Monday, September 29, 2008

Two Hours Traffic.

Isn't it funny that in today's Canadian Indie scene, a four-piece rock-pop band seems positively spartan? Where's the thirteenth member? Where's the banjo/euphonium/theremin/cello?

That's one of the refreshing things about Charlottetown's Two Hours Traffic. The density of quality is bound up in four dudes with four instruments (five instruments, if you count a little synth thing, which I guess I do). That's a lot of quality per head.

The funny thing about the night at Lee's Palace, a dingy but dripping-with-cred venue in The Annex, was the insanely high chance of running into someone from Prince Edward Island. It guess it's like when Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers plays in Alberta: all the Newfoundlanders come out of the word-work. Well, this night was like a UPEI alumni reunion. I literally bumped into a guy that was on the UPEI Student Union with me.

I've been to the Palace before, to see Rock Plaza Central and Snow Patrol, but this time I got to see the backstage area. Whoo.

I was lucky enough to get in free because my classmate Mel from last summer had me put on "the list." Then, when I called to ask if she was already in, she said they were backstage with the band and then told me to walk right back in. I was expecting to be tackled at the knees, but it was surprisingly easy to get backstage at Lee's Palace. I just walked in as if I was meant to be there. It was not a gilded room, either, but more a nether-chamber with narsty chouches, stacking chairs, and decades of off-colour grafitti. The band was sitting and chilling.

I chatted with Mel, who I hadn't seen in a long time, and heard about her new job as a designer for a great green building company. I met her man, Trevor, for the first time. They have a B&B and often host indie bands for jam weekends et al. (That's how they know THT.) The drummer asked me where I was from after Mel introduced me as a P.E.Islander, and, like a dick, I didn't ask him what his hometown was. I think I felt out of place and I was afraid I was encroaching on their prep time for the show.

I mostly recognised their music from the R3-30, the CBC Radio podcast that I love. They were great live, and the bass player, especially, was musically impressing me. The speakers were way too loud for my liking, so I couldn't hear everything as well as I'd liked to have done. I knew "Backseat Sweetheart," "Stuck For the Summer," "Jezebel," Heroes of the Sidewalk," and "Better Sorry Than Safe." To bolster my THT knowledge, I bought their latest critically-acclaimed album, Little Jabs.

Tonight, this home-grown band is on the shortlist to win the three-year-old Polaris Prize. The Polaris Prize is awarded to Canadian Indie bands based not on record sales or radio hits, but instead juried by people who have no monetary connection to the music industry. (I see Doug Gallant, Charlottetown music savant, was on the jury. Cool.)

The prize is $20,000, which could help keep any Indie band touring, since the "Progressive" Conservatives cancelled the fund that helps bands like Two Hours Traffic pick up the tabs for travelling, like $41.50 to use the Confederation Bridge.

Also, you'll notice there's a new linque du jour. Alison Fleming worked at the high school with me last year. Her paintings are vivid and urban. She's especially drawn to streetscapes and lonely storefronts. If you're thinking of investing in some unique and fetching art, consider getting in touch with her.

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