Tag Archives: Recollections

Music Gossiping On The Danko Jones Podcast

Danko Jones podcast

Danko Jones podcast

One of my favourite thing I worked on this year was helping edit international rock ‘n’ roll star Danko Jones’ new book I’ve Got Something To Say.

To help promote said book Danko had me on his long-running podcast in the fall.

We didn’t actually do much “promotion” of the book, but we sure had a time gossiping and light trash talking all sorts of things music.

To listen to this podcast episode go here.

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10 Best Before They Die Concerts Of 2018: Neko Case Is #1

Suicidal Tendencies live in Toronto.

Suicidal Tendencies live in Toronto.

Those closest to me know I’ve been on a years long quest to see live performances from a meticulously curated list of musical legends and personal favourites “before they die.”

Said list, which has a 100 active acts on it at all times and is prioritized based on 1) how much I love an act, 2) how soon I think they’re going to die, and 3) how rarely they tour, has guided me on numerous adventures and (mis)adventures over the years. Mostly, though, it has allowed me to witness a lot of music greats doing musically great things.

For the first time ever, I’ve compiled my 10 best Before They Dies of the year. Here they are:

10) Jeff Lynne’s Electric Light Orchestra @ Scotiabank Arena, August 18, 2018 (#52 on list)

Lynne isn’t exactly a dynamic frontman, but the band was excellent, the stage and light show was a trip and the music was undeniable, even though the setlist was surprisingly front-loaded. I had an alternating mix of “Showdown” and “Evil Woman” in my head for weeks after this. Always a good sign.

9) The Horrors @ Horseshoe Tavern, June 19, 2018 (#76 on the list)

One of the key things I’ve learned about The List over the years is that when an act from overseas is in town, you do your damnedest to make sure you go see them. Technically, there wasn’t all that much to “see” at The Horrors’ show — they’re mostly a bunch of Edward Scissorhand silhouettes swaying in low light obscured by fog machine smoke — but that made what was heard all the better. Live, there’s added nuance to the band’s lysergic goth rock, revealing itself in a bold synth line here, a guitar squelch there and in a vibe that makes you feel you’re experiencing masters of their craft.

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The Horrors!

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8) Fleetwood Mac @ Scotiabank Arena, November 5, 2018 (unrated)

I didn’t know I needed the Mac in my life. This, because as a Stevie Nicks devotee who had already seen Nicks solo and witnessed her sing “Rhiannon” I naively thought I had already experienced the best of the Mac. I was wrong. The best of the Mac might be when the band decided to reclaim their blues roots and perform the Peter Green-written “Black Magic Woman” with Nicks in full, glorious witch-rock mode. It’s an amazingly macabre look that I didn’t know Fleetwood Mac had in them and I’m completely turned around on them because of it.

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The Fleetwood party and dance band.

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7) Nick Cave @ Scotiabank Arena, October 28, 2018 (#93 on the list)

I get the Nick Cave devotion now. I mean, as a concept I’ve always thought Cave was cool, but his records never moved me all that deeply and the film he wrote (The Proposition) had probably affected me more than any song he’d ever sung. Seeing Cave live, though, is a far different experience. It’s like a Springsteen rock ‘n’ roll communion, except for sort of people who own complete Leonard Cohen poetry collections. Live, Cave’s an intuitive, showy, sleazy, Vegas-y, hearty and genuine showman who’s personal connection to his audience is amazing to behold. Also, the bold noise The Bad Seeds make feels like they’re subverting the whole idea of “arena” rock, which is delicious in its way.

6) Destroyer @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, January 22, 2018 (#103 on the list)

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this show, but I was very pleasantly surprised by what it was — an eight-piece jazz/prog/lounge art freakout that featured Dan Bejar flanked by a saxophonist and trumpeter who took turns adding their own wig outs throughout the set. The set list was mainly the new album ken and Kaputt so I was pretty keen because those are the two best Destroyer albums. It was all around a totally rewarding night.

5) Frank Turner @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, September 20, 2018 (unrated)

There are a lot of acts out there trying to pull off the Springsteen working man rock thing. Unfortunately, most of them only rate as photocopies of photocopies of The Boss. Turner’s not like that. He’s got his own rock-punk posi-gospel thing going down and, paradoxically, because of that Turner’s show is probably the closest to a Springsteen-like musical sermon I’ve seen from the younger generation.

4) The Pursuit of Happiness @ Supermarket, October 4, 2018 (unrated)

In the last few years I’ve managed to catch a number of ’80s Can-Rock heroes (Northern Pikes, Crash Vegas, Slow) I had never listed because I never realistically thought there’d ever be a chance to see any of them ever play again. When TPOH got back together to play a show to support the reissue of their perfect Love Junk album I put on the rare (for me) industry hustle to get into the small club show. It worked and I got to witness some of my all-time favourites (“Consciousness Raising As A Social Tool,” “I’m An Adult Now,” “Beautiful White”).

