Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Real Ponchos!

No idea if my review of their debut LP will see print, but I really enjoyed the Real Ponchos new EP; they do a tour kickoff gig tomorrow (that is, Thursday) at the Railway - maybe check'em out!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Robert Dayton returns for a Canned Hamm gig!

The closest I ever got to Stephen Hamm was back in the late 80's, when I saw the fabled Vancouver band Slow opening for the Cramps. I vividly remember bassist Hamm's meaty, hairy thighs, disturbingly visible through a slit in the nurse's uniform he was wearing (it's funny what you retain from a gig; I recall nothing else from that show as clearly). A few years later, I saw his subsequent band Tankhog, at the Cruel Elephant on Granville, but that's a gig I have only the vaguest memory of. Other than that, I know he and I have been in the same movie theatre now and then (because if you're someone like me, you can't help but notice when Big Hamm is in the room); but I can't say I know the guy at all.

However, I chatted with Robert "Little Hamm" Dayton a bit around the time of the release of the last July Fourth Toilet album, collecting material for an interview that never saw print. I had never really moved in his social circle and didn't really know what to make of him, exactly; the one July Fourth Toilet gig I saw was perhaps one of the most confusing, fascinating, unclassifiable musical experiences I have ever had (and also highly entertaining, largely because it WAS so singular). It is entirely possible some of his humour goes over my head, or perhaps crawls under my feet, or slithers between my legs (like his Canadian Romantic series, say: there is definitely some brilliance to the way he says "Canada spreads and opens," in that clip, pausing before he completes the phrase, but something about the experience still makes me want to flee it as quickly as possible. Is it an irony overdose? An inferiority complex - I fear I won't "get" it? Is he somehow intellectually, morally, or sexually threatening to me, by some complex mechanism I do not understand? I dunno, but these clips kind of freak me out, no less). All the same, Dayton once gave me a Harry Partch album, which is the sort of gift you don't get from everyone who passes through your life. (I later Paid It Forward and, getting a better copy of the same Harry Partch LP, gave the one he gave me to the Minimalist Jug Band). And for awhile back there, I learned to love and admire July Fourth Toilet Presents Balls Boogie Featuring Me and Bobby McGee - check out, for a ridiculously hard-rockin', oughta-be-a-Can-rock classic, the song "Kentucky Whore," where Dayton sounds strikingly like Joey Shithead...

In any event, I am happy to see that Dayton, who has been in Toronto of late, is returning to Vancouver for a Canned Hamm gig, occuring this June 1st (the same night as the SNFU listening party). It may seem a shocking shortcoming, but in truth, I have never seen Canned Hamm play live. I have at least one of their CDs, but I'm kind of afraid to listen to it, because I fear they will confuse and unsettle me in the same way the J4T gig did (or else that they will just annoy the heck out of me, or maybe both at the same time). Brief peeks at them on Youtube make me think of Barney the Dinosaur as filtered through the sensibility of John Waters. Since seeing them live has gotten to be a rare thing, I would certainly LIKE to be at the Canned Hamm concert Saturday, and amend my lack of experience, here, or at least decisively resolve whether I love them or dread them, but as things are, alas, I probably won't even be at the SNFU Listening Party... I will be in Maple Ridge watching a movie with my mother, like I am almost every weekend these days...

All the same, welcome back, Canned Hamm! I am glad you still exist, even if I have not yet chosen to experience you! I hope your audience is so big and appreciative you don't even miss me! Go work that Canned Hamm magic! Blessings! Joy! Peace!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Chris Walter reading Thursday, plus Vince Li day release

Chris Walter reads at the (former) Cobalt, photo by Femke van Delft, not to be reused without permission

I'm stunned by the number of people that liked the brief blogpiece I did for the Straight to plug Chris Walter's booklaunch Thursday (at the Storm Crow Tavern on Commercial Drive, from 7 to 9pm) for Chase the Dragon. I was able to preview the novel and chat with him about it; it's very entertaining, and I agree with Chris that it's his best work of fiction since 2006's East Van (at least of the ones I've read!). The article hit the Straight blog around noon today, and now, not twelve hours later, it has 272 Likes on Facebook - in part because Chris asked his fans to get the word out, but still: that's a stellar amount of support!

There will be, as I mention in the blogpiece, a feature interview in the Straight with Chris forthcoming sometime soon,  but various entertaining tidbits didn’t make either that article or the brief thing on the blog - from the fact that all cats in Walter’s books, including this one, are named Mitzy, to the amusing moment where he jogs through his own novel, big, bald, and covered in tattoos (his four-times-weekly route takes him between the Rupert and Clark Skytrain stations, then back to his home off the Drive). Unfortunately he wouldn’t go into detail about the funniest part of the book, which involves the story of notorious bus beheader Vince Weiguang Li, who went Wendigo on poor BC carny Tim McLean a few years ago. “It gives away too much of the book if I say how it comes up or what it leads to,” he told me. “It was a mechanism to move the characters from one place to another; that’s what happens in fiction - if you want something to happen, something else has to happen." I kind of begged him to let me spoil it, but he remained steadfast, saying it's one of his favourite parts of the book; there's probably some wisdom there.

What Walter would do, however, was raise his eyebrows that Vince Li is “now on supervised day release - they take him out of the grounds and he goes to visit this place and that place. What the hell, that’s just wrong," he laughed incredulously. I joked that maybe he'd like to go on a law and order rant on the topic, and he declined - it wasn't a position he wanted to espouse, he just knew he didn’t want to sit next to the guy on a bus!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Far more writing on the Parker movie than it actually merits

I'm a fan of the Richard Stark (actually, Donald E. Westlake) Parker novels, have been for years. I used to have several of the original "The Violent World of Parker" paperbacks, and now kind of wish I'd hung onto them, because my fondness for Parker has lasted far longer than I ever would have expected. While there may be more psychologically complex or character-rich crime novels out there - and I consume my fair share of crime fiction, having worked through every single Lee Child, several books by Michael Connelly, and a smattering of novels by James Lee Burke, Robert Crais, Sarah Paretsky, James Ellroy, Patricia Highsmith, Patricia Cornwell, Chester Himes, Jim Thompson, Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, Charles Willeford and Raymond Chandler - nothing quite equals the stripped-down functionality or cold-hearted, matter-of-fact violence of a Parker novel. The Spartan ruthlessness of Westlake's (stark, indeed) prose and the lean-and-mean, action-driven narratives are a perfect fit for his titular character's way of viewing the world: an utterly pragmatic man, a career criminal not devoid of conscience but almost entirely un-emburdened by self-doubt or even much in the way of reflectiveness, Parker is sort of the ultimate goal-oriented "romantic antihero," if you will - the perfect point of escapist identification for those who feel too much the weight of social responsibility, who dither too much trying to please others, who lack the capacity to realize their goals with the necessary ruthlessness, single-mindedness, and devotion. It's a bullshit transaction, on some level - there's something suspect about the way all heroes in pulp serve to prop up the ego of the reader, by providing what is missing from life - be it sexual adventure, violence, the capacity to act on one's taboo or criminal desires, or the ability to enforce one's own private vision of what is right and proper on others (the "Bruce Willis knows best"/ Law of the Father factor). It probably doesn't say great things about a person's character, either, when their romantic hero is a criminal, as opposed to a cop or at least a man of virtue; on the other hand, there's probably some truth to Westlake's observation that being able to act out his criminal fantasies and desires through a fictional character prevented him from ever needing to try to plot a crime in real life.

In any event, there have been some great movies made from the novels in which Parker features. I haven't seen them all - I've yet to see The Split, for instance - but I've caught Point Blank, The Outfit, Slayground, and both versions of Payback. (I confess that I could not make it through Made in USA, Jean-Luc Godard's partial mis-appropriation of a Parker novel; I have yet to really find my way "in" with Godard, only having enjoyed a couple of his films). Point Blank, with Lee Marvin playing the Parker character, is probably the consensus favourite among critics as the "best film" in the list; at one point, as I recall, Westlake thought The Outfit, with Robert Duvall as the Parker character, was the most faithful to the spirit of his books. For my money, I prefer "Mad" Mel Gibson in the "Straight Up" version of Payback, since he most closely resembles the Parker I construct for myself when reading the books, seems to best capture the frustration the cold, clear-headed Parker feels with the daffy muddle-mindedness and general weakness of those around him (The whiny Peter Coyote characterization in Slayground is probably the least faithful version of the character, meanwhile; I like Peter Coyote - but not what he does with Parker in that film. About all it has going for it is a terrific, pulpy poster).

As you may already know, none of the above movies (except perhaps the Godard, which was not a permitted or remotely faithful adaptation) actually give their character the name Parker, since Westlake would not concede to having the name "Parker" used unless the filmmakers in question committed to a franchise. I had my hopes that when Jason Statham was cast as Parker in a film named, appropriately, Parker, that the use of Parker's name indicated not merely that Westlake is no longer around to object - he died a couple of years ago - but that the filmmakers (Taylor Hackford is the director) cared enough about the Parker series that they HAD committed to a franchise, and were going to try to do it right.
I had my concerns. The trailers didn't seem that promising. While Taylor Hackford has made some serviceable commercial thrillers in his day (Proof of Life, for instance), Jason Statham seems to be a hit-or-miss actor; since his Guy Ritchie days, I've truly enjoyed a couple of his star vehicles, far more than I ever expected to - both Crank and the first film in The Transporter franchise are quite entertaining, smartly-crafted genre films - but he appears willing to act in almost anything, such that there are some real atrocities in his resume - from the least entertaining Uwe Boll film I'm aware of, In the Name of the King, to the deeply mediocre remake of The Mechanic and the recent Killer Elite, which appears to steal the title of a lesser Sam Peckinpah movie, slapping it on what seemed unwatchable garbage (I couldn't make it more than fifteen minutes into that film, mind you; perhaps it gets less inept as it goes along, but I had no faith that it would and tuned out). Statham COULD be a good Parker, but his presence alone is no guarantee that any given film will be at all watchable.

Anyhow, having my doubts, I waited for Parker to come out on DVD. I still respectfully rented it - I didn't torrent it or any such unlawful thing, though I rather wish I had, now. No, I did the right thing - good for my conscience but bad for my wallet - and rented it from Maple Ridge's Little Shop of Movies today: $6 wasted, because the film is a piece o' crap. It's not a good adaptation of Parker, for one thing; Parker is presented as too much as an everyman, is given redeeming qualities completely alien to the Richard Stark series. He is shown helping a little girl win a prize at a carnival he's about to rob, then shown sensitively talking down a panicked security guard; such humanizing moments completely betray the appeal of the character, create deep discord in the minds of people actually familiar with the novels, and, most importantly, misunderstand the consumer of violent crime fiction. People who watch movies where the hero is a violent career criminal do not need or want to see him humanized; on the other hand, people who need their good guys to have redeeming qualities do not generally watch movies where the hero is a violent career criminal. (Payback: Straight Up deserves credit for understanding all of this; Mel does NOT play a "nice guy" in that film, by any stretch, and retains some of the "real" Parker vibe even in the comedic version that the studios produced, when they rejected Brian Helgeland's original cut). By trying to make Parker palatable for middle-class, moralistically inclined, little-old-lady sensibilities, the filmmakers do nothing more than make him unpalatable for the people MOST LIKELY TO WANT TO SEE THE FILM. A daft, duff move indeed, suggesting that the people responsible for this film did not have the courage for the material, and should never have been allowed near it.

Also bad: the narrative stretches out to take in several peripheral characters, presumably to broaden the market appeal of the story. Parker's lover Claire, her father (played by Nick Nolte) and a real estate agent played by Jennifer Lopez all clutter up the film, their scenes - especially Lopez's - often feeling quite superfluous to the plot, which involves a betrayed Parker setting out to even the score with the men who left him for dead. To the extent that peripheral characters appear in Parker novels, if they are given any development at all, it is because they are equally unique variants on the criminal mind, characters distinct from Parker but almost equally entertaining (one, Alan Grofield, actually got his own spin-off series, the only non-Parker novels written under the Stark pen-name). By adding all this clutter - presumably trying to give the character of Parker depth, by ensconcing him in a web of social relations, when the shallow, goal-oriented simplicity of Parker in the novels is very nearly the point of them - Hackford and company betray the extremely functional, lean-and-mean, chilly aesthetic of the series, creating narrative flab when they most need to be cutting to the bone...

All of this, of course, would be forgivable - to depart from the character as written, or the aesthetic of the series overall - if only the film that resulted were any good, but I can't say I saw much evidence of this. There are some inspired moments - the initial heist is quite well-executed, for example, despite the moments where Parker is humanized, and there's an appropriate brutality to the scene where Parker's partners betray him and leave him for dead. As he goes about tracking them down, however, in part through the J-Lo real estate agent, the pace lags, and things start to get very, very silly, as during one moment where Parker makes the real estate agent strip, to make sure she isn't wearing a wire, before he tells her his secrets. The scene takes you entirely out of the film: whether you read it as a transparent excuse to have J-Lo strip to her bra and panties - which is not how it registers, since neither Parker nor Hackford treat the moment with any notable lechery -  or as a bad borrowing from a billion other crime films, it makes no narrative sense that a real estate agent whom Parker himself has approached, who has previously had no idea that he is a criminal, would care at all about recording her conversation with him. He hasn't revealed his true business to her at that point, so unless he believes that real estate agents go about their job with wires on, recording everything just in case they should happen to stumble across a criminal... the scene doesn't even have any logic to it, is stupid to the point of being insulting, since the responsible parties (Hackford, the writers, the producers, whoever) obviously don't think the consumers of crime fiction are smart enough to notice its nonsensical nature... I had been having trouble staying awake through the film up to that point, but after the undressing of J-Lo, I couldn't bring myself to finish it.

It's a shame that the first film where Parker is actually named Parker should also be the worst (like I say, I haven't seen The Split or a couple of others, but I think I can still make this assertion; certainly given a choice between watching the Hackford Parker to completion or rewatching the less-than-stellar Slayground, I'd take Slayground in a second). If there is talk of a Parker franchise, it sure would be nice if the makers of the film read a few more of the Richard Stark novels and tried to make a movie truer to their spirit than this. Fans of the books are advised to give the Statham Parker film a wide berth; sadly, based on what I saw of it tonight, it will take a great deal to convince me, should there be a second, to give it a go.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Bison, the Rebel Spell: two gigs

Had a trip to the island Thursday, to see that girl who I was seeing, who I guess I'm seeing again, and we looked in on Bison at Victoria's Lucky Bar (thanks to the guys for allowing me to cadge a guestlisting - I did buy a black vinyl Lovelessness, which I'm just about to spin now). We only stayed for a few songs - I just wanted to give my gal a taste of Bison; I realize it's not her type of music, but few bands get closer to my soul with their music, and Lovelessness is truly a majestic album (silly, silly Metal Blade, eh?). Still, she appreciated that the moshpit mostly kept to the moshpit (the Lucky Bar is narrow with brick walls, so moshers tend to be careful about careening sideways); she thought Dan was - I think she said "shockingly hot" - when he took his cap off, showing off his new haircut; likened - no surprise here - Matt Wood to Animal; appreciated the joyfulness in Masa's engagement; and - I mean, she said it, not me - thought James seemed strangely "angelic" as he performed. All the same, we ducked out after "Wendigo," about four songs in - it was hot in there, we were tired, and we hadn't been to bed yet...
Sorry to have missed the band at the Biltmore the next night, but I'd ended up waking up with a migraine at 5am, that haunted me for the rest of the day, so I was in no state. I still checked out a few songs at the Rebel Spell event - my other favourite local band - since it was a nice and early gig, and I could still catch a bus homw, but I was barely even there (I only caught one whole set by any of the bands present, that being the garage punk band the Living Deadbeats - a fun band!). It made a good pitstop on the way from Victoria back to Maple Ridge, anyhow... Cheers to both Bison and the Rebel Spell for making such marvelous music; I'll catch both again at their next shows, to be sure...
All bad cellphone photos by Allan MacInnis.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Thursday, May 23, 2013

In this week's Straight...

 ...I talk with film scholar and SFU prof Donald Brackett about the upcoming series at the Cinematheque of the films of Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder...

...and I have a mini-interview about SNFU's upcoming new album (!) and the free listening party to preview it, June 1st at the WISE Hall...! The album's not due til September, so you gotta be there!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

RIP Ray Manzarek

I've enjoyed The Doors from time to time, but the thing I remain fondest of Ray Manzarek for is his support of (and playing with) Los Angeles punk band X, whose best albums he produced; it was quite something at the time, for an "old-timer" to validate the unheard music. They stopped worked together for awhile, when X reached for the brass ring, but here he is performing "Nausea" onstage with them in 2010, so I guess they reconciled!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Dream: a slam dunk in reverse

In the dream, I'm taking someone I know - perhaps a small party of two or three people - to some paradisical place that I knew years previously. (Maybe my recently telling someone by email about Kennedy Lake, near Tofino, the nicest place I've ever gone swimming, had something to do with this, but I'm not sure what the destination was supposed to be in the dream, however). We have to negotiate a precarious path through dark forests to get there. On the way, there's a taco stand; we make it that far, and we decide to stop for lunch. (The place may be based on the terrific tacos at a restaurant in Vancouver that I used to take my ESL students to, which may or may not still exist; it changed its location a couple of times and dropped off my map). The restaurant, alas, is under new ownership, and the menu is suddenly very complicated, because the people running it now don't understand much about Mexican food. All sorts of things that I want to order are no longer on the menu, and some of the things they do have - egg foo yung, for example - don't make any sense as part of a Mexican meal. I negotiate ordering at the counter and join my party (there seem to be two people - a woman I may be involved with and an older woman, perhaps her mother) and explain that the new owners have me thinking about the famous sentence from Thomas Wolfe's novel, Look Homeward, Angel, about how you can't go home again. (I've never read Wolfe, only heard that observation quoted, so 'scuse me if I've got it wrong).

I then proceed to talk about the previous owners, and the dream becomes based on my memory of them - a traditional Mexican couple who were, as I describe them, absolutely without guile or corruption - the sweetest, most sincere people I have known. Who knows where they are now? I describe his smile, in particular - wholesome and honest. By contrast, I explain, the present owners are nowhere as close to the "real thing" - I'd hoped that the meal would be something absolutely authentic, but it wasn't going to work out that way.

In addition to authentic tacos, I explain, I learned a lot about life from how sincere this Mexican couple had been; I learned in dealing with them about how I had romanticized suffering, how I had made some crucial mistake in my past: that because I had gathered growth was painful, I had mistaken pain for growing, and become a sort of masochist, in love with his pain. For reasons not clear to my waking mind, I turned to a metaphor from basketball, which came complete with images of me on a basketball court (I have almost never in my life played basketball, only ever occasionally being forced to in high school). I was, I explained, doing a "slam dunk in reverse." (This is, it seems, an actual idiomatic phrase, but I have no idea where I may have encountered it before, or what it actually is supposed to mean).

I woke up with the phrase lingering in my mind: slam dunk in reverse, I've done a slam dunk in reverse...

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Bloggers be wary! Cops phishing for venue info! (AKA Paranoid Time at Alienated in Vancouver)

Here's something kind of curious. Every few years, I receive emails from people claiming to be from out of town, who tell me they've read on my blog about underground venues for experimental music. They explain that they are coming to town for a limited time, and are wondering if I can help them out, with locations for good places to see noise and such - many of which operate off the grid in locations around East Vancouver.

Now, of course, I do get some legitimate emails from people about Vancouver music stuff they read on my blog. But not all requests for information seem plausible. There's been a fishy feel to a few of them - people whose behaviour did not mesh up with what they claimed they were. Forgive me if I don't go into details as to exactly "how" they were fishy - I don't want to give the writers of these emails tips as to how to manipulate bloggers more effectively -  but with the newest such request, I suddenly had a paranoid thought: could this possibly be a cop trying to ferret out the addresses of illegal spaces?

Thinking maybe I was overreacting, I wrote a few people involved in the noise scene about this and the two people who replied agreed that these emails were "definitely 5-0." One (thanks, E!) forwarded me the following article, about Boston Police "catfishing" people online to find addresses of off the grid venues... Suddenly I'm bristling with suspicion -  I'm pretty much sure that's exactly what's been going on.

Just a tip, then, for anyone with any involvement in the noise or experimental music scene: if you get online requests for addresses of off-the-grid venues, from people whom you don't know, consider the possibility that these are simply cops, trying to exploit social media to get information. Unless you have reason to believe they're legitimate, do NOT share addresses of spaces (or any information that could compromise the scene) with these people over the internet. If you're not sure whether the requests are legitimate, maybe you can direct them to a couple hip record stores where they might ask people what's what - where people can evaluate them face-to-face before sharing information. Or if they claim they're coming to town in person, invite them to meet up with you.

Do that, and I bet they won't even write back.

I would now like to dedicate this Crucifucks song (with Steve Shelley on drums!) to the cops in question, if, indeed, it's cops that have been writing me. No hard feelings, cops, but - aren't there bigger evils in this city to fight then kids getting together to peaceably listen to unpopular music? Are they really THAT much of a threat to the status quo?

The consolations of thrift store records...

It's been a hard week, so I've been listening to comforting and cheerful music, which has taken a weird turn. I found a bunch of Oscar Brand sea shanty recordings, including some ribald ones, at a thrift store, for example, discovered some cool old Ventures albums at the store where I work, and have been spinning some jazz from the 1920's and 30's (Johnny Dodds, anyone? I snagged a Time-Life 3LP set at a Value Village...). I won't mention the Elvis gospel stuff that I've been spinning (with the Jordanaires! Hell yeah!) Today's find is the real eyebrow-raiser. I kind of, um, love the Andrews Sisters, and I stumbled across a STILL SEALED 1957 record of theirs at a Salvation Army this morning. It's not worth anything - people are selling it for $9.99 on eBay - but that's a good thing, because I can be the man to split the seal and spin it for the first time... which I just did. (Quite the feeling to take on that responsibility). The first track is playing on the turntable at the store where I'm working as I type this... the album is eleven years older than I am and in much, much better shape... what a treat!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Seriously, folks...

....First the Harper majority, federally, and now a Christy Clark majority provincially? What the FUCK? Which country am I living in, again?

Christy Clark, "Natural" Gas and Fracking

I haven't fully fit my mind around the BC Rail scandal, where various BC Liberals used insider connections to get a sweet deal for themselves and their cronies when selling off public resources for private gain (one of those things I most associate with the Libs). I know the legislature was raided (!) and that Basi and Virk ended up pleading guilty; so far the scandal hasn't worked its way up to Christy Clark, who, one imagines, would be smart enough to insulate herself pretty well... but I certainly doubt her hands are spotless...

I also don't feel very qualified to write about the BC Liberals' record in selling off our waterways to private interests, so that the power generated by BC rivers goes to Americans (or the highest bidder), with dams to be built pretty much wherever there's money to be made (and, pardon the pun, damn the environment). I saw Rafe Mair speak on the topic a few years ago, under Gordon Campbell; I doubt anything has changed much under Clark - certainly not for the better...

I don't want to rant too much about the whole pipeline issue, because I'm not sure when the time comes Adrian Dix will prove a match for the greed and strongarm tactics of the federal Conservatives; at least he doesn't seem EAGER to kowtow to them. What does concern me here, though, is Christy Clark's open advocacy of natural gas extraction by means of fracking. Because the cynicism, negativity, and open two-facedness of her campaign suggest a fairly low level of respect for the public she expects to elect her, I guess it's no surprise that she's spoken pretty freely in support of this topic. I'm sure she figures that most people out there go much further than the name - because if natural gas is "natural," it must be good, right? Clean energy and all that?

If by any chance that's where you stand, no offense, but you need to educate yourself a bit on hydraulic fracturing, AKA fracking. There's a pretty good film on the topic, actually - Gasland, by Josh Fox. He explains how fracking works, and there's a helpful FAQ on the website, from which the following is quoted:
Hydraulic fracturing or fracking is a means of natural gas extraction employed in deep natural gas well drilling. Once a well is drilled, millions of gallons of water, sand and proprietary chemicals are injected, under high pressure, into a well. The pressure fractures the shale and props open fissures that enable natural gas to flow more freely out of the well. 
 If that sounds like a good idea, you should see the film, to see the results of the practice in some of the most heavily fracked regions of the United States. Basically, you end up with a water table so loaded with chemicals - including hydrochloric acid and antifreeze, of the chemicals that have been identified - that said water is no longer fit for human consumption, and - as is shown in many cases in the film - can literally be SET ON FIRE. There's something impossibly surreal about seeing it happen: people holding Bic lighters up to their faucets and seeing explosive bursts of flame result.

For those thinking "that can't happen here," note that northeastern BC is already heavily fracked, and being compared to the tar sands of Alberta; that the Liberals plan to expand the practice; and that Christy Clark has spoken out against Liberals who seemed to share with the NDP concerns about it. Think about the Liberals determination to "grow the economy," apparently at any cost to the environment and/or the public good. Adrian Dix may not be the strongest anti-fracking voice out there, but at least he is calling for a scientific review of the process. I have no doubt that if we fracked the entire province, we could, in the short term, make more money for the bigwigs currently in charge, and maybe even some for ourselves; but in the long run - BC'ers in many regions would end up drinking water they'd have to pay for, with polluted, dead waterways, a toxic water table, and, if the practice continues unchecked, a pretty much unlivable province. To heck with that. Please vote, today, folks, if you haven't already... and don't vote Liberal.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Early voting in Mouseland

On the way to work this week, as I walked towards the spot on the train platform where I usually board, a smiling politician greeted me with an out-thrust hand and the usual shtick: hi-how-are-ya-I'm-so-and-so, can-I-count-on-your-support? I looked at what was emblazoned on his jacket, and replied: "You're a BC Liberal? Good luck!" - in a sort of ya-right-buddy kind of way. I continued on without shaking his hand, but he was already offering it to someone else, anyhow.

It's been a pretty aggressive election campaign, by BC standards. I even got a form letter in the mail from Adrian Dix, hand-signed by the guy, which was something new to me. I scanned it for grammatical errors (there were a few in his self-mocking April Fools anti-ad); unsurprisingly, it didn't really impress me as a piece of prose. 

All the same, I voted NDP today (early polls are open). Christy Clark seems to me like a velociraptor in a suit; I guess I can't fault her for looking out for her class interests - the rich, the powerful, "the economy" - but I'd rather be governed by a mouse than a cat any day...

Stagger Lee, Nick Cave, and Murder Ballads

Like a lot of people from my generation, the first variation on the story of Stagger Lee and Billy Lyons I encountered was The Clash's ska-inflected "Wrong'Em Boyo," on London Calling. When I first heard an actual old-school bluesman sing the song - it was probably Mississippi  John Hurt's "Stack-O-Lee" - I assumed, wrongly, that that version alone was the one The Clash were riffing on; but something happens the more exposure you get to the blues. You discover that there are in fact dozens of variants on the story; the Clash borrow most heavily from Lloyd Price's version (or perhaps Wilbert Harrison's - not sure which takes primacy), but there are also variants from (in no particular order) Furry Lewis, RL Burnside, Memphis Slim, Ma Rainey, Frank HutchisonCab CallowayWoodie Guthrie, Wilson PickettDave van Ronk, Ike and Tina Turnerthe McCoys, the New Lost City Ramblers, James BrownDr. John, the Grateful Dead, Taj Mahal, Dave Edmunds, Jerry Reed, Huey Lewis, Beck, Amy Winehouse, and even Samuel L. Jackson. My favourite is the one by Long Cleve Reed and the Down Home Boys; trivially, there is apparently only one known existing 78 rpm recording of their interpretation of the song, owned by collector, radio personality, John Fahey cohort, and musician Joe Bussard, the subject of the delightful documentary Desperate Man Blues. (It is said that Bussard turned down $30,000 for the record, and that he wants to be buried with it). As you'll notice if you listen to a few of the previous, not only does the arrangement of the song tend to change from one to the other, there are often different elaborations on the story and the spellings of the names of the participants - though gambling, murder, and a Stetson hat are frequently featured. Likely the earliest transcription of the lyrics occurs in Alan Lomax's Folk Songs of North America, which I will here reprint for interested parties; Lomax based it on "the singing of Negro prisoners in the Mississippi Penitentiary":

It was early, early one mornin'
When I heard my bulldog bark
Stagolee and Billy Lyons
Was squabblin' in the dark

Stagolee told Billy Lyons
"What do you think of that?
You win all my money, Billy,
Now you spit in my Stetson hat"

Stagolee, he went a-walkin'
In the red hot, broilin' sun -
Says, "bring me my six-shooter,
Lawd, I wants my forty-one."

Stagolee he went a-walkin'
Through the mud and through the sand.
Says, "I feel mistreated this mornin',
I could kill most any man."

Billy Lyons told Stagolee
"Please don't take my life,
I've got three little helpless chillun
And one poor, pitiful wife."

"Don't care nothin' about your chillun,
And nothin' about your wife.
You done mistreated me, Billy,
And I'm bound to take your life."

He shot him three times in the shoulder
Lawd, and three times in the side,
Well the last time that he shot him
Cause Billy Lyons to die.

Stagolee told Mrs. Billy 
"You don't believe your man is dead;
Come into the bar-room
See the hole I shot in his head."

The high sheriff told his deputies,
"Get your pistols and come with me.
We got to go 'rest that
Bad man Stagolee."

The deputies took their pistols
And they laid them on the shelf -
"If you want that bad man Stagolee,
Go 'rest him by yourself."

High sherriff ask the bartender,
"Who can that bad man be?"
"Speak softly," said the bartender,
"It's that bad man Stagolee."

He touch Stack on the shoulder,
Say, "Stack, why don't you run?"
"I don't run, white folks,
When I got my forty-one."

The hangman put the mask on,
Tied his hands behind his back,
Sprung the trap on Stagolee
But his neck refused to crack.

Hangman, he got frightened,
Said, "Chief, you see how it be -
I can't hang this man,
Better set him free."

Three hundred dollar funeral,
Thousand dollar hearse,
Satisfaction undertaker
Put Stack six feet in the earth

Stagolee, he told the Devil,
Says, "Come on and have some fun -
You stick me with your pitchfork,
I'll shoot you with my forty-one."

Stagolee took the pitchfork
And he laid it on the shelf.
Says, "Stand back, Tom Devil,
I'm gonna rule Hell by myself."

It's interesting that there appear to be three different possible endings offered in the course of one transcription, with Stag defying authority ("I don't run, white folks"), escaping hanging, and going to Hell nonetheless. Maybe the Lomax transcription is already incorporating more than one singer's take on the story?

Another set of lyrics, offered by the Silber Folksinger's Wordbook - which appears to follow Mississippi John Hurt's version - has Billy identified as Billy de Lyons; it focuses more on Stag's trial and execution, omitted above. The final verses are:

The judge said, Stagolee,
What you doing in here,
You done shot Mr. Billy de Lyons
You going to die in the electric chair;
He was a bad man,
That mean old Stagolee

Twelve o'clock they killed him
Head reached up high,
Last thing that poor boy said
My six-shooter never lied.
He was a bad man,
That mean old Stagolee

Equally complex, Lomax offers various speculations as to the origins of the story, saying none are definitive; but since the time of his writing, in 1960, apparently folk historians have decided who exactly Stagger Lee was. Wikipedia offers that he was a Missouri pimp named Lee Shelton, who killed Billy Lyons after a night of drinking, on Christmas 1895, when, after having fallen into a dispute, Lyons grabbed Shelton's hat. He would eventually be released, kill another man, and return to jail; Shelton died in prison, in 1912, by which time his story was already being told in song.

You can get a more exhaustive glimpse of the Stagger Lee timeline, and suggestions as to other recordings, here. For our present purposes, note that, in none of the above variants on the story of Stagger Lee and Billy Lyons are homosexual rape, forced fellatio, or the word "motherfucker" featured. These are, to my knowledge, strictly the contributions to folk history of one lone Australian, Nick Cave - memorable contributions indeed.
Cave's studio version, with lyrics, can be encountered here (with a rock video!); you'll note that if you watch this Youtube clip of his recent Vancouver concert, he actually includes an extra verse, which involves a confrontation with the Devil, absent from the studio recording, but present in many of the blues and folk songs linked above. I've been listening to Murder Ballads, the album where it appears, pretty much every day this week; for some reason I wasn't sold on it when I first heard it at the time of its release - perhaps being burnt out by having followed Nick Cave's career from his first solo LP (eight in a row, plus various Birthday Party records; I was overloaded, or maybe I just wasn't ready for it at the time). Mike Usinger of the Georgia Straight has said its one of his top two favourite albums, vying with the Stranglers' Rattus Norvegicus; Usinger says he likes to "sit on my back porch with a bottle of port and cigar with it outside on the first snowfall of the year," advising that cold weather really contributes to the listening experience. I'm not quite prepared to put my CD away until winter, as he suggests, but I think I'm coming to agree with him that it's a brilliant album, one of Cave's very best; Usinger's comments, and Cave's magnificent performance of the song in question at the show, were more than ample inducement to pick up the album again and give it another chance, and I am very, very glad I did. Check out "The Curse of Millhaven," if you don't know it, for another example of how brilliant Murder Ballads is (here, there's no American traditional song informing Cave - the twistedness is 100% his).

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Attention J-horror fans!

A tip for J-horror DVD purchasers in the lower mainland: London Drugs, everywhere that I've seen, has racks of "two for $10" DVDs (tho' they will let you just buy one at $5, fyi). Included on some of these racks at present (which tend to have similar films from location to location) is the Unrated, Extended Director's Cut of Takashi Shimizu's The Grudge - the English language remake of Ju-On. This DVD is over six minutes longer than the theatrical release (and the initial DVD issue) and  I am told and do believe that it is the superior version and should be considered definitive. A scene-by-scene breakdown of differences between cuts is here. I liked The Grudge, but not as much as other Shimizu films (like Marebito, say), so I'm very interested to revisit this alternate version. 

That's it - a helpful shopping tip for horror fans who look in on my blog. Cheers. 

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Harlow MacFarlane in the Straight

I've been listening to a fair bit of Sistrenatus and Funerary Call lately, so it seemed a good time to interview the man behind both projects, Harlow MacFarlane... pictured above, performing at the Vancouver Noise Fest a few days ago. I enjoyed this interview a lot - wish I'd had a few thousand more words to delve into Harlow's history, because he's a pretty fascinating guy...

The Monster Squad, plus I Declare War

I`m a stranger to the cinema of Fred Dekker, but based on a chance encounter with The Monster Squad last night, I want to see more! What a charming film: a group of kids - mostly boys, with one tagalong little sister, who proves vital to the plot - form a club devoted to the appreciation of monster movies, just as (what timing!) pretty much every Universal monster of note converges on their small American town under the direction of Count Dracula, who is on a quest for a mystical amulet. Soon the kids are battling the monsters, with help from a couple of teenagers and the reluctant father of one boy, who fortuitously happens to be a police officer. The film is more comedy than horror film, but still comes across as sincerely fond of the horror movies to which it pays homage, and plays its improbable story at least somewhat straight; it doesn't allow you much choice but to accept that the creatures in it are real, even while they're transparently the stuff of cinema, even to the kids in the movie. It's innocent enough that you'll want to go along with it; even my 85 year old Mom, who is no fan of horror cinema, was won over.
You`ll get a sense of how delightful this movie is if I describe a few high points: in the course of the film, the Creature from the Black Lagoon surprises a kid about to snack down, resulting in a line of dialogue to the effect of, "the Creature stole my Twinkie!`"; the Wolfman gets kicked in the nuts (inviting the timeless observation, "Wolfman`s got nards!"), and, best of all, Frankenstein's monster - played by Tom Noonan! - gets to redress his troubled history with little girls. (I won't ruin one of the funnier scenes by getting into the fate of the Mummy). This is a sweet, sweet film - maybe a little too scary and a little too real-world for children under the age of 10 (there are some scenes of bullying, a bit of profanity, and some scenes of kids getting traumatized that might be a concern for less permissive parents); but for any adult who loved horror movies as a little kid, it's a nostalgic, entertaining, innocent delight of a movie. Highly recommended!
A similar real-world depiction of the way children talk and think is found in a film upcoming at the Vancity Theatre: I Declare War - an inventive Canadian feature involving two teams of kids caught up in war games with each other. Without being a downer, or particularly violent, the film captures how cruel and manipulative kids can be towards each other, with striking scenes of bullying and betrayal and fantasy violence (one kid in particular likes to imagine exploding his enemies with the power of his mind, which the film rather playfully visualizes for us). It's lighter and more fun than Battle Royale or The Lord of the Flies, and I agree with the review quoted on the Vancity theatre website, from Renn Brown, which favourably compares it to The Hunger Games, saying it "says more with less." It's certainly highly entertaining, has some terrific performances from its child actors, and has a great animated title sequence, to boot; I appreciated it more as entertainment than serious parable about warfare, group formation, or human psychology, but probably quite a bit could be gotten out of it, on that level, as well...

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Farewell to Ray Harryhausen!

It had to happen eventually: Ray Harryhausen has passed on at 92. As with anyone who makes it in decent shape into their 90's, their passing should be less a cause for mourning than a celebration that they made it so far, but still: there likely will never be a celebrity of special effects of Harryhausen's stature in cinema ever again, since the technology has changed so much (and now seems mostly team-driven and computer-generated). A good night to re-watch Jason and the Argonauts, or any of the various voyages of Sinbad, or The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (pictured).... Harryhausen did more than any single SFX artist to fuel my childhood imagination; my profound respect to him and condolences to those who knew and/or loved him...

Monday, May 06, 2013

Kafka's busdriver: fits of temper

Odd experience the other day: I was doing the run from the Commercial and Broadway Skytrain to where the 99 B-Line was waiting, half a block down the street. The front and middle doors of the bus were all closed, but - for reasons unknown to me - the last doors were open, which seemed kind of perverse ("make him run as far as possible! He needs the exercise!"). With no options, I sprinted the length of the bus, but just as I got to them, the doors slammed shut in my face with force. When I regained my composure I looked and saw that someone had pulled them closed, and that, in fact, it was the driver, barring my entry, which, for about a nanosecond, I took personally, which may have shown in my expression. Still wishing entry, I sprinted back up the length of the bus, where the front doors remained closed. As he took his seat, I looked the driver in the eye, to register that I still wished to get on. He looked steamed, like I'd done something wrong, and seemed to be considering just driving off. After a pause, he reluctantly opened the door, whereupon the following transaction occurred:

Him, angrily: "DON'T YELL AT ME, there's something wrong with the door!"

Me, puzzled but calm, as I take care of the fare-thing: "I didn't yell, I didn't say a word - I just didn't know what was going on."

Him, still angrily: "Just don't yell at me! I get yelled at all day long!"

Me, angrily now myself: "I DIDN'T YELL AT YOU!"

Him: "You're yelling now!"

Me: "I AM!" ...And try as I might, I couldn't find a way to pithily formulate anything further, though if I were sharper, I think I would have added, "Ya happy now?"

Him: "Keep it up and you're off the bus."

This dude is probably a little too high-strung to be a bus driver.

I have my own moments, of course. I got righteously steamed at a cafe employee yesterday, to the extent that I ended up storming out of the cafe, vowing never to return (*after* I finished the meal that I was eating there, that is). She'd served my food to go, with a plastic bag and a plastic fork and some waste paper, too. I had said that I was eating in, so then she gave me a plate, and I began to unwrap my wrap. Before I began to eat, though, concerned that the plastic bag and plastic fork would immediately get dumped in the garbage if I left them at my table - trying to return them to her within the "these are still untainted and safe to reuse" window, I stood and placed them on a table behind her, saying something like, "these are still good to reuse." (Having been tsk-tsked by those purer than myself into a state of ethical paranoia, I have become somewhat strange about the production of garbage; while I try not to go through life tsk-tsking others, I don't understand why so many businesses insist, in these ecologically-minded times, on making sure that everything you order from them comes with a bit of garbage attached, when often it is quite needless). She responded with something like irritated indifference, which she explained by saying, "we're really busy right now."

I doubt I would have found this phrase objectionable had there been a single other customer seated in the whole cafe. In fact, in the ten minutes where I sat, stewing and chewing, two or three people came in for coffee, but not a single other customer ordered food or took a seat. Busy indeed! Despite angrily giving her a piece of my mind, prior to storming out, post-meal, I actually really, really doubt if she understood why I took offence...

....the heck of it is, I was two hole-punches away from a free chai...

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Vancouver Noise Fest tonight!

Just in from Anju:

Vancouver Noise Fest 2013

We are proud to have Sissy Spacek headline our festival this year. This year's festival will be One Day with several acts. Full lineup below.

FIRST ACT: 6:45-7:00PM (get there on time!)

LA based project Sissy Spacek is a noise project that expands into noise-grind territory. Featuring members of PDX noise project UNEXAMINE, KNELT ROTE and JOHN WEISE. Sure to be an insane live show.


Will be some kind of headfuck.

LA Based Territory crossing Noise

GRIEFER (Victoria)
Awesome Awesome Awesome live

Masters the high end harsh

Harsh Noise Wall

Hash Noise Drones

Noise by Harlow aka Funerary Call

Dreamy analog synthesizer interlude

OPIATE (Toronto)
Noisescapes out of TO

Andrew Scott's varied sounds make harsh noise

Jon Schofield's solo project

Funeral violin noise

Half of which is long-term noise veteran Broken Sleep

Reverb drenched vocals

(new local project from Tom Whalen)

SICK OF YOUR SELF (kamloops)
Dark Ambient

We will also have a live multimedia installation between acts by MERLYN CHIPMAN

Sunday May 5th 2013
FIRST ACT: 6:45-7:00PM Start Time; $10-20 sliding scale
At THE BLACK LAB (ask around for address)

Saturday, May 04, 2013

On Kris Kristofferson

Yeah, so: this summer, Black Flag is coming to Vancouver (with Ron Reyes on vocals and Greg Ginn on guitar), and I sure do want to go to that.

Black Sabbath is coming, too, and I'd like to go to THAT, as well.

But you know who I'm REALLY excited about seeing? Seriously, folks: Kris Kristofferson, playing July 13th at the Red Robinson Show Theatre. That's a gig I'm not going to miss; I've been eagerly awaiting Kristofferson's next performance in town, and just now, seeing it announced on SongKick, I gave a little yelp of "Yes!" I am really, really keen on this, may even try to talk to the guy, because I've been - no foolin' - listening to a lot of Kris Kristofferson lately, and he's fucking great.

Nevermind that he's acted in some pretty bad movies (like, uhm, Blade) -- his film career, despite occasional work with John Sayles, has never really recovered from Heaven's Gate. Don't get too worked up, either, that he has recorded with the likes of Barbra Streisand (?! - tho' I haven't ever heard that stuff, and don't want to), and that his brushes with the mainstream have sometimes left a bit of, erm, residue on his sleeves; this is a man who, in various capacities, has worked with Dennis Hopper, Sam Peckinpah, Martin Scorsese, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, and who even had a song covered by Elvis Presley (and another by Janis Joplin). As mixed a bag as his film career might be, one of his performances, as Billy the Kid in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, is indelibly etched in the minds of anyone who loves American cinema of the 1970's, as perhaps the single greatest, most iconic, most moving characterization of a famous American outlaw, beating the shit out of Brad Pitt as Jesse James, or Johnny Depp as Dillinger, or pretty much any other outlaw-as-folk-hero you can name. (Cisco Pike is pretty great, too).
But never mind his acting roles: Kristofferson is a songwriter first, and has written songs that are at the very least the equal of some of the best works by Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, John Prine and Johnny Cash - all people who have experienced substantial surges of interest (and even devoted fandom) from younger folk in the last couple of decades, while Kristofferson seems to be going mostly unnoticed. It's well past time that that changed.

The song of Kristofferson's that first got its hooks into me is a song that was initially inspired, as he explains in his spoken intro, by Dennis Hopper, "The Pilgrim - Chapter 33." This is the song that Betsy quotes to Travis in Taxi Driver - the one about Travis being a "pilgrim and a preacher and a problem when he's stoned" (Travis objects to the line about being a pusher, though). To be perfectly honest, it was that detail - the connection with the film - that got me into the song, initially, somewhat to my embarrassment, because, throughout my teens and twenties and, um, thirties, and maybe even the first couple of years of my 40's, I mostly thought of Kristofferson as a purveyor of light adult contemporary kitsch, suitable more for dentists' offices and AM radio than my record collection. He made music I might listen to while playing Scrabble with my parents, as a preferred alternative to say, Charley Pride or Tom T. Hall or Roger Whittaker or Engelbert Humperdinck or other favourites of theirs, but in my free time, for most of my life, "The Pilgrim - Chapter 33" was about the only song of Kristofferson's that I had any time for. I had a greatest hits album of his around solely for the sake of spinning that one track now and then. It didn't matter if it was the only song of Kristofferson's I could listen to; I loved it, as would surely anyone out there with any love of roots music or raw, real country. What they might not realize, though - I certainly didn't - is that there are a ton of other equally great or better Kristofferson tunes, and that the intelligence, wit, authenticity and charm present in that song are spread liberally across several albums by the guy - so much so that even the kitschier stuff starts to grow on you if you let it.
For instance, try "Jesus Was a Capricorn (Owed to John Prine)" - a song that is funny, clever, wise, and tuneful, without so much as a spoonful of that ol' AM radio syrup on it. On similarly anti-authoritarian themes, again with some real wit to it, see "The Law Is For Protection of the People," which also shows off his storytelling abilities. Or check out his playful variant on "Bringing in the Sheaves," "Blame It On the Stones," which should be some sort of classic, commenting on middleclass and media hysteria about rock music, some fifteen or twenty years before the PMRC; I was stunned, when I heard it for the first time last year, that a song THAT good hadn't ever crossed my path before.

Of course, many of Kristofferson's songs are about relationships and, uh, love, that tritest of trite topics, so worn paper-thin by country and folk and rock musicians alike; but even those songs often have a wry, self-skewering quality to them to them, with the singer simultaneously asserting and critiquing his own sexuality, in a way not that different from the one frequently employed by Leonard Cohen (but with less solemnity or self-importance). Case in point, check out the Latin-inflected number, "The Taker." Is there a man out there who doesn't recognize part of himself in that song? ...even if it's a part you don't like much (relax, you don't have to admit it publicly). "The Silver-Tongued Devil and I," from the same album, does similar things, and may even be a better song still.

There's marvelous stuff that Kristofferson can do with words, too. Check out the opening lines of "Breakdown (A Long Way from Home)," for example:

The clubs are all closed
And the ladies are leavin'
There's nobody nobody knows
On the streets
A few stranded souls
Standing cold at the station
And nowhere to go
But to bed and to sleep

Look at the density of the rhymes, the use of alliteration - especially that brilliant, playful "nobody nobody knows," but also the "clubs" that are "closed," the "ladies.... leavin'," the "stranded souls standing" at the "station," and the "but to bed." The rhyme between "streets" and "sleep" is perfect, but based entirely on the vowel, not the final consonants. And look at the way the "nowhere" in the final couplet echoes against the "nobody" previously. There are a lot of devices packed into a very short space, yet it still comes across as un-forced, laconic, spare and straightforward; it should sound like a nursery rhyme, like a self-conscious bit of wordplay - the form should distract you from the content - but because of Kristofferson's relaxed delivery and the vividness of the images he crafts, you accept it as description and enter the song effortlessly, without even registering how much craft he's packing in; you might smile at the "nobody nobody knows," but the rest of it probably won't even catch your attention the first time through. That's some great writing, folks, and similar feats are present throughout all his early albums (and perhaps many of his later ones; there's a lot I've yet to hear).

I haven't any arguments that will convince you of the brilliance of the following songs, if you're not already with me, but if you have the time for more, check out "To Beat The Devil," which really runs with his love of spoken introductions, or, say, "Gettin' By, High and Strange," and even "Sunday Morning Coming Down" - which, perhaps, is the gateway drug to the less immediately palatable side of Kristofferson, for folks like me; once you accept it, soon you'll be humming along to "Why Me, Lord." I confess that I've gotten to that point, and beyond; I pretty much accept any and all of the songs this guy does on the albums I've heard, so far (though as I say, I have avoided any involving Barbra, and intend to; and I wasn't really grabbed by the side of the collaboration with Rita Coolidge I spun a few months ago). All the same, I'm convinced that Kris Kristofferson, whatever detours and silly films and shirtless publicity shots his career may have featured, is, in fact, above all else, a neglected American songwriting genius vastly deserving more respect and attention than he currently gets.

If you won't take my word for it; take Mr. Mojo Nixon's, who describes him here as "one of the greatest songwriters of all time," while introducing a performance of Kris' new song "Feeling Mortal."

Kris Kristofferson is coming to Vancouver this summer, and I'm very excited. I've never seen him live yet, and I need to. Seriously, folks - check this stuff out.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Vancouver Noise Fest this Sunday!

Vancouver Noise Fest this Sunday at the Black Lab! I've been listening to a lot of Sistrenatus and Funerary Call lately, so I'm excited to hear what Harlow does on Sunday; though he's only one of several artists performing... runs from 6pm to 11, I'm told; message them on Facebook for the address and other deets...

Thursday, May 02, 2013

RIP Jeff Hanneman, respect to Slayer: "fuck earplugs, I need body armour"

The odd bit of sludge, doom and stoner metal aside, I have not been listening to metal so much lately, but I'm glad that for awhile, while I was catching up with the metal I ignored in the 1990's, I got to appreciate the intensity of Slayer. Reign in Blood truly is a magnificent piece of thrash, surely one of the most essential albums in metal history. I even got to see them live a couple of years ago at Rogers Arena; alas, Jeff Hanneman - who died today of liver failure - was absent from the band even then, sidelined with flesh eating disease. They sounded great, but, with Tom Araya being prevented from headbanging (or even moving around much) due to a recent surgery, Dave Lombardo pretty much out of sight behind his drumkit, and a replacement guitarist filling in for Hanneman, it was really down to Kerry King to make the energy of the band manifest - though he delivered in spades. And the show sounded great, even if the low-frequency assault from the amps actually made me kind of queasy...

Anyhow, RIP Jeff Hanneman! 49 is way too young to go. Out of respect for Slayer, here are a few (slightly tidied) text messages I sent myself during the show, as notes for a piece I never ended up writing, along with some bad cellphone photos!
Pit 90 percent male, 90 percent in black, half of which are slayer shirts. Random chants of slayer, fuckin slayer erupt. One big orange mohawk, a few people male & female covered in ink... I mistake a piece of glittery confetti on concrete floor for a razor.
Slayer open with world painted blood, bass attack, body doesnt want this. Fuck earplugs, i need body armour, thank god im not trying to mosh to this. Magnificent solo by kerry for 2nd song (731?). Very stripped down stage compared to (opener rob) zombie, just nazi-ish eagles w slayer logo. Tom surveys audience before 3rd song, lights go up... Slayer chant rises, tom gives polite thanks -"are you guys ready? You know what, you think yr ready... War ensemble, amazing drum onslaught...
No sex, no humour, no variety: attack upon attack, relentless, only tom's sincere thanks between songs punctuate assault... War cry - Long feedback lights... Then pummeling back w. Sacrifice. Guy in front of me airdrums thru each song... My whole body feels an achy oscillation when song ends... Epic slow ominous gt intro, shades of sabbath, kerry w. long blues notes... Undersea mood solo as song slowly builds..
Some light fx, no video... Kerry most demonstrative... Too bad im scaird to get close, but i can feel the intestinal massage from back here, like involuntary rolfing...
Blood red... Lights up, tom surveys, dedicates song to "all the frredom fighters, people dying to be free... This is mandatory suicide." sound actually great... chugging heavy riffage, red lit stage flashing white punctuations @ "chorus," actually more a repeat lick, newguy takes 1st solo, tom screams "suicide" on false ending... Angry ranted lyrics, the world from pure aggression pov...
Attack on xianity as attack on taboos, an escape from values of world, politeness... It has own codes, but the assault on xianity helps liberate. Where else do you get to whoop, chant, mosh? Try it on the skytrain... A tremendous release, some people in the pit must feel immense catharsis. Im enjoying listening w eyes closed, actually a joyous music for those it unlocks, the forbidden recesses of the dionysian, locked away by social taboos, limiting us... close your eyes and let yrself go

(Yeah, well - I wouldn't have used the phrase "the forbidden recesses of the Dionysian" in the final piece; these WERE notes meant only for myself, after all, that I just stumbled across now, looking for these photos. Plus, um, I'd probably had a little to smoke that night...).

My respects again to Jeff Hanneman!