Hidden Cameras at the Empty Bottle

You need a chart to keep track of who’s who in Canadian rock collectives. It seems like every musician in Toronto and Montréal plays in about 12 bands, and each and every one of them has performed at some point in Broken Social Scene. Two bands from the intertwined Canadian indie-rock scene, the Hidden Cameras and Gentleman Reg, wrapped up their U.S. tour with a show Thursday (Dec. 3) at the Empty Bottle.

The two bands seemed to morph into one another Thursday. The Gentleman Reg set featured several of the musicians who showed up later as Hidden Cameras members. The two ladies in Gentleman Reg’s band donned long blonde wigs and waved red flags while the Hidden Cameras were playing. You get the feeling there’s a never-ending jam session going on somewhere up in Canada where musicians come and go from the stage, some of them occasionally paying us a visit south of the border.

The Hidden Cameras put out an excellent record in 2004 called Mississisauga Goddam and they’ve kept up the quality on their records since then, including a new album on the Arts & Crafts label, Origin:Orphan. Wearing antiquated-looking hoods, the band took the stage with the dramatic, quasi-symphonic prelude that opens the new record. Front man Joel Gibb and his band seemed to be going for a bit of a Spinal Tap vibe, but that lasted for only a few minutes. The hoods quickly came off, and the Hidden Cameras reveled in their upbeat, catchy tunes — which the group has described as “gay church folk music.” It’s celebratory and occasionally goofy music, with some of that Arcade Fire let’s-switch-instruments-every-three-minutes aesthetic and an infectious sense of fun.

Gentleman Reg is also on the Arts & Crafts label, with a new album called Jet Black, and his/their music was a good match with the Hidden Cameras. I don’t know how many the crowd was with Reg’s songs (I wasn’t familiar at all), but by the end, people were dancing and clapping along and even calling out for the opening act to do an encore. (That didn’t happen, but of course, Reg came back onto the stage later on to join in with the Hidden Cameras’ festivities.)

Awkward moment of the night: One of the Hidden Cameras tried to start a conversation with the crowd, asking if anyone was “engaged” in local politics. The response was an uncomfortable silence, and the musicians seemed to interpret this as meaning that everyone in attendance was apathetic about politics. Some more miscommunication ensued before the band wisely went back to playing music. If the Hidden Cameras had spoken individually with people in the crowd, I’m certain they would have found some folks with plenty to say about Chicago politics, but that sort of dialogue rarely works in the middle of a concert. It was too of a complicated question to answer with a shout from the dance floor.

Photos of the Hidden Cameras and Gentleman Reg.