On Sat. I went to the Danforth Music Hall for the first time. It was pretty good, though I am somewhat surprised how far back the balcony area is from the stage. I guess it's better than Lee's Palace, however, which maybe sorta has upstairs seating but not with a clear view of the stage. In terms of distance to the stage, it is definitely worse than Metro (in Chicago) where the balcony wasn't that far away, but the seats are vastly better. (At Metro you usually ended up standing up all night in the balcony, which sort of defeated the purpose.) I guess because everyone that expects to stand up and dance is on the main floor most people in the balcony stayed in their seats until the end of the concert. In fact one guy who was more than a little obnoxious about trying to get people dancing in their seats was finally escorted out!
Anyway, after missing out on a couple of previous mini-tours, I managed to catch The Lowest of the Low at the Danforth Music Hall. It was actually a sold out show, so there is definitely pent-up demand to see this group, now that they have reformed and been touring (basically only Ontario and Buffalo, though they are supporting 54-40 in Vancouver -- more on that later).
The crowd was definitely older -- mostly 45+. In other words, people who had been around for the band's first incarnation in the late 80s into the early 90s. As it happens, I didn't go see a lot of live music when I was in Toronto in the early 90s, though I did manage to see The Waltons and then one memorable Christmas concert, Sara McLachlan and the Barenaked Ladies (and a bunch of other acts I don't recall). I didn't venture over to Lee's Palace or The Horseshoe or any of those other venues, which was certainly my loss.
I wouldn't say I am making up for lost time exactly, but I am occasionally trying to get over to some of these venues when there is a band I'm somewhat interested in seeing, so I have made it to Lee's Palace twice now (once for a very good Camper Van Beethoven/Cracker concert). I see that 54-40 is going to be at the Horseshoe Tavern, so I think I'll go catch them. Ron Hawkins (leader of The Lowest of the Low) said that they would be playing the Horseshoe soon, but there wasn't anything on the website. I suspect since they are opening for 54-40 in Vancouver, they will also be opening for them at the Horseshoe (though perhaps not for the entire string of shows). It's a "gamble," but I think I'll take it.
It's sort of weird having nostalgia for something that didn't happen to you. The Lowest of the Low in particular is such a Toronto-based band, with many songs derived directly from Toronto places, particularly in the east end. There is actually a piece in Now on this very topic. So I have a bit of nostalgia for hearing them on the radio, but it wasn't like I grew up here and did all the things that kids growing up in the city did (sneaking in to bars with loose carding policies etc.). One of my co-workers did all that (and my wife did a fair bit of that in Chicago though it was more clubbing than bar hopping). I kind of missed out on that, though I did check out the bar scene in Ann Arbor when I got to university.
Anyway, what makes this slightly less sad and desperate is
that The Lowest of the Low have a new album out -- Do the Right Now.
(Granted 2 or 3 songs are dusted off from their glory days and
rerecorded, but actually several of the new songs are quite good. "Powerlines" is really growing on me. Here is a link to the video, and I also liked "California Gothic," which closes the album.) It turns out this was the CD release party. I didn't get the CD, but it was amusing hearing Hawkins ask the crowd who still liked CDs and vinyl and who wanted their music on a USB stick. Given the collective age of the audience, CDs and vinyl were the big winners, but that wouldn't be the case if you asked a bunch of 20 something club kids...
I didn't make a true set list, but this is what I can recall.
From Do the Right Now, they played "Powerlines," "Gerona Train," "Do the Right Now," "Something to Believe In," "Immortal" and "California Gothic."
From Shakespeare My Butt, they played "So Long Bernie," "Salesmen, Cheats and Liars," "Rosy and Grey," "For the Hand of Magdelena," "Bleed a Little While Tonight," and "Gossip Talkin' Blues." I've fairly sure they played "Subversives" as the first song in the encore. I'm relatively sure they played "Just About 'The Only' Blues" and "Eternal Fatalist" and they may have played "4 O'Clock Stop," but I'm not completely sure. Some of the songs sound different live, and I am clearly not a hard-core fan like most of the crowd, who could sing long stretches of the songs, not just the choruses. Anyway, it was a bit of a surprise that they didn't play "Under the Carlaw Bridge," given that they were on the east end, nor did they play "Henry Needs a New Pair of Shoes," which I think was their biggest radio hit.
From Hallucigenia, they played "City Full of Cowards" and "Gamble." I think they played "That Song About Trees & Kites," but am not entirely sure. I sort of expected them to play "Pistol," but they didn't. (This may not ever have been part of their live set.)
There is a relatively unknown Lowest of the Low album called Sordid Fiction, and they played "The Last Recidivist" off of that. Hoopla has this album, so I'll try to listen to it soon.
I honestly am not sure whether they played "The Kids are All Wrong," which was a single they were pushing a couple of years ago. It does have a fair bit of harmonica on it, and one guy in the band did play harmonica from time to time, so perhaps they did play this one. I wasn't tuned in enough to this song to recognize it during the show.
It was a good show, even if it did make me feel a bit old (understandably so). I won't be chasing The Lowest of the Low around the city or around Ontario (or Buffalo, where they also have a bit of a following), but I'd go and see them again under the right circumstances.
Edit: Someone finally updated the setlist here, and I got most of the songs correct, though they didn't play "4 O'Clock Stop," "That Song About Trees & Kites," or "The Kids are All Wrong." Still a solid show.