. : : April 20th, 2017 : : .
Memory’s a funny thing.
I’ve written (I think a couple of times) in earlier blog entries that this was Whitehorse‘s record release party for Panther In The Dollhouse.
I understand why I’m misremembering it as such. The band had been using social media to create some pre-release hype for the album throughout the recording sessions, making its release feel imminent. The lead single, Boys Like You, had been hit the airwaves three months prior. They’d previewed a couple of additional tracks from the disc at the end of the set, giving that exciting, brand-new feel. Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland even used some in-between song banter to recognize and thank producer Gus van Go, who was in the audience (and I believe about 8-feet from where I was standing).
In retrospect, the biggest reason I likely made that mistake was because of how much this felt like the beginning of a new era for the group.
The band had been quoted in the press as saying inviting someone onto the stage (to perform with them) was akin to inviting someone into their marriage. Luke made a similar comment during their performance last time I’d seen them live, about 16-months earlier, when they invited Tanya Tagaq to perform during the instrumental portion of Devil’s Got A Gun: “[the stage is] a beloved sacred space that [they] don’t offer up lightly.”
Yet, here was established duo Luke and Melissa, flanked on the stage by Ryan Gavel (bass), Gregory MacDonald (keyboard), and Johnny Obercian (drums).
I believe, if my memory serves me correctly (and we’ve already established that it doesn’t always), that this was only Whitehorse’s second performance as a “standard” band — and to their credit, it didn’t sound like that at all.
This was a no-nonsense, straight-ahead rock show. Gone was the fun of watching the band build up the percussion piece by piece. On a stage this large — this full — the intimacy that defined their performances to date was all but absent. Whether authentic or not, the loose, improvisational feel of the band to date was replaced by a tight, well-rehearsed set.
If that sounds like a back-handed compliment, it’s not intended to be. But, as a fan of the band since their very first-ever performance as Whitehorse who’d gone on to see them perform about half-a-dozen times, this was an adjustment to my expectations.
I remember leaving the Phoenix Concert Theatre that night a bit overwhelmed by the difference of what was versus what is. Three years on, listening back with fresh ears, it’s much easier to appreciate the set.
Whitehorse has never been a band to musically stymie, so it’s unjust to pigeonhole them aesthetically. Besides, this new configuration corrects the (admittedly few) complaints I had about the duo set, including how jarring the volume adjustments were when committing a percussive performance to loop. It was a give-and-take, and a bold and perhaps even risky move by the duo, but one necessary to drive their performances forward with the same momentum and energy.
Again, three years have passed. Retrospect is a powerful tool, and this configuration works. It makes sense. And this is a set much stronger than I originally gave it credit for.
The recording itself is also excellent. All instruments come through clear, vocals are front-and-centre, and crowd noise is non-intrusive and atmospheric when at all audible. This tape has a well-earned spot in all Whitehorse fans’ collections as a great archive of a legitimate turning point for the band. Give it a listen and tell me if you disagree.
(This torrent originally appeared on DimeADozen.org while this blog was offline. This download is unchanged from it’s original release)
- Devil’s Got A Gun
- Sweet Disaster
- Emerald Isle
- Achilles’ Desire
- Boys Like You
- The Walls Have Drunken Ears
- Die Alone
- Manitoba Death Star