The Skip 5 Show #26: Eurythmics – Thorn In My Side
With jangling acoustic guitar driving the bass and synth straight-on pop rock here, Annie sings (powerfully, natch) about bad love, and getting past it. There’s even a sax section. This is a tight power tune, and definitely deserving of inclusion on the Greatest Hits (1986) set that I have here.
The Skip 5 Show #25: Municipal Waste – The Art Of Partying
From CD3 my copy of the Metal: A Headbanger’s Companion II (2007) boxed set, this is straight up Slayer-like thrash. There’s maybe a bit more of a punk feel to this sound, but holy hell all you gotta do is turn this the hell up and fuckin’ GO! \m/ \m/
The Skip 5 Show #24: Journey – Tantra
From ECL1PS3 (2011), this ballad is beautiful. From the piano-driven intro to where the band joins in, the tune achieves lift-off, and it’s absolutely lifting. The guitar absolutely owns this track.
I loved the lyrics too, as not only did they nail the spirit of tantra, but I think it’s timely to hear them in these days. You might think it maudlin, but it’s so simple and they got it right, here. Just be here, just be present, and remember we’re all in this together. Check the first few lines:
One light shining bright, it’s made from many colours.
Just like every ocean’s made from many drops of rain.
One soul takes many shapes, to make up the human race.
One fire, many lives share the same sun every day.
Old beliefs let us down, many roads lead to heaven.
One love, many faiths all share the world in search of grace.
Across the universe, the same force that moves the Earth’s
In my heart, makes me whole, wash my doubt and fear away.
In a big deep blue sky on a beautiful day.
For the moment is now, there’s perfection in every way…
The Skip 5 Show #23: Harry Connick, Jr. – Once A Year Day Playoff
Did I ever tell you I love Harry’s work? Well I do, I own all of his albums. This track comes from Harry On Broadway, Act 1 (2006) and is a 50-second jazzy idyll of big band, with a few lines of actor dialogue from The Pajama Game tacked onto the end.
Not at all essential, except as part of the show as a whole. This was the kind of thing I was expecting more of in this series, so far, those tracks that sound odd when out of context.
The Skip 5 Show #22: Cosmos – Nude Metropolis
From the 2009 Jar Of Jam Ton Of Bricks album, here is a Pollard side project that, on this track, seems to me to pay homage (in its own weird way), to Pollard’s Who obsession. The riff’s repetitive, but there’s enough swinging over top of it to hold the ear. I love it.
The Skip 5 Show #21: Billy Bragg & Wilco – Christ For President
From the first Mermaid Avenue (1998) collaboration album, wherein these two acts made songs out of otherwise unheard Woody Guthrie lyrics, it’s a bluegrass old school country spiritual hand clapper. Which makes sense given the content, and the man who wrote it. The instrumental bits are great, and I love the rasp on the vocals. This is a great record in full, too. You knew that already. As you were.
The Skip 5 Show #20: The Prodigy & Tom Morello – One Man Army
From the 1997 Spawn soundtrack, this is one of those rap-rock/electronic mash-ups. I could do without the car alarm effect throughout the intro and elsewhere. An oblique homage to Public Enemy? Not necessary here. The rest is a driving drum and bass beat with guitar wonks and a solo from Morello. He fits in to the sound, with his guitar wizardry, but I didn’t feel this was a keeper track. Probably because I never ever got my head around that whole Prodigy, Chemical Brothers-type sound. Too much repetition for me, but I know it was of a time so… this is a time capsule, I guess. Meh.
Oh, and if you’re wondering why I even own this soundtrack, the answer is: ROLLINS.
The Skip 5 Show #19: Faith No More – The Jungle
Heard on We Care A Lot (1985), this is a bit of a weirdo track, trippy with synths and fuzzy guitars over a driving beat. It’s like an 80s anthem on FNM steroids. There’s an underwater quality to some of the vocal effects, but not for the whole track. I dug it, but it wouldn’t be the first song that came to mind when I thought of this group.
The Skip 5 Show #17: Fleetwood Mac – The Chain (Live)
From the 35th Anniversary Rumours (2013) set, on CD2, this live blues stomper is chock full of beautiful vocal harmonies and jangly guitars. It rises a few times, just to tease, and by the end it blasts into full-on guitar wail and organ rocking. Glorious.
The Skip 5 Show #16: Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – I Feel So Good
A short 12-bar blues from a compilation called The Soul Of A Man (2003). Classic smoky barroom banging with that inimitable Cave feeling that the wheels could fall off at any moment. Hot, sweaty fun!
The Skip 5 Show #15: Melodie & 12 O’Clock – Stay With Me
From the 2000 soundtrack to one of my favourite movies, Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai, this is a hip hop excursion with lovely vocals in the R&B vein. It becomes meditative through repetition, which is a power all its own, and the mood fits the tone of the movie perfectly. Whomever put this soundtrack together nailed it. I am in no way qualified to talk with any authority about rap and hip hop, I just know what I like when I hear things, and this one is alright by me.
Interesting Fact: I am still looking for an affordable copy of the Japanese release of this soundtrack, which is completely different from the common release, containing mostly instrumentals from the film among other things. It’s a main priority Grail List item. It’s been years I’ve wanted it, and the longer it goes, the more expensive it gets!
The Skip 5 Show #14: James Taylor – Only A Dream In Rio
I can’t even remember buying this Best Of (2003) collection of his stuff. Was there one song I wanted to hear? Must’ve got it at work for $1 and forgotten about it. This, for me, is one of those discs that bulks out the collection, is forgotten, and never played. Yet, somehow, if I were to go to get rid of it, I would have pause and deliberation. Welcome to my weirdo brain!
Anyway, this has a smooth, sweet samba-like beat with a chorus of voices in Portugese to capture those South American vibes, with added 80s synths and that doctor’s office waiting room beach music easy listening sound. His vocals are so non-confrontational and gentle that, if he’d somehow ended up in the favelas instead of on an idyllic beach, he’d have be eaten alive within minutes. This one was originally on his 1985 album That’s Why I’m Here.
The Skip 5 Show #13: Massive Attack – Risingson
Can I even properly express how much I love the Mezzanine (1997) album? Probably not, but it’s up there among my favourite albums I discovered in the late 90s. I first heard it between sets at a Paul MacLeod show at the Walper Pub in KW. I bought my own copy while living in Montreal 1999-2001. There was a shop on Ste-Catherine near our flat, in a basement just below street level. The dude who ran it was always playing electronic stuff that sounded like his tape was being chewed by his player. Anyway, one day I went in and this album was on, and I was reminded of its beauty. I bought it right off of his Now Playing stand on the counter. He nodded approvingly.
How many times have I played this album in its entirety? Uncounted times. It takes me to a time and place, yet it always fits the current setting as well, and I love it completely. This track is only one of the brilliant songs to be heard on Mezzanine. I see on Amazon it’s a 2LP set too… damn, I need that. It’d sound so good on my RP1…
OMG! Brand new Rolling Stones!!
I am uncertain as to how I didn’t hear about this when it dropped on April 23, 2020, but I’m here today, after discovering it on the Tubes of You, to shout my joy over quarantined towns and empty streets! Just like you can see in the video (below)!
It’s a laid back late-period Stones-y shuffle with reggae tinges and a crisp Charlie beat. Let’s be real – are any of Charlie’s beats anything less than crisp? No, they absolutely are not. And can we just talk for a moment about how they’ve been going so long that when I say ‘Stones-y’ you immediately know exactly what I mean? Quintessential.
Add backing whoa oh vocals, and lyrics that could be talking about the current world isolation situation, or could just be a bluesy meditation on personal loneliness. Mick throws in a pretty damn good snarl/wail/shout for a man his age (and a typical, almost cookie-cutter, harmonica solo to boot). There’s no guitar solo, but the breakdown is sweet.
Nothing truly stands out about it, as a hit Stones song, perhaps but, at this point, fans should have No Expectations, only glee. New Rolling Stones content just thrills me so much.
Get you some!
The Skip 5 Show #12: Stone Temple Pilots – Church On Tuesday
Man, I miss Weiland, we all do. Anyway, you likely know this one already. This is the STP we know so well, with big guitars and that layered sound that makes everything soar. It swings a bit, and even has tympanis at the end. Found on their 2000 album No.4, this wasn’t a single but it damn well could have been.
The Skip 5 Show #11: Deftones – Entombed
Brother Craig absolutely loves the Deftones, he got me tuned more into them. This one, from Koi No Yokan (2012), starts off slowly and gently, and soon crashes into epic and huge. It’s a rawk ballad with a slinky guitar line on repeat, it seems an ode to being happy with whomever you love, though it’s creepily a little submissive, to my tastes anyway. I like the squished sound on the drums in the verse parts, almost electronic or something. There’s probably a term for it. Anyway.
The Skip 5 Show #10: Tech N9ne (f. Serj Tankian, w. Krizz Kaliko) – Straight Out The Gate
Today, iTunes randomizer was very good to me. I love everything about this track, found on Tech’s 2013 Something Else album. I love the aggression juxtaposed against beauty, the swagger and power in the beat, the lyrical message, and that damn hook that stays stuck in your head all day. It’s damn lifting.
Tech is well-known, and yet still somehow completely underrated despite being at the top of his game for ages. Serj, well, he’s just always been amazing. Thrown in together, they’ve made this one helluva track. TURN IT UP.
We are the children of your rivals
Holding guns while reading bibles
Go ahead and seal your fate…
The Skip 5 Show #9: John Williams – The Rooftops Of The Hanamachi
Found on the 2005 soundtrack for the film Memoirs Of A Geisha, this is definitely not the grand, sweeping music we generally associate with Mr. Williams’ work. Here it’s tight, creepy, almost horror film music, but filtered through Japanese instruments and elements. This was one helluva ride through emotion, brilliantly executed.
The Skip 5 Show #8: Trews – Paranoid Freak
My iTunes random play gave this to me from the Time Capsule compilation, but we all know it was the second single from their 2007 album No Time For Later.
A cool mid-tempo rocker for these guys, it’s sweeping and full and huge. I love how the piano features large, especially at the end of the track.
This is another tune that echoes well in today’s uncertain times, both musically and lyrically, with anxiety possibly leading some to be a bit more, well, paranoid than they might otherwise be.
I love this band.
The Skip 5 Show #7: Elvis Presley – One Night Of Sin
Found on CD3 of The Complete 50s Masters boxed set, this song was recorded by the King in 1957, though Smiley Lewis made it a hit one year earlier. The tune sounds a bit like Blueberry Hill, that 50s swing sound, but here it is slowed down a bit. I love how members of the band ever-so-slightly miss the beats a bit, here and there. Rather than detract, it just adds to the atmosphere, lends authenticity. Of course, it’s young Elvis, swinging for the fences with his vocals, my favourite time period of his work.
The Skip 5 Show #6: Bad Religion – Punk Rock Song
If ever there was a song that hit the nail right on the head… well, there are many, of course, and Bad Religion has written more than their share!
I do love Bad Religion, and they’re even better in concert (I went with Brother Wilf ages ago). This band’s sound is essential, in the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’ vein, for sure. Let’s go!
Found on The Gray Race (1996), this one is an anthem for our modern day quarantine-filled life if there ever was one. I’ve included the lyrics here too, because it’s on point. Thank you iTunes randomizer, we all needed this!
Have you been to the desert?
Have you walked with the dead?
There’s a hundred thousand children being killed for their bread
And the figures don’t lie they speak of human disease
But we do what we want and we think what we please
Have you lived the experience?
Have you witnessed the plague?
People making babies sometimes just to escape
In this land of competition the compassion is gone
Yet we ignore the needy and we keep pushing on
We keep pushing on
This is just a punk rock song
Written for the people who can see something’s wrong
Like ants in a colony we do our share
But there’s so many other fuckin’ insects out there
And this is just a punk rock song
(like workers in a factory we do our share
But there’s so many other fuckin’ robots out there)
Have you visited the quagmire?
Have you swam in the shit?
The party convention and the real politic
The faces always different, the rhetoric the same
But we swallow it all, and we see nothing change
Nothing has changed
10 million dollars on a losing campaign
20 million starving and writhing in pain
Big strong people unwilling to give
Small in vision and perspective
One in five kids below the poverty line
One population runnin’ out of time
And the figures don’t lie they speak of human disease
But we do what we want and we think what we please
One in five kids below the poverty line
One population runnin’ out of time
The Skip 5 Show #5: Boston Spaceships – You Satisfy Me
Boston Spaceships was only one of a myriad of Robert Pollard’s side projects. Found on 2008’s Brown Submarine, this is a bright and poppy rocker that sounds, to me, like Guided By Voices covering a shiny happy 60s tune.
May the fourth be with you, everyone!
The Skip 5 Show #4: Bonnie Raitt – Rock Steady (f. Bryan Adams)
Taken from CD2 of Raitt’s 1995 Road Tested live set, this track (written for Bonnie by Bryan) is, naturally, a bluesy rockin’ duet between one of my favourite slide guitarists ever (listen to her play on this one!), and one of my 80s rock heros (found here in full Hey Honey, I’m Packing You In! vocal mode). The guitars shimmer, the drums pound, and the vocals play back and forth in pure fun.
Hello! I miss you. I hope you’re well and healthy, staying in touch with people at a rate that’s acceptable for you, and that your hands aren’t all cracked and dry from excessive washing.
We’re doing fine here. Staying home, playing Animal Crossing or clearing movies off the DVR. Sometimes I play Pokémon Go from the car at some of my favourite parking spots. I go to Safeway every 10 days or so, and one time I went to London Drugs just to buy an uncommon size of battery for the smoke detector, which legitimately felt thrilling. (They had sugar too!) I need a haircut and I’ve never been so caught up on laundry.
I’m working from home, if you want to call what I do “work.” It doesn’t feel particularly essential at the best of times, and these aren’t the best of times. At least, I really hope they aren’t. But I dutifully sit at my desk in my 70s basement with my coworkers Ken and Carl (a spider plant and our fabled cat, respectively) and send out emails to tell people to watch Schitt’s Creek. (Available on demand!)
It turns out that I have no opportunity to write concert reviews when there aren’t any concerts. Glass Tiger, Corb Lund, and Matthew Good all cancelled. Joel Plaskett and Alice Cooper rescheduled to the fall. I can’t imagine BA Johnston will be here this month, so I’m spared from feeling bad about being too tired to go. That leaves July’s old-man show of Canadian 90s rock icons and SLCR veterans The Tea Party, Moist, Big Wreck, and The Headstones. I’m hopeful that we can go see at least 25% of them, but I don’t expect it to happen.
Which leads me here! A lot of musicians I like are doing shows online and I’d like to signal-boost them a bit. I don’t really know how many I’m going to cover or when I’m going to post this or if I’m going to do more than one. I think the review parts will be pretty short since, for the most part, you should be able to check these out yourself if you’re really so inclined.
This show was recorded at Or Shalom synagogue, an appropriate venue for the klezmer half of Berner’s klezmer-punk music. I suspect it hasn’t played host to a lot of songs that translate into “Fuck the Police,” but I don’t know, I’ve never been to a synagogue before. Which reminds me of the time I tried to buy a button that said “Kiss me, I’m Jewish” at a garage sale because I wanted to lie for kisses, not thinking that most of the time, the owner of a “Kiss me, I’m Jewish” button would be an actual Jew, who in this case was very excited to meet me and curious as to why he’d never seen me at the synagogue before. But I digress.
Obviously, these productions won’t compare to actually going out to see live music. But despite the lack of audience and minimal crew, Berner put on quite the enjoyable hour-long set. There were techs handling audio and video with minimal hiccups, and someone “who lives in my house” (a son, I think?) manning a second camera that was able to get in closer. A small touch that made this a lot more watchable by not restricting us to one static viewpoint. The sound quality was good, and Berner seemed relaxed and in good spirits, jokingly playing to the imaginary crowd and telling stories about each song.
I’ve seen Berner many times before and he’s an acquired taste. Most of my friends who have tried to acquire this taste have failed. I watched this show with earbuds in while Mika watched TV and we were both happier that way. But who knows? Maybe you’ll enjoy a lefter-than-left-wing accordion player with a wry, pessimistic sense of humour and a penchant for playing the occasional song in Yiddish. He usually translates them as he goes along, you’ll be fine.
If you’ve got extra time to fill during this here shutdown, Ben Folds is your guy. He was supposed to be performing with Australian orchestras when this all went down. Due to ever-changing conditions, he found himself missing the window to return home to the US. No problem – he rented an apartment in Sydney, bought an electric piano and a webcam, and set up for weekly free performances every Saturday on YouTube at 5pm my time. That’s 7pm Eastern and Sunday morning in Australia; you figure out the rest.
If one show a week isn’t enough, sign up for his Patreon. $10/month gets you 3 additional weekly shows and 4 Rock This Bitch song downloads. (They’re improvised live songs. It’s a whole thing I could explain but won’t.) One of the extra shows is meant for musicians and music teachers, with an over-the-shoulder view showing how he plays certain songs. In another, he makes up songs with fan-submitted lyrics. The third is a Patreon-only request show, which – unlike the others – I’ve actually watched. He’s very game to try any song from his back catalogue, even if he has to look up the lyrics or listen to a snippet on his phone to remember what chord it’s in. There’s a lot of messing up and a lot of swearing.
On that note, the show linked above – his fourth weekly public concert since the shutdown – is titled “TRYING AGAIN” and opens with him on his phone, squinting at his computer, saying “the current resolution is not optimal – well then, tell me what fucking IS optimal?!” We’ve all been there. Ben’s also currently clean-shaven because he tried to trim his beard and messed it up. Very relatable.
Between notoriously poor Australian internet – basically, it’s like if my house was a country – and Folds having to do all his own setup and hands-on technical support, there can be some snafus with these. You never know when he’ll switch from one of his songs to an ad-libbed musical complaint about how the pedals are sliding away and that doesn’t happen with a real piano.
That said, this was a really fun show. With upgraded mics and camera, the sound and video quality have greatly improved since these began. But more importantly, Folds is a fan-friendly performer, taking requests from the illegibly scrolling chat, dropping fans’ names into songs, running a drinking game (take a drink every time he messes up) (do not do this, you’ll die), enjoying morning beers, and doing several greatest hits albums’ worth of songs in one medley. It’s intimate and unrehearsed and feels like just hanging out as much a concert.
Before this was announced, I’d actually singled out BA Johnston as someone who wouldn’t be putting on streaming shows. He releases albums, sure, but you really need the full live experience to understand BA, and that includes significant crowd interaction. You need the beer and the sweat and the Cheezies and the sparklers and the screaming and the same jokes every time.
And yet, here we are. Airing live from This Ain’t Hollywood in his hometown of Hamilton, Ontario (and with messages of support from owners of various bars that BA frequents, including Amigo’s in Saskatoon), BA did his best to put on his full live show in front of an audience of the two guys handling sound and video. The jokes, the costume changes, the whole schtick was still there. He even closed the set in the bathroom, though he did wrap things up with uncharacteristic sincerity and well wishes.
There was a long stretch of technical issues before everything began – feel free to skip that part. When they did get it working, both the sound and video were the weakest of the of the shows I’ve seen. Though I will say that I watched this in two halves – the first part live streaming to my TV, and the second on replay with headphones on my computer – and the sound came in a lot better on the replay. I’m not sure if the live showing was having bandwidth issues, or if I just don’t expect as much coming out of a little Facebook window.
The technical issues mean that if you’re new to BA Johnston, this might not be your best introduction, but that aside, it’s still a night of funny, catchy songs that will stick in your head for days – classics like GST Cheque, new ones like We’re All Going to Jail (Except Pete, He’s Gonna Die), and even unreleased songs from his upcoming album, Werewolves of London, Ontario. Plus, you’ll wind up way less sweaty than if you go see him in person, mostly because he can’t sweat on you if you’re watching at home on your Acer laptop.
This show was held over Zoom, that video conferencing software that was probably created by the same people who created this virus. It makes sense if you think about it. Follow the money, sheeple.
Side Door was founded by Dan Mangan to help touring musicians set up and sell tickets to house concerts. That’s not happening at the moment, so it’s pivoted to online shows. They’re not expensive – this was $8 US – but it helps make a little money while there’s no touring. A bunch of Canadian artists have been performing on there, including Terra Lightfoot, Said The Whale, Jill Barber, Danny Michel, Sarah Slean, and Mangan himself. And Steven Page. Which you likely figured out.
Zoom works well for this type of setup. The host takes up most of the screen, and viewers (at least the ones who don’t turn their cameras off like I do) appear in a row of little boxes at the top of the screen, not dissimilar to a Press Your Luck board. That said, you may have heard of Zoombombing, where hackers take advantage of Zoom’s many security flaws to invade conference calls. I watched Page’s show last week too, and mid-song, the chat suddenly got REAL racist, and one of the video streams began showing gay porn. So that was fun. They had more moderators this week, and there are added security steps for next week’s show. Which does nothing for you, since that show’s already sold out, but I bet there’ll be more shows, if you have eight bucks kicking around.
I had good plans to write up last week’s show but then a week went by and I, uh, didn’t. So you get this one instead. Both were fun, live from Page’s basement with him mostly playing guitar but also on keys for a bit. The sound is pretty good; I find the video a little choppy but I also have trash internet. There were songs spanning Page’s entire career, with a nice mix of Barenaked Ladies songs and all his solo stuff. Plus, since he was taking requests, it wasn’t just all the hits, which is either a big positive or a big negative for you.
Since you can’t just go watch this one, I’ll go through the setlist:
- Shoebox (if you want to feel old, sing along with “you’re so 1990 and it’s 1994”)
- Straw Hat and Old Dirty Hank (Page noted that this might be the first time he ever played this song solo)
- In The Car
- Break Your Heart
- Tonight is the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel (with a bit of So Political by Spirit of the West)
- So Young, So Wrong, So Long
- Over Joy
- The War on Drugs
- The Old Apartment (He messed this up over and over last week, and noted that he got requests to “play it right this week”) (He messed it up again and cracked himself up real good)
- Powder Blue
- Maybe You’re Right
- What A Good Boy
- White Noise
- The Chorus Girl (I don’t know this one that well, but oh man, the chat was so happy he played this one. He talked a lot about what it was about. Then he had everyone unmuted so everyone could sing along with the “la la la” part and man, having 800+ people unmuted at once sounded like what you’d hear when you open the gates of hell. Then they tried muting everyone again – including Page – but a few people couldn’t be muted and didn’t know how to mute themselves and kept talking while the chat got super mad at them. Then the chat got hacked and racist.)
I thought this was good fun. Mika said it was fine. The cat didn’t appreciate being woken up.
This feels like a good place to stop for now. More to come.
The Skip 5 Show #3: Herbert Von Karajan – Beethoven: Symphony #7 In A, Op. 92 – 2. Allegro
Beethoven just lifts me, man. It’s beautiful and soaring, and so damn powerful. Of course, you know the melody here, and I have always considered this 1963 collection of Von Karajan (with Berliner Philharmoniker)’s Beethoven: Complete 9 Symphonies to be one of, if not the very best examples of the work I’ve ever heard. I own the boxed set on vinyl and CD! Glory!
This video gives you all four parts, and you really should hear it all. If you click through to YouTube, there are jump links in the description, though, so you can hear only what I did, which was the allegretto, part 2. But really, just play the whole damn thing and be lifted!
As it pertains to this new series, I was reading here and there that some folks found their iTunes random setting wasn’t really all that random. It seems that the algorith does randomize your collection, but then holds that new randomized list in place. It does this, mainly, so that you can easily skip back to a previous song, rather than having to go searching for it again.
The simple fix is simply to toggle the random play off and then on again whenever you want it to freshly randomize your collection. This creates a new randomized list.
The Skip 5 Show #2: Miles Davis – Woody’n You
From the 1958 album Relaxin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet, this is a jazz standard (written by Dizzy Gillespie in 1942, as an homage to Woody Herman). It’s a full-tilt hard bop swinger with great solo turns. Great? I mean, have a look… Personnel: Miles Davis (trumpet), John Coltrane (tenor sax), Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Philly Joe Jones (drums).
Get you some.
The Skip 5 Show #1: Bruce Cockburn – Sahara Gold
I will listen to Bruce Cockburn any time, so this is a fantastic way to start this month.
From his 1984 Stealing Fire album, this tune opens with a gorgeous acoustic guitar line over a somewhat martial beat, before breaking down into a swinging, bass-heavy tune with walking electric guitar line. Here, he talks about the ecstacy of a shared night of passion. As is typical of his work, the lyrics beautifully evoke images and put you right in the scene.
My copy is from the deluxe edition, and it sounds huge in the good headphones.
I need to better honour this site.
Months spent ignoring something that has been around for (now) almost 14 years, and has grown as part of such a wonderful community, is a disservice to both this community and to the site.
Thus, I’ve decided to try to return, in a minimal way.
- I will try to make one new post every day for this month of May, 2020.
- I will achieve this via a new series, which I’ve called The Skip 5 Show.
The Skip 5 Show has a simple premise: I will open my iTunes, turn on random track selection, and press play. Then I will hit the skip button 5 times. Whatever that 5th song is, that is the song I will listen to, and try to write some small thing about it for you.
NB: My iTunes currently looks like this: 44,767 items, 122.8 days, 166.41 GB. That’s quite a pool for it to choose from, so who knows what we’ll discover.
I will try to keep things short and sweet, and I will try to link to official audio of each track (if available) via YouTube, so you can hear each track for yourself.
We begin shortly.
Hello everyone,I trust you’re all well and safe during these uncertain and odd times.
Today is our son’s 11th birthday. He’s such a special guy, brilliant in every way, and growing a lot. Truly a beautiful soul. Hard to believe these years have gone past, it seems so quick… On the day of his birth in 2009 (KMA was about 3 years old by then!), we had rain, hail, snow, sunshine and a rainbow. This morning, we woke to a thin blanket of snow on the ground, big wet flakes that are (probably) some of winter’s last gasp for a few months. Of course, we couldn’t throw him a party as we normally would, so we arranged for a few of his friends to do a quick visit in the driveway on the weekend, talking from a good distance through the vehicle windows. It wasn’t as good as getting to run around together, but at least it was something. He was super-happy to see his friends. Then I barbequed steaks and we watched Star Trek: The Next Generation while we ate. Both kids love the show (and steaks). At night, we’re reading the Lord Of The Rings (having already finished The Hobbit). We are currently a few chapters into The Two Towers. The kids are completely hooked on this story, as well. True story: I bought this boxed set of Tolkien before we’d even talked of having kids. I told my lovely wife that someday I would read them to our children and now, at least twelve years later, here we are. Achievement unlocked!
Like most of us, we are sheltering in place, myself and the kids since March 20, though the kids were off a week earlier for their regularly-scheduled March Break. My lovely wife continues to go to work every day. I have not been idle during this quarantine. I’ve been walking 3km early every morning, as I did before all this started. I am exercising in other ways as well, weights and bodyweight stuff, trying to stave off the temptation to just do nothing. I’ve become a teacher, of sorts, as the kids are receiving coursework online from their teachers, and I’m here to help them through it. I’m cleaning and sorting, organizing and purging, trying to finally get to some of the projects I’ve always held in my head as “if I ever had the time, I would get that done…” Well, here is the time, so do it. Or don’t do it – I’ve found some of the things I’ve been meaning to do didn’t really need to be done. Next.
I have also had time to watch a few movies in these weeks, broken up during times I take for breaks. I started with part 1 of The Matrix (always awesome). Then I branched out, and took in some silly action movies: Wanted, Salt, and parts 1 and 2 of Now You See Me – the ensemble cast films about magicians. All of these last four were… OK. Flashy and fast-moving and I didn’t shut them off so I was at least curious as to how they would end. I am now thinking that I need to balance all of this out with some Kurosawa. His films always make everything better. Ha, that sounds pretentious, but it’s still true!
I am, of course, still listening to a lot of tunes. Recently I have discovered a new appreciation for Depeche Mode. I’d always dismissed them as just more of that 80s dance electronic stuff I didn’t care about decades ago, and so I hadn’t even really tried. They came up one day on Youtube, I tried it, I liked it, and now I’m exploring more. There’s something about the way their sound and instrumentations (is that redundant?) mixes with their lyrics that just clicked for me now, all these years late to the party. I’ve heard a couple of clunker tracks, sure, but by and large I can now better appreciate the art of what they do. The rest has been a mix of whatever comes up on my iTunes which, in my collection, spans most genres and about 100 years of music.
Stay safe, healthy, and our best to you and yours in surviving these interesting times as well as you can. Cheers!
You may remember that the Friday night of last year’s folk festival was hit with a big thunderstorm, causing Weaves to end their set before it really got underway. Unsurprising, then, that they’d be asked to return for Winterruption, to give us a second chance to see them. But alas, they were booked opposite a Whitehorse show, and I had to make the tough choices. It will be interesting to see what acts of God keep me away from their shows in the future.
We’d seen Whitehorse before at Darke Hall and really enjoyed it, and I didn’t want to pass up the chance to see them at the much smaller Artesian. I don’t think they play a lot of venues this… let’s go with “intimate,” and figured it could be a special show.
As it sold out well in advance, our usual plan of showing up whenever wasn’t going to work. The bar in the basement opened at 7:00 and the doors to the hall were to open at 7:30 for an 8:00 start. We got there right as the hall was to open, and couldn’t get in. Everyone else had got there before us, gone to the bar, and then filled the lobby. We hung out on the steps until people started moving, then swam upstream to get to the stairs to the balcony. That seemed like the best bet to guarantee a seat, since the show was advertised as having a mix of seated and standing areas, but when we got up there, we saw the whole floor was filled with chairs. I’m not sure where these mythical standing areas were, not that I care. We had a good view and the sound was terrific.
The show was two sets of Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet – no opener, no other musicians. None needed. This was great. They exist somewhere in between rock and country. Americana, maybe, except they’re Canadian. Doucet was dressed like a cowboy, but, like, a fancy cowboy. McClelland wore a t-shirt reading “Satan is a woman.” They covered traditional blues and Springsteen and both fit equally well into a lineup of great original tunes. Both are excellent songwriters and very talented musicians and this was the kind of show where you’re constantly reminded that these folks are great and you’re a dummy for not listening to them more often. Or maybe that’s just me.
Downsides? Well, they didn’t play Boys Like You, which I enjoy. Beyond that, they took audience questions and asked for requests, which encouraged certain fans to believe themselves to be part of the show. But even that wasn’t overly disruptive. Just led to a few eyerolls, is all.
Even with that, the audience participation led to the band sharing family secrets (“the kids are at home, they’re good”) and valuable insights into forming a band and going on tour with your spouse (“don’t”). And the questions brought up an interesting discussion about their respective solo material. They’d both had extensive careers but shelved most of their solo stuff when forming Whitehorse, though they’re now talking about revisiting some for a future tour. That could make for a fun show; it’s worth noting that the one solo song they played, Doucet’s hit Broken One, got the biggest reaction of the night. It’s also worth noting that song is about Doucet’s ex-girlfriend, or at least McClelland felt the need to laughingly point that out. Playing the classics can lead to an interesting trip down memory lane.
• Glass Tiger (March 19)
• Matthew Good and his band w/Ria Mae (March 31)
• Alice Cooper w/Lita Ford (April 13)
• Joel Plaskett w/Mo Kenney (May 2)
• Corb Lund (May 14)
• BA Johnston (May 29)
• Saints and Sinners 2020 Tour feat. Big Wreck, Moist, The Headstones, and The Tea Party (July 3)
As I am not Reading or Posting, please know that I think of you all often, and I hope you’re doing well.
Over months, during my daily 05:00 a.m. walk, I’ve done much reflecting on what’s happened to cause my prolonged disappearance from these pages. I am generally slower to myself, but this post contains the ongoing thinking, thus far. It has taken me weeks to compile this short-ish post of thoughts in a text file on my desktop. There is a Takeaway summation at the bottom, if that’s all you need, but the rest might be informative (or not) as well:
First off, it’s nothing serious. No illness being hidden, no dire straits in any way (although I do listen to Dire Straits, natch!). Simply, we are busy, with only one night per week not at some scheduled thing. This is all good, family comes first, always, but this leaves little enough energy or time for me. I am rarely at the computer for more than a couple of minutes. No time to blog.
So make time, you say. Well…
1) I can’t seem to do anything by half (I’m a high energy guy). At peak, I was posting daily, and reading and commenting on 43 blogs (I counted). A day off was unthinkable. I truly wanted to contribute to the Community. It added up to a lot of content and time. I wore myself down.
2) Worse, what I was posting, I was forcing. I’m certain you could tell. You could generally sum up all of my KMA posts (over 2000 of them) with one word: WAHOO!. There is little art in that. But more, and this on me: it always became a Thing with rules, schedules, and lists, and that added to the wear down. How many series did I start that fizzled, or how many times did I change up the format – Sunday Service, 80 word challenge, etc… I never learned that when it becomes work, it loses its fun. As radiohead said it best, “You do it to yourself, you do, and that’s what really hurts.” Oh brother, do I know it.
1) I’m still listening to music. But at peak blogging, it was with far less pleasure, because I was mentally writing my post about it in real time. I wasn’t able to just relax and listen, or even simply have my thoughts about it. I was writing my post for it, in my head. Over time, that’s exhausting. So, you ask, why not just write down those purer thoughts without added pressure? Well, as I said above, I can’t seem to do that yet, though I am listening just for the simple pleasure of listening and it’s beautiful.
2) Also, how I listen to music has changed. As noted above, I am rarely at the computer for sustained time anymore. But I’m onscreen long enough to fire up the iTunes and listen as I do other things away from it. Some days I don’t even sit down in front of it, and am considering building a standing desk so I can just have a brief work station. Anyway, I can’t remember the last time I actually put a CD in the player, or dropped the needle on an LP.
3) Over the past two years, in an effort to create more of the mental clarity that comes from less clutter, I have done two culls of the piles here. I work in a place where I can buy music very, very cheaply, so my impulse control is ridiculously low when it comes to buying things on spec. Nothing by half, right? This led to piles of stuff, carted home in dribs and drabs, that I’d play once and likely not ever play again. NB: I did not clear out anything gifted to me by generous KMA benefactors (thank you all so much!), but only stuff I’ve lugged home myself, over time. As you can see by these numbers (below), if I can unload this many items without regret, without even touching the core collection, I had way too much:
CD (717, 686) = 1403
DVD (127, 88) = 215
CS (577, 0) = 577
LP (366, 189) = 555
TOTALS: (1787, 963) = 2750 items
And looking around at the shelves here now, the removal of so many items still hasn’t seemed to even make an appreciable dent. I could probably do a third cull and be just fine. I know.
Life time is finite, and none of us are drawing on an infinite well of youth. Priorities always win. This time away, like water always finding its level, is allowing my life to level out into what it is now and I am letting it do so. That is family and work, as always, and whatever free time remains (before I fall over, exhausted at the end of every day which starts at 04:50 a.m., even on weekends) has many, many demands upon it. Responsibly, I should not return to blogging until it can be done in some manageable way. That’s on me.
I’m sure there will be further thinking on the matter, and if I get enough of value, I will post it here in future, as well. I’d love to know your thoughts on any of this, in the comments. You are friends, after all and everything, and I do miss you.
I truly do hope you’re all well. I love this community, you are a great group of people. Thanks for everything, and for Reading.
::creates text file::
::returns three weeks later::
Well, that didn’t work. Better do this the old-fashioned way. As if procrastinating for weeks isn’t the old-fashioned way.
For a very brief period of time, this was set to be the last-ever Rah Rah show. After a few years of relative inactivity, they got the band back together for a proper farewell. And, as will happen, it sold out quickly. They then added a second show on the following night, which also sold out. It turns out that the secret to success is to do nothing for a long time and promise that more nothing is on its way.
Despite them living where I live and me also living where I live, I’d only managed to see Rah Rah twice before, and one of those was a Folk Festival teaser set where they only played a few songs and I don’t think the whole band was there and I didn’t dig it that much. The other time was also at the Folk Festival – this time a full set – and I enjoyed it a lot more. But that was 2013, which is somehow now long ago. They went off to do their own things, and I listened to other things. One time I thought “hey I wonder what those guys are up to now” and promptly forgot to look for an answer.
There were two openers; Suncliffs (who I’ve seen) and Big Day (who I’ve not). We skipped both, opting to arrive just before Rah Rah started, so tradition dictates I tell you that they were both very good. It was a work night, and a sold-out Exchange gets very warm, and outside was very not, and I was older than the last time I went to a concert, and it would be all standing, so we opted to maximize comfort. I feel like I should have some regrets but I’m okay with all this.
I went into the show wondering how many of their songs I actually knew, and how much I’d enjoy myself. Answers: more than I realized, and a whole lot. It had been a while since I’d listened to Rah Rah, and I kind of forgot that they have a ton of great songs. Which seems like a stupid thing to forget maybe? Or maybe it just feels that way because I got to hear a bunch of them all in a row and say “oh hey, this one, I like this one” to myself over and over. My inner monologue is very rich. At least I never yelled out for a Library Voices song by mistake, though I’m a little disappointed in myself that I didn’t think to do it on purpose.
I could list off some of my favourites that they played, and I will, because this is going to be a relatively short write-up – Tentacles, Art and a Wife, Henry, The Poet’s Dead, Arrows – but possibly my highlight was Chip off the Heart. I already liked those other songs, but that one never did much for me until I heard it live. The added energy really made it work for me. It’s one of my favourite things about going to concerts, when you get a new appreciation for a song like that. Or a band overall.
They were clearly excited to play in front of the sold-out hometown crowd, despite one of them bring pregnant and another one having just put himself through a table in some sort of nap-related mishap. They switched off singing, told stories, threw mylar balloons spelling their name into the crowd, and overall seemed to be having a really good time. It looked like lots of their families were in attendance, which was nice for them and also raised the average age of the room to one I was comfortable with, which is a rare treat anymore. The enthusiastic audience also contributed to the atmosphere; literally, in the case of the secret farter who stood near us and let one fly. But apart from that generous soul, this show was a delight. Easily the best of their shows that I’ve seen, and I left a bigger fan than when I arrived. Go see them if you get the chance, except you won’t so you can’t. But if.
Holy crap 3000 posts. I just had to get in here and say quick, what year is it? We started this blog in October, 2006. You know the story already. But 3000 posts that’s a lot. I mean logically it had to happen eventually because math, and so here we are.
Thank you all for Reading over the years, and for putting up with my recent (almost) disappearance, and for being excellent friends and a stand-up community and excellent writers all.
And because the universe is random, here is Henry Rollins with Cyndi Lauper from November 2019, covering Black Flag’s mighty Rise Above. Because we love you 3000.
Like the title says, Happy New Year to all of you! James and I hope 2020 brings you much love and happiness and connection, energy and passion and new adventures and giant piles of albums with which to fill your ears!
I am certain that James will continue to bring his excellent writing flair to the KMA this year. No idea what 2020 will bring from me, though hopefully some content here and there at some point. I am in the midst of so many other things unrelated to blogging, these days, so we’ll have to see!
We didn’t party last night (we’re old fogeys). Our boy hasn’t been feeling the best (though he’s on the mend), so we just stayed in and played cards. We did see midnight but it was bed straight afterwards.
And this morning, I woke with a song clearly in my head, blaring like a klaxon and still echoing there now, hours later. Perhaps its message is a sign. Or maybe it’s just my memory of the 80s coughing up a hairball. I’d choose the former over the latter.
But a slow glowing dream
That your fear seems to hide
Deep inside your mind
Silent tears full of pride
In a world made of steel
Made of stone
Close my eyes, feel the rhythm
Take a hold of my heart
I can have it all
Now I’m dancing for my life
And make it happen
Pictures come alive
You can dance right through your life
Close my eyes, I am rhythm
In a flash
It takes hold of my heart
I can have it all
Now I’m dancing for my life
And make it happen
Pictures come alive
You can dance right through your life
What a feeling
(I am music now)
(I am rhythm now)
Pictures come alive
You can dance right through your life
(I can really have it all)
What a feeling
(Pictures come alive when I call)
I can have it all
(I can really have it all)
Have it all
(Pictures come alive when I call)
(Call, call, call, call)
(Take your passion)
(What a feeling)
What a feeling
(Take your passion)
Welcome to my 14th annual Best Of The Year post!
Turns out, according to my iTunes, that I only bought 9 new release albums from 2019. True, I haven’t been buying anywhere near as much, overall, but apparently what I did buy was mostly older releases.
* Interesting Fact: Fully 1/3 of my 2019 purchases were from Guided By Voices. In this way, we know that life is very good, indeed.
UPDATE: And if you saw my last post, you’ll know I was also gifted the latest Opeth (In Cauda Venenum) for Christmas, so I mention this only after the neat and tidy GBV math (above). And even though I love Opeth, and this is a great record, I’d already chosen my Best Album and I just haven’t heard the Opeth enough (I’ve only owned it for 3 days, at the time of this posting) to really get it into my blood.
When the list is short like this, it’s easy to remember what they all sounded like, my thoughts on them. And I can say without equivocation that I loved the hell out of all of these releases, for various and good reasons.
So now I gotta choose? Well, this year I’m just gonna choose the one I’ve played the most, the one most steeped into my brain. It’ll probably be high up on a lot of other peoples’ lists, too.
AARON’S BEST ALBUM OF 2019:
Tool – Fear Inoculum
It had to happen. I mean, just through 13 years’-worth of anticipation alone, they could have put out an album of the four of them farting and laughing for an hour and it still might’ve made the list. But no, this is a strong Tool album, full of moments of weirdness, moments of yeah we’ve heard that before (but it’s still solid), and moments of sheer brilliant genius and raw power that just keep me coming back again and again. Add in the fun packaging on this limited edition set (with the LCD packaging, et al.) and it’s a natural. Few bands draw as much love and hate as this band has/does, even fewer care as little about any of that as these guys do, bent as they are on their own twisted missions. Straight up, I loved it.
NB: Leonard Cohen has won my Best Album award four times since I started this annual project in 2006, more than any other winner (list of all previous winners below). And this year’s posthumous release was definitely in the running, especially considering we don’t know how many more Leonard releases (of new material) we’ll even have, going forward. I may change my mind in future, but here we are. You should still buy the Leonard, though, it’s awesome. RIP Leonard.
AARON’S BEST BOXED SET OF 2019:
Sloan – Navy Blues
ALL THE OTHER KICK-ASS 2019 GOODNESS (In No Particular Order) (9):
Mounties – Heavy Meta
Leonard Cohen – Thanks For The Dance
Hawksley Workman – Median Age Wasteland
Guided By Voices – Zeppelin Over China
Guided By Voices – Warp And Woof
Guided By Voices – Sweating The Plague
Flight Of The Conchords – Live In London
Baroness – Gold & Grey
Opeth – In Cauda Venenum
PREVIOUS YEARS’ WINNERS:
2018 Sloan – 12
2017 Iron Maiden – The Book Of Souls: Live Chapter (Deluxe Edition)
2016 Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker / Metallica – Hardwired… To Self-Destruct (tie)
2015 Iron Maiden – The Book Of Souls
2014 Leonard Cohen – Popular Problems / Sloan – Commonwealth (tie)
2013 Black Sabbath – 13
2012 Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas
2011 Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton – Play The Blues: Live From Jazz At The Lincoln Center
2010 Jack Johnson – To The Sea
2009 Leonard Cohen – Live In London
2008 Metallica – Death Magnetic
2007 Carolyn Mark – Nothing Is Free / Immaculate Machine – Fables (tie)
2006 Sloan – Never Hear The End Of It
Thanks for Reading! All the very very best to everyone in 2020. Truly!
Hey everyone, all the best and merry merry happy happy from James and Aaron this 2019 season!
I know content has fallen off around here from my (Aaron)’s end, but James is still providing the quality content we’ve loved for years and that’s the special sauce. No updates on when/if I’ll get back to this regularly, who knows, but it’s Christmas and I thought you might wanna see the music-related goodies that found their way to me this year… and oh, there was goodness!
Of course, there were other things… I mean, I got a new Tilley hat. My old one (from 1992, I think) is finally beaten enough to be a beach-only hat. So now I can wear this new one for 27 years before I need another new one! See you in 2046, Tilley! Best hats ever. And I got a boxed set of DVDs of 5 Kurosawa films I haven’t ever seen, and that’s solid gold. I love Kurosawa. A few other goodies too, like a subscription to my hockey magazine, and new snowpants for whenever I need to get out the snowblower (not even once this year, yet, which is unnerving and weird)…
Anyway, you wanna see the music-y goodness…
This book always intrigued me, and I see there are other later editions too (which would update things), but this seems to be the first one and it covers a huge swath of the incredible output of this amazing (I love them dearly) collective of people’s music. I think of this as the paperback edition of the gbvdb.com site.
This new Opeth album (In Cauda Venenum) was on my wishlist, as I own all their other studio albums (I think) and the completist in me was getting twitchy… It’s 2 CDs, the first all in Swedish, the second all in English. Can’t wait to dig in and see what they’re up to this time around!
This book has been on my wishlist a while, and this year it came to me as a gift! I’ll be curious to see what all is in here, how it differs from the Never-Ending Present book, and so on. Hip Forever! We miss you dearly, Gord.
Yup, this is the double silver-LPs edition. I don’t want to pick a favourite Hip album (that’s like choosing a favourite child, you just don’t do it), but this one ranks very very highly for me, in their discography. This set is glorious all around!
So yeah, it’s been a beautiful Christmas here, lots of family visiting time, and some bittersweet as it’s the first Christmas without my lovely wife’s Dad. But there was so much amazing food, and a fog so thick it caused zero visibility advisories and we couldn’t get home last night and had to stay over and I had to miss work today. The kids are at the right age to be amazing though it all, and they were truely wired for sound and loving every minute of it, so all in all it’s been wonderful.
I hope Santa was good to you, and you were able to get together with family and friends and make the most of it all, safe and warm and loved and happy.
PS. I am making my annual Best Of 2019 list, and will try to get that posted before the 31st.
You’d think it might be hard for me to find something to say about a Hawksley Workman show, having now seen him 25 times. You’d be completely right.
Doors were at 7:30 and Mika and I arrived about ten minutes after. The place was already starting to fill up nicely, despite a near-complete lack of the regulars that get passing mentions in these things. Only Erin was there from my usual crew of Hawksley associates. Hawksociates. She technically came to the show by herself but told her husband that she didn’t need to go with anyone to a Hawksley concert since she’d just find people there. It looked like an effective strategy.
Mika and I found chairs and I left to get us drinks and to eyeball the stuff table. Lots of vinyl and all of his CDs, all at decent prices, but I had it all already. I got myself a Diet Pepsi and Mika an iced tea because we know how to have a good time.
Before the show began, the host came out and asked for “the owner of a red Mazda-” and we both fought off minor panic attacks but it was some other red Mazda and it didn’t even get hit, it was just blocking the alley. All was well.
The show started right on time because it was put on by the Folk Festival and shows start right on time and we all want to go to bed at a reasonable hour (he wrote, at 12:19 am on a work night). After opening with No Sissies, Hawksley picked up a recorder, suggested it was a tool of governments looking to find a reason to cut funding for music programs, and then played us a song on it. Specifically, the theme to The Friendly Giant. This was, admittedly, not on my list of songs I was expecting to hear. The next one, Safe and Sound, very much was.
From there, it was mostly selections from the pool of tunes he normally picks from for concerts. Everything was done well, though I don’t know if anything stood out as being exceptionally better or different from everything else. We got less off his newest album, Median Age Wasteland, than I would have expected – only three songs. He put out a new single recently (Around Here) and didn’t play that one either. Mr. Lonely sang backup through a voice modulator for a few songs, including the “somewhere on the outside” part of Smoke Baby, which I don’t think I’ve seen before and that was neat. Battlefords really seemed to connect with people when it came out, so it was a good choice to open the second half of the show – something to grab people’s attention after the thrilling rush of the 50/50 draw during intermission. Claire Fontaine is a personal favourite, which you likely know if you’ve bothered to read this far, so I was delighted to get that one, especially because he gave it a nice long intro so I had time to capture the whole thing on video. Despite a few attempts through the years, I just don’t want to be the guy with his phone out at a show for too long – but I made an exception for this one. Mika, once again, was unable to avoid Autumn’s Here. Hawksley told stories about his dad and his grandma and why you shouldn’t leave your windows open when you leave the country for months on end – all things I’d heard before, but they’re good stories and he tells them well, so I’m good with it.
He offered to sell some of his unplayed guitars, though he quickly clarified that he was kidding, as he’d had to crush the Christmas shopping dreams of a drunken fan at another show that week.
“Libidinous” is French for “the business.”
Here’s the complete set list:
Theme from The Friendly Giant
Safe and Sound
Birds in Train Stations
Your Beauty Must Be Rubbing Off
Oh You Delicate Heart
Goodbye to Radio
A House or Maybe a Boat
Jealous of Your Cigarette
No Beginning No End
The City is a Drag (w/Karma Chameleon, We Built This City)
I greatly enjoyed this. And you knew that. I’ve even done the opening “I don’t know what to talk about” and the closing “you already know that I enjoyed this” bits before. And there was a joke about getting wild and crazy drinking not-booze, and a mention that Folk Festival shows start on time. Someone needs to feed all my reviews into an AI and we’ll see if I can make myself completely useless in the process, as opposed to just mostly useless.
I suppose there was always the chance I could have had a bad time. That would have been interesting. But it would also be a bad time, and who wants that?
This was a straight-ahead Hawksley show; no orchestra, no night of Bruce Cockburn covers, no weird setlist of the deepest cuts, not a non-concert where he just chatted about drumming. He’s been doing this a long time, and I’ve been going to his shows for almost as long. I know what pool of songs he’s likely to pull from. I know a lot of his stories. On this show, he was playing with Mr. Lonely, Derek Brady on bass, and Brad Kilpatrick on drums – a combo I’ve seen before. This was, in essence, the concert equivalent of comfort food, or maybe finding a movie on APTN that you’ve seen a million times before and watching it again because it’s there and you like it better than anything else on TV and you just want to.
I know nobody watches traditional TV anymore so that example doesn’t resonate like it used to. And it doesn’t technically have to be APTN, but if it is, the movie will be either Demolition Man or Maverick, and while I don’t want every movie to be Demolition Man or Maverick, most of them could be and I’d be okay with that.
• Whitehorse (January 25)
• Andy Shauf w/Molly Sarlé (March 3)
• Glass Tiger (March 19)
• Joel Plaskett (May 2)
Five years ago – almost to the day – I saw Kim Churchill at the Exchange because Mo Kenney was opening. I didn’t know who he was and was prepared to skip out early, but I wound up really enjoying his set and bought some CDs. You’d think I’d be more prepared for this show as a result, but no. Haven’t listened to those CDs in forever. Didn’t stream any of his new stuff. Really, I bought these tickets based on half-remembered feelings of having a good time. And also they were pretty cheap.
The show was at the Artesian, and nothing of interest happened in the lead-up to the show or the drive there or finding our seats or whatever. I mean, Mika and I sat in our usual spot, then moved to a slightly different spot in hopes of a better view, but you likely don’t care about that. Even though it mostly worked (there are tall people everywhere).
The openers were Victoria folk duo Ocie Elliott. Dude on guitar, lady on keyboard (more specifically, a Mellotron), neither one is named Ocie or Elliott. They were very laid-back and I was amidst conflicting opinions. One person sitting near me said that he had come to the show already as a fan (they were here opening for Carmanah in February, apparently), but this set had been completely won him over and spent the whole time “fangirling” – his word. Another absolutely hated them, with a wide range of complaints (mostly funny ones) that I really don’t need to repeat since I don’t want to unfairly influence anyone who might read this before seeing them. Maybe I’m getting tame in my old age. Or maybe “absolutely hated them” about covers it and the details are not necessary. As for me, I wound up somewhere in between the two, both physically and opinionally. I thought it was mostly pleasant if completely forgettable. I did come dangerously close to falling asleep a few times. Two songs into Kim Churchill, I realized that I had no recollection of what Ocie Elliott sang about. So yeah, somewhere in the middle, leaning towards “not my thing.”
Intermission. Mika left for the washroom and asked if I wanted anything if she stopped at the bar on the way back. I said sure, not actually expecting anything because who wants to deal with lines? Apparently she did and we had ciders. I like ciders. My favourites are the ones that taste like bubbly apple juice because I don’t drink grown-up drinks.
The first thing you notice about Kim Churchill is that he’s a really good guitarist. Or maybe it’s that he’s an Australian hippie. There are two types of Australians, I think; the Kim Churchills and the Crocodile Dundees. The Yahoo Seriouses and the That Guy From The 80s Energizer Ads. Steve Irwin might have been both, doubtless contributing to his enduring popularity.
I digress. Guitar. Real good at it. And sampler pedals and occasional harmonica. Very earnest songs. Very positive. Seems like a good dude. Barefoot (see above re: uneducated stereotypes regarding Australian hippies). It turns out shoes aren’t required for sampler pedals. I really enjoyed this set. Not as much as one lady who was sitting up near the front who recorded much of the show and cheered like mad for her favourite songs, but I had a good time.
That said, I’m not sure I see a future deviation from the established pattern: see Kim Churchill, enjoy show, kind of forget about it until he comes back to town, repeat. I suppose that doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, but he sells a ticket every time out, and I get to be pleasantly surprised each time.
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.