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Consciousness raising as a social tool.

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3) Suicidal Tendencies @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, July 25, 2018 (#34 on the list)

This was supposed to be a fun nostalgia trip where I could celebrate listening to “Institutionalized” and “Possessed To Skate” some three decades ago, but it ended up being far more than that. It turns out I had internalized many of these thrash-punk-metal songs far more than I had ever realized. I hadn’t listened to songs like “You Can’t Bring Me Down” in almost 30 years, but the righteous rage behind them came right back.

2) John Mellencamp @ Meridian Centre, St. Catharines, October 7, 2018 (#6 on the list)

Pursuing this list over the years has given me a special kind of clarity about what I’m willing and not willing to do in order to see a desired show. Things like cost, whether it’s a seated or standing venue, the weather, and whether I’ve got other social obligations are just some of the factors that go into a decision-making stew to cross-reference against The List. For John Mellencamp I was willing to ruin Thanksgiving. Well, not my Thanksgiving, so much as my attendance at my in-law Thanksgiving, which I skipped in order to see the man formerly known as Cougar. And it was worth it. I cried like five times and was pretty choked a half-dozen others. All those songs I loved from the Scarecrow album still hit and still have all the gravitas of back when I first discovered them — “Minutes To Memories” was heavy, “Small Town” fucking killed… it was all hits with heart. Also, the new songs were soooo woke. It was probably the first and only time an audience of old white people from St. Catharines would ever be confronted with a song about Black Lives Matter and were forced to consider it. Same with issues like immigration and racism. Basically, Cougar came into this backwoods city and preached. Also, it’s remarkable now that I can see it more clearly how much the politics of a record like Scarecrow shaped my world/political/moral values some decades later. Shows like this are why The List exists.

1) Neko Case @ Danforth Music Hall, September 24, 2018 (#25 on the list)

Technically, I’ve seen Neko Case a number of times already, although all of those times have been as a member of The New Pornographers. Which is weird because I enjoy her solo work far more than the Pornos. That said, when I finally got to see Case on my birthday this year I wasn’t expecting to have it affect me as deeply as it did. What’s clear is that Neko is a glorious, unique voice and no matter what she was singing (this night’s setlist skipped handfuls of my personal faves) she has the ability to turn each song into magic. “Maybe Sparrow,” “Margaret vs Pauline,” “Deep Red Bells,” “Look For Me I’ll Be Around”… I just have to look at that list and I not only can remember how wonderful they were, I can almost feel them again. If that’s not a sign of having experienced something beyond, I don’t know what is.

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Smashing Pumpkins Play Supposed Farewell Toronto Show

Smashing Pumpkins

Smashing Pumpkins

By uncompromisingly kicking-off this small venue gig with the 10-minute epic “Glass And The Ghost Children,” Billy Corgan and his Smashing Pumpkins crew set the tone for the rest of the night — they may be a huge rock band, but they’re still going to do whatever the hell they want to, when they want to and how they want to.

Regardless, two-plus hours of music and 20-some songs (considering the last third of the show deteriorated into a noodling session of cover songs and medleys) the Smashing Pumpkins proved they were not only ace rockers, but also ace facilitators of what could be described as a drunken goth-rock parody of a Promise Keepers convention.

Whether it was through pummeling the crowd with a sped up “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” or through the irony-fist-pump posturing of “Heavy Metal Machine,” it was obviously Lord Billy could do no wrong this night. It also would seem that we were witnessing the next step in Billy Corgan’s evolution from angsty grunge god to a mellower Buddha rock god, if you’ve got the comic book sensibilities to follow.

Corgan’s profuse bowing to the audience, “god blesses” and such would seem crass coming from someone of his elevated status if he hadn’t seemed so damn genuine when he was doing them. And it was ultimately this genuine affection which helped ensure the Pumpkins got over this night. The actual show was somewhat spotty, what with the aforementioned noodle-jam off going on between Corgan and fellow guitarist James Iha and the Pumpkins’ collective slavish devotion to meddle and alter their songs.

“Zero” was viciously rendered, but “Cherub Rock” seemed to be one of the few songs where the Pumpkins acted like they were just going through the motions.

Perhaps the highlight of the night came when Corgan performed a solo acoustic cover of Rush’s “Limelight.” All I’ll say about that one is that when you think about it, it’s shocking how many people know all the words to the average Rush song.

When Iha did a twisted take on Them’s “Gloria” instead as “Canada.” (“C-A-N/A-D-A/Cannnn-ada”), the crowd were more than happy to take the bait, not in small part because it gave them an excuse to shout their catcall flatteries to new bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur.

Much less the foil-for-the-frontperson she was in Hole, Auf Der Maur still managed to blow a few kisses and throw out the goat horns on multiple occasions.

