Throwback Thursday: The Weakerthans @ Babylon in 2001
Featured photo by: Brooks Reynolds
As many of you already know, on July 14, Winnipeg’s beloved band The Weakerthans called it quits. Now in all honesty, they haven’t released anything in a long time and haven’t toured for a while, but I am sure there were many fans out there like me hoping for another album. Especially after the treat that was John K. Samson‘s solo album, Provincial.
But enough about the sadness, The Weakerthans did that enough for all of us. They showed us all that sappy is punk even without power chords and they did so masterfully thanks to Samson’s amazing lyrics. I honestly hadn’t thought of this show for a long time, but as soon as I read the news of their breakup I had a flashback. Let’s go back together to that fateful night at Babylon in November 2001.
The Weakerthans’ set list from their November 2001 show at Babylon in Ottawa, ON.
There I am 14 years-old and standing in a packed Babylon with my dad, Steve, and mom, Lise, so excited for The Weakerthans. They were about to take the stage after an amazing set by this little, lesser-known band at the time. You may have heard of them… The Constantines.
The Weakerthans opened with a song I had never heard before, simply labeled “Elk’s” as you can see by the set list pictured (below/above) that my dad snagged and got signed. The song, “Psalm for the Elks Lodge Last Call”, would later find itself on Reconstruction Site in 2003, on their third album. Then without wasting any time they crowd favourite and high energy track “Aside.” I won’t give you a song by song breakdown, as the set list is posted, but it was really cool to hear new songs like “Psalm” and “Our Retired Explorer (Dines with Michel Foucault in Paris, 1961),” almost two years before their release.
Before most shows that my dad and I attended together we would always ask each other what were our must hear songs. You know the one that you need to hear or almost no matter how good the show it can’t be amazing without. Well, young teenage Eric loved one Weakerthans song beyond all others, “Wellington Wednesday”. Steve had one song that also rose above the rest, “This Is a Fire Door, Never Leave Open”. The most vivid memory I have of this show is the look of pure joy and excitement on my dad’s face before he cheered louder than anyone else as they started “Fire Door”. Three songs later it was my turn for glee as Samson played “Wellington Wednesday” which might as well have been just for me. As he sang the chorus “Oh, you’ve got green eyes / Oh, you’ve got blue eyes / Oh, you’ve got grey eyes,” I could not be happier. I had no idea at the time that they were New Order lyrics, but it wouldn’t have changed a darn thing. I actually have eyes that change from blue to green to grey and always thought that was super cool as a kid. That song cemented it and my undying love for Winnipeg’s finest.
The autographed back of The Weakerthans’ set list from their November 2001 show at Babylon in Ottawa, ON.
The other fond memory was seeing The Weakerthans live and realizing there really are two sides to punk, and that it is way more than just a sound. This was a man who came from Propagandhi‘s angry and political fast-paced music, to this often more slow emotional songs in forming The Weakerthans. But they were in no way less punk, they were just showing us a different way of doing it. They had the energy and excitement of a punk show, but coupled it with some soft and emotional tracks that could pierce even the toughest armour. And to top it all off Samson is kind of a goofball on stage and a super nice guy in person.
I found what I thought was the audio of the entire set of that amazing night in late November 2001 recorded from the live CBC Radio 2 broadcast. Unfortunately it turns out what I found is the audio for a show three months prior. Still really cool and worth a listen as the quality is amazing and the set list is very close to the one I saw almost 14 years ago. You can download it here.
RIP Weakerthans. Canada, and most specifically Winnipeg, mourns the loss of one of the best acts to grace this country for nearly two decades. So long to one great band.
Riot Fest Day 2: The Replacements, Iggy and The Stooges and many more in Toronto
The day had finally arrived…I was about to realize a lifelong musical dream of seeing The Replacements as well as seeing Iggy Pop and the Stooges in the flesh. Before this could become a reality, I had six other bands to watch first, but after waiting 25 years, a few hours of great live music seemed like the perfect way to tease my ear drums.
First up was Single Mothers from London, Ontario. I missed most of their set as I was record shopping and lost track of time. Nonetheless, I heard about half as I walked up and while I waited in line to get in. They are a rocking good way to start the day. They are raw and in-your-face rockers.
The Flatliners were next up. They were on point, “We usually tell really funny jokes, but we don’t have much time today so just music today, if that’s ok?” The boys played some rocking older tracks, “Eulogy” being an all-time favourite of mine, as well as a few tracks from their upcoming album Dead Language, including their new single “Drown in Blood.” For all of you fellow Ottawa fans, The Flatliners are rolling through town on Friday September 6 with The Motorleague, Dead Weights and Sidelines at Mavericks. For information and tickets, click here.
Two bands seemed a little out of place on the bill Sunday, one of those was Best Coast. Their soft cute California style rock, which I like very much on record, just felt odd and lost on the crowd. The lead singer did raise a very interesting point though. She brought up that she was the only girl member of any of the bands over both days… what is going on hardcore and rock n roll, where are all the girls? I must admit though their very catchy tune ”Goodbye” had me swaying side to side.
A lot of people were confused with Dinosaur Jr. being slotted third, and before bands like The Weakerthans and Rocket from the Crypt, but I was fine with it. I was never a huge Dinosaur Jr fan. They started by saying a growling “hello” and followed with “please enjoy our set.” Unfortunately the sound was absolutely brutal during their set. If the vocals were ok the guitar was way too loud, when the guitar was ok the vocals were off, and the sound on the bass was hit or miss from song to song. The highlight of the set for me was their cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven,” which for me came from way out of left field.
