Arts & EventsThe Tea Party’s Transmission Received Loud and Clear

The Tea Party’s Transmission Received Loud and Clear

The Tea Party’s Transmission Received Loud and Clear

Photos by Andre Gagne

It’s nearing the end of summer in 1997. Musically Oasis’ Be Here Now is climbing the charts to become the fastest selling album in UK history. The Backstreet Boys have just burst onto the scene re-igniting a boy band mania not seen since the New Kids were still “Hangin’ Tough”. Phish performs over eight hours of music at the The Great Went festival in Maine. On August 19, Fleetwood Mac reunite. That same day three guys from Windsor, Ontario sent out a Transmission unlike anything that summer and it was heard loud and clear.

Formed seven years earlier after an epic jam session in Toronto, The Tea Party were riding a wave in '97 that didn’t show signs of cresting anytime soon. Their third album released two years prior didn’t just shape their sound, it defined it in rock and roll stone. Jeff Martin, armed with chisel and hammer, stood alongside bandmates Stuart Chatwood and Jeff Burrows to carve out a slice of that rock they would inject with Middle Eastern and Indian sounds all coated in shimmering prog rock gloss.

The media called it Moroccon roll. The Tea Party called it Edges of Twilight . The album hit double platinum and raked in the Junos, including a Group of the Year award for the band. Songs like “The Bazaar” and “Sister Awake”, with their sitars and sarods, would become break out hits and become tied to the bands image as they moved forward trying to fathom a follow-up to the juggernaut they were now caught up in.

Transmission would be a worthy successor.

“So here’s the thing, when we were creating Transmission in 1996 I could never imagine that 20 years on we’d be celebrating this, let alone that I’d be here,” Martin told a sold-out crowd in Algonquin Commons Theatre last night during a stop on their #TX20 Tour.

“These three boys from Windsor, they came out firing on all cylinders and they put out a couple of pretty good records but the second one, The Edges of Twilight…” was about as far as Martin got into his speech before the eruption in the seats barreled towards the stage.

“Yeah, I know,” he said when the applause quelled. “We could have put out part two or part three or part four but that would have been too easy for those three boys from Windsor. So, what we decided to do, we went down some pretty dark places in order to bring the beauty back up.”

Carried to the light thrashing and screaming, the album would expand upon The Tea Party’s unique cultural collage while still remaining experimental. Martin, who produced the album, Chatwood and Burrows would work in more electronic sounds cutting the tracks with a rusted, but still sharp, industrial mix.

While also successful, the album was weighted under the band’s now expansive repertoire of hits and much of this transmission would get lost in the crackle and hum surrounding the group, clouded by other music that kept the release linger in the ether of the trio’s live shows.

Some of the songs had never been played live and the current anniversary tour was set to rectify that by performing the entire album. Reacquainting themselves with the material was like catching up with a friend or lover you haven’t seen in two decades but, if the reminiscing was rocky, it didn’t show on stage as the band blew through the album as though they had just recorded it. The intimacy of the theatre setting only heightened the ambiance.

Martin, dressed in black, didn’t so much as move around the stage as he did apparate between the shadows, attacking his power chords and unleashing that signature roar that made the band stand out in a flourishing mid-90's Canadian music scene. The singer was in no way content to rest behind the microphone, darting over the gap between him and the crowd to a more comfortable position at the edge of the stage.

“You’re going to have to stand,” shouted Martin, a request he’d have to make a few more times before the crowd got the point. There was no sitting at this show. You best rise!

The quiet moments patiently awaited the explosions with Transmission’s biggest cut, “Temptation”, moving out of the usual album order to wisely end the first set on a more upbeat note. 20 years on, the album received a deserved standing ovation. Much like they did for their reunion tour in 2011, after a short break the band emerged as though they’d only been offstage long enough for you to blink. The hits came with them. There were no missteps.

“Heaven Coming Down”, the band’s only number-one, worked in a bit of Zeppelin and Hendrix before ending the second set with “Save Me” , the crowd edging forwarded, moths to the flame of Martin’s bow solo.

The alchemy calumniated in the triple shot with “Winter Solstice” careening into “Sister Awake” which was in the middle of a heated clash with the Stones’ “Paint It Black”.

As the band continues to burn brilliantly through their second go-round, fans of The Tea Party are welcoming this return by making it clear that this band could continue transmitting for 20 more years and beyond.    

SETLIST:

SET 1: Transmission

1. Army Ants
2. Babylon
3. Psychopomp
4. Gyroscope
5. Emerald
6. Alarum
7. Release
8. Transmission
9. Embryo
10. Pulse
11. Aftermath
12. Temptation

SET 2:

13. Writing’s on the Wall
14. The Bazaar
15. The Ocean at the End
16. Heaven Coming Down / All Along the Watchtower / Stairway to Heaven
17. Save Me

ENCORE:

18. Winter Solstice / Sister Awake / Paint It Black

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