Live music galleries: 54-40 (unplugged) [2018]

(I got the idea for this series while sifting through the ‘piles’ of digital photos on my laptop. It occurred to me to share some of these great pics from some of my favourite concert sets from time to time. Like my ‘Vinyl love’ series, these posts will be more photos than words but that doesn’t mean I won’t welcome your thoughts and comments. And of course, until I get around to the next one, I invite you to peruse my ever-growing list of concerts of page.)

54-40 unplugged at CityFolk 2018

Artist: 54-40 (unplugged)
When: September 14th, 2018
Where: City Stage, CityFolk Festival, Ottawa
Context: If you’re Canadian and came of age in the 80s or 90s, the chances are excellent that you’ve heard of 54-40. I, myself, have never considered myself a huge fan but always enjoyed their music when I heard it on the radio, which was considerably often, given Canadian Content rules. I remember hearing them from my back deck, shortly after moving to Ottawa in 2001, when they were playing an outdoor show downtown and I realized that I knew a great deal of their songs. So when they were added to this year’s CityFolk, I flagged their set as one to see and well, it was a great time. It was an “unplugged” show, which meant they rearranged and performed their tunes with acoustic guitars, banjos, mandolins, and fiddles rather than electric guitars, and of course, their hits made up three quarters of the set. Thus, it was a rollicking singalong.
Point of reference song: Baby ran

Neil Osborne of 54-40
Daniel Lapp performing with 54-40
Brad Merritt of 54-40
Dave Genn of 54-40
Daniel Lapp sporting a CityFolk 25 shirt
Matt Johnson of 54-40
Dave Genn on the mandolin
Neil Osborne on the banjo (performing ‘Baby ran’)

Best tunes of 2011: #24 Lykke Li “Love out of lust”

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Lykke Li is the stage name (one based on a derivative of her birth name) of Swedish singer/songwriter Li Lykke Timotej Zachrisson. She released her critically acclaimed debut album, “Youth novels”, at 22 years of age, and followed it up with “Wounded rhymes” three years later, an album most have agreed was an improvement on the debut. I really liked both of her first two albums, loving both the quirky and the macabre feel of the tunes, music that traverses a taut tightrope, just this side of pop. With each successive album afterwards, however, it sounds to me like she has fallen victim to the lure of the mighty pop dollar and I’ve liked each of them less to a greater degree.

Her sophomore release, though, was a delight. She went to California to record it, admitting, herself, that she wanted to escape the dreariness of Stockholm winters and find some sunshine. Also, there were journeys to the desert in search of the ghostly channels of her heroes in Jim Morrison and Joni Mitchell. It’s not at all Haight Ashbury or Laurel Canyon, though, still very much keeping to the blueprint of the debut, a percussive and atmospheric canvas for her to paint her childlike, haunting vocals upon.

“Love out of lust” was actually not one of the three singles released off the album but I cannot understand for the life of me why it wasn’t. It’s so freaking beautiful and it’s damned catchy. Lykke Li is pleading her case for love while the world shimmers around her, tribal drummers beating upon large bass toms and gigantic brass gongs and pixies whisper and flit, posing as synthesizers and samples. It is a song for slow dancing in the ephemera.

“We will live longer than I will
We will be better than I was
We can cross rivers with our will
We can do better than I can
So dance while you can
Dance ’cause you must.”

Indeed. Dance because you must.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2011 list, click here.

Best tunes of 1991: #15 Chapterhouse “Pearl”

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February 20, 1994. I had tickets to see my then favourite band, The Wonder Stuff, a concert for which I had doled out a measly $10. I met my friend Tim and a group of his friends in the lineup for the show and I was a bit shocked to learn that many of them were mainly there to see the opening band: Chapterhouse. I wasn’t unfamiliar with the group, of course, far from it. I had a copy of their debut album, “Whirlpool”, on the other side of a C90 of Blur’s “Leisure”. I had liked it quite a bit and went out to get a copy of their sophomore release, “Blood music” when it came out. However, it was their blazing opening set that night that really got me into them (the Stuffies were pretty awesome too but that’s a story for another time).

Chapterhouse were a five-piece from Reading, England that were led by Andrew Sherrif and Stephen Patman. They were in existence from 1987 to 1994 and in that time released two albums, a bunch of EPs, and were pigeonholed twice, in two very difference music scenes around during that time. The band never identified with either the acid house/baggy or the shoegaze scenes, but you can definitely hear smacks of both in “Pearl”. Thanks to its heavy, muscle-flexing drum samples and heavenly organ sounds it begs for dance floor nirvana but the fuzzed out guitars and Andrew Sherrif’s whispery vocals allow for plenty of floor-staring introspection. It’s explosive and dreamy, foot-stomping and floating, a real beaut of dichotomy. Of course, the fact that Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell added her backing vocals to the mix didn’t hurt the song’s pedigree in the latter genre.

The song was released in two versions on an EP of the same name and as the second track on the band’s legendary debut album. I heard it first on the album, that cassette was rewound many times to this song, especially after that concert. It’s become one of my favourite songs ever over the years. And if you’re looking at that number in the title and wondering how such a favourite song falls so far out of the top ten, that just shows how much I loved the music from 1991. Stay tuned for the rest of this list – it’s going to be great.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1991 list, click here.