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sing while you may


legendary pink dots w/ pony da look at lee's palace

i will always have a deep fondness for the legendary pink dots. it's not just the fact that they are one of the only bands that can push the envelope of emotion while (almost) never falling into the smarmy abyss that makes them so adorable. i love them for that, but i also love them because they were the first band i ever made a concerted effort to see. i made the trek with several friends all the way from halifax to see them in montreal years ago. as such, they are also implicated in my decision to move to montreal, since once i was up there, i found the city difficult to let go. so what's not to love?

i was starting to have my doubts about them for a while in the late nineties, when the rough edge that had generally prevented them from becoming too precious seemed to get blunted. all the same, they've always been reliably enjoyable in a live context.

i showed up last night in the midst of opening act pony da look. i didn't know what to expect because i hadn't even heard their name before i arrived (technically, i didn't hear it, or read it, until this afternoon). perhaps i'm getting a little intransigent, but i wasn't that hyped to see an opening band who i'd never heard of. for good reason, it turns out. the band sounds like nothing so much as a group of people trying to be a lot weirder than they actually are. this kind of sound was done with more panache (and more sincerity) by lemon kittens, lene lovich and nina hagen decades ago.

getting there earlier did give me a chance to survey the crowd a little, always an adventure at a show, i find. the first time i saw the dots in montreal, i was astounded at the sheer number of waxed and polished gothic beautiful people there were there. (the dots have always had a disproportionately large following in montreal, especially among goths, it seems.) this show had a much different vibe. the crowd looked a lot more like someone had done a sunset round-up on the boardwalk at venice beach- more than a little freakish and leaning towards the rangy side of bohemian. i couldn't help reflecting, as i stood in a haze of patchouli and nag champa (i'm not even making that up) that this was a much more appropriate audience, closer to the imafe of the band themselves.

the band took the stage shortly after eleven, in fine form (despite edward ka-spel's being laid low by the flu). one consistent aspect of each of their shows is that they have a captivating stage presence. both ka-spel and saxophonist niels van hoorn interact with the audience throughout, something which sent this particular crowd into fits. although the sheer mass of their back catalogue prevents them from ever being able to play all the songs i'd like to hear (i'd probably still be standing in lee's palace now), last night did give me several highlights- poppy day, belladonna, green gang and a particularly stunning version of hellsville are the ones that stand out for me. the sheer mass of their back catalogue also means that there are a number of songs that i have trouble placing, although i know i've heard them many times before.

mostly, i was happy to see that the band steered away from the prog-rock nastiness that was making me unsure about them for a while and were back in fine psychedelic, mind-expanding form. if they come by these parts again, i'll be in line for a fifth show.

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