All that jazz

A few years ago, I self-imposed November as Jazz month, where I put away the rock and roll and pop music and try, unsuccessfully, to culture myself. This goes on for a week, sometimes longer and then I pretend that “Jazz Month” doesn’t matter.

Part of my problem is that, because of my lo-bro upbringing and my default music taste, jazz music is really hard for me to comprehend. There are a million records by a million jazz musicians and it is hard to know where to start. When this journey began (November, 2003), I read a lot of Amazon listicles and All Music Guides for people just like me, and dove in. But, for every record I really got into (Miles Davis “Kind of Blue”, Charles Mingus “Ah Um”), there were a dozen that I really hated. That I found annoying or, worse, boring.

With pop music, when I hate something, I turn it off. During jazz month, I endure the stuff I hate in hopes that somehow it will make me a better person, and then put on “Kind of Blue” again. It’s the one jazz record that I own that doesn’t have to wait until November.

Thing is, I have this weird thing about liking “Kind of Blue” as much as I do. It always feels so obvious. It’s the one jazz record everyone can get into, it’s the one jazz record everyone owns, and if they don’t own it, it’s the one jazz record everyone should own. I’m listening to it right now. If Jazz Month slowly gets whittled down to five records that I enjoy and appreciate, I suppose that is better than nothing.

Where am I going wrong? Which records am I missing out on?

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).

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.

Sled Island Preview Playlist

Here is the playlist for the Sled Island preview tomorrow afternoon from 430 to 6!

Jane Vain and the Dark Matter – Don’t Mind Us

Cat Power – Cross Bones Style

The Forbidden Dimension – Bloody Show

C’mon – Waste My Time

Destroyer – Students Carve Hearts Out of Coal (alternate version)

Chad VanGaalen – Gun

Mates of State – Goods

Montag – Going Places

Miracle Fortress – Mabe Lately

The Summerlad – Spent the Weak

My Bloody Valentine – When You Sleep

Rocket Smog – Mission to Inglewood

Aaron Booth – Couldn’t Wait

Lucid 44 – Why Don’t You Just…

The Grim Beat – Red Light

The Square Waves – All That’s Left

Eric Bachman – Lonesome Warrior

Rush Hour Renegades, already in Podcast form

If you go to, you will be able to see our playlist, as well as listen or download the entire program in Mp3 form.

We have also made a Podcast feed, which you can subscribe to HERE. We have also submitted the podcast to iTunes, which you will be able to find shortly with the search function within iTunes. That way, you will be able to download each episode as it comes up.

What are you waiting for?

Topics discussed between amazing music for show one:

– The meaning of the Velvet Underground’s “Here She Comes Now”

– Women talking in baby voices

– What kinds of clothes Paul imagines he would be wearing in the disco era

– Joel Plaskett, and if he sucks or not.

– Disco, and if it sucks or not.

– How “Sled Island” sounds like “Slut Island”

Sled Island

A follow up to my post below on Sled Island.

Buy a pass.  Take a couple days off work, and get your fill of live music. There are bands for everyone, and even if you haven’t heard of many of them, you can hear almost all of them via Myspace.

I won’t take any excuses.

The Square Waves Shows


For anyone who reads this who doesn’t know, my band The Square Waves is playing at Sled Island at the end of June. This is a four day, multi-venue festival in Calgary running June 27-30, featuring some big name acts like Cat Power, Spoon, The Walkmen, Les Savy Fav, Destroyer, Mates of State, Boredoms, Erich F’n Bachman (Archers of Loaf / Crooked Fingers). We are playing on June 30 at an all-ages “new bands to watch for” show at some gallery or something called Emmedia, or EM Media perhaps. Tickets for the entire festival are $180. For our little show it’s just $8.00. We are second last in a roster of many, so it should be fun and nerve racking, and a definite high or low point of the Square Waves career, depending on how we sound. You can buy tickets for just our show, but you have to get them ONLINE.

Before that, however, we are playing a June 22nd show at Jester’s, which used to be The Edge or The York or whatever. We are opening for Calgary’s own Hot Little Rocket, who recently recorded an album with indie-super producer Steve Albini. I hate Steve Albini, but we’ll save that for another day.

Also, a nice band called Reily (Brampton, Ontario) are playing. To my knowledge, The Acorn are not playing.

My friend Gillian made this poster. She is gonna be famous one day, and it is cool that she does these for us for relatively low cost. Gillian rules.

Oh, and I copied most of this word for word from Future Shock, because I am lazy.

Music, apparently, makes the people come together.

What are you talking about?

So here is March. Without looking, I have no idea what day. I think it is Sunday (?) and last night’s wonky “too early” daylight savings has messed up all my clocks. One says it is 08:00, another 10:00, another says it is 11:00. Needless to say, this is only adding to my sense of confusion.

Over the last few days, I have been marking student blogs almost non-stop for my Media course. I am finding that I am frequently cracking up, as some of my students are really funny. For example, this passage struck me as hilarious:

Because the theatre was so full I was unable to secure a buffer seat on both sides of me. So I ended up sitting beside a teenager and his younger brother. Seeing Nicholas Cage’s head turn into a flaming skull was apparently something they could bond over. The movie began with a mood setting if somewhat lame introduction, which gave me time to ponder how near I was to a stranger. I have not been in such close proximity to an adolescent boy since . . . well since I was an adolescent girl. If we had both turned our heads at the same time we could have kissed.

Yes indeed.

In the last class meeting, I had them all bring a piece of music (the class was on the social meanings infused in music). Then, throughout my planned lecture, I had “face off” slides, where two students had to come to the front and play their song. After both played, they had to tell the class the song name, who sang it, and why they love it so much. Then, the class had to anonymously vote for the favourite of the two.

I think this went off well. Due to the blogging nature of the course, I get instant feedback, and there was lots of it this week. One student clearly hated it:

So, first thing is first, people in the class have terrible music taste.  Maybe it’s me with the bad taste, but I honestly can’t say I liked too many songs

This really got me worried, as it was the first review I read. Yet, everyone else seemed to enjoy themselves, such as the following, which has to be the best complement one could ever get:

That was probably one of the single best university classes I have ever been to. I thought it was really cool to listen to a bunch of new music I had not heard before.

Like everything, you win some, you lose some. All I know is that when I teach this class again, I am moving the music lecture to the front, as I think for many students it was a weird sort of “bonding” exercise. When you hear something you obviously think is terrible, and then you hear someone explain what it means to them, it breaks down barriers.  Like Madonna (or whoever writes music for Madonna) said: Music / makes the people / come together.

Dinosaur Jr.

Heads up….

Dinosaur Jr. are playing Calgary on May 25. Tickets go on sale on Friday.

Dinosaur Jr. were one of the first “Alternative” bands I got into, yet they really don’t get much play, aside from the song “Little Furry Things” – which I will never, ever get sick of. See for yourself.

In other concert news, Morrissey is planning a 40 date “North American” tour this summer… I will move heaven and earth to see that show.

Dinosaur Jr:

Little Furry Things 

Freak Scene

Feel The Pain

Almost Ready (brand new!)

Your body is, indeed, a “wonderland”

I posted this on Mel’s facebook tonight. It deserves an audience;


If at any given moment, someone asked me “what is the worst song ever written?” I would, without hesitation reply: “Your Body is a Wonderland” by John Mayer” For the win!

The sad reality is that I think about this stuff, on the off chance someone actually were to ask such a question. If they do, I will be prepared.

Also: this song has been the answer to this hypothetical question since I first heard it in 2002. I don’t think it is in any danger of being replaced (though, there were a few Black Eyed Peas songs that almost pushed it out of top spot).

If someone were to, hypothetically, ask you this question, what would be your reply?


Elliott Smith

Elliott Smith‘s label, Kill Rock Stars, will release New Moon, a two-disc collection of songs recorded in 1995-1997, the period concurrent with the making of Smith’s classic KRS albums Elliott Smith and Either/Or. The album is due May 8th, with a portion of the proceeds from sales going to Outside In, a Portland, Oregon social service agency helping homeless youth. New Moon was mixed by Smith’s longtime friend and collaborator, producer/engineer Larry Crane, who also serves as the archivist for Smith’s estate.

Needless to say, this news made my day.

In a press release, Kill Rock Stars noted that the Los Angeles Police Department’s investigation into Smith’s death on October 21, 2003 remains open.

MP3: Elliott Smith: Between the Bars [from the Either/Or LP]