Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

I love the Pixies.

The Pixies were one of the bands that defined my teenage years. Pre-Internet, small town, I found new music by spending too much money on music magazines and checking out any band that was mentioned as a peer to my then-favourite band. R.E.M.

That’s how I found the Pixies. The first thing I ever bought of theirs was a cassette of the Here Comes Your Man EP when I was on a band trip to Halifax (yes, I was in band), because the Woolco record section didn’t stock the Pixies.

They’ve since overtaken R.E.M. in my estimation, and I list them as one of my three favourite bands, along with I Mother Earth and Modest Mouse.

When the Pixies originally reunited and launched the Doolittle tour, I bought a ticket to see them in Toronto although I ultimately wasn’t able to make the trip. A couple of years ago they took that tour to Atlantic Canada. I first saw them at the Metro Centre in Halifax. Lower Bowl. This was the full Doolittle experience, with the big glowing balls hanging over the stage and visual projections behind it. The white smoke totally enveloping the stage for Into The White. The next night, I saw them at the Casino in Moncton, where the venue dictated dialing it back a bit. I stood in the front row, in front of my hero Kim Deal.

Fast forward to June 2013. Announcement: Kim Deal has left the Pixies. I was mostly OK with that, as I was when R.E.M. announced they were breaking up. The Pixies didn’t make new music anyway. Black Francis and Kim Deal were largely viewed as not being able to function creatively on new stuff together anymore. There’s a reason why they originally broke up. They clashed too much, so when they did get back together they did the Doolittle tour, where they were recreating an album and not disagreeing over the direction of new material. The Pixies became a band that toured occasionally, did some festivals and eventually explored some smaller markets.

Then came Bagboy. A new Pixies song for the first time in almost 10 years. And it is so the Pixies. Don’t listen to online commenters saying it sucks, it’s good. And it sounds like Kim Deal on the backing vocals, even though it isn’t.

So, I have a dilemma. Bands I love should only have the lineups that I love. I reluctantly let go of Bill Berry from R.E.M. because, after suffering a brain aneurysm while on tour in Europe, he deserved to retire to his farm in Georgia. Edwin leaving IME was no great loss, it actually resulted in a much better singer joining the band. Modest Mouse’s ever-changing lineup and lack of new material is much more personally frustrating for me. I just want Isaac Brock to bring back Eric Judy and keep Jeremiah Green. The original three. I’d also like Joe Plummer and Tom Peloso there too, but I’ll take what I can get. Just keep Johnny Marr out of the mix.

The Pixies are an iconic American band. Kim Deal was a huge part of that. Her not being a part of it changes the band fundamentally. SPIN made a comment about Bagboy, saying something to the effect that nothing about the song explains why they would get together and put out new music without Kim.

It’s because they want to make new music together. No, Bagboy isn’t revolutionary, doesn’t break new ground sonically, but it’s a fucking good song. Shouldn’t Pixies fans welcome new music? Shouldn’t Charles, Joey and David be able to make new music together again, if it’s good? Or are they risking their legacy by bringing in a hired gun to replace Kim?

I suspect I may be the only person who overthinks and obsesses on these things, but I get emotionally invested in bands that I love.

The reonion one year later

Posted: March 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

March 22, 2012 was one of the most amazing days of my life, even if I don’t actually remember a portion of it.

That’s the day I flew from Cape Breton to Toronto, where I was greeted at the airport by my friend Ben, and we rushed to the Sound Academy for the first I Mother Earth show in eight years, the first that I had seen in 12 years. It was my 14th IME show.

When we got to the venue with only a little bit of time to spare before IME went on, Ben and I met up in the crowd with some of our awesome friends (the text I got from Holly advised me to bite and scratch my way through the crowd to get there), including Danielle who noticed that my hands were shaking.

Then came that goddamn five-minute countdown clock. I was experiencing this weird combination of dehydration, adrenaline, anticipation, the aftereffects from stress over my delayed flights, and excitement. Finally, the clock hit zero and we heard the opening notes to The Mothers.

I managed to stay at our spot pretty close to the stage for about five songs, but I increasingly didn’t feel well. I finally had to tell Danielle and Holly that I had to go sit down somewhere. I walked to the bar, ordered two bottles of water and had to physically hang on to the side of the bar so I didn’t collapse into a heap on the floor.

When I no longer felt like I was on the verge of passing out or vomiting, I made my way to the back of the venue where there was a ledge thing that I could sit on. After a little while I was able to go back into the crowd and actually pay attention to the show.

I was extremely pissed at myself for ruining the experience of seeing my favourite band back onstage together, something I had never expected to happen. At least I had a repeat performance the next night to make up for it. And it did.

Since then, I’ve flown to Newfoundland, driven to Moncton, flown to Vancouver and Oakville to see four more shows. Six in a year. After a 12-year drought. I’ve now seen 20 shows, in total. A lot of people have seen many more shows than I have, although I may be close to the title for miles logged. In addition to seeing some amazing performances, I was able to meet in person people I’ve known online for about 15 years. I made new friends. I was able to see again friends that I first met in person during my original IME trip to Ontario in 1997, when he who shall not be named was leaving the band. I’ve had people show me tremendous hospitality. All because we met through a band’s message board.

