The gig: Jason Webley w/ Lakes of Canada opening
Where: Barfly, Montréal, QC
When: 23 September 2010
In one word: Sweaty!
The Plateau’s friendly neighbourhood dive Barfly provides the basics – cheap beer, pool, sweaty-squishy-cozy atmosphere and tons of music. It is here that I finally get my wish, born in June at the Corona Theatre – Jason Webley is back in town, in a narrow, tunnel-like cavern on the Main that may or may not be the best place to perform, but is certainly one of the more intimate places in town.
Montréal locals Lakes of Canada (formerly Who By Fire) opens the night with quietly earnest and sometimes earnestly adorable songs, deceptively intricate and occasionally cheeky. Songs of romantic entanglements and questionable friendships are delivered with understated style and deprecating quips amongst the trio, which consisted of acoustic guitar paired with piano and percussion.
The song that apparently always gets requested – “Mr. Kitty Fantastic”, is an homage to the antics and friendship of a long-gone cat that plays like a rundown of every Stupid Cat Video ever posted to YouTube, and just as impossible to hate. Much like trying to resist clicking on the links your catnerd friends and family sends you (… sometimes, that person is me…. I know, I know…) the neurotic feline charm comes through and dissolves any entrenched cynicism. If this song puked in my shoes, I would still like it. Awww…
After a brief intermission, Webley revs up the crowd participation quotient early in his set by demanding orchestral accompaniment from the giddy drunks assembled before him, to accompany the laboriously-titled “There is Not a Step That We Can Take That Does Not Bring Us Closer Together”. Half of the room are to be trombones, fighting to the death with “their mortal enemy….” the violins, warbling along their respective parts in – mostly – the right times in the song. Also, what better way to shut up / drown out the loud talkers at the front of the room by instigating a rowdy singalong?
Webley was friendly and engaging throughout the night, frequently asking the loyal crowd for requests, who often responded with obscure choices – one or two of which Webley seemed to wince at: “Have you ever written a song about a vegetable apocalypse only to regret it ten years later…?” He opts instead to play a little known ditty, a little something called “Freebird”, with the lyrics only slightly altered. Then there was the 90s disco monstrosity “Hockey Star”, (from previous collaboration Big Little Dipper Dipper) which somehow manages to work on accordion – it was adorable and dorky at the same time, and having never heard it before, I just had to check it out on the YouTubes afterwards…
Webley managed a rowdy setlist that ranged from apocalyptic dirges – “Dance While the Sky Crashes Down” – to accordion covers of 80s tunes – “Billie Jean”, oh yes, Billie Jean. A few quieter tunes like “Wait”, quietly played on piano, lent brief respite from the oven that the stage at the back of the hall was quickly becoming. While Barfly is an easy place to get friendly in – with Webley’s Waitsian charm easily filling the room – due to the space constraints not everyone is able to see the stage, and so they filled the space instead with chatter that filtered up front and competed with the performance. Not the best place to see a show if there’s more than thirty people showing up to see it, but still a rowdy, rainy night was had, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
© Liz Keith, Music Vice
Pictures of Jason Webley and Lakes of Canada at Barfly, Montreal: