SUMMARY: If you aren't familiar with Moxy Fruvous, then you should be. If you are familiar with them, then you should be going out to see the Your New Boyfriend tour.
When I first heard that Fruvous was going to be playing in Winnipeg, I was thrilled to death. A concert I could get to! And in a good venue! I was floating on air as I spent $130 on nonrefundable bus tickets, and made dozens of phone calls trying to find someplace to stay while in the city.
Then, I found out that the band was one of four acts. This led me to fear that I would be paying all of this cash for a 40-minute set (or maybe, gods forbid, even less). The trip out to Winnipeg was a very dark one for me, complete with properly gothy writings in my journal. Oh well, I thought, if nothing else I'll get to see the neat Winnipeg bookstores again, and so it was that at about 11:30am, I arrived at McNally Robinson Booksellers, in Grant Park Mall. (McNally is kind of a less imperalistic, all-consuming B&N type store.) And it took me all of four minutes to find out where Cecil Adams' books were kept, and make a beeline for---
Hold on, what's---
Hey, does that *REALLY* say---
Two o'clock? Live show!? *HERE*!!?
The next time someone accuses me of not having any self-control, exhibit A for the defense will be the distinct lack of: cartwheels; shouts of "Ai yi yi yi YEAH!"; and spontaneous embracing of complete strangers, as I considered that my luck had *definitely* taken a turn for the better.
Scoping out a fine spot from which to watch the show, I sat back to observe the equipment being hauled in and tested. About 100 minutes (and 100 spectators, if not more) later, in came the band to a very nice reception. It was really neat seeing them in this particular location; not only was their set deliberately skewed away from stuff that they'd be doing that night, but the environment offered plenty of opportunities for running gags and lines. A poster of Robertson Davies hanging over a nearby service desk became a photo of the "fifth Fruvous", and after a *very* kinetic and cool version of "River Valley", Jian took a moment to thank McNally Robinson for their generous offer: "When you buy one Fruvous CD at regular price, you get ten free hardcovers." (Abbie Hoffman may have been wacky, but one gets the idea that Fruvous doesn't care.)
This show had apparently not received large amounts of publicity, but the turnout was still very commendable indeed (good Winnipeg, here's a biscuit :-) and it was *very* neat to hear "The Kids' Song" again. The only negatives were that the crowd was, well, *crowded* (lots of moving around to get someone in during the first minutes of the show) and the autograph line was approximately 234.8 miles long. Yes, I was very near the end of it. (Well, I had to do *something* with the copy of the B Album I finally was able to get....)
I headed out that night to the Cultural Centre, arriving for the 8:00pm show (doors at 7:15) at some few fleeting moments after the clock struck seven. Someone ahead of me in line was wearing a Fruvous tee that they'd picked up during the Bargainville tour in 1994. Winnipeg is a town that loves their Moxy.
But tonight, in order to get to their Moxy they'd have three acts to enjoy first - two groups and a solo artist, as it turned out. First up was Chains On 20, an interesting duo. Listening to Stephanie Westdal on vocals and lead guitar reminded me that someday there's going to be an ecological backlash and our overabundance of folky, somewhat gritty, sometimes ethereal Canadian female vocalists will cause disaster of a scale foretold only in the Book of Revelations. But not today; Chains On 20 write good songs, perform them well, and don't take themselves too seriously.
Dust Rhinos, a local band apparently very big in the Winnipeg bar scene, were next up. Celtic rock is coming back into vogue in Canada, and the image of the celtic artist is no longer the decrepit Irish Rovers, but young and vital musicians who happen to mix bodhran and electric bass. No exception this five-piece group, whose original material blended well with the sort of experimentation that's a hallmark of Canadian celtic rock. "New York Grrls" is a true highlight, as is their extremely bouncy and fun cover of "Horse With No Name".
Third up: Tariq. Those who follow the charts know of Tariq as a Calgary-based hard rocking band with a quirky lead singer. Tonight, instead of the band we got just the man (fresh from a gig across town opening for Great Big Sea), acoustic in hand and harmonica strapped around the chin. At first, the audience seemed almost to talk over him, perhaps still high on the Dust Rhinos' enthusiastic performance; but there's something about Tariq. Not quite as energetic as, say, Stephen Fearing, but he's got charisma. When you start noticing that he has something to say, you really, REALLY start listening to it. Some of the songs from his recent album actually seemed improved by the minimal accompaniment.
(Interesting coincidence: Tariq also opened for Moxy Fruvous at the first Fru-show I ever got to.)
The headline act (Moxy Fruvous, in case you misplaced your scorecard this late in the game) took the stage with the same heavenly a cappella version of "I've Gotta Get A Message To You" that had begun their earlier show at McNally Robinson. They wasted no time making sure that the folks in the audience got to hear something a little off the beaten track, either, by going straight to "Poor Mary Lane" (which, despite being IMHO a little strident on the record, becomes very powerful indeed live) and the haunting "On Her Doorstep".
Highlights? Well, the bit between the introduction and the lights going back up.... but if you want more specifics than that, then I'll need to name:
* Mike's improvised ditty about Jian's mike stand, which started falling apart during "Militia". This was actually my first real time hearing these guys create extemporaneously. (No, I did not make this a highlight just to get a chance to use the word "extemporaneously".)
* New stuff. The new scat version of "Boo Time" is a hoot and a half. The WLUV talk-radio skit featuring Jian as a lovesick yutz and Murray as a smooth-talking radio shrink (leading into a slow, almost romantic version of "Your New Boyfriend") is nifty.
* Old stuff. "Fell In Love", man! Finally! But no "Laika" (sniff sniff)
* Everything old that's new again. Those who've seen the full length "Green Eggs & Ham" know that it's one of the best bits of musical theatre going these days. Brought back with the experience these guys have, four years honing their comedic and musical talent on the stages of the world, this is just plain fall-down funny. (Well, you'll fall down 'cause it's funny. I fell when I tripped over that dangling participle.)
A full set, two encores, and the chance to sing "The Drinking Song". It was incredible, and I do not use the term lightly. Afterward, the first (and for a bit, the only) thing I could say, when Murray came by, was: "I am in awe."
This tour is *that* good. You owe it to yourself to be there.
Some other tidbits from the performance include: