Broken Social Scene
w/ Hannah Georgas
Brooklyn Bowl; Nashville, TN
October 6, 2023
Review by Philip Obenschain. Photos by Mary-Beth Blankenship.
One of the most important and influential bands of the 2000s indie rock scene, not just for their own musical contributions but also for all of the projects they spun off into, Canada’s Broken Social Scene have remained one of the most dependable and acclaimed bands of their era, since first finding broader attention and critical adoration with 2002 sophomore LP and bona fide indie classic You Forgot It in People. Though they’ve made a lot of excellent music since, it’s that LP that endures as the BSS’s most famous, fan-favorite effort, so it’s no surprise that last year, when it turned 20, the iconic group embarked on a short run of shows in celebration. Though Nashville wasn’t on that trek, we were thrilled when the band announced another fall leg of Your Forgot It in People anniversary dates this year (which still kind of works, as the record’s 2003 reissue is when it first became widely available in the U.S.), with a stop at Brooklyn Bowl Nashville with Hannah Georgas– the band’s first in Music City after an intimate 2018 appearance at Third Man Records’ Blue Room, and first in a larger venue here in more than a decade. Being the diehard fans of the indie rock boom of the aughts that we are, this was one of our most highly-anticipated shows of the year, and of course we were there to celebrate Broken Social Scene’s most cherished classic. Read on for our review and photos!
I LOVE Broken Social Scene and consider You Forgot It in People one of the defining records of my millennial youth, so I was surprised to see that this show wasn’t sold out, and even more surprised to arrive and discover that Brooklyn Bowl had closed the balcony, funneling the crowd onto the main floor (this filled it out enough, but c’mon Nashville, you slept on a legendary performance). Grabbing a spot at the front, I was soon greeted by opener Hannah Georgas, who, like BSS, hails from Canada, and has been crafting warm, melancholy, vulnerable, and anthemic indie rock and pop for a number of years. This was was my first time seeing her live, and I instantly understood why Broken Social Scene asked her on this tour- not only is her music a sonic compliment to theirs, but her enchanting voice really channels some of the famous vocalists who’ve been apart of BSS over the years, like Emily Haines and Feist (which only further delighted me when Georgas joined the band later for a couple of songs). Alternating between keyboard and guitar, with just the backing of a guitarist, Hannah played an especially stripped-down set- something I assume is just for this tour, as her songs are more full in recording- really giving space to showcase her fantastic songwriting, particularly on tunes from great new record I’d Be Lying If I Said I Didn’t Care like “Fake Happy.” It was a really lovely, personal way to start the show, and Hannah expressed so much gratitude not just for the audience, but for BSS for taking her out on their latest tour, as Nashville was the very last date of the anniversary run.
By the changeover, the room had filled, and the aging hipsters, indie dads, nostalgic millennials, and, to my surprise, a decent number of enthusiastic 20-somethings, were all waiting in anticipation, staring at the gigantic array of instruments that adorned the stage. It wouldn’t be long until the massive musical collective arrived, wasting no time by beginning their You Forgot It tribute with “KC Accidental” (save for the opening and closing instrumentals, they played the entire record- which wasn’t the case at every single tour date, occasionally omitting a track or two at other shows). Though the band’s lineup has always been fluid, I believe the roster for this performance was founders, multi-instrumentalists, and core members Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning, drummer Loel Campbell (filling in for longtime member Justin Peroff), guitarists and multi-instrumentalists Andrew Whiteman and Charles Spearin (who’ve both been around since the You Forgot It In People days), guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Sam Goldberg, trombonist and multi-instrumentalist Evan Cranley (also an O.G. from the You Forgot It era), and, new for these anniversary shows, vocalist Jill Harris, plus a few other performers whose names I didn’t catch. 20 years on, they sounded as incredible as ever, perfectly capturing every nuance and the lush layers and eccentricities and passion of the album.
After beginning the first part of the show with “KC,” they played the album in track order, from the rhythmic “Stars and Suns,” to the propulsive vocal trades of classic single “Almost Crimes,” to the melancholy and lush “Looks Just Like the Sun,” to the groovy and hypnotizing “Pacific Theme,” Notably out of sequence though was their most famous song of all, “Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl,” which they unsurprisingly held to the end, opting to skip to another standout YFIIP track, “Cause = Time.” Trading instruments and vocalists, alternating rock and roll freneticism and hypnotic, layered indie, and eliciting joyous singalongs from from a captivated crowd, after playing through roughly half of their beloved album, they opted to break up the set by peppering in some other favorites from their discography, like “7/4 (Shoreline)” and “Stay Happy,” while even making space to play a song from Kevin Drew’s forthcoming solo album, Aging, called “Out in the Fields,” which he dedicated to his late mother.
The band, and especially Drew, were in a fun but contemplative mood and nostalgic spirits throughout the whole night, pausing to ruminate about their career and You Forgot It in People days, bantering with the crowd, passing around records and posters to sign, and even pointing out a member of the audience whose hair he liked and handing her a free tote bag. It’s clear that revisiting this album puts them all- but especially the original members- in a bit of a weird headspace, where they seem to both appreciate and love its impact and legacy, while also dwelling on two decades of memories and nostalgia and some melancholy associated with it. I think that that only serves to make the experience all the more impactful though, as many in the audience, myself included, also experience it like a time machine back to a specific place and feeling of the 2000s. When the YFIIP portion of the show resumed, it was a little less track for track, picking up with vibey and instrumental “Late Nineties Bedroom Rock for the Missionaries” then “Shampoo Suicide,” both of which felt more filled out, dense, and jam-y than in their recorded versions. Skipping ahead, they also played “I’m Still Your Fag,” which hasn’t appeared in every show, but seemed a fitting addition for what is likely the very last date of this reunion.
As the performance entered its final stretch, some more favorites from other records made an appearance, including perhaps their best-known post-You Forget It song “Sweetest Kill,” which felt especially emotional and inspired live. And then, after “Hug of Thunder,” the group invited Hannah Georgas back out, who played keyboard and sang co-lead on beloved YFIIP single “Lover’s Spit,” with Kevin joining in as the song ramped up. After introducing every member of the band and crew, gushing about their talents and sincerity and personal merits, and after one last catalogue detour of “It’s All Gonna Break,” Drew invited Georgas out again to join Jill Harris (who I haven’t mentioned enough, but she did an admirable job stepping into the shoes of some lofty former vocalists for all of her lead and supplemental vocal parts) in a duet for “Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl,” the one he proclaimed “started it all.” Perhaps it’s a bit cliche to love the most famous and popular song the most, but there really is just something so special and unique about it, and hearing it live, with all of its texture and barrage of instrumentation and hypnotizing melodies, instantly made me feel 15 again, discovering Broken Social Scene and hearing those early albums for the first time and feeling changed. This was my first time seeing them in more than a decade, and I couldn’t have asked for a more special occasion, nor a better tribute to such an important record.
All photos by Mary-Beth Blankenship.
Stars and Sons
Looks Just Like the Sun
Cause = Time
Fire Eye’d Boy
Out in the Fields (Kevin Drew song)
Late Nineties Bedroom Rock for the Missionaries
I’m Still Your Fag
Hug of Thunder
It’s All Gonna Break
Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl