More to come on this - have a story in development, but nothing has run over here beyond the teaser in my Invasives feature a couple months ago: John Wright of Nomeansno has a new project, 3 - 2 = 1, and a new album, Life Like - inspired by this under-appreciated Nomeansno song... which John has re-worked for the album (not the only Nomeansno-related material on the record, but note that John's older brother Rob remains decisively retired). The album drops on Bandcamp on February 23rd; I don't have a link as of yet, but I'm sure it will be findable on the day... keen to hear it!
Wednesday, February 22, 2023
Saturday, February 18, 2023
Friday, February 17, 2023
Besides having maybe the most powerful singing voice in Vancouver, Beau Wheeler has some incredible songs. "Open Up Your Heart" in particular has the feel of a classic, a song that merits being elevated from the indy music scene into something known across the continent, a song that at the very least the CBC should program forthwith, if they haven't already; it's a song that deserves to be known and embraced, taken as an anthem; it's a song that could maybe even make you a better person.
...But if it's maybe Beau's best song, it's not the one that I most wanted to ask about. The original that struck me at the last show I saw of Beau's was a song that at the time was called "Monster" (which has an earlier incarnation you'll read more about below). In the chorus, Beau identified with the monstrous, which struck me as both pretty brave and pretty unusual (because any communications with Beau I've had have been marked by a very noticeable positivity, cheerfulness, and big-heartedness, not qualities usually associated with monstrosity; nicest monster *I* ever met). But as a big Nightbreed fan, identifying with the monstrous resonates with me pretty deeply. And what a delivery Beau gave the song...
There's lots else online about Beau - including a recent interview with Sad Mag, here, and another here by me after first being exposed to Beau as performer at a past Bowie Ball. You can also check out Beau's music tomorrow night at the Burnout Cafe, at the release party for Beau's digital EP, Tiny But Mighty (based on a live performance from the Robson Valley Music Festival, online here). The rest of this should be self-explanatory! I'm in italics, Beau is not. See you at the Burnout tomorrow?
Beau and I, folk fest selfie last year
Allan: I am very excited that "Monstress" is on the EP, but the performance I saw of it last year had, I thought, the lyric "I am a monster," and now it's become feminized... I wonder which has primacy? Was it written originally as one or the other, or do you change the gender of the song every time you perform it, or...? Any stories about the inspirations or writing of the song would be great...
Beau: Thanks for asking about this song, it is an interesting one for me right now because during the pandemic, I came out as trans and changed my pronouns and name. This EP release marks the celebration of another change in my pronouns to he/ him. The process of coming out as a trans person is a personal process for everyone who goes through it. I think process is a really important word because it does happen that way where your mind opens further and further to your true identity as you go through the process. This song shows my process.
Originally when it was written and performed live at Robson Valley Music Festival, where this EP was recorded, I was identifying differently than I am now. I thought about whether I should release this song because it is very gendered. I decided to release it under its original title, "Monstress," because that is the way that this live performance was captured. Now, when I sing this song live, I use the title "Monster," and I’ve changed the lyrics to reflect that as well, because it feels more true to my spirit. When you perform as a public musician, your personal evolution is part of what is recorded as you record music throughout your life. I decided to release this version of this song because this song really meant something to me when I sang it, and I think you can hear that. You can see my struggle with not fitting into being called a woman; it never fit for me, and you can see that in the way that I paired the iconography of a monster with a female suffix. For me, this is a very powerful song that shows my breakthrough and breakout of the constricting gender binary that I was born into. I have chosen to release this song to show my path towards the person that I am evolving into, and the person that I have always been. We all evolve through our lifetime, and it is a vulnerable thing to show that to others. It is also very powerful. I believe that an artist’s vulnerability, and the things that make them different in real life are actually their super powers.Can you talk about monsters a bit? Do you have a favourite monster or genre of monster movie?
During the pandemic, I recorded a live EP, a band album and a synthpop record. All of these recordings will be coming out one after the other this year. I also have about two albums worth of material that hasn’t been performed or recorded. This EP release will be largely solo but also, I will be joined by Jesse Waldman on guitar, who plays in my band and produced one of my upcoming records. Since it is a very immediate live solo performance, this Saturday, I think I might play a bunch of never before heard songs, because it will be a very intimate show. I like to fly by the seat of my pants. The musicians that play with me are so incredibly talented that they can follow anything on the fly, never having heard the material. I am incredibly lucky to get to play with them.
