Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Underwhelmed - Sloan in San Fran 04/30

So last night I went and saw what was at one point in my life, my absolute, all time most favorite band ever. Sloan. And honestly the experience was pretty bittersweet.

If you don't know, you can check out their Wiki, or just listen up. Sloan was at the heart of the mid 90s east coast Canadian rock scene. Which anyone from Canada should know something about. They play rock that veers onto the pop side, with strong deliberate vocals. They specialize in catchy rhythms, and fun lyrics. Still they don't have a pop, or light rock sound, they have an edge to them that I might call... alt-pop. is that a term? well, if not, it is now.

Here's one of their old songs, to listen to while you read the rest of this post... It's called Penpals off their 3nd (and arguably most popular) album Twice Removed

So anyhow, I used to be a big big fan of their music, but now things are pretty different. A couple of things were going on last night that made me pretty uncertain how I felt. Although that said, I think I am definitely too emotionally invested in this band to be objective. So take this all with a grain of salt. Firstly and foremost though, I'll say that they played a great set, I think the vocal mix was a bit low, but really they still played a very solid show. And really that's understandable, they've been playing and touring together for ages now. They are unmistakably technical and creative professionals, and I enjoyed the music a lot. They played mostly new stuff, off their current (9th I think) album, which of course makes sense, but they played a few older tracks too that I was very familiar with. My issues, such that they were, didn't have as much to do with the music as it did with the scene I was a part of.

You have to understand that Sloan is not a band that has stopped creating new music, they have really kept on plugging away. They're not that band you liked in high school that never stylistically progressed. I think that its fair to say they've stayed creative throughout their career. But at one point in the show last night lead singer Patrick told us 'hey it's a new song but you just might like it' and of course I did. They have managed to keep creating what I thought sounded like a honest and naturally progressing new sounding music for themselves over the years; but much of my interests and tastes have moved on. I don't fault Sloan for that obviously, in fact I feel bad. These guys come across as so genuine; such hard working musicians. And they've brought me so much happiness over the years, I wish I could support them more. But there's not too much I can do. Regardless of the fact that they've stayed innovative from their perspective, I'm listening to bands like Kasabian and TV on the Radio now more than any kind of sound that could even remotely be called alt-pop. And maybe I'm feeling a bit guilty for that. Patrick also at one point asked the crowd, made up of late 20 to late 30-somethings, for a show of hands as to who was seeing them for the first time. I'd say it was 15% at most. 'We need new fans' was Patrick's next line... While I'm sure they appriciate us old timers supporting them, we're also the 'Rush' fan who has trouble letting go.

Check out this vid for Everything You've Done Wrong, another fantastic older song :)

On top of that though, while Patrick's comment about needing new fans kind of upset me, I don't know that the show last night was totally representative of what the band sees regularly. Sloan is a band that never broke in the States, for whatever reason it just really never happened, there isn't much rhyme or reason to it. Why does someone like Barenaked Ladies, Sum 41 or even Treblecharger to an extent break here, and not Sloan, or The Tragically Hip? I don't know. Maybe After Navy Blues they should've g1one back to a big label... but probably not. That probably would've just compromised their creativity. Anyhow, this means two things here in San Francisco: firstly there was a relatively small crowd of only maybe 200 people (just a guess), and I strongly suspect that most of them were Canadian. The relative age of the crowd as compared to when the band was at the height of popularity meant that the was there was also a lot of familiarity with all of the old songs, and not much of the new. Although you have to remember that especially with the Bay Area, the Canadian that have an opportunity to move here are generally speaking (ie not me) very smart. It generally takes a lot to get a work permit here and while there's a decent sized group of Canucks in the Bay area, they are almost all necessarily a very specific demographic. I'd say there were at least 5 songs that Sloan played which were if not chart toppers, were definitely somewhere on the music charts in Canada, So while the band really didn't focus on old stuff, that was what almost all of the crowd knew best.

So like I said, kind of bittersweet. Good music that means a lot to me personally but that I still felt unconnected to. Maybe I shouldn't feel so bad. Sloan had 2 albums full of legitimately chart topping songs (TR, and OCTA), and two more that were still very popular with a handful of big songs on each (Smeared, and NB). That's more success than 90% of the bands out there...

Although, that doesn't really make it any less frustrating. I'll leave you with the single off their new album Never Hear the End of It - Who Taught You to Live Like That (live). have a listen, its really not bad...

You can stream the full album right here ;)

1 comment:

Chappy said...

sorry for my truly awkward phrasing in this post. I think I just had too much to say and wasn't exactly sure what the throughline was.

Hopefully it'll be better next time.

Oh and I think the main lead singer is actually Chris and not Patrick.