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jimmy skyline

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  1. Part musical concert, part dance, part performance piece, part kinetic sculpture, David Byrne's latest American Utopia Tour settled into a slightly abbreviated stop at CityFolk Festival in Ottawa. The show has been gathering an endless stream of positive reviews, and fan appreciation. Really, the reason why this seems to resonate so deeply amongst the wide-ranging demographic that makes up David Byrne fans base is a little perplexing. Minimalist in design, the performance is endlessly engaging and transforming. Within the somewhat self referential opening of the show, (so similar in idea to Stop Making Sense, with David Byrne at centre stage in bleak surroundings and alone), the audience is drawn in and seduced by the stark setting, grey leisure suit, bare feet, desk, chair and a “brain” carrying showman. David sucks you in and before you know it we are living in Dave’s Byrne Big World. With no explicit narrative, there is the thread of positivity, and hopefulness that permeates the overall exploration of design, form, and movement. The overall effect of the show is Kinetic Sculpture… using humans and the occasional simple prop, Byrne leaves enough room to transpose your imagination onto the dance and the forces that cause and create movement. The latest record, American Utopia, deeply benefits from the continued collaboration with Brian Eno, making it Byrne highest chart topping success. The time is ripe for some positivity, but American Utopia and recent projects are filtered through the eyes of the modern condition. Tracks like, “Lazy”, and “I Should Watch TV, which are both collaborations with St. Vincent, were sobering reminders of the bleak separation and general malaise that encompasses so much of our daily encounters. On stage, the band was watching a “tv” that was simply a beam of light glowing off of the hanging chain link strands that boxed in the stage’s back and sides. David Byrne rolls up his sleeves, miming shooting up, and sings “touch me, and feel my pain”, suggesting that the drugging of our nation is a response to the alienation from the advent of technology, and an environment where we can be instantly be connected to each other, but still suffer the painful isolation and solitariness of being lost in society. The idea of “Utopia” is not a delusional pipe dream, but one tempered by an understanding that it is an ongoing struggle, and that it is a work in progress. It is often overlooked that “Utopia” is part of a larger project that David Byrne is engaged in. The project, which borrows a title from Ian Dury and the Blockhead’s song “Reasons to Be Cheerful, Part 3”, which ironically was written in the U.K. during the Margret Thatcher years. Within the context of this bigger project David Byrne ’s “Reasons to Be Cheerful”, looks at the complexities of the urban environment, and the subtle but transformative cues, like the changing impact of increased bicycle use on our daily life, our outlook, our habits, and the environment. Byrne is looking at the ways to change our perspectives by engaging with the world in more direct and meaningful ways. The bombardment of images and messages that promote fear and dread, largely propagated by media, corporations and the government, is what the authorities want you to feel. This is part of a “Hegelian dialect”, that keep the power structures oppressing individuals in society, and allow the exploitation of those individuals at the same time. “They” want you to live in fear, keep you at bay and use this as leverage for policies and attacks on freedoms and liberties. The “Reasons to Be Cheerful” project, is a plea to turn off the fear mongering media messages, and re-engage in your community, make real human connections and participate in civic issues. In other words, he is hoping that people simply get involved in a direct and meaningful way to make the world a better place, no matter how small the contribution may seem. Walk to the store instead of driving, bike more, grow your own food, and to be really subversive, smile more. Yes, smile more, and if you do, you may soon notice, people will smile back. All of this is a subtext to a performance which is at its core is a celebration of joy, music, and movement. The fluidity of the dance, the freedom of the musicians to move freely, the stripped-down aesthetic gives a lot of opportunity for the audience to celebrate alongside. The entry point into the performance is easy, nothing really stands between the performer and audience, and this transforms the event into a giant kinetic experience. The energy of the dance was infectious for the audience at CityFolk. With the side screens that usually give the back 40 a good close up of the performance, were black. The only way to experience the show was by directly watching it. There was no way to filter the experience through another medium. The stage design was as striking from the dead centre 30 feet out, as it was from the back of the Great Lawn. The stage glowed with a shimmering intensity, the dancing so bold and engaging that no matter where you stood, you were in on the action. Of course, it was the music that propelled the dance, and the Ottawa crowd dropped it usual conservatism and boogied right along. There were more balls out dancing then I have ever seen at an Ottawa show. It was very heartening to be in the middle of this energy, and be able to dance with abandon at the foot of the master of polyrhythmic cross-cultural musical mayhem. I have seen David Byrne perform over the years, including the small understated tour that he did after the St. Vincent collaboration. On that tour, he played mostly his back catalogue of Talking Heads material. Although this tour was incredibly satisfying, in all sincerity, Ottawa shock their collective money maker just like I remembered at “The Remain In Light Tour” of 1981. This was a watershed moment for me, at only 14 years of age, (with The English Beat as an opener), my life was transformed. I danced for the first time that night. And I mean really danced. With abandon. Forgetting time and space, and dissolving into rhythm and movement. Pure joy. Pure celebration. And smiles. Lots of smiles. Just like Ottawa. Two songs were dropped from the set list that has been commonly played on this tour. Both “Bullet, and the unrecorded live song, “Dancing Together”, were dropped from previous shows. A slightly different song order was also an unusual feature of this rare outdoor festival performance. Most venues have been sit-down theatres, like the two summer shows in Toronto, at the Sony Centre. So, it was very heartening to see Ottawa take advantage of the setting, and cut a deep rug on The Great Lawn. The bulk of the set list was from “American Utopia”, and smatterings of the Talking Heads back catalogue. A little less then half the show saw a survey of some of the Talking Heads best material, and there was a lovely shout out to David Byrne's many collaborations with a light-hearted Fatboy Slim (The Brighton Port Authority) number called “Toe Jam”. Deep tracks like “I Zimba”, “Once in a Lifetime”, and the “Great Curve”, had the most resonance with the audience. I suspect, as was the case with me, that the older Talking Heads pieces transported us back to our youth and the start of our musical awakenings. I heard many a side conversation re telling which album and at what age people discovered the Talking Heads. From “77”, through to “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts”, to the underrated last record “Naked”, everyone seemed to hold high reverence to their David Byrne initiation. Now, I’m a realist, and not someone prone to using my rose coloured glasses to view my past. As awe-inspiring as this tour is, I can not shake the idea of how notoriously difficult David Byrne is to work with. Often, and especially for this incredibly intricate performance, David Byrne gets a pass on his curmudgeon demeanor. I suspect that as free-flowing and celebratory as the performance appeared, there is an iron hand driving the performance and its aesthetics. Initially, the “American Utopia” tour was booked into several venues and then canceled… Burlington and Montreal come to mind. It is my understanding that the stage set up did not meet David Byrne's minimal requirements, leaving several cities out of the mix. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, it is his tour, and his vision, and a fine one at that. One opinion that i seemed to share with only myself, was that the band was not near as powerful as “The Remain in Light” band that had Adrian Belew, and Busta Jones and, well everyone really… in the shadows of my mind, this band was different than the Talking Heads. I would like to think that comes down to ownership… the fellow founding members of the Talking Heads, Chris Frantz, and Tina Weymouth owned the material, shaped it and created it. When the original Talking Heads played, they were nothing short of dangerous, and provocative. They were a machine with many moving parts, that sometimes felt like they would implode, but rarely did. The “American Utopia” band felt like they were hitting their cues, and marks, but not free enough to soar above the clouds. Wonderful they were, and I appreciate that this is at best nitpicking, but 1981 this wasn’t. What we did get was a peek into the future of stage performance. With the advent of technology freeing our collective constraints, this novel approach to an unfettered musical experience will become more common, and perhaps even the norm in a few years. Bravo to David Byrne for using a minimalist approach to high light the physical freedom and collective dynamic energy to bring a joyful celebration of music, dance and performance art to the wonderment of all in attendance. This was a real coup for CityFolk and a very high water mark for next years performers. Set List David Byrne September 14, 2018, CityFolk The Great Lawn Landsdowne Park Ottawa Here Lazy I Zimbra (Talking Heads song) Slippery People (Talking Heads song) I Should Watch TV (David Byrne & St. Vincent cover) Dog's Mind Everybody's Coming to My House This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) (Talking Heads song) Once in a Lifetime (Talking Heads song) Doing the Right Thing Toe Jam (Brighton Port Authority cover) Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On) (Talking Heads song) I Dance Like This Every Day Is a Miracle Like Humans Do Blind (Talking Heads song) The Great Curve (Talking Heads song) Burning Down the House (Talking Heads song) Hell You Talmbout (Janelle Monáe cover) (with Merrill Garbus) (also with Ani DiFranco) If you want to explore more about the Talking Heads, David Byrne and the Reasons to be Cheerful movement, check out the links below. Well worth your time. Now smile, dammit. An Introduction to The Talking Heads Well How Did We Get Here? A Brief History of Talking Heads An Audience Video of the American Utopia Tour (complete performance) Reasons to be Cheerful Lecture/Talk by David Byrne David Byrne - Reasons To Be Cheerful talk - Jan. 8, 2018
  2. Tedeschi Trucks Band Review: September 12, 2018. The Great Lawn at Landsdowne Park, Ottawa Mid-set of Tedeschi Trucks Band at the Ottawa CityFolk Festival, I was quietly reminded that I first saw Derek Trucks play with the Allman Brothers in Toronto when he was a tender 21 year old. Now, by 21, Derek was a seasoned veteran, making headway with his powerhouse slide guitar on stages and in front of audiences for several years. He was an acclaimed guitarist, and by age 13 was sharing the stage with Buddy Guy, and ThunderHawk, and could be found guesting with Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton. By July 30, 2000, Molson Amphitheatre performance, The Allman Brothers had just kicked out Dickey Betts (a founding member) from the band only days before. Much to my initial disappointment Jimmy Herring and Warren Hayes were holding down the dueling guitars. Jimmy sat in a chair the whole night, with a pair of headphones on, and Warren was the guitar slut that he would later be known for. However, it was the playing of Derek Trucks that stood out in my memory. I had heard that the nephew of Butch Trucks (the on and off again drummer for the Allman’s and an original member), had been tearing up the coast. And memorable it was. In fact, this particular Allman’s Brother show was so powerful and had rung every single high note of my expectations, that I swore i would never see them again. For me, The Allman Brothers would never play such a perfect show again. They tore it up, leaving everyone exhausted as the last notes of a complete Mountain Jam ended the second set. Derek Trucks left a major mark on the 21st century Allman’s, and this era was faithfully recorded on “Peakin’ at the Beacon”, that same year. One of the high water marks for the band. Derek never stood still, marrying Susan Tedeschi, breaking up the Derek Trucks band and forming the Tedeschi Trucks Band by the year 2010. Since then, the TTB has been road warriors, paying countless festivals and headlining concerts. The 12 piece band has hit their pace, as was evident in the stunning performance at CityFolk at Landsdowne Park September 12, 2018. If there was any doubt that Derek Trucks was one of the greatest guitarist going these days, that notion was left behind after a blistering and inspired set that lasted just over 90 minutes. Their official time slot was listed at a paltry 70 minutes, but TTB came out 10 minutes earlier than their set time and finished a good 15 minutes after the curtain call time. Still, by TTB standards it was a shortened set. Twelve songs, and one encore later, the Ottawa crowd was treated to a spiritual, positive, and intricate evening of jam-infused songs. Susan’s voice was pure and strong, with hints of a gritty Bonnie Raitt, and a whole bag of soul to boot. Her guitar playing was the perfect foil for a band with a lot of musical muscle. When she stepped out on lead guitar, she played with initial poise and constraint, building her soaring leads and pushing the jams forward. Lead vocals were traded off a couple times in the evening, allowing the backup singers, Matt Mattison, and Mark Rivers to have their due. But it was Susan’s soulful poignancy that gave credit to the plea for peace, love, and acceptance (a philosophical perspective shared by most Jam Bands of this era). The Joe Cocker song (written by Mathew Moore) “Space Captain” which ended the set, was sung convincingly by Susan as she repeated the refrain, “Learning to live together, Till we die.” Overall the set reflected the Great American Jukebox… every night TTB plays a different show. Sometimes a song might be repeated, but show to show, night to night, anything could happen. CityFolk got two brilliant Bob Dylan covers, “Down in the Flood”, which had an incredible break down in the middle which deconstructed Dylan’s music and sent it into the stratosphere, and another cover off of 1974’s Planet Waves, “Going, Going, Gone”. A spiritual centre piece of the set, Susan was able to give us a “bring me to Jesus” moment. There was no shortage of musical highlights. Kofi Burbridge on flute and keyboards took out the Hammond B3 organ and the two Leslie Horn speakers for an early set break out that reminded everyone why vintage musical equipment is so magical. Derek spent most of the night nestled into the back corner near the bass player Tim Lefebvre, where both of them had the physical impact of those spinning Leslie’s at their feet. It seemed that every time Derek was not stepping out on a lead, he would venture to the back, and stand squarely between the Leslie speakers. Derek’s stage presence is so understated and his demeanor is so humble, it's easy to underestimate his real virtuosity. With a band with so many moving parts, the focus is still on the flow. The occasional trading of leads is mostly superseded by more organic exploration. Derek navigates the waters only captaining the ship when needed. His subdued stage presence speaks to his humbling approach to the big band sound. Where just a few years ago TTB was a solid bet for a great night of blues-infused music, we are now seeing the genesis of a live juggernaut. CityFolk will do well to have TTB return in future festivals. Set List Tedeschi Trucks Band September 12, 2018 CityFolk Ottawa, Landsdowne Park Anyhow High and Mighty Let me get by Midnight in Harlem Down in the Flood Let's Get Stoned Don’t Know What Shame Going, Going, Gone Sky is Crying I Want More Space Captain E: Made Up My Mind
  3. I want to claim Father John Misty as our own. No, not as a Canadian, but as a voice coming out of Generation X. An argument can be made for this as he is born in 1981, and depending on how you map it out, he could be a Gen. X’er rather than a Millennial. Why is this important? I guess it really isn’t, but from my selfish point of view, I want bragging rights on Josh Tillman’s artistic vision, his sardonic wit, his world vision, and his cynicism. Either way, Josh Tillman has created an off hand brand, called Father John Misty, and is a badly needed light in todays barren musical landscape. He writes stories and narratives, poems and prose. He writes long winding sojourns into modern day society, lifting the veil back from the puke coloured concealment of todays state of ‘pure comedy’ found in the world. He’s sees the humour that is left behind from all the hopelessness. He attests to the failure of man. When all is laid bare, there is nothing left but laughter. The slow ride of mans demise is palpable now, we can all collectively see the absurdness in how the “machine” works, being able to identify the corrupt nature of big business, and politics, the failure of humans to know better, but not to do better, the realization that the environment, religion, personal relationships, and the distracting numbness of the entertainment industry all are fugazi and fucked up beyond recognition. Clearly, as with Father John Misty’s well publicized on stage melt down in Candem N.J. in 2016, a day after the presidents inauguration. Here, FJM completed a monologue espousing the great sins that have lead America to elect a cartoon celebrity of a President. This rant was punctuated with a Leonard Cohen cover, and a 13 minute version of “Leaving L.A.”, from his brilliant record “Pure Comedy”. He reminded everyone that we need to “take a moment to be profoundly sad.” Largely, this was met by the audience with disdain. Even by directly pointing out the “numbing effect” that the entertainment industry has had on people- (call it the opiate of the masses, if you will)-, the audience made it clear that he was to “shut up and sing.” Truly, profoundly sad. It’s not that i think the Millennial’s don’t deserve FJM, it’s more that he fits in with the cynicism and absurdness exemplified by the generation sandwiched between the ‘bloated, bustling ,and ultimately self absorbed failures’, called the Baby Boomers and the confusion of ‘what is the 21st century suppose to look like’, Millennial’s. If not by birth right, FJM fits in with the Gen. X’ers who wanted nothing to do with the “machine”. They held great disregard for material gain, and looked towards an entrepreneurial perspective and found a healthier life-work balance than most that came before or arrived later. Gen. X’ers got passed over, and that’s fine, because most of that generation saw the comedy and absurdity, and wanted nothing to do with it. Advertisers passed over Gen. X. as they couldn’t figure out how to sell to a bunch of cynics. Corporations and government employers passed over Gen. X. as the bloated numbers of Baby Boomers held onto their fiercely fought long climb to ‘middle management’. The entertainment industry tried to imbibe the voices of Gen. X. only to to blown away by the relative indifference of it’s strongest voices. The game was and is rigged, and Gen. X’er wanted little to do with it. Hence, the laughter. So, as Father John Misty walked out on City Stage Saturday night, his volatility proceeded him. For those who have been on this ride, watching the as the ex-Fleet Foxes drummer engaged the world with solo records, and a trio of FJM records, there was a sense of “edge of your seat” tension. What were we going to get? Would it be an introspective folk show with a stripped down vibe, a collection of songs from his ever widening body of work, a lush orchestrated musical ride, or a freak out, and lose it on the audience, type of show. What we got was an incredible ride through the better parts of “Pure Comedy”, a good smattering of his industry break out, “I love you, Honeybear”, and a touch of “Fear Fun”. The lead off four songs, “Pure Comedy”, "Total Entertainment Forever”, "Things it Would Have Been Helpful Before the Revolution”, and "Ballad of the Dying Man”, suggested a complete run through of his master work L.P., Pure Comedy. Alas, “Birdie” the next song on Pure Comedy was not to be played this night. What followed was a weaving back and forth song selection from his two previous records and a single called “Real Love Baby”. The impact of the first four songs set the mesmerizing tone for the night. The audience watched and listened with pin dropping silence and rapped attention. They were hanging on his words, being seduced by his lanky dance moves, the simple lighting, and the lush orchestrated sounds. T he mid set rollicking “I’m Writing a Novel”, felt so much like a take on the self eulogizing and self mocking song “Ballad of John and Yoko”, and was a relief from the intensity of the set thus far. What we didn’t get in Ottawa, was the six strings and three horns sections that has been with him on every show of the tour up to then. As good as the show was, the addition of silky strings and horns would have been the cherry on top. This was compensated by some additional synths and keyboards, and in actuality, the overall effect of the lush orchestration of the songs were held together by the seven piece band. Occasionally fitted with an acoustic guitar, FJM’s only prop of the night, was the lone microphone at the front of the stage. He is a charismatic showman posing with grand hand gestures, crossing of legs, and a twisting of limbs, all with a provocative nuance. Dropping to his knees, falling onto the stage, with a mocking tone of a religious fervour, it was almost too much to bare. He strutted, twirled his microphone, pranced and danced with an odd separation of the top and the bottom of his body. He showed off graceful Jaggeresque swagger but with loopy spindly legs. He is an enigma. His dancing is as above, as below, exposing that the seemingly contradictory forces are actually unified, similar to the idea that, within tragedy there is comedy. It is near impossible to narrow down his stage presence, his voice, and his songwriting. We can see some of the Randy Newman and Harry Neilson biting sardonic lyrics played over smooth as velvet pop song melodies. A voice that at times seems part Elton John, part Jimmy James, and all FJM. A stage presence and delivery that is some where between Glenn Campbell’s simplicity, and the ferociousness an intellectualism of Nick Cave. Josh was simply dressed in a dark blue thigh length jacket, with black pants soiled from the stage dust picked up when falling to his knees, and a button down black collared shirt, open to his mid chest, exposing just enough skin to be provocative. It is a look that is an everyday appearance for him, as if he had just walked off the street. Josh has recently re-bearded for the tour, a look that seemed to be mandatory as every member of the the 7 piece band had them. At one point, kneeling down at the edge of the stage he assured a young lady in the audience that any of the fine bearded men on stage could be a fine replacement for her bearded boyfriend, then reminded her that the boyfriend is the only one who matters, before continuing on with “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me”. Seemingly self deprecating, FJM never lost the plot, and had little to say beyond “Thanks for being here”, and “drive home carefully”. On this long over due warm fall evening, the music did the talking. Any risk of appearing too clever, or court jester antics, were mitigated by his relative silence, and commitment to the songs. Beside the horns and strings, the only thing on my list for a perfect FJM show would have been the addition of Jonathan Wilson. Wilson is presently touring with that Pink Floyd guy, Roger Waters. Jonathan Wilson had set up a recording studio that has seen the collaborative exploits of Chris Robinson, John Stirratt, Gary Louris, Mark Olson, David Rawlings, the Dawes, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, and Elvis Costello (among many others). Josh has been a regular presence there, and the Echo Park studio has hosted all of his FJM recordings. The two became fast friends, and are very close co conspirators on Pure Comedy. They are well on their way into creating a dynamic body of 21st Future Folk sounds filtered through the Laurel Canyon vibes. Wilson, slightly older then Josh, is accredited with the Laurel Canyon revival and is featured in the “Canyon of Dreams” book by Harvey Kubernik. There is no doubt that the relationship between FJM and Jonathan Wilson has shaped the current sound and allowed FJM to experiment and put “play” and creativity as a central force in the music making. Certainly, the micro dosing of LSD by the pair helped shape a lot of Pure Comedy’s tone and content. Echo Park Studios has allowed them to spend hours in the studio pursuing sonic directions and lyrical gymnastics with out restrictions. The unique aesthetic and the decidedly singular sound of FJM owes a great deal to his co producer, and collaborator Jonathan Wilson. Pure Comedy was a little more planned out and structured than the earlier FJM recordings, actually using outside musicians instead of the two of them playing everything on the records. But the lasting imprint of Wilson and Tillman is unmistakeable. Even though this is taken out of context, The Kris Kristofferson verse from The Pilgrim, Chapter 33, originally written about Harry Dean Stanton seems to echo some truth about Father John Misty….. “ He’s a poet, an’ he’s a picker, he’s a prophet, an’ he’s a pusher He’s a pilgrim and a preacher, and a problem when he’s stoned He’s a walkin’ contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction Takin’ ev’ry wrong direction on his lonely way back home ” — Kris Kristopherson There were no strings. There were no horns. There was no Jonathan Wilson. There was a shortened set, down from an average 22 song performance to an intense 15 song show. Even with out all of these things, Father John Misty delivered a memorable show, leaving just enough room for his next Ottawa appearance to even be more mind blowing. The Future Folk Sound is here. SET LIST CityFolk Festival Ottawa, September 16, 2017 Pure Comedy Total Entertainment Forever Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution Ballad of the Dying Man Nancy From Now On Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins) When The God Of Love Returns There'll Be Hell To Pay When You're Smiling and Astride Me I'm Writing a Novel True Affection Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings Real Love Baby Holy Shit I Love You, Honeybear Encore: I Went to the Store One Day
  4. An hour was way too short of a set time for Broken Social Scene to hit their stride at Ottawa CityFolk Festival. Coming off a tour with sets being over two hours in length, the pacing at CityFolk seemed rushed. BSS missed turning what could have been another outstanding show into a quick run through of some of their best material. When BSS are in full flight, they are a jet plane who’s wings are about to come off. There can be moments of sheer chaos, a tearing at the seams, where the music and the band can be falling apart, right up to a cliff’s edge, looking down, taking that last step over the edge to end up where the audience and band are pulled back from the precipice, and then every thing, music, band and audience turn into a celebration of joy and ecstasy. These moments of musical mayhem, come celebration are hard to find in todays musical landscapes. BSS have long been purveyors of risk taking where the potential is great gain, or great loss. It was not from lack of trying or lack of focus, but more of a running out of any more road to drive on. With expectations of band members ranging from a lean six piece to the ridiculous 19 that have graced the stage in the past. A cool 10 piece band emerged on the Great Lawn City Stage. Lead by BSS stalwart guitarists, Kevin Drew, Andrew Whiteman, and Brendan Canning, and supported on the back beat and rhythm machine duo of Charles Spearin and Justin Peroff, they promised that they “came here to rock their guts out (Kevin Drew)”. The female singers were the wild card for the show. Ultimately Amy Millan and fellow Stars and BSS early member Evan Cranley were in fine form. They were joined by new singer Ariel Engle, who with husband Andrew Whiteman (Apostle of Hustle, Bourbon Tabernacle Choir) are a folk duo AroarA. Both female singers suffered from being buried in the mix, and along with other sound issues, every thing seemed to get ironed out by the half way mark. The cacophony of aural riches continued with the addition of atwo piece horn section, and sometime additional drummers. Song high lights included 7/4 Shoreline, Stars and Sons, and the Cause=Time. at his last time through Toronto. A sign that BSS has reached far and wide. A memorable Stay Happy was sung by Ariel Engle, which appears on their latest Hugs and Thunder L.P. However, by the time BSS had to sign off on the show, they were just starting to leave the ground and soar. Hopefully BSS will pass back through Ottawa as they head out on a North American tour. Next time a longer set, smaller venue, and more risk and reward should be expected.
  5. August 19, 2017 Claude Munson There is a new Canadiana sound. Bands like Patrick Watson, Joe Grass, Jesse Mac Cormack and the Barr Brothers share a musical aesthetic that is coming to the forefront of contemporary Canadian songwriting. There is a new generation of alternative folk music that is at a ground swell, and is set to catch a fire in our music scene. Claude Munson fits this bill. The Forest stage was the perfect venue for experiencing him, and his on again, off again fellow band mates. Late summer sun, under a tent, in the woods and loads of fresh air, complemented this early evening serenade. Claude Munson’s travelling floating melodies, were enriched with a alto voice with a subtle trumpet quality to it. Both Claude’s band and his voice were fluid, and charming. The band hinted at being able to extend the music into swelling and crashing jams, but held back most of the time. Accented by some killer slide on a fender strat guitar, a Canadian made Godin hollow body, and a vintage sound coming out of Claude’s own red top Harmony Rocket guitar (amazing to see this guitar, and equally amazing to see it stay in tune for most of the show), the sounds were rich and warm. It’s a shame the band didn’t step out more, it was clear that they had enough depth to drive the well crafted songs to the limit. The back beat was muted by some red cloth on top of the drums to dampen the sound. The result was a magical blend of subtle sounds supporting an incredible voice. Harmonies of Stefan Stevens, Half Moon Run, and Barr Brothers abound. Fluid and silky. Photo: Jimmy Skyline Future States Again, being unfamiliar I came to this Barn stage performance with little expectation. What I got was a lush psyche pop sound. What I left with was a band who is looking back as much as forward. A Sixties sensibility of pop psyche, and complex four part harmonies, paired with layers of swirling guitars and keyboards. Sometimes quite trite melodies were followed by huge musical blowouts, giving an indication to the ground that Future States walk on. Evidently playing with a new drummer, they didn’t seem to miss a beat. The Barn was packed for their show, and some rabid dancers help lift the energy. The end of the set had every one pushed forward to the front of the stage, which must have been a relief to to Chuck Bronson as he started the show by asking people to come closer. They are touring around now in support of their record “Casual Listener”. Photo: Jimmy Skyline Deerhoof Rolf Klausener came out to introduce Deerhoof. He told a story about passing on seeing them in the mid 1990’s, and regretted it as it took another 15 years for him to catch them live. I have a similar story. I have missed Deerhoof by a hair many times over the near three decades of this legendary band. A band that defies description, that should have never survived, a band with out a leader, a band beyond description. There is too much to recap of their storied history. I am just thankful that Deerhoof came to town and slaughtered. Yes, slaughtered. Maybe I would have a more measured reaction if this was say the early 90’s when there was so much unstoppable creativity in the music scene. Or maybe I am missing my youth, where you could see just about any band tear it up and leave no prisoners. But Deerhoof exceeded my expectations. In a music fest that clearly had a particular curated sound, Deerhoof was the glorious exception to the rule. Born out of San Fransisco around 1995, a more singular ambitious art project to survive this long is nearly unimaginable. It felt fresh. It felt honest. It felt undeniable. It was relentless and punishing at times. Driven hard by the intertwine of the two guitars, chasing the lead lines in unison, then pulling them apart in angular, rhythmic directions. John Dieterich and Ed Rodríguez kept the guitar mayhem alive, as Greg Saunier pounded out the drum lines. A real heavy hitter. Greg took to the microphone a couple of times. His surreal story telling is improvised, and on this occasion he marvelled at the bands rider request for a carrot. Of coarse, Arboretum will be the only venue that could supply a perfect purple carrot directly from the ground. He said, “We got carrot straight from the ground from the venue.... backstage after show, there is a reward of a purple carrot,…. unless the other bands are eating it now.” Greg along with Satomi Matsuzaki on vocals are all thats left of the earliest stages of Deerhoof with John joining in around 1999. Satomi is a force of nature. Her diminutive size lies in contradiction to her massive stage presence. She has a timeless, ageless beauty. Her energy is infectious, playful and alluring. She danced, hopped, bounced, and hand jived to the angular musical structure, while sing over top beautiful and joyous melodies. Beefhartian at times, with a similar love for the poetic and absurd, in a word Deerhoof were crushing.