There’s a great sense of community among a lot of the people who were a part of the message board. My role as a moderator there was, admittedly, to serve as the old cranky, bitchy aunt who every once in awhile walks outside on the porch, shakes her cane in the air, yelling, “You kids, get off of my lawn. And pull up those pants. And keep it down, I’m watching my stories.”

I may be becoming a sap in my advancing years, but I wanted to, initially, take the anniversary of the reonion to thank the band for returning to live performance — and I can truthfully describe the March 23 Toronto, Nov. 3 Vancouver and Feb. 22 Oakville shows in particular as having been epic and among my favourite live experiences ever. And I also want to thank them for not being a band that just phones it in by coming out, blowing some dust off a few old songs to make a quick buck, but for really working at reimagining how they do things and playing their asses off. In Oakville, they fucking played for three hours and 20 minutes and have plans for even longer shows. And Bruce for putting in the time he has when he now lives in another country and has a lot on his plate. And Chuck for pitching in when Bruce isn’t available. And Jag for being so gracious in answering a music nerd’s questions. And Brian, Christian, Daniel and Fatty for some seriously ass-kicking performances.

I’m still hoping that I may be able to get to the upcoming ‘long evening’ shows in London and St. Catharine’s. I have tickets and I’ve got the time off work but this really may be pushing things. I went to Oakville with the mindset it would be the last one for a long time — until they hopefully come east again — and it was such a great experience that I’m OK with that. Or so I like to tell myself.

But, beyond that, I also want to thank all the people I’ve gotten to spend time with over the past year. Friends who picked me up at the airport; who kicked their pre-teen daughter out of her bedroom so I’d have a place to crash; with whom I used to go to IME shows back in the day; who put me up in Toronto; with whom I reminisced; with whom I shit-talked about people from the old days; with whom I shared stories; who got up at 6 a.m. on a cold February day to get a bus into Toronto to have lunch with me. You guys are the best. And to think, we only ever got to know each other because we dig the same band.

I Mother Earth: Groovy, sexy magic

Posted: February 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

For god’s sake, people, stop telling Jag Tanna that I Mother Earth has to release another song.

According to a Q&A that the band did for a small number of people at a nearby restaurant after they blew the roof off of the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts (they’ll likely have to soon start a fundraising campaign for the necessary renovations), Jag doesn’t exactly find those sorts of comments encouraging during the songwriting process. In fact, it has the opposite effect. It makes him walk away from writing.

“I’d love to snap my fingers and go, OK, we’ve got five, six, seven songs, but we all have things that we’re doing right now,” he said.

“When somebody says to me, ‘You have to, you have to,’ it makes me feel like how we felt when we stopped, and we stopped because there were too many we have to, we-have-tos. That took the magic away for us, that’s why we stopped. Our whole thing is, I have the hockey net. You know the kid that has the hockey net in street hockey, and he takes it and he goes home and all the kids are standing there going, ‘We can’t play hockey.'”

“We have meetings and he’s like, ‘No!’ It’s like, ‘Ah, he’s taking his net and going home,'” Brian Byrne added.

“We sit around my kitchen table making a big strategy and I’m like, ‘I quit, I’m out.’ I’ve quit probably in the last year like 12, 15 times. Then I go to the bathroom and I come back and they’re all still at the kitchen table and I’m back in,” Jag said.

“The thing is, he doesn’t notify anyone, he just quits in his head,” Brian said.

Performing in a soft-seat theatre is a bit of an unusual venue for I Mother Earth (although the last IME show I saw pre-reonion was at the Savoy Theatre in Glace Bay on Feb. 13, 2000), and the crowd, while adoring, may have been a bit more subdued as a result. Some people sat throughout the performance although, by the end of the show, most had left their seats. The performance clocked in at three hours and 20 minutes, requiring an incredible amount of stamina from the band members.

“I don’t really do that well in pacing myself at anything,” Brian said. “It’s a totally different vibe, it’s not like a big bar where everybody’s bombed, it’s a whole different attitude. I really quite enjoyed it. I like how people are really quiet and respectful between songs.”

“It’s a little disconcerting at times, isn’t it, like wait a minute,” noted the moderator, whose name I didn’t catch, although he works for the Weather Network.

“We’re not used to that sort of vibe, that silence,” Jag said.

“It’s a tough thing with the silence, because that’s when people have the opportunity during the silence to bark out things sort of randomly,” said Mr.Moderator.

“We’re not afraid of that.”

Jag noted he wears heavy-duty earplugs during shows and can’t hear anything while on stage. He relies on seeing the crowd in between songs to tell how it is reacting to the set.

The band prefers a lengthy set over a short one, Jag said, noting many of their songs are very long.

“We get into these opening situations and for us it’s just a real drag. For us to play for 45 minutes is what, six songs, seven songs?,” he said.

“Five,” Brian replied.

