Gush: Vivian Maier “Photographs of Children” hits Toronto

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Vivian Maier

Have you found Vivian Maier yet? Sorry for my awful play on words, but the documentary title Finding Vivian Maier is just such an appropriate title for such a prolific, nutty person.

So, let me take this opportunity to introduce you to Vivian. Vivian died in 2009 at the age of eighty-three in Chicago, Illinois. Most of her photos were taken in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles capturing city life and behaviour in the urban environment. Vivian’s work is uncontestably amazing, but what makes her story so prolific is that in her time her work was never published. She lived a very modest life as a live-in nanny and took photos on the side. In the film Finding Vivian Maier you get to hear the accounts of the kids she once took care of. The film, which was part directed by John Maloof, was inspired by Maloof’s amazing discovery of Vivian’s work through buying a storage locker for less than the now cost of one of her prints.

Speaking of which, Vivian’s work will be whipping through Toronto July 17-September 13.

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Sasquatch! aftermath four: Josh Homme, ahem, Queens of the Stone Age

I’ve never ever got into Queens of the Stone Age, but as the final main stage act, I felt a little compelled to go. Their sound was flawless and cool. I was able to recognize a few tunes that were popular enough to reach my Much Music-loving years in the early 00s.

As a non-smoker, the idea of smoking is not something I find attractive in the slightest, however for some reason Queens of the Stone Age frontman made it look good. He managed to sing a tune, smoke a cigarette, and play guitar.

Here’s something he did last night, alone. I wouldn’t mind a solo project from Homme.

Probably very planned, but his wife and the frontwoman of the Distillers had an earlier spot performer under her own name, Brody Dalle.

And of course there’s a tumblr titled ‘JoshHommehavingafag,’ here’s a shot from it:

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Sasquatch! aftermath three: Neko Case

A surprisingly misconception about the New Pornographers singer is that she’s actually an American. In Toronto and even Canada, we take a lot of pride in the music we brand as Canadian (and sometimes not so much), so I think a lot of people associate Case as being a Canadian-bred artist. Case was born in Virginia and raised in Tacoma, Washington.

So somewhat of a hometown show, relative to the many other gigs played by Case, I figured it would be different from any other gig I’ve seen of hers – not so. Case’s stage banter at Sasquatch! was minimal, as was her partner in crime and support singer, Kelly Hogan. It seems that the band doesn’t allow much of their personalities flow at festivals and gives more music than personal insight and talk. I suspect the festival’s tight time constraints keep artists on a tight leash. There’s a certain art to playing a tight one hour time slot often to people that have no idea who you are. I am not by any means saying Neko Case and band don’t have it, but I doubt they won people over with their charm. Perhaps I am a little biased having seen them so many times over and knowing their capabilities.

But alas, it’s a music festival and to expect charm and top notch music may be a tall order.

She dug deep into her new album The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You an album that I have fallen in love with (amazingly managed to memorize the clunky title). More than any other album I’ve dipped into of Case’s repertoire, I feel as though it showcases Hogan’s brilliance. The live show did the very same.

I returned to Sasquatch! with the interest of seeing strong artists in a gorgeous venue. Unlike the National, I was situated far away enough that I could take all the scenery in.

Here’s a sweet article about Neko Case, fashion, and festivals. She even wore the very same skeleton pants at Sasquatch!

I speak for the CDs part one

CDs

After countless arguments in support of CDs, I have come to the conclusion that I just need to write a series that defends the compact disc. The title slightly inspired by the Dr. Seuss book The Lorax (much like the title of this very blog), I am defending a media format that is slowly diminishing.

Here is a surprising article that draws another interesting point that differs from many other compact disc naysayers. Even after reading this article, I strongly believe that if you don’t take care of your CDs, i.e. leaving them in the sun, keeping them out of case, or stacking the discs, your CDs probably won’t last… Much like anything one doesn’t take care of.

I’ve worked in three used record stores and extensively bought at the third. People are gross and it shows in their CDs and DVDs they’re trying to make a few bucks off of. My coworkers and I would often hold our breath when we’d open a bag, in fear that we’d inhale some sort of toxic smell. We’d use lighter fluid to clean plastic CD cases, or replace them altogether.

Lesson learned? Take care of your CDs and they’ll last.

Sasquatch! aftermath two: Haim

My most surprising moment at Sasquatch! 2014? HAIM. HAIM. HAIM. Three times over for three rocking biddies.

I had a small listen to them post-festival and much like my listen pre-festival, I can’t get into it. Live though, I’d see them anytime.

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Photos above drawn from this Rolling Stone piece, more to be found here!

And of course Este Haim’s bass face, which continues to both inspire and freak out people:

HAIM at the 2014 Sasquatch! Music Festival at George, WA on May 25, 2014.

 

Bry Webb & the Providers at Massey Hall; Saturday May 31, 2014

To cap off my return from Sasquatch! 2014, I celebrated by seeing another concert!

Because of my mega trip, I figured I had missed most if not all of the Live at Massey Hall concert series. If you’re unfamiliar, the concert series is in celebration of Massey Hall’s presence in Toronto. Opened up in 1894, tickets for this series went for a whopping $18.94. The concert series featured a number of artists that wouldn’t usually headline a Massey Hall gig. For some reason, Coeur de Pirate was the headliner for this gig, I’m not sure why. I guess she potentially has a larger fan base than Bry Webb’s solo project. I didn’t stay for the French-Canadian gem, although I have seen and enjoyed her gigs before. Apparently, her set was filled with covers – no surprise there and no doubt she did it well.