  6. August 18, 2017 Cadence Weapon Edmonton’s Roland Pemberton III, offered up a blistering hip hop set. Never taking himself too seriously, and clearly enjoying the vibe of the forest stage, his smiles were a counter point to some of the most astute lyrics in rap today. He’s got game. Although he was personable, understated (rare in the hip hop genre), and charming, his words were full of insight and social commentary. His diction was perfect, with rapid fire vocals not getting lost in the DJ’s beats. Perhaps, hip hops urban element was a bit misplaced with the farm atmosphere, but his clear strong voice carried rhymes that were melodic and varied. He took the mick out of some of rap’s more universal cliches like call and response, and the hilarious “wave your hands in the air, so we can pretend we are at Glastonbury.” A great start to the festival, especially after the underwhelming Un Blonde set. Photos: Jimmy Skyline Isaac Vallentin Even though he is from Ottawa, Isaac was not on my radar. Isaac seemed right at home, playing off the floor of the barn stage. Pushed slightly off to one side and framed by the old barn board and canoe he seemed to reflect a level of song craft found in the back rooms of Canadian bars. Wit and witticism came flying out of smart, tightly written melodies and serious hooks. Paced by indy guitar, a rich darkly toned voice, and cutting keyboard his songs seemed familiar, even though it was the first time I heard them. Infectious songs, all about song craft, smartly dressed melodies, and undeniable hooks. Yamantaka // Sonic Titan In terms of this festival, I only have two of the artists in my record collection. Along with Deerhoof!, Yamantaka//Sonic Titan are the only performers that I was familiar with. A near impossible to describe mash up of musical and cultural stylings that are a rare and refreshing musical endeavour in a land of mediocracy. I was a little worried about how their distinct studio sound would translate to the stage. A six piece touring band, complete with Kabuki type face make up, pounded out a set in a self described “Noh Wave” musical style. A contemporary opera, fusing metal, noise, folk and disparate elements of east meets west. I took zero notations during this performance, which speaks to their ability to immerse the audience into another musical journey. Yamanaka is sometimes characterized as a “conquer of Death”, with in certain schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Just like this lord of death Yamanaka//Sonic Titan played fearlessly into the night. Not to be missed. The forest stage was the perfect place for their brand of mystical performance. Captivating. Le1f Khalif Diouf, was provocative and gorgeous. This prince was commanding of everyones attention. Starting with a stage bathed in blue, his cape and hood framed a generous 6ft frame, with a bejewelled appliqué wife beater and spandex short pants body suit. Pushing the limits in the NYC hip hop scene, Le1f drew from rap, reggae, and EDM to spin a cycle of highly sexualized songs. Prancing, gyrating and vogueing his way through his set, he was teasing and playful. As the stage lighting went from blue to red, things started to heat up. At one point stripping down to just the spandex, tossing his cap and muscle shirt, he teased, “OH, you like that!”. At another point, Le1f crouched over a tall women, and simulated kissing and other sexual overtones, never appearing to threaten, but more of a celebration of hedonism. Provocative and confident, with rapid fire rants, and temptress attitude, Le1f dropped mad, disparate, and disjointed beats, similar to Cakes Da Killa. Occasionally, the flow was broken by Le1f pulling up the DJ’s beats and restarting the songs, but what was lost in flow, was made up with humour and charm. Claiming to have been awake since 4 am, his loss was our gain. Clearly, this didn’t slow him down as he leaped, danced, and vogued into the night. Wake Island A Montreal come NYC based electronic duo, of Lebanese musicians Philippe Manasseh and Nadim Maghzal rounded out the first night for me. I can say that EDM holds little interest for me, but i was making connections to the early days of New Order who filtered their music through the Hip Hop/ Rap/ Graffiti culture of 1980’s NYC’s through their English upbringing (Power. Corruption and Lies era). Here, with Wake Island I came to understand the same filtering process, one of blending Montreal, NYC, Lebanon, and Euro Trash influences to a highly danceable, melodic, and engaging sets of beats. Infectious and dancea
  7. Arboretum Festival Photos: Jimmy Skyline Music and Food. I have spent my life dedicated to these two pursuits. These are the cornerstones for humanity. They distinguish us from the kingdoms of other animals. Before words, it was music and food that established the constructs of human culture. These are the parts of culture shared by all peoples, of all times. They are pre-language. The modern celebration of these noble arts is everywhere, but seldom are they the focus of a singularly well-planned event. The Arboretum Festival held on Rideau Pines Farms took it’s first steps of transforming it’s illustrious past into a forward thinking celebration. Quietly, Arboretum has left the confines of the Ottawa cityscape to the pastoral landscapes of a well established farm and country side. Last year, Arboretum held a sprawling 68 band festival, with workshops and chef’s in tow, to a much more downsized, intimate, and joyful festival tucked just outside of Ottawa, in North Gower. Rideau Pines Farm has been a family owned and operated Fruit and Vegetable farm for over 30 years. The Vandenberg family rescued an abandoned dairy farm and turned it into a pick your own fruit and vegetable haven. Today, Rideau Pine Farms services fresh produce to the finest restaurants in Ottawa. Some of the best places to eat in Ottawa, take daily deliveries from the farm. At one time, back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, Ottawa was a food waste land. Nothing of any real consequence was going on in terms of food dynamics. As a chef myself, it was the main reason I left the city. If you wanted to cook on a serious level, Ottawa was not the place to be. Little did I realise that at this time, some of the foundations for the vibrant food scene that we enjoy today were being laid. Slowly, what has emerged is a vibrant, locally driven, food culture that has entrenched itself deeply enough to be the new rigour. Most festivals have woken up to the importance of food in relation to music. More and more variety is offered on festival sites. Arboretum takes this to the next level. The number of food vendors were small at this years fest, but you could just as easily make your way into the extensive gardens to pick your own fruits and vegetable, or journey up into the farm’s store front market to buy local honey, maple syrup, and a wide variety of super crisp and fresh produce. The on-site vendors included late night superstars Two Six (Ate), House of Targ’s Pierogies, Sea Sells Sea Shells Oysters, Elliott Gosselin’s Great Glebe Garage Sale Taco’s, and Dash Mobile Cookery Truck. There was some super fresh corn on the cob, that could be washed down with a fine selection of Beyond the Pail Ale, Top Shelf Distilled Spirits or followed by an on draft Buchipop Kombucha. My personal favourite was the Blue Barn Roasters whose hot or cold locally roasted coffee kept me going over the weekend. The vendors were rotated out over the weekend, and depending on the time of the day the selection varied. The longest lines were reserved for House of Targ’s 9 pm to 2 am pierogi blow out. Having the late night sweet spot on Saturday proved to be the only line up of the whole weekend. The festival was kept to a perfect number of attendees, which allowed a smooth transition from stage to stage, and a real feeling of hanging-out-with-friends vibe. Smiles were everywhere. The crowd that gathered were in high spirits, where kindness, and courtesy was the rule and not the exception. This felt like a house party, more than a festival. The change of venue made for an audience that really wanted to be there. A bus shuttle service from city centre helped the mostly millennial crowd have access, with no need for a car. The shuttle service was a great success, and organisers should be honoured for this forward thinking approach of how to get people around safely. The venue has a “build it and they will come”, past. As with any destiny, the right forces needed to partner up to make the best out of disparate talents. The last great unforgettable ice storm made ruin on the farm of a section of great red pine trees. From this loss, Matt Vandenberg (one of the sons of Rideau Pine Farms who started working the land at 3 years old), chopped, milled and constructed what was the structural foundation of the event sight. Out of these trees came an incredible bar, stage, and other small outhouses. Tucked off the road, and beside the open fields, was a concert venue as intimate and as inviting as you can imagine. The main stage easily held the festival goers, and was framed by the handcrafted bar on one side, a small group of trees on the other, and food vendors towards the back. Another sitting area that doubled as a outdoor late night movie theatre was a few feet away. The landscape throughout the farm was accented by temporary architecture and whimsy, especially striking were the floating umbrellas hung from the trees. The second stage was a second floor of a barn that was beautifully lit by the suns rays pouring in from between the opened slats of the aged barn wood. The third stage was tucked well behind the farmhouse, down a long path that opened up to a pond. The Pond stage had to be put on hold as the rain soaked land would not have faired well with all the foot traffic. This late night stage performances were transferred to the “After Party” on the main stage. A wonderful aspect of keeping the number of performers to a reasonable few (about 20 acts), was that the show times were staggered perfectly so you could jump from show to show and not miss a thing. Rolf Klausener, the main force behind Arboretum and his local band The Acorns, recognized the value of Matt Vandenerg’s (and families) work and envisioned a rebirth of the original Arboretum Festival… one built on the notions of intimacy, friendship and togetherness. Pulling back and making a festival smaller may seem to be counter intuitive in a time where bigger is seen as better, but this is what makes Arboretum 2017 such a great success. The music felt like a personally curated show. Rolf was clearly the tastemaker here, with a unity of musical sounds and genres playing out. The aesthetic was personal, and this lead to the feeling like we were at a giant house party. The festival was like a mixtape, driving with the top down along a country road, on a sunny day, with trees a green, and bountiful fields. Along with Vandenbergs opened arm welcoming, a warmer, more personable event could not have been imaginable. In this case, smaller was way better. The Vandenbergs, the musical acts, Rolf Klausener, and food vendors mixed openly with the attendees, the goats, pigs and the chickens. A real scene stealer was the one horned 2 month old baby goat Willy. I found him wandering around on the Friday night show, seemingly undeterred by the people invading his home. After brief talk with Paul Vandenberg, I discovered Willy was an escapee, penned up earlier, this baby goat was ready to get down with the extended family vibes. His compatriot, an older goat Phoebe seemed equally chill, and eventually the two found their way to the front of the farm, and were the unofficial greeters of the festival. Tucked along the fence by the store front the goats held court outside the pen of the most magnificent pig, Florence. This six year old sow was named after Florence the Machine, and recently birthed a set of piglets, all named after music artists and celebrities, like Kevin Bacon, Chris Farley, …. the infectious humour and charm of Matt underlies his love of land and music, as he enthusiastically gave a run down of the farms animals and operations. There are few people in this world that exhume joy and love, and Matt has this in spades. His mother, Barbara, enthusiastically related a story of how an informal meeting between Matt and world famous Chef Jamie Oliver ended up with a day long romp through their farm, complete with television crews catching Jamie Oliver driving tractors, and picking produce. Matt’s infectious personality was undeniable, familiar, and unstoppable. I can only hope that Arboretum will continue along this pathway, and hold more festivals on Rideau Pine Farm. Keeping it small will be a challenge. It is only a matter of time before people start to hear about this great festival’s new direction. In a way Arboretum is going back to their roots, where throwing a great party, with great music, with great friends, was only bettered by an even nicer venue.
  8. ....... It’s only rock and roll. I keep saying this over and over again. I’m guilty of talking about Tom Petty these last few weeks, to the point where I know I’m annoying people. I just can’t place where Tom Petty fits in. Originally the Heartbreakers were lumped into the New Wave sound of the late 1970’s. But like the O.J.’s glove, this didn’t fit. The late 1970’s brought the introduction of a paradigm shift in music. Sure, initially there were some similarities to the brash stylings of Elvis Costello, and Joe Jackson. Extremely tight song writing along with the energy and anger of youth. But the Heartbreakers were no Clash, or Ramones, or Talking heads for that matter. After 1979’s Damn the Torpedoes album dropped, they began their accent to rock royalty. They were, for all intents and purposes, a rock and roll band in an era where rock and roll bands were largely shunned. The self indulgent bloated arena rock of he time (think Boston, Eagles, Journey etc.) was being squashed by the new energy and anger of the DIY, in your face, take no prisoner approach of the new wave, and punk ethos. The rise of Bruce Springsteen and John Cougar got off the ground just before Tom Petty hit the road. There wasn’t a lot of room or interest in straight ahead rock and roll, it was more guts and glory, or art kids making noise. Tom Petty and the Heart breakers are a band out of time. They are at once in the musical time period, but not of that time period. Tom Petty has some how managed to be a relatively straight ahead rock band through four decades where a straight ahead rock band didn’t fit. Sure, in retrospect he is a great American troubadour, writing a body of work that touches on the great American experience, alongside heartland song writers of our time. You can drop Tom Petty along side the Americana and Heartland writing of Bruce Springsteen, and John Cougar Mellencamp. His association and friendship with Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Eddie Veddar and Jeff Lynn don’t hurt either. Tom Petty Photo: Mark Horton - courtesy of Ottawa Bluesfest I was a kid of 12 years old when I discovered a tape cassette of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers stuffed between the seat cushions of my Dad’s 1950’s diner. Of course as I wiped the table down with a dirty rag and cleared the table off for the next customer, I simply tossed the black encased cassette into the lost and found and went along my way. Weeks later, I saw that same cassette was still in the lost and found. I took it home. I didn’t know who Tom Petty was, except for the single on the jukebox, “Refugee”. Damn the Torpedoes exploded into my headphones. What a glorious sonic rock record. At this point, at 12 years old, I was just starting to navigate the world of music. Having been punished by the Disco era, I instinctively knew that what most people listened too was probably best to avoid. I listened to this tape over and over. I felt guilty that I liked it. After all, I had the Clash on my turntable, I wasn’t suppose to be supporting straight up rock music. Tom Petty became a guilty pleasure, and to this day I will pull out my best in car driving karaoke voice, and sing it like no one is “looking”. Damn the Torpedoes became a benchmark album for me, but one I never would admit to. That “lost” cassette became highly informative for me, and lead me to some of my great undying loves of music, especially the likes of Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, and Bob Dylan. Now, Bob Dylan has always been a light in the darkness for me. In 1986, I jumped at the chance to see a double (triple?) bill of the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. This would be the first time for all three. But not the last. Tom Petty was on the back burner for me by then. Dylan was the main reason me and my brother were going to Buffalo, N.Y. on that sunny July 4th. The show was transformative. I would go on to see the Grateful Dead 77 more times, and Dylan about 30 or so times… Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers I would see only once more, again in the 1980’s, well before Tom Petty delved more into a solo recording act (always with some form of the Heartbreakers in the mix). As it turned out, the highlight that day was not the Grateful Dead, as their playing was strained, and tellingly, shortly after this show, Jerry Garcia slipped into a diabetic coma. However, Dylan was on fire. The show was structured with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers opening, (with a really great acoustic set in the middle). My first Dylan show was a barn burner. Never since have I seen Dylan with such rock and roll force. The Heartbreakers were clearly alive and on fire. A perfect foil. Even to my young ears, I could hear the pushing towards the “edge of the cliff” playing. Dylan was notorious for calling out songs at the last minute on stage, and sometimes including songs that were never rehearsed at all. This kept the band and the fans on the edge of their seats. It was palpable. A risk and reward scenario that has had me coming back for more for ever since. I was smitten. Tom Petty Photo: Mark Horton - courtesy of Ottawa Bluesfest But what about Petty? To me the three Jimmy Iovine produced records define the Heartbreakers sound. “You’re Gonna Get It! (1978), “Damn the Torpedoes" (1979) and “Hard Promises” (1981), are the high water mark for the band working as a tight unit of indivisible friends clawing their way out of Gainesville, Florida. They battled against the record company of the time, ABC records, which almost resulted in their third album not seeing the light of day. After this contractual dispute, Tom Petty dug his heels in again, rallying against the vinyl price increase that was to be attached to his forth record Hard Promises. Tom Petty’s integrity came out on top. Holding fast and sure of himself is an ongoing theme in Tom Petty’s life. A rare bird in the recording industry. The trials and tribulations of the recording industry were best focused on the 2002 record “The Last DJ”. Here Tom Petty takes a final knock out punch to the rapidly changing music industry and leaves it to bare. The idea that a group of musicians would band together and push through the world as a united force for the next 40 years seem ludicrous to today’s young artist’s. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were partially lucky, but extremely talented bunch of song writers. Always managing to catch the zeitgeist of the times, but never being swallowed up by it. The video era of the 1980’s have a ton of innovative MTV friendly videos by Tom Petty. But they were not seen as a video band, come Duran Duran, or something. They had radio friendly single after single, but were never reduced to a one off, “listen to me now, forget me later” act. Tom Petty was able to branch off to various side projects, like the , Johnny Cash, or duets with (Fleetwood Mac), with out losing the Heartbreakers in the process. Sure later, the production style of Jeff Lynn changed how the band wrote and recorded (less off the floor, and more divide and conquer, recording the tracks separately, with over dubs). But the band remained in tact. There were a couple of personnel shifts, most notably the back and forth bass player switch of Ron Blair and Howie Epstein (RIP), and the drumming change of founding member Stan Lynch to Steve Ferrone. But over 40 years the core of the band is in tact, and has benefited greatly from this longevity. So, here 40 years after the start, and 30 years after they last played in Ottawa, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers return to the Ottawa Blues Festival. Remember that integrity that I mentioned before? Well I saw very little of that last night on the Lebreton Flats. What I saw was more of a sham than some grande definable moment in a notable career. His set list has been the same since April 2017, the in-between banter has been the same as well. There was no spontaneity or even earnestness in the show. Tom Petty Photo: Mark Horton - courtesy of Ottawa Bluesfest He mailed it in. Don’t believe me? For the actual review of the show, you can google any review from the tour, and swap out the city name. Remember that great line about "Tonight we are gonna look at the last 40 years like it's one side of a big record, and drop the needle all over it” - (Tom Petty) …. makes you think that he is going to pick some songs out of the air, and rock them just for you…. not so much when every night of the tour has had the same setlist in the same order. No variation at all. O.K., you say, this is a big show, with lots of lighting cues, and video edits that have to be hit. I say, that’s fine, if you are Pink, or Lady Gaga and are putting on a grand spectacle, but this is stripped down rock and roll. His stage set up was basic. For those who may have noticed, the stage design was basically a (Identical rigging, just different shaped lights). Not even that was inspired. I guess both bands are shopping in the, “I use to be creatively inspired” store. In fact, those glowing orbs looked just plain stupid. Oh my, a shinny glowing light that moves up and down. Impressive. In the end I would say the production values of this show was as bland as