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SOUNDTRACK: NICHOLAS PAYTON TRIO-Tiny Desk Concert #801 (November 2, 2018).

I feel like the Tiny Desk hasn’t had a good old-fashioned jazz trio on in a while.  With the Nicholas Payton Trio you get drums, upright bass and Payton on organ, trumpet and sampler.

All three compositions in this set are from Payton’s 2017 album, Afro-Caribbean Mixtape. “It is often said that New Orleans is the northernmost region of the Caribbean,” says Payton on his website. “Africa is the source of all rhythms. The Afro-Caribbean Mixtape is a study of how those rhythms were dispersed by way of the Middle Passage throughout Cuba, Haiti, and Puerto Rico, then funneled through the mouthpiece of New Orleans to North America and the rest of the world.”

The first song is “Kimathi.”  I love the simplicity of the organ that he plays while the rhythmic precision of his band mates keeps the song going.  Drummer Jonathan Barber is going pretty nutty (albeit gently) on that minimal kit and bassist Ben Williams is playing nonstop.  And then around four minutes, Payton switches to trumpet, playing a melody and then echoing it on the keys.

Just to impress even more, while playing a melody on the keys, he holds a note on the trumpet for 25 seconds.

Payton dazzled the audience, simultaneously playing his trumpet and a Fender Rhodes. It’s his signature, resonant sound.  Payton’s genius virtuosity captivated both faithful fans and anyone in the NPR crowd just discovering his music for the first time.

The nine-minute song is an incredible start.  It’s followed by “Othello” a song that starts off so quietly that Barber plays the cymbals with his fingertips.  Even Payton’s trumpet feels subdued on it.

This song has vocals (from Payton) which I like less than a good instrumental.  While this seems like it would fit well in a smoky night club, it’s too slow for my tastes.

The final song “Jazz Is A Four-Letter Word,” comes from the title of a book Max Roach was working on before he passed away.  The song features samples of Roach speaking.  There’s a great bass line and gentle keys as Roach speaks.  I feel like Payton singing the title is a bit redundant since the samples are so effective (if not a little overused).

Racial constructs are notably relevant in the last tune, “Jazz Is A Four-Letter Word,” which was inspired by the autobiography of drummer and activist Max Roach. You can even hear Roach’s sampled voice, fused into the infectious groove, a narrative of black consciousness on display. Ideology aside, the music was on point and the audience couldn’t help but sing and clap as the trio took us out on a soulful rhythmic vamp.

The middle of the song is great as the tempo picks up and the bass is just walking all up and down the fret board as Payton jams along.  And although I initially dismissed Payton singing the title, the end sing-along is pretty cool.

[READ: December 10, 2018] “Chaunt”

“Chaunt,” the story tells us, is a place.  A place where there was an old chapel–more rubble than chapel now.  It was a place that Jane Click’s son Billy and his friend Jerome rode their bikes to all the time.

The boys say that the place is full of animals and not made-up animals, either.  Not an elephant or a lion or a polar bear, not exactly.  “They were waiting, but they weren’t waiting for us.”  The boys watched the animals and then the animals became motionless “but still animals.  All the animals yo’;d ever hope to see.”

It’s a weird story.  But it’s also a horrific story because we find out pretty early on that these two boys have been killed.  They were riding their bikes home from Chaunt and were both struck by a car.  The driver was not found at fault (which I think is impossible) because he couldn’t see them in the dusk. Continue Reading »

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto, ON (December 9, 2017).

Final of three shows for the Horseshoe Tavern’s 70th anniversary celebrations. Kindly recorded and provided by Mark Sloggett and Matt Kositsky. Kevin was playing Massey Hall with Barenaked Ladies but showed up for the encore and played Accordion.  Ensign Broderick opened.

The show opens with a beautiful two shot of Martin-sung songs.  A lovely Stolen Car which starts out quietly and beautifully is followed by a soaring “Northern Wish” which starts and ends quietly but had a nice fast loud section in the middle.

After Clark starts inexplicably singing “Gary Indiana, Gary Indiana,” the band plays a quiet intro to “Michael Jackson.”  There’s some great crazy sounds, I assume from Hugh Marsh, that add an interesting texture to the verses.  The band really fills out the middle with some great soloing from Martin and Hugh and the vocals from Martin and Tim are great too.  The end totally rocks. It’s an awesome version.

It segues into “AC/DC on My Stereo” which is a little sloppy but more fun than other versions.  After a few technical difficulties, there’s two in a row from Tim.  First the mellow “Music is the Message” with great violin from Hugh and then a terrific “Claire.”  DB intros it by asking “How many people have read the novel Whale Music?  Oh not nearly enough, that’s a Christmas order.  Go to your beautiful local library and read it and we’ll talk in like four months.  Deal?”  The sound on this version is crisp and everyone’s instruments sound so clear.

DB: We’ll play longer than usual since its Saturday and no one has to do anything tomorrow.  If you do just give me the number of your boss and Martin will call your boss and pretend he’s you.  Martin: I’ll be up first thing in the morning.  Not hungover.  The Clark and Martin have a pretty darn funny pretend conversation in which Martin quits the company.

This is no a segue into a wonderful “Christopher” that has a terrific Martin and Hugh duo–they try to match each other in sound and scope and it’s just amazing–I would have loved to see that.

Then DB is coming out front to sing “Mountains and the Sea.”  Clark: he’s not Neil Sedaka, he’s not Neil Diamond, uh oh.  Tim: Dave’s fundraising again.  DB: Tim, I put the fun in fundraising.  DB: Anybody got a stool?  Martin: Ah extra casual.  Dave, make sure you’re not flying low.  It’s a lovely quiet version of the song with a fun and funny solo by Hugh.

Clark starts chanting 6-11-11-18.  DB: we’re doing new songs that require counting.  We’re playing them for you tonight because you are elastic and rubbery and forgiving:  Possible names 6-11-11-18 (Tim: that’s way better than 2067), could be called Swipe Right.  Then Martin demonstrates the noise and nonsense that they will be doing for 90 minutes (feedback and slide whistle).

Martin: I’m a temperamental artist.
Clark: I thought you said tempura artist, you work wish sushi.
Martin: I play tantrum rock.
Clark: You’re like Sting, you can go all night long.
Martin: Except mine is just unpleasantness and anger.

This is a set up to Martin’s complicated “Albatross.”  It sounds great and very dramatic.  This is followed by a beautiful acoustic rendition of “Bad Time to Be Poor.”  It winds up being just Tim and Hugh and it’s very pretty.

DB: You’re much more composed than last night’s crowd.  Martin: who were a bunch of louts.  DB: Lout-ish.  Well, one guy was a lout.  And congratulations to the Toronto Football Club for winning the MLS football cup.

Up next is “Supercollider,” with an unusually long and trippy opening from Hugh.  Clark says: “I’d like to dedicate this to my oldest friend on the planet Karen Lindhart and my sister, who are here tonight.  We listened to a lot of music together when we were kids.  Take us into space, Hugh.  A wondrous soaring violin solo ensues before the cool song begins.

DB: Okay, now we’re entering “shank” portion of the concert.  This one features Tim Vesely on … air.  This is an obvious dance party starter, but what the fuck.  Dave starts chanting post-Ptolemaic and when he asks Tim if he;s like to say anything about the Ptolemaic universe, Tim says he wasn’t paying attention.  It’s a wild and somewhat shambolic version of “Legal Age Life.”  But things settle down nicely for Tim’s “Soul Glue: which has some lovely violin as an intro.

They start out a beautiful “California Dreamline” and when it gets to “questionable things like” just before the song takes off, something happens (not sure what) and it crashes to a halt.  Tim says, “that was so fucking close.  I thought the intro was pretty awesome.”  They try to pick it up from where they left off, but it fails.  Martin: Okay lets drop this song, we’ve only played it 14,000 times.  Clark: let’s do a quick palette cleanser.  Which turns out to be a bouncy “Alomar.”  Mid song Martin says “your call will be answered shortly.”  They jump back into “California” and after a few false starts, they play it through with no more hiccups (although a lot of sloppy guitars).  When they get to “All the naked ladies,” Tim interjects, “they’re at Massey Hall tonight.”

DB: This is the birthday of the Horseshoe–70 years ago today.  We (Me, Tim, Dave, and James Gray [of Blue Rodeo]) first played here Halloween in 1982 (or 1983) opening for The Government.  I don’t even know how many years that is.  Audience: “35” DB: “Wow. Thanks… math nerd.”

That kindly story segues into a harsh and rocking version of “Feed Yourself.”  The middle instrumental section where Dave B gets really intense screaming and repeating lyrics is fleshed out even further by some great work from Hugh Marsh.  It’s probably the most intense version of the song I’ve heard.  I wish Martin’s guitar was a little quieter in the mix.  And I wish more than ever that I’d managed to get to see this show.

DB: We have one more song.  Then we’ll go back stage and we’ll have an internal review and you can have an external review.  If you deem it worthy of continuation, perhaps you’ll show some sign of support.  Tim: However if you disapproved of tonight’s show please remain silent.  It would confuse us other otherwise.

Then Tim looks in the audience and asks, “Is that a bumble T-shirt?  Sorry I thought you were promoting your dating website.”

They begin “Shaved Head” and Clark says he wants to play brushes, dammit.  Which he does for the quiet opening.  It’s an amazing song and a great ending to the set.

For the encore, Clark says Kevin is going to come up and play accordion.  Then he sings an a capella (until Tim starts playing the drums) rendition of “My Mind Is On Fire” (“I wanna communicate with you about love… right now” are the whole of the lyrics).

Kevin starts the accordion for a sloppy wild “Who Stole the Kishka” which seems in the wrong key the whole time.  When it’s over: DB: They don’t write any good fucking kisha songs anymore.  Audience guy: “Taking Care of Business.”  DB: “We fucking just took care of business right there.” Audience guy: “There’s something about you guys I really hate.”  DB: “Know what I hate about our audience?  Too many Italians.”

