Broken Social Scene, the Warfield, April 13, 2011: As this blog proves conclusively, I harbor long-standing fascinations with certain musicians, but they're the exceptions. The truth is most artists occupy a middle ground--I like their music but don't feel especially loyal to them. Then there's another trajectory: A band will make one or two albums that stay with me forever, and for that, they win my undying loyalty and affection, even if I never listen to anything from them again.
Broken Social Scene is starting to cement its place in that first category, but it wasn't always this way. On the one hand, I've listened to and enjoyed much of their catalog, but You Forgot It in People remains the record from their discography that I want buried with me in my memorial pyramid, even though this tidbit has a habit of slipping my mind. Maybe it has something to do with the nature of ever-changing collectives, where band members come and go, complicating that silly act of pinning your dreams, hopes, and schoolgirl crushes to any single person. Maybe it's their erratic recording schedule. Maybe it's because they're from Canada.
Nonetheless, I've now rediscovered its wonders twice, despite a burning love for it around the time of its release. Dammit, I put two songs from that album on mixes (back when I made mixes)! The first reawakening was kick-started by their performance at Outside Lands in 2008. More recently, they provided the soundtrack to a movie I can't get out of my brain (see earlier ode to Canadiana). This time, especially after the Warfield show, I think it's finally stuck.
For a period of several weeks this past winter, I was a moist-eyed, trembling-lipped commuter, ready to stream the waterworks to the sounds of "Anthem for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl" or "Shampoo Suicide," and convinced it was the soundtrack to my life. It's reached the point where I can vocalize all the instrumentation on certain songs, from the guitar solo to the bass line to the drumbeat. (Full disclosure: I can do this for several albums.) Bobby McFerrin has nothing to fear, but it's hard to resist the melodies embedded in the gorgeous instrumental swaths that mark so many Broken Social Scene songs. Also, it helps me embrace the tunes when I can't make out the damn lyrics!
This (re)immersion in Broken Social Scene's catalog hasn't exactly made me a connoisseur, but it's resulted in one major difference: For the first time, I was watching the band not for merely the spectacle or out of idle curiosity, but as an invested fan. With this revised outlook, the creative core of Kevin Drew, Brandon Canning, and Andrew Whiteman was particularly prominent, and since I still can't always figure out who handles the singing, it's nice to get visual confirmation of the lead vocals.
The horn section, at times showing off choreographed moves, was probably the biggest attention grabbers of the less permanent crew, but of course, it helped that they played against such a strong foundation. Last but not least, it'd be criminal to overlook Lisa Lobsinger, bringing the female voice that elevates critical portions of their catalog. Broken Social Scene has a stellar record in finding and nurturing amazing female singers; if history is anything to go by, keep an eye on Lisa.
This blog is clogged with accounts of earnest acoustic performances, and don't get me wrong--I love the heartfelt material, but one can't live on folk songs alone. Watching Broken Social Scene, I realized they deliver tunes that appeal to
Then you hit the likes of "Hotel," which can easily take its place among the best sexy-time songs I've heard in a while. I don't know what the trending topics on Twitter were at the very moment the band played the song, but if #fuckmusic lit up the charts, you can thank the guy next for his contribution (according to what he told his friend). Coincidentally (or not), the song came after the band joked about Prince and Chaka Khan, even treating us to a a few beats from "Controversy."
Throughout the entire gig, the crowd had eaten up the band's every move, and the musicians responded in kind. Brendan Canning, for example, thanked the familiar faces in the audience, including the often forgotten balcony. He also invited everyone out to drinks afterward, though he didn't disclose the meeting space.
Kevin Drew, meanwhile, praised San Francisco for its longtime support and promised to play for as long as possible, as he said it would be Broken Social Scene's last show in town for a while. To that end, the band didn't bother leaving the stage before the encore and instead kept plugging away.
Play they did--Kevin had mentioned earlier in the set the expense of exceeding their allotted time, but he didn't appear to heed his own words, as the show ended around 11:15, or 15 minutes into overtime for the union crews (I think?). Also, though he'd been trying to keep his bronchitis at bay with tea and lozenges all night, Kevin's lungs finally gave out on "It's All Gonna Break," which he had to call off for, er, a song I didn't recognize. Whatever its title, this closing tune brought Kevin into the crowd, where he fist-bumped much of the front row and sang on the rail to the rest of the room. Let it be known they went out--but not down--fighting.
I'd initially planned to stake out a spot off the main floor, but opted to hit the rail when I noticed plenty of open spots for the taking. I'm glad I did; I don't think I would've enjoyed the same connection from the first tier back. Double bonus: The very nice security guy in my corner indicated I should stick around for a couple of minutes, then handed me the setlist without any prodding. You can keep your Coachella--I'll take the local route any day.
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