Six out of 16 ain't bad
Broken Social Scene visited Carnegie Mellon Saturday night, dominating the annual fall concert presented by the Activities Board. With opener Arthur & Yu, the three-hour show entertained students and indie-lovers crowded around the stage in Wiegand Gymnasium.
Broken Social Scene, based in Toronto, is one of the most popular indie bands today, not to mention a veritable super-group of Canadian stars. While only six members appeared on stage at Carnegie Mellon, the active roster of Broken Social Scene members totals 16, according to the band’s website at www.arts-crafts.ca/bss. The band has only expanded since its formation in 1999, even though most of its members also work in other bands or have solo acts. Many often do not tour with the band, and popular names that haven’t recently appeared on the road include Leslie Feist, the darling of the current campaign for the redesigned iPod nano; Emily Haines, the frontwoman of Metric and a solo artist in her own right; and Andrew Whiteman, the creator of and showrunner behind Apostle of Hustle.
Two members of Broken Social Scene obviously on stage were founders Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning. Drew, a guitarist and sometime-keyboardist, and Canning, the primary bassist, are fixtures on any Broken Social Scene tour, as has been drummer Justin Peroff since 2002.
Seattle folk group Arthur & Yu did a fine job opening the show, even if it was obvious they could not hold the audience’s attention. From the wings of the stage, the volume from the band and the volume of conversations from the audience were equal. Band members Sonya Westcott and Grant Olsen harmonized beautifully, despite the acoustics of Wiegand Gym, which were problematic throughout the show. Songs like “Come to View” from Arthur & Yu’s debut album In Camera set up a nice opening for Broken Social Scene, the bands’ sounds contrasting to provide a nice dichotomy.
After a short break between acts, Broken Social Scene took the stage. From the moment its members entered from the back door of the gym and began to play “Lucky Ones,” the audience howled. The show continued for almost two hours, with many students from the University of Pittsburgh in the audience, as noted by the band on stage. There was almost no dancing, though head-bobbing was in full force.
The band managed to play songs spanning most of its history, as well as new solo material from Drew. His recently released solo album, Spirit If..., is part of a planned series called Broken Social Scene Presents, showcasing the solo skills of many of the band’s individual musicians. The group performed songs like “Tbtf” and “Gang Bang Suicide” off Spirit If..., and there were free postcards of the album cover at the merchandising table, which also sold albums on CD and vinyl, as well as buttons, posters, and T-shirts.
One shirt not for sale was the official identifier of AB Tech, featuring an elaborate logo for the show with both Broken Social Scene and Arthur & Yu worked into the design. AB Tech set up most of the show and managed the technical aspects of the show. The cameras and screen used for image magnification of the band were managed by cmuTV.
The show looked like it was over when Drew ran off the stage, down the stairs to the right, and out of the gym through the back doors, while the rest of the band finished up the song and left after him. After a few moments, however, Drew eventually ran back inside and headed the encore to the show. Following the encore, which ended with the crowd singing along to the final song on the solo effort, “When It Begins,” the band members left the stage and continued toward the back door again, but this time stayed and signed posters and postcards for some AB and cmuTV members.
Drew told one of his managers, “I ran around outside back there, you know,” to which the manager replied: “I know you did.” Maybe someone ran into Kevin Drew by the football field Saturday night and didn’t even know it. Or maybe, all anyone saw was a blur of black glitter sneakers. The show, like Drew, was a blur.