SLCR #205: Gordon Lightfoot (November 7, 2014)

November 10, 2014

He showed up! I was not entirely expecting that. My very limited knowledge of Gordon Lightfoot suggests that he has, in the past, been prone to booking concerts in Regina and then cancelling. This may be entirely apocryphal, or maybe it only ever happened one time and for some reason it really stuck with me. Whatever. My point is that I am a wealth of Gordon Lightfoot facts. Others include:

  • According to my pal who owns a bakery here, Gordon Lightfoot likes his whole wheat bread fresh, sliced, and delivered before noon.
  • You need to has five bucks for the Homestarmy in case Gordon Lightfoot is creeping around YOUR back stair.
  • One time, I tried talking about Gordon Lightfoot in an email or text or something and it came out as “Gordon Lightfood” and I like that a lot better. I might do a find-and-replace so that I remove all instances of Lightfood (except in this bullet) but I most likely won’t.
  • This other time, I was challenged to write a song about a guy who went to the computer school I taught at. I did so – it was a parody of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. It was obscene and some of my finest work ever.
  • The Edmund Fitzgerald sank 39 years ago today! I wrote this review yesterday and didn’t intentionally hold off on posting it for a day to tie into the anniversary, but I would have if I’d known.

See? Super knowledgeable over here.

My dad and stepmom picked us up and we went for dinner at the casino. I was prepared for the usual eternal wait to get seated, rushed meal, and mad dash to the show lounge, but actually got through everything in decent time. Surprising, seeing as how the Lightfoot show was long since sold out and every senior citizen in Regina was in attendance.

A nice lady from the CBC introduced the show. I have gotten in trouble before for using the internet to repeat jokes that nice CBC ladies make, so I won’t say which nice CBC lady it was or what she said. Suffice to say that it was a joke about a topic I didn’t think CBC people would be allowed to joke about, and the crowd didn’t really know what to make of it. My dad thought it was super funny, though. And I laughed too. I have no shame.

Lightfoot and his four-piece band took the stage in short order, saying that rumours of his death had been greatly exaggerated – an amusing nod to the Lightfoot death hoax that circulated online a few years ago while Lightfoot, unaware, was happily at the dentist. Or at least I assume it was happily, considering the alternative.

With long gray hair and sporting a red velour jacket over a black collared shirt, Lightfoot looked for all the world like an old man anime Dracula. Like, maybe this is what the boss of a Castlevania game would turn into after you defeat him. Or maybe I just had a lot of time to think about these things.

During dinner, my dad mentioned a newspaper writeup about the show, where Lightfoot said that he normally played two-hour shows, and sometimes went longer if the audience wanted it. At about the 20-minute mark, I found myself hoping that this was an exaggeration.

Gordon Lightfoot is a legend and I’m really glad that I got the chance to see him. However, as you might expect from a 75-year-old, he has seen better days. This show did a fine job of hammering home what a miracle modern Leonard Cohen really is. With a weak voice, Lightfoot mumbled his way through a 90-minute set. Mika suggested that the sound was poorly mixed – that Lightfoot could sometimes not be heard over the drums – but I think Lightfoot just can’t project anymore. He also seemed to lose his train of thought repeatedly while talking between songs, and he took a break for some nasal spray at one point. I get it – he’s 75 – but this joins Dr. John and Mavis Staples and Loretta Lynn in the pantheon of “I wish I’d seen them way back when” shows.

I’m much less familiar with Lightfoot’s songs than I thought I was. I really only recognized Sundown, Carefree Highway, If You Could Read My Mind, and Edmund Fitzgerald; the latter was a nice surprise as I didn’t think we’d get it because it’s a longer song. Mika said she wasn’t expecting it because it gets a little loud, but noted that they toned it down. This was a running theme and did not help the show. I was excited to hear Sundown, but when they played it, all I thought was “yeah, I could stand to see Luke Doucet again.”

It didn’t help that Lightfoot’s band didn’t have much to do. They all had simple parts to play and were never really given chances to show off. The lead guitarist got a solo. That’s about it. The songs themselves could have been freshened up by losing the 1980s keyboards, or at least tweaking their sound.

You may want to ask about other hits and I will shrug cluelessly. I know he played Early Morning Rain and Cotton Jenny, but only because my dad and Mika said so, respectively. There were a number of songs where the opening notes got a nice reaction from the crowd, but they didn’t mean anything to me. Some of them sounded kind of familiar. I have listened to more than my share of Canadian AM radio in my day, so there is no excuse for my ignorance. Once I get this stupid iTunes working on this computer, I’ll check out a Lightfoot greatest hits collection. Probably should have done that a week ago.

UPCOMING SHOWS

  • Kim Churchill w/Mo Kenney (November 13)
  • Buck 65 (November 14)
  • Spirit of the West (November 21)
  • Dan Mangan + Blacksmith w/Hayden and Astral Swans (March 7)

SLCR #204: Michael Bernard Fitzgerald (October 28, 2014)

November 10, 2014

We are entering winter, which is the worst season for concerts. Not only does nobody want to come to town when it’s -40 and the highway might ice over – and I don’t blame them – but actually going to a show is a pain. What do you wear? Do you dress for the chilly weather, or do you dress for the inevitable sweatbox that is whatever venue you’re going to? Basically, you have to be really uncomfortable, but when?

And yes, I get that some places have coat checks. I do not care. Waiting to get your coat back is a MILD INCONVENIENCE that I do not have time for. Also, they sometimes want you to pay for it. Outrageous, I say.

On this evening, I opted to wear something that would be tolerable whilst indoors, which made the walk from the bus stop a frosty one. After two years of being an unofficial single-car household, we’ve finally sold off the one car after it tried to die on us one too many times. This works really well about 98% of the time. And then you have nights when Mika has school, and I want to go to a show, and the timing doesn’t work out that well, and all of the other usual concert suspects are sick or tired or disinterested or in other cities or whatnot. So I caught a bus to work and walked to the Exchange from there. I’m sure I could have caught another bus that would have taken me closer, but that would require learning a new bus route and I know two already and I’m just one guy, you know? So I walked. I’m trying to get 10,000 steps a day anyway.

The previous week, I collected some of those steps by walking to the record store to buy my ticket for the show – an actual physical ticket. Not a PDF. That doesn’t happen much anymore. And then, at the door, instead of taking the ticket stub, they took the whole thing. And so it goes.

Along with my 10,000 steps a day, I have also given up soda. A friend of mine went four months without. I said “I could do that.” Mika did not agree – I don’t know who would have – and so here we are. It’s been two months. Most days, this isn’t too bad. But sometimes you wind up at the bar and you don’t want to drink booze because then you’re not the creepy old guy alone at the show, you’re the creepy old guy drinking alone at the show, which seems worse. And you can’t have pop, and you dislike paying for bottled water on principle, and you’re not sick and thus can’t qualify for the sickness Gatorade exemption and they don’t have Gatorade ANYWAY. Your options are limited, is what I’m saying. Or at least mine were. I don’t know about yours. But there is a brand of unsweetened iced tea you can get here now – this is not a common thing in Canada – and it has helped me through many a soda-related jam. And they have it at the Exchange, and I don’t know why they have it anywhere, because I have never once seen anyone drink it but me. But I’m glad it’s there.

As I was buying my iced tea, I noticed the sign behind the bar which said that you had to be born before this date in 1995 in order to buy alcohol. This did a fantastic job of making me feel like the oldest person on earth. I took my iced tea and found a nice quiet spot in which to sit my old bones down. The attendance was decent, but the place was far from packed, so I had no problem getting a good spot.

One thing I’ve noticed about MBF’s shows is that he really seems to like to give exposure to up-and-coming bands. There were four openers before his birthday show in Calgary, and we had two for this show. First up was Layten Kramer, who MBF later said was from Canmore, Alberta, “where life moves a little bit slower.” I am not sure Kramer is ready for the pace of big city life, as he told an extended story about being at Boston Pizza earlier in the day, and his band order schooners of booze, which meant he had to drive, and he was so frustrated by this development that he punched his pasta. He also didn’t finish said pasta, as he offered to get it from the pasta-scented van and show it to us.

Also, there were songs! Not about pasta. The band was a three-piece, with Kramer singing and playing guitar, a guy named Dean on bass, and someone who I initially thought was named Conway on drums. Kramer said the drummer’s name again later in the set, and I was disappointed to learn that it was not Conway, so I am refusing to write his real name out of spite. Take that, drummer who had nothing to do with this situation. The music was pretty good, though the band had a bit of a tendency to drift off into extended instrumental bits which aren’t so much my thing.

Next up was Danny Olliver from Regina. He warned us that the night might get wild, but also graciously invited us to stay sitting. Mostly, it was just him and a guitar, though he was joined by his sister Samantha who sang on a number of the songs. There was a large contingent there to see him, and I assumed they were family, especially when Olliver introduced one song as being “about a dad – not OUR dad, just A dad.” Eventually, he introduced his dad, after a fashion (“My dad hasn’t even yelled anything tonight.” “WOOOOOOOO.” “There we go.”) and it was who I expected. His dad, like most dads, could use a lesson regarding the effectiveness of the built-in camera flash.

I’m pretty sure that somewhere around this point, Layten Kramer went to his van and came back with the pasta.

Olliver’s songs are singer-songwriter type stuff, complemented by some flashes of impressive guitar playing. He especially won people over with his last song, an untitled instrumental number where he played the guitar like a drum while strumming the neck. He also had a good story about meeting and going watersliding with MBF’s band earlier in the day, and one of the band members – apparently named Alec Baldwin (with the emphasis on the “lec”) – grabbing his leg and tickling his foot underwater in a case of mistaken foot identity.

Between sets, I bought another unsweetened iced tea because I am a wild man.

Fitzgerald took the stage by himself, opening with Love is an Easy Thing to Miss, which I always think sounds like Follow at the start. He thanked us for coming out on whatever night it was… Tuesday?

Some girl, right up at the front: “TUESDAY WOO”

MBF: “I feel like that is going to be your role all evening.”

That was pretty funny, but it was no “This song is best enjoyed in silence.” That remains one of my favourite things that anyone has ever said from the stage during a show.

Over the next three songs, his bandmates joined one by one. I have no last names for anyone, but Lisa came out first to play keys on I Will, and then Alec (again, this is pronounced aLEK) Baldwin came out for Follow. On a few occasions, aLEC was accidentally referred to as “Andrew,” which goes to show what I’ve known all along – there are no real Alecs. If you say your name is Alec, you’re a no-good dirty liar. Finally, Adam joined the band – both Adam and aLEC were on drums, with Lisa spending most of her time on bass.

So we had Love is an Easy Thing to Miss, I Will, and Follow. As MBF said, they got the love jams out of the way first. It was suggested that if you were there with a special someone, you should grab them by the earlobe and then shove them away. Play hard-to-get. I have yet to try this with my special someone but I will let you know how it goes. Maybe I should practice on the cat first.

I Will is that song that maybe you recognize from Additionelle commercials if you watch TV and live in Canada and don’t skip commercials for lady clothes. Or, I guess, if you saw some reference to the ads online like I did. I am iffy about songs in ads. I probably would not be if I needed to make money from music in order to pay rent and punch food or do whatever it is musicians do. So far, the ad hasn’t tainted the song for me, mainly because I have only ever seen the ad twice – once in that story online and then once on TV when I was skipping by (via the DVR, not on foot) and thought “hey, I bet that ad has that song.” We aren’t at the point yet like with Gimme Sympathy by Metric, where I hear the song and it only ever makes me think of that ad for… whatever it was. Advertising is super effective.

More songs! I didn’t take notes, but I know they played Firecracker, Man Overboard, In Your Room Tonight, World of Black and White, Last Train to Georgia, Reach You, and Movie Life, along with several new songs that I didn’t recognize but enjoyed. As per usual, he played a bit of Low before moving into Dancing in the Dark. I had also hoped for Brand New Spaces so I could stomp (and stomp and stomp) and clap and was not disappointed. I wonder if the stomping (and stomping and stomping) added extra steps to my pedometer? I hope so – that Wii Fit U walking tour of Italy isn’t going to walk itself.

The full band and extra percussion really brought the energy up and these were the best versions of these songs that I’d heard. Fine work all around. Fitzgerald mentioned that the band had left Lethbridge, Alberta after midnight the night before to arrive in Regina in time for an appearance on CTV – “In retrospect, this was not a wise idea” – but the fatigue, if any, did not hold them back.

We also got an extended version of the waterslide story from earlier – “it is not possible to nap in a hotel that has waterslides.” Apparently the Travelodge pool has a tunnel to a second waterslide, which they used even though it was out of commission. MBF went first down the dry slide, and those that followed used his wetness. Actually, I think this whole story was an excuse to use the phrase “used my wetness” as often as possible and to that end, he was quite successful, so kudos there.

The encore was – as it usually seems to be – Care For You, though this one got interrupted by the sound of a nearby train. MBF told a story about one time they’d played the Exchange (I think this would be the last time I saw him there? Not sure) where a girl, upon leaving the show, got her car hung up on the train tracks (I think a snowbank was involved?) and everyone had to help move the car lest a train come. “THAT WAS ME” yelled someone from far behind me. All involved were glad to see that she and her car were both okay.

After the show, I stopped by the stuff table to buy a copy of Live at the Grand, an MBF live CD that I assume is relatively new. Most of the songs are from his last studio album, so maybe this is new for this tour? I do love tour-only treats at the stuff table. I think I have the rest of his records, so I skipped the cassette tape from the future, but that looked like a heck of a deal. Anyway, MBF was taking pictures and whatnot and I had to wait for my ride to get there, so I took the opportunity to get my CD signed and thank him for coming through Regina. Over the past few months, I can think of a half-dozen bands I would have seen who’ve skipped over Regina on tour. I don’t know if it’s a lack of quality venues, or if nobody here wants to book bands, or if it’s just that nobody shows up when bands do come to town – and I have been to several shows that should have had a lot more people there (including this one) – but whatever the reason, it’s become a real treat just to have someone I like come to town. And when a show was this good, so much the better.

SLCR #203: the smalls (October 24, 2014)

November 3, 2014

Back before Corb Lund was a country star, he played in a punk band. They broke up long ago, but at the Q taping that was part of Junos week last year, Lund said that the band might reunite for a small tour.

These possibly inaccurate sentences are the only things that I know about The Smalls. Well, I know one more thing if you count the fact that I know that I’m supposed to spell “the smalls” in all lowercase, but I choose not to. And Mika likes them. That’s a thing I know.

I read on Facebook that The Smalls were coming to Regina and that their Saskatoon show had already sold out. I checked with Mika and confirmed that getting tickets NOW was a good idea. So I did. I then mentioned the show on Twitter, partly to show off my indie cred which is 100% a fictional construct, partly to taunt any ticketless Saskatonians, but mostly to make fun of the tickets themselves for saying that the doors would open at 1:00 a.m. and the show would start at 8:00 a.m. Later that day, a very excited Jeff texted me about the show – I hadn’t thought to tell him that I was getting tickets because I don’t generally care about other people unless they are directly in front of my face, and even then, it’s iffy – and by the time he’d seen my tweet, the show was sold out. Sadness!

To recap, I am a big poseur who knows nothing about anything, couldn’t name a Smalls song if my life depended on it – have probably never even heard one, in fact – but I’m off to the show, while Jeff is a big fan who finds himself on the outside because he actually does work while at work instead of dinking around on the internet. But as was well documented when we went to see Ben Folds in Fargo, Jeff – like love – always finds a way. Only a day or two later, The Smalls announced second shows in both Regina and Saskatoon. Jeff nabbed tickets, and his show would actually take place before ours. This was a fantastic development, because seeing the first show would allow him to provide me with exclusive top-secret information. On the day of his show (two days before mine), I texted him and demanded a report of who was opening, what time the show actually started, and how it was.

9:18 p.m.: Opening act just started.

9:23 p.m.: Thanks! Who is it?

9:24 p.m.: Some guys

You know how people on the internet say LOL when something is funny, but they did not, actually, laugh out loud? This was not one of those times. Mika can confirm. “Some guys” killed me.

9:37 p.m. I think they said that they were called “White Women.” That’s not a joke, because I’m not that funny.

This led me and Mika to the internet in a race to determine who this band was. She took to Google while I went straight to iTunes. iTunes suggested that maybe I wanted “Your Woman” by White Town, which, no, but also yes? As Mika kept Googling, I listened to the free sample of Your Woman in the iTunes store despite owning the album and having the whole song on my computer, because I am the laziest person alive and even extra clicks are too much work for me. Anyway, while I bopped back and forth, enjoying the song, Mika found out that a band named White Women had played Sled Island. The Sled Island site listed them as being from Regina, so it looked like we’d found our culprits.

In order to find out more, I googled “white women regina” and I must say, you do get some interesting results. You take this information and do what you gotta do. Personally, I decided it was best to halt this enquiry, let the band be a surprise for my show, and spend some time getting more creative and descriptive with my Google searches. I did, however, ask Jeff his opinion of White Women. “Unremarkable,” he said, “alternate answer: not enough junk in the trunk.” Fair enough. With this assessment in mind, Mika and I didn’t rush to catch their set when we went to our show.

On our way to the Owl, I remarked that I couldn’t believe we were actually going. Not because we were both really tired from the week, but because I’d written the previous half of the review in advance. Whenever I do that, we wind up skipping out. I will spoil things now and say that we actually got to see The Smalls. Not so much White Women, because after all of that nonsense up there, we got a different opening act. So it goes. At least I got to hear Your Woman. Or part of it, anyway.

Our opening act was Black Mastiff. We got there in time for their last three or four songs. They play that 70s stoner rock that dudes with beards like to play and it was all perfectly fine, in a not-so-much-my-thing kind of way. I wouldn’t be sad if I saw them open for someone else. Also, one song sounded like it had the lyrics “I would buy smokes for you” so, you know, they’re caring people. So that’s nice.

As I mentioned, The Smalls haven’t been a thing for something like fifteen years, which means that this show was attended not just by the young punks you’d expect on a university campus, but also old punks. If you get a chance to see The Smalls, I recommend you do it just for the people-watching. I gravitated towards the individual weirdoes, like the spherical bouncer, the red flowered bucket hat guy, the dude who was determined to fit his whole hand in his girlfriend’s butt, and the self-described Asian gangster. Mika, on the other hand, pointed out the crusty punks with their fancy purses, and the guys in SNFU shirts that had clearly been in the closet for years. The shirts, I mean, not the guys. Or at least that’s what I assume she meant. She was also amazed by two really tall dudes, but then we figured out they were standing on chairs. It was dark and the room was filled with either dry ice fog or pot smoke or some combination thereof.

And so, The Smalls. They were real good! I mean, I don’t know anything from anything. I couldn’t tell you what they played. Just a bunch of songs that I liked.

Jeff told me that the lead singer was a loon, but he didn’t really do anything that exciting during our show. I mean, he wore a hoodie that obscured his face for a good long while, with ear protectors slung around his neck (but never over his ears) – and when he took the hoodie off, you could see he was already wearing earplugs – but that’s not that weird. And okay, maybe when he was talking to the other band members, I thought it might be made-up gibberish – but I think we can attribute that to the overall sound quality. Jeff also mentioned that the dude sang the opera part of some song really well, but they didn’t play anything like that during our show. Or else they did and we, being old punks (or old poseurs trying to pass as old punks) left before they played that song. I’d blame it on being a worknight, but it was a Friday. Just a night. Sometimes that’s enough.

Jian Ghomeshi, Part 2

November 3, 2014

I posted this at Keeps Me Alive on October 30, 2014 -  four days after the Ghomeshi story broke – and I decided I wanted a copy of it here. I don’t intend to update the links here any more than I already have, and the post at KMA has quite the extensive comment thread going, so maybe go read it there instead. This is just a copy in my own space for my own records.


I have two concert reviews to finish, but they can wait. Don’t they always?

Here’s a picture that I’ve already regretted posting once this week:

james-jian

That’s me with Jian Ghomeshi after a live Q taping in Regina last spring, done in association with the Juno Awards. I’m the taller one. Pinker in face and greyer in hair.

Making jokes is not helping in the way that making jokes usually does.

I’m not usually big into chatting with celebrities – I’m endlessly awkward and never have anything to say other than “durrr, good show tonight” even if it wasn’t a good show because what else am I going to say? I can’t usually come up with anything interesting and celebrities are surrounded by people who can.

But I really wanted to talk to Jian that night, because I wanted to thank him. Many years ago, I was big into his band, Moxy Früvous (shut it, Mike) and after seeing them for the first time, I wrote a review and posted it on the Moxy Früvous newsgroup, back in 1998 when newsgroups were a thing and I would sometimes finish a concert review within 24 hours. And then I received this:

i don’t often get involved in these things but i *had* to tell you that i LOVED your review of our Saskatoon show last week. You had me laughing out loud in front of my handy dandy laptop here in my hotel room in Edmonton. So thanks for being a fan of ours…i’m flattered when somebody so clearly smart and satirical enjoys our stuff.

There was more – a few jokes and points of clarification – but this is the part that I remember. I copied and pasted the above but could have typed it up from memory. If I hadn’t been a fan before, that would have done it – it meant a ton to me that he would take a few minutes out of his day to reach out. He was encouraging and funny and kind. I saw Früvous in concert a few times the next year; he remembered me and made a point of saying “hi” and chatting for a few minutes. It was important to me to stick around after the Q taping and let him know how much I still appreciated that.

I followed Moxy Früvous until they went on a hiatus which I think is now in its 15th year. I bought Jian’s solo EP, and listened to him from time to time on Q. I wasn’t a regular listener, but always enjoyed him when I got the chance. I remember when Billy Bob Thornton had his snit on the show, and reading comments online from Americans who were so impressed with how Jian handled the situation. Hell, I toasted the guy in my Toastmasters club, which might be the nerdiest sentence I’ve ever written.

And now we have this.

Aaron said that my comment on his post should have BEEN the post, but I disagree. It’s a big ol’ internet, there’s lots of room for anything we want to dump on it, so I’ll just make my own post, plagiarizing from myself wherever needed.

My initial comments:

I don’t know if anyone will ever know what happened apart from those directly involved, who may not say or even believe the same thing anyway. We’ll see what comes out.

I don’t have any problem believing that CBC would fire someone for a stupid reason, especially if it’s a highly-paid someone. I don’t have any problem believing that people get unnecessarily scandalized by other people’s sex lives. I know that vengeful exes exist. And if I wanted to destroy a celebrity’s reputation, this is how I’d go about it.

At at the same time, rapists/abusive partners are far more common than vengeful exes who make up stories. And if I knew I was about to have those accusations levied against me, I’d do exactly what Jian did. He sues the CBC, making the mainstream story “Jian vs. CBC” instead of “Jian vs. four women accusing him of non-consensual violent sexual behaviour.” He posts a statement before the news story breaks, painting himself as the victim with lots of “you’ll hear people say” this and that to try and colour how those claims are heard. He confesses to behaviour that most people wouldn’t publicly admit to – boy, that makes him seem like an (embarrasse d but otherwise) honest guy, doesn’t it?

I note that so far, no woman has come forward to say that she dated Ghomeshi and defends him, but who’d want to jump in on this? And anecdotally, I’ve heard all kinds of rumours about the guy for a long time, but rumours don’t mean anything, necessarily.

I hope that the allegations are untrue because 1) that kind of shitty behaviour shouldn’t happen (shitty in terms of the non-consensual nature; people can do whatever they like as long as all involved are okay with it) and 2) in my limited personal dealings with Jian, he was friendly, encouraging, funny, and kind. And shitty things feel a lot worse coming from someone you thought was one of the good guys.

Now it’s a few days later. There are now eight women who’ve come forward with accusations, including one who’s doing so openly. (Edit on 10/31/2014: make that two.) From the looks of the most recent Toronto Star article, several of the women independently corroborated the others’ details.

My thought that the lawsuit was intended to spin the story as Jian vs. CBC appears to be true, as Jian can’t actually sue the CBC for that amount, based on the terms of his collective agreement. He and his lawyers would have known that. But hey, it worked – when I was watching the CTV morning news on Monday, the story was all about Jian getting fired and suing the CBC. The Toronto Star article and the women it references weren’t even mentioned.

I don’t know how anyone can defend him at this point. And I don’t know how anyone cannot believe his accusers. Explain how you can believe that many women are just conspirators. Explain what could they hope to get out of this. Explain why women keep coming out of the woodwork to side with the accusers, but so far, nobody has said “yeah, I dated Jian – we did kinky stuff and he was communicative and caring and safe.” Explain the rumours that have been going around for years; things about inappropriate touching and an interest in inordinately young girls, and that dating him was not a good idea – rumours I had heard years ago. Rumours that Jann Arden and Tara Spencer-Nairn and Owen Pallett and Carl Wilson and Steve Murray had heard long ago. Explain the Twitter account that was posting accusations against Jian in April.

[edited to add: “but so far, nobody has said ‘yeah, I dated Jian – we did kinky stuff and he was communicative and caring and safe.’” Here’s Dan Savage with an interview with a woman who dated Jian and supports him: http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2014/10/29/interviews-with-two-women-who-dated-jian-ghomeshi ]

I would love to believe Jian’s story, that this is all a smear campaign from a jilted ex. I want him to be who I thought he was and not who it seems he is. And if additional information comes to light, maybe posting all this will seem ridiculous. Maybe it already does. Maybe the possibility, however remote, that “several women conspired to destroy a star’s reputation and career” is the BEST-CASE SCENARIO says it all about how fucked up this all is.

I keep calling him “Jian” instead of “Ghomeshi” like we’re friends or something. And that’s the stupid thing – it almost felt like we were. Three or four emails and maybe 10 minutes of talking over a 15-year span will do that to a guy, I guess.

When I heard on Sunday that Jian got fired from the CBC, I set that picture as my Facebook profile pic. As the day went on, I became more and more certain that this would soon become a very bad idea. I swapped the picture out in short order, but I didn’t delete it – not from Facebook, not from Instagram, and I posted it here today. Partly, it’s the internet where everything lives forever anyway. But I think deleting the picture would be too easy. So you wipe him off the face of the earth. Pretend he never existed. Good news, ladies! We found the last Bad Guy that had infiltrated the Good Guy ranks and took care of him for you. All clear, shields down.

I’m leaving the picture up because it makes me uncomfortable because he was friendly, encouraging, funny, and kind. Because of what I didn’t see. Because of what I had heard and had excused away because it wasn’t provable (and, let’s be honest here, because it was unpleasant and inconvenient). Something to remember the next time I find myself thinking “that doesn’t sound like him” or “that’s not the guy I know.”

