Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Billy Bragg
Music Hall Toronto ON

Billy Bragg passed through Toronto last week during a “retrospective” tour to flaunt his new box sets and a book. One year shy of 50 he hasn’t lost his love for the underdog or his spite for the entitled and empowered. He has mellowed though. A little embarrassed by the support he put behind Tony Blair, who he calls ‘George Bushs’ poodle’, he still insists it’s more important to be active with the activists than sleep in with the sleepers. A more mature Billy accepts you have to work with the tools you have and worse than being a Conservative, worse than being a Capitalist, worse than being a member of the BNP (strike that, there’s not much worse than that), is being a cynic. ‘Cause cynics have lost their faith in the innate goodness of man and it’s hard to improve your lot if that’s your attitude. Actually, looking back at that, Billy’s not only mellowed, he’s slipped into a coma. Much less bitter than you might think, he’s really a ‘happy-go-lucky’ bloke who just feels compelled to point out the social inequities.

Billy’s rich now. Has a big house on the water. Motorized vehicles. Doesn’t have to work for a living. All these things can now be slung back at him in an attempt to ignore the message while smearing the messenger. It’s a trap the right uses to shut up those who may have some power from speaking out for those who have none. I mean if middle-class whites from the North didn’t make such a big stink about apartheid in the Southern US would the advances made in the 1950’s and 1960’s have been achieved? Give him credit for this: he still lives in the UK, unlike the Strolling Bones and other megastars who have fled to a tax-haven in Europe or on some Island off the coast of France.

In the tradition of Woody Guthriehe is one of the few remaining troubadours. This tour sees him standing center stage with his guitar and two amps. Most of the show is electric, all except the first encore where some Guthrie songs and a Leadbelly rewrite are done acoustic.

The tour has had stops in Halifax, Ottawa and Montreal as Billy goes west. He had some stories to relate about those shows, noting it was a good time to be in Halifax with a British accent and a guitar, one week before the Rolling Stones were set to entertain 60,000 fans. Free beer and ticket requests from everyone. In Ottawa he knew he’d have a good time ‘cause there’s nothing looser than a civil servant on a weekend break from a mind-numbing and soul-sucking job working for the man. (I paraphrase.) The fans in Montreal were…well, if you don’t think Quebec is a ‘distinct’ society, you haven’t visited. They still smoke in church there. Little ashtrays in the confessional. To honour their uniqueness Billy played the entire Life’s a Riot w/ Spy V Spy EP in the second encore.

There’s an opening act. Some kid called Seth Lakemanwho has a fiddle and a little guitar. Four songs, maybe five. He was 20 minutes late taking the stage. Don’t think his set lasted that long. Didn’t suck though. Kind of like a sober Ashley MacIsaac in pants. Real east-coast, Celtic feel to his songs.

Billy is a tad late coming on, for reasons he’ll explain later. Off the top he reaches all the way back to his first EP from 1983, to gives us the wonderful ‘To Have and To Have Not’. A cautionary tale about the clampdown. A familiar story of closed doors and a rite of passage for all young males and females. Next to the unlimited potential of a newborn babe there is nothing more overrated than a university degree. Especially in a society that judges the outside before they evaluate the inside. Just a slight hint of the difficulties to be faced by generations of youth: where have all the good jobs gone? (“The factories are closing..”)

Fearing the ‘jobs’ part of the previous message may have been too hard to suss out Billy follows up with a no-brainer. NPWA (No Power Without Accountability) opens with the bleak landscape of missing jobs and cheap, exploitable labour in third world markets. It’s a song from 2001 and 18 years later the corpocracy is still the root of the problem. It’s a monster song, covering everything from downsizing, job security in the global market, the IMf and it’s corporate based tax policies (I mean shouldn’t Mexico be trying to raise taxes until they at least have SOME public services?), and the placebo we call “one man-one vote”, democracy.

Chat time, and we get more than a few of these. Normally I’m not big on between song talk. John Prine I can take. Ray Davies should shut up and play the songs. Enjoyed Buck 65’s chatter this summer. Leonard Cohen…more songs. Billy Bragg is a wonder to behold when he goes off on a ‘rant’. Lot’s of self-effacing comedy, empathy for others and some biting sarcasm. He’s a captivating speaker, even if you have to listen carefully to separate the accent from the words. He does play the “hello Cleveland” card a bit, some of the stage patter is orchestrated, meant to receive a cheap cheer. “Rowdy fuckers for a Sunday night!” would seem, on the surface, to be an acknowledgement of an enthusiastic crowd on a night normally reserved for prayers and cross-dressing. Except he gave the same ‘hey-o’ to the Friday night crowd in Ottawa. Not sure why, there’s nothing particularly surprising about rowdy Friday nighters. Give the man a break though, he’s gonna be up there for two hours, he has to bring something scripted. He tells the crowd there’s no sense in doing that ‘slow clap’ thing to make the artist come out faster since his pre-show ritual involves not drugs or meditation, but a good shit. No amount of clapping is going to make him hurry.

Into the ‘time capsule’ and exit in 1983. A Lover Sings, another cautionary tale about shooting your wad too early. I don’t know who Teresa and Steve are but they’d best stay away from the apple tree. In the words of Bruce Springsteen, “love’s like that, sure it is.” Underneath the tale of love gone out the window there is some excellent detail, amazing what stays with you forever. How it’s the small things you remember when the big thing blows up.

While tuning his lone guitar so he can play it sweet, Billy regales us with more opinions about global warming and possibility of polar bears tramping right down Yonge St to the heart of Toronto. A piece on the current Liberal leadership race where a neo-con in sheep’s clothing is trying to usurp the mantle. (He’s up against a silk-stocking Socialist trying to steal power from the other side of the spectrum. I’m hoping for a long bloody battle, not caring who wins.) Gotta love this about Billy, he may succumb to the odd industry trick to get a cheer but he absolutely respects the cultures he visits and does his best to be somewhat conversant on local issues. He speaks a bit about his book and the fear of being labeled an “intellectual”. A label not likely to stick. He’s nowhere near stuffy enough to be a Brit, never mind an intellectual.

Back farther into the time machine, back to the late 1500’s for a medley of John Barleycorn, an old English folk ballad that was revised as late as Robert Burns’ 1782 poem, and Billy’s own English, Half-English. This song speaks to the new book that addresses “Englishness” and what it means. It’s a cultural war being fought in the UK, it’s been fought for hundreds of years. Seems like the Welsh, Irish and Scots may prevail in the short-run, though the wave of immigration is relentless and what you see in the big cities now will soon enough be seen in the rural communities in time. It’s neither good, nor bad. It is just a fact of life on this little blue ball on which we live. What is required though, is a less homogeneity and a little more tolerance for others. During the introduction he tells us his first sense of being "English" came when he heard two Jewish kids from New York sing a song about Scarborough Fair. He's a closet S&G fan! By songs end he’s totally deconstructed English society, by halves, right down to their Lebanese patron saint, George and his three lions.

St George gets Billy off on a long ramble about patron saints, multiple jobs and hockey. You’d have to hear it to believe it. Suffice it to say lions are more impressive than carrots and who wouldn’t kill to be the patron saint of Barcelona?

He introduces a new song, Farm Boy, noting it’s debut in Montreal, where he figured himself safe ‘cause they were less likely to understand the words. Evocative of Dylan’s John Brown in that the soldier sees himself in his enemy, just another farmer. It’s a song about a boy sent to do a company’s job and the longing for the only thing that matters…a home to go back to.

Like Soldiers Do speaks to the seemingly never-ending cycle of war associated with empire. I’m not crystal clear on the references but my ‘best guess’ is the line about “advance(ing) across poppy fields” might refer to the Warizistan War of 1936 between England and Afghanistan. Some babies never learn, eh? This song was written in 1983, I think Billy would be amused at his prescience. Well, maybe ‘amused’ isn’t the right word.

Roadie brings out a second cup of tea for Billy and he finds himself lost inside an hilarious story about his previous job as a goat herder. The story gets downright raunchy as we visit the mating habits of the male goat. You see, it’s the goat pheromones that attract the she-goats. It’s the method of application that makes the story salacious. It just gets ruder and funnier until it’s shut down with the admonition to the tapers that they can roll their tapes back to omit that part. Wouldn’t think of it.

Greetings to the New Brunette (Shirley) sees our protagonist locked in an age old battle between the angry young man and choices that have to be made. Growin’ up ain’t easy, impressing parents even more difficult but there’s nothing like talkin’ about babies to take the romance out of a post-pubescent poke.

Bragg takes the opportunity to lay an obsequious greeting on the city, claiming it’s a ‘home away from home’ for his crew. It’s made somewhat less so by the news he has family here. The next song is dedicated to Uncle Jesse. From 1991’s Don’t Try This at Home we get a childs POV on death. Lovely light little ditty.

Upfield, released in 1996 backed by ‘Thatcherites’, is as close as you’ll ever come to seeing a ‘reborn socialist’. A tug of will between a doubting pagan and some angels. I got no freakin’ idea what this is about. Nice song though, jaunty melody.

A pretty talkative Bragg moves into another ramble, starting with a story about his March trip to SXSW and the laryngitis that struck him as they headed towards Minneapolis. His manager, in an attempt to console him, assures Billy “no one comes to hear you sing.” He got through those dates with the help of his back up band, The Blokes and his hand puppet. Even found himself sans guitar in Chicago, free to express himself through the medium of dance. A failed experiment it seems. This rant falls prey to the ever-present goat jokes and Billy flings the little toy off stage, hoping to excise the demons. It was futile.

He moves into his “Johnny Clash” rap before delivering what can be called Pinball Prison Blues or Folsom Wizard. Roadie is out to switch the guitar over to his ‘Clash’ amp and we get a song in progress with the working title “Old Clash Fan’s Fight Song”. Some fun stuff.

Another talk that champions the democratic success of the new medium, high-speed internet, that gives us more entertainment in swinging cats on YouTube than network television can deliver. Bragg seems to take some pleasure in the fact bands are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on their music videos only to see them pirated in a blurry mpeg. We’ve spent the last couple days watching animal videos. Curse you Billy Bragg!

I’m having a great time and I’ve only heard 1 (one) song I know, To Have and To Have Not. No shit. I mean I like Billy, always did, right from the outset, but I’ve only got so much appetite for thinking. Saw him in 1993 (I think) at the Ontario Place Forum and thoroughly enjoyed that show. I’m back here tonight because I know it’s gonna be great entertainment value for the dollar. Can’t wait for the encores.

The Saturday Boy is another great tune about that time of life few men can leave behind…the foggy years in their teens when they didn’t know what was happenin’ or why. Some great lyrics in here: “’cause she lied to me with her body you see/ I lied to myself about the chances I’d wasted” and “in the end it took me a dictionary/ to find the meaning of unrequited.” Heavy emotions directed at a girl too young to shave her legs.

Billy turns a slam against James Blunt (“our revenge for Lenny Kravitz”) into a promotional piece for his book and a sermon on not becoming cynical. He follows with another new song, I Keep Faith, a testament to his belief that cynicism can be defeated. It’s a kinder, gentler, Billy.

Now we’re back to 1649 for the story of the True Levellers, or the Diggers. Socialists well before their time and the most extreme amongst their kind. A history lesson in song. Still, sad how nobody’s learning anything.

Ontario, Quebec and Me is a little nod of appreciation to this wonderful part of the world we’re lucky enough to live in, and the good times he’s had.

Familiar chords of the second song I know, Waiting for the Great Leap Forward, are welcome but not really necessary. What is unwelcome, and unnecessary, is the artless alterations made to the song. It’s a cheap laugh tossing in Rumsfeld’s name. You’re preaching to the choir here, they can make the connection themselves. It’s good for a giggle but not much more, there’s been plenty of fun all across the comedy spectrum tonight and more still to come. I wouldn’t give those f*cks the pleasure of being inside a work as good as “Leap Forward”. To all the PNACians, get offa my cloud.
Still, I love this song and we do get a number of straight verses, enough to redeem it.

REVISED opinion on Leap Forward. After listening to this again in the car I realize this version was a master stroke. Bragg managed to incorporate a number of jokes from this evenings show as well as some references to his own wealth, his aging and even Canadian Idol. A final coup de grace was the inclusion of “bombed back to the Stone Age”, a news item that only came to light in the days preceeding this concert. He was referencing the Prime Minister of Pakistan relating this threat almost at the same time it was airing on CBS’ 60 Minutes. At the risk of abrogating the ‘fair usage’ copyright rule let me transcribe the lyrics here:

It may have been Camelot for Jack and Jacqueline (John & Jackie Kennedy)
But on the Che Guevara highway filling up with gasoline
Little Donald Rumsfeld spies a rich lady who's crying
Over luxury's disappointment, so he walks over and he's trying
To sympathise with her but he thinks that he should warn her
To be prepared to be bombed back into the Stone Age
(Ya, how’s that touch you? Ya fancy that? Maybe back into the Ice Age even. Who knows.)

In the former Soviet Union the citizens demand
As to why they are still the target of Strategic Air Command?
And they shake their fists in anger and respectfully suggest
We take the money from our missiles and spend it on our hospitals instead.

Mixing Pop and Politics thye ask me what the use is
I offer them my acupuncturists and my masseusses
While looking down the corridor
Out to where my ego is waiting
I'm looking for the New World Order
(You know where Canada is in the New World Order?
Just behind Great Britain right up the asshole of the United States of America)

Jumble sales are organized, all my mates have got fat
Even after all this time you can still swing round a cat
You can be active with the activists
Or sleep in with the media
While you're waiting for the Great Leap Forwards

Oh, one leap forward, two leaps back
Will YouTube give MTV the sack ?
Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards

Well here comes the future and you can't run from it
If you've got a wesite I want to be on it
Can I be your friend? Can I say it with a smiley? Ya

In a perfect world we'd all sing in tune
But this is reality not fucking Canadian Pop Idol
Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards, ya

It's a mighty long way down rock 'n roll
From Top of the Pops to diggin’ a hole
You're Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards

So join the struggle while you may
The Revolution is just an ethical haircut away
When you’re waiting for the Great Leap Forwards

Is that some fun, or what?

The acoustic encore is an homage to Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly, two giants upon whose shoulders Bragg is proud to stand. First Guthrie song is the story of Hans Eisler, German composer who told the HUAC to go fuck themselves. Got deported for it. The song address whether Woody would stand, sit or run. Good campfire tune though. The second Guthrie song is a dark tale of failing farms and little hope, Black Wind Blowing. A dust-bowl song about how funny a man feels when all he knows is hanging by a thread. Ummm, time to lighten up perhaps?

Toilet paper jokes and slide guitars oughta do it. Billy has stolen the melody from Leadbelly’s Bourgeois Blues and come up with another topical song, Bush War Blues. This is more Phil Ochs than Bob Dylan but it’s much preferred to altering cherished lyrics to no advantage.

For the second encore we’re back to electric and back to the first EP. I’d told the wife it was unlikely we’d hear The Milkman of Human Kindness and it was kind of like whistling in the dark…a preemptive strike against disappointment. Something about this simple song that just pulls you in, the sentiment perhaps, the melody for sure and that voice just right for this plaintive wail. What a treat.

Sexuality falls prey to another goat joke, we get the ‘beastiality’ version. Not totally marred though Billy does say “I ruined it didn’t I?” before he finds his way back on track. No matter, this is a smile inducer in any shape or form.

Show closes with an extended audience sing-a-long to A New England. And the audience was very good. I usually rate ‘sing-a-longs’ right next to ‘clapping’ and ‘shouted requests’ on the list of silly things that happen at concerts but it worked well tonight. Billy helped them along with a few guitar queues but they were never shy about taking the song over. We get enough verses from the artist we paid to see, plus a new verse, making this another treat at the end of a superb evenings entertainment. Billy shouts out "We're going to do a verse for Kirsty MacColl!" before injecting the two verses she added to the song on her recording:

"My dreams were full of strange ideas
My mind was set despite your fears
But other things got in the way
I never asked that boy to stay

Once upon a time at home
I sat beside the telephone
Waiting for someone to pull me through
When at last it didn't ring I knew it wasn't you"

Kinda makes a full evening of it. Thank you Billy Bragg, looking forward to the next trip through and whatever incarnation you bring.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Bob Segarini and Friends
Cadillac Lounge Toronto ON

Bob Segarini has been called "Canada's Nick Lowe"; the honorariums don't come much higher. In some circles that might mean no more than being the best hockey player in Argentina. In my circles it means the guy is worth a listen.
The comparison comes from the close proximity, and similar successes, of their two seminal records: Bob Segarini’s Gotta Have Pop and Nick Lowe’s Pure Pop for Now People. (Lowe’s album was released as "Jesus of Cool" in the UK/Europe but in America, even in the ‘80’s, that was thought a little too irreverant.) The albums are amazingly similar in that they contain a bunch of 2 minute 30 seconds pop songs that will never leave your head. And speaking of head, the 2:30 pop song is something else that has not been substantially altered or improved since it’s invention.

2006 has been a year of retro music, where I've seen everyone from Alice Cooper to The Buzzcocks to BB King to Charlatans UK, and that’s only the front end of the alphabet. I scour the upcoming listings at the Cadillac Lounge periodically in order to make sure I don’t miss the next Robert Gordon show. Segarini has taken up residence as the Wednesday night house band. Prior commitments, general laziness and a substance abuse problem prevented me from catching the first two weeks but I managed to drag myself, and Cece, downtown this week. Another chance to pay respects to one of the many artists who have made this soundtrack that accompanies our life a little more interesting.

Bucking the trend to head west in the mid to late ‘60’s Segarini came to Toronto from California. He found himself surrounded by some friends and other artists who represented the best of CanRock; members of April Wine and Mashmakhan. (April Wine preceeded Rush in getting some international acclaim; had a big hit with Could Have Been A Lady. Mashmakhan’s flame didn’t burn as long or as strong but they hit the airwaves with the classic tune, As Years Go By AND were on that Festival Express train with the Dead, Joplin and the Band. For much more on the heroes of Sirius Radio 95 When I mentioned I was listening to a copy of a 1979 Much Music show that I’d received in a trade, Segarini relays that the show is being reissued, on DVD. I believe he said Gotta Have Pop is also being put out, or a ‘greatest hits’ type package, and he is embarking on a tour in the Sping of ’07 to support those projects. These Wednesday sets, as long as they last through the fall and winter, are the ‘rehearsals’. They are not playing on the 27th but it looks like every Wednesday in October so far.
Check the calendar at Cadillac Lounge.

Don’t dare miss it!

The bar is a little crowded when we arrive and raucously loud. That will all change before the show as one table was celebrating their new ring tone downloads and the other was too drunk to possibly last another hour. Band members start to arrive and plug in their various instruments and run a rudimentary sound check aided by Valerie Shearman, widow of Buzz Shearman of Moxy, yet another pivotal local band who carved a niche in the local, and extended Canadian, scene. The balance gets a bit skewed when the two ‘party tables’ have left and the 10 band members have set up. Not many left in the audience for this mid-week, unannounced, no cover, freebie. That’s ok, other people ‘getting it’ has never been a big part of the package for me…I mean, I’ve been a Dylan fan for over 30 years now.

Segarini and support vocalist Jay Dunlap are both under the weather tonight. Some type of bronchial infection or something Courtney Love is passing around. Show opens with a disclaimer…or two, since this is still ostensibly rehearsal time. It’s nice of them to let us in to watch. Bob has promised his friend will pick it up for him. Actually, considering the purpose and the price of this evening’s set it shows some respect for the art that they are out here giving what they have to offer. Everybody seems animated, especially Annette, one of a bevy of beauties adorning the stage. The beauties you can tell because they have change and places to put it.

Soon enough we are into a live presentation of … gotta have funk! A little Tom Waits meets George Clinton as the 10 man band warms up with some bluesy tunes, well suited to a gruff voice.

First song out of the gate is … unknown, a blues song with country overtones (“lost all my money, lost my woman, and my dog don’t run no more”), an easy, rambling tune to loosen the vocal chords. One thing’s for sure, they don’t want Mr Hard Time knockin’ round their door. That ain’t a bad way to start the night.

