Monday, February 14, 2005

Mackin' Maki

When the El Mocambo moved up to College and Spadina, I swore I'd never return. Thank god I've broken that vow, as every time I now take the eastbound 506, adventure ensues. This past Saturday was no exception. Kate Maki was in town in what was the grand finale of her month long cross-country Mid Winter's Night Dream tour. I've had a penchant for her ever since NXNE which has recently been rekindled through my favourite Crown Corporation.

The new El Mocambo is trying hard to capture that lived-in artsy roots venue that comes so naturally to such old standards as the Silver Dollar and the Horseshoe. If that was indeed the intent, I can't say the owners didn't choose wisely. The beatnik arthouse obstructionist pillars and exposed walls of the space have been accentuated with campy Kensington lighting and well-worn Zellers folding chairs. While at first a bit kitschy, with each passing concert one does settle in. The Vespa off stage left could be done without however.

That said, it is a place which fits Maki's sensibilities like a glove. This fresh face from Sudbury (via Halifax and Ottawa) is a former grade school teacher who gave it all up for a life on the road. While I'm sure she had her reasons, more than anything I respect her guts. Her country sound influenced by the likes of Patsy Cline, the Everly Brothers and Hank Williams ain't exactly in vogue these days. But rather than reek of avant-guard arthouse chic, her sound rings somehow real. My suspicions were confirmed as I walked through the front door - what other artist would spend their time working the gate collecting admissions at the tail-end of a five week whirlwind tour? I suppose she gets it honestly... her Mom uses an authentic Stompin' Tom plank she scooped from her roadie days to prop up the Christmas tree. That should tell us all something.

While the music was superb, it was the crowd that made the show... in fact it had this refreshing feel of a throw-back to those pre-hipster Horseshoe days. I counted only four suits and three trucker caps out of a crowd of at least a hundred. About half were friends and family who travelled from the 'Sud' down old 69 to see their favourite daughter play. While at first timid, the clan quickly turned the El into a true Sudbury Saturday Night. The place felt more like a country stag and doe than a club show. Everyone got stinko as the domestic beer flowed and the numbers on the dance floor rose correspondingly with consumption of said beer. I even heard a lout refer to someone as 'drunk as a fiddler's woman'. No one batted an eye. Things did get a little heated however when a request was shouted out again and again for 'All things Passed' which recounts the death of an old friend. After numerous rebuffs, Kate finally acknowledged the persistent character with a muffled 'Fuck Off'. Wasn't going to happen that close to Valentine's day I suppose. Good on her.

It could have been one of those rolickin 'Joan Spalding and the Foggy Mountain Band' shows at the Legion my grandparents repeatedly dragged me to at the tender age of six... thankfully in this case the music was tremendous and the lead singer stunning.

Thanks Kate. I needed a constructive - while inadvertant - Fuck Pretentious Toronto event like that.

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