In the comments section of Aaron’s post, I started a reading list of interesting and important links. I’ll include it here, but divided into two batches (and may add more over time). The first articles are the “newsworthy” ones, for lack of a better word (it’s 2:30 a.m. as I finish this off):

The second list of articles are recommended reading:

WTF Search Terms: Ghomeshi Edition

November 3, 2014

Sorry for stealing your shtick, Mike.

I was about to upload my concert review for The Smalls (sorry, “the smalls”) and happened to notice the top search terms that are leading people to this blog:

search

Dang. Poor Martina Sorbara.

 

SLCR #202: Glass Tiger (September 27, 2014)

October 14, 2014

Deserée is bonkers over Glass Tiger. I present this information merely as context; a way of explaining why, exactly, I was at a Glass Tiger show in 2014. She was there to watch the band, and the rest of us were there to watch her watch the band. I am not here to make fun. Much. I have my things too. We all have our things. Sometimes Glass Tiger is one of those things, and what the heck, I’ll go to that.

Her fandom is pretty much the only reason why I even remember Glass Tiger in 2014. Otherwise, they’d occupy a sort of Honeymoon Suite/Platinum Blonde place in my mind – I remember the name, I remember liking them well enough when they were on Video Hits with Samantha Taylor (the only version of Video Hits worth watching), but I was never what you’d really call a fan. Glass Tiger has more songs that I remember than those other bands, but that’s probably just due to my age and when I started being aware of music.

We made plans for dinner at Beer Bros at 6:00. Mid-afternoon, I was advised that Deserée and crew might arrive closer to 6:15. I later found out that this had to do with… pants and soup? I think? I was never entirely clear on that. But whatever.

It is at this point that I could quit writing and tell the story entirely in copied and pasted text messages. There were three conversations going on over the course of the night: James/Deserée as to why people weren’t at the restaurant yet, James/Aaron comparing concerts (Aaron and Cindy were out at Big Rude Jake for their anniversary), and James/friend who shall remain nameless because he had just completed a stressful few weeks at work and was unwinding with a UFC show and numerous beers which contributed fantastic opinions and typos. I think who’s who should be obvious. If it helps, I don’t quote Aaron in here.

Say what you will about people being addicted to their smartphones and missing out on real life, but this text record of the evening is fantastic. I rarely take notes at concerts and then I forget all the stuff I wanted to write about. No chance of that anymore.

6:04 p.m. “We haven’t left the house.”
6:06 p.m. “I think we’re going… no wait, camera…”
6:07 p.m. “Phone…”
6:08 p.m. “Oh boy… k, phone found.”

There’s more of this but you get the idea. 6:00 became 6:15 which became 6:30 as Deserée became increasingly agitated with her traveling companions.

Mika and I used the time alone to share an order of deep fried pickles. Time well spent.

Eventually everyone showed up and got fed. Dinner was delightful as it always is there. Aaron suggested I get chicken, but I just got a burger because I am boring like that, and because SLCR canon doesn’t hold in the face of Beer Bros bacon. I don’t know if they buy something special or they just know what to do it, but either way, fine work. And besides, the pickles were a enough of a callback to the deep fried days of Louis’ Pub and the first concert reviews.

While at dinner, I gave Deserée a Glass Tiger 45 for the song I Will Be There that I found at Value Village earlier in the week. There’s a piece of masking tape on the front that indicates this was once sold at a garage sale for 50 cents, which means that Value Village actually marked it up. Clearly, they knew they had a treasure on their hands.

Finally, it was time to head to the show, and as it always seems to wind up with casino shows, we were cutting it pretty fine. I wish I had text messages detailing the decisiveness with which it was decided we did not have time for dessert. The law was LAID DOWN.

I had been invited to watch the night’s UFC card, and I had actually accepted before remembering the Glass Tiger show. Despite the weak main event, the strong undercard made me a little sad to miss out. Luckily, I got updates as the night went on so I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. Really, I think I got the best of both worlds.

7:58 p.m. “THIS UFC CARD WILL ROCK. THE RETURN OF DRUNK TEXTING”
7:59 p.m. “THIS WILL BEDTBTHE SLEPPY HOLLOW UNFIRVEN CAVRMAN FORBAWESOME. FUCKNSPELL CHECK”

I reminded my pal where I was.

8:03 p.m. “Looooool hpe Desiree meets Alan Frew #ew”

“#ew” absolutely slayed me.

Glass Tiger started right on time, as casino shows will do. No opener. I think the first song was Someday; I could be wrong on that. It was a song I knew, I remember that much. Deserée was grinning and practically vibrating from excitement. She did not rush the stage right away, though. I lost that bet.

8:11 p.m. “Durst fight is cat zingano vsm amanda nunes. Love rhe womens fights. Chipnon theirsgoulse..greatbstart”

I think it was four or five songs in when she actually went up to the front, for the song Diamond Sun. There were other folks already up there – maybe 10 in total. So, of course, an old man security guard came and shooed everyone back to their seats. Can’t have people getting too rowdy here. At some point, some lady decided that she was going to go back up to the front, old man security guard be damned. She stood there. He talked to her. He walked away, defeated. Who knew that’s all it took?

Around this time I had a lengthy conversation with my drunken pal and his girlfriend about UFC fighter Tim Kennedy and his legs. She liked them. He said they were “Not heslous” but when I agreed that they were nice legs (she sent me a picture) (see above re: the wonderful ever-connected age in which we live), I got called a “fucking petbert jeking off to tim kennefy’s legs lol.”

8:47 p.m. “Animal heaaaaaarr”

Sure, make fun of me for going to…

8:54 p.m. “Glass toger in 2014″

…but I didn’t even remember Animal Heart was a song of theirs. Who’s the superfan now?

9:13 p.m. “Its THEIR ONLY SOMG :)”

This is not true. Their only song was Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone. I feel like I might be forgetting some parentheses in there? Not sure it matters. They actually had a lot of hits and played pretty much all of them. I already mentioned Someday and Animal Heart and Diamond Sun. There was My Town and The Thin Red Line and I’m Still Searching. Maybe that’s the one they started with? Who can remember. Spoiler: the encore was (a very extended version of) Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone, because of course it would be.

It was during this encore that Alan Frew took off his jacket to reveal a Glass Tiger t-shirt. They say you should not be that guy who wears the band’s shirt to the band’s concert. I don’t know if you get a free pass if you’re in the band, or if it’s worse. But that is not relevant right now. It was also during this encore that a ton of people were up at the front, and it was then that Alan Frew stole Deserée’s phone and wandered around the stage with it, shooting video. This was pretty cool – and would have been better had her phone not crapped out halfway through. Still, the video is pretty neat to see.

10:23 p.m. “Thus ends drunkbtexting :) hopenconcert wad good”

I did think that the sound quality was disappointing. The band was way too loud for the style of music they were playing. Not in an “ow, my freakin’ ears” sort of way – more in a “the music is distorted and drowning out the vocals” way. I’m not sure if it got better over the course of the evening or if I just got used to it.

The concert was short, only about 90 minutes including the encore. It was an all-hits affair, as I mentioned, apart from a few new songs that fit well with everything else. Really, the whole night was fun enough. It was fun to hear a bunch of songs I’d kind of forgotten about and everyone there seemed to have a good time.

After the show, we sat around and discussed how much we’d have to pay Alan Frew to score and record a song that I would hypothetically write. Apparently this is a thing one can do and I am very down with this idea. I currently have $25 and some Sobeys coupons in my wallet. I also cashed in everybody’s free slot play vouchers after the show and walked away with $12.50 ($12 from the slots, plus I found 50 cents in the change tray at the ticket redemption machine). That brings me up to $37.50 I am willing to contribute. I bet it costs more than that, but how much more? I would be willing to start a Kickstarter for this. I am also taking lyric suggestions.

Glass Tiger was in the lobby after the show, and by the time we were done with the songwriting proposal and the slot machines, the line to meet them was fairly reasonable. As much as Mika wanted to know how the backup singer got her hair to be that way, we opted to go home, leaving Deserée to get her record signed. I haven’t seen her since. I hope she’s enjoying her new life.

UPCOMING SHOWS
• The Smalls (October 24)
• Michael Bernard Fitzgerald (October 28)
• Gordon Lightfoot (November 7)
• Buck 65 (November 14)
• Spirit of the West (November 21)

SLCR #201: Regina Folk Festival (August 15, 2014)

September 5, 2014

Didn’t quit yet. Maybe someday. Just late. Very late. As I will be.

We didn’t see much of the Folk Festival this year. I had bought weekend passes around Christmastime, but when they announced the Festival schedule, we found that we were really only excited for Friday night. We talked about selling the weekend passes and just buying Friday night passes instead. We went back and forth about this until I had reason to be out of town on the Saturday, which made the decision for us. Most folks I talked to were similarly most excited about Friday night, but I’ve heard that Saturday night was the first to sell out (Serena Ryder and Indigo Girls were headlining) so that tells you just how seriously to take my opinion on anything.

The Friday night main stage stuff started an hour earlier than in previous years (gates at 5:00, show at 6:00), which meant I wouldn’t have time to go home before the show. I loaded the lawn chairs into the car the night before so Mika could meet me downtown, and I had to bring a full change of clothes to the office. An inconvenience, but little did I know how much that extra hour would pay off. Foreshadowing!

Mika was able to skip out of work early and wait in the line which stretched from the main gate, down the corner, and around the block. With the two other writers in my office both away for an extended period, work had been a bit of a mess for me, but I skipped out as early as I could (which is to say, I left at my scheduled time, which was early for that week). Once inside the park, we nabbed a prime spot right by the sidewalk. We were quickly joined by Other James, along with concert review rookies Glenn (another coworker pal) and his wife. Mika reminded me that last year, Other James made it his life’s goal to keep the pathway clear so people could get to their seats. He did not have to do that this year. Clearly, his reputation had spread – though not quite far enough, as he did have to tell one dude to get out of the way at one point.

Apart from my usual Folk Festival goals of watching the show and marrying the kettle corn truck (I will not be denied!), I also had to meet up with Geoff Berner. Eons ago, I contributed towards a crowdfunding campaign for Berner’s first novel, Festival Man. I promptly forgot about this until one day, the book showed up in the mail. “Hooray,” I thought, “I got a book!” And unlike most books I buy, I actually read this one. It’s good! Funny. A quick read. Probably not as exaggerated as one might hope.

In conjunction with the novel, Geoff organized an album of covers of his own songs by folks like Corb Lund, Carolyn Mark, and Rae Spoon. I am on Geoff’s mailing list, and I follow him on Twitter, so I saw numerous messages saying that he’d been sending out Festival Man records, and if yours hadn’t arrived, you should let him know. I paid these no mind. They did not apply to me. I got a book! Then Geoff messaged me personally on Facebook to see if my record had arrived yet. Puzzled, I went back two years into my email archives to discover that I had, in fact, ordered a record. I got a record! And Geoff offered to hand it to me personally at the Folk Festival. He probably came to regret this decision once I started pestering him with other questions. Sorry, Aaron – the Live in Oslo album really IS as out-of-print as it gets.

But back to the Folk Festival. Our host was… who the hell was our host? It’s been so long, I have to look it up. The internet says it is Colby Richardson and he is a local comedian and improv guy. Sounds right. He didn’t leave any great impression on me. This sounds like a negative. I assure you it is not. I want the host to run the show, not try to BE the show. PHOTO OP PHOTO OP PHOTO OP

The first band was Elliott Brood. I was glad they were on the bill because I remember seeing them at Amigo’s years ago and really liking them. The only problem with this is that… um… apparently I never did? I was sure that I had. Mika was there. And Megan and Ian. I’m certain of this. Maybe I made plans to go but they fell through? I just did a detailed search through all 200 previous concert reviews, and nothing. Not even a mention of them. It seems impossible that I haven’t used the word “brood” once in 200 reviews, but Word doesn’t lie. Does it? The find-and-replace thingy is finding other words just fine. I feel disillusioned. What is true?

Anyway, if I really never did see Elliott Brood before this, it’s a shame. They were really good. Mika was surprised at how many of their songs she knew, while I only knew one (Oh, Alberta – which I think is the one song everyone who knows only one Elliott Brood song is likely to know – and also, if I only know one song, maybe I never did see them before? You’d think I’d have picked up another one somewhere along the way). It sounded like they were playing a lot of newer songs. At one point, something happened to an amp (I think the technical term is “it broke”) and they switched seamlessly into a semi-acoustic set. Probably stressful for the band (though they didn’t show it) but one of those things that’s neat for the audience. Something a little different from the norm.

I cannot handle this situation. Did I Eternal Sunshine that Amigo’s show right out of existence? Because I wish I hadn’t. I like these guys.

Children’s entertainer and perennial RFF host Al Simmons did the teaser set between acts. Around this time, I got a text from Geoff asking me to meet him stage left. Perfect timing. I met up with him, though only after learning that stage left is the PERFORMER’S left, not the audience’s left. Bit of a detour. I picked up my record and we chatted for a bit. Friendly guy! Almost came across as shy to talk to in person. He had a teaser set scheduled for later in the evening and was wondering what he should play. If I’d been quicker on the ball, I’d have made actual requests (Iron Grey and Wealthy Poet are favourites) instead of suggesting the song he wrote for the Vancouver Olympics. If you’ve never heard this song, all you really need to know is it’s subtitled “The Dead Children Were Worth It!” And there’s a children’s choir. Because of course there is. There has to be.

I got back to my seat just in time for the start of Mexican Institute of Sound. This was electronic dance music that I paid precisely no attention to and, thus, this will be the only time I mention it. Colin stopped by to tell me that he’d had a few beers and found himself greatly enjoying the music of Al Simmons. Wisely, he recognized that maybe this was a sign that he needed to eat something. I left with him – he needed some sobering up starches and I had promised Aaron I’d buy him a copy of the Festival Man LP, as well as a copy of the novel. Colin was baffled by Aaron’s love of Geoff Berner, which reminded me that he had come with me to a Berner show in 2006 at O’Hanlon’s that could politely be described as “a goddamned mess.” I am honestly not sure if Colin has come with me to a concert since then.

I sent Colin on his way and picked up Aaron’s stuff, as promised. While in the stuff tent, I also got myself Berner’s Victory Party on vinyl, as well as his 7″ When DD Gets Her Donkey, Everything Will Be Alright. The last one! Maybe ever? Probably not. Regardless. I had hopes of finding some Joel Plaskett vinyl too, but was denied.

Back to our spot again and Mika left in search of food. She was gone approximately twenty-seven hours. While she was gone, Colin returned with food and Evelyn stopped by too. Basically, everyone in the park was someone I work with, at least as far as you know. We discussed Colin’s everyman appearance and how I see Colin variants all over the place. Just today, I saw Fat Colin, one of the regulars at the mall. I have also seen Tall Colin and Old Colin around. Evelyn added that Sam Roberts could pass for Famous Colin. I looked forward to seeing this for myself. Foreshadowing!

Mika returned, complaining that all the lines were too long so she opted for a hot dog because it was the quickest option. I went to get my own dinner and found that the lines had dissipated. I got Afghan Cuisine falafels and rice. Tasty. Needed some kind of sauce though. After I was done, I went back for kettle corn but didn’t actually get into it until the next day. You don’t want to rush kettle corn. You want to savour kettle corn. It only comes around once a year. (“actually, they’re at the Farmer’s Market som-”) IT ONLY COMES AROUND ONCE A YEAR. OTHERWISE THERE WOULD BE PROBLEMS. GLUTTONY PROBLEMS.

Geoff Berner played his teaser set, but unfortunately only got time for two songs – Condos and The Rich Will Move To The High Ground. Both good; neither are my favourites. This was a much more fitting venue than O’Hanlon’s but I still got the sense that people didn’t know what to make of him. Understandable. I think he’s very much a love-him-or-hate-him act. I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to make his daytime solo set the next day. He works best with smaller crowds.

Joel Plaskett Emergency was up next and this might have been my all-time favourite set in RFF history. Joel Plaskett is the best guy. He played a whole bunch of songs I know and like (though nothing that would be really surprising if you’ve seen him in concert before). Among the highlights were two new songs that aren’t out yet. You know how nobody wants to hear a band play the new songs? These new songs were both great and I want them right now. One was called Park Avenue Sobriety Test; I’m blanking on the name of the other. I really should take notes for these things and/or not wait to write reviews a month after the fact. It’s shameful how much time I spent putting the meeting Geoff Berner / talking to Colin / talking to Colin and Evelyn / Mika getting food / me getting food segments in chronological order.

Anyway. After a bunch of songs, Plaskett sent the band to the back to do a song by himself. But rather than playing his guitar, he plugged in iPod and sang Fashionable People. Specifically, the kids’ version from the CBC. Where he sings with a talking yam. This was #1 and the greatest thing I’ve ever seen. I have never felt such delight.

I’m a hot dog
And dressing up is fun
So let’s
get
dressed
in a
hot dog bun

I’m seriously super happy right now just thinking about it. I don’t even care about my Elliott Brood mental degeneration crisis anymore.

DRESSED UP IN RED
DRESSED UP IN GREEN
DRESSED UP IN BLUE
THINGS

And then the band came back and played the bass line to Work Out Fine while Joel sang Royals. And Oowatanite. And Kung Fu Fighting. And then he introduced the band as being the cast of Stripes. And then Do Wa Diddy Diddy. “She looked good (looked good), she looked fine (looked fine), she looked good, she looked fine, here’s a song called Work Out Fine.” And then Cupid and then Work Out Fine some more. Wonderful. The whole set could have been the Mamma Yamma Fashionable People and snippets of 100 songs sang over the bass line to Work Out Fine and it would have been the best show I’d ever seen. Joel Plaskett is a delightful human being and he really should move out to Saskatchewan and play here every day.