We step back in time (a theme we’ll develop more throughout the evening) for a Wackers song. Teenage Love opens with an extended instrumental solo and faux-applause from the audience at the break. The Wackers were Segarini’s third band, played together from 1970-1973 but Bob references them a lot. Everybody’s got that place where the needle sticks.

Ahhh, now we’re into a little ‘chuck-berry-cum-t-rex’ stuff in Rock N Roll Circus as Bob remembers his time with Roxy (1968-1970). This could have been done by Lighthouse too, if they had chicks. Did they have chicks? It was hard to tell with all that hair.

Bring it on, dude! Gotta Have Pop. If it’s ever been said better, it hasn’t been said more succinctly. Now the voice is having a little trouble but the heart is committed. “I remember when I was a boy….”, “none of it seems to make too much sense, it’s a synthesized mess!” “I love the Beatles up to Sgt. Pepper…” (don’t believe that), “I gotta have pop!, don’t let it stop!” If there’s anything simpler than a pop song, there’s nothing more beautiful than that simplicity.
Bob’s talking from the stage now and he’s a salty bastard. We get a little bit of everything from him, ranging from almost telling the couple at the back to ‘get a room’, to dedications. Some stuff about the travails of being sick that I’d best not relate. Bit of a stand-up comic hidden inside this DJ/song writer. I’d tell him to stick with the day job but I can’t tell what that is. A Renaissance man for the Boomer Generation.

Another Wackers tune in Hey Lawdy Lawdy before Bob breaks to introduce half the band members and hand out a printout with the other half to save on time. The first of many guest appearances and friends in the guise of Jade Dunlop (some people call her ‘Pie’ but we’re nowhere near that familiar). She drops a little Ronettes on us in the form of Be My Baby. Jade’s struggling with the same cold and I got no idea how that happened. Didn’t hurt her much on this song, sounded just right from where I was sitting.

Local RnB artist Max Brand had walked into the club a few minutes before and Bob invites him up for a couple songs. Quite the treat, I mean this stuff is unrehearsed but that’s a big part of the ‘fun factor’. He rips off a cover of Route 66 and picks the Jack Scott classic (recently performed at this very spot by Robert Gordon), The Way I Walk. The band huddles for a quick lesson in chords and anchored by veteran Segarini guitarist, Peter Kashur, they pull off a decent version.

Bob’s back chattin’ and drops another unfamiliar song that might have been called I Want You To Stay before the band breaks for a drink and breath of fresh air, or joint, I didn’t follow them.

Set 2 opens with more talk from the very accessible Bob Segarini before he launches into Money In the Pocket from 1981’s Vox Populi. Bob relinquishes the stage once again, this time to the three diva’s. We open their mini-set with the insipid Doobie Brothers song, Listen to the Music. That’s as bad as it gets all night though as Doc Ingles comes out from behind the keyboard to deliver a raucous version of Suite’s Ballroom Blitz. Dedicated to ‘yours truly’ by Peter Kashur. How’d they know Jack White’s my second favorite performer? Staying with the ‘screamo themeo’ the girls are back to deliver a blistering rendition of AC/DC’s All Night Long, sans the shorts but I don’t doubt their word.

Still more friends in the house. Valerie Shearman, who’s been helping with the sound, takes the stage for a mini-set consisting of the great House of the Rising Sun, Leaving On A Jet Plane (reminds me of acid, strobe lights and Galt Ave, don’t ask) and some raunch, assisted by the girls, in Mustang Sally. Oh ya, ride. We continue to highlight the girls as Yvonne does Mick…well, sorta, she covers Beast of Burden and I’m beginning to wonder if these girls are sending a message. The always smiling Annette closes this segment with Hot Child In the City, not doing anything to get my mind off the raunch.

Segarini’s back with another Gotta Have Pop staple in the ‘emo-before-it’s-time’, I Don’t Want To Lose You, followed by a cover of the Doors, People Are Strange.
We’re getting heavy on the classic album stuff now, which is great. Bob rolls out I’m Afraid of the Ocean, a fun little ditty about international air travel in the times when you’re only concern was wondering why the pilot was walking by wearing a parachute. Good songs don’t need heavy themes. Some nimble word play in this song.
Prom song #1, Don’t Believe A Word I Say. A gut-busting look at faking sincerity. More Grade A writing, excellent pacing and a cautionary tale for all our daughters. This closes the set and what I thought would be a quick 1 and a half set is turning into a marathon and I’m wishing it wouldn’t end, just keep on jammin’.

Valerie Shearman is back to open the third set with a couple jazzy numbers in What A Wonderful World and a cover of Patsy Cline’s Crazy. She’s invited another guest onto the stage and Sebastian Agnello tries out a couple new songs, Me & God followed by Quasi Love Song. This has shaped up to be quite a walk down memory lane for aficiando’s of Toronto’s music scene…circa 1965-1985 anyway.

Bob’s back with an unrecognizable country tune then into Gotta Have Pop for When the Lights are out before he closes with Goodbye LA and the closest we’re going to get to anthemic tonight, Juvenile Delinquent.

You’d be hard-pressed to get more bang for the buck than wandering into the Cadillac Lounge any Wednesday night in October to catch this band.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Andy Warhol at the AGO
Stars, Deaths and
Disasters, 1962-64

as a disclaimer here i really know little about 'art'.
i mean i visit museums when i'm on the road but i really don't have the patience for it. buildings and dead people i do much better.

pretty decent exhibit. limited by space (low ceilings) we didn't get everything that has been presented in this show as it travels around. but what was there was worth the hour and change it took to see. i'm pretty sure the art world has a language all it's own to describe these things. i'm not familiar with the dialect but i'll give it a try.

here's a zip file containing jpegs of the program.

or cut and paste this as Blogger seems a little wonky.

lots of parallels to dylan, as an artist, even if he's in a somewhat different genre. while both have 'created' what has become identifiable as 'their art', the works in exhibit here were constantly referred to as 'found art', not unlike a good deal of Bob's catalogue.

the vast majority of the pieces were silk-screens created from either studio photo's, news photo's or simply, personal photo's. even the movies were just captures, not productions. seems like a mirror.

the show starts with a 5 minute loop of Empire, an 8 hour movie of the Empire State building. just the Empire State building. not the Empire State building being happy. or the Empire State building being sad. or, and this would be cool, the Empire State building being stoic.
just the Empire State building being. have no idea why they felt the need to make a 5 minute loop in place of just running the film.

then the wonderful Elizabeth Taylor, captured on silk-screen in various tones. a studio picture from National Velvet. she was a pretty one.

a captivating Robert Maplethorpe portrait of Andy rounds out the first three displays.

these three pieces we get even before we enter the exhibit proper. we've picked up the annoying cell phones we have to carry from display to display but haven't turned our tickets in yet.

