On a recent Saturday we accidentally took in two very different pop-music concerts; I got one decent pic but ended the evening angry.
Months ago, I’d learned that All Them Witches were touring and bought Vancouver-gig tickets, because I liked the basic loud well-written tuneful guitar-rock songs I’d heard on the radio or YouTube or somewhere. Then Lauren looked at the calendar and said “Hey, we’ve got Bobbi’s birthday party that night.” But it was OK because the party was early.
It was at the Fairview Pub, which I’ve gone by on wheels and feet a zillion times, once or twice even recognizing the name of the bar band, but never inside. I assumed, at 4:30, it’d be beers and conversation.
But I got a couple of shocks when I walked in. First, there was a nine-piece horns-and-guitar soul revue tearing up Rock Steady. Second, once my eyes adjusted, I felt… young. Well, have a look at the picture.
They’re good! And the audience is old! But, so am I.
The waitress told me that the white-hair set comes in for the 4:30-7:30 show; then they have a rock band later, and a younger crowd.
So, the geezers on the dance floor were laying down some pretty sharp moves, and the band was playing some super hot licks. Pretty straight-ahead R&B; I remember Them Changes and Good Rockin’ at Midnight. They closed with Proud Mary, which it’s hard to do anything new with; their approach was playing it twice as fast as anyone, which worked OK.
Nothing I heard changed my life, but the band was tight and fast and beautifully rehearsed. Except, during a sax solo, I cracked up because the break had three bars of jazz in it, which just didn’t work — remember that great scene in The Commitments?
In fact, they were a lot like the Commitments, only greying middle-class Canadians instead of snotty Dublin greasers. Also, the sound was pretty good. I left smiling from ear to ear.
It didn’t last. All Them Witches were at Vancouver’s sleazy old Cobalt Hotel, near the heroin neighborhood. What a dive, except for it’s got a higher stage than most bar venues, so you can usually see the band.
The opener was meh, sang out of tune and played too long. Finally, the Witches ambled on stage and muddled through getting wired up. I guess they’re not at a level where they have a road crew as such.
When they were all connected, they started playing — the first attempt didn’t take for some reason but they lurched into gear on the second attempt.
The sound was execrable, with Charles Michael Parks Jr’s vocals mixed behind the guitars. The songs, interspersed with lengthy episodes of bass re-tuning, were pretty good when you could hear them. The dual-guitar sound occasionally bit down super-hard and just right. But basically, they just weren’t bringing it.
I might even buy their recording. But that performance was a disgrace to an honorable profession.
I’m not ready to start dancing to the safe stuff with the other old people. But If you’re offering something new and fresh, you still have to come halfway and work for your money.