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SOUNDTRACK: ERYKAH BADU-Tiny Desk Concert #776 (August 15, 2018).

I remember when Erykah Badu released “On & On.”  It was such a great, catchy song, but it felt really different.  And then I basically lost track of her.  I didn’t realize she was still making music (and she hadn’t made much) until 2008’s New Amerykah Part One was a huge hit.

So I hadn’t followed her transformation into an incredibly iconic and powerful woman.  Back in 1997 she wore large turbans.  Now, some twenty years later she looks amazing but also kind of scary–the pink eyeshadow and pale purple lipstick makes her look almost dead or perhaps reborn.  And when she points at the camera and stares “you tricked me,” watch out!

She sounds almost otherworldly as well.  Instead of the turban she has massive dreads (with butterflies in them).  She looks like an earth goddess.

Some folks around the NPR Music office said they felt an almost spiritual connection to Erykah Badu during her visit to the Tiny Desk. And that was before she and her band even played a single note. It came from the waft of earthly scents that followed in her wake, to the flowing dreads and clothes that hung on her like robes.

After her self-introduction, which included a rundown of her spiritual and creative aliases: Badoula Oblongata, Sara Bellum,  Silly E, Manuela Maria Mexico, Fat Belly Bella, she introduced her band, including on drums, “that’s my son, Seven.”  I’m just kidding that’s not Seven, his name is Delta 9.

The band, a collection of great jazz players launches into a brief (2 minute) version of 1997’s “Rimshot.”  She does some wonderful improv with it and it sounds terrific–particularly her voice.

For the song, Badu

play[s] with time — stretching it, stopping it, suspending it. Propelled by jazz chords on the piano and the steady pulse of the acoustic bass, the playful performance unfolded in the tradition of the best bebop.

She plays only one more track, a 12 minute panoramic song “Green Eyes.”  ….  It’s wide-ranging in scope and musical arrangement and brilliantly executed by the jazz and hip-hop musicians in her backing band. The story of heartbreak is striking enough, but her interpretation showcases her formidable vocal skills. By the time it was over, we were all just as emotionally and spiritually spent as she was from the experience.

There is so much in this song, it’s hard to take it all in.

It opens with a bouncy piano melody: “My eyes are green because I eat a lot of vegetables–it don’t have nothing to do with your new friend.”  A muted trumpet adds to the jazzy feel.  She hits a powerful high note and it feels like another short song, but the piano changes tempo and the song is only just getting underway.

I love the melody and the riff that follows certain verses.  Around 9 minutes into the show, the song feels like its ending again, but a flute picks up and the song moves along with a new urgency.  Until she says Wait and sings

Just make love to me
Just one more time
And then you’ll see
I can’t believe I made a desperate plea
What’s with me?

And the pain and power in her voice as she sings me is wonderful.  As the song nears its conclusion, she hits some incredible notes–showing just how amazing her voice still sounds.

Her music has been described as neo-soul, but to me this felt like old school jazz.  As the blurb concurs

Erykah Badu is an artist for the ages. To old-school jazz fans like myself, names like Nina Simone, Betty Carter and Shirley Horn come to mind as much as Billie Holiday because of Badu’s singular approach to a lyric. They all cut their own creative path and left behind a legacy that you can identify with just one note. Erykah Badu is on that same path, and one day her name will be mentioned along with the other Elders who share her spirit of musical adventure.

Erykah Badu (lead vocals), RC Williams (Keys), Braylon Lacy (bass), Cleon Edwards (Drums), Frank Moka (Percussion), Kenneth Whalum (Sax), Keyon Harrold (Trumpet), Dwayne Kerr (Flute).

[READ: January 19, 2018] “Why Are We in Zefra?”

This excerpt was published in Harper’s.  The blurb about the book gave some basic information, but it was on Karl Schroeder’s website that I found this more detailed explanation of the book:

In spring 2005, the Directorate of Land Strategic Concepts of National Defense Canada (that is to say, the army) hired me to write a dramatized future military scenario.  The book-length work, Crisis in Zefra, was set in a mythical African city-state, about 20 years in the future, and concerned a group of Canadian peacekeepers who are trying to ready the city for its first democratic vote while fighting an insurgency.  Both the peacekeepers and the insurgents use a range of new technologies, some fantastic-sounding, but all in development in 2005.  Needless to say, the good guys win, but not without consequences; the document explores everything from the evolution of individual soldiers’ kits to strategic considerations in world of pervasive instant communications.  The project ran to 27,000 words and was published by the army as a bound paperback book.

That’s pretty fascinating.

The excerpt was pretty compelling as well. (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (May 27, 2017).

Fourth of four shows at The Horseshoe Tavern dubbed Spring Nationals.  Some bust outs at this show – Take Me In Your Hand, Jesus Was Once A Teenager Too, Edmund Fitzgerald as well as Opera Star and Take The Money And Run – another awesome show.

Lineup is: Dave Bidini / Dave Clark / Hugh Marsh / Ford Pier / Martin Tielli / Tim Vesely

Jeff “J.C. ” Cohen the owner of The Horseshoe introduces the show.  He talks about the 70th Anniversary of The Horseshoe.

He mentions thee 1950s and 60s when artists like Willie Nelson would do a full week here. No cover from Mon-Wed to get to know the band and then a $3 cover and then a $4 cover.  They made this dump a legendary live venue.  Nothing beat 25 nights of Stompin’ Tom Connors.  That kind of thing doesn’t exist anymore except the Rheos.  He mentions how during their last Nationals they went to like 3:45 AM.

The opening acts were Southtown from Texas and Hydrothermal Vents (John Tielli’s Montreal-based band)

This nearly three-hour(!) shows starts off pretty mellow with Tim;s new song “Music Is The Message” which sounds more pretty than ever.  It’s followed by a whispered version of “Stolen Car” with gentle violin and backing vocals to start.  Although about 3 minutes in, an ever escalating feedback starts taking over the song and they have to stop mid-song (gasp!)  DB: “Live music!  These are not backing tapes, not yet.”  Martin picks up right where they left off perfectly.

