Zoilus by Carl Wilson

Archive for February, 2010

Any Portland in a River Euphrates

February 25th, 2010

It’s late for me to be telling you this, but:

Frank Black and Carl Wilson: A Conversation About Modern Music and Taste
Thursday, February 25, 2010
7:00pm - 8:30pm
Someday Lounge
125 NW 5th Ave.
Portland, OR

Frank Black (Black Francis aka Charles Thompson III) writes and plays music as a solo artist and as a member of Grand Duchy and The Pixies. Carl Wilson is the Toronto-based author of Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste, about class, taste, cultural conflict and Celine Dion (part of the 33 1/3 Series).

They’ll have a dynamic, irreverent discussion about the changing meanings of “alternative” and “underground,” the relationship of indie to mainstream, emotion in music, and how what we like defines, creates and possibly distorts who we are.

Brought to you by the Portland Center for Public Humanities.

See the Facebook event page.


Wavelength 500 - because believing
in the good of life is mandatory

February 16th, 2010

So, yes, Wavelength 500 ended Sunday night with a set of tributes to the Torontopian Age that left many of us misty-eyed (and/or hungover, as it actually went on until well past the legally appointed closing time, thanks to the Garrison’s generosity). Steve Kado flew in from California bringing with him a poster he’d made for the occasion - the full calendar for 2003.

“Dinosaurs of Rock” Barcelona Pavilion reunited, saying, “We will have to tell you the truth because we are old now and our faces aren’t capable of deception. When we were young we deceived people constantly and now we’re being punished.” They revised the words in How Are You People Going To Have Fun If None Of You People Ever Participate? (a rare actual living specimen of a Song That Changed The World, of Poetry That Made Something Happen) from “How’s your hangover? How are your bedsores?” to “How’s your mortgage? How are your children?” They conceded their long-running beef with Rockets Red Glare - quoth Steve Kado, “Those guys are doing philosophy in grad school now. I’m a visual artist. Obviously they win.”

The BP played almost all its songs, with almost-but-not-quite the fluidity of their peak, including a song I thought only 12 people who saw their first show in a living room had ever heard, based on a dream bassist Kat Gligorijevic had in which she was participating in some sort of race in which the aim was to stay in constant view of semiotician Raymond Monelle. It includes a kind of whispered-shout chant that I have seldom heard in song. There was a mosh pit in which people got playfully violent to songs about cleaning up your room. And then for an encore the band played a song I’d never heard before, which was not one of their songs, and by played I mean they played it on their iPod and sang along with the chorus, “Capital in ruins/Thousands dead, thousands dead” (when BP sings this you assume they mean financial and/or cultural capital in ruins) until there were no words to sing along to, and during that instrumental section Steve wrapped cables, Maggie danced exuberantly, Kat drank a beer and Ben did absolutely nothing, and I thought, “Ladies and gentlemen, that was the Barcelona Pavilion.”

After that happened, Kids on TV played, and Thomas played, and then Owen Pallett played (as was announced just hours before the show) and God looked upon it and said that it was good. And then the 2003 lineup of The Hidden Cameras - Steve Kado, Owen Pallett, Maggie MacDonald, Mathias Rozenberg, Magali Meagher, Gentleman Reg, Dave Meslin and Joel Gibb - reunited and played I Believe in the Good of Life, which certainly describes the collective sentiment in the room. Apparently this took place at Owen’s instigation, when he realized everyone would be in town. Amazingly, everyone agreed, though I have it on confidential authority that a few of them felt they were violating sacred oaths. But they did it for us. And for Wavelength. Sentimental and nostalgic? Only if honoring your parents is also mere sentimental nostalgia. No, this was just being put in mind of the things that matter.

In his lecture at Trampoline Hall - also at the Garrison - last night, my friend Michael McManus expressed the view that in Canada, especially in Ontario, and in Toronto particularly, we are ashamed of the things that we should be proud of and proud of the things that we should be ashamed of. It’s a general human problem - ever met someone with hangups about sex but proud of his offshore bank account? - but it does also seem a particular local one. Wavelength, and the people who were there Sunday night, stood up to point that out and lead by example in how to see what really deserves celebration - and how overwhelmingly much of it there really is. You’re soaking in it. Don’t worry, drink up, drink up, drink up.

Wavelength 500 Interview:
La Longeur d’onde est morte,
vivre la Longeur d’onde

February 10th, 2010

I found this CitySonic interview which includes Brian Borcherdt drawing a handy flowchart on a wall for understanding Wavelength and Toronto indie-cestuousness at History Jen’s wonderful Narratives site, which also presents her personal reminiscences about the series and a whole bunch of other videos.

I have a full article coming out in The Globe and Mail on Friday about the Wavelength 500 festival, which marks the 10th anniversary of the weekly Toronto indie/experimental music series known for kickstarting the local scene as we know it today, and also (as was announced last year) marks the end of its weekly incarnation and the beginning of something new (some details below). But only a few bits of my long conversation with Wavelength co-founder and stalwart programmer Jonny Dovercourt will make it to print, so in honour of the festival’s launch tonight at the Music Gallery (where Dovercourt, a.k.a. Jonathan Bunce, is also the artistic director - a development that, as well, can be credited to his experience with Wavelength), here is the nearly-full transcript for your edification and enjoyment. Happy birthday Wavelength, and here’s toasting to a long future.

Carl Wilson: How are things coming together for Wavelength 500?

Jonny Dovercourt: Surprisingly smoothly. That’s the advantage of super-long lead time. We started planning it almost as soon as we were done Wavelength 450: We had a list of people we wanted, and started putting feelers out in the spring.
There was a period when we were kind of disappointed because we realized we weren’t going to get all the big names we had hoped for. But then it was better in a way, because then the idea of band reunions came up and we had way more success with that than we expected. I didn’t really think that all these people would go for it. From Fiction originally turned us down and then called back a week later saying they’d practised and wanted to do it. So that way it didn’t have to be all about “here are these gigantic bands that played Wavelength when they started out” - because we’re not trying to overstate the case, or to take too much credit for their success.
Are all the founders of Wavelength still in the scene, or have some dropped out of music?

There were six bands that were the original crew: Neck, and all those guys are still playing music (Soft Copy, Ghostlight); Mean Red Spiders (Ghostlight); Parts Unknown (Creeping Nobodies until recently, and Derek Westerholm’s new project Karaoke is fucking great, shockingly good), Alex Durlak (ICPMABOYC, and now Boars); Nicholas Kennedy stopped playing music but is still involved through doing letterpress. Everybody’s still active.

It’s funny that none of those bands became the big international touring bands, or got Junos, or got nominated for the Polaris Prize. It’s an irony about it. Not that none of them had those aspirations, but I don’t think any of them were really wired for that level of “going for it.” That group of people were always going to be focused on playing music locally because they were rooted locally.
Maybe that’s what enabled them to start WL, in a sense - if their attention had been elsewhere, it wouldn’t have clicked.

A lot of them had through the ’90s tried to tour and had mixed success and kept coming back to Toronto. So we said, “I guess this is where we are, so let’s try to make it the best place to live and play music. Let’s not be ashamed of being a local band. We’re not any less valid as artists because of it. So let’s embrace that.” Then again, the initial crew didn’t go on to be that actively involved. They all supported it, and attended, but most of them were too busy to make it a full-time commitment.
What’s changed about being a musician here from then to now?

The main difference is that it’s just easier to organize your own shows and get people out to them. There’s a bigger group of promoters who will take notice of what you’re doing and invite you to play. The Internet obviously makes a big difference for spreading the word.
But in some ways it feels the same. [continues]


Trippin’ to Double Double Land

February 9th, 2010

Please give a warm welcome to this lengthy guest post by Chris Randle about Double Double Land, the Toronto art space where tonight they’re celebrating the KLF and its burnt million pounds (with a lecture by Chris).

When I visited Double Double Land a couple of months ago to interview the new cultural space’s curator-inhabitants, the flux was obvious: A comprehensive renovation was far from finished, there were dumpsters full of the previous residents’ junk out back and they still weren’t entirely certain about that name. (Its main rival was “Fourth World,” taken from Heavenly Creatures.) Geographically, though, almost nothing has changed: Go down the stairs from Double Double Land’s second floor, past the bakery below and the punk house across from it, walk south for about a minute, and you’ll reach the address of its predecessor, the makeshift gallery/kitchen/venue/etc. Jamie’s Area, which blinked in and out of existence in 2009.

I’m exaggerating the continuity. Jamie’s Area was founded by Daniel Vila (of Bite Yr Tongue), Sarah Butterill and Bonny Poon, closing around the time she left to study art at Frankfurt’s Stadelschule in the summer. A few series (such as the Globe and Mail-documented Food evenings) will continue on, but the curators are palpably excited about their new digs, by the fact that they actually live in them, and seem uninterested in bounding the programming with even a rough mandate. DDL’s Jon McCurley is one of several people planning Hello Decade, a long day of performances, art, music, print and loot boxes that’ll be co-anchored by the Kensington space, the White House, DeLeon White Gallery and Everlasting Fortress in late June.

Double Double Land is run by Dan Vila, Jon McCurley (of Life of a Craphead and also author of the play that gave the venue its name), Rob Gordon (formerly of Les Mouches, currently of Pony Da Look) and Steve Thomas (of Steve Thomas). Four of us sat down with an enormous bag of baby carrots to discuss the humble rebirth of Jamie’s Area inside a Kensington roach manger, their plans for the space, and why most relational art is pseudo-political meanderings.


Now Read This: Significant Objects!

February 1st, 2010

My boyhood SF freak seems to have crept out when I was asked to write something for my friends Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker’s great project Significant Objects.

The idea, in case you haven’t run across it before, is to explore how things are invested with meaning, and therefore value, using eBay auctions as a laboratory. Josh & Rob have gone out and bought a bunch of junk, and then assigned each object (in my case, a vintage Charlie’s Angels lunchbox thermos) to a writer, who constructs a story around it. Then bidding is opened on the object at its “actual” value (in my case, $3) to see whether the story makes it more desirable, and by how much.

The result is - get this - I think my only piece of published fiction ever, though I was trying to draw on a little critical meta-thinking in terms of the various modalities of meaning-making that appear in the story. Oh, and the proceeds of the auction go to support 826 National, the non-profit tutoring and creative writing organization started by the McSweeneys/Believer gang.

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