Category Archives: Music

7 Points Of Interest For CMW 2017 Veteran Attendees



Say you’re the kind of person who can remember a time when there were eight major record labels operating in Canada. Back then, there was no YouTube, or Soundcloud, or Bandcamp. There was no Napster, no streaming, and there was certainly no Twitter or Facebook.

When you wanted to learn about new music you had three choices: listen to the radio (but that was always a Pyrrhic victory because you had to listen to the radio), you could find out about new bands by reading what your favourite music writers in daily, weekly or monthly publications were recommending, or, you could chase down these new sounds the truest way — by trudging in and out of the clubs to check things out.

By doing this you’ve seen soooo many great bands. Some that never broke (Flashing Lights, Copyright, Deadly Snakes, Tangiers, Royal City) and some that, relatively at least, did (Broken Social Scene, The Dears, Constantines, Joel Plaskett).

You’ve been doing this sort of thing for 19 straight years now. And you’re tired. The thought of jostling with college kids with unearned beards in over-capacity clubs to see the “next big thing” doesn’t sound pleasant in any way.

And yet, the spirit remains willing.

So you brace yourself. It is, once again, Canadian Music Week. And once again all of the Canadian music industry will descend upon Toronto to polish up and show off their latest pet projects while a whole separate underclass of patronless dreamers will also arrive in the hopes of “networking” and “making some valuable connections”… but mostly by trying to push unwanted flyers and stickers on you.

It can seem all too much. But you know there are still great bands and great songs out there, so you mutter, “I’m getting too old for this shit” and once again step into the breach…

This time it’s different, though.

Because you are getting too old for this, you know that many of these “new projects we’re working on” are bullshit false flags. You know that party with seafood will smell like seafood and that’s enough for you to skip it. And you also know that navigating the website will, as always, be a Sisyphussian lesson on why organizations should never let musicians and their representatives self-curate their profiles on your web real estate.

Your plan is to simply say “fuck it,” to not be moved by the hype, to not have to cool hunt. You’re going to see what you know, what you like, and what’s not going to irritate the shit out of you.

I’ve identified seven ways in which you can fulfill this quest. Read them below:

Wednesday, April 19 @ Phoenix Concert Theatre as part of the INDIE Awards

54-40 have always been a bit taken for granted all these years because they’ve always been good and they’ve always been with us. But the CanRock we’ve all known and loved for so many years is dying. Rush have retired, it’s been made clear it’s impolite to speculate on The Hip’s future, but y’know, the ’70s and ’80s acts like April Wine, David Wilcox and Loverboy are lumbering into their twilight years, and all those ’90s acts who went gold on every record have officially exhausted all their reunions. Against this, we still have 54-40. They’re getting some sort of lifetime achievement award and they deserve it.

Charlotte Day Wilson
Wednesday, April 19 @ Mod Club
Thursday, April 20 @ Mod Club

There’s a whole generation of young adults who’ve never heard Sade’s “Smooth Operator” and who wouldn’t know a Massive Attack record if Banksy spray-painted one in their ears. To these people, Charlotte Day Wilson is their fast-emerging new queen. That’s not meant to be dismissive. Wilson’s voice is chillingly good and if there is a legit “next big thing” performing at CMW this year, she is it. Seeing Wilson is your best bet to score easy cred points this week.

The Silver Dollar

If you haven’t heard, the Silver Dollar is basically dead. But on the way out, mercurial concert promoter Dan Burke has booked a number of righteous RIP shows up until the end of the month to honour the place. You owe it to yourself to make a stop by this week and pay your respects. And when Dan tries to pretend you’re not on the guest list, or that there’s no more room for wristband holders and badges and it’s paying customers only, just pay your $10 and enjoy the experience. You’ll be happy you did when the new Silver Dollar ground floor retail space/resto-lounge mood-boarded by some Charles Khabouth design protege opens in 2021 and ruins everything.

Danko Jones
Wednesday, April 19 @ Velvet Underground

I’ve got a strong suspicion that large pockets of the “the industry” in Canada hate Danko Jones. And I’ve got an equally strong suspicion Danko feels the same way about them. But the band are still here, playing a showcase-style gig anyway. Officially endorsed by Lemmy from Motorhead and Duff McKagan from Guns n’ Roses, they’re big enough in Europe that they get to negotiate the font size of their name on festival posters. This may very well be an act of defiance-as-rock concert for all those haters, which makes it kinda exciting.

Thursday, April 20 @ Costume House (165 Geary Avenue)
Saturday, April 22 @ A Common Sort (free Record Store Day show)

Gal singer + “soundscape” producer duos are second only to “sounds like Drake” for things the music world doesn’t need any more of in 2017. Except for She-Devils, that is. This Montreal pair are mighty compelling in a they-could-have-been-on-4AD-back-in-the-day way. Instead, their first album is going to be on Secretly Canadian, which in its way is almost the same thing, and they’ll be among peers like SUUNS, Anohni, Jens Lekman and Yoko Ono. With their ’60s pop grooves and Velvet Underground world weariness, this may be the actualization of what Andy Warhol wanted in Nico. If your old bones are going to take a chance on something, this is it.

Worst Place To Score Seats

I’ve ranked a number of the key participating CMW venues on how unlikely it is you’ll be able to score a seat if you show up during non-peak, non-at capacity times. The lower the ranking, the lower your chances of avoiding crippling back spasms throughout the week:

15) Horseshoe Tavern
14) Lee’s Palace
13) Silver Dollar
12) Monarch Tavern
11) Cameron House
10) The Paddock
9) The Rivoli
8) Bovine Sex Club
7) Dakota Tavern
6) Mod Club
5) The Garrison
4) Adelaide Hall
3) Drake Underground
2) Velvet Underground
1) Great Hall

The Dandy Warhols and The Sadies
Friday, April 21 @ Lee’s Palace as part of the Dine Alone showcase

Finally, a bill you understand. A label you’ve heard of is putting on a stacked bill with bands you’ve actually heard of and it’s got a headliner whose one album you really liked and they were funny in that documentary and it’s a bit of an underplay for them. You just gotta figure out who you still know who can get you on the guest list…

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RF Shannon — Jaguar Palace (Album Review)

RF Shannon's Jaguar Palace

RF Shannon’s Jaguar Palace

The working description of Texans RF Shannon’s music is “South West R&B and psychedelic trail ballads.” The R&B side may be a bit difficult to unpack, but the “psychedelic trail ballads” part is particularly spot on when characterizing the six songs on the Jaguar Palace album.

Jaguar Palace doesn’t work because of its individual songs — hazy, languid and often clocking in at over six minutes apiece, they’re winding snapshots of moderate sonic intrigue. Taken as a full collection, however, Jaguar Palace is a panorama, a sprawling 360 degree exploration of twilight desert night skies, lonely roads and railroads, and the end-of-the-line one-gas station towns inhabiting those edges.

It’s the smaller moments in this musical universe that make you feel like you’ve just stumbled upon a long lost ghost town. “Tell My Horse” may be the dark inverse to America’s “A Horse With No Name,” with its foreboding keys, otherworldly slide and chaotic shoegaze touches. “Had a Revelation,” the relative peppiest track on the album, ends up being less about RF Shannon leader Shane Renfro’s revelations and more about one’s own epiphanies that take place while listening. “Hottevilla,” meanwhile, provides the most headphone fodder to get lost in. The slow draw of its beginning recalling the more discreet moments on Godspeed You! Black Emperor albums and its dizzying flute parts add dangerous firefly flare-ups for the mind to chase.

This carefully crafted world created by RF Shannon triangulates the swirling cosmology of A Storm In Heaven-era Verve, the hypnotic guitar lines of Neil Young’s “On The Beach” and some of Calexico’s more downtempo moments to create something of meditative, lasting beauty.

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Oasis Say Rivers Cuomo “Like Yoda,” Wish They Could’ve Played Live 8 To Humiliate Robbie Williams



Surly rockers Oasis have an unlikely new adversary — Auburn, New York heavy metal band Manowar. That’s what happens when you stop singer Liam Gallagher in mid-brag about how Oasis are “like, the loudest band in the fucking world onstage” and tell him that the Guinness Book Of World Records instead favours Manowar.

“But they’re loud and shit though, aren’t they? They’re just shit,” Gallagher says emphatically. Seated beside him, bassist Andy Bell is somewhat perplexed.

“Who are they anyway?” Bell asks. “Heavy metal?”

“Fuck Manowar,” interjects Gallagher decisively.

There’s a pause as Liam’s insult sinks in. Then Bell replies dryly, “That was a good point anyway. A bit blunt of you, but well made.”

Equally blunt and well-made is the newest Oasis record, Don’t Believe The Truth. It’s a decided return to form after the disappointment of 2002’s Heathen Chemistry. But that’s all information a listener will be able to glean for themselves. When presented with an opportunity to chat up one of the battling Gallaghers there’s more important things to discuss.

Like Weezer.

“Yeah, we met [Weezer],” says Gallagher. “I like ’em. They’re one of those bands you see on TV and go, ‘I just like ’em.’ I think they’re pretty alright.”

Gallagher saves his highest praise for Weezer’s frontman Rivers Cuomo.

“Very strange man, him,” says a bemused Gallagher. “He’s my new favourite rock star. He freaked me out.

“He’s just the total opposite to me, man. He’s just very timid. He’s like Yoda or something. But I respect that.

“He’s a top man. There’s totally a place for him. He’s like the Andy Warhol of fucking music, that’s what I think.”

There won’t, however, be a place for Oasis at the big London, U.K. edition of the Live 8 festival on July 2. According to Liam, it’s not because they didn’t want to, though. They were already booked for a sold out gig at the City Of Manchester Stadium.

“If we were free we’d be there, man,” says Gallagher. “And I am a bit disappointed, but that’s life, man. Our shows were booked. And I had a word with management the other day, and I said, ‘Look, I feel a bit guilty.’ Everyone’s down there doing all this, know what I mean? We’re down the road doing our thing. A little bit of guilt kicked in. I thought maybe we should fucking book… then it’s 60,000 kids disappointed.

“But if we weren’t doing a gig that day we’d have been there without a doubt. And I’d love to. Y’know why I’d love to do that gig?

“First of all, it’s fucking awareness and all that stuff,” he says, before getting to the real meat of why he wanted to play. “I just love to go on and do four fucking songs and really fucking rip it up. Come in and fucking bang it with fuckin’ four of your classics. And walk off. And fucking flick Robbie Williams in the eye and say, ‘Follow that you dick!'”

This story was originally published June 24, 2005 via Chart Communications.

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Samaritan News 10 Pack: Rihanna, Disobedience Awards, More

Rihanna gets humanitarian award

Rihanna gets humanitarian award

In the latest batch of news stories I wrote for charitable entertainment site Samaritanmag Rihanna gets a humanitarian award, a thousand days of protest songs are declared and disobedience is rewarded.

Check them out:

Are You Disobedient for the Good of Society? Nominations Open for $250K USD Award

Honey Nut Cheerios Free Seed Campaign Launched to Protect Bees

Staples Gives Almost $200k to Five Canadian Charities

March Is Music Therapy Awareness Month

Rihanna Gets Harvard University Humanitarian of the Year Award

Adele, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga Items Part Of Grammy Foundation Auction

1000 Days Of Protest Songs Set to Mark Next Four Years

Guess Who’s Protest Song Enters Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame

What Is The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)?

Former Great Big Sea’s Séan McCann To Perform At National Music Centre for Bell Let’s Talk Day

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YouTube Playlists: Shark Attacks, Faceplants, Billy Corgan

Shark bites diving cage

Shark bites diving cage

Ditch TV, the website I curated a bajillion video playlists for, is now RIP and apparently an impassable “insecure connection,” according to my web browser.

That’s ok, though. The work I did for them lives on.

Here are some of the playlists I did for them back in the day:

Remembering Lollapalooza 2010

Brilliant Rap Songs From 2010

Scary Ass Shark Attacks

The Painful Art Of The Faceplant

This Is Billy Corgan’s America

New Pornographers’ Still Bruisin’

15 Great Tiny Desk Concerts

The Unique Style Of 80s CanRock

Last Shadow Puppets Got Style


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Two Chuck Berry Stories From Michael Cohl And Triumph

Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry, the true king of rock ‘n’ roll died yesterday in St. Charles County, Missouri. He was 90 years old.

Though Berry stopped touring a few years ago, I always held out small hope that I would get to see him perform live. Clearly that will never happen now.

While Berry will be lauded for his music, almost as much will be made about his mercurial and sometimes controversial behaviours and personality.

What’s absolutely clear is that Berry was a bigger-than-life music personality who won’t soon be forgotten.

I went through some of my old interview transcripts and found a couple anecdotes about Berry.