Dave: “We’re mostly playing waltzes tonight.”

They mention the “bad” fan from last night. The Habs fan, he was very anti-fellatio.  Clark: “That’s the big guy from Shakespeare, right?”

Ford: “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Fellatio.”

“King Of The Past” sounds great.  I love Hugh’s violin at the climactic moment.  It’s followed by “Northern Wish” Dave notes: My wife wrote those land ho’s.”  He also mentions that Martin is “quite the cowboy.”  So Martin recites in a drawl, “Everybody’s talking about me, but I don’t hear a word they say.”

Someone shouts, “You guys gotta play ‘Saskatchewan.'”
DB: [quickly] “Nope.”
Audience guy: “Why not?”
DB: “Well maybe.  Seeing as you asked so …nicely and not at all brusquely.  We’ll see.  The set list is merely a sketch.”

DC: “This ain’t brain surgery.”
DB: “Or Brain Salad Surgery.”
Tim: “Or hot dog salad surgery” (an inside joke about the very first tour they went to the 7-11 in Thunder Bay in our under pants and it was seriously cold.  All we could afford was hot dogs so we loaded on as much salad as we could.  I don’t think they have police in Thunder Bay because we should have been arrested.

Then comes the first huge surprise, a bust-out of “The Ballad Of Wendel Clark Parts I & II.  It sounds great and during the ending section they do a few Stompin’ Tom songs: “Bridge Came Tumbling Down” and Algoma 69.”  Then they take it back to G sharp for a folkie verse of “P.R.O.D.” and then the Wendel ending.

Dave talks briefly about the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper our legacy as a generation.  It’s a beautiful body of water that nobody goes in.

There’s a very smooth sounding “Claire” with nice washes of synths.  It leads to a terrific version of “The Albatross” which gets better with each playing.  We learn that it was written after a Martin solo tour which is why it sounds so very Martin.

“Soul Glue” is a fun version with lot of violin.  Amusingly, Tim messes up the opening lyric, starting with the first syllable of the second verse.  Dave asks, “You need some help, Tim?”  But Tim is quickly back on track.  A ringing of feedback returns but is quickly squashed.  The pretty ending of the song leads an abrupt loud rocker, the introduction to “AC/DC On My Radio.”  It has some great drums at the end and Dave even asks, “Could you guys clap your hands?  I never ask people to clap their hands.”

“P.I.N.” sounds great and is followed by another bust out: “It’s Easy To Be With You” or “It’s easy to be with Hugh.”

Tim: This one’s called “smoke break slash washroom break.”  It’s a pretty acoustic version of “Bad Time to Be Poor” with Tim on guitar and High on violin.

Tim thanks the “multi-nighters” and then Martin introduces “my brother johnny” who helps out on “Jesus Was Once A Teenager Too.”  The songs tarts quietly with just piano and builds and builds.

They have some “high level talks” about what to play next.  They agree on “What’s Going On?” Then Martin suggests “Saskatchewan” “for those guys.”  Tim: “maybe that will shut them up.   Just to be clear it’s Part 1, right?”  Dave: “he’s left, he’s puking in the bathroom.”

There’s a very pretty ending that launches into Martin’s heavy riffing for “RDA (Rock Death America).”

Then the man who has been compiling all of these live shows, Darrin Cappe gets a dedication of “Christopher.”

A fun, rollicking “Dope Fiends and Boozehounds” segues into “Alomar” (sort of, Dave notes) and then back into “Dope Fiends.”

After an encore break, Dave plays “My First Rock Concert.”  Dave says “Maybe Tim Mech will join me.  maybe not.”  But then, “This song features Tim Vesely on the drums.  He’s got one fill but it’s a really good fill. [Tim plays].  That’s a new one! [Tm plays another]. That’s all I got.

As Dave sings about his first rock concert which his dad drove them to, Tim says, “Fred…. in a Delta 88.”

Dave asks: Ford what was your first concert?  Ford is using Tim’s mic, no sound.  Tim: “They didn’t turn my mic on tonight.”  Ford: “But you made so many awesome jokes.  You got to repeat them all.”  After some hemming and hawing he says: “D.O.A. or SNFU or Personality Crisis or Chocolate Bunnies From Hell… or Big Country.”  Dave: “You can only have one, Ford.”  Ford: “Nope.  Too convoluted to get into here, but I am the kind of person who has had many firsts in his life.  I’m a complicated man.”

When he sings the “swan dive,” Tim says “No you didn’t.”  Dave: “He was there.  No I didn’t.  But it works with the song.”
Ford: “See, truth is less important than meaning.”
Dave B: “Truth is less important than loyalty.”

Dave Clark: “Beach Boys, 1973, Surf’s Up, with my best friend Karen Lindhart.”
Tim: “Triumph at Exhibition Stadium.”

They play “Take Me in Your Hand.”  Dave: Tim, two drumming songs in a row how do you feel?”  Tim: “Elated and vindicated.”  There’s a great organ sound throughout the song, which they haven;t played in a long time. Although the acoustic guitar cuts out during the outro.”

Dave Clark has the audience do something with their hands and ultimately touch their ears and says he does it with little kids all the time in class.  I’d like to know what that is.

Martin notes: “Timothy Warren Vesely on the kit… on the traps.”
Ford”  “I want to tell you all how thrilled I am to be here with my dear friends, playing like the best music there is.”

Dave mentions some upcoming shows through the summer and then one that’s not in Toronto that their lawyer Woody Springsteen told them not to talk about.

Martin: This next song was written by a good friend of ours…”
DC: “G. Gordon Liddy.”
Martin: “G.  Gordon Lightfoot.”
Ford: “He could have killed every person in this room with any object on this stage.”
Tim: “We ask that there be no lights for this song….”
Dave B: “Total dark in the beginning, Marsen.”

It’s amazing that they do an 11 minute version of “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald.”  It sounds really great and just builds in intensity until there is absolute silence at the end of the song.  Really amazing.
Martin asks, “When’s the last time we did that, Dave?”
Dave: “I don’t know, a long time ago.  But sometimes it’s good to take a break from a song.”
Tim: “Or from a band.”

Dave B: “Who is not from Toronto?  It means a lot.  Jesus, I don’t think I’d drive to see us.  …because I’d be replaced and that would be terrible.  It would be sad.”

There hasn’t been a ton of banter during this show, but as it gets near the end, they are talking more.  They dither about what to play

Audience: “play a good song.”
Dave B: “that’s a terrible chant.”
Audience: “play a bad song.”
Audience: “play my favorite song.”

They play “What’s Going On Around Here?” with Tim on accordion.  It sounds great and then as they get near the end, Hugh starts playing a crazy violin solo–weird effects making bizarre almost human sounds with Martin doing bizarre backward mumble vocals.  It’s pretty neat.

Dave, sounding exhausted: We have one more maybe one and a half more.

Tim: “I think we played the show stopper like five or six songs ago.”

Dave C: “Martin’s gonna surprise you, kids.”  He plays Neil Young’s “Opera Star” and then a sloppy version Steve Miller’s “Take The Money and Run” that doesn;t quite sound right but still sounds good, especially Hugh’s wild solo.

Dave B: “Now that’s a show stopper.”
Tim: “That’s because we know no other songs.”
Dave B: “Should we do one more to bring it back.”
Tim, “No, we know no more.  That was bottom of the barrel.”

Requests from the audience, but Ford Pier, he’s in the band, we have to honor his request.  We’ll soon be having an opening on keyboard after Ford Leaves, and if you’re in the band you request songs and we have to play them.
Ford: “I didn’t know how that worked.  ‘Chemical World.'”
Clark: “I’d love to play that.”
Dave: “I’d love to pay ‘Satellite Dancing.'”
Martin starts singing “Radio 80 Fantasy.”
Dave starts playing “Body Thang” then says, “I just wanted to see Tim make that face.”
Ford:  “What a bunch of yoyos.   All those nice things I was saying before, I take it back.”

They settle on “Self Serve Gas Station” which opens quietly with lots of violin from Hugh.  “What went wrong with Johnny?  And Dougie too.”  They play the end in a crazy ska fashion.

This was a great four show Nationals and I wish I could have been to at least two of them.

They played throughout the summer, but the only shows left on the site as of today are four more from December 2017.

[READ: April 20, 2018] Baseballisimo

Baseballissimo is about baseball.  In Italy!  That’s a pretty good title.

I have read all of Dave Bidini’s books so far but I put this one off because it’s about baseball in Italy, which I didn’t think I’d care about.  And I don’t really.  But I did enjoy this book.  I especially enjoyed reading this at a removal of some 15 years from when it was written.  There was no reason to have any vested interested in the current status of anybody in the book (except Dave).  I just assume that fifteen years later nobody in the book is still playing baseball and we’ll just leave it at that.

So in the spring of 2002 Dave took his wife Janet and his two little kids on a six month trip to Nettuno, Italy, a seaside town of thirty thousand about an hour south of Rome.  His plan was to follow around the local third-tier baseball team the Peones for their season.

Many on the team wondered why he would write about them.  They seemed puzzled by the very idea.  One of the players asked

“Photo?”
“Si”
“Photo nudo?”
“Maybe”
“Angalaaaaaaato” he said using a Nettunese expression for lovemaking

But mostly they wanted to know why he didn’t want to wrote about real baseball.  We play for fun, no?
Dave said, “I’m mot interested in real baseball.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (May 26, 2017).

Third of four shows at The Horseshoe Tavern dubbed Spring Nationals.

This was one of the best Rheos shows I’ve ever seen. At the end of the show Jeff Robinson presented Martin with the custom made guitar he had been working on for the past 6 months. Martin then played an impromptu version of Indian Arrow which he had last played on his Farmer In The City tour 18 years prior. Indian Arrow is a 13 Engines song that to the best of my knowledge was never recorded, nor does Mike Robbins apparently recall writing it…but Martin knows it.

Lineup is: Dave Bidini / Dave Clark / Hugh Marsh / Ford Pier / Martin Tielli / Tim Vesely

There’s occasionally a lot of echo and reverb on the vocals, but the sound quality of the recording is excellent.

Before they start Dave B says, “Those people at the back don’t even know we’re up here, right?”

After a long guitar intro, martin sings “Self Serve Gas Station.”  It builds really well although he doesn’t quite hit the note on “the morning time has come.”  It’s followed by another Martin song, “California Dreamline.”  This song also has a lengthy guitar and keyboard introduction.

When the song ends there;s some rousing guitar chords for almost a minute before the words of Dave Clark’s “AC/DC On My Radio” kick in.

It’s followed by a terrific “Soul Glue” with Martin joking about playing “jazz metal.”

Ford asks, Who is on lights tonight?
Dave B: I don’t know.  Have we seen much of a light show tonight?
Ford: Last night you said his name three times in a row and that is messing with some dark force
Dave B: Ford Pier is our dark force attendant.  Thanks for coming to night three.  Lucky number 3.  Dark force night.

Clark tells a lengthy story about someone farting behind him on a plane.  Martin guesses it was Margaret Atwood.  But Dave says he has proof of David Suzuki farting near him at a book signing and frightening all of the signees away.

Martin announces that the next song “P.I.N.” is called “Oh that Suzuki.”

They ask Tim Mech if he finds a lyric sheet in the back to bring it forward.  They are doing a song for a Stompin’ Tom compilation, but they don;t know the words.  Tim: So instead we’ll forget the words to this one” I’ve never heard “Gumboot Cloggeroo” before.  Someone plays an amazing solo that sounds like it was done on a banjo but which might be Hugh on violin?

Dave wonders if it’s too early for shots?  Martin “I’ll just get looser after this.”

