Saturday, May 21, 2005

Truthfully, Truthfully, a Great Show


This the second in Mel's Concert reviews of the 2005 Tulip Festival's Ottawa Citizen Concert Series:

The first time I heard of Joel Plaskett, I must have been about eleven, and my sister, three years older than I, was crazy about the local east coast rock scene, with a particular fondness for the Halfiax resident's first band, Thrush Hermit. It was a running joke in my family that my sister had tried to stalk him outside a hotel in Charlottetown when he was playing in the city (not actually true . . . we think). Oh, how far we've all come in the ten years that have passed.

Joel in picture taken my Melanie Wood
Joel Plaskett and the Lighting Crew From Jesus Christ, Superstar

In 1999 he released his first solo album, and he has recently released his fourth, La De Da. This past Monady night he brought his poppy indie-rock sound to headline on the Tulip Festival stage in Ottawa.

I think it's safe to say that Plaskett has played in Ottawa almost a half dozen times since I've moved to this city, and despite good intentions, I've never gotten the chance to take him in. With the concert pass bracelet on my wrist, and very little occupying my time other than listening to as much music as possible, I was not about to let this chance slip by. In fact, not only did I manage to see Plaskett but, in breaking my habit of showing up much later than I usually intend to, I also got to see the opening act, Lowest of the Low.

I arrived in time to see about a half an hour of their set and, from what I could gather, they seemed to be exactly the kind of band you'd imagine would open for the likes of Plaskett - a group of four shaggy haired Canadian boys strumming their guitars, singing about it being cold in the winter and girls breaking their hearts. It's funny how that can sum up so much of Canada's rock scene. Maybe I should release an album called, "It's fucking cold out, but not as cold as you." I think I'm onto something. (Ed Note: I [Casey] did some research and Mel's been beaten to the punch. The Band Vacancy on the song, Blue in the face, sings "it's freezing outside but it's not as cold as you, these dead trees are my only company")

Joel Plays Mel's Song
Plaskett Laments the Cold Weather and Frigid Company

The crowd seemed receptive to the band, though I don't know if many knew who they were, or maybe they had trouble remembering their hayday of the 1990s, since there was a seven year break after they released their second album in 1994. It was pretty apparent that everyone was waiting for Plaskett to come on, but they played good music and had decent interaction with the crowd. I was digging their sound that at times reminds me of fellow mid '90s rockers The Killjoys, and other times almost of Sam Roberts, with their solid Canadian rock sound that can be played while nursing a few (dozen) beers.

Just as the sun was almost completely set, and the crew had cleared off the stage chants of "We want Joel!" were starting to pop up in different spots amongst the crowd, which consisted almost exclusively of white university-type twenty-somethings such as myself. The atmosphere created was one of respectful anticipation and excitement. I don't doubt for a second that most of the audience had attained some level of intoxication, but it was far from rowdy.

When Plaskett did take the stage to great applause, it would quickly subside as he and The Emergency started playing. The stillness of the crowd throughout each song was hard to miss, as was the response as each song ended. It was a quiet group for the most part, but it was more out of awe than boredom.

Plaskett on MondayPlaskett stood centre stage, at least six feet tall, and I'm going to make an exaggerated estimate of about 80 lbs. The guy is all elbows and shoulder blades and he throws them in every direction when he gets going. The result is pretty powerful, you know he's not holding back, that he's putting everything he has into his performance. It's a whole lot of fun to watch. His style while playing and in between songs just oozed sincerity. By the end of the show, a number of inside jokes were held between the crowd and Plaskett. He latched onto mocking (a man after our own hearts) the "frozen cocktail" stand behind the crowd for the entire duration of the show, and it never got old.

A prime example of his laid back sincerity with the crowd was displayed when someone yelled, "I love you Joel!" and his reply was, "I love you too... wait, that's not true, but I probably respect you." Can't ask for much more then that.

But enough about the crowd and him talking, what about the music? To put it plainly, it was awesome. Plaskett has a unique voice that suits his style of rock perfectly. His lyrics are interesting, insightful at times, as well as fun. For an example of this combination, check out the lyrics to True Patriot Love, which at first glance could be a pop song about a relationship that went sour after infidelity, but try looking at it from the perspective of Canadian/US relations and you see the depth he can create in the upbeat song.

When you walk away from a Joel Plaskett concert, you're left with a feeling that what you witnessed that night was truely an original creation of the artist. Not something that he does every night from memory, but that he puts a little bit of himself in every show he performs so that the audience can eat it up like a frozen cocktail.

Related Posts:
Tulips, Tea, and Other Alliterations

Joel Plaskett - True Patriot Love (Live in Halifax) [Studio Version]
Joel Plaskett - Back of the Film (Live on Citadel Hill)
Joel Plaskett - Maybe We Should Go Home (Live in Halifax)
Joel Plaskett - I Love This Town
Joel Plaskett - Happen Now
Thrush Hermit - Hung Up On Me
Haply Medium - A Letter from BilBao (Lowest of the Low Cover)
Lowest of the Low - The Last Recidivist Video (Quicktime Movie)

When Mel's not busy cannibalizing performers, she can be found at her own blog,
"me, myself, and mel"

Comments on "Truthfully, Truthfully, a Great Show"


Anonymous mOe said ... (22/5/05 12:36 pm) : 

i've had several chances to go see joel here. and at brennan's no less. (i think he was at baba's a few times as well..?)
but i could never go. or just didn't know about it till after. or was just plain too lazy (most likely)

i'm now kicking my ass


Anonymous mOe said ... (22/5/05 12:37 pm) : 

and i'm an idiot...

excellent post! :)


Blogger Katie said ... (23/5/05 8:11 pm) : 

YAY to Joel Plaskett praise!!!!

Moe: Go see next time! You're missing out!


Blogger mOe said ... (23/5/05 10:52 pm) : 

ya i would, but he hasn't been here in ages.
or i should say, i haven't heard of him being here in ages. i'm so far out of the music scene loop it's sickening. (trying to rectify)


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