The first is an outtake from an interview I did with super-promoter Michael Cohl for a story at Huffington Post Music Canada. When the conversation turned to some of the stranger music personalities he’d dealt with in his career, Cohl was very discreet. He did, however, provide this one Berry-related tale:

“I think I’ve dealt with most of them,” said Cohl, of the most idiosyncratic entertainers. “I think that Rodney Dangerfield story’s pretty eccentric. So’s Bob Marley’s. I mean, listen, we’ve dealt with Chuck Berry. He’s nerve-wracking. He wants to be paid for every little thing. He wants to be paid per smile in some cases, but at the end of the day he says, ‘Don’t you worry, it’s an 8 o o’clock show? I’ll be at the building at 7:30 and have my money ready.’ And doesn’t want anyone to pick him up… so in some ways he’s the simplest, but the simplest can also be the most nerve-wracking because you’re sitting there and it’s 7 o’clock and you go ‘I have no idea where this guy is.’ He’s not in his room. He’s not in the building. He says he’s going to be here at 7:30… I wonder. Inevitably, he shows up.

“Yeah, he’s extraordinary, let’s face it. He’ll make you crazy.”

The other good Berry story I uncovered came from Triumph bassist Mike Levine, who I spoke to when the band released their Live at Sweden Rock Festival CD/DVD a few years back. Levine apparently experienced the unique challenge that is being the local band backing Berry.

Levine explained why in this outtake from my interview with him:

“I got a good Chuck Berry story,” said Levine. “I can’t remember the name of the band, but it was in the early ’70s and we were pretty popular, playing high schools and colleges and stuff, and we get a call from Queen’s University and they say, ‘Can you back up for Chuck Berry?’ And he’s playing here, blah, blah, blah, you play a set and you’ll back Chuck up, so we said, ‘Oh that’ll be great.’

“So we played our set. We’re sitting in the dressing room. We still haven’t met Chuck. About 10 minutes before show time he arrives and he opens his guitar case and there were three things in it other than his guitar: airplane bottles of liquor, a wad of cash, and a gun. And he said, ‘I don’t think we’re going to be playing tonight.’

“We go, ‘What do you mean?’

“‘Well, the place is sold out and I told the promoter I want more money or I’m not going on.’ Which I found out later he’s very famous for doing.

“So we were, ‘Well, just in case we do play, what songs are we going to do?’ And he said, ‘Just follow me.’

“We go ‘OK’ and the promoter comes in and Chuck wrangled an extra $5,000 out of him or something. Insisted on being paid in cash before we got on. He got everything he wanted. We got onstage and he’d turn around and yell ‘Johnny B. Goode, E. Count it in.’ We played all the songs. It went really good. We had fun. And after it was done he said goodbye, packed up his stuff and left.”

Watch Chuck Berry perform “My Ding-A-Ling”

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Flo Morrissey & Matthew E. White — Gentlewoman, Ruby Man (Album Review)

Flo Morrissey & Matthew E. White — Gentlewoman, Ruby Man

Flo Morrissey & Matthew E. White — Gentlewoman, Ruby Man

It’s fitting that British triller Flo Morrissey and American drawler Matthew E. White met for the first time at a Lee Hazlewood tribute night in 2015 because the pair’s new album Gentlewoman, Ruby Man has a clear “we want to be like Lee & Nancy” air throughout.

If it is an act of copycatting it’s a respectful one. Where Lana Del Rey gets her retro cues by searching through Jackie Kennedy photo archives on Pinterest, one gets the sense the 10 duet covers on Gentlewoman, Ruby Man were selected after exploring a well-curated record collection in someone’s rec room basement.

It’s not a total ’70s revival trip. The pair manage to turn Frank Ocean (“Thinking ‘Bout You”), James Blake (“The Colour In Anything”) and Charlotte Gainsbourg (“Heaven Can Wait”) tracks into effective grayscale mopers.

That said, Morrissey and White’s best work comes from their classic reinterpretations. Their take on Nino Ferrer’s “Looking For You” has even more gravitas when you know the French-Italian singer’s tragic story. It’s exceedingly difficult to mess up Roy Ayers’ “Everybody Loves The Sunshine” and their version’s tinkling keyboard flourish will lock itself between your ears long after you listen to it. Even more addictive is Morrissey and White’s buoyant reimagine of the Grease theme song. Striped of its context as part of a musical and careful calibrated to avoid any American Idol talent show-type airs, “Grease” turns into a groovy, Feist-ian bedroom jammer. Best, though, may be the pair’s take on the George Harrison spiritual “Govindam.” At risk of Beatles blaspheming, this modern redo, complete with its winding, mobius strip rhythmic track, may perhaps be better than the original.

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