Monday, December 26, 2005

I went to Stratford to spend Christmas with my mom. We had a low-key but very nice few days together. She had her house beautifully decorated inside and out. Here's her Christmas tree.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

My full-time gig at Chart, my book deadline, freelance assignments and a few other things have kept me rather hermited for the past six weeks, and I haven't been going out much or surfing the Net for interesting things to report on. Therefore, I both haven't had much time to write in the blog and haven't had a whole lot to write about anyway. But I should be returning more to my normal life (well, what's normal for me, anyway) in the coming weeks and will hopefully be posting more regularly again.
Whatever holiday you celebrate, celebrate it to the fullest and be good to the ones you love.
Thanks for reading. Thanks for your patience and understanding. Don't jump ship just yet. I'll be back soon.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Rheostatics were also on the True North bill with Colin Linden, 54.40 and the Golden Dogs at Lee's Palace during North By Northeast. I didnt mean to omit them, but I guess my fingers were once again moving faster than my brain when I was typing. Sorry about that.
I've been asked to contribute a list of my favourite albums of 2005 to a few different sources. Well, the suspense is finally over. Here they are:

1.THE RAVEONETTES - Pretty In Black
3. THE HIGH SPEED SCENE - The High Speed Scene
4. KAISER CHIEFS - Employment
5. FRANZ FERDINAND - You Could Have It So Much Better
7. THE MENDOZA LINE - Full Of Light And Full Of Fire
8. HOLY MICROPHONE - Goodbye Television Girl
9. HOT HOT HEAT - Elevator
10. DIOS (MALOS) - Dios (Malos)

D. TREVLON - To: The Dusty Moon and You
RILO KILEY - More Adventurous
54.40 - Yes To Everything

MATT MAYS + EL TORPEDO - Matt Mays + El Torpedo
CORB LUND - Hair In My Eyes Like A Highland Steer
WILLIE NELSON - Countryman
THE BRAVERY - The Bravery
GARBAGE - Bleed Like Me
THE HIGH DIALS - War of the Wakening Phantoms

THE 101ERS - Elgin Avenue Breakdown Revisited

FAVOURITE LIVE SHOWS (in chronological order)
Shonen Knife at Lee's Palace
Elvis Costello & The Imposters, The Bottle Rockets, Jon Langford, Th' Legendary Shack*Shakers, New York Dolls, Aberfeldy, The Rezillos and the Allen Oldies Band at various Austin venues during South By Southwest
Matt Mays + El Torpedo (five different shows)
The Wonder Stuff at the Horseshoe
Brendan Benson at Lee's Palace
The Undertones at the Horseshoe and at The Magic Stick in Detroit
Dave Wakeling's English Beat at the Horseshoe (three shows)
Wanda Jackson at the Cadillac Lounge (two shows)
The Raveonettes at Lee's Palace
Deadly Snakes at the Gladstone
Colin Linden and friends, 54.40, Golden Dogs at Lee's Palace
The Chickens at the Horseshoe (three shows)
Eels at the Phoenix
Corb Lund and Neko Case at Harbourfront
The Pixies and Weezer at the Molson Amphitheatre
Various Elvis impersonators at the Elvis Festival in Collingwood
The Knitters at Lee's Palace
The Sadies, Carolyn Mark, Elliott Brood and the Sin-Tones at Harbourfront
Holy Microphone (two different shows)
The Proclaimers at Lee's Palace
The Royal Crowns at the Horseshoe
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings at the Horseshoe (two shows)
The Fleshtones at the Horseshoe
Lowest Of The Low at the Horseshoe

np Michelle Shocked - Mercury Poise: 1988-1995

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

My friend Karen Bliss, a music writer who I've worked with since 1993, has written an anti-racism book for kids called The Girl With Pinhead Parents that has vivid illustrations drawn by another music industry veteran, and my former neighbour, Bonnie Fedrau. The book has a simple but direct message that kids will be able to easily comprehend, and parents can read it with them in five minutes (but take more time to discuss its full meaning afterwards). I bought a copy for $17.95 at last night's launch for the book, and you can purchase one yourself by contacting Karen at More than 60 were sold at the party, which was held at War Child Canada's downtown Toronto headquarters. One dollar from each book sold is being donated to War Child ( and its valuable work.
I want to emphasize that I was going to endorse the book even before I got it home last night and saw my name in the Acknowledgements. Thanks Karen, and congratulations and good luck, too.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

I'm a proud alumnus today. My Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks just defeated the Saskatchewan Huskies with a last-minute field goal to become the winner of the Vanier Cup and Canada's top university football team.
Here are a couple of news items on beer that I found interesting. Maybe you will, too:

A group of British scientists determined that you can experience the "beer goggles" effect without drinking. "Beer goggles" is a slang term for a phenomenon in which one's consumption of alcohol makes physically unattractive people appear beautiful. "The beer goggles effect isn't solely dependent on how much alcohol a person consumes," said Professor Nathan Efron, Professor of Clinical Optometry at the University of Manchester.
"There are other influencing factors at play." Other factors that can make ugly people appear attractive include: the level of light in the bar; the drinker's eyesight; the smokiness of the room; and the distance between two people. An eyewear company funded the research.

Guinness received the inaugural Vegan Raspberry Award from the Vegan society.
The award is for products the society insists could be vegan, but aren't.
Like many beers, Guinness uses isinglass, a type of gelatin made from the swim bladders of fish, in the refining process. Other breweries, such as Samuel Smiths, produce stouts that are fish-free.

np Dr. John - Live at Montreux 1995

Friday, December 02, 2005

Chart magazine and Toronto's Drake Hotel launched their live music series, which will feature a show on the first Thursday of every month, with a full house of hipsters who wanted to get their first look at the much buzzed about Islands.
The band is comprised of former Unicorns Nick Diamonds (vocals and keyboards) and J'aime Tambour (drums), and last night also featured Royal City's Jim Guthrie on guitar, Togo native Patrice Agbokou on bass, a saxophonist and two violinists. I'm not sure if that's a permanent lineup, however, as I can see this group becoming like Montreal's version of Broken Social Scene with rotating members. Almost everyone in The Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade and Bell Orchestre play on the group's Return To The Sea debut album.
The record will be released in Europe on Rough Trade Records in January, and I wouldn't be surprised if a similar deal is set up for Canada.
It's virtually impossible to categorize the band, as it sounds different on almost every song. I'd describe a couple of tracks as vaudevillian art rock, while a couple of others — appropriately enough — had island rhythms. There was some quirky indie pop. I heard occasional traces of Poi Dog Pondering. One song seemed to borrow the melody from Billy Joel's We Didn't Start The Fire in places, but obviously with much more indie cool cachet. Another track started with a dub rhythm, then turned into some sort of gypsy thing, and then went dub again. The final number, which apparently was about the end of the world, turned the violins into country fiddles — which was slightly offputting visually since the players were white-clad oriental men. The show ended without an encore after an hour.
I don't know if Islands will become the next big thing in the world of indie pop, but I'll take it over the Unicorns. This was one of the band's first shows, and I'll be interested in seeing it again a year from now to see how things evolve. I've got a hunch that I'll like the group more live than on record.
What do you think of that fancy psychedelic photo I took of the band?

np The Snitches - Black Book

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Lowest Of The Low may be playing their final two Canadian shows ever this weekend (you can read more in an article I wrote this week at, so I went to see them at the Horseshoe last night because the band has so much significance to me.
I gave a rave review to the band's Shakespeare My Butt debut album after it came out in 1991 and, to this day, it remains my favourite Canadian album ever. If you haven't heard it, get it. I don't know anyone who has the album who doesn't have a major soft spot for it. The music from that album, and to a lesser degree from 1994's Hallucigenia, formed a large part of the soundtrack of my life in the early and mid-'90s. In addition to playing the albums for both myself and friends all the time, I rarely missed a show — and there were a lot of them.
I got drunk to the Low. I got laid to the Low. I first bonded with my former girlfriend of three years through our mutual affection for the Low. That got me laid a lot, too.
There was an intelligence to the lyrics that I could identify with, and there were a lot of Toronto references that helped give me a sense of ownership of the songs. They were singing about places I'd been and things I'd done. There wasn't anything complex about the music and the playing wasn't exemplary, but there were tons of melodic rook hooks everywhere. And on stage, there was an energy and an edginess that was unmistakable.
When the group broke up and the members went their separate ways from 1994 until 2000, I felt a void. But I was there for the reunion shows in 2000, and they were great. They spawned the Nothing Short Of A Bullet live album. I've seen the Low a handful of times since then, essentially whenever I could. But it wasn't quite the same. Prior to last night, the last time I had seen the band was in August 2004, when it played with the Golden Dogs and The Trews at the Kee to Bala. But I was there more to get away for a weekend with some close friends than I was to hear music (though that was good, too).
The Low released Sordid Fiction last year during the same week I left for my around-the-world trip, so I didn't get to hear it then. When I got back in February, none of my friends were talking about the record and it didn't really register in my head. But I finally got a copy of it this week, and it's a very solid record. It's just not Shakespeare My Butt or Hallucigenia.
I was in the Horseshoe dressing room talking to and reminiscing with Craig and Leslie when the band hit the stage last night, and we all agreed that the new arrangements for some of the older songs weren't as good as the originals, and the new songs just didn't have the same kind of impact live.
About a half-dozen songs into the set, Leslie and I went out to stand at the side of the stage and watch the show. With two encores, the band played 25 songs in almost two hours. While Ron Hawkins played piano and Lawrence Nichols took over on guitar for some songs — including the Rusty Nails song Turpentine, a rollicking, slightly honky-tonk number where Lawrence added some fine harmonica playing — the band only reached the old energy, emotional and edginess levels in certain places when Ron and Steve Stanley were both playing guitar. The highlights of the main set were 4 O'Clock Stop and Beer Graffiti Walls.
Steve admitted that he didn't like Salesmen, Cheats and Liars before the band played it as its first encore. Many of us loved the song from the first time we heard it, and still do. After doing Everywhere And Nowhere from Sordid Fiction, the band got pumped for Gossip Talkin' Blues.
It left the stage and returned for another encore, beginning with Giulietta The Just from Sordid Fiction. For the Hand of Magdalena took me back to the early days, and was my favourite song of the night, though show closer Eternal Fatalist wasn't far behind in the pecking order. I would have liked to have heard Henry Need A New Pair Of Shoes and a number of other songs, but you can't have everything. A lot of people in the packed club said that they'd be back again for tonight's show. Unfortunately, I'm too busy and can't go. But if the Low have ever touched you in any way, you should see the group tonight. And get there early because there's a good chance it will sell out.
I was pleased after last night's show. If it was the last time that I'll ever see the band, I can live with that. It's probably a good time for both of us to move on. There will still be lots of fond memories. After all, we'll always have Ultrasound, and Sneaky Dee's, and the El Mo ...

