The Constantines — “On to You”
The Constantines formed in Guelph a bit before I moved there; I saw them play some of their first shows (I still have a set list from their show at the Grad Lounge, where the sound was horrible and they were wonderful), went to shows they put on in their basement, put up a few posters from them, etc etc etc. Bought the original, hand-assembled version of their first album at the show where they were still assembling copies when some of us showed up (at the old Ed Video). Went to a Royal City show at their suggestion (it was great). Interviewed them once, I think; certainly talked to them a bunch of times. Ran into them around the city, before they moved to Toronto. Got a voicemail on my old landline from my dad at the Hillside Festival, in a field at night after a few beers, telling me that he was listening to the Constantines and he suspected that they were the future of rock and roll. With my siblings, took my dad to see them at the Trash (or whatever it’s called now) for his birthday; the only show we’ve all seen together as adults? I wrote about them for Stylus, for the Village Voice, and for PopMatters (and I’m happier with those three reviews than with a lot of writing from those time periods). I saw every show I could in Guelph (I think all of them, from that first one to Bry solo at the Attic right before or after they announced they were done for the time being), and a few in Toronto when I could, and loved the last-show-of-the-tour, exhausted one just as much as the triumphant homecoming or the first time they played songs from Shine a Light and it felt like the whole crowd knew they’d fucking done it, made it, gotten to the next level.
I am as sure as I can reasonably be that I would still think they’re one of the great bands of their era, and one of the great Canadian bands of the last few decades, even if none of that were true. But because of all that, they mean something to me in a different way than a lot of bands that I love.
They’re reforming. I am going to attend every single show I can.
IAN! I have never seen the constantines but they are basically the reason I am with my person and MAYBE we can have an international love double date WHILE SEEING THE CONSTANTINES HELLO
V-Day 2014: CONSTANTINES
Okay first of all! Ian: I knew Anaïs wrote about beautiful about music but damn! Damn! I didn’t realize you did too!
I’ve often thought it was appropriate I lost my copies of Shine a Light and Tournament of Hearts to my ex. In 2003, I went to see the Constantines for the first time… it was one of the first ever shows I went to by myself, but I loved the band so much that my shy “straight edge” seventeen year-old self decided to bite the bullet and go. Cover couldn’t have been more than 8 bucks? At the Trasheteria? I was one of the first ones there (the kid from small-town Ontario where the shows would always start on time because we’d actually get kicked out of the hall we were renting). We couldn’t have been more than a dozen in the audience. I remember B.A. Johnson playing an extra long set in the hopes the crowd would grow.
Since we were such a small crowd, I remember spending a lot of time leaning against a wall and watching the other people who were there. A geeky guy wearing a Felix the Cat shirt who completely came alive when they played Nighttime/Anytime. Two months later we would become friends, and a few months later I’d fall in love with his best friend, Will, who had also been at the show.
At the end of their set, where they performed as though they were playing for hundreds - not a handful - of people, one of the band members took the mic and said, “Thanks! We’re never playing in Peterborough again.” I remember being so shocked, because you never would have been able to tell how pissed they were about no one showing up gauging by their performance. Not only that, I wanted more!
I had to wait 6 years for them to come back.
Both venues I saw them at are now defunct.
It’s funny, though. I don’t know if I’d go see them live again, precisely for the reasons Ian puts out there. I think they mean too much (in a way I wouldn’t have realized had they just stayed on hiatus). Another band I loved from that time, very different and much more short-lived, The Unicorns, are rumoured to reunite and tour but I can’t shake the feeling of how it would be too fraught with nostalgia for me to handle, or at least to enjoy.
Bry Webb puts it best himself: “We are not what we once were.”