Alberta Culture Days started last Friday with an open air festival on 104 Street and Jasper Avenue from 4.30pm until 9.30pm. And it could have been almost as good as a Wagner opera. Five straight hours of musical experience. Surrounded by all kinds of local bands: Politic Live, Alley of Lights, DJ Beat Burglar, Mad Bomber Society, Shout Out Out Out Out.
But: I have a confession to make.
My afternoon nap turned out (out out out) longer than planned. Michael and I arrived around the time when a DJ (maybe DJ Beat Burglar) was playing some pop songs, when other people behind him set up the stage for the next band, when it got already a little dark, when some of the clothes and jewelry artists were already packing up. We even forgot completely to take advantage of free bannock. Usually: that is not my style. Usually: I am always on time.
Masses of people were running towards the stage, as soon as they heard the horns: a trombone, a trumpet, and a saxophone, all belonging to the Mad Bomber Society. There was a huge energy coming from the front as soon as this band set foot on the stage. Just like a magnet.
‘You can’t dance like you want to!‘ People started to twist their arms, to shake their legs, to jump up and down. ‘You can’t dance, I give you one last chance, if you keep stepping on my toe.’ We were in the middle of that circus, carried away by those infectious ska tunes: sweating, dancing, stomping on other peoples toes. Horns have the power to freshen up songs and there can be no ska band without a horn section. When the horns filled out (out out out) the set, I had the feeling they used the same three notes every single time in every single song. But that didn’t matter, since they showed what horns can be made of in the improv-parts, since the songs were catchy no matter what, since people were busy dancing anyways.
This opening night closed with Shout Out Out Out Out. A mix of dance, electronic and punk, with a little bit of Kraftwerk hidden somewhere in there. Unlike me, Michael has already seen them twice. He whispered in my ear during the whole set. ‘You know, the last times I saw them, and even on CD, they sounded grittier, dirtier. Now they sound so clean.’ I asked him, if that was a good thing. ‘Well, for me it isn’t. I liked it when they put more punk into their music.’ He wondered why nobody was shouting ‘Shout / out out / out out’ to the rhythm of the songs. ‘Even when I saw them during an afternoon show, people shouted through the complete set. The band wasn’t able to say anything in between, because people never stopped shouting… Why is everybody so quiet?’ Michael tried to start a shout a couple of times. It never worked out (out out out). Pretty soon he stopped trying and stuck to whispering instead. Only during the last song was he somewhat satisfied: ‘here, they’ve almost reached the energy they used to have during their whole show.’
Although I never experienced Shout Out Out Out Out before, I felt this unease as well: I felt that something was missing. Maybe, because they cleaned up their act, maybe because all their original fans moved to Vancouver and were not there to shout (out out out out). I felt the band could have the power to make people forget time and place. I liked what I heard, but I was waiting for that energy to carry us away – away to somewhere I would have danced, where the audience would have shouted, where Michael would not have whispered.