Leonard Sumner came out for his teaser set and it started to rain a little bit. Mika suggested that I take the records and book to the car. Smart thinking. Gotta save your treasures and also get a frozen banana if you’re up anyway. I ran into Mary. She thought my banana was hilarious. If I had a nickel…

My banana and I returned a few minutes into the set by Blitz the Ambassador, a Ghanan hip-hop artist. I was just starting to get into the show when our MC took the stage to announce that because of the lightning in the area, they were temporarily shutting the show down. We weren’t in any immediate danger, we were told, but they had to wait and see what the weather was going to do. About fifteen minutes later, we got the word that the rest of the night was cancelled. No Sam Roberts for us. We packed up and off we went.

Now, the Regina Folk Festival always has an after-party. Elliott Brood, Mexican Institute of Sound, and Royal Canoe were scheduled to play there. I briefly considered going, thinking that Sam Roberts might play there, but we opted to just go home. From what I heard, Sam Roberts tried play a few songs at the after-party, only to have the power go out and the after-party shut down too. It almost sounded like they were kicking everyone out when the power came back on and he eventually did play a few songs. At that point, that’s above and beyond the call of duty.

As for us, on the way to the car, we wound up walking alongside Geoff Berner, who assured me that he didn’t HAVE to leave, he was just following people. We wished each other well and Mika and I went home. We were inside our house for about five minutes before the rain hit. The power went out about 5 minutes after that. The wind and rain sounded like it was going to rip the house apart. For Glenn and his wife, who live out in White City, it kind of did. He later said the damage wasn’t severe, but the cab had to drop them off two kilometres from home; it couldn’t get any closer due to downed trees and power lines. This was after they had gone for drinks with Other James and wound up using patio tables to build a sort of dam to keep water out of the restaurant’s storage room. Eventful night. Not sure he’ll come to a show with me anymore either.

UPCOMING SHOWS THAT NEITHER GLENN NOR COLIN WILL ATTEND WITH ME, AS FAR AS I KNOW
• Glass Tiger (September 27)
• The Smalls (October 24)
• Gordon Lightfoot (November 7)
• Buck 65 (November 14)

SLCR #200: Ben Folds and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (May 21, 2014)

May 29, 2014

Review number two hundred!

Two!

Friggin’!

Hundred!

This is ridiculous. I feel like I should throw a party. A concert review party. Best kind. Chicken fingers and mozza sticks for all. The DJ can make questionable choices. Patrick can rearrange the furniture and make the bathroom smell like oranges. A LOT of oranges.

Maybe this is a good stopping point. But I’ve felt like stopping for years, off and on, and here we are.

I want to put all these things in a book. Have I mentioned that? Self-published, because nobody would pay for these and they’ve all been free on the internet at one point or another anyway. An ebook, because it would be big and we all have too many books and books are heavy. Hard to move. Though maybe I’ll order up a handful of print copies if I can pull it off without bankrupting myself, just for my own ego. I have a plan. I’ve had a plan for a while, if that isn’t becoming apparent. Re-read everything. Edit everything. Fix typos. Don’t fix horrible opinions. Restore self-censored content. Re-post the old reviews to the internet. Add pictures where possible. Scan tickets. Write a new introduction for each review. Introduce the cast of characters properly so you know why I want Patrick to make the bathroom smell like a lot of oranges.

I’m big on the “planning” part and not so much into the “doing.” But now you can all publically shame me when review #300 rolls around and I’ve done nothing.

I may never get to #300. When the book goes to print, the reviews end. Or when the reviews end, I’ll get the book ready. I don’t know. Something like that, in some order.

I couldn’t finalize the book and then write more reviews. I can’t leave stragglers, waiting forever for a second volume that will never come.

I bought my dad a set of all the James Bond Blu-Rays for Christmas. It’s very nice but it is also kind of silly. I mean, it’s not like they’ll never make more Bond movies, you know? He’ll have this nice fancy box set and a stack of separate individual discs that he’ll buy as future movies come out. So yes, when my concert review book is done, I’m leaving the game.

But can you live without my opinions of Gordon Lightfoot? Or Glass Tiger? Or this year’s Folk Festival? I guess it’s not like I don’t know them already:

GORDON LIGHTFOOD: Good to see him, but would have been better to see him many years ago. Also, I don’t know many of his songs and he skipped at least one of them. And I am NOT fixing that typo up there because “Gordon Lightfood” is the funniest thing I’ve written in some time.

GLASS TIGER: Not bad, all things considered, but I didn’t enjoy them as much as Deserée did. Also, she was way more excited for Glass Tiger than anyone should be in 2014 – or, indeed, ever – but didn’t do anything crazy like rush the stage to profess her undying love for Alan Frew, much to my disappointment (and probably to his).

REGINA FOLK FESTIVAL: This one will vary depending on the weather and my overall mood, but I expect I will like Friday night best of all because Joel Plaskett.

You know, if I only write a sentence for each review, I could keep doing this forever. But that’s not what these are about, is it? These are about documenting all the shenanigans (or lack thereof) that surround these nights, and briefly touching on whether or not I actually enjoyed the performance and whether or not I thought it was any good, all while trying to camouflage my lack of musical knowledge. And with that in mind…

You know I love Ben Folds. I have been a fan ever since first being introduced to Ben Folds Five on a free CD sampler that came with CMJ New Music Monthly, back in the time before you could instantly hear every single song ever recorded for free. I have seen Ben Folds in Fargo (an eight-hour drive – each way – from my house), and with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (also an eight-hour drive), and with Ben Folds Five in Minneapolis (twelve hours). All three shows were great. I would gladly see him again anytime, though I could do without the long-distance drives. I don’t ever expect he’ll play Regina (even though Americans find it so fun to say), but c’mon, Ben. At only six hours away, even Winnipeg would be an improvement. And you have no idea how much it pains me to say that, though I admit that the sting is lessened by the knowledge that I am the first person ever in the history of all humankind to string the words “Winnipeg would be an improvement” together in that exact order.

My friend Candice likes Ben Folds a lot too. If memory serves, this would be her first appearance in an SLCR. She’d never seen Ben before. Whenever I’ve gone to see him, the timing didn’t work out for her. This time, she made it work, so I made it work. Folds’ last concert with the Edmonton Symphony was just over two years ago – March 29, 2012. Like I said, I loved it, but if Candice hadn’t been able go this time, I don’t think I would have bothered either. Between the travel time, the cost, and knowing that the set list was bound to be very similar (when you’re playing with a symphony, your opportunities to mix things up are limited), I would have lived with missing this one. But with a good excuse to go? Couldn’t miss out.

After much deliberation and schedule juggling and plan changing, I caught a bus to Saskatoon on the weekend before the concert. I had the whole week off, so I spent a few days with family and friends before Candice and her husband Ryan picked me up around noon on the day of the show. They brought me Wendy’s! Delightful of them.

The drive was uneventful, which pretty much always beats the alternative. We listened to satellite radio comedy for most of the way there, which was its usual mixed bag. Lots of garbage, a few good lines here and there, and one of my favourite Bill Cosby routines (chocolate cake). And for the first time in a very long time, I found myself having run out of turns to play in my iPhone games.

When we got to Edmonton, we went straight downtown, not stopping at the hotel, to ensure that we had time to eat beforehand. Dinner was at a Ricky’s. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten at a Ricky’s before and am in no great rush to do so again. It wasn’t bad or anything; it was just one of those meals that could best be described as “a thing that happened.” Completely forgettable… so, of course, I’m writing about it for future generations. Hey future Earthlings and associated spacemen! On May 21, 2014, I ate a Greek chicken wrap with a Caesar salad! It was acceptable! Please take this information and build your culture around it. I expect many songs and chants, which you can upload into the hard drive that now contains my consciousness.

If I’d been in the milestone frame of mind, I’d have had chicken fingers and mozza sticks, the only appropriate meal. But I have a question for you: am I just old now, or were mozza sticks maybe never really all that good? Ones from the oven are always disappointing, sure, but even the deep fried “good” ones? I guess I just don’t know why anyone would get mozza sticks when deep fried dill pickle spears are a thing.

Anyway. We were only a few blocks from the Winspear Centre, so one quick walk and we were in our seats. After the last show, I remarked that the Winspear is a beautiful venue and I’d love to see something like it here. Candice said pretty much the same thing upon seeing it. Speaking of the seats, I did much better, ticket-wise, than the previous show – sixth row and close to the middle. Close enough to get hit with Ben Folds’ spit if he was determined to do so, and that’s what you’re after in a concert experience.

Actually, no. We were close enough to justify me sending Jeff a picture showing just how close to the stage we were. He replied “Hate you so much” which is what I was truly after in a concert experience. Also, it’s what he replies anytime I text him anything, or when I send a bottle of sparkling apple juice to his house. Hypothetically.

Showtime! As I expected, the setlist was very similar to the last symphony show – almost all of the same songs, just in a different order. They opened with Effington, and I still enjoy the choir singing “If there’s a god, he’s laughing at us and our football team.” The first half of the show closed with Steven’s Last Night In Town; the orchestra gives the song a swing/big band feel and it was one of the highlights of the evening. I like this version much better than the studio album. He came back out of intermission with Zak and Sara, and closed the second set with Narcolepsy (which followed a version of One Angry Dwarf which tore the place down – he could have had everyone leave after that one and then return for Narcolepsy as the encore and that would have worked well too).