the performance. Yes, I said it. Bland. All those mid set mid tempo songs from his solo records, and the “it’s your turn to sing-along” parts. I don’t need every one around me to sing along with “Mitch”, and I don’t need the performer to tell them to sing-a-long. I love when there is a spontaneous moment where the crowd takes over, but to be directed by the performer is a cheap ploy… almost as bad as “How’s every body doing tonight!! It’s great to be in ________(insert town here)”. Formula to boredom. Still don’t believe me that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers mailed it in? Remember Tom Petty remarking on all that “mojo” that was building last night. Well it must have been left over from Toronto, because he said the exact same thing there, in the exact same place in the set (between Rockin’ Around and Mary Jane). Remember the band intro’s? Well, that was a quote for quote repeat also. “one of rock and roll greatest guitarist”, and “we were going to be in a band together… forever, man!”, could be slotted into any performance of the tour as well. Oh yeah, remember that cool cat like move when he jumped back from the mic, with claws extended. So smooth, right. Well I would hope so, as he does that every single show. 137 million people at Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Ottawa Bluesfest 07-16-2017 Photo: Steve Gerecke - courtesy of Ottawa Bluesfest But the music was great, right!? I’m, not so sure many people were even listening. However, I am certain that most people weren’t listening very closely. The Ottawa Bluesfest was overrun with people in the main bowl. The crowd stretched from incredibly cramped quarters upfront to fairly cramped quarters all the way in the back. It was near impossible to move around the field. I was tucked up front for the start of the show. I lasted the first three songs. What was the point of being “sardines in a can”, with sweaty smelly testosterone driven energy every where around me.? Some guy rabbit punched me in the kidney’s as I tried to leave. I guess he thought I was making a move on the two inches of space that he claimed as his own. And just for clarity, i thought it was a little girl punching me, as his punch had the strength of a aging kangaroo, minus the tail. It appeared that a lot of the audience was there for the party, and to check this legend off on their “I have seen ‘em”, list. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that people are actually going out and supporting live music, and I think you should do just about whatever you like at a show, but I prefer an audience that actually “listens”, as opposed to just making the scene. Once i gave up the front of stage spot, and knowing all that the mid set lull was just around the corner, I felt better. The sound was pretty sweet as you got to the sound board, and again after the second stack of video screens and P.A. system. There was a little more room and decent sound. The Bluesfest had done a great job getting people in, and keeping them safe and secure. They even set up an auxiliary screen just outside the field on the Museum road. Great idea! A place to move and hangout, with pretty good sound. This is where I spent the last part of the show. With the god awful trio of Wildflowers material finishing, I was thankful that the Full Moon Fever and Damn the Torpedoes songs were coming up. The hopes for some good guitar interplay, and higher energy classic rock were mildly fulfilled. It certainly wasn’t the Heartbreakers from the 80’s. They did step it up, and tried to drive the show home, peaking with Refugee and rollicking Running Down a Dream. This band can play. BUT, they just didn’t seem invested. They just seemed to be giving a cross section of their radio friendly fair. No context, no sense of a career defining exhibition of their stellar body of work. Going through the motions to a large degree. Tom Petty, who has been a guiding example of integrity through out his career is pulling the wool over our eyes. In my estimate they mailed this whole tour in. Let’s hope his 50th tour finds more depth and creativity. After all, it’s only rock and roll. Setlist 07-16-2017 Song Album Rockin Around (With You) Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers Mary Jane's Last Dance The Live Anthology (Live)/ Greatest Hits You Don't Know How It Feels Wildflowers Forgotten Man Hypnotic Eye You Got Lucky Long After Dark I Won't Back Down Full Moon Fever Free Fallin' Full Moon Fever Walls “She’s the One”, soundtrack Don't Come Around Here No More Southern Accents It's Good to Be King Wildflowers Crawling Back to You Wildflowers Wildflowers Wildflowers Learning to Fly Into the Great Wide Open Yer So Bad Full Moon Fever I Should Have Known It Mojo Refugee Damn the Torpedoes Runnin' Down a Dream Full Moon Fever Encore You Wreck Me Wildflowers American Girl Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Also some links to reviews to check out….any of them will give you an accurate review of the Ottawa show. Ottawa Citizen Review Atlanta Review Toronto Review St. Louis Review Red Rocks Review
  9. The Barr Brothers Photo: Sébastien Dion Who's got the 10 1/2 ? I imagine Kira still does. But last night at the Festival d'ete de Quebec, Place d’ Youville stage, The Barr Brothers pulled a full Monty and laid the stage bare with raw improvisation and a jam flavoured performance. They were a different band then I have seen before. After a five hour drive from Ottawa to Quebec City I was disappointed that the collaboration with Bassekou Kouyate and Amy Sacko was cancelled. Presumably, they couldn't get in to the country (not really sure why). The collaboration has a back story with the two bands having a history of rehearsals. The stage was set for a showdown of Rhode Island come Montreal come Mali mash up. Only two opportunities to see this magic, a free performance in Quebec City and a Jazz fest show at the Theatre de Maisonneuve in Montreal. This summer has seen slim pickings for The Barr Brothers shows, so I was fully committed to this road trip. The cancellation appeared on my phone just about an hour before we landed on the Grand Allee in Quebec. Crest fallen was my first response. Then I was determined to make the best of the situation. After all, the amazing Afro Beat band from San Paulo Brazil, Bixiga 70 was lined up for the 7:30 pm slot before the Barr Brothers 9:00 pm slot. The Barr Brothers didn't back out of the shows. Instead they soldiered on with a reworked line up and collaboration with Mamadou Koita, Sabio Sissoko and Joe Grass. Cris Scabello - Bixiga 70 Photo: Sébastien Dion We were all good to go it seemed. Quebec City is such a beautiful place to hang out, drink eat, and stroll around. A quick meal, and a couple pastries later we sauntered up to Place d' Youville and took our spot right up against the front rail, dead centre of the stage. This was minutes before Bixiga 70 were to hit the stage.... most people were sitting on the steps and around the perimeter of the square. I guess they didn't know what was about to hit. Bixiga 70 explodes with energy. Within minutes our prime real estate began to fill up with dancing feet and moving hips. Bixiga 70 was on fire again. Having only the Ottawa show to compare it too, they seem to be a solid band that feeds off the energy of Afro Beat and a latin root hybrid sound. They were bouncing back and forth with complex rhythms and driving musicianship. The five hour drive already paid off. It's not like the leading light of Brazils best offering comes up to the great white north often. They reminded everyone just how far they travelled for the Canadian dates, and later after the show they told me that next stop was London, ON. and then Europe. What started as a side project for this group of musicians is turning into a world dominating juggernaut.... they appear to be unstoppable in their ability to drive home infectious rhythms. The audience ate it up like they should. A few spirited dancers were kicking their heels up extra high, and led the conga line with a brief tour around the square. If they didn't know who Bixiga 70 were before the 80 minute set, they do now. A last bow with a giant sign saying 'Fora Temer' was held up. The politics of a corrupt Brazil was put up front and centre with the plea to support the coup d'état and 'Out with Temer'. Political unrest aside, we can only hope for future dates from this exceptional band. Bixiga 70 Photo: Jimmy Skyline Then came the Barr Brothers stage set up. A balafon, kamale ngoni, a kora, and talking drum were visible. This set up clearly belonged to Mamadou Koita from Burkina Faso, and Sabio Sissoko from Senegal. And the peddle steal could only mean that the boyish faced breathtaking musician, Joe Grass was in on the kill taker. Things were looking up. I was going to review the original line up, but when the last minute switch happened I decided to leave the camera at home, and just chill for the night. What a mistake. There was no way not to talk about this performance. From the opening notes the tension was evident. Clearly they had decided to walk a tight rope together. When musicians as well honed as guitarist and lead singer, Brad Barr and his drummer brother Andrew set out to improvise there is a long history of water under the bridge. But this was not the three piece band of The Slip. This was a seven piece juggernaut set to circle the moon. Sarah Pagé - The Barr Brothers Photo: Sébastien Dion From the get go the trajectory was straight up. Some uncertainty was evident at first, some sound adjustments were made, and the musicians were finding their space. By the third number they had left the atmosphere. The jamming came together in an undeniable fashion. They had hit the booster rockets and everyone was on board. It was face melting. At the end of it the band was full of smiles, so wide and so bright that the full moon was blotted out. Even the super stoic Sarah Page, on harp, was smiling ear to ear. I think this was the first time I had seen her so taken with the music they were playing that she leaned forward with joy, forgetting her relative stage shyness. My heart grew. Maybe it was relief that this configuration of the Barr Brothers had something special to offer, but from this point on the night the music was alive with magic. So much risk. So great the reward. So unbelievable was the payoff. The band has never sounded like this. Just before Brad introduced a new song, he hinted at this revelation slyly stating that the older songs seemed new tonight as well. By the time they hit ‘Give the Devil Back his Heart’, the now packed Place d'Youville was exploding with appreciation. The newly introduced poly rhythms has paid off. The music seemed opened ended, and the possibilities limitless. Members playing on each song fluctuated with the need, but the overall dynamic remained the same. Risk and reward. The set ending song ‘Love is Enough’ had the last of the improvised transitions as Brad impulsively picked up his Fender and cued up for a surprising finish with Pink Floyd's ‘Us and Them’. The joy was evident. The crowd ecstatic. The band had hit new heights.
