Buck 65 @ Venue – May 18th 2012

When Darren and I first got inside, we noticed something very different about Venue that night.

The crowd was from some mirror dimension, because it certainly didn’t reflect the image that I normally saw walking down Granville Street on a Friday night. There were plaid shirts, baseball caps, people were wearing glasses and as far as I could tell, there wasn’t a shirt with sequins in sight.

I instantly felt 800% more at home with my surroundings.

Never having been to Venue (although I had once tried to go for a friend’s birthday only to be sent packing, but that’s another story), I had to say that other than the dim lighting that comes with every modern location, awkward places available to sit (as far as being able to see what was going on up on stage), and the floor being sticky with date rape, it was actually quite a nice place; I’d definitely go back to see a show, assuming it was the right kind of music.

Opening this evening at 8:00 sharp was Rolla Oak, a fella who likes to play a sort of laid-back folky rock, which made my pal Darren perk up with questions of whether or not he’d be covering a Neil Young song. He played a 6 song set with a bass and drum accompaniment, which somehow only went until 8:30 due to some sort of time warp. The sound was a bit too big on the treble (which is bizarre for a place that usually rips it up with bass), though it wasn’t particularly bothersome, given the sound that was wanted. To be honest, though good, it felt like background music to me. In which I mean that it’s the kind of thing I’d want playing while friends were over and we were just talking and hanging out. Which isn’t to say it was bad in the least; just not the kind of music I’d go for if I were intent on listening. However, the man played a mean harmonica, which can always grab my attention. Rolla Oak has already released an album recorded by Colin Stewart, who’s recorded for Black Mountain, Dan Mangan, and other local favourites, and apparently has another on the way, so check it out if you need more folk-rock in your day.

Richard Terfry, aka Buck 65, aka DJ Critical, aka Stinkin’ Rich, aka The Tits McGee of rap (as of that night’s show) has been in the business since about 1993, and while I’ve only been listening in for the past 4 years, the range of his musical ability has fallen into place as a mainstay of my playlist. He’s a guy I think has never gotten his due, even though he’s won 2 Junos (with 2 more nominations), hosts a radio show on CBC Radio 2, and has collaborated with more artists than I can name. A man whose true love is baseball, Buck 65’s hip-hop has drifted in and out of blues, country, and rock genres (among others), and always leaves me feeling satisfied. Recently having released 20 Odd Years a double entendre about how long he’s been doing the strange things he’s done, the night’s set was heavy with the more electronic sounds of this album.

Buck 65 took the stage in his white and red shirt/jacket/CN Rail hate combo, and started getting us pumped up asking, “Are you ready, are you ready?” Telling us to, “Come on, come on!” Unfortunately something went way wrong with the vocals, so most of the lyrics went unheard; however, this didn’t stop him from hitting us with the first track from 20 Odd Years ‘Superstars Don’t Love’, and getting his dance on like only a 40 year old white guy from Nova Scotia can.

That may sound like a bad thing but from the way that he rocked it the whole night, no one would be able to dispute that the man can move and entertain like few others.

We got an unexpected treat with ‘Riverbed Part 1’ from Talkin’ Honky Blues, after which he revealed to the crowd that he was feeling quite sick, which was a bit obvious (coughing, and you could hear it in his voice a wee bit), but never once stopped him from going track to track without error. ‘All There Is To Say About Love’ from More Heart Than Brains by Bike For Three!, a collaboration between Buck 65 and Belgian producer Joëlle Phuong Minh Lê (aka Greetings From Tuskan) seems to be a mainstay of the set-list; for good reason too, it’s a beautiful song for something that was made by two people who’ve never met face to face.

‘Bandits’ was introduced next, which is one of my favourite songs, and is from the This Right Here Is Buck 65 compilation album. Then it was story time, with the location being my homeland, the birthplace of Nanaimo bars, and apparently a sleazy dollar-a-night “hotel” ‘The Royal’. The story lead into Terfry’s introduction to the world of music designed for female strippers, which birthed his answer for the male stripper ‘Legendary’ (his theme-song).

