Monday, 2 September 2013

Seb Black at divan orange

Seb Black + Les Taverneux + Eddie Paul at Divan Orange 

                                                 PHOTOS  |  SYLVANA TISHELMAN

Emery Street records has their flag firmly planted in Divan Orange this Saturday, August 24th. After three appearances on Musique Plus this Summer, the Emery Street family are wolf- eyed with the throb of recent exposure and clearly keen on rocking this place down to cinders tonight.

Shit quickly got real when I sat down for a chat with Seb Black earlier this afternoon:
“Humans, deep down inside - they know the truth. Fuck your books, all those stories. You feel it. Don’t lie to yourself. Jesus ain’t coming to save you.”

This came from a question I asked him about the global dissatisfaction evident in his lyrics. Although I don’t subscribe to Seb’s nihilistic take on reality (I happen to be a hermit who lives more in books and stories than the real world), there’s something about his answer that sounds uncomfortably right; a hunch that the people wandering St. Laurent are waiting with absolved responsibility to be freed from a veil that is slowly thickening. It’s a veil they can’t see, smell, hear, taste or feel, and they have no idea what or who it is they’re waiting for. Or that they’re even waiting at all.

Meanwhile it’s 10:00 in the PM and I’m waiting for Eddie Paul to start his set. ‘Ace of Spades’ by Link Wray plays while I look at the art for sale on the wall. One piece that grabs my attention is a grotesquely surreal image of a man whose entire head is an eyeball, with massive curved lashes and a crown on top of his head. I consider buying it, and for a second I think its beauty is worth the sleep I’d lose looking at it. Then I hear a cough coming from my pocket and my wallet looks up at me and whimpers, “Don’t do it, man.”

Sometimes you need to stop and listen to the counsel of your inanimate wallet. Other times you need to self-hug and ask the mirror if everything’s alright.

Eddie Paul starts his set off with a roar of synchronized sound and color. Funny how six people can cram themselves into such a small stage and still have room for harmonious swaying. The sound spectrum is equally crammed, with guitars, harmonica, drums, keys, four vocalists and a tambourine jingled by a beautiful girl in a green top hat who dances throughout the set like no one else is around. Credit needs to be given to the Divan Orange sound staff for their airtight equalizing - the sound quality tonight is flawless.

Eddie Paul and his band are essentially a giant vanilla milkshake that split itself into six totally independent human beings. Or a portable jukebox that sells Marlboros. They play that ole twist music that our grandparents used to listen to, but they rid the familiar sounds of all dust by playing them with the beat of every blood cell in their bodies. And it’s resonating with everyone in this room. I feel like a voyeur. The people on stage are clearly on a different level of awareness than I am right now; it’s like I’m peeking into something sacred and private. Like I’m watching some kind of show. Then I remember that I am watching a show; that they are clearly aware of the fact they’re performing right now; that I am spawning guilt from a source of utter nonsense. They play their last song to a clap-along and I go outside for cigarette #18,250.

I’ve lived here my whole life, but I have never once seen a Quebecois band play French music in front of me. Whether they know it or not (they probably don’t), Les Taverneux are about to change that.

My knowledge of the French language barely exceeds that of a Saskatoonian tourist. I’m great at asking bus drivers if they’re passing by certain intersections. I can order a mean poutine at La Belle Province. When talking to Hydro Quebec on the phone, I manage to understand the robot lady telling me to press 8 for Anglais. It doesn’t go much further than that.

Regardless, Les Taverneux are still a totally encapsulating band. Their music is currently receiving daily rotation on Musique Plus. Though I don’t understand 90% of what’s being said on stage, the bluesy saloon grit in the songs hits the spot, and my foot is tapping to the beat throughout the set. I could be foot-tapping to messages of violent anarchy or uninhibited spirituality; it’s hard to tell by the vibrating, asylum-eyed face of the lead singer. I may not understand what this man is saying but I know he’s saying it with passion. In the interim before his last song he stands up and spouts a minute-long sentence in copious Quebecois before thrusting his beer toward the ceiling and ordering the crowd to salute him. Which we do - mostly out of respect but also out of a desire to not be punched in the face.

After cigarette # 18,251 and puff # 401,522, the king of Emery Street takes the stage. Seb Black is an unusual musician. To get a feel for his voice, sounds, lyrics and brand of psychosis, watch the music video for ‘Go Out in Style’, which he directed. If you enjoy big fat booties in motion, pit bulls tearing into hunks of raw meat and men rap-singing in a bath of milk and fruit loops, this is the video for you.

His set starts off with ‘On Emery Street’, a song about riots and the sheepishness of the bystander. The song’s anger is reflected in the scowls of each musician on stage; the guitarist (Eddie Paul, once more) is making a megaphone out of his instrument; the drummer is beating the kick and snare as though they fondled his wife; Seb Black has his eyes closed and is wagging his finger in the air, refusing to accept the events occurring in his song.

A note on Seb’s voice: there are smokey-voiced singers and then there are smokey-voiced singers. Seb is both. Don’t think Aaron Lewis or John Mayer - think Louis Armstrong. I can close my eyes right now and imagine him as a life-sized cigarette that sprouted limbs and a mouth, was thrown on stage and given a microphone and is singing while smoking a miniature version of itself.

That rugged, melodic rasp talking about ‘taking a piss’ (his lyric, not mine) coupled with the thrashing, thumping robotic rhythms on stage makes for a gritty concert experience. These people don’t care if you don’t like hearing them talk about bowel movements and micturation, which I find oddly refreshing. True nihilistic indifference can make for uninhibited songwriting, and sometimes that’s where artists need to go if they’re to establish a dialogue with the deeper, dirtier parts of their audience.

It’s not all grime, though. Some parts of the set are replete with an almost objective beauty. There are sections of celestial synths and piercing piano. Certain songs are structured in steep waves, escalating to pandemonium before being brought back down to a gentle sway. Seb Black can sing about bodily functions and deeply-rooted sorrow with equal sincerity. The highlight of his set and the entire night is his cover of Urge Overkill’s cover of Neil Diamond’s ‘Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon’. As the first chord is strummed and the first ‘Girl’ is sung, I am transported directly to Mia Wallace’s living room, watching her OD on madman heroine, and there is nothing I can do to help her.
Seb Black released an album this past May through Emery Street records. It was recorded at the Emery Street studio, which is located on Emery Street. The album is called: Emery Street. Check it out.

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