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Archive for the ‘Non-fiction’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ORQUESTA AKOKÁN-“Mambo Rapidito” (2019).

Since this story is about something shameful in Cuba, I thought I’d tie it to something that is wonderful in Cuba: Orquesta Akokán

Orquesta Akokán is a band comprised of Cuban musicians and “Latin music freaks” from New York.   They play the kind of Cuban music that filled New York nightclubs in the 1940s and 1950s.  As their website explains:

Robust, time-tested musical architectures of son cubano and mambo are honored and modernized through a synthesis of the rich compositional styles of Havana, New York, and beyond.

This song begins with a descending piano riff that quickly gives way to horn hits and a cowbell that doesn’t stop for the whole three minutes.

The main melody comes in as a swinging, wholly danceable riff with shouted refrains of “baile!”

Then lead vocalist José “Pepito” Gómez shows where the rapidito comes in as he sings an insanely fast vocal part ( I wouldn’t even guess what he’s saying).

The song is fun and swinging and should make everyone want to baile!

Then comes an awesome flute solo.  There’s a cool swinging instrumental sections in the middle before the call and response of the backing vocalists and Pepito.

Then a wild and cacophonous piano solo sprinkles the end of the song.  It is a ton of fun.  The NPR blurb says that

when globalFEST decided to host this year’s edition at New York’s Copacabana nightclub — a venue with a history that stretches back nearly 80 years and boasts a long association with Latin music — the festival’s organizers decided that Akokán had to be the first group they invited this time around.

Mambo!

[READ: December 23, 2019] Guantánamo Kid

This is a story of injustice.

Injustice at the hands of Americans.

Americans should be humiliated and outraged by this injustice.

Injustice that is utterly horrific to behold–and I suspect that this graphic novel holds back a lot of the really unpleasant details to make it readable.

This is the story of Mohammed El-Gharani, an innocent kid who was sent to Guantánamo Bay for seven years.

At the age of 14, Mohammed El-Gharani made money in the streets of Medina, Saudi Arabia.  His family was from Chad and, as such, he was treated like an outsider in Saudi Arabia.  He wasn’t allowed to go to school and the locals treated him badly.  He and his friend knew this was no way to make a living.

One day his friend told him that if he went to Pakistan he could learn how to fix computers.  He even knew people there who would put him up while he studied. (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: RHEOSTATICS-The Siboney Club, Toronto, ON (November 17, 1988).

I thought I had listened to every show on Rheostatics Live and then I saw today that Daron had posted this new (very old) show.  This show is from before they released their second album Melville.  Most of these songs would appear on Melville, but a couple wouldn’t be released until their third album Whale Music.

This is a live cassette recording of Rheostatics at The Siboney club in Toronto November 17 1988 provided by Tom Parry. It is the earliest live versions I’ve heard so far of Christopher, RBC, The Royal Albert, Greensprouts, Horses, Chanson, What’s Going On, Queer and a one off song which I’m not even sure what it is called. Something about Space? The sound quality is rough but it is an interesting document due to the early nature of these songs – Queer in particular.

This show starts off with a TV show (I guess) about the history of hockey with a story that Bobby Hull has signed a contract with the new World Hockey Association and then a clip of Canada v Russia.  I can’t tell if the reaction to the Canadian goal is from the TV or the people in the room.  It goes for about three minutes and then the ripping guitars come in to start “Christopher.”  The first part of the guitar solo is very different from the sound that Martin would eventually get–although the second half of it is pretty raging.

“RBC” is quick and to the point.  Someone (Dave?) starts the intro to “Dope Fiends” but Tim slaps some bass as Dave says they’re going to play “The Royal Albert (Joey 2)” which I didn’t think was written for a few years.

“Dope Fiends” feels faster than usual.  In fact the whole show feels kind of fast.  Is the tape sped up or did they just play faster back then?

Martin starts playing the Green Sprouts Theme Dong with a crazy hopped up vibrato which actually sounds like munchkins.

Dave: Welcome folks!  Hot dogs only $1.75 Dijon mustard is an extra 30 cents.  It’s hand carved by Dave’s Irish grandmother.

I don’t love the song “Ditch Pigs” (from Greatest Hits) but I always like when they play it because by now it’s such a novelty.   There’s a jamming end section in which someone (Bidini?) is singing about the good food “I want an egg salads sandwich and a box of popcorn”.

DB: It’s poetry time from Clark.  Will it be a winsome poem or a lonesome poem.
Clark: It’s not necessarily a poem.  This is more of a lyric than a poem.  I wrote for a friend and it about if you’ve ever worked for somebody who is kinda dumb and they’re mean to you because they feel threatened by you when you just want to be their friend.

It begins: Don’t call me pal or buddy when your not really my friend…

“Horses” is remarkably slow with a thumping bass.  The chorus is almost painfully slow.  But the ending is really intense.  Martin does some great soloing as Dave screams the end, but there’s very little in the way of horse sounds.

“Chanson Les Ruelles” is loose and fun–Tim’s “French” is quite good.   Dave rambles about some kind of voodoo that he put on the Baltimore Orioles pitcher.  And it worked!

Then out comes Tim with the accordion for “What’s Going On Around Here.”  It all sounds quite good even though the tape is sounding worse.

The last three songs sounds pretty bad (in quality).  The song that Daron says he doesn’t know sounds like Dave calls it “Space Arm.”  It’s a stomping heavy song with some ripping guitars.  Wonder whatever happened to it.

“Queer” sounds very different in so many ways.  It has a really long introduction and a decidedly honky-tonk/country feel to the verses.  The verses end with a kind of old-timey rock n roll bah-bah-bah-bah.  And there’s no ending part.  I’m so glad they fixed it up.

