Danny Michel @ Glenn Gould Studio

. : : October 16th, 2010 : : .

I’m always afraid when I leave the house that I’ve forgotten the tickets.

The tickets, or something else of equal importance, that is. I’m a terrible procrastinator. I leave everything to absolutely the last possible second and then will tear around the house in a mad panic. Getting dressed, grabbing recorder and mics, checking batteries, wallet, cell phone, etc. And I’m always crazy paranoid that I’ve forgotten the concert tickets themselves. I never have, but it’s a deep-seated fear that one day I will.

So, on Friday night, I stepped out of the house and was about to lock the door when I stopped dead in my track; I forgot the ticket! I rushed back in the house, grabbed in and stuffed it quickly into my wallet. I didn’t have these seconds to spare, and I was already running a bit late. If I missed the bus, my entire trip would be delayed 20-30 minutes, which is the time I need to get to a venue, find my spot, set up my gear and get ready to record. Luckily, the bus was a hair behind schedule. A 15-minute ride and two subway transfers later, I arrived at Union station in the heart of downtown Toronto. I wasn’t quite sure where Glenn Gould Studio was, but a quick search on the Ticketmaster website told me it was contained in the CBC Building, which helped.

I wandered down Front St. looking at street numbers whenever visible, wondering if I hadn’t somehow passed it, or if I had somehow got turned around and was wandering the wrong way altogether. But making that bus and two quick subway transfers left me a bit of breathing room, so I continued on. The walk seemed much longer than I remember it being since my last visit to the CBC building (for a taping of The Hour with George Strombo), but eventually I stumbled upon it. I saw the box office, and a sizable line of people picking up tickets, so I knew I couldn’t be too far off. Once inside, I was immediately faced with a sign pointing which corner of the building the studio was in — much easier than I expected. I’m a notoriously nervous traveler, even in my own city.

I pulled my ticket out of my wallet and walked up to the usher with a smile on my face. I’d made it. The usher looks down at the ticket, and then back up at me. “Sorry, sir,” he says. “This ticket is for Saturday.” Of course. Somehow I’m not surprised. Danny Michel is playing two shows back-to-back, and although I had purchased for the Saturday evening, I’d somehow copied it down as the earlier Friday performance into my Blackberry. Ever since, in my mind, I was attending the Friday performance. I even booked it off work. But I somehow wasn’t surprised.

The kindly usher suggested I take the ticket to the box office and see if I can exchange the ticket for this evening’s performance, but my ticket was nice and close, and all the way to one side of the stage: my favourite location for taping. Besides, last minute, I’d almost certainly end up at the back of the venue. Even if it’s a small room, it would be a tremendous downgrade. Instead, I call a friend and we catch a movie. I was left with no choice but to try again Saturday evening.

The only problem? I was scheduled to work to 7:15 Saturday evening (because I booked the wrong day off) and I had to be across town at the venue for 8pm. A LRT train and, again, two subways, and some lucky timing would be required to get me there in time. I was barely halfway on the subway line when the conductor comes across the speakers, and in that unmistakable crackle of static, relayed some piece of information about a problem a handful of stations further up that would be causing delays and having to have passengers leave the train. Great, I thought to myself. The whole universe is against me seeing Danny Michel again. I had been making such good time.

However, Lady Luck switched sides, and we passed through the reportedly troubled station without issue. Consequently, I walk through the doors of CBC at 8pm on the dot. My microphones still haven’t arrived, so I’m again recording on the Edirol’s built in mics — which require more work, oddly enough, because they require constant adjustment as it shifts around my just-a-bit-too-large shirt pocket. After all, you don’t want the mics brushing up against the shirt, so I tried to avoid it as much as possible. I sit down with only moments to spare: at a surprisingly premature 8:06, the lights dim and an eerie hush blankets the audience. The silence seemed to carry on forever. Finally, one-by-one, each of the band members took the stage and started jamming on his respective instrument.

