John Vanderslice @ El Mocambo

      . : : October 1st, 2007 : : .

John Vanderslice is commonly known as the nicest man in Indie Rock.

I don’t know if I have accumulated enough data to weigh in on this hefty claim one way or another, but I can say with some certainty that he is one of the nicest people I have ever met in Indie Rock or outside of it. Working the merch table on this night was friend and Barsuk Records street-teaming colleague, Kyle. As I caught up with him, John Vanderslice casually walked up, hand extended, and said “Hi, I’m John.” From there, he initiated and maintained animated, interested conversation as if we were old friends reunited — even though he didn’t yet know who I was or how I was affiliated with his record label and street team!

Most indie rock troubadours cower behind their merch table, meekly and abashedly awaiting you to approach first and break the ice; that is, when they show up among the commoners at all. John on the other hand, made sure to mingle among friends and fans alike, laughing and sharing stories as if they were one and the same. A class act, all the way.

But what’s of real importance on this night was the music. Performing with a full band at the criminally intimate El Mocambo, John and co. treated us to 2/3rds of the band’s fresh Emerald City album and the usual favourites from past albums spanning back as far as 2001’s Time Travel Is Lonely. The 70-minute set seemed to end as quickly as it began, but was topped off by the unique experience of having John and his guitarist/violinist perform a literally show-stopping encore of Pixel Revolt‘s New Zealand Pines on the floor of the venue as the audience swarmed in a tight circle around. The exceptionally note-worthy part of this fabulous encore was the band performed it accompanied by a local fan and her gorgeous harp. Having rehearsed it only once at sound check, the trio sounded like they’d been performing the track for a decade. It was beautifully heart-wrenching, and promptly eclipsed virtually every other memory of the night. OK, except maybe the band’s humorous, lighthearted take on Hey Joe.

The recording that night was uneven. Some songs sound great, while others a bit distant or bass-heavy. The talkative audience is also heard loudly here and there, rudely discussing anything but the show. New Zealand Pines turned out especially great, but as it was acoustic and unamplified, the volume on the recording was boosted significantly and there’s a bit of a hiss. For this final performance, John orbited around the harpist and his vocals oscillate in volume accordingly. It was so quiet, you can hear the digital “shutter clicks” as photographs clamoured to capture this special performance. Also, due to a missing mic clip, I had to feed one of the microphones through the uppermost button hole on my shirt. As with most of my recordings during this unfortunate period, there’s small bursts of static whenever the microphone rubs against the shirt throughout the entire set, but don’t worry — it’s infrequent, as are the bleeps, bloops and dropouts standard of all my MiniDisc recordings.

  1. Kookaburra
  2. Time To Go
  3. Tablespoon of Codeine
  4. Exodus Damage
  5. Angela
  6. Trace Manual
  7. The Tower
  8. Dear Sarah Shu
  9. Numbered Lithograph
  10. Pale Horse
  11. Up Above The Sea
  12. They Won’t Let Me Run
  13. Underneath The Leaves
  14. Hey Joe [Hendrix]
  15. White Dove
  16. Time Travel Is Lonely
  17. New Zealand Pines

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Numbered Lithograph (Live In Toronto) [MP3 sample]

Thanks to John Vanderslice and his band, Kyle and Barsuk Records, and the staff of the El Mocambo. Please download and distribute this recording freely, and support the bands by buying their albums, merchandise and concert tickets when they perform in your town.

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