I bet I know what Shania Twain would say.

First concert review in ages. It shows. This whole thing felt stilted and rough. Guess those muscles haven’t been used in some time. As always, when it goes up on the mothership I’ll post a link here.

Toronto is an amazing city. Its crowds however, are notoriously tentative. Massey Hall is an amazing venue. The comfortable seating and tiered views however, are awfully enabling for Toronto’s already tentative crowds. Future Islands are an amazing band.

No qualifier required.

It took to the end of the first song for the crowd to surge to their feet. No stuffiness or recalcitrance, just pure unabated enthusiasm. From the floor to the balconies rose a sea of people overwhelmed by Future Islands’ raw passion and blistering performance. Why? Because they encourage no less than awe.

This may all sound sycophantic, but if you’d seen lead singer Samuel Herring lunging across the stage it would make perfect sense. As in the band’s now iconic Letterman performance, their energetic live presence was phenomenal. Herring covered the entirety of the stage, whether through Hotline Bling style contortions, the Cossack Dance or sliding across the floor like he was diving for home base. His interpretive movements were backed by the strength of his impressive vocals. His unique voice oscillated between expansive notes and animalistic growls, receding to an almost whisper during quieter tracks. The rest of the band was more reserved, but crafted a full encompassing synthpop sound.

For the audience, seeing Herring’s unhinged performance seemed to unlock something within them. People were dancing, flailing limbs wildly. They were singing along, cheering and clapping. Frankly, with the crowd on their feet for the entirety of the performance, every song garnered a standing ovation. It was unbelievable, people still hollering and cheering well after the track had ended. The band’s most famed song, “Seasons (Waiting on You)” had the crowd clapping for several minutes.

Massey Hall, as always, justified why it’s considered one of Toronto’s most atmospheric venues. The warm acoustics were backed by gorgeous lighting effects. There were bouncing coloured balls of light and Moonlight style soft blues, pinks and purples. At times lights rained down like confetti or blanketed the stage in warm orange blossoms. Herring thanked the audience and acknowledged the venue, saying they’d performed in Toronto many times, but always with the goal of making it to Massey Hall. There was no question in the crowd’s mind. Future Islands had made it.

Advertisements

Before you ask, I would happily board a literal gravy train. I’ve dreamed of little else in my life.

WELL THAT WEEK IS OVER.

In a week I’ll get to write some silly Barenaked Ladies “One Week” cover. For now I’m focusing on moving forwards. Slowly though. My body has become wracked with pain post boxing. I woke up last night with a tightness in my core. It’s been tricky to straighten up my body. I guess that’s what I deserve for skipping abs over the past few years. Eight or so ab exercises in a row will do that to you. All these muscles in my back have activated. You know when you find old coins and stuff between couch cushions? I don’t, because I use debit cards like a goddamn human being, but a lifetime diet of TV has taught me that this is an issue some people face. Well my back is like that. I’d forgotten that holding up gloves and jabbing use certain muscles that’re rarely worked otherwise. My groin is super tight (did I mistake the class for dick-in-a-boxing?) and my calves too for good measure. It was silly of me to go back to the gym last night, but I’d just joined back up and needed to work off steam. I’d forgotten about the day after the day after pains. Well, I’m paying for it now.

It’s Friday night and to be honest, I’m big on the stay in plan. Unfortunately for me, I live a privileged life and sometimes opportunities get thrown at me. What I want to do is stay in and watch the Magic the Gathering World Championship stream. What I’m going to do instead is go out and watch Future Islands perform at Massey Hall. Yeah, it’s a band I’ve been looking to see since 2011. Yeah, Massey Hall is my favourite venue in the city. Plus it’s a seated gig, so any qualms I have over a stiff body fall flat. Still, I’m lazy both physically and intellectually today. But people would pay for this kind of experience and I’d be a dick to pass it up. Story is, I applied to review this gig last month at four in the morning while quite drunk. After not getting an email confirmation of my gigs for this month, I checked in with my editor. He said if I didn’t get an email, I didn’t have any gigs this month. Fine with me. After such an intense succession of JFL42 gigs last week, I’m quite alright staying in for a while. Then today I got a confirmation email on this gig and handily (or maybe not, in this case) didn’t have any alternate plans. It’s hard to argue with free (well, writing a review is a pretty small cost). I’m sure Future Islands will be amazing. We all saw that Letterman performance, right?

The rest of this weekend is fancy free fun. I’m gonna play some Magic the Gathering tomorrow, maybe head along to a Cthulhu/undersea themed rave tomorrow night. Sunday we’re going to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving. Then on Monday, we’re hosting our own Orphan’s Thanksgiving with friends who don’t have family close. I’ll take any excuse to gorge myself on gravy. Why not two days in a row?

Cause it’s been…

It’s funny business all the way down.

