Category Archives: Music

A happy day playlist

The sun has come up, so to speak. Outside right now it’s a bit cloudy, but the sun I’m referring to here is a healthy dose of optimism. The internship I thought was lost may actually be coming my way after all. And hearing that news yesterday made me way happier than I could have imagined. So in honour of this happy news, I’m putting together a happiness playlist. My specialty being what it is, they will of course all be Canadian, and I’ll try to make the ones I choose less-than-common choices.

Jordan Faye- “Happiest”

From Sorry, I Slept In.

Beams- “Sun Wraps ‘Round”

From Just Rivers.

Maylee Todd- “Hieroglyphics”

From Escapology.

Triple Gangers- “Bunnies”

From 3XG.

Coeur de Pirate- “Golden Baby”

From Blonde.

Formalists- “Thomas Edison: The Great Intender”

From Congratulations To Those Who Move Onward And Excel!/In Support of Healthy Structure.

Mary Cassidy & Jon Lawless- “Verbs”

North Lakes- “Copernicus, Copernicus”

From Grand Prix.

Wilderness of Manitoba- “Morning Sun”

From Island of Echoes.

Code Pie- “Muddy Shoes”

From Love Meets Rage.

Next Music From Tokyo

If you’re a local band playing in Toronto, more than likely chances are you won’t be playing to a packed house nor will you get a loud an enthusiastic reception from the audience who has come to see you. This is a typical scenario, mind you, as certain Toronto bands do command a more frenzied audience response than others.

But if you’re a Japanese indie band who has come to Canada for a brief mini-tour of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, chances are you’ll be playing a sold-out show to an enthusiastic crowd, even if the crowd has never actually heard of you before.

So it was with Next Music From Tokyo, which is now in its fifth “volume.” Last year, in the Grayowl Point inbox, I got a message from someone alerting me to this showcase. He knew that I was only writing about Canadian music, but he still said I should check out the show.

I did, and “holy crap” is all I can say to describe the experience. The audience was huge, and I saw four fantastic acts. One of them had the whole audience square dancing, and the next had copious amounts of crowd surfing. No one knew what to expect, so all expectations were blown sky-high. The highlight of that night last year for me was a band called group_inou, who were full of manic energy. For a lot of people, the best part was ZAZEN BOYS, who are I think kind of big in Japan. That night I began talking to a Japanese guy who was living in Toronto for a while, and he told me that he was definitely looking forward to ZAZEN BOYS more than any other.

Last night was round two of the showcase for me. I arrived perhaps twenty minutes before the show was scheduled to start and it was a already pretty filled with people. Everyone just seemed to be ready to have a good time. As it turned out, the first act when on not at 9 p.m., but at 8:45. It was the lead singer of a band (Kinoko Teikoku) that was to go on later.

The lead singer wasn’t the best acoustic guitar player but it didn’t matter, her incredible voice was what drew everybody in. She had such strong vocals and breath despite her tiny frame. In her first two songs particularly, she drew out her notes, and the combination of the vocal tone with reverb made her solo outing quite haunting.

And then came an explosion of happiness. chi-na (pronounced CHEE-NAH) took the stage, sporting an interesting combination of a keyboard, a synthesizer, a guitar, an upright bass, a violin and a drum kit. From the first note, the audience was immediately enraptured. All of the musicians looked like they were having the time of their lives, and their opening number in particular featured a bunch of other instruments like a whistle and a triangle.

With a name like harafromhell, I was expecting the band to be some kind of aggressive punk-rock act. At first, they sounded like they wanted to figure out if they were that or a pop-rock act but settled for the latter. It’s not an insult- harafromhell did quite well creating a big wall of sound that of course also inspired quite a bit of crowdsurfing.

It took a little bit for Kinoko Teikoku to get going, buliding their first song basically from the ground up, but once they got into their set in earnest they were completely unpredictable. At times they broke into drone-influenced songs, others just going for plain old ambiance. The lead singer again showed how powerful her voice was as it rose above the sometimes ear-splitting volume of the instruments.

Because I am totally lame and live in the suburbs and not in the city I could not see the final act, mouse on the keys, though I heard from a friend that they were insane and i wish I could have been there to see the showcase off. Needless to say, this showcase is probably going to become a yearly tradition for me. Everyone needs to go see a bunch of Japanese bands all at once—it might just change how you feel about music.

Protecting your players

Several years ago, when I was about 13 or 14 years old, I was part of a day camp for a week called Senior Multi-Sport Camp. As you might expect from the name, we played multiple sports throughout the week. We swam every single day, we played soccer, lacrosse and touch football.

On the final day of my week there, we got to play baseball. I was generally pretty good at hitting the ball when I needed to. Except every time I hit the ball, I had a scary habit of driving the ball straight. There were two “counsellors” of my group, one guy and one girl. The guy pitched first, and when I hit the ball he jumped out of the way to avoid being hit.

The girl pitched to me at least twice, and both times she threw it the ball whizzed past her head. She told me afterward that she heard my second hit flying past her ear. Had my hit been just a tad lower, I could have fractured her collarbone. She played rugby, if I remember correctly, at a varsity level, and had I indeed fractured the bone her season would have been over for sure.

I was thinking about all this last night when I heard what happened to J.A. Happ last night at Tropicana Stadium. In case you didn’t already know, Happ took a line drive to the head from the bat of Desmond Jennings of the Tampa Bay Rays. Apparently the sound of the ball hitting Happ’s skull could be heard all the way up in the press box. I didn’t see it happen last night and told myself I wasn’t going to watch the video of it, but I ended up seeing a reply on Breakfast Television this morning. It was all the more real seeing the completely shocked expressions of the players on both teams.

It’s a big reminder that anything can happen in professional sports. Injuries in baseball can happen in all kinds of way, from twisting your ankle due to an awkward batting stance to tripping on a fence. Rarely do we ever see a guy pounded in the head by a baseball traveling at over 100 mph.

CBC reported this morning that Happ was released from hospital. He suffered a head contusion and ear laceration, in other words a bruise to his head and a cut on his ear. He was no doubt very thankful for all the support from across the baseball community.

The incident is no doubt going to bring back debates about how much the MLB should be protecting pitchers. Apparently one solution is to provide caps lined with kevlar (used for bulletproof vests) that would protect heads against such blows.

Naturally, some players have made the argument that professional sport players know the risks they’re taking, while others are arguing adding new equipment might mess up the pitchers’ games.

I’m not trying to argue that baseball needs to be made inherently more safe. To completely make it safe would require some pretty dramatic changes. What I am saying is that the debate over safety certainly needs to be had, whatever the decision comes down to.

Feel-good jams

How funny that today’s DailyPost prompt was about earworms; I wrote a pretty detailed post about the subject many moons ago. But since I am once again low on stuff to talk about, so I decided to spin off the topic and list a few songs that can fill me with happiness every time I listen to them. Some of them are inherently happy; some just make me happier through their fury.

1. AA Wallace- “Temporal Suspension”

This just recently became a feel-good jam of mine, and by that I mean really recently, like yesterday. It starts off beautifully with a nice layering of synths and slight pulse of a drum machine. And if that’s not nice enough, AA Wallace’s vocals make it even better with lyrics about the nature of truth. By the end of the song, just try not to sing the hook: “I don’t believe in anything that does not believe in me.”

2. Woodhands- “Dancer”

I referred above to songs that make me happier through their sheer fury; this is one of them. “Dancer” is an absolutely relentless tune, supported by Paul Banwatt’s fiery drum attack and Dan Werb’s screaming vocals of “You’re a very good dancer, what is your name? What is your name?” Oh yes, and Maylee Todd is in this too, who is absolutely fantastic. By the end of hearing that song I always feel warn out from all the grooving I do.

3. Wildlife- “Bad Dream”

This Toronto band’s album …On the Heart is an album that they poured their heart and soul into, and this track in particular really hit me hard. This is another furious song as the band sings “It was all a bad, bad, dream” but it has a nice little down-tempo interlude before the energy picks up again.

4. Christian Hansen- “You Me Him & Us”

A song about having second thoughts about a threesome may not seem like an inherently uplifting song, but I can’t help but bob my head violently to this song the way Christian Hansen does when he’s performing it live. There’s something about the electronics in this song and the distorted vocals in parts that unquestionably make me feel good every time I hear them.

5. Joshua Van Tassel- “Sentimental Health”

A quick instrumental song that feels like it could be the theme song for a children’s show. I don’t know why I like it so much; perhaps it just reminds me of when I was little, a time I didn’t realize I’d ever feel a little nostalgic about.

6. Delta Will- “Good Will”

I love Charles Tilden’s one-man-band blues stuff as Delta Will, and this is perhaps the best track on the new EP. “Good Will” features the backing of a drum machine over blues strumming which creates a strangely danceable atmosphere around the song. Dancing will always make you feel good. Guaranteed.

