La Sera - Break My Heart

Sic Alps - Glyphs

This is Pop Download-o-rama

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

“Some pursue happiness - others create it.”

I have sometimes wondered if the day will ever come when I will simply tire of music. Will those melodies that fill my head (and heart) start to annoy me and cravings for solitude and quiet win the battle for my attentions? Not likely… at least not in this lifetime. I have, after all never yearned for said seclusion but I have certainly longed for song. It’s funny but on those days when I forget to charge my iPod or a teleconference runs too long I begin to hear the music of the world around me. I fill in the musical gap with the sounds that surround me. Things like the staccato hiccup of my laptop’s cooling fan, or the cardinals in my apple trees. Even the urgent pleas of my son to stay up just ten more minutes, has a very certain musicality. I often make these correlations and like to think of them as music of the moment.

I guess I have a musical brain. Lucky thing too, since I don’t play a musical instrument proper I make my own music when I need it.

I was reminded of this last night as I walked around my neighbourhood WITH actual musical accompaniment. This recording was different though- Different, wonderful and so profound I have to tell you about it today. In fairness this is not a review per se but rather a wholehearted recommendation. The CD is called the Happiness Project (Arts & Crafts) by Charles Spearin. (He a founding member of Toronto band Do Make Say Think and Broken Social Scene.) This one literally stopped me in my tracks three times last night. I even walked twice the distance I normally do just so I could hear it again.

I wrestled though with how I would describe this experience because the discovery of this recording is intrinsically tied to its appeal. The sound of Spearin's project is somewhere between Ornette Coleman jazz and the spoken word of Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Familiar voices looped to create an odd symphony through the interplay of storytelling and music. The results are riveting, heartwarming and profoundly original.

Trust me when I say this is a case of the less said the better. Quite simply, if you love music you need to hear this. The Happiness Project is brilliant and entirely unique. I can guarantee that is will move you in just about every way imaginable- Perfect food for the musical brain if you will.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Too Many People Grow Up

“Too many people grow up. That's the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up. They forget. They don't remember what it's like to be 12 years old. They patronize, they treat children as inferiors. Well I won't do that.”

Walt Disney

Somedays I forget what it’s like to be twelve years old and I am a poorer person for it. We celebrated my son Jack’s twelfth birthday this weekend and this morning as I struggled with a woebegone work project and the usual Monday morning headaches, it made me realize how much I miss that age. It really is the perfect age… It's just remembering that very fact that is so damned hard. But why? Why, despite every effort do I forget this?

I guess its just not in my nature. I need to rationalize it somehow right?
I sure realize one thing though, I am fortunate because I can live vicariously through Jack and maybe experience a little bit of it all over again. At least I hope. So remind me the next time you don’t brush your hair or forget to clean the catbox that being twelve is your priority, the rest of the stuff really isn’t that important. Not even close.

So Happy Birthday Jack… I’m the luckiest person in the world to have you in my life. Stay 12 for as long as you possibly can!


Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Flaming Lips Honoured In Oklahoma City This Tuesday!

I’ve seen plenty of band biographies and career trajectory analyses through my years as a music fan. Truly one of the more interesting and storied histories belongs to Oklahoma’s favourite sons, the Flaming Lips. Mark another chapter this coming week when the band will be honoured with a distinctive milestone.

On Tuesday, April 28th, at 2:00pm, the Oklahoma History Center will host a Gala event celebrating the signing of the executive order proclamation by Governor Brad Henry declaring “Do You Realize??” the OFFICIAL OKLAHOMA STATE ROCK SONG as well as FLAMING LIPS DAY in the state of Oklahoma.

Statements will be made by Governor Brad Henry, Dr. Bob Blackburn, Executive Director of the Oklahoma History Center; Jill Simpson, Director of the Oklahoma Film and Music Commission, State Representative Joe Dorman, Senator Mike Schultz and of course, Wayne Coyne of the band.

The Oklahoma History Center is located at 2401 N. Laird Ave. and anyone is welcome to show up and show their support.

Might just have to fire up the UFO and head south for this one.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

“So, where's the Cannes Film Festival being held this year?”

Oh! Fest in London This Weekend

Christina Aguilera once famously issued that misinformed header query. Alas, dear reader, Christina won’t be making a festival appearance in London this weekend but a number of hugely talented musicians and artists will be here. Indeed, London will be abuzz this weekend and much of it revolves around the first of edition of Oh! Fest.

Presented by the creatively adventurous Open House Arts Collective – (I blogged about them previously) - The multi-disciplinary, multi-venue fest opens tomorrow. Oh! Fest brings singer-songwriters, up and coming bands, a free, daytime fair and record store in-stores to its three-day run.

From the London Free Press this morning:

"We saw the need for something in between one-off shows and a huge festival like LOLA or playing the John Labatt Centre or Call the Office," says Oh! Fest artistic director and collective member Paterson Hodgson. "It's definitely a huge learning process, definitely a steep learning curve. We've had great responses."

Directing members of the collective all contributed. There is support from such venues and sponsors as Grooves Records, the Black Shire pub and private donors. MainStreet London is also a supporter.

"Festivals like this wake people up and they say 'there's lots of music and arts and culture here,'" collective member Stuart Thompson says.

Some of that energy and culture is provided by Open House collective-tied performers such as Olenka and the Autumn Lovers, the Samuel Musical, A Horse and His Boy, who are all on the Oh! bill. (Hodgson is an Autumn Lover cellist when she's not organizing new festivals).
Open House Collective, you’ve done it again! This city could not ask for a finer group of musical ambassadors. Let’s hope this one is the first of many. The weekend promises to be unforgettable.

Tickets are going fast so please plan to get yours. Information below.

The Details:

Visit -

Printable Program and Schedule -

2009 Oh! Fest, the first edition of a new multi-arts festival in London.

Tomorrow - April 24th through Sunday April 26th.

Oh! Fest schedule: Tomorrow -- 3 p.m. (Grooves Records, 353 Clarence St.), Davita G, Bette et Wallet. Free; 7:30 p.m. (Colborne St. United Church, 711 Colborne St. at Piccadilly), Nick Zubeck, Jane Ehrhardt, Barzin, Olenka and the Autumn Lovers. $10.

Saturday -- 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (713 Central Ave.), Art ExpOh!, multi-media arts fair, Muskox featuring Isla Craig, Golden Death Music and more. Free; 9 p.m. (Black Shire Pub, 511 Talbot St. north of Dufferin), Lioness, The Ghost is Dancing, A Horse and His Boy, Cailen Dye. $10, 19-and-up.

Sunday -- 3:30 p.m. (Grooves Records) The Samuel Musical, Handsome Dan and His Gallimaufry. Free; 6:30 p.m. (Chaucer's, 122 Carling St.) Laura Barrett, The Burning Hell, Sick Friend, Construction and Destruction, Birdsacrosswater. $10.

Quiet is the New Black

As the music industry continues to reinvent itself for a new marketplace, artists of all genres are embarking on any number of creative endeavours to attract audiences. This one stood out for me though because it involved both a favourite artist and a novel idea. Billed as an “anti-social event”, it goes a little like this: Courtesy of Kid Koala.

A NEW TOURING CONCEPT… the LOUD PARTY / QUIET WORK weekend. PLUS “Music To Draw To” in BROOKLYN, TORONTO and LOS ANGELES! 2 nights, 2 events, 2 completely different agendas- the latter, something like this.

Are you slacking off on knitting that scarf you started in 2004? Maybe you’ve been trying to finish that third act of that play you’ve been writing…? How’s that collection of Sonnets coming along? Are you still sketching out storyboards for that animated short you wanted to make?

Bring your sketchbook, yarn, or that lump of clay. Floor lamps, pens, knitting needles, and lap desks will be provided. Five bucks admission includes a free cup of hot chocolate or tea. Music will be provided by Kid Koala. Expect a full 5-hour set of some of his favorite quiet time records that he has collected on his travels around the world. Baked goods will be provided by Kid Koala’s wife, Corinne, who dreams of someday opening a bakery in Montreal and would like to try some of her new creations first.

Quiet people are invited. Bring something to work on. No
dancing. Hope to see you there!

Interesting stuff… The details for the Toronto appearance.

Kid Koala presents: “Music to Draw to…” in Toronto (in association with the Toronto Comic Arts Festival) -May 07 Kid Koala’s LOUD PARTY/QUIET WORK weekend in Toronto.

Lee’s Palace- May 7th
Toronto, ON, CANADA
kid koala’s indoor block party at:
Lee’s Palace
529 Bloor St. W
Toronto, ON

The Central- May 11th
Toronto, ON, CANADA
Quiet Work
603 Markham St.
Toronto, ON

$5 includes free cup of hot chocolate and a pencil.quiet people are invited. bring your own sketchbook, notepad or yarn. no dancing.

Please try to arrive early as space is limited. see you there!

How cool is this? Plan to attend!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

New, Old Pixies?

I woke up yesterday with the news that the online Pixies community was abuzz over word of a possible new release from the seminal 90's quartet. News has been sketchy but I'm leaning towards a boxset collection as opposed to a brand new release. One can only hope that they want us to spend $150.99 on something we've all ready purchased two times now. ;) Gouge Away! ed.

I will update as appropriate.

UPDATE: Get out your wallets... From Pitchfork.

A box set of all their studio albums, with revamped artwork and all sorts of extra goodness. The set, available in both Limited Edition and Deluxe Edition forms, will include the band's four albums and the Come On Pilgrim EP. Vaughan Oliver and Simon Larbalestier, the photographers who shot the covers for those albums, will be in charge of the repackaging

Artwork below.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hero Worship Part Twenty Seven - Michel Gondry Edition

Michel Gondry might be my favourite film/ video director ever. Along with crafting cinematic masterpieces like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep, the prolific and highly creative French auteur is responsible for classic music videos like the White Stripes' "Fell in Love With a Girl", Daft Punk's "Around the World", the Foo Fighters “Everlong” and Björk's "Bachelorette". All of these were included on 2003's fine Director's Label release The Work of Michel Gondry. To this day it remains one of my favourite (music related) DVD’s.

Although Gondry hasn't completed too many music videos since then, he has completed a few for artists like Beck ("Cellphone's Dead"), Paul McCartney ("Dance Tonight"), and the aforementioned White Stripes ("The Denial Twist", which bizarrely features a giant headed and platform shoed Conan O’Brien. Those clips and others make up Michel Gondry 2: More Videos Before & After DVD 1, which came out April 14th via Gondry's delightfully wonky website *.

The new DVD will also also feature The Simpsons' "The Hardest Button to Button" parody, Gondry playing drums with funk legend Booker T, the director's famed Rubik's Cube tricks, and a new piece called How to Blow Up a Helicopter (Ayako’s Story) and described as a "heartbreaking documentary-style portrait of a girl trying to connect with her father (who happens to be Steven Seagal)" in a press release.

(* The website alone is worthy of your investigation with a number of interactive features and sale items. The most intriguing of which is a personalized Gondry portrait with the subject of your choice for $19.95. How cool is that? )

Full tracklist:
Michel Gondry 2: More Videos Before & After DVD 1:

Music Videos:

01 Michael Andrews [ft. Gary Jules]: "Mad World"
02 Paul McCartney: "Dance Tonight" *
03 Thomas Dolby: "Close But No Cigar"
04 Björk: "Declare Independence" *
05 Steriogram: "Walkie Talkie Man" *
06 The Willowz: "I Wonder"
07 Beck: "Cellphone's Dead" *
08 The White Stripes: "The Denial Twist" *
09 Donald Fagen: "Snowbound"
10 Cody ChesnuTT: "King of the Game"
11 Sinead O'Connor: "Fire On Babylon"
12 Queen [ft. Wyclef Jean, Pras and Free]: "Another One Bites the Dust"
13 Radiohead: "Knives Out" *
14 Dick Annegarn: "Soleil du Soir"
15 Sananda Maitreya: "She Kissed Me"
16 Sheryl Crow: "A Change Would Do You Good"
17 The Black Crowes: "High Head Blues"
18 Leafbirds: "It Can All Be Taken Away"
19 The Rolling Stones: "Gimme Shelter"
20 Energy Orchard: "How the West Was Won”

* Features behind-the-scenes footage.

