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The Watchmen In Concert
In the wake of Seattle natives Nirvana and Pearl Jam's epochal success in the early 1990s, record labels scoured the continent in search of the area that would produce music's next stars. Amid the frenzy, alt-rock hopefuls The Watchmen planted the flag for an especially unlikely location: the midsize Canadian-prairie city of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
The quartet's 1992 debut ‘McLaren Furnace Room' was rife with the sort of gritty sonic signifiers — Joey Serlin's needling guitar riffs, Ken Tizzard's brawny, bass grooves — that got the mosh pits moving at the time. But cutting through the melee were the powerful pipes of singer Danny Greaves, an uncommonly emotive singer in an age of grunge growlers.
Greaves was given more room to shine on the band's 1994 commercial breakthrough ‘In the Trees.' Lead single "Boneyard Tree" saw the band harness its attack into a taut propulsion reminiscent of Canadian rock deities the Tragically Hip, while the rousing ballad "All Uncovered" brought a greater sensitivity to the fore, with its gently brushed backbeat, sweeping strings, and homey harmonica refrains.
‘In the Trees' went platinum in Canada and earned the band Group of the Year honors at the 1995 Juno Awards. The band remained fixtures on Canadian rock radio throughout the ‘90s while subtly stretching their sound — the soulful serenade "Any Day Now" (from 1998's ‘Silent Radar') featured the inimitable organ stylings of Tom Petty sideman Benmont Tench.
But the departure of founding drummer Sammy Kohn at decade's end inspired a radical rethink. For 2001's ‘Slomotion,' The Watchmen turned to producer Rhys Fulber (of Vancouver industrial outfit Front Line Assembly) to reformulate their sound with synth textures and electronic beats, yielding the band's fourth Canadian gold record.
In 2003, the band announced its breakup, embarking on a farewell tour across Canada. However, no ‘90s alt-rock institution stays gone for long. After the original lineup got back together for a 2010 reunion gig at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern, The Watchmen have periodically returned to the road. In 2017, they released their first-ever live album — ‘Live and in Stereo,' recorded at the Burton Cummings Theatre in their hometown of Winnipeg.