Concert Review: Neighbour Andy / Big Loser / DJ Hayden Mekai at the Good Will, Dec 26

by Stiff Wiggle

Any Christmas cheer I conjured this year had long since dissipated by Boxing Day. However, as I found myself standing shoulder to shoulder with a sold-out crowd at the Good Will, eager to enjoy an eggnoggy evening of rootsy rock with Neighbour Andy, there was no room for holiday humbugging.

When I chanced upon it earlier this autumn, I was walloped by the puppy-dog guilelessness of their debut full-length, Wild One. Within half a verse, I found myself dazzled by Drake Lesperance’s tuneful bray. Lesperance has that type of voice that could elevate merely competent material to something transcendent. Fortunately, Neighbour Andy are better than merely competent. Their formula is a winner: Euphonious, chiming indie rock, shot through with a volley of familiar heartland riffage and greased with a slickness that lends a fresh feel to their traditional songcraft.

The band strode out in Santa garb that must have been stifling under the stage lights and kicked off with a competent cover of Chuck Berry’s classic “Run Rudolph Run,” immediately establishing a holiday mood. Among a mix of tracks from their EP and album, an unlikely cover of Her’s “What Once Was” showcased their stylistic gamut.

We critics love to lament the use of cliché. On paper, lyrics such as “pinch me, baby, ‘cause I’m lost in a dream where nothing is quite as it seems” can feel hollow. However, watching dozens of fans sing along with these stock choruses, I gained a peculiar appreciation of the way these easy words can lodge in the mind. Ironically, everyone seemed to remember the words but Lesperance himself. There’s lots to like about this warm and inviting band already, but truly, this is going to be an exciting group to follow as they mature. Time and effort will inevitably lend them sophistication and polish, while the vicissitudes of life will surely leave them with something soul-stirring and sincere to sing.

Before Neighbor Andy took the stage, Big Loser got the crowd hungry for inspired, melodic rock. At their best, they recalled the sweeter sounds of ‘80s and ‘90s college and indie rock, glazed with a winning freshness that belied their deprecating moniker. They immediately charmed the audience with precise three-part harmonies laced with tasteful inflections of synth.

People were moving early thanks to DJ Hayden Mekai’s accessible mix of disco-flavoured bops, and then again between the two bands, this time with a more idiosyncratic blend. The occasional loose transition only served to highlight that there are still DJs out there proudly doing things the old-fashioned way, matching beats by hand.

Bittersweetness lingered as the evening drew to a close. It struck me that this might be the last show I get to see at the Good Will. While it will be dearly missed by many (and plangently eulogized, no doubt), Winnipeg has enough caring, creative people for the Good Will’s demise to have a fateful impact on our city’s scene. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *