Sizzling Saskatoon Show

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Brian and I interview Eric Drew Feldman
By the time we got back from Regina, showered, played some Ween songs on the guitar/keyboard, and printed a little sign redirecting fans from the Odeon to Louis (see left), it was time to head down to O'Shea's, the spot of the fan meet-up. First to arrive on the scene was Mike "Fuman" Bru, who flew in from Winnipeg to hang out with us tonight. Sporting a vintage red Frank Black and the Catholics t-shirt, the three of us enjoyed some fine Canadian beer until John showed up and joined us at the table. From there, Mike (Speedy M), and his lady friend Charlene (which is, coincidentally, the name of my car according to Brian), and the table was getting a bit crowded – only to be burst wide open by the arrival of the Edmonton contingent, Dan "Crispy Water" and 2 of his friends, Cody and Kevin. With all the meet-up folks there, more drinks and some pub food was consumed, while laughs, stories and anecdotes filled the room.

After paying the bill, we made a quick field trip across the street to the Odeon, the initial place the show was scheduled for. We had decided to make a sign to hang on the door in case people still showed up there (the venue was changed at the last minute). So we took yesterday's featured pic of FB and the podcasters, added some text and viola! We showed off our shiny (literally, it was photo paper) new poster and then headed across town to Louis'.

Brian and I met Duane backstage
Once at the venue, I ran off to find Billy Block to get things organized for the meet 'n' greet. It didn't take long and Brian and I went on the bus to set up our gear to record the festivities. On board was the band, and we chatted for a few minutes, which included Brian sheepishly hiding in the corner after FB remarked that he had gotten a haircut since New York in August and congratulated him on his engagement. En route to pick up the others, we passed Duane Jarvis practicing backstage – and Brian embarrassed himself [a theme of the night] by mistaking Duane's Gibson Blueshawk for a Gibson Nighthawk.

Frank Black passing me a beer
We got the bus set up, and went and grabbed the crew, which now included Kirby and his fiancĂ©, as well as Speedy Mike's religious studies professor who was picked up serendipitously by the crowd en route to the bus (coincidentally, she teaches about "I've Been Tired" – but more on that later). As we walked in, we were greeted by FB, EDF, and Billy Block, as well as some nice Stuff Smith music (Brian had talked to FB about it on the bus before – FB addressed Brian as a "jazzbo" to the bus crew) and some mood lighting. As the fans entered, FB greeted everyone by asking their name and shaking their hand. FB then proceeded to offer everyone aboard a beer, Pelligrino, coke, or piece of fruit. The consummate host, he insisted that we all sit and he would stand and entertain us. He gave the eager fans a view of a bunk on the bus too. On tour, this is equivalent to being taken into his home and being shown the bedroom. Brian and I were not the only ones floored by this hospitality.

FB, EDF, and Billy also helped us understand the "rules of the bus" - there are only two:

1) No solid waste in the bathroom
2) Always sleep with your feet facing the driver, in case of a short stop (he cited Gloria Estefan breaking her neck in a tour bus for not doing just that).

FB answers the hard questions
After some pleasantries, the real hard-nosed Q&A began. Brian was first to speak up, asking why his MOG (formerly site was pulled down. FB explained that when you sign up, you choose whether or not you want to receive email from other users. To quote FB, he wanted to "be a citizen like everybody else" and decided to let people email him. Well, let's say the emails got... intense and numerous. "Why haven't you emailed me back?!" That sort of thing. He did say that he enjoyed it and may re-start at some point, but with the email function turned off.

At this point (maybe – a lot of this runs together), Mike's religious studies prof asked about FB's reference of the Song of Solomon in "I've Been Tired." Google this or have SpeedyM explain it to you, it's actually really interesting. FB gave a long, interesting answer, which basically boils down to:

a) He doesn't remember specifically referencing it, but he doesn't rule it out in the slightest;

b) He is extraordinarily modest about his songwriting ("They're just words thrown together");

c) He is not anti-religion like many people are, but is (and tries to be) respectful of people's beliefs – he also made a really interesting point about people rejecting more Judeo/Christian religions in the West, but having a fascination with Eastern religions, and wonders how Eastern kids rebel against Buddhism or

FB talks about the hard-hitting salsa industry
Talk commenced a little bit about the new ChRISTMASS album, with FB basically saying it's a gift of sorts to his die-hard fans. He also spoke of a heretofore unspoken rule within the music industry that indie-rock types are not supposed to release records post-November, because the "big guns" put out their records then, and how he was happy to buck the system and release something in the late months. He spoke of the industry like a supermarket – you invent a new kind of salsa that you're sure will be a hit – you try to market it and you realize what a cut-throat industry the salsa business is, and to put your salsa on the shelf, you have to knock someone else's salsa off.

