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Archive for the ‘West End Phoenix’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SINGLE MOTHERS-“Marbles” (2014).

Single Mothers has been together in one way or another for years.  In fact their blurb says

Single Mothers broke up in 2009 and have been playing shows ever since.

I had not heard of this London, Ontario band until reading this story from Evan Redsky, so I wanted to find a song that he played on.  Their lineup was everchanging and as far as I can tell this album, Negative Qualities, is the only one he played bass on.

Negative Qualities has a classic punk sound with a twenty-first century production quality.  The songs are short and fast (most are around two minutes).

One of the more important things for a band like this is how the vocalist comes across.  Drew Thompson screams melodically and, more importantly, clearly enough that you can hear most of the words.

I picked this song, the second on the album because it opens with a great rumbling wall from bass from Redsky and this fantastic lyrical verse, bridge and chorus

She’s like
Blah, blah, blah, blah
Something ’bout McSweeney’s
Something ’bout her thesis
Something ’bout it’s meaning
Something ’bout whatever
Something like
“Why do you gotta be so mean?”

‘Cause I don’t care about your first editions
And I don’t care about your typewriter ribbons
I don’t care about your punctuation
Puncture wounds
That you’re trying to inflict me with

‘Cause I’m a hypocrite
And I’m okay with it
And I’m so self-aware
That it’s crippling
At least I don’t pretend my whole life’s held together by bookends

The whole album is really good.  While exploring their bandcamp site, I found their first EP (with longer songs and a slightly different sound) to also be excellent.

[READ: December 2019] “Smack Dab in the Metal”

The December 2019 issue of the West End Phoenix focused on Indigenous People.  Most of the writers were Indigenous and the news stories shone a light on Indigenous issues.  Much of the presence of Indigenous peoples is seen through their art–whether through beads, paint or sculpture, the images are often quite striking.  The issue even included a “colour me” page with a striking image from Taylor Cameron, a 23-year-old Anishinaabe artist from Saugeen First Nation (I can’t find an image online).

To a Polish person, the name Evan Redsky sounds Polish or Russian, but I can clearly see that it is not.

Redsky is a musician.  He has released some solo material, but he is perhaps best known as the bassist for Single Mothers.  That’s how this piece opens anyway.

He says in his later teens and early twenties he traveled the globe with this punk band (that I hadn’t heard of).

There’s nothing too unusual about a teenage boy being in a punk band.  But the fact that Redsky is Ojibway from Mississaugi First Nation in Northern Ontario is pretty unusual–especially in the punk/metal scene. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BILL RIEFLIN (September 29, 1960 – March 24, 2020).

Bill Rieflin is a musician that I’ve known of for as long as I can remember.

He played with the Revolting Cocks and then, how I knew him best, as the drummer for Ministry.  I feel like his name appeared in dozens of places on the industrial scene.  He helped to create Pigface and even played with KMFDM (as a drummer and keyboardist).  He also played on the Lard albums and drummed with Nine Inch Nails and Swans.

With all of that industrial background it came as something of a surprise to hear that he was going to replace Bill Berry (as a hired drummer, not a band member) in R.E.M. (in live shows and on their last couple of albums).

He even played drums on Taylor Swift’s album Red (which is amusing given his later King Crimson connection).

He had been friendly with Robert Fripp since at least 1999.  Fripp played on Rieflin’s solo album Birth of a Giant and had worked with him in various projects through the years.  I didn’t know about that Fripp connection, so when I found out that he was going to be one of the three drummers in the 2014 King Crimson tour, I was really surprised.

I was also really impressed at his drumming and am now really happy to have seen him play.  When Crimson toured again in July of 2017, Rieflin had taken a sabbatical but was now back.  But since they had replaced him while he was away, he was now playing keyboards (which meant that Crimson now had eight members on stage).  When I saw them again in November 2017, Rieflin was once again on sabbatical.

I assumed it was for health reasons (why else do musicians take sabbaticals), but his cancer was kept under wraps. (He’d evidently been fighting it since 2013).