Martin again states that Tim is sporting the gentleman’s instrument.
DB: “what does that make the bass?”
MT: “also a gentleman’s instrument.  I just learned the mojo of the bass about 7 years ago.”
DB: “4 strings is tough”
MT: “it’s pretty well inexplicable.”
DB: “It took me a long time to pop and snap.”
MT: “Tim Vesely used to be the king of slapping on Queen Street.”

DC: “Tim Mech do you have Gaffer tape?”
MT: “Why would a guitar tech have gaffer tape?”
MT: “I had a dream I was gaffer taped.”
DB: “Dark Forces”

Martin and Tim play “Sickening Song.”  It starts well, but then he stops.
Martin: “I got snot on my microphone.”
DC: “That’s because it’ the Sickening Song.”
Ford: “Is it yours?”
DB: “We had a gaffer stop and a snot stop, very professional.”

They resume and “Sickening Song” sounds great.  There’s some wild drums and crazy echoed vocals in the middle (the punk rock section).  There’s some big growling vocals at the end–it’s awesome.

Tim stays on the accordion for “What’s Going On Around Here?” and when it’s over, someone in the audience shouts “that was fuckin awesome.”

The Horsehoe is now 70 years old.  It was really different back then when Hank Williams and Stompin’ Tom.
DB: “Me, Tim and Dave Clark played that stage over there in 1984.  James Grey was on keyboards with us.  It was our 6th or 7th gig of all time.  We opened for The Government.”

From The Last Pogo:

The Government were a three-piece band rooted in Toronto and active between 1977 through 1982. The band consisted of: Andrew James Paterson (guitar, voice, and writing), Robert Stewart (bass, voice, writing), and three drummers (Patrice Desbiens from Sept.1977 to May 1978, Edward Boyd from June 1978 to December 1980, and Billy Bryans throughout 1981 and 1982.) The last version of the band was also occasionally augmented by scratch guitarist Jeremiah Chechik.

Robert Stewart wore pink spandex pants,  Billy Bryans on drums he had synth drums.
MT: “There’s never been a better drum tone since.”
DB: “I’m merely trying to drive away the dark forces.”

DC: “Patting a Bengal cat is like patting the back of Tim’s head.”
Martin: “Tim has the nicest hair of anyone I’ve ever stroked….  Here’s a new song by Timothy Waren Vesely.”

They play the nice folkie song “Rear View.”

Then comes “Northern Wish” which opens with a pretty acoustic guitar melody. and sounds great.  It ends with a cool buzzy guitar sound at the end.

For “Here Come The Wolves” DB asks, “Hey Marsen, I’d like a little more light on stage.  I’m not reading my lyrics or anything, honest.”  The middle has a great fiddle sound from Hugh, thundering drums and lot of intensity–when they get this song tight it will be fantastic.

There’s a very long intro to “Dope Fiends.”  It sound great and then there’s a long drum solo lasting over 2 and a half minutes).  The song ends after Martin singing Dark Side of the Moooooon with someone whispering The Dark Side and then Martin speaking backwards nonsense (you can hear “Satan” a few times).  This all culminates in some wild improv.

Tim recites “Halloween Eyes” then they return to “Dope Fiends.”  This segues into an introduction to “Queer” in which Dave starts singing Trooper’s “Here For A Good Time” and then Dave says, “Uh oh Tim’s got something.”  They play “Halloween Eyes” properly and the chugging guitar leads Dave to sing “You Shook Me All Night Long” but he doesn’t know the words (!) and no one else seems to either!?  No one knows it?

Paul Linklater?  You don’t know it?
Kurt Swinghammer? You must know it.  Kurt gets up there to sing it and his lyrics are “I don’t know that song, I don’t know that song at all.”
Finally Ford gets up there and sings a really strained voice (and misses a lot of lyrics) but they play it pretty well: “Ford Pier saves the day!”

They finally get to a romping, “Queer.”  It’s so good that Clark says, “I’m giving you the [cow]bell brother.”  There’s great harmonizing on “he put his fist through the kitchen door.”  There’s a cool pizzicato solo from Hugh.

And then Hugh plays a great violin as the introduction to Clark’s fun new song “Super Controller.”

Dave: We’re gonna do one more.  We might not do one more.  Give us an encore.”

After the encore, Ford comes back and sings “Thursday Morning” on acoustic guitar.  He confesses “after the Brian Johnson vocals, I have a bit of a frog in my throat, help me out?  Oh, you sound like a chorus of angels.  Am I having a stroke?)  This segues into a romping fun version of The English Beat’s “Save It For Later.”

When it’s over, Ford says, That must have been enough time for a Cuban cigar (depends on who’s smoking it, Ford).

Dave talk about the Brave New Waves recording that’s for sale and then discusses the very first single that Dave Crosby, Me, Tim and Dave Clark made at Round Sound in 1980.
Tim: It’s available on wax cylinder.

“Saskatchewan” has lots of echo on the vocals.  It’s kind of a slow version with pizzicato violin until the roaring ending (which gets a little messy).  It segues seamlessly into “Horses.”  It’s still got the intensity of old.  There’s a quiet middle part with Martin doing a falsetto of what Dave sang.”  It hasn’t been played much and Dave gets into it but his rant isn’t that long: “They’re all going to jail, Jared fucking Kushner.”  [Please, please, please be true.]

They tack on the ending for “Queer” and then Clark starts a drum beat that leads to “Legal Age Life At Variety Store.”  They invite Paul Linklater on stage to play with them: “You can tell he’s good because of his green hat.”  Thee’s also Jeff Robinson on lead guitar.  Ford gets a solo and when Dave sings, “Eagleson ripped off Bobby Orr,” Tim again comments, “Get over it.”

As they leave, Martin says that Jeff Robinson made him this new guitar.  It has a piece from his paleontological collection.  This is a mammoth tusk and it makes it sound prehistoric.  It could be 80,000 years old.

