Sunday, November 30, 2008
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Slumdog Millionaire through South Asian Eyes
The Nerve is REALLY gone, now
Wal-Mart worker trampled to death by Christmas shoppers
Friday, November 28, 2008
FUSE tonight with Pauline Oliveros
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Roger Ebert on the death of film criticism (as a paying profession, anyhow)
Poster Sale at the Cinematheque!
Jeff Younger's Nocturnal Puddle Reflections at the Western Front, plus UPCOMING GIG!
All photos below by ace photographer Femke van Delft!
Monday, November 24, 2008
If I could write right now
Lee Shoal of EDR and The Creaking Planks by Femke van Delft
And since it's where I heard about the election victory, I would write about Ejaculation Death Rattle at the Western Front on November 15th, added last minute to a bill (Stitching and Unstitching) that included Jeff Younger's project, Nocturnal Puddle Reflections, and an experimental duo between Lee Hutzulak (of ATTN: Diamond Shoppers, with Rachael Wadham) and Stephen Lyons from Fond of Tigers, dubbed Collapsing Lung. Everything was terrific and engaging, though I was particularly fond of the earthy ecstatic deathtrip of EDR, who sound increasingly like you feel when you masturbate on magic mushrooms - or kinda like lyin' back naked in a bed of moss as serpents crawl on your flesh, say. It's a direction I encourage them to move in. Lee and Stephen did some very subtle-but-complex guitar/electronics experimentation that reminded me of Keith Rowe's last Vancouver appearance; and Younger's project highlighted his "game piece," tentatively titled Schoolyard Turf War. (I only really knew Dave Chokroun of the players, but the piece - a sort of bizarre competitive meta-riff on masculinity and jazz - was really funny, conceptually strong, and surprisingly musically accessible, given how nutso it gets; players are in roughly-organized teams, going up to other groups and blasting them with noodly lines or riffs or what-have-you, trying to convince others to join them, creating brief alliances until some intrusive SOB convinces others to defect. There is also a "bastard" who can change loyalties at any time. It was a lot of fun, the most flat-out entertaining thing I've seen Younger do - tho' I also have esteem for his Devil Loops project. Can't say I'm a fan of the Family Stump!).
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Scientologists get deadly
Friday, November 21, 2008
Roger Ebert on his former fatness
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Andre the Gypsy: Stories of Survival
Speaking of the Railway, Thursday it's Rich Hope and His Blue Rich Rangers, featuring Adrian Mack on drums. And there's a Frank Frink Five gig scheduled for Dec. 22, and David M. will be doing a solo No Fun at Christmas-type event - "Christmas Alone in No Fun City" on Tuesday December 23rd, he tells me. All of which is great, and I may drag my tired ass out for all of these gigs - but the must-see is Andre.
The pic below is a bit grainy - it's a scan of something Andre had with him, since I could never find him when I was with friends with cameras... Make sure you check out this link to Andre performing on the street, as posted on Youtube, and the trailer for the documentary being made about him... Or this one I haven't seen before, dubbed "The Famous Homeless Singer in Vancouver" (actually, last I talked to him about it, Andre had a small room in the DTES, tho' he has been homeless at other times). It's great to know he's playing again!
If you’re from here, you’ve probably seen a street musician named Andre. In his early 60’s, bearded, he is likely best known for a powerful, heartfelt take on Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Mr. Bojangles” that he would perform on Kits Beach. His voice is rough but capable of great gentleness, and he can really play, picking and strumming with a memorable intensity. He holds the neck of his guitar up, with his head close to it, embodying his songs completely as he rocks back and forth, eyes often closed as if it’s just him and the music.
Andre has been playing in Vancouver since 1959, he tells me, but he was born far away, in New Brunswick, to a Métis father and a Spanish-Romanian mother. “I got her blood in me - the musical part, ‘the Gypsy in me,’” he says, referencing the title of a documentary that’s been made about him. “She’s from the old country. She told me some of the horrible things the Communist Army did to the Gypsies, because they didn’t go by their rules - like, at 16 years old, you have to be in the army, and all that, if you’re a boy. So they used to massacre the Gypsies - pretty bad stuff.”
“Gypsy” is Andre’s street name, and true to his blood, he has travelled a lot, playing music around the continent, even with some name stars. “I went to the States for awhile. I played rhythm guitar for about eight months with ELO, because their rhythm guitarist was in a halfway house for drugs. I played with Willie Nelson, and Stephen Stills. A lot of nice people.”
Unfortunately - as you may know, if you’ve seen him at his recent location, in front of Granville Street Skytrain station - lately Andre hasn’t been playing much at all, due to a stroke. He’s gotten off incredibly lucky - the left side of his mouth droops a little, and his hand is impaired, but he’s still mostly functional, and is undergoing physiotherapy. For now, he just sits, selling his CDs, holding a sign explaining his situation, apologizing that he can’t play. Most people who pass him, barely glancing down, don’t know that Andre’s incapacity is a sizeable loss for the city - that it’s not endless iterations of Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin that we’re talking about. That’s a few blocks down the street.
Trailers for the upcoming doc, The Gypsy In Me, by Jay Lee and Victor van der Merwe, can be seen on Youtube. “About four years ago, I was playing music by Taco Del Mar and Subway out by Pender and Granville, when there were still buses there,” Andre says. “This gentleman that I’d known for quite awhile - he’d come every morning and give me a toonie and a cup of hot cocoa - this one morning, I’d just finished writing a song called ‘There’s a Good Life Out There For You and Me,’ which is not recorded yet” - though it is on Youtube as part of a clip of Andre playing Cat Stevens’ “Wild World” - “And he comes up, and he looked like he was ready to be on the street. I mean, he looked like he was on the street. I’d known him all cleaned up and everything. And I seen him about a week later, and he’s all cleaned up - and he says, ‘Andre, that song you were singing that day, it transformed my life. It made me aware that I what I was doing was kicking myself in the ass for nothing, that it wasn’t worth it.’ And he says, ‘we gotta make a documentary about you.’”
The last time I saw Andre play an instrument was a few months ago, before the stroke (which is when the bulk of this interview took place). He had a battered classical guitar that he still managed to make sound great, doing a version of “There’s a Good Life...” Two Asian students (I presume) passing on the street stopped to throw a penny each into his guitar case, clueless that such a gesture would register as an insult. Andre just kept on playing. He told me later, chuckling, that a woman once brought him the bottom of a decapitated muffin. People are strange.
After he finished his song, I commented, “Hey, you know, you sound a little like Cat Stevens.”
“Well actually, I’m older than Cat Stevens, so really you should be saying Cat Stevens sounds a little like me.”
Cat Stevens songs - or Yusuf Islam’s, if you’d rather - suit Andre’s mode of playing remarkably well. So do Jim Croce’s - alongside “Mr. Bojangles,” there’s a cover of “I Got a Name” on the CD, and Andre says Croce is his idol. A couple of his songs bring Gordon Lightfoot to mind, and one track on the CD, a lively folk blues called “Poor Boy From the Country,” even has him imitating Dylan, as he sings about a day he spent playing in Key West where he received not a penny for his efforts. It’s all acoustic troubadour stuff - not my usual fare, regular Skinny readers will know, but by no means an offense to my ears. “A for Authenticity,” you could say.
Eight of the ten songs on the disc are Andre’s own compositions. The lyrics are simple and direct and occasionally quite funny, like “Detention Centre Blues,” which has a great story behind it. “I was hitchhiking from San Diego to the East Coast to see my oldest daughter, and I got picked up by this hippie guy - potsmoking, beer drinking - and he stopped and gave me a 1700 mile ride from San Diego to Albuquerque. We got into Albuquerque on a Sunday morning, June the 19th of that year, seven in the morning - the cop didn’t have anything better to do than pull over these two bearded long-haired hippies.” Andre grins. “The guy had forgotten to tell me he had stolen the car. I did six months for nothing, just because I was a passenger.”
The guards apparently liked the song Andre wrote about the experience of being inside, and would encourage him to play it during lock up - a near constant condition, due to racial tensions that led to a number of fights. “There was a guy there waiting to be extradited to California. He was one of those Bloods or Crips, you know - a gang. He was there for a triple murder - he had killed the three guys that had raped his wife, so he was not really a bad guy. I made friends with him. But he was this big, huge, like 350 pound black dude who dried his weed right on the table in his cell. The cops said ‘Sir’ to him and everything. This guy was amazing. It was a weird jail. Very colourful,” Andre laughs. “There was more weed in the place then there was on the street. And another good thing was that you could bring in a guitar, but you couldn’t take it back out, so there were six guitars in my pod, and I always had the best one of the bunch, because people’d say, ‘hey, this guy is good.’”
A funny song about being in jail is not the only unexpected note on the CD; there’s also Andre’s “happy divorce” song, track 10. “My first divorce was ugly - I banged my head on the wall until it bled. My second divorce, I had experience now, and I’m thinking - ‘I’m not going to go make myself bleed like a fool, it’s not going to get better; it only gets worse as you try to keep things going’ So I thought, ‘I’ll take this experience and try to do something nice about it,’ and I wrote a song wishing her well. It’s the women’s favourite song on the CD - they come back to me and say, ‘that made me cry, it’s so beautiful.’ It’s meant to be - I try to take something ugly and make something beautiful out of it. Music is like that for me.” Andre’s not entirely satisfied with the vocal on that track - it was his first time accompanying himself, singing along to his own voice on headphones - but like the rest of the CD, it sounds quite listenable, and his feelings and the quality of his guitar playing come through.
Like a lot of the poor of this city, Andre feels considerable concern for what’s happening as the 2010 Olympics approach. “It’s making it rough for us. They’re trying to make us disappear. They don’t want people to be aware, and people are not going to be blindfolded when they come here. They’re making it really tough on buskers that don’t have licenses, and on panhandlers that can’t really take care of themselves.” Andre points across Granville. “Not people like those two across the street that sleep while they’re bumming change, and they’re probably 30 years old at the most; they could be working, so I don’t agree with that, but there are some people out there that are mentally ill that require help and are not getting it.”
Andre also feels concern for the way addiction is handled in the city. “It’s sad, because a lot of people wish they could get off these streets and do better things, but there aren’t enough programs that help them do that. I’m not putting down the programs that do exist, like the Salvation Army or the Union Gospel Mission - I donate three dollars of each can I make to Union Gospel, because they’ve helped me in the past,” setting him up with chemotherapy, he explains; Andre’s been fighting cancer for awhile now. “But the places that they have are right in the middle of Drug City, so you get out, and you’re right in the middle of it all again! It doesn’t help you to be that way. They mean well, but they should do it in a different style. It should be in the country - get people to grow gardens, grow vegetables, sell them to the food bank - do things that help people get self-esteem again, you know? The things they do up here, I mean... the people at Union Gospel Mission, they serve meals there, and the people in the program do chores, and they see the drug dealers they buy from coming in to eat! ‘You need anything?’ I mean, what the hell, man! That’s really helping a guy quit!”
Andre’s an interesting cat to talk to. I raise my eyebrows at a few of his stories - like the detail he throws in that the jail in Albuquerque was built to house 666 prisoners - but I enjoy them all, and I’ve listened to his CD a few times now. Buying it direct off Andre is the only way you can get it, “so it’s a little more personal than going to the store,” he says. The money - he usually asks ten bucks - is received with more gratitude than you’ll find stuffing the same amount across the counter at Starbucks; and there’s a lot of this city in Andre’s songs. Or maybe it’s the other way around, and Andre’s songs have somehow managed to permeate the city, leaving their traces on the sidewalks and benches and streets?
Andre’s 64th birthday is coming up on Halloween. Here’s hoping he can play again by then. And if you should happen to trek down to the Granville Skytrain, and find him there, let him know that you read about him in The Skinny, okay? He might get a kick out of that - especially if you buy a CD.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
An early Mint Christmas with Nardwuar!
Two upcoming gigs of Mint bands to celebrate Christmas! Let me hereby publicly declare that I greatly enjoy and appreciate Nardwuar, own the Evaporators' Ripple Rock, am gettin' the new LP ASAP, and definitely plan to make the first of these shows! (My fondness for Vancougar is not sufficient to drag me out for two nights in a row, but I'll be there to see Nardwuar on the 5th!). Re: Nite 1, I'm told, "in addition to the rawk, Nardwuar of The Evaporators will be showing his 'Video Vault' of interviews he has done over the years ! Check out clips of Snoop Doggy Dogg, Mikhail Gorbachev, Michael Moore, Henry Rollins, Blur, N*E*R*D, Iggy Pop and lots more all presented live to you on the big screen. No joke!!!"
Who or what is N*E*R*D?
Monday, November 10, 2008
Friday, November 07, 2008
Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler: a film I eagerly await
Speaking of hair-metal, is anyone else kind of curious about this Anvil thing at the Cinematheque on the 13th?
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Forrest J Ackerman is not long for this world...
Edit! I had originally titled this piece, "Forrest J Ackerman has gone to the graveyard..." and followed it up with the first line, "...and he's not planning on digging anyone up" - an attempt at humour that I hope is in line with Forry's own sensibilities. Alas, I had been fooled by an erroneous Wikipedia "Recent Deaths" listing. Forrest J. Ackerman is dying, it seems - a couple of weeks shy of his 92nd birthday - but he's not dead yet. Horror buffs, fans, or anyone who wishes to send him a postcard wishing him love or such can address it to:
FORREST J ACKERMAN
4511 Russell Avenue
Los Angeles, CA
...tho' at this point it might well arrive too late, even if Wikipedia is jumping the gun. (Further links to information about his condition can be found here). Tho' I am sad for the world to be deprived of his presence, I am very happy for Forry - that he should have a peaceful death, at age 91, being well taken-care of and knowing he is loved by many seems about as benign a passage into non-being as one could wish for. The remainder of my appreciation I will let stand, written when I thought Mr. Ackerman had passed on.
Ah, Forry: how you corrupted my youth! Before Robert Bloch, before Creepy or Eerie or any of the other Warren magazines, years before the advent of the slasher film, it was Famous Monsters of Filmland that validated and furthered my fascination with horror and weirdness and gleefully twisted my mind. Understand that I had started my experiences with fantastic cinema as a child who, at age four or five, had to be taken out of a screening of The Wizard of Oz - my first theatrical experience ever, cut radically short because the flying monkeys were so terrifying to me; I was crying so wholeheartedly that I was disrupting the audience and my parents feared that I might be traumatized if I remained. As I grew hardier, I took a liking to late night screenings of The Planet of the Apes series on television or the odd badly-dubbed Japanese SF movie (or films with Ray Harryhausen stop-motion, especially the ones that had dinosaurs), but they weren't really dark or scary or sick, just cool; TV alone would not have turned me into the person I now am. And then one day, I was looking through a magazine rack in Maple Ridge somewhere for comic-related material, and found issue #111 of Famous Monsters of Filmland (from 1974, when I was in fact merely six years old - but I might have bought it used, so I might have been a bit older). It stood out, intrigued me, piqued my curiosity - that cover image (of Linda Blair in The Exorcist) was a damn sight darker than anything else on the rack, and WAYY more appealing than Archie, disturbing tho' it may have been. ("Why is her tongue green?") I still freaked out a year later when I convinced my parents to take me to see Food of the Gods at a drive-in based on it being on the cover of Famous Monsters - I couldn't take the giant maggot attack on Ida Lupino - but it was your dark humour and your odd aesthetic that made me want to keep workin' on it until I figured out HOW to watch scary movies; you just made it all seem so FUN! You set the bar, Forry - your infectious fan's devotion was the first model of fandom I was exposed to, and you guided me towards all sorts of experiences I value; you were a formative influence, and I am grateful as all heck to have been able to tell you this while you were still alive. (I had a brief email exchange with 4SJ a few years ago, when I thought - wrongly, it turned out - that I espied him doing a cameo in Peter Jackson's King Kong). I'm glad you were around to see the 21st century get started - I remember your saying that you really wanted to live to see it, back in the 1980's. Hope it didn't disappoint you!
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
ARRRRGH! Tunnel Canary errata
"Left Handed People Are More Inhibited"
Zabriskie Point - French DVD announced
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Gigs upcoming: more serious weirdness
Monday, November 03, 2008
Gigs upcoming: Creaking Planks, Sister DJ's Radio Band, Minimalist Jug Band, Petunia... more...
Another upcoming East Vancouver evening out that will leave you well-entertained: the rather David Lynchian country singer Petunia, last written about by me here, will once again join the Minimalist Jug Band at Cafe Montmartre (4362 Main) on the 9th; they're an excellent pair, and can be seen doin' a song together here, tho' they usually alternate solo performances. MJB guy Al Mader's composition "Dead Man's Pants" is well-covered by the Creaking Planks (who can be seen performing it here). You can't really get a good feel for how smart and compelling Al can be by the one solo clip of him on Youtube, which is shot at a bit of a distance, and he doesn't have a Myspace as yet (the guy), but I've interviewed him a few times now, and am quite gratified that if you do a search for him online, you're likely to find articles by me, like this one for the Nerve, or this one for my blog. And I guess this one, now, too!
I wonder what the Americans are going to do tomorrow... A McCain victory would certainly dampen the mood at Zawa...
Of Art Bergmann and the Shmorgs
Art Bergmann making a surprise appearance summer 2008 at the Pointed Sticks show in Kitsilano; photo by Femke van Delft