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Rheostatics: Last Gig Tomorrow.

posted by dru Geography: Ontario Toronto Topics: music

March 29, 2007

Rheostatics: Last Gig Tomorrow.

The band that "would seem to venerate Rush, Neil Young and Gordon Lightfoot in equal measure" takes the stage tonight at the Horseshoe and then at Massey Hall tomorrow to wrap up 17 years of relentlessly quirky, beautiful rock and roll.

The Star has a little retrospective.

He's bang-on, really. I've had some near-religious experiences at Rheostatics live shows, cherish a number of their songs ("Aliens (Christmas 1998)" is a fave) and have always found the lads – Dave Bidini, Martin Tielli, Tim Vesely and Michael Phillip Wojewoda, as well as past drummers Dave Clark and Don Kerr – a tremendous bunch of guys, but I'm by no means an aficionado because, to be honest, sometimes I find their more freewheeling antics quite impenetrable.

This is a compliment. Bands shouldn't make it easy for their fans, and I admire the Rheostatics for parlaying their penchant for Canadiana into not just goofy ditties about Wendel Clark and Saskatchewan, but into rustic/cosmic whale music for Group of Seven paintings and cerebral song cycles mulling the future of Canadian nationhood.

And the Rheostatics' rhythm guitarist and essayist Dave Bidini takes us back to the band's first gig in 1980. The piece sort of feels like it's been chopped, but you can always get the extended version by reading Bidini's chronicle of the Canadian Rock touring experience, On a Cold Road.

Dave played us Frank Zappa records and let us rehearse in his basement, which barely had room for our pea-shooter amps and Dave's enormous white Milestone drum kit, which he bought because Max Webster's Gary McCracken played one. It was in Dave's parents' basement where I met my wife, Janet, who was 16 years old and swore a lot. I learned everything I needed to know about music there, which isn't to suggest that we studied chord charts or tonic constructs or how to play in 7/4 time. With our shoulders keening against each other, ears gummed to speakers, arms thrashing the air, we learned how to rock, which is all that anyone needs to know about anything.

CBC.ca has a photo gallery, SceneandHeard.ca has an interview with Bidini, and Torontoist has a writeup.

I recommend the Tarleks video featuring Frank Bonner from WKRP Cincinnati (other videos can be found after that link, for those looking for some time well wasted.


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