October 10th, 2012
Last night we took in the World Cafe set of Canadian indie rock stalwart Jason Collett. It was not crowded.
1. A quick head count upon docking at the bar revelaed a 21-person attendance. Man that’s brutal. Tift Merritt was downstairs. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah was at the Church. But, uh, where was everyone? Was it a new Glee episode or something?
2. Despite playing to such a slim turnout, his spirits were high and mighty. His tone was jovial, warm and pleasant. He told stories, explained songs, announced titles and gave earnest “Thank you”s when sparse applause greeted the end of each song. Class act, this one.
3. 2005’s Idols of Exile is a friggen’ great record. If you haven’t heard it, please give it a listen. It’s a gold standard of excellent singer-songwriter indie rock. He got the lovely and talented Emily Haines and Amy Milan to guest on a couple tracks – also stellar talents. It’s full of warm, sunny and thoughtful tracks. A favorite, “We All Lose One Another” was an early standout of his set.
4. Ever the Dapper Dan, he looked classy in desert boots, slim denim, a vest and button down shirt. Still lookin’ like a touring troubadour, though, he’s got messy long hair. He played a bunch of his new tracks from the distinctly more political LP Reckon. A departure from his normal content which tends to focus more on humanity, love, hurt and heart.
5. Before he performed “High Summer,” a charming track from 2010’s Rat a Tat Tat, he explained an anecdote from it about safe sex. See there’s a Canadian author, Pierre Burton, who once talked about sex in a canoe. Safe sex in a canoe is sex that simply does not tip over the canoe. Must be challenging; think about it.
6. “Reckon is full of little ditties,” he said. “This one’s about infidelity – I guess that makes it an infideliditty. Sometimes I’m so damn clever.” Yup.
7. The full band helped everything. He had a killer organist, an electric bassist and guitarist, and a thumpin’ simple-kitted drummer. He switched between acoustic and electric, himself, and towards the end the keysman took to the kit and the drummer picked up an electric guitar. Don’t you love that?
8. There’s a track on 2008’s Here’s to Being Here that’s called “Charlyn, Angel of Kensington.” See, Kensington’s also a neighborhood in Toronto that a lady named Charlyn nearly single-handedly saved from an overhaul that’d wipe out the character and nature of the mixed and culturally-diverse section of the city. It is now a vibrant, eclectic and healthy ‘hood and wouldn’t that be nice if we could say the same for our Kenzo?
9. His clever take on current times translates into a focus on songs of hard times in this bullshit economy. On the new disc, there’s a track called “I Wanna Rob A Bank.” It’s about being poor and how much a big bag o’ money would be nice (in theory). “I want a TKO on the CEO,” he sang. On “Black Diamond Girl,” he comments on the way that tough times dictate what’s in vogue (fashion-wise). So black diamonds can be worn again because no one can afford clear ones – which is ironic to him because he’s worked in construction and they’re used heartily in said trade for function, not because they’re pretty.
10. He also did some classics like “Hangover Days,” “I’ll Bring The Sun,” “Blue Sky,” and “You’re Not The One And Only Lonely One.” Incidentally, I got to introduce myself to the man and he was as classy in person as his catalogue and stage presence suggest. He’s political, knowledgeable and had interesting things to say about the music industry. His “bread and butter,” as he put it, is licensing. And he may have kicked himself in the ass by putting out a record that’s political and, well, liberal. But, hey, at least it comes to him naturally. Unlike lots of musicians who’ve made careers out of bending their art to commercial gain.