So at least I was fortunate enough to see him play twice before he died.

Here’s the second drummer that I know of to die of cancer in 2020.  Even while Coronavirus is getting the front page, cancer still does its dirty work.

[READ: December 2019] “Who We Are”

The December 2019 issue of the West End Phoenix focused on Indigenous People.  Most of the writers were Indigenous and the news stories shone a light on Indigenous issues.  Much of the presence of Indigenous peoples is seen through their art–whether through beads, paint or sculpture, the images are often quite striking.  The issue even included a “colour me” page with a striking image from Taylor Cameron, a 23-year-old Anishinaabe artist from Saugeen First Nation (I can’t find an image online).

The issue also featured two full page graphic short stories.

The first features very clean illustrations from Scott B. Henderson.  The lines are very crisp and yet the art is quite minimal, achieving a lot with very little.

The story is a true story. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KATHLEEN EDWARDS-“It’s Christmastime (Let’s Just Survive)” (2019).

I really like Kathleen Edwards and I was so delighted to hear that she was coming out of … semi-retirement?… this summer.  In the last few years, she has opened up her own coffee shop, in Stittsville, Ontario called Quitters Coffee [road trip?].

I couldn’t believe that she played XPN Fest on the year that we had tickets to the Newport Folk Festival.  I had hoped she’s play Newport as well, but sadly no.  She played two new songs and a few older ones and her voice sounds great (thanks YouTube).  In the spirit of coming back, she has released this wryly amusing Christmas song. Like many of her songs, there is a nice mix of humor and bite in this song–set to a very catchy melody.

With a slow lap steel guitar starting the song, she begins

It’s a wonderful time where we all descend to my parent’s house in the West End.  [Hope they subscribe to the West End Phoenix].

Then the song gets to the point:

Uncle Dave and Susan bring their feral cat / and homemade wine that tastes like crap.

There’s a few more examples of amusingly bad Christmas happenings.  One of my favorites is

Someone let the dog lick the gravy boat / and now the air in here unbearable

I also enjoyed this line, because it hits home:

You have a meltdown when we play scrabble / Its not my fault you’re only left with vowels.

Musically, the song is quite lovely.  There’s a pretty bridge where she sings lyrics that sound sweet until you listen closely, “tell me a story we’ve heard before and drag it out even more.”

And just when you think the song is only dark and cynical, the instrumental break adds a refrain of Kathleen quietly singing “meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow.”

I truly hope that this song gets played a lot during this and future holidays.  It may not make it to #1 like “All I Want for Christmas is You,” but it’s a lot more honest–and really catchy.

I’m so excited that Kathleen is back that I’m posting the video for the song right here!

I have also just learned that this song comes from a new Christmas album called A Dualtone Christmas. (although I don’t really like much else on it).

[READ: December 19, 2019] “Letter from San Francisco”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

This story is indeed a letter from San Francisco.

There are a few things redacted from it–the sender and the recipient’s names and two lines in the middle which are the details of their huge fight. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: iLe-Tiny Desk Concert #874 (August 3, 2019).

It’s not very often that you hear a song that is all percussion.  But the first song of this set is only percussion and (Spanish) vocals.

iLe is a singer in the Puerto Rican band Calle 13.  Her most recent solo album Almadura:

is filled with metaphors and allegories about the political, social and economic conditions in Puerto Rico.

When vocalist Ileana Cabra Joglar and her band visited the Tiny Desk, they’d just arrived from the front lines of the historic demonstrations taking place in Puerto Rico. Two days earlier, they were part of a crowd of tens of thousands who were on the streets calling for the resignation of embattled Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. (Rosselló recently stepped down, effective August 2.)

Right from the start, it was clear what was on iLe’s mind in her song “Curandera” — “I am a healer / I don’t need candles to illuminate / I bring purifying water to cleanse / Removing pains so they never return” — as congas and percussion shook the room with an Afro-Caribbean beat.

