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Archive for the ‘Freaks’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SHE & HIM-Christmas Party (2016).

The first She & Him Christmas album was a little flat, a little dull.  So I wasn’t that excited to get a new one.  But this one is so much more fun than the first.

Zooey Deschanel feels much looser and freer and the music is more lush and not so restrained.  It’s still not anything like the craziness that Zooey Deschanel is capable of. In fact, there’s a lot of restraint.  But some fun is certainly have, mostly as little asides.

“All I Want for Christmas Is You” starts the album and you can hear the big change.  There’s a choir singing behind her which sounds huge (in comparison) and Zooey puts a nice vibrato on her voice.  There’s drums and a bouncy beat.  This album feels very much alive compared to the first one.

“Let It Snow” slows things down.  But it’s and jazzy very appropriate to the song.

“Must Be Santa” is a silly fun track.  This one has accordion and a bouncy backing chorus.  Like in the Dylan version, they list the presidents along with the reindeer.  But it hurts a lot that after the first batch of presidents, they tack on Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton, which hurts a lot.

“Happy Holiday” has a pretty, echoey guitar and Zooey really shows off her voice nicely.

“Mele Kalikimaka” is a favorite Christmas song.  This version is a little delicate compared to the more rocking version, but it does capture a Hawaiian spirit.

“Christmas Memories” is a bit too slow for my liking but it is a pretty song.

“Run Run Rudolph” M sings lead.  This song is kinda dumb when you actually hear the words.  I’m surprised they didn’t upend gender stereotypes on this one like they did on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

“Winter Wonderland” a duet with Jenny Lewis.  It’s fun to hear another voice with hers.  There’s a goofy moment where Jenny sings, “we can pretend he is Jerry Brown.”

“The Coldest Night of the Year” is a nice sweet duet.  When the chorus comes in with Ward in the backing vocals it sounds really great.

“A Marshmallow World” is perfect for her.  Fun and bouncey and surprisingly restrained for what it could have been.

“The Man with the Bag” is pretty and old-fashioned-sounding.  Zooey does this style very well.

“Christmas Don’t Be Late” This normally hyperactive song is almost like a dirge.  I don’t know why the excitement has been removed from it.  It’s a bummer way to end the record.

[READ: December 1, 2017] “Eva”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

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

This story is really wonderful.  It’s sad and strange and powerful.

It opens with a man visiting “the hairy child” in Quetzalenango.  The girl is Eva.  Her mother hopes this man is a doctor.  But he is not.  He is a representative of Doña Teresa de Miraflor, a Cuban heiress who was setting up the Society of Scientific Knowledge in Havana. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKPHISH-“The Very Long Fuse” (MGM Grand Garden Arena, Friday 10, 31, 2014).

In honor of Halloween, these Ghost Box stories will be attached to a recent Phish Halloween show [with quoted material from various reviews]. 

Known for dawning musical costumes to celebrate [Halloween], Phish broke with tradition last year to offer a set of original music.  The Phish Bill read that Phish’s musical costume would be a 1964 Disney album of sound effects – Chilling, Thrilling Sounds Of The Haunted House.  But it wasn’t a cover set. Phish played original music set amongst an incredibly psychedelic, theatrical graveyard stage accentuated by zombie dancers and a ghoulish MC.  At the start of the set, the stage was cleared before a graveyard came to the foreground.  Smoke filled the air, zombie dancers appeared, and music filled the venue. A haunted house was brought to the front of the stage, which eventually exploded, and all four-band members appeared, dressed in white like zombies. 

That same creaking door leads to a more upbeat major-key section on “The Very Long Fuse.”  I love that on the original, the whole track is just the sound of the fuse going off.

For their version, it’s primarily a synth jam.  It’s a rather upbeat jam with a kind of staccato guitar riff and a groovy melody.

You can see a fuse lit and crackling across the front of the building.

Midway through the “narrator” says it’s almost gone out and she’ll blow it to life.  The end says “You though there was going to be a huge explosion, didn’t you.”  And then there is one (although it’s pretty quiet).

Then the top half of  walls crash down and the band is suddenly visible.  That’s a pretty cool live moment.

[READ: October 16, 2017] “Born of Man and Woman

Just in time for Halloween. from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar comes The Ghost Box.

This is a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening) that contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

A collection of chilly, spooky, hair-raising-y stories to get you in that Hallowe’en spirit, edited and introduced by comedian and horror aficionado Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, on the inside cover, one “window” of the 11 boxes is “folded.”  I am taking that as a suggested order.

This story was quite a change from the other two. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PARAMORE-Tiny Desk Concert #655 (October 2, 2017).

I had always thought that Paramore was someone else (although I don’t know who).  I thought they were a pop punk band.  And maybe they were.

