Monday, November 28, 2016

There is a Lifetime of Fun Stuck Between the Machinery of Your Memory, Go Get It

Depsite Braid being the band who stuck with me the most out of the Midwest's celebrated emo scene in the 90's (well, them or The Get-Up Kids, who were the soundtrack to my anxiety about relationships in university), I was, for some reason, hesitant to listen to the post-Braid band Hey Mercedes.

I think most of that hesitancy came from their name, which kind of sounds like late-aughts Fuelled by Ramen fare.

I eventually got around to listening to their album Everynight Fire Works (embedded above) while at work recently and it fucking blew me away. All the parts that make Braid part of my emo pantheon, the mathy riffs, the stop/start rhythms, and the major league vocal hooks, are still there, but delivered with a little bit more of a power-pop sheen. The songs are strong and catchy and the riffs make me eager to get home from work so that I can learn them on guitar. The album is super strong front-to-back and I feel comfortable calling it a masterpiece.

Nothing else to say, just wanted to share something that I've been really digging lately.

Also, might as well link Frame and Canvas by Braid here too, because if you are reading this and haven't listened to what might be the pinnacle of the emo genre, you really owe it to yourself to get into it:

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Stay What You Are

I have gone to Pouzza Fest three times since the festival started. Pouzza 1 was on of the most fun weekends of my life. I got to see one of my all-time favourite band, Lifetime, for the only time and filled in the weekend with other great memories, like seeing Bad Astronaut with Mark and Pat, and the 3-band cover set that ended the weekend by Dig it Up!, Junior Battles, and !ATTENTION!. Pouzza 2 happened right after I joined Beat Noir and saw four American friends of mine come up for the weekend to see the Lawrence Arms play for the first time in forever at the festival. I played my first show with Beat Noir the Wednesday before the festival and then all my friends stayed at my old Dublin house, the Dude Hole, in Guelph. I got to Classics of Love that weekend and it was one of my favourite sets that I've ever seen.

This is all to say that my favourite memory from Pouzza may have come during the third edition of the festival.

Pouzza Fest 3 happened in 2013 and that year Beat Noir played it. In the months leading up to the weekend, I was very excited to play, because many of my favourite bands were playing too. I would finally get a chance to see mu330! Saves the Day! I was eagerly anticipating the release of the schedule and hoping that Beat Noir wouldn't be playing against somebody I really liked.

When it did come out, Colin psyched me out by saying we had no conflicts, when we actually played against mu330 (but that's a story for another time). I was dismayed to see that Saves the Day was playing one of the "VIP shows" that required a fancy ticket beyond my regular old weekend pass given to band members. I couldn't afford a VIP pass and also didn't want to buy a new weekend pass when I already had one for playing. I resolved "figure it out when I get there" which was really just a positive way of saying "I'm going to pretend that I'm not missing a formative band in my life because I'm the poorest I've ever been".

Regardless of me having no plan to see Saves the Day, I left Kitchener-Waterloo on top of the world. I had just moved into an awesome house with Colin, Mark, and Erik and had jut taken a road trip to Montreal. When we arrived for check-in, we saw that there was a giant stack of tickets on the table for that night's Ataris show, which was Friday's VIP. We figured that this was because the festival's tickets weren't selling well (which turned out to be true) and they wanted to fill out the room. My mind immediately jumped to the next night and wondered if the festival would be doing a similar type of giveaway for Saturday's show, Saves the Day. Colin and Erik were wondering the same thing

Beat Noir played that first night of Pouzza. I also saw Big D and the Kids Table and a secret mu330 show. It was a really good night!

Colin, Erik, and I woke up reasonably early the next morning to go and get coffee and the headed to the Pouzza registration desk to check about tickets. When we arrived, we were greeted with a huge stack of Saves the Day tickets for band members. The free Ataris tickets from the day before were a dead giveaway and I was pretty certain that we would be getting the tickets, but that did not temper the elation that the three of us felt when we got them. I was so happy to have the ticket, the 100% real concrete proof that I was going to see Saves the Day in my hands. I put it in my pocket and periodically checked on it throughout the day. It was like I was carrying around a secret item, so valuable that anyone who knew about it would no doubt try to steal from me.

Colin, Erik, and I then walked back to our dorm that we were splitting with the rest of The Decay and Beat Noir. We immediately started fantasizing about potential setlists. They will no doubt close with "At Your Funeral", "But what if they opened with this!?"

Erik said that he had been looking at Saves the Day setlists from the past year and saw that they had been opening with "Firefly", the closing track of our unanimous pick for best Saves the Day album, and one of my favourites of all-time, Stay What You Are. We all agreed that this would, no doubt, be the best possible way to begin the set and started repeating "I said I'd walk you home!" ad nauseum.

Pouzza Fest 2013 was, for all of its great parts, also pretty annoying. After hanging out with friends for the first part of the day, I headed to Foufones Electroniques, Montreal's preeminent punk bar and venue, to catch the first batch of bands I had lined up for the day. When I held up my wrist to show my band pass, which permitted me to see any "non-VIP" shows, I was stopped by security because upstairs had apparently reached its capacity for band passes. This seemed weird to me, because I assumed that my band pass was the same as a general festival pass. That's what the organizers told us. How could the venue be full at 4 PM? With all due respect to Direct Hit!, who were the band I was trying to get in and watch, the biggest bands of the festival, who would attract those capacity crowds, were slated to play until much later.

