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Archive for the ‘Poets’ Category

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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SOUNDTRACK: JOHN PAUL WHITE-Live at the Newport Folk Festival (July 29, 2017).

I don’t really know all that much about John Paul White, except that he was in the fabulous duo The Civil Wars, and that he writes intelligent but downbeat folk music.

For indeed, his songs are not cheery by any stretch.  But they are very pretty.

I know the first song, “Black Leaf,” from his Tiny Desk Concert.  I loved it then and I love it now. After the song, he asks, “How are you?  Are you well?  You should be well.  No one should be complaining, least of all me in this black suit.”

And, despite his tone, he is not above making jokes with his audience.  Like when he introduces the second song, “Martyr,” he says, “We’ll be doing  while lot of death metal covers. I figured this would be the place. This song is by a band called Sepultura.”  [Nervous titters from the crowd before he starts playing a pretty JPW song that sounds not unlike a contemporary Barenaked Ladies song, especially his delivery of it].

“The Once and Future Queen,” is a slow, quiet song with a big chorus full of pretty harmonies.  When it ends, he says:

I guess it’s probably my duty to warn you….  You came to a folk festival so you probably weren’t looking for happy songs anyway…  If you came to this set looking to be cheered up, you’re screwed.  Let’s get that out of the way.

I loved “Hate the Way You Love Me,” during the Tiny Desk Concert, but when the backing singers accompany him on the chorus and the gorgeous fiddle from Kelli Jones fills the song, it’s really wonderful.

He jokes, “Glad you’re enjoying the death metal.  I didn’t think it would go over as well as it has.”  But he then plays “Fight for You,” a fairly rocking song–with some rocking distortion on his guitar and a snarl in his voice (and a pretty heavy chorus).

I tend to think of JPW as kind of a mellow singer with a great voice, but he really lets loose in the middle of “Hope I Die.”  In addition to a really powerful singing section, there’s a pretty wild solo going on (violin or guitar or both).  He introduces Adam Morrow over here on the guitar, so I assume he had something to do with it.

He says, “I’m not gonna pretend that all of you have any idea who I am.” [cheers]  He jokes, “That’s called fishing for a compliment.”  But he continues,

To those of you who do I apologize.  It’s been awhile.  it took a lot to get me out of the house.  I was incredibly happy sleeping in my bed and going to dance recitals and football games and the lot. And then these melodies started coming back in my head.  And if I gave into it I’d be back out here doing this.  I and I didn’t want that at all.  No.  No offense, but I didn’t want of see any of your faces.  But once I wrote these songs I wondered if people would connect with them…  and I still doesn’t know why I did that.  So thank you.

In introducing the slow ballad “I’ve Been Over This Before,” he says “This is one of the first songs that came to me. I was obviously listening to a lot of old country music, because that’s where it all starts for me.”

He continues, “I promise you I won’t bore you with song meanings because most of the time I have no idea what they mean most of the time.  But this one is personal for me.”  He says “Simple Song” is indicative of the folk spirit of telling stories and passing them down to further generations.

This came from my grandmother.  When my grandfather passed away he was battling many demons that everyone was having to battle alongside him.  She was raising 14 kids because of those demons.  So… I thought he was perfect, I though that he was always happy, but that was not true and when he passes away, she didn’t cry.  I asked her why  and she said ‘I cried so much for your grandfather when he was on this earth, there’s no way I’m gonna cry for him now that he’s better off.’  And so I thought, ‘Number 1, I want to punch you  in the face.  And then 2 much later in life, that that is a song waiting to happen.’  So this will also cheer you up.

The song and sentiment are beautiful with plaintive lap steel guitar: “I will remember I will remember I will remember you… but I will cry for you no more.”

He continues, “So it’s said that festival crowds… this quiet does not happen.  This is beautiful I really do appreciate it.  I’m a very dynamic performer and I need this kind of environment so…  Festivals scare the shit out of me.  I have to thank you from the bottom of my heart.  This is an unbelievable atmosphere to play in.

before the final song, the rocking “What’s So,” which I also know from Tiny Desk, he says “This is the first time Newport for all of my band so they’re geeking out pretty hard.”  In addition to Jones and Morrow, there’s Reed Watson on drums and Matt Green on bass.

“I need more band members so I have time to tune.”

“What’s So” has an aching descending chorus line that is just terrific.

I really like John Paul White’s music and I’d love to see him live in a quiet sit down club..

[READ: June 24, 2017] “It’s a Summer Day”

I know Andrew Sean Greer from a few McSweeney’s books.

This was a simple story but told in a really cool style.  It concerns Arthur Less, a writer, who has been called to an international conference where he is in the running to win a prize.  But the prize is minor and no one–not he nor his agent–thinks he has a chance.  In fact, the only reason he went was to get out of going to a wedding of an old flame, Freddy.

