Live Review: Broken Social Scene @ the State Theatre, October 22

Everybody’s favorite Canadian indie rawkers (unless you’re a joyless Fascist, I suppose) made their Falls Church debut last night to a “sold-out” crowd at the State Theater. At least, Kevin Drew said it was a sold-out house. It looked a little less than that to me. I have to admit, I’ve been telling people since I learned of this show that I thought it was a pretty weird venue to use, but who am I? All in attendance last night seemed to agree that the two hour-plus show was a damn good time had by all, so there you go.

Now, I typically don’t see a lot of shows at State, but it’s really more of who they typically book as opposed to anything else. Hell, the place is practically within walking distance of my front door, so one might think I’d patronize it far more often. Typically, though, the place seems to get older acts that have since faded from the glare of the limelight. Case in point, Hanson is their next “big” marquee act. Not to disparage their “MMMBop” goodness in the least, but I think I make my point. I can’t tell if I like the joint or not, but I can definitely say I’m not thrilled with their ticketing system. Though their website claims this is about to change, tickets purchased on-line (which I would assume makes up the vast majority of their sales) only can be picked up at the club. As a result, last night at least, there was a line that wrapped around the front of the building. While this is great for BSS, I’m sure it’s not so money for the hundred or so people outside freezing their asses off because the ticket takers aren’t exactly “speedy.” I was a bit more miffed when they couldn’t locate my photo pass for the show, but they don’t really have a photo policy there anyway, so it was kind of a moot point anyway.

More disturbing still, this caused me to miss all but the last song of opener, Land of Talk. Fortunately, the band showed up throughout BSS‘ set, so that was good. LoT did sound good for the few minutes I did get to hear, and I have to say, lead singer Liz Powell quite possibly has the most beautiful guitar I’ve ever seen. Her pipes and playing are none too shabby, either.

Now, if you’ve never been to a BSS show, well, you’re missing out. I don’t think there’s any disagreement that You Forgot It In People is one of the top ten indie albums of the decade, at least, and they bring that kind of energy to the stage with them. Last night’s line-up was down to eight. While there was no Leslie Feist or Amy Milan, Ms. Powell amply made up for their absences. Band stalwarts Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning and the Apostle of Hustle himself, Andrew Whiteman, were, however, there and in fine form. From the preponderance of facial hair, checkered plaid shirts and even a toque, it was easy to quickly discern we were in the presence of Canadian greatness. Being one-quarter Canuck myself (thanks, Grandpa!), I believe I have previously waxed rhapsodic on how Canadians are the greatest people on the planet. Whether or not you buy into that, it’s harder still to disagree that for at least the better part of the past decade, our neighbors to the Great White North have been churning out some of the best damn indie rock on the planet. BSS, along with Arcade Fire, I imagine, lead the charge.

Now, the State offers plenty of good sight lines, and I was fortunate enough to get a prime spot right behind the sound board and have an unobstructed view for most of the show. I also got to see the sound guy’s copy of the set list, so I can inform you that the show officially began with “Fuzz.” This is not the name of a song. The band took the stage to little fanfare and, quite simply, turned on their instruments and let the feedback wash over the crowd. Throughout the course of the night, they hit the most beloved tracks from You Forgot… and the self-titled follow-up, including such songs as “Anthems for a 17-Year-Old Girl,” “Fire Eye’d Boy,” “Cause = Time,” and “7/4 (Shoreline).” For those of you not in the know, BSS is a musical collective in the truest sense, maintaining a somewhat rotating line-up. The band even has a line of side records, “Broken Social Scene Presents,” which essentially gives the individual artists a solo album of his/her own. I bring this up because the band is nothing if not magnanimous, as was evidenced by nearly every person on stage being given the opportunity to play at least one of his/her own solo tracks. The highlight of this might well have been The Happiness Project, wherein one of the members decided to record a bunch of his neighbors simply speaking and then deciding to play it back, on an instrument, as music. You probably had to be there to fully fathom this, but, trust me, it was money.

Now, I’ve got all the BSS CDs, as well as most everything from the Arts & Crafts label, but there were a handful of instrumental and solo jams I could not place. That’s the thing about BSS. The stage looks like complete anarchy at any given time, with each performer seemingly facing a different direction, not even appearing to be tuned into their fellow band mates. However, the resulting cacophony is anything but; instead, each player adds a little bit to a beautifully juicy whole.

The show closed with “It’s All Gonna Break,” and the crowd ate it up. At the end of the set, BSS did a perfect job of reminding the people what it was they might have forgotten in the first place.

[photo by Chris Daly]

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