Monday, March 26, 2012

The Wedding Present end Canadian Music Fest on a high

Sunday is generally a relatively quiet night during Canadian Music Fest, with only a small fraction of the participating venues featuring acts, and the best choice of them all seemed to be the Horseshoe Tavern.

I arrived in time to hear one song by Pinky Piglets, and that was enough. But the singer walked up to me after her performance and said "Thank you," so the female Japanese quartet gets points for politeness -- and for being the shortest band in the festival.
The Jet Age

The Jet Age was a late addition to the bill, and I confess to not knowing anything about the Washington, D.C. trio. One song had cowbell and of course my immediate response upon hearing it was: "More cowbell." Singer/guitarist Eric Tischler is a skilled player, and certain members of the audience seemed to appreciate the indie rock band, but no songs grabbed me during the 35-minute set.

The Wedding Present is a veteran Leeds, England outfit wherein singer/guitarist David Gedge has been the only constant. It's a band that I've always felt that I should like more than I do, but I've only seen it once before years ago, so I thought I should give it another shot.
The Wedding Present

The set opened with "Back a Bit … Stop" from the group's new Valentina album, and then went back 25 years for "My Favourite Dress." Gedge has always been recognized for strumming very fast chords and being a bit of a wordsmith, and that was further illustrated through a performance of "Quick, Before It Melts" from Cinerama, the band Gedge led while The Wedding Present was on hiatus from 1998 to 2003.

I'd estimate a crowd of about 300 in attendance, and the bar remained virtually empty during The Wedding Present's performance, so obviously there were dedicated followers on hand and not just folks out to extend their weekend with several Sunday night drinks. The first part of the set ended about 30 minutes in with "Perfect Blue," and then came the section which was the main draw for many people.

Seamonsters came out in 1991 and was The Wedding Present's third album -- and the first full-length recorded for the group by Steve Albini (Nirvana, Pixies). Many feel it remains the band's best album, though some might lobby for 1989's Bizarro or 1987's George Best, which was named after the legendary Northern Irish soccer player who I became friends with that year when he used to buy me drinks almost every night as a regular at the London, England pub I bartended at that summer.

But this portion of the show was all about performing Seamonsters in its entirety, and the 10 one-word-titled songs really showed Gedge and his latest bandmates at their post-punk best. "Rotterdam," "Lovenest," "Corduroy" and "Heather" stood out as my favourites, though there weren't really any weak ones in the bunch.

The Wedding Present doesn't do encores, so at the conclusion of Seamonsters Gedge announced that the band would perform two more songs to end the night before leaving the stage for a final time. The first number was "Kansas" and closer "Don't Talk, Just Kiss" got people dancing and wanting more just before it was time to head out the door.

I thought that Canadian Music Fest would be a bit of a downer after spending the previous week in Austin, Texas for the South By Southwest Music Festival, but there were enough good acts and performances to keep me  entertained over five straight nights.

I've decided to pass on JunoFest later this week in Ottawa, however, since I'm a bit festivalled out at this point.


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