How far do I want to push this metaphor? If I tried hard enough, could I cash in on the lucrative key ring sponsorship market?

At what point do you decide that something has given you all it ever will?

Okay, that’s way too wide a question. I’m not sure how you’d define that into a focused answer. So I’ll start rambling instead. We had two bands play short two song sets at work today. The New Pornographers and Cold War Kids. Both are bands that I used to listen to with some regularity. I had TNP’s Mass Romantic and Electric Version on repeat for months. Fun, poppy hits with excellent harmonies and toe tappin’ tunes. I listened to Twin Cinema and Challengers, but neither impacted me as much as their initial albums had. When Together failed to deliver, my enthusiasm for the band petered out (a phrase which I only just read may date back to the depletion of mineral refinery. The mORE you know, eh?). I haven’t as of yet listened to their 2014 release Brill Bruisers and it’s unlikely I’ll hear the follow up in two weeks. I got from this band what I wanted, which has served me well. No regrets, but neither am I mining their subsequent albums for new, fresh material. In my mind, they’re petered out.

Even if you weren’t, I was pretty impressed with how I turned that etymology around. Self love, people.

New Pornographers were a band I enjoyed. Cold War kids were a band I adored. I thrashed Robbers and Cowards. A distinct vocal sound combined with innovative production and refreshing songwriting. “Hospital Beds” (which has an excellent Florence and the Machine cover), “St John”, “We Used to Vacation”- fuck, I’ve gotta stop or I’d be quicker to say “the whole album”- hit me hard. I fell in love with all of these tracks and they found their way to every contemporary mix tape I made for years. Loyalty to Loyalty had a couple of neat songs too. The ones I liked worked into my constant rotation. “Mine is Yours” bombed hard for me. The sound, more stadium oriented, was no longer what I wanted from them. Much like The New Pornographers, it wasn’t for me, so I stopped cold (War Kids?). So it goes.

I could name a stream of bands who followed a similar pattern for me. The aforementioned Florence, my almost eponymous Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys, TV on the Radio. I don’t know if this is more a comment on the effects of wider audience reception, fame and success, or that I have specific tastes. All I do know is that at some point, these bands have taken a fork in the road where I’ve refused to follow. The journey to that tangent was fantastic, but we’re clearly not meant to go down every road we see.

Seeing Cold War Kids in particular today, the band sounded great. Previewing new material off their forthcoming album, the experience of seeing them live (and shaking the lead singer’s hand. They awkwardly didn’t know what to do after the short set. He’d seen me kneeling on the ground during the performance, walked over and extended his hand) still had a stirring effect on me. While things may have changed, the seeds of that which had called to me were rooted fast. I don’t know how I feel about the new tracks, but I loved them in that context. Would I feel the same with the mixed versions? I’ve got no idea. Are there gems hidden in their past two albums I ignored? There may well be.

There are some messages in here about persistence, trust and faith. Like Cold War Kids’ past two albums, I haven’t decided if I’ve got the energy to search for them right now. Maybe though, just because I’ve pushed a door close, it doesn’t mean I need to lock it.

Well folk me.

I’m sure the audience left Wilco’s incredible Massey Hall set with very few questions. Screw that, I’ve got one. Just how many guitars does this band have? After every song- hell, sometimes in the middle of one- stage hands would rush out with an electric, electro-acoustic or steel guitar for a quick change-over. A constant procession of guitartillery. I’d question why they needed that many if they didn’t prove their skill so thoroughly. An expertly concerted effort to put together an undeniably amazing concert.

Easy as it would’ve been to coast on their legacy, musicianship stood at the forefront of their performance. Opener “Normal American Kids” began softly with a solo performance from lead singer Jeff Tweedy, eyes cast in shadow beneath the brim of his hat. The band gradually took the stage one by one, adding more depth to the track. If the first few songs sought to lull the audience into a gentle reverie, it wasn’t for long. “Muzzle of Bees” awoke a fury in lead guitarist Nels Cline, unleashing a blistering solo that brought the crowd to its feet cheering. If anything, it was a mere precursor to a whole new level.

“Art of Almost”, lead single from 2011’s The Whole Love, was an experience. Bright lights flooding the stage in time with thunderous drum beats, an array of discordant colours swirling as the track built. A stage hand hurriedly scurried onstage with a guitar in hand for Cline. Then things got wild: Four guitars shredding simultaneously, solos coming from every direction. Drummer Glenn Kotch frenzied, arms all-a-blur. The crowd howling, baying for more. After seven minutes of magic, the band finally relented, to almost deafening ovation. A moment fit for a conclusion, all of six songs in.

