Kris Demeanor just fine

By Alan Cho

He is one of Calgary’s most prolific singer/songwriters, known for crafting wry songs imbued with the poetic everyday on his weapon of choice, the acoustic guitar. His thick fingers slide across guitar strings, coaxing out his infectious bluegrass funk sound. Poster-boy for musical unpredictably, he pumps out country, rap and everything in between.

On a lukewarm October afternoon, we find Kris Demeanor redoing his deck and those thick fingers have abandoned melody for the malicious pleasure of fucking shit up–specifically, the stubborn nails refusing to be evicted from the rotting planks of his deck.

"We should start the whole thing from scratch, but I think we’re going to do it half-assed," Kris confesses, taking a small break from his manly task.

The same can’t be said of his music.

His video for "Extreme to Me" won the Alberta Motion Picture Industry award for "Best Music Video," he’s performed with Rufus Wainwright, Buck 65 and Hawksley Workman and his last CD, Lark, was released to critical and public acclaim.

Two days after ripping his deck apart, with the lights set on "moody," Kris Demeanor and his Crack Band recorded their first live album on the hardwood floor scuffed by inebriated dancers in ill-fitting boots at the Ironwood Stage and Grill.

"It’s been a good year and I thought this would be a good interim project before the studio CD," explains Kris. "We’ve had some songs kickin’ around that you play at the end of the night when everyone’s drunk. We wanted to do a live CD and make a party album–this is it."

This wasn’t just any live recording. This wasn’t an awkward musician punctuating the night of sugary and trite ballads with even more sugary and trite tales of his youth while confessing his love for Jewel. This really was a party.

In fact, audience participation was the focus at the Ironwood in Inglewood, as Kris Demeanor and his Crack Band brought the intoxicating power of rock to the people on Oct. 8 and 9. For the single, "You’re You," sheets were passed out, inviting the audience to come up with lyrics 10 minutes before the show.

"Part of my responsibility is to take people out of their comfort zones or challenge them to respond to me," Kris explains his philosophy on the musician-audience relationship. "When I was playing on the streets in Europe, I was on street level with everybody. I couldn’t hide behind lights or an elevated platform. They look you in the eye and don’t throw you money unless they want to. On a slow day of buskin’ we’d go to people having dinner on their patio and serenade them or grab a kid off the street to slap bongos with us. That would get you money, the relationship seemed clear."

Kris’ Cuban alter ego, "Eduardo," opened the night with a monologue explaining how the Crack Band got together–an elaborate story involving a drummer imprisoned for trafficking hash as well as other Central American misadventures. The energy of the night was set, and accompanied by a three-piece horn section, violins and sexy backup singers, the band launched into the show.

Kris Demeanor and his Crack Band connected with listeners in a rare way with songs that present basic human experiences. In the song "Get Down Airborne Bastard," Kris rants and rages against his allergies, accompanied by the screaming of a fired-up full house.

In the second set, it was time to receive the fruit of the audience’s labours, "You’re You." The lyrics submitted were as varied as the musical styles played. "You’re the sky, without the stars/You’re the beer, without the bar," and, "You’re the pad, without the wings/You’re the tampon, without the string." Well, you get the idea.

Even with the show recorded and ready to be mixed, Kris won’t have a chance to rest.

"Hopefully the live CD will be out by the end of the year," he says. "I’ll be going to Europe in November, I’ll come back and then concentrate on touring Canada. Right now, we’re collecting and compiling material, like live footage and the video we did with Bravo, for a DVD we want to get out next–it’ll have scripted band fights."

For now, Kris lets his fingers rest against a cluttered kitchen table, taking a small breather. They stretch out to the crackling of his knuckles so they may wallow in the destruction of a rotting deck. The guitar can wait.

Listen to us screaming our lungs out on the live album, coming to record stores in mid to late January.

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