“We did the Nickelback tour, we played, what, 40 minutes, 35 minutes, our set list was five songs,” Jag said. “We’re like, what do we do now? We’re not even sweating. But to do something like this and just look at each other and go into the extended part or keep it tight … that’s kind of where we live, that’s where we’re happy, that’s where things start to come together.”

“Our direction right now is that we just don’t give a fuck,” Jag said. “Our whole career we’ve frustrated a lot of people because as much as people want to push us into competing with, like, Our Lady Peace, the Watchmen, we just said, no, we’re entirely different. Not better (ed note: yes, better), not worse, just different, we think differently about music. It’s not about writing singles, it’s about writing songs that we like and that hopefully everybody else likes.

“With the new stuff, again, we did We Got the Love and there was no direction. We thought, do we go in a Quicksilver direction, in a Scenery & Fish direction, instead of pointing where we needed to go we just sort of let it go, because that’s how we’ve done everything.

“We made a huge dent in bringing us back with a song that’s over six minutes long and all the record companies are like, ‘How the fuck did you do it?’ because they’re pushing three-minute-long songs. We said, we’re pushing six-minute-long good songs.

“We’re working on a new tune now and it’s better than We Got the Love.”

The moderator at one point referred to Chuck Dailey, who filled in on bass for Bruce Gordon, as Bruce, which led to laughter from people in the audience and calls of “Chuck” and “Not-Bruce.”

At one point, Jag said of percussionist Daniel Mansilla, “He’s more rock than any of us, any fucking Canadian band anywhere, Daniel is more rock.”

In response to a question from a fan who had travelled from Buffalo, New York for the show, Jag noted he had no formal musical training, although he and Chris had their father as a mentor.

“You listen to music, you play it, you do whatever as a kid and it will lead you wherever,” Jag said. “It’s one of those things where, like, I have a million chords that I can play, I couldn’t tell you the name of one of them.”

“You know D and G,” Brian said.

“I know D, but then you add in a toe, a finger. I them them ‘a fancy, a D-fancy,'” Jag replied.

Chuck talked about the process of trying to learn some of IME’s complicated song passages.

“When I’m figuring out the songs I count them and I come to these guys and say, ‘This part is seven-seven … and they’re like, ‘No numbers!'” Chuck said.

“He said, ‘Oh I think this is how you do it,’ and I say, ‘Shh, don’t say anything! Just fucking play the song,'” said Jag.

“But you know what, it helped me a lot because that’s what I did, I started just listening rather than counting and now I can feel it,” Chuck said.

“When we got together to do our big shows at Sound Academy in March, we hadn’t played in so long and going back and relearning, I always used to read about Rush, they would write their album and the be like, ‘Oh man, how are we going to go play this thing?'” Christian said. “And we kind of felt the same, not about everything, some songs are pretty straight up, but we’d listen to Meat Dreams and a couple of other things and like, ‘How the fuck are we gonna play this?’ Not that everything’s so complicated, it’s just how do you make it all work nicely like it’s supposed to.”

Jag talked about the fact that he generally doesn’t listen to their music, except when having to figure out how to play something.

“I’m like, ‘I know the chord, come to me, I don’t want to listen … We did it in sound check and I’m like, ‘Oh, I played it right.'”

One funny moment came courtesy of a guy in the audience after asking Jag about his influences: “Almost the whole concert, all I’m thinking is, ‘Santana and just groovy sexy magic, man.'”

“That’s exactly what I was saying too,” Brian said.

Because he apparently drove to the venue in a time machine and got stuck in 1997, the moderator asked about the process of welcoming a new singer, 15 years after it actually happened and forgetting that it has been talked about to death.

“They have such standards for what they’re creating and for what, I guess, we do together now, so trying to play that catch-up, that was really tough,” Brian said. “They were always really supportive and if I got really twisted, he was always good, he would take me out for drinks. It was a lot of work to catch up to that, these guys have been playing with each other since they were two.”

“Playing live was probably the hardest,” Jag said. “His second show was like 35,000 people. He was barfing, he’s throwing up and we’re backstage like, ‘Do you think the kid’s gonna be OK?’ And sure enough, we walked out onstage, he just took over the whole stage, he climbed the rafters, the crowd was going nuts, it was like, ‘Shit, I guess this is easier than we thought.'”

“There was less flexing,” Christian added.

In closing, Christian had a few words for the fans who have stuck with the band through the eight-year hiatus that ended last March.

“As a band we want to thank all of you guys. You guys could have all went away or just not been interested and we just had a year of amazement because all of our old friends and fans came out … Seriously, we sit around and talk about it, how unbelievable this group of people is that comes to see us. We’re dumbfounded. We don’t know why, but we love it and we want you to know there’s actually a lot more coming, too.”

Love Your Starfish
I Is Us
Like the Sun
Sense of Henry
No One
Soft Bomb Salad
Cloud Pump
One More Astronaut
God Rocket (acoustic)
Good For Sule (acoustic)
Summertime in the Void
Like A Girl
The Universe in You
We Got the Love/Bad (U2)
All Awake
Earth, Sky & C
Another Sunday
Rain Will Fall
Meat Dreams
And the Experience

I Mother Earth’s performance at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts was my 20th IME show.

It also represented a number of firsts. It was the first show that I was ever late for. It was the first show that I had seen that featured Chuck Dailey rather than Bruce Gordon on bass. It was the first show with an intermission. It was the first show where some people sat throughout the show.

First the being late thing, which Jag noticed. Someone posted on the IME Twitter account that set time was 8:30 pm and it was reported that doors were at 8 p.m. So we meandered over from the pub where we had dinner at 8 p.m. only to discover they were already playing the first song of the set. Shit. Then, there was the very strange feeling of sitting while they were beginning a face-melting set. That didn’t last very long. As soon as my friends Katy and Melanie, who were just in front of me in the front row, stood up during Love Your Starfish, the third song of the set, I followed suit. It’s a rock show, people, get off of your asses. I travelled a long way to be there, I’m not so old yet that I need to sit down during a show. Let the band know that you appreciate their set. And after Like a Girl, when Brian invited people to come to the front of the stage while respecting the rest of the audience, I booted it down from the second row to hang with Katy and Melanie.

One of the things I always stress when talking about IME is their incredible musicianship, and that most definitely applies to Bruce and his crazy robot hands. I had heard a lot of great things about Chuck, both his performances when he’s been called upon to fill in when Bruce is not available, and as a person. And I have to say that he sounded really great. They are big shoes to fill, especially on the songs that they played in Oakville, and Chuck did an admirable job.

As for the set, you know it was good if I’m not raving about getting to hear Sense of Henry, my favourite song, live for the second time. (Brian did mess up the lyrics which the band had a laugh about)

Highlights of the set included No One, Soft Bomb Salad, The Universe In You, Blacksox (which I had only previously seen at a sound check years and years ago, and, as Brian said, is the greatest porn song ever written, “This one has words, like a million words, like the other ones.”), and beautiful acoustic version of Good For Sule. But, for me, the absolute best moment of the show was the acoustic version of God Rocket, a sentiment I expressed to Jag later in the evening. It was incredibly beautiful and seeing it alone made my trip worth it. Overall, it was just really a dream set list, and they totally killed it, every one of them – Jag, Brian, Christian, Daniel, Chuck and Fatty.

What I like about IME playing a soft seat theatre is that the sound is better than it could be at other venues. But it is a sin against music to have people sitting down during One More Astronaut.

As a funny aside, when they came back after intermission, which is also a strange thing to experience during a rock show, Brian informed us that he had split his pants when jumping around earlier in the set.

You haven’t really experienced IME unless you’ve seen them live. It’s an experience that inspires people – not just me – to go to extreme lengths, including travelling long distances, to see them. I flew from Cape Breton to see them, my friend Melanie went from Newfoundland. At the Q&A, there was a table of people from Buffalo. I randomly started chatting with a guy at the venue who had driven from Ohio to be there.

The band did a Q&A after the show for a small audience. I’ll have another post up in the next day or so about some of what they had to say.

A dozen records that I love

Posted: December 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

Instead of doing what I should be doing (and every other person with a music blog is doing) and writing about my favourite music of 2012, I’ve had something else on my mind. I want to write about those records that you love so much that you wouldn’t change anything about them. Not omit a song. The records you would pick if you were stranded on a desert island and couldn’t listen to anything else for the rest of your life. This isn’t the definitive list of my favourite records, necessarily, but a dozen that I love from beginning to end.

The Weakerthans – Left & Leaving

This is at the top of my list deliberately. It contains some of my favourite lyrics of all time. John K. Samson is one of the most talented songwriters I’ve ever encountered. Poignant, clever (but not too clever), wonderful wordsmith. “How I don’t know what I should do with my hands when I talk to you. How you don’t know where you should look, so you look at my hands.” “My city’s still breathing, but barely, it’s true, through buildings gone missing like teeth. The sidewalks are watching me think about you, sparkled with broken glass.” “And I’m leaning on this broken fence between past and present tense. And I’m losing all those stupid games that I swore I’d never play, but it almost feels OK.”

And possibly my favourite lyric of all time: “Memory will rust and erode into lists of all that you gave me. A blanket, some matches, this pain in my chest, the best parts of lonely.”

I’ve often said I feel like when I say a certain song is my favourite Weakerthans song that I feel like I’m cheating on the rest of them. This is, quite possibly, my favourite album of all time. The song Left & Leaving is one of my favourite songs of all time.

Modest Mouse – The Moon and Antarctica

This is the record that made me fall in love with Modest Mouse. It’s Isaac Brock at his heartbreaking best. I am so happy that I experienced seeing 3rd Planet performed live. “Well a third had just been made and we were swimming in the water. We didn’t know then, was it a son, was it a daughter.” There’s good reasons those wankers at Pichfork gave it a 9.8 out of 10.

I Mother Earth – The Quicksilver Meat Dream

There had to be an I Mother Earth record on this list. It shouldn’t be this one. It should be Scenery and Fish, which contains my favourite song of all time, Sense of Henry. But there is one big flaw that made me put my loyalties elsewhere. The recorded version of that record doesn’t have Brian Byrne on vocals. I love every song on that record but when I want to hear them I listen to live versions of the songs so that I can hear Brian sing them and not Edwin, as Brian is far superior to Ed in every way. So I picked TQMD. I also love every song on this record and I’m incredibly happy that this year I finally got to see some of them performed live. They are incredibly talented musicians. Like-minded people understand why I love IME so much that I would fly across the country to see them. If you are not one of those people, I really don’t give a shit. TQMD has some of my favourite IME songs, including Like the Sun and Passenger. If I ever feel down, I listen to Like the Sun and remember what it felt like in the crowd of the March 23 Sound Academy show when the crowd spontaneously sang along and Brian stepped away from the mic. One of the best moments I’ve ever had at a live show.

The Pixies – Doolittle

The Pixies were one of the bands that defined my teenage years. I listened to a lot of music that nobody in my tiny Cape Breton town had ever heard of before. I devoured music magazines and would check out any band that was mentioned alongside my then-favourite band, REM, which is how I discovered the Pixies. Doolittle has a lot of my favourite Pixies songs, including Debaser, Tame, Wave of Mutilation, Here Comes Your Man, Monkey Gone to Heaven and Gouge Away. In 2011, I was able to finally see the Pixies live, two nights in a row, when they brought their Doolittle tour to the Maritimes.

Thrush Hermit – Clayton Park

Joel Plaskett is mighty talented, but I will never love his solo stuff as much as I love Clayton Park. I didn’t particularly like Thrush Hermit prior to this record. But it is absolutely flawless. And then they broke up. Everyone knows From the Back of the Film and The Day We Hit the Coast, but if you haven’t heard the whole record you really should check it out.

REM – Life’s Rich Pageant

This wasn’t the record that got me into REM, that would be Document, which came at an important time in my development as a music fan. But when I look at their entire catalogue, I’d have to say Pageant is my favourite record of theirs. Just look at the track list – Begin the Begin, These Days, The Flowers of Guatemala, I Believe, Swan Swan H (which, get me drunk enough, I will enthusiastically sing for you – “Six in one, half a dozen the other, tell that to the captain’s mother … Swan swan hummingbird hurrah, we’re all free now, what noisy cats are we”).

The Dandy Warhols – Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia

I don’t love everything the Dandys have done. I find some of their recent output pretty damn boring. But this record is a masterpiece. I’ve had people thank me for introducing it to them. The whole record is solid. The songs are really well-constructed. It came out 12 years ago and still sounds fresh.

Death From Above 1979 – You’re a Woman, a Machine

This record is flawless. Period. I cannot listen to it in my car without turning it up so loud that the windows shake. It’s heavy but also melodic, which really appeals to me. I don’t dance, but this record makes me want to shake my ass.

Hawksley Workman – For Him and the Girls

I was in my car when I first heard a Hawksley Workman song played on CBC Radio. I scribbled down his name and immediately went home and bought For Him and the Girls online. I love everything Hawksley has ever done but I don’t think he’s ever produced anything as perfect as this record. Clever songwriting, beautiful vocals. And it’s sexy. It includes possibly my favourite Hawksley song of all time, Paper Shoes. “Singing is about sexual confidence. So sing out your stuff if you feel good enough to let the moment just hit you, if the music befits you.”

Stars – Set Yourself on Fire

This is one of the most beautiful records that I have ever heard. The interplay of Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan’s vocals, with beautiful, lush arrangements of the songs. I am notorious for not particularly liking many female singers because I generally don’t find them very interesting. But I love Amy Millan’s voice.

Wolf Parade – Apologies to the Queen Mary

Oh, Wolf Parade. I acknowledge that I far prefer Spencer Krug’s contributions to Wolf Parade over Dan Boeckner’s, but this entire record is great and rightly landed atop many critics best of the year lists when it was released in 2005. I love Spencer Krug’s voice and he is a brilliant lyricist. After much nagging, I finally turned a co-worker into a Wolf Parade fan, and he even now believes that I’ll Believe in Anything is the best song on it. It is Spencer Krug at his best.

Amon Tobin – Supermodified

Years ago, I was browsing at Sam the Record Man on Barrington Street in Halifax and had to ask the clerk what he was playing over the store’s sound system. It was Supermodified. I bought it on the spot. Amon Tobin is a genius. I’ve listened to a lot of electronic music but his is special. His has soul. Supermodified came out in 2000 and is not dated at all. Even if you think you don’t like electronic music, give it a listen.

Best live shows of 2012

Posted: December 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

I’ve had the good fortune to see a lot of my favourite artists live. Given where I live, that’s not something that can always be expected to happen. This year in particular I saw a few shows that are up there with the best shows that I have ever seen. Counting down from three to one.

3) Death From Above 1979 – Nov. 9 at Olympic Centre, Halifax

I love DFA 1979. I think “You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine” is a rare example of an absolutely flawless record. I was excited enough about Jesse and Sebastien getting back together and recording some new music, then they announced they were coming to Halifax. The show, which I took in from the balcony of the Olympic Centre, was beyond all expectations, and the new material is fantastic. Any other year and this would have been my favourite show.

2) Ben Harper – Sept. 8 Summersonic at Citadel Hill, Halifax

I am not as into Ben Harper as I once was, but was really excited to hear he was coming to Halifax. This was a solo show, just Ben on stage surrounded by his guitars. I wasn’t sure how that would go over in a show on Citadel Hill, and I may not have been as blown away if I had been anywhere else in the crowd, but I was in the front row and he made a big venue feel really intimate. He also apparently was genuinely blown away by the reaction of the crowd, constantly expressing his gratitude for the love we showed him. After he several times said how much he was loving Halifax he invited to people to go online and they’d see that he’s not someone who gushes about every town where he plays. It was a really, really special night and I put it up there with the White Stripes 10th anniversary show in my top three shows of all time. The show’s lineup also included stellar sets by Daniel Lanois and Martin Sexton.

1) I Mother Earth – March 23 at Sound Academy in Toronto and Nov. 3 at Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver

I don’t think it will take anyone who knows me by surprise that IME is atop my list of favourite shows of 2012. Hell, I saw them five times in four different provinces. I unabashedly and unashamedly proclaim my love for I Mother Earth. They are incredibly talented musicians and put on a killer live show. I remember what it was like seeing them come onstage together for the first time in eight years (it had been even longer since I had seen them, my last show was in 2000). It was the second Toronto show, on March 23, that really felt special. There was a whole lot of love in that room and on that stage. The guys looked like they were really enjoying being onstage together again and like they were blown away by the crowd’s reaction.

Flying all the way across Canada for a concert is not something one normally does. But I did it last month. I’ve had people question my sanity, but I don’t have any regrets because the Nov. 3 show was mind-blowing. It was a perfect set list, and I finally got to see them for the first time my favourite song, “Sense of Henry.” Before they took the stage, I had turned to a friend and said, “Maybe this will be the show where they bust out Sense of Henry.” When I told Bruce Gordon after the show that I couldn’t believe they had played it, he said, “We knew you were coming.” Right.

When I saw IME play at the Savoy Theatre in Glace Bay on Feb. 13, 2000, I had no idea that it would be the last time I would get to see them live for 12 years. This is probably why I’ve gone to such extremes to see them since the “reonion” began – who knows when my next chance will be. They are my favourite band and if you ever get the chance to see them live you should jump at it.

The Lonesome Crowded West

Posted: November 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

I have a … complicated relationship with Isaac Brock.

I love Modest Mouse. They are one of three bands that I consider to have significantly shaped how I listen to music.

They have released some spectacular records.

They haven’t put out a release of new material in five years.

Maybe Isaac used up his lyric-writing brilliance early. He was so prolific, so early, with so many incredible songs. Maybe his recent apparent inability to produce new material is because he’s trying to maintain the same standard of excellence, or maybe he’s just focusing on other aspects of the business, i.e. Glacial Pace, his record label (aptly named).

Today marks the 15th anniversary of the release of The Lonesome Crowded West. I discovered Modest Mouse a little later, after The Moon and Antarctica was released. That is a beautiful record. But If I had to choose between the two if I could only listen to one of them again, on some days I might pick The Lonesome Crowded West.

Why? For starters, it contains possibly my favourite Modest Mouse song of all time, one of my favourite songs of all time. Trailer Trash.

“Eating snowflakes with plastic forks, and a paper plate of course, you think of everything. Short love with a long divorce, And a couple of kids, of course, they don’t mean anything.”

Honest and heartbreaking songwriting.

Only this year, Modest Mouse has started playing Heart Cooks Brain (also from Lonesome Crowded West) live, despite the buffalo being a prominent image on MM t-shirts for years, and Isaac having a tattoo a tattoo of a buffalo on his chest.
“My brain’s the cliff and my heart’s the bitter buffalo.”

Then there’s Bankrupt On Selling. “Well, all the apostles, they’re sitting in swings, saying I’d sell off my saviour for a set of new rings and some sandals with a style of straps that cling best to the era.”

“All of the angels, they’d sell off your soul for a set of new wings and anything gold.”

Lonesome Crowded West is a fantastic record, with some of Isaac’s best lyrics. Happy birthday.


Posted: November 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

In response to this post, I put my iPod on shuffle to see what the first 10 songs that popped up were. My iPod is a 160 gig iPod Classic with about 9,000 songs on it, by the way.

1. Sufjan Stevens – That Dress Looks Nice on You
2. Karkwa – Red Light
3. Hawksley Workman – Taxi Drivers
4. I Mother Earth – One More Astronaut
5. Feist – Tout Doucement
6. Chad Van Gaalen – Poisonous Heads
7. Death Cab for Cutie – Transatlanticism
8. Modest Mouse – Fly Trapped in a Jar
9. Pixies – Planet of Sound (yeah!)
10. The Roots – Don’t Feel Right

Bruce Gordon: “Nancy, you’re on the wrong coast. Are you lost?”

My decision to fly to Vancouver from Nova Scotia to see I Mother Earth’s first show there in close to a decade was met with a number of different responses. Mocking, by people who can’t understand why I would drive three hours to see a live show let alone fly across the country. Eye-rolling, by people who thought, Oh Nancy, you’re being ridiculous, again. And envy, by people who understand why I would want to do such a thing, if it was at all possible to make it happen, and weren’t able to do so themselves.

I’ve travelled to four different provinces to see IME shows this year. The amount of money I’ve spent on airfare to see them could have gone toward a trip south, but I’m not interested in that – I am practically albino, I get burned if I stand too close to the microwave. A lot of the people who like to mock the trips I’ve taken this year are people who spend an equivalent amount of their disposable income on trips to Montreal, Toronto or Boston to see ball or hockey games but they think I’m ridiculous because I like music.

The fact is, IME is my favourite band. I have only ever been glad after shows that I went to the lengths that I did to see them. And I went 12 long years without getting to see them at all. I will continue to take any chance I get to see them live because who knows when the final time may be.

So, travelling as far as I did and having seen the shows I have in the past, there’s no way the Commodore Ballroom show on Nov. 3, 2012 could have possible lived up to expectations, right? Correct. It exceeded them. I know I sound like a cheerleader or broken record when I go on and on about how great every show I see of I Mother Earth’s is. I never thought I would ever see an IME show that surpassed the March 23 Sound Academy show, the second night of the “reonion.” That was such a special night, there was a lot of emotion in the room. While the Vancouver show couldn’t possibly touch the March 23 show in that way, in its own it may have been even better, from a die-hard fan perspective.

Summertime in the Void
Like a Girl
Cloud Pump
One More Astronaut
Lost My America
Sense of Henry
Love Your Starfish
Good for Sule
Meat Dreams
I is Us
Like the Sun
Universe In You
We Got the Love/Bad (U2 cover)
All Awake
Earth, Sky C
Another Sunday/Suzie Q
Rain Will Fall

Shortcut to Moncton
Autumn on Drugs

The set list was a fan’s dream set list. It left out what would seem like an obvious addition like Used to be Alright in favour of gems that they hadn’t played live in almost a decade, or ever, really, like the magnificent Sense of Henry. That song alone made my trip worth it. When they began playing it, my friend Desiree and I just looked at each other in disbelief like we couldn’t believe it was happening. After the first verse, I actually said out loud, “Holy motherfucking shit.” Just before they had begun their set, I had said to my friend Danielle, “Maybe this will be the show where they bust out Sense of Henry.”

(What I didn’t know at the time but found out from Bruce later was that they had first played Sense of Henry in Winnipeg).

The bouncy floor of the Commodore got a workout, particularly around the centre stage area, as the crowd was really jumping. After Good for Sule, Brian said the crowd had actually sung along too loudly and he hadn’t known where the fuck he was in the song.

At the end of We Got the Love, Brian got the crowd to sing the “whooooa” part, and the band segued into a cool cover of Bad by U2, which from the era of U2 that I can actually tolerate.

I don’t know if it’s a venue policy, but security were being really strict about not letting people take video during the show. Despite that, Des was able to get Sense of Henry and I got most of Good for Sule.

The more shows under their belts, the better the band sounds. They are all just such talented musicians and amazing performers. And they still look like they really enjoy being onstage with each other again. A couple of standout songs for me were Meat Dreams and Universe in You, the latter of which I had never seen them do live before.

“I’m in a really good band,” Brian said after Earth Sky & C. Yes, Brian, you are

What was cool was the number of young fans in the audience, many of whom were obviously musicians and stared at Jag in awe during the extended jams.

As much as I would like to meet Chuck Daley, the bass player from the Salads who has been gracious enough to fill in when Bruce isn’t available and who seems like an incredibly cool guy, I was really happy Bruce was able to make the show.

So, even if if is a little crazy to fly all the way across Canada to see a rock show, I’m really glad I did it. Because if I hadn’t and could only afterward hear other people talk about how amazing Saturday night was, I would be kicking myself in the ass for not being there. So, thanks to Jag, Bruce, Brian, Christian, Daniel and Fatty for putting on such an incredible show which no doubt will only encourage me to jump on another plane in a few months if they don’t make their way to the east coast.

I especially want to thank my friends Travis and Desiree for hosting me during my trip and being so great. The three of us served as moderators on the official IME message board for years, and we went to our first and only previous IME show together 15 years ago.

I think it says a lot about I Mother Earth that their fans are as dedicated as they are. I’m not the only person who travelled to be at that show. I know people who went from Newfoundland, Ontario and Alberta to be there. Vancouver was my 19th IME show. I don’t come close to holding the record for the number of shows but I’m probably a contender for miles travelled. I place Vancouver up there with the March 23 Sound Academy show in terms of the best and it just leaves me wanting to get to the nice ol’ round number of 20 as soon as possible. A show in Oakville on Feb. 22 has just been announced. But that would just be crazy, right?

Saturday, Sept. 8 was the second day of the three day Summersonic festival on Citadel Hill in Halifax, and the only day I was able to attend. While it was overcast and cool at times, the skies co-operated and it was, in all, not a bad day for an outdoor show.

I saw all six acts on the bill that day, but I’m only going to talk about the three that I went to see – Daniel Lanois, Martin Sexton and Ben Harper.

I love Daniel Lanois’ music, especially the album L’Acadie, so I was excited to see him live. I managed to get into the front row. What I didn’t realize what what an amazing guitarist he is. There were a lot of extended jams worked into his songs. His set included The Messenger, Jolie Louise, Still Water and he killed. He borrowed Ben Harper’s Telecaster for two songs.

Next up was Martin Sexton who was, frankly, a revelation. What a voice. I am so grateful that he was on the bill, because I became a fan from the moment he opened his mouth and started to sing. He was the perfect bridge between Daniel Lanois and Ben Harper’s acoustic set. Like Harper, Sexton performed solo, just him and his guitar, and incorporated elements of gospel, blues and rock. I am definitely going to track down some of his stuff on iTunes.

Finally, it was time for Ben Harper. I used to be a rabid Ben Harper fan but over the past couple of years I got out of the habit of listening to him regularly. I’m not sure why. But I was really excited about the prospect of finally getting to see him live and crossing him off my “must see at some point in my life” list. I wasn’t really sure how the acoustic show would go over in an outdoor festival environment, though. First, the set list:

1 Trouble Man
2 Indifference
3 All My Heart Can Take
4 Mutt
5 Burn One Down
6 Another Lonely Day
7 Power Of The Gospel
8 Diamonds On The Inside
9 Masterpiece
10 Number With No Name
11 Please Break The Silence
12 Don’t Give Up On Me Now
13 Walk Away
14 Please Bleed
15 Hallelujah
16 Suzie Blue
17 Atlantic City
18 Excuse Me Mr.
19 Please Me Like You Want To
20 Younger Than Today
21 When It’s Good
22 Sexual Healing

The set was two-and-a-half hours long, including an encore that lasted about 50 minutes. It’s a rare occasion when a sincere, overwhelming mutual admiration develops over the course of a show between performer and audience. It’s happened at the shows I mentioned in my favourite live shows of all time blog and it happened Saturday night. Ben didn’t engage in a lot of banter between the first few songs of the set. The crowd responded thunderously to every song, singing along. He called Halifax one of his favourite places he has ever visited, saying he started to have a good feeling about it from the time he looked out his window as the plane descended. He talked about going skateboarding on the Halifax Common and meeting local kids on Friday and called out local cops not for hassling the kids and confiscating their beer but for pouring it out on the skate park where they could slip and get hurt rather than in the bushes.

It was, predictably, with Burn One Down that things kicked into high gear. I’ve recently decided to not be one of those people who is on their phone all the time during a concert. But I couldn’t help myself, he played so many of my favourite songs of his I wanted to take video of them. Being in the front row made it pretty easy to steady my phone fixed on the stage without me having to pay any attention to it, until time came to stop recording, so I could both record and enjoy the show without having to watch it on a screen.

He said Jeff Buckley was the truth and I grabbed my phone to record it. Ben hasn’t done a lot of these acoustic shows yet, I don’t know how much he’s shared this story but he really seemed in the moment. Then he played Hallelujah, Jeff Buckley’s version. I love Jeff Buckley. It was a great thing to see. I remember where I was when I heard Jeff died. Hearing a heartfelt anecdote about Jeff then hearing Ben cover Jeff’s version of Hallelujah was really special. I say that as someone who says there should be no more Hallelujah covers. I love the way he held on the high note at the three-quarter point of the song, even with the crowd singing along, because that’s the kind of thing Jeff would have done. It was a true tribute.

I really wanted him to do Gold to Me. He didn’t. We’ll talk it over and see if I’ll get over it. Every time he sat down I hoped he was going to play it.

One of the songs I missed capturing on video was Excuse Me Mr. Which was when I realized it wasn’t just a great show, it was one I was going to talk about forever. There was a moment, when Ben basically stopped everything and was just taking in the crowd. I have no words. I really hope someone else recorded it. It was a fucking special moment.

He continually talked about how responsive the crowd was. I’ve been to a lot of shows, he was being genuine about it being special. When he was finally about to leave the stage he made personal eye contact with everyone in the front holding his fist over his heart and then extending it.

Ben swore that it was his 1st trip to Halifax but not his last.

Now to the rant section. To the women who I eventually made nice with who were talking about how they intended to move me from my spot in the front row. It was never going to happen. If your friend wanted to be in the front row so badly and you felt so awful that she missed out on the experience when she had a fine view of the stage, you or she could have stood there for three hours before Ben came on like I did. And I didn’t pay to listen to you sing off-key and talk about how hot Ben Harper is and how moist your panties are.

I’ve struggled with where to place this show in my top 5 because I could be disloyal to Hawksley. I’m tying it with the Hawksley show, for a lot of the same reasons I loved it so much. If I didn’t have such depth of feeling for I Mother Earth and if I didn’t see the 10th anniversary White Stripes show, last night could be tops.