It was a great night in Regina on Saturday. Yeah, I know the Riders shit the bed against the Eskimos and lost 17-14 in a game in which they turned the ball over six times and had a punt blocked. But at the Exchange Despistado played the last of their three planned reunion shows. They played the first gig at the Lazy Owl on Thursday, then travelled up to Saskatoon for a show on Friday, before returning to Regina for a second show at the Exchange last night.
There was a pretty decent turnout, although I don’t think it was a sell-out. A lot were familiar faces too. At least for me, and a lot of other people too I bet. That would be especially true for anyone who was part of the downtown scene in the late ’90s and early ’00s. The old Roca Jacks on 19 block Scarth was the initial hub, and it was later joined by O’Hanlon’s Pub in its pre-expansion days and to a lesser extent the old Cafe Ultimate on the Scarth St. Mall..
Speciality coffeeshops were rare back then, and people used to drop by Roca Jacks from all over the city. There was plenty of room to sit, including a spacious upstairs, and management had a lax attitude about how long people stayed, so it turned into a bit of a hangout. And the typical customer was probably a bit more savvy about the local arts and culture scene than the average Reginan. So there was a lot of creative energy, and people took an interest in bands that formed and other arts activities that went on.
In the short-time Despistado were together before their 2004 break-up they were closely tied to the downtown scene. I don’t know what the Owl show was like, but at the Exchange a healthy portion of the crowd shared similar roots in that era. Some of the people I hadn’t seen for five or more years, so that was kind of neat.
There were some new fans too, people who would have been in their early teens when Despistado was in their heyday. Along with the older fans, they’d gathered to see the surprise reunion of a band that, before it imploded on a major U.S. tour in the fall of 2004, seemed poised to break pretty big.
And boy did Despistado deliver. For not having played together in ages, they were extremely tight. Vocals, both lead and backing, were strong too. And the songs weren’t dated at all. If anything, Despistado’s music was probably a bit ahead of its time. Now that a few years have passed, years filled with the duplicity of Stephen Harper, Fox News, George W. Bush, rising Christian Fundamentalism, environmental endangerment and other societal ills, the music possesses even more vitality and relevance.
The big question now, I guess, is will the band perform together again? I heard from one music insider outside O’Hanlon’s on Sunday night that that was a distinct possibility. If it did happen, it would be a real shot in the arm for the Regina music scene. Bands like Library Voices, Rah Rah, Def 3 and some of the Harvest King roster are already garnering some serious national attention. Throw Despistado into the mix, and the scene gains even more credibility.
Concert photo above by Kim Jay.