by carl wilson

June 28, 2007

Going to the Source

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SoundProof magazine, a previously unknown-to-me Toronto venture that apparently has big ambitions to expand across the continent, keeps it proudly local in their new feature, "The Top 20 Toronto Albums Ever," based partly on a very patchy survey of critics & bloggers including myself. Aside from the Barenaked Blegghies and some picks of dubious Torontosity (throwing Neil Young in at no. 2 is only the most obvious instance), I won't nitpick their choices: Some might quibble with putting both Final Fantasy albums in the list, but predictably not me. But I was most grateful to see that Main Source's Breaking Atoms was on the roster, because I'd never known about that terrific 1991 disc's T-dot hookup - I was living in New York when it came out and thought of it as an NYC product, unaware that the two members who weren't the Large Professor were Torontonians. (Further background here.) And here I'd thought the lovable but not exactly A-list Dream Warriors were Toronto's only semi-substantial contribution to golden-era hip-hop. Breaking Atoms is a stone classic.

Here, for the record(s), (sorry Michael), is the list I sent them. I ended up choosing not to rank them but to list them off in chronological order, which affected what ended up on my list. You'll note that the '90s are a bit of a dry patch - I'm not, for example, the Rheostatics fan that many people are, and Toronto was pretty heavily grungey through much of that period. One big oversight (aside from Main Source): I'm embarrassed to say that I overlooked Fifth Column, though I'm not sure which album I'd choose - and maybe it would be the JD's Homocore compilation instead. I also lament the lack of jazz, though it would be hard to settle on one or two particular albums there. Some improvisors are represented in other guises.

What would be your picks?

Glenn Gould, Goldberg Variations (1955)
Wayne McGhie & the Sounds of Joy, self-titled (1970, re-released 2004)
The Four Horsemen, Canadada (1971)
Gordon Lightfoot, Gord's Gold (1975)
Bruce Cockburn, Humans (1980)
Jane Siberry, The Walking (1987)
Mary Margaret O'Hara, Miss America (1988)
Handsome Ned, The Ballad of Handsome Ned (posthumous, 1989)
Bob Wiseman, Sings Wrench Tuttle: In Her Dream (semi-pseudonymous, 1989)
John Oswald, Plunderphonics (samizdat-autonomous, 1989)
Guh, self-titled (1996)
Michelle McAdorey, Whirl (1999)
Royal City, Alone at the Microphone (2001)
The Hidden Cameras, Ecce Homo (2002)
Blocks Toronto Compilation (aka Toronto is Great) (2002)
Barcelona Pavilion, It's the Barcelona Pavilion EP (2003)
Les Mouches, You're Worth More to Me than 1,000 Christians (2004)
Bad Bands Revolution compilation (2006)
Final Fantasy, He Poos Clouds (2006)
Eric Chenaux, Dull Lights (2006)

Via Toronto | Posted by zoilus on Thursday, June 28 at 7:40 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (32)

 

June 27, 2007

Feel-Good Music For Fucked-Up People

A reminder that Eugene Chadbourne is doing a solo show tonight at the Tranzac. Here's a little clip for the uninitiated, but it's only a portion of what Dr. Eugene gets up to, which include sheer noise on the electric rake and stringed skull, twisted-roots country on the banjo and shreddin' on the homebuilt electric guitar...

Oh, and here's a little '80s Schockabilly for good measure:

Via Toronto | Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, June 27 at 2:59 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (0)

 

June 26, 2007

Live, Local and in Lo-Res

The Toronto Sun today has a candid and compelling profile of one of the local music scene's more colourful characters, impresario Dan Burke, as well as (even better) very nicely filmed video clips of the interview. Topics: Confessions, crack, and Canada's colonial complex.

As well, YouTube has clips from Tomboyfriend's performance at Pride festivities on the weekend (and some from earlier shows) on NoMediaKings' channel.

Via Toronto | Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, June 26 at 5:40 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (1)

 

June 25, 2007

Notes on Taste:
This Year's Winner for 'Most Withering Venn Diagram'

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Someone sent me a link to this t-shirt design on Diesel Sweeties. I laughed in spite of myself.

General | Posted by zoilus on Monday, June 25 at 1:48 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (6)

 

June 24, 2007

So Ex-cited

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The guitarist in Vampire Weekend, whoever he is, is really good and has listened very closely to African township jive. I like the violinist too. The rest, the New England Paul Simon-meets-David Byrne vocals, etc.? Not. Sorry, Ryan. But he's been championing some great stuff lately, as usual - I'm pretty taken with Kickball, and Moviola is known quality.

