Ben Caplan & The Casual Smokers - Mar. 15, 2017 @ Sugar, Victoria, BC

Passionate. Engaging. Dramatic. Interesting. I could sit here all day using adjectives to describe Ben Caplan & The Casual Smokers' performance at Sugar Nightclub the other night and they'd all be true, but no justice would be done. This was a musical masterclass from Caplan, Canada's philosopher troubadour and owner of one of music's finest beards. Caplan & Co's music is ridiculously theatrical and had me captivated more than folk music has got ahold of me in some time.

First off, and most ridiculously impressive, was the band's punctuality! This may seem like an insane thing to bring up in a review, but when a headliner at a club show is on the stage at 10, as advertised, it is a thing of goddamned beauty, especially on a weeknight. It's a small thing that shows a respect for the audience and starts things off on a nice little note. From the get-go, the sound mixing was on-point. Volume distortion is a constant battle at smaller club shows, especially with a powerful (and important) lead singer, but this was crystal clear – the Casual Smokers loud, but Caplan's voice front and centre, like it needed to be. The crispness of the mixing allowed to crowd to focus on and bond with the songs. These magnificent songs deserve to be heard as clearly possible. 

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5 Questions with Rags #44 - Ben Caplan (& The Casual Smokers)

There isn't a voice in Canadian like music like Ben Caplan. The deep, gravel-voiced leader of Ben Caplan & The Casual Smokers is a captivating talent, writing intelligent, interesting songs and delivering them with an intense passion and formidable talent. His songs are at once modern and timeless, covering love and life, good and evil, light and dark with eloquent nimbleness. I caught up with the mysterious man from the Maritimes as he and The Casual Smokers prepare to embark on a 33-date North American tour that sees the band go coast to coast across the Great White North and dipping down over the border to help ease the minds of our southern neighbours during troubling times.

1. Do you remember the first album you bought with your own money?

I do. It was a tape, I bought Pink Floyd's Relics.

Wow, that's not usually the first Pink Floyd record people pick up.

<laughs> It was a weird one, yeah. I had an older brother who was really into Pink Floyd. I wanted to make him think I was cool by finding a tape that he didn't have.

And did it work?

I don't know. Probably not. But I got into it.

2. Speaking as an older brother, you're right, it probably didn't. When is the last time you did something for the first time?

Probably last week, but I can't tell you what it is.

A secret project?! Oooh la la.

Haha. I'll tell you what, here's another one...I went to the Banff Centre for the first time about a month ago to do some work on a theatre project that I'm building. I'm working with actors and musicians on a theatre project I'm writing and I've never done that before. That was a big first for me. I think there's eight of us in total – four musicians, two actors, a director and another writer. It's been an interesting project. 

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