Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

SLCR #233: The Art of Time Ensemble (March 3, 2016)

March 4, 2016

This was a pleasant surprise. There was no big announcement for this show – at least not one that I saw. Instead, I heard about it on Twitter – really, just offhandedly retweeted – a unique one-off concert with a favourite singer joining forces with the Art of Time Ensemble to perform an evening of covers of one of their biggest inspirations. I didn’t seriously think I could go – I mean, I’d have to hop on a plane for it – but I checked the ticket availability just to satisfy my own curiosity and dang if there wasn’t one seat still available in the very front row. It was a sign from a god that I don’t believe in except for when I need justification for doing something extravagant.

I look forward to copying and pasting that paragraph in a few months’ time when I have to write about Hawksley Workman and the Art of Time playing Bruce Cockburn songs in Toronto. But I am in Calgary, where Steven Page (once of Barenaked Ladies), Craig Northey of Odds, Andy Maize of Skydiggers, and Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket played all of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. And a few other Beatles songs.

This is not as much of a one-off as the Hawksley show (which itself is actually on for two nights) – these guys are on a short Canadian tour. Four cities, I think, with a studio album version released a few years ago. Plus, finding out about the Hawksley show led to me planning that trip, whereas for this one, I had already booked my Calgary visit and just happened to be arriving a few hours before showtime.

After visiting with my grandma, watching the news and promising to bake bread and sharpen knives during my stay, I caught a C-Train to go two whole stops to the Jack Singer Concert Hall, the same place where I saw Bahamas last fall. It’s still nice and conveniently located and still a good idea for a city to have and I still like the light rail too. I need a default Calgary paragraph that I can just paste into these things.

Today is still Thursday, if we assume it’s not after midnight (depends which time zone I feel like recognizing), and I only found out about this show on Monday or Tuesday when Steven Page retweeted something about the gig. I’m not sure how I managed to luck into a front-row seat. And when I say front row, I mean I was right up there. I could – and did – rest my feet against the base of the stage. It was almost too close, like watching a movie from the front row. I couldn’t really see too much of the orchestra. If I looked straight ahead, I had a great view of the singers’ footwear. Looking up, their faces were obscured by the music stands they were using for their sheet music and bottled water and iPads. This situation thankfully didn’t last – Phillips lowered his stand and it honestly seemed like he was doing it just so I could see better. Page then followed suit and actually leaned down and said, off-mic, “there, is that better?” to the people sitting to my right.

From left to right were Phillips, Page, Northey, and Maize, with me being positioned slightly closer to Phillips than Page. Behind them was the Calgary Philharmonic. Now, as I understand it, the Art of Time Ensemble is eight or so musicians, and that’s who I expect to see performing with Hawksley in Toronto. If those folks were here tonight, I couldn’t tell you. They either weren’t there or were dressed to blend in with the Calgarians – and not with the usual cowboy hats and belt buckles, so if they were there, they clearly did their research. But I got the impression that for tonight, the four singers and artistic director (and tonight’s pianist) Andrew Burashko WERE the Art of Time Ensemble. I suspect that kind of appellation is flexible. Fine by me. You get the point – four singers, orchestral versions of Beatles songs.

The show opened with Northey singing Strawberry Fields Forever, which Page pointed out is not, technically, ON Sgt. Pepper. He attributed this to confusion between the Sgt. Pepper album and a mixtape which happened to have the title track on it (and also Corey Hart’s Sunglasses at Night). Northey does a fine imitation of the booooooooooweeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEP noise that tells you that your tape is starting.

I used to have an Odds mixtape I’d made myself that was just the right length to listen to when mowing the lawn. I think it cut off the tail end of “Yes (Means It’s Hard to Say No).” The other side of the tape had all of Wide Mouth Mason’s major label debut.

I digress. After Strawberry Fields, they played all of Sgt. Pepper (with an intermission around the halfway point), with the different singers taking turns singing lead. Do you need me to tell you about Sgt. Pepper? I feel like it is somewhat of a known commodity at this point, and while I like the Beatles, I am far from a scholar. Suffice it to say that it is commonly regarded as the Beatles’ masterpiece. Recorded in response to the Altimont riots and the Kent State shootings, Sgt. Pepper is widely credited with kicking off the grunge revolution and introducing hip-hop to mainstream America. John Lennon, or as he was often called, Mr. Mojo Risin’, rode the success of Sgt. Pepper to great fame in Pepsi commercials until he tragically died in a plane crash with Richie Valens and the Big Bopper, a day that will forever be remembered by music fans as The Day The Airplane Crashed. But you know all that if you’ve ever heard Hotel California.

Anyway. This was a really fun evening! The arrangements were interesting and the vocals were done well. It was all still recognizable as Sgt. Pepper but had some neat twists – the jazzy version of Lovely Rita being a particular standout for me. Being so close, I kept getting distracted because it was easy to discern the different parts in the vocal harmonies, which is not something I really ever think about or even entirely understand – I can’t sing, I can only imitate. Anyway, it was interesting to really see who was singing what harmonies and think about how the vocal parts were related. This probably sounds dumb as hell to anyone who actually understands music on any level. Don’t care. Write your own reviews.

During the intermission, I just stayed in my seat and played iPhone games, and I’m so glad I did because the folks behind me had the most fascinating conversation. Between not knowing what building they were in or who they were watching and then the guy professing his love for “Raspberry Fields Forever,” it was hard to stifle the giggles. In his defence, he came back with a solid “Dr. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” joke once he realized his mistake. Unfortunately, he didn’t let it go and subsequent attempts (“Banana Submarine!”) fell flat, but it was still a decent recovery.

Once the ensemble had played through all of Sgt. Pepper, they had one of those encores where you don’t bother leaving the stage. There were three closing numbers – Page sang Penny Lane, Maize did Here Comes The Sun, and all four led a singalong of All You Need Is Love, during which I’m pretty sure I heard Northey or maybe Page singing a bit of Sunglasses at Night. I don’t think there’s a “so I can so I can” in the original, but I’m far from a scholar.

February 1, 2016

Blogging on my phone. Too lazy to get to the computer. At least it’s a big phone.

Saw a Darth Vader humidifier at Sears today. Got irrationally angry. We as a society are not allowed to have any more new things. Why does this exist?

Switched from phone to iPad. Needed the keyboard. Keyboard only so-so.

Back to my point re: Lord Vader. Who is buying these? Either there are people in need of a humidifier who have thus far put off buying one due to existing humidifiers not being sufficiently Star Warsy, or they’re replacing perfectly good existing humidifiers to get these. Either way, there’s some questionable decision-making going on here. There are only so many Star Wars fans who are saving mint-in-box humidifiers, and only so many who have conveniently-timed broken humidifiers in need of replacement.

I suppose I shouldn’t complain. For as much as I would like to rid my life of Things, I do a very bad job of ever putting that into practice.

Plus, if they replaced the Darth Vader humidifier with a Big Van Vader model, I’d have to be tempted. At least it would be character appropriate.

 

January 31, 2016

I didn’t blog yesterday. This “blogging daily” thing is off to a fine start.

Not blogging at all may provide better content than one sentence about disliking Sex & The City.

I have an app on my phone that is a list of things I want to do daily. Building good habits, you know. The app keeps track of how many days in a row I succeed. It has been very good at getting me to floss, and I am very bitter that my dental hygienist hasn’t praised me enough for this. It hasn’t been so good at most anything else. I am to eat better, drink more water, and walk 10,000 steps a day. I also want to do my daily New York Times crossword and some Duolingo French practice, and take a daily picture of myself for an app that stitches them altogether into a little time-lapse video. And, now, blog. I can’t remember the last time I managed to hit every one of these in a day.

The combination of the new job and the weather has made the walking thing tricky. I don’t really have time for coffee break walks, and it’s too icy/sloppy to walk to/from work. These aren’t good excuses – I own a treadmill – but I’m looking forward to spring and getting settled into the job just the same.

I go to the doctor on Tuesday morning. I’m heavier than I was before Christmas and he’s gonna be pissed. I’m afraid of him. I should make up some dire symptoms to distract him.

January 29, 2016

After this week’s exposure to Sex & The City, I would hereby like to offer a formal apology to Girls, The Vampire Diaries, and any other television show I may have slandered over the course of the past decade. 

SLCR #226: Bahamas (November 17, 2015)

November 22, 2015

I had really good intentions of having another go at writing this in bed last night, but yeah, fell asleep again. So now I am sitting up at the kitchen table, but in the interest of repeating past mistakes, I am once again overloading on chips and salsa. To further increase the degree of difficulty here, I am watching WWE Network on my iPad and typing this on my phone. I still have my Bluetooth keyboard, sure, but there’s an ongoing distraction and a wee little screen. So if this sucks, that’s why. Now I just need to think of an excuse for every other time.

While we’re talking about degrees of difficulty, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the walk to the C-Train was like a skating rink. I had gone out in the afternoon and the weather was wonderful. Two hours at home and I go to leave and the world had iced over. I took a fairly miserable looking selfie on the train – red cheeks, fogged glasses, snowy toque, the whole deal.

selfie

I didn’t consider staying home, though. I was pretty excited for this show. My original plan for the Calgary trip was to go a few weeks earlier, but that got bumped for the usual work-related reasons. (Did I mention I start my new job in three weeks? Did I mention I am looking forward to it?)

Really, though, the change was for the best. That week, there were no shows that really appealed to me. I could have seen Barenaked Ladies with Great Big Sea lead singer Alan Doyle opening, and that could have been a fun trip back in time to 1997 James’ favourites, but I really haven’t listened to much of anything from either band in years.

Anyway, a few slips and slides aside, the C-Train trip was uneventful. At least for me – there was an accident somewhere downtown so when I got on the train, I had a nice long sitdown before we slooooowly made our way. I didn’t hear anything about it on the news (and I am staying with my grandma, so I have seen a lot of local news) (also Jeopardy and Wheel, Pawn Stars and Storage Wars, and Chopped) so I am hoping nobody was hurt. The delay meant nothing to me since I was only going two stops anyway.

The Jack Singer Concert Hall is in the same complex – the Arts Commons – as the Big Secret Theatre where I saw Hawksley Workman’s The God That Comes a few years ago, as well as a number of other venues. It’s really easy to get to and just a great idea. I wish we had something like this in Regina.

I found my way in and took a look at the stuff table. There were your usual records, CDs, shirts, etc. – nothing new from John K. Samson, unfortunately – and there was also a selection of drawings used in Bahamas’ video for Bitter Memories. I bought one; a piece of original art seemed like a really neat souvenir. It’s a sparse pencil drawing of a guitarist who may or may not be Bahamas (I have never actually seen this video, which is what I should be watching right now instead of old wrestling). I hope that description suffices, as I will likely be too lazy to attach a picture here. Or not. Who knows? I’m watching wrestling and typing on a phone, I can’t think of logistics right now.

bahamas

I checked my coat (which I always hate doing, but it was pretty damp), took my drawing and found my spot – dead centre in the back row of the floor seating. Not bad for buying a ticket a week or two out. I don’t think the show was sold out, but it was close.

As I hinted at above, the opener was John K. Samson, the lead singer of the Weakerthans. Or “former” lead singer of the Weakerthans, I guess. Boo. But be that as it may, this ruled. He played a handful of Weakerthans songs (Plea from a Cat Named Virtute, Everything Must Go!, Reconstruction Site) and a few songs from his solo album (including Cruise Night), but most of his set was devoted to new songs. I was hopeful for one, but we got five or six and I was delighted. He only mentioned titles for two of those songs, but I had some guesses at the others: Winter Wheat; On the 21st Day; Fellow Traveler; Select All, Delete, and Post-Doc Blues. He didn’t mention a new album but I hope the new songs mean one is coming sooner rather than later.

