About for the trees

Waste Management, Music, Film, Theatre, Culture, Heart, Honesty

Happy 2017!

I’ve been absent for a while because I’ve been busy living life and adjusting to life’s beautiful changes.

Here are the shows I’ve been to, but didn’t get a chance to jot down my thoughts on:

  • Braids at the Garrison on Wednesday November 30, 2016
  • Jason Collett’s Basement Revue at the Dakota Tavern on Thursday December 8, 2016
  • Jason Collett’s Basement Revue at the Dakota Tavern on Thursday December 15, 2016
  • Guided by Voices at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, New York on Sunday December 31, 2016
  • A sweet little jam band at Sunny’s in Redhook Brooklyn, New York on January 2
  • Lee Ranaldo and Steve Gunn at the Great Hall on Saturday January 14
  • Jason Collett’s cover band (although I didn’t actually see him play in it) at Handlebar Saturday January 28
  • Cate LeBon and Tim Presley at the Velvet Underground on Thursday February 2
  • Pony and Nicole Dollanganger at the Smiling Buddha on Sunday February 12
  • Hamilton Leithauser and Lucy Dacus at the Opera House on Monday February 13
  • Whitney Rose at the Horseshoe Tavern on Thursday February 16
  • Sean Nicholas Savage at Baby G’s on Thursday February 16 (Baby’s first time at Baby G’s)

I also cancelled my Spotify account. I love Spotify, but my work has a firewall on it. Soooo goodbye, Spotify. Hello Google Music! Much like Facebook’s last minute ploys to keep you as you deactivate your account, Spotify gets you with sweet literal tunes:

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Frankie Cosmos & Big Thief at the Adelaide Hall; Friday October 28, 2016

All my perfect nights happen without expectation. Catching Big Thief was a total surprise, as I only found out they were opening for Frankie Cosmos through a Facebook post I saw around 5:30pm. I immediately scrapped all my existing plans to make this early show work. I lightly checked out Big Thief after learning that my favourite artist of 2016, Lucy Dacus, very fittingly described Masterpiece as her favourite album of the year. Trusting Dacus’ judgment I felt compelled to go to the show.

They took the stage just passed 8pm. I knew to be there early because Toronto arts heroes Collective Concerts publicly posted set times, because of this I felt good investing my time to see the show, rather than guessing set times and the investment of the entire evening. High fives to Craig Laskey and company!

Four-piece Big Thief took the stage, but only Adrianne Lenker played the tune “Lorraine.” They followed it with the tune I found to be the most accessible tune, “Real Love.” Prior to the third song, I overheard the girl behind me whisper disappointedly to her friend that those were the only two songs she knew. I could relate, as I love the anticipation of waiting for a band to play your song and the disappointment of it not being played. Not being too familiar with Big Thief meant that I didn’t arrive to the show with big expectations for certain songs, but taking comfort in knowing it would be a good show. This is rare for me, but I felt compelled to be at this show.

Much like my whispering concertmate, I fell for the first two songs – “Lorraine” was slow and bold, demonstrating Lenker’s talent on the guitar and vocals. “Real Love” is a lively tune that has one of the most compelling driving guitar solos I’ve heard in a while, which they play briefly, launch back into the song and play it again – perfection. Guitarist Buck Meek and Lenker share the responsibilities of a lead guitar player feeding off of each other’s energy and musical cues. Meek, as his surname suggests, is a thin fella with a classy look and energetic stage presence. He’s twists, sways and spazzes more than anyone in the crowd, perhaps inspiring people to move just a bit more than they normally do. Meek played an incredible cover of a song by a band called Twain, comprised of Mat Davidson formerly of the band the Low Anthem. I didn’t grab the song name, but Meek bravely played it with no accompaniment, but with a heavy country drawl that worked real well for him.

