TUNE-YARDS and SUPERCHUNK – two thoughts about two gigs

The audience had already lost their shit during the 2014 schoolyard Tune-Yard hit, “Water Fountain”, yelling back all the “Woo-hah! Woo-ha!s” with so much glee and dancing so happily, that it couldn’t help but make you smile. But it wasn’t until the next track in, the mellower, uke-powered “Powa” that Tune-Yards’ puppeteer Merrill Garbus smiled her own cheek-to-cheek. Dimpling up and looking pleased when the kind Vancouver Commodore Ballroom crowd sang “Wait, honey, honey,”, Garbus seemed genuinely warmed by the warmth of the room. (Maybe that’s what happens when the gender balance of a gig is tipped towards women?)

The audience swayed woozily along with her, that is, until the it’s-not-a-Tune-Yards-song-without-a-tempo-change took us into a tight, bass-heavy shuffle, and you could feel the bouncy floor start to heave.

She thanked us all for coming out on a Tuesday night, particularly since she, Nate Brenner and (truly incredible) touring drummer Hamir Atwal, were “never really sure what to expect” as they traveled from town to town. Tune-Yards is a challenging band for some – all world beat, electronica, looping voice, pop and jazz, buzz and klang, a pretty unusual mess –  that it was this welcoming crowd that really heated the space.

Meanwhile, slightly cooler winds and middle-aged men prevailed the next night at Superchunk at the Rickshaw Theatre. Starting with “Erasure”, then “Break the Glass” into “Lost My Brain” and “What a Time to be Alive”, the super-tight, Superchunk launched into a full four-pack of new stuff from their latest album – something singer Mac McCaughan thanked us for being receptive to. And for the most part, the 90s crowd were receptive, probably because they knew that the hard-grinding, well-prepared ‘Chunk would pay back – and they did. “Slack Motherfucker,” “Detroit Has a Skyline”, “Skip Steps 1 & 3”, “Water Wings” and “Throwing Things” all roared in later – and the beards nodded approval.

Was it all good? Of course, it was good. We’re talking about indie rock royalty here –  drummer Jon Wurster, guitarist Jim Wilbur, McCaughan and stand-in bassist Jason Narducy are strong and studious. But was it warm and connected? Not so much. And while Mac joked about the differences between the U.S. and Canada (the former’s “cess-pool” politics and the latter not having the sport of baseball, “only cricket”), it felt like there was a bit of a distance between us and them, too. Not a bad thing, just a different thing. Woo-hah! \m/

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