. : : June 7th, 2009 : : .
I think everyone’s gone to at least one show in their lifetime exclusively to see the headlining act, but ended up leaving more impressed with one (or more!) of the openers. One of these such nights occurred in the autumn of 2006 when I bought a ticket to go see Harvey Danger.
Harvey Danger was one of the biggest one-hit wonders of my high school years. Flagpole Sitta was on heavy rotation on virtually every radio and music video station, and when it wasn’t, you were sure to hear it blasting from someone’s car stereo as they drove by. They were victimized by the infamous sophomore slump upon releasing the cult-favourite (but otherwise ignored) King James Version, which lead to the band disbanding shortly thereafter. Lead singer and song-writer Sean Nelson went on to help form an all-time favourite band, The Long Winters, with John Roderick and Chris Walla, so you’ll nary hear a word of complaint from me.
When Sean left The Long Winters to reform Harvey Danger, I didn’t share a lot of enthusiasm for the decision. I was never really that “into” Harvey Danger. I was one of “those fans” who only know the hit single. And even though I loved Sean’s contributions to The Long Winters, I couldn’t be bothered to further pursue his previous catalog of work. It was only when Harvey Danger announced via their website that they would be making their third album, Little By Little, available for free online and accepting donations in lieu of the usual outmoded method of audio retail that the band became a blip on my radar again.
As you can perhaps tell from this very blog, I am a strong believer that the record should promote the band and not the other way around. Bands shouldn’t go on tour to promote an album, bands should release an album to promote a tour. After all, musicians have performed for audiences since a caveman banged two rocks together in 4/4 time, while the album exists merely as a relatively new phenomenon. An album, to me, is a taste of what one can expect when you go see a performance live. For the full meal, you attend the concert when they are in town next. By releasing Little By Little online, for free, it seemed to me that Harvey Danger “got it” and I wanted to support this ideology.
I downloaded the album, and quite liked it. Sean’s lyrics were honest, intelligent and full of fun wordplay. So when the band brought their tour to Lee’s Palace, I was sure to snap up a ticket quickly.
Unless you’ve forgotten somewhere along this lengthy diatribe of a story, it was the opening act that absolutely stole the show. So Many Dynamos, who I’d never heard before but was warned on an online message board not to miss, absolutely blew me away. Their frantic songs, manic energy and catchy-as-all-hell melodies stole the show and carried it back across the border with them. I’m sure that Harvey Danger’s set afterward was great, but following such an amazing opening band, they honestly failed to hold my attention. This preamble was one hell of a long way to introduce the rhetorical question: how do you follow So Many Dynamos? Simply put: you don’t.
Neither recording from that night turned out terribly well (and may end up stuck in the vaults forever), but I anxiously awaited the return of So Many Dynamos from that night forward. I’d even ended up converting several friends of mine into new fans — one of which went on to open for So Many Dynamos when they returned (…more on Arietta soon!).
Bringing their show to the much smaller El Mocambo, this time around opening for Maps & Atlases, the performance was far from harnessed to accommodate the new digs. The set was a short nine songs clocking in at only 42-minutes, but condensed the energy and enthusiasm of a show twice as long into the scant set. The band performed a handful of new songs (the new album, The Loud Wars was released online mere days before, and wouldn’t be in shops for a couple of days) amongst an inspired choice of older tracks, heavily leaning on the fantastic Flashlights album. Although only a couple of days into a North American tour, the band sounded as tight as a band at the end of an 18-month tour.
Showing that history is doomed to repeat itself, headliners Maps & Atlases seemed distractingly tame as a follow-up. Their exceptional musicianship must be credited, but the much, much slower tempo and tepid performance (at least juxtaposed to So Many Dynamos) left my friend and I looking at our watches (we just wanted to get in the car and crank our copies of The Loud Wars!).
While the night may have ended earlier than expected, I can’t imagine there was a word of complaint on the lips of tongues or any fan, new or old, who left the ElMo that night — unless it was that the band order was unfortunately incongruous, again.
The recording turned out great, and can be counted amongst the best of my MiniDisc tapes. There’s probably a couple of the usual suspect bleeps, bloops and drop-outs somewhere in here, but what the hey?! — download this show, love it, and make sure that come hell or high water, you make it to see So Many Dynamos when they play in your town.
01. In Every Direction
03. The Formula
04. Keep It Simple
06. Search Party
08. We Vibrate, We Do
09. New Bones
Thanks to So Many Dynamos, Harvey Danger, Arietta, Maps & Atlases, and the marvelous El Mocambo. Apologies to any former or future bands who have to play after So Many Dynamos. 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.