review and photos by Katy McCourt-Basham
Showbox SoDo was the place to be last Thursday night. I got there a little later than planned, and after waiting in line for ages to get in, I only managed to catch a few songs from the opening act: local boys Grand Archives. They played a good set, including “Sleepdriving” and finishing with “Southern Glass Home.” The crowd really liked them, and their dreamy vocals and overall sound make them an all around appropriate choice to open for BSS.
A pretty stoked Seattle crowd greeted Broken Social Scene when they hit the stage. They started out slowly with “Shampoo Suicide,” and then really picked up the tempo with “KC Accidental” and then “Stars and Sons.” There were ten or so members in the lineup this time around, including the regular lineup of Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning, Justin Peroff and Charles Spearin. They also had newcomer Sam Goldberg, token female member (as of late) Lisa Lobsinger, and Andrew Whiteman, among others.
My favorite part of the show was Charles Spearin’s demonstration of his new side effort, entitled The Happiness Project. Spearin described the project as being a “science experiment” in which he makes music based on “the melody of speaking.” He makes recordings of people he knows (in his demonstration, they were his neighbors) talking about happiness. He then takes these recordings and makes music based on the cadence of the voices of the speakers. In his demonstration, Spearin would play the recordings first, and then play with them after. The first song played was based on the voice of an elderly woman named Mrs. Morris with a heavy accent. She described happiness has being heavily based in love. Her “melody” was played on the saxophone. The effect was mind boggling. The second person whose melody Spearin played was that of a woman named Vanessa, who was born stone deaf. She learned how to speak and lip-read while she was deaf, and then got a cochlear implant at the age of thirty. Spearin asked her what it was like hearing for the first time, and she said, “All of a sudden, I felt my body start moving inside.” Because Vanessa had learned to speak before she could hear any sounds, she didn’t have much of a melodic cadence, but she did have a lovely rhythmic way of speaking. Her voice was played rhythmically on the guitar, and eventually the whole band joined in singing with her, and the sax jammed over all of this. I don’t know how I would feel about listening to a recorded version of the project, but live it was absolutely incredible.
Much to the satisfaction of the audience, BSS played a lot of classics, such as “Anthems of a 17-Year-Old Girl,” “Cause=Time” and “Looks Just Like the Sun” as well as some songs from the “Broken Social Scene presents…” series, including Brendan Canning’s “Hit the Wall” and “Churches Under the Stairs.” What was said about these songs throughout the show was a little ominous. Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning kept saying things like “This will hopefully be the last time you will be hearing these songs.” One can only hope that they aren’t hinting at a breakup. They dedicated their finale to “Seattle, your city, and the history of your city’s music.”
BSS played a solid, beautiful two-hour set to a very packed house. Their finale was a little longer than the curfew allowed, and included some funky beats, as well as “Swimmers.” The show blew me away. BSS will hold a place in my top five live acts for a very long time, and I absolutely look forward to seeing them again — together or in any of their incarnations.