High-energy musical finish to Westerner Days

Two generations of alt-rock fans partied in the Centrium Saturday night as Canadian groups USS and Moist wrapped up the Westerner Days concert series in energetic style.

Two generations of alt-rock fans partied in the Centrium Saturday night as Canadian groups USS and Moist wrapped up the Westerner Days concert series in energetic style.

On the more hyper-kinetic side was USS, a young duo more cumbersomely known as Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker.

“We’re from Toronto, Onterrible,” said DJ/hype man Jason “Human Kebab” Parsons — prompting a cheer from several hundred Central Alberta teenagers and young adults.

Parsons and his singer/guitarist partner Ashley Buchholz (they were also backed by a boisterous drummer), leapt onto the stage like sprung coils. Their hit Yo Hello Hooray was delivered with such effusiveness, Buchholz looked like he would bust a gut — or a guitar string.

The acrobatic Parsons stood on his hands behind his turntable for the song, Nepal. His feet kept time to the funky, slightly distorted beat.

Soon Parsons was right-side up, urging: “Everybody on your feet! Jump, jump, jump!” in the intro to Laces Out. Fans in front of the stage bounced up and down with arms in the air.

The DJ pulled off a perfect cartwheel during Shipwreck. Then he and Buchholz did something they hadn’t done before — they performed their new single, the catchy Work Shoes, live. Parsons called it a “unique experience,” premiering a song “in an arena in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada!”

There were tongue-in-cheek moments — such as when the two borrowed melodies from ’80s group Wham!, and the Newfoundland ditty I’s the B’y. There was also a poignant segment when the gravelly voiced Buchholz covered Tragically Hip’s Something On as a tribute to terminally ill singer Gord Downie.

But a spirited mood prevailed for N/A OK, This is the Best, Damini — as well as the strangely upbeat break-up tune, Freakquency.

“Red Deer, we came to party… Should we keep the party going, or what?” said Parsons — as if there was any doubt.

Young alt-rock fans in the Centrium were replaced by middle-aged ones as Moist took the stage in Red Deer for the first time in — maybe forever.

The 1990s Juno Award-winning band had been in hiatus for a more than a decade before starting to play again in 2013. Now the group is larger with three of the original members, singer David Usher, guitarist Mark Makoway and keyboardist Kevin Young, joining up with new bassist Louis Lalancette, drummer Frances Fillion and additional guitarist Jonathan Gallivan.

Moist kicked off the second half of the concert with the infectious Silver, from its multi-platinum-selling 1994 debut album.

This was followed with Broken, from the group’s critically praised 2014 CD, Glory Under Dangerous Skies — proving that 20 years hasn’t diminished the band’s way with a song.

Extended guitar and keyboard solos were featured on Break Her Down, while synthesized strings (and was that a sampled Madame Butterfly aria?) were worked into Black, Black Heart — a cool tune from Usher’s 2001 solo CD.

Overlapping harmonies were heard on the pop-flavoured Underground, from 1999. What wasn’t heard was what Usher alluded to: “Did you guys notice that when Kevin and I sing verses, somehow Kevin always sings the wrong words?” he said, getting a laugh from fans.

The black-clad singer stepped off the stage to sing Gasoline and take selfies for audience members. He was enveloped in theatre smoke for Tangerine, which was performed along with the torchy Believe Me, angsty Resurrection, Ophelia and Black Roses. The latter got a big reaction with its prolonged drum solo.

The crowd had to wait for the encore to hear the anthemic Moist hits Breathe and Push. But it was Bayou, from the group’s last album, that best captured a sense of nostalgia with the lyrics: “When we were young and we were gold…”

Like their fans, Moist musicians aren’t as young or golden as in their heyday. But they can still enthrall a crowd with undimmed enthusiasm and musicianship.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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