Monday, July 21, 2014

Vancouver Folk Fest, 2014: There it was, gone.

A quick post while I have the lingering sounds of VFMF still playing in my head.

And here we go - point form style (aka too lazy to do more than that)

- Weather - Prediction was for CRAP, reality was actually a pretty good weekend.  Overcast for most of it, with bursts of burning sun on Saturday.  Kind of perfect in a way.  No hammering rain, which is the only thing that would have truly sucked (other than a tornado or earthquake I guess).  And lack of crazy sun meant I didn't have to scrape layers of sunscreen off before I went to bed.  BONUS.

- People -  Yes.  Oh yes.  First, my most favourite people (not anyone's favourite photo I might add, but it's the only one I've got and posting is an annual tradition...).  Spending a weekend with these two is just so much fun.  Immediately after this was taken we started on a laughing fit of the crying/not breathing variety. It would have made for a more interesting photo, but I was shaking too much to take a shot.

Second, my
most favourite strangers.  I suggested this guy should be known as the Red Centurion, L. suggested Wayward Catholic Schoolgirl (or something like that).  Either way, he's got a good look going on.  And for the curious, he has bike shorts on underneath.  Don't ask how I know.

And a perennial favourite, the gold striped knicker man.  He's a volunteer of some sort, and he wears the same outfit every year.  EVERY YEAR.  And as A. noted, it fits him perfectly EVERY YEAR.  Not an easy feat. Anyway, it makes me happy just to see him wandering about, there is comfort in the familiarity of those stripy legs.  And I'm extra happy when he interpretive-dances.

- Porta Potty Joy -  big upgrade on the porta potty front - they've added what I'm going to refer to as a "hang bar" to the back of the door - soooo, for you ladies used to the classic 'hover' manoeuvre, you can now support yourself by hanging from your hands while doing some sort of awkward pole-dancey squat.  Not elegant, but effective (at least as long as the bar doesn't snap off).  One small step for man...

- Music - As always, a great diverse line-up.  This year I actually had a tougher time than usual deciding which stage to be at, there were so many things that I wanted to check out.  And I was often faced with the dilemma of seeing a band I have seen before and know I like, or taking a chance on something totally new.  Luckily the totally new usually pays off.  A few highlights from the New camp:  The Carper Family and their pairing of a gorgeous traditional country sound with a contemporary twist on the lyrics (see: turkey baster reference in 'Little Christian Girlfriend"); Langhorn Slim and the Law, some great alt-country supported by great performance chops - he had the audience in his hand from the beginning, and he's a lot funnier and more self-deprecating than the video link above indicates; and the hugely entertaining Australian band, Wagons, fronted by the extraordinary Dwight Shrute-twin frontman Henry Wagons.  I took a video of the full Wagons experience, included for your entertainment.  (Watch on Youtube, it deserves to be bigger).  This man was born to front a band.  I wish I could have captured the look of genuine glee and mischief on this guy's face - think 11 year old boy telling his best friend he's just found his older brother's porn stash, and you've just about got it.  If you have the chance to see them live, don't pass it up.  Really.

And once again I started thinking about the importance of performance, and how a performer connects with the audience.  Some would argue that it shouldn't be important - it's all about the quality of the music.  And yes, there is truth to that.  Much truth.  But you can't discount the power of a great performance - it can be incredibly affecting.  And as I've found, some of the bands just don't translate recorded - which brings me back to the rarity of those that have both.  But when you're at something like a Folk Fest, watching many many hours of live music, it's the performers that end up standing out.

Carper Family

Andrew Bird 

Jon Langford (Mekons)

Born Ruffians

Friday, July 04, 2014

Micro vs Macro

I can't believe it - I'm actually feeling a tiny bit inspired to post.  Why? Well, I'm being driven by the good musical fortune I had this past week - which started with a show by the incomparable Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, and ended with a visit to the ground-breaking sound of Kraftwerk.

And, I didn't film either gig.  Sorry.  I've lost the urge.

But I digress.  Why do I feel like posting? Because sometimes I just feel so lucky it seems I have to write it down to believe it.  And because Nick Cave and Kraftwerk gigs are so far apart on the spectrum, that you almost end up in the same place.  OK, not really - but you have been through a remarkable experience in both instances, but for very different reasons.

Nick Cave and the very personal nightmare:

I can't express how much I love Nick Cave.  He is a giant brain on mantis-like legs; he stalks around the stage in a way that is both theatrical and intimate.  He tells stories - stories about people, stories from his life, and he draws you into those stories.  He finds a face in the crowd, and that face becomes his energy, his muse, his victim.  The whole audience gets sucked into the vortex of that performance-intimacy; :as wild and intense as his performance is, there is something powerfully genuine and vulnerable about it.  You leave your world to be drawn in to the dark, lustful, raw, beautiful, imperfect stories (and you can swap the word "stories" for performance and it is equally true).

An example I filmed at last year's concert...not the best video, but you'll get the point.

Kraftwerk -  delivering the Macro view:

And at the other end of the spectrum, pioneers of electronic music (and inspiration for advertising...), the staid, contained, performance as non-performance that is Kraftwerk.  The messages are simple and broad, the equally weighted love/fear of technology driving most of it.  And the performance is literally pushed out at the audience - the images towering over the performers are thrown out towards the audience in all their 3D glory (and I've gotta say, the floating numbers were pretty darned cool). Storytelling? Sure, but of an entirely different kind, and delivered in a way entirely suited to the story being told.  This is the technological world, the world of trains and bikes and computers and numbers, not the world of the personal, not a world of human connection. Just as valid a story, and in many ways, just as affecting.

And now I'm running out of steam.  Except to say sometimes I have to pinch myself I feel so darned lucky to have a chance to see this stuff.  Really.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Older but sillier

One of the stellar moments from a recent trip across the border with some of the best people in my life.  Not the most flattering picture perhaps (honestly the shirt DOES fit/doesn't usually gap), but the belly laugh it catches is genuine.  And that kind of laugh is a precious thing - at a time when there are people around me going through some exceptionally tough stuff, I am trying to remind myself how important living in the moment is.

I am very lucky.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

A very happy birthday

Hard to believe - yes, a new post, albeit brief.  I'm finally over the jet lag from a short trip to Tunbridge Wells to celebrate a certain uncle's 80th birthday.  A surprise for him, and fun for Mum and me - and a chance to reconnect with family we don't see nearly often enough.  And, thanks to the joys of technology, a chance to play games of Letterpress with the unwavering competitive focus that my family brings to ... well, anything you can be competitive about.

And a chance to see large men in padded spiderman suits.

I feel incredibly lucky to have had opportunities to travel. I now have a little pile of books of trips with my Mum that bring back some really special memories.  There have been a number of deaths in the periphery of my social circle over the last few weeks, and the very unexpected nature of all of them really knocked me for six.   It  has made me oh so grateful that we can't see the future, and all the more determined to appreciate what  - and who - I have in my life now.

Friday, December 27, 2013


I have been an extremely ineffective blogger this year.  It's funny how that impulse to write and share and ruminate comes and goes.  Truth be told, a lot of the motivation to post was to make sure that I had a record of the things going on in my life - and from time to time I do go through my blog and relive some moments past.  But, one might say, the thrill has gone.

It has been a hard year in some ways ("hard" in first-world terms that is...I count my blessings, really I do), and certainly a year of turning more inward than outward.  I haven't really wanted to share, I haven't really wanted to let people look at what is going on with me.  And I know that in part that is because I don't want to look too closely myself - it's a familiar pattern for me.  Usually when I'm quiet, it's because I have had to take my toys off to my own corner of the room and think for a bit.

It's a funny thing.  In some ways, I am happier with myself and my life than I have been in years...BUT I'm also dealing with some staggering insecurities.  And I know I'm going to have to face up to them very soon, and it scares me.  But I also know that as soon as I do, they will be less scary.  Not immediately, but eventually.  And I do honestly have the feeling that once I get through that process I will find something...good.  I've been dialling it in for too long, at least in some parts of my life.  It's got to stop, but like all bad habits, it's hard to make that change.

But enough of that.

Despite my near complete silence, and the moaning in the first few paragraphs, it has been a year that rightfully deserved a lot of time and writing.  There were some great little jaunts across the border - I wrote about the Portland trip, but not about the fun I had again this year with my pals at Hump! (and for those of you brave enough to watch one of the festival winners, you can find it in the comments under the link...and get ready to say 'ouch').  There were some great theatre pieces, dance works, and concerts. I challenged myself of the dating front in ways that I couldn't have anticipated.  And, happily, I now have a house that looks a little cheerier from the outside.

So, I will leave you this year with a photo that pretty much captures me at the moment, taken as I got ready for a Christmas party I really REALLY didn't want to go to.  A bit blurry, hiding behind a bit of put on shine, and living in a state of minor chaos.  Hopefully next December I will present a more focused sense of self.

Monday, October 14, 2013

PDX, will you marry me?

Just back from four fantastic days in Portland.  Oh Portland - I would SO marry you, but if all we can manage is a dirty weekend a few times a year, I will take it.

I was lucky enough to be invited along on the PDX adventure of dear pals A & J.  I've been to the city a couple of times before, but this time I really felt I got into the nitty gritty of this fantastic city, thanks to A's planning and their knowledge of the fun and quirky and caffeinated wonders the city has to offer.     From the PSU farmers market, to the bizarre urban goat yard, coffee roasters/baristas that take incredible (and justified) pride in their product, the quirky heritage home extravaganza that is Hippo, to beer and cheese festivals, to happy hours that were...well, happy...and great food throughout - there is no shortage of things to love. Oh - and the tax-free lifestyle is pretty easy to get used to.  As are coffee shops that have nibbles that are great - and $1.  ONE DOLLAR.  Nirvana.

