Ron Sexsmith is not only one of my favourite people to follow on Twitter (I seriously have to hold myself back from liking every single one of his “dad joke” puns), but he is also an accomplished musician! He has been a fairly recent discovery for me. About five years ago I found a CD with his name on it for $1 at the local mission thrift. After a quick google search, I found out that he was from St. Catharines, Ontario and thought a local artist was worth risking a looney for. Well, I must have enjoyed it because the collection has blossomed:
Anytime I spin one of these, it is a good time. So, when the opportunity came to see him perform live down the road in Peterborough, Sarah and I decided to make a date night for it.
We had such a good time visiting Kops on Queen St before seeing Alice, we decided to do the same before this show. We just switch the Kops to one that was on the way to Peterborough.
Kops in Oshuwa (The ‘shuwa as the locals call it) is my favourite record store. It has a great selection with solid prices. Its only drawback is how it is 40 minutes away. I knew it had been a while since we were able to visit it with Covidness/gas prices/life in general, but according to my spreadsheet, we had not been there since July 8th, 2021! WAH?!!?
Well, it was time to make up for some absence:
It is funny, looking back on these the only record that I actively searched for was The Moody Blues Long Distance Voyager, a recommendation Uncle Meat made during the Best Concept Albums episode of The LeBrain Train. The rest I found while searching through the recent arrivals. That is what I love most about record hunting. Finding treasures like these. Those “Oh yeah, Fragile… I keep meaning to pick that up!” moments. And they were all $10 or much less.
We eventually did stop shopping and headed over to Peterborough for dinner. Sarah did some prep work online ahead of time and found La Hacienda Mexican Restaurant which serves authentic Mexican cuisine. The place was a little hard to find in the dark since they didn’t have a sign. We eventually spotted their sandwichboard on the sidewalk and were treated to a delicious and filling meal. It wasn’t cheap but I’d say reasonable. I don’t believe you can ask for more from any restaurant these days. Would go again.
I overheard someone describing how the Market Hall Performing Arts Centre was a dump before ” they made renos a few years ago”. What exists now is a pleasant 200-ish seat venue, the perfect setting for an intimate performance. I was later surprised to find out how it is a ‘not for profit’ venue. The only ‘not for profit’ I had been to before was a stage beside a basketball court. The seats were made up of folding chairs with ripped padding. But this place is posh. Comfy seats with not a bad view among them. Nice job, Peterborough. Would go again.
Ron Sexsmith performed his entire set solo. About half was on his acoustic guitar and the rest was on piano. He apologised to the audience for not having a band. “Bands are expensive” was his reason. There was no need to apologise.
The advantage of Ron’s solo show is how there is no one else to be in sync with. This left him open to song suggestions and ideas from the audience. Several times after finishing a tune he’d ask what people wanted to hear next. If you shouted a song he liked the idea of playing, he would. For one song, he warned us that he had not prepped for it prior. He played it flawlessly… at least to my untrained ear. At one point several people began callout out song titles. He looked at what was scheduled on his setlist and assured them that they were on it. After a pause, he said, “Hey, this is a good list.” There was that wit. Live and in person.
A couple of times people would mention a song that he wasn’t prepared to play but he liked the idea of. “Yeah, I should add that one.” This level of audience engagement felt so open and down to earth, it truly felt like the audience was part of an evolving show with their suggestions taken seriously. I’m sure no one was missing the band.
My analysis might be a little on the naive side as I have never seen a solo performance quite like this before, but all I can say is how much I enjoyed myself. It takes an immense amount of talent and confidence to have the ability to perform without anyone else to help you hide a bum note. I loved the spectacle of Alice Cooper’s show I saw a few days prior, but I also loved how Ron’s show allowed for a much more personal connection. Will go again.