Summer of Song Redux


by Roxanne Tellier

I’ve been overwhelmed, recently, with the events swirling around us. It’s too much. And today, although I had planned a look into trump and Ford’s plans to re-open schools this fall, I’m gonna take a pass, and a day off. Instead of current affairs, let’s enjoy the summer sun, and take a stroll down Memory Lane, to this slightly edited column that I first wrote in August of 2015. 

How very different things look now, from the perspective of 2020, and this time of plague! Seems almost naughty to see people gathered together, without masks or social distancing! And I’m not sure if any of the places I mentioned then, are open now. Never mind… Take my hand, come along with me on the wayback machine, and forget about life for a while ….

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Idaho. Lower Salmon River. Playing guitar around campfire. MR

This is not likely to ever make the cut as a ‘best summer.’ I’m well past cavorting on beaches, fending off amorous, slight intoxicated hotties while sprinting across hot sand in an improbable bikini, and then gathering around a romantic campfire eating s’mores, while some talented and ‘mature’ looking fellow strums a guitar for a singalong.

Nope, them days are long gone, if they ever existed. And they probably only ever belonged to Annette Funicello – she may have even held the copyright on Beach Blanket Bingos … and maybe Bob, in his Stockton youth, could lay claim to the times. The Beach Boys definitely had a lock on the sound of summer itself.

Canadian summers were always a little more sedate. Maybe it’s because Canadian winters, being endlessly cold and dark, except in beer commercials, ramp up the anticipation for a few days of sun and relaxation until nothing – and certainly not the few weeks of uncertain rain or shine we generally ‘enjoy’ – can quite compete with the hype.

Canadian beach sand can be very hot, but the water, primarily lake-derived, rarely gets over the temperature of a cold bath. An intrepid Canuck would-be swimmer learns early that the proper beach protocol is to dip in a toe, shiver, and then gird your loins for a plunge into the freezing liquid, where you immediately duck under until all but your head is submerged. You must then yell to your fellow revelers, a phrase as Canadian as, “take off, eh” ….  

“It’s not so bad once you’re in!”

For the timid and the dreamy, a trip to the beach is more likely to involve stumbling over the jagged stones on the shore in your flip flops, hoping to catch just enough of a breeze and spray to cool down.

There are many incredibly lovely lakes in Ontario… Sand Dunes comes to mind, where we once spent a few hours, shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of other families determined to have just one fun day in the sun, and trying to keep the flies and the sand off the sandwiches.  

Torontonians can ferry out to the Toronto Islands, with families heading straight for Centreville, where apparently the sun is always shining on Far Enough Farm and the kiddie rides. You can bring a picnic, and rent a bike, a canoe, or a kayak, while humming the Cowsill’sIndian Lake.”  The daring head for the clothing-optional beach on the western shore of Hanlan’s Point

It was all so different when I was a kid. Even beyond the fantasies induced by Beach Party flicks, Elvis romps, and Beach Boys songs. In the sixties, come summer, a kid was usually on his or her own, barring maybe a couple of week stint in a community day camp, and most of the time, my sister and I would have to fend for ourselves in the heat.

Montreal summers were glaringly bright, the sun reflecting harshly off the concrete, and the crowded, standing room only, buses reeked of sweat, garlic, and dime store perfume. It was a time to check out Jarry Park to catch the Expos, or to take an insanely long bus ride out to Belmont Park, which was falling apart in a wonderfully creepy fashion. The arcade reeked of burnt popcorn and worse, and the rides – especially the Wild Mouse – were suspect. But a kid could spend a whole day there for under a buck, including bus fare.  

As a teen, my summers were mainly city bound. My girlfriends and I would start tanning in the spring, lying bonelessly in our back yards, slathered from head to toe in baby oil. The truly fashionable used sun reflectors to capture every ray. This ritual was necessary before heading toe the local outdoor community pool, where it would have been beyond devastating to appear with any part of your body revealed to be ‘fish belly white.’   

The cool kids would always gather near the pool’s deep end, clustered by age group or appearance. Few would actually swim; pool water, with its high chlorine content, could do a real number on our Summer Blonde or lemon streaked hair. And bathing suits, pre-spandex, tended to stretch out with or without much exertion. No, we were there to see and be seen, our transistor radios blaring, and fingers crossed that the boys would see beyond our gawky physique to the teen angel concealed within. Those were the Peggy March, ‘I Will Follow Him’ days, when even the most casual encounter with the opposite sex meant that we were going to be together forever … or at least until school was back in session.

It was either summer school or a summer job in the sixties. Kids would try to get hired at the hot gathering spots, like the Dairy Queen, the Orange Julep, or the A&W. One of the benefits of working at any place where other kids hung out was that the owners were usually savvy enough to keep their radios set to a happening station, like CFOX, where Dean Hagopian, Charles P. Rodney (Chuckie) Chandler, or Roger Scott played the hits.

By 1969, CKGM-FM has morphed into CHOM-FM, and the music got really groovy. Doug Pringle was the city’s top DJ, and he was THE voice of Montreal for years, entertaining us with new music, while letting us listen in on his interviews with everyone from Marc Bolan to Jesse Winchester, with multiple stops in between.

The summer of ’72 brought the Watergate Scandal,  the horror of 11 Israeli athletes being murdered at the Munich Olympics, and the first talk of the IRA planting car bombs in Ireland.

But we were far more interested in listening to Seals and Croft.

By ’76, single again, and with the Olympics in full swing in Montreal, my footsteps kept time to the music. When I wasn’t hanging out at the Olympic Village, I was cruising Crescent Street, dancing to disco in my platform sandals. Soon I’d leave for Toronto, but in the summer of ’76, the city was mine, and I was taking my joy to the streets.

The summer of 1983. New wave was now firmly established in the charts and in the street. We’d gone from girl Groups like The Go Gos and The Bangles owning the summer charts in 1980, ’81, and ’82, to a more mature sound emerging as the artists of the 70s, like Martha Davis of The Motels, lost their youths and innocence, just like the rest of us. The boomers, once again, were growing older as a group, with the music guiding our journey.

The Tragically Hip, who appeared on the scene in 1987, burst out of the gate sounding like the voice of Canada. ‘Blow at High Dough’, ’38 Years Old,’ and ‘Fifty Mission Cap’ pulled a Maple Leaf flag over the band, but in 1998, they nailed Ontario summers forever with ‘Bobcaygeon.

These days there aren’t as many songs that, for me, capture that ‘summery’ feeling. Hitting it in the summer is not the same as having a classic summer song. Sure, you had Nelly’s ‘Hot in Here’ in 2002, but that was mainly about getting jiggy, in any season. 2010s ‘California Gurls’ by Katy Perry was fun, but couldn’t hold a candle to either the Beach Boys, or even the Van Halen rendition of ‘California Girls.’

I’m the first to admit that I’m well out of the new music loop. Still, I’d gladly stack any of my summer songs against any that have come along in the last decade and a half. From the innocence of the Loving Spoonful’s ‘Rain on the Roof’ to the Who’s raucous, ‘Summertime Blues,’ Martha and the Vandella’s ‘Heatwave,’ and The Kinks louche ‘Sunny Afternoon,’ to the brassy horns of Chicago’s ‘Saturday in the Park.’ I’ve got a full house AND a royal flush of bona fide summer time music.

And that’s even before I pull out Billy Stewart’s 1966 hybrid of ‘Summertime’ that insists you feel the heat of the ‘hot’ summertime.

