Hank and Lily / Ghostkeeper / The Secretaries ARTery, Edmonton AB December 31
Published Jan 06, 2009Those who chose the costume weirdness of Hank + Lily over the one-night exhumation of punk legends Les Tabernacles on the other side of town had nothing to whine about - unless it was the margarine. Not far into H+L's set a pair of strange local showgirls walked up on stage, pulled their clothes off down to the leotards and started smearing "petro-butter" and whip cream all over each others' lithe bodies. Inevitably, it spread outwards like a failed confidence. Another one of these nights, is it?
Seriously, something strange is happening in Edmonton lately, lots of smeared lipstick and body fluids - total body theatrics. But if you're not familiar with the Hank + Lily show out of B.C., the singer and the guitarist work behind creepy gas masks, punching out songs that stream from the narrative of Hank Pine's surreal comic books to a pounding beat.
Behind the drums, the eternally cute Lily Fawn hops up and down under her deer horns and, honestly, if my ears stopped working for the evening the other sense would've filled in just fine. But their music is sublime and bizarre and contradictory - cheerfully maudlin, heartbreakingly joyful, and always coming back to sparkling topics like death. The two namesakes harmonized like Johnny and June in an LSD blender. It's a well-oiled machine, even without the sandwich spreads.
There'd been costumes earlier in the night as well, as two pirate-striped animals named "Transfer Cat" and "Transfer Wolf" barged onto the platform clutching whiskey flasks, flirting and dirty dancing with the three-lady Secretaries, but that jungle nonsense was amateurish exhibitionism compared to the keenly precise theatrics of Lily and Hank.
Calgary's quirky Shane Ghostkeeper, as always, played delicate, sped-up pop, singing high and nervously. He and his band also had microwave-melted Phantom of the Opera masks on, as if some memo had been passed around between all the bands about a dress code - though when asked no one admitted it. More than likely it was a tribute to the Mr. Dressup fun of the imported headliners.
In some ways the night was the sort of art party you might see on CSI: Miami, almost too stereotypically nuts to be believable. Not insincere in any way, and certainly not half-felt. After all, everyone was up and dancing as one year became another, eventually chanting "Yes we can!" with at least a vague awareness of how beautiful and silly a thing to do that is.