np Frank Black - Honeycomb

I was walking down Queen Street West around 2:15 this morning, making my way home from seeing the Lowest Of The Low at the Horseshoe. I saw a small crowd of people in the street ahead of me at the intersection with Denton. When I came on the scene, I saw a man lying in the middle of the road, a few metres away from this cab. While I didn't see the accident, and I don't know who was at fault, the cab obviously hit the guy — who went flying into the windshield. The victim was wearing one shoe, and I spotted the other one at least 15 metres down the street, which gives you an idea of the severity of the impact. The man was lying face down and motionless, but I could tell that he was breathing. Paramedics arrived at the scene and got him on to a stretcher and drove him to hospital. I decided not to take a photo of the victim for the sake of his distraught friends who were standing nearby. While I couldn't see any obvious exterior body injuries, you couldn't see his face for all the blood — and there was a thick pool of it left on the road. Firemen arrived shortly afterward and started asking a few questions. Inexplicably, no police officers showed up during the 10 or 15 minutes I had stopped to watch. The accident happened too late to make the newspaper this morning, but I'll have another look tomorrow to hopefully find an update. I hope that the injuries weren't too serious and the man makes a full recovery.

np We Are Scientists - With Love And Squalor
(Thanks Craig)

George Best died yesterday morning at age 59 from complications arising from his alcoholism.
I'm too young too have seen George in his prime with Manchester United in the '60s, and only remember seeing him a bit on TV in the '70s when he went to the U.S. to play soccer and was as much a marketing attraction as he was a playing force. But even Pele has called him the best player he's ever seen, so let's just say that the Northern Irishman was at least the best European-born soccer player ever.
But he was a larger than life figure who became known for his drinking, womanizing and gambling as much as he was for his incredible skill on the field, so I was well aware of who he was when he walked into The Clarence, a pub that I bartended at in London's posh Mayfair district in the summer of 1987.
George was friends with Brian, the pub's manager, and would come in at least twice a week for drinks. He'd almost always have a woman with him, and I rarely saw the same one twice. He was very friendly and introduced himself the first time I served him, and he got to know my name on subsequent visits. He was also generous and would buy me a beer every evening (instead of tipping like we do in North America, it's customary in England to say "And one for yourself" and then buy a drink for a bartender who gives good service). Sometimes George would stay in the pub talking to people, but at other times he'd take his lady of the evening upstairs to Brian's apartment. I can only assume what he did with her up there.
I've done a fair bit of reading about George since that summer and he was a fascinating figure and the ultimate tragic hero. He'll be missed.
I returned to The Clarence for the first time since 1991 in September 2004. The place had been renovated to look like another of those generic British pubs that are unfortunately running rampant these days. Brian no longer had anything to do with the place. And George was nowhere to be found.
But I still managed to have a celebrity sighting while I was there. MC Hammer apparently likes his Guinness.

Friday, November 25, 2005

My friend Stewart Reynolds from Stratford came to Toronto with his band Brittlestar on Monday night to play the Horseshoe for the first time. But he did more than that, he chartered a bus full of fans from my old hometown who paid $20 each for the ride, a commemorative button and the chance to see the free show. It was a bit odd seeing people who I probably haven't spoken to in years who had entered the comfort zone of my Toronto life, or vaguely recognizing other people but having no idea of what their names were. In the spirit of reminiscing, I wore my high-school football coat and a pair of jeans that I've been wearing for the past 20 years. It's a good thing that I've kept so svelte.
Stewart and fellow guitarist Alan Ferguson were impressive, and the rest of the band, who I didn't know, were also solid. The songs from Brittlestar's Waiting debut album are a little more muscular when played live, which I appreciated. If you like reasonably sophisticated adult pop-rock music that's not excessively polished and shiny, you should check them out. Leslie was impressed enough to extend Brittlestar an invitation to play Lee's Palace. Stewart was so grateful for my support that he bought me a couple of pints of Wellington and gave me a Brittlestar T-shirt. You can find out more information and hear music at, and you can read my article on the band at

np Waco Brothers - Freedom and Weep

Thursday, November 24, 2005

I got home from the CASBY Awards at the Kool Haus (use a very pronounced German accent when you read those words to yourself) a couple of hours ago. It's amazing how a Molson Canadian-sponsored event can make a person opt for spending $6 on a Heineken instead of a free Canadian.
I had my first Heinekens out of aluminum bottles last night. I prefer them over cans because I can put the neck in my mouth and take notes and photos at shows without having to worry about setting my drink down. While some people say that I have a big mouth, I still can't secure it around a can of beer.
I also had my first Molson Cold Shot last night. Luckily, they were free. I'd never pay for one. They're essentially Molson Canadian with 6% alcohol instead of 5%, but the cans are 250 ml instead of 355 ml. Apparently most Canadian drinkers can't handle a full can of a slightly stronger beer. Pussies.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

I made it to the Horseshoe about five songs into the Fleshtones' set.
They call their music Super Rock, and they've been doing it since the summer of 1976. I've probably seen these Brooklyn garage-rock veterans about 10 times now, and I maintain that they still comprise the most entertaining quartet in rock-and-roll. The last time I saw the band, in April 2004, I thought that it was a bit of a sub-par performance (the first that I had witnessed) and was worried that age might have finally caught up to the guys. But that concern was cast aside with last night's performance.
The crowd size was disappointingly small, but those who were up front with me were definitely into it -- and the band seemed to feed off that enthusiasm in a set that included Pretty Stupid, You Don't Know, Let's Get Serious, Do You Swing?, Fascination, She Looks Like A Woman, Push Up Man, Break That Lock and an encore featuring guitarist Keith Streng doing his best Robert Plant on Communication Breakdown.
Streng frequently jumped off the stage and into the crowd, while bassist Ken Fox was all over the place as well. Drummer Bill Milhizer would occasionally stand up to play, and singer Peter Zaremba was at his best as a master showman once again. He'd occasionally step behind his vintage Farfisa organ to bang out a few chords, but more often you'd find him dancing on a speaker, bringing his mic stand into the audience to sing, or, during Push Up Man, getting down on the floor to challenge fans to a push-up contest. At one point near the end of the night, Zaremba, Streng and Fox were all standing on tables and benches in the middle of the club while still singing and playing.
The smiles on the faces of the band members showed that their love of playing rock-and-roll in front of people with an appreciation for it still hasn't waned after almost 30 years as a group with little more than a cult following. It's infectious and always leaves me grinning.
Fox was manning the merch booth after the show. We talked for a while and then I bought the band's last vinyl copy of 1998's Only Skin Deep album for $10. It was a good deal for me, and I hope that any little small contribution that I can make to the band's bottom line will give it the ability and impetus to keep on keepin' on.
The Fleshtones rule.

np Leafs 3 Thrashers 1 after one period

After finishing my first week back working full-time for someone other than myself, and having to put on pants to go to an office to fulfill my news editor role for, I drove to The Docks. Luckily, I got a prime parking spot across the street. Even luckier, there was no-one working at the lot to take my money.
I arrived at 11 p.m., just in time to hear the packed house chant, "Let's go Murphys!" I slithered my way through the crowd and used my VIP pass to get on the side of the stage just before the group came on. The band members are big Boston Bruins fans, and even performed at the Fleet Center following a Bruins game earlier this month, so it was quite a surprise to see the bassist wearing the #16 jersey worn by Toronto Maple Leaf Darcy Tucker.
The Celtic-punk band was full of beans (Boston-baked, I'm sure), with bagpipes, accordion, mandolin and bouzouki rounding out the normal rock instrumentation lineup to rip through an hour-long set of fan favourites. There were moments when I thought that the band was harder and heavier than the two times I saw it in 2003, but there were also some quieter, more melodic moments.
The crowd was just as enthusiastic as the band, and moshing, crowd-surfing and stage-diving were the order of the day. On two separate occasions I was hit by a flying shoe and a tube of lip balm. There was a guy in the mosh pit on crutches who had to be pulled on to the stage because he was getting battered. Serves him right, I'd say.
Women from the crowd were invited on to the stage to dance for the second-last song, and then guys climbed up for the last number. There were dozens of people on stage, and things were so chaotic that I could still hear the band but couldn't see it through all of the bodies. But I like that the Dropkicks feel so comfortable with their fans that they can invite them on to the stage for the free-for-all.
I don't know if there was an encore because I left so that I could get out of the parking lot before the traffic jam started. I had to get to the Horseshoe to see The Fleshtones.