It’s summer. Find that Walkman you packed away a decade ago, fire up your favorite collection of greatest golden oldie summertime tunes on CD, and head on down to the nearest boardwalk. As the Doors once told us, ‘Summer’s almost gone,’ and before you know it, you’ll be saying, ‘See you in September.’

Is That You, Rona?


by Roxanne Tellier

Funny, I always thought that I’d get so much more done. Whenever I felt like I just couldn’t keep up with all of the richness and offerings of modern life, I’d mutter to myself…

“If only time would stop – just for a day or two – and let me catch up on all of this watching, reading, and writing!”

So here it is, and guess what I’ve been doing? Lying on my bed, watching YouTube, playing games on the tablet, and spending quality time with the cats. Between naps.

I have 24 library books here to be read and used for the three major projects I’m working on, but I’ve not opened one of them. Instead I’m storming through my stack of paperback novels, the pulpier the better.  Occasionally I feel guilty about not working on those weighty projects, but then I tell myself that I just can’t possibly start yet, not without that one other book that was on its way before the library so abruptly closed. 

I keep busy, no question. And I spend a lot of time wondering if I’m sneezing because of allergies, or because of the coronavirus.

I’ve also been doing daily stealth assaults on my local big box grocery stores. I’ll go very early, hoping to run in and out again without any physical contact. From the beginning, I’ve assumed our isolation could get well beyond two or three weeks, and have foraged accordingly. The shelves are full, you can’t squeeze one more item into the freezer, and I think I’m even good on fresh produce, at least for a while. I’m the daughter of a prepper – I was born knowing how to stockpile the essentials.

Which is a good thing, because on my last foray to FreshCo, there was nary an egg to be found, nor a bag of pasta representing. Panic in aisle 3.

(In my own defense – I HAD to do the shopping. If I left the hunter gathering up to the hubby, we’d be trying to divvy up a package of sliced processed cheese, a jar of peanut butter, and a loaf of raisin bread.)

Anyway, I think I’m good. I think we can now pass another couple of weeks without having to resort to UberEats or the like. Based on how the stock market plunged last week, not sure if we could afford UberEats anyway.  

For all that, for all of the inconvenience, for all of the upset and the crippling uncertainty of our futures, we’re actually doing pretty good, compared to others. Sure, I’m missing a library book or two that I really wanted to read, but luckily, I wasn’t in the middle of some government tug of war over my income or a missing passport. I’m not dependent on any addictive substances. I’m not waiting for some obscure medication to arrive from some far-off land. Heck, I’m not even waiting on anything from Amazon right now!

Although we worry about our families, and our friends who are vulnerable, we’re stocked up, we’re relatively healthy, we’ve got each other and our cats, and life could be a heck of a lot worse … and is, for many, all over the world.

At this point, all we’re really being asked to do is to stay home and not spread a disease. The Greatest Generation stormed a beach in Normandy – we’re being asked to Netflix and chill.

This is our chance to be unsung heroes, by just staying home and not actively harming other people. We’ve got this.

I worry about those who rely on convening in groups to deal with mental and health issues. So many people who are struggling to survive without drugs or drink, or who are depending on other people sharing helpful words and kindness are suddenly being thrown into close quarters, confronting their demons by themselves under highly unusual circumstances.

However, there’s a bright side. For once, this enforced solitude and curtailment of our usual mad rush through the days is allowing us to actually have time to do some things that we might just brush over normally. We’ve got more time to listen, and to think. We also have the option to be the ‘helper’ in our world; some have been offering to help those who can’t leave their house. Others have been sharing their creative output.

It turns out that musicians, artists, and creatives are far more important that was previously thought

This is a great time for those who have something entertaining to share to get their work out before a larger and more receptive audience than usual. We’ve got a lot of time on our hands. And look! There are people writing poetry, short stories and novels, and sharing their work for free or a minimal price! There are musicians giving free house concerts on Facebook!  Sure, there will always be meanies who choose profiteering over sharing, but the good people who just want to be a part of a bigger community far outnumber the bad guys.

The government is also really trying to do it’s best to try and help every citizen survive, even as we shelter in place. Beyond that, some companies are going beyond the minimum, in an effort to soothe the pain.

The United Nations declared internet access a basic human right in 2016, saying that all people must be able to access the internet freely. All well and good in principle, but far too many people can’t afford full internet access in Canada, which has one of the highest cost structures in the world. The good news is, nearly all Canadian internet service providers are suspending data caps and allowing freer wi-fi on their home internet plans right now. And Rogers has made all of its cable channels free to watch.  

In both Canada and the US, the government is preparing to spend trillions to keep the economy going. There are plans to ensure a temporary form of Basic Income for all taxpaying Canadians – a good first step in addressing some of our country’s inequalities. The most vulnerable need to be protected. We need to stop the shutoffs of electricity, water, internet that some predatory institutions may attempt. Mostly, we need to spend this money – the nation’s money – on infrastructure and in helping our people survive.

But they’re also talking about using billions and even trillions to prop up businesses that might be best left to fail. The hotel business, cruise lines, airlines, gambling,  – these are not necessities, they are extravagances. 

I worry that we will follow the ragged script left over from 2008, and once again patch up the buggy whip companies that have survived only by bailouts. People should be demanding that this money be spent on healthier, greener choices. If not now, when?

Times change. People change. Even those who continue to say that humans are not responsible for climate change must have seen what has been happening to the planet since we got out of Nature’s way. Cleaner air and water happen when we’re not inserting ourselves into the natural world, with our needs and our garbage. 

Yeah, when it’s all over, we could all be in clover, as Van the Man once said.  All we have to do is spend our time and our “Blue Money” wisely.

It will be worth all of the pain if we can come out of this crisis a better planet.

Does this Mueller Report Make Trump’s Ass Look Fat?


by Roxanne Tellier

Please Note: I wrote this on the morning of March 24th, and, like all days since Trump’s inauguration, additional info, obfuscation, and possibly, even more obstruction in the Barr four page note on the Report, happened immediately thereafter.

If you’ve ever thought you’d like to be a blogger or a journalist, this time period is either exhilarating, or utterly exhausting… For me, it’s a little of both. Anyway…  here we go…

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FOX News is trying to spike the ball on it already, declaring total victory for Trump before anyone has even seen what is in the statement, and despite the results of a poll of their own viewers showing that a majority of Americans believe that the president tried to interfere in the investigation.

mueller report

In other news, the president has threatened the American people with his quasi Brown Shirts enforcement crews of military, police and motorcycle heavies, should the evidence contain anything that hurts his standing or feelings .. but mostly his feelings.

All because the Mueller Report dropped on Friday, This is the 500 plus page compendium that Mueller handed in to Attorney General William Barr, a Trump supporter, recently elevated to replace former AG Jeff “Keebler Elf” Sessions.

sessions barr AGTo recap, Sessions recused himself from the Trump-Russia probe on March 2, 2017, and then found he’d become the butt of Trump’s fury nearly every day thereafter, until he resigned/was fired on November 7, 2018.

Just as I was thinking to myself, hmmm .. wouldn’t you think that a pivotal post like Attorney General for all of the American people should be a bipartisan office?, this came over the social media transom ….

” … CNN reports that McGaughey, the husband of Barr’s youngest daughter, has been hired as an attorney in the White House counsel’s office, where he’ll “advise the president, the executive office, and White House staff on legal issues concerning the president and the presidency.” While the division is separate from the legal team that defends Trump in the Russia investigation—a group of leading lights that includes Rudy “maybe there was collusion” Giuliani—its work nevertheless does “intersect with the investigation.” (Trump reportedly blamed former White House counsel Don McGahn for failing to bring the probe to a close.) Meanwhile, Mary Daly, Barr’s oldest daughter, will be leaving her current job in the deputy attorney general’s office for a gig at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which has had its own Russian intrigues.”

This is how potentially explosive political info is handled, in Trump’s Bizarro World. “Nice kids you got there.. would be a pity if something… happened … to him .. or her … “

Every day, in every way, the Trump administration is penning an alternative American history that weaves Mafia style organized crime intrigue along it’s white supremacist backbone. It’s like we’re living in a chronicle of our times in the form of a forced literary mating of The Godfather and The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

Be that as it may, Trump, his ‘friends,’ and those who profit from his administration, have softened the ground well in advance of the release of the report; they’ve made sure that his base and the undecided see any rejoicing over this report as a ‘piling on’ by the Dems, and a celebration prior to a launch of a charge of impeachment, rather than what it is … an attempt to pull back the curtain on a very real attack on the American electoral system – as broken as it may be – by a hostile foreign power.

trump not legit presThe Mueller Report’s primary question is, Did Donald Trump collude with Russia to win the presidency? 

And the follow up, unspoken but explosively critical second question would be, “If it is found conclusively that he did, is he actually the legitimate current president of the United States?”

At this point we have no idea if those questions have even been definitely answered. All we have is the hope of a hero, in the form of Mueller, offering us the reassurance that there can be a return to order, that real leadership is in our future, and that our faith can eventually be both earned and restored by those whom we have elevated to positions of great power.

To my mind, there should really never have been any confusion over whether or not Trump was working with the Russians. Prior to the election, he stood in front of a televised rally, and said, ” “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” It appears that they were, since that night, Russian hackers tried to get into Clinton’s personal email.

That’s what actually happened, even as Trump and his minions tried to laugh off the comment as a joke, and the hack as a coincidence – even as he continued to repeat the same request on Twitter.

donald_tweet Russia emails” What, you’ve never jokingly invited a hostile foreign power to compromise your nation’s cyber-security before?” (Vanity Fair headline)

And we also knew that they had indeed fiddled with the election .. by June 2017, it was being reported in Bloomberg and other major business and political journals.

putin hacked electionRussia’s cyber attack on the U.S. electoral system before Donald Trump’s election was far more widespread than has been publicly revealed, including incursions into voter databases and software systems in almost twice as many states as previously reported.
In Illinois, investigators found evidence that cyber intruders tried to delete or alter voter data. The hackers accessed software designed to be used by poll workers on Election Day, and in at least one state accessed a campaign finance database. Details of the wave of attacks, in the summer and fall of 2016, were provided by three people with direct knowledge of the U.S. investigation into the matter. In all, the Russian hackers hit systems in a total of 39 states, one of them said.

Now, make no mistake, the very idea that a candidate for president of the United States – or an actual president who blithely fires heads of justice departments, and discloses highly classified security information to Russian foreign ministers while they dally in the Oval Office – might be compromised by a hostile foreign power, should be of interest to the average citizen.

But sadly, that’s not really the case. Jane and Joe Citizen have a life to lead, kids to raise, a mortgage to pay. For most, political or military history is just trivia to everyone except aspiring Jeopardy contestants. There hasn’t been a ‘war’ on American soil since the Aleutian Islands Campaign of 1942. The Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War are baby boomer lore, and “Russia – tear down that wall!” is nothing but a bit of Reaganology.  In polls taken around 2016, 55% of Americans thought that Russia was America’s enemy and unfriendly, but 25% were unsure, and 19% thought Russia was a friendly nation.

America is just not that into Russia.

Russia, on the other hand, has a long history of anti-Americanism, a simmering, seething hatred of the United States, and a belief that the U.S. is Enemy Number One. Russia doesn’t forget easily, and Vladimir Putin, an ex-KGB foreign intelligence officer for 16 years, has no soft spot for America or her president, despite Trump’s belief that he and Vlad are BFFs.

Truthfully,  given Mueller’s mandate for the report, there should be little new information for anyone but those who’ve lived in an underground bunker since the summer of 2016.

Don’t be waiting for any juicy bits of gossip or innuendo about Trump’s money laundering or corruption – that’s the stuff that Mueller passed on to the Southern District of New York and other justice departments better able to service the subpoenas already issued, and the almost one hundred rumoured subpoenas still being held under lock and key for the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.. soon come, mon ….

Like Al Capone, whom the justice system pursued for nearly a decade before he was brought down for tax evasion, there’s an array of Trump/GOP criminality that has been, and is being, committed in plain view, every day, since the inauguration, and it’s only now that some of these tangled webs are getting straightened out. It’s exhausting, watching the swamp attain new depths daily. I think a lot of people started to believe it was unstoppable by anything but supernatural means.

“Mueller’s report is likely geared not towards telling a story, or answering non-criminal questions, but toward fulfilling the purpose of the regulation – that is, explaining his prosecutorial decisions. Unless Mueller understands his role especially grandly, the report is likely not designed to fill the oversight shoes of Congress, or to assist the legislature’s role in the impeachment process. Yet unless the report is particularly spare in factual detail, that will not stop politicians and commentators for redeploying it for all sorts of other purposes.” (Benjamin Wittes, Lawfare)

mueller takes down trumpToo many have been content to believe that it would have to be the Mueller Report, acting as a magic wand, that would finally stop the flow of corruption.

Instead, the reality is that all of the indictments, trials, and actual criminal records earned by advisors, his personal lawyer, and campaign manager, just to name a few, have to be served and serviced by the proper jurisdictions, advocates, and criminal lawyers charged with pursuing gross abuses of power and criminality. These are the people who will take down the bad guys, not Mueller

Mueller had his mandate, but, just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, we have always had the power to ‘go home’ – we just kept waiting for a house to fall on the evil witch, rather than expecting our justice department surrogates to find their hearts, brains and courage, click together their legal heels, and start arresting these unusual suspects.

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And yet another of our priceless Toronto musical treasures, singer/songwriter Joe Hall, has left the building. Rest well, Joe.joe hall It is with profound sadness that I have to announce the death on Friday of my dear old friend and collaborator Joe Hall. We just brought out a new recording in December…in his opinion and mine, the best ever. He will be missed, he was unique. He was the only Canadian songwriter I would seriously compare to Leonard Cohen.” Tony Quarrington

From his website: ” He’s been compared to everyone from Frank Zappa to Tom Waits, but Joe Hall is a true original, whose sharp wit, insightful social commentary, and wildly entertaining stage presence made him one of Canada’s legendary folk rockers. A fixture of the 70s Queen St scene in Toronto with his band The Continental Drift, Joe has called Peterborough home for 25 years and continues to play, record and tour ”

 

 

Mother’s Day, CMW and This is America


mum with r and j 1960.jpg 001My mother has been gone since April of 1992 … 26 years now. There are days when it feels like we were playing a spirited game of Rummoli only yesterday, and other days when I can’t remember what it was like to have my own little family. After my mum and grandmother died just days apart in that horrible year, the tenuous link we had with Montreal was broken. While I’ve been ‘home’ a few times since then, Quebec hasn’t really drawn me back for decades.

