Sunday, July 30, 2006

Doing It For The Women

So, I have discharged my Blogathon 2006 commitments despite Internet Explorer doing its best to prevent me. Dashed browser crashed out on me halfway through my hour-long stint. After a couple hours of research it turns out that the Yahoo! toolbar was to blame, so I beat the pesky blighter with a large stick and it ran yelping from my PC. In the interim, I deployed Firefox as a backup and was quite impressed with it. Hmm...


Ahem. This is your captain speaking. Apologies for the turbulence. The cabin crew will be resuming normal dinner service immediately.

Anyway, please do hasten over to CTASLS and view the team's Blogathon efforts. And if you want to view my postings, they're here, here, and here. Oh, and bloody well contribute to the cause. Er, pretty please.

And since a) we were doing it for the women, and b) its that dubby comedown time of the morning:

King Tubby & The Aggrovators - Dub Of A Woman (buy here)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Who New?

Dear Friends, the latest Contrast Podcast is out with a bevy of beautiful songs all loosely grouped around that most cheeky of interrogative words, "Who?" I suggest you repair post-haste here to download it.

For those fence-sitters amongst you, let me tempt you with the playlist:

(00:00) P J Harvey - Who the Fuck?
Tim from the face of today

(02:57) The 5678s - Woo Hoo
FiL from Pogoagogo

(05:16) The Hush Sound - Wine Red
Jamie from

(08:24) Baby Dayliner - Whodunnit?
Richard from

(12:36) Ron Grainer - Doctor Who
Matt from Earfarm

(16:27) Corrosion of Conformity - Who's got the fire?
Chris from Culture Bully

(19:58) Oceansize - Women who love men who love drugs
G11sus4 from Faces for radio

(26:10) Giant Drag - Who's Crying Now?
Natalie from Mini-Obs

(29:16) The Timelords - Doctorin' the Tardis
Jamie from The Run Out Groove

(33:18) Pearl Jam - Who You Are
Heather from I am fuel, you are friends

(37:42) Cursive - The game of who needs who the worst
Bethanne from CTASLS

(41:43) Theatre of Hate - The man who bangs the drums
ZB from So the wind won't blow it all away

(45:00) Oingo Boingo - Who do you want to be today?
Tom from Other people's toys

(49:00) Jex - Scooby Who
Nuno from Undercover Songs

(52:10) Manic Street Preachers - The girl who wanted to be
Charles from Heartache with hard work

(56:16) David Fonseca - Who are U?
Simon from You can call me betty

I spent a good deal of time dithering over what track to submit, with The 5678's just edging out Jim Carroll's galloping, anguished NYC punk classic, 'People Who Died.' So to ease my conscience, I offer it to you here. Must say it's taken on a different resonance these days for me, as my own list grows...

Jim Carroll - People Who Died (buy here)

And now allow me to introduce a newcomer to the blogging community. After spending time as a welcome visitor to various blogs in the neighbourhood, the lovely Galateaa recently decided to set out her own virtual stall, This Isn't What It Looks Like. I would encourage you to visit, sample her wares, and drop her a comment or two. But be warned: she'll have you dancing in your bedrooms in no time...

Ah, cursed time, you flee so swiftly. Goodnight, Dear Friends.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Sweet Charity

Oh my, is it the wee hours of Tuesday morning already? Has it really been almost a week since I posted? Shame on me.

Big sloppy buckets of shame.

Poured right on my head.

Right, with that out of the way, onto the folk festival. And a confession: I'm afraid there are no sordid stories to tell regarding mung beans. Or macrame.

Sigh, I can feel my credibility pouring away from me like the shame running down my brow.

Truth be told, it was a most Vancouver festival - very genteel, very well-behaved, very comfortable. Plenty of port-a-potties, ample taps to fill your water bottles, evening salutations from the main stage to the setting sun ("We thank the sun for giving it's light, it's warmth...") and loopy dancing. Part of this is undoubtedly due to the demographic: it's largely a grown up event. Baby boomer ex- (and current) hippies a-plenty, folks in or nearing forty, that sort of thing. There was undoubtedly a hipster yoof presence, but the overriding atmosphere was most definitely that of a great, big funky, tie-dye & tofu picnic.

