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klosetrSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICSFall Nationals The Horseshoe Tavern Toronto, ON. Night 1 of 13 (November 10, 2003).

This was the 1st night of their 13 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  Rheostatics Live has recordings of nights 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7.

 The sound quality of this show is great, although it’s quite disconcerting how quiet it is between songs—must be soundboard with no audience pick up at all.

Dave chats with the crowd of course: “Always exciting on opening night—a tingle in the air.  We’re basking in the glow of David Miller’s victory tonight even if he doesn’t know the words to “Born to Run.”

David Raymond Miller is the president and CEO of WWF-Canada, the Canadian division of the international World Wildlife Fund. A former politician, Miller was the 63rd Mayor of Toronto from 2003 to 2010. He entered politics as a member of the New Democratic Party, although his mayoral campaign and terms in office were without any formal party affiliation. He did not renew his party membership in 2007.  After declining poll numbers, Miller announced on September 25, 2009, that he would not seek a third term as mayor in the 2010 election, citing family reasons.  He was replaced by Rob frickin Ford.

They play a lot of songs from their not yet released album (not until 2004, in fact) 2067.

They open with “The Tarleks” which is follows by 2001’s “Song of the Garden” and then back to 2067 with “I Dig Music.”  The new songs sound similar to the release but perhaps the words might not be solidified yet—there’s also no “too fucking bad” in “I Dig Music.”

Tim’s “In It Now” comes next with that cool opening riff.   It segues into one of my favorite Tim-sung songs “Marginalized” also from 2067.  I love the drums, the guitar riff, everything about it—although they are off-key as they start.

Dave says, “We’re surprising ourselves a little by playing new stuff.   But when Martin asks for requests and people say “Saskatchewan” Martin starts playing it (see, the squeaky wheel…).

“Fan letter for Ozzy Osbourne” (also from 2067)  it sounds a bit more spare and sad (with no wailing vocal at the end).  It’s followed by “a very old song we wrote in 1989, I think, but it still applies on this special occasion.”  He says it’s called “You can’t go back to Woodstock baby you were just 2 years old you, you weren’t even born.”

There’s a quiet “In This Town” that’s followed by a lengthy “When Winter Comes.”  This song features a remarkably pedestrian guitar solo (sloppy and very un-Martin like).

Dave says they were recording audio commentary from a show two years ago (for what?  is this available somewhere?).  He says that night wasn’t a very good patter night.  Good music night, though.

Tim says, “So we overdubbed good stage banter. … Till I sparked up a fattie and giggled like a moron.”
Martin: “till you sparked up a fattie and the ridiculousness of the situation became glaringly apparent.”
Dave: “Martin I can’t believe you just said ‘sparked up a fattie.'”
Martin: “The times they are a-changing.”

Martin introduces “Aliens” by saying “This would be a b-minor chord.  The whole thing seems a little weird–Martin does some odd voices and weird guitar noises—it almost sounds out of tune or like it’s just the wrong guitar.

Back to a new song with “Polar Bears and Trees” and they have fun chanting the “hey hey ho ho” section.

Dave calms things down with some details: We got some stuff planned over the next 13 days. Lucky 13.  Thursday there’s going to be 25 guest vocalists.  We’re gonna mail it in, basically.  And then on Saturday we have “Tim Vebron and the Rheostars.”  According to a review, this “band” is a goof: “Martin was wearing a lei and suspenders, MPW looked like an extra from THX1138.”   You can also get a pass to all 13 shows for $75.  For some good old live live Canadian shield rock.

Dave asks, “Tim did you get a contact high during aliens?  Some wise acre lit a marijuana cigarette.”  Tim:  “It’s just kicking in now.  I’m hungry.”

“PIN” sound great although in “Legal Age Life,” the sound drops out at 58 seconds and comes back on at 1:35.  During the song, Dave shouts G and they shift to “Crocodile Rock.”  It kind of clunkily falls back in to “LAL,” but it’s fun to see them jamming and exploring a bit.

Dave says “Crocodile Rock” was a very complicate dance, but it didn’t catch on.  I think the dance involved implements didn’t it. Tongs?”

“Stolen Car” starts quietly but builds and builds to a noisy climactic guitar solo.  Its pretty exciting.

During the encore break there’s repeated chants for “Horses.  Horses.”

You can hear Dave say, “‘Soul Glue?’ We’re not going to do that tonight, we’re going to say it for a special occasion.”  The audience member shouts, “the hell with you.” Dave: “Ok, bye. Yes I am going to hell.”

What song do you think cleans the palate for the song to come after it—A sherbet?

There’s some amusing commentary between Dace and the audience.  And then a little more local politics: “Did you think that was good speech by David Miller?  I didn’t. I don’t want to be a bad guy coz it’s his night but…”  Then Dave imagines a “David Miller ascension-to-power film starring Ed Begley Jr.”

The encore includes a rollicking “Satan is the Whistler” followed by a solid cover of The Clash’s “London Calling.”  Tim’s a little sloppy on the bass, but the guitar sound is perfect and Dave’s got the vocal sound just right.  As they leave you can still here that guy calling for “Horses.”

[READ: July 1, 2016] What If We’re Wrong?

I have enjoyed a lot of the essays I’ve read by Klosterman.  But I’ve never read one of his books before.  I saw him on Seth Meyers one night and this book sounded cool.  And then I saw it at work, so I grabbed it .

Klosterman is clever and funny and this book is clever and funny.  Although I found it a little long–every section of the book felt like it could have been shorter and it wouldn’t have lost any impact.  However, I loved the premise and I loved all of the examples.  I just got a little tired of each section before it ended.

So what is this book (with the upside down cover) about?  Well, as the blurb says, our cultural is pretty causally certain about things.  No matter how many times we are wrong, we know exactly how things are going to go. Until they do not go that way any more.  “What once seemed inevitable eventually becomes absurd.”  So what will people think of 2015/16 in 100 years?  And while some things seem like they may be obvious about how tastes change, he also wonders if our ideas about gravity will change.

This came out before the horrors of the 2016 election and I read it before them, so the whole premise of the book is even more magnified. (more…)

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instruct SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern, Record Body Rheos Day#6, Toronto, ON (November 12, 2001).

Sometimes you would go see Rheos and they would play a show packed with rarely played songs. This is one of those shows – The Woods Are Full Of Cuckoos, SRBM, Onilley’s, Jesus Was Once A Teenager Too, Public Square, Halloween Eyes, Satan Is The Whistler, PROD, Martin’s First Day Of School, Home Again…a treasure trove for hardcore fans. This was night 6 of Winter Nationals 2001 aka Record Body Rheos.

This is the only show remaining in 2001.  It is also only the second show of this run available on RheostaticsLive.

The recording of this show is spectacular—loud and very clear soundboard recording.  It features Michael Phillip Wojewoda on drums–the band’s final drummer before their dissolution in 2007.

Dave as always is very chatty: “Is it the first night for a lot of you folks here?  Oh you’ve been here before?  Cool.  We mixed it up for you tonight.  We got a lot of stuff we haven’t played over the last 4 or 5 nights.

Mike says, “A lot of stuff I haven’t played.”  Apropos of nothing Martin says, “We’re going to play a new song called ‘Couscous.'”  [They don’t].

The show starts with “The Midnight Ride Of Red Dog Ray.”  I’d always assumed this song was by Stompin’ Tom, but in fact it was by Washboard Hank Fisher.  The songs sounds sounds big and full–much louder than other versions of this song.  Tim has lots of backing vocals: “riiiiide” “Raaaaaay.”  Dave rolls his rs in the last chorus.  It ends and Dave asks “That wasn’t too hard was it, Mike?”

Dave says, “we’ll stay in Ontario for this next number.”  It’s a nice, spare version of “Christopher.”  I like when Martin is singing “we used to take trips,” he plays the melody on the guitar the same notes.  And when he “setters” ‘trips’ a second time he plays the guitar note as well.  They have a really hard time with “The Woods Are Full Of Cuckoos.”  They play it twice way too fast for Tim to sing.  The guitar in the beginning feels way too fast even if you don’t know the song.  Tim says, “Hey this is way too fast.”  Martin agrees: “Bit of a wrist twister.”  Tim: “I only go so fat.”  They try again, Martin slows down but the drums are the problem.  It’s pretty much the same tempo.  Then MPW gets it right and Tim does a good job—it’s still a pretty fast song.   During the end part they mess up that final riff, but they do manage it after another try.

Martin jokes: “The woods are full of caca” (chukcle).

Tim says, “Speaking of that band, Gordon Cummings’ new band Precious Little is playing with us this week.”  He asks when and Dave says “It’s in the paper, Tim.”  Tim: “‘I don’t subscribe to such things.”

A fan says something and Dave replies, “I’m not smoking.  My playing is pretty hot, but I’m not smoking, sir.”  He then tells a story about playing hockey at 2PM at the Annual Green Sprouts Game.  He says he normally wears full pads, but this time he wore pants and water got all over him–it looked like I peed myself.  Tim: “remember that gig in Victoria when you actually peed yourself?”  Dave says something about a toilet and then says “And you were drawing it in your sketchbook.”

Martin has his new robotic voice synthesizer and speaks “SUPERdifficult.”  It’s fun to hear this song after so much time in the mid-1990s.

Dave: “I sense that you are a loud crowd.  Sometimes smaller bodies of people should be louder”
Martin: “The example of the Belizian howler monkey–small body, loud sound.”
Dave: “Any howler monkeys here tonight?”

They thank the opening acts: Some Guy with a Guitar (is that the guy’s name or are they joking about who it is?  I can’t find anyone with that name).  And The Keep On Keepin’ Ons  they should lose that Dave Love guy he’s gonna destroy them if he doesn’t destroy himself.  [Can’t find anything out about him either].

Martin introduces “PIN”:  “This is a song about stuff that goes like this.”  But for “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine” Dave says, it’s a song from The Blue Hysteria which we recorded in 1996.”
Martin: “Really eh?  This is song about probiscis monkeys and how good they are at sweeming…swimming.”
When they start there’s a terrible flat note on bass.
Martin says, “No, no, its not gong to be that interesting.”
Dave: “I mean how many fucking songs do we have to have about proboscis monkeys who swim?  Shit.”
Tim: “Martin, can you stretch a little?”
Martin: “All my songs are about apes.”  Fan: “What about ‘That’s How They Do It in Warsaw’?”  Martin: “Polish apes.  It’s about a zoo I visited there in the elate 60s.  Zoos at the at the time, ooh la la.
Before this gets out of han Dave says “Let’s go capo monkey.”
When Martin gets to the “sweetest ass” part he chimes in: “all red and blue and such.”

When the song ends, Martin says “Archie” in Edith’s voice (why he is talking about All in the Family I have no idea).  Dave says, “All I could think of the tragedy in the towers.  (this show is just a couple months after 9/11) Archie Bunker lived in Queens and when they showed the footage of the plane wreckage all the houses looked like Archie Bunker’s house.”  Martin: “704 Hauser Street.”  Dave: “Alright Tim [Mech], atta boy.  Pretty good to have a guy feeding you lines in the wings.”
Tim: “No more monkey jokes, Tim.”
Martin: “Yeah, cool it on the ape shit.”

While they’re bantering, someone says, “That last song was really fucking good.  Dave: “Thank you, sir.”

This next song [“Mumbletypeg”] is dedicated to Tim’s tie.  Dave says that Night of the Shooting Stars is out in a couple weeks.  The album cover is a cross between Spinal Tap, Charlie’s Angel’s and Metallica’s black album.  And it sounds like a cross between those three things.
Martin: “Precisely.  With nothing else.”
Mike: “As a total marketing move the last night of our run here is the night of the shooting stars.  So everyone should go up north and watch the Leonids
Martin: “When does the meteor shower start, Mike?”
Mike: “Well 4 in the morning. Until the 18th”
Dave: “We should probably end the night with a processional chant of LEE-OH-NiD.”
Mike: “With flutes and a bus.”
Martin: “The flute bus!”
Dave: “The flute bus, I think The Medieval Babes have it.  They did beautiful older music but they added a sexy edge to it.”

They play another song from NotSS called “Reward”: “We’re gonna do a song we did last night but it didn’t turn out to good, so we’re going to try it again for you. No, No, for us.  For the greater good. We are true artists.”

“Oneilly’s Strange Dream” sounds so much like “Saskatchewan” in parts.   Those three harmonica notes before the solo are just like in “Claire.”  Dave seems to fill in on some of the words if Martin forgets them.  The end of the song has a really noisy section of chaotic chords and drums.  Martin ends the song with the lyrics from the first verse instead of the final verse.  Dave rescues the song and Martin finishes it.

Tim: All we did was smoke pot in the Bahamas when we recorded that album.  Sorry about that.

Dave tells a very long story about he Bahamas that is very funny (drinking, missing planes, throwing up).

This leads to a mellow, almost acoustic “Jesus.”  Martin messes up a lyric and Dave feeds him a line, so he continues.

Dave: “Pretty great fun for a Monday night for us.  We’re usually at home watching Golden Girls by this time.

They go all the way back to their debut album for “Public Square,” a song they didn’t even play that much back then.

Someone shouts “Halloween Eyes.”  Dave: Halloween has passed, ma’am.”  But they play it anyhow. Really goofy.  They don’t play it much at all: “Don’t look at me with your Halloween eyes.  Don’t hit me with your pumpkin pies.  Devils got horns devils got a tail.  666 gonna fuck you up.  Some even say that he’s got scales. 666 you’re a sitting duck.”  Dave: “They actually really were stones when they wrote that.”

This next song [Bad Time to be Poor] is dedicated to the retirement of Mike Harris [Harris was the 22nd Premier of Ontario from June 26, 1995 to April 14, 2002. He is most noted for the “Common Sense Revolution”, his Progressive Conservative government’s program of deficit reduction in combination with lower taxes and cuts to government spending].

“Satan is the Whistler” is sloppy but rocking with more of that robotic voice “he is the whistler.”

There’s an interesting surf guitar like opening to “Four Little Songs.”  The whole thing is crazy fun.  For Tim’s: “Lets go to France, beautiful France.”
I’m not sure who is singing Don’s part, but they stop “we should get these guy to sing that one.”

