She danced like a ‘peanut’ – The Lowest of The Low – Musical Memories

She danced as if she was the missing peanut from the Christmas special. I’m imagining that “Linus & Lucy” is playing each time I see this dance.

Bouncing in spot with her hands in a cute chipmunk like groove that only works for her and it is a sheer joy to see. It’s a totally platonic friendship that means the world to me… her pure enjoyment of life mixed with a look that says “screw with me and you die” has me in awe. She is one of a very small group who can drag this sad “Charlie Brown” out and get him to laugh in a most animated way.

Except this isn’t a cartoon and only 15 people are in attendance as The Lowest of the Low play their songs as if to thousands. The lack of people only serves to give the lucky few more room to move… and they all do. The band seems delighted that everyone is having a great time, and so they are having a blast. At the end of the night I walk over to the ‘merch booth’ where the only thing being sold is the band’s debut Shakespeare… My Butt and slap my fifteen dollars on the table. The patrons are hanging out with ‘the Low’ and there are smiles all around.

low

http://www.maplemusic.com/product.asp?dept%5Fid=278&pf%5Fid=275%2D50&lang=EN

Seventeen songs play out the stereo. Seventeen songs play from my Walkman. Seventeen songs become part of the soundtrack of what turns into a pretty good summer. And as the fall semester begins I’m seeing the same band, at the same venue, playing the same songs, with the same power, but this time the Trasheteria is at capacity. She still stands out to me. In a sea of people who do the Simpson’s music festival dance (“Homerpalooza”), she is still a peanut.

Only difference is, this time we know all the words, and a group of us, a circle of friends, dance and sing together as “Rosy and Grey” and “Bleed A Little While Tonight” now take on meanings.

As winter begins, there are more shows, more splendid times with friends. One night you’re catching the Rheostatics another it’s Weeping Tile, and then you drive to Toronto to catch Sugar. After all, it’s the early 90’s, and there is always some cool band around to see. Still, even with all these shows and all these bands, The Lowest of the Low gets circled on the calendar in red marker.

Which makes it all the weirder as that less than a year from that first show I saw, I’m standing at the Ontario Place forum with thousands of people watching the Lowest of the Low play. However, this time it is different. The Edgefest crowd is having a good time, but she has stopped dancing, and our group of friends have begun to stare in quiet disbelief. Ron Hawkins, the Lowest of the Low’s main songwriter, singer and rhythm guitarist has begun to smash his guitar in angry spectacle. Sure, I’ve seen musicians smash instruments as part of the ‘rich rebel’ – ‘wow, did you see that’ theatrical display. Classic rock is full of that crap, but this was different… it was real… and it must have been expensive. This wasn’t some wealthy ‘rock star’ smashing his guitar. This was Ron Hawkins, who I’m guessing was just finally able to pay bills with their new found regional success.

When I asked the bands lead guitarist Stephen Stanley about it just a few days later at the Hillside Music Festival in Guelph, he kinda smirked, looked serious and hinted that I should “ask Ron”. Except his tone was saying that the last thing I should do was “ask Ron.”

What I did get is that a new album was imminent. The guys were excited as it was being produced by Don Smith who had worked with 54-40, Cracker and The Rolling Stones. In fact, it looked like everything was in place for this band to be HUGE! Of course, the idea of this is awesome; the band consisted of four great guys who had been working their asses off to get to this point.

The thing is, it was different that night at Hillside. There was no friend dancing to my imaginary “Linus & Lucy”, and the audience was more jocular than enthusiastic. The band seemed almost hesitant with material that they had played hundreds of times. It looked like colour had been bled from them and nothing remained but black and white stills with great music in the background.

Another fall semester began and ‘the Low’ had a show scheduled at the university. The new album Hallucigenia was supposed to be in the stores soon, and tickets for the concert were selling fast. My whole circle of friends would be there, either working or singing along. It was going to be a big party, and maybe… just maybe, our enthusiasm would reach the band and the colour would come back.

http://www.amazon.ca/Hallucigenia-Lowest-Low/dp/B00005B7XF/ref=sr_1_2?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1424024680&sr=1-2&keywords=lowest+of+the+low

 

It never happened.

