Music

Raging Canadian rocker grandson is exactly what the world needs right now

As far as TV debuts go, well, let’s just say it left an impression.

Or bruises.

Maybe some welts, too.

If you tuned into Seth Meyers on a Wednesday night in mid August and saw him introduce a scruffy but fresh-faced, afro-headed youngster with the wholesome name of grandson and you were perhaps oblivious as to what you would see and hear — perhaps some songs about sitting on a tire swing in the suburbs or holding hands with a teenage sweetheart? — the intense performance was akin to going six rounds cranially with a steel door.

No, it wasn’t Fear on SNL incendiary, but the Late Night showing of his hit Blood // Water was one of those that had an impact that was primal, powerful and visceral. And thrilling.

“We had a couple of tricks up our sleeve that we couldn’t — that we decided, ‘Well, if we don’t want this one to be the last one, let’s make this an opportunity to just shed light on the underlying optimism of this project as opposed to necessarily being antagonistic or egregiously divisive,” says that curly mopped singer and man behind grandson Jordan Benjamin.

When pressed as to what that was, what he could have done to make his first TV show his last, the artist demurs.

“Nothing that I can say, but I might be bringing a couple of these antics out with me on the road, that’s all I’ll say,” he says.

That’s good news for local grandson fans, as his current tour brings him to Calgary for a Friday, Sept. 7 show at The Rec Room

And it’s also a nice assurance that recent acoustic versions of some of the tunes from his debut EP A Modern Tragedy Vol. 1 — including that aforementioned track — weren’t telegraphing that he’ll be performing a quiet little set, strumming and seated on a stool.

The American-born, Toronto-raised musician is more than happy to set the record straight that, like that televised appearance, it’s a full-band, fully electric affair.

“I don’t know what The Rec Room thinks they’re getting,” he says with a laugh, “but I’m going to be coming in there and fucking shit up.”

Please, by all means, continue to do so.

That may as well be the official credo of grandson.

It is music of this time and for this time.

Angry, politically-charged, progressively slanted, no-bullshit machine raging for the hashtag generation, and it takes on incredibly topical fare — from gun violence (Thoughts and Prayers) to the opioid crisis (Overdose) — in an incredibly angry, unapologetic and invigorating way.

It’s the perfect music and grandson is the perfect rock star for the age of Trump.

“I’m trying, man,” Benjamin says. “I’m trying to give this battle — which has been going on a lot longer than when this dude got into office — just a little bit of urgency and just give a soundtrack and a voice and really just a platform for the people at the frontline of conflicts that I believe in … the opportunity to be heard. Be heard and be recognized for what they are which is the fucking fight between good and evil in a lot of ways.”

That, actually, is what he says has guided the evolution of the project, what he hopes audiences and listeners get from it is that they are “not alone” in their outrage and feelings of helplessness, while also still finding optimism in those who are fighting the good fight.

On a day like this one, however, it’s difficult to keep that sense of optimism, as it is yet another day when politicians south of the border are offering the only two things, those two words, that they’re willing to in the wake of the mass shooting at a video game tournament in Jacksonville.

“Whenever I wake up and my mentions are blowing up with that song in particular I know that it’s not going to be an easy day,” the 24-year-old says of the frustrating timelessness and timeliness Thoughts and Prayers continues to have.

“There is absolutely good reason to be pissed off for some families, to be devastated, but I just, I don’t know, I’ve been able to connect with so many people that feel the same way you and I do, that are so disillusioned by being fed the same narrative that everything is fine these days.”

And although he’s cagey about when exactly more volumes of Modern Tragedy will drop — he hints that it could be any day now — he’ll keep making rock music that’s true to his beliefs and speaking for those who need that voice, while being aware of what it ultimately is.

“It’s still fun, it’s still rock music at the end of the day,” he says. “So I’m trying to find balance for trying to write about some really heavy topics and being willing to confront some really polarizing topics, but just revel in the fact that I wholeheartedly believe that change is coming and be a part of it, and at the end of the day it’s all good fun.”

And if he can ruffle some feathers along the way, maybe poke the eye of the big-bellied, bellicose, pumpkin patch beast with one of those songs, that’s even more fun.

“I’m just waiting for that hate-Tweet from Donald Trump,” he says. “Every time I think about it, I can’t help but smile.”

Grandson performs Friday, Sept. 7 at The Rec Room.

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