Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Mini-Staycation
Echo Beach<>BMO Field
Kitchener Blues Fest

Wow, this weekend came upon us suddenly. Didn't even know we had plans.

The Offspring is bringing the Summer Nationals back to Toronto. The 20th year anniversary of their break-out tour with three other Orange County acts: The Vandals, Pennywise and Bad Religion.

I may be getting too old for this shit.

I've got both my kids in tow, each of them with a date. It was back in 1997 I had a 14 year old Emily and 12 year old Michael on the rail at the Warehouse for The Offspring's Ixnay on the Hombre tour. Somehow this makes sense.

Boy the punks are getting old. And we're talking Third Wave punk. Of course with Joe Strummer gone and all the Ramones passing on, the First Wave isn't fairing so well either.

But you gotta love the sound. Three minute pieces at full throttle and all the anti-authority rants you can handle for someone looking ahead to collecting their pension.

This may not be an accurate set list but it's pretty close. Lots of crowd favourites in here. 

    It's a Fact
    People That Are Going to Hell
    Happy Birthday to Me
    Live Fast Diarrhea
    I've Got an Ape Drape
    Oi to the World
    I Know, Huh?
    Anarchy Burger (Hold the Government)
    And Now We Dance
    My Girlfriend's Dead
    Don't Stop Me Now

Pennywise hit the stage with a lovely anniversary banner (it's their 25th) and more power-punk, a notch up in intensity. I was up on the rail for these two bands. The mosh-pit continued to grow and get a little more rambunctious but they kept a tight circle and there was plenty of space for those who just wanted to watch and listen.

        My Own Country
        Same Old Story
        My Own Way
        Restless Time
        Minor Threat
        (Minor Threat cover)
        Unknown Road
        Perfect People
        Fuck Authority
        Bro Hymn

Here's a picture my daughter took from the soundboard, with the CN Tower in the background so we will always know where it came from.

I thought they had the opening bands in the wrong order. Bad Religion's set was a little muddier, moodier and less fun. Of course my son and 8,000 other fans begged to differ. 

        Stranger Than Fiction
        New America
        21st Century (Digital Boy)
        Fuck You
        Struck a Nerve
        No Direction
        Only Rain
        True North
        You Are (The Government)
        1000 More Fools
        Best for You
        Do What You Want
        American Jesus

And here's The Offspring's even shorter version.

Ahh, The Offspring. Always a good time. Have had my son beside me all 4 times we've seen them, it's a family tradition. This year they are playing their hit album SMASH in it's entirety, in order.

        Time to Relax
        Nitro (Youth Energy)
        Bad Habit
        Gotta Get Away
        Something to Believe In
        Come Out and Play
        It'll Be a Long Time
        Killboy Powerhead
        (Didjits cover)
        What Happened to You?
        So Alone
        Not the One
        Self Esteem
        All I Want
        (Can't Get My) Head Around You
        Why Don't You Get a Job?
        You're Gonna Go Far, Kid
        Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)
        The Kids Aren't Alright

We're out of the park, everyone in a good mood, stuck in the horrific traffic jam that is Construction Season in Toronto. Day 1 down.

Day 2 starts with the car in the shop and the utility company replacing our water meter. Than another horrific traffic jam entering the park.

We were watching the World Cup awhile ago and saw the advert for the Women's Under 20 World Cup being hosted by Canada. There's something about International amateur events that allows me to overlook the Roman Empire elements of our sporting culture. It's even easier when it's the women who are sharing the spotlight. Sport is purer.

Our girls are not expected to win this event but they have a chance of getting out of the group round with a victory tonight. After losing the opening game to Ghana by a score of 1-0 it's imperative we beat Finland. Of course 'beat' sounds harsh when you look on the field and see 16 year olds playing at a superb level.

The opening game tonight has third rated PRK (People's Republic of Korea, you know they have property in the far east, on the bad side of the wall) against Ghana, both victors in their opening matches. The game is filled with yellow cards and hard tackles. Even the referee was sent off due to injury. In the end PRK won 3-0 but the lasting memories are of the boisterous Ghana fans who beat drums and sang throughout the match.

