It’s not the length of the wave…

I used to spend my summers mainlining music festivals.

It’s been a while, for no reason I can fathom. When I first got to Canada I started scoping out the festival lineups. For most of my time in NZ we just had one big festival. The Big Day Out. I went every year (since it was usually a day or two outside my birthday, it became a de facto gift), but always wanted more chances to catch an array of music in one day. I went to Lollapalooza with a friend in Chicago once and that kind of changed the scope. This was something larger with more potential than I’d dreamed of. Once I moved to Canada, I realised the density of large international acts was so much heavier. It was all I could’ve wanted. Then, strangely, I stopped going. It makes no sense.

My second day into Toronto I went to Grove Music Festival at Fort York Garrison. Sweet lineup. Girl Talk, Hot Chip, Phoenix and more. $30 tickets because Icona Pop cancelled last minute and some girl on roller blades no longer wanted to go. It was fantastic. The setting was an old historical garrison (hence the name), lush fields and some old brick buildings. Lots of colourful tents and food trucks set up, a couple of stages. The kind of place where people would bring kids and dogs. I saw some terrific music, crowdsurfed for the first time and met a good friend. Years later when I was writing for a food blog, I reviewed the food at Field Trip music festival, also at Fort York. Another stellar gig with a lot of Arts and Crafts label acts. Had an amazing time working with an ex who did the photography to my writing.

All of this was preamble to say that when my friend offered up guestlist spots to a festival he was shooting, I nigh offered up my hypothetical firstborn. It’d been too long and the opportunity cost was so low. Wavelength is a collective of artists that curate concerts throughout the year. They’ll have showcases and whatnot that give space for up and coming talent to be seen. In the case of Camp Wavelength (usually on the Toronto Islands), some names were less up and coming than established. Suuns, TOPS and Yamantaka // Sonic Titan are all reasonably well known by now.

The gig had an awesome flow to it. Incredibly relaxed, nothing was in your face. You could flow between the stage and all the interactive art projects volunteers had set up. There were the aforementioned food trucks and tents, there was even a comedy campfire with Chanty Marostica, Aisha Brown and a few acts I didn’t manage to catch. At the music stage, Zaki Ibrahim and Maylee Todd both really stood out to me. Zaki had this kind of smooth and funky R&B, with talented backing singers. Maylee used a harp and a bunch of loop pedals. I’m a sucker for anything loop pedal-ly. It was fucking swell.

I hadn’t realised one of my friends was setting up a Mystic Dream Tent. Tarot readings, massage, etc. It was a cute cushioned tent and a great space to relax. I got to catch up with her and get my first ever tarot reading. In doing so, I realised something I’d never cottoned onto before. Tarot is just therapy. There’s this whole thing in therapy about how you’re not supposed to tell people their problems, rather you lead them to finding their own answers. The idea being that telling someone what’s wrong is nowhere near as effective as them coming to their own revelations. If they feel like they’ve figured it out on their own, they’ll take greater ownership over effecting a solution. In tarot, the symbols are used to put down broadly relatable metaphors. The reader gives a loose explanation of what they could be, then the subject scans their past and finds their own causal links. Having those metaphors helps the subject to infer what issues are within their lives and consider how to resolve them. It’s brilliant. It’s all basically a big madlibs where the subject fills in the gaps to make the story relevant to their life. In doing so, they work through internal conflict and find resolve. I can totally see how in cultures past, tarot would have taken therapy’s place in easing emotional trauma.

Now the question is, with summer dawning, what festivals are still left for me?

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Why screw my courage to this sticky place?

I was thinking about my death row meal today.

In full clarity, I’m not going to death row. Well, I don’t think so. Okay, I haven’t currently done anything to necessitate my execution. Ask me again in a few hours. I feel like my plans are benign enough that I’m unlikely to commit murder, grand larceny or something super vile like jaywalking before bed. It’s not impossible. After a little too much caffeine I stop questioning what I’m capable of doing and start worrying about it instead. Mostly I just get very regular.

I know what my death row meal would be. It’s very specific and I’m quite surprised (I tried a quick search of past entries) that I haven’t mentioned it before. My death row meal would be my mum’s chicken wings and spare ribs.

It’s my favourite meal, hands down. Well, hands in too. It’s very involved. A huge batch of chicken wings and spare ribs in a gorgeously sticky sauce. It’s usually accompanied by rice and sometimes peas. It sounds simple, but it’s so much more than that. Like any tradition worth a damn, there’s ritual. I can’t overstate how much food there is, several kilos of assorted small meats almost dripping off the bone. The sauce is thick and sweet, without the gross mouthfeel of shoddily made teriyaki sauce. It’s the best kind of meal: One where you can get your hands dirty. Across the table are several bowls, some empty and others filled with warm water. Bones bowls and finger bowls. It’s rare to not have hands caked in sauce, and the finger bowls help mitigate the struggle of sticky fingers (besides what you’re able to lick off). The meat is tender, having been grilled with garlic before the sauce was applied. There’s something in the combination of density and softness that’s indescribable for an author of limited skill. Like all the best things, it’s supremely messy, but also intimate. The sauce goes so well over the rice, which soaks it up perfectly. If there are ever peas, they’re a small oasis of greenery in a desert of meat, sugar, soy and rice. You do not leave the table hungry. Very occasionally I’ll dream of this meal, which begs the question: Why don’t I just make it?

It’s not a challenging meal to recreate. As far as I understand, you slather the meat in garlic and grill it in the oven. After it’s well-cooked, you add equal parts brown sugar and soy sauce to an amount of water. You slowly heat it in the microwave, stirring every few minutes. When it’s starting to thicken, you douse the oven meat in this sauce and let it cook. Every once in a while you’ll reapply the sauce with a baster so nothing dries out. At some point you cook rice. That’s basically it. For all I know my mum just got it from a cook book, but it’s (at least in my mind) become her enduring signature dish. Whenever I eat this meal, I think of my family. This meal is love.

I’m an adult, I’ve made more complicated dishes than this. Frankly, I could probably just bung it all in the instant pot and have it ready in under an hour. For some reason though, I don’t. There’s no reason it needs to be bound to a time and place, but for some reason in my head it is. It’s a family meal and I haven’t pulled it out for other means. It makes no earthly sense. I’m resigning this to my impending death because… why again? My friends here are practically family. I think it’s high time I had a dinner party and shared with them the last thing I’d eat before I die.

I just hope that’s not tonight. We don’t have any chicken wings or spare ribs in the freezer.

The real deal or no deal

I saw St Vincent last night.

It was one hell of an experience. Then again, it always is. I think it was the third or fourth time. Given that I’ve been tracking her career for years, it was also somewhat surreal. When I saw her at The Kings Arms back in 2012, she almost kicked me in the head. The Kings Arms (R.I.P.) was a legendary venue back in Auckland, New Zealand. I saw an absurd amount of now huge indie bands there in my burgeoning concert-going years. I think it was around a 500 capacity venue. It was always tightly packed, sweaty and a riot in the making. There was a great beer garden and they’d always have earplugs on hand if you needed them. I fucking miss that place.

I next saw her at Yonge and Dundas Square touring her self titled album. It was her mainstream breakthrough and the scale had changed. Like zooming out on Google Maps. Big stage persona and sets. Her image was tweaked. Her sound had morphed from unsettling indie rock to something resembling art pop. Evolution in an artist is a healthy thing and her music still kicked ass. Still, the stage at Yonge and Dundas was quite a departure from the lil’ ol’ Kings Arms. Still, amazing show.

Last night’s Sony Centre performance was another couple of Google Maps zoom outs again. The Sony Centre is a big deal venue. The lighting and sound are fantastic. It’s all seated and, unlike shitboxes like Rebel, they’ve actually considered acoustics. The way that Annie Clark tours now is a world away from The Kings Arms. There’s no judgement, simply observation. She’s a big fucking deal now. She’s not an indie artist. I don’t know if it’s possible to be an indie artist with billboards in Times Square. The scope of what she presents onstage is entirely different. I feel like she’s at the stage where now, she has people. Like Donald Glover or Beyonce or something. It’s not that she doesn’t have creative input, but that she’s likely presented with ideas and she gets to say yay or nay. Her costumes are involved and creative. The lighting is enormous and complex. She changes to a new coloured guitar in every song. There’s actual choreography. I can’t imagine old Annie doing stadium style fists in the air to encourage crowd clapping. It just wasn’t her style. Economies of scale, right?

Let’s get something out of the way: I think Annie Clark is the coolest fucking person in the world. She’s an immensely creative, talented artist. She writes these songs that drip with menace and humanity. Her music strings along this kind of existential madness that no doubt scares me on some level. I find that unbelievably exciting. In interviews she’s so quick, clever and funny. She seems like a very genuine person who appreciates where she is. She can shred a guitar solo to bits. I don’t know how many bands feature their lead singer as their lead guitarist, but I feel like those duties are usually divided between multiple people. Not when it comes to St Vincent. She looked me dead in the eyes back at Yonge and Dundas Square and I literally swooned. I’m entirely taken with her. There was this moment right before the chorus in “Cheerleader” where she reared her head up and spat before singing. As a distilled moment, it sticks in my brain as one of the coolest, most rebellious, sexiest things I’ve ever seen. I say all of this not because I objectify her, but because I adore her. I don’t know if it would’ve even been possible to have not enjoy the gig.

My seats weren’t perfect. I was pretty far back, enough so that I had trouble making out her facial features. Still, she sounded fucking awesome. The lighting looked amazing and was totally captivating. Everything worked in concert (pun obviously intended) to distill a certain mood. Her setlist was great, showcasing her more recent material but still with at least four songs from Strange Mercy (and “Marrow” from Actor, which was a delight). I’ll never hear “Huey Newton” the same way again. Despite a weird internal disconnect with the scale, I had a goddamn riot of a time.

If this is what “selling out” resembles for St Vincent, it puts paid to that notion even existing in the first place.

Could I be any more of an ideal spokesman?

I rode a bike yesterday!

It was magical. The wind whipping through the phantom locks I had in my experimental hair phases. Engaging my calves pushing uphill. Trying to wrap my head/hands around the odd downward sloping bullhorn style handlebars. An all new familiar experience. Unexpected and thrilling. I used to bike all the time. As a kid, from ages 10-15, I’d bike to school. I buckled my wheel at some stage and kept riding on that wheel for several years. It was so freeing. As a cookie-doughy child, I got to be active and experience the joy of speed. To have that control, to find new hidden routes and side streets. To zip around in charge of my own direction. I’d cover so much ground and see small changes on my day to day route. I tried besting my old times, it was awesome. I never really got the confidence to ride on the road, plus bike lanes virtually didn’t exist yet. So it was always ducking and weaving around pedestrians on the footpath.

Last night a bunch of us went out to Kensington Market for drinks. After chatting and chilling, we piled back to our friend’s place for more relaxed hangabouts. It was a no brainer. We could stay in a bar grabbing expensive drinks, or go back to her plounge and tailor our own vibe. Thing was, all the liquor stores were closed. Not even Wine Rack, the last refuge of desperate drunks, was open. She had a couple of bottles, but it felt like a dick move for us all to deplete her stash. When we arrived, I opted to go and grab some bottles from home. I was just down the hill, after all. With a monthly pass, I could even grab a bus there and back if the times synced. She off-handedly offered her bike. I opened my mouth for polite refusal and thought for a secondHow many years had it been since I’d ridden? Too many. It’d be faster and maybe more fun. The five or six drinks I’d had by then nudged me in the direction of yes and I went for it. I grabbed a helmet and climbed aboard.

Maybe the beers helped. It was just like riding a bike. Sure, the handlebars were more narrow than I was used to. My recovering wrist made things a little less secure. Given that it was almost midnight, nobody was around, so I took the footpath. It was great. I reined in my speeds coming down the hill and made it home in sub five minutes. I parked up front, put together a goody bag of liquor and climbed back on. Was it a fixie? Oh, it totally had gears. they were these odd little toggles that were quite estranged from what I’d grown up with, but they worked. Away I went. Even in my drunken state, the hill was a breeze. I didn’t even need to stand. I guess when you grow up in the land of dormant volcanoes, everywhere else is flatland by comparison. I was back at my mate’s place within 15 minutes.

Every year I think about buying a bike. Every year it gets late into summer and I think well, next year will be the year. It isn’t. Every year. Maybe though, and hear me out here, maybe next year will be the year. Not this year, because my wrists need time to heal. Next year though? It’s perfect. I’m sure it’ll happen. I do get bogged down by the artifice of owning a bike though. I’d need all the accessories; helmet, lock, etc. I’d have to consider lugging the vehicle around or where I was gonna store it. It’d make navigating public clunky at times. It’s that stuff that gets in my head ever year and thwarts plans to get one. Really though, I’m sure it’s not as bad as I think. It’s not an all or nothing conundrum. Just because I have a bike, doesn’t mean I need to use it all the time. I can take it when I want to, when the sun is shining just right. When I’d otherwise walk but want a swifter trip. Maybe if I was picking things up and slung my backpack over my shoulders.

2019, you hear me? Twenty biketeen. It’s coming.

Were ’87 French youths “Mal” content?

Hot take, I think the Michael Jackson video “Black or White” holds up.

It’s silly and audacious. The Macaulay Culkin part is cute and takes the Twisted Sister motif in a 90s direction. The dancing to this day is still excellent. The special effects look dated, but that’s only natural. The message, while missing the nuance of modern discussions, has its heart profoundly in the right place. No matter who you are, the colour of your skin or where you were born, we’re all human. We’re all in this together. I don’t think Michael solved racism in 1991 by dancing, but it was a splashy, bold statement from someone who was undoubtedly a phenomenon. “I’m not going to spend my life being a colour” is a great line about dehumanisation. The song isn’t remarkable so much for the entirety of its content, but how it delivered that content in an undeniable massively digestible manner. I mean, he transformed from a literal black panther and performed acts of passionate protest.

I don’t think of Michael Jackson often, which is weird considering he singlehandedly sparked my interest in music. So much of his later years were plagued by rumours and hearsay. An individual obviously suffering from mental illness was grossly taken advantage of. It’s hard to imagine in the aftermath of his passing, but back in the early 90s there was nobody cooler. Thriller remains the top selling album of all time. He transcended pop star status to become an icon. No question. Consider it from the perspective of a sub ten year old. He transformed into robot and plane. He was a gangster, a bloody zombie. He told us all to love one another. He used his platform to bring issues of inequality and racism to the forefront. I may have thought that “Man in the Mirror” was a song about an evil doppelgänger, but that’s on me.

Michael Jackson’s History tour was my first ever concert. I lost my fucking child mind. It was such a spectacle, an affirming experience. He went though innumerable costume changes, there were massive props. Other kids got to go onstage for one of the numbers. I stood in those stands, with my tiny binoculars, and I marvelled that the evocation of cool was breathing the same air. I was inspired to think that if he could stand up there and bring joy to so many people, well that was something to be goddamn celebrated.

I don’t know if there’s been another Michael Jackson. I know for sure that nobody is gonna touch the 66 million album sales that Thriller reached. People don’t buy albums anymore. The nature of marketing has changes so much that we’re sold every big act as the biggest on Earth. For all I know, little kids look at Beyonce the way I looked at Michael. I mean, this is in every way a spectacle. I sure hope they do. I think we all deserve figures to look up to that teach us all to be better. For all the kvetching people do about pop music and how it’s shaping our children, there’s so much potential. I can only imagine the way the world reacted to Childish Gambino’s “This is America” was pretty damn similar to the reception of “Black or White” in ’91.

Go on, load up some MJ and see how you feel.

Played someone called “im seth rogen”. If it’s true, Rogen’s a pretty decent Magic player

Did I mention I was gonna play a load of Magic yesterday?

Magic Arena was in stress test mode so they were offering half price Core 2019 drafts. I blocked out my calendar and resolved to spend the whole night drafting as much as possible. I had a ludicrous amount of in game currency saved up. If there ever was a time to splurge, this was it. The stress test started at 3pm and by 3:01pm servers were dead. Kaput. My the time I got home from work, they’d smoothed out a bunch. Still laggy, but working enough to draft up a deck. I mean, I was gonna rare-draft the entire night regardless, so who cares?

