Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Darren Williams, Casse-Tête, and a Fake Jazz Flashback: an interview and elsewise

Flash back 15 years ago, to 2009. The Cobalt is still Vancouver's Hardcore Bar, as run by wendythirteen. On this particular night, Mr. Chi Pig is bussing tables, as usual, but he's theatrically sticking his fingers in his ears, because it's a Wednesday, and the music being made onstage registers to him as aggravating, unnecessary noise. Being rejected by Chi only adds to the amusement to some of us; we've come there for that noise, and we're enjoying it (and Chi's irritation) plenty. 

Fake Jazz Wednesdays -- probably a name borrowed from an offhand comment that John Lurie made about the kind of music his band the Lounge Lizards performed, or perhaps separately and spontaneously generated by Fake Jazz founders Jeremy van Wyck (of Shearing Pinx) and Bill Batt (of Stamina Mantis) --  was just one showcase for experimental music in the city around that time, a jazzier side of which can be found at 1067, a venue located in a disused office space at 1067 Granville, where local instrumentalists like JP Carter performed in projects like the Inhabitants (I'm pretty sure Zubot and Dawson used to play there now and then too). There were No Wave bands like the Mutators performing at below-ground venues like the Emergency Room -- subject of a 2008 compilation -- or the Secret Location, and there was  some overlap with more "above-ground" arts organizations like Vancouver New Music and the Western Front, with some performers moving from space to space. But Fake Jazz -- because the people were younger, because the venue was more colourful, and because the music more unpredictably weird, less enfranchised -- was always my personal favourite option for Wednesday night weirdness. 

It was a very fertile scene, a very creative scene, and an interesting moment in Vancouver's musical evolution. It didn't exactly explode into anything -- it's the sort of pocket like the MoDaMu scene of the 1980s that existed outside mainstream awareness, with influence and impact mostly felt by the people involved -- but it nurtured some very creative people who made some very intriguing music, surviving somewhat under-the-radar for several years. Some of the key players are still active, musically -- van Wyck will be playing in Earthball, his new avant-rock project, at this year's jazz fest (he told me, unless I got this wrong, that "Earthball" prefers to be one word, though it is seldom given as such); Anju Singh, who later became one of the co-organizers of Fake Jazz, is mostly involved in the metal scene, but will be doing an avant-garde/ improvised score for a film, A Page of Madness, at the VIFF Centre with improvising noise artist Harlow McFarlane (Sistrenatus, Funerary Call). 

And for awhile there -- a thing I wrote for the Wire may have helped, in fact -- Fake Jazz was a destination for visiting avant-gardists to blow some steam out of their ears. Swedish-heavy hitter Mats Gustafsson played there (weirdly enough, he'll be performing at the Vault, the space in Nanaimo that van Wyck books, on June 18th, in a duo offshoot of his current project The End). American guitar/ banjo genius Eugene Chadbourne led an unruly rave-up there with storied Dutch wildman/ drummer Han Bennink. And by coincidence, both appearances involved the same saxophone powerhouse: Darren Williams

Williams -- previously interviewed by me here, about his gigs with Chadbourne -- played with at least two different bands back then. My favourite was The Sorrow And The Pity, with drummer/ vocalist Dave Chokroun -- interviewed by me here, back in 2008 (sadly, I can find no video or audio evidence online of The Sorrow And The Pity's works; they were very, very funny, with acerbic/ ironic lyrical rants and punkish drum frenzies, punctuated by Williams' skronky, explosive saxmanship; they self-released at least two CDrs worth of music, maybe more, but how you might hear them now, I cannot say).Then there was Robots on Fire, a larger unit (drummer Kenton Loewen might have been involved, with Chokroun on bass and Williams on sax and maybe someone else besides...? It's been awhile, and I usually saw them in unusual permutations, with people like Gustafsson, Bennink, and Chadbourne distracting me, so I'm not sure I have a full grasp on the membership). Those were the high points of my Fake Jazz experiences (smoking some pot outside the Cobalt with Han Bennink was particularly fun: "Do you want some?"/ "Of course, I'm from Amsterdam!"). Though Ejaculation Death Rattle was pretty special, too...

