Thursday, September 23, 2010

CR Avery
The Undesirables
The Cameron House
CR Avery
The Boathouse
Kitchener ON

CR is back in the Toronto area almost promoting the delayed release of his rumoured book of poetry, 38 Bar Blues, which should be available from Write Bloody Publishing any day now. He'll be back in November with a full-band tour that promises to be rocking.

Booked for two shows in Kingston ON at the Kingstons Writers Festival this weekend, he flew out early to lay a few tricks on us in London, Toronto, St Catharines and Kitchener. During his downtime he's working on the final edits for his upcoming live concert DVD, Subtitles for a Foreign Film, set for release in October.

Tonight he's opening for story-teller extraordinaire, Corin Raymond and his excellent guitar-picking puppetmaster, Sean Cotton; The Undesirables. The backroom of The Cameron House is cozy. Seats about 30, stands another 30, it gets hot quick. A three-shirt night is in store, I'm told. Also, ladies, don't ever buy a ticket for a backroom gig. The womens washroom is at the back of the room and you have free access from the front of the bar...just tell 'em you had some yogurt induced issues and stay awhile.

Some new songs from CR tonight, 3 in all, with the Neil cover of Campaigner and two originals, one a spoken word piece about Ice Rinks the other a piano ballad, My Own Road To Go. He starts a little slow, taking a few tunes before he can shake tax issues from his worried mind. When he starts feeding off Corin's laughter from side-stage the set turns.

Track 01 Intro
Track 02 Campaigner (Neil Young)
Track 03 Big In Japan (Tom Waits)
Track 04 The Marines Lament (3 months in hell)
Track 05 Ice Rinks Track 06 talk
Track 07 I'm Gonna Eat You Out
Track 08 Love Song
Track 09 My Own Road To Go
Track 10 Blackbird (Lennon/McCartney)
The Undesirables are playing some new tunes as well, showcasing their new release, Cancer Shoes. They are warming up for a weekend of special guests and concerts on the First of October. Locate Corin on facebook for extensive details and get ready to do the (GO) Bus Stop Walk.

Track 01 Intro
Track 02 ?Ooh, Summer's Gone
Track 03 You're Gonna Find Out
Track 04 Good News
Track 05 Cancer Shoes
Track 06 Umbrella Girl
Track 07 Look Out Jack
Track 08 story - singing bones
Track 09 Singing Bones
Track 10 talk - Ferraro's bleedthrough
Track 11 Waitin' On A Later Train
Track 12 Dancin' on the Fault Line
Track 13 It's A Sunny Day
Track 14 encore break
Track 15 Rain Song(w/ CR Avery)
Track 16 When I'm Gone (w/ CR Avery)

The Boat House

It's early morning on hump-day, it's raining and it's dark. Think a round of CR will charge the batteries. Another opening set tonight, which is good, 'cause home's about an hour and a half away and work don't care that I like live music. Or so I thought. As we arrive at the bar CR informs us he's the headliner...and that's good for us too.  Nice little venue in the heart of Kitchener on the shores of Victoria Park Lake. Great locale, with lots of park land and what appears to be a man-made lake ringed with benches and picnic tables. This must be one happening place with walk up business on the summer weekends. 'Course, summers gone and it ain't a weekend so the place is sparsely populated for the opening set by Blair Harvey.

Decent stuff, easy on the ears. The kid has a terrific voice, similar in sound to Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo. Some interesting flair on the guitar with a unique strumming pattern that simulates a snare drum sound while he's playing major chords.

By the time CR's set is underway we have about 20 drinking customers in the place. 18 are attentively focussed on the stage. 2 are not. CR tried his best to shame them into shutting the fuck up, first a full-frontal insulting attack in  Leadbelly's Sylvie then a gentle poke inside a couplet at the beginning of The Boxer Who Just Returned from London that just washed over their self-absorbed little heads. This couple of guys, seated no more than 6 inches from each other, felt they had to talk over whatever din was emanating from the stage. At least 2 different groups in the audience asked them nicely to quiet down, take it outside or get a room. Unfortunately the owners didn't give a shit either as they were almost as loud, saying only, it's a bar, people talk. Point taken, there was no cover charge. However if you hope to attract people into your bar to listen to live music you would think that an atmosphere conducive to that pasttime would be encouraged. There was no way apparent to shut these guys up so CR did the next best thing; cut his set short at a 1/2 hour for a 20 minute break, hoping to let them run out of steam.

It worked, as well as you could hope. Blair gets another 3 songs in front of a half-packed and fully baked house. The alpha-male in our couple leaves. Silence returns as Talker-the-Lesser is on his own. CR comes back for a 45 minute second set that won over the remaining faithful, most notably the 2 cuties in the front row who alternately blushed and laughed through the dirty blues ballad, I'm Gonna Eat You Out. The night closes with a steller performance of Tightrope, sans the tightrope refrain, as CR hits his mark late in the night.

