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Archive for the ‘Funny (strange)’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: REV SEKOU AND THE SEAL BREAKERS-Tiny Desk Concert #765 (July 10, 2018).

I was not at all interested in a preacher and his church band, but wow these guys rock.

Rev Sekou says that the Seal Breakers are from Brooklyn but he’s from Arkansas.  I didn’t like the way he started the show by talking about his grandparents who worked from can’t see morning to can’t see night and then they’d go to the juke joints and then to church on Sunday.  I thought it was going to be rather preachy (he is Pentecostal) but no,

Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekoum this author, activist, intellectual, pastor and singer tosses off his large-brimmed, black hat, shakes his dreadlocks and demands freedom with these words: “We want freedom and we want it now!”

Do you wanna get free?  He sounds like Richie Havens at Woodstock–gravelly voice but with a preacher intonation.  The song has got some gospel flow but with a roaring distorted electric guitar.   It’s got a big catchy chorus and a wailing guitar solo.

Resist!  Resist when they tell you what you can and can’t do.

Before the second song, he says he went to Charlottesville to organize against the white supremacist march but they couldn’t leave the church because of the Nazis.

When he went outside, he watched Heather Heyer take her last breath.  He says this is an anthem for Charlottesville called “Bury Me.”

he recalled the horrors of the white nationalist march in Charlottesville, Va. last summer. He said he spent weeks in preparation, organizing clergy for what he says was “the largest gathering of white supremacists in modern history,” then watching the activist “Heather Heyer take her last breath” after she was struck by a car that plowed into a crowd of marchers. The song “Bury Me” is a bluesy anthem to freedom that honors those who have died in that struggle for racial equality and freedom. In his free-form preamble to the touching ballad, Rev. Sekou works himself into a passionate frenzy, before airing his intense indignation for President Trump.

Bury me in the struggle for freedom…say my name.  He powerfully sings the names of people who have died in racially motivated hatred.  There’s power in the name.

The songs with a chorus of “This Little Light of Mine, I’m gonna let it shine,”

The Rev. says they need to leave that one, “I’m Pentecostal, I can go 2-3 hours, but I don’t think Brother Bob wants us in here that long.”

The  end with “The Devil Finds Work” which opens with bluesy piano.

After two minutes it becomes a big clapfest as suddenly The Saints Go Marching In.  They swing, and Rev. Sekou and we pray that you get free and he walks off while the band finishes.

Osagyefo Sekou (Vocals), William Gamble (Keys), Reggie Parker (Bass), Cory Simpson (Guitar), James Robinson Jr. (Drums), Gil Defay (Trumpet), Chris McBride (Saxophone), Brianna Turner (Background Vocals), Rasul A Salaam (Background Vocals), Craig Williams (Percussions)

[READ: January 25, 2018] “Company Towns”

This is an excerpt from “Work and Industry in the Northern Midwest.”

I’m not really sure what to make of these three short stories about work.  I found them rather comical because each supposedly normal business event ended in some kind of peculiar death.

The Whitefish Bay Merchant and Traders Bank
In 1947 the narrator traveled from Interlakken Switzerland to Whitefish Bay, Michigan to check on a bank that his father had acquired in a set of financial trades).  The bank had become extremely profitable and his father wanted to know why.  He flew to the states, stopped for two weeks in New York and another week in Cleveland before getting to Michigan.  The employees were quite jovial–in fact the guy who picked him up shared a flask with him–they were both drunk by the time they got home.  They also had a very formal, fancy diner.  The bank made its money because of an ambitious cook.  He helped to innovate the short line cooking process–a way to cook for 100 men quickly.  He was aided by a chef who ensured they used quality food.   The bosses didn’t think the employees needed this kind of delicious food, but when they saw how much it improved morale and didn’t cost that much they were on board.  And the bank, in addition to giving them a loan, took a 20 percent stake in the firm and they made a ton of money.

The narrator asked to meet these men but both had recently died.  One from drinking something he shouldn’t have and the other was involved in a shooting– the details are what makes the deaths amusing, if not really funny. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ELLIOTT BROOD-Live at Massey Hall (April 8, 2017).

Elliot BROOD formed in 2002 as an alt-country band although their style has been described as “death country” or “frontier rock,” which I rather like.

The more I hear alt-country bands and the more alt-country bands that I like the more I realize what I dislike about country music primarily is the vocalist.  I hate twangy singers.  And most Canadians don’t have a Southern twang, so that solves that for me.  And just to settle it, Elliott Brood rips and rocks and stomps and it is awesome.

They say they always thought it would be amazing to play Massey Hall.  It’s a pinnacle.  They’re really excited–friends and family are coming from all over.  They say they play a lot of places late at night but “we’re not going to edit ourselves for 8 o’clock.”

They open asking “Can we get some claps” for “Without Again.”  After an un, dos… un, dos, tres, quatro, Mark Sasso starts singing lead vocals and playing banjo (and banjo, ukulele, and harmonica).  He has a rough gravelly voice that is instantly appealing to me.  This is a catchy stomping sing along.

“Nothing Left” is a breakup song.  Stephen Pitkin on drums opens the song on keyboards, playing a melody that sounds like toy piano on the sampler.  For a breakup song, it rocks even harder with Sasso switching to acoustic guitar and Casey Laforet playing electric guitar.

Their friend Aaron Goldstein comes out to play pedal steel drums for the next few songs.

He introduces “If I Get Old” by saying it’s been 100 years since Vimy Ridge.  “We’re not a perfect country yet, but we’re pretty lucky to be in this one.”  They wrote a record a few years back about WWI.  We’re lucky to be this age and to not have been in a war.  This song is for the WWI soldiers, it’s called “If I Get Old.”  It is touching and lovely.

“Oh Alberta” is a wonderfully fun song with lots of slide guitar.  The lyrics are playful and funny:

Oh Alberta, don’t you cry, listen to me, it’ll be alright, uh huh oh yeah
Don’t hate Saskatchewan, never meant no harm to anyone
Manitoba, don’t you know you’re out where you won’t make it home
Back to Ontario

And it ends with this funny twist

North Dakota, don’t you that you don’t belong in this song
Where did we go wrong?

“The Banjo Song” is a shorter one that’s “about the life of a banjo.  It’s a hard life they lead.”  Hey “cheap seats, help us out like this,” [clap, clap] “expensive seats too….  We need more handclaps and footstomps if you please.”

The title of their album Work and Love comes from a Constantines song:

work and love will make a man out of you, work and love are the things that will take your childhood away from you.  Your focus changes to your children, you start writing from a different point of view.

“Fingers and Tongues” has a rocking loud sound, it’s a rollicking end to a great show.

[READ: January 9, 2017] “The King’s Teacup at Rest”

I often enjoy stories that are, simply put, odd.  But I like the story to have either some grounding in the familiar or none whatsoever.  It’s the stories that seem like they are part of something I should be familiar with but which are ultimately really divorced from reality that give me a problem.

And this is one of those stories. There are two threads to this story, each one is equally strange.

As it opens we encounter His Royal Highness, the King of Retired Amusements.  He has just purchased? acquired? Liebling’s Sunday Morning Carnival and Midway.  Of course he has a retinue with him–a steward, a scout, and a dancing bear (with a fez and a ruff, balanced n a ball).

They explore the carnival, and the king tells them to find refreshment.  The refreshment proves to be very very old hot dogs “a few bloated green wieners still floating in a steel pond of brine.”  The king insists on eating them despite the steward’s warnings.  The king declares them passable and then goes on the rides.

Pretty weird, but possible. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DARLINGSIDE-Pilot Machines (2012).

The first Darlingside EP had no information about the band.  It was almost a blank slate.  This, their first full album at least gives us this:

Darlingside consists of David Senft, vocals and guitar; Harris Paseltiner, cello, guitar and vocals; Auyon Mukharji, mandolin, violin and vocals; Don Mitchell, guitar and vocals; and Sam Kapala, drums and vocals.

Yes, drums.  This is the final Darlingside album with drums and the final Darlingside album with a sound that is not their current sound.  At this time Darlingside was more of an indie folk rock band who sang with great harmonies and had some unusual instruments.  But they still rocked in a fairly conventional way (in fact the drums are often front and center).

“Still” bursts forth with harmonies (ahhhs) and loud drums. They play with a loud/quiet dynamic within the verses.  It sounds like Darlingside if you squint your ears.  The lyrics are pretty funny, (and now a message from our sponsor) and it’s really catchy too.  But those drums really modify everything.

“The Woods” opens with the kind of harmonies that Darlingside would become known for.  But this song has a propulsive drum moves things forward.  It also highlights some great wild violin and a short spaced-out outro with some heavily processed vocals.  “The Woods” and “Ava,” both have really big loud moments.  Ava starts with a thumping bass and picking guitars but it builds nicely with some great tension between the vocals and guitars.

“Drowning Elvis,” has a very spaced-out drum groove, lots of strings and a clean guitar sound.  “The Company We Keep” features mandolin and high voices.  It’s a pretty, folkie song.

“Blow the House Down” is familiar to fans because they have re-recorded it and play it live consistently.  “The Ancestor” was also recorded without the drums for their next album.  This version has a kind of low thrum underneath the song but the drums are just a kick drum.  It sounds pretty close to the familiar version.

I’d actually like to hear this whole album re-recorded in their current style (no disrespect to their drummer), but the rock band format changes the whole sound of the songs and it would be interesting to hear how they differ.

Having said that, this rock band format also makes some great songs.  “Only Echoes” starts as a slower, moodier piece but midway through it dramatically shifts gears and grows really loud with a buzzy bass and distorted guitar and smashing drums.  It’s the most un-Darlingside song I can imagine, but it’s really great.

“When Fortune Comes” and “My Love” are quieter songs.  “Fortune” focuses on their harmonies (there’s no drums).  While “My Love” has shuffling drums and an upright bass.  The lyrics are also a bit rougher than expected: “You weren’t the first to call me….an arrogant son of a bitch but…”

“Terrible Things” opens with snapping drums a rocking staccato guitar line.  The singers do a series of single note “coo” sounds that’s pretty neat.  The vocal harmonies are really cool and a little spooky, too.  It’s a neat song.

“Sweet an Low” has a very smooth sound (and an extra vocalist–Caitlyn Canty).  The final two minute are kind of an extended jam with this little electronic device.

When I first listened to this after falling in love with Darlingside’s current sound, I didn’t like this very much.  But having listened a few times, I really like these songs.  They’re very well crafted with some excellent details.

[READ: February 5, 2018] “Fletcher Knowles”

This excerpt is from a then novel-in-progress and it is a doozy.  It’s very funny and very meta and once again I can’t imagine where the story is going to go from here.

The story begins with the character saying that his name is Fletcher Knowles.  And he is going to tell his story.  He says that he is going to tell everything from memory and that you should never doubt your own memory.  Nor should you trust anyone who says that they doubt their own memory.

So he is going to tell his story exactly as he wants to.  Which means he is not going to: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKTHE HIDDEN CAMERAS-Live at Massey Hall (August 4, 2016).

I watched the Peaches concert before this one and so my first exposure to Joe Gibb, who is The Hidden Cameras, was as a guy dressed in bondage singing gruffly to Peaches.  I saw also that he music was described as “gay church folk music.”

Imagine my surprise when Joe Gibb came out on stage in a gold suit with a big old rockabilly guitar.

In the interview he explains that he has been working on this record for about ten years, but he always had other records that came first.  He was thrilled to finally put out this one out because it is “light compared to the dark previous albums.”

This album Home on Native Land was recorded over 10 years with guest appearances by Rufus Wainwright, Feist, Ron Sexsmith, Neil Tennant, Bahamas and Mary Margaret O’Hara including original compositions as well as covers of “Dark End Of The Street” and “Don’t Make Promises” by Tim Hardin and Canadian classic “Log Driver’s Waltz”

It opens with “Counting Stars” which is a catchy shuffling song about not getting into heaven.  There’s a wild piano solo followed by a wild guitar solo.

“Ode to an Ah” is but 2 minutes long and the lyrics are simple “Ah Ah ha Yea, oo ooh ooh yea.”  It’s a fun diversion before the cover of “The Dark End of the Street.”  It’s a nice version of the classic

Then he invites Leslie Feist to come and help sing “Log Driver’s Waltz,” nt a song you expert to hear Feist singing but she sounds great singing it.

He then says he’s “so excited for our next guest…Ron Sexsmith.”  Ron is tuxed up and sings two songs: “Twilight of the Season
and “Don’t Make Promises.”

After playing those new songs he goes back to a much earlier album for “Music is My Boyfriend,” a bouncy organ-fuelled dance rocker.

Then it’s to 2016’s Age for “Carpe Jugular’ A synthy bouncy dance number, which is a lot more what I assumed The Hidden Cameras sounded like.

He had spent some time in Berlin before returning to Toronto.  He says that now Berlin is less about learning but that he’s missing it, “I’ve been here for 7 months.”

The final song “I Believe in the Good of Life” goes all the way back to his brilliantly named album Mississauga Goddam.  It’s bouncy in the way the new songs are, and has some of that rockabilly /Elvis style.

For this show, the band is Asa Berezny, Stew Crookes, Steven Foster, Tania Gill, Sam Gleason, David, Meslin, Regina Thegentlelady, and Dorian Thornton

[READ: February 8, 2018]  “Adriana”

This is a strange little meta-story that works something like an autobiography of Coetzee (unless it’s all fictional and then it’s just a funny story that makes fun of the author, I guess).

It begins with an interviewer asking Senhora Nascimento, a Brazilian woman, how she came to spend so many years in South Africa.

She has a sad story, coming from Angola with her two children–her husband was killed, brutally, in a robbery attempt. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE MESSTHETICS-Tiny Desk Concert #757 (June 20, 2018).

This has been my favorite Tiny Desk Concert in a long time.  I heard about The Messthetics recently, how they were the bassist and drummer “from D.C.’s pioneering punk band Fugazi crisscrossed with the brilliant, skillful and younger guitarist Anthony Pirog.”   And it’s such a great band name.

I was intrigued that they play only instrumentals, especially coming from such a political punk band.  I also never imagined they’d play a Tiny Desk Concert.

It was Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Day when this somewhat loud and sometimes frenetic band came to play at my desk. I couldn’t help but wonder if The Messthetics would inspire some eight-year old child in the office to one day become a musician, one who’d go on tell the tale of seeing these D.C. legends at an office when they were a kid.

Bob knows about Pirog (I’d never heard of him):

I’ve seen Anthony in a number of settings around town, including the brilliant duo he has with his wife, cellist Janel Leppin called Janel and Anthony. His playing can be understated and over-the-top all at the same time. It never feels self-indulgent and his music always serves the song.

But how did he get together with Fugazi?

Drummer Brendan Canty saw the guitarist perform once and they eventually formed a band. Together, Brendan and bassist Joe Lally are a brilliant pulse of energy and that allows Anthony the freedom to fly. The instrumental music they make is memorable, relatable and transcendent.

“Radiation Fog/Crowds and Power” opens slowly with some washes (and mallets on the cymbals).  “Radiation Fog” is but a minute long and then they launch some heavy rocking chords interspersed with a rapid fire four-note sequence that changes and morphs as the song takes off.

I love the way they back away from the heaviness and allows Canning and Lilly to play a solid steady rhythm while Pirog plays some great emotive solos.  Through the middle of the song, the tempo slowly increases and the intensity builds as they run though those four not patterns again and again.

As the song nears the end, Canning counts off 1-2-3-4 and they play that four-note pattern really fast to the end.

After a crashing conclusion like that it’s funny that Lally quietly says “Thank you.”   And then “I am Lakshmi Singh.”

They follow with “The Inner Ocean” which opens with some looped harmonics and other cool guitar sounds as the rhythm section joins in.  This song is slower and moodier with some cool high notes on the bass.  Halfway through the song gets bigger with so low bass notes and more soloing from Pirog.  I love the way his solo builds and builds to the screaming point before the song backs down again.

“The Weaver” also opens quietly.  It is a shorter piece, only three minutes and doesn’t have all of the parts of the other songs.  But it’s a nice showcase that these punks can also play beautiful melodies.  I hope they come back to the area since I missed them back in January.

[READ: October 7, 2017] “Tape Measure”

This is another one of those stories that feels more like an exercise than a story.

This entire piece (far longer than enjoyable) is about the life of a tapeworm.  A sentient, thoughtful tapeworm who appreciates its host and is angry about the host’s desire to get rid of it.

In itself that’s not a bad premise, but the tapeworm is particularly verbose. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKTHE WEATHER STATION-Live at Massey Hall (February 5, 2016).

I know of The Weather Station from All Songs Considered.  The Weather Station is Tamara Lindeman and she has been making music under this name for many years.

But as her profile rises, she says that she has been moving from small clubs to bigger venues:

“So many things I’ve learned, like how to perform on a big stage and make sure people pay attention to you and hear your words.”

The larger venues are odd because her songs are “thoughtful and philosophical not full of showmanship” but you don’t really have a choice you’re in that situation–step up and be confident

The set opens with “Tapes” which is very quiet and soft with lovely backing vocal oohs and a pedal steel guitar.

“Floodplain” is a bit more upbeat but there’s some  interesting guitar work and a nice juxtaposition with the bass.

I love the titles of “Almost Carless” and “Shy Women.”  About “Shy Women” she says it’s about a particularity conversation but it could apply to 1,000 conversations.  It’s my favorite song with some great moments of backing vocals and chord changes

On “All of It was Me” she sounds a bit like Aimee Mann. She says “Loyalty” is also about a conversation.

