When Shapenote covers New Year’s Eve, it doesn’t get done just once. We aim to bring you maximum coverage of such illustrious events, so read on to hear how three of our writers — Carol McGimpsey, Dawn Hill, and Donna Lowe — rang in the new year at Lee’s Palace in Toronto, ON.
You know how they say what you’re doing on New Year’s Eve sets the tone for the coming year? I spent it enjoying music with friends.
I’m ashamed to admit it, but we missed the opener, Suitcase Sam. I try not to do that but sometimes you just need to have a bite to eat with your friends before a show.
The second opener was Harlan Pepper, another of those “name-of-a-person-not-in-the-band” band. The music is fun and youthful…but so are they and their banter could use some work (we get it.. you like to smoke up and hope we’re drunk – twice was enough, five times was overkill). They play with passion and skill, though, and each lead singer has his own “voice” which adds some variety and flair. I’m a bigger fan each time I hear them.
Against an old-timey circus backdrop and with smoke machine pyrotechnics (apparently a new addition), Elliott BROOD played all the hits from 2011′s Northern Air (“Days Into Years”) to “Johnny Rooke” from 2005′s Ambassador, and of course fan favourites “Oh, Alberta” (Tin Type, 2004) and “Write it All Down for You” (Mountain Meadows, 2008). They even played some surprises off the earlier albums that I haven’t heard live in a while.
At one point — and it’s unclear if these were sanctioned pyrotechnics or not — a small group in the audience lit up some sparklers. It was a nice warm glow, feeling nostalgic and traditional but a little bit subversive and punk. Sort of like Elliott BROOD themselves.
Now a tradition, the countdown to the new year was unscheduled and off the mark but festive with a flip-chart style ten-second countdown. And, to be honest, I hope Elliott BROOD never get the countdown right. Since they are mid-song during the actual hour change, we joyfully love music as the new year rings in. Live music is one of my favourite things in life and I can’t think of a better way to move across the years.
Another tradition is the mid-show break between sets. Unfortunately, this isn’t always clear to the audience. People around us and even people in our party thought that was that (it WAS 12:30am). But, once your heart is set on leaving for a cozy bed or quiet corner to sit with some late-night noodles, it’s hard to turn back. Maybe the band could use a festive flip chart style “back in 20 minutes” sign.
There were new songs peppered in and they sound great. I feel like they harken more to the style of the first albums than last one, which is my preference. While the newer Neil Young-esque vibe pleases, I miss the dark and creaking Death Country of yore. It was hard to hear the band tell us about new album details, though, or hear song titles. I suppose that can be forgiven since the crowd was busy enjoying themselves. And we’ll all just hope news appears on a website or tweet soon.
During the encore, the crowd thinned a bit (except down by the stage). But, a testament to the band’s ability to start, then keep, a party going, I witnessed three young men to my right go from happy toe-tapping and bobbing in their tight hipster jeans to visual swaying and full-out dancing by one. And another even took his hands out of his leather jacket pockets to clap along.
The band closed the encore with “Miss You Now” (as they do most shows and all three NYEBs I’ve been to) with its rollicking “day by day by day I want to pick up the phone” and impossible-not-to-belt-along “cause I miss you nooooooow-ow-ow-oow”. The song is my favourite way to end an Elliott BROOD show just like an Elliott BROOD show is my favourite way to end a year.
Here’s to a new year and new music to enjoy.
Having worked in retail for many years and been too exhausted on New Year’s Eve to even think about partying, I have long been in the habit of taking it easy: playing Scrabble, watching old movies, toasting midnight with (ginger) ale and off to bed. This year however I kept hearing about the great night a bunch of friends would be having going to see Elliott BROOD at Lee’s Palace and I thought: why not? Elliott BROOD is one of my all-time favourite bands, the opening act Harlan Pepper is also a group I enjoy, and in the end I just couldn’t resist the joy of meeting up with some of the loveliest people on the planet. The drive to TO from Montreal was kind of hairy – I put the “squall” in “snowsquall” all the way from Gananoque to Trenton – but in the end it was well worth it.
I love the infectious enthusiasm and Hamilton-folk-country-rock sound of Harlan Pepper, and their music was a great lead-in for Elliott Brood and really got things going. It will be interesting to see where their obvious talent takes these guys – I will definitely be following along. They have a great sound, there is a lot of tongue-in-cheek humour in their music, and they’re quite charming; all in all a solid foundation for whatever comes next.
Elliott BROOD came out swinging and kept the joint jumping well into 2014. They played my favourite song “Without Again” early on, which made me very happy. There were a couple of new songs in the mix which I found exciting — not only did I enjoy them, I relished the thought of a forthcoming album. The mid-concert pause was disconcertingly long but having two full sets was incredible. Their energy never flagged and actually ramped up at the end when we all got to sing along and bang on things. It was kind of primal, but highly satisfying.
I’m very glad that my track record of going to see Elliott Brood whenever it’s even remotely possible still stands. It’s a much better resolution than trying to lose weight or get more exercise, and I’m inordinately pleased with my accomplishment – this year I resolve to keep up the good work. See you all there!
Well, as my illustrious colleagues have already eloquently expressed, New Year’s Eve was a pretty fun time. Before this point I hadn’t had the pleasure of visiting the venerable Toronto venue Lee’s Palace, so entering beyond its graffiti-splayed facade was as much an event for me as was the music itself. Lee’s is an Canadian music institution and EVERYONE from Yoko Ono to Lucinda Williams to Blue Rodeo have played there (an aside: to get that shortlist I googled “who’s played at Lee’s Palace” and got this list. Scroll and drool at your leisure) so I was eager to be part of the audience that rang in 2014 looking at that hallowed stage. And seeing a respected Canadian roots band like Elliott BROOD — on New Year’s Eve, with a bunch of great friends — seemed like a good way to experience that place for the first time. Plus, I really wanted to bang along with a wooden spoon on a cookie sheet while Elliott BROOD played “Oh, Alberta,” because in my mind that’s a Canadian rite of passage as much as anything else.
I’ll get right to it: I didn’t get to bang on that cookie sheet, but it didn’t matter, because both Harlan Pepper and Elliott Brood put on great shows that were energetic and boisterous and raucous — exactly what a rootsy, Canadian New Year’s Eve should be like if yer out fer a rip. And I could write more, but everyone’s said it better than me already. If you find yourself in Canada’s largest city on New Year’s Eve, you could do worse than seeing an impeccably-dressed trio of youngish lads play tunes with heart and vigour at a venue with history and reputation, even if the confetti cannons go off slightly before midnight. A tip, though: the coat check is farther away than you think.