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if you live in montreal, or virtually anywhere in canada, being a music fan is like following the fashion world- your life is divided into two separate seasons, spring and fall, when interesting shows come to town and you are compelled to venture out of doors and see what is to be seen.

there are always shows, of course, but i tend to find that, in these parts, winter shows are rarely exciting enough to tempt me into the arctic temperatures and while BIG shows are common enough in the summer, those of us whose tastes are off the mainstream are left twiddling our collective thumbs.

there are always "the latest" acts to check out in the live circuit, but one of the things that interests me is going to see acts who have reformed, those who don't tour as often, those i either haven't seen in a while or who i missed because i was living in an area of the world that didn't see a lot of tours back in the day. (i hesitate to acknowledge that this is not only because i'm a long-time music buff, but because i am old and i occasionally like to go to shows where i'm younger than the people performing.)

by strange coincidence, i got to see two of those bands back to back a couple of weeks ago. quite aside from the details of the individual shows, it was interesting for me to reflect on the comparison of the two.

in this case, behind door #1, friday night, we have the jesus lizard. a lot of people remember these guys from their days as the darlings of the grunge rock scene in the early nineties, forgetting that their noisy, tense brand of rock had served as an influence on the biggest bands of that movement. in fact, the music of theirs that i most like dates from before that style was popular. i figured i'd give the show a try, despite my trepidation that it was likely going to turn out to be the tired product of men who can neither relinquish their former stardom nor live up to it.

i've been wrong before.

in fact, the show was thoroughly enjoyable. true to their filth-rock roots, there is absolutely no stage show, no sense of presentation. it's four guys standing on a stage playing music. well, it's actually three guys on a stage playing music- impressively tight even after many years on hiatus- and one guy making a glorious spectacle of himself.

let's be clear- david yow is disgusting. he makes all my female parts clench and retreat in fear. he struts on stage guzzling beer and exclaiming "i just hope i don't puke" and proceeds to treat the audience to a view of his chest and paunchy belly for the rest of the night. he sweats buckets and what liquid doesn't come out that way is spit onto the stage on a regular basis. he screeches and prances and frequently leaps out onto the audience, making an accidental tea-bagging a distinct threat for those in about the first ten rows. he decides mid-way through to share the fact that he's been in montreal four hours and "i've taken four shits" (his parents must be so proud). david yow is also a great showman. revolting though he undoubtedly is, he is mesmerizing to watch, putting all the demonic energy he can summon into the performance. he doesn't have to do this. he could mail it in and still collect the money.

i have a long-standing tendency of going to shows and never hearing a favourite song by the band playing. in this case, the show has an extra special component for me, because the very last song in the very last encore just happens to be my favourite track of theirs. it's like somehow they spent the evening building things up just for me.

and now, behind door #2, saturday, we have skinny puppy. this is a band that i have seen before, although not since 1986. i feel in my heart going into the show that i am in for disappointment. after all, i did see these guys just about in their prime. i got splattered with unidentified goop flying off the stage (beginning another long-standing kate tradition of getting hit with stuff thrown by the artists at live shows). and, of course, there's the small issue that i haven't liked a single thing they've done since 1992 and i feel like the death of dwayne goettel gutted them irrevocably. that said, i figure that these guys know how to put on a show.

this is a band that is about performance. shows are a combination of carnival and grand guignol, complete with costumes, props and backing imagery. i figure that at the very least, the antics will be entertaining.

i've been wrong before.

here is clearly a case of a band being on the road to see what money they can get out of it. despite the fact that they play a lot of tracks that i would have selected myself, despite the fact that the sound is good and the performance is technically solid, despite the fact that, once he takes his "mummy of the tin man" costume off, oghr is really nice to look at, i find myself longing to be back watching david yow flop sweating onto the unfortunates at stage side.

by the end of the evening, i am tired without feeling drained. it's a tiredness that comes from a deep sense of ennui rather than the crash after exuberance. much of the crowd seems happy enough. (much of the crowd, it occurs to me, was still in diapers the last time puppy released an album i actually liked.) i just feel about the same as i do after an evening spent hopping through you tube. sure there are some entertaining moments, but it's decidedly lacking.

the season rolls along and these are not the only two shows i've been able to catch (more on that later). what does occur to me is that they make a really interesting juxtaposition of two different ways a band can make a return. not all sequels are worth seeing in the theatre.

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