Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Coca Cola Case

I haven't lived in Vancouver for half a year now, so I don't know if they're still there, but a fixture of my experience of living off Davie Street was seeing a cluster of animal-rights activists with placards and pamphlets - "KFC Tortures Chickens," that sort of thing - standing outside of the Kentucky Fried Chicken.

To be honest, I tend to have a bit of a prejudice against animal rights activists. It has nothing to do with animal rights - with the cause or the values at stake - but rather with the kind of people who are drawn to the movement. You'll be walking past a demonstration - surely this has happened to more people than just me? - and someone wants to thrust their information into your face; you politely say that you're engaged in something else - talking to a friend, on your way to work, what-have-you - but they'll bristle with indignity and self-righteous rage and make a snarky accusatory comment about your apathy and complicity. For all they know, you might be a vegan PETA member - you could be Peter Singer himself; you won't have made any more of a comment on their views or your own than saying "Sorry, I'm a bit busy right now" - but they'll presume that because you don't want to drop everything and talk to them just then, they've been slighted, and that they thus have the right to strike back. The last time I had such an encounter was in fact during one of my attempts to go vegetarian - something that I can never make work for more than a few weeks, but that I return to periodically - and the unfairness of whatever snarkiness got thrown at me probably did more to drive me towards my next burger than keep me on the straight-and-narrow. It's a sadly self-marginalizing universe such folks are trapped in - they might as well have "I am a personality-deficient asshole with a chip on my shoulder" on their placards, because in their confrontations with passerby, that's 95% of what they manage to communicate; by such aggressive tactics, they certainly aren't going to encourage non-subscribers to their views to want to join their club. They're far more likely to give their cause a bad name; however many reasonable and articulate animal rights people are out there, and however strong their case might be, if someone says "Animal Rights" to me, it's the nasty sting of such encounters that comes first and foremost to mind, and makes me bristle and guard myself.

To their credit, the KFC animal rights people were never insulting or harrassing to me as I walked by them. Not that I ever dared provoke them by going into KFC when they were standing out there (which I very rarely do; shitty food is shitty food, cruelly produced or not). But for protesters of the animal rights variety, they were generally fairly quiet and civil, enough so that on one occasion - having had a pamphlet offered - I paused to ask about their protest. This was a few years ago, and I didn't take notes, but it went something like this:

Al: So, uh - "KFC Tortures Chickens," eh? Let me ask you, though - are the chickens bought and sold by KFC actually treated any worse than any of the factory farmed chickens sold in Safeway or Save On or, well, any of the restaurants on this street?

Animal Rights Guy: Well, actually - no, they're not. But KFC are such a huge part of the market for chickens that if we can pressure them into making changes, it will have a massive effect on the industry as a whole.

To which - if I responded at all - I might have remarked something about it being kind of unfair to scapegoat one company for a practice that is widespread; it's in my nature, at that moment, to have felt kind of sorry for KFC, for being singled out for a protest when pretty much every restaurant on that restaurant-rich block was selling chickens raised and slaughtered in the same miserable conditions. That was certainly the thought that flickered in my mind at the moment. On reflection, I think a more significant objection to their highly localized protest, in fact, is that by picking one very visible target and ignoring the big picture, the protesters were doing something ultimately a bit misleading and counterproductive; because passerby might think that just because "KFC Tortures Chickens," they were morally okay to go have a chicken burger at Wendy's or Burger King or anywhere else, facilitating a general state of denial about the sort of conditions in which chickens are generally raised.

That's what scapegoating is all about - it's a variation of casting stones at the prostitute to ritually punish our own sins, a way of affirming our morality through the targeting of one particular "bad apple" in a system that is utterly rotten, which we continue to play ball with after having weeded said "bad apple" out. It doesn't matter if our shoes were made in miserable conditions in a Third World sweatshop, as long as they weren't made by Nike - that sort of thing. It is true that you have to start SOMEWHERE, in your attempts to change the world, but on some level, this sort of tendency to single out one company for abuse does more to maintain the status quo than it does to bring about change; a not-so-well-informed passerby might think that by lending his or her support to the KFC protestors and declining to eat at that one chain, s/he was making a meaningful contribution to the well-being of chickens, even while continuing to eat birds from factory farms and non-free-range eggs. They would be buying into a comforting illusion of moral improvement - an ill which might offset any good done by harrassing KFC.

Halfway through the NFB-co-produced The Coca-Cola Case, opening tomorrow at the Vancity Theatre, I started thinking about the Kentucky Fried Chicken protestors, and I started feeling kind of sorry for Coca Cola, for much the same reasons. It's an admittedly somewhat perverse reaction on my part - because, as the documentary convincingly demonstrates, Coca Cola has gotten its hands fairly dirty in the Third World, doing business, for instance, with Colombian bottling plants where management has been implicated in union busting, including harrassing and killing union organizers and activists. There is enough evidence presented by the filmmakers that there seems no question Coke deserves the bad publicity, and if the embarrassment caused by the film does anything to improve labour practices in the Third World, that's unquestionably a good thing. The problem that I have is, again, that it's my impression that the sort of behaviours that Coca Cola has engaged are in fact reasonably widespread throughout the world of globalized business, and that by singling one corporation out for abuse, we are unfairly scapegoating them as a way of blinding ourselves to the systemic rot - convincing ourselves of our righteousness in one ritual instance while closing our eyes to how we are complicit in injustice with a vast number of marketplace transactions. The Straight review of the film actually goes so far as to comment how the film will make Pepsi drinkers of all of us, but I would seriously doubt - based on instinct alone, mind you, and not any hard facts - that Pepsi's track record in the Third World is much better than Coca Cola's. However deep rooted and archetypal a cultural pattern it may be, it's a fallacy to think that by killing the scapegoat, we purge the community of sin; it's a fallacy we should guard ourselves against, and it seems to undermine the authority of this particular documentary - or at least it did for me.

It's an interesting film, though - reminding me of the Berlinger/Sinofsky film Crude, about Texaco in Equador, and the fight of Equadorians to find justice. It's fascinating that Colombians can have their case heard in the US; it's also interesting that in the name of drumming up support, hired-gun anti-corporate activists were brought in, the sort of mirror-image of the Pinkertons of yore, to generate negative publicity for Coca Cola and thus support for the Colombian cause. It would have been interesting if that aspect of the case had been treated with a slightly more jaundiced eye; it doesn't fit quite so well with the tone of the rest of the film, of a heroic quest to seek redress for the little guy, since at least some of what's done starts to seem a little cruel - a slur campaign, of sorts, about as emotionally manipulative as your average Coke ad, though considerably nastier (click the link above to see what I mean). Presumably people were well-paid for their labours, too; there's a cynical relish to some of the anti-Coke sloganeering that seems to be about a lot more than seeking justice for murdered union activists.

Anyhow, I probably should watch the second half of the film sometime, but I never much got past where I started feeling perversely sorry for Coke. It was such an unintended and unwelcome response to the story being told that it kind of interfered with my going forward; who knows, maybe by the end of the film, a more wide-ranging picture is painted of the nature of globalized labour and the problems we face. I strongly suspect that the filmmakers stick to their localized target. KFC Tortures Chickens, and Coca Cola Kills Colombians. In the end, all I know is this: whatever the solution to the problem framed by the film, switching to Pepsi probably isn't it.

The Minimalist Jug Band and such

Al Mader and Petunia at Slickity Jim's Chat'n'Chew (RIP). Photo by Femke Van Delft. NTBRWP, eh?

Haven't been around much lately - I've been keeping pretty busy commuting to work, looking out for my Mom, and trying to keep abreast of daily life. Not that I've been entirely unproductive in my freetime: for writing, I've been working on articles for a Japanese magazine, a German one, Canada's own Mongrel Fanzine, and The Big Takeover (out soon!), and talking to Bison BC, Nomeansno, and the Subhumans, among others. It's been more than enough to occupy my free time, so it's just as well that I'm not getting laid. Locally, to keep my thumb in there, I've also been doing a bunch of odds and ends for the Straight - most recently a Minimalist Jug Band CD review and a wee note on Al Mader (said MJB) and (musical cohort) Petunia's planned train trip this summer. Al and Petunia play Cafe Montmartre on the 9th, along with a theremin, a singing saw, and a violin; in their honour, I will presently re-present my first-ever print-media Minimalist Jug Band article, written a few years ago for The Nerve Magazine ('member them?).

Lots of other shows coming up I'm excited by and hope to get to, mind you: There's The Furies this Friday (whom I have not seen for quite some time, and also did a wee Straight piece on, to complement my various online articles on them). Then there the Golers May 7th (of whom I have become a fan since drawing "Al Goes To The Cobalt" - part one here, part two here). There's Isis May 31st, Nomeansno July 1st, and the Melvins July 5th. People should also note that Susanne Tabata's long-awaited Bloodied But Unbowed movie premieres May 13th at Doxa, with various people in attendance; Doxa also hosts the documentary on Vancouver venue issues, No Fun City, which I imagine will largely focus on the tribulations of wendythirteen. That's shaping up to be a pretty cool spring, in terms of film and music, and will be about all I can handle, given work and life and such...

...but that's about all I can say for the moment. While I do hope to have a couple of fresh blog pieces up in the next few days, in the meantime, here's:

The Minimalist Jug Band: Any Reaction Will Do
(from 2006 or something)
by Allan MacInnis

There’s this guy on the stage. He’s got a homemade instrument – a stick, a string, and a washtub – and he is plucking at the string with great abandon. (It’s hard to describe him as “playing” it, since every note sounds pretty much like every other note.) He is grinding his way through an angry, self-deprecating rant, which happens to rhyme. Several of the members of the audience who are listening to his lyrics – quite a few aren’t - seem not to know what to make of him: his songs tend to get rather personal.

I’m having dizzy spells,
Things are shifting, turning
And every day
Well my guts are churning
And I ask myself, I mean,
What’s the answer
Is it a brain tumour or stomach cancer? And I take a walk
And I talk to the doc
And I see what the doc thought and he says,
“You’re making yourself sick”
I’m making myself sick!

At the end of the evening, he may well destroy his instrument, which usually involves breaking the stick over his knee; the effect is somewhat underwhelming, though quite funny. The man is Al Mader – better known as the Minimalist Jug Band, also referred to in one of his songs as “A Washed-Up Guy on a Washtub Bass.”

“When I first started performing I think people generally felt sorry for me,” Al shrugs. “Occasionally strangers would ask if they could give me a hug. Several times I've been heckled, and then after I finished the heckler will come and sit with me, which always seems odd... One time this young guy was heckling me at the start of the show and then by the end he wanted me to come with him and help him quit his job.”

Asked why he favours covering disturbing emotional territory in his songs, Al says, “Are they disturbing? Good!” He elaborates: “I often write as a way of grappling with ideas and emotions and have no intention of sharing. Those are usually the most worthwhile pieces. I have some that are still in limbo, either to protect myself or others... I am a very private person, but prefer art that shows vulnerability and has some emotional impact (and humour), so some sacrifices are required.”

Not all of Mader’s songs have a discomfiting confessional quality, however. “Dead Man’s Pants,” inspired by Al’s experiences buying clothes from thrift stores and wondering about previous owners, is more likely to make listeners laugh than squirm. Also, many of his songs mix fiction with fact, affording him a bit of privacy. Still, songs like “I’m a Lousy Lay” tend to divide the audience squarely: between those who tune Al out - embarrassed, annoyed, or just plain uncomfortable - and those who whoop and cheer and egg him on, hoping, he guesses, that he will “act out their repressions.”

Mader is surprisingly comfortable with both extremes his performances inspire. “As long as people are reacting one way or another, as a performer it gives you something to go on. I don’t need them to feel one way or the other, but I need them to feel.” Some audience members have told him after shows “you’ve got a lot of guts,” which, Al points out, “is a kind of mixed review, if you think about it.”

Fans of the Minimalist Jug Band’s first CD, For Crying Out Loud – produced by Chris Houston, with homemade cover art drawn on pieces of old cereal boxes – will be happy to note that Al’s sophomore effort, Thrift Stories, is nearing completion, and may soon be turning up at Red Cat and Zulu. The title was supplied by Mader’s poet friend Susan Parker; unlike his previous one-man release, the CD boasts a wide range of guest musicians, including Steven Nikleva, Ronnie Hayward, Ed Goodine, and Megan Rose. The country blues/ roots music artist Petunia (“an amazing singer, in the Jimmie Rodgers vein”) makes a particularly noteworthy contribution in that he actually plays a jug, on the song “Love isn't Blue,” which, Al tells me, “is sandwiched in between verses of his ‘My Gal’ song,” which Petunia has re-recorded for the disc. “He sings the first half, and then it segues into my song, and then there’s like a real contrast in styles, which is kind of startling... and then when I finish up he goes back into the second half of his song. I don’t know why, but he’s putting it on his CD and I’m putting it on mine, and it kinda seems fun.”

Before the collaboration with Petunia, the only jug in the Minimalist Jug Band was in the name.

Though “spoken word and theatre audiences are the most attentive” of the crowds the Minimalist Jug Band has played for, Mader prefers the challenge of opening for bands, and has had some cool opening slots – including British punk poet and humourist John Otway. “Otway was charming and gave me a copy of his autobiography, which is fascinating and hilarious,” Mader tells me. Another highlight was a gig opening for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto. “They invited me to do more dates on that tour but I was moving to Halifax at that time.” Though Mader, who now makes his home in East Vancouver, often gigs at venues like the Montmartre and the Railway, he’s happy to play anywhere. “Sometimes the cabaret-style events are almost as fun. Doing shows with a stripping Elvis or recently with the Canadian yo-yo champion makes life interesting.”

Mader is a prime target for being labelled an Outsider Musician, but he isn’t entirely at ease with the term. “‘Outsider Music’ suggests a performer who is deluded and oblivious, who doesn’t really know what they’re doing. The performer is found art – you’re like a piece of wood that happens to look like something else, and it’s the person who ‘discovers’ you who gets to define you as an artist. You’re the soup can.”

Though Al is a fan of outsiders like eccentric rockabilly guy Hasil Adkins, he doesn’t think he has much in common with Wesley Willis. Still, he adds, “I understand how I fall into that category. When I listen to myself in the context of musicians, my first impression is ‘what an ass!’ But I do find something compelling in the tension that results. I don't create in a vacuum, which would seem to be an essential requirement for an outsider.”

Asked what pisses him off about life in Vancouver, Mader notes that while Vancouverites “may have passion towards kayaking or hiking or something, it seems like there’s a fairly small percentage of the population that is obsessed with art.” He smiles dryly when I ask how this affects him. “I try to be immune to it, I guess. And act as if someone cares.”

Al by Femke, NTBRWP.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Strange weather

First rain, then hail, now bright sunshine with dark stormclouds... I'm shutting down my computer; I don't trust this weather...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Joe Strummer vinyl reissues!

Speaking of vinyl reissues, Joe Strummer's three solo albums with the Mescaleros have been reissued for "record store day." I'm not sure how limited the editions were - Rock Art & The X-Ray Style has sold out, or never arrived, at the shops I checked, but Audiopile still has copies of Global A-Go-Go and Streetcore. They also have an original of Earthquake Weather on the cheap ($11.99). It deserves a good home somewhere...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Meat Puppets II vinyl reissue!

Wow! Just stumbled upon a vinyl reissue of Meat Puppets II at HMV today. I'm fonder of the craftier Up On The Sun - and it kind of galls me, truth be known, that this Pups' album is only as famous as it is because of the endorsement of Kurt Cobain, and Nirvana's covers of "Plateau" and "Lake Of Fire," both of which are on this album in their original incarnations. It would be a completely neglected American masterpiece if it weren't for Kurt - a poor overrated sap if there ever was one, who somehow got buried under all the praise that hundreds of more important musicians (like these guys, say) had been denied while the mainstream was ignoring anything that smacked of punk. I can't help suspecting that a goodly portion of the people who now acknowledge this disc's greatness would shrug and say it "sounds too weird" or something, if they didn't feel obliged to like it for Kurt's sake... all of which, in a way, might have been better for the Pups, who themselves had some very difficult years after the brush with semi-fame that Kurt brought'em... but anyhow, I'll take what I can get; if this isn't my fave Pups album, it sure by damn is my second fave, and it's probably "objectively more important" or something like that (and not just because Cobain liked it; he is not the yardstick, repeat, he is not the yardstick). And it has the original "Lost," which the Minutemen covered, many bizarre bits of acid-soaked poetry, and some truly amazing instrumentals, which do very very strange things to your mind if you let them. The new vinyl version sounds great, is nice and heavy with a gatefold cover with lyrics and liner notes; and a not-bad price! (Was $18.99 at HMV, which probably means it's a couple bucks cheaper elsewhere if you shop around...).

I wonder if Cris' troubled history would make it hard for this band to get into Canada? I've hoped for a 'Pups show here for some time... Hm.

Strange dream...

Often when I've dreamed, over the years, if "home" is figured in the dream, it's the home of my childhood in Richmond Court, a few blocks away from where I now sit. Though I haven't lived there since my late teens or early 20's - when my parents decided to sell off the condo, get out of debt, and move into an apartment (...whereupon they immediately plunged back into pretty much the same level of debt as before, but now without property) - this doesn't matter; wherever I actually do live at the time, in my dreaming mind, I still live in the room at the top of the stairs at #30, 21555 Dewdney Trunk Road.

Tonight, however, my dream was about my living there, which is a bit unusual. My father was alive. My mother hadn't had a stroke. He in particular played an important part in the early dream, but that part is foggy now - I know we spoke, and he was directing me in some way, telling me what to do. I'm not sure what age I was, but I was remodelling my childhood room to better suit me. Whether it's because I was moving back in or just dissatisfied with the way it was, I don't know, but in particular, I was running out of room for my record collection. I had to alter some old shelves, built into and extending out of the closet - not actually a feature of the room in real life, mind you - to make room for them. My property was piled out in the hall, and I was taking stuff off the shelves prior to re-doing them and junking it - old toys, but also jars of old food (I think), which were thick with bugs that had infested them. I hadn't looked at them for years and they'd gone very wrong in the interim. One jar shattered and I had to scoop up this writhing mass of dirt, speckled with fast-crawling little beetles of some sort. Somewhere in this process, as I scooped the garbage into a plastic bag, a young child, or two young children - or maybe they were the same size as me? - appeared beside me and they were watching me and wanting to talk to me about something significant, some "official" issue or point of order that I now forget... it was something about rules, something that seemed technical and unimportant at the time. I told them in no uncertain terms that they weren't to bother me just then; I had to get these shelves cleaned out - had to even knock a couple out and rearrange them - and since they were wood, I was concerned in particular about the possibility of bedbugs...

Somewhere in the midst of smashing up shelving - it seemed to be cedar - I woke up. I tried to fall back to sleep, but - here's a feature of life in Maple Ridge that wasn't much of an issue living in downtown Vancouver - the singing of songbirds outside my window kept me awake, a periodic whistle interrupting my slumbers. So now it's 6am, and I seem to be up for good...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Gerry Hannah writes again...

Photo of Gerry and Brian by Allan MacInnis. The blur ALMOST works (but was quite unintended).

Gerry Hannah has just posted a lengthy piece on his blog about the re-recording of the Subhumans' Incorrect Thoughts, entitled Same Thoughts, Different Day, out now on CD and double vinyl on Alternative Tentacles (I've seen copies at Scratch and Zulu about town; it sounds bloody great, by the way, and the added tracks are amazing - especially Gerry's "21st Century"). Those with an interest in local punk should read the post, as well as Mike's on the Subhumans' page, and then rush out to buy this album. Or, well - do it in whatever order you like.
Note: comments will be moderated.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

420 Engrish


...Otherwise, I'm away from my desk, so to speak. I have plans to do a Soulfly thing using Max scraps from my Straight interview, to enthuse about Susanne Tabata's upcoming punk movie (premiering onscreen at DOXA, also screening the No Fun City movie, which I have followed not so closely), and to sing the praises of the new Subhumans Canada release, now available at select stores. Somewhere in there I also plan to start transcribing some Bev Davies tapes, to watch a video Nardwuar sent me, and to write a Minimalist Jug Band CD review (among other things). However, I have more pressing obligations and can officially be said to be spread thin...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Kuniko Kato Thursday

I've never heard the music of Kuniko Kato before, but by damn Thursday's Vancouver New Music event sounds promising. Virtuosic Japanese percussionist who has worked - if I gather correctly - with the likes of Steve Reich and Toru Takemitsu, performing on "specially constructed steel drums?" No more needs to be said: I'm interested.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Mecca Normal Does Fake Jazz

Hey Anju! I'm really sorry. I didn't get around to this in time to mention the gigs on the 4th, 7th, and 9th. I've just gone back to work and my life has been pretty hectic. What can I say - I dropped the ball!

However, folks: this upcoming Wednesday, April 14th, the Fake Jazz lineup will be Mecca Normal, Twin Crystals - subject of a feature in the Straight - and Anju's band Ahna! Starts at 10pm at Lick, costs five bucks to get in. Mecca Normal are a long-lived independent, female-fronted duo associated with the old Vancouver punk scene; they still have a connection to punk values, but a lot of the recent work of Jean Smith has upped the humour in her music, with their recent album The Observer being a rather sardonic (if rather terrifying and heartbreaking) survey of Smith's experience of online dating. I like it a lot. Here's a video or two you might want to check out if you don't know their stuff - that second one is actually quite interesting as a short film, and it's got some of my favourite guitarwork by David Lester on it...

...and sorry again, Anju! At least I got ONE of 'em in!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Just what I needed

It's after 10pm. I've been on the go since 6:30 this morning, getting ready for work, commuting, teaching two classes in the city, then killing time to put in a few hours at a Vancouver New Music event I've agreed to volunteer at. I'm finally returning home, riding the 701 from Coquitlam to Maple Ridge, Melechesh on my headphones, feeling exhausted but okay, leaning back in my seat. In about half an hour, I'll be back here, finally - just in time to go to bed in order to wake up tomorrow and do it all again.

That's when he gets on the bus. I can't say if he's homeless or just indifferent to physical hygiene, but he's likely not rich, hauling as he is a big plastic garbage bag of what I assume are pop cans, representing his day's income. He throws these down on the row of sideways seats near the front, but rather than sitting on the FAR side of them, right at the front of the bus - where he'd be next to no one - he comes to sit immediately in front of me. Before I can actually smell him, I have a dread inkling that I'm about to experience something fairly unpleasant --not, thankfully, the sour smell of alcohol and tobacco that some such people exude, but still, the smell of a body that has gone unwashed for quite some time; the fetid, unwholesome aroma of caked-in dirt, greasy hair, unlaundered clothing, old sweat, and the various bodily fluids that might have oozed out into his clothing in one area or another over the last few weeks and there stiffened. It's a smell that is instantly recognizable and reasonably uniform among those who wash with great infrequency, and it really gets inside you, quite literally, since you realize all too well that being ABLE to smell it means that little particles of the the person's filth-cloud are going up your nose and entering your system, thereby becoming a part of you, welcome or not.

I sit for about ten minutes as the bus bumps along, trying to come up with a strategy I can live with to spare myself this particular respiratory experience. I try to ignore it, until the possibility that I might vomit starts to seem real. Then I try breathing through my mouth - no more welcoming the thought of his filth-particles lighting on my tongue than I do the thought of sucking them up my nose. It's marginally better, but still not really working. What I want to do is MOVE AWAY FROM HIM - to at least get out of the worst of it - but I don't want to do so in a way that might convey to him my disgust, which I somehow feel quite sheepish about. I have no idea what difficulties he faces in his daily life, no desire to blame or punish him for his condition - even if his choice to sit next to me was deliberate, based perhaps on some desire to act out his class rage through stinking up my life, it's pretty hard for me to hold that against the guy. To be without access to a bathtub - something most everyone can take for granted - is unfathomable to me, and alone proof of an extremely difficult and unhappy life. I want to be compassionate - I know from my experience of times when I have not been that I would feel guilty afterwards to be anything else.

At the same time, Christ, I can't bear the stink of him...

It finally occurs to me after some minutes to stand up and go make conversation with the bus driver - to ask him a question or two, and then use the opportunity of being up front to continue standing there until I get to my stop. Enough time has passed since the guy got on, I figure, that it won't be an obvious reaction to his presence. It works for awhile, though I get another noseful of buddy as he exits a few stops later... I don't appear to have hurt his feelings, at least. When I get home, I can still smell him on me, lingering in my nostrils an hour later. I guess I'll have to take a bath before going to bed. Too bad I won't have time for another one when I wake up...