Our friends went upstairs and then told us that the venue was pretty much empty. So the venue was empty, but you weren't letting bands in? When we asked about it, the festival said that yes, there was capacity restrictions on band passes, but we could circumvent them by buying a "special weekend pass" priced at $20 for band members. We had noticed that attendance at the festival had been substantially less than the year before, so we took this to be the organizers trying to squeeze extra money out of the people who were already there. Most of the bands that people wanted to see would be playing in Fouf's and they knew this, so they tried to shake down the members of the smaller bands, who made up most of the lineup of the festival, for extra money to get the festival closer to breaking even.

It really sucked and left a bad taste in all of our mouths. We didn't get paid for playing the festival. We drove two vehicles and all of our gear 5 hours there and back. Our remuneration for doing this was receiving a weekend pass to the festival. This was a really shitty thing for the promoters to do.

I saw a few bands at other venues that afternoon (not the ones I was planning on or wanted to) and then decided to just head to the Saves the Day show I had a ticket for early because I had nothing else to do.

The first band was a punk band from Montreal that had pretty much nobody there to see them. The next band was a pop-punk band that had a Pennywise shirt-wearing bass player. Make Do and Mend followed and though I love Bodies of Water much more than any of their other output, they put on a really tight set.

Braid was set to be the final opener before Saves the Day headlined the show. A very drunk Kyle from Wayfarer started berating me about seeing mu330 the night before, saying "Ska sucks man. How can you listen to that shit? You should listen to Braid." missing that I was waiting in the crowd with him to watch Braid.

Braid is really good! The sound kind of sucked for their set, but it didn't change the fact the band brings loads and loads of energy to their performance and that their songs stand up as maybe the best emo songs.

Saves the Day then came out and started to set up their gear. Though I still hang on to to my anger about Pouzza Fest treating us, and all the other bands, so badly, that was erased in the extended moment of me seeing one of my favourite bands live for the first time, surrounded by a group of my closest friends. Erik peeked at the setlist that they taped on the stage and immediately whipped around smiling. I told him to hold off on any information, preferring the moment of surprise when they started.

The band had some gear issues while setting up, but then Chris Conely said "Fuck it." into the mic and decided to play the whole set sans pedals, with his guitar going right into his amp. A small gesture, but a sign of him being a performance veteran who knows how to please a crowd nonetheless. That "Fuck it." was quickly followed by Chris approaching the mic again and singing


Erik, Colin, and I immediately jumped all over each other shouting along every word. We had talked all day about this and it turned out exactly the way we had hoped it would, which is something that so rarely happens. It was exactly what all of us needed after that shitty of an afternoon.

The band proceeded to run through a set of classics from their first three albums, mixed with an occasional later song. They even played the most premium deep-cuts "Sell My Old Clothes, I'm Off to Heaven" and "A Drag in D-Flat"! It felt like everybody else in the room was just standing there bearing witness to the three of us having the time of our lives. A unique experience in friendship for me.

Once the set ended, Erik forced his way to the stage, ripped the setlist off of it, and shoved it into my chest:

We drove home from Pouzza on Sunday night, with half of The Decay, Jeff Kenney and I doing an all-night caravan directly after The Decay played their set. I was pretty drunk that night and fell asleep basically as soon as the van pulled out of the driveway in Montreal and then woke up at 7 AM in Mississauga. We got home and passed out immediately. That was the end of Pouzza Fest in 2013.

The Saves the Day set was all that my friends and I could talk about for the whole summer, to the point that Erik, Colin, and I considered getting matching Saves the Day tattoos. We were going to get old-style lightbulbs with fireflies inside of them, coupled with a Saves the Day lyric. Erik initially suggested "I said I'd walk you home", but followed that immediately with "Maybe, that's too cheesy." (it was). We settled on "Stay what you are" accompanying the lightbulbs and were 80% serious about all going to get them. We made initial plans about making appointments, but never went through.

Though the tattoos never materialized, the feeling that inspired them is still very real. It will always stay.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Roller

My favourite Against Me! song is "Even At Our Worst We're Still Better Than Most (The Roller)" off of the album Searching for a Former Clarity. Like most of my favourite songs, I have a vivid memory tied to it, which kinds of cements it in my personal pantheon of songs.

While living in Kitchener, my friends and I used to drive to a quarry halfway between Guelph and Kitchener late at night. We could only go at night, because it was private property and you would the cops called on you otherwise. Once there, we sneak through a fence, trek through a bit of brush and then go and jump into the quarry and swim. It was always dark and hard to see, which made it incredibly scary to jump into the water, but also made it that much better once you did it.

The water was always cold, but getting out and walking back to the car felt amazing. Everyone's hair would look a little silly because we had just gone swimming and we would be a weird bathing suit/band t-shirt crew. It felt amazing because we were doing something that we weren't supposed to be doing. It felt like we were part of the counterculture and that being part of it was what binded us together.

I didn't know many people when I first moved to Kitchener and these quarry trips were a big part of me becoming friends with people who I now treasure dearly.

After the first quarry jump of my first summer in Kitchener, we got into The Decay's van (which later became Beat Noir's first van) and I sat in the back row. Erik was sitting shotgun. We listened to Bleed American by Jimmy Eat World, but that had finished on the trip there. Erik picked up the iPod plugged into the stereo and put on "Even At Our Worst We're Still Better Than Most (The Roller)", which caught me off-guard because it is the 11th track on the album. We rolled down the windows and played the song at full volume while driving extremely fast down an small, empty highway at 2 AM.

