Tag Archives: music

Hamilton’s Heart for Haiti

I am pretty stoked to be attending this shindig on Sunday night.  Lots of homegrown Hamilton talent – The Arkells, Tom Wilson, Melissa McLelland and more.  So great.  The Genealogist and The Musician and I will be in attendance, along with The Musician’s good friend.  This will be her very first concert, which is a pretty cool thing in and of itself.

I watched the big ticket relief concerts – most of the Canadian one and the US one – and they were good.  Other than Ben Mulroney, no one seemed to be too full of themselves from what I could tell, and it was all done without a lot of glitz and over-the-top-ness, which can often take away from what’s important. 

[An aside:  maybe it’s because I am cynical by nature, but I do have a hard time when actors get up, and in subdued, earnest tones and with great concern on their faces, make their plea for help.  Because, you know, they’re actors.  It’s what they do.  But in spite of that, I was mostly impressed. ]

During the shows, The Genealogist and I had a discussion about other recent disasters and tried to remember what sorts of outpourings there were for, say, the Tsunami,  or Hurricane Katrina.  We couldn’t remember, and he even asked for input on Facebook.  He was told that there in fact WAS a concert for victims of Katrina.  No other details, just that of course there was.  No one who responded mentioned the Tsunami.  A quick search pulled up a bunch of links to benefit concerts and other events that happened for the Tsunami victims, as well as for Katrina, so they did happen, which is great, of course.

But what does it tell us when these events that were so horribly tragic, so devastating, with thousands, hundreds of thousands of lives lost fade into near oblivion when the next horribly tragedy strikes?  Are our collective memories that short?  They seem to be – mine certainly seems to be, as illustrated that I couldn’t remember much in the way of details.  But the truth is, it’s hard to remember – the events themselves, sure we know places and dates.  But even the dates are hard to recall after awhile, aren’t they?  Was it 2004 or 2005 for the Tsunami?  Unless you were directly affected, you might not remember exactly. 

The images out of Haiti are horrible, of course.  People are trying to give money, supplies, whatever they can, of course.  The devastation is absolute.  Eventually, aid will trickle and the images in our media will slow down and then ultimately stop altogether.  In December of 2010, the year-end lists will come out and the earthquake in Haiti will be included, and there will be a retrospective and survivors will be interviewed and reconstruction progress will be gauged…and then?  I really don’t want to think about the next catastrophe, the one that replaces Haiti on our collective radar.  But it’s going to happen. 

I just don’t want it to be too soon.

Age is just a number…a really, really sucky number

HVTWH8HESWNZ

I went and left you a whole 10 days with just the ladybits post didn’t I?  Which wasn’t even really a real post or anything.  Sorry about that, and I’d like to say, like other real bloggers do, that I was extremely busy, that life was just out of control and I just did not have a second to blog.  But it’s actually that I am just lazy, and while some post ideas were percolating in the noggin, I just didn’t write them down because…meh.  So I’m back, hopefully with a coherent thought that doesn’t involve genitalia.  Except that it, um, might…

So the UIG had a birthday on Saturday, friends.  That’s right, I need to update my bio as I am now a 43-year old woman – the woman part is the same.  43 just seems like such a non-number, you know?  40 is the big one, of course.  41, well now you’re into your forties and it’s still kinda new and fresh, then there’s 42 which is a nice round number and also has Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy relevance, and knowing that kind of gives you cred, right?  But 43?  I don’t know, man.  I’m kind of over it already, and I’ve only had it for a couple of days.  Already looking forward to 44, because now there’s a number! 

Seriously, who does that?  Not normal people, that’s for sure.

Anyway, to celebrate the day I went out for a superb meal with my awesome friends.  We did it up right at a swanky wine bar, all elegance and mood lighting, candles and soft jazz playing.  Lots of swish well-to-do looking couples, highly professional wait staff and artistically inspired food.  And then?  Then we followed it up with a trip to my favourite Hamilton bar for a night of  loud, raunchy and crazy cowboy music, because that, my friends, is actually how we roll.

If you ever have the chance to see White Cowbell Oklahoma live?  Please, for the love of god, run – don’t walk – to get your tickets.  The show was so over-the-top, so ridiculously theatrical, it was unbelievable.  But while the tunes are beyond dirty and raunchy, and the stage banter the same, there is a whole lot of talent among the band members, that makes it all ok.  At least it did for me.  When you have a guy whose sole purpose is to play cowbell, and not just play it, but to set it on fire, and use a grinder on it to shoot sparks up to the ceiling and out into the audience, and then later that same guy brings a mothereffing chainsaw up on stage and carves up a giant stuffed yeti, then proceeds to blow the stuffing – which is now everywhere – around and on everyone with a leaf blower done up to look, um, phallic?  That is a show, people.  A bona fide musical event.  And yes, I undertand that much of their image is problematic, and this is not a band I plan to introduce to my children any time soon, because come on, this is adult entertainment, and I’d prefer that the boys not go around singing “Put the south in your mouth pretty baby….” just yet. 

But damn, it was a fun night.  The other two bands on the bill were good too, Hamlton’s very own The Barettas – who I had heard but had never seen live, and they did not disappoint – and The Vanishers, who were completely new to me, and they describe their genre as “throat-punching country rock/rockabilly”.  And throat-punching they are, and all the way from Burlington even.  Definitely would see both those bands again.

So we heard some kickass music and had some cocktails, and I rolled in around 2am, like I’m 23 instead of 43, but whatever.  Celebrating my birthday with some of my best friends in the whole world, plus a couple of hundred raunchy cowboy music fans?  Hell, yes.  Can’t wait ’til next year.

Listy McListerer

Right now I am living the dream, people.  That’s right, it’s end-of-the-year list time!  Every magazine you pick up, every website, every blog every everything has got some sort of list going on right now.  It’s “best of” time and “top ten” time, and everything gets rated!  Movies, books, technological innovations, medical breakthroughs, you name it, it’s all listed there for you.  Not to mention dead celebrities.  But, um, that one isn’t quite the yippee-hooray list, is it?  You know how the papers put in a list of who died this year?  That’s a bit creepy, in a way.  But anyway, it’s list time and this year is even more exciting because it’s also the end of the decade.  So we also get the “best of” the decade!  Lists upon lists, I tell you!  And look!  Here’s another one:

The UIG’s Top Whatever of 2009 or maybe the whole damned decade, depending

Books

I read up a storm in 2009, I truly did.  Mostly due to my commute, and learning that I can, in fact, read on a moving bus.  Which up until recently I could not.  So that has helped me devour many, many books this year.  Here are my highlights, in no particular order:

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead – Melinda mentioned this book in a post earlier this year, and I am really glad I picked it up.  It’s a YA book and a super interesting one, with, you know, character development, and style and an excellent plot!  Secret notes, talk of time travel and Madeleine L’Engle.  What could be better?

Metropole by Ferenc Karinthy – This was one of the most anxiety-inducing books I have ever read.  A man stranded in a strange country, completely unable to make himself understood through any language, gesture or…anything.  A city teeming with people, all in a rush, always moving.  It makes my heart race a bit just typing that.  Brilliantly done, and, since it was translated from the original Hungarian, an incredibly vivid and masterful translation.

The Outlander by Gil Adamson – A young woman on the run from the law in 1903 after killing her husband?  An adventure that sees her trying to survive in the mountains in winter?  Some crazy characters and close calls?  Yes, please.  All the elements for a great adventure novel and then some, and a very beautiful style of writing to boot.

Whispering Pines: The Northern Roots of American Music from Hank Snow to The Band by Jason Schneider – I really enjoyed this book.  It is a fantastic reference book that manages to read like a friendly, yet at times disturbing novel, and kept me continually uttering phrases like “holy crap, I had no idea!” and “damn, now that makes sense now that I know [insert musician’s name]  was an influence on [insert musician’s name]!” and “whoa, no wonder that’s how that happened” and on, and on.  So great. 

Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament by S.G. Browne – Zombies were big this year, weren’t they?  What with the Jane Austen books and all.  This one is just about a bunch of the undead coming to terms with their situation, and trying to be understood.  Hilarity ensues.  Most enjoyable, some very funny parts, and a bit of a commentary (I thought) on the situation of any group of outsiders who just aren’t made to feel welcome.

So I’m not the London Review of Books.  Moving on…

Food

So since I don’t eat out very often, and when I do, it’s usually places I’ve been before, I thought I would create a list of damn fine eats I made my ownself this year.  Complete with cookbook references and everything!  Salivate,  my friends, for the following:

Vegan sausages  from Vegan Brunch   Oh, blogfriends.  I can’t even explain how amazing these were, you really need to give this a try.  Beyond easy (measure ingredients and throw into a bowl and then shape into sausage shapes), and just so, so tasty.  Even my meat-eating family agreed that these were some mighty fine sausages in both texture and taste. 

Three Sisters Burritos from Rebar: Modern Food Cookbook  This cookbook, which I received from my sister-in-law a couple of year ago as a  Christmas gift, has been my go-to cookbook all year.  I have already used more recipes from this than any other book ever!  This recipe blends corn, squash and beans (the three sisters) with spices and a really tasty red sauce.  I served this to my friends at the cottage and everyone raved.  Raved, I tell you!

Paneer.  Whole milk + vinegar = delicious tasty Indian cheese!  The recipe I used was from an issue of Edible Toronto and it was SO easy.  I used the paneer in a spinach curry (sag paneer) and wow, was it good. 

Blackberry Jam.  Okay, this is actually from the previous year, but if we hadn’t had such a craptastic summer, I would have been doing it again, so it totally counts.  We have massive blackberry bushes in our little backyard, and for years, we would just pick and eat them.  When the boys were little we’d send them “out for dessert” and they’d hit the blackberry crop, which was pretty funny.  Two summers ago it was holy bumper crop, Batman!  And there was just no way we could eat them all – we ate them on cereal, in yogurt, with cream, etc.  Just so many.  So I decided to make jam for the first time in my life.  And it turned out well.  Freezer jam, naturally.  The “real jam” thing kind of scares me.  So much sterilizing and worrying that I am going to poison people.  The jam was tasty and was a hit with friends who tried it.  We gave some jars as gifts, which were well received.  Oh, the pride.

Music

Going out to hear live music is one of my absolute favourite things to do in the world.  I love the energy in the venue, the onstage banter, the way the band feels.  Just so much love.  Here are some highlights from the past couple of years:

Blue Rodeo in Bala.  Vivian and I went twice to The Kee to see Blue Rodeo – once in the fall of 2008, and then again this spring.  The fall show marked the first time either of us had been to see the band at this venue, and we were not disappointed.  Talk about energy and love in the room.  It’s obvious the band enjoys this place as much as the crowd, and they put on an amazing show both times.  The first time we stayed outside of town, but the last time we were there, we stayed at a hotel right near The Kee, and that was much better.  The entire hotel was full of people there to see the show, and the vibe was just right. 

The Skydiggers at The Studio at Hamilton Place  This show launched me straight back to the early 90s and the amount of nostalgia mixed with sheer awesome musicianship made this show a true highlight of 2009.  Andy’s voice still gives me shivers, and the range of emotions he and the band can express is magical.

Lee Harvey Osmond at Casbah  You want to talk energy and fire?  Tom Wilson is both those things, and when he hits the stage (especially in Hamilton, I think) you are not going anywhere.  His current band is made up of a whole lot of great musicians and this particular show generated a lot of heat and a lot of buzz.  Great night, great band in my favourite Hamilton club.

The Musician, Live on Locke St.  My son made his debut this spring at a gig as part of Art Alley on Locke St. in Hamilton.  He attended March Break Rockband Camp at Picks and Sticks, the music store where he takes lessons, and the kids jammed and wrote songs to be performed at a later date.  The song they performed was based on a bass line that The Musician wrote, and the singer did some lyrics, they added a drum line and that was that.  He looked SO natural up there, tuning up, adjusting the amp, laying down a few warm-up riffs.  They did the same thing again at the Locke St. Festival in September (which I missed due to a prior commitment – boo!) but it was his first onstage performance as a bass player that stands out for me.  First of many, no doubt.

So there you have it, blogfriends.  Books, food and music, three of my favourite things – in list form.  I’ve shown you my lists.  Maybe you could show me yours?

ETA Dec. 21:  Ugh – typing/spelling  fail on the link to Anything Said above – link fixed.  My apologies.  I suck.

A twenty-two year love affair

If you know me at all (and, uh, since I think I have two readers and you both do know me) you will know that I am a Blue Rodeo fan.  Blue Rodeo has been a part of my musical life for over 20 years, since their first record Outskirts back in 1987.  It was my go-to record for many, many months during my 2nd year of university, and this album helped me get through it.  Not in a “my life sucks, Blue Rodeo saved me” sort of way (although it would be cool if that was in fact the truth) but more in a “this is the sort of record I’ve been waiting my whole life for and it’s finally arrived and I can’t stop listening to it.”  Because that is the truth.  That record was on my turntable in the mornings when I got ready to go to classes and when I came home in between classes (if I had time).  And then when I wrote essays, and finally drifted off to sleep.  The last song on side 2 was “Floating”, and for ages, when I couldn’t sleep, that was the song I needed.  I’ve never been very good at falling asleep to music, I tend to need to wait until the song/album/piece is over, before I can rest, because I don’t want to miss anything. 

This, it has to be said, is something I realized I shared with The Musician even before he could talk.  That kid would never, ever fall asleep to any sort of music – lullaby, radio song, me singing – nothing.  He would stare at me wide-eyed, wrapped up in whatever happened to be playing.  At the time, we thought it was strange, I mean what sort of baby doesn’t  fall asleep to a lullaby for chrissakes?  A baby who will grow up to be The Musician, that’s who.  Years later we realized that his passion for music runs deep, and he too, did not want to miss a single note.

So back to “Floating”.  I would put Outskirts on while getting ready for bed.  Flip it over to side two when I got into bed, and let the music just wash over me, but I could never fall asleep until the last bits of “Floating” were done.  For a very long time, this was my favourite Blue Rodeo song, and one that – to me, anyway – is underappreciated and underplayed.

I continued to follow the band, but as often happens, life, etc. gets in the way and while I still picked up their records and listened to them and read up on their career when I could, I have to say that for a long while during the early 90s, they fell off my radar.  But then, in 1997 I picked up their new CD – CD!  I think every other album of theirs that I owned had been on vinyl or cassette – and was back in the swing.  Then of course, The Musician was born at the end of  ’97, and once again, me and BR we kind of lost touch. 

One thing that remained constant though, was Outskirts.  It still held top spot as my go-to record when I needed one.  I had put away the vinyl and the turntable, and invested in the CD version of the album, but you know what?  It wasn’t the same.  Just like a lot of vinyl-to-CD switches, it lost a bit of its magic.  Still an amazing record, but kind of missing something.  The pops and crackles?  The flipping to side two?  I don’t know.  I imagine that a lot of it had to do with no longer being in my room on my own with the lights out, listening as I lay in bed.  Now I was listening to it with my husband and children, driving in the car maybe, or just at home with it on the stereo, but with a lot of other things on the go.  Awesome – but different.  And still, the band itself remained off my radar.  The Genealogist, he’s a Blue Rodeo fan, which is great, and we would often listen to this and other albums, but again,  a lot of my friends and co-workers didn’t share the same musical interests, and it can be hard to get jazzed about stuff when you get blank stares at the mere mention of a favourite band’s name.  Or worse you get “wow, those guys are OLD, are they still around?  I thought they’d be dead by now, no way they’re still putting out albums, what are they coming on stage with their walkers?”  sigh…

By now you may have realized that the “magical revelation of one band in particular” I spoke about in the linked post above is Blue Rodeo, and finding Vivian as a BR soulmate re-ignited the fires big time, and we have seen the band several times together now, and twice with The Musician in attendance. 