When it was over they switched to Canadian flags and broke into a rendition of our National Anthem.

Our girls fell behind early even though they were dominating the possession stats. A couple of defensive lapses resulted in a half-time deficit of 2-0. It seemed insurmountable.

In the second half we made a couple key substitutions, adding some fresh legs up front. Two goals a minute and a half apart evened up the score early. We then netted a third at the 80 minute mark to seal the victory and keep hope alive.

Next up: PRK.

Day 3 starts a little more leisurely with a late breakfast and a short drive to nearby Kitchener for their wonderful, free Bluesfest.

Buddy Guy and Quinn Sullivan opened the festival on Thursday night with a headliner show at the Clocktower Stage in Victoria Park. We're here today to see two artists we've seen previously.

At 3:15 PM we get the Alexis P Suter Band. We saw Alexis back in 2006 when she was a steady opener at the Levon Helm Rambles held in Woodstock NY. She was impressive then, she's a force of nature now.

Soulful blues is what she delivers. Powerful voice. A lotta woman. She's sassy and frisky, just like Big Mamma Thornton but she brings the house down when she pours her emotions into Let It Be. Goosebump time.

She also dedicated a song to Levon Helm, a rendition of Dylan's Knockin' On Heaven's Door that closed many a Ramble.

And she had her own songs too. From her newest release she gave us You Don't Move Me No More and Shake Your Hips and a few more.  Included in the set was her signature song, Built For Comfort, Not For Speed. Great set.

Junior Brown I missed in 2006 when he opened the early portion of Dylan's Ballpark Summer tour but I caught up with him later at the Ottawa Blues Fest and have been a fan ever since. Even made a trip out to Ann Arbor to see him because he doesn't bring his brand of Tex-Mex guitar to Canada very often.

His set list hasn't changed too much, did hear 2 or 3 new songs, one of which was a ballad that replaced my favourite song...but you can't always get what you want. His set was marred a little by muddy sound making it difficult to capture the lyrics on some songs where Junior's baritone voice is the instrument. Impressive guitar playing all the way through...that you always get.

Junior dedicated a song to the Johnny Winter who passed away last month. It occurs to me we're going to see a lot of these dedications if we continue to see these artists who have had long careers.

Had a great day under the big tent. Hooked up with long-time Dylan companion, Michele.

We have shared many a miles and hotel rooms chasing Dylan around North America. Also saw a high-school friend, James, who was in town from Massachusetts for a neice's wedding. A little bit of everything this weekend. The kids, the wife, music, sports, more music, friends and plenty of summer sun.

OH, and here's the Junior Brown song I wished he'd played.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

A Tale of Two Artists
Corin Raymond at the Cameron House
Jack White at the ACC
July 31,2014

A nice double-header of sorts. With Jack White playing the ACC on a Thursday night I'm able to head to The Cameron House for Corin Raymond's twilight set behind the red velvet curtains. Somebody is opening for Jack but they won't be better than this.

Cece and I try to see Corin Raymond as often as possible. It's good for the soul. In a small, dark club on Queen St West, you step between the red velvet curtains, wait for your eyes to adjust to the darkness, find a spot on a worn bench, get a drink and sit back to enjoy Toronto's Troubadour and whatever band he's assembled. The Sundowners usually consist of guitar wizard and local producer David Baxter, bass player extraordinaire Brian Kobayakowa, currently backing Serena Ryder on her year long break out tour, and multi-instrumentalist, Juno award nominee, Treasa Levasseur. You get almost two hours of this for a Pay What You Can ticket price. Tonight Treasa is not available and our guest piano player is Mike Evans, in town to record a new record and do a spot at the venerable Hugh's Room.  

