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Archive for the ‘The Walrus’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MARGO PRICE-Tiny Desk Concert #581 (November 28, 2016).

It is my fervent hope that I will wake up this morning and the world will say April Fools, and that these last few months will all have been a prank.  Or that this day marks the first day in formal steps to get the buffoon out of the White House before more people get killed.

Barring that, I can post these Trump-based pieces.

Margo Price is beloved by NPR.  I find her a wee bit too country for my tastes.  And yet, once again, a Tiny Desk Concert changed my opinion of her.

Price came to NPR on the day after the election.  I was in a fog of disbelief that day.  I can’t imagine how she managed to play and sing.  Here’s the intro:

When I greeted Margo Price in the NPR garage before her Tiny Desk performance, tears were streaming down her face. It was Wednesday morning, Nov. 9, the day after the 2016 election. For her — as for many Americans — it was a stunning and bewildering moment in time, a day when life and the everyday took on new meaning. And so when she and her band began to play “All American Made,” a song she’s sung many times before, those words about America’s changes and failures in the 21st century seemed even more powerful.

As this Tiny Desk progresses, even “Four Years Of Chances,” her song of a love gone wrong, feels less about a lousy husband and more about presidential politics. She dedicates her third and final song, “About To Find Out,” to Donald Trump; she says it was originally written about a “musician acquaintance of mine who’s a complete sociopath.” When the song ends, she rips open her red cowboy shirt to reveal a T-shirt with the words “Icky Trump”— a play on the title of The White Stripes’ song “Icky Thump,” which criticizes the U.S.’s immigration policies. She smiles, wipes a tear away: It seems cathartic, but temporary.

The music includes piano, guitar (of course), some slide guitar and harmonica.

“All American Made” plays down the twang in her voice and the lyrics are great.  It was written for her previous band Buffalo Clover.

1987, and I didn’t know I then
Reagan was selling weapons to the leaders of Iran
well it won’t be the first time and it wont be the end
They were all American made.

I was just a child
Unaware of the effects
Raised on sports and Jesus
and all the usual suspects

It’s a slow folk song with harmonica and a nice guitar solo.

“Four Years Of Chances” is actually about a failed relationship.  And we can all only hope that we don’t have to wait as long as she did in this song before ending this relationship.  It’s a faster song with good slide guitar work.  There’s a guitar solo, a piano solo and I like the way it goes up two steps after the solo.

I gave you four years of chances
But you threw em all away
I gave you one thousand, four hundred sixty-one days

“About To Find Out” seems so uncannily about Trump it is hard to believe it was written about someone else (as it says, it was originally written about a “musician acquaintance of mine who’s a complete sociopath”).

Well I’ve had about enough of your two-cent words
And the way you’re running your mouth
No you haven’t got a clue or another thing to do
Except to take another picture of yourself
You’re living high on the hog looking down at us all
You may have come so easy and happened so fast
But the harder they come, they fall

You have many people fooled about your motivation
But I don’t believe your lies
You blow so much smoke it’s bound to make you choke
I see the snakes in both of your eyes
But you wouldn’t know class if it bit you in the ass
And you’re standing much too tall
You may have come so easy and happened so fast
But the harder they come, they fall

Tell me what does your pride taste like honey
Or haven’t you tried it out?
It’s better than the taste of a boot in your face
Without any shadow of a doubt
You better learn where the line is
You missed a lot you’ve gotta learn about
How’s it gonna feel to be put in your place
Well I guess you’re about to find out

Some folks today have got nothing to say
Except to talk about their wealth
But the poor’s still poor and the war’s still war
And everybody wants more for themselves
Like a rich man’s child you never walked a mile
One day you won’t have nothing to sell
You may have come so easy and happened so fast
But the way I see it you fell

Uncanny.

So yes, this Tiny Desk Concert has totally won me over to Price.  Although I really need to never hear “Hurtin’ (On the Bottle)” again–it is just waaay to twangy for my sensitive ears.  But more importantly, I hope she hasn’t given up the fight.

[READ: March 12, 2017] “It Is I Who Styles Donald Trump…”

My only other exposure to Crosbie was in the April 2012 issue of The Walrus, in which she wrote a couple of short pieces.

Obviously, I am all for hating on Trump, for ridiculing him and making him look as pathetic as he actually is.  And this entire issue was more or less devoted to the horror that is Trump.  So having a story that mocks him is something I can appreciate.

But, as with the comedians who mock Trump’s hair or skin rather than his racism, bigotry, lack of knowledge of the world, lying and everything else, this story is strangely superficial, and overall, just kind of strange.

It begins amusingly enough: “Last night I dreamt I went to Mar-a-Lago again.  I stood shuddering at the gates–was I to be the mistress of an estate named in colloquial Spanish?”

It even seems like it might go for an interesting angle: “as he sleeps his lips purse, and his hands fly our, defensively.”

But, as the title states (so I guess I was expecting too much), this is mostly about Trump’s hair: she “quickly took over this industry.” (more…)

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marchSOUNDTRACK: JOHN PAUL WHITE-Tiny Desk Concert #578 (November 14, 2016).

jpwThe name John Paul White always sounds familiar to me, but I have a hard time remembering just who he is.  He was, among other things, one half of The Civil Wars, a great folk duo (who I didn’t realize had broken up, oops).  He has also released a previous solo album and a new one last year.

He begins the set with “Black Leaf.”  It’s just his acoustic guitar and voice.  He plays some interesting chords and makes some great folk music.  He hits some nice falsetto notes in the verses. And I love the way the song changes direction in the middle–a dark little turn but one that is musically great.

Joining him for the next two songs are Kelli Jones-Savoy on violin and harmony vocals and Adam Morrow second guitar.  Before “Hate The Way You Love Me” he says I’m gonna switch guitars one every song so it makes me look like an accomplished guitarist.  He switches to a hollow bodied electric while Adam plays acoustic.

This song sounds very different, especially when the backing vocals come in (Kelli adds a very country inflected voice..and that violin too).  But the melody in the verse sounds so much like another song I just can’t figure out what.  It’s a great song though and that chorus takes it in a  very different direction.

Before “What’s So” he grabs another guitar and says “three songs, three guitars that’s not pretentious, is it?”  Before beginning the song he thanks everyone in public radio.

[paraphrasing] I’ll do anything for Bob.  He knows that.  I hope he doesn’t exploit that.  NPR is a big deal for a kid on the Alabama/ Tennessee line. You grow up around mainstream pop and country radio and you feel like a square peg.  Thank god for public radio.  Thank you for the work you do for people like me.

Now, I’ll leave you with one last one and then you have to go back to work.

For this song he grabs another acoustic guitar.  This one has a pretty raw sound, and he plays a great bluesy riff.   It sounds quite different from the other two and when they sing the chorus together, it’s got a great yearning quality.

When he finished, Bob walks up and thanks him and then says, “Did you say you were going to stay here and serenade us all day?”

[READ: March 1, 2017] “Thin Crust”

I enjoyed this story so much.  It is my favorite story in The Walrus in a long time.

And I also loved the play in the title.  When I think of thin crust I go to pizza.  But there’s also the crust of the earth.  And that’s what this story is about–that the crust is thinning.  Maybe?

And it starts out so strangely, I honestly didn’t think I knew what was happening.  A fisherman off of Los Cabos watches the horizon line as it wavers.  And then forms a “frozen indigo wall stretching the length of his vision.”  A cormorant dives into the water, misses its catch and the flies towards the void where “it slipped silently into nothing.”

What the hell is going on? (more…)

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jf josephSOUNDTRACK: JOSEPH-Tiny Desk #574 (October 28, 2016).

I have been hearing “White Flag” quite a bit on the radio. I had a hard time keeping track of who sang it (it doesn’t help that this trio of women is called Joseph).  But I have really grown to love the “ooh ooh” part and the screamed chorus.

So it’s interesting to see Bob Boilen’s blurb in which he says

My first experience seeing Joseph was in 2014 as an opening act in New York City. It was just the twins Meegan and Allison Closner and their older sister, Natalie Closner, and it was clear then they had something special. Over these two years, Joseph’s sound has grown beyond the Closners’ harmonies. Now, you’re likely to see them with a band or hear songs from their latest record, which is filled with sounds far beyond voice and acoustic guitar.  It’s been a treat to witness Joseph’s journey, but I was also fairly thrilled that for their Tiny Desk the sisters stripped it down to their original setup: three voices and one guitar.

They play “White Flag” first.  I was a bit disappointed at first because even though Bob loves the stripped down sound, I like the recorded version a lot.  But by the end I was loving how great their voices work together.  Plus I was able to hear the word a little better: “I’d rather be dead than live a lie…burn the white flag.”  Natalie sings lead on this one, while Meegan and Allison do the great oooh oohs.

When the song is over Natalie tells us why she wrote the song: a response to everything going on in the world and how it wants to push you back into your home and stop you from going out and living your life and deciding no thank you I’m going to do that anyway.

 Meegan introduces “I Don’t Mind” by saying it’s about sadness… and it was something she wanted someone to say to her about her sadness.  But she realized she had to say it to herself before she could receive it from anyone else.  She sings lead and it builds slowly with some harmonies coming in. I love how big it gets from such a small opening.  The final chorus reminds me a bit of Lucius–big bold singing in close harmony.

I was delighted by how different the three songs sounded.  “Canyon” sounds nothing like the other two–the chorus is powerful and hypnotic with the repeated sounds.  It also has an incredible moment in the middle of the song where the twins are singing backing vocals and Natalie is singing a lead line and the three of them all end on a really long note together.  It’s mesmerizing.

So even if I really like the album version, these versions are pretty spectacular.

[READ: February 27, 2017] “An Occurrence on the Beach of Varosha”

This is an excerpt from a novel called The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep and I’m glad I knew that going in because the story mentions some previous incidents and also ends rather dramatically but in an unfinished way.

Set in October 2012, Elias is on the beach at Varosha in Northern Cyprus, marveling at the size and number of the hotels that line the barbed wired fence on the beach.   Elias’s aunt and uncle currently live on the Greek Cypriot side of the Green Line, but they were among the first to build a hotel there.  However, there’s was just three  stories with twenty-four room.

Elias is there ostensibly to check out he property to see if it is still standing during the conflict.   He is capable of doing this because he is Canadian and has a foreign passport.  Thus, he can cross the Green Line without trouble. (more…)

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dec2016SOUNDTRACK: BUDDY MILLER & JIM LAUDERDALE-Tiny Desk Concert #275 (May 13, 2013).

buddyjimBuddy Miller & Jim Lauderdale are apparently legendary players, but I’ve never heard of either of them. So the blurb tells us:

Buddy Miller is the guitar player to hire if you’re playing heartfelt, not-so-shiny country-rock songs.  Jim Lauderdale writes award-winning country songs. He’ll once again host the Americana Music Awards alongside Miller, with whom he shares a radio show on Sirius XM’s Outlaw Country Channel; that’s where the corny humor comes in.

There’s something endearing, old-timey and almost vaudevillian about Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale — even the way they bill themselves as “Buddy and Jim.” Both veteran musicians are in love with country music in all its many forms and influences; their music incorporates the blues and bluegrass, rock ‘n’ roll and a good deal of craft.  The songs they performed, at NPR’s offices and on the album, have titles like “I Lost My Job [insert pregnant pause here] of Loving You.” Some good fun to be had at the expense of heartbreak and life’s loves, both lost and found.

They are indeed funny and charming.  They both play guitar and the rest of the band includes fiddle, upright bass and a mailing tub for percussion.

Jim is the corny comedian.  He says he doesn’t have his contacts in—how’s everybody up there in the balcony?   Bob asks if either you guys have had a desk job.  Jim says, kind of, he was messenger at Rolling Stone (not a bike messenger).   And then he jokes that he had to do some firing of people—and he makes an exaggerated attempt at firing someone in the audience.

Besides the goofiness, they do play three fairly traditional-sounding country songs.  “The Train That Carried My Gal From Town” sounds very old timey country (compete with thick singing accents).  “It Hurts Me” was written by Buddy’s wife.  It’s a slow country ballad.

After the second song, Jim says, “Were having such a  good time up here, we’re gonna stay all day long.”  Buddy jumps in “That’s what George Jones” says all the time and then he plays one more song and leaves.  The final song is  “I Lost My Job Of Loving You”  my favorite of the three because it’s a little more rocking sounding.

[READ: February 25, 2017] “A System from the North”

This was the second story from Ohlin that I’ve read recently.

I liked the other story but I really liked this one a lot.

It is a strange little story about a woman who is “teaching” in a school.  I put teaching is in quotes because this is a school with its own Philosophy. as in “they went outside every day, regardless of the weather; it was part of the Philosophy.”

The teacher is outside with the kids when she notices that the boy in the blue coat is not there.  She counts the kids, but the fifth child simply isn’t there.

She takes the children inside and then gets inside her head about where the boy may have gone. (more…)

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julyaugSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS (Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, ON, September 6, 2015).

06Sep2015Almost exactly one year ago, my family traveled to Toronto as a mini-vacation.  The impetus was my scoring tickets to see The Rheostatics live for the first for me (and potentially–but not in reality–last) time.

They had called it quits 8 years earlier and were reuniting for the 20th Anniversary of their Group of 7 album–a soundtrack of sorts that was created to celebrate the works of the great Group of 7 artists.  They were scheduled to perform three nights at the Art Gallery of Toronto.

I purchased tickets to the second night assuming that the first night they might be a little rusty and the final night they might be burnt out.  Well, it turns out, that was completely faulty logic.  The final night was outstanding (as this recording shows), not least because it was so much longer!

The quality of this recording is really good.  Dave is in fun form, commenting and joking with the audience.  At the end of “Six (Cello For A Winter’s Day),” the band goes a little nutty with noise and after the jazzy ending, Dave says that “playing fake jazz is way more fun than real jazz” because you gotta know stuff.

They thank everyone during this break.  Dave introduces Martin: “You got Martin Tielli back… look at a him, he’s a good boy.”  Someone shouts, “We miss you!” and Dave responds, “We miss you very much, especially you, sir, with the loud voice.”

As they’ve noted, the break here is because they’re playing the album as if it were two sides.  So do what ever you do between the two sides of records.  “urinate? I guess? or make a sandwich?” Kevin chimes in: “wash some dishes.”  “Look around outside make sure no one is stealing your stuff or inside in case you’re living with a dodgy housemate.”

Later, Dave sends a Hi “to the mother’s lounge up there.”  Tim’s mom and Dave’s mom are there.  Dave quips, “they’re in the mother’s lounge getting hammered.”

Each night there was a new piece of information added to the history oft he Go7 album. This night’s was a thank you to “Winchell Price, an artist friend of Don Kerr’s who did all of the spoken sections on the album.  (It was Don’s decision to add him to the record).  Price was vegan in 1919 totally ahead of the curve.  They are happy to raise the spirit and the ghost of the Go7–and their rebellious form of art when rebelliousness was discouraged in Canadian culture.

Before one of the songs Dave dedicates the night to his kids: “Lorenzo and Cecilia you weren’t here 20 years ago but you’re here now and life is beautiful because of it.”

The encores tonight were many: “Bad Time To Be Poor,” “Green Sprouts Theme,” “Stolen Car,” “Legal Age Life At Variety Store,” “Christopher,” “Claire” and “Horses.”

After a great version of “Bad Time to be Poor,” with cello and acoustic guitar, Dave introduces “The Professor Tim Vesely… now that Neil Peart has retired, Tim can become The Professor.”  Tim retorts, “I prefer the Mad Chap from Mississauga.” Dave: “That’s Don.  You’re from Etobicoke.”  Then they tell us, “Don was the mad chap on tour for… one hour.  Back in his neck beard days.  “I can’t believe we’re about to discuss the neck beard days–an underappreciated era.”

Dave notices someone whistling the Green Sprouts Theme Song, so the band plays it. And then they launch into a great version of “Stolen Car.”  “Legal Age Life,” is a lot of fun, of course, with everyone getting a solo.  And then after the disastrous “Christopher” the previous night, they played a near perfect “Christopher.”

Martin thanks everyone and says it “really meant a lot to us and to me, thanks a lot.” While Dave is thanking everyone involved with the shows, Kevin plays some nice “Oscar wrap up trills.”

Tim rather sheepishly tells everyone they’re going to play “Claire.”  Dave comments, “Tim is warning you that we’re going to do Claire–come on back in everyone.”  It’s a really great version, and I love that just before the solo, Dave says, “Martin, paint us a picture.”

And then they wrap up the night and the whole series with a blistering version of “Horses.”  During the middle section, Dave goes on a major rant about the upcoming election:

We must be free…. Imagine the beauty of October 20  Imagine a country where scientists keep their jobs for believing in science.  Imagine a country where the great first nations of our country don’t have to look over their shoulder at the prison cell behind them.  Imagine a country where the cops take orders from us not from some security company put in power by Stephen Harper, the most evil man in the history of Canada

And the crowd loves it.

But even more fun is that later that they’ll be at the Monarch Tavern.  If I had gone to this show instead of Saturday night’s, I totally would have gone to the Monarch which sounds like it was a blast and half.  The write up from the Rheostatics Live site notes:

After an amazing show Saturday night with some special moments at the end that most would never know occurred, [I wonder if the statute of limitations has run out so we can finally find out what happened that night?] the rheos came out tonight and played the best night of the 4 day GO7 run. GO7 was followed by Bad Time To Be Poor with Hugh Marsh on violin and Don on Cello, and impromptu version of Green Sprouts. Stolen Car, Legal Age Life, a redemptive Christopher and then a 2nd encore of Claire and Horses closed the 4 night run of rheos magic time machine glory at the AGO.

After that, around 12:30AM the band reconvened at The Monarch Tavern to play what was without a doubt the ending true fans were hoping for: a sloppy, magnificent set of hot bar room rheos songs that if it had to be the end was exactly the way they should go out. Song of Flight led into The Ballad Of Wendel Clark Part 2 and Bridge Came Tumbling Down. After sorting out the monitor kinks they went into Soul Glue…. Kevin Hearn took them through I’m Waiting For My Man, Ring Of Fire, Monkeybird, and Lou Reed’s Down at the Arcade…. Northern Wish was absolutely slayed by Terra Lightfoot, and then Mike O’Brien did the same with We Went West. Selina Martin killed Dope Fiends and Mary Margaret O’Hara singing RDA….

Of course, I was long asleep by then. But I hope they keep doing little shows like this and one day I’ll get back up to Toronto to see one.

01. One (Kevin’s Waltz)   1:54
02. Two (Earth (Almost))   7:50
03. Three (Boxcar Song (Weiners and Beans))   7:16
04. Four (Landscape And Sky)   0:48
05. Five (Blue Hysteria)   3:40
06. Six (Cello For A Winter’s Day)   8:09
07. Chat   6:20
08. Seven (Northern Wish)   5:17
09. Eight (Snow)   4:10
10. Nine (Biplanes and Bombs)   5:38
11. Ten (Lightning)   8:20
12. Eleven (Yellow Days Under A Lemon Sun)   6:10
13. Bad Time To Be Poor   3:48
14. Chat and Thanks   1:46
15. Green Sprouts Theme   0:52
16. Stolen Car   6:01
17. Legal Age Life At Variety Store   5:13
18. Christopher   6:50
19. Claire   5:38
20. Horses   10:05

[READ: August 19, 2016] “Three Tshakapesh Dreams”

After the lighthearted love and lust theme of the summer issue of The Walrus, it was time for a story about drugs and death!  This one is set in Quebec and was translated from the French by Donald Winkler.

A boy, Simon, was found in the Frontenac Library with a needle sticking out of his arm.  Brisebois was the policeman who notified people of the death.  And he notified The Indian who was an undercover cop.  But the Indian said to Breisbois, “Simon may have had his faults but he knew how to shoot up.”

He made Breisbois check the stash.  It turned out to contain coke an almost pure heroin. (more…)

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julyaugSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS (Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, ON, September 5, 2015).

06Sep2015Almost exactly one year ago, my family traveled to Toronto as a mini-vacation.  The impetus was my scoring tickets to see the Rheostatics live for the first for me (and potentially–but not in reality–last) time.