in front of the next exhibit I spent a couple minutes thinking Troy Donahues real last name was diptych. the Troy Diptych, 1962, precedes the Elizabeth Taylor silk-screen by a year. David Cronenburg is supplying the narrative for this exhibition and he thinks Andy found Troy, kinda cute. much is made of the different shades of the same silk-screened photo, showing the possible range of emotion present in all of us...from light and sunny to dark and gloomy. some photo's, from Troy's studio, stolen by Andy, are almost obliterated by the light, others by the dark. we have programs that fix that now.

the first moving picture is 58 minutes of the Couch at the Factory. exhibitionists are welcomed. apparently this camera sat in front of the couch and all were invited to turn it on and do as they wish. mostly it was explicit film of young males coupling while someone, or someones, moved in an out of frame doing something or nothing. it's dated 1964 and i gotta believe the people we've come to know out of the Warhol community, didn't spend too many minutes on this couch. the film was filled with anonymous characters.

can't remember what "red disaster" was about. the first 'disaster' pic, having already witnessed supernova's in Troy Donahue and stars in Elizabeth Taylor. do remember that the descriptive narrative got it wrong...the red panel is on the left, not on the right. the right panel contained the Electric Chair...that was it. with the ironic "silence" sign above the door. that was a cool merging of images. after the juice all there will be is silence.

then we start to get into the repetitive and redundant part of Warhol's art. Silver Liz as Cleopatra, followed by Blue Liz as Cleopatra. again, another studio photo, replicated in multiple silk-screen frames. all the diptych's (which i've learned is not Troy's last name) have multiple panels, simulating 'frames' in a movie, none of them the same...simulating frames in a movie. all with different lighting...simulating frames in a movie. i had to stand there and listen to the description for 4 minutes or else i would have run by them quickly so they could simulate frames in a movie.

next exhibit consisted of the 'screen tests'. Dennis Hopper is doing some of the narrative here, talking about Andy turning the camera on, with about 3 1/2 minutes of film in it, and leaving the room. your instructions were to not move, not emote, not blink. just present your face. i watched 4 minutes of what I thought was Sam Waterston, though he's not listed as the one of the featured screen plays. they had too many options to wait around for Bob's.

next, the Elvis silkscreens, Elvis I in colour, Elvis II in black and white. photo is taken from the studio material for the movie Flaming Star. much is made on the narrative about the fading silkscreens, as you move from left to right, representing the fading of one's life (the reference to the song/movie Flaming Star) and of Elvis' fame. or, when you use a stamp 4 times, you run out of ink.

we double up on Sleep. which is usually a great concept. on the one side we have 21 minutes of the 5 hour movie, some hairy chested gent breathing. in case we missed anything, we have a still picture to caputre the moment.

have we done death yet? well we have if you consider most of the famous subjects have passed on, including the artist. but now it's presented in a more disturbing manner in Foot and Tire. a newspaper photo, another silk-screen diptych. horrifying if you consider the context. a simple boot underneath a pair of tractor-trailer tires. i don't want my fifteen minutes on the front of a newspaper, thanks.

Warhol's a bit of a fetishist. if he had a boner for anyone besides Liz it was probably Jackie. thing is, once you've done 16 Jackies (1964) what was the purpose behind 9 Jackies, later in the same year? is that like a 'dub' or a remix? apparently the art here is found in immortalizing the widow instead of the victim. much like Liz she is bigger than real life and the images are sobering.

Miriam Davidson was commissioned to take a picture of herself, dressed like Jackie, in a photobooth. the resulting silk-screens take the homage in the previous set of photo's from touching to eerie.

next moving picture is Haircut #1. the accompanying narrative, some coiffeur talking about cutting Andy's wigs into different contemporary styles, is more interesting than the 27 minutes of falling hair. actually, 27 minutes of falling hair may have been better, we just got a long shot of clipping, evocative of that hillbilly Quest thing Bob did.

lots more Jackie pics, then we're on to more anonymous dead people. Five Deaths on Orange (and the follow up sets, Five Deaths on Turqouise, Five Deaths on Yellow, and the minimalist, Five Deaths), was another newspaper photo transferred to silk screen. the car is overturned after an horrific crash. i see only 4 people and two of them look like they are still moving.

the next segment is three pieces together, two movies with a still in between. the still, Disaster #6, is another, well actually the same, electric chair, in a different colour. the movie on the left is the 41 minute capture of Blowjob. it's a close shot of a male's face on the receiving end of a blowjob. we don't see the person performing. it's an interesting idea all by itself....but 41 minutes?!??!?!?!?! c'mon, who are we kidding?

the film on the right is also an interesting idea. most movies spend an hour and a half leading up to "The Kiss". this movie is 54 minutes of different couples kissing. fuck all that set up stuff. let's get to the emotion.

1947 White (sometimes called Suicide or Fallen Body) was maybe the most striking off all the diptych's. a beautiful, curvaceous, babe of a woman has jumped off the Empire State building and landed, totally unspoiled or unmarked, face up, on the hood of a limousine.
her clothes, impeccable. her pose, senuous. the curves of her body outlined and accentuated
by the crumpled curves of the steel roof of the car, her deathbed. some creepy even liking this work, but it's easy to look at.

this is juxtaposed by another set of silkscreens illuminating the totally capricous nature of death. photo's of two woman who died of food poisoning. the product, A&P canned Tuna, the caption "did a leak kill them?" nobody we know, nobody we should care about. unless we eat tuna. the prominence of this canned food product is a little smile inducing as it's so unlike the infamous Campbell's soup picture.

Saturday Disaster is another horrific car crash we get to peek in on. one body sent through the torn roof of the car, hanging over the metal frame. the other, bloodied and lying dead on the road, half inside-half outside the car. i hate driving.

Race Riot consists of a series of familiar pictures of police dogs chasing blacks. i guess something had to be said. the images are way too familiar to be shocking.

a couple semi-anonymous men appear in Most Wanted Men No. 2 and No. 6. #2 looks like he was arrested before Congress clarified the rules. #6 didn't have a mark on him.

the audio portion of our tour does not include anything about the last two pieces. a strange oversight. next to 1947 White the most striking silk screen was White Burning Car III. an overturned car, severely crashed, in flames. on the telephone pole, a young male, either hung there, or impaled on the telephone repair man steel foot studs.

(after having done a little research I came across this description of the exhibit. it explains the last picture and I concur with the opinion expressed.)
"Two paintings exclusive to this show embody this focus (on death): White Burning Car III (1963), depicting a man impaled on a telegraph pole, and 1947-White (1963), showing a woman who jumped from the top of the Empire State Building embedded in the roof of a limousine. "

at the end, a self portrait.

just a quick, interesting, glimpse into a complex personality.
perhaps more a personality than an artist.
the art is in convincing others.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Virgin Festival
Day 2 Mumblings

A little worse for wear, very stiff but determined to see The Raconteurs, I head back to the Islands solo today. Michael's coming down a little later
and we've been left with a spare ticket. I try to sell it to a couple scalpers for face value...they don't go for it. Spend 15 minutes trying to pass
it on for free to some kids. Approach a couple groups to see if they have a friend they can phone who'd like to use the ticket. They just looked at me
strange. Must be an age thing. Or a brains thing. At the very least you'd think they'd be astute enough to take the ticket and sell it to the scalpers
themselves. In the end I refused the $20 offer and pocketed the ticket as insurance against being caught taping in the light of day.

Got the first available ferry over and was sipping a Bacardi and cola in the early afternoon sun. No rush today as i'm not doing any capture until the
fourth band comes onstage. The first set just finished, I'm out on the picnic benches looking at the skyline, excpecting Jose Feliciano next. Er, wait,
that was Lupe Fiasco that was supposed to be in the second slot. Instead DJ Champion is onstage. This doesn't entice me to come in any closer and I'm
not overly concerned, thinking there was just some traffic difficulty getting on the Island. About 5 minutes before the next act is due the screen flashes
that it will be Thrice. That's not good news. Still no announcement about WHY the changing order of appearance. I call a couple people I know who were
planning on seeing Thrice (and Wolfmother to follow) so they could hurry it up. Then I put back my drink and take up a spot near the left stacks.

Thrice came across sounding like a less intense alexisonfire. Not by much, just by a little.

WISTA rating: No.

Wolfmother - if Jack White has stolen all that's good out of Led Zeppelin, then these guys are the evil twin. Lead singer has that Robert Plant voice
thing going and the band seems to enjoy an excessive solo or ten. Especially the guy on the keyboard. First off, the keyboard is not a real rock n roll
instrument unless you play it with your heels and elbows and your name is Little Richard or Jerry Lee Lewis. Tilting the board, so it's at risk of tipping,
and twirling the reverb dials as you straffe the keys, is not music. It's a balancing act. What you're balancing is my interest in seeing new bands
against my tolerance for self-indulgence.

WISTA rating: I wouldn't run fast to avoid the band (of course I probably couldn't run fast to avoid a fire) but they'd have to be on a bill with someone
else i was looking to hear and playing directly before them.

Over to the Future Shop stage for what turns out to be the low-light of the entire weekend. The bass player from DeathFromAbove 79 has traded in the
stage for the studio. In concert with a DJ friend he's now doing an act called MSTRKRFT. This is club music, for club lovers only. I had an inkling but
Buck 65 didn't have a band, he used canned music and effects, and he was good. Of course, he had WORDS. The set got off to a terrible technical start.
First, as with the main stage, the set times have been altered, for reasons unknown and still unannounced. This is working out to my advantage as this one
has been moved FORWARD twenty minutes, meaning I'll have a little extra time to get back and comfortable for the Raconteurs. So after 20 minutes of setting
up the stage the MSTRKRFT guy comes out to find he's missing not one, but two, turntables.
"What do you do?" "I'm a DJ, I play records." "On what?" "D!oh." By the time they were located and plugged in we were at about 6:30 pm. That's when it
went downhill fast. I lasted 40 minutes before I wandered off, the incessant drone fading in the distance. It wasn't anywhere near 4:20 but it was 420 time.
I'd suggest the fans of this music lay off the "E" and switch to the chronic as well. Having said all that, who was there dancing up a storm with at least
7 girls? Buck 65! Aparently girls like guys who can dance and that may be the underlying secret.

WISTA rating: Only at the point of a gun.

It's been a great day for a concert and these Islands are an excellent location. Lot's of shade cover and rain cover though we've only needed a bit of both.
One last walk past the many booths giving away samples and hawking their wares. One more stroll along the waterfront as the lights of the city start to
do their dance, then back to the madding crowd to find a spot for the Raconteurs. That didn't look too promising as the Strokes had packed the main stage
to capacity. Just as quickly though, people started leaving at the end of the set and ample room opened up so I could make my way to within 25' of the
stage, directly in front of the right speaker banks.

Raconteurs played what is threatening to become a pretty static set. This is the first show of their fall tour, a one-off really as they launch in the
Southern US this week. Perhaps they have something in store for that tour. Highlights were Bang Bang, always. Blue Veins, from the intro to the explosion.
The extended Bane Rendition/Store Bought Bones and a nice extra verse thrown into Brendan's Yellow Moon. Jack was face-melting good when on guitar and
playful when not. Patrick Keeler I could listen to even if the band wasn't there.

One thing Jack still has to work on is his stage patter. Back in Cleveland he and Brendan engaged in a little 'Southern California' stuff. Then Jack questioned whether CA or Florida was the Sunshine State. They picked the wrong one.
Tonight Jack was mumbling about some border difficulties, and I paraphrase here: "Canada is harder to get into than East Germany!" ummm, Jack, getting into East Germany has never been tested...most people had difficulty getting out. Alive anyway. Which I think was the purpose of your joke. But that's ok. Those little call-outs mean nothing. They are there for the candy-cane kids and the cheap cheer you get when people hear their hometown mentioned through the PA system.

WISTA rating: 4 more times this year!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Virgin Festival
Day 1 Reviews

Day 1

Overcast early in the morning, then pissing rain just as we get ready to leave home. It's gonna be a hit-and-miss day for the weather. No umbrellas. Great.

We embark on the short ferry ride to Center Island pretty close to our noon-time target. First on the agenda...find a pamphlet with all the bands and all the start times. Can't see everybody so there's choices to be made. No telling who didn't make it over the border last night. Not counting Massive Attack.

As fate would have, it's got nothing to do with fate and everything to do with my OCD regarding time, we arrive before gates. They are well organized and within 20 minutes we've cleared a cursory bag check and are on our way across the wide, muddy, waters. 7 and a half minutes later, we arrive.

The sun came out as we were making our trek across Lake Ontario and the grounds, though damp, were not soaked. We have been spared a mud-fest. They are a little behind on the main stage getting set up due to the earlier downpour. Second on the agenda is finding a booth to purhcase food and drink tickets. There's a line up for everything here. One to get money. One to get tickets. One to get food. One to get drinks. One to enter contests for various Virgin products. One for the bathroom.

Michael and I find ourselves at the only spot without a line-up, in front of the main stage to see the opening act, ohbijou. Now that's the best thing about this
group, it's name. We've already peaked and the music hasn't started. 'ohbijou', went whispered softly, is the pet-name my French-Canadian mother used when trying to soothe her ill, or despondent, children. It translates loosely as 'oh, my little jewel'. The band's music is similar. Soothing. Calming. Nap inducing.

Yet there they stand on this huge stage, which they fill out pretty well with their 8 or nine bodies, but not so well with their chamber music catalogue. These guys, and girls, they are primarily a girl-band, belong in a club like Top O' The Senator, or The Drake, or Hugh's Room, some kind of yuppie enclave where people like to have a soundtrack to accompany their merger-and-acquisitions foreplay talk.

Yet there they stand, valiantly working their way through a set of songs that would have given James Taylor a boner. A band out of time. Decent enough artists, if not nipple-hardening in the excitement column. Lead singer admits to being nervous and excited and nervous. Biggest stage they'd ever played on. My guess is at around 153 people, biggest audience too.

WISTA rating: (would i see them again rating) I may be there if they play my funeral. They'll have to learn some Dylan though.

I decide to tape the second band, solely on the fact I heard somebody mention interest in their set while we were coming over on the ferry. Another large band with strange tools. What's with the violins, trumpets, flutes and african stringed instruments everyone has to play these days? Who took the rock out of "and roll"?

The set gets off to a less than stellar start when the VFest-cryer, who always goes on-and-on about SIR f*cking Richard Branson and all the Virgin stuff you can buy before each band, shows that he cares more about your pocket than getting it right by introducing the band as "the mean spiders!" They are more than that doofus, they are mean RED spiders . I think the 'red' comes from the hair colour of the lead songstress. The 'mean' comes from the guy on the boat who was talking this set up. The 'spiders' comes from the creepy-crawly feeling you get that makes your feet want to wander. Pretty sure it's a Muddy Waters song too. Another very EMOtive band. Girl-emo though, it's not as stomach turning, doesn't come across as a whine, more like a plea. Actually they call it "dream-rock" and that juxtaposition should explain the difficulty this band had in raising pulses. Too soft to get a concert of this size, stature and duration off the ground.
I'm two hours into standing still and soon my feet will grow roots. They did have one song of note, it could have been a cover, or it could have been an homage
to Judy Collins. Contained the refrain: "trains and birds and planes took you away from me," pretty well sung to the tune of Both Sides Now.

WISTA rating: Not on purpose.

ill Scarlett takes to the stage with their combination sound of pop/punk/dub/ska - light-hearted fare. Good for a start in the bright light of day. The volume has been increased, the band is excited and some of this starts to rub off on the crowd, now awakening and growing. Think of these guys as 'Rancid-lite'. They further spark up interest by throwing out packages of zig zag papers for the assembled multitude. The goal, I thougt, is to get everyone to light up during their hit song, Police State. I understand the politics but the very fact you can pull a stunt like this pretty well proves we don't live in a police state. In fact, the Island is a great place for a concert because there's plenty of room to roam. There arepicnic benches set up facing out into the lake or back towards the Toronto skyline, yet well away from the stages, where you can quietly and privately indulge. My days of waving a red flag in the face of 'the man' are well past me. Turns out it was for the set closer, Mary Jane. Silly me, stuck in the '60's. An excellent set that will stand up as one of the best "small act sets" of the entire weekend.

WISTA rating: For sure. They should be good and mature by next spring.

Time to head over to the "Future Shop" stage, everything is sponsored here. Others that pitched in with money and 80' advertising banners were, NOKIA, Bell and the Hemp Wagon. While taking a piss I was reading an add for 'concert colostomy bags' on the wall.
Buck 65 - i'm waiting for this guy to team up with Fi'ty Cent for the $2.15 Tour. Straight out of Halifax, yo, influences range from Woody Guthrie to CCR to KISS to NWA. Been at it about 15 years, had an early release on Sloan's murderrecords before signing with Warner. Almost jumped the shark in an interview where he claimed to hate hip-hop and the hip-hop culture. Bad career move when your fanbase consists of fans who love hiphop. He doesn't deny sayin' it, he just wishes he could take it back. Who hasn't been there, eh? There is plenty of 'hop' to the music and Buck65 is very 'hip', but he's more like Beck than eminem.

Anybody who lists Bob Dylan's Masters of War as the greatest song he's ever seen performed live can't be all bad. Sparse stage setup. He has a drummer hidden behind a curtain and is using canned music and scratch-tables for his band. Normally that would put me off but there's something so 'roots' about this guys demeanor, his stage persona and his set that I'm instantly enthralled by his delivery and not concerned at all about the lack of acoutrements. A pleasant change from the two ensembles we'd seen on the other stage.

Very good stage presence, he regales us with the story of the sinking barge the artists were taking over to the Island. Upset him no end, almost dying in the cold dark waters of Lake Ontario. You know you're stretching your karma alottment when you need thrash-metal rockers Starsailor to be around to save your ass.

Smart music for people who like to think. And dance. Which, admitedly might narrow his target audience somewhat.

WISTA rating:As soon as I can!

We return to the mainstage, where they are highlighting bands that have a large number of personnel. On-stage now are The Hidden Camera's. Not too well hidden.
I can see about 10 of them. The set, led by the construction guy from Village People, closes and soon roadies are dissembling yet another experience.

The next band is no different than the previous, as a large contingency, bracketed by two girls on keyboards (the inside part looks like a rock band) takes to the stage to impress us with how impressed they are of themselves.

The Dears - the cream of Montreal's sub-pop crop. They spent the better part of 2002 bogged down by their sense of self-importance. They dropped members, spent over a year doing a record that sucked and had to go back to the mixing board to salvage something while they heard the rushing sound of their 15 minutes going down the drain. Having survived that scare it'll be interesting to see if anybody's listening.
Some French people next to me were happy to be here. For me they brought nothing to the stage that 10,000 other bands don't already do. Nothing unique about either the sound or the act. Proficient? Yup. Trying hard? I think so but there girls didn't seem near as engaged as the lead singer.

WISTA rating: Only if they are an unannounced opener will that happen.

It's about this time i realize I'm going to pay dearly for not having taken a seat yet today. My 50 year old hips are starting to burn. I had been planning on staying
here to capture the Muse set but it was scheduled to end at the same time Eagles of Death Metal were taking the stage at the other location. The distance isn't far, it takes only 5 minutes to go from one stage to another...or it did 5 hours ago. Now I need a rest-break a third of the way. I pass on an opportunity to hook up with some 'Toronto tapers' until tomorrow, where I'll be sitting in a bar near the main stage all day and meander over to the Future Shop stage for the last two acts of the day, Eagles of Death Metal and local heroes, alexisonfire.

