Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cinematheque delay?

Hmm... it looks like the Galas/ Lukacs/ Wong event at the Cinematheque today may start at 3PM, not 1PM. I don't really know what's going on - I just do what I'm told... Vancouver New Music's website still says 1PM, but the Cinematheque site and VNM volunteer-wrangler Linda, last night at the Diamanda Galas concert, say the time has been changed... Guess I'll see y'all at 3:00.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire through South Asian Eyes

I quite enjoyed Slumdog Millionaire, and was most pleased to see that director Danny Boyle, whom I think has prodigious talents, had selected material that was worthy of them (which he does not always do). Indian viewer Parth's review off Ain't It Cool news will give you a better sense than I could of the pleasures of this film (and its limitations - I'm not so keen on corny formula, and have no interest in Bollywood, so the second half of the film - once the formulae were firmly in place and I knew what I was watching - was a little less exciting than the first). The only note I would add is that somewhere on the soundtrack there is a song that samples the opening riffs of the Clash's "Straight to Hell," which filled me with fondness, particularly since the song as a whole was a sort of Indian pop/ hip hop affair; I could easily imagine Joe Strummer being proud to hear this, and felt a brief bit of sentimental (but not corny) joy at the thought.

The Nerve is REALLY gone, now

Sad news: the Nerve website, which has kept many fine articles online for the last year, since the Nerve's demise, is no longer functional. The archive is gone, old articles can't be retrieved. I imagine this is terminal.
I miss the Nerve. There wasn't anything else quite like it in Vancouver, and there still isn't. Those were happy days. Hope this finds Bradley well.
Sad day, eh?

Wal-Mart worker trampled to death by Christmas shoppers

Like it says.

Friday, November 28, 2008

FUSE tonight with Pauline Oliveros

Those unaware of the Deep Listening Band or the music of Pauline Oliveros might want to look here first, but - Ms. Oliveros will be performing two sets tonight at the courtroom at the Vancouver Art Gallery, as a part of FUSE. Anyone interested in avant-garde music, meditative or focused listening, Soundwalks, and/or ambient sound (or the accordion, I guess, tho' this ain't a polka night!) should come out to this, or try signing up for the workshop at the Front tomorrow (good luck!). The night at the VIFF starts at 6 - which will give you time to explore the gallery, since Oliveros will not perform until 8:30 (or so it says).
This will likely be my last entry for the weekend. Y'all know about the rest of what's going on anyhow, right? If not, see below...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Roger Ebert on the death of film criticism (as a paying profession, anyhow)

An important piece by Roger Ebert.

Poster Sale at the Cinematheque!

Thankfully, I have more posters than I need at the moment, so need not feel bad that I am too fuckin' broke to go to this.

Jeff Younger's Nocturnal Puddle Reflections at the Western Front, plus UPCOMING GIG!

Femke just sent me a couple more pics of Jeff Younger's Nocturnal Puddle Reflections at the Western Front November 15th, absent from the piece of writing below (where said gig was mentioned). Here they are - a fun project! Apparently, on November 29th at the Western Front (...if, say, the Diamanda Galas tickets are too pricy for you, or the dark diva is not to your taste, or you'd just rather some lively, adventuresome, doubtlessly cookin' jazz), Younger will have a CD release for his Sandbox project at the Western Front, also with Bruce Friedman's African Groove Band (no Myspace visible); bound to be a good night, and it features (I presume) Darren "Monster Truck" Williams on sax - the most muscular blower in the city that *I've* encountered... For some reason this is not listed on the Front's website yet, but maybe it will be soon? It's listed on Younger's gig page... It's all academic to me - I'm not even s'posed to be writing right now!

All photos below by ace photographer Femke van Delft!

Once again, all photos are by Femke van Delft! (Copyrighted by her, etc.). Someone should give Femke more money! (Me too!)