Mind you, it wasn't all a 60s retro love-fest. I watched with amusement as the mostly middle-aged winners of the Birkenstock 500 (i.e. those festies who'd camped out at the gate to run and stake out prime blanket space in front of the main stage) howled "SIT DOWN!" at the indie kids inching in from the sides during Feist's slot (to which The Kidz shouted back: "STAND UP!"). Chalk and cheese ground together as well when Austrian dubsters Dubblestandart shared a stage with grizzled, veteran folkster Utah Phillips. You could tell each thought the other was a shit.

Oh and the music? Most enjoyable indeed. I bathed twice in the flow of Feist's springwater-clear voice. The Mammals put on a fine, friendly early morning (well, 10:00 AM, anyway) Appalachian-flavoured roots show, their able polymath members (including Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, grandson of uber-folkie Pete Seeger) switching instruments between each other with ease. Dubblestandart pumped out some massive deep beats, but again when I saw them it was under the heavy manners of a workshop compered by an unappreciative Utah Phillips. A most pleasant treat came in the form of Zar, a lovely bunch of polite Danish whippersnappers passionately reviving and adapting their country's traditional fiddly folk music.

The Mammals - Profit (buy here)
Zar - Tusind Tanker (buy here)

However, Dear Friends, these were but sideshows, the jugglers and sword swallowers, if you will, to the illustrated lady, the strong man, the dog-faced boy, and the two-headed cow. For I had the pleasure to see four performances that I enjoyed far more than my indie-punk-metal-industrial-C86-mod-synth-goth-shoegazer sensibilities would allow me aforehand to believe I would.

But you'll have to wait to hear about it.

No, please, stop throwing things! I have a good reason!! It's all for charity!!!

You see, I have signed up to participate in the 2006 Blogathon as part of the team put together by the lovely Lady of Lansing, Bethanne from Clever Titles Are So Last Summer. The challenge is to post a post every 30 minutes during the twenty-four hour period starting at 6:00 AM on Saturday, 29 July. That's 48 posts during the period. Crikey! My contribution to the effort will be two blogbits, and I've decided to share my greatest FolkFest musical epiphanies in at least one of them. And no, my decision has nothing to do with inertia. Although I've now come to realise that procrastination can be serendipitous...

So where do you, Dear Friends, come in? Well, we're looking for sponsors to pledge their financial support to this endeavour. Bethanne has chosen to raise money for Global Fund for Women, a body that efficiently and effectively makes grants to women's rights and justice organisations around the world. To register your support, simply click on this link. Every little bit helps, and I thank you for your generosity. Be sure to check back in at CTASLS on Saturday and watch our team weave a web of musical postings that will ensnare you.

Dear Friends, you must forgive me if I seem a little breathless tonight. You see, I just came back from seeing the bittersweetness and light that is Camera Obscura live and in persons. They were lovely. So lovely. And Traceyanne Campbell is just wonderful. Sigh. I promise to tell you more, much more, very soon, but right now I think I'll hyperventilate if I talk any more about them.

"Oi FiL, wot abaht us wot don't like al this soft stuff yer spewing??" Well, my Dear Angry Friends, I have something for you too. You see, today I got in the post my very own copy of the newly released Sex Pistols' 'Spunk' CD (buy here). Yes, that's right, the legendary, bootleg first album containing raw versions of those classic ditties we all learned at Mother's Doc Marten shod feet. Johnny Rotten's voice, huskier and rougher than on 'Never Mind The Bollocks' still brings a shiver to the spine. It also features original bassist Glen Matlock, Steve Jones having done both lead and bass guitar honours on 'Bollocks.' But that's for the trainspotters out there, not you hard lot wanting to pogo a go-go...

Sex Pistols - Feelings (No Feelings)
Sex Pistols - No Future (God Save The Queen)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

When You're Young

Yes, yes, I know, you're all dying to hear about this past weekend's Vancouver Folk Music Festival. You'll get your sordid tales of mung beans and macramé, I assure you. Just not today.

The latest Contrast Podcast is now out and I urge you ALL to download it here or subscribe to the RSS feed here this week's theme of "When I Was 16 I Liked..." means it's chock full of raging hormones, delicious fashion disasters, teen angst, and snotty attitude. I also encourage all of you who've toyed with the idea of contributing to the podcast to STOP MUCKING AROUND AND JUST DO IT!!


That was rude.

You see, it's really easy. Just pick a song in keeping with the next podcast's theme, record a short spoken intro and send it along to the nice man wot curates Contrast. It doesn't need to be polished, it doesn't need to be witty, it just needs to be you.

Yes you.

We love you just the way you are.

And we want to hear you.

