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Monday, September 1, 2008

The Weakerthans

posted by on September 1 at 12:16 PM

2817799103_bb725879cd.jpgWeakerthans by Corey Bayless

Too bad Bumbershoot stuck the Weakerthans in the Exhibition Hall stage. It’s no fun waiting in a long line funneled through a single door to stand in a dark hall while what’s left of the summer is fading outside. Still, the Weakerthans are well worth it.

John K. Samson leads a band that look a little like trade unionists—the Indie Rock Local #446, maybe—and they do deliver their big rock gestures (windmills, synchronized guitar swings) with certain workmanlike charm. Samson introduced “The Reasons” as a “love song to the laborers—it’s still Labor Day, right?” The song was the first of the weekend to give me a little chill, and I wasn’t alone—there was a pretty big crowd for the band; next to me, a gray haired lady smiled and bobbed up and down to the beat, a few rows back a guy was mouthing along to the lyrics. At times, the crowd seemed unable to contain their enthusiasm, breaking into inappropriate applause during breaks in the songs or tried (in the usual, rhythm-impaired Seattle way) to clap along in time to songs too quiet for that kind of treatment. The next song, “Tournament of Hearts” was dedicated to “all the curlers” in the world, most of them in Canada.

Samson is just one of the finest lyricists working in indie rock these days, and song after song—”Benediction,” “Reconstruction Site,” “Aside,” “Left and Leaving”— proved it better than any excerpts here possibly could. “Reconstruction Site” sounded especially sweet, with its lines about “a float in a summer parade” and its bridge about the little boy falling asleep on “the long ride home,” wondering about how everyone dies someday. “Left and Leaving“‘s bridge, “I wait in 4/4 time” was another chill-inducing moment. But their sped-up performance of “Confessions of a Futon Revolutionist” was undoubtedly the giddy, geeky highlight for me. They ended with “Plea From a Cat Named Virtue” and “(Manifest)” from Reconstruction Site—the cat song was, of course, a big hit. Anarchists, trade unionists, laborers, curlers, and otherwise—everybody loves an anthropomorphized housecat. They added some goofy guitar noodling to the bridge, Samson jokingly made the mic stand squeak during the song’s most quiet part, one of the guitarists knocked his baseball cap off windmilling too hard. The Weakerthans might not be the most impressive band of the weekend, but they’re a perfectly reliable, proletarian pleasure—easily my day’s highlight.

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It's actually “Plea From a Cat Named Virtute”, from the Winnipeg motto “Unum Cum Virtute Multorum” (one with the virtues of many). But yeah, I think John Samson and Colin Meloy (and perhaps Conor Oberst) are among the greatest lyricists of this decade.

Posted by antiuser | September 1, 2008 1:51 PM

the song about curling is actually called "tournament of hearts". "elegy for gump worsley" is about a hockey goalie. the weakerthans- doing their part to reinforce canadian stereotypes! it really is too bad they didn't play outside, but a great show nonetheless- the highlight of the weekend for me.

Posted by tillymonster | September 1, 2008 10:55 PM

Seeing the Weakerthans was the only indoor event I saw at Bumbershoot the entire weekend. And yes, kids (at 27 I was probably in the 99th percentile age-wise) do not attempt to clap along to "Left & Leaving". Rhythm-impaired is right.

Posted by dutch | September 2, 2008 9:31 AM

You're right. Goalies, curlers—it's hard to keep up. Fixed. Thanks.

Posted by Eric Grandy | September 2, 2008 9:37 AM

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