The show was clearly going to be different than the last time I saw Danny Michel at the infamous NXNE showcase. I really enjoyed his relatively sparse set, and although I hadn’t tracked down any of his albums, I’d looked forward to seeing him live again. The stage was absolutely filled with instruments: guitars, basses (both guitar and stand-up), banjo, and more percussion instruments than you can shake a stick at (pun intended, but only just a bit).

For the first couple of songs, I was a bit put-off. I was originally captured by the majesty of Danny’s guitar playing. Here, the guitar was deeply buried amongst the wall of sound created by this cornucopia of instruments, which seemed to dull the magic that first turned my ear. But something happened a short song or two later. My waning attention perked back up: the songs were still good! Or maybe getting better? Hard to say for sure, but the remainder of the 100-minute set grabbed onto me and held on for dear life. And what a ride it was!

Danny plays with such enthusiasm and energy, it’s hard to imagine there’s ever been a moment in his life that he’s enjoyed more than the one he’s living right now. And that same energy carried across the room of concert-goers who seemed to span the gauntlet of generations of music fans. They all clapped their hands, danced in their seats, and gave at least two heart-filled standing ovations. Danny returned their love with good nature banter, and encouraged dialog with the audience — even if the show was being recorded for the radio.

At one point, Danny stopped the show to apologize for his sniffling. Apparently he’d come down with a cold, although you couldn’t hear it in his voice. He half-jokingly offered $1 to anyone in the audience who could provide him with a Kleenex, and before he could start the next song, a still wrapped bag of tissues is flung onto the stage amongst a room of chuckles. True to his word, Danny took a collection up amongst his band mates, scraped together a dollar, and tossed it to the helpful audience member. He then asked the band to play, LOUDLY, so that he could blow his nose without being heard by the countless microphones. After finishing clearing his sinuses, he tossed the used Kleenex into the horn of a nearby saxophone.

There were several other moments throughout the show that an audio recording just doesn’t do justice. For example, Danny told a story about how he started advertising the shows as “Danny Michel with Full Band!”, highlighting the fact it will be more than the standard solo affair — but the band grumbled that they didn’t even earn themselves a proper name, and were just begrudgingly being called “Full Band.” As he tells this story, the percussionist and bassist peel off their shirts to reveal recently pressed t-shirts reading “FULL BAND”. Danny turned around and was clearly surprised by this — an undertaking unbeknownst to the frontman, who promptly burst out in laughter. The band had officially taken back the ambiguous and nonchalant title of Full Band.

The sound in the venue was immaculate. I was taken aback — the speakers were small and meek looking. I was half-right: they weren’t terribly powerful, but the crisp clarity packed a wallop. I shouldn’t be surprised, seeing as it’s a theatre/recording studio in a building owned by a company called the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, but I was — and pleasantly at that. The recording turned out well, too. There is some very occasional shirt ruffling, and I couldn’t help but cough once — and, finally, my battery died during the last few minutes of the final track. I don’t THINK I missed any of the vocal performance, but apparently using the internal batteries drains the batteries of the Edirol faster than my usual set-up, and I was caught off-guard. That being said, it’s a great show, a nice recording, and well worth the download. It should at the very least hold you over until the CBC broadcasts an edited but significantly better sounding version, eventually.

  1. The 14 Masks of Danger
  2. [banter]
  3. Maybe You Can Find It In Your Heart
  4. [banter]
  5. White Lightning
  6. [banter]
  7. This Feeling
  8. [banter]
  9. Feather, Fur & Fin
  10. [banter]
  11. Whale of a Tale
  12. [banter]
  13. The Invisible Man
  14. [banter]
  15. Wish Willy
  16. [banter] > [unknown tease]
  17. Whip It [Devo] (tease)
  18. [unknown tease]
  19. A Message To Rude [The Specials] (tease)
  20. [banter]
  21. Who’s Gonna Miss You?
  22. Tennessee Tobacco
  23. [encore]
  24. [banter]
  25. I Will Love You For Miles
  26. [banter]
  27. Switchman

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White Lightning (Live In Toronto) [MP3 sample]

Thanks to Danny Michel and his fantastic band and everyone at the CBC.

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