the first live show i ever went to was Doug and the Slugs. but the SECOND live show—an all ages gig at the old Strathcona Arts Barns—was the smalls, pioneers of prairie metal. i was seventeen, straight off a farm in northern Alberta, and had been out of the house for approximately 72 hours. that’s where i bought my favorite green t-shirt, the girl one with the smalls’ white box logo appropriately placed over the lady bits on my torso. it was before baby tees and vintage-worn-soft feel, so the forest green large T, being the only size left, was way too big for me. but i wore it anyway.
because i loved the smalls.
they told stories. they were from a small town. the bass guitar made my brain hum while it searched for a way through the quick mumbled lyrics. it blew my mind.
that show was also the first time i saw Corb Lund. his fingers were responsible for making me buy a bass. his stories were responsible for making me feel for where i’m from. note i didn’t say love. i don’t love Alberta. but the burning cold, its horizon crouching under fickle clouds, broken by a wind that teaches you the meaning of a curse, happen to make me pine. maybe because that cold forces you hunker down and get creative. or it’s so damn relentless you’ve got to be plum crazy or tough as dried fruit in a blizzard to get through it. but when the cold ends, you’re a little stronger. and when you walk down a gravel road cracking ice bubbles with your Sorels with nothing but a tune in your head, you find yourself feeling for Alberta. not loving it, but feeling it.
when the smalls disbanded, i was devastated. i listened to them constantly, trying to understand every lyric and lick but never quite getting through Caldwell’s ramblings because i’d get distracted by that bass line. i didn’t want to like Corb’s solo stuff. Corb was playing country, and what the hell did that have to do with metal? how could he go from one spectrum to the other? gack!
it wasn’t until i heard Modern Pain that i understood the underpinning of what good music and good storytelling really is: it’s about place. the ground we walk or stumble on, the wind that tickles or rips, the buildings or lack thereof, create the people struggling to deal with all that information. and that’s where stories are born, scribbled on the backs of receipts or hands or foggy windows. it also helps that Alberta is purgatory, a bountiful desert flanked by aggressive mountains and peaceful plains. that dichotomy can lead a man to drink.
i admit it….. i’ve been missing Alberta. the winters in southern BC, while they’re the reason i moved here, are not like the winters in Alberta. i miss the cold. i miss the way it made me think. but Corb’s from Alberta. and hearing him sing about it, seeing an SNFU sticker on his guitar and the little upside down cross duct taped to its bottom, made me remember how i feel about it.
it also made me rekindle my youthful hankering for whiskey. and there ain’t too many an Albertan that doesn’t like a good whiskey. at least the real ones do.
a long tall Texan named John Evans warmed the stage. while he’s a few years past his college QB days, i think jeans and boots may suit him better. and i had a minor love affair with his bassist’s hair, but i digress….
mid-way through Evans’ set, Corb—in a classic cap and scarf—joined him for a row.
John Evans is awesome. PERIOD. i’m not convinced BCers love Alberta or Texas, but the crowd made me think that this night, they LOVED them.
apparently, musicians are not allowed to drink on BC stages—it promotes drinking, y’know. now, not only is this a RIDICULOUS law, it also hampers many musicians’ style. one very much affected by this is Corb Lund. so, they had a little help in transferring beer in its most obvious vessel, a bottle, to a more vague vessel, a glass. which is just as illegal as the bottle, but c’mon. this is a bar, and this man sings about drinking.
now, Corb is dashing. there’s not much denying that. i like Corb’s boots, too. as did these ladies….
Grant Siemens ended up having a few too many of these…. but he’s a pretty awesome musician, so it didn’t sound like it mattered. that much, anyway.
this is one of my favorites from the night. Corb’s a big Oilers fan, obviously. Canucks fans didn’t have much to say.
like most Albertans, Corb eventually shuns silly laws.
happy holidays, Corby. travel safe.