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SOUNDTRACK: BLACK PUMAS-NONCOMM 2019 (May 14, 2019).

A couple of years ago I had a pass to NonComm, but ultimately I decided not to go.  I had never been to World Cafe Live and, while it sounded like a fun time, it was just so many mid-week nights and lots of leaving early, that it sounded more exhausting than fun.

I have now been to World Cafe Live and I can imagine that the (less divaish) bands are hanging around talking to people (and radio personalities) which is probably pretty cool.

I love the idea of these sorta personal concerts, too.  But I have since come to see that they are 20-45 minutes tops.  Hardly worth driving 90 minutes (one-way) for.

But since the shows are streaming you can watch them live.  Or you can listen to the recorded version online.

Black Pumas was the opening band on the opening night.  They play and exciting and fun psychedelic soul.

It is hard not to be moved by Eric Burton’s powerful voice. Joining Burton onstage was production partner and guitarist Adrian Quesada, as well as a bassist, keyboardist, and two backing vocalists. The whole band moved as a unit, but each member added their own unique talents, making Black Pumas’ sound undeniably theirs.

The set mostly comprised of songs from the band’s upcoming self titled debut, due June 21st.

“Next 2U” had some great keyboards and Burton’s impassioned vocals.  “Colors” showcased their ability to slow things down a bit and to lean into improvisation.  There was a grooving guitar solo and a cool keyboard solo.  There was even more grooving on “Black Moon Rising.”  I enjoyed Burton giving us the occasional falsetto “AH!” at the end of the verses.

I really couldn’t believe how young these guys turned out to be because their sound is really old-school, but with enough of a modern twist to keep it from being retro.

“Fire” opened with a cool guitar riff before backing away from the rock a bit to allow the big harmony vocals to really soar.

The final song “Etta James” was surprising because it was more like a Rock n’ Roll shuffle–a fast bass line running through the quick verses.   It’s when the soulful chorus comes in that Etta James surfaces both in the lyrics and in the soul of the song.   Although the scorching guitar solo brings the song back around to its rocking sensibility.

Black Pumas sound like a great live band that would be even more fun to see than to hear.

[READ: May 2, 2019] “Tax Niʔ Pik̓ak (A Long Time Ago)”

The July/August issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue.  This year’s issue had three short stories and three poems as special features.

This story was written by Troy Sebastian / Nupqu ʔa·kǂ am̓, a Ktunaxa writer living in Lekwungen territory based in Victoria.  It’s not often that I read a story with a glossary, but it was very helpful, because this story uses a number of Ktunaxa words.

  • tax niʔ pik̓ak—a long time ago
  • Ka titi—grandmother
  • suyupi—white people
  • ka·pi—coffee
  • Kupi—owl
  • Ktunaxa ʔamak̓is—Ktunaxa lands

The story starts fairly simply, a long time ago.  Uncle Pat says that the suyupi have built a statue of David Thompson.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: HANNAH GEORGAS-Live at Massey Hall (March 5, 2018).

Hannah Georgas grew up outside of Toronto and always thought it was a treat to come to Massey Hall.  She says “My 18-year old self would be pretty psyched to play here.”

Georgas has two backing musicians Robbie Driscoll on bass/ableton and Dean Stone on drums/SPD.  She also plays keys but not for every song.

Most of her songs are quite spare–primarily featuring her voice.  The music is often slow washes and a drumbeat.

“Elephant” opens with warping synth sounds and Hannah singing.  The song builds nicely over four minutes with an interesting guitar accent and some powerful drumming.  Hannah also jumps  on the keys a bit for the end.

“Lost Cause” starts with Hannah playing keys and singing.  It’s spare with just the piano and drums and a nice melody.  Her voice is quite lovely.

“Rideback” has great interesting sounds from her keyboard–like horns or harmonicas or something.  I’m more intrigued by these sounds than the song itself.

“Naked Beaches” sounds like a slow dance song–a simple beat with a single note keyboard riff ringing through the song.  Her voice is echoed a lot on this song (both echos and harmonies) and it sounds really nice.

“Don’t Go” is another spare track.  It’s almost all drums with washes of synth and Hannah’s voice.

I was surprised to see her play a cover.  It was the Eurhythmics’ “Love is a Stranger.”  Hannah doesn’t sound like Annie Lennox, but she doesn’t sound all that different from her–it’s a good pairing for her and her band.

