Music Archives

September 10, 2002

The hardest part of lovin' is leavin'

I've just returned from seeing Alison Moorer at Nu Music Night at the Horseshoe Tavern. It was a great set but incredibly, unbelievably short. As in, less than 45 minutes long short. I'd say Alabama Song was the highlight of the set, but there was lots of good stuff (as a percentage anyway, there was, as I've noted, a shortage of stuff overall).

I'm pleased as hell that she made it up to Toronto, but I have to wonder why she bothered. Nu Music Night pays diddly squat, she wasn't able to get any merch across the border (so I couldn't buy the new CD, damnit) and she wasn't even the headlining act at a no cover night (Marah was to follow but I didn't stay for that). What's the payback on a gig like this?

Related Links:
Allison Moorer
Horseshoe Tavern

November 14, 2002

I guess you could say it pays to be a repubilican!!

Not sure if anyone's posted this, I haven't seen it come through but I'm only skimming a lot of stuff since my home computer is broken. Kelly Willis did a live chat today at Live Online at the Washington Post. I missed it, damn it, but the transcript is available.

Particularly fun parts are where she says she still has a crush on Bruce, threatens to make her bass player play Rockabilly and calls Shania a covergirl.

Related Links:
Kelly Willis
Washington Post Online Discussions

December 11, 2002

Alan Jackson - Daddy Let Me Drive

It's not really a sad song, more of a nostalgia trip. I would have thought that at 25, I was too young to succumb to nostalgia that way, but damn that songs gets to me. My father had a big old Chevy Silverado pick-up truck with the extended cab and a long box from the 70s. Sucker was big. We painted the whole truck in a rusty red colour, because it was easier than trying to paint the rust to match the truck. We used to go out to bring in fire wood in the summer, and a couple years before it was legal, my parents taught me to drive that big, old truck home loaded with wood on the gravel logging roads. We lived in a small town, and you hauled your own garbage to the dump, that was the other place my Dad'd let me drive. We had a boat, though I don't recall ever being taught to drive it, or even wanting to much, on the other hand, my Dad did teach me to drive one of these.

Related Links:
Alan Jackson
Drive Album Info

June 12, 2004

Sometimes TSOundcheck rocks, as well as rox0rs.

The Toronto Symphony has a program where they sell tickets to people under 30 for practically nothing. I make use of it only occasionally, but it's a pretty good deal for hearing some pretty great music if you're into that sort of thing. Anyway, because of the program, I get periodic mailings about things that are going on at the Symphony, and a couple of weeks ago, I got one about Sonic Bloom. Sonic Bloom is a symphony fundraiser that does the by now semi-pedestrian thing of pairing pop artists with the symphony. Tickets to the show were as much as $500 a piece. My pair cost me $40 altogether, and was four rows back on the floor. Not stunningly perfect seats by symphony standards, but since the accoustics in the rebuilt Roy Thomson Hall are better than at the local hole in the wall clubs where I usually see shows, that's probably not a big problem.

I decided to go because they had some pretty damned cool pop acts on the bill. Headlining the show were the Barenaked Ladies, who I love, because I'm Canadian and also a geek, and thus both constitutionally and sub-culturally obligated to love them. Also on the bill were Sarah Slean (If you ever meet me in person, ask me to tell you the very long, involved story about road construction, parking tickets, Sarah Slean and The Facts of Life, it's really quite amusing, or so people tell me. Possibly they are only being polite.), Matt Dusk and a couple of the Timminseses from the Cowboy Junkies.

First up was the incredibly gracious Margo Timmins. She dedicated her performance to the ushers in the hall, since she had been one in the early days of Roy Thomson Hall. She sang three songs. Gorgeous, countryish singer-songwritery stuff backed by a full orchestra, it was lovely. I'm looking forward to the new Junkies album.

Next up was Sarah Slean. More singer-songwritery stuff, but Sarah is a bit, uh, different, in her sensibilities. The third song she played could have been inserted into the Rocky Horror Picture Show and not seemed a little bit out of place. The well-heeled symphony audience loved it all.

Matt Dusk is a tragically uninteresting Frank Sinatra wannabe who completely wasted the opportunity to play in front of a symphony and was wearing pants that were at least 2 sizes too small. The less said about him, the better.

The Barenaked Ladies are hopelessly geeky and thus endlessly amusing. There was a mix of classic goofy moments, and some more touching tributes to ex-band members and former music teachers (apparently you have to actually, like, study, to play the bass, who knew?).

And that was the very coolest night I've spent in a very long time...

Related Links:

Sonic Bloom
Sarah Slean
Cowboy Junkies
Barenaked Ladies

August 26, 2004

Expanding my CD collection, shrinking my wallet

I tend to swing back and forth on how much attention I pay to music. Sometimes, I just listen to the radio and let what comes come (to the point of only punching out if the song is really horrible). Sometimes I'm excited about music and interested in reading about it, buying it, talking about it, going to shows, etc.

For the longest time, I'd been on the down edge of that particular cycle, mostly listening to the local mix station, Jack-FM, because it was easy, and largely familiar. I hadn't been to a show in months. I hadn't bought new CDs in months. I mostly deleted P2.

I'm starting to kick back into the excitement phase of things again. I've got a list a mile long of CDs to buy, mostly culled from the ads and articles in No Depression (which I wasn't even bothering to find and buy during the lull). I've started reading concert listings again. I spent last night trading MP3s over skype with a friend in England, him sending me Beth Orton and a bunch of weird indie britpop bands and me trying to convince him that Lucinda Williams really is a goddess.

A lot of this very recent upswing has had to do with the This is Americana CD. Despite whatever complaints people may have had about it, it is an interesting and eclectic mix of music, and I've been enjoying listening to it quite a lot. (Well, minus that damned Rivi Airhead piece of patronisingly misogynist crap, but fortunately, I have a skip button.) It's really reminded me why I love the music I love.

Relevent Links:
This is Americana CD
This is Americana Website

September 27, 2004

Rambling thoughts on country music and small town life

Every once in awhile, I hear a song that really sets me to thinking about life, the universe, and everything. Mostly about my life, mind you, and my corner of the universe, which is a pretty limited definition of 'everything' but it'll have to do. P2 is the most likely to be on topic of the various lists I read, so you get to be the victims of my latest narcissistic self-examination. Sorry about that, eh.

The song in this case, is Farewell Ball from Mark Erelli's Hillbilly Pilgrim album, a song about a town that's going to disappear because of a dam project - I'm a little unclear on whether they're building or tearing it down, but the town is going to be flooded out in any case. You can hear a clip of it on Mark's website.

My family has a bit of a history of ghost towns and relocation in its past.

My father grew up in a part of Germany that wasn't Germany before, and isn't Germany again, so as Germans, they were moved out when it was ceded back to Poland after the WWII.

My mother grew up in a town called Ocean Falls, on the coast of BC, a town so acutely remote that it was accessible only by boat or float plane. There was a hydro electric dam there, and a pulp and paper mill, and with 10,000 people, a fairly thriving smallish town. But the mill shut down, as mills are inclined to do sometimes, and the town, what little of it is left, is mostly run down buildings and fishing lodges. You can still only get there by boat and float plane, but there's not much of a reason to bother anymore. Like the man in the song, she went back home a few years ago for a reunion and explored the old buildings and remembered what was.

Once they were married, they started out by living in a "town", and I use the term quite loosely, called Anzac. It was rather more a logging camp than a town, really, and when the mill moved, the people moved with it. All that's left of Anzac is a big pile of wood chips and two old telephone poles (chemically treated to last 30 years, you know!). Good fishing up that way, so we'd stop by and visit the old lot sometimes, and Mom would tell the story of the day the bear got into the house.

The town they moved to after Anzac, the one I grew up in, Bear Lake, faced it's own mortality last year. The government was threatening to close the grade school there, and a town without a school is no town at all. Parents would rather drive to work at the mills themselves than send their 5 year old children on a run-down bus for an hour to kindergarten, so the town would have slowly asphyxiated. To outsiders, that would hardly be much of a loss; it's only a pit stop on the highway to Alaska, after all; a place to buy gas and greasy hamburgers. But to a few hundred people it's also a place to call home. There was a 40 year reunion for the grade school the same week as the school board vote on its future. It had the feeling of the Farewell Ball in the song, with people wondering if they were saying hello again, or good-bye for the last time.

It was an oddly conflicted time for me. As long as I lived in Bear Lake, I professed only hatred for it. I rode out of town on my high horse after a public promise never to return again. The people were uneducated, uncultured and small minded with few dreams and fewer goals. I couldn't get far away fast enough. I moved first to Brazil and then to Toronto in an effort to distance myself physically, socially, culturally from Bear Lake and all it represented. But a funny thing happened to Bear Lake as I got older - it must have happened to Bear Lake, because surely it couldn't have been me that changed - those memories began to seem less like nightmares and more like nostalgia. The people are still close minded, but they've been quite accepting of the gay couple that moved in. They're still uneducated, except for the university graduates and the masters candidate. They are still uncultured, except that country music they listen to seems somehow more relevant and important than it had before.

I've long maintained the conceit that my interest in country music in all its forms had little to do with my rural upbringing. The music spoke to me because it was about life and universal themes, I'd argue, not because it had any special connection to my people and my past. But songs like this one remind me that that's not quite true. Towns that blow away on the wind are a uniquely rural, blue collar experience. Company towns go bankrupt with the company that owns them, farm towns dry up in the drought, but big cities are forever. The city girl I've long since become can listen to this music and appreciate it for its wisdom and its charm, but sometimes only the country child I was can feel it in her heart.

February 4, 2005

Serena Ryder at Revival

Because I'm in one of my occasional 'buy tickets to anything that looks remotely interesting' moods lately, I picked up tickets to see Serena Ryder at the Revival last night. I've been hearing about the great and wonderous Serena from P2er Richard Flohil for months and months now, but I rather tend not to put too much faith in the opinion of one person, especially if he gets paid to hold it (sorry, Richard!). I'd picked up a copy of her CD, Unlikely Emergency a few weeks back, and found it to be pretty listenable, though, so decided to give the show a shot.

Went early, still didn't get a place to sit, so stood through the entire set of the very unfortunate opening act. I'm told he has a day job, which is probably a good thing for him. Not that he was entirely lacking in talent, but he seemed almost to be a caricture of a singer-songwriter rather than an actual singer-songwriter. I attributed this largely to his drunkeness on stage, but apparently it's his shtick. Too much cheap beer, deliberate overacting, whatever it is, it ain't working.

Serena, on the other hand, is something else. I've heard some absolute goddesses sing live, but I've not been that blown away by a show since the first time I saw Neko. Her voice, presence and good humour really shine through on the stage.

She opened with an a capella Melancholy Blue that was heartbreaking. She has one of those angelic voices - where the angel's been spending a little too much time with the sacramental wine. My favourite singers are women with powerful voices that they push to the edges. Strong, assertive voices with just enough heartache behind them. Serena is, without a doubt, one of these.

Laying down a show that was variably accoustic, electric and a capella, Serena was graceful and witty from the stage. There were some technical difficulties - microphones that were off, guitars that needed a fair stretch of tuning - but it was all handled well. Indeed, her "I'm making you all listen to me tune my guitar" ditty was quite amusing. Her demeanour is assured and confident, but not cocky or overly aggressive. Her vocal range is broad, and she hits bright highs and deep, dark lows equally well.

Covers included Natural Woman, Lovesick Blues and an a capella At Last that must have been spiritually channelling Etta James. The a capella tracks on Unexpected Emergency are a couple of my least favourite, but
I see now that it's only because the blazing force of her performance doesn't come across my cheap speakers.

It was also a real pleasure to have finally met up with Richard. He and his business partner Laurie are both gracious, friendly people, and I enjoyed talking to them. It was particularly interesting to get some background information on Serena from Richard. He's like a proud papa when he talks about her, it's really cute. Plus, he promised to send me a disc from one of the other artists he works with, which marks my first ever music industry schwag!

Relevent Links:

Serena Ryder
Richard Flohil

April 1, 2005

Random Musical Ramblings Prompted by Live Shows...

Some things that have been burbling around in my brain for awhile, trying very hard to make it into words in a meaningful form, but failing miserably, are thus spilled out here in electronic randomness, because if I don't write some of these things down, even in a half-assed sort of way, my brain will simply explode from the pressure of thinking about them all the damned time.

Random thought the first, on Justin, Jeremy and cute Canadian indie boy singers...

In the span of a week, I saw both Justin Rutledge and Jeremy Fisher as the openers of shows I was going to see. That, in and of itself, is a minor, modern miracle, because generally speaking, I just don't see opening acts, at least not deliberately.

But I'd heard Justin's brilliantly melancholy CD No Never Alone, and knew that seeing his set was worth it; in fact, given that I've heard more about Buddy Miller than I've actually heard from Buddy Miller, I'd have to say that I decided to go to that show more because of Justin than of Buddy. No slight on Buddy, mind you, it was one hell of a show and he's an amazing performer, but I didn't own any of his CDs prior to this, so I just wasn't all that familiar with his stuff. Most specifically, though, I went to see Justin's set because if I didn't, I feel certain that Richard Flohil would have kicked my ass, and deservedly so.

In Jeremy's case, there's a not insignificant amount of buzz about him. His album was released by Sony, he's got a video that's getting some play and all the indie girls are gushing about how kyutttte he is - but only in that ironic detached sort of way that indie girls gush: irreverently and with plenty of sarcasm. I figured it was worth showing up early to see what the buzz was about.

Comparisons between the two are pretty obvious - young, cute, songwriters, guitar players, Canadians, alty folky rocky, gospel sensibilities, names that begin with J, etc. There are differences in there, though, and they go beyond the fact that Jeremy has opted to base his Indie-cred look around poofy hair, while Justin has retro-sideburns. Musically, they're certainly playing with the same genre, whatever that is, but coming at it from different places.

Justin's take is more straightforward, emotional, and filled with melancholy. Make no mistake about it, No Never Alone is not a rawking disc. You will not get up and dance. You will not hum along. It is entirely possible that you will cry. In my case, I first listened to it casually in the car, but then I *really* listened to it, repeatedly, from the late hours of the night before into the early hours of the morning. I'd just been robbed in my home at knife point and I was alternating between contemplating a bottle of windex, and whether I had the strength to clean up the fingerprint dust the police had left on the class, and contemplating a bottle of vodka, and whether it would help. Too sober to sleep and too drunk to cry, indeed. I'd let the disc play through, then put that song on repeat for 5 or 10 cycles, then start the cycle over again.

Jeremy's new disc is definitely lighter. The approach is almost whimsical in spots - certainly lemon meringue pie is one of the more whimsy-filled metaphors for sex that you're likely to run across. High School, the single, is a deadly accurate take on the mind of a teenage boy (and more than a few teenage girls, as well). Back Porch Spirituals, his earlier disc is a little deeper, a little darker, but still with a sense of playfulness built in. It's funny that his earlier work seems a little more mature, even, while Let It Shine occasionally seems to lapse into the high school mindset even outside of the track High School.

Ultimately, I can't help taking the two artists side by side and head to head. They're just too much alike for my mind not to wander in that direction. My preference ends up being entirely situational. Justin's aching melancholy packs a stronger emotional punch, but Jeremy's lighter touch makes for an easier, more entertaining listen.

Random thought the second, on nostalgia and bubblegum country...

A couple of weeks ago, I went to see Lisa Brokop at, of all places, the Hard Rock cafe. Lisa Brokop, for those of you unfamiliar with mainstream country music's lesser known artists, does not Rock in any way, never mind Hard. Then again, I suppose that's not untrue of the watered down chain of restaurants themselves.

When I listened to, and bought, a lot of mainstream country music, I'd picked up all of Lisa's album. They are enthusiastic and happy. She's like a Canadian Martina McBride, where even songs about bad things are imbued with an optimistic tone.

If I'd never heard of Lisa Brokop before, and was just hearing her albums for the first time now, I probably wouldn't be slightly interested. I'd write it off as more diluted Nashville product and move on. But my history with Lisa Brokop goes back a lot longer than that. Since before she even had albums for me to wave off dismissively, Lisa Brokop was one of my childhood heroes.

Where I grew up, in a small town in Northern BC, there wasn't a lot in the way of culture or art or even entertainment. We had 4 TV channels: one of them was in French, and another was educational, which was worse, because at least the French channel had hockey on Saturday nights. A third of the channels was the local TV Station of the town an hour up the road, and every year, they had a 2 day telethon to raise money for local charity projects. It was staged in the auditorium of one of the high schools, and brought new meaning to the term low budget, but to me it was something special, and most special of all was Lisa Brokop.

She was from Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver, and Vancouver was the most exciting place imaginable in the world. And she was young, just a teenager then, so not much older than me. Just watching her, this big city girl, come to visit our small town was an exhilirating experience for me. No matter how unfamous she might have been, to me she was a celebrity. When I rolled up my loose change and took it to the school to make a donation to the telethon and got to meet Lisa herself, well,
that was almost too much for a fat awkward child to handle.

As I sat through Lisa's show the other night, I was captivated again by her smile and her enthusiasm, even as I was thinking that it lacked the depth and emotion that I look for in music these days. Sometimes, though, it doesn't matter if it's superficial, sometimes what matters is that even with the make-over and the major label releases and the CMT camera crew at the ready, it's still the same woman who thrilled me as a child up there on stage, thrilling me all over again.

Random thought the third, on rocking songs about death and choices...

I posted about this show over on Fearnwhiskey, but wanted to write something more concrete about it here, as well. As with all these other thoughts, that's not coming together very well, so here's a slightly improved version of what I wrote on FNW.

Greg Keelor, of Blue Rodeo fame, has released a new album, Seven Songs for Jim, a song cycle about his father, and his recent death. He's doing a short solo tour with Travis Good of Sadies, plus a horn player, whose name I simply don't remember. The show was divided, as Greg explained it, between a 'funeral' and a 'wake'.

The funeral was the material from Seven Songs, followed by a wake of more upbeat material - some covers, some instrumentals, some Blue Rodeo stuff, lots of Travis sawing on his fiddle and the two of them trading licks.

There are some really vivid moments in the songs on Seven Songs, and Greg Keelor is the kind of songwriter who can bring life even to stories of death.

He told a story, and then sang about cleaning out his father's apartment after his death, describing the white squares left behind by removing paintings, when the rest of the wall was stained green and brown with cigarette smoke and grime and life. It reminded me of high school drama class, oddly enough. Every year, the classes would do 8 different shows on the same small stage in 16 weeks. Paint a set, paint it black, paint a set, paint it black. Layers and layers of laughter and life on those walls, and on all our walls. Mine now are stained with the smoke of a hundred candles burnt down in moments of stress and the ash of a thousand culinary experiments that didn't go quite how I'd planned.

Another of the songs talked about how he would wait for his father to arrive at the cottage for the weekend when he was a child. He was only allowed to go so far up the road along, and that was the extent of his world for the summer. Every year that world would grow a little bigger as the boundary was extended. You could almost feel the world growing larger, and see the childhood Greg, pushing his borders by edging one foot just a little past the line.

I think I'm done for awhile, and maybe my brain will get some rest, now.

Relevent Links:
Justin Rutledge
Lisa Brokop
Greg Keelor

April 8, 2005

In which my fondest wish comes true, and I get to slag off on something...

Yesterday, I posted to P2 with the comment that I find it difficult to write about things that I don't like, and asking for advice. Much of the advice I got was to practice. Last night, I saw a show that I very much didn't like, thus giving me the opportunity to practice. I'm not sure if that implies a blessing or a curse. Comments on either subject or execution welcome, though the execution ones are obviously a bit off topic so you might want to take them off-list, lest I turn this place into a writers' workshop.

Kathleen Edwards at the Mod Club

This was a show that went from good to bad to worse, improved its way back up to bad and then ended with a resounding thud as it collapsed to worst.

I like the Mod Club. It's a nice venue, with good sound, great visuals, and a practice of starting shows early so they can still open up as a dance club later in the evening, which gives us boring people a chance to get home at a decent hour. If you were at the Kathleen Edwards show last night, though, you'd think the sound was terrible and early shows were a curse upon civilization. You'd probably still admire the visuals though, since they were the best part of the experience.

The set opened strong; for the first minute and a half or so, Kathleen was singing, the band was playing quietly in the background, I was impressed. Half way through the first song, however, they switched from quiet, almost accoustic sensibilities to a more rocking style. Unfortunately, the quality of the sound simply didn't hold up to the higher volumes.

The first five songs, which were sung without introduction or interlude were basically a blur of unheard lyrics and interchangeable guitar riffs. You know that moment of excitement that runs through an audience when they first recognize the song that's being played and send up a little shiver of applause? Didn't happen at all, because nobody could tell what they were. There was only one point where the band was quiet enough that you could hear the vocals, and at that point, the vocals consisted of Kathleen moaning like a woman faking the dullest orgasm ever.

I was optimistic when she started introducing the songs that things would get better. At least I'd know what I was listening to. Unfortunately, most of what I was listening to was Kathleen and her bandmates cursing at things. Someone got a Fuck You for not being an Expos fan. Someone else got threatened for saying something about Kathleen's husband (her guitar player, Colin Cripps). The fucking curfew was fucking mentioned several fucking times. The sound quality got cursed out, as well, but at least that was deserved. In recent interviews, Kathleen has suggested that she's all grown up from her days of being a potty mouthed bad girl, matured and wiser. Maybe she's not calling other artists fucking sluts in interviews, but her show is still high school material.

Throughout this, the sound continued to be a problem. Feedback on the mics, random thumping from the speakers, guitars too loud, vocals too low. This isn't a venue problem, there's nothing wrong with the sound at the Mod Club; I've seen other shows that were just as loud, but apparently better engineered, which had no problems.

The encore set was an improvement. Some quieter numbers that were actually intelligible, and a rocking 'Back to Me' that was loud but still listenable. Finally, with curfew looming, Kathleen suggested that she had reached the last song. As they had throughout the night, the crowd yelled for Hockey Skates, her one really high profile song. She started into the song and whatever it was, it wasn't Hockey Skates. After having cursed some random woman, curfew, the sound quality and a few other things, Kathleen had saved this more subtle fuck you to her fans for the end.

She looks back on the material from Failer as shaky and juvenile, and Hockey Skates as possibly the worst offender, but the fact remains, it was the song that the crowd most wanted to hear. It was the song they'd been screaming for all night long. It was the song that she didn't play. That's more juvenile than the song could ever be.

Relevent Links:
Kathleen Edwards
Mod Club

June 2, 2005

Joss Stone & Raul Midon at Massey Hall

There were two audiences at Joss Stone's Massey Hall concert last night. The first was the Clinton generation - older but not old urban professionals with public radio tuned in on the stereos of their SUVs. The second appeared to be their daughters - trendy teenagers with hip scarves and a propensity for screaming. It was hard to decide who to side with, the wildly gyrating teenage dancers or the slightly crotchity CBC fans who kept glaring at them to sit down and actually listen to the music. It was clear, however, that Joss herself was playing to the fans her own age.

Fortunately for the yuppies, there was definitely something on the schedule for them. The show opened with a solo set by Raul Midon, a vocalist in the Bobby McFerrin tradiditon. "Solo" almost seems like a misnomer in this case. It was one man up there with nothing but a guitar, but he pounded out rhythm lines on the guitar effortlessly and was able to vocally recreate an entire horn section, so it seemed like a much larger band. He fused genres and styles effortlessly, under a Latin umbrella.

At times, the vocal manipulations pushed him over the edge into novelty act, but the strength of his vocals - when he wasn't attempting a falsetto he just doesn't have - and musicianship and songwriting should be more than sufficient to support a conventional approach. Avoiding even a hint of "novelty act" seems especially important given that Raul is blind. He has the chops to be taken seriously as a musician, and should take care to avoid being misbranded. When his album comes out later this year, I can see him becoming the NPR poster child of the year - eclectic and interesting, he should hold significant appeal.

Joss Stone is a stellar vocalist, with range and control that would be the envy of singers twice her age. Unfortunately, she mixed that with the stage show that was blend of pop idol and karaoke host. In a set that lasted just over an hour, she sang only 8 songs. I use the word sang here loosely. A good portion of the vocal heavy lifting was left to her back-up singers who carried most of the melodies while Joss herself threw in occasional bits of coloratura. She didn't have time to sing much more than that, because she was far too busy running from one side of the stage to the other trying to convince the audience to sing or clap or scream.

The moments where she actually stopped and sang - especially on Right to Be Wrong - were intense and beautiful and all too rare. Her 6 song main show was dragged out over an hour, followed by several minutes of screaming while we waited for her to appear for an encore, which was, fortunately, another strong vocal moment - Spoiled. Then, after a one song encore, she disappeared for another few minutes to draw even more screaming and finished with Some Kind of Wonderful as a pointlessly painful audience singalong.

There's no doubt that Joss is tremendously confident on stage and has personality to spare. Despite pushing many of my 'shut up and sing' hotbuttons, there were moments of genuine warmth and good humour throughout the night. An audience member who had earlier been forced into the spotlight was hand delivered a flower and a kiss when she was tossing bouquets to the audience. She shot a sideways glare at an audience member who had given her a lighter she couldn't get to work during Right to Be Wrong. She kicked back on the drum stand for a moment of relaxation and a sip of tea then mimiced surprise at realizing the audience was still watching her. Small moments like these shone through the artificial enthusiasm of all the 'Are you having fun yet?' cliches.

Walking out the door, the audience was still separated. The yuppies were grumbling about not being able to hear the vocals over the screaming and the drums and asking incredulously if she'd really only sung 8 songs. The kids were ecstatic and excited from the energy of the event. I wanted to side with the kids, to be absorbed into that group high that can make live music so intoxicating, but ultimately there was so little music involved in this high that I just couldn't get up there.

June 14, 2005

TwangFest Stream of Conciousness

Originally posted to the Fluff-list, these are thoughts from the fest:

Man, it's 11:30 in Toronto, which, would is like, noon Twangfest time, and I'm thinking that what with the lack of sleep I've had over the last few days, I should really ought to get to bed, but somehow something feels like its missing. Possibly it's the lack of PBR buzz, or the fact that I haven't hugged Alex yet tonight, or that it just seems so damned lonely in here without Jamie, Linda and Louise.

I walked into HoJos on Wednesday morning, more than a little nervous and unsure what to expect. I mean, y'all are a little bit nutty on the list, ya know? I was worried that you might turn out to be even nuttier in person. And I feel truly thankful that all my worst fears were realized. You people are insane. Every last one of you. And goddamnit I do love you for that. Does that make me insane, too? I'm not sure.

The whole weekend was a rush of introductions, and I feel terrible about all the people I almost instantly forgot after being introduced.

I have a notepaper full of twangfest notes - things I wanted to remember to maybe write about later, or to remind myself of things - that are rather stream of conciousness but nonetheless sort of amusing. They may be out of order since they weren't exactly scrawled on the page in straight lines.

- Indian palace - veggies better, what's with naan issues. Saaaaaaaag!
- Louise, too cute, Elderberries.
- Well, that was awkward and uncomfortable. Thank god it's done, though.
- Jamie, food, holy shit. Apple butter, how did she know?
- Celebrity Dorm Room.
- Carl Zimring = Mathowie. No really. Corich?
- OMG! Nena and Barry!
- Could Milton Mapes be less interesting?
- TMP Whee!
- Mike = local = did I need to meet more people?
- Why do Americans always want to talk about socialized health care?
- Cigar smoking assholes.
- Marie is a goddess.
- Why do they drink this shit?
- All the stories about Roy Kasten are true. Who'd've guessed?
- I'm just calling them all Jim. It's easier that way.
- No tamarind tofu. Sad.
- Must stop extolling virtues of Deco detailing as if I have any idea
what I'm talking about. Sounds snotty.
- Rough Shop, yay. Not shod.
- Ear plugs. Jesus. How dumb.
- Supersuckers = not as suck as I might have expected. Must learn to
like the rawk.
- Ego / respect / Eddie.
- Meshel likes my truffles. Yay!
- Why does everyone get that invitation but me? I'd totally say yes.
This is probably a bad sign. Must get help.
- 73. Ouch. Take up smoking?
- Sorry Heather!
- Bowling Stones r0x0r. Best set of the week so far.
- full service twang gang
- Stop staring. Tacky.
- Why do they drink this shit?
- Nora O'Connor, fucking great shoes.
- Hurt. Pain. Floor. Oww. This is why.
- Halter dress. Lovely. Good hair.
- How does Jamie manage to look that good this late at night?
- Moot Davis = Chris Isaak - TV show.
- No bathroom issues. Amazing.
- Must have sandwich.
- Fugging rain.
- Johnny Horton. Wow.
- Oh my god, Penzeys! $68. Crystallized ginger, fucking amazing. Want
to remake truffles better this time. What is this going to look like
on my customs declaration? Are spices an agricultural product? If they
confiscate this stuff, I'll cry.
- They hate me, that's why. Or I have bad timing. But probably they hate me.
- Awwwww. Ducky!
- Steve Dawson, yay.
- Shlay-seer. It's not that hard.
- Mowzaat. Must tell chowhound. Zowie.
- Are all the list bands this good?
- Wow. Pictures. Geek.
- Bottle Rockets. Finally, a band I actually know. I am way too
amateur hour to be here.
- Loves the Neko. Looks grumpy though.
- Hell, no, Roy. Smart man, that Jim.
- Jello.
- Straight vodka actually much stronger than orange stuff. Should not
have needed three shots of crap vodka to prove this. Next year, bring
own bottle.
- Tiara!
- If Jamie doesn't marry Earl, can I?
- Next person who makes me say 'about' gets punched in the nads.
Unless they don't have nads.
- Marie is a goddess. May have already mentioned this.
- Bill Silvers officially most adorable man at Twangfest. Maggie Jones
gets most adorable female. Glows like she's radioactive.
- How does HoJo let us get away with this?
- Well, that explains that.

That's the end of my stream of consciousness thoughts from the weekend.

Relevent links:

Actual Twang

TwangFest, the music and other things official-like, a companion piece to my TwangChow posting on Chowhound, and the TwangMush note to the fluff list. Because one weekend should never be summed up in a single post.

First night at the Tap Room started on a quiet, touching yet funny note with the Dan Bentele tribute. The P2 message that his brother read out was actually one of the first things I ever read on P2 - since I originally subbed the list during that particular TwangFest, and not much else was posted while it was happening. I never knew Dan personally, but based on all the things people said that night, I know that I really missed out on a special experience.

Surprisingly, the evening immediately took a more somber turn. What's more depressing than a tribute to a much loved, deceased member of the Twang family? Milton Mapes.

Jon Dee Graham picked things up with a much more energetic set, and was the first artist to make it onto my 'must buy CDs' list, though I wasn't actually buying them at the Merch tables for currency conversion reasons.

I've long enjoyed The Meat Purveyors, and it was a fun set from them. They're just so danged entertaining all the time. I'd have put them on my 'must buy CDs' list, except I already have some.

On Thursday, I enjoyed Rough Shop quite a lot, though I'm still having trouble mentally wrapping my head around the fact that the band isn't named Roughshod. Maybe y'all could change that, or something? They're on the 'must buy CD list', they just need to release one, and I'll buy

I have absolutely no recollection of Richmond Fontaine at all. None. This is not a good sign, especially, as I wasn't drinking. I'm pretty sure I was there, but they just completely failed to make any sort of impression on me at all.

I enjoyed the Supersuckers a lot more than I expected. The country set was great, and certainly up my alley, but I had expected the rock set to be lame, loud and annoying. I'm so not down with the rawk. I was pleasantly surprised at how entertaining it actually was. As a personality, Eddie puts on a hell of a show, and he manages to act big and brash without actually riding roughshod (see, there it is!) over the rest of the band. Cocky and respectful, it's a tough combination, but there it was. I can't imagine buying an album of the rawk and listening to it in my car, but as a party experience it was hella good.

Twangpin was way too much fun. I particularly enjoyed the Roy Kasten theory of cigarettes and strikes. I also enjoyed the Bowling Stones set. That was one of the most entertaining sets of the whole weekend. Can we nominate Michelle for American Idol instead of that Carrie chick?

On Friday, we missed the large majority of Matt Grimm due to being caught up in the delights of Saleem's excellent Lebanese cuisine.

Nora O'Connor was like the exact opposite of Eddie Spaghetti. Does the TwangGang hand out humility pills to all the openers? Not everyone needs to think they're in the greatest band in the world, but man 'We'll do two more songs then get out of your way' is pretty lame when
people came to see you - and Nora wasn't the only one guilty of this sort of thing. Nora's set was the kind of quiet songwriting that I would buy an album of to listen to in my car, though. Plus, she had fabulous shoes.

I enjoyed the Moot Davis set despite thinking much of the time that I probably shouldn't enjoy the Moot Davis set. The resemblance to all things Chris Isaak was very strong. I hear he wants to be an actor, too.

Big Sandy was entertaining and technically proficient, but in a totally non-engaging sort of way. He just seems like a really, really good wedding singer to me. I get what he's doing with the style and the retro, and certainly a lot of people were totally into it, but it just doesn't grab me hard and hold me tight. On the other hand, he attracts a fan base of beautifully outfitted retro hipsters that I enjoyed watching immensely. Some of the outfits in the Duck Room that
night were amazing.

I watched a lot of TwangClips on Saturday, periodically making it out to the parking lot, usually to discover that whatever band had been on had just stepped off. I did manage to catch a fair bit of Steve Dawson's set, though, and I'll add that to my 'release a CD and I'll buy it' list. Plus, he's totally teh kyute.

Saturday night was the most solid night for stuff I really enjoyed. It was wall to wall greatness. The Townsmen, who I actually tried to buy a CD from at the merch table but who WOULD. NOT. STOP. TALKING. TO. SOMEONE. ELSE, were great.

Brent Best's set, I enjoyed, despite having never been much of a Slobberbone fan. I hear their earlier stuff was better, which is perhaps where the disconnect comes from.

The Bottle Rockets were one of the few bands on the weekend that I actually had significant familiarity with, so that helped me really get into their set. Plus, the vibe of the hometown crowd during that set was really amazing.

Finally, there was Neko. I <3 the Neko, I really do. Even when she's grumpy like she was that night, I still <3 the Neko. It's always a crapshoot with her shows, whether it's going to be a belter, or a quiet show, or if she's bringing the rawk, and this was on the quiet end of the spectrum. Still a hell of a performance, especially from my vantage point at the front near the rail. Her pores are huge, though. Someone needs to design Neko a new skin care regimine.

July 15, 2005

Neko Case & Corb Lund Band @ Harbourfront Center 07/07

I met up with a friend to see Neko Case, with Corb Lund opening, at the Harbourfront Center last Thursday. Harbourfront is an outdoor venue, and the weather was postcard perfect for an evening concert.

I thought before the show, and still do, that Corb Lund was an odd match with Neko Case. They're both in the tent, for sure, but they're not exactly rubbing elbows in the crowd. Taken separately they were both good shows. Taken together, well, there was an intermission between them for a reason.

Corb Lund plays a certain brand of cocky up on stage and he manages to make it work. His patter is as amusing as his lyrics, and his voice almost as good as his dimples. The band he's got behind him is tightly rehearsed and talented as hell. Which makes it a shame how poorly they got used through a lot of the show.

Singing the first half of the song with just your own guitar accompanying you and then having the band come crashing in was, at some point, an interesting arrangement. It might still be an interesting arrangement. Until it's used for four consecutive songs in the same show. Then it just leaves you scratching your head as to why he'd leave that talented band standing around scratching their asses for a third of every song.

It'd been somewhat less than a month since I'd last seen Neko, and a little over three since I'd last seen her in front of the Sadies, so I thought I had a pretty good idea what to expect. It was largely the same set she brought to Twangfest, despite the presence of the Sadies, and not much in the way of the rawk. She was in a damn site better mood than she was in St Louis, so that, at least, made for a much better show.

It was not a mind blowing set, about an average set for Neko, but then, average Neko is well above average.

Mariposa Folk Festival

My Mariposa festival experience did not get off to what you'd call a great start. I knew traffic was going to be a bitch, competing with Friday afternoon cottage traffic, but I'd had Richard F. check the time on the first set I cared about, and I was confident I could make the drive to Orillia in time to get there. And indeed, after a 3 and a half hour drive (normally less than 2), I did manage to get to the festival site about 15 minutes before Serena Ryder's set was scheduled to start, whereupon the nice parking man informed me that it had been raining for some three straight hours in Orillia that afternoon and the show had been washed out. I turned around and made the hour and half drive home. Checking the website over the weekend, I discovered that I had been misinformed, and that, in fact, the mainstage show had been moved to the beer tent, not cancelled entirely. My aggravation over missing it is immense.

The next morning, after several hours of Feelin' Hot, Hot, Hot and Crocodile Rockin' at the IBM corporate picnic, I was anxious to make the return trip North for day 2, if for no other reason than to drive the horrible, horrible music out of my brain. It was late in the day and after I arrived and looked around for awhile to get an idea of how things were set up and went back to my car and got a chair and whatever else, there was only one round of small stage performances left. I opted for a concert by a duo called "Likewater" on the Estelle Klein stage. Good, catchy, well-written lyrics, if a little spare on the music side. I picked up their CD which is less spare, and which I quite like.