Next week's theme is simply "who," so get thinking. Tim (the nice man) is giving preference this week to those folk (Aaargh! Granola! Mung beans! Helicopter dancing!! Sorry, flashback.) who've not contributed before. Et je sais qu'il parle francais, alors c'est pas exclusivement pour les rosbifs et les amerloks, hein??

Anyway, my Contrast offering this week is 'Thick As Thieves' by The Jam. That bloody fantastic band provided the soundtrack to my teen years, and every song evokes a memory. The fab songs call forth burningly intense friendships and incandescant ideals. The few crap songs summon excruciating awkwardness and promise unfulfilled. From the angry, modpunk rants of the early albums to the darker, more introspective, almost post-punk middle albums to the Stax & soul influences on their final outings, it's all magical stuff to me.

Truth be told, for the past few years The Jam had been more or less packed away in an old suitcase somewhere in my subconscious. But of late serendipity has been prodding at the latch; an old cassette copy of 'Sound Affects' resurfaces and finds its way into the car stereo, Jam albums appear in the second-hand CD section at Zulu, the lovely Colleen Crumbcake posts an amazing pic of the young Paul Weller in full flow. And finally, Dear Friends, the case has sprung open and Messrs Weller, Foxton, & Buckler have popped out into my conscious, all sharp suits, white shoes, and scissor kicks.

So I give you tonight a selection of the finest Jam, taken from across their catalogue. The tunes on offer are those that I remember blasting out of my boom box on hot summer nights all those years ago.

The Jam - In The City
The Jam - All Around The World
The Jam - A-Bomb In Wardour Street
The Jam - When You're Young (This one's for Rachel. Happy Birthday, my dear!!)
The Jam - Saturday's Kids
The Jam - Boy About Town
The Jam - Precious
The Jam - Beat Surrender

If you're out shopping, the studio albums are In The City, This is The Modern World, All Mod Cons, Setting Sons, Sound Affects, and The Gift. The Direction Reaction Creation box set is a definitive, if pricey, "Best Of." But if you're looking for a quick intro with the key singles (many of which were standalone or on EPs, not the album), The Very Best Of The Jam is very good indeed.

Extra special treat: The Jam doing 'In The City' live at the Manchester Electric Circus, 1977

Friday, July 14, 2006

Getting Festive With The Folkies

Dearest Friends, many thanks for all your kind expressions of support, both public and private - they are of great comfort. I have relayed your messages to the rest of the family, and they in turn send their gratitude by way of reply.

And life goes on, as well it should. We will now attempt (but do not guarantee) to return you to our regularly scheduled programming.

The 29th Annual Vancouver Folk Music Festival kicked off this evening and will be running throughout the weekend. Dearest Wife granted me a one-day freedom pass, so tomorrow I will be pootling on down to the lovely Jericho Beach Park for tomorrow's proceedings. The adjective 'folk', as applied to the fest, has become rather stretched over the years, and the lineup actually includes an impressively wide range of performers, not just your Appalachian fiddlers and dessicating 60s protest singers. Still, I have spent the evening distressing my birkenstocks, dyeing my tie, and braiding granola into my hair so as to blend in with the crowd.

I had been particularly looking forward to seeing Ari Up, (she of the seminal, primordial 1977 punk band The Slits) weave her tribal reggae magic, but unfortunately she has cancelled for unspecified personal reasons. Still, there will be plenty to enjoy. On my 'must-see' list are self-described subversive acoustic traditionalists The Mammals , heavy dubsters Big Bass Theory and Dubblestandart, the raw punk folk of Hammell on Trial, Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq, and Broken Social Scene vocalist Feist. I'll let you know how it all goes, but until then please enjoy this smallest of tasters:

Feist - Mushaboom (buy here)

Onto more bits and pieces, odds and sods...

A bit late in the week to tell you, but Contrast Podcast 15 is out and up. It features a whole bushel of Beatles covers, and once again the magnificent Tim Young was kind enough to include my contribution, Laibach's stonking version of Get Back. Nope, I'm not going to post it (Boo, Hiss!) but please do download the 'cast here.

Oh, alright, stop whining. I'll give you a Beatles cover:

William Shatner - Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (buy here)

There, satisfied now?

Rachel, Coxon, look away now. I mean it. Not looking? OK. For the rest of you, Sufjan Stevens has announced a North American/European tour starting in October (dates here). Tickets have only just gone on sale, but are being snapped up quickly by hordes of wan, wee indie kids. He will be playing Vancouver's lovely St Andrew's Cathedral on 15 October, and I'm pleased to say that I secured my two tickets today to mass at the Church of Sufjan. Only say the word, and you shall be healed. So now I've got four months to indoctrinate Dearest Wife into the ways of Sufjan, otherwise I'll need to find one of those wan, wee indie kids to take along instead.