The show was cancelled, the band had broken up, and I was left kinda shuffling my feet along the ground. It felt like a good friend had moved to another continent without so much as a “see ya later.” Other bands, other friends, had moved in and taken memorable places, but well, it just wasn’t the same.

The band would reunite a couple times over the years, but tickets would sell so quick, the show would be sold out the very moment I heard about it.

A couple years back I was in my favorite record store and spotted Shakespeare… My Butt on display in vinyl. The plastic hit the table and I forget how much I paid, but it did take me exactly where I wanted to be. As it spun on the turntable I lay upon my couch eyes closed and I could see, in perfect colour, a girl dancing like a ‘peanut’, a group of friends having a great time, and a band playing to a few people as if it was to thousands.

Thank You Lowest Of The Low

The “Best-est” Album & Concert Ever – Lemonheads – Musical Memories

lemonray

http://www.amazon.ca/Its-Shame-About-Ray-Vinyl/dp/B00HQUQQ9Q/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1421972136&sr=8-3&keywords=it%27s+a+shame+about+ray

Back in May of ‘92 I was handed an advanced copy of the Lemonheads It’s A Shame About Ray. It was the very first album review that I did for the now defunct id Magazine, and it was a giant part of “my musical eye opening.” While Seattle had led the world towards what would be called “alternative” (whatever that means) this album slapped me in the face way harder than anything coming out of the so-called grunge scene.

It was twelve songs of pure ‘jangle pop’ joy that played like folk/punk/country/power-pop/lo-fi and whatever other style you decide applies all at the same time. You could play it at a party or a campfire. It had the energy of the Ramones with the pop sensibility of Big Star and the emotional depth of Gram Parsons. Under thirty minutes in length, Ray was a meaningful shot of music that did away with the heavy guitar bombast, and just gave you a perfect group of songs. What guitar solos that existed were of the “blink and you’ve missed it” kind. Hell, when I started playing guitar the following year, the first tune I learned was “Hannah & Gabi.”

To say that I was I was raving about this record would be a giant understatement. Every person that knew me was hearing about it and I was converting people into fans by the day. All this, and their cover of “Mrs. Robinson” wasn’t even on the record yet.

By the time they played Toronto’s Edgefest a couple summers later, it felt like I had personally invited half (ok – maybe a dozen) the audience. However, it isn’t the big show that comes to mind most when I think of the Lemonheads – it’s a much smaller venue that I attended in November of ’93.

The Masonic Temple, also known as the Concert Hall, was the sight of one of the coolest shows I had ever witnessed. The Line up was Magnapop, Redd Kross and the Lemonheads. As Magnapop began its set I noticed that the age of the audience was wickedly varied between aging hipsters who were into great shows and young hipsters who were now caught by the 90’s “alternative” bug. Looking back, this should have been just another of the frickin’ tons of shows I was attending… but no. Magnapop, who most of us had never heard of, began their set tossing candy out to the audience. The crowd was going insane with enthusiasm and applause. Then the brothers McDonald, who are essentially Redd Kross, jumped on stage treating a small venue ‘all ages show’ to a taste of ‘rock star swagger’ that would not have been out of place at Glastonbury. It was ‘hair rock’ for the alt-rock kids who were now “pogo-ing” in a mosh pit that was quickly expanding to all areas. By the time the Lemonheads hit the stage the November audience was dripping in summer sweat.

magnapop

redd kross

Then came the body surfing. Oh sure, this was the usual fare for concerts in ’93, but something was different. Usually, it is your friends or a couple very good concert goers who keep you safe from falling. Not this time. The kids – all of them – a community of fans were keeping each other aloft and preventing falls. Women, were body surfing and not getting groped by idiots/assholes in the pit – because… well, this concert was the coolest, safest, “best-est” (yeah I know it isn’t a word) ever! In fact, this is what concerts are supposed to be like! Evan Dando is on stage playing guitar and singing and I’m in awe of both the performer and the audience alike.

Honestly, I had been to a lot of concerts before that one, and a lot more since, but outside of a few local acts playing to their hometown crowds, this was the most appreciative audience I had ever been a part of.

Today the mail arrived with my copy of It’s A Shame About Ray on 180 gram vinyl. It isn’t just one of my all time favorite records, or a ‘must have’ for fans of 90’s music… nope… it’s a good friend I’m always happy to see.

Thanks Evan