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Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Freak Show, October 2013

Freak Show: Blue Mushroom Sirkus Psyshow + Bad Uncle  |  Cabaret du Mile-End

DOWNRIGHT WHOLESOME FUN  |  MARY NIVEN
                                    PHOTOS  |  VALERIA VEGA

Hello my dearest of dears,

What shall say I?

Oct. 4, 2013 - In my last review, I started out by complaining about how headliners should play first and gripe gripe, whine whine, but I have to do an about-face and eat crow with a side of humble pie! This show was so ridiculously cool and, had the opener played last, its total aesthetic would have changed the entire experience. In my defense, this show made me realize how much better of an experience show goers could have if bands would tour and play shows with musicians and/or artists that they really dig, have at least heard of, and have an affinity with. Because, when all of that comes together, you have a Freak Show at the Cabaret du Mile-End with Blue Mushroom Sirkus Psyshow as your openers, Bad Uncle as your headliners, beer cups that are reusable and save you 50¢ on all of your subsequent beer purchases, lots of people in Halloween costume's and a general party with all until 3:00 AM!


Upon entering, the first involuntary word that popped in my head was “Vaudeville” (duhh it’s the Cabaret du Mile-End), the second and third must have been “Tom Waits” (he was fittingly playing overhead), and the subsequent ones were probably something like “awesome” or “look at these freaks all dressed up like it’s Halloween” or “right on, we can sit at a table and relaxingly watch the show with no insanely huge visual hindrances.” From now on, if I use the word “freak”, it necessarily has a positive connotation. 

I have been cultishly enamoured with John Waters, the KING of ‘freaks and filth’ since my formative years. He directed, among many other films, Desperate Living (my all-time personal favourite), Pink Flamingos (a pretty harsh and weird film).


Before I stop with the influences — I’m sorry but they were so handsomely present, plus it’s exciting to have an intimate kinship with the artists’ increasingly endearing presence, especially when they’ve yet to play! See, that’s how a show should go down, all of your senses and artistic bone are satisfied from the time you walk in the joint, until you forlornly have to leave. So, as I was saying, before I stop with the influences, I must mention that, at one point, I felt like I was on the set of a Jim Jarmusch and John Waters joint venture. We were just contentedly waiting for John Lurie and the late Divine to show up on the set. 

The Blue Mushroom Sirkus Psyshow was entertaining, funny, down to earth, cute, lovable, dangerous (in their own repeated words), talented, and downright cool. If you are lucky enough to have a chance to see them, do it. I don’t want to say anymore because I wouldn’t want to diminish the kidlike fascination you will have once they eccentrically walk on stage and the madness begins. 


Now, about Bad Uncle. How can I put into words my feelings about what went on after The Blue Mushroom Sirkus Psyshow? Should I randomly spit out adjectives? Should I use complete sentences, correct punctuation, have any kind of linear content? Seriously, thank GOD that the notion of stream of consciousness exists because it’s a good reference point when art takes on the insides and crevices of the artists’ minds in an unconventional manner. The members of Bad Uncle took the stage in a super smooth way; slowly and piece by piece, which amped up the intrigue and allowed the warm fuzzy feeling of the Tom Waits music over head and the jovial Blue Mushroom Sirkus Psyshow members selling their wares and signing self made postcards to gradually decrescendo themselves out. 


For those of you who have no idea what is the Bad Uncle experience (I was the same before tonight), they consist of keyboards/guitar, upright bass, accordion/lead vocals, and trombone. To me, the keyboardist/guitarist Hugo Joyal seemed like the band’s level-headed anchor; there was a lot of distraction going on around.

The only constructive comment that I can make about their sound is that I would have preferred the keyboard to sound like an old-school, voluptuous, rich Wurlitzer or at the very least, something more analog----maybe just run the keyboard through one or many pedals. It seemed as if the huge Yamaha keyboard was set on piano, which doesn’t sound like a piano at all, and in my opinion is the ‘dépanneur’ of sound options. I know that huge Yamaha has like a billion different other ones. 
Throughout the show, there were verbal images of babies, lots of babies, bloody babies, unwanted babies, eggs being danced, cracked, and played with by a ‘nun’ who didn’t mind showing some skin and balancing an egg yolk on her leg for as long as possible, among other things. 

Let’s hear it for accordions! It is a most difficult instrument to play. Like the piano, it’s an instrument that you must use both hemispheres of your brain to play: treble clef for the right and bass clef for the left. On top of it, you are also dealing with all kinds of really complicated manipulations that make or break a competent sound quality.


Most instrumentalists can speak of a definitive moment at which the first instrument that they really learned to play came into their life. Because let’s face it, playing an instrument is hard work and lots and lots of practice and discipline. When you are a kid, it can really suck. I would be curious to know where and how Santosh Lalonde’s accordion story began. Don’t get me wrong, I take nothing away from the other band members’ instruments’ difficulties and their respective musical talents, it’s just that accordions have a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’. 

Different cultures use different types of accordions that can vary greatly: Italian, French, Latin American, Acadian. If you are an accordion buff I suggest you read Accordion Crimes, Annie Proulx. She is a phenomenal and unique writer in and of herself, but this book’s molten core is the accordion in all of its shapes, sizes, and intriguing, eccentric background’s (a lot of the accordions’ journeys begin in pawn shops!). Also, it reminds you of the fact that in its beginnings, Québec was very much an accordion-playing culture.


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