SUNPARLOUR PLAYERS with Run With the Kittens at the Tranzac, December 15. Tickets: $7. Attendance: 75. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
We got the snowstorm we were waiting for last Thursday, but when it started in earnest it was as if we'd been taken by surprise - cars spinning out and people slipping on sidewalks. Yet with the Tranzac only a block from the subway, how could you go wrong?
Located in an Australian community centre, the Tranzac feels like a small high school gym done over for the big dance - but by the philosophy club instead of the cheerleaders. Laid-back and friendly is the mood, and if you're having trouble getting into it, the selection of $3 beers should help.
Having been won over by the SunParlour Players' excellent EP, I was more than prepared for a good night of down-home music. I wasn't prepared for openers Run with the Kittens . When they walked onstage decked out in super-cheesy floral beach outfits, sunglasses and visors, the Kittens were either going to be amazing or dreadful. When you dress up like that, there is no middle ground.
Not many bands can do the comedy rock thing, but these guys were tight and funny enough to pull it off in spades, making Jack Black's Tenacious D seem elementary by comparison. Running through a totally revamped NWA cover, hammering out riffs and shaking their hands in the air, RWTK were equal parts goofy Beck and James Brown. All this from a band whose drummer wore a tight rubber swimming cap and goggles. They killed.
To say that the music of Run with the Kittens is different from the SunParlour Players' is like saying the Pope is kinda religious. Wearing three-piece black suits and porkpie hats, Andrew Penner and Mark Schachowskoy sat down and got it going for the well-primed crowd, now at a robust 75.
They sit at centre stage, Penner strumming his acoustic while delivering pensive, introspective lyrics, Schachowskoy plucking his bass and tapping on the xylophone, both of them stomping the foot pedals of bass drums that read "SunParlour" and "Players" respectively. The fact that these words appear to have just been painted with red nail polish only adds to the duo's charm.
They build on simple, propulsive staccato rhythms that simmer way down below for a good while before building up and out into almost euphoric crescendos that seem to release Penner from some unknown, manic hold his brain has on his soul. It's almost as if he's purging himself of his ills and enjoying the cleansing sensation such an act brings. That is, until he starts up another song, finding himself right back where he started.
Considering this show launched their new EP, Alive At The Tranzac, a supportive crowd was to be expected, and as much as I like the EP, I couldn't get over how intensely the songs came out live and how two guys can sound like a full band.