Saturday, October 31, 2009

For Greenpeace Supporters And Old Folkies

Environmentalists and fans of Phil Ochs (pictured, appropriately, to the left), James Taylor and Joni Mitchell may be interested in a new Greenpeace benefit album titled Amchitka that will be available exclusively through the organization on Nov. 10.
The two-CD set  was recorded at an Oct. 16, 1970 concert at Vancouver's Pacific Coliseum that raised funds to protest U.S. nuclear bomb tests near the Aleutian island of Amchitka, Alaska and launched Greenpeace. 
Ochs was one of the foremost protest singers (he described himself as a "singing journalist") of the '60s and I've been a longtime admirer. He performs eight songs on disc one — including one of his best known numbers, "I Åin't Marching Anymore," and "Joe Hill" — and his lyrics still resonate with meaning almost 40 years after his performance.
I've never been much of a Taylor fan, aside from "You've Got A Friend," "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" and "Handy Man" (which all came later in his career, and he didn't write any of them anyway), but his set includes early hits "Fire And Rain" and "Carolina In My Mind."
I may be chastised for being a bad Canadian or perhaps an insensitive boor for having little appreciation for Mitchell, but so be it. Her 10-song set, which takes up the entire second CD, includes "Woodstock," "A Case Of You" and "The Circle Game." She also tacks Larry Williams' "Bony Moroni" on to "Big Yellow Taxi" and Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" on to "Carey." Mitchell is joined by Taylor towards the end of her performance.
The between-song audience addresses by the three artists are also entertaining in places.
Proceeds from Amchitka go to a worthy cause, so pay a visit to the Greenpeace website once the album becomes available if you'd like a copy.

np The Apples In Stereo — #1 Hits Explosion 
(There's some pure pop goodness on here.)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Roky Erickson Comes To Toronto

I had the privilege of attending the Toronto Raptors' season-opening game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday evening. Even better, the Raptors upset the Cavaliers and scored 100 points, which means I can exchange my ticket for a free slice at Pizza Pizza after my volleyball game tonight.
I was with the owner of Lee's Palace, who invited me to the club after the game. We arrived too late to catch The Sadies' opening set, but that's no big deal since I'll see the band playing with Andre Williams at the Horseshoe Tavern on Nov. 19.
But the main attraction was the legendary Roky Erickson, who was making his first Toronto appearance (and I think his only previous Canadian show was the night before in Hamilton). 
The leader of the pioneering and influential Austin, Texas '60s psych-rock band The 13th Floor Elevators suffered from schizophrenia and drug and electroshock-induced mental illness for decades, but performed for the first time in 10 years when he played three songs in his hometown in March 2005 during the South By Southwest Music Festival. That's where I saw him for the first time last year, and where I took the above photo at Stubb's.
Erickson played with some older musicians at that show and, while he's worshipped by local music fans, I thought the performance lacked passion. Last night, with three younger guys supporting him, there was more life and energy.
I missed the first four songs but arrived just in time to hear my favourite Erickson song, "Starry Eyes." His voice didn't sound great, but the mid-'70s tune is so catchy that you may have no soul if you don't like it.
Speaking of souls, and those who try to claim them, Erickson followed "Starry Eyes" with "Don't Shake Me Lucifer." Though I'm sure Erickson wasn't thinking about Halloween, much of the set list was appropriate for this time of year, as it included "Stand For The Fire Demon," "I Walked With A Zombie" and a sludgy "Night Of The Vampire."
Erickson didn't say a word between songs the whole time I was there, and he turned his back to the crowd to play his guitar whenever he wasn't singing. But the younger guitarist played lead, and was very good. 
The 13th Floor Elevators' signature song, "You're Gonna Miss Me," brought whoops from the crowd of 400 (which included The Sadies, who idolize Erickson, as well as local singers/musicians Ian Blurton, John Borra, Gord Cumming and Kate Boothman) who paid $35 to get in. Despite a rousing ovation that lasted for several minutes, there was no encore, so "Two-Headed Dog" ended the night.
It's unlikely that the 62-year-old Erickson will return to these parts again in the near future, but there seemed to be a consensus among those I spoke to or overheard that this show supplied sufficient gratification.
For fans or those who might be interested in finding out more about Erickson's fascinating life, you should definitely seek out the 2005 documentary, You're Gonna Miss Me. It's worth 94 minutes of your time.
Gogol Bordello — Live From Axis Mundi