She talks about evolving as a performer, playing electric guitar on “Personal Eclipse.”  She talks about how on a big stage you have to expand to fit the space you are given and so “Know It To See It,” finally rocks out–the drums and bass really adding something to her music.  The show ends with “Way It Is, Way It Could Be.”

She was joined by Ben Whiteley, Ian Kehoe,  Adrian Cook, Ivy Mairi and Misha Bower.

[READ: February 4, 2018] “Sick Soldier at Your Door”

Reading all of these excerpts in Harper’s has really brought to my attention just how much fiction is written about war.  It’s not a genre I like, so I had no idea it was so popular. This is an excerpt from a then forthcoming novel.

Anse Burden is apparently the main character. He says he has found six soldiers from the ’91 desert war with Iraq.

He talks about how he was on Percordan and Dexedrine when he was shot down.  Others believe he shot himself down (is that even possible?  I guess so.) He was found babbling incoherently.  There’s a great description of him being in the surf with his parachute attached looking like a dirty white whale rising up and down. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKLISA LEBLANC-Live at Massey Hall (June 6, 2015).

I thought I didn’t know who Lisa LeBlanc was, but it turns out that I knew her song “5,748 km” from a NPR episode.  How funny.

LeBlanc thanks Massey Hall for putting her on and for supporting new artists.  It’s so legendary, she can’t imagine what’s going to happen right now.

The show, in which LeBlanc opens for Spirit of the West, opens with this formal introduction.

Welcome to Massey Hall. To get the night going when you have a band like Spirit of the West who is dynamic and fun, who else can you bring to match that kind of excitement?  Please welcome to the stage Lisa LeBlanc.

She walks out on stage, grabs the banjo and plays a slow banjo melody.  After a beat or two she starts whistling a forlorn melody–a perfect Western-sounding instrumental (her whistling is very impressive).

Her whistling is great.

Then she gets a sly look and starts playing her banjo a little faster.    And then completely unexpectedly (to me anyway) her drummer (Maxime Gosselin) and baritone guitarist (Jean-Phillipe Hebert) start trashing like lunatics.  “Gold Diggin’ Hoedown” is a song that perfectly meets what her style is called: “trash rock” It is crazy and fun.

She says she grew up in New Brunswick playing music in the “kitchen party” scene.  She played with her uncles in the garage instead of going partying with the cool kids.  “I was kind of a loser.”

The next song is in the same style, but it is sung in French.  “Cerveau ramolli” which she translates as “My Brain is Mushy.”  This song is totally rocking with great thumping floor toms.

I can’t find the names of all of the songs (usually the video names them, but not this time).  There’s another song in French.

She switches banjos and then talks about “Katie Cruel,” a song that no one knows where it came from and it’s her favorite song of all time.  There’s a quiet part in the middle with just banjo and then nearly a capella before rocketing back to life.

She gets a new banjo and sings quietly over gentle picking:

Don’t try to figure out what’s going on his head / he ain’t trying hard to see whats going on in yours….  I love these lyrics:

He’ll give you the shirt off his back but he wont give you his heart.

She tells the audience she’s from New Brunswick.  Cheers from half the crowd.  Then she says she’s from a town of 51 people.  She was trying to date someone from Vancouver.  Canada is really big.  This is an introduction to “5.748 km” in which she plays guitar instead of banjo.  It’s a spoken/sung song.

She says “Let’s talk about cowboys” and then sings a song in French called (I believe) “J’pas un cowboy.”

For the final song she says the title “You look like trouble but I guess I do too” is quite self-explanatory.  After a few verses they take off.  That baritone guitar is so low and rumbling.  Things slow down in the middle where she plays a great banjo solo and then the sing thrashes to an end.

Over the credits she sings part of one more song this time with electric guitar.

LeBlanc is multi-talented and a lot of fun.  She’d be an excellent opener for anyone.

[READ: June 2, 2018] “Mum’s the Word”

This issue of the New Yorker had a section entitled “Parenting.”  Five authors tell a story about their own parents.  Since each author had a very different upbringing the comparison and contrasting of the stories is really interesting.

This is a funny (sort of) essay about being a parent and how “as a parent I spend a good amount of time talking about things that don’T interest me like My Little Pony, or pasta, or death.”

The death part is funny because her four-year old daughter is suddenly obsessed with it.  But in unusual ways: “When I die…I want to die in Egypt so that I can be a mummy.”  After half paying attention, Rivka nods assent then her daughter says “Mummies make other mummies.  With toilet paper.” (more…)

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