It was Tara's birthday, so her, Betty and Sonja were celebrating sidestage for last night's Dropkick Murphys show at The Docks. Since I can't make it to her party tonight, here's my present.
After the shenanigans of Friday night, I slept in until noon on Saturday. After doing a few things around the house, I ventured to the Blue Moon to meet Matt Mays. The tall and engaging singer/songwriter/guitarist and I talked for well over an hour and he provided me with some good material for his chapter in my book. I had a pint of some special seasonal brew, but Matt's previous night in Buffalo was apparently about as late and fun-filled as mine was, so he just opted for water. I pointed him to the dollar store across the street where David Arquette was spotted a few weeks earlier and went home.
But Queen and Broadview beckoned again at 7 p.m., as I had made dinner reservations for eight other friends at The Real Jerk. I love jerk food. After a couple of hours of food, drinks and conversation, we went a couple doors down the street to the Opera House, where The Novaks were opening for Matt Mays & El Torpedo.
The Novaks are a rock band from St. John's, Nfld. that shows a lot of promise with its Stones meet Sloan sound. El Torpedo was up next, and the sold-out house erupted. Matt has developed a pretty fervent fanbase in a short time. The band didn't disappoint, as it delivered a blistering set of songs from Matt's two albums.
JC, Tara, Tracy, JR and I headed back to the Horseshoe after the show to catch Sharon Jones again. It was another hot show. Apparently I'm now officially Sharon's Toronto beer opener, as she asked me to crack one open for her (no-one else backstage apparently had my knack for slamming down caps on the edge of desks) before the encore. There were more beers and pleasantries exchanged again and, what do you know, 3 a.m. had rolled around again. Tima had taken a powder earlier in the night, but since JC and Jordan had left for Niagara Falls to gamble and begin their football road trip about a half earlier, Tara stepped into the breach and invited Tracy, JK and I back to her place.
Upon arrival, I went through the liquour cabinet and fridge to check on ingredients and invented a new cocktail. From this moment on, the mixture of vodka, melon liqueur and apple juice shall be known as The McLean. Damn, it was tasty. Tracy and JK left a bit before me while Tara and I talked and had one last nightcap. I didn't feel like an hour-long walk home again, so I stopped in a 7-11 and got some cab fare from an ATM and picked up a pre-packaged western omelette and bacon sandwich while I was at it. By the time I got home, ate my sandwich and checked some e-mails, it was 6 a.m. again.
My friends Kirk and Joe came to Toronto on Nov. 11 because they had union meetings the next day. They arrived at my place around 6 p.m. with a bottle of pre-mixed Sex On The Beach. It felt a bit strange drinking this fruity alcoholic concoction with these big men, but the bottle didn't last long, nor did the remaining beers in my fridge.
We then headed to the Renaissance Hotel at the Rogers Centre (that used to be called The SkyDome for those of you not in the know) so they could check into their room. The hallways of the hotel are really ugly and, while their room was quite nice, it unfortunately overlooked a parking lot and not the playing field. We had more beers there and headed up to the Duke of Argyle. Three pints of Mill Street Coffee Porter washed down my souvlaki dinner, and Kirk splurged for the bill.
We had made tentative plans to see Holy Microphone at Mitzi's Sister, but it was too late by this point. So, with the taste of a good beer now inside me, I suggested that we go to Smokeless Joe's, which has Toronto's largest selection of beers. I had what may be my favourite beer in the world: an Aventinus from Germany. I've always enjoyed the flavour of the world's oldest top-fermenting wheat doppelbock and, with 8% alcohol, it also packs a punch.
From there it was on to the Horseshoe to see Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings. I'm typically not a big fan of R&B/soul stuff, but I had seen the band in May 2004 and was impressed, so I went to the well again. The New York City band looks sharp, and its playing is totally tight. And Sharon is a dynamo. Comparisons to James Brown may be too easy, but they're very apt. She's a great show-woman and knows how to entertain a crowd. I opened a beer for her and was talking to her in the dressing room when she came off stage, but then I got in a bit of trouble because she hadn't done her encore yet and the crowd was yelling her name while we were chatting. Sorry JC. When the show was over, we talked and sipped more. She's a great lady and I couldn't believe it when she told me she was 49.
By this time it was 3 a.m. Sharon and I exchanged goodbye hugs and kisses and Tima invited me back to her house to keep the party vibe going. We had more drinks, danced around while listening to Aztec Camera, and went into her backyard to look at Mars. Tima fell asleep on her couch and, being the chivalrous sort that I am, I covered her with towels so she wouldn't be cold. It took me about an hour to walk home and I got to bed around 6 a.m. It maybe wasn't the most solemn way to honour Remembrance Day, but I had a good time.

np Angela Harris - Roots

I was a contestant on a game show called You Bet Your Ass and taped my episode on Nov. 9. The Comedy Network won't be airing the series until the spring, so I'm not going to divulge many details about the format of the show or my performance on it so that you can all get the "shock and awe" experience when you see it on TV. However, here's a photo of what the set looks like.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Excluding Living Elvis Karaoke shows, which don't count, last night was the first time that I'd seen The Royal Crowns play in a couple of years. Canada's best rockabilly band doesn't play as much as it used to and, when it does, it's usually not at The Horseshoe anymore. (Don't worry, Teddy's still bartending there.) But the band returned to the Shoe last night to launch its new After Dark album, the follow-up to the excellent 32 Miles from Memphis. In addition to enjoying some old favourites, I thought that the new songs sounded great, too. Danny Bartley is an excellent guitarist, Scott Gibson knows how to handle a stand-up bass, Teddy Fury is an impeccable drummer and showman, and Bob Taillefer (who replaced guitarist Cricket) adds an interesting new dimension on pedal steel. Hopefully the Crowns will start opening for some more bands at the Shoe again. I missed them.

np Matt Mays & El Torpedo

I think an evil alien took over Teddy Fury's eyes at last night's Royal Crowns show.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

I went to The Fermentation Cellar in Toronto's Distillery District tonight for the Canadian premiere of Kate Bush's new double album, Aerial, which will be released by EMI Music Canada on Nov. 8.
I was greeted at the door with an Aerial martini, comprised of pomegranate juice and citrus vodka. I made myself a couple of roast beef sandwiches, watched some old Bush videos, talked to a few people, grabbed some cranberry juice and sat down to watch the video for King of the Mountain, the album's first single, and hear seven other tracks.
Bush has sold 1.2 million copies of her previous seven albums in Canada, but this is her first release in 12 years. Some people in attendance had hoped that she'd be at the party, but, with her reluctance to travel and tour, I correctly assumed that she wouldn't be. I still get chills when I hear her debut single, Wuthering Heights, which she wrote and recorded when she was just 17. I also liked Hammer Horror, Coffee Homeground and Babooshka from her next two albums, and I thought that she was the hottest looking woman in music in the '80s. She released three more albums in the '80s and The Red Shoes in 1993 and, while they were all successful, they didn't leave much of an impression on me.
The eight songs that we heard were easily recognizable as Bush, with her distinctive voice and very rich sound. She wrote and produced the entire album, and it's as carefully crafted as you'd expect. There are also some orchestral arrangements by composer Michael Kamen, and Aerial was the last album he worked on before he died two years ago. One song had a very strong jazz element before it turned to samba and flamenco flourishes.
Still photos and graphics accompanied the songs on a large screen, and there was a lot of bird imagery in them. In keeping with that theme, I suppose, two dancers suspended from cords hanging from the rafters descended and did some choreographed swinging around near the end of the set.
If you're a Bush fan who's suffered through her dozen-year absence, you should be pleased with Aerial.

np Mike Scott - Still Burning
I'm doing research for an interview I'm doing with Sum 41 singer/guitarist Deryck Whibley tomorrow and I found out that both of our birthdays are on March 21. Of course, he is 14 years younger than me. I'm exactly the same age as former Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Al Iafrate.
Last night was Halloween, and the first kids arrived at my door around 6:45 p.m. Three out of the first four had UNICEF boxes that I contributed coins to. I had 20 more kids the rest of the evening and none of them had UNICEF boxes. I don't want to be accused of racial profiling, but the three kids who had UNICEF boxes were East Indian. Maybe they understood and had more empathy for what children in poorer countries than Canada go through because they may have relatives in Indo-Asia, or their parents have told them about it. When I was a kid, almost everybody went trick-or-treating with UNICEF boxes. I don't know whether it's kids or parents that don't care anymore, but I was disappointed nevertheless. Or maybe these people are all on to something that I'm not.
Warren Campbell told me that, while he was in Texas last week, he found a radio station "that was all conspiracy radio all the time. They hated Bush but they were extreme Right Wingers....they felt that sucralose and aspartame and all that kind of stuff was made to poison us. They also said that the money collected for Unicef every year is part of a grand conspiracy and that money went to fund a New World Order."
Warren's sons Rhys and Evan came trick-or-treating, and Rhys asked for a baseball. I told them to come in for a moment, while I ran upstairs, got a baseball, and came back and dropped it into his bag. I gave Evan extra chocolate.
One kid came to my door holding a football. That was it. That was his costume. I told him that it was very lame and that he should be ashamed of himself, but I gave him a chocolate bar anyway. A black kid who had done nothing but colour his hair white came to the door. When I asked him what he was supposed to be, he said, "Dennis Rodman." I told him that he was lame, too, then gave him a Wunderbar and sent him on his way.

