Monday, June 06, 2005

Grant Hart at the Lamplighter

I went to see Grant Hart a few weeks ago at the Lamplighter.

We arrived too late to see The Cape May—too bad, because I enjoyed their set at Mesa Luna a while back. The Doers, second on the bill, were a spirited mob, acoustic based but more akin to the Minutemen than anything overtly folky. The bassist was nimble of finger, the drummer flailed and the guitarist sweated. They played lots of short, busy songs. Members of Black Rice joined them on stage—one took pictures and another sang a number.

Everyone had a different hearsay-based preduction about Grant Hart’s set. My old buddy Kick (last seen at the Motorhead show) thought he might just play a couple token Husker Du songs. Brock Pytel thought Grant might have a full band to back him up. After the Doers set, the drums stayed set up on stage, and a couple amps were left behind. Then Grant, long haired and portly, got up and rearranged the stage, moving the drums aside and repositioning his amp. The amp was at full volume and the movement shook the internal reverb—crash! Everyone in the club shuddered at the noise. This did not bode well. Neither did his shaky rendition of opening number "The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill." Though it's one of my favourite songs of all time, Hart muffed a couple chord changes and stopped the song dead in the middle to tell a club tech not to turn on the stage lighting. It was a shame that he had to sacrifice the song for the purpose of ironing out the kinks. The rest of the set went much more smoothly. He did play a ton of Husker Du material, surprisingly enough, as well as solo stuff like "2541" and "Last Days of Pompeii." He took requests (Brock asked for "Flexible Flyer" and one of the Black Rice kids got him back up on stage for an encore of "No Promises Have I Made") and was strangely obliging throughout. With his catalog of crushing songs, I was expecting him to really take command of the set, but he never did. Near the end, when he looked like he was contemplating ending the set, he said, “Well, I hope you got to hear the songs you wanted to hear.” He seemed almost resigned to the duty of being a one-man Husker Jukebox.

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