Friday, July 14, 2017

Sharing the Het Memes

So, a friend and I, for a long time, would entertain ourselves with what we call "Het Memes"... in honour of Metallica's Sunday visit to Toronto (where you bet we're gonna be there on the floor!), I figured why not share them?

Starring James Hetfield as himself:

and the Kimodo Dragon as Robert Trujillo:

And so we begin.....

When Fuel is pumping engines....

When Robert tries to take Het out for dinner:

When Lars misses a drum fill during "Master of Puppets"....

We all mix up the words sometimes, even if we wrote them...

...especially when Het's got International Women's Day on his mind:

When eras collide...

Later in the same show....

And then they bust into "The Memory Remains...."

Catering was tasty in Cleveland...

A little overzealous during Freeze 'Em All....

Nomination for the next Garage, Inc.... "Total Eclipse of the HET":

Fuck y'all, this is poetry at its finest...

Highlights from Hardwired... To Self-Destruct:

....and one for the road (can I make a request for Sunday?!?!):

See you all Sunday!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Punk as F*ck: Why Midnight Oil may be the most important band there's ever been

There are a lot of bands who have had long and respectable careers based on principle and evolution. When asked who my ideal template is for a band's career, the one that always stands out most is the Australian monolith, Midnight Oil.


When The Oils (as they're affectionately called by their fans) started out in the late '70s, they hit the Australian club circuit hard, opened for the Ramones, and developed a strong cult following. The Oils quickly developed a reputation for being a no-bullshit punk rock act, notoriously (and heroically) stopping performances mid-set to announce that the promoter had not paid them and they would not play another note until the matter was resolved. Fearing riot from the packed-full room of young punks in the audience, promoters always made good on their end of the deal.

Eventually (and almost inevitably), major labels started sniffing around. The Oils, led by singer Peter Garrett and his recently-acquired law degree, tore up every contract that came their way, feeling the terms offered were not artist-friendly on a financial or creative level. Their first three records were released independently as a result. When The Oils ultimately did sign with a major label, it was on the conditions of: you don't tell us what to do, you don't tell us when to do things, and you don't tell us how to do it.

With the leverage of a dedicated fan base and the bargaining power of the education of the band itself, The Oils got exactly what they wanted and began to mount an international campaign to become of the most respected and exciting live attractions in the world. Not only that, they never shied away from political subject matter, and delivered it in a way that, in their own words, didn't exploit the victimization of the people they were helping give voice to.

And The Oils weren't just about singing about it; they held strongly that they should also act upon it, no exceptions. When the Exxon-Valdez spill happened in 1990, The Oils embarked on a covert operation to set up a stage in front of Exxon headquarters in New York. Next thing they knew, 20,000 people were there ready to rock, as the band erected a sign saying "Midnight Oil Makes You Dance, Exxon Oil Makes You Sick."

When the Sydney Olympics had their closing ceremonies in 2000, The Oils, as Australia's Beatles, were invited to perform. Having a long-standing history of working with the Aboriginal community in Australia, and recognizing that the Sydney Olympics were taking place on traditional Aboriginal land, The Oils hatched a plan: without telling anyone, at the last possible second, to a global-wide broadcast audience, they stripped into black outfits with the word "SORRY" across their chests, and blasted out "Beds Are Burning," an anthem denouncing colonialism.

The Oils commanded respect, and seemed to have no trouble maintaining it across the board. Strangely, unlike many other successful artists who are often told to "shut up and sing" when they infuse politics into their music, no such cries were ever made to The Oils. They were, and still are, held in the highest esteem and regard as artists, activists, and global citizens.

In 2002, The Oils released, in my opinion, their best album, Capricornia. It was supported by an international tour. The album, and tour, would prove to be their last, as Peter Garrett stepped down from the band to run for the Australian Labour Party. He won in 2004, and would eventually be appointed Minister for the Environment, Heritage, and The Arts. For the next eight years, Peter Garrett brought a refreshing sense of purpose and forward-thinking ethic to the high office.

It was assumed at that point that Midnight Oil would never record or tour again.

Garrett resigned in 2013, expressing no intention to seek re-election (which he could have easily gotten had he decided to run).

