Posts in Category: Music

Country Crossroads

My home is frequently filled with the Blues. Perhaps paradoxically, it is one of the things that brings me the most joy – listening to John play his guitar, his own noodling reflecting a distinct blend of the Fado of this heritage, his deep love of Muddy Waters and BB King, his fascination with Buddy Guy and Robert Johnson. He loves the legends, he loves the stories, and he lives for the sound. Heading down south to see where it all began has been something he’s wanted to do for a long time now, and the pact we made when we came back from Amsterdam was pretty simple – he’d finally get his license and we’d hit the road and see all the Canadiana and Americana that kids like us come to this continent dreaming of.

We touched on a total of nine states on this trip – driving down through Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, back up through Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana. We heard country and bluegrass in Nashville, rock and roll and blues in Memphis and delta blues in Clarksdale. We saw miles and miles of cotton fields, dragonflies and marshes in sizzling 40 degree afternoon sun, sipping sun-steeped unsweetened iced tea from impossibly large Sonic styrofoam cups. We heard stories of Johnny Cash and June Carter, walked around Elvis’ house, made our silent deals with the devil at the Crossroads. We saw the Grand Ol’ Opry (and the absolutely crazy hotel next to it), The Bluebird Cafe, Margaritaville Bar.  We sat and listened intently as Ralph Stanley II brought the crowd to their feet at the Station Inn, the Memphis Jazz Orchestra serenaded dancing couples on Beale Street, Sean Appel hilariously nicknamed himself “the giant bedazzled blueberry” before charming us to pieces at Club 152.

It’s incredible to think that three powerhouses of music all died on the same day – Robert Johnson, Elvis, Aretha Franklin. I can’t imagine a world without their songs. Can you?

Flexing Frozen February Fibres

Factory Theatre commissioned a terrific work by Kat Sandler, great aerobics for the brain, who somehow managed to pull off the near impossible task of making an audience laugh – guffaw, even! – while watching a piece about gun violence. In Canada. In 2018. In downtown Toronto. She’s basically a genius. Take a listen to some of the opening bits here.

Oh!, and I danced home after listening to Musica Nuda yesterday. This woman is a rock star. They both are. I hope to see more of this kind of magic. And this kind, too. It’s good shit. Like Farrah Fawcett hair.

Jean-Michel Jarre

When I was a kid, I was exposed to a lot of music. I had to learn how to speak English with Roxette and Samantha Fox. Mom encouraged me to learn how to play the flute as a teen to train my messed-up lungs, something that only became cool once I was given a recording by Jethro Tull (I remember actually the teacher wanted me to play double bass when we were picking instruments, because of my height. My response? To pick the smallest instrument available). Mom kept her Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin LPs close at hand, all her Jean Jarre cassettes in a shoebox, and my stepdad had his Gordon Lightfoot and his Anne Murray in plain view at all times. I liked this juxtaposition in them, her with her untz untz untz and he with his spling spling spling.

Last night Jean Jarre performed his first Canadian show, at the Sony Centre, and I thought it’d be the perfect Mother’s Day gift. And you know what, it totally was. I watched my mom morph into a teenager during this time – she was feeling kind of crappy and started the evening off a little softly and slowly – and by the end of the night she was jumping near the front of the stage screaming “We Love You” at this energetic 68 year old who waxed poetic about Snowden and privacy laws and the state of the world. We got to chatting with a girl who grew up in South Africa about how popular JMJ was there during the 70’s and 80’s, and how baffled she was when she moved to Canada and realized that no one knew who he was.

The Poles came out last night in abundance, they have a deep affection for JMJ and remember his support during turbulent times, a gesture of goodwill that they are clearly committed to repaying. They even made him an honorary citizen of Gdansk.

Guys. Laser harp. Come on.

Ninja Tune

Ninja Tune is probably my favourite label, responsible for keeping me in my bubble of happiness during my every day from the 90s onwards. Herbalizer, Mr Scruff, Cinematic Orchestra, Bonobo, Andreya Triana and most recently Yppah, and countless other fantastic, moody, meticulous artists have been signed by them. The office is not too far from where I am, so I went for a wander. Unassuming and without signage, passersby looked at me quizzically as I stood there smiling at it, thanking it for the years of aural medication.

And on the way back, passed the Ministry of Sound. Double whammy!

Plenty Lamenty

Moderat just released a goodie. It gets better and better each time I listen to it. Do yourself a favor and put on some proper earphones and turn it up.

My Little Parov Dancing Feet



Concertgebouw Lunch Concerts and other Musical Magic

I love going to the Concertgebouw. Not only is it a spectacularly gorgeous building in the best part of Amsterdam, but I really cannot imagine the holiday season without hearing song. I had no idea that the company holds complimentary Wednesday lunchtime sessions, and was so happy that I found this out, since today was the last one of the year!

My buddy Dave and I ventured out on our lunch-hour and were duly impressed. Now it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Oh, and on the topic of awesome free music in the city, check out Badcuyp’s Jam Sessions on Sunday Nights. It’s better than olieballen, I swear. And you know what that amounts to, coming from me.

So now off I go to squeeze my long-unsqueezed friends in Toronto, and sit in my favourite Toronto haunts (Orbit Room, I love you)! See you guys soon!

Musical Interlude

David Macklovitch makes me swoon.