Hannah Georgas @ The Studio

. : : February 10th, 2012 : : .

I don’t know what I was thinking when I bought a ticket to see Kathleen Edwards perform at Molson Canadian Studio in Hamilton.

First, I already had a ticket for her show in Toronto the very next night at The Phoenix. Second, I’ve only been to Hamilton twice before, and never alone, and I have no idea how to get around it. Third, I am an extremely anxious traveler.

Some crazy impulse must have come over me, because it wasn’t until I got my ticket in the mail that reality started to set in. Wait, I thought to myself, I can probably get there by the intercity Go Train, but how the Hell am I going to get home? The Go trains stop running at 11:30pm — about the time an early concert usually gets out, leaving me no time to catch it. A hotel would be too expensive, and a taxi just as bad. Classified ads asking for a ride share went unanswered. The only option seemed to be an all-night, street-walking adventure.

Oh, but wait. The weather forecast called for -16 degree weather. That no longer seemed like a viable option. Luckily, I managed to bribe a friend to drive out and pick me up — an hour each way. Thank god for good friends.

So, the trip home ended up being stress-free, but the trip there? Not wonderful for a nervous traveler. I’ve recently moved into a new apartment on a different side of town that I’m still struggling to familiarize myself with. I’m having to use Google Maps to figure out how to get anywhere (how did people do this before the internet?!). I saw there’s a Go train station walking distance from my apartment, so after work, I decided to go home, get dressed, grab my gear and concert ticket and make some dinner before heading out, instead of my original plan of leaving straight from work. Unfortunately, the getting ready portion of that plan took a couple minutes too long, and I ended up missing my train by mere seconds.

As I was rushing to catch said train, I didn’t have the time to ask the station attendant all the information I didn’t know, such as “Will this train take me all the way to Hamilton, or will I require a transfer?” So, I sat down in the next train that came, about half an hour later, not really sure what was happening. Luckily, at the next stop, the conductor announced the train would be continuing west, but would be stopping at the station right before Hamilton, and anyone wishing to continue on would have to catch a connecting bus. Great.

I looked at my watch. Things weren’t looking so good, and I really wanted to be there in time to catch Kathleen’s opening act, Hannah Georgas. You may have seen me blog about her before — I caught her live four times in late-2010 to mid-2011. Having recently recorded a second album as a follow-up to the excellent, Best New Artist Juno-nominated This Is Good, I was excited to preview some of the new material.

I tried to read my book, but I couldn’t concentrate. I closed my eyes and tried to rest, but the brain wouldn’t stop. Anxiety about both traveling and being late to concerts does not cancel each other out when in unison. I fidgeted nervously in my seat, and started to regret the decision to ever come out.

Luckily, at the final train stop, a bus was already waiting. I climbed on without problems, and I still had almost twenty minutes until 8pm — the advertised time on the tickets. I started to relax. The advertised time is usually the DOOR time, right? I can expect Hannah won’t go on until closer to 9pm? Right?

So, when I got to the Hamilton Go station minutes after 8, the nerves had calmed considerably. After all, according to Google Maps, The Studio was just around the corner from the station. I fumbled with my phone to pull up the map again, and headed out into the cold and snow. A brief ten minute walk later, and I was at the venue. There were clear signs everywhere, pointing me in the right direction. Phew.

Until I walked in the front doors.

“Hannah Georgas is on now, and will be playing for about half an hour more,” the ticket-taker was telling a group ahead of me. Great, I frowned miserably. I was really looking forward to seeing, taping, and sharing her set. I grumbled as I headed into the venue.

The Studio is actually quite a nice venue. It was already very full, so I took a spot at the very back and was surprised to see I still had a good, clear view of the stage. The sound was surprisingly good, clear and balanced. There was even a coat rack against the wall, and no one charging $5 for a coat check, villainously monetizing what promised to be the coldest night of the (admittedly warm) winter so far. It was a smaller medium-sized venue — probably about twice the size of the Drake Underground, and four or five times the size of the Dakota Tavern, but half the size of The Phoenix, where I’d be seeing the bands perform again the next night.

Resigned with the promise of a tragically flawed tape, but without time to properly set-up, I pulled out my Edirol recorder and immediately started recording with the built-in mics. I stuffed the recorder in my breast pocket, to elevate the mics as much as possible inconspicuously, and crossed my arm across my chest to try and hold it above the pocket’s lip.

Hannah was on stage with only one other person — a duo show? Unusual! I was used to a larger band with a strong, propelling rhythm section. Tonight, it was just guitar, keyboard, and the occasional drum loop. Not what I expected.

Hannah Georgas’ music is indie pop in the vein of dance rock. An immediate comparison that always springs to mind is fellow Canadians, Metric, whose front woman Emily Haines shares more than a passing similarity to Ms. Georgas. Such a stripped down performance meant a sacrifice to the syncopated orchestration I’d come to expect, shedding all but the core emotional centre of the songs.

It was easier to digest the newer songs, in which I had no previous basis for comparison. New song, “Make My Millions” (not sure if that’s the actual title or not) was thusly a set highlight. With a chorus repeating “If she can do it, what the fuck, how come I can’t? I want to make a million bucks, wanna make my million”, it was clear to see why Kathleen and Hannah seem to be getting along so well as tour mates.

Luckily, the half of the set I saw was almost entirely new material, but FELT familiar. It doesn’t appear Hannah’s going out to reinvent the wheel — just perfecting it. And she hasn’t lost a beat.

She’s promised to come back to Toronto soon, and hopefully when she does, she brings her entire band in tow. The duo show was an interesting dalliance, but Hannah’s music is best enjoyed loud, bold and in your face.

The recording sounds really nice, considering it’s using built-in mics, but you hear the mics brush up against my shirt from time to time and, being at a lower height, it tends to pick up a bit more of the crowd noise. Luckily, the crowd was generally well-behaved, even at the back of the venue. As an incomplete recording with a bit of mic-noise (check the sample, it’s not as bad as I make it sound), this recording is probably not the best place to start for new and casual Hannah Georgas fans, but established and die-hard fans will be interested to hear a different side to this wonderful musician.

01. Hey Moon [John Maus] [cut]
02. Chit Chat
03. [banter]
04. Millions
05. Shine
06. Fantasize

[info.txt // flac fingerprint ]
[ Request FLAC or MP3 Download ]

Millions (Live In Hamilton) [MP3 sample]

Thanks to Hannah Georgas and accompanist Andrew Braun, The Studio and its staff, and the Go Train conductor whom talked me through the worst of it all.

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