Hey there if you’re still out there, this is just to let you know I’m still out here. I haven’t blogged much in a long while, it’s just how it has gone. I still think of you folks a lot, though, so you know. I truly do hope you’re well.
Here’s some stuff from the past while…
Last GBV From Vinyl Diner
When we lived in Saskatoon, I always checked out Vinyl Diner on Broadway (Hi Stu!), and it was my go-to source for new GBV releases. I loved hanging out, chatting. Stu is straight up awesome. I used to say “I need something new, recommend something!” and he was able to parse that into a) something he knew I’d like, and b) something he had on hand. A great example is the mighty Nasty On EP called Lester Bangs. I still love that one.
Anyway, we left Saskatoon in 2005, and for the past 14 years, I have mail-ordered my new GBV releases from Stu because he is still my source and I love to support his shoppe. Well, Stu is retiring and the shoppe is being taken over by a couple of new guys. I received Sweating The Plague in the mail recently and it’s my last-ever Stu GBV album. End of an era. Thank you Stu. You are the absolute best!
Possibly The Last Big Smoke Run Of 2019
My Dad and I went to Toronto on Sunday, just to do our usual wander. We invited Mike but he had prior plans to be in London, which is geographically in the opposite direction from our goal. Alas. Still, we wanted to get in one more run to the city before winter makes the roads not worth the hassle. Turned out to be a beautiful sunny day, hovering around 0C and lovely.
Now, I’ve recently bought Charlotte (my kick-ass Classic Vibe Strat – see last post) and the Sloan Navy Blues boxed set (which I still haven’t opened, if you can imagine… I really should do, as I want the MP3s for the car!), so I really probably shouldn’t have even gone into record stores. But I seem physically incapable of going to the city without being magnetically pulled into them. It happens. But I tried to be good. I really did. And of course, I still found a few wee things to tide me over…
Hall Ranaldo Hooler – Oasis Of Whispers: Seems to be a jazz album, but with Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo? I’m in.
Wynton Marsalis Quartet – The Magic Hour: Bought because Wynton.
Leon Bridges – Good Thing: I have the LP but I saw the CD and thought why not, since I have the other one… ah, collector brain…
Elevator Through – Original Music From The Motion Picture “the such”: I see Rick White, I add to collection.
True Love Waits – Christopher O’Riley Plays Radiohead: all those cool tunes in piano versions? Yeah I could dig that.
Ronnie Wood – Anthology: The Essential Crossexion: I do love Ronnie and this is a sweet-looking set. I had James check pricing and I got it for a deal.
Tool – Fear Inoculum (Limited Edition): I really didn’t need to buy this. Brother Criag gave me his download code, so I’ve heard it. But the collector in me wanted the cool set with the screen etc. And when Tool says Limited, they mean it. I left Salival one time, and when I went back they were long gone and now they’re stupid-expensive. So I panicked and bought this.
Mike Goldsmith – Discord: The Story Of Noise: I’ve always been sensitive to noise, and it seems as I age it’s getting stronger. This book’s flyleaf intrigued (see below). Looking forward to reading!
Noise is a widely recognized and ever-increasing problem–and a growing health concern–in the modern world. In Discord, Mike Goldsmith looks at the science and history of the long battle between people and noise–a battle that has changed our lives and molded our societies. He investigates how increasing noise levels relate to human progress, from the clatter of wheels on cobbles to the sound of heavy machinery; explains how our scientific understanding of sound and hearing has developed; and looks at noise in nature, including the remarkable ways in which some animals, such as shrimps, use noise as a weapon or to catch prey. Goldsmith also examines the importance of managing noise levels and developing suitable “soundscapes” in industry, schools, or public spaces. In addition, the book shows that noise, in the sense of dissonance, can also be used positively: composers have employed it from Baroque music to Rock feedback; medicine harnesses it to shatter kidney stones and treat cancer; and even the military uses it in (real and rumored) weapons. Goldsmith concludes by turning to the future, discussing ways in which new science and new ideas may change the way the world will sound. (pullled from Amazon dot com).
The rest is just living a busy life. I’m still at the same job, the kids are now 10 and 8 and going in lots of different directions and thriving. I’ve been cheering for the Leafs and, let’s face it, this year that’s become a really tough gig. Winter is upon us, and all reports say it should be good one, lots of snow. Cool, I love the snow. And it’s OK, we’ll hole up with my tunes and guitars and be just fine… As for this site, I suppose time just fills in with different things, when you let it. I do truly miss reading all of your blogs. As for writing, well, sporadic will have to do. I’m honestly not at the computer much, anymore. Take care, Dear Readers, and stay warm.
PS Just putting it out there that I have, of late, been absolutely hooked on listening to Opeth’s 2003 album Damnation. It is anomalous in their discography (not one single vocal growl to be found!) and that’s OK too. It’s just so utterly beautiful and haunting and memorable. I’ve been listening carefully and it truly seems to be a complete, perfect album. Get you some!
Herein lies a tale.
I’ve told you about my other women, by which I mean my guitars (it’s what my lovely wife calls them). I love them all equally, and play whenever I can.
Now, you know I love my Squier Classic Vibe 50s Telecaster. She’s a beaut. Plays like butter, and she twangs and sustains like all get out. That was me happy.
Still, for years, in the back of my mind I’ve also eyed the Classic Vibe 50 Stratocaster (2-colour burst with maple neck).
However, because I’m silly, I never pulled the trigger. I stalked it and watched as the price would jump to double as stock would deplete and secondary sellers looked to capitalize.
Turns out, the Classic Vibe series, as I knew it, was ending after years of awesome. My 50s Strat was out of stock and unlikely to return. They had other series, but it wasn’t the same.
Digging around, I found one left in Ontario, through Long & McQuade. I ordered it. It arrived very quickly, but it was the incorrect guitar! They’d sent a Classic Vibe 60s Strat in 3-colour burst with rosewood neck. It’d had the sales tag of my guitar, but attached to the wrong guitar!
The dude at L&M found one left in Charlottetown, PEI and ordered it in. Staff there said it had a slight blemish in the finish but we could have a look when it got in, decide then. It took two weeks to arrive.
This time it was the right guitar, and I watched as it was removed from a Gretsch box (used for shipping only!), and it’s glorious. It called to me the minute I laid eyes on it. I played it in-store, on the exact same amp as I have at home, and it’s so sweet. It’s exactly what you want from a Strat and, not unlike the Tele, plays like the $2000 Fender Strat for a fraction of the price. And, like the Tele, it’s true to 50s spec.* This series is so damn perfect.
The blemish in the finish is a truly wee little nick on the underside of the body. Obviously someone bonked it while trying it out in the store. Totally liveable, not even visible, not a dealbreaker. Otherwise, there’s not a mark on her. The guy at L&M even broke out the guitar polish and showed her some love before I played it.
I’ve named her Charlotte.
- Alder body with gloss polyester finish
- 1-Piece Maple, Modern C Shape neck, 9.5 in radius maple fingerboard and 21 medium jumbo frets
- 3 Custom Vintage Style Single-Coil Strat Pickups with Staggered, AlNiCo 3 Magnet Pole Pieces and Aged White Covers
- Vintage Style Synchronized Tremolo. Nut Width: 1.650 inches(42 mm)
- Master volume with 2 tone controls with 5 position pickup selector switch
I’m writing this on October 27. Right now, I’m four reviews behind, not yet done writing about Said The Whale. With only a few weeks until Kim Churchill, I really should be cleaning up my backlog and not jumping the line and making more work for myself because I think the idea of writing a concert review of a hockey game is funny. But hey, there were bands.
If you’re wondering why I went to hockey when I famously don’t care about hockey, well, I like going to things. And also I didn’t know what it would cost when Dave asked if I wanted him to pick up tickets for me and Mika when he was buying his. This would rank among the most expensive concerts I’ve ever been to, and this time I didn’t get to see Neil Young or meet Weird Al. Also, it wasn’t a concert. Except when it was.
Dave and Jen and Jen’s friend and Jen’s dad all drove in for the game, arriving early afternoon. We had a nice visit, by which I mean Carl did, as he’s the most popular and entertaining member of this family. Eventually, we all put on our long underwear (separately; this wasn’t a group activity) (though we pretty much all did it at once) and headed out to Brewster’s for a 4:00 pm supper like the elderly that we are. I had chicken, so yeah, official concert. My sandwich came with a fried pickle, which 1) should be standard with every sandwich, and 2) should be the new requirement for official concert status.
The game started at 8:00 with doors opening at 6:00. We were done eating at 5:00, but with 33,000 people attending, we figured that heading to the stadium early wasn’t the worst idea. We’d bought parking passes, so this would be my first time parking there. Mika and I always take the bus for Rider games and concerts, and for the soccer game, we just parked downtown and walked forever. We arrived a little before 5:30 and parking was easy, but I figured leaving would be a lot different. Dave’s carload all put their jerseys on over their parkas and we went exploring.
It was -4C, but felt like -11C with the windchill. 24.8F and 12.2F, respectively. And we were going to be outside until the game ended. I had gloves on my gloves with packs of those disposable handwarmers to shove inside them, as well as a new-to-me technological innovation – the same thing, but for your feet. I had also planned on buying some Winnipeg Jets gear to taunt Calgary Flames-loving Dave, but even though my strike is over for now (and hopefully for good), I decided that I didn’t need to make a stupid purchase just for fun, so I skipped it and just wore my Crash Test Dummies toque from 1995. They’re from Winnipeg and it’s the right colour to support the Jets, it counts. Plus, that toque is warm as heck and still in great shape for being old enough to be done college. It might be the most durable, well-designed article of clothing I own.
We walked to the grounds, passing the NHL Mobile Refrigeration Unit, which might have been very necessary the day before when it was +15, but just seemed needlessly cruel at -4 and windy. Even this early, there was a nice long line to get into the exhibits. We had our bags checked, went through metal detectors, and were surveilled by a very nice security guard who told us that “if you have weapons, you should go home, and if you’re cold like me, you should go home.”
There were displays and merchandise shops and sponsors’ booths set up. We mostly skipped them, though I did get a 5c/litre discount card for Esso, so that’s nice. I don’t shop there, but still, nice. There were two Tim Hortons trucks – one in Flames red and one in Jets blue – offering free coffee. There was also a Safeway truck which was not offering free groceries, as far as I could tell, so that was a disappointment. And the Kubota display? No free tractors. There were also hockey-related games and a big inflatable hockey player and Lanny McDonald and his mustache signing autographs and a cover band playing Surrender by Cheap Trick. They were fine. I like that song.
Once inside the stadium, we immediately saw Don Cherry which provoked “hey neat” and “ugh” feelings in equal measure. Kind of like that time I saw the Queen. We then took a walk around the stadium (not with Don Cherry, which was probably for the best; dude’s moving slowly these days). It was a first-time visit for Dave and Jen and Jen’s dad, and they seemed to think it was a nice place, especially enjoying the giant picture of a certain relative of Jen and her dad celebrating a certain championship win in a certain sport. I know that through 350 concert reviews, I’ve given out enough personal information to let all of you steal my identity, but if you want my friends’ too, you’ll have to work for it a little bit.
We found our seats. Lower bowl, section 136. Pretty good, though it was just kind of weird in general to have so much space between the rink and the fans. I think they should have had to play in a special rink the size of the full football field. There were loud drunks behind us (and, really, all over everywhere) but they were funny? They spent the entire game beaking at each other and the players in comical fashion, marking the first time in recorded human history that any situation has been improved by the presence of loud drunks.
About an hour out from the scheduled start time, according to one of three conflicting countdowns we would see on the Maxtron, the band Toque was introduced. The name sounded familiar, and Mika’s googling turned up why – it was local boy Todd Kerns’ 80s Canadian rock cover band. Kerns is more famous for being in Age of Electric and Static in Stereo, as well as touring with Slash. Anyway, to everyone’s surprise, the 80s Canadian rock cover band played 80s Canadian rock songs including Raise a Little Hell, Go For Soda, and personal favourites New Girl Now and that one that I think is called Gone Gone Gone She Been Gone So Long She Been Gone Gone Gone So Long (I Wonder If I’m Ever Gonna See My Girl). This was… pretty good, actually? I mean, it’s a cover band, you know what you’re going to get, but everything was fun and done well. Would see again, even intentionally. They came out a few times during the game to play more songs to fill time, but never for very long, so if you ever wanted to hear a version of Summer of ’69 that ends before the “me and some guys from school” part, this was your chance.