Corin's onstage, plugging in and setting levels, as the place begins to fill up. He's holding 3 conversations with people spread throughout the room. His mind is on a Nick Cave concert he's attending a little later and his upcoming vacation/working break, that will take him from Winnipeg to central BC in August with a stop at Wabigoon Lake on the way out.

He's focused when he takes the stage. Opens with a Doug Norquay word-painting of a bar on the outskirts of Hades, where people with no feet will get you drunk and steal your shoes.

"By the light of day salvation's face
Looks like a couple piss holes in the snow,
Bury me in the devil's bourbon glass,
Kill me if Ethel's Lounge is closed."

Bet it on the dogs, for sure.

Get happy! Ridin' West on Dundas is a setting sun, smoke on your mind, ride through Kensington Market in the twilight of an April day. Foot stompin' music.

That's enough of that stuff, let's get blue.

John Borra's Blues Mama (or Blue Yodel #127 as I like to call it) opens a tri-pack of songs about lost love, lost love and lost love. Sometimes it's her (Blues Mama), sometimes it's you (Hard On Things) and sometimes it's just the situation (The Law and the Lonesome). It's always something.

Maybe it's because Corin's going to be gone for a month but he's playing SONGS tonight, not just songs.

Next up a ballad about, well, lost love, but also about snow in Nashville. If Wishes Were Horses is perpetually fighting for the favorite song of the week spot in my mind.

Our hero, the protagonist in every Corin Raymond song, has had a pretty tough day so far. You'd think he'd be ready to pack it in.  Not quite.  Take Me To The Mountain (But Not Yet) is a revival-tinged shout out to the master for just one more chance at life's bucket list. A plea for more time to enjoy the simple joys that cross our paths...pickin' a horse or bedding a girl.

Ridley Bent's upbeat story about, well, love lost and misplaced vinyl, the raucous Nine Inch Nails leads off the tri-pack of songs that end the first set.

"The breakup was a rough one,
She pulled out a shot gun,
We worked it out,
She got it all and a matching couch..."

Stealin' My Heart and 3000 Miles lift the spirit of the crowd as the hat gets passed and we take a quick break before the truncated second set.

The crowd is much noisier as the second set opens with a brand new song about our outdoor-friends that we pass but don't always see. These characters our found in Toronto's Kensington Market, an area made famous by Al Waxman. It's an urban ode.

The next tri-pack of songs features tunes from Corin's recent Paper Nickels release. More Doug Norquay with Cruel Cruel Town. It's followed by a cover of Evelyn Parry's Bucket of Time and closes with Ole Fort Mac, a real depressing song about the prices paid for our oil, yet it's also a celebratory anthem. A little cognitive dissonance is needed to joyously sing this song but that's how it has to be done.

The next tri-pack finds another favorite ballad about well, lost love, Wish I Was In Love, and a wonderful ballad called Blue Mermaid Dress closes it, that song is about, well, lost love. In between we don't have to wonder why the singer drinks just a little bit too much.

Show closes with an anthem for all present tonight, the fans and the artists.

Corin Raymond - vocals, guitar
Dave Baxter - guitar, mandolin, backing vox
Brian Kobayakowa - bass
Mike Evans - piano, backing vox

Set 1

Ethel's Lounge
Ridin' West on Dundas
Blues Mama
Hard On Things
The Law and the Lonesome
If Wishes Were Horses
Take Me To the Mountain
Nine Inch Nails
Stealin' My Heart
3000 Miles

Set 2

Sweetest On The Vine (Kensington Market Song)
Cruel Cruel Town
Bucket of Time
Ole Fort Mac
Wish I Was In Love
I Only Drink A Little (Too Much)
Blue Mermaid Dress
There Will Always Be A Small Time

And here's an extra fun video from Corin. My son was one of the videographers:)

From the small times to the big times, Jack White doing his first solo arena show.

I wasn't even going to review this show until I read a critics recap in The Toronto Sun. Jan Stephenson was definitely at the same concert, she just heard something different than I did. She loved the 'sing-a-longs' and the 'mega-hits' with extended guitar solos. She hated the piano ballads. Thought I'd set the record straight, as I see it anyway.