I've quite liked Gogol Bordello's two SideOneDummy albums, 2006's Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike and 2007's Super Taranta!, but have either been out of town or had conflicting engagements whenever the New York City "gypsy punk" band has come to Toronto. I've regretted this, since I've received first-hand reports from people who've gone and said the band is incredible live.
And while I still haven't personally witnessed Eugene Hutz and his traveling musical circus, I now have a better idea of the experience after watching Live From Axis Mundi's DVD, which captures two 2007 performances at New York City's Irving Plaza. The music is frenetic and there's action everywhere, as the stage is filled with musicians, singers and dancers.
Hutz rides the shoulders of a security guard during my favourite Gogol Bordello song, "Start Wearing Purple," and he climbs up into a balcony during the first encore number, "Punk Rock Parranda." During the very extended final song, "Baro Foro," one of the female members of the group stands on a large drum being held aloft by audience members.
I sincerely hope I have no conflicts the next time that Gogol Bordello comes to town, because these shows look like a ton of fun.
The DVD extras include additional live performances and music videos for "Start Wearing Purple," "Not A Crime," "Wonderlust King" and, best of all, "American Wedding." There's also a short documentary titled "Creative People Must Be Stopped!" that features in-studio footage and interviews.
The package also includes an 11-track CD of previously unreleased material featuring six songs recorded on BBC Radio 1's In The Company Of program in March 2008, "Stivali E Colbacco" from the Super Taranta! recording sessions, "Troubled Friends" from the Gypsy Punk sessions, demo and instrumental recordings of "Immigrant Punk," and the "60 Revolutions" demo.
While nothing can match actually attending a concert, Live From Axis Mundi gives you a very good picture of what it's like — at least when my DVD wasn't stopping and starting, very annoyingly so during the bonus features. Hopefully I just received a dud disc and this isn't a widespread manufacturing mistake.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Newfoundland Reggae
I received a self-titled album from a group I'd never heard of called Pressure Drop 17 years ago, and was somewhat surprised to find out that it was a reggae LP recorded in St. John's, Nfld. with a lineup of five people you wouldn't normally expect to be in a band together. I was even more surprised to find out that it was really good.
I hooked up with the band members when they came to Toronto and became friends with them, especially drummer/singer/producer Jim Fidler. I even went to St. John's and the tiny French island of St. Pierre off the coast of Newfoundland when Jim married his lovely wife Lillian in 1996 and spent a lot of time with the two of them when they briefly moved to Toronto while Jim was appearing in The Needfire at the Princess Of Wales Theatre in 1998 and the Royal Alexandra Theatre in 2000. There are lots of fun stories I could tell about spending time with these folks, but I'll save them for later.
Pressure Drop released another album called From The Inside Out in 1994 before calling it a day, and Jim embarked on a solo music and production career centred around his Roots Cellar studio. He released four fine albums that touched on Newfoundland's Celtic music roots and also explored music from around the world. Jim plays pretty much every instrument on his albums, which is all the more impressive considering that he's blind.
Jim and I have lost touch over the last couple of years, but I thought about him again today after listening to Keep Out, the new album from another St. John's reggae band, Idlers. I was given the group's Corner debut album (which was engineered by Lee Tizzard, who I know from his days working with Pressure Drop) by another friend from St. John's last year and was really impressed. So were others, as Idlers won a Galaxie Rising Star of the CBC Award, several honours in Newfoundland and was nominated for an East Coast Music Award.

Keep Out is one of the best roots reggae albums I've heard this year, and I'll hopefully get a chance to see Idlers when the band embarks on an eastern Canadian tour next month that includes a Nov. 13 stop at Toronto's Rancho Relaxo. Idlers call themselves a "reggae circus" and I have no idea how an 11-piece band is going to fit on to that club's tiny stage.
Listening to Keep Out piqued my curiosity about what Jim has been up to lately, so I went to his website and found out that he's returned to reggae again and has just released a new album titled Revolution Time. You can hear samples of each song on the record on the site, and I'm happy to say that it also sounds great and exhibits more polished and professional production than the Pressure Drop records did.

So while you may not think of Newfoundland as a reggae hotbed,  Keep Out and Revolution Time show that there's certainly something happening on The Rock and both Idlers and Jim Fidler deserve to be heard across the rest of Canada and beyond.
You can find out more about  Idlers here.
You can find out more about Jim Fidler here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dead To Me — African Elephants

This San Francisco trio's third Fat Wreck release is a relatively diverse punk album. 
Opening track "X" songs like one of The Clash's reggae efforts, and the Jamaican influence can also be found in "A Day Without War." "California Sun" isn't a cover of The Rivieras classic, but has a nice tropical vibe and a call and response chorus. 
"Liebe Liese" deals with the development of the atomic bomb, but the dark subject matter is counterpointed by pure pop backing harmomies. Acoustic guitar works well in "Cruel World" and "Bad Friend" builds momentum as it progresses. 
"Tierra Del Fuego" is a melodic punk-pop number, while "Modern Muse" and "Fell Right In" are a little more aggressive, and closer "Blue" even verges slightly into metal territory.
I'll give African Elephants an 8 out of 10.
The album is out on Nov. 10. 
You can  find out more here.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Scenics

I have to review the Gaslight Anthem show at Toronto's Kool Haus on Tuesday night (Oct. 13) and I'm unsure if I'll be able to make it up to the El Mocambo in time to catch The Scenics, who I saw at The Last Pogo 30th anniversary show at the Horseshoe Tavern last fall. But even if I can't write about the group's show, I still want to publicize it and the band's new Sunshine World album because The Scenics are one of the secrets of Canadian music that shouldn't be secret any longer. So here's the artist bio that the band asked me to write for it this summer:  

Andy Meyers and Ken Badger formed The Scenics in Toronto in the summer of 1976 and, with a rotating cast of drummers and bassists, made some of the most innovative music Canada has ever produced during their six-year original run.

You can hear elements of Pere Ubu, Talking Heads, The Velvet Underground, Television, Roxy Music and free jazz in The Scenics' intricate yet powerful twin-guitar sound, but the band put everything together in a way that was uniquely their own.

"We were kindred souls, but we created our own thing," Meyers says of The Scenics' acknowledged influences, while asserting their independence.

"The Scenics never toed the line. Never once did someone bring in a song and was told, 'You can't do that.' There was complete acceptance and support of each other just because that's the way it went. Musically and lyrically, there was this sense of being able to do anything you wanted."

The Scenics opened for Talking Heads and The Troggs and were part of the infamous Last Pogo punk blowout concert at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern in 1978. The band recorded their Underneath The Door album for Bomb Records in 1979 and the "Karen/See Me Smile" single two years later before breaking up on amicable terms in 1982.

Almost nothing was heard about The Scenics after that — not that they were well-known when they existed anyway. But when Meyers finally got around to listening to some of the more than 300 hours of rehearsal, live and studio recordings that had done little more than sit on a shelf for a quarter-century, he was knocked out and "totally taken by surprise with the songs and the passion of the performances."

The Scenics re-introduced (though it was more like an introduction for most people) themselves to music fans in early 2008 with the release of How Does It Feel To Be Loved: The Scenics Play The Velvet Underground. This collection of 10 live recordings taped between 1977 and 1981 and released on the band's own Dream Tower label received Canadian campus radio airplay and earned critical acclaim across North America. But as positive as the feedback was, the album left many music writers asking if The Scenics wrote any of their own material.

Those scribes will get their answer with the Oct. 13 release of Sunshine World, which features 14 original songs and intriguing covers of Tommy James And The Shondells' "Mony Mony" and The Kinks' "Where Have All The Good Times Gone?" The songs were laid down in the studio in 1977 and 1978 and, while they were cleaned up in mastering, there are no overdubs on the original four-track recordings.

People will finally be able to discover such previously buried gems as the art-punk album opener "O Boy," the jangly "In The Summer," the melodic yet still mildly cacophonous "So Fine," the outsider pop of "Sunshine World" and the danceable rock of "Do The Wait" — which features an unsettlingly long pause two-thirds of the way through that literally makes listeners "do the wait." The album ends with its longest and most experimental track, "Scenic Caves," which was the group's original name in the spring of 1977.