But this six-piece incarnation of the band is not pop punk at all.

Indeed, the blurb says, Paramore

captures the moment between rapture and its comedown, the glitter wiped away, left with skin rubbed raw. It’s a record, more than a decade into the band’s career, that not only exposes the sparkling pop that’s always lit Paramore’s songs, but also deals with the ache of growing up and growing apart.

The first song “Hard Times” opens with a keyboard line that sounds vaguely like steel drums.  It makes me smile that Logan MacKenzie’s keyboard is about six inches long. There’s slices of jagged guitar, but the chorus is pure pop.  The drums (Zac Farro’s drum machine) have an Afro-pop texture and Joseph Howard’s bass plays a few sliding moments that seem very dancey.  Although I do like that the song ends with another jagged guitar chord.

Singer Hayley Williams has a really lovely voice.   Before the next song,  “26,” she say that the new songs are dancey and happy but this song is the most transparent in not covering up the emotions of the record.  Hope we don’t bum you out too much.

The song is simply a gentle echoed guitar from Taylor York and William’s exposed voice.  And the blurb assures us that Paramore’s quieter songs have never quite shown this depth of understated devastation and determination.

Bummed or not she does encourage everyone in the office to sing and dance along, unless that’s awkward.

The final song, “Fake Happy” has synth drums and more of those steel drum keyboard sounds.  The blurb says it’s a soaring anthem to expressing your truest self (and calling out those playing pretend).  There’s a groovy bass line and minimal dancey nods.  There’s some interesting guitar sounds from both Taylor and Justin York.  I like this song, although she tends to fall into some vocal pop trappings that I don’t like, especially in the middle section.

[READ: February 2, 2017] CivilWarLand in Bad Decline

I have been really enjoying George Saunders.  I had considered reading all of his published pieces in the New Yorker.  And then I realized that they were probably all collected in his books, right?  Well, yes, most of his pieces have been collected.  Although for this book, his first, there was only one New Yorker story, “Offloading for Mrs Schwartz.”

When I read In Persuasion Nation many years ago, I remembered thinking that Saunders is supposed to be very funny but that his stories really aren’t.  And now, after reading so many things about his generosity and kind spirit, I was expecting to get more of that from these stories too.  But in both cases, I feel like Saunders was a very different writer.  While there is certainly humor in these stories, it is very dark humor and is often surrounded by characters who are incredibly cruel.  It makes these stories rather hard to bear sometimes. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BIDINIBAND-The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 5, 2012).

The Rheostatics were originally supposed to play 3 Reunion concerts to help celebrate the 65th Anniversary of The Horseshoe Tavern. Unfortunately the concerts got cancelled but Dave stepped in and offered up a free show on Wednesday December 5 2012, what was to be the first of the reunion shows. The show started out with Dave Clark’s Woodshed Orchestra and was followed by Bidiniband. The Bidiniband set was a mix of Bidiniband songs as well as a variety of Rheostatics songs featuring guests such as Dave Clark, The Woodshed Orchestra, Tim Vesely, Noah Campbell, Tim Sweeney, Matt Cowley, Selina Martin, Al and Colin of Jazzberry Ram.

Dave opens the set by wishing: “Happy birthday Horseshoe, 65 years old tonight.”

The set opens with two “new” songs.  Bidiniband’s album came out in 2012, but they have been playing most of these songs for years.  This is the first show on RheostaticsLive that includes “In The Rock Hall / Rock and Roll Heaven.”  “In the Rock Hall” is a fun singalong.  And “Rock and Roll Heaven” is a fairly vulgar song about groupies and whatnot.

“Big Men” is even catchier than before and the band sounds great.  They play a lengthy version of “Fat” which segues into a slow, fairly traditional version of “The List.”  This List ends with… “It’s true… fuck you.”

“We’re going to do a song and then we’re going to have Selina Martin come up and do the exact same song.  “Ladies of Montreal” is my most openly sexist song.  Not really.”  Indeed, after finishing the song they play it once more, this time with Selina Martin singing the lyrics in French!

It segues into a stripped down version of Rush’s “The Spirit of Radio,” which is a very different,loose take on the song.  At the end someone asks, “Can you do that one in French?”

This is the first time (on the site) they’ve played “On Camoragh Lake.”  There’s a lot of cursing in this song.

Dave asks, “should we go song guest song guest?”  Someone says, “Totally man it’s a lot of fun.  It’s fun to see a lot of Rheostatics shirts too.”  Is Tim Sweeney here?   He comes up, “thank god I’m not following Selena Martin.  The closest thing to church for me was going to a Rheostatics show, so this feels weirdly like  impersonating clergy.”  He sings “Ozzy Osbourne.”  It seems shaky with the first notes, but he does a great job with the main part of the song.

We’d like to get the Woodchoppers up for this one, if possible.  They blow through the really “Take a Wild Ride” and then Dave says, “Lets go to E!” and they segue into “Legal Age Life” with a nice big horn section.

Dave says: We all wish Martin Tielli was here big time, but he’s in Ancaster.  We’re thinking of him (yea, he’s the best).  There was a really important Knight Rider episode he had to watch.  He’s got a really nice TV room, I can’t blame him.  60 channels….  Sausages on the barbecue.  Don: Is that one of the channels?  Dave: “Nice one, Don.”   This next song features Don Kerr. It’s called “Guns.” [some chuckling as it’s a poem written by Dave Clark].  They play “Last of the Dead Wrong Things which opens slowly with great guitar work and backing vocals.  And the drums are tremendous.  Near the end he shifts the song to “Making Plans for Nigel,” but this time the band sings along with the chorus.

Dave says he brought some stuff from his basement to sell–some old Rheos discs, Whale Music on vinyl and one Five Hole Stories CD  (CD?)

Dave calls for Tim Vesely the Slovak Slayer (they don’t call him that).  “Tim’s got his electric rock guitar (someone shouts “Palomar”) “Its Tim Vesely of the Rheostatics and The Violet Archers (or The Violent Archers as I like to say).  Tim: “I don’t need any bass for these songs.” Dave: “It’s overrated.  Only 4 strings, how hard can it be?”

It’s nice to hear “Claire” and to have Tim back.  There’s a good solo from Paul and then he says, “We’ll do one more Rheostatics cover for you,” and they play “Bad Time to Be Poor.”  Which he introduces as “This song is for Tim Hudak [a Progressive Conservative member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1995 to 2016 who represented the ridings of Niagara South, Erie—Lincoln, and Niagara West—Glanbrook.]

“All Hail Canada” is new to the shows–it’s a cynical look at Canadian politics.

Then: “Do the guys from Victoria want to come up and sing now?  Come on it’ll be fun.  Jazzberry Ram, the nerds from Vancouver.  They do a great version of “Quuer” and put their own spin on it.  After the song, Dave says, Do yo mind if Matt joins us?  He’s okay, really.”  Matt Cowley comes up to sing a gleeful “My First Rock Concert.”

Dave takes a moment:

I meant to say something profound about this night but I’m lost because we’re in the soup of this experience. He says he has been writing in cafes (cause I’m from Toronto, so I’m cool I write in cafes.  He’s listen to music and Rheostatics would come up on YouTube. He’d enjoy the songs and marvel at the parts they played. Then he would listen more and he would cry and wonder… maybe we should try to play again.  It didn’t happen,  but that’s not to say it won’t ever happen as long as you never stop listening to your Rheostatics records and crying, anything is possible.

The opening of “The Land is Wild” sounds an awful lot like “Horses” the way it opens.  Dave says this song existed in the Rheostatics for a couple of months but then they broke up.  This version really rocks (the backing vocals are tremendous).  You can hear Dave’s guitar get staticky near the end.  The song segues into “Yemen” sort of, but the statics is too much and they have to stop to fix it.  Dave tries to gt things going again: “Can we start off where that last song ended I think it was building to an interesting place.  Or was it not?”   But the static is irreparable.

“Terrible time in the night to have technical problems–during the last song.”

Dave says, “Okay folks one more.  The crowd shouts: five more.  100 more!  Dave: That would be impossible.

Take it into the crowd!  There’s some inaudible chatter and laughter but I think save heads out into the crowd with the guitar to play Stolen Car.  Not sure who is singing–but he’s a bit off on things.  At one pint he says, “my son told me I’d fuck up.”  Dave: “you fucked up good though.”

Doug–says “I grew up listening to that shit.” He then talks about a dream: he was trying to play Take 5 but the strings were all mushy (The band plays a bit of “Take Five.”  Then Dave talks about a dream he had about shows that never happened.  They did play shows where nobody showed up.

Tim’s my favorite was in Winnipeg or Alberta, a university pub gig  “1/2 price wings plus live music.”  There was nobody there yet there was set list from the band that played the night before.  We took it and went song by song off the list and made up songs on the spot.  I think it was B-52s in Winnipeg  a lunch hour gig named not after the band or even the plane.

Audience: “How were the wings?”  “Half Price.”

We played in Red Deer to two guys who had just come back from putting out fires in Kuwait and a sound man who put his headphones into the TV to listen to The Cosby Show–it was an important episode.  Don: But we got a good bag of weed out of it.  Dave: In red deer at Mortimer’s in the Capri Hotel.  The Shell sign with the s burnt out.  We should have known…   that’s rock n roll.

bzzzt  “I don’t think it’s the cable”  “Put a mike on it!”  “That’s why we need a professional studio engineer.  Don’s side career is that he runs the Rooster Recording studio!

“Horses” sounds great.  Everyone is into it and the addition of horns at the end is great with someone singing along with the horns:  bup bup bup.  And then it rocks to the end.  Despite the cable, it’s a great set with super guests.  Not bad a for a free night.

[READ: April 13, 2017] Sweet Tooth: Wild Game

“Wild Game” is the concluding book in the Sweet Tooth story.  And it remains as dark as anything.

It also begins, like Endangered Species, with a storytelling section–the book turned sideways with a lot of text. It catches us up on what happened in a succinct style.  How the environmentalists were able to return to the dam, how they invited our heroes to stay (Johnny and Bobby accepted–Bobby needs to hibernate after all) but the rest decide to head to Alaska, to their destiny.

Their crew is now Jepperd, The Fat Man (the guy they met out in the woods), Wendy, Gus and Becky.  Lucy is now dead and Dr Singh fled to get to Alaska on his own (he had an epiphany that may have sent him over the edge–he seems to think he might be a preacher, or even a savior).

When they finally arrive in Alaska, sadly Abbot and his team are waiting for them.  And Abbot is especially angry at his brother.  Which leads to a flashback provided by Nate Powell.  It shows Abbot and Johnny as children with their abusive father and how Abbot always stuck up for Johnny even when Abbot went to the military and Johnny had long hair.  When the Sickness began, Johnny was taking care of his ungrateful father and Abbot was at war.   He had returned–with far less hair, and far more attitude.  He took Johnny away from their dad and brought him to the camp where we found them at the beginning of the story. Of curse Abbot wasn’t in charge at first but he quickly made everyone know just how powerful he was.

And just how much things have changed.

Dr Singh meanwhile had been looking for information about Gus’ father. Could he rally have been a lowly janitor? While searching, he comes across Dr Thacker’s journal (I love the continuity).  And he learns a fascinating but of history about Gus and his father.

While browsing through the barracks our heroes learn that there are many more hybrids living here–they are feral but not mean.  In fact they are quite taken with Becky. But they are quite fearful.  And they meet Dr Singh who has some pretty tough truths to impart.

But there is no time for any of that.  Because Abbot and his men are coming.  And Jepperd needs to get everyone prepared.

Can anyone possibly survive?  Yes, some do, but several others will die in the bloody confrontation.

The final chapter of the series is outstanding,  It looks very different–clearly Lemire’s work but with a starkly different, somewhat softer appearance.  Gus appears to be chased by more humans. But Gus looks different somehow,  And that’s when we learn that he is.

And the conceit of the last chapter is that each little segment begins This is a story.  Starting like the beginning with This is a Story of a little boy who lived in the woods.  And that story moves along through many years–through happiness and bloodshed. Through conflict between friends and love between enemies.  And it has an incredibly touching ending.

What a great story.  If you can handle the violence and gore, it is so worth it for the ending,

Lemire is a master storyteller.

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SOUNDTRACK: BIDINIBAND AND FRIENDS-Yukon Arts Centre, Whitehorse YT (February 10, 2011).

Stolen From A Hockey Card

From the City of Charlottetown:

Hosted by CBC’s Ron MacLean, Stolen From a Hockey Card is a hockey-themed concert which pays tribute to Canada’s love and passion for the game of hockey. The impressive all-Canadian line-up of artists for the concert includes songstress Sarah Harmer, Chris Murphy (Sloan), Lennie Gallant, Stephen Stanley (Lowest of the Low), Carmen Townsend, Liam Corcoran (Two Hours Traffic), Bidiniband and former New York Islanders great and Hockey Hall of Fame member Bryan Trottier.  [Not all of these performers are included below, if they were all there].

Each artist will write their own hockey-themed song which they will perform for the first time as part of the concert. In addition to their newly-written hockey song, each artist will also perform one of their own original songs. Bidiniband, featuring Dave Bidini, formerly of acclaimed rock band The Rheostatics and creator of the Stolen From a Hockey Card concert, will serve as house band for the evening.

The official line up: Paul Linklater – guitar; Douglas Friesen – bass; Don Kerr – drums
Geoff Berner – vocals, accordion; C.R. Avery – vocals; Buck 65 – vocals; Dave Bidini – vocals, guitar; John K. Samson – vocals, guitar; Kim Barlow – vocals, banjo; Mathias Kom – vocals, guitar;  Sarah Harmer – vocals, guitar

There are 12 songs in total

Geoff Berner wrote “Fighting To Stay in the Game” The lyrics begin: “Mike Keenan ruined watching the Canucks for me when he traded away Trevor Linden.” It’s a rocking song that goes beyond hockey: “I’m just fighting to stay in the game… to keep the love of our spouses. …to keep the banks from taking our houses. …to keep the respect of our children. …to making a living not making a killing.”

I loved this verse about a hockey player I had not heard of: “As the first nations leader Gino Odjick met with the Pope (it’s true) / The Pope apologized for the Church’s role in Canada’s residential schools / I wondered if he was tempted to grab him by the jersey and pop him a few / but no, Gino forgave him.  Said it was important to work together to build the future anew.”

After this one, he says, “I’m going to revert to form play a new song.  It’s about people on the run trying to get to a country that is safe.  There are a lot of people knocking on the door to Canada and we could have kids from Sri Lanka or Haiti playing hockey in the future.  And that would be a good thing.  The song is called “Wealthy Poet.”  It’s all accordion and vocal–cool wild accordion riffs in between a strongly sung melody.

C.R. Avery performed “Already The Great One,” his story of the Wayne Gretzky transfer.  He says, “I sat down to write a story about Eric Lindross–meant to write a good murder ballad.  But that memory of Gretzky crying…” Avery has a raspy Springsteenish voice in this piano ballad.  I enjoyed this section quite a bit: “I wanted to be that kid from Brantford, Ontario–between the pipes in a ski mask / I was cool like Ken Dryden / I was bad ass like Grant Fuhr  / An arrogant outlaw: part Billy the Kid, part Patrick Roi (screamed wonderfully)–noisy screaming big loud pianos and guitars.  It’s a great climax.  And then after 5 minutes there a really intense electric harmonica solo.

Folk rapper Buck 65 was up next.  He says, “So yea this is called ‘The Borje Salming Massacre’ a song about the night in November 1986 that Borje Salming got cut on the face and required 200 stitches.  The backing band plays along–the chorus is a slightly disturbing “look away.”  He talks about how he always wanted to be a hockey star, but after that incident, form which he couldn’t look away, even though “the Leafs won that game in the end  / but I never played hockey again.”  He also plays a short fun song called “Wicked and Weird” (not hockey related).  It’s his folky rap delivery over some interesting electronic percussion and samples.

Dave Bidini and Bidiniband performed “Val Marie.”  Bidini talks about being a Leafs fan but when he was in grade 10 he made a TV tray and put Bryan Trottier’s face n it.  Why not a leaf?  He can’t say.  But Bryan Trottier and his brother used to play in Val Marie Saskatchewan, and he says je was one of “hockey’s greatest musicians.”

John K. Samson is there “making his case for Reggie Leach joining the hall of fame.”  His song  “Petition” has a “choir” backing him: “we the undersigned put forth his name.”   The host asks him why Reggie Leach. “I always thought he was an exemplary and fascinating player.  Growing up I was not a Flyers fan, I was more of a Habs fan, but we made an exception for Reggie because he as from the Interlake Region….  Woah.”  Reggie Leach comes up on stage.  Samson: “I’m flabbergasted.”  Samson, also plays “a song about curling.  he was at the Dawson City 112th international bonspiel.”  He plays a solo version of The Weakerthans’ “Tournament of Hearts.”

Kim Barlow’s “One Good Goalie” is an ode to Jaroslav Halák.   She says, “this is for people who like goalies and appreciate their nobility.  And it’s also for the gals who play hockey.  She started playing and says “All the cool girls all play hockey in the Whitehorse women’s hockey league.”  She sings that the first game she watched was for her boyfriend. But the game we caught that night was “the shining hour of Halák–he stopped 53 pucks they kept coming but he didn’t crack.”  The chorus is just a repeated Halák, with a final line: “one good goalie made me understand I was born a Habs fan.”   t

Mathias Kom sings “Dear Phoenix.”  He says, “I went back to Winnipeg and was digging into the municipal archives and found a letter written by the city of Winnipeg that began, “Dear phoenix.”  The Winnipeg Jets were transferred from Winnipeg to Phoenix in 1996.  The letter reads in part:  “Do you think they’ll be happy trading parkas for sunscreen.  They say gentlemen prefer blondes but these are no gentlemen, they grew up with blood on frozen ponds.”   He says the letter notes that they’d give it 15 years.  18 years later they changed the team name from the Phoenix Coyotes to Arizona Coyotes, which is not quite the same thing.  Everyone enjoyed this line: “you can take the Jet out of the ‘Peg but never the ‘Peg out of the Jet.”  And this fun conclusion:

I know there’s nothing I can do so please treat them well be loyal be kind and be true.  Just so you know if i see you around my gloves will come off, you know i’ll throw down, oh Phoenix, I mean it I’ll break your arms and your legs okay, better sign off now.  Yours truly, Winnipeg.  Go Jets Go.”