Despite a move to Kelowna, Darren Williams  is still active, and is one of several artists performing at Casse-Tête: A Festival of Experimental Music this coming weekend in White Rock (to my understanding, attendance is free!). I do not know that I have seen him since those days at the Cobalt. Darren took the time to answer a few questions about his career, his upcoming performance, and his new album, Musical Idiot, which was recently released on the Infidels Jazz imprint, which also books live shows around the city, for people curious about other jazz, avant-garde or otherwise, happening around town.

...so here's an interview with Darren Williams, and a new chance to see him live, FOR FREE,  as part of a weekend's worth of unusual musics in White Rock. See the bottom of the article for the schedule! 

Darren Williams by Vincent Lim

Allan: To start with a question about one of your past collaborators, is Dave still making music? I haven't seen him at a show in a very long time. What were the high points, for you, of Robots on Fire and The Sorrow And The Pity?

Darren: Dave Chokroun is now Olive Shakur and uses they/them pronouns. Olive has been making incredible music in a project called Dark Dials and recently in the beautiful jazz combo Big Shoulders. Olive is doing quite well - we played in a trio with Kenton Loewen at 8 East the night before my Musical Idiot album release show in Vancouver on Feb. 5th of this year. The album was released on The Infidels Jazz label, as coordinated by the tireless and devoted Tim Reinert. Tim is the hardest working concert presenter I know and he is absolutely dedicated to the presentation of jazz, free jazz, and avant-garde stuff in Vancouver.

The last Robots On Fire show was at the Vancouver International JazzFest in 2013 (definitely a high point!) Olive and I haven't done anything with The Sorrow And The Pity since about then, either. Newer things are afoot, but I don't think we'd never say never... After all, Olive and I have been making music together for about 25 years, and they've made me a better musician for it.

Allan: Do I recall that you were also doing standup comedy around then? Is that still a thing? (You were in a project called "the Skinny" or something when I was writing for the Skinny...)


Darren: I had been doing comedy on a regular basis from about 2004 - 2010. I loved doing standup and sketch comedy. There are many parallels between good joke/sketch writing and musical composition. Both require an ability with economy, rhythm, cadence, etc. I think some of the best comedians are quite musical in nature, if they're not musicians already. With The Skinny (Jackie Blackmoore, Michael Unger, and myself) we set out to create shows akin to stream of consciousness, one sketch seamlessly morphing into the other, with a lot of nerdy pop references and parody. We got rave reviews at the Victoria and Edmonton Fringe Festivals, as well as performing at the Sketchfests of Montreal, Toronto, Chicago, and San Francisco. I think maybe I'd like to return to comedy in some capacity, maybe standup, and maybe with my horn. When I do my solo concert performances I often tell jokes anyway, first to rest my lip in between songs, and to connect with the audience - comedy has a disarming quality...  

Allan: When and why did you relocate to Kelowna? Is there an avant-garde or jazz scene there? (Do you have regular gigs?).


Darren: We've been living in Kelowna for nearly 13 years now, the move was precipitated by my wife taking a job out here as a medical health officer for BC Interior Health. The scene for experimental/avant-garde music is extremely small here. But I have had the good fortune of meeting and working with Michael Woodworth - a deep music nerd devoted to skronk, punk, noise, freejazz, etc. and together we created the Skin And Bones Music Series. Our concert series has been nominated for the Okanagan Arts award and we've had the privilege of hosting concerts by Peter Brötzmann, Nels Cline, Keiji Haino, Eugene Chadbourne, and so many others. Other than that, I play in a couple of rock groups (The Civil Dead, Charlie Handsome and the Brats), as well as a sludge prog outfit called Wizard Meat.

Allan: Curious - do you ever, in the interests of getting work as a sax player, take gigs playing traditional jazz compositions? (I mean no judgment there -- some greats of free jazz like Archie Shepp ended up making some pretty conservative jazz, and I wouldn't hold it against you if, like, you did Sonny Rollins tunes at a jazz bar in Kelowna on weekends, for example -- if, for instance, you were trying to make a living at this... maybe you don't have to?).


Darren: Sure, I have done the more conventional jazz gigs, or orchestral pit jobs. When I graduated with my music degree, I had far too many questions than I did when I first enrolled. For years I had difficulty reconciling straight ahead jazz/bebop/hard bop with free jazz or contemporary improv, non-idiomatic improv, etc. so I largely eschewed jazz. It's only been over these last several years that I've been making a more concerted effort in jazz playing, learning the language (phraseology and theory) to better navigate through the changes (chords.) This has become more the case these last couple of years since I have taken up the baritone saxophone in addition to my tenor. I feel I can find my voice in more conventional jazz through the baritone, of which there are fewer players than those who play alto or tenor. But of course, I love skronk and blowing shit up on the baritone.

Allan: Are the compositions on Musical Idiot all performed "live" with no manipulation, with the extended passages done via circular breathing?

Darren: Most of the tracks are done as 1 take, recorded "live." There are no overdubs, or multitracking anything. Some pieces have some edits, where an entire section was composited in when it was appropriate to do so, i.e. there was a convenient pause where there was no sound. Recording, for me, can be a vicious cycle. I worry about getting a good take, a mistake or a glitch happens, I do another take but worry about repeating or making another mistake, and so the worry begins to pile on, driving a fair bit of anxiety. So it was sometimes just better to stitch sections together from different takes as they would have been played in a live concert anyway. "Plastiquitous," for example, has a first section which is very different in character from the second half, which are each from different takes. It just made the recording process easier and less stressful. The fifth track, "Tone And Relative Dynamics In Space (with apologies to Alvin Lucier)" is a series of played back recordings of the initial 20 second sound gesture, but played back inside the saxophone itself through a small speaker, and recorded, with each successive iteration being played back, and becoming more and more distorted. This is based off of Lucier's famous composition "I Am Sitting In A Room."  Not something I can easily reproduce live. I should also acknowledge my partner-in-crime John Almas, who recorded me. John was a steady hand that guided me through the recording process and kept me from getting too "in my head" about it all.

Allan: There is something tuneful about "Making Friends with Future Cannibals," like it is riffing on something I can't quite recognize - is there an allusion to something there or is it just a tuneful track? There's also something that could be a rock riff near the end of "I Still Choose Hope," but again, I don't know if that's a riff ON something or if you just have a rock-ish hook in there?)

Darren: I was a guitarist before I was a horn player, listening to and learning the music of Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and many other guitar heroes. Even when I was studying jazz at university there were still more discoveries I made, like the Velvet Underground, The Stooges, Wire, etc. Rock/punk sensibilities have left an indelible mark, and still inform a lot of what I do on the horn.

Allan: Curious about some of the titles. They're very colourful -- especially "Making Friends with Future Cannibals" and "Pictographs are the Bookends of Civilization." Are there any stories about the titles on the album? (I don't know where the fun stories are so I'm just going to go broad on this question).


Darren: I make music without lyrics, so any content, impression, or concept has to be encapsulated in the title. I admit it's also my dry humour in the works.


Allan: On the image at the basis of your cover art: I know of that art from a t-shirt I found at a Value Village that was emblazoned with the words, "Look Up and Live," with a guy obviously getting electrocuted. I bought it for a friend (a painter and jazz fan who later ended up killing himself, sadly). We both thought the juxtaposition was pretty goddamn funny, actually, between the cheery words ("Look Up and Live" seems so life-affirming!), compared to the image of someone being jolted thus. There are still "Look Up and Live" slogans on signage, but they generally use other images now. Anyhow, congratulations on using it for an album cover! Very inspired. Where did YOU first encounter that image? What do you know of that image's backstory? Where did it originate? 



Darren: Ha - I didn't know about "Look Up and Live!" I think I've always been aware of that kind of electrical hazard sign; aren't we all? There are a number of variations of this sign that can be found worldwide. This particular sign is from the sort that adorn the exterior chain-link fence around an electrical substation a couple klicks from my house. I'm not sure if it's from BC Hydro or Worksafe BC; only that my artwork serves as a parody of the image (for any wondering about copyright infringement.)

Allan: Very inspired and very clear that it is a parody. Is there another good story about the recording of the album that you'd like people to know about? (Again, I don't know where the gold is). No physical media, I guess?

Darren: There are actual CDs that can be purchased from my Bandcamp page:
https://darrenwilliams.bandcamp.com/album/musical-idiot

The CD comes with a sticker of the cover that says "CAUTION: MUSICAL IDIOT" and my website url.

Darren Williams by Shane Collins

Allan: Tell me about the White Rock gig? When do you go on? Are you sharing the bill with anyone you know or want to say anything about? How long has it been since you played Vancouver?


Darren: I am performing at the Casse-Tête Festival of Experimental Music in White Rock, on the morning of May 26 at 11am at the Saltaire Amphitheatre. This will be a solo performance, I will be doing pieces from my album Musical Idiot, some improvisations/spontaneous compositions, and probably a cover... http://www.cassetetefestival.com/


Full list of artists with venues, times, schedules, courtesy event organizer Jeremy Stewart: 

FRIDAY, MAY 24 at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church
8 PM – RACHEL KIYO IWAASA 

Pianist Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa will perform a selection of music primarily consisting of the compositions of Rodney Sharman.

FRIDAY, MAY 24 at Ocean Park Hall
10 PM – WELCOME TO DEBBY’S

Raghu Lokanathan and Jeremy Stewart will perform their improvisational play about everything that can only happen once.

SATURDAY, MAY 25 at Ocean Park Hall
2:30 PM – FRUITING BODY

This year’s children and families program will involve a participatory collective improvisation led by Fruiting Body.

3:30 PM – SALON CASSE-TETE

Festival artists will gather to speak about their artistic practices.

8 PM – TBC

8:30 PM – MAGAZINIST

An experimental sound art duo performance.

9 PM – BILL HORIST

Seattle improviser Bill Horist is an electric guitarist whose extraordinary inventiveness and originality are well-attested-to in his incredible range of prepared-guitar approaches.

SUNDAY, MAY 26 at Saltaire Amphitheatre – Casse-Tete x White Rock Jazz & Blues Festival Stage
11 AM – DARREN WILLIAMS

Saxophonist and composer Darren Williams pushes the limits of improvisation and extended instrumental technique.

12 PM – TBC

1 PM – REBECCA BRUTON

Rebecca Bruton will perform a solo guitar and voice version of Toronto-based composer Martin Arnold’s chamber work Tam Lin.

Monday, May 20, 2024

Down the Lees interview: On Belgium, Steve Albini, and a Thursday gig with Gadfly at Green Auto

...and so it happens: in my previous post, I announced my state of burnout and my intention to take a wee break from gigs and writing about gigs, then notice that Gadfly -- who I would very much like to see again, having interviewed them a few weeks ago and fallen in love with their stoner metal song "Spine Stabber" are opening for Down the Lees this Thursday at Green Auto. I kind of want to see Gadfly again, but who are Down the Lees? And what exactly are lees, again? I go to their bandcamp and discover that Down the Lees' 2019 album, Bury The Sun, and a subsequent single, "Cells," were recorded and mixed by...

...Steve Albini? That's, uh, timely...

Emergency action required: listen to enough of Down the Lees that I don't feel like a complete idiot with my questions and fire off some interview questions! Who or what is this band? (And, like, do they have a Steve Albini story?). Laura Lee Schultz, the guitarist/ vocalist and main songwriter, got back to me within the day, with a link to their label and answers to my primitive questions. Thanks, Laura! 

Down the Lees by Ryan Wagner

Allan: Explain the band name to me? Why "Down the Lees?" What lees?

Laura: Down The Lees originally started as a solo recording project for myself. Since my middle name is Lee, I wanted to incorporate that into the band name somehow. The Division of Laura Lee was already taken—a band name that actually captures my genre-defying sound quite well—so I began to think about what my music really means to me and what emotions it evokes in others.

Then I stumbled upon a folklore legend about drinking the sediment of wine, called lees. It’s said that if you drink the lees, you become reflective of your past actions. That deeply emotive feeling of reflection resonated with me and seemed to perfectly describe my music.

Allan: And here I thought it was a nautical reference -- I had been imagining scaling the side of a ship or something. So where is everyone from? I gather you're from the Okanagan Valley, but you spent some time in Belgium? How did that happen and what was that like? Do you have a permanent band base now?

Laura: I am originally from Vancouver, where I played in bands like Queazy, Skinjobs, and New Years Resolution. In 2015, I moved to Belgium with my girlfriend to live and work. Discovering the incredible rock scene in Ghent made me want to play live again. It's unlike any scene I know, truly inspiring. This led to starting the live Belgian version of Down The Lees with Kwinten on bass and Jonathan on drums. We played festivals, numerous shows, and were even invited to tour with Sisters of Mercy. Then the pandemic hit, and everything changed.

I had to move to the Interior to take care of my family and regain my footing. After returning to Canada, I connected with Chris Carlson (bass) and Andy Ashley (drums). Coincidentally, we all originated from Vancouver and ended up in the Okanagan Valley. Chris had played in bands like Kinnie Starr, Big Gulp, and Tegan and Sara, while Andy was part of Deadsure and Damages. Despite being in similar scenes, we had never met until mutual friends introduced us.

Allan: How did you connect with Steve Albini? Did you travel physically to Chicago? Do you have stories about that experience, thoughts about Albini, his work, or his craft...?


You know what one great thing about Steve Albini was? I can’t believe I’m saying that in a past tense (RIP Steve). He was quite accessible. I have been a fan of his work for decades and wanted to record with him. We recorded Bury The Sun with him at Electrical Audio in Chicago in 2019. I admired his aesthetic, his respect for the craft of analog recording and no bullshit attitude. And the insistence to capture a band as the band is. Which was exactly what I wanted to do. We had to have our songs down. Recording to tape is difficult and requires that you know your craft. It challenged me to be a better musician and be confident in my abilities at the same time. It was such an amazing experience. Quite shocking to hear of his untimely passing. A very big loss. He leaves a massive legacy of influential albums behind him.

Allan: I have no sense of what you are like live. There seems like a wide range of artful post-punk on Bury The Sun, and it coheres nicely, but it doesn't seem like it is "all one thing." So to give people a sense of what you do, tell me about three songs in your set on Thursday? What will your opening song be? What can people expect?

Yeah, it's tough to pin us down to one specific sound. I love experimenting with different genres and not limiting myself creatively, so I understand the confusion in describing our music. We've been labeled as alternative rock with shards of metal, but also as noise rock, indie rock, grunge, shoegaze, slowcore, post-hardcore, and no wave. The list goes on.

For the show on Thursday, May 23, at Green Auto, we're celebrating the release of our latest album, DIRT, which we recorded with Jesse Gander. We'll be playing the songs from this album, starting with the title track "Dirt," and including a few tracks from Bury The Sun. Plus, we might have a surprise in store. What you can expect is for it to be loud and heart pounding.

Anything else to say about the bill on Thursday? History with the bands sharing it, interesting merch, special occasions, etc...?

As I mentioned, we are celebrating the release of our album DIRT, our first release since Bury The Sun came out in September 2019. On this night, we’re offering a dirt cheap deal of the DIRT CD and limited edition poster, commissioned by Kelowna artist Norah Bowman, with partial proceeds going to the BC Wildfire Recovery Fund.

We’re also thrilled to have our friends Gadfly and new friends Muppet Boys on the bill! Gadfly is an absolute powerhouse, and we’re excited to finally share the stage with them. Muppet Boys are new on the scene and already making waves. It’s going to be a fantastic show!


Facebook event page here. Tickets here! You may just see me there...

Of Agent Orange, Gustaf, Crummy, Hellbent, Night Court, the Dumpies, etc: live notes and photos from a busy May going to shows


I have been to more concerts this month than I have been in the rest of the year in total, I think, but I'm starting to burn out, even from a merely physical perspective. What with standing up for Night Court on May 1st, Gustaf on the 2nd, IDLES on the 3rd (on the punishing concrete of the PNE Forum), and the Violent Femmes for the 4th and 5th, I ended up with an inflamed, lumpy fascia on my left foot, which hurt a lot whenever I put pressure on it. Dr. Google suggested it might be a fibroma, but it was just a temporary swelling, a response to my overuse. I've been popping turmeric to soothe the inflammation and treating it with a topical anti-inflammatory/ pain relief, but it has slowed me down a bit (I also caught a cold of some sort which left me sidelined and seated at the DOA/ Dead Bob/ WAIT//LESS/ Alien Boys gig the other week, though I did get up to shoot a bit of vid of Dead Bob). 

I have also wiped myself out in regarding blogging, too. I feel a certain responsibility to document everything I do, gigwise, since there seems to be a general lack of coverage of live music of the type I care about, right now -- especially local live music. There also seems to be an end-times, apocalyptic vibe to concert going. I don't really relish the thought of having COVID every few months for the rest of my life. Packing into crowded spaces without protection to collide into each other and shout moistly into each other's ears actually doesn't seem a very good idea, especially since we're all going unmasked (what's with that? I'll wear a mask on a half-empty bus to a gig that has a few hundred people in it, where I'll only wear a mask if I'm actively feeling sick and probably shouldn't be there in the first place).  

The fact is, I very seldom get to just relax and enjoy a gig. I'm not even sure I'm attending gigs for the enjoyment -- I can't separate out the motivations for going from what I do as a writer, which has turned gig-going into something very much like work (mostly unpaid). I did get to have a nice time for a few songs at Agent Orange the other night, and shot a rather hilarious vid that captures my phone getting knocked out of my hand by a mosher, and me bending over to pick it up. But mostly when I'm at a show I'm filtering it through the awareness of either having written about it prior or my intention of writing about it later. I'm not losing myself in the music; even if I don't have a notebook, inwardly, I'm taking notes, my inner observer jabbering all the time. 

So I'm wiped, folks. I have some things I've promised to do, writing assignments I must soon focus on. With the 20th anniversary of Alienated coming up this fall, I'm inclined to do something significant here (and then maybe just stop this!) but... 

Anyhow, here are some of my favourite photos of the last few weeks, which have not already run on my blog (I've already posted what IDLES and Violent Femmes photos I had that I liked -- see the links in the first paragraph). 

Blind Marc of the Dayglos mans the merch table, listening to Crummy

As for the gig I just went to, the Dayglo Abortions tonight were tighter, faster and fiercer than ever and Murray seemed to be in good spirits, but my battery was long dead by the time they took the stage, so I have no evidence to share of this, but I was real glad to see Crummy, too, and I shot vid of "Andy Warhol" and "Fucken' Disaster" (...sic, as they say). Was wholly unprepared for their cover of the Butthole Surfers' "Goofy's Concern," but it's perfect for them. 

All photos by Allan MacInnis, not to be reused, etc. (except the one of Betty, near the end, by Gordon E. McCaw). 

Crummy/ Hellbent, Waldorf, May 18 





Hellbent (from Hamilton Ontario) (same gig): their music was not my thing -- was this "screamo?" One o' them newfangled genres, in any case. But there was no denying their live presentation!




Agent Orange, Cobalt, May 15


No, I generally do not go to the Cobalt. I did go a few years ago to see Pere Ubu -- some amazing Bob Hanham photos here -- because I figured I would never see them again, and indeed, they have not played Vancouver since (a show was booked at the Rickshaw, and then cancelled due to health issues; I am not sure if they have toured since, other than a few gigs in the UK, where singer David Thomas lives). But there were tales behind the scenes and on social media that made some folks stay away, dating back to (but not exclusive to the issue of) Wendy's ouster circa 2010. I went once since, after that Ubu gig, when I believed (along with Betty, who was celebrating her 40th birthday there) that the issue was no longer an issue, but it was my impression that we (Betty included) were mistaken on that count; but the gig was booked and went ahead. 

I have no fuckin' idea if it is cool to go back to the Cobalt now, but I was offered a free ticket to Agent Orange. What, should I have said no? 




The pit was especially fun to behold. Pits in general seem to have evolved since COVID; I have seen few fights, few people getting aggro. Even though the moshers knocked my phone flying, they were delightful to spy on -- nothing but enthusiasm and fun here:




To be totally honest, I found myself not really interested in openers Big John Bates. I mean, there have to be bands that are just not my cuppa -- they were fine at what they did, they were just doing things in genres that I don't much care about, a mixture of psychobilly, rockabilly, surf, and... whatever genre the Deadcats are/ were in? I did love the decorations on their standup bass, tho'...


Gustaf



I have seen Gustaf twice now. Knowing nothing of them, I caught them (and shot them) opening for the Sleaford Mods last year, and with zero expectations, was stunned at how much I enjoyed them, which reaction built slowly over the course of a few songs, going from, "Well, musically they're not my thing but they're good at what they do" to "Holy shit, this is great: WHO IS SHE?" (because Lydia Gammill, the vocalist, really does steal the show). They do an infectious, artful dance-punk that brings to mind my very favourite moments in the catalogues of bands as diverse as the Bush Tetras, the Slits, and the Talking Heads. There are probably some New York No Wave and leftfield disco associations, as well, but I can't speak to those as yet -- I do not know exactly what bands count as overt influences, but I'm hoping to find out soon. Gammill is the most captivating frontperson I've seen in years, getting deep into her performances, contorting her face (even channeling DeNiro in "you talkin' to me" mode, at one point), gesturing theatrically, smacking herself, and generally stalking the stage. Watching her is like watching a cheetah pace, but a cheetah who survived art school? All the while, she is delivering neurotic/ obsessive lyrics that turn self-consciousness and angst into something akin to mantras (check their songs out here).  








Sharon shoots!

The whole show was great, but by far, the most fun thing that happened in the live set at the Fox -- which I also shot vid of, here and here --  was that they Facetimed their absent friend Penny, got the crowd chanting her name, then passed her (in phone form, you understand) down into the audience to crowd surf. 


Sharon Steele is seen in a couple of these photos. She's as floored by how great Gustaf are as I am... She apparently has amazing photos of this night, which I hope will soon illustrate an article. More to come, there -- they're still on tour!

Night Court/ Dumpies

With promises secured to get a missing insert and hear "What's It Like to Be a Bat, Man?" -- the song by Night Court that first grabbed me, in part because I have my own bat song out there, but also because I really enjoy the inspirations for the song -- I went to see Night Court at Red Gate opening for the Dumpies and Tall Mary, despite hearing that Emilor had busted her flipper (she slipped on frigging BLOSSOMS, man, can you believe it? I laughed aloud and didn't even stop when she told me, before the show, that it was okay to laugh!). I at first thought the gig, without Emilor on drums, would be value-subtracted, because Night Court without Emilor is, I dunno, like Public Enemy without Flavor Flav. But with Jessica of the Dumpies on drums, Emilor -- holding a drink in her damaged hand and the mic in the other, with surgery scheduled for the following day -- elected to party like this would be the last gig she would be doing in quite awhile, taking up a sort of frontperson role in what surely will be a one-off performance, singing songs, offering Pet-Blessings style cheerleading, dancing, and, uh, getting a bit sauced in the process! 

So it turned out to be value-added!


(Emilor's lobster-themed coat gave me an excuse to tell her about Red Herring's "The Crab Song," more on which here).
 



Before my battery died, I did take one shot of the Dumpies, and bought their record, which is a comp of their singles and such. It's tight, fast, fun punk with songs, like Night Court's, that are not afraid to clock in at a minute or so in length. See here for for their half of the split 7" with Night Court; see here for Night Court's side! 


Emilor assured me it was okay to post vid of her -- if she's doing it in public, it's fair game, she said -- so I did, here and here (also some Dumpies stuff!). Here's hoping Emilor is back in full form for the Pet Blessings and Night Court shows at the upcoming Rickshaw fifteenth anniversary in mid-June (Emilor's bands will play the nights of the 15th and 22nd).  


By the way, speaking of bats, here I am with David M of NO FUN, wearing a relevant shirt (David took a selfie). 



As for things coming up, Betty Bathory's main band Daddy Issues have an album release gig on May 31st that I must note somewhere. As I say, I've told a couple other people I would do things about them already, so I won't be doing things about Daddy Issues, but this is a gig to be at (and I'm very glad they have an album coming out, though there is no vinyl planned, sadly!).  I think I may just attempt to go to this and enjoy myself... another related project, Sucker Trap, with Pinto Stiletto, has a gig coming up too... wrote about them here, last time... 

A final three photos for now: photographers Erik Iversen, Bev Davies, and Bob Hanham descending an elevator at Granville Station after the May 11th DOA/ Dead Bob show: 


Another view:


And Bob on our couch the next morning! 


All photos except the one by Gord McCaw (of Betty) by Allan MacInnis, not to be reused without permission. Can I take a break, now? 

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Hello to Jim Nasium of House of Commons!

So that was a fine show the other day, but I'm reviewing it for German magazine, so I haven't blogged about it here. It was interesting that Alien Boys threw in in support of DULF, with a shot or so at Ken Sim's priorities and Juan the new drummer in a DULF Saves Lives shirt. It reminded me, weirdly, of Todd Serious supporting a similarly controversial, but otherwise very different, cause, A Better Life dog rescue (both DULF and A Better Life were raided by the RCMP). I'm calling it the most punk rock gesture of the night, in the thing I'm writing (DOA also addressed the opioid crisis a little, I guess, with a reworking of "Full Metal Jackoff," but the lyrics to that may need more of an update?) -- not that DOA's set wasn't terrific; I have said before and will say again that this incarnation of DOA is the all-round best I have seen live.

Everyone was great, really. WAIT//LESS were less of a sleazy female NY Dolls reincarnation in their presentation (which is what they reminded me of at Keithmas and what I expected) as they were a pleasantly aggro riot grrl throwback, which I enjoyed even more. Dead Bob did a set that was great, but far too short to satisfy this fan -- packing originals, a fistful of Nomeansno covers (the new one this time out was "The Fall"), and DOA's "You're Paying for Your Body Now" (written by Ford Pier and Ken Jensen, and sung by Pier, in homage to the latter) into a set barely 30 minutes long. It was all great, but I was sidelined, taking notes, nursing a foot injury from overtaxing it the previous weekend and protecting everyone from my cold (I'm still testing negative so I guess that's all it was, but I was wearing an N95 over another mask). Suffice to say I wasn't as engaged as I might have been. You can't observe a show and participate at the same time -- ask Heisenberg. 

Though someone did tell me that I reminded them, with my scribbled notes, of Jack Keating. That was quite touching. 

But the high point of the night for me had nothing to do with any of the bands that played, actually. Y'see, as DOA were launching into the Dils' "Class War." I was seated (at side-stage, at a reserved seat that the Commodore had generously provided when I called in to tell of my injury), watching as an aging punk with a walker made his progress down the aisle in front of me. He sat on the bench part of the walker, air-drumming enthusiastically along with Paddy Duddy through a few of the fast-paced crowd pleasers in DOA's set (it was Duddy's first time at the Commodore, I found out later).  I could see that he had a homemade "HOC" vest on and so I approached him after the show, where he was hanging out in the Alien Boys - WAIT//LESS merch area. "Excuse me, man, were you in House of Commons?"

He grinned. His last name is really something like Laird, and he was on the Patriot EP -- a killer Rob Wright-produced example of mid-80s Victoria punk with the great, great song "American Patriot" on it. I gushed at him that he had played the first ever punk show I was at (there are a few people who remember that gig, which I wrote about here). Of course, Embo of that band -- Neil Emery -- is on social media (and has posted more than one photo of the DKs, as well as a few of HOC viewed from the balcony of the York Theatre; I've looked at the back of several young men's heads in those photos and wondered if they were me). I asked Jim if I could take his photo and he actually did a stunt on his walker (he called it his wheelchair, but I'm not actually clear on the difference) -- he used the arms of his chair to raise his feet up in the air. 

Told him it was an honour to meet him. Bev was off talking to Alex Waterhouse-Hayward at that point (who you see in her famous photo of Wimpy getting mobbed; he also took the Let's Wreck the Party cover shot). It's nice that gigs can do that -- nice to be recognized for who you are (or mistaken for someone more important, as with me and Jack).  

Anyhow, saying hi to Jim was the high point of the night for me -- otherwise I was too busy taking notes, adjusting my COVID mask, and nursing my sore foot. 

Back to work.