, Kevin Drew, and Justin Peroff seeming like the only constants.
We all watched as band members poured on stage, revealing just exactly who would beBroken Social Scene on this night. With the stage packed with people, they looked ready to start their set, until they realized that drummer Justin Peroff wasn’t behind his kit. It’s gotta be hard to keep track of so many band members. The other band members got the crowd to yell his name, and soon enough he was pounding the skins.
To the the disappointment of a few, none of the women were present. No Leslie Feist. No Amy Milan. No Emily Haines. As delightful as the presence of any of these ladies would have been, the men of Broken Social Scene faired quite well on their own. Last night’s lineup, which at one point was 12 men deep, included Canning, Drew, Speroff, Andrew Whiteman (Apostle of Hustle), Sam Goldberg, Charles Spearin (Do Make Say Think), Leon Klingstone, Gentleman Reg, and a horn section that Canning named that "Philly Elite."
After opening with "Chameleon," they informed the crowd that they only know how to play 5 of Canning’s songs, so they’ll be playing a lot of other stuff, which of course no one had any quarrels with. The set consisted of the 5 Canning songs, a bundle of Broken Social Scene classics including the phenomenal "Fire-Eyed Boy," 1 Kevin Drew song, an Apostle of Hustle song, as well as few more interesting moments.
When Kevin Drew, wanting to make sure that it was Canning’s night, took out a ring to give to Brendan Canning, we knew it’d be a very interesting night. Before we knew it, the 2 men were acting like kids and pretending to be the Wonder Twins. The overall vibe remained loose, as the band joked about Dj Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, and sang Madonna. Kevin Drew kept the ’80s nostalgia alive singing Huey Lewis’ "I Wanna New Drug" in between songs.
There would be false starts, and a few screw ups, but Broken Social Scene’s performance never felt sloppy, but rather loose and fun, as if we were watching a band who was there to have a good time. And that was exactly what they were doing, and no there was better moment than when the band went into an impromptu country jamboree about how they’ll never be a professional band. It was seemingly as unexpected for the band as the crowd, and perfectly summed up the night.
Another memorable moment came when Charles Spearin and Leon Kilingstone introduced their new project "The Happiness Project." Spearin played us a tape of a woman speaking about happinness, and then on the replay, Klingstone played sax in perfect rhythm with the woman’s voice. It was experimental fun.
After nearly 2 hours, the guys in the band were tired, but the crowd seemed unwilling to let them leave the stage. Finally, Drew gave the audience a vote on the set closer. It was close but "KC Accidental" got the loudest applause, and the band assembled for one last thrill.
There’s a special feeling that a great concert generates inside of you—it’s warm, soothing, and no matter your mood walking into it, you leave with a smile. During the concert, you lose yourself in the performance. Nothing else matters. You do not check the time, you do not wonder how you’re getting home, or think about the guy the chick that just dumped you is seeing. Not every concert is like this, but last night’s Broken Social Scene concert at Mercury Lounge was about as good as it gets.
If you’re willing to brave the heat and potentially melt, Broken Social Scene is headlining today’s Siren Music Festival.
and in case you missed it, Broken Social Scene member Feist just made an appearance on Sesame Street
Photos by Jonny-Leather