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This Hour Has 22 Minutes does a nice job every once in a while. (For the record, Tempest is an astonishingly good album.)
David Pogue (as usual) had one of the best reviews which concluded that “…the emperor had no clothes.” Neil promised us all a musical nirvana but, as it turns out, nobody could hear the difference (and if they could, they often thought the iPhone was better.) Go figure.
The Pono store’s been closed for a while online and the devices are nowhere to be found at retail. Neil Young’s most recent album can’t be bought for the Pono, and debuted on Tidal. Despite this, there doesn’t seem to be nearly as much coverage of the demise of Pono as there was of its rise.
At the end of the day Pono seems to have failed for the same reasons that a lot of things fail: a focus on building technology that people didn’t want or need. Ignoring the science tthat suggests that Pono’s “high resolution audio” claims provided benefits well outside the range of human hearing is one thing; ignoring the reality that most people aren’t focused on an “audiophile quality” portable solution is quite another.
Portable music needs to be good enough. What that means can change from person to person but look around at a world where people are using Apple’s bundled headphones (or Beats, and don’t get me started on those) and it’s hard to see a world where enough people are looking for an audiophile portable experience.
Need more evidence? Compact Cassettes were never fantastic for audio quality but their portability, durability and size led to the development of the Walkmen and the entire concept of highly portable music was born. I had thousands of Maxell XLII’s in the 80s (and, according to my friends, almost as many Walkmen.)
Pono? To even hear the theoretical benefits I’d have to repurchase all of my music at twice the price.
Pono was a product looking for a market. Sometimes, that just doesn’t work
New Multitudes is a couple of years old at this point, and it seemed to pass largely unnoticed at the time. That’s a shame, because it’s as fine a collection of previously unrecorded Woody Guthrie material as the Mermaid Avenue sessions and worth checking out. Jay Farrar’s vocals provide most of the highlights but there are fine performances throughout.
I was at work yesterday when the news of Prince’s death broke—on my way to a meeting walking away from my desk when someone said it. I’m old—almost 45—at a company where most of my co-workers are in their 20s. One of the ways this manifests itself day to day is in their drastically differing musical backgrounds to mine. Some of them weren’t even born when the Joshua Tree was released and they have no way to understand the cultural impact that album had. When Bowie died, they didn’t even notice.
Not so with Prince. The rest of the day—at leas the parts I spent at my desk—saw this cross-generational company’s staff singing songs that were written before the Joshua Tree. Purple Rain featured prominently, but so did Little Red Corvette and 1999.
Prince was an immensely talented artist whose music left a longer footprint than most. That music was like nothing else because it took everything else, put it in a blender and came out the other other end sounding like something that was uniquely Prince, always interesting, radio ready but not boring sappy pop music.
Purple Rain was everywhere in 1984. The movie may be a mess but the album remains strong and vital and fresh over thirty years later. Put the record on and play side two, which runs rom When Doves Cry to Purple Rain—and I dare you not to play it again, and again. It shares that with a few albums—Springsteen’s Born to Run, The Joshua Tree, Hendrix’s Are You Experienced, anything Mile Davis ever released. That’s pretty rare company, and it’s company that Prince deserves to be in.
He was a restless explorer who didn’t sit still and who pushed at the boundaries. Those people aren’t suppose to die, but they do and he has. The world is a poorer place for it.
“You can’t buy feel” Daniel Lanois’ has said on more than one occasion, and that explains much that there is to love about Rocco DeLuca musically. Their last Vancouver show ended with the entire band performing DeLuca’s Congregate and is one of my fondest memories of the last few years of many concerts. It made me put my camera down and just listen—and that doesn’t happen that often.
Dan Mangan’s Club Meds was a slow burn of an album. It was a dramatic departure from his earlier work—full of rich electrified sounds and as heavily produced as his earlier work was sparse, it was challenging for some of his fans. When I first wrote about it, I was vocal about the fact that I thought Vessel was a poor choice for a lead single. Forgetery was a standout track from the album, and it’s nice to see it still getting support in the form of a beautiful new video.
Not being super connected to pop culture means this kind of thing slips past me a lot, so thanks to a friend for sending this along: Jeff Tweedy plays a games of celebrity charades with Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Steph Cameron, whose Sad-Eyed Lonesome Lady was one of the best new releases of 2015 (I said so somewhere over at No Depression, back when I could find things there) played a show at the Railway Club a few days ago. I’m a bit behind with getting an official review up, but suffice to say for now that it was excellent. In the meantime, here’s a few photos here to help prove that.
The summer of 2015 was a pretty stressful one all around for me. I’d been working on a major project at work for, frankly, too long. I was covering off most of the roles on the project (I wrote code, planned code, planned requirements and project managed it) and that all added up to a big bundle of stress.
So I took off and went to see three Wilco shows just before my birthday: Bend and Portland, Oregon were the first two and then Redmond, Washington was the last. They were outdoor shows, and I really wanted to see the outdoor show instead of Vancouver’s indoor Orpheum gig.
But this is the one I really wanted to go to and I missed it. It happened less than 2km from my niece’s house in Ottawa, and it was just after my birthday (and her father’s for that matter.) I’d have given anything to get there but I had to finish that project, and they had plans that weekend anyway.
One day, I’ll take Rose to her first Wilco show. Someone has to get that girl’s taste in music aligned and there’s nobody better than me for that job.
Everybody loves Courtney Barnett right now, praising her deadpan lyrics and straightforward style. I’m not so sure but I do know one thing: Depreston is the most hipster song I’ve ever heard. From the theme of how depressing it is to live in the suburbs to the 23 dollars a week saved on latte’s, I think we’ve hit some kind of peak here.
I heard this on a drive down to Seattle for the first time as I was pulling into town. Maybe she’ll grow on me.
I met Rocco a few years ago in Hamilton briefly, and he’s been a frequent accompaniment to Daniel Lanois shows. Congregate closed the most recent show and it was stunning.
Prince’s Purple Rain celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. That means I was 13 when the album and film was released, and holy cow do I remember that year: dearly beloved, Prince was everywhere. It was an electric thing this album called Purple Rain but I’m here to tell you there’s something else—the movie.
Purple Rain is probably the worst movie with the greatest soundtrack you’ll ever hear.
I’d never seen Purple Rain. It had a restricted rating when it was released, and I was—as I said—only 13. The movie showed up on TV for sure, but I’ve never really loved watching movies on TV so I guess I just never watched it. Last night, the Vancity Theatre in Vancouver screened it as part of their Music Mondays series and I figured for $7, why not.
Oh boy. What a movie. It’s tempting to call the dialog wooden, but I’ve got wood furniture that I quite like and I don’t want to introduce guilt by association. The acting is horrible, there’s the barest thread of a plot that runs through the film mostly as a reason to string together Prince’s musical performances. Those performances were filmed at the 1st Ave. club in Minnesota. I was lucky enough to visit that place a few years ago and I suspect for the audience at those gigs that’s a pretty solid memory—it’s a small room, and Prince is a big personality: the shows would have been killer.
Calling the movie mysoginist doesn’t even begin to describe it. As far as I can tell the core message of the movie is that it’s not cool to smack women around, but it’s a great idea to objectify them on stage wearing hardly any clothes on. Well, it’s Prince after all…go figure.
Still, that album. Purple Rain is one of the greatest rock and roll albums ever recorded. There’s not a bad track on it, and its legacy is ensured by Darling Nikki, the song most often cited as the inspiration for Tipper Gore’s campaign to label albums with lyrics that might be deemed offensive.
The movie’s so bad that it almost taints the album by association. After walking out of that movie it’s hard to imagine wanting to listen to its soundtrack. Fortunately, the album’s so strong that the memory starts to fade almost as soon as the first guitar chord is hit in Let’s Go Crazy. By the time you get to When Doves Cry all that horrible acting and bad writing is a distant memory and you’re well on the road to that glorious eight minute finale.
Maybe I was better off never having seen the film in the first place, but somehow I think I’ll be able to keep it hidden away. Some things are better off forgotten.
The death of Robin Williams has drawn a lot of attention to the topic of depression, again. The video above was posted by Spencer Tweedy to twitter and it’s worth watching—even if it doesn’t star a major Hollywood star. Millions of people live with depression in their lives: this tells one man’s story.
I was never really a Beatles fan in the way that many people are. My aunt and uncle were—they had a complete collection of the albums on 8-track to play in their Plymouth Duster—and that may have led to some overexposure. Who knows.
I do remember one of the first records I found and played on the portable record player I kept in my bedroom being my mother’s copy of Meet the Beatles and it was in Grade Five when I bought a copy of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band for myself. Holy cow, that record was a revelation. I may not have been a fan but I sure liked what I’d heard there.
Watching and hearing George Martin talk about the creation of that album’s unique and distinctive closing track A Day in the Life reminds me of talking to other restless musical collaborators I’ve known. The creative process is a group effort and that music does not, as Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno explain, simply burst forth fully formed.
I’ve actually had A Day in the Life on repeat quite a bit this week, though I’m not sure why. It’s the kind of song that gets into your head and stays there for a while. It’s a rich sonic trip from the acoustic beginning through that disjointed middle part to that glorious orchestral conclusion.
Songs like this don’t come every day, and it’s a reminder of the level of creative genius that resided in that foursome—along with their producer.
A nice little five minute film that shows Jeff Tweedy backstage before a benefit show at Chicago’s Old Vic theatre.
Pete Seeger is one of the legends of American music. He passed away today at the age of 94. Calling it a loss seems insufficient at best, and it’s certainly a disingenuous statement.
Seeger wrote and sang songs that championed a vision of equality for all working men and women. There is probably not a single person who did more for the sake of folk music than Seeger has through the years: he worked and was friends with Woody Guthrie, whose death cut his voice short in its prime. Seeger was an early advocate of Bob Dylan’s work, and was instrumental in getting his first record deal cut. The legend of Seeger threatening to cut the power to the stage when Dylan ‘went electric’ at Newport will go down in history as one of the great tales in the history of American music.
It’s a safe bet that a lot of banjos will be played tomorrow in honour of the man. Mine will be one of them, to be sure.
Rest in Peach, Pete. You gave so much to the world in your life and it will not soon be forgotten.
This took me back to a time not that long ago that reminds me how much my life has changed in the last five years.
If you’re looking for reasons to add to the “why Skot keeps thinking about moving to Toronto” list, places like the Belljar Cafe should be on there. This is beautiful.
I’m pretty sure I’ve been to this show…
I waited a long time for a Ruth Moody gig to come to Vancouver. A couple of weeks ago I actually drove right past Grafton, Ontario while she was playing at the Shelter Valley Folk Festival, but just couldn’t stop. It was totally worth it. My review is up at No Depression or you can follow the link at the bottom of the entry. There’s also a too shaky video of her Dancing in Dark that I couldn’t resist posting…despite the shakiness.
“What’s the difference between an in tune banjo and a Higgs Boson Particle?” joked the band late in the show while waiting for Ruth Moody to tune—again. The question was answered by a solid round of laughter from the audience who were more than happy to wait for Moody to search for the impossible dream of an in tune instrument after a long night of very fine music. A friend summed the evening’s show up in a concise review: “Sings swell.” If you’d like a bit more detail read on. (I can’t argue with the assessment, but I think it sells Moody a little short.)
Moody’s second solo disc These Wilder Things is a fine album destined to land on year end favourites lists but despite being released in April (and several nearby shows) this marked her first appearance in Vancouver. It was an eager near capacity crowd that greeted Moody and band as they took the stage at St. James Hall—one of Vancouver’s most beautiful venues both aesthetically and acoustically.
It was a good choice of venue for the singer. Moody’s voice is easily one of the most beautiful you’ll ever hear live, and the warmth of the room and a receptive audience made it shine brightly on this night. The singer wore a smile on her face for the entire show, and had the kind of fun light hearted stage presence that you can’t help but enjoy. “Are there any Townes van Zandt fans out there,” she said while introducing Travellin’ Shoes. Resounding applause was the response. “This isn’t a Townes van Zandt song,” she joked, “But I did write it when I was listening to Townes on a bit of a binge…which I don’t recommend.”
In a two hour set that included music from both of her solo albums as well as Wailin’ Jennies songs highlights included a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark that closed the first set and a second set audience sing along of Life is Long, with its refrain of “Life is long love / Life is long / We have time love / We have time” filling the venue with the sound of a beautiful choir. Moody moved seamlessly from banjo to guitar to piano throughout showing the talent a true multi-instrumentalist.
At least one audience member probably disagrees with those highlight moments: the show’s encore started with Moody leading the audience in a Happy Birthday sing along for Bob. We should all be so lucky.
Moody’s two hour set delivered on the long wait for a Vancouver show: an engaging stage presence, gorgeous voice, beautifully written material, a great backing band and a beautiful venue added to a near perfect night of live music. You can’t really ask for more than that, can you?
I’m in Toronto on vacation, and the 2013 Greenbelt Harvest Picnic is happening. A few photos from yesterday’s soundcheck. I’ll have more photos from today’s show and a review in a couple of days.
As a rule, I don’t take photos of myself with other musicians. It’s a rule I’ve pretty much stuck too: I have one with Jenn Grant somewhere, but I may have actually lost it. Someone else asked me to take that.
This one’s all mine though: I interviewed Daniel Lanois last week and he was at the Salmon Arm Roots & Blues Festival, so here it is. I’ll post the articles I’ve written here in a little bit: they’re elsewhere right now, and I’m very tired after a late night’s long drive.
I’ll get a full review of that Salmon Arm set up too, but my one line twitter review is already up.
So the week that was has passed and it’s been an interesting one. In addition to the normal busy work week—which this week included some root level Unix system configuration that I haven’t done in a very long time—I’ve been getting ready for an end of summer busy music season. Next weekend is the Salmon Arm Roots & Blues festival which I’m covering. It looks like a good one, and I can’t wait for it.
At the end of the summer I’m heading to Ontario to visit my newborn (and first) niece for the first time. She was born at the end of April, and I’m looking forward to that visit more than anything you can imagine.
I’m also stopping by the Greenbelt Harvest Picnic while I’m there, and in the lead up to that I’m writing an article about the festival that’s now in its third year. This means that in the last week I’ve had conversations with Daniel Lanois, Emmylou Harris and Pegi Young who are all playing the festival.
So that’s been nice and a real treat. They’ve all be lovely folks, and my Friday—they day I chatted with Lanois—was an absolutely inspirational day. We chatted for a while, and it was great. He’s a fascinating, open, affable, and very self-assured man.
That day ended as well as it started with an early evening visit to the stage at the bottom of the hill I live on where some music was happening. I sat with my bike near the front of the stage to listen and a few minutes later a little visitor dropped by—she was about a year old and walked right over to me where I was sitting and crawled into my lap before reaching up and put her arms around my neck. It was just about the sweetest moment I’ve ever had, and it was the absolute perfect way to end a perfect day. Her mother came by after not too long and my visitor disappeared, but that minute of cuddling was just about the sweetest I’ve ever had.
I’m looking forward to meeting this little far away niece, and hopefully there’ll be some moments like that on that trip because I love them so much and I don’t get enough of them anymore in my life.
It’s OK. I’ve only listed to this song about 50 times in the last 24 hours.
For the last three years, the CBC has been running a pretty good little series of concerts called—somewhat cheekily—Nooners on an outdoor stage in downtown Vancouver.
This year’s series kicked off last Friday with a show from Shad. Today was a day I’ve been waiting for for a while though: Jasper Sloan Yip played a set in advance of the release of his new album Foxtrot. Good times were had by all, and new fans were made. That’s what makes a good day of outdoor music.
Nels Cline Talks Wilco, Pat Metheny, Jazz and more
The commentary by Nels really makes this thing.
Nels’ guitar work pulled Wilco in new directions when he was added to the lineup after A Ghost is Born was released. He’s such a great addition: Sky Blue Sky is an underrated classic album by the band.
I’d call this album highly anticipated, but I don’t think that really does justice to how I really feel about it. Can’t. Wait.
Rush had never been nominated for the hall of fame until this year. Naturally, they boys from Toronto made it in on the first ballot. Well done gentlemen (and it’s about damn time.) I tend heavily towards the twang these days, but as a teenage boy growing up in the 80s in Canada Moving Pictures(album) was a seminal work, and it remains a classic to this day.
Canadians, we’re fond of saying, often define themselves as “not Americans.” With so much shared culture the line between what’s Canadian and what’s American can be a blurry one at times. We like hockey a lot more than Americans, we eat more doughnuts and there’s always the unexplainable cultural appeal of Tim Hortons and Canadian Tire stores.
It stands to reason then that if there’s a style of music called Americana we’re going to try to define Canadiana. That definition got a bit blurrier today: Stompin’ Tom Connors passed away.
Stompin’ Tom was about as Canadian as it gets. It wasn’t that the music was all that different-it was a pretty standard twangy mix of guitar, snare heavy drums and whatever else fit the mix and wore a cowboy hat. In a nutshell, this is classic country sung by a fine practitioner.
The subject matter was an entirely different issue and it was here that Stompin’ Tom was the Canadian artist. Eschewing the standard tales of heartache and break, fast cars and life in small towns (or trying to escape it) that characterize the art of Bruce Springsteen, Steve Earle and other practitioners of Americana Stompin’ Tom sang about Canada and did so unapologetically. Bud the Spud told the folksy tale of truckin’ potatoes (because it definitely wasn’t trucking) from Canada’s smallest province to it’s largest. Roll on Saskatchewan celebrates the big skies, cold winds and homeliness of one of Canada’s prairie provinces. Tillsonburg is an ode to life in a small town in what was once Ontario’s busy tobacco growing country.
The Hockey Song may be Stompin’ Tom’s greatest legacy with it’s refrain of the good ol’ hockey game / is the best game you can name / and the best game you can name / is the good old hockey game the song’s become a part of the cultural zeitgeist. There’s no escaping it, no matter how hard you try: it’s on the radio, the television and probably in every small town area in the country. It’s a part of the fabric of the country, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Canadiana will go on: we have Gordon Lightfoot, Bruce Cockburn, Whitehorse, the Rheostatics and other fine singer songwriters who define themselves to a great extent by their essential Canadian-ness. Stompin’ Tom wasn’t the only distinctly Canadian musician out there, but he was probably the most distinctly Canadian.
That’s a loss, and it’s a big one.
So long, Stompin’ Tom. Well played.
A new Son Volt album is something to look forward to in a spring full of new releases.
Justin Rutledge is one of Canada’s finest singer-songwriters. His new album Valleyheart was announced a few months ago, and I’ve been eagerly anticipating it ever since. I had the distinct pleasure of being able to interview Justin by phone and published an article at No Depression about the artist. You can read it below if you prefer, but it’s better in its original form.
The voice on the other end of the phone is quiet, as you’d expect from one of Canada’s most thoughtful and talented singer-songwriters. “When you make a record, all of a sudden you have to figure out how to talk about it” is one of the first things Justin Rutledge says. That’s why we’re on the phone: to talk about Rutledge’s new record Valleyheart, along with his upcoming tour, his recent theatre work and anything else that happens to come up. For a career that’s only 10 years old, there’s a lot of ground to cover with the young singer-songwriter.
Rutledge has been a well-known voice in the Toronto music scene for a while—his first album No Never Alone was released in 2004, and earned plenty of critical praise. That album was a spare and quiet self-produced affair and the lyrical songwriting it showcased made an immediate impression on a wide audience—including no shortage of his fellow musicians. Toss in a now-legendary once a week residency by Rutledge and his band at Toronto’s Cameron House bar and the rest is, as they say, history: four studio albums and who knows how many live shows of it.
It’s been a long wait for the release of Valleyheart, Rutledge’s fifth solo album. The solo distinction is important these days because the intervening years have seen the musician stretch his boundaries a bit: he’s acted in stage productions and started a Los Angeles based side project called The Early Winters. The band’s debut album was released in 2012 and sees Rutledge alternating lead singing duties with Carina Round. On the phone from Toronto Rutledge’s enthusiasm for his other band is clear. “The great thing about having a side project is it gives you another outlet,” he explains, “the songs there aren’t necessarily the songs I’d do myself.”
“Valleyheart has a California vibe. It’s very calm,” Rutledge explains. The album’s downtempo opening track Amen America feels like a love letter to the country he’s been spending more time in but also a lament for its flaws. It’s a song that probably wouldn’t have been written without that time spent in Los Angeles with The Early Winters. There’s a long tradition of Canadian artists spending time away from Canada to find their voices—think of Leonard Cohen’s time in Greece or Neil Young and Joni Mitchell in the United States—but Toronto’s Junction community is still home for Rutledge.
The calmness of Valleyheart comes across as a sign of an artist who’s comfortable with his place in the world—a man who, after ten years in a business that can be merciless to its most talented voices—knows who he is and isn’t trying to be anything else. When I asked if the quiet vibe was intentional Rutledge paused before answering: “I didn’t want to look at tempo. I was pretty unapologetic about how slow I was. This is what I do. This is what feels right.” So if the pacing of the album wasn’t exactly intentional, there was a conscious decision not to pick up the pace just for the sake of it. The end result is an album that feels whole. From beginning to end, nothing feels too out of place.
Don’t confuse that calmness with complacency, though: Rutledge has spent the last few years branching out in new creative directions. One of the reasons the new album took a little more time to get out than it might have is the time the artist spent on a different type of stage. Rutledge took a lead role both acting and performing music in the Toronto-based stage production of Michael Ondaatje’s award-winning novel Divisidero (which also served as the inspiration for much of his last studio album, The Early Widows.) He also wrote an original score of Morris Panych’s production of The Arsonists, accompanying the play live with his band for its entire run. Sadly, there are no plans to release the music from The Arsonists nor any to tour either of the theatrical productions.
It’s clear that the time spent in the theatre has had an impact on the approach Rutledge takes to storytelling in his songs. “Watching them tell a story…essentially all artists try to tell a story in a different way,” Rutledge says. The songs Rutledge writes tend to tell shorter stories and be less linear than the ones told on stage. Rutledge describes himself as being the kind of writer who’s “…after smaller moments. I’d rather start at W and go back to F.” Valleyheart contains plenty of these smaller moments; Through With You and Out of the Woods seem inspired by the uncertainty that enters our relationships over time; Kaspuskasing Coffee is a more upbeat take on the same theme; the album’s closing track Heather in the Pines feels like a series of perfect memories captured in song—like looking through box of old slowly-fading pictures, each one a moment long-gone but still intimately present in the memory of the listener. It’s the kind of music that makes you smile warmly or cry: it all depends on what you bring to it.
Valleyheart is a self-produced album, something it has in common with the almost ten-year-old No Never Alone album that first brought Rutledge to attention. A high-quality vinyl version of that album was released by Outside Music in late 2012, something that required Rutledge to revisit the older work for technical reasons and had him “…thinking about the guy that wrote [No Never Alone] and recorded it.” Rutledge describes Valleyheart as a “response to that young kid who just wrote what he felt.”
