Thursday, October 12, 2017

My Friends Carry Me Home

In a recent post, I said "Celebrate the things your friends care about and champion the things they make", so I figured that I should make good on my promise. I have many talented friends who are all pursuing the things they are passionate about and excelling, so I'd like to highlight a few of them below. It's so great to take a moment to think about how many wonderful things you're friends are doing and what they're capable of doing.

THE OFFICIAL I, MUSICAL GENIUS "BACKED HARD" LIST

I've never been shy about my disdain for the boom in craft brewing. To me, it reeks of pretension and consumerism and I find that almost everything the industry produces is terrible. Give me a 50 or a Miller Lite instead. That being said, one of my oldest and very best friends Pat brews for a local company in Toronto called Blood Brothers. I've been drinking Pat's beers since he started brewing in our shitty rented university house and it's been great watching him get better and better. His mindset in the industry is refreshing and down-to-earth and I like knowing that there some non-jabronis out there. And hey, even a guy who spent 10 years drinking PBR almost exclusively likes their beer to boot. You should visit their home base to try some stuff and listen to classic rock. Pat is very good at brewing beer.

While I was in university, another one of my best friends dropped out of his English degree to start cooking at a local Indian restaurant. Matt then enrolled in George Brown's cooking school and has been on a steady trajectory upwards since then. He's already cooked in a variety of Toronto's upper-echelon restaurants, but settled into Actinolite this past year, which he's described to me as his dream job. Just like Pat, I find Matt's approach to cooking very unpretentious and level-headed, which seems rare to me in food. You should eat there if you can.

Duff, another one of my best friends, who I played in Beat Noir with for five years, currently plays in two wonderful bands. One is Wayfarer, who are absolutely on the shortlist of "Best Ever Ontario Bands", and the other is School Shooter, a super fast/super heavy D-Beat project. Both are absolutely worth your time.

I am fortunate that a lot of my friends play in great bands. Nick, yet another of one of my best friends, plays in the band Dog Cops. I saw some clips of them recording this past weekend, so make sure to give that release a listen when it drops.

While I was doing my Master's at Guelph, my PIC Vanja and I had offices connected to each other and both commuted from Kitchener, which basically meant that we spent most of our time awake together. A quick thing we bonded over was a love of good coffee, though knew way more about it than I from being a barista on the side. After we finished our degrees, Vanja kept pursuing coffee and eventually got into the roasting game, leading to his current gig at Propeller Coffee in Toronto. They make fabulous coffee and I recommend grabbing a bag. My favourite coffee I've had in the last little while!

My friend Tyler builds acoustic guitars with robots at Taylor. Consider buying an acoustic from Taylor because Tyler is so so great!

Two of my former colleagues at the gallery, Maddie and Katie, have a new show on at Y+ Contemporary in Scarborough. Good on them for this show! It even has a partner exhibition in friggin' Iceland! Go see this show to support good artists from Toronto. If you read this before the 14th, you can even go to the opening.

One of the best parts of my year for the last two years has been working at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival as a Head Volunteer. The team is super dedicated and hard-working and bring in such awesome programming for the weekend that I feel a little embarrassed by what I do in my job. Great stuff. Great welcoming atmosphere. A wide variety of perspectives and backgrounds represented. A vital queer voice in a realm that can be dominated by lame-os with a rolled up Image issue up their ass. The festival is friggin' free every year! Support it!

My other PIC from my Master's, Coni, is currently doing her PhD at Cornell in Post-Human Art History. She's a fucking research machine and clear and concise writer, but don't let her complicated and difficult theories distract you from the fact that she's a hilarious and warm person as well. She mops the floor with me in pretty much every facet of being an academic. I'm happy to see her do well!

My friends are sick. Love yours too.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Let's Leave and Be Runaways Tonight

I decided to take a break from social media this week, mostly Twitter, because I felt like I was spending too much time on it and it was adversely affecting my mood (did my last post give you a hint?). A great side effect of this is that small thoughts I would have maybe turned into a tweet are now turning into a slightly bigger IMU post. This makes me think that social media breaks are an extremely good thing that I should do more, because it makes me write more and that's way better than wasting time reading things that I don't even find interesting.

I can't believe that humanity spends most of its time doing that now! It's actually really Mest up when you think about it!


I put on an old favourite, the album Good For Me by The Swellers, and it immediately took me back to the place I was at in my life while I was super into it in 2011. The album came at exactly the right time and hit me in exactly the right spot and I listened to it constantly in the summer of 2011. I even put it on my End of Year List that year. I had kind written the band off after not enjoying their previous effort, but then they blind-sided me with this mother fucker and I was in love all over again. It somehow walks the tightrope of mixing skate punk, pop-punk, and alt rock and then sticks the landing masterfully. The songs all go to exactly right place songwriting-wise and then all of a sudden you're on the last song before you even realize it. The band should be really proud of creating a super tight and interesting album.

Even though music is always the first place I turn, it's important to remember that when you feel crummy, revisiting an old friend like this can be comforting and exactly what you need.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Hard to Believe

I have a day off of work today, which feels great after two long weeks of overtime at the gallery. Days off in the middle of the week always feel so much nicer and more relaxing than a regular weekend. It feels like you're conning the world because almost everyone else is stuck at work and running through their regular routine while you get to stay home and lay on the couch with the dog and watch and bunch of skateboarding videos on your TV.

Whenever I have a day off like this, I usually try to make it productive because work has turned free time into a precious commodity in my life and I find that I need to make the most of it or else I feel like shit and the apartment gets really dirty and I feel unfulfilled because I have written anything or played guitar and all of a sudden it's 5 PM and there's been a dull ringing in the back of my head telling me I'm disgusting and lazy.

I say this because this feeling is creeping up on me now after I somehow managed to lose my passport in my own apartment and can't do what I planned today, which was go to the office to renew it. It's a small defeat, but definitely the type of situation that eats away at you and turns into "a thing" while you're trying to deal with it. On top of that, any problem is always intensified when Service Canada has to get thrown into the mix, as they are gold medalists in making you wait in line and fill out forms that seem useless.

Any time that I have a day off, I usually try to make putting a post up on here a priority as well. I was half-assedly thinking of topics to write about and settled on some sort of comparison between the reggae album Two Sevens Clash by Culture and something else, but didn't write that idea down and ended forgetting it right away. I guess all I can say on it is that I listened to this album while I was doing the dishes.




I certainly do love me some reggae. Right after that Culture album I put on some Steel Pulse, who I think are the apex of the genre. It's funny to me how many white people my age rip on the genre because all that they know of it is Bob Marley's Legend and Sublime's singles. Why judge a whole genre on the watered-down singles you hear on Q107? That's dumb.

(Marley is good, but to be honest I think that The Wailers' early output and his album deep-cuts lap his singles in quality.)

Me writing some things on reggae here did drum up thoughts I've been ruminating on for a while. I'm sure that you are familiar with the concept of "Throwback Thursday", a fun trend on social media. Among my punk friends, it's popular to post pictures of yourself playing in an old band to point out how trends in punk music and fashion have changed in the last decade or so. For most of my friends, this means posting a picture of you playing in an old hardcore band.

I was then thinking that if I were to post a "#TBT" picture, it would probably be me playing in The Pragmatics and how most of my friends would think that my band was lame because they all hate ska. Fuck that. I know that defending my interest in ska is kind of my signature scent, but Jesus, it's only that way because of how much ska gets brought up to me.

I think about the effect that growing up in Toronto's ska scene and then moving into punk from there had on me a lot. I also think about how my experience differs from my friends who grew up in hardcore scenes. As much as hardcore music is really great and the scenes can accomplish great things, there's also so many super shitty parts to it.

The biggest is that almost every hardcore fan I met has an inherent sense of elitism and give off a vibe of "If you don't listen to 'X' band or were at 'X' show" then you suck, whether they mean to do that or not. There's a wild amount of posturing. On the flip side, I always felt welcomed at ska shows and found it to be an extremely inclusive community, not to mention that I saw far more bands featuring women and people of colour at ska shows, as opposed to hardcore shows which are white guy city.

I've grown really tired of elitism recently and really wish it a swift death. If you don't like something, just don't like and don't care about it and leave it. I'm sick of social media being a constant parade of people giving their hot takes and unpopular opinions just for the sake of stirring people' anger. Let's not build up pedestals by shitting on everyone else. Let's ignore the people who are focused what shirt to wear to the show instead of playing it. Celebrate the things your friends care about and champion the things they make.

With that said, I offer two throwbacks on a Tuesday:

The first is from a Pragmatics show at Sneaky Dee's. I had a lot of fun playing in this band and thought it was cool, challenging, and fulfilling to play bass in a mostly instrumental ska band. The show this photo was taken at was 19+, but they had to let me in as a 17-year-old because I was in the band. That felt cool.


The second is from when I saw the Suicide Machines play at Pouzza Fest in 2012. That's me in the Hawaiian shirt. When I was younger, a lot of people told me that "Everyone goes through a ska phase in high school." and that my interest in it would fade with age. I grew to love a lot of different music, to be sure, and definitely broadened my horizons, but my undying love for the music that first inspired when I was an impressionable teenager never died. The joke is on everyone else for doubting my convictions and I still love that band to this day.


Monday, October 2, 2017

Leave The Air Stuck with This Waiting to Be Born

This past weekend, my work co-produced a huge conference about the intersection of art and social justice. I worked on the project for more than a year, so it felt really good to see it finally come to life. It was also affirming (and a little harrowing) to see people from around the world come a give impassioned, left-wing talks about important issues that the world is facing.

Something I tried and ultimately failed to do was work some punk into the programming of the conference, which is something I almost always do when starting my planning. The day was divided into four sections; Land, Love, Labour, and Liberty; so when each section started I couldn't help but think about which four songs I would use to frame those four sections if I had my way. I'm sure you get where I'm going by now, so here you go:

Land



Love


Labour


Liberty

Thursday, September 21, 2017

I Don't Care What You're About



*Tim aggressively air drums and bobs head*

*Co-workers all look at him from across the room, confused*

"Tim's listening to his worker's rights music again."

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Whole Lot of Walking To Do

A few important lessons that I learned while watching Ted Leo & the Pharmacists play a set at Lee's Palace last night:

  • As much as people have been preaching that rock music is dead for the last ten years, Ted Leo, with his new album The Hanged Man, is here to prove that the rumours of its demise have been greatly exaggerated. I firmly believe that any time a critic emerges to once again harp of rock falling out of the record chart, Ted Leo will pop and piss in that person's face. As part of my year-long "5 Songs and 5 Stories" plan, I've been thinking about if me writing guitar-based punks songs is really urgent at all. Ted Leo grabbed me by the shoulders, slapped my face and said "Write some friggin' riffs you jamoke."
  • With how many terrible things are happening the world-over and how stupid mainstream media discourse about those things has gotten, I sometimes feel isolated because I think most people I meet don't feel the same way as me. It seems like most people aren't critical of what they read at all and mindless regurgitation of Facebook has now taken the place of being informed. Ted Leo, that beautiful leftist power-pop messenger, reminded me that I'm not alone out here.
  • Life can be shitty sometimes. More often than not, it's work that gets me down because I feel like I'm too burnt out to do that the things that I enjoy and find fulfilling. Surprise, surprise, after I spend two weeks seeing bands that I love and doing things that I like, I find it easier to write and I feel more inspired. Enjoying your life isn't about blindly ignoring bad things to keep a positive attitude. It's crucial to remember all the shitty fucking things in the world to get the full picture. But we also have to appreciate the perfect things we get to experience, like Ted Leo playing for an hour and forty five minutes, and revel in them because they make it worth it to bear all the terrible things.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

No Doubt About It

It is no small secret that I deeply love the seminal classic rock band Thin Lizzy. While they, like many of their contemporaries, have had their careers mostly diluted to one or two singles, they also have a run of great albums in the 70's that still hold up today. Recently, my jam has been "For Those Who Love to Live" off of their wonderful album Fighting, for reasons I will explain below.





Thin Lizzy wrote this song about George Best, who was a popular Northern Irish soccer player for Manchester United in the 1970's. Best was extremely skilled, but also fit into the playboy athlete archetype who coupled his innate athletic ability with a thirst for partying and womanizing. These types of figures are always charismatic and can so easily capture the hearts of the sports fan who watch them play, because they show you that sports is part of life as whole and doesn't just exist in a self-contained stadium. Thin Lizzy does a great job of conveying that feeling in the song.

I've been thinking about this song a lot as an accompaniment to Jose Bautista's swan song as a Toronto Blue Jay. I've loved Jose's time as a Jay, loved his many accomplishments, and loved the style he played the game with, but I think that I'll save a true farewell to him until his goodbye actually happens. Instead, I'll give you this song as a hearty salute to Jose's time with the team and the cult of personality that surrounds him.

Jose Bautista is certainly not the man-about-town that George Best was, but I think that his magnetic personality still drew people in in the same way. He was the best power hitter in the game for a few years and the best Right Fielder of this decade. Jose many, many revenge home runs were the type of thing you fantasized about doing while playing Little League. He made other teams stomping mad and then would hit towering home runs to rub it in afterwards. As much attention as he got for "The Batflip", a lot of people didn't realize that he had been doing that for his entire time in Toronto.

Quoting myself verbatim, I've said a lot of times that "Nothing lights me up like Jose home runs." I know that it's a corny thing to say, but there is a jump in my chest every time that Jose pulls one down the right field line because it's something I've seen so many times before. It's familiar and it feels like home and it only feels like home for Toronto Blue Jays fans. It's our thing that we get to have. Everybody got a little bit of a glimpse into during the 2015 playoffs, but they'll never know the joy that we all got to have from 2008-2017.

So no, "You've got to have a little love for those who love to live" doesn't mean that Jose succeeded on the field in spite of his vices, it means that while he played baseball, he managed the squeeze the most fun and drama and excitement out of the sport that he could.

Next weekend will most likely be Jose's last home games as a Blue Jay. I will be there on Sunday and I look forward to getting up on my feet near the end of the game to give him the true hero's farewell that he deserves.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Hey, I Remember That Day

Today, September 15th, 2017, is the first day of this year's edition of Riot Fest, which has now firmly unseated The Fest as North America's most popular punk music festival. This year's edition of the festival has been notable because it is being headlined by the incredible and influential 90's emo/punk band Jawbreaker. While my non-punk friends will yawn at this, this is the biggest deal to punk fans because for the last twenty years, since breaking up shortly after their 1995 album Dear You was released, a Jawbreaker reunion has been labelled as one of those things "that will just never happen".

Jawbreaker along with Operation Ivy, the Dead Kennedys, the MisfitsHüsker Dü (A hearty RIP to Grant Hart, who passed away this week, for contributing to one of punk's all-time greats), and The Replacements were seen as perfect bands whose role in important punk scenes and influence on later bands reached legendary status after their dissolution. Each band's break-up was also fraught with interpersonal tension (except Operation Ivy), which meant that any chance of the bands getting back together for later fans to see them would be unlikely. Speaking from my own perspective, this only made them even more appealing to me when I was discovering them much later. I discovered Jawbreaker through hearing other bands cite them as an integral influence on their own music, and the fact that I was living my Jawbreaker experience through somebody else's seem exciting and important.

I also thought it was really cool that there were bands out there who were "too punk too reunite". I still enjoyed it when The Ergs and Descendents came back to give me a chance to experience them again, but the fact that some bands valued their own convictions more than the pay they would receive further cemented my own values. It feels good to know that there are other true believers out there.

A brief aside: I also experience this type of feeling when the golden god Roy Halladay signed a one-day contract with the Toronto Blue Jays to retire at the age of 36, saying that he would rather retire then than continue to play later into life when he wouldn't be able to pitch as well and not live up to his own expectations in competition. Roy Halladay: More punk than Jawbreaker?

The "never-reuniting" myth was pretty much personified by Jawbreaker, as there were rumours that the band had turned down a $2,000,000 offer to get back together, and when asked about it, frontman Blake Schwarzenbach consistently said "No Way." There was even a band tongue-in-cheekly named "Jawbreaker Reunion" for fuck sakes.

A few years ago, Riot Fest started making "Holy Shit!" bands reunions their gimmick. This happened first when The Replacements played their first show in 22 years at the 2013 editions of the festival and then when they somehow got the friggin' Misfits to play a set at the 2016 version of the fest. The Misfits reunion was especially a significant moment, as nobody thought that Gelnn Danzig could possibly hold his chill for long enough to perform with the band.

This was all just an appetiser for this year's announcement of the Jawbreaker reunion, which was so significant that all of my punk friends immediately contacted each other about it. Takes were abound. It seemed like I could feel Riot Fest's self-satisfied "Yeah, we just did this" grin from through my computer screen. It was something I really believed I would never see.

I guess I wrote this whole thing to a prelude to my own thoughts on the reunion, but they're hard to state because I'm still not sure exactly where I stand on everything.

One hand, I hate big festivals, as I find them impersonal and overcrowded, they always have bad sound, and always end up underwhelming. Riot Fest, in particular, was a pretty shitty time the last time I went. I definitely don't like the idea of a payday being the main reason of a band ending a lengthy hiatus. I can't shake the "I don't agree with this" feeling that I get when thinking about big reunions and the more I think about it, the harder it is for me to define.

On the other hand, why should a band not get theirs when they can? I mean, one of the main reasons a band tours , aside from the joy of playing and having fun with your friends and showing people your art (all more important in my book), is to make money. As much as I would like to divorce finance from art, it's impossible. I think there's also something to be said for being in attendance for the reunion and getting to take in a significant punk moment. Much like I felt when first discovering the band, I'm sure that seeing everyone react when Jawbreaker walks out onstage on Sunday will feel important.

I guess I'll close by saying that a lot people are losing it about this, in both ways. Some people are ecstatic that they are finally seeing their favourite band and some people are very mad (I wouldn't characterize myself as "mad" but I suppose that I fall into this category rather than the other). People weren't as polarized when the Misfits reunited last year, but now any uproar about it happening seems so distant in the past. Realistically, I think that in a year or so, the Jawbreaker reunion will be a thing that happened and nobody will really think about it. This reunion doesn't do anything to the quality of their records, which is what really matters.

And when that day comes, I suppose that I can go back to holding up Jesse Michaels and Jello Biafra for sticking to their values, even though I try to have no heroes.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Also, in case you haven't noticed, I now have a new banner image. My old one stopped showing up and that makes me sad.

Heart Problems

An integral part of being a baseball fan is recognizing that you're in for a long journey. The season is longer than any of the other major North American professional sports and for the most part, players' careers are longer too. If you're along for the ride, this can be so rewarding, like when you get to watch Roy Halladay develop into one of the game's premier pitchers over the course of a decade. When you've been there for the entire process, it makes the benefits that much more special when they happen and it feels like you've played a role in what happened. It can also be frustrating, like watching a player who once dazzled you struggle to compete with other major league players.

A current example of the former is Jose Bautista's 2017 season. Jose was the most exciting Blue Jay for a long time, starting with hitting 10 home runs in September 2009 and culminating in "The Bat Flip". Jose signed a one-year contract with options to play for the Blue Jays in 2017 and most of the fanbase, including me, lauded the deal and were eagerly "Angry Jose"'s exploits, but instead Jose started to swing through fastballs he used to put in the second deck and his return quickly turned into what feels a lot like a retirement tour. I will always love Jose Bautista and him strapping the Jays to his back and carrying them towards contention was amazing, but now I have to think about how weird it will be to see somebody else play Right Field next season and find myself muttering "I still love you Jose" every time he bats. It's like I'm already nostalgic for Jose's time on the team before it's even ended.

The same goes for another struggling Jay, Kevin Pillar. After two seasons of struggling, Kevin Pillar had an amazing 2015 season, followed by another productive one in 2016. I was all-in on Pillar being an integral part of the perennial playoff-bound Jays, to the extent that I wrote a long piece about loving Pillar and then wrote another post that was just a link to the first one.

I like Pillar's game a lot and found myself thinking "Oh, that's getting caught" every time a ball went near him. But then he started missing a lot of swings and I started to get ulcers watching his back foot come forward out of the box as he swung at terrible pitches. He seemed to be turning his batting approach around, but then got into a well-publicized spat with the Atlanta Braves. It was already a stupid argument to get into, but Pillar did himself no favours by calling the pitcher in question a homophobic slur. As a lifer Jays fan, I will go to bat for our players in almost any situation, but there is a breaking point and this was it for Pillar. In what could be considered poetic justice (I would always argue anything bad happening to the Boys is NOT POETIC), Pillar's season then started to fall apart. He's looked completely lost at the plate and hasn't been getting to nearly as many fly balls as he used to. In 2015, Pillar was the second-most valuable player on the team, but now it looks like he could be easily usurped at the team's starting centrefielder if the right player comes along.

And hey, that sucks. I like the guy and pulled for him; part of me still pulls for him, but it seems like his time in the Toronto sports limelight is probably done.

That's the way baseball works. It's a long journey as a fan and though it might be easy to pack the team's history into neat little "periods" in hindsight, the reality is that every story starts before the one it follows ends and then bleeds into the next one. The next "Kevin Pillar" might be on the team right now, just like how Pillar was kicking around while Colby Rasmus ended his time here. Sometimes a fan just needs to sit back and let the narrative unfold, but that's easier said than done, because all you want to do is rush over and unfold it yourself.

That ain't the way it works though; not in baseball and not in art history and not in music and not in love.