Rocky Votolato @ Drake Underground

. : : May 19th, 2012 : : .

Rocky Votolato, like so many other independent artists with the accumulated fan base that comes with just the right mixture of hard work and good luck, took to Kickstarter to campaign for funding for his album, Television of Saints. The album, his eighth solo effort I believe, was his first following the closing of his contract with Seattle indie label juggernauts, Barsuk Records.

It was Barsuk Records that re-introduced me to Rocky (I was introduced to his as an opener a couple of years earlier. The only thing that stands out about the performance is how unpronounceable I found his name at the time), and I was sad to see them part ways. At the same time, I was happy that I, as a fan, could get involved and help make the album a reality.

These Kickstarter campaigns are dangerous affairs. Without streaming audio samples, internet leaks, advance radio play, etc., you’re really putting your money on the line. More than a random purchase at a record store, you’re often putting down dozens (if not hundreds!) of dollars down sight unseen, for the promise of an album you may or may not even like.

And, you know, some cool swag as well.

I’ve been burned in the past by Kickstarter campaigns. I’ve contributed to more than a couple of albums whose final products didn’t click with me as immediately or intimately as I’d hoped. Over all, there have been more regrets than not. I’m happy to report, then, that (for me) Television of Saints was a quick, instant and fulfilling love affair.

En route to completion, Rocky was also an ideal campaigner. Frequent updates, great rewards, and even a short, special, donors only online concert from his home studio. All rewards also came with an early digital download of the album. Because of this latter point, I was able to sit with and enjoy the album, let it marinate longer than most albums before I go to a concert for a favourite artist.

Which, again, is interesting, because it’s an album I didn’t need to sit with to enjoy. Unlike his last two albums, Brag and Cuss and True Devotion, but much like Makers, I fell quickly for the quiet, mostly stripped down confessionals on Television of Saints. I couldn’t wait to hear the songs live, and was even more jazzed than usual (if that’s possible) when I saw Rocky would be returning to the Drake Underground on his first tour to promote the album.

At the venue, I pulled a chair up close to the speakers when a voice behind me called out, “Hey, you don’t happen to be that HaterHigh guy, do you?” It’s still weird when people recognize me (especially since taping is SUPPOSED to be stealth!), but as anti-social as I tend to be, I absolutely adore meeting readers of the blog. If my horridly god awful memory does me justice (and I apologize if it doesn’t), Logan and Danielle were the names of the couple whom I was lucky enough to enjoy the company and conversation of between acts, and I thank them for their kindness.

But you’re here to read about the show, yes? Usually, when a band tours a new album, most fans go ready to tolerate the new songs to hear the older gems sprinkled among them. I was actually excited to hear each and every one of the songs from Television of Saints, and was happy to see Rocky open the show with the album’s two opening tracks. But the concert took a weird turn after that.

Instead of playing new songs, Rocky stuck heavily to older favourites, drawing primarily (if not almost exclusively) from the Makers album. Maybe I’d have a problem with that if, you know, Makers wasn’t one of my “desert island albums”, and I’m pretty sure I’d be content hearing Rocky sing his grocery list, but it was surreal.

The two previous albums, True Devotion and Brag and Cuss, were underrepresented with one song each. Makers songs came up just short of half the setlist (seven out of the fifteen), and Television of Saints clocked in with two further tracks, for a grand total of four. A couple of older songs from Suicide Medicine were also thrown into the pot for good measure, although the album’s title track was omitted because Rocky is saving his voice and limiting his yelling on this particularly gruelling tour.

I admit, I was disappointed that a couple of the newer tracks didn’t make the cut, but one can only be SO disappointed when so many great tracks did. If only one track had to be played from True Devotion, I’m sure glad What Waited For Me was the one chosen; and is it possible not to love Portland Is Leaving? I vote not.

Rocky seemed pretty focused, and limited his between song banter drastically, mostly jumping fairly quickly from one song to the next. What really threw me off was the lack of encore — although I knew something was up when Makers and Silver Trees was played without leaving the stage. The crowd clearly wanted an encore, but only seconds after leaving the stage, music started playing over the PA and it was quickly clear that the show was done. The crowd hesitantly dispersed.

I didn’t know this at the time, but it seems the Drake was double booked, and some sort of club event was scheduled to start some twenty minutes after Rocky left the stage. I guess, given the time restraint, our favourite singer/songwriter had no choice but to be all business.

But, like the gracious performer than he is, Rocky was quickly to be found at the merch book, where he was happy to sign cds, records and t-shirts, and share conversation with his fans.

On the last tour, Rocky visited the Drake every six months for 18-months. I can only hope he will be back as frequently on the back of his latest effort — and between you and I, I hope he brings more of the newer tunes with him.

As if it needs to be said anymore of recordings sourced from the Drake, the tape sounds brilliant, and is a MUST HAVE for all Rocky Votolato fans. So, what are you waiting for? Grab this recording, grab the new disc, and run out to see Rocky when he hits your town next. You won’t regret it, you have my word.

01. Little Spring
02. Ghost Writer
03. [banter]
04. Portland Is Leaving
05. [banter]
06. White Daisy Passing
07. Start Over
08. Tinfoil Hat
09. [banter]
10. Above the Water
11. Alabaster
12. Goldfield
13. [banter]
14. Streetlights
15. [banter]
16. What Waited For Me
17. [banter]
18. I’ll Catch You
19. Wait Out The Days
20. Makers
21. [banter]
22. Silver Trees

[info.txt // flac fingerprint ]

Start Over (Live In Toronto) [MP3 sample]

A extra special thanks to Rocky Votolato, Rick Moore, Adam Klavohn, my new friends and the wonderful Drake Hotel.

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