My take away from this gig is the tune “Paul.” An emotionally-charged, heartbreaking tune about leaving someone, but includes all the messy bits in between. The song’s unusally structure ends on a second variation of the song’s chorus. I’ve listened to it about 15 times today. And if my word isn’t enough, indie heavyweights Pitchfork put forward glowing words about the song:

“The happier moments described here are understood to be almost hypothetical. Musically, that puts “Paul” in this midtempo middle-ground where the guitars sound incredibly wistful, with brief flashes of smoldering pain and twinkling hope. Maybe she made the right decision, cutting him loose. Maybe she didn’t. But at least we got this beautiful song out of it, about the struggle between the head and the heart.”

Knowing the set times, I ran some errands and grabbed a few drinks at my friend’s bar between sets. I managed to catch Frankie Cosmos last three songs. I took away three thoughts: cute, she looks like my dear friend Rita and if I made music it would probably sound like this. I’d definitely see her again and listen to some of her cute tunes, but she hadn’t left a mark on me the way Big Thief did. Prior to the last song, Frankie Cosmos frontperson, Greta Kline (daughter of actor Kevin Kline), told everyone that this was their last song and they should all go see her favourite band Kero Kero Bonito play the Velvet Underground. They did not play an encore.

Gush: ‘Something to Write Home About’ by The Get Up Kids

Perhaps I’m just reminiscing on the easier times, but the inspiration of today’s music selections has been the nineties and the early oughts. I can’t help but do the simple math to think about how long ago 1997, 1999 and 2002 were. In 1999, I was just eleven and learning about fractions and integers while Matt Pryor of the Get Up Kids were twenty-one and drinking legally for the first time. In 1999 they made one of my favourite albums ever created, Something to Write Home About.

I think the most formative years for my music taste were between 2002-2004. I listened to a whole lot of crap music, but some have stuck with me. Something to Write Home About is still incredible seventeen years later:

Car Seat Headrest with Lucy Dacus at the Mod Club; Monday September 19, 2016

If you know me or my blog at all, you know that I love Lucy Dacus. Seeing Lucy Dacus was something I had been pining for since missing her premier appearance in Toronto earlier this year in March at Burdock. I got into her a day later thanks to this wonderful man.

Dacus went on earlier with a completely new outfit from what I was expecting based on a session she recorded with Audio Tree earlier this year. She entered the stage with a plaid shirt tied around her waist – grunge revival at its best. Her performance was perfect, drawing mostly from her first full-length No Burden, which was just released on Matador one week prior to the gig and on CD for the very first time.

Dacus took the stage at 8:30pm, which was sweetly posted to Collective Concert’s Facebook event page. The lucky ones who made the time to arrive for Dacus’ set for the most part didn’t really know her music. In my survey of my radius, the people around me seemed engaged, but not too familiar. This show certainly served as an introduction to Dacus’ music.

Dacus sweetly confessed to the crowd that she has always felt like she could see herself living in Toronto, along with Philadelphia. I approached her after to show my appreciation and high praise for her playing Toronto, she repeated the same sentiments again.

The only regret I had was that she did not play my favourite tune, “Direct Address,” but strangely played slower tune “Green Eyes, Red Face” and the 9-minute, build-up tune, “Map on a Wall.”

If you haven’t got into Dacus yet, this brainy review of No Burden may be your gateway. Here’s a sweet excerpt from it:

“And like so many pop-music artists we can admire, she has an advantage we don’t. She’s able to make strong music about her weakest moments. She may say in one song here, I’ll play the fool, but more often than not she’s the stubborn master of the bleak scenarios she describes. Dacus is a master of her own destiny who likes to make you think she’s as surprised as anyone else that she could possess such power.”

Prior to Car Seat Headrest’s set, an acquaintance suggested that the male-heavy crowd was comprised of NPR fans that found out about Car Seat Headrest through Bob Boilen or other channels via NPR. With great happiness, I exclaimed that’s exactly how I found out about Lucy Dacus.

Will Toledo, the heart of Car Seat Headrest, took the stage alone to play the tune “Way Down.” He stopped it part-way through after a mistake and called out his band and launched into “Cosmic Hero” – which they tagged on the Velvet Underground tune “Sweet Jane.” Toldeo has some what received a bit of fame from his appreciation of old rock. He famously had to destroy the first pressing of his album released by Matador because of a copyright infringement for the song “Just What I Needed/Not Just What I Needed” – a version of the album I haven’t actually heard, but apparently lifts a guitar line and verse from the original tune.

