I do like The Stone Roses – I Wanna be Adored. Am I the problem?

I’m in a pretty good place right now. Having two of your closest friends in arm’s reach does that to a person. It’s phenomenal being able to weave simultaneously between nostalgia trips and making new memories. I’ve been spending almost every moment possible with these guys and it’s gonna leave an understandable mate shaped hole in my heart when they’re gone. Still, despite this, I hypothesise that I’m enough of an asshole to find things to get shitty about. This is more about me than anyone else. I think.

So. Coming back on the subway there’s a girl sitting across from me. She’s done up, “had her face did” and all that. Hair looks nice, she seems ready for a fun, flirty night of meeting people. Good for her, I admire her candour. It probably took a while, some intense effort and patience to get the style she was going for. I doubt I spent half the time on my last gig review that she did on her face. Still, I’m in her court. She’s looking good, she knows it and rightfully loves herself. Then she pulls out the phone. I see her extend and retract her arm as if telescopically, searching for the perfect upwards diagonal angle. She’s in selfie mode. Pouts a little, pulls back, tests different expressions. She starts taking photos, reviewing them then trying again.

With each new attempt I grow equal parts discouraged and perturbed at the general state of things. I’m not a big fan of the selfie, but this continual retreading in search of the perfect shot? Why is this something that’s important to you? You look good and you can tell. By that virtue you’re already gonna be treated to the pedestal of admiration society places beautiful people atop. You will get better service, people will pay you attention, laugh at jokes that aren’t funny. You might even get a few drinks out of it. If you’re looking for companionship, you will likely find it without much trouble. Are those not rewards? How important is it that you gain the extra validation from people close to you who feel obliged to play along like sycophants in your ploy to be loved and admired?

Why is this a concern? I don’t know you, I don’t. You could be the most wonderful, giving human on the face of the planet. You could nurse puppies back to health using only your own tears. You could knit sweaters for cockroach survivors of past nuclear explosions. Are those not things that you should define yourself through? Could you not use the time on this subway to further yourself in some way? To learn a new fact, read something that expands your consciousness or meaningfully emphasises your social value? Create something that could help your fellow living beings or make a move towards self-actualisation? Instead of focusing on your physical angles and how they could incite obligatory compliments, why not examine something from an alternate angle? Question or analyse an institution that you feel deserves to be challenged? Instead of gazing into your reflection, reflect on whatever this compulsion for ephemeral congratulations says about the way you navigate your days. What need is not being met by the steps you’re taking? Are you filling a void left by your past and that person who hurt you?

Or does the blame rest on society for making you feel like you constantly need to justify your desires to the ideals of others? For disseminating the notion that to be considered worthy we need to focus on what we look like instead of what we are like? Is my problem even with you? Or a wider cultural epidemic that tells us that our identity is defined by the judgements of others in defiance of self love for who we are?

I think my initial hypothesis was correct. I am just an asshole.

Fortunately my alarm goes off in 4.5 hours, so we’re safe.

I swear one of these days I’ll get a robust 8 hour sleep. Then I’ll awaken like Godzilla and wreak havoc upon all mankind with the overdose of energy I’ll be exerting. Like Danny Zuko, my chills will multiply at an alarming rate. I’ll exude such a magnetic personality that I’ll develop my own gravitational pull and spontaneous dance numbers will occur in my wake. Total strangers will fall instantly in love, procreate and produce fresh, messy, crying infants as I step by them. Those babies will age and wither in seconds, leaving all with only a questionable memory of what had just transpired. Nature will reclaim its rightful dominion over this floating space rock. Weeds will entwine columns, our cement structures will crumble as the wilderness stakes its claim upon modern society. The nexus of my being will invert the flow of time around me. Ancient beasts will rise again, bones covered in rapidly developing sinew and flesh. Their primeval roars inspiring terror in a world who has forgotten what it really was to fear.

All metal in my radius will expand uncontrollably. Cars will warp and contort, veering off the road, unprepared for their new Cronenbergian form. Streetcars will ascend to the heavens bourne on twisted rails, only to come crashing down like vengeant angels. Rapists will fall to ground in anguish as they implode with guilt at their actions. Remorse like a bullet, leaving them with pain as if gutshot. People will know what it is to face death. They’ll welcome it with open arms only to pull back from the brink once they reach the enlightenment that comes with total release. Screams will rise to a keening fever pitch until sound itself becomes static. Only in the absence of noise will we really hear for the first time.