Rocket From The Crypt playing music and telling jokes at Riot Fest 2013.
Dressed in matching mariachi outfits, Rocket from the Crypt brought their love for Rock n Roll and shrimp cocktails to the stage. “Who here loves Rock n Roll?” asked the lead singer, “who here likes shrimp cocktails?” Seeing as the crowd erupted to both he said “Great we are all the same then.” This set the tone for a set that was far more than 90s inspired rock with a wicked horn section, but a hilarious set with humour between every song. One of those moments for example is when the lead singer discussed how long it has been since they played Canada. “Long time since I’ve been back in Canadia. We have this sort of kinship, we have not updated our sound and you have not updated your dance moves. I am not complaining though, we like man on man contact.” Their set was chalked full of their great tunes like “Come See Come Saw,” “Made for You,” “Boychucker” and my favourite “On a Rope.”
Up next was a little bit of a head scratcher. The Weakerthans, who I love immensely were a very odd fit between Rocket from the Crypt and Iggy. But John K. Samson and his boys owned it. They are not loud, they are not in your face, but they are very good. Samson opened with “One Great City,” a song about how much he hates Winnipeg and followed that by dedicating “Champion of Hearts” to the curlers. I have been a big fan of The Weakerthans for years and they always put on a great show. They made sure to mix in some of their more rocking songs like “Aside” and “Watermark,” and while not being shy of playing some of their slower songs like “Plea From A Cat Named Virtue,” which has the wicked line in it, “Scratch the terror and begin to believe you’re strong.” They might have seemed out of place on the schedule, but they fit right in with their attitude and awesomeness.
Iggy and the Stooges killing it at Riot Fest 2013 in Toronto. The man is 66 for god’s sake!
Had you told me as a teenager that not only would Iggy Pop still be alive at 66, but still touring and I would get a chance to see him…I probably would have laughed in your face and asked you if you had any idea who Iggy Pop was. Fast forward to me at 26 and holy shit I was watching as The Stooges strummed the cords to ”Raw Power” and Iggy strutted onto stage. That man is THE energizer bunny. He danced around like only Iggy can, all freaking set. He even invited fans on stage, one of which happened to be Max from the Ottawa band Critical Convictions. The band played ”Fun House” and the 15 or so people on stage had a blast.
I was blown away through the first half of the set and thinking there was no way they could make it any better. Then they played ”I Wanna Be Your Dog’‘ and Iggy dove into the crowd. Now I’m thinking WOW but you can’t top that can you? How about playing ”The Passenger” much to the crowd’s amazement. Then in true Iggy fashion they played the super obnoxious ”Cock in my pocket” and ”Pretty face is going to hell.” I still can’t believe I saw Iggy and the Stooges, it was like watching rock royalty.
The sweet dance party when Iggy invited the crowd on stage. Can you spot the local rocker?
People who know me know I was spoiled as a child to have parents who raised me on punk, grunge, alternative, ska and reggae. This is why the moment I saw that The Replacements where playing Toronto I bought tickets and got so excited I shouted in my office. The Mats had not played a show in over two decades and I was now seconds away from seeing them. When the two original member Paul Westerbeg and Tommy Stinson, as well as two fill ins Josh Freese (The Vandals, Nine Inch Nails, Devo and a million other bands) and David Minehan (The Neighborhoods) stepped onto the stage I nearly lost my mind! And what were the first words out of Paul’s lips…”Sorry it took us so long, for 25 years we’ve been having a wardrobe debate…unresolved.” (You can find the audio of the entire show below)
The Replacements!!! The picture is not the best, but their performance was!
They opened with “Taking a Ride,” song one from their first album, Sorry Ma’ I Forgot To Take Out The Trash. The crowd cheered and sang the whole way through, heck there was even a mosh pit. Paul and Tommy looked like they were having a lot of fun and were really happy to be playing together again. They often walked over to each other during the set and you could see them talking and laughing. The set list had a little bit of everything, a roller coaster ride through their catalogue and not a greatest hits show. They played stuff from all over the map like “Favourite Thing” to “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out” to “Love You Till Friday” to “Wake Up” to “Borstal Breakout” (Sham 69 cover). They even found time to take a request, which ended up being “Androgynous.” Paul forgot the words but it did not matter because the crowd was singing along so loudly that we had his back. They played a rocking version of “Swinging Party” which they said was a request from Slim Dunlap (guitarist for The Replacements who is recovering from a stroke). They then played a very emotional “Can’t Hardly Wait” and revved it back up by closing with “Bastards of Young.”
While cheering and losing my mind, I looked at my watch and noticed they still had time left. As quickly as I could get angry for them leaving, Paul re-emerged from the side of the stage wearing a Montreal Canadians jersey much to the chagrin of the crowd. Just Paul being Paul, punk rock to the bone. They played “Everything Is Coming Up Roses” off a release to raise money for Slim and his family called Songs for Slim and ended one of the most magical musical experiences of my life with “I.O.U.”
It took over twenty years to get even two of the members back together, but after that amazing set, it was well worth the wait. Paul and Tommy, thank you, you owe us nothing.