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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: AMIR ELSAFFAR & TWO RIVERS-“Hemayoun” (Field Recordings, July 3, 2013).

I was pretty excited to see the start of this Field Recording [Amir ElSaffar & Two Rivers: Golden Sound In A Gleaming Space] because it begins with hammered dulcimer and oud.  I have never seen these two instruments used in jazz before.

But once the band starts the jazz pushes out he Middle eastern instruments somewhat.

The oud is certainly drowned out by the horns, but you can hear it plucking away.  And the hammered dulcimer is hardly used at all.

I had never heard of the participants although apparently

The session had the feeling of a reunion. ElSaffar — a trumpeter and santur (hammered dulcimer) player who was born near Chicago to an Iraqi father and an American mother, and who grew up immersed in both cultures — had recently moved from New York to Cairo to pursue his work with Arab classical music. But this group with Ole Mathisen on saxophone, Zafer Tawil playing oud, Carlo De Rosa on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums shifted into Two Rivers gear immediately.

At 3:49 when the sax solo starts the minimal oud is used more to keep the beat than anything.  At 5:10 the trumpet returns playing a riff with the sax.  By around 7 minutes its all trumpet and drums (some good improv) with the bassist adding rhythm but playing very hard and being barely heard.  At around 8 minutes there’s a minimal oud solo that runs through to the end of this song.  This is particularly cool, although I kind of wish the other guys didn’t drop out entirely–I’d like to see the oud share the stage with the traditional jazz instruments.

I love that the music has non-Western instrumentation but I feel like it is underutilized.  But maybe that’s not the point

 ElSaffar has found a beautiful and singular way of pairing the sibling spirits of jazz and the classical maqam system of the Arab world, with their shared spheres of improvisation, deep knowledge of tradition and urge to keep innovating. Two rivers, but they lead to the same ocean.

[READ: October 22, 2017] “The Sinking of the Houston”

O’Neill has a way with making stories amusing despite the tension underneath.

It begins with a defense of sleep. The narrator says when he became a parent of young children, he became an opportunist of sleep: “I found myself capable of taking a nap just about anywhere, even when standing in a subway car or riding an escalator.”  But when the boys grew up into “urban doofuses neurologically unequipped to perceive the risk incidental to their teenage lives,” sleep became much harder to get.  He would lie awake until they were all home, and then every sound in the house would be meaningful.

Then comes the phenomenon of Dad Chair, a black leatherette armchair which he has designated as his haven.

It has worked pretty well except when the boys disrupt the peace.

The middle son asks if he’s heard of Duvaliers, the dedicators of Haiti.  The dad says he knows all about them–they were horrible.  When the boy tries to tell him more details, he retorts: “I lived through it ! I don’t want to discuss it!”  The boy logically says you didn’t exactly live through it.

Another son asks where East Timor is.  They all want to talk about atrocities.  But he has a new philosophy–Cest la Vie–it works pretty well. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SILK ROAD ENSEMBLE-“Saidi Swing” (Field Recordings, March 26, 2014).

I really enjoyed the Silk Road Ensemble’s Field Recording, so I was delighted to see that they did a second recording from the same session [A Field Recording Bonus Track: The Silk Road Swings].  I have no idea how they cleared everyone out and cleaned up the place for this video (how long did these four guys have to hang around?), but it was worth it.

What I find so magical about this piece is that it is four percussionists and yet they make such beautiful music.

They’re playing a piece written by Shane Shanahan called Saidi Swing. While it’s inspired by a traditional rhythm from Upper Egypt called saidi (which goes “dum tek dum dum tek” in its simplest incarnation, for those of you who want to find its seeds sprinkled through this piece), Shanahan uses that pattern just as a launching point. And with such fantastic collaborators — from left to right, Sandeep Das playing the Indian tabla, Shanahan playing the riq, or tambourine, Mark Suter on daff frame drum and Joseph Gramley playing the goblet-shaped dumbek — Shanahan can really let his imagination take flight.

The piece begins with the four drummers playing together.  Then comes the individual moments

First comes a solo by Sandeep Das playing the Indian tabla. I love that it’s mostly finger tapping–the tabla is a fascinating instrument.

Up next is Joseph Gramley playing the goblet-shaped dumbek.  To start his solo, he plays the side of the drum which rings out almost like a tambourine before returning to the proper method of playing.

The third solo comes from Mark Suter on daff frame drum (I assumed it was a bodhran, I wonder what the difference is…ah, the daf has metal rings inside of it and can be made of fish skin (!)).  Suter bangs it for a big open sound but then he rubs his fingers along the skin to create even more fascinating sounds.  It’s awesome.