I hope I don't have to defend my Jack White credentials. He is the only rock-god out there now. Miles beyond anyone, including the self-deprecating Kanye West, in talent and vision. Doesn't mean he's perfect.

Actually it's less a case of perfection, more a case of things have changed. He's changed. I've changed. My tolerance for the face-clawing element of Jack's set is not growing. It's interesting too because Jack seems to feel he can't control his fans either. There's a pre-show announcement with the dim hope that you can convince the audience to not spend the night viewing the show through the glare of their cell phones, yet he invokes the audience to sing-a-long or chant...which is fine if I thought I'd pay for any of them to perform the songs.  The ballads seemed to be a signal for people on dates to pick up their dinner conversation. The new songs were met well, I'll say that.

It doesn't matter if I get it all, there's no denying that Jack is mastering a new element of live theater; conducting a band. Every song is a vehicle for one of the members. Usually it's Jacks guitar but an energetic drummer, pixie fiddle player, bass player and someone on the theramin, all get their time in the spotlight. (As a sidebar the theramin has now made an appearance at 4 shows I've attended this year.)

It opened well enough with Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground, reworked but still the same at heart. The next 12 minutes and 31 seconds will seem like an eternity. 

The low-light of the show was Lazaretto followed by the instrumental High Ball Stepper. Yawn. First off Lazaretto was butchered. He dropped TWO excellent verses and a couple lines at the end of other verses. The song goes on for over 4 minutes but the last minute and a half are an instrumental jam that leads into High Ball Stepper...which goes on for an excruciating 7 minutes and 8 seconds including the feed-back droning.

Here's my breakdown of the poorly treated Lazaretto.

* sung

*My veins are blue and connected
*And every single bone in my brain is electric

*But I dig ditches like the best of 'em
*Yo trabajo duro
*Como en madera y yeso
*Como en madera y yeso

**And even God herself
*Has fewer plans than me
*But she never helps me out with my scams for free,
*though she grabs a stick and then she points it at me
*When I say nothing, I say everything
***Yeah when I say nothing, I say everything

***They threw me down in the lazaretto
***Born rottin', bored rotten
***Makin' models of people I used to know
***Out of coffee and cotton

***And all of my illegitimate kids have begotten
***Thrown down to the wolves, made feral for nothin'
***Quarantine on the Isle of Man and I'm trying to escape any way that I can, oh
***Any way that I can, oh

*I have no time left
*Time is lost, no time at all, throw it in a garbage can
*And I shake God's hand
*I jump up and let her know when I can
***This is how I'm gonna do it

*They wanna blow down in prison
*They're lighting fires with the cast of the masses

*And like the dough I don't fall down
*I'm so Detroit, I make it rise from the ashes

Fortunately the WTF spell was broken by a lovely countrified version of Hotel Yorba, dedicated to Stompin' Tom Connors and slightly marred by the dropped lines that Jack had the audience fill in. More on that habit later. Great fiddle work in this song.

Jack hits his stride with the triumvirate of songs that follow; Temporary Ground, Weep Themselves to Sleep and Missing Pieces.  This is new Jack White at his best. Great songs well delivered. Missing Pieces included a brief part of Howlin' Wolfs' I Asked For Water (She Gave Me Gasoline).

Jack moves to the piano for Apple Blossom but once again lets the audience fill in some lines. Look, Bruce was doing this back in 1975. We know you're famous and cool because the fans can fill in all the gaps but I ain't bought one of their records, nor attended one of their shows. There's a reason for that. Jack's vocal delivery is wonderful, all tremelo and whatnot. The piano didn't suck either. This is followed by what is the highlight of the show for me tonight, a tender reading of the Danger Mouse song, The Rose With the Broken Neck. It's a song that must be heard, can't be described.