Humanity will ascend to a unified consciousness. Worries sailing adrift on a sea of calmness. Meaningless conflicts will cease in the looming face of an overwhelming sense of insignificance. True compassion will arise as we collectively realise that everyone is scared sometimes, everyone feels like a fraud. Everyone just wants to be held and loved and told that this all happened for a reason, that life had some deeper purpose. That the right to “be” at all, to know what it is to feel, is a gift from the divinity within ourselves. To live for the values of another is to forsake the chance we’ve been given to find our own. That we all have the potential to be whoever we choose to. That we can create our own worlds of experience merely by affecting change around us, exuding an aura that draws in those who truly can hold us, love us and help us find our reason. Then the world will blossom around us and we’ll see what it is to live an actualised existence, to steer ourselves to the outcome we desire.

Then I’ll be tired and realise what an offensively positive twat I am when I actually get a decent rest. That’ll never happen again.

Is it my job to get at least one pun into everything I write? I might need to review this policy at a later date.

Another review I wrote. Knowing none of these acts prior to the gig, I can’t get over how awesome it is to be constantly discovering new bands while building up my portfolio. Two and a half hours this took me. Getting a little quicker. Only one guy questioned my dorky blue & pink notebook at this gig. Moving on up, I am.


Would I be a shit if I said The Box Tiger started off with a roar? I might be filled to the brim with cheese, but the band is anything but. While the plaid shirts and thick rimmed glasses look would seem at home between bookstore aisles, the Toronto band took to the stage with an easy confidence and massive energy. Slick and cool, rocking with authority, they held the crowd tight from the first note.

Packing an entourage sure helped. A few giddy audience members held up hand drawn signs professing their love [Lauren you beat the drum of my heart], which had lead singer Sonia smirking. “That’s really more of a wrestling or Katy Perry concert thing.” Katy Perry they ain’t, but between Sonia’s Karen O vocal swagger and their effortless indie rock earworms, these guys will find themselves on the big stage soon enough.

Infectiously catchy single Set Fire To Your Friends brimmed with tight pop sensibilities. A punchy, toe tapping beat brought out the warm howl of the chorus. Knives rippled, melodic and chorus driven, descending into gritty thrash. The closing number found the guitarist strapping on the bass, while the bassist jumped on a spare drum kit. Beating away with tribal percussion, the result was an irresistibly crunchy track with a frenzied vigour. Pounding drums underscored soaring wails, stripping back to a whisper before a squealing guitar breakdown. Catch these guys soon, or you’ll miss your chance to see them in intimate venues like this.

Mere seconds after Gainesville group Dikembe took the stage, a throng formed. Launching into a visceral emo scream, it was clear they sought to tear the roof off the place. Clearly the audience was on board, as long as they could watch. Thrashing drums packed a wallop, overflowing with an eager intensity. Shuddering guitar rushed forth, throwing the crowd into frenzied spasms.

Interlacing distortion with the grace of a boxer, songs launched blows left and right, before deftly ducking and weaving, pulling back to throw a haymaker. Sorry I Can’t Stick Around shook with an animalistic rush, while the low hanging fruit of Pixies cover Where Is My Mind left a surprisingly sweet taste, accentuated by the lead singer’s gravelly tone. Brash and impulsive rises peeled back to contemplative lulls before slamming back with in-your-face drums. Playing with the audience, hunched over guitars, the band gave it all. Short, strong and sweet, they left the crowd baying for more.

The buzz for Weatherbox began before the band even set foot onstage. With their most recent LP, Flies in All Directions, released a mere two months ago, the crowd was chomping at the bit to hear it live. The thrill was undeniable. From the first verse of opener Pagan Baby, the audience sang right along. Kickflips For Weeks found melodic power chords giving way to the singer playing a whispered call and response with the crowd. The energy arced through the room, with the floor literally bouncing from the impact.

Wild and unpredictable, the band defied easy classification. Looming arrangements caved to chugging guitar and thunderous cymbals. Short stuttering bursts flourished to anthemic triumphant chords. Emo shrieks morphed to ambitious post-rock with head-spinning alacrity. The clamour crashed in like waves, tempestuous and bold. The crowd was a sea of motion, jumping and thrashing, lapping up everything that washed across them.

A brief lull found audience members calling out requests from the band’s back catalogue. The gushing crowd response galvanised the band with an effortless enthusiasm. Ecstatic to be there, Weatherbox owned the room and gave back what they got tenfold. Their comfort was transparent, giving and taking with practiced ease. Instruments layered with tactful precision, finding space in the potent wall of sound. Difficult to define but impossible to ignore, the performance justified their dedicated following.

[Edit] Here it is with photos:


Old friends are like aged whiskey… good.

Walking down a suburban Toronto road garbed in black plastic bags, flanked by two of my best friends as the night rain beat down upon us is amongst the most surreal situations I’ve experienced in some time. How did this happen? I flicked back to a scene 6 years prior as we all walked together back from the Takapuna Rugby Club from a friend’s 21st birthday. My male friend and I walked our female friend back to her place, made sure she got in alright, grabbed a glass of water and left. We’d all been friends for years by this point, but it seemed the first time that the three of us walked together. The two scenarios simultaneously intermingled in my mind. How different everything now was, the course of action that’d led us to this specific path.

First off, in our walk 6 years beforehand these two weren’t a couple. They hadn’t started going out. There wasn’t even an inkling of it happening. We were just three friends walking side by side. We were students, we weren’t even out in the work force. “Careers” were a lofty notion, still existing in future tense. At this stage they had yet to spend years together, for my mate and I to flat together, for the two of them to inevitably start cohabiting. They hadn’t formed a plan to save for travel, to escape it all and see what the other side of the world had to offer. This sounds like someone twice my age would say, but we were so young.

To reproduce a similar scene, things had to fall into place. We all had to grow emotionally and by some weird happenstance become adults. We had to get to a point where we felt comfortable leaving things behind and stepping away from the little rock we’d known as a home. New Zealand might be small enough for the average American to be unaware of its existence, but it helped form who we became. I love my life here and still acknowledge where I came from (I’m still Jenny from the Block after all), things just feel right. It’s strange having such a strong reminder of what I left behind. Hearing that accent again is so familiar, reassuring in a way. It feels natural to have this sliver of my former everyday existence pulled back into the present. At the same time it’s discordant with the structures I’ve grown to accept. I’d moved on, compartmentalised, pushed that part of me into a little box inside, ready to open when it was relevant once more. I didn’t expect it to pop open and shower confetti in the middle of a rainy day.

As the rain beat down I felt an excitement at what this entailed for the future. Pete Holmes has this great joke that revolves around how strange it is that we’re just out there floating through space. We’re on a rock that floats between the stars. We’re walking outside on a rock that’s floating through the galaxy. How weird is that? How bizarre is our everyday existence? Things play out far outside what we consider and conceive. This didn’t play out in any imaginary timeline I constructed. Walking down a street on the other side of the world in a city that none of us had ever seen the last time we talked face to face. Having no portent of how the next year would fall in front of us. No idea of where we’d be in another 6 years, who we’d be then, what life would throw in our way. Would we stride forward with that same confidence? Would we still have no notion of what the following 6 years would bring? Would this thought still bring us excitement? Do we ever really figure it out? Or are we just constantly strolling along a hazy trail, hoping that smiling will lead us towards clarity?

My beard trimmer is made by Conair. A brand and movie I can trust.

Today felt like one of those days that kept me constantly on the move. Utilising moves like Jagger I gathered no moss, rolling on to big box store after big box store. Discarding my handy smartphone based technology in favour of a good old fashioned paper “to do” list, I roamed the streets, subways and streetcars of Toronto searching for bits, bobs and bargains. Enough alliteration for you there, bub? Having friends arriving from New York in the evening, my place wasn’t quite armed for their arrival. If it was the 90s, there would’ve been a tightly filmed montage of me slamming a cd into my discman, strapping on my roller blades and zipping up my bum bag (fanny pack?) before setting out. Instead I updated my podcast subscriptions before hitting public transport like Smells Like Teen Spirit hit the charts in ’91. 90s enough for you? Barely.

A guy I met at a party said he was leaving his job at a print shop and they’d probably need to fill the position. Very basic work which would involve a number of on foot deliveries, large scale photocopying and other assorted duties. Low pay, but with consistent and many hours. He said he’d text his boss and give me a glowing recommendation, all I needed to do was print out a resume and take it in. In retrospect it would’ve been a cool move to print out my resume there, then turn the page around and hand it in to the guy who’d served me. Unfortunately I’m not Fonzian enough to think on my feet like that (though I do finally own a leather jacket. Story for another time), so I had to go to a Fed Ex down the street.

They’ve got a brilliant scheme that works well on schmuckier types. I must be one of them. If you’re looking to print stuff from your email, you need to load credit on a card. It costs 20c per minute to use a computer (which you need to access the files) and it’s nice enough to give you a pop up window every minute to tell you how much time you have left. It mustn’t be a coincidence that it takes 5-10 seconds to clear said message. There’s also no coincidence that they have the slowest internet known to man. Alexander Graham Bell probably surfed the web faster than these laconic contraptions. It took me a total of 14 minutes to print 2 documents, 3 pages total. Cost, $2 (plus the hypothetical extra $1 they funded my card after I complained about the entire absence of efficiency) and whatever my time is worth. Very little. I learned that I was glad to be dropping my CV off at an opposing print place, who I hope gets all of the business.

The next few stops on the tour were:

Canadian Tire for bungy cords. I need to move a couch tomorrow (because 3 old chairs from the storage shed seem undesirable) and they’ll help me keep it in the back of my cousin’s SUV.

Home Sense to look for a beard trimmer. Facial things got a bit hairy and I figured it’d be worth grooming rather than just shaving it all off. They didn’t have it so I was instead sent to Winners.

Winners didn’t have any good ones left. They suggested I went to another Winners.

Winners 2.0 didn’t either. I walked out with cheap swimming goggles.

I got a message from my friends saying they were coming in 2 hours earlier than planned. Time to get a motor on and make sure those wheels on the bus went round and round.

Walmart it was. My friends needed a mattress to sleep on. I still needed to shave. I found what I was looking for there, both an airbed and beard trimmer.

I managed to navigate the airport transit and get my friends back here to sleep, so I’ve clearly done something right in this hosting business. Unless I wake up in the morning to a room full of nothing but skeletal remains. That’d be a bummer.

That was also quite the understatement.

Of course they could just spend the week waiting for the 29 Dufferin Bus. It’s been known to happen.

Occasionally here at I Have My Doubts I get to couple my daily writing in with something I actually need to do, thus succeeding in brutally efficient bird stoning. Now that I’ve got friends coming to visit (tomorrow, even) I should probably think of some things for out of town type people to do. As soon as I got here I immersed myself in activities, but I don’t know how much of them were of the touristy variety. Toronto is quite the city to tour, I’m sure (rhymed), but I’m not the expert in how to do so. Still, let’s try to knock out a rough outline of fun stuff.

Monday: They arrive at Pearson Airport around 8.30pm fresh from some time in New York. I figure they’ll be pretty bushed (especially after the 1.5 hour trip back), so the best course of action is to drop stuff off and either cook something light and easy, or go out for something that’s still open. My pick is to hit up Koreatown, which keeps on going around the clock. Of course, they could just want to sleep. Let’s play this one by ear.

Tuesday: The weather’s supposed to be warm so I’ve got my eye on heading over to Toronto Island. I haven’t been there myself yet, so I’m grabbing the excuse by the husk and flying with it (is that my first Monty Python Holy Grail reference here?). In the evening I’ve got to pick up a couch (so they’ve got something to sit on), and my family has been kind enough to offer a home cooked meal. After months of eating their way through America I’m sure it’ll taste like ambrosia, especially knowing what a great chef my cousin is. Don’t worry, I’m not the kind of guy who pushes friends into hanging out with my family. Especially family they’ve never met before. We’ll have a couch by this point, so it could be a great night for a solid catch up.

Wednesday: I’m busy with work all day and I’ve got a gig to review that night. This one they’ve got to themselves. I think I’d recommend checking out The Annex/Yonge St/College Street/Ossington loop or Queen West/Roncesvalles. It’s Free Hot Dog Day at Franks on College, and Roncesvalles has a ton of nice restaurants/cafes. I should have time to eat between work and my gig, so it could be an ideal time to indoctrinate them into Ethiopian cuisine (I’m in favour of any type of dining that involves the abandonment of cutlery in favour of a more palaeolithic (as in the era, not the diet fad) plan. Afterwards they could catch a movie in the park (there’s Caramel at Harbourfront, The Lunchbox on Dundas St East or Searching for Sugarman at David Pecaut Square), or go see a Second City show. Or they could go for a nice romantic meal at Panorama restaurant to take advantage of Toronto’s stunning skyline. They can do whatever they want, really. It’s their trip.

Thursday: I work in the afternoon, which means it could be nice to show them around Chinatown during the earlier hours. Lots of great eateries, cheap bakeries and random nicknack shops. There’s enough there to stroll around and it could tie into a trip along Queen or King St. If they wanted to check out downtown this could be a great chance. Church St is always fun too. I finish work at 6pm, so we could grab a meal somewhere and look around a bunch more. Maybe out east for some Greek? Or even checking out Little India? There’s the Open Roof Festival with robot band Matrox and a screening of Ping Pong Summer. There’s also a free show at Fort York Garrison if that’s aligns with their M.O. Nothing wrong with catching some fresh Canadian acts. Elsewise there’s the Music in Parks festival at St James Park. This week it’s the Nostalgia Chamber Ensemble. Somehow I think they’ll ignore my fervent wish for Flock of SeagullsI Ran (not to be confused with the Middle Eastern country). There’s an adults event at the Science Centre. Jeez, what isn’t there to do?

