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?


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.

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.

Remember keeping your shoes on at the airport?

I was bored and hungry 20 minutes ago, so I ate a stack of plain top crackers that were next to my keyboard.

It’s gonna be one of those entries. Random thoughts for the sake of filling space.

The ability to work remotely must be a godsend for parents. I can only imagine that back in the 90s, if your kid was sick, what an inconvenience that would’ve been. What would parents do aside from take a sick day themselves? If they had to shuffle you off for appointments, etc, what would they do? Was it just that there were, in general, more stay at home parents? Both of my parents worked (well, off and on. At some point my dad worked from home for a while and kind of stay at home dad-ed), so I’ve got no idea what a hassle it was for them. Lots, I imagine.

I had a dream last night that I was at the airport, boarding a plane with my niece. Some dude behind me kept trying to stab me and I was like “oi, dick. I’m carrying my niece. Wait until I put her down at least for fuck’s sake.” I have no idea whether or not he declared the knife at customs. I’m guessing that this dream was set in the 90s. When else could you freely carry a knife through an airport?

The new Dirty Projectors album is really great. Fun dynamics, excellent harmonies and some of the best songwriting they’ve had since Bitte Orca. It’s weird, ’cause I’d kind of given up on the band since the last album. Just when I thought I was out…

In an inexplicable burst of curiousity, I emailed my editor asking if I could cover the Insane Clown Posse gig in late August. Also could I maybe grab them for an interview? Don’t ask me why, because I don’t truly have an answer for you. I don’t like their music. The subculture weirds me out more than a little. Juggalos are some odd people. At the same time, I feel like maybe they’re odd people with big hearts? That despite the violent and graphic imagery in their songs, that they’re probably somewhat on the level? If you look behind their word choice, there’s a lot of body positivity and acceptance. The whole “Miracles” conundrum was inscrutable. Was it actually a feint for finding religion? Did they backtrack and cave to public perception? Who are they as individuals? Plus, my best friend had a juggalo phase that still probably lives somewhere in his heart. I’m sure it’d make his life to get a shout out from the band. Who knows? In any case, I’m willing to peel back the layers and see what lies behind the paint.

While I’m still wielding my Infirmary Gauntlet on my dominant hand (comes off Monday), I’m gonna try to go to the gym tonight. I’m testing the waters to see if I can at least work the left side of my upper body. I’m sure it’ll feel weird and imbalanced, but my body is anyway. Why not try and fix that as best I can? I have the feeling that once the cast comes off, I’m gonna be disappointed that I’ll still need to take it easy. Tough Mudder is two months off, I’m determined to do as much as I can to be ready. It’ll break my heart if I have to pull out, so I’m bulldozing forward as if there’s zero possibility of that ever happening. Maybe my feeble left arm will finally be able to do mundane tasks. A boy can dream, can’t he?

Maybe next time I’ll dream of something other than stabbing attempts at the airport.

To be fair, the song would be drastically improved by changing everything about it

Getting my skates on, because I need to roll out of here in like 35 minutes.

I went for a jog today. This was a fucking stupid idea because it’s 29°C and my flesh is now melting from my bones. I’m going out to a pool bar for friend based lounging this afternoon and I’m not sure if this is their target demo. To be entirely honest, I’m not sure that I’m their target demo. This is how they advertise, so I should rephrase. I’m entirely sure that I’m not their target demo. It looks like a Hot Chicks With Douchebags entry, a snarky page I used to frequent in my early 20s. I feel like my sense of humour has shifted. My distaste for triple popped collar outfits has not. In short, Cabana has always made my douche senses vibrate, turning me into some kind of Tickle Me Elmo. I guess If you rearrange the letters of “Elmo” you get “Leom” which is close enough. Still, it should be nice to hang around with friends, inwardly mock the vibe by making continuous snarky comments, and make use of my waterproof colourful arm cast.

Oh, I’ve decided to use the Oxford comma sometimes, by the way.

I’ve also told myself that this year is the year when I’ll finally work up the courage to almost use semicolons, then back down at the last minute and use full stops instead; I used one the other day and I’ve been feeling low key dread ever since. Oh fuck, that just slipped out. So now I’ve gotta spend the rest of my life wondering if I made a mistake. Were those two clauses independent? Did they buy the shoes on their feet? What if they were a present from a cherished friend? Does that invalidate their independence? Is the price relevant? Like, if they bought their shoes because they got them at a steal, is that also showing their financial independence? Or frugal smarts? That seems pretty independent. Is the purchase itself necessary? What if they literally stole them? That takes gumption, planning and/or quick thinking. Should I have used an Oxford comma there? Argh *throws his hands up*.

I’ve packed (lie, I haven’t packed yet. That’s what the spare five minutes after this entry is for) a towel, togs, sunscreen, and a hat. Am I gonna need anything else? Did I write that list just to practice the Oxford comma? Only time will tell. Because I’m kind of staring at the clock on this one. Five minutes to go. Time flies when you’re scanning the internet for apt hyperlinks. To be transparent, I originally wrote “appropriate”, then changed it to “apt”. Then I changed out the word “clear” for the word “transparent”. It’s called editing, folks. Look it up.

My girlfriend and I decided half an hour ago that it’d be funnier in the Santana/Rob Thomas monster hit “Smooth”, if the lyric “My muñequita, my Spanish Harlem, Mona Lisa” was instead “I own a keytar: My Spanish Harlem, Mona Lisa.” It’d be even better if he then started wailing on the keytar, jamming out one of those colossal keytar solos for which Santana gained his notoriety.

But instead Rob just said “barrio” for no good reason and the world was a darker place.

I’m going now.
Yours Sincerely

Well after all that cake I certainly wasn’t gonna be Slim

Honestly, today’s been a good day.

I figure that’s not how most of these start, so I’m happy for the exception. It’s noteable. I woke up a couple of minutes before my alarm, which put my mood right. I got to work five minutes early without rushing. Everything just flowed. A friend updated his photos from Hyperborea there were tons of excellent shots from “the magic hour” (around dusk o’clock) that had perfect lighting. They brought back what a special experience it all was. Maybe the real memories were the friends we made along the way. It may sound like I’m getting needlessly gushy and trite, but you weren’t there maaaaaan.

Today was also the day I remembered that the BBC Essential Mix existed. From BBC Radio 1, the Essential Mix is a series of long form mixes from high profile DJs around the world. Big names like Chemical Brothers, Diplo, Justice, etc. All hosted by none other than Pete Tong. They’re very high quality and superb for putting a rocket behind your motivation to Get Shit Done. If you’ve got an issue with your output, I can’t recommend them enough for workplace listening. I found a Fatboy Slim Bestival set from 2016 and set to work. Holeeee shit. I was bopping in my seat all day long, plugging away at each task at hand. I felt the urge to get up out of my seat and go rave, but instead channelled that energy into furious productiveness. Very quickly I found myself having finished most of the day’s work.

I’d done so much so soon that I decided to head off to the gym for my lunch break. The mix was so “fire” I downloaded it and worked out to it. Turns out Fatboy Slim is still absurdly at the top of his game after all these years. It was also stellar for lifting incentive. I sweat and danced and, I dunno, pumped? What do gym people say? I did those things, got my endorphin rush and headed back to the office.

Occasionally (often) at work, certain departments get food delivered for client meetings. Uneaten leftovers go to the kitchen where they’re fair game. I have no idea who met with which clients, but there was a goddamn feast up for grabs in my post workout state. Sandwiches galore! Salads and Chinese dishes. Pad Thai, garlic bread, rice and pasta. Also some mammoth dessert made in the visage of chicken and waffles. The “waffles” were a big dense cake soaked in maple syrup. The lattice part was firm fondant style icing. Atop this fat stack was a rice crispy treat coated in corn flakes. It even had a little pretzel “bone” in the middle. Creative, but also rich and delicious. You best believe I sampled most everything at the table.

The afternoon was quiet. I plugged away at my remaining work, basking in the replete warmth of my overstuffed stomach. Problems emerged and I quashed them without a second thought. Everything was easy and nothing hurt.. Except my decrepit, withering body, but that’s only to be expected. But BEST OF ALL I found out my loud carrot stick chewing co-worker is leaving. I’ve griped about him before, but he’s an incredibly loud open mouth chewer which drives my misophonia up the fucking wall. It sounds silly, but hearing him eat a gratuitous amount of crunchy stuff is a serious point of stress in my life. In a few weeks, no longer! Today really was a good day.

Didn’t even need to shoot an AK.

I guess I’ll swim

I feel like I was ready to have a good day, then I read about Scott Hutchison losing his battle with depression.

I do and I don’t know why it hit me so hard. Some dude at a party once told me I’d like Frightened Rabbit and he was alarmingly correct. I’ve listened to their album Midnight Organ Fight countless times. It’s this beautiful combination of gallows humour and earnest emotion. The rest of their oeuvre I’ve been appreciative of, but haven’t absorbed it as fully. I can sincerely say I’m a fan without the baggage of excessive fandom. Hutchison was an immensely talented lyricist who hung his heart on every line and a performer who brought everything of himself to the mic. He’s someone whose creativity and honesty I was in love with. A few days ago a news report surfaced saying he’d gone missing. I feared the worst and hoped for the best, but those hopes fell away this morning. It’s heartbreaking and no amount of platitudes make it any less so.

Naturally, we’re all gonna witness events like this and turn inwards. We think about ourselves and how we relate. This becomes an important part of how we in retrospect view the outcome. I’ve been known to have my ups and downs, often between months. There are times in which I start to question all the structures around me and fail to find purchase. If you’re reading this, please don’t worry. Emotionally I’m in a downturn, but not with tangible lingering effects. I’m trying to figure things out, which is a world away from doing something stupid. Still, part of working through this kind of stuff is getting the negative ephemera out there to see it for what it is. With that precursor out there:

I’m having a hard time right now, as I have been for a while. I feel like my up and downswings have had me lingering at the bottom for a lot longer than I’ve been climbing. It’s rough. At the moment I’m having trouble finding purpose. I look at my day to day, week to week, year to year and see nothing in the matter of cumulative gain. I don’t feel like I’m further ahead at 31 than I was in 28. Of course it’s symptomatic of these kind of moods not to check your blind spot for the light you’re missing. Still, when I look ahead to the next six months, I don’t see the point. I don’t know what I’m doing here. I’m doing things, but none of them mean anything. I don’t know why I continue to sit in an office five days a week, not to be gaining traction. I feel like I’m living for escapism, but nothing concrete. I exist to consume, but I’m not consuming for any kind of existence.

I look at someone like Scott Hutchison, someone who made so much for so many, and I wonder what I’ve done. Once again, what am I doing? What am I doing for others? What am I doing for myself? If all I’m doing is going through the motions, that’s not enough for me. That’s not sustainable for the next 50 years. That’s a long time and I need a pretty good reason to hang around for another five decades. That’s not to say I’m looking for a way out. I’m looking for a way forward.

It sucks all the more because I feel like two months ago I had momentum. I felt indomitable, full of steam and drive, not knowing where I was going but not stopping to worry. Months later with nothing to show for it, the idea of picking myself up by the bootstraps seems a worthless endeavour. It’s hard to press on when the path seems to lead nowhere. I have no doubt I’ll turn this around in a matter of time, but right now that’s hardly enough for me.

Guess I’ll just wait.