Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Gig: Kathryn Calder

Kathryn Calder

The Tranzac Club (Southern Cross Lounge). Friday, June 10, 2011.

Though I had seen Kathryn Calder play with her "other" bands (the now-defunct Immaculate Machine, New Pornographers), it took rather a long time after the release of her solo effort Are You My Mother? for her to play Toronto on her own account. And when that first solo show came, it was mildly surprising that it was in the rather unassuming and cosy environs of the Tranzac's front room. It made a sort of sense, however, as that casual, homey space is not unlike the feel of her first album.

Speaking of casual, the clothes hangers in the bathroom I'd observed a few days before were still in place, which was comforting to me somehow. Most of the other patrons definitely didn't look like the "Tranzac crowd", showing signs they weren't entirely sure how the place worked, all the more so given that the show was, in true Southern Cross fashion, PWYC.

The band — a fairly unfussy trio (bass/drums/guit) behind Calder on guit and keyb — was running off "about seven hours of sleep in the past two days" in the midst of a concentrated fly-in visit to Ontario, having run to Ottawa and back the night before. The state of the hockey game, with their hometown Canucks in game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals, seemed more top-of-mind than the show for some of the band, busily anticipating the victory celebrations that seemed imminent. The word "riot" hadn't crossed anyone's mind yet.

Basically plugging in and going (no soundcheck here), the set started with album closer "All It Is" and "Down the River", which features a la-la-la-la chorus that wouldn't have sounded out of place in, say, a New Pornographers song. Given that the band had been promoting the album for awhile, it was no surprise that there were some interesting tweaks of the album versions, such as a straight-up rockin' take of "A Day Long Past its Prime" and an upbeat campfire version of "If You Only Knew", with acoustic guitar and shaker and tambourine. On the quieter side, there was also a very beautiful version of "So Easily".

"Turn a Light On" would be the first of three new songs that would later make their way on to Calder's sophomore Bright and Vivid album. The versions here were, unsurprisingly, mostly free of the extra textures that would came more to the fore on that release. The band were still a little shaky in delivering "City of Sounds" and on "One Two Three", there was still an unsettled sense of how to start it, with Calder almost calling it off. But with a very Destroyer-esque sustain-y guitar line, it was a very intriguing look ahead to new sonic possibilities.

The set closed with a rocked-up "Castor and Pollux", with Evan Tyler recreating his robotic dancing from the song's heartwarming video, almost knocking over a mic stand and chair in the process. That felt like just the right way to finish a wonderfully casual night. A superior show to have been able to take in.

I have already posted one song from this show here, and now you can check out a stripped-down reinvention and an embryonic preview here.

Do also please excuse the quality of the photos here. For some unfathomable reason, I had forgotten my camera at home, and these were the best my phone could muster.

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