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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From The Last Pogo:

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

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

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

They play the nice folkie song “Rear View.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a great show, the band sounds fantastic.

[READ: May 21, 2018] “Calico”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[READ: May 18, 2018] “Candidate”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then there’s this amusing discourse:

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

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

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

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

Then Dave asks for a gin and tonic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[READ: May 18, 2018] “Artifacts”

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

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

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

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

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SOUNDTRACK: RODRIGO Y GABRIELA-Live in France (2009).

Nothing can prepare you for a Rod y Gab concert, but listening to a live album can give you some idea of the aural pyrotechnics you’re in for.

To say it is “just ” two guitarists playing acoustic guitar, gives you a very specific picture.  If you say that they are amazing at soloing on their instruments, it gives you another picture.  Neither of which is correct.

Rodrigo plays an incredible fast lead guitar while Gabriela plays the most dynamic percussive rhythm I’ve ever seem (or heard) on her hollow bodied guitar.   When listening live, if Gabriela is not playing the rhythmic style, it’s impossible to know who is playing what,

These songs are not just virtuoso show-off pieces. They have terrific melodies that run through them.  The songs are instantly recognizable as Rod y Gab songs, but you also recognize the individual melodies too (although I’ll be damned if I can keep the names of the songs straight in any way).

If I had a complaint, which isn’t really a complaint, it’s that you can never tell when the songs actually end. They often pause mid-song and then resume after ten to 30 seconds.  Some songs could be 3 minutes but end up nearly 6.  It doesn’t really matter because the songs are great and could all be one long song because it’s terrific, it’s just a little hard to keep track sometimes.

For this CD, they play 7 of 11 tracks from 11:11 and 1 from their self-titled album.

“Hanuman” opens the disc.  After a few minutes, the song builds and Rod plays faster and louder chords and then it all drops away.  When the riff comes back in, that’s pretty awesome.  “Triveni” beings with some really heavy riffing from both of them.  “Chac Mool” is the one major exception to everything else on the disc  It’s one minute long and is  very mellow and quite pretty.  Nothing fancy, just a a nice melody.

“Hora Zero” has a few moments where Rod plays some really fast arpegiaos and the consistency of his playing is remarkable. (There’s also some wah wah on this song which always comes as a surprise).  This is one of those songs that feels like it ends after four minutes, but it still has two minutes to go.  It ends with a nod to Metallica with the ending chords.

“Gabriela Solo” and “Rodrigo Solo” are, as they say, opportunities for us to marvel at their individual skills.  Gab does a lot of percussive stuff, but also shows her chops on the strings.  Rod’s solo throws in a lot of recognizable heavy metal riffs in between his beautiful Spanish guitar playing: three from Metallica and one from Slayer.

“Santo Domingo” is one of my favorite songs.  I love the riff that is in a different time signature at the end of each “verse.”  There’s some wonderful percussion from Gab. I really dig the bass sound and heavy riffing that he (or maybe she) gets out of the guitar in the middle of  “Buster Voodoo.”

“11:11” features a very pretty, mellow echoing lead section, its kind of trippy rather than frenetic, and there’s some cool tricks that Rod pulls off that sound fantastic.  “Savitri” has some more great riffs and some cool percussive playing from Gab–it turns into a pretty fast and furious song.

“Tamacun” is from their self titled album and it elicits the biggest response, with Rod teasing out the riff and the audience singing along (to an instrumental).  The end is great with some terrific percussion from Gab as Rod wails away.

This does not compare to actually seeing them, but it’s a terrific performance nonetheless.

[READ: January 22, 2018] “Wheelers”

This rather long story seemed to be one thing and then turned into something else entirely.  As if maybe this is an excerpt from a novel rather than a short story (which I see now that it is).

The story begins with a boy talking about his family–his mother’s maiden name is Wheeler.

He grew up in a house with four sisters.  They were loud and demanding.  He tried to ride a wave between them, allowing hair braiding and the like, but they often turned on him: “You know when you mooned me and Faith? We saw your balls and they looked shrimpy.”

The girls’ were nicknames Itsy, Bitsy, Titsy and Ditsy (the dad changed Titsy to Mitsy, wisely). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE PIERCE BROTHERS-The Records Were Ours, (2017).

The Pierce Brothers was without a doubt the best opening-act-whom-I-hadn’t-heard-of-before.  The two of them (twins!) were an incredibly energetic, exciting and crowd-pleasing act.  They had us clapping, singing along and generally making all kinds of merry.

Jack (drums and more, including guitars) and Patrick (guitars and more) Pierce (and their family, obviously) are from Melbourne.  They have a pretty big following there and yet apparently no Wikipedia page about them!  Go figure.

They have released a number of EPs and this was the first of two in 2017.  They are a bit more subdued on record (especially the couple of mellower songs here).

“Take Me Out” has a terrific, great catchy guitar riff followed by a shout-along chorus of “stand up!” and “take me out.”  This song rocks a lot harder than their other songs (there’s more production as well).  This is a great clap-along and get-up and sing song.