Huge creatures prowl the streets tonight
Moon and antlers set the sky alight

Martin: “These beast have antlers, perhaps they’re just moose.”  After the first attempt, Dave chides, “Wait that’s really terrible, hold on.”   They resume the middle part and then the audience sings along pretty well.  During the Neil Young part there’s some gentle jamming with funky bass from Tim.  Whoever sings it has a crazy voice.  They slow things down at the end for “and my brain goes….”  The sound goes slow and woozy.
When they stop that, Martin says, “This is the morning after” and they resume properly, except Dave sings “We drank all our beer and ate all our pizza.” at the end.  And then he introduces, “Drunk guy.  Drunk guy.  Thanks, Justin.”  Mike says, “Dave, I love it we your son gets up to sing with us.”

On his way out Martin says, “Rush never sleeps.”

Thanks to The Keep on Keepin’ Ons and the Poppy Salesman (this makes me think the guy with a guitar was Martin).

The encore starts with “CCYPA.”  Dave says this is the lead off track or the emphasis track about Canadian politics.  As the song ends, Martin says, “Pleased to meet ya.  Dave Love of Love Your Stuff Records.”

It’s followed by a wild “PROD.”  Dave: “Tim’s got the urge, we got the urge”  ….Tim gets a small bass solo.  Then “Let’s give the drums some space.” (a small solo).  And then they say goodbye.

They come back and Tim asks Martin for a few bars of “Martin’s First Day of School.”  “I’ve always liked that song.”  Martin: “The last time we played that was in 1992.”  Dave: “Not even.”

Martin: “Before the world changed.   Before the horrible events of Dave’s birthday.”  Dave’s birthday is September 11.  He said people were calling him up saying, “Dave, happy birthday.  What a tragic day, terrible day, your birthday.”

They end with “Home Again” from Harmelodia and then “Song of the Garden” which they re-recorded fro NotSS.

As they head out, Dave reminds everyone: Tomorrow’s free, so you got no excuse.  Tomorrow night: Precious Little at 9:30.  John Ford at 10: 25 and  Rheostatics later on.

[READ: June 30, 2016] The Instructions

I put off reading this book for six years.  And I see that I started to write about this over a year ago.

The book is massive!  (Category Thirteen even created a web page comparing the size of the book to other things).

It has been a major conversation piece.  I was reading it at the mechanics and an elderly lady and I wound up talking about books for 20 minutes because of it (she was reading Michael Chabon).

I had heard that even though it was big, it was not particularly challenging to read.  So while it is physically bigger than Infinite Jest (see the link above), it has about 40 fewer pages (and while it does have footnotes, there are not very many).

This story is all about Guiron ben-Jusah Maccabee, a ten-year old Israelite who may just be the next Messiah.

The book itself looks like a Bible (from the sheer size) and, indeed, as it opened we see that The Instructions were written by Guiron and translated and re-translated from the Hebrew and the English by Eliyahu of Brooklyn and Emmanuel Liebman.

Then there is a note from the publisher in 2013 (the book came out in 2010) saying that Guiron received no fanciable remuneration for his work, but money will go to the Scholars Fund.  Whether the U.S. Government “convicts, acquits, or fails to prosecute him for crimes relating to “The Damage Proper,” “the 11/17 Miracle,”: or any other event pertaining to “The Guironic War,” note that the Scholars Fund “in neither a terrorist organization nor a sponsor of terrorist organizations.”

That’s a pretty intense introduction.

The whole 1000 page book takes place in just a few days Starting November 14, 2006 (between second and third period).
Although the book is about Guiron, there are dozens of characters in the book–those who are “faithful” to Guiron and those who are not.

Benji Nakamook and Vincie Portite are his two closest allies.  They go to school with him at Aptakisic Junior High.  And they are all in The Cage.  The Cage is sort of a detention class–a high-security education experiment–the kids have all of their classes in this one room that has more security than any other room.

Guiron has been expelled from two other Jewish day schools.  In both instances he was considered brilliant and a genuine scholar but he was removed from both because of his violent tendencies.  And those violent tendencies are right up front.  As the book opens, Benji, Vince and Guiron are trying to waterboard each other. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Copps Coliseum, Hamilton, ON (December 11 1996).

This is the final show on Rheostatics Live in which the band is opening for The Tragically Hip.

For this show, the intro music is also from The Wizard of Oz, but this time it’s Judy singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”  It’s just one verse before fading out and then guitars fading in for Martin to play “A Mid Winter Night’s Dream.”

Turns out that this setlist is similar to the one from Buffalo with a lot of new songs.  Although there are a few older/more popular songs in places.

The new songs include “Fat” which sounds great of course.  I gather they are maybe sharing a microphone because at the end Dave says “See you in the next song, Martin.”  “Okay, Dave.”  This leads into a perfect version of “All the Same Eyes.”