Tim: “Alright, Dim the lights, chill the ham.  Turn the lights way down.  As in off.  Even the wiener roaster, turn that one off.”  And so starts a slow, brooding version of “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”  By the end, the song has gotten huge, including the by-now obligatory “I wish I was back home in Derry” shout outs.

[READ: November 28, 2018] Ambient Comics

I love working in a place where I can see German comics (especially if they are wordless like this one), which I can fully enjoy.

This collection by German artist Nadine Redlich is wonderful.  The introduction by Mahler talks about the urgent question in the study of sequential art: “What lies between the panels” and how this book makes it easy to answer the question.  He says that that which lies between the panels is already within the panels, which explains “why there is so little room in between.”

Each of the pages of this book hosts a six panel cartoon in which literally almost nothing happens. Continue Reading »

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto, ON (December 8, 2017).

Second of three shows for the Horseshoe Tavern’s 70th anniversary celebrations. Kindly recorded and provided by Mark Sloggett and Matt Kositsky.

The opening music is Echo and the Bunymen’s “Killing Moon” and Jonathan Richman’s “Ice Cream Man” until 1:20 when the guitar for “Stolen Car” starts playing.  It’s a quiet intro section and Martin sounds good.  At 6 minutes the overall sound increases dramatically for about 20 seconds. It’s a shame it doesn’t stay that loud because otherwise the show is too quiet.  An absolutely scorching solo between Martin and High Marsh.

A somewhat subdued and quiet version of “King of the Past,” Hugh adds some soaring violin at the end.

The usually kind of flat “AC/DC on My Stereo” is spruced up by Hugh’s violin.  But the mix is really unfortunate–the overly loud guitar masks the rest of the song.

Dave Bidini: That song was written by Dave Clarke on the drums (and my friend Brodie Lodge)  Clark: a shout out to Davide DiRenzo and our friends in Ensign Broderick–Ensign, Griffy (Gordie Wilson), Danny, Glenn Milichem on the drums.    (Glenn tried to steal martin for his band Vital Sines…it only proved he had great taste) but he got Gordie Wilson and it all worked out.

A solid fun version of “PIN” with a “Dirty Blvd” tag at the end.  It’s followed by a long (nearly 8 minute) jamming (Hugh get a pizzicato violin solo) version of Stompin’ Tom’s “Bridge Came Tumblin’ Down.”  DB: This song would have been played oh 37 years ago on this very stage.  Some songs just stick around longer.

They retell some stories about Vancouver (the song is about Vancouver)–diaper dancers and people stealing wallets.  Vancouver leads the nation in diaper dancers.  A good piece of advice is to take your wallet on stage.  But not in Vancouver!

DB: We’re not a rock band, we’re a public service.  In a plant a seed and watch it grow into a tree sort of way.  Information is our fruit.  Melody is our bark.  Stompin’ Tom is our hero.  Well, one of them.

Someone shouts, “Play [Stompin’ Tom’s] Snowmobile Song.”   DB says, not quite snowmobile weather.  Well, is there snow up north?  Little bit?  Then it’s not even Super Slider Snow Skates weather.  Oh Jesus    Here’s the commercial for the lawsuits waiting to happen.

“Here Come the Wolves” sounds different, but very cool.  I like this version. Clark shouts the verses and Martin sings a quiet verse.  After Clark introduces Bidini with an Italian accent the band launches into an impromptu Italian song.  Bidini says they haven’t done that song in 7000 years, although, ironically Hugh is more Italian than any of us.  Tim: Once you do that kind of thing you’re scarred for life.

Audience check-in moment.  DB: “The customer, the fan is always right…  The fanstomer.”

Clark asks Martin if they are going to do the end of the next song a certain way.  DB: gives away the ending?  Clark:  Asked his bibliophile lady (and her friends)—do you read the last page the book first?  They said yes and it blew his mind.  And then they’re happy to read the book.  Its like having an orgasm without foreplay… or not really actually.   DB: I’ve done that many times myself  MT: You know this sex thing that everyone is talking about…what happens at the end?  DC: You get a little plastic toy out of the bottom of the box. That’s why they call it Cracker Jack.  DB: And then you feel shame.  MT: The shame part I’m comfortable with.

DB to the fan: You realize that by shouting for the next song you’re further delaying the next song, just so you know.  These guys would never do that   they are seasoned fanstomers.  Then inevitably someone shouts “play some music” and that’s when the gig is fucking over.

A quiet and pretty “It” (in which Hugh plays some beautiful soaring sounds) is followed by a raucous “Michael Jackson.”  Instead of Michael Jackson, he sang Auston Matthews a Maple Leafs player.  Mid song they start chanting whoop whoop whoop while Martin plays “Sweet Child of Mine.”  DB: “It’s called having fun it’s what Axl says, it’s what Slash says, it’s what Jimmy Page says, it’s what Eddie Van Halen says, it’s what Kathleen Hannah says, it’s what Patti Smith she says, it’s what Michael Stipe he says, it’s what Gord Downie he said, it’s what Tom Connors he said, it’s about having fun.  It’s hard.  It’s really hard.”  The crowd woo woo woos and sings the “it feels good to be alive” ending.   It’s a cool moment.

