After a long day of school on the first of March I shuffled in to the warmth of the Commodore Ballroom, settling down on a corner barstool for an evening of music and people watching. The Commodore is one of my favourite venues, I must admit. So when the chance to escape the monotony of exams and papers arrived in the form of G. Love’s tour to Vancouver, I pretty much jumped at the chance.
From my perch I scanned the gathering crowds; an odd combination of hipsters, stoners, and trendy urbanites claiming tables near the bar or staking out dance floor real estate. Couples leaned into one other and friends laughed over beer while the curtains of The Commodore blocked out Vancouver’s lights and the opening act took to the stage.
Though the original line-up included Scott H. Biram as the opener, it ended up being a guitar duo featuring Vancouver born Cameron Latimer on vocals. The band put on a 20 minutes set of country-esque songs that was slightly underwhelming, though I hear tell they perform a wide range of music and are quite skilled musicians, so I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt on this one, assuming it was either an off night or just not my style of music. That aside, I did find their CD title track, “Falling Apart” to be quite an endearing tune.
A restless forty-five minutes followed as we awaited the arrival of the much-anticipated G. Love & Special Sauce. Before I go on, I must explain the band behind the name, as every time I mention their name at least one ignorant person cocks their eye in badly disguised judgment. The band, which features Garrett Dutton (a.k.a G. Love), Jeffrey Clemens, Mark Boyce (not at this concert), and Timo Shanko, draw on influences from blues, country, hip hop and roots music (to name a few), utilizing an eclectic range of instruments including string bass, drums, keyboard, guitar, and harmonica. They have a laid-back sound and casual stage presence that, combined with their rhythmic lyrics and inter-genre style, gives the band a unique appeal. Though I can’t put my finger on where the ‘Special Sauce’ comes in, rumour has it that Dutton chose his “G. Love” pseudonym coz it just sounded right.
The band introduced themselves by way of G. Love’s iconic and drawling “awwwww yeah”, much to the delight of the crowd, and quickly got to work on pumping out a series of eclectic songs in seamless transition.
In my limited experience with G. Love live, I’ve come to realize that he is one of those artists who is best understood and appreciated in this setting. While I may not fully grasp his fast-paced style of lyricism at times, his charisma saturates every tune, and somehow despite the lack of understanding, his message comes across.
Though a clear crowd favourite was “Who’s got the Weed” (celebrated enthusiastically by inebriated chanting and slightly illicit scents), my favourite moments were those in between vocals, when the band simply played music. It was in these moments that one gets a real sense of the talent of these musicians. Perhaps I have a soft spot for harmonica and string bass solos, who knows, but either way I thought it was pretty darn fantastic.
The thing that struck me the most about this performance was the easy ebb and flow of the set, which traversed slow hypnotic valleys and energetic peaks. The combination of genres that is characteristic of the band truly showed its colours, as they chose songs from their older albums, more focused on rock and hip hop-blues, all the way through to their latest, “Fixin’ to Die”, which has a decidedly more country feel to it.
All in all it was the evening I was looking for; an escape from everyday life and the mountain of work awaiting me at home. I mean, let’s be honest, what better way is there to evade responsibility than to go see a white dude with a harmonica rap about peace, love and happiness?
Photos © Jamie Taylor