Meyers and Badger were both prolific songwriters, and there are almost another 100 originals from The Scenics' early days still sitting in the vaults.

"It's not like we had a few good songs and the rest were dreck," asserts Meyers. "If you like Sunshine World, we have a trunk full of songs that are like them."

The Scenics' originality earned them a small core group of devoted fans, but they were far from universally beloved in the late '70s Toronto punk and new wave scene that spawned the likes of Teenage Head, The Viletones, The Ugly, The Mods, The Secrets and The Cardboard Brains, all of whom are featured along with The Scenics on The Last Pogo CD and DVD released on Dream Tower last fall (and which included seven Scenics songs performed on video as a bonus feature on the DVD).

"Punk was this revolution, but there was no room in the revolution for another revolution," says Meyers. "And that's what The Scenics were.

"There were a lot of people in the Toronto scene who hated us and there was a serious debate in the Toronto scene about whether what we were doing had any validity whatsoever."

While there's little doubt that what The Scenics created was musically ahead of their time 30 years ago, it's easy to agree with Meyers now when he says it no longer sounds like "some totally foreign experiment" and that "then was the perfect time to do the creative end of it because there was so much space and freedom, and this is the perfect time to do the marketing end of it."

The Scenics have played a few shows over the past year-and-a-half with singer/guitarists Meyers and Badger joined by former bandmates Mark Perkell on drums and vocals and Mike Young on bass and vocals. They recorded 14 new songs — written by Meyers and Badger over the years following The Scenics' break-up — while in Toronto for The Last Pogo 30th anniversary show last fall. Those tracks will be released on an album next year.

But there are a lot of things going on in The Scenics' world before that.

They'll be featured in Treat Me Like Dirt, author Liz Worth's tome on the history of the southern Ontario punk scene that will be published by Bongo Beat in September.

A short Canadian tour hitting cities between London and Montreal will coincide with Sunshine World's Oct. 13 release on Dream Tower. The musicians may have grown older, but their performances remain vital. These shows should be a must-see for anyone interested in learning more about a little-known but important part of Canadian music history.

The Scenics will be featured in The Last Pogo Jumps Again, director Colin Brunton's sequel to The Last Pogo, which is expected to be released by the end of the year.

Furthermore, The Scenics' website is now featuring Punk Haiku, Meyers' bi-weekly blog of his reminiscences of what was happening with the band and the exciting and changing world of music 30 years ago. Punk Haiku will be augmented by Basement Box, an online storehouse of Scenics material from those 300 hours of recordings that will be available via paid download.

"The Scenics were not a mild-mannered or small band," concludes Meyers. "Our energy was very big and very powerful, but it happened in a vacuum.

"But these things are coming out now to give people a real sense of what we did. And the story is starting to be told in the Punk Haiku blog and the Basement Box."

Find out more at

"They were my favourite Toronto band, and having seen them play or rehearse well over a dozen times, I never heard them play the same version of a song twice. They were the most creative, the most original, the most daring — and probably the most misunderstood — of all the bands in that scene. And 'Do The Wait' was the coolest dance tune ever."
—Colin Brunton, The Last Pogo director                                                                  

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Otis Redding — The Best: See & Hear

This two-disc set isn't for fans as devoted as my friends who named their son Otis after the "King Of Soul," whose life was cut tragically short at age 26 when he died in a plane crash with members of his backing band The Bar-Kays in Wisconsin on Dec. 10, 1967. But those just discovering Redding may find this set valuable.

The 12-song CD is a hits collection that includes ("Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay," "Respect" (which became an even bigger hit for Aretha Franklin), "Mr. Pitiful," "Pain In My Heart," "That's How Strong My Love Is," "The Happy Song (Dum-Dum)" and Redding's interpretation of The Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction."
More interesting is the 12-track DVD of performances filmed by D.A. Pennebaker, who's probably best known for his Bob Dylan documentary, Don't Look Back.
The first seven songs were shot in black and white at the April 7, 1967 stop of the Stax/Volt Tour in Oslo, Norway. Booker T. & The MG's act as the backing band, and also take centre stage for "Green Onions." Sam & Dave, who interact more with the crowd and sweat more than Redding, step forward for "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby" and "Hold On! I'm A Comin'."  
Redding, oozing charisma while never over-emoting like too many of today's R&B/soul singers, covers Sam Cooke's "Shake," The Temptations' "My Girl," "Satisfaction" and the 1930s standard, "Try A Little Tenderness."
The final five songs are all Redding from his performance at the Monterey Pop Festival two months later. Pennebaker shot in colour this time, and Redding's vivid performance is brought to additional life as more attention is focused on the contributions of The Mar-Keys horn section. He performs "Shake," "Satisfaction" and "Try A Little Tenderness" again, but there are also renditions of "Respect" and "I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)."
Bill Dahl's four pages of liner notes include quotes from MG's guitarist and Redding songwriting collaborator Steve Cropper and '60s R&B star Jerry Butler.
Otis Redding: The Best See & Hear will be released by Shout! Factory on Oct. 20.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Rubik — Dada Bandits

Publicist Joanne Setterington told me that this was her new favourite record, so I was curious when my copy arrived in the mail yesterday. The Finnish band's self-produced second album has a lot going on in its 11 tracks. Percussion and piano clash on opener "Goji Berries" and, to a lesser degree, on the busy "Fire Age," which also includes horns and synthesizers. Those last two elements also play a major role on my favourite track, "Richard Branson's Crash Landing." "Radiants" and "You Jackal!!" are both vibrant indie pop tunes, while "Follow Us To The Edge Of The Desert" is quieter and more atmospheric. "Indiana" verges too much on prog rock at times for my tastes, but it's the only song on the disc that I can definitely say that I dislike. I'll give Dada Bandits a 6/10 and will consider checking Rubik out when it comes to Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern on Oct. 15 as part of its current North American tour.
You can find out more here
Bob Mould and Pierced Arrows

I last saw Bob Mould 19 months ago at The Mod Club, and he returned to the same Toronto venue on Monday night in support of his ninth solo album, Life And Times, a record that I've liked more lately than when I reviewed it in the spring.
It was a short set, clocking in at 60 minutes, with two encore numbers tacked on. But the former Husker Du and Sugar frontman packed lots of goodies into that time. It's just too bad that it looked like less than 250 people (including Polaris Music Prize-winning Fucked Up frontman Damian Abraham and singer, songwriter, musician Ford Pier) came out to see the 48-year-old singer/guitarist and his two bandmates: drummer Jon Wurster (Superchunk) and bassist Jason Narducy (Verbow). The band played the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in the spring, and this was its second show of the year and first of a relatively short North American tour.

Sugar's "Your Favorite Thing" was an early highlight before Mould played a few Life And Times numbers, including  the title track and the lyrically impactful "I'm Sorry Baby, But You Can't Stand In My Light Any More."
Mould then went back 20 years to his first solo album, Workbook, for a terrific "See A Little Light." Narducy then provided effective harmonies on Sugar's "Hoover Dam."
Mould put down his blue Fender Stratocaster and strapped on an acoustic guitar for "Sinners And Their Repentances" and Husker Du's quiet classic, "Hardly Getting  Over It."
Things were cranked back up for a blistering version of Husker Du's "I Apologize," but even that didn't rouse most of the statues in the audience. Another Husker Du favourite, "Celebrated Summer," followed.
The encore was composed of "Circles" and a slightly different arrangement of Sugar's "If I Can't Change Your Mind."
While a lot of songs overlapped with the last Mould show I saw, the previous performance had more energy and lasted longer. But I still can't quibble much when a guy has a catalogue as rich as this.

I made my exit, hopped on a couple of streetcars and arrived at  the Horseshoe Tavern just in time for the start of Pierced Arrows, a band I knew nothing about but that had been recommended to me by club booker Craig Laskey and Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows,  The Minus 5,  The Baseball Project, R.E.M.) when he was in town to play the same club a few weeks ago. 

