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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto, ON (December 9, 2017).

Final of three shows for the Horseshoe Tavern’s 70th anniversary celebrations. Kindly recorded and provided by Mark Sloggett and Matt Kositsky. Kevin was playing Massey Hall with Barenaked Ladies but showed up for the encore and played Accordion.  Ensign Broderick opened.

The show opens with a beautiful two shot of Martin-sung songs.  A lovely Stolen Car which starts out quietly and beautifully is followed by a soaring “Northern Wish” which starts and ends quietly but had a nice fast loud section in the middle.

After Clark starts inexplicably singing “Gary Indiana, Gary Indiana,” the band plays a quiet intro to “Michael Jackson.”  There’s some great crazy sounds, I assume from Hugh Marsh, that add an interesting texture to the verses.  The band really fills out the middle with some great soloing from Martin and Hugh and the vocals from Martin and Tim are great too.  The end totally rocks. It’s an awesome version.

It segues into “AC/DC on My Stereo” which is a little sloppy but more fun than other versions.  After a few technical difficulties, there’s two in a row from Tim.  First the mellow “Music is the Message” with great violin from Hugh and then a terrific “Claire.”  DB intros it by asking “How many people have read the novel Whale Music?  Oh not nearly enough, that’s a Christmas order.  Go to your beautiful local library and read it and we’ll talk in like four months.  Deal?”  The sound on this version is crisp and everyone’s instruments sound so clear.

DB: We’ll play longer than usual since its Saturday and no one has to do anything tomorrow.  If you do just give me the number of your boss and Martin will call your boss and pretend he’s you.  Martin: I’ll be up first thing in the morning.  Not hungover.  The Clark and Martin have a pretty darn funny pretend conversation in which Martin quits the company.

This is no a segue into a wonderful “Christopher” that has a terrific Martin and Hugh duo–they try to match each other in sound and scope and it’s just amazing–I would have loved to see that.

Then DB is coming out front to sing “Mountains and the Sea.”  Clark: he’s not Neil Sedaka, he’s not Neil Diamond, uh oh.  Tim: Dave’s fundraising again.  DB: Tim, I put the fun in fundraising.  DB: Anybody got a stool?  Martin: Ah extra casual.  Dave, make sure you’re not flying low.  It’s a lovely quiet version of the song with a fun and funny solo by Hugh.

Clark starts chanting 6-11-11-18.  DB: we’re doing new songs that require counting.  We’re playing them for you tonight because you are elastic and rubbery and forgiving:  Possible names 6-11-11-18 (Tim: that’s way better than 2067), could be called Swipe Right.  Then Martin demonstrates the noise and nonsense that they will be doing for 90 minutes (feedback and slide whistle).

Martin: I’m a temperamental artist.
Clark: I thought you said tempura artist, you work wish sushi.
Martin: I play tantrum rock.
Clark: You’re like Sting, you can go all night long.
Martin: Except mine is just unpleasantness and anger.

This is a set up to Martin’s complicated “Albatross.”  It sounds great and very dramatic.  This is followed by a beautiful acoustic rendition of “Bad Time to Be Poor.”  It winds up being just Tim and Hugh and it’s very pretty.

DB: You’re much more composed than last night’s crowd.  Martin: who were a bunch of louts.  DB: Lout-ish.  Well, one guy was a lout.  And congratulations to the Toronto Football Club for winning the MLS football cup.

Up next is “Supercollider,” with an unusually long and trippy opening from Hugh.  Clark says: “I’d like to dedicate this to my oldest friend on the planet Karen Lindhart and my sister, who are here tonight.  We listened to a lot of music together when we were kids.  Take us into space, Hugh.  A wondrous soaring violin solo ensues before the cool song begins.

DB: Okay, now we’re entering “shank” portion of the concert.  This one features Tim Vesely on … air.  This is an obvious dance party starter, but what the fuck.  Dave starts chanting post-Ptolemaic and when he asks Tim if he;s like to say anything about the Ptolemaic universe, Tim says he wasn’t paying attention.  It’s a wild and somewhat shambolic version of “Legal Age Life.”  But things settle down nicely for Tim’s “Soul Glue: which has some lovely violin as an intro.

They start out a beautiful “California Dreamline” and when it gets to “questionable things like” just before the song takes off, something happens (not sure what) and it crashes to a halt.  Tim says, “that was so fucking close.  I thought the intro was pretty awesome.”  They try to pick it up from where they left off, but it fails.  Martin: Okay lets drop this song, we’ve only played it 14,000 times.  Clark: let’s do a quick palette cleanser.  Which turns out to be a bouncy “Alomar.”  Mid song Martin says “your call will be answered shortly.”  They jump back into “California” and after a few false starts, they play it through with no more hiccups (although a lot of sloppy guitars).  When they get to “All the naked ladies,” Tim interjects, “they’re at Massey Hall tonight.”

DB: This is the birthday of the Horseshoe–70 years ago today.  We (Me, Tim, Dave, and James Gray [of Blue Rodeo]) first played here Halloween in 1982 (or 1983) opening for The Government.  I don’t even know how many years that is.  Audience: “35” DB: “Wow. Thanks… math nerd.”

That kindly story segues into a harsh and rocking version of “Feed Yourself.”  The middle instrumental section where Dave B gets really intense screaming and repeating lyrics is fleshed out even further by some great work from Hugh Marsh.  It’s probably the most intense version of the song I’ve heard.  I wish Martin’s guitar was a little quieter in the mix.  And I wish more than ever that I’d managed to get to see this show.

DB: We have one more song.  Then we’ll go back stage and we’ll have an internal review and you can have an external review.  If you deem it worthy of continuation, perhaps you’ll show some sign of support.  Tim: However if you disapproved of tonight’s show please remain silent.  It would confuse us other otherwise.

Then Tim looks in the audience and asks, “Is that a bumble T-shirt?  Sorry I thought you were promoting your dating website.”

They begin “Shaved Head” and Clark says he wants to play brushes, dammit.  Which he does for the quiet opening.  It’s an amazing song and a great ending to the set.

For the encore, Clark says Kevin is going to come up and play accordion.  Then he sings an a capella (until Tim starts playing the drums) rendition of “My Mind Is On Fire” (“I wanna communicate with you about love… right now” are the whole of the lyrics).

Kevin starts the accordion for a sloppy wild “Who Stole the Kishka” which seems in the wrong key the whole time.  When it’s over: DB: They don’t write any good fucking kisha songs anymore.  Audience guy: “Taking Care of Business.”  DB: “We fucking just took care of business right there.” Audience guy: “There’s something about you guys I really hate.”  DB: “Know what I hate about our audience?  Too many Italians.”

Tim: “Alright, Dim the lights, chill the ham.  Turn the lights way down.  As in off.  Even the wiener roaster, turn that one off.”  And so starts a slow, brooding version of “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”  By the end, the song has gotten huge, including the by-now obligatory “I wish I was back home in Derry” shout outs.

[READ: November 28, 2018] Ambient Comics

I love working in a place where I can see German comics (especially if they are wordless like this one), which I can fully enjoy.

This collection by German artist Nadine Redlich is wonderful.  The introduction by Mahler talks about the urgent question in the study of sequential art: “What lies between the panels” and how this book makes it easy to answer the question.  He says that that which lies between the panels is already within the panels, which explains “why there is so little room in between.”

Each of the pages of this book hosts a six panel cartoon in which literally almost nothing happens. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto, ON (December 8, 2017).

Second of three shows for the Horseshoe Tavern’s 70th anniversary celebrations. Kindly recorded and provided by Mark Sloggett and Matt Kositsky.

The opening music is Echo and the Bunymen’s “Killing Moon” and Jonathan Richman’s “Ice Cream Man” until 1:20 when the guitar for “Stolen Car” starts playing.  It’s a quiet intro section and Martin sounds good.  At 6 minutes the overall sound increases dramatically for about 20 seconds. It’s a shame it doesn’t stay that loud because otherwise the show is too quiet.  An absolutely scorching solo between Martin and High Marsh.

A somewhat subdued and quiet version of “King of the Past,” Hugh adds some soaring violin at the end.

The usually kind of flat “AC/DC on My Stereo” is spruced up by Hugh’s violin.  But the mix is really unfortunate–the overly loud guitar masks the rest of the song.

Dave Bidini: That song was written by Dave Clarke on the drums (and my friend Brodie Lodge)  Clark: a shout out to Davide DiRenzo and our friends in Ensign Broderick–Ensign, Griffy (Gordie Wilson), Danny, Glenn Milichem on the drums.    (Glenn tried to steal martin for his band Vital Sines…it only proved he had great taste) but he got Gordie Wilson and it all worked out.

A solid fun version of “PIN” with a “Dirty Blvd” tag at the end.  It’s followed by a long (nearly 8 minute) jamming (Hugh get a pizzicato violin solo) version of Stompin’ Tom’s “Bridge Came Tumblin’ Down.”  DB: This song would have been played oh 37 years ago on this very stage.  Some songs just stick around longer.

They retell some stories about Vancouver (the song is about Vancouver)–diaper dancers and people stealing wallets.  Vancouver leads the nation in diaper dancers.  A good piece of advice is to take your wallet on stage.  But not in Vancouver!

DB: We’re not a rock band, we’re a public service.  In a plant a seed and watch it grow into a tree sort of way.  Information is our fruit.  Melody is our bark.  Stompin’ Tom is our hero.  Well, one of them.

Someone shouts, “Play [Stompin’ Tom’s] Snowmobile Song.”   DB says, not quite snowmobile weather.  Well, is there snow up north?  Little bit?  Then it’s not even Super Slider Snow Skates weather.  Oh Jesus    Here’s the commercial for the lawsuits waiting to happen.

“Here Come the Wolves” sounds different, but very cool.  I like this version. Clark shouts the verses and Martin sings a quiet verse.  After Clark introduces Bidini with an Italian accent the band launches into an impromptu Italian song.  Bidini says they haven’t done that song in 7000 years, although, ironically Hugh is more Italian than any of us.  Tim: Once you do that kind of thing you’re scarred for life.

Audience check-in moment.  DB: “The customer, the fan is always right…  The fanstomer.”

Clark asks Martin if they are going to do the end of the next song a certain way.  DB: gives away the ending?  Clark:  Asked his bibliophile lady (and her friends)—do you read the last page the book first?  They said yes and it blew his mind.  And then they’re happy to read the book.  Its like having an orgasm without foreplay… or not really actually.   DB: I’ve done that many times myself  MT: You know this sex thing that everyone is talking about…what happens at the end?  DC: You get a little plastic toy out of the bottom of the box. That’s why they call it Cracker Jack.  DB: And then you feel shame.  MT: The shame part I’m comfortable with.

DB to the fan: You realize that by shouting for the next song you’re further delaying the next song, just so you know.  These guys would never do that   they are seasoned fanstomers.  Then inevitably someone shouts “play some music” and that’s when the gig is fucking over.

A quiet and pretty “It” (in which Hugh plays some beautiful soaring sounds) is followed by a raucous “Michael Jackson.”  Instead of Michael Jackson, he sang Auston Matthews a Maple Leafs player.  Mid song they start chanting whoop whoop whoop while Martin plays “Sweet Child of Mine.”  DB: “It’s called having fun it’s what Axl says, it’s what Slash says, it’s what Jimmy Page says, it’s what Eddie Van Halen says, it’s what Kathleen Hannah says, it’s what Patti Smith she says, it’s what Michael Stipe he says, it’s what Gord Downie he said, it’s what Tom Connors he said, it’s about having fun.  It’s hard.  It’s really hard.”  The crowd woo woo woos and sings the “it feels good to be alive” ending.   It’s a cool moment.

I used to be that I’d Used to hear “You rock Dave” and it was for me, but now I’m sharing it with a stage with my best friend Dave Clark.  It’s nice. Not saying I’m comfortable with it I’m saying it’s nice.

Clark goes on about being warm and swaddled and like a child.
Someone shouts: You can never go back.
Clark: Oh yea you can be a child all your life if you got the right ideas.  Age is a matter of the mind–if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.

This leads to Tim’s pretty, acoustic “Rear View.”

Someone: “C’mon Martin sing one.”  DB: “Yeah Martin, what the fuck?”

Clark introduces the drum beat of the next song “pluh dee dut dut, pluh dee dut dut ding.”  When someone shouts something inaudible, Clark replies, “Apples and oranges pizza and Popsicles man.”  DB: ” I think you just came up with the name of our next record.”  This is a lead in to Northern Waltz.   Which DB says is a progressive waltz.  Clark: It’s the Ostenick 3/4.  Tim: Another potential album title.  Walter Ostenick, a cool guy who watched them soundcheck.  Tim Mech bought an accordion from him.    They start the song and martin gets choked up–Clark: It’s the ghost of Walter inhibiting you….devil come out!  He tries again and things go well in a beautiful version.

Martin plays a beautiful solo version of Tragically Hip’s “Bobcaygeon.“

During the pause there’s all kinds of weird shouted requests.  “Play some Skydiggers.”  “Play some Blue Rodeo.”  DB: “You’re kinda 0 for 2.  We don’t do those groups.”  Clark: “You realize that those guys are our friends.”

Play “Secret Heart” by Ron Sexsmith!  C’mon do it!”  DB: “You realize we’re not sitting in your car right now, eh.”  Clark: “Thelonious Monk says never engage with hecklers, so here we go.”

“Dope Fiends” sounds great and the band seems really into it with Martin shouting “Why didn’t they stay here? How come, Hugh, why?”  Clark gets a drum solo and it ends with a rollicking conclusion and soaring violins from Hugh.

“Self Serve” opens on a quiet guitar.  I almost didn’t recognize it, the way it was played.  It is very pretty.  The ending gets pretty harsh with Martin snarling “you ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” before a rocking ending with everyone singing “I will be kinglike!”

This encore break exhibits this new thing that I’ve heard people do at shows where they chant “one more song,” which drives me nuts because some bands like the Rheos will actually play half a dozen songs, and you are limiting them, so knock it off!

Audience: “I love you Dave Bidini.”  DB: “I love you too, stranger, strange man.  Are you that strange man that I love?”

Merch plug: Give us your money and we will convert it into rock n roll magic.  You can take the things with you and replay the nights tonight for eternity—ish.  Plug for West End Phoenix.

This leads to a quiet acoustic version of “My First Rock Concert.”  DB: “Dave Clark tell us about your first rock concert.  Dave sings “Don’t Worry, Baby,” about The Beach Boys in 1973 The Surf’s Up tour.  He was 8 years old.  Wicked show!  Ricky Fataar on drums (he also played with the Rutles!).  Martin: My first concert was in 1981.  I went to Convocation Hall and I saw Bruce Cockburn with Murray McLaughlin and in the band was Hugh Marsh.   Tim: That doesn’t sound very rock to me.  In his diary Martin wrote, “This audience is very intelligent,” I thought rock shows would be full of assholes… like tonight. That was my first rock concert.  First and last.  After the song: Was that guy the same Hugh Marsh? Yes and John Goldsmith.

DB: I’m having a shitty lapel weekend.  Martin: Another one?  No, you’re just fixated.  It’s puffy, but it’s not that bad.  Any tailors in the audience?  Dave needs an emergency.

“I am Headless” sounds great.  I love the way Tim and Martin’s vocals interplay with Hugh’s violin.

