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Review – Barenaked Ladies Ships and Dip Cruise part 2 – The Best of the Rest

And so we move on to the other bands that caught my fancy. The bill seemed to be split fairly evenly between alternative/cool and twee/folksy, with strong representation on both sides. Two bands that were indescribably popular, but not really my bag, were the Canadians Great Big Sea and Irish-Anglo-Americans Gaelic Storm.

In case you hadn’t figured it out, both these bands were of the celtic variety, and leaned heavily on the fiddle/tin whistle/bag pipe sound that North Americans seem to go nuts for. Of the two bands, Great Big Sea were definitely the more accomplished, having enjoyed a successful 16 year career in their native land. The four piece, from Newfoundland, base their act on sea chanties, warbling about fish and the homeland with great efficiency. I caught them twice, and have to say they were very good at what they do. It’s just that if I want to hear fiddle/tin whistle/bag pipe I can walk down Buchanan Street any afternoon in the summer.

Their celtic companions, Gaelic Storm, were a somewhat more rambunctious lot. With an Irish lead singer living up to every stereotype you could ever imagine, they were quite entertaining in a completely ramshackle way,  and to the untrained Northern European eye, just a shade cynical in the way they were playing the Irish good old boys card to the North American crowd.

Still, it was nice, for a Glaswegian enured to the potential sectarian pitfalls this sort of music can bring, to hear some fideddly wah without fears of anyone getting upset at the lyrical content.

On the flip side, one of the highlights of the cruise was getting to see the Mountain Goats perform. Having heard great things about this new-folk sometimes solo, sometimes duo, sometimes trio, I wasn’t disappointed. Fronted by songwriter John Darnielle, who to all intents and purposes is the mountain goats, he was ably supported by regular member Peter Hughes on bass and (sorry, I didn’t catch his name) a friend on drums.

Having heard a couple of albums worth of material, I was sure this was going to be a great live show, and dammit if I wasn’t right as usual. The line-up switched between the threesome, to guitar and bass, and John Darnielle solo throughout the show, giving the show a nice pace. JD proved to be a consumate front man, offering great anecdotes and explanations of his songs, but the real treat was getting to hear some of the finest lyrics I have heard in a long time. The guy really is a genius, weaving wordy, clever stories of love, loss and crappy life into beautifully wrought acoustic and electric guitar.

Another band I am very happy to have discovered are The Weakerthans. Formed by John K Samson after the demise of punk band Propagandhi, they have been together since 1997, but proved to be yet another well kept Canadian secret. Less pop than Sloan, they still appear on the power pop spectrum, and proved to be a very tight, entertaining live act. So much so that I have come home with a couple of albums, both of which I am enjoying heartily.

My last honorable mention goes to something of a institution on the cruise, The Odds/Acid Wish, who closed the show each night and caused more than their fair share of mayhem. The Odds get a special mention because without the cruise, they wouldn’t exist. The original band split up in the late 90s, and it was only the interference of frontman Craig Northey’s friend and BNL singer, Steven Page, that got them to reform specifically to play on the first cruise outing. Yet another Canadian treasure, not only did the back the legend that is Warren Zevon live in the early 90s, they play great guitar-led rock-pop, and proved to be the perfect choice to end the music each evening, as everyone lurched towards the wrong side of tiddly.

Well, almost end the music. See, after midnight The Odds transmogrify, hungry Gremlin-style, into their cock rock alter egos, Acid Wish. Wigs were worn, tight denim was donned, and covers of some proper rock classics were murdered by the band and crowd, as everyone and anyone on board who can sing or play guitar joined in. This culminated in the last night jam, when the crew of the boat cut the power at 4am to make everyone go to bed. Good times.

This is not an exhaustive list of acts on board, it’s just the ones who made the biggest impression. Others worth noting were Butterfly Boucher, an Australian singer-songwriter with a fantastic half punk,/half chantuese voice; Mike Evin, a Canadian with a lovely folky feel; and comedians Sean Cullen and Boothby Grafoe, who both use music to fantastic effect in their acts. Boothby is a brit, and if you get the chance to go and see him locally, I can recommend him. Oh, aye, and some Canadian bird called Sarah McLachlan. Apparently she’s written a few good songs and sold a few albums. If she sticks in she might get somewhere.

Tomorrow: All Barenaked Ladies, all the time.

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6 Responses

  1. Boothby Graffoe has a song called ‘Baseball Playing Spider’ which is really rather wonderful.

  2. Hey, that was Jon Wurster playing drums with the Mountain Goats 🙂

  3. Thank you sir, he is now credited!

  4. I only wish I got to see Boothby play “Bungee Girl” with Kevin a few dozen more times. 😉

  5. Steven Page responsible for reforming the Odds? Not true.

  6. Fair enough, blah, my knowledge is limited, and I was painting with big strokes. It is true they reformed to play on the first cruise?

    Whatever, they are a great band.

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