This was the first proper gig (one where you have to stand up, and the performers aren't older than my parents) I'd been to in ages. I'd forgotten about the existence of support bands, and how annoying they are; they don't whet your appetite for the main dish, they merely ensure that by the time it arrives you're already tired, deaf, footsore and starting to worry about the last train home. Nonetheless, German indie outfit Tomte ('means nothing in English...means nothing in German!') were far more entertaining than I was expecting.
I managed to worm my way to the front and grab a few inches of barrier while Myk and his girlfriend were being pushed inexorably backwards, and I clung there in the company of the hardcore fanbase, who were largely young, female and Canadian. (At the end of the evening I asked where on earth they had all come from, and Myk pointed out "Canada!") I wasn't expecting such a feminine crowd; I reckoned the band would attract sad-eyed indie boys in thick glasses, and feel I'm due some sort of refund. Still, at least it meant I could see the stage.
I was nervous at being surrounded by so many dedicated fans when I'd only heard the one album, Reconstruction Site, and didn't actually know the names of any of the band members. Fortunately they opened with not only two songs I knew but two of my favourites: One Great City!, whose chorus of 'I hate Winnipeg' I joined in lustily (despite not knowing a thing about Winnipeg besides 'the Guess Who suck, the Jets were lousy anyway') and Our Retired Explorer (Dines with Michel Foucault in Paris, 1961). The latter is about a grizzled polar traveller going on a date with a French philosopher ('I've had a really nice time / But my dogs need to be fed / I must say that in the right light / You look like Shackleton'), and is typical of the sweet/funny/sad/surreal nature of their lyrics.
You're never quite sure what's going on in their songs, and your interpretation of the lyrics probably differs from anyone else's. The song that I love above all, the original recommendation that made me get hold of the album and that eventually led me to the Mean Fiddler last night, and at which I was screaming and cheering by the third note when it got played, is called Plea from a Cat Named Virtute. I have always assumed that the eponymous mog is addressing a mistress who acquired him after a break-up:
Why don't you ever want to play?Yet when I put this to Myk he was astonished and asked why I assumed it was about a woman and where relationships were mentioned. (He is, of course, correct in his assertion that men can enjoy 'girly drinks and parlour games' too.)
I'm tired of this piece of string.
You sleep as much as I do now
And you don't eat much of anything.
Because cats have universal appeal and merchandisers are cynical and exploitative, a cat face featured on one of the band T-shirts. I was, naturally, unable to resist this. Myk and I arranged to cover all bases on the album front and swap bootleg copies later, so I bought their first one, Fallow, while he got Left & Leaving, apparently one of the top ten Canadian albums of all time. (The lead singer of the German band announced that he had spent an entire semester on the use of 'apparently' in English.)
I did miss the last train home on Wednesday night, but fortunately caught the first train home on Thursday morning, at 00:15. I'm getting too old for this, or perhaps I always have been? Nevertheless, while it lasted I was ecstatic to be far too hot, ruining my hearing, having someone else's thigh push into my bum in time with the music, singing along:
I knoooooow...you might ROLL YOUR EYES AT THIS!
But I'm soooooo...GLAD THAT YOU EXIST!