VII. The Grand Finale

When I was a teenager I was obsessed with Rush. I was a drummer, so of course I was obsessed with them, but their lyrics and challenging song structures also appealed to me in the way that drew a lot of shy nerds.

The arrival of Nirvana on our small-town radio dials drew me to grunge and away from prog, and soon I didn’t listen to Rush much at all. I must have sold most of my CDs since the only albums in my MP3 collection are Moving Pictures and the live concerts. And I had to look this morning to even know that.

Since I moved to Toronto I’ve had plenty of chances to see them live — a chance I would have died for growing up — but by then I’d moved on. Recently, though, they began the R40 tour (that’s their 40th anniversary tour, kids…forty goddamn years) and rumours abounded that this tour would be their last, so I figured I shouldn’t wait anymore. I figured I owed them an in-person thank you for all those years. So I bought a ticket. Just one; Nellie would rather have punched herself than watch Rush live.

The time on the ticket said 8pm; normally that would be my signal to not show up at a concert until at least 9pm, but something told me this would be different. I got to the ACC at 8:05 and to my seat at 8:10, just as the lights fell and they walked on stage (so I missed their traditional opening video montage).

By the way, what you’ve heard about Rush shows is true: 98% dudes, mostly middle-aged. I did see some younger guys there with their dads, which surprised me until I realized that this is the same scenario as me going with my dad to see Dylan. The music that was important to him, which also had staying power and said something, meant something to me. It was like that for these dudes too. I liked that.

Anyway, the setlist (courtesy of Cygnus X-1, a Rush fan site which makes me realize HOW MUCH NERDIER I would have been about Rush if I’d had an internet connection growing up):

  1. The Anarchist
  2. Headlong Flight
  3. Far Cry
  4. The Main Monkey Business
  5. How It Is
  6. Animate
  7. Roll The Bones
  8. Between the Wheels
  9. Losing It
  10. Subdivisions


  1. Tom Sawyer
  2. YYZ
  3. The Spirit of Radio
  4. Natural Science
  5. Jacob’s Ladder
  6. Cygnus X-1 Book Two: Hemispheres – Prelude / Cygnus X-1 Book One: The Voyage – Prologue / Drum Solo / Cygnus X-1 Book One: The Voyage – Part 3
  7. Closer To The Heart
  8. Xanadu
  9. 2112: I. Overture / II. Temples of Syrinx / IV. Presentation / VII. The Grand Finale


  1. Lakeside Park
  2. Anthem
  3. What You’re Doing
  4. Working Man

As has been their pattern on this tour, they worked backward through their career. So, as a lapsed Rush fan, I didn’t know the first five songs at all. Gotta say, though: the first two were pretty bad-ass. Thoughts on the rest:

“Roll The Bones” is is pretty much where I left Rush, partly because of the rapping (!) on this song. When they began playing it I was fully dreading that part, but they found a good way to deal with it: the main video screen behind the band showed a number of actors performing the rap bridge: Jason Segel & Paul Rudd (kind of like an encore to this?), Jay Baruchel, the Trailer Park Boys, Peter Dinklage (!), Tom Morello, Les Claypool, and Chad Smith. Very fun. Nicely done.

“Losing It” was one of my favourite songs from Signals (it was the first time teenaged me I really acknowledged that one day I’d get old) but I never ever thought I’d get to hear it last night. It was the first time they’d ever played it live, and they brought out Ben Mink — who’d played the electric violin on the original — to play it again. 33 years later, never played it live, and I saw it at my first concert. Amazing. That, followed by “Subdivisions”, reminded me why I’d spent so much on a ticket.

The second set was all the classic Rush everyone craved. I knew we’d hear “Tom Sawyer” and “Spirit Of Radio” and “Closer To The Heart”, but layering in epic pieces like “Natural Science”, “Cygnus X-1”, and most of “2112”, plus unexpected ones like “Jacob’s Ladder” and “Xanadu” were all I could have hoped for. Well…maybe “La Villa Strangiato”, but we didn’t have all night. By the way, it turns out my lizard drummer brain still knows every single drumstroke in Sawyer, YYZ, Subdivisions, and Syrinx. Every. Single. One.

The apocalyptic ending to the 2112 suite would have been a perfectly good finale for me, but they still had a couple of albums left to cover (after a Eugene Levy video clip spared us from the clap-until-they-come-back-out encore cliché). Closing with “Working Man” with the image of a high school gym projected behind them seemed the right monument to their blue-collar-by-way-of-nerdvana body of music, and tribute to their origins.

I’m glad I went. I’m glad I got to see them paint some of the masterpieces that soundtracked my adolescence. I’m glad I got to see one of my musical heroes play a solo that left me shaking my head.

I’m glad there’s still a Rush, even if it only turns out to be for a little while longer.

Snails: speedier than I thought

Last night was an interesting time. We met a couple of Nellie’s friends (one of whom is a dead ringer for Jennifer Westfeldt) at Duke’s Refresher to play some bar trivia. Well, I was also there to drink some beer and watch game 6 of the NBA finals. Side note: Andre Iguodala was the MVP? Really?