Their other songs are a bit more folkie (live, it’s primarily acoustic guitar and drum kit). But even their folkie songs tend to move fast and have big sing-along choruses.

“The Records Were Ours” has a simple 1,2,3 waltz melody.  It’s incredibly catchy and has a pointed  verse

When you left my house / You took the records and they were ours / You hadn’t broken them up just yet / You got me hooked on these cigarettes

and the best, most understated kiss-off chorus ever:

That’s why / I don’t care much for you / I don’t care much for you anymore

“Rhodes” is a more traditional folk rock song–a simple beat and bouncy guitars.  The big difference is the lengthy guitar solo that ends the song.  It was on this song that I first noticed that Jack (on the left when they play live) sounds more than a bit like Ed from Live.  “Rhodes” is a minor key, darker ballad with a whistling solo that is crazily distorted and more than a little creepy.

“Take a Shot” returns to that big anthemic singalong.  They sing in gruff voices, loudly, and it’s quite catchy.  Later in the EP there’s a live recording from the Syndey Opera House Forecourt in which they introduce the song by saying they wrote it about an [American] fuckwit with a really stupid haircut and we’re all stuck with him for the next four years.

“Keep In Mind” is a slower ballad with interesting percussive sounds.  Jack sings with some falsetto notes that also remind me of Ed from Live.

The final two tracks are live.  The first is that version of “Take a Shot” and the second is a then new song called “Brother” recorded live at Paradiso, Amsterdam.  They tell the audience that “Black Dog” was written for the brother and that “Genevieve” was written for their sister while this song is written for their older brother Justin (“you see my brother his name is Justin Anthony / he was eleven when we were three).  It’s got a big easy chorus that’s basically just a simple melody of whoa whoa oh oh, whoa whoa oh.  Impossible not to sing along to.

They ask, you guys wanna join in?  And do they ever.  The audience is so loud and encouraging that when the song ends, the crowd starts the sing along all over again.  And they guys actually have to start playing the end of the song over again–that’s gotta feel pretty awesome.

And that’s the kind of power they have live.

[READ: December 10, 2017] “The Queen of Zilch”

It is Christmas Eve and the narrator is flaked out in the basement at her dad’s.   She could hear her dad’s new girlfriend Danièle making tons of food for the party.  Danièle had invited “her mother, her million sisters, and god knows who else.”  Her father had only invited a client of his who had just gotten divorced.

Her father didn’t talk to her much.  She had “moved” into the basement.  Her father had taken out the old couch out and replaced it with the one form the den (because the new girlfriend wanted a  new couch).  But he did nothing else to make the place hers–no fridge, no other renovations.  Just a basement.

He came down to give her a warning not to dress crazy or put on make up like a drag queen. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SKATING POLLY-The Big Fit (2014).

The Big Fit is a slicker and more satisfying album from this duo.  Their songs are still noisy and abrasive and neither singer holds back, but overall the songs sound even better (I’m sure it’s the production as well).

“Oddie Moore” starts out quietly with just Peyton singing and then Kelli joining her (showing off some nice singing and harmonies) and a really catchy melody.

But it’s “Perfume for Now” that really shows how much their songwriting has jumped in one album.  It begins quietly with some cool bass lines and Kelli’s quieter singing.  Then comes the chorus in which Kelli sing/screams a line and Peyton basically just melodically screams a punctuation mark.  It’s terrific.  Then just to add to the tension, there’s a quiet bridge: “I know you wanted to be class white trash / Or were you going for class clown?”  And when they join together at the end of the chorus in harmony it’s really great.  I can’t help but feel that this song encapsulates the Skating Polly sound perfectly (and it was amazing live).

“Pretective Boy” switches things up a both with a poppier sound and some cool vocal parts from both singers.  “Cosmetic Skull” (whatever that means) is a piano-based song–a big change of pace with the sweet tribute to their matriarch: “I want to dance with Exene, coz she can lead.”  It’s a quieter song that shows that they’re not just all screams and feedback.  Their dual vocals at the end sound really cool, too.

“Nothing More Than a Body” has a simple, quiet guitar-chugging opening.  But rather than just the chugging chords, each line ends with three picked notes–it’s those little details that elevate these songs.  Kelli’s interesting “oooh” backing vocals that changes styles between lines are also a nice touch.  And then there’s the big chorus with the backing vocals mixed almost creepily in the mix.

“Hey Sweet” is a blistering noisy blast of a song–screamed by Kelli with a relentless bad-ass guitar riff.  Even a fast blast like this is 3 minutes long–these girls do not slouch when it comes to songwriting.

I was puzzled by “Morning Dew” because it sounded so unlike them and seemed so…odd.  I had no idea that it was written in the 1960s by Bonnie Dobson.  I thought it was such an odd song that a person is saying he heard someone and the other voice say she did not (in the Skating Polly version, Kelli screams this section as it turns into blistering punk).  I was really puzzled by the song and have now found out: “The song is a dialogue between the last man and woman left alive following an apocalyptic catastrophe: Dobson has stated that the initial inspiration for “Morning Dew” was the film On the Beach which is focused on the survivors of virtual global annihilation by nuclear holocaust. The actual writing of the song occurred in 1961 while Dobson was staying with a friend in Los Angeles: Dobson would recall how the guests at her friend’s apartment were speculating about a nuclear war’s aftermath and “after everyone went to bed, I sat up and suddenly I just started writing this song [although] I had never written [a song] in my life.”  Creepy.