The final song is cut off.  It’s a slow song that I recognize but can’t place called “Seems Like.”  I see that it was only ever released on a Green Sprouts music compilation.

This is a great find–one of their earliest shows where you can hear what their new sound is going to be like.

[READ: May 8, 2019] So Much Longing in So Little Space

Karl Ove Knausgaard just never stops writing.  And he never stops exploring the world around him–through words or, in this case, art.

This book is divided into three parts, although unlike his massive tomes, this one is only 233 pages (with pictures).  Before the parts, he offers a little introduction about how he sees art and how he has always been moved by an (admittedly) simple painting by Edvard Munch called Cabbage Field.

There is a longing in this painting of the cabbage field, a longing to disappear and become one with the world.  And that longing…fulfilled the painting for him.  That is why the painting is so good, what disappears re-emerges in what comes into being as he finished the painting, it is still represented in the picture, which fills us again and again with its emptiness.

In Part One he gives a brief biography of Munch.  Everyone knows The Scream of course, but that represented only one brief phase of Munch’s life-long career as a painter.  Indeed, he started painting when he was a teenager, making small pictures of potted plants and interiors and he continued painting until he was eighty years old.

The years are divided somewhat into phases.  First was the apprentice years during which he painted his first masterpiece, The Sick Child, when he was twenty-two.  In the second phase he was searching and trying many styles–from realistic harbor scenes to Impressionist street scenes.   Then comes the period for which he is most famous (The Scream and more).  The final phase was less abstract and more painterly. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-“The Hamilton Polka” (2016). 

Lin-Manuel Miranda has declared his love and respect for “Weird Al” on many occasions.  So it makes perfect sense that he would ask Al to contribute to the online Hamilton project known as HamilDrops.  The Decemberists’ “Ben Franklin’s Song” is amazing too.

But seriously, how could Al parody a more or less biographical story of a historical figure (that’s two hours long)?.  By not parodying it at all.

Rather, he makes one of his polka mashups which he’s been doing hilariously since his second album.  They are often a highlight of each new album.  This song compresses (almost) the entire musical into 5 minutes.

“The Hamilton Polka,” provides what’s essentially a CliffsNotes-style run-through of the musical’s hooks and highlights — just enough to get the entire musical stuck in your head all over again.

I love the way in the original, the third sister, poor Peggy, is sort of musically dissed whereas Al is just explicit about it.  And of course, how could he refuse to include some actual gun shots for “Not Throwing Away My Shot?”

So they cram in 

Alexander Hamilton
Wait For It
The Schuyler Sisters
Yorktown
You’ll Be Back
The Room Where It Happens
Guns and Ships
Washington On Your Side
Non-Stop
History Has Its Eyes On You
My Shot

And Al can really sing and rap some of those lyrics quickly.  It’s a really fun mashup.

[READ: January 11, 2018] Alexander Hamilton: The Graphic History of an American Founding Father

Before the musical, most people’s familiarity with Alexander Hamilton probably came from this (awesome) commercial (even if none of us could remember what it was ultimately for).

Actually, my father worked for (and owned for a time) Alexander Hamilton Printing in Paterson, NJ, so Alexander Hamilton has always been a part of my life.  Although I had no idea why.  Not really.

There’s a new reason why people know about Alexander Hamilton (can you even say his name without singing it?).

And I’m sure that reason has something to do with the creation and publication of this book.  But Hennessey is not just jumping on the Hamilton bandwagon.  Well, maybe he is, but he has two other historical graphic novels out already: The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation (2008) and The Gettysburg Address: A Graphic Adaptation (2012).  He also has books called The Comic Book Story of Beer, and The Comic Book Story of Video Games so he’s not all stuffy.

The musical is far more catchy than this book–far more steamy.  But this book is really chock full of details that the musical skips (for various reasons, obviously).  The book is a lot less interested in the romantic dalliances of the founding father, although it certainly does acknowledge them.

Indeed, the book is 176 fully illustrated pages jam-packed with information.  It reads a little, if not dull, then certainly more academic.  That’s because there’s a lot of text and a lot of history. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ANNA MEREDITH-Tiny Desk Concert #713 (March 2, 2018).

I have never heard anything like this.  From sound to melody, to intensity, to instrumentation, this whole thing just rocked my world.

The melody for “Nautilus” is just so unexpected.  It opens with an echoed horn sound repeating.  And then the melody progresses up a scale, but not a scale, a kind of modified scale that seems off kilter just as it seems familiar.  The cello plays it, the guitar plays it, the sousaphone (!) plays it.  And it continues on in like fashion until only the high notes remain and then a menacing low riff on sousaphone cello and guitar breaks through–a great villain soundtrack if ever there was.  While everyone plays this riff, Anna returns to the keys to play the modified scale.

Meanwhile, the drummer has looked like he’s asleep behind his small kit.  And then 3 anda half minutes in he wakes up and starts playing a loud but slow rhythm.  The guitar begins soloing and as it fades out that main riff begins, now with a simple drum beat–not matching what anyone else is playing, mind you.  The sousaphone (which must have an echo on it or something and the cello pick up the low menace and it seems like everybody is doing his and her own thing.  But it all works amazingly.

So just who is Anna Meredith?

Anna Meredith was a former BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra Composer in Residence. Two of the three songs performed here come from her 2016 release called Varmints.

Bob Boilen was also impressed when he first saw Anna Meredith live:

I first saw this British composer a year ago, in a stunning performance at the SXSW musical festival. It was one of the best concerts of my life. The music I heard sent me into a state of reverie. If music could levitate my body, this is how it would sound. It carried me away and thrilled my soul. I was giddy for days.

