I am not a hipster. I have never been a scenester. Cool has never been a term that naturally applied. I don’t know what is hot, hip, new, or cool – and I don’t know what the new slang is that has replaced these terms. The fact that I am writing about a band whose hair is peppered with grey and they’re a good decade beyond the anorexic look of the latest post-punk teen-pop indie set is indicative of my lack of hip. I know what I like, and love new music that is exciting, that stands out. I am less concerned with the labels. I don’t have the time or awareness to check out the latest hot on the scene trying to make it band. I am just happy to catch great live shows of bands I love. And that is what moved me to the Capital Music Hall last night to see the New Pornographers. Today, shows are more about escaping into the blaring sound of familiar songs that catching something new. (In this case, I also wanted to see the amazing drumming of Regina ex-pat Kurt Dahle).
But, looking at the audience I realized I may have left any link to being youth and hip behind. The audience seemed to be made up of the Beautiful people, the wallflowers and the frat boys. The Beautiful People were dressed in their night-out casual, which beats my Sunday best. Their high heels, designer jeans and leather purses with gaudy metallic accessories shouted “I shop at Holt Renfrew”. The Wallflowers stood on the second floor balcony arms wrapped around their girlfriends as they passively stared, immobile, still. At one point singer A.C. Newman said “I am stuck, I feel like I have suction cups stuck to my feet. The floor is so sticky.” I was unsure whether he was being literal or he was referring to the passive audience.
For my money, the frat boys provided the best show. Dressed in their baseball caps, the collars of their golf shirts up or with a form fitting t-shirt that said “staff” at the back. Their uniform accessorized by their coral necklaces. These lads embraced the pop-infections of the New Pornographers bobbing their head too vigorously while tossing their hand in the air with the index and middle fingers protracted into hip-hop salute that they picked up watching too many Jay-Z – Linkin Park videos. Not to mention the loud hooting and hollering when their favourite songs were played. These lads had clearly spent their developmental years on the field in a huddle learning group mentality and the latest beer drinking games.
And the cameras. Leave the cellphone off. Don't even think about taking a picture of the band. What will the picture capture? In the futile attempt to capture the moment, the cell phone will capture a dark room with blurry figures on a stage. These pictures are useless and only detract from the moment that these amateur photographers are trying to show their friends.
If ever there was an indicator that the New Pornographers have crossed from indie superstars to mainstream acceptance, this audience was it. Just like the Tragically Hip two decades earlier coming out of humble indie roots with a guitar driven sound and lyrics peppered with poetic subtleties, the New Pornographers went from being something different to being on the latest MuchMusic Frat House Rock compilation. In an era where New Kids on the Block were everywhere, and Canadian music meant Rush and Bryan Adams, the Tragically Hip presented a different sound, a different theme. They were a band for those adverse to the big hair that was overly represented on the pop charts. Just like how the Tragically Hip went from a band that was different because of its straight up sounds with songs on Canadian and political themes the being the band of choice for hockey heads and frats boys across Canada, the New Pornographers have crossed that divide. The fact that Neko Case was not there to add her amazing voice and magnetic stage presence likely did not register with this set. In all honesty, large swaths of the male audience would probably only have noted Case’s presence for being “the hot singer”.
To add a note on the actual show – the New Pornographers were amazing. I used see Neko Case and her Boyfriends when they came through Regina fairly regularly but I have never seen her perform with the New Pornographers. For this I am fortunate because they are supposed be even better with her. This gives me a reason to see them again in the future. Also, an honourable mention to Kathryn Calder who did excellent job for filling in for Case.