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.

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