It was the combination of the deeply personal nature of the material and a sense that he knew what he wanted that lead Rutledge to work without a producer on Valleyheart. The album is also Rutledge’s first for Outside Music—his previous albums were all released by Toronto-based Six Shooter Records. Rutledge has nothing but praise for both his new label and his old, saying that they granted him “total artistic freedom…There was no one breathing over my shoulder, no one to tell me how to do my job.”
Rutledge will be heading across Canada on a solo tour—letting the songs “speak for themsleves”—to promote the release of Valleyheart and is hoping to tour with a full band to play some louder shows in the fall. In between he’ll be returning to California to resume recording with The Early Winters, who expect to be releasing a new album in 2013 as well.
For many people this busy, fitting together all of these disparate parts would be a challenge. It seems to come naturally to Rutledge. “We all bring unfinished ideas to the table,” he says when describing how recent albums have been created. Those ideas are shaped and moulded before being recorded, and he admits that “Sometimes I’m torn…what songs do I keep for myself?” He pauses for a moment before finishing the thought: “…but it’s not like it’s the last song you’re going to write.”
That’s a good thing, because Valleyheart feels like a new beginning of sorts: it looks both backwards and forwards at the same time, and I suspect that some of Rutledge’s best writing is ahead of him still. It’s nice to know that he thinks so too.
It’s been a big year for Whitehorse: the band toured Canada extensively, was featured prominently at the SXSW music, released The Fate of the World Depends on this Kiss an acclaimed followup to their debut album and is now embarking on a North American tour in support of that album which is finally officially available in the U.S.
Whitehorse, in case you haven’t heard, is the pairing of Luke Doucet and Melissa McLelland. For the backstory on how the married couple came to be a band you can read this interview by Michael Bialas or this interview by Vancouver’s Francois Marchand. Both artists were considered to be strong on their own, and the pair has received rave review since they started touring again.
The Fate of the World Depends on this Kiss tour kicked off on Saturday night at Vancouver’s always beautiful Commodore Ballroom, only a year and six days since their last show in the city. That show saw the band playing to a nearly sold out crowd at the roughly 450 seat Rio Theatre: the Commodore holds a bit more than 1,000 and the place was packed.
Daniel Romano took the stage first with a Nudie style suit, an acoustic guitar, a big old Kansas City Stetson and his friend Aaron Goldstein on pedal steel. Joking with the audience about having just driven from Ontario in four days (a true story, and about two days less than you should do that trip in if you ask me) and forgetting the lyrics to some of the material from his Come Cry with Me album—“It’s gonna come to me. We’ve got 15 minutes”—Romano and Goldstein were clearly having a good time. So was the already sizeable audience: the classic country sounds had the audience quiet and attentive when the pair was playing but applauding loudly between songs.
There was a short break before the velvet curtain that had served as Romano’s backdrop parted and Whitehorse took the stage immediate kicking into an audience participation version of Killing Time is Murder from the pair’s debut album. The Commodore was nicely filled with the song’s chorus of “When all is said and all is done / Time will waste everyone.”
It was a stark contrast from previous Whitehorse shows, which typically began with Luke & Melissa singing a quiet duet into a single microphone at the front of the stage. The high energy set continued with material from the band’s most recent album and the debut including Emerald Isle, an audience request when Doucet bumped into a fan on the street.
Luke Doucet’s reputation as a guitar slinger is second to none, and those skills were in fine form throughout the set’s opening numbers. When the band played Wisconsin—written in New York while the Occupy protests were in their infancy—Doucet finally strapped on the Gretsch White Falcon that’s his signature piece for a brief appearance at least. That guitar is always nice to see—and it’s has roughly the same effect on Doucet as a phone booth does on Clark Kent—but watching him play any guitar is a feat to behold and this night was no exception.
Mismatched Eyes (Boat Song) marked a quiet pause in the evening and the duet did a nice job of highlighting the beautiful results of pairing both Doucet’s and McLelland’s voices and the strong songwriting that makes The Fate of the World such a compelling album. Lyrics like “Well I remember to remember that without you I’m a shadow / I’m a drifter and a barfly and whatever else you had to be” are sentimental without being sappy, and the songs quiet vocal counter play at it’s beginning leads nicely into a noisier finale led by Doucet’s guitar work.
The band’s made it a point of featuring sounds made by non-traditional instruments in their live shows, plundering thrift shops and dollar stores while travelling in search of found objects to use on stage. This tour was no exception and a rousing rendition of Devil’s Got a Gun followed by Out Like A Lion used just about everything on stage to contribute to the sound.
It’s the seamlessness of those sounds that makes Whitehorse such a joy to watch live. Switching effortlessly between a collection of guitars and keyboards connected to various looping and effect pedals, Doucet and McLelland make their entire stage presence look effortless. The two are so practiced and polished that it looks easy.
That level of polish could be boring if it weren’t so consistently incredible to watch. It’s tempting to look for flaws but they’re hard to find: both artists are strong singers, songwriters and musicians in their own right. They’re even better as a duo. This is band that’s playing at the top of their game, and that’s a game that’s even better to experience live than it is in the studio. If you’ve seen the band before you can expect a treat: older material has been rearranged, and some songs sound dramatically different.
There may be no better tribute to the band and the quality of its live shows than this: I’ve resisted the temptation to give this review the first title that came to mind—The Fate of the World Depends on this Tour.
It just might though, and you should probably go see them—just in case. Or do you want it to be your fault if this all ends badly?
This aired on Vision TV a while ago, and marked one of the first times I wished I’d owned a television in quite some time. It’s a documentary that’s well worth watching. If the embedded copy above doesn’t work, try visitiong the Vision TV site.
Watching Daniel Lanois work with a guitar is about as close to perfection as it gets. If he doesn’t come back to Vancouver soon, I think a trip somewhere might be in order.
In all honesty, I’d like to have seen Blackie and the Rodeo Kings at their recent show at Swift Current, Saskatchewan’s beautiful and small Lyric Theatre. An alternative choice would have been Port Dover, which I could have attended with my Uncle who, despite quite a bit of crossover in our musical taste, I’ve never seen a show with.
Alas, poor me: I had to settle for seeing them at Vancouver’s gorgeous Vogue Theatre. This, of course, is the very definition of a first world problem. I took it in stride.
My review is at No Depression, or you can just read it below.
Blackie and the Rodeo Kings’ most recent album, Kings & Queens, is a series of duets with some of the best voices in the music industry including Lucinda Williams and Emmylou Harris. An album like this poses an interesting problem: how does a band whose core members are three guys tour an album on which every song includes a female voice—some of them, frankly, seemingly irreplaceable.
The answer, naturally, is to release a new version of the album with even more duets and then bring some of your friends along for a road trip. The Rodeo Kings brought their travelling road show to Vancouver with guests including Kendel Carson, Amy Helm, Exene Cervenka and Matt Anderson (decidedly not a female voice, but whatever.)
First things first though: openers Harlan Pepper played a fairly rousing 40 minutes of twangy and harmonica infused music drawn heavily from their most recent album Young and Old. The band’s young sound was a solid opener for the crowd. Great Lakes—sort of a road trip around the geography of central Canada—proved to be a pretty solid crowd pleaser as did Reefer which may have been a little closer to the heart of this particular audience. If you haven’t caught the band live yet, make sure you do on their next tour.
After a short break the band hit the stage attired in their by now famous sharply embroidered Nudie style black suits and flanked by a life size vintage portrait of the King and Queen of the long forgotten rodeo. If anybody as the show had any doubts about its country they, probably ended right about the time the lights hit the band.
Opening with Water or Gasoline got the show off to a good start with solid guitar work from Colin Linden on stage right (the audience’s left) and Tom Wilson on stage left kicking any expectations of a quiet, sedate night right out the theatre’s doors and into the night.
This was pretty clearly going to be a night that featured some rock and/or roll to go with the twang, but there wasn’t a sign of those Queens features so prominently on the band’s most recent album yet.
The opening set continued with Let’s Frolic and Stoned though, and it wasn’t a bad way to warm up at all. The band promptly welcomed local fiddler & singer Kendel Carson to the stage though, and the night was quickly moved along.
Kendel’s fiddle playing is a welcome addition to almost any band and she frequently guests with acts when they come through town and her schedule permits. Tonight though, she stepped up to mic to sing the lead vocal on Another Free Woman from the Kings & Queens album (originally performed by Sara Watkins.) It was nice to see Kendel featured a bit more prominently
At this point we’re four songs into a set and, frankly, half the audience could have gone home happy. It was that good.
The band was having too much fun for that though, and welcomed Amy Helm to the stage for a performance of If I Can’t Have You. Helm’s vocal proved as capable as Lucinda Williams’ did on the studio version of the song and by this time the audience—or at least a good portion of it—was on its feet to applaud at the end of the song.
Colin Linden stepped up next to provide a bit of an interlude and a schooling in playing the electric guitar with a bottleneck that my notes from the show describe as “unbelievably killer.” This slid seamlessly into the bluesy Shelter me Lord followed by Black Sheep, with Carson joining the band again for the latter.
Clearly having a good time, Tom Wilson engaged in a bit of praise for the west coast and our musical tastes while introducing I’m Still Loving You: “I’m from Hamilton,” Wilson quipped, “Back in Ontario people got married and dance their first song to the Carpenters We’ve only just begun People on the west coast, they danced to Sly and the Family Stone. The west coast has the power of love.”
He’s not wrong either. Trust me, I know. I grew up on that crappy music not far from Tom Wilson: my father was a Carpenters fan. It’s scarred me for life.
Mercifully, that single abbreviated verse was all we heard of 70s adult oriented soft rock before the band got back to business welcoming Exene Cervenka to the stage for Lonsome War and Made of Love
“We’re gonna do this one tonight for John Bottomley” Wilson announced before launching into Sometimes it Comes So Easy which—despite not featuring any of the night’s guests—proved to be a highlight of the show when Linden, Wilson and Fearing got sidetracked into what my notes for the night describe as a “fucking killer guitar solo.” I’m going to stick to that, because I don’t think I can provide a much more accurate description.
Apparently not yet satisfied, the band invited the “King of East Coast Soul Music” Matt Anderson to the stage. Matt’s deep bluesy voice was a change from previous guests, and Every Hour had the room standing again and clapping along to the beat.
Closing in on curfew, an encore with the band and the complete suite of guests wasn’t long in following Anderson’s performance. It’s a good thing too, because I suspect that if the band had tried to leave without playing one the audience would have dragged them back to the stage. Closing with an Everly Brothers song took the band back to its roots as a side project meant to honour the music of Willie P. Bennett and other favourites.
Blackie and the Rodeo Kings are often described with the word supergroup, a word that always makes me bristle. It’s not that it doesn’t apply, but it always reminds of of badly contrived 80s bands like Asia and Power Plant, assembled by the producer’s soundboard more than a passion for the music itself.
In a two hour set featuring four guest vocalists, some of the best guitar work you’ll see on stage and showcasing solid songwriting Blackie and the Rodeo Kings showed that they’ve got the kind of passion for what they do that translates beautifully live. A group like this can’t sustain itself if they’re not enjoying themselves, and at the Vogue it was pretty clear that translated straight to the audience.
The hardest thing about gigs like this for me is a rather nice problem to have: the music was so good I wanted to put my camera down and do nothing but listen. I finally did that about five songs in, and it was totally worth it (though I snuck a few shots in during that killer guitar solo.) Next time, I might just listen because that kind of talent is the sort of thing you should just sit back and enjoy: it doesn’t come along every day.
No one’s ever accused Steve Earle of shying away from issues he considers important. Burning the Walmart Down is particularly, but not only, appropriate in honour of Black Friday.
I think it’ll be time to see Emmylou again this year.
I’m a bit obsessed with this right now. The highlight comes at 2:36 seconds in.
I think everybody finds Bob Dylan eventually. Some may find him inscrutable, unintelligible and frustrating but it’s hard to deny the singer songwriter’s influence and role in the growth of that most American form of music—Rock and Roll (or is it Country?) His lyrics are complex (a friend recorded a cover that got some traction online once, but he told me he wasn’t performing it live because it had “Too many words to remember”) and his nasally voice can make them hard to understand, but the legend of the man has its roots in a legacy that’s hard to ignore or avoid.
I’d never seen Dylan live. I came to the man late. I’ll readily admit to having horrible taste in music as a teenager, though the first concert I ever attended was Steve Earle’s Copperhead Road tour so I have that my credit. I had an uncle whose taste crossed to Steve Earle but tended towards Willie Nelson and not to the Townes Van Zandt and Dylan side of that particular mix. There was no way I was going to listen to Country as an angst ridden 16 year old and that’s a shame because if I’d gone from Steve to Willie I might have found my way to Bob some other way.
It was the bootleg releases that got me, and specifically Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live, 1966 the “Royal Albert Hall” Concert. It was officially released in 1998 and one of my daily Internet check ins gave the album a rating of 100 out of a 100, calling it the “greatest rock and roll record ever recorded.” With a review like that, I figured there wasn’t much to lose buying it. It’s an album that transcends its recorded media to be something more like a musical time capsule. It’s famous “Judas!” moment seems to capture the transition from the hopeful, wistful, acoustic sixties to the more electric (and sadly disco infused) 70s; the version of Visions of Johanna at that album is about as perfect as will ever see the light of day, recorded by a man at his prime; the snarling angry rendition of Like a Rolling Stone at the end (with it’s “Play fucking loud” intro seems to define the end of an era, an impression that’s emphasized by the subsequent disappearance of the man after the infamous motorcycle accident that came shortly after.
I was pretty hooked, and that album stayed in the CD player of my Jeep for a very long time after that. A couple of years later the music of Dylan played a central role in High Fidelity, which remains one of my favourite films to this day. The book isn’t bad either, but I got to the movie first and in this case it’s a pretty even balance so I stick with the film.
It took 12 years, but I finally saw Dylan live. The occasion was a tour with Mark Knopfler, and that seemed like a double bill that I couldn’t miss. I managed to snag a pair of floor tickets in the thirteenth row for about $100 each. That’s not bad for a lineup like this.
Knopfler was astonishing. I wouldn’t expect much less, of course. His set was heavy on music from his most recent release Privateering and that’s not a bad thing. Standouts from the set included Redbud Tree, All the Roadrunning and Song for Sonny Liston (which featured an extended guitar solo that was just mind boggling.) Knopfler was engaging and friend with the audience. “We’re going to attempt this one. It’s another new one,” was how he introduced Redbud Tree. “That’s all they are, just attempts. You could get hurt up here trying this.”
Not Mark, I don’t think. If I tried to play a guitar like that getting hurt would be an almost certain thing but that guy? He makes it look easy. His band has not one but two backup guitarists in it and I started contemplating the idea of getting that audition call. Playing guitar with Mark Knopfler is probably on the top ten list of most terrifying and amazing gigs in any musicians’s career. The band was great of course—even the accordion, which Knopfler introduced by saying “We had a vote on the accordion, but it’s here anyway.” Knopfler closed out his set by introducing them during an extended version of Marbletown. If the crowd was disappointed at not hearing any Dire Straits classics it didn’t show.
The contrast with Dylan’s set was obvious from the start. With vocals that were muddied and arrangements that were so different from the album versions we’ve all worn our needles out listening too it was a challenge to even identify Tangled Up in Blue. Desolation Row’s distinctive lyrics were easier to understand, but I was basically trading text messages and internet search results with a friend who—despite the fact that he had some version of a set list at his disposal—was having as much trouble as me. Dylan didn’t speak to the crowd at all, running quickly through a set list that spanned his career but included nothing from his most recent release Tempest (a shame too, since it’s actually a rather fine album.)
The Vancouver crowd was, of course, enthralled. The guy sitting behind me was literally dancing on his feet for the entire duration of a show that three of us considered mediocre at best. The piano playing wasn’t great, the band paled in comparison to Knopflers and some of the jazzy arrangement were just strange.
If you were in row 14, seat 14 for the Vancouver edition of this tour all power to you for having a good time man, but I think you were at a different show than I was.
As Dylan’s set drew to a close Like a Rolling Stone rolled out of that gravelly throat and banged forth from that piano. It was, like the rest of the set, a slightly jazzy more upbeat version. It paled in comparison to that legendary 1966 performance. A friend called it “horrid” and I said “I can live with it.” It wasn’t that I liked it, but I can go to my grave having heard Bob Dylan sing the greatest song in the history of rock and roll live. It probably won’t happen again, so there’s that.
That song closed out that 1966 Royal Albert Hall concert and it closes out the album. It’s refrain of “How does it feel / To be on your own / No direction home / Like a complete unknown / Like a rolling stone” comes through speakers and headphones and hits my brain like a tonne of bricks. It’s not the best song on the album—that honour goes to Visions of Johanna—but it resonates in an entirely unique way.
It was that song, a song I’ve called the greatest song in the history of rock and roll even if I think it’s not the best Bob Dylan song, that led me to finding Bob Dylan. As these things happen, that Royal Albert Hall CD had slipped out of rotation a bit. It was replaced by any number of other things, not the least of which was Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (and to say that album changed my life is a bit of an understatement.) The Royal Albert Hall CD didn’t disappear though. It would show up every once in a while in my CD player, and when I bought my first house on February 20th of 2003 it was one of the first discs to make it into the five disc changer. Hooking up a stereo is always one of the first things I do when I move, because I can’t imagine a home without music in it.
I moved in happy and looking forward to a new life in a home that I owned, with a woman I loved and who I expected to marry. It was a good time.
And then Dick died. As it turned out, he died the day I moved in but I got my first notice about it three days later—February 23rd. It was an email from a friend of his who I’d never met, and all it said was “I’m sure you’ve heard the horrible news about Richard.” Dick’s name was Richard Charteris, and I hadn’t heard anything but I immediately assumed the worst. It turned out, I was right. I didn’t sleep that night. I tried, but circumstances worked against me. I walked until 5 a.m. in the cold, wet Vancouver night. Alone.
When I got home, that Royal Albert Hall concert CD was still in the CD player, and it went into heavy rotation and the volume knob went up. Visions of Johanna tore me apart every time. Desolation Row took on a whole new meaning. One Too Many Mornings was a favourite but the album always ended the same: with that epic, snarling chorus of Like a Rolling Stone and the volume knob on the amp going moving just a little bit higher again.
That’s when I truly found Bob Dylan. It was that second go around with the Royal Albert Hall concert that locked it into my memory forever, and it remains tied to that time for me. Every time I hear that album I remember Richard. The next few months were hard ones: I got married and quickly divorced and my work situation wasn’t great. “Now you don’t talk so loud / Now you don’t seem so proud / About having to be scrounging for your next meal.” I spent a while scrounging, that’s for sure.
There’s a nobleness to Dylan’s lyrics. A richness and a complexity that’s missing in a lot of music these days. It’s the reason that he’s often considered the greatest living songwriter. That living modifier in that sentence is convenient: it takes out luminaries of equal complexity like Townes Van Zandt and John Lennon, both equally deserving of the title. In truth, the notion of a greatest is a fool’s game: it’s an argument for the argument’s sake, and one that can’t be won. One thing’s for sure, when Dylan is no longer living he’ll still be considered one of the greatest and some new voice will have taken his place atop the living podium.
As the memories of those horrible few days faded, and the reality of that horrible year started to slide into the past I moved on from that album again. Wilco’s A Ghost is Born went into heavy rotation. I had no job, and no money so I downloaded it and didn’t even realize I was missing Hummingbird. (Note to the band: I’ve since bought the vinyl, along with everything else including the UniPo’s, the camera strap and more vinyl…most of it twice. Can we call it even?) I found happiness in that album, along with Neko Case and others.
It’s the songwriting that leads people to Dylan, and you can tell people who care about music a lot because it’s always the songwriting. Richard’s birthday was October 20th—a couple of days ago, and only four days after that Knopfler/Dylan show I went too. It was funny timing, because every year around this time that album slips into heavy rotation. It happens without me even being conscious of it.
It’s the first time I’ve seen Dylan live and it’ll probably be the last. The man’s 71 years old and opportunities to see him are rare. That the show was mediocre is only partly the point too: we’ll never see Dylan in his prime again. That moment at the Royal Albert Hall show where he responded to the cry of “Judas!” by saying “You’re a liar. I don’t believe you.” is almost 50 years gone, and we can’t go back. That Dylan still tours at all is somewhat remarkable; that he’s still reinventing his oldest work is impressive, even if the results are uneven.
Everyone finds Bob Dylan eventually, even if the path there can be a little uneven at times. It’s those uneven times that make life worth living anyway, and I couldn’t have asked for better company on the way.
Happy Birthday Richard. Believe me, my friend, you were there with me in spirit.
The event saw the store literally packed to the rafters: there were more people in it than I’ve sen for any previous events. After the interview Sixto headed to Venue for a concert which sold out in a matter of minutes after being announced.
Justin Rutledge is one of the finest singer songwriters to come out of Canada in some time. He doesn’t tour out west all that often, and he’s good enough that it sort of makes me want to move to Toronto. I’m a bit sad that he’s moved from Six Shooter Records to Outside Music, but hopefully he’ll get back out here soon to promote his upcoming album.
Yeah. We’re onto this now.
I’m off in Edmonton for the Interstellar Rodeo. It’s been two days of fine music and weather so far, with one more to go. Last night’s set ended with legendary songwriter Randy Newman playing as the sun went down in the western sky. It was beautiful.
The Interstellar Rodeo starts on July 27th. It’s going to be a great weekend, and I’m pretty happy to be heading to Edmonton for it. Whitehorse are just one of the featured acts, and it’ll be the third time I’m seeing them this year (in three different provinces, no less.) I can’t wait.
Remember when Paul McCartney was cool? Now he’s sort of just Paul McCartney but in the period immediately following the breakup of that band he was a member of, he released some very cool stuff. Watch it happen.
My friend Henry will be in town again. I’m looking forward to it quite a bit. You should be too. Be at the Railway Club on August 2nd. It’s going to be a good time.
I see a lot of shows, but I don’t see a lot of large shows. The last show I saw in anything approaching an arena was probably about twenty years ago when U2 toured the Achtung Baby. The truth is, arena shows leave me hollow most of the time.
Like a lot of people my age, I first heard The Wall as a teenaged kid when the anthemic Another Brick the Wall (Part II) was a fairly major radio hit. In my case, a slightly older friend living next door introduced me to the full album along with Dark Side of the Moon. There’s nothing remotely surprising about that: it’s almost a cliche.
The Wall has always and unabashedly been a concept album and the visual aspect of it is as important as the music. As a concept album it’s aged well in both respects: while the album makes clear references to World War II, there were numerous references in the live show to wars that have come (and gone) since those days. Waters’ personal politics are on display in the form of Shell and Mercedes-Benz logos being dropped as bombs during Goodbye Blue Sky. The lyric “Mother should I trust the government” was accompanied by the message No Fucking Way scrawled along the wall in enormous letters. Images of repressed and poor people were contrasted with a pretty clear dig at the cult of Apple as the words iTeach, iLearn and iPay appeared.
