Photographs by Ryan O’Shaughnessy.
I don’t watch The Simpsons as much as I used to, but I caught a really funny episode recently where Homer buys a bass guitar and forms a garage band called Covercraft, only to have lead singer Apu be poached by fictitious classic rockers Sungazer for their reunion tour. Anyway, there was a great line when Homer talked about how the bassist is the most important member of any group, specifically referencing “that guy from Led Zeppelin not named Plant, Page or Bonham”.
Haw haw! Seriously though, I’ve often wondered how mild-mannered musicians like Nate Mendel must feel about wisecracks such as this. On one hand, he’s been “in the pocket” for arguably the most successful rock outfit of the past 20 years. The only person who’s been in Foo Fighters longer than him is that Dave Grohl fella I’ve heard so much about. On the flipside, it must be frustrating as hell always being pushed into the background and not getting the accolades you deserve.
Not that the FOO are breaking up any time soon, but Mendel has decided to stand at “ten-hut” by honourably discharging a solo album under the name Lieutenant called If I Kill This Thing We’re All Going to Eat for a Week and go on a 3-week tour of duty in between Foo Fighter commitments. One of these targeted locations was Toronto’s Mod Club on April 1st, where he was given a warm, almost heroic welcome from a receptive crowd, not to mention his new Dine Alone Records band of brothers. Arkells crooner Max Kerman, Ewan Currie of The Sheepdogs and Tokyo Police Club’s Graham Wright were some familiar faces I made out. Yukon Blonde energetically opened and if I dare say, they seem to have gotten synth-ier since the last time I saw them. The “Tiger Talk”ers new album will be out sometime this summer, so maybe that’s the direction the former Alphababy is heading.
I don’t think Lieutenant couldn’t have started their own set more unassumingly or nonchalantly. There were no cannons or any kind of procession to announce Mendel’s arrival on stage, where he assumes singing and guitar responsibilities. To say it’s the polar opposite of his infinitely more bombastic music warmonger Dave Grohl might be going a little too far; there were no singalong stadium anthems to be had however in Lieutenant’s just over 45 minute live operative. Shock and awe this ain’t – I’d classify these songs as sleepy indie rock that occasionally gets roused from its slumber. Less “scream-yourself-hoarse” vocals (OK, none)…think Justin Vernon / Bon Iver, an aching more akin to Mendel’s em-old Sunny Day Real Estate, with some Nirvana-ish quiet-loud-quiet dynamics thrown in for good measure. Definitely not Sunset Strip sleazy, or Socal punk, or even laid-back Beach Boys breezy. That’s not to say the rock didn’t pick up at any point and speaker volumes went past 7 or 8. “Rattled” was probably my favourite, and “Prepared Remarks” with its Jessie’s Girl-sounding main riff was quite enjoyable too.
BONUS REVIEW! Because it was an early night, I slid down College Street to Sneaky Dee’s with concert buddy the Toronto Reflektor to sample the Tex-Mex institution’s newest offering, the Death from Above 1979 nachos! With savoury, richly-coloured beans, refreshing avocados and melt-in-one’s-mouth pulled pork heaped on top of Sneak’s sturdy house-made tortilla chips, this was the best life decision I’ve made in a lo-o-ong time. Just be careful of the inconspicuous habanero slices buried beneath all this foodie awesomeness, as they’ll creep up on your taste palate. Put ’em on your “must try” bucket list.