“Chekhov.”

Lindsay and I have both been so busy that we haven’t had much of a chance to just have a normal Saturday night out. Last night we finally managed it.

First we had dinner at The Civic in the Broadview Hotel:

  • Petite Thuet sourdough w/ cultured butter
  • freshly shucked west coast & east coast oysters w/ hot sauce, horseradish, lemon
    • glasses of Champagne
  • 36oz herb-crusted bone-in dry-aged ribeye w/ confit shallot, roasted sunchokes
  • crispy potatoes
    • bottle of Malbec

Then we went to the Crows Theatre to see Stars: Together, a play by and about the band Stars. It was musical-ish and autobiographical-ish, not quite like anything I’ve seen before.

We capped off the evening with glasses of wine (including one of the mulled variety) at Chez Nous.

Today we’re right back at it but it was nice to shut off for those few hours last night.

Significant ingestion

Well now, THAT was a fun weekend. Lindsay’s brother was in town, and we squeezed a whole lot of fun (and somehow a fair amount of relaxation) into less than two days.

We picked him up at the airport Friday night, and after dropping his stuff at our place, we went straight to White Lily. He’d heard about it. It lived up to his expectations. “Absurd” is what he said, I think. We relaxed at home and introduced him to Fargo (the TV show, not the movie).

The next morning I got a haircut and brought home peameal sandwiches for all some and jumped into the Fargo episode they were watching. After a bit we made our way to Boxcar Social, walking through the first few minutes of Eats & Beats, to sample some cortados and tasty beers.

After that we walked up Broadview to Good Cheese, took a picnic basket of cheese and meat and baguette and cole slaw and some drinks, and walked up to Riverdale Park East where we sat and enjoyed a perfect day.

We left there, grabbed another cortado at Rooster across the street, walked a little further for the full view (best in the city, in my opinion), and then walked home.

After a little more Fargo we got on with the reason for the visit: an Anderson .Paak concert at Echo Beach. We arrived just in time to catch the last 30 seconds of Thundercat‘s set, then watched NoName kill it, and then saw Anderson .Paak absolutely torch the place. I wasn’t expecting much — I was more tagging along than anything, and have never been super into his music, but holy shit what a show. Huge spectacle technically. Amazingly locked-in band. Insane energy. Maybe a little too much “Torontooooooooooo” pandering. Fantastic vibes though. And I had no idea he’s such an amazing drummer. Anyway, it was better than I expected, and actually a pretty fucking remarkable show. Bonus: after days of thunderstorm warnings it barely even rained…there was just got this bad-ass fog that rolled in during the encore. Anyway, we were glad it seemed worth a flight to Toronto — “Absurd Plus” was the assessment, if I recall.

[Setlist]

This morning we got ourselves out of bed for some massive replenishing breakfasts at Eastbound (we all got the fork + knife fried chicken sandwich) and then had to have a little nap before heading to the airport. What a fun visit. What a killer concert.

What a great weekend.

Sparks

Last night we completed our August full o’ concerts, seeing Beach House at the Sony Centre. They were just so…dreamy? Trance-y? Lush? The music is just as breathy and ethereal live as it is on the albums (not surprising; about 1/4 of it is backing track, not live) largely because it’s so precise and layered, so I didn’t hear anything new, but the visuals — intensely lights and effects back-lighting three silhouettes — added a lot.

Unfortunately there was a constant flow of people walking in and out, which was distracting, especially since no one could find their way back without turning on their phone’s light. I don’t know if people were tripping from the lights or just had to pee a lot, but it kept yanking me out of the moment. Still: so lovely.

The reported set list:

  1. Levitation
  2. Wild
  3. PPP
  4. Dark Spring
  5. Heart of Chambers
  6. Lazuli
  7. L’Inconnue
  8. Myth
  9. Rough Song
  10. Sparks
  11. Girl of the Year
  12. Space Song
  13. Wishes
  14. Drunk in LA
  15. Wildflower
  16. Lemon Glow
  17. Walk in the Park
  18. Dive

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Also: before the concert we had dinner — a much better outing than last time, too. This time we stopped at Leña, in my old neighbourhood. I’d never managed to go, as it opened not long before I moved, but I’m glad we stepped in — it was very tasty. We had:

  • bread w/ housemade miche, salted butter
  • sea bream tartare w/ sweet green tomato, lime, nasty sauce, potato
  • seasonal oysters w/ half dozen, cava mignonette, nasty sauce
  • angus beef ribeye steak w/ peperonata, yukon gold chips, chimichurri
  • 12 vegetable salad w/ milk mayonnaise, charred & raw vegetables, tomatillo & coriander dressing

It was all good, but the sea bream tartare was so spicy and delicious. I’d go back just for that.

 

Hope Drone

Last Tuesday I met Lindsay after work for dinner and some beers at Stout Irish Pub before strolling around the corner to the Phoenix.

