. : : November 2nd, 2010 : : .
The chances are, unless you live in New York and and/or watch the CW’s teen soap opera One Tree Hill, you probably have never heard of Wakey!Wakey!. And that’s a crying shame.
Luckily, I do watch One Tree Hill. Producer Mark Schwahn is known for being an avid music fan, and is continually trying to help promote fledgling, independent artists by featuring their songs in his series. In fact, it’s rare there’s a scene without background music by just such an artist you probably haven’t heard yet, but will be glad you did.
Wakey!Wakey! is in elite company: not only were several of the songs featured in the last season of the series, but Michael Grubbs, the band’s frontman and songwriter, was given a reoccurring role in the series as Grubbs, the quiet, sensitive bartender who could guess your drink order before you made it, and wore his heart on his sleeve. I was vaguely aware Grubbs was a musician of some caliber, but it wasn’t until a live performance of his song Brooklyn on the show that I realized what an amazing talent this man possessed. I immediately took to iTunes and downloaded the Brooklyn EP, which also featured several other popular songs featured on the series, including “War Sweater“. Grubbs’ role on the show slowly diminished after his character wrote and recorded an album himself — right at the time Wakey!Wakey! put out their first studio full length, Almost Everything I Wish I’d Said The Last Time I Saw You.
After a quick download and cursory listen, I knew I had to have the disc and ordered it online immediately from the record label, Family Records. I’ve since kept an eye on Grubbs’ multitude of online social networking tools — he runs a frequently updated blog, nice website, and often updates Facebook and Twitter — waiting for news of a show in Toronto. OK, I hesitantly admit that I may have also left unanswered messages, begging for it to happen. Can you blame a fanboy? A couple of short tours came and went without a Canadian date in sight. Sadly typical, and I’d more or less given up on seeing the band perform on the back of the new album. Maybe their sophomore release would bring them here?
But then, without word of warning, a new bunch of US tour dates popped up. Not only was Toronto on the list, but it topped it as the very first date! I didn’t think I could be more excited until further details arose a couple of days later: the band would be playing the wonderful Horseshoe Tavern as part of Dave Bookman’s New Music night: a weekly showcase of local and little known artists with no cover charge! A band I’ve been dying to see, kicking off their tour in my home town with a show that I don’t have to pay for? Does life get any better?!
Why, yes, it does. Wesley Verhoeve, of the band’s label, tweeted at me to let me know that not only is the band cool with taping, but they’d let me plug into the soundboard and get a great recording. His only request? If possible, to try and get an audience recording as well, so as to maybe create a matrix recording mixing both tapes. I’ve never attempted a matrix recording before, and it was a challenge I was more than willing to accept. I didn’t know how it would turn out, but it wouldn’t hurt to break out the long neglected Mini Disc recorder and give it another go around, seeing as my replacement microphones have finally arrived in the mail.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go QUITE as planned. I got an audience recording, but it was slightly marred by me checking on the soundboard recording at the back of the room and the sound guy, who I guess didn’t know I was also doing an audience recording, asked me how it was going. Sooooo, the first song has me walking back and forth across the room a couple of times, and a short conversation. That being said, the soundboard recording turned out spectacularly, with special thanks to the great sound engineer Brian, who graciously helped me plug in and then did a great job of not only making the band sound fantastic in the venue, but on the tape as well. I wanted to take this opportunity to upload the soundboard recording straightaway with an intention of uploading the audience and matrix recording at a later date. This recording is too awesome to hold off on any longer.
Not only was this the band’s first show in Toronto, not only was also the band’s first show outside of the USA, not only was it the first night of the tour, but it was also the first night playing with the group for two of the band’s five members. The only flaw of the night was: it showed. There were a handful of noticeable missed cues: sometimes early, sometimes late, and sometimes playing quietly, tentatively, until confident the cue was hit. This was most glaring in the middle of Brooklyn, when the drums come in too early, stop, and then jump back in late. The complaint is minor, especially since the remaining members played with such confidence, passion and flair that was only noticeable to (and easily overlooked by) the discerning ear. The band gained momentum throughout the night, and songs in the second half of the set, such as Dance So Good and Everything I Wish I’d Said were absolutely spot on, and clear set highlights. Although rushed into the venue and almost immediately onto the stage, Grubb’s voice had that familiar warmth and powerful voice fans flocked to see.
The Toronto crowd was clearly there for Wakey! Wakey!. Although the band was second-to-last spot on the bill, the audience’s attention was never quite as rapt, and the dance floor never quite as full as when they were on the stage, and the venue more or less emptied out following the set. That is, excluding the exceptionally long line up for merchandise, and to meet the gracious front man, who came out to sign posters, shirts and cds, as well as pose for photographs. Wakey!Wakey! seemed to really have a great time, and promised to be back to Toronto as frequently as possible. The set could have doubled in length, and I doubt a single eye would have strayed towards a watch. Hopefully they follow through on the promise of a prompt return, as the band’s short slot forced them to follow an important yet frustrating rule in live performances: leave the crowd wanting more. Consider me salivating.
02. Twenty-Two [abandoned]
05. Square Peg Round Hole
08. Take It Like A Man
10. Dance So Good
12. War Sweater
14. Light Outside
16. Got It All Wrong
17. Almost Everything…
Thanks to Wakey!Wakey!, Wesley Verhoeve, Family Records, Horseshoe Tavern and especially engineer extraordinaire, Brian.