Rich Aucoin at The Railway Club

The Railway Club – Thursday, June 19, 2008
Hey kids! Remember when MuchMusic used to rule? I know, I’m having a hard time remembering that too, but I vaguely remember flipping back and forth from that channel back in the day. You know, back before they turfed George Stroumboulopoulos and decided not to play music anymore. There’s a lot of mysteries when it comes to that station, but the real melon-scratcher is why they still continue to produce their two most excellent and obscure shows, The Wedge and Going Coastal. Today these are really the only programs worth a damn on Much, and respectively they continue to showcase some of the weirdest and most awesome music this country produces. Like The Wedge and Going Coastal last Thursday’s performance by Halifax’s Rich Aucoin at the Railway not only bolstered my love for alternative and East Coast Canadian music, but reminded me just how good the combination of the two can be.

Aucoin hit the stage between Catamaran and Jackfruit wearing an entirely white suit, surrounded by a synthesizer, a keyboard, a laptop computer, a trumpet, and no band in sight. He did, however, hang a big white sheet that acted as a movie screen upon which he accompanied his music with the most eclectic selection of films imaginable. A small sampling of the ones I recognized were; Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, the original Superman animated television show, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, old nuclear blast footage, and so on. Strange and powerful images that perfectly accompanied the strange and powerful music performed by Aucoin.

So what does he sound like? It’s actually quite difficult to say. Like most artists who are truly worth listening to, Rich Aucoin produces songs that defy genre categorization. On his MySpace page, under “Sounds Like” he simply writes “You tell me.” and then reprints several positive reviews including a few that compare him to American singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens. I personally haven’t heard enough of Sufjan Stevens music to say whether that’s an accurate assessment or not. So I’ll just say that Rich Aucoin’s instrumentation reminded me of Radiohead at their most kind, Kraftwerk at their most danciest, and The Concretes at their most, um, xylophonist? Really wonderful stuff. And the man can sing too. Kind of a Canadian David Bowie, although not as goofy and over the top. Like a lot of bands I’ve seen and reviewed and totally loved Aucoin isn’t going to win American Idol anytime soon (or even Canadian Idol) but in my mind he’s far better than any of the soulless contestants on those shows.

When all was said and done, I left the Railway Club with a sense that Rich Aucoin is a performer that you simply must see live in order to understand. His music is wonderfully recorded and I honestly need to find a copy of his new album. However, to truly get Aucoin as a performer and as a humanitarian, I think you have to see what he’s all about in person. For gosh sakes, he’s running a half-marathon in every city on his current tour to raise money for the Heart and Stroke foundation! How can you fault a guy like that? Answer: You can’t. Rich Aucoin is an amazing singer, songwriter, performer, and human being and I hope he comes back to town soon.

As a sort of tie-in with Ron’s last article, it should be noted that Rich Aucoin will be playing with Hey Rosetta! on June 28th in Winnipeg. You lucky bastards!

Photo by Mace (I’m looking into getting a better camera honest!)