Sufjan Stevens - The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts (buy here)

Speaking of Coxon, each time I visit his impeccable blog I notice that he hails from Wolverhampton. The only other association Wolverhampton brings to mind are 1970s uber-glamsters Slade. I must admit I quite like them. Indeed, I also like Coxon. So by extension Wolverhampton can't be as bad as everyone says it is...

Slade - Cum On Feel The Noize (buy here)

Tomorrow is St Swithin's Day, and according to folklore whatever the weather is that day will persist for the next 40 days. I'm hoping it won't hail. Actually, the only reason I mention this is to give me an excuse to post an otherwise gratuitous Billy Bragg track. He too is coming to Vancouver, though at over $37 the tickets are a bit rich for my blood. But I do love him so. Sigh...

Billy Bragg - St Swithin's Day (buy here)

Oh dear, that's QUITE enough from me. Frankly I'm surprised you didn't stop me sooner. You are indeed all so kind - thank you for indulging me...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Strands of Life

For Veronica
Tibetan prayer flags
Mayne Island, 8 July 2006

Veronica, my Beloved Mother-in-Law, died on Wednesday, 5 July 2006. She passed away peacefully after a difficult, eight-year cohabitation with ovarian cancer. She had only recently turned sixty-four. Though we all knew for some time that she would be leaving this world sooner rather than later, I cannot quite believe it has happened.

I miss her tremendously. It hurts. And though I feel I want to say so much, I'm not sure how to say it. I fear this will be an inarticulate, fragmentary post.

During her last couple of days in hospital, I witnessed her body decline. Her breathing grew shallower and more laboured, her pulse more thready. Her thin frame had become almost bird-like, as if she were preparing to fly away. The narcotics had finally purchased relief from debilitating pain, but at the price of her consciousness. At that stage, however, it was an appropriate bargain.

The long process of her physical unweaving was nearing conclusion. And in the early hours of last Wednesday morning, with her husband, my Dearest Father-In-Law, present, her skein of life finally unravelled.

And yet I can still see many of the strands that once made up Veronica. They are strong. They are magnificently colourful. They are vibrant. And they are all around me.

I see them in the fortitude and devotion of Dearest Wife, Veronica's child.

I see them in the irrepressible exuberance and impish laughter of Little Man and Darling Daughter, whose very existence was a direct, life-affirming response to Veronica's initial diagnosis.

I both hear them in the folky music she enjoyed, and see them in the quirky little dances she would unconsciously do while listening.

I see them woven into her net of cherished friends, a net that she cast wide and is now drawing tightly together in support and remembrance.

I see them in the memory from a few weeks back, when she thoroughly delighted in the here and now of a summer's evening spent with us all at the UBC Botanical Gardens.

I see them in her mindfulness towards adversity and suffering, bereft of bitterness and imbued with a desire to use every single experience as an opportunity to learn and grow.

I see them in the non-judgemental openness that made her to me as much a friend as a delightfully inherited relative (though I don't think she ever fully understood my love of what she called my "loud music.")

I see, hear, and smell them particularly acutely in the sparkling seas and vast skies of her beloved Mayne Island.

Veronica is gone, but she is not missing. I, we, just have to remember where to find her.

Scatter my dust and ashes, feed me to the wind
So that I may be part of all you see, the air you are breathing
I'll be part of the curlew's cry and the soaring hawk
The blue milkwort and the sundew hung with diamonds
I'll be riding the gentle breeze as it blows through your hair
Reminding you how we shared in the joy of living
-- Ewan MacColl

Joey Ramone - Wonderful World (buy here)
Bourne & MacLeod - Dance & Celebrate (buy here)
Ewan MacColl - The Joy of Living (buy here)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Light Fades

Dear Friends, though I am back in town, I fear I may still be scarce. My Dearest Mother-In-Law is nearing the end of her journey through this life. It is only a matter of the shortest time. Probably hours, a few days at the most.

We are all doing our best to help ease and guide her on her way. She is ready to go. But though we all knew it was approaching, the end of this voyage is proving hard, much harder than any of us imagined.

Gorky's Zygotic Mynci - Shore Light
This Mortal Coil - Song To The Siren