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Archive for the ‘Acrobats’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 4 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (November 14, 2004).

The Rheostatics, live at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, November 14, 2004. This was the 4th night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  It was an all ages show and ran about 90 minutes.

There are two recordings available for this show.  The Sloggett version is from the soundboard, but the Clarkson recording sounds a bit bigger with more bass and stage noise.   Although you can’t hear the spoken word part of “Mutilated World” at all.  You can hear Dave’s daughter Cecelia chatting you can hear her at one point say “Hi, Tim!”

The start off saying they’ll do a coupe of songs from The Story of Harmelodia to start us out, get us in the mood.

They open with “Home Again” which sounds appropriately cute–Martin has fun with it.  Then for “It’s Easy to Be with You”, they “invite Don Kerr up on stage for this next number on the tenor guitar.  A man of many talents, above all growing a handsome mustache (MPW: or perhaps partially shaving a fanatic beard).  Don says: “Somebody called me papa smurf the other day because I had a cap on.” Dave: “I think Papa Smurf was a little rounder around the middle.”  The song sound nice with that extra guitar.

You can hear on the Clarkson recording “When is my song?”  Dave: “Gonna be maybe in about 5 songs?  Maybe in about 4 songs?  Wanna do it now?  well.  alright.  Does your brother wanna sing too?”  Cecilia (who is like 4 years old, maybe) does an amazing job with Dave Edmund’s “Almost Saturday Night.”  She has a great sense of melody and really gets the feel for the song.  At the end Mike says, “It’s a perfect song to sing on a Sunday.  That’s optimism.”  As she walks off you hear Dave say, “Good job, Cees.”  And she replies, “Good job, dad.”

Then it’s on to a solid version of “Claire” which they send out “to Paul Quarrington, Gillar nominated, should have won.”  Tim says, “co author of this song.”  Mike: “At least on the SOCAN form.” Dave: “A man who launched 1,000 careers.”

“Aliens (Christmas 1988)” opens with a kind of rocking rhythm.  Martin starts singing a weird version of Split Enz ‘ “I Got You” before doing the “whoo hoo hoo” and launching into an incredibly fast paced version.  When it slows down in the middle, Martin says, let’s bring it to normal speed.

For “Try To Praise This Mutilated World,” they also shout out to Chris Stringer on keyboard “bringing down the mean average age of the band.”  I normally can’t hear the spoken parts, but you can hear someone speaking polish I believe.  Each version of this song sounds better and better.

To continue this mellow middle section, Jen Foster is back on accordion for “Who Is This Man, And Why Is He Laughing?” and then comes “Making Progress.”  However, they start in wrong key.  As they get situated, Martin asks Dave why no one is showing minor league and jr league hockey.  Dave says that the CBC is complicit with the NHL in holding back younger players.  Once they get the song going, it sound perfect.

As an introduction to “Take Me In Your Hand,” Martin plays a quick guitar lick from one of his solo songs (“Waterstriders,” I think) and then segues into a very delicate version of the song.

Dave asks if any of the horn players from the Hebrew School Dropouts are still around (they opened the show).  Up come Adam and “Fedora guy” to play horns (including solos) for “Legal Age Life At Variety Store.”  Dropping out of Hebrew school is the best thing you guys ever did.

“Northern Wish” is a very pretty, very mellow version.  It’s followed by a really lovely slow version of “Stolen Car.”

After the encore break, Tim comes out to play a special request “all the way from California.”  He starts “Row” and asks if it’s the right song (it is).  He forgets a few lines but is otherwise quite pretty.  When it’s over, the requester shouts, “Thank you!”  Someone else shouts “Saskatchewan” but Tim says the Hebrew School Dropouts are going to school in Etobicoke so we’ll do a good Etobicoke song for them.  That song is “Self Serve Gas Station.” Martin changes a line to “What went wrong with little Jimmy, is he dumb?”

It segues into a wild, upbeat “Song Of The Garden.”  It’s rollicking and crazy and sort of segues into a slapdash cover of XTC’s “Radios In Motion.”

And that’s it.  It’s short show for the band, but probably perfect for an All ages crowd.  Speaking of All-ages, it’s pretty kid friendly, but not entirely (with some of Martin’s songs).  It would have been really fun to see though.

[READ: July 7, 2017] Animal Crackers

The origins of this story are confusing to me.  It was originally written in 2011 (and published by a different publisher (with a different cover, of course).  But there’s not much you can find out about it.  There’s also a prequel (also originally released in 2011) which came out by First Second around the same time, but that’s for another post.

This book bears the sticker that says “Now a Major Motion [Animated] Picture (due out in Fall 2017).”  Given how short this book is, I wonder if the movie is based on both books or what.  Guess we’ll see.  Since I first wrote that, I have seen that the film has been released, but not in the States.  And, it has major stars associated with it.  I still can;t imagine how they stretched this premise out to 94 minutes.

This story is cute and fun with some good humor.  The problem is that the entire plot is given away in the blurb on the inside cover (so don’t read that). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Reverb, Toronto, ON (August 29, 1997).

This is the final show Rheostatics show from the 1990s that I haven’t mentioned thus far.

I’m not sure what the band had been doing before this show (aside from making he Nightlines show), but they’ve apparently not played live for a while.  This return to performance seems to have brought out the wildness in them.  This show has all kinds of jamming moments with eight songs lasting over 7 minutes.  There’s also some slower moments or songs played differently.  It’s a cool, unique show–very different from their other shows.

There’s even an “opening jam” with a guitar riff explored around some bass notes.  Then a new guitar comes in with some rums.  The whole jam is about 3 minutes but it doesn’t really turn into anything, it’s just a like a warm up jam–I even wondered if it was just the guys messing around until all four of them were on stage.

They play the opening riff to “Fat” but he only plays a clip of it and then stops (allowing Tim to do some bass fills).  During the “bye bye” section they stop the music a few times unexpectedly as well.  It’s an interesting jamming opportunity and runs a pretty long time.

After the song Dave says, “we haven’t played togetehr in a long time well, we haven’t played live in front of people.  We played together at the CBC.”  (the Nightlines show mentioned later).  “So now we got one under our belt.  We forgot our songs had so many parts.”

Dave continues, “There’s a lot of people from Michigan here tonight for some strange reason.  They think the Stanley Cups is here.  But it’s not.  We’ll send this next song out to them.”  It’s “Aliens” At the end, Martin takes off on a wild solo as the band really rocks out.  There’s also an extended jam with someone singing a “dit dit dit” part while Martin plays along on guitar.

“All the Same Eyes” is pretty straightforward except that there’s some real wailing from Martin throughout.

Someone shouts “Are you looking for some fun?” and Martin says “We’ve got a new version of that song we’re gonna play.”  Then Tim says, “Just write your requests on a plate.  Dave: “There’s a private party upstairs and there’s lots of plates outside the door.”  Martin: “There’s a private party for um the three little boys with sandy blonde hair… hamsum?  handsome?”

Then they play the first known occurrence of “Junction Foil Ball.”  Martin introduces it: “we’ll do a kind of a new song”  Don: “its new and we’re kind of going to do it.”  I’m impressed with the interesting sound effects that Martin gets while playing this song.  During the “acoustic tile” section he even distorts his voice like it has slowed down–is that effect of Martin’s singing.

“Four Little Songs” sounds totally different.  It’s got a kind of swinging opening.  The first part is really heavy.   Dave’s part is interesting because while still in the trippy intro section, he begins singing the lyrics to Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold.”  When he finally gets to the song, people sing along to his first lines!  Martin has crazy fun with the riff at the end–lots of squeaking solo noises.

Dave asks: “How are those chamois working out, martin?” “They’re remarkably absorbent for large quantities of liquid.”  When I saw them Martin was very sweaty.  I wonder if he always was.  There’s a solid, slow version of “Bad Time to Be Poor,” which Dave says was written awhile ago…but it’s still a bad time to be poor.

Before “Sweet Rich” Martin says, so I’m going to do this solo, okay Tim.  Just the first bit.”  It’s a great version.

“Joey II” has a long rollicking jam in the intro with Martin chanting “I’m about to fuck up, I’m going to fuck up.”   During the middle of the song he asks if any musicians in the audience have played at the Royal Albert Hall in Winnipeg–well that’s what this song is about.

They play an early version of “Easy to Be with You” which goes to “California” instead of “Harmelodia.”

Dave introduces “Stolen Car” by saying “We’d like to do another new one for you.  We played this at our last concert but we’re going to play it a little differently.  This is Tim Mech one of North America’s greatest unsigned artists.   Seriously, he won a contest in Musicians magazine and was named one of the ten best unsigned artists.   We recorded this for the last Nightlines program.  We recorded about 32 minutes of music.  Old stuff, new stuff and a version of this song.  Dave’s last show is tomorrow night.  Thats 104.1 FM CICZ-FM in the local area!”

As the song starts he says (I assume referring to Mech’s guitar) “this is a Hawaiian guitar that’s autographed by Ben Harper.”  ( I had no idea Ben Harper was noteworthy back in 1997).  There’s a weird electronic drumbeat through the song, and the music is primarily guitars–gentle and smooth.

Martin shouts, “Its’ been great playing in our home town–Toronto!”  They play a long version of “My First Rock Show” with a lengthy introductory instrumental section.  Near the final verse, he whispers the “many years later” section and someone shouts “bird in a cage” at the right time.  As the song ends they play the chorus of Trooper’s “We’re Here For A Good Time (Not A Long Time).”

“California Dreamline” is quite extended as well.  After the first verse there’s a dance jam before the second verse begins.  The middle has a kind of vocal jam with a light bass and guitar motif and everyone singing different parts in a fugue state.  It’s a weirdly unique version.  At the end Martin says, “That was ‘California Dreamline,’ we’re going to do ‘Record Horse Count’ next.  They do neither and in fact play a really slow almost country-feeling version of “Claire.”  It’s so different sounding that they kind of mess it up here and there.

Things get quiet and then people start clapping along and you can barely hear them playing an acoustic un-mic’d version of “Bread Meat Peas and Rice.”  Dave says the name of the song “for those of you who could hear it.  You kind of understand why you use microphones.”  Tim starts talking about the band Farm Fresh. “They had a similar kind of thing with their Peanuts and Corn record [what?] and apparently they’re supposed to be releasing a new record, is that right?  They’ve made two cassettes and they are both for sale and are both really good.”  Dave: “Whats with that T-shirt, Tim?”  “Free with every cassette sold.”

Someone shouts again, “We’re looking for some fun.”  Dave: “Are you?”  And they launch into “Fishtailin'” which opens with that lyric.

After the song Dave asks “What is the time, late or early or what?  What time do bars say open til  4?  5?  [Shouts of four and Five] Tim: According to the new mega city law they close at 1 [boooos], so we’ve got half a song left.

They surprise ever one with “Bees,” a short quiet song with Martin making bee-like sounds on his guitar.  It leads to a long, quiet intro for “Michael Jackson” with Martin still doing some cool guitar sounds.  The whole beginning is slow and a little odd, with Dave singing “but an auto-bon would be better.”  And later, “Elvis is king because he’s dead.”  In the middle of the song Dave starts “rapping” and he says “I’d like to call Pip Skid (I assume) to the stage.  Pip Skid from Manitoba does a rap that’s kind of hard to hear.  Then there’s some soaring guitars from Martin.  The whole song is 11 minutes long and ends in a vocal jam that grows ever quieter.  Martin sings “It feels good to be alive” (hitting great falsettos) while the others are singing snippets and oh yeas.

They play an 11 minute “Dope Fiends” which has a bass and drum solo in the middle as well as just a drum solo later.  After 8 and a half minutes the band keeps going with some simple rocking.  At the end Martin says, “Thanks guys for giving me a second chance.” [?].

They leave the stage for the encore with a drum machine blipping away.  They come back with the drum machine still playing and someone plays a slow meandering guitar line. Another instrumental jam for 3 or so minutes before Dave says, “We’ll play one more.”  He also says that they’ll have their live album out by Christmas (stocking stuffers!).  And they end the show with a great non-nonsense version of “A Midwinter Night’s Dream.”

