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Archive for the ‘Sloan’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: WHITEHORSE-Live at Massey Hall (December 8, 2017).

I saw Whitehorse open for Barenaked Ladies a few years ago and they blew me away.  I really want to see them again.

When I saw them it was just the two of them and the magic of their interplay was what really impressed me the most.  For this special Massey Hall show, they have a full band.  But as Melissa McClelland explains:

This is the first time playing the Massey stage with a full band.  We wanted to … finally invite some friends on stage with us and play music.

Those friends include John Obereian on drums, Ryan Gavel on bass, guitar and backing vocals and on keys and bongos and guitar, the second best singer in this band Gregory MacDonald.  He replies, “Thanks to the second best guitar player in the band.”  I have seen MacDonald on tour with Sloan a bunch of times and he is awesome.

As to why they are a duo, she says

we knew that Whitehorse was always going to be just the two of us and that everyone would know that we are equal partners in the band.  But we didn’t want it to be a folk duo so we started brainstorming and bought looping pedals and a kick drum and a stomp box and we  found new arrangements and once we got it we were like Yeah!

The show opens with hand clapping from the band and the audience and then Melissa’s slinky bass intro to “Baby Whats Wrong.  Then comes Luke Doucet’s echoing Western guitar. Their voices are wonderful together and I love when Doucet sings in that weird telephone microphone.  He also plays a ripping guitar solo.

Luke introduces “Tame as the Wild Ones” by saying they needed to write a sexy song so “Melissa kicked me out and said she’d do it alone.  I go to the bar to get drunk and when I come home, she plays me this song.  And nine months later our son Jimmy was born.”  I love the way the bridge (or is it a chorus) builds and settles–that melody is just gorgeous.

“Pink Kimono” has a simple rocking riff and the two singers singing at the same time.   Doucet’s soloing is on fire in this song.

“Die Alone” is a showstopper.  A slow moody piece in which Melissa sings over a wash of synths.  The music so much build as just unfold as first Luke sings with her and then the band kicks in.  Wow can Melissa belt out a song.

“Downtown” is a celebration of how you can put hundreds of thousands of people in a city and for the most part everyone gets along.  It s got a great throbbing bass and some cool guitar scratching and riffs from Doucet.  It’s a bummer that they interrupt the awesome middle solo section with an interview, even if it is quite interesting.

After Melissa lays out how they wanted the band to sound, Luke says that when people ask him about what it’s like to do Whitehorse, he says

we were solo artists first but we had been involved with each others albums as singer or producer  or touring musician.

So in order to be successful

you have to hang out together for five or six years and play in each others bands and make eight albums together and then you have to go on tour as freelance/hired gun musicians working for Blue Rodeo or Sarah McLachlan and then you have to live together for five or six years and listen to music together and fight and then you have to get married and once you’ve done all these things and listened to 10,000 hours of music and dissected Tom Waits entire catalog and argued about which is the best Beatles record and had fights on stage about who is speeding up or slowing down and once you’ve done all those things together then start a band.

It certainly worked for them.  The only bad thing about this show is that it’s only 30 minutes.

[READ: January 24, 2019] Hits & Misses

It has been a while since Simon Rich published a collection of his stories.  This one was pretty enjoyable.  Overall, not as much fun as some of his previous collections, but still a lot to laugh at.  Rich tends to write what he knows, which is often a very good sign.  However, sometimes what he knows is limited to writing and filming, which tends to miss the everyman silliness of his earlier pieces.

Having said that there are still some hilarious pieces that anyone can enjoy and some pieces about writers that are very funny.

A few of these pieces appeared in the New Yorker, and I indicate as much, with a link to my longer review.

“The Baby.”  This was a highlight.  A sonogram reveals that their baby is holding a pen–he is going to be a writer!  But when word gets out that the baby is already getting a reputation AND representation, well, that baby’s writer father is pretty damned jealous.  Wonderful absurdity based on reality taken to its extremes. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: September 7, 2018] Sloan

Sarah and I went to see Sloan at Boot and Saddle back in May.  It was a fantastic show.  When they announced that they were swinging back around and playing White Eagle Hall, a favorite new venue in Jersey City, I knew I had to see them again.

There were a few strikes against this show for me.  It was the middle of three shows in a row (Judas Priest last night, First Aid Kit tomorrow night).  It started at 9 and I’d be missing out on some stuff at home.  I considered not going, but thought I’d be mad if I blew it off.

Well, I arrived on time and there was hardly anyone there (Boot and Saddle was packed).  Then they didn’t start for some 20 minutes.  People started to fill in at last and I was able to get a nice spot right front and center.

I probably should have realized that, since this was the same tour that they were on (promoting their latest fantastic album 12), that the setlist would be largely the same.  But the setlist was so different on the previous tour, and they made it seem like the Boot & Saddle show has some unique elements, that I was surprised that the first set was identical to the Boot & Saddle show.

I guess the surprise was that this was the second leg of the tour.  They had taken a little break and were resuming.  Our night was the first night of the new leg, so I thought maybe it would be extra special.  Maybe having a poor turnout doesn’t make you want to do anything special–although the band played great and seemed in very good form.

Not terrible, since the songs are great.  But a little disappointing to be sure. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SLOAN-Live at Massey Hall (September 11, 2015).

Having now seen Sloan twice, it’s nice to compare this earlier show with mine.  And I get  to say that my shows were longer!  Much longer.

This edited for the web version leaves out 11 songs (including the ones which drummer Andrew Scott sings on–so there’s no switching instruments).  Having said that, the band sounds great and the set list is really strong.  I also had no idea that Gregory MacDonald had been touring with them for that long.

Jay Ferguson compares Massey Hall to Carnegie Hall and then regrets comparing something Canadian to something American).  Chris Murphy says “I don’t often use the word “hallowed,” but it is a “hallowed hall.”

He continues, “We are quite loud, we wondered, Do we try to tailor our set for Massey Hall–more like a theater set of songs?  We didn’t do that essentially because we’re incapable:   everybody turn down and then its like a volume war everybody turning up until we’re as loud as ever.”

They start with a great Jay song “You’ve Got a Lot on Your Mind.”  The band sounds great although the dominance of keyboards from Greg is surprising as the first song.

Introducing “The Rest of My Life,” Chris says, “You don’t have to stand but… sing along please.  Of course everyone sings “I know that I’ll be living it in Canada.”  As the song rings out, Chris starts a clap which segues into Patrick singing “Ill Placed Trust.”

Chris says, “We never got giant but we enjoy an audience that has followed us for a long time.  Thank you.”

The start the great guitar riff on the dark “The Other Man.”  There’s lots of sing-alongs in this one, too.

Jay is back with the super catchy “Who Taught You to Live Like That.”  And as the song fades out the siren roars the intro for “Money City Manis.”  Chris notes, “You actually have to stand up for this one.  You have to.”

Patrick and Chris take turns on lead vocals and then during the instrumental break Chris calls a six-year-old girl up on stage who dances, plays the tambourine and knows all the words.  Patrick says, “like I’m gonna be able to solo over that–that’s the solo right there.”  Chris wonders, “When you look at this stage, where does your eye go?”  She is amazingly self-possessed.

They end with the obvious–but a wonderful obviousness with “Underwhelmed.”  They (and the audience) have a ripping time of it.

It’s interesting just how long the band played in reality.  But yes, even after all this time, Sloan is a dynamic live act.  And this is great proof of that.

  1. O Canada
  2. Deeper Than Beauty
  3. If It Feels Good Do It
  4. C’mon C’mon (We’re Gonna Get It Started)
  5. Carried Away
  6. Keep Swinging (Downtown)
  7. Snowsuit Sound
  8. Fading Into Obscurity
  9. Forty-Eight Portraits
  10. Unkind
  11. You’ve Got a Lot on Your Mind
  12. The Rest of My Life
  13. Ill Placed Trust
  14. The Other Man
  15. Who Taught You to Live Like That
  16. Money City Maniacs
  17. encore
  18. People of the Sky
  19. Underwhelmed

[READ: May 10, 2018] “Dinner Party”

This is an excerpt from a novel Kudos.  It being an excerpt does explain some of the sparseness, but it feels like such a unique event that I can’t imagine even who the main character is supposed to be involved with in previous and future pages.

A writer enters a restaurant.  She is at a writing conference and she and the other delegates are to be treated to dinner.  I love this line “The delegates were reluctant to [sit], knowing their fate would thus be settled for the duration of the meal.”