This is the song in which all of the band members play percussion–primarily congas although Ismael Cancel is on the drum kit.  While everyone plays congas, it is Jeren Guzmán who is the most accomplished and who plays the fast conga “solo.”

In the chorus of the slow-burning “Contra Todo,” iLe sings about channeling inner strengths and frustrations to win battles and remake the world. Her lyrics are rich with history, capturing the spirit of the streets of San Juan even as she stood, eyes closed, behind the Tiny Desk. Her entire performance is a startling reflection of this moment in Puerto Rican history.

“Contra Todo” has a rich deep five string bass from Jonathan Gonzalez and two trombones (Joey Oyola and Nicolás Márquez). Two guitars (Bayoán Ríos and Adalberto Rosario) add a kind of percussive strumming and a quiet song-ending riff.  Jeren Guzmán plays the congas with mallets, something I’ve never seen before.

By the time iLe and her band launched into “Sin Masticar,” they’d already captured the full power of protest, as their musical arrangements raged with the intensity of a crowd joined by a shared cause and pulse.

“Sin Masticar” has a super catchy chorus, perhaps the best way to get people involved in a protest.

[READ: August 2019] Midnight Light

Two years ago Dave Bidini co-founded The West End Phoenix, a newspaper that is for people in Toronto’s West End.  It’s print, it’s old school, and it’s pretty awesome.  I don’t think I’ve ever been to the West End, but I find the writing and the content to be interesting and really enjoyable.

It’s no surprise that Bidini has worked in journalism and loved and hated it.

I’ve always loved newspaper: the smell of the ink and the rough of the newsprint weighted in my hands, their broadsheets flapping like Viking sails.  When I was a kid, our family read them all–the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, The Sun, and before that The Telegram–at the kitchen table with each person drawing out whatever they needed: comics, sports, business, entertainment (and yet never Wheels, the Star’s automotive supplement).

He started writing before he picked up a guitar.  When he was 11 he submitted a poem about a hockey player to The Sun‘s “Young Sun” section.  It was accepted and he won a T-shirt.

In 1991, he was asked to write a regular column for a Star satellite weekly called Metropolis.  The day his first piece was to be in print he waited at the nearest newsbox for the delivery man.

But he had no stamina and fewer ideas and he was eventually let go.  Which led to writing books.  But he still wanted to write for the paper and then he remembered: Hey, Yellowknife had a newspaper.

This book is about journalism.  But it’s also about the Canadian North.  And while the journalism stuff is interesting–and the way it ties to the North is interesting too, it’s the outsider’s perspective of this region of the world (that most people don’t even think about) which is just amazing to read about–the people, the landscape, the conditions.  It’s fascinating. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MICHIE MEE & L.A. LUV-“Jamaican Funk, Canadian Style” (1991).

I only know about Michie Mee because she has written pieces for the West End Phoenix.  I knew she was a rapper, but I had no idea she has been rapping since the 1980s!

I watched this profile about her and found out her first album came out in 1991.  The video for the title track “Jamaican Funk, Canadian Style” is so perfectly 1991–the backgrounds, the dance moves, the little kids, the kinda story.  It’s a perfect time capsule.

I like that Michie raps part of the song in her Jamaican patois and the rest of the song sounds pretty straight up feminist (she found it tough to break into the biz being A) Canadian B) female and C) very young.  I’m not sure what was the biggest impediment.  But she was the first Canadian rapper to get a U.S. record deal.

So good on her.  And she’s still going strong.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “That Summer, This City”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

Michie is a rapper who has written pieces in a number of the WEP issues.  This is a story about her 2007 summer (and if you read the blurb above, you’ll see she has been rapping for over fifteen years by then). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ERIN RAE-Tiny Desk Concert #867 (July 12, 2019).

Lars Gottrich is one of my favorite NPR personalities.  He picks some of my favorite loud music but he also loves a lot of quiet music.  So even though I have never seen Erin Rae, he has apparently seen her many times.