He starts to leave bu the crowd asks him to play something and he plays a little of “Indian Arrow” as noted above.

This is a great show, the band sounds fantastic.

[READ: May 21, 2018] “Calico”

This is a story about death and a life that, to me, seems much worse.

Sara lives next door to Sands, “an old bitch.”

Sara doesn’t like to say such things but she had seen Sands hose a cat once to get it out of her yard.

Sands never said a word to anyone, just stood in the doorway and glared if you parked in front of her house. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (May 25, 2017).

Second of four shows at The Horseshoe Tavern dubbed Spring Nationals. First Time played live for the new songs Rear View (Tim), Here Come The Wolves (Dave B), AC/DC On My Radio (Dave B/Dave C).
Lineup is:
Dave Bidini / Dave Clark / Hugh Marsh / Ford Pier / Martin Tielli / Tim Vesely

The show starts with a kind of quiet, hushed version of “Stolen Car” with cheers for Hugh’s violin solo at the end of the song. And then Martin introduces “Ford Kristofferson on the keyboards” (Man I wish I could see what Ford looks like).

Someone shouts “Rheos rule” and Clark comments, “if we did, there’d be world peace.”

They play a wonderful combination of “King Of The Past” (Clark: King of the Pasta) and “Northern Wish.”

The crowd whoops and Dave says that that is the appropriate sound for the new song.  Clark: “It’s called “Confused Wolf.”  The song is really called “Here Come The Wolves” and it’s a powerful song with great toms and violins.

This one [“P.I.N.”] is called “Snakes on a Plane.”

Clark says “Big thanks to Dani Nash and her rocking band.  She also drums for the Samantha Martin Band.  She is a wicked drummer and a knockout visual artist, too.

[We’re skipping a song on the setlist, shhh–they were going to play “Bridge Comes Tumbling Down”].  They “bridge” to “Music Is The Message” and as Tim says, “we played a bunch of new songs last night and playing them again tonight and they’re completely different.  It’s awesome.”

Dave B: We’ll try to play this next song (Dave’s “Mountains And The Sea”) well for once.

Clark says “That is the first chord of Dust in the Wind, right?  It was a hit for them, why not us?”

There was a lengthy solo from Hugh including a funny bit where he holds off on playing notes busting all the anticipation.

Martin comments: “I’ll call you David from now on.”
DB: “Are you mad at me?”
MT: “No it’s jut you insist on that….  Don’t Davids bug you?  Or Mikes who insist on being called Michael.”
DB: “I’d like to send that out to Michael Philip Wojewoda who is here tonight.”
MT: “I’ve always hated that about Michael Phillip.”
Tim: The only thing worse that David is “Daveed”
Clark: “And yet David Durango is one of the nicest guys going.” (I can’t figure out who they are talking about).
MT: He’s the only guy who almost drummed for Nick Buzz.  A Band with a “no drummer” policy.”
DS: “No drummer policy? Where do I sign up?”

Tim will surprise us with an instrument change…
Someone in the audience: “Polka the shit out of us, Tim!”
DB: “There’s heavy male patter presence, which must be offset at some time.”

Tim is on “the gentleman’s instrument” for “What’s Going On Around Here?”  It sounds great to hear again, although Tim says, “that accordion was exhaling musty basement smell in my face. It’s been down there a long time.”

Up next is a duet with Hugh and Tim (on acoustic) doing “Bad Time To Be Poor” it’s very cool to hear it this way.

Dave announced the last new song of the night.  “I know you want to hear new songs but you get worried, I hope they play the one I like.  But you’re such an elastic forgiving crowd, you’ll let us do anything.”
Tim: ” Wednesday’s crowd were a bunch of assholes.”
(Someone in audience: “I’m never coming back.”)
Tim: “This is the best crowd ever.”
Martin: “Maybe the penultimate.  There was one other that was better.  They were so good.  I loved them.  I dream about them.”

Tim tells a story about opening for The Hip and getting ambivalent and odd crowds.  We expected that.  There was no abuse.

But Dave B says they played in Quebec in purple and orange jackets and people laughed… they got it!  We should be bigger in Quebec.

Martin says in New Brunswick somebody threw something at us.  Martin says he picked it up and whipped it right back at them.
But Dave says at another show, something hit Martin and he got pissed, but it was a T-shirt that said “We love you Rheostatics.”

Tim: “The moral of the story… Fucking Rheostatics fans.”

They play a wonderful “The Albatross” which is really gelling live and then a solid “Legal Age Life At Variety Store” (with an introduction to Tim Mech).  Dave shouted that he end, the Eagleson ripped off Bobby Orr line and Tim shouted “can’t you ever get over that?” During “Self Serve Gas Station” Martin sings “What went wrong with Ford?”

After some banter they’re on to “Shaved Head” which sounds great even though Martin misses a lyric.  It doesn’t throw him, although he does apologize later.

The pretty ending gets cut off but only by a little I’d guess. And they go for an encore.

After the break Dave Clark comes out to sing an a capella version of “Johnny’s Got A Problem” by D.I.   The crowd is really into it and sings along.

As soon as Martin starts playing the crazy guitar intro to “When Winter Comes” someone in the crowd goes crazy “Oh my God!  Oh my God!”  It sounds great to hear again as well.

They end the night with a song “co-written by Paul Quarrington.  Go to a library and take out one of his books.”  A lovely version of “Claire.”

It seems like maybe there might be more, but that’s where the recording ends.  The new songs have been getting better and better, and the band is having a lot of fun up there.  Dave Clark is even being a bit more silly, but nothing like he was back in the old days.

[READ: May 18, 2018] “Candidate”

This is a story of a man who works for a presidential candidate.

It is told in first person in the present and in flashbacks.

The flashbacks talk about how he and his best friend Spencer were marginal kids in school.  Spencer in particular was a somewhat shunned individual–he could have been in the Trench Coat Mafia.  But while the narrator and Spencer shared the same views and ideas, the narrator passed more easily with the other kids. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (May 24, 2017).