Monday, November 24, 2008

If I could write right now

Sister DJ's Radio Band by Femke van Delft

After several months of doing Vancouver-oriented stuff for local papers, meeting The Skinny's twice-monthly deadline and doing things for the Georgia Straight and other papers on the side, I find myself exhausted, spent, and a bit depressed. With the coming of dark and cold, I have no energy and less desire to do much writing at all. I've pulled back from The Skinny - their second issue without me in a row should be out now, though I haven't seen it; I'm not ruling out the possibility of doing something else for them in the future, but for now, they are not part of my plans. I've barely even blogged. This pattern will probably continue when I do get back to writing: I'm backlogged on some major pieces for non-Vancouver magazines and will be focusing on them. I feel like there's so much I'm missing in the city, though, so much I should be writing about that I'm not...

Election night by Femke van Delft

If I could write right now, I would write about the party to celebrate Barack Obama's election the other week on the 'drive, where Sister DJ's Radio Band played alongside the Creaking Planks (and others) - a very funny and tuneful lineup that delighted all of those who had gathered to cheer on - perhaps a tad optimistically, but endearingly no less - the promise of "change." The TV played throughout, mostly unheard - though the East Van crowd called for the volume to be jacked and was silent and attentive for Obama's speech, when the results were tallied. They burst into applause at key points, like his inclusion of gays and lesbians in his vision for America. The room had a wonderful energy and an inspiring undercurrent of joy, even if the revellers were eventually asked not to dance by the owners of the restaurant (who, for their spoilsportism and skewed priorities, will nevermore have their restaurant mentioned in my blog: phht). People were heard to remark at how odd it was for people to get so excited about the changing of the president of a neighbouring country, when many in attendance likely didn't even make it to the Canadian polls, but that's part of our second-place birthright, innit? (Or perhaps I should say our "condition," or "pathology"...)
The Creaking Planks by Femke van Delft

...Speaking of which, if I could write right now, I'd send my congratulations to Mr. Happy Planet for having won out over the NPA. Now here's an area where I'm hopin' to see some "change," because the way this city is going is baffling and depressing to me - just take a walk down Granville Street, where the city (I presume) has cut down all the trees, revealing that Granville looks surprisingly like East Hastings now that it's been denuded - or even more like a street in Toronto, or some bigger city: dingy, dirty, depressed, old and ugly. Who knew - the trees were the only thing that kept the street looking liveable and BC-ish. It's impossible not to ask oneself "What the fuck were they thinking" as one passes stump after stump. I gather (from Gary at Wildlife Rescue Thrift Store, where I go to scavenge for books, records, or even the occasional cool DVD), the plan they've sold Granville merchants is to build a world-class promenade out of the current drunken porno-store and pot-dealer dotted slum-cum-partyzone. Here's hoping the new saplings they plant survive the revels on what is quickly becoming the city's new no-go zone. Robert Dayton may be on the right track in re: just fucking leaving this thumb-bum town; I am reminded again and again of his pronouncement that this place is becoming a haven for "the rich and cultureless" - which is why supporting its arts scene seems so goddamn important to me; it's becoming a matter of US against THEM.
Greg prob'ly's a patron o' the arts, right?
Lee Shoal of EDR and The Creaking Planks by Femke van Delft

(By the way, a buddy pointed out to me that if you do a search for the words "I hate Vancouver," you get a past blog entry of mine, now laden with comments, some of which I ain't even read yet! Said buddy was looking for Dayton's blog. That's under "We hate Vancouver.")

Sean and Dan of Ejaculation Death Rattle 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!).
Ross Birdwise of EDR by Femke van Delft

And if I really had energy, I would take the Georgia Straight to task for Mike Usinger's defence of Nickelback the other week. Usinger's a smart guy, and the piece is well-written and not without humour (or even truth!), but there's a very interesting question of what motivates such an article. I'm sure there are advertisers in the Straight that it will please, but are there really music fans in Vancouver who list among "the Straight's problems" - because, uh, it's no secret that it has a few - that it doesn't have enough coverage of Nickelback? Is this really anyone's idea of "positively supporting the music community of Vancouver," or is that off the agenda for the time being? I bet they don't even mention that the Hanson Brothers have a new double LP and a gig on Thursday, when the new issue hits the stands - in fact, I'll lay money on it. I'd be happily proven wrong!

