Back in June, I was driving in my car when a commercial came on the radio for the Songwriters show at Niagara Fallsview Casino. When I heard that one of my favourite songwriters, Kevin Griffin from Better than Ezra (BTE), was going to be there I nearly veered off the road. I rushed to a computer to buy tickets online and to my dismay, I learned that tickets had been on sale since April and there were only two seats available, and they weren’t even side by side. I bought the single tickets anyway, but I’m not even sure why I hesitated. I’ve been a Better than Ezra fan since I first heard “Good” nearly 20 years ago, and I vaguely remember joining the fan club at some point, therefore officially becoming an “Ezralite”, the name for the band’s super fans.
Better than Ezra set themselves apart from the other alternative rock groups I listened to and a lot had to do with the songwriting of their lead singer Kevin Griffin. The album “Deluxe” symbolized the angst that I felt as a young adult and those songs remind me of a very different time. Does it even seem possible that Google, smartphones and MP3’s didn’t exist back then?
Subsequent BTE albums contained more songs with lyrics applicable to the evolving stages of my life. I guess that’s part of the reason why they have kept such a loyal fan base over the years. “Friction, Baby” is still one of my favourite albums of all time and I listen to it in its entirety every couple of months. (Since 1996. I’m not kidding.)
To fill the gaps when Better than Ezra didn’t release any new material, I sought out the songs that Kevin Griffin wrote for other artists. I’ve been building a playlist of those songs for quite some time. (Yes, one of my weird hobbies, an evolution from the mix tapes I used to make. “R3wind”, anyone?) It hasn’t been an easy task because he’s written hundreds of songs and some of them are nearly impossible to find, even with the use of the Internet because they are probably on somebody’s unreleased album. I used a combination of the the BMI database, Kevin’s official website, interviews, Twitter (which I started following when he was @blahblah95), iTunes (Apple removed the View by Composer feature somewhere along the way which drove me insane), the public library and trying to locate CD’s in retail stores, which has become increasingly difficult to do in Canada. Recently, I started using the online music streaming service Grooveshark, and it’s been great to have music on demand that is both legal and free although the trade-off is not having CD quality audio. The day before the Songwriters show, I shared my Grooveshark online playlist of Kevin Griffin songs via Twitter. I was amazed when Kevin replied to me, and I tweeted back that the last time I had seen him was at Lee’s Palace in Toronto.
So while it wasn’t a Better than Ezra show, I was still pretty stoked to see Kevin Griffin last month, when he shared the stage with fellow songwriters Desmond Child and Bob Dipiero. The show was very entertaining, and each songwriter took turns telling the stories behind the songs and then singing them. Kevin sung “Collide”, “Good”, “Odds Are” and “Stuck Like Glue”. As the lead-in to “Good”, he mentioned when he last played that particular version of the song: “Does anyone remember Lee’s Palace?” There was a small smattering of applause and I think my heart stopped for a moment: Was he talking to me?
Immediately after the show, while the people sitting behind me were still trying to decide what to do, I briskly walked toward the stage and approached Kevin to say hi before he could escape. I was nervous but I knew I had to do it. I had missed my one opportunity years ago because I was too chicken. But what do you say while silently freaking out? Not to mention that there’s a fine line between looking like an enthusiastic fan and being a psychotic stalker. I managed to squeak out a polite hello and said that I was the one who had tweeted him earlier. Thank goodness for Twitter. Because of that pre-introduction, I didn’t have to talk too much and say too little, but I’m sure he saw me tremble. (See what I did there?) Kevin turned out to be the nice, down-to-earth person he appears to be. There were a lot of people waiting to see him and he could have easily given me the brush-off but he didn’t. I appreciated the time he spent chatting with me and posing for photos. I felt vindicated for all my years of fandom!
I am very excited that after 5 years, Better than Ezra is releasing a new album in September called “All Together Now”. I’ve already pre-ordered my CD bundle, despite having to pay for the currency conversion and international shipping costs. Sometimes you can’t cheap out for the things you want, although I refused to pay $98 (!) for shipping through UPS.
I’m hopeful that Better than Ezra will make Toronto one of their tour stops in 2015 because online shows and a 10 year old concert DVD aren’t cutting it for me any more. Seeing BTE live again and also meeting Tom Drummond would be an incredible way to celebrate 20 years as an Ezralite.