Friday, December 30, 2016

Cheap Girls Records, Instant Netflix

I love watching TV. Here is a list of my favourite shows that I watched this year.


I realize that as a white Gen Y-er, the following statement has no legitimacy or authority, but Atlanta felt very authentically Black to me. Always funny, smart, and, even when it's a surreal BET spoof, true. My favourite thing on TV in a landslide victory. God, what a great show.

Documentary Now!

Documentary Now! was one of my favourite shows last year and it's sophomore season was just as good. A little bit bigger in scope, but equally as zany and on-point.

Regular Show

Following a 7th season that, while still good, showed significant signs of slowing down, Regular Show went all-in and put the park staff in space for the last season. A big gamble, but it paid off. Still fun and funny, but always underpinning that with great emotional moments. 


Rebecca and I watched all of Love in about 3 days, which is fast for me. Gillian Jacobs was wonderful and the above scene was no doubt one of my favourite moments of TV this year.

Master of None

After watching the first episode of this show, I wasn't sure if I would like it or not. Then I finished it two days later. I really enjoyed the way that Aziz Ansari writes romantic comedy and I feel like the show is a great reflection of Aziz's personality and skill. Eric Wareheim!


Given how much I love the "M word" and everything I've seen from Joe Swanberg, I was surprised how long it took me to find Easy. Some of the episodes were better than others, but it hit much more than it missed and always found a way to be intensely real.


Hey! Speaking of excellent mumblecore TV shows, Togetherness had another great season this year. The show obviously ended too soon and I feel that the second season's happy and neatly wrapped up ending, the only thing close to a smudge on its reputation, was a result of that. DUPLASS BROTHERS, NEVER STOP MAKING THINGS.

Man Seeking Woman

It would be hard for Man Seeking Woman to top its monumental first season, which I thought was perfect in pretty much every way, but the second season does an admirable job and can certainly stand side by side with it. They dabble in more long term storylines with Rosa and it works great! Simon Rich is cool!

Silicon Valley

Season 3 of Silicon Valley suffered from the same expectations as Man Seeking Woman; I enjoyed the two earlier so much that it created an unrealistic expectation for quality. The show is still great though. Super smart and super funny, but what's most impressive is that the best jokes often hide in the smallest details.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Regardless, Thanks A Lot

Last night, on the last night of my Christmas break, I got to see Jeff Rosenstock play an intimate solo show at D-Beatstro. It was wonderful and I feel confident saying it was one of the best nights of my life.

The night before, Jeff took to Twitter asking if there was anywhere in Toronto that he could play a house show while he was passing through the city. Though I'll always associate Jeff with his early ultra-DIY Bomb the Music Industry! days, where playing a small house show was the norm for him, his star has grown considerably since then, so playing a show this small was unexpected and exciting.

I also felt weird when I saw him tweet that. In my younger days, I would have jumped all over the chance to have Jeff play at either Fuck Mountain, The Dude Hole, The P'Zone, or The Fortress of Solid Dudes (my friends and I are so creative), so my immediate reaction was "Should I put on the show?" Music scenes are exactly what you make them. The prospect of a Jeff Rosenstock house show is amazing, but for it to be amazing, someone needs to put on the show. I salivated at the thought of Jeff playing my apartment. But I quickly realized that having the amount of people Jeff would draw in that small of space that also has a cat and a dog in it is not a good idea. It sort of felt like a chapter in my life had closed and it was the first time that I had acknowledged that the house I was living in is not a punk house.

But the show got put together without me, which I knew would happen anyways. And at an actual venue, no less! I used to live across the street from the venue, know D-Beatstro's owner Jess, have seen a ton of great shows there, and have played there myself, so I was happy to see the spot get such a big pull. D-Beatstro puts on at least two shows a week. Places for all ages shows in Toronto are scarce, so a venue like D-Beatstro existing, regardless of if I like every show that happens, is important.

The place was so full that I couldn't see the performers from my vantage point (no stages, no managers), but it didn't really matter. Junior Battles could play "Basements" on a fucking accordion and it would still fill me with equal measures of pride, happiness, and nostalgia.

Something that I'm constantly trying to fight against is my tendency to feel a sense of ownership of "Jeff Rosenstock". I was the first person I knew to listen to him and for long time he was "my thing" that I enjoyed and not many around me did. Now it seems strange to see so much press about him and see him play bigger venues and bills. But fuck that. That's stupid. I know it's stupid. but the feeling also comes out without my thinking of it. I suppose it's up to me to consciously try to not be a pompous dick about it.

It's also weird to me that so many fans of his music seem so into his SideOneDummy output, while seeming to ignore all of the early stuff that had such a huge impact on me. I was thinking this yesterday when cuts from Worry, which is a wonderful record, don't get me wrong, were getting really big pops while I was thinking to myself "Imagine if he played 'RSTLNE'!" But then he played "Saddr Weidr", the only Bomb the Music Industry! cut of the night and it got the biggest pop of the night. Everybody is there for the same reason and stupid jaded attitudes like mine aren't helping anything.

And even if there were a bunch of people who aren't familiar with Jeff's music there, isn't that a good thing? I bet there's a few who had never heard Bomb the Music Industry! and are checking them out now because he played a song from Scrambles and I bet there's even more who had never been to D-Beatstro before and will now come back for stuff. That's important. That's how you build a scene.

The show was amazing and I'll remember it forever and it was the type of event that reminds exactly why DIY and punk matters in the first place. The show reminded me of three things that Jeff taught me while I was in high school listening to a constant rotation of Three Cheers for Disappointment, Album Minus Band, To Leave or Die in Long Island, and Goodbye Cool World that I have carried with me since then and try to apply to everything I do:

1. Don't be so jaded. It can be hard not to be and sometimes it feels natural, but fight against it. Resisting that tendency leads to immediate good.

2. What you are doing is important. It doesn't matter what it is or on what scale. If you are putting yourself into, it is important and you can let other people convince you that it's not. Don't stop!


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Swing and a Drive

Earlier this year, I wrote a post in which I tried to sum my feelings about Edwin Encarnacion's time as a Blue Jay because I assumed that his then-impending free agency meant that his time on the team was coming to a close. It turns out I was correct, because Edwin just signed a contract with Cleveland.


Edwin played on the Blue Jays for eight years. That is a big chunk of my life. Eddie played on the Blue Jays for 29% of my life. I was a very different person when Edwin came to the Jays. That was one band, two degrees, and many relationships ago.

As I said in the post I linked above, he wasn't an immediate hit, but was a big project, which in turn made me love him even more and gave me a sense of ownership about him. His time in Toronto ran the whole gamut of emotions: disappointment, frustration, hope, awe, and, mostly, just pure fucking joy. He was amazing to watch. I have said it many times while watching games that Eddie is my favourite player to watch hit home runs.

But I don't want to just re-type my previous post. If you know me, you know that I love Eddie and if you don't, you'll get a good idea from that blog.

I'm pretty sad about Edwin leaving. It sucks. As much as things about baseball can be great, there is always an inverse part that pulls you back down. We got the best of Eddie, but now we have to watch him go before his time in the league is done. It sucks. I more or less knew that he was going to leave, but it still feels crummy. Crummier than I thought it would.

Here's my official eulogy for Edwin Encarnacion as a Blue Jay:

It's fitting that Edwin's last game as a Blue Jay was a home game during the 2016 ALCS, because watching him mash home runs was the only fun part of watching the Blue Jays in 2012 and the Jays being in the playoffs seemed so impossible that I never even considered it.

I'm trying to find a silver lining to all of this and this is what I've come up with so far:

The fact that I feel so sad about a baseball player leaving a team after 8 years is, if anything, proof of the substantial positive emotional impact that sports can have on your life. Sports can be simple reactions like muttering "fuck" at a call or they can be over the top reactions like when I ran into my kitchen after Edwin walked off the Orioles this year. Underlying all of that is the reaction I am currently having, which is informed by a very emotional connection that many people are a part of. My personal connection to baseball can never be replicated by anyone else. Thank you so very much Edwin Encarnación for playing such a big role in that.

I'll never forget your time in Toronto as long a I live.

The 2016 I, Musical Genius Musical Revue

Once more, we are about to embark on an engaging journey through my year in music. As usual, I'm not going to number the releases, because I feel like the degree to which I enjoy my 7th-ranked album over my 8th-ranked is pretty negligible. If you really need a #1 pick, let's give it to Joyce Manor, with Crying as a close second.

Every time Joyce Manor puts out a new record, I remember how much I love everything that Joyce Manor has put out. Cody continues the trend towards a polished sound started with Never Hungover Again and is certainly their most poppy material yet. The band leans huge on Weezer, Big Star, and Cheap Trick sound-wise and I fucking adore it. This is a record I wish I had written. I've come back to it many times and love love love it. Easily my favourite release of theirs.

I started listening to Crying last year and found their emo/shoegaze/chiptune hybrid really fun and catchy. While I was excited for new music, I wasn't expecting this huge of jump in quality at all. Crying has catapulted themselves up list of favourite current bands. The emo parts of their sound has been layered with more spacey indie influences and the chiptune side with more synth-pop. A phenomenal and impressive in songwriting ability and a fucking great record. 

I was pretty late to the party on Nothing and only started listening to Guilty of Everything shortly before Tired of Tomorrow came out, so this album has really been my main introduction to the band. The emo/shoegaze/vaguely-grunge thing is everywhere right now and if every band did it as well as Nothing, I probably wouldn't roll my eyes at it the way I do. Perfectly heavy, spacey, and dark. A tight and accessible album that will surely be a great time capsule of punk in 2016.

I seem to be much higher on this album than all of my friends, kind of like how they were all way higher on Home, Like No Place is There. Goodness and HLNPIT are way more alike sonically than any other two albums in their catalogue, so I guess the reason that I like this one more is the songwriting. Imagine that. The last song on this album kills me.

Childish Gambino- Awaken, My Love!

I'll be honest, Childish Gambino's music up to this point has done nothing for me. I've tried to get into it because of how much I appreciate everything else that Donald Glover has done, but I just couldn't. The short film that he made hinted at a direction that I would enjoy and that change happened this year with the combination of his TV show Atlanta, which is 100% my favourite thing I watched this year, and this album. I love seeing artists take gambles like Glover has this year. He's making things that are unexpected, biting, and important and I couldn't happier about it.

Daniel Romano- Mosey

Easily his best solo effort since Sleep Beneath the Willow. This is a huge change in sound, dabbling in some of 60's more obscure musical styles like, big band pop, and further showcases that DR can basically work in any genre he chooses to.

Diarrhea Planet- Turn to Gold

I only started listening to Diarrhea Planet this year. They have the best band name of all-time. A band that's equal parts Van Halen and punk with four guitar players? Bud, it sounds like drew it out of my skull.

Har Mar Superstar- Best Summer Ever

I only discovered who Har Mar Superstar is this year. Apparently that was a trend in my listening this year? I didn't notice. He also came up in the book Army of Lovers, which I was reading shortly after finding out who he is. This album is a fun cross-section of R&B and dance music since the 60's. "Anybody's Game" is especially great.

John K Samson- Winter Wheat

I have accepted that I will not like John K Samson's current output as much I love the Weakerthans. Now I listen for the stories, as his songs have turned much more into fiction set to song. This album provides that in spades. Also, all of his songs about the mundaneity and frustrations of post-grad studies KILL ME.

Young Thug- Slime Season 3

2016 was pretty light on rap for. Young Thug continues to be the most interesting and innovative person in trap.

