Virgin Festival Calgary

The lineup is up…

Stone Temple Pilots
The Tragically Hip
The Flaming Lips
City and Colour
Mathew good
Three Days Grace
The New Pornographers
Corb Lund
Fact to Face
Attack in Black
Pride Tiger
Crash Parallel
The Dudes
The Whitsundays
Ten Second Epic
The Spades
Said the Whale

Weekend pass: $125

I almost had to eat my words about this festival. Last week, Morrissey made a statement that read

I am also pleased to be asked to join the bill at the V Festival at the Thunderbird Stadium in Vancouver, and also at Fort Calgary in Calgary.

I kind of lost my mind when I read that. I have been obsessed with The Smiths and Morrissey since I was a lad, and have yet to see him live (when that day comes, I am stalking his tour bus, getting him to sign my arm and then getting it tattooed there). Then that statement continues:

However, as we all know, the psychologically and constitutionally sickening Canadian seal-kill has started and is once again in full-cry.

Oh christ, here we go. Look Morrissey, you are awesome and everything, but punishing your Canadian fan base (most of whom likely agree with you that the barbaric seal hunting practices should stop) is really stupid. YOU PLAY SHOWS IN THE US, A COUNTRY THAT KILLS MORE IRAQI HUMAN BEINGS IN A YEAR THAN CANADA DOES SEALS!!! Ugh. I get really worked up about this all the time. Shit, I would have sat through Three Days Grace, Mathew Good AND City and Colour to see Morrissey, but alas, that is not to be. Just as well, as that is the musical equivalent to being bludgeoned to death by a sealing club (which, might I add, I am morally opposed to).

What happened to the lip service to having “local music” on the bill? I see the Dudes, The Whitsundays (from Edmonton, which should count I guess, but they are also playing the superior Sled Island, so fuck that), but that is it (and in order to say that for sure, I looked into some of the bands I hadn’t heard like Crash Parallel from Ontario, and who are apparently “drawing comparisons to artists such as Coldplay, The Fray, David Gray and Counting Crows” (which, aside from their music are four reasons why they must be avoided at all costs). Oh shit – Ten Second Epic (which is subsequently the length of time I could listen to their myspace) are from Edmonton too.

Sure there are a few Annotated Everything favourites on the bill (Flaming Lips, The New Pornographers, Constantines), but most of this festival just reeks of the dying (not soon enough) corporate music industry. A lot of the bands (and the structure behind the bands) are still desperately pushing music as a “product,” and talking (in a very 1990’s way) about “content” (“Get the digital release for bonus CONTENT!”). For those bands that avoid that way of doing business in the music industry, the stink kind of wafts over to them as well (whether they like it or not).

Secondly, who is this lineup going for? Are Stars fans going to want to sit through Attack in Black? Will Attack in Black fans sit through Said the Whale? Will anyone want to sit through Three Days Grace? To paraphrase Pierre Bourdieu, “taste is nothing more than the distaste of the taste of others” – something that I will admit fuels a post like this. Yet, it is one thing for me to think that this lineup is full of shit, and it is another for me to react against this form of blatant “focus grouped” lineup that appears to these eyes to be nothing more than a vehicle to move “units” (as opposed to a way for music fans to come together and enjoy a nice day in the sun without the taint that is a Branson-sponsored shill-fest).

Calgary Police brutality on Stephen Ave.

Last night, the Square Waves played to a small crowd of Calgarians (30 in total?) who happened to be at the Broken City on a Thursday night, right between two major concerts (Bright Eyes the day before and Modest Mouse the day after). Far be it to be a judge of my own performance, but it felt right while I was playing, and I was told that we sounded good. I am happy with it.

Still sitting with me is a horrifying event that took place before the show. Ryan and Patrick and myself were going to eat after we checked into the hotel. While walking down Stephen Ave. downtown Calgary, we walk right past two police officers talking to this man. I am not sure exactly what went on, the reason why they were talking to him (etc.), so lets make that clear.

As we were walking past, one of the cops THROWS A PUNCH at the guys head, and then grabs him in a headlock, after which the other cop KICKS the guy in the NECK! It is kind of hard to describe, but essentially, these two cops started beating this guy up while yelling “STOP RESISTING” and the guy is crying in pain, and they have him on the ground, and it looks as if the one cop is going to break the guys arm trying to cuff him, while the other cop is resting his full body weight on his knee, which is holding the guys head down on the pavement. The guy did not appear to be resisting, yet the police were clearly not saying it for his benefit, this instructive directed towards the gathering crowd. “STOP RESISTING” code for “hey, we’re just doing our jobs here because this guy is resisting arrest.” From what I saw, and what Ryan and Patrick saw, there was no resisting going on at all.

Yet, what to do? I actually felt around for my cell phone to take video, but I left it at the hotel. Which makes me feel like shit, because if I was looking to intervene, I should have confronted the cops, consequences be damned. Yet, with the severity that they kicked this guys ass, I was worried that this was going to happen to me as well. A video would have shown two Calgary police officers assaulting an unarmed, non-hostile man, and it would have been really bad for these cops.

Afterwards, there was kind of a collective effervescence on the streets, strangers talking to one another about the incident. From the different perspectives of people we talked to afterwards, it was clear that others saw the same thing we did. Three men talking, and one man getting beat up. Except the assailants were wearing Calgary Police uniforms. And the victim is the one sitting in jail.

Virgin Music Festival v. Sled Island

I just saw this note from Sled Island organizer Zak Pashak on Facebook:

Yes, Virgin Fest falls during the last two days of Sled Island. If the goal of starting a festival in Calgary was to bring great bands and musical interest here- then it looks like things are moving that way pretty quickly and we think it’s great. We will do our best to program a festival that is interesting enough to stay relevant regardless of other programming in the city.

If you didn’t hear, grade-A d-bag Richard Branson announced yesterday that he is bringing the Virgin Music festival to Calgary on June 21 and 22, 2008, which happens to fall on the same time slot at next year’s Sled Island.

Sled Island, if you don’t remember, was the music festival held in Calgary for the first time this past summer. It featured an amazing lineup that included The Boredoms, Cat Power, Spoon, Destroyer, The Walkmen, Miracle Fortress, Montag, Chad VanGaalen, Mates of State, Les Savy Fav, The Constantines. It also featured a host of amazing local bands like Woodpigeon, Azeda Booth, The Dudes, Neighborhood Council. I was lucky enough to experience both sides of the event, (my band The Square Waves played the Bunnyhill showcase with 9 other bands), and Pashak and company just did an outstanding job without getting major sponsorship from a beer or cigarette manufacturer.

Though it looks bad, I think these these festivals can co-exist; from the lineups of past V-fest, it seems as if they will be catering to a mutually exclusive group of music lovers. For example, the summer the V-fest that was held in Vancouver featured (ugh): My Chemical Romance, The Killers, AFI, Hot Hot Heat, Rise Against, Billy Talent, Mute Math, Metric, and a ton of shitty bands that no one has ever heard of, (but who are “signed” and have “120 000” “friends” on Myspace, who are using Virgin music fest to “launch” their “brand.” I hate those bands).

Toronto V-fest this year was almost as bad, with the headliners being The Killers and The Smashing Pumpkins. The only point of concern was that Toronto scored a few decent acts that might appeal to people who might otherwise go to Sled Island, like Bjork, Interpol, Explosions in the Sky, or even Voxtrot.

The V-fest is going for those people who listen to X-92 or CJAY, whereas Sled will attract those who don’t bother with the radio at all (or, in a bind, will listen to CJSW).

Its hard to say what will happen – it will depend on the lineup of both festivals (the Calgary V-fest lineup is being announced in January). Here’s hoping that Calgarian music fans vote their conscience, attending the locally run and organized festival over sitting in the shade of a 15-story inflatable Molson Canadian beer can, getting wet in Coke sponsored cool-off tents and drinking a $5 bottle of water.

Picking up myself

I had to come to Calgary today for “incoming student orientation,” which means that I get free lunch, and I would drive twice the distance for that! I pass Claresholm and see this Gerry Garcia look-a-like standing there with a sign that read “CALGARY.” I would have kept going otherwise (dear reader, you must know by now that thou shalt never give a ride to a stranger, especially a stranger with a long gray beard!), but the guy saw me checking him out and gave me a friendly wave. Dear reader, if you knowest anything about your dear author, you know that I am incapable of NOT stopping if a friendly wave is involved.

So I stop, and this guy gets in. 55-ish, long gray beard, shoulder length gray hair; he got in and I caught just the slightest hint of pachouli oil. You get the image. Right away, this guy goes to town in one of the longest monologues I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. Here is what I learned.

– He is a musician who makes most of his money busking at the Calgary zoo. He ONLY does originals.

– He has toured ALL OVER THE WORLD, with a band that had the same name as a gun and isn’t .38 special.

– While touring, you are apt to get involved in 1. Drugs 2. Orgies 3. Hell’s Angels bikers.

– This guy has over 500 songs, but not one is recorded. That is going to happen some time. He has written songs specifically for the likes of Paul Brant, Shania Twain, and (I shit you not) DAR MCBOUL (aka the old A Channel Weatherguy. If you catch this reference, you understand the severity of this). However, they haven’t heard these songs and they haven’t been recorded yet.

– He did the biker-bar circuit, with a lead singer who won the crowd over by flashing her breasts.

– He has written 10 novels, none of which are published and are sitting in a box in his apartment. Included: a fantasy novel, a childrens book about vowels (which will have an accompanying CD of his songs), a 12 step addictions recovery guide and some others that “you can’t know about yet.”

– He is a recovering crack addict, and has a concept album “ready to go” about said recovery, and also… Jesus. He is planning to tour the prison systems with his concept album: first Canada, and then the entire US.

– He is writing a jingle for Pepsi that incorporate all of their own jingles into one meta-jingle.  Once they buy his idea, “it’s all going to happen, man.”

– He has fathered children all over the world.

– After he divorced his wife, she immediately got cancer and died, but this wasn’t from him “wishing it on her,” though he has carried around that guilt ever since.

– He HATES Edmonton, and “all the bullshit that it stands for… man, you know?”

Anyways, there is more, and I will try and think of more (I had to write this all down as fast as possible, lest I forget some of the details).