There are aspects that feel dated. Background tracks that include distant, faded voices over a phone accompanied by the sound of dialtone, a sound that’s rapidly disappeared from our lives. The images on The Wall fracture at one point as the glass of a television is smashed, something that’s virtually impossible in the modern flat screen era.
For the most part, though, The Wall has—like all great works of art—aged well. Concept albums often have an earnestness to them that can make them seem forced and makes them fail. The Decemberists’ The King is Dead was marketed as one, and it just seemed pretentious; Rush’s 2112 predates The Wall but it seems like a relic of its time at this point. The Wall doesn’t. Written years ago by “that poor miserable fucked up little Roger,” as Waters describes his younger self, it’s an inspired work.
I suspect the irony of a tour that costs tens of millions of dollars to stage isn’t lost on Waters as he stands in front of an audience that’s paying as much as a few hundred dollars for a couple of hours of entertainment. Those Shell and Mercedes-Benz logos dropping from the sky are, after all, being transported around the world by 95 fuel powered trucks. I’m not sure the audience, having already paid their hard earned money, cared. For most of the 40,000 people who were there slavish devotion to the spectacle was the point, after all.
Daniel Lanois was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and i didn’t win the contest to attend the ceremony. Blurg. This video is what I have to settle for.
Wilco visited Vancouver a few nights ago, almost two years to the day since the last show they played here. In an unbelievable stroke of luck I scored third row seats right in front of Nels Cline’s spot on stage, a photo pass from the band and—best of all—the show was on a Sunday night which meant Allison was able to go.
I wrote a review which was featured on No Depression. I had to skip the Seattle show, which means the next one might be a while but there’s always flights to Chicago…
“One Sunday Morning”
“Art Of Almost”
“I Am Trying To Break Your Heart”
“I Must Be High”
“Pot Kettle Black”
“Dawned On Me”
“A Shot in the Arm”
“Heavy Metal Drummer”
“Red-Eyed and Blue”
“I Got You (At The End of the Century)”
“Outtasite (Outta Mind)”
“We didn’t want this band to be a marketing venture while we continued our solo careers…”
With that line, about 20 minutes into a live show, Luke Doucet makes it clear that Whitehorse is more than the sum of its parts. This is a good thing because its parts are significant and talented: Whitehorse is a duo with Doucet—one of the finest guitarists in Canada by reputation—and Melissa McLellard whose beautiful voice has anchored strong songwriting for years now. The two have been married for a while, and they finally released their debut album as a duo last year.
And what an album it is. While both Luke and Melissa continued to tour solo after the album was released they finally embarked on an inaugural Whitehorse tour which brought them to Vancouver’s beautiful Rio Theatre last weekend.
On a night that was wet even by west coast standards, a nearly capacity crowd filled the seats at beautiful venue by the time the show opened with a video montage set to the album’s opening track Eulogy for Whiskers, Pt. 1. With at least four guitars on the stage, a keyboard, kick drum and two different sets of microphones, promising sounds lay ahead.
With three different guitars used in the first three songs of the set, it was clear that all of that instrumentation wasn’t going to go to waste. Doucet switched between an open body acoustic model before finally picking up the white bodied Gretsch Falcon guitar he’s well known for playing. Doucet was apparently quite sick (with McLelland saying they had even considered cancelling the gig) but you couldn’t tell it by the guitar playing: this was the finest night of live guitar I’ve heard since seeing Daniel Lanois last August.
The duo’s cover of Springsteen’s I’m On Fire was an unexpected highlight early in show, particularly with McLelland bridging from the last verse of the song into a couple of verse’s of At Last. With news of Etta James’ death coming earlier in the day, the touching tribute brought a round of applause from the audience.
McLelland’s Passenger 24 made it clear what the telephone handsets each musician had hanging from their main microphones were for. Singing into these instead of the main mics produced the distant hollow sound that the recorded version of the song features prominently.
The couple were obviously comfortable on stage and shared stories of a music soaked life with the audience. Doucet introduced Broken as a reworking of an old song of his and the first song the couple wrote together while sitting drunk on a patio in Budapest. The song’s “…you gotta have a heart / to have a broken one…” is one of the album’s more memorable. Another highlight of the album is Emerwald Isle (featured below,) written after Doucet ran his first marathon in Ireland and was surprised to find McLelland waiting at the finish line despite the fact that she was on tour in Australia at the time. Travelling halfway around the world on a tight schedule to see the person you love finish a marathon? That’s love if I’ve ever heard it. (You can see a video of the song below.)
Doucet’s daughter Chloe joined the couple on stage next for an upbeat cover of the Dolly Parton classic Jolene. It’s clear that talent runs in the family,and I’ll be keeping my eyes open for the younger Doucet’s next gig.
With the show winding down Doucet and McLelland started talking about their next album, currently a working in progress. A title’s been chosen and with Doucet keen to share it McLelland interrupted and suggested a contest of sorts: the album’s name is derived from Wonder Woman postcard on one of the tables at the nearby Templeton Diner. The first person to send the band the name of the album gets a free lunch. Go forth and try to collect friends: I stopped in for breakfast the next morning, but didn’t quite figure it all out. I’m probably just as happy to leave it a surprise for you guess at: it’s the second table in from the door, on the left.
With an extensive back catalogue to draw from and an album of new material that’s almost certain to be nominated for next year’s Polaris Prize things look good for the future of Whitehorse. McLelland and Doucet are both tremendous fun to watch perform and their enthusiasm for the audience and each other is infectious. See the couple when you can, and keep an eye out for that new album because you’re not going to want to miss it.
Earlier this year I was lucky enough to see Mavis Staples sing The Weight live on a pretty magical night of live music. I’m not sure I’d ever anticipated hearing that, and it’s a fond memory of the year.
Mavis singing The Band classic with Wilco live in Chicago? I think my mind would have been blown. It’s probably a good thing I wasn’t there. This will have to do for now (though you can hear the live version in the Roadcase on the Wilco site for now.)
Silent Night by The Beauties
…and the crazy kids at Google apparently didn’t think that they needed a selector list that displayed more than three lines when you add a video to your YouTube lists. Go figure.
In general, selector lists should have some relationship to the average length of the list that’s on them and I suspect that most YouTube users don’t even have playlists like this. Of course with a user list that runs in the tens of millions, it’s hard to imagine that most YouTube users share anything in common.
There’s a basic principal of lists like this that they should at the very least provide a reasonably sized view of the list so that it can be scrolled easily. The problem with a three item view is that a small scrolling movement shifts the list entirely and you lose the context of what you’re doing. It’s too easy to get lost.
Five items is a reasonable minimum—this is what Apple uses for the dials that show up when you choose a list like this on your iPhone. Shift the list by one on a five item list and you’ve still got some sense of context.
I’ve said before that I sort of think of Google’s interface design as non-design really. I think they spend so much time not thinking about things that they wind up just deploying a lot of user interface elements that are coded without much thought.
This is all kind of boring, so why don’t we watch the video in the screen shot above instead. It’s the latest from Kendel Carson’s Belle Star project, and it’s pretty awesome.
Despite my best attempts, this space does occasionally seem to slip into being a music blog. When the music concerned is Kathleen Edwards’ new track Change the Sheets is that really a problem?
Voyageur comes out on January 17th. Get it.
In a moment I can only describe as…exciting might not be quite the right word…my office has made the cover of the new Nickelback album and right there, in the fissure running vertically through the album cover you can see the desk I sit at right now (though that’s likely to change.)
I think if you look closely enough you can see me expressing my thoughts on Nickelback as a band in the window.
Ryan Adams is an incredibly talented and remarkable musician, not to mention a very contentious one. Moments of beauty like this one shine through his arrogance often enough to make it worth taking the good with bad.
Richie Wireman is one of my favourite music photographers, though I may be biased by his subject matter to some extent. A huge amount of my favourite work in Wilco’s online photo galleries was Richie’s. The video above is a very cool time lapse shot over two nights of Wilco gigs at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium.
One of these days, I’d like to see a show there.
Also: remember a couple of entries ago when I said this blog was not a Wilco blog? I’m not even sure I’m falling for that line anymore.
Jay Farrar came to the Wild Buffalo House of Music in Bellingham, Washington and didn’t cross the border into Canada. This suited me fine, since the Wild Buffalo is one of the most beautiful clubs in the area and one of my favourite places to see live shows..
I posted a review on No Depression. You can also read it by following the link after the video below.
Jay Farrar at the Wild Buffalo: November 3, 2011
I feel, really, that this review should start with a confession of sorts—the kind of raw admission that characterizes so many addiction related groups so here it goes:
I’m Skot, and I’m a bit of a Wilco fan. I am, in fact, one of the fewer than 1,000 Wilco fan that owns that particular band’s 2-inch tall Unipo dolls. Yes, I’m that fan.
Being a Wilco fan means that my relationship with Jay Farrar’s music is inevitably skewed by the prism of a rivalry that seems largely imagined and manufactured, but persists nonetheless. I had Trace, of course, but much of the rest of Son Volt’s library languished in my laptop largely unlistened too. It was until the release of Farrar’s brilliant collaboration with Ben Gibbard on One Fast Move Or I’m Gone that I dug deeper into the material. 2009 was a very good year for Farrar, and his Son Volt album American Central Dust also took a place in heavy rotation in my listening.
With a new album of material based on Woody Guthrie material coming out in 2012, Farrar has hit the road on a tour of the Western United states. Forgoing a stop in Canada, the tour started at Bellingham, Washington’s beautiful Wild Buffalo House of Music. The Buffalo is about an hour from Vancouver and a better venue that most comparable ones in my hometown anyway, so I headed down for a late Thursday night.
Taking the stage at about 10:30 after an opening set Bobby Bare Jr., Farrar quickly got to business opening with material from American Central Dust. With no rhythm section on stage, the pairing of Farrar’s acoustic guitar and with Gary Hunt on the electric guitar, fiddle and occasional ukelele for accompaniment made for a quieter take on some of his harder edged material.
It wasn’t until Big Sur that Farrar first chatted with the attentive and appreciative crowd. Ben Gibbard is a Bellingham local, and I’d half expected him to make an appearance at the gig. He didn’t, but the material from One Fast Move was as strong as I’d expected live and got the modest crowd fully engaged in the gig.
I’ve got a friend who has a musical theory that says that when Uncle Tupelo split up Farrar and Son Volt took the “long hairs” and Wilco took the “short hairs.” If she’s right—and she usually is—it wasn’t obvious tonight with a crowd as diverse as any I’ve seen.
The acoustics at the Buffalo are excellent, and go a long way to showing why the venue is becoming a favourite stop for tours in between Seattle and Vancouver. Farrar worked through a playlist that included more material from One Fast Move before introducing Holiday Machine, a new piece from next year’s Woody Guthrie album (the video is here) that shows tremendous promise.
The Son Volt classic Tear Stained Eye followed, and with the night running late and 1:00 a.m. ticking past on my watch I left for the drive home.
Farrar’s touring down the coast towards Los Angeles over the next month, and shouldn’t be missed. He’s in fine form, and the new material being played shows that there’s much to look forward too in 2012’s collaborations and whatever the future brings for Son Volt. As a songwriter Farrar’s material remains strong and his musicianship is at least its equal. The change to see him perform in smaller, more intimate venues isn’t one you should pass up.
As for that prism? The one that colours my perception of Farrar with its lens of Wilco fandom? It’s fair to say that this show shattered it, and seeing Jay live finally gave me the opportunity to see a great songwriter without prejudice. I’m looking forward to the tour that hopefully accompanies next year’s release. If it does, I’ll be there.
See video of Jay Farrar playing Hoping Machine from next year’s Woody Guthrie collaboration here
I swear this isn’t a Wilco blog. Really. Since nobody’s going to believe me anyway, why don’t we just move along…
Wilco are coming to Vancouver on February 5th of next year at the Orpheum. I’m not fond of assigned seating venues, and I’ve never seen Wilco indoors so I was a bit worried that I’d wind up with some crappy ticket off in a corner. The band started their pre-sale today, and I somehow—miraculously—managed to grab a pair of third row seats just ten off centre. I don’t know what I did to deserve this, but I’m just going to embrace it.
Next week on Thursday night Jay Farrar is playing the Wild Buffalo in Bellingham and I’m going to head down for it. I love the Buffalo—it’s a beautiful, scenic venue—and I’ve never seen Jay, so I’m looking forward to this one. I definitely fall on the Wilco side of the Uncle Tupelo split, but at least two of the three Son Volt albums Jay’s released have been outstanding, not too mention his One Fast Move or I’m Gone which had a place on my favourite albums list for quite a while.
So, it seems like the perfect time for Jeff Tweedy telling an awkward story about bumping into Jay on the beach in Mexico, long after their acrimonious but unresolved split. Alternatively, the little moment below which is the only time I have ever watched George Strobolopolous I swear!
It’s October, and that always means a melancholy time of year for me. A shift in the soundtrack of life happens as days get shorter, temperatures drop and we spend more time indoors. The music I listen to gets quieter, more contemplative and more inward looking.
Fall is a time for new beginnings for some: kids go back to school and in a lot of houses it’s more like the start of a new year that the actual start of a New Year. New routines get sorted out after the lazy days of summer, and schedules adjust.
For me fall starts at the end of August, when the calendar turns on another arbitrarily selected anniversary in my life. This year I turned 40, which is a fact of some significance to some people. Though I shrugged it off as it happened (amidst a week of vacation with friends, family and more live music than is probably healthy for most people) it’s a fact of significance to me too: the last ten years, in particular, haven’t always been easy or kind but this list year…this last year…this has been the happiest year I can remember. Things are just perfect right now. It was a good time to turn 40.
That vacation included a very short stop in Trenton, Ontario. We were there less ten minutes, but I stopped to visit my grandfather’s grave for only the third time in the 21 years he’s been gone. It’s not the frequency of the visits that counts, but the sentiment right? Maybe.
My grandfather died in the fall. He died late in the night one September 19th a long time ago. It was five days shy of his 74th birthday. It’s one of the reasons fall is always a sad time for me: I remember that day like it was yesterday. I remember the song that was playing in the store when I bought his birthday card; I remember the birthday card; I remember getting the call when I was at work. September’s never a happy time for me. I remember too much.
Today is the birthday of two dear friends: one lives in Ontario and is now married with three kids. No matter how hard I try to focus on the happiness in her life, I can’t help but remember the other. Richard Charteris died a few years ago. He was 49. He’d have been 57 today. Richard was one of my closest friends when I knew him in Toronto. In a moment of serendipity his youngest daughter found me a while ago through a photo I’d taken and got in touch. Knowing that his kids are doing well was nice: they lost their father so young, and so unexpectedly. October’s not a very happy time for me. I remember Richard every year.
Richard and I were close but not alone. We were a rogues gallery when partnered with Al. Al was the oldest of us, but probably had the most energy. That guy could spend a whole day whipping out a brilliant marketing plan, head to the bar for a post work beer, sing a full set of rocking blues with a nine piece backing band and then wake up and do it all again the next day. One day, when I’m 65, I’d like to be half as cool as Al.
He still has more hair on his head than I do too, so there’s that too.
A few days ago—just a few days before this anniversary of Richard’s death—Al sent a mass email out. He’s been diagnosed with what he’s describing as an “aggressive case of prostate cancer.” It was late at night when I got the email. I was shocked: I was also glad he’d told me. He didn’t have too.
I haven’t seen Al in over ten years. It was before I moved to Vancouver. I lived in Charlottetown for a while and he was in Halifax, but we never quite got together. Worse, he was in Whistler at the end of August and bad timing meant we missed each other when I left for Toronto. We overlapped in Toronto on only one day but I had dinner plans with the oldest of old friends and couldn’t see him. It’s been ten years, but I’m going to have to get to Toronto to see the old guy sometime soon. It will happen.
This stuff all happens in the fall, and it sort of sucks. I’m always happy to have it over with, even though in Vancouver it inevitably leads to the grey skies and rain of November. At least my friends aren’t disappearing. This too, shall pass.
It’s time to cue the music now, and it always starts with Hawksley Workman at this time of year. At least the music’s always good.
I think that ghosts like
The cooler weather
When leaves turn colour
They get together
And walk along ways
These old back roads
— Autumn’s Here, Hawksley Workman
English singer-songwriter-punk-folk-rocker Frank Turner stopped by Vancouver’s legendary Biltmore Cabaret a couple of days ago. It was a Monday night. Vancouver, on a Monday night, is not a place to ply a show: people stay home, they cocoon, they don’t leave the house.
But not this time.
Frank is a live performer like nobody I’ve seen in quite a while. The Biltmore is often filled with crowds of adoring aloof hipsters listening to roots tinged Americana style rock and roll (and yes, I’m more or less one of them.) Every once in a while someone manages to engage that crowd in a short sing along and possibly some witty banter, but for the most part the crowds are pretty…sedate.
Not Frank. Frank did that for almost two full hours. Hands were in the air, songs were sung along too, requests were played and a mini mosh pit formed near the front of the stage.
Sometime through the night I described it as being like seeing Bruce Springsteen before he was The Boss or Bono before he became, you know, Bono. Imagine that with 450 people instead of tens of thousands, and you’ve got an idea of what it was like. I think he’d have kept playing all night if he could have.
Good times indeed. Frank ended his set hanging from the stage singing a killer rendition of Queen’s Somebody to Love. It was a bit of a counterpoint to his own Eulogy, sung earlier in the evening:
Not everyone grows up to be an astronaut
Not everyone was born to be a king
Not everyone can be Freddie Mercury
and a brilliant way to end a night when a whole bunch of people in Vancouver clearly found exactly what they were looking for.
More photos after the break, or on Flickr.
NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts are a treasure and one of the best podcasts online. The gentlemen from Wilco stopped by recently to play a tiny show, and it’s well worth watching. Make sure to check out those tiny drums.
You know those times you go to a show and you’re not sure who the opening act is? Last night was one of those nights for me.
The opening act for last night’s Mavis Staples show at the Chan Centre was Allen Toussaint and just because I hadn’t heard of him doesn’t mean I didn’t know his work. The prolific composer organized the horns for The Band’s Last Waltz and has worked with just about everybody. An engaging, friendly and upbeat performer Toussaint played a brilliant set of slightly more than an hour.
Mavis Staples took the stage later in the night, after a short intermission. Her joy at being in Vancouver was infectious, and the third song of her set was The Band’s The Weight, a number the Staples Singers sang at that long ago and deservedly legendary Last Waltz. I just about died.Dan Mangan: Robots (live at CBC)
Robots is not, in my opinion, the strongest song from Mangan’s Nice, Nice, Very Nice honour would go to Fair Verona in the quirky world of my musical taste—but it’s most definitely the most crowd pleasing. Dan played the song in LA at a Canadian Blast Grammy show once and tweeted afterwards that he’d seen Emmylou Harris singing along to the chorus. She’d have to be heartless not too.
On a warm dry night, there’s not a better place in the city to catch live music when than the Wild Horse Canyon Stage at the Vancouver Fringe Festival. The Ruffled Feathers did a nice job of showing why
It’s been a music soaked couple of weeks around here, and it’s not looking like it’s slowing down anytime soon. Kathleen Edwards & Julie Fader played the Black Sheep Inn around and about my fourtieth birthday, and I was lucky enough to get out there for the show (hot on the heels of the Harvest Picnic, which included both Daniel Lanois and Emmylou Harris.) I wrote a little review of the show for No Depression.
There was new material played, so its no surprise to hear the announcement of a new album. Wakusp is a beautiful song that’s been released as a preview.
Kathleen Edwards - Wapusk (featuring Bon Iver) by Kathleen Edwards
Things aren’t slowing down here either: there’s new albums coming from Dan Mangan and Wilco at the end of September, and I’ve got quite a few shows lined up between now and mid-October including Blue Rodeo & Mavis Staples.
There’ll be time enough for sleeping when I’m dead, I’m sure. I’m putting that off for a while though.
Many more photos to come, but first to sleep.
There’s been much going on in life lately, and it’s been easy to lose track of things. One thing that’s sort of slipped through the cracks lately is the fact that there’s a new Wilco album due on Sept. 27th. The video above features a solo performance by Jeff Tweedy of the song Down with Me. Far be it from me to judge, but I’m kind of amazed he didn’t punch the photographer while it was being shot but maybe I’m being too judgemental. There’s an interview to go with the video.
The video below is a trailer for the album that looks like it was shot at the Wilco loft in Chicago. It. Is. Awesome.
Excited? A little bit.
Only five more sleeps and one more plane flight until Daniel Lanois’ Harvest Picnic event just outside of Hamilton, Ontario featuring a list of talented music too long to do justice too but headlined by Emmylou Harris. This one’s going to be the stuff that memories are made from.
Quite unsurprisingly, Six Shooter Records recently signed Melbourne, Australia’s The Wagons to a distribution deal in Canada. I could’ve predicted this was going to happen. Those guys sign everybody I like eventually. The video up above should give you some indication of why.
I met Henry Wagons, the band’s lead singer, about a year ago when he played the Vancouver’s Legendary Biltmore Cabaret as the opening act for Justin Townes Earle. It was such a fantastic night of music that I headed down to the Wild Buffalo in Bellingham the next night to catch a repeat. Photos are on Flickr from those gigs.
Halifax based Jenn Grant doesn’t get out to Vancouver that often: it’s a long way from home, across this great big country we call home. Her last visit paired her with fellow Six Shooter Recording artist Justin Rutledge for one of the most fantastic nights of live music I had in 2010 at the quiet and beautiful St. James Community Square in Vancouver. On this visit Jenn played the Biltmore Cabaret and the show was quite a bit less quiet.
Jenn’s album Honeymoon Punch was long-listed for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize and the night was full of material from it as well as the often overlooked but incredibly beautiful Echoes.
Playing with a full band made for a stark contrast with her last visit, when she was accompanied only on violin. Upbeat bouncy tunes like Oh My Heart and Getcha Good sounded fuller and kept the night moving along. Parliament of Owls lead to a crowd pleasing moment with the audience hooting along.
As entertaining as the music was with witty stage banter. Watch her Awkward Interviews at CBC Radio 3 to get an idea of what it’s like. Jenn’s funny tales of life in a shared house in Halifax are worth the ticket price alone and as much a guarantee of a good time as any other live act I’ve seen. Now off touring back east, as they say out here, catch up with Jenn as soon as you can.
Despite the fact that a lot of information it contains is dubious at best I like Wikipedia on the whole. It has it’s charms. One of those is that nothing ever gets deleted: the Wiki software tracks changes and you can review them anytime.
A while ago, somebody updated the entry for The Humpty Dance to include a detailed summary of the dance. It’s since been deleted (you can see the diff including the entry here) but I thought it needed to be preserved. It’s written in an encyclopaedic style, and represents the kind of genius that is both inspired and an stunning waste of time.
