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Archive for the ‘Canadian Music’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MEN I TRUST-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #224 (June 16, 2021).

I hadn’t heard of Men I Trust, one of the more interesting new band names out there, but I really like their sound.  It’s a kind of gentle synth pop that seems to flow so effortlessly from French-speaking singers (even when they sing in English).

Men I Trust was initially the duo of high school friends Dragos Chiriac (keyboards) and Jessy Caron (guitars), before adding vocalist Emma Proulx in 2015 and recording the group’s debut album, Headroom. (They expanded to a quintet for this performance, with Cedric Martel handling bass and Eric Maillet on drums.)

The band straddle the line between interesting indie rock and 70s soft rock.  In fact even the setting straddles that line.

From a rustic and retro-looking cabin on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, the band Men I Trust seized the essence of the Tiny Desk almost to a tee. The controlled, yet layered four-song set, bookended by tracks from 2019’s Oncle Jazz would almost certainly make for a plug-and-play situation had it been behind Bob Boilen’s desk.

“Show Me How” leans away from the soft rock with a pretty guitar intro and some nice bass work.  Proulx’s voice has that softness that lures you in.  The shift to the chorus is a really nice chord change too.

The band’s style sways between rubbery upbeat electro-pop and the muddy pace evident on last year’s “Lucky Sue,” but generally hits that sweet spot for anybody looking to be cradled and carried by a vibe-y groove

“Lucky Sue” opens with a wah-wah guitar intro that sounds like synth.  Caron also makes some really cool chords on his guitar–he gets some really interesting sounds from it.

 The song “Humming Man,” was its first official single as a trio and they never looked back from there.

“Humming Man” opens with thumping drums and a soft synth chord progression.  Again Caron play a wah wah filled riff but also gets some really interesting guitar sounds–almost like a reverse wall of chords that he stretches out to a lengthy solo for the end of the song.

I’m fascinated to read that

The overdubs and reverb on Emma’s vocals are stripped away here, leaving a deceptively endearing quality to her voice.

Her voice here isn’t full of reverb, but I can’t imagine doing much processing to her delicate voice.  “All Night” sounds very nice–whispery and inviting even if this song veers a little too far into soft rock territory.  Caron’s solo takes up more than half of this song, and I found myself missing Proulx’s voice by the end.

[READ: July 1, 2021] “Private Hands”

This month’s issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue and features three pieces of fiction and three poems.

The fifth piece is a short story about provenance and ownership.

The narrator works as a (poorly) paid assistant to Harvey, a wealthy collector.  Harvey had made his money in pesticides and was worth about $200 million.  Harvey bought things with the intent of upselling them.  Disney merch always sold well.  But Harvey had a few things that were hard to sell, like Jimi Hendrix’ 1963 Fender Strat.

Paul was a buyer.  Harvey tried to sell him the Hendrix for $500,000 but he wasn’t biting.  Normally Harvey would haggle, but he had overpaid for this, and wouldn’t budge.

Harvey had a few other interesting items (a test pressing of Led Zeppelin III), but Paul really wanted guitars.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Avening Hall, Creemore, ON (November 16, 2019.

At the moment, the link for the first show of this series downloads this show instead of the 15th).  When the link is updated, I’ll post about November 15th.

It was pretty amazing that Rheostatics were going to do a mini tour.  I wanted to go to these shows so badly, but it was really hard for me to get up to Toronto.  I even bought a ticket for the final night, hoping something would allow me to go.  But, alas.

Second of the 7 Ontario shows for the Here Come The Wolves mini tour. The band were having some sound issues during the first set and I think it threw them off so Clark suggested they take a 10 minute break to regroup. This recording is actually a mix of one of the audience mics and the soundboard. The Soundboard mix, however, was all instruments other than kick drum in the right channel so I had to turn it into a mono file or it would have been unlistenable. I added the audience mix in for some room ambience and added a bit of compression, etc in Garageband for the final mix.

This show did not have Kevin Hearn, but it did have Hugh Marsh.  I’d have liked to see one show with Kevin and one without.

This show opens with a quiet intro and lots of Hugh Marsh playing as “Stolen Car” begins.  There’s some wild soloing in the middle of the song with Martin and Hugh having a “conversation” with bending notes.  Dave B sings the “I don’t need anger” verse.

Up next is “AC/DC On The Stereo (Country Version).”  for whatever reason, they play this as a more folky song (hence the “country version” label).  DB sings the first part; DC sings the middle.  When it ends, Martin jokes “that’s the brand new country version.”

During “Rearview” someone plays a simple acoustic solo (Tim or Dave?) and BD jokes “pretty hot licks.”

They go a little nuts on “Here Come the Wolves” with barking and howling.  When Hugh plays the middle violin riff, martin sings every day is silent and gray (Morrissey).  ‘It’s The Supercontroller!” has a false start but a wonderfully trippy opening from Hugh and DC.  Before the lyrics begin, DB asks for a monitor adjustment: “There’s a squirrel in my monitor.”   Martin: you hate squirrels.  Dave: No, Martin YOU hate squirrels.  MT: It’s not that you hate them, it’s that you don’t think they are worth your time.  Clark gets audience participation on the  “ahhs”

DB says they are playing the new album in order.  We are never out of order.
DC: We are never out of odor.  My wife thinks I  am never out of odor.
MT: I’ve never thought you were smelly–that’s not part of your reputation.

A lovely “Music in the Message.”  Then Dave says that people flew in from Vancouver and asks if anyone is from further.  DC: We’ll still thank you anyway.  Then he jokes about Tyler Stewart and says we’re in the drummer’s union.  It’s okay.

After babbling a bit, “I’m not sure what I’m trying to say. I’m not trying to say anything. I just feel like words belong here and I’m trying to make things flow.”  He says “Vancouver” is a song he wrote when he was around 18 (he says he was born in 1967) and which he rewrote last year.  This gets him to ask everyone’s birth year and hospital of birth.

DB 1963 in Etobicoke, St Michaels (a good Italian will be born in a hospital named after a Saint).
Tim: Etobicoke General (he’s the only real Etobicoke native).
DC 1965
Hugh: Montreal
Martin gives a shout out to Hugh and Nick Buzz: we’ve done 3 albums in 30 years.
“Vancouver” takes a bit of time to get going. The b vox are a little rough on this, but Martin’s echoing rippling guitar blasts at the end are awesome. The solo quotes from Journey’s “Who’s Crying Now.”

“I Wanna Be Your Robot” is rocking fun.  DC encourages the audience to make a new friend tonight.  Turn and introduce yourself.  You’ll make a new friend, for life potentially.  It feels really nice.  You’re all fans, you might as well.

The start of “Beautiful Night” has Hugh making all kinds of cool trippy violin noises.

They take a little break you can hear LP’s “Lost on You” in the background.

They return with “Northern Wish” to some cheers and talking, but there’s lovely crowd singing at the end.

Dave says they’d like to thank their opening band.  They were a little nervous: The Rheospastics.

Up next is one they haven’t done in a while.  “P.I.N.” starts out happy, but “just you wait.”  The final notes (Dave B) are messed up.

DB: IS it going a little better in the second set?  Tim: a little funnier at least.

During “Power Ballad For Ozzy Osbourne,” Hugh plays a ripping solo and DB says “these are the rotation of chords where we think about what Hugh just played.”  During the ending “Crazy Train” line Martin plays the riff and it fits perfectly.  DB says that song is more of a PSA than anything.

They ask what do you want to hear (Horses of course).  But they play “Legal Age Life” with a wicked wah wah violin solo.  They have a little fun with a guy in the vest in the audience–“he’s not from Vancouver–MT: he lives in a shack in the parking lot.

I love the record version of “Goodbye Sister Butterfly,” but this live version feels a little weird.  However, the disco ending is hot and they throw in some lines from “Good on the Uptake.”  They get really silly making robot and dog sounds.

Martin introduces he next song: This next song is about a robot dog named “Claire.”  He plays a  ripping solo very Neil Youngish.

Then comes an 11 minute Horses -> Crosseyed And Painless -> Another Brick In The Wall -> Horses.  DB sends this out to all the teachers.  Thank you for being teachers.  We love you.  We got your back.  There’s a percussion solo in the middle (glasses and wood blocks).  The speakers crackle at the end.

I want to be in a audience to scream “holy mackinaw, joe.”

After the encore break, DC gives a nice talk about friendship and music.  Then they introduce Hugh who is from Montreal and is “beautifully exotic” and was “born in a violin case.”  Martin talks about Hugh’s first violin lesson.  He plays a scratchy Mary Had a Little Lamb.  How?  on his guitar?  on the violin?  That’s how he got the Bruce Cockburn gig.

Then Martin talks about places where he’s lived. Funny jokes about Flesherton and sex cults.  Finally someone shouts Play a song, then!

DB: Here’s a song, sir.  But not for you.  It’s for everybody else.  Al the patient ones.  They play a brooding “Albatross.”

Dave says this is the first time he’s ever directed anyone to a website in his life.  But Darrin Cappe [the guy who runs the Rheostatics Live site!] who is here tonight has concerts going back to 1981.  MT: Hey Darrin, How you doin?

The end with “Mountains And The Sea.”  They mess up the challenging transition but quickly get it back and Hugh plays another wicked solo.

This show is almost two and a half hours long.  There were some glitches and lots of chatting, but what fun.  And great to have them back.

[READ June 25, 2021] Banned Book Club

I saw the title of this book and was instantly intrigued.  I had no idea that it was about banned books in Korea, though.  It’s immediately apparent that it is set there (the first page says South Korea, 1983), and that’s when I realized I knew nothing about South Korea in the 1980s.

The book opens on a family arguing.  They are in their “Fancy Steak Restaurant” where the main character, Kim Hyun Sook, is planning to go to University.  Her mother argues with her that she should be working in the restaurant not going to school.  But her father wants her to pursue her dream, like he pursued his (which was to open a steak restaurant).

Next we see her arriving at University where protests are underway.  She is irritated by them (her mother had bad things to say about them) and just wants to get to class.

She does well in school and joins a masked dance folk team as an extracurricular activity.  The folk dancing is wonderful, but at their first performance, the protesters arrive.  The drums team tells her that it was planned–they are part of the protests as well.  She is outraged and says she doesn’t want to do anything political. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Sonic Boom, Toronto, ON (September 5 2019).

Back in 2007, when the Rheostatics said farewell, who ever would have guessed that they’d be back in a record store for an album release event.  But here they are, playing in a record store and answering a formal Q&A.

For the release of the Here Come The Wolves album the Rheos did a Q&A at the record store Sonic Boom in Toronto with Laurie Brown.  Her interview is included here but the video can be found here.  The band then did a 45 minute set of new songs which may have been the first time since reforming that Hugh Marsh did not play with them as he was in Europe at the time. Luckily Eric Mac Innis traveled to Toronto from the Maritimes for this event and recorded it for everyone to hear.

After a 40 minute interview (which is quite nice), the four guys are going “to try to play the first five (actually six) songs of the record.”  Which is the first side of the record.

They tune up. Martin jokes “this is the Ravi Shankar portion” and DB says “our record is actually a Doors tribute album.  Every song starts in a minor key.”

