Growing up in small town Canada, you are granted only one musical certainty: the summertime community hall show. You are not guaranteed that it will be good; nor are you guaranteed that it will be long. It will, however, be cheap. You can be sure that it will start around eight and end before eleven: There’s a curfew, dude. Nothing sucks worse than being grounded in the summer. You will probably know or be related to someone in one of the bands. You are also guaranteed that it will be a teenage lovefest.
Last night, in sunny Kamloops, B.C. (population 87,000), Hot Hot Heat rolled into town and created one such lovefest. The only difference was, of course, that they’re totally famous, and one of very few well-known exports from Victoria, B.C. (the others being Steve Nash and Nelly Furtado). Their fame stems mainly from the sublimely infectious “Bandages,” off 2000’s Make Up the Breakdown, but the boys in Hot Hot Heat weren’t interested in the past, at least not in Kamloops. At the lovefest it was all future, baby.
See, Hot Hot Heat are working on their third album (to be released this fall), and with that comes a bunch of new songs they’ve never played live before. And where better to hash out the live show of a new album than to a loyal gaggle of teenagers in a 700-seat theatre in Kamloops? Nowhere, of course!
Busting their way through a quick and dirty set list, the band made sure to lean on material from their previous two releases to get the momentum going. Show opener “No, Not Now” had the entire room up on its feet in nanoseconds; the boys then plowed through a handful of the supercharged pop from last year’s Elevator, “Island of the Honest Man,” “Dirty Mouth,” and “Jingle Jangle” among them. Just when you’d start to wonder about this supposed “new album,” singer Steve Bays or bassist Dustin Hawthorne would announce that the next one was freshly penned. The first of these, listed as “When It All” on the set list, was squeezed between hits from Elevator and flew by with little more than a few handclaps.
Over the course of the night, however, the band let the new songs stand alone, like the rollicking “Give Up” or thrashing “Kill What You Love” (so listed on the set list). At times a false start or confessed ineptitude afterwards also gave the newbies away (sample dialogue from guitarist Luke Paquin: “I don’t know how to play that song yet”). Still another clue was the sound itself — the new songs were heavier and more guitar-driven, with Bays threatening to morph into a keyboard-playing metal god at any moment.
After breaking in the new ones to wild response, the band’s enthusiasm for older material like “Naked in the City Again” and “Oh, Godamnit,” both from Make Up the Breakdown, seemed to wane, but maybe it was the heat — Bays could have watered a lawn with the sweat spraying off his head alone. Closing on Elevator‘s “Goodnight, Goodnight” the band fled the stage to chants of “HOT! HOT! HEAT!” Returning moments later, still soaking, they let fly on “S.O.S.” and “Bandages” as if to say, “Yeah, we’ve made hits before. Now watch us do it again.”
All told, it was the perfect summertime show: moms and kids; pubescent, screaming girls; a strutting frontman in too-tight pants with a white man’s fro that would send Robert Plant packing (okay, maybe that’s a little out of the ordinary) and some snappy — if slightly uneven — new songs fresh from the studio. We heard it first, world. And don’t worry, mom, it was all over before eleven. KAITLIN FONTANA
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