Curious - I have no idea what scenes you were related with?
I like to float between many different scenes. I’ve been playing live for years now in Vancouver I really love the inspiration that you get when you move between different groups of musicians and artists I’ve found that that is incredibly inspiring for me. I love people, and I love meeting new people whether they are artist or not I find the more different types of music that you listen to or interact with as a musician the better. The musicians that seem to be the most versatile are the ones that are the most open minded that is something that I’ve always aspire towards.
That’s really cool that you relate to this title. It means a lot to me. I’ve found for myself that I try to speak to the issues that I have personal experience with, and try not to create art that is telling somebody else’s story. I also try to follow the words of Hannah Gadsby. I found her stand up that explained how making jokes about being queer was also making a joke out of herself I am doing my best to try and celebrate who I am and those around me that I love if anything I do or say resonates with you, I am honoured. The title of this EP comes from the pandemic performance that was presented by Shara Gustafson, who presents the Robson Valley Music Festival. I was very lucky to be a part of that small presentation, which included a number of fantastic musicians, including Old Soul Rebel . This EP would never have been made without Shara and all of the wonderful technicians involved. You can see live footage of the video on YouTube, Connor Pritchard kindly mastered the audio for me to release as an EP.
Is there physical media, or is this an online EP only, or...? What about the upcoming album?
Right now this EP is the digital release, but I worked in record stores for 20 years and I am a huge fan of vinyl. I’d love to put this out on vinyl eventually.
Anything to say about the Saturday show? Will it be a solo gig or a band show?
I feel like music is very important to people these days, whether you are a musician, or a listener, music has become something that is incredibly special right now, because it connects us. After the pandemic, people are ready to come together and celebrate and lift each others spirits and live. We all do this in our own ways but music has this incredibly magical power to do it immediately, and with such force. There are so many difficult things going on in the world right now, but also, there is an incredible flowering and beautiful opening of an artistic period that I believe will be one of the most significant going forward.
Saturday, February 11, 2023
Rempel continues: "Determined to keep the band real, we chose two songs of ours to complete remotely - 'Shake My Hand' and 'Survivors,'" both of which can be heard on the band's Social Distance Demos bandcamp page. "Horns, guitars, keys and more were added to the bed tracks individually, either with home studio set ups or a webcam and a microphone. We all videoed our performances - some 'lip syncing' and some playing live," which Rempel himself stitched together; the video for "Survivors" has that unique "lockdown-mode" Zoom room aesthetic that will stand as a lasting artefact of playing through plague (as will the cross-fertilization of members of the Vanrays and China Syndrome, the China Rays, though I personally would have argued for "Chanrays" as a wittier name; maybe Tim wasn't into it?). With an intent to eventually complete the album, "as restrictions allowed, Brian Barr, our guitarist and sound engineer, along with our producer, Scott Fletcher, resumed recording our parts with as few people in the room as possible."
Saturday, February 04, 2023
Photos by Allan MacInnis unless otherwise noted!
NOW WITH TWO ADDED VIDEO CLIPS...
"It doesn't work unless you pump it," David M. of "the Beatles of Surrey," NO FUN - whose back catalogue would probably appeal to fans of John Otway - has been wont to observe. And so a few of us in-the-know types pumped it last night, and a brief bit of magic happened, which probably caused confusion (and perhaps some unplanned delight) to the majority of people who had gathered at Toby's Social Pub for an open mic, which included some able musicians (Kelly Armstrong was my favourite), and some people who should practice for two more years in their bedroom mirror before attempting a public performance again (they don't know who they are and far be it from me to name them), but which meant a GREAT DEAL to the ten or so in-the-know types who descended on the venue to cheer on the SECOND! EVER! Vancouver appearance of said John Otway - a man who has performed over 5000 gigs, been produced by Pete Townshend, performed at the Reading Festival, and so many more cool things that I do not myself yet even know.
It started with a conversation between Mr. Otway and a Vancouver Otwayphile named Ian McClelland, seen below receiving a headbutt -
(photos not be my, but provided by Ian McClelland. Selfies? Taken by someone they know?).