My reaction to the music was absolutely visceral and physical, so I tried to hide any reaction I was having to it. Fortunately, it was dark and I was in the back corner of the van.

This type of thing has only happened to me a few times and I think it occurs when I hear the perfect song for a moment that also happens to be intensely emotional for me. One was "Chicago" by Big D and the Kids Table while walking home in the rain and also listening to "Felt Just Like Vacation" during a snow storm while walking down Edwin Street in Guelph while extremely sad. I guess they're all moments when the feeling the song stirs in me is overwhelming. They can be good or bad, but they're all equally strong.

For me, the song's lyrics are a testament to believing in your band.

We'll give the money back, to the record label. Fire the agent, fire the manager.

Let someone else take our place, let them be your entertainment.

You know they're waiting to tear us apart.

You realize at a certain point in being in a band that you either do things your way and stay unsuccessful, or do them somebody else's way and be successful. I don't mean this in the typical "sign to a major label and sell out" way, but it's more that you find that you're sort of forced to make minor concessions to a lot of different people along the way. A lot of very small things that seem inconsequential at the time add up eventually.

But fuck that. Stick to who you are.

You can also read the lyrics as a typical punk manifesto of "Fuck them all. Fuck their rules. We'll do it our way. We don't care if we fail." and I think the tropiness of that message combined with the fucking ferocious and perfect delivery of the song by Laura Jane is what makes this song perfect.

Fuck them all.

Fuck their rules.

We'll do it our way.

We don't care if we fail.

And, most of all, you can't stop us.

Some people would maybe look at that message as juvenile, but those are exactly the fucks who never really understood what they were being told in the first place.

I couldn't find the actual version of the song, which is why I put the kid covering it at the top of the page. I was expecting it to be a sub-par cover, as most acoustic videos on the internet are, but it wound up being great and I think that a young kid screaming the lyrics while playing his guitar speaks profoundly to the message I was just talking about.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sedated and Shameless

Today I found out, through a Facebook post, that the Pity Sex has decided to call it day. Given that vocalist/guitarist Britty Drake decided to leave the band earlier this year, and her voice was so integral to the band's sound, I figured it was a matter of time before Pity Sex was toast.

This is normal. The first I recall hearing about Pity Sex was when their demo came out in 2011, so it's totally normal for a band who's been active that long to expire. Putting out two full-lengths, an EP, and two splits is a great career of music to hang your hat on and nothing to be ashamed of.

I'm usually pretty hesitant to put up eulogies for bands up on here because bands come and go so easily. If I wanted to give praise to every band that I thought was great a break up, it would dominate the whole friggin' site. This case seemed important though, as Pity Sex's music dominated a brief, but notable period of my life.

As I said, I caught wind of the band in 2011, because a girl I followed on tumblr posted about them a few times, but that was not when I started listening to them at all. I actually remember the moment I did quite well.

At the time, I was living in a basement apartment in Waterloo with Mark. I was working the worst job I've ever had and the only things I found myself enjoying were plodding along on Beat Noir's absolutely awful EP Permanently and volunteering with kids at the city's art gallery. This was a time when Mark was also going through some shit, starting a similarly awful job and a long-term relationship ending, and that served to unite us, along with Duff, in the way that only a shared experience like that can.

One night, Duff picked me up and we then went to go grab Mark from his auto rental sales job. It was deep winter and we were driving through what must have been the snowiest part of the year. If you looked out the window, it seemed like all you saw was white and black. Duff put on Pity Sex's album Feast of Love and I asked who they were. When I found out, I said I had tried to get into them, but hadn't succeeded. Duff said he liked it because they had trimmed down the songs and made everything faster. Though Feast of Love is a 10-song full-length and Dark World is a 6-song EP, they're almost the same length. I said I liked it. Mark go in the car and immediately said he liked it too.

When summer came around, Feast of Love became my go-to album when leaving the house. I started each day by skateboarding downhill down King St in Waterloo and Pity Sex, combined with hot, sunny weather, seemed like the perfect companion to this. Feast of Love became an integral part of my day and, apologies for the cliché, the soundtrack to my day-to-day activities. Well, it and Self-Titled by Tigers Jaw, which has its own story as well. The quick and dreamy shoegaze of the band was exceptionally suited to my lifestyle and influenced a lot of stuff I did. It's also an album that Mark, Duff, and I can all agree on, which is special and rare.

When I started university that fall I kept listening to Pity Sex and also started dating Rebecca. While we do overlap in our musical tastes, we also differ a fair amount. Pity Sex was an early thing that we both shared our enthusiasm for and exists in the centre of the Venn diagram that illustrates our tastes.

Pity Sex toured with Ceremony in the summer of 2015 and Rebecca and I went to the show together. This was the only time that I saw the band. They played great and though the show wasn't exceptionally noteworthy, the entire experience of watching them play for 30 minutes with Rebecca was special.

White Hot Moon didn't do much for me and Dark World doesn't either, to be honest, but Feast of Love and the split with Adventures is just wonderful. The degree to which Pity Sex influenced the current shoegaze leanings of emo is also something that, though not objective, is also not talked about.

Kudos to Pity Sex for all they accomplished with their music.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Can We Just Lie Here and Find a Way to Kill Some Time Here

This Friday marks the opening of the new fall exhibitions at my work and that means an influx of work to go along with it. That means longer hours and less time to write. I'm sort of short on ideas right now, but do have a backlog of topics in my drafts, so my current plan is to knock one of those out to get myself back on track and resume my life as a content mule.

In the meantime, I thought I would talk about some music I've been into lately because that is easy for me to do and it's also something I used to do a lot and I kind of wish I did more.

Oso Oso played Toronto last night and I made a point to go. I find it's easy to let shows fall by the wayside while I'm busy with work and I hate that that has become a habit. The last time I saw Oso Oso, they were opening for The Hotelier and they blew me away. They sit at a halfway point between current "emo revival" bands like The World is a Beautiful Place and The Hotelier et al. and Third Eye Blind's Self-Titled, which happens to be one of my favourite albums. They pull off this mixture perfectly and are big-time on melody, guitar riffs, and vocal harmonies. This time they were on a smaller headlining tour and were just as good. The band is tight as hell and great at what they do. I was ready to sing along to my favourite bangers from the most excellent Real Stories of True People, Who Kind of Looked Like Monsters... (DISCLAIMER: LISTEN TO THAT RECORD), but was instead greeted by a set that was like half new songs that were just as good, if not better, than what I had already heard.

I can't say enough great things about that band. They're going to be big shit soon and if they aren't, they deserve to be. Support them.

Since last Friday I've also been going hard on the new Joyce Manor album, Cody. Every time Joyce Manor puts out something new, it also causes to revisit everything else they've put out. This time was no different and I've been in full Joyce Manor Mode since Cody came out. I really appreciate and love when band's try to do something new for each record and Joyce Manor is a great example of that. They started with a wonderful debut album that was equal parts emo, hardcore, and pop-punk, but in a way that was completely different from the awful, whiney, breakdown-heavy version that most losers were into. Instead of building on that sound and cashing in on hype, they put out an abrasive 9-song, 14-minute follow up that weirded a ton of people out. Of the 9 songs, two are short acoustic songs, one's a (phenomenal) cover of "Video Killed the Radio Star", and one uses a lo-fi synth as its base. While I initially wasn't huge on the record, but loved the idea, I now find myself coming back to it a lot. THEN, they hit everyone with a polished 3rd album of pop-punk hits that remain short, to-the-point, and idiosyncratic.

I lovelovelovelove bands who aren't afraid to write short songs and albums. "Keep it simple stupid."

With all of this said, I've been thinking that Cody may be my favourite of their's yet and also probably my favourite thing released this year. The band has started to show a huge power-pop influence (a direct path to my heart) and Cody sees the band taking healthy doses of Blue and #1 Record, in addition to their usual influences. It's mature and a great take on a sound that I daydream about using myself a lot. A link to the album is at the start of the preceding paragraph.

Joyce Manor is a band whose sound and influences have grown along with me, which has really endeared them to me. Their music has stuck around with me and now, like 7 years later, they are all of a sudden near the top of my favourite bands and definitely one of the current bands that matters the most, IMO. An odd reason that I feel really attached to them is that if I were still really serious about writing songs, and I had continued writing and working them after I just sort of stopped a few years ago, then I think Barry and I would have very similar writing styles. It's cool to see the style I sort of worked within be taken and done extremely well and much better than I ever came close to doing.

Good record. You should listen!

Another record that has been in regular rotation during my work hours is the most recent full-length by LVL UP, Return to Love. I love me some poppy, fuzzy indie rock and this album delivers that in spades. The songs kind of sound like In the Aeroplane Over the Sea to me, albeit without the acoustic instruments and the distinctive lyrics. Does that make sense? Listen, and you'll get it. Good. A good record that will no doubt be on my end of the year list of favs.

Lastly, I've been hanging out a lot with Thin Lizzy's Fighting, which is the record before the one that everyone knows. I love Thin Lizzy and feel like they are unjustly overlooked in the revered pantheon of 70's rock band. They got riffs. Fuck do they ever have riffs. This record probably deserves as much attention as anything from the decade.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Words that I'll Read and Re-Write

From yesterday:

"I certainly feel like I need to eulogize Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, but maybe I'll wait until the team's playoff fate is decided before I do that."

I think that one of them, uhhhhh, did something yesterday?

An incredibly exciting game. One of the very best in Blue Jays history.

After playing what then could have been his last home game as a Blue Jay against Baltimore last week, Edwin said something to the effect of "That's not the way I want to go out." He did much more than that, providing me, and all Jays fans, with a moment that will live forever. I jumped up and yelled "Oh my god!" immediately running back and forth across my apartment. The raised arms with the bat falling. Taking the parrot for a walk in the most dramatic fashion possible. These are the moments that you wait and hope for as a baseball fan and Toronto Blue Jays fans have been lucky enough to experience many of them over the last two years because of the high number of special players on the team.

In Eddie's words, from his post-game, champagne-soaked interview:

"Yeah, that's why I want to come back here. And I did it. Yeaaaaahhhhhh!"

Before I go on to give my thoughts about Edwin Encarnacion, I feel that I should link to an excellent article by John Lott on Edwin from last week:

Lott: Edwin Encarnacion can see the end of his Blue Jay career coming, but isn't ready for it yet

I feel a fierce sense of pride and ownership towards Edwin Encarnacion. He's been on the Jays for a long time (came in a trade for SCOTT ROLEN in 2009!) and the early days of that was markedly different from the huge success he has achieved with the team over the last few years. He hit for a bit of power, hitting 5 home runs in four-game series twice in 2010, but was abysmal playing 3rd base and ultimately a mixed bag. He was thrown into the trade because the Jays needed someone to replace Rolen at third and that made me a little antagonistic towards him at first. The joy of watching Scotty fuckin' Rolen play third base for the Jays had been taken away from me, so naturally the guy who replaced him seemed like just the worst.

Eddie's nickname at this time was "E5", the scoring note for an error by a third baseman, and boy, was it ever apt. Throws kind of went everywhere. But he had his moments. I remember going to a game early on in the 2012 season with my brother while talking with him about which player t-shirt he would like to get, him jokingly suggesting "E5" because he had piled up a decent amount of home runs early in the season. The thing is, though, that Edwin never stopped hitting them that year and ended up with 42 at year's end to go along with a move to first base. After Jose Bautista had his coming out party in 2010, Edwin followed and the Jays all of a sudden had as potent of a 3-4 combination that existed in major league baseball.

Edwin hasn't let up since and has turned into one of the true offensive forces in the game. A once-in-a-generation player for this team. Edwin and Jose Bautista are Toronto's "Bash Brothers" or "Manny and Papi". An offensive force that is as fun to watch as they are talented and something that the rest of the league wishes they could have. During Spring Training in 2014 my dad and I were talking about the team and he described Edwin at-bats as "just a joy to watch". There is no better way to describe them.

While Edwin was still struggling through his 2009-2011 seasons with the Jays, Jose Bautista was at the peak of his career. Jose was everything. Maybe the best position player in the league and a peerless power hitter. Couple this with a fiery temper, and we (Jays fans) all thought he was the best thing to happen to the team in a long time. The prospect hugging that I had gotten used to with the Jays suddenly turned into "We can't waste this version of Jose Bautista." Something I thought was weird though, was that out of all the players on the team, Jose seemed to be best friends with Edwin Encarnacion.

The first time I noted this was when the two of them went on a fishing trip together on a day off. Why wasn't Jose friends with the better players on the team? It didn't make a lot of sense to me at the time, but is really funny to think of in hindsight. The two of them started to do a "flex" celebration after one of them hit a home run, which is absolutely the precursor to the popular wild and complicated handshakes that the Jays have with each other now.

Only after a few seasons did I start to get a sense of Edwin's personality and how he is the most care-free, joyous, and funny guy on the team. A big part of this is that he rarely does interviews in English, so Torontonians who receive most of their information on players through English media outlets aren't as privy to his character as his teammates are. His teammates all seem to love him, so it's been a neat ride over the 8 years of discovering the type of guy he is through small snapshots of clubhouse life through twitter and instagram.

Once I saw what Edwin was actually like, it was hard to believe I ever disliked him and thought he was bad at baseball. I hate that I ever thought he was bad at baseball, because he brings a great joie de vivre to the Jays is absolutely integral to the team's identity and also its success.

Case in point is the interview he did after hitting a colossal moonshot in the 11th inning yesterday that also sent the team to the ALDS.

First he gives a fairly standard answer, through a translator, to the fairly standard question of "What were you thinking in that at-bat?" The reporter then asks about his apparent goodbye salute to the 'Dome and Edwin responds, in heavily-accented English:

"Thass why, thass why I wanna come back here because that happened tonight! Yeaaaahhhh!"

This sounded like it was little league player talking about a walk-off home run he had just hit to give his friends the victory and I think that that type of boyhood astonishment and "Man, that thing I just did? That was awesome!" tone is so endearing and amazing. It makes me happy to see him succeed after he endured early in his career here and it certainly contributes to the "older brother" feeling I have towards him, despite him being a Dominican man who is 6 years my senior.

I never want him to leave because there is no doubt in my mind that if he stayed he would become a David Ortiz-type figure for Toronto. And I just love watching him play so much. But he might. He probably will.

But that's also a conversation for December. For now the conversations should all be about the home run he hit last night and how we've seen him do it so many times before and we're going to see him do it a few more times this October.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Luck Be a Lady Tonight

After the Toronto Blue Jays lost back-to-back series against the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, dropping 2 out of 3 games to each, most Jays fans had resigned themselves to the fact that the team would probably be participating in the Wild Card play-in game. I tried to convince myself that they would go on a big winning streak and jump over Boston one last time to win the division, but I think that was mostly a deliberately optimistic response to the deluge of overly-negative haters in Toronto (a problem that plagues the city's sports teams), and I think deep, deep down, I mostly knew they were going to the Wild Card game.

This will be a significant episode in my life as a Blue Jays fan because it's something that's never happened before. The stupid, ridiculous, engaging, and exciting one-game Wild Card game was brought in in 2012 with the purpose of keeping more teams in the playoff hunt later into the season and, in the process, keeping more fanbases interested for longer. Despite how silly I might think a one-game playoff is, it has, without a doubt, done what it was intended to. I personally don't think that the game of baseball is well-suited to the "win and you're in" style of the game the way that American Football is. But it is must-watch. I don't want the Jays to participate in it, because any team can be great for just one game and no matter how you slice it, the Jays' chances are 50%. I would love if they had won the division and guaranteed a best-of-5 series. But that chance, the darker 50% chance, is what makes it crazy. You don't know what's going to happen.

Like I said, nothing like this has happened to the Blue Jays before. The Wild Card game is new and this is the first time that the Jays have participated in it, so I'll remember it forever. It'll either be an addition to last year's story of winning and playoff participation led by Jose, Eddie, Tulo, Russ, Josh, or it will be another addition to the much longer story of the team falling just short of contention.

But at least they're playing at home. It will be crazy and it will be loud.

I've really felt the need to write about the end of this baseball season and the myriad feelings it has wrought, but it's hard to do so and make it relevant always and not just tied to one specific weekend in the 2016 season. A sportswriter I am not. I certainly feel like I need to eulogize Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, but maybe I'll wait until the team's playoff fate is decided before I do that.

Beat the fucking Orioles guys. Let's go.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

We Fucked Our Ears, We Fucked Our Throats

I apologize in advance because I am pretty sure that this will end up being a post that is sort of all over the place. Touching on a lot of topics, hinting that I might be getting a bigger idea or sharp take on one of those topics, and then cutting the prose off before I get there is one of my talents. I may as well embrace it in lieu of avoiding it and doing nothing at all.

I had a minor crisis earlier this week pertaining to work. I have started my new, more serious position at my work under the fancy, typically overblown title attached to the position. I am no longer on the ground floor of the gallery interacting with people and have moved into a desk in an office upstairs. This freaked me out. I don't want to get stuck in an office and have it become comfortable. Don't want to settle into a routine and have small project become mountains. Don't want to wake up one day and find that my closet is full of business-casual collared shirts.

While coming home from work in a pair of quasi-dress pants from H&M and an inoffensive patterned button-up, I felt so fucking fake. Didn't feel like myself at all. I felt like I was in a costume and I was betraying myself.

I think a big part of this is that Beat Noir hasn't done anything at all for about a year or so. We wrote and recorded the album and half-assed promoting it for a week, but otherwise have ceased all activity as a band. We haven't practiced for about two months and even when we were jamming, it wasn't like it was for any particular goal. It sometimes (re: most of the time) feels like the writing is on the wall and the band is over. I don't think that we would make a huge statement about not being a band anymore or "break-up" in the traditional sense, but we aren't really doing anything. It feels really bad. A band is a relationship and this certainly does feel a lot like getting broken up with.

I don't want to be a guy who used to be in a band. Or a guy who used to go to shows. That ain't me. Punk still matters to me as much as it ever did. Don't want to be the "alternative guy" in the office with a few tattoos and stretched ears. Settling into that sort of persona scares the fucking shit out of me.

I was in crisis and wondered if I would be able to avoid this at all. I am working at here for the next two years and that is for certain. Would that mean two years or struggling every day against settling and routine? That seems daunting and exhausting and nightmare for mental health.

I managed to get over that hump and rationalize what I was worried about. I am lucky to have my job. Very lucky! It's not as bad as I make it out to be and it is important to contextualize all problems. I will not become someone I don't want to be unless I let that happen. Sure, it may be taxing, as I described above, but if the alternative is turning into something you hate, then it's kind of an obvious choice, no?

One good thing about this job is that I have realized that working in galleries is not my long-term goal. It was something I always thought I would enjoy, especially after positive experiences at KW|AG, and while it is fine for now, it's not for me in the future. My goal is definitely a PhD and teaching at the university level and I'm going to focus on that as much as my life allows me over the next two years.

As for what I said above about Beat Noir, yeah it sucks. I think about it a lot and how different things could have gone, but I can't remedy that now. While I was really sad about it, I watched the first two things I thought of that pertain to the experience of "being in a band" and what that phrase means in a lot of different ways.

The first was The Minutemen documentary We Jam Econo, which, if you haven't seen it, is a masterpiece. It first boils a once-in-a-generation band down to friendship and then builds on it from there. Friendship is the basis for every band and what keeps it together. The audience doesn't really notice that when they're seeing a performance and most of the time the band isn't really thinking about it, but it's true. You start a band because it's something you want to do with your friends and it's easy to forget that.

The documentary is also great because of the touching humanistic look it gives at the oeuvre of The Minutemen. They never compromised on anything and are, without a doubt, a model for all bands to follow in terms of integrity and morals and ethics. After showing you what's fun about being in a band, the doc shows you what's important about being in a band.

We Jam Econo brought up a lot of emotions in me, as it always does, and served as a way for me to lean into my Beat Noir-related sadness. This is funny, because the other thing I decided to watch was Spinal Tap.

After the serious introspection and emotion caused by We Jam Econo, it was nice to watch something that made light of all the stuff I was thinking about. Spinal Tap really is a masterpiece and is so good at laying on tons and tons of jokes, with just enough of them being so specific that you'll only laugh at them if you've played music before. God, what a fucking good movie.

And you know what, even though it's silly and everyone is an idiot, it stills boils down to Nigel jumping back out to play the solo in "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight".

As I said, all over the place.

I started reading a collection of Frankfurt School essays on art called Aesthetics and Politics. Benjamin and Adorno really stuck out to me in grad school while doing critical theory and I find that returning to their work clear my mind out and gives me context a lot more than some of the bigger names in art theory.

"In it, he argued that Wilhelmine Germany, increasingly a society of parasitic rentiers, had been dominated by philosophies (Neo-Kantianism, Machism, Vitalism) that conjured away the connections between ideology and economics or politic, preventing any perception or critique of imperialist society as a whole. Expressionism had been a literary reflection of that obfuscation."

Funny how problems 100 years ago in Germany are still fucking up the world today. Sub in 20-something self-mockingly complaining about mundane things on social media for Expressionism and you've got a scathing critique of contemporary mass media.

Or at least that's how I see it.