The evening line-up on Saturday night was Crooked Still (bluegrass fusion, of a sorts), La Corde du Bois (Quebec traditionalist kitchen party), David Francey (story-telling songwriter), Fruit (Australian pop folk) and Tom Cochrane (Uh, Tom Cochrane ?!?).

I enjoyed Crooked Still a fair bit, though not enough to buy a CD. They seem like a 'see them live' band to me. I didn't really think much of La Corde du Bois one way or the other. They were fine, I suppose. David Francey is one of those singer-songwriters who can't stand to let his songs tell the story. He has to preface every song with a five minute explanation of where it came from and what it's about. Fortunately, he's a reasonably funny kind of guy so this wasn't completely bloody annoying. Fruit (there's some weird capitalization thing in there that I decline to participate in) were energetic and fun and had quirky Australian accents. They were a little on the rah, rah, is everyone out there having fun, I can't hear you side in terms of on stage mannerisms, but musically, they were pretty solid.

Tom Cochrane was an interesting closer. Not exactly someone you'd think of as a "folk" artist, he's a pretty straight forward Canadian rocker, but with sufficiently solid songwriting chops that he fit in pretty well with the rest of the line-up. The show was a real nostalgia trip for me, because my very first concert ever, was Tom Cochrane on Canada Day of 1990 at a big outdoor show in a field. I've always enjoyed his music, and the show at Mariposa was no exception. It suffered some from what I think of as old dog - old tricks syndrome. Artists have been singing the same songs for so damned long that they get bored with them. In order to not be bored with them, they try new arrangements, new phrasing, new whatever to make them seem like they aren't the same damned songs they were singing 15 years ago. This is not always, or even generally, a good idea. A few different songs that night were really badly mangled in the new arrangements. Without the sheer volume of chatter put out by David Francey, Tom managed to introduce the songs and tell interesting stories about them. I'd have liked to have heard Life is a Highway, but 20 minutes after the show was expected to end, it was still going on strong, and I had a nearly 2 hour drive home that night, so I departed.

The next morning, I headed back up North for another day. After lunching with a friend in Barrie, I arrived in time to catch the last song of a workshop featuring Lynn Miles, Lennie Gallant and Russell de Carle. That one song alone was worth the price of admission, and I'm damned sorry I missed the rest of that set.

The next workshop was another really fine one - Fred Eaglesmith, Gurf Morlix and Murray McLauchlan - set up a 'swapping stories and telling lies' kind of vibe. It was like watching a bunch of guys on a back porch somewhere, and they were really strong together, trading licks and backing each other up.

Followed that up with a workshop featuring Trio Bravo, Oh Susanna and Serena Ryder, that was a weaker example of what a workshop could be. While Serena and the Trio eventually worked their way into each other's grooves, and were playing along, Oh Susanna seemed completely detached from the group. She didn't kick in on anyone else's songs, she seemed uncomfortable when they played in on hers. She's one of my favourite artists, so I still enjoyed her songs, but I'd have liked to see her do something with the group as a whole.

If the Trio/Oh/Serena workshop was a poor example of what a workshop could be, the last workshop I saw that day was an unmitigated disaster. A mix of the Sweet Water Women, Serena Ryder and Bleeker Ridge was like oil and water and a different kind of oil. Sweet Water Women is traditionalist native folk singing, Serena Ryder is a folk singer-songwriter with a powerful voice, Bleeker Ridge is a teeny-bopper rock band. They had nothing in common and nothing to work with each other on. Even the stage set-up was bad, because as they took turns, they'd go up to the mics, then return to their chairs at the back of the stage while others sang, there wasn't even an opportunity for collaboration, really. I've talked about Serena Ryder before, and can't say enough good things about her, she really is a hell of a singer. Sweet Water Women do a style of music that alternately moves me completely and bores me to death, depending on the power of the performance. This was relatively low key stuff that definitely fell on the bores me to death end of things. For a pack of Junior High kids, Bleeker Ridge is a surprisingly good band. They need a few years of seasoning, especially when it comes to stage confidence, but they're pretty decent at what they do - sort of like a Hanson that doesn't suck. Together, though, the workshop was a disconnected mess.

Sunday evening's lineup was Harry Manx, Fred Eaglesmith, Lynn Miles, Murray McLauchlan and Gordon Lightfoot. I'd already decided in advance that I was leaving after Lynn Miles set because I needed to finish a document for work that night, which meant not staying for Gordon Lightfoot's set, and I'm not much in the way of a Murray McLauchlan fan, so couldn't see staying for that, either.

I have no idea what Harry Manx was doing up there, but I really wish he'd been doing it somewhere else. Out of earshot. Fred Eaglesmith was funny and interesting and worthwhile, and I'm not quite sure why I spent several years thinking I didn't like him. I must have been mixing him up with someone else. Lynn Miles did an excellent set, and I've been wanting to hear her for awhile. I often find it difficult to get into songs I don't know at concerts, but Lynn's set was really good, despite my lack of prior knowledge.

Overall, a good weekend, well worth the cost of the tickets, though the cost of 4 hours a day of driving is questionable. In the future, I'd probably find a way to afford to stay in Orillia to bring that time commitment down.

Relevent Links:
Mariposa Folk Festival

Rodney Crowell @ The Horseshoe Tavern

I got the feeling, listening to Rodney Crowell play, that if it was half as much fun as being a musician, he'd probably write novels instead. The man is a born storyteller, a walking mass of interwoven characters and themes and plot lines, with a real gift for telling stories in his songs and on the stage. Add to that his musical talents, and it makes for an endlessly fascinating, moving show.

It was a quiet audience in the Shoe Wednesday night, but quiet in a respectful, intense sort of way. Even the usual gaggle of talkers at the back of the room were dead silent and intent on listening to every word and every note. He commented on it at one point from the stage, and someone yelled back that the crowd was mesmerized. Mesmerized was exactly the right word.

The set was comprised largely of material from Fate's Right Hand and the new album to be released in August called the Outsiders with a bit of Houston Kid and some older stuff thrown in, as well. From a lesser man, a four song line-up of material from an unreleased album that immediately followed a brand new song that's so new it's not even on that album would be a pretty destructive act of pride. Crowell managed to pull it off flawlessly, and take the audience with him on a ride through that new stuff. I'm expecting something simply outstanding from that album when it comes out, because the songs he showed off in concert were brilliant.

Particularly moving was a song called 'Beautiful Despair' which opens:

Beautiful despair is hearing Dylan when you're drunk at 3 a.m.
Knowing that the chances are
No matter what, you'll never write like him
Oh brother.

Damn, I was nearly in tears just listening to him sing those words. The fact that I remember them even now, having heard them only once is a testament to their strength. They just might be lines that prove themselves false.

I have Fate's Right Hand, but didn't love it all that much after thinking Houston Kid was the best album of the year it was released. I only ever listened to it twice, before dropping it in the CD drawer. But hearing him do those songs that night was like listening to the album for the first time again. It seemed fresher, more interesting, more instense than it ever did on CD. I'll have to pull the disc out and revisit it to see if there's something I missed the first time.

It was a truly outstanding show, with less self-indulgent guitar wankery than you might have expected from a band that consists of a drummer and four guitar players (though more than I might have liked), and every word of every song and every story and every story song was perfectly placed.

July 26, 2005

Loretta Lynn @ Massey Hall

This show seemed a bit like a steeplechase. There seemed to always be one more obstacle in the way of getting where we wanted to go.

The first obstacle was opener Martha Wainright - she seemed very slightly confused as to why she was there. Early in the show she was clearly nervous, and it took her a few songs to work past that and get comfortable with the show. Between that nervousness, and some tame, coffee house guitar strumming, the first few songs lacked energy. As her set moved on, though, she worked in a few songs that were more powerful and musically interesting, earning a reaction from more than the few hardcore fans that dotted the audience.

A particularly off moment came when she declared that she had brought only her tamest songs for the show, implying that her work was just too risque for Loretta. True, she left Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole off the set list, and that was probably for the best, but a woman who has been in the music business as long as Loretta, a woman who sang Rated X and The Pill, wasn't likely to be shocked by swear words and mild sexual innuendo.

Intermission came next. It was complete with plugging of Loretta's cookbook from the blander of the two Lynn twins, Peggy.

The next obstacle up was a couple of songs by Loretta's band, The Coal Miners. 6 instrumentalists and 3 back-up vocalists, they sang Honk If You Honky Tonk and one other, despite appearances which would suggest they don't Honk, much less Honky Tonk. They're a fine, skilled band, just not very interesting. All the better to not overshadow the star of the show, I suppose.

One more hurdle was a new country interlude featuring Loretta's daughters, Patsy and Peggy, The Lynns. They did a couple of completely predictable "sassy woman" numbers with Nashvillian polish. A fairly witty song from Patsy about mother daughter relationships was marred by Peggy clowning for the audience in between her backing vocals. It's clear that they learned something from their mother - Patsy, especially, has a gift for storytelling - but they're letting somebody shine off all the interesting angles.

Finally, after more than half the show had already passed, Loretta came out blazing in a white, sparkly gown with more fluffs and flounces than a wedding dress. She sang a few of the classics including Hey Loretta, You Ain't Woman Enough and I Wanna be Free, then paused to tell a few stories and ask for requests from the audience. That was set to be the pattern for the evening - she'd sing a song or two, tell a story or two, sing a request or two.

There was such a clamour for Van Lear Rose that she sang it despite not knowing all the words, gamely covering up for the verses she couldn't remember with some dum-de-dums. A medley of One's on the Way and The Pill proved a perfect and amusing combination. Love is the Foundation was an audience pick and provided a nice quiet moment mid-show.

One more of those hurdles was thrown up when she took a break and left us in the only moderately capable hands of her backup singers for two songs. Peaceful, Easy Feeling and Man of Constant Sorrow proved that they aren't the Eagles, never mind Dan Tyminski. They were, fortunately, more able to meet the challenges of duets with Loretta on Portland, Oregon and Feelin's - though it wasn't so much singing with her as staying out of her way while she sang the hell out of those songs.

She closed with a few more classics - Honky Tonk Girl, Don't Come Home a Drinkin', Blue Kentucky Girl and, finally, of course, (despite earlier promises to leave her 'out there crying on the bus') Coal Miner's Daughter.

Without an encore Loretta's portion of her show was just around the hour mark, and a truly electric hour it was. It's just a shame that it needed to be padded out with such mediocre side material.

May 16, 2006

PR Flacks Hurtses My Brains,

Some select lines from the press release that accompanied my advance of an album by a new group called The Wreckers (Primary claim to fame: Michelle Branch is one of 'em.):

Stand Still, Look Pretty, is one of this year's most anticipated releases that is anchored on amazing harmonies, musicianship, songwriting and common goals.

Amongst the greater pantheon of albums that aren't anchored on amazing harmonies, musicianship, songwriting and common goals, though, nobody is thinking about it much at all. Don't even get me started on the random insertion of a comma. Why couldn't they have saved that comma for any one of the half dozen other places in this release where the comma is missing?

The enclosed bio explains how the girls met and created this incredible bond initially through their music and now goes well beyond their music into their daily lives.

The girls now goes well beyond their music?

The first single and video is "Leave the Pieces" which is a conversational song about how to handle an elusive love to "Crazy People" a tongue and cheek take not being able to find the right lover, as well as completely solid stories about finding love your way in "The Good Kind" to an ode to a lover's reflections in "Tennessee" to the profundity of the title cut, "Stand Still, Look Pretty".

This appears to be a very long sentence. Until you read it a couple of times and realize that it is, in fact, a very long sentence fragment. It does not appear to contain a main clause. The first bit is trying hard to be one, but the structure of the whole suggests it's really meant to be a subordinate part of a 'from X to Y, this album is great' structure.

Branch and Harp enlisted the best of the best to play the chess masters of the board that worked along side of them to help deliver this body of heart and soul.

This sentence does not contain a explicit error in grammar. However, I started to count the mismatched cliches, and my brain exploded.

I mean, for heaven's sake, they're sending this shit out to writers. Writers they hope will take the CD seriously. Writers who know where commas are supposed to be, and where, they're not, supposed, to b,e.

That said, the album isn't bad. Just the damned press release.

July 13, 2006

A Rock God Amongst Men

Went to see Alejandro Escovedo tonight. Nearly died from dehydration, heat exhaustion and coughing fits.

It would have been worth it, though.

About Music

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to acho que não in the Music category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Knitting is the previous category.

PGDP is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.31