We’re in Hamilton at This Ain’t Hollywood.  It’s sold out.  There’s still a few tickets for tomorrow night.  Good luck to TFC tomorrow.  Tim: Don’t tell the Thursday night people about tonight’s show because it wasn’t quite as good last night.

Martin starts a chuuga metal riff and Clark says, “What have you got for us, Tony Iommi?”  DB: here’s a song about hockey and also about being gay and living in a small town.  Tom Cochrane do not write it.  It’s a solid “Queer.”  For the second verse, Tim sings Cochrane’s “Big League,” (Sorry I was daydreaming for a second) then DB sings REM’s “I am Superman”  They try for the high note.  DB: “Kinda.”  Clark: “It’s always worth trying.  If you’re not failing, you’re not doing.”  Clark sings “Stepping Stone” which segues into “I’m a Believer.”

After “sometime choices aren’t so clear,” instead of the end it turns into a drum and violin jam which somehow segues into a funky instrumental jam and then into “Alomar” at the end.  Tim says “And what song were we playing? We don’t have to finish that.”  Clark quips: “We don’t even have to Swedish it….  Let’s Latvia alone.  It’s okay, I’m a little Estonia’d right now.”

What do you guys want to hear?  [Horses, Aliens, Palomar, Wreck of the Edmund]

Thanks, we have fed all of the data into the super computer which has come up with the exact right thing to play at this time.

Thanks to Ensign Broderick and everyone in the band Jason for opening the show.

DB: I was going to try to play “Purple Haze” but I don’t now how.  I thought you were doing Buddy Guy.  I don’t know, do we know any Eagles?

Here’s a song by the Eagles called “Horses.”  The Eagles featuring Rabbit Bundrick, Skunk Baxter, Philthy Animal Taylor, Gullible Guinea Pig and Hammy Hamster.  “Horses” starts quietly and intensely (with great backing vox from all present).  After the first “holy mackinaw, Joe,” it totally rocks out.  Dave also calls Red Deer a “fucking shitty town” (!).  They shift briefly into “We don’t need no education (sloppy).”   And the concert roars to an end with Martin making some great horse sounds on his guitar.

[READ: November 28, 2018] When I am King

Demian 5 (Demian Volger) created a hilarious and good-looking webcomic back in 2001 (hard to believe).  It was finally put into print form this year.

I love the clean lines and style that a webcomic (especially one from 2001) necessitated.  It also means the artist is going to have to think of ways to differentiate the characters who, for the most part, look pretty similar.  And Demian 5 does a great job with that.

In the (bilingual) introduction, Demian 5 explains that he has been editing the historical findings of his ancestors for some 15 years, trying to make this account readable and accessible.  “It was my goal to reproduce these historical hieroglyphs without detracting from the information they contain.”

And what that means is a wild and wonderful story about royalty, nudity (amusing and non-detailed), bestiality and flowers. (more…)

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  SOUNDTRACK: THE RADIO DEPT.-Clinging to a Scheme (2010).

In this final book, Karl Ove mentions buying a record on a whim by The Radio Dept.  Given the timing of the book, I assume it’s this record.  So I’m going to give it a listen too.

I really enjoyed this record which has a feeling of a delicate My Bloody Valentine fronted by The Stone Roses.  The key word in all of this is delicate.  It’s a very soft and gentle record (except for one song).  It hits all the buttons of 90s Britpop and to me is just infectious.

“Domestic Scene” opens the disc with pretty guitars intertwining with an electronic thumping.  After the first listen I was sure the whole record was synthy, but this track has no synths at all, just like five or six guitar lines overdubbing–each opener just as pretty as the others.  The voice sound a lot the guys from The Stone Roses on the more delicate tracks.

“Heaven’s on Fire” opens with bouncy synths and a sampled (from where?) exchange:

People see rock n roll as youth culture.  When youth culture becomes monopolized by big business what are the youth to do.  Do you have any idea?
I think we should destroy the bogus capitalist process that is destroying youth culture.

Then come the jangling guitars and the introduction of synths.

“This Time Around” has a cool high bass line (and what sounds like a second bass line). I love the overlapping instruments on this record.  I couldn’t decide if it was a solo album or a huge group, so I was surprised to find it’s a trio.

“Never Follow Suit” continues this style but in the middle it adds a recorded voice of someone speaking about writing.

“A Token of Gratitude” has some lovely guitars swirling around and a percussion that sounds like a ping-pong ball or a tap dancer.   The last half of the song is a soothing gentle My Bloody Valentine-sque series of washes and melody.

“The Video Dept.” is full of jangly guitars and gentle blurry vocals while “Memory Loss” has some muted guitar notes pizzicatoing along and then what sounds like a muted melodica.

David is the one song that sounds different from the rest.  It has strings and synth stabs and drums that are way too loud.  Most of the songs don’t have drums at all, but these are deliberately recorded too loud and are almost painful.

The final two songs include “Four Months in the Shade” which is an instrumental.  It is just under 2 minutes of pulsing electronics that segues into the delicate album closer “You Stopped Making Sense.”  This song continues with the melody and gentleness of the previous songs and concludes the album perfectly.

I really enjoyed this record a lot.  It’s not groundbreaking at all, but it melds some genres and styles into a remarkably enjoyable collection.

[READ: September and October 2018] My Struggle Book Six

Here is the final book in this massive series.  It was funny to think that it was anticlimactic because it’s not like anything else was climactic in the series either.  But just like the other books, I absolutely could not put this down (possibly because I knew it was due back at the library soon).

I found this book to be very much like the others in that I really loved when he was talking conversationally, but I found his philosophical musings to be a bit slower going–and sometimes quite dull.

But the inexplicable center of this book is a 400 plus page musing on Hitler.  I’ll mention that more later, but I found the whole section absolutely fascinating because he dared to actually read Mein Kampf and to talk about it at length.  I’m sure this is because he named his series the same name in Norwegian.  He tangentially compares Hitler to himself as well–but only in the way that a failed person could do unspeakable things.

But in this essay, he humanizes Hitler without making him any less of an evil man.  His whole point is that in order to fully appreciate/understand Hitler’s evil, you have to realize that he was once an ordinary person.  A teenager who had dreams about becoming an artist, a boy who was afraid of sex and germs.  If you try to make him the inherent embodiment of evil, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that he was a child, a teen, a young man who was not always evil.

Why Karl Ove does this is a bit of a mystery especially contextually, but it was still a fascinating read especially when you see how many things gibe with trump and how he acts and behaves–especially his use of propaganda.  It’s easy to see how people could be swayed by evil ideas (and this was written before trump was even a candidate). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: November 14, 2018] Letters to Cleo

When Letters to Cleo first put out Aurora Gory Alice back in 1993  I was really excited about them.  They were punky and fast but they were poppy and intriguing.  The chorus of “Here & Now” is somehow really catchy and impossible to sing.  I lived in Boston, they were based in Boston.  They were getting much buzz in the Boston Phoenix and on WFNX (“Here & Now” was inescapable–it was even used on Melrose Place).  And their name was weird and mentioned my childhood dog (Cleo).  I also thought their album title was funny so I bought a copy on Cherry Disc records (one of dozens of CDs I bought on an indie label only to later find out the major label pressing aided like five more songs and a gold chain or something).

Their second album had an even weirder name Wholesale Meats and Fish but was equally as strong, if not stronger.  Their third album was the amazing Go!–it added so much depth to their songwriting and was really just fantastic.

Then they appeared in 1999’s movie 10 Things I Hate About You.  They had songs on the soundtrack and were filmed playing “I Want You To Want Me” over the closing credits.

Wikipedia says that “the band then recorded 13 new original songs for the Kids’ WB cartoon, Generation O!, which aired from 2000 to 2001″ and which I’ve never heard of.