But random MySpace bands are not what we are here to talk about. We are here to talk about last night and The Ex - a band whose name I've never realized before this moment could denote "the ex," as in ex-boyfriend, ex-wife. I just took it as a generalized name of protest. But on the evidence of last night, no way are they my ex-band. Still my greatest love of live music in the world. Even without a bass player - an absence that makes a difference to the physical dynamics on stage but, strikingly, is not at all a problem for tonal balance, as Terrie and Andy just fill in the bottom end of their own sounds and Katrin's bass drum kicking is remarkably powerful enough to fill in the low end. As for the sound itself, I can hardly describe - at the end of the show, I said, "I wish I could do something in the world as well as they do that." Their sense of polyrhythm, of dynamics and drama, is simply nonpareil, and GW Sok remains the best white European rapper on Earth - he did a solo rally-speech/poem that sounded like a freestyle flight whose topic just happened to be international power relations. I was gratified to hear a couple of tunes from my favourite Ex-era, the Tom Cora years, with Katrin leading on Hidegen Fujnak a Szelek and Sok on the indelible State of Shock (one of the most linguistically sophisticated songs ever written, with an A-B-C-D-A-B-C-D rhyme scheme, a critique of post-Wall Berlin, and mid-section verses that condense the whole song down to an instant-replay recap by using the end-words of all the preceding verses as text: "Shock-said-blank-down/ Block-bad-tank-town..."). But even better than that was the following song that used a Fela Kuti-style groove on the verses and then broke into a chorus that was kinda straight out of the Clash playbook, then repeated the pattern again. As usual, Sok seemed like the most earnest man in the world, wringing his hands as he danced in a kind of worrywart-OCD ritual motion, and then pulling out the megaphone to shout his exhortations, and Terrie and Andy, while visibly quite a lot older than they looked when I last saw them five or six years ago, still joyfully jump around the stage and lock horns with the heads of their guitars like improvising rhinos. They really make most other bands in the world seem like they don't get the point.

Afterwards there was a rumour that the band was going to head over to one of Bloor Street's Ethiopian dance bars, and we tried to follow, but by the time we got there it was 2 a.m. and the doorman was very sternly firm about not allowing anyone else in. The music upstairs sounded like a shower of arcweld sparks. Or maybe we were just still in a heightened state.

General | Posted by zoilus on Sunday, June 24 at 1:00 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (9)

 

June 22, 2007

Just Flew in From Facebook...

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... and boy, are my proprioceptive ego-self boundaries tired. That thing is a mindfuck. As you all know. I am late to the party, which I now realize is kind of like a whole second Internet. So that's what "2.0" means. My friend Lauren says Facebook is "a TV show about a town." Which is true, except that it is a town where all surfaces are wrapped in mirrors, which makes the TV show overwhelming to watch (and watch watching itself). (Btw, Lauren's three-day art show begins tonight. See the gig guide for details.)

As a result of all the distraction, many things to catch up with:

Fastest case of a Cat & Girl comic coming true in real world ever: Metal-addiction disability claims.

Next record you need to hear: Nicole Willis & the Soul Investigators. "The Soul Investigators" is the best backup-band name in neo-soul if not in soul of all time. It reminds me of Colson Whitehead's The Intuitionist, as well as that Woody Allen joke about cheating on his metaphysics exam by looking into the soul of the boy next to him.

Mike Watt interviews Tony Maimone (bassist for Pere Ubu and many other bands over the years).

Devo remain the smartest.

The Diodes reunion is documented on YouTube.

Brooklyn's Dirty Projectors are doing a Pierre-Menard-writes-Don-Quixote-stylee exercise with Black Flag's Damaged, under the title Rise Above - that is, to be clear, Dave Longstreth reproduced the album from memory, song by song, without reference to the source. All on acoustic guitar I think. (See comments.) Notable for all Oulipian-inclined rock fans.

Which makes me wonder: Has there ever been a rock/pop Oulipo subsection, official or not? There should be. Along with the DPs, I nominate Pyramid Culture as founding members - their constraints include all members being female and having three names, all stage costumes being primary colours, and, most importantly, all songs being non-fiction. On their upcoming album, titled 100% True, I hear that all songs will appear in alphabetical order. The disc will be launched together with Brian Joseph Davis's book/CD The Definitive Host in Toronto at Mercer Union on Aug. 3.

This weekend in Toronto, the big musical newses (for those of us for whom Pride is not the big news) are Extermination Night tonight and The Ex tomorrow, but I didn't want to leave unmentioned the remarkable-sounding tribute to Carole King's Tapestry that's taking place at the Boat on Sunday, with a different artist/group covering each song on the 1971 album, whose sheer number of classic tracks is kind of astounding to behold. Anticipated highlights include ZZ Sharrock doing I Feel the Earth Move, Sandro Perri perforing It's Too Late, Nif-D playing (the Gilmore Girls theme song) Where You Lead and Katie Stelmanis closing up with (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman (which was a Goffin-King tune, though Aretha recorded it first). A waaaay better prospect than the actual released 1995 tribute album, although that one did have Aretha herself, and the Bee Gees - it's really hard to live down the one-two punch of Richard Marx and the Blessid Union of Souls. (Yes, I swear, they spell "Blessed" with an "i". I believe there's some law on the books that makes this grounds for being tied to a stake under a full moon and being torn apart by weasels, right?)

I was going to make a list of picks for the Toronto Jazz Festival, but you can look to the sidebar and the gig guide for that, for now. Also here are my Globe and Mail colleague JD Considine's choices, and some my friends at Eye.

Otherwise, though, I am pretty out of it. Any major controversies happening I should know?

General | Posted by zoilus on Friday, June 22 at 3:46 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (11)

 

June 20, 2007

HRC
(Hillary Rodham Clinton
and/or Her Royal Celine)

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L to R: Denise Rich, Bill & Hillary Clinton; Celine Dion in Air Canada uniform.

No media have called yet to get my author-itative opinion on Hillary Clinton's campaign's choice of a Celine Dion tune as her 2008 theme song: I guess it would help if the book had been published (or for that matter, if the manuscript were finished). But meanwhile a few bird's-eye notes on the story:

- The choice was the result of a faux-American Idol-style contest on Clinton's website. Which reinforces a single lesson: Celine is the Platonic form of the American Idol contest winner. If you hold an open-slate Idol sort of thing, Celine will always win. This can be confirmed by a survey of Idol-style contests around the world, including Iraq Star (an actual TV program, where the prize is, and I'm not kidding, getting out of Iraq): Along with the matinee idols of their own culture, everyone's other influence is always Celine. Even when she's not on the ballot. (Celine was added as a write-in favourite - wonder what fan community coordinated that? Anyone who knows, drop me a line.)

- In any case, the evocation of Idol by a (leading) presidential candidate is pretty entertaining, an arguably risky reminder to the public of a more ideal version of democracy, or at least what democracy could viscerally feel like. And it's a contest that no one has ever been able to say was fixed by powerful interest groups - even though it's actually a corporate creation, of course, and has its own narrowly defined scope of permissible ideologies and qualifications, the Idol process still rouses a more participatory, engaged spirit than U.S. politics have managed in quite a while. Although, like American presidencies, it peaked early: Kelly Clarkson is the Abe Lincoln of Idol-spawned pop stars.

- For conspiracy theorists: There's a shadowy kind of link between Hillary and Celine: Two songs on Celine's Let's Talk About Love were written by Denise Rich, the songwriter-socialite who got embroiled along with her ex-husband Marc in just a teensy bit of controversy towards the end of the last term of Bill Clinton, when Denise's campaign contributions to Hillary apparently helped Marc get a pardon for tax evasion. The web was tangled enough to ensnare Hillary's brother Tony and the scandal hasn't entirely died. (For those who nod off unless there are really salacious angles, here's one.) Clintons-haters might leap to the conclusion that there was a fix in on this contest, but since the chosen song is not actually a Rich production, but a song written for an Air Canada ad campaign, you would be overreaching. (However, this kinda stuff is why the Clintons should think twice about blithely inviting comparisons between themselves and a Mafia family.)

- Insert Lettermanesque "10 Ways that Hillary Clinton is Like Air Canada" list here.

- To be more serious for a moment, the result can be read as a wad of demographic tea leaves at the bottom of Hillary's teacup: The chosen song was by far the most "soccer mom" of the options, pointedly bypassing the civil-rights-era echoes of the Temptations, the more youth-oriented Smashmouth (purportedly Bill C.'s pick, but in general a weird case of wishful thinking and cool hunting that missed the mark), and the overly politically aware U2.

- For many potential Clinton voters - especially working and middle-class women of all ages, single mothers, new immigrants, exurban families, and many more - the Celine choice is going to be a much more sympathetic and welcomed selection than you would think if you went by the media and the blogophere, which predictably went right into mockery mode. As I argue at length in my book, critics and pundits are, by and large, exactly in the place in the culture least disposed to understanding Celine's appeal, and have always, as they are this week, stood by and jeered while Celine went on to be embraced by hundreds of millions of fans around the world. At least for once Hillary's managed a genuinely populist move here, rather than backing away into the neutral zone her handlers seem to prefer. Although maybe that's because she doesn't make a very convincing populist, which leads to our next problem.