  10. Bob Dylan doesn’t give a fuck. He doesn’t give a fuck about you. And he doesn’t give a fuck about me. That’s what makes Dylan, Dylan. His never ending tour came through town last night, and Dylan does what Dylan does best, and that’s play what he wants, and do as he sees fit. He pleases himself. Last night was pretty indicative of where Dylan is nowadays… a reworked back catalogue with smattering of American standards made famous by crooners and represented on his latest Triplicate and the two previous recordings. Dylan, at 76 years old, is slowing down, and has reached a comfortable place to perform from. His band has settled in as well. A few years back they seemed to be a musical distance that separated the band from Dylan the performer. Dylan is notorious for not practicing with his bands. Often they are set to learn the material by themselves, with Dylan coming in close to the live dates to run through the material. This band has been behind him for years, touring in a Never Ending set of dates (roughly 2000 shows). It has all gelled now. The Bob Dylan backing band is like “The Band”… in fact Dylan eludes to this approach by calling the evening a night with “Bob Dylan and his Band”. Similarly to The Band, himself, is the approach to the songs. Part of The Band’s magic was to be able to play all at once, not trading off solo’s one after the other, which is unfortunately all too often the norm, but soloing all together as it were… All of the musicians are playing muscularity and finding room in the music. There is just enough space for each musician to explore the song, but not be featured in it. If you listen closely every one is contributing to the melody and rhythmic structure all the time. The music is full, almost bursting with life. Listening to old live shows from The Band with Dylan (especially the 1974 tour) you get the sense that this is complex music from simple songs. This band is getting it out there as well. The set list varies very little from show to show. Usually a few songs might be swapped out, but he has been playing shows with less song variation then he did when he was at his most powerful stage of the Never Ending Tour. Years ago, between 1997-2004 Dylan had Larry Campbell and Charlie sexton (1999 -2003, with some shows featuring Colin Linden instead) along with Winston Watson and Tony Garnier. They did Dylan songs justice, I’ve seen at least 30 Dylan shows and nothing compared to this band. The set list varied a lot more, and the band could reach deep into the extensive Dylan catalogue and pull out blistering versions of Masters of War, or Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat. I think it was as early as 1986 with Tom Petty and the Heart Breakers as his backing band, a bill that included the Grateful Dead at Rich Stadium, that I discovered Dylan as a rock machine. A year later, he collaborated directly with the Dead and did six shows that changed Dylan’s perspective of live performance. THE NEVER ENDING TOUR SPRUNG OUT OF THIS RELATIONSHIP… although the collaboration on those six shows was received with mix reviews, the 270 minutes of studio rehearsal outtakes, that circulated widely among tape traders, proved that there was deep fertile ground that the two crossed into. This is the base of Dylan’s live sound ever since… a band that plays so well together, that it becomes intuitive and organic… melody lines and riffs collide as they negotiate the space where they can let loose… never quite stepping on each others toes, but brushed right up against each other… think of it as not colouring in or out of the lines, as much as creating a picture by filling up all the available space… whereever you look closely there is detail, step back and you see the whole. A picture with nuance. The present band is almost as good as anyone who he has played with. I was excited to see Charlie Sexton again on lead guitar. He compliments Dylan’s sound just perfectly. The multi instrumentalist Donnie Herron (pedal steel, lap steel, electric mandolin, violin) is untouchable. Donnie replaces the void left by Larry Campbell (who went on to be Levon Helms band leader after playing with Phil Lesh for a while- now he can be found on tour with Teresa Williams). George Receli (drums, percussion), and Stu Kimball (rhythm guitar) joined shortly after Larry Campbell left, and have been stalwarts of Dylan’s ever since. Continuing to hold down bass is Tony Garnier, playing both an electric and stand up acoustic bass. In general, I hate large shows, but when Dylan comes around, i usually buckle under and go. It’s not the number of people necessarily, it’s not the size of the venue, especially since the sound quality is so good these days. It’s mostly the fake and frustrating hoops that security make you jump through. This creates an oppressive atmosphere. Somehow it seems forgotten that I am a paying customer, who is in effect supporting these events through my money, and I, like all the rest, have come to commune with Dylan to free ourselves from the daily grind. The treatment and invasion by security in the name of safety and the like, has gone too far. The average age at the Canadian Tire Centre was easily 50. This is mostly a grey haired set. There were no 40 oz of Jack Daniels being traded around, instead it is a bunch of middle aged white people sitting on their hands, and in the case of last night they barely noticed that Dylan and his Band had finished the show and had left the stage. A slow burn of appreciation was lulled out of slumber coaxing a two song encore that Dylan would have played regardless. So why the metal detectors, so why must I empty my pockets, why do I have to watch an illegal and invasive search of my wife’s purse. It was pouring rain, and a hastily an “umbrella” check was set up… what exactly was the danger of an umbrella… some one might get impaled by the 80 year old beside me??… i guess. The truth is, if there was someone who wanted to do harm they would not be set back by any of this fake security measures. The metal detectors only react to a metal density as determined by its programmed setting. This is for simplicity sake a “gun or knife” density… my carabiners didn’t set it off, my credit card knife didn’t set it off, my lighters and lighter fuel went undetected … anyone who had a grudge and moment to plan would by pass the security with out too much hassle, yet we conform… Now Dylan has every right to control his image, and the reproduction of it. So there was a strict no camera or recording policy… fine, i understand, it is his performance and his image, and as Dylan often gets burned by the media, I get his need to address this… However, everyone has a cell phone, and on those devices they generally have a camera…. the request is to stop recording and taking photo’s, not to stop a paying audience member from texting home to tell the babysitter what time to expect them. Or write something, check out Tinder, or even play a video game, if they so desire. So it came as quite a shock when security warned every one in the front row the if they see a phone out of your pocket at any time during the show, they will be evicted! What? Nowhere in this scenario can there be an expectation to have people not access their personal property, especially as long as they are not violating any safety or policy requests that are reasonable. What I do with my phone, or a pen and paper, or my hair brush is my business… also, this is a discriminatory policy that is impossible to police… sure as I’m in the front row and it is definitely possible to monitor my actions, but what about 10 rows back, middle of floor, or section 220 , or anywhere in the darkened arena, really! The gentleman beside me has a child with special needs at home. Is it conceivable to have him cut off from his child in order to enforce a no picture rule? These are mutually exclusive actions, taking pictures is not texting. So i said no, and the response is almost always the same… speak your mind and project a reasonable argument and you will be surrounded by a bunch of security guards. A fairly standard practice for them is to intimidate anyone who has an opposing voice to their “demands”. Guess what? Like Dylan, I don’t give a Fuck. An unreasonable policy, especially one that goes against my rights and autonomy needs to be stood up against. I wish we would stop being so complacent with security, they have limited rights, and you should protect the ones you have left, before they are gone as well. I use my phone to take notes. Imagine that. I will continue to use my phone as a work tool. I respect Dylan’s right to control his image, and the reproduction of that. But no way can he or the CTC control my right to access my belongings. And so it went. I had a security guard stare directly at me for the first hour of the show, about three feet away, a dead mans stare. Fine. If that makes them feel better, go and get paid for it. When I turned the power of the gaze back onto her, and stared back, she would look away. Eventually, what I would later find out was the head of security, came out to watch as well. After the show, I had a great talk with him. He was very polite and personable, and understood that my intentions were valid and relatively innocent. But why was any of this necessary? I told him about Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival that I just returned from. I told him that the only time I had even seen a security person was at the gate when they took the ticket, and did a cursory look into any bags (Note: they did not touch anything in the bag, as that is not permitted - unlike the CTC- if they wanted to see anything further, the owner of the bag is requested to show the item). The rest of the three day festival was a beautiful, life affirming, family friendly, forward thinking event. OH, and guess what? When I left the main lawn on the third day, there was not a piece of garbage on the ground… not a spec… an example of a self policing audience using mutual kindness and respect. When you start an event with a heavy handed security, the tension is built, people are not respected, and inevitably some joy is lost. Fuck them. And Fuck me if Dylan wasn’t great. A typically dressed Dylan in a white Jacket, blue patterned shirt with white trim on the collar, pocket and down the buttons, a bolo tie, black tuxedo pants with a bold white strip down the leg, and incredible two toned leather brogue shoes. A back handed cowboy look filtered through the 1920’s. All members of the band wore suits and bolo ties, mostly in grey. A grand piano was stage left, and this is where Dylan played from most of the night. Sometimes standing, sometimes sitting. He came out from behind a few times taking centre stage. He played no guitar this night. He did however do his best crooner pose with mic stand in hand and head arched just so… oddly Dylan had three additional microphones on stage that he did not use… two of those are the classic RCA Radio design, which would have put the crooner pose into overdrive. Six out of the twenty songs had Dylan centre stage. Often, he would nestle way back on the stage and settle in between the drummer and guitarist. Occasionally walking in circles or posing with one hand on his hip, you could tell that the body is stiffing and aging has set in. His voice as well has been ravaged by time, now it is mostly a gravelly growling roar. His phrasing is also very different. Shorter in duration, and often with a lot of air and hang time before it’s delivery. Every classic song was reworked. Both musically and vocally. It prevented the classics from being reduced to sing a long, feel good moments, and I am thankful for that. His voice, at least from where I sat, was clear and articulate. I’ve seen Dylan so drunk on stage that he would forget the words and purposefully mumble the lyrics. Not these days. Every word was clear and with intention. Lots of incredible interplay, high lighted by beautiful pedal and lap steel guitars or softened by brush stokes on the drum kit. Mostly I was impressed with how good Dylan’s piano playing has gotten. Muscular and detailed, much better than the electric keyboard he was using with this band a few tours back. Dylan was very musical all show, dominating some of the melody lines and falling back into the fray over and over again. My favourite moments came at the beginning of each song, as the band would suggest sounds and shape and form them into a melody. A space/ jam intro to every song. The “Duquesne Whistle” was especially notable as it is, along with the opener “Things Have Changed”, written during the Charlie Sexton years of studio recordings. Bob Dylan as Gun Slinger. A Honky Tonk Dylan, if you like. It was the most rave up they would be all night. Simple and understated lighting exemplified the tone of the evening. The band played really well, but always looked like they had more in the tank. They never reached into the reserve tank, but blossomed during the best version of “Desolation Row” that I have heard. Building crescendo’s, full of hills and valleys. Two fan favourites “Blowin’ in the Wind”, and “Ballad of a Thin Man” were the encores. Here was the only obvious guitar solo of the night with Charlie Sexton stepping out and shining bright. The set looks odd, but the show had a nice flow. A pace that seemed to suit Dylan, his head space and his age. Not that he would give a FUCK. Setlist: Things Have Changed Don't Think Twice, It's All Right Highway 61 Revisited Why Try to Change Me Now bob centre stage (Cy Coleman cover) Summer Days Make You Feel My Love Duquesne Whistle Melancholy Mood bob centre stage (Frank Sinatra cover) Stormy Weather bob centre stage (Harold Arlen cover) Pay in Blood Once Upon a Time (Tony Bennett cover) Tangled Up in Blue Early Roman Kings Desolation Row Soon After Midnight That Old Black Magic bob centre stage (Johnny Mercer cover) Long and Wasted Years bob centre stage Autumn Leaves bob centre stage (Yves Montand cover) Encore: Blowin' in the Wind Ballad of a Thin Man
  11. Photo: Mike Bouchard More Photos The Ottawa Jazz Festival and City Folk Festivals bookmark the summer for me. It starts with the rush of good weather and sounds of all sorts of jazz, and then the bitter sweet wave goodbye in the fall, with a farewell to the summer festival season at City Folk. The Jazz fest is the crown jewel of Ottawa’s Festivals. It’s for people who really listen to music. Some looking for the strange, some for the traditional. It’s all here, and every year seems to have incredible depth. I’m missing most of this years shows because I travelled to another fest a scant 7 hours away. This year I have to shoot with a rifle and not with a shot gun. I can’t just see as many acts as I should, and hope for the best. This year I have just a couple targets in hand. Shabaka and the Ancestors are one of those targets. Their record, a collaboration between Shabaka Hutchings and a group of Johannesburg based South Africans, has been smouldering on the side lines. Hutchings, has floated around the London, U.K. jazz and electronic scene for a good number of years and is best remembered for his Son of Kemet band, and his work with Mthunzi Mvubu in the Hellocentrics. This outfit, Shabaka and the Ancestorsis only a couple of years old and have one record, “Wisdom of Elders”. This was only released last September. They are part of a swell of young jazz musicians tapping into the past with references to the present and then shooting it out into the either to expand and shape the future. The record has, Shabaka Hutchings (tenor saxophone), Mthunzi Mvubu (alto saxophone), Siyabonga Mthembu (vocals), Ariel Zamonsky (bass), Tumi Mogorosi (drums), Gontse Makhene (percussions), and with Mania Miangeni trumpet and Nduduzo Makhathini Both the trumpett and piano are not part of the touring band. Their absence drives the vibe away from Ibraham’s compositional style of Dollar Brand, and more towards torrents of flow and turbulence in their live sound. Wisdom of Elders consists of a psalm in nine parts and the whole piece was recorded in one day. Rooted in the traditions of Afro Caribbean rhythms and filtered through 21st century jazz composition and musical improvisation, I was expecting more like blowouts, but what i got was more Pharaoh Sanders circa 1970. And that was good. There was a real spiritual element to the band that was present not only in the music but in their presence on the stage. They were listening to each other. And we were listening closely as well.A continous refrain was repeated by the singer, Siyabonga Mthembu, throughout the show. It went something like this (it changes at each show, but more or less is this)… In the burning In the burning of the republic Of the mind and the republic of the heart Coming out to look at this world We need a new people We need new hymns Spoken with reverence and repeated without mercy, the need for new hymns was often followed by poignant epitaphs like “We need to feminize our politics”, or “ The God’s don’t hear our prayers any more”, “ The power is in the people”, “You can not possess land, land possesses you!!!””. This is a call to a greater consciousness, one of vulnerability, and within this a new strength. The idea of using kindness as a weapon. Siyabonga Mthembu singing exemplified the flow and turbulence that fuelled the performance. They were sound carriers, all of them. Standing in bare feet Shabaka would blaze a raging river of runs over a syncopated rhythm section. Other times he would lay sweet melody over the strikingly turbulent alto sax of Mthunzi Mvubu. The red sparkled shoes of Siyabonga Mthembu were traded for just his beige socks early on in the show. Wrapped in a blanket, and wearing a hat Siyabonga brought meditative vocals and raging epitaphs with equal magic. He was as deranged as Damo Susuki was when fronting Can. Possessed by the moment and the spiritual message, he was always in touch, but on the outside, at least as far as he could get away with. This was perfectly explored in “Mzwandile”, which eventually heats up to a fiery and ferocious pace, all the while harbouring the melody explored and echoed by Hutchings and the singer Siyabonga. Everyone in the band got their due. Highlights included a well worked out solo by bassist Ariel Zamonsky (who had a passing resemblance to Phish’s Mike Gordon), whose weathered, and old, beat up body of his stand up bass stood in stark contrast to the updated bridge and neck… very much like his contrasting tonal and rhythmic adventures. The percussionist played back into the groove, exemplified by his patch quilt clothing and Sherwood Forest green floppy felt hat with white feather sticking out from its band. But it is the drummer Tumi Mogorosi who held the band together and pushed it forward. Often chocking up on the drum stick, he used less of the typical soft jazz hands and more like a baseball slugger swinging for the fence. And then, effortlessly, he would tap out a series of triplets crossing his hand in an over and under pattern, making it look as easy as spreading butter on toast. All killer, no filler. The set ran long, with an extra encore added in for good measure, as Shabaka points out, they have traveled a long way so they might as well play another. A disappointingly scant 100 people or so filtered in and out of the tent. Maybe the “late“ night slot of 10:30 and the rainy weather kept fans away, but it was clear that Shabaka deserved more from Ottawa. In contrast to the Kamasi Washington show last year that reached fever pitch, and had frothing at the mouth adoring fans, this jazz performance was mostly attended by those in the know. The crowd gave the band their due, showering them with the appropriate love, but it is my guess that if Shabaka stays on the road, plays where they can, and blowthe doors off of more summer festivals, they would be fitting into the NAC stages by next year. They are set to break out. Powerful playing. Powerful message. They are part of a under current in jazz today. They are part of the new young jazz revivalists. Not so much a definable place, cultureor country, but one more of a river of young spirited sound carriers, who are equally traditionalist as they are futurist.
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