Sarah Harmer “straight from the Wolf Island hockey tournament.  She plays “Go to Sleep” and explains that “she had to go to bed after the first period and she would listen to games upstairs.  Her dad used to do this one resounding clap when the Leafs scored.  She imagined asking him to do two claps when they other team scores, but she never had the nerve.  It’s a tender lullaby.  The other song is “Harold Harvey Rink,” written by Luther Wright.  Its a romping song about being a young hockey player and the various indignities you suffer for the love of the game.

Dave ends the night with “Land is Wild.”  A somewhat subdued version of the song, probably because of the setting.

This is a fun show and is not the only Stolen From a Hockey Card Night.  I don;t think it’s annual , but there was another one in 2015.

From the RheostaticsLive site:

Still have an old shoebox filled with hockey cards from your childhood? Did you sneak outside for a game of street hockey when you were supposed to be doing homework? Remember providing your own play-by-play, ending with “He shoots, he scores!!”?

This concert’s for you – all Canadian music celebrating the sport of hockey. Hear songs freshly written and performed by Dave Bidini and BidiniBand, C.R. Avery, Kim Barlow, Buck 65, Geoff Berner, Sarah Harmer, John K. Samson, and Mathias Kom. From Wayne Gretzky to Reggie Leach, from Borje Salming to Jaroslav Halak – emulated players get idolized in song.

Dave Bidini coerced this incredible line-up of stars to convene in Whitehorse to celebrate Scotia Bank’s Hockey Day in Canada back on February 10, 2011. The Yukon Arts Centre won’t ever be the same! (Eric Mac Innis)

[READ: April 13, 2017] Sweet Tooth: Unnatural Habitats

Despite all of the action in the previous book, Lemire slows things down to give us a flashback.  And, wow, is it a good one.

Matt Kindt does the art for the first part, a wonderful old-fashioned-looking journal type story.  Indeed the story is the journal of Dr James Thacker, September 4, 1911.

He has set sail to the Arctic Ocean to retrieve his sister’s fiancee.  The guy agreed to marry Thacker ‘s sister, but first wanted to go to the Arctic as a missionary.

The fiance wrote home regularly but then the letters stopped. People feared the worst but his sister needed to know the truth.  So Thacker and his family spent a considerable fortune (which they had), to commission a boat to find this man.   Thacker feels a sense foreboding about the trip and well he should. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BIDINIBAND-The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (September 18, 2010).

From: Concerts On Demand: Bidiniband live at the Horseshoe Tavern.

So I gather this show was recorded on CBC Radio 2.  It’s just over 32 minutes long and it rocks through some Bidiniband classics from the soon to be released In the Rock Hall.  It also sounds terrific.

Dave Bidini is best known in the literary world as a “rock and roll sports” journalist but in the indie rock world he will be forever known as a member of Canada’s first indie band The Rheostatics.

After the Rheostatics played their last show in 2007, Dave Bidini traveled around the world playing Rock and Roll and writing a book about his journey around the world and the last days of being in The Rheostatics. Once he returned from this trip he thought the best thing to do in order to get over the loss of one band was to form a new band. The result is BidiniBand – a progressive acoustic rock band that sings songs about dead hockey players.

CBC Radio 2 caught up with BidiniBand at The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto. After a summer of touring the festival scene the band was primed and ready to rock.

All hail the return of Dave Bidini! (Eric Mac Innis).

The set opens with a gorgeous version of “Memorial Day” (relatively short at 7 and a half minutes).  There’s some intense guitar playing in the middle.  Next up is “Big Men Go Fast on the Water,” a really catchy song.  Dave doesn’t chat much during this set.  And right up next is “The Best Thing About the 80s is You,” a fun poppy song.  It’s pretty short and he name checks a whole bunch of 80s personalities: “Not Corey Hart, Pat Benatar, the 80s was you.”  “DJ suitcase, the 80s was you.  Oingo Boingo, the 80s was you.  Flouride toothpaste, the 80s was you.  Reagan football, the 80s was you.”

“Take a Wild Ride” is fast and almost punky.  And it’s followed by “The Land is Wild,” which Dave introduces, “here’s a song about a dead hockey player.  I mean, they’re all pretty much about dead hockey players, but as my son would say, this one is literally about a dead hockey player.  It also sounds great–the band is in top form.

Dave introduces the band and mentions that he has a new book out about the Homeless World Cup (Home and Away). And they close the set with “Last of the Dead Wrong Things.”  I love this line in the song: “We’re just a two-bit Neil Young rip of attack / they stole this song and we’re stealing it back / Doesn’t  matter how good or bad you can sing.”  The song rocks hard with a drum solo from Don Kerr and Dave going nuts on his acoustic guitar.