This is a wonderfully atypical show for the band.  A real treat for fans and an interesting entry point for fans of jamming shows.

The next Rheostatics show that I’ll mention will be in 2001!

[READ: March 16, 2017]  “The Pickle Index”

This story is written in a fascinating way.  There are newspaper articles from The Daily Scrutinizer (written by Mark Hamper) and with them, there is the Pickle Index, a series of recipes.  In fact, it’s a recipe-exchange network “for citizens by citizens.”   Daily participation is mandatory (though surely that’s unnecessary since the treats within are so tasty).

From the Scrutinizer we learn that the official strike team has captured Zloty Kornblatt,the instigator, conspirator and fomenter. He brought a troupe of “performers” into the village to mock, destabilize and cause anarchy.

The Pickle Index begins with Fisherman’s Dills (by Sarafina Loop)–brine-ing cucumbers in the ocean.  And then comes Hollow Gherkins by Flora Bialy.  Although midway through the recipe, it shifts directions and talks about Zloty.  How he left them last night and the writer, Flora Bialy wonders why–was it their incompetence or was it her?  She says that once, years ago Zloty’s team was a real circus with clowns, a trapeze and roasted nuts, but now they were reduced to an extended residency in Burford. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 5, 2017] Shaolin Warriors

When I first saw this listing in the State Theatre calendar, I knew I had to get tickets for the four of us.   I didn’t really know what to expect, but I knew that it would be different from the acrobats, and yet have that same inspiration behind it.  I sort of imagined simple displays of strength, focus and cool Shaolin spirituality.

I did not expect that there would be a “story.”  And indeed there was one.  We follow two children as they make their way into the Shaolin temple and grow and develop into Shaolin adults.

The only compliant I have is that the program notes state this: “Shaolin Warriors, highly acclaimed as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” live on stage, is definitely a must-see for family audiences and martial arts lovers alike.”  By invoking Crouching Tiger, it suddenly set my expectations way too high. That film is mind-blowing, a visually stunning production.  And this production is nothing like that.  Rather, they could have described it as a Jackie Chan film come to life, and that would be more accurate (and still impressive). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 2, 2017] Golden Dragon Acrobats

Just over four years ago we saw the Golden Dragon Acrobats perform Cirque Ziva.  The founders of Golden Dragon Acrobats created Cirque Ziva as a special touring production in 2011. This show was quiet similar to that performance, (I wasn’t sure if, since it wasn’t called Cirque Ziva, it would be very different) but there were some minor changes that were pretty exciting.

More exciting was that since the kids were much younger four years ago, they didn’t exactly remember things that well, so they were pretty thrilled by everything.

I had mentioned that Cique Ziva had flash in costumes and sets.  For this show the costumes were certainly here, although the sets were pretty simple.

As you can see from the “setlists” below, the acts were pretty similar and in pretty much the same order.  The show opened with the thousand hands.

Since the acts were basically the same, I’m going to copy much of what I wrote then and see if I have any updates: (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 24, 2017] Pippin

Pippin has been Sarah’s favorite musical for years.  And as a special treat, she is guest co-authoring this post with me.  I have highlighted her part in a Pippin-inspired purple.

She has seen it once before in a decent sized production.  And we saw it together at a community theater version.  Strangely, I don’t remember much about that production (I was more fascinated by the building).  Anyhow, this touring production of Pippin is the newly redesigned version.

As I said I don’t remember all that much about the previous version, but I can tell you it was nothing like this one.  This new version was utterly spectacular, with an emphasis on spectacle!

SD: You know how the books from your childhood or the movies you watched over and over as a teenager are the ones you know by heart? Pippin is like that for me. My mom loved this musical and I grew up listening to the soundtrack (Original Broadway cast recording) over and over again. I know every bit of the album (and when I grew up and got a dog, I named him Pippin.) The thing about knowing a show by the soundtrack and not the performance is that you might make up what some of the plot is. I remember being surprised at the previous performances I’ve been to (one very good, one, as Paul said, not so great community theater) to find out what the songs really meant in context!  Anyway, the songs and the show are special to me and I couldn’t wait to see this. 

