Frog Eyes Farewell
One of Canada’s best and most underrated bands are currently on their last tour ever. Frog Eyes have been making music for 17 years and with the announcement of their eighth album, Violent Psalms, came the sad news of their end. I’ve always been grateful when a band gives notice of their final tour in advance, it gives their fans no excuse to miss seeing them one last time. In Frog Eyes’ case, they also gave us the added bonus of one last album to enjoy as they ended on their own terms. There was simply no way anyone was keeping me from seeing one of my favourite Canadian bands say goodbye. Last weekend I got in my car and drove to Kamloops and Kelowna to see the first two shows of their farewell tour.
It has been eight years since I’d last seen them live which was also their last time in Edmonton. They played an opening slot to Japandroids at the Starlite Room and the crowd was ignorant to the magic they were witnessing as they waited for the Pitchfork buzz band of the day to take the stage. (In case your wondering… Japandroids were awful and I walked out before they finished.) With eight years of age added to everyone and a bout with throat cancer for frontman Carey Mercer, it’s safe to say I was nervous of how they would sound as I listened to their catalogue on the long drive to Kamloops.
The first night was at Barnacle Records and it was magical. From the opening chords and the first utterance of Mercer’s iconic voice, I knew I had nothing to fear. They played a variety from their discography, paying more attention to the new album. The new material sounded great as they ploughed through Idea Man, On A Finely Sewn Sleeve and Little Mothers but it was the album opener “A Strand Of Blue Stars” that really stuck out. The new stuff is solid but what were they going to give us from the back catalogue? I was giddy as they played “I Like Dot Dot Dot” from The Folded Palm (Although it sounded better the following night in Kelowna) and shocked to hear a spirited rendition of “Idle Songs” from Tears Of The Valedictorian. Those tracks sounded amazing as Mercer’s voice soared. He continually stepped away from the microphone because it simply wasn’t needed to fill the room with his powerful vocals. As great as everything was sounding, the true standouts of night one were “Masticated Outboard Motors” from The Golden River, “Claxxon’s Lament” from Carey’s Cold Spring and “Violent Pslams” from Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph which Mercer played solo.
The following night in Kelowna was at Milkcrate Records and was another blissful evening as we got most of the new songs that were neglected in Kamloops and a few added bonuses like “Two Girls” from Pickpocket’s Locket and “The Policy Merchant” from Tears Of The Valedictorian (before starting that track, Mercer pointed in my direction claiming it was for me, perhaps because he refused to play Bushels the night before when taking requests.) The Kelowna show didn’t stand out as much for me as the night before but the rendition of “I Ain’t Around Much” from Pickpocket’s Locket was mind-numbing and beautiful. It was also cool to learn that the song is about the story of God asking Abraham to kill his son. It’s hard to put moments like these into words, I felt overjoyed and blessed as the final lineup of Frog Eyes came to the front, locked hands and bowed to the applause of the few that were lucky enough to share in this special experience.
As I drove back home, I pondered the importance of this band. Frog Eyes are/were a band that never got the recognition they truly deserved. How many kids will discover this band over the next decade? How many will they influence to pick up an instrument? Will they become better known as time ambles forward or will their memory rest solely in the minds of music geeks like myself? There is no way to know how or if their music will resonate as the years go by but I try to take a positive stance.
As I’m finishing that last sentence, the final minute of "Bushels" is blasting. You know the part, the music stops except for Carey Mercer’s chants of “I was a singer in a senior home.” He quietly continues over and over until the pace quickens, the piano and drums storm back in and a new uplifting feeling is brought to the song. In the last 20 seconds of this new positive vibe, Mercer changes the line and simply sings “I was a singer, I was a singer, I was a singer.” I crack a smile.
Thank you Frog Eyes.