I used to be that I’d Used to hear “You rock Dave” and it was for me, but now I’m sharing it with a stage with my best friend Dave Clark.  It’s nice. Not saying I’m comfortable with it I’m saying it’s nice.

Clark goes on about being warm and swaddled and like a child.
Someone shouts: You can never go back.
Clark: Oh yea you can be a child all your life if you got the right ideas.  Age is a matter of the mind–if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.

This leads to Tim’s pretty, acoustic “Rear View.”

Someone: “C’mon Martin sing one.”  DB: “Yeah Martin, what the fuck?”

Clark introduces the drum beat of the next song “pluh dee dut dut, pluh dee dut dut ding.”  When someone shouts something inaudible, Clark replies, “Apples and oranges pizza and Popsicles man.”  DB: ” I think you just came up with the name of our next record.”  This is a lead in to Northern Waltz.   Which DB says is a progressive waltz.  Clark: It’s the Ostenick 3/4.  Tim: Another potential album title.  Walter Ostenick, a cool guy who watched them soundcheck.  Tim Mech bought an accordion from him.    They start the song and martin gets choked up–Clark: It’s the ghost of Walter inhibiting you….devil come out!  He tries again and things go well in a beautiful version.

Martin plays a beautiful solo version of Tragically Hip’s “Bobcaygeon.“

During the pause there’s all kinds of weird shouted requests.  “Play some Skydiggers.”  “Play some Blue Rodeo.”  DB: “You’re kinda 0 for 2.  We don’t do those groups.”  Clark: “You realize that those guys are our friends.”

Play “Secret Heart” by Ron Sexsmith!  C’mon do it!”  DB: “You realize we’re not sitting in your car right now, eh.”  Clark: “Thelonious Monk says never engage with hecklers, so here we go.”

“Dope Fiends” sounds great and the band seems really into it with Martin shouting “Why didn’t they stay here? How come, Hugh, why?”  Clark gets a drum solo and it ends with a rollicking conclusion and soaring violins from Hugh.

“Self Serve” opens on a quiet guitar.  I almost didn’t recognize it, the way it was played.  It is very pretty.  The ending gets pretty harsh with Martin snarling “you ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” before a rocking ending with everyone singing “I will be kinglike!”

This encore break exhibits this new thing that I’ve heard people do at shows where they chant “one more song,” which drives me nuts because some bands like the Rheos will actually play half a dozen songs, and you are limiting them, so knock it off!

Audience: “I love you Dave Bidini.”  DB: “I love you too, stranger, strange man.  Are you that strange man that I love?”

Merch plug: Give us your money and we will convert it into rock n roll magic.  You can take the things with you and replay the nights tonight for eternity—ish.  Plug for West End Phoenix.

This leads to a quiet acoustic version of “My First Rock Concert.”  DB: “Dave Clark tell us about your first rock concert.  Dave sings “Don’t Worry, Baby,” about The Beach Boys in 1973 The Surf’s Up tour.  He was 8 years old.  Wicked show!  Ricky Fataar on drums (he also played with the Rutles!).  Martin: My first concert was in 1981.  I went to Convocation Hall and I saw Bruce Cockburn with Murray McLaughlin and in the band was Hugh Marsh.   Tim: That doesn’t sound very rock to me.  In his diary Martin wrote, “This audience is very intelligent,” I thought rock shows would be full of assholes… like tonight. That was my first rock concert.  First and last.  After the song: Was that guy the same Hugh Marsh? Yes and John Goldsmith.

DB: I’m having a shitty lapel weekend.  Martin: Another one?  No, you’re just fixated.  It’s puffy, but it’s not that bad.  Any tailors in the audience?  Dave needs an emergency.

“I am Headless” sounds great.  I love the way Tim and Martin’s vocals interplay with Hugh’s violin.

We’re in Hamilton at This Ain’t Hollywood.  It’s sold out.  There’s still a few tickets for tomorrow night.  Good luck to TFC tomorrow.  Tim: Don’t tell the Thursday night people about tonight’s show because it wasn’t quite as good last night.

Martin starts a chuuga metal riff and Clark says, “What have you got for us, Tony Iommi?”  DB: here’s a song about hockey and also about being gay and living in a small town.  Tom Cochrane do not write it.  It’s a solid “Queer.”  For the second verse, Tim sings Cochrane’s “Big League,” (Sorry I was daydreaming for a second) then DB sings REM’s “I am Superman”  They try for the high note.  DB: “Kinda.”  Clark: “It’s always worth trying.  If you’re not failing, you’re not doing.”  Clark sings “Stepping Stone” which segues into “I’m a Believer.”

After “sometime choices aren’t so clear,” instead of the end it turns into a drum and violin jam which somehow segues into a funky instrumental jam and then into “Alomar” at the end.  Tim says “And what song were we playing? We don’t have to finish that.”  Clark quips: “We don’t even have to Swedish it….  Let’s Latvia alone.  It’s okay, I’m a little Estonia’d right now.”

What do you guys want to hear?  [Horses, Aliens, Palomar, Wreck of the Edmund]

Thanks, we have fed all of the data into the super computer which has come up with the exact right thing to play at this time.

Thanks to Ensign Broderick and everyone in the band Jason for opening the show.

DB: I was going to try to play “Purple Haze” but I don’t now how.  I thought you were doing Buddy Guy.  I don’t know, do we know any Eagles?

Here’s a song by the Eagles called “Horses.”  The Eagles featuring Rabbit Bundrick, Skunk Baxter, Philthy Animal Taylor, Gullible Guinea Pig and Hammy Hamster.  “Horses” starts quietly and intensely (with great backing vox from all present).  After the first “holy mackinaw, Joe,” it totally rocks out.  Dave also calls Red Deer a “fucking shitty town” (!).  They shift briefly into “We don’t need no education (sloppy).”   And the concert roars to an end with Martin making some great horse sounds on his guitar.

[READ: November 28, 2018] When I am King

Demian 5 (Demian Volger) created a hilarious and good-looking webcomic back in 2001 (hard to believe).  It was finally put into print form this year.

I love the clean lines and style that a webcomic (especially one from 2001) necessitated.  It also means the artist is going to have to think of ways to differentiate the characters who, for the most part, look pretty similar.  And Demian 5 does a great job with that.

In the (bilingual) introduction, Demian 5 explains that he has been editing the historical findings of his ancestors for some 15 years, trying to make this account readable and accessible.  “It was my goal to reproduce these historical hieroglyphs without detracting from the information they contain.”

And what that means is a wild and wonderful story about royalty, nudity (amusing and non-detailed), bestiality and flowers. Continue Reading »

SOUNDTRACK: THE EMPTY POCKETS-Snow Day (2018).

The Empty Pockets have sent me two offers to get their CDs for free (plus a nominal shipping charge, of course).  This second one was a Christmas CD.  I hadn’t listened to their first CD yet but I do love a Christmas CD, so I thought why not add it to the pile.

There are five songs on this CD and after listening to this I’m wondering if I don’t really like The Empty Pockets.  It’s hard to bass the sound of a band on their Christmas collection, but I was pretty bummed by this disc.

The first song is called “Snow Day” and it says it was written bu Daniel McCormick although I can’t find out who that is.  It has got a  kind of smooth rock feel which is okay for a Christmas song but doesn’t bode well beyond that.

Next up is a version of “Silent Night.”  And they commit a few atrocities in this song right off the bat.  You can make the song more rocking, but you cannot mess with the vocal melody.  And they do that right off the bat.  The thing that rally bus me though is Erika Brett’s voice which is just super loud and yelling and kind of all over the place.  Never out of tune or anything like that just waay over the top.  This is just too much.  The guys also join in on verses, although I don’t know who is who [Josh Solomon, guitar and lead vocals; Nate Bellon, bass and lead vocals; Danny Rosenthal, drums].  But honestly, no one needs to sing “talking ’bout heavenly host sing alleluia.”  One of the men sounds like Darius Rucker which is just kind of unfortunate.

“One More Kiss” is a big powerful song from Brett with good backing vocals.  She overdoes it a bit, but its poppy and catchy and is not tampering with a classic beautiful so, so that’s okay.

“Eskimo Lady” is a little cheesy (not to mention offensive).  It’s a little discoey and grows cheesier with each listen.

“All Eight Days” has a fun guitar riff–like they are doing a heavy metal solo, but the song is far from heavy metal.  I like that it’s about Hanukkah, and the lyric “Just like a Maccabee, i have to wait and see,” is pretty funny.  But the song just veers too far into pop singing I guess.

“The Tree That Refused to Grow” seems like a retelling of A Charlie Brown Christmas from the point of view of the tree.  Except we see into the Charlie character’s future.  I really want to like it but it just comes off as maudlin.

I’m especially bummed by this disc because they quoted Caddyshack in the note that accompanied it.  Sigh.

[READ: December 8, 2018] “Festive”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

I read this short piece and thought it was incredibly sad.

Then I watched a reading of it (on the Stephen Colbert show) and the audience was laughing quite a lot.  Perhaps it’s his delivery?  But I hate the clipped style of writing (probably true for a diary but awful to read or hear). Continue Reading »

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto, ON (December 7, 2017).

For the longest time, I thought that these last four shows of 2017 would be the final live shows on the Rheostatics Live website.  But then mid-September, Darrin added more than 20 historical shows to the site.  So, there will be some older shows posted about in the new year.  But for now, while the Rheostatics are recording their next album (!), it’s fun to look back on shows from just one year ago.

First of three shows for the Horseshoe Tavern’s 70th anniversary celebrations. Kindly recorded and provided by Mark Sloggett and Matt Kositsky.

The opening band for this night was Ensign Broderick.

The show opens with “Saskatchewan,” it’s got a two-minute quiet guitar intro before the song proper starts.  It’s a very quiet and chill rendition, with Martin almost whispering.  It’s not until about 10 minutes that the song comes roaring out.

