Saturday, April 26, 2008

Hardstock 2008

Went to Hardstock at the Commodore last night, a benefit for Vancouver musician/producer Scott Harding (aka Scotty Hard). I can't say I know Scott, though I met him 20 odd years ago through the musician I was dating at the time who had good friends in the Jazzmanian Devils - everyone seemed to know/play with everyone back then, and I have to admit I look back on that chunk of time with serious warm-fuzzies - the musical community I had the good fortune to be tangentially associated with was filled with incredibly nice, insanely funny guys, who were unusually accepting of the girlfriend-hangers-on like myself.

30 second summary of why the benefit happened - mid February this year, the cab Scott was in was hit at high speed by another vehicle, resulting in a spinal injury for Scott that has left him paralyzed from the chest down. Scott lives in New York now, and doesn't have medical insurance. So, the bills are rolling in and his music buddies are doing what they can to bring some much needed cash Scott's way.

The Bands
A super crazy collection of Vancouver blasts from the past and those that keep on trucking along... I Braineater (pictured), Go Four 3 (pictured), The Furies, The Pointed Sticks, The Jazzmanian Devils, Kinnie Starr; John Mann (Spirit of the West), Paul Hyde (The Payolas), Neil Osborne (54-40), Barney Bentall, who rolled themselves into the ad-hoc group of the night, The Hard goes on. And on. I am uploading a whack of videos here over the next while for those interested/with too much time on their hands. But overall it was a real treat. There were some less than ideal moments, particularly Kinnie Starr - nothing wrong with her performance, but her quiet, singer-songwriter self is not well served by the way too noisy and large Commodore unfortunately. It also wasn't fair to put her on after the bouncy loud mass of the Hardrock Miners. Ahhh well.

Highlights for me: John Mann and his crazy-dancing red-headed son Harlan, who played drums during Mann's set and provided more than a little visual stimulus during the Hard One's performance - good on you, young 'un; The Pointed Sticks, who manage to bring my teenage self back to me even if I really don't want her back; and the Hard Ones, just because it is great to see great musicians together having fun. And purely because I had a crush on his young, alternative black-haired self back in the 80s: I, Braineater. Oh, and Neil Osborne, because I had a crush on his young, alternative, stringy-brown-haired self back then (prompted in part by a bit of graffiti referencing him in a very positive way scrawled in the girls washroom at the Savoy back in the day) and continue to do so now if I'm completely honest.

The Audience
They came out in good number, which is the main thing. Not sure that it was sold out, but it was certainly well attended. That being said, they were chatting-noisy (drives me crazy) and not showing quite as much love as they could from the floor, but who am I to judge as I sit in my chair on the balcony. Audience member of the night: idiot who asked to sit at our table who started heckling Scott Harding's brother as he was talking from the stage about Scott's situation. For the love of everything holy, let the man SPEAK and consider yourself lucky that no one you love is in that situation.

That's it for now I guess. If anyone is interested in contributing to the Scotty Hard Trust, here's the link.

And here are the Hard Ones, with John and Harlan Mann (a family that flails together, stays together?), Barney Bentall, Paul Hyde and more - enjoy!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I started out scared...

Finally, another music post - I know I said I'd post more on the Black Keys/Black Mountain weekend, but I didn't, and it's too far gone now. I don't suspect many of you are that disappointed...

But last night is fresh enough to talk about - Daniel Johnston at Richards on Richards. I was first introduced to Daniel Johnston's music when I saw The Devil and Daniel Johnston at TIFF in 2005. I have mixed feelings about how my impression of a musician is affected by films like this (or DIG! for the Brian Jonestown Massacre, which seems to have made Anton Newcombe into a figure to bait not listen to) - you go into the situation with some strong preconceptions, it's inevitable - that being said, I think some of the context it provides is valuable. And it is an excellent film. My two second backgrounder on Johnston is that he is a severely bipolar guy growing up in a conservative Christian household. He's had some very rough times as a result of his condition, but has managed to be a prolific songwriter, beloved by many better knowns from Bowie to Kurt Cobain.