I thought of my mum on Thursday, when I spoke with a small boy who was waiting for the bus, holding a plant pot with one pansy growing in it. He told me, with great joy, that he also had a poem written in French for her, and that he’d drawn her a card. His face lit up as he told me “she’s gonna have so many presents!

mum with r and j 1964 001There was such a lot of delight in his expression as he counted up the riches he’d prepared for his precious mother. We forget, over the years, how good it used to feel to be able to gift our loved ones with something that we’d made specially for them. It might have been a paper plate with some glittered macaroni pasted to it, or a wobbly cut out paper heart, with our shaky handwriting telling them, “I LOVE YOU,” but it was what we had to give, and we gave it from our hearts.

Mums never ask for all that much, when you’re growing up. Maybe they ask you to help with the chores, or keep your room clean, but most mums know that you’re growing and learning, and that all they can try to do is to get you from the day you are born until the day you two say goodbye, with as little heart ache and heart break as possible.

Missing my mother, and wishing my two beautiful daughters a very happy Mother’s Day.

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My butt is dragging today, even after collapsing into a solid ten hours of sleep last night. I spent the last several days doing all things Canadian Music Week, including working as a ‘day host,’ expediting the conference panelists, and getting out to a few of the events under the CMW banner. I straggled home last night from a long day at the show, followed by a scrumptious buffet at the Rivoli, where Music Nova Scotia and the Dreaming Out Loud groups were presenting the annual TIKI LOUNGE extravaganza.

CMW Greg Lefsetz et all May 2018

During the conference I spent most of my time onsite in the Speaker’s Green Room. In this pic, our long time associate Greg Simpson confers with his speaker registration aides, Sue Mills and Cassandra Tari. Behind them, propping up the wall, is Steve Lillywhite, uber producer and musician whisperer of U2, the Rolling Stones, XTC, Dave Matthews Band, Peter Gabriel, the Talking Heads and a host of other worthies, as he chats with Ralph Simon, who is is acknowledged as one of the founders of the modern mobile entertainment & content industry, and Bob Lefsetz, music industry analyst and critic, and author of the Lefsetz Letter.

In May of 2015, the last time that Bob Lefsetz had spoken at CMW, I had asked him if we could meet, so that I might interview him for this column. Although he agreed at the time, circumstances conspired, and I missed my window of opportunity.

So when I saw him seated towards the back of the Green Room on Saturday morning, I seized the day, introduced myself, and reminded him of the last time we’d almost connected. He immediately said that he’d be happy to talk with me ‘later’ – but he’d be leaving the Conference around four p.m.

So I waited patiently, hoping for a time when he might have a minute free. But shortly after Steve Lillywhite left the room, Eric Alper flew in the door and plonked himself down for a chat. Meanwhile, my duties as Day Host kept me rather busy, and I spent a lot of time getting speakers organized and then off to their panels in a timely manner. By the time I realized I’d once again missed my interview, it was about 3:10 p.m. I’d just finished introducing legendary music journalist Larry Leblanc, who was about to begin an interview with Marcie Allen, a trailblazing entrepreneur who is known as the Queen of Brands and Bands. My duty done, I set off to try and find the elusive Mr Lefsetz.

About an hour later, I conceded defeat. Apparently, this interview was not to be.

PostScript: If you are one of the many who receive the Lefsetz Letter, then you will have received his CMW wrap-up when it arrived last night. In his p.s., he mentions that he’d spend his last half-hour on the site at …. the Larry LeBlanc/Marcie Allen seminar I’d introduced.

Wrong Way Roxanne strikes again.

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We have to talk about Donald Glover/Childish Gambino‘s new video – This is America. Firmly in the tradition of protest songs such as GrandMaster Flash‘s White Lines, the song/video demands multiple, critical, and admiring viewings.

This video is almost enough to make music videos relevant again, rife with symbolism and casual observations that nail the truth of the racist gun culture that America, as distracted as a kitten by shiny strings and dance fads, chooses to ignore.

jim crow character this is americaThe main character, stripped to the waist, pulls facial expressions and uses bodily movements that seem to be modeled on Jim Crow, a minstrel show caricature, which white actors would perform in blackface, acting out black stereotypes. His movements distract from the chaos that plays out in the background, as behind him, people on cellphones film the action while ignoring the violence and rioting going on all around.

(The Jim Crow Laws were put into place after the Civil War, and were a system of racist local and state laws to keep the ex-slaves in their place, and designed to enforce segregation and oppression in the Southern American states.) this is america imageAfter both of the shootings, the guns are treated with care and respect, and gently wrapped with red cloth. The guns are valued over human lives, as the victims are either dragged away or left lying in their own blood.

Between shootings, the exaggerated dancing seems to be a commentary on how America prefers to focus on entertainment and distraction rather than to have a discussion on gun control, while dismissing the dead with an airy assurance that they are sending “thoughts and prayers.”

this is america commentIn the background of one scene, Death, riding a pale horse, and a biblical symbol for the apocalypse, gallops by, pursued by a police car. Everyone is too caught up in dancing or in their own anarchy to focus on the bigger picture of the violence going on.

In the last scene, Gambino, surrounded by vintage cars representing America’s economic stagnation, lights up a joint, and it is then – rather than during his gun rampage  – that the police begin to chase him. In the tradition of black American history, he has to run to save his life.

This Is America is a strong, artistic statement that will stand as valid commentary on today’s Divided States of America.

 

CMW, the Professionally Offended, and a PSA


In just a few days, the pilgrimage begins. Musicians, writers, broadcasters, exhibitors and salespeople will head for the Sheraton Hotel, where the 37th annual presentation of Canadian Music Week will be held from May 7th to May 13.

Between the conferences, award shows, and the hundreds of acts playing live around the city, there’s something for everyone.

Paul Anka will be awarded the 2018 Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award, while Maureen Holloway of CHFI will be the recipient of the Rosalie Award. Arcade Fire is the recipient of the Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award.

maureen holloway

There’s the first ever Canadian Music Hackathon, on Tuesday May 8th through to Wednesday May 9th, where coders, developers, hackers, designers and tech specialists will gather for 24 hours of intense work, debates, brainstorming, camaraderie and fun.

There’s a ton of interesting conferences including The Future Is Female: Leading Women Tackle #MeToo, #TimesUp, and Equality in the Workplace.Radio Trailblazers and other Powerful Women in Broadcasting, Music and Interactive industries will reflect on their careers and share ideas on how to move from a hashtag to action. Women and men, whether they are in a management position or just starting out in their careers, will come away from this session with at least 3 ideas on what they can do right now in their organizations to build a better, stronger, more inclusive workspace.”

The Moderator is Maureen Holloway, while panelists include Denise Donlan, Barbara Williams (Corus Entertainment), Christa Dickenson (Interactive Ontario), Jackie Dean (CARAS), Julie Adam (Rogers Broadcasting), Susan Marjetti (CBC), and Tiffany Ferguson (Women in Music Canada).

And there’s so much more going on … it’s going to be a busy week. It’s a great chance to see old friends, and to make new friends. And of course… time to break out the top hat, white tie and tails. Or at least find a clean t-shirt.

Wasn’t last week a doozy? Some days I wonder how much longer we can continue to dance thru the pre-apocalyptic, post-truth wasteland of lies and corruption …

Can it really only be a week since everyone from MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski to New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman (and every politically correct ass kisser in between) rushed to condemn comedian Michelle Wolf’s speech at the White House Correspondents Dinner for what they believed to be personal attacks upon Sarah Huckabee Sanders? Only to discover that they’d misheard the word ‘facts’ as fat, but worse still, couldn’t bring themselves to actually explain why ‘fat’ was such a desperately vile pejorative that they couldn’t even say the word themselves?

Confused dogEven funnier in a BizarroWorld way was conservative pundit Liz Mair, saying ” It’s extremely hypocritical that we’re hearing from somebody of the left, sort of lesbian, fat lesbian jokes when supposedly we’re not even supposed to be making those.”

Pardon me? Oh, Liz Mair assured the waiting world, that’s the Aunt Lydia from The Handmaid’s Tale reference.

Except it’s not. In fact, the Aunt Lydia in the novel is one of a specific segment of women enabling the authoritarian society to dominate and subjugate women with a cozy, folksy warmth. Which is actually a pretty accurate dig at Sanders. However, you have to know how to read (or how to watch the television series) to understand what a brilliant and insightful insult it actually is.

And maybe Ms Mair would like to explain why she thinks that calling someone a lesbian is an insult.

Anyway…. within a few days, the tide had turned, and Sanders was being heckled in the press scrum. After ripping Michelle Wolf a new one for daring to call Sanders a liar, the press finally realized that Wolf was right.

“Circle May 3rd on your calendar, because this is the day that we will look back on, in this briefing, where Sarah Sanders made it so painfully clear that she has lost credibility with the American people,” said CNN political director David Chalian.

being offended so hot. jpgAll of this knee jerky craziness stems from an outrage culture, which fixates on this second or this minute’s outrage, rather than focusing on the deeply offensive things that are happening everywhere we turn, at the local and national level. We can’t talk about the really shocking, shameful, destructive things that are happening to our people and our planet, but we sure can get out our frustrations by bitching at some poor schlub who has put a foot wrong in public or on social media.

In America, the three richest men hold more wealth than the entire bottom 50 percent of the population. Now THAT is offensive. What are you gonna do about it?

When the professionally offended decide that they don’t like what you’re saying, they’ll send in their troops in an attempt to ensure that you daren’t speak your mind in public again. But those three rich men remain untouched and untouchable.

trump it's all about mePolitical correctness is a term used for an attempt to give everyone a seat at the proverbial table. It’s used to describe language, policies, or measures that are intended to avoid offence or disadvantage to members of particular groups in society. For some, this kind of thinking seems childish, some kind of impossible dream.

But note that those who play the best game of being politically correct have ascended to the realm of the professionally offended. These proficient martyrs by proxy point the finger of shame at anything the least bit suspect coming from the unwary. They clutch their pearls, mutter, “but what about the children!” and seethe with rage at any offence, real or imagined. And strangely, as efficient as they are at noting and critiquing other people’s deference to a semblance of justice for all, they exhibit a remarkable tolerance for such sins in those they call their own.

Leading to exchanges like this, under a Stormy Daniels/anti-Trump meme on Facebook:

“The left lifting up a porn star as a means of taking the moral high ground. Really let that sink in…”
….
“The right supporting a guy who bragged about molesting women, made fun of a disabled man and was convicted of being a common thief. Let that sink in.”

sjw handbook

Oh, yes, the professionally offended are very quick to point out other people’s wrongdoings. They’ll spend days and weeks in spiteful glee at having found a chink in the armour of what they call ‘social justice workers’.

And then they’ll joyfully enact laws that actually DO harm to women, children, pets and the planet. Without the slightest sense that they have just created the most egregious offences of all.

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mark ripp benefit May 2018

A quick public service announcement: Nashville Bound is hosting a benefit tonight at the Free Times, for the Wychwood Open Door. The first set starts at 8:00pm, and acts include Glen Hornblast, Brynn Leger, Michael Laderoute, Lynn Harrison, Meg Tennant, Mark Ripp, Sam Sundar-Singh, Jennifer Dash, Tony Hanik and Veronica Hanik. Special guest is Bob Cohen.
Admission is just $10 or pwyc

 

 

Touring Murmuration Nation with Emily Saliers


If you came of age in the 90s, you’ll likely remember Amy Ray and Emily Saliers as the Indigo Girls. Their music was the background music of the indie lifestyle, and indeed, they seemed to be everywhere, racking up Gold and Platinum records, receiving a Grammy in 1990 for Best Contemporary Folk Album, and becoming part of our mass consciousness, referenced in such diverse environs as Stephen King‘s Rose Madder, and the television series, Will and Grace, South Park, and The Big Bang Theory.

With their first major hit, Closer to Fine, a collaboration with Irish band Hothouse Flowers, the Girls secured a place in the hearts of their followers. The first album was followed by a dozen more.

Flash forward thirty years, and Amy and Emily still keep the Indigo Girls flame alight, but both have also dabbled in other enterprises, including solo albums that allow each to follow their personal musical paths. While Amy’s on her seventh solo album, Emily has just released her first, Murmuration Nation.

Emily’s been involved in many non-musical ventures, including the co-ownership of Watershed, a restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia, and the co-writing of a book called A Song to Sing, a Life to Live: Reflections on Music as Spiritual Practice with her father, Don Saliers , a retired theology professor at Candler School of Theology at Emory University.

With so many diverse interests and abilities, touring the Indigo Girls was enough to keep Salier’s  musical itch in neutral, until about two years ago, when she began to ponder the source of her musical inspiration. Born in Connecticut, but raised in Georgia, her ‘white girl in a folk singer’s body’ is still infused with her first musical loves; rhythm and blues, soul music, funk and hip hop, the sounds that are at the core of her rhythmic centre.

The new album, produced by Lyris Hung, a classically trained violinist who has worked with the Girls for years, was conceived when Emily sent Lyris some musical bits and pieces that Lyris cobbled together, just for fun, into something wonderful in her home studio.

Inspired by the directions Lyris had taken the ideas, a project was born, and grew into Murmuration Nation. Recorded with an all-star band—including bassist Tim LeFebvre (David Bowie, Tedeschi Trucks Band), keyboardist Rachel Eckroth (KT Tunstall), and drummers Robert “Sput” Searight (Snarky Puppy) and Will Calhoun (Living Colour)—and featuring guest appearances from fellow luminaries like Lucy Wainwright Roche, Jonatha Brooke, and Jennifer Nettles, the CD is an always moving aural river of sounds, ideas and rhythms.

With dollops of social commentary, a hard nod to social justice, and an eagle eye to environmental issues, the songs flow naturally, commenting wryly on our past, present and future, the personal, and the impersonal. Deep thoughts, yes, but also gentle musings on the fascination of relationships, and always with a beat you can dance to.

Spider” kicks off the album in an explosion of pop/art rock, before settling into a hypnotic groove, setting the pace for the songs to come.

Growing up in Georgia meant being influenced by a myriad of musical styles, and rubbing shoulders with other musicians, including the members of country vocal group, Sugarland. A vocal romp with Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles dazzles on the most commercial tune on the CD, “Long Haul.”

OK Corral is specifically about our mental illness with our relationship with guns. Even as kids we knew about gunslingers. But the wool has been pulled over some people’s eyes because of a very powerful group like the NRA. Those of us who want sane gun legislation are not saying ‘take ALL the guns away,’ we’re saying that when you have a country of people, many of them ill, and they have access to multiple weapons all of the time … something sets them off, and in a moment of impulsivity, lives are lost. We have to deal with that, on a legislative effort, and we have to start talking to each other about what sane gun legislation means.”

murmurationFly” was written right after the presidential election. “‘Fly’ is kind of at the crux of the album, ” Saliers explains. “A murmuration of birds is practically inexplicable to scientists, but it’s a very powerful thing to watch, and I see it happening in our country in an amazing way right now. From Black Lives Matter to the Women’s March to Standing Rock, there are all these grassroots movements starting to coalesce, and I take great comfort in the way people are instinctually moving together to fight injustice and hate.”

