RICH HOPE with THE BRITISH COLUMBIANS and THE SICKS at Venue

Leigh Eldridge attended and photographed the 14 January 2010 show at the Venue:

I arrived at Venue just after 9pm, hoping the show hadn’t started yet. (It hadn’t, as seemingly nothing can start on time in this town). Being on the list makes me feel special (as always), but Venue has a system where the bouncer at the door checks off your name and hands you a “VIP” card which you then hand to the girl in the booth, and this makes me feel even more special. I get my wrist stamped by the booth girl, hand off my coat and umbrella to the girl at the coat check, and proceed into the venue. As luck would have it, the Sicks have just set up and are about to go on. Success, I think, now I won’t have to stand around awkwardly by the stage like I always do. The place isn’t completely packed, but the crowd seems excited for the show and I can hear several woo girls voicing their appreciation as The Sicks take the stage.

The Sicks‘ easy-going brand of bluesy bro-rock reminds me of Current Swell, minus the steel lap guitar. In fact, I think if Current Swell and Arkells were to have a love-child band, it would probably sound pretty close to The Sicks. Many of their songs are tinged with reggae beats, which is a nice distraction from the driving rain outside and makes me think of cool drinks on a hot summer day. I prefer their more blues-influenced songs, however (I’m a sucker for good blues-rock). Multitasking is tough, otherwise I would have some song titles to recommend. Along with the requisite guitars, keys, bass and drums, the keyboard player also plays the accordion and one of the guitarists plays electric mandolin, while the lead singer shakes a mean tambourine. They finish off their set with a song that I think might be called “Hey Catalina” (that was the chorus) which sounds like a crowd pleaser.

After a remarkably quick tear-down and reset (and some awkward leaning by the wall on my part), the next band up is The British Columbians. I saw them at Venue once before when they opened for The Manvils and I’m still not 100% convinced this is the right venue to them. Their bourbon-soaked, Southern-style rock seems to me like it would fit better in a pub (perhaps the Bourbon?) but the crowd sure is loving it when they step onto the stage. Tonight they’re trying out something new: two drummers, each with they’re own full kit. Lead singer Girard Knox tells the audience that it will be either amazing or a disaster, and it turned out he was right the first time. At this point I realize I haven’t put my earplugs yet and I quickly do so as they proceed to dial it up to 11. The audience has grown significantly; a few people are even attempting to swing dance in front of the stage and I begin to see this time why The BCs are a perenial hometown favourite (did I mention that the bass player was wearing a Bob Ross shirt?). The keys player is doing some pretty snazzy multitasking (keys, synth and guitar) which I appreciate since I’m attempting to do it too. The BCs sound a little like CCR and maybe Lynyrd Skynyrd to me, with a tinge of…some band I wasn’t able to place (I’ve really got to brush up on my southern rock), but they definitely take the southern/blues rock label and make it their own.

Next on the docket is Rich Hope (Rich Hope and His Evil Doers scrolls by on the Venue light board). I’ve got high hopes for him (pun intended!), but I’m a little disappointed when I realize that it’s just him and a drummer on stage. As a photographer I tend to prefer bands with more people as then I can take more photos and get more variety (and not feel like a creeper for taking 50 photos of one person). However, he seems like he’s a pretty charismatic guy, and his drummer looks like Elvis Costello (turns out he is Adrian Mack, drummer and music journalist extraordinaire). Rich Hope’s sound is pretty standard blues/roots rock, and never having heard his songs before (I don’t always have a chance to look up artists before I dash off to shows) it sounds like a lot of the same to me. Maybe it’s the earplugs, but I had a hard time making out many of the lyrics to the songs. Like I said, I’m quite a fan of blues/roots/southern rock (though most of my favs are from the 60s and 70s), and I can’t help but wish he had more of a band.

By this point I’m also starving and tired of standing and my neck hurts from having 2 pounds of camera hanging off of it (my biggest complaint about Venue is the lack of convenient seats). My mood starts to pick up when he brings out the harmonica (I do love a good harmonica), and then more when he plays a slower, bluesier song (I think he said it was about death?). His voice is very smoky and slightly gravelly, something I look for, not just in blues-rock singers, but in all my favourite music. A guest guitarist (I missed his name, but he has a very impressive beard) comes up on stage and proceeds to add some very nice harmonies as well as stellar guitar riffs. It reminds me of John Fogerty’s newer work. Sadly, by this time the crowd has thinned out quite a bit. Rich has obviously noticed this and thanks everyone for “f***ing staying.” He then climbs onto of the speakers at the front of stage to lead a call-and-response with the audience. Snapping pictures from the sidelines, I’m hoping that he doesn’t fall off (although it would make for good press…does that make me a bad person?). Shortly after he climbs back down, I decide it’s time for me to go. I’m even more hungry and tired, and I know that fainting in Venue would not be one of my proudest moments. Though I’d like to see the end of the show, I head off to meet Lauren at Fritz for late-night poutine. I just have to hope that nothing spectacular happened at the end of the concert that I should have been there to capture.

Photography by Leigh Eldridge

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