By Hollister Dixon
Before watching Sloan perform, I spoke with Music Millennium owner Terry Currier about popularity disparity of Canadian bands like Sloan or the Tragically Hip, and how it seems like there’s “an invisible barrier between the US and Canada”. He told me about the last time he saw Tragically Hip perform in Portland, at the Roseland, and the show was full of people who had come down from Vancouver for the chance to see the band in such a small space. The invent of the internet should have completely evaporated these barriers, but it seems bands like Sloan are just old enough to still be affected by this invisible wall.
It’s our gain, though. Sloan have been around for 25 years, and getting to see the band in a small space is a treat. The faithful were treated to two brilliant sets by the band: one comprising the entirety of their landmark 1996 album One Chord to Another, and a second spanning the band’s entire career. I’ll be completely honest: despite enjoying Sloan from afar for a long time, the band’s allure has never quite clicked with me. Despite this, watching the band perform at such a brilliant, breakneck pace was nothing short of awe-inspiring.
Sloan are the most unassuming rockstars you’ll ever see. They perform like they’re the Rolling Stones, and look like they’re all members of different bands, from the lost brother of R. Stevie Moore and J Mascis (Patrick Pentland), to the Canadian cousin of Thurston Moore (Chris Murphy) to a drummer who looks like he’s been plucked from a Damn Yankees tribute act (Andrew Scott). Yet, as a unit, all of these people work in brilliant lockstep, roaring through every song like it should be the biggest hit on the planet. They ripped through One Chord to Another as though it was made of sonic butter, and returned shortly after to give the same treatment to the rest of their catalog; When Chris Murphy’s comment on how the song from their 2003 record Action Pact would likely be the only one from the album they’d play was met with a couple loud grumbles from the crowd, he responded by jovially reminding the crowd that there was just no way they could play everything people wanted to hear.
Still, after watching the band’s onslaught of jangly indie pop, I found myself wanting to be one of the faithful in the subterranean space. This was a performance for the megafans and the die-hards. Seeing them perform left me wanting to go home and listen to every last record they had, but it disappointed me that I’d have to wait until their next time around to get to belt out all of those songs with the same upright zeal as everyone else in the room.