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John Roderick @ Mod Club

. : : June 6th, 2012 : : .

It occurs to me that many readers of this blog might not be familiar with it’s top domain, HaterHigh.com. I don’t blame you; the site hasn’t been updated in almost two years.

So let me tell you a bit about its history. HaterHigh.com started out as a fansite for The Long Winters. The modest site primarily housed lyrics, guitar tabulature, and live recordings. But, after finishing touring on the back of the band’s latest album Putting The Days To Bed in 2008, the band went on an unusually quiet hiatus.

News came down the pipe that the band’s latest steady drummer, Nabil Ayers, was leaving for a A&R job for a New York record label. Mulch-instrumentalist Jonathan Rothman also stayed in New York, where he eventually became a high school math teacher (that isn’t even the weirdest reason why a band member quit: that title is still held by former drummer Michael Schorr, who left to focus on a career in 3D video game level design!). Mainstay Eric Corson hung on with frontman John Roderick, joining him for a small handful of shows around their native town of Seattle, WA from time to time, but latest story coming down the pipe is that even Eric is currently pursuing other ventures.

As you can imagine, it became very difficult to maintain and update a website on a band that has all but disbanded — especially when the primary draw is live recordings, and there hasn’t been a proper tour for approaching the better part of a decade.

Although John Roderick continued to occasionally do tours, they were limited to mostly shows along the coasts of the United States, and almost exclusively as the quirky solo opener to other Seattle-based musical acts, such as Death Cab For Cutie‘s Ben Gibbard and Nada Surf. Without new local shows to tape, new songs to tab and transcribe, and a dearth of news surrounding the band’s activity, I was left in want of a new hobby.

I had been taping shows for a while at that point, and although my general focus had been The Long Winters and other Barsuk Records bands, the hobby slowly began to branch out. I had been posting the recordings of these other bands on the HaterHigh servers, but only putting up a direct link to the downloads on the bands’ website and message boards.

It felt like a natural progression to take the formula that was working so well on other live recording sites, such as NYCtaper.com and Bradleys Almanac, and make it my own. Centralize it in a place where it can be posted, visited, encouraging return visits, and hopefully musical exploration and discovery. Some of my proudest moments are reading messages from website viewers whom have fallen in love with an artist they discovered on this very blog.

And so, without a singular focus on whom to feature (whether a specific artist, label, genre or style), the blog has been able to flourish, far surpassing the page views the top domain had accomplished. And, although live recordings has a niche market — and lossless recordings an even greater niche — HaterHigh.com has found a way to flourish without reliance on The Long Winters.

Now, that’s not to say I ever stopped becoming a fan. I admit that my eyes and ears where frequently enticed elsewhere, but I’ve always remained an active participant in the band’s online presence, on both sides of the computer monitor. When John Roderick was announced as the quirky solo opening act for Jonathan Coulton, and the tour would include a stop in Toronto, I was overjoyed.

Maybe I got a little greedy, too.

John Roderick produced a couple of tracks on a little old album a few of you may have heard of before. Kathleen Edwards‘ Voyageur, perhaps? The duo developed a great professional and personal relationship that has led them to a handful of collaborations, aforementioned album, The Long Winters’ Not Moving To Portland, and a couple of live performances. I took to Twitter and started a one man campaign to reunite the duo on stage in Kathleen’s home town. After all, I thought she was between tours.

I was wrong, of course.

Kathleen had a show on June 2nd in Pittsburgh, PA — and would be in Kent, OH and June 7th. Would she even bother returning to Toronto for the working man’s week? If so, would she still be there on the evening of the 6th? John Roderick responded positively to my campaign with enthusiasm, but Kathleen herself remained tight-lipped. I’d given up on the possibility, and reminded myself a John Roderick show in and of itself was MORE than enough to elicit fanboy excitement.

Let it be said that the Mod Club is not one of my favourite venue’s in the city. It’s just that: a glorified club, with overly bass-y speakers, and almost as much bar space as floor space. I’ve also previously had less than pleasant experiences with the staff there, which left a seriously bad taste in my mouth that has mostly kept me far away from any shows at the Mod Club ever since. Of course, this was an occasion to break longstanding rivalries if there ever was one, and I was overjoyed to instantly have a much more pleasant experience with the staff immediately upon arriving at the venue. The sound on the other hand? Still hesitant to impress me.

As I set up my gear, Goo Goo Dolls‘ Black Balloon was played over the PA. I’d never heard the song sound so much like a dance remix. The bass was ridiculously overwhelming, and I braced myself for a tough night.

I like being right, but I don’t always have to be. In cases like these, I love being proven wrong — and the Mod Club proved me wrong emphatically. John Roderick took the stage, and his voice was instantly loud, clear and crisp, and by the time he started playing guitar, similar adjectives could be used to describe the six string.

Of course, if you’ve ever been to a John Roderick show, you know better than to expect him delving straight into the songs. Instead, John took the opportunity to banter playfully with the crowd, reminding existing fans of why he’s such a dynamic, charming performer, and immediately grasping and holding tightly onto the attention of the unacquainted, whom certainly intended to talk through the opener’s set.

It worked, of course. The crowd was quickly and irrevocably won over John’s magnetism, and were smitten from start to finish. With a set list uncharacteristically heavy on Putting The Days To Bed tracks (strangely completely ignoring the frequently revisited When I Pretend To Fall album), John transformed from improvisational comedian to singer-songwriter and back again with an ease that made it seem more like joking and singing around a campfire with old friends than a proper concert.

So it was only natural that a straggler show up. Two-thirds into the short set, John welcomed the wonderful Ms. Kathleen Edwards onto the stage, and it was immediately plain to see why their relationship works so well; the chemistry between them was palpable. The duo bantered back and forth like a revival of an old comedy routine, and their voices meshed beautifully in song.

Watching the two perform Honest was a dream come true. Water quite literally welled in my eyes, and I had to fight off the desire to pinch myself. If it was a dream, I would see it through to the end. Unfortunately, the end would come sooner than later in this short, six-song set, but Kathleen was invited to stay on stage for the big finale: The Commander Thinks Aloud, a song about the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster. As if a song about a space shuttle wasn’t enough pandering to the unabashedly nerdy Jonathan Coulton fanbase, Jonathan himself came out to join John and Kathleen for a glorious acoustic rendition of the oft reinvented song.

The performance was everything I’d hoped for, and more — except for long. But if the old idiom holds any truth, the audience was left clamoring for more by night’s end. In fact, John’s line up at the merch table rivaled (and maybe even surpassed) the evening’s headliner. Of course, some of the draw might have been John himself selling his wares, posing for photographs, chatting amicably with any and all comers… but regardless, it’s nice to know that John’s amassing a properly sizable following in Toronto after a couple of exceptionally poorly attended Long Winters shows in town in the last decade.

It was especially wonderful hearing people pick out how the humour in John’s between-song banter also translates to his lyrics. I caught new listeners bursting into out loud laughter during Carparts‘ couplet, “I’m leaving you all of my car parts / I didn’t have the money or I would have gotten roses” and Hindsight’s “Are you still training for the big race / by hoping the runners will die?”

But enough gushing. Time to get to the recording, yes? As mentioned above, the venue was astoundingly clear, and my tape turned out really nicely because of it. Fans of all three performers should feel safe committing their bandwidth and time to this recording: it’s about as good as they come without a price tag attached.

01. [banter]
02. Carparts
03. Hindsight
04. [banter]
05. Seven
06. Pushover
      > Tom Sawyer [Rush] [tease]
07. [banter]
08. Honest *
09. [banter]
10. The Commander Thinks Aloud #

* performed with Kathleen Edwards
# performed with Kathleen Edwards and Jonathan Coulton

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

Honest (Live In Toronto) [MP3 sample]


Huge thanks to John Roderick and Jonathan Coulton, and an extra special thanks to Kathleen Edwards, who as I understand it, had to rush right out after the set to get back on the tour bus and head to Kent.

Published inLive Recordings

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