Written by: Chris Andrade
2009 proved to be a year chock full of excellent concerts but none more memorable and more intense than Off the Dial’s Concert of the year. Before we get to that, let’s review some of the other shows we saw this year…
With the addition of new writers in Vancouver (namely, Robert Latham) and our very own Andy Stewart catching a few shows in the U.K. this year, Off the Dial expanded it’s musical horizon in terms of artists and venues. The past year saw some excellent shows in Vancouver from Flogging Molly, Skinny Puppy (which was reviewed by our guest artist writer, Steve Moore of the Unravelling), the Gaslight Anthem and Arctic Monkeys. Meanwhile, across the pond, Stewart managed to take in memorable shows from the likes of Oasis (long before their umpteenth blow-out), Kasabian and the Streets. He even caught the excellent Matisyahu at home with his energetic show at Flames Central.
We were also lucky to have a couple of reviews from James “Newsboy” Callsen of Calgary radio station X92.9 when he reviewed the Gaslight Anthem here in town earlier in the year, plus his account of this year’s Warped Tour featuring 3oh3, Alexisonfire, Bad Religion, Big Damn Family Band, Evidence, NOFX, Passenger Action, Reverend Peyton, Silverstein, Underoath, Westbound Train and countless others.
For myself, the year may not have been overloaded with live shows but what I did take in was almost always quite incredible. 2009 started off on the right foot with a local show featuring Hot Little Rocket (before they announced their retirement of sorts) with guests This Machine is a Fountain of Regina and the War Doves.
As summer approached, my chance to finally see Alaskan group Portugal. The Man afforded me the opportunity to discover a relatively new Calgary act, Nushi, both of which put on a great mid-week show at the Marquee Room. Finishing the month as well as it started was CKY at the Warehouse where hundreds of salivating fans packed in to catch the group tear through their set. But it was the final day of the month that saw a stellar cast of artists wrap up not only the month but this year’s Sled Island Festival, with showings by the Summerlad, Malajube, the always entertaining Biz Markie, M5, the tireless Anvil, Toronto’s Holy Fuck, Liars and a headlining show from the Breeders, despite losing some of their gear and wardrobe.
Stampede Week always showcases music of all kinds (not just country) in the city and although Matt Mays and Dustin Bentall put forth their country/roots/rock, Newfoundlanders Hey Rosetta! stole the show for me with their throngs of fans who insisted on chanting the band’s name before, during and after the show. As the city recovered from the Stampede festivities and imbibing, No Doubt made their triumphant return with Kingston, ON’s Bedouin Soundclash and Paramore for a great show at the Saddledome. Meanwhile, as July drew to a close, Social Distortion passed through town with a performance that proves years of hard work will pay off.
August rolled in with the return of Virgin Festival, this time at C.O.P. with two days of packed music including Mother Mother, the Cliks, Arkells, K-Os, Wintersleep and a two-hour marathon performance from Pearl Jam while day two had the likes of Secret Broadcast, White Lies, Tokyo Police Club, Michael Bernard Fitzgerald, Metric and Billy Talent. One week later, on a rainy Saturday night, locals Secret Broadcast and the Fast Romantics finally held their dual-CD Release party with guests the Shagbots who put on a fantastic performance.
Marilyn Manson finally set foot in Calgary in September, years after he was banned from his scheduled performance at Max Bell Arena. To the surprise of many, he was booked at the Jubilee, which normally hosts operas, musicals and other high-class entertainment shows. This did nothing to take away from the not-quite-as-shocking yet true to form Manson display. Less than two weeks later, Canada’s favourite sons the Tragically Hip took to the same stage and proved that a band like this can never get old.
In October, Slipknot set up at the Corral with guest the Deftones and both acts were extremely good with the former’s elaborate stage set-up, scary costumes and impressive performance while the latter, although being one of my favourite acts, couldn’t possibly disappoint…and naturally they did not.
Before naming the concert of the year though, I have to relate the best concert of the year I hardly saw. Having been invited to see Coldplay for free at the last minute, my gracious host and I agreed to meet at the Saddledome shortly before they were scheduled to hit the stage. Problem was, he already had committed to something else that evening, over an hour’s drive outside the city, but he was certain he’d get back in time. With no ticket in hand, I waited outside the venue for him as he raced back to Calgary, only to arrive shortly after 10:30 pm. We scrambled to our seats just in time to catch the three songs of the encore. It was impressive, and likely indicative of the nearly two hour show we missed.
However, there was no other concert this year than the Sled Island show at the Distillery on June 25th. Featuring five acts, including Calgary’s the Press Gang and Cripple Creek Fairies, label mates the Coathangers and These Arms Are Snakes and headlined by the infamous Monotonix. The standout’s of the evening were easily the last two mentioned acts. After taking in the opening act, I took a moment to catch up with Sean Close (of the Turrettes, and one of the proprietors of the Distillery) when I noticed a shaggy, shifty looking gent standing at the end of the bar. By the middle of the evening’s attractions, said “gent” bounded up on stage as TAAS began their set. The shy, shifty looking Steve Sneer was no longer shy and un-assuming; he transformed into an unbridled force of energy that made use of every inch of the stage, and the large bathroom sign, and a number of fans front and center as they blasted through a performance like no other.
Yet that incredible performance was soon to be outdone. When you glimpse singer Ami Shalev doing stretches moments before hitting the stage, you know you’re in for a special evening. Thing is, the Israeli trio didn’t take the state; they set up right on the floor amongst the growing crowd who immediately became part of the show, not mere attendants. The night was a sweaty, beer soaked, mad affair with people hosting Shalev near the vaulted ceiling as he sang atop a propped-up kick-drum, guitarist Yonatan Gat at times found laying on the ground and drummer Haggai Fershtman trouncing around the vast venue as the crowd followed all three of them around. By night’s end, not only were the three exhausted yet satisfied, so was every single person in the room and said show, along with their other Sled Island appearances, were the talk of the Calgary festival, making it easily the 2009 concert of the year.
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