Almost 10 years ago I witnessed a Calgary band called Women (actually four young guys) wipe the floor with an Atlanta band called Deerhunter (same) at Paradiso in Amsterdam. Shortly after, Women’s guitarist passed away in his sleep, the band broke up and two members formed the nucleus of a new band, the unfortunately named Viet Cong (also guys, none of them Vietnamese), who sounded pretty similar to Women to be honest, although with maybe a little extra edge.

Then Viet Cong rebranded themselves as Preoccupations and, perhaps to my relief, pursued a musical trajectory that I am continuing to explore and appreciate today.

True story: I booked a ticket to see Preoccupations at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto in April this year, and was really looking forward to seeing them (maybe even a little proud of myself for still having that indie ‘edge’).

When I arrived in Toronto a freak snow event laid waste to the entire downtown area, and in my jetlagged state I stumbled around the Queen Street/Kingston Market precinct for two days, freaking out at the blatant and open drug use (perhaps I’ve been living in Sweden for too long) and, at various times, crouched terrified in my hotel room as the guests across the corridor screamed at each other, causing management to call the police and evict them.

“Edgy enough for you now?” I asked myself, not knowing the time, or even the safest way to evacuate my room should some wastoid break the feeble lock on the door and make a lunge for my hair gel.

I actually went down to the Horseshoe Tavern on the afternoon of the gig, while the soundcheck was in progress. I was sitting in the front bar, watching Canadian basketball and listening to the band playing in the other room, when the music stopped. Then the lead singer, Matt Flegel (who is the solemn-looking guy walking along the beach in the ‘Disarray’ film clip: no Tears for Fears-style big furry jumpers present), walked out the front door, presumably to have a durrie. He gave me the weirdest look as he went past me, almost as if to ask, ‘Why are you here?”.

It was a good question.

“Well, I’m the Publications Manager for the only intergovernmental organization with the sole mandate to support democracy worldwide, and I’m actually in town to attend the Creative Common Summit, in the hope that it will give me some ideas about how to ensure that our knowledge products, which are informed by most excellent editorial and design principles, are read and enjoyed by the greatest number of people possible,” went my imaginary reply.

“But my musical tastes are still quite edgy, really, and so I thought I’d come along to your show tonight. What time do you think you’ll be onstage?”

Back in reality, after finishing my beer, I trudged through the foot-thick-Slurpie detritus of the snowstorm, now into its third day, to a drinks session organized as part of the CC conference, down by the lake. They had a serious bar tab going there, including spirits, and I lost track of time talking to young creative types about CC licences, Mongolia and the commons. I was one of the last to leave.

By the time I stumbled out of the lakeside bar it was approaching 11pm. I skated, once again, through that merciless slickstain of freezing sludge, and back to the Horseshoe Tavern, only to find that Preoccupations had finished their set 15 minutes before I arrived. I sat at the bar, ordered a very cold gin and tonic, and consoled myself with the fact that I had at least heard them play, if only for a few moments.

In hindsight, maybe I should have followed Matt Flegel out the door that afternoon and chatted with him for a few minutes. I mean, I’d travelled halfway around the fricking world to see his band. Who knows, maybe we would have hit it off. By the somewhat mopey looks of him in this film clip (a style which I once thought of, not unreasonably, as my default), and considering the title of the song, ‘Disarray’, it’s not as far-fetched as you might think.

Cross-posted to FB.