We were there to see Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Lindsay for the first time, me for the first time in seven years. We got there late so it was tough to find a good spot, but it’s not like you need to see much of what GY!BE does on stage. They started, as they often do, with “Hope Drone” before moving on to more. We’d eventually hear a lot of their latest album Luciferian Towers (including “Bosses Hang”, to my mind one of their best songs) but I was happily surprised when their second song was “Mladic”, another of my all-time favourites, coming from a few albums back.

Midway through the concert I moved toward the back, which was kind of a mistake, and I drifted away from the show a little. But then they ended with the “Sad Mafioso” section of “East Hastings”, which always reminds me of watching 28 Days Later with Tim in London sixteen years ago, and it was savage and thumping and so amazing to see live when I never thought I would. So for the second time I ended up having a weird, almost offputting experience seeing GY!BE, but they played three of my favourite songs, so it felt worth it.

Of course, it might have been fitting if they’d played “Storm” instead since we exited into an epic deluge which swamped the city and drenched me to the bone trying to get home.

The set list:

  • “Hope Drone”
  • “Mladic”
  • “Bosses Hang”
  • “Fam/Famine”
  • “Undoing a Luciferian Towers”
  • “Monheim” (including Murray Ostril / ‘…They Don’t Sleep Anymore on the Beach…’) from “Sleep”
  • “The Sad Mafioso” from “East Hastings”

Digital Witnesses

On Tuesday we went to the Sony Centre for one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen: St. Vincent, on her Masseduction tour. The performance was so stylish and sharp and overwhelming, and the music was just as good live as on the albums, and she fucking shreds on guitar. A couple of times it was so good that I actually welled up, just from the sheer awesomeness. It was made all the better by the crowd being so into it (except the two dunces standing next to Lindsay). What an experience.

The set list:

  1. Sugarboy
  2. Los Ageless
  3. Masseduction
  4. Savior
  5. Huey Newton
  6. Year of the Tiger
  7. Marrow
  8. Pills
  9. Cruel
  10. Cheerleader
  11. Digital Witness
  12. Rattlesnake
  13. Hysterical Strength
  14. Young Lover
  15. Fear the Future
  16. Slow Disco
  17. New York
  18. Smoking Section
  19. Happy Birthday, Johnny
  20. Severed Crossed Fingers

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Also: before the concert we tried East 36, which used to be Lucien, and it…wasn’t very good. I mean, our cocktails were good, but after that the problems began: our oysters were served without any sauces, my confit duck leg was too fatty (even for confit duck!), and Lindsay’s NY strip was like shoe leather. Lindsay’s Cab was okay, but my Pinot was rubbish. Don’t think we’ll be going back there anytime soon.

Pa’lante

Even though I moved to this neighbourhood a year ago — almost exactly a year ago, actually — I hadn’t been back to The Opera House to see a gig. In fact, looking back through this here blog machine, I see that it’s been (again, almost exactly) sixteen years since I watched Spiritualized play there, and more than fifteen years since I watched my beloved Sleater-Kinney blow us all up there. Nothing since though, at least as best I can remember.

The reason I say all this: Thursday, after some dinner at La Carnita, we headed to the Opera House for a triple bill. We arrived in the middle of Bedouine‘s (website) set, which sounded lovely. I wish we’d seen a little more of her.

Next up was Hurray For The Riff Raff (website), a band I’ve listened to a fair bit in the past and whose last album I really liked. I would have gone to see them on their own; the fact that they were co-headlining with another excellent band made this ticket a steal. I loved their set — singer/guitarist/songwriter Alynda Lee Segarra has a voice that doesn’t seem real, and an incandescent stage presence. Some of their songs are fun; some are heavy as fuck (like “Kids Who Die” which Segarra wrote after reading the Langston Hughes poem), but all were captivating.

The headliner that night was Waxahatchee (bandcamp), whose last album I also loved. Their set was a little less incendiary than HFTRR’s, but as solid as I wanted: lots of songs from the last album, a few good cuts from Ivy Tripp, fun banter. It had me listening to their whole repertoire the next day.

Also: walking in our front door, like, three minutes after the show ended? Sweet.

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Old Old Fashioned

Yesterday might be one of my very favourite days.

Lindsay got home very late the night before, so we slept in a bit. Eventually we got up and had brunch at Lil’ Baci. It was Baci’s last day of operation (in its current form, anyway) and it’d been kind of an important place for us. It’s the first place we ate brunch together, and yesterday we actually happened to sit at the same table. It was also our regular brunch spot when we eventually moved into the neighbourhood. Bye, Baci.

After lunch we were sleepy and needed a nap and discovered that Google Home can play ambient sounds like waves crashing and we had the nicest little power nap.

Eventually we needed some more food, so to power up and get in the Olympic spirit, we picked up a little Kaboom Korean fried chicken and kimchi fries.

