Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Secret Machines play to hicks in the sticks



Yesterday I selected a Pink Floyd album as the best Remembrance Day CD of all time; yesterday evening, I went to see a band sometimes mentioned as Floyd's heir apparent: the Secret Machines, who played the Pyramid to a crowd of, well, hillbillies (not the kind who loot Neiman Marcus either).

More about the hillbillies in a sec.

I first heard of the Secret Machines in Q Magazine, which selected the band's 2004 CD Now Here is Nowhere as one of the year's best. I bought it, and agreed with the assessment: "Nowhere Again" (see the above YouTube link) is one of my favorite songs of all time, and "Sad and Lonely" is required listening whenever I feel sad and lonely, which is virtually all the time, thanks to my winning personality and hilarious jokes. har, har...

The band's follow-up album, Ten Silver Drops, was even better. It took the sentiment of "Sad and Lonely" and stretched it out over eight songs. It's one of the best break-up CDs of all time, though Frank Sinatra's Wee Small Hours will always be the very best, especially if you're drunk or hungover to boot.

"Alone, Jealous, and Stoned," "All at Once (It's Not Important)," and "Lightning Blue Eyes" take all of that pent up sadness and turn it into a Black Celebration, and much more effectively than My Chemical Romance's Black Parade, which tried to do the same thing in a similar style.

So, it was with much enthusiasm that I went to the Pyramid Cabaret last night. The perennial problem with the Pyramid, of course, is that if the ticket says, "Doors open at 8," it really means, "You'll be lucky to see your headliner by midnight," which again was the case last night. C'mon guys: people in this town work for a living.

Arriving at the venue, we were greeted by a dozen cop cars. The cops had apparently chased a half-naked man into the venue. Usually that means "the lower half" is the naked part of the man, so we waited outside until he had been apprehended, repanted, and brought to the Remand Centre, where he was undoubtedly depanted again.

The opening band were crappy-sounding, singing, and playing - though I'm sure they're really nice guys - from Winnipeg. They were followed by Small Sins, a damn good band from Toronto, which entertained with some of the catchiest Canadian synth-pop this side of Men Without Hats.

And that's when the drunk hillbillies started making out two feet away from me. This was no tame make-out session: it had the power to gross out people in other postal codes. Clothes were pulled out of pants, tongues were thrust into mouths, and it all culminated with the happy couple falling onto the floor in a drunken stupor - twice!

By the time the Secret Machines came out, after midnight, the crowd had dwindled to about 30 people, including the happy couple, who continued their merry ways in front of the stage, much to the chagrin of the band, the audience, and society at large.

I'll give the band credit, though. It's a truism in entertainment that you're not supposed to blame the crowd that's there for the people who didn't show up. I know from performing stand-up that it's easier said than done. "Hey, where is everyone? Did you all come in the same car? Thanks for the true smattering of applause, etc."

Playing in front of a lame-ass, tiny crowd of hillbillies, though, Secret Machines impressed. The stage was nicely tricked out with a trigonometry-defying backdrop, the lights were stellar, and the band rocked it through a selection of their best songs over the better part of an hour and a half.

The between-song banter was minimal, but remarkably friendly and gracious, especially given the circumstances. Had I been in the band's place, I probably would've said something like, "Screw you, hillbillies!" before running out to the van and vowing never to return to Winnipeg, the Heart of the Continent.

We'll likely never see the Secret Machines play Winnipeg again, which is a crying shame. On behalf of the low turnout, the hillbillies, the lovers, the dreamers, and me, I'd like to thank Secret Machines for playing my hometown and making at least one schoolboy's dreams come true. You guys rule.

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