Concert Review: Dave Hause and The Mermaid, Cold Years and Drew Thomson

May 10, 2019
Scala, London

“I’ve lost a lot of friends to Vancouver.”
There were clues. He wore a toque on stage. There was a lilt on the words ‘out’ and ‘about.’ His shirt was a cross between lumberjack plaid and muted ’90s print. Drew Thomson might as well have passed around some Timbits by the time he explained he was indeed from “the other London” – Ontario, Canada.

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Thomson usually plays with a band, but for this tour he’s out on his own playing short songs acoustically because if Dave Hause asks, you say yes. (Words to live by!) In thanks, Thomson name-checked Hause in a song alongside The Replacements.

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His introspective, observational songs echoed the storytelling style of the headliner: “sometimes in small towns you have a hard time being yourself” he explained. The resultant song, Rifles, was an intelligent indie-emo piece: “a name carved in a piece of stone is all it took to be alone…she’ll never wonder where her baby is again.”

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Intellectualism ran through the songs. One turned on the difference between the words ‘sure’ and ‘shore,’ while two others specifically mentioned the mixing of metaphors and similes. At times, Thomson came across like a more indie (and hopefully less problematic) version of Brand New.

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Thomson ended with Bus Pass about the role that Vancouver plays as a refuge and new start for people who fuck up too hard in Toronto!

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“We’ll see you in the crowd!”
Whereas Thomson was about the lyrics, Cold Years were very much about the sound.

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Drummer Fraser Allan was itching to break out with hi-hats shimmering expectantly as the distortion crackled and the band announced their intention to rock hard.

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This was their biggest tour to date and they were determined to enjoy every second of it, propelling themselves off the amps and throwing shapes with guitars.

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This was clearly a big deal for a band from distant Aberdeen, somewhere “past fucking Middle Earth.”

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Lead singer Ross Gordon looked like a tattooed Johnny Miller, and the band sounded like a harder edged rock band of the type most popular in the ’90s too.

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The most Dave Hause sounding song was ushered in with the sample that’s also been used by Primal Scream and Mudhoney, taken from the Peter Fonda film The Wild Angels: “we wanna get loaded and we wanna have a good time.”

Unfortunately, by and large, the lyrical content was buried in the mix in favour of the rock riffs. Still, their enthusiasm and appreciation was clear. Having already seen Hause six or seven times as fans, they were ready to celebrate their big night by joining the sea of fans on the floor.

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Kudos to their guitar tech who had a pile of setlists ready to hand to anyone interested. Great idea. We’re all for this becoming ubiquitous at gigs!

“Tim and I wrote this song about the inside of my brain and the inside of his brain”
Touring in support of his latest record, Kick, it’s no surprise that Dave Hause opened the show with a new track, The Ditch.

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Despite a series of minor calamities – from the guitar not being plugged in to the amp to the strap falling off – Dave grinned through them all.

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Partly because he’s a professional and partly because he was thrilled to discover the fans had taken their new songs into their hearts and were heartily singing them back to him, just like the beloved back catalogue.

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He seemed genuinely proud of the new material, especially as it had allowed him to continue his creative collaboration with his young brother. Weathervane was their co-write about mental health: “Got a storm of trouble on my mind, and I’m spinning, I’m spinning/in the middle of a hurricane spinning like a weathervane.” His passion for the song and subject was expressed with a rebel yell at the end.

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The family affair was magnified when a guest guitarist strolled out – their father!

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After Divine Lorraine from Dave’s last album, he played on new song, Warpaint. Kayleigh Goldsworthy, so intrinsic to the band’s epic show at The Garage two years earlier, was largely in the background this time until she added Pat Benatar style backing vocals to Warpaint: “No mercy in a man/no mercy in a man’s world.”

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For Civil Lies, Tim took lead vocals. Drummer Kevin Conroy held a driving beat, having earlier remixed Divine Lorraine with a soft shuffle sound. Dave spent his time away from vocal duties to focus on guitar. The brothers flexed together like matadors.

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As if the brothers and the dad weren’t enough, the Hause family has recently grown by another two boys. Dave realised that he had been in London when his wife had told him that they were facing a high-risk pregnancy. Now he has gorgeous twin boys: “we got back to London and everything is cool!” he said, clearly relieved and thankful.

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Don’t be mistaken that this show was just about and for the Hause family. As always, it was very clearly for the fans. He had them laughing when he spoke about stolen beer and drugs but then quickly corrected himself. Fireflies was a surprisingly heartfelt song about sneaking into a golf club with ‘borrowed‘ illicit substances.

It was more fundamentally about growing up and trying to hold onto the thrills and certainties of youth; the misguided notion that “I’m going to get away with this shit forever,” Dave joked.

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The endearing twinkle-in-the-eye grin that Dave flashed when he spoke about his past misdemeanours, and when he saw that each new song was being accepted and loved, returned in spades when he sang with Drew Thomson.

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Dave had invited Thomson up to play one of his songs with his band The Mermaid in recognition of the fact that he’d been dealt a raw deal with stage times. An early curfew at the venue meant the first support slot was 6:45 p.m. during peak commuter time on a Friday evening in central London! Hause clearly loved the song, explaining that when he first heard it “one tear fell out of my eye into my coffee.”

The lyric “I wished you’d stayed around a while/see the changes that I would make/yeah, I think I would have made you proud” was particularly poignant on the anniversary of the death of Dave’s friend, Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchinson.

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Dave’s return to his own songs seemed to enliven the crowd who picked up the volume in singing back, finally echoing the intensity of the band’s epic show at The Garage two years before. Throwing in masterpiece songs like C’mon Kid helped with that, of course!

With the curfew bearing down, any song at this point was strong enough to be the closer. There was a fake end with With You as Dave switched the lyrics to “I want the last few minutes to feel like a fucking crime.” 

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Luckily, there was more to come, and Dave and Tim’s dad returned too to accompany the band during Sabouteurs.

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The singalong for Time Will Tell was only topped by the singalong for Dirty Fucker; a song obliquely dedicated to “you know who” (apparently the President is our Voldermort now). They were, in turn, topped by the singalong for We Could Be Kings. With dedicated performers and dedicated fans like these, even a song about death in military service can be joyous and life-affirming. The crowd was certainly hoping that the next Hause family visit to the UK would be planned soon. Dave assured them it would!

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