They start after two minutes with “Vancouver.” The recording is very spare–like they are holding back for the small space.  The entire middle part is instrumental with maybe Dave noodling away until Martin comes back to sing the rest.  The end rocks a bit more.  Martin throws in a hint of a Journey song in the solo.  Tim: “We still haven’t quite learned that one yet.”   DC: “I did.”

“AC/DC On The Stereo” has big guitar chords and a few false intros (it’s weird without High’s violin).  “Rearview” sounds really nice in this setting.

DB: we used to do these things at the Rivoli–live rehearsals.  I’d like to bring that back.  Super fun.  We worked songs out.  It was entertaining for us.  Maybe not the audience.  I remember them being really full and then that thing turned up on YouTube of us spanking Dave Clark on the ass.  The Rivoli was very dark.  [whisper: people deal guns there?  Don’t go downtown, Dave.]  There’s no one–12 of our friends there.  You can buy gum at the Rivoli.

“Here Come The Wolves” is next.  Martin tunes while Dave gives a big drum intro.  Wanna see my tuner?  Here clip this on the head stock.  [Ha ha ha Now that’s comedy].  How you doin?  The song works well.  Everyone claps at the pause and then Martin does his part.

They thank Michael Phillip Wojewoda, Chris Walla, Gus Van Gogh for working on the album and Martin tells a funny story about MPW’s disgusting dreadlock.  Mike has left Dave has known him since he had that beaver-shaped dread in the middle of his hair it had a gray core–it was oxidizing in the middle.  Never leave a Rheostatics shows or the band will tell stories about you.

DC: I was being nice to the guy and you guys are tearing him a new one  Martin: that’s not a new one that’s something he did.  There’s nothing wrong with dreadlocks.  DC: I’m just stirring the pot.  MT: Stirring a big pot of dreadlock stew–it makes a fine broth.  We were on tour with the Dough Boys (Dreadlock Stu).

Next song is by David Clark.  DC: Martin, pick your favorite chord, don’t look.  Martin plays an insane chord and the song starts.  After the song DB: remember that chord, it’s pure gold.

Sympathetic vibrations.  DC starts talking about sympathetic advice he received from a luthier.  never leave your instrument in a case (they die), have them on stands in the noisiest part of the house they will vibrate and stay in tune.  DB says that’s bullshit.  Martin says it’s largely bullshit, but not totally.  Pick up an acoustic guitar that’s been in a case it will sound like shit; pick up a cheap one that’s been out and it will sound good.

DB: You learned that all from a Lutheran?
DC: Yes he nailed it to me.

Buy the record upstairs on the mezzanine level.  They play a jazzy number: buy the record in the mezzanine. How much does it cost?  $1.79.  No, that’s not even the tax.

They end with another song by Tim: “Music is the Message.”  We’re gonna play it and go.  It’s slow and pretty–sounds good, although the backing ahhs are a little crazy.

[READ: June 15, 2021] Void Trip

I saw this book on the shelf at the library and thought the title sounded promising.  The cover also looked pretty cool, so I brought it home.

As the book opens, we see Ana and Gabe stealing fuel from a tanker in the desert.  Gabe is much older than Ana and they seem to be arguing about their (confusing) plans.  They are quickly interrupted by the owner of the truck–a rather large but cute humanoid creature with a furry face.

Ana tells him that space pirates were trying to steal his fuel and she and Gabe frightened them off.  The trucker is grateful for the help but when he is visited soon after by a white robot, he’ll wish he wasn’t so gullible.

Ana and Gabe are the last humans alive (according to the back of the book, although I’m not sure it says that anywhere in the story).  They are headed to Euphoria, a sort of promised land planet.

They stop off at a rest stop where a humanoid elephant with lots of trunks (Ganesh-like) joins them to indulge in froot (various psychedelic drugs).  Mooreberry gives psychedelic experiences; Gaimangos turn everything into a fairytale.  Busiekhini will taste like the best food you’ve ever had.  (Those names are pretty good).  He eats it and hilarious trippiness ensues. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KACY & CLAYTON-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #186 (March 29, 2021).

Kacy & Clayton had been generating some buzz around here just as the pandemic hit.  I hadn’t heard any of their songs, but their names kept cropping up.  And the one constant note was that they were cousins.

I don’t know who Marlon Williams is, or if he sings with them much (you’d think their name would be different) but he features prominently in these songs.

Across hemispheres, despite a nearly 8,000-mile separation, the Saskatoon, Canada duo of cousins Kacy & Clayton and New Zealand’s Marlon Williams manage to create harmony and intimacy. The Tiny Desk (home) concert, on the surface, is joyful and playful with animated illustrations by Daniel Syrnick.

They start with “I Wonder Why.”  Marlon sings lead and plays backing guitar on this one. Then Clayton play a quite electric lead guitar before Kacy kicks in with some really nice backing harmonies.  She sings in a striking country style although this song has a kind of old school country rock and roll feel.

Marlon’s Roy Orbison-like voice conjure a 1950s rock and roll sound that’s a surprisingly perfect match for Kacy’s serene voice.

A careful listen to “Plastic Bouquet,” the title track to the 2020 collaboration between Kacy Lee Anderson, Clayton Linthicum, and Marlon Williams, reveals a depth of storytelling more familiar in murder ballads than the trio’s upbeat Americana sound.

Kacy sings,

When a small four-door car was severed in two
Three girls were killed by a boy they all knew
Out for a party, they’d never attend
Pockets with money they never would spend

The devastatingly sad tale is met with smiles across hemispheres while an animated teacup pops on screen for Kacy to sip.

Kacy’s banter between songs seems really stiff for some reason.  But Marlon seems to be enjoying himself.

