Review: Juliana Hatfield in my living room, January 23, 2021

Once upon a time, we gathered together in sweaty rock clubs and destroyed our ear drums and we loved it. I miss it. My last show was almost 11 months ago now. But it’s comforting to have many artists perform for their fans from afar (like I wrote about Dear Rouge doing a couple months ago), thanks to the internet. Man, this pandemic would’ve totally destroyed us psychologically (not to mention the horrifying physical toll) without the connection the internet has provided us. In fact, during today’s live acoustic performance of her 1998 album, Bed, Juliana Hatfield said that as much as she moans about how terrible the internet can be, she’s grateful the internet provides these kinds of opportunities to play and connect with fans.

Bed takes me right back to sitting on a TTC bus on my way from the subway station to my college course in publishing, listening on my Discman in late August or early September of ‘98. The album came out the week before the course started, and I was feeling a little alone, not really connecting with my classmates, and this album and its often dark themes of disconnection and self pity, helped me through my own phase of wallowing. Fortunately, and somewhat shockingly, I did eventually connect really well with a great group of people in that class, so all was well.

And all was more than well with this performance. Despite a little hiccup with audio/video lag in the early going, everything went really well. Her voice was smooth and strong and she looked amazing with her pink mask around her neck and grey tiger-print t-shirt under (for the early going) a black leather jacket. And she really seemed to enjoy herself, really seemed to be “in” the performance. But she’s always really honest in her performances. If she messes something up, she owns up and tries again. We’re human. It happens. Speaking of that, and that leather jacket, she even stopped “Backseat” to take off her jacket because it was getting in the way of playing the bridge of the song on her guitar. She also complained of the cold in the studio, so that’s some commitment for you: baring her arms despite the cold to ensure the rock stayed solid.

Bed also takes me back to those live shows she played in the ‘90s at what was my favourite club in Toronto at the time, Lee’s Palace, with its wonderfully weird art hanging everywhere. I felt at home there. I still have my green t-shirt from that Bed show, which (humblebrag) still fits me and says what I’m told is “bed” in Japanese on the front. Here’s a pic of the back (yeah, I need to take an iron to that thing):

Some thoughts I had during this livestream:

  • I loved how she sang some of the guitar solos.
  • I remember hearing “Bad Day” on the radio (102.1 The Edge in Toronto) a couple of times, but they stopped playing it after that. I don’t think I’ve ever heard her on the radio since then.
  • A quote: “I like having a little distance between me and people in general in my life.” Yup, same.
  • I was thrilled to hear she plans to do her 1995 album “Only Everything,” my personal favourite, next. Even better, she might play electric guitar so she can “do the bendy stuff.”
  • Another quote: “I like things to be difficult for myself. I don’t want anything to be too convenient.” I’ve always viewed Juliana Hatfield as a kindred spirit, but I can’t relate to this one. I do like for things to be “right” and I’ll keep trying until I get them right, but I’d prefer for things to go smoothly the first time.
  • Maybe the best part of the show, as a dog lover, was seeing her beloved chocolate lab, Charlie, stroll onto the set before her encore. I had a dog named Wrigley who looked just like her, so I know that chocolate lab love. She was a good girl, and spent some time laying on set, listening to mommy, and even perked her head up when Juliana loudly and self-deprecatingly groaned at her own ramblings about music and connection (which I would’ve liked to have heard more of, frankly).
  • She played “Waves” in the encore. I love that song so much, but it’s hard to find, a b-side. I know it best from a tape recording I made of the late, great Dave “Bookie” Bookman interviewing her on The Edge. She played a gorgeous acoustic version, not unlike what she played today.
  • I’ve always been a huge fan of her vastly underrated guitar playing. What impressed me most today was a part in “Staying In” (in the encore, from her latest album, Weird), where she played a few chords way down below where the neck attaches to the guitar’s body. That’s really hard to do without a cutaway (which her guitar didn’t have) and still make the strings ring true.
  • One more quote, about her current relationship with Evan Dando: “We’re in some kind of contact. It’s not conscious. I dream about him sometimes.”
Look at Charlie being such a good girl in her spotlight!

2 thoughts on “Review: Juliana Hatfield in my living room, January 23, 2021

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