There are pluses and minuses to big music festivals like NxNE. Plus: awesome bands and artists come to town. Minus: You have to get to the venue hours early and endure sweaty hipsters just to see these acts. The latter is one of reasons why I decided to skip a lot of the hyped artists that I wanted to see, and headed straight for the Cadillac Lounge on Friday, June 19.
The Caddy is on West Queen West and if you blink you may miss it. Their clientele consists of mostly people in jeans, plaid, and T-shirts, and there is nearly always an old coot sitting alone drinking a pitcher of beer by himself, yelling, "You damn kids, get the hell out of my way! I can't see the band!" No popped collars or ironic mustaches in sight. And, no wait to get in.
When I strolled in, singer/songwriter Tim Easton of Joshua Tree, California, was saying "Hi" to his good friend Leeroy Stagger. Stagger is originally from rural British Columbia, and got his start in Victoria, BC, by touring with Hot Hot Heat. He currently resides in Lethbridge, Alberta. Last year Easton, Stagger, and Alaskan Evan Phillips put out an album entitled One For the Ditch, which garnered a lot of praise in the alt country music community.
Easton took the stage promptly at 10 pm, borrowing Stagger's acoustic and electric guitars, and occasionally borrowing Stagger's drummer. The first five songs of the eight song set were all performed on acoustic guitar. Wow, can Easton play guitar! He ripped though acoustic blues versions of may of his songs from his recent release entitled Porcupine, one of my favorite albums of 2009 (so far). He chatted with the audience between songs, and told stories about the how and why the songs were written. I even caught Stagger playing air drums at one point.
In addition to being an extremely talents musician, Easton also dabbles in the visual arts. You can view some of his paintings on this website scrapbook. For the release of Porcupine he hand painted 500 copies of the vinyl album jacket, and had several for sale at the show.
from Porcupine (2009), except where noted
1. Broke My Heart
2. Burgundy Red
3. The Weight Of Changing Everything (new song)
6. News Blackout - Ammunition (2006)
7. The Young Girls
8. The Daily Life (new song)
Buy: Ammunition (2006)
Buy: Porcupine (2009)
Stagger and his band The Wildflowers (Kevin Kane on lead electric guitar, Ian Browne on drums, and Tyson Maiko on bass) took the stage five minutes early (how organized is The Caddy?). They blasted through a ten song set that was mostly from Stagger's new album Everything is Real. The songs ranged from mournful country ("Red Bandana") to blues-based rock ("Hell of a Life") to punk ("Everything is Real"). Stagger swapped between acoustic and electric guitars, while Kane had some blistering electric guitar solos, and Maiko head-banged to the beat. Stagger even got the old coot up and dancing with a smoldering cover of Warren Zevon's "Lawyers, Guns, and Money."
Another plus about NxNE is finding the hidden gems that nobody really knows about. This was certainly true for Tim Easton and Leeroy Stagger. The minus is that these showcases were over way too soon.
from Everything is Real (2009), except where noted
1. Red Bandana
2. Petrified World
3. Hell of a Life
4. Sleep Alone
5. Just in Case - Beautiful House (2005)
6. Everything is Real
8. Snowing in Nashville
9. Lawyers, Guns, and Money (Warren Zevon cover)
10. Where I Live - Depression River (2006)
Where I Live.mp3
Buy: Depression River (2006)
Everything is Real.mp3
Buy (Boompa Records, $CND): Everything is Real (2009)
Edit: CHARTattack rated both Easton's and Stagger's performances an 88, which translates to "Exceeds skill and knowledge expectations, i.e. rocked us so hard we peed our pants."