My decks were all over the place. I started with a low to the ground W/b deck. It peaked with a trio of four mana spells. Notable bombs were Mentor of the Meek, Isareth the Awakener and Sigiled Sword of Valeron. I had 13 two drops, so you can imagine how quick it was. I was pretty surprised to find Rustwing Falcon doing work. I put it in because I was low on creatures in what was meant to be an aggro deck. You know what? They did work. Between a Marauder’s Axe and dat Valeron steel, they were aggressive and nobody wanted to waste removal on a one drop. If they did, I was happy to grab them back with Isareth. 7-0 was a helluva way to start the evening. Of course it was gonna go downhill from there.

Sticking with the aggro plan, I cobbled together a B/R low to the ground deck with reach. Two Brawl-Bash Ogres, two Lightning Strikes, three Viashino Pyromancers. It was the kind of deck where I felt justified playing Act of Treason. The two Ogres didn’t hurt. I’m really impressed with how Viashino Pyromancer plays. It comes down, gets in damage and usually trades up. Feelsgoodman.jpg. When I didn’t mana flood, I did pretty well. I think I ended up in the 5-2 range before having a realisation. It was cheaper to pay for a draft, rare-draft then drop, than it was to buy four boosters. I’d be better off to draft, play a match or two to get a feel for the deck/format, then drop. The rest of the night went a lot faster.

I put together a G/W Enchantress deck, always one of my faves. I won a bunch of games, but one of my favourite was stacking up a Ghirapur Guide, casting Declare Dominance and destroying his team with swole Guide. At 12/8, he didn’t show you the way, he showed you THE WHEY. It was nifty. It also introduced me to one of my new loves: Suspicious Bookcase. It’s appropriately costed and breaks open stalemates. Plus it’s a fucking sentient bookcase. At one point this happened and it felt a little too political. I dropped and made a new deck.

I think I made a G/U value deck, but this is where my memory gets hazy. It had bounce, fliers, and I think a Poison-Tip Archer for reach? I recall getting in for a ton of damage with Thorn Lieutenant. Remember how much fun it was slamming in with Elvish Warrior back in the day? Turns out 2/3s for 3 with upsides are neato.

The next deck I remember (well, I screencapped it anyway) was another G/W Enchantress. My first ever real life deck was G/W Enchantress, which basically looked like Boggles before it took off. Troll Ascetic, Silhana Ledgewalker, Armadillo Cloak. I was keen to do as much of that in draft as possible. So I drafted two (!) Satyr Enchanters, a Druid of Horns, three Oakenform, two Knight’s Pledges and some other dorks. It was neat. I got to about three wins before calling it quits. I loved the deck, but I was sure I could do it better (foreshadowing?). I also got my first chance to try out mythic uncommon Dryad Greenseeker. This thing is nuts. They fixed Sindbad up in fine new duds and it’s amazing. 40% of the time you’re drawing a card. That’s an incredible advantage in limited. It did so much work and led me to keeping a bunch of two land hands. They pretty much all worked out, because nobody seems to know how busted this card is. Why would they not remove it at all costs? Oh I know, because it’s a 1/3 for 1G that you never put in harm’s way. If you stick one of these, it gets a lot harder to lose. That’s for sure. I mean, one of my opponents did this, which was commendably bonkers. I lost that game despite any efforts to do anything. Regal Bloodlord plus Ajani’s Welcome sounds jank (and it is), but it really made it hard to do anything.

There were a few silly decks. More R/B aggro. This time I messed around and put together something incomprehensively aggressive. Four Sovereign’s Bite made their way in. I did not win much. I tried to emulate my past opponent by cobbling together a B/W lifegain aggro deck. It was not great. A R/G midrange deck also did precious little. It wasn’t consistent and had trouble breaking through.

But then of course, it was back to G/W Enchantress to really stir some shit. Two Satyr Enchanters, two Druid of Horns, Vine Mare, Rabid bite, Transmogrifying Wand, three Daybreak Chaplain and a fucking Prodigious Growth. One game I had a tapped out opponent on eight life and Prodigious Growthed my innocent Rustwing Falcon for the win. This deck was stupid stupid stupid and I loved it to bits.