This past week, it was announced to the surprise of the world, that the Great Circle Tour 2017 would see The Oils making their return to the global stage. Needless to say, I'll be front and centre when they come to Toronto in May.

I can't think of a more noble and respectable career than the ones The Oils have had. I suspect many would be hard-pressed to find otherwise.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Eight Years To Life: What Will Barack Obama's Next Move(s) Be?

Photo by Joe Mac

This old photo was taken from the stage on November 6, 2012 at C’est What? in Toronto. An older post recounts the night in more specific detail, but for the context of the current musing: the band was dipping in and out of the back room watching the 2012 U.S election results trickle in. Barack Obama was seeking re-election against Republican Mitt Romney. I used a Sharpie to draw stars and stripes across my hands in solidarity with our friends to the south.

Photo by Joe Mac

By the time we were summonsed to take the stage, the official outcome had not yet been determined. Our opening number had me splatting out the lyrics to The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop” as we segued into “She Leaves" (remember "She Leaves"?!?!). Immediately following the song’s final crash, I asked the audience to let me know if the identity of the next President was announced during our set and I would be doing my best to make out their faces beyond the blinding stage lights in my eyes.

Following the live debut of the now-staple “Shattered Hearts,” I picked up the guitar and Devin drilled us into the shotgun drum into of “Boomerang," with only one song to follow. Halfway through the second verse, beyond the (fittingly red, white, and blue) stage lights, the hands waved, cell phones raised, pointing at their screens, accompanied by voices yelling and mouths mouthing the word “OBAMA” above the verse’s spacious refrain. Just as the second chorus dawned upon us, the tidal “Heeeeeeeey” was replaced by a bellowed “Ooooobaaaammaaaa!!!!” in the most joyous wail I could belt out. True to form as a National Geographer of the beast known as Paint, Joe Mac captured the exact moment my uvula was dangling vibratingly for all to see with his lens. I’ll always love that photo.

I remember watching Barack Obama’s inaugural election speech on a half-broken television set in East Vancouver when he was first elected President in 2008. After eight years of George W. Bush, the tragedies of 9/11, the war in Iraq, and the dramatic plummet of the American economy, Obama’s induction was not only necessary but welcome. His words struck a chord in a way that my grassroots half-dishevelment with the system of political change at the time were able to let their guard down and hear a certain magic that a head of state had seemingly not articulated in my lifetime, shy of the great Nelson Mandela. I will never forget hearing Barack Obama (while only partially seeing, as it was not only the picture on the television screen that was foggy, but my welling up eyes as well) so eloquently say,

I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation… This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change…. It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice. So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.

It was unfathomable to actually hear but exactly what I always felt, with a seemingly archaic idealism for 2008, the role of an elected representative was intended to be: to recognize her or his role as an extension of the people through dialogue and responsiveness, and to request (and remind) citizens that it is indeed up to all of us to the make changes we wish to see. A President isn’t Superman. All of our hands need to get dirty to get things accomplished. Obama's call-to-action reminds me of Bono’s assertion that being partisan interferes with progress when seeking meaningful change; that in order to move forward on issues and practices that will contribute to increased humanity, health, and harmony, we must be willing to work with everyone regardless of political stripes. An elected official who takes an ideological stance and refutes dialogue (Rob Ford comes to mind in the local context of Toronto) will be a barrier to progress. And this gentleman, the first Black President, was prepared to listen every step of the way and allow us (of which, as a Canadian, I generalize to global citizens) to lead the way. He may have been about to start driving the car, but he made it very clear that we would have to provide the directions. Whether or not we would, that would be the test (and ultimately the challenge).

The following day, I attended a Board of Directors meeting for the North ShoreRestorative Justice Society in North Vancouver, BC (on which I sat as a member as an extension of living in the community at the time and having a long history in my then-young -- hopefully still? -- life of fighting for truth and reconciliation at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels in Canada). One of the elder board members told a story of being a young Black man in America and not being served in a restaurant for reasons he didn't even need to expand upon. He broke into bittersweet tears when he said he could not believe that he had lived to see the day a Black man became President.