It seems that Otway had told Ian in an online interaction that he would be coming through Vancouver. Ian, an uber-fan, suggested in a spurt of last minute inspiration that an open mike would serve as a possible way of putting Otway back in front of an audience here, for the first time since 1979, when Mr. Otway opened for Pere Ubu on July 27th at the Robson Square Theatre. Grant McDonagh of Zulu Records was at that Robson gig, and possibly Ian as well, though I did not take notes during Ian's telling (I seem to recall him being more Toronto-ish at that time, from what he said?). Otway contacted the venue and was added to the open mic. Step one!
Steps two through five: Enter Toronto promoter Gary Topp, who designed a poster for the event, which was then seen on a laptop by one Al Mader, who does LOOK at the internet but is not ON the internet, if you see what I mean. Al is best known to some as the Minimalist Jug Band, in which capacity he has in fact OPENED for John Otway (in Toronto, some decades ago). He's also seen him numerous times and is a true fan (I have not asked him to weigh out his relative fandom for Otway and John Cooper Clark, but if you like the Minimalist Jug Band, you should check out both of those performers forthwith, because their influence on Al cannot be overrated). Al then called me (from the store where he works and uses the laptop) and - knowing I am at least a bit more internetsy than he is - urged my participation in plugging this event. I proceeded to blather on Facebook and even make a few phone calls (many of them to record stores in pursuit of Otway vinyl) wherein I ended up talking to the aforesaid Grant McDonagh, who did not have any Otway in his store, but was very happy to hear of this gig. The only Otway record I could find, in fact, was at Beat Street. There is probably one, I bet, at Noize to Go, but Dale was not answering his phone yesterday, and has been known to not arrive at his shop until well after slated opening times, as anyone (raises hand) who has stood outside it for an hour or so, wondering when he would get there, can attest (that was at the Seymour Street location, mind you). So I only had one record (and an Urgh! DVD) to ask John to sign (I have previously owned I Did It Otway, note, but it had skips in it, so I'm in the process of replacing it).
At Beat Street, someone overheard the purchase (Deep Thought for $10!) and came over to ask if I had said I was buying a John Otway record, like it was something he never would expect to hear at a record store. I excitedly told him - saliva flinging from my mouth, as it does these days when I am excited - of the Otway open mic appearance, scheduled for the very next day. I did not see him in the audience, sadly. He may have taken me for a nutter, but, whatever, his loss!
I did see, however, Edward Hurrell (interview here), Judith Beeman (interview here), Grant McDonagh (no standalone interview but see here for the Clash soccer story), and Dave Bowes, formerly of Iron Road, and my co-conspirator in occasional gigs and articles and the man behind THIS must-attend event, in early March, which will involve the appearance of said David M. Some of these people brought people of their own, most of whom approached John to give him a welcome and assure him that he was performing to a room with at LEAST six people in it who knew who he was. So Gary pumped it, Al (1) pumped it, Al (2) (me) pumped it, and Ed and Dave (and Doug Smith) pumped it a bit too, based on my pumping, and the result was, John was not just singing to Ian on his birthday!
Note the look on my face, when Erika said, mid-photograph, that John should give me a headbutt (he didn't).
Oh, and rest assured that Dave and I did go see some of the second set of Stick Men but I gotta say, virtuosic prog rock does NOT make the best follow up to a mad little night like the one we'd had in North Vancouver, though Pat and Tony were both funnier than I expected, in their own way, Tony joking that he'd brought the wrong book and had been playing the wrong songs all night, and Pat instructing the audience in a deliriously complicated clapalong that none of us could follow (though a few tried), which was a fun way of illustrating just HOW virtuosic these guys are. (I shot footage of them doing "Danger in the Workplace" here).
Godspeed on your subsequent tour, John Otway! Photo below of Beeman and Otway, Ed and Ian and I, and any of ME (above or below) with Otway are by Erika Lax. Maybe we can make the NEXT John Otway appearance in these waters happen sooner rather than later? (He is not, as previously wished in the place of this sentence, returning from his NZ/Aus tour by way of Vancouver, so it won't THAT soon, note..).
Friday, February 03, 2023
2022 was a busy year of blogging, while I recovered from my cancer surgery, but just a heads up, there's not much that's going to be happening on this page anytime soon. I'm not going away, exactly, but I have to adjust to being back to work full time, which has been very positive, but also quite exhausting, after a year of R&R and gradual "deconditioning" as I recuperated. I also have a new kitten, who is very high energy, and (since I was home all the time here, unlike my hard-workin' spouse) have become the de facto housework-doer, even more than I was before I got sick; hopefully I can get Erika involved in a bit more of that again, because holy cripes am I exhausted. Time to write? For no money? Uhhh.... nope. I feel like I'm in a Habitrail maze of work duties, laundry, dishes, cooking, grocery shopping, and (for light relief) the odd pleasures of chasing an escaped kitten down the hallway of our building... I often just scoop him up and bring him to the laundry room with me, so he can explore there while I get a load in.
Mind you, I might do the odd thing for the Straight or Montecristo or some other local magazine or paper, but only because there's compensation involved and I have holes to fill (credit card debt is a bitch and a year of reduced income on disability pay didn't help). There are a few things elsewise that I'm committed to - I have a big Rob Nesbitt piece that keeps getting shelved because I either get sick or have a computer failure whenever it approaches, and a big John Wright piece I've committed to do for a German mag (he's announced his new project, 3-2=1, and is talking about a release date sooner rather than later)... but... I'm not sure where I'll get the mojo or the time...
What can I say in the meantime? People who like soulful rock should check out the Vanrays at the Fox on February 11th. CLONE, Vancouver's current glam champs, I believe, are opening. I'm excited to see Jonathan Richman again at the Rio in March, and there are a ton of very cool local bands playing a benefit for Ukrainian refugees in Poland shortly after that. I've grabbed a ticket to FEAR in April because, well, shit, how can I not? (DOA and the Vicious Cycles are opening, too). Got tickets for Erika and I to Lucinda Williams and Big Thief and hope to get a promo copy of Lu's book - the Lu's Jukebox series is amazing (tho' I didn't get the Tom Petty one, since I'm just not a big Tom Petty fan). Was very sorry to hear she had a stroke, very glad to hear she's recovering, and hoping to read her upcoming memoir.
Oh, and I hear from David M. that Iggy Pop is coming and that's a definite maybe, too. But short of "reimbursement situations," I barely am going to have time to GO to these gigs, let alone blog about them. Just the way things are right now. Maybe something on Atomic Werewolf, who continue to release NO FUN stuff (I now have 1894 and Snivel on CD - I mean, I had them before, too, but just versions that M. put out on CRr.)
There are a few other things that excite me locally, mind you, but everything else that's happening in the next while is stuff I've pitched to the Straight (so I don't want to jinx it) or is something I don't really want to mention here for some other reason. So that's all I've got for now. Have a good spring, I guess. Maybe seeya at a show.
Wednesday, February 01, 2023
UPDATED - So here's a weird thing: John Otway is playing a completely under-promoted gig - actually only a couple of songs, he's telling me - in North Vancouver this Friday night. Al Mader (AKA the Minimalist Jug Band) phoned me tonight to tell me of it, having found a single image on Gary Topp's Facebook page advertising the gig, which is the only news of it you can find anywhere online; apparently Otway is en route to New Zealand, has a stopover here, and decided to do a last-minute show at Toby's, at 8:30 pm, on a borrowed guitar, which absolutely no one is bothering to promote except Al and I. As it turns out, alas, Al is working that night and I'm going to Stick Men at the Rickshaw - have already bought my ticket - but given the situation, we both are trying to do due diligence to directing people the Otway way. He's an eccentric wildman/ true enthusiast of early British punk, sometimes grouped with the likes of John Cooper Clark, and best known to those who don't know him (prolly) for this clip from Urgh! A Music War... or for those who do know him (at least a bit) for eccentric li'l ditties like "Headbutts" or "Willy (in the Air)." For a taste of what Otway might look like now, well, he put out some Lockdown videos that are pretty darn entertaining. Toby's is, I gather, one of those places where you might be expected to eat or drink (they have Yorkshire puddings!) but it doesn't LOOK like there's a cover. There's none on the poster, which is literally the only info I can find. I mean, seriously, I'd consider going, but I've already paid for Stick Men, and I'm a bit too broke for a fancy dinner out for me and the wife. (Actually now we're considering it anyhow).
YOU should go, though. ALL OF YOU! Or at least let everyone know about it. If you like your music playful, energetic, witty, and wildly performed... John Otway's your man. You may not get another chance! Two songs by John Otway! (Maybe three, if we're nice?). All I know.