- The song itself, as usual in Celine's English oeuvre, extends a cliched metaphor (flying) to improbable lengths over the course of a few verses, but clips its wings to avoid the danger of getting too poetic, high-toned or metaphysical by relentlessly speaking in terms of "You and I" (as the title has it), which the Clinton campaign no doubt hopes strikes a tone of intimacy - it's between Hillary and the voter, working together - but unfortunately bears with it a kind of individualism and selfishness that is the downside of the Clintons' image. Once again, the "You and I" can be Bill and Hillary, in their opaque, power-seeking dyad, cased within a marital arrangement that is a mystery to the rest of us: "You and I/ Were meant to fly/ Higher than the clouds/ We'll sail across the sky." Way to confirm the perception that you're incapable of being down-to-earth, HRC.

- In most contexts, the use of this kind of privatized-dream language works for Celine, because it suggests that her music belongs in a domestic context, relating to the daily life and struggles and aspirations of her fans. And because Celine herself never seems to have any real ambition except to submit her voice to the approval of a wider and wider public, to be the conduit for a kind of global exchange of broadbrush empathy - oh, and to buy a lot of shoes - it doesn't seem so self-important (except from the POV of committed Celine haters). But give that same message to Hillary and the tonality shifts quite a bit: She would have been better off with a song more like Bill's most memorable campaign anthem, Fleetwood Mac's Don't Stop, which works in a kind of direct-address second person, an exhortation followed by a reassurance ("don't stop/ thinking about tomorrow/ don't stop/ it'll soon be here!"), which welcomes in the crowd much more, serves as much more of a rallying point rather than a breathless invocation of destiny.

- But then, that's the difference between Bill and Hillary, isn't it? His ambition always seemed to involve reaching out to touch (a few too many) people; her ambition always seems much more self-regarding and insular. (It's a kind of gender paradox in a way.) The Celine choice might be hoped to "soften" her image more than a rock-and-roll song would, and maybe that would work for a straight-shooting, tough-talking kind of woman, but for Hillary, who always seems just one blurry degree out-of-focus, what bleeds over are some of Celine's less-attractive qualities - her stiffness and awkwardness and melodrama - but not her common touch.

General | Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, June 20 at 12:26 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (7)

 

June 12, 2007

Handsome Memories

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A guest post from Team Zoilus stalwart Erella Ganon, about a vital figure in Toronto music history who will be honored with a honky-tonk hootenanny this weekend. You can hear some Handsome Ned music at his memorial MySpace page. - C.W.

Many years ago, starting in the early '80s, I had a regular radio show on Toronto campus-community station CKLN-FM. My dear friend, the musician Handsome Ned, was a frequent guest. We'd play all kinds of things and gossip on about alleged "borrowed" lyrics or melody lines, tracing them from one popular or obscure song to another. Since Ned always wore a cowboy hat and played country and western music at the Cameron House on Queen Street almost every day at the time, people assumed that is where his knowledge began and ended. But Ned was an army kid, who was born in Germany and travelled a lot, picking up excellent useless information en route.

One thing he and I shared was our love of a good story. Venturing into all kinds of unusual musical genres, we'd play Flipper, Violent Femmes, Bay City Rollers or Aka Pygmy singing songs about their love of honey and tell tales of the connections we'd imagine.

At the time, CKLN's "promise of performance" allowed us to have virtually every kind of music on the air - except country. It seems preposterous now. I cannot remember why it was, but the country station in Hamilton was powerful and unhappy about our audience. Eventually, because of some my carefully worded proposals, we managed to get our friend, David Barnard, the program director to look the other way and grant Ned his own radio show because he was so fond of the undeniably charismatic Ned. However, there was one caveat: He wasn't to play any country. This became a running joke between us. Ned played honkytonk, bluegrass, blues, rockabilly and everything in between: We weren't to call it country, so it was anything but.

The defining lines between one genre of music and another were far less flexible then than they are now, but Ned wooed us, seducing us and transforming us into ardent fans of whatever song struck his fancy. He was not someone to argue with (though I frequently tested that). His brother Jimmy, Ed Mowbray, Mark from Pages Bookstore and I had our birthdays in the same week, so we celebrated together. A few days ago, on my birthday, we raised a glass for Ned, as we've always done.