Every time I’ve seen Erin Rae live, she transforms her quiet storms into different hues of squalling introspection.

She opens with “Bad Mind.”  But before that,

Her performance at the Tiny Desk opens with a soft tide of ambient tones — both a way to ease into the song but also understand that life’s unease is ever-present.  Then a lilting acoustic melody introduces “Bad Mind,” a stunning statement of identity from a Nashville singer-songwriter who shares the secrets we keep close.

She’s joined here by Jerry Bernhardt, a treasured collaborator and a guitarist who knows how to play decorative but unobtrusive figures. He and drummer Dom Billet both appear on Putting On Airs, taking those arrangements and stretching them out at the Tiny Desk with Mellotron/Rhodes piano player Ben Tanner and bassist Joe Garner.

It’s a lovely melody and she avoids the dreaded country twang when she sings. In fact when Bernhardt and Billet sing along, their voices are pure folk gold.  Bernhardt introduces a quiet buzzing guitar solo which, along with the organ adds all kinds of neat sounds to this simple song.

Before the second song she says she and her sister used to make their own radio shows.  They were a big NPR family but she thought it meant Nashville Public Radio.

“Can’t Cut Loose” is a song about letting go of things that aren’t good for you anymore.  Its’a quiet slow song with a pretty chorus.

The Tiny Desk closes with “the summer jam,” as Erin Rae jokingly calls “Love Like Before,”

She says it’s their most upbeat song, although that is all relative.  It’s about learning to be content wherever you may be.

It’s definitely a bit more upbeat but it’s still a slow and thoughtful song.

I won’t be going to see Erin Rae, but I did enjoy this mellow little Concert.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “Radio Summer”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

2003:  Here’s another summer job story.  But this one is actually a happy summer job story.

Abdelmahmoud says that normally you want a summer job that starts in the evening so you can sleep in.  But there was one job worth getting up at 8AM for: being the summer DJ at CKVI 91.9 FM in Kingston.

It was part of a school program and for the summer he was the only DJ there from 8AM to 4PM.  You want jazz? Sure! A ska show from 2-3? Sure!

This was a dream job and one lucky person got it each summer. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LUCKY DAYE-Tiny Desk Concert #852 (May 28, 2019).

I watched the Raphael Saadiq Tiny Desk Concert where he brought out Lucky Daye before watching this one.

I might have appreciated Lucky Daye’s guest spot more had I seen this first.  I wound up liking him quite a bit in this Concert.

In the blurb Sidney Madden writes:

NPR Music’s Bobby Carter and I have been checking for Lucky Daye since last year when we dubbed him one of the “Kings of R&B.” Then, after seeing Lucky perform live in Washington D.C., we knew his charisma and control would translate well to the Tiny Desk.

This set is fun for all of the horns that are included (which we’ll chalk up to his hailing from New Orleans).  I feel like the horns give the songs more excitement than if they hadn’t been there.

Hailing from New Orleans and inheriting a love of sticky, bass-bumping funk early on, Lucky wanted to bring the full flavor of his debut album, Painted to NPR. So he brought along a 10-person band, including a quartet of horns.

“Roll Some Mo” opens with a quiet guitar from Kenji Chan and twinkling keys from Quintin “Q” Gulledge.  There’s a soft cymbal escalation from Kendall Lewis when a cool bass line comes in from Daye’s go-to producer Dernst “D’Mile” Emile II.

The horns are quiet as the song starts.  The camera seems to really like trumpeter Crystal “RØVÉL” Torres as it zooms in on her a bunch.  Brandyn Phillips on trumpet and flugel gets some screen time too.  There’s not a ton of differentiation between the horns–no solos or anything.  But once in awhile you can pick out Chris Johnson on trombone and Corbin Jones on baritone sax.

Nikki Flores does the first backing vocal part but then Chelsea “Peaches” West adds a lot to the call and response.

“Misunderstood” is a quiet song with keys and Crystal “RØVÉL” Torres playing a muted trumpet.  This is my least favorite song because of the way he sings it–all of that moaning and ohhing is not my thing.  I don’t care for an R&B ballad, obviously.  But he won me over after the song.

“I’ve never performed that song in front of anyone with a band,” he said, trying to laugh off mid-set jitters and bask in the moment. “This is amazing, y’all. I’m really grateful.”

The final song, “Late Night” is a lot of fun.  It starts with some great wah wah guitar with horns and vocal hits.  I like the way his sings this song much better—deeper vocals and some fun backing vocals.

The end of this song with the horns swinging and singers singing is really fun.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “First Time”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

1998

This story is mostly visual.  Because there’s not a lot of text.

Grade 11.  A daily bus ride.  A beautiful girl.

He wore a school uniform (grey pants, green cardigan).

She had long straight hair, amazing eyes and was always alone.  She was out of his league. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: STING AND SHAGGY-Tiny Desk Concert #866 (July 10, 2019).

Sting is certainly one of the biggest names to play the Tiny Desk Concert thus far (even if his star has probably faded somewhat).  I was surprised to see him here. And also surprised to see him with Shaggy, a singer I don’t know all that much about.

Sting and Shaggy might not be the most likely musical pairing. But one thing is certain, they love playing each other’s music. On a bright autumn morning, the legends arrived at the NPR Music office bleary-eyed yet excited to play for the diverse staff of Shaggy and Sting fans. What surprised many of my NPR colleagues is just how well the collaboration works.

I don’t know if they have done more together besides this, but they certainly sound familiar with each others work.  Well, the blurb suggests that they are or were touring together:

Shaggy affectionately refers to his collaborator as “Stingy,” putting his arm around him mid-performance. It’s easy to see the camaraderie that being on the road together affords these veteran musicians.

They open the set with “Englishman in New York” and Sting’s bass sounds great.  When he sings, he is so clearly Sting (even if he’s singing is slightly affected).  Dominic Miller strums Reggae offbeats on acoustic guitar.  Then Shaggy takes the second verse.

Shaggy (zoinks! – his nom de guerre comes from the Scooby-Doo cartoon character) was born in Kingston, Jamaica. He moved to New York when he was 18 and his music evokes only good vibes. The positive energy he brought to their opening song, “Englishman[and Jamaican]In New York,”had everyone in the room grinning ear to ear, “early morning Reggae style,” as he put it.

Shaggy adds this humorous verse:

I wear my colors in my back pocket / I got a big spliff in my hand /
and you might notice there’s swagger anytime I walk / I’m a Jamaican in New York.

Their voices sound great together especially as the end of the song soars unexpectedly.

After the tune, Sting announced “I never sang that song before 8 PM… Ever!”

Up next is “Don’t Make Me Wait,” a song I don’t know.  Sting plays a reggae bass line will Shaggy sings the first verses. The backing vocals from Gene Noble and Melissa Musique fill the chorus.  Then Sting takes the next verses.

The end is really funny as Shaggy tries to clap along with the backing singers but he gets lost and everyone laps.

The final song is a mash-up.  Dominic Miller co-wrote “Shape Of My Heart” which is mashed-up with Juice Wrld’s “Lucid Dream.”  “Shape of My Heart” sounds familiar–or at least sounds like a pretty typical Sting song.  Since I don’t know either song, I didn’t realize that Gene Noble was singing the lead of “Lucid Dream” within “Shape.”  Miller and Sting plays the same melody all the way through.  Noble has a nice voice, but I don’t like the way he sings.  Shaggy takes a verse.

This is an unlikely collaboration, but it works very well.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “Diamond Monkey”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

1995: This is another story about a summer job opportunity–one that promised much but delivered little.

This time the job opportunity was working the diamond mines in Yellowknife, Canada.  Heidi and her friends were driving up from Montreal.

This was pre-cell phone, pre-internet, pre-everything.  They squatted in grubby trailers playing cards.  What else was there to do?  Drink beers of course.

But you never wanted to go outside to pee, even after four beers because 20 seconds of dropped pants equaled at least three times that number in angry northern mosquito bites. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LADAMA-Tiny Desk Concert #853 (May 30, 2019).

There’s a lot to like in this Tiny Desk, but I am immediately drawn to Mafer Bandola’s  bandola llanera.  Is it see through?  Is it hollow?  I have so many questions.

Some of which are answered in the blurb.

But what might be even more interesting than the instruments is the international makeup of the band.

During the course of their performance behind the desk, the four core members of LADAMA — Lara Klaus, Daniela Serna, Mafer Bandola and Sara Lucas — had a chance to display their individual cultural and musical roots as part of an engaging and mesmerizing whole. Represented in glorious musical virtuosity are Brazil (Lara Klaus), Colombia (Daniela Serna) and Venezuela (Mafer Bandola), with a dash of New York City (Sara Lucas and bassist Pat Swoboda) thrown in just to make it interesting.

Not to mention all four of them sing lead.

“Sin Ataduras” opens with great sounds from the bandola llanera and some really great bass work Pat Swoboda.  Daniela Serna sings, almost raps, the lead vocals.  The song is catchy with a middle parts that’s all rim shots from Lara Klaus and clap alongs.  Then Sara Lucas adds a little guitar work, but it’s Mafer Bandola’s solo that’s really fantastic.

For the second song, “Elo” Lara Klaus plays the pandeiro and it’s amazing how much sound a little tambourine-looking drum can make.  She also sings lead–a very different vocal style.  Daniela Serna moved over to the congas and the tambor alegre.  Mafer Bandola switches to a more traditional-looking bandola llanera but still plays some amazing leads.

Throughout the songs, Sara Lucas plays quiet electric guitar that acts a foundation to lead bandola.  Incidentally, Mafer Bandola is a stage name (I assume Mafer is her first names put together).  Her real name is Maria Fernanda Gonzalez.

“Tierra Tiembla” is a much slower ballad.  Sarah Lucas sings lead (in Spanish).  Has a slow, smooth rhythm with nice echoing sounds form the bandola.  Sara Lucas sings lead on this one.  Lara Klaus is back on the kit, so with her and Daniela on congas, there’s a lot of percussion.   Mafer plays some nice lead lines and everyone sings delicate backing vocals.

The final song is “Inmigrante”  this song is for everybody–para todos inmigrantes–we are all immigrants.

It’s the fiery “Inmigrante” that finally raised the BPM meter and got hips swaying in our corner of NPR’s HQ, with its call-and-response back-and-forth and a very enthusiastic audience. T

Mafer Bandola sings this last song.  The bandola is a echoed and very cool sounding as she plays an excellent riff.  The drums are mostly hi-hat while the congas supply most of the percussion.  Sara Lucas puts down her guitar to play the raspa.

The song ends with a clap along and some fast and furious congas from Daniela.

This is yet another great Spanish-language band that enjoyed quite a lot.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “A Love Story”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

1992: This is the story of tree planting and romance.  Claudia and her friend drove to the planting location with dreams of getting rich.

I have heard about tree planters from many different sources (it seems a very Canadian thing to do–I’m not even sure if people do there).  All sources suggest it is very hard, physically exhausting and pays little.  No matter how romantic the idea sounds, it’s not a fun job.

Claudia adds to this idea and includes that they slept in tents and were sleeping in an area where bears traveled.  They could hear the bears every night but the experience planters assured them they were safe (how does anyone do this long enough to become experienced?). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: IDLES-Tiny Desk Concert #858 (June 28, 2019).

I had heard of Idles from All Songs Considered.  On the podcast, Bob Boilen raved about seeing them live.  Like this:

My first time seeing IDLES ended with guitarist Mark “Bobo” Bowen frenetically dancing on a bar, his guitar still keeping time, until the swinging neck suddenly shattered some low-hanging, glass lighting fixtures. The band’s set at South by Southwest was fierce and I knew it’d be a challenge trying to figure out how to bring that cathartic rage behind my desk. There was talk for a while of some members of the band strapping on pocket-sized guitar amps and beating on a single drum. But a week before this bunch of British madmen arrived at NPR, the instrument list had grown and what ensued was just about the loudest, most fun and most raucous Tiny Desk Concert in memory.