I think the first half of the show also included (in some order) Smoke (also better with the symphony than on the record), Jesusland, Picture Window, and Landed. The second half featured Annie Waits, Cologne, Brick, and Not The Same. Of course, someone yelled out “ROCK THIS BITCH” – actually, in this case it was “JAZZ THIS BITCH” – so we got an impromptu, jazz-inspired number which again put the choir to good use. I wonder if he prepped them beforehand? “Hey choir guys, just so you know, there’s a good chance that tonight I’ll make you sing ‘rock this bitch in Edmonton’ over and over. Also, very pregnant lady, if you suddenly need to leave early, I totally get that.”

Two songs from the previous show were dropped (Gracie and The Ascent of Stan) in favour of two movements from Ben’s new piano concerto. I believe this was the first time these pieces had been played live since he debuted the concerto a few weeks ago, so it was neat to be able to hear these. An album release is planned but won’t be for a while yet. We have established that I don’t know anything about music proper, so I’ll just say that I enjoyed these pieces and look forward to hearing the whole thing. Ben explained that back in the day, a great piano concerto could “put seats in asses,” much to the amusement of the crowd and the conductor. This was not the conductor’s first show with Ben, so he could also get away with sarcastically applauding Ben’s choice of title for his piano concerto (“Piano Concerto for Symphony”).

The symphony didn’t play the encore; instead, Ben came out alone to do a few songs. Like last time, he did Army and The Last Polka. He also performed The Luckiest by himself and, earlier, had played Annie Waits with the symphony – at the last show, it was the reverse. (Thanks, mystery person who posted the setlist for the last show online. You saved me literally minutes of re-reading my own review!)

I will admit to a tinge of disappointment that he didn’t surprise us with a new symphonic rendition of his song from Community. Don’t you think a 70-piece orchestra could do fine work with Ass Crack Bandit? I think they’d class it right up. If I close my eyes, I can already tune out the outside world and hear the choir singing “A-S-S-C-R-A-C-K bandit.” This must happen. I really needed to mobilize Twitter behind this cause before the next Ben Folds show I see.

We were seated close to the end of our row, with only one spot to my right before the aisle. I don’t know if the girl who sat there was at the show by herself or just not sitting with her friends; either way, she was super excited for Ben Folds and mouthed along with all the songs, including the more obscure ones. Her enthusiasm was contagious and I found her to be delightful. Meanwhile, the guy ahead of me took a picture during the show and spent several minutes cropping it, selecting the right filter, perfecting the caption, and posting it to Instagram. This seemed like a massive waste of show time – there’s a #latergram hashtag for a reason – but he later redeemed himself by going absolutely bonkers for songs like Army and Zak & Sara. Thank you, strangers! It is fun to be around fun people.

Speaking of fun people, Candice and Ryan seemed to really enjoy the show. I didn’t doubt that they would, but I’d hate for it to have sucked after all this time. As for me, the evening did feel like a bit of a re-run. I expected as much, but even a lot of the stories were the same – Steven kept asking for parties, Ben made up a song on the spot about that astronaut, bringing in a rock star is basically the symphony’s equivalent of a wet t-shirt contest. Having said that, I still had a fine time and have spent the past week with one song or another stuck in my head – usually ones that hadn’t previously been favourites like Cologne, Last Polka, or Last Night in Town. And I’d still happily go see Ben again, especially if it was a solo show and/or closer. Preferably both.

On our way out of the Winspear Centre, some guy was handing out cards promoting the free download of his band’s album. I like free! And you probably like free too. But I can’t recommend you get something that might suck, right? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a bonus album review right here? I thought so, but my iTunes Match is being a giant dick. My phone sees that I have the album but won’t actually let me play it. Also, it is showing up as having been split into three separate albums for reasons known only to iTunes. So instead of a proper review, I will just say that I heard the first few songs the other night while I was making supper and I liked them well enough on first (distracted) listen.

So if you feel like it, you can sample or download your own free copy of Over Land and Sea (deluxe edition! is there a non-deluxe edition somewhere?) by Lauren Mann & The Fairly Odd Folk at http://www.noisetrade.com/laurenmannmusic/over-land-and-sea—deluxe-edition. I bet they’d like it if you tipped them, too.

After getting to the hotel, I slept, ate an expensive room service omelette, played black light mini-golf, lost to Ryan at air hockey in a nail-biter, lost to Ryan at air hockey in a blowout, ate a burger with bacon and peanut butter and jelly on it, got a ride to the airport, and flew home. In that order.

UPCOMING SHOWS
• Regina Folk Festival (Serena Ryder, Joel Plaskett Emergency, Sam Roberts Band, Indigo Girls, Los Lobos, Mo Kenney, Geoff Berner, more – August 8-10)
• Son of Dave (August 14)
• Glass Tiger (September 27)
• Gordon Lightfoot (November 7)

SLCR #199: Bastille w/To Kill a King (April 4, 2014)

April 14, 2014

Review Number One-Ninety-Nine was supposed to be Mounties. A Canadian indie-rock supergroup of sorts, Mounties (is? are?) my favourite guy Hawksley Workman, Steve Bays from Hot Hot Heat, and Ryan Dahle from Limblifter and Age of Electric. Over the past year, they’ve released a few songs online and just put out Thrash Rock Legacy, their first album (hence the tour). It’s catchy dancey pop that sometimes wanders off into extended jams. Unsurprisingly, there are parts of the album that sound like Hawksley got to sing on some Hot Hot Heat songs, but that doesn’t quite describe it unless you add in those jams, and also a time machine. These are kids of the 80s.

Unfortunately, Mounties skipped Regina in favour of a Saskatoon show at Amigo’s. I knew what that meant but bought tickets anyway. It’s Hawksley, right? I’ll work for it. My fears were confirmed when I Twittered at @mountiesband to find out what time they would take the stage. “Midnight!” was the brief but enthusiastic response. That was about what I was expecting – if anything, that’s early for Amigo’s. But the concert came at the tail end of the two busiest weeks of Mika’s classes, and the night before the show, I came down with a crippling stomach bug. The good news is that we’re both okay – school is winding down for the semester and WebMD diagnosed me with a case of “maybe you shouldn’t have eaten ALL the spring rolls, fatass” – but neither of us were really up for a three-hour highway drive in the dark for a show that wouldn’t let us get to sleep until 3:00 a.m. so we passed. Deserée was coming with us but opted out after we did. I hear the show sold out. I hope it was awesome, and if you went, I hope you enjoy the extra breathing room that three absentees provided.

I won’t lie; I was pretty disappointed about this one. I get it. I do. There will always be new 19-year-olds to replace those of us who age out of staying awake forever. Maybe Amigo’s isn’t meant for me. Maybe this earring isn’t meant for me. Maybe this goatee isn’t hiding any chins and maybe it’s half-grey anyway. Maybe I should avoid Amigo’s because they only have almond chicken fingers at lunchtime and only on Tuesdays and I don’t live in Saskatoon so when am I ever going to have those again, assuming they even offer them anymore, how would I know, I haven’t eaten at Amigo’s in years and I haven’t seen a show there since the second night of JunoFest, seven years ago.

Maybe I should avoid Amigo’s because it instills existential angst and dread.

Anyway, when the Mounties show fell through, I briefly considered going to Kings of Leon in Calgary. (I was going to go be in Calgary anyway, which I’ll get to.) My general thought on Kings of Leon is “I give no shits as it pertains to Kings of Leon” – I don’t hate them, I don’t love them, I don’t know much about them. They’re just there. I know Sex on Fire and it’s okay enough. Mika tells me that I’ve heard other Kings of Leon songs, but I can’t prove it. Mark told me that their newest album is good, and I trust his judgment, but the biggest selling point for the show was that I could get a nosebleed seat for cheap and the Saddledome is within walking distance of my grandparents’ place. However, I eventually opted to skip this show too; not because I didn’t really care about it, but because I mistakenly thought the show was on Wednesday. That morning, I was thinking “I really need to decide if I want to go do this” when I opened the newspaper and saw their review of the show. Apparently, it was good.

That brings us to Bastille. To see this show, I did something that I’ve never done before: way overpaid for a ticket from a scalper. I’ve only ever bought tickets through legitimate means. But I wanted to go to Calgary to visit my grandparents, as I will do, and there weren’t a lot of bands playing that interested me. Bastille interested me.

Because I am an Old and I associate almost exclusively with fellow Olds, I didn’t know of Bastille until their January appearance on Saturday Night Live. I asked Mika the same question I ask her regarding every SNL musical act: “What’s a Bastille? Will I hate it?”

She said that I might not. Promising!

And indeed, I liked their first song, Pompeii (the one you’ve heard if you’ve heard one), enough to pick it up on iTunes. I wasn’t as sold on their other song (Oblivion) right away – Oblivion is a slower song and Pompeii is ridiculously catchy and full of hooks and probably not any good, depending on who you ask, but you’re asking me, and who asked you?

Anyway. I YouTubed some of their other singles and was convinced to Complete My Album. It’s good! Then I saw the concert listed on Pollstar.

It’s worth noting that I had no idea if Bastille was a Big Deal at all. They had to be some sort of Deal if they were playing on SNL, but their Calgary show was scheduled for the MacEwan Ballroom (relatively small) and tickets were a reasonable $27.50. I decided to buy one and hope the timing of the trip worked out.

You are probably aware that this line of thinking was foolish.

Near as I can tell, they sold out the MacEwan Ballroom right away, were moved one floor down to the larger MacEwan Hall, and then sold THAT out right away too. There were no tickets anywhere. With no assigned seating, I had no hope of picking up a single ticket that nobody else wanted. I poked around Twitter, Craigslist, StubHub, and Kijiji, and learned valuable lessons about supply and demand.

Remembering last year’s costly The God That Comes mistake, I hadn’t bought plane tickets yet, so my schedule was wide open. I went back to Pollstar, determined to find a show I’d like even better. There just wasn’t much of anything, though. Lots of “yeah, I could go see them, I guess” types of shows. Kings of Leon types of shows.

Bastille was the only show that really stood out to me. Plus, the timing of everything worked out perfectly – drive to Saskatoon with Mika, see Mounties (or, you know, not), spend time with family, Mika goes home, I fly from Saskatoon to Calgary, spend a week, fly back to Saskatoon, watch Wrestlemania with the usual people because we never grow up and we never learn, catch a bus back to Regina. It’s like three trips in one.

It was so stupid, really. I found plane tickets. They cost X. The concert cost Y. X + Y = Z. Does it really matter what X and Y are, as long as I’m fine with Z? Stupid algebra, convincing me to spend $97.90 (!) USD (!!) for a $27.50 CDN ticket. This show needed to be good or I was going to be SO CROSS.

Off I went to MacEwan Hall, and dang, these guys don’t mess around. The ticket said 8:00; I got there around 8:05 and the opening act, To Kill A King, had already started. I really liked these guys! I’d never heard of them before, so it was a delightful surprise. They sounded very much like a band that would be opening for Bastille, if that makes any sense. English folk-rock. Like Bastille with a smaller budget, so you didn’t get the rock band light show. More vocal harmonies too. Quite nice. Would see again.

Between sets, I decided to pick up the TKAK album (is this an acronym anyone uses? It is now, I guess) and discovered that there was a Jugo Juice across from the stuff table. And it was open! As someone who doesn’t drink a whole lot of beers and doesn’t want to fight the bar crowd for a soda, this was a godsend. I picked up a smoothie and texted Mika and declared that every concert venue needed a Jugo Juice. Unfortunately, the instant I finished the smoothie, the last drop landed inside me with a thud and I spent a good chunk of time wondering if it was going to stay put. As such, I can’t give the Jugo Juice my full endorsement, though I am fully prepared to blame a week of Calgary eating or even residual spring roll aftereffects.

But before I hit that point, I had to get the TKAK CD. By the time I got my smoothie, the 19-year-old girls who had been waiting at the stuff table had moved on, so a few members of the band were just hanging out, chatting with people and signing stuff. I wound up with a few seconds to talk to the lead singer, the amazingly-named Ralph Pelleymounter. Autocorrect doesn’t even KNOW what to do with that. I felt way too old to be doing such things, but regardless, he was a delightful fellow. Good chat.

Back I went into the concert hall, CD in hand. Smoothie in other hand. Jacket over arm, phone in pocket, wallet also in pocket, keys there too, glasses on face, shoes on feet, all non-jacket clothes in their appropriate places, really… ready for the show.

The highlight of the show – and one of the highlights of my entire life – came close to the end of the evening. During their song Flaws, the lead singer of Bastille (whose name is probably not as great as “Ralph Pelleymounter” and I am not about to look it up to confirm/deny) jumped into the crowd and ran around singing among the people. For most of this, I couldn’t see anything. I knew where he was, roughly, from the general movement of the crowd. But then he came near where I was standing. And he’s singing, and people are patting him on the back, and… I don’t know if he was going for a high-five or what, but he managed to completely pie-face this girl about two feet from where I was standing. He hugged her in apology and never stopped singing. For what it’s worth, she was unhurt and, really, seemed completely delighted by this whole sequence of events.

I wouldn’t pay extra for someone to get smacked in the face at every show I attend, but as a one-off? What the heck.

As for the rest of the show, it was about what you’d expect. Energetic pop. Young band. Young crowd. I felt exceedingly old. Fancy lights. Good sound. Very professionally done. No real spontaneity. I liked Oblivion better here than on SNL. Most of the singles were slotted in towards the end of the show, with the biggest hit saved for the encore. They brought out To Kill a King at the end to sing Pompeii with them, which I thought was a nice touch. A relatively short show, which is to be expected when there’s only one album (albeit with an optional bonus disc) to draw from.

It was definitely better than a $27.50 show. It wasn’t the revelatory, new-number-one-fan-forever experience that I would have hoped for, but I had a fine time. I’d see them again, preferably for the advertised price. And with more face-punching.

UPCOMING SHOWS
• Ben Folds & Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (May 21)
• Regina Folk Festival (Serena Ryder, Joel Plaskett Emergency, Sam Roberts Band, Indigo Girls, Los Lobos, Mo Kenney, Geoff Berner, more – August 8-10)
• Gordon Lightfoot (November 7)

SLCR #198: A Tribe Called Red (February 18, 2014)

March 17, 2014

“Who do you think we’re going to see more of tonight, Native people or hipsters?”

“Are there Native hipsters?”

I assumed there had to be, but having never seen any, I didn’t really know. I can now tell you that they exist and are plentiful.

I went into this evening not knowing much of anything, if we’re being honest. A Tribe Called Red combines dance/techno with traditional Native music, and I really liked the few songs I’d heard via some combination of Mika and CBC Radio 3. Their most recent album, Nation II Nation, was short-listed for the 2013 Polaris Music Prize, and given that I already liked a few songs, you’d think that I would track it down and give it a proper listen. Unless you know me, I mean.

This show took place on a Tuesday evening, which – if you’re not familiar with Tuesdays – means it was a weeknight. Needless to say, this is where I segue from the “I didn’t listen to much of the band’s music before the show” trope to the ever-popular “we were tired and didn’t really feel like going.” Someday, I will be able to write one of these things by doing nothing but copying and pasting full sentences from reviews that came before it. At that point, I can retire from review writing.

I had bought my tickets online months before this show, but didn’t get around to picking them up until the morning of. I didn’t actually look at them, so it was a bit of a surprise when we were getting ready to leave the house and I found someone else’s ticket packed in with ours. I handed the extra in when we got to the show and the girl taking the tickets said “ohh, THAT explains it.” I do not know what it explained. I suspect it was maybe something not good.

When we walked into the Exchange, there was a DJ playing songs and nobody seemed to be paying him too much attention. Everyone was getting drinks and finding optimal places to stand. This didn’t last too long – the Regina Folk Festival concert series shows adhere pretty strongly to their scheduled times – before the CBC’s newest meteorologist came out to start the show. Have I written that before? Because it seems like every time I go to something at the Exchange, the show is started by a new CBC meteorologist. It’s their thing. I don’t know how this talent exchange has come to pass and, for that matter, I don’t know why they never actually tell us what the weather is. Can news anchors and sports guys not convincingly claim that they’re excited for a concert? At least this one actually said “meteorologist” and not “weather specialist.”

The band took the stage and the dance floor filled up, and… yeah, there really wasn’t all that much to see. Mostly it was three guys on laptops. At a few points, a dancer joined them on stage for some hoop dance-inspired breakdancing (or breakdance-inspired hoop dancing?). This was entertaining and a fun supplement to the show. Or really, from a visual standpoint, it WAS the show.

The thing about dance music – apart from my limited tolerance for it, due in part to my disinterest in actually dancing – is that it’s often pretty much indistinguishable from someone pressing play on Winamp. I’m sure they were doing… stuff, but I wouldn’t know what. And if I was there to dance, I likely wouldn’t care. But I wasn’t, so, y’know.

I mean, I can’t tell someone who’s really good at guitar from someone who’d just noodling around, but even someone who’s noodling gives me something to watch, you know?

So yeah. The music was good for what it was, but I have a low ceiling for dance music and we didn’t stay all the way until the end. Maybe it would be more your thing?

I don’t think I have much else to say, really. I’m basing this on the fact that everything above this paragraph has been written out in a text file for three weeks, waiting for me to come back and tack on an ending. Also, I just opened this text file to write this ending, but decided that trimming my toenails was a more urgent task. I mean, yeah, my toes were in rough shape, but we’re still weeks away from sandal season here.

UPCOMING SHOWS
• Mounties w/Rich Aucoin & JPNS GRLS (Friday, March 28)
• Bastille w/To Kill a King (Friday, April 4)
• Ben Folds & Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (Wednesday, May 21)
• Regina Folk Festival (Friday, August 8 to Sunday, August 10)
• Gordon Lightfoot (Friday, November 7)


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