"Attention…Mon Ami…Fa-Lala-Lala-La-La"

Last night, following Montreal’s disappointing game 5 overtime loss to Boston — which I got to experience in Kilgour’s, probably the only Montreal Canadiens fan bar in Toronto — my buddy Joe and I strolled down the block to see Godspeed You! Black Emperor at Lee’s Palace. GY!BE had been on hiatus since 2003, so when these tickets went on sale last fall we snapped them up.

We weren’t worried about staying through the entire hockey game, including one and a half overtime periods, because we knew very well they wouldn’t hit the stage until 11:30 or so. As it turns out they began taking the stage around 11:45 and began playing at about 11:50. By the way: it takes them five minutes to take the stage because there are nine of them, and they came on a few at a time and began playing their instruments. That tuning and tweaking turned into “Hope Drones” before drifting, some fifteen minutes later, into “Gathering Storm”, the best part of their best song from their best album and one of my favourite songs of all time (honorable mention). I could have left right after that and felt like I got my money’s worth.

But they kept going, obviously, playing seven more songs over the next couple of hours (their songs tend to be in the 15-20 minute range, and all instrumental, with black and white film footage looped behind them) from F#A#∞ and Slow Riot For New Zer0 Canada and more from Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven and one more song (“Albanian”) that apparently is only ever played live. Nothing from their last album Yanqui U.X.O. though, which was disappointing…they’d played “Rockets Fall on Rocket Falls”, their second-best song, the night before.

Just after 2AM they wrapped up, and I walked out feeling a little underwhelmed. I’m glad I saw it — this may be my last chance as they’re obviously pretty mercurial — but it just didn’t feel like as big an experience as I’d hoped for. Maybe it was being at the back, kind of blocked (distracted?) by the film projectors. Maybe it was being too near the bar and all the assholes who feel entitled to yell inanities to each other that could surely wait until they’re outside. Maybe it was that my mind kept making the obvious comparison to Mogwai, who thumps me mercilessly every time I see them, unlike last night’s show.

Like I said, I’m glad I went. I guess I was just hoping for more of a storm.

The playlist, according to the internets:

  • “Hope Drone”
  • “Gathering Storm”
  • “Monheim”
  • “Albanian”
  • “Chart #3”
  • “World Police and Friendly Fire”
  • “Dead Metheny”
  • “Moya”
  • “Blaise Bailey Finnegan III”

It shakes my teeth

So I was going to write this whole long thing about how hard The Pixies killed me last night at Massey Hall, playing Doolittle cover to cover on the 22nd anniversary of the day it was released and throwing in a bunch of great encore songs to boot (including a UK surf mix of “Wave Of Mutilation” which gave Nellie her favourite song twice) and getting a little emotional during Where Is My Mind? and on and on and etc.

But then I read Kate Carraway’s review and gave up. She says it better than I could. I saw things in there like “growled exaltations” and “exoticizing of the raw and hideous” and “hysterically ragged” and all I could think of was Ben Fong-Torres in Almost Famous saying “‘Voice of God, howling dogs, the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll.’ This is good stuff, man!” and now in my head Kate Carraway’s in the movie.

Va. Read it and hurry.

"Being able to save their life so they can live, I think is rewarding. Any of them would do it for me."

Two days ago I finished reading Sebastien Junger‘s War (amazon | kobo), his recounting of the time he spent in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan embedded with a single platoon. For those two days I have not been able to stop thinking about the book, and the men.

Second platoon are described in the book as “the tip of the spear. They’re the main effort for the company, and the company is the main effort for the battalion, and the battalion is the main effort for the brigade.” They occupy serious, dangerous ground, with soldiers living rough in little more than sandbags and temporary walls dug into hillsides, constantly fighting the Taliban for control of a remote valley.

I won’t get into much more detail than that. But the fact that I burned through 268 pages in a week (and it’s not like I can usually find much time to read for fun) and can’t stop imagining this place I’ve never seen should tell you how compelling it is. I’m desperate to watch Restrepo (imdb | rotten tomatoes), a documentary by Junger and photographer Tim Heatherington about their time with second platoon and one of the top-rated movies of last year, so that I can put faces to names.

Encore

Signs of spring: birds singing. Snow melting. Taxes. Maple syrup. Flowers blooming. Bruins/Habs.

Tomorrow night Montreal will face Boston in the playoffs for the fifth time in ten years. True, that’s not quite as frequent as in the years before the 1993 shift to conference vs. divisional playoffs, when they met each other in the playoffs nine straight years. But this year has a little extra zing, thanks to Zdeno Chara’s attempted decapitation of Max Pacioretty last month.

I don’t see Montreal trying to go after the Bruins physically. First, they can’t. Second, if physical retaliation were their plan they would have tried it during their final meeting of the season, in which Boston demolished them 7-0. No, the Canadiens’ only intended revenge would be to knock off the third-seeded Bruins. But I don’t see how they can do it. Boston is too big, too strong, too fast. Montreal has been without their two best defensemen, Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges, for the better part of the year. Montreal’s only star player is Carey Price, but Boston goalie Tim Thomas is also one of the best in the league on many nights.

If Price steals a few wins, Thomas gets rattled, Boston’s scorers dry up and Montreal gets a second straight heroic playoff from guys like Mike Cammalleri, Brian Gionta and P.K. Subban, then maybe they’ll pull off the upset.

If, if, if. Go Habs go.

PBR…actually not as terrible as I'd been led to believe

It has been a weekend of decadent eating and drinking. Unlike, you know, every other weekend.

Friday night we joined M2 and H2 for dinner at their sweet loft. On top of the barbecued steaks Mike had a theme in mind: beer judging. He’d procured 14 interesting beers and two “mystery brews”, and we were each expected to rate all sixteen.

As it turned out we only got through twelve, eleven of which are pictured here. The two mystery selections were Pabst Blue Ribbon and Labatt Blue, placed there to keep us on our toes. The top-rated beer of the night was the Sam Adams / Weihenstephan Infinium…very tasty indeed. I enjoyed it almost as much as I enjoyed having my face licked by their dog, Murphy. I miss having a dog.

Ahem. Anyway.

Saturday was a blur of errands, lunch at La Bettola, penance at the gym (another 5k after being idle for two weeks) and prepping for the arrival of CBGB and the Kelly Gang. They popped over to ours for drinks (Denison’s Weissbeer, Neustadt 10W30, Great Lakes Orange Peel Ale and Erdinger Dunkel for the gents; ice wine martinis for the ladies; a bottle of 2007 Closson Chase S. Kocsis Chardonnay all around) before dinner at Harlem to celebrate Lisa’s birthday. There was a great deal of fried chicken and catfish lafayette consumed, among other things, and we all came back to our place for more drinks (bottles of Stratus Cab Franc, Nyarai Veritas and Strewn Cab Sauv) before they made their way back to their respective broods.

Not surprisingly, today was a sleep-in day. Nellie’s been watching hours of crap TV while I take care of the details of our upcoming trips. Apart from the few hours of work I’ll surely have to do this evening, it’s been an awfully good weekend.

"Few would have predicted it sixty years before, but the twenty-first century might yet belong to Europe."

I’ve done it.

I have finally, finally, finally finished Postwar (amazon | kobo) by Tony Judt, having started it…I don’t know, like a year ago. I must have read north of a half dozen other books during breaks from this one…not because it was bad — it’s actually an incredible book when you consider what it does — but because it was 831 pages of relatively dense historical perspective.

Length aside, there’s another reason why this feels like an accomplishment: in finishing it I also conclude my self-made 8-book series about WWI and WWII. I wanted to know more about the buildup and aftermath of each war, and having read these I feel like I do. These books, read (amongst many others) over the past four years, were:

  • The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman
  • A Short History of WWI by James Stokesbury
  • Paris 1919 by Margaret MacMillan
  • The Coming Of The Third Reich by Richard Evans
  • The Dark Valley: A Panorama of the 1930s by Piers Brendon
  • A Short History of WWII by James Stokesbury
  • A Writer At War: A Soviet Journalist with the Red Army, 1941-1945 by Vasily Grossman
  • Postwar by Tony Judt

If you find yourself curious about how exactly the Nazis were able to come to power, or why Europe and the Middle East were divided up as they were, or which army truly beat back Hitler’s armies, or any other aspect (at a high level, anyway) of the wars, I’d highly recommend any and all of these.

Frater!

This past weekend was a rare treat: a brother visit. Brother #2 arrived Friday night and left Monday morning. In between we had dinner at Duggan’s and breakfast at Hank’s, visited St. Lawrence Market, enjoyed the lone spring-like day so far this year by visiting the Distillery district, watched some funny movies, had a long and sumptuous dinner at Fieramosca followed by ill-advised Trappist ales at Smokeless Joe, played a little Call of Duty: Black Ops and were generally lazy the rest of the time.

Happily this won’t be the only brother visit of the year. We’re visiting my family’s farm in July since brother #1 will be visiting from Australia, and then in the fall we’ll be visiting Australia for three weeks ourselves. Beaucoup de familial bonding, as they say.