np Pilchard - Dowabetty

Friday, October 28, 2005

We won one of three volleyball games, and played pretty well for two of them, last night. After that, it was off to The Tap for a post-game pint and to meet some friends who were celebrating Tracy Rowan's birthday. From there, it was a short walk down Bloor Street to Lee's Palace to see Matisyahu.
I've downloaded a few songs from this unorthodox orthodox Jewish performer and was very impressed when I saw him play at Buffalo Billiards to end off SXSW in Austin in March. While that was a 40-minute show, where he packed all his best material in, last night's nearly sold-out headlining gig was more expansive and featured more soloing from Matisyahu's very tight reggae-rock band. But when Matisyahu and his band are on, they're great. It's an interesting sight to see this tall man with a traditional Jewish beard jumping around the stage toasting and rapping. He also did an amazing human beatbox solo. I didn't get close enough to the stage to get good photos, so these two crappy shots are all that you're getting. Matisyahu has an interesting story and sound, and he has a new live album out that was recorded at another Austin club, Stubb's. If you want to find out more, visit

np The Rugburns - Taking The World By Donkey
If you're looking for some scary music for Halloween, you've come to the right place. I've made a few Halloween compilations over the years, and there are a lot of songs that I haven't included below, but here's the playlist for one that I happen to have handy that I put together in 1997:
Dream Syndicate - Halloween
Deja Voodoo - Skeletons At My Party; Cemetery; Dead Daddy Dead
Fleshtones - I Was A Teenage Zombie
Sunglasses After Dark - Hellhag Shuffle
Guana Batz - Werewolf Blues
Sickidz - She's My Witch
Condition - Ghost Train
Zamboni Drivers - Skatin' Ghost
Miners of Muzo - I Put A Spell On You
Revillos - She's Fallen In Love With A Monster Man
Jerry Vile - The Attack of the Blood Sucking Poodles From Hell
3-D Invisibles - Where Creatures Roam
Pharaohs - Tomb of the Dead
Creeping Pumpkins - Better Off Without You
Skeptics - Legend of the Headless Surfer
Scattered Limbs - Walk Without Me

np Royal Grand Prix - High Performance
If you have access to the Toronto Star, pick up the edition from Thurs. Oct. 27, go to the Investing section and turn to page 5. There's an interview with Peter Beck, the president of Swift Trade Inc. and the co-author of Hedge Funds for Canadians. There's a photo of him and, if you take away his glasses, he's a dead ringer for porn legend Ron Jeremy, AKA The Hedgehog.
Enter and see for yourself.

np Cesar Rosas - Soul Disguise
Mr. Sulu Is Gay

George Takei, who you all know as Sulu from Star Trek in the '60s, has just come out and admitted that he's gay.
That reminded me of a story. It was probably almost 10 years ago when I got a call from Jaymz Bee (the well-known Toronto bandleader, singer, producer, party organizer, radio host, emcee, man about town and author of Cocktail Parties For Dummies) to invite me to Barberian's Steak House to drink martinis with him, his manager and Takei. Though I never got into any of the movies or spin-off TV series', I'm a big fan of the original Star Trek, so there was no way that I was going to pass up an opportunity to have cocktails with Mr. Sulu. While I can't recall any great revelations coming out of our conversation, which lasted about an hour, it was one of those kitschy thrills that sometimes make life more interesting.
By the way, while sticking with the Star Trek theme: I still stand by my assertion that Leonard Nimoy's The Way I Feel is the best album in the world to make love to. My track-by-track thesis won me a contest that was broadcast on CBC Radio's Brave New Waves program in the early '90s and, if I can find it somewhere in my archives, I'll post it sometime.
So if you're ever at my house, and I put The Way I Feel on the turntable, get ready for what could be the night of your life.

np The Rockin' Highliners - Oh My!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Folklore Publishing has asked me to write a book called Hot Canadian Bands. I needed a witness to co-sign the contract, so Rachelle and Clara came over on Sunday to do the honours. After everything was signed, Rachelle and I marked the occasion by downing shots of 151-proof rum that I had purchased in the Dominican Republic. We then decided that we should take one of those cheesy "signing" shots that you see musicians do with record companies or that athletes do with new teams. Since Rachelle was the photographer and couldn't get in the shot (I didn't think to use the camera's timer), Clara eagerly volunteered her services. Rachelle also took a few shots that I submitted to the publisher, along with an Elvis mask shot that I published a few months ago, for promotion and publicity purposes. But since the one above was my favourite, I thought that I'd share it with you.

np Stan Ridgway - Black Diamond

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Liz Phair was scheduled to play Café Campus in Montreal tonight, but I just saw her sing God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch of the World Series game in Chicago. I was offered free tickets to see her tomorrow night at the Phoenix, but after witnessing her sad performance on TV, I'm glad that I declined. I strongly disagree with the performance of God Bless America in the middle of a baseball game to begin with, and Phair sounded terrible. But at least she still looks good, if nothing else.

np Astros vs. White Sox

Here's the Unabomber talking to Dave Wakeling. I had to publish it separately because my earlier post kept crashing when I tried to include four photos with the text. I don't know who the woman is. Do you?

I was discussing with two friends yesterday whether or not the new and controversial dress code policy in the NBA discriminates against black players since it bans the wearing of large pieces of jewelry on the outside of your clothes as well as sweat clothes, hats and doo rags -- all of which are predominantly worn by black players. I don't think that it's a blatantly racist policy, but I think it's discriminatory in that the NBA seems to want to try to sell the sport to upper middle class white people who can afford to buy tickets, luxury boxes and merchandise, but who may be put off by the bling and would feel much more comfortable seeing players dressed in suits when they're not on the court.
We went to the Raptors game and I found something else that I thought was discriminatory. In the section that we were sitting in, you can order food and drinks and have them brought to your seat. I looked at the menu and saw that the largest beers -- 28 ounces -- aren't made available during NBA games. Why is it that you can order a beer that size for a hockey game or a concert, but not a basketball game? Is there concern from the ACC that basketball fans could potentially cause more problems than other patrons? But Jeff Ross told me that he was once at the old Boston Gardens to see a Celtics game in the afternoon and a Bruins game at night, and he said that a person could buy two beers at the basketball game and one beer at the hockey game. I guess the moral of this story is that basketball fans are perceived to be rowdier than hockey fans in Toronto, while it's the other way around in Boston.
The Raptors Mini Dance Pack came on to the court at the end of the first quarter. Aside from the girls' parents, who else in the crowd wanted to see pre-school dancers instead of the hot cheerleaders (sorry, Dance Pack -- these young bleached blonde ladies don't like to be called cheerleaders anymore).
Alvin Williams entered the game to much applause in the second quarter and I had to take a photo of him, just in case his knees (which have had multiple surgeries performed on them) fall off and he never steps on the court again.
The Raptors won the exhibition game and I was impressed by the play of Morris Peterson and rookies Jose Calderon and Charlie Villanueva. Rookie Joey Graham looked pretty good, too, but he's got to learn to pass the ball and use his teammates. We were sitting right above the tunnel that the players use to go to the dressing room, and talent-challenged centre Rafael Arraujo tried throwing his wrist bands up to some fans as he walked by. He missed, of course.
After that we went to C'est What, where I enjoyed a bison burger, several pints of the yummy house-brewed coffee porter, a few games of pool and the main reason why about 10 of us met at the club: to see Heather Morgan and the Company of Men. Heather's voice sounded great on her rootsy, folky, country murder ballads and other traditionally inspired tunes, and her new guitar player was excellent. Some of us wanted to hear more after Heather finished, but she ended on a high note and then we hightailed it to the Horseshoe to see Dave Wakeling's Beat.
I first saw The English Beat when I was in high school and drove with a friend from Stratford to London's Alumni Hall to see the band. There was an opening act that I'd never heard of because it's debut EP had only just come out, but I quite liked it. The band was called R.E.M.
I've subsequently seen the different incarnations of Wakeling's version of the Beat half-a-dozen times in the last few years, and I've always had a great time. I went to the show Thursday night and we were surprised to find out that, while there was an audible bass line running through the songs, there wasn't a bass player on stage. When I returned last night, I went to the stage and was happy to see a real live bassist standing in the back right corner. I took a photo of him and Wakeling to prove to Jordan that there was a bass player the second night. My friends and I were skanking at the back of the sold-out club, enjoying a set of both Beat and General Public favourites, including Rough Rider, Twist and Crawl, Stand Down Margaret, Best Friend, Tears Of A Clown, Doors Of Your Heart, Mirror In The Bathroom, I'll Take You There, Can't Get Used To Losing You, I Confess, Tenderness, Click Click and Save It For Later. Near the end of the show I moved to the side of the stage, where there was a really drunk, confused and somewhat slovenly character. I took his photo and he seemed a bit annoyed. I took another one a few minutes later and he was very friendly and shook my hand. He thought that I was Dave Wakeling.
I was hanging out in the dressing room after the show, and someone who looked suspiciously like the Unabomber (by wearing a big, deep hood and big dark sunglasses) came in to talk to Dave and some woman who looked familiar, although I couldn't place her. Luckily, no explosives went off. Leslie gave me the band's set list, along with The Proclaimers set list she had promised me from the group's fine show at Lee's Palace last month. Thanks, sweetie.
I got home around 3 a.m. and stayed up for another 90 minutes dealing with e-mails to help me wind down from an excellent evening.
Happy birthday JC.

np Leafs vs. Flyers

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Thanks to Rob Janes for this:

Hard time
Man requests longer prison term to honor Larry Bird
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A man got a prison term longer than prosecutors
and defense attorneys had agreed to -- all because of Larry Bird.
The lawyers reached a plea agreement Tuesday for a 30-year term for a
man accused of shooting with an intent to kill and robbery. But Eric
James Torpy wanted his prison term to match Bird's jersey number 33.
"He said if he was going to go down, he was going to go down in Larry
Bird's jersey," Oklahoma County District Judge Ray Elliott said
Wednesday. "We accommodated his request and he was just as happy as he
could be.
"I've never seen anything like this in 26 years in the courthouse.
But, I know the DA is happy about it."

np The Rainmakers - Flirting With The Universe

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

In last week's rave on The Raveonettes, I alluded to veteran producer Richard Gottehrer. He was also at the controls of the first, and last, album by The Prissteens. The New York City group, featuring three women up front and a male drummer, saw its Scandal, Controversy & Romance album released by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss' Almo Sounds label in 1998. Its blend of '60s girl group pop melodies and '70s punk guitars and attitude was an irresistible combination that helped make the record one of my favourites of that year. In addition to a slew of crunchy and sweet originals, The Prissteens showed their good taste by covering The Merseys' Sorrow (which Gottehrer co-wrote in the '60s and which is probably best known through David Bowie's interpretation on Pinups) and Wreckless Eric's Whole Wide World.
I saw the group headline a show with Tuuli at the El Mocambo in support of the album a few months after its release, and left quite disappointed. The musicianship was sloppy and the joyful pop elements of the CD were few and far between in concert, which leads me to believe that Gottehrer and co-producer Jeffrey Lesser played a very large role in the record. While The Prissteens never recorded another album after Scandal, Controversy & Romance, the group's 13-song legacy still puts a smile on my face whenever I listen to it.

np Professor Longhair - Big Chief

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Wanda Jackson has been recording for 51 years, touring for 50, been married to her manager Wendell for 44, and, on Oct. 20, will turn 68. But the diminutive queen of rockabilly is showing few signs of slowing down, as her 70-minute set last night at the Cadillac Lounge indicated.
Following a Grade A set by The Rizdales -- which featured covers of Johnny Cash's Jackson and Daddy Sang Bass mixed in with the group's solid mix of traditional country and rockabilly tunes -- a large screen came down in front of the stage for a 15-minute video tribute to the woman who shamefully still hasn't been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Jackson hit the stage at 11:30, with The Rizdales acting as her backing band, and launched into Carl Perkins' Rockabilly Fever. That was the first song of many from her most recent album, Heart Trouble, which I was fine with since it was one of my favourite records of 2003. Other songs from the disc included the title track, Mean Mean Man, Funnel Of Love, Riot In Cellblock #9 and the Louvin Brothers' Cash On The Barrelhead.
The set list really wasn't that much different from when I saw Jackson at the same club in May, as she also treated the crowd to favourites like I Gotta Know, Hot Dog! That Made Him Mad, Fujiyama Mama and a cover of One Night, which her former beau Elvis Presley had a hit with in 1959.
I can't figure out why Jackson didn't bring her own guitar, but she borrowed one from local singer/musician Steve Good and sat down to play Happy, Happy Birthday Baby -- which was quite appropriate since it just happened to be Good's birthday. With Jackson's birthday coming up on Thursday, club owner Sam Grosso came on stage mid-set to present her with a cake.
Jackson and her husband were both born again in 1971 and, after taking a few moments to talk about it, she expressed her faith with a rendition of Hank Williams' rousing gospel classic, I Saw The Light.
Jackson then closed the set with what may be her best-known song, Let's Have A Party, which got the sold-out bar even more in a festive mood as it urged the Oklahoma City resident to return for an encore consisting of a medley of Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On and Rip It Up before reprising Let's Have A Party to end the performance.
The narrow confines of the Cadillac Lounge present major obstacles when it comes to seeing the stage, and that problem is exacerbated when you have an artist like Jackson who probably isn't even five feet tall. But that's about the only quibble I can come up with. Jackson's voice may not have quite the ferocity it once did, but she still gives it her all when she's not charming the audience with her between-song banter. And this woman has a lot of stories to tell.
The diverse crowd enjoyed the gig and two of my friends brought their parents along for the night, which made it even more special for them.
After the show, Jackson moved to the back of the club and sat there for more than an hour talking to fans, signing autographs and posing for photos. She told me that her forthcoming album of Presley songs had been delayed, but she's hoping to have it in stores in January. And she says that she'll be touring behind it and hopes to come back to Toronto again in six months.
If Elvis Costello, The Cramps, Dave Alvin, Rosie Flores, Lee Rocker and many other connoisseurs can be Wanda Jackson fans, you should be too.

np Zumpano - The Moment Business
I haven't listened to as much hip-hop in the last year as I used to (not that I've ever been a huge fan anyway), but one of my favourite albums in the genre is Distortion, the new solo effort from Run DMC's Rev Run. He's now a preacher, and that's referenced in some of the lyrics, but he's not driving the point down people's throats. In fact, a lot of the very short (10 songs in 23 minutes) songs sound a lot like vintage Run DMC. A bit of that may have to do with the fact that there are samples from Run DMC numbers Hit It Run, Rock The House and Rock Box. There are many other samples as well, but the most obvious are from Joan Jett's I Love Rock And Roll, Blondie's Rapture and -- far above and beyond the others -- Lynyrd Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama on Home Sweet Home. There's no new ground being broken here like Run DMC achieved in the early '80s, but I found Distortion to be a solid listen.

np The Posies - Amazing Disgrace

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Piggy, the calypso orchestra of the Maritimes, formed in Halifax in 1994 with the intent of keeping the spirit of 1920s and '30s calypso alive by performing topical but fun songs. If you come from Trinidad, the sounds won't be the calypso that you were raised on, but should be familiar enough. For the rest of you, it won't matter. You can just enjoy.
Piggy put out three cassettes and one seven-inch vinyl single before Cinnamon Toast Records released the orchestra's only CD, Don't Stop The Calypso, in 1999. The CD included 12 songs from previous releases and 11 new ones. It featured four tracks produced by the band and Ian McGettigan, who you probably know better as a member of Thrush Hermit and the Joel Plaskett Emergency. The emphasis is definitely on the songs, as opposed to slick production, however.
Piggy played a number of benefit concerts for left-wing causes around Halifax and performed its final show on Sun. Dec. 17 at the Marquee club before disbanding. If you ever come across Don't Stop The Calypso while browsing through the bins at your local used CD store, say a silent thank you to the dummy who sold it and reach into your pocket for a few bucks so that you can give it a good home in your collection.

np The Pooh Sticks - Million Seller
I just finished watching The Last Broadcast on the Independent Film Channel. The 1998 film was shot for less than $1,000 and is done in a documentary fashion, and it's not hard to see that the people behind The Blair Witch Project probably derived some ideas from the The Last Broadcast filmmakers. I didn't like it as much as Blair Witch, but still found it interesting. You can read more about it at

np PIL - That What Is Not

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Raveonettes' Chain Gang Of Love album was one of my favourites of 2003 and I was at least impressed with the two times I saw the Danish band play in support of it and its earlier Whip It On EP. But I was a bit disappointed when I saw the group at SXSW in Austin in March because it had moved away quite a bit from its Jesus and Mary Chain-influenced sound and seemed to lack the energy of the two earlier performances. But I gave the group a second chance and saw it again this summer. I'm glad that I did. It was one of my favourite shows of the year. I was going to buy the band's 2005 CD, Pretty In Black, at the show, but didn't. But I finally got around to buying it on Saturday, and it's one of the best things that I've heard this year.
Richard Gottehrer (a member of the '60s band The Strangeloves, which recorded I Want Candy; the co-writer of The Angels' My Boyfriend's Back and The Merseys' Sorrow, among others; co-founder of Sire Records with my pal Seymour Stein; founder and chairman of The Orchard; and producer of albums from Robert Gordon, Marshall Crenshaw, The Go-Go's, Blondie, Pearl Harbour, Joan Armatrading and others) co-produced again, and the band even covered My Boyfriend's Back. While there were definitely '50s influences -- particularly from Buddy Holly -- in the earlier songs, they're even more pronounced this time around as the arrangements have mellowed and lost some of their earlier menace. That takes some of the edge away, but you're still left with a thoroughly enjoyable record.
Velvet Underground drummer Moe Tucker guests on the country-ish The Heavens, Red Tan, You Say You Lie and Ode To L.A., which also features vocal contributions from Ronnie Spector. Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo trade vocals on the very pretty and delicate Seductress of Bums, while there are parts in Sleepwalking that remind me of Friday On My Mind meets Paint It Black. Here Comes Mary is both majestic and spooky; there's some Ventures-like guitar in Twilight, which is more of a return to earlier Raveonettes sounds; and things close off with some steel guitar on If I Was Young.
Pretty In Black is a totally appropriate title for this album.
Franz Ferdinand's self-titled debut was my favourite album of last year, so I had to buy the Scottish band's You Could Have It So Much Better follow-up when it came out last week to see how it compared. I'm happy to say that the formula hasn't changed too much, so, if you liked the first one, you'll like this. But since bands like the Kaiser Chiefs and The Bravery have released albums this year that seemed to borrow from Franz Ferdinand (which itself borrowed heavily from the likes of Wire, XTC and Talking Heads), the new songs didn't spur the immediate excitement that those on the first album did.
The quite wordy opening track, Fallen, is more guitar-heavy than expected at the beginning, but then gets into the familiar Franz pattern. The title track is more aggressive than anything on the first album, while Walk Away, Eleanor Put Your Boots On and Fade Together (which primarily revolves around acoustic guitar and piano) are all slower.
You Could Have It So didn't have the impact of Franz Ferdinand upon first listen, but its overall consistency will no doubt make it a top 10 album of the year for me.

np The Raveonettes - Pretty In Black

I've mentioned white squirrels a couple of times here over the past few months, and the lovely and talented Joanne Robinson just sent me this photo of one that she took in her hometown of Exeter, Ont. -- the white squirrel capital of the world, or at least Canada, or, barring that, Ontario for sure. Note the little critter's black eyes, which proves that it's not an albino.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Thanks to Jeff Wilson for this link:
What happened to Liz Phair? Or, for that matter, Sheryl Crow?
Phair's 1993 Exile In Guyville album made her a critical favourite with its edgy, profane, clever lyrics and lo-fi rock production. A former girlfriend used to play it so much around our apartment that it almost became a soundtrack of our lives.
I just listened to Exile In Guyville's 1994 follow-up, Whip-Smart, for the first time in a long time, and enjoyed it. Supernova was simultaneously a minor radio hit and a very good pop-rock song. The chorus of the title track borrowed from Malcolm McLaren's Double Dutch to make it another irresistible favourite, while Chopsticks harkened back to the sound and inspiration of her first album. Most of the other songs on the disc hold up pretty well, too.
whitechocolatespaceegg followed in 1998, but didn't do much for me. Phair's self-titled album from two years ago had a couple of decent pop tunes, but too much teen-aimed sheen for those of us who remembered her from five years earlier.
I haven't hear Phair's just-released Somebody's Miracle album, but have read that it's so insipid that it makes Sheryl Crow's new Wildflower album seem exciting. I have no problems at all listening to Crow's '90s material, enjoyed a private acoustic show that she played in a church behind Toronto's Eaton's Centre a number of years back, and hummed happily along to Soak Up The Sun from 2002's largely forgettable C'mon, C'mon, but Wildflower excited me as much as looking at the dull beige computer monitor that I'm now working on. But at least I keep returning to my monitor; Wildflower found its way into my discard pile after one listen.
Both women still look good, but that's the only attraction that they hold for me these days.
I played Phranc's pholky Positively Phranc album after Whip-Smart, and I still like it. I missed Phranc's set when she opened for The Knitters at Lee's Palace this summer, but I briefly saw her in the dressing room after her set and said hello. Now Phranc is a woman that I could never be physically attracted to, but I'm sure that my favourite Jewish-American lesbian folk singer isn't losing any sleep over that fact.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A friend of mine has been raving about dios (malos) through most of this year. The Hawthorne, Calif. quintet was originally named dios, but changed it when heavy metal dickhead guitarist Ronnie James Dio threatened it with legal action because he was concerned that it would cause confusion with his Dio outfit. The band's self-titled full-length debut will be released by Universal-distributed StarTime International on Oct. 11 and I'll recommend it to anyone into eclectic, occasionally mellow, often enchanting and sometimes edgy pop music. There are only a couple of tracks of the 12 on the album that didn't do much for me, a ratio that I don't come across every day.
I interviewed Mary Spencer, the new world champion amateur female boxer in the 66-kilogram weight class, yesterday for an article that will appear in Saturday's Toronto Sun. Aside from a few curlers who I met and got loaded with (most notably Ed "The Wrench" Werenich and the Marilyn Bodogh-skipped team) at the World Curling Championships in Hamilton in 1996, I think that she's the first world champion that I've spoken to. I've talked to World Series, Stanley Cup and Canada Cup winners, as well as short-lived Olympic 100-metre sprint champion Ben Johnson, but I don't know if they count.
If you know any world champions of anything, please send them my way so I can add them to my list.