Colleen Brown, a singer/songwriter/musician, and self-professed enjoyer of baked goods from Edmonton joined Buck 65 on stage so that they could run through some of his new catalogue of songs that have a beautiful female accompaniment. These included songs from 20 Odd Years, ‘Gee Whiz’ and ‘BCC’ (though on the album it’s the accompaniment is done by John Southworth, an English-Canadian singer-songwriter with a large spread of work, but that can just be our secret). At this point I checked my phone for the time and found that it was 9:00, and was MIND-BOGGLED at the time-warp yet again, though this meant we had tons of time for more music; making me very content with the way the night was going.

‘Dolores ‘, a beautiful song from the 20 Odd Years: Vol. 4 – Ostranenie EP (which is about Drew Barrymore’s grandmother), ‘Tears Of Your Heart’ from the new album, and a red-tape encompassed song, ‘Smalltown Boy’ from the 20 Odd Years: Vol. 4 – Cenotaph EP (don’t ask about the numbering) came up next. Before getting into ‘Smalltown Boy’, Buck 65 mentioned that this was a song that he was really disappointed couldn’t make it onto the new album. Written in Vancouver, and originally a song by an ‘80s band, Bronski Beat, the song was recorded with Reg Vermue, aka Gentleman Reg providing background vocals. However, unfortunately the song was turned down by Jimmy Sommerville of Bronski Beat when Warner tried to get approval to put on the album. Interviews express how much it hurt to have the song rejected, and Terfry said that this is the only place we’d be hearing the song.

‘Paper Airplane’, ‘Who By Fire’, and ‘Zombie Delight’ from 20 Odd Years wrapped up the use of Colleen Brown’s beautiful voice, as well as the end of songs from the new album with some great zombie dancing. A look to the past started with ‘Dang’ from Situation, an album with a feel ranging from the ‘50s – ‘80s; ‘Kennedy Killed The Hat’, a song which gives a good impression of Iggy Pop in the album version and music video (though not so much that evening; it was the only song that was off in my opinion); and ‘Indestructible Sam’, another set standard, which had a guy jump on stage to hoe-down for a moment before he had to run from security.

A “song for anyone who’s a Sagittarius” came in form of ‘Centaur’. The music behind the lyrics was different from the norm though, as well as the next song ‘Roses And Bluejays’, which I wasn’t a huge fan of, but both are classic Buck 65 as shown by their inclusion on This Right Here Is Buck 65. ‘Pants On Fire’ and another personal favourite, ‘Blood Of A Young Wolf’, came next with flawless performance, as the set ended with ‘Wicked And Weird’ (easily the most recognizable Buck 65 song, though once again different music made me shift in my seat).

Then it came time for the encore, which Terfry seemed to have planned out, and just as he was about to play ‘463’, someone must have shouted out another number, as Terfry then began to tell us how he hadn’t eaten all day, and then went into an a capella version of ‘Food’ before his final number.

After he finished, Terfry descended into the crowd of adoring fans to give out the hugs that he’d promised during his set, and did so for an hour; showing that even though sick, starving, and blinded by flash after flash from cell phones and cameras, that he was a great guy as well as a great musician.

This is why I’ll let go the hour and 50 minutes I waited for a possible chat with him after the show, which turned out to be waiting for someone who left.

But hey, under the conditions, who can blame him? (I’ll stop whining about this now.)

With the range of musical ability Buck 65 has, it’s a wonder why he isn’t way bigger in the music industry. His songs have fit into so many different genres, and the big names that he’s worked with can attest to his skill. Next time he’s in town, I’ll definitely be there, as his is a performance you don’t want to miss out on. Even with what was going on, his performance was incredible, providing awe-inspiring sound, a clever and eccentric sense of humour, and entertainment that was both frightful and intimidating, depending on how you felt about his dance moves.

He’s one of the only guys to make record scratching a cool and musically pleasing element since the ‘80s; how can you say no to that?

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