Yours in madcappedness, Timmy Chandler

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Don't Forget the Good Parts

From Monday to Wednesday of this week, the Blue Jays played a three game series against the New York Yankees in New York. The Jays entered the series in first place, 6.5 games ahead of the Yankees, but lost all three and now sit a game behind the Boston Red Sox for the division lead and just 3.5 games ahead of the Yankees.

It was a rough series, to be sure, but I think that my days of huffing and puffing and being anxious when the Blue Jays lose are past me. I still always want the Jays to win and I still get that tightness in my chest during close and stressful games, but I don't beat myself up about losses when they happen. A big part of this is that, if we're being realistic, 2015 was the most fun Blue Jays season that I will ever experience. This doesn't mean that there won't be great moments in the future or that I'm not having fun watching the team anymore. It's more that last season came right at the perfect time and was magical and ethereal and unbelievable. It will be hard to recreate that. A lot of the stress I used to tie to the team was due to me always hoping for something like 2015 to happen. Now it has and my experience as a fan is changing.

Case point is the game from which the above photo comes from. The Jays coughed up a late lead and were behind 7-4 when they started an amazing late-inning rally to score two runs and draw close to tying the game. Edwin Encarnacion got boned on a catcher's interference miscall and then did the unthinkable and legged out an infield hit. A few missteps by the Yankees combined to let the Jays draw close to overtaking the lead. Justin Smoak hit a ball very deep, but Bret Gardner jumped to make an amazing catch (pictured above) on a ball that was about a foot away from being a home run and seemed destined to drive in runs.

There was certainly the customary giant exhale after the pressure of a tight ballgame was released, but no anger came. I was more just happy that I got to witness such a great game. After the catch, Gardner yelled and fist-pumped which was very uncharacteristic for the normally stoic and even-keel Yankees. Part of me even liked seeing the Yankees crack and show emotion like that.

I think that this is a sign of me maturing as a baseball fan and continuing further down the path of valuing the narrative of a game over the result. To be sure, I still root as hard as I can for the Jays, but I would rather seeing a pitchers' duel in which the winning run is driven in by Kevin Pillar than a blowout that ensures a win. I think part of this comes from Roger Angell's books which tell the narrative of a team and its season. The personal stories of the players and cities is really the meat of baseball and what keeps fans coming back. Not the trophies.

I would say I've even grown to a point of respecting rivals. I recognize the history and cultural value that surrounds the New York Yankees. As much as I hate how the team has beaten on the Jays consistently throughout my existence, they are the Yankees and that is what they do.

Not Boston though. I think Pedroia will have to retire before I can even begin to start coming around on that shitpile of a franchise.

I could say something like "the last two years have marked a turning point in my life as a baseball fan", but that is just not true. My experience watching and following baseball is an ever-changing journey that takes on a lot of new parts all the time. The true beauty of something that you keep with you your whole life is that it grows with you and changes just like you do.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

California Jam II

"Fuckin' Mahogany Rush man!"

That line is said by Willoughby in Richard Linklater's most recent film Everybody Wants Some!! while four of the main characters are smoking weed in a bedroom and listening to records. Willoughby explains that Mahogany Rush are more philosophical and make you think as much about the space in between the notes as the notes themselves and they aren't just "guys jumping around in spandex". Plummer responds (after taking a bong toke) "I dunno man, Van Halen are pretty fuckin' awesome." which I'm inclined to agree with.

This scene was the type of coincidence that is so rare that you can barely believe it happened. I'll explain why.


My place of work is on Toronto's harbourfront, which means that throughout the course of the summer, we've gotten a fair amount of randoms and weirdos in to see what we have and talk to us. The encounter I'm about to describe is absolutely my favourite of these weirdos and one of the funniest and memorable experiences I've ever had.

I was in the largest gallery, which was a bunch of fabric sculpture. A pretty rough-looking guy, who I assumed was homeless, came in and started asking me about the show, which he thought was pretty weird. This man looked kind of like an 80's metal burnout whose glory days were long behind him. He had a mullet that had grown out a bit and was greasy and stuck to his head, was wearing sunglasses inside, smelled a little bit and had dirty, grown out fingernails. When he was speaking, it seemed like he wasn't really together, and I think he might have been on something.

One of the sculptures that was showing was a letter L hanging on the wall and the man asked if it was "a psychedelic L", which I had to ask him to repeat a few times and then explain. He was wondering if it was a reference to LSD, which is wasn't. After this he asked me if Franz "gets sex, drugs,a nd rock 'n roll. Like, not sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll, but like, sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll. You know?" I had to reply "Oh yeah, of course he does!"

The guy then told me that he plays guitar, mostly at night, so I assumed, because of his appearance, he was a busker and then he rapidfired a ton of stuff at me. He asked me if I was a virgin and when I answered he said that he used to be like a rabbit, jumping from hole to hole. He asked how old I was, and when I said 27, he said that I had my whole life ahead of me and that I wouldn't even know all the shit that was going to happen to me. He brought up drugs, said they were bad and then followed that with "I dabble. I'm not an addict or anything," which I took to mean "I am 100% addicted to heroin.

At one point during this conversation, he turned to me and asked "Do you recognize me?", which I found very confusing and weird.

I figured that this guy would come and talk to me for a few minutes, get his daily need for human interaction out of the way, and then leave, but he surprisingly followed me as I changed positions in the gallery to sit behind one of our reception desks.

Once I had sat down, he again said that he plays guitar and then dropped the bombshell that this whole post revolves around.

"You ever heard of Mahogany Rush?"