Mr. Hump gets everyone’s attention by requesting they end the task they are performing at that time. Mr. Hump then proceeds to take one’s perception of what’s popular and make it no longer appealing. He then goes on to say that despite his comical appearance he is very wealthy, and the planet earth should prepare for his arrival. Mr. Hump invites a group to give their undivided attention as he explains that he has recently moved to the area and he does not make wise decisions. This is of course irrelevant due to his music being produced by his group Digital Underground. He then warns everyone that he will consume all of their cognac that they own. Mr. Hump now decides to introduce himself in a sort of condescending way by removing the initial letter of his first name and then repeating it to the listener. Mr. Hump tells all of the female listeners he would like to perform intercourse with them and issues a request to the current top ten popular rap artists to allow him to be above all of them on the music charts. The listeners should note Mr. Hump seems to be walking on stilts. He then compares the listeners to a Humpty Dumpty where an egg falls from a wall. Pursuing this metaphor, Mr. Hump claims his loud music will cause his listeners to share the same fate with said egg. Mr. Hump then energetically describes some of his favorite things which include: using words that sound alike, his music to have a strange odor emitting from it, and his breakfast oats not to be mixed well. Mr. Hump claims that he is an ill gang member who does very well with members of the opposite sex. Despite all of that, once in a while his absurd behavior causes him to consume all of the listener’s saltines and twizzlers for an undisclosed reason. Mr. Hump then gets the attention of his overweight female listeners by using some offensive phrases. Mr. Hump then points out the fact that even though he is significantly smaller than his overweight listeners he has never had a problem having sexual intercourse with women of their stature. Mr. Hump admits he is a sexual deviant who prefers females with an extremely large posterior, and that he once had intercourse in the restroom of a Burger King. Mr. Hump shares with his listeners that he suffers from some type of mental disorder but will somehow make up for that by leaving his listeners in awe. Despite the fact Mr. Hump is by most standards not a very attractive man he still manages to find himself in situations where women allow him to rummage around in their trousers. Mr. Hump finally reveals to the listeners that he has a dance named after him known as the humpty dance. The audience is now encouraged to perform this dance and observe Mr. Hump perform the dance as well.
Clarence Clemmons, 1942 - 2011
Mr. Hump has a very high self-esteem, even though his peers are constantly judging his appearance. Some individuals who oppose Mr. Hump sometimes give him menacing looks and it seems Mr. Hump has a restraining order on said individuals. Mr. Hump exceeds expectations on the dance floor. The females all have strong feelings towards Mr. Hump. Mr. Hump genuinely cares for members of the opposite sex, and proves it by letting them know in advance that his prosthetic nose will stimulate their anus while he performs cunnilingus on a woman who is lying on top of him performing fellatio. Mr. Hump is not embarrassed by his oversized nose, because it has provided him a very good living; instead he compares it to a cucumber that has sat in vinegar for an extended period of time. Mr. Hump wants the listener to know once again he has intercourse with members of the opposite sex. He then compares his social status to the size of his nose which as mentioned before is quite great. Despite the fact Mr. Hump can be quite intoxicated, his archery skills are comparable to cupid that makes people fall in love on Valentine’s Day. Mr. Hump informs the listeners’ he uses words that have no meaning and cannot be found in a dictionary. Mr. Hump goes on to confide that he was a performer on the album ”Doowhutchalike”, (pronounced “do what you like”); however, in the event the listener did not by chance hear that album, Mr. Hump had advised his listeners to grasp the flour-and-water mixture that was baked and served during breakfast. Mr. Hump claims he warned the listeners he enjoys using his teeth on them, as well as making use of a pencil and paper, which he feels is self-explanatory. Mr. Hump further informs the listener he will perform the dance named after himself, if the listener will allow it.
Mr. Hump requests that his band mate responsible for bass sound make special notes for him to imitate, which he does presumably to the best of his ability. At this time Mr. Hump takes the opportunity to instruct the listeners on the correct method of performing the dance known as the Humpty Dance. The first thing one would do when performing the dance is move sideways like an individual who has suffered a fractured leg. Next the dancer will move in such a manner that a reasonable person would assume the dancer was burning, but the flames were not present at that time. By this time while Mr. Hump is performing the dance, his peers would tell him he resembled MC Hammer freebasing cocaine. Mr. Hump assures them he is doing the dance properly, and it is supposed to resemble an epileptic suffering from a seizure. This activity can be practiced by anybody who so chooses, and Mr. Hump once again reminds the listener the dance is named after him. When performed correctly, two or more people will not perform the dance in a synchronized manner. The dance must give the perception the person performing the dance is clearly not enjoying themselves, possibly even considering a pain remedy. Mr. Hump then encourages the listener to stand up for themselves and continue dancing if by chance a man should confront them with the evidence of an unknown accident that has left that man with only part of his digit.
I like my Bruce at his lyrical and quiet best, but there’s so much Bruce that’s lyrical and loud it’s hard to really be that picky.
Clarence Clemmons died this weekend, rather suddenly. The world of rock and roll doesn’t see a saxophone like this often, and it’s been changed forever. That sax line that lays underneath Born to Run—a song that every motorcycle dealership in the country should really have playing on constant repeat—didn’t just happen, and it’s not going to come around anytime soon again.
It’s a reminder, too, that the first generation of huge rock stars is aging and will end. Springsteen is 61 right now: not exactly old, but closer to the end than to the beginning of his career.
Roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair
Well, the night’s busted open
These two lanes will take us anywhere
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels
Climb in back, Heaven’s waiting down on the track
The music industry’s been fairly quick to embrace social media—perhaps a result of the hard lessons learned in the early days of the Internet—and by now most musicians have Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, mySpace pages (even though they should be moving to Bandcamp) and any number of other outlets which help them build a community with their fans. Entire careers have been built on these platforms in the last few years.
The point of social media is to build a conversation with your customers and fans. Joanna Newsom’s Facebook page hasn’t been updated in almost a year at this point—sine her last album was released. Don’t make the same mistake. You’re writing music, recording music, touring, and probably going to other shows. Tell your story.
Young Galaxy are one of the finest emerging bands in Canada. I caught them at the Biltmore and Toronto’s Legendary Horseshoe Tavern in 2009, and late last year when they were opening for Stars on their national tour. Photos from the latter show are on my site or in a more complete gallery at Guttersnipe News.
The new album comes out on February 8th, 2011. Look forward to it, and buy it. You’re not going to regret it.
Don’t let the video fool you: Christina’s not nearly that tough. Photos from her Peak Performance Project show are in my Flickr stream and I shot some stills at the video shoot for Christina.
The man, he is a genius. Truly.
The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council recently ruled that Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing, which includes the use of the word faggot in a satirical sense, can no longer be played on Canadian radio unless the word is edited out.
The fact that the song was recorded in 1985 and has probably had less airplay in the last fifteen years than any number of misogynistic and profanity laden pieces of popular music released since appears to be lost on the Council. The decision could lead to subsequent bans on songs like The Pogues Fairtytale of New York no more television airings of various Austin Powers movies, all the while allowing Ice T to scream Copkiller, Britney Spears to implore someone to Hit Me Baby One More Time and Biz Mark E to sing about Sittin’ on a toilet / Waitin’ for my bowels to move. Well played, CBSC. Well played.
The fact that a regulatory body has the time to waste something like this while virtually every other similar institution does nothing is astonishing. (Hello CRTC? Have you noticed that cell phone rates in Canada are amongst the highest in the world these days? Maybe you should get on that.)
The ridiculousness of the situation has generated tonnes of press coverage, all of which has seemed to gloss over a simple but critical fact: Money for Nothing is a horrible song. Dire Straits is a legendary band and Mark Knopfler’s guitar playing is astonishing to listen too (he was once described by Douglas Adams as having “…an extraordinary ability to make a Schecter Custom Stratocaster hoot and sing like angels on a Saturday night, exhausted from being good all week and needing a stiff drink.” but Money for Nothing is not his strongest work. It was a huge hit, and took the band’s popularity to new levels (particularly in North America) but there are at least ten songs that you should be listening to instead of it. Even Knopfler has said in the past that he’s not happy that the song has become the band’s best known legacy.
There are at least ten songs you should be listening too instead of Money for Nothing though, and here they are.
Epic and thirteen minutes in length when played live, Telegraph Road eschews the conventions of the rock and roll epic and remains beautiful throughout. The version on Alchemy: Live remains high on my playlist.
The closing track for the album that opens with Money for Nothing this song couldn’t be less like that pop jingle. It was featured in an episode of the West Wing which gave it a boost of popularity in the late 1990s.
Listen to that guitar. Listen to it again. You can thank me later.
This is the first track on the Alchemy: Live double album. That the album only gets better from here is amazing, considering how good this song is live.
Another song buried in the Brothers in Arms album, Why Worry is a beautifully written and played tune.
I’ve continued to overlook the seeming spelling error in the title of this song—I assume it was intentional on Knopfler’s part—because of its energetic brilliance.
As pop songs go this commentary on modern society’s addiction to our own technology has actually stood the test of time much better than Money for Nothing has. The fact that Sting’s not singing the backing vocal track is probably partly why.
Brothers in Arms really is an incredibly strong album. This song anchors the middle.
Bree is there on the upright bass, but it’s just not the same with Josh on the fiddle. Fun nonetheless.
A few days ago, I posted my list of the best concerts in Vancouver in 2010. The year is long and with a lot of shows seen I naturally forgot one, and the funny thing is it was probably the best all round show of the year.
The thing is, I didn’t have my camera with me. The show was actually before I bought my Canon 5d Mark II, and I didn’t pack my G11. Without a photographic record of it, the concert sort of slipped from my memory.
Often called the best live band in Canada, The Sadies stopped by Vancouver’s Legendary Biltmore Cabaret in early June. By the end of the almost four hours of music I’m surprised the place had a roof left on it.
To this day I find listening to The Sadies on album a bit uninspiring. It just doesn’t do that much for me. When these guys get on stage it’s like setting a fire. At a gas station. With a dynamite truck filling up at the time. I frankly thought they were never going to stop playing.
So, to Mike and Sean and Dallas and Travis, my sincere apologies for leaving you off the first list. It wasn’t intentional, and I’ll blame a memory which relies on a camera as often as not. I’ll be there next time right at the front of the stage.
I’ve never been fortunate enough to be in Toronto when Nuit Blanche was happening. For the last few years I’ve jealously followed along as sites like BlogTO and Torontoist have covered Toronto’s annual twenty-four hour festival of arts and culture.
According to the Globe and Mail a group in Vancouver has formed hoping to bring the all night festival to Vancouver. I’m happy about this—I’ve repeatedly said that I wanted a Vancouver edition of the festival—but I also can’t help but wonder if the focus on creating a new festival is the best strategy. Vancouver has a thriving arts community with a number of outdoor festivals already. Cuts to arts and culture funding have been hard on these festivals in recent years and it’s possible that adding a new festival to the mix has the potential to do as much harm as good.
The Public Dreams Society is probably the best known of the groups that produces free outdoor events in Vancouver. The society’s annual Illuminares lantern festival and now seemingly semi-annual Parade of Lost Souls are amongst the most notable public festivals in North America, but both were reduced in size substantially this year. Illuminares has moved from its gorgeous outdoor location to a smaller indoor venue on the downtown eastside, while the Parade of Lost Souls no longer occupies the entirety of Commercial Drive that it used too.
The hard times that both of these festivals have hit were caused by sudden cuts to government funding and a lack of corporate sponsorship. It’s notable that Toronto’s Nuit Blanche festival is, in fact, the Scotiabank Nuit Blanche. The marriage between arts and commerce has always been a bit tense, but the London Drugs Parade of Lost Souls just doesn’t quite have the same ring of magic it. Despite this, I know that a Nuit Blanche style festival in Vancouver won’t happen without sponsorship and I hope it doesn’t happen without the Public Dreams Society.
Even events with corporate sponsorship have suffered in Vancouver. The most notable example is the annual Celebration of Lights Festival. Fireworks festivals across the country hit hard times a few years ago with only Vancouver’s surviving thanks to title sponsorship from HSBC but the hard times hit again this year and the festival was officially canceled before being rescued at the last minute. The addition of a concert series to the four nights of fireworks expanded by the scope of the festival, but the Celebration of Light lacks the dynamic and mixed media nature that Nuit Blanche has. People tend to get to the beach early and park themselves on a blanket and relax in the (hopefully) sunny weather rather than moving around between venues.
The Eastside Culture Crawl is one of the Vancouver arts communities great success stories, and may serve as a good example for Nuit Blanches. This weekend long celebration of East Vancouver’s visual and textile arts is more of a collective of artists selling their work than a produced festival, and hasn’t seemed to have suffered from a lack of funding. The three day celebration runs on Friday night and through the day on Saturday and Sunday and sees thousands of people touring multiple venues throughout the city. The Crawl gets bigger every year, as anybody who’s visited the warmth of Joe Blow Glassworks on those chilly November evenings can attest. It seems like it would be easy to expand the Crawl, but the November weekend isn’t ideal.
The Vancouver International Fringe Festival is an excellent example as well. When the Fringe takes over its Granville Island location the sedate public market transforms into something completely different with buskers, musicians and performers of all kinds taking over the space under the bridge and slightly beyond. The Fringe is at heart a theatre festival, but it plays a bigger role than that in the Vancouver arts community and serves as an end of summer treat for fans of arts and culture.
With no lack of family friendly public events already, what’s the point of proposing a Nuit Blanche for Vancouver? The Toronto festival is something of a combination of all of the examples above: it celebrates visual and media arts with a dash of music thrown in as well. It focuses on outdoor performances and venues, but indoor galleries participate as well.
The twenty-four hour nature of Nuit Blanche is its most unique element, and one that Vancouver could benefit from. This is a sleepy town that goes to bed early. Keeping Vancouver up late is hard, though the success of the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Fuse events is a testament to the fact that it can happen outside of the Olympics. An all night event such as this will draw press coverage and an audience that all artists benefit from, not just the ones who already have substantial public profiles. The mixed media nature of it will help families expose their kids to art forms they may not have experienced before.
In order to succeed a new all-night festival needs to work with prominent local musicians, performance groups and visual artists. The festival needs to extend beyond the city’s sterile downtown core to embrace East Vancouver and the Waterfront, hopefully including North Vancouver. Translink could help by keeping the Seabus and Skytrain systems running all night, allowing people to easily move between geographically dispersed venues. Vancouver’s unique geography offers opportunities for equally unique events: the Stanley Park Seawall could be an integral part of the celebrations if city hall decides to allow it—technically the park is closed after 11:00 p.m.
That’s a lot of cooperation, in a city where arts groups and politicians don’t always seem to cooperate well.
Whatever happens, I’m hopeful that a new event creates a lasting legacy and becomes a core pillar of Vancouver’s arts community. The traditional mid-summer Illuminares festival offers a good starting point for growth. Typically good weather and the legacy of an annual outdoor event that could be incorporated into something new and perhaps bigger may offer an easier path to success than starting from scratch. By integrating with other arts and culture groups Nuit Blanche’s legacy can be one of helping to build the existing community—one that’s suffered greatly in recent years—rather than competing with it.
Perhaps the Nuit Blanche name will offer a fresh start in the public’s eyes, and some familiarity based on its Hogtown history. Perhaps it can become one of the focal points for Vancouver’s arts community. Either way, on the eve of 2011 it’s nice to think that we have something new to look forward to in 2012.
Writing about music is an inherently subjective thing. One person’s best album of the year could leave another scratching their head. It simply can’t be helped.
I see a lot of concerts: there are certainly people who see more than I do, but the vast majority see less. My personal taste and my distaste for stadium venues means that most of the shows I see tend to be small to mid-sized shows in venues that hold between 300 and 1,500 people (though I spend a fair amount of time in places that hold fewer than 50 people as well.) As a result, any list I make isn’t likely to include the biggest shows of the year. Amongst those I missed that I’m sure would make this were Arcade Fire at the Pacific Coliseum and Rogers Waters’ performance of The Wall.
Having said that, I couldn’t let December roll past without a summary of the best concerts I’ve seen this year. Without further ado, I’m going to dive right in. The shows that made this list are the ones that stood out as something special and unique through the year.
Yes, the concert you were at that blew your mind should probably be on this list but alas I may not have been there. You can always let me know about it, and I promise to try to make it next time.
It’s no secret that I’m a Wilco fan, but I’m not the only one. Wilco kicked off Vancouver’s two week long Olympic party at the outdoor LiveCity Yaltetown. Lineups were epic and it poured rain but a crowd of over 8,000 stalwarts braved the weather for this one. With Wilco (The Album) almost six months old America’s best touring band played a mix of new and old material. Watching Nels Cline and Jeff Tweedy jam out to perennial crowd favourite Spiders should have been enough to convince anyone they were watching something special.
If the three rules for concerts were the same as the thee rules for real estate—location, location and location—the Vancouver International Folk Festival would have little competition. The Jericho Beach location is beautiful and the mid-July weekend reliably delivers in spades with warm sunny days that faded into warm sunny nights. Calexico closed the first night of the festival this year under a clear, starlit sky and the forlorn sound of a lone trumpet wailing into the night was the perfect way to end a day and start a weekend. Don’t miss this Tuscon, Arizona based band’s Tex-Mex tinged Americana when it comes to your town.
Justin has been both burdened and blessed by having a famous father throughout his career. Living up to such a strong legacy can be hard. On the other hand the reason I first went to see Justin at the Media Club a few years ago was loyalty: the first live concert I saw as a kid was Steve Earle’s Copperhead Road show in Toronto, and I wanted to support his son. Justin was great that night, but this tour—his second time playing Vancouver’s Legendary Biltmore Cabaret an epiphany. Justin’s finally shed the burdensome part of that legacy and now shines as an artist in his own right. The following night’s show at the Wild Buffalo House of Music was even better.
I saw Steve Earle this year as well: Justin’s shows were better.
With a large grounds and multiple stage playing music going all day, the hardest thing about the Folk Fest is being in the right place at the right time. After leaving a mid-day workshop featuring Sarah Harmer I sort of wandered the grounds aimlessly until my ears were hit by the sound of Kingston, Ontario’s The Getrudes. With nine musicians crowding the stage with a mix of banjos, fiddles, and guitars and two lead vocalists the Gertrudes have a big sound that’s reminiscent of the Band, the Waltons and other southern tinged swamp music. Their Dawn Time Riot album is one of the most fun I’ve heard this year. They haven’t been back to Vancouver since, but I can guarantee that I’ll be there when they are. CBC has the Folk Fest concert on demand: you can listen to it here.
Vancouver is a fickle town, and even on the best of nights a great lineup can play to an almost empty venue. With two of the indie rock scenes’ up and coming bands on the bill for a Saturday night this was one Biltmore show that didn’t disappoint. Packed to the gills with people—including half the musicians in Vancouver, as near as I could tell—I could hardly move. Either one of these bands would have been worth it. Both? This was as perfect a night of up and coming indie rock as I’ve seen.
I’m not even sure I could count how many times I’ve seen Dan Mangan this year but it was his Vogue theatre show in May that I’ll remember. Coming on the heels of touring his Nice, Nice, Very Nice album around North America, Europe and Australia May’s show at the Vogue was a triumphant homecoming for one of the nicest guys in the Vancouver music scene. Selling out in about 8 days—even Vancouver based supergroup The New Pornographers took weeks to do that—the show was a moment in a career that was beautiful to see.
It’s pretty tough to choose a best show from the Peak Performance Showcase Series: there were five nights at Vancouver’s Red Room (I missed one of them) and a grand finale show at the Commodore Ballroom. I’m going to go with the Commodore Ballroom show sort of by default. All three acts that night were killer but a particular tip of the hat to Kyprios. I don’t do rap. I did listen to rap once, but it was the early 80s and it was groundbreaking stuff that my neighbours in Toronto passed along to me. Kyprios blew the roof off of that place, and had that horse hair sprung dance floor hopping higher than I’ve ever seen it. Said the Whale and Vince Vaccaro’s sets were just as good.
Here’s where i make it up to Said the Whale: they’re the only band to make this list twice. The Malahat Revue was a group tour including Jeremy Fisher, Aidan Knight, Hannah Georgas and Said the Whale. They toured a good portion of Southern BC by bicycle and performed each other’s works as a group. The smile on Hannah Georgas’ face above on the last day of the tour says it all, I think: that’s a woman who’s exactly where she wants to be, and couldn’t be happier.
Jenn Grant’s Echoes was one of the most underrated albums of recent years. She’s based on the East Coast which means she doesn’t get out this way that often, and when she finally did she paired with Justin Rutledge to play the beautiful St. James Community Square. This was such a fantastic and beautiful night of music that ended with with Rutledge leading the audience in a singalong version of Don’t Be So Mean Jellybean. Without a doubt my favourite small gig of the year.
I realized at some point this year that pretty much every band I liked had either a banjo, a cello or an accordion in it. Of course if you look through this list you’ll notice, no doubt, that almost none of these ones do. Go figure.
Nonetheless this was the first year I discovered Maria in the Shower, a band of roving musicians who bring a Mardi Gras vibe wherever they go. The band opened the first night of the Vancouver International Fringe Festival music series at the Fringe Bar and it was a warm, clear, starry canopy that welcomed a full audience to one of the most beautiful music venues in the city for its 10 day run. About half the days were rained out and moved indoors, but the memory of that first night of outdoor music lingers on.
Rich Hope is one of Vancouver’s most talented guitarists. Rich’s music is a bit blues tinged but also comes in a country flavour every once in a while. A little trouble came his way during the filming of his latest music video.
The 2010 Peak Performance Project wrapped up this week with a grand finale showcase at Vancouver’s always beautiful Commodore Ballroom featuring the top three artists in the competition: Vince Vacarro, Said the Whale and Kyprios
Kyprios took home the top honours winning $100,500 to put towards his music career. Said the Whale took second winning $75,000 and Vince Vacarro took home the $50,000 third prize.
The Peak Performance prize is one of the richest music contests of its kind, and in its short history has become a key part of the development of young musical talent in British Columbia.
Philadelphia based Matador Records recording artist Kurt Vile was in town for a gig at the legendary Biltmore Cabaret. Before the show he stopped by Kitsilano’s Zulu Records for a solo acoustic performance. I stopped by to shoot photos and caught video of three songs of Kurt’s set. The full photo set is available on Flickr.
Nadia von Hahn has a new album out called Wait and See What Happens. It’s a lovely collection of seven songs from the Vancouver based singer-songwriter. The album is available on iTunes as well as your local record store of course.
To celebrate the release she threw a party at Vancouver’s Media Club with a few of her friends including Chantel Upshaw, Christopher Arruda and City of Glass. On a damp Tuesday night the Media Club was packed, which was nice to see.