“Waste” has a whole series of wonderfully weirdo noises in its melody.  It starts fairly quietly but after the first few vocal lines, a kind of distorted synth line starts the melody, but its the chorus that really adds the weirdness with horns that sound like horns but also like screams.  Its really fun and funky, and is my favorite song of her set.

“Waiting Game” is a pulsing song with some chugging guitar and synth stabs as accents.  The set ends with “Enemies,” a quiet song with pulsing synths and drums and lights to accompany them.  For the chorus, things smooth out with some nice synth washes.

This show was on the same night as Rhye, and I honestly can’t tell who was the headliner.

[READ: May 15, 2019] “Going Up the Mountain” 

I loved this short story which speculates how our lives might turn out in a few years.

The story begins “The mountain sits in the middle of town.”  The mountain has always been there and it will continue to always be there.  It’s right in the middle–a brief walk for everyone.  You can’t miss it.

When people see each other in town the ask if they have gone up the mountain that day.

A neighbor “grins a tight grin and gives the sort of shrug people always give when they haven’t gone up the mountain.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Memorial Stadium, St John’s, NL (December 04, 1996).

This is the 18th night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour. Only recording of “Record Body Count” from the tour.

The opening music for this show is “Good Times” by Chic.  And they jump right in with the opening of “Fan Letter.”  Dave says, “Nice to see you again, we’re the Rheostatics and we want to be your friend.”  It’s a terrific version and the end segues beautifully into Martin playing the intro to “California Dreamline.”  He gets lost in the lyrics for the first verse and then comes out of it just fine.

Washes of guitar end the song which segues in a wonderfully weird way into “Claire.”  It’s like a minute of whale songs before the guitar for “Claire” starts.   The solo is an almost synth chorus sound from martin before going into a more typically wild Martin solo.

While chatting, Martin says, “scruncheons.”  He continues: “they’re not small people, are they?  I mean the scruncheons.”  Whatever he’s talking about I have no idea.  Then he says, It’s great to be in St Johns.  This is a song about death.  “Feed Yourself” has some whispering in the middle but nothing too intense.   But the crashing chords near the end totally rock out.  The noisy feedback segues into “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine.”

Dave says “we played in a place called Boomers last time we were in St John’s–an Australian themed bar on Water Street.  Unusual place.  Some people wanted us to play there again and we’re not.  We’re sorry we’re not.   Those who emailed us… those people waving their arms, I’m guessing.  Good arm waving.  The best in Canada.”

A solid “Bad Time” is followed by that solitary “Record Body Count,” which the crowd loves.  It goes out to “our new friend Darren, good luck in PEI.”

After hearing this RBC, it sends home just how long most of the songs are that they are playing–many of them running six and seven minutes.  Not exactly pop radio friendly.  Like the set-ending “Fat,” which sound great and stretched out comfortably.  There’s some great bass lines at the end of this song, too.  Tim is n his heyday.

[READ: April 3, 2019] Idle Days

This story started really dark and I wasn’t sure I was going to like it.  But the combination of the stunning art from Simon LeClerc and the fascinatingly intriguing story from Desaulniers-Brousseau proved to be fantastic.

World War II is crashing to its end.  This story is set in Canada and we hear about the final weeks on radio broadcasts.  Jerome Beauvais is a Quebecois deserter from the Canadian Forces.  It’s a strange setup.  Because his desertion doesn’t exactly have anything to do with the story of the plot.

He is back home but he is not living at home.  His mother has sent him to live with his moody grandfather in the woods to avoid any detection.  In fact, as the book opens, his mother is very unhappy to see him in town.  She knows (and he knows) that if he is spotted he will be arrested for desertion.  Signs say, “See someone hiding? Help your country.  Get Cash.”

His grandfather is rebuilding an old house that he bought.  The house has a history–rumored and real–of death (the woman commuted suicide) and a possible haunting.  So Jerome is there to help.  He’s kind of useless, but is becoming more practical and useful to his snarky grandfather. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Memorial Stadium, St John’s, NL (December 03 1996).

This is the 17th night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour. First 4 songs missing.

Even with the first four songs missing, this tidy little 30 minute set is quite enjoyable.

It opens with “Four Little Songs.”  Dave says that Don Kerr on the durms, he invented this beat (a simple snare/bass 4/4).  Then Dave messes up the 4-3-2-1 intro!   But they start over and rip it out.  When it comes to Tim’s part, he says, “Song two if you’re keeping score.  Tim changes the lyrics a bit from

This lady’s shaped like the Tour de France.
A thousand wheels besieged the city of romance.

to

This lady’s shaped like the Tour de France.
A thousand wheels besieged her underpahnts

And after the jaunty “you cant go wrong/you can’t go wrong”, Dave shouts “UNLESS” before Don’s “Huge creatures plowing the streets tonight, right, right. / The mighty puffin sets the sky alight.”

I learned a fascinating thing during this show.  In Canada, the corn dog is called a “Pogo!”  “While you’re picking yourself up a pogo or a root beer you may want to check out the CD with lovely cover art by Martin Tielli as always.”

Up next is “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine” in which Martin jhits some amazing high notes by the end.  It jumps to “Feed Yourself.”  The end rocks with some great feedbacking.  Tim comments: Way to go Dave.”  Dave replies “Way to go Tim” as they start “Bad Time To Be Poor” which is “for all the green sprouts.”  They thank the Tragically Hip for bringing them to Saint Johns twice.

Then they end the set with “A Mid Winter Night’s Dream.”  It sounds great–Martin’s vocals and guitars, everything is great.  The high notes at the end are wonderful.  And even though at the end, he sings the opening lyric, he catches himself and sings the proper ending.  Great stuff.

[READ: April 2, 2019] Delilah Dirk and the Pillars of Hercules

Boy do I love Delilah Dirk.

These stories are wonderful–fun, fantastical, exciting, witty and historically inaccurate (mostly).

I have totally embraced Cliff’s drawing style.  He has wonderfully subtle, expressions and his command of faces is amazing.  I absolutely love his amusing “action” words when one of the characters does something: “Skid,” “Grab,” “Hoist,” “Scramble.”

But like with the first two books, it’s the story that is really wonderful.

This book opens in 1812.  Delilah Dirk and her companion Erdemoglu Selim are in Turkey waiting to help a ship in Adalia’s harbor.  They are trying to protect the ship from the local tyrant Küçuk.  We see Delilah mingling at Küçuk’s party (and her expressions of distaste are wonderful).

Things do not go as planned, but the end result is the same–success for Delilah and humiliation for the tyrant.  Of course, it’s the not-going-as-planned that makes all the fun. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Marine Midland Arena, Buffalo, NY (November 26, 1996).

This is the 13th night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour.

It’s also only the second Rheostatics show recorded in the United States on the Rheostatics Live website.  There was an earlier recording of this show which was not a soundboard show.  My complaints about the show were mostly about the audience.  And you can’t hear them on this.  The recording is much clearer too.

They opened the show to “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” from the Wizard of Oz.   There’s no graceful segue into the music, Martin just starts playing “A Midwinter Night’s Dream.”  It sounds perfect.  Everyone is tight and right with the sounds and Martin hits those high note perfectly.  It’s an amazing and bold introduction to the band if you didn’t know them.

“Fat” is next.  It’s more conventional, but there’s some really amazing guitar work from Martin.  And the band is really into it by the end.  It sounds fantastic.  “All the Same Eyes” is up next and it sounds rocking and fluid.

Tim introduces the band in this way:
We’re the Rheostatics from Toronto, Canada.

Then Dave says:
We’re B.T.O. from Red Deer, Alberta.
We’re The Spoons from Burlington, Ontario.
We are every Canadian band that ever was and some that haven’t even been born yet.

The play “Motorino” which is dedicated to Brad May, the Buffalo Sabres player.  It’s a bit chaotic, and Martin sounds a bit unhinged, but I love that he speak/sings in Italian.

Tamara Williamson joins them for “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine.”  She and Martin sound great together.  I love that she gets a few solo moments.  And when they both hit those incredibly high notes–she goes even higher than him–goosebumps!  Martin breathes very heavily into the mic after the song–it’s so hard to tell if he’s having fun or is really going mental.

Don says “So far all of these songs have been from our brand new record.  And this next one is too.  And I think the only place it’s available in the States is right here in the lobby.”

They play a great “Bad Time to Be Poor” which Dave dedicates to “Chrissy?” “for playing our record.”  I feel like Tim emphasizes the “don’t give a shit no more” line.  He sings the whole song very clearly, which is nice.  Then they move on to a great “Self-Serve Gas Station” with excellent backing vocals from Tim.

Dave says “To all those people in the cheap seats, we can hear your cheers.  We appreciate them.”

The roaring ending segues into the quiet opening of the final song “Fan Letter to Michael Jackson.”  Instead of shouting “Michael” the first time around, Dave shouts “Triumph!”

During the verse, Dave says, “I see two angels with funny lights on their heads in the 11th row.  It’s like some kind of dream or something.”

