. : : June 16th, 2010 : : .
Long time readers of this blog may be a little sick of the name Kathleen Edwards, who has been the subject of no less than four posts in recent months. Although I understand how this blog can be mistaken for a tribute to local roots favourite, it’s only because I’ve been fortunate enough to see Kathleen play so frequently in recent weeks that she has been a constant topic worthy of discussion. Yesterday’s encounter was perhaps luckiest, and most due to chance, because it was an invite-only launch party for both Toronto’s annual North By North-East (NXNE) music/arts festival and next years Juno awards (the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy, in theory if not in practice). A random visit to Kathleen Edwards’ fansite KathleenEdwards.org notified me of the show, and that the only way to get in was to enter a daily contest held on Facebook. Luckily, the competition was less than fierce and only a dozen or so people entered each day, and with only a couple of days to spare, my name was pulled from the proverbial hat his past Sunday.
I knew because it was an invite-only function and only a limited number of guest list spots were opened up to contest winners that the venue would be entirely made up of industry-types, the room would be filled with people more interested in loudly sharing tidbits of office gossip than the performances of the artists, and I wish I could say it was wrong. Contest winners were let into the Courthouse (a small club in the downtown core) well after the party had started, but not so late that the catering table had been completely picked over — which was a nice surprise. The back of the venue was almost wall-to-wall people sitting across or standing around small tables chatting idly, and the front of the venue only held traffic directly in front of the foodstuff tables pushed against either wall. Mere minutes after being admitted, the festivities started properly with a DJ set by K-OS. Virtually no one stopped talking, except maybe now at elevated levels, and there was hardly so much as a tapping toe to be seen behind the first row of on-lookers. K-OS’ song selection was top notch, although his actual mixing was frequently jarringly sloppy and I can confidently say largely unrehearsed.
Within seconds of K-OS leaving the stage without so much as a “thanks” or “goodbye” (I guess he could see no one would have noticed anyway, even from the stage), Kathleen Edwards starting setting up her gear. She was quickly and awkwardly introduced by the host of the evening, who mistakenly billed Kathleen Edwards as from Hamilton (in the form of a half-question) and was promptly corrected to the only slightly more truthful answer of Toronto (she’s actually from Ottawa, lived in Hamilton for some time, but has just recently moved to Toronto). Without another word, Kathleen jumped into her set. First thing that has to be stated was that the sound was atrocious at this venue. Kathleen’s amp was not sent through the PA, and her vocals (which were) were entirely too quiet and somewhat distorted sounding. Second thing to be stated was that barely anybody in the room probably even noticed. I could probably count the conversations that ended with Kathleen took the stage on one hand, and they were all in the first row or two of people, who stood a good eight or ten feet back from the stage to allow room for photographers and videographers to do their thing and inched only slightly forward once they’d finished. The poor reaction after each song of maybe a dozen people clapping set the mood for the remainder of the set.
It’s sad to say that the apathetic attendees had such an effect on the performance, although Kathleen herself could hardly be blamed. She tried her best to keep her game face on for the few in the front row polite enough to put down their finger foods and listen for twenty minutes, but her attention kept steering towards the place on the wall where photographs of past Juno ceremonies were being projected on the wall. Kathleen’s attention was so divided that she even stopped mid-song to point out a photograph of herself some years ago, “when [she] was fat.” She even tried in vain to grab a little bit more attention before the final song by starting a joking cover of the popular Bryan Adams song Summer of 69, and when that failed, went of a mini-passive-aggressive tirade against the rudely indifferent audience members:
“I don’t really give a fuck if everyone’s talking ‘cus I’ve got myself so loud in my wedges that I’m in my own little moment up here, so thanks a lot […] Who are we kidding? It’s a bunch of music industry people talking about … important things, so let’s just keep on talking and I’ll just play a song, and it’s all good.”
After arriving home last night, I didn’t even think it would be worthy to post this recording. Between the bad sound at the venue and the obnoxiously loud crowd, I didn’t think there would be much to salvage. But in spite of Kathleen’s undeniably distracted performance, she sounds great and the songs came across really well, even if they were on auto-pilot. The leading song, Sure As Shit, is a particularly special performance. The song has been performed somewhat rarely, and usually on acoustic guitar. This one is in a shoegaze-style of delay and distortion that was definitely a treat.
A little bit of EQing in Cool Edit made the tape better sounding than it deserved to be, all things considered, and I attribute that somewhat to the fact that, for the first time, I recorded the set as a high 24bit/96kHz quality WAV. The FLAC’s here have been downsampled to the CD-friendly 16bit/44.1kHz FLAC and MP3s, but copies of the original recording are available upon request. The two new songs performed will not be posted until they have been officially released.
01. Sure As Shit
02. The Cheapest Key
03. [new song]
05. Summer of 69 [Bryan Adams] [tease]
06. Houses on the Hill [Whiskeytown]
Thanks to Kathleen Edwards, NXNE, the Junos and the Courthouse. In spite of it’s short-comings, the night was memorable and it meant a lot to me that I could attend. 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.