7. Colleen and Paul- “Crepe Suzette”

The whole self-titled Colleen and Paul album is full of breezy, summery folk-pop songs but the opener takes the cake for me with its quick acoustic strumming and dreamy yet honest lyrics. “You feel so insecure about your happiness, you sort of feel like crap” says the catchiest line of the song. It makes me feel really warm and fuzzy by the end thanks to the addition of redemptive lyrics.

That’s all for today. I hope one of these songs cheers you up if you’re in need of cheering up.

Crosswires

Coming up in a few weeks, my blog will be co-presenting its next show with the help of Crosswires, a nice little bi-weekly showcase that is now happening at Handlebar in Toronto.

Crosswires is pretty much everything that is right with Toronto’s music scene. It’s a pay-what-you-can showcase with three bands, and all money goes right to the bands. The transparency of where the money is going is very refreshing.

Not to mention that the bands that play are usually pretty amazing. I sadly haven’t attended too many of these myself (I often work Sunday nights, when the shows happen) but those that I have gone to have been pretty intimate shows.

And the people who run it are great, all people I now know pretty well and are often involved with the stuff Wavelength puts out. There’s Brandon of Most People, who is now helping out with sound at Handlebar, there’s Dorice, planner extraordinaire, and then there’s Doc Pickles, the host with the most who makes up quite possibly the best introductions for bands ever.

The first time we (and by we I mean my fellow Grayowl Point team members and I) teamed up with Crosswires, it was a pretty fun experience from beginning to end. Booking bands, I learned, is a little harder to do than I thought, but it was worthwhile to learn. When booking bands, all kinds of things can prevent an act from playing such as too many shows in close proximity, band members out of town or if the band just plain isn’t playing shows, all of which can be expected.

The first time around we had fairly good luck, though, and had our show booked well in advance. Playing that night first was Wendy Versus, which is Wendy Leung formerly of Papermaps alongside Owen Norquay and Dean Marino. They played a fantastic set, from what I remembered, even though I was doing doors as they played.

Second up was Old English, featuring my good friends Matt Henderson and Daniel Halyburton among others. I was near the stage for this one, and the band had some exceedingly gentle banter in between awesome songs like “Farmer’s Tan” and “We’ve Been Here Before.” One of their songs had Henderson inviting people to slow dance, and it was a shame no one did.

Closing off that night was Paradise Animals who brought in a good crowd considering the day of the week. It was their first show in some time and with a revised lineup, and safe to say they absolutely killed it. They closed off the set with a psychedelic song based on a dream lead singer Mark Andrade had and it whipped everyone into a frenzy.

For this second show, booking was a hell of a lot harder, so hard, in fact, that we could probably make a pretty extensive playlist out of bands that we weren’t able to book. But we do finally have a show (mostly) and that’s what counts. We also have a plan to go into Owl Overdrive, which is something you’ll understand if you come out. It’s May 12 at Handlebar.

A big show

Last night I wound up at the Air Canada Centre for a concert. In this case, I distinguish between the terms “concert” and “show.” I see concerts as big-ticket affairs in places like the Air Canada and Rogers Centres, venues that hold tens of thousands of people. Shows happen in bars and other such places, featuring at most a few hundred people.

Going back to a stadium after devoting so much time to showgoing was interesting. It all felt a little weird at first, the process of joining tons of people as they filed into the ACC, avoiding all of the scalpers outside, and then finding our seats in the massive arena.

Oh, in case you didn’t know, it was Green Day playing the ACC last night, I’m not what you might call the biggest fan in the world, but my younger brother is and so I went along with him. I’ve actually seen Green Day live twice now, the first time being a few years ago.

Green Day would have been here in February (I think) but had to postpone the date after Billie Joe Armstrong went into rehab for substance abuse problems for a bit.

Anyway, the opening act was a band called Best Coast, a group I had definitely heard of previously but had never heard the music from. They were pretty decent, playing some kind of catchy powerpop tunes. The lead singer was quite humble, at one point commenting how much bigger the ACC was than she thought. They played a lot of short songs, stuffing something like 10 or 11 songs into about 25 minutes or so.

And then, of course, Green Day took the stage to riotous applause. Now, if there’s one advantage stadium affairs have over bars it’s that, most of the time, you’ll get a much huger audience reaction because people have paid quite a bit more to see their favourite bands, and they’ll react accordingly. At bars I’ve seen bands try to get audience participation with various success, but right from the outset Billie Joe Armstrong had the audience in the palm of his hand.

I’m going to go on record and say that I was not a fan of the first 30 minutes in the show. Armstrong was understandably excited, but spent tons of time saying things like “Toronto!” and “Canada!” and “Let’s go fucking crazy!” and the ubiquitous “I said hey oh…” followed by the audience repeating it back. It was through all of this that the band managed to make six songs take 30 MINUTES to play, when, if they had just played them start to finish, they might have had a little more time to play songs.

But after that first half hour, things definitely picked up a little bit. The crowd got really pumped for “Holiday” (Armstrong changed the spoken-word part to “The representative of Canada has the floor) and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” had the audience basically singing the first verse when Armstrong turned the mic to the crowd.

Green Day even took a few requests, playing old stuff like “Geek Stink Breath.” Funny story: apparently every country refused to air the music video for that song because it was deemed too disgusting. Except for Canada.

It wasn’t too long before they did their costume-filled cover medley, with drummer Tre Cool at one point getting off the drum kit (dressed in a shirt and bra over top) kicking his legs up super high and singing a verse of “Shout.” They also did their usual “Satisfaction” by Rolling Stones and then the Beatles’ “Hey Jude,”

For an encore, Green Day played “American Idiot” followed by a full rendition of “Jesus of Suburbia,” which was pretty cool to hear live. They ended with a song I wasn’t familiar with, and I’m not sure if that one was a cover or something else entirely.

Anyway, as much as I’m not someone who will put Green Day on my iPod (even though I don’t have an iPod or use any type of MP3 player except for my good old laptop) they do put on quite a show for their loyal fans.

A tribute to Stompin’ Tom at the Horseshoe

Last night I went to a show at the Horseshoe Tavern. It only cost $5 per ticket, with the money benefiting the homeless and the impoverished. It was a tribute to one of the great Canadian nationalists, Stompin’ Tom Connors, who sadly died at the age of 77 on March 6, 2013 in his hometown of Ballinafad, Ontario.

I didn’t even stay for all of last night’s show, but I felt so Canadian after the show I couldn’t believe it. Admittedly, the melody of pretty much every Stompin’ Tom song is exactly the same, only the stories in the songs change quite a bit. I didn’t know much of his work before yesterday (actually all I knew was the ubiquitous “The Hockey Song”) so I learned lots of tales, like that of Wop May, a Canadian fighter pilot during WWI, and of what happens when potatoes and tomatoes get together.

The band performing the music was made up of a set of players who were on the stage most of the time, including Dave Bidini of Rheostatics, and more currently CBC and Bidiniband. For the hour-and-a-half that I stayed, they brought out a slew of special guests, including Shawn Creamer from the Beauties, Peter Elkas, Kurt Swinghammer and Charlie Angus. I was most impressed by Tom Wilson, a fearsome-looking (but probably super-nice) dude originally from Junkhouse, later Blackie & the Rodeo Kings and LeE HARVeY OsMOND.

During the song about Wop May as I mentioned above, the band actually brought out Wop May’s granddaughter, who sang along with them in the rambling, epic song about Wop May’s career as a flying ace.

And naturally there were tons of anecdotes about Stompin’ Tom. Dave Bidini told a story about going over to Tom’s house once, and being told not to bring anything. Bidini ended up bringing a case of Moosehead, and when he got to the door he was greeted by Tom’s wife, who told him to drop the case in the garage. Bidini did so, and said “So I put my case of Moosehead on top of a stack of 18 cases of Moosehead. I don’t think he even knew it was there.”

And Tom’s drinking stories were funny too. Bidini said (though the members of Tom’s backing band, Whiskey Jack, denied this) that in order to be a part of Tom’s backing band, at least one had to stay up drinking with him. On one particular tour, none of the band members were feeling particularly good about going to drink with Tom. Eventually the responsibility fell on the new drummer, who was a teetotaler (or something close to it). But he decided to take one for the team.

He was in the hospital with alcohol poisoning for three days afterword.

Whatever you might think, Stompin’ Tom was a nationalist when it was not fashionable to do so. I quote (with perhaps a few words off) from Tom Wilson last night: “Back in the 70s, Canadians were worried about Canadian identity. Teachers asked students about Canadian culture, and academics were asking what it meant to be Canadian. But Stompin’ Tom had it all figured out!”

I leave you with Stompin’ Tom’s seminal classic. Enjoy your day.