The story of the musical is fairly simple.

Pippin is the son of King Charlemagne (that much is true, but the rest is totally made up).  Pippin has just come back from college, but he is full of ennui.  He knows that he is an extraordinary person (he even sings about it), and is certain that there has to be something that will fulfill him.   Pippin wants to impress his father so he insists that he join his father and step son in fighting the Visigoths.  Charles reluctantly agrees but Pippin finds it less than satisfying.  From there he runs to his grandmother who tells him to enjoy the physical pleasures in life–which he does!  But that proves empty as well.  Finally seeing how much of  tyrant his father is he decides to fight tyranny and take over as King. But he finds that he has to resort to tyranny as well and asks for a do-over.

What’s left?  Art?  No.  Religion?  No.  No No No.  All that is left is despair.  While lying in the road, Catherine finds him.  She is a widow with a son and she tends to him.  He is reluctant, but eventually comes around to her care.  He spends a year with her, fixing the house, tending the farm, doing very ordinary things.  But he is extraordinary!  He can’t live a life like that.  How can he make his life (or death) special?

Fairly straightforward, right?  Well, this production takes this story and tweaks it in an amazing way. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: January 11, 2017] Cirque Éloize: Saloon

salooonI was pretty excited to see that Cirque Éloize was coming back with an all new show.  Their previous show Cirkopolis was phenomenal–wonderfully constructed and very cool to look at.  This show was very different, both in theme and production, but it was still amazing.

Indeed, I had mistakenly believed that this production was by Cirque Alphonse (another troupe from Montreal), who did a lumberjack-themed show last year.  But no, it was from the folks who did CirkopolisCirkopolis proved to be so different from Saloon, that it’s even more impressive that the same company created both shows.

This show was designed to be set in an old timey-salooon.  And while most Cirques perform the same basic routines, it was really fun to see how they were able to modify them for this new setting and “story.”  I also loved that they were all dressed like the old west–with chaps, and suspenders and hats–the kind of clothes that you really never see people performing this kind of material in (although I’m sure there must have been leotards underneath, right?). (more…)

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leotardSOUNDTRACK: THEE SILVER MT. ZION MEMORIAL ORCHESTRA & TRA-LA-LA BAND-Horses in the Sky [CST033] (2005).

This album is described as 330px-Horses_in_the_Sky_album_cover “6 busted ‘waltzes’ for world wars 4 thru 6” … the “first song’s about war and drug addiction, fourth song’s about kanada, and the rest of it is all love songs.”

This album proves to be their folkiest and most organic sounding album.  The songs are mostly pretty mellow, including one that was recorded at a campfire.

“God Bless Our Dead Marines” opens the disc.  It’s 12 minutes long and begins “They put angels in the electric chair, the electric chair.”  The melody is pretty catchy and the accompanying minimal strings accentuate the song nicely.  About 90 seconds into the song, the drums come in and the song takes on a rumbling field.  The vocals are repeated a lot, and Efrim’s voice is placed nicely in the mix.  The middle of song takes on a kind of shanty quality with lots of clapping and a loud electric guitar.  Around 3:30 the song stops and a new melody comes in, primarily on bowed bass.  The sound of this section is spare but very cool.  The piano returns (this is one of the first songs in a while to rely so heavily on piano) and a new melody (including the title of the song) is sung (again, a very catchy folk-song kind of melody) with occasional guitar chords.   The lyrics are also pretty straightforward and poetic.  While in no way suggesting this song could have been popular, it is certainly approachable and fairly conventional (even at 11 minutes).  At 9 minutes the song is stripped of all music except piano.  And several rounds of voices begin singing “when the world is sick, can no one be well, but I dreamt we were all beautiful and strong.”  When the third set of voices (these are bass) come in, it really sounds great.