Then they broke up. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: September 24, 2018] Wesley Stace

Wesley Stace once recorded  under the pseudonym John Wesley Harding and released some 20 albums.

He has somewhat recently reverted to his real name for performance and wrote about the pseudonym in the New York Times

I’m the last person who should have bothered with a fake name in the first place. I didn’t need a Bowiesque persona, nor did I have a drab real name, but I did need a disguise, assuming that my “career” would tank in about two weeks, proving an embarrassing obstacle to a more attainable-seeming future in academia.

So “John Wesley Harding” it was, founded purely on the coincidence of my Christian name and a Bob Dylan album title. Both I and the cowboy John Wesley Hardin were named for the founder of the Methodist religion (though of the two of us, I’ve probably followed his teachings slightly more closely, having killed fewer people.) For some reason, Dylan misspelled Hardin “Harding”; no one knows why and to my knowledge no one’s ever bothered to ask. (My own favorite theory is that Dylan omitted so many “g”s from titles like “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are A-Changin’” that he decided on a little restitution.)

And after a coincidentally precise 25 years, I have decided, for my new record, to ditch the tried and tested “John Wesley Harding” brand in favor of my real name. Why? I am hardly a household name, but whether you’re a Cougar, a Prince or a Harding (and unless you’re a Will Oldham who changes his name from Bonnie-Prince-this to Palace-Songs-that at the drop of a hat), it’s the sort of decision that doesn’t come lightly.

The reason is simple: I wrote a couple of autobiographical songs, and then I kept writing them. It was the first time that I’d ever bothered to write that kind of confessional song. All songs are autobiographical, but these were also true: things that happened to me. It wasn’t an aesthetic decision; it was something that just presented itself, because I was feeling low and stuck in hotel rooms on a dull book tour. I wrote to comfort myself; you could go so far to say, as a form of therapy.

This move has been facilitated by the fact that I’ve been writing novels for the last 10 years under my real name: that decision was a no-brainer. The first novel, “Misfortune”, was a Dickensian kind of thing, and having the misspelled name of an outlaw on the spine would have been silly. That extracurricular use of my real name means that Wesley Stace has continued to exist on some level over there on the bookshelf. But it gets tiring having two names. Introductions to readings are too long anyway without that added complication: time to get it all under one roof.

That’s a long introduction for a short set (about 30 minutes). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE DJANGO FESTIVAL ALL-STARS-“Them There Eyes” (Field Recordings, October 23, 2014).

This Field Recording was done under what looks like an old bridge outside of the Newport Jazz Festival.

Every year for the last decade and a half, select groups of hot swing musicians have come from Europe to tour the U.S. The exact lineups change, but they all feature masters of the “gypsy jazz” — or jazz manouche — style pioneered by guitarist Django Reinhardt. In fact, they’re billed under the banner of New York’s Django Reinhardt Festival.

After the last set of the Festival, done by the All-Stars, they asked the band, who had little time to spare, to play one last song.  Soon fingers were flying [The Fastest Fingers At The Festival, For Django Reinhardt]  The video there doesn’t work, but you can watch it on YouTube.

They chose the standard “Them There Eyes,” and to paraphrase its lyrics: They sparkled, they bubbled, and they got up to a whole lot of trouble.

Samson Schmitt, plays an amazing lead guitar–his soloing is blinding. The rhythm guitar from DouDou Cuillerier keeps up a great shuffle and Brian Torff on bass keeps the pace as everyone else gets a chance to solo wildly.

First up is Ludovic Beier, accordion and as a bystander observed: “He has the fastest fingers I’ve ever seen.”  And he does, it’s amazing.  His solo is followed by Pierre Blanchard, violin.  And Peter hits notes that seem like they might not actually exist on the violin.

There’s no vocals in the version which is just as well. No one would be able to keep up.