Starting “Supercontroller” is Hugh Marsh with a cool violin solo–a trippy echoing section.  “Supercontroller” is so simple but I really like it, it’s so very catchy.  It shifts to “AC/DC on My Stereo” which is just too simple for my tastes (homage to AC/DC?).  The Clark section is weirdly flat–maybe the sound balance is off?  There’s lots of Hugh and the a crazy sloppy ending.

People shout out requests and then someone says, “You can’t touch the Rheostatics.”  To which Bidini responds, “Literally, it’s in our contract—no touching.”  Clark chimes in, “That’s why we never did a double bill with The Feelies.” [groans]  Clark: “Teacher humor…. I am older you know.”

Tim plays acoustic guitar for a lovely “Rear View,” a pretty acoustic number with a nice beat.  Then DB thanks everyone for coming out on a Thursday night.

Clark asks if a pickerel is a small pike.  Martin gets really into the discussion.  How a walleye is called pickerel.  And that pike is bony, although many species of pike are pickerel they are not related to walleye.  DB: “That concludes our PowerPoint presentation.”  The Clark continues to talk about making rainbow trout in avocado and olive oil, with all the free radicals.

Back to the music, it’s great to hear “The Headless One,” (apparently a Martin request).  There’s some great violin from Hugh and great backing vocals from Martin.  It’s followed by “Michael Jackson” with nice pizzicato strings and a big, soaring ending that totally kills.

Clark says he heard Martin say to DB: “Stop being a  rock n roll grandstander.”  And DB said, “I was being a rock n roll grandpa.”  To which Martin coined, “grandstand grandpa.”

“Mountains and Sea” is a new song featuring Hugh Marsh.  Martins guitar is a little too loud, then about halfway in, they mess up.  DB: “Let’s do that again.   Band meeting.  I can’t remember that chord.”  Live rehearsals… this is extra!   Martin says something about their old live rehearsals at the Rivoli and Martin thought they were jam-packed and he saw a video and found that there were like 14 people there (it’s a video of Martin spanking Dave C on the ass with his guitar for messing up).  Tim: I told you we were gonna fuck it up.

Clark offers a vote: it’s rare in any society that your voice gets heard.  Should they do it from the top of the song or from the A minor part.  [A minor wins].

Clark’s neighbor made the Guinness book of world records for making the worlds smallest playable violin.  And Martin says he really like the name “Tim Gillette.”

Up next is Tim’s “Music is the Message” a slow but pretty song with lots of violin.  It’s followed by “Sickening Song, which sounds great with just accordion.

“Sickening Song” sounded good with just accordion and guitar but then it gets pretty wobbly and they have to stop.  But they get through it happily.  Martin talks about looking for an operetta that he and Tom wrote called “These are things I cannot tell my dad.”  I  thought I found it in my parents house, but it turned out to be us working on “Sickening Song,” playing it 20 times.  Tim: “I think your dad erased that tape.”

PIN sounds good but “they’ll never get the ending.”  That’s why you play three nights because the first night’s always shit.  They start talking about cursing on TV and how you can hear someone say Shit on CBC at 8PM.  Martin jokes that at 8 o’ clock “that’s bullsandwiches” and then you hit 9 and it’s “motherfucker.”

DB: If you came from out of town thank you.  If you’re not from out of town that’s fine too.   Just not quite as awesome.  And thanks for a youthful-looking crowd.  That’s amazing.  Lots of lovely sweaters.  Sir you have a Tea Party shirt you have to stand at least ten feet back from me.  I’m kidding as long as you’re not wearing leather pants.  Clark: I thought he was talking tea party political shit.

Martin begins, “Remember….”
DB: “No not really.”
Clark: “Take us away there Jerry Garcia.”
DB: “I’d like to wish the group good luck as we embark on this next piece.”  “Here Come the Wolves” opens with a deep riff and tribal drums and Martin says, “Speaking of leather pants…”  To which DB concedes, “This is definitely our most Tea Party song for sure.”  This is an unusual song and I love that it’s got heavy parts and I look forward to the recorded official version.

    I like the way it is loud and heavy and then there’s a quiet martin bit

Northern Wish starts out rather quietly, but it sounds great.  It segues into Clark singing “Johnny Had a Secret” acapella.

DB says, “We’re gonna take you home.  We’re gonna stop 3 places along the way.  The first is a slow and moody “Stolen Car.”  The second is a bonkers “Legal Age Life” with the guys barking at each other and DB just rolling his r’s for a good ten seconds.  Clark: “Let’s dedicate that one to Monty Hall.”

While the next song starts, Dave asks, “Martin do you ever have lapel neurosis?”  Martin: Oh, you have lapel bulge—it has no crease.”

DB: Anyone been to California?  Martin: We’re heading down to do our next album in California

Martin tells a long story about Compass Point in the tropics where they recorded their last album together.  He talks about an old roll of film—you tried to make them count but inevitably there are fuckups.  He’s been photographing his old slides with a macro lens.  He found a picture of them swimming at night snorkeling.  The place made Martin weep.  Dave and Dave stayed in Tina Weymouth’s place.  And yet, in front of the apartments is a pool!  The Caribbean Ocean is right there.  It’s luxury overkill.