After decades of live Rheostatics shows, this one finally catches up to just one year ago today.  Which means that after this four-night run, the only unmentioned shows from Rheostatics Live are ones from this past December.

I really wanted to get to these shows in person, but four nights in May in Toronto is not easy for me to swing.

First of four shows at The Horseshoe Tavern dubbed Spring Nationals. Dave Bidini, Dave Clark, Martin Tielli, Tim Vesely, featuring Hugh Marsh on Violin and Ford Pier on Vocals and Keyboards. In addition to the newer songs that they played in the Winter, they debuted three new songs: Rear View (Tim), Here Come The Wolves (Dave B), AC/DC On My Radio (Dave B/Dave C).

This show is “only” 2 hours long, which is something of a surprise, but maybe not for a Wednesday night.  The sound quality is great and there is a ton of hilarious banter.

“Saskatchewan” takes a while to start but it’s worth the wait as Martin and everyone else sound terrific.  Interestingly, the music sounds somewhat different with the keys and violin.  Not radically different, but noticeable.

Martin says, “That was called ‘Saskatchewan’ we wrote it in the 1940s.”

Next up is Dave Clark’s newish song “Super Controller.”  There’s a long fiddle intro before the big “bah bah bah bah dah dah dah dah.”  It segues right into “Soul Glue” where everyone does their parts wonderfully–especially the vocals.

The Daves offer a “big shout out to Friendly Rich” for opening the show and congratulations to Rich for some awesome music games for people to play.  He’s loving and kind and he’ll hug you….  but only if you ask him to.

Dave: “Great to see you all on Wednesday night–the first of 4 shows.  We’ve got opening night jitters.  Not really, we’re mailing it in.”
Martin:  “I’ve got the jitters.”
Martin to Dave: “You’re the most nervous driver I know.  No, your driving makes the most people nervous, but you are the opposite of the uptight driver.  You dance with the car.”
Dave: “Hugh and Martin don’t drive.  They’re both totally way too smart to drive.”
Martin: “We care too much about the planet.”

Pointing to the keyboards: Dave: “That’s Ford Pier.  We can’t decide if he looks like Kris Kristofferson, Kenny Loggins and… who’s the third person?”
Dave C: “I said he looks like Ronnie King from the Stampeders.”
Ford: “Who said Michael Phillip?  That’s who I was going for.”

Next up is “P.I.N.” which sounds very pretty with the violin.

Then there’ a pretty, mournful, almost Slavic violin and guitar opening to a mellow song played for the first time, Dave B’s: “Here Come The Wolves” (7:11).  Once the thundering drums kick in it’s got a kind of Jethro Tull quality.  It’s long and compartmentalized and ends with chants and tom toms.

Once it ends, Dave says, “New songs are scary, which is a good thing.”
Audience Member: (It was great)
Dave B: “Oh geez… that’s not what I was fishing for, but thank you.”
Dave C: “I liked it because I noticed Tim is howling.”
Tim: “I’d like to say that old songs are terrifying too.”
Dave B: “When you’re on the accordion.”
Dave C: “I only recently learned the next song “Sickening Song” is about sex.
Martin: “With the lowering of sexual drive comes the perception of subtlety.”

There’s a whole bit about sex and cum and ever so much more. It’s quite funny.

Then Martin gets on a long rant about the movie Urgh: A Music War.  He speaks of it lovingly as a good cross-section, of good and bad bands from the era.  Bands were very diverse.  There was no one style.  The music was free.  I love that.  So does my brother, John.

Dave Clark: “As Annie Hall would say, ‘Well, La di dah.'”
DB: “I’m going to turn off the Martinator.”‘
Tim: “I liked stage-fright Martin a lot better.” [much laughter on that].

Martin can take the joke and informs us that “Tim’s gonna accompany me on the gentleman’s instrument” (the accordion) for “Sickening Song.”  It’s great to hear this older, more unusual song.

Fave mentions that they have the new “Brave New Waves”–the first ever band on the show back in 1988 and “we sound very energetic and enthusiastic and it’s  got Dave Clark rapping on it.  It’s worth the $75.  No it’s not $75.”

Next up is Tim’s new song, “Music Is The Message.”  This is a really enjoyable version of this song, the other instruments come to the fore and Hugh Marsh’s violin is wonderful.  It’s followed by a brand new Tim song (first time plated) “Rear View” (4:16).  This one is a bit more upbeat and folkie-sounding.  Martin even acknowledges: I like that one, Tim.”
Tim: “That was a first for that one live.”

[Dave puts down the guitar and sings into jut the mic]: “It’s about to become a Corky and the Juice Pigs gig, you realize.”

He continues: “There will be no spoken word tonight sir, we will express our thoughts in melody and song.  When you go hand-held, the stand is your friend.  This is a song about coming to a new land.  “Mountains And The Sea” is a pretty song although it might be too much for Dave to sing by himself–there’s some notes that he strains with. I could see it more for Tim or Martin.  But the melody is nice and the middle improv violin section is quite cool.

Martin is back for “California Dreamline” and he sounds great.  And then comes “Claire.”  For the first time in a long time, there’s no acoustic opening, it just starts and rocks on.”

Dave starts to talk about the Rock and Roll Journey Train that their management dreamed up.  Take you up north on our journey train.
Clark: Loving, touching, hugging, squeezing.
Martin’s reaction is great: “What?  What are you talking…?”

Dave: We’re about 4 an a half songs from the end.  Did you randomly say nine more?  Then we will break for…
Tim: “A day.”

Tim: “Be excited for the next song its like 5 in one.”
Dave: “It’s a value added composition…”
Tim: “A Groupon song.”

And then there’s this amusing discourse:

This next song features Hugh Marsh on the violin.  It doesn’t, but still it seemed like a good time to mention it.

