It’s been quite a week. I’ve had plenty of work at a time when I need it most, psychologically and financially. The Memorial was a fantastic tribute, an event that had to happen and at times actually seemed to happen all by itself. It took on a life of it’s own. It was a show Dan Webster said was “probably the best show I’ve ever been associated with.” In all my years of attending shows going back to ’82, I’ve never seen anything like it. Now I know I’m obviously not objective, but the fact is there really has never been a show like it in Montreal. The only thing that comes close to the kind of format we had was the Jerry,Jerry farewell show held at Cafe Campus a few years ago. But even that can’t compare. Somebody described it as being like the best high school reunion from the best high school ever. In a way it was. There were so many faces I had not seen since the days when “the Scene” was small enough that you always saw the same faces and wound up talking to everyone at some point. The was also a kind of euphoria in the air, as if everyone there knew something truly special was taking place. So it was part wake, part high school reunion, part great rock show. There were just so many musical highlights throughout the evening it’s impossible to pick out a single moment that was great. There were far too many.
I think the reason for this is because every performer contributed exactly what they needed to at the right time. Chris Page starting out with a gut-wrenching version of “When the Love Puts On a Sad Face”, then being joined by his good friend Jim Bryson for a slow, haunting version of “Daylight”. Los Patos opening their set with “Grounded”, a song I hadn’t heard played in over 10 years, and then proving what a great song writer Alex was by doing a version of “When You’re Not Around” that showed it can be a mid-tempo pop song with 60’s style hooks as well as a fast-paced, furious rock song. This was the genius in Alex’s songs – they could sound good done any which way, so long as they’re tight. Then Ian Blurton digging and finding Neil Young’s “Don’t Be Denied”, followed by a passionate rendition of Husker Du’s “Pink Turns to Blue”. Finally, he has some of us in the house in tears with his very own Half A Song. When Chino opens their set with The Mekons “Where Were You?”, the rock show begins. That song was a Chino era cover that used to always bring down the house at the Barfly and just about anywhere else they played it. But it only got better from there. We were treated to 7 songs altogether. Five covers plus “Uno Mas” and “Mustard Sally”. Alex would have been proud of them and smilin’. “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” was on when I was getting a beer and I couldn’t get to the front fast enough after that. The 4 guitars at work in “White Girl” were something to behold. A fantastic set from start to finish.
I can’t even being to get into the Nils set…I’ve tried in various drafts I’ve written but I can’t. All I can say is they did Alex justice and really were the cherry on top. Kudos to John Kastner and Chris Spedding for their superb contributions. All the other players – a job well done, lads. Alex would have been proud.
And that was the night. It took a week for it to work it’s way out of my system. The aftermath started right after the show and continued into Saturday where we managed to survive this this bill. By mid-week, I had a CD of the show waiting for me in my mailbox and called Rick K. to come on over and listen to it. I just couldn’t do it alone. We were not disappointed. The recording I have is a great document of that night and I’m hoping I’ll be able to post some mp3s of it soon. I’ve played this to several of the performers already and all have enjoyed listening to it, mistakes and all. It was an emotional night, and the performances show it. A few days later I get a CD of one person’s pictures, and again I’m reliving the evening. But in a good way. I think many of us feel we’ve given Alex a proper farewell, and that’s all we can do. The recording, some of the pictures I’ve seen and probably many more I haven’t seen or will never see, show what Alex meant to many.
By the way, If anyone has any pictures, please let me know and we’ll make arrangements to have them sent by email or posted to a photo blogging site like yafro. I have a few decent ones I’ll be posting soon.
What isn’t over is sorting out his legacy….Alex was a perfectionist, so a fair amount of stuff had been recorded and never released and I’ve heard a lot of it. Besides great live footage, there’s stuff recorded in Montreal and Chicago in 1994, songs most people have never heard. There’s the stuff that was recorded on acoustic in St. Henri last year – gems like “Mud” and “They Found Out” and more than a half-dozen others. I’ve had the pleasure and it’s good to know songs Alex never released, and very different version of songs he did, will see the light of day. The last 10 years of Alex’s career, both with the Nils and Chino, were some of his best song writing years. He was really coming into his own. While he always had it (you don’t write a song like “River of Sadness” at 19 and not have it), he had matured like a lot of us did in our thirties. This came through in his song writing and performances.
So there’s more to come as far as the music goes, I’m happy to report. I’m hoping to get permission to post one or two mp3s in the near future.
So that’s about it, I guess. I have some pictures I’ll post, but they need to be resized and fixed a little before I can. There’s some good ones, but as I’ve said if you have any pictures let me know. WE NEED PICTURES!!!!. Thanks.
Just thought I’d correct a mistake in a previous entry:
” Mike was his engineer and translator. He was the only soundman Alex ever worked with who was also a friend….”.
(Note: Not true, actually. Steve Kravac of Los Patos was a good friend and is a great soundman. Unfortunately, they never managed to release something besides a demo. I meant this in the context of what Alex has managed to release over the years. It’s unfortunate that Los Patos never managed to get something out, and I think this was due to Alex’s (and probably Steve’s) perfectionist tendencies. Apologies to Steve Kravac for this oversight. The Los Patos songs I have from a 13 year old demo tape are really special and showed another side to Alex, a side I don’t think we appreciated enough at the time – it seemed like such a departure. As I’ve said, they were his “pop” band, and I believe they were the only incarnation of this side of him since the pre-hardcore Nils (’82).)