Planet of Sound
Planet of Sound
The Pixies with a truly brilliant performance of Tame. Without a doubt, one of the highlights of the show.
… is a valley full, full of pioneer. We’re not just kids, to say the least. We got ideas to us that’s dear. Like capitalist, like communist. Like lots of things you’ve heard about.”
That is how it began. By the time Frank barked ‘May-bee, oh ba-by, it’s educational,’ you could not but realise you were watching the Pixies. They were everything I expected. And moar.
The day had begun in grey drizzle, surely a sign that the promised rain was going to dampen the day, and perhaps worse. By the time, downtown Toronto was reached, breakfast and beer were had, and Manchester United had somehow defeated Arsenal 2-1, it was bright sunshine and I was cursing the decision to leave the shades at home. But then again, it was probably because I left my shades at home that the sun did come out. So all the people who had a cracking day under blazing sunshine have me to thank.
It takes a little longer than anticipated to get from the football to the Molson Amphitheatre and after sundry running around, we just about caught the last ten minutes of Grizzly Bear. Frankly, given their melodic swirly choruses, one could hear them from across the park. Sloan, grandfathers of Canadian indie rock, were on next and they were pretty good, putting on an entertaining set. This was despite the lead singer/bassist Chris Murphy singing with a dislocated collarbone. This led to much switching around and the assistance of some pals – ““As soon as my arm gets better, I’m going to fire all these assholes,” Murphy jokes, in between tambourine throwing between band members.
Paolo was next! Seriously did not know what to expect from Scottish crooner Paolo Nutini but we gave him the benefit of the doubt and stuck around to watch. He was pretty good. Very energetic. The women certainly seemed to lap him up. His set was helped by the fact there was that usual festival contingent of a handful of Scots, dancing around with the St. Andrew’s Cross.
The general Scottish celebration continued for the next act for Franz Ferdinand are also Scottish. They were exceptionally good, a fine appetizer for the main act to follow (apparently Ben Harper was closing. Who knew though?). They appear to have the festival gig down pat, starting with Dark of the Matinee, and including old favourites – Take Me Out, This Fire, Do You Want To – while showcasing the new album – including Ulysses, No You Girls, and closer Lucid Dreams, ending with a massive jam on top of the drums. Indeed, the drumset was unceremoniously knocked over by show’s end. Very, very good.
Then the main act. Pixies! They stroll on stage with minimal fanfare but to huge cheers, Frank Black looking like a huge bouncer – resembling the ‘Incredible Hulk’ according to one review, Kim Deal tinier than I ever realised, Joey Santiago looking like a hardass, and David Lovering looking pretty normal for a professional magician-drummer. Starting with U-Mass, they fit in 27 songs into a supreme set of around an hour and twenty minutes. For a band that has had a break from touring and last released an album donkey years ago, the overwhelming impression you get is how incredibly tight and cohesive they are as a unit. I’m pretty sure I spent half their set grinning like an idiot. Frank Black, as apparently is his wont, never said a word all night, but Kim Deal’s enthusiasm was infectious, grinning throughout with the occasionally bubbly ‘thank you’ and a detailed intro to the Neil Young cover Winterlong, part of the Doolittle B-sides that they are brushing off for the Doolittle shows later this summer and fall.
They proceeded to rip through a large chunk of Doolittle – I Bleed, Gouge Away, No. 13 Baby, Crackity Jones, Hey, Dead and an awesome mid- to late-set attack of Wave of Mutilation, an awesome Tame, Here Comes Your Man, Debaser and Monkey Gone to Heaven; plenty off Surfer Rosa – Bone Machine, Broken Face, Vamos with stellar guitarwork by Santiago, Where is My Mind? and a wonderful Gigantic. There was also excellent representation from Come on Pilgrim in the form of a stellar Isla de Encanta, Nimrod’s Son, Holiday Song and Ed is Dead, Dig for Fire off Bossanova, Planet of Sound, U Mass and Head On off Trompe Le Monde. Kim Deal saw them off into the night with traditional closer Into the White. I’m definitely missing one song but I can’t for the life of me work out which one it is. In any case, it was an awesome set. My particular highlights were singing along to Monkey Gone to Heaven, a furious Tame, the Spanish double act of Isla de Encanta and Vamos, and the brilliant last half of the show. Not that the first half was not brilliant but when you stack in the quality of songs that came in the second half, it’s kinda amazing. By the time Debaser came on, I think I almost died. The only disappointment was that it finished. We most certainly were not in the mood for poor old Ben Harper after that, though we did catch most of Rural Alberta Advantage on the side stage. I like those guys, recommend them highly. It was a little bit of a silly stage though. I would have had them on the main stage, earlier in the evening.
Having paid Harper the compliment of listening to his first song, it was off and away, to food and beer. Beer was especially required since the $11.50 price tag on pints was frankly extortionate, especially given the fact the sole beer on sale was Molson Canadian. Vileness. I managed to buy one beer all evening.
It didn’t really matter though. I saw the Pixies live. And they were superb. I’ll try and upload some videos and then link them here at some stage but I’m having difficulty getting them on youtube. When I work it out, they shall be here.
My favourite Scots. Been around for quite a while now, always damned good. You wouldn’t immediately think of them as an amazing live act but from what I’ve seen and heard, they’re… well, amazing:
Frank! You also get some extra Pixies this way too.
#3. Lou Reed
Again. No Velvet Underground. But Lou Reed would be legendary. I suppose for greatest awesomeness, this would have to be in New York, Greenwich Village to be precise.
#2. David Bowie
I’m not 100% sure about this. Bowie is quite the old timer now so it won’t be anything like the days of Ziggy Stardust, but the guy is a born performer. And he is David Bowie. Judging by youtube, there ain’t anything wrong with his recent form:
I fully expect to see this today (fingers crossed):
Ok. A bit late…
#15. Bob Dylan
Ok. So he’s old and his live shows are allegedly not amazing. That probably just makes him #15 and not #1. It’s still Bob. I missed him this last year but considering he’s on a never ending tour, one can hope he’ll be back!
#14. The Wedding Present
Little known but damn good, I’ve always liked The Wedding Present. Technically, there are probably better and more well known bands out there but these guys put on a tight show. And they are British.
Great, great rock band. Judging by this, they are still amazing:
If I can’t have myself some Smiths, one can always have a little bit of Morrissey. His solo stuff has been patchy but the man has charisma. Oodles of it.
#11. The White Stripes
As I said, came very near to catching them live but was foiled. I know Jack White has moved on to other things but let’s hope that’s temporary. Voted by Rolling Stone as the #1 live band around these days and while I don’t agree with that, I sure as hell wouldn’t mind seeing them live.
My favourite rock band of the 21st century.
#9. Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band
BRUCE. The Boss. Must be one of the greatest live acts of all time.
#8. The Rolling Stones
Legends. They may be old but dude, they can still put on a show and a half. I don’t think I really need to sell them.
#7. Sonic Youth
Pah. Do I really have to explain myself?
Hmm. Muse. Higher than Sonic Youth? I think there would be quite a few arguing that this might be a little bit of a fallacy but Muse have always been considered one of the best live acts in the world, not just the UK. They are also pretty much in their prime or there or thereabouts. I’d pay good money to see them.
So. To the list. After much consideration…
Ok, so if I can’t have me some Pavement and this sort of thing,
I suppose the best I can do is settle for some Stephen Malkmus. I can’t say I’m as big a fan of his solo stuff as I am of Pavement but these things are always arbitrary. As with Frank Black, comparisons to a previous era of adulation are never going to be fair or accurate. In any case, a live show would no doubt be magnificent. An example:
#19. Saint Etienne
My left-field choice but I’ve always had a soft spot for these guys. I am 100% sure it is the only electronicky snyth dance pop sorta band on this list. Sarah Cracknell may have gone past 40 but I’m pretty sure they would still put on a very good live act. This is He’s on the Phone:
#18. My Bloody Valentine
I missed them on their reunion tour of 2008. I believe I had just arrived in Canada and didn’t get wind of it till it was too late. Frankly they heard as good as they had ever done. So LOUD. Legend has it that the feedback in MBV shows was turned up so high that the faint-hearted simply could not manage it. Looking at When You Sleep from their Loveless tour of 1991, I have absolutely no difficulty in believing this is true:
From here. And looking at them from 2008, they still seem pretty damned good. And loud:
#17. Tom Waits
The gravelly voiced maestro is an awesome performer. I don’t listen to his music regularly but am pretty damned sure that I would be utterly entertained live. Sadly, he doesn’t tour very often.
#16. The Breeders
Missed them this month because of my stupid mini-thesis. I’m pretty sure they will be back though.
Whew. That was tough. Moar later.
So. In just under a week I shall be seeing one of the greatest bands in the world, a moment that I feared would never happen and as it has not happened yet, until it does happen, I shall ensure everything is duly crossed. When I went back to Sri Lanka in 2003, no one sent me the memo about the Pixies re-forming. Frankly, if I had known, Frank, I would probably have sold my kidney or something to continue my studies in the UK. But you didn’t tell me, Frank. Indeed, it was about as likely an occurrence as a black President in the US. Evidently, stranger things have happened. When I heard, it was too late. I was in Sree Lanka and the exit strategies were dire. Knowing the Pixies, they would never ever again tour after 2004 so I was resigned to my fate.
But no. They are playing. In Toronto. At the Virgin Festival. Fingers crossed, Frank doesn’t catch a cold or decide he hates the idea of the Pixies again or Kim Deal doesn’t break her finger in a bizarre accident. This incidentally is what happened to Jack White one day before T in the Park 2003 causing the White Stripes to pull out. We found out as we were driving up to Scotland. Not much you can do about it then. But the White Stripes, however much I like them, were really second attraction to R.E.M. so I wasn’t gutted. In this instance, the Pixies are very much No. 1 attraction. If they pulled out the day before, I think I might be rather annoyed. Franz Ferdinand, Rural Alberta Advantage, Grizzly Bear, Sloan, Ben Harper (in order of preference) are all good but they ain’t going to fill the bottomless void left by Pixies.
So anyway, while I wait for my minithesis to come back with a clean bill of health (and not a ‘this is shit’) from my supervisor, I wondered what bands or artists I would really, really like to see. Before I die, so to speak (hopefully that gives me a fair bit of time, fingers crossed). I’ll leave the Pixies on the list, as there is no guarantee Frank won’t catch a cold, but I have not considered the following: R. E. M, Idlewild, Flaming Lips, Stars and Leonard Cohen. I have seen them. I have also seen The Proclaimers, The Cardigans and the Crash Test Dummies but somehow doubt they’d make such a list.
I have also reluctantly left the following off the list because I fear there is no chance they will ever re-form: Pavement, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Belly, Led Zeppelin (at least not for anything more than an extortionate one-off show) and Pink Floyd. Likewise, The Who is left off because 50% of them are dead, and frankly, Guns ‘n Roses is no longer Guns ‘n Roses. Alice in Chains and INXS should be ashamed for still existing.
I shall ponder this and return with the twenty best, just in time to proclaim #1 before VFest. Woot.
As is often the case in life, when one’s academic life is getting increasingly hectic – I have to write a 60 page paper (or at least have a draft) by early August and do a fair bunch of other related work for my research assistance work – one finds that the social life gets exponentially more active. Conversely, when I have eff-all to do, everyone else has eff-all to do too. I’m not really complaining, merely pointing out one of life’s countless ironies. Anyway, sadly my social life will likely go back to its usual mundaneness by this weekend and I can concentrate on writing. Problem being even looking at my presently completed 4 pages and trying to plot the next line, let alone sub-section, section and chapter makes me feel exceedingly ill. Note that by 4 pages I mean that I have begun the 4th page and I am several lines in to it. So really I have 3 3/4 pages.
In the spirit of delaying such eventualities, I chose to go watch Moon last evening. I had vague recollection of viewing the trailer for this at some stage but had no real idea what it was about. Something about the moon and sci-fi, I believe, were my key recollections. Anywho, it basically revolves around one character, Sam – played by Sam Rockwell – who is on the moon as an employee of a company that is engaged in clean energy production on the moon. Rockwell’s character is the only employee stationed on the moon – on a fixed three year contract – and his job is to harvest helium 3 and rocket it back to Earth. The film begins with Sam only having two weeks left before returning to Earth and the strains imposed by being in isolation for so long are evident as is the desire to rejoin his family, visible to him only via periodic recorded video transmissions from Earth.
It is more of a throwback to older sci-fi films where psychological factors and character development, often in isolation, are pivotal to the storyline. I thought it was superbly made and despite the very limited budget of $5 million, or perhaps because of it, the scenes on the moon’s surface are minimalist and believable. The quirks of the main character and the script are well done. I loved the base robot, Gerty, and its interactions with Rockwell. I thought the choice of Kevin Spacey for the voice was perfect. Most importantly, the main soundtrack – pretty much spanning the length of the film – was superb. Where a film like this could stumble was in philosophising or moralizing too much about science and its excesses. It skillfully evades that potential pitfall and focuses more on tracing Sam’s character and its development as he uncovers some unsettling aspects about his life and his work. Sam Rockwell’s acting, furthermore, is excellent.
In a cinema market replete with summer blockbusters, sequels and franchises, it’s refreshing to see the occasional low budget flick that not only offsets the limitations of budgetary constraints to the extent that it looks undercooked or cheesy, but actually uses those disadvantages to make a film that was very enjoyable. While the premise is intelligent, the execution is deft and thoughtful. Totally recommended, especially for those who like a wee bit of sci-fi.
Here’s the trailer:
Some random observations I thought I would share.
1. Comedy is a tricky thing. Stand-up comedy is particularly tricky. Watched Just for Laughs on the Comedy Network and was yawning at some of the early crap. Then a dude with a Scottish accent came on and I was chortling merrily. Question is does the addition of a Scottish accent permit one to say the same jokes but with greater success or is it because comedians with Scottish accents usually joke about all things Scottish and frankly, there is much fodder for laughter in that land?
2. A similar thing about Scottish bands. Belle and Sebastian are fucking awesome on record but take them live and their wee Scottish accents make them even more fucking awesome. Saw Frightened Rabbit last night and same thing applies. Awesome on record but add Scottish accents, and even more awesome.
3. And then the coup de grace: wee young lasses with Scottish accents. Especially of the lead singer persuasion. Swoon. I love me wee young Scots ladies. Take Camera Obscura for example. Wee young Scots lass. Fracking fantastic.
4. Frightened Rabbit are one of my favourite new bands. Their Midnight Organ Fight is wonderful. Two tracks are favourites of mine in particular – Heads Roll Off and Fast Blood – and though there’s no decent footage from last night’s show at the Horseshoe (there is footage of an acoustic Poke in the encore but that’s sadly grainy), here’s Fast Blood from a show in New York:
5. The Antlers, a band from Brooklyn was the second opening act (I missed the first as I was stuffing myself with nachos) and they were very impressive. Their first album Hospice has met with critical acclaim even prior to its release and I’m pretty sure these guys are going on to big things. The lead singer has an exceptional voice and they’re a very good live band which is always useful in building up a profile. This is the lead single Bear:
6. I saw a couple of other excellent concerts earlier this year which I will no doubt share details of, if I ever get around to it.
7. I could do with my thesis moving along a little quicker. I was on page 4 last Thursday and I am on page 4 today. I think I’ve added two lines. That’s progress, no?
Edit: There is a semi-decent version of the acoustic Poke on youtube:
The exit strategy has finally come to its fullest fruition. Tineh will be starting on the actual doctoral path come September. Four, five years down the line, Dr. TinyLF will presumably stagger out with permanent head damage.
This, needless to say, called for a celebration. A celebration involving pints of Guinness and karaoke. I would imagine that this may be the only time one would catch me singing Wonderwall in a faux Manc accent and a Mexican hat on my head. In a pub full of people. On an aside, Guinness is not bad at all. I never used to like the stuff but it went down very well. And there was a lot to get down. The refrain “It’s going to be a long, long time” as I sang backing vocals on Rocket Man also seemed very apt for some reason.
So I’ll be here for a while then. That’s good to know.
Here’s leaving you with some Pink Floyd: