Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pride Week Obscene Phonecall


"Hi." (An unfamiliar, deep male voice. Am I failing to recognize it?). "How are you doin'?"

"I'm okay... uh... sorry, do I know who this is?"

I don't think he answered that. Instead, he said, "I'd like to put my lips around that big beautiful hard cock of yours."

I'm getting a gay obscene phone call?

"I want you to explode in my mouth!" I can hear that he's clearly masturbating. In fairness, I briefly consider it. Do I want to explode in some guy's mouth? Do I want to jerk off with him on the phone? Opportunity is knocking.

I decide, nah.

"I'm not really into this conversation," I say. "But you enjoy yourself..."

He says, "Okay," and we hang up.

Well. That's a first. I wonder what other reactions buddy gets? Actually, it occurs to me now that it would have been fun to play into it just a LITTLE bit, to say, "You dirty little bastard!" to him or such, but then I might have had to hear him having an orgasm. Not really my cup of tea, so to speak.

Now where was I...?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Korean netcafe again

Great night at the Chilton tribute last night but (tho' I didn't have to wander the streets) once again I haven't slept and am at a Korean netcafe at 6am - the same one as the Eugene Chadbourne night! Thank God for Koreans.

Funny - I met a few people who read this blog last night. It's always strange to find myself talking with people who know this site - they have a bit of an advantage over me. For the record, single women who find my writing compelling are encouraged to introduce themselves online, in case I don't get up the jam to hit on them in person. I mean, it's awkward, right:

"Are you Allan MacInnis? I just wanted to say that I really enjoy your blog."
"Oh? Are you single?"

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dammit! (AKA Maury Chaykin, RIP)

Fuck, man: Maury Chaykin died. He was 61. My Mom had seen it on TV; we were watching a movie with Mark Boone Jr. in it, and - furthering my theory that All Fat Men Look Alike - she thought it was him; then, when I told her Mark Boone Jr.'s name and asked about the obit she'd seen, she told me the name was for someone named something like "Morrie Hoffman." Uh-oh, I thought... this could be Maury Chaykin... Alas, it was. Mom remembered I liked him because I played her Whale Music just after Paul Quarrington died, a few months ago, and raved about his performance as a burnt-out, mentally fragile, musically obsessive reclusive rockstar, modeled on Brian Wilson. It's a sweet, funny, very engaging piece of Canadian cinema, if you haven't seen it - and a good book, too. If I ran a repertory theatre, I would try to program a double bill of Whale Music and The Adjuster in Chaykin's honour...

I begin to fear death. Suddenly I'm getting more and more aware that everyone I know is going to die, and several of them are going to die before I do. Unless I get hit by a bus.


vintage Maple Ridge psych-rock!

Thanks to Blake for pointing out this amazing single by the Northwest Company, a Maple Ridge rock band of yore! I think I might actually like these guys better than the Painted Ship, even!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Judith Beeman and Alex Chilton: the "Back Of A Car" interview - plus Alex Chilton tribute stuff!

Being a big fan of Slow and Copyright, I was delighted to hear Tom Anselmi would be joined by Copyright drummer Pete Bourne for the Alex Chilton tribute, July 29th at the WISE Hall; I haven't seen Anselmi sing since I saw Slow open for The Cramps at the Thunderbird Stadium, back in the 1980's. I was very happy to chat with him for the Straight, and even happier to discover that he and Bourne planned to do "Take Care" and "Nighttime," two of Chilton's most delicate and pretty - and yet heartbreakingly sad - songs, from the fragmented classic of heart-on-sleevism, Big Star's 3rd/Sister Lovers, recorded in 1974 and unreleased until 1978. "That’s the one that I really love," Anselmi told me. "When we made the Circle C record in Wales, our A&R person - Anna Statman, for Geffen - assumed that I was very influenced by Alex Chilton, because she had actually worked with him, but I had never heard him. It was just a weird blank spot. That Replacements album had come out, and I’d known the name, but I’d never investigated, really. The stuff that I had heard was more the sort of power pop stuff; I’d never heard Sister Lovers. And when I did hear that, I could realize why she thought I was influenced by that... the sound, the tone of his voice - I could relate to the way he was singing a lot." (People unfamiliar with the Circle C album are urged to hunt it down; long deleted by Geffen, its a strong runner up for the #1 nearly-forgotten Vancouver rock masterpiece, and probably still my favourite Copyright release. Note: Tom also tells me that no Copyright reunion is currently planned, and that there is no news about a Slow reissue. Sorry!).

Guitarist Tim Chan - who, along with co-organizer Eric Lowe, plays in both 64 Funnycars and the China Syndrome - spoke of various other songs that were planned, with different artists picking different tunes. "Eric, who came up with the idea of doing a tribute, started a Facebook group, and people just put their dibs on the songs." Magnetic West selected "The Letter" and "I Must Be The Devil." LXLXLX, featuring Gord Badanic of Go Four Three, will be doing "September Gurls," and then varying the mix with a song that Alex Chilton produced, the Cramps' "Goo Goo Muck," and the Replacements' "Can't Hardly Wait," which Chilton played guitar on. In addition to "Back Of A Car," 64 Funnycars will do Big Star's "When My Baby's Beside Me" and the Box Tops' "Cry Like A Baby," while China Syndrome have dibs on the 'placemats' "Alex Chilton" song and "Free Again," among others. William Alexander and the High Priests - including Doug Smith of Little Guitar Army, probably my favourite newer band on the Vancouver scene - will do "Bangkok" and "Don't Lie To Me." Also on the bill, Tim tells me, is Vancouver Nights (Tim explains, "it's a woman named Sarah Lapsley, who has been around for a few years; she was in The Gay, and she was in Kreviss, a number of years ago. She does a kind of poppy thing..."); we didn't get around to talking about what songs were being planned by them. Alas, no one, at the time of my interview, had dibs on "Alligator Man," a song that Chilton covered to great effect on the delightfully sloppy Like Flies On Sherbert. Here's hoping that someone made room to squeeze it in! More bands will play than I can do justice to or find Myspace links for - Wilderness Years, She Was The Law - and I want to leave some of the songs a surprise, but it should be a very fun night!

As for Fresh Choice Kitchens, Tim explains, "It's just a really great charity, and we thought it would be a great way to benefit them. They have kitchen supplies, they conduct workshops - both online and in person - for anybody who currently runs a community kitchen, or would want to start up a community kitchen. It's all about cooking, it's all about enjoying food. It's also about teaching people to cook who may not have the skills or resources to be able to do it."

China Syndrome, picture provided by Tim Chan

I used a quote from Tim as well as Tom in my Music Note, but the road not taken for the Straight - though I managed to squeeze in mention of her fanzine, which she will be selling at the show, with some portion of her profits going to the cause - was to interview Judith Beeman, the woman behind Back Of A Car (henceforth BOAC), a Vancouver-based Chilton fanzine from the 1990's. Beeman and I amended this via email, so with no further ado - here's Jude!

Allan: How did you discover the music of Alex Chilton?

Judith: I was 22 and still caught up in listening to FM radio bullshit. I thank the guys at Track Records (Dale & Phil) for introducing me to Big Star. I’d go to the store on Seymour and ask for the occasional recommendation. You know, when you’re trying to appear somewhat worldly musically but really don’t have a clue. They sold me Radio City which I promptly listened to, tucked away for six months, gave it another shot and was blown away. Soon I was scooping up everything related to the band that I could get my mitts on. At that time this consisted of #1 Record and some solo Alex stuff. All on vinyl only of course. Loved #1 Record but it sure is mellow. Some of Alex’s solo stuff was a huge disappointment (Bach’s Bottom) and some mindblowing (Document, the Aura label collection which introduced me to “My Rival” and “Bangkok.”)

Allan: What's your favourite period and why?

Judith: Radio City is the classic Big Star record bar none. It is an absolutely perfect rock album. You’ve got a quasi faux-British singing voice, and melancholic yet upbeat lyrics and lines like, “a lot of us ain’t got many friends” - which I, for one, can greatly relate to. But honestly? I think “September Gurls” is the most over-rated song ever; turn down the treble! Gah!

For anyone wanting to get their angst on, look no further than Sister Lovers aka Third. Menacingly quiet and narcotic this is one disturbingly great release. I'm still not over the utterly awful Rykodisc cover art for the CD version.

My fave Alex solo recording is the under-rated and somewhat sleazy High Priest from 1987. Here's LX at his sexist/sexiest r&b best, with only four originals (including the silly "Dalai Lama"); the album also has his version of "Volare," which signaled the downhill spiral for those of us who were bored to tears by Alex's output of the past 25 years. I didn't care for a single album released after High Priest.

Allan: When did you start BOAC? How long did it last? Had you done any zines before then?

Judith: I had been writing the book/comix column, "subtext," for Discorder for a long time and was itching to do my own zine. I wanted to have a clear focus and the moment I read on a bbs forum (pre WWW days) that Big Star were going to be in San Francisco, my decision was made. Not only did I start planning the zine then and there, about four months before the show (June 5 1994), but I discussed it online and made some friends who were just as enthusiastic and helped with articles. A bunch of us hung out at the show together.The first issue came out in August 1994. I racked my brain for the name and BOAC was the clear winner. I got up the nerve to call Jody at Ardent and tell him (not ask!) the zine was going to happen and get his blessings. The absolute angel that he is (polar opposite of our man Alex) Jody was bemused by the attention yet positive and gave me some great contact info. In 1995 when I did the Big Star Pilgrimage to Memphis, in May, I got to tour Ardent and meet Jody.

The second issue came out one year late. The big deal with this one was David Bell, Chris’ brother, had given me permission to release “Country Morn” on a flexi disc. What a friggin’ coup! This had never been released. David himself handed me the dat tape in Memphis, and, this is so surreal, he, I and my pal Pam McGaha, went bombing along in David’s big US car listening to the song at full blast late one warm Memphis evening. The song is “Watch The Sunrise” with completely different lyrics.

The third BOAC came out in 1997. The bonus was a vinyl single with songs by Van Duren and Tommy Hoehn both Memphis contemporaries of the band. I always like zines that offer something special and this issue also included pin-ups of Jody! I had three Queens of the comix scene, Roberta Gregory, Shary Flenniken and Mary Fleener each draw their interpretation of Jody as he appears on the cover of Radio City. I was embarrassed I hadn’t screened the photo of Jody on the back cover where ‘miniatures’ of the drawings were and his pic looks like he’s on fire. I apologize for any perceived sexism re: Jody’s good looks, it’s a tad tongue-in-cheek but still I point you to the physical evidence.

The fourth and final BOAC was a change. Although all the issues also included comics, short stories, and other Memphis material I didn’t want to be solely known as “the Big Star lady.” In 1999 the “memories of being a teenager in the late 1970’s” issue came out. This has a ton of auto-biographical material -- I got a few things off my chest -- and lots of great writing from contributors. The bonus with this issue was a CD featuring a bunch of pop bands called Love it to Death.
Aside from the Love it to Death disc that comes free with the 4th BOAC I put together two other CD's, the first Lonely Planet Boy was a six-degrees-of-separation concerning all things Big Star. The kickoff song is “Country Morn” by Chris Bell, who is revered in “Christopher Bell” by Norway's The Chairs (who also provided the cover art. Memphis is represented by Van Duren, Tommy Hoehn (who recently passed away; his “Losing you to Sleep” is a true gem), the Scruffs, and Sid Selvidge (whose Peabody label released Like Flies on Sherbert.) Outrageous Cherry, Yuji Oniki, and Vancouver's Sister Lovers are a few of the others on the 13 track disc.
Spavid, who runs the Willfully Obscure site (best blog name ever?) put the Lonely Planet Boy CD up in 2009. You can check out the cover art and download via rapidshare. I only discovered it by googling myself (tee hee) and was I tickled.

A year following LPB came Teenster. I asked a bunch of groups to contribute an original with the simple missive “it sounds like 1970's AM radio” the results were impressive. Locals July 4th Toilet, The Roswells, and Tranvestimentals (ex cub, no fun & coal) up against Mitch Easter, Outrageous Cherry and Duglas Stewart (BMX Bandits along w/members of Teenage Fanclub!) There's a real bubble-glam vibe on the CD which I personally adore. And where else are ya going to hear Robbie Rist (“Cousin Oliver”) belting out "Roxy Roller?" Teenster also fulfilled my #1 teenage dream as I perform, not too wretchedly, The Ramones “I Wanna be your Boyfriend” with my “band” The Wrong Numbers (actually the guys from July 4th Toilet; the bandname was a tip to my then profession of telephone operator). The top-secret bonus track is "September Gurls" sung En Spanol by the U.K.'s Starstruck.

Allan: Any amusing anecdotes from your history as a zine publisher? (Judith entitled the following in her email, "The Time Someone Got Mad at BOAC"):

Judith: Each issue of BOAC had a comic on the back page titled "Back of a Cartoon" (I’m afraid this is the highpoint of humour for me!) The second issue featured Julian Lawrence (site here) drawing verbatim part of an interview Robert Gordon had with Box Tops player John Evans. This was featured in Robert’s terrific music history, It Came From Memphis (Faber). It recounts how the band, then known as the Devilles, first met Alex, who became their singer. It’s pretty hysterical as the main focus is what Alex wore. He was quite ahead of his time.

Julian did a fantastic job drawing the segment, and I gave him free reign. I was a bit hesitant upon seeing the final product because the John of today, recounting the story, really looks like a "Cracker." Julian offered to redo that portion but I kept it as is. We had no photo reference either, he could very well look exactly like that who knew? I suspected there might be a bit of umbrage so in my review of It Came From Memphis, when I mentioned the back of a cartoon page, I put in brackets "Please forgive us, John Evans, wherever you are."

Anyhow, of course John Evans got hold of a copy of BOAC and he was not amused. He shot off a stiff email to me, which I replied to, which begat a longer missive, which I replied to and the world is still standing. Basically I semi-apologized if the picture made him uncomfortable, but I also bristled at comments about my editing skills. I must say tho', that it never fails to amaze me that someone can pretty much say whatever comes to mind in a letter, than top it off with "God Bless You" as a salutation. Christians!

Allan: ...Tell us about the BOAC art?

Judith: #1 issue (geddit?) of BOAC featured Lester Smolenski's reproduction of a fairly well known group photo. Alex and Chris are in the forefront. Lester's distinct style adds a titch of menace to the scene.

The 2nd issue features Julian Lawrence's work on both the cover and back of a cartoon page. This time working from a photo that had never before published. Julian can do anything!

3rd features the artwork of Delaine Derry (Green), whose My Small Diary & Not My Small Diary zines are the bomb. Sweet in a really cool, not sucky way. Fans of auto biographical comix need this stuff.

The 4th issue - OMFG or ZOMG or whatever the kids are saying these days. I can die a happy woman because I got Bob Wilson (of "Barney & Mike" infamy in Creem) to not only resurrect the lads for a BOAC cover exclusive, but willfully subject himself to an interview & slavish idolation from myself. I had tried to track down Bob – on and off – for over a decade. P.S. If you think anyone from the Big Star camp was surprised at my attention it didn't come close to Bob's reaction. I think he was pretty tickled actually. What a trooper.

Allan: Any other thoughts on Big Star?

Judith: It's no secret that Alex snubbed me (hard) and frankly both the man himself and his solo work didn't do a ton for me. However, BOAC reportage was never biased as a result. I loved Chilton's work in Big Star, and some of his early solo stuff, but I quickly tired of his “schtick” of the past 20 years.

That said, I want to talk a bit about my fave Big Star member, who was Chris Bell. I think I Am The Cosmos is a flipping masterpiece. Yearning poignant ballads (complete heart ripper outters) form the first half of the CD. Cosmos is completely concerned with love and relationships.

Then comes “Look Up” the first of two capital C Christian ballads, the other being “There is a Light.” Both of which are fine songs, but alas "Look Up" gets a bit histronic and, at least in me, elicits nervous giggles from the listener. Never fear tho', as the raucous “Make a Scene” and “Fight at the Table” make up for any God fearing behooving.

People who have studied the first two Big Star records know Chris was out of the picture for Radio City, but clearly his influence is all over the album. David Bell confirmed Chris wrote some lyrics and music that was included on the second album but didn't want credit.

Allan: What were your encounters with Alex, exactly?

Judith: I met Alex twice. We all know his reputation and he didn't fail to deliver the second time.
First not so bad: After the San Fran show he hung around the floor signing autographs. Enterprising young me, I had been handing out small flyers advertising the advent of BOAC in the line before the gig and at record shops across The City. I steeled my nerve to walk over and talk to Alex; I knew he already had heard of BOAC, having bumped into Jody before the show. I walked over, big smile handing him a small goldenrod yellow sheet of paper which gave pertinent BOAC info. He immediately flips it over and writes his autograph. I had been so intent on meeting him I hadn't thought of an autograph (and really, unless it's on an album cover it's not my thing.) Oh! Thanks, sez I, taking the paper and grabbing another for him, but I really wanted to introduce myself yadda yadda. He didn't rip it into shreds (thank gawd) and politely put it in his pocket. We made friendly eye to eye contact.

Second time: I like to get my money's worth when I fly somewhere, so in 1995, after embarking on my Big Star Pilgrimage, I stopped in St Louis to visit my pal Jordan Oakes (who published esteemed power pop journal Yellow Pills.) I then caught the Greyhound to Memphis. While planning the trip it turned out a trio led by Alex would be in St Louis. Bonus! Caught the show, Alex spotted me before the show, I could tell he knew who I was. Afterward I saw him. Me: I'd like to write you sometime, I have questions about your music: Him: You can write (big pause) as long as I don't have to answer. End of story. I didn't say anything, just held my head up and left the premises. Grrrrrr. Rest in peace ya cranky bastard.*

Beeman and I express our condolences to the family and loved ones of original Big Star bassist Andy Hummel, who died of cancer on June 19th.

Back issues of Back Of A Car will be available at the June 29th Alex Chilton tribute concert! See you there!
*Note: yes, folks, briefly there appeared online an "alternate ending" (the "what a shit" conclusion), but Jude, on reflection, decided that the fondness and warmth inherent in calling someone a shit - oft used as a term of, um, "challenged affection," say - might not come across, and possibly give offense, when applied to the revered and deceased Mr. Chilton. The piece has been duly modified! (And now I'm thinkin' that "RIP Ya Cranky Bastard" might not be a bad inscription for a tombstone...).

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Film note: Vancity series focuses on soundtracks