Martin says “We are the Rheostatics.”  Dave says “We are the Rheostatics, not to be confused with The Howell Brothers (?).  They couldn’t make it but we got their jackets.  It’s nice of you to come out early.  We’re playing selections from our new record. Get it before it’s reduced to clear.”  (You can hear someone laugh on tape).

This is a segue into the single “Bad Time to Be Poor.”  It’s followed by another Tim song, “Claire” with the acoustic guitar opening in place.  There’s another lengthy guitar solo, although it’s not quiet as exciting as some of the other ones.  But Martin was saving up for a spirited version of “California Dreamline.”

They end their set with a rough rocking “Feed Yourself.”  During the spoken part, they slow things down to just a bass and washes of guitar.  It’s a pretty intense ending and a good preparation for The Tragically Hip.

[READ: June 25, 2017] The Story of Canada in 150 Objects

In celebration of Canada’s 150th year, Canadian Geographic and The Walrus created this special issue–a fun way to describe many elements of Canadian culture through “objects.”

The objects are grouped in vague categories.  Some have just a few words written about them while others get a few pages.  Some are humorous, some are more serious.  Most are happy or amusing, some not so much.  And all of it together paints a diverse and complex portrait of the country–as well as teaching this person from South of the border a number of things I did not know.

It’s with comic pride and humility that the first object is politeness (which is not an object at all, of course).  The amusing thing about this article about “politeness” is that while the author of it is very pleased to be so polite, he also can’t wait for his fellow Canucks to forget to be polite so he can rub it in with a extra smarmy “You’re Welcome.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JOHN PAUL WHITE-Live at the Newport Folk Festival (July 29, 2017).

I don’t really know all that much about John Paul White, except that he was in the fabulous duo The Civil Wars, and that he writes intelligent but downbeat folk music.

For indeed, his songs are not cheery by any stretch.  But they are very pretty.

I know the first song, “Black Leaf,” from his Tiny Desk Concert.  I loved it then and I love it now. After the song, he asks, “How are you?  Are you well?  You should be well.  No one should be complaining, least of all me in this black suit.”

And, despite his tone, he is not above making jokes with his audience.  Like when he introduces the second song, “Martyr,” he says, “We’ll be doing  while lot of death metal covers. I figured this would be the place. This song is by a band called Sepultura.”  [Nervous titters from the crowd before he starts playing a pretty JPW song that sounds not unlike a contemporary Barenaked Ladies song, especially his delivery of it].

“The Once and Future Queen,” is a slow, quiet song with a big chorus full of pretty harmonies.  When it ends, he says:

I guess it’s probably my duty to warn you….  You came to a folk festival so you probably weren’t looking for happy songs anyway…  If you came to this set looking to be cheered up, you’re screwed.  Let’s get that out of the way.

I loved “Hate the Way You Love Me,” during the Tiny Desk Concert, but when the backing singers accompany him on the chorus and the gorgeous fiddle from Kelli Jones fills the song, it’s really wonderful.

He jokes, “Glad you’re enjoying the death metal.  I didn’t think it would go over as well as it has.”  But he then plays “Fight for You,” a fairly rocking song–with some rocking distortion on his guitar and a snarl in his voice (and a pretty heavy chorus).

I tend to think of JPW as kind of a mellow singer with a great voice, but he really lets loose in the middle of “Hope I Die.”  In addition to a really powerful singing section, there’s a pretty wild solo going on (violin or guitar or both).  He introduces Adam Morrow over here on the guitar, so I assume he had something to do with it.

He says, “I’m not gonna pretend that all of you have any idea who I am.” [cheers]  He jokes, “That’s called fishing for a compliment.”  But he continues,

To those of you who do I apologize.  It’s been awhile.  it took a lot to get me out of the house.  I was incredibly happy sleeping in my bed and going to dance recitals and football games and the lot. And then these melodies started coming back in my head.  And if I gave into it I’d be back out here doing this.  I and I didn’t want that at all.  No.  No offense, but I didn’t want of see any of your faces.  But once I wrote these songs I wondered if people would connect with them…  and I still doesn’t know why I did that.  So thank you.

In introducing the slow ballad “I’ve Been Over This Before,” he says “This is one of the first songs that came to me. I was obviously listening to a lot of old country music, because that’s where it all starts for me.”

He continues, “I promise you I won’t bore you with song meanings because most of the time I have no idea what they mean most of the time.  But this one is personal for me.”  He says “Simple Song” is indicative of the folk spirit of telling stories and passing them down to further generations.

This came from my grandmother.  When my grandfather passed away he was battling many demons that everyone was having to battle alongside him.  She was raising 14 kids because of those demons.  So… I thought he was perfect, I though that he was always happy, but that was not true and when he passes away, she didn’t cry.  I asked her why  and she said ‘I cried so much for your grandfather when he was on this earth, there’s no way I’m gonna cry for him now that he’s better off.’  And so I thought, ‘Number 1, I want to punch you  in the face.  And then 2 much later in life, that that is a song waiting to happen.’  So this will also cheer you up.