Thrill the World started in 2007 as a relatively small event intended to set the world record for the number of people to simultaneously dance Michael Jackson’s Thriller dance. When Jackson died on June 25, 2009 the event was vaulted into the limelight as a way to honour the memory of a performer who—whatever you think of his…antics…later in life—was the King of Pop at a time when that took real work to achieve, not just a few minutes of internet infamy. Jackson’s legacy is undeniable, and the Thrill the World dances that happen simultaneously world wide are proof.
Vancouver’s event was held on October 23rd, 2010 at the Roundhouse Community Centre and 284 people participated in raising funds for the Vancouver Food Bank. I shot stills during the rehearsals—a complete set is available on Flickr a video of the final dance performance.
Superchunk dropped by Kitsilano’s Zulu Records for a rare acoustic performance yesterday that lasted about a half hour. The band took audience requests and played a few of their well known songs including Driveway to Driveway which you can see above.
Maybe the funniest part was when bassist Laura Ballance claimed to not know any of the songs when they were announced. She promised that she’d know them all at their Biltmore Cabaret performance in the evening.
Justin Townes Earle has resumed his tour, which is good news for fans of the Southern roots music Justin calls himself a preservationist of. At the beginning of September Justin rolled through Vancouver and I caught his show at the Legendary Biltmore Cabaret then headed down to Bellingham to see him the next night at the Wild Buffalo House of Music. I posted a video from the show earlier, but no photos.
Both shows were excellent. I’ve seen Justin every time he’s come to Vancouver—once at the Media Club and twice now at the Biltmore. This was the first time that the Earle name and legacy seemed to have been fully shed. Justin has really come into his own and out of the long shadow of his father (who’s Copperhead Road tour, incidentally, I count as the first live concert I saw.)
I almost skipped this show, after a long and tiring weekend at the Live at Squamish Festival. I’m glad I didn’t: it was the best concert I saw all summer.
Kuba Oms brought his brand of soul infused pop to the final Peak Performance Project Showcase this week performing for an obviously appreciate audience. Kuba is one of this year’s returning artists from the 2009 edition of the project, and his experience from previous years showed.
The complete set of photos of Kuba’s performance is on Flickr in addition to the full set of photos from this year’s Peak Performance Project Showcases.Greg Sczebel at the Peak Performance Showcase
Greg Sczebel has apparently won a Juno award in 2005, which just goes to show how long it’s been since I paid attention to the Juno’s as a tool for finding music to listen too. Greg kicked off the final night of the Peak Performance Project Showcase concerts at the Red Room with a show that included a lightboard, a group of well coordinated dancers in the crowd, a keytar and Hank Insell on bass. Greg’s brand of bouncy happy pop music got the crowd moving nicely.Kyprios at the Peak Performance Project Showcase
Kyprios drew the closing slot for the final concert of the Peak Performance Concert Series last week and he certainly made good use of it. With a sound like nobody else at the showcase concerts—none of the other acts even really had a hint of hip hop to them—the Vancouver based hip-hop artist had the crowd hopping in no time with the help of a backing band that consisted of something like 10 musicians. Despite a friend’s tweet that she “…still refuse[s] to accept that jumping is a dance move” it was pretty hard to deny that the crowd was having a good time. As a performer Kyprios delivered one of the most kinetic shows I’ve seen in a while. This made it hard to shoot with my usual lens from my initial seat right in front of the stage and I switched to a wide angle 20mm lens for a while.
Yukon Blonde and the Wooden Sky played a killer set at Vancouver’s Legendary Biltmore Cabaret to kick off their national tour. Calling the crowd for this show packed doesn’t do justice to the number of people there. The only reason I was able to move was a front row full of Vancouver’s independent musicians who graciously let me move around to get the shots I wanted.
A complete gallery of Wooden Sky photos can be found at Guttersnipe News.
Steph Macpherson opened the fourth of the Peak Performance Project Showcase concerts at Vancouver’s Red Room. The Vancouver based singer/songwriter played to a packed crowd and was obviously moved by the crowd’s response to her performance.
One of the challenges the Peak throws at the artists is a requirement to do a cover song by a Canadian artist. Steph very bravely chose Stan Rogers’ North West Passage and performed a beautiful down tempo rendition that I couldn’t help but sing along too. My sincere apologies to those in the audience near me.
Said the Whale closed out the fourth Peak Performance Project Showcase with a rocking set that hit all the right notes and featured guest appearances from the boys in We Are The City as well as Aidan Knight for the grand finale. Watching these guys live is one of the most entertaining ways I can think of to spend time. Each and every one is a fine musician and has great stage presence (Peter Carruthers on bass stands out in particular—a lot of bassists are relatively stationary and not that interesting to watch play.) They also happen to be about the nicest collection of people you could hope to meet, so there’s that going for them.
At least one of the artists in the competition has fingered Said the Whale to win this thing. If the judges have made up their minds it hasn’t shown yet. There’s still a week left.
The complete set of photos of Said the Whale’s performance is on Flickr in addition to the complete Peak Performance Project photos.
Adaline had a very bad day yesterday, with a car accident at about six in the afternoon. Despite the setback she made it out to play a great set at the Red Room including a cover of Corey Hart’s Sunglasses at Night. Adaline was handing out sunglasses. I scored a pair, but gave them to someone else in the crowd.
Photographs from the third Peak Performance Prize Showcase held on September 23, 2010 at Vancouver’s Red Room.
The Peak Performance Prize is one of the country’s premier music contests and is dedicated to developing artists in British Columbia.Ben Sigston at the Peak Performance Project
Ben Sigston live at the Red Room.
The Peak Performance Prize is one of the country’s premier music contests and is dedicated to developing artists in British Columbia.41st and Home at the Peak Performance Project
41st and Home Live at the Red Room
The Peak Performance Prize is one of the country’s premier music contests and is dedicated to developing artists in British Columbia.Christina Maria at the Peak Performance Project
Christina Maria played at the Peak Performance Project showcase at the Red Room. Shortly after her set began the stage lost all power taking all the microphones. More photos from the evening’s performance are on Flickr.
Photographs from the third Peak Performance Prize Showcase held on September 23, 2010 at Vancouver’s Red Room.
Vancouver’s Yes Nice is one of the contenders in this year’s Peak Performance Project. Their show at the at the second showcase in Vancouver packed the floor and sent waves of energy off the stage that had the crowd in the palm of their hands. The set included a cover of the Lisa Lougheed classic Run With Us, also known as the theme from the Racoons cartoon show.
A more complete set of photos from last night’s Peak Performance Project Showcase in in my Flickr photostream.Aidan Knight at the Peak Performance Project Showcase
I’ve seen Aidan Knight before. He opened for Patrick Watson last year and was a part of the Malahat Revue tour that I saw twice. Jasper is one of the best tracks I’ve heard all year. When it gets in your head it sort of sticks around for a while in a good way. He’s an extremely talented singer/songwriter, and is one of the contenders in this year’s Peak Performance Project.
The second showcase for the project happened last night, and Aidan was the first person to hit the stage. He played a great set with a full band and it was clear that the audience was full of fans.
Towards the end of his set Aidan jumped off the stage and headed down into the audience with his band in tow. One of those moments when you’re just glad you had your camera in your hand and even when the results aren’t quite perfect they capture the moment nicely.
More photos from last night’s Peak Performance Showcase are in my Flickr photostream.
Rex’s Blues is an old song by one of the greatest singer/songwriter’s who’s ever lived, the legendary Townes Van Zandt. The song was well served when Justin Townes Earle covered it at Bellingham, Washington’s Wild Buffalo on Tuesday, September 7th.
This was shot in High Definition so make sure to view it at the best resolution you can.
Shot with a Canon 5D MkII and an EF 100mm Macro lens. The audio was recorded using the onboard microphone, which is somewhat limited.
The members of Said the Whale were at We Are The City’s serf stage performance at the Live at Squamish Festival. They graciously gave me a few moments of their time for some shots on the Loggers Sports Grounds.We Are the City at Live at Squamish
I wanted to use this machinery as a backdrop all day and was lucky to catch Cayne, David and Andy from We Are The City near it.
I shot 1021 photos and will be sorting them out tomorrow. They’ll be up soon at Guttersnipe News.
Live at Squamish is a new festival set in the beautiful mountain town about an hour’s drive north of Vancouver. Sound check was today, which provided an opportunity to check out the site. The Stawamus Stage is nicely framed by the granite massif of the Stawamus Chief in the background, promising a beautiful sight as the sun set for the next two nights. Look for a complete set of photos and review at Guttersnipe after the weekend. With weather that’s suppose to hold up, the festival looks to be a good time.
Presented by the Shore 104 FM Shorefest showcases some of Vancouver’s best music as a prelude to the Celebration of Light Fireworks show in English Bay. Concerts are broadcast live on The Shore. Listening would, of course, require that turn my tuner dial to something other than CBC.
Tonight featured Kendel Carson, Jon and Roy and Dan Mangan. I swore I wasn’t going to go—the crowds on English Bay can be a bit much to deal with—but the prospect of a sunset show featuring Dan was too compelling for my camera.
Naturally, by the time Dan took the stage the crowd was so dense I could hardly move. Travelling by bike? Great decision—next time I’m going to leave it with the Bike Valet and walk (although my shiny new kickstand was most useful in this case.)
I wrote daily wrap ups of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival for Beyond Robson (click to read Day One, Day Two and Day Three on the site) which kept me busy and up late during the festival itself, so I didn’t write much here. A week later, I’m finally getting around to it.
I have a full collection of photos on flickr to browse through. I’ll excerpt some of those here along with some thoughts. Read on.
This was my first Folk Fest, and I was planning on being pretty mobile and taking pictures which means I didn’t rush down to get a coveted blanket position. This worked just fine for me, but I was amazed at the size of the crowd that was already there an hour after the gate opened. If I had been staking out blanket space I would’ve been well back from the stage. Impressive turnout, Vancouver. Nice show of enthusiasm. Now why don’t you go see any other shows? Sigh.
Day One only uses the Main Stage, with a constant rotation of acts. A pattern emerged of having a main act play followed by—and I apologize for the inelegant term here—a small, filler act. These acts keep the music going, which is a lot nicer than 20 minutes of silence while a stage is rejigged.
Day one’s highlights were Shane Koyczan & the Short Story Long, Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba, the Avett Brothers and Calexico whose horn section was the perfect accompaniment as the sun set fire to the crowd. I’d absolutely see Calexico again in the right venue.
Thanks to a twitter comment I caught along the way, I knew there were going to be lanterns at the Folk Fest, but I didn’t know that there was going to be a nightly lantern parade. It’s hard to describe how beautiful these lanterns can be, especially in a starry outdoor sky. They hover in the air like spirits aglow, and the Folk Festival parade serves as a guide to light the way out of Jericho Park. There was a science fiction or space theme to some of this year’s lanterns, naturally making me a very happy boy. The Mr. Spock lantern was built by the talented Jacquie Rolston (who was also dressed in a Princess Leia costume) and the Serenity lantern was made by Jeannie. I got a little obsessed with both of these: sorry ladies!
A night of solid sleep after spending the day in the sun got me back to the festival fairly early the next day, and I caught the first of many workshops. This one was called Troubadours and featured Sarah Harmer who was definitely the star of day two if the opinions of my friends mattered.
I left the Troubadours to the sounds of Four Strong Winds and my ears took me off to the left (this might be the unique bias created by being deaf in my right ear, but I’ll leave it up to you decide.) The Gertrudes were packing the stage with something like nine musicians. A definite find for the weekend, I’ll be at every one of their Vancouver shows when they make it back here.
Other highlights included Playing for Change’s African rhythms which are trying to do nothing less than change the world, Alex Cuba’s latin infused rock and roll, the beautiful voice of PEI’s Catherine McLellan and Matt Epp. Day two was a day for exploring and finding, and the Folk Fest didn’t dissappoint.
I slept in a bit on day three, and got to the festival grounds at about noon. This means I missed a performance by The Gertrudes, but I can live with that.
The highlights of day three were concentrated on Stage Five for me, with the United Steelworkers of Montreal, The Gertrudes, Matt Epp, The Deep Dark Woods and the Malahat Revue all playing on the secondary stage. It was a definite home for the local indie rock crowd: there were a lot of familiar faces in the crowd.
Three days of sun, fun, lovely people and wonderful music in the glorious sunshine of Jericho Beach are no exception, and all things must come to an end. Will I be back next year? Count on it.
I’m taking a little break from the Vancouver Folk Festival to chill out a bit for the morning and have lunch at home before heading down. According to Twitter this means I’m missing some great morning performances, but the afternoon and evening should more than make up for it. My photos from Day One and Two are here on Flickr and I’ll organize a few of them and post them here tomorrow. Between getting them on Flickr and daily articles for Beyond Robson time is scarce.
I need to do a little bike maintenance: one of the pads on my rear brake fell out on the road last night. I may just take a different bike down to the fest today, but I feel compelled to note that it seems like a fundamental design flaw if a disc brake pad is even capable of falling out of its caliper. Changing disc brake pads is a pain, so I tend to delay the change as long as I can. Just a little advice for those of you who do this sort of thing: if your brake pads look like the ones above, it probably means you waited just a little bit too long.
With the Vogue’s stage fill with nine of the finest musicians you’ll find, it’s hard to imagine a better band. Opening the show with the slow burn of Myriad Harbour (whose opening lyric I took a plane I took train / Who cares you always end up in the city seemed like a reference to Neko’s travel problems yesterday) the first song the band played from the brilliant new album Together was the pop masterpiece Crash Years. The show was a nice mix of new material (Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk, My Shepherd) songs and old (My Rights Versus Yours, All The Old Showstoppers) and the normally quiet Vogue crowd was on its feet for the entire time.
There wasn’t much stage banter—this was definitely about the music—but after spotting a male audience member in the balcony with no shirt on, Neko started riffing on references to the infamous incident at the Ryman Auditorium when she removed her shirt, apparently resulting in a performance ban. Joking about her boobs being offensive but this guy’s “man boobs” being OK, she was in fine form with comments like “I can make milk with my fuckin’ boobs” and, perhaps the night’s funniest moment, “I’m gonna go home to my hotel room and just take of my shirt and go ‘look at those useful things.” This last, naturally, led to a reaction from the men of the crowd. So predictable.
The New Pornographer’s Together is the most obvious omission from this year’s Polaris Prize Short List. It’s a brilliant album that reminds me of why I fell in love with this band in the first place, the equal of the much earlier and brilliant Challengers and—frankly—a stronger album than Broken Social Scene’s Forgiveness Rock Record and certainly strong than Tegan & Sara’s newest. It’s not going to matter anyway since the prize is going to go to Dan Mangan’s Nice, Nice, Very Nice but it’s an oversight nonetheless.
This show kicked off what I’m expecting to be a music saturated weekend with the next three days of my life being spent at the Vancouver International Folk Fest. I’ll be back to the real world on Monday.
More photos from the show are on Flickr. I wasn’t able to take my “real” camera, and with assigned seating my mobility was limited. The photos are unashamedly Neko heavy—she was directly in front of me on the stage and the other side was somewhat obstructed. Yeah. That’s my excuse…we’ll go with it.
Headwater calls their blend of roots and folk music tractor jazz. It’s pretty hard not to love these guys. I met a group of people who happened to be taking the ferry one day when Headwater were on the boat. An impromptu practice session started up at the bow of the ferry, and pretty soon the stern was almost completely empty as a crowd gathered. That’s how you make fans.
Last night was the first in a series of weekly shows at Lynn Valley Library and Headwater played for about an hour and a half. It is, after all, their local library.
The Malahat Revue is a collaboration between some of Vancouver’s best independent musicians. Hannah Georgas, Jeremy Fisher, Aidan Knight and Said the Whale are embarking on a tour of British Columbia by bicycle. Jeremy’s toured extensively by bike before, but never with a group this large.
To start the tour the gang gathered at CBC Plaza on Hamilton Street in Vancouver and put on a free show. With summer having finally arrive in Vancouver, it was a glorious day.
Mimosa are a Vancouver based bilingual jazz(ish) band. They played a live set at Yaletown’s David Lam Park as part of the Vancouver International Jazz Festival and were blessed with beautiful, rare sun throughout the performance.
The Western Front is one of my favourite Vancouver arts organizations. Located in Mt. Pleasant, the front providers rehearsal and performance space as well as runs arts education programs for children.
The Front stages events in other locations, and this weekend’s Sonic Playground is happening at Vancouver’s Roundhouse Community Centre. It’s a participatory art exhibit targeting the entire family, and also a whole lot of fun.
I suppose you could argue that it all started here. Of course I owned Yankee Hotel Foxtrot before this, and it got listened to…a lot. This was my first Wilco concert though.
Strictly speaking a Jeff Tweedy solo show, but with Glen providing backing drums that’s two Wilco band members so let’s just call it a Wilco show by proxy at least. Wilco is more than Jeff, but the line between Jeff’s performances and Wilco’s is blurry at the best of times.
It was an amazing show. One of the best I’ve ever seen. I went with a friend—a date, actually—and we had a great time. I didn’t know at the time it was going to be our last date. There was music played that I’d never heard before.
The relationship ended the next day. We still talk, though not often, and when we do she occasionally talks about how great the show was. She remembers California Stars vividly. That song is a gateway drug to Wilco, trust me. I think I spent most of the show standing behind her, with my arms wrapped around her waist. Given that I was probably singing softly into her ear, I’m happy to know she still loves the song.
The rest of the tour was recorded on video and released as Sunken Treasure - Live in the Pacific Northwest a full length concert on DVD. Well worth watching and owning.Jeff Tweedy covering Beyonce's "Single Ladies"
One of the disadvantages of not having a TV is that every once in a while something like this happens and I don’t hear about it. Ah well. At least I can ride out over the tubes here and see it after the fact.
Watching Neko Case take out her aggression on a fan is pretty darn funny. Wait until the end when she demonstrates her business savvy: “Still good. We could resell that.”
Local band Wintermitts held a video launch party at local vegetarian restaurant Cafe Deux Soleils. A good time was had by all.
Michael Geist, Canada’s most recognized expert in online rights, writes thoughtfully about the government’s proposed copyright reforms in The Tyee.
Mr. Clement, Loosen Those Digital Locks!
Unfortunately, the legal protection for digital locks — unquestionably the biggest and most controversial digital copyright issue — is the one area where there is no compromise. Despite a national copyright consultation that soundly rejected inflexible protections for digital locks on CDs, DVDs, e-books, and other devices, the government has caved to U.S. pressure and brought back rules that mirror those found in the United States. These rules limit more than just copying as they can also block Canadian consumers from even using products they have purchased.
Interestingly, on the same topic, I received a response to a note I sent to CBC Radio’s Spark about their coverage of the copyright act which seems to suggest that Tony Clement hasn’t read and certainly doesn’t understand the act that he’s rewriting.
Surprised? Read on.
In an article titled Industry minister admits to breaking copyright law to build iPod collection the National Post quoted Industry Minister Tony Clement as saying this (the emphasis is mine):
“Well you see, you know I think I have to admit it probably runs afoul of the current law because the current law does not allow you to shift formats. So the fact of the matter is I have compact discs that I’ve transferred, I have compact discs from my children or my wife that I’ve transferred onto my iPod. None of that is allowable under the current regime,” Mr. Clement, a music buff who also legally purchases songs from iTunes to build a digital database that now stands at 10,452 songs.
The thing is, current copyright law in Canada explicitly allows the duplication of music for personal use. Section 80 of the current copyright act states:
80. (1) Subject to subsection (2), the act of reproducing all or any substantial part of
(a) a musical work embodied in a sound recording,
(b) a performer’s performance of a musical work embodied in a sound recording, or
© a sound recording in which a musical work, or a performer’s performance of a musical work, is embodied
onto an audio recording medium for the private use of the person who makes the copy does not constitute an infringement of the copyright in the musical work, the performer’s performance or the sound recording.
The act is quite clear in providing the exemption, and provides it only for musical work[s] embodied in a sound recording. No such exemption is provided for video recordings or written works, though various court rulings have clearly extended the fair use doctrine to protect the latter. Photocopying portions of a book or magazine for research purposes has been explicitly recognized as legal by the Supreme Court while photocopying an entire novel for the purposes of reading it would likely be illegal.
Second, CRIA recently argued that the private copying right does not apply to copies made to personal computers. A review of the legislative history of private copying provides little support for this interpretation, however, as the statute was intentionally drafted in a technology neutral fashion such that it could be applied to new copying media, including computer hard drives.
but the senior minister seems to have missed that.
The new proposed copyright legislation—Bill C32—is being sold to the Canadian public as ‘making legal what most people are already doing’ while protecting the rights of content creators and owners. In fact, it does exactly the opposite by making it illegal to break what’s being referred to as “digital locks.” Since there’s no such thing as a digital lock, it’s reasonable to presume that the minister is using this as an analogy to refer to encryption or copy protection in almost any form.
Music CDs are essentially the only digital format that currently ships without any form of encryption. The Compact Disc was, in fact, the first mass produced and mass marketed type of digital media. While software had long been sold with various forms of copy protection ranging from serial numbers to old tricks like inserting known bad sectors into legal copies (illegal copies that didn’t match the known bad sectors would fail) Compact Discs had no such protection. The industry tried to introduce new formats to replace the Compact Disc—Audio DVD and SACD were the most notable attempts—but failed. With little noticeable difference in sound quality, consumers didn’t bite. Every format introduced since (including digital downloads of music) has included a digital lock in the form of content encryption. They’ve all been broken, but the locks are there nonetheless.
Because the copyright act explicitly allows the duplication of music, including format shifting, the new provisions of Bill C-32 give the Canadian Public nothing and, in fact, may take away some rights that aren’t explicitly codified. I keep Joss Whedon’s Firefly and Serenity on my laptop. I own the complete DVD set, but copied them—format shifting as Minister Clement would say—to make them easier to carry, and to serve as a backup copy protecting the original media.
Under the current copyright act this might be legal under the fair use doctrine, although it’s not explicitly legalized because its not a sound recording but a video recording the nobody’s lost anything here. It’s the same principle as copying my music for personal use: I just want to watch what I legally own in another format. What use is my iPhone if it doesn’t have Captain Tightpants and his crew on it?
Under Bill C-32 this would be illegal. The DVDs I copied them from were encrypted with a digital lock, and despite the fact that I bought them legally C-32 restricts my right to do what I did. It would require me to purchase them.
Tony Clement isn’t giving us anything, but he is taking something away. What annoys me most is that he doesn’t even seem to know this. I’d expect a senior minister to at least read and understand a piece of legislation before writing its replacement.
There’s nothing quite so perfect as old school Being There era Wilco to introduce a Blackhawks game.
Toronto altCountry legends The Sadies played Vancouver’s Legendary Biltmore Cabaret last night. The place rocked, my ears are still ringing and for the first time in over two years of regular attendance, the band played two encores (including an awesome cover of Van Morisson’s Gloria.)
Norah Jones seems to have been playing this around—there’s a video of her performing it at Neil Young’s Bridge School Festival as well. There doesn’t seem to be all that much love for this in the Wilco community. I’m a bit on the fence.
