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Wednesday, May 17, 2006 

Comedy of errors

Or, at least the Show was Good

This is probably going to sound like farce no matter how I do it, so let's just get going:

We get out of the concert (amazing, more on this in a bit) and stumble down the street to the subway station, stopping only to buy drinks at a convenience store because apparently the Phoenix will no longer give you water if it doesn't come in a $4 bottle.

So we get to the subway station and pay the fare and get all the way to our intended stop. At which point I reach into my pocket to pull out the piece of paper with the directions I don't need and Kyra's house number, which I do. And I guess at some point when I pulled out my wallet that piece of paper came with and fell to the ground, unnoticed.

So I rummage through everything, briefly panic, and then Pete and I decide that since I remember all of the directions except the actual house number, we should just go try and find it.

Mistake #1: Not thinking to use the payphone right there to call her, since I know what street she's on and her last name. We wind up having to go to a payphone much further away.

Mistake #2: Not looking for her car, which I mention she has in passing to Pete once we're almost at the payphone. Him: "You mean you could recognize it?" Me: "Yeah, why... oh shit."

So eventually we get to a payphone, call 411 (twice - I forgot the number the first time), get to the place, settle in... and I discover that when going through all my stuff I forgot to put my return bus ticket to Guelph back into my pocket. Not my proudest moment.

Things go well for a little while; we both slept well, had breakfast at a nice little greasy spoon with Kyra, got on the subway and to the bus station on time, and I caught my bus back after buying a new ticket. I get to work a little earlier than I thought I would and change into my nice, new Stylus shirt. Very cool.

Then I bite into an unexpectedly juicy strawberry and have to spend the next five minutes scrubbing away the stains.

I think I'm going to sleep a lot tonight, both because I'm tired and so I can keep out of trouble. I clearly should not be trusted with simple tasks right now.

The concert: Nothing will ever quite match the first time Pete and I saw Mogwai, where they encored with "My Father My King" for half an hour and generally dazzled us. But this time was better than the (admittedly quite good) second time we saw them; this is especially amazing to me considering they played only one song from Come On Die Young and nothing from Rock Action, my two favourite Mogwai records. Happy Music For Happy People may be my least favourite Mogwai album save maybe Young Team, but the songs from it they've been doing live are flat out amazing, save for "Ratts Of The Capital", always my least favourite track from that record and kind of boring until halfway through.

That was the single misstep this time, though; the versions of "Helicon 1" and especially "Mogwai Fear Satan" fried previous live renditions I've seen to a crisp, and the Mr. Beast songs worked incredibly well (particularly "Travel Is Dangerous" and a mightily rocked-up "Friend Of The Night"). The Happy Music... stuff was, as mentioned, uniformly strong, but special mention has to go to the new version of "I Know You Are But What Am I?" which has Stuart fiddling with some effects pedals instead of playing guitar to incredible screeching effect. It's a bit like the album version crossbred with "Robot Chant". See these guys live if you can; is this show was any indication they are on fire right now. Both the extended denouement to "We're No Here" at the "end" of the set (if denouement is the right word for Barry Burns and John Cummings scrubbing out your brainpan with incredibly harsh, live repeating bursts of static and feedback) and the totally metal "Glasgow Mega-Snake" which actually ended the show put practically everything else I'm likely to see this year to shame.

Setlist:
Yes, I Am A Long Way From Home
Friend Of The Night
Killing All The Flies
Travel Is Dangerous
Hunted By A Freak
Mogwai Fear Satan
I Know You Are But What Am I?
Acid Food
Summer
May Nothing But Happiness Come Through Your Door
Helicon 1
We're No Here

Ratts Of The Capital
Glasgow Mega-Snake

Wow, I'm glad you survived. At what point did you realize it wasn't going to get better and you'd have to ride the whole thing out?

Probably when Pete mentioned the car.

'Glasgow Mega Snake', 'We're No Here' and 'Ratts Of The Capital' were immense when I saw them last month. I'm glad you thought it was worth all the trauma!

Interesting take on the albums - I think they've got progressively better, Happy Music... being my favourite (though after a slow start Mr Beast is coming up on the rails). What's best on record isn't what's best live, though - that's where 'Mogwai Fear Satan', 'Like Herod', 'Summer', 'Xmas Steps' etc come into their own.

I admit I'm partially prejudiced against Happy Music... because it won't play in my computer. Stupid DRM crap. I'm listening to it again right now, and there are plenty of songs on it I like (and "Hunted By A Freak" and "Killing All The Flies" are arguably the current peak of their use of distorted vocals, which I love), but I just don't think it works very well as an album, whereas I really love the paradoxical remoteness of Come On Die Young, which is really one of those albums that deserves to be heard all at once in a dark room, and even EP+6 (which, admittedly, doesn't flow very well either but I love everything on it - you've heard "Burn Girl Prom Queen" and "Superheroes Of BMX", right? - and I seem not to mind for compilations, such as the Beta Band's The Three EPs).

I do like their turn to shorter albums, and Mr. Beast is really growing on me. But I much prefer the demo version of "Moses I Amn't" available on their site, "Ratts Of The Capital" has never really done it to me (for once, I feel like they're treading predictable ground) and although I like the ending two songs a lot, something just seems off about that album.

Of the tracks on Happy Music..., I'd say 'Hunted By A Freak' is probably my favourite, though 'Golden Porsche' and 'Stop Coming To My House' come close. I just think each record has cohered better as a collection of songs - in that sense neither Young Team nor Come On Die Young quite work for me.

I haven't got EP+6, but from what I recall it's the self-titled EP plus the 4 Satin EP (both of which I've got) and some other stuff? Of all the tracks on there, I love 'Christmas Song' - that's the one that, for me, really paved the way for the stand-out more melodic stuff on Happy Music... and Mr Beast (ie 'Golden Porsche', 'Team-Handed').

You must have left your aura of infallibility at home that night. :-P

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Ian Mathers is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Stylus, the Village Voice, Resident Advisor, PopMatters, and elsewhere. He does stuff and it magically appears here.

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