Much less flattering however was what could be called the “Tribute To Howlin’ Wolf Set To The Tune Of Crawling King Snake.” This probably represented the musical low-point for the evening, despite the fact a sizable segment of the audience were actually howling along with Corgan when he’d “HOOOWWWLLL!!” into the mic.

Still, despite whatever low-lights there were, for any devotee of the Pumpkins, this was undoubtedly a night of music bliss. They pulled out old classics like “I Am One” and blistered through new tunes like “The Everlasting Gaze.” And the bonus outpouring of affection from Corgan to the audience proved that love is truly all you need.

This story was originally published March 22, 2000 via Chart Communications

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The Circus That Was The Strokes

The Strokes' Is This It

The Strokes’ Is This It

If you happened to be sauntering around Queen West yesterday in search of new pants or maybe some fancy boots, you’d have surely noticed the untold amount of Sloan Pretty Together posters stapled to, literally, every post along Queen between John and Spadina. If you didn’t know there was a new Sloan record coming out before yesterday, you sure as hell know now. You may have also noticed the ridiculous line-up of people trying to get into the Horseshoe.

That Sloan were getting some street-marketing love from their new label BMG Canada isn’t shocking. But what was interesting was how it represented just a small part in an elaborate plan that would pay off most effectively around 12:30 a.m. later that evening as The Strokes triumphantly strode off the stage from their free show at the Horseshoe Tavern.

The invasion of the much-hyped Strokes proved an excellent opportunity for piggy-backing. Along with aforementioned New Yorkers, their label BMG Canada coyly set up an early evening showcase with Copyright. The catch, if you wanted to get a “privileged” ticket to guarantee admission to The Strokes, you had to go to the Copyright showcase at the Rivoli to pick up said ticket. It was a sly move for sure and it seemed to pay dividends as the plied-with-free-liquor insiders gave Tom Anselmi and crew surprisingly hearty round of cheers, though more mean-spirited colleagues of ours took great pleasure in deriding bass player Eric Marxsen’s Archie Bunker rock ‘n’ roll look.

And then it was off to the madhouse… It was a mighty surreal sight to behold a line-up to get into the Horseshoe that stretched well past The Rivoli and was three or four people wide. Clearly, a lot of folks were going to be sent home unhappy but the optics of such a ridiculous display must have been pure gold in The Strokes’ camp.

Shortly after the ‘Shoe doors were flung open and the kids with dollar bills between their teeth dutifully attacked the merch table, troubadour Pete Yorn took to the stage. He started off on the right foot with a cover of The Smiths’ “Panic” — an effective move considering the crowd of hipsters and anglophiles in attendance — but lost much of that initial steam when the weight of the inane chatter filling the club rendered him mute.

Around this time the celeb spotting began in earnest. There was Patrick Pentland from Sloan, some members of Treble Charger, Copyright, Robin Black and his ubiquitous posse of spandex casualties, hip-hopish upstart K-OS, Neil Leyton, members of Wayne Omaha and Maximum RNB and no doubt a whole bunch of others that we didn’t see just because it was too damn packed to actually move.

For the more disgruntled types, pretty much every high-profile music reporter in the city was hovering around as well, including reps from the Toronto Star, Toronto Sun, Eye, Now, local radio and Much as well as no less than 10 different Chart writers. All it would have taken was one well-timed machine gun attack and there’d be no more scathing condemnations of Big Wreck, Big Sugar, Our Lady Peace, The Watchmen or any of the other usual suspects we rock reporter types use as fodder for our elaborately constructed punchlines.

And speaking of punchlines, let us discuss The Moldy Peaches’ wardrobe. We’ll start with Adam Green, the skinny acid-casualty of a singer whose range of facial expressions ranged from vacant to, um, vacant. For one, guys wearing hats like that need to be shoved in lockers, and two, what the hell was that gossamer poncho get-up? Really? We’ve got to start a whole new paragraph for Green’s singing companion Kimya Dawson. Looking like a cruel experiment between an understudy for Cats and too many cheeseburgers, Dawson was somewhat more entertaining, though the cat-calls of “Get off the fucking stage!” were getting hurled at her and her band with regularity.

At least they played their anthem “Who’s Got The Crack” quite well, though few of the stern, and by this time sardine-packed, audience members picked up on the wonderful singalong possibilities of chanting “Who-woo-woo’s got the crack?” over and over. Opportunities lost, children.

From there it was on to The Strokes. The band were clearly on the top of their game as they ran through virtually every song from their Is This It album. Though the record isn’t even officially out yet in Canada, MP3s and a fortuitously early Australian release of the album meant a substantial number of the multi- hundred jammed into the ‘Shoe knew songs like “Hard To Explain” and “Someday” intimately.

