in the mean time, a few words on the Gentleman Reg residency
Right now, I am working on some new material for this blog. There are at least two letters, almost ready to post here. (Someone asked me how my letter project was doing, and I realized, I hadn’t written any letters in a while).
In the meantime, a few words on the Gentleman Reg residency at the Drake, as the Strand hit newstands yesterday.
This month GENTLEMAN REG celebrates a year of success in the Underground
It’s a little after 11 PM on the first Wednesday of the month. I am just arriving at my destination at the corner of Queen West and Beaconsfield. As the streetcar pulls up to the posh facade of the Drake Hotel, I feel my excitement building for what should promise to an excellent of indie music. Tonight is the first night of a weekly, month-long residence for queer rocker Gentlemen Reg. A residency where Reg will be the main attraction hosting a crew of talented guests, and not the other way around.
On my way down the stairs to the Drake’s Underground venue, I get an up-close view of the man himself. He has a face you would know instantly anywhere. He was born with a lack of pigmentation (which is a nuance too subtle from being albino for me to comprehend), so his face and skin are stark white. Anything he wears stands out against it. It’s a look only a rocker could so effectively pull off. Tonight is no different. Reg is sporting bright red skinny jeans, a black tank, and a navy athletic jacket with yellow racing stripes.
I’ve arrived in time to catch the beginning of Hooded Fang’s set. Reg’s month-long residency features two different openers each week. This opening Wednesday night also features Kite Hill on the bill. Feb 10’s performance boasts psychedelic rock band By Divine Right and The Balconies. Feb 17, Dance Yourself to Death and Sheezer. The final night on Feb 24 has Reg playing with Evening Hymns and a surprise guest. Reg has moonlighted his vocal skills for a variety of indie acts, including Owen Pallett, the Hidden Cameras, the Constantines, Ohbijou, and Final Fantasy. My guess is that that special guest stands to be a good one.
The residency marks the one year anniversary of the release of LP “Jet Black” on the Arts and Craft label. (The first release on the label was a US only re-release of songs Gentleman Reg recorded with now deceased label Three Guts Records). It also marks the release of electronic EP “Heavy Head”, which features new material, as well as remixed material from “Jet Black”, and a cover of Stevie Nick’s “Wild Heart”.
The first song of the night is “Coastline”. Track one off of 2009’s “Jet Black” album. Reg sings solo. The acoustics in the room are good, and they do his powerful voice justice. When this song is done, the band comes on to play another tune from “Jet Black”, and then one more tune before they play some stuff from the new EP. Someone in the front row calls out the an old title. The front row is studded with a few hardcore fans, singing lyrics and heckling. “You’re so old school!” Reg declares. “We’re about the future now. New.”
The show takes a variety of tones throughout the night, always changing just when I’m about ready to call Reg a one trick pony. Reg prances as he sings, and gives biting banter between songs that contrasts his honest songs about boys, and heartbreak. There are full sounding melodic pieces when a couple extra members jump on stage to add their musical skills to the four-piece band. There’s even one dance number. But what surprises me most is that when the band gets down and rocks, they rock. Reg is equal parts queer and rocker, and I have to admit I never expected that I would be thrashing my short hair around at this concert at home, listening to the album.
The last song of the evening is “We’re in a Thunderstorm.” When it ends, the hecklers start up the chorus for an encore. And everyone joins in. Reg doesn’t wait too long before obliging us. And though Reg still sounds a bit sarcastic when he thanks us, he admits “We never get to play encores because we’re never headlining. Last week we were opening for Tegan and Sara. Did anyone see that?”
His encore starts the same way as his show, with a solo, and it lends the show a pleasant feeling of unity. This song is about a boy Reg met on his past tour, in Winipeg. (He lets us laugh a little after he divulges that). He sent him a tape after finishing the song, but hasn’t heard back. Yet. He finishes the song with, “Wow. That was vulnerable. Sadness is the new happiness. Sadness makes me happy.” He laughes it off and invites the band back on stage for one last song. “The Boyfriend Song.”
And that’s it for the first installment of the Heavy Head residency at the Drake. I realized that I enjoyed the night more than I expected when I started debating which Wednesday installment I would make time to come again to. Each of the nights promises a different set from the headlining band, as well as having different openers. Just one more way Reg is saying, look out. He ain’t no benchwarmer anymore.