“Mountains Made of Steam” opens with guitar harmonics and a contrasting simple guitar melody.  The vocals come in about 90 seconds in.  The song is also surprisingly stripped down.  The voices and bass grow a little louder at around 3 minutes, but not in a building and building kind of way.  After a few rounds of “Ya di da di di’s,” the instrumental section swells.  It is loud and soaring but not big the way GYBE is.   The low resounding bowed bass in this song is really fantastic–it’s very big and round and really satisfying

“Horses in the Sky” opens with acoustic guitars and Efrim singing quietly.  It sounds like a very traditional folk song.  There’s a second voice singing harmony (just about everyone is listed as doing vocals).  The lyrics sum up the tone of the song, “Schools look like prisons and our prisons look like malls / Downtown just a sick parade where no one cares at all.”  This is one of the few songs from the band that doesn’t really change over the course of the whole song (some keyboards are added, but it is otherwise pretty much just guitar and voice).

“Teddy Roosevelt’s Guns” starts with echoed guitars and strings and the vocals: “Kanada oh Kanada I ain’t never been your son.”  Strings slowly fill out the melody as more voices start singing that above refrain and Efrim’s indictments mount.  This continues with some swirling strings until about 7 minutes when the drums start pounding out three note blast.  When the vocals come back in, they are the harshest on the album, both from the lead and backing vocals.

“Hang on to Each Other” was recorded “next to a campfire by the river” … “at Garfield’s fire pit.”  You can hear the fire crackling as the song begins.  There’s some simple “ba dum da da dum” vocals before a harmonium grows louder.  Aside from that instrument, it’s otherwise almost entirely a capella with various voices singing different parts, primarily “hang on to each other,” “any fucking thing you love” and “birds toss precious flowers from the murky skies above” in various rounds and harmonies.  It’s really quite a moving song.

“Ring Them Bells (Freedom Has Come and Gone)”  is 13 minutes long.  The song opens with slow strings.  A voice, which follows  a piano melody, sings the “freedom has come and gone” part.  The song feels fuller than the rest of the album with strings and bass filing the background.   The instrumental part is the biggest and most dramatic on the record with swelling strings and occasional guitars ringing out until 4 minutes in when everything drops out except for one violin and a bass and a new vocal melody.  But soon enough a buzzy electric guitar comes in to add more drama to this song.  And then it quiets down again, with staccato guitar and strings getting softer and softer until it fades out entirely for a few seconds.  And then a new guitar line begins.  It is replaced by single piano notes and wild (but quiet) feedback.  Efrim sings over as the feedback builds louder and louder until the screeching end.

This is definitely one of my favorite overall SMtZ albums.  Even if it is quieter and less diverse than other ones, the melodies and song structures are really solid.

The band is back up to seven people for this recording with all of the former players playing but with Scott Levine Gilmore on drums.

  • Thierry Amar – contrabass, glasses, harmonica, voice
  • Becky Foon – cello, voice
  • Ian Ilavsky – guitar, harmonium, voice
  • Scott Levine Gilmore – drums, percussion, guitar, mandolin, voice
  • Efrim Menuck – guitar, piano, voice
  • Jessica Moss – violin, piano, glasses, voice
  • Sophie Trudeau – violin, trumpet, glasses, voice

[READ: May 3, 2016] The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard

Eddie Campbell wrote The Black Diamond Detective Agency which I enjoyed, and The Fate of The Artist, which I enjoyed even more.  Both were pretty unusual–lots of different things going on.  Well, this book has even more stuff going on in it.

I genuinely didn’t know what to expect from this.  I assumed it would be a biography of Jules Léotard, the daredevil acrobat who developed the art of trapeze, popularized the one-piece item that bears his name and was the inspiration for the song “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze.”

But in this book that Jules Léotard dies on page 12.  Upon his deathbed, with no will written, his worldly possession (a fake mustache) is bequeathed to his nephew, Etienne.  So Etienne puts on the mustache and flies to Paris (in a hot air balloon, of course) to join Leotard’s troupe of circus performers.  When he finds out that they have eaten most of the animals because they were starving, his plans change somewhat.

And so this book is all about Etienne pretending to be the (possibly reincarnated) amazing Léotard and the fascinating adventures he gets up to. (more…)

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