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Wavelength

10 years ago, Toronto’s music scene was bleak and boring; Canada’s music scene was incredible. Sloan had just released their best album Between The Bridges, The Flashing Lights were “Kings of the Canadian now,” and yet there were a handful of Toronto bands, but no decisive scene. We had Blue Rodeo, The Sadies and Ron Sexsmith hanging around, but Toronto seemed to be hostile towards new bands. Then came Wavelength…

I could easily discuss how important Wavelength has been to me, and that’s usually what I talk about on this blog, ME ME ME; you can’t blame me, I’m AWESOME. Instead I’d rather examine what Wavelength has done for Toronto as a whole.

I doubt there’s any Toronto music nerd who hasn’t walked into Sneaky Dee’s at some point and been completely confused by Doc Pickles’ strange ranting/introductions. There are some items in Toronto culture which are rights of passage for anyone; Wavelength is one of these. We’ve all been to Wavelength, and we’ve all seen tiny bands in tiny bars who would go on to greater things. We’ve also seen tiny bands in tiny bars who would stay where they are. So what makes Wavelength unique in Toronto?

Nothing. There is absolutely nothing unique about Wavelength, anymore. It’s another series amongst dozens that take place in this city every night of the year, but Wavelength is special. Sure, there’s its length (10 years is nearly impossible in this industry), but the historical context of Wavelength is truly where it shines. Toronto’s music scene was so very bleak before it and it was the first of its kind. Without it, we might just be faced with a pay-to-play city, where status is defined by pocketbook. Thanks to Wavelength, we have a local community of bands, we’re able to foster musicians, allowing them to grow, gain a reputation and then expand outside of the city. This has happened for so many Toronto bands since Wavelength’s founding, and it can easily be traced back to this weekly night.

Now we’ve had Wavelength for ten years, and its bowing out, but it’s going out with a band. The Wavelength 500 festival, begins today and goes until Sunday night. Bands big and small will play this festival, from The Constantines to Picastro, Kids On TV to Mean Red Spiders, Pony Da Look to Evening Hymns. I had planned to purchase a festival pass, I never got around to it. Rumour has it tonight’s show at The Music Gallery (an amazing venue) is sold out. That was the one show I was most excited for, but I’m sure I’ll find myself at some of these shows any way. It is after all, the end of an era.

With tons of other music series like No Shame, Two Way Monologues, Gather Round and more, will we miss Wavelength? Sure. We all know that no matter what we’ll have a good time on a Sunday night if we went out to Sneaky’s (or The Garrison), but at least we’ll have other places to spend our Sunday nights.

Where can that sandy be?

OMG! OMG! OMG!

Walking into the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and hearing “Robot Ponies” is slightly strange. I got to the venue partway through Laura Barrett’s set, and the sound was damned good, though you could hear the nerves in Laura’s voice, and more so her calming herself before playing. She played well, and had Ajay Mehra, Randy Lee & Dana Snell playing with her (the American dates of the tour are without Lee & Snell). After her set, I did hear some audience members commenting on how lovely Barrett’s voice is. No matter what, it’ll always be strange to be at a Laura Barrett show where there’s more than a couple metres distance between us, but I’m sure she’ll be playing some tiny venues like Sneaky Dee’s soon.

Then I visited merch. They sold out of Realism on vinyl, wtf?!?! They have yet to receive the cast recording of Coraline, sigh. I ended up buying three pins.

Stephin. Stephin. Umm, wow.

Stephin tortured the audience by introducing the first song as “100,000 Fireflies” and then proceeded to play “Lindy-Lou” by The 6th. Well, I guess that answered my question, would he play non-Magnetic Fields songs, the answer is yes. The Magnetic Fields on this tour are Stephin Merritt (obviously, playing what I don’t think is a ukelele, but is a lute-like instrument), Shirley Simms (autoharp), Claudia Gonson (keys), John Woo (guitar) and Sam Davol (cello).

Gonson serenaded the audience with “Acoustic Guitar” from 69 Love Songs, through a horrible cold, and also duetted with Merritt on “Wi’ Nae Wee Bairn Ye’ll Me Beget,” also from 69 Love Songs. Simms sang the tale of a woman’s spiral into debauchery, “The Nun’s Litany” from Distortion, and most surprisingly, “Born On A Train” from The Charm Of The Highway Strip, one of my favourite songs, from one of my favourite albums. Usually sung by Merritt, but Simms’ mechanical twang seemed to be a perfect match to the country song.

I was completely taken aback when Merritt said “This one’s called ‘You And Me And The Moon’ from our albums Get Lost.” This is perhaps one of my favourite Magnetic Fields songs, and to hear them play an acoustic version of this gay-dance-pop anthem was perfection. A close second, though was “All The Umbrellas In London” from the same record.

They came out for a short encore, and played “I’m Tongue-Tied” from i; at which point Natalia turned to me, and said, “Finally a song I know.” I guess that’s what you get if you go to a show of a band who’s been playing for 20 years, and my iTunes library (which isn’t complete) has 350 songs. They closed with “100,000 Fireflies,” bringing the show full circle. Merritt sung this one, which on Distant Plastic Trees was sung by Susan Anway.

I could say a lot more, I could talk about how Merritt commenting that all the songs could be called “I Don’t Really Love You Anymore” was pure comic gold, or how instrumentally they were incredible.

I could also talk about the imperfections, like Merritt’s voice being pitchy, Gonson’s voice breaking, or the great amount of silence, but who cares? That would be nitpicking and it was one of the greatest nights in my memory of rock and roll… I’m old, and have been to a lot of shows.

Life is good. Thank you Magnetic Fields, thank you Laura Barrett.

Realism Early Thoughts

I’m going to start by saying that I never like a Magnetic Fields record through and through when it’s first released. Actually I never like a Magnetic Fields record through and through. Their music seems to be cyclical in nature to me. I’ll listen to a record of theirs and love certain tracks, be indifferent to others, and hate others. Then a few months later, I love different ones, be indifferent to others, and hate others.

This can be traced back to their first song I heard, “The Desperate Things You Made Me Do.” I hated it. Really really hated it. Now I love it, unashamedly love it.

So I’ve listened to Realism, and I find there’s nothing that hugely stands out to me. There’s fun stuff, but none of it really feels like a Magnetic Fields record. There’s songs which feel like they could be from one of the musicals Stephin Merritt has scored, there are others which sound like they could be Gothic Archies songs.

There’s definitely some fun tracks on the record, “We Are Having A Hootenanny,” “Everything Is One Big Christmas Tree& “The Dada Polka” are among my favourites. We’ll see how it holds up to a few hundred listens. I wasn’t a huge fan of i (I still can’t stand “I Was Born”) and now it’s among my favourite of Merritt’s work. I also at first really loved much of Distortion, and now I’m indifferent to much of it (though “The Nun’s Litany” is still brilliant).

Are you tired of reading about my thoughts of the Magnetic Fields? Well, screw you, I’m going to see them tomorrow!

Miracles

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Last night, a smallish group of friends gathered at Number 71 for a gathering which isn’t your usual gathering. A long time ago, we learned of a fruit, a miracle fruit, if you will. You eat this fruit, allow it to accumulate on your tongue, and then eat away. We ate many things, lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit, hot sauce, tabasco sauce, mustard, chocolate, melon, pineapple, apple, pear, different cheeses, and many more items. On a usual day, that’s a very odd meal, but when you add the odd effects of miracle fruit, you’re experiencing something very different.

The thing is miracle fruit seems to block certain taste buds, thus changing the way you perceive the food to taste. Generally sour food became sweet, and sweet food, seemed to lose a lot of their taste. Many foods seemed to just stay the same, but others like pineapple become something so very similar, but so very different.

It was definitely an interesting way to spend a Saturday night.

Pictured above: Ginsberg & Steve swish Miracle Pulp around in their mouths.

Thrush Hermit box set

Courtesy of JoelPlaskett.com

Disc 1- Clayton Park

Disc 2- Sweet Homewrecker

Disc 3- Smart Bomb and The Great Pacific Ocean

Disc 4 – All Technology Aside – 22 songs – outtakes, b-sides and unreleased

Disc 5 – Hits and Giggles – 23 songs – early singles, eps and unreleased tracks

Disc 6 – Embarrass Ourselves Awake – hodge podge of really early material from Nabisco Fonzie, The Hoods, The Hermit and The Tim Robbins Experience.  Truly embarrassing stuff to keep you awake on long drives

Disc 7 – DVD consisting of Learn to Party documentary (1999) and lots of extra never before seen footage from 1990- 1999

Will also include a 24 page booklet with lots of photos and liner notes written by Rob Benvie.

Sounds like they’re trying to get this ready to go for the tour. Sweet!

Next Year In Jerusalem

I finally picked up Herman Dune’s record Next Year In Zion; I was really impressed with their set opening for Julie Doiron. Herman Dune, from Paris, France, are an English-language band who released their latest record Next Year in Zion in 2008.

I purchased it on vinyl today, and though it’s not advertised as such, it does include a digital download coupon (for those of us who love both our analogue and digital technologies).

I’m really digging this record. I haven’t finished my first listen, but I know a handful of the songs from the Lee’s Palace show, and I can easily see this making its way into heavy rotation.

Rebranding

Today, I said to myself that it was time to rebrand this page. Though it’s a personal page, it’s more about music/film/etc than it is about Adam Anklewicz. So after debating over many domains, I chose this one, neverhadtofight.com. “Never Had To Fight” is a Local Rabbits song written by Peter Elkas. It’s the second track on their final, and best record This Is It, Here We Go.

I did this in the afternoon today, about an hour ago, I got a message in MSN from Jay… you know, Trig… from The Board. A while ago, I told him that Gooseberry records was doing a Sloan tribute album, and a Local Rabbits tribute album.

The conversation began with him saying…

I ruined your favourite rabbits song.

I read that as “You ruined my favourite rabbits song.” I was wondering how he knew so quickly that I now had this blog under neverhadtofight.com. Well, I was wrong, and he’s sent me his cover, which can be sampled here, and it’s awesome. Sure it’s not as awesome as the Rabbits, but it’s up there.

Stephin and co.

On Monday I’m going to see The Magnetic Fields at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in the CNE. I’ve never been there… I’ve also never been as excited to see a band since I went to see Paul McCartney for the first time. I really have no idea what to expect. I’ve yet to hear Realism yet, as I’m waiting until I can get my hands on a copy (I don’t want to buy the CD, I’d rather just buy the vinyl with a CD, but I haven’t heard from Criminal Records yet that it’s arrived). I don’t know what kind of material they’ll perform… new stuff, lots from 69 Love Songs, will there be any of Stephin’s solo material, or Future Bible Heroes songs, maybe Gothic Archies songs, maybe 6ths songs. Mr. Merritt has perhaps the largest collection of musicians who have only been performing for 20 years.

January 2010, in review

In December, I set goals for myself, how many films to see this year, how many shows to attend, how many records to purchase, and how many books to read. This is the standings, as of the end of January…

Books I read (1/10 – 10%):
Animal Farm by George Orwell | Originally published 1945

Films I saw (11/52 – 21%):
It’s Complicated | Originally released 2009
Magicians | Originally released 2007
A Single Man | Originally released 2009
Fantastic Mr. Fox | Originally released 2009
After Elizabeth II (Documentary, from CBC Doc Zone)
Crazy Heart | Originally released 2009
Brüno | Originally released 2009
Dan In Real Life | Originally released 2009
Men Who Stare at Goats | Originally released 2009
It Happened One Night | Originally released 1934
A Boy And His Dog | Originally released 1975

Albums I bought (7/52 – 13%):
Gene Clark by Gene Clark (vinyl) | Originally released 1971
The New Despair by The Gothic Archies (CD EP) | Originally released 1997
The Wayward Bus by The Magnetic Fields (CD) | Originally released 1992
Distant Plastic Trees by The Magnetic Fields (CD) | Originally released 1991
Not So Much To Be Loved As To Love by Jonathan Richman (CD) | Originally released  2004
Heartland by Owen Pallett (vinyl)
Mal De Mer by Ben Gunning (CD)

Shows I attended (5/52 – 9%):
Julie Doiron (w/ Will Kidman) @ The Cobourg; January 9, 2010
Krupke, Skip Jensen & Ginger & Irene @ Rancho Relaxo; January 15, 2010
$100 (w/ The Lonesome Ace Stringband & Stripmall Ballads) @ The Horseshoe Tavern;  January 22, 2010
Ben Gunning (w/ Allie Hughes) @ The Rivoli; January 29, 2010
The Dress Whites @ Bread & Circus; January 30, 2010