As we are, in 2016, now on the eve of the first woman taking the highest office in the United States (congratulations in advance, Hillary!), many lament that Barack Obama will no longer be with us -- as though him leaving office after the mandatory two-term maximum (implemented in 1951 as the 22nd Amendment to the United States Constitution) is somehow the end of his career and presence as a global and political citizen.

But this is hardly the end. Former Vice President Al Gore, in helping advance a major effort against climate change, said that he was able to be significantly more effective as a citizen activist without the confines of the political system to turn decisions into targeted action with specific, swift, tangible, and meaningful outcomes. Through this kind of lens, the advancements Barack Obama made within the structure of the Presidency were all the more gargantuan; in fact, we may be hard-pressed to find another President since Confederation (and even beyond that to George Washington) who was able to effectively ratify as many large-scale initiatives as he did from 2008-2016. Many on the cynical or dare I say nihilistic end may not feel it now, but Barack Obama’s legacy and work as President of the United States will be studied for centuries to come as the pinnacle of Presidential effectiveness.

Imagine, then, without the limitations of blanket Republican dissent on every proposal he champions, just how effective a human and political rights player Barack Obama will be capable of being in the years to come. Whilst his time as the most influential public servant in the world is coming to an end, his contributions to human progress have only just begun.

And I for one can only not wait to see what he does from here, but look forward to finding ways that I can gladly join the movement.
It's interesting how Democratic Presidents tend to continue their work as public servants or advocates in some capacity after they leave the Oval Office, but Republicans seem to retire to ranches and take up golfing. The volumes spoken about priorities is astounding.

Good luck at the polls tomorrow, friends to the south. The world will be watching!

Monday, February 29, 2016

There's something very peculiar going on here....

The band originally called Charlemagne, who was issued a cease and desist letter by the American singer-songwriter of the same name and subsequently changed their named to "The Arkells," is applying the "shoot first, look later" philosophy once again, perhaps?

Monday, January 25, 2016

It's Evolution, Baby....

A case for progressing throughout the course of one's life:

"The greatest feeling you can get in a gym or the most satisfying feeling you can get in the gym is the pump. Let’s say you train your biceps, blood is rushing in to your muscles and that’s what we call the pump. Your muscles get a really tight feeling like your skin is going to explode any minute and its really tight and its like someone is blowing air into your muscle and it just blows up and it feels different, it feels fantastic. It’s as satisfying to me as cumming is, you know, as in having sex with a woman and cumming. So can you believe how much I am in heaven? I am like getting the feeling of cumming in the gym; I’m getting the feeling of cumming at home; I’m getting the feeling of cumming backstage; when I pump up, when I pose out in front of 5000 people I get the same feeling, so I am cumming day and night. It’s terrific, right? So you know, I am in heaven."
- Arnold Schwarzenegger, 1977

"There are two doors. Behind Door Number One is a completely sealed room, with a regular, gasoline-fueled car. Behind Door Number Two is an identical, completely sealed room, with an electric car. Both engines are running full blast. 
I want you to pick a door to open, and enter the room and shut the door behind you. You have to stay in the room you choose for one hour. You cannot turn off the engine. You do not get a gas mask. 
I’m guessing you chose the Door Number Two, with the electric car, right? Door number one is a fatal choice – who would ever want to breathe those fumes? 
I just hope that you’ll join me in opening Door Number Two, to a smarter, cleaner, healthier, more profitable energy future.... 
I, personally, want a plan. I don’t want to be like the last horse and buggy salesman who was holding out as cars took over the roads. I don’t want to be the last investor in Blockbuster as Netflix emerged. That’s exactly what is going to happen to fossil fuels. 
A clean energy future is a wise investment, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either wrong, or lying. Either way, I wouldn’t take their investment advice. 
Renewable energy is great for the economy, and you don’t have to take my word for it. California has some of the most revolutionary environmental laws in the United States, we get 40% of our power from renewables, and we are 40% more energy efficient than the rest of the country. We were an early-adopter of a clean energy future...."
- Arnold Schwarzenegger, 2016

Keep on growing, folks!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Where Everybody Kn(ew) Your Name..... Goodbye Rancho Relaxo.

On August 29, 2015, the Toronto music community bids farewell to the one and only Rancho Relaxo. Affectionately known as "The Ranchole" (and verb-ified as "getting Rancholed" a.k.a. walking out the front door to see that the sun has come up), I cannot even begin to explain how much this little venue that could has meant to me personally and to Paint since our start in Toronto in 2009.

