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Cracker / The Mod Club - July 20, 2006

24-Jul-2006 11:45 pm Contributed by: pete Concert Reviews
Cracker with The Golden Dogs
July 20, 2006
The Mod Club in Toronto, Ontario
Review and Photos by: Pete Nema

Full photo sets: Cracker, The Golden Dogs
David Lowrey may not be as fully recognized for his contribution to Alternative Rock as some of his peers from the late 80's and early 90's, but his cynical and humorous lyrics in combination with the truly independent music style of Camper Van Beethoven surely influenced a number of forming bands during that time. CVB's unique style of punk-country-folk-rock produced some odd results - a well known example is Take The Skinheads Bowling. After CVB disbanded in early 1990, David Lowrey went on to found Cracker along with guitarist Johnny Hickman and bassist Davey Faragher. Cracker created more straight ahead rock with songs that reached a wider audience such as Low and I Hate My Generation, but still managed to keep the irreverent lyrics. For example: "...the movie star, well she crashed her car, but everyone said she was beautiful even without her head" from the 1993 album Kerosene Hat, and "You are so beautiful, you should be guarded by monkeys" from the 2002 release Forever. And after so many years, not only was Cracker coming to Toronto, but I was scheduled to finally see them live.

But before Cracker was to take the stage, the opening band, The Golden Dogs, a local Toronto band with True North Records performed for about an 8 song set (I didn't count, but that seems close). With one album released and another due out on August 15th, the Dogs had more than enough material to fill the 45 minutes of stage time, although I think most (if not all) songs were from their upcoming release. And even though The Mod Club hadn't come near to reaching capacity yet, they used their stage time well.

[Jessica Grassia provides amazing backup vocals]
Jessica Grassia provides amazing backup vocals
[Really enjoying being on stage]
Really enjoying being on stage
[Dave Azzolini acknowledging a fan]
Dave Azzolini acknowledging a fan

Jessica Grassia, aside from providing amazing backup vocals, also plays keyboards and tambourine, but most importantly she has a music stand with cards that announce the name of the songs. Both a cool and amusing idea for a band trying to get people to become familiar with their music. Dave Azzolini performs lead vocals / guitar and although he can be a bit subdued when near the microphone, as soon as he backs up his energy definitely increases. Dave and Jessica seem to have a mental connection on stage that just works. Mid-set, after blurting out a bit of Good Times Roll by The Cars as a lead-in, they played a cover of a Wings song entitled 1985. But for me, the best song of the set was Strong. This band is completely and absolutely above average. I will be posting a review of their soon to be released album, so come back around August 15th to learn more about them.

[The waving arms of Jessica]
The waving arms of Jessica
[Dave plays it, Jessica hears it]
Dave plays it, Jessica hears it

Now back to why I went to The Mod Club in the first place: Cracker. It is important to note that I've been a fan of the bands Camper Van Beethoven, Cracker, and even the CVB-offshoot band Monks Of Doom for just under 20 years now. A long time. And clearly, based on the average age of the audience, I was not alone... it was a room filled with a high percentage of men around my age and many of them appeared to be just like me: longtime fans.

[This is Cracker Soul]
This is Cracker Soul
[David Lowrey eminates experience]
David Lowrey emanates experience
[Johnny Hickman shows us his best guitar face]
Johnny Hickman shows us his best guitar face

David Lowrey was joined on stage not only by the rest of the band, but also by a MacBook that was placed front and and just left of centre. Between most songs, he would subtly put on a pair of reading glasses to examine the screen and hit a few keys. By about the 4th song, Cracker decided to get the crowd going by pulling out Eurotrash Girl, an 8 minute song that makes an excellent anthem for the male mid-life crisis. It was originally released as semi-hidden track #69 on their album Kerosene Hat. Despite its original "hidden" status, it is obviously a fan favourite judging by the number of fans singing along and the fact that the floor of The Mod Club started shaking with the weight of the crowd jumping. Kenny Margolis emerged from behind the keyboards to play a colourful red accordion and in doing so ensured that Eurotrash Girl was played with appropriate ambience.

[David Lowrey hits it]
David Lowrey hits it
[Kenny on accordian]
Kenny on accordian
[Hitting a good note on a cool guitar]
Hitting a good note on a cool guitar

The evenly-spaced fans were kept happy with a string of favourites such as Brides of Neptune, Movie Star, and Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now). Cracker even threw in the Camper Van Beethoven song Take The Skinheads Bowling, originally composed in conjunction with Victor Krummenacher who played bass on their most recent album. Victor wasn't on stage, but instead the bass guitar was aptly handled by Sal Maida. All songs retained their unique alt-rock sound with country undertones. The ease with which Lowrey and Hickman played the entire night demonstrated their experience level and comfort with the music and being on stage. In fact, rather than go through a pretend goodbye and return for an encore sequence, David Lowrey announced that a break would just be a waste of time and they played on, including their biggest hit Low and eventually ending the night with the appropriately named Darling We're Out Of Time, a song off their new album Greenland.

Overall it was an interesting night. The Golden Dogs is a band with great promise that has yet to peak, and Cracker is a band that gathered a number of life-long fans that peaked more than a few years ago. I still say that David Lowrey and Cracker never got the recognition they deserved, but that is the reality of the music business. As fans we need to show the bands how much their music impacts our lives, not just through CD and merchandise purchases, but also by being there when they come to town and really getting into what is happening on stage. Exactly like the crowd did last Thursday night.


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