I've said it before but I will say it again - if I were 25 yrs younger, I'd be living there and going to PSU, probably drinking way too much coffee and getting way too many tattoos.  The place is a hot spot of hipster culture, but somehow it dodges the annoying attitude you find in Vancouver.  There is something genuine and engaged about the young people there.  And I must say there are some gorgeous tattoos, on gorgeous people.

I will be back, my PDX love.  And if I'm good, and improve my cryptic crossword skills, maybe the best tour guides ever will invite me along again :)

And in other news, the bunkle is in the midst of getting a bit of a more giant cherry tree, which seems to be making the whole house blush.  Not quite finished, but close.  The big reveal when it's all done, promise.

(And I'm not sure what is going on with this crazy oversized font...sigh.)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Folk Fest (and more)

Yes, it's happened. I haven't posted for ages, and now there is a tonne I feel like posting about. I know that feeling will likely pass in the next 20 minutes, so let's see how far I get.

Firstly, summer is amazing this year. We haven't had a drop of rain all month - sun, temperatures in the 20s - glorious. Really. Equally glorious? A day trip to visit a dear pal I haven't seen for about ten years.  So nice to reconnect, and lovely to meet her family.  Galiano is spectacular.  And Moxie is pretty awesome too.

And yes - time for the Folk Festival Recap.  I won't go on about the weather again except to say it made for a pretty perfect weekend.  I was there with my usual partner in Folk Fest crime, A., and by a lucky twist of fate our pal L. managed to attend as well.  It was the usual scene - thousands of people, a high percentage wearing Keens sandals and Tilly hats.  Musically I can't say that I came away having fallen head over heels with any band in particular, but there were a number I'd go out on a second date with:  Aidan Knight, the talented Mangan-esque singer/songwriter from Victoria;  Sara Watkins, ex-Nickel Creek and standing strongly on her own skills as a solo performer (though I have to admit, if I had to pick an ex-Nickel Creek member to put on my desert island of musical geniuses, Chris Thile would be it); Hanggai, a band from Beijing that plays some crazy mix of Mongolian folk and more contemporary stuff, fronted by a guy that ... well, I'll let you watch the video.  Words don't do him justice.  And a sure fire way to get a crowd going?  Mongolian throat singing. Who knew.

Tough decisions at 10am
Other than that - The Cat Empire got the crowd up and bouncing but the kind of jazz-morphed-ska they do is not really my thing...super talented musicians no doubt, but ...ya.  Of more interest to me is another (related by marriage as it happens) Australian band, Tinpan Orange - singer Emily Lubitz is transfixing, perhaps not hard to be when you're a 6 foot readhead.  Canada's Danny Michel paired up with the Garifuna Collective from Belize and it was pretty magical - I've always had a great deal of admiration for Danny Michel, he consistently puts out great, creative music - he should be getting a lot more attention than he does.  And there was a great workshop stage with The Brothers Comatose, Hurray for the Riff Raff, and Canada's own Wooden Sky - banjos, guitars, and a lot of humour and heart.
I have to post one of these every year - even if we look frozen and awkward 

Emily Lubitz (Tinpan Orange)

Briga (of Briga) and Tim Scanlan (The Latchikos)

Sara Watkins

Dominic Desrochers  (Bon Debarras)

Alex Burkoy (or Ron Jeremy?), Tinpan Orange

Aidan Knight

And as I've said in years past, it is the workshop stages that make folk festivals the wonderful things they are - the irreproducible moments of magic you'll hear when bands that have never met before find some amazing musical connection.  On that front, I will give a huge shout out to Alex Burkoy, who plays guitar, violin and mandolin for Tinpan Orange.  The man is quietly PHENOMENAL.  During a workshop stage that included artists as diverse as London's quiet, Antony-esque Phildel, horn-fueled singer-songwriter Aidan Knight, and Lena Anderssen from the Faroe Islands, he managed to find a way to quietly support every other musician up there in a way that made their music shine brighter, instead of putting his own clear stamp on things.  So very cool to see.

And the audience?  As expected:  intolerant Folk Fest Nazis still congregate and firmly stake their ground at shady Stage 2, and inconsiderate teenagers watch the world revolve around them during the contemporary music at Stage 5.  As for me...well,  I fall somewhere in the middle.  I just get slightly grumpy with all of them.

Not my most engaging post - sorry.  And as predicted, I'm out of steam.  It will take me a while to get back into the swing of this posting thing I guess.