Discussion then shifted slightly to his prolific nature, and how Robert Pollard (ex-Guided by Voices) and FB both share an occasional guitarist, former Catholic Dave Philips. Pollard asked Philips who wrote more complex songs, and Philips said that FB did. However, Pollard is far more prolific – so FB was jokingly saying how he feels now that he has to compete with Pollard's release schedule (6 records this year so far). This brought up the idea of perhaps a Fading Captain (Pollard's label) style boutique label for FB releases, and he said he has thought about it and will continue to.

Performing The Water for us as Eric Drew Feldman looks on
At this point, FB went around the bus and asked everyone what they did for a living – this is what makes an FB meet and greet so great – he seemed genuinely interested in everyone's lives, not just seeing it as an obligatory exercise in fan relations. Discussion on various jobs (construction mainly, which had a large representation in the bus crew) followed (as well as he and I talking Greek food – FB promised to visit our restaurant next time - but it is probably better that he didn't know about it, as he is on a fast of sorts, and Greek food wouldn't really fit the diet). Then, it was time for FB to play us a song. We requested a new one, and with some EDF prodding, he played "The Water" for us – he took a 2nd take, because he said "I saw the sound of a Volkswagon" and how that makes no sense. It was characteristic of FB that he would start the song again from the top rather than having us patch in the verse, despite the fact that they were on a tight timetable. When you hear this song in Podcast 20, you'll hear the crowd cheer when he gets the line correct the second time, and he made a cheerful expression when he got it right.

A brief photo-session followed with FB posing with everyone for a shot (thanks, Billy, for that wonderful idea), and then we headed inside for the show.

FB fired his band
The acoustic set opened with FB joking "I fired my band today" and then jumping into "Los Angeles," which may be the most played FB solo song of his career – that or "Headache" perhaps. "Cactus" followed, which seems to be a favorite of FB's to play acoustic – he plays around with the vocals and the guitar parts quite a bit, transforming it into something far stranger than the Surfer Rosa version. After that, he launched into "Where Is My Mind?" during which he told the crowd "This song is called "Where Is My Mind?" if you don't know" and made a few other wisecracks. "Song of the Shrimp" followed, which was a big hit with me as I hadn't heard it live yet. FB added a few extra "His mama and his poor papa"' stanzas here and there, which made the version quite unique. He finished off the set with the Brian/Dan requested "Two Reelers" (also a highlight) – taking the time between refrains to introduce the band – he introduced Duane and Eric but they didn't arrive on the stage as quickly as he'd been expecting, and so when he didn't see them (they had literally taken one or two steps onto the stage at that point) he joked, "Where the fuck is the band?" Then he and EDF talked on the mic for a minute or so about how EDF had met both Moe and Larry of the Three Stooges when they came to his high school in Los Angeles. "Brushes with legends," he remarked, and I think that all of us in the audience were feeling the exact same way at this point.

The band fires up
Billy was introduced and the band kicked into "Remake/Re-Model." As has been the case this tour, it segued directly into "Living on Soul." A lot of the songs sounded similar to the Regina show we saw the night before, but "The Black Rider," which was acoustic in Regina, rocked full-band style tonight in Saskatoon. "Headache" was initially left off the set list, (apparently done tonight by the band's guitar tech) and FB pondered if the tech thought that since this was the 9th show in a row, FB couldn't hit the high-notes. But, since this was his second time at Louis', he wanted to try it for "our reunion." He did a mighty fine job, even if from where Brian was standing he couldn't tell if he had hit the high notes or not.