“Arms & Opinons” bonces back with a piano melody  the middle section with the repeating piano melody and the backing vocals is spooky and very cool.  When both girls sing the next part it sounds tremendous.

Oh, please forget me for my sins
My charming hungriness has got me once again
My father sent me out, he told me what to do
But instead of listening, I filled up his cup to the top with glue
He tried to drink, he tried to swallow
But due to the lack of the air his face was turning dark blue
And I felt bad just for a second
But mainly I was laughing because I just brought the day

“For the View” is a quieter song with Peyton working through many different vocal deliveries–whispering, falsetto, a scream like Corin Tucker, and some good old rage screaming, too.  The drums are heavy on the toms which is also very cool.

“Stop Digging” has so many parts, it’s very neat.  It starts with a simple bass line and Peyton’s drumming.  Kelli sings quietly until the loud chorus which is all distorted.  The third sections sounds really different and catchy and then there’s a quick fourth section.  And then when the song seems like it’s over they add in yet another part with a great heavy distorted riff and big vocals for both of them.  The song could end there, but it adds a coda: “the first rule of holes, stop digging; the first step of getting out of a hole, stop digging.”

“Across the Caves” is a piano song.  It is a little faster than the other with some good drumming.  The disc ends with “Picker of His Words.”  This is a quiet acoustic song with Kelli and Peyton singing alternating verses to each other.  Kelli plays a simple bass riff and Peyton plays an interesting counterpoint guitar line over it.  It sounds pretty sophisticated and really shows off how nice their voices are when unadorned.

Since recording this album, they have added their brother to the band and have done work with Louise and Nina from Veruca Salt.  I’m really curious to see what their new stuff sounds like.  And I really hope I can see them live again–they were tremendous.

[READ: September 20, 2017] “A Recognized Man”

Timothy is a famous actor.  And he has a secret.  Lots of secrets, actually.

He is in love with René “or felt he very soon would be.”  He and Rene would be going to the Award ceremony in a few months but tonight was a special party for Timothy’s birthday.

René was not famous and he still really enjoyed seeing the reactions of people when they recognized Timothy. Timothy had other boyfriends who quickly tired of that adulation,but René did not.

Timothy is looking forward to a quiet night out with René.  He pretends to be surprised that René is taking them to Timothy’s favourite restaurant. But he is genuinely surprised to see that other people are there too. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Copps Coliseum, Hamilton, ON (December 11 1996).

This is the final show on Rheostatics Live in which the band is opening for The Tragically Hip.

For this show, the intro music is also from The Wizard of Oz, but this time it’s Judy singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”  It’s just one verse before fading out and then guitars fading in for Martin to play “A Mid Winter Night’s Dream.”

Turns out that this setlist is similar to the one from Buffalo with a lot of new songs.  Although there are a few older/more popular songs in places.

The new songs include “Fat” which sounds great of course.  I gather they are maybe sharing a microphone because at the end Dave says “See you in the next song, Martin.”  “Okay, Dave.”  This leads into a perfect version of “All the Same Eyes.”

Martin says “We are the Rheostatics.”  Dave says “We are the Rheostatics, not to be confused with The Howell Brothers (?).  They couldn’t make it but we got their jackets.  It’s nice of you to come out early.  We’re playing selections from our new record. Get it before it’s reduced to clear.”  (You can hear someone laugh on tape).

This is a segue into the single “Bad Time to Be Poor.”  It’s followed by another Tim song, “Claire” with the acoustic guitar opening in place.  There’s another lengthy guitar solo, although it’s not quiet as exciting as some of the other ones.  But Martin was saving up for a spirited version of “California Dreamline.”

They end their set with a rough rocking “Feed Yourself.”  During the spoken part, they slow things down to just a bass and washes of guitar.  It’s a pretty intense ending and a good preparation for The Tragically Hip.

[READ: June 25, 2017] The Story of Canada in 150 Objects

In celebration of Canada’s 150th year, Canadian Geographic and The Walrus created this special issue–a fun way to describe many elements of Canadian culture through “objects.”

The objects are grouped in vague categories.  Some have just a few words written about them while others get a few pages.  Some are humorous, some are more serious.  Most are happy or amusing, some not so much.  And all of it together paints a diverse and complex portrait of the country–as well as teaching this person from South of the border a number of things I did not know.

It’s with comic pride and humility that the first object is politeness (which is not an object at all, of course).  The amusing thing about this article about “politeness” is that while the author of it is very pleased to be so polite, he also can’t wait for his fellow Canucks to forget to be polite so he can rub it in with a extra smarmy “You’re Welcome.” (more…)

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