They had called it quits 8 years earlier and were reuniting for the 20th Anniversary of their Group of 7 album–a soundtrack of sorts that was created to celebrate the works of the great Group of 7 artists.  They were scheduled to perform three nights at the Art Gallery of Toronto.

I purchased tickets to the second night assuming that the first night they might be a little rusty and the final night they might be burnt out.  Well, it turns out, that was completely faulty logic.  The first night was pretty great.  The final night was outstanding and my night proved to be the weakest of the three.  Of course, it was still awesome, especially since I didn’t know that it was the weakest at the time).

In terms of recordings, this one is a little less clear than yesterday’s show as well (it was recorded from the upper section of the hall).

The Go7 part of the show was pretty stellar.  You can read my review of the full show here).  During the break after track Six, Dave began talking to us, mostly thanking people and then commenting “we’re totally feeling the love.”  Dave says his dad’s here tonight and he lent us his car for their 1988 tour. (Sorry, dad).

When the Go7 album was over, the band played some bonus tracks.  Last night they played “Claire” and “Horses,” two songs I would have loved to hear.  So when Tim walked up to the mic, I was sure we’d get Claire, but instead, we got “Henry’s Musical Beard,” a one minute song of total what the…?  I can’t imagine when it was ever played before.  But even though i didn’t get the songs I really wanted, I did get some songs that were still awesome: “Bad Time To Be Poor,” “Stolen Car” (amazing!), “Legal Age Life” (much fun), “Christopher” (another favorite), and “Saskatchewan.”

“Bad Time” sounded great–a lovely Tim sung song.  Before “Stolen Car,” Dave described it as a desperation song, there are bad things going on in our country we have chance to change that on Oct 19.  (Hard to believe that our election process was underway at that time as well).  Martin seemed to miss a bit during the song, but was backed up wonderfully by Hugh Marsh on violin.

“Legal Age Life” was a lot of fun.  Before the song began he shouted, “Fuck art, let’s dance.” And dance we did.

Our version of “Christopher” was pretty catastrophic.  Before playing it, Dave introduced it by saying, “Let’s hear it for Saskatchewan.”  But they played “Christopher.”  It has a very cool slow opening, but Martin got really lost during the song.  He repeated lines, forgot words and about half way through, he just ended the song (two minutes shorter than the other ones).  I remember being concerned for him, because he seemed really upset about the performance.

They ended the show with “Saskatchewan” a great song that I love (and we were the only night to get it, so yes, we were lucky indeed).  As I say, at the time, I was so excited to be there and to hear everything.  It is definitely sour grapes to complain about the other nights, and I should just consider myself lucky that I can still hear them.

But between Martin’s stress and Dave’s surprising lack of banter (and, no “Claire” or “Horses”), Saturday was definitely the weakest night of the three.

Amazingly, though, with the various differences, the length of the concert is almost exactly the same length as the first night).

01. One (Kevin’s Waltz)   2:40
02. Two (Earth (Almost))   7:42
03. Three (Boxcar Song (Weiners and Beans))   7:00
04. Four (Landscape And Sky)   0:46
05. Five (Blue Hysteria)   3:55
06. Six (Cello For A Winter’s Day)   8:03
07. Banter   4:05
08. Seven (Northern Wish)   5:09
09. Eight (Snow)   2:05
10. Nine (Biplanes and Bombs)   7:00
11. Ten (Lightning)   8:01
12. Eleven (Yellow Days Under A Lemon Sun)   7:53
13. Henry’s Musical Beard   0:57
14. Bad Time To Be Poor   5:31
15. Stolen Car   8:54
16. Legal Age Life   7:05
17. Christopher   4:27
18. Saskatchewan   7:36

[READ: August 19, 2016] “The Shoe Emporium”

The July/August Summer Reading Issue of The Walrus has a theme of “Love and Lust.”  The theme promised to be a bit more upbeat than the darker stories in the last few issues.  Of course the other two stories this month were a little dark, but this one was pretty much just very funny.

It involves a delightfully convoluted romantic triangle of people working at The Shoe Emporium.  And I loved the way the story was structured.