For the final deck of the night, I put together my dream deck. R/G midrange, but actually functional. Two Dryad Greenseekers, two Rabid Bite, fucking Goreclaw, Pelakka Wurm. Wait, Show Don’t Tell, right? Isn’t that totally absurd? It was aggressive and my creatures all outsized my opponent’s ones. Goreclaw worked wonders. She made Rhox Oracle very, very reasonable. Brought my high end within reach. Sometimes I even just got Draconic Disciple to bring the beats with a beastly winged DARGON. It was my favourite style of deck, probably my favourite I put together all night and sailed it to a 7-1 victory. The one loss was very close.

It turns out that for a core set, M19 is very deep. Tons of cool, viable strategies that aren’t just “draft Dryad Greenseeker and win”. That one works too though. Hope you all had a stress free stress test and I’ll see you out there. Have a blast!

Today I realised they call the underwear “boxers” because they look like boxing shorts. Some things come when you’re ready for them

Sometimes memories stay buried. Sometimes that’s for a reason…

A lot of the time it isn’t. Sorry not sorry for the misdirect. If we didn’t stow memories away our brains would be constantly overloaded with stimulation. I don’t remember every apple I ate, good or bad. I’m sure there was stuff that’s was borderline traumatic at the time and got dropped off because in retrospect it might not have been that bad. I’m sure there are a plethora of lovely memories covered by the sands of time.

I had a dream last night that I was at a friends birthday party. This may be more specific to a certain character archetype, but remember when birthday parties were unbelievably simple? All it took for a stellar shindig was pizza, cake and video games? Maybe if you were lucky, jelly and a sleepover? I don’t know why I grouped those last two things, they certainly weren’t linked. We used to have so much fun without a ton of effort (I mean, I’ve never thrown a party for a child. I’m sure it was a lot more complex from the parents’ POV).

These days there are so many considerations. Do we have the space at home or are we better to stake out a bar/resto? Is there an event on people could go to? What kind of cost considerations do we need to make? Is it a multi-venue occasion or more of an “I’ll be here, you’re welcome to join” affair? Talking or dancing? Do we need to cater? What about dietary restrictions? What’re we gonna do for music? Does the house need to be cleaned? Do we supply booze or BYO? What do we want to drink? Is there a particular style of buzz we’re looking for? What kind of timeframe? Do we need to be concerned about other events happening that night? If twenty people say they’re attending on Facebook, how many will actually turn up? Which friend groups will interact favourably? Are there any personal vendettas/ex relationships/partner conflics between certain individuals we need to take heed of? Does it make more sense to have separate occasions for alternate social circles?

What I’m saying is, I want to have a night of pizza, beer and videogames at some point. That sounds nifty.

Another memory popped into my head recently. So my mum used to run a second-hand toy store. I’ve talked about it here before. It was The Best. All the toys were out of their boxes, so I could play with them and everything. I couldn’t imagine a more idyllic childhood. Anyway, our grandparents lived in Montreal and they’d send these massive shipments of second hand toys they picked up cheap. Came in these huge cardboard boxes. I’m sure there was a scale component to it, I was a tiny child at the time. Everything dwarfed me. Consequently, everything was exciting. Occasionally however, things would go beyond the norm.

So we’d had this considerably large shipment from my grandparents. We often got big ones, this went far beyond that. Our garage was cluttered with boxes. Ordinarily it was a two car garage. It was jammed so full that neither of my parents cars could fit. I came home from something. I can’t remember, it was the evening. Realistically it was probably about 7pm. Quite late for me. We opened the garage door and I saw the most amazing sight. The garage was filled with an enormous maze. While I was out, my two older brothers took all of the boxes and constructed a twisted, winding maze out of cardboard. They’d taped boxes together in all directions. I couldn’t believe it. My parents let me stay up late and crawl around in it. My brothers were a lot bigger, but they’d chase me around and we’d all giggle. It was pretty goddamn special, one of the many, many treasured memories that’s stored deep in my noggin. For no good reason, it’s been probably about 20 years since I last thought about it.

Recalling it feels like a gift.