I would feel like I was giving away a magician’s secrets if I went into detail about Rich Aucoin’s show at Casbah. Then again, his live show has been well documented in past reviews, but I’m so glad I went into this show not knowing a thing. This is one of my favourite shows of the Tour to date, by far. Beyond the Tour, even, this show is going down as a favourite. I can’t get over it; it was so much fun! Avi and I went into it not knowing what to expect, except for Carly’s warnings of Rich’s insane, over-the-top stage shows. We were intrigued, excited, and a little nervous. Taking care to get our outfits in check, I chose a bright blue shirt dress with shiny blue nails to match, and Avi went with a multi-coloured polka dot skirt. We were ready to party.
Hamilton’s electronic duo Illitry opened up the show. I listened to their track “Roadtrip” on their website beforehand, digging it, and was happy to note that it translated into an impressive live set. Some songs had a mystical, airy quality while others had us really grooving to the beats. We do love our beats. All the while, the vocals were really strong, which is appreciated with electronic music, and this sets them apart from other acts. Troy Witherow and Chester Edington looked so into it; you could really feel their passion for the music. We’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for these guys and want to check them out again.
Rococode were playing in the Lounge and we were able to catch a few songs from the Vancouver band. We chatted with bassist Shaun Huberts when we first got to the venue as I eyed their merch table. Earlier that day, Carly had told me about his coffee table book, How to Pack Like a Rock Star, and gave me the mission to be on the lookout for it. I spotted the book right away and we had a short chat with Shaun as I flipped through it. Spotting our Tour buttons, he offered us Rococode buttons and helped us to select colours (Avi went with yellow, and I went with the purple.) The band has a fun pop-rock sound that complimented the party that was raging throughout Casbah.
Writers’ Strike were next up on the main stage. Along with Rich, they’re from Halifax, and there must be something in the water out there, because they know how to throw a kickin’ party. I loved their giant, colourful signs to accompany the lyrics that synths/piano player Amy would hold up, like “Come On Come On,” for their track “New York City”. Bright spotlights shone and flashed as the 5-piece hammered out their set. For their last song, they passed out flags for audience members to wave to the rhythms. It was the perfect segue into Rich’s set, which would also be filled with lights, props, and theatrics.
It was time for the main event! Again, I can’t even put it into words; this is a show that absolutely must be experienced. The act was a flashing, neon-coloured spectacle consisting of two parachutes (yes, two – one black and one multi-coloured), strobe lights, a screen with viral videos and classic movie clips that synched up to the music, flashlights, and, of course, confetti. A man after my own heart, that Rich Aucoin. (I had heard him described as a “confetti aficionado” by CBC Radio 3‘s Lisa Christiansen prior to the show, and instantly knew I’d be a fan.) It was a full-on, sing-a-long dance party, and everyone was a hot, sweaty mess by the show’s end. Pretty sure my hair was twice the size at the end of it all. There weren’t many of us, so it felt like we were partying in someone’s basement. Rich pulls out all of his tricks and dynamic energy, no matter the size of the venue and audience. I saw some footage of his Canadian Music Week performance, just a few days later, to a huge crowd, but it felt special to be able to experience his show in such an intimate setting.
I loved the positive affirmations that flashed across the screen at the beginning of the set – things like “We’re not here for long,” encouraging us to be in the present moment, as well as Rich expressing his gratitude to be able to share his art with us and being fortunate to be able to do this for a living. The personal shout outs to audience members (Avi got one!), the venue (woo Casbah!), and the staff (Brodie!) were also sincere touches that brought everyone together. Everyone was truly in the moment – it’s rare today that you see an audience where no one is holding a phone or camera. It was so refreshing to see everyone taking in the show without trying to capture it. With so much going on, you almost couldn’t take a photo even if you wanted to; we were too busy dancing up a storm alongside Rich! That was another unique aspect to the show – Rich spent as much time on the ground with us as on the stage. We were all in it together; we were a part of the show and Rich’s world.
Speaking of those positive affirmations, many of Rich’s lyrics are just that – simple and easy to remember, phrases like “We are not dead yet / We are undead” (from “Undead”) seem simple enough, yet are extremely profound statements. Rich would have us repeat the lyrics back to him before launching into the song, encouraging us to sing along, and that we did! Accompanied by a bassist and drummer, Rich commanded the stage and was such a tremendous force of energy, never pausing for even a moment. I’ve never seen a performer take that much care to include the audience, drawing everyone in and making every single person in the room matter and an important part of the performance. I spoke with a couple people after the show through our Twitter and Facebook pages and we gushed about the show and noted that it really bonded us through that shared experience. We felt like we were a part of something really special.
A big highlight for me was the parachute fun! The “double rainbow all the way” viral video that introduced it made everybody chuckle. The parachute used to be everyone’s favourite part of gym class as a kid – I can remember feeling such excitement when that red, blue, green, and yellow parachute was brought out to play games like “Popcorn,” or making a giant tent and running underneath it, quickly pulling the ‘chute behind you and sitting down, and looking at all your friends while underneath the airy dome. We need to find ways to keep that child-like sense of play even as we grow older, and Rich’s show does just that. He shook the parachute along with us (while still carrying on singing!) and at his signal, we all rushed underneath it and continued to dance and sing away.
Of course, the finale, a performance of the single “It,” was another highlight for me. I had just included the song in my Playlist for the month, being struck by the lyric, “We won’t leave it all in our heads.” As I said in my description of the song, little did I know that I would find myself singing that very lyric at the top of my lungs into a microphone held by the man, himself. That felt like a serendipitous, full circle moment. During the repetition of the line, “We got our heads down,” we all huddled in a circle and put our hands in, like a team.
After offering us a couple of songs to choose from for the encore, Rich launched into “Brian Wilson is A.L.I.V.E.” after realizing we weren’t going anywhere! He joked, “I didn’t know if you guys wanted to go home – it’s a Wednesday night!” He split us into two groups to belt out the song’s intro – one to sing the “Hummana hummana’s” and the other for the “Woooo’s”. Featuring the catchy hook, “Remember what we’ve been given,” yet another easy to recall positive affirmation, it’s a banger of a track and was the best way to bring it home.
When it was over, Avi and I stared down at the aftermath of confetti and the crumpled up neon parachute and then looked at each other. I think the first word one of us uttered was just, “Whoa.” We spotted Rich by the bar and moseyed on over to say hello. Even just speaking with him briefly, and we were still at a bit of a loss for what to say, it was clear that Rich is incredibly genuine and sweet. He said that the last time he played at Casbah, he played in the Lounge. I know that his audience will continue to grow every time.
When I got home and was unwinding, a single strand of hot pink confetti floated down, seemingly out of nowhere, and landed on the carpet. Four days letter, I happened to spot another piece of red confetti in my boot. (Rich then favourited my tweet about the find, which made me happy.) I take the stray pieces of confetti as signs that we need to find ways to bring a little of what Rich does, that joie de vivre, into our everyday lives, remembering to exude that sheer joy into everything we do and to always be in the present moment. I appreciate everything Rich is doing; I really can’t say enough. It was the most joyful, jubilant celebration of life.