Thursday, September 30, 2004

I jumped the gun yesterday by implying there's a lack of good gigs in Vancouver compared to Toronto. I missed last week's Straight and now I see that we'll be hosting the likes of PJ Harvey, Gov't Mule, Le Tigre and (cough) Billy Corgan reading poetry. We're doing okay.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

I just got back from Toronto, where Fancy and I manned the Anvil Press table at Word on the Street. I hadn't been to Toronto in nine years. I like the place; they seem to have their shit together, and a skim through the upcoming gig listings in NOW made me want to stay a while (at least until after the PJ Harvey show).

Thursday – We left Vancouver on WestJet around lunchtime. I read Traveling Music for the whole flight, finishing it just as the 737 pulled into the terminal at Pearson International. The kid next to me listened to his mixed CD-Rs for the whole flight. I played Name That Tune eavesdropping on his headphone leakage. Metallica, "Sad But True." Frank Black doing that Powerpuff Girls tune. Green Day. The guy across the aisle had a cool little DVD player. He watched five minutes of Rushmore before shutting it down. Maybe he'd run out of batteries. At YYZ we picked up the rental car (Dodge Neon SX) and hit the 401 to Adam and Rain's place near Eglinton and Mt. Pleasant. We couldn't have wished for a better home base for the weekend—comfy bed, parking spot for the car, quiet neighbourhood, beyond generous hospitality, and excellent company during our brief intervals of downtime. Adam and Rain rule.

Friday – The major errand for the day was to pick up our books for WOTS from the University of Toronto Press warehouse in North York. They had everything boxed up and ready to go, so no hassle there. We loaded up the trunk and drove back to Adam and Rain's. We had the rest of the afternoon to kill, so we took the subway downtown and shopped. I love the subway; it's so much cooler than the automated plaything that is SkyTrain. Fancy's primary destination was a big beauty supply store on Yonge, where she got a new wig (so effing cute) and I thrilled to the sight of an actual ladyboy browsing the selection of hair extensions. Alan Partridge would have loved it. We checked out Sam's and Eaton Centre, then went back "home" to get organized for going to the Bonstar Hotel (Anvil writer Bonnie Bowman's place) for the night. We partied with her and Fancy's cool high school friends Joan and Wendy and Wendy's brother Chris, who brought the house down with his impression of Sha Na Na in Festival Express. For a while the conversation centred on high school drug experiences, a topic to which I can contribute nothing. I was never a teenager. Late night; we hit the futon at 4 AM.

Saturday – We left the Bonstar and went for a hip & delicious breakfast at Aunties and Uncles with Wendy. Afterwards, Fancy walked me around Kensington Market before cutting me loose for my rendezvous with my boss at Unrestrained, Adrian "The Energizer" Bromley. Our original plan had been to have lunch. I was still full from breakfast, so I sat with him while he had a burger and spewed figures (sell-through rates, ad revenues, printing charges, etc.) at me until my head spun. He called Martin Popoff's place so I could meet him and buy his Top 500 Heavy Metal Albums book, but he wasn't home. Once The Energizer paid the cheque and dabbed his beard clean, we took the subway to Anjelic Records, "the ONLY international psych and prog rock store in Canada!!!" I found some good stuff (the second Cressida album, a couple Banco records, and the aforementioned Popoff book) and dropped a pile of money. Well worth the trip! The Energizer went back downtown to see Shaun of the Dead and I went back to Adam and Rain's. After Fancy showed up with some Kensington thrift store finds, we took the car to meet Wendy again. Our mission for the evening: go to Guelph and visit Fancy and Wendy's friend Ailsa. Guelph's about an hour of highway driving away. Thanks to Wendy's MapQuest skills, we found Ailsa's house with no problem and set out to find a place to have coffee. Guelph, birthplace of Canadian thrash legends Razor, is a pretty little college town. It reminded us of Victoria. Everything was good until the trip home. They'd closed two lanes of the 401 for construction. We crawled for miles and miles, and it took three hours to reach the outskirts of Toronto. With our long slog at WOTS on Sunday, we'd been looking forward to getting to bed at a decent hour, but that plan was out the window. We got home after 1 AM, completely beat. Adam and Rain were asleep already, but they'd set up our bed for us before retiring. That bed looked so good, Fancy and I nearly cried.

Sunday – Not enough sleep, as my coworker Allegra would say. I got us coffee, made some toast, and we dragged our asses out to the car. We still needed a float for the day's transactions, so finding a Money Mart was our first priority. That wasn't too hard; there was one on our way to Queen's Park, the new venue for WOTS in Toronto. We reached the site, set up our table, and were ready for business by the 11:00 start time. The next seven hours were pretty crazy, so some general observations follow. We sold enough books and mags to pay for Fancy's trip. Between the new "Dead Things"-themed issue of sub-Terrain (or "Subterranean," as people insist on calling it) and my anti-YinYang NoMeansNo shirt, I think we managed to offend a healthy number of festival-goers. Lots of people think that a book-selling stall is a good place to hand you their unsolicited manuscript. Fancy's shining moment came while talking to someone who'd inquired about the wage scale for authors publishing a book with a small press: "I can sum up how much money you can expect to make in two words—Fuck All." Everyone within earshot took a step back from our table. We sold three books to a girl in a Slayer shirt. I was very happy to spot Toronto celebrities such as Daniel Richler and Moe Berg. No Degrassi kids, though (boo). We were shattered by the end of the day, so we spent a quiet evening in with Adam and Rain.

Monday – Another road trip, this time to Fancy's parents' place. I have no idea what to call where they are. Every time I ask I get a different answer: Smithville, Grimsby, Fulton... It's surrounded by fields, anyway. This is not a dis, but I always think of the Rheostatics' "Ballad of Wendel Clark" when I'm there: "Somewhere in the cowshit county." We arrived for lunch, then went into Hamilton to visit Fancy's grandma in the hospital. Grandma's 94 years have finally caught up to her and she's not very mobile at the moment. She was overjoyed to see Jenni again and she even remembered me from my last visit two years ago. She's a very independent, self-sufficient woman, so it was sad to see her on a hospital ward with nothing but a tiny shared room and a hallway to explore. She's not happy there and I can't blame her. I hope the family finds somewhere better for her soon, and I hope that grandma will trust them enough to go there.

Tuesday – Not enough sleep. Drove to the airport, taking a sketchy unmapped toll highway to avoid rush-hour traffic. We took one wrong turn, but got pointed in the right direction quickly enough. After returning the car, we got lost in terminal 1 until we found out we had to take a shuttle bus to terminal 2. YYZ is big. Our flight left on schedule at 11:20. The trip was turbulent but we landed half an hour early. We took a cab home, depressurized on the couch, then had a four-hour nap.

While typing the above I listened to the pile of promos the Energizer laid on me, including:
Napalm Death – Leaders Not Followers: Part 2
grails – redlight
Lilitu – The Delores Lesion
Black Tape for a Blue Girl – Halo Star

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Zombi – Cosmos (Relapse)
Zombi are an instrumental duo with a whole room full of old analog synthesizers along with the good old bass and drums. They play a kind of space rock/horror movie soundtrack music in the style of Italian masters Goblin or, at times, Pink Floyd circa Wish You Were Here. The first track, "Orion," is probably my favourite due to its driving Steve Harris-like bassline. The bass isn't as prominent in the following tracks. "Cetus" is the next track, a busy workout anchored by a pulsing, oddly timed synth pattern, with drums doing a valiant job at keeping up. The same basic elements are at play in "Cassiopea," a brief but disorienting interlude that fades away into a series of sweeping synthesizer hisses. "Side one" of the CD closes with "Serpens," which takes elements from the previous songs and stretches them out into a 9-minute epic jam. Driven along by a one-note pulse, the drums carefully build until they take over the rhythm themselves and start jousting with the lead synthesizer as it solos crazily until about the 7-minute mark, when the instruments return to a looser, wilder version of the opening theme.

Side two (the songs are divided into parts I. and II. in the CD booklet) opens with "Gemini," an 11-minute creepfest/jazz odyssey that reminds me a bit of Djam Karet with its busy rhythm section interplay. The melancholic keyboard interlude "Andromeda" is next, followed by "Taurus," a march-of-the-dead drone into which a chirping synth pattern intrudes, becoming increasingly reverb-laden and discordant—a sonic accompaniment to a time-lapse film of maggots consuming a carcass.

This is an enjoyable release, and it's great to see Relapse branch out into this sort of thing. The musicianship is of a high standard and the production is rich and deep. Though I prefer Morte Macabre's Symphonic Holocaust for Goblin-esque thrills, this album rules in its own way, offering an equally valid take on soundtracks for the undead.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Somebody'sgot to set an example. Paul Baker had a great, if dated in terms of character and plot references, essay on Coronation Street on his web site. In it, he made the point that Corrie is often quite instructional in its portrayal of public behaviour. For example, if a character rode a bicycle, she would always be seen wearing the full complement of protective gear—helmet, reflective vest, clips 'round the trouser cuffs, etc. North Americans like to think that the Street is an oasis of gritty social realism, especially compared to American soaps. In Britain, though, Corrie is just mass entertainment, and about as realistic as any country's mass entertainment is when compared to real life in that country.

I was reminded of the concept of Coronation Street characters as exemplars of proper behaviour last week during the eight-hour post-Olympic mega Corrie omnibus. There was a scene where Martin Platt's mobile starts ringing while he's driving through Manchester. Did he answer the phone and continue driving? Did he heck as like. No, he pulled the car into a convenient parking spot, then picked up the phone. One should always devote one's full attention to driving.

I was impressed. Martin, you're a role model to us all. Except for the fact that you've shacked up with a 16-year-old.
I've been bookless on transit for the past few weeks. At least I have metal mags to get me through the drought. They make me paranoid though; they blow my cover. I don't want to upset my seatmate when they glance over and get an eyeful of the half page Cattle Decapitation ad in Terrorizer or whatever I'm hunched over.

Fancy came through for me today and scored me a promo copy of Neil Peart's new book, Traveling Music. It came with the unspoken agreement that I'll be reviewing it for sub-T, so I'd better take notes while I read it.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Smash called me this evening to tell me that his girlfriend Mai had found something interesting in the sale bin at the Edmonds branch of the Burnaby Public Library—a cassette entitled Every Form of Refuge Has Its Price. The cover featured a blurry photo of someone who looked a little like me.

I'm sure the artist is touched that his work was housed for a time in this respected institution, just as I bet he's miffed that his music ended up in the bargain bin, probably mixed in with albums by Bim, Luba, or Greg Hawkes. Still, since every copy of Refuge was given away for free (so I heard), its worth has appreciated incalculably.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

When you’re shopping at thrift stores and putting a look together, there’s a fine line between Hipster and Children’s Entertainer. Those neon yellow clogs and that oversized plaid jacket might go great with your androgynous haircut, but don’t be surprised if children swarm you on the street, demanding balloon animals.