Sloan came to Great Scott last night! They are a Canadian band harking back to the days of my youth (this is their 23rd year as a band), which means this isn’t my first time seeing them… only my first time since 2000. “Bells On” has been one of my go-to dish washing songs for years (oh, like you don’t sing while you wash the dishes). Don Cherry might describe them as “ya know they’re just a buncha good Nova Scotia boys! Let’s go!” I mean technically only one of them is actually FROM Nova Scotia, and I guess they’re based out of Toronto these days, but when has Don Cherry gotten hung up on a technicality?
The coolest thing about Sloan isn’t their sweet power-pop harmonies, or the way that Jay Ferguson has had essentially the same haircut for at least 20 years and is somehow still pulling it off. No, the coolest thing is that they are the most egalitarian of bands – each member writes and sings some of the songs, and they swap instruments as need be, to the point it can look like musical chairs up on stage. I love that. It proves that they are all so talented that they can jump into another role in the band, plus it’s fun to watch. And on top of that, you get to know what each guy’s songs sound like.
That’s actually the point of their new double album, Commonwealth. It’s a double album and each band member has a side to himself. You don’t even realize how badly you need this album. Here, here, listen to “13 (Under a Bad Sign)” – see? And this is also how they structured the show. They played a set that was broken into 4 parts, so each band member got a turn for a few of his songs in a row, largely off the new record. And then they took a little break and came back and played A WHOLE SECOND SET, plus an encore, of other, older material. I was flipping out. So was the entire, packed room. I thought at first that finally, finally, the Supersuckers Patent Pending Fake Encore was catching on with other bands, until I realized that what I thought was an encore was an entire new set. Ahh!!
One thing that happens when you see a band you haven’t seen in a long time is that you hear one of their old songs that you knew back in the day, and realize all over again what an incredible song it is. At this show, that song was “The Other Man,” off 2001’s Pretty Together, a paean to the predicament of, well, the other man. We don’t even have a word for him, people. What is the masculine form of a mistress? Someone invent one, post haste.
And yes, Great Scott was extremely packed. It’s maybe a small venue for this band, but, as I overheard Chris Murphy saying outside before the show (not that I was eavesdropping or anything), and I quote, “We don’t mind playing small bars when everyone gives a shit.” And we really, really did. A shit was truly and wholeheartedly given. It is pretty awesome to see a band you’ve loved for ages in the kind of place where, if you were able to move from your spot, you could bring them stage babies (stage babies, pl. n.: beers you bring a band while they are playing, for on-stage consumption). I could have bought stage babies for Sloan, you guys.