I arrive at the second of three shows Christian Hansen are playing in Edmonton this weekend wishing I had not committed to being here. Wishing I had not committed to covering two events in two days. Wishing last night had not been so much fun so that tonight might stand a chance of being at least a little bit fun. I am tired. I am lucky the venue is beneath a coffee shop.
The coffee burns my tongue and the beat of a drum machine begins to pulse beneath my feet. Descending into The Elevation Room, tossing my coat onto the table full of coats, I peer through the crowd toward the stage. Local rapper Mikey Maybe is the opening act. He pounds his gigantic Hellboy fist against the wall, each strike generating a booming bass pulse. I swallow the rest of the coffee. I feel less tired.
I move closer to the low stage, in search of better photo opportunities. On stage he slams the massive toy fist into the wall again, but there is no thunderous throb. Peering at the mute plastic appendage, he says, “I think I broke my hand… Cool.”, before tossing it aside. He is joined early in the set by Old Ugly allies Mitchmatic and The Joe, his partners in D’Bag Awareness.
I am forgetting that I didn’t want to be here.
This is an all ages event and Mikey connects well with the mostly young crowd. He talks about working in a youth center at the age of 20, never having had a girlfriend (“At the time! I’ve had one now.”) and trying to counsel 17 year olds, who all had girlfriends. His lyrics are full of sharp and funny observations about relationships and being a young person in Edmonton. He triggers the pulse of “Hush”, a song that does a great job of showcasing his persona and humour. It also has an excellent video.
I no longer wish I were at home doing Spanish homework.
After Mikey Maybe, a twenty minute break, and Christian Hansen walk through the crowd and onto the stage. This band has changed a great deal since that summer when I heard “Cocaine Trade” every twenty minutes on the radio at work. When I saw them at the Starlite Room they were still called Christian Hansen and The Autistics. They sounded like a synth-pop band. They were still living and working in Edmonton.
This and their other Edmonton shows are essentially an extended CD release party for their new album C’mon Arizona. In addition to the new name, a move to Toronto and two new members have given this band a new sound. They’re a rock band now.
When I listened to C’mon Arizona on the group’s bandcamp page, I was underwhelmed by most of what I heard. With a few exceptions, like the driving “I Hate Punk Rock”, I thought most of the songs sounded lost and unsure of themselves, somewhere between the band’s Power Leopard sound and the more guitar heavy new direction.
Here beneath Transcend they sound energized and excited to be playing these songs for these kids and having fun being back in the city where they began. The two members of the rhythm section are giving the songs – including the old ones – a muscular drive that the recorded versions don’t quite capture. Between songs the two of them play breaks and licks from Nirvana (Scentless Apprentice) and Fugazi (Waiting Room) songs. I am one of the few to holler in recognition and appreciation. I feel kind of old.
The kids are crowded right to the front of the stage, sensing the enthusiasm of Christian Hansen (the eponymous man) and Molly Flood, both alumni of the University of Alberta theatre program. They are energetic and expressive performers, engaging with the crowd during and between songs.
My camera dies. And this is seemingly the band’s cue for a particularly Youtube-ready moment. With an acoustic guitar Christian Hansen steps from the stage and into the midst of the audience, who clap and join him in singing the chorus of “Don’t Leave Her Out”. After returning to his microphone he and Molly invite anyone who feels like it to stick around and say hi after the show. They save their two most well known songs for last, closing with “Cocaine Trade” (still catchy) and “Pump It” (still catchy and funny). I’m finally dancing because I can’t take photos. All the kids are dancing.
But it’s 11. So they legally have to stop that right now.
I’m not tired anymore. That coffee was strong. But that’s for the best, because I have Spanish homework to finish.