The singalong of the night was "I'm Not Dead (I'm in Pittsburgh)" – if FB stepped back from the mic, the crowd could've taken that on
easily. It is great to see FB songs from all over his catalogue getting this amount of fan attention and singalong status; not just Pixies songs, as has been the case at some shows in the past. For a few of the meet and greeters, this was the first time hearing "(Do What You Want) Gynaeshwar," and it did not disappoint. The beginning chords resemble "Something Against You," even if the rest of the song does not in the slightest. We deciphered this song finally last night and our crackpot theory should appear on podcast 20.

Frank Black with Billy Block looking on
"That Burnt Out Rock and Roll" continues to be a defining moment of the set, with FB ripping his vocals out just as intensely as last night in Regina. If it hadn't been so crowded, the room might have collectively stepped back, it was so raw and powerful. "Johnny Barleycorn" was a favorite of Kevin's and really rocked out tonight. It is special when you hear a new FB song take its place among the old standbys that you know you'll be hearing live for years (like "Bullet" for instance), and "Johnny" seems to already be attaining this status.

Another song that probably became an instant classic the moment it was heard was "Nadine". For the first time that we've ever experienced, at the beginning of "Nadine" the crowd spontaneously started clapping along before a note was sung. I'm sure the band could feel the energy from the crowd, and at one point Frank remarked, "Pretty fucking great crowd for a Tuesday night." And then added more slyly, "Is it not a school night? 'Gonna be a lot of people blowing off school tomorrow. I know that scene."

Some of the FrankBlack.Net Crew
If the crowd was into it, Frank and co. certainly didn't give us a reason to settle down. "Six-Sixty-Six", the song prior, was also an intense, wild rendition, and ended the regular portion of the set with passion. "Sing for Joy," apparently this tour's designated encore (at least most of the time), ended the night on a high note, and the band left for a day off in Edmonton, leaving our fair city behind (many of whom were still humming the chorus of Sing for Joy into the night) – but FB seemed intent to come back. We hope he does.


Six of the meet and greeters (Brian, Dean, Mike, Dan, Cody, Kevin) met for lunch yesterday and discussed the show that was, along with other various points of interest. It was a great capper to a great show.

-Dean and Brian

Dean and Brian Do Regina

Friday, November 10, 2006

Frank Black sits with us on his bus
Wow, it's been a long time. I'm surprised you're still here, but nevertheless, it's time to go on with my posting. My FrankBlack.Net cohost, Brian Salvatore (from New Jersey, though I like to tell people New York) was in town to help with the festivities. What festivities, you ask? Well, Frank Black was strolling through our fair province you see, and we were putting together a little bit of a gathering here in Saskatoon to greet him. What follows is our collective review of the show with a little story entwined.

You see, we had organized a Meet and Greet of sorts with the man, and aside from Brian being here to co-host Podcast 20 and this meeting, we were also going to see some Frank Black shows. Brian arrived on Sunday and we spent the day traipsing around the city. I showed him Broadway, downtown (though I think we neglected to get close to the Bez), Sask. Crescent, Spadina, the Mendel, and various other haunts of notoriety. We did a little legwork and I got him set up to do some podcast editing on Monday. You see, we have a mini-podcast coming in December that we did with his son, Julian, and we thought that it might be nice, since he was on the road, to have a copy early to listen to. So Brian edited most of that on Monday while I was at work. We were supposed to arrive in Regina to meet the band at 8:30. However, because there was some last-minute editing to do and I wanted to find some mic stands, we didn't leave Saskatoon until 6:45.

Dean and Brian with Billy Block
Deaner and Brian(er) rolled into Regina in record time, arriving at the venue (The Distrikt AKA The State) at 8:35 (including a ten minute stop for A&W in Davidson) only to find out that the show had been postponed an hour – which meant that FB and co. wouldn't be onstage until 11pm. Plus we weren't on the guestlist. This had happened last time FB was in Canada (when I went to Regina with Mike) and also to Brian in New York. We knocked on the bus door and sat chatting with Kentucky Prophet, who gave us the information and hooked us up with Billy Block. A quick detour later (during which we got to explore the downtown and teach Brian why Saskatoon is to Regina as Paris is to, I don't know, say Regina) and we were in Billy Block's hotel room to discuss the upcoming meet 'n' greet. We also learned that the show tomorrow had been moved to Louis'. Would it be too much to be "in the loop" on things like this? I was more than a little annoyed, but we posted the news ASAP on Billy's laptop and, since we had time, I gave Brian the grand tour of the capital of this fair Province, including the Parliament building, Wascana, and a marvelous gravel lot or two hundred.

Kentucky Prophet
We entered the venue at the start of Kentucky Prophet's set. The crowd seemed to enjoy it, and after a long 45 minutes, he exited the stage and the road crew started getting set for the show. Because of the lack of an acoustic opener in Winnipeg, and the last-minute tuning of the Telecaster, we assumed (falsely) that we wouldn't get an acoustic set. This was not the first, nor the last, mistake made that evening.

FB himself came onstage with a cup o' tea and grabbed the acoustic guitar. He remarked "I've been here before" when he looked around a bit, which I had commented on not an hour earlier (note: The Distrikt used to be the State – where a great CBC broadcast was once recorded with the Catholics in 2003).

FB acoustic
The acoustic set was great, starting off with the Tom Waits cover, "The Black Rider." A humorous highlight was FB verbally lashing himself for messing up both "The Holiday Song" ("How could I mess THAT ONE up? I'm Frank Black... of THE PIXIES") and "My Life is in Storage" ("Oh man, two in a row."). "Headache" was prefaced with "What is one I can't mess up?". "The Water" continues to impress on each hearing – we can't wait for the ChRISTMASS version. It was stuck in Dean's head all night, and into breakfast this morning.

The big surprise was "Velouria," which transitioned beautifully really, it was a completely under-the-radar transition - out of nowhere he was suddenly playing "Velouria") out of "Wave of Mutilation," appearing in the same screamy version as heard on the acoustic tour. After "California Bound." FB switched guitars and called up on the band.

Billy Block tmes his wild white mane
First he called up Billy Block, and mentioned his flowing, white mane parting the crowd, then Duane Jarvis, and then he granted Eric Drew Feldman permission to take the stage. The band came out and started off with "Bullet." The version was quite different than the Catholics version; We both missed the pedal steel, though Dean thought that Duane Jarvis covered for it pretty well. Next up, came "I'll Be Blue" which was an amalgam of the electric demo and the album version.

Then, a stomping, aggressive "Nadine," which really accentuated the rhythmic pattern followed, with a nice break before the guitar solo, for FB to shred his vocals on a rousing "whaaa!" Between this and "I'll Be Blue," it was clear that the band would be mixing up the arrangements a little bit tonight.

My favourite photo of the evening - Duane Jarvis looking awesome
FB dropped his low E down to a D and played the familiar riff that he was playing on the Pixies reunion tour after tuning down for "Planet of Sound." However, here he was gearing up for "Ten Percenter," which was the first of the evening's rock-out moments. Brian had seen it before, but I was floored by the intensity that's not to say Brian didn't like it – he had seem them rock it out a few weeks ago in Nueva York).

Switching to his trusty acoustic again, the band broke into "I Burn Today" – the first of the Nashville tunes for the evening. Dean was especially impressed, and was quoted as saying that he now appreciates the album version a bit more. Following that was an early-set highlight, "I'm Not Dead (I'm In Pittsburgh)" – FB really nailed the vocals and even found some room to scream a bit – it was the definitive version, hands down (including the already loved FM/RM version).

Next up was the first new track of the band set, "(Do What You Want)Gynaeshwar." Brian is especially enamored with this tune, and really likes Duane Jarvis' vocal contributions. A stomping romp through "Raider Man" was surprisingly beat-driven and featured Mr. Jarvis on some nice slide guitar.

EDF on the bass
The set mellowed out a lot with the next three songs. To be honest, the momentum shift was pretty noticeable, and this was the set's only real lull. "All Around the World" was played all-electric this time through, as was "Horrible Day" and "My Terrible Ways." Duane really nailed the harmonies on "Horrible Day" and added some new (at least, new from New York) harmonies on "My Terrible Ways."