Friday, April 02, 2010

Maple Ridge Metal

Pictures from a metal scene. A hundred or so enthusiastic kids came to shake their hair, mosh, and throw the goats at this evening's all-ages metal show at the Maple Ridge Vineyard. Here are a few pictures taken on my cellphone - of Paradosis, above and below, doing artful and abstract metal that they sometimes would get a tad lost inside...
They also did a new song about the mayonnaise factory they call their practice space, and had a demo they gave out for free. They might not have the tightest chops yet, but they had the most ambitious and artful idea of what metal can be, so I'm hoping they'll keep going.
The Maple Ridge Vineyard appears to be a Christian space, with this creepily-lit evocation of John 3:16 on the wall and posters everywhere promoting the virtues of "goodness" and "faith" (as opposed to more metal-friendly concepts like "badness" and "blasphemy").
I had heard nothing about the headliners for the night, Magnus Rising, and wondered if they might be some sort of Christian band themselves, until I noticed that they were selling panties and thongs with their logo on them. By their merch you shall know them.
These guys certainly knew how to swing their hair. They had the bluesiest, most swaggering "classic rock" conception of metal, but were goddamn good at what they did.
13th Prophet had some pretty enthusiastic hair-swinging, too. They seemed to bring the biggest fan base to the show - they played third, with a more straightforward thrash sound than the bands that followed, and some great solos. It was nice to see that the guitarist, Nico Miraftab, was wearing a Behemoth t-shirt - I've become quite fond of that band (Polish "blackened death metal" according to Wikipedia). I missed Regime and Arrhythmic Pulse, alas, since things actually apparently started around 7pm - but it's nice to know that gigs like this happen in Maple Ridge. Now maybe I could talk someone into bring the Golers here?
I suspect they'd get an enthusiastic welcome...

I Got Infection

Two days in class of projecting my voice - my main instrument of authority and quite important for my students to hear - is enough to leave my throat raw and susceptible to infection, which has officially arrived. Having only returned to my dayjob on Monday, I ended up taking Thursday off, and am officially now coughing up green phlegm.


Plus a root canal I had has collapsed and either it or a fragmented tooth adjacent is now also infected, the gum below the teeth red and raw and swollen.
I sure hope the walk-in clinic is open on Good Friday. Idea for a song for Weird Al Yankovic: "I Got Infection" to the tune of a certain Turbonegro favourite...

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Throwin' the goats at work, plus Maple Ridge metal note

Funny about the old devil's horn/ evil eye thing (which I've heard Chris Walter describe as "throwing the goats," a phrase that pleases me greatly, though I don't know if it actually originates with him). Now that I am actually going to metal shows, I discover that I find it almost impossible to non-ironically make use of this gesture from the audience; it would feel as silly as holding up a lit Bic. At the Soulfly concert the other night there were moments where every headbanger in the expansive pit seemed to thrust their arms up in the air - often both at once - as a joyous, sincere salute to Max (who remains marvelously charismatic and compelling as a metal dude, despite looking rather teddybear-like; there is definitely a disjunct between how sweet and healthy a guy he seems to be and his writing songs about Jeffrey Dahmer, but it in no way detracts from his stage presence). As much as I am happy to show my appreciation for performers, the gesture is too much of a rock cliche, too formulaic, too overdetermined for me to have natural recourse to it. Maybe it's just my sheer stubborn, snobbish non-joinerism, but I simply do not do it at concerts, ever...

...which is kind of odd, actually, because at my workplace, I throw the goats at pretty much everyone who says hello to me: teachers, managers, ESL students, conservative Christian coworkers, the Japanese head honcho, the woman who maintains the coffee machine - you name it: I stick up the horns of the devil at least five times a day in passing, even though it's a gesture that, to my recollection, absolutely no one reciprocates ('cept maybe one ol' Pink Floyd fan there). Perhaps several of them don't even know what it is (since they never remark on it). I'm actually quite fond of it, in pretty much any other social setting except the one where it is at its most natural and accepted. It's discordant, risky, or at the very least a wee bit of fun at work. I like it too much to use it in a rote and predictable way...

Alas, now that the craving is in me, there are very few metal shows I can get to, these days. I even had to leave Soulfly early to be able to catch the 1:07AM bus from Coquitlam. Thank God there's actually an interesting youthful metal scene out here! I make mention of a food bank benefit in town on Friday in the Music Notes section of tomorrow's Straight, as a matter of fact. Lest I break the news here first, let me just suggest interested parties check the Straight online tomorrow - go to Music, then News, and you should find it (or just pick up the paper). I've seen one of the bands before - Paradosis, who really need to put something more polished on their Myspace, because they're wayyy better than the jam there suggests. I enjoyed what I saw them do, and am also looking forward to seeing Coquitlam's 13th Prophet (who are doing a much better job of using Myspace, you must admit - they're a bit more polished, and come from the same school that spawned Ninja Spy - tho' I prefer Paradosis' conception of the genre...). The other bands I know nothing about, but I suspect I will have fun seeing what they do. Might even talk a buddy into joining me, so I won't be the oldest person in the room...

Paradosis by Femke Van Delft, not to be reused without permission