Family Affair

Broken Social Scene
Harbourfront Centre
August 27, 2004
The music of Broken Social Scene isn't quite as arty as 99.44 per cent of their press would lead you to believe. Then again, you wouldn't really expect them to be mainstream enough to be playing to an assemble throng of 1,500 fans, half of whom were going apeshit with every muzzled chord and impassioned word. Go figure!

In what was rumoured to be their last show ever, BSS pulled out all the stops for this free hometown gig that had their sea of followers flying their corduroy flags in a rare display of hipster patriotism. The humid airs coming off Lake Ontario only added to the ambiance as they launched early on into "Late Nineties Bedroom Rock for the Missionaries," a cornerstone from their breakout You Forgot It in People album. The spirited histrionics put forth by Kevin Drew and Andrew Whiteman may have set this Scene but the sheer spectacle of the band's nine-plus membership sharing in the revelry was probably more indicative of the show itself.

At the worst of time, BSS can become mired in their self-indulgent twiddle that plays like an inside joke amongst school-aged cranks. This performance definitely had elements of that, no doubt. Yet you'd have to be either blind or plain stupid to ignore the special something that these musicians share. What started out as a exclusionary sort of the third degree has somehow morphed into a weirdo rallying cry for every doofus in Toronto with a shag haircut and Chuck Tanners.

It's somehow fitting then that Brendan Canning, co-founder of BSS and holdover from Queen Street relics like hHead and By Divine Right, was content to plod along in the background and take it in. As somebody who's been plying his traits on Toronto streets for well over 10 years, here's hoping the gig served as something of a confirmation for Canning, even within the context of two-straight years of just that. This doesn't explain the make-shift turban he sported for much of the performance, though.

… but I digress.

The radio smash "Stars and Sun" may have been the most lucid moment for the casual observer (myself) but the double shot that emerged near the end of the two-hour set was truly the chasm the bulk was waiting for. The former was "Anthems for a 17-Year-Old Girl," purred ever so stirringly by Metric siren Emily Haines in that special, secret way. The latter was "Lover's Spat," a track so gorgeous-yet-oblique that it's useless to even start lining up adjectives to describe it. What could've been a miscarriage (the threat of the band breaking up proved to be mere jest) turned into a triumph and somehow placed a belated end-point on Broken Social Scene's unlikely road to success.

Writer: Cameron Gordon

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