Toldeo is twenty four, Dacus is twenty one and the show was open to everyone of any age. Rather than shoo old men for liking young people like my acquaintance did, I spent the night in awe of talent, ability and success. Toledo’s demeanour is stiff and rigid. Performing seems to come off easy for him, but socializing with the audience didn’t. His drummer even interjected mid-way through the set to present answers to questions that Toronto fans submitted via social media. Silly questions like how to meet band members to start a band came up or what Will’s real name is were answered by the drummer to varying degrees of seriousness. If you check out Car Seat Headrest’s Tiny Desk session he introduces the pile of pals he brought with him to the session, even though he’s playing alone.

The acquaintance ended up leaving part way to the gig. She apparently wasn’t too into the gig, which was the complete opposite to how I felt the moment she walked out of the gig. Car Seat Headrest make catchy rock tunes that aren’t pretty, but are sophisticated and energetic, disguising Toldeo’s awkward demeanour. The show was tight, nearing perfection.

Whatta blast.

 

Throwback/Gush: All things Jenny Lewis

It has been so long since I’ve visited this spot. I guess I can thank Jenny Lewis for this one, who I get to see this Saturday to celebrate ten years of Rabbit Fur Coat.

I love this performance of “Happy,” where Lewis delivers an uncertain act to a very deliberate performance (just watch her expressions throughout):

Fast forward ten years to about a month ago and soak up this delightful sing-a-long. One of the few I wouldn’t be afraid to belt out in a live show.

Gush: Matt Berninger talks life, money, things and jobs

This article is incredible. So incredible, I pasted it below. Now I have it forever!

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Matt Berninger, Lead Singer of The National, Tells Wealthsimple Why Losing $1 Million Led Him to Being a Rock Star

Quitting the dot-com world to start a band taught him about the power of good karma and creative freedom—even at the cost of a little cash.

In our original series “Money Diaries” we ask interesting people about the role money has played in their lives. Matt Berninger is the lead singer of the rock band The National. In 2014, he formed the side project El Vy with Brent Knopf.Growing up, anytime I had money, I couldn’t wait to spend it. I can’t really remember ever saving a penny. I just always figured out how to earn more cash if I ran out. For me, it was always more about buying things and having an experience than monitoring a savings account.

Except in a few cases, that hasn’t really stopped. After college, I moved to New York City in 1996 and was lucky enough to land a website-design job at a firm called Nicholson NY. I was a part of the first graduating class that learned how to use HTML and create interactive graphic designs. This was the early days of websites, when you could use only four colors in a logo. I went from junior designer to creative director in a matter of a few years.

“It was that sense that it’s OK to make it up as you go along that gave me the confidence to just start a band.”

My timing was great—I got in on the ground level of the dot-com boom and was making good money. I also had crazy stock options. On paper, I was worth a million dollars before I turned 30. It was insane. I was happy to have a nice paycheck and spend the money buying records, going to shows at the Mercury Lounge, eating out every day, and drinking at bars. I lived in a huge unconverted loft in Gowanus in Brooklyn and threw massive parties and hosted art-gallery shows.

I eventually moved into my own apartment and bought myself a designer couch from the extremely high-end SoHo design store Moss. I’m a huge impulse buyer, and I had to have that god-awful couch. It made me feel like some cool, artsy New Yorker. I instantly regretted buying it. It was a terrible color; it was way too big for my place and wildly uncomfortable. I don’t think I ever sat on it. I also bought a crazy-expensive—but exceptionally cool—Gaetano Pesce lamp that I regretted less. But I still had no business buying it. I was living a certain idea of life, and those items seemed to fit.

Then it all came crashing down. The Internet bubble popped, and I spent a year and a half at my job laying off all the junior designers I’d become friends with. It was awful. All my stock-option money disappeared. I’d convinced my parents to invest in the company, so I even managed to lose them money. All the things I enjoyed about my job were gone, so eventually I laid off myself in 2003. I was in my early 30s. Granted, I continued to freelance here and there for several years, but eventually the idea of working hard for a client that I didn’t really respect got to me, and I couldn’t do it anymore.