Dave Clark: The Satchel Page of the violin… Hugh Marsh.
Dave B: “He’s got a few years before he can we can all him that, Dave.”
DC: “Ok, The Ellen Page of the violin!
Martin: “The Ayn Rand of the violin!”
Ford: “That sounds like a shitty thing to be.”
DB: “Ford Pier, the Geraldine Page of the keyboard.”
Ford: “That’s equally shitty.”
DB: “Tim Vesley, The Stephen Page of the bass, see its just getting lower and lower isn’t it.”
Martin [clearly not getting the “page” part of the joke] “Dave Bidini, the Daryl Hannah of the rhythm guitar.”
[pause]
Martin: “I’m waiting, I want one.”
DC: “The Suzanne Somers of the guitar.”

Then they discuss how much good Suzanne Somers has done for people.

Dave B asks Dave C: “Remember The Alan Hamel Show Dave?  Wasting away, thinking about ending it all?”
Martin doesn’t know it.
DB: “It’s peak Canadian afternoon television.”

Then Dave asks for a gin and tonic.

Martin explains that “The Albatross” is based on a poem by Baudelaire and then mentions a song by The Godfathers with the lyric, “I don’t read Baudelaire.”

Then there’s a discussion about The Beachcombers and the Bigfoot double episode–all shows about Bigfoot have to be double length.  Martin says “a presented theory is that Bigfoot ritually bury their dead in Alaskan glaciers.”

Dave B: “I’m not getting my G&T am I?  That was ten minutes of patter….”

It’s the most fun version of “The Albatross” yet.

It’s followed by “A song about hockey and sex and being gay…yeah. you;ll see.”  Its a fun version of “Queer” with lots of backing vocals and the keyboards (or violin) doing all kinds of crazy sound effects.  The song builds up into Dave B’s new song (first time played) ” AC/DC On My Radio” (4:03) which is a much more rocking but still simple song.  Clark sings the middle verse.

After an encore, Dave sings “My First Rock Concert.”  He mentions Meatloaf and says “he just wont go away…”    Tim asks, “Did you see anybody else?  Frank Sinatra?”  Dave: “Sinatra wasn’t that big in the new wave scene.”

Martin plays a lovely version of “Stolen Car” which segues into a blistering “RDA” which they have to stop because it’s only a warm up.  Then they do it again, even better.

Dave says good night, but they play the conclusion of ‘Queer’ as Dave Clark introduces everyone in a real DJ voice.  Martin launches into the “Green Sprouts Theme” although with no fast part before it segues back into “Queer” to end the night.

The band sounds fantastic and rejuvenated.  I really must try to get to see them next time they play The Horseshoe.

[READ: May 18, 2018] “Artifacts”

Geoffrey works at a history museum in the Yukon.  There was a room dedicated to the gold rush of 1989 with rusty pans and pickaxes. But more interesting to him was the prehistory room next door: Beringia, it was called, that place where the ice wasn’t.

The room held replicas of giant sloth, giant short faced-bear and a mammoth.  Animals that were familiar, yet not.

Geoffrey was dating a woman, Ida, who had moved to the Yukon because she was “into ice ages.”  She had heard of Beringia even though he, who had studied anthropology. had not.  She was somewhat cold and inflexible like a museum exhibit.

The crux of this story involves a meeting between scientists, environmentalists and Janice, Geoffrey’s boss.  She is determined not to cave to the environmentalists who want an exhibit to address glob.  Janice may have believed in global warming but “what belongs in my museum is another matter altogether.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Starlight Social Club, Waterloo, ON (April 24, 2016). 

After reuniting for the AGO shows back in 2015, Rheostatics decided to make a proper go of it again.  This included yet another show at Massey Hall (this time with Martin’s voice working).  In order to prep for that show, they first played this show

Warm Up show prior to April 29 2016 Massey Hall show. First club show since March 29 2007 at The Horseshoe Tavern. The Band consisted of Dave Bidini, Don Kerr, Martin Tielli, and Tim Vesely. With Hugh Marsh on Violin and Kevin Hearn on Keyboards/vocals. Trent Severn guested on Fan Letter To Michael Jackson and Making Progress. Norman Blake from Teenage Fanclub was in attendance at this show.

This is a great show with everyone sounding in good form.  Although I love Hugh Marsh and think he is amazing, his violin does tend to take front and center for a lot of this material.  Same with Kevin Hearn’s piano.  They are both essential, but they sometimes feel like more than the other guys (especially he soaring solo of “Stolen Car”).

As the show starts, Dave Bidini begins the banter: Great to be in Kitchener, Waterloo… you’ve changed.  The first show we ever did as Rheostatics was in the hotel across the way.  We slept in the carpark and couldn’t escape Alexanian Carpet (which they talked about back in 2007).  Here’s a bunch of songs.  Hope you like them.

“King of the Past” seems subdued but lovely, with Hugh Marsh’s soaring violin.  It’s followed by “California Dreamline” which opens with soaring guitars from Martin.

It’s followed by “Claire” which sounds great.

Dave says it will take a while for our patter to come back.  Then there’s some new country played on the monitors and Dave suggests that a new direction for them.

“P.I.N.”  sounds bright and positive although I think Kevin’s keys are too much in the chorus.  Martin even sneaks in a “Dirty Boulevard” line.

Dave notes that they were a band before drinking out of a water bottle was cliched–to give you an idea of the age of the band.  We predated grunge.  Actually we invented grunge and then decided it was a bad idea but we left it lying around and someone found it.

The first of Dave’s songs comes in with “Mumbletypeg” it is of course poppy and fun.

Then Kevin recites some of the story of Dot and Bug before starting “Monkeybird.”  Martin makes some wonderful crazy sounds and by the end Kevin starts a chant: I say banana you saw worms.

“It’s Easy To Be With You” is also very keyboardy, with a solo from Hugh or Martin, I’m not sure.

“Song Of The Garden” almost feels entirely like Kevin and Hugh.  It’s lovely.