Still not much interested in writing at the moment, and am unconvinced that it matters much if I do, but I had to mention, for the sake of any Vancouver cinephiles who bother checking in here, that the Vancity Theatre has a great idea for a series this summer, The Score, organized around film soundtracks. There are some really smart choices on the program for anyone craving interesting repertory cinema. For Bernard Hermann night, for instance - this coming Monday - they'll be doing a screening of a 35 mm print of Nick Ray's film noir On Dangerous Ground, in a double bill with Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver, a deeply compatible and inspired pairing of films, but also nice alternatives to the more obvious Hitchcock fare they could have used. For Ennio Morricone night, instead of opting for the obvious spaghetti westerns, they'll be screening Once Upon A Time In America - a very interesting late Sergio Leone period piece that welcomes reevaluation (tho' it's maybe not my favourite Morricone work, since I go for the further-out-there stuff that Alan Bishop - not Mike Patton! Get it right, Zorn! - curated for the Crime And Dissonance project, usually drawing from Italian exploitation cinema nearly unknown here. Frankly, tho', I don't even remember the score for Once Upon A Time In America, which I haven't seen for some fifteen years...). For funk night, it's Coffy and Superfly; I haven't seen the latter, but Coffy is a highly entertaining blaxploitation revenge film in which the beautiful and charismatic Pam Grier offers an object lesson in how often a woman can take her clothes off before the camera and still be completely credible as a character; Molly Parker must have taken notes. (I kinda wish Quentin Tarantino had convinced Pam to get nekkid for Jackie Brown, actually; no one was ever as commanding when nekkid on screen as Pam Grier). Walter Hill's best film, Southern Comfort, a violent swamp actioner about incompetent and leaderless national guardsmen battling pissed off Cajuns in New Orleans and mostly losing - which welcomes reading as a film about American masculinity, group dynamics, and maybe even the experience of the Vietnam war - will screen for its terrific Ry Cooder score (tho' alas that one will be a DVD projection). There will even be a Toru Takemitsu night, with Kwaidan screening, and much more, all themed around music - Nino Rota, reggae, you name it - as well as live performances by the Alloy Orchestra to accompany various silent films; you can read Alex Varty on that here. The Vancity Theatre has a great sound system (and the most comfortable seats in a Vancouver theatre), so I can't imagine a better way to see a movie this summer. Check it out.

Oh, um, guys, how about a punk night with Repo Man and Suburbia? Jes' sayin'.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ron Reyes Band this weekend

Strange how the comments function of the Straight online seems to attract ignorant, hostile people. There's a real tendency for commenters to get their bitch on - especially, it seems, when talking about older bands. My review of what I thought was DOA's most enjoyable album in 20 or so years attracted a vicious anti-DOA barb from someone who doesn't even know that Rampage ain't in the band anymore, and Adrian Mack's plug for (former Black Flag vocalist) Ron Reyes' 50th birthday gig - happening this weekend, with I, Braineater, the Modernettes, the Little Guitar Army, the Jolts, and the Ron Reyes Band - got someone going about how all these old guys playing music again are "legend killers" or such. I guess he hasn't seen Iggy and the Stooges, or Mission of Burma, or Gang of Four, or Rocket From The Tombs, or - to get local - the Subhumans, the Pointed Sticks, the Dishrags, or the Furies, or any of a dozen "first generation punk bands" who have reunited and toured to amazing affect (or done much appreciated one-off gigs like Art Bergmann's show last year). I've seen all these bands and many more doing reunion gigs and loved the experience; the ratio of wins to losses has been about twenty to one, so I for one am delighted to get to see Ron sing. As a kid I was more of a Rollins fan, but there's a great garage-y zeal to that "first four years" Black Flag comp that Ron's songs are on that I appreciate a lot more now...

Plus, um, has anyone noticed that little red blotch on his poster, "with X members of...?" Now I wonder who that might be referring to? I'll lay odds that it ain't ex-members of the Zamboni Drivers...
But I could be wrong...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Repo Note

Made my Mom watch Alex Cox's Repo Man tonight, because it was airing on TV (and she has cable). Not really her cup of tea, though she got a few chuckles out of it, and I think she was amused by my anticipating lines from the film that were seared into my head during repeated viewings when I was a teenager (such as "a repo man spends his time getting into tense situations," or such - which, by the way, is a line likeably quoted by a young Phil Seymour Hoffman in the film Twister, which I always thought had a pleasing subtext about the passions that can arise from belonging to a subculture). I assume there are few jokes in the film that have escaped me - from the references to Kiss Me Deadly to the fact that all the repo men - Oly, Lite, Miller, Bud - have beer-related names, I think I've got it covered, having likely watched Repo Man more thoroughly, and possibly more often, than any other film.
In truth, there really was no reason to make Ma sit through it, since I can revisit it any night I want- I have the DVD. My reasons were selfish: I wanted to look at it on TV because, years ago, I saw a "preview" clip for a TV screening of it that included an image of Bud and Otto taking a sledgehammer to something, a scene not included in the finished film and to my recollection not on the DVD extras. Sometimes - as with the Smithee version of Dune or the extended cut of Aliens - TV airings of movies include material not in the theatrical release, with the aim of lengthening the broadcast and thus inserting more commercials; at least that's how it used to be. Maybe there was a long version of Repo Man sent out to TV land, then, from which this mysterious preview, glimpsed some twenty years ago and forever left to linger in my memory, borrowed an image? .
Utterly silly of me: the Encore Avenue screening (commercial free) was the same as the DVD, while, I see now, the scene in question - and several I had never seen before - are all viewable on Youtube. Of course.

By the way, do y'all know that Alex Cox is currently working on a film called Repo Chick? It hasn't been so easy to follow his recent films, but I greatly enjoyed Three Businessmen (which I was fortunate to find for $1.99 at a Loonie store on Commercial Drive). ...and you've all seen Straight To Hell, right?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

My Summer Vacation: Consider Me Absent

An odd thing has been taking place: I haven't been writing much, and I've really been enjoying it.

I have a couple of large projects looming, but for the most part - unless there's something really exciting happening or I have the chance to make some moolah, I don't feel the need to put myself out there in the world at the moment. I'd rather spend my time living. There's too much I need to catch up on in real life to want to write.

Consider me on vacation for the time being... I'll be back online come the VIFF.

Oh, by the way - July 18th, Petunia and the Minimalist Jug Band will be doing a gig at Little Mountain Galleries, at Main and 26th. Petunia is calling Halifax home at the moment, and may stay there - so if you like roots music and you haven't seen him play lately...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

More Maple Ridge: Shearing Pinx, Caribbean festival, etc

Well, the Shearing Pinx, the B-Lines, and Crystal Swells play Maple Ridge today - a place called Joel's Palace. I'm not even sure if the bands know where the hell that is; I sure don't.

Also today is some sort of Caribbean fest in Maple Ridge, climaxing, I believe, with a Los Furios show (local ska band with long history in town) and a performance by a Tosh (but not Peter).

The Rebel Spell are confirmed for tomorrow.

Hell with blogging, I don't live in Vancouver anyhow!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Go figure: the Rebel Spell to play Maple Ridge

The Rebel Spell at Under The Volcano, photo by Femke van Delft. Not to be reused without permission.

You probably wouldn't know it, unless you belong to the Ridge Radicals Facebook group, but the Hammond United Hall - actually the Hammond United Church Hall, but the word "church" just isn't punk or metal enough, I guess, so it's routinely effaced, which I find rather amusing, particularly since the result suggests, say, a Hammond pro soccer team or something - will be hosting The Rebel Spell this Sunday evening, July 11th. They're "my favourite Vancouver punk band whose members are under 40"; they have great songs with smart political lyrics; and I did a highly entertaining Razorcake interview with them once, back when bassist Chris was still in the band. I have all their releases (and am most eager to hear their new CD, whenever it actually sees the light). If you like punk rock, you can't beat this band - they've toured aplenty, are signed to G7 Welcoming Committee, seem pretty sincere in their political beliefs, and they've got the chops - they opened for Bad Religion at the Commodore and God-knows-who-all else...
Somehow, still - I feel kinda weird about going. While a show at the Cobalt (RIP) would be attended by at least a few old fucks like me, the only people who go to gigs in Maple Ridge are apparently still in high school - it's a youth scene, and I don't really relish the "some weird old guy" feeling I get at such places. If there ARE people my age at the hall, I will eye them suspiciously, and probably receive their eye in return. Still, what the fuck else am I going to do on a Sunday night in Maple Ridge? Grr.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Alienated in Maple Ridge

Wake up at 4am. My dreams, insofar as I remember them, involved complicated paperwork, in the midst of which I found myself worried that I'd forgotten something - so I woke up to check. It's typical; after 6 hours, I seem to be dumped from the palace of sleep, like it or not. I could tell the time by the quality of light coming through my window, and the fact that there wasn't much of it, but after a short period of flopping about, I sighed and reached for my bedside lamp...

Here I am in Maple Ridge, then. Commuting every day to work and back, trying to come to terms with the suburban milieu. It hasn't gotten better. Overheard some dumpy locals talking in reverential tones about how "weird" the novels of Stephen King are on the train the other day - one of those approved social topics for light chitchat that apparently never grows old in this town, since I've been overhearing it for some thirty years... It's a fine place to let yourself go in, since standards are so much lower than in the city; the thinner population and the general lack of interest in anyone outside your own bubble - and the fact that almost anyone who has DONE anything with their life (other than produce children) has left town ages ago - means that you can just bloat up, fuck up, let your spirit wither and your waistband expand. Pretty much no one will care; this is why freaks like Jeffrey Dahmer flourish in the 'burbs - he'd have been caught in a minute in a decent-sized city. It's not that people aren't self-righteous or conservative or such in Maple Ridge - that they're any more approving of non-mainstream ways of living - as, say, any homosexuals growing up here would, I'm sure, eagerly concur with - it's just that they don't give a fuck, aren't paying enough attention to anything that doesn't come through on their TV screen. When the Subhumans sing, in "In Good Company," of a world where people "get their values from TV," it's my own hometown I think of first...

And the main problem, make no mistake, is that it's lonely here. It might be easier to survive here if I had a woman with me, but it seems like the women of the town are all either Moms, kids, or horrible white-trash mutilations of the spirit... I watched in awe the other week as two bimbos in short skirts and high heels, cussing and laughing and spitting, did the "walk of shame," still drunk at 7am, on the sidewalk across from me; even if I wanted to recap their conversation - a profanity-rich, profoundly vulgar, and utterly unfeminine diatribe on men, punctuated with harsh bursts of laughter and deep-chested smokers' coughs - it would be beyond me; I would need a tape recorder to be able to do it justice... Unlike living in Japan, the isolation of it stings a bit, because you feel like you SHOULD be able to do something about it - it's not just because you're a foreigner that you're alone in a town like this. But there's nothing to be done - you might as well be waiting for Godot. It was a horrible place to be a teenager in. At 42, I have more resources to combat the ugliness and mediocrity of it, more awareness that there are other options - it no longer feels like Maple Ridge is reality, forever and amen - but that's a double-edged sword; I can cope better here, maybe, but I know beyond a doubt that this is NOT where I want to be living.
But, like I say, here I am. I still feel guilt, failure, and loss in the wake of my father's death - he's been lingering close in my mind, lately. I still visit my mother almost every day and keep her company - the most important thing she needs of me is that, she can function elsewise but with few friends and little language ability she otherwise just sits and watches TV. She's never been that independent, anyhow - and any attempts on her part to become moreso, like a period some twenty years ago where she was talking about wanting to get a job outside the home, were kind of "put down" by my father, who didn't want her to work, to some extent because he felt it was his job to take care of her... which he did all too well... To the extent that she is independent, it means - the odd casino trip aside - that she rarely leaves her apartment, not even to talk to other people in the building, whom she mostly dismisses. She has no family locally, and I have no brothers or sisters, so I'm about it, for her. She says she is "content," but she complains that she is "bored" whenever I take the odd night off to work on my own stuff, which ultimately means she is content as long as I visit her daily... They're sweet, nice visits, mind you - we watch movies or sometimes play cards or work on jigsaws, or sometimes I take her out, to help her shop or do banking or for the odd special event (like an Irish Rovers concert I took her to). I sometimes wish I could bring her with me into the city - to move in with her into a west end apartment, say, so I could spend less time commuting and more time working - and live in an environment a bit more condusive to my identity - but with her language issues, it would be so difficult for her to form new relationships that it's hard to think of that as an acceptable option... I mean, she does have a few friends here. Not many, and she doesn't see them much, but... it's not ALL down to me. In the city, it would be...

So that's my life. Mostly it's devoted to just tryin' to keep my act afloat - pay my bills, keep my space from getting too messy, stay on top of my marking, don't miss the train... Someone pointed out today that it's kind of ironic that I spend my mornings with ESL students and my evenings with my Mom, who has aphasia. I actually DO spend less time than I ever have really talking with people. (I suppose I could join the leagues of the commuter-communicators, but I'd really rather just strap on my headphones and tune them out). On Saturday nights, I bullshit with a buddy in the building, but otherwise, it's tough, when most of the people I know get home from work after I've left the city for the day; plus often the relationships were largely attached to things I don't do much, anymore (like goin' to live music events or movies). It's easy to get a bit lost without people you can talk to, to lose a sense of yourself, to find things that used to be important sliding into the haze, to forget who you are, or at least who you tell the world you are...
Maybe it's not all bad, though. The less you talk to others, the less you can lie to yourself about who you are and what you're doing...

...unless you blog, I guess...

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Dreams of Leonard Cohen: WTF???? (plus movie note)

The nastiest, most pointed, and possibly the funniest joke in Canadian cinema - if you can get past the sheer fucking cruelty of it - has got to be that scene in Hard Core Logo when (fictional punks) Joe Dick and Billy Talent (the band is named after his character, note - get it the right way 'round) are amusing themselves on the road by competing to come up with the best fictional Canadian band names - stuff like "Snowaxe;" and one of them, I forget which, offers up, "Faster, Leonard Cohen, Die! Die!" Ouch! It's striking enough to have inspired the name of a Saskatoon radio show dedicated to Canadian music (who apparently do play some Leonard Cohen now and then), but it's nasty enough that your immediate reaction is to want to leap between it and Leonard Cohen, to shield him from its barb - and not just because it's evil and nasty and cruel; it can only be any of these things because there's some truth to it. Y'kinda see where they're coming from, even if you don't really want to...

I mean, I don't really have a PROBLEM with Leonard Cohen. He's written some great bloody songs, songs so good - stuff like "Everybody Knows," say - that they need no defense, towering so far above what most people who dabble in the craft of song accomplish that they become cultural institutions - some of the biggest and most visited dots on the map of Canadian music, dots that I'm proud are there. As with Bob Dylan (whom he's possibly aged better than) or Neil Young (whom he hasn't), he's done so much as a songwriter that he can pretty much be excused for his excesses or embarrassments nowadays (like, say, that photoshoot he did with fucking angel wings on, or that time on Much Music when he plain-facedly told a veejay that he turned from poetry to music because "the money is better." Or, say, his 9/11 song, which I find singularly hard to take, or his recent decision to play Israel, despite some very public requests - including one by Alexei Sayle - that he not do so). I'm sure being wealthy and famous and drooled on by young sexy women makes maintaining equilibrium difficult, but he seems to have kept a sense of humour about himself, and odd little gestures I've heard about suggest he actually might be a bit of mensch, really (like his contributing a plug to John Lurie's Marvin Pontiac project, for instance - read Lurie on that here; it would have been bloody fun to be a fly on the wall as Lurie laid out his request). So: even tho' I get the Hard Core Logo joke, I don't wish Leonard Cohen dead in the slightest. I'll be sad when he passes, and feel guilty that I chuckled at that scene in the film. It's not like I worry that he's going to ever do something SO embarrassing that it will invalidate the things he's accomplished in the past; I mean, once you come to terms with Death of a Ladies' Man, you can pretty much forgive anything. But that seems to be the point of that joke, tho' - only someone who cared about Leonard Cohen's music at some point could crack it. Faster, Leonard Cohen - die before you completely overshadow your past moments of glory...