I think it’s amazing how this band, who I enjoyed immensely in solitude for many, many years, has now become one of the most social aspects of my life.  The interwebs help, for sure.  Now, the band has a kickass website, contests, an online store, an awesome “ticket pre-sale” site, if you’re a member of the online community, and so much more.  Music connects us, and it’s easier than ever to get and stay connected with the musicians you love, and with other people who also love them.  But I have to wonder, had these options existed back in the late 80s, would I have taken advantage of them?  I didn’t have the pre-teen screaming obsession with them – I was 20 when the first album came out – and I couldn’t see myself plastering my room with posters and writing sappy “OMG I love you” fan letters like I might have done had I been, say 13, when I first heard them.  At 20, I was (I thought) sophisticated!  A university student, dontcha know!  I was cool!  Or so I thought.  So it’s hard to say.  I love the experience of seeing them live with friends and with my son, and I love that the website helps fans communicate and join together, but I also love putting on my headphones and zoning out alone to Outskirts every once in awhile, and pretending that they are my band and mine alone.

And this brings me to their new double-vinyl/double-CD album The Things We Left Behind that was released last Tuesday.  It’s truly amazing, and parts of it really take me back to 1987.  This is an album to be savoured, an album meant for headphones and listening in the dark, in order to soak it all in, and I have been doing that.  But it is also an album to be shared and celebrated, once the solo listening is complete, and I look forward to that too; to seeing the band again and hearing more of this music live.  But this is, for me, the first album of theirs in a long time where I can visualize myself, back in my old bedroom, flipping the record to side 4 (cos it’s double, right) and lying in the dark, drifting off to sleep.

But not before the last bars of “Venus Rising” are played out.

Friends with musical benefits

So I have this friend.  Her name is Vivian and she runs the stellar ramble on blog, although she doesn’t get to post as often as she would like on account of the cute little boy she done popped out about 11 months ago.  Vivian is awesomesauce of the most delectable variety, and one of the big things around which our friendship revolves is music.  We met nearly 12 years ago; her then-new-boyfriend now-husband and I had been friends for about 10 years prior to that thanks to a little organization known as the Canadian Naval Reserves where we both were employed as musicians.  Funny, huh?  Anyway, I remember meeting her at a New Year’s Eve party in 1997.  This was our first outing after our first son was born – he was a week old and we took him to a rocking party.  Cool parents?  Or parents who should be investigated by Family Services?   Discuss.

I really don’t remember much of the party, but I do remember meeting Vivian,  and I remember thinking how great she seemed, which turned out to be true, of course, and have I ever mentioned how my first impressions are always right?  As in always?  So anyway, time went on and we would see each other at different events and occasional social things, but it was really only a few years ago that we started hanging out on a more regular basis.  Why did it take us so long?  Mostly it was because that New Year’s Eve party baby was followed 2.5 years later by another baby, and there was much child-rearing and shit like that going down.  While my womb was not barren, my social calendar most certainly was.  And the other thing was that even though we had always impressed each other with our knowledge of music – bands, artists, etc., as well as the ability to speak in song lyrics (seriously) and our fondness for a wide variety of styles of music, it was the magical revelation of our love for one band in particular that set the wheels in motion.  And led us to where we are today.  Which is hardcore groupies.

Now, let me explain that our hardcore groupie-ness basically amounts to going to see as many live shows of this one band as well as many, many others as is humanly (and monetarily) possible.  This has led to some heady times, my friends.  When you have a friend like this, the sky is the limit for musical possibilities.  If I say “M.I.A. is in Toronto next month” she says “I’ll get the tickets”.  If she says “What about going to see The Sadies some time??  I say “OMG yes, they’re playing in Hamilton next week, let’s do it.”  Or, even this email from Viv a couple of months ago:  “In exactly two minutes I am buying tickets for Joel Plaskett”.  Just assuming I am in, and of course, every time, I am.

And it isn’t just that we go to these shows together and have a great time.  No, we experience these shows together.  Depending on who we see and what is going on , there might be high emotion, giggles, squeals, tears even.  It’s never weird or embarrassing for either of us, it’s just real and being in the moment.  And there is ALWAYS a post-gig debriefing where we dissect the show, replay the songs, elaborate on bits of banter.  Practically a written review, people.  And every time it is just awesome.

