by Tali Sitschkar
On perhaps Winnipeg’s first frigid night of the season, transgender musician, author and troubadour Rae Spoon warmed the hearts of those at the Windsor Hotel on Saturday, November 23 for an intimate show in support of their latest album My Prairie Home, the companion to the National Film Board documentary of the same name (released October of this year).
It is always such a delight to Rae perform. Having seen Rae in Winnipeg on three previous occasions, I knew exactly what I was going to see: lots of awkward (yet adorable) introductions and diatribes to the audience, soothing and soulful vocals with an incredible range, and the communal sense of glee when Rae opens up about their experiences growing up queer in Calgary. But Rae’s performances are never the same – with each new album comes an even more mature and advanced sound that impresses and leaves an impression each and every time.
Rae’s first set was stripped down and reminiscent of their earlier work, coming from folk and country backgrounds and eventually moving toward an experimental and later electronic sound. Rae’s first two songs, “Amy Grant” and “Sunday Dress,” held the crowd completely captivated and almost speechless with their cosmic and calming feel. Few artists can pull off the genre switch like Rae can, which is why when they changed gears to sing a parody song titled “The Queer Trans Prairie Tourism Co” (written at a queer songwriting workshop Rae facilitated in Calgary), the audience began to sing-a-long and ate up every bit of cheeky humor Rae had to offer (the term “Calgary Flamer” becomes more than a schoolyard taunt at this point).
The second set of the evening was much more upbeat, and certainly got most of the audience dancing. Rae told the audience of their increasing passion for electronic music while touring extensively in Germany: “German folk music, otherwise known as techno,” was precisely the perfect way to express this sound. Songs like “I Will Be A Wall” and “Snake in the Water” provided new and old Rae Spoon fans alike to find new ways to dance and even more exciting ways to relate to Rae’s music and lyrics. Old fan favorites such as “Love is a Hunter” and “London Destroyer” certainly got the crowd going, and any doubts Rae had about the audience’s enthusiasm during the first set (reminding us that it was Saturday night, after all) went away and were completed forgotten by the end of the evening.
While in Winnipeg, Rae was the keynote speaker at Stand Out, the 3rd Annual Manitoba GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) Conference. At the concert was a small raffle as a fundraiser for the conference. Rae, you are more than welcome to visit my prairie home whenever you feel like it!
Tali Sitschkar is a former CKUW program host and currently works at the Arthur V. Mauro Centre for Peace and Justice at U of M. She was thrilled to find a stack of Stylus magazines at work.