In short, it looks like I’m gonna drop out of JFL42 coverage.

Less short, we’re two days out from the event and the accreditation process is getting more involved than it should be with dwindling time. The easiest option is to instead buy a pass, go at my own pace and not stress about having to put together daily coverage while working full time. This should ease ten days of the fest a bunch, since nothing’s at stake. Given that I’m not fussed about headliners, the $130 I’ll drop (could’ve done a cheaper pass if I’d had more planning time, but this close to the festival things are getting booked right out) is a small price to pay for that peace of mind.

Speaking of peace of mind, Father John Misty last night far exceeded any expectations that I had. I was pretty late to the game with FJM. I didn’t even know he existed until well after I Love You, Honeybear was released. In fact, I think today may have been one of the first times I heard Fear Fun in full. I’ve been thrashing Honeybear possibly weekly since it was released, the writing is that great. I booked the tickets months ago and had great seats. Four rows from the front, six seats from the aisle. I’d been waiting for months and kind of banking on an amazing live performance. The hubbub before he’d even started was palpable. A cursory glance around yielded a ton of FJM clone sightings. Tall dudes with beards, long hair and shirts buttoned way open. I guess he has a type. Then his band took the stage, each of whom had a certain FJM look to them. A certain type indeed.

Seeing him perform, it’s a wonder Josh Tillman was ever stuck behind the drums of Fleet Foxes, rather than front and centre. With his persona Father John Misty, he’s sardonic, sarcastic and sartorially gifted (I needed something) in interviews, but behind the mic he opens up. Overflowing with charisma, it was surprising I could hear a thing over the sound of an entire audience (granted, I was no exception) ovulating. He has a commanding presence and fantastic showmanship. Dancing, striding, sinking to his knees, splayed out on his back and jumping up to his feet. At one stage he lay down on his belly, propped up on his elbows in a more “approachable” stance. He came right up to the crowd and knelt before them, even jumping down to dance amongst them. His voice was also fucking gorgeous. Something I always appreciate is when artists take risks with alternative arrangements live. Of course I adore the recorded versions, but there were a number of tracks where he tried a different tack that fit like a glove.

It’s funny, because I’ve always seen FJM touted as such a pretentious performer and taken it as a given. In reflection, maybe that’s more about people being unfamiliar with his shtick. He takes the piss a bunch, but when he’s doing a live performance, he gives a hell of a lot. After a 20+ song set filled with recent material and old favourites, he came to the front of stage and knelt there for five minutes. He shook hands with everyone who came to him and graciously thanked them for coming. If that’s what’s considered pretentious in this day and age, I’ve got no idea what sincerity looks like.

The Dido song was probably queued up next.

Some thoughts:

As I was walking to the gym (the gym is wholly irrelevant to this anecdote. I don’t know why I chose to include that detail) some dude slowly drove past. His car was low to the ground, LED lit, essentially the baby boomer stereotype of everything wrong with our generation (I bet his passenger seat was filled with avocado toast for good measure). The car was kitted out with an absurd sound system. Bass to the nines. You could hear the vibrations as the car struggled to understand what he was trying to prove (as I’m sure the rest of the city block was). Thing is, he was cranking Eminem’s “Toy Soldiers”, a song known for its tinny, child sung chorus. I was baffled, bemused and altogether befuddled. Was this low level performance art? Or was he simply in a forlorn mood, seeking out the more sombre spectrum of ‘Nem’s opus? I cast my mind back to the days when I used to drive. We’d do this thing when rolling through small, quiet towns. We’d crank down our windows, jut our elbows out, turn the stereo up and crank out Peaches’ “Fuck the Pain Away”. Was it immature? Yes. Did we delight in it? Yes. Is it because we were immature? Without a doubt. I don’t know what the point of any of this is, other to say that whenever in my life it is that I next own a car, I’ll look forward to rolling down the windows, adopting a stern facade and blasting something absurd like the Sesame Street theme song.

The floor I work on has two sets of toilets. One for each side of the floor (it’s a large floor. Big building). The male toilet that’s usually within ten metres walk from me was closed for repairs today. I swear today was the most exercise I’ve ever done. I didn’t realise just how many times per day I went to the bathroom.

Went to a family gathering last night. I’m lucky that my family here in Toronto are pretty politically aligned. It makes for fewer awkward dinner table arguments. We were all taking about Trump last night and eye rolls abounded. It was a congregation of preaching to the converted. Except for an elderly, well, I can’t quite figure out what relation she is to me (if any). Every now and again she’d chime in with something outmoded or missing nuance of the discussion going on around her. I thought about whether to seriously engage or not and decided it wasn’t worth it. She wasn’t looking for a discussion or debate, she just wanted to be heard (which we weren’t really giving her either). I’ve heard post U.S. Election talk of similar thought, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it play out in front of me. I understood a little more how a ton of people in the other camp felt, why Trump had any basis of power in the first place. Anti-intellectualism kind of made sense if people felt tired of being ignored by a system that saw them as brainless statistics.