Martin plays some fun wild soloing including a bit of “Sweet Child of Mine.”  There’s some wildness by the end with them all singing parts and martin soloing but they tack on a quieter ending, with martin noodling about and Dave whispering “big white buffalo”  Tim and martin end it with several falsetto “It feels good to be alive”.

As they leave, they thank The Tragically Hip, the best guys in the land.

[READ: March 23, 2019] “Childhood”

Mark is bringing his son Reuben to a doctor’s appointment.  They stopped at an Indian restaurant which caps off a pretty amazing trip so far since there was so much usual in their routine.  Riding a bus, strange smells.  A year earlier he wouldn’t have set foot in such a strange restaurant.   He was eight now and seemed to be doing better.

He could now read proficiently in English and French and seemed to remember the lyric to every song he heard.  He even got invited to friend’s houses.

Although group dynamics were still awkward.  There were also fits of temper and absent-mindedness.  And general spaciness.  But was all this normal?  What was the margin of error?

School wasn’t always a help–“report cards were composed in a language that bore only a faint resemblance to English.  Parent-teacher conferences had thepolite, anxious feel of second dates.”

Mark wonders about his only childhood, did he have any really distinct memories before he was turned eight?  Or twelve?  Everything felt like a brown haze.

So he and his wife put off the appointment until “it felt too irresponsible an cowardly not to.  And then they put it off some more” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Northlands Coliseum Edmonton AB (November 13, 1996).

Rheostatics opened for The Tragically Hip in Fall 1996.  Some of the shows were online already, but in 2018, Rheostatics Live added about ten more shows.  This is the 5th night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour. Only recordings of Shaved Head and Earth from this tour.

This is their second night in Edmonton and they play some of what I consider their more risky opening-set songs.  The show begins with Martin playing “Digital Beach.”  It’s a quiet song but the crowd seems really respectful.  And Martin sounds in great voice with his falsetto hitting all the right notes.

The end segues perfectly into “Earth.”  I feel like it takes a little while to get Earth going (again, thinking as an opening act and it’s such a slow song)–I find a very risky.  But the loud part of “Monstrous Hummingbirds” roars out and Martin’s guitar sounds great and they have surely won people over by now.

Up next is “Claire.”  Tim sounds in good voice and Martin has some cool phasing for his guitar solo.

Dave doesn’t sing a ton, but he thanks Edmonton.  “Thank you, Edmonton the whole city’s here tonight.  I see the mayor.  I see the coach.  I see the wizard.”

They rip into a great “Dope Fiends and Boozehounds” (some of you are here tonight).  Everyone is right on and the vocals are terrific.  There’s even a bit of a drum solo.

Dave mentions the cross country tour, the big crowds, the hockey rinks–shrines to the game of professional hockey.  They’re happy to be there “despite the fact that they still let Peter Pocklington in here [Pocklington owned the Oilers and is quite a divisive figure–he sold Wayne Gretzsky to Los Angeles, among many other things.  He will appear again in this show, shortly.]

Dave also says that they just released a record The Blue Hysteria, and if you get a chance to buy it we’d like that very much.

Up next is an amazing “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine.”  The vocals are wonderful–Martin is in top form tonight.  I believe Tim is singing the really high backing vocals too.  The song feels like a show stopper the way Martin’s voice soars majestically at the end–higher and higher.

Despite how amazing that is, they start right up with “Horses.”  For years I have wondered what events this song commemorated.  I wasn’t really sure how to find out. And then, here Dave introduces the song and tells all: “This is a song about the strike at the Gainers meat-packing plant in the mid-1980s.  It is a privilege to sing this song here tonight.

This is where Pocklington returns.  Dave doesn’t mention this, but I looked it up and found out [from Wikipedia]

Perhaps Pocklington’s most notorious setback was the result of a six-month strike with the United Food and Commercial Workers union that crippled Gainers, which at the time was Canada’s second-largest meat packer. Pocklington used strikebreakers, primarily from Quebec, to keep the plant operating despite the picket lines, a decision that earned him the enmity of Canada’s labour movement. Eventually, he agreed to settle the strike and rehire the striking workers at the request of the Alberta government.

So not only did Pocklington trade Gretzky, he was the inspiration for “Horses.”  No wonder Dave hates him so much.

“Horses” is energized and spectacular and Martin plays a noisy, wild electrified solo with some great horse sounds at the end.