As we approached game time, Jess Moskaluke and the Hunter Brothers came out and did a song together. It was fine. Then the Hunter Brothers sang the national anthem. It was also fine and I enjoyed the fireworks, especially because they were both pretty and relatively quiet. We didn’t need loud jets doing a loud flyover of the stadium but there we were. Also, I know they said to remove your headwear for the anthem but man, it was cold. I put in my handwarmers. I also put my footwarmers in my shoes. I had learned about them at work, where I was also told that they look like maxipads. Can confirm. I was cautioned not to confuse the two, but honestly, they probably both give off the same amount of heat. My feet were cold, is what I’m saying.
First period: the Jets and Flames played hockey. Nobody scored.
Before we’d left the house, I asked Dave if there were bands playing at this thing, and the one he knew of was the Sheepdogs and I rolled my eyes. Of course it’s the Sheepdogs. They’re from Saskatoon and they’re at every event in Saskatchewan. Anyway, between periods, they came out and played a few songs, including the singles Feeling Good and I Don’t Know. I liked the fireworks. And really, this was all fine, I have no real complaints. I just don’t care about the Sheepdogs, and it wasn’t like when we saw Colin James and I had to admit that while he may be another Saskatchewan boy who’s at every local event, if you can ignore that, he really is super talented.
Second period: the Jets and Flames played more hockey. The Flames scored once. Dave was happy.
At one point, they played The Last Saskatchewan Pirate over the PA system, which gave me PTSD flashbacks from Rider games. They play it there for the fourth-quarter stretch and it always features an appearance from Work Safe Bob, a mascot whose existence eats away at my very being. He makes me hate the fourth quarter and all football and safety and being safe and life itself and I’ve given him an obscene nickname that I will not repeat here.
SAFETY FUCKER. His name is SAFETY FUCKER. It’s spelled in all caps. I hate him so much.
Let me lighten the mood. I think it was in here that the in-game host came on the Maxtron and told us to “circle the bowl” to go to the merchandise stands and restaurants and then immediately switched to “circle the concourse” once he realized what he’d said. I laughed.
Jess Moskaluke came back out to sing a few songs before the third period. She’s another local that you see all over the place, though it has been neat to watch her progress from relative unknown to an actual star. Or at least I think she is? I don’t know from country. Either she is or they’re doing a good job of convincing me she is, which is as good as the real thing as far as it impacts my life, which is not at all. Anyway, she played Cheap Wine and Cigarettes, as well as Country Girls, as well as other songs I forget. This was not really my thing but it was fine and I enjoyed the fireworks, a recurring theme. She seemed woefully underdressed for the weather, which would normally imply she was wearing something skimpy, but here just meant it was normal clothes and not a full snowsuit and I bet she was cold as balls.
Third period: the most important part of the evening happened; namely, the mascots for both teams came up the stairs by us and I was able to high-five both the current Jets mascot (Mick E. Moose) and the original Jets mascot (Benny) (as in Benny and the Jets) (it’s spelled wrong but that’s still pretty good). Harvey the Hound, meanwhile, took a picture with some folks across from us and I didn’t get to high-five him. I was already half-cheering the Jets since someone needed to balance out our group, but that cemented it.
Also, the Jets and Flames played more hockey. The Jets scored once. Dave was sad and declined my high-five of consolation but did accept a fist bump of consolation, though it was a dud and didn’t explode. I was happy because I’m a Jets fan now and forever, but was also very cold and didn’t relish the idea of overtime. Also, they didn’t have a band ready to play in the event of overtime. They didn’t even bring Toque back out to play the first 30 seconds of Moonlight Desires.
Overtime: the Jets and Flames played more hockey. A Flame tripped a Jet and the Jets scored on a power play and won. Dave was sad. I got to learn how overtime works. We got the best fireworks of the night.
Then we want back to our cars. Or rather, Mika and I went past our car because we were following Dave and his crew and we went past where the cars were and then they were behind us somehow? This got all the more confusing after fighting our way through the snarl of traffic leaving the stadium, getting out of there well ahead of Dave, and yet somehow getting home after they arrived. Jen said they took Ring Road, which doesn’t make sense to me. Google Maps backs me up, but I guess they’d have faced less post-game traffic and that would make the difference. So it obviously makes perfect sense. I got to learn all kinds of things.
This was fine. I liked the fireworks.
Jeremy Dutcher won the Polaris Prize for his album Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa, which means “The Songs of the People of the Beautiful River.” It combines his singing and piano with wax cylinder recordings of Indigenous songs from over 100 years ago. Several friends recommended it to me and it’s fascinating – unlike anything I’ve ever heard, and an excellent fit to be performed with the symphony.
We got to the Conexus Arts Centre and I was delighted to discover I’d bought us good seats. It had been a while and I’d forgotten, but we were dead centre, five rows back in a row with extra legroom. Fine work, me. Though it’s a little weird being so close. There’s so many people in the orchestra and they can all see you. They likely won’t, they have things to do, but still. They could. It’s unnerving.
Symphony shows are hard to write about. They start on time. You have assigned seats. There are no drunken louts. No inexplicable opening acts. No wacky misadventures and no deep-fried anything. In short, no shenanigans, and I get my word count from shenanigans. I mean, the Executive Director of the symphony introduced the performance, then was presented with a bouquet as she’s moving on to a fancier job at one of the major American symphonies. That’s a nice moment but nothing I can work with. I need some loud drunks and maybe a fistfight.
Also, the more formal the music, the less I know about it. And I’m not really suited to intelligently critique rock shows in bars by artists I’ve seen ten times over already.
Anyway, the performance had a pattern. The symphony performed a few pieces, then Dutcher would join for some, then he’d leave for one, then come back, then repeat. Dutcher was an engaging performer – not only a very talented singer and pianist, but charmingly funny as well. He had a recurring bit during the second half where his desire to stay hydrated slowly escalated as the night went on. I have to describe it in vague terms because it doesn’t sound funny if I say he came out with a glass of water, returned a while later with the pitcher, and then finally drank from the pitcher before the encore. See? Not funny. But it was funny when it happened.
For the first half, he wore what appeared to be a beaded jacket, but he emerged for the second half wearing a full-length floral robe. I mention this only because symphony patrons were all in for this robe. This robe was a star. This robe could have headlined the show without help.
Wait, right, music, yeah. The point of this all, not water and robes, even exceptional robes. It was what I expected – beautiful and haunting, expertly sung and performed.
Most of the evening was Dutcher’s songs. This should be the part where I get to cheat and transcribe the program, except – gasp – it’s wrong. At least slightly; it lists Up Where We Belong by Buffy Sainte-Marie, and they didn’t play that, though they did perform Until it’s Time for You to Go, another of hers. There was also a Dvorák piece, and one by Cris Derksen. But Dutcher was the star, reimagining historical music in a modern context, then blending it with the orchestra in a memorable performance.
My first time seeing Hollerado will be my last time seeing Hollerado.
I’ve known of them for at least a decade, as their song Juliette was a mainstay on the Canadian indie rock satellite radio station way back when. Their name would come up every once in a while, often tied to some sort of a gimmick. Their album Record In A Bag was packaged in an actual plastic bag with confetti, and the covers for White Paint were cut from big paint-splattered sheets so each cover was unique. There was also a special White Paint package you could get where the band would write a custom song about you. These were collected and released as 111 Songs.
I liked what I’d heard of them and they came through town regularly enough, but somehow, I never managed to make it out to see them. And then they announced they would be breaking up following the release of the album Retaliation Vacation and the subsequent One Last Time Tour, so this became a now-or-never situation.
Doors were at 8:00 and Mika and I had our usual debate about what time to actually show up. I pick 8:01, she says midnight, and we negotiate from there. I think we showed up close to 9:00, and… we parked close to the door, let’s put it that way. Either we were way too early or there weren’t going to be a lot of people there. As it happened, we were a little early and the place filled up some, though it wasn’t a huge crowd. Later on, the band laughingly said it was actually the biggest crowd they’d ever drawn here. If that’s true (and they didn’t sound like they were kidding), 1) yikes, 2) we suck here, myself included, and 3) it’s pretty admirable that they came back on this tour anyway.
We took our seats and got Friday night wild party drinks consisting of an iced tea and a Diet Pepsi, which felt like the height of luxury because I was still on strike at that point and austerity measures were in place. Thankfully, we’re back at work now and I’m back to neglecting all common financial sense.
The openers were Little Junior. Rockier than power-pop but not quite pop-punk, I wanted to hate them because they looked very young and made me feel very old. But I didn’t hate them! I think I hated their haircuts, but I’m old so I think I’m supposed to. Also, it was two weeks ago now and I can’t remember if I even really did. Whatever. This wasn’t really aimed at me but it was fine.
Hollerado, meanwhile, was a ton of fun. It’s the kind of high-energy rock that really hits my sweet spot; having listened to some earlier in the day, Mika and I were both surprised that I hadn’t spent more time listening to them. Though I went in not knowing a ton of their stuff (as is so often the case; it kind of makes you wonder why I do this), I really enjoyed myself. They really put on a show, with the lead singer jumping into the crowd a few times, including once trying to get audience members to play jump rope with the microphone cord. And a long-time fan was in the audience and was invited up onto the stage to play along with them.
In between songs, they cracked jokes (including one so bad they blamed it on the opening act) and opened themselves up for audience questions, but all anyone wanted to know was why they were breaking up. After a few joke answers, they said “nobody’s sixth album is any good” and said it was time to make space for up-and-coming bands like Little Junior. On the one hand, I get it. On the other, I’m late to the party and disappointed that I won’t get another chance to see them. That is, at least not until the inevitable anniversary reunion tour some round number of years from now.
Andino Suns are a great live band and you should definitely go see them if you’re able.
I’m mentioning this up front because I feel like much of my time is going to be spent on variations of “it’s not the band I hate, it’s their fans,” and I find that whenever I complain about things in one of these, the complaint becomes the takeaway. And Andino Suns were really good and that shouldn’t get lost.
Anyway, The Dead South. They are locals who made good, a bluegrass band from around these parts that’s gone on to tour the world. This was the sold-out first night of their Canadian tour for their new album, Sugar & Joy. When Mika and I were in Toronto for Thrush Hermit, we saw a poster for their (then-upcoming) (and possibly still upcoming, depending on what time I send this out) (update: whoops) Halloween show, showing them as zombies – The Undead South.
We saw them last at the Regina Folk Festival this summer, where they played a storm-delayed abbreviated set in front a crowd who gave them one of the most raucous ovations I’ve ever heard. I was a little surprised that they were back so soon, but no complaints – though their rising popularity meant that we wound up missing out on my favourite seats at the end of Row L For Legroom. Instead, we settled on Row M and its Maverage Legroom.
Before the show, we did some digging, trying to find out who the opener would be. The poster in Toronto advertised Elliott BROOD; no such luck here, though I was happy with who we got. The first band didn’t tell us who they were for a long time, and when they did, they had two names. Normally known as Beach Body, they released a country-tinged EP as the Southside Coyote Boys and were asked to perform as them, so it’s possible that this was technically their first performance. I liked this well enough, though their laid-back sound might have been better suited for a smaller venue. Really, the best part was that the lead singer had bought his mom Dead South tickets for her birthday but “accidentally” neglected to tell her that he was playing on the show too.
This set was also the start of some especially disrespectful audience behaviour. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard people yell for an opening act to get off the stage, but here we were. Not many people, but there were a handful of drunk girls behind us who couldn’t wait for the Dead South and weren’t shy about screaming so. Multiple people complained to the ushers, whose collective response was “…meh.”
Andino Suns were up next, and these guys were great! High-energy Chilean music from Moose Jaw, which I know is a cliché by now but I have no better way to put it. These guys tore the roof off the place and made tons of new fans. I’d heard their names around here for a while now but somehow we’d never made it out to see them before. That’s a shame, as it turns out. Gotta take advantage of having them around before they’re too big to keep playing here.
During the break, we went out into the lobby. Mika left for the bathroom, and as I was waiting for her to return, a couple in front of me started having an argument. I’m not entirely sure about what, but I think someone called someone a bitch. Or implied it. Or whatever. Mika returned and I immediately shushed her so we could watch this drama unfold. All around us, other couples and groups were frozen mid-conversation, trying to pretend that they weren’t watching what we were all watching. Mika said she saw the girl smack the guy; I missed it and that makes me sad. Security rushed to the scene (one guy ambled up) for this amazing conversation:
“I hear you’re hitting people.”
