It was mid afternoon on a weekend in June, and there were people forming in Old Market Square; there had already been three bands on. The street party was underway, the food smells abounded, the beer tent was well populated, the merch tent was not. I had heard most of the songs before and was into the Liptonians but like most public events in Winnipeg people seem traumatized by what people think of them, so they were not paying a whole lot of attention to the musicians or in symmetry staring at them raptly, as if at a concerto. When You Know I Did. A Wilco Cover. Growing Old In The City. Destroy, Destroy, Destroy. Hey HEY Help Is On The Way Now! The band brought a crowd of their own, by the end of their set, there were a hundred people jamming in front of the stage.
A free show brings out strange people and if this is the only time you get out of the house, ya you’ll have a bad time. Because you don’t know how to act, how to appreciate the music and the moment. The cube was busy because it was free; go to any live event during the week, pay your cover like a good citizen and you’ll have the time of your life, lots of space, comfort. But if you show up at the free show with bad everything, attitude, attire and carrying along screaming children, you will be hated on; if you sit there and don’t interact, don’t clap, don’t even know what’s going on, you will be hated on. And public drunkenness should be stigmatized as a society; it’s sad that drunks can threaten people enough that they won’t say anything. That was all happening at the Old Market Square so although there was much success this night, some people were not comfortable.
Alfa was great, a band based on a dj (DJ Cutdown) and mc (Ismaila Alfa) rapping, plus a full band with guitar (Mike Petkau-Falk) , electronic keyboard, (Sorry No Name) bass (Julian Bradford) and drums (Curt Nowasad). These guys were taking a basic beat and jamming freestyle in front of a crowd; it was cool and fun and sounded good. It took serious talent, they are good musicians and they have ideas about songs and can make them up on the spot. Freestyling. They made mistakes and the others on stage picked them up. When the band accelerated the beat too much, Ismaila would cut his raps short, not rhyming but getting his point across. Fake Gangster, a song making fun of basement gangsters who live in their parent’s basements but show off in clubs and on the street. Eyes on Fire. Does She Know. A Jamaican riddim chorus. Ismaila took a poll of transportation to the downtown then berated himself and the crowd for using too much fuel. Ismaila brought his kids on stage, he knew he could show off in a low pressure situation because there was a small crowd who were engaged and he couldn’t do any wrong in front of the people who weren’t paying attention to him. Many people were there because they have heard Ismaila Alfa on CBC radio, doing traffic reports but they were in for an awakening and he was in a mood, no one was even clapping for his children and so he said, ‘I’ll do a traffic report, its busy on Osborne, it always is.’ And not a single commuter got the joke that he cracked on them, that he doesn’t care that you are bored, if you cared he would care. I was happy and lucky to see one of the best Winnipeg MC’s who was off to a tour with Rakim, recently cancelled. And the play with a great band was just jazzy and cool.
The Lytics I missed, and heard they were great
Royal Canoe, were headlining at a late 12:00 midnight, but it was the right call, everyone rolled into Old Market Square and it was packed. Once the band got all their shit together, all their various electronic buzz’s ready; and they need the time to get their sound right, give the band a little respect during sound check. And once they started, it sounded just like the album, the four song sampler they put out to finance the full record. There were a few new “new” songs, a few songs I’d heard live at the WECC recently (Bathtubs, Hold Onto The Metal) but not released, some recent releases (Nightcrawlin’) and only two from their first album Coop Mode. They brought Ismaila back on stage for a nice Dr. Dre and Tupac cover, California Love. And then the sweet ladies from Chic Gamine, rocked a Justin Timberlake song and then were Destiny’s Child for Jumping Jumping. Alexa Dirks being Beyonce, by the way. It was cool, it was an exciting collab that happens in Winnipeg, it was said RC again proved they were the best band in the city. They finished the night with Dear June, their twins songs about breaking up. But everything else was tight. They are ill, I always want a little more something when they play but these guys are creating such insane songs that they have to focus on hitting each note. I do hear a little of the excitement coming off the older songs but whenever they bust out a new beat, they seem to be so excited about it, they just blow it away.
The night was a success, Saturday night, free night. As I biked away at 1:30 a.m., there were people not at all interested in the live music in a line to get into Republic and many of them smoking in their little box off the side of the club. I don’t know why those people weren’t interested in the bands and didn’t even show up to a free concert but maybe they couldn’t get a seat.