Anyway, this wasn’t the hardcore trivia league type thing. It was just some dude behind the bar asking random questions. No weekly leaderboard, no rules (except: no phones), no official scoring…just plain old trivia.

We won the first round of twenty questions (despite my guess at how long it would take a snail to circumnavigate the earth being off by a factor of 5) for which we received $30 off our food order. We were very close to winning the second round as well, but my lack of knowledge of top 40 pop hurt us.

Casual trivia, nice people, decent beer, and it’s on our way home. I can see this becoming a regular thing.

Session VI

The 2015 version of Session craft beer fest (the sixth, by our count) went down yesterday, once again at Yonge Dundas Square. It was a perfect day: sunny, not too hot, full of beer and friends.

We met up with Adam & Alicia, did a reconnaissance mission, and then got started. Along the way we bumped into Steph & Jeff, and I even came across an old friend from the MBA program.

I ended up sampling 14 beers…well, 13 different ones, and went back for seconds on the last one.

  1. Silversmith “Breakfast” Wheat
  2. Whitewater “Class V: No Turning Back” IPA
  3. Wellington Rhubarb Saison
  4. Sawdust City “Until Tomorrow Ingrid” Barrel-aged Cranberry Saison
  5. Stack “Panache” Cedar-Aged Pale Ale
  6. Side Launch “Syrah Vice” Tawse Barrel Aged Wheat (collab w/ Toronto Roller Derby Team)
  7. Innocente “Waterloo 1815” Rye Saison (collab w/ Jordan St. John)
  8. Sawdust City “Limberlost” Saison w/ foraged wood sorrel (collab w/ Johnny Fay from The Tragically Hip)
  9. Big Rig “Release The Hounds” Black IPA
  10. Red Hook “Audible” Ale
  11. Bell City “Round Trip” Cherry Brown Ale (collab w/ Scott Wilson from Departures)
  12. 3 Brasseurs “Cool Beans” Coffee Porter (collab w/ Raina from Indie88)
  13. Flying Monkeys “Russian With Love” Imperial Stout
  14. Flying Monkeys “Russian With Love” Imperial Stout

I’d had the Silversmith and Wellington before, but of the new ones I tried my favourites were the Side Launch, the Sawdust City cranberry saison, and (surprisingly; their beer is usually rubbish) the 3 Brasseurs.

Rounds of beer were punctuated by food (a pork belly taco from Tilde; bacon on a stick from Bacon Nation), K-OS inexplicably singing “I Just Called To Say I Love You” from the main stage, the mega-hammered dudes from Sawdust City singing “O Canada” and demanding that we high-five each other, and a good-but-bad ska band who played every Sublime song ever put to tape.

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We ended the night at Triple A, devouring ribs and nachos and brisket. Actually, I guess we ended it at our place, drinking Bowmore. Technicalities.

My new home: Toronto


I can’t remember the precise date when I moved to Toronto. I know it was May of 1997 but the exact day escapes me. I’m pretty sure it was early in the month; I’d finished university in April and I seem to remember having a week or so to get settled before starting at my new job. Moving here was my first real adventure.

I also can’t remember the exact date I left home for university, but I’m pretty sure it was Labour Day of 1993.

So maybe I’m off by a few days here or there, but what I realized recently is this: I’ve now lived in Toronto longer than I lived on my parents’ farm growing up, thus making it the longest I’ve lived anywhere. I spent my first 6600 days there in Nova Scotia, give or take, and now I’ve spent the same here in Ontario. So Toronto is now, without any mathematical qualification, home.

That doesn’t feel weird to me. But it feels weird that it doesn’t feel weird, if that makes any sense.

I didn’t expect to live here for that long. I didn’t expect to live any one place for that long. I really thought I’d end up moving cities a lot, especially at first, and I almost did move to Vancouver at one point. But work kept me here, and then kept me here longer, and now I’m at the point where I’m not sure where else I could move (in Canada, anyway) if I wanted to advance my career.

I had friends from the east coast who moved here with a loose plan to move back east pretty much as soon as possible. Most did, and have done very well for themselves. I entertained the idea for a while, but like I said…we’d have to do it for a reason other than work, and right now we have no such reason. I envy those friends sometimes though, being back in smaller, friendlier, happier cities. Like Halifax. I miss Halifax. But I’m not sure I could live there again.

I can honestly say that I don’t love living in Toronto. I love a lot of things about the city, but it still doesn’t feel comfortable the way Halifax does. It doesn’t make me swoon the way Vancouver does. It doesn’t thrill me the way New York or Paris do. But those are cities I visit, not live in, and the living there is what exposes the pains and the gaps.

Besides, if Toronto is starting to feel boring, that’s not Toronto’s fault — it’s mine. When I look at how little of the city we frequent, at how few of the things in it we do, I realize it’s not about the city you’re in. It’s how you use your time in it.

When I finally escape my office, maybe I should spend that time going on more adventures.