“Only a little.”
“You’re not allowed to do that here.”
“I didn’t know that.”
Alas, ignorance of the law is not a defense, and she was escorted from the building. I was pretty sure she was one of the loud drunks sitting behind us and was devastated to later learn this was not the case.
Finally, it was time for the Dead South, which meant that the drunks behind us could quit screaming for the opening acts to leave and instead scream for the Dead South to take off their shirts and have their babies. For the record, this was girls screaming at guys; progress, I guess. We also had a new group of top fans, the four people who insisted on standing when everyone else was sitting. Look, it’s not hard. Stand when other people stand, sit when other people sit. But no, they were going to stand the whole time. Of course they were in our way, but I felt worse for the little kid who was right behind them. The ushers weren’t going to make them sit down, but they were there in a hurry if the kid tried to stand on his chair or in the aisle so he could see too.
And I understand that the Conexus Arts Centre really wasn’t a good venue for this show. It’s a sit-down place and the Dead South are a get-up-and-dance band. This should have been in the hall downstairs, even if it holds fewer people. But come on. It’s like they say, it takes fewer muscles to smile than to be a prick.
As for the band, they were great. It’s why we went, after all; we’d just seen them and they were great then too. This time was like that, but with fancy lights and stained glass backdrops and a big sign with their name on it. And it was indoors and we were sitting and hadn’t just spent 90 minutes sheltering in the car. But otherwise, same idea. And much like at the Folk Festival, they were greeted as hometown heroes and the crowd went nuts for everything they did. Case in point: the show closed with the song Banjo Odyssey; I think if you can get hundreds of people to sing along with the refrain “I guess she’s my cousin but she needs some sweet lovin’ anyway,” it’s a telling testament to your popularity. Or your fanbase.
I signed up for Wednesday night yoga a while back. When I did, this show was my one outstanding obligation, so I knew hard choices would have to be made. I was looking forward to this show, but really only knew a few Said The Whale songs, and I wanted to get my yoga money’s worth. Then I went on strike and wound up walking about 15 kilometres a day while picketing, and I figured that gave me licence to skip yoga and go to the show.
We got to the Artesian right before the show was going to start and for the first time I’d seen there, there was no floor seating. It made sense, given the style of music, but my legs were tired and I was dismayed. Fortunately, they’d set up the stuff table in front of the stairs, so few people had ventured up. We squeezed past the rack of shirts and headed up, where I promptly cracked my head on the ceiling. Tight quarters up there. We moved over to the other side, more suitable for tall folks.
The opener was Dave Monks, the lead singer of Tokyo Police Club, touring his new solo album, On A Wave. It wasn’t actually out yet, but it was available for sale at the show, though it’s since been released, so your chance to hear it early and feel special has come and gone. He played acoustic guitar with accompaniment from an electric guitarist (by which I mean she was playing an electric guitar, not that she was some sort of robot) (not that I can prove otherwise) and honestly, this didn’t really click with me. I think I might have enjoyed this more if it had been just acoustic. Though it’s worth noting (also “worth nothing” as I’d originally typed) that I’d had a long day and was feeling out of sorts so it could have been 100% on me.
Said The Whale, on the other hand, turned out to be just what I was in the mood for. I can’t shake the feeling that “playing in front of a giant View-Master reel” sounds like such a promising start to a Stefon routine, so I understand if you’re let down when I just describe them as high-energy power-pop with a good sense of humour. But for real, this was a blast. I went in largely unfamiliar, but it didn’t matter; they shook me out of my funk and won me over. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing, but the show ended on a high note with the one-two punch of UnAmerican and I Love You, the two songs of theirs I know best. UnAmerican, in particular, was a big improvement over the already-fun studio version – louder and rockier and would have made a fine closer on its own.
This is one of those times where going to random shows pays off; I went in ignorant and half-interested, mostly just for something to do, but left a convert. These folks are great fun and you should go see them.
“Wanna do something stupid?” is kind of how I live my life, though I usually don’t put it in words quite so directly.
Here’s what brought us to this point:
1. This spring, Mika graduated with her Business degree following six years of night classes while still working full-time. Six years may sound like a long time but I assure you it’s longer than you think.
2. When Mika was 17/18, she never got to see Thrush Hermit because they only played in bars. After she turned 19, the band announced they were breaking up – but at least they’d be playing one last farewell tour first. And then lead singer Joel Plaskett got seriously sick and the band had to pull out of their own farewell tour. The tour went on with scheduled openers Flashing Lights and Local Rabbits, and she still went and enjoyed it, but she never did get to see Thrush Hermit.
3. 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the Thrush Hermit album Clayton Park. Round numbers lead to vinyl re-releases and nostalgia tours.
And so we made a stupid decision to book a long weekend in Toronto to celebrate the end of school and set right what once went wrong. A celebratory decision, to be sure, but a stupid one that was made only stupider when Thrush Hermit added western Canadian dates shortly after we’d booked our flights. We could have just gone to Amigo’s. But why stay up way too late at Amigo’s when you can get up way too early to fly to Toronto instead? Besides, Toronto has Steve and Audrey, and (temporarily) Aaron and Cindy. And sharks. And tonkatsu, though I never got any.
The trip got stupider still when contract negotiations between my union and my employer went to hell at the behest of our beloved Premier, who mandated a two-year wage freeze followed by a 1% increase in the third year – almost too generous. We went ahead with the trip with “labour disruptions” looming, and in fact, I went on strike the day of this show. Neither of us felt the best about leaving with this over our heads, but the hotel, airfare, and concert tickets were paid for well in advance, so we decided to put it out of our minds and enjoy ourselves as best as we could. I’m doing a fine job of that, as you can tell.
But! That’s not what this is for. This is my place to write about concerts that happened weeks ago, as best as I can remember them, which usually isn’t that well.
We flew into Toronto the day before the show and spent most of it asleep. We’d woken up around 3:00am to catch our flight, as it was the only direct flight from Regina to Toronto; the other options involved leaving at a reasonable time, flying to Calgary, hanging out in the airport all afternoon, and then flying to Toronto. This came two days after driving to Saskatoon, seeing Elton John, and driving home, getting to sleep after 2:00am. So our sleep schedules were shot, is what I’m saying. We woke up after supper time, went out, ate crepes, came back, and went to sleep again. They were very good crepes.
We spent the afternoon of the day at the show at the AGO, looking at art until we’d seen so much art that all art looked like all other art. When it was time to head out to the show, Mika got to experience her first-ever subway ride. She outed herself as a tourist by enjoying the experience. Unlike me, who outed myself as a tourist by pointing to the sandwich shop when someone asked me if I knew where the subway was.
The show was at the Danforth Music Hall, which is where Steve, Audrey, and I saw Ben Folds and yMusic about three years ago. I remembered the general size of the place, and East Bar and West Bar. I did not remember the floor being so slopey. Steve (who used to work there) said it used to be a movie theatre (when he used to work there) so that makes sense. It does make for a long night of standing, though.
There weren’t a ton of people there when we arrived, so we took a spot nice and close for the openers, Bunny. What is with these bands and their hard-to-Google names (he asked, in order to goad CRZ into replying “From Toronto, it is Bunny (bunnytoronto.bandcamp.com)”)? This was fine, the very definition of an opening act that I enjoy but struggle to have anything to say about it. I found the vocals kind of got lost in everything; the dude had a high voice (think Andy Shauf) and it kind of got lost in the mix. Actually, “Andy Shauf singing power-pop” is probably… not super accurate as far as descriptions go, but that’s what I’m going with.
Somewhere in here, the place got packed. Like, hard to get to the bathroom packed. Harder to get back to near where you once were packed. Text your wife and make her wave her arms around because otherwise you’ll never find her packed. I think it sold out (or came very close), but I think Ben Folds sold out (or came very close) too and I don’t remember it being nearly so wall-to-wall. For all the people, I will say the jerk ratio was quite low. There were just a ton of people there and they were all excited for Thrush Hermit.
The lights went down, a little sign that read “ROCK & ROLL” lit up, then it went out and a big sign that read “ROCK & ROLL” lit up, and we were underway. As always, I was amazed that one of my stupid plans actually came to fruition. Everything worked, everyone was well, and there we were. And… it ruled? Yes. And I am not the target audience here. While Mika has long since turned me on to Joel Plaskett’s solo stuff, I really haven’t spent any time listening to Thrush Hermit. I listened to all of Clayton Park once through earlier in the week, which was good, because the main set was the whole album played all the way through. They killed it and the crowd was into everything. Me too, and it’s not like I’d been waiting 20 years to see them. From the Back of the Film and The Day We Hit the Coast were particular favourites, thought that could be because I knew them best from Mika playing them in the car.
Mika suggests that I mention that Ian McGettigan balanced his bass guitar on his chin twice, but didn’t spit fire. Which kind of makes it sound like he was alone in not spitting fire. I didn’t spit fire either, but somehow that’s not noteworthy.
Toronto being the centre of the universe, I’d hoped that we’d get something a little special with our show, and I wasn’t disappointed. For the last song of the main set, Before You Leave, they were joined by two members of Local Rabbits, Pete Elkas and Ben Gunning. I was already on board with our decision to not back out and just go to Amigo’s instead, but if there were any lingering doubts, this sealed it. Not only something unique on this tour, but a nice callback to that original show that didn’t quite happen.
Before the encore, Mika ran (or really, slowly slogged through people) to the washroom, where she overheard someone’s kids. Not sure whose. Someone in one of the bands. The kids were ready to go home, as Dad had been there since soundcheck. I guess having a dad in a band isn’t cool anymore, if it ever way.
They played five songs for the encore: Strange to Be Involved, On the Sneak, French Inhale, North Dakota, and Patriot, before closing with a reprise of the show-opening From the Back of the Film. I didn’t know these ones as well – really, only North Dakota sounded familiar to me, though Mika assures me most of them were singles, and she’s probably played all of them in my presence at one point or another. Didn’t matter that I didn’t know them. They were great. This was all great.
Of course, my opinion isn’t the one that matters here. In her Instagram post, Mika declared the show to be “so awesome” and it occurs to me that this whole review is just a novel-length retelling of her photo caption.
“MUSIC HEALS US. It can provide solace in difficult times, and help us celebrate moments of joy. The transformative power of music is at the heart of this compilation of intimate recollections by Canadians from every province and territory. In these remarkable stories, Canadians from all walks of life – including world-renowned celebrities from Sarah McLachlan and Chris Hadfield to Madeleine Thien and Theo Fleury – share how music changed their lives. The Awesome Music Project Canada: Songs of Hope and Happiness is a beautifully illustrated tribute to the music that comforts us, moves us, and lifts our spirits. Rounding out the book are descriptions of the neurological research confirming that music is good for us. It improves our mental, emotional, and physical health, wards off depression, and even delays dementia. Put simply: music makes us feel good. Written for the music lover in all of us, proceeds from The Awesome Music Project Canada will go to music and mental health research, starting with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Canada’s largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital and one of the world’s leading research centres.”
My lovely wife got me this gorgeous hardcover coffee table-sized book as an anniversary gift. She’s a therapist, so it was natural for her to support the Center for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH). But she knew, even more so, that the stories in this book would please me. In fact, would probably only confirm what I, and all of us, already know. As our KMA tagline read ages ago, Music Is The Lifeblood.
I’ve really enjoyed just picking the book up and flipping randomly to a page, reading a different short piece whenever I have a minute or two. Even early days of owning it, I’ve loved the Bob Egan story, and I learned that Theo Fleury made a music album. I’m sure this book will teach me so much more. Brilliant concept and execution.
Here are pics of the contents pages (I’ve got a lot of reading to do!):
I had the chance to see Elton John once before. That was a little over 10 years ago, when the Canadian stops on that particular world tour were in Regina and Kelowna. Odd picks, and a far cry from the usual Toronto and Vancouver and maybe Montréal, but he felt like playing places he’d never been to before. Probably not the weirdest thing he’s ever done. I would have liked to go, but at the time, I was still making semi-responsible decisions with my money. Those days are long gone.
Now Elton’s on a 300-show world tour, said to be his last. Take that with a grain of salt, always; I think Cher has played three farewell shows in Saskatoon alone. But what he said seemed really reasonable – one-off shows are possible, or a residency or something – just no big long tours. We’ll see if it sticks.
