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Capitol 10th: Wide Mouth Mason the maraschino cherry on top of the Cap's anniversary layer cake

Night one reporting and photos by Scott Roos

Night two reporting and photos by Melanie Macpherson

This past Friday, May 24th and Saturday, May 25th, local favourites and prodigal sons Wide Mouth Mason played a pair of highly anticipated shows at the Capitol Music Club in Saskatoon. It was the band’s first appearance in the “City of Bridges” since the summer of 2021 and, from all accounts, they did not disappoint. In general, these shows served as the maraschino cherry on top of the 10th Anniversary celebrations that the Cap has been presenting since the beginning of the month. Wide Mouth Mason, with the grace and humility befitting a proper homecoming, melted faces much to the delight of all present. Our reporters Scott Roos (night one) and Melanie Macpherson (night two) were on hand to take in the festivities.

Night One (Scott)

Opening up the night was Fabian Minnema (vocals/guitar) and a first rate backing made up of the Whiskey Jerks Gillian Snider (keyboard’s) and A.J. Weiman (drums), Gord Mosher (saxophone), as well as The Great Fuss’ Pete Oldridge (bass). Claire Anderson came out to blow a mean trumpet on “Escape from Mexico”. I had only seen Minnema play once before, at Chester Fest in 2021, so admittedly I was very much looking forward to taking in another set from the local musician and his first rate band. Minnema’s set was rocking from start to finish chock full of original tunes. He shredded some very tasty guitar solos proving that, when it comes to the local scene, he can definitely hang in there with the best of them. His night ended with a whimsical, nostalgic and respectful cover of The Pixies famed “Where Is My Mind”.

With a sellout crowd venue pressing to the front in anticipation, Wide Mouth Mason took the stage next. Opening with “Habitual” off of their recently released album Late Night Walking, guitar wizard/frontman Shaun Verreault took the opportunity to show off his famed “tri-slide”, “C3PO fingers” technique on his trusty lap steel; a technique, incidentally, that he is the only one in the world currently doing. Promising some “Big Shiny Tunes” later Verreault alongside longtime collaborator and Wide Mouth Mason drummer Safwan Javed and “hired gun” bassist Reed Shimozawa shredded through a series of songs with the “tri-slide”, propped on a stand, front and centre. It was truly a sight to behold. I hadn’t seen Verreault do this since 2019 when he was first pioneering the technique and I’ll just say that it’s even more dazzling than it was five years ago. Simply awesome.

For the second half of the show, the band switched gears to play a series of hits on top of more traditional blues fare. Opening things up with “Smile” off of 2000 LP Stew was definitely “in it to win it”. The pedal steel masterclass now evolved into what could only be described as a “love in” as the audience danced and sang along to many of the bands most well known songs with Verreault trading in the lap steel for a plugged in electric. There was “Why”, Sugarcane”, “Mary Mary” and “Midnight Rain” to name a few. All the while, Verreault continued to display why he is, no doubt, one of this country’s top blues guitarists and best kept secrets, with solo after solo of bluesy mastery. Javed was solid all night laying down groove after groove whilst Simozawa’s eloquent, accurate bass playing backed up Verreault harmonically allowing for the guitarist to engage in the musical gymnastics he is known for.  All throughout, Verreault showed his home city a lot of gratitude as he waxed nostalgic throughout the night sharing many stories of his early days as a young up and coming musician. The evening ended with encore “can’t leave the building without playing” rendition of “My Old Self” and everyone went home happy having witnessed something truly remarkable.

Night Two (Melanie)

Let me start by saying that I have loved Wide Mouth Mason for a very long time. If I were to list the top five fundamentally influential albums of my formative, taste-defining years, Wide Mouth Mason's self-titled debut album would be on it. I can sing every word to every song, and all it takes to trigger a visceral reaction is the first couple of notes from any song off that album. It didn't stop with the first album, though; *Where I Started* was also a vital part of the soundtrack to my life. And yet, after all these years, I had never seen Wide Mouth Mason play live. The anticipation leading up to this show was insane. I started listening constantly to the new album along with all my old favorites. It didn't take long for I love how heavy "You Pushed Me" hits, and I don't think I'll ever get tired of singing along to "Unshoot a Gun." It's just great music.

So, suffice it to say, I walked into The Cap last Saturday more excited about a show than I've been in a long time. The room was packed, and the energy was electric. The Great Fuss took the stage to warm up the crowd. This band is a great Saskatoon secret that I wish more people knew about. Energetic and fun with catchy songs ranging from sixties swagger to psychedelic slink, all centering around the voice and personality of Pete Oldridge. For this performance, he was backed up by Gord Mosher on saxophone, Dylan Smith on drums, Byron Shaw on bass, Gillian Snider on keyboard, and Fabian Minnema on guitar. They played all the old favorites like "Overdue" and "Hairbrain" but also used this show as an opportunity to introduce their new single "It Isn't Criminal". Its got a head bobbing funky sound with real grit and will definitely be getting added to a couple of my playlists. The crowd ate it all up, but all too soon it was over.

By this point, there was no doubt that this crowd was there for Wide Mouth Mason. We were all ready for the main event. Well, I thought I was ready, but there was no way listening to CDs and Spotify could have prepared me for what Wide Mouth Mason is like in real life. Shaun Verreault is a virtuoso who is so good at his craft that he makes what is really complicated sound so simple. It wasn't until I actually watched him work that it fully registered how rich and full the sound actually is. It's more sound than should logically come from three people, and Verrault is a very large part of that. I had an up-close and personal view of his hands moving over that lap steel, and it was unreal. But Safwan Javed has been providing the dare-you-to-stand-still rhythm section from the beginning, and he was also a blast to watch do his thing.

I loved hearing the new songs live, singing along, and enjoying the show. But there's no way any new music can ever really compare to the songs that were entrenched in your soul as a young adult. Hearing songs like "Midnight Rain," "This Mourning," and "Mary Mary" the way they were meant to be heard, live and loud, was almost a religious experience for me. Singing along to "Companion," with a crowd full of people who obviously felt the same, was an experience I'll never forget. As the night ended with "My Old Self" as an encore, I wandered to the back of the room to purchase a vinyl copy of the OG self-titled album itself; a memento of an incredible night and a piece of my youth made tangible.

Sadly, The Capitol's Anniversary is wrapping up next weekend with Kieran Gardner and The Blucher Boys playing Thursday, May 30 and Eric Johnston's "UndeniaBULL" Comedy show on Friday, May 31 (tickets). If you're lucky, there might be a few tickets left! Head to The Cap's Facebook page for all the details.

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