"Nah man, I haven't."

*pulls down sunglasses to the tip of his nose and looks at me over them*

"You've never heard of Mahogany Rush?"

"I haven't! I swear."

"Different generation man."

I don't know what I expected Mahogany Rush to be. Maybe a cover band or something? I searched the band on my work computer and, to my astonishment, discovered that they were a popular Can-Con 70's rock band who toured with all of the biggest rock bands of that decade. Before this reveal, I was entertaining this guy as a mostly harmless guest, but this is when I got really interested and really excited about what was happening. He asked me who the website I was looking at said was the singer and I replied "Frank Marino". Though he never told me directly, I concluded, through my powers of deduction, that I was speaking to Frank Marino. If you look at the picture on the site linked in one of the previous sentence, give the guy in that picture 30 years and 30 less pounds and you've got the version of Frank that I saw.

Frank was really interested in how he was described on Wikipedia and so was I. I think it had been a while since he had used the internet, because everything seemed very interesting to him. The article on him was much long than I thought it would be and I was so surprised to see the amount of output he had managed. 17 albums with Mahogany Rush and 4 solo! To go along with numerous appearances on other artists' recordings! Frank was not just a funny minor Toronto character, he was turning into a real lost artefact from the 1970's in front of me. The fact that I had not heard of Mahogany Rush really surprised me.

After this, I started to warm up to Frank a lot and reciprocated my extension of friendship. I told him that I played guitar and he started to tell about why he thought scalloped fretboards were good (with demonstrations!) and run through some of his favourite guitarists. "Man, you know Eric Johnson? He plays those pentatonic scales, man. Stretches his fingers from here to here. Like, I can do that too man, but not like him." "Man, you know Joe Satriani?" He was not a fan of Steve Vai.

Frank eventually worked his way behind the desk and talked to me for a while. We were reading his wikipedia article and he came across a passage which read "He has been criticized by some as a Hendrix clone." That angered Frank and he said "People are always saying shit" and got distant. This set up how the rest of the conversation would go: Frank would be very fun and wild and engaging, but would then say something that was really sad that would show his vulnerability and remind me that, though it was really fun and funny to speak with this relic of a bygone era, the reality of his situation was sad and sobering.

Frank was really interested in his presence on the internet and wanted to see how many pictures of him were floating around. We searched a lot and he would saying things like "I've lost so much weight" that were a bummer. He started running through people he used to know and said "See if there's a picture of me and Stevie Ray Vaughan on there." I was skeptical, but, sure enough, a search yielded a picture of the two together (though I couldn't find it when I tried to for this post). He then asked if there was a picture of him and "Keith". This fucking guy is dropping Keith Richards on a first name basis? There wasn't one, but he did enjoy a caricature of the guitarist that came up.

He started to talk about how he used to play shows at the Docks and brought up Lemmy. "You know magazines? All the shit they say about him in there, it's all true. Hookers everywhere." I was pretty sure that he didn't know that Lemmy died this year, but I didn't want to bring it up and ruin the mood.

Throughout our hour and a half conversation one thing that Frank came back to a lot was boating and the Toronto Islands. He recounted a time when he went on a date with a girl to the islands, but stayed after the last ferry had left because they had drank a lot. They dealt with the situation by stealing a canoe and paddling back to the harbour. When they got back his date tried to stand up in the canoe, but Frank insisted that they didn't. They did anyways and they both fell in. "The lake, it's always cold man!"

Frank also seemed dead set on renting a boat to take out onto Lake Ontario. He asked if it was possible to get one anywhere and I told him about the different marinas in the area, but it seemed like he mostly wanted to was poetic on the topic. He asked how long it would take to make it to Buffalo by boat and I guessed about three hours. He was surprised and responded "I don't know man, I'd be going full-tilt", struck this pose, and imitated a motorboat sound. It was one of his more adorable moments.

He even asked me if I wanted a beer! While I was at work!

But for all the awesome parts, he would also say things like "I just got out of a coma, so my mind is a little."

Frank is originally from Montreal, so at one point he asked me "Parlez-vous français?" in an awful anglicized accent. I responded "Oui, bein sur" which I repeat several times and then translate. He then started on a rant about how Québequois French was a bastardized version of the language that wasn't "true French". All the insults in Québec were about women, whereas all the insults in France were about the Church, which seemed like an oddly informed thing for Frank to say. He said that it was just like how North American English wasn't "True English" like the version spoken in England. Around this time, a group of women came into the gallery who were visiting from Ireland and Frank was convinced that he should go speak to them about how they curse in order to illustrate his point, because in his mind, Ireland was close enough. I overheard them say that they say "feck" instead of "fuck" and when Frank came back to make his report, he was excited about telling me about the Irish girls. "What do they say instead of fuck? Duck?" Close enough, Frank.

Around this point I realized that this conversation with Frank would be one of the more memorable ones I would ever have and one of my best stories, so I started to relish it and egg on Frank a bit. We were both having a really great time.

He showed me a pen with a built-in flashlight in it, which he said was handy for when people ask for autographs at shows and it's dark and hard to see. Frank insisted on giving me the pen, despite my resistence. "I have tons of them! They give them to me for free!" he said, despite there being a health centre logo on the side. I eventually decided to take it and he illustrated its use by signing a program with the flashlight on. In the daytime. What a guy.

Eventually my rotation came around again and it was time for me to a go home. Frank took that as his cue to leave, put on his hat and disappeared.