This was a great show, and a surprise number for the encore.
This soul infused cover of Wilco’s I Am Trying to Break Your Heart has been making the rounds, and I’ve been rather slow to post it actually. Other things on my mind I suppose.
It’s fairly awesome, and works the refrain from Theologians into the mix as well.
The funny thing is I’m a pretty good candidate for not liking this, but I do. I most often describe I Am Trying to Break Your Heart as a song that reaches deep into my soul and tears it out every time I hear it, and I mean it.
This version turns the song into a pretty entertaining and much lighter romp, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
“My next guest may be the best rock band in the world working today.”
I didn’t say it. Craig Ferguson did. It must be true.
To see an artist in their hometown is always a special thing. Playing at home in front of family and friends artists are at ease…more natural. Performances become more intimate because of the connections to the audience, usually a more established and obviously appreciative fan base.
Dan Mangan lives in Vancouver, and last night he played one of Vancouver’s premiere venues—the Vogue Theatre. Calling the night electric doesn’t do it justice. From the moment Dan took the stage, it was obvious that he was right where he belonged.
Opening with the uptempo Sold from last year’s Nice, Nice, Very Nice got the crowd started quite nicely. A more straightforward and rocking song than much of the material from the album, it was followed closely by Road Regrets, a song which has ended forever the debate over the age old question “What’s the best rock and roll road trip song?”
Most of Nice, Nice, Very Nice was played throughout the night, with Dan playing the occasional number solo on stage. About half way through the show he was joined on stage by Ivan E. Coyote who told a love story—her version of it at least—interspersed with verses from Pine for the Cedars. I saw Dan and Ivan at the Anza Club last year and it was one of the most interesting live events I’d attended. The crowd at the Vogue was more raucous than that intimate show, but no less appreciative.
Dan also played two new songs during the night: one inspired by travels through the small and dwindling towns of North Ontario which seems likely to be titled Oh Fortune; the other I can’t recall.
As the night went on and the clock approached the curfew time of 11:00, Dan left the stage and came down into the audience. Initially joined—tentatively, it should be noted—by two younger girls he was quickly surrounded and overwhelmed by an adoring fan base that rushed the stage (something I’ve never seen happen at many Vogue shows.) Playing from the audience floor for almost an entire number, Dan clambered back on stage at last. I half expected him to do a bit of Peter Gabriel Lay Your Hands on Me style crowd surfing.
Reliable crowd pleaser Robots followed, with the crowd staying at the foot of the stage for the inevitable sing-along chorus of “Robots need love too” , ending the first part of the show at about 10:30. An encore followed, naturally, including the quieter and more contemplative So Much for Everyone from Dan’s first full length album Postcards and Daydreaming. Accompanied by the crowd—dubbed by Dan as the Granville Street Choir—the night came to a quieter close, followed by another round of raucous applause until the house lights went up.
Seeing an artist in their hometown is always special. When it’s an artist with the immense talent that Dan Mangan has, it’s not just special—it’s magic.
A larger selection of photos from the show is on Flickr.
I was kind of hoping to see Neko throwing some kicks here, but I guess you can’t have everything. An awesome new album will have to do. This was apparently filmed in a Steveston dojo.
War was written by Bob Marley, immortalized by Sinead and notoriously hard to find as this performance has been edited out of all rebroadcasts and official DVD versions of the show the silence at the end of this clip speaks volumes about the effect that music can have on the world. The fact that it’s been edited out says volumes about the priorities of the television industry.
Serena Ryder’s distinctive and raspy voice has rendered The Sisters of Mercy unlistenable to me when sung by virtually any other artist (one tribute albums’ misguided assignment of this song to Sting and the Chieftans can only be described as horrific.) Her cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Racing in the Street is as beautiful a rendition of that song as any. Serena’s show at the Vancouver Livecity Downtown venue for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics was as fine a way to go out as I can imagine. With her grandmother in the audience it was a very fun night. An immense talent from just outside the little town of Peterborough, Ontario.
Video from what seems likely to be one of the most memorable nights of live music of 2010.
One of the best films I’ve seen in quite some time, with music curated by the always amazing T. Bone Burnett
CBC Radio 3’s top 103 songs of 2009 are now available as a playlist. It’s as reasonable a list as anything I could have come up with. I might have bumped Amy Millan up a bit for personal reasons. I think Young Galaxy should probably have another song on the list, and Metric’s Gimme Sympathy is a bit of a predictable choice for number one (though the acoustic version Emily Haines performed at the Polaris Music Prize Gala was beautiful.)
Onwards and upwards to 2010.
I’ve seen a lot of live shows this year. Certainly more than any other year in my life, and enough to confidently say that anybody who’s seen more than I have is either in the business or doesn’t have to get out of bed to get into work at 7 a.m. five days a week.
Either way…whatever. This isn’t a contest. Some notes on particular standouts.
Coming hot on the heels of the release of Dan’s astonishing album, this collaborative show with Ivan (one of my favourite storytellers) and two people I’d never heard of seemed like a unique event. The funny thing is, I almost didn’t go…but I did, and it’s one of the most interesting live shows I’ve seen in a while.
Not strictly a concert the artists joined each other on stage, fading to stage left and stage right as the moment demanded. Watching these four together made for memorable night of entertainment.
I’d like to see something similar again, though I suspect we won’t see Dan in that small a room in Vancouver anytime again. If you missed this, you missed a great night.
When the summer concert schedule for Wilco didn’t include a trip to Vancouver, I decided not to take it personally. A show was scheduled in Jacksonville, Oregon—only 9 hours straight driving on I-5! Jacksonville was close to Crater Lake National Park so I decided to spend a few days there before heading to Jacksonville for the show.
Wilco rarely disappoints, and coming on the night of the Wilco’s release the show was no exception. At an absolutely beautiful venue on an absolutely beautiful warm summer evening, songs like Remember the Mountain Bed, Spiders, Bull Black Nova and Poor Places soared into the air. The band played right through to the cutoff time for the venue, and the crowd loved every minute of it.
If there’s one thing better than Neko in the studio, it’s Neko live. Vogue is a beautiful venue, and sitting second row centre didn’t hurt.
With a great selection of animations on the backdrop, and plenty of witty stage banter between Neko and Kelly Hogan (including a shout out to Captain Caveman) the audience laughed and cried and asked for more. Lady Pilot was a great moment, and the home made music box used in Middle Cyclone sounded absolutely gorgeous.
Don’t make me choose which was the better show. The Vancouver show was a Tuesday night, and with the U2 concert in town…well, you could have picked a better night. I was lucky to be in Toronto the night they played there.
Great show with Catherine McCandless’s beautiful voice on display. I chatted with her at both shows.
I had more fun at the Horseshoe: it was a great crowd, and I met a few nice folks. Yes, they do exist in Toronto.
Patrick Watson won the 2007 Polaris Prize and then proceeded to follow a first album with an amazing second one. Seeing the band play live was like watching a kid in a playground. Saying Patrick has stage presence doesn’t even being to do it justice.
With a backing band that included one cellist and three viola players, the music was stunning. Highlight of the show? Patrick sitting at a piano, alone on stage and killing every light in the house. Total darkness with just one piano and voice to cut through it. Simply amazing.
The Biltmore is like my home away from home these days, and the Amy Millan show there was one of the highlights of my year for reasons that go well beyond a fun performance that included an audience member getting up on stage to sing backing vocals (and doing a very fine job.)
The opening act was Bahamas, and he ended his set with a fine cover of Purple Rain during which the entire audience sang the chorus. Two weeks earlier I heard Immaculate Machine cover The Boys are Back in Town on the same stage. I’m still not sure which I enjoyed more. Do I have to choose?
There’s other reasons this was a great show for me, but they’ve got nothing to do with the show. It was a magic night though.
With the end of the year approaching, lists are everywhere. It seems rather silly for me to buck this rather benign trend, so some thoughts about a year in music.
Having gotten rid of my television completely early this year, I’ve had a year that’s been fairly saturated in music.
Picking a Best album can be a fool’s game. Is there ever a single best? Is one album so much better than others that it can really be singled out from the crowd? This list is far from a complete list of everything I liked this year, but it’s a good start.
If there was this year, for me, it would probably be Dan Mangan’s Nice, Nice, Very Nice. Coming in a year which had Neko Case releasing Middle Cyclone and Wilco’s Wilco (the Album) this is no faint praise. Dan’s album has a depth that’s just amazing, and it’s been on heavy repeat for me since late August when I discovered it. I first heard Dan being interviewed by Stephen Quinn on CBC on one of those extremely rare summer days when I had driven to work in the last week of August. I was immediately blown away, and bought the album as soon as I got home. Sadly, I missed the album launch that weekend at The Cultch on my birthday.
Fair Verona is quite possibly my favourite song on the album. It’s quirky timings lack the radio friendliness of Road Regrets and the crowd pleasing hand clapping of Robots but it’s a song that lingers in the mind. Basket is another, and after hearing Dan play it live it’s firmly in the category of music that reaches deep into me in a very personal way.
It’s an amazing album, and if Dan doens’t win the Polaris Music Prize next year…well, buy whatever does. It’s hard to imagine an album of this depth.
There’s no doubt that the fact that Dan is new to me is a huge part of the appeal, but an album this good would have blown me away regardless. If I do have to pick a single best of Nice, Nice, Very Nice is probably it.
A new Wilco album is always a treat and this year’s was no exception. Jeff Tweedy claims to be happier than he has been in years and it shows—the album is cheerful and upbeat when compared to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Summerteeth, and A Ghost is Born. If there’s an album this year that defies the notion that great art comes from sadness, this is it.
Standout tracks include One Wing, Bull Black Nova and I’ll Fight.
Wilco also released Ashes of American Flags on DVD and (as they have always done) offered the DVD’s music content for download. If there’s anything better than Wilco in the studio it’s Wilco live and Ashes of American Flags doesn’t disappoint. From the chimes of the opening track to the rediscovered vocal of It’s Just That Simple from A.M. this was the album that I listened to the most through late spring and beginning of the summer.
It seems as if Neko can do no wrong: from the very early Canadian Amp through Blacklisted and all the way to Middle Cyclone her albums are so consistently good it’s hard to imagine her ever putting out a bad one.
Middle Cyclone, largely produced on her farm in Vermont, has been called the only animal rights album that doesn’t suck. Neko’s lyrics are full of the kind of wry humour that comes from the dark places in your heart.
Neko called Don’t Forget Me the saddest song ever the first time I heard her sing it, and it’s hard to disagree with that. On the album the much discussed piano orchestra she rustled up from Craigslist gives the song a big, rich sound.
She’s introduced the incredibly fun People Got a Lot of Nerve this way:
“Picture elephants, and killer whales, in a jeep…on a killing spree. They’re four wheelin’, they got rifles, let’s do it.”
and Middle Cyclone was recorded with a home made music box as the main instrument and it’s rough analog sound is just beautiful.
Topping it all off, the album ends with 31 minutes of frogs and crickets recorded on the farm. In an interview Neko said that it was actually about four minutes that was looped back on itself because that was about as long as she could stand still before her cords started making that “whup whup whup” sound. I wish I could find that interview, but you’ll have to take my word for it.
CBC radio’s Q has been the single best thing to happen to the Canadian arts & culture scene in the last year, and it’s how I found Amy Millan. On the way home from Dan Mangan’s show at the Port Moody Festival of the Arts I was listening, and Jian Ghomeshi was interviewing Amy. Struck by the interview, I thought I’d go see her live at the Biltmore. It turned out to be a great and memorable night out.
After the show I bought the album—with a photo of an elephant on the cover, it was almost mandatory for me—and its gradually worked its way into my frequent listening over the past month or so. Beautiful and introspective, its spare roots aesthetic has endless appeal. Between Amy and seeing Jason Collett I may yet become a Broken Social Scene fan (though I feel disloyal to Vancouver’s local supergroup The New Pornographers when I say that.)
Over at NPR listeners (including this one) have chosen their favourite albums and songs of 2009. I’ve got no major quibbles with the list, judged in abstract anyway. I never take the order of these lists too literally (aside from obvious large gaps of the “WTF do you mean Britney Spears ranks 10 higher than Wilco!” sort.) At least three of the top ten are on my list of favourite things from this year.
Most of what they missed is, frankly, Canadian and as such not entirely surprising. NPR listeners don’t get the Canadian content that CBC listeners do. It’s what makes CBC feel like home for me.
I’ll write more later.
Well worth watching, even if only to see Jian grooving along to a beautiful performance of Basket.
Having seen Young Galaxy in Vancouver about a month ago, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see them again at Toronto’s Legendary Horseshoe Tavern. Great bands (including the opening act Paper Lions from Prince Edward Island), a mixing board bigger than anything I’ve seen in Vancouver outside a major venue, properly poured Guinness and a bartender with the best pompadour this side of Elvis (Presley, not Costello.)
There’s a reason they call this place legendary.
It’s been corrected, the the page for the Vancouver Cultural Olympiad’s Feist concert had a great little typo in it.
Of course it’s hard to catch all of those, sometimes. We all make them, but a headline? A single word headline at that?
At least they got it right in the body copy.
Robots is Dan Mangan’s crowd pleasing concert finale sing along, and probably the most fun song on the phenomenal Nice, Nice, Very Nice album released earlier this year. Watching Dan act like an early 80s tough guy in the video is pretty funny, considering his well deserved reputation as the one of the nicest guys in the Vancouver music scene. Great video. Part of me wishes I had the afro.U2's Live Webcast from The Rose Bowl
From a technical perspective my first reaction to U2’s live webcast from the Rose Bowl was that the video quality was astonishing, that I got an instant connection despite the fact that I’m only catching the last half hour of the event (and that as an afterthought) and the sheer number of people who must already be watching.
We’ve come a long way the first webcast I put up in 1997.
None of that matters as soon as I hear the Edge’s jangly electric guitar at the opening of Where the Streets Have No Name.
Bad is their best song, but that distinctive guitar opening gives Where the Streets Have No Name a unique place in the history of rock and roll.
I don’t listen to U2 that often these days. There was certainly a time when I did, but that time ended around 1995. It’s been a while. Whenever I’m in the California desert though, The Joshua Tree inevitably follows. It was the soundtrack of the first trip, and filled my headphones on a glorious long motorcycle ride in 2006 for who knows how many miles.
Despite what the pirates of Silicon Valley want you to believe, significant events are never about the technology. The technology is just a tool. Tonight was a significant event, and as in all such cases its significance will only become clear with time.
In the meantime, just enjoy.
The Unforgettable Fire is, to my mind, the best U2 album in an impressive catalogue. The last few albums haven’t been that interesting but there’s little doubt that the U2 of the 1980s into the mid-1990s was an incredibly powerful and innovative force in rock and roll. The Joshua Tree may be more popular, but The Unforgettable Fire set the stage for that work.
Bad is the best rock and roll song of the 1980s. It provided a backbone for every concert, and it was a platform into which U2 wove an endless number of other influences and improvisation. When I last saw them at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto Bono riffed on the CNE ferris wheel that towered over the stadium in the middle of Bad. It was a magic moment.
Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois talk to Pitchfork about the making of an album that’s now 25 years old but sounds as fresh as it ever did.
At least he didn’t mention me by name.
What Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy thinks about what you think about him
By David Wolinsky October 14, 2009
Rather than discussing the band’s newest album and direction, Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy wanted to talk about people’s “willingness to share opinions before they’re even formed,” so before the band’s show Sunday and Monday at the UIC Pavilion, The A.V. Club scoured the Internet for some notable anonymous comments to discuss.
Ok. Ok. I am, at this point, pretty much taking back anything bad I might have said about the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. I’m sorry. I apologize. I take it all back.
Wilco are playing a free show in Vancouver on February 13th, 2010 as part of the Winter Olympics, and I couldn’t be more excited.
I’m hoping for Dan Mangan as an opening act. It would make for quite an evening for me. Most likely quite a cold, damp, rainy night…but quite a night nonetheless.
A nice interview with Jeff Tweedy in the Austin Chronicle last week covers quite a bit of territory not usually talked about in more mainstream publications.
When the time comes for my personal day or reckoning—when the reaper is at my door just waiting for that last breath of air to come through my lips, and I’m looking back on my life and it’s highlights the weekend past is going to, without a shadow of a doubt, make the list of Top 10 Weekends Ever. Along with that first taste of freedom at the end of high school (marking the beginning of that liminal period between youth and full-fledged adulthood) and a spectacular birthday weekend sitting on the shore of Vancouver Island’s Long Beach this weekend will be there.
The weather was sunny and warm and glorious—rare for Vancouver at this time of year. Toronto was warmer, and some will point that out; to these naysayers I have only to say “Pacific Ocean.” I’ll take our slightly lower temperatures with that any day. This weekend—the first after Labour Day—marks the closing of Kitsilano Pool so it was time to get outside.
So, without further ado, from Friday to Sunday night a partial but reasonably complete list of what makes this weekend epic.
Friday night post work swim at Kits Pool; dinner at Go Fish; sitting outside at Stanley Park listening to the Skydiggers sing I Will Give You Everything; Saturday morning errand running at Granville Island; Saturday evening back to the Skydiggers at Stanley Park; Neil Young at Ambleside Beach; Immaculate Machine at the Biltmore Cabaret (including an awesome rendition of The Boys are Back in Town they claimed to have learned the night before at a Chilliwack karaoke bar); Sunday morning breakfast on the patio at Honey’s Doughnuts in Deep Cove; an afternoon hanging out with the always awesome Elizabeth & Benjamin Rogers (and their mother); a final, 12 lap, strong swim at Kits Pool with the sun’s rays getting longer with each lap; dinner at Moderne Burger.
It really doesn’t get much better than that. At the end of that last leisurely lap heading east in Kitsilano Pool I paused, and the thought crossed my mind that perhaps—just perhaps—-if all of us just decided to never get out of that pool…to just stay in forever we could, through shear force of will, make this summer last forever.
Out I crawled though, and up the hill to Moderne Burger. There may be another weekend like this one, but I suspect it won’t be for about another 12 months or so.
I’m a bit late to the Dan Mangan bandwagon, but I’m making up for it in enthusiasm. It’s hardly a surprise that this year’s been a Wilco and Neko year for me—new albums from both, plus my little road trip to Oregon have conspired to make it so—but Dan just knocked me flat when I first heard him on CBC Radio One. The funny thing is it was in my car, on one of these exceedingly rare days that I drove to work. The album’s brilliant—I just paused Bob Dylan to watch the video above. Buy it. You won’t regret it.
Chuck Klosterman’s review of today’s Beatles reissues makes for a pretty funny read.
by Chuck Klosterman, September 8, 2009
Like most people, I was initially confused by EMI’s decision to release remastered versions of all 13 albums by the Liverpool pop group Beatles, a 1960s band so obscure that their music is not even available on iTunes.
The new Wilco album dropped last week on June 30th, 2009 and I was in quaint little Jacksonville, Oregon for an outdoor show by the band on the same day. A great show, and a spectacular venue.
Meanwhile Jeff Tweedy was interviewed in the New York Times and saved my favourite answer for the last question:
How would you describe your singing voice, in general?
Somewhere between Gordon Lightfoot and a tea kettle. I would not get past the first round of “American Idol.”
The comparison is apt, and I just found my old Yankee Hotel Foxtrot tape in my car and noticed: A-side is Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, B-side is Gordon Lightfoot (who I also saw earlier this year for the first, and perhaps last time given his age.)
3:47 seconds in, and history is made.
Human stories like this are a reminder of the endless creativity of human beings, and why the New York Times is the world’s best local paper. You can be guaranteed that if someone tried this in Vancouver, they’d be shut down and probably arrested on the second night.
‘West Side Story’ Amid the Laundry
By PENELOPE GREEN for The New York Times, Published: June 24, 2009
JUST after 9 p.m. on June 17, the third installment of the High Line Park Renegade Cabaret was held on Patty Heffley’s fourth-floor fire escape. There were colored lanterns, and a festive array of undergarments hung from the railings.
Ms. Heffley, 55, a former punk rock photographer, had staged a laundry “installation,” as she put it, to bolster the live performance she was hosting. Elizabeth Soychak, a jazz singer and professional organizer who gives her age as “permanently 39,” wore a 1950s moss green chiffon dress and waited while Ms. Heffley, in black, introduced her.
“This is in response to 31 years of obscurity,” Ms. Heffley announced from the fire escape. “Now, every day there are thousands of people looking in my window. We’re not here to celebrate, we’re here to exploit. Welcome to the Renegade Cabaret.” Then Ms. Soychak launched into an a cappella rendition of Johnny Mercer’s “Early Autumn.”
His jaw’s been broken
His bandage is wrapped too tight
His fangs have been pulled
And I really want to see you tonight
Jay Bennett was famously ejected from Wilco shortly after the completion of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. The events of that recording were filmed in I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, which remains one of the finest musical documentaries ever filmed.
Jay was also an immensely talented musician. His last solo album was called whatever happened i apologize was released on Rock Proper as a free download. It was deeply personal, and quite wonderful to listen too. I was hoping for a solo tour.
I finally managed to get a copy of Ashes of American Flags. The only store in Bellingham to have copies had sold out before I got down there, and for some strange reason Zulu Records didn’t get any in on the April 28, 2009 release date. Red Cat Records came to my rescue, though I paid a pretty penny for it.
It was, of course, worth every penny, and I prefer to shop at those two stores whenever I can.
The film is excellent, documenting three separate concerts and the journey through an America that, at the time, struck the band as disappearing. Filmed two summers ago, it’s not hard to imagine how the same America would look today.
Wilco released a free song on May 1st on their web site. It’s a cover of Woody Guthrie’s The Jolly Banker. May 1st is May Day, a day associated with protest, with working people around the world, with the common person. Ashes of American Flags shows a band that hasn’t lost touch with itself yet, and one that believes that music is still a force for change in sugar coated pop flavoured world. Watch it.
I’m down on my hands and knees
Every time the doorbell rings
I shake like a toothache
When I hear myself sing
All my lies are only wishes
I know I would die if I could come back new
Probably my favourite blog is Aquarium Drunkard which just feels more…blog like than Paste Magazine or the newly updated No Depression. It has more personality, while the others have a publication kind of feel to them.
I blame the Guinness.
Apparently, I should have been riding my bike around the city because that’s what David Byrne was doing.
The Boomtown Rats popped into my head today, which doesn’t happen that often. A performance from the Secret Policeman’s Ball that I saw a few years ago was just beautiful. Wait for the pause after the reverb at 2:46.
Neko Case makes the cover of this month’s Paste Magazine suggesting that anticipation of her new album is high. The new single was released this week, and the album is due on March 3rd as is the new release from a band many have heard of named U2.
Frankly, I’m more excited about Neko…iTunes doesn’t have it for pre-release purchase yet, but they will, damn it, they will.