Enough boring factual stuff. Sorry.

So, we lined up early as per usual. A guy who was obviously a traveller asked us whether it was going to be a show worth going to - he'd heard it was "folk". How do you even start to describe Daniel Johnston? And who wants the responsibility of recommending what is going to be an experience that will definitely not be to everyone's taste?

So here we go - the Bunklelife Review:

1) The Opener: Holy crap! (not the opener, my reaction....) The opener was Ford Pier, a Vancouver guy I am completely unfamiliar with, though he has apparently been around for awhile. And he rolls out on stage in his tapered 90s suit pants, pleasant gray shirt, lace up oxfords, looking very much like the sales guy down the hall from you at work. Or the pleasant-seeming guy you meet online. And then he started to perform, and I got scared. Quickly. It was the line about "drinking the musky blood/drinking the bloody musk" that had me going. Mind warping contrast of pleasant-joe visual and run-screaming lyrics - if he'd looked edgier, it wouldn't have been nearly so disturbing. I included the second blurry photo here because I feel that it may just be a genuine image of the pointy eared demon inside this candy coated exterior.

Take a listen to "You don't want to know what I'm Into" ... (um, you got that right.)

Daniel Johnston: The man himself, decked out in a self designed t-shirt, track pants, and bright white kicks, walked on stage to huge cheers from the crowd. He is a large guy now, and has some serious shakes, wouldn't be surprised if both were a result of the meds he is on. He played guitar himself for the first song, then had a guitarist, and eventually a full band, backing him up. And it was delightful - the strength of his ability as a pop song writer shone through. And it is hard not to be moved by it all - not to be sentimental, but the challenges of his situation is so apparent, and the lyrics so personal, that you can't help but be affected. Or maybe you can. But I can't.

The audience: Hats off to you audience. I know how noisy Richards can be if people are chatting, and the audience was being so attentive and respectful. Thank you, thank you. That being said, man were there a lot of people who put a whole lot of effort into looking alt-cool-unkempt there. Maybe I did that at one point when I was that age too. No, wait a minute, I was alt-cool-KEMPT, a completely different thing...ok, that's a lie... and it's no less time consuming.

Anyway, that's it for now. This Friday brings Hardstock, a fundraiser for Scott Harding featuring my youth. Pretty much. Or at least the bands I was listening to/hanging around with. Should be interesting.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Things that freak me out...

To cut to the chase, those things would be 1) Shriners, particularly when they are driving tiny cars, and 2) tulips, when you get 1000s of them together. This is a new realization, but the shriner thing is old news.

My pal Ana and I went for an overnight jaunt to Washington - day one a 9+ hour outlet mall extravaganza, day two a more relaxing (but no less surreal) investigation of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. We wandered around Laconner for a bit first, stopping at the fantastic Dulce Plate for lunch, and the mind/tastebud blowing Olive Shoppe. On the way back to the car, we ran into some sort of crazy tulip fest parade - and more importantly, these guys....

Now, maybe it's just me, but a grown man in a tiny car wearing a bejeweled fez is the thing of nightmares. Some people find clowns creepy. Me? Shriners.

Next stop was Tulip Town, AKA the Skagit Valley Bulb Farm. And yes, there were a few tulips. Really, it was a tulip takeover. Bizarre. And beautiful, in a surreal sugary way.

I will be uploading more photos (both shriners and tulips) here soon.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Winnie Mapu

There was some sad news earlier this week – my pal Anne’s beloved old mare Winnie passed away. She’s not my horse, but I’ve known her for as long as I’ve known Anne - somewhere around 18 years - and she was really quite remarkable, as horses go. Largely Thoroughbred with a smattering of (fairly apparent) Clydesdale thrown in for good measure, she was certainly not what you’d call delicate. And that Clyde blood made her a pretty bouncy ride at times. I am going through my photos trying to find a snap of her for the blog, but I realized that since I went “digital” most of my shots are of the revolving door of "younger, prettier, flashier" horses that Anne has bred over the years – a herd in some ways you could consider a result of Winnie, as Winnie couldn’t hold a foal to term…which meant that Anne had a stud fee paid for that she needed to use on another horse, which meant acquiring another horse, and so the herd started. Really, it’s all Winnie’s fault ;) And it was in part because Winnie was the “constant” that I don’t have more photos of her. You just expect her to be there.

I remember hacking her on the road when a couple of big dogs came running and barking out of nowhere, I just about jumped out of the saddle but Winnie just flicked an ear and marched solidly along, confident that she could take them out with the flick of a hoof I’m sure. And that was her nature. She seemed to have the ability to assess things with a great deal more reason than most, apparently including me. As Anne says, she only stopped at a jump if she wasn’t sure she could take it safely. And if Anne fell off as a result, Winnie would just stop and wait, slightly confused as to why Anne wasn’t still on her. And that sense of reason – or responsibility? – spilled over to the barn as well. She was the babysitter and “manners coach” for a slew of foals who had mothers far less…sensible…that Winnie. It will be interesting (and a bit daunting) to see how any future babies turn out without her influence.

Her age was starting to show – her teeth had worn to the point that eating was a challenge, and she was having a harder time keeping her weight up (never an issue in her earlier years, that’s for sure). She ended up with an infection, and then colic, which she didn’t recover from. This sort of thing isn’t completely unexpected – she was in her 30s, which is OLD for a horse – but it doesn’t make it easy.

Very appropriately, she is buried on the farm now, in the field near the rest of her herd - close enough for her to keep an eye on things - particularly those troublesome youngsters - of that I am sure.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Great moments in rock hair...

...or stupid moments in iMovie assery.

I promise a true review of the Black Mountain/Jay Reatard/Black Keys weekend later (which *spoiler alert* I loved) . For now, this will have to do.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

*snap* #3

Thomas and a masonic pyramid.

You know I'm right.

Not my best effort - next time, next time...

Went to Jose Gonzalez last week at St. Andrews church. Got there early enough to have our choice of pews, and decided to try pew 3 not pew 2. A good idea, except pew 2 was left open for an Australian Gigantor about 6'5" tall. Dat'll learn me to be cocky about my seating...and I know he can't do anything about being a foot taller than me. And judging by his shifting around I think his discomfort at being crammed into tight pew seating was greater than mine at being blocked by the night's largest human. Adding colour to pew 2 was Bono - I mean, one of those celebrity impersonators trying to be Bono. Or some guy from northern england who isn't a celebrity impersonator who just happens to ensure he looks like Bono, which is closer to the truth I think, and weirdly, more confounding. Ahhh, I am such a b*tch sometimes (or a certain someone I'm related to might say, shallow as a piece of paper). But unlike Gigantor, you can do something about looking like Bono. There's no excuse.

ANYWAY - the security stiffs were being quite nasty at the door - we got through fine, but others had cameras taken. So, being on the aisle, close to the front, I felt pretty exposed. As a result, not many videos. And the ones taken were taken when the security guy left his seat, and with my camera on my chest, hence the wandering frame...sad, sad. I post the video primarily because the wandering frame makes me laugh. The bass is a bit muffled, I'm guessing some part of my hand/body was interfering with the speaker. Oh well, you can't win them all.

No complaints about the show - audience was quiet (better than at Richards), and Jose et al were great. One thing I noticed this time that I didn't notice at Hawksley was the effect of the space on the sound. We were very close to the front in the centre, and the monitors were flown quite wide at the sides of the stage, so you could hear the sound bouncing in the vaulting in the church. Hawksley had center monitors too which helped that issue. For me though the good view (even with Gigantor) outweighed the slightly imperfect sound.

This is Black weekend - Black Mountain tonight, Black Keys tomorrow, total exhaustion Monday.

And in other good news - Les Savy Fav is coming back in July, this time to the Commodore. Too bad it's not Richards again, but I'll take what I can get!!