Saturday, April 17, 2021

April 17th 2019, Ministry and Cold Cave at the Danforth Music Hall


My interest in concerts has always gone hand in hand with an appreciation for record stores. Being able to browse through bins of albums, being curious about new releases, getting excited about rare finds, that familiarity in seeing old favorites again, I enjoy the record store experience a lot and I've really missed it over the last year. I miss the sense of community that record stores offer in being a place to talk to random strangers about music, whether it's staff or other people who are browsing the same way that I am. My experience is that a lot of the people that shop or work at record stores enjoy music just as much as I do, and they're often happy to engage in conversation with me about it. That's always struck me as being pretty cool.

As a fan of concerts and record stores, I'm also a big fan of Record Store Day. It's been going on for about twenty years now, and the idea is to bring more people into bricks and mortar physical record stores by releasing special albums, limited editions, picture discs, special things that aren't available anywhere online, stuff that you have to actually go to a place to buy. A lot of times record stores will tie in special events throughout the day to add to the celebrations, live shows, listening parties, things like that. It's a pretty great idea, and it further emphasizes and builds on that idea of community that I mentioned earlier.

As part of the 2019 Record Store Day event, Wax Trax and Vans teamed up for a deal where anybody who bought a copy of the "Industrial Accidents" compilation would also receive a pair of tickets for a show at the Danforth Music Hall featuring performances by Ministry and Cold Cave along with the screening of a documentary about the label. And I'll admit, if you mapped all of that out in a Venn diagram I'd fit pretty squarely in the centre where everything overlaps. I thought it was a great idea, and I lined up at my local record store in hopes of scoring a copy so I could go to the show, and in a fabulous stroke of luck I was able to get the last copy they had. That may or may not have anything to do with the fact that I was wearing a well worn pair of Vans classic slip ons at the time, just in case I needed to pop an Ollie afterwards. Anyway, the album is pretty great, bringing together rare and unreleased tracks from across the Wax Trax label's history, with bands and artists like Ministry, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, Chris Connelly, and more, a really great soundtrack from that era that fully captures a moment in time.

I went to the show with my friend Ryan, and we made a point of getting there early so we could see the documentary before the concert, and I'm glad that we made the effort to do so because it was a pretty amazing story. I knew some of the broad strokes about the label going in, but I didn't really have that much of an understanding of how significant they were in terms of creating a community, a space, a tribe around itself and how far back it had gone into the early seventies. It all started with two guys meeting at a David Bowie concert in 1972 who fell in love and started a record store. And that would seem like a pretty normal story, except for the way that they approached the store, how they did things, and the music they sold. It was all on the fringes far away from the mainstream, and because of that fringe nature in their approach and the work itself, it became something much more than just a record store. Wax Trax became a haven for outsiders and loners and people who didn't feel like they had a voice who wanted to be heard and people who did have a voice who weren't being listened to.

As a record store and as a record label, Wax Trax made something special that filled a gap nobody had ever identified before, and in many ways they set a standard and an ideal for other record stores in other cities all over the world, which is a pretty awesome thing to have done. I feel a particular gratitude to them for doing that, 'cause I was one of those outsiders, one of those loners, one of those people who benefit from the kind of community that they encouraged. I expect that a lot of you reading this feel the same way.

The concert itself was pretty awesome too and Cold Cave did an opening set that was really great. When I had seen them in 2017 with Drab Majesty their stage set up was pretty stark and minimal, relying instead on the strength of the songs themselves, which was great at the time but the addition of videos and better lighting at the Wax Trax show really upped the drama of their performance and expanded on the whole experience. The band were really tight and that made the sound more accessible and direct, and songs like Confetti and People are Poison both captured their album appeal and built upon their strengths in a live setting. Great stuff that really impressed me and has left me looking forward to their eventual return to Toronto. I really hope that we'll get the chance to see a new Cold Cave tour following the release of their new album later this summer.

Ministry were also great, big dumb fun that I really enjoyed. They've always been lumped in with the Industrial genre, but as their show at the Danforth Music Hall proved, they've always been pretty metal at heart. It was originally billed as a Wax Trax era set, but in the end they played a career spanning selection of old favorites that the audience really got into, and Ryan and I both had a great time. Songs like Thieves, NWO, and Stigmata were heavy and impressive, and when Chris Connelly came out to join the band for a couple of songs I may have wept tears of joy. Then again it may have just been sweat from bopping my head so hard during So What. They closed the show with an acoustic version of Every Day it's Hallowe'en, and I think that was the perfect ending for an evening about community, a song that was introduced as being about feeling comfortable living in your own skin. And really, isn't that what's at the heart of being part of a community? Being comfortable in your own skin with those around you?

It was a great show and a great night, and a reminder of many of the communities that I've been lucky enough to be a part of over the years, the places that have welcomed me and taken me in when I've needed it the most. And whether those communities were made with friends like Ryan, or music that I've listened to and enjoyed through the years, or physical spaces like the Music Hall or all of the record stores I've gone to since I was a young kid, all of those communities are valuable and special to me, all of them mean something to me and have become part of who I am.

So yeah, record stores, community, big ideas for me, and I have no doubt that I'll speak more to both of those in the weeks and months to come. I hope that you'll stick around to read those entries as well...

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