Then they return to the main rhythm.  All four play loud then quiet and then it’s time for each of them to get a very brief (2 seconds, maybe) solo in order left to right.

Then it’s time for Shane Shanahan playing the riq, or tambourine, to get a solo.  It’s the most conventional instrument except it seems quite different from the one that we see in folk bands.  He does some pretty nifty tricks with it too.

In the last part they each play a solo that’s about a second.  Again, left to right, which sounds cool and probably sounds even better in person.

World music percussion is really fascinating and I’m glad it gets showcased in this way here.

[READ: February 7, 2018] “The Ecstasy of Alfred Russel Wallace”

I never understand why people write fictionalized accounts of true stories.  There must be a reason for doing it–maybe you can’t write a five-page biography and have it get published anywhere?  I don’t know.

This is the true (I assume) account of Alfred Russel Wallace.

Wallace was a student of nature–it filled whim with an ecstasy that sometimes felt like lust.  He was not one for theory–he was all about the search.

He collected specimens and he wrote letters home to his mother about his joyful expeditions.  He traveled endlessly, exhaustively.  Even when wracked with malaria he continued. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VANILLA FUDGE-Vanilla Fudge (1967).

I’m still puzzled by the existence of Vanilla Fudge.  By 1967 I wouldn’t think that a band who existed primarily on covers would be viable.  I also wouldn’t think that an album that is all covers would have been marketable.  But I guess the fascinating sound of Vanilla Fudge–lots of organ, screamed vocals and a heavy rhythm section covering recent hits at a drastically reduced speed was a sensation.

Evidently they influenced everyone (Led Zeppelin opened for them and Richie Blackmore and Jon Lord loved the organ sound and wanted it for Deep Purple) and are considered a link between psychedelia and heavy metal.

The first song is a cover of The Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride” of all songs. The Beatles released it in 1965 and two years later the Fudge put heir spin on it.  It is pretty much unrecognizable until they get to the lyrics.  Singer Max Stein takes the lyrics smooth and slow until he starts screaming like a heavy metal song (I can hear an Ian Gillan precedent).   After the “Ri-ii-iide,” in the chorus there’s a little guitar riff that stands out amid all of the organ.

“People Get Ready” (also originally from 1965) also starts unrecognizable until 90 seconds in when there’s a nod to the main riff and then a lot of harmony vocals. By nearly 2 minutes, the main melody of the song is played slowly on a church style organ and they sing the chorus in a kind of church choir.  The whole song is pretty much all organ and Stein crooning.

“She’s Not There” (recorded by The Zombies in 1964) is organ heavy with a build up for each line The song feels really psychedelic with Stein’s screamed vocals, and Appice’s drumming.  I really rather like the backing vocals.

“Bang Bang” (1966) was written by Sonny Bono is noisy with crashing drums and intermittent guitar surrounded by the Hammond organ.  About 2 minutes in, he sings in a childlike voice “Ring Around The Rosy” and “A Tisket a Tasket.”  I don;t know the original at all, but can;t imagine how it went.

After an introduction called “Illusions of My Childhood, Pt. 1” which is basically 20 seconds of keys, they get into their first hit a cool, slow cover of “You Keep Me Hanging On.”  I find that with the Vanilla Fudge, it’s the songs I don’t know as well that I enjoy their treatment of more.

“Take Me for a Little While” is less than 3:30 after the introductory “Illusions of My Childhood, Pt. 2.”  It ends with a melody of the Farmer in the Dell before the martial beat introduces us to the next song.

After the 25 seconds of “Illusions of My Childhood, Pt. 3” the official cover of “Eleanor Rigby” begins completely unlike any version of the song.  It’s just keys and such until about 3 minutes when they start singing “oh, look at all the lonely people” in a kind of choir.  When the actual lyrics come in, they are sing quietly or in a group chorale.  They end the song by chanting “they do, they do.”  It’s a complete reinvention of the songs.

The record ends with them singing a denouement of “nothing is real, nothing to get hung about.”

There really is nothing else like this band.  But they seem far more like a novelty than a foundation of a musical style.  And they’re still touring today.

[READ: February 1, 2016] “The Actual Hollister”

I really like Dave Eggers’ writing style. It always seems casual yet dedicated.  Like he might not really care that much about what he’s going to tell you but that he paid a lot of attention while he was getting ready to bring it to you.  That attitude kind of helps especially when reading something that you yourself don’t really have a care about (to start with).

This story is about Hollister, California.  Eggers says he was inspired to go there because he had been seeing those sweatshirts that say Hollister on them.  [At this point I have t confess that I have seen them, but don’t really register them and didn’t know it had anything to do with Abercrombie and Fitch].