The band would go on to deliver a performance of over two hours, with a setlist stretching as far back as their 1995 debut album A.M. As a casual fan, I found myself utterly enthralled. I can only imagine the bliss of a hardcore devotee.

As always, Massey Hall was an outstanding venue, with unbeatable sound and lighting. For a band with such dynamic range, they couldn’t have chosen better. The stage was beautifully set. Framed by a copse of pigmentally painted trees, they’d be lit in summery tones one minute, before fading to autumnal browns. The effect was captivating, words doing the sight little justice.

When a band is still touring in some capacity twenty years after their conception, it’s usually a matter of love or money. Wilco proved beyond a doubt that there’s a passion still driving the band on the road. Even if it’s just to play with a ludicrous number of guitars.

Well I’ve got enough acid for the recipe, clearly.

I’m pretty wiped right now, so in lieu of anything insightful (as if that were the norm or something) or interesting, here are a few words in certain arrangements:

  • My legs are shot. I’m undecided whether this is a positive development or not. Positive, because I worked them pretty hard on Monday. If my body manages to regenerate the damaged tissue, I’ll no doubt be hefty enough to juggle cars. If I’m in this much pain, I obviously worked to a super human degree. If my *walking* is reduced to a slow shuffle, it must be because the muscles have retreated to chrysalis-esque pods, hiding their eventual potential. They’ll burst out when I need them most for some feat of heroism. It’ll be worth the borderline limp I’m rocking at present. Why I flopped around a Body Attack class trying in vain to look competent. My butt feels like it’s gonna collapse, these buns of steel underneath proving too much for my feeble skin sacs to contain. It can only be a great thing, definitely. There’s no other reason I’d be suffering. It has been ordained. Just you wait.
  • I got my Fleet Foxes ticket today through a pre-sale. It’s great news, it really is. While ordering though, I couldn’t believe how quickly available seats had been snapped up. I’ve heard rumblings that Toronto is plagued by virulent scalping bots, but until today I didn’t understand the magnitude (Pop Pop) of the issue. I ordered perhaps 20 minutes after they’d become available and options were pretty slim. After being allocated tickets far back and hugging the left side of Massey Hall, I took another spin on the “best available” selector and was very luckily given a prime location (ordering a single ticket does have its advantages). It’s a bummer. It’s not good enough that I’ll be fine, what about all the big fans (it’s been six years since “Helplessness Blues”) that’ll likely be singing their own helplessness blues) who’ll miss out? All because a few shitlords want to take advantage of the system? I don’t know what the answer is. Do more Toronto ticket sites need captcha? A four ticket limit per order? A vial of blood extracted from each purchaser? Hopefully this survey garners helpful tips.
  • It may well have hit nine degrees today. I saw some dude on the subway in jandals. I wish I had that much confidence about anything in my life.
  • During today’s Body Attack class we did a bunch of squats. Thing is, I really needed to fart. It unfortunately wasn’t as simple as being ashamed of releasing gas. These were farts barely discernible from the next stage of evolution. I was mortified that if I gave them the credence to run free, I’d free the runs. So not only was I hobbling around with my chrysalis stumps, but I was striving to hold in my lunch. “Body Attack” could not have been a more apt name.
  • For the first time in mind-bogglingly long, I’ve assembled a fresh salad for dinner tonight. I’m ashamed to admit I don’t know how to make a simple olive oil vinaigrette salad dressing by heart. Sure, Google is quick and easy, but isn’t there merit in knowing things without the need to look them up? I bet Jandals in Nine Degrees Dude knows how to make one from memory. Dick. I bet he scalps tickets too.

It’s dark outside. I am likely to be eaten by a grue.

I need to get out of the house. With the exception of the hour and a half I spent going to and from my doctor’s appointment yesterday, I haven’t left the house in over 24 hours. I’m getting bored of myself. I’ve had my butt pretty firmly glued to my computer chair (save getting up for food, water, or drugs), clad in slovenly sweatpants. Feet stuffed in slippers, wearing a bright yellow sweatshirt. I’ve been the perfect picture of comfort, but also the perfect picture of indecision. With the entire information superhighway at my disposal, I could be anywhere doing anything just by surfing the web. Instead I’ve found myself clicking around the same couple of sites, playing Shandalar and flicking through Netflix without watching much of anything. I repeat, I need to get out of the house.

I’m less sick than I was. The constant pressure of my headache has subsided. My throat no longer burns. My nose is still pretty congested, but how’s that different from any other day? It’s past 6pm and I haven’t taken any meds since this morning. Maybe I am on the mend after all. I really should go, even if it’s cold outside. I do weird things when I’m home alone. I pace back and forth from the office and the kitchen without purpose. Scan the fridge or pantry for something to eat, find nothing that I can be bothered making, go back to the office and feel hungry (or bored. Same difference). Occasionally I’ll feel guilty for not having been active, so I’ll try a few handstand push ups. I maybe get to three or so, then lose my balance and guide myself back to the ground. Feeling accomplished, I’ll usually go straight back to being inactive (realising as I do, that this small amount of work doesn’t constitute a workout. I won’t follow it up with more work).

Indoor kid as I am, I’m finding myself longing for spring. Toronto had an oh so brief flirtation with temperatures over zero. Remember last week or so when I got to jog? That was amazing. There are all these new pokémon to catch. So many unused patios citywide that would be ideal for enjoying a beer. Hell, I miss beer. It’s been about five weeks or so since I last drank and I think I’m ready to open up the La Fin Du Monde sitting in the bedroom. I need human connection. The cat may be talkative, but she speaks a lot of garbage. I love my girlfriend, but I don’t want to wear her out. I realised the other day that most of my friends haven’t seen me with a beard, which has been slowly accumulating over the past five weeks. It’s time to put on real clothes and make elaborate hand gestures while conversing.

I didn’t get the interview with Los Campesinos tomorrow, which is both a bummer and a relief at once. I’ve been raring to see this band live since they dropped two outstanding albums in 2008. Getting the chance to meet and chat with a member or two would be amazing. On the other side, I felt a massive amount of dread that I was walking into some kind of trap. What would I be able to say to people I’d respected and looked up to? I was intimidated, as if I’d say a bunch of dumb things and be treated either patronisingly or like I wasn’t worth their time. I was sure they wouldn’t be rude, but that any amount of prep I’d done wouldn’t be enough to, I dunno, have them like me? Don’t meet your heroes encapsulated. It’s silly. I should really have enough self-respect to know that I’d be fine, that I could hold me own, that they’re just Welsh thirtysomethings and I’d probably have fun in the end. Sorry, *would’ve* had more fun in the end. Still, I get to review their sold out show that I’d forgotten to nab tickets for, so all is not lost.

Enough of this whole “typing” thing. I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna shower and see what the outside world has to offer.

It’s a foregone conclusion that I don’t trust myself, but others are pretty reliable.

It feels like an age since I’ve “done” anything. I don’t mean like I’ve been frozen in carbonite. I’ve been out and about, though rarely after dark because it’s cold and I’ve kind of had enough of winter by now. I mean I’ve been unproductive. I’ve had spare time, which has virtually all been sunk into this ridiculous early 90s Magic the Gathering game. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been enjoying the down time, but something inside me is itching, telling me I need to create or perish. I mean, look at my writing lately, with the exception of that Clickhole style piece I put together it’s basically been LivejournalLite around here. Things have been calm, and I’ve been self-taught (by my own neuroses) to believe that if I don’t make a storm of my own, I won’t like the one that inevitably comes in its place.

I’ve potentially got an interview on Sunday with one of my favourite bands. A band I’ve been following for years. They’re bloody prolific and lyrically dense. I’m kind of low-key terrified of this whole shebang. I’m certain it’s gonna be a don’t meet your heroes situation, that either they’ll prove to be dicks or I’ll be shamefully unprepared and feel like a bag of dicks. In this scenario I’m the bag holding the dicks, not having a craving that only a bag sized quantity of dicks can satisfy. I’m trying to think of interview questions, but it’s like butting my head against a wall repeatedly.

What can I ask them that will actually engage them, that won’t make me appear a total twat? Questions that aren’t the same stock ones interviewers throw at them every time. What angle can I take? I’m not a particularly cerebral fellow so it would be downright odd to try and approach them on that kind of conceptual level. I’m certain that they’re smarter than me, so it’ll be all I can do to not just nod repeatedly while trying to bite my own tongue out of mortification. Moreover, I know that being terrified to do it is all the more reason I should, so next time it’ll be one millimetre less frightening.  I need to do the things I’m not good at to get better, right? That’s how upskilling works?

The other tumbleweed rolling around in my head gathering bracken is about a sitcom idea. I had a dream the other night about writing a show. It felt so possible, but with work required that when I woke up, I went back to dream and made my brain keep working on the elevator pitch. I don’t want to talk about the specifics here, but I mentioned it on Facebook and developed traction with a friend about potential plot lines. The more we talked about it, the more realised it felt.

My first reaction to anything like this is always to dismiss it, because the thought of how much work it would take makes me want to never think about the idea again. Yet again though, it’s something that scares me, which means I should likely be running at it headfirst. It’s not something I could do alone. I’m far enough removed from the subject matter that I’d need to work with people who’ve lived elements of the experience. If I could help facilitate that though, I know so many funny, creative people who would knock this concept out of the park. What would be the harm in getting together in a room for a day and sharpen the soft edges? Maybe put together a basic outline that could be honed into a tighter script? If time is the big cost, is that really such a loss?

What have I got to fear?

I bare no military rank though. Neither do I have a deep fried empire.

Last night I experienced a unique sensation. The skin on my nose, cheeks and temples felt chaffed and raw. Weird, certainly. There was an element of exhilaration too. Why? Had my skin began to peel off like some Mission Impossible reveal? Did I accidentally stand too close to the flame of a hot air balloon? A disagreement with a belt sander? An anti-ageing exfoliate gone wrong?

Surprisingly not. I saw Japandroids live in concert.

Japandroids have been one of my bucket list bands for some time. I guess on a technicality I saw them already, but it was a short (albeit blistering) set at the sunny (also blistering) 2013 Laneways concert back in Auckland. Derailed by technical difficulties, it was a bit of a shitshow. They may be a two piece who can output a Capital Fuckton of noise, but they were hardpressed to do so with their sound continually cutting out. I took a mulligan on that and decided I still hadn’t really experienced the band in all its glory. So when tickets came up for their Danforth Music Hall gig came up, I pounced on ’em (still only managing one of the last few balcony seats).

One of the first times in ages I’d been at a gig without a dorky reviewer’s notebook, I was keen to get sweaty in the mosh pit. Being saddled with a balcony seat, I was a little bummed. I arrived ten minutes before they were to go on and took my chances with a security guard. He asked about my accent and jokingly asked whether I’d come all the way to see them. He let me through on the condition that I didn’t cause any trouble. “Scout’s honour!” I replied jauntily. I strolled into the hall, through the crowds, directly to the front. Canadian audiences being what they were, I didn’t even need to push. I flashed back to meeting a Canadian gal at a gig circa 2007. She’d mentioned how Canadian audiences had this unspoken rule to be excellent to everyone around them, like Bill & Ted. She said people didn’t intentionally push and there was an effort to make room if possible. Being idealistic, my eyes lit up and I stored the notion straight in my heart. As I weaved through the crowd without pushing at all, I smiled through time at her astute observation.

They kicked off with “Near to the Wild Heart of Life”, a single I’m as unenthused about as I am of the identically named album. Look, it’s fine. It’s rock music, but lacking Japandroids’ usual grit and bite. The album feels too clean. Fewer grunty howls in favour of doo-wop choruses. The lyrics sound trite and bordering on cliché. It’s not terrible by any means, but aggressively mediocre from a band who’re usually awesomely aggressive. Still, live it was a ton of fun. I’ve long found it difficult to truly feel the same way about mediocre tracks when they’re played live. Being in the presence of such raw energy breaks down those barriers nicely. Of course, they won’t be transcendent like those songs you fucking love, but they’re not awful, is all I’m saying. Even in these new tracks, I had a blast. 360 degrees of people singing, we were all being whipped around in a sweaty frenzy of joy. Whenever riffs from Celebration Rock or Post Nothing launched, I lost my shit. So, continually. The band were giving their all and having a riot of a time. The crowd repeatedly climbed onstage to crowd surf and the band didn’t make a move to stop them. Being front and centre, by the end of the concert my shoulders ached from all the overhead lifting.

In times of low energy, it’s always amazing how invigorating live music can be. I’ve been so disinterested in going out lately, but after finally seeing Japandroids do a solid set, I’m all too keen to get out and see as much as I can.

Oh, and the raw face thing? I’d sweat so much and so often that wiping it off was rubbing against the skin underneath. So in effect I’d become my own sander.