Other Work:

01 "The Simpsons" White Stripes Parody
02 Booker T and The Michel Gondry’s
03 Michel Gondry Solves a Rubik's Cube With His Feet
04 Michel Gondry Solves a Rubik's Cube With His Nose
05 Jack Black Beats Michel Gondry With His Rubik's Cubes
06 Herve Di Rosa: "Viva Di Rosa"
07 Conan & The Big Head
08 Paul Gondry's The Willowz: "Take A Look Around"
09 How To Blow Up A Helicopter (Ayako’s Story)
10 Forum Des Images: "L' Histoire De L'Univers"

Friday, April 17, 2009

“Get Your Patchouli Stink Outta my Store.”

Record Store Day 2009 Preview

If you are a regular reader of this blog you will know that this Saturday, April 18th, is Record Store Day. An important day indeed for music lovers and pop culture aficionados since it represents at its core exactly what I am trying to achieve in this medium. That is, get people excited about music in particular and the undeniable thrill it evokes. Nothing beats that nervous wave of excitement that happens when you find that special disc you’ve been looking for forever. Or that special discovery that is made when something new delivers the promise you had hoped it would. The iTunes Store sure hasn’t been able to quite deliver that thrill yet. But that brick and mortar shop that I call my second home, you’ve captured my heart. Ahhhhh independent music store, you are a fickle mistress but I love you so.

This one my friends, is not to be missed. It is on this day that thousands of independent record stores around the world will be hosting in-store performances, handing out freebies, holding sales, and selling dozens of RSD-exclusive releases pressed in tiny enough editions that they might not last through the day. There are dozens of them, mostly on vinyl; many of them are just analog versions of material that's already or imminently on CD, but the best-sounding ones offer otherwise unavailable material. Matador Records, in particular, has risen to the challenge with a Pavement live LP and Sonic Youth split singles with Beck and Jay Reatard. (Sadly, word is that new Modest Mouse and Elvis Costello singles promised for this year's Record Store Day, as well as a reissue of New Order's "Temptation"/"Hurt" 7", won't be ready in time.) Here's a quick and updated guide to all the RSD exclusives that I was able to track down.

Bad Religion: Bad Religion 7" [Epitaph]
Black Kids: Wizard of Ahhhs 10" [Almost Gold/Columbia]
Booker T.: "Warped Sister" 7" [Anti-]
Camera Obscura: "French Navy" 7" [4AD]
Brandi Carlile: "Downpour" 7" [Columbia]
Leonard Cohen: "The Future" 7" [Columbia]
Dandy Warhols: Earth to the Remix E.P. Volume Two CD [Beat the World]
The Decemberists: "The Rake's Song" 7" [Capitol]
Bob Dylan: "Dreamin' of You" 7" [Columbia]
Gomez: "Airstream Driver" 7" [ATO]
Heaven & Hell: "Bible Black" 7" [Rhino]
Jane's Addiction: "Mountain Song" 7" [Warner Bros
Jenny Lewis: "Carpetbaggers" 7" [Rhino]
Lykke Li/El Perro Del Mar split 7" [Rhino]
Magnolia Electric Co.: "It's Made Me Cry" [Secretly Canadian]
MC5: "Kick Out the Jams" 7" [Elektra]
My Morning Jacket: Celebración De La Ciudad Natal CD
Queen: Queen's First EP CD [Hollywood]
The Smiths: "The Headmaster Ritual" 7" [Rhino]
Bruce Springsteen: "What Love Can Do" 7" [Columbia]
The Stooges: "1969" 7" [Elektra
The Thermals/Thao Spoonful's "Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?"
Various Artists: Blood on the Tracks LP [Domino]
Various Artists: Sampler CD [Universal Republic/Universal Motown]
Tom Waits: Live 7" [Anti-]

Also reported to be available on Record Store Day:

