Friday, March 27, 2009

Happy Accidents, vol. 1

Disclaimer: I have two goals in this post 1) Relay a personal story, 2) Provide a relatively cogent set of concert reviews. Forgive me if the two don't come together quite so eloquently. Also, I'm stupid and forgot my camera, so what was going to be a great, exciting post, is now just text. Woo!

I have spectacularly awful luck, there's no two ways about it. I broke my arm in two places in second grade in one of the most outlandishly embarrassing falls mankind has ever been privy to. I've never won a single door prize, raffle, 50/50, or lottery of any kind. I've purchased tickets to free events. I've been rear-ended by a semi-truck as I was on my way to pick up my friend to leave town for a week-long vacation. As a result, I fear that the universe may try to balance out the insanely lucky and incredible night I just had by putting me in the path of an oncoming bus in the near future. But until then, I will simply revel in the ears-still-ringing glory of last night. 

It began innocuously enough, going downtown to see a great show with a friend of mine. We were planning on seeing what is probably one of the best lineups in the history of lineups: The Dudes, Dan Mangan, Said the Whale, John and Roy, Hey Rosetta! and Hot Hot Heat. When we get to the gates, though, my friend realizes that she is, in fact, without ID and cannot get into the show. She insists that I still go and not lose out on a great night on account of her. Bless her heart. So I go in by myself and stand around in a spectacularly awkward fashion, hoping beyond hope that someone takes enough pity on me to strike up a conversation. I'm not above making friends through pity. No such luck through the first set of the night- The Dudes. The Dudes hail from Calgary, Alberta and make great, upbeat tunes that are perfect for starting off a party. They move through their set quickly, but with a ton of energy, and manage to develop a great rapport with the audience in the short time they were on the stage. This thanks in large part to frontman Dan Vacon's memorable slogan-of-the-night: "When I say 'long,' you say 'ass tent.' 'LONG' 'ASS TENT." The show was in a long ass tent. I had the pleasure of meeting and working with The Dudes a couple years ago on a music video of theirs, and can safely say that they are some of the nicest guys you're likely to meet, and their friendly dispositions come shining through on stage through great songs like "Do the Right Thing" and "Don't Talk." 

When The Dudes wrap up their set, I am still without a companion, and decide to simply embrace my creepy loner subject position with open arms for the rest of the night and enjoy the show. I move to the front of the audience area in anticipation of the next act, one of my absolute favorites, Dan Mangan. Turns out that when Mangan is on stage, the last thing you need is a friend. His deep, gravelly, heartrending voice draws you so deep into the songs that it just couldn't matter less if there were anyone else in the world. Mangan played a mix of songs from his last album, Postcards and Daydreaming, and new material from his upcoming LP Nice, Nice, Very Nice (a name presumably drawn from my favorite book of all time: Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. So many bonus points), due out in August. He moved through every tune expertly with outstanding accompaniment from his band, finishing his set with the heartwarming sing-along, "Robots," which concludes with an audience of hundreds singing in unison, "Robots need love, too. They want to be loved by you." If you happen to live in BC, Alberta, or Saskatchewan, Dan will be touring with Hey Rosetta! this spring- a show definitely worth the price of a ticket (and then some). 

As Mangan packs up his equipment and heads into the great unknown, I opt to stay where I am. What benefit will wandering and mingling have for me when I have nowhere to mingle and no one to do it with? In what would turn out to be the lucky, flukey, right-place-right-time moment of the century, two people come up beside me and stake out a spot along the rail for the next act, Said the Whale. They're mention that there's a good chance they'll be dancing, singing, jumping around, etc. through the next set, and apologized in advance. This led to the three of us getting to know each other a bit and grabbing a couple drinks. As we're heading back to the stage from the bar, one of my new concert companions stops at a fenced-off lounge area on the side of the tent and starts talking to who I presume is a friend. Surprise: That friend is Dan Mangan. She graciously introduces the two of us, and I throw every ounce of strength I have into not becoming a fan boy. Clearly, I've made friends with the right people. 

We make our way back up to the stage and Said the Whale, a young Vancouver-based band, launches into a tight set of upbeat power pop, complete with glockenspiel and ukulele. Said the Whale are a relatively young band, but are already showing a ton of composure on stage. They moved between songs seamlessly and got the crowd (freezing, by this point) moving. This is a band worth watching for in the coming months and years, and one that has already produced a great album, Howe Sounds/Taking Abalonia, available through iTunes and in stores. Having thoroughly enjoyed our Said the Whale dance party, we decide it's prime time for another beverage. While fighting the bar line and other crowds, Jon and Roy, a pseudo-reggae jam band, takes the stage. I missed the majority of this set, but from what I heard, they sounded very fine indeed. 

Next up was the act I've been dying to see all winter- Hey Rosetta!. These guys are actually insane. A little while ago I posted a video of them playing live in a studio for the XM channel, Verge, and said that I was stunned that it was actually a live recording. Now that I've actually seen them live...I still have a hard time believing it. They sound fucking incredible. They're a pretty sizeable band- piano, acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin, cello, violin, bass, drums, etc.- and yet every piece is heard in perfect balance. Their set is absolutely air-tight. And Tim Baker....his vocals...what in the world? People shouldn't be able to have voices this good. For serious- go see these guys with Dan Mangan this spring. The awesomeness of the set was probably helped by the fact that I watched a good portion of it alongside some members of Said the Whale who I'd just been introduced to by my companions. No big. 

A fairly sizeable lull followed as the headliners for the night, Hot Hot Heat got set up. In the mean time, my luck improved once again as my friend and I headed back stage to spend some time with all the bands who'd already played in the night. Suddenly, the creepy loner who only a few hours ago had found himself without a soul to talk to was back stage with some seriously talented people- Said the Whale, The Dudes, members of Hey Ocean, Adeline, bits of Hey Rosetta!, Dan Mangan and his backing band, et. al. I was lucky enough to run into a young woman from Berlin who was in basically the same position as I was and was at least able to confide in her how absolutely and gloriously out of place I felt. Eventually, Hot Hot Heat takes the stage, and plays an absurdly energetic set. I've never been a huge fan of these guys, admittedly, but one has to give credit where credit is due, and those kids leave absolutely everything on the stage. They are spectacularly energetic and manage to bound around the stage not unlike gazelles, despite the fact that they are all wearing pants tighter than their own skin. I watch a portion of the set from back/side stage and then head outside again and have a nice chat with more parts of more amazing acts, and silently lose my mind some more. 

The show wraps up, and I decide that I'd best not push my luck any further than I already have. I head for the bus, reeling from meeting people who I don't just think are amazing, but people who I count as serious influences and inspirations on my own music. As the icing on the cake (actually, let's be honest, this cake was basically all icing), while I'm sitting on the bus, I hear two hobos on crutches and three frat boys discussing their favorite books and the problematic relationship between the American executive and the military industrial complex it administers. I have thus proved, in a single night, that the world will always manage to surprise you.

Here's to night two!

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Since my last post was so horrifyingly heavy, I thought I'd follow up with something that's been making the rounds on the Internet, but is still hilarious beyond measure. 

"It's called acting, Mr. Gervais." 

Hope that brightens your day some. I'm off to write about...something I don't understand. Story of my life. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI is an Idiot

Now that the feathers have been ruffled, here's why: 
Pope Tells Africa 'condoms wrong'
Pope Benedict XVI, who is making his first papal visit to Africa, has said that handing out condoms is not the answer in the fight against HIV/Aids. The pontiff, who preaches marital fidelity and abstinence, said the practice only increased the problem." A Christian can never remain silent," he said, after being greeted on arrival in Cameroon by President Paul Biya. The Pope is also due to visit Angola on his week-long trip, where thousands are expected to attend open-air Masses. Some 22 million people are infected with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, according to UN figures for 2007. This amounts to about two-thirds of the global total.
It's things like this that take my tolerance for the church as an institution from minimal to nil. I used to feel that "Okay, let people believe what they want, as long as it's not imposed on me." When I read such utterly idiotic and patently false rhetoric, though, that moderate position decays into bile in my gut. I'm perfectly aware that not all members of the Catholic church share this position- I'm very close friends with very charitable, kind and progressive Catholics. Nonetheless, the papacy, by exploiting the (non-consensual) support in numbers and money of even these moderate, temperate followers, is able to preach outright lies, slander an entire body of reliable scientific research, and worst of all, endanger the well being of an entire continent grappling with one of the most serious public health issues in history. This is not love for your fellow man. This is not compassion, charity and union with all peoples. This is complete fabrication, manipulation and propaganda. In a word, this is bull shit. I don't really know what to say beyond that- it seems impossible to think of any way to effectively challenge such a powerful institution. That said, if the opportunity should arise, take it. Don't let these words pass unnoticed- write to local and student papers, participate in protests, do what you can to make sure this liar is brought to account for spreading such shit. 

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Dear Richard Crashaw

Seek psychiatric advice

In other news, I had the coolest night ever last night. I don't usually do the personal "here's a story about my life" kind of blogging, because, as a general rule, my life is really dull. But tonight I actually have a good story, so bear with me. 

I played a short set in the middle of the night as entertainment for all those participating in my school's Relay for Life. After I was finished my set, I was just sitting in the stage area with a very devoted friend and fan (it was 2am and she still came to watch. Good friends rule) and messing around with my guitar when a group of three other musicians come in and start setting up all their equipment. All of a sudden, from behind me, I hear one of this group playing along with me on snare and brushes. Ignoring the fact that, at the time, I was playing "I Kissed a Girl," this was really cool seeing as how I've never heard myself accompanied percussion of any kind. So we continue to horse around, talk about musicians and about my love for acoustic covers of boring pop songs, and end up playing Jill Barber's "Oh My My," and it sounds absolutely awesome. It was the neatest thing ever. I've only been playing music for a very short time, so perhaps I'm just not used to things like this, but before I knew it, I was playing a song I usually sing to myself when I'm cooking dinner with backing vocals and full percussion. So after that fun wraps up, the three of them get on stage and perform a set of their own (which was actually so great). But once they finish, they ask me to come up and play a couple more with them, so I do- I played two originals that, until that point, had been purely private experiments in word-smithing and lousy guitar playing. But there they were- backed up with harmonies, blues and slide guitar, percussion and all, sounding like actual songs for the first time. Again, maybe this is just my greenness to the whole world of musical performance showing, but this was genuinely exciting. We then finished up by playing "Oh My My" again, with people singing, clapping and stomping along. It was literally the coolest thing I've ever done. Out of nowhere, something totally personal and private turned into music. By the time I got home, it was 4 am, and I had to be up at 8 to be downtown for 10. I'm currently working on the three hours of sleep I actually got, nursing raw, sore finger tips, and working my way out of the pile of homework and term papers I created for myself by going and playing a show instead of working, but damn do I feel good.

Make music, make art, make sound, move, talk, play with other people as much as you can and as openly as you can. Open yourself up to every space of interaction and creation and the memories will make themselves. 


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Totalement, Tendrement, Tragiquement

On nights when I feel like I know the APA Style Guide better than my own name, the thought that I'll soon be here keeps my chin up...

Also, on a less poetic and fantastic (but kind of interesting note), I'm playing an outdoor show at 1:30 in the morning this Friday. Time to put all my jargon about "making music magical again" where my big idealistic mouth is. I know I said I'd post something by the end of the weekend. That clearly never happened, seeing as how I'm again making excuses for why I haven't posted anything intelligible in weeks. Give me time- I'm working on two papers right now which are fascinating that I'd love to blog about, but I fear that I'd lose more readers by doing so than just posting pictures and videos that don't belong to me. The only relatively relevant thing I can muster at this hour is that you should really get out there and read up on this TicketMaster/LiveNation merger and what complete and utter bullshit it is. Last time I checked, anti-trust laws were still in effect. Though you couldn't tell by looking. I don't want to start brandishing the "corporatisim is unequivocally toxic" sword, because that's one of the more irritating and reductive cultural critiques of the 20th and 21st Centuries. Nonetheless, the last time this kind of vertical integration was allowed to occur was in the pre-1948 Hollywood studio system. The major film studios of the day, Paramount in particular, decided that it would be great to own the production, distribution and exhibition phases of the movie industry. This resulted in shitty things happening left, right and centre, like block booking (forcing a theatre to buy a whole whack of lousy B-Movies just to get a single decent one) and bogus cuts of first-run revenues. The 1948 Paramount decree effectively shattered this system because, in basically every way, it was unjust. Why is it suddenly okay now? A tuppence to whoever can offer me a reasonable answer to that question. I need sleep now. France soon. School sooner. Night.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Just so you know

I have been insanely busy and sleep deprived for the last little while. Rest assured, however, I am alive and (relatively) well. I'm working on a couple posts right now that hopefully will be up by the end of the weekend and mid-next week. In the mean time, enjoy some people who are way more talented than I am:

Call- Miranda Martini (Jason Poulsen on Second Guitar)

Hymne a l'amour- My Brightest Diamond (covering Edith Piaf)

New Goodbye- Hey Rosetta! (I actually can't believe this is live. They sound SO good.)

Enjoy! Happy weekend.