And thus the story bifurcates into the story of the brand and the story of the town.  And never shall they meet. (more…)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[READ: April 20, 2018] Baseballisimo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 may162SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 9, 2016).

First of two shows at The Horseshoe Tavern featuring the return of Dave Clark on Drums. Featuring Hugh Marsh on Violin and Kevin Hearn on Vocals and Keyboards.

I’m not sure how many shows the band played since the previous show in April.  This show was eight months later and the improvement in Martin’ on stage behavior is remarkable.  He seems calm and comfortable.  He hits his notes and (almost) doesn’t forget any lyrics.  Hugh Marsh is on violin.

This is a really remarkable show.

It’s also the introduction of five new songs!

The recording sound is quiet and a little flat, so you really don’t get a good exposure to the new songs which don;t sound that great in this setting.

They start the show confidently with “Stolen Car” and Martin sounds great.  Tim says, we don’t have any setlists (no sure if that’s bragging or complaining).  It is followed by “King of the Past” with some soaring violins from Hugh.

“Claire” feels quiet, but the whole show does, like it’s missing a low end or something.  After the song, Tim says, “That’s it for the hits, sorry.”

But Dave counters, “Here come the near misses” and they launch into “P.I.N.”  Followed by a song from The Story of Harmelodia (Don;t worry it ends well) “It’s Easy To Be With You.”  They both sound poppy and great.

Dave mentions the “wintertime seasonal shenanigans” as Kevin starts playing samples of Mister Rogers: “Sandwiches.  I like to talk to you.  You’re very special to me.  Even if it were raining I’d like it with you.”  This is the lead in to “Michael Jackson” which has a lot of fun keyboard sounds on the verses.  The song instrumentation sounds very different, even if music hasn’t changed.

Then come the five new songs:

Music Is The Message (Tim Vesely) 4:45  This is a slow Tim song.  It is heavy on piano and,in fact, feels like the other guys aren’t really part of it (I assume the recorded version will sound bigger).

Before Dave’s song, Martin says:

“Remember… eye contact with the first three rows. Make love to their faces.”
Dave: “I don’t know if i can do that with all of those people.”
Martin: “You can a little bit.”
Dave: “I have my eye on someone special, Martin.”
Kevin: “You’re a man of great stamina.”

Mountains And The Sea (Dave Bidini) 5:05  This song has a sing-song quality with a kind of farty keyboards (a recording issue no doubt).  But once again, heavy on the piano and rather mellow.  There’s a kind of orchestral middle section that’s quite unlike a Dave song (there’s even soaring vocals).

Dave Clark: “Martin,  I’m not going to cheer because of those miserable people on deck.”
Martin: “The boys of the crew.”
Kevin: “Why don’t you like the boys of the crew?”
Dave: “They’re so cruel.”
Martin: “They kill stuff for fun.”
This is a lead in to The Albatross (Martin Tielli) 5:35 which Martin explains is pretty directly from a [Charles] Baudelaire poem called “The Unlucky Albatross.”   It’s a very Martin piece, quite theatrical.  It’s about the boys beating to death the unlucky albatross.  The middle section is a very theatrical waltz with muzzy keyboards and a plucked violin.

At the end, Martin says: “That was in 16/11.”  I’m not sure if he means the tempo or the year.

Someone shouts, “When are you releasing a new album?”
Bidnini: “It’s complicated.”
Martin: “We gotta get out of our contract with Sire Records, first.”  [much laughter]
Tim: “Forty more years don’t worry about it.”

Kevin’s gonna lead us in this next song, Chemical Valley (Kevin Hearn) 5:27.  It’s a very Kevin slow song (and quite long ).  Again lots of keys and limited guitar (sounds like maybe Martin is soloing trough).

Bidini: “Dave Clark on the drumset tonight.”
Someone in the audience shouts: “I love you, Dave.”
Bidini: “I love you too, ma’am.”
Tim: “Other Dave.”
Clark: “Wow, Tim is a tough crowd.”
Super Controller (Dave Clark) 4:55 has a big “ba da da” verse.

Then back to the older stuff with a great “California Dreamline.”  Martin sounds terrific.  And they joke about “spooning in the dry sand.”  Bidini: “We were into spooning like way before it was popular.”  Martin: “Before there was a word for it.”  Clark: “They tried knifing, they tried forking.”  Bidini: “You guys ever whisk?  That was dangerous.  We learned how to whisk in Vancouver.”

“Legal Age Life At Variety Store” has a wild wah wah solo from Hugh Marsh, it also has part of “Uncle Henry” and a song with lyrics “We’re digging a hole on a military trail” which I can’t place.

“Queer” sounds great (with excellent backing vocals) and has a reading by Kevin dad of “The Laughing Heart” by Charles Bukowski.  Kevin takes a little vamp through “I’m Waiting For My Man” before the song ends properly.

“Dope Fiends and Boozehounds” is wild with some cool keys floating over the top and then an effects-filled drum (and keyboard?) solo and then an “Alomar” type solo before the howls and sirens bring the song to an end.”

The pages says “Shaved Head” but there is no “Shaved Head,” just a long encore break.

They return with a walloping “Peoples Republic Of Dave” (“You ready for G sharp?”).  That was Martin’s request.
Kevin: “Was it from before you joined the band?”
Martin: “It was as I joined the band.”
Dave B:  “It was before I joined the band …weird.”

Martin sounds great on “Saskatchewan” and “Northern Wish.”

And they do come out for a second encore.  Clark says, “I’m gonna play brushed on this one.”
Martin: “We are Ratt.  This is called “Round and Round”

They start “Self Serve Gas Station,” with Martin messing up and joking (!) “Sometimes its gotta start right.”  He even throws in a jokey line: “What went wrong with Bilbo, is he dumb?”

In addition to Martin sounding fantastic, Clark is remarkably restrained.  back in the day he was t he wild and checked id of the band, making jokes, reciting poetry.   In this show he made one or two comments but was otherwise just an amazing drummer.

Knowing that they sound this good now means that I absolutely must see them again when they play next time.

[READ: June 16, 2016] “A Life of Adventure and Delight”

I found this story to be a little confusing.  The action all made enough sense, but there was something that felt…off about it.

As the story opens, Gautama is shoved into a police van with a bunch of other men.  It’s the first time he was arrested for calling a prostitute.  He was 24 and a student at NYU.

He was from Gwalior and knew he would have to get married one day, so he wanted to have as much sex as possible.  Perversely, he though that any woman who would have sex before marriage was depraved and foul.

Gautama had hired many prostitutes although his favorite thing was the negotiation (the actual sex was so immoral it was hard for him to enjoy it).

He was released the next day and made to do community service. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GORDI-Tiny Desk Concert #740 (May 7, 2018).

I had an idea of what Gordi sounded like (a much more rocking band, who was I thinking of?)  Rather, Gordi is Sophie Payten a woman with a piano (and a harmonium and a guitar).  Gordi has a lovely deep voice (dusky and evocative) that is not afraid to break.

The blurb says her voice

usually gets enshrouded somehow: It often sounds like it’s echoing down a stairwell, or else she’s bathed it in vocal effects a la Imogen Heap or Gordi’s occasional tourmate, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. But Payten’s voice is an expressive and powerful instrument on its own, as her debut appearance behind the Tiny Desk demonstrates.

Aside from a bit of looping — in the strangely infectious notes that open “Heaven I Know,” from last year’s terrific Reservoir — Gordi here keeps her voice both unadorned and centered within warm, cool arrangements that include piano, acoustic guitar, pedal steel, a harmonium named Barbara, a saxophone played by Yellow Ostrich’s Alex Schaaf, and more. The effect here is rawer than on Reservoir, but that’s part of the point: These songs stand up to being stripped down, every time.

“Heaven I Know” is really pretty with a staggering sense of loss.  She met her backing badn while they were playing with The Tallest Man on Earth.  She plays piano, there an electric guitar and some kind of synths in the back.  And the drums (played by Zach Hanson) crescendo as needed.  The song runs a little long but it’s quite pretty.

For “Can We Work It Out” guitarist Alex Schaaf switches to saxophone.  Gordi pulls out the harmonium.  She says she bought the harmonium on the Australian version of Craigslist called Gumtree.  She bought it from an Indian lady named Barbara so the harmonium’s now called Barbara.

For the final song, “On My Side” she’s on guitar and Ben Les switches from keys to pedal steel.  The song is a little faster with some great harmonies from the drummer.

This is really lovely stuff.

[READ: October 10, 2017] Death of the Pugilist

Okay, so this is a boxing story.  That means that there is going to be a fight and the guy he is writing about is either going to win or lose.

That’s the attitude I took when I started this story–I don’t care for sports stories in general and feel that they have to work very hard to be more than just win or lose.

This story is a little different because each section starts with a question.

Who was Burke? His beginnings. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Massey Hall, Toronto, ON (April 29, 2016).

After their farewell concert at Massey Hall in 2007, who would have guessed that some nine years later they’d be back again.

