Unprecedented Time

How many times have you said “unprecedented time” when addressing weird circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic?

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a bit of a busy bee and workaholic. In this unprecedented time, my normal three jobs has reduced to just one job that I now work from home. Life has changed quite a bit, but here are some adjustments music-wise that I’ve made:

  • I created a Bandcamp account and bought music on there for the first time and took advantage of Bandcamp’s all money to the artist effort last Friday. Just to clarify, I typically buy physical copies of music – vinyl and CDs. I find Bandcamp easy, fun and a great way to directly support musicians. Anyone making and releasing music at this time gets a huge hat tip and a few bucks from me!
  • Not that much different from normal life, but I turn on the radio. It’s talk radio, but CBC 99.1FM likes to pepper in little music blasts. Today alone Tom Power told me about the death of legendary African saxophonist, Manu Dibango. He was 86 years-old and died from COVID-19.
  • I’ve been embracing the wave of home shows put on my some of my favourite musicians – a daily show from Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, indie power couple Kevin Morby & Waxahatchee, Saves the Day’s Chris Conley and many more and even more to come.

Some things I’ve been meaning to do:

  • Listen to more podcasts. My regular listens include: Call Your Girlfriend, Canadaland and the Daily, but I’m really excited to find new non-COVID-19-focused content. Today’s find and hopefully listen is Dear Young Rocker.
  • Tune into the Anti-Matter podcast, which is featuring interviews with Chris Conley (Saves the Day), Geoff Rickly (Thursday) and many other music heroes from me from 10+ years ago.
  • And maybe even catch up on some of Thursday frontperson Geoff Rickly’s podcast on mental health and music, Dark Blue.
  • Watch more TV. As if I could do this more? But why not?


Gush: ‘Chequered!’ by Chubby Checker

This album is everything. Very grateful that Damien Jurado & Richard Swift’s cover of “If the Sun Stops Shinin'” brought me to it. Chubby Checker is famous for the pop hit “The Twist” – happy to report that this album brings so much more.

1971 was a good time. I allllmost wish I could time travel back to live through all the good music.

The opening track is a bold 7:46 long. I can’t think of another album that’s tried that move.

Calexico & Iron & Wine at the Danforth Music Hall; Sunday February 2, 2020

Some short insights:

  • More people know Iron & Wine than they do Calexico.
  • Most people I speak to, that are roughly my age, say that they liked Iron & Wine 10 years ago, but haven’t listened to them much lately.
  • They have made two albums together: In the Reigns (2005) & Years to Burn (2019)
  • Under the Wikipedia Page for In the Reigns, they classify their genre as Tex-Mex… (?)

Both Calexico and Iron & Wine seem to be having fun while playing. Both bands can easily be lumped in the docile folk category, but as my music taste matures, I’ve developed a bigger love for Calexico (particularly the album Garden Ruin, which I discovered back in 2009). Calexico’s lead singer Joey Burns sound shares the lushness that Sam Beam has, but with a full band and South American influences on high, has a far more complex sound than Beam/Iron & Wine.

I got to the show a bit late – likely missing the first part of the first song. Oddly, the band started at 8:10pm. An early Sunday show for an adult contemporary crowd and I’m 100% OK with this.

The played two of my favourite tunes – “He Lays In the Reigns” and “16, Maybe Less” at the first part of the set. I felt a swell of excitement when Calexico’s Jacob Valenzuela launched into the operatic sounding Spanish vocals on sweet southern waltz “He Lays In the Reigns”, originally recorded by Salvador Duran. Valenzuela’s delivery was softer and more tender and less guttural, but still gorgeous.

Much as it presents on the new album, they played a new favourite tune “The Bitter Suite (Pájaro / Evil Eye / Tennessee Train)” at the middle of the set. A slow burn tune that flourishes into something pretty epic – as the title of the song suggests. The tune highlights Valenzuela’s amazing vocals. Valenzuela plays such an integral part to the band’s sound, but stays tucked in the corner of the stage. Only entering the spotlight when he occasionally sings and dazzles with the trumpet.

Half way through the set, the band left Beam and Burns on the stage. Burns mentioned that they like to have fun and choose each other’s songs to play. Beam played “Naked As We Came,” while Burns played an old lullaby that Burns’ mom used to sing to him and his siblings of the song “All the Pretty Little Horses”, which I now, looking into other versions recorded, can’t unhear Calexico’s spin on it. It sounds like one of their tunes.

They played tune covers – an unrecognizable Echo and the Bunnymen’s “Bring on the Dancing Horses” and the Flaming Lips’ “Waitin’ for Superman”.

Baby’s first time seeing Calexico. I can’t wait to see them again, moreso than Iron & Wine.

