Zoilus by Carl Wilson

Archive for September, 2007

Things Will Shortly Get Completely Out of Hand

September 26th, 2007

Mountain Goats lyrics consult at Lee’s Palace on Sept. 25:
See note on “Tulsa Imperative.” Photo swiped from Amber B.

There’s nothing I can say about the Mountain Goats show last night that won’t sound fawning and ridiculous, as became clear listening to everybody speak fawningly and ridiculously afterwards. I can only say that I kind of wish tMGs would never release another album so that all their tours could be non-album tours and we could get completely unpredictable setlists like last night’s, which hit all sorts of out-of-the-way spots in 14 years worth of John Darnielle songs, including one he never recorded at all, two that have yet to be recorded, and so on. And his showmanship was in peak form as well.

(For an annotated set list, look after the jump.)




September 25th, 2007

Polaris climactic moment, photo swiped from Chromewaves.

I join the chorus of bafflement at Patrick Watson’s Polaris win last night, though I felt a lot better about it when the band said they had thousands of dollars in rental-van damage bills to pay off, so at least there was some needs-and-means convergence going on. I think what we’ve seen is just the lead-in to Watson getting some real commercial viability going - I’d bet his/their next album might be on a major label and have some radio-playable singles - and I suppose one of the things the Polaris can do is boost people along that route. But it’s not one of the things I’m most interested in seeing the prize do. And can I just raise a general principled objection to the whole naming-your-band-your-own-name thing? It made the Globe this morning sound like it was claiming Watson himself is eight years old, which is in fact how long the band’s been together. Sure, “the Patrick Watson Band” would be fine, but I feel sorry for the guys who play with him who have to tell people, “Yeah, I’m in Patrick Watson.” Yes, and I’m deep inside Jenna Jameson. (It’s just occurred to me that this is sort of a bandonym in reverse.)

I’m curious who the second-place finisher was, which rumour has it was very close. In the live performances, Chad VanGaalen and Miracle Fortress both delighted me, and the Julie Doiron/ex-Eric-Trippers rock-out was a cool, bold choice for the room, though in some ways it didn’t show off Julie’s skills to best advantage. You can hear for yourself if you go download the CBC Radio 3 podcast of the awards. (Speaking of which, Grant Lawrence did an ace job hosting.) For further Polari-palaver, I highly recommend Michael Barclay’s and Helen Spitzer’s amusing, hungover breakfast-table dialogue from this morning.

Twilight of the Matador?

September 24th, 2007

The Toronto Star reports that the City of Toronto wants to turn Toronto’s notorious country-and-western after-hours bar The Matador into parking. I wouldn’t exactly call this “paving paradise,” but it is a bit like the Disneyfication of Times Square, but with an infinitely duller result. Ann Dunn, the Matador’s legendary madam-of-the-a.m., seems uninterested in keeping it going (which at 79 is understandable), but she won’t go for the rip-off price, for both owners and taxpayers. $800,000 for a 20-spot lot? Come on. That’s not an expropriation-justifying public good. As BlogTO rightly points out, “a parking lot in the city of Toronto exists for about as long as a free round of shots on the Matador’s bar at 3 am. The space is destined to become a condo construction site (with inevitable underground parking), so this move … reeks of a city desperately looking for ways of generating cash, historic businesses be damned.”

I suspect that since the smoking ban, the Matador’s business model (a hangout and music venue after the bars close, booze sold under the table or rather out of a trenchcoat, enough profit to pay off the local cops) has become untenable, especially with the city now regularly extending licenses to 4 a.m. for special occasions like the film festival, though of course only for special venues (read richy-rich ones). Harrison Ford doesn’t need to go to the Mat anymore. Someday, perhaps, we’ll have a closing time that reflects how late folks in a major cosmopolitan city go out, even when they’re not Harrison Ford. But the Matador space is amazingly atmospheric, classic, and the sign is a cultural icon, and some creative entrepreneur could do something terrific with it in a booming ‘hood. But no, the city wants to pave it over, because it has the foresight of a flea.

Besides a boozy afterparty following some friends’ wedding years ago, my fondest Matador memory was probably seeing Neko Case in 2004 recording part of her live album, The Tigers Have Spoken. Up top is Leonard Cohen’s Closing Time video, famously shot at the Matador. Big Sugar’s Turn the Lights On vid was filmed there too. (Any others?)


The Continuing Adventures of Me
(Plus: Polaris Non-Forecast)

September 24th, 2007

Julie Doiron: Polaris-polarization consensual cure?

I’ve been meaning to mention that tomorrow (Tuesday) evening, I’m doing a discussion/workshop as part of the public library’s “Toronto Tunes” series (which winds up with an Ohbijou/More or Les/Bicycles concert on Nov. 3). The event is at the North York Central Library called, “Writing & Blogging About Music,” along with freelance journalist Tabassum Siddiqui and writer Hal Niedzviecki. The crowd’ll mostly be in their teens and 20s, I suspect, but anyone interested in music writing, whether professionally or as an avocation, is welcome to come. It’s from 6 to 8 pm, at 5120 Yonge St, which is just by the North York subway stop. To register, call 416-395-5674.

But first, tonight’s the Polaris Prize. I can’t for the life of me handicap the thing - I suspect I won’t be raising my champagne to my faves, Junior Boys, by night’s end, but who knows? The winner is decided in an hours-long discussion by the panel of 11 judges on the spot, during the actual gala, and from my experience last year, it very much depends upon the chemistry and convergences among that (what’s the opposite of a baker’s dozen? a shoplifter’s dozen?) gang at that time. As a wild guess, strongly divided opinions might in the end default in favour of Julie Doiron, who inspires a kind of universal fondness and might be everybody’s second pick. But I’m not a betting man. Others who are weigh in with their predictions.

Also on the agenda: Tomorrow night after the library workshop, it’s The Mountain Goats! Peeks at recent setlists seem to indicate a lot of mixes of brand-new and very-old songs, which is exactly what I want out of a Mountain Goats show. I’m kind of hoping for The Recognition Scene and Raja Vocative and Family Happiness, just in case John D’s reading, but I’m pretty happy to be surprised.

And on Sunday around 4 pm, I’m reading at Word on the Street in Queen’s Park, along with other contributors to Coach House’s uTOpia 2: The State of the Arts book. I might be a little bleary as I’m not planning to sleep the night before. With luck the audience will be in the same condition.

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Rough October Listings Finally Up…

September 22nd, 2007

… in the gig guide. Apologies for the brief breakdown of the Zoilusian gig-guide update system. We’ll add November soon, too. As always, corrections, announcements of shows, etc., more than welcome, by email or in the comments here.


Regular Programming Resumes

September 20th, 2007

Hi, folks. I missed you. I missed a lot of things. But I got through it. And now we are reunited, and it feels so good.

Not tons to report at the mo’, but a couple of exciting things quickly to mention: One, that the absolutely astounding, charming, beguiling, surprising, virtuosic, sui-generis, superlative-exhausting Czech violist and singer Iva Bittova is coming to the Music Gallery in Toronto on Tuesday, November 6. Watch the clip above and you’ll see and hear what I mean. (There’s quite a bit more Bittova on YouTube if you want to pass a wonderful hour or so.)

As well, two notable notes from friends in blogland: Prof. Drew LeDrew tugs our coatsleeve to say that Destination: Out, the free-est of jazz blogs, has a very special feature this week: Vijay Iyer, who’s maybe the most exciting younger player in the music today, has compiled a superb “Solo Piano Mixtape” for D:O, with his own annotations, which are beautifully written and insightful. It includes tunes by Geri Allen, Randy Weston, Cecil Taylor, Sun Ra and Andrew Hill as well as two by Iyer himself. It’s up for one week only, so hop on over there.

