Thursday, February 28, 2008

The big smoke...

OK, 2 hours outside of the big smoke, through the salt crusted window of a rapidly moving Ontario car.

And proof that not everyone in Toronto is unfriendly. Or sober ;-)

More later. But it went ok. And I'm home. Phew.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Beirut - Where I wish I was going?

Found out today that Beirut is coming to Vancouver on my birthday. I am sure it is because they know it's my birthday. So nice of them...

And how can you not love a band with so many tiny stringed instruments?

Anyway, off to the big smoke for a few days on work. Wish me luck.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Mothra vs Fierce Kitty Duo

There is been a VERY large moth in the house. When I came home a couple of days ago, I turned on the kitchen light and Mothra started flying around - cats forgot they were waiting for dinner and started running - really fast - without actually looking at anything but Mothra. Result: combination of kitty bumper cars as they careened into each other, and Wiley Coyote as they ran off tables into thin air. Eventually Mothra settled high on the wall. The next day, he was nowhere.

Then came this morning. The thump of both cats leaping onto the bed. And then - nothing. Total stillness. I rolled over and in the dark I could make them out, both sitting stock still staring at the window. Then both getting on their hind legs and patting at the blinds. Then sitting. Quiet. I turned on the light for a second, and yes, Mothra was back. But, I figured, at least they aren't bouncing on the bed trying to wake me up for food....Mothra was actually helping the whole weekend sleep-in idea. So I rolled over and started to doze off, oblivious to the potential 'running without looking' aspect of Mothra/Cat battles. Foolish me. Suddenly I have 15+ pounds directed effectively into 50lb/psi through oh so small paws running across my temple.

Happy Sunday morning. I guess 6:30 is sleeping in?

And I might add Mothra is still nowhere to be seen. But Thomas, having ejected me from bed, has had a pretty good time lolling around and washing himself on it this morning. Which makes me suspect that Mothra may have made some sort of deal with the cats. He helps them get me out of bed, they won't eat him. We shall see.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

BunkleLife Tops of 2007

The latest Under the Radar just arrived in the mail, and poking through it over my toast and coffee this morning I came across their "Best of 2007" artists survey, where they ask a pretty random group of musicians to weigh in on their top albums of the year and a bunch of other stuff. So, not able to come up with a more creative blog post, I've decided to copy that idea ... sort of.

Welcome to the BunkleLife Tops Lists of 2007 (fanfare please .... feel free to do a drumroll on your keyboard at this point...)

Top Albums (not in any order - that's too hard)

Radiohead - In Rainbows. And not just because Thom Yorke has a laugh to be reckoned with. One of my favorite Radiohead albums. Maybe my favorite Radiohead album. Hmmm.

Les Savy Fav - Let's Stay Friends.
I know that my enjoyment of this album is affected by my delight at their live show. There are a couple of tracks that aren't super strong, but otherwise a great album.

Great Lakes Swimmers - Ongiara - one word - BANJO.

The Acorn - Glory Hope Mountain. Nice stuff to listen to on the bus to work. And that's all I need sometime. Another that fits into this

Akron/Family - Love is Simple. Ed IS a portal. Enough said.

Elvis Perkins - Ash Wednesday - if you think you're life is weird and slightly cursed, read up on Elvis sometime. Even if that wasn't the case, it's a lovely record.

The National - Boxer
- At first this album didn't strike me much. At all. But then it became another frequent bus-ride play, and is now a favorite of the year. Ada is a fave track, and honestly it isn't just because Sufjan plays piano on it.

Grinderman - Grinderman
- as my brother said, this is the album the Stooges should have put out. Great for bus rides where I really need to wake up. REALLY WAKE UP.

So that's that. There are a bunch of things I am sure would be on my list had I heard them (like the Grizzly Bear "Friends" ep that I am trying to track down), but that will do for now.

And now for the more important awards...

Best Concert of 2007 (Band):

#1 Les Savy Fav. For the belly, the ball, the crazed fun of it all.
Honourable mentions: Akron/Family; Polyphonic Spree; Flaming Lips. Apparently I like craziness. A lot.

Best Concert of 2007 (Audience):

#1 The Pointed Sticks
. Oh! the! excitement! Nothing like a reunion gig to bring out the truly fanatical.
Honourable mentions: Dave Wakeling (didn't win because a couple of audience members irritated me too much. Not that they did anything to me, just watching them irritated me); Les Savy Fav; From the Jam. Oh - and the members of the Akron/Family audience that were interpretive dancing.
Dishonourable mentions: Rock Plaza Central - audience, where the hell were you? Were you sick, because that's the only excuse I'll take.

Have I missed anything?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I just can't help myself...

I love this Savy Fav/Dodos video from their gig here last year (posted by mon frere). From the belly rubbing to the cranium rubbing (at 1:50 - well worth a watch) t0 the crowd surfing, it makes me smile every time.

A diverse bunch of gigs coming up over the coming weeks -
Harry Manx, Hawksley Workman, The New York Dolls, Jose Gonzalez, Black Mountain, The Black Keys, Daniel Johnston, Joe Jackson...ok, Joe's not till May, but I'm excited. Hopefully there will be a few more to fill in the gaps as time goes by...and hopefully I can take my camera to most of them (I know Joe will be out of the question, unless I can figure out a way to embed the camera inconspicuously in my hair....). Anyway, you'll hear about it all here.

Friday, February 08, 2008

For the Bunkle fans...

Time for a shorter, lighter post.

Couple of snaps to prove things have been progressing - bunkle now has gutters (which cost about $650 more than expected as all the fascia had rotted out. Rot not a surprise, cost was...oh well) AND there is no more hole above the bedroom door. Small steps.
Only thing left is for the roofers to do something about the white caulking used on the black flashing on the small roof on the left of the photo - how dumb was that? - but it WILL be fixed.

And my couch is ready!! woo hoo.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

It's just one cat's opinion after all...

When I first started down the blog road, there were a couple of motivating factors: sharing what was going on with my life with friends afar, and keeping some sort of journal on the changes and challenges of life as I went through house renos with the bunkle. I can remember talking to my brother on the phone and telling him rather sheepishly about the blog, and noticing right at that moment that someone I didn't know had left a comment on one of my posts. It freaked me out a little quite honestly - which admittedly was completely ridiculous - it's not like it's private. I just couldn't believe that someone I didn't know could find it, or would be bothered to read it.

I've grown up a bit since then (blog wise at least), and as anyone who reads this knows (and don't worry, you don't freak me out anymore - ok that's a lie, you still do sometimes), it has expanded to include an appropriately heavy dose of cat content, and some reviews of the many concerts I am lucky enough to go see. And since I got my beloved camera, I've been videoing what I can get away with. Have videos? Well, then you've gotta do YouTube. So away I went. And it gave me that warm, fuzzy feeling that what I was doing had some purpose when I discovered that the Dodos clip I posted was the only video on the band's website - how cool was it that the band had actually watched the clip? And thought it was good enough to post? Ok, that sounds a bit lame, but you know what I mean. This YouTube thing was just great.

Then came last weekend's show. The videos I posted got way more attention than I expected - a couple of them were in the YouTube top 100 for the day. Comments were flying in. And truth be told, I loved the fact that others cared enough to comment and were getting something out of the videos. I know how much I appreciate concert footage that other people post, so it was kind of cool to know I was giving back a bit. It still amazes me when I stop and think that some guy (or a few hundred...) in the UK is watching this stuff. Being Queen of the Top 100 YouTubers for the day gave me a small thrill. My blog had a crazy (for me) number of hits. But I quickly learned it ain't all chocolate and lollipops.

So this brings me to me, particularly me at concerts - and more importantly, a warning to readers re. Bunklelife concert reviews:

The reviews are a pretty good view into my brain. Not everyone gets my brain (thankfully) and my impression of things, trust me, is pretty skewed, and will usually include as much crap that is really completely unrelated to what is going on stage as it will comments on the band. My videos may not show exactly what you'd like to see. But that's what you get, because that's what I like. And I'm the boss of my blog. So, feel free to read, look, listen and enjoy - or not - your 60 second glance into what your life would be like if you had my brain. And remember, that's all it is. And all it was ever meant to be.

And if anyone runs into Hugh Cornwell, feel free to tell him I noticed his nut scratching. I'll bet my life he'd love it - and probably scratch them again.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

This is the Modern World..again

Went to another "I remember when" gig last night - 'From the Jam', which is the Jam minus key component, lead singer Paul Weller. I was a huge Jam fan in my teens and was lucky enough to see them live at the big metal barn of the Kerrisdale Arena (if you go to the link, read the story on the left...I saw a lot of the stuff they reference and was too young to care about sound quality). The idea of going to see a reunion tour without Weller was a little ... embarrassing. But I read a few reviews of their shows elsewhere, and conned my musical glutton brother into coming along.

My biggest fear for this kind of 'reunion' thing is that no one will show up and I will just end up feeling bad for the band. Not quite sure why that crosses my mind as the turn out for reunion shows has a better chance of being high than for new acts, at least from what I've seen. I guess I'm projecting my own slight embarrassment at 'living in the past' onto the band. Anyhoo, no worries last night, which was a sell out.

The night started out with Hugh Cornwell, who has traded the Stranglers in for a young female bass player and drummer. It was a great set - lots of Stranglers and some of his newer stuff, all of which stood up well. What a character Cornwell is though - he's a bit like a slightly seedy, slightly dirty (and not in the muddy sense of the word) uncle, chatting sardonically with the initially shy Vancouver audience. The man scratched his nuts so many times that you wondered if a serious dose of Quellada was in order, but weirdly that was part of his charm. I shot a video of Stranglers classic Peaches - watch it here. I was disappointed they didn't play Golden Brown, but then I clued in they didn't have keyboards, so that wasn't really an option.

so...what about what remains of the Jam??

The Band: The place was packed by the time they came on. Russell Hastings is pinch hitting the Paul Weller slot in the band, and I've got to say he did an impressive job of sounding the part, and looking pretty snappy too. There is only one Paul Weller - no doubting that - but I actually didn't miss him as much as I had feared. They rolled through a lot of the Jam's catalogue and it sounded great. The original members (Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler) have aged well (maybe neither here nor there, but it does reduce the potential visual shock that age can bring), and they sounded great. They have also added another band member - guitar/keyboard/vocalist Dave Moore. They covered a lot of stuff - not everything I'd like to have heard, but I suspect that they may have been tailoring the set a bit to what works best for Russell Hasting's voice. Fair enough. Enough stuff was covered to make me happy. I have uploaded a whole slew (well, seven) videos here if you want to pretend you were there too.

The Audience:
As expected, the demographic was skewed towards those old enough to have seen the band the first time around. It was also skewed towards the male of the species. That being said, there were a healthy number of 20-somethings there, which gives me hope for the human race somehow. When I've mentioned the Jam the 20-somethings I know have looked at me with a blankness I have previously only seen in ruminants , so it was a relief to realize they are not all pod-people (sorry, switched from cows to body-snatchers...and my apologies to the cows for any negative comparisons I've made). And it was an energetic bunch - I have not seen so much bouncing an pogo-ing for a long time. And on that front, I would like to introduce a new feature to my concert reviews: Audience Member of the Month (I know "the month" doesn't make sense but it's the best i can think of at the moment). And here is a very short video of last night's audience member - the grey haired guy in the middle. This video doesn't show it, but buddy pogoed himself into full floor collapse twice, and had to be pulled up to his feet by his posse. Bus driver by day, pogo champion by night. Who knew? (my apologies to bus drivers for any negative comparisons I've made)

Me: It's always a bit weird to go to these reunion gigs. As I've mentioned before, it takes you back to who you were, what you were wearing, what you thought life would be... but I've got to say this actually happened less last night that for the Pointed Sticks and Dave Wakeling/The English Beat. I was thinking about why and I think it is because the music still feels pretty much contemporary - it wasn't really a period piece, as much as that was what I was expecting. Bands in the 90s/00's have picked up a lot from Weller and the boys. Bands like the Libertines or the Arctic Monkeys wouldn't really be around without the Jam. It made me feel really lucky to have seen them the first time around, and it was a treat to see them again and be reminded how important their influence continues to be.

Friday, February 01, 2008

So It's Just My Opinion....

As I mentioned in my previous post, I got Hawksley Workman's new CD "Between the Beautifuls" in the mail a few days back. Today, I got a *signed* (I'm such a groupie) copy of Joe Jackson's new CD, "Rain". I'm listening to Rain as I type this, so maybe by the end of the post I will have something to say on it. (What I will say is that strictly speaking it is probably my brother's copy, as it came in the same box as the vinyl "Rain" I ordered on his behalf. BUT - I believe it is my right to test the merchandise, as I have to pay the interest charges on my credit card... but enough of that. Back to Hawksley.)

I have been a huge Hawksley fan for ages. The first time I went to see him, it was with my friend A. in Toronto, at the Phoenix, probably the same year as this video post (2000), or maybe a year earlier. He was the darling of Toronto at the time, and had been voted "best live act" in the local culture rag. And that is why I got tickets. I didn't know his music well - I had heard one track - and neither did A. I think this was our first Phoenix concert and we quickly established our near the front floor position - something that we would have many elbow-battles with space hogging strangers with during concerts to come - but back to the gig... it was amazing. Hawksley in his red fur was a true rock star. He kicked, hollered, pouted, sang with cabaret camp at times, and was completely entrancing.

Over the next few years I saw him a number of times. It was never the same show, and he was always at minimum good (Commodore show last year), at best astounding (Van East, The Music Hall). I have all the albums, and with the possible exception of Lover/Fighter, which was an obvious attempt at commercial success, I've found them all unique, interesting, cool stuff. Even Lover/Fighter has some really nice moments.

SO - that brings us to this new album. I gave it a full listen. First impression was that it was...pleasant. Nothing really struck me. I've now listened a few more times, and I just have the sense that this really isn't the album it could be. What makes Hawksley engaging is the cool combination of his very powerful, flexible voice and his slightly quirky (and lyrically very strong) songwriting. There are certainly a number tracks I like, that that inner quirk and soaring voice still shine, but there are a couple that are SO conventional in form and production that it really doesn't feel right. And I have to admit, even the more characteristically Hawksley moment feel like I've heard them before (not that I really mind that - I liked them the first time around...but...) I know through a friend that over the last year Hawksley has had some issues with recording and the record company, and ended up tossing a lot of material out as well. I just wonder if the record company didn't get too big a finger in the production pie on this one. I have heard Hawksley say that he has always thought his records were mainstream, and this, like Lover/Fighter, seems to be another attempt in that direction. But the truth is what makes Hawksley compelling is exactly what separates him from the mainstream. Hopefully whoever is having issues with that fact will come to terms with it.

In the meantime, I will play the tracks on the album that I do like (and there are quite a few), and look forward to his next live show in March. Live Hawksley never disappoints, particularly in a quiet, seated venue like St Andrews.

And as for Joe - I'll write more on Rain another time.