First Clash Bash: Rockin’ Out with Joel Plaskett and Pat LePoidevin

The smells of fall are in the air: a crisp breeze with the occasional hint of burning leaves; fresh soil after rain; a warm pumpkin chai latte; that particular adolescent swirl of hormones, stale beer, and nervous enthusiasm for one’s first year of university. That last one might seem a bit off-putting to some, but it’s as inevitable as those burning leaves for those of us who (have) lived in a small university town and have experienced “Frosh Week” as amused onlookers.

September heralds the flooding of Sackville with incoming students for another year at Mount A., and I feel old watching those eager- and/or bleary-eyed 18-year-olds muddle their way through social encounters, both annoyingly inebriated and awkwardly sober. So many undiluted hopes, so many uncrushed dreams. It’s slightly depressing about the feeling old thing, yes, but this sight imbues me with somewhat Schadenfreudesque thoughts along the lines of:

Just wait ‘til midterm season, little ones. Just you wait.

A definition of the “First Clash Bash” at Mt A: Your first day of class has been a success. You found all of the buildings you had to go to and weren’t that awkward fool fumbling with the doorknob five minutes after the prof had started. The syllabi you have collected remain uncreased and gleaming white. There were people from your residence to sit with at lunch and commiserate with about how much reading you have to do on the first day. Those tyrant professors. The concert tonight represents the tail end of Frosh Week, and it is yet another opportunity to awkwardly grind with that cute stranger in your frosh group whom you’ve been too shy to make eye contact with or engage in actual conversation. And you’re allowed – nay, encouraged – to go out on a Tuesday night and stay out until early morning. The night’s got… potential.

All this is to say that I’m sure that lots of the froshies could not have cared less about who was playing, but there were two awesome dudes up on stage rockin’ out for the ones who did. Pat LePoidevin is a friend of mine and has grown so much as a musician since I’ve known him, and Joel Plaskett is a Maritimes darling who has exploded on the music scene in the past few years. I had seen them both several times, but neither one has disappointed me to date. And, Pat put a bunch of his friends on the guest list and we got in for free, so there was that.

Here’s one of my favourite songs from Truthfully Truthfully by The Joel Plaskett Emergency, “Nowhere With You,” for some accompaniment:

Laur and I stopped at Ducky’s for a pre-concert drink, and then we made our way to Convocation Hall around 8:30. This concert has been held outside for a few years now, but the inclement weather meant that the festivities would be held indoors. This was unfortunate for two reasons. First, there would be more sitting than moshing in front of the stage, since Con Hall seats would be blocking the way. Second, there was no beer to guzzle shamelessly, that social lubricant that allows frosh to mingle freely with the new best friends whose last names they won’t remember by winter semester. Of course, it was a shame for all of us that there was no beer. Oh, but there was awkward grinding to be had by many a frosh — and to the least sexy songs ever, it seemed — much to our amusement.

On the plus side, I could dimly recall my own frosh year concert, back in 2004, being held in Con Hall. Ironically, Joel Plaskett opened for Sloan, and he was a relative nobody back then. Somehow it seemed I had come full circle, seeing Joel as the headliner with an up-and-coming (and soon to be famous in South Korea!) Pat opening for him.

Pat played a fun set similar to the house show I saw about a month ago in New Glasgow. He is currently promoting his new album, Highway Houses, and he played in his typical loopy-magnificent style. My favourite is “Fire” – those voices are all Pat! It is even cooler to see live:

Also, the ukelele is a seriously underrated instrument, and I think it fully deserves this comeback.

He performed the title track of his album last, which entails an epic building-up of chanting on his part and from the audience! Group participation marks, check.

Pat is coming back for another concert on September 18th, when he will play in the old Sackville Music Hall — it is one of the town’s fascinating architectural stories. There will also be a lot of chairs, I am told. Curious. More on that when it occurs.

Joel Plaskett and the Emergency (which is apparently what they are calling themselves these days) played a crazy-long set with songs from all of Joel’s discography, both solo and with the band. Joel started the night in all black, but quickly stripped off his cowboy shirt to reveal a pink dress shirt that he perspired through in the manner of a true rocker. Joel resembles a strangely tall and gangly 12-year-old boy jumping around on stage, and his natural ADD-level enthusiasm is contagious. His bassist and drummer were solid, but definitely not as showy (I know, they call it a “front man” for a reason). His guest/friend guitarist, Peter Elkas, however, is a beautiful man. I am very happy he exists.

The set list was great for making me realize that I much prefer the band’s older stuff, if only because I became lax in listening to the newer stuff. This happens to me a lot, I find. Anyway, I’m not such a fan of Three (2009) or Ashtray Rock (2007), but I love so many of the songs on Down at the Khyber (2001) and Truthfully, Truthfully (2003) and La De Da (2005). I think that I’m not so much a choosy indie snob as I am easily distracted and completely fickle in my preferences for any album, any artist.

To their credit, they did play all of the “classics,” and they stayed on stage for a sprawling, 6-song encore. Joel was a bit weird in his interactions with the crowd, but it worked. When playing “Come On Teacher,” he sang a lot of it to a toy monkey playing the guitar on an amp, and I appreciated that. The monkey was quite talented.

For all of my curmudgeonly griping about the young’uns, I was jumping and belting out the lyrics to Joel’s croony, swoony song, “Fashionable People,” along with rest of the jovial crowd, so maybe I am perpetually a drunken teenager at heart. But with Joel Plaskett around, aren’t we all?

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