When I heard this show was announced I immediately bought a ticket, not really thinking about how I would logistically manage such a thing.  I was able to get it to a fan who could go, but at least I’ll have my email confirmation:

Live at Massey HallRheostatics
Fri 04/29/2016 8:00 PM
Main Floor Centre Front  Seat I-44   $29.50

This time Martin’s voice is working again.  But in the intervening years he has had something else go on with him.  I don’t know details, but there’s some kind of anxiety present–and it comes out during this show.

Amazingly, for such a big show, there is hardly any evidence of it online.  There’s a few fan videos but no full sets available.

The only performance available that I can find is the official release from (the terrific) Live at Massey Hall series.  The whole series is wonderful–professionally filmed and beautifully recorded.  The only problem is that it’s so short.  I don’t know how long the show was, but the video is only 40 minutes.

The video opens with Martin talking about his laryngitis, “laryngitis taught me to enjoy singing in a lower range.”  There’s Tim talking about seeing Devo (who were walking on treadmills the whole show) at Massey Hall and overheating from wearing a heavy coat in winter.  Dave saw lot so new wave bands who weren’t great live but were great because they were in Massey hall–it’s a forgiving and inspiring place.

Big red letters in the back of the stage spelled out RHEOSTATISC (sic).

The set opens with “King of the Past” Martin plays a lovely solo and gets some applause and the whole thing sounds great.

“Californian Dreamline” opens with some great sound effects from Martin, Hugh Marsh and Kevin Hearn.  But after the “sensamilla” bit, Martin freaks out.  He steps away from the mic and waves everyone off.

Dave jumps in, “this happened in Montreal once. It’s true.  We were opening for Moxy Fruvous, so it’s a kind of curse we’ve got to exorcise.”

The band jams on and them Martin comes back to sing and the crowd gives him a big cheer–there really is no more forgiving crowd than a Rheostatics crowd.

The opening acoustic guitar of “Claire” begins.  That’s Tim on acoustic, Dave on bass and Martin on his gorgeous double neck guitar.  The letters have been rearranged to say SORTA ITCHES and Martin plays a great solo.  Tim sounds perfect, of course.

They start “P.I.N.”  Martin sings the first line and then has an issue.  He steps away again while the band plays on. He catches himself and returns (again to encouraging applause).  Once it gets going it all sounds great.

Dave finally gets a lead vocal song.  The letters spell out SHITCOASTER as they play a flawless “Mumbletypeg.”

Then apparently the entire rest of the show happens and we get the night-ending encore–a wild and raucous “Dope Fiends and Boozehounds.” (The letters finally spell RHEOSTATICS). The song gets off to a pretty good start.  For the middle, Martin and Hugh face each other (Martin always seems comforted by being with Hugh) and then Don Kerr gets a drum solo (with sound effects from Kevin Hearn).

At the end of the song, for the “moon,” there are howls, probably from Kevin, possibly from the audience.  As they slowly fade away, Dave jumps of the drum rise and the end of the song begins.  But this is an extended jam ending.  Hugh and Kevin make some menacing sounds and then Martin plays a solo with a slide.  It’s a weird, very undramatic ending for such a dramatic band.

I have always been sad that I couldn’t go to this show, but it sounds like it would have been a real roller coaster of a night.

Read this review from Radio Free Canuckistan for the perspective of someone who was there.

Over the closing credits, Kevin Hearn’s father read “The Laughing Heart” by Charles Bukowski.  I assume he read that before the band came out (accompanied by Hugh Marsh).

I don’t know much by Bukowski, but this is great for its simple profundity.

The Laughing Heart

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

[READ: March 5, 2018] Head Games

As with some of my favorite books, the story behind the creation is almost as interesting as the book itself.

Craig McDonald is a journalist and he says that he is often frustrated by trying to write the truth: “read five biographies about the same person and you’ll feel like you’ve read about five different people.”  With fiction maybe you can find something bordering truth.

The introduction by McDonald tells us that we will be riding with pulp novelist Hector Lassiter.  Lassiter is the protagonist of a finite arc of ten novels. The last one, Three Chords & The Truth is a sequel to Head Games and appeared in 2016.  Lassiter is a charmer, a rogue, a rake and a crime novelist who lives what he writes and writes what he lives.  Hector was born in Texas in 1/1/1900 and the arc of the novels spans the 20th century.

McDonald says the publishing history of the books is not chronological. Head Games was the first novel published.  The second was set in 1935 and features Hemingway prominently.  Other books hopscotched through the decade. They have recently been reissued and presented in roughly chronological order.

The novels “follow secret histories and underexplored aspects of real events.”  They’re set in real places and use history and real people to drive the plots. (more…)

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