Freddy had once given him advice about international flights: “They serve you dinner, you take your sleeping pill, they serve you breakfast, you’re there.”

I love the narrator’s voice in this story.

He had been to Italy before. Once when he was 12.  And the second time with Robert Brownburn (Yes, that Robert Brownburn, the famous poet).  They had been dating for a while and were at a good point in their relationship.

He did as instructed with the pills, but woke up in the middle of the night–only two hours having passed!  He takes out another pill and then it’s time for breakfast.  He is in a fog and the first few pages are an amusing comedy of him possibly going the wrong way.  He barely makes his local flight (and is shocked to see ashtrays in the airplane seats–charming or frightening?) And then… was it a mistake to get in the car marked for Sr. Ess?  The driver speaks no English and it sure looks like he is heading in the wrong direction. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: STEVE GUNN-Tiny Desk Concert #299 (August 31, 2013).

Steve Gunn is a fascinating guitar player:

his work mostly stems from a bushy, overgrown definition of what we often call “Americana,” with a healthy understanding of the La Monte Young drone.

Grateful Dead and J.J. Cale certainly reside in the rubber-band bounce of “Old Strange,” a song that keeps the groove mellow, but will suddenly pop with water-drop elasticity. “The Lurker” comes from a much longer solo guitar version that originally sounded like one of Roy Harper’s acoustic epics, but with Gunn’s trio, it becomes a back-porch barn-burner.

For this concert, Gunn and his band play two 9-minutes songs.  They center around his guitar work which yes, has a drone, but the main focus are the Americana riffs that he plays with precision.

“Old Strange” opens with a lengthy guitar passage that shifts after 2 and a half minutes to a slow folky kind of style.  The song seems like it will be an instrumental but 3 and a half minutes in he begins singing. His voice is deep and he sings a kind of narrative story.  It’s quite mesmerizing.   “The Lurker” is a slower, more mellow jam.

[READ: September 3, 2016]: Beatrice

I have read a couple of books from Dixon through McSweeney’s.  I didn’t know much about him then and I still don’t, but I recalled liking his stuff pretty well.  And this book was short so I thought I’d give it a look.

This book is told in a fascinating style–a kind of stream of consciousness in the mind of the main character, but through really close third person.

The book details the encounter of the main character Professor Philip Seidel (there’s a joke about this name, as Seidel means mug) and a woman named Beatrice.  Beatrice was a student of his some 25 years earlier.  She has stopped at his house to deliver some food in condolence for the recent passing of his wife.  She knows about this because she is now a professor where he taught her, although he had retired a few years back.

She brought some food and also wanted to tell him that he was her favorite teacher back then.  She had studied German and wasn’t allowed to take fiction courses until she completed her requirements.  She loved his teaching method and loved how encouraging he had always been.  She has clearly been keeping tabs on him–she has read some interviews he gave–and she definitely knows a lot about his life.

When she leaves he briefly wonders if maybe she’s interested in him now that the are older.  But he puts that out of his mind. (more…)

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aboveSOUNDTRACK: DO MAKE SAY THINK-& Yet & Yet [CST020] (2002).

DmstandyetandyetAfter the previous album, keyboardist Jason McKenzie departed the band.  I’m not entirely sure how this impacted the band, but this album is warmer and a little more delicate feeling.  It’s also their first album that was recorded all in the same place (in band member Justin Small’s house).

The disc opens with static and effects before a jazzy drumbeat comes in.   “Clasic Noodlanding” is mellow with a complex (for them) riff on the guitar and nice washes of keyboards.  It is primarily atmospheric until about two minutes in when it suddenly changes with the introduction of a great bass line.  And then this atmospheric song turns really catchy. The five and a half-minutes feel too short in this song.

“End of Music” opens with jazzy drums and keyboards.  It’s a slow piece that stretches to nearly 7 minutes.  About half way through the song, the drums come crashing in and a brighter, noisier melody takes over.  This end section is really catchy with some great chords and excellent drumming.

“White Light Of” opens with a cool slow bass line and drum pattern.  As the song grows in complexity I like the new bass rumble that is added and the way the guitar lines seem to intertwine. About half way through horns get added to the mix, quietly at first and then they slowly take over the song. About five minutes in the song comes to abrupt halt with some interesting echoed effects on the drums. It resumes again with a stranger version of the song—it feels unsettled and really interesting, with a nice riff interspersed with one that feels off somewhat.

“Chinatown” opens unlike any DMST song.  The bass sounds electronic and skittery with some interesting keyboard sounds over the top (it actually sounds a bit like later period Radiohead).  The song is slow and moody for all of its 5 and half minutes with keyboard washes and skittery guitars.  There are quotes thrown in throughout the song but I can’t tell what they are saying.  This song was features in the film Syriana.

“Reitschule” is one of two songs that are 9 minutes long. It opens with a slow meandering guitar line interspersed with another guitar playing an interesting counterpoint.  A cool bassline comes in around 2:30 which takes the song in a new direction.  Horns propel the song along until about 4 minutes when a jangly guitar takes over the song. It builds with some abrasive guitar chords until everything washes away except the bass.  And then it rebuilds as something else.  Distant horns play in the back as the guitars play overlapping lines.  It’s an epic song that demonstrates how much this band can do.

“Soul and Onward” has a pretty conventional melody line. It’s warm and friendly It also features wordless vocals by Tamara Williamson. I love the little tiny guitar lick that works as a bridge between the two sections.  This is my favorite song on this record.

“Anything for Now” is the other 9 minute song. It is slow and pastoral to start with a beautiful multi-guitar piece with gentle drums. At around 4:30 all the instrument vanish except for a single organ note. It plays for a bout a minute and it seems like the disc will end that way but then the chords build up again from the drone.  An acoustic guitar lick begins around 7 minutes in and runs through the end of the song.

Overall this album is more mellow than their previous discs, and there are some amazingly beautiful sections of music on this album.

[READ: February 8, 2016] Above the Dreamless Dead

I’m continuing with books that I wouldn’t normally read, to celebrate First Second’s #10yearsof01 challenge and to read something out of my comfort range.

This is a collection of poetry about World War I, written before during and just after the war.  Each of the poems is illustrated by a different contemporary artist.

As you can imagine, the book is pretty gloomy.  But the poetry is pretty spectacular and the illustrations were really interesting.  Obviously this book is not going to be a happy one.  But some of the artists do add a more positive spin on the poems (while some are just brutally violent as well). (more…)

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borgesSOUNDTRACK: SEU JORGE-Tiny Desk Concert #79 (September 13, 2010).

seuSeu Jorge was the melancholy singer in Wes Anderson’s movie The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. He sang the David Bowie songs and was amazingly soulful and brought a completely unexpected quality to the Bowie songs.

He plays these five songs with his band Almaz.  For reasons unclear to me only one of the songs is on the video, but the other four are available in audio format.

He sings three songs in Portuguese, and his voice is husky and passionate, so even if you don’t know what he’s singing about, you can feel the emotion.

The first song in English “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” has a cool trippy 70s vibe, with some cool keyboards.  Although I don’t love his version of “Rock with You” which I imagine was super fun to sing, but it’s so different from the Michael Jackson version that it’s hard to reconcile the tow.

  • Cirandar” (Audio Only)
  • “Saudosa Bahia” (Audio Only)
  • “Everybody Loves The Sunshine” (Audio Only)
  • “Pai Joao”
  • “Rock With You” (Audio Only)

[READ: October 19, 2015] The Last Interview and Other Conversations

I have never really read any Borges (a piece here and there sure, but I have his Collected Fictions waiting for me and just haven’t gotten to it. However, when I saw this book at work I decided to give it a read. I have very much enjoyed the other books in The Last Interview series (there are ten and I have read four) so I thought I’d like this too, and I did.

Borges is a fascinating individual. He was legally blind from a youngish age and was completely blind by the time of the last interview. He was humble (but not exactly humble—he genuinely didn’t think he was that great of an author). He was a pacifist (remaining neutral even in WWII) and basically spent his whole life immersed in books.

This book contains three interviews

“Original Mythology” by Richard Burgin (from Conversations with Jorge Luis Borges, 1968)

“Borges and I” by Daniel Bourne, Stephen Cape, Charles Silver (Artful Dodger 1980)

“The Last Interview” by Gloria Lopez Lecube (La Isla FM Radio, Argentina, 1985) [translated by Kit Maude] (more…)

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mislaidSOUNDTRACK: AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS-Euphoria (2014).

euphoriaI found out about Around the World in 80 Days when they started following me on Instagram.  I’m not sure which photo it was that interested them, or if they just follow lots of people, but I was intrigued that they are a post-rock band from Yekaterinburg, Russia.  They formed in 2009 and have a few releases out (EPs, mostly).  You can hear all of them on their soundcloud page (and other places).  This was their first full length album.

Their bio says

Around the World in 80 Days is a three-piece band formed in 2009. It’s impossible to compare their music with anything. The guys just play whatever they want and don’t care about genres, styles and cliches.

I appreciate the sentiment, but it’s not impossible to compare them.  They have elements of Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky in their swirling post-rock instrumentals.  But they definitely add elements that those bands don’t.  There’s some heavy metal riffs in “Racing the Light” and some more poppy elements in “Inside Me.”

 I typically try to listen to an album a few more times before I post about it, but I was so interested in this band that i wanted to get the word out right away.  I’ll certainly be listening more intently to their output over the next few days.

[READ: May 24, 2015] “Mislaid”

I read an excerpt from this book in Harper’s a few months ago.  And then I found the full book at work.  Huzzah!

I had said that I didn’t know how long this novel could be because the excerpt seemed so complete.  And in a sense I was right.  Except that the book went so much further than the excerpt led me to imagine.

The excerpt was about Peggy Vaillancourt.  She was born in 1948 in Virginia.  A transformative event leads her to believe she must be a lesbian (something unspoken of at the time).

She winds up going to Stillwater College, a female-only school in the middle of nowhere Virginia.  She loves poetry and wants to be a writer.  She meets the poet-in-residence Lee Fleming.  Fleming was a local boy with wealthy parents.  His father believed himself to be as “queer as a three dollar bill.”  It was his father who put him in a cottage on the family’s property across the lake from Stillwater College.  Everyone in town also assumed he was gay, and there was much talk and consternation about it, although everyone assumed he was fine while he was by himself in that cottage.

The college asked Fleming to be a teacher (he canoed to work every day).  Instead of a salary he asked them to create a literary magazine called Stillwater Review, which became a success.  Many other famous New York poets came to Stillwater to be charmed by the idyllic Stillwater (and all the young girls). (more…)

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harp marchSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Ted’s Wrecking Yard Toronto, ON, (March 25, 2000).

tedsThis was the sixth and final night of Green Sprouts Music Week–the band’s annual residency at Ted’s Wrecking Yard.  Sadly this is the only night that is up on the site, but man, is it a good one.  The band played for over two and a half hours and they cover nearly every album.  There are guests galore, there’s on stage hijinks and a great sense of fun for band and fans alike.

 I don’t know what they played on other nights but there is a still a focus on Harmelodia. Things are a little different this night from previous shows on the tour.  “Song of the Garden” and “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine” are really rocking. When they call in a female vocalist up, a fans shouts out “we could use a little estrogen” and they get it with her lead vocals.

Kevin Hearn joins them on keyboards.  He ges a verse in “Four Little Songs.”  He also adds piano to “Queer” which sounds extra jaunty  And he puts accordion in “I Fab Thee.”  There’s even the unexpected Kevin song “Yellow Days Under a Lemon Sun” which originally appears on the Group of 7 disc.

The most fun is had during “My First Rock Show, in which several “guests” appear during the song.  Meatloaf (Kevin) plays a bit of “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” Geddy, Alex and Neil (Martin) show up to play a verse of “Closer to the Heart” with Martin screeching “salesmen!” There’s a brief jam of Walk This Way (although no one can remember the words).  And there’s some fun with Joe Jackson’s “Is She Really Goin Out with Him.”  Look over there.  Where?  That’s called a hook.  There’s also a funny joke about playing “Harvest X-1, Rush Never Sleeps.”

There’s some real guests too, Karmen from Sheks? sings “One More Colour” and sounds awful, like she can’t hear what the band is doing.  Julia Pietrus guests on “Home Again.”  She sings her verse in Polish (and is part of a Polish Rheos tribute band!).

There’s a drum solo (!) on “Dope Fiends and Booze Hounds.”  The set and the night ends with “A Midwinter Nights Dream.”  Martin sounds in great voice even if he cant hit all th ehigh notes which is undetsnable after nearly 2 and a half hours of playing

They also mention that their next show is Canada Day and that is our next show as well

[READ: March 4, 2015] “Make Me Live”

I am always intrigued by the fiction that appears in the front section of each Harper’s issue.  It is typically not an author I have heard of and is often a translation.  It’s also usually really short (often excerpted) so that if it’s not so good, you’re not stuck with a long read and if it is good it whets your appetite for a longer piece.

This excerpt is a definite appetite whetter.

I genuinely can’t imagine how long Mislaid (the full novel) is, because this story just seems to fly through time in a real hurry 9and feels rather complete).

It opens with Peggy Vaillancourt’s birth in 1948 in Virginia.  Her family was educated and rather reserved.  Her mother had hoped to send her to Bryn Mawr, but Peggy wanted to go to Stillwater, a former plantation and current finishing school.  It was considered a mecca for lesbians.

I’m confused about the transformative event in Peggy’s life in which a gym teacher, Miss Miller,  readjusts her gym shorts and Peggy assumes she was meant to be a boy.  The story seems to bulldoze forward whether you can keep up or not.  So I have no idea if an average female reader would “get” what happened here (it doesn’t seem to be sexual to me). It also seems odd that one incident should affect her so profoundly, but there ya go. (more…)

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