The “Arahura” has an old West/Americana feel despite the fact that the river is in New Zealand.  The yodeling vocals do work well together along with Clayton’s guitar licks.

Kacy stiffly says, “Wow that is a fun one.  It’s fun but it’s sad.”

“Isn’t It” has a very cool guitar riff and is a bit more uptempo.

It’s a magic collaboration of the very far north meeting the very deep south. The wizardry of technology reminds me of the wondrous world we often share these days, from a distance.

Before the final song, “Devil’s Daughter” comes the most awkward banter I have ever seen.

Marlon: It’s nice to be able to play these songs.
Kacy: It IS nice.  It’s nice because we know them.  [WTF?]
Marlon: I know, imagine if we didn’t
Kacy: Yes it’s be hard.  {WTF]

“Devil’s Daughter” is a pretty song with some nice guitar work from Clayton.

[READ: April 30, 2020] “Feel and Hold”

I’ve said before and this confirms my opinion that Diane Williams writes amazing sentences.  But cockamamie stories.

The Rotches went out for food in the morning.  But the meat didn’t look appetizing so they didn’t buy any.

This despite or because of the fact that the butchers hands were more expressive than their own–“those vendor’s hands could hold and feel at the same time.  When we hold a thing–I am not so sure we feel it.”

After a few paragraphs the story interrupts itself

Rotsch was–did I tell you this?–my friend Rotsch became quite a problem in the end and he fled to some remote part of the country.  I enjoy weird interruptions like that, but this story seems to be all interruption. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Jasper Heritage Folk Festival-Night set (August 3 2001).

The guys played a 40 minute set earlier in the day (playing the entire Harmelodia album).  Then in the evening they returned for an hour long set of new songs and some classics.

Night of the Shooting Stars was coming out soon and they were primed to play some news songs.  There’s also not a lot of goofiness–it’s a short set and they need to get it all out.

You can really hear Dave B’s acoustic guitar in “Mumbletypeg” and “In It Now.”

When they play “Aliens,” Dave sings “Artenings Made of Gold” at the end.  “Record Body Count” runs a little long with a lengthy solo at the end.

“Legal Age Life” has a country feel and when they do the “12 Bar Blues” part, they credit NRBQ–I never realized it was a song before–just thought they were making it up.
Dave asks, “Do the people of your generation still do the twist?  Because i saw very little twisting.  You twist now but there’s no music.

After a lovely “King of the Past,” They’re going to take it down for a couple of long slow songs.  They’re very poetic and we know how much the people of japer die for the poetry.  “Saskatchewan” is first and then “We’re gonna crank up the Hitmaker 2000” for “We Went West.”  Introducing the song:

The first time we toured was in 1987 across Canada.  I bet that was before you were born.  Every verse is devoted to a province–not every province but the ones we went to.  Yes, Alberta’s in it.  [cheers] Wait, you haven’t heard the verse about Alberta.

Someone shouts a request and Dave says, “We’re going to do a new song, but thanks for the request.”  Up comes a good “P.I.N.”

The set ends with a great “Stolen Car.”  The acoustic really rings and the end has a wicked loud and wild solo from martin.

These short sets are definitely less fun than the full length ones, but they sound fantastic.

[READ: March 14, 2021] “Austerlitz”

About ten years ago I read the novel Austerlitz, from which this excerpt comes.  At the time I had written

I read about Sebald in Five Dials. And the glowing talk about him made me want to read one of his books (specifically, this one).

This excerpt is quite long, but so is the novel.   It’s essentially the first few sections of the the novel.  I had written

Austerlitz is a strange novel [translated by Anthea Bell] which I enjoyed but which I never really got into.  I feel like rather than absorbing me into its words, the book kind of held me aloft on the surface.  As such, I have a general sense of what happened, but I’d be very hard pressed to discuss it at length.

The basic plot summary is that an unnamed narrator runs into a man named Jacques Austerlitz.  Austerlitz talks to him at length about his life. They run into each other at various points over the years, and Austerlitz’ story is continued.  And literally, that is the book.  Now, of course, Austerlitz’ story is multifaceted and complex.  But we will never forget that this is a story within a story (it’s impossible to forget because the phrase “said Austerlitz” appears about 500 times in the book.

It was interesting to me that the details I wrote about this novel ten years ago were the same ones I kept from this reading, more or less.  (Particularly the part about how it says “said Austerlitz” all the time). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-The Beverley Tavern (October 28, 1983).

This is one of the first recordings of the Rheostatics live.  As the blurb says, the band was only a trio at the time (Martin Tielli had not joined yet).

It is amazing that a show this old sounds so good – not great but considering it is from 1983 not too bad. It is also weird as hell. I’m not sure if it was the 27, 28 or 29 of October 1983 but since the 27th is my birthday I’ll go with that date. [They later say it’s Friday night, which was the 28th].  I think this is a Triostatics show with just Tim, Dave B and Dave C.

Some of these songs don’t appear anywhere else.  Like the first one “Get Rich, Get Bored” which really shows off how new wave they were in the beginning.  It’s got a funky bass line with jagged new wave guitar from Dave and I assume Tim singing.

The band was really goofy back then too (not that they aren’t now, but a sort of wild goofiness pervades this evening.  Like Clark saying “I don’t know what the hell’s sitting behind the drum kit” and Tim letting everyone know that “anything’s possible on Halloween.”  Until someone helpfully yells “It’s not Halloween yet.”

“Chemical World” is one of those early new wave songs that they played a lot but which never made it onto Greatest Hits.

There’s some peculiar banter that is hard to hear but it sure sounds like they thought it was funny.

“we’re gonna change our name to R and then to H and then K?   What’s up next on the bill Mr Vesely?  It’s in the key of C.  You’re cheap, like your clothing.  Woman in audience: “but he’s not easy.”