Considering the stodgy and downright prickishly cold nature of most Toronto audiences, the zeal that bordered on fanaticism in support for the band was a sight to behold. It’s rare that the icy reserves of such a collection of know-it-alls and too-cool-for-schools would be broken down so effectively, but that’s because The Strokes showed and proved all of their advance billing. The band’s rock ‘n’ roll swagger made every machination, line-up and invasion of personal space moot.

Commence your “I saw them when” stories now.

This story was originally published October 3, 2001 via Chart Communications

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Lady Gaga Explains Exploding Tits

Lady Gaga's exploding boobs at the 2009 MMVAs.

Lady Gaga’s exploding boobs at the 2009 MMVAs.

Lady Gaga made her breasts explode at the MuchMusic Video Awards last night.

The fired-up funbags were part of a surreal live medley performance of “LoveGame” and “Poker Face” that involved an erotic subway ride dance sequence which devolved into a fight between her and some transit cops all flanked by bondage-geared backing dancers.

GaGa later said at a press conference the reason for the boobie blast was because there was some doubt MuchMusic would be able to put together her elaborate subway car set.

“The bra, actually, it was a funny story,” she said. “When I was speaking to MuchMusic, they were having problems figuring out how to build that subway train and get it on and off the stage. And I said, ‘Well, if you can’t build my subway train, I’m going to blow my tits up on stage.’

“I was in Hawaii, and I said, ‘We need to blow my tits up on stage — I’m thinking conical bra, ode to Madonna, fire.’ And David LaChapelle was in the background screaming, ‘Lactate! It should lactate!’

“It was inspired by Helmut Newton. So we built the bra as an in-case-the-subway-wasn’t-built, but we decided to use both anyway.
“My new name is Hot Tits.”

Earlier in the evening, Gaga won the best international video by an artist award for “Poker Face.” Her acceptance speech featured her yelling “To God and the gays!” while hoisting her trophy in the air.

Here is one of many YouTube clips of the performance.

This story was originally published June 22, 2009 by Chart Communications.

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To My Smart, Beautiful, Amazing Sable

Sable

Sable

On and off for the last 24 hours or so I’ve been looking at pictures of you.

There are photos of your head poking out of gym bags, standing proud atop a stereo speaker, sniffing around sports trophies I’ve won, sitting on Sarah’s gis, curled up in a bathtub, hiding out in an old refrigerator. These are just the novelty shots. In-the-moment attempts to capture the wonderfully silly thing that your badass, smart, beautiful, amazing black cat-ness got up to.

I have a lot of these photos. But right now they don’t feel quite enough. That’s because yesterday I made “the call.”

And today has been my last day with you, one of the truest friends I’ve ever known.

For 21 years you’ve has been my constant companion and one of my greatest joys. The price for your companionship was low. Some food, water, a few cardboard boxes and a willingness to drop everything to pet or comb you was all you asked. In return, I received a loyalty so fierce it’d make Bast shudder.

Outsiders probably won’t believe this. It took years for Sarah to finally win your affections, hard-fought and after actual bloodshed. You also had a well-earned reputation of hissing, clawing and screeching at strangers, which certainly narrowed down our social visitors to only the bravest of brave.

That all said, and I’m hesitant to be too anthropomorphist, but you were a deeply loving animal. What outsiders never saw was the cat who’d greet me at the door every time I returned home. Or who’d slide close by my desk and then sit and stare, patiently waiting for an acknowledgment, maybe an ear scratch or a walk around the apartment.

These moments were almost always accompanied by deep, hearty purring. I know cats purr for a number of reasons beyond just “I’m happy,” but I’ve got to believe that was a large part of it. And if I’m being selfish about it, your purrs did as much to soothe my troubles as anything else. Simply, my world was better with you in it and I’m going to miss you forever.

23 things Sable really liked:

* bacon
* Banh Mi Boys’ fried chicken bao
* regular potato chips
* tissue paper
* pizza boxes
* Vachon caramel cakes
* cardboard boxes
* Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
* the old WWE knapsack she’d sit on by the couch when she got too old and immobile to jump on said couch
* searching the apartment for dust bunnies after she puked
* sitting beside her humans
* the apartment hallway
* open doors in the apartment hallway
* nuzzling hockey skates
* strong sunbeams
* sitting on dirty laundry
* sitting on warm, clean laundry
* scratching my face while I slept
* being combed
* Pillsbury crescent rolls
* waking humans up at 5:30 a.m.
* the sheer joy of humans being up at 5:30 a.m.
* knowing where her humans were

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The Trauma Of Losing Your Luggage

Sarah's missing luggage, not shown.

Sarah’s missing luggage, not shown.

Five years ago Sarah lost her luggage on a trip to Vegas.

It was very traumatic for her at the time and it still burns even to this day.

She wrote about this feeling in a new essay for Racked.

To read it go here.

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