The narrator recognized a woman from an all-female panel discussion who recognized her and instantly came over to talk to her.  The woman introduced herself “with the pragmatic directness of someone who accepts rather than fears the likelihood of such things being forgotten.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ZEUS-Live at Massey Hall (September 11, 2015).

I had never heard of the Canadian band Zeus.  They seem pretty well-known (and have since become the backing band for Jason Collett when he’s not doing Broken Social Scene).

The band has been active for nearly a decade, but have only released a couple of albums (it is mentioned during the set that they are working on new material, but that was three years ago).

They talk about the amazing sound in Massey Hall.

Massey Hall is the furthest from a giant gnarly arena you can get.  We’ve played places with similar capacity and similar sound but there is something different here.  It sound really good and clean.  Maybe I would be intimidated if I played on this stage but you remember that not just anybody gets to pay here–you get asked to play here. This takes some of the onus off of being intimidated–you feel important in here.

Carlin says, “You never wanna say you had a shitty show at Massey Hall.  But you can hear yourself really well here, maybe that’s why they are all so good.  There’s always legendary shows there.

Everyone in the band switches instruments throughout.  It’s hard to keep track of what everyone is doing.  The only one who doesn’t move is Mr Robert Anthony Drake on the drums.

“Come Home” starts with a Carlin Nicholson on bass and Mike O’Brien on the electric guitar.  They share a microphone and the harmonies.  Neil Quinn is on acoustic guitar off to the side. adding a third voice.  It’s a surprisingly short song.

“Where is My Love” has Neil, still on acoustic, singing lead with his deep voice and an occasional falsetto on certain notes.  This song is quiet for the beginning with just the acoustic guitar and keys before the rest of the band kicks in.  The song shifts gear and musically sounds like a slower Sloan song (whom they were paired with that night) but the vocals are quite different.  Mike has shifted to keys with Carlin still on bass.  Jason Haberman is also playing multiple instruments–he’s on guitar for this one.

“Miss My Friends” has a kind of funky, almost disco rhythm.  Carlin has switched to keyboards and Mike O’Brien is on bass where he sings lead vocals.  Neil Quinn plays electric guitar and c Habermans has switched to electronic percussion.

Carlin introduces the next song, “This goes back to the very first Zeus record, “I Know.”  It’s got Carlin on keys and lead vocals. Neil on bass, Mike on guitar and Haberman on acoustic guitar.  Carlin invited people to sing is they know it but I can’t hear of anyone does.

Neil shifts to a pretty melody on the keys with a gorgeous intertwining melody from Mike.  It’s a great opening to “Heavy on Me.”  There’s cool 70’s sounding keyboards and a great bass rumble.  There’s a lot of quieter moments where the bass is all there is and the riff is cool and slinky.  The song ends with great jamming session with a noisy rocking guitar solo and heavy drums.

After the applause, Neil says, “Thank you.  This is just what this band needs right now–a house fill of love like this.”

“Air I Walk” has a shuffling beat with (questionable) electronic percussion hits.  Carlin back  bass with Neil on acoustic guitars and lead vocals.  It sound kind of mid 8os Dire Straits

“Throwdown” doesn’t sound like a throw down as it opens.  There’s quiet guitars and gentle vocals from Mike.  But it gets really big by the middle and sounds like a non-synthy 80s classic rock songs.

The show ends with “Are You Gonna Waste My Time.”  Just like the opening, Neil is on guitar and vocals, Mike plays a great lead guitar and Carlin is on bass.

I really enjoyed this set quite a lot.  Zeus is a little soft rock for my tastes, but their musicianship and songwriting is top notch.

[READ: May 21, 2018] “Seven Years of Identity Theft”

Rick Moody had his identity stolen.  We all hear about this happening, but he really shows you how much of a real pain in the ass it is.  It’s not just a matter of getting new credit cards.

This essay is written as a series of letters.

The first letter is to the Most Honorable President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari.  He writes of leaving his bank card in an ATM in Macon, Georgia and that’s when he assumes it all started–the theft of his identity–back in 2011.

A week later his replacement card was rejected and ultimately deactivated due to fraudulent transactions. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: May 9, 2018] Sloan

I have been a fan of Sloan for years.  I had never seen them live until about a year and a half ago.  And it was an excellent show.

So how great was it that they were coming back so soon and with a brand new (and fantastic) album called 12.

This time Sarah said she wanted to come with me, which was super fun. She had never been to Boot & Saddle before and she loved it as much as I do.

There was some construction on the highway so we wound up arriving just a few minutes before the band went on, but it was enough time to get a secure spot not too far back.

At the previous show, I was in front of Jay Ferguson (guitar, vocals and sometimes bass).  This time we were in front of Patrick Pentland (Guitars and vocals).  As last time, Chris Murphy (bass, vocals and drums) was front and center and Andrew Scott was on drums in the back and vocals and guitar (in the front).

The last show was a 20th anniversary of One Chord to Another, but this show was all about the new album (they played 10 of 12 songs) with 26 songs in total spread across two sets. (more…)

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62SOUNDTRACK: THE JAYHAWKS-Tiny Desk Concert #556 (August 8, 2016).

jayhawksWhen The Jayhawks first had a hit back in 1992 (“Waiting for the Sun”), I actively disliked it.  I’m not sure why but at the time something about it really rubbed me wrong.  Now, I happen to really like the song. But more interestingly, I think that their newest album, especially “Quiet Corners & Empty Spaces” is fantastic.  It’s one of my favorite songs of 2016.

The verses are simple and catchy, the chorus is mesmerizingly fun to sing.  And the way the band fills in around Gary Louris’ voice is just perfect (and those harmonies, wow).  The version here is perfect–feeling a little more  “live” than it does on record (as it should)

“Lovers of the Sun” mixes the verses of an unwritten Sloan song with a 1960s folk California chorus.  The e-bow (which they’re worried didn’t get picked up) sounds cool and eerie at the same time.

“Leaving the Monsters Behind” has a bouncy bassline that propels this song and everyone sings delightful harmonies.  There’s close harmonies with Louris and higher ones from the drummer.  The middle section (ostensibly the solo) is really interesting for the way it shifts dramatically and the bass plays something very different from the bouncy main part.  The parts work very well together.

“Comeback Kids” opens with a high riff on the guitar and a slow bass keeping the pace.  I love that keyboardist Karen Grotberg switches back and forth between piano and this little synth pad thing that plays cool theremin-like sounds.  The riff that leads to chorus is really dramatic as well.  The ending, in which everyone sings some “oohs” and the riffs build and build, is right on.

I’m delighted at how much I’ve changed my mind about The Jayhawks.  And it only took 24 years (and many many breakups, re-formations and personnel changes) for me to change my mind.

[READ: February 26, 2016] “A Night at the Opera”

I found this story to be rather unsatisfying.  And it may have just been that when I printed it out, the first section was on one page and the second section–the start of page two–seemed so different that I wondered if I had somehow printed the wrong second page.

The story opens with the narrator reflecting on watching the Marx Brothers movie A Night at the Opera and how they laughed and laughed.

Then the second part jumps to a hospital known as Park House.  It is a place for people who need assistance all the time.  There are varying degrees of mental deficiencies in the hospital: the violent, the uncontrollably deluded, those who had murdered or who would murder, and the speechless. (more…)

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sloan[ATTENDED: October 15, 2016] Sloan

Back in the early 1990s, I heard Sloan’s “Underwhelmed,” and I loved it.  Such a great song that is still rocking and clever over 20 years later.  Sloan has a tumultuous few years after that, appearing to break up but not, getting signed and then dropped and then settling down and putting out some amazing music over the next 20 or so years which few people outside of Canada heard.

They have released eleven albums and I think that each one gets better and better.  Sloan is touring the 20th Anniversary of One Chord to Another.  There are some great songs on it, although it’s wasn’t my favorite album.  But the point is I have never seen Sloan.  In all the years I’ve been a fan, we’ve never been in the same place at the same time.  So even though I had been to a show the night before and this would make six concerts in twelve days (!), I bought tickets to see one of my favorite underground bands.

Since I knew they were playing all of OCTA, I listened to it a lot before hand and now, after seeing it live, I do like it even more than before. (But seriously if they do a 20th anniversary tour of Between the Bridges in three years…. you couldn’t keep me from that stage).

I’d never been to Underground Arts before.  It is indeed underground.  And it is indeed quite small (about 500 people max).

I arrived pretty early (start time was supposed to be 9:15, but they didn’t go on until 9:30–divas!).  But that meant that I was able to score a spot right behind the guy leaning on the stage.  As they say in Fast Times at Ridgemont High: so close I could scare the band. (more…)

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