* Please note: We were front row center for this gig. I took a few pics with my cell phone, hoping to get a couple good ones for the blog. If for any reason I was not supposed to be taking pictures during the show, or I can’t use them here on this page, please let me know and I will take them down immediately. I’m hoping it’s cool, but one never knows. Thanks!
Just back from seeing Danny Michel at the Heartwood Concert Hall here in my town. What a fantastic time!
How we got there involves a wee tale (stay with me, I’ll get there):
I wanted to see Metallica in Toronto in July, but floor seats were $200+ each. For the Skydome? (or whatever they call it now)? I think frickin’ not. Anyway, I only get to about a concert per year, so I wondered what it would be… and then my lovely wife mentioned Danny was coming to town. I wanted to go. James said GO. We got tickets and voila. Definitely not Metallica, but that’s apples and oranges. Honestly, this was waaaaay better. Let me explain.
This show sold out, and that’s cool. I’m guessing numbers, maybe 150-200 people in that room? We got seats front row center at a table with old friends from back in the Knox Acoustic Cafe days, so it was nice catching up with them.
It was just Danny on stage with his guitar, tonight. No band. And that was actually really cool, really special, because it felt more like a house concert. I love that feel.
For this gig, I tried something new. I didn’t try to write down every song title. I didn’t try to memorize every wee thing that happened (though of course I’ve remembered some). I just sat back and let the music come to me and enjoyed the experience. I noticed little things, like how he has rubbed the ‘Ep’ off the ‘Epiphone’ on his guitar’s headstock so it says ‘iphone.’ And all the little tricks he does with the guitar (there were a ton). Just cool stuff.
He told a ton of stories, how songs got written, or where he was when things happened, or how he had a penpal in outer space, or how they spent a week drinking in the lobby of a whorehouse in Belize without knowing it was a whorehouse. He came across as charming, witty, and genuine. That’s a tough thing: most artists have a schtick and they say it the same every gig. He truly pulled it off just being himself and having fun between songs. It was beautiful.
He took questions from the crowd (such as ‘why do you wear those glasses’ because he’s always got them shoved up on the top of his head and never seems to use them. Someone also asked about a calf named Marty – apparently the cow has an eye issue so he named it Marty Feldman. Natch).
And the songs? I doubt I’ll get a setlist online, but who knows? I know he played some off the Black Birds… album, like What Colour Are You? and A Cold Road… He played Feather Fur And Fin, and a couple songs off the new record (recorded on a Russian ice breaker in the Arctic). That was fun because he played the title track (Khlebnkov) and when it’s just him it sounds one way, but on the record there’s a whole orchestra behind him. So he played some of the song from the album for us into the microphone from his cell phone, so we could hear the difference. Mid-song. He thought it was hilarious when we clapped.
He played one for his space penpal (something about Samantha in the sky with diamonds. Seriously). He played Wish Willy, and Who’s Gonna Miss You? [which he dedicated to Stuart Mclean, RIP, because Stuart (with whom he ate sardines) liked that song and always had Danny play it when he joined Stuart’s traveling show]. In two sets, he played a whole bunch of stuff. All of it excellent.
He also got a big cheer from the crowd when he announced he’s maybe kinda sorta living in our area now. Which explains why he was here for a while, recently. And also explains why someone asked about the calf named Marty.
He ended the night with the Clash’s Bankrobber (with us singing the chorus), and then a brilliant Nobody Rules You.
He played for a good long time, and every song was done with honesty and talent and fun. Truly, a great night. Take that Lars!
Oh, and on the way out, he was there to talk to, sign autographs, give high fives, whatever. But there was a line and we needed to get home (I had to get up for work next morning!) so I let go of the chance to say hi. Ah well, who knows. If he’s living near here now, maybe the chance will come up again soon.
I’d go see Danny Michel play again anytime. If you get the chance, GO.
Robert Pollard – The Crawling Distance
Hooray! New Pollard again! Frankly, my raving about a new Pollard effort in these pages is redundant, by now. So just consider this notice that this album is released and you should definitely buy it! This 10 song collection has all the trademark sounds of the master at work: the brit-rock vocals, the odd lyrics, the interesting structures and key changes. It’s all here. The man is unstoppable.
Pavement – Brighten The Corners: Nicene Creed Edition
Whomever had the idea to re-release all the Pavement records with all kinds of extra goodies thrown in deserves a medal. They’re gorgeous. This most recent addition to the series has so much extra stuff it’s boggling: a re-mastered original album, b-sides to several EPs, compilation appearance tracks, radio sessions, studio outtakes, photos, essays, you name it. There’s enough in this 2 disc set to keep a person occupied for weeks, and it’s all fantastic.
Man, I miss Pavement. I know it had to end, and I know we’ve been fortunate that a couple of the members have carried on with other projects, but a part of me still really misses the magic these guys created. Sets like this are a nice reminder of what once was.
TV On The Radio – Dear Science
Here we have a dance-y, trance-y, indie homage to 80’s pop music. It’s got drum machines, falsetto vocals, the works. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, as far as it goes, I enjoyed this record for the creative effort that it is. I ultimately sort of held it at a distance, though, since it’s really not my cup of tea. I honestly did enjoy it, but I doubt I’d play it often. Man, talk about a backhanded compliment. Lots of people like this stuff. If you do, power to you. Get out your jelly shoes, hair crimper and neon stretch pants and rock it often. Whatever floats your boat.
Danny Michel – Welcome Home (1997-2007)
I can sum this up quickly: Danny Michel rules, as you all already know, and this set is the perfect collection of a decade of his amazing songs, played on acoustic guitar. Every track is a gem. Seriously, head over to zunior.com and get this so you can check this out. You won’t regret a single second of it.
Rolling Stones – Shine A Light
Watching this movie, I realized for the millionth time that, dammit man, I love this band. I don’t care how old they get, or how corny their song lyrics can get sometimes, or that watching Mick Jagger perform is akin to watching a skinny little man being electrocuted. It’s that sound, that magic that is the Stones in flight. It’s jangly, it’s messy, it’s bluesy and it fucking rocks.
Scorcese had his work cut out for him, capturing this spectacle, at which he both succeeds and fails. We’re treated to incredible footage from great angles, and the picture quality is fantastic. But it’s mostly like watching a strobe-light being swung around the room. Too many camera-switches makes it impossible to actually enjoy a lot of the footage. It’s a shame. In his panic to give us everything, Scorcese hurt my eyes and offered up only fleeting flashes of greatness.
Nevermind, the music is phenomenal, the guests are interesting, and that one of a kind Stones energy is definitely present. And that’s all that matters.
*NB: There’s more favourites coming up next, so be ready!
I found my first Danny Michel album during my first trip to the Vinyl Diner. Aaron – who, it should be noted, had lived in Saskatoon for something like 24 years less than I had at that point – had discovered the place and took me there on one Monday afternoon. He introduced me to Stu, the proprietor, who was a very nice guy who (mostly) suppressed the eye-rolls brought on by the stack of CDs I was trading in.
With a pile of store credit, I plowed through the used CD racks and took a stack of discs home. Truth be told, most of what I picked up that day eventually found its way back to Stu’s, but Danny Michel’s album Fibsville has a permanent home in my CD collection. Sometimes, you hear an album and it just instantly appeals to you; this was one of those for me. Since then, I’ve picked up the rest of his records, the live DVD, and I’ve seen him in concert three times – but I’ve always held a soft spot for Fibsville.
Which is why I’m surprised to say that Feather, Fur & Fin easily tops it.
The press release touts Feather, Fur & Fin as Michel’s first truly independent release since 2001. From the very first listen, it’s clear that this (new? familiar?) arrangement suits Michel well. I don’t know if its the lack of record company interference or just the freedom that comes from making all your own decisions, but the ten songs here all count among the strongest that he’s ever written. The album trends towards longer, slower tunes, but there’s still the one-two punch of I’m ‘a Love You Anyway and Sweet Things, two of the more energetic songs in Michel’s catalogue. And topics like religion and the environment (and, uh, Mexican wrestling) creep into Danny’s lyrics for the first time, giving the album a bit more of a personal feel than long-time listeners would be used to.