Pierced Arrows are guitarist/singer Fred Cole and his wife of 42 years, Toodie, who sings and plays bass. They're joined right at the front of the stage by drummer Kelly Haliburton, who looks to be about 20 years younger and is a monster on the kit.
The Coles are probably best known for being in Dead Moon, but Fred's been playing professionally for even longer than he's been married. The happy couple are longtime mainstays of the Portland, Oregon music scene. 
Pierced Arrows play a passionate blend of acid punk and garage rock and do it very loudly since Fred is essentially deaf from all his years of playing. The band attracted an audience of about 50 people — including C'Mon's Ian Blurton, the Constantines' Dallas Wehrle and Gord Cumming (The Woods Are Full Of Cuckoos, The Lawn, Possum) — but almost everyone there seemed to know and love the material.
Toodie saw the Horseshoe sign on the wall at the back of the stage that said it was founded in 1947 and cracked, "I love it when we play a bar that's older than we are. 1947, that's got me beaten by a fricken year."

Pierced Arrows covered Neil Young's "Mr. Soul" early in the hour-long set, which got better as it went on. New song "Let It Rain," which will be included on the group's forthcoming Vice Records album, reminded me of The Pixies' "Gouge Away" in parts. "Ain't Life Strange" was great and "Paranoia," which is on the other side of a seven-inch single released last year, sounded like vintage Black Sabbath (but not "Paranoid"). Fred played harmonica at the beginning of "Shades." "The Wait" was another highlight of the main set, as were "Frankenstein" and another ass-kicker whose title I don't know in the first encore. 
The members of the small but enthusiastically faithful crowd called Pierced Arrows out for a second encore and totally lost themselves when the band played Dead Moon's anthemic "54/40 Or Fight."
"It's like if Hawkwind was a soul band," Cumming said, which was an apt description for some of Pierced Arrows' repertoire.
If you're as ignorant of Pierced Arrows and the Coles' history as I was, or if you just want a great read, check out this recent article on them from Portland Monthly Magazine.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Nuit Blanche In Words And Photos
Toronto's fourth Nuit Blanche, billed as the city's "free all-night contemporary art thing," started at 6:55 p.m. Saturday and went  until dawn on Sunday. Though I spent more than seven hours taking things in, I wasn't overly impressed with what I saw, and the lineups were too long for a lot of the installations I was curious about and I couldn't be bothered to wait to get inside.

I left the house at 9:30 and made my first stop at the arts and office complex at 401 Richmond St. W., which featured a number of galleries. The most interesting exhibit was a black- curtained box where people could enter to have a conversation with a naked Muslim woman. But I most enjoyed the Scopitones, 16 mm films from the '60s that were the forerunners of today's music videos. I first discovered them in the early '80s when they were shown on The All Night Show on CFMT-TV. I've maintained a fondness for them and it was appropriate that they were shown during Nuit Blanche. A couple of French tunes and Nancy Sinatra's classic "These Boots Were Made For Walking" were among the Scopitones I saw last night.
I headed down to King Street to see Monopoly played with real money by local celebrities. But participants (including rapper K-OS, who was the only one I recognized) were just standing around and spectators were kept behind windows, so I quickly moved on down to Bay Street to see Witches' Cradles, where people were invited to the sensory deprivation experience of being blindfolded and strapped into cradles suspended a few feet off the floor from the Brookfield Place ceiling.
I threw a coin as high as I could and made a wish as it splashed down in Vodka Pool, a reflecting pool of liquor placed on the floor of Commerce Court, whose meaning seemed to be lost on most people — including me. This became a recurring theme throughout the night.
Bay Street was closed and took on a carnival atmosphere for a block for Wild Ride, where recently downsized businesspeople staffed the Avalanche and Fun Slide midway rides for those looking for a free thrill.
The word "NO" in giant-sized letters sat on the bed of a transport truck trailer on Temperance Street.
The lineups outside As Could Be at the old Bank of Toronto building on Yonge just north of Queen and Space Becomes The Instrument at Massey Hall were too long, so I skipped them and headed northwest through swarms of people to Dundas and Bay via The Sonic Fun House, an audio installation featuring the Element Choir & Orchestra. 
I briefly looked at The Reflecting Pool video projected on the corner and walked across the street to the Coach Terminal for Battle Royal, where 20 blindfolded wrestlers were supposed to skirmish inside a 17-foot steel cage. The crowd was too big to get inside, but I could see through the window. Since there was a lot of standing around and little grappling, I headed south down Bay again.
After watching Flicker — a documentary about a stroboscopic machine capable of inducing hallucinatory visions to those who sat near it, earlier in the week — I was interested in trying it in person at The Blinking Eyes Of Everything at Church of the Holy Trinity. I was foiled by another long lineup and instead ducked into the Eaton Centre to see Jeff Koons' giant inflatable silver rabbit.
Ghost Chorus — Dirge For Dead Slang featured a circle of people wearing sheets over their heads reciting things from photocopied booklets in Larry Sefton Park. 
I climbed the steps of Old City Hall to watch people talk to artist Dave Clarke as part of his Hey Dave! installation, and then watched Beautiful Light: 4 Letter Word Machine, a series of four-letter words illuminated high in the air above City Hall's council chambers.
One of my favourite installations was Bouncing Bride: What Goes Down Must Go Up at The Music Gallery, where people were invited to bounce on a giant faux wedding cake topped with a trampoline with women dressed as brides. A DJ played music and the venue was licensed, so it took on the aura of a surreal wedding reception.

