Things I learned at the Exclaim! 12th Anniversary Cross-Canada Concert Series:
#1 – Never assume anything.
On their album Raising the Fawn produces soft, melodic rock, which led me to naively believe that I would be perfectly fine standing near the amps. Wrong. Within the first minute of their set, I could feel my larynx dancing around in my neck. To make sure it wasn't just me, I glanced around the room and to my relief saw five other people gingerly sticking their fingers in their ears, trying to relieve the horrible itching the music created. Between the much feared eighth-note bass attack and screeching, industrial noise emitting from the speakers, RTF did manage to make some beautiful music, although by that time I could barely hear it.
#2 – A happy drummer is a good drummer.
By the time the Stills appeared on stage my hearing had thankfully returned. Very tight musically, and with engaging stage presence, the Stills put on an amazing performance (one I'm glad I could hear). They played some of the best material on their album including "Yesterday Never Tomorrows", with Dave Hamelin leaving his drum kit behind to take on lead vocals. Hamelin turned out to be the most charismatic person of the night, dragging the crowd into the song and holding their attention effortlessly. It was a shame it was the last song of their 40 minute set because no one wanted to see the band go. As they walked off the stage one by one, Fletcher and Crowe were left to stage a mock battle. Seconds before smashing his guitar over the bassist's head, Fletcher stopped and proclaimed, "Too fucking expensive." Stunning music and a skit to boot, the Stills stole the show.
#3 – Sometimes you've just gotta dance to the music.
The final act of the night, Broken Social Scene drew the crowd of horn-rimmed eyeglass wearers tight around them. Filling the venue with their larger-than-life ambient sound, BSS created a mellow mood and kept it there. All six members of the band performed with excellent showmanship and rocked their instruments. Hard. The first signs of dancing came with "Cause=Time", prompting the crowd to finally let go of their hipster attitudes and groove to the music. When the band asked the Stills to return to the stage to fill in missing female vocals, pogoing even ensued.
#4 – It's cool to be Canadian.
It's Canada's time to shine in the rock spotlight and that fact was only reinforced by the line-up of this concert. Despite what critics might say, Canadians make very talented musicians (and incredibly good-looking ones at that). Apparently though, Canadians make horrible sound technicians. Throughout the entire night, the bands had to constantly bark orders at the sound guy just so we could hear the vocals. Frankly I'm surprised they didn't throw their empty bottles at him. I know I was tempted.
Writer: Jaclyn Arndt