np Gary Allan - Nickajack Cave (Johnny Cash's Redemption)
The Arctic Monkeys is a band that was recommended to me by Canadian Music Network's Allan Mamaril when I ran into him at a Nickel Creek showcase at Revival a couple of weeks ago. I usually respect Allan's taste, and he didn't let me down this time. I've now seen a video and heard two songs from the Sheffield, England quartet and I've liked what I've heard. The group definitely has a British sound and reminds me of a somewhat more restrained Libertines. The band also cites eccentric Mancunian musical poet John Cooper Clarke as an influence, which is a feather in its cap as far as I'm concerned. It's signed to Domino Recording Company, the same label that brought us Franz Ferdinand and my favourite album of last year. If you want to hear more, visit

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

A typhoon called Longwang roared through Taipei on Sunday. The English translation of Longwang is Dragon King. I guess that's one nickname that I'll probably never have.

Monday, October 03, 2005

I belong to a music list serve, and last week a discussion about Joan Jett's I Love Rock and Roll evolved into a thread concerning odes to rock and roll. There were the typical ones you'd expect -- like Led Zeppelin's Rock and Roll, the Rolling Stones' Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It), AC/DC's Rock N Roll Ain't Noise Pollution, Foreigner's Jukebox Hero, KISS' Rock n Roll All Night, Neil Young's Hey Hey My My/My My Hey Hey, The Byrds' So You Wanna Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star, The Ramones' Rock & Roll High School and Do You Remember Rock & Roll Radio, Bob Seger's Old Time Rock 'n' Roll, Chuck Berry's Rock and Roll Music and Roll Over Beethoven, The Modern Lovers' Roadrunner and Don McLean's American Pie -- but I knew there were a lot more. So I took a cursory glance through my music collection to come up with some. It's a pretty long list -- probably too long to post here -- but if anyone is interested in seeing it, leave me a comment and I'll e-mail it to you.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Porcella, The Deadly Snakes' fourth album, shows the band continuing to expand its horizons from its greasy garage rock roots without turning its back on where it came from. There's a bit of The Doors in album-opener Debt Collection, a bluesy rock number with some sax. There are lots of strings in 200 Nautical Miles and the collection-closing A Bird In The Hand Is Worthless. The organ plays a large role in the garage-rockin' Sissy Blues, while the blues-based Let It All Go is largely acoustic. Co-frontman André Ethier plays toy piano and sounds like Eric Burdon in the context of High Prices Going Down, while reminding me of Nick Cave in So Young & So Cruel. Melotron is used to good effect on the fun, melodic and varied Gore Veil. There are musical similarities to Tom Waits' work on Work, while horns add extra life and spirit to the rollicking By Morning, It's Gone. The Banquet offers up a garage rock gospel revival.
While Porcella is solid, The Deadly Snakes really come into their own on stage. I've seen the group twice since June and believe that it's one of the best live bands in Toronto. Hopefully I can get motivated enough after barbecuing myself a nice steak to get out of the house and see the Snakes play Lee's Palace at midnight tonight. I'm sure that it will be a hot show.
I just had my first listen to Ryan Adams & The Cardinals' new Jacksonville City Nights CD and, like on this year's earlier Cold Roses double-album, Ry-Ry is once again exercising his country side. Opener A Kiss Before I Go is a traditional hurtin' country song with pedal steel, piano and violin. It's also one of the best cuts on the album. The Hardest Part uses strings while still shuffling along smartly, while pedal steel helps propel the lively My Heart Is Broken. Trains picks up momentum like a chugging locomotive, while Hard Way To Fall and Withering Heights are also standouts. Norah Jones duets with Adams on the piano-based Dear John, while Silver Bullets is another piano-based ballad. Much of the lyrical content is melancholy, and there are more than a few death references scattered through the album's 14 tracks. Like Cold Roses, I enjoyed Jacksonville City Nights, but didn't find it exceptional.

Thanks to Greg Bennett for the link.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


Ice-T is to produce David Hasselhoff's first hip-hop album.
The pair are neighbours in Los Angeles and are said to have struck up a close friendship.
Hasselhoff has had some success as a singer, releasing seven albums. He's also said to be very popular in Germany.
Ice-T, who was one of the first real hip-hop stars in the late 1980s, said: "The man is a legend. And we are going to show a whole new side of him."
The rapper is said to be convinced that the 51-year-old for Knight Rider and Baywatch actor can take on the biggest names in rap, reports The Sun.
Ice-T added: "He's gonna come out as Hassle The Hoff - I promise you. The Hoff will surprise people with his rap skills and humour."

One of my best friends in high-school was nicknamed The Hoff. I can't remember why. But if he hadn't died in a car accident almost 20 years ago, I know that he could have delivered a much more inspired rap album than David.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

I went to a showcase at Revival last evening where Nickel Creek played eight songs from its new Sugar Hill album, Why Should The Fire Die?, which came out last month. I had heard the group's two previous albums and respected the musicianship, but they did little to excite me. After hearing the band live, I have even more respect for its playing and got more out of Why Should The Fire Die?. The southern California group mixes bluegrass with folk and country music to come up with a sound that's hard to pigeon-hole. Frontman, mandolin and bouzouki player Chris Thile is a great picker and an energetic and enthusiastic performer who's good at engaging a crowd. The brother-sister team of guitarist Sean Watkins and fiddler Sara Watkins, as well as stand-up bassist Mark Schatz, are also definitely talented. The three main group members write all of their own material, though Gary Louris from The Jayhawks collaborated with Thile on Jealous of the Moon and they cover Bob Dylan's Tomorrow Is A Long Time on the new disc. The young band members were very polite when I had a drink with them after the performance, and Thile told a great story about playing mandolin for a very sleepy but appreciative Bill Monroe when he was just 13 (but was already sponsored by Gibson).
While the pints of Amsterdam Nut Brown Ale and the excellent appetizers at Revival were quite tasty, I still needed to partake of a two-for-three-dollar falafel sandwich deal on my walk down to the Horseshoe to see The Novaks.
The Novaks' self-titled debut album was released in Canada last month by Warner-distributed Sonic Records, and the Newfoundland band's excellent Goodbye Rock and Roll Band is currently at Canadian radio and video stations. The band adds more rock to the mix live than it does on record, and you can hear elements of The Flashing Lights, The Rolling Stones, The Joel Plaskett Emergency and label- and frequent tourmate Matt Mays in its music. The band's set picked up momentum as it played its catchier songs toward the end of the night, and the crowd's response was robust. Look for the group's young career to start picking up more momentum soon, too.
Happy first day of autumn.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Check out the FEMA for Kidz Rap at

np Franz Ferdinand vs. The Knack vs. Run DMC - Do You Wanna Cuz It's Tricky?