Now, I know this isn’t music for everyone. … But if you know and love the music of Philip Glass, King Crimson or Steve Reich — music that’s electrifying, challenging and sonically soars and ripples through your body — then crank this up.

Lest you worry that she couldn’t translate it to the Tiny Desk (she says they normally have 23 suitcases full of crap so this has been an exciting challenge to squeeze in here)

Out of nearly 700 performances at the Tiny Desk, this is simply the most exhilarating one I’ve experienced. The instrumentation is unusual, with pulsing bass sounds produced by a wonderful combination of cello, tuba and electronics. It’s all rhythmically propelled by an astonishing drummer and Meredith pounding a pair of floor toms. And much of the repetitive melody is keyboard-and-guitar-driven that morphs and erupt with earth-shaking fervor.

The second song, “Ribbons” is quieter.  It’s and new song and it has vocals.  Her vocals aren’t great (“hard when you’ve got the voice of a five-year old boy”) but the melody she builds around it shows that her  voice is just one more instrument (albeit saying interesting words).  Actually, that’s not fair, they are just so different from the noise of the other two songs that it feels very faint in comparison.

It opens with a quiet guitar and electronic drum.  And slowly everyone else joins in.  A nice string accompaniment from the cello (Maddie Cutter), bass notes on the sousaphone (Tom Kelly) and even backing vocals from everyone.  By the third go around the drummer (Sam Wilson) is playing the glockenspiel.  By that time the song has built into a beautiful round and the quietness of her voice makes complete sense.  As the song nears its end, Sam has switches to a very fast but quiet rhythm on the floor tom.

She introduces the band and wishes a happy birthday to guitarist Jack Ross.  She says this is a great present as “so far all we’ve gotten him is an apple corer, the gifts have been a bit low grade.”

They make some gear switches, “we have a bit of a logistics problem with all our gear we can’t quite afford to bring enough glockenspiels, we pass the pure crap glockenspiel  around ans everyone gets to go ‘my turn!'”

“The Vapours” opens with a wonderfully wild guitar riff–fast and high-pitched and repeated over and over.  Anna Meredith adds waves of synths and then in comes the sousaphone and plucked cello.  Then fast thumping on the floor tom propels the song along.  The song slows a bit a Anna plays the clarinet (!).  The song dramatically shifts to some complicated time signature while Anna plays glockenspiel.  After a few rounds, while this complex guitar riff continues the drum and sousaphone start playing a pretty standard beat the contradicts everything else that’s going on and then Anna just starts pounding the crap out of some more toms.

All through this there are electronic sounds adding to the chaos and I have no idea who is triggering them, but it’s really cool.

The end is almost circusy with the big sousaphone notes and yet it’s like no circus anyone has every heard.  When the camera pulls back and you can see everyone working so hard and yet smiling ear to ear (especially Maddie), you know this is some great stuff.

The end of the song winds up with a hugely complicated tapping melody on the guitar and everyone else working up a huge sweat.

I couldn’t get over how much I loved this.  I immediately ordered Varmints and checked her touring schedule.

How disappointed was I to see that Anna Meredith had played Philly just last month and has now gone back to Europe!  I do hope she comes back soon.

[READ: August 30, 2017] McSweeney’s 48

For some reason, I find the prospect of reading McSweeney’s daunting.  I think it’s because I like to post about every story in them, so I know I’m in for a lot of work when I undertake it.

And yet I pretty much always enjoy every piece in each issue.  Well, that explains why it took me some three years to read this issue (although I did read Boots Riley’s screenplay in under a year).

This issue promised: “dazzling new work; a screenplay from Boots Riley with a septet of stories from Croatia.”

LETTERS

GARY RUDOREN writes about using the Giellete Fusion Platinum Razor every day for 18 days and how things were good but have gotten a little ugly.  On day 24 he had a four-inch gash under his nose.  Later on Day 38 it was even worse–a face full of bloody tissue squares.  By day 67 he is writing to thank McSweeney’s for whatever they did perhaps it was the medical marijuana but now his face is baby butt smooth even without shaving.  He wants to change the slogan to Gilette Fusion the shave that lasts forever. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BETSAYDA MACHADO Y PARRANDA EL CLAVO-Tiny Desk Concert #707 (February 16, 2018).

How can you not love a band that is decked out in wonderful colors and whose only instruments are percussion?

I love the first song, “Santa Rosa.”  The chorus is super catchy and when they raise the note in the chorus on the “Oh! Santa Rosa” the song just soars.  Although Betsayda Machado sings most of the songs, this one opens with one of the men (in yellow) singing and I really like his voice, too.  I could even figure out the gist of the words.

And the percussion?  Two floor drums, 2 hands drums, shakers and that friction drum.  So cool.

So who are these folks?

The roots of the music of Betsayda Machado y Parranda El Clavo extend to the Venezuelan slave trade, and while the vocals are in Spanish and not an African dialect, the instruments the group plays date back more than 500 years.

The large bamboo cylinders, the djembe-like drums and the large friction drum together create a symphony of interlocking polyrhythms that was unlike anything I’d heard. Machado’s vocals soar over the unrelenting rhythms, and when she harmonizes with the other singers, it creates a choir-like display of African call-and-response vocals.

When discussing African-influenced music from the southern hemisphere, we often focus on countries like Brazil and Cuba, places where the folk music eventually made its way into popular music. Afro-Venezuelan culture and music is rarely featured or even acknowledged outside of the country. As you’ll see in this video, that should change once music fans take in the beauty of Machado’s voice and the power of her historical message.

“Alaé Alaó” is much more somber, but the percussion is incredible–three men playing bamboo sticks against bricks–the details of what they do are fascinating.  The song starts to pick up with bongos and other hand drums as the guy starts singing again.  During the middle of the song one of the women goes out dancing on the main floor with some of the crew.  This can only lead to more dancing.

“Sentimiento”  The guy in yellow sings the beginning of the song and then Betsayda comes in.  The friction drum is back along with all the shakers and percussion.  I love the way they all stop perfectly at the end.

The band includes: Betsayda Machado, Nereida Machado, Youse Cardozo, Blanca Castilo, Adrian “Ote” Gomez, Jose Gomez, Oscar Ruiz.

[READ: November 20, 2017] Science Comics: Dogs

I have enjoyed every Science Comic that has come out, but this might have been my favorite.

In addition to being about a great topic: dogs, it was also updated with a ton of new information that I had no awareness of.  On top of that there’s a ton of scientific information about genetics, evolution and natural selection.  To top it off, it’s narrated by an adorable pup named Rudy who loves a tennis ball.

Once Rudy drags his owner to the dog park, Rudy can tell us all about dogs.

He explains that all dogs are from the species lupus, and yet look at how different all of the breeds are.  So Rudy rushed back to 25000 BP (before present). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BIDINIBAND-The Carleton, Halifax, NS (February 13, 2015).

This is the most current solo show from anybody on the RheostaticsLive webpage.

Bidiniband’s third album came out in 2014 and this show chooses from it pretty heavily.

The show starts (Dave sounds either like he has a bit of a cold or he’s just worn out) with Dave saying “We’re going to start with a song about the cold, because it is.  Fucking snow, eh  Wow.”  “The Grey Wave” has great chord changes in the chorus.  It is a slow folkie song about cold and snow.  I like that he whispers “let’s go” before the buzzy but quiet solo.  The chorus comes out of that fairly rocking (a least for this set).

Dave continues, “I have some news.  Last night I was offered cocaine in the bathroom of the Alehouse.”  (Don, on drums, whispers, “in exchange for what?”).  Dave: “I think the guy just wanted to be my friend.  He was a bit of an asshole.  Cocaine is the one drug I think where when people offer it to you and when you say no, they apologize for having assumed you wanted any.”

Someone else notes: “I like that we’re the rock band from Toronto and we’re the ones shocked by all the drugs everyone is doing.  We were in BC and we were shocked at the big jug of MDMA being passed around.”

“Everyday Superstar” is a rocking, swinging song.  I love that the chorus is “I’m an animal out of control” but it’s kind of slow and mellow and at one point he says “its true.” And there’s this lyric: “When it’s hot, I’m gonna be Bon Scott you be Lita Ford.”  At the end of the song, someone asks, “Does everybody in the house know what bass face is?  You never know when Haddon is going to a picture of you with that face.”  Dave tells a story that Haddon Strong had a subscription to a magazine and it was addressed to Hardon Strong.

Introducing “My First Rock Concert” he says, “this is a song about music.  I bet you think it’s ‘Proud Mary’ but it’s not.  That was done last night.”  He sings it kind of whispering/spoken.   In the middle, Paul plays the riff to “Brown Eyed Girl” while Dave is singing “you’re either a mouse or Steven Page.”

“Take A Wild Ride” is s short song that segues at the same fast tempo into “The List” which is, again, almost spoken.  He throws in some other people who have made the list.  Jian Ghomeshi and Joel Plaskett (he was in Thrush Hermit) and at the end he says, “only kidding about Joel.”

“Big Men Go Fast On The Water” is a great-sounding song–in this version, the guitar riffs between verses sound like Boston.  They played this song last night at “Stolen from a Hockey Card” at the Spats Theater.  Dave was disappointed there were no spats there.  He says, “If I’ve over pattering, just tell me.”

We wrote this song “Bad Really Bad” about the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Three chords and the truth.

“In The Rock Hall” is about the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland from a poem written by Paul Quarrington  Once again he almost whispers, “C’mon Halifax, let’s rock.”   About “Ladies of Montreal,” he says, “I didn’t think there were enough songs in indie rock well, elderly indie rock, independent seniors, about beautiful women… boobs, you know.  It came in a dream.  I had to write it.”  Dave says it is sexist although I don’t exactly know what he’s saying with the French words.

Getting ready to play “The Motherland Part 1,” he asks, “Jerry you brought your flute, did you?  Oh fuck’s sake.  It’s okay. I think I told you last night but we were both pretty hammered.”  “The Fatherland” is “a heavy metal political song…political metal… politometal.”  It totally rocks and at the end Dave says “I don’t understand, the dancing girl left and we’re playing our most uptempo tunes.”  Before they complete the trilogy with “The Motherland Part 2” someone in the band asks, have you got the cocaine?–its pure MDMA.  Don rehashes the story about him throwing up at a party in the closet because of hot knives.  The middle of Part 2 really rocks.

“Last Of The Dead Wrong Things” is quieter for sure but the chorus and backing vocals are great.  Where there’s usually a drum solo there’s a kind of quiet freak out.

He says, “we’re going to do one more” (boo) …well how many more do you deserve?  Seventeen, eh, you have a very inflated view of yourself.”

“We’ll do ‘Fat,’ (a song “by Rheostatics band”), it has similar chord shapes don’t hold that against us.  Did I tell you we were playing this one?”  “Would it matter?” Let’s have a round of applause for Kevin Lacroix on the bass and Don Kerr on the drums.  Paul Linklater on guitar.

“We played with Corb Lund yesterday, from Alberta.  He’s very handsome and very accomplished.  “Really really handsome.”  Kevin: “I made out with him.”  Dave: “I made out with a guy who I thought was Corb but who was really the cleaning guy for the hotel….  Last night on this very stage he intoned, he evoked the name of Washboard Hank Fisher….  You’re not going are you, it’s going to be a good song.”  They have Lots of fun with “The Midnight Ride Of Red Dog Ray”  with over the top backing vocals.  And in the solo, we get Paul Linklater, one more time pickin’ and grinnin.’

Before the next song Dave says, “What are you guys laughing at?  I can see you in the mirror, you know.  This is my favorite club coz I can watch my rock moves, they’re top ranked.”  Don:  “That’s actually Dave’s mirror, he brings it to every club and says that.  It’s embarrassing.”  Dave mentions a famous story (doesn’t know who it’s about) about a heavy metal singer who was hammered and he saw the guy in the mirror and thought he was mocking him.  So he challenged him to a fight.  That’s rock n roll.”

“You got a weak bladder Jerry?  I’ve got a weak bladder, too.  I’ve peed myself twice during this set.”

This is an album by Bidiniband called The Motherland.  It’s a delicious record and I’d like you to buy it.  All of you.  It’s only $10.  Produced in Toronto in a studio  … by professionals.  Trained professional sounds.  Nothing like what you’re hearing tonight.

There’s a great buzzy bass sound on “Desert Island Poem” which is “a funny song about cannibalism.”  Dave gets pretty crazy at the end.

It segues into a wonderful surprise of them playing”Queer.”  And then a terrific version of “I Wanna Go To Yemen” with a fun wild sliding solo.

He wishes everyone a good night and they leave for a few seconds.  “If we take a break we probably won’t play anymore.  But that was break…  We probably should have taken a longer break and milked it more… but we didn’t.”

“Do people who come to lean along the bar are they into the music?”  Kevin: “Those are some of the best people in Halifax…but the creme d la creme starts right here.”

Jerry didn’t find his flute did he?  Dave asks for a hand for the opening act, Communism Music, look them up

The first encore is the hilariously offensive song “Take A Bath Hippie.”   Sample verses:  “This ain’t the 1960s / These are brand new modern times / everyone is equal and everyone is doing fine,”  “Your revolution ended the day Trudeau retired.  A land of Stephen Harper… we got the country we desired.”   He asks, “You guys got hippies out here?  Probably not. You got Buddhists.  That’s just as bad.  They lie around in their robes  eating flowers.  Shaving each other’s heads.  Sacrificing a goat here and there.”

 We’re all getting G&Ts?  Thank you people of the night.  Kevin: “Treating us all equally?  Like my parents.  My parents would bring us all something she wouldn’t bring me a G&T without bringing one to my sister.”  Dave: They were saints.

FYI, tomorrow, there is Hockey Day in Canada–a ton of games on and footage from the concert last night with Theoren Fleury, Rich Aucoin, Buck 65, Miranda Mulholland, and the ever handsome Corb “The Boner” Lund and The Barra MacNeils.  Dave did a short movie about John Brophy, that’s gonna be on.  “Fuck, it’s Saturday… just sit at home and watch hockey.  It’s what we are supposed to do.  If you don’t, Stephen Harper will have your ass.  But I’ll save you because I’m the hockey guardian.  No I’m not, I’m just tired.”

We’ll try to do one last song.  Have we done “Take a Bath Hippie?”  We’ll save it for next time.  I’m trying to not do a typical show closer tune.

Last gig Kevin played with this band he was playing drums.   I guess it didn’t go well because he’s been demoted to bass. (ha ha).  Dave: “You’ve got the best bass player joke about what happened to Gordie Johnson.”  Kevin: “oh no that’s just nasty.”  Dave “You’re right, its for later in the washroom when were doing coke.”

They play a surprising “Stolen Car.”  It’s so weird to hear Dave sing this song (which he wrote)–he whisper sings it (and can’t really hit the notes).  It segues into a folkie
“Legal Age Life -> Do You Wanna Dance -> Legal Age Life” with them singing, “Oh yeah music is fun.  Friends are fun.  Rock n roll is fun.  Sloppy and fun.”  They end with a Johnny Cash line get rhythm when you get the blues.

Who would have guessed that just seven months later Rheostatics would reunite?

[READ: November, December 2017 & January 2018] West End Phoenix

West End Phoenix is a newly created newspaper.  It was inspired by Dave Bidini.

I have loved just about all of the music that Bidini has created (with Rheostatics and Bigdiniband) and I have loved just about all of the books he has written.  So why wouldn’t I love a newspaper created by him?  Well, possibly because it serves a community that I do not live in and have very likely never visited.  That’s right, this is a community newspaper for a community that isn’t even in my country.

And it is terrific.

But why on earth would I want to read it?  Can I really like Bidini that much? (more…)

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  SOUNDTRACK: KING KRULE-Tiny Desk Concert #681 (December 6, 2017.

King Krule is one of those artists that I love on paper.  But who in actuality I find really rather unpleasant.  He was raved about by so many people this year, and yet, aside from a few parts of these songs that were good, this was all kind of slurry jazz to me.

The blurb says the music is a kind of mashup of “cool” and “jazz” and an acquired taste well worth dipping in.

I guess I don’t have that taste.

They play three songs with instruments including sax, guitars, bass, drums, live vocal processing of Archy’s voice and electronics

“Midnight 01 (Deep Sea Diver)” has interesting sound effects and echoes on his voice, which I like.  But his voice is deep and mumbly and the music is pretty standard lite-jazz.   There’s a sax solo and a jazzy guitar solo.

I don’t know if it’s the whole picture but this vibe turns me off:

lyrics that talk about the sorts of depression singer and guitarist Archy Marshall has dealt with in his young life (he’s 23).  “Why’d you leave me? Because of my depression? / You used to complete me but I guess I learnt a lesson.”  All this comes from someone who honestly looks like he couldn’t care less, which seems like a far cry from the words and care he puts into his twisted, woozy tones.

His “whatever” attitude annoys me and I can’t hear these words anyway.

“Lonely Blue” There’s some interesting things going on in this song–the shifts in tension and volume.  But those few moments can’t rescue the song for me.

“Logos/Sublunary” is 7 minutes and is either one long song or two shorter ones.   He switches to keys and I like it a bit more.  This song sounds like some other songs I like but those jazzy elements (two saxes!) bug me.  After 4 minutes it switches to a more funky style (that would be “Sublunary,” I guess).  The end is my favorite part.

But once again, I feel like I was set up to be blown away, and it sounds too much like jazz to me.  The musicians include: Archy Marshall; Connor Atanda; John Keek; George Bass; Jack Towell; James Wilson.

[READ: September 17, 2017] Science Comics: Plagues

This might just be my favorite of First Second’s Science Comics series.  I love the topic, I really love the art, and I love the way Koch has created a compelling story as well.

The book opens with a Bubonic Plague creature (a cute blue hot dog with yellow bits) meeting up with Yellow Fever (a yellow-green ball with nodules).  They are in a host body and are looking to take advantage of their surroundings. Before they can do any damage, though, they are attacked by a large, scary T-cell.

A fight ensures bit it is short-lived because, in fact, everyone is in a simulation created by ECHO [Education Control Hologram Overseer].  They are in CHAMBER [Center for Holographic Advanced Microorganism and Bio Engineering Research].

In CHAMBER, the researchers observe cells–like way white blood cells learn about germs (anything that makes us sick) and is able to fight it. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE GLENN MILLER ORCHESTRA-In The Nutcracker Mood (2012).

Glenn Miller disappeared just before Christmas on December 15, 1944. His Orchestra, in the too-short run under his personal leadership, had officially recorded only one Christmas song (“Jingle Bells”, October 20, 1941).

Year later, the orchestra has recorded three Christmas albums.

A list of desirable players was compiled. There were a few requisites — musicians had to be working currently; only alumni of the Glenn Miller Orchestra would be recruited; each individual had to have recognized and outstanding talent; each veteran had to be able to take a leave-of-absence from his current “gig”; and, of course, be available to come to New York City to record.  The average age of this band is about 50. The length of time each player performed with the Glenn Miller Orchestra ranges from as little as 6 months to well over 10 years. The cumulative experience of this band recreating the authentic Miller “sound” is well over 100 years!

The first recording, “In The Christmas Mood”, was released in 1991. It was so successful that a second recording, “In The Christmas Mood II,” was produced and later released in 1993.

Almost all of the musicians performing on all three of these recordings, are the same. The only differences are the pianist for the first recording, and trombonist, Larry O’Brien, the then leader of the Glenn Miller Orchestra, was unable to make the second recording due to being on tour. Larry is noticeably back on this recording as evidenced by his beautiful trombone solo on Toyland.

My parents loved Glenn Miller and I grew up listening to him.  So when I saw this, I knew I had to get it–combining Glenn and the Nutcracker!

“Miniature Overture” a fun overture that puts the swing in things.
“March” I don’t know if Brian Setzer put the swing into this song before they did, but it has Glenn all over it.
“Dance of the Fairy Dragee” doesn’t differ too much for the original at least until the middle when the jazzy drums kick in.  The end totally swings.
“Russian Dance”  fast and peppy and wonderful with a big band flourish at the end.
“Arabian Dance” I love that the more Arabian sound comes from a muted trumpet.
“Chinese Dance” There’s some extra big band solos thrown into this one–cheating a bit I think.
“Dance of the Mirlitons” Some nice swinging in this dance too of course.
“Waltz of the Flowers”  This song is usually pretty sedate, but they big up the band.   The main part is still a pretty waltz, though.

“Jolly Old St. Nicholas”  The band’s singers enter on this song.  I have to admit I never really liked the Miller songs with words.  But this sounds pretty accurate to me.
“Toyland” A slow romantic ballad that I don;t recognize from elsewhere.  I could see Lawrence Welk and his bubbles doing this song.
“Ode to Joy”  You don’t hear jazzy versions of this too often, but they have the Glenn Miller sound perfectly for this swinging Classic.

“A String of Carols; Here We Come a-Caroling, Up On the House Top, a Child Is Born in Bethlehem, Deck the Halls”  The swingers are back with this nice medley of carols.

“Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” I love that they threw in a few bars of In the Mood into this song.
“Old Fashioned Christmas Tree” and “March of the Toys” I’m not sure if they are from something or just goo old swinging fun.
“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” returns the vocals to the end of the disc.  I fitting end for the Christmas holiday.

The Glenn Miller Orchestra:
Saxes: Ralph Olson Lead Clarinet, Alto Saxophone & Flute; Lee Lachman Clarinet, Alto Saxophone & Piccolo; Mark Vinci Clarinet & Tenor Saxophone; Frank Perowsky Clarinet & Tenor Saxophone; Richy Barz Bass Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone
Trumpets: Tom Snelson; Ken Brader; John Hoffman; Dale Thompson
Trombones: Larry O’Brien; Eric Culver; Randy Purcell; Dennis Good
Piano: Tony Monte
Bass: Lanny Fields
Guitar: Jay Patten
Drums: Danny D’Imperio
The Moonlight Serenaders: Annette Sanders, Arlene Martell, Al Dana, Paul Evans, Kevin DiSimone

[READ: April 25, 2017] The Art of Wordless Storytelling

This book is a companion to an exhibition of Wiesner’s art at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.

Wiesner has created some of the most beautiful children’s pictures books ever.  And most of them have no words at all.  His books include Free Fall (1988), Hurricane (1992), Tuesday (1991), June 29, 1999 (1992), Sector 7 (1999), The Three Pigs (2001), Flotsam (2006), Art & Max (2010), Mr Wuffles! (2013) and Fish Girl (2016).

This book taught me that all of his art is done in watercolor and done in such a way that he adds layer upon layer of color to create intense depth of color and shade–I’d always known his art was great but had no idea why.  But then I read that when most books are created they print all of the colors at the same time, effectively muting his work.  So all of the subtlety in his work is lost when it comes out in book form.  His original drawings and paintings sound breathtaking.

In addition to seventy some plates of paintings, this book contains a few essays and Q&A with Wiesner. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 9 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (November 19, 2004).

The Rheostatics, live at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, November 19, 2004. This was the 9th night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe. This is the final night with a recording.

I compared all of the setlists from the nine shows and was somewhat surprised to see just how much repeating they did (you can see the grid at the bottom with all of the songs for each night).

Kevin Hearn joined them.  And this 2 hour and 45 minute show ended with a Twist competition and a “Whole Lotta Love” jam which went on for 19 minutes followed by Neil Young’s “Powderfinger.”  Two versions are available – Mark Sloggett’s soundboard recording and 8-track files provided by Steve Clarkson.  As with the other shows with these two recordings, the Clarkson one is audience recorded and louder, but with audience noise.

The show starts with a song by Martin and a song by Tim.  There’s no Dave for a full ten minutes!

“Self Serve Gas Station” has loud keyboards that fill out the introduction.  In the middle of the song, when Martin sings “worry about their son?” Tim asks “which one?”  And Martin sings, “What went wrong with Johnny, is he dumb?”  “What about Doug?”  It’s followed by Tim’s “Soul Glue” which sounds great.

Tim seems to be having a lot of fun this night.  When Dave sings “Me and Stupid” Tim is full of backing vocals, including chanting “Gabba Gabba,Hey!” when Dave mentions the Ramones.

“The Tarleks” has a bit of a rough opening, but after a quick tuning, all is well.  “Claire” opens with some interesting washes of keys before the familiar guitars come in.  Tim is still goofy this time singing “horrify me, Claire, roto-till my hair.  Let me see you say a line that isn’t there.”

Tim says they’d like to send “Power Ballad For Ozzy Osbourne” to The Buttless Chaps.  Thanks for coming and rocking.”

During “Four Little Songs” Dave says, “Kevin, Sing us a song.”  He sings his song “This Is It” “There was fresh butter melting on a waffle…”  As the song moves to the fast part Martin sings “who stole the kishka,” a nod to the previous night. It ends and Tim yells, “Someone call the cops” and Martin plays a siren on his guitar.

Dave introduces the Bastard Brass who will play with them for three songs.  They are Brian on trumpet, Alexi on trumpet Alain on the ‘bone and good ol Seth on the saxophone.  Unlike some of the horns they have play with them, these guys are the real deal and they sound great.

They bring a lot of depth to “P.I.N” and I love when they play the riff of “Mumbletypeg.”  However, there is an interruption during the song, which I assume is real.  Tim sounds very concerned, asking if “you know that guy.”  Then he calls for Security.  When the song is over, he says, “It’s okay to have a good time but don’t be gross about it.”   Then…  “This guy’s gotta go.”  Then “Well okay, you can stay.   But seriously mind the person next to you.”  even Mike gets in on it: “You know you’re gonna get turfed it you keep it up, buddy.”  Then quieter: “Granted not by me.”

Things must settle down, because they play “Marginalized” and Tim thanks the guys “that was worth listening to all the practicing in the dressing room.”

They play a beauty couple of songs: “Shack in the Cornfields” and “Try to Praise this Mutilated World.”  Dave explains that “Pornography” is another song about America.

And then Martin says that they are the Rheostatics, but Tim says, “We are the Toronto casts of the Rheostatics.  That’s Mike’s line.  I thought it was good.”

They send “Making Progress” out to Mike Dunne who named the band back in Grade 11 (or earlier).  Thanks, Mike its all your fault.”  Mike: “very new wave.”  Tim: “This goes out to the city of Bolton, Ontario.”  Why is that?  That’s where Mike lives.”  “Well, somebody’s gotta.”

For “My First Rock Concert” they bring back Kevin Hearn.  The Kevin Hearn Revival.  Him and his fancy T-shirts.  Dave says that Kevin and Dave will interweave their songs.  This is Dave and Kevin’s journey of rock and roll awakening.  Dave sings his parts and Kevin’s first shows include: Mr Dressup, Peter Appleyard;   Then Santana (where the guys in front and behind him threw up).  Then playing a gig between Bon Jovi and Cheap Trick.  At the after party, the guys who sing “Everybody Wang Chung Tonight” showed up.  Kevin sings a few choruses and then segues into “Surrender” (with nice harmonies from everyone).

Dave asks if Kevin has any Joe Jackson stories.  Tim interrupts and says he took a full bottle of Heineken off of the stage at a Joe Jackson show, wondering whats in that green bottle.