Not that I'm helping, mind you. I could have - if I wanted to write more articles for free or for the dim promise of future payment - probably placed something on the Hansons SOMEWHERE this month. I could even have written about the upcoming Diamanda Galas and Pauline Oliveros events, which will fill up Friday and Saturday and even spill over into Sunday. (Check around the Western Front's website - Oliveros begins with a talk at Emily Carr on Thursday, then the FUSE event on Friday, then the Deep Listening workshop on Saturday morning; Diamanda Galas performs Saturday night and then gives a free talk alongside Attila Richard Lukacs, Paul Wong, and others at the Cinematheque on Sunday.) These are all worthy events to cover and I plan to be present at all of 'em. If someone wanted to pay me money to enthuse about them, I would. But I have other stuff breathing down my neck, I'm burnt out and somewhat dispirited and at the moment and no strength to do better than this.
I'll probably see some of y'all at these shows, anyhow... Anyone who wants to offer me sexual favours, backrubs, money, encouragement, or free CDs or LPs that they don't expect me to write about in return, is welcome to stop me and say hello...!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Scientologists get deadly

A note to the guys and gals in Guy Fawkes masks who protest in front of the Hastings Street Scientology center: don't wear swords!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Roger Ebert on his former fatness

It surprises me that many people I meet still don't know that Roger Ebert has lost a ton of weight, and due to cancer surgery, has also lost the capacity to speak; cancer-free, he has become a passionate blogger, and feels - as do I - that his writing has improved since it became his primary means of communicating with the world (tho' he's still too kind to mediocre movies by filmmakers he has regard for, based on their past achievements - hence his interest in writing about Scorsese, who, though canonized, has made few films worth watching in the last 20 years; and not attentive enough to unusual or offbeat cinema. These are, may I say, lifelong failings of his that require one read him with a grain of salt; he's a better writer than he is a film critic, if that makes sense...). He has just posted a piece on his former fatness which I think has some pretty interesting observations in it - not many people talk about being fat so candidly. Here's hoping a speedy prosthetic for Roger's neck and a continued absence of cancer; I'm hoping Ebert will be around and writing for a long time yet ("the Studs Terkel of cinema").

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Andre the Gypsy: Stories of Survival

The following is an article I wrote for The Skinny awhile back on Andre "the Gypsy" Gerard, a Vancouver street musician whom you can sometimes see playing at the Granville Street Skytrain entrance. The article was based on interviews done in late summer (recorded on the sidewalk with the help of Dan Kibke). It ran in September, if I recall, but it never made it onto The Skinny's website, so I'm posting it here. I'll leave the piece as written, but should note that things are looking a bit better for Andre since this article was published - he's playing again, having done an October 31st birthday gig at Tree Organics coffee house (or whatever that particular venue is called), and apparently he will have a gig at The Railway Club in February - tho' he wasn't exactly sure when I talked to him, he thought it was February 12th.

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 M├ętis 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

Anvil? Really?