According to Paste Neko’s bought a farm property near Montpellier, Vermont. I love New England, and for years I’ve said that New Hampshire was my favourite state, because I liked the mountains better than in Vermont. Vermont’s Green Mountains are rolling and tree covered while New Hampshire’s White Mountains are rougher and sharper, and include Mt. Washington, an impressive peak.
Vermont has Neko now, and I think my loyalty might have shifted.
Neko’s new single. Album is due March 3rd, 2009.
Ok, wasn’t Mats Sundin supposed to save the Canucks? On another note, did anybody publish a story today that didn’t include a superfluous reference to Barak Obama’s inauguration?
Canucks lose to Sharks in last-minute heartbreaker
BY BRAD ZIEMER, VANCOUVER SUNJANUARY 20, 2009
SAN JOSE — On the day the United States and its new president began what Americans hope will be a journey of renewal, the Vancouver Canucks continued down that bumpy road to ruin.
The Canucks played the San Jose Sharks extremely tough Tuesday night, but surrendered the tying goal with 40 seconds left in the third period and then lost…
Ottawa’s Kathleen Edwards dedicated her song Copied Keys to Sundin on Friday night. The opening line:
This is not my town and it will never be
She’s a funny lady.
“At the end, when you’re holding the pedal down, let’s let it roll so we get some extra frogs.”
The 2009 Pemberton Festival has been cancelled which can’t come as a surprise to anyone. Pemberton seemed like fun, and I considered going but I could smell those traffic problems—and my accompanying frustration—coming from a mile away (not to mention the other logistical challenges.) 40,000 people taking a two lane highway to a village with a population barely over 2,000 was a sure recipe for failure.
Weekend festivals in remote locations that place prohibitive restrictions on what you’re allowed to bring in have a way of not going very well too. Attendees weren’t even able to bring bottled water in from outside: everything had to be bought on site.
Still, a great concept poorly executed. We’ll see if it comes back for 2010, as part of British Columbia’s post-Olympic hangover.
Michelle Pfeiffer did a decent job of trying, but didn’t manage to outdo Earth’s role at Catwoman in the 1960s Batman TV show. She did leave a long tale, as the modern language of business would describe it.
Eartha’s just the latest in series of 60s era Motown stars to pass away, and she won’t be the last. Isaac Hayes died earlier this year, Smokey Robinson is 68, and others are aging right along with him. Whatever happens, the music will live on.
Playing in a limited engagement at the Vancouver International Film Centre, the film Youssou N’Dour: Retour a Gorée is well worth seeing. It shows one of the world’s greatest singers in his homeland, and a view of the history of the legacy of colonialism that is educational.
Any day that includes a walk around Lynn Canyon is almost perfect by definition. Toss is a two year old boy’s first trip to the park and an ending that includes singing Like a Rolling Stone while he falls asleep, and perfect seems like the best way to describe it.
That’s what I said last night when four of us were out for dinner with a consultant for work. We were talking about travel, and airports, and he mentioned Tulsa. Tulsa doesn’t come up that often in conversation at work (or, frankly, at all) and that’s a line from a Cowboy Junkies song that’s been on my frequent playlist lately. Specifically, the version of 200 More Miles from the Trinity Revisited album with haunting vocals by Ryan Adams
The response from the visiting consultant was instant. “Don’t go quoting country music lyrics to me young man.”
I laughed long and hard, and the thing is…a prediction from a long long time ago might be finally and fully true.
The first concert I ever saw was Steve Earle. It was his Copperhead Road tour, and that album was largely considered to be a rock album but quite a bit of it was heavily influenced by Steve’s country and roots heritage.
A while ago, I met a friend who described her taste in music as “Anything with a Twang” and I sort of adopted it for myself as a description. I bought my first (and only) iPod shortly after that, and that became my first playlist. Anything with a Twang.
The thing is, the twang kept growing. It’s by far the longest list I have, and pretty much all of it has some country in it. There’s a line I don’t cross, although I can’t quite define it. Willie Nelson lives just a bit over that line (but what a killer songwriter.) Dwight Yoakam? Shania Twain? Tim McGraw? Those folks aren’t so much over the line as they’ve obliterated the line and drawn a whole new one that I can’t even see from where I am.
No matter how much I deny it, most people consider a great deal of the music I listen to is country. My taste is broad, and it’s far from all I listen to but it’s what I listen to it most of the time.
As for that prediction? Right back after I went to see that Steve Earle concert, my Uncle Gerry—a man who’s appreciate for Willie Nelson is much greater than mine, and for whom country music has always been a comfortable home—told me that I’d wind up listening to country eventually. Everyone did, he said.
Gerry always was a pretty smart guy, and I’m pretty happy to report that he’s right.
Atlanta’s a distant memory
Montgomery a recent birth
And Tulsa burns on the desert floor
Like a signal fire
I got Willie on the radio
A dozen things on my mind
And number one is fleshing out
These dreams of mine
I’ve got 200 more miles of rain asphalt in line
Before I sleep
But there’ll be no warm sheets or welcoming arms
To fall into tonight
In Nashville there is a lighter
In a case for all to see
It speaks of dreams and heartaches
And in the corner stands a guitar and
Lonesome words scrawled in a drunken hand
I don’t travel past, travel hard before
And I’m beginning to understand
That I’ve got 200 more miles of rain asphalt and light
Before I sleep
But there’ll be no warm sheets or welcoming arms
To fall into tonight
They say that I am crazy
My life wasting on this road
That time will find my dreams
Scared or dead and cold
But I heard there is a light
Drawing me to reach an end
And when I reach there, Ill turn back
And you and I can begin again
Ive got 200 more miles of rain asphalt in line
Before I sleep
But therell be no warm sheets or welcoming arms
To fall into tonight
Ive got 200 more miles of rain asphalt in line
Before I sleep
But I wouldnt trade all your golden tomorrows
For one hour of this night
Atlantas a distant memory
Montgomery a recent birth
And Tulsa burns on the desert floor
Like a signal fire
With that kind of authority (Neko is, without a doubt, the modern Queen of the Maudlin Lyric) behind it, how can you go wrong?
Don’t Forget Me by Harry Nilsson
In the wintertime keep your feet warm
But keep your clothes on and don’t forget me
Keep the memories
But keep your powder dry too
In the summer by the poolside
While the fireflies are all around you
All miss you when I’m lonely
I’ll miss the alimony too
Don’t forget me - don’t forget me
Take it easy if only for a little while
You know I think about you
Let me know you think about me too
And when we’re older and full of cancer
It doesn’t matter, come on get happy
‘Cause nothing lasts forever
But I will always love you
Don’t forget me, please don’t forget me
Make it easy if just for a little while
You know I think about you
Let me know you think about me too
If I had a million dollars
I’d buy you some cocaine
Say it ain’t so, Steven. Say it ain’t so. Not that I’m a fan, but these guys have always maintained a pretty good image.
Barenaked Ladies singer faces drug charge in N.Y.
Last Updated: Tuesday, July 15, 2008 | 8:00 PM ET
The lead singer of the Canadian band Barenaked Ladies has been charged with drug possession in upstate New York.
Steven Page, lead singer of Barenaked Ladies, has reportedly been arrested on drug charges in New York. (CBC)
Steven Page, along with two women, were arrested after police allegedly found cocaine and marijuana in a Fayetteville, N.Y., apartment, according to a Syracuse-area radio station’s website, 9WSYR.com.
2:36 seconds into the video, the girl wearing the number 32 with her sleeves rolled up.
Reality TV never ceases to amaze me with its strangeness, although I’m surprised this idea came out of the United States.
Rock stars courted for curling reality show
Bon Jovi, Springsteen, said to be closet curlers, courted for NBC series that could lead to Olympics
Feb 11, 2008 04:30 AM
CHRIS ZELKOVICH , SPORTS MEDIA COLUMNIST
Move over American Idol and make room for Rockstar Curling, a reality television show that may indeed have a rock-star connection.
NBC confirmed yesterday it has an exclusive option to air a 10-episode sports reality show that will give the winners a shot at competing in the U.S. championships and even going to the 2010 Olympics.
And one aspect that would make this a draw to the button for NBC is a plan to land closet curlers Bruce Springsteen or Jon Bon Jovi as part of the show, assuming the rockers aren’t worried what being connected to a sport with brooms might do to their images.
Oscar Peterson, 82, Jazz’s Piano Virtuoso, Dies
By RICHARD SEVERO
Published: December 25, 2007
Oscar Peterson, whose dazzling piano playing made him one of the most popular jazz artists in history, died on Sunday night at his home in Mississauga, Ontario, outside Toronto. He was 82.
The cause was kidney failure, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported. Mr. Peterson had performed publicly for a time even after a stroke he suffered in 1993 compromised movement in his left hand.
It’s astonishing to realize that The Joshua Tree was released 20 years ago: I have friends that weren’t born when the album was released. I last spent a lot of time listening to the album on a desert motorcycle ride. Brilliant.
Wave of Sorrow
Heat haze rising
On hell’s own hill
You wake up this morning
It took an act of will
You walk through the night
To get here today
To bring your children
To give them away
Oh… oh this cruel sun
Is daylight never done
Cruelty just begun
To make a shadow of everyone
And if the rain came
And if the rain came now
Souls bent over without a breeze
Blankets on burning trees
I’m sick without disease
Nobility on it’s knees
And if the rain came
And if the rain came now
Would it wash us all away
On a wave of sorrow
On a wave of sorrow
Where now the holy cities?
Where are the ancient holy scrolls?
Where now Emperor Menelek?
And the Queen of Sheba’s gold
You my bride, you wear her crown
And on your finger precious stones
Has every good thing now been sold
Son, a shepherd boy, now king
What wisdom can you bring?
What lyric would you sing?
Where is the music of the Seraphim?
And if the rain came
And if the rain came now
Would it wash us all away
On a wave of sorrow
A wave of sorrow
Blessed are the meek who scratch in the dirt
For they shall inherit what’s left of the earth
Blessed are the kings who’ve left their thrones
They are buried in this valley of dry bones
Blessed all of you with an empty heart
For you got nothing from which you cannot part
Blessed is the ego
It’s all we got this hour
Blessed is the voice that speaks truth to power
Blessed is the sex worker who sold her body tonight
She used what she got
To save her children’s life
Blessed are you, the deaf who cannot hear a scream
Blessed are the stupid who can dream
Blessed are the tin canned cardboard slums
Blessed is the spirit that overcomes
It gives me little hope for the future to see that Britney’s newest album, the recipient of universally poor reviews, shot to number one of the iTunes Music Charts.
…most decided against paying, with only 2 out of 5 people paying an average of $6 for the album, “In Rainbows.” Here are the statistics, from a news release:
Worldwide U.S. Non-U.S. Paid Downloads: 38% 40% 36% Free Downloads: 62% 60% 64%
“That’s a large group that can’t be ignored and its time to come up with new business models to serve the freeloader market,” Fred Wilson, managing director of Union Square Ventures in New York, told Canada’s Financial Post.
I fall into the category of downloaded and didn’t pay. I also fall into the category of being fairly ambivalent towards Radiohead: I wouldn’t have bought the album anyway. (I don’t know why…I liked the first album, and recognize the talent…it just doesn’t resonate with me. Maybe not enough twang.)
It’s worth pointing out though that this experiment doesn’t mean much to the future of the music industry: Radiohead’s reputation was built by the old music industry, by a record label that actively and aggressively promoted them. The band is well established.
For bands of the future, the first hit is going to be the hardest one to find, not the seventh.
Whoever said music couldn’t change history never heard a man with a horn.
Miles Davis always had a reputation for being more abrasive. Louis Armstrong picked his moments more carefully.
With the crowd clapping in time to the beat, the band slowly began to get quiet. “We’re going to drop out now,” Jeff Tweedy said, “but you have to keep doing this. Keep doing it without getting faster, or slower.
Forever. Like your heartbeat.”
And the band just slowly disappeared, with only the sound of thousands of hands clapping to fill the night sky.
After a day where it rained off and all all day, the sky stayed dry for the night. Great music, a great venue and great company made for a perfect night for a summer that’s not over yet but has an end in sight. The set list in online here
For months now, I’ve been waiting for Wilco to head back to Vancouver. Jeff Tweedy was here over a year ago and since then nothing. The new album came and went with no concert announcement, leaving me seriously considering flying to Toronto to see the June 30th show at Massey Hall, even though I’ve never been a big fan of that venue (the Hall…and maybe the city too.)
A preliminary announcement was made of an August 20th date at the Orpheum Theatre which was exciting, except for the fact that I’m really a big fan of the general admission concert…the open space in which to move around and listen to music. It’s much better than sitting in some randomly assigned seat.
Pre-sales start for most Canadian shows today so I checked the site only to discover that the show’s been relocated from the Orpheum to the Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park.
Now if I’m a big fan of the general admission concerts I think that outdoor concerts are the absolute ultimate way to listen to live music. There’s nothing quite like sitting on some random patch of land with music wafting over you. The last outdoor concert I went to ended with The Tragically Hip singing Wheat Kings into the warm air of an Ontario night; those last few bars lingered in the air for almost a decade, it seems.
So now I’m very excited about the prospect of this show and I can guarantee one thing: it’s not going to rain in Vancouver on August 20th, 2007. It just won’t happen.
Sam the Record Man was my home away from home for many years. I spent hours pouring through the stacks there and everything from Wagner to U2 to Miles Davis was bought there for a long time. I hardly bothered going anywhere else.
Toronto’s Sam the Record Man closing
Globe and Mail Update
May 29, 2007 at 8:51 PM EDT
Toronto — Sam the Record Man, a Yonge Street staple since 1961 and once Canada’s top music retailer, will be closing its doors for good next month.
Citing ubiquitous music downloads, Jason and Bobby Sniderman, the sons of Sam Sniderman and present owners of the flagship Toronto store, said rarely does a day go by without a story about declining CD sales.
“We are making a responsible decision in recognizing the status of the record industry and the increasing impact of technology,” said Bobby Sniderman in a press release.
He would not elaborate when reached by telephone Tuesday.
Sam the Record Man has been a staple on Toronto’s Yonge Street since 1961 and was once Canada’s top music retailer. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)
The store will close June 30.
When HMV opened, some predicted the death knell of Sam’s. Instead, it thrived and expanded. There was something very sterile about HMV’s retail environment. It presented better for parents, but it lacked that clubby feeling that good stores always have—the sense that if you just keep hunting, you’ll find something really truly special.
Technology, in the end, suffers from the same sterility. While I love downloaded music for the physical space it saves me, I’m less fond of the iTunes music store. It suffers from a lack of…browsability. I can easily find what I’m looking for, but I’m much less likely to stumble upon something at random.
Several years ago Sam’s made an initial foray into online retail and failed badly, closing after only a few months as I recall. The bricks and mortar business, it seemed, didn’t mix with the digital one. I suspecthe skillset to manage one was different than the skillset to mange the other, and there was difficulty in merging the two cultures.
I haven’t shopped at Sam’s in years—the Vancouver outlet closed quite a while ago—but I’ll miss it when it’s gone. All in the name of progress.
Orick, California, September 1st, 2006
The New York times offers an op-ed from a music retailer explaining why the RIAA has effectively shot itself in the foot.
The sad thing is that CDs and downloads could have coexisted peacefully and profitably. The current state of affairs is largely the result of shortsightedness and boneheadedness by the major record labels and the Recording Industry Association of America, who managed to achieve the opposite of everything they wanted in trying to keep the music business prospering. The association is like a gardener who tried to rid his lawn of weeds and wound up killing the trees instead.
Yes yes. It’s official. I am now a Wilco Nut.
Somebody called me this about a year ago, and I denied it. I no longer can.
Tonight I was downtown for the first time in a while at the end of the work day, and I swung into A&B Sound—this city’s only music mega retailer.
Ok. I guess there’s virgin. But there’s an old joke that says that given how badly the record labels screw their artists, the words Virgin and Music could only be used in the same sentence in an ironic way. I don’t shop there.
Anyway, off to A&B Sound where they had copies of Jeff Tweedy’s Sunken Treasure DVD for the reasonable price of $18.29.
A single swipe of a card and a few keypresses later, and I am one very happy boy.
Sunken Treasure is a recording of Tweedy’s tour through the Pacific Northwest. I saw the Vancouver show—it was my first show at the Commodore Ballroom, and it was a great night.
This says a lot, because the next day was really not.
The tour meanders through territory I know well. The Pacific Northwest would largely be defined as the coastal area north of San Francico and up to Vancouver. Perhaps Prince George if you’re being particularly generous. This is an area I’ve traveled quite a bit, and one I love.
It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day, and I should arguably be listening to some U2, In Tua Nua or the ilk.
Jeff will do just fine, thanks.
Sky Blue Sky isn’t released until May 15th. Until then, these occasional previews will suffice. Slap on the headphones.
I’ve had a playlist for California for longer than I’ve had an iPod, and longer than iTunes existed. It was built when I took my first trip there in April of 2001 when I used Toast to burn a CD for the Jeep. I surveyed friends, built the list, grabbed the tunes and burned the CD.
There’s some obvious stuff on there such as Hotel California by the The Eagles and California Dreamin by the Mamas and the Papas. California Uber Alles by the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy was a great little treat, and less obvious.
This list has always started with California by Joni Mitchell. It’s a wonderful song that evoked images of that golden place like no other.
Joni’s been bumped and replaced by Neko Case’s In California.
Sorry Joni. Lifetime achievement or not, some things just have to change. It’s time to move along. If it’s any consolation, you’re now the last song on that list. At least this means you’re bookending it.
After deciding to hold onto my somewhat aged PowerBook G4 for a while longer, I decided to invest in a wireless network upgrade. It’s been a while.
It has, in fact, been a while since I’ve paid for Internet access. When I moved to my current location, there was a Linksys Wireless router in place. Tragically, it was an 802.11b.
All was fine until I recently purchased an Airport Express in order to get music from my computer to my stereo. Keen memories may recall that I had a Squeezebox to do this, but I think a power outage or breaker switch blew it. Sadly, there will be no more Pope Gravely Ill days for me.
The Airport Express is different from the Squeezebox—all of its control and input is provided by the computer. I could have bought an (as yet unavailable) Apple TV unit but this would have meant having the TV on to control music. Since I don’t like my TV anyway, I chose to go this route. It was also quite a bit cheaper.
Unfortunately, 802.11b was just not enough to feed the Airport Express. My solution?
Yup. I bought a new Airport Extreme to replace the Linksys equipment. The last Airport base station I bought was one of the first in Canada, served only 802.11b and is still in use some 6 years later in Toronto.
So how did the upgrade go?
The Airport Extreme is a very nice unit with substantially better industrial design than its alternatives. It also, out of the box, provided only about the same range as the old 802.11b.
After some initial attempts at pairing the Airport Express to the Extreme using a 13 character WEP password in compatibility mode I switched to WPA instead. By “some initial attempts” I mean about 12, and an hour and a half of my time. It was kind of furstrating at first.
The switch to WPA solve those problems, and the Extreme joined the network well.
Next it was time to try WDS mode, allowing the Airport Express to expand the network (rather than just join it) and virtually guarantee me one hundred percent signal strength. Apple’s Airport Utility (revised for the fourth time) makes this very easy, and in a few more minutes the network was created, rebooted and my signal strength was one hundred percent.
Best of all, my tunes were now streaming directly into the stereo at full 802.11g speeds, with no more hiccups or interruptions.
I’m not pushing the Airport Extreme envelope here, and there have been some complaints about it, but I would recommend it highly as a home networking tool. It’s price compares favourably to the Linksys and D-Link alternatives (those alternatives to, apparently, deliver more range but sacrifice a significant aesthetic value.) In homes where 802.11n could be deployed the range issue is significantly less of a concern — I am, unfortunately, stuck with one client using an 802.11b PC Card—does anybody remember those anymore?—and there’s no money being thrown at that laptop.
All in all, I’m pretty happy and remain impressed with these things.
Intervention can be found in many iterations and was played on Saturday Night Live last weekend with backing vocals sung into a megaphone instead of a microphone. The album version features a powerful organ line throughout and a bass line that hasn’t been heard in ages.
Working for the church
while your family dies.
You take what they give you
and you keep it inside.
Every spark of friendship and love
will die without a home.
Hear the soldier groan, “We’ll go at it alone.”
This album is good enough that it supplanted, at least for a day, Neko Case as my listening of choice. I can’t wait to dial it in on my iPod beneath a motorcycle helmet…that’s going to be a hell of a ride.
As further evidence of the fact thaf if you’ve been listening to music without listening to Neko Case and Wilco you’ve been doing it wrong I offer up this clip from YouTube of Jeff Tweedy’s performance on Zed.
my true love drowned / in a dirty old pan of oil / did run from the block / of a Falcon sedan 1969 / the paper said 75
— Star Witness, from the album Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
She sings with the voice of an angel, and she’s playing Bellingham tonight.
The opening act tonight was Eric Bachman, a fairly predictable and talented solo singer songwriter. A half hour set was appreciated quietly by the crowd.
The Commodore Ballroom never fails to astonish me as a venue. With a large sprung dance floor, two levels, tables and food being served it’s a beautiful room and probably the most civilized place I’ve ever been for a concert — at least the equal of Toronto’s Masonic Temple with much better acoustics than that concrete monolith.
hey pretty baby get high with me / we can go to my sister’s / if we say we’ll watch the baby
— Star Witness, from the album Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
Neko and the band took the stage at about 2200hrs. The best line of the night came during a conversation between Neko and her backup vocalist about The Police reunion on the Grammy Awards last week. Neko described Sting’s chest hair as “…a rug hook picture of Tom Woppat.”
Where does this mean world cast its cold eye / Who’s left to suffer long about you / Does your soul cast about like an old paper bag / Past empty lots and early graves
— Deep Red Bells, from the album Blacklisted
The set list featured songs from Fox Confessor Brings the Flood with a good selection of older materials, reaching as far back as her first album into the days when it was still Neko Case and her Boyfriends, as any good set list should.
In Calfornia was early in the set, and I stood there astonished at how I was able to ride a motorcyle through the state of California without it playing in my ears. I won’t make that mistake again.
In California / I dream of snow / And all the places / we used to go
— In California, from the album Canadian Amp
On Sunday night Neko played the Paramount Theatre in Seattle opening for Merle Haggard. Not that I listen to Merle Haggard, but that would have been a great show.
Neko will write and record one of the greatest albums of our generation one day, and it will live in your ears forever. Now is the time to see her.
If I meet you in the night / you’re free to covet all you like / don’t you try and stop me / I cling tightly / to this life
— Tightly, from the Album Blacklisted
Essentially, Steve is saying “let us sell unprotected music. it’s the right thing to do.”
There’s a major problem with “the music industry’s response.”
According to the Globe and Mail, the RIAA has suggested that Apple:
should open up its anti-piracy technology to its rivals instead of urging major record labels to strip copying restrictions from music sold online.
