Rebekah Higgs @ Drake Lounge

. : : October 2nd, 2011 : : .

I found myself double booked for the first Sunday evening in October. Originally, when Ha Ha Tonka announced their tour dates, they were scheduled for Monday evening. Without a reason, their Facebook page changed to read they would now be playing the Drake Underground on the Sunday. I checked my trusty Blackberry calendar in confusion — wasn’t Rebekah Higgs starting her residency at the Drake that night?

Messages to both bands on their Facebook walls went unanswered, so I approached Rebekah after her CD release party at The Rivoli. She seemed as confused as I, and promised to look into it. I sent her a Twitter message with a link to the Ha Ha Tonka event, to which she responded “The first Sunday is free.”

Wait, does that mean it’s free, as in her schedule is free and open? Or is she playing a coverless show in the afternoon? I couldn’t figure it out, and had pretty much given up on seeing her, until the morning before the show.

Rebekah sent out a tweet to all her followers with details: she would be playing a show at the Drake Hotel lounge; the floor above Ha Ha Tonka’s show at the Underground. I wondered if I could swing both, and inquired as to when her set started. She was gracious enough to let me know it would be 11:30pm — perhaps JUST late enough that I might be able to catch both.

But when the opening band started half an hour later than advertised, and Ha Ha Tonka followed suit, I had to slowly let go of my hopes of making it to both shows — or at the very least, any chance of not missing the first few songs.

Sure enough, Ha Ha Tonka’s encore wrapped up at 11:35, so I rushed across the venue, through the sluggish crowd, up the stairs, and to the front of the hotel, into the lounge.

When I pulled open the doors and power-walked inside, I was immediately confused. The crowd was very small, mostly talking over drinks and small plates of food. The stage was skeletal — almost nothing was on it. Did the show go on early? Was it cancelled because of a low turn out? I hedged my bets, pulled up a single open seat next to the sound board, and bide my time. Ten minutes passed. Then twenty. There was still no activity, and the room had started to empty out a little further.

I was considering packing up and heading home when I saw Rebekah wander up to the stage and start fiddling with some of her equipment. Phew! The odds tipped slightly in my favour, but I guess it was just as likely she was preparing to pack up.

She left the stage again shortly after, but ten minutes later, she took the stage with her drummer and bassist — a paired down band from the one at the Rivoli some two weeks earlier. It turns out the delay was because the bassist was at a wedding on the east coast, and flew back to Toronto to make it to the show — but flight delays made him quite late. So late, in fact, that he traveled straight from the airport to the Drake. By some miracle, everything came together just right.

I’d never been in the Drake lounge before — I’m a regular at the Underground (obviously), but never stopped in for dinner. It’s a typical lounge with a real fire place(!), scattered seats and tables, and a makeshift stage made out of an elevated seating area. Yup, there’s tables on either side of the band!

You wouldn’t expect the sound in a place with such a haphazard set-up that seems more like an afterthought to be good, but the sound in the lounge actually rivals the Underground. One marked difference is: in the Underground, if a band is on the stage, it’s not unusual to be able to hear a pin drop; in the Lounge, everyone goes about their normal dining experience, and the performance is treated as little more than background music. As such, the room was filled with chatter and clatter of dishes, and between a handful of songs, no one clapped.

It’s a shame, because Rebekah’s set was a bit tighter than the CD release, and free from the technical glitches that sullied the previous show. The setlist itself was very similar (with only two omissions, if I recall), but performed with a sort of casual indifference returned to the inattentive audience that seemed to spark a bit of nonchalance-fueled confidence.

So, yeah, I had a much better time.

Rebekah Higgs and her band continue their residency at the Drake Underground each and every Sunday during the month of October, and I’m interested to see how they hold up in a more formal, non-dining environment.

01. Little Voice
02. Gosh Darn Damn
03. Give You What You Want
04. Miserably Together
05. Parables
06. He’s So Fine [the Chiffons]
07. [banter]
08. 96′
09. [banter]
10. Drunk Love

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Parables (Live In Toronto) [MP3 sample]

Thanks to Rebekah Higgs and band, and the Drake Lounge for a fun show.

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