Jason Collette/Bahamas/Zeus; April 6, 2010; Majestic Theater
Years ago I bought a Moxy Fruvous T-shirt that proclaimed “I Love Canadian Boys.” While Moxy Fruvous has been gone for many years now, that sentiment rang true tonight. Canadians Jason Collette, his former backing band Zeus and singer/songwriter Bahamas have been touring together on something called the Bonfire Ball which stopped in Madison tonight. The last time Collette was in town he was opening a sold out show at the High Noon for the inexplicably popular Feist. I was lucky enough to win tickets to that show, which made it very easy to leave when it became clear that I couldn’t be in the same room as her caterwauling. Collette’s set however was charming and entertaining as he rocked like Paul Westerberg to songs from a record that sounds a lot like Josh Rouse. I couldn’t wait to see him again.
Apparently he didn’t make such a lasting impression on the 400 other people who had been at that show because the Majestic Theater was sadly empty. Foolishly I had bought tickets six days before the show, convinced I wasn’t going to win tickets this time and worried it was going to sell out. Four days before the show I got the e-mail saying I’d won, and so did everyone else I know. Even with so many people getting in for free, I heard later that they had gone over to the Local and handed out free tickets to get more people in the door. Instead of feeling stupid about it, I ended up being glad that I had bought a ticket. After all, someone had to show that they care. And more importantly, it was totally worth it.
The show began with a tall skinny dude who looked suspiciously like Collette approaching the microphone. It was. I was confused- this is not how it is supposed to work. If he plays first, the few people here will leave. He played a song solo before inviting the rest of the musicians to join him, and then he left and Zeus played a few songs of their own, and then Bahamas played a solo song, then one with Zeus’s drummer, and then the rest of them came back. It was well choreographed, musicians moved on and off stage, the members of Zeus switching spots and playing a different instrument almost every time.
Collette played what are probably my two favorite songs of his “We All Lose One Another” and “I’ll Bring the Sun,” both from 2005’s Idols of Exile, the first time he was on stage, and I was worried the rest of the set would be disappointing. It wasn’t, the new material from Rat A Tat was just as infectious. While Collette’s was the only music I was familiar with before the show, Zeus proved to be his equal. The three front members of the band all sang, and as they switched off lead vocals, their harmonies were impeccable. From the harmonies to the songwriting, to the very awesome mustache one of them sported, there was something very Beatle-esque about them. I bought their latest release Say Us, and it’s been in constant rotation since the show. Their encore cover of Genesis’s “That’s All” was so awesome I couldn’t decide if it was tongue in cheek or sincere, though I’m not sure it matters.
About midway through the show Collette encouraged the audience to move closer, and a dozen or so of them did. Given their state of intoxication, and knowing what I know now, I’m willing to bet that they were some of the lucky patrons from the Local who got in free. Apparently we weren’t the only ones entertained by them, one of Zeus’s guys pointed out “there are only six people here and three of them are making out! We love Madison.” He was right, we’d been ridiculously entertained by an unlikely threesome dancing in front of us for half the night, and it was impossible to tell which of the two nerds the cute girl was there with.
Frustratingly, Collette and company played at least six times at SXSW, and I missed them every time, though I am pretty sure it was Zeus guy’s mustache that led to me texting “There are so many awesome mustaches here” to a friend. Even though their experience this time wasn’t as positive as their first, I hope this time they don’t wait so long to come back. I know an awesome little club they can play.