Archive for January, 2004

Saturday, January 31st, 2004

Songs From A Blue Guitar

Melancholy was my prevelant mood last night, and Mark Kozelek of Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon was as good a person as any to soundtrack it. Local openers Ghost Story were a complete unknown to me going in, I’d never even heard their name before. Bolstered by ubiquitous local steel player Bob Egan, they managed to impress with their lush if slightly samey take on spacey country music. They could stand to vary things up a little, but they definitely had a sound I could get into.

Kozelek shuffled onstage around midnight and despite still recovering from the flu, he played a pretty solid hour and a half set of old and new material. I’m only peripherally familiar with the RHP stuff, owning only Retrospective and having heard only bits and pieces of the SKM record, but that didn’t keep me from appreciating his huge, warm voice (if it was adversely affected by his illness I couldn’t tell) and intricate guitar playing. Hell, even the material I did know was tough to recognize as he was careful to rearrange all the songs. He capped off the set by satisfying almost all the song requests that had been flying about through an extended medley. As is often the case with solo acoustic sets, the songs began sounding an awful lot alike after a while. Still, it was enjoyable even if I was beginning to nod off towards the end.

Despite being dead front-row centre, I’m not real happy with the photos I got. The lighting was so dim that the colour- and level-corrected images are fairly grainy. I could have used the flash but it would have surely blinded an already grumpy performer – not an ideal scenario. And anyway, a guy sitting on a stool with an acoustic guitar for 90 minutes isn’t the most dynamic subject matter.

Splendid chats with Richard Lloyd about life in Television and Rocket From The Tombs.

Fluxblog has the Avalanches remix of the title track from the new Belle & Sebastian single, I’m A Cuckoo, available to download.

Billboard talks to Fountains of Wayne about Grammy nominations and other sundry topics.

Hayden will be opening for Sarah Harmer on her upcoming Spring tour. He’ll have a new record to push around the same time.

Chart finds out what Will Cullen Hart of Olivia Tremor Control and Circulatory System has been up to and gets the lowdown on the OTC reissues.

np – Royal City / At Rush Hour The Cars

Friday, January 30th, 2004

Ain't No Place For A Poor Boy Like Me

As I already mentioned, my trip was hardly Hunter S Thompson-worthy. I was there with my folks, aunts and uncles, so it was pretty sedate, and I didn’t really go with any specific plans, a gambling budget or really, any notion of how to gamble. I learned on the fly, at moderate cost to my wallet, but after my brother and cousin left a couple days in, I pretty much quit playing – not so much fun on your own. The bulk of my trip was spent gawking at The Strip – and there’s lots to gawk at. I took some pictures which I’ve linked at the appropriate spots in this post.

There’s a shitload of casinos. Everybody knows that. And they’re massive. But you know, once you get past the theme gimmick of each one, they’re really pretty much the same, at least to the casual tourist. They’re like Ernest movies. They might change the setting or offer up a plot twist, but they’re fundamentally the same beast. Luxor? Ernest Goes To Egypt and Gambles. Paris? Ernest Goes To France and Gambles. The MGM Grand? Ernest Goes To Hollywood and Gambles. Of course, this also means that if you like one, you’ll like them all.

Don’t get me wrong, I was impressed – all the casinos were amazing examples of excess. The Venetian and its indoor canals, The Bellagio and it’s opulance, even by Vegas standards (footnote – this is the casino that was robbed in the Ocean’s Eleven remake), and Caesar’s Palace and it’s utter enormity. It was in the fancy-pants mall at Caesar’s that I saw Mike Tyson doing some shopping and posing for photos with tourists. Myself excluded. My favorite spot was probably New York New York, with its roller-coaster, hotel in the shape of the Manhattan skyline and compact Statue Of Liberty out front. It was also the site of my biggest winnings (I rule the nickel slots!) and had the free shuttle bus back to the resort I was staying at. Can’t beat that.

Beyond the new Strip, there’s also old downtown Vegas, home of the original casinos and now pretty much relegated to poor stepchild status. They’ve built a giant metal canopy overtop old Freemont Avenue and run nightly lightshows on the thing – I didn’t see the show, but from the look of the setup, it’s got to take some crazy kind of electricity to juice. It was here that I got to satisfy my goal of seeing the big-ass cowboy sign as well as sample a deep-fried Twinkee. Not as gross as it sounds, actually, but still most definitely bad for you. Also bad for you are back-to-back all-you-can-eat buffets for lunch and dinner. Dear God, the gorging that went on. But hey – when in America, do as Americans do, right?

I did take a little time on my last day there to slip away from The Strip and head into the rest of the city, mostly to hunt out guitar and record stores, but also just to see Las Vegans in their native habitat. I also got to experience the wonders of Las Vegas public transit. Traffic in that town is crazy – I saw two four-car bang-ups in 24 hours, and according to the cabbies, that was not unusual at all.

Some other pics I couldn’t work into the narrative… Bally’s, The Barbary Coast, the scale Eiffel Tower at Paris, the scale Arc de Triomphe at Paris, the scale important fountain of some description at Paris, and a random shot of The Strip.

That’s enough about Vegas.

The New Year have completed the sophomore effort, The End Is Near, and will foist it on the world May 18, tour to follow. Forces are at work to bring the band to Canada, but apparently it’s a bit of a tough sell. Maybe Conan O’Brien will help convince them we’re worth visiting?

Some more Toronto shows just announced – On March 23rd at Lee’s Palace, Enon will make you jump around and then The Black Heart Procession will make you cry in your beer. Talk about your manic depressive bills. The Decemberists bring their stilted folk-pop to the Horseshoe on March 29th – $7 gets you on board Colin Meloy’s jolly voyage of the damned. I’m looking forward to this one, but not as much as I’m looking forward to Neko Case and The Sadies at Lee’s Palace on April 3rd and 4th. Fuck YEAH.

Mission Of Burma’s first new album in over 20 years will be entitled ONoffON and hit the streets May 4.

The second volume of Spiritualized’s Complete Works b-sides collection will be out February 10.

Only one more 2003 year-end list… I promise. Buddyhead’s best and worst of 2003. Who else would pit Liz Phair against Mr T? Check out the links to their lists for 2000 through 2002 while you’re at it. Merciless like Ming. From Burned By The Sun.

Zooey Deschanel has been cast as Trillian (nee Tricia McMillian) in the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy film. Also confirmed are Martin Freeman (from BBC’s The Office) as Arthur Dent and Mos Def(!) as Ford Prefect.

Always wanted to be a graffiti artist, but too lazy to start? Let Hektor do the work for you.

np – Ted Leo & The Pharmacists / Hearts Of Oak

Thursday, January 29th, 2004

Spectacular Views

Yesterday I woke up to mountains and palm trees. Today it’s slush and three feet of snow. Still, it’s good to be home.

I don’t fly much, so it’s all still pretty novel for me. Heading down, I was lucky enough to have clear skies all the way down, and was able to bask in the majesty of the American west. Seeing the Rockies give way to the deserts, canyons and gorges of Colorado, Utah and Nevada were something else. That is some amazing topography. Then, on the way home flying up from Dallas, I got to see America at night – the lights of each metropolitan area clustered like little galaxies in the darkness. St. Louis was particularly impressive, though I couldn’t make out the arch. Not a big fan of the recycled air in planes, or the noise, but you can’t beat the view.

I am still gathering my head together, so I’ll talk about the