Also our old friend Rob Walker is, as mentioned in the past, doing fascinating work on the song “St. James Infirmary” on his No Notes blog, and last week he did a fascinating interview with microtonal composer Ezra Sims, who (a) explains microtonality for beginners; and (b) offers some observations on the Louis Armstrong version of “St. James Infirmary,” explaining how it incorporates mirotones and how he, in turn, slipped a “St. James” section into his piece “Sextet” - which you can hear because Rob has found this awesome site, The Avant-Garde Project, with which I, for one, am going to be spending a whole lot more time.

More soon.

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Goodbye, Young Danish Women

September 11th, 2007


Zoilusian operations are on hiatus for the week, while I take up a scythe to shear off my manuscript’s hair, feed it a porridge of wild grains and ready it for ritual sacrifice.*

The sacrament occurs on Monday, Sept. 17.

After that I won’t be so bogged down, and will be back here lovin’ you up.

* Emailing it to my editor, that is. I don’t mean to be melodramatic.

Pop Goes the Conference, 2008

September 7th, 2007


Already! Here’s the call for papers for next year’s EMP Pop Conference. I think it’s the perfect subject for a U.S. election year and also the perfect subject to shake up the sometimes-too-unassertive style that’s prevailed at the past couple of conferences: When what you need is more arguments, have a conference about arguments. That’s the spirit. Also very glad that the smart cookies on the planning committee configured the question around “conflict and change” rather than “protest and politics,” which would be the more standard and also much less useful way of looking at it. Haven’t conceived a topic yet but I’m excited.

Call for Papers: 2008 Pop Conference at Experience Music Project
Shake, Rattle: Music, Conflict, and Change
April 10-13, 2008, Seattle, Washington

How does music resist, negate, struggle? Can pop music intensify vital confrontations, as well as ameliorating and concealing them? What happens when people are angry and silly love songs aren’t enough? The migrations and global flows of peoples and cultures; the imbalanced struggles between groups, classes, and nations: what has music’s role been in these ongoing dramas? We invite presentations on any era, sound, or geographic region. Topics might include:
- In conjunction with the new EMP exhibit, “American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music,” how Latino musics have shaped the American soundscape and challenge black and white rock-pop paradigms, or more broadly, the unsettling effects of immigration, internal migration, displacement, assimilation, and colonization.
- How music enters politics: social movements and activist responses to crises such as New Orleans; entertainment’s connection to ideology and propaganda; music within “cultural policy” and as part of the public sphere; debates over copyright, corporate power, and cultural democracy; performing dissent.
- Social and musical fragmentation: segregation and constructions of whiteness, divisions of class and gender, versus musical categorization and niche marketing, from big genres to smaller forms such as “freak folk.”
- “Revolution” as a recurrent theme in popular music, a social or technological reality it confronts, or an association with particular genres and decades of music.
- Clashes between communal, local, identity - tradition, faith, nativism - and cosmopolitan, global, modernization.
- Music in times of war, economic crisis, adolescence, and other intense stress
- Agents of change: tipping points, latent historical shifts, carnivalesque subversions, and accidents or failures of consequence
- The sound of combative pop: what sets it apart?

Send proposals to Eric Weisbard (EricW AT empsfm DOT org) by December 17, 2007; please keep them to 250 words and a 50 word bio. Full panel proposals, bilingual submissions, and unusual approaches are welcome. For questions, contact the organizer or program committee members: Joshua Clover (UC Davis), Kandia Crazy Horse (editor, Rip it Up: The Black Experience in Rock ‘n’ Roll), Simon Frith (University of Edinburgh), Holly George-Warren (author, Public Cowboy No. 1: The Life and Times of Gene Autry), Michelle Habell-Pallan (University of Washington), Michele Myers (KEXP), Ann Powers (L.A. Times), Joe Schloss (NYU), RJ Smith (Los Angeles magazine), Ned Sublette (author, Cuba and its Music), and Sam Vance (EMP).

The Pop Conference at EMP, now in its seventh year, joins academics, critics, writers of all kinds, and performers in a rare common discussion. Our second collection, Listen Again: A Momentary History of Pop Music, will be published by Duke University Press in November. The conference is sponsored by the Seattle Partnership for American Popular Music (Experience Music Project, the University of Washington School of Music, and KEXP 90.3 FM), through a grant from the Allen Foundation for Music.