“I’m High I’m On High” looks to the roots of violent religious zealotry.

“Go find someone who’s got nothing left to lose
Brand him a hero, make him think he gets to choose
Between an earthly life of filth and apostates
Or a martyr’s lair where God and virgins wait”

This current tour takes Emily from Maine to Rhode Island, Connecticut and North Carolina, with a stop here in Toronto’s Mod Club on Tuesday, November 21. Expect an organic, audio/visual presentation, featuring stalwart player and producer Lyris Hung in a powerful five piece unit.

Saliers is looking forward to the Toronto visit, as she’s no stranger to the city. Her wife, former Indigo Girls tour manager Tristin Chipman, is an Albertan native who spent most of her adult life in Toronto, has also worked for CARAS, and was the Tragically Hip’s tour manager for their final tour.

“There are a lot of heavy, serious topics on this album,” says Saliers, “but there’s also a lot of whimsical groove and pop to it. That mix is important to me because it’s like the ebb-and-flow, peak-and-valley journey of life. I think this record is very reflective of my personality. I need fast and I need slow; I need grooves and I need a little bit of edge.”

Tickets are still available for Tuesday’s show, and doors open at 7 p.m. Saliers will be signing after the show, and hopes to see you there!

 

(addendum: This post was written prior to the Toronto show on November 21, and a terrible, no fun cold, prevented me from posting it in a timely manner, or getting to see the concert. However – the CD is terrific, and a worthy purchase. )

 

Everything is Everywhere


Since I have a fear of flying, and a flight to B.C. tomorrow morning, I’ve been in a constant state of panic for the last week or so. When I finally fall into a restless sleep, I have non-stop nightmares of arriving at the wrong terminal, without a ticket or some vital bit of identification, and wearing all the wrong clothes, if I’m wearing clothes at all. Even when there’s no reason to panic – and I can always find a reason to panic – I’m in a simmering pre-panic mode. My house looks like an exploded suitcase. Everything is everywhere. mickey suitcase

I’m reeling like an enraged Tasmanian Devil, with piles of lists that disappear under yet more piles of lists, of things that I need to buy or do, or do bee doo bee doo, before I hit Pearson International in the a.m., legs trembling, and a nervous smile flitting spasmodically over my lips.

So I’m going to keep it short, and just tell you about a few musical events happening today that will make this hot and sunny September Sunday a day to remember.

The timing of this trip meant that I wasn’t able to volunteer at the Kensington Market Jazz Festival this year (September 15-16-17) as I had last year. With over 200 Canadian musicians playing over 150 shows at very cool venues up and down the Market streets, it’s a weekend that’s chock full of great music.

Tory on phone jazzfest Sept 2017Trip and jitters aside, I still found the time on Friday afternoon to drop in on Greg Godovitz at El Mocambo‘s pop up shop, Prohibition (66 Kensington Avenue,) where I bought a couple of rocking t-shirts for my western family. Then it was off to the media launch at Tom’s Place, (190 Baldwin) where local luminaries, including a texting Mayor John Tory, the dashing Richard Flohill, and chanteuses Molly Johnson and Genevieve Marentette, along with Celine Peterson (daughter of Oscar) and a host of others, gathered to celebrate the beginning of the fest.

The ever effervescent Joanne Smale greeted me as I entered. She’s handling the media around handsome young santur player, Sina Bathaie, and his latest production.

From the artist: “This album, Rays of Hope, is dedicated to all those who have pursued; who have suffered while the world waits for us to remember this perennial first wisdom that love ignores all boundaries. What we hope for in the end is that remembrance with which we can hurdle every fence, tear down every wall and arrive at that place where hope greets us in warm welcome. Each text in the cover is a verse of a poem which celebrates our timeless elusive pursuit for peace, hope, and the most important of all these, love. “

santurTo my hippie ears, his new CD has a sort of new age-y updated feel of Mike Oldfield‘s Tubular Bells, played on this fascinating Persian instrument.

The album release concert will be on Friday, October 13, at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, Lyric Theatre. Or you can catch him this afternoon, from 3:00-4:00 pm at Handlebar, 159 Augusta. ($12. at the door,)

If you can find your way down to the Market today, there’s still a lot of great music to be heard, starting at noon with the Sidewalk Crusaders Street March, and including a slew of free concerts at the Yamaha Grand Piano Room in Tom’s Place, by some of Toronto’s most respected players, including Brian Dickinson, Carl Bray, Don Thompson, Joe Sealy, Mark Eisenman and Robi Botos.

Danny-MarksToronto’s favourite son and perennial Energizer bunny, Danny Marks, will be playing at the Hotbox Cafe (204 Augusta) from 1:00-2:00 pm, ($12. at the door) and then at Prohibition from 4:00-6:00 pm (Pay what you can.)

Bertie & The Gents, with the wonderful Manfred Koch on trombone, will be holding court from 6:00-7:00 pm at El Gordo’s Backyard (214 Augusta) ($17. at the door.)

Hit Amadeus’ Restaurant, (184 Augusta Ave) at 6:00 pm to get your jazz on for free, courtesy of Rick Donaldson & The Jazz Cats with Jim Heineman. amadeus resto

And at the kitschy, eclectic Lola, (40 Kensington Ave.) there’s Donne Roberts from 4:00-5:00 pm (($12. at the door,) Anh Phung & Alan Mackie playing from 6:00-7:00 pm ($12. at the door,) the Selcuk Suna Trio featuring DIA from 8:00-9:00 pm ($12. at the door,), ending with Eric St-Laurent ($12. at the door,) from 10:00-11:00 pm.

For more info, maps and schedules, head on over to the fest’s web site.

http://www.kensingtonjazz.com/mobile-phone-schedule-a-z

As for me, hopefully I’ll get to hear some fine jazz this afternoon , and still be at the right airport terminal tomorrow morning, with the right paperwork in hand, and without having forgotten something deathly important. Like clothing. I’ve got this! Head’s up, British Columbia! I’m on my way!

Sorta kinda.

 

What’s That Sound?


ear anatomyWe all have ears. Why do we not all hear the same way? Barring physical anomalies, all the parts of the ear are standard in pretty much every human. Male or female, an ear’s an ear, right. Or is it?

According to a brain imaging study done by the Indiana University School of Medicine, men listen with only one side of their brains, while women use both.

I said, MEN LISTEN WITH ONLY ONE SIDE OF THEIR BRAIN.

men don't listenSorry … that was to engage the other side, guys.

You can’t actually hear how your own voice really sounds without recording it. When we speak or sing, the sound is transmitted through the bone of the skull and jaw, combined with the sound coming through the air. What you are really hearing are the vibrations of your vocal chords, mixed with the air passing through your mouth, and bouncing off all that bone.

Which might be why we just love singing in the shower – it acts like our own personal sound booth, amplifying and perfecting what we think we hear. Most showers are small, and made with ceramic tile, which absorbs very little sound. All of that proximity bounces sound around, adding volume, power, and resonance to what you’re hearing. The reverb even helps to correct your pitch, and enhance the bass, making it sound deeper. Thanks, science!

But in a nutshell, that’s why you sound better in the shower than you do at your local karaoke bar. I have a dream … karaoke shower

We know that sounds hit your ear differently at different times of the day, and in different places and circumstances.

My hearing is a lot more acute in the morning. Hearing is the first sense I experience when I wake, likely a throwback to our cavemen days, when it was an important defence mechanism. I sleep like the dead, and rarely hear any noises during the night, but come morning, I’m as sensitive to vibrvenus fly trapations as a Venus fly trap.

