Picture a guy onstage, singing and playing multiple instruments, including a keyboard, glockenspiel, trumpet, and other noisemakers. He’s wearing a Grinch hat because he’s choreographed his 30(ish)-minute set to coincide with the animated The Grinch Stole Christmas, which is simultaneously playing on a projector screen. He occasionally points at the screen when a piece of music particularly fits. After the show, he talks to the crowd of about ten people about how he’s been touring Canada by bicycle. This was the first time I caught Rich Aucoin in concert, back in 2007 (he was an opener), at a now-closed bar in Vancouver.
This isn’t an “I-saw-him-when” story, but evidence of how far Halifax-based musician Rich has come as a performer. On Thursday, September 22, he played for a packed house at Lee’s Palace, who were all crowded together in front of the stage area before he got onstage, knowing what was coming. The show began with a projector screen showing clips from old movies, cat videos, and shout-outs to various people. There were messages onscreen saying things like, “WE ARE SO LUCKY TO BE ALIVE” and “BE AWESOME.” People were cheering and waving their glowsticks (which were free for the taking at the venue) before the first beats of the first song started. When they finally did start, and Rich started singing, dancing, and breaking a sweat within the first minute of the show, the energy level in the crowd went crazy.
Thursday’s show was the best Rich Aucoin show I’ve ever seen. His tireless backing band comprised of drum kit players Taylor Knox and Joel Waddell (as a side note, I have to admit shows with two drum kits are a weakness of mine), and Rich’s brother Paul Aucoin on bass. There was confetti, balloons, and audience singing (and hugging). At times I feared for mine and others’ safety — Rich was crowd-surfing, then singing while precariously walking on top of one of the railings, before he jumped/fell back into the crowd. He then brought out his trademark parachute that he was determined to have everyone in the front area of Lee’s Palace (myself included) huddle under and sing. People were being shoved and squished until somehow we managed it — I’m still not even sure how we did.
The funny thing about each of Rich Aucoin’s shows, a friend pointed out, is that they’re always generally the same. He plays upbeat electro-pop songs from his one full-length album and one EP, including “Push,” “Undead,” and “Brian Wilson is A.L.I.V.E.” But when songs are turned into full-scale performances and you know the performer is there to see you as much as you are to see him, you keep coming back.