Set 1
Track 01 Intro
Track 02 Campaigner (Neil Young)
Track 03 Sylvie (Leadbelly)

Track 04 talking assholes talk
Track 05 The Boxer Who Just Returned From London
Track 06 I'm A Dairy Cow, Baby

Track 07 Blind Willie McTell (Bob Dylan)

Set 2
Track 08 Star of Bethlehem (Neil Young)
Track 09 Hendix/Dylan
Track 10 The Great One
Track 11 Voodoo Child (Jimi Hendrix)
Track 12 I`m Gonna Eat You Out

Track 13 Tightrope

Disregard the date on that poorly edited photoshop poster. He's in Ottawa on the Saturday the 13th and at the Rivoli on Friday the 12th.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wanda Jackson
Cosmic Charlies
Lexington KY

Missed my chance to see Wanda Jackson in Toronto this year while I was taking my 100 year old grandmother and her 6 children to their hometown for a party! So when I saw a chance to catch a show and visit some friends in Lexington...well, like my grandma, it don't take much to convince me to get in the car for a road trip.

Wanda Jackson
Cosmic Charlies
Lexington KY

Track 01 Instrumental Intro
Track 02 Mean Mean Man
Track 03 Rock Your Baby
Track 04 Hard Headed Woman
Track 05 talk
Track 06 I Gotta Know
Track 07 talk
Track 08 Lets Play House
Track 09 Heartbreak Hotel
Track 10 talk
Track 11 I'm No Good
Track 12 Shakin' All Over
Track 13 talk
Track 14 Fujiyama Mama
Track 15 Funnel of Love
Track 16 Right or Wrong
Track 17 Cell Block #9
Track 18 talk
Track 19 I Saw the Light
Track 20 Let's Have A Party
Track 21 Whole Lotta Shakin'/Rip It Up/Let's Have A Party

Monday, September 13, 2010

Billy Bragg
The Ark
Ann Arbor, MI

It's a strange world where a Canadian has to cross into the US to get his yearly dose of righteous leftist indignation. For reasons beyond comprehension Billy has opted to bypass the True North Strong and Free this year and focus on the Land of the Afraid, er, make that Brave.

Gives us a chance to hook up with a like-minded Stateside friend and introduce her to Britain's Phil Ochs...that is, without the self-destructive tendencies and bitter cynicism that led Phil to a downward spiral. (As a side-note could you imagine if Phil was alive during the 8 years of the Bush ascendancy? He would have been apoplectic.)

Ann Arbor is a lovely town in the fall. Easy to stroll, lots for the eyes to feast on. The kids at the University are just back in residence and the streets are filled with people getting that last bit of summer. Michigan is coming from behind to defeat Notre Dame 28-24 as we stand in line. The Ark is a mecca. Unfortunately it rained all day so we couldn't experience much of that.

Did manage to run into Billy on the street just before the show. Stopped him to give thanks for introducing me to CR Avery back in 2008 and for playing a superb rendition of John Cooper Clarke's Evidently Chicken Town to the tune of Bob Dylan's Desolation Row back at The Phoenix in 2009. Mentioned my plans to make it over to the UK in the spring of next year if I can find JCC and John Otway playing dates the same week. He mentioned he'd gigged with both of them, simultaneously even. Now if Billy were playing when I was there he'd be a natural to see, but him I can see anywhere, the others, not so much. He pulled out his iPhone to show me a pic of his young son with JCC.

At this point I felt like the character in Jack White's Take Take Take...that was all that I wanted. Except I wanted more. I asked Billy if I could impose on him for an autograph, on my copy of his debut, indy EP, Life's A Riot w/ Spy Vs. Spy, the import, which I've been carrying around for a good many years. This guy is nothing if not magnanimous and he followed me into the restaurant where my wife and friend were wrapping up dinner. "Look who I found!" I announce.

Billy's still lightly touring Mr Love and Justice, but also playing a few new songs from his recent stage production. He's had a busy year with the election and all, slaying the BNP in his home riding.

Lots of talking tonight, the show ran over 2 hours. Billy got caught up in a rambling story about signing 3 posters "To The Lion's Den", then later discovering, while driving down I94, that was an porn movie store.

But he played some songs too;

Billy Bragg
The Ark
Ann Arbor, MI

Disc 1

Track 01 The World Turned Upside Down
Track 02 To Have Or To Have Not
Track 02a talk
Track 03 The Price I Pay
Track 04 Greeting to the New Brunette
Track 05 talk
Track 06 Tomorrow's Gonna Be A Better Day
Track 07 talk
Track 08 I Ain't Got No Home
Track 09 Sexuality
Track 10 talk
Track 11 Everywhere
Track 12 The Unwelcome Guest
Track 13 talk
Track 14 The Fourteenth of February
Track 15 talk
Track 16 There Will Be A Reckoning
Track 17 talk
Track 18 Tank Park Salute
Track 19 talk

Disc 2

Track 01 NPWA
Track 02 Levi Stubbs Tears
Track 03 talk
Track 04 I Keep Faith
Track 05 Power In A Union
Track 06 encore break/talk
Track 07 Ode To Joy
Track 08 talk
Track 09 The Milkman of Human Kindness
Track 10 A New England