Looking back, though, there was something about the DIY quality of those early web-design days that made me realize there was no script to life. In a way, it was very punk rock and a completely new art form. I think it was that sense that it’s OK to make it up as you go along that gave me the confidence to just start a band. I hadn’t played music for years, but I didn’t worry about whether I was qualified or not. After all, the Sex Pistols weren’t necessarily great musicians, but they did reinvent the idea of a band.

My friends and I formed The National and started playing whatever gigs we could get. I decided that to be a real band, you needed to play shows and have an album. So I put my credit card down and charged the entire first album. I was happy to do it. I thought it was great that we’d be able to have something that I could listen to that we’d made ourselves. Had I valued money more at that point, I probably wouldn’t have done it.

If my timing in starting out in the dot-com world was perfect, my timing in starting a band was horrible. We released our first album, The National, in the early 2000s, the same year bands like The Strokes, Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Liars, The Walkmen, and TV on the Radio were all creating albums and performing in New York City. They were cool as shit; we were just figuring out how to be a band. If you look at old photographs of us, you can tell we didn’t know how to look cool. It should have been depressing, listening to their albums and seeing them live and comparing it with our situation, but I was just happy to have an album. I thought it was great that we’d actually done something, and that was enough.

I think you have to be pretty fearless when it comes to creating anything. We toured Europe a lot from 2002 to 2004 and came back with far less money than we’d started with. It would actually get depressing. I never loved traveling, and I felt homesick. We stayed in disgusting hostels and trucker hotels where they literally hosed down the rooms. Meanwhile, my friends back in New York were starting to buy houses. But ultimately it didn’t matter. We all knew we could pull the plug if we wanted to—go back to our regular jobs, freelance, or liquidate a 401K. But we forged ahead. It helped that I was never completely broke and never really faced the prospect of not being able to pay rent.

Timing got a little bit better for us when we released our third album, Alligator, in 2005. Suddenly all these music blogs and sites that shared information about bands appeared. There were dangers in that world—certain sites seemed to take joy in putting a band on a pedestal and then killing them off so it could become a weird, power blood sport of indie rock. We were never on a pedestal, but through word of mouth, we started getting more festival gigs, which were not only lucrative but also increased our fan base. We nearly missed our first, most important festival show in the summer of 2007 and had to ask Cold War Kids to leave their gear on stage since we didn’t have time to set up our instruments. They were kind enough to help us, and we performed. We would have been in debt for a while if we’d missed that show.

We started making a little bit of money, but when there was a choice, we always opted for creative control over higher paychecks. We signed with a label that didn’t insist on money-making hits to recoup big advances. That let us do what we wanted to do and let us define our sound. That was particularly true of our fourth album, Boxer, in 2007. We also noticed that the bands that lasted the longest were often the most respectful, helpful, and professional, so we followed suit. That stuff matters when you’re trying to chase a dream and everything is pretty dismal and exhausting.

In some ways, I haven’t changed my attitudes about money from when I was a teenager. A few years ago, I poured tons of my own money into a documentary that was mostly about my brother because I thought it would make a great film and be an awesome thing to have. It was never about making money. I think my parents instilled that in me a bit—money was never a symbolic image of success, so I never had any anxiety about it growing up. I was happy to spend the money. I still am. In fact, I often insist on spending the extra 20% on something if I know it’s going to last longer and make me happy. Granted, at this point I’m mostly just talking about nice socks and underwear. Which I recommend to anyone, regardless of your financial situation.

– As told to Craig Charland exclusively for Wealthsimple

Gush: Saves the Day

I was fifteen when Saves the Day In Reverie came out and I fell in love. I’m nearly thirty and I still love the album. It was cute to hear this recent interview with my hero from my teen years. The interviewer apologized to Chris for trashing his album from over ten years ago – 

Going Off Track Person – “Hey, it took me like ten years, but I finally came around on In Reverie
Chris Conley – “No worries, man. I made a whole album that sounded like “Freakish””