Kevin starts a sample from Mister Rogers which can only mean “Fan Letter To Michael Jackson.”  Dave says they’ll play this for Prince and for Michael.  Trent Severn (Lindsay Schindler, Dayna Manning and Emm Gryner, in the flesh) sing the “it feels good to be alive” part.  The entire ending (with Martin joining in) is spectacular.

There’s a pretty one-minute guitar segue into “Making Progress” with a very cool long solo by Marsh.

They play a great version of “Self Serve Gas Station” at the end of which Martin says, “and then that guys escaped out of the bathroom window, he’s climbing down the side of the building.”

“Queer” has a lengthy piano solo from Kevin but there’s no “find me another home” outro.  “Dope Fiends and Boozehounds” has a big drum (and much percussion) solo by Don Kerr.  The song ends with some great howling while Martin’s guitar soars.  Martin even brings up the old jokes about someone misunderstanding Don Kerr’s name:  In heavy accent: “Why do you call yourself ‘dont care.'”

“Shaved Head” sounds great as they head into the first encore break.

When they come back out Dave says “I’m working on this solo bass project if you’ll bear with me…..no?  your loss.”

Kevin asks “how many of you are going to Massey Hall?  Don’t share the setlist online so it’s a surprise for everyone.”  It will be next Friday at Massey hall with Amelia Curran

After many requests, they play a slow and powerful “Palomar.”  It’s followed by a pretty version of “Stolen Car” with what I think is a drum machine.  When it’s done, Martin says, “Let’s all smoke cigarettes!”  Dave tells everyone, “Enjoy Game of Thrones.”

There’s a five-minute encore break.  After 4 minutes you can hear country music playing as if it over, but the boys come back out.  Dave: “Now I’m gonna miss Game of Thrones for sure!”

They return with Kevin’s “Yellow Days Under A Lemon Sun” and then a great version of “Saskatchewan” (even if Martin forgets some of the words).

They end with “Legal Age Life At Variety Store.”  The special guest on guitar: “Ladies and gentlemen, Martin Telli’s son… they’ve never met before.  It’s beautiful.”  I don;t know who it is but he plays a solid rockabilly guitar solo followed by a ripping piano solo from Kevin.  It’s all over after 5 minutes.

With a total show time of just over 2 hours, it’s a nice welcome back.

[READ: January 11, 2018]  A Legacy of Canadian Art from Kelowna Collections

I find the subject of Canadian Art to be rather fascinating (possibly because it’s more digestible than the expansive European or American histories).  This stems from my appreciation of The Group of Seven.  They loom (probably unfairly) large in the Canadian Art world.  So it’s interesting to see how the fit in with the rest of the history of Canadian Art.

This book is the publication from an art exhibit that from July 1 to October 15 2017 at the Kelowna Art Gallery.  What I found especially interesting about this show was that the pieces came from eight probate collections in Kelowna (as well as the gallery’s permanent collection).  But basically eight art collectors in Kelowna allowed the public to see their private collections.   That’s fascinating to me and I have no idea how common that is.

The book opens with thanks and kind words from the director and the curator with a longer essay from Roger Boulet.  He talks about the history of art and artists in Canada as well as collectors and their beneficence to artists and the public at large.

The book is divided up into eras. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ALICE SMITH-Tiny Desk Concert #700 (January 31, 2018).

I had never heard of Alice Smith before, which I guess isn’t totally unsurprising given the blurb:

For those not familiar, Smith made a big splash among true-school heads in 2006 with the release of her debut album, For Lovers, Dreamers, and Me. That record, whose title is a play on “The Rainbow Connection,” brimmed with an arcane magic, and it created a legion of lifelong fans.

Smith’s live performances usually highlight songs from For Lovers, Dreamers, and Me, her 2013 album, She, and her repertoire of cover songs. But for her Tiny Desk performance, Smith gifted us with three stunning song premieres that left the room entirely in her thrall.

Smith’s voice is great (although I found the voice of her backing singer, Kristin Brooks, to be even prettier.  I don’t think you could hear the other backing singer, Chauncey Matthews, at all).

Since the blurb talks about each song, I’m just adding my comments at the end

The first song, “Mystery,” feels like walking into the home of that friend of yours who is clearly more worldly than you, where there’s always a cool breeze, no matter the season.  [I really liked the low-key nature of this song].

The second song, which is so new that it doesn’t have a title, exudes the liminal uneasiness of being out of tune with yourself. The wisdom of the song draws from the notion that the top of Maslow’s pyramid is found within. [Alice’s voice is really nice in this catchy, rather conventional R&B song].

The closing “Something” is an undulating soul search that attacks and recedes like a cloudy beach morning. Smith was unabashedly in her pocket here, alternating between falsetto, tremolo and touches of jazz. This dash of Broadway at an office cubicle is what makes the Tiny Desk series so special.  [This sounds very Broadway in the beginning. I didn’t care for all of the keening and whooping near the end though].

So I am clearly not a true-school head (nor do I know what that means).  But I did think her voice was quite nice.  She introduced the band at the end, first name only.  The blurb has their last names, but didn’t include guitarist Frank at all: Dennis Hamm keys, Greg Clark drums.

[READ: November 5, 2017] All’s Faire in Middle School

I really enjoyed Jamieson’s Roller Girl.  It was a great story and it featured roller derby!

I was excited to read this story, but I was a little concerned that Jamieson was going to try to shoehorn in a conceit that Middle School is like the Middle Ages or something.  Well, I needn’t have been.  Jamieson does something that might be even cooler than Roller derby–she sets her story at a Ren Faire!

Imogen and her family work at the local Ren Faire and have done so for years.  Her father is a part- time actor (and pool salesman) but his passion is being the bad guy at the Ren Faire.  We meet a whole cast of characters who work the Ren Faire.  Some stay put and only work there, but others travel and work the circuit.

But Middle School is also in the title.  It’s not just that Imogen is going to middle school.  Up until this point she has been home-schooled.  So she is starting middle school and school at the same time! (more…)

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