Hank & Lily are taking their third kick at the can tonight (missed the ElMo show on Monday). Heard that Hank will be doing a 'solo' show next Friday at Tranzac Club...for the fans of the man with the can.
The Rancho Relaxo Lounge ain't very big...but it's long. Well, not that long actually, but it's narrow. After you've negotiated the stairway you squeeze past the stage to find your spot at one of many available tables, so it's got that going for it, which is nice.
First set artist, The Skirt Chasers, didn't stretch the bounds of the stage too much with their minimalist 'white stripes' set up. Potsy Webber* on lead guitar and some 5' nothing, 100 and nothing pound dynamo, Hillary, on drums. The little drummer girl really was impressive...and concussive. Highlight of the set was probably meant to be a rather loose "Little Red Riding Hood,." but it was outshone by Hillary's turn at the guitar (minimal skills there) and lead vocals on the wonderfully sapphic, I Get All The Girls. These guys need a little image work (gotta drop the glamour boy exterior, leather armed highschool team jacket look) to find a niche in the indie world, especially if you're peddling white-mans-blues.
(The Potsy tag comes from a friend who was at the show. I was going to go with that Chambers fellow from Central Park but my wife said i'ts not his fault he's pretty and I shouldn't wear my envy on my sleeve. So I deferred.)
For the second set we get a few more players onstage as Peterborough natives, The Burning Hell, load up 8 players, 9 if you count the 8 month old, soon to be born, fetus. This stage is not that big but they manage to find room for the xylophone, keyboard, mandolin, bass, guitar, mini-guitar, drums, accordion, horns and whatever the pregnant chick was playing, perhaps a harpsichord. This band has found the secret to small-club success: if you got 8 members with family and friends, you're gonna sell-out every one of these joints on College St or Queen St West. Not only do they have a decent following, it's an enthusiastic one. Some of them even professed a man-love for the lead singer that definitely went beyond an 'after-goal-ass-pat'.
They play some slow songs, they play some fast songs and they play some smart songs. It's like you stumbled upon a Cajun' family reunion...in Haliburton. It's exactly this kind of communal artistic community that Manson (Charlie, not Marilyn) was trying to talk Dennis Wilson into creating. But without the psycho-furniture-movin'-movie-star-snuffing-race-war part.
The Burning Hell is an ensemble wrapped around lead singer and (I'd imagine) primary, if not sole, songwriter, composer, Mathias Kom. They've got some great songs, the two Grave Situations are monsters. Two songs I couldn't quite figure out the title of, Unpronounceable Place and Born Prematurely are humourous. They sound at times like a New Orleans jug band but cover Men Without Hats and Phil Collins. Actually, the Phil Collins cover was the first time in decades where I didn't care people were talking up a storm through it.
Much more to this band than could be revealed in a non-headliner spot. I will track them down again. They are all over Southern Ontario, look 'em up.
Hank & Lily are joined by friends and fellow-Hootenanny compatriots, Luther Wright (bass), Jennie Whiteley (b.vox) and the den-mother of Vancouver-based indie music, Carolyn Mark (b. vox). Not like any den mother you've had though, as she shakes and shimmies at a shared mic with the 'girl-next-door' cutie, Jennie.
The ladies start the night by singing the gospel-tinged refrain from Long Black Snake Moan : "God won't like it I know..." 'till Hank is ready to roll and Lily sharpens up the saw for a wah-wah-wonderful version of Don't Be Afraid.
Que Hora?, the Spanish lesson from the new record, North America, is much punchier with the support Lily gets on the squealing refrain. We get more songs from the new record tonight, with the inclusion of Long Black Snake Moan, We Can Build You and the title track. Also included, a personal favourite, Prison Song.
Sprinkled throughout the set, a few familiar tunes, if unknown titles. I'm Starting Up A War is a hit single...in another universe. The show ends on an upbeat note with Someone Out There For You.
'Course it doesn't end too soon as the last train to Kennedy is whistling down the track at 1:51 am. Cece and I beat a quick exit and make all our connections.
The Skirt Chasers
Little Red Riding Hood
I Get All The Girls
The Burning Hell
Pop Goes The World
Grave Situation Part 1
Grave Situation Part 2
In The Air Tonight/I Love the Things That People Make
Hank & Lily
Don't Be Afraid
I'm Starting Up A War
Long Black Snake Moan