It’s hard to believe that it has been a month since the celebration of the Big Shiny Tunes series took place at the Marquee Ballroom in Halifax. There have been cool tribute shows that have taken place around town such as Wildest Dreams, which saw an interchangeable set of artists come together to celebrate Taylor Swift. They always seem to be these special moments in the Halifax music scene, where there is not an album to promote, just a chance to get on stage with your friends and cover some songs that hold a special place in your heart. These shows are loose, energetic and undeniably infectious, and elicit more than one hearty singalong.
The single artist tribute shows are fun, but when you add in the variety that a compilation series affords, it becomes a game of “Who is going to play X” or who will step up to cover the more challenging artists? Personally, I went in wondering who would be daring enough to take on some of the Radiohead tracks that are found within. I was also curious to see what Adam Baldwin had up his sleeve, as he is no stranger to cover tunes. There were definite surprises throughout the night, and from the crowd’s perspective it went off without a hitch.
The brainchild of Dave Sampson, Stephanie Purcell and Mike Farrington Jr. was an unmitigated success. So much so, that the question that was begged was, when can we do this again? From the countless singalongs, to stellar takes on a laundry list of well-known tracks. From seeing Dave Sampson and Carmen Townsend pairing up to take on “Teenage Dirtbag” from Wheatus, or seeing Walrus’ Justin Murphy absolutely owning Radiohead’s “Just”, and then he and Carmen Townsend knocking “Karma Police” out of the park. It was a ball seeing Leith Fleming-Smith do a little “Walking on the Sun”, or seeing Alfie amp up the raunchy Magic Mike-esque performance for “Bad Touch” which even saw a bra fly from the crowd and be proudly slung across his shoulder. Adam Baldwin wowed with his fiery take on the Rob Zombie classic “Dragula”, I think for this reviewer, Michael Lloyd covering “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls, or the pairing of Jon Pearo (of the Villages) and Justin Murphy, who crushed Sloan’s “Money City Maniacs” so well, made me think that a Sloan Celebration night could be near as fun.
While all of the lead vocalists swapped in and out, the insanely talented house band wowed all night long, from Zach MacLean’s opening the night with the IME banger “One More Astronaut”, which was a blast to see him let loose. Then there was Clare MacDonald (of Hillsburn and Like a Motorcycle fame) handling the drums, alongside Seamus Erskine manning the bass for the opening set. On keys for the duration of the night was the beloved, otherworldly Leith Fleming-Smith, who dazzled between either the keyboards or the illustrious keytar. Another member of the band who stuck around all night was the aforementioned Mike Farrington Jr., who kept things flowing along throughout the countless style changes. For the second set, Seamus, Clare and Zach left their posts, and we saw Jason Vautour, Jordan Murphy and Dave Casey assume the respective posts. It was a talented bunch of well-known local musicians, who had as much fun on stage as we did taking in the performances.
All in all, the Big Shiny Tunes event was a catharsis for many. After two years away, it was nice to gather inside together to revel in these songs that hold a special spot in many of our hearts. The folks in attendance were ready to let loose, and that they did, singing along with many of the performances, hooting, hollering and even tossing the occasional bra on stage. It was a spectacular and special evening in the Marquee, which has to whet many an appetite for what Dave, Steph and Mike have up their sleeves for an encore. Rest assured we will be there once that next event is announced.