But rather than go through a sappy and sentimental summary of all the friendships, creative partnerships, jokes, and informal therapy that took place at the Ranch (needless since the relationships continue beyond the life of the box -- and also, that I promised myself I wouldn't cry), I thought it may be a good opportunity to run through some of the more memorable moments I've experienced on the Rancho Relaxo stage, in chronological order.

July 15, 2009:
An unknown-to-Toronto Vancouver ex-pat band named Paint gets granted its first show as a full band in its new home of Toronto. If not for Two Way Monologues promoter Dan Wolovick, Paint would not have had any ground to hit running in the Big Smoke. Back when I played guitar instead of just being an obnoxious dancing frontman. Here's a video playlist of that gig from the archives:

September 25, 2009:
Another super early Paint show in Toronto, on a bill with Fast Romantics, Secret Broadcast, and The Ascot Royals. Yes, this bill actually happened.

View full photo album

July 8, 2011:
Tribute/vs. nights were some of the most fun shows at Rancho. Local bands would take on entire sets in homage to some of their favourite bands. We got to do a couple of these. One was a Pearl Jam/Nirvana night. As hard as it was to choose a side, always and forever (as though it was ever about anything other than embracing all the beauty), Paint did a Pearl Jam tribute set that was one of my most humbling shows. Videotape does exist:

June 16, 2012:
A night when the Toronto Star called us one of the best acts of North by Northeast, and when, before even starting our set (actually as we were changing the stage over from Dilly Dally), the festival-supplied guitar amp I was supposed to use for the two whole songs I now play guitar on, blew up into a stage-dousing waft of smoke, I threw the axe down and we just slayed -- improvising on the dual-guitar tunes on the fly to make them translate. Apparently it worked. I think this was also Devin Jannetta's first show as a full-fledged member of Paint.

View full photo album

July 31, 2012:
There was something in the water upstairs on this night. We played a benefit show for our friends in the Spur-of-the-Moment Shakespeare (curated by "Boomerang" and 11:11 star Victoria Urquhart) and we absolutely, completely, destroyed everyone in the room. I think this one goes down as one of the best Paint performances of our career.

View full photo album

September 7, 2012:
I got to be one of my heroes, just for one day. Well, three; this was the second of a trio of David Bowie tribute nights in the Thin White (or Brown in my case) Duke attire. Other bands did The Stooges.

View full photo album
It was also a night where founding Paint member from the Vancouver inception point, Paula McGlynn was in attendance, seeing the band she formed four years prior -- having just written the 11:11-featured song "Bonfire of Vanities" in a couple hours the day before. This was truly worlds colliding.

View full photo album

July 4, 2014:
Canada Day on Independence Day -- Toronto bands playing all Canadian covers on America's birthday. Another tribute night, oddly enough -- and one of the fondest stage memories of my life. I was part of a Toronto indie supergroup: a Neil Young & Crazy Horse tribute act called "Prisoners of Rock 'n' Roll" with members of The Rathburns, The Stormalongs, Another City, and A Northern Drawl. It was the loudest, most raucous stage affair I've been part of, at least since my punk days. And nothing more satisfying than pointing at audience members, yelling "You're just a fuckup!!!" (while playing "Fuckin' Up") and being able to hug them all after the show.

View full photo album

February 14, 2014 and March 3, 2015:
Speaking of something in the water.... I somehow managed to get laryngitis twice before shows at the Ranch, despite my constantly strict vocal health regimens. And both times, much to my surprise and delight, the lovely Rancho crowd rushed the stage and belted out the practically-female high notes that I'm famous (in a relative sense) for. Rancho Relaxo was not only a Cheers bar to many of us (I even had my own stool!), where everybody knows your name, but they also know the words to all your songs -- where else can an indie rocker feel like a stadium star?

View full photo album

View full photo album
You can catch me doing a little solo set (another rare occurrence) at the Ranch to open up the last show ever on the sweatiest stage in the greatest city in the world. August 29 is the date. RSVP here.

Cheers, Rancho. It's truly been a slice of life.