We begin with Steve, a 40-something year old guy working as a shoe salesman (he has a past).  He is helping a customer and she is kind of smitten with him.  Steve is hunky, and has the best features of his Irish-Canadian heritage showing.

And then the story shifts to his boss, Cathy.  Cathy is 20 years younger than him–although she makes less money.  We lean about Cathy because of a high-tech device that measures the heat of people’s feet (to best get their feet to match a shoe).  Cathy had pressed it to her heart to demonstrate.  She was showing this to the other salesman, Marty.  But Steve saw it as well and thought that he could see an imprint of her nipple in the pad.

When Steve saw that, he was instantly turned on.  Mostly because he typically didn’t think much of Cathy before that.  She’s usually angry–justifiably as she is working two jobs and going to school.  But mostly, she really wants to win the top salesman prize–a  trip to Toronto and tickets to the musical Kinky Boots.

Even though he knows she wants to win, Steve is trying his best to beat her even though he doesn’t care about Toronto or the musical.

The two are pretty close in sales and he is doing a great job today.  Across the store, Cathy has a family with a crying child–never a good sign for mega sales.  Especially since the daughter wants an expensive shoe which the mother doesn’t want to buy.

But what of Marty?  Marty also has a fascinating back story.  Until recently, he lived with his grandmother.  She recently passed away (in a shocking fashion).  She was also a marine biologist and there is some amusing talk of sea cucumbers.  His grief was intense and he went to a gay party (he is 100% gay) and took a lot of drugs.  He’s been in a haze since.  And he has recently hooked up with Cathy.  But it had to have been the grief or drugs because Marty is definitely 100% gay (he thinks Steve is pretty hot too).

Cathy knows Marty is gay, but she believes the hookup has changed things–it was pretty great.

As the story comes to a close we get a close up look at that hook up which is steamy and funny, and we see Steve double down on trying to sell an expensive pair of Saucony to a customer who clearly can’t afford them.

I’d love to see more of this story–I really want more of these three.  This has been my favorite Walrus story in a long time.

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julyaugSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS (Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, ON, September 4, 2015).

06Sep2015Almost exactly one year ago, my family traveled to Toronto as a mini-vacation.  The impetus was my scoring tickets to see The Rheostatics live for the first for me (and potentially–but not in reality–last) time.

They had called it quits 8 years earlier and were reuniting for the 20th Anniversary of their Group of 7 album–a soundtrack of sorts that was created to celebrate the works of the great Group of 7 artists.  They were scheduled to perform three nights at the Art Gallery of Toronto.

I purchased tickets to the second night assuming that the first night they might be a little rusty and the final night they might be burnt out.

Well, it turns out that the first night was really strong.  There are two recordings of the show on the Rheostatics Live site.  Obviously the content is the same, but the sound is different in each one.  (The Eric Mac Innis recording is quite muffled and bass heavy so you can’t really hear any of the spoken stuff).

The main content of the show-the music from the Group of 7 album is pretty consistent through all three nights.  It’s mostly the length that varies on a couple of tracks and some little details that change from night to night.  On this night for instance the opening speech that in which the man says “every Canadian” does not repeat like it does on the other nights.  It also seems like “Six (Cello for a Winter’s Day)” doesn’t get quite as crazy and loud before the “jazzy” section comes in.

Before they get to “Northern Wish,” Dave introduces “Northern Wish,” by talking about how he wrote it: “The amazing thing about Canada is that every time you leave the door an incredible impossible journey is waiting for you not far from your house.”

They didn’t play “Ten (Lightning)” the first night, so it’s fun to hear all of the audience whoops and wolf howls during the set.

Dave Bidini is in great banter mode, which is no surprise really.

He first starts talking after track six.  “Nice to see you again, you’ve all age well.”  After welcoming everyone he jokes “Really tonight’s about hooking up.  Last night as a bit of a meat market.”  This causes Martin to ask, incredulously, “you’re kidding.”

Upon introducing the record properly he says that this was “music commissioned 20 years ago–remember 1995?”  Someone shouts “Don’t forget the vinyl, Dave.”  So he jokes, “We’ve only been inactive for 8 years and in that time vinyl has made a resurgence.”

They only performed this album “four times over the course of their speckled career.”  Interesting that they will do it three more over the next three nights.

So that leaves the bonus tracks.  The first night they played four: “Claire,” “Easy To Be With You,” “Christopher” and “Horses.”

Before starting “Claire” there’s a little down time so Dave introduces Kevin Hearn and asks him what his favorite snack is.  Kevin: “Have you heard of ants on a log?”  Dave says his is a Cadbury Crunchy bar which “lasts a half hour if you nurse it.” MT: “What kind of chocolate bar eater are you?”  Then Dave asks, “Shall we go around the horn?” to much laughter.  He speculates, “Tim’s gonna say …”  But Tim says “home-grown carrots” which elicits an “ewww.”  Dave says, Tim you’ve changed so.”

As they start “Claire,” Martin introduces Hugh Marsh on the violin.  He says that at the first concert he ever went to Hugh was playing with Bruce Cockburn and now they are very very very close friends.”  He then mentions their other band, Nick Buzz (which Hugh plays in) and he says Nick Buzz “only played four gigs on our career.”  “Claire” is played wonderfully.  They talk about it being kind of obvious (“interesting because it’s totally obvious”) that they’d play it.  But “Easy to Be with You” a track from Harmelodia is a pretty surprising choice–a popular song sure, but certainly not a huge one.  Before the song, he sings Happy Birthday to him mom: “Happy birthday to Sheila / Happy birthday to my mom / She’s 75 years old  / and she’s standing right there.”  In the middle of the song Bidini comments that Stephen Harper is not the Prime Minster of Harmelodia (indeed, he is not).

Dave asks is anyone under the age of 7 is there.  Kevin says: “My dad’s here.”  Dave asks, “Is he a leap year baby?”  Then Kevin explains that it is his dad who is reading the “Tall White Pine” poem.  Then they ask Don if he has any family there.  Don says “All of them.” Dave says “Don’s four families are here.”

The Jeff Robson recording has some weird digital feedback and static.  It’s mostly during the chatting parts, but it does impact the songs a little.  There’s some static on “Christopher,” but otherwise it sounds pretty good.

Before “Horses”someone asks “who should we vote for?” Dave says “Never listen to a pop star when it comes to politics.  Tomorrow will be political night.”

And “Horses” is a dynamite version, notable mostly for the fact that Bidini doesn’t do a spoken word section in the middle of the song (keeping it unpolitical).

01. One (Kevin’s Waltz)   1:47
02. Two (Earth (Almost))   7:33
03. Three (Boxcar Song (Weiners and Beans))   6:16
04. Four (Landscape And Sky)   0:42
05. Five (Blue Hysteria)   4:33
06. Six (Cello For A Winter’s Day)   6:01
07. Chat   5:40
08. Seven (Northern Wish)   5:35
09. Eight (Snow)   1:18
10. Nine (Biplanes and Bombs)   6:13
11. Ten (Lightning)   6:30
12. Eleven (Yellow Days Under A Lemon Sun)   4:50
13. Clarie Intro   1:21
14. Claire   4:47
15. Chat   2:56
16. Easy To Be With You   3:32
17. Chat   3:19
18. Christopher   6:08
19. Horses   8:07

[READ: August 19, 2016] “Never Too Late”

The July/August Summer Reading Issue of The Walrus has a theme of “Love and Lust.”  The theme promised to be a bit more upbeat than the darker stories in the last few issues.

Bev is a man who is long divorced.  He couldn’t provide his wife with children so she left him.  He doesn’t seem very bitter about it and is even still friendly with her as well as her new husband and their children.

Bev owns a farm–he has some horses and cows.  On a cold morning in April, a strange dog appears on his property.  It’s a friendly dog but he wants to get it to its owner so he brings it into town and learns that it belongs to Janice and  “She loses her [dog] at least once a week.”

He goes to Janice’s house and she is very happy that Bev found “Keller.”  He brings the dog upstairs to her place and is surprised to see that she is in an electric wheelchair.  He notices that she is too young to be in it due to age.  And, she’s also very attractive. (more…)

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