In the evening we joined our friends Mike and Heather for a concert, preceded by a visit to Birreria Volo. The second incarnation of my old favourite beer spot Bar Volo, I’d somehow never been to this new one. Well, actually, it wasn’t that much of a mystery: I basically never find myself on College west. Anyway, maybe I should — the beer selection was predictably excellent (I had a Collective Arts dry hop sour, a Shacklands/Volo Mezza Note espresso milk stout, and a Rouge River Never Say Never Russian Imperial stout aged in Jack Daniels barrels) and so was the vibe.

Anyway, the concert: we were in that neighbourhood to see Frightened Rabbit. Mike and Heather have seen them many times; I hadn’t seem them since 2009, when they were touring their breakout album The Midnight Organ Fight. That same album is what brought us out last night — they’re playing the whole thing. After a few other songs they launched into it, and it holds up so well, especially live. Unfortunately the Mod Club was a sweaty box of hot, and there were so many rude assholes around us…some woman was practically standing on Lindsay, and some drunk couple behind me spent the last half half a dozen songs slow dancing / grinding / falling over on me. It kind of took me out of the moment for songs like “Keep Yourself Warm”, “Poke”, and “Floating In The Forth”. We left Mike and Heather to enjoy the encore, and found cool air = our sanity outdoors.

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Cover photo from X929

Tonight under the harsh white lights

For the second time in a week I was back at the Danforth Music Hall last Thursday, this time for the Rural Alberta Advantage. Like Mogwai earlier in the week, I’d seen them before at a much smaller venue (also Lee’s Palace), and it was impressive to see them now selling out this much larger venue. On back to back nights, no less.

So, no more Amy Cole, but the rest was the same: high energy from Nils Edenloff, absolutely outstanding drumming by Paul Banwatt (it’s safe to say he’s one of my favourite drummers right now), and the typical RAA barnburner of a show. If you haven’t seen them live, and experienced hundreds of people singing along to the voice of a lover buried under a rockslide, you need to. With the retirement of The Tragically Hip (side note: they dedicated “Stamp” to Gord Downie) and the semi-retirement of The Rheostatics, I stand by my contention that The RAA is the most Canadian bank working today.

Setlist:

  1. White Lights
  2. Muscle Relaxants
  3. Don’t Haunt This Place
  4. Bad Luck Again
  5. Tornado ’87
  6. Vulcan, AB
  7. Our Love…
  8. Brother
  9. Runners in the Night
  10. Beacon Hill
  11. Four Night Rider
  12. Alright
  13. Stamp
  14. Edmonton
  15. Frank, AB
  16. In the Summertime
  17. Wild Grin
  18. Terrified

Encore:

  1. The Build
  2. Dead / Alive
  3. Drain the Blood
  4. The Dethbridge in Lethbridge

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.:.

Cover photo from X929

Battered at a Scramble

I first saw Mogwai 15 years ago. It was the loudest…uh…just, the loudest. Also one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, but a venue like Lee’s Palace just isn’t built to withstand such monstrous sound. I saw them again eight years ago, this time at The Phoenix, which was a much more suitable vessel.

Last Tuesday I saw them for a third time, this time with Lindsay in tow. After some dinner at the Edmund Burke we took up our spots on the floor of the Danforth Music Hall, and waited. (Side note: the opener, Xander Harris, was…not our thing. At all.)

I admit, I’ve not followed band news all that closely in recent years, so I didn’t know that a) John Cummins has left the band, or b) Martin Bulloch had to drop out of this tour due to ill health (presumably due to his ongoing pacemaker issues…either way, get well soon Martin!) to be replaced by Honeyblood drummer Cat Myers.

Luckily their touring members didn’t miss much of a step, so they were as epic as I remember. They drew heavily on the new album, but still dipped as far back as “Cody” and then hammered us with “Mogwai Fear Satan”. That, as when I saw them in 2009, was the penultimate song of their main set. Poor Lindsay, despite my warnings, probably didn’t quite expect the noisy onslaught against which we were to stand in, but gamely held on. Her response was the same as all first-time Mogwai-ers, I expect: beautiful, but brutal.

I wondered what their encore closer might be. I’ve heard “Like Herod” live. I’ve heard “Helicon 1”. I’ve heard “My Father My King.” I’ve heard “Mogwai Fear Satan” twice now. So “We’re No Here” was the perfect choice — and, to my mind, the only more recent song possessing the enormity those other songs can claim.

Setlist:

  1. Crossing the Road Material
  2. Friend of the Night
  3. Party in the Dark
  4. Cody
  5. Rano Pano
  6. Battered at a Scramble
  7. Killing All the Flies
  8. Don’t Believe the Fife
  9. I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead
  10. Every Country’s Sun
  11. Mogwai Fear Satan
  12. Old Poisons

Encore:

  1. Remurdered
  2. We’re No Here

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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

-Intermission-

  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

-Encore-

  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.