Yes, folks, before, in 1981, at age 13, a friend introduced me to the Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks and changed my musical world, I liked metal. It had a wider presence in the suburbs; punk may have arrived in Vancouver in the late 1970's, but it didn't get out to Maple Ridge until the early 1980's - certainly not to the junior high schools, anyhow - so metal was the heaviest, coolest music I could find, the one best suited to my adolescent temperament. In my teen years, even after I discoverd punk, because gigs in Vancouver clubs tended to have age requirements and to let out long after the suburban bus services stopped running, I saw far more metal concerts, usually at the Pacific Coloseum, than I did punk shows. I didn't see DOA or Nomeansno until the 1990's, but in the 1980's, I saw Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath (with Ronnie James Dio), and the original David Lee Roth-fronted Van Halen, as well as lesser known bands like Saxon, Krokus, and Fastway (with Fast Eddie from the original Motorhead lineup). I even saw the Blue Oyster Cult twice, both times with a giant cheesy Godzilla-head blowing dry ice over the drum riser (they are one of the few nominally metal bands for whom I retain a fondness - their first three albums are delightful, and I hold with Richard Meltzer and Mike Watt that, at least up until they tasted pop success with "Don't Fear the Reaper" and started to crave the big bucks, they were a remarkable and unique band). For a couple of years, before tribal divisions and being bullied by longhairs with AC/DC and Led Zeppelin shirts made me "pick a side," the two genres may have even co-existed in my record collection; and it happens that the very same guy - Greg Terry, wherever he may be - who turned me on to the Pistols introduced me to Toronto metal group Anvil.
I owned an Anvil album briefly. I can even remember, despite not having heard it in some 27 years, the chorus of the catchiest song on the single Anvil album I owned: "Metal on metal/ It's the only way/ To hell with tomorrow/ Live for today." This lyric no longer resonates particularly deeply with me, but lo and behold, it seems like Anvil are still at it. There's a movie made about them, to screen at the Cinematheque on the 13th; and - believe it or not - there's an Anvil concert at Pat's Pub the next night.
No shit. Anvil. Strange tho' it may be, it is somehow comforting to me, perhaps given their always-modest level of success, that they still exist. They have continued to release albums - thirteen in all, none of which have I even encountered in passing - throughout the years. Founding members Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Robb Reiner are in their 50's, and apparently will be on hand at the screening of the "surprisingly inspirational" documentary about them. Nearly three decades of living for today can wear on a guy, but it looks like these two still have some stamina in reserve; you gotta kinda respect 'em, even if, like most people, you had no idea Anvil still even existed.
So here is my nod to Anvil. I can't say I'll be at Pat's Pub, but I may just go check out the film and see how I feel. I mean, Thor was pretty fun to see last year, and I never would've thunk it... Maybe I'll be able to connect with my inner 13-year-old, what do you think?
40 isn't too old to start a mid-life crisis, is it?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler: a film I eagerly await

Two articles, here and here, about Darren Aronofsky's upcoming The Wrestler, about an aging low-level wrestler striving to pay the bills. It definitely sounds like it has potential. I walked out of The Fountain, and wasn't even a fan of his previous film, the well-liked Requiem for a Dream, despite admiring Hubert Selby, Jr.; the excesses of both films bothered me immensely, with The Fountain seeming a ridiculous act of excess - "give him enough of a budget and he'll hang himself." The idea of Aronofsky yoking himself to a small-scale, human story seems well past-due, a good instinct from someone I was getting ready to write off. And what can I say, I used to really like Mickey Rourke - plus what's this about a 1980's hair-metal soundtrack? What?

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:

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!

We salute you, Forrest J. Ackerman!
(Say hi to Jack Parsons for us!)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

ARRRRGH! Tunnel Canary errata

Nathan Holiday of Tunnel Canary, by Femke van Delft

Goddamn me!

I was gettin' ready to cuss out my editor at Bixobal for an obvious howling error in my Tunnel Canary piece, in Bixobal 5 - only to come home, check my transcripts, and discover that THE MISTAKE IS MINE!

I am a fucking asshole! Goddamn me! How dare I fuck up my own writing like this! (Kicks self in ass). Fuck! Shit! Arrrgh!

Okay, so: here's the deal: I used to bus IN FROM the suburbs, to Vancouver, to buy cool shit, scoop up gig posters, and so forth. Not INTO the suburbs. They didn't HAVE cool shit in the suburbs: trust me, I grew up there. Anyone in Vancouver would know this, of course. I now look like a tool, or else people are wondering if there was a secret shop somewhere in Maple Ridge, heretofore unheard of in Vancouver, that actually stocked punk-related records and ephemera. No, there wasn't. Finding such things required many trips to Vancouver - to Collectors RPM, to Track, to Odyssey imports, to Main Street Records, to Zulu, to Ty's stall at the flea market. I was even in the Friends Hot Wax store, once... or maybe it was Quintessence; I was in junior high school at the time, and don't rightly know. But I do know that NONE OF THESE STORES WERE IN THE SUBURBS. What's with this bussing "into" the suburbs shit, then?
Anyhow, you might be able to buy copies of Bixobal off Josh at Zulu, if you want to read the Tunnel Canary piece - which is extensive indeed, and hopefully doesn't have THAT many other glaring errors (fuck!). Tunnel Canary, for those who don't know, were one of Vancouver's most daring art/noise projects. The album version of Jihad is very nearly scooped up around town - certainly the 2LP special edition is almost gone - so if you're curious, this is the time to act!
I guess I was thinking of my CURRENT relationship to the suburbs - I now bus into the suburbs to visit my parents. But not to buy cool shit. Tho' sometimes I find neat items in the Value Village...

"Left Handed People Are More Inhibited"

Yeah, okay, I'll buy it, but we also have more neural connections in our corpus callosum! (Gee, there are a lot of left-handed-themed websites on the net. Note to self: look at this when you have time). Bet y'all didn't know I was left-handed, eh?

Zabriskie Point - French DVD announced

I hear none of the other non-region-1 DVDs of Antonioni's Zabriskie Point have been worth buying, but I may take a chance on the French edition due this December. With Cassavetes' Husbands also slated for European release, my list of absolutely-must-have-on-DVD films not currently available is gettin' way shorter...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Gigs upcoming: more serious weirdness

A brief note for those looking for entry points into our exciting experimental music scene... First off, you need to know about Fake Jazz Friday at the Western Front, the next installment of which happens on Friday; it's a chance to see some really adventuresome young performers without inhaling the pungent fumes of the Cobalt. It's bound to be a great night, tho' it looks to be a bit "punkier" than the usual; I've been emphatically told to see Nu Sensae, and I'm past ready to see the Shearing Pinx again. Alas, I'm almost on overload - too much music, too much film - and may not be able to do this evening; feelin' a strong impulse to just stay home. Sonic Playground, the free circuit bending workshop put on the afternoon of Nov. 9th by Vancouver New Music, also sounds great, but I don't have any Speak and Spells handy; drop by a thrift store and pick up a toy to bring with you and mutilate, if you go. Two other appealing shows, later in the month, involve Anju of the Her Jazz Noise Collective and i/i; she plays with Ahna on Nov. 21st at Blim (which evening sounds like a fine follow-up to Sonic Playground, promising music made with "homemade electronics ranging from circuit bent old pedals, DIY built circuits, mutilated electronics, and any other altered or destroyed electronic equipment"); and then again on the 29th with Set Sail to Sea (who do not appear to have their own Myspace page). The latter, the one time I saw them at the Cobalt, involved a duet between Anju and Erin of Her Jazz and Shearing Pinx, and sounded quite surprisingly heavy - it was the most formal evocation of "stoner music" I've heard any of these gals do (in that there was an identifiable lineage with, oh, I dunno, Black Sabbath or some fuckin' thing). Emergency Room heavy guitar-drone guy (the one time I saw him, anyhow) V. Vecker will also perform at that show; I dunno the rest of the bands, but you can always look them up yourself! Unfortunately there's a conflict for that gig that is irreconcilable for me, since the 29th is the evening for Diamanda Galas at St. Andrew's Wesley, doing her bluesy piano stuff (yay!)... but I will definitely be catching the Hanson Brothers on Nov 27 at the Anza, tho' (okay, so they don't count as "serious weirdness;" so?).
Did someone say Vancouver was boring?

Anju Singh with i/i, photo by Femke van Delft

Monday, November 03, 2008

Gigs upcoming: Creaking Planks, Sister DJ's Radio Band, Minimalist Jug Band, Petunia... more...

For those who enjoy a bit of laughter while they dine, tomorrow night at Zawa on the 'drive - corner of Venables, at the former site of Zesty, I'm told - the "jug band of the damned," the Creaking Planks, will be headlining a show that also features Sister DJ's Radio Band. Both the main acts are bands that answer Frank Zappa's hypothetical "does humour belong in music" with a strong affirmative; the 'Planks are probably best-loved for arranging NIN's "Closer" (the song with the chorus of "I want to fuck you like an animal") for accordion and ukulele (if I recall correctly). The uke is provided by Lee Shoal, who also reports that, in addition to a couple of other 'Planks gigs, she'll be doin' her thing with the far noiser and stranger (tho' often also quite playful, in their own special way) Ejaculation Death Rattle on November 15th at the Western Front... While the 'Planks humour relies largely on irony, Sister DJ's Radio Band - hear more of their music here - have a slightly more direct sense of humour, that brings to mind both cabarets of yore and the goofier edge of the 1960's, with a bit of calypso thrown in (courtesy of Steelpan Jude); I suppose I'm reminded most of all of R. Crumb and his Cheap Suit Serenaders by their songs. I'd bet money that at least one member of the band owns a Country Joe and the Fish album, too... For their differences, these two acts are definitely a kindred pair; they even overlap in having covered the music of now-Halifax-based Bob Uker (if I'm gathering correctly that "Chinatown My Chinatown," which Sister DJ's Radio Band does, is a Uker tune; the Planks do a few of his - "Sandwich Artist" leaps to mind). I can't speak for the rest of the lineup, but with these two bands on the bill, this should be a fun night.

The Minimalist Jug Band listens to Petunia at Slickity Jim's; photo by Femke van Delft

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

Any of you fans of Art Bergmann should promptly go to Otis Music on Davie and get Todd to dig you out one of the sealed copies of the Shmorgs album he has - especially if you've never heard it. He has a bunch, which he sells on the cheapish. Dale at Noize to Go may also have copies - he sold me one for $10 the other week, tho' I'm less sure that he has more to go around. I had never heard of this album until a couple of years ago, and, despite a definite pre-punk, pseudo-Stonesy sensibility, find much that is charming and intriguing about it: and it's a great chance to hear what Art Bergmann was doing pre-K-Tels! It kind of shocks me that it's regarded so casually by people; it doesn't suck that badly...

By the way, those of you at Scott Beadle's talk the other week should note that Jim Cummins did NOT do the cover art for this one, btw. Cummins is given a thank you on the back, but Bill Scherk is the man responsible (he played with Art under the name Bill Shirt and was a member of Active Dog... not sure what-all-else he's done, to tell you the truth). Y'all might be also interested to know, if you haven't stumbled across it, that there's a new Art Bergmann fan site up... including a Chris Walter short story, "The Man Who Would Be Art!"

Art Bergmann making a surprise appearance summer 2008 at the Pointed Sticks show in Kitsilano; photo by Femke van Delft

RIP Jimmy Carl Black, Yma Sumac

...both of whom passed on this week. Jimmy Carl Black, of course, had been playing with Eugene Chadbourne recently - see the House of Chadula for some Jack and Jim material (the one I have, which I quite like, is called We Are Together Again). Chadbourne's website advises, "Jimmy says hi to everybody and he doesn't want anybody to be sad."

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Happy Halloween

Photo by Femke van Delft

Anyone recognize the guy in the red shirt?

Shh... if you know, don't give it away...

News upcoming... somewhere.

(Barbara? Any guesses?)