The song and sentiment are beautiful with plaintive lap steel guitar: “I will remember I will remember I will remember you… but I will cry for you no more.”

He continues, “So it’s said that festival crowds… this quiet does not happen.  This is beautiful I really do appreciate it.  I’m a very dynamic performer and I need this kind of environment so…  Festivals scare the shit out of me.  I have to thank you from the bottom of my heart.  This is an unbelievable atmosphere to play in.

before the final song, the rocking “What’s So,” which I also know from Tiny Desk, he says “This is the first time Newport for all of my band so they’re geeking out pretty hard.”  In addition to Jones and Morrow, there’s Reed Watson on drums and Matt Green on bass.

“I need more band members so I have time to tune.”

“What’s So” has an aching descending chorus line that is just terrific.

I really like John Paul White’s music and I’d love to see him live in a quiet sit down club..

[READ: June 24, 2017] “It’s a Summer Day”

I know Andrew Sean Greer from a few McSweeney’s books.

This was a simple story but told in a really cool style.  It concerns Arthur Less, a writer, who has been called to an international conference where he is in the running to win a prize.  But the prize is minor and no one–not he nor his agent–thinks he has a chance.  In fact, the only reason he went was to get out of going to a wedding of an old flame, Freddy.

Freddy had once given him advice about international flights: “They serve you dinner, you take your sleeping pill, they serve you breakfast, you’re there.”

I love the narrator’s voice in this story.

He had been to Italy before. Once when he was 12.  And the second time with Robert Brownburn (Yes, that Robert Brownburn, the famous poet).  They had been dating for a while and were at a good point in their relationship.

He did as instructed with the pills, but woke up in the middle of the night–only two hours having passed!  He takes out another pill and then it’s time for breakfast.  He is in a fog and the first few pages are an amusing comedy of him possibly going the wrong way.  He barely makes his local flight (and is shocked to see ashtrays in the airplane seats–charming or frightening?) And then… was it a mistake to get in the car marked for Sr. Ess?  The driver speaks no English and it sure looks like he is heading in the wrong direction. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Another Roadside Attraction: Cayuga Speedway – Hagersville, ON (July 20, 1995).

The band sounds kind of different for a festival like this, they downplay some of their weirder elements, to be sure, although maybe it’s just practical to play your more popular work to a wider audience.  This looks like a pretty good festival, check out the line up –>

The beginning of the set is kind of muddy–mostly because you can hear audience chatter, but it clears up okay.

After a warm introduction (You’re gonna love these guys), they play a nice “Self Serve Gas Station”

For the next song Martin says, “This is a song about a kid writing a letter to Michael Jackson.”

After a nice “Soul Glue” Martin says “Dave, I’m the CN Tower.  You be the Bank of Montreal.”

Before “California Dreamline,” Dave says, “That last song was about a lake, this next song is about an ocean.”  During the song, Martin sings “spooning” instead of “fucking” in the dry sand–is that a festival decision?

There’s a lengthy, trippy, swirling opening to “Claire” with a Dave announcing: “Tim Vesely has gone electric, stop the presses.”  Martin does a really wondrous guitar solo.

The most notable concession to “normalcy” is their cover of “One More Colour” which lessens some of its heaviest noises.  The ending. which can go pretty far afield, is also pretty straightforward.  “Dope Fiends and Boozehounds” sounds a little prettier than usual.  The middle section has a kind of instrumental section with a drum solo and waves of sound.  (This is the first show on this site with Don Kerr on drums, although no mention is made of him).

The end segues into RDA which is fast and cool but leaves off the final “Americas!”

This is a very unchatty show for the band, although at the end Dave says they’re playing at Woolsock (Woolstock?) on August 12 in beautiful Welling.  Welling is in Alberta, but I find a Woolsock Music Festival listed in Nova Scotia, so I’m at a loss.

[READ: June 27, 2017] “Show Don’t Tell”

I can’t get over that Curtis Sittenfeld has had three stories published in the New Yorker in the span of about a year.  This one is set in a graduate school writing program.

The narrator explains that the most prestigious fellowship one could earn at their school was the Peaslee–$8,800 with no work requirements. It was the gold standard.  Other ones paid less and required a fairly heavy work load.  Ruth is in her first year and, like everyone else, hopes desperately to win this fellowship.

No one knew exactly when the acceptance letters went out, but there was also a rumor, so Ruth waited in front of her mailbox to wait for the mailman.

When her neighbor heard the door shut, she assumed Ruth had left so she came out with her cigarette–something that she and Ruth had had words about several times. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ALDOUS HARDING-Tiny Desk Concert # 639 (July 28, 2017).

Aldous Harding is a singer from New Zealand.  Her second album, Party, is full of deeply personal songs with memorable melodies and spare instrumentation.  Aldous Harding’s musical partner for the Tiny Desk is Jared Samuel Elioseff .

