Colleen Brown @ Drake Underground

      . : : July 12th, 2010 : : .

I arrive at the Drake Hotel at 5 minutes to 9. I’m almost out of breath with rushing, as a city bus didn’t arrive and I’m a bit behind schedule. Worried that I wouldn’t have time to set up my mics and format my SD card (why didn’t I do that on the subway?!), I shuffle in and head straight to The Underground.

The doors are locked.

Odd, I think as I step outside and consult my Blackberry to confirm that I am in the right place on the right date. Everything seems right — and the site says 9pm, so I figure maybe DOORS are at 9pm, so I step outside and finish the last pages of the novel I brought as company. Shortly after 9, I attempt again. The door is still locked, and just as I remove my hand from the knob, I hear it turn and a rushed man steps out.

“Are you just opening?” I inquire, trying to sound casual. He explains politely as I follow him up the stairs that there was a film showing and the regularly scheduled Elvis Mondays have been shifted back as a result. Humph, I think to myself, as I smile and thank the gentleman. Wish the website would have mentioned something to that effect. He invites me to entertain myself with a drink while I bide my time — a fine idea, if I drank! Instead, I wander ways up Queen St, reading my next novel by the mix of setting sunlight and humming streetlights.

It grows dark quickly, so I turn into a Pizza Pizza and order a vegetarian slice. I’m not hungry, but I want to make sure I have reason to help myself to a seat and abuse their light. Time flies and before I know it, I’m heading back through the Drake a third time. It would be embarrassing beyond belief if I found the doors to be locked a third time, so I breathe a sigh of relief when I see the doors are opened. I peer around the corner and the room is scattered with small groups along all sides, and a lone couple in the middle of the floor, whispering (presumably) sweet nothings into each others ears. I wonder how many of the groups are actually the evenings entertainers. Perhaps half — but I guess it is still early.

I take my position and set my mics up clumsily. Seems I just can’t get them in a suitable position, no matter how I fiddle with them. Even though I’m sure neither the venue nor the bands care I’m taping, I can’t help but feel that all eyes are on me. Every word whispering, “don’t look now, but…” Those that don’t know what a taper looks like may confuse me for a suicide bomber. Wrapped in wires plugged into strange little black boxes, I can hardly blame them. Why did I come alone again? Oh yeah. No one wanted to come with. Their loss, I tell myself. I’m sure Colleen Brown will tear the roof down. At least, I hope she will — my only prior exposure to her is a scant three-song set at the NXNE Gunslingers and Outlaws showcase, but I had immediately resolved to see her again as soon as possible.

Little did I know at the time I would so soon get frequent opportunity. I did not research her tour quickly enough, and missed a proper NXNE set at the Rivoli — but am glad to make up for it by attending tonight and, barring a 180-degree turn in enjoyment, tomorrow at the Horseshoe Tavern. Never before has a performer I enjoyed managed to hit all three of my favourite Toronto-area venues; it’s therefore uncanny that Colleen managed to do it all in just under a month! But I digress. Colleen’s band took the stage and chatted amongst themselves for what seemed to be an absolute eternity. It could’ve have been much more than ten minutes and, admittedly, was but a drop in the water of a night already filled with waiting.

The good news was clear: Colleen would be the first act of the night, completely contrary to any reading of the band list available on the Drakes website (which has henceforth lost all credibility with me). The better news was Colleen’s band included favourite, Colin Cripps on guitar and backing vocals! The best news of all, though, was that Colleen put together a sadly brief but fantastically engaging set that introduced a handful of instant favourites. She performed with the same amicable banter and wide-eyed smiling charm that I found so endearing last time I saw her, and I could feel her winning over the bodies around me. The set seemed to end much too quickly, and in the blink of an eye, the band was tearing down their equipment (while really poorly encoded, crappy quality MP3s blared over the P.A. system inexcusably loud). Exhausted by a lack of sleep and the impatient wait for the show to begin culminated in me excusing myself from the event fairly promptly, opting to skip the latter bands in exchange for renewed energy for tomorrows excursion.

After speaking with Colleen after the set, I learned that she would be playing a similarly short but different set at The Horseshoe Tavern tomorrow, strengthening my already solidified resolve not to miss it for the world. I invite all local readers to quickly download this set and then meet me there.

  1. Red Light Green Light
  2. Love You Baby
  3. Baby Blue Eyes
  4. Really Just Need A Friend
  5. Complete
  6. Boyfriend
  7. [banter]
  8. Strangers Know Better
  9. [banter]
  10. [unknown]
  11. [banter]
  12. Man, Woman & Child

[ info.txt // flac fingerprint ]
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Red Light Green Light (Live In Toronto) [MP3 sample]

Thanks to Colleen Brown and band, everyone at the Drake Hotel, and the Pizza Pizza down the street.

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