Monday, September 19, 2005

Holy Microphone, Batman, I've found a great band and album.
Holy Microphone is a Toronto combo formerly known as Hannah featuring Mark Gabriel, Debbie Lillico (Cool Trout Basement) and Kirk Hudson (Wayne Omaha) -- all alumni members of Knockout Pill -- with guitarist Fred Robinson of The Chickens/U.I.C. and bassist/guitarist/producer Duncan Blair from The Mummers. The group had the release party for its Goodbye Television Girl debut album last Tuesday at the Horseshoe Tavern, and everyone I talked to in attendance was as enthusiastic
about it as I was.
Gabriel handles the majority of the vocals, while Lillico trades off with him at times and Robinson takes a very rare vocal turn on All The Leaves, which features a wall of guitars. Live, Gabriel's voice sounds a lot like David Lowery of Cracker/Camper Van Beethoven. But the resemblance isn't as noticeable on the disc, which was recorded at Peter Hudson's Hallamusic studio.
Album opener Illuminate The Girl reminds me of the pop parts of the Velvet Underground's debut album, while the slower The Weekend Tomorrow has hints of VU acolyte Dean Wareham's Galaxie 500 and Luna. The disc-ending Sally's On Fire has a big drum introduction and I heard elements of Television (yet another New York band that owes a debt to VU) when the band opened its show with it.
Somewhat jangly and rootsy power pop sounds shine through on Lesley, Sister Song, Feathers and Beatle Bob, a song dedicated to the odball St. Louis scenester who travels across North America to do some bad dancing at the front of the stage for bands he likes. I know a lot of people hate Bob, but there's no way that you can hate this song, and I'm sure that the mop-topped, '60s-suited one would enjoy cutting a rug to it.
For what it's worth, I was captured on film talking to Beatle Bob on a bus in Austin this past March at South By Southwest. A crew is making a documentary on him, so I could be appearing at a low-budget film festival near you sometime.
Quite simply, Goodbye Television Girl is one of the best albums that I've heard this year.
Unfortunately, the web site isn't operational at the moment. But that should hopefully change soon. In the meantime, if you're interested in buying the album, it was just released in Canada by Maple/Universal-distributed Rubber Road Records, which can be contacted at
The Chicago Bears were coached by Dick Jauron a few years ago until he was fired because the team was so woeful. To put that into a British musical context, you can sing "We don't need Dick Jauron" to the same tune as the chorus of Spandau Ballet's Chant No. 1 (I Don't Need This Pressure On). I have no idea of why I thought of that.
And why didn't anyone at the NFL head office think of scheduling a Buccaneers-Raiders game for Monday Night Football tonight? It's not like they didn't know that Talk Like A Pirate Day would fall on a Monday this year when they were drawing up the schedule.
Ahoy mateys!
For those of you cast adrift on the high seas, or who simply don't know any better, today is Talk Like A Pirate Day.
Visit for more details on this annual buccaneer holiday.
To fully experience this important event, enjoy a cup of grog with your grub, do a hornpipe and then shiver me timbers.
Captain Steve
The Toronto Independent Music Awards (I much prefer TIMA) will be held at The Phoenix on Wed. Oct. 5. There will be perfomances by 13 acts and awards handed out in 21 categories. But I must ask why, as a person who's pretty in tune with the Toronto music scene, haven't I heard of the vast majority of the performers and nominees? The event is being run by a British-born Californian named Martin Brown who has no roots in the Toronto indie music community in partnership with a company called The Pandemonium Project -- which was founded by Daniela Oliva, is based in Woodbridge, Ont., and which I've never heard of. Potential nominees had to submit a $25 entry fee to be considered, and tickets cost $10. Those numbers are by no means exorbitant, but I still smell a cash grab at work here. Perhaps the event wasn't publicized well enough, and a lot of worthy acts didn't enter because they weren't aware of it. Or perhaps these acts shared my skepticism of the whole thing and didn't get involved. I'm all for promoting Toronto talent, and hope that the night is a success for all involved, but there's just nothing about the show for me to be enthusiastic about and a bit to raise my suspicions about the motivation behind it.

np The Rasmus - Hide From The Sun (further proof that Laika & The Cosmonauts remain Finland's best band)

Saturday, September 17, 2005

I just returned home from the Queen West Art Crawl, a weekend-long festival celebrating the arts in my neighbourhood. There were more than 100 exhibitors at Trinity Bellwoods Park, but four of them stood out for me.
Rob Croxford ( often mixes quotes from old etiquette books with pre-1950 iconography to establish a vintage look in his paintings, in which observers will find elements of satire, irony and humour -- depending on their perspective. I spent more time at Rob's booth than any other.
Pei Lin Chen ( creates human portraits in wire mesh. The 3D creations are quite unique and life-like for those looking for something other than paintings or photos for their walls.
I've admired the work of Ruby Zhang ( for a few years. Her watercolour paintings of Toronto buildings and neighbourhoods, many of which I walk by all the time, capture their spirit very well and help put these places in a slightly different perspective for me.
Stephen Murphy (, a native Antiguan and ska fan who now lives in Toronto, does similar things with Toronto streetscapes, but with less realism, bolder colours and more playfulness. Streetcars play a role in many of his works.
I walked further west along Queen Street to the Edward Day Gallery, where I had a glass of wine, and the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, where I was generally disappointed with works from the RBC Canadian Painting Competition. But I guess that should be expected from bank-sponsored art. I crossed the street to the Centre For Addiction and Mental Health to listen to the Parkdale Drummers and see some more art before heading home. It was a nice way to while away a few hours on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Rockabilly fans, rejoice!
That's the main message I want to get across after listening to Brian Setzer's Rockabilly Riot! Volume One - A Tribute to Sun Records. Setzer set his sights on Sun's 1954-1957 catalogue and chose 23 songs to interpret and record here using vintage equipment and original drum charts. While there are familiar numbers like Carl Perkins' Blue Suede Shoes and Johnny Cash's Get Rhythm, there are also excellent songs by other artists I've never heard of like Jack Earls, Kenny Parchman, Carl Mann, Gene Simmons (no, not that Gene Simmons), Ernie Barton, Dean Beard and Ray Harris. And then there are songs that I know, but more through covers and not the original versions. These include Red Hot, Boppin' The Blues and Red Cadillac and A Black Moustache (all covered by Robert Gordon, who I've seen half-a-dozen times and who seems due to return to Toronto again soon), Jerry Lee Lewis' Real Wild Child (covered by Teenage Head) and Rockhouse (covered by The Bop Cats). There really isn't any filler here, and the love which the former Stray Cats frontman and guitarist has for this repertoire is obvious.
I don't know if it says more about me, or the state of current music, but two of my favourite albums this year -- this and Jimmie Dale Gilmore's Come On Back -- all reach back to focus on songs that are 50 years old. Look for both of them and you won't be disappointed if you like looking back to one of the golden ages of music.

np Blue Jays 3 - Yankees 1 after one inning
Pere Ubu's name was taken from the central character in a series of absurdist plays by 19th century French playwright Alfred Jarry.
Since this month marks the 30th anniversary of Pere Ubu recording its 30 Seconds Over Tokyo debut single, I've revisited the band's catalogue this week -- minus 1991's Worlds In Collision, 1996's Folly of Youth, 1998's Pennsylvania and some live albums, none of which I've heard all of.
The Cleveland-based avant-rock band rose from the ashes of Rocket From The Tombs, which also helped spawn the Stiv Bators-fronted Dead Boys. Although original member Peter Laughner had long since died, Rocket From The Tombs reformed for a 2003 tour with a lineup that was still fronted by David Thomas but included Television guitarist Richard Lloyd and Dead Boys guitarist Cheetah Chrome. I saw the band at Lee's Palace and it was almost like walking into a previously unopened vault and becoming mesmerized. That lineup released Rocket Redux, the band's only official release, as only demos and bootlegs were circulated from back in the day.
Terminal Drive, the fifth and final CD on the Datapanik in the Year Zero box set that inexplicably came out on Geffen in 1996, collects rare Pere Ubu-related recordings from the mid-'70s Cleveland scene. It includes the Rocket From The Tombs version of 30 Seconds Over Tokyo and a live version of Amphetamine recorded at the original band's very last show. The disc ends with Pere Ubu covering The Seeds' Pushin' Too Hard. But there are many other acts on the album that most people who weren't part of the Cleveland scene would have never heard of, and I'm particularly impressed with Foreign Bodies' The Incredible Truth, Carney and Thomas' Sunset in the Antipodes, Neptune's Car's Baking Bread, Tripod Jimmie's Autumn Leaves, Friction's Dear Richard, Pressler-Morgan's You're Gonna Watch Me, Mirrors' She Smiled Wild, Electric Eels' Jaguar Ride (featuring Cramps drummer Nick Knox), Tom Herman's Steve Canyon Blues and Thomas with a solo work called Atom Mind that's partly adapted from Lee Dorsey's Working In A Coalmine. The material ranges from avant-jazz-rock to happy pop-rock to Velvet Underground-influenced work. All Pere Ubu fans should pick up the box set just for that CD alone.
I find that Pere Ubu's earliest recordings, from the 1975-1977 era, hold up better than what they released later that decade and through 1982, when the band went on hiatus until reforming again in 1987.
Even though I didn't discover the band until the early '80s, it was the earlier recordings that I became familiar with first, and that's perhaps why they still hold a special place. Pere Ubu sounded like nothing else at the time and, 30 years later, still doesn't. Though I fully admit that David Thomas' strangled falsetto voice isn't to many people's tastes, and the music can sometimes be jarring, it possesses an originality and free-flowing eccentricity that inspires, especially on tracks like Final Solution, Cloud 149, Heaven, Nonalignment Pact, The Modern Dance, Street Waves, Over My Head and Humor Me.
While not as consistent, the late '70s lineup still came up with such winners as Navvy, Ubu Dance Party, The Fabulous Sequel and Lonesome Cowboy Dave.
The same can also be said of the early '80s version that produced Go, Birdies, Horses, West Side Story and Not Happy.
Pere Ubu returned from the wilderness for 1988's The Tenement Year. The oddball lyrics were still there, but there was a move to a somewhat more mainstream sound that was still out there enough to satisfy fans of the earlier stuff. Highlights include Busman's Honeymoon, Say Goodbye, Miss You and, especially, We Have The Technology.
Cloudland came a year later and stands as Pere Ubu's most overtly pop-driven album through production help from Stephen Hague (Pet Shop Boys). While not as angular as past recordings, it's not without its charming idiosyncracies. Your best bets are Breath, Race The Sun, Waiting For Mary, Bus Called Happiness, Nevada!, Love, Love, Love and Monday Night.
The sound and the band lineup was leaner for 1993's Story of My Life, which perhaps has been a tad overlooked, since it may be my favourite Pere Ubu album when listened to from start to finish. Songs like Wasted, Louisiana Train Wreck, Fedora Satellite II, Kathleen, Honey Moon, Sleep Walk, Story Of My Life and Last Will and Testament all slyly weave their way into your head.
Ray Gun Suitcase saw Pere Ubu return somewhat to its earlier, darker sounds and away from the sheen that some people had criticized it for. Listen for a cover of the Beach Boys' Surfer Girl as well as Beach Boys, Turquoise Fins and Down By The River II.
Pere Ubu's most recent album, St. Arkansas, was released in 2002. Again, it follows a twisted, spiralling path down through such songs as The Fevered Dream of Hernando DeSoto, 333 and Phone Home Jonah until, fittingly, it ends with the nine-minute Dark.
The first time I saw Pere Ubu live was at a club that I believe was in the basement of a strip mall in St. Catharines, Ont. in 1990. The show was great, but the real highlight for me was after the show. I talked to Thomas, who had a football autographed by Bernie Kosar, quarterback of the Cleveland Browns -- my favourite NFL team at the time. While the band's equipment was being taken down, the two of us stood at opposite ends of the club and played catch with the Kosar football for 10 minutes. I offered Thomas $50 for the ball. He wisely declined.
I saw Pere Ubu again when it played a free street show as part of North By Northeast at least five years ago. While it was another excellent show, no stories came out of that one. I'm hoping that the band comes back soon.
Finally, here's a scientifically accurate list of my 10 favourite Pere Ubu songs of all time: 1. Final Solution 2. Nonalignment Pact 3. We Have The Technology 4. Lonesome Cowboy Dave 5. Heaven 6. Breath 7. Street Waves (live version) 8. Sleep Walk 9. Not Happy 10. Humor Me
I just listened to the original score soundtrack to Thumbsucker, a movie that's done well on the festival circuit and opens in Los Angeles and New York today. It features Lou Pucci, Tilda Swinton, Vincent D'Onoforio, Keanu Reeves, Benjamin Bratt, Kelli Garner and Vince Vaughn.
The score was written and performed by Tim DeLaughter and The Polyphonic Spree, but it doesn't bring the sheer joy that the group's albums or, especially, it's incredibly moving live shows do. The two exceptions are Some Of The Parts (featuring some terrific theremin) and the movie's main song, Move Away and Shine (which comes in two versions).
Elliott Smith was originally to have done the soundtrack by recording covers, but his death put an end to that. Smith, however, remains represented with his own Let's Get Lost and covers of Big Star's Thirteen and Cat Stevens' Trouble. I was never much of a Smith fan, and these songs won't change that.
So while I certainly can't give this album a ringing endorsement, I know that there are those out there who will appreciate it.