I was mesmerized by her performance right from the start.  Her voice is deep and sultry like Nico’s, and I imagined that she was French the way she enunciated.  There’s something about her face–she seems to be filled with what…? disdain? emotion?  as she sings these song.  She grits her teeth, protrudes her lower jaw, makes fascinating expressions all to convey her meanings.

The first song she performs,”Imagining My Man,” is about what she calls the “tender and frightening thoughts that come with being in love,” and what you witness while watching her are often painful, pensive expressions that are as important to the song as the notes being played.

I really like this song a lot–the simple melody, the fascinating delivery and the wonderful touch of a strange little zip sound after each singing of “all my life….”  The way she sings “if you get down” introduces yet another strange expression and an even stranger vocal delivery.  It all borders on comical, but she is not funny she is baring emotion.

In introducing “Blend” she gives Jared the guitar and says “I’m really sorry for what you’re about to see me do, but it’s all for the good of the song.”  And I genuinely can’t tell what she’s talking about.  She doesn’t do anything expect change the drum sound on the keyboard.  This song is whispered and the guitar plays gentle picked notes.

For the final song, “Horizon,” she takes away the guitar, stands up and says “thanks for watching” with a smile.  She stands singing the final song which I think is my favorite.  The expressions she uses as she delivers the first few lines is really intense–almost like a verbal threat:

I broke my neck dancing to the edge of the world, babe
my mouth is wet, don’t you forget it, don’t you lose me

The fact that she stands straight, dressed all in white–unmoving except for some hand gestures–just adds to the subtle intensity of her performance.

[READ: August 1, 2017] “Eric Duncan”

Philip Roth retired from writing in 2012, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t get more new material from him (although this isn’t exactly new, since it is from 2008).  This excerpt comes from remarks he gave at his 75th birthday celebration and will be collected in a forthcoming volume.

This is his recollection of the first things he ever wrote on his mothers Underwood typewriter.  In 1943, Philip’s mother was teaching him to type–white keys with black letters and number which “constituted all the apparatus necessary to write in English.”

He says that as soon as he mastered touch typing, he wrote his first title: “Storm Off Hatteras.”  But he says that instead of writing his own name, he wrote by Eric Duncan: “There’s little that can bestow more confidence and lend more authority than a name with two hard c’s in it.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Ultrasound Showbar [2nd GSMW Matinee Day 3] (February 27, 1994).

Second annual Green Sprouts Music Week held at Ultrasound Showbar Feb 25-March 1 1994. Setlists for all shows were fairly similar in content focusing mainly on the 25-30 songs that they would use for consideration on Introducing Happiness which began recording the following week. Rare performances of Green Xmas, Floating and one of the earliest Desert Island Discs. This is the all ages Sunday afternoon show 3/5.

Sadly there was to be no celebratory party for the Canadian hockey team who lost the final match and took silver (they’d have to wait until 2002).

They’re going to play a lot of new songs and some old songs.  So they start with “Crescent Moon” from Greatest Hits (it’s so synthy!).  Midway through they seem to mess up and Dave says, “We know the new ones well we just don’t know the old ones very well.”

As the start “Green Xmas,” Dave Clark says, “I love Christmas Time so much so that I love playing this song even though it’s not Christmas.”  When the song is over there’s lots of talk about gum–I assume someone had some in the audience: Black Cat, Ton o Gum or Bubbalicious.  He asks what kind and they start talking about Dubble Bubble and how so many bad things happened to Pud (He could never win).  He contends that Ziggy ripped him off.

They get an organized snap going for Fishtailin’.  They play a verse and then hold it, Dave says “We usually play this song in A, Martin.”  However we will employ “capo technology.”

Clark says he enjoys playing that song because it reminds him of …Dave.  And all the good times they had…before the bad stuff happened (ha).  Clark describes how he met Dave when they were kids.  Bidini says he doesn’t remember the meeting and jokes “did you steal something off of me?”  Clark says Bidini’s aunt and uncle got the first in ground pool in the area and that’s where they met.  Bidini asks what he thought of him.  After shouting “Doofus,” Clark says, I thought “he would become a well kempt perhaps overspoken person.”  Bidini says he remembers being in his Delta 88 going for a drivers test in 1981 and picking up Clark and thinking “he has lips as big as mine–we can be square together.”

It’s a good segue into “Me and Stupid” (which they make family-friendly by singing “messed up” instead of fucked up).  For the fish chant at the end “pike, trout, bass, smelt,” Dave says they are the “four fish of the apocalypse.”

Dave apologizes that he “spit on you from afar but luckily I hit one of the Wooden Stars and I think that will bring me good luck in 1994.”  The Wooden Stars are the band that’s playing during the break.

Once again Tim says that “Introducing Happiness” is about having cats–not birthing cats, just discovering them.”

Clark says that they are “one of the laziest bands in rock.”  Bidini says they have inherited the mantle from Valdy.  Then he says I thought you meant “laid back.”   Clark says “I didn’t say lamest.”  But Bidini says that Valdy once paid The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos $1500 to open for them at the Port Credit Arena.  Clark says he wasn’t talking about Valdy, he wrote the Four Seasons.  Tim says he also sells really cheap groceries (I assume he’s joking about Aldi).

For “In This Town,” Martin asks for “Lots of reverb on the intro.”  Bidini says it’s like they’re in a cave.  Then there’s a great “Michael Jackson, ” followed by a rocking “RDA.”  A sloppy intro to “Soul Glue” is fixed and then the song starts for good.  Midway through Bidini tells them to do it nice and breezy, like Valdy would do it, and they make it very smooth.  “Zero angst, Tim.”  The gentle ending segues nicely into “Self Serve Gas Station.”

Clark tries to wax eloquent about the loss of sun, but he can’t get the words out.  So they encourage the kids to dance, which it sounds like they do.

They play the mellow “Row,” which features a really great solo from Martin in the middle.  After a discussion of new wave, they play the rapid, rather odd “The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos.”   They play “Floating” again–one of those songs that has never gotten official release.  It’s pretty cool with a few different parts that complicate the song.

They ask, “Any teenagers in the audience?  I heard that teenagers don’t like to be called teenagers what do they like to be called?”  Someone shouts “Young adults.”  They play “Jesus Was Once a Teenager Too.”

They ask that the lights to go up and they play a song/game called “Desert Island Picks.”  You say three albums you’d take with you if you were stranded on a desert island (in this case New Providence Island).  They walk around singing the folk song and then some people come up: it is really fun and very funny, a great good time is had by all.  They even bring up a little kid and he sings his three favorite things in the world.  When they ask another kid what school she goes to, she says  “uh…what?”  And someone shouts “Must be U of T!”

Someone had picked three Beatles albums, and Martin says “This is from our next album Let It Be…”  He sings “Jo Jo was a…” before beginning “Take Me in Your Hand” properly.  Then they play a lovely version of “Claire” and then a noisy messy sloppy verse of Neil Young’s “Farmer John,” which morphs into the crazy trilogy “Artenings Made of Gold/Cephallus Worm/Uncle Henry.”

Clark asks if they should play longer or shorter, and longer wins.  But he must take a five-minute bathroom break.  So Martin plays a gentle acoustic version of “Record Body Count,” which the crowd loves.   Then, “Oneilly’s Strange Dream” is introduced as “Saskatchewan Part 2”.  And then (despite some apparent crying from children) they play “Horses” (the moaning child actually sounds like a pretty good fit for this intense song).  There’s even a kid who sings the “Holy Mackinaw, Joe” part.  At the end, there’s kids doing the whole ending with them.

And then it’s a couple of covers: Jane Siberry’s “One More Colour” and a rocking rendition of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender.”  They leave the stage and there is a truly wild and rowdy encore cheer (banging things and lots of screaming).

Dave gives away a prize–nightgowns (?) from Sire Records–which Clark says he doesn’t want because he’s ashamed of being on a major label.  I’d love to see those.

It leads to a cool trippy version of “Dope Fiends,” and the end guitar section segues perfectly in to “Earth Monstrous Hummingbirds,” a version which doesn’t ever get really weird but which still sounds fantastic.

I can’t get over how cool it is that Rheostatics played matinee shows like this.  The show lasted over 2 hours, tickets were $6 and it was all kind-friendly.  That’s pretty awesome.

[READ: January 17, 2017] “The Curse”

This is an excerpt from Marías’ recent nonfiction book To Begin at the Beginning. It is a reflection on the art of writing fiction.

This brief section looks at how he writes; he doesn’t know how things are going to turn out when he begins–that would be boring for him.  And if he was bored, it would reflect in his writing and then his readers would be bored.

Just as we do what we do when we’re twenty without knowing that when we reach forty we may wish we had done something else, and just as when we’re forty we have no alternative but to abide by what we did when we were twenty, we can’t erase or amend anything, so I write what I write on page 5 of a novel with no idea if this will prove to have been a good idea when I reach page 200, and far from writing a second or third version, adapting page 5 to what I later find out will appear on page 200, I don’t change a word, I stand by what I wrote at the very beginning — tentatively and intuitively, accidentally or capriciously. Except that, unlike life — which is why life tends to be such a bad novelist — I try to ensure that what had no meaning at the beginning does have meaning at the end. I force myself to make necessary what was random and even superfluous, so that ultimately it’s neither random nor superfluous.

He cites an example.  When Marías’ Cuban great-grandfather was still a young man, he refused to help a beggar. The beggar put a curse on him: “You and your eldest son will both die before you are fifty, far from your homeland and without a grave.”  He wrote about this curse in his book Dark Back of Time. (more…)

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