The removal of Confederate monuments came up and most everyone was in agreement in one way or another. Someone brought up the point that they should be removed from public places, but it made sense to put them in some kind of museum. The idea was that instead of celebrating them, to treat them as learning opportunities condemning their actions, but not forgetting them. The older woman commented that there was no point getting rid of them, because history couldn’t be changed. She mentioned how students now are rising up against their institutions, giving no respect to the system they resided in. I countered that this was a healthy thing and also wasn’t an anomaly. The youth had always rebelled, it was part of discovering and shifting boundaries. She asked what the point was, as things would never change. Hatred had always existed for Jews and minorities. I remarked that the mentality she exhibited was exactly the point, that younger progressive people weren’t content to resign themselves to that future. That while it might not happen in their lifetime, if they didn’t push as people before them did, nothing would ever change. Inwardly I was thankful that her views were a generational thing, that they’d eventually die out (THE VIEWS, NOT HER) and we’d stand a chance of nudging further towards equality. There’s still a long road, but at least we’re walking it.

I mean, yes, she will eventually die too. We all do.

It is only August, but I could go for a 2.5 month nap right about now.

I had this thought today of how audacious it would’ve been for Microsoft back in the 90s to licence The Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” in order to advertise Windows 95. Seriously, right? How on the nose and garish. “The baby boomers will SHIT THEMSELVES.” Wouldn’t that have been fucking dumb?

Turns out that was a memory, not a thought. The 90s was a silly time.

In other news, looks like Seeso’s dead. That’s a real pity. It was fantastic to see yet another streaming platform putting money in the hands of creators to go out and do what they do best: create original and well produced content. I certainly didn’t see all their originals, but loved the shit out of MBMBAM, Harmonquest and Take my Wife. They also had a back catalogue of years worth of quality comedy. Decades of SNL, all the Monty Python stuff, tons of stand up specials. It’s the kind of service I would’ve happily shelled out to support. Too bad that they never branched outside of the US. I’m sure it had to do with all manner of rights and distribution contracts, but I know I’m not the only one who actively wanted to push money into their hands. When you’ve got a heap of consumers keen to throw dollar bills at you, wouldn’t you want to pull out all the stops to make that a reality? Yet again, I’m certain it’s far more complicated than I’m making it out to be. Thankfully a bunch of their shows found a home on the VRV platform. Another platform that’s still not available in Canada…

Speaking of American Idiots (I kid, but I needed the segue), I listened to the 2004  zeitgeist album on my run today. At the age of 17, that album was gargantuan. In the context of 2004, Green Day’s popularity was waning hard. To give further context, in 2002 they’d co-headlined with Blink 182 (as opposed to sitting atop that throne as you’d expect). American Idiot came out of nowhere and suddenly was everywhere. Each subsequent single utterly dominated the airwaves. We threw it on at every party, road trip and holiday weekend away. To us, “Jesus of Suburbia” was a sprawling epic. The album had punch, flair and the most relevant social commentary 17 year olds could imagine possible.

As a 30 year old, it’s a neat listen. Like a grand ol’ rock opera. It’s still catchy and tons of fun, but it also sounds like clever pop punk juggernauts capitalising on a movement. Sweet to run to. In the era of Trump, the anti-authoritarian sentiment feels mellow and wholesome. Equal parts melodramatic and innocent. The title track would probably have hit just as hard had it been released in 2017, but would’ve taken on an entirely new level of meaning. Maybe it’s my inherent nostalgia, but I’d say the album holds up to the fanfare 13 years later. “Wake Me Up When September Ends” may drip a little saccharine, but the tracks have an excellent ebb and flow, coming together as a cohesive record. If you were a fan at the time, try dipping your toes back into that water.

You watch. In five years I’ll book a vacation from an ad that features Green Day’s “Holiday”.

Kinda surprised they didn’t play Freebird.

It’s getting harder and harder to tick bands off my live music bucket list. That wasn’t intended as gloating. The issue is that I’m not nearly as exploratory with music as I once was. It takes a shit ton of effort to keep on top of new releases, especially when there’s so much fucking content coming out all the time. How am I supposed to hear and absorb new music when every artist I loved back in ’08-’10 has a 2017 release? Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors, Broken Social Scene, Sigur Rós, Japandroids, Spoon, The XX, The National, Vampire Weekend, LCD Soundsystem, St Vincent and so much more. Half of these are already out and I’ve been so overwhelmed by content that I have yet to give them the ear-time they deserve. There are podcasts to listen to, things to watch and read. I’ve got hobbies and responsibilities. Being an adult takes up a lot of spare time.

