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Goodbye To A Great Band

I hate it when this happens. I read recently that The Constantines, one of my very favorite bands, are splitting up. I hate it even more than usual, though, because I have a history with these guys.

By way of background, though, singer-guitarists Bryan Webb and Steve Lambke formed the band with drummer Doug MacGregor and bassist Dallas Wehrle in Guelph, Ontario, Canada in 1999. (Keyboardist Evan Parker joined in 2002, and was later replaced by Will Goodman.) You should also know that they made some of the most intense and big-hearted rock of the last ten years. All their albums are excellent, but 2005's Tournament Of Hearts is where I think the quintet's mix of jagged, pulsing rockers and questioning ballads came closest to perfect. Check out that album's "Working Full-Time" and "Soon Enough."

Live, the Constantines were a beast. Onstage the bandmembers seemed like they were trying their best, all the time. That sounds simple, I guess, but it's also rare. Webb would shout himself hoarse, Lambke played so hard his face turned bright red, and Wehrle threw all these ridiculous, endearing rock god poses. There was the thrilling, life-affirming sense that the Constantines were incapable of anything other than total commitment. That passion, married to a sound that always seemed on the verge of exploding, was an amazing thing to witness.

The Constantines had a weird way of showing up at crucial moments for me. I remember seeing Bryan Webb walking down the street in the neighborhood where I lived in Toronto. Again, this might sound simple, but for some reason it had never occurred to me before that moment that I might occupy the same space as a musician that I admired. The first time I traveled for a story was to go see the Constantines. The first show I saw after moving to New York City was the Constantines. I won't take up your time with more examples, but I will consider myself lucky if the band ever gets back together. If that doesn't happen, that's okay. They've done their part. Thanks guys, and good luck.

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