It’s a tight no-nonsense set, perfect for a half-hour radio show.

[READ: April 13, 2017] Sweet Tooth: Endangered Species

“Endangered Species” begins differently right off the bat–you have to turn the book sideways and read full-page pictures with lots of text. It’s far more narrative than piratical. But Lemire is a good story teller so it doesn’t feel like exposition.

This chapter one of the happiest in the series for not only do the travelers find a mall, which means warm clean clothes at last, but they also experience their first snow fall, which is magical to everyone.

With this new gear, everyone goes camping.  And, feeling a bit more comfortable, the girls go for a walk–Lucy, Becky and Wendy (the hybrid pig girl).

And then we get some backstory and for the first time other artists contribute to the book, creating backstories that look very different and giving them an excellent sense of “this is different.”

NATE POWELL draws Lucy’s backstory where she was a nurse. She cares, she really does, but even nurses feel fatigue.

EMI LENOX changes the style intensely for Becky’s flashback.  It’s all bright colors and big eyes.  Becky’s parents died when she was very little.  Foster families made it worse.  Until she just fled to try to manage on her own.

MATT KINDT provides Wendy’s backstory–how was she kept hidden and safe for so long?  It was fate–her mom became sick when people discovered Wendy.  And she was taken away, never to see her mom again. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BIDINIBAND-The Carleton, Halifax Nova Scotia (December 7, 2009).

This is the second night at The Carleton.  The previous night they played for two and a half hours; this show is ten minute shy of 3 hours.  There are two recordings of this show, an audience and a soundboard.  The audience one is quite good although occasionally when Linklater plays a loud guitar it drowns out the vocals a bit.

Unlike with the Rheostatics, this band plays pretty much the same setlist (mixed up and with some songs stretched out) both nights.  Even the guests are he same.

The only new songs are “Midnight Ride Of Red Dog Ray,” “Bud the Spud,” “Pornography,” and “Wendell Clark” and they don’t play “Big Men Go Fast on the Water” or “Moncton Hellraisers.”  There’s a lot of chatting during the show: “Man I miss Halifax already.  I feel like we left and then came back all in that last song.”

“Memorial Day” sounds great, a slow expansive epic song with a really intense, wailing guitar solo at the end.  “The Continuing Saga of Canadiana and Canadiandy” and “Paul and Donna” are sweet and boppy, although Paul & Donna sounds like it’s going to start as “Michael Jackson” before locking into “P&D.”

A noisy version of “Fat” (after the ‘I said you were fat’ line, Dave says, “it happens… we were just talking and stuff.”  It runs about 9 minutes and then he says, “sometimes one word titles suffice, like “Fame”  Someone else: “or Sting!”  Dave: “Sting is not a song it’s a lifestyle.”  Paul: “Does anybody here read the National Post? (no reaction).  Dave’s been writing a weekly column for the National Post and none of his friends read it.  Dave: “They are too cool.”  Paul: “He wrote an article about Sting a mock interview. Dave: Sting said he couldn’t do his job if he was a fat kid.  Dave doesn’t understand why and name checks larger people: Billy Joel, Fats Waller, Chubby Checker.  And as they are thinking of them, Dave says it’s time to bring up a guest.

Ruth Minnikin sings a slow, moody “Stolen Car.” And there’s a plug for the Peanuts Christmas album on Zunior: “It’s amazing, Ruth has taken Beethoven and messed with it in an amazing way.

“The Ballad of 1969” is an interesting mellow and folky song segues into the punky, 1 minute “Take a Wild Ride.”   It’s followed by a bluesy version of “This Song Ain’t Any Good.”  Dave has a lot of fun with the “you can play it when you’re drunk” line–he keeps messing up the sing along part.

Doug is friends with Chris Pennell a local pop and slap bass hero.  All of the gear we’re using tonight (and last night) was provided by Chris.  (we never learn why) .  Some of the gear includes pillows, blankets and beds.

Dave then tells a Stompin’ Tom story which says it’s in his contract that if you tour with him he can never be the last to go to bed at night so someone has to stay up and drink with him.   The drummer spent 3 days on hospital with alcohol poisoning.  Speaking of contracts, Al,  is it time?  It was in your contact, must follow a medley.  Al tuck sings a mellow song called possibly “The Rights of His Descendants.”

At Mike’s behest were going to do 2 sets–you can mingle buy merch.  It’s not merch, it’s art.

Leading into “The Land is Wild,” Dave says that Fogarty was a genius hockey player, broke Gretsky’s records at 12.  But he didn’t like hockey, he liked Metallica and Wrestling.

