Music rags: Revelations on Current Swell

As much as I’ve genuinely tried and wanted to, I’ve never understood Current Swell’s appeal. Figuring out my animosity towards this entirely inoffensive band is my musical Rubik’s Cube, confusing and frustrating at every turn.

This Victoria-based roots rock band is clearly composed of a talented bunch of guys who enjoy what they do. They’re fans of music, like myself, come from the same place as me and play music that has obviously been influenced by much of the stuff I’ve grown up on (Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, and hell, even The Band). So not embracing them has felt like shunning a group of like-minded people at a party because I didn’t like one of their hats. There really is no reason for me not to like them.

But every time I see them on stage, I become overwhelmed with apathy and boredom. They just don’t light any kind of passion in me. I sleepwalk through their sets, counting the moments until the next band comes on to take me to some kind of concert nirvana.

On Thursday, Sept. 20, at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, where Current Swell opened for the mighty Dispatch, I was forced to look inside myself and face my old-man prejudice. I was forced to get over my until-then unconscious thought that no one my age could produce enjoyable music in a genre that I was sure had already been perfected.

Maybe, by accepting that I had built an illogical impasse in my mind, I was finally getting Current Swell.

It started as I walked up the stairs into the legendary Vancouver venue, expecting to see a band I’d never heard opening the night. The first thing that caught my eye was a white Current Swell shirt hanging at the merch table — a shirt I’ve seen at many other venues this summer. I was less than thrilled.

As Current Swell started their set, I noticed the dance floor filling up. I decided to get in the midst of the crowd — something I hadn’t done for one of their sets in a long, long time.

Intoxicated and surrounded by adoring audience members, I felt a smile spread across my face as I grooved to the heavy rhythms of “Cursed” and swayed aimlessly to the mellow reflection of “Young and Able.” For the first time since I’d heard their music and seen them on a stage, I wasn’t bored and unhappy with being at a Current Swell show.

The band is thoroughly engaging and entertaining, I realized. More importantly, they have the musical chops to thrive in a mainly word-of-mouth music scene. They have matured incredibly as songwriters and performers since the first time I saw them.

Yet, I’m probably not going to buy any of their albums. I’m not going to search “Current Swell” in live music archives or YouTube. But after seeing them up close at the Commodore Ballroom, I’m also not going to groan every time I hear the band’s name. In fact, while they may not rank near my top acts, the next time I see Current Swell playing with a band I love, I may just look forward to the opportunity to relax to some local boys playing solid, happy grooves.

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