Of course, anyone who knows me would suspect that I’d give a positive review to any album featuring a track about lucha libre (“The 14 Masks of Danger”). This is possibly true. I especially appreciated the reference to El Santo, as I wasn’t expecting the song to mention any actual specific luchadors. And I checked with Cubs, and the other wrestler mentioned – The Black Tornado – was a real guy too. I thought that the name might have been a reference to Danny’s song Black Tornadoes from his previous release, but Cubs says that Santo won the mask (“or his hair or something”) of Tornado Negro way back when. Though ultimately, I suspect that Danny Michel just knows a few names and is not exactly a die-hard lucha fan; I’ve listened to Fibsville a fair bit, and the song Souvenir indicates that Danny and pro wrestling don’t see eye-to-eye (A shiny gladiator cage / for pay-per-view and caveman rage / it’s the ultimate bullshit parade). But hey, I could be wrong. Maybe he just doesn’t like MMA.
As mentioned, Feather, Fur & Fin is an independent release, and the problem with doing everything yourself is that you have to do everything yourself. This includes distribution, which means that you might have a hard time finding it. As of this writing, the album is only available online, at shows, and in select independent music stores. Sure, it’s easy enough to order CDs online or buy digital downloads, but will people take a chance on it? It would be a shame if this album didn’t find an audience.
That was a pretty gushing review, complete with blatant plugs. I’ll balance it out by saying I could have done without the backing vocals in If God’s On Your Side. I’m all about being fair and responsible.
All credit for this one has to go to Feely. Once again, there was a concert, and once again, I had nobody to go with, and once again, I thought about skipping out. So I sat down for a chat online as I tried to make up my mind.
I was sitting off to the side, watching the show and occasionally taking illicit videos, but I seemed to be sitting in heckler’s row. Sitting two to my left was the guy who yelled out for Ministry. When someone else yelled “Danny Michel for Prime Minister” (Danny was selling “DM for PM in 2010” buttons), this guy responded to Danny’s impromptu campaign promises with a demand for “less talk more rock.” I thought it was a bit much coming from someone who didn’t even look up from his books the whole night, but I’ll give the guy the benefit of the doubt and suggest that he was merely suggesting another campaign promise instead of just being a dick. I mean, I’d vote for a Prime Ministerial candidate whose campaign slogan was “less talk, more rock.” Assuming they actually rocked, that is. Meanwhile, immediately to my right was the guy who yelled that Danny was “a real good guitar tuner.” A few feet from him were the random yellers and the off-beat clapping team. They get rowdy in Regina on an April Fools Tuesday night.
I don’t really know what else there is to say. He played a lot of songs. I liked the songs, including the new ones that I hadn’t heard before. The new album features a song about Mexican wrestling, but he didn’t play that one… well, unless it was steeped in metaphor. Basically, I’ve been promised a Mexican wrestling song, and the sooner I get done this review, the sooner I can listen to the new album and devote some actual attention to it.
There was one encore of one song, a Los Lobos cover. He led the crowd in singing the chorus, then unplugged from his amplifier and played the guitar as he walked offstage. It was a pretty cool way to end the show. I’d have taken more songs, but I was certainly happy with what we got. And though he may have been tired (and the crowd was both smaller and less receptive than you’d think, resulting in a show that – as a whole – didn’t quite compare to the other two times I’ve seen him), he still stuck around and chatted with everyone as they left. What a cool guy. I got my CDs signed and took a picture because hassling the marginally famous ensures good times for all.
In closing, I should mention that Danny is up for a Juno award for best DVD. The first time I saw him, he was up for Best New Artist and promised to lose to Michael Bublé, which he did. On this night, he once again vowed to lose, though he wasn’t picking a winner this time. He did say that the Juno folks wanted to know about his limo plans for the ceremony. He emailed them back and told them that because he loves the environment, he and his date would be arriving on bicycles. I think he was kidding. But they thought this was a great idea, so I think he might actually do it. You might want to check that out, it could be funny. He might even ride his bike all the way up the red carpet as promised, though I don’t think he’ll go through with his plan of locking his bike to Ben Mulroney and drinking the night away. At least, not ALL of that plan.