In high school, I got into a lot of different bands, a lot of different types of music, a lot of different styles.  Very typical of this age group, you’re trying on personas, trying on music until you find a genre that fits.  Except?  Except that I kept evolving with my musical tastes while a lot of my friends didn’t.  Not that they didn’t have preferences, but if they were fans of jazz?  They wouldn’t go see a punk show.  If they were into Ska?  Forget going to see a folk artist.  So I learned to enjoy different artists and styles in the privacy of my bedroom with my records.  Stan Kenton and Teenage Head; The English Beat and Fleetwood Mac; The Who and Mozart.  Not to mention the soundtracks to the musicals I loved.  You get the picture.  University was better, there was more access to music (hello, legal drinking age) and more people to share it with, but I still found that there were the “types” among the people I knew, and sometimes even suggesting “hey, who wants to go see Bruce Cockburn?” would get you shunned.  I did have a couple of friends who were open-minded about music, and  I was certainly pleased as punch to finally meet The Genealogist (3 years post-uni) who also had some varied musical tastes, which was a huge  plus (even more than his killer shoulders and nice ass that I totally checked out as he walked to the bar on our first meeting and no, I am not ashamed to admit that).

When you have been friends with someone for awhile and then one day the two of you  have that “aha” moment where you realize that you’re actually incredibly connected by something as personal and as magical as music?  Well to me, there is nothing better.  I know that our concert-going will likely slow down as Vivian’s little boy gets older, she’ll be occupied by the same things that occupied me when our guys were smaller.  But at least we both know that the desire to go and experience will still be there, even when the possibilities are not.  That’s ok.  I am prepared to wait.  And to take what we can get in the meantime, knowing that that real connection will always be there, no matter how infrequent the occasions.  Music can do that, when you’re with the right person.

“Why do I pay for all these lessons? Dance for grandma, dance for grandma!”

So it occurs to me that last week was a heavy week post-wise (does anyone else add the word -wise to nouns a la the characters in The Apartment?) and I thought I would put an end to all the craptasticness, because really, way to eliminate your tiny readership by being such an effin’ downer.  So let’s start again  on a high note, shall we? 

A Chorus Line is coming to Hamilton, people!  And I am freaking out.

I am, and have always been a complete geekoid of the musical theatre variety.  What?  You didn’t know this about me?  I shall educate.

When I was eight, I started taking dance lessons.  Just at a local community centre, nothing fancy.  My parents were pretty practical, and while they wanted to give me the experience, signing an eight-year old who, on a whim, says “I want to dance!” to a studio that may require a a big commitment monetarily, was not in the cards.  So I started with jazz, and after the first year I was all “meh, it was fun but what I REALLY WANT TO DO IS TAP!”  So my parents were all “um, ok”.  And so I was enrolled in tap – and 17 years later I was still dancing, and also teaching tap. and even did a stint as the director of the community centre dance school.  I was a hoofer.  And then I retired.  So yeah.

Of course, musical theatre is all about the singing and the dancing and I ate that shit up.  It was my crack.  I owned LPs – yes I said LPs – of every musical I could think of and I loved them all.  South Pacific and Evita?  Bring it.  My Fair Lady and Guys & Dolls?  Hells yeah.  Westside Story and Sweet Charity?  Of course.  Not to mention the movies – OMG the movies!  Fred and Ginger, Gene and Cyd, Donald O’Connor, Ann Miller.  I can probably still recite Singin’ in the Rain word for word.  Love, people.  That is love.  They are ridiculous and over the top and filled to the brim with like 50 kinds of cheese, and I have watched them hudreds of times.   I cannot get enough. 

I’m not sure what it is – sure the dancing, I was all over that.  But there’s also the fantasy aspect of it too, isn’t there?  People don’t just break into song and dance for no reason, gangs of street kids don’t just bust out into perfectly choreographed fight scenes just like that.  But damn, wouldn’t it be a better world if we all did?? 

I think the last live musical I saw was 42nd Street, about 15 years ago.  And man, that was the shit.  And so now, 15 years later, A Chorus Line is about to rock my city.  Not only a great musical, but one of the best musicals EVER.  And I need to go.  Even if I have to use up every Christmas, birthday and mother’s day gift from now until I’m 50, I really think I need tickets to that show.  I do.

Who’s in?  I will buy the pre-show drinks.  And choreograph a routine to get us home afterwards.