The Gig: Washington, Kevin Seconds, Evan Dando and Juliana Hatfield
Where: Lee’s Palace, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
When: 16 June 2011
In One Word: Chill
There’s something to be said for chill, laid back simplicity. The Thursday night NXNE line-up at Lee’s Palace featuring Washington, Kevin Seconds and Evan Dando and Juliana Hatfield showed that a young woman and her keyboard, a punk veteran and his guitar, and a nostalgically familiar 90s duo can charge up an audience with the most stripped down versions of their songs.
Australia’s Washington (first name, Megan) began her career as a jazz singer but falling in love with the music of Rufus Wainwright led her to explore other genres. While she played tribute to some of her favourite songwriters by covering songs such as Wainwright’s “Want”, her own skills were nothing to scoff at. Her music takes advantage of her great vocal range and her lyrics such as ‘You be my Arthur Miller, and I will be your Marilyn Monroe’ from “How to Tame a Lion” display a quirky cleverness. A testament to her strong vocal skills was found on her final song which she performed a cappella with enough emotion to raise the hairs on the back of my neck.
Following Washington was Kevin Seconds who has been with punk band 7 Seconds for over 30 years. His solo act may be a departure in genre but not in spirit. With just a guitar and a harmonica, Seconds fuses rock, blues, folk and country into eclectic but rootsy mix. His lyrics cover topics ranging from his love for his hometown of Sacramento, to his relationship with his wife, to his once liberal friends who have now turned conservative. Seconds was also very humble and gracious throughout the set, responding to questions about his jacked up teeth (a by-product of his earlier punk days) and mentioning the great shows he’s always had with 7 Seconds in Toronto.
Evan Dando best known as the former front man of the Lemonheads and Juliana Hatfield, previously in Blake Babies and The Juliana Hatfield Three, were once darlings of the 90s indie era. Twenty years on, without the harsh glare of the media spotlight, they have mellowed out. Dando, who’s hair and wardrobe has not changed a bit, could not have been more laid back (any further and he’d have been horizontal), while Hatfield was a lot warmer than her cool, brooding look seemed to suggest. The set consisted mainly of classic Lemonheads songs such as “Down About It’ and “Into Your Arms” and of old and new Hatfield songs like “Dear Anonymous”. Interestingly, the best performed songs were about drugs. Hatfield’s “Choose Drugs” and Dando’s “My Drug Buddy” were the highlights (no pun intended) of an acoustic set that was all too short. The audience demanding an encore was sorely disappointed when Hatfield came out to announce that the organizers were running a tightly scheduled ship. But being the chill night that it was, the crowd left obediently.
© Renee Saviour, Music Vice