Broken Social Scene Collectively Rock Webster Hall

Live Music Blog is happy to welcome Brian Mundy, a first-time guest-writer but definitely a long-time reader and friend of the site. Here’s his first review: Broken Social Scene’s Webster Hall show from Friday, January 27, 2006. You can sing him praise and email him kisses at: [email protected]

You Forgot It in People, Broken Social Scene’s second release, is a fuckin’ fantastic rock record. It captures the enthusiasm of rock and roll and its capacity for the full range of love to hate with alarming accuracy. I think that the opening duo of “Capture the Flag” / “KC Accidental” is one of the best opening sequences of any rock record out there. It rises up slowly, explodes cathartically, threatens to blister apart, then disintegrates, fading away in fuzz and delay. Later in the album, “Anthems for a 17 Year-Old Girl” swirls with a round of banjo, distorted guitar arpeggios, and repeated mantras “Park that car, drop that phone, sleep on the floor, dream about me” that rise and build until the ether is full of that all-too familiar angst that constricted my throat so many times in high school.


One of the other highlights of YFIiP is its collective vibe. In the folds of the tracklist lie the sense that, despite the record’s tightness, many, many people put a lot of love and hard work into it. Their recently-released follow-up, Broken Social Scene, takes the collective approach and multiplies it by one hundred. In place of the accuracy of YFIiP is a wilder, almost out-of-control feeling. Tracks are less distinguishable from each other because a thick haze of distortion, drums, and chaos pervades. It’s exhilarating, especially when, after repeated listens, the beauty and intelligence behind songs like “Swimmers” and “Fire Eye’d Boy” starts to reveal itself. Sometimes it feels as if my CD player can barely handle the thickness of the sound and content.

Broken Social Scene’s performance on Friday at Webster Hall followed much the same sequence. They started out extremely tight, quickly grabbing the attention of the audience, who danced a bit and applauded enthusiastically. By the end of the night the Hall was chaos. The crowd was literally screaming along with the band (in “It’s All Gonna Break”), raising their fists in the air, joining the 17 people on stage, some of whom played instruments, some who danced, some who simply lifted their horns/cowbells in the air and screamed along with the crowd, and others who just stood there looking around, basking in the collective glory of a social scene brought together by breaking it wide open.

For those of you keeping score, all of the above-mentioned songs were played. Other highlights were “Time=Cause,” “HanDjobs for the Holidays,” two versions of “Major Label Debut” (fast and slow), “Superconnected” (a particular standout), and “Ibi Dreams of Pavement.” The only time I missed Feist was during “7/4 (Shoreline).” Emily Haines and Lisa Lobsinger performed excellently in lieu of the hard-to-replace Amy Milan and Feist, but it was on “7/4” that Feist’s ebullience was missed.

Did it get sloppy at the end? Hell yes. The banter reminded me of Ween a little bit. At one point, Andrew Whiteman started playing a two-step Johnny Cash Americana riff in response to Kevin Drew’s observation that Canadians don’t like rivalries as much as United Statesians do. The band picked up on the shuffle and they messed around with it for about two minutes. The focus of the performance began to get blurry, which for some people may be a turnoff but, for me, improvisation is a key aspect of the live show, so I was right there with them, blurry focus and all.

The most illustrative moment of the night for me came during “Bandwidth” when the female trumpet player (I didn’t catch the name – Julie Penner perhaps?) inconspicuously brought what I assume to be her non-member boyfriend on stage. Amidst the other musicians, they stood front and center, the girl comfortable amidst the commotion, swaying to the music with her trumpet in the air. The guy, though, looked bewildered at first, his hands buried deep in his pockets. As his comfort level grew and he became accustomed to the lights and activity (periodically clinging to the girl for support), his smile began to grow. By the end of the song, he was dancing and singing along. His presence on stage was a barely noticeable blip in the onstage commotion, yet the band absorbed him, and he fit right in.