Weird show. For me and for them. For me, in part, because circumstances thrust me into the role of professional photographer — which I am not (see photos after the jump). I’ve never had to capture as many as 10 bouncing humans in either low or psychedelic light within a strict Live Nation-mandated time limit (three songs). I also had to deal with the unfamiliar protocol of the press-pass-carrying photographer, which included having to remove my equipment (camera, lenses, bag) from the premises after the three-song time limit or face something akin to extraordinary rendition by Live Nation. If I’d known that, I might not have parked half a mile away in a seedy city parking lot. I ran fast enough by a cop on my way back to the show — which I really didn’t want to miss any part of — that the Gal in Blue definitely thought I’d knocked off the nearby McDonald’s.
Weird for them, Broken Social Scene, because the acclaimed Canadians find themselves in an awkward place for indie rockers (as the following mixed metaphoric terminology suggests): somewhere between underground and mainstream. This weird, interstitial positioning manifested itself architecturally in Revolution Live, the not-so-big, not-at-all-small Ft. Lauderdale venue BSS played last night. In a 2003 interview following the release of the out-of-nowhere, approaching-perfect You Forgot It In People, BSS founding members Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning (who I interviewed on Tuesday) said they wanted to ultimately push past the club and record-store shows to play capacious “soft seaters”. Who could blame them? I mean, the band’s own size (seven to the n members) makes playing big venues a financial imperative. But the kind of crowd a venue like Revolution draws — one die-hard fan for every three foot-tappers, four arm-folders, and five “Who’s playing and when can we dip out to Los Olas?”ers — puts a ceiling on how good the show can be of more or less the same height as the actual height of Revolution’s ceiling.
Breaking through to the heavens is unlikely, is what I’m saying.
All that said, it was a good show — and loooooooooong, approximately two hours and 45 minutes. “Don’t get tired on us, Ft. Lauderdale,” said Kevin Drew, after hanging Tampa out to dry for getting weary during BSS’s previous show.
The band opened with YFIIP’s “KC Accidental” and went on to play many of the best tracks off of their 2002 name-maker: “Anthems For A Seventeen-Year-Old-Girl”, “Stars and Sons”, “Shampoo Suicide”, “Looks Just Like The Sun”, “Cause = Time”. (I may be leaving something off as I’m not sure what I missed during my mad dash to the car and back.)
From their latest effort, Forgiveness Rock Record, BSS played “Texico Bitches”, “Forced To Love”, “All to All”, “Art House Director”, “World Sick”, “Ungrateful Little Father”, “Water in Hell”, and “Meet Me In The Basement”, none of which sounded better or positively different than on FRR itself.
For the nearly three-hour set, BSS acquitted themselves in a way befitting their status as indie-rock royalty: They played tight and enthusiastically, and by playing so many fan favorites over the course of an uncommonly long set they expressed in word and deed a genuine gratitude to their audience not always detectable in other bratty rock acts. (Kevin Drew: “Clap for yourselves, Ft. Lauderdale!”)
My basic criticism of the show is that the band failed to transcend their own music — which, admittedly, is pretty g’damn transcendental as is — and fell short, I believe, in the highest pursuit of a live show: transporting the audience outside of the figurative building and into the wilds. NB: I wouldn’t proffer such an absurd criticism if I didn’t think Broken Social Scene were capable of the feat. Falling short in this metaphysical regard can not be traced back to any one variable. The way the band played, how much the average audience member cared, the size and feel of the venue — all of these factor into the abstract effect of a live show.
Obviously this review reflects the experience of a single subjective witness: me. And I’m sure plenty of people saw the show of their lives last night, while undoubtedly others went home rueing their decision to splurge on a ticket. In fact, the only time a concertgoer can be reasonably certain that everyone in the audience had more or less the same experience is when the band takes the crowd to another dimension. It is a rare and undeniable act, one few bands have the musical wherewithal to accomplish. Broken Social Scene is one of the few, but last night we stayed put.
Back to weird for me for a moment: Toward the end of the show, I found an iPhone 4 on the ground. No one in the vicinity claimed it, so I stuck around waiting for someone to show up with discernible “Fuck fuck fuck I lost my iPhone” eyes. Never happened. Eventually the phone owner sent herself a text message offering a $250 reward for returning the phone. I went outside and called the number whence came the text message, told the girl who picked up — who had repaired to Pour House nearby — not to worry, I’d meet up with her after the show, and I didn’t want any money. “Thank you thank you thank you” et cetera.
Flash forward. The show has ended and I call back the number from the text message. A guy picks up — my altruism motivation declines sharply. We arrange to meet at BSS’s tour bus. A dude with a scruffy face and a likable grin bounds up. I hand him the phone. He tries to hand me a thick stack of bills. I resist. He shoves it in the pocket of my hoodie, says “You’re a good man”, and bounds away.
Now, paying someone for a good deed strikes me as a strange thank you. Doesn’t it transform the good deed into a service rendered, the Good Samaritan into a Good Servant? Whatever. If this guy had just thrust $250 upon me, I was going to be damn happy. Funny enough, I was going to use it to buy … an iPhone (the new Verizon brand). Unless of course, my car had repaired to an impound lot, in which case I was going to use the lucre on a taxi ride, a stiff towing fee, and a consolation pitcher.
With this possibility looming, I decided not to weigh the dough until I knew that my car was safe. I left it in the pocket of my hoodie as I walked apace to the parking lot, pushing the button on my remote clicker once I got within a few hundred yards with the hope of hearing my car call back to me in its ineloquent voice: beep-beep. Eventually I turned the final corner and there she was, right where I’d left her. I climbed inside, pulled the money from my pocket, and began telling the bills: 12 ones, two fives, one twenty — $42 all told. Not enough for an iPhone but almost enough for the tank of gas I discovered I needed after turning the ignition.
Back to weird for them: Brendan Canning busted his lanky ass during, I believe, “Texico Bitches” (see lanky blur at stage right below).
And finally, back to weird for me: At one point, while moving along the fringes of the crowd, I glanced at some kid’s lit-up phone screen and saw … me. Actually, my twitter icon. Kafka calling, my friends. I felt a mixture of flattered and profoundly creeped out and involuntarily scurried away.
Perhaps now you can see why I asked so much of Broken Social Scene last night.
They didn’t stand a chance.
Here are some more photos from the show.