Normally this might end a show but they segue right into “Shaved Head” (someone in the audience screams twice–loudly like an actual shriek–I wonder if that was good or bad).  Martin continues to sounds great–he’s hitting those high notes like nothing.  A beautiful, powerful ending leads into the jolly intro of “Fan Letter to Michael Jackson.”  Once again, everyone sounds great with this song.

They end the show with everyone repeating the refrain of “It feels good to be alive.”  The voices all stop except Martin who sends everyone off with his gorgeous falsetto singing “it feels good to be alive.”

What a great opening act to see.

[READ: February 5, 2019] “All Will Be Well”

This story opens with a comic line, but the story is hardly a comedy.

“Once upon a time, I was addicted to a salon.”

I have really enjoyed the way Yiyun Li develops character and setting.  In this story the salon is run by Lily.  The magazines are in Chinese and Vietnamese and the TV is tuned to a Mandarin channel.  It is in a neighborhood where armed robberies were common.  Lily unlocks the door when she sees customers coming and immediately locks it again.

The narrator teaches at a local college, but she pretends that she is going to school for fiction-writing.  The best part of her character is that she lied and told Lily that she “had been adopted by a couple from Holland when [she] was a year old and moved to America when she was in Middle School.”   Because of this she was forgiven for not speaking one of the preferred languages.

She went to the salon more often than was necessary.  She says if she had been superstitious, she would swear Lily put a spell on her.  The narrator seemed mostly entranced by Lily’s stories–Lily loves to talk, and it gave the narrator a way out of her own life.  “I listened, smiled, and asked questions–these were my most tiresome traits, and I used them tirelessly.”  Normally she had to give her opinions all day (she was a teacher after all) but here she could forget about herself. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD-Quarters (2014).

KGATLW have made all kinds of albums, but up until now they hadn’t put any real restrictions on themselves.  Enter Quarters.  This album is made of four tracks.  Each track is 10 minutes and 10 seconds long.  It was never released on CD, only vinyl (and digital).  And it’s pretty fantastic.

Each ten minute song is very different from the others.  The songs are not complex mutli-part suites or anything, they are more like gently meandering trips which explore a melody in every possible way.

“The River” has a fun opening and then a jazzy main riff in which the vocals follow the guitar line as it meanders nicely.  After a couple of verses it takes off into a kind of Santana vibe, with some great soloing and some bongos.  It seems like its going to end early, but the last two minutes introduce a new guitar riff and style that compliments the beginning–a nice instrumental coda to the beauty that has come before.

“Infinite Rise” opens with the sound of something lifting off–soaring higher and higher–and then the music starts.  It’s a series of slow two note lines (vocal and musical) that conclude with a great verse-ending riff.  It’s such a groovy trippy song that when they start adding sound effects (a baby crying, jolly laughter, a monkey, a rooster crowing) it is a little jarring but still makes sense somehow).  The groovy guitar solo(s) that float through to the end are pretty great too.  This one seems like it’s cheating the 10:10 rule because it ends around 9 minutes but then tacks on the reverse soaring intro and ten seconds of noises.  But it’s not like they ran out of ideas…that song could have jammed for ten more minutes.

“God is in the Rhythm” is a slow, pretty bluesy song.  The vocals are high and gentle and the guitar solo sounds like it came straight from the 1950s, but there’s enough psychedelia on it to keep it from sounding like it’s a 50s tribute song.  The guitar work throughout is really spectacular.   Once again, the last ten seconds or so mess about with sound and speed but it never feels like they ran out of ideas.

“Lonely Steel Sheet Flyer” has a rather dramatic build up for an introduction.  A pretty, meandering vocal and guitar riff is accentuated with cool trippy guitar sound (rising echos and the like) .  The middle has a quiet interlude with more cool guitars and a nice bassline.  It feels like the song is going to end early, but no, it starts a kind of middle eastern riff and then takes off again.  I love that the pretty main riff returns many times to basically start the story over again.

This is a wonderful record.  It’s cohesive and very chill, and the musicianship jumps exponentially with each release.

[READ: February 16, 2019] “This Wicked Tongue”

I love The Walrus.  I read every issue cover to cover (one of the few publications I still do). But sometimes the short stories in the magazine just don’t work for me.

I was pretty intrigued to read this one because it had a kind of prologue: “Here beginneth a short treatise of contemplation taken from the Book of Alice Nash, Ancress of Shere, c. AD 1372.”

But then I started reading the story and I just could not get into the writing style at all.

“Before we leave, we tell You–smoke kestrel, thumb sky.”  What kind of opening is that? (more…)

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