A bit slow to the pick up, I only got into Bry Webb and his band the Constantines with the release of Webb’s first solo album Provider. A friend had nudged Shine a Light in my direction a few years back and I didn’t think much of it. Shortly after moving to Guelph, Bry Webb’s hometown and current residence, I developed a strong affinity for all things Bry Webb. I saw Julie Doiron a few times over the years and noticed Constantines keyboard player Will Kidman was playing drums with Julie. I also noticed Constantines drummer Nathan Lawlr on stage with Webb as a part of his band the Providers. With all the music flowing through the members of the Constantines, it’s no surprise that the band is rekindling their live gig at Field Trip this weekend.

Webb’s solo stuff is slow, but warm and I could easily see many Constantines fans dipping off the band’s radar upon first listen. However for a easy evening listen, Webb’s raspy vocals add a beautiful depth to the tunes. I’ve seen Webb now three times, my favourite being at a small guitar shop in Guelph. Massey Hall was a delightful change, however I had good seats, I couldn’t imagine enjoying the gig from way up in Massey Hall’s gallery seats.

Being close to Bry Webb’s slow, soothing tunes is an essential, whereas I’m sure I’ll wanna be further back for the Cons this weekend. Webb’s on stage demeanour is a bit flat, which I assume is in part how he carries himself. His music, while very slow, is actually quite pleasant. His solo effort has largely been inspired by his family and love for them, particularly his little peanut, Asa. Many of his tunes reflect his changed role into fatherhood – “Asa” from Provider and the tune “Translator” off of Free Will, which he wrote as a lullaby for his son.

This was the first time that I’ve seen Webb with such a full line up. His band The Providers is comprised of five players, which create a surprising full, but soft sound, which certainly does not over power. Their sound offers a lovely folk-country twang with one pedal steel and lap steel guitars and for added eloquence and upright bass – all one very lovely combination.

Webb announced that this gig served as an “album release gig,” which was more timing than it was planned as such. As someone that likes the familiar at a live gig, I was delighted to hear many of his tunes from his 2012 album performed and to a very large extent re-visioned with his new outfit.

This will however be my favourite video clip of Bry Webb that was filmed in his kitchen!!!!

See y’all at Field Trip this weekend!

You can also catch a few more acts as a part of the Live at Massey Hall concert series – Great Lake Swimmers and The Rural Alberta Advantage on July 8 and Basia Bulat and Destroyer on July 10. And if you can’t get to any of the gigs, 30-minute concert series will be released of each event. Get jazzed.

Sasquatch! 2014 aftermath one: The National

I owe this blog a bit more than what I have given here. I had the great privilege (and discipline) to see my favourite band, the National four times in two months – a new record for me! Someone asked me the other day if the band knows who I am at this point – I responded, “No, I’m not the kind of fan to approach band members.” Besides, I think the Reddit AMA meets most of the questions that I’d want answered.

Seeing the National for the tenth time in four years* – that’s six cities, four American states, and one Canadian province that I’ve hung out with the National in. Am I tired of it all? – Not yet.

As soon as I heard that the National were making a stop in Washington State for Sasquatch! and that my pals were keen to go, I knew I had to be there. I did Sasquatch! two years ago in 2012 and it was majestic, easily becoming the most beautiful festival I’ve been to, geographically speaking. Located in a gorge, the entire festival grounds is surrounded by rolling mountains. The main stage of the festival is the Gorge Amphitheater, where gigs are often held at the rest of the year beyond Sasquatch! Bearing many honourary titles for the spectacular sights that accompany, I can certainly agree that I have never been to a more gorgeous spot to see live music. The irony of all of this is that I jammed in so close to the band that I wasn’t actually able to take in the show and the sights. Furthermore, the gig was at 11pm, no rolling hills in sight. So, I guess I was there to see the National, but to take in the gorge in the day time.

It was their usual set of songs, mixed in with old and new songs – but only the crowd pleasing tunes, leaving old bangers like “All the Wine” and “Lucky Me” for a full-length gig. I’ve sort of got to the point where I know what to expect at one of their gigs and I can predict what may happen, they sadly make little changes.

A few differences I observed at this gig:

  • They opened up with “Sea of Love,” which I knew by the harmonica fixed to Aaron’s neck.
  • Matt using the Sasquatch! signage on stage to smash his head into during the very angsty tune “Abel”
  • Multiple audience walk outs by Matt Berninger
  • Due to the time restrictions, the band rushed Matt’s floppy, unpredictable stage presence to plug through the set
  • Like the Massey Hall gigs, Matt smashed the vessel that was carrying his evening’s beverage. This time it was a beer bottle, which likely belonged to one of this band mates.
  • They still ended with “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” !!!

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Dwight K Schrute introducing the National at Sasquatch! back in 2008 introducing the National as “the greatest band in rock ‘n’ roll history.”

*see past posts for past gushes:
The National at Coachella April 2011
The National at the Air Canada Centre December 2011
The National at the Beacon Theatre, NY December 2011
The National at Barclay’s Arena, Brooklyn June 2013
The National at NXNE June 2013
The National at Laneway Music Festival, Detroit September 2013
The National at Massey Hall X3 April 2014
The National at Sasquatch! May 2014