Mika and I got these tickets a year ago. We’d planned to go to the show with my stepmom, as Elton is her favourite musician ever, but the week before the show, she backed out, for reasons I hope were worth it. Her departure freed up a ticket, and luckily, Deserée didn’t have plans.
We left Regina early in the afternoon for an uneventful drive, picking Dez up at work a little after 4:00 so we could eat dinner early like old people. We went to the Canadian Brewhouse and each ordered some variation of chicken, making this an official concert, something I didn’t even think of, but luckily, Dez was on the ball. We ate and chatted until it was time to head to SaskPlace. (I’m sticking with the original name; no free advertising for my employer while I’m on strike.)
It had been so long that I’d forgotten where our seats actually were, and I was delighted that they were good. Nice work, me. Lots of folks came down where we were to take pictures of the big screen showing Elton walking away down the yellow brick road, so Dez and I did so too. I also tried and failed to mess up one of her pictures and she did the same to me. But I did manage to get a picture of her making a supremely goofy face, something I will forever treasure.
It really was too bad my stepmom skipped out. Shortly before the show started, I heard someone holler “James!” and wouldn’t you know, it was my dad’s second wife and her daughter. They were only one row behind us and about 10 seats down. Oh, the conversations we all could have had. I mean, we still had a nice time getting caught up, but there was some serious missed potential there.
There was also some good people watching, waiting for the show to start. I had not expected this level of cosplay – or, indeed, any – but there were boas and sunglasses (so many sunglasses) and some full outfits. One kid in an all-white suit, white shoes, white glasses, and white angel wings was particularly noticeable. We later saw him taking his seat – front row, centre.
Elton started right on time, opening with Benny and the Jets. Now, I’m not a hardcore fan. I know the hits, which is fine, because he has a million of them, and he played most of them. Rocket Man, Tiny Dancer, Philadelphia Freedom, I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues, Daniel, Crocodile Rock, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me, I’m Still Standing, The Bitch is Back, Sad Songs (Say So Much), Candle in the Wind. (I offered Dez $20 to scream “GET TO THE PRINCESS DIANA PART” but she declined.) Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting was particularly well-received, and on a Tuesday, no less.
The show was really good – nearly three hours. A great band, and Elton is still a fantastic pianist. His voice isn’t quite what it once was – they have other people there to hit the high notes for him. And as great as an entertainer as he is, when he actually gets up and walks around… yeah, that dude has seen better days.
One downside was the volume. As Dez put it, “I didn’t think Elton John was the show where I’d lose my hearing, but here we are.” After Mika and I had left town, we stopped in Davidson (because neither of the 24-hour gas stations in Grasswoods are) and ran into some other concert-goers, whose first question was “wasn’t it loud?” Maybe I’m old, but they could have dialed it back a bit. The volume muddied the vocals, so when he played songs I was less familiar with, I couldn’t make anything out. One of my new Davidson friends had also seen Elton in Edmonton and said it hadn’t been the case there, so let’s blame the venue.
Behind the band, a giant screen showed different videos for each song. Some were cute, others funny, or melancholy, one was self-serving (I’m glad you raised so much money for HIV/AIDS research, but it came across as overly self-congratulatory), and some were… well, I’d love to have a sit-down with Elton John and get him to explain what they were about. Always interesting, at any rate.
One of the night’s highlights wasn’t a song. Most of the crowd interaction was just Elton John slamming his hands down on the piano after a song and then pointing at the crowd, always to a great response. That seems like a good career goal – succeed to where you just have to point at people to make them happy. But when Elton came out for the encore, he walked along the stage, reached down, shook the hand of the kid in the all-white suit, and then took his own glasses off and handed them over. The place went nuts. Such a cool moment.
As this was the Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour, Elton ended the encore with Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and really I don’t know that changing the one word for the tour name was really necessary? I mean, I get it, but they’re basically the same word. But whatever. It was the song he obviously had to end on, and when it was done, he rode up a platform and disappeared into the set behind him. Quite dramatic. Then we all left by slowly slogging up arena stairs while the sound system played one of the few Elton John hits that we didn’t get to hear live, Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart. Less dramatic, but I suppose it was cheaper than bringing Kiki Dee on tour.
This wasn’t supposed to happen, but sometimes, the universe provides. BA Johnston had played Regina a week prior to this show, but by now, I know how this works. He’ll play O’Hanlon’s on a Friday night, I’ll have good intentions, but then the week will be over and Mika and I will be tired and won’t make it out. This scene has played out repeatedly ever since BA came into our lives. We’ve only ever seen one of his shows. And it ruled! But, y’know, sleepy.
And then I went off to Calgary for my fall trip to visit my grandma. No concerts scheduled; no extracurriculars at all. Just the usual baking bread, sharpening knives, and walking up and down 17th Ave. Pretty much a non-stop party. I did also have vague plans to meet up with Colin, but again, no date or time or event picked out.
Then BA posted, on Instagram, a picture of a shopping basket filled with bags of Hawkins Cheezies, with a caption listing tour dates. There was possibility here. I’d wanted to force Colin to go see BA Johnston for a while. I put forth the suggestion and he was into it. Or was humouring me. Either way.
Following an extensive search for parking, we went for dinner at Hudson’s, where my options came down to the breakfast poutine and the peanut butter bacon burger. I chose burger. It was okay. Would do it differently if I had to do it again. The poutine sounded really good. Then we headed to a nearby park and library to check out some Beakerheads exhibits. It’s an event that mixes science with art, so there were some projections in the library and interactive displays in the park. There was stuff going on all over the city and this wasn’t the main part of it or anything, but it was neat.
Finally, we headed off to the Palomino, which was the barbecue restaurant Colin and I ate at last time I was in town. At that time, he’d mentioned seeing shows there, and here we were, actually at one. As we headed to the basement, we passed BA sitting with some friends, having dinner, and very true-to-form, watching the Tiger-Cats game.
The Palomino made for a surprisingly good venue. Small space, real low ceilings, excessively warm, lots of character. They sold earplugs in those machines where you insert a coin and spin a thing to get a plastic capsule with a toy inside, an idea I’d encourage every venue to steal. And, we’d later learn, the sound was surprisingly good. I liked this place.
We got drinks, though I panicked when asked what I wanted because I’d not thought that far ahead and wound up with a rye and Coke as though I was my dad in the 80s. Colin got a PBR, which was the only beer I saw anyone drinking. When we saw Hawksley Workman in the spring, the venue had a drink called The Workman. The Palomino didn’t have a drink called The Johnston but if they had, I think a big cheap beer might be it.
There were two local opening bands. The first was Open Channels, a four-piece that I really enjoyed, especially after the first two songs when they borrowed a functioning amp for the bass player. The second was Pancake, who had a bunch of people and matching wigs and black outfits and not-matching sunglasses. If you want more information about either of these groups, good luck; they both have names that are too hard to Google. Neither one sounded like 80s metal, which is a shame, because all of BA’s openers should do so. Of the two, I’d say Pancake was probably a little better but I liked Open Channels a little more. It really comes down to whether you preferred the Open Channels song about the metal box, or, as Colin put it, Pancake’s “one with all the fucks.” I’m not picking the swearing one because sometimes I have to surprise you.
While this was all going on, BA was manning his own merch table and chatting with fans. He also noticeably took some time to listen to the opening bands and was grooving to an Open Channels song right by us for a while.
Finally, it was time for BA’s show, by which I mean he set everything up, put Werewolves of London on repeat on his Discman and went to the back to change his clothes. The crowd was so hyped for the show that we all sang along with the ahWOOOOOs. Eventually, BA re-emerged holding two sparklers and welcomed us to “the basement of the barbecue sports bar.”
And look. If you’ve seen BA Johnston before, you’ve seen this show. The songs get mixed around a little, but otherwise, it’s the same every time. The costume changes, the jokes (in Calgary, they’re at Edmonton’s expense, instead of the Winnipeg-centered ones we get), it’s a routine he has down pat. That said, I enjoyed this more than the previous show I’d seen. Part of it was that Colin was there and I had failed to adequately prepare him for the spectacle we were to witness, which might be the best way to first experience BA. I told him it would be a life-changing experience, but I wasn’t sure if it would be so in a positive way. Then BA dropped to his knees in front of me while singing about Cheezies. And then crawled between my legs. I felt blessed. Before that, he had been running around pouring Cheezies out of a pitcher into people’s mouths. So that part was new.
We only got a few songs off his newest album. Apart from the aforementioned I Rock the Hawkins, he had opened with Geddy Lee, saying that the only people who enjoy Rush are six guys from Regina. (I haven’t met them.) And he played his first single from the album, We’re All Going to Jail (Except Pete, He’s Gonna Die). This was a great singalong with everyone in the place doing the “he’s gonna die” part. He also played a new song about getting run over by a senior citizen that he said was coming out on next year’s Werewolves of London, Ontario.
There were a ton of singalongs throughout the show. This crowd knew the songs and loved them all; perhaps none more so than the keyboard player for Open Channels, who seemed to know every word and had a smile so big that it’s fair to say she enjoyed BA Johnston more than I’ve enjoyed anything ever.
Not that there weren’t a few glitches. Johnston had some issues with his “BlackBerry Passport” (Discman) malfunctioning when playing backing tracks, to where he threatened to write Jim Balsillie an angry letter. And you can tell I work for a phone company because this made me laugh a lot. He also broke character enough to admit that he had “all this shit on a real cell phone” if need be.
But mostly, this was just tremendous fun. He played a few of my favourites, including Dayoff is a Dayoff and GST Cheque; during the latter, he ran around the audience getting people to shout GST into the mic, including me, but when I did so, BA turned away from me then collapsed into my arms. I was sweatier on the outside of my shirt than the inside for possibly the first time ever. Like I said, blessed.
After the show was done, Colin bought a shirt. So I guess I was right when I said it would be life-changing, in that he now has fewer dollars and one more shirt.
Yes! James and Aaron met up in Taranna this past weekend!
James and his lovely wife Mika came for a visit to the Big Smoke! We hadn’t met Mika before this, which is absolute bad form on our part, but then again, they started dating after we left SK so… Anyway, she rawks (Hi Mika!). Their visit was for several reasons, which will surely be told in an upcoming post about a concert, right James? Naturally, my lovely wife and I took the weekend and met up with them for an afternoon of their trip! So awesome.
We walked around in the chaos of downtown, dodged several colourful and unwell characters, and checked Chinatown for tea and gummie candies. I bought a bottle of super-weird green tea that I hate-drank because I wasn’t wasting $2.50 by throwing it out. I don’t know what it was, but that shit wasn’t right. All who tried it mocked it, and mocked me for finishing it. Anyway, random non-English-labelled questionable Chinatown beverages (and narrowly-avoided gastrointestinal distress) aside, we also checked out a pop-up store full of old-school wrestling figures and unopened packs of old 80s trading cards. Total trip down memory lane. Then we had yummy delicious Thai food at Bangkok Garden, and then checked out the Ripley’s Aquarium.
All in all, an excellent visit that flew past waaaay too quickly, probably owing to the anticipation beforehand and because hanging with these two brilliant folks makes hours seem like minutes. We can only hope it isn’t nearly quite so long before we meet up with them again. Maybe this time my lovely wife and I will descend on SK! Haven’t been back there since 2005 (also bad form), so who knows.
Rock on, James and Mika! Thanks for visiting us in sunny ON! All is well in the Universe when the KMA Brothers reunite!
Hey folks, I’m still out here, and I’m still listening. This post is to give a massive shout-out to Rhino for their incredible work in compiling this 5CD set of Pogues material. Here’s the pull:
Over 100 tracks across 5 CDs spanning three decades of The Pogues. Includes demos, rehearsal recordings, BBC sessions, live tracks, outtakes and other rarities. Also includes recordings with Kirsty MacColl, Steve Earle and Joe Strummer.
I know. I KNOW! It’s a ton of Pogues goodness. Brilliant to hear all of this stuff.
Here’s the back jacket, as I do not have the time to type all of this out. Click on the shite photie to make it bigger (and therefore legible):
For the first time in the 23 years (god) that I’ve been doing this, a concert fell on my actual birthday. A concert that I went to, I mean. I bet there’ve been many. Though really, I only remember one: Smash Mouth played a fair in South Dakota on my birthday. Mika and I were also in South Dakota then, and we were going to go because obviously we were going to, but then we didn’t, and I now have regrets. Couldn’t let that happen again.
This particular Weird Al tour was called the Strings Attached tour, as he had an orchestra join him at every stop. Whereas Al had been kind enough to make Regina stops for his past few tours, this time, it wasn’t to be. When Mika and I booked our summer time off, I looked to see if maybe a trip to Calgary would be in order (please note that I cleared this plan with Mika and she was 100% on board with this and very enthusiastic about it even and we’ll see if she actually reads these things), but no, the nearby stops were happening while we were off in BC. But then I looked closer. Weird Al was also going to be in BC. On my birthday. It was fate.
We ferried over from Salt Spring Island on the afternoon before the show, spent some time with Mika’s family, and then checked into our hotel, where it seemed a number of musicians were also staying. They turned out to be the orchestra in question. Didn’t see Weird Al around, though I expect he stays someplace nicer than Victoria’s finest (probably) Comfort Inn. I don’t know where the orchestra was from; I had thought it was the [Your City Name Here] Symphony Orchestra in each location, but it didn’t look like this was the Victoria Symphony Orchestra. Or at least their website didn’t say anything about it. Also, y’know, they all needed hotel rooms.
I’d originally bought tickets for Mika’s folks, but they weren’t able to join us, so Mika’s cousin and her husband took their spot. They picked us up at the hotel and we all headed out to the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre, which really did very little to honour the memory of Save-on-Foods. The show didn’t even start with a moment of silence. Pretty disrespectful if you ask me.
We were pretty far back and pretty high up, since going to the show was a last-minute decision. I was just pleased to be there at all since this promised to be at least a little different than the standard Al shows. Hiking up to our seats, I don’t know if it was just Victoria or what, but there was way more weed in the air and way more people two-fisting beers than at any Weird Al show I’d seen before. Everyone was still nice; it was just noticeable.
The orchestra came out first and played a few pieces that this audience would know; namely, themes from Indiana Jones, Mission: Impossible, Superman, and (of course) Star Wars. Then they took an intermission, and I thought the guy behind us was going to lose his mind. He was NOT down with an intermission before Al even showed up. But it was all due to the wording; if we’d had an opening act, we’d expect a break before the main performer. And in essence, that’s what we got. It was just called a warmup and an intermission instead.
Finally, the orchestra launched into Fun Zone, the instrumental that opens all Weird Al shows. They were joined by Al’s band and the trio of backup singers (another new addition to this tour) and finally Al himself, who sang a medley of older parodies (I Lost on Jeopardy, I Love Rocky Road, and Like a Surgeon) performed in different styles. Next was my all-time favourite Al song, The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota, so my night was basically set. I’ve seen Weird Al in concert six times now, and I’m 99% sure this is the first time I’ve seen him play that song live since my first Al show in the mid-90s, long enough ago that it predates the SLCRs.
For the start of the show, there were minimal costume changes and effects. If the song had a video, they’d play along with it, but that was pretty much it. The setlist seemed to be chosen with the symphony in mind, rather than the visuals. I thought they were particularly effective on Jurassic Park (it feels weird to give an earnest musical opinion regarding a dinosaur-themed MacArthur Park parody) and Jackson Park Express, but their highlight may have been a long, drawn-out buildup by Al, leading to the 30-second Harvey the Wonder Hamster theme song.
Then came the first montage of Al video clips and the back third of the set included a bunch of the big hits with the costume changes and set pieces, including Smells Like Nirvana, White & Nerdy, and Amish Paradise, with The Saga Begins and Yoda saved for the encore. This was much more like a classic Al concert and was great fun, if familiar.
Here’s the full setlist – probably the same every night on the tour (having an orchestra doesn’t leave a lot of room for variation:
I Lost on Jeopardy/I Love Rocky Road/Like a Surgeon
The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota
One More Minute
Don’t Download This Song
Weasel Stomping Day
Harvey the Wonder Hamster
Jackson Park Express
Smells Like Nirvana
Dare to Be Stupid
White & Nerdy
The Saga Begins
I did hear somebody say that Al had quietly removed all the Michael Jackson material from his shows after Finding Neverland came out, and indeed, it was noticeably absent. I’m not sure if that was the reason or if they just got left out to give other stuff some space. I say “all the material” but really, it was only ever two songs, but they’re just so associated with him.
Needless to say, I had a great time. Mika knew what she was in for and got what she expected – and without getting directly serenaded this time, so that was a plus (for her, less so for me). The other folks were both new to the Weird Al live show experience and it seemed like one of them got into it. The other, not so much, but at least there was some top-notch people watching as part of the deal. Al’s fans get really into the show; none more so than the two guys ahead of us who hollered, sang along, fist-pumped, and even FaceTimed their friends with excitement when certain songs got played. Those dudes were a bit much, but I still liked them.
And now, a postscript, because these things are never really about the concerts. The next morning, we had plans to meet friends for lunch, so we needed to catch a bus from the hotel into downtown. Walking to the bus stop, I hear yelling down the street and this guy walking towards us is smirking. I look past him and the yelling is coming from some lady. Who happens to be topless. Or technically not topless, as she was wearing a black tank top, just pulled way down. Sun’s out, guns out, I guess. I think the hollering was her trying to get someone to watch her stuff while she went to Tim Hortons. Ultimately, she abandoned her stuff and ran across the street. Mika thought maybe the boob situation was implemented in order to stop traffic since she was jaywalking. Anyway, this lady didn’t pull up her top before going into Tim’s, which poses interesting questions about their no-shirt-no-shoes-no-service policy. I mean, she had a shirt on, just in a non-traditional manner. But I guess the questions were answered when she emerged from Tim’s, coffee in hand, shirt pulled up. She ran back across and as soon as she was back in her spot, they were out again. If I looked over (we were now across the street from her at the bus stop, having crossed at the lights, legally, without help from my boobs), she’d give me a big smile and giant wave. I was very glad Mika saw it all too so at least I know I wasn’t hallucinating. We figured they must do things very differently in Victoria, a suspicion we soon confirmed when the bus system turned out to be fast and easy.
This was the 50th Regina Folk Festival. Or 50th anniversary, maybe. We skipped most of it.
I get inordinately high hopes for the folk festival lineup every year. The festival is a rare opportunity to get bands who’d never normally play Regina to come to town, but I need to remember, it’s not a whole lineup of them. This year, they got Jason Isbell, which is pretty cool, but most of the lineup read like a SLCR reunion show – Colter Wall, The Dead South, A Tribe Called Red, Bahamas, Rae Spoon, Blue Rodeo – and I like all those folks! Which is why I’ve seen them all before. Ultimately, we settled on just getting Friday night passes, but when Charlotte Day Wilson backed out and was replaced by personal favourite (and another SLCR alum) Kathleen Edwards, we made plans to pop downtown on Sunday night too.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 8
If I was in charge here, this whole thing would be its own review – different venue, separate ticket – but this was put on by the Folk Festival and was covered in the Folk Festival program and it’s been over a month and sure, I’ll take the opportunity to condense these into one.
The important thing is that we paid money to listen to music through headphones in a grocery store.
Touring in support of their new album, Saskatoon’s Close Talker held a “3D-360 silent headphone concert,” which they named “Immersion.” The idea is that the band would play their entire new album How Do We Stay Here? from front to back, and everyone in the crowd would hear the music through headphones. This isn’t an entirely new idea, but they got some slick tech worked in that allows them to move the music around in real time, so the bass can move from left to right, or the drums can sound really far away, or the guitar can move towards you. I can’t explain the grocery store part, other than a local market named Local Market YQR has a small attached space that actually worked really well for this. It’s your proverbial “intimate venue,” which allowed the band to sell out two shows in one evening.
Being Olds, we opted for the early show. We were briefed about what was going on upon entering, and we took seats at the back of the room. One of Close Talker (or would you just say a Talker?) invited us to move up, which was nice, but we’re tall and the back works fine for us. Besides, every seat wound up filled.
They told us the show would start promptly at 8:00, but there was a lengthy introduction explaining how the show would work, the technology behind it, all that fun stuff. I thought it ran a bit long but it became apparent that this was intentional; one issue with the venue is there was nothing covering the windows, and some of us (most importantly, me) were getting the setting sun right in the eyes. The opening chatter was dragged out a bit until the sun was just low enough to not impact the show.
This was a really neat experience, an excellent introduction to a local band, and a fun way to kick off the folk festival weekend. The performance itself ran around 50 minutes of kinda folky, kinda artsy, kinda dreamy pop rock. The movement effects I mentioned above were there but never overused, complementing the music rather than overshadowing it. The band made a point of not talking much, especially early on, to help people focus on the music. To that end, the headphones worked really well; nobody talked, and people mostly kept their phones in their pockets. I wouldn’t want every show to be like this, but in the right cases, it could be really effective. I did think individual volume controls might be a nice addition, though I can see where that could add one more thing to possibly mess up in what had to be an already complicated technical setup.
At one point I slipped off my headphones for a second to see what it sounded like in the room. Mostly it was drums.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 9
This brings us to our one full night at the 2019 Regina Folk Festival. With gates opening at 5:00, I’d have had to come downtown early and wait in line with folding chairs to get a good spot where Mika could eventually join me. Instead, we took our time getting down there and skipped the chairs entirely. This was a controversial decision, given that we spent way too much money on those chairs and they’re very comfy and ridiculously strong. Seemed a shame to not get as much use out of them as we could.
We got to the park a little after 6:00. Once we made it through the usual organized chaos, the whole chair thing seemed like a bad move on our part. There were noticeably fewer people there than in previous years and we wouldn’t have had a problem taking our traditional spots. This was Garth Brooks’ fault. His two sold-out stadium shows on the Friday and Saturday nights surely siphoned off Festival attendees. I didn’t mind the extra space, as the park has felt a little crowded during recent Festivals, but I was concerned that too much of his noise would carry over to the park and drown out our noise. Luckily, that was never an issue.
Emilie Kahn had already started playing by the time we arrived and we saw a few of her songs in between checking out the Stuff Tent and the food trucks and whatnot. It was perfectly pleasant harp playing that we honestly didn’t pay a ton of attention to.
Between sets, Ila Barker played a few songs, just her and her guitar, and there was a spoken performance from the night’s emcee, Stella from Queer Songbook Orchestra (they used a number of names throughout the night, but Stella is the most fun to yell, so here we are).
We picked the Friday night to attend in part because Weaves was playing and Mika really wanted to see them. And so they took the stage, and then everything went to hell. After half a song – just enough time for me to admire the airbrushed picture of Dolly Parton on the singer’s pants – someone from the Folk Festival ran out on the stage holding arms aloft in the dreaded X. It had been cool and drizzling off and on thus far, but now lightning was in the area. Luckily, the guitarist for Weaves had trained for this situation and knew exactly what to do – play the opening riff of Thunderstruck before flipping the double bird to the heavens.
With everything on hold, we waited around the park for a while to see what would happen, before the rain picked up and we headed to the car.
And the car was where we’d spend the next 90 minutes, with rain pouring down and lightning all around us. We played games on our phones, lamented the lack of nearby bathrooms, regretted not having picked up dinner as soon as we’d arrived, and intermittently ran the air conditioner when it all got too suffocating. The Festival kept people up to date via Twitter, or at least as up to date as they could given that everything was really contingent on the lightning going away. At one point, Mika tried to tell me facts about thunder, but she started it with “somebody once told me” and I jumped in exuberantly with “the world is gonna roll me” and she got mad and now I still don’t know what she knows about thunder.
This was all great fun but it could have been worse – we could have tried to go see Garth Brooks. The lightning hit before his show began, and they quit letting people into the stadium (it’s open-air and there’s only so many places they can hide people), so the busses quit running. Thousands of people took shelter in the nearby arena, where (according to a video that was on my social media hundreds of times but which I never actually bothered to watch) they all cheered for a zamboni, I guess because they had nothing else to do. Couldn’t watch the Rider game on your phone – they were on a lightning delay too. And they were in Montréal.
Finally, the storm passed and the Festival announced that the show was going to resume. We ran into Rheanne on the way back, because we have to run into Rheanne at every Folk Festival, even if we’re only there for an hour. It always works out.
With a few minutes to spare before the show was to resume, we hit the food trucks, only to find that most of the vendors had packed up and left. Can’t blame them, really. I wound up getting a burger from the bannock truck, and it turns out that replacing the bun with fried dough is an excellent decision. Mika, however, was stuck getting the sole gluten-free option, popcorn with literal ladles of melted butter. And, for some reason, a lemon wedge. Until this day, “too much butter” only lived in the realm of the hypothetical, but no more. The lemon worked surprisingly well, though.
The Festival is scheduled like so: a main act plays for anywhere from 40-90 minutes (depending on where they are in the set), and then there’s a teaser who plays for about 10 minutes while the next main act gets set up. It repeats that way all night – main act, teaser, main act, teaser, main act. So when the Festival tweeted that the last three acts were still going to play, people didn’t know if that meant the last three main acts, or main/teaser/main. If it was the latter, that would mean The Dead South would lose their spot. On Twitter, on Facebook, people were SO upset at this idea.
And then Stella came out to introduce the next band. They got three words in – “The Dead South” – and I have never heard a reaction like this for anyone at the Folk Festival. Or nearly any concert ever. Folk Festival concerts always have these long, scripted, artist-bio introductions – I’ve heard more than one musician describe them as “awkward” – and Stella got through the whole thing, eventually – but really, the best move would have been to just skip it when the crowd was already so hot.
The Dead South are a bluegrass band from around these parts who’ve started to make it big elsewhere, and this was their triumphant return. They had their time cut, as did the next two bands, but they tore it up and in front of a most appreciative audience, they could do no wrong. This was a high energy performance and was a blast.
Bahamas was up next and he and his band played a delightful set, though of the three that came after the storm, it was probably the weakest. And I love Bahamas! Being shorted on time hurt, because they crammed in as many songs as possible with little talking, and I greatly enjoy his talking. I shouldn’t complain; they played Lost in the Light and that’s my favourite of his. And at least we got to hear about how they’re not the best band, and don’t get the longest sets, but they’re the most chill. And we thank them for stimulating our economy by dining at Famoso.
Near us, an increasingly drunk girl grew tired of listening to some guy tell her about his degrees and made plans to scale a fence, sneak into the back stage area, and get it on with Bahamas. Not sure I’d have put money on her climbing ability at that point in time but I hope her evening ended well, however it ended.
Between sets, we went to sit down by the remaining food trucks. After resting our tired old people legs, I ran into a Dave on our way back in and we stopped for a chat. Mika wandered off, but promptly returned telling us how she was hit on by a guy asking what she was doing with her phone. When she said she was checking the score of the football game, the guy said something like “more like checking the score of the porn game.” I’d like to think I’m a good husband, but I don’t think I can honestly take any credit for the failure of this gambit. Mika did give me one free pass to try using this line on someone should the opportunity ever present itself; if I can pull it off, I’ll be sure let you all know.
I first saw A Tribe Called Red five years ago, and if you’d asked me, I’d have guessed two years ago, and I’m feeling some existential dread right now. At least I enjoyed the show a lot more this time around. I think it was the setting – the crowd was really into it, and the larger stage had room for Indigenous dancers, including a ridiculously impressive hoop dancer, and an adorable little jingle dress dancer who would sneak waves at friends and family in the crowd while waiting in the wings. That the band decorated part of their gear with stinky old LJN rubber toy wrestlers and had wrestling footage as part of their video effects didn’t hurt. I did see some old people in the crowd who looked decidedly not into the music, but I also saw a dude in a T-Rex mask who was really into it, so that all evens out.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 10
I had good intentions to check out some of the free daytime stages, but no.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 11
I had good intentions to check out some of the free daytime stages, but no.
We did make it down for Kathleen Edwards, though, if only so Mika could get the falafel she had hoped for on Friday. With no tickets and no real agenda beyond “let’s get there in time for Rae Spoon’s teaser set maybe,” it was a pretty casual evening.
Everything worked according to plan. Mika got her falafel and enjoyed it until feeling the effects of being glutened later that night. I got my first ever bánh mì, and I can’t speak for its authenticity nor its quality compared to other bánh mì, but it was super tasty. I kind of hope it was a terrible example of bánh mì, because if so, a good one would be mindblowing.
We ate and listened to a short set by Rae Spoon. Only a few songs, including There is a LIght (But it’s Not For Everyone) and the family-friendly version of a song I’ve seen them play before, Do Whatever the Heck You Want. Enough of a reminder that I need to catch a full show the next time they come through town.
Finally, it was time for Kathleen Edwards. She’s great. Of course. Played a bunch of songs I like; “all the hits,” as Mika put it. There was some new stuff. I think at least one song was the same new stuff as we heard in Bengough. Now, it’s important to note that as freeloaders, we couldn’t actually see the stage. Which is fine, we were there to listen, but it does mean that my descriptions of what was going on could be very wrong. For example, she had one musician with her, and was later joined by a member of Blue Rodeo. Or maybe several? Or maybe was just making jokes at Blue Rodeo’s expense? I’m pretty sure my initial description was right but I could be making it up entirely. But does that matter? You weren’t there and I won’t remember.
In here, I did make a tactical error. Remember the bannock truck from Friday night? I’d been told they made a mean bear paw (think beaver tail, or elephant ear, or your regional term for big fried dough with sugar on it) and went to get one. Which I did, but it was not what one would call a smooth experience. It had to take at least 20 minutes, maybe 30, and that’s with all of four people in line in front of me. And while the truck was closer to the stage than where we were sitting, it was also a lot noisier over there, so to be honest, I really didn’t get to hear most of this. At least the bear paw was exactly as good as you’d think fresh fried sugared dough would be, but I could have bought one at the farmer’s market sometime when Kathleen Edwards wasn’t concurrently singing.
For the Labour Day weekend, Dad and I hit up Taranna yesterday. We took the streetcar to the CNE, where it was so busy and packed and loud that it actually wasn’t all that fun. I didn’t buy anything, and you couldn’t get near much of anything, so I just ate my $20 philly cheesesteak (and a Coke) and spent the afternoon pushing my way through the crowds.
We hung out in Chinatown, and I got some more new kinds of green tea to try. Dad also gave me some green tea egg rolls, cookies, and Pocky Sticks that he’d found. There was a theme. Anyway, after all, we didn’t get back to our town until almost midnight, so it was a long day with a lot of driving and a lot of crowds, but it was full and interesting and (ultimately) fun!
I did get to do BMV and Sonic Boom, though only quickly. It felt like skim-scanning rather than digging in, but getting to be there at all was still better than not. Sonic Boom was completely sold out of the new Tool album. I wanted to get it so badly and.. no. It’s sold out here in my town too, and I didn’t see it on Amazon, either. Ah well. Another time.
So you’re probably curious about what a cursory dig in those shoppes might turn up for me, so here ya go:
Eva Cassidy – Somewhere. I love Eva’s albums, and I buy up what I don’t have, sight-unseen.
Robert Johnson – Devil On My Trail: The Complete Songbook. I didn’t need this, but, you know…
Subtle – For Hero, For Fool. I remembered this being a crazy record, wanted to try it again.
Tragically Hip – Evolution Advances. A neat promo disc containing the single for Vaccination Scar, and snippets of Summer’s Killing Us, Heaven’s A Better Place Today, Gus: The Polar bear From New York, and Mean Streak. Never seen this before, likely never see it again, so it had to come home.
radiohead – Com Lag. I’ve never owned this Japanese-only EP. Now I do!
Wallflowers – Rebel, Sweetheart. I like these guys, never heard this one so I’m excited.
Dictators – Go Girl Crazy. I blame Geoff. This had to come home!
U2 – The Best Of 1980-1990, and The Best Of 1990-2000. These 2cd sets have what you wanna hear, and second discs full of b-sides. I don’t wanna own all the albums, but this was a good way to get all the singles in a fell swoop.
Rezillos – Can’t Stand The Rezillos: The (Almost) Complete Rezillos. I blame ROLLINS. He played these Scottish punkers on his show, and I wanted to hear more.
Viletones – A Taste Of Honey. Because awesome.
Undertones – Teenage Kicks: The Very Best Of. I was curious if anything more than the one song I know is any good…
Jimmy Lee Williams – Hoot Your Belly. I am a simple man. I see Fat Possum blues records, I buy them. They’re always awesome.
Dinner Is Ruined – Love Songs From The Lubitorium. A great left field Canuck supergroup fun times.
Isis – Temporal. I grab up Isis releases whenever I see ones I need, and this 2cd/1dvd made my day!
Jake Bugg – Jake Bugg. I already own this on CD and LP, but this one was signed so I rescued it.
Steve Winwood – Chronicles. I was in the mood for some of this, and this hits set covered a lot of what I had in my head. Excellent.
Counting Crows – Hard Candy. Haven’t heard this one before, so I’ll be curious to try it out…
And that was a super-full day, covering a huge swath of the city. I felt like I’d done my 10,000 steps for the week all in one day!
In honour of the new Tool album (dropped today – I will be buying my copy in Taranna tomorrow), here are two pics from the interwubs that pleased me:
You may recall, back in April our son was gifted a cool wee stereo for his 10th birthday. Well, recently, it was our daughter’s 8th birthday and she got the exact same stereo!
Early this morning, when we were the only two awake yet, she sat on my lap in front of the the ol’ Mac, picking out songs she wanted on her first disc of MP3s. I was proud of her choices in Iron Maiden, AC/DC, and CCR. She went into unfamiliar turf for me, though, choosing Maroon 5, Pink, and a song called Old Town Road. I hadn’t heard it before, but since it’s been playing on repeat in her room all afternoon, I can definitely say I’ve heard it now.
I’m chuffed that both our kids like music (I’ve made it my on-going mission since before they were born… yes, I played music at my lovely wife’s belly bump), and I’m all for supporting whatever they want to listen to, so long as it’s not too violent or language-filled, at this point. They’re still in that cute stage where someone in a movie will say ‘hell’ or ‘damn’ and they’ll look at us to see if it was OK haha. We just tell them that other people use bad words, and you’re gonna hear them, from time to time. It’s just a better choice to not use them yourself. And they nod sagely and think about the times Daddy hits his head on something and how bad words might turn the air blue for a few seconds… Anyway.
So, now both kids have the machinery to blast their own tunes and they’re thrilled. It’s a rite of passage, and I couldn’t be happier that they’re both into being excited about music. They both have it in them and, as ol’ John Lee said, it’s got to come out. These stereos will really help open up the world for them. And, since their bedrooms share a common wall between them, we’re thankful both kids also have decent headphones.
Now I just gotta get Old Town Road out of my head. Time to crank some Stooges…
It’s been long enough since I’ve done one of these that this one isn’t late out of my usual laziness, but I just plum forgot for like two weeks. Please ignore that it’s been three weeks.
When the show was announced, I didn’t know what a Half Moon Run was. But Mika did – and still does, I assume – and she also saw the announcement and was interested in going. As we’ve established, it doesn’t take much to get me to show up.
It also doesn’t take much to get me to stay home. I get sleepy and cold, or in this case, damp. Our plan had been to head out to the local salad chain restaurant (nothing too good for my girl) before heading to the show, but the skies had other ideas. A sudden downpour coupled with high winds, lots of lightning, and just a touch of hail. A few of the lightning strikes were close enough to our house to rattle the place, sending Carl scurrying to the basement. We’ve had some bad storms before but I’d never seen him just take off like that. As water filled the divot in the road across from our house, we made alternate dinner plans; namely, I made omelettes, hoping to beat the inevitable power outage that never came.
Everything eventually eased up, the cat emerged from hiding, and we were free to go. Mostly. To get to the Exchange from my house, you need to take one of three underpasses. Two were flooded, and the third was only reopened just before we left the house. When we had to detour around another flooded section just to get to the least-bad underpass, we weren’t hopeful, but made it through fine, if a little muddy.
We’d had what passes for heated debates around here regarding what time to actually show up to this thing, having seen several posted times for the doors, including the oddly specific 7:39 pm. The storm made up our minds for us, and we got there a few minutes before 9:00. Based on the parking, there were more people there than most of the recent shows at the Exchange, and indeed, it was reasonably full. Also: very warm. We had just enough time to remark on the venue’s fullness and excessive warmth when Half Moon Run took the stage.
This means, of course, that we’d entirely missed opener Luca Fogale. I hadn’t heard of him before seeing his name attached to the bill. I listened to his new single, and it sounded like the kind of very pleasant singer-songwriter stuff that I enjoy but find almost impossible to write about. And now I won’t write about him. Instead, he gets the same benefit of the doubt as every missed opener; namely, he was surely tremendous and we obviously missed out.