The next song is about the deep winter on the west coast.  Anybody hear from British Columbia?  Anybody here form Alberta?  Anybody her from Alaska? You gotta ask. “Desert Island Poem” has Leo Sayer eat their drummer.  This folky songsegues into a folkie, upbeat version of “The List.”

Dave says, …. if you wanna buy shots for the band, we really really discourage it.  If you want to go to the bar and are satisfied with the performance, we seriously discourage you.  Its’ the last thing the band need (the band plays Tequila)  Don says if you do buy is shots don’t invite us back to your house or I might puke on your ceiling.  A woman from Sydney whose sink don threw up in is there and Dave tells the every funny story about a crummy gig that turned into a debauchery filled night.

“Popcorn” has a lengthy ending section and Dave sings “Walk on the Wild Side.”

Then Dave shouts, “Where the fuck are our shots?”  Don: “Well, do you want shots or popcorn?”

“Michael Jackson” is quite subdued, he even quietly speaks the first “Michael.” It segues into “My First Rock Concert.”  The rest of the band sings the Joe Jackson part, and the song has a cool solo from Paul and then right after the swan dive part it segues into “Yemen.”

Mike O’Neill, will you come up and do a shot and a song with us.   What do you think of Mike’s ‘stache [cheers].  Wait what do you think of Mike without a ‘stache [more cheers].  Don: That ‘stache is freaking me out man.”  Mike: I don’t think my contribution to the Zunior album was that much less than Ruth’s.  Chuckles. They sing “Mr. Carvery,” which   sounds a bit like The Jayhawks

“Midnight Ride Of Red Dog Ray,” is “unamplified, Band moving around the bar. Dave on acoustic, Paul on Al Tuck’s acoustic guitar,Don and Doug on tambourines A 13 db boost was added to make more audible.”  Dave is singing and sings the wrong verse–“fuck!” As he’s getting it back someone starts singing, “My First Rock Concert.”

Dave: “More shots!” Someone: “You guys gut 7:30 flights, right?”  Dave dedicates his shot to Ruth Minikin and Al Tuck.  Don: “It’s always best to leave Mike O’Neill out I fins.  If you can hurt Mike O’Neill with a small gesture its always the best thing.
Dave: Dedicating a shot to him would just piss him off.
Don: Hes going to go home and write a song….  I just want to hurt mike O’Neill just a bit because of that mustache.”

“Last of the Dead Wrong Things” rocks and eventually segues in “Making Plans for Nigel.”

They play “Bud the Spud,” and then “Earth,” which has a nice simple drum solo.  The drums play on and on and then Dave segues into “Horses.”   We’d like t invitee Chris up–it’s your fucking bass.  He says he’s like Mike O’Neill on stage with a tambourine–stereo tambourines with Ruth Minikin.

Doug: Do you guys want to hear something funny?  I have to be at work at 10AM tomorrow, in Toronto.  [groans].
What kind of work do you do?
Doug: I’m a high school teacher.  [laughter].

They play “Pornography” which opens a lot like “Bread Meat Beans and Rice.”

Doug: you guys are great I want to move here to Halifax–I just have to convince my girlfriend.  Someone local says, “Doug and Paul are from Manitoba which is from now on the second most friendly province in Canada coz Nova Scotia has got these guys thinking about moving here.”

Dave seems pretty wasted by this point as he introduces “Wendell Clark” : I don’t care of you dot like the Leafs.  If you don’t like the Leads you can suck my cock. That’s how I feel.  Sometimes you just love stuff because it’s yours doesn’t matter how its judged.

we can all agree on one thing…no players play more virtuously than those from the great province of  Saskatchewan.  All Canadians love Saskatchewan.

When there were rumors that Wendell Clark was gay, I supported it.  “Wendell was the rockingest leather fag on Church Street.  If Wendell was gay then he was the best gay hockey player that there ever was.”

As the show ends, the host says, “You don’t have to go home unless you have to go school tomorrow, which I know most of you don’t.  Generally we hang around and drink tequila with the band.

I think I love the Maritimes, too.

[READ: April 13, 2017] Sweet Tooth: Animal Armies

“Animal Armies” features a series of stories called The Singh Tapes.  But this book is also about Gus–as Dr Singh goes through his notes about Gus.

I love the delivery of this story–Singh’s notes run along the bottom of the page while the story above tells a parallel story without words.  And in it we see that of all of the hybrids that were there, only Gus, Wendy and Bobby are left.  Wendy is educated, but Bobby is very dumb–at least by human standards.  He seems more animal than the others.

By the end Singh is convinced that Gus is somehow the cause of the Sick. (more…)

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