Wednesday, June 30, 2004

I stopped by my parents’ place on the way home yesterday and mowed their lawn. Lawn-mowing is good therapy. It’s an opportunity to think deep thoughts while leaving behind a satisfying expanse of well-manicured greenness. I used to write lots of songs while mowing the lawn.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the time I got kicked out of the band. In 1980 we had this band called Upstart, and we had a logo (our name shooting like a mortar shell out of a smoke cloud) and we had band meetings and we contributed to a band fund so we could buy band stuff. Everyone was expected to show up and pay up. In this respect, our band was similar to a golden agers’ Kraft Klub.

If I remember correctly, the guys wanted to get a Radio Shack strobe light for our basement concerts. I thought the idea was counter-productive to our musical progression. Surely we could save our money towards an item more directly related to rocking. I began contributing to the band fund under protest, preferring to spend my lawn-mowing earnings on Queen albums instead.

The band fund eventually split us apart. I stopped paying up and some slight occurred that I took to heart. I formed a grudge against my bandmates. I’m a little scared by my ability to hold a grudge. It’s an inherited trait, I’m afraid, and one that I’ve tried to suppress in recent years. But when I was 14 and I got a grudge on, look out.

Maintaining the grudge was a challenge though because of the concert we all had tickets for. It wasn’t just any concert, it was my first concert: Rush and Saga at the Pacific Coliseum. I was excited beyond belief about it, yet I’d be sitting in the same row as my self-estranged friends. My grudge was badly timed.

It seems that every rite of passage in my life has been complicated by some misjudgment or fuckup on my part. This evening was a good example. When I got to my seat, my friends (and one parent, the Jeff “Skunk” Baxter-like Mr. Sandquist) were already there. I remember them leaning over to say hi to me, and I ignored them. Mr. Sandquist offered me his seat so I could sit with my friends, but I turned him down. I was determined to be a prick.

The concert was amazing and changed my life, etc. My memories of Rush’s Permanent Waves tour are much more vivid than my recollection of the band squabbles at the time.

The day after the concert I got kicked out of the band.

I rolled with it pretty well. My parents had just bought the place on Mayne, so there was lots of work to do. I rode my bike a lot and hacked out some new trails in the bush.

A few months later, Alick and Mark came by and asked me if I wanted to join again. I don’t remember us negotiating any terms. I do remember saying yes, and that I was mowing my parents’ front lawn when they approached me.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Of all bands, I think Budgie come closest to embodying the DiffMusic spirit—eccentric, neglected, and downright heavy as they were. Amassing their catalogue was one of the most enjoyable record collecting quests I've ever embarked on. They made me work for each LP, but not too hard...and the music on every album made the effort well worth it. There's no "sell out" album, no half-assed change of direction that embittered me on first hearing. They did it right, stayed true, and I (along with thousands of other fans) salute them for it.

So I feel damn lucky to have been at the Brickyard last night to see the Pete Boot All-Stars. Pete Boot was Budgie's drummer on their best-selling album, 1974's brilliant In For the Kill. In the decades since, he's been cursed with Parkinson's disease and is now raising funds to fight it via his "Fill Your Head With Rock" campaign.

The gig started with Hooded Fang, a heavy trio with solid (if not stunning) musicianship and better-than-average songs. Good stuff; I wouldn't mind catching them again sometime.

During the break, a tall, balding gentleman set up a double-kick drum kit on stage. Could this be Mr. Boot? Yes. A few minutes later, he and the band (two guitarists—from local bands Sir Hedgehog and STREETS—playing Tony Bourge's parts, and a bass-playing Burke Shelley substitute courtesy of The Feminists) started to play "In For the Kill," which went into "Breadfan"! I've been to some unfathomable gigs in my time, but this one was quickly taking the cake.

Between songs, "Burke" explained that Mr. Boot had heard about some local gigs that had been organized in aid of his charity, and was in town to check things out for himself. Bearing in mind that the band couldn't have had much time to rehearse, the results were quite good. Budgie songs aren't exactly verse-chorus-verse constructions, but the players had obviously done their homework and got most of the change-ups right. And Pete's affliction didn't stop him from giving the kit a good thwacking.

From there they tackled "Hammer and Tongs," "Parents," and "Zoom Club," with a couple covers thrown in: "White Room" and "Moby Dick," closing out the show with a drum solo. At the end, Pete got out from behind the drums, took the mike, and said his bit for World Peace.

Ten Miles Wide, a cranky-sounding sludge trio, played last. Their crabby songs and delivery contrasted with some between-song jocularity. Were the band really as anti-social as they sounded? Their set was about the right length, filling my head with enough rock to tide me over for at least a couple days.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

I went to Roadbed's album release gig at the Railway on Friday. Roger Dean Young and Tin Cup opened up with their laid-back deep woods music and In 3's played last, with a guest violinist and a set of mostly improvised tunes, punctuated with quotes from Radiohead, U2, and a whole Roadbed song.

I marked the Roadbed exam. Super gave me instructions to select the most unique scores for consideration. Well, there was only one perfect score (6/6) and one person who got zero (that would be Shockk), and a huge pile of fives and threes. A couple people had doodled all over their exams, so I decided it should be an art contest instead of a Roadbed trivia quiz, and submitted those to Super when it was time to pick a winner.

What I love about Roadbed is that they play a lot of unrecorded material, and one of the new songs inevitably becomes a new favourite. In the early days it was "Scarb Jacket," (which ended up on Knockout Hits) and lately it's been "King's Quest" (which I only got to hear a couple times live before it showed up on Last Dance @ the Shockcenter). Now my favourite Roadbed song is the one with this crazy Iron Maiden triplet part that comes out of nowhere. No idea what it's called. They played it about three songs in on Friday night.

All in all, a good ploy to keep me coming back for more.

Monday, June 14, 2004

I got one of these, so I can stink up the joint on the quiet.

My sister the tiny doctor got home from her round-the-world trip last week. She surfed in Costa Rica, Holidayed in Cambodia, fell down a crevasse in Nepal, and got swarmed by gypsies in Rome. It's good to have her back, and in one piece too.

Saturday night I hung out with Smash and his stereo. Checked out Motörhead's 156th record (it lives up to Smash's hype, based on the iron fistful of tracks I heard) and got reacquainted with the OSI album. I put on the new Monster Magnet and wished that it sounded like old Pentagram. It has some great songs that could carry a lot more impact if the production and musicianship weren't so faceless.

I spent most of Sunday at my parents' place, watching sport on the television. Michael trounced Ralf in Montreal, then England snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in Portugal. Demoralized, I left to go jam with the Kings of Patrick, but the compound was locked when I got there. I figured festivities had been cancelled, so I went home and listened to the new PJ Harvey instead. Turns out I should have lingered; I missed everyone by a couple of minutes, judging by the post-mortem emails that went around last night.

Fancylady returns from Toronto tomorrow, where she's been sleeping it off in non-luxury accommodations. I can't wait to see her, just as she can't wait to have a bedroom equipped with a clock radio again.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

I took a long bath this morning and listened to the radio. Brent Bambury's Go had an interesting topic: the gap between classical and pop music and how we can bridge the gap between these two solitudes. With all the discussion of music past and present that had attempted to straddle both worlds, I didn't hear the "p" word mentioned once, even disparagingly. Radiohead got a mention, as did Warp Records and IDM. They interviewed Greg Sandow, a modern composer whose stuff sounded like the Dirty Three, but not as good.

I thought they missed a lot of opportunities to talk about music that's right under their noses, like Constellation Records, Godspeed You Black Emperor! & offshoots, and Do Make Say Think. They even could have interviewed me, I suppose, if not for the fact that I can't string two coherent sentences together.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

I spent the beginning of the week in Victoria, where I roadied for Anvil Press. Fancylady and I staffed the book table at the launch for Charles Tidler's Going to New Orleans ("a spiritual book, as well as a dirty one"). It was a boozy good time in the Collard Room at Swan's Brew Pub.

As soon as we got home, Fancy had to take off again to Toronto for a week's worth of Book Expo. I'm missing her like crazy already. I spent most of last evening hiding in the bedroom while my landlord finished installing our stained glass windows. Of course, "finished" is a relative term when Max is involved. There's still some bits of trim that need replacing, but Max reassured me that he'll do them "some day."