Friday: I’m gone all day, but the city is open to them. Leslieville could be worth a look. A brewery tour is always a good time. High Park is a great way to kill a day. It’s all weather dependent, right? There’s a waterfront night market, A Jurassic Park film screening, this could even be the night to check out the Ossington stretch or Queen St West by moonlight. It’s probably not their thing, but the Toronto Burlesque Festival starts on Friday.

Saturday: I work in the morning, this could be an awesome chance for them to check out the Distillery District and the eastern beach. There’s the Evergreen Brick Works environmental centre which is supposed to be right up there for fun touristy things. There’s just a shit ton of stuff, really. Tastes abound, it’s Taste of Riverside, Taste of The Junction, Taste of Beach Village or Taste of Cabbagetown if they’re looking for some great street grub. There’s a Live Art Battle to watch, Castles in the Sky (a roaming parade/rave. Parave?), the Lab Cab Festival of art. It’s also a Saturday night. If they wanted to go “out” in Toronto this would be the night.

Sunday: Kensington Market pedestrian Sunday, of course. There’ are a ton of great brunch spots, a street market and the generally lovely weirdos of Kensington. If they didn’t check out Chinatown already this would be a great time to do so. Or perhaps Dundas Street down to Little Portugal could be a goer? I do love Get Well for a little craft beer/old school “spacies” machines. The Japanese Summer Festival, the Vintage Bike Show, a fencing festival (the sport, not the wooden walls). There’s a fucking international Milk Tea competition. What doesn’t this city do? If plans go well we could even check out my friend’s monthly Bad Movie Night at Clintons. This month is David Hasselhoff themed, so I’ll make sure we’re packing our banana hammocks.

Is that enough for one week? I mean, it’s about what they want, not what I want, so this could all crumble down. Still, the Boy Scouts classes I never took would’ve told me to always be prepared. Who am I to defy them?

I’m the opposite of Morrissey. Wait, does that mean I’m charmless?

Within 5 minutes of my flatmate moving out I was having a naked solo dance party. That’s not innuendo. Letting it all hang out in a space that’s all your own is amongst the most refreshing sensations I can think of. Even mundane tasks take on new promise when you’re unencumbered by the burden of clothing and company. Vacuuming and washing dishes seemed excessively more enjoyable than I remember them being purely through the comfort of solitary serenity. I love having people to bounce off, but sometimes it’s nice just to simmer in your own aura for a while. It feels like ages since I had the place all to myself and I’m relishing the chance to live the true bachelor lifestyle. This is gonna get filthy. Maybe not socially inept otaku hermit level disgusting, but shamefully kept secrets of my own depravity kind of disgusting. At least I now own cutlery. I don’t know that I’m nudist colony material, but hell, I’m taking advantage of this while it lasts.

I’ve just been informed that two of my best friends from back home arrive on Monday, so fuck everything I just said about loving being alone, this is exciting. A week away coinciding with the conclusion of my first year in Toronto, I can’t imagine a more perfect way to celebrate. In an almost instant 180 degree turn, I now have to find a way to acquire a suite of furniture tout de suite. While barren floors and a single chair might be good enough for my slovenly posterior, I’m in the entertaining business now. I should crack out the cookware I’ve got stowed away in the cupboard for my September return. Also clothes wearing might be a thing again. Despite my delight at the respite from any outfit(e? Stretched that one too thin), the presence of these guys more than compensates for this fleeting fancy.

These are friends I grew up with. One of them I met in kindergarten at the ripe age of 3, the other when I was about 13 or so. We’ve been on endless holidays and trips, essentially becoming adults together. They’ve been trekking around America for the last few months and making their way across state lines in an effort to take in as much as possible. They’ve traversed the opposite path we took in our Rolling Sarcophagus in years past. The concept that within 2 days they’ll be in my house is staggering. If I wasn’t sitting down right now I’d probably be knocked flat on my arse. It’s a good thing I’ve got at least one chair left in this place, elsewise my backside would know the feel of cold hardwood floors. From a clear horizon with nothing on its way to having these guys in my presence so soon, my mood has instantly been cranked up to 11. My lack of current activity in life has never been so comforting.

Speaking of activity, I’ve got somewhere to be. I guess I should probably put on some goddamn clothes then. Plus ça change indeed.