np Brian Setzer - Rockabilly Riot! Volume One - A Tribute to Sun Records
I was tailgating in an Orchard Park, N.Y. parking lot before a Bills-Jets game about 10 years ago and there were two pick-up trucks full of good old boys beside us. They were discussing NASCAR, which I know little about, but I thought that I'd go over and talk to them anyway.
Two of them were wearing T-shirts that said "F.A.D.E." on the front. I asked them what that meant and they replied, "Fans Against Dale Earnheardt."
Trying to come up with a quick reply, I said, "Oh yeah? Well, I'm the president of F.A.R.T."
They looked baffled and asked what that was. I replied, "Fans Against Randy Travis."
They thought that was hillarious and gave me beers the rest of the afternoon.
I really have nothing against Randy Travis. I was given one of his guitar picks when I was in Nashville once, and that's about as much thought as I've ever given the guy.

np Pere Ubu - St. Arkansas
The launch party for Sonic, a magazine about the Galaxie and Max Trax digital music channels that I edit, was held upstairs at Sassafrazz in Yorkville on Wednesday afternoon in conjunction with CRIA, SOCAN, CIRPA, CMPA and the Toronto International Film Festival's Canadian Music Café. A number of people who I'd never met before, all dressed in business attire, came up to congratulate me. I hope that my 40-year-old pajama top and bright orange pair of Chuck Taylors didn't make them too nervous. Actually, I do.
I took my tenant/roommate Frank with me since he likes meeting new people and trying to get inside their heads as much as I dislike corporate schmoozing. Besides, he's a composer and writer, and I thought that he might be able to make some contacts. He enjoyed himself and gave away some business cards and a handful of his CDs, so hopefully something will come from it.
The Canadian Music Café featured five different Canadian artists performing five-song sets on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. Adrienne Pierce, Buck 65, Jorane, Chantal Kreviazuk, Wil, Alana Levandoski, Andy Stochansky, Sarah Slean, Jully Black and The Heavy Blinkers were among the performers.
On our day, Masia One was first up. The diminutive Singapore native, who now lives in Vancouver, had a three-piece backing band for her unexceptional rapping.
She was followed by Gordie Sampson, who I respect as a songwriter and who has collaborated with a variety of people. His voice seemed a bit hoarse.
Ron Sexsmith was next, and was great. He played some of my favourite songs (including There's A Rhythm and Gold In Them Hills) from his catalogue and the crowd was quite appreciative.
Café booker Chris Teeter was nervous about how the crowd would react to K'naan, but needn't have. This former Somalian refugee, who now lives in Toronto, performs a brand of organic hip-hop with his band that follows a similar line to K-OS. And because of his background, his words resonate. Definitely give this guy a shot if you get the opportunity.
Barenaked Lady Steven Page ended the afternoon with two songs from his band (The Old Apartment and Enid), and some of his solo stuff that left no impression on me at all.
I was given a constantly replenished supply of liquor tickets, and Frank and I made it our goal to finish the fresh bottle of Havana Club dark rum at the bar. We met that challenge. When we got home, the two of us rummies decided to do a taste test challenge between his brand (Captain Morgan) and mine (Old Sam). We drank a shot of each on their own, and then had a few more mixed with ice and cola. Old Sam was the hands-down winner. I've only seen it in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, and brought a bottle back home with me from my trip there this summer. Frank has since e-mailed the LCBO to see if it can make a special order for him to get a couple of bottles shipped this way.
After watching the Blue Jays go down to the Bosox on TV, I headed up to Lee's Palace to see The Proclaimers. I haven't seen the group since I heard it for the first time at the Pogues Picnic in Finsbury Park in London, England in 1987, but have appreciated many of Craig and Charlie Reid's songs since then. I've only listened to the guys' new Restless Soul album once since I got it this week, but I like it. And I'm sure that they played quite a few songs from it, but I just don't know them well enough to say which ones. But among the songs that I definitely recognized, I was very pleased with Letter From America, I'm On My Way, Let's Get Married, Sunshine On Leith, I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles), The Joyful Kilmarnock Blues and an encore cover of Roger Miller's King of the Road. Throw The R Away was really the only song that I wished that I had heard and didn't.
A couple of falafels for the walk home completed a full and interesting day.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Horseshoe Fury swept our first two playoff games in the Queen Street Softball League on Sunday and went back to our sponsor bar for some celebratory pitchers of Wellington and collective back-patting. That wasn't enough for many of my teammates, however, who talked me into going to Lee's Palace to see '70s Scottish hard-rock band, Nazareth (which took its name from The Band's The Weight).
I knew the band's hits from classic rock radio, and didn't mind a few of them, but this definitely wasn't the kind of show that I usually find myself at. I was probably one of the younger people in attendance and had more hair than a lot of the balding older fans. But the guys who did still have all of their hair were definitely quite proud of it and wore it as large as their Farrah-inspired wives and girlfriends. I found myself watching the crowd as much as I did the Spinal Tap spectacle on the stage. A few guys tried to get me to dance or play air guitar with them, while a surgically enhanced blonde seemed to be distracting the sound man as she bounced up and down beside him. I heckled three times and wasn't roughed up, so Nazareth fans must embrace the "Peace, love and dope" message espoused by singer Dan McCafferty.
There was a huge drum kit that hid the youngest member of the band, who obviously wasn't an original member. Bassist Pete Agnew reminded me of a less gay Rob Halford. I don't know if the guitarist was an original member or not, but he certainly looked like a time machine had dropped him from 1974 on to the stage. McCafferty has probably had a glass or two of Scotch in his lifetime to get his voice to sound like a cross between AC/DC's Brian Johnson and a messenger of Satan (if, indeed, one of Satan's messengers would be permitted to wear a vest on stage). McCafferty also had a habit of tucking his chin into his chest that made him look like Ian Drury, and gesturing with his hands so that I thought of wrestler King Kong Bundy signaling that he wanted a five-count.
The second song was Razamanaz, which isn't without its primal charms. I also remember Love Leads To Madness, Shanghai'd In Shanghai and My White Bicycle. It was quite loud and at one time I went upstairs to the Dance Cave for a respite and to hang out with Jordan, Michelle, Rachelle and DJ Jazzy Joel. I went back downstairs, only to race back up and breathlessly announce, "He's bringing out the bagpipes," before returning to hear the "Now you're messin' with a son of a bitch" chorus of Hair of the Dog. The next minute was quite surreal, as McCafferty appeared to be playing the bagpipes, but the sound emanating from the speakers was some kind of vocoder (think Peter Frampton's Show Me The Way) version of Loch Lomond. With that moment of oddness over, the band launched back into the conclusion of Hair of the Dog and played another song or two before leaving the stage.
The group returned for an encore of the Boudleaux Bryant-penned power ballad Love Hurts that had Fred and Joanne and Tima and I slowdancing like we were at a satirical high-school dance from the past. Things ended with an energetic cover of Joni Mitchell's This Flight Tonight. I think I heard every Nazareth song I know, so that was more than enough.
I was tired from playing two softball games in the hot sun, having a few beers and the Nazareth experience. But when I got home, I found that I had a very queasy stomach that has persisted until now. I don't know if I should blame it on any of the three above factors or the one-dollar hot dog I bought from a street vendor while at the Horseshoe. I haven't seen The Proclaimers since 1987 and am interested in seeing them play Lee's on Wednesday night since I like the group's new album, but in the back of my mind I have this fear that the combination of that club and Scottish bands may not be good for my health. I hope that's not the case, just in case The Rezillos ever come to Toronto.
Yesterday was also the first anniversary of my going-away party at Lee's with the Old 97s, the last band I got to see before I embarked on my around-the-world journey. Here's another thank you to all of you who helped organize that (the giant alphabet song card is still leaning up against my bedroom wall).
Nazareth will be playing Winnipeg on Wednesday night and then will continue its way westward playing a lot of venues I've never heard of in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. If you enter Nazareth at, you can see a relatively recent photo of the band (with McCafferty wearing the vest), although not the same version that played last night, as well as a vintage shot where McCafferty is wearing a Colorado Rockies hockey jersey.