Still: I lost all interest in seeing Cohen live ever again after catching (I think) the I'm Your Man tour at the Orpheum back in the 1980's - where even his between-song anecdotes about giving sermons to some flowers on LSD felt staged and rehearsed and phony. I haven't bought an album of his since The Future (tho' Jonathan Richman covered one of his recent songs a couple of years ago, "Here It Is," and I was so impressed by it that I almost reconsidered). And even when live albums of his come out, I find I'm only curious if they date back before 1976; even that Field Commander Cohen thing is a bit too late in the game for me. I've heard amazing stuff by him live, from before that time - and anyone who hasn't is invited to seek out bootlegs of him singing "The Butcher" like his throat is bleeding, or to spend some time with his Live Songs album, which seems a bit of a career high. I'd love it if more live material from this period - say 1968-1975 - were released, when he presented as some sincerely crazy religious figure wandering in the desert of the counterculture, offering prophecies and warnings to the hippies and yippies and fools, like he sincerely thought he might play a hand in saving their souls a bit and was prepared to expose himself at his most raw and vulnerable in the name of doing it. That was his greatest period, really, the time where he burned with the most intense flame, back when he was using acid instead of boasting about it, back when he was, perhaps, still having sex with Janis Joplin and not writing songs about it - the window in history when the world could get the most out of Leonard Cohen, and Leonard Cohen could offer the most of himself to the world. It's not Cohen's fault that that time can never come again, or that it was a long time ago indeed: no one can reject him utterly - not even, I'm sure, Joe or Billy or whoever put those words in their mouths - who has seen or heard him from those days. And if you haven't, and care at all about Canadian music, folksingers, the 1960's, or so forth, you really should go to the Vancity Theatre to check out the screening, later this month, of Leonard Cohen: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970, a remarkable document that you owe it to yourself to experience. It's really striking - he went on very early in the morning, after a day of near-riots and fires and countless problems, and tamed a savage and unruly crowd with his songs, which have seldom been better presented. It's widely available on DVD, but for any true fan of this material, the chance to see it projected, and listen to it over the Vancity's excellent soundsystem, is simply not to be missed.

Upcoming movie aside, tho', I have no fucking idea why I dreamed of Leonard Cohen last night. In the dream, I was eating dinner at some fancy location with my mother - maybe a casino? - and Cohen was going to give a concert there. And it seemed possible that my Mom might like his music - I used to play him now and then for my parents when we played Scrabble, say, which we used to do often (before my Mom's stroke wiped out much of her language ability, a few months before my father's death). In the dream, I was trying to talk her into seeing him. The main show, in the afternoon, was actually sold out, but there were added shows in the evening, and I went so far as to bug some concierge - this was a pretty realistic dream - into looking into the possibility of getting us tickets, only to discover that they would cost $250 apiece. Okay, well, no. Mom and I left the casino, and then - for reasons I can't explain - I found myself sitting in a car, as I recall, looking at a Leonard Cohen lyric sheet and listening to an in fact fictitious song of his I'd supposedly never heard before, a song so good that it transcended anything he'd done on Songs From A Room or Songs Of Love And Hate or New Skin For The Old Ceremony. It was amazing music, written recently, and the words were gripping and insightful in a way I had not expected, some of his best writing ever, forcing me to re-evaluate everything I thought I knew about him.

Too bad I forget them completely when I woke up.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Maple Ridge Metal (the continuing saga)

So I've missed every single jazzfest show and will continue to do so - even the free Roundhouse stuff this weekend - mostly because I live at considerable remove from Vancouver now. Concerts downtown are going to be few and far between for some time to come, so my enthusiasm for writing about them is waning a bit - documenting a scene I can't take part of wouldn't actually be very entertaining for me. Thank God for Adstock and the kids who are creating a metal scene for themselves in Maple Ridge, then - who will be coming together in the center of town for a free all day outdoor concert this Sunday. I'm told Coquitlam-based headliners Ninjaspy kick ass, in particular, and I've written about the youthful prog-metal band Paradosis before (they've much improved their Myspace since then). I haven't actually seen any of the other bands before, but the way events at the Maple Ridge Gazebo work, I will be hearing it whether I go or not - so I'm gonna go! It actually sounds like a lot of fun...

Ninjaspy at Pub 340 by Femke van Delft, not to be reused without permission