However, none of that mattered the other night when Fleet Foxes took the stage at Massey Hall. I got into these guys a week after their 2008 performance at the Bruce Mason theatre. The next time they came to town, I was overseas. I think there was some music festival I meant to go to, but that never worked out. We’ve been passing like ships in the night (they felt my profound absence from their tours, I’m sure). Finally the universe aligned and came together under the roof of my favourite Toronto venue. One of the rare venues where the sound techs are so good I don’t need to wear earplugs. The lighting techs make the most grand displays. The acoustics are phenomenal and the whole building is gorgeous. If an artist I love has a show there it’s pretty hard to pass up that chance.

It took about ten minutes for the band to engage the audience. In my head I’d always had this picture of Fleet Foxes as uptight, pretentious artwank douches. I couldn’t have been more off-base. They were amicable and loquacious, taking time to banter with the crowd. A crowd that was strangely aggressive heckle-wise. Once again, I expected that the band would shut that the fuck down, but instead lead singer Robin Pecknold accommodated it. He’d listen and respond. They’d goof around playing snippets of covers (“Exit Music for a Film”, “Here Comes the Sun”) or in general joking around with audience members. That unfortunately encouraged a deluge of dickheads from the crowd to call out, but didn’t tarnish an amazing gig.

It’s something truly special when a band you’ve been waiting for delivers in stunning fashion. Everything sounded phenomenal and the choice of visuals brought it all to the fore. The harmonies were rich and bold. Their track selection was astounding. I can’t think of any songs I craved that they missed. The old classics scratched the itch I’d built up for years. The new material added a interesting dynamic. It played on a stronger sense of juxtaposition, something that was viscerally felt live. I can’t imagine them having performed a better gig, which is the most sensational feeling when it’s something I’ve been longing for. At times it’s easy to forget how much live music resonates deeply within you.

Like every good gig, it’s making me question why I don’t go out to concerts more often. It’s making me wonder how long I’ll have to wait until the next big one (September 18th, Father John Misty). Mostly though, it’s filling my mind with memories and my heart with goodwill.

In short, it’s about time I added more names to that bucket list.

Beetloaf? How would anyone ever figure that out?

I was listening to a playlist and David Bowie’s “Heroes” came on. It’s a great song, obviously. This ain’t no hot take. It’s not like you were in doubt about Bowie’s discography until I came down from on high and anointed it with my blessing. Oh, Leon thinks it’s a sweet jam? I better slide this one into my A rotation tout de suite. Bowie don’t need my help. Also, having passed into the pale, he’s beyond my reach.

It got me thinking, when did I get into Bowie? It was likely after hearing a bunch of his stuff on Radio Hauraki. I was 20 or so, working part time at a party store. Despite his legendary status in the rock canon, I didn’t know his stuff intimately. I liked that “Ziggy Stardust” one, but knew piss-all outside of that. I downloaded the rest of the Spiders from Mars album and soaked it in. Then Diamond Dogs. My appreciation of Bowie never passed into true idolatry. Since listening more intently, I’ve always thought he was great, but didn’t get sucked into the orbit of his mythos. I think I missed the boat, his contemporary relevance having happened before my time.

Then Bowie passed away and, well, nothing much changed. I still think he’s pretty great, but even more so than my own appreciation of his work, I love how his music and persona inspired so many. The pop cultural sphere was overflowing with tributes and it was hard to escape (not that I’d care to) from his pervasive oeuvre. Watching interviews where he clearly thought in a manner that was beyond his time, knowing that he constantly championed new and emerging artists only increased my admiration.

I noticed all the furore after his death (partly sparked by his late game release of Blackstar and the oddly prescient “Lazurus”) and wondered, cynically, if any artists had considered faking their death for the sweet, sweet tributes. I thought back to Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson, how the boost to their discography rotations must’ve aided their estates. In poker you’ve gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. For an established, but fading artist (like Kenny Rogers himself), could it be time to cash out and escape to serene seclusion? Set up getaway plans, have lawyers plot everything out, then disappear leaving only grim fiction of your demise in your wake.

How hard would it be to fake your identity, buy a small plot of land and enjoy the quiet life somewhere outside of public scrutiny? You could chop wood and portage, whittle and play the fiddle. Plus other shit that country people do day in day out. How am I supposed to know? I’ve never shoved my arm up a cow’s butt. Royals and residuals lining your coffers, leaving the rest of your days unencumbered by the need to perform for others. For someone who’d lived in the public eye, wouldn’t that be idyllic? Meatloaf would do anything for love, would he fake his death? C’mon dude, it shouldn’t be hard to create some plant-based persona and find the sweet bliss of obscurity. Kill your public persona and live for yourself, not for anyone else. Then if you need a huge cash infusion, re-emerge from the grave like a Bat Out of Hell.

What are you waiting for? Your career has written itself to this moment.