Last Friday at The Anza Club was a fitting send off for Vancouver’s SWANK! and the second of three of the Sound Lounge Presents Concert Series.
Let me start by saying this: Jonathan Todd is why I go to shows. When SWANK! played their first show ever, this troubadour was yet to be conceived, let alone born. I wouldn’t be surprised if told his frame is as big as it is to hold the heart that beats within. If you can imagine Gary Farmer with Bob Dylan’s hands and Rufus Wainwright’s voice, you’d be getting close. He plays a mix of originals and covers, covers which include a show stopping rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” that I have no problem telling you actually brought me to tears.
Listening to Jonathan Todd progress through the opening set was like finding a $20 bill in the pocket of a pair of jeans and then realizing it’s actually a cheque from Lotto BC for a couple million dollars.
Next to take the stage that evening was The Jardines. The Jardines are a country/folk outfit made up of the mother/daughter duo of Cherelle and Ajaye. Cherelle Jardine, along with Kirk Douglas, is one of the organizers of the concert series.
This is the first time I have seen The Jardines with the full 8-piece band. I had previously seen them perform as a duo at West Vancouver’s Harmony Arts Festival this past summer. My two favourite songs that day, “Addicted to the Burn” and “Neptune’s Daughter”, transform seamlessly into ballads adapted for the full band and are easily my favourites again. There was perhaps a bit too much chatter about the songs between the songs (I always prefer to let the song act as stories in and of themselves without added preamble), but the banter between Cherelle and Ajaye is also largely due to Cherelle and her daughter being able to share moments [on stage] that very few mothers/daughters can.
Finishing the evening (literally), Swank took the stage for their last show. After 18 years they’ve decided to go out on a high note. When not every heart beats in unison, it can only throw the music off, eventually. Swank are too good of musicians, too good of friends to ever let that happen. Thankfully Swank has left us with a lot to remember them by. In fact, the song, “Donkey Cart” off Campfire Psalms is on my shortlist of Best Songs of All Time, sharing shelf space with The Who, Judy Garland, and Kermit the Frog.
Swank’s stage persona always feels relatively light; they are all accomplished and serious musicians but Swank shows are/were always an equal mix of sheer talent and sheer joy to perform. That night was no different. Except for one thing… when it’s the last song, everyone dances just that little bit harder. During Swank’s set, Douglas Liddle and Dave Badanic carved into their guitars with no mercy. On the faster, “rockier” songs, I was transported to all the indie, all ages, church basement shows of my youth, when at 17 years old, I’d watched many a beaten, second-hand guitar hammer out the West Coast Garage sound with the fury of an avalanche.
Swank are just damn good and there’s no two ways about it or super-poetic way to put it otherwise.
Spencer McKinnon (vocals/harmonica) led the band through the set like a Southern Minister possessed by fire and brimstone, his pulpit a stage, his sermon a rock and roll revival meeting that had us all speaking in tongues. You can’t have fury without the thunder, supplied in abundant surplus by Phil Addington (bass) and Kirk Douglas (drums).
After the show, I grab the couch in the Sound Lounge’s control room for a quick nap. Douglas takes a moment to sit down before heading back next door to finish packing up the gear and Swank.
“That was a hard show to play,” he says, a wistful smile creeping up on his tired face.
I bet it was at that. It’s sad to see you go but it was indeed my pleasure to watch you leave.