Pissing on the prairies: a show review

0

It is entirely difficult to describe life in the prairies to an outsider. I still like to try, but all too often I am confronted with quizzical expressions that segue to a total sense of WTF when I attempt to convey heroic stories of mid-blizzard basement punk shows, touring for days to play one show and Shakey Wilson.

Even growing up was like some fucked-up made-for-TV movie based on a Farley Mowat novel. Living in Montgomery, a neighbourhood that dangles off the western edge of Saskatoon, roving bands of wildlife was a fairly common occurrence: skunk attacks, deer lazily wandering through the yard and a neighbour fending off a cougar with a hockey stick.

But beyond the ubiquitous massive skies and a landscape that could almost be considered post-apocalyptically beautiful, there is a strange sense of alienation and DIY-ness in the prairies that affect all aspects of life – indie music is no exception.

On Saturday, October 15, we drove 40 minutes outside Saskatoon to attend a show with Shooting Guns, Ride ‘Til Dawn Amigos, Shakey Wilson and the Elevators and The Seahags in Viscount, Saskatchewan at the Barefoot Earth Farm and Co-op. The venue? A massive barn, of course.

Only in the prairies.

The barn was an amazing wooden structure with all the trappings you would expect – hay bales lined the room for those wishing to sit along with an old, possibly non-functioning skidoo. Above the stage, however, was a massive poster from the cover of the first Clash record – total prairies punk rock clubhouse.

In lieu of a merch table, vendors sold preserves, homemade chicken soup and vegetables by the pound. I immediately bought a piece of carrot cake the size of an eight-year-old boy’s face for a dollar. Suddenly everything seemed all right with the world.

The first band, Ride ‘Til Dawn, are the kind of guys who you could drink a beer with in a back alley – I’m fairly certain I’ve actually done that with all of them actually. Lead singer Mitch Grier kept cool with a pair of Ray-Bans while the rest of us shivered while clutching cans of Great Western with woolen mitts. The four-piece trundled through a set that liberally mixed in some traditional rock classics, including an appropriately botched cover of “Teenage Kicks”.

Ride til Dawn

At the end of the set I made my way outside. Finding a semi-private spot, I peed on the post of a barbed-wire fence and stared up at a moon that could almost be considered intrusive – clearly everyone could see me. Concurrently, nobody really cared. It’s the prairies: peeing outside, regardless of race, class, gender or sexual orientation is pretty much our provincial motto. In fact, I would like to offer an artists’ rendition of some much-needed updates to our Saskatchewan flag.

Peeflag

Shakey Wilson and the Elevators played what I will hopefully remember as my favourite set I have ever seen by them. All the Shakey moves were intact – warbling vocals and sketchy G chords – but the four-piece-ish seemed to be feeding off some sort of bizarre agrarian energy. I’ve never seen Shakey rock so hard before, maybe excluding that time he was backed by The Sadies at Ness Creek.

Shakey Wilson

At one point during Shakey’s set an inebriated Jim Ginther clambered onto me.

“Forget all those other times I’ve said this, and I know I’ve said this,” said Ginther. “This is definitely the drunkest I have ever been.”

I believe you Jim, just like I believed you all those other times too. But after watching you play a surprisingly competent set with doomsayers Shooting Guns, I can safely attest that I now believe in you too.

While the openers opted for flannel-and-jean-jacket open chords, in contrast Shooting Guns dished out paralyzing riffs that hum, crush and reverberate. I’ve never been a huge fan of heavy music that forgoes the vocals but this Saskatoon five-piece is clearly the exception. Chugging and spewing like the engine of that old van I bought in Osler, Shooting Guns totally slayed, bringing the night to a near-close with plumes of greasy banger hair flailing in the chill night breeze.

Shooting Guns

Up next were The Seahags, who might have been too drunk to play an actual set. On the other hand, at this point I was far too drunk to watch an actual set so touché. I had never seen the band before and would conjecture I need to see them again – I recall a banjo swinging mere inches near my face along with some seriously sassy vocals. You ‘Hags are alright.

Ho-down

At this point the moon became blurry, the amps turned to ‘standby’ and most were out of beer, a clear indication it was time to leave. I vaguely recall crashing face-first into a bocce ball set in the back of a pick-up truck and then promptly passing out for the remainder of the road trip.

Best night ever.

The next morning a suspicious smell emanated from my tub and burrs stuck errantly to my shoelaces. I had to smile a little though, as I grumbled through a scruff of a hangover while picking the seeds from my clothing post-doom metal/rock/folk show – only in the prairies folks.

All photos by Tybaps the Magnificent.