  This leads to a discussion of magenta.  Does anybody like magenta?  It has to be there but we hate it.  If you’re ready to wear a magenta power suit I would have to bow to you.  Ryan was just changing the lights to magenta–a lighting joke.

“Digital Beach” starts slow, but “Dreamline” takes off.  Martin has a lot of fun with it and it eventually merges into a lovely acoustic “Claire

As the song fades out Dave starts singing Big Bottom and the band doesn’t change the music at all, but Tim sings along with him.

After an encore Clark comes out for a drum solo which leads to a stripped down sounding (but great vocal mix) of “Soul Glue.”  Tim sounds great and the backing vocals are spot on.  The end of the song blends nicely with “Song of Flight.”  The final three minutes are a rollicking crazy sloppy fun lunatic version of “RDA.”

Tim observes, “That was show stopper if I ever heard one.”

[READ: December 1, 2015] “Oktober”

I like Martin Amis a lot.  Although I have to say that this story confused me.  Now, it’s true that Amis can be a trickster when he writes, but this story wasn’t fancy at all, it was just…unsatisfying.  And really long.

Told in first person, the story begins with “I” drinking black tea in a hotel in Munich.  It was the time of Oktoberfest.

Next to him is a businessman, Geoffrey, on his mobile phone.  The man is aggressive and seems angry, speaking about clause 4C and saying things like “I’m accustomed to dealing with people who have some idea of what they’re up to.”

The photographer shows up to take a picture of the narrator.  They talk about Germans and refugees until it’s time to go.  He looks at his phone.  Of the 1800 messages none are from his wife or children. Continue Reading »

SOUNDTRACK: REN & STIMPY-Crock O’ Christmas (1993).

Certainly reaching the weird bottom of the list CDs in the Christmas collection here.

I’m not entirely sure why I even have this as I wasn’t a  huge Ren & Stimpy fan.  I assume I got it for free somewhere.  Anyhow, this is the kind of nonsensical disc that actually made me chuckle a few times as I listened to it again.  The songs are sort of parodies of actual classic songs.  But they’re not so much making fun of the Christmas song so much as using the Christmas songs to make up songs for their holiday Yaksmas.

If you know anything about Ren & Stimpy, you know that everything they do is gross, and this CD is just full of grossness.

The Wikipedia post about the disc is pretty thorough, so I’ll let it stand, with some of my one thoughts.

  • 1. “Fleck the Walls” – 2:51 – Stimpy explains to Ren that it is Yaksmas Eve to the tune of “Deck the Halls”.  [Stimpy’s untiring happiness is really just too funny. As is Ren’s hair-trigger temper.  This is a pretty funny and gross wait to start: “Come on everyone pit on a hat made of garbage and lets go Yaksmas caroling.”  The utterly over the top seriousness of the backing vocals is icing]
  • 2. “Cat Hairballs” – 3:27 – Stimpy sings about the gifts he can make out of his hairballs to the tune of “Jingle Bells”.  [Gross, but catchy].
  • 3. “We Wish you a Hairy Chestwig” – 3:04 – Ren and Stimpy sing about the “chestwig” they’ve gotten for Mr. Pipe to the tune of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”, wishing him a “hairy chestwig and a bucket of beards”.  [No idea what this is all about but it’s a funny concept].
  • 4. “It’s A Wizzleteats Kind Of Christmas” – 3:51 – Stimpy sings a song about Stinky Wizzleteats, singer of the “Happy Happy Joy Joy” song; his “souped-up sausage cart” is the basis for the album cover.  [Stinky Wizzleteats is a wonderfully ornery character.  Not based on anything else, so it’s all about the bizarre words].
  • 5. “We’re Going Shopping” – 4:39 – Stimpy drags Ren into the mall to do some Christmas shopping.  {I was puzzled that they talk about Christmas here.  The disc follows a thread of the two of them all day, with everything having a narrative.  The Christmas just seems like a mistake.  Although the shopping items are pretty fun].
  • 6. “Yak Shaving Day” – 4:22 – Ren and Stimpy stumble on the secret gathering place of the Gilded Yaks.  [I love the voices of the Yaksm how serious and pretentious their voices are.  Plus the rocking guitars in the chorus totally rule].
  • 7. “What Is Christmas?” – 3:19 – Stimpy and his son, Stinky the Fart, recall the events of “Son of Stimpy”.  [I listened to this song and thought it was so treacly and un Ren & Stimpy-like.  And then I looked this up and saw that Stimpy’s son is a fart, and that makes everything different.].
  • 8. “Cobb To The World” – 3:08 – Ren and Stimpy sing the song of “good king” Wilbur Cobb, a senile senior citizen, to the tune of “Joy to the World”.  [This is just bizarre and creepy]
  • 9. “Happy Holiday Hop” – 3:48 – Ren and Stimpy attend TV star Muddy Mudskipper’s holiday celebration.  [This song is so peculiarly straight, that it could almost work outside of Ren & Stimpy, aside from the whole Muddy Mudskipper part of course]
  • 10. “I Hate Christmas” – 4:23 – While Stimpy goes to bed, Ren sings the blues about his personal disdain for the holiday.  [Again, with the Christmas.  This is actually quite a downer.  Poor Ren.  But surely Stimpy must get him over the blues].
  • 11. “The Twelve Days of Yaksmas” – 4:24 – Ren and Stimpy count down the Yaksmas gifts of Ren’s cousin Svën Hoek to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  [Everything that makes fun of this preposterously long song makes me laugh.  This one is especially gross, but they have a great time with the absurd lyrics.]
  • 12. “Decorate Yourself” – 5:26 – Ren and Stimpy sing an anthem in the style of “We Are the World” about decorating oneself for the holidays.  [This song soars and flies and is so catchy it could have been an anthem for the ages “Don’t deck the halls or burn boughs of pine, hang your mistletoe where the sun don’t shine!”].