Next up came the "brown" section of the set, with three tracks from Frank Black and the Catholics in a row – "Suffering," "All My Ghosts," and "Dog Gone." Brian still loves the 'gang' vocals of "All My Ghosts," and "Dog Gone" was a lot livelier than the recorded version. This set of songs turned the momentum back up, and brought it to a new level.

"The Swimmer" was transformed with keyboards into a bluesier, distorted version. This would be a good time to note how unbelievably awesome EDF's bass playing was tonight. Every song was unique in its approach and his playing has really added something to this band. Also a good time to note that the band has really gotten comfortable since the early gigs and this shows clearly.

The home stretch would be the pinnacle of the show; it took the already high level of excitement and opened the flood gates. Brian thinks "Johnny Barleycorn" is far better live than in the studio, but both agree the Conan version, while very good, paled in comparison to the what we saw tonight. Billy Block's drumming, solid all evening, really shone here.

Duane Jarvis rocking out
Here is where our collective minds were blown: As we were stationed directly in front of FB, we got an early look at the setlist – which sort of bummed Brian out (Dean opens his Christmas presents early). However, they both lamented songs missing that they wanted to hear –Brian was really hoping to hear "Remake/Re-Model" and Dean was pining for "Living on Soul." Well, after "Barleycorn," FB said something to Duane, and he started up the riff to "Remake" much to our delight. The band proceeded to rip through it, with great fills from Billy, Duane and (especially) EDF. When it came time for FB's solo, he instead kicked into an-unscripted "Living on Soul."

Following that was the new cover tune, "That Burnt Out Rock and Roll"
– FB really shredded his vocal chords on the chorus for this one. Then came Podcast favorite "Dead Man's Curve" with a bit slower tempo than the solo acoustic version – not that the slower tempo took away form the pace or intensity of the set.

The penultimate song was one Dean was not looking forward to. "Six-Sixty-Six" is one of his least favorite FB covers. However, tonight was different. A rollicking drum pattern and some intensely strummed chords transformed this song from its county-ish album version and its previous live take as both an a cappella acoustic-set number (although the first verse was almost totally a cappella) and its slow and noisy incarnation with the Catholics. Especially impressive were the vocals, which topped "That Burnt Out Rock and Roll" for shear power and intensity. The big surprise, however, was the new ending (at least as far as we've heard) which involved call and response vocals from FB and Duane/EDF on the phrase "my number is up." It was during this back-and-forth that I turned to Brian with a big grin and stated simply "I've been converted."

FB really lets it all out on the stage
"Sing for Joy" was the final song of the night (no encore), and it's acappella ending – yet another bit of endorsement here, Duane and EDF really did a great job on the backing vocals all night long. After the show, we chatted with the band and a few fans like Allison and Trevor (who is working on the movie Ferris Wheel and tells me that Charlize Theron has the hots for me despite me not knowing how to spell her name). Girls always like the illiterate jackasses. As we were stepping into the car, Billy poked his head out the window and told us that Charles asked if we were around and would visit. We gladly nodded and followed Billy on to the tour bus where we talked about the show, the tour, and a little business - the upcoming meet and greet in Saskatoon. As I got on the bus and introduced myself, Charles said to me - you! You're that GUY! The podcast guy! I'd recognize that voice anywhere. Which was really sort of funny and surreal and flattering all at once. He was really friendly and hospitable and we were pretty much at the top of the world as we left.

This probably explains how, at 3 AM on the road home, about 15km for Chamberlain, I had finally calmed enough to look at my gas gauge and realize it was right on empty. 480km on this tank, and usually I get between 400-500. Well, Chamberlain had no gas, I had no idea how far it was to Moose Jaw, and as anyone travelling the province at night knows, there are no all-night gas stations between Saskatoon and Regina. We did the only sensible thing and tensely crawled back to Regina on Cruise Control, making it with just a litre of gas in the tank. Whew! I didn't think we were going to make it up the hill in Lumsden, actually. Rather than driving back at 4 AM, we grabbed a cheap hotel for the night, which, as it turns out, was quite fortuitous, as the roads near Saskatoon had been covered in freezing rain and were very treacherous.

More to come on Saskatoon and the meet and greet.