The blame for last night’s poor attendance at the Long Winters concert at Lee’s Palace lies squarely on one woman’s shoulders – Joanna Newsom.
Sobeit that two indie darlings with unequal followings played at the same time on the same night, and sobeit that the majority chose the Californian Newsom over the Seattle-based Long Winters. But those who missed the Long Winters missed a terrific show, made even better by the interaction between the band and the smaller crowd: every single song request was eventually played, and back and forth banter between lead singer John Roderick and a half-dozen or so audience members occupied every song segue. Discussion about Toronto (the pronunciation of its name, the significance CN Tower, border crossing, how they just like it here sooo much – which seems fitting for a band named the Long Winters) dominated, though few topics, from flags to ZZ Top, went untouched. The night felt long, and it was; just under five hours when you count openers What Made Milwaukee Famous (getting there), and Menomena (pretty much there already). Even though most gaps in the audience eventually filled out as the night went on, there was still a lot of breathing room at a normally cramped Lee’s by the time Roderick sang the last line of “Ultimatum” – “I can feel you’re about to forget” – and the audience trickled out.
Still, the smallish crowd suited the Long Winters just fine. Roderick has an undeniable stage prescence; he takes himself so seriously and so unseriously all at once. He is non-descript, an unshaven tallish shaggy spectacled nerd in size thirty-six Levi’s who’d fit right in in the audience at the back of, say, a show like this. But put a guitar into his hands or a microphone to his mouth, and watch him transform into an powerful, eloquent, and warm performer. He didn’t play for the audience so much as with it.
Or, as one fan yelled out to Roderick, very matter-of-factly in a break between songs after the singer told a joke: “you have charisma.” So there you go.
The Long Winters’ latest record, Putting the Days to Bed, is available in stores now. More shots from the night are available in the concert’s Flickr set. The band promised they’d be back to Toronto soon, and we’re holding them to it.