There’s an Echo in Here. And in Here. And in Here

September 6th, 2007

Chris Corsano, Luciano Pavarotti, Ian Curtis.

Echo 1: The $5,000 Echo Prize for independent Canadian songwriters, which I discussed a couple of entries back, has now put up its voting page up, and you’re allowed to vote for your favourite of the nominated songs (by Abdominal, Feuermusik, Nathan, Chad VanGaalen and the Besnard Lakes) once a day until 5 pm on Sept. 28. Actually, if you have both a home computer and a work computer, for example, you can probably vote twice a day. That’s a whole lot of voting for Feuermusik ahead of you. Get busy.

Echo 2: I admit it, like everyone else I’m excited about the Ian Curtis bio-pic too. I’m just so sure that I’ll be disappointed. If only it weren’t directed by Anton Corbijn, I wouldn’t be getting my hopes up. It’s an eerie echo that it comes so shortly after Tony Wilson’s death. Did you hear the story about Wilson’s coffin - that it has a Factory Records catalogue number? The last one, of course: FAC 501. If that story’s made up, whoever did it really knows how to make up stories. Now, I want to know if Peter Saville designed Wilson a gravestone.

Echo 3: Also in this week’s Eye, weirdly dropped hints about a Chris Corsano gig at 5 pm on Sunday at the Tranzac in Toronto. Turns out it’s true - I just got word that free-jazz drummer Corsano, who is on tour with Bjork, is performing with Buffalo baritone sax player Steve Baczkowski. If you don’t know Corsano, he’s a real force, who’s also played with Paul Flaherty, Jessica Rylan, Evan Parker, Thurston Moore, Jim O’Rourke, Nels Cline, Jandek, Keiji Haino and more. The Guyaveras and Colin Fisher open up.

Echo 4: Also in this week’s Eye, quote of the motherfuckin’ week, from Taiwanese black-metal band Chthonic: “The government is sometimes pretending like they are metal fans on websites and message boards, saying they are against our messages. I can tell they are because they spell everything wrong, like ‘Dimmu Borg’ and ‘Cradle of Fifth.’ ” (Of course no real metal fan would ever misspell words on a message board!)

Echo 5: If it starts sounding hollow and ringing around here, it’s because I’m, at last, in the final two weeks of work on the book, and can’t spare much time to blog. I can, however, finally say with a degree of certainty that there really will be a book, which is a soothing feeling. Less soothing is having been up all night working on the chapter that touches (not very charitably) upon Celine’s duet with Luciano Pavarotti (an adaptation, by the way, of this 1973 Shirley Bassey hit) - and then waking up to the news that the fat lady has sung for the fat man. My colleague Robert Everett-Green has a Pavarotti appreciation on The Globe and Mail’s website.

Echo 6: Feuermusik-sik-sik-sik-sik

(Later:) Echo 7: German contemporary ensemble Zeitkratzer has released an acoustic arrangement of Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music. I haven’t heard it yet but the idea is pretty fucking amazing, considering that MMM, famously, consists of nothing but an hour of feedback. Says Reed himself: “Zeitkratzer gets in touch with me: ‘Can we play Metal Machine Music live?’ I said, ‘It can’t be done.’ They said, ‘We transcribed it. Let us send you a few minutes of it and you tell us.’ They sent it, I played it, and there it was. It was unbelievable. I said, ‘My God! Okay, go do it.’ They said, ‘Will you play guitar on the last part of it?’ So Metal Machine Music finally got performed live at the Berlin Opera House. It’s extraordinary, because all those years ago it was considered a career ender. And it almost was, believe you me.” The group’s director says the transcription draws on orchestration techniques from Debussy as well as the group’s experience working with later noise musicians like Merzbow. And yeah, Reed sits in on the last part, melding the original MMM and the new, wood-and-brass-machine music.

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