[READ: January 28, 2018] “Little Deaths”

Félix Fénéon was born in 1861.  In 1906 he wrote 1,220 brief items under the rubric “News in Three Lives” for the Paris newspaper Le Matin.  They were collected in a book and translated by Luc Sante

Seeing that these were written over time makes a lot more sense than having them all printed in a book–I mean, 1,220 deaths would be a lot to do all at once.  It’s still hard to believe that these would be printed in a newspaper at all.

Some examples in their entirety: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BILL & JOEL PLASKETT-Live at Massey Hall (April 8, 2017).

I thought I had heard of the name Joel Plaskett before this, but I know I’d never heard of Bill Plaskett.

Sharing the spotlight with his earliest musical influence- his father, the JUNO Award-winning Canadian songwriter, Joel Plaskett performs a powerful collection of songs from both his own catalogue and from Solidarity, the musical collaboration between father and son, live at Massey Hall.

They talk about the prestige and history of Massey Hall as well as how it is a large venue but it still has intimacy.  There’s a big stage, but it projects–you feel like you can touch the audience.

“Dragonfly” opens with just him Joel on acoustic guitar.  After a few verses, the lights come on and the full band kicks in loudly and powerully–Benj Rowland (banjo, bass, accordion, guitar); Shannon Quinn (fiddle) and Josh Fewings (drums).

“Blank Cheque” starts lower and sounds a bit darker.  I love the lyrics: “oh honey, you can’t eat money–it’s gonna take more than luck just to save your neck.”

“Jim Jones” is sung by Bill.  It’s an olde ballad about prisoners and pirates and the goal in Australia.  Bill says it’s a British folk song from the time when convicts were transported to Australia for minor offenses like stealing rabbits from the Lord’s domain.  It’s a song of revenge.  Jim Jones was fictional but Jack Donoguhe had escaped from Botany Bay penal colony.

“Nowhere With You” is a song about all of Joel’s travels with big sing-alongs

“Heartless Heartless Heartless” is darker and quieter–there’s a wonderful moody feeling to the song.  Unlike “Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin'” which is stompin and stompin.  People get up and start dancing and clapping.  Wow, there’s a lot of cowboy hats in the audience.  There’s a pretty fiddle that runs through this catchy sing-along song.

They talk about the magic in the collective energy of playing shows.  How the audience sends it back to you and you can feel it build over the course of a show.  It’s an awesome feeling.  Bill says it’s wonderful to play with his son in front of so many young people.

“Wishful Thinking” ends the show in a big rock n roll way.  “You can get on your feet again it feels good when you are.”  After some stomping around he starts improvising:

Don’t sing that song in A, sing it in B.
They shift to B and start singing and when they get to “it’s a long, long way to Winnipeg” the singers their notes forever–his dad longer than everyone else.  Joel: “That’s some circular breathing right there.”

The end is funny:

You’re hauling a lot of stuff, you’re taxing the vehicle.  Get rid of some guitars.
What are you talking about?  We need them for the show.
Well, figure something out.
So…

CDs for sale in the back of the hall
Buy one buy em all
Couple bucks cheaper than they are at the mall
Thanks very much we’ll be back in the fall.

It seems like he tries to end the song a few times, but they keep going and the guys from Elliott BROOD come out to sing a few ahhs at the end.

one more thing dude/
thank you Elliott Brood

[READ: February 6, 2018] “Darkness at Seven”

This is the opening scene from Eno’s play Tragedy: A Tragedy.

I really enjoyed this piece although I can’t imagine how it could be made any longer or in exactly what kind of direction it could go next.

Essentially this opening scene makes fun of all tragedy reporting and the generic platitudes that such coverage creates.   There’s Frank in the Studio, John in the Field, Constance at the Home, Michael the Legal Adviser and The Witness.

Frank sets the scene-a location in America, the once familiar sun has set.

John tells us that it’s the worst world in the world tonight.  People are looking, feeling, hoping and believing that they might learn something.

Frank wants to know if the sense of tragedy is palpable.  It is. (more…)

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