If a big ol’ pile of new John K. songs wasn’t enough, he was also joined for about half his set by Jason Tait, Weakerthans drummer (ex-drummer) (boo) who has also been drumming for Bahamas of late. This was the best and I just wish it hadn’t been a 40-minute opening set. I could have easily watched another hour.

I don’t think I was in the majority, though. Before I left for Calgary, Mika said that Samson seemed like an odd choice to be opening for Bahamas. I disagreed – I mean, *I* like both of them, and who could disagree with me? – but the audience was very much Bahamas’ crowd. John K. had his fans, but there were little things – pauses after songs ended because people didn’t realize that he was done and it was time to applaud, or people giggling at lyrics that I don’t think of as funny. In that way, it reminded me of seeing Hawksley Workman perform as part of Stuart McLean’s Christmas show – there’s a very different crowd reaction than at one of his own shows, if that makes sense.

Brief intermission. I took a picture of the drawing I bought and texted it to some folks while simultaneously pondering how, exactly, I was going to get this thing home in the snow on the C-Train. (Answer: carefully. Tucked into my coat. Luckily, it was wrapped in plastic.)

Bahamas took the stage. I assume. Someone was up there, but they were in silhouette and fog. Playing Lost in the Light. A little on the nose, possibly, but I don’t care. It looked cool.

I have mentioned this problem before. In the age of the iPhone (and the iPod before it), I don’t know what songs are called. As far as I am concerned, the titles of most Bahamas songs start with “the one that goes like” and then I hum something. In the quest to give you a list of what he played (while still typing on my phone and watching wrestling on my iPad), I’m going to have to get my work phone involved so I can look up song titles. This is becoming a three-screen experience and it is getting ridiculous. I wonder if there’s any way if I can involve my Nintendo 3DS in this?

As I’m procrastinating looking up song titles, I will mention that he played a new song and asked us not to record it since it was a work in progress and may change a lot or may wind up discarded entirely. I will go one better and not describe it at all. I mention it only to point out that I got to hear it and you didn’t.

He talked a lot about the process of writing one song and going back and forth about how he loved it one day and hated it the next, and how it went through numerous different revisions. When he finally played the song, which turned out to be recent single Stronger Than That, he added back a chord that was excluded from the recorded version – a chord which he called the Golden Girls chord because it came out of nowhere, kind of like Blanche Devereaux. I do not entirely understand the logic but I am not about to decline a Golden Girls reference. And I am especially not going to decline Bahamas singing the Golden Girls theme and critiquing the lyrics (“You’re a pal and a confidant. Isn’t that a nice thing to say to someone?”). He also threatened to play the theme from Growing Pains but only made it one line in. I would have been perfectly fine with an entire show of Bahamas singing TV themes.

There was one really weird moment while Bahamas was talking. I don’t know if it was something he specifically said or what, but he was talking, and for a split second, his voice sounded just like what I hear when I hear my own recorded voice and it seriously creeped me out. For real – it made me uncomfortable like when I have to listen to a recording of myself. I have no idea how this happened – I have seen Bahamas numerous times and have never thought of anything like this, and I listened for it as the show went on and didn’t hear it again. It was just really odd.

I’d blame the sound system but the sound was excellent all night – remarkably so. The concert hall isn’t as ornate as some that I’ve seen but the sound was stellar for both Bahamas and Samson. Really, everything about this show was great, start to finish. I will use that wording as a loophole to exclude the fact that I juuuuuuust missed the train going home and had a 15-minute wait for the next one.

Okay, I finally broke out my work phone and here are some other songs I know he played: Bitter Memories; Can’t Take You With Me; All The Time; Southern Drawl; I Got You Babe. That is not many songs; and yet, he played many songs. Come hang out sometime and we’ll play Bahamas records and I’ll say “that one!” and then we can try to memorize what the song is called and it will be good times. Can we maybe go for donairs? I could go for one.

UPCOMING SHOWS
• Blue Rodeo w/Terra Lightfoot (January 14)
• Whitehorse w/Andy Shauf and Emily Wells (January 22)
• Corb Lund (February 9)
• Hawksley Workman & The Art of Time Ensemble (May 13)