In order to catch those acts I've chosen to pass on the smash hit band of the summer, Gnarles Barkley and the Flaming Lips, argueably the biggest band booked
into this festival. I've only got so much capacity for taking interest in new bands. Gnarles is definitely a 'flash-in-the-pan' kind of band. They've got a funky
sound, a ton of energy and a monster hit in 'Crazy'. Ride that wave as long as you can boys. The Flaming Lips deserve a little more respect, I guess. They are a
fully-developed headlining act, with all the flare and chutzpah you need to command the main stage. They've been on the radio here for the better part of the
last 5 years but none of their material has jumped out at me and said..."you gotta find out who that is!" That's usually how I come to like new bands, unconsciously.
I hear one song...turn up the music. A month later I hear another and wonder who it is. Then I hear a third and find out the same band did them all...they might
be worth checking out. That's how I came to like Offspring, Green Day, The White Stripes and countless others. Almost invariably when I get 'told' about a band,
either by friends or through media hype, I don't have the same kind of attraction. Added to the equation is the fact they are running behind schedule and seeing
that act would mean leaving the island sometime around 1 am. I will take a pass for today and next time i get the urge to go see The Dears, I'll check out where
the Flaming Lips are instead and make a night of it. On another note: if those bands are all they are made out to be why are there not one, but two acts following them at the Baltimore version of VFest?

At the small stage I catch the closing minutes of Starsailors 'thrash-rock' set.
The volume is through the freakin' roof. At one point the 'sound police' called
the mixer-guy down to request the volume be dropped. They were measuring the decibel levels, recording them and doing their best to keep it civil. They have a problem with the rich people who live on the Toronto Islands. Island lands are leased to a few well-placed families. Quite the nice place to live, just across the pond from the lovely Toronto skyline. Does that make them happy? No. They stay active making sure we don't build a land bridge to the largest public park in the city because it would increase the traffic flow and disrupt their little piece of tax-payer subsidized heaven. The rest of their time they spend suing the Docks, a huge nightclub/concert complex that sits on the mainland directly across from their homes. They've managed to get the liqour license suspended just this past summer, which will surely end in the closure of those venues, due to 'noise violations'.
And now we're in their backyards. Didn't think they'd take to that.

With the noise suitably dampened but spirits still high, Eagles of Death Metal take to the stage promising to deliver some rock n roll. What i know of this group
is tangenital at best. I believe their drummer toured with Peaches in front on NIN this summer. That band, Peaches, also had a key-tar player from Le Tigre, who I'd seen in Amsterdam back in the fall of '03. Still sounds like a thrash-rock band, not so much a fem-lib-left band. They didn't have much to remind you of The Eagles in their set. Maybe the Joe Walsh version of The Eagles. They seemed more like a cross between Sha-Na-Na and Metallica. They rocked. They rolled. They called the audience out repeatedly. Also delivered a decent cover of Brown Sugar. Like Buck 65 they had a harrowing tale to tell about almost being drowned in the SeaKing that transported them to the island. I'm beginning to hope the Raconteurs have spent some time at the local pool.

WISTA rating: If they were to open a show I was attending I'd definitely catch their set.

My son has been following the next band since the days they could not sell out the small Opera House venue in Toronto. They've found themselves a little niche on the alternative scene here. Think of an agitized Trent Reznor and you got the lead singer. A little melody buried in their songs but you have to search for it. With alexisonfire I anticipate a higher volume of more thrash-rock. Call it 'srceam-O'. Popular band on our alternative radio station their latest release was a #1 record in Canada upon release, just bumped from that spot by Bob Dylan's new offering, Modern Times. That's a different neighborhood than a half-filled basement. And that's what we got, scream-O extreme-O. Mike seemed to enjoy the set and if you can measure a band's worth by the fun their hardcore fans have at a concert, then these guys are big. They do have to work on their stage patter though. Find a way to be funny without denegrating something, or someone, else. It was mostly the rather rotund lead guitar player who took time to note the two things he hates most is: "white guys with dreadlocks and beach balls at a rock concert." Some people like beach-balls, there were hundreds floating around emblazooned with the Virgin label, I even picked one up as a memento. The next couple times he thought to fill some dead air with more dead air he was poking fun at French people and gay people. Now I'm pretty sure that gay, French, beach volleyball players with dreadlocks are not part of the demographic of their fanbase, but still, why alienate anybody? Unfortunately we miss their encore (who the f*ck does an encore at a festival?) while scurrying to beat the masses to the ferry. Not too disconcerting because you don't want to be late for this, the last of many lines for the evening, because it's one thing to bring 25,000 people THIS was over the course of 12 hours...quite another to move them THAT way when they all show up at once.

WISTA rating: Not unless their development takes them towards the likes of NIN.

Great end to a great day. Tomorrow it's all the headliners, most notably, The Raconteurs!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Virgin Festival
Toronto Islands

Some guy from England decides he wants to push his 'ringtones' on this side of the ocean and he's throwing a two-day concert to promote them. SIR Richard Branson is a little full of himself and he's promised to bring us a rare treat. Of course he doesn't think the bar is set too high as hesays "You don’t have a lot of festivals of this sort of caliber in Toronto." Well, 'caliber' is subjective isn't it? He's planning on 40,000 attendees.Wonder if anyone gave any thought to that lake? This ain't Podunk, MR Branson, you'd best bring your "A game".

The Virgin Festival has been 10 years running in the UK. This year we get a lite Canadian version at the Toronto Islands. It' not lite on the number of bands or the number of days, it's just that the Baltimore one-day version got The Who and Red Hot Chili Peppers as headliners. We got Massive Attack and the Flaming Lips. When you're passing on a headliner to watch a band closing the side stage you know there just wasn't enough name recognition in that top billing act.

Which is not to disparage the Flaming Lips, they are well loved and even more important, well liked. My game plan involves capturing bands my sonlikes, more than following the bleating masses. Long as I don't miss the Raconteurs I can take all the Buck 65, MSTRKRFT and alexisonfire they canthrow at me.

(UPDATE: This does not bode well. The day before the festival Massive Attack was pulled from the schedule and replaced with local band, Broken SocialScene. This is wrong on so many counts. Right now they are taking the same set position, closing the festival by following The Raconteurs. Good news is:we'll be able to head for the ferry a little earlier than planned.)

MR Branson says they have to 'start small' in Canada, build up to something worthy of being a VFest. Man, if the people at the venue are as condescending as the organizer this is gonna suck all day long. If you think the faux-Royalty in Britain are snotty then you haven't met their flagship band, Radiodead, er, Radiohead, who have 'their people' at the Festival to "evaluat(e) the event to see if it’s worthy of their artists." Oh, please, let us not be worthy of those whining-fucks. The only thing they've ever done for me is cure my insomnia. If they'd have died in a plane crash after releasing the unexpurgatedversion of "Creep", they would be sub-culture gods. Alas, they didn't and we got the 'radio friendly' version and any balls the band may have had, disappeared.

Ironically, and I don't know how this happened, the V-Fester's have had only limited success in providing a good time over 'ome. Perhaps having Radiohead ANDMorrisey on the same bill is a little much for anyone to overcome. Add to that: not enough food, not enough bathrooms (why would you need BOTH?), notenough ATM's...etc, and you have a day in EMO hell. We've been promised these things have been addressed. Let's hope so.