At least I can contemplate the stained-glass viking ship in our kitchen window. In the morning light on an overcast day like this, it's a fine, fine thing.

Valhalla, I am coming...

Sunday, June 06, 2004

It's a longstanding joke around the household that I have the whitest record collection in the world. It's a fair cop.

All I'll say is, can you imagine a black person getting teased by his black friends for listening to nothing but black music? Wouldn't the presence of, say, a Yes album cause more of an uproar, and be grounds for social ostracism (just as it is for thousands of white kids)?

Maybe not. NPR's Tom Terrell talks about where he and his friends found the funk.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

My hair is getting long, approaching its David Sanborn/Pat Metheny apogee and requiring maintenance that I don't have time to give it. It's wavier than usual, too. I'm blaming The Dirt, the autobiography of Mötley Crüe, which Smash lent me last weekend. There's scenes in it that would curl Johnny Winter's hair.

It's a good-looking book, though, and edited extremely well by Neil Strauss. The classy presentation bolsters the shock value of its scum-laden, decadent content. Compare it to Paul Dianno's The Beast (which, granted, I've just leafed through at the Sox house) and the Maiden singer's chronicle of violence & sex seems decidedly ho-hum.

Back to the hair. Here's the gospel according to Nikki Sixx: "If there's one genetic trait that automatically disqualifies a man from being able to rock, it's curly hair. Nobody cool has curly hair; people like Richard Simmons, the guy from Greatest American Hero, and the singer from REO Speedwagon have curls. The only exceptions are Ian Hunter from Mott the Hoople, whose hair is more tangled than curly, and Slash, but his hair is fuzzy and that's cool."

See, this is why I retired from the stage. If only Sammy Hagar would take my cue.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Did you hear that thin, atonal whine last night? That was me, practising the world’s smallest violin. I got inspired by Rex Murphy’s report about Western Alienation on The National. Sharrup and join the country already.

Iced Earth with Children of Bodom and Evergrey at the Commodore May 14
Evergrey went over well despite some sludgy warmup act sound. CoB were just okay—the set was a carbon copy of their opening slot on the Nevermore tour. Their act carried a lot more impact on my first exposure. The guitar/keyboard “metalvishnu” duels were still entertaining, especially when you see how the crowd laps it up. Everyone loves solos, and the mania that CoB injects them with is worth experiencing. In between sets everyone made their own fun by singing along to Iron Maiden on the P.A. (Nearly every second person had a Maiden shirt on.) I expected Iced Earth to be a Nevermore-style disappointment, but they delivered surprisingly well. It helps that they’ve got Ripper Owens on board. He’s a proper heavy metal singer, just as Iced Earth are a proper heavy metal band. Despite their skill at fusing the key metal influences of the past 20 years (the epic heaviness of early Metallica, the speedy riffing of Slayer and Iron Maiden’s narrative songwriting and conceptual tendencies) their material becomes generic and indistinguishable after a while, much like a mixture of primary colours that produces a sludgy brown or black. Iced Earth don’t really have enough great songs scattered amongst their umpteen albums to sustain a 2-hour set. For a casual fan like me, their decision to “encore” with their 30-plus-minute Battle of Gettysburg piece was unfortunate, as they’d really run out of songs by that point. Playing what was essentially a second set was a bad move. It was all in one ear and out the other.

Avenged Sevenfold at Richard’s on Richards May 16
A gig for the hell of it, because I didn’t know any of the bands. Openers Noise Ratchet were terrible. I’d hope that kids these days would set their sights higher than Soul Asylum and the Goo Goo Dolls. Apparently not. A7x were ferocious all right, but they didn’t connect with me. Certain elements appealed—the twin leads, their self-assurance on stage, the dry ice. A7x are a crack outfit, no question. But it was a little pat, and as Smash noted, the kids in the band looked too clean and healthy to generate any true scum intrigue. It didn't matter how much ink they had or how much eyeliner they caked on. The pit loved A7x’s whole deal, singing along with every chorus. As Smash said to me later, "I can definitely see the appeal if you knew the tunes and lyrics." As it was, I just felt like a wallflower at a very loud party hosted by friends of a friend of a friend.