LVL Up- Return to Love

I saw LVL Up in 2014 and, to be honest, they didn't do tons for me, but this LP is wonderful. I get a big Neutral Milk Hotel vibe from their arrangements and melodies, except they're done with fuzzy guitars instead of acoustic instruments. Great catchy indie rock.

The Frightnrs- Nothing More to Say

I find it frustrating that there is so little contemporary ska music that I connect to, because there is nothing I would love more than to keep supporting good bands who work in the genre. This is the only ska record from this year that I really connected to. It's refreshing to see a band who isn't the Slackers or Deals Gone Bad work in older 1st Wave styles and even more refreshing to see them use old-style production. A great rocksteady release, it's the small stuff in the songs that makes them great.


I saw TUNS play a short 3-song debut set earlier in the year and wondered what their recorded output would be like, given the members' pedigree. This release is exactly what I wanted: Tight, to-the-point power pop that is heavy on jangle and melodies.

Japanese Breakfast- Psychopomp

To be honest, I forgot this came out this year, but I did listen to it a lot in the front half of the year. Great spacey and synthy shoegaze.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Such a Guarded Guy

A definitive ranking of all albums where Jeff Rosenstock is the primary vocalist and songwriter, written by a true connoisseur and 12-year listener of his music:

1. Bomb the Music Industry!- Vacation

2. The Arrogant Sons of Bitches- Three Cheers for Disappointment 

3. Bomb the Music Industry!- To Leave or Die in Long Island

4. Jeff Rosenstock- I Look Like Shit

5. Bomb the Music Industry!- Goodbye Cool World

6. The Arrogant Sons of Bitches- All the Little Ones Are Rotting

7. Bomb the Music Industry!- Album Minus Band

8. Bomb the Music Industry!- Get Warmer

9. Bomb the Music Industry!- Others! Others!

10. Bomb the Music Industry!- Scrambles

11. Jeff Rosenstock- We Cool?

12. Bomb the Music Industry!- Adults!!!...Smart!!! Shithammered!!! And Excited by Nothing!!!

13. Jeff Rosenstock- Worry

14. Bomb the Music Industry!/Laura Stevenson- Split

15. Kudrow- Lando

16. The Arrogant Sons of Bitches- Pornocracy

17. Bomb the Music Industry/O Pioneers!!!- Split

Because how else would you follow up a call to arms than with a list?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

There's Only So Many Days You Can Spend Waiting until You Don't Love Anything Anymore

I have let IMU slide a lot since I started my new position at the gallery. I started the year producing at a clip that I was happy with, but that has really fallen off since September. I'm only writing something once a week or so and I don't think that that is an acceptable rate for me to continue at. I must put more effort in.

The big reason that IMU has kind of taken a backseat is that I come home from work fairly tired and in lieu of doing something productive, I immediately drive myself to the couch and melt into it until it's time to go to bed. I still love TV and movies, but giving them priority over something which I find fulfilling is definitely wrong.

During the summer and into the fall, a way that I tried to deal with my guilt about not writing enough was that I vowed that I would write while I was at work. That worked okay during the summer because I had much more downtime on the job and it allowed for me to sort of do that. My change of position in the fall definitely changed this. I tried to write at work sometimes, but it wasn't a good wa to go about this. I think I only wrote one post. I still have periods in my new position where there is nothing pressing for me to do, but realistically, if I am to write an IMU post while at work, it is taking time away from something else I technically should be doing. This strategy was not good. I don't really care about writing while I'm on the clock that much, it's more that I shouldn't be relegating my creative writing to blocks of time where I might be able to squeeze it in.

This is important to me. It should take precedence over a lot of things. I need to make a bigger effort.

This is all the more true after Beat Noir broke up. What do I have left in my life now that is creative? I have this blog. I have half-finished songs I play on the guitar sometimes. I have a collection of half-finished prose on my hard drive that I do not know what to do with. Not to say that I ever used Beat Noir as a crutch, but that is no longer an option. I need to create my own expressions of my creativity. If I don't I'll crazy and fucking die inside so slowly that I'll barely notice until I'm forty and looking back on a collection of stuff that seemed like it could have been interesting when I thought of it, but never followed through on.

I think that these feelings have been fermenting inside me for a while now and the end of Beat Noir is what made the pressure big enough to pop the lid off. As such, I have devised the following plan to express myself in ways I know I can and ensure that I can stave off becoming an art-punk has-been who talks a big game, but doesn't back it up.

The plan consists of the following tasks which all must be completed before December 1st, 2017:

1. Complete five (5) short stories, all at least 3000 words in length. They all must be new ideas.

2. Complete the rudimentary arrangements (guitar, bass, lyrics) for five (5) power pop songs. You may use existing riff ideas.

3. Complete the I, Musical Genius zine. This will involve drawing the cover by hand. Print 20 copies.

4. Draw more.

I feel like these are all doable tasks, which is why I chose them. I often think too much about what I might want to do, instead of doing it. I think about six bands I might want to start and write half a song for each. I think of ten story ideas and never follow through on any of them. Though directing myself in this way surely isn't a magical motivation cure. I'm sure it has to help. Maybe I just need to keep reading Hemingway books because they apparently motivate me to write more than anything else.

Plus I've already told Rebecca about it and now I'm putting it here, so if I let everyone down, wouldn't I have an egg on my face?

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Beat Noir Forever

As a child, rock music took hold on me early on. This quickly turned into me getting into your typical gateway punk bands, which quickly led to Paul, Damien, and I discussing how we needed to start a band. It was decided that I would play bass, because both Paul and Damien already played guitar. I got a Squier P-Bass for my birthday in grade 8 and after that, being in a band became the #1 priority in my mind.

I immediately latched on to the cliché adolescent dream of playing in band. I played in a few bands in high school, but none ever lasted very long. Also, they were all ska bands. I saw these bands as first steps in the following process, which dominated my thoughts all day through high school and university:

Start band > Write good songs with band > Play shows with band > Put out a “record”!

The last item on that timeline seemed like the most important thing I could do. Having a tangible, real record, which I could hold up and say “This is my record! I wrote this and made it! It is a product of me, and you can listen to it and consume it!” Putting out a full-length record seemed like an extremely noble thing to do. Part of that is suburban, male adolescent naivety, but part of it is also extremely true. Making art is hard. Putting your art out for people to hear, see, experience, and criticize is also hard. Beat Noir was my art.

I say this because Beat Noir decided to stop being a band last Friday.

It sucks, but it’s also something I’ve kind of seen coming for a little while, which lessened the blow a little bit. Being in Beat Noir has been one of the longer relationships in my life, so I feel like I need to say something about it and eulogize what has been one of the best and most fulfilling parts of my life.

After thinking non-stop about how badly I needed to be in a band through university (to the point that I romanticized my 12th grade trad band ska constantly), I joined Beat Noir right around the time I finished my Bachelor’s at Guelph in 2012. I had known Mark, Scott, and Duff for a few years, but had gotten especially close to Mark after he and I went to a music festival in North Carolina together. Mark had floated the idea out to me a few times, but I remember the moment I joined the band well:

I was in Hamilton to see Snake Charmer play a basement show there. My phone vibrated and I found a text message from Mark waiting for me asking if I would like to join Beat Noir. I, of course, gave an enthusiastic yes and then said to everyone around me “I think I just joined a band?!”

That summer I was living in Guelph and Beat Noir got busy fast working on new songs. We hashed our way through the skeletons of 14 songs, with the thought that four would be for an EP and ten for an album. Those became Permanently and Ecotone.

Beat Noir came around at a time in my life when I needed it most. Though I had just finished university, I didn’t have any real plans about what I was going to or could do. I was living in Guelph by myself for the summer. It was the first time I had lived on my own and I felt extremely isolated in the city. Then my lease ended and I moved back to Scarborough. I was going through a rough spot mentally where I didn’t know what I was doing, what I should be doing, or how I was going to stop feeling bad. Beat Noir was something that I was doing though.

At a time in my life when I was not doing much of anything, I could say “Beat Noir is doing ‘this’.” instead of “I moved back in with my parents and have no job.”

I moved to Kitchener-Waterloo not long after that, and lived in a very bad basement apartment with Mark. I was still going through a lot of shit and, to be honest, this was probably the worst my mental state has ever been, but Beat Noir was still a thing and it gave me something to work towards. It doesn’t matter that Permanently really sucks, because working on that EP certainly did something for me.

After that, Mark, Colin, and I moved into the upper apartment of a house, the lower apartment of which, Duff joined Erik from The Decay in shortly after. We had a “band house” and it was fun. When bands played in town, they would stay at our house. It was a fun way to live. This is also the time in my life when I started working at Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery and applied to grad school. Shortly after that, I started dating Rebecca. A lot of new stuff happened to me and it was basically uniformly good.

During the summer of 2013, we jammed a lot and then wrote and recorded Ecotone, which came out in January of 2014. We played a lot of shows (for us) around that time and started to slowly work on new songs. That was, more or less, the cycle for the next few years as we got through writing the songs for Sovereignties.

As I said earlier, I saw the end of the band coming. Mark and I both moved away, Mark to Toronto and me to first Guelph, then back to Toronto, for school and that made keeping up the pace of being in a band hard. It also made being in the band a lot more expensive for the two of us. It was fine for when we were working out the different parts of new songs, but it was hard to get tight enough that we were comfortable playing live with this set-up.

It was hard because Beat Noir was still definitely “the thing” that all of us did, but none of us were still doing it. This briefly subsided when we stayed in Niagara on the Lake for a week and change while recording Sovereignties, but after that everything went back to the way it was before, aside from a few trips to help Davis mix the record.

We played a really bad show in September of 2014 and after that we didn’t play another for a very long time. We decided to stop accepting every offer we got because we were tired of slogging through awful nights, but it also hurt us because we weren’t being exposed very much and eventually people just sort of forgot about us and stopped asking if we wanted to play. This live hiatus was kind of good, because during it we focused strictly on making Sovereignties as good as possible, but also hurt us because, like I said, people forgot about us.

I’m really not sour, that’s just bound to happen when you don’t play a show for more than a year.

We put out Sovereignties in June 2016 and it seemed to us like it didn’t make much of an impact, which is, again, to be expected when our activity as a band grinds to a halt.

That summer was when it first started to hit me that the band was probably over, even if it hadn’t been expressly stated. Nobody was focusing on Beat Noir. On consecutive nights, I watched We Jam Econo: The Story of The Minutemen, which is without a doubt the best thing to convey what it’s like to be in a rock band and what it means to its members, and then after that Spinal Tap to wallow in my band-induced misery. I was so sad about the state of Beat Noir that at the end of Spinal Tap, when Nigel jumps on-stage to join the Tap in the middle of “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You”, a comedic moment that is really the punchline of the movie, I felt my insides twinge a little bit because I felt that, jokes aside, it still spoke to the bond that only long-time band members share and understand.

So there we go. I was in Beat Noir for a little under five years, while Mark and Duff kept it going for about eight. That is a long time to pursue something and a lot longer than most people keep at their interests. Something that should absolutely not be lost in the shuffle in the following:

Beat Noir allowed me to fulfill a childhood dream by writing and putting out a full-length record. Twice over, in fact. It may not have happened exactly the way I thought it would, I didn’t become a road warrior with a van tattoo, but it happened nonetheless. That is important and nobody can ever take that away from me.

Beat Noir made me a new group of best friends. In June, all of us were in Colin’s wedding party. I still see Mark regularly. I talk to Duff nearly constantly.

Beat Noir forever.

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.