The Mod Club was not even half full for the tenth of October, the day Christopher Owens—formerly of Girls—would return to the Toronto venue. The last time Owens was at the venue was with Chet “JR” White in September of 2011, before Girls split. Half of the small crowd had either been to that show or, like myself, regretted not going to that show, thinking that Girls would be back. And people were asking where everyone was, and I guess everyone was still under the impression that Owens was anti-Girls—as he was right after the split, refusing to play Girls material and sticking to songs from his newly released Lysandre. The setlist, though, was full of Album (2009) and Father, Son, Holy Ghost (2011) tracks, and the band’s debut single, “Hellhole Ratrace.” Girls was back, sort of.
But the venue never did fill up.
Instead, the lights dimmed, and orchestral church-esque music started playing amidst shouts of “Cri55yBaby”—Owens’ Twitter handle. Before opening with “My Ma,” Owens turned to the bassist and gave him a look that could almost be called snarky, then played much of the song with his eyes scrunched shut.
People clapped, someone yelled “Cri55y Baby forever!” and without saying anything, Owens shifted to “It Comes Back to You,” a track from his sophomore solo album A New Testament (2014).
The entire night wavered between Girls songs and Owens songs—“Overcoming Me” followed by “Vomit,” “Stephen” starting the encore and “Hellhole Racetrack” capping the show—while Owens himself stayed mostly quiet. He was polite with his staggered “thank you’s,” and it was the audience who made an effort to get him talking.
“The Giants won tonight,” someone said.
“I know,” said Owens (his Twitter feed reveals his love of the Giants, as well as a family of raccoons).
Owens then played, consecutively, five A New Testament songs. Oddly, not one song from Lysandre was included in the set.
The two women singing back-up vocals did much of the work enchanting the crowd, siren-like, but taking none of the credit, saying “give it up for Mr. Christopher Owens” prior to “Forgiveness.”
There was a quick break before Owens returned, asking, “Sound okay out there?”
“Perfect,” someone said.
“Cool,” said Owens.
As if Owens had listened in on the pre-show chatter, he mentioned that his phone automatically connected to the Mod Club’s wi-fi, and he ended the night with “Hellhole Ratrace,” sometimes curling his leg around the guitar’s neck (true to the “shaking up a leg or two” lyrics) and doing this little jog-on-the-spot and tilting his head back to blow the hair out of his face, and one last “thank you.”
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