Kevin follows that with: Once I went to Burl Ives’ house for chocolate cake and he looked out the window and it was almost a full moon and in that Frosty the Snowman voice he said, “Oh look someone’s taken a bite out of the moon.  It’s true.”

When the song is over Dave says, “I imagine the UN General Assembly sitting together with the world on the brink of war and deferring to Kevin and he will tell that Burl Ives story and save the world.”

Tim continues, Dave and I, Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods, Disneyworld in Florida.  Dave and I were both in the crowd.  We did know each other but we were both there.  My first show.”  Dave: “Five seconds of complete bewilderment.  What the hell is that guy going there?”  Martin: “Who is Bo Donaldson.”  Tim: “Remember ‘Billy Don’t be a Hero?’ The greatest protest band ever.  Or was that The DeFranco Family?”

Tim continues, “We’d like to celebrate our ethnic heritage with this next song.”  Jennifer Foster is back on accordion for “Who is that Man, and Why is he Laughing?.”  It’s followed by “Yellow Days Under A Lemon Sun” with verses from Kevin, Tim and Dave.

They play “Aliens (Christmas 1988)” and before the final verse, when the song gets mellow, Tim starts singing “ABC, 123” and then Dave picks up “Michael Jackson.”  But then he says, “Why don’t you just give us some “It feels good to be alive.”  Tim asks what kind?  Phoning it in?”  Dave: “Oh no, big sale. ”  And after doing some of the song in a slightly different way Martin says now I feel like doing the riff, so they rock out.   At some point, Mike asks, “Are we still playing aliens?”  They get into some jazzy chords–merch chords.  Jazz and merch sales go together so well.  Jazzy Swag.  Martin comes out of the jazz with some blistering punk chords to open “RDA.”  They’re having crazy fun now, Dave starts singing “They don’t give a fuck about anybody else.”  After they wail, Mike asks, “Where’s the no solo sign?”

At the end of the song, they thank The Imponderables, and The Buttless Chaps.

After the break, they play “Legal Age Life” and jam it for 13 minutes.  The middle of the song features the Fall Nat’ls annual Twist competition.   Tim asks for gaffer tape to tape up “Wendell.”  It’s gonna be a really great bit when it’s ready.”  Tim: “I want to give Martin a laugh when he comes out.”  When Martin comes out, Tim asks, “Martin is that a Steinberger hockey stick?” (It doesn’t seem to go over well).

When the Twist competitors come up, Tim asks, “You’re not obnoxious drunk guy, are you?”  “No he knows all the words.”  The audience votes for Ann.  And Mike says, “Make that guitar talk for me Martin.”  he does and they have a “conversation.”

Tim asks, Do you know “The Things We Do For Love?”  I just wanna hear it.  Is that Hall and Oates?  It’s 10cc (Mike then explains the origin of that band name).

Martin starts “Record Body Count” by speaking the ending: “Joey stepped up on a block of ice, put a rope around his neck and fell asleep before he fucking died.”  Mike: “What a goof!”

Dave says, “We’re here tomorrow for one more night.  Good night!”  And yet, there’s 25 more minutes of music!  There’s some general jamming fun–in fact this jam (the Whole Lotta Love jam) runs about 19 minutes.  Someone takes a “Vegas walk off.”  And then Dave I think plays the Green Sprouts Theme, but there are washes of chords overwhelming everything.  Then people just start jamming song riffs: “Cat Scratch Fever,”  a Led Zeppelin riff or two, “Daytripper” “Tom Sawyer” Martin does the zooming sounds from “Bullet the BLue Sky” (or “Whole Lotta Love”).  And then someone starts jamming “Whole Lotta Love.”  About 7 and a half minutes into this, Tim says “We’re gonna do this all night long, so you might as well go home and gets some sleep.”  While “Whole Lotta Love” is playing, Kevin begins singing “In Dreams” by Roy Orbison (“Candy Colored Clown”).  Then Tim says, “I’m serous, this shit’s going on all night.  Get the fuck out of here!”

Dave says, “On that note, Good night.  I gotta go to St. Catherine’s Ontario in the morning.  I’m reading in the mall.”  Mike: “Two Vegas walk offs.”

There’s a sample played from Colonel Sanders “This is Colonel Sanders here to tell you about my exciting new chicken..  in addition to herbs and spices there’s  shampoo and dish soap in it, so while you’re eating, you’re cleaning.”

At about 12 minutes, Kevin starts singing “Whole Lotta Love.”  Martin mocks the “every inch of my love” part and Mike and someone else do the moaning.  Then Kevin starts singing “I’ve Been Everywhere” while samples galore play.  Finally Kevin sings a mellow version of “Like a Hurricane.”

And then a proper start to “Powderfinger” which makes up for the depravity of the previous night.  When they finish someone asks, “Hey are you still here?”

It’s not the final night of the residency, but it’s a really fun and kind of loopy night.  Some great playing mixed with some real silliness.

[READ: April 12, 2017] Bats

This has been my favorite Science Comic yet.  I love bats and this was great way to learn even more about them.

The book begins with Little Brown Bat flying through the night sky.  But he is lost.  And he happens upon a group of people in the desert hoping to see the Mexican Long-Tongued Bat and the Lesser Long-Nosed Bat, two nectar eating bats who help to pollinate flowers.

While the nectar bats do their things and the people enjoy it, one of the bats talks to Little Brown Bat about whats’ going on.  Finally the bat convinces Little Brown to dive down to eat all the bugs that the light is attracting–the humans won’t mind.

We learn about bat predators–foxes and snakes (which is why they stay off of the ground), but they can’t do much about owls. (more…)

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