Damien Jurado & Nick Thune at Longboat Hall; Saturday January 25, 2020

Second show of the year.

The first time I saw Damien Jurado was at Sasquatch! Music Festival in 2013. He took the stage and left after greeting us. You could tell he didn’t want to be there for his 45-minute set. A fan hopped on stage and begged him to come out and play. He obliged and reluctantly played a set.

This time was as bit more upbeat. Comedian Nick Thune hopped on stage in a striped Adidas tracksuit, toque and pink fashion sneakers. He cracked a joke about how he looked like Marvin Gaye playing on a soccer team – still making me chuckle weeks later. He gave the seated audience a rundown of how the night would look – Jurado, followed by a set from Thune and a final set where they play a few covers together.

From the moment Jurado took the stage, I immediately felt the presence of the late producer and musician Richard Swift. Jurado had a small sticker of Swift on his guitar – only someone that knew what Swift looked like would catch. Swift died in 2019 and I felt a real ripple of sadness from the music community. Both Jurado and Thune made albums with Swift and had oddly met for the first time at his funeral.

Interestingly, Swift wasn’t mentioned until the third and final set of the night. Jurado told a few stories about him and told the audience that the last conversation he had with Swift was in Toronto at the very venue we were in last year, a month before Swift’s passing.

Within their cover set they tucked a silly tune Swift wrote and encouraged us to check it out declaring it to be better than what they were about to play us. Thune had co-written the tune, titled “Iron Man” with Jurado – something I can’t seem to find from some light internet searching.

Thune’s comedy was fun and thoughtful. He carefully explains things for a long time and ends with a quick punchline. Lots of dad humour, most of it in great taste, which was pretty refreshing.

Jason Collett’s Basement Revue at the Pardise Theatre; Thursday December 12, 2019

I’ve been going to these for at least 10 years. Last year was the first one I didn’t attend. We go to be surprised, delighted and enlightened – feelings you often don’t get from live shows.

Last Thursday was the perfectly curated and I feel absolutely lucky to have attended. Some old, some new, some familiar and a few very great writers. I loved:

  • Lynn Coady’s wit
  • Zinnia’s energy
  • Zaki Ibrahim’s gorgeous voice and fun stage presence
  • Taylor Knox’s rock n roll
  • Afie Jurvanen and Sam Weber’s collective charm

Doug Paisley
John Showman and Tom Power
Samra Habib
Lynn Coady 
Zinnia featuring the dance moves of Oriah Wiersma
Zalika Reid-Benta author of Frying Plantain 
Zaki Ibrahim
Tanis MacDonald
Taylor Knox
Sam Weber & Afie Jurvanen (aka Bahamas)


Times I’ve seen the National pt two…

  1. April 2011 – Coachella, CA
  2. Nov 2011 – ACC
  3. Dec 2011 – Beacon Theatre, NY
  4. May 2013 – Sasquatch, WA
  5. Sept 2013 – Laneway, MI
  6. Mar 2014 – Massey Hall
  7. Mar 2014 – Massey Hall
  8. Mar 2014 – Massey Hall
  9. Sept 2014 – Riot Fest, TO
  10. Oct 2014 – Dream Serenade
  11. June 2015 – NXNE
  12. Nov 2015 – EL VY at the Opera House
  13. June 2016 – Hamilton Church
  14. June 2016 – Field Trip
  15. July 2015 – Eaux Claires Music Festival, WI
  16. Dec 2017 – Hamilton, ON
  17. Dec 2017 – Niagara Falls, NY
  18. Aug 2018 – Toronto, ON
  19. April 2019 – Toronto, ON
  20. June 2019 – Hamilton, ON

Toronto venues: The Matador

Toronto the “Music City”? I’m not sure “the” is the right word, but maybe “a” would be better used.

Articles on the sale of the Toronto music venue the Matador (466 Dovercourt Rd) have surfaced. Former owner Paul McCaughey recently sold the Matador after buying it from the long-time owner Ann Dunn in 2010.

This has got me thinking about a number of things:

  • Where does change come from?
  • How can we cultivate and support music better?
  • Should we rely on wealthy investors to save our iconic venues?
  • What constitutes a good venue?

A very personal article by my pal, Ben Rayner. 
An article by former owner Paul McCaughey.

Gush: “Slow Train” by Kevin Morby ft. Cate Le Bon

Damn this is good. Oddly I was writing about how amazing the National’s tune “You Had Your Soul With You” is, thinking exclusively about the addition of Gail Anne Dorsey’s vocals and *poof* enters a very conventional, pretty sounding Cait Le Bon, which really worked for my simple folk ears. Beautiful, elegant and minimal.

Chill out with this tune and let all the dumb frivolous stuff in your life melt away…