Eight Great Little Bands
The snow is deep, the wind is cold, but the will is strong and we must be entertained! Why do we brave the elements for such fleeting pleasures? Did our forefathers trek thirty minutes into hip-deep snow just for an evening of watching the Northern Lights? Well, possibly, but they didn't pay anything for it and we do! Ah, but isn't it worth it?
Last Friday Chris Wright brought together eight equally talented but completely different musicians at Rancho Relaxo to raise money to help out local victims of the disaster in south Asia.
Loitering Heroes, The Lower Enz, Minsk Mensk, Tradition, Galaxy, Frank fb_A, Jon-Rae Fletcher and Ninja Highschool drew a sizable crowd for such a miserable night, and despite the weather, everyone seemed warm and friendly, energetic and enthusiastic. The only time the cold seemed to be on anybody's mind was if the door was left open for too long.
In fact, by the time Ninja Highschool had finished their set there were four young men dancing on stage without their shirts, and chief ninja orators Matt Collins and Steve Kado were glossy with sweat.
Loitering Heroes, Jon-Rae Fletcher and Minsk Mensk each sang folkish songs with their respective guitars, but the three acts couldn't have been more different.
Heroes' songs about witches and piles of leaves and other loosely tied elements were full of great words and clever turns of phrase which made them a pleasure to just listen to and enjoy, and the rhythm and lead guitar dynamic of the two musicians kept the energy up through the whole set.
Jon-Rae Fletcher on the other hand played a solo acoustic set of country songs about living in the city. His strumming and strong soulful voice gave his narratives a deep, noble sound to them, which was betrayed by the lyrics which often included crude references to dirty deeds and shameful desires. Jon-Rae blows me away every time; no one else could rhyme "city" with "titty" without sounding like a jack ass.
And Minsk Mensk (aka Eugene Slominerov of Lenin I Shumov) rattled our cages of North American isolationism with his wailing Russian and jangly guitars. I have no idea what the songs were about, but they made me want to do something important. Eugene's other band Lenin I Shumov gives me the same kinds of chills, but with a full band backing him up like a line of gaurd dogs adding to the frenzy.
Frank fb_A, as usual, was a riot to behold. 13 year old co-frontman Charlie Wright and his older brother Chris took to the stage in shiny green and purple facemasks and proceeded to pour out the synth rock like water on a grease fire. The audience ate it up calling out requests for "Generator" and "First Beer!!". After they played "Generator", which is a whole lot of noise and howling with intermittant shouts of "generator!", someone yelled out, "Generator AGAIN!"
Thankfully for those of us who had to rise in the morning each band on this exceptionally long bill only played four songs each, and the show didn't go on too late. Tradition and Galaxy rocked us hard and loud to great acclaim near the end of the evening, but it seemed like no one there could wait any longer for Ninja Highschool to go on.
Their high energy sing along rap anthems brought the crowd to a broad smiling boil which threatened to spill onto the stage more than twice. In fact, only three of the four shirtless young men on stage were officially part of the group and at one point Matt Collins decided he could do his job just as well from the floor and remained there for at least two songs.
Later, I found myself waiting for a westbound streetcar at College and Bathurst in the middle of swirling snow and biting wind. I wasn't the only out out and about though, and unlike at the Drake our friends at Rancho Relaxo weren't all piling into waiting taxi cabs to go home. The falling snow and the icy whip of wind might have been a shock to those still damp from the excesses of rock, but high spirits beat low temperatures every time, and the snow looked pretty against the backdrop of the Fire Station clock tower.
Walking home after such an good show never feels like a compromise, and I'm sure anyone who lived close enough to do so was happy to have the crisp cold air in their lungs.
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