If you live in Toronto, you most likely know about the Rheostatics. And you also most likely have an opinion - very few people are indifferent toward their music. If you're like the crowd that gathered at The Horseshoe Thursday night, you would be a devout fan. Either way, the one thing that can not be said about the Rheostatics is that they are predictable. After being together for over 20 years, they've produced music within three decades (80's, 90's, 00's) in a variety of unique styles, always with curious lyrics and and a distinctive sound. And now the Rheostatics are breaking up. To celebrate their years together, they held a pre-farewell show at The Horseshoe on Thursday, and a final farewell show at Massey Hall on Friday.
As indicated by Dave Bidini during the show: Yes, the band is breaking up, but the disbanding is amicable. The catalyst appears to be bassist Tim Vesley, whom it has been reported wants to spend more time with his family and devote more energy to a side project. The preparation for disbanding has included articles written by Dave Bidini for at least two major local newspapers, and when it came time to perform the pre-farewell show, they did not rush it - the celebration was a marathon show lasting over 3 hours and packed to the brim with fun.
The show was quite intimate and contained an amazingly full set list that spanned their musical career. Aside from the quick-witted banter between band members and the crowd, there were stories from on-the-road including one about a woman in a mini-skirt and adult diapers that rifled through their stuff while they were playing on stage. There was lots of instrument swapping, sometimes to provide breaks for band members, but often just because the song was probably arranged that way. There were multiple guests brought out including Martin's brother John Tielli, as well as Paul Linklater from Scribbled Out Man (the opening band, see below), and two guitar players that I didn't catch the names of, one of which belted out a pretty great rendition of Record Body Count. Also invited to stage were two audience members to sing verses of the song Legal Age Life At Variety Store and introduce guitar solos. (See the full photo set for a picture of one of the participants).
The guest list for this event was a multi-page document, and the backstage area appeared to be almost as packed as out in the audience. After over two and a half hours on stage, the band took a slightly longer than normal break (understandably) before returning for a full encore, and after another short break, they wandered out into the crowd and performed a second off-stage encore a cappella while the crowd sung along with them. I haven't heard reports from the Massy Hall event yet, but even though I'm sure the format was the same, I will have trouble believing that it was as informal and personal as the pre-farewell show The Horseshoe.
Scribbled Out Man
Opening for the Rheostatics was Scribbled Out Man, a band led by Paul Linklater and with Don Kerr (former drummer for Rheostatics). There were some similarities to the Rheostatics style of music, but less eccentric. Paul wins the most-warmly-dressed-musician-on-stage award for wearing a jean jacket done all the way up overtop of a sweatshirt overtop of a long sleeved shirt.