I wake very early, and for a while, I keep my environment nearly soundless, save the odd meow from my furry overlords. I tend to turn off the beeps, boops and bings from my computerized devices, and use the time for contemplation and writing. Once I decide to enter the world of sound, my ears are primed and capable of hearing and understanding recorded words, even in foreign accents, at the lowest possible volume setting.

Sound sounds differently at different temperatures. The colder the temperature, the further sound can travel. Since most of us live in countries where it’s colder at night than in the day, we tend to hear noises in the night more clearly than we do in the daytime hours.

When music is involved, however, things get very complicated. That difference in how we hear at different hours applies across the ‘board,’ as many sound engineers have found to their shame. Bass notes ‘soften’ as the night wears on. What can sound amazing during a late night session is very likely to sound muddy and overly bassy the next morning. For the clearest mixes, daytime sessions are generally the smartest way to go.

For musicians in general, and vocalists in particular, pitch and tone are our tools of the trade. Some people are born with perfect pitch – not I, though I do have very good relative pitch, making it easier for me to hear and create vocal harmonies.

perfect_pitch“Perfect pitch (also referred to as absolute pitch) is the incredibly rare ability of a person to instantaneously identify or sing any given musical note without a reference pitch. It is estimated that 1/10,000 people in the USA are born with this cognitive trait.

There are two types of perfect pitch: active and passive. A person with active perfect pitch is able to sing or hum any given pitch; that is, if they are asked to sing a B flat without hearing the said note or any reference note, they can sing it without any problem.

If a person with passive perfect pitch is asked to sing the same B flat note, they cannot. However, if a random note is played for them, a person with passive perfect patch will be able to name it without any problem.

For many, perfect pitch can be a blessing and a curse at the same time. On the plus side, the possessor of perfect pitch can tune a musical instrument without aid, correctly judge whether or not a piece of music is being played in the correct key, and identify specific instruments as playing in or out of tune.

This skill would certainly come in handy for a piano tuner, instrument maker, or conductor. On the negative side, those with perfect pitch are likely to find it harder to enjoy music. They can hear all of a performance’s flaws in intonation. What’s more, if the performance is played in a key other than the original, those with perfect pitch will likely find it to be cringe inducing.

In their mind, they already know what the performance should sound like as far as pitch is concerned, so anything they hear is going to be compared to their internal tuning fork. Basically, anything that doesn’t align to their mind’s perfect pitch will sound out of tune. For some, that’s as bad as nails on a chalk board. “  (https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-perfect-pitch-723911)

You cannot learn perfect pitch; it is a gift/curse you have to be born with. Most musicians have a good relative pitch sense, which allows them to play songs by ear and improvise. Relative pitch, however, is a skill that can be learned with enough training and practice.

If you are lucky enough to have become an old musician,this one goes to 11 you may have discovered the downside of ‘”if it’s too loud, you’re too old.” Professional musicians are about 57% more likely than non-musicians to suffer from tinnitus (constant ringing in the ears,) and suffer noise induced hearing loss four times more often than other people. Neither of these afflictions are fun, just to be clear.

That drinking habit might also be a culprit; high alcohol consumption over a long period of time may lead to brain shrinkage, which can damage the auditory nerves. Researchers also believe that a regular ingestion of alcohol may lead to permanent hearing loss in the long term, and some loss of low frequency sounds, at least temporarily. All that yelling to hear each other in the club? Yeah, that’s not good for your ears.

And you need to be good TO your ears. Humans love sound, we love to communicate. Music has been found in every culture, past and present, across the planet. Music is woven from every influence in our society – social, economic, climate, technology and politics – to create the image that we choose to present to our pmusic-quoteseers. It’s integral to creating societies that can come together as one, to move civilization forward.

When we lose the ability to hear each other, whether through physical hearing loss, or a decision to stop listening to those who think and act differently, we impede society’s progress to the next level of humanity.

music unites.jpgMusic is a universal language, but in order for all to hear what is said, there must be a generosity of listening, and that can only happen in a calm, open, giving environment. When everyone is being compelled to think and feel the same, you get a lot less ‘moon in June‘ love songs, and a lot more marches and songs glorifying dying for the Fatherland, eventually leading to the sounds of silence.

But when our world is in ‘receiving’ mode, we can easily accept and even appreciate the differences of others.

Time Travelling 101 with Janis and Jan


Some people think it would be great fun to be able to travel back in time to their youth, where they could relive the golden days of radio, nickel bags, and mega concerts where tickets ran you less than the cost of a TTC token today.

hippiesAnd certainly, there were good times to be had in the 60’s and 70’s, and I have tons of fond fuzzy memories of elephant pants and go-go boots, Sassoon haircuts, and Mary Quant and Twiggy makeup tips.

But for all of the good recollections … Let me just say that, if you ever do get a chance to go back – make sure you’ve got a way to return to the present. Especially if you’re a woman, or a person of colour. Trust me on that.

Even with the Cheeto Jesus now in possession of the nuclear launch codes, this time in history is actually one of the best of all ages. And hopefully, the positive changes will not come to a screeching halt, despite the Republicans’ best efforts.

When someone opines wistfully on the `good ol`days,` and how much better life was then, they always have one corollary – they’d like to be able to go back to their early life, but as a healthy youth, and with the wisdom they’ve acquired since those callow days. Otherwise, they’d just make the some mistakes over again.

But that’s how being young works. Yes, you get the hair, and the energy, and hopefully, a nice fit body that can see and hear pretty darn well … but you also get the `stupids.`  That’s the deal.

janis-joplinOne of my favorite memories of my own misspent youth is of the first and only time I saw Janis Joplin perform live. The Montreal Forum, November 4, 1969. It was every thing I had hoped for – and more.  I was first struck dumb by her presence and energy, and when that had passed, I rushed, like the thousands of others in the audience, to the stage front, to try and capture just a hint of that glorious essence by being closer to her.

She wailed, she flailed, she spun like a dervish, laughing hysterically between songs, chugging from the ever present 26er of Southern Comfort. She held us all, willingly, in the palm of her hand.

 

I had played her album Cheap Thrills, released in  ’68 with Big Brother and the Holding Company, until the grooves wore white. I not only knew her every word and inflection, I could even whistle the solos. I was a bona fide, dyed in the wool, Janis freak.

A piece of my heart died when she did, on October 4, 1970. Just 27, she had crammed so much life into just a few years, left an indelible impression, and then … she was gone. Although many have tried to imitate her trademark sound, few have come close. That voice was powered by a wild soul that nothing could tame, and no amount of stage magic can reproduce.

Just as with all of the other wonderful artists we’ve lost, you can’t help but wonder if they would have become even more remarkable as they aged, and as time and experience tempered their spirits. What would Janis be like, were she alive today?jan-kudelka-janis-tranzac-4-jan-18-17

Jan Kudelka, another lifelong Janis fan, wondered the same thing. But her ponderings went further, launching a series of performance art pieces over the years, including last week’s Janis Joplin’s 74th Birthday Bash.

The Tranzac‘s theatre was transformed into the perfect setting for Joplin’s return, as the ever faithful fans gathered.  Musicians Michelle Willis (keys), Tyler Wagler (bass), Martin Worthy (drums) and David Gray (guitar), ably laid down the groove to “Combination of the Two,” working the beat while Kudelka worked the audience, before swanning onto the stage.