Dave Clark says “Straight to Hell” is about Dave B’s father.  Tim sings in a weird style, over new wave guitar chords and a seemingly random bass.  The middle has a spoken word part with a drum and bass breakdown: “Now Richard, what seems to be the problem…   doesn’t know what to do–he’s going straight to hell.”

Dave B asks, “Satellite Dancing” Someone: “No!”  “Satellite dancing” “No!”

So instead they play “National Pride” another song that they played a lot but which didn’t make it onto the debut (which in fairness came out four years later.  Dave B says they released this song a long time ago and nobody bought it so they’re going to play it tonight and hope someone buys it.  Midway through Dave says “specials effects, Julia Child” and then sings in a crazy falsetto.  Then Dave says “What was Reagan doing on TV the other night?  Explaining why he had invaded a country the size of East Toronto.”  The song ends with a mangled opening of The Star Spangled Banner.

Dave says someone complained they weren’t going to come to the show, “aw you guys play funk. I don’ want to see you play funk.”  So they play a funky “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).”  They thank Rick the amazing man with the echo machine.  Tim says, before you take anymore pictures let me put my hair on.  As the song ends, Dave says, “who said the 70s are dead?  Not us I tell ya.”  “It was you!  In a drunken haze you said the 70s are dead.”

Clark: lets do all 70s songs about the word Monday.

Up next is “No Religion,” the b side of our National Pride single that nobody bought.  It’s a bouncy song with la la las, although I can’t really make out words.
Clark: The b side of Tim’s underwear.
Tim: “The dirty side. Oh my gosh I don’t say things like that.

Someone shouts, “chicken rap.”  Then they say “Do ‘Walk the Line.’  It’s Friday night!  Tim plays a minute long bass riff “okay, that was our cover of “I Walk the Line.”
Clark: “we play both kinds, country and western.”

It’s crowd participation night we want the guy who was dressed like an albino up here. (dressed like an albino?).
He left.
They play “Louie Louie” and ask for volunteers.  Someone comes up” “Ladies and gentlemen the Prince of Toronto.”  The guy sings a made up verse.  It comes to a wild crashing rumbling ending.  You can almost imagine them smashing things.

Clark: “Okay that means we have to do an encore.”
It’s a song by Chic called “Good Times.”  Tim plays the bass line more or less the right way but the song sounds different the way they play it.  Then comes “the highlight of the evening” Dave Bidini singing “Fly Robin Fly” in falsetto!

Definitely an unusual show, but I love Darrin’s name “Triostatics.”  I’m glad they didn’t stay a new wave band.

[READ: March 10, 2021] “The Specks in the Sky” 

I had put off reading this story because it was so long (19 pages!).  But I regretted putting it off as soon as I started it because this story was weird and wonderful. Until the end.

Set on a farm in the middle of nowhere, “two-hundred and twenty-five days after my father left home” the young narrator Ryder, along wither her older sister, Aileen, and her mother are outside when they see specks in the sky.

They don’t know what they are until the get closer and it becomes clear that these are men parachuting to the ground.  The parachutes are pink, the men are all in red jumpsuits.

The first man lands mostly gracefully and clears his parachute away.  He introduces himself as Commander Kyle Cheshire.  Slowly, thirteen more men fall out of the sky.  One of them is immediately taken with Aileen “a real beauty with long hair and breasts and everything.”  But before anyone can say anything the commander takes roll call.

That’s when they realize that Chip Gainsborough didn’t make it.  His parachute must not have opened. The men are very upset, none more so than Bud who bemoans his oldest friend–they used to go crabbing in Maine together when they were little.

Finally the mom asks them who the hell they are–army navy, what?  The commander regrets that everything is classified, he can’t say anything,  The only thing he can relate is that their plane had trouble 20,000 feet in the air and they all had to jump out.  But they will be acting lawfully under the terms and conditions outlined in Section 15 of the Parachuting Handbook, Landing Upon Civilian Property Clause No 33B where it sates explicitly that we are to assist the said civilians in any way we can during our stay on the civilian premises. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PUP-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #149 (January 21, 2021).

A lot of Tiny Desk Concerts are by bands I don’t know (and then really like).  Some are by bands I don’t like.  And every once in a while they have one by a band I like a lot.

Pup is a hugely popular pop punk band from Canada.  I’m bummed I didn’t get to see them when they played around here, but I wasn’t really aware of them at the time.

I have since come to enjoy their music quiet a lot.

“Rot” (from the group’s aptly-titled 2020 EP, This Place Sucks A** ) opens with some fast drumming from Zack Mykula, then Stefan Babcock starts singing and playing rhythm guitar.  After the first verse, Steven Sladkowski adds higher harmony notes–a simple but cool effect.  It’s not until the (outrageously catchy) chorus that Nestor Chumak adds the bass notes and, suddenly, the song feels huge.  I really like that Babcock adds some noisy harmonics and mini feedbacks into the chaos.

The other fun thing is that everyone except Babcock is wearing a mask–even while signing backing vocals (it’s not hard to wear a mask, people).  For a fast punk song, it’s actually quote long–over three minutes.

“My neighbors hate us, and I don’t blame them,” Babcock said.  The Toronto group refused to dial down the volume, filling Babcock’s neatly-furnished living room – complete with an Ontario pennant – and just maybe making a few enemies down the street in the process.

“Kids” (From 2019’s Morbid Stuff) opens differently–bass and harmonics for the first verse, before the rest of the band crashes in. There’s even a harmonic-filled guitar solo.  I like in the middle when it’s almost only drums and Mykula plays some cool rhythms on the floor tom.

Up next is “Reservoir,” a track off the group’s debut.  It’s full on with lots o crash cymbal, and lots of fast playing from everyone during the chorus.

“Scorpion Hill” runs to almost seven minutes and has several parts.  It opens quietly with just Babcock singing and playing.  After the first verse the whole band joins in including backing vocals.  But it’s still fairly quiet until after a pauses a n a misdirecting guitar strum, the song rockets off with lots of thumping drums and bass  After a couple of lengthy section, there’s pause and then a simple riff during which everyone sings “ah ah ah oh.”

This was a wonderful set.  And the even better news

the handmade “Ceci n’est pas une Tiny Desk” (“This is not a Tiny Desk”) sign serves as a warning: When the Tiny Desk returns to NPR HQ and the U.S.-Canada border reopens, prepare to have your workday interrupted.

[READ: February 1, 2021] “Comfort”

This story seemed rather different from Munro’s usual work.

It is about Nina and her husband Lewis. Lewis was a teacher at the high school left until he left under less than positive circumstances.

Nina met with Margaret (another former teacher who left on good terms) at the high school tennis courts.  Nina had not set foot on high school grounds since Lewis had left

When she returned (victorious from her matches), she discovered that Lewis had taken his own life.  They had talked about Lewis doing this, but Nina always thought she would be there–a ceremonial act of some sort.  But clearly Lewis didn’t want her to see him do this.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKELISAPIE-GlobalFEST Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #136/156 (January 14, 2021).

ElisapieGlobalFEST is an annual event, held in New York City, in which bands from all over the world have an opportunity to showcase their music to an American audience.  I’ve never been, and it sounds a little exhausting, but it also sounds really fun.

The Tiny Desk is teaming up with globalFEST this year for a thrilling virtual music festival: Tiny Desk Meets globalFEST. The online fest includes four nights of concerts featuring 16 bands from all over the world. 

Given the pandemic’s challenges and the hardening of international borders, NPR Music and globalFEST is moving from the nightclub to your screen of choice and sharing this festival with the world. Each night, we’ll present four artists in intimate settings (often behind desks donning globes), and it’s all hosted by African superstar Angélique Kidjo, who performed at the inaugural edition of globalFEST in 2004.

The second artist of the fourth and final night is First Nations singer Elisapie.

Elisapie returns to Tiny Desk for a show-stopping performance from Montreal, with the disco globe of our dreams helping to light her set. Elisapie, in both her songs and work, is a resounding advocate of First Nations culture in Canada. In her set, she harnesses an incredible energy with electrifying, emotive vocals.

I had really enjoyed Elisapie’s previous Tiny desk.  I found her to be a less extreme, but no less dramatic performer than Tanya Tagaq.  Her band is outstanding creating all kinds of textures to surround her voice.

The first song is “Qanniuguma.”  It starts quietly with a single ringing guitar note from Jean-Sébastien Williams and little taps of percussion from Robbie Kuster.  Joshua Toal adds some quiet bass as the guitar plays some higher notes.  After a minute Elisapie starts singing.  Another 30 seconds later the drums get louder and Jason Sharp start sprinkling in some raw bass saxophone.  As the song grows more intense, Elisapie adds some breathing and chanting–throat singing.  Things quiet down and then build again with the sax and the guitar soloing as the drums and bass keep things steady

Behind her you can see Mont Royal, which has a lot of history.

The second song “Wolves Don’t Live by the Rules” is “a small song” but very meaningful.  It starts in a similar way with ringing notes an thumping drums.  She sings this one in  English and it feels like a much more conventional sounding song.  It’s pretty quiet but the instrumental breaks adds huge guitar chords and the end is really loud.

Introducing the final song, “Arnaq” (which means Woman) she says women tend to forget that we have a lot of strength and we should celebrate it loud and clear.  This one opens with a loud raw sliding guitar like an early PJ Harvey song.  The song’s chorus builds with an “ah ya ya ya” as the instruments add chunky noises–scratches from the guitar and skronks from the sax and all kinds of precious.  It’s a cool noise fest, although the guitar could be a smidge louder.

I’d really like to see her live.

[READ: February 25, 2021] March Book 2

Book Two picks up John Lewis’ life.

Like the first, it starts with Lewis’ preparations for the inauguration of Barack Obama.

Then it flashes back.  Lewis was in college and had moved to Nashville where the growing student movement was gaining strength.

The visuals are even more striking in this book.  The panels of the white woman pouring water and then soap (or flour) on the quietly sitting Black diners and then hosing them down is really arresting.  As is the sequence (which is almost entirely black) of a room full of peaceful protestors being locked in a room when the fumigator was set off.

I couldn’t believe that a man couldn’t really left us there to die.  Were we not human to him?

Then next round of protesta was at the segregated movie theaters.  I love that they chose the Ten Commandments to protest (the irony was lost on the whites in Alabama).  The Black protesters would line up and would be refused seating.  Hundreds of people who would then get back on line and be refused seating again.  Whites would throw things at them and hurl abuse at them. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-3rd Annual Green Sprouts Music Week Night 5 (Ultrasound Showbar, Toronto Ontario September 20 1995).

It has been a while since I’ve listened to a live Rheostatics show.  Darrin at Rheostatics Live has added a number of new shows in the last eight months.  Like this full week of shows from the Third Green Sprouts Music Week.

Fifth night of the third annual Green Sprouts Music Week held at Ultrasound Showbar September 18-23 1995. The first song is Tim Vesely performing a rap he wrote along with Farm Fresh and Rheos and then perfected the following night. If you ever listened to or attended all the shows of a GSMW run you know how the band kind of builds through the week and really hits a stride a few shows in – this is one of those types of shows. Interesting to hear how even within single songs they were working on the transformation from night to night as they worked them out in front of a crowd – Desert Island Poem aka Drumheller is a great example. Song Of Flight/California Dreamiline/Digital Beach/Earth is a particularly great run from this show. Don sings Never Forget for the second time and also second time ever singing lead at a live show. Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine features Tamara Williamson who co-wrote the song. All in all a great show. It is funny looking back at shows that have the impression of classic setlists but in fact half of the songs had not even been recorded yet and were pretty unfamiliar to fans.

This recording opens with a freestyle rap from Farm Fresh.  I’m assuming that’s Tim on bass, and maybe someone else joining them?

Farm Fresh (Tyler, Pat and Ronnie) does “Space Song” and then Tim does a great story-rap about touring and listening to the Farm Fresh cassette and really loving it.  is tim playing bass with them

Then Farm Fresh does some more rapping and when they leave someone (Don?) says that seriously they fought over the Farm Fresh tape–which van would get to listen to it.

When everyone leaves there’s some weird swirling music that lingers while martin starts “A Mid-Winter Night’s Dream.”  He can’t reach the high note at the end–his voice kind of craps out but it’s still good.  The jam at the end makes up for it.

There’s a raw “Feed Yourself.”  Dave has changed “like a box of chocolates or a Beatles song” to “like Preston Sturges or a Beatles song.”  But they get the crashing end part perfect.

Tim’s “All the Same Eyes” has some fun harmonics on the second guitar.

Dave says: Friday night is rock night.  Each night is a like a snowflake–each one is unique.  Like, Martin’s guitar did not break down last night during that song.  And the new songs we have not yet worked out our dance moves yet.  Donny was playing the lower drums with his hands and the hi-hat with his feet.
Tim: and the crash cymbals with his teeth.
Dave: I aspire to have all gold teeth like Sticky Thompson in Ziggy Marley’s group.

They begin “Aliens” which I thought would make everyone pretty excited.  But there’s a lot of chatter.  At the end, Dave says, “that was nearly my chance to grab the brass ring of lead guitar.”

There’s a screaming person in the crowd again and Dave says, “nice scream. We hear you.”

There’s a long tech delay so they do “My First Rock Concert.”  Dave asks, “Does everyone know who ELO was?”  When it’s done Martin says that was the mystery song.  We’ve never rehearsed it, we just let it develop live.  Dave then talks about the five flash pots and asks if the guy from the Yardbirds died when a flash pot blew up in his face.  Or is that like the pop rocks guy story.  Someone shouts Same guy!

Dave asks, Martin, if we play “Four Little Songs” will that cheer you up?  It will.  During Dave’s part he asks, “who votes for a guitar solo?”  The 4321 at the end is perfect and at the end (“now they’re gone”) he asks several people if “you took them?”

The noisy crowd continues to irritate.  Dave wishes there was a button you could use to highlight something or other and then Don says, a button to eject screaming fan.  Or let them live?  Someone shouts “make them buy beer.”  Then as Tim starts the next quiet song someone shouts “shut the fuck up!”

Tim get a few songs now.  “Connecting Flights” and “An Offer” (It’s only the third time we’ve played this, so be gentle).  The falsetto seems a bit of a struggle.

Then comes Don’s song, “Never Forget.” Dave asks if he ever sang in his old new wave band.  Only backing vocals.  “Last night was the first time I was completely naked in front of the people.”  So Dave introduces: Second time for the Don Kerr Band.

Dave invites Tyler from Farm Fresh on stage, but they are doing an interview.  They play “Drumheller” (or “Desert Island Poem” as it’s also called).  Drumheller’s a weird place man.  We had great Greek food there once and terrible Greek food in the same restaurant.

As Martin plays a gorgeous “Song of Flight” he makes cool whale sounds.  (Whales lived in Canada once).  It segues into a lovely “California Dreamline” and then into “Digital Beach” and then into a wild “Earth/Monstrous Hummingbirds.”  It’s, as Darrin says a great sixteen minutes.

Someone asks if “Earth” is about Dave’s family.  Bidinis were the first humans.

Someone shouts “Winnie Cooper.”  Dave: “The Wonder Years? I don’t follow.   Lets meet outback later and talk about it.”

A ripping “Queer” come next with a “riff so nice, play it twice.”  Dave messes up some words (which hardly ever happens).  There’s a jam of the intro to “King of the Past” but no vocals.  Did Tim just not want to play it?

Tamara from Mrs. Torrance is invited up, and while Dave is talking he says to someone “Hey don’t fuck with me” (!) [What happened?]  Dave: I wish we wouldn’t swear as much, but we don’t swear as much as the guys in Farm Fresh do.

Tamara wrote the chorus to “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine.”  The two of them singing this together gives me goose bumps. Martin says: “That song was for Winnie Cooper.”  Dave: How do you know about The Wonder Years?  Martin: “Late at night, lonely, kind of lukewarm depressed.”

Dave: Was she like the Miss Beedle? [from Little House on the Prairie].  Martin: No, she’s like Jan.

Up next is “Fat” with a great jam at the end.  Martin says “You hurt me with your rocking.”  And then proceeds to rock out a cover of jane Siberry “One more Colour.”

The recording cuts off after about a minute of “Fan Letter to Michael Jackson,” so who knows what else happened on this Friday night. 

[READ: February 12, 2020] Ready Player Two 

I really enjoyed Ready Player One quite a lot.  It was certainly one of my favorite books of the year.  I didn’t know there was supposed to be a sequel, but when I heard about it, I imagined it might be a lot of fun.

And while the book is largely the same in structure, the tone of it was really disappointing to me.

Set several years after the events of the first book, Wade (Parzival) and his helpers Aech, Daito, and Art3mis are all in charge of the empire that controls the OASIS.  They have bought out their competition and are basically a giant monopoly.  They are the only company making legit equipment to access the OASIS and each of them multi-billionaires.

They do a lot of philanthropic activities, especially when it comes to giving poorer people access to the OASIS.  And each one of them his his and her own pet causes to which they donate millions of dollars.  But primarily they (or at least Wade) is taking care of himself.  His house is palatial and costs billions of dollars.  He has made everything fit his heart’s (nerdy) and he wants for nothing.  Much of his money and energy is spent on building security measures for himself. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-3rd Annual Green Sprouts Music Week Night 3 (Ultrasound Showbar, Toronto Ontario September 20 1995).

It has been a while since I’ve listened to a live Rheostatics show.  Darrin at Rheostatics Live has added a number of new shows in the last eight months.  Like this full week of shows from the Third Green Sprouts Music Week

Third night of the third annual Green Sprouts Music Week held at Ultrasound Showbar September 18-23 1995. Shorter mid week set though I believe the first song is missing and not sure if there were any encores. The show focused predominantly on Blue Hysteria material they were working on at the time with 8 of the 14 songs being unreleased. The show builds pretty nicely to epic song territory. The last four songs alone make up almost 1/3 of the show.This tape starts with “All the Same Eyes,” which sounds great–martin adds in some cool noisy guitar effects.

But, as seems to happen a lot for these guys, there’s technical problems.  The first song does appear to be missing because after this, Dave says something about being only two songs in.  Someone shouts “Tell me a story, Dave.” “I don’t have a story at the ready.”  “Tell us the Milli Vanilli story.”  “I don’t have a Milli Vanilli story….  And if I did I wouldn’t be at liberty to release that information.”

Martin tells everyone, “On New Years Eve we sat down and wrote four songs and if we made a whole song of any of them it would be awful.  So we put them into one song.”  “Four Little Songs” comes out perfectly.  Dave says that he’s in Neil Finn’s kitchen.  At the end of the song “And now they’re gone,” he asks, “Did you eat them?”

Introducing “Desert Island Poem” Dave talks about writing a song about cannibalism already: IOn “Oneilly’s Strange Dream” he has to eat his friend to survive.  So we have reprise the theme in this song.  Tyler from Farm Fresh adds some scratching.  Don says “I feel like we’re being attacked by one of those beam swords from Star Trek or Star Wars.  Everyone cracks up that he can’t remember light saber.

Martin says he was once hurt by a toy torpedo.  Did one of your brothers do that to you?  Martin: The mean one, the one they don’t talk about.   Gus, the hidden Tielli.

Then comes three Tim songs in a row.  In “Introducing Happiness’ Tim sings “your sister lives in … wherever the hell she is.”

Dave asks “How are the cats doing?”  Tim: “They’re a little bored.”  Dave” Bring them to the show–all kitties half price.”  But…  Is Dale [the Rooster] here tonight?  There would be a problem.

Up next are “Connecting Flights” and “An Offer.”

Martin follows up with “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine” which has some outstanding drumming in the chorus.

Dave plays “My First Rock Concert” and I noticed that instead of “Paul Weller was Christ” he says he’s seen “The Special Beat thrice.”

They’re going to take a little break (it’s pretty early for that, frankly) and then they come back for “California Dreamline.”  Martin had no monitor and couldn’t hear anything–“I sang it deaf.”  Don: “That was def man.”

It’s weird how many people are talking but then how many people are excited to hear it.

A gorgeous “Northern Wish” segues into “Saskatchewan” which has a cool buzzing sound that goes from one ear to the other.  Was that on purpose?

Throughout the week, there is some concern in the audience about people standing up.  I guess this is a seated venue, maybe with tables?  Before they start “Fan Letter to Michael Jackson,” Dave says, “you can stand up now.”  As they start the song, Dave starts singing Bowie’s “Fashion” (turn to the left).  Then he starts singing a refrain that pops up a lot this week and I cant figure out what it’s from

It’s tuesday night in the discotheque / I can’t dance what the heck / I’m an Uzbek.

Farm Fresh gets the Michael Shout out and Tyler does a scratching solo.  There’s a fantastic vocal ending from Martin and Tim.

They follow this with “When Winter Comes, with a stomping honky tonk guitar before the main riff comes in.  Someone else is sings the “blue Canadian winter” part.

Dave says they’re going to do a couple more, but the tape only has one more–a really good version of “Fat.”

[READ: February 20, 2021] We Can Be Heroes

S. brought this book home and after describing the premise I wanted to give it a read.  I’d never read Mike Chen before.  Apparently his books are typically a lot darker than this one.  So I’m glad I read this as I don’t think I’d like the darker ones.

This one comes from an amusing premise.  It also comes from a short story that he wrote that had a similar premise but when in a different direction.  In that story (called “Anonymous,” from Storyteller Vol. 1 No. 3 which I can’t find anywhere) two superheroes meet in A.A.  The premise of the novel is similar–two superheroes meet in a memory loss group.  But it’s that memory loss that really changes the direction of the story.

The book opens on Jamie Sorensen–a villain. He is the Mind Robber and he is robbing a bank.  He is able to look into people’s minds and flick through their memories like pictures on a phone (I liked that detail).  He can read them or erase them or just stun people’s memories with a flick of his finger.  He doesn’t want to hurt anyone in the bank, but people are afraid that he is going to wipe out their entire memory.  He just wants to get a ton of money so he can go to the tropics and hide out for the rest of his life–not an ambitious villain, really.  Plus he had heard that banks are insured so as long as he doesn’t take too much at a time, no one really gets hurt. (more…)

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