Middle-Aged Soft Rock Band


The first thing John K. Samson (formerly of the band the Weakerthans) said when he and his band stepped onstage at the Commodore Ballroom on February 2 was, “Hi, we’re a middle-aged soft rock band from Winnipeg, Manitoba.” Samson, a small, scruffy man with boyish charm and an impish stage presence, smiled as he sang. In the lull between two songs, he took a swig from a paper cup at his feet and said to someone in the crowd, barely audible in the mic, “It is peppermint tea, good nose.” He told the crowd that he’d never done karaoke because he didn’t know what to do with his hands when he sang if he wasn’t holding a guitar. He then passed his guitar to someone standing in the front row and said, “Hold onto this for me. Wow, this is scary. See you on the other side,” and sang “The Last And” with his hands free while he wandered around the stage and wagged the microphone cord back and forth. The crowd cheered and shouted, “You’re doing so great!” A guy in a Jets jersey knocked back shots of whiskey at the bar. Pairs of middle-aged women wearing hoodies danced with gusto and groups of dowdy folks in sweaters and glasses nursed craft beer in plastic cups along with gawky bearded men who swayed awkwardly to the music. When the band played “One Great City!”—the Weakerthans’ snarky ode to their love-hate relationship with Winnipeg—a lady in front of me leaned toward her friend and yelled, “He’s being ironic! He loves Winnipeg!”

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