It took a while to navigate my way through the crowds west on Queen Street to my stomping grounds in Trinity Bellwoods Park, where a large illuminated wall similar to a Lite Brite game was set up and people were invited to create different patterns by inserting coloured, recycled plastic water bottles into holes.
I ducked into all of the Queen West galleries that stayed open late, as well as into Coupe Bizarre, where people were invited to sketch pictures of nude female models. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health also had an installation titled inSANITY that told stories of local artists who've lived in and around what used to be known as the lunatic asylum.

The Drake, The Gladstone and The Rhino all participated in Nuit Blanche and had their liquor licenses extended to 4 a.m., but they were all packed and had lineups at 3 a.m. and I continued to move on. I didn't really need a drink anyway since I had filled a water bottle with gin and tonic to keep me satiated before I embarked on my journey.
I headed south to Liberty Village and took about 10 seconds to look at the The End Is Near Here Is Near The End text installation. I spent a slightly longer time at Rescue Bubble, where hundreds of glowing traffic pylons were assembled together and people were invited to speak through the holes in their tips to the people inside.

A number of Fire And Sausage: Small Mercies stations, where people could sit around fires and eat free sausages on twigs and drink free organic hot chocolate (mine tasted very bitter and was uncomfortably thick), were set up in the area. I was given a blanket and told to keep the tin cup my hot chocolate came in.
The Apology Project consisted of a large group of people wearing large paper bags over their bodies saying "Sorry" as you walked past them through a corridor that led to Surrounded In Tears, a sound installation where 100 individual cries were emitted over speakers suspended from the ceiling.
Even at 3:30 a.m. there was a 75-minute wait for A Sultry World, where people were invited to crawl under a massive red skirt worn by a woman standing on a 10-foot platform and discover a sensory chamber created underneath it. I didn't wait around and headed back north to Bicitycle, where people attempted to ride bikes towing goods salvaged from the streets — similar to what many homeless people use as their lifeblood.
Take Shelter, where participants were invited to build shelters out of cardboard boxes and canned food, sounded interesting. But by the time I arrived, it had degenerated into several people kicking around and jumping on the boxes in the Metro grocery store parking lot. I went into Metro to view Invade, where the shadow of a plane was projected on the ceiling as the sound of an engine was piped through the store. It was underwhelming.
Dance Of The Cranes, a 13-minute choreographed routine featuring two high-rise construction cranes, shut down at 3 a.m., so I missed it.
My last stop was the Liberty Towers Presentation Centre for Catastrophe Theory, a multimedia installation featuring videos and a large number of concrete letters that people could make into words and messages.
Since art is open to the interpretation of the individual, I'm not going to bore you with mine of all of the things I saw at Nuit Blanche. Besides, the biggest thrill of this event for me is always seeing the city streets still filled with people at an hour when I'm often one of the only people walking around. This was the case when I arrived home at 4:50 a.m. 
As an avowed night owl, I wish Toronto could be this alive more than one night a year.
Feel free to have a look at some of my crappy Nuit Blanche photos: