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REVIEW: The Lost Fingers – hanging with the wrong sort of crowd

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.
The Lost Fingers perform a stirring rendition of Paula Abdul’s ‘Straight Up’, March 20 at The Centre. Photo by Chris Marchand

 By Chris Marchand

Novelty acts — if I may be so bold as to brutally pigeonhole the talented members of The Lost Fingers in my opening sentence — have their own peculiar set of challenges to overcome in audience/performer relations.

March 20 was a peculiar night indeed for The Lost Fingers and Dryden Entertainment Series.

The Lost Fingers have a formula that I imagine would work well in most situations. It goes like this: select an awful pop music hit of the 1980s for its whimsical and recognizable nature, process it through an early 20th century Jean ‘Django’ Reinhardt-inspired European gypsy jazz aesthetic, then before the crowd knows what to make of it, whack them over the head with undeniably incredible musicianship.

I got it. I thought what they did was great.

I certainly can’t speak for everyone in that regard.

“Is this a joke?” many asked themselves.

Well, yes. I think that’s part of it.

Musical virtuosity and humour are frequent, but never entirely comfortable bedfellows. If they were then everyone would be a Frank Zappa fan.

Still, humour or novelty has always served as a bit of a sophisticated short-cut for brilliant musicians working in rather experimental or esoteric modes to get their music in front of people. For the Quebecois trio, it’s resulted in double platinum record sales and two Juno award nominations.

The use of well-known cover material is surely a bait-and-switch, but a forgiveable one. Forgiveable, because in too many cases they actually redeem some of those songs for the heinous sins they’ve perpetrated against mankind — stripping them down to their basic hooks and building them back up.

If you came to The Lost Fingers hoping to hear a heartfelt, straight-faced rendition of Samantha Fox’s ‘Touch Me’, or the George Michael abomination ‘Careless Whisper’, or Metallica’s ‘One’ — well, you were destined to be disappointed.

Still, it’s kind of futile to make excuses for an audience. Nobody’s ever wrong for not fully apreciating something.

Looking over the crowd, one notes it was largely comprised of those aged 70-plus, who perhaps might not be well-versed in the minutiae of 1980s pop music. Word from Red Lake’s performance the night previous, serving a much younger demographic, was that the band were a smash hit.

It surely resulted in the most awkward ‘standing ovation’ I’ve ever seen as half the crowd rose, as though out of a sense of duty to the Entertainment Series, while the rest headed for the door. There would be no encore and for that I cannot blame the band.

The Dryden Entertainment Series has added a performance by urban dance artists Gadfly to the schedule, Wednesday April 3.

The Series will wrap up on Wednesday, April 17 when it welcomes Treasa Levasseur and The Daily Special.

The Lost Fingers, March 20 at The Centre in Dryden.

 

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