Sometimes it’s wonderful to be silly for Christmas.

[READ: December 7, 2018] “A Qualitative Study of Our Father”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

And here’s a Q&A with Levin.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

This story is written in Levin’s words as “a kind of pseudoscientific research paper by a pair of siblings trying to make sense of their father via examining his behavior toward houseflies.”  It has epigrams from Shakespeare and Skinner.  The abstract, for of course there is an abstract, states that their father, a well-meaning human being likes to kill flies.  There;s nothing sexual or creepy about his desire to kill them, he just seems very placidly happy when he does. Continue Reading »

SOUNDTRACK: LINIKER E OS CARAMELOWS-Tiny Desk Concert #800 (October 29, 2018).

I listened to this Tiny Desk Concert for a few minutes before watching it and when I clicked over to it, I was quite surprised to see Liniker, whose voice is quite deep, look so feminine.  It was also confusing because as I clicked over one of the backing singers was singing in quite a high register so I honestly wasn’t sure who was who.

I also love that the NPR doesn’t address this at all.

Watching this performance is to witness a spell being cast, note-by-note. Liniker e os Caramelows (Liniker and the Caramelows) are from Brazil but steeped in the tradition of soul from here in the U.S. They started their turn behind the desk with the ballad “Calmô,” a testament to the power of slow songs dripping with soulful emotion. It was a bold statement of just who they are as a band and what they stand for.

As for Liniker’s look, the second paragraph uses the feminine pronoun (although Liniker’s [Google-translated] Wikipedia page uses a male pronoun, saying Liniker:

began to invest in an androgynous visual identity. As an artist, his vision began to mix turban, skirt, lipstick and mustache in his musical performances that incorporate scenic elements into his voice “sometimes hoarse and grave, sometimes clean and sharp, which forms a Brazilian black music, but stuffed with pop elements “, according to O Tempo.

The Tiny Desk blurb is certainly more current and more reliable:

Lead vocalist Liniker Barros has obviously done her share of listening to soul singers and she effortlessly slides from lower registers to an emotional falsetto.

They play three songs which cover a lot of styles and sounds.  “Calmô” is a  light jazzy number with some gentle guitar pieces and twinkly keys.  The percussion is notable for the shakers and drums, giving it a cool Brazilian feel.

It’s also fun to listen to Liniker speak.  He sings in Portuguese, although his English is excellent, except for some of those fun words like “percoosion” and “fell-ix” (referring to Felix Contreras).

You have to go back to the co-mingling of jazz and Brazilian music in the late 1950s to appreciate the affinity our two countries have had for each other musically.

“Tua” is a great song that  sounds like it could be a Tindersticks song–jazzy and noir, except that Liniker voice ventures high instead of low like the Tindersticks.  The second half of the song adds a great 70s keyboard riff to and some “ohh ah ahs” (and a deep sax solo).  It s a fun example of

Brazilian funk … complete with a mid-song, church-revival breakdown, featuring tenor sax.

It’s hard to pick a favorite song although “Remonta” the final song might be it.  It covers multiple genres in its five minutes and Liniker is smiling throughout.  The band moves:

from ballad to a reggae bridge, eventually exploding into a majestic African-based Candomblé rhythmic finish.

The end is a great with lots of percussion, great 70 keys, and a robust, but not wild, fuzzy guitar solo.  The band’s joy at the end is infectious.

[READ: January 24, 2018] “My Fanon Project”.

This is an excerpt from his Wideman’s novel Fanon.  In this excerpt he is writing to Frantz Fanon, who fought for Algerian independence and then died in 1961.  This project has been on his mind for over forty years, since he read The Wretched of the Earth. [That part is all real].

After reading this book he wanted to be like you, Fanon, a writer committed to telling the truth amid racism and oppression.  He couldn’t live up to that so the project shifted to writing about disappointment with “myself and my country.”  He had published many books over the years hoping to at least never dishonor Fanon.

Then he changed the project, instead of living Fanon’s life maybe he could write it

Okay, so far so good. Continue Reading »