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.