Ned was born on his older brother Jimmy's birthday. His parents said, "Son, for your birthday, you can choose a name for your new baby brother." Thrilled, Jimmy decided to name him after his hero, someone he thought about daily, someone who had a big impact on his life, motivating him to no end: The baby would be granted the name "Batman." Oops! Ned's parents hadn't considered that one. Telling him they knew too many other children named Batman, they decided to grant the next best thing: The boy would be christened Robin.

Robin "Ned" Masyk died Jan. 10, 1987. He was an important person on Queen Street. Kind of an unofficial ambassador, the peripatetic troubadour sparked an interest in country music that inspired many musicians that came after him. June 4, 2007, would have been Ned's 50th birthday. To celebrate his life and love of all things musical, his friends are gathering on Saturday night, June 16, at one of his favourite watering holes, the Horseshoe. Expect to see these fabulous former Ned collaborators: Mary Margaret O'Hara, Steve Koch, John Borra, Cleave Anderson, Teddy Fury, Lori Yates, Johnny Macleod, Jim Masyk, Steve Leckie (of the Viletones), Screamin' Sam, Tony Kenny (of the Razorbacks), Emily Weedon, Heather Morgan, Michael Brennon, Scott B, Joanne Mackell and others performing at the event. It also will feature the re-release of the The Name is Ned CD, as well as a preview of the upcoming Handsome Ned documentary film and a limited-edition line of Ned t-shirts.

Some of the money raised that night will pay for the design and installation of a memorial plaque on the side of the Cameron House. That's where I was on the night Ned died. Herb Tookey, one of the Cameron's owners, and I were the only people that knew Ned was dead at the time. A cop heard it on the police radio and came in to tell us unofficially. We had to keep it a secret until Ned's family was notified. As people asked us if we knew where Ned was, and whether he was going to play later that night or at a speakeasy, we kept our lips still, stealing moments to break into tears and resume composure until word was out at the end of the night. It was a series of impossibly difficult tasks.

- Erella Ganon

Via Toronto | Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, June 12 at 3:22 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (3)

 

June 11, 2007

Polaris Express

Today was the deadline for first-round nominations for the 2007 Polaris Prize, the second annual $20,000 award for best Canadian album of the year (released between June 1, 2006 and May 31, 2007). Here were my nominations, which may or may not remain the same as my final vote in the second round:

1. Junior Boys, So This Is Goodbye
2. Frog Eyes, Tears of the Valedictorian
3. Eric Chenaux, Dull Lights
4. Feuermusik, Goodbye, Lucille
5. Drumheller, Wives

Regrettably I couldn't also vote for: Fucked Up, Hidden World; Black Ox Orkestar, Nisht Azoy; Hidden Cameras, Awoo; Jon-Rae & the River, Knows What You Need ; Do Make Say Think, You, You're a History in Rust; Tim Hecker, Harmony in Ultraviolet; The Silt, Cat's Peak; Arcade Fire, Neon Bible ; Joel Plaskett Emergency, Ashtray Rock; Tradition, Tradition; Secret Mommy, Plays; Julie Doiron, Woke Myself Up; Swan Lake, Beast Moans; Omnikrom, Trop Banane; Abdominal, Escape from the Pigeon Hole; and a few others I'm forgetting.

Still, not quite as strong a field as last year, methinks.

General | Posted by zoilus on Monday, June 11 at 5:51 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (13)

 

The Glitchpranos: When the Fat Lady Hiccups

Spoiler warning: If you haven't seen the final Sopranos yet, and care, don't read this entry. Here's a picture to shield your delicate eyes.

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Now: Amid all the miffledment about the conclusion of The Sopranos, the shock non-ending feels better and better to me the longer it sets in: Doomed Tony eating with his now-clearly-doomed children (AJ to low-level mob parasitism, Meadow to corporate mob lawyerdom at best, neo-Carmela mob-wife status at worst), and the rest of Tony's life, be it short or long, to be spent looking over his shoulder in fear that one or another form of justice will find him, and justice may come in the next split-second or it may never come, because that's how justice is. But the kids not escaping is the real ending - saving them was really the only honourable motivation Tony ever had.

But there's one point I haven't heard made: That last little gimmick, when the screen cut to black dead air before going to credits, reminded me of nothing so much as the "glitch" electronic music of the late '90s, most memorably made by Oval - an entire genre of music whose premise was to make you think that your CD player was malfunctioning, and out of that to consider, as a kind of sonic sculpture, the emotional and aesthetic effects of digital degradation, of the fact that data is always becoming corrupt, to undermine the trust we invest in technology, and so forth.

Chase's mischievous move was a similar kind of digital techno-prank: Knowing that the worst nightmare for most Sopranos viewers would be to have their cable cut out or their Tivo/DVR timing fail in the last 10 seconds of the eight-year journey of the series that revolutionized television, he simulated exactly that - a weird kind of participatory art in which he got millions of people to yell "fuck! no!" at their televisions in synchrony. But it was also a way of foregrounding the medium in the final second, to deliver a secondary message to the existential one of the actual narrative ending - a reminder to an over-invested public that there is no Tony, there is no Carmela, there is no diner, that this is all artifice, an imaginary community mediated by the corporate and technological mechanisms of television and cable-HBO in particular. If that were the whole point it would be cheap, but along with the more substantial - but also, in its way, classic and narratologically conventional - diminuendo of the actual scene, it's simply an extra kick, a twist, a fold, a glitch, a skip, a poltergeist in the datapipe. The coda of The Sopranos, scored for you by Journey and Stockhausen and Cage. Rest in flux, T.

General | Posted by zoilus on Monday, June 11 at 3:23 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (20)

 

June 9, 2007

Hang on, St. Christopher Jude

Marc Ribot on "The Care and Feeding of a Musical Margin." You know how Ribot's guitar can pull the underskeleton of a melody out through its skin, rearrange the bones so the creature impossibly becomes twice its own size, and make the whole process seem as lively as a unicyclist juggling fire? Well, turns out he can do much the same when he's discussing the economics of sustaining a new-music scene, specifically in Manhattan. He's especially cogent on the fact that government funding is no substitute for market funding, because of the dynamics that competition brings, yet at the same time "do it yourself" models are no substitute for public funding (relying on a logic of self-subsidization that falls apart pretty quickly).

(Btw, in case you think Ribot's just talking the talk, in April he was arrested for refusing to vacate the Tonic club when it was being closed - he and Rebecca Moore kept on playing till the NYC cops hauled them away. Apparently the charges weren't dropped at their hearing either; they have a court date in July.)

Read, consider, discuss.

General | Posted by zoilus on Saturday, June 09 at 5:36 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (0)

 

June 7, 2007

Indie Kids Can't Jump?

An Eye weekly article today provocatively called "Torontopia's white-guy syndrome" includes an interview with me, among others, about the downtown arts/music/miscellania scene's difficult relationship with Toronto's vaunted multiculturalism. The headline is an indication of a degree of oversimplification (the word "Torontopia," for instance, was popularized by Steve Kado, who, as his last name suggests, is not a white guy) but the points made are valuable. It's disappointing to see that so far the Stillepost reaction, for instance (not counting Doc Pickles' opening salvo, and only including the first few "yawn" responses that have been posted as I write), partakes of exactly the sort of defensiveness that Jonny Dovercourt describes in the article. Sure, it would have been better if this article had been done when the Wavelength panel was happening, but what exactly makes it "too late"? Did the problem get solved sometime recently when I wasn't looking?

I'm open to an argument the problem is too trivial to make much on (though wouldn't this be a kind of "separate but equal" defence - or else an acknowledgment that the indie/arts downtown scene is too mediocre for accessibility to be worth anyone's while, which would be a weird, or at least sad argument for the people in it to make?). However I'm not convinced that a "big collective yawn" is actually, as Doc P. argues, a sign that all is well. Blase shrugging is in fact the indie scene's favourite form of self-protective deflection.

Final point: The first quote from me in that article, on the David Miller event at Trampoline Hall, is taken somewhat out of context and it was also a response to a leading question by the reporter: She essentially said, wasn't he there because this was a privileged group of people? And I said, sure, that was part of it. But I said he was also there because Trampoline Hall invited him, and because the event is a model of a different way of people in Toronto talking to each other that he apparently liked, and because he wanted to connect to the arts community. And I added that I was sure he spent much more time in the campaign going to community centres with diverse ethnic constituencies than he did talking to downtown white arts nerds - otherwise there's no way he would have won an election in this town. I understand what the reporter was getting at, but her use of that quote was far more insulting to both David Miller and Trampoline Hall than I can let pass.

Still, there's a lot of worthwhile stuff in the piece otherwise, including about the social and practical barriers to a more diverse scene that persist despite anyone's best intentions.

Via Toronto | Posted by zoilus on Thursday, June 07 at 3:45 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (31)

 

The Nights that Say NXNEEE...

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Yo Majesty!

Like every other music hack in town, I've got yer red-hot North By Northeast festival picks right here (also on The Globe and Mail's website). Besides the ones to follow, there are a few obvious standout tickets, by the way: the 3 a.m. shows tonight and possibly tomorrow night with Blue Rodeo at Lee's Palace, each following a strong night of folk/twang/roots rock, especially Friday's sequence of Rock Plaza Central, the Sadies and John Doe (ex, of course, of Los Angeles country-punk heroes X); tonight's bill at the Boat with Mother Mother (Vancouver), Les Breastfeeders (Montreal), Pride Tiger (Vancouver), Abdominal (T-dot) and Champion (Montreal); Calgary's Woodpigeon tonight at the Drake at 11; the Pop Montreal showcase tomorrow night at the Comfort Zone featuring Montreal's Buzzcockian blasters the Nymphets, Handsome Furs (members of Wolf Parade), and local electro-magineers Woodhands; Junior Boys at the Mod Club tomorrow (although I'm not that wild about the rest of that bill); Jenn Grant at C'est What, Friday at 1 a.m.; and on Saturday, the d'Ubervilles and Germans at the Boat, as well as the funky lineup of Souljazz Orchestra (Ottawa afrobeat), Masia One (ace local MC), Tanya Morgan (New York group whose album was one of The Roots' ?uestlove's top picks last year) and Nouveau Riche (Philadelphia) at the Gladstone, the lineup of fine indie types at the Horseshoe that night (including Ohbijou and You Say Party! We Say Die!) and if you were so inclined, Urge Overkill at Lee's.

For those of you who are actually registered to the industry confab side of the event, I'm on a panel tomorrow (Friday) afternoon at 2 pm called "Meet the Press/What the Hell is Press?" with fellow writers in print and pixels Sarah Liss, James Keast, Chris Budd, James Booth. It's in Regency Room A. Peek in if you're not too enthralled by the Joe Boyd interview in Regency Room B at the same time. (Hmm, I wonder if I can sneak over.)

And now my top 5 NXNE picks:

Future Clouds & Radar. An alert to fans mourning high-school-noir TV show Veronica Mars: The tunes Paul Rudd performed in the role of a dissolute indie mastermind late this season were by FC&R; leader Robert Harrison's 1990s cult Austin band Cotton Mather. His new group injects his impressive Beatles/XTC pop-craft with extra paisley and pastels. Later on the same bill, early-90s nearly-beens Buffalo Tom (quick - name their cult TV connection!) and locals The Old Soul. Thursday, 9 p.m., Horseshoe Tavern, 370 Queen St. W.

Jonathan Coulton. Though he was featured in The New York Times magazine as an Internet music market leader, and is a close cohort of Daily Show/"I'm a PC" personality John Hodgman, there's more to this Brooklynite than social networking - Coulton's acoustic ballads and wuss-rockers link humour and sweetness at fire-wire speed to the hearts of his "code monkey" fans. He's followed by local standouts Spiral Beach and Republic of Safety as well as Jesse Malin (ex-D Generation). Friday, 9 p.m., Reverb, 651 Queen St. W.

Yo Majesty. This Florida party-girl trio's attitude recall New York punk-funk founding mothers ESG, but the beats and lingo are pure 2007, and their anthem Club Action is a foul-mouthed contender for single of the year. They're on a banging bill with Montreal's Thunderheist and Lesbians on Ecstasy. Saturday, midnight, Drake Hotel, 1150 Queen St. W.

The Diodes. One of the first Toronto punk bands, whose classic Tired of Waking Up Tired still sounds freshly exasperated, reunites on its 30th anniversary to see if time to kill is still killing them. With half the members living in the U.K., chances to hear their lilt-and-lash, Crash & Burn Club sound live won't come again soon - if ever. Saturday, 3 p.m., Dundas Square, and midnight, Sneaky Dee's, 431 College St.

Track Dirtyaz. Rap and rock fusions have a grim record, but this Toronto band finds a new groove, with a Hendrix/Sabbath guitar brawl roiling under Wu Tang-damaged group vocals. On an action-packed card with locals No Dynamics, Nif-D, The Old Soul, The Bicycles and more. Saturday, midnight, Silver Dollar, 486 Spadina Ave.

Via Toronto | Posted by zoilus on Thursday, June 07 at 2:31 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (3)

 

June 6, 2007

Max Poetics: Canada Gets Along With Everyone

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But primarily poetry is supposed to have a pleasure principle. It's all about sensual reading, hearing song and echoes of songs - contaminated, of course, by adulthood. - Ken Babstock

Tonight's the annual Griffin Poetry Prize here in town, that apollonian bacchanal where the old ladies flirt with the young drunks (gender unimportant) and poets look lost in their suits. We're here to send out a what-what to our poemboy Ken-B, fresh off his Trillium score and now up for the domestic cheddar of the Griff's $50K payday - there's also a $50K international award. K-Babs says some sharp things in the paper today in an interview with my colleague James Adams. Good luck, drink slowly and don't forget when you was just Kenny from the block. Or, well, the Rock. And if you do win, be aware you will thenceforth be known as "Professor Griff." On the other hand, if Don McKay gets some payback for his outrageous '05 sonning by Roo Borson, we won't be boo-hooing either. (Meanwhile from points west, this fella grouses about awards and ethics; he's not entirely right or wrong but the caveat's always worth noting.)

Elsewhere in the versiverse - still in Toronto, but outside the horserace winners' circles - writer (and Eye arts ed.) Damian Rogers, who invented the "live magazine" Pontiac Quarterly, is now launching the "Tipsy International Poetry Series," with a visit from the Wave Books' posse's two Matts, Matthew Zapruder and Matthew Rohrer (who got an international Griffin nomination, but no pot o' gold, the year before last). Zoilus likes the cut of their writerly jibs, and if you missed them when the Poetry Bus rolled through town last summer, you've got two fresh baked opportunities: Thursday at 7 pm Damian and Brooklyn's diacritic duo (okay, that doesn't even make sense) will be reading at Type Books, 883 Queen W. The next night, though, Tipsy offers a much more shimmery, feather-boa sort of lit event at Buddies in Bad Times called ONWARD HO! (Which my brain immediately Beckettizes into "Worstward Ho" but ignore my brain), a "crazy circus of a night" that starts at 7, ends at a reasonable 9:30 pm and includes not only the Matthews but the aforementioned Ken Babstock (either buying the rounds or drowning his sorrows), RM Vaughan, Zoe Whittall and Lisa Foad, Kevin Connolly, Emily Schultz, a.rawlings, and toute la gang. Coach House will have a poetic-sound "listening booth", the Test series will in some sense represent, there will be visual projections, a "raunchy musical soundtrack" and a Reading Tent, where poets will read one poem to one person in cozy confidence. Resistance is, of course, futile.

Finally I want to mention that Toronto writer Kevin Courrier is beating me handily to the 33 1/3 punch with the launch this coming Tuesday of his own entry in the series. Kevin's previously the author of a fine volume called Randy Newman's American Dreams (the basic reason my 33 1/3 book isn't about Newman's Good Old Boys) and another about Frank Zappa though I won't read books about Frank Zappa. Now he's taking on a real Sasquatch of a subject, that Rosetta Stone(d) of art-rock, Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica. Courrier seems to be carving out a niche in early-'70s California Warner-Reprise acts, with Zappa probably the linchpin - who's next? Tim Buckley? Tom Waits? The launch is at This Ain't the Rosedale Library, 8 pm Tuesday, free.

Some Matt Rohrer poems.

And a poem from Matthew Zapruder's book The Pyjamist.

CANADA

By Canada I have always been fascinated.
All that snow and acquiescing.
All that emptiness, all those butterflies
marshalled into an army of peace.
Moving north away from me
Canada has no border, away
like the state its northern border
withers into the skydome. In a world
full of mistrust and self-medication
I have always hated Canada.
It makes me feel like I'm shouting
at a child for letting a handful
of pine needles run through his fist.
Canada gets along with everyone
while I hang, a dark cloud
above the schoolyard. I know
we need war, all the skirmishes
to keep our borders where
we have placed them, all
the migration, all the difference.
Just like Canada the Dalai Lama
is now in Canada, and everyone
is fascinated. When they come
to visit me, no one ever leaves me
saying, the most touching thing
about him is he's so human.
Or, I was really glad to hear
so many positive ideas regardless
of the consequences expressed.
Or I could drink a case of you.
No one has ever pedaled
every inch of thousands of roads
through me to raise awareness
for my struggle for autonomy.
I have pity but no respect for others,
which according to certain religious leaders
is not compassion, just ordinary
love based on attitudes towards myself.
I wonder how long I can endure.
In Canada the leaves are falling.
When they do each one rustles
maybe to the white tailed deer
of sadness, and it's clear
that whole country does not exist
to make me feel crappy
like a candelabra hanging
above the prison world,
condemned to freely glow.

General | Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, June 06 at 2:46 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (0)

 

Zoilus by Carl Wilson