Now, let’s not forget that this is the same RIAA that was suing music fans not so long ago for using Napster and Limewire.
Jobs points out in his post:
Though the big four music companies require that all their music sold online be protected with DRMs, these same music companies continue to sell billions of CDs a year which contain completely unprotected music. That’s right! No DRM system was ever developed for the CD
The emphasis was added by me.
When the music industry invented digital music by creating the Compact Disc, the concept of encryption of data was not new. Despite this, the industry chose not to use any encryption. Contrast this with the encrypted content of DVDs — it’s been broken, and the movie industry could argue that the breaking of that encryption is illegal. If this is, in fact, true than by extension, sharing movies ripped from DVDs is illegal.
I’m not suggesting that’s a valid or good argument, I’m just saying that they put the effort into protecting their copyright so they could claim this.
Jobs also makes a number of points about opening up Apple’s DRM system — FairPlay. Keeping in mind that FairPlay has already been broken (a number of tools exist to strip the FairPlay restrictions from your purchased music) it stands to reason that the wider FairPlay is used the more likely that it will be consistently broken.
That’s the thrust of Jobs’ argument, and it’s a good way. Any technology that’s used to protect music it will eventually fall.
The industry has a choice of its own — abolish the Compact Disc and develop a new format, requiring customers to buy new players and (possibly) new copies of old albums. Yet another copy of Rush’s 2112 to be bought.
I’m siding with Steve Jobs on this one — the music industry is a racket trying to retain a monopoly. Monopolies rarely benefit consumers, and usually don’t end well in the long term for the monopolists.
A beautiful project.
TicketMaster has long been the bane of complaints — ridiculous service charges, a silly policy enforced through legal threats in the late 90s of prohibiting links to areas of its site are but two of the things that have made them resented throughtout North America.
It’s still going to be a great show, but a $3.50 venue fee and $2.50 delivery fee for tickets by email (at no cost, of course) is money that isn’t going into an artist’s pocket.
$7.05 for a convenience charge is just ridiculous.
All told, my CDN$23 ticket comes close to CDN$40 with those additional seventeen dollars going into Ticketmaster’s pocket. That just seems exorbitant considering that they’re not even printing my ticket anymore.
James Brown is dead, and I’m no longer certain what I’ll listen to while riding across the United States. Living in America is a pretty classic road trip tune.
”James presented obviously the best grooves,” rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy once told The Associated Press. ”To this day, there has been no one near as funky. No one’s coming even close.”
No one near as funky indeed, and few as inventive.
With a new iPod in town, I’ve been going through the process of building it’s playlist—titled Running since this is the music that will, theoretically, accompany my reinvigorated running schedule. I say theoretically because it hasn’t happened yet…just you wait until Saturday.
My musical taste is diverse, and the playlist reflects that. Music with a beat like the Dream Warriors rests comfortably beside the ambient techno of Moby and the lyrical lushness of Feist. The autofill and random play feature of the iPod Shuffle make sure that the mix is always interesting.
This is an interesting process, becuase it has me going through my music song by song and picking things out. Music is full of memories for me, and as I stumble upon certain songs they come flooding back.
Some songs just can’t be interrupted, and this is a list of some of my favourites.
So if you tap me on my shoulder and I completely ignore you for a couple of minutes, it’s a pretty safe bet that it’s one of these songs I’m listening too. The list will change, but it will never shrink.
“There are some people who say you shouldn’t mix politics and music, sports and politics. Well… I think that’s kinda bullshit!”
Adam Clayon, Rattle and Hum
Religion and politics have been linked for even longer, with the notion of a separation of church and state being a relatively recent invention (and not an exclusively American one either.) It’s a powerful ideal, and most modern democracies subscribe to it on some level.
These comments, reported in last weekend’s National Post are even more appaling as a result.
Bush says he sees evidence of Third Awakening
Sheldon Alberts, National Post, Saturday September 16, 2006
George W. Bush, the U.S. President, said yesterday he believes the United States may be experiencing a Third Great Awakening of religious fervour
“It seems like to me something is happening in the religious life of America,” Mr. Bush Said.
“I’m able to see a lot of people, and from my perspective, people are coming to say, ‘I’m praying for you.’ And it’s an uplifting part of being the President. It inspires me.”
There’s nothing wrong with a president subscribing and celbrating his personal religious beliefs, but he shouldn’t be trying to convert others to them.
Without a doubt the best online music magazine — Pitchfork Media — is unveiling its list of the top 200 songs of the 1960s.
These are songs from a time when rock & roll was young and truly revolutionary, and a time when the lines of friction between generations were enormous.
It’s a great list of songs that should be in everbody’s collection.
Really, the words about damn time don’t even begin to describe this.
I heard a great story about Miles once, and one of his visits to the White House. As the story goes, after being welcomed and escorted to his table he sat down beside one of his dinner companions — a woman he’d never met. After a bit of initial small talk, the woman leaned over and said to MIles “So what did you do to get invited here.”
Miles looked back at her, with those whiter than white eyes staring from deep with his sockets, and calmly said “I’ve changed music three or four times. What did you do other than be rich and white?”
Gotta love Miles. The world of music is a less interesting, less prickly place without him.
About damn time.
The film was directed by Jonathan Demme and feels much more like his Stop Making Sense concert film than, for example, The Last Waltz which has more of a documentary feeling. It opens with scenes of Neil and his frieds speaking about the concert, thir past and the Ryman Auditorium in Nasville, Tennessee where the Grand Ole Opry was filmed for many years.
Next comes the music.
I only really discovered Neil Young’s music a few years ago, which is surprising because it fits very well into a mold that I’m quite fond of — once best described by a lovely young lady as Anything with a Twang.
Music has a power to move the soul and Neil’s music speaks to a place deep inside. If rock and roll embodies passion and anger, with Punk and Heavy Metal at the cliche extremes and country embodies heartache, with the sanitized sounds of performers like Garth Brooks embracing this cliche wholeheartedly there’s a place in between where music that comes from a deep, honest place.
This is the place that this movie plays from.
The music in the movie lives on a bridge between these genres. Not quite rock and roll, and not quite country it is, simply, amazing music.
With Neil on stage only weeks after having been diagnosed and had surgery for a brain aneurysm, and only two months after his father passed away the pain and anguish he exposes is visible at times. Surrounded by friends and loved ones the songs on the Prairie Wind album come alive.
Emmylou Harris — a woman with a voice so pure it could only come direct from the heavens and a beauty to match — sings backup and accompaniment on many of the numbers here. Emmylou’s last album Stumble Into Grace lived in my ears for a long time after I bought it. Her presence on this stage and in this film could not be more welcome.
As a movie, this fairly straightforward concert film could have been different; I’d like to have seen a bit more of Neil speaking, to get a feeling for his state of mind. even without, it’s a film that’s well worth seeing.
Activity logs are a wonderful thing. You can, really, see just about everything that happens on a web site.
Recently, someone searched this place for Ed Robertson which just seems odd, given that there are much better sources of information about him.
Ed is one of the Barenaked Ladies lead singers. I went to high school with these guys — so did most people in Scarborough, at one point or another — and have little of interest to report. There are five stories I like to tell about Ed specifically.
The Bedouin Soundclash is playing in Vancouver tonight, or last night, or something. As a result, the CBC has taken a serious interest in playing their music - constantly.
I have to admit I don’t get it. I can’t figure out why people are calling this the best Canadian band of the year; I can’t figure out why people like their first song When the Night Feels my Song so much.
Lyrically I find it fairly uninteresting; musically it’s poppy and catchy, but the rhythm isn’t even remotely original.
So maybe I’m getting old or something, but frankly - I just don’t get it.
Long John Baldry died last night, at only 61 years old. For those who don’t know him, this may be meaningless but Long John was a blues legend, and classic rock bands like Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and performers such as Elton John admired him.
My favourite Long John story came from my friend Al Graham who told me once about him singing at Al’s 40th birthday party. Al sings in a blues band, and knows everybody on the Toronto scene. He’s a bit of a legend himself.
Like all legends, his music was less appreciated than it used to be by people not in the business. Now’s your chance - get online and steal some while it’s fresh in your minds, you might just find something you’ve missed without even knowing it.
Long John, you’ll be sadly missed by all.
Love this story:
The U.K.’s Sun has some fun with a purchase by the Queen of England
The Queen has joined the hi-tech revolution and splashed out on the world’s hottest gadget — an iPod. The 79-year-old monarch despatched a flunkey to buy the mini digital music player which has become all the rage.
They’re running a contest to guess what tracks she has - I’ll put my money down on the Sex Pistol’s God Save the Queen.
The Last Waltz ranks on many critic’s lists as the Best Concert Film Ever. Not one of, but the best.
Having not completely reviewed the genre, I’ll reserve comment. With Martin Scorcese behind the lens, I’m certainly not about to argue it’s video credentials. From an audio perspective, this film contains some of the best music ever recorded, with performances by a stellar group of artists. Where else are you going to find Neil Young with Robbie Robertson and Joni Mitchell singing background vocals. The film captures a moment in time beautifully, and a band - The Band - shutting it down before it slipped into obscurity.
This doesn’t concern me today - what concerns me is economics.
For years, I’ve been meaning to buy the Last Waltz on CD, and haven’t gotten around to it. It’s a 3 CD set (now also availalbe as a 4 CD box set from Rhino) and fairly costly. Despite the killer performances, I just haven’t gotten around to buying it.
Today, I purchased the DVD for a mere $9.99. Does this make sense?
The DVD contains arguably higher quality audio and certainly higher definition audio. The audio is encrypted which makes it much more difficult (but definitely not impossible) for me to get all of it onto my iPod.
Is this the difference? Really? If so, it does a poor job of explaining the years before the DVD was released - the CD’s price has changed little since those days.
In any case, one might expect that the additional royalties required by the film’s production (royalties which wouldn’t be required on CD sales) would raise costs, not lower them.
I suspect that the difference is explained quite simply…the record company values the content differently than the film company. Both have undoubtedly long since recovered the costs associated wiht production, and every sale is now pure profit (with the exception of the rather modest manufacturing costs, of course.)
I suspect that, at the end of the day, there’s not a really rational explanation to anybody who’s not a music or film industry accountant. It just seems…wrong…I got the same content, in a higher quality format, with additional stuff for one third the cost.
The record industry shakes its head over slumping sales, and blames online theft. Maybe a bit more time looking inwards would be well spent.
Up, down, turn around
Please don’t let me hit the ground
Tonight I think I’ll walk alone
I’ll find my soul as I go home
But did he have to fuck with my ability to listen to music?
Ever since I got home, my Squeezebox has been flashing three words - in very large type, because that’s how I left it:
It plays one song, and then won’t queue the next one. Even after I’ve changed the settings to shut off the RSS feed.
Ok. I get it. I’ve sinned. A little. Or a lot, depending on your perspective.
Now get off of me. You’re not the Pope of me! I want to hear the next song.
Somewhat to my surprise - mostly due to the addiction that is my Squeezebox preventing me from listening to CBC much - this week’s Radio 3 broadcast was pre-empted for the 50 Tracks: Canada countdown. You’ll find the list if you follow the link below.
Now, all in all I like this list. Some very good stuff on there, altough as usual I could disagree with some of the ratings: Blue Rodeo’s “Try” comes out ahead of the “The Weight” by The Band…the latter is arguably one of the most influential tracks of its era, Canadian or otherwise. A bit odd.
But seriously folks: Barenaked Ladies “If I had $1000000” at number two? Ahead of “Heart of Gold” by Neil Young? What were you smoking.
I - along with thousands of others - went to high school with these guys. My favourite BNL story involves Ed Robertson failing calculus…I watched it happen. I don’t mean that in an abstract way, either. There was a palpable minute when he left the exam 15 minutes after getting there. It was pretty funny.
Even Ed, I’d think, would be hard pressed to rank himself ahead of “Tom Sawyer”, at least if his Rush collection during high school years was any indication. To call this guy a Rush fan doesn’t do it justice: he was THE Rush fan.
But, I suppose, the public has spoken and it’s entirely unsurprising that my somewhat quirky musical taste is a bit off here. For what it’s worth, I’m compiling as much of the 50 tracks into an iTunes playlis, and I already have quite a bit of it.
I wonder if this is what that CD levy was paying for the whole time?
I just bought my first post-iPod post-modern CD: Moby’s Hotel.
It’s not the first CD I’ve purchased since the iPod was invented - I’ve been ripping and burning forever now, with my first MP3 download on April 6, 1998
How do I remember the date?
Well, Tammy Wynette died, and I, of course, had to hear Justified and Ancient by the KLF, snagged an MP3 and it’s history from there.
My music has largely been living in iTunes (although I still have a few CDs kicking around) since it’s existed (and before that in the sublimely superb Audion), but this is the first CD I’ve bought since I had an iPod.
So here’s an interesting question: will I ever actually play this CD?
Last week, quite by chance, I heard the cover of New Order’s Temptation featured on this album. My jaw dropped. It’s haunting.
As I was telling someone earlier tonight, I really like lyrics and when someone takes a track like this (let’s just say New Order wasn’t exactly a lyrics band) and exposes the words inside, it can be pretty effective. Worked for me. Think Sinead and Nothing Compares 2 U for a similar, less controversial effect.
I’m ten tracks into this album’s first disc, and so far I like it (ironically, track ten is titled I Like It.) I’ll do a full evaluation later.
For everybody out there saying I’m lame ‘cause it’s Moby and he’s gone so mainstreatm - bah. Yes, I’m lame, but it’s not becuase I like Moby. I bought into Moby way before Play hit it big, and had compiled a nice little collection by the time your mother started listening to it.
Sure, he’s not Ninja, Kruder, Kid 606 but so what - none of them are Kraftwerk either, and you should really be listening to them if you want electronic. Get over it already. For ambient, let’s talk Brian Eno - yes boys and girls, he did have a career before he produced the Joshua Tree.
As soon as I got home from work tonight, Hotel got dropped into my computer and ripped to 128kb AAC. So far, so good. It’s not actually IN my iPod yet, but it will be later tonight when I synchronize. For now I’m too lazy to plug a cable in - just soaking in the space for a few moments.
Now, really, if all I had was an iPod I’d say that the CD would live, but there’s another little toy sitting around that changes all that. I was born long enough ago to still believe that real sound comes out of a stereo with an amplifier and speakers, not just a pair of speakers connected to a computer, so I tended to still play lots of CDs. Hooking the iPod up to my stereo isn’t that much less convenient than dropping a CD in, and there’s that pesky battery to worry about (keeping it charged I mean.)
That was before the Squeezebox.
Don’t get too excited - mine is older, and not quite as sexy as that one on the web page, but it does the same thing - takes music through the air and pumps it into my stereo. It’s like an Airport Express, but not from Apple and it works with anything (including Linux.) Sorry, Steve, but I like it a bit better (of course, it’s used so I’m getting it much cheaper.)
Squeezebox changes everything: now, the music in my computer just goes to the stereo. That, in a nutshell, means that this CD isn’t likely to get dropped into my CD player ever.
Unwrap. Rip. Shelve.
That is, I suspect, the new aesthetic. But we shall see. Only time will tell.
Why then, I know you’re wondering, didn’t I buy it online from the ab-fab iTunes Music Store? Two simple reasons:
- I don’t have a credit card, and they don’t take Interac, and;
- they don’t have it for sale
Yes folks, that last one was a major impediment. Plus, at $14.99 for two - count them, two - pretty shiny discs, it’s a pretty good deal. The iTunes store probably would’ve wanted more.
Now I’ve got some music to listen too. Wirelessly, of course.
Great show. Great cider. Great night. Great live album.
A new one coming soon apparently. Can’t wait.
This McJob thing is tiring, especially when combined with another new job. The new job may or may not be a real job, but we’ll see. It’s a bit more real than the McJob, it just doesn’t pay like a real job should.
But I’m tired.
I’ve worked the last 14 days straight: I don’t mean “work” in the abstract sort of popping around from coffee shop to coffee shop and typing in Movable Type entries: I mean work in the sense of you must be somewhere and have a specific list of things to do. I’m not suggesting that I’m assembling steel girders here (maybe I’d rather be) but it’s tiring anyway.
I need a day off. Soon.
So, to that end, a second interview with a company offering a bona fide full time job; 40 hours a week, a salary, benefits. The full deal. This would be a good thing, even if it doesn’t pay what I want. It would be stable, and stability is a good thing.
Tonight, I’m going to relax; I’m going to head to see Geoff Berner’ at the Railway Club. I love jeff, and I’ve written about him before. I think I’ll buy the live album tonight; I’ve been putting this purchase off, and it’s about damn time.
So off I go, to aimlessly wander the streets of Vancouver and try not to think about work for a bit. I like being busy, but I feel like I’m being pulled in too many directions lately. My work suffers as a result, and it begins to cause its own sort of problems.
I’d rather be at the Clown & Bard in Prague if I could be. Maybe I’ll go after all. Maybe I’ll finally get the nerve to just book a random flight and take off. Not right now mind you, but soon.
I’ve always been a fan of lyrics; always liked the idea of songs and songwriters, with the performance coming second. My favourite songs have been the ones where the lyrics matched a great performance: U2’s Bad comes to mind (and gets my choice as the best song of the 80s), as does Bullet the Blue Sky; Wilco’s Ashes of American Dreams is high on this list, and has been mentioned before.
But this is maybe the weirdest example yet…
There’s this beer commercial, and I don’t even know what the beer is, but it’s a beer commercial. And these are the lyrics it includes:
Words are few
I have spoken
I could waste a thousand years
Wrapped in sorrow
Words are token
Come inside and catch my tears
You’ve been talking but believe me
If its true
You do not know
And those, as it turns out, are the lyrics to that cheesiest of cheesy 80’s bands the Culture Club’s “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me”.
Now somebody should cover that song.
U2 is tonight’s musical guest on Saturday Night Live, and it’s the first time I’ve seen them perform anything from their new album — How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb.
When I first heard the lead single, Vertigo, I was pretty excited. I wasn’t that drawn in by the last album, but this one sounded truly interesting.
Seeing Bono sing the track live, it occurs to me that this album may, in fact, be a return to the Acthung Baby and Zooropa days. Achtung Baby was a brilliant album, in part because it was a fresh sound; the tour was incredible, the singles were great, the video’s stunning. I can’t really summarize how significant this album was to music in the 90’s. It was amazing.
Performing live, it struck me that Bono was reinventing his Fly character from the Zoo TV tour and musically there’s some similarities.
Am I less excited because of this? Not really. I’m looking forward to the album’s release no less, but I’m wondering whether this is U2 - for the first time really - dipping into their own past.
I’m seriously hoping that this band doesn’t slip into Sting territory; if it becomes a cliche of itself, I may lose faith in popular music altogether.
I’ve been a fan of Laurie Anderson for as along as I can remember; Home of the Brave was one of the first movies Muchmusic showed, and it blew me away. As so often happens, this lead to an obsession.
One of the things I like about her just came back to me as I started typing this; Movable Type likes for you to attach a category to each entry. This is great, except I can’t figure out what category Laurie fits into: she doesn’t.
Music will do, but be warned of its limitations.
I’d never seen Laurie live, and this tour seemed like a reasonable time to do it; a pop down to Seattle at the historic (and quite beautiful) Moore Theatre, and the night was on.
I don’t quite know how to describe the next hour and a half; the show itself is mostly about story telling; Laurie is a compelling storyteller, and she does it very well here. The set is sparse, with only a chair, the latest iteration of the tape-bow violin and a keyboard. Stage lighting is sparse, with much light provided by an uncountable number of tea lights on the stage itself.
Laurie was NASA’s first, and last, artist in residence and much of her storytelling in this performance is based on those experiences.
Still, Laurie is from New York and 9/11 looms in her work. Laurie played a concert in New York on the 13th of September of 2001, later released as a live album. This was one of the most compelling albums I had bought in quite a while. Other artists have certainly found larger audiences, but I feel like Laurie captures the feeling of that time more than anybody else.
Of course I wasn’t there, so I really don’t know.
If you get a chance to see Laurie, do it. Do it somewhere with character though: I can’t imagine seeing this at the type of boring, anonymous square box that she’s playing in Vancouver. It just wouldn’t be the same.
I’ve been conceptually a fan of Hawksley Workman for a while, but I now have a new favourite song.
Autumn’s Here is just an awesome tune, perfectly suited for this time of year. Buy it, don’t steal it.
Jian Ghomeshi is hosting 50 Tracks on CBC - an effort to assemble the greatest songs of century, 5 per decade.
This is a great exercise and one that could only happen on public radio - private, broadcast radio is far too format limited these days to be this interesting.
Last week was the 70s and this week is the 80s - my generation of music; the stuff that I know very well.
The goal is to trim this decade (and all others) down to 5 songs - a brutal, but necessary, exercise. Jian is suggesting “With or Without You” from the Joshua Tree, I suggested Bad in part because it is in my opinion the greatest rock and roll song of the 80s, but also because it was a highlight of the Live Aid festival which was one of the pinnacles of rock and roll in the 80s.
Lobbying for the Police is heavy, but the reality is that I can’t go back to a single song as essential; album for sure (Ghost in the Machine? Synchronicity?) but not a song - the Police is an essential body of work; the Smiths “How Soon is Now” could probably make my list; Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart has been proposed, but I think I’d put the Smiths on there instead. I’m torn.
On the rap side, Public Enemy with Fight the Power’ is absolutely the right choice, without a doubt. The best rap is political; this faux-gangster Eminem stuff is really no different than Vanilla Ice. Fight the Power rules.
Prince definitely deserves to be on there; “When Doves Cry” is a killer tune, one that was in heavy heavy rotation and the album it comes from was enormous on a level that can’t really be easily characterized. For at least a year, it was the source of a lot of good moment.
Given his commercial success and longevity, something from Bruce Springsteen should be on this list too; I’ve been listening to “Born to Run” lately (I like my Bruce live and acoustic) but Bruce ruled the 80s in North America, at least until the Joshua Tree hit.
No Madonna? Nah - its bubblegum. Tragically Hip? Tough one, but internationally I don’t think so.
But maybe Moxy Fruvous?
I have literally just gotten back from a Geoff Berner show at the Pub 340; I’ve been a fan of Geoff for a while, but never managed to see him.
If you haven’t seen Geoff you should; if you haven’t bought his album yet, what the hell are you thinking? Who knew the accordion could be cool. Light Enough to Travel and Iron Grey are his biggest hits so far, but for my money his best tune is Prairie Wind which may be the best song about Saskatchewan ever.
“You could see her tenacity in her feet, ‘cause she was wearing those thong sandals.”
- Bob Geldof speaking about Mother Theresa
A new Laurie Anderson album slipped out in August, and I missed it. I’ve finally gotten to it, and it’s a reminder of how good audio entertainment can be. (I’m reluctant to call it music.) Anybody who reads this, accidentally or on purpose, should buy at least one of her albums.include("/home/fiejjfe/public_html/personal/tagCloud.incl"); ?>