The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer @ Commodore -- 10/09/14

Two years ago was the first time I saw The Harpoonist and The Axe Murderer, as part of the Peak Performance Project, And since then, I have had the worst luck seeing them again; every single time they played, I was cursed to miss it for one reason or another.
But finally, I broke that "streak" earlier this year at the Burnaby Blues & Roots Fest when they played a short set, and now I finally got to see them headlining a show of their own. And not just any show, their first headlining show at the legendary Commodore Ballroom, in front of a sold out crowd.

Unfortunately, I missed the openers Petunia & The Vipers, arriving at the venue a couple minutes before The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer hit the stage, adorned with over a dozen bare lightbulbs. The duo of Shawn "The Harpoonist" Hall on harmonica & vocals, and Matt "The Axe Murderer" Rogers on guitar and kickdrum were joined by a pair of lovely & powerful backup vocalists, Dawn Pemberton and Jody "Miss Quincy" Peck, and later on "Major" Tom Heuckendorff on organ to fill out the sound.

Starting off by teasing a verse of their song "Roll With the Punches" -- which was reprised a few times throughout the set, but for some reason never paid off with the full song -- they launched into an hour-plus set that focused on songs from their new album A Real Fine Mess. Their gritty, swampy blues sound drives straight into your soul, with songs like "Mama's In The Back Seat" with its frantic rhythm; the rollicking "Act Your Age", letting both Pemberton and Peck shine on backup vocals; and the Big Sugar-ish funk of the almost-title-track "A Real Fine Noise".

Part way through the set, the pair let the rest of the band take a break -- as Shawn joked they wanted to hog the spotlight -- for a pair of songs that included a bit of a slower song, "In The End", and one written by Matt's brother, Ben Rogers, "Love Me 'fore Ya Leave Me".
After a few more, they wrapped up the set by somehow taking things up another notch, with a one-two punch of "Wake Up" and the explosive "Get Out", both from their previous act "Checkered Past". And of course, they were back out for a couple more, enlisting in the aid of Miss Quincy & The Showdown drummer Jen Foster, for the aptly titled "Shake It", and wrapped everything up with "In And Out Of Love".

You wouldn't think that a show where the two main band members sit on stools all night would be dynamic, but in this case, you would be wrong. Even though both stayed seated for the set, they drew the crowd in with plenty of opportunities to clap, stomp, & sing along, and had energy to spare. Proof could easily be found on Shawn's shirt, which was soaked with sweat by the end (probably Matt's too, but his was darker to begin with). The duo was also vocally and visibly honoured to wrap up their tour with a packed hometown show, at the Commodore.

When they first announced they would be playing there, I was a little surprised, as I didn't realise that they had become a "Commodore band". But what didn't surprise me was watching them tear it up. They put on a great show, and I only hope this means my luck has turned, and I am able to catch them again next time.

Roll With the Punches (pt I), Cry a Little, Do Whatcha, Act Your Age, Don't Make 'em Like They Used To, A Real Fine Noise, Roll With the Punches (pt II), Mama's In the Backseat, Tea for Two, In the End, Love Me 'fore Ya Leave Me, Feel Me Now, Are You Listening Lord, Sweat This Pain, Roll With the Punches (pt III), Wake Up, Get Out.
(encore) Shake It, In and Out of Love.