The two song acoustic revery is broken by the familiar and welcome chords of Cannon. This marks the "every non-Racs or Dead Weather Jack show I've attended" number of times I've got this song in concert.(Somewhere over 20 but under 30). It's not a show without a Cannon medley. He adds a stunning guitar solo, a Hendrix cover a snippet of Hear My Train A-Comin', Astro and an unidentified lyric to it tonight.

Another great song from the new record, Just One Drink gives us a few minutes of mindless joy before we head into the tri-pack of monster songs that leads to the encore.

Two White Stripes anthems wrapped around a Raconteurs rarity. A bouncy You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do What You're Told) is fleshed out by less minimalist drumming than Meg brought to the song. Jack's solo is rippin' too. Top Yourself is the vehicle for band introductions and solo's including a lovely refrain from Lillie Mae on the fiddle and a shout out to Geddy Lee during the bass solo.
That extravaganza consumed 10 minutes and 35 seconds before Jack goes into I'm Slowly Turning Into You for the set closer. He graciously tosses in a couple versions of his take on Tampa Red's You Can't Get That Stuff No More.

At this point I should have turned off my rig. The 6-plus minutes of audience noise during the encore is about how much of Seven Nation Army I was going to miss when the batteries on my recorder died. It's been a long night and there's 10 songs left.

Two hard rockin' blues tunes to open the encore; the manic Icky Thump followed by the majestic sounds of Ball and Biscuit.

If that Danger Mouse cover was the single highlight of the night then next segment, three acoustic songs, with silver stand-up bass and the entire band in a tight circle at center stage, was the visual sweet-spot of this show. The wonderful Alone in My Home with the haunting "becoming a ghost" refrain is another testament to the quality of the new songs on the Laz record.
A long instrumental noodle as the band is taking position and Jack is picking the next song leads into a lovely rendition of We Are Going to Be Friends...with the ever-present audience participation.
Love Interruption gets the acoustic treatment with an unrecognized riff tacked onto the end.

Steady As She Goes ratchets up the volume before Jack breaks into the bombastic Hello Operator...again marred by dropping key lines for the audience to sing. With the rest of the songs I could take it...but Hello Operator? HELLO!?!?!?!?!

Two more songs from what I now realize is a terrific album. Would You Fight For My Love? Lovely piano piece with jungle drums and ethereal violins. Great vocals. That Black Bat Licorice may not have the weight of the previous song but it rocks us into the final anthem of the night...the head-bangers delight that is Seven Nation Army.

 I got a little bit to say about Seven Nation Army and the shit that was going down in the mosh-pit during the recognizable Stripes songs. The live experience at a Jack show changed with this song. It marked the moment when the Stripes lost their innocence, through no fault of their own. It's become such a well-know 'rock classic' that it attracts an element more interested in head-banging than in respecting the art of the show. 15 minutes before Jack takes the stage we get a PSA on cell-phones and how viewing a concert through the hazy blue screen (not to be confused with the hazy blue stage but that's a subject for another rant) is not the best way to enjoy the live experience. I concur. I would just like to add that dodging elbows in a vicious slam-dance fest or being groped and thrown over the stage security fence at the end of an abusive crowd surf isn't conducive to it either.

        Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
        High Ball Stepper
        Hotel Yorba
        Temporary Ground
        Weep Themselves to Sleep
        Missing Pieces/I Asked For Water(She Gave Me Gasoline)(H.Wolf)
        Apple Blossom
        The Rose With the Broken Neck
        (Danger Mouse cover)
        Cannon/Hear My Train a Comin'(Jimi Hendrix cover)/Astro/unidentified riff and lyric
        Just One Drink
        You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You're Told)
        Top Yourself
        I'm Slowly Turning Into You/You Can't Get That Stuff No More (Tampa Red)

        Icky Thump
        Ball and Biscuit
        Alone in My Home
        We're Going to Be Friends
        Love Interruption
        Steady, As She Goes
        Hello Operator
        Would You Fight for My Love?
        That Black Bat Licorice
        Seven Nation Army(incomplete)

Jack's Glastonbury set on YouTube