This is all true, for sure.  But this Tiny Desk, as amazing as it is, doesn’t come close to showing how incredible their live show is.   Idles live is a truly unforgettable experience.

However, seeing all of that energy and fun contained in a small place is awesome and this is one of my favorite Tiny Concerts as well.

The first song “Never Fight A Man With A Perm” opens with a siren sound from keyboardist Jeremy Snyder and the main constant of Idles’ music–steady bass from Adam Devonshire.  Add in the thumping drums from Jon Beavis and you have the ground work for Joe Talbot to start his singing/yelling.

The band also has two guitarists.  Mark “Bobo” Bowen thumps on the floor tom while Lee Kiernan jumps around, slashing at chords.

The title sounds funny and it is, but the song is a serious indictment of male aggression.

What lead singer Joe Talbot and his mates bring to their shows is a mix of love and outrage. Their songs are often bursts of fury, but the message is insightful and not intended to incite. Joe Talbot says their opening Tiny Desk song, “Never Fight A Man With A Perm,” from their album Joy as an Act of Resistance, is an “exploration of the horrid corners of my past.”

The chorus of “concrete and leather” thumps around before the song returns to the verses, with some cockney slang:

Brylcreem
Creatine
And a bag of Charlie Sheen

A heathen from Eton
On a bag of Michael Keaton

Bobo is a ton of fun to watch–shirtless, wearing American flag spandex pants, he climbs on everything: amps, desks, and other unseen things.

“Mercedes Marxist” starts with a thumping single bass note which will remain unchanged for two and a half minutes.  Snyder takes over on the floor tom while Bobo and Lee trade off guitar sections.

The song is almost entirely that one bass note (with all kinds of guitar melodies and riffs swirling around it).  Until a big chorus comes near the end.  Through it all,  Talbot is directing the fun with his scary vocals.

It only took a few seconds for Joe’s face to turn blood-red; as he growled, it stayed that way for the next 13-minutes, even as he curtseyed at the end of the first song and bounced his way into the second.

The one thing that this Tiny Desk misses is Talbot’s love and generosity.

Despite his tone and the roughness of the music, his kindness and consideration is paramount to the band.  Hearing him wish nothing but love on everyone is a pretty wonderful feeling especially after he sings “dirty rotten filthy scum.”

“We are not the Jonas Brothers,” Joe Talbot explained before their final tune. “People get confused.” He said this with his charming smile and began to run in place while singing “I’m Scum,” just to make it clear who they are.

Before the songs, he asks, what song are we doing?  Someone says “Scum.”  He smiles, “I like this song.”  Before it even starts he begins running in place, knees high as he chants “hey! hey!”  The energy of this band is incredible and certainly hard to contain.

 watching the hyperactive movements in this confined space, it’s actually hard to believe that so few things broke.

Mid song Bobo leaves the desk area to grab someone on the crowd.  He gives her percussion instruments to bang. Then Bobo grabs somebody else and he takes over percussion as well.    Then Bono crawls around on his knees, climbs on the desk and is having a great time.  As is everyone else.

I thanks All Songs Considered all the time for the band they’ve introduced me to, but Idles might be the best find ever.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “A Crowded Memory”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

1988: This story is written in paragraphs with drawings in between.

It is the story of a 7 year-old girl going to Hong king for the first time.

She was spending a month in Hong Kong without her immediately family.  She would be living with her Nai-nai and Gong-gong.

The place was total culture shock.  She had never heard only Cantonese before. She had never seen so many Chines people.  There were street vendors and apartments and the colors and smells were overwhelming.  Everything feels to loud, too big and too hot. (more…)

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