For the next two forty minute sets, the audience sang along, hummed along, and happily lost themselves in Kudelka’s heartfelt interpretations of Joplin’s greatest hits, interspersed with thoughts, memories, and poesies on the singer’s short but incandescent life.

jan-kudelka-janis-tranzac-2-jan-18-17And in that time, we who were actually young when Janis was young, who first heard these songs on our radios or our portable record players or were in the audience when she toured, bottle firmly in hand, and wailed her way into our hearts, were able once more to revisit a time when everything seemed possible.

 

We – and the world – were young, wild, and free. Janis Joplin was the female embodiment of the wild woman spirit of the sixties. And we’d like to think that we had just a little of that wildness back then too. That’s what we want to time travel back to – and why it’s not possible. The world changed, and so did we. We can only move forward in time. If we are given the gift of aging, we must accept it as is, even when it comes with the baggage of becoming old.

jan-kudelka-janis-joplinBut the gift that  Kudelka gave us, by channelling Joplin’s spirit and music, was a chance to go back to our adolescence in our minds, to forget momentarily that, while we may be wiser, we are also greyer, stiffer, and a lot less supple than we once were. This Janis, then, a Janis Joplin that survived, and was celebrating a 74th birthday by once again sharing her talent .. this Janis relit the candle that aging, politics, and a general societal malaise seeks to extinguish in our hearts.

And damned if all of us in the audience didn’t leave the experience walking a little taller, feeling a little lighter, with a spring in our steps and a song on our lips.

A generous gift indeed, Ms Kudelka. I look forward to next January, and Joplin’s 75th birthday bash.

 

(first published @https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2017/01/22/roxanne-tellier-time-travelling-101-with-janis-and-jan/ )

 

Don’t Get Around Much Anymore …


Ach and oy vey! This house move is cramping my style, big time. Haven’t been able to get out to a lot of events, because time’s a ticking, and there’s only so many hours in a day. I’d like to say I’ve become more selective in my outing choices. But the truth is, moving and packing is a bitch. There just isn’t any time to gallivant around.

But let me tell you about two recent events I did manage to squeeze in. Both were wonders in their own ways.

Kensington Market Jazz Festival

molly johnson jazz.jpgA few weeks ago, I was having lunch with friends in the Market, when Molly Johnson came bopping along. Molly may be a Canadian icon – a singer, songwriter, broadcaster and philanthropist  – but that day she was a woman on a mission, distributing posters and postcards to the local shops, in aid of her latest project – the first annual Kensington Market Jazz Festival. It was the first I’d heard of it. When I asked how I could help, she asked if my friend Barbette and I would volunteer to handle door duties at some of the gigs.

Could I?  Well – time is tight – so, one gig was all I could commit to. And what a gig! The first act of the night at The Boat was an up and coming sax player. Alison Young. She and her quartet performed a strong, solid set. Loved it! She’s got a record coming out soon. .. and you should buy it.

A quick pause for the cause .. ran into Eric Alper hanging at the venue next door … and then we were on to the second set.

I’ve always considered The Shuffle Demons one of Toronto’s seminal acts, combining jazz and street wisdom in a playful, theatrical fashion.  And hot damn! Really good players.

So  I was thrilled to do door for the guys. Richard Underhill is, amongst other things, a past mayoral candidate. He’s a smart dude, a good dude, always on the ball. And a hell of a band leader.

As we took in the dough at the door … and it was very well attended, so we were kept very busy … I heard Richard say to his wife, “Just try to video our entry.”

I warned Barbette … we were in for some FUN!

And sure enough, The Shuffle Demons made an impeccable entrance, coming up The  Boat’s stairs in full regalia, tootling their tootlers, dancing with jin jinglers tied on to  their heels  They blew their hoo hoovers, they blanged their tar tinglers …  you get the drift.

It was just the start. Two hours later, I was exhausted! I had sung along, screamed along, danced along!

rox-barbette-richard-underhill-shuffle-demons-sept-17-2016-smaller-pic

I had a very good time.

Bohemian Embassy Redux

(all Bohemian Embassy artist pics are courtesy of Sue Peters, with thanks!.)

Friday past – An evening of memories, poetry, and wonderful song!

Way before I hit the Big Smoke, an actor/writer/poet named Don Cullen had staked out a turf he called the Bohemian Embassy.  You may also remember him from his 20 years as a regular on Wayne and Shuster.

His Bohemian Embassy was a place where musicians, artists, poets, and those with a theatrical bent, could come to test their fledgling wings. The Embassy moved around a bit, first appearing on St Nicholas Street, from 1960 through 1966, and then reappearing at Harbourfront, from 1974 to 1976.

Couldn’t happen today. We’re too busy converting our history into condos.

But back then, oh, it could. And it did happen.

bohemian-embassy-sept-2016-don-cullenDon Cullen was the Pied Piper of Possibilities, of that first break,  when the world was wide open to the new. New music, new sounds … whatever could be dreamed up, this was a place where it could be showcased.

The memories flowed from the speakers .. of the days when a young Margaret Atwood could read her first scribblings to a rapt audience; where Milton Acorn and Al Purdy found a place to showcase their poems;  where Lorne Michaels practiced his directing; where players as diverse as Gordon Lightfoot and Klaas von Graft could hone their craft, while Bob Dylan, famously, was denied a spot on the roster.

Several luminaries were unable to join the gathering, held at the Toronto Library Yorkville branch, including John Robert Columbo, Sylvia Tyson, and Ms Atwood herself (though she did send a beautiful floral bouquet, with a sweet note, signed “Peggy.”)

But those who came, and entertained us, included our hostess Linda Goldman (who also helped fund the reunion,) Mr. Cullen himself, Chick Roberts (The Sinners/The Dirty Shames,) Klaas von Graft and Beverlie Robertson (The Chanteclaires,) Judith Orban, Joanne Crabtree, Owen McBride, Sharon Hampson (Sharon, Lois and Bram,) Keith McKie (Kensington Market,) Riverboat performer Dede Higgins, poet and author Robert Priest, musician and satirist Nancy White, and Terry Jones and David Woodhead of Perth County Conspiracy, accompanied by Nancy Solway, and Bob Cohen.

And each one showed that the faith, and the talent that Don Cullen had seen in them, so many years before, had not been misplaced.

There was that old Yorkville hippie spirit in the room, as performer after performer trotted out their memories, talents, and affection for Cullen and the venue he created. Nancy White’s rendition of her song, “Popular Don Cullen,” had the audience joining in wholeheartedly, as did so many of the other performers’ classic Canadiana and folk offerings.

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Keith McKie’s songs were  ethereal and timeless.

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Perth County Conspiracy’s mini set was simply beautiful – the harmonies were sublime.

 

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And poet Robert Priest did not disappoint, as he read the first poem he’d written and debuted at the Embassy, and concluded with a new poem on social injustice that had the audience howling with laughter. Priest’s writing is sublime, and his reach wide. As a songwriter, he co-wrote (with Nancy Simmonds) the international hit, “Song Instead of a Kiss” for Alannah Myles.

I went to this event expecting a nostalgia fest, centered on a time before my own. Instead, I was enthralled, touched, invigorated, and thoroughly entertained by each of those who came to give of their time and their hearts to the “Popular Don Cullen.”

And now … back to packing up my world … if you need me, you’ll have to dig me out from under the hoard …

 

Rosemary Solway, Bob Cohen,Yorkville , Nancy White, Keith McKie, Perth County Conspiracy, Robert Priest , Nancy Simmonds, Alannah Myles.