One Man Band

Caution: costume, facial hair not included in nostalgic package.
Photo by Gabe Kastner.

When Jon Cohen called me last year and asked me to play at his One Man Band Festival, I said no.

The WP was never really intended to be a solo act. It just happened that way. Back in 1999, I had the name The World Provider, I’d recorded a few songs (with other musicians) and I intended the project to be a full-on rock band.

Then I found out about a tribute to Devo being put on at the El Mocambo. I called the promoter and signed up as The World Provider. But then I couldn’t find any musicians who were free to play with me. (I have been known to put the cart before the horse.) I was complaining to Peaches and she said “Why don’t you just do it alone with your keyboard?”

That was the eureka moment that led to the WP being a solo project for the first five years. After that, I got tired of the limitations of performing alone and since then, it’s been a band with a rotating lineup, with the odd solo show happening from time to time.

The last time I played solo was opening for the Puppetmastaz on a tour of France in the spring of 2009. (Stacey joined me for the last two dates and our subsequent European shows). It was fun, but playing all the old songs by myself really didn’t feel like where I was at musically. Plus, when we got back my trusty old keyboard was in rough shape. It seemed like a sign that it was time to decisively put the past behind.

But when Jon invited me again this year, I decided to consider the offer.

The main reason is that I’ve been looking for an excuse to re-release the earliest WP album, The Elements of Style. I just realized that it hadn’t been available in any format for a while and that, even though it doesn’t really represent where the WP is now, it’s still part of my work and a fun document of that period.

So I’m going to be releasing the album on Bandcamp, possibly with some physical CDs (I’d like to know if there’s a demand for these—any feedback is welcome). And for this special show, I’m going to be performing old-school WP style, just me and my Yamaha PSR-12 through the ridiculously small, magnificently dirty GI-5 amp.

When I pulled out the keyboard to practice these tunes, it looked like a boxer’s teeth. I had to re-arrange some of the songs because certain keys just don’t work anymore. Aside from that challenge, it was fun to revisit these songs, some of which I haven’t played live for 10 years or more.

This isn’t going to be a strictly Elements of Style set—or, as my friend Mark Slutsky once called the phenomenon, the “play your one good album” set. I’ll be playing tunes from throughout the years, possibly even one or two new numbers if the spirit moves me.

I generally try to avoid nostalgia, but inevitably playing these old tunes has brought up some sentiment for the old days. That era of the WP was very innocent and carefree. Often I didn’t even use a set list—instead I’d have a list of all my songs, with the keyboard presets noted beside them, and I’d just play whatever I felt like. I think I’ll do something like that again. You know, for old times’ sake.

So if you want to hear a bunch of tunes that I perform very rarely, or if you like my old stuff better than my new stuff (no judgement—who doesn’t feel that way about certain artists?), this is the one WP show to attend this year.

The clincher for me when Jon made this offer was the rest of the lineup. The Lonesome Organist, who blew my mind when I saw him at the last one-man band fest I played in Chicago in 2001 (on my list of favourite WP shows ever); Laura Barrett, a fellow alumnus of Ta-Da Records and musical genius who I’ve always tremendously admired, and another artist I’m unfamiliar with named Delta Will. Should be a fun night. It all goes down at Casa del popolo (4873 St-Laurent), doors 8pm, $12. Hope to see you there!

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