Akron/Family: "Everyone Is Guilty"
Andrew Bird/Loney Dear split 7"
Black Moth Super Rainbow: "Born on a Day"
Blitzen Trapper: "War Is Placebo"
Cold War Kids: Live at Fingerprints CD EP
Cursive/Ladyfinger(ne) split 10" picture disc
Flaming Lips/Black Keys split 7"
Flight of the Conchords: "Pencils in the Wind"
Grizzly Bear: "While You Wait for the Others" / "He Hit Me" (Live on KCRW 7")
Guided By Voices: Hold on Hope LP (appending the Plugs for the Program EP)
Iron & Wine: live CD
Jesus Lizard: "Inch" 9x7" box set
Oasis: "Falling Down" remix 12"
Obits: "I Can't Lose"
Pavement: Live in Cologne 1997 LP
Russian Circles/These Arms Are Snakes split 12"
Sonic Youth/Beck split 7"
Sonic Youth/Jay Reatard split 7"
Various Artists: History of Def Jam 4xLP
Various Artists: Records Toreism LP [Thrill Jockey]
Various Artists: This LP Crashes Hard Drives LP [Numero Group]
Vetiver: "Wishing Well"
Whiskeytown: "San Antone"

So shut down the computer and get out there to your favourite independent Record Store. Buy an armload of discs and goodies and remember again the thrill that comes with these discoveries.

As far as I am concerned this one should be a national civic holiday.

I’ll get working on that.

Pop Levi's Dusty Fingers from Yours Truly on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I Am a Virtual DJ, I Am What I Virtually Play

I have to admit, despite the fact that I am Twitterer’ from way back ;) . I find that method of microblogging as much self serving at times as often neglected for various reasons. Couple that with the fact that the overwhelming majority of my ‘tweets’ are music related a much more appetizing and thoroughly enjoyable 'timewaster' has emerged among the pack. Enter, a Twitter like browser based app for the music lover and amateur DJ alike. Here, in addition to the standard 150 character message, you can also select an accompanying to song to play along to other people or 'Blippers'. But the true enjoyment comes from the ego-stroking ‘props’ that listeners can assign to your musical accompaniment; And further if they really like your selections they can follow you by becoming a listener. All the while your friends and props tally is on full display to show off your true musical genius and impeccable musical taste to the legions of adoring ‘Blippalonians’.

INFORMATION ALERT -Now here comes the technical part. How it all works.

There’s not much information on the site about where it pulls all the music from. I’m guessing that it’s deliberately a bit vague being as it’s possible there are some legal questions at present. Heck, we all remember Muxtape and the legal brouhaha that erupted there.

Songs are hosted all over the internet by different servers and websites. Thus providing your playable content. As such though, sometimes the servers are offline or busy and the song isn’t available to play; or perhaps the owner of the file has taken it off the internet for whatever reason. Please note: If you are an artist and your music is showing up as “unavailable” the most reliable way to make your music available for others to blip is to upload it to your profile.

So yes, anyone (if you’re a musician or rights owner) can upload tracks. Of course you need to read the terms and conditions thoroughly. The option to upload tracks is buried away in ’settings’ which may indicate the site proprietors are still working out the legalities of that particular aspect of the service.

So sign up and give it a try (while you can methinks!) It’s certainly a popular place and a terrific site to discover some new music or even rediscover some of the music that is important to you. Of course you may have to put up with Hrnygrrrl56’s incessant blipping of Nickelback’s latest opus but it truly is a small price to pay. Who knows… You might just discover your new favourite band.

* Be forewarned though. This site is highly addictive.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Downloaders of the World Unite

Interested in acquiring some great and free (gratuity accepted) music to download? This is your chance. The Free Music Archive is up and running, with about 5000 tracks available for streaming or download in its library. All of the songs are licensed under Creative Commons, and the selection itself is carefully maintained by cred-heavy organizations like WFMU, KEXP, dublab, and ISSUE Project Room.

Much like open-source sampling sites, FMA does not restrict the use of any of its music-- chop, remix, and soundtrack as you see fit. Also, the site maintains bios of featured artists and accepts tips via PayPal.

I must say the a lot of this stuff is right up my completist tendency alley. There’s a lot of live radio broadcast-type stuff up right now, but most of it seems to be of pretty high quality, and recognizable, too.

Take the time to search it out. You might just find some downloadable treasures.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mr. Nelson Soak Us

Even in recessionary times one still needs to splurge and spoil oneself. So, if you’ve managed to save a few bucks over the last while Prince is offering to take that cash off your hands. The Purple One(der) is offering a regally deluxe version of his 21 Nights in London book with an iPod loaded with exclusive content... all for the bargain price of $2,100.00.

Cost aside, it's a pretty luxurious package, a 280-page, leather-bound, purple enclosure that contains exclusive prints from noted photographer Randee St. Nicholas. And, of course, there's the limited-edition iPod - only 950 of them will be available, and after they're gone, they're really gone. (or until they start showing up on eBay for mucho, mucho dineros.)

The princely device itself is purple of course, with his trademark symbol etched on the back. The iPod is pre-loaded not only with live audio from Prince's 2007 stand at London's O2 Arena, but also a 40-minute mini movie showcasing live footage of the residency. Also included are testimonials from Elton John, P Diddy and Naomi Campbell.

But the real clincher dear reader… If you purchase the Opus iPod, you stand a 1 in 950 chance of winning a private performance by Prince himself in Los Angeles. Not bad odds, especially if you are a super fan of Minneapolis’s second favourite son. To purchase the Prince Opus iPod, click here. Act fast, you can’t afford to miss out on this one.

Coming soon: The Paul Westerberg (Grandpaboy), bedazzled eight track player. Additional details forthcoming.

Man, those Minnesotans are clever aren’t they?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

I Am Trying to Break Your Wallet

We're just back from mastering the record... so it's done & in the can and everyone's ready to hit the road all spring, summer and beyond. The dates and presales are going up fast and furious.

Already on sale are: Berkeley and Lake Tahoe (Stateline, NV).

Just announced: Cincinnati, Oklahoma City, El Paso, Tucson, Pomona and two shows in LA

And more are coming very shortly. We'll hit you with another email later this week detailing further plans for the East coast in July.

I love getting email on Monday mornings from a favourite band. This one with new release and touring news. Summer 09 may indeed shape up to be one of the best music summers in a long time. Oh, and loyal Tweedyites musn't forget the Ashes of American Flags DVD out next Saturday (April 18th) for Record Store Day. Wilco will also be kicking off the new touring season with a live webcast from Milwaukee's Pabst Theater this Wednesday night at to the first show, Wilco will be at Miller Park for the Brewers game on Monday night where Jeff Tweedy is scheduled to throw out the first pitch.

Good to be a Wilco fan huh?

PLAYLIST 27 - Jesus Gonna Be Here

The good chocolates are gone now and those too sweet sugary eggs are all you have left in your Easter basket. Consider this your Bunny Bonus - A Playlist celebrating the man himself.

As always, your song suggestions are always welcome in the comments section.

Jesus Of The Moon - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Big-Jesus-Trash-Can - The Birthday Party
Walking With Jesus - The Muslims
Bo Diddley Is Jesus - The Jesus & Mary Chain
Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam - The Vaselines
Just a Little Talk With Jesus - Tennessee Mountain Ramblers
Chocolate Jesus - Tom Waits
Jesus Drove a Motorhome - Jim White
Jesus Will Help Me - The Gospel Comforters
Jesus Saves, I Spend - St. Vincent
Baby Jesus - Regina Spektor
Jesus And Mary - Martha Wainwright
I Told Jesus - Roberta Flack
Jesus Rhapsody, Pt. 1 - Preacher & The Saints
Jesus Christ - Big Star
I Have Forgiven Jesus - Morrissey
The Sleeping Nights of Jesus - Robyn Hitchcock
Jesus, Etc. - Wilco
They Laid Jesus Christ In His Grave - Woody Guthrie
Personal Jesus - Johnny Cash

Monday, April 6, 2009

They Shoot You SCORE - XX Merge Festival Announced

Merge Reveals Anniversary Fest Lineup
Superchunk! Spoon! M. Ward! Destroyer! More!

Merge Records' 20th anniversary celebration just keeps getting better. They've been sending me new additions to their SCORE! subscription series (including that astounding covers compilation) consistently since January, and today they’ve announced the initial lineup for XX Merge, their celebratory summer festival. Hey folks, honestly summer really isn’t that far off. That white stuff flying in the air today will go away.

XX Merge will take place July 22-26 at the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, North Carolina and Memorial Hall on the UNC campus in Chapel Hill. Check out who's playing: label founders Superchunk, Spoon, Conor Oberst, M. Ward, Destroyer, Polvo, the Rosebuds, Guv'ner, Pipe, the Broken West, and Spent. And that's just the beginning, as over 25 bands are promised. As you know Merge has a very impressive roster of bands and surprises will definitely be in store.

Heck, make this your summer vacation getaway!

The Rolling Tundra Revue – A Pop Top Ten

$100, The Constantines and the Weakerthans in Performance at the London Music Hall

Oscar Wilde once said, “The critic has to educate the public; the artist has to educate the critic.”

With those prescient words in mind, in lieu of a standard concert review I thought I would provide my top ten concert moments from the Rolling Tundra Revue which rolled through London on Friday night at the Music Club. An engaging show from start to finish this one affected me- Affected me in a very good way; something I think, that only music is sometimes capable of. Affirming, loud, raw, endearing, proficient, joyous and passionate this one fired on all the cylinders. One of those “remember when” concerts even before the Weakerthans had even left the stage.

10. The London Music Hall - Never having patronized this venue I was pleasantly surprised by the spaciousness and large stage setup. The sound system was more than capable of handling the varying dynamics that each band brought to the stage. The perfect venue to handle the very sizeable crowd of musical revelers.

09. Great Band Merchandise – I didn’t buy one but the Constantines bright red Russian althete style type hoodie thing seemed to be a popular choice. So nice to see a variety of t-shirts, buttons, CD’s and photo books being offered to fans at reasonable prices to boot. Be sure to look for a ‘Weak Cons Serve‘ enviro themed button when the Revue blows through your town.

08. The Pure and Overwhelming Joy that is John K. Samson – I am quite certain the smile never left Weakerthans frontman John K. Samson’s face from the moment he took the stage on Friday night. Clearly, bringing the rock to the masses brings great joy to this man. He just does it with such apparent natural ease. It’s all very contagious too, the audience ate him up. And we all know those mutual love fests can be a bit strange at times. This one though was genuine and affecting. Samson is just a nice guy. The kind of guy you go out with for a beer on a Saturday night. The Weakerthans brand of power pop the perfect antidote to the cold and windy night outside.

07. Can I Get a Witness? Bryan Webb’s guitar athletics are always a compelling thing to watch. Hoisting his instrument above his head the move perhaps more NHL than Hendrix, the man is always delivering. How he can manage to sing "Nightime/ Anytime" night after night and not shred vocal cords is astounding to me. Canada’s other poet laureate of rock is a force to reckon with and Webb and the rest of the Constantines always deliver the goods precisely and with great volume. Points to Webb when he apologized for an errant loogie accidentally directed towards some front row enthusiasts. No word if said souvenier has shown up on Ebay listings yet.

06. Anonymous Audience Guitar Solos – The last time I saw a musician invite someone onstage it deteriorated into drunken guitar karaoke and it just didn’t work. When John K. Samson invited audience member ‘Dave’ to the stage to finish the business end of some Weakerthans power chords it was like he was asking us all up to be a part of an unforgettable show. No, this one did not disintegrate, it only made a strong performance even stronger.

05. Feeling Fifteen Again – One of the first concerts I ever attended was a Ramones show here in London that ended up being a life changing experience. It was the first time that I had experienced that special communion that sometimes occurs between band and audience when attentions are so focused the world just seems to stop for a little while. Friday night’s show felt just like that. For three and a half hours I forgot about my ill performing mutual funds, overdue work projects and tax preparations and it felt terrific. Proof positive that the solution to the current global economic crises might just be rock n’ roll. Joey Ramone would have been proud.

04. I Am Canadian – Perhaps it was the name, The Rolling Tundra Revue but this whole event had distinctly Canadian vibe. Straight outta the ‘Peg if you will. Yes, the Weakerthans did in fact play “Tournament of Hearts” and maybe that’s what did it. I just think it wouldn’t have been out of place to see CBC Sports covering this show with appropriate between song commentary (Note to organizers -Do me a favour and next year and just call this one The Tour de Bonspiel. I really want to see Cons Tams and Weakerthans emblazoned curling brooms made from the hair of John K. Samson at the merch table.)

03. $100 – As I was entering the venue I overheard someone remark that “some Americana type band” would be opening the show. I was tempted to tell that dismissive gentleman to remember this date because it won’t be long before all of Canada knows who $100 is. Simone Schmidts hurtin’, whiskey soaked croon is hypnotic and pure country. Reduced to a trio, the band opened the night on exactly the right note. $100 may not have brought the volume to the proceedings but they did bring the emotion. Not 100% sure of the song title but the new one about “Fort McMurray” was inspired. This is one VERY talented band. Regrettfully this will be the only show the band will be participating in on the Rolling Tundra Revue. It did my heart proud though to hear Schmidt channeling Sylvia Tyson and Patsy Cline at a rock n’roll show. (Among the nicest musicians I have ever met too!)

On a related note, their instore at Grooves earlier that afternoon was exceptional. Many thanks to organizers for making that one happen. I felt very lucky to be in attendance.

02. Audience Singalongs and Participation - How wonderful is it to hear six hundred people screaming “hurry, hurry hard” in unison? Or witness six hundred outstretched arms punctuating 'Cons' power chords. Only in Canada I suppose… (Interesting to note that all three bands would encourage audience members to participate in extended sing alongs at key points in their respective sets.

01. The Beguiling Charms of the Singers SongSimone Schmidt, Bryan Webb, John K. Samson all brought a palpable hypnotic charm to the evening and held us in their grip from start to finish. All are polished front people with certain grace and an appeal most magnetic.

Friday night was indeed an unforgettable evening of music and if you’re fortunate enough to have tickets on one of the remaining dates you are in for a rare treat. I left the venue happy and perhaps a more "educated" critic. Thank you to Allison White for the tickets I definitely owe you one or three for that. Tim Turner, it was terrific to meet you. It’s always a great thing to meet people who are passionate about music.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Your Weekly Download Lowdown

For the record I do not receive royalties from Daytrotter nor have I ever done so. I just like them a whole heck of a lot. (So you may have noticed.) The little website that enthralls, challenges, thrills, occupies and entertains me on a diabolically consistent basis. Seems the venerable Daytrotter has done it again with two new sessions I would be remiss if I didn’t bring to your downloading attention.

The first is prolific musician Bob Mould. Yes, that Bob Mould- founding member of Husker Du and Sugar. (His real claim to fame though is writing the Daily Show theme song “Dog on Fire”.) Bob previews a number of songs from his forthcoming ANTI Records release entitled Life and Times and this one is on fire. I’m really looking forward to his new release due out on the 7th of this month. Download Here

Next up is another veteran of the music scene. Stephen Malkmus. This time Stephen isn’t promoting anything in particular but just doing what he does best- Quirky jams and wicked rock outs. The highlight might just be the unreleased "Funk 49"; Featuring the incendiary talents of Portland's Blitzen Trapper. Download Here

Speaking of which, NPR is currently hosting a show from the aforementioned Washington rockers. The quintet headlined NPR Music's day party from The Parish in Austin, Tex., on March 19th and it’s definitely a keeper. Listen and download here.

And lastly but certainly not leastly, Chicago’s favourite son’s Wilco have a performance up on Aquarium Drunkard. This time featuring their smoking hot performance on Austin City Limits from the summer of 2007. If you didn’t really like Sky Blue Sky listen to some of the songs in a live setting and you might just change your mind. Download Here

Happy downloading!