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Spirit of the West

Posted by melagee on December 13, 2009

The first time I saw Spirit of the West perform live was at a tailgate party for the Toronto Argonauts.  I couldn’t have cared less about football, but I was crazy about the band and the only way to get into the tailgate party was to buy tickets to the football game, so buy them I did.  I sat rather far away and ate pizza.  I don’t remember any of the songs they played, but I remember seeing Tobin Frank on stage and thinking Who is that guy?

In many ways that first show doesn’t feel like a first.  There are so many details I don’t remember, and the entire experience feels flat to me.  A much stronger memory is the second time I saw the band play live.

It wasn’t too long after the tailgate party – maybe a year, maybe less.  It was 1998, and they were coming to play at the Underground at York University.  I bought three tickets and convinced my mother and my sister to come with me.  Before the show I took them to Blueberry Hill and bought them dinner, I was so excited about seeing what was now my favourite band perform live.  I had chicken fingers, and they were hot and delicious.

We got to the Underground early and there weren’t many people there yet.  I was not yet a student at York, but I knew the campus pretty well from having tagged along with my mother when she went to her classes.  I’d never been in the Underground before, though, so I was surprised at how small it was.  We all got a drink and sat down at a table to wait.

I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure Swollen Members opened for my boys, and the whole time they were playing I was getting antsy as the dance floor  filled up with people listening to the music.  I asked my mother and sister if they wanted to go stand near the stage (I remembered being disappointed at the poor view during the tailgate party), but they weren’t interested.  They had only come to the show because I had begged them to, and neither of them had any interest in seeing or hearing the band more clearly.  I sat with them for a while and then got up to move closer to the stage.

When Spirit of the West came out I felt like I was supercharged.  I clasped my hands under my chin in a gesture of awe, and didn’t move from that position the entire night.  I was too overwhelmed to even sing along to the music.  John Mann had a sticker on his guitar that said The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get which would later lead me to discover my love of Morrissey.

At the end of the night, the boys played the song that has become their anthem: Home for a Rest, much to the excitement of the crowd.  As soon as the music started jumping and rocking, everyone else in the room followed suit.  It felt like the whole room was jumping up and down in time to the beat, and for the first time since the band had started playing, I began to move too.  The crowd moved in waves, almost as one, jumping up and down and up and down.  We weren’t dancing, we were pushing our bodies, raging and screaming.  It was thrilling.

After the show was over a woman came up to me.  She said, “You were a pleasure to watch.”

I bought a long-sleeve shirt at the show.  I have it still.  There’s a stain on it from where I accidently spilled bleach.

It was technically the second time I saw Spirit of the West perform live, but it was the first time I really gave myself over to the experience.  I don’t think I’ve been to a show quite like it since.


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