I’d also listened to the newest Half Moon Run album (is 2015 still new?) before the show and it wasn’t anything like I expected. This was coming from a place of complete and total ignorance, of course, but Mika tends to like harder, rockier stuff, and this sounded more like, well, something I’d like.
For the record, I like lots of harder and rockier stuff just fine. But I wrote that line and realized it wasn’t really what I meant, but its inaccuracy and vagueness was outweighed by the fact that it made me laugh.
Anyway. This was pretty great! They played quite a bit off that not-new new album that I recognized. If you want song titles, we’ve established I am not your man. They also played some new unreleased stuff, and everyone there was super excited to hear it. I was clearly so very alone in not knowing Half Moon Run. This was one of those crowds where the bands say nice stuff and actually mean it. People were into every song, singing along, cheering everything, hollering “yeehaw” at one point – even the jerks were so into the show that they forgot to be jerks. It seemed like the band was both delighted and a little surprised with the warm welcome.
They played a relatively short set, ending with all four of them around one mic covering After the Gold Rush. Honestly, I’d have been a little disappointed it was over so soon if I was one of the die-hards, but I’ve been to too many “leave ’em wanting less” shows to complain.
Driving our son home from the soccer (football/fitba’*) complex the other night, the radio was on in the car.
On comes Rush’s ‘Freewill.’ Of course, I’m drumming along on the steering wheel (because it is a physical impossibility to not drum on the steering wheel like you’re Neil Peart while listening to Rush) and from the seat beside me I hear, sotto voce, “You can choose a ready guide / In some celestial voice / If you choose not to decide / You still have made a choice / You can choose from phantom fears / And kindness that can kill / I will choose a path that’s clear / I will choose free will…”
Yes! Not only was my boy singing along, he knew all the words! I sang along too and he liked that – Father/Son moments!
It warmed my heart. Proud of my boy!
From Urban Dictionary:
1. (m) the beautiful game
2. (f) the stupid game involving 22 grown men (and 3 officials of dubious parentage and eyesight) kicking around a lump of leather around a field, often sparking irrational behaviour, bad language and blind devotion to a team or player, to the detriment of normal marital relations.
(see Fitba’ Widow)
Thought I’d share what I’ve picked up lately, so you know what’s been in my ears. Given the time available, this sort of post makes some sense these days. Give ‘er…
AC/DC – Powerage
I own most (if not all) the AC/DC studio albums. In oversiiiiiight, I didn’t have this one, so this fixes that.
Bon Scott with Fraternity – Livestock
Still haven’t played this one. Mike says it’s not so great, but it’s been a while since he heard it so maybe his opinion would be different now. I’m curious to try it out!
Wynton Marsalis, Yo-Yo Ma, and Cho-Liang Lin – Haydn: Three Favourite Concertos
Bought for the Marsalis, I’ll stay for the Haydn. Yes.
Wynton Marsalis – In Gabriel’s Garden
Wynton does Bach, Purcell, Torelli, Mouret, Clarke, Dandrieu, Charpentier and Stanley, with the English Chamber Orchestra and Anthony Newman. Yes please!
Diana Krall – Live In Paris
A cool tracklist, and this copy looks like she autographed it. Neat-o!
Fleetwood Mac – 50 Years: Don’t Stop
Bought this out of curiosity. Didn’t really need it as I already have the Greatest Hits. Also, this is the 1CD version, and it turns out there is a 3CD version which would be a whole lot better. Anyway.
Various – Punk City Rockers (4CD)
Cool-looking comp with a pile of old-school punkers. Bands include UK Subs, Angelic Upstarts, Anti Nowhere League, Vibrators, Exploited, Gonads, 999, Cockney Rejects, Lurkers, Defects, Infa Riot, Stiff Little Fingers, The Business, Adicts, Ruts, Chelsea, Adverts, Slaughter & The Dogs, among many others. Cool!
Ryan Adams – 1989
I buy any of his stuff whenever I see it cheap. Bought this one despite his cover of Bad Blood. I think I’ve just heard it too many times on the piped-in music at work. Blah. There’s surely other, better songs here.
Counting Crows – This Desert Life
I spend most of my time with their first two records, so I never heard this one. Now I can!
Tin Machine – Tin Machine & Tin Machine – Tin Machine II
Always wanted these David Bowie project albums. Can’t wait to dig in!
King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard – Murder Of The Universe
Bought on spec. I mean, with a band name and an album title combo like that, this is has to be the most epic stuff possible, right?
Otep – Sevas Tra
I love their song Blood Pigs. Love love love. Now I have the whole album!
Pantera – Far Beyond Driven
Love me some Pantera, and for some inexplicable reason, I never owned this album. Now I do, and I’m gonna crank it!
Hey y’all, it’s Sunday and this is a long one (that’s what she said), so settle in with a coffee and put your feet up…
Last post, I covered our July trip to Taranna, and all my scores. Fun! But with this extended time away from the blog, I haven’t even finished our May trip to Taranna. Not to mention my scores in June. This post corrects that.
So. There were a couple left from that abandoned series way back in May:
Ryan Adams & The Cardinals – Cardinology If I don’t already have one when I find them, I buy his releases (at reasonable prices) on the spot. I have yet to be truly disappointed.
Black Mountain – IV The only one of theirs I still needed (I think). Love their stuff.
And now here is the stuff I found during our June excursion…
Live – Secret Samadhi For some inexplicable reason I did not have a copy of this on hand, so this corrects that omission.
Branford Marsalis – Romances For Saxophone Honestly, this one is in the 3-For bin during several visits. I rescued it, because Marsalis.
OMPS Natural Born Killers Love the film, been ages since I heard the soundtrack. Time for a re-listen. I remember NIN, and Leonard…
Scarlett Johansson – Anywhere I Lay My Head I have the other (second) album she did with Pete Yorn too. I think I owned this ages ago, as the single is very familiar to me…
Paradise Lost – Medusa, and The Plague Within HMO recommended. Totally awesome.
Solstafir – Svartir Sandar 2cd, I Blodi Og Anda, and Otta Also HMO recommended, I totally cleaned up and, in this fell swoop, nearly completed my collection of this excellent Icelandic band’s output. I already had the deluxe Otta in the box with swag, so this rescue copy is for play.
Silver Jews – American Water I always buy Silver Jews albums when they contain Malkmus. This one does.
Pixies – Indie Cindy Bought because Pixies, because I hadn’t yet heard it, and because the title (her namesake) makes my lovely wife happy.
Danny Michel – Matadora All Danny Michel is excellent Danny Michel. Another one for the collection!
Metallica – S&M I realized I didn’t have this 2cd Metallica/SFO set on CD (I have the LPs), so I snapped up a reasonably priced copy. “Of Wolfgang And Man,” indeed!
Opeth – My Arms, Your Hearse My first time seeing a copy of this one in the wild. There’s only one or two left, now, for me to have to the whole Opeth studio collection!
I like everything Rick White has done, so when I see a release I don’t yet have, it’s an instant yes please!
I also got a bunch of stuff for $2.99 at Sonic Boom, bargain-hunter that I am:
Big Rude Jake – Live Faust, Die Jung I realized there are gaps in my BRJ collection, which is inexcusable. This was one I needed.
Frank Black and the Catholics – Frank Black and the Catholics I do love me some Black Francis, and I was fairly certain I hadn’t heard this one. I’ve loved everything I’ve heard of the Catholics output.
Violent Femmes – Rock!!!!! I know next-to nothing about this one, but I do love the VF so why not!
Smashing Pumpkins – Momuments To An Elegy I grabbed this simply because I hadn’t even known it existed. What would SP sound like in 2014? Let’s find out!
Lyle Lovett – I Love Everybody, and Live In Texas There’s something about this loveable weirdo I have always enjoyed, so cheap albums of his made me happy. I especially liked the track listing on that live record…
Jesse Dangerously – How To Express Your Dissenting Political Viewpoint Through Origami I was thrilled to find this one, and for so cheap. James said this was the score of the trip and he’s right.
All in all, an excellent Taranna run!
And tucked way down here at the bottom, here’s what else I’d found in May, and covered in these pages, as you may recall. [Rescue Missions] are the ones I bought and already had because it’s what I do apparently…:
Rheostatics – Greatest Hits [Rescue Mission]
Atoms For Peace – Amok (deluxe) [Rescue Mission]
Eva Cassidy – American Tune
Various – Ballin’ The Jack: The Birth Of The Nu-Blues
Kelly Hogan – Because It Feel Good
Kelly Hogan – I Like To Keep Myself In Pain
Ani DiFranco – Allergic To Water
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – ‘Freedom Tower’ No Wave Dance
Tinariwen – Imidiwan: Comapnions cd/dvd
Pixies – Head Carrier
Holly Golightly & The Brokeoffs – Medicine County
Paley & Francis – Paley & Francis
Hardship Post – Somebody Spoke
J. Mascis – Live At CBGBs: The First Acoustic Show
Sadies – Precious Moments
Mark Lanegan – Bubblegum
Mark Lanegan – Whiskey For The Holy Ghost
Sadies – Tremendous Efforts
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – F#A#
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven
And if you’ve read this far, your coffee is surely gone and you are a true trooper. Thanks for Reading!
First up, HAPPY CANADA DAY! Give ‘er!
So, it’s about time I put something here. Dad and I went to Taranna yesterday. It was a perfect day in the city, gorgeous weather, easy traffic, and a big party in the market as it’s a holiday weekend.
I’ll just post up my scores (no reviews), for y’all to see what caught my eye…
First up, the 3-for-$10 bins are now 4-for-$10 bins. Awesome! I asked the dude, and he said he’s pretty sure it’s a permanent change. They just have so much stuff to clear through. He did say they may make some 4-for-$10 and some 3-for-$10, depending on what they are. Will see going forward.
Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith – Nothin’ But The Blues Y’all Looks like Taranna-based fun, half studio, half live tracks.
Clutch – Pure Rock Fury I don’t own any Clutch, but they’ve come recommended, so why not.
Joe Strummer – Earthquake Weather This was an immediate grab. A rescue mission for Joe!
Hootie & The Blowfish – Musical Chairs Our son heard Hootie on the radio and loved it, so this was one I didn’t have and it rounded out the 4-for-$10.
Tim Armstrong – A Poet’s Life I think I owned this at one point, but not until I found it again yesterday. CD/DVD.
Jakob Dylan – Seeing Things I asked James if Wallflowers are making a comeback like Hootie is, and he didn’t think so. But I’ve been hearing them everywhere, so when I saw a Jakob solo album, I was curious.
Guided By Voices – Vampire On Titus/Propeller In all the years I’ve checked the GBV sections, I’ve never seen this double album single CD. I own both albums individually, but when I saw this I grabbed it because GBV. Then I went to Sonic Boom and saw another copy. What are the chances, in all these years…
Tuns – When You’re Ready b/w Kiss Yourself Goodbye Awesome 7″ from awesome band. Woo!
Syd Barrett – The Madcap Laughs and Opel I owned Barrett already, so I was happy to round out the collection.
Descendents – Milo Goes To College Classic. Had to get a copy as I was inexplicably without it.
Godspeed You! Black Emporer – Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress and Luciferian Towers Slowly completing (if not completed) my GY!BE collection. Glory.
Baroness – Gold & Grey New Baroness makes me happy and this is probably the score of the day!
All told, a perfect run to the city, and so many great tunes, to boot. Thanks for Reading, folks!
This was nice. I got little else.
Foxwarren is fronted by Andy Shauf, who you might remember from a few of these reviews. Or maybe from his ever-increasingly successful solo career, I guess. Local guy, singer-songwriter type, has built up a lot of buzz. I’d only known of his solo stuff and I’m not sure where Foxwarren fits into the timeline. Was he with them first? Is this a new thing? Were these simultaneous ongoing projects? You are asking the wrong guy, my friend. I was going to suggest that I might know if I’d grown up and seen more small shows here in Regina, but I forgot I’m very old. Shauf wouldn’t have been out of high school when I moved here. I have no excuse. I just don’t know things. Except that they have one album out and it’s new and this tour is in support of it. I know that and it’s probably right.
With Shauf as a hometown favourite, this show sold out well in advance, not that you’d have known by the crowd when we arrived. Regina Folk Festival shows usually run like clockwork, but this one started a good half-hour late, probably to let everyone show up. On the plus side, the late arrivals meant that Mika and I had no trouble finding seats for the opener.
Said opener, Hannah Cohen, played a pleasant little set of dreamy pop that could be described as “sleepy.” The crowd gave her a really nice ovation at the end of her songs that they paid absolutely no attention to. Mika said something along the lines of “that was good, but if I had to write about it, I’d have nothing” and it was nice of her to give me something to close this paragraph with.
Everyone chatting through Hannah Cohen’s set just made it more noticeable how quiet everyone got when Foxwarren started playing. Shauf is a soft-spoken guy and a great songwriter, and people were ready to listen. Which was nice, but we could have used more of that earlier.
It’s always a little weird when the lead singer of a band goes solo. For the musician, it means an entirely new experience. Creative freedom. Do what you want, work with whoever you want. But often, the results – especially to a casual fan – aren’t always that striking. Is there that much difference between songs by Matthew Good and the Matthew Good Band?
It’s not a perfect analogy here, but you get the idea – this is all is a long way of saying I expected this to sound more or less like an Andy Shauf show and it more or less did. This is not a complaint! He’s real good and this was real good. I’d listened to their album beforehand (also real good) (Microsoft Word’s grammar and usage checker is going to hate this sentence) and they played pretty much all of it, near as I could tell. If they played songs from Shauf’s solo records, I didn’t recognize any, though he did come out alone to play one song for the encore.
He also, like in previous shows, fielded audience questions, such as “how do you like your new haircut” and “can we see your new haircut” and “who’s your favourite uncle?” (“Good;” he took his hat off but it was kind of hard to see but I gather he cut his hair all short; “I got a lot of uncles here.”) They also celebrated the birthday of one of the band members, though I think that was just a coincidence of scheduling and not part of the regular touring show. Though it would be pretty funny. And they might get free drinks. Okay, I think I’m onto something here. If you go see them (you should), let me know if it’s someone’s “birthday.” You might also be able to get an honest answer as to Shauf’s favourite uncle if there are fewer uncles where you live.
Yesterday we buried my lovely wife’s dad, my father-in-law. It was a lovely service for a good man, with family and friends gathering in numbers.
His name was William Wesley, but everyone called him Mike. Through it all, he did love his family, and he did dote on his grandkids. He went through a decade and more of varying/related health issues, finally passing a week ago. We were with him at the end.
As you no doubt know, difficult times cause reflection, and reminiscence. You take stock of your own life, and wake up to the things you may have been neglecting. You realize, as you look at ashes in a box, that a lot of the things bothering you matter little, in the end. Things clear up in a damn hurry in such sobering times.
I posted a short while ago about things we cherish, so what of the record collection, etc. Life is for the living, so enjoy it. For me it’s people. Tell them you love them today. Family, friends, this community. Thank you, everyone, for your messages of support and understanding. Thank you for years of Reading, and conversation, and being awesome.
I’ve been neglecting these pages in all the busy, but knowing you folks are out there helps a lot. Thank you.
RIP Mike. Thank you for everything, and especially your beautiful daughter, my lovely wife.
Sonic Boom #8
Just out of curiosity, how are you folks liking this picture/caption gig? Lemme know…
Sonic Boom #2
Trying new formats to see what’s sustainable. Larger, centered picture with caption text. Lemme know what you think…
I love Pixies, full-stop. They have a wonky rocking glorious sound all their own, they rarely miss, and it’s always worth hearing. Get Head Carrier in yer ears!
Hey folks! So, I’ve been slowly recounting my awesome Taranna finds from our trip there last month. I still have the rest of my BMV scores to tell you about, and ALL of the Sonic Boom finds too! So much to do.
Well, as a sign of how far behind I actually am, we were in Taranna again yesterday. And I have more music scores! So… um, I’ll tell you about all of them. Eventually. I am at the point where I’m gonna just have to post the album art and a one-liner and call it a day. Good grief.
Anyway, the city was awesome yesterday. Perfect weather, about 15C with a breeze off the lake. People had coats on, but us northerners were in t-shirts. Traffic was a bit rough on the way down, backed up at the 400 and the 427, but that happens often, and we made great time getting out of the city so that’s a win. The stores were way less busy as it wasn’t Record Store Day anymore.
Speaking of stores, Kops Records on Bloor was gone. No sign in the window that they’d moved, so I dunno. Maybe it’s all in the Queen St. location now? And She Said Boom! on College was gone too, but my panic was short-lived as they’d only moved a few doors further west down the street. Whew!
Also: I had a list of four albums I knew I definitely wanted to find, and I found two! Cool beans. I did not find any Grail List items. Speaking of which, have a look at the Grail List link (above) and if there are any updates for your lists, let me know!
Alright, stay tuned. I have awesome musics to hear/tell you about. And all the previous stuff too. Let’s see if I can find a way to get this done before we go again next month…
As we were getting ready to head out for the show, Mika asked if I was excited to see Snake River. I was not, largely because I didn’t know what Snake River was, if something other than a river of snakes. It turns out that the Tea Party was on the Black River tour, named after their latest single, and Snake River is a local band that plays here fairly regularly. Simple enough to get mixed up.
I mention this because it led me to check and see who our actual openers were – The Proud Sons. The name is a little too close to The Proud Boys for my liking, but what the hell, they’re opening for the Tea Party, it fits really well. At least name-wise. I listened to a few songs from their EP and found they were a country band, which seemed like a very odd pairing with the Tea Party, who were all about being dark and brooding and mysterious, or at least they were when I was in university and they were at their commercial peak. When they came back through town on a reunion tour in 2011, I was surprised at how down-to-earth they seemed – but still not the kind of band that would have a country act opening for them. I assumed I’d found the wrong band on Apple Music.
We got to the casino and checked out the stuff table. Yep, it’s the same Proud Sons. Weird. But whatever, into the concert hall we went for people watching and a thematically appropriate playlist of 90s Canadian rock until the show began. This included a Tea Party song that was hastily skipped.
The Proud Sons are not quite as country in person as they were on their EP – still country, but leaning towards the rockier side of things. Mika checked, and none of them appear to be related to anyone in the Tea Party, and nobody from the Tea Party produced their EP, so this pairing will remain a mystery. Their set was fine, nice harmonies, nothing wrong with the show (well, maybe a touch too loud for the venue – and I maintain that if nobody knows your band, don’t tell the crowd to sing along or “put your hands in the air” because they won’t) – just such an odd fit.
And that’s about all I wrote before letting this sit for two weeks. I think I’m just not fit to review the Tea Party, who I was about as excited for as I had been for Snake River. I saw them – by which I mean the Tea Party, not Snake River, who this review is not actually about, not that you’d know – once in 1996 during the height of their popularity when a friend had a spare ticket. I knew very little about them and said friend was disgusted by that, given that it was a high-demand ticket to a sold-out show and basically wasted on me. I liked them well enough then – and in 2011, and again in 2017 – but they’re really just not my thing. They’re like I Mother Earth in that based on my age and tastes, I should like them, but they just never fully clicked with me. I go because Mika likes them and because I can be talked into any concert for any reason.
This was pretty similar to the show we saw back in 2017. And not just their own songs; they also played the same covers (or short segments thereof) as last time – With or Without You, Heroes, Paint It Black – though I think Bobcaygeon was a new addition. Ever since Gord Downie died, every Canadian band of a certain vintage has to incorporate a Hip song into their setlist by federal law; usually Bobcaygeon, but the Headstones got a special dispensation to play Blow at High Dough and New Orleans is Sinking instead. Crash Test Dummies didn’t play a Hip song at all when they were here last year and they’re all in jail now.
The new not-Snake-River single was fun. They tried out some other new stuff and asked us not to record it in case it sucked, but it was good, and they knew that. Really, the most noticeable difference was in their demeanor. Like I said, in 2011 they seemed appreciative and almost surprised that people would still come out to see them. Since then, they’ve had a few successful tours and the new single has been a big hit on rock radio (for whatever that means in 2019) and that really seems to have boosted their confidence. Lead singer Jeff Martin had a lot more swagger and was back to coming across more like a rock star, and the crowd responded accordingly, so maybe listen to them and not me.
I always worry about the “it was fine” reviews because I fear they come across as “I hated it.” And talking to the four people who read these things can sometimes back that up. So I’ll just say it was a Tea Party concert for Tea Party fans. It was enjoyable and met my expectations but didn’t convert me. After four shows, I’m sensing a pattern.
• Foxwarren w/Hannah Cohen (May 29)
• Regina Folk Festival w/Bahamas, A Tribe Called Red, The Dead South, Weaves, Emilie Kahn, more (August 9)
• “Weird Al” Yankovic (August 21)
• Elton John (October 1)
• Thrush Hermit (October 4)
I still thank Mr. 1537 for pointing me towards this incredible unit.
If, like me, you dig their groovin’ desert blues, then this album will please you as greatly as any of their other work pleases you. Brilliant stuff!
My copy came with a DVD containing a 30 minute documentary about the band.
It’s cleaner-sounding, but he’s still shouting and they’re still rocking. They’re still in control, and the blues is still #1!
This is her 18th album, and I’ve been on the Ani bus for a lot of awesome listening years. She’s always on point, and she’s always brilliant. This one’s another fine example that sounds great.
This lady can sing. Without a doubt, she does it with control, power, and soul. Here she interprets songs others wrote for her (including M. Ward, Vic Chesnutt, Stephen Merritt, John Wesley Harding, Robyn Hitchcock, and Andrew Bird, to name a few), and is joined by Booker T. Jones and others to make it all sound stellar. Glorious.
So I bought this Neil Young book.
Nothing amiss there, oughta be a good read.
Then, when I got it home, I looked inside at the first page and saw this:
Yup, that’s in pen.
Alright. I have questions.
- Is this thing signed by Neil Young?
- Is he known to simply autograph with his initials?
- Further down the rabbit hole, could this have been signed to Rik Emmett? Am I thinking too hard about this?
Of course, surely there are other people named Rik, but there you go.
So what do you think?
Grammatically painful title aside, this is one hot CD. I knew of Kelly Hogan through Carolyn Mark. And Neko Case. Turns out she’s collaborated with a ton of others too, like Mavis Staples, Decembrists, Mekons, Tortoise, Jakob Dylan… the list is long and awesome.
You’ll know why she’d be a popular guest when you hear her creative, fun, beautiful record. What a voice! Hot damn. This is straight-up kick-ass gotta-hear it stuff.
I f*ckin’ love comps like this. The write-up on the back cover says it all:
Balling The Jack: 1) Gambler speak for risking everything on one throw of the dice. 2) A railroads man’s term for going full speed on a train. 3) Afro American argot for a dance characterized by sexually explicit pelvic movements. 4) Black slang for generally having a goooood time.
The Nu Blues: The Old Skool Blues feel, given a techno turbo-charge and pepped with hip-hop thrills, punk power, indie angst, art-rock experimentalism and an extra helping of 21st century soul to go. The Devil’s Music Deconstructed. You know it ain’t a sin…
Reid Paley – Lucky’ Tune
Asie Payton/Go Gittas Camp – Oooh Baby
Tom Waits – Big In Japan
Jimpson & Group – Road Song
Chris Thomas King – Mississippi Kkkrossroads
North Mississippi Allstars – Someday Baby
Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band – Electricity
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Stagger Lee
Olu Dara – Strange Things Happen Everyday
Pig In A Can – Slow Down Train
Gary Lucas w. Mary Margaret O’Hara – Poison Tree
Soft Boys – Give It To The Soft Boys
Billy Childish & His Famous Headcoats – The Wond’rous Day
Petit Vodo – Border Line
Moby – Findy My Baby
Penny Lang – Lost And Found
R.L. Burnside – Let My Baby Ride
Cowboy Junkies – Postcard Blues
Johnny Dowd – A Picture From Life’s Other Side
Bob Log III – Stirring Round A Stick
Diamanda Galas – See That My Grave Is Kept Clean
The only disc I found in the 3-for-$10 bin that needed to come home.
This bluesy beautiful set contains covers of Ray Charles, Billie Holiday, Paul Simon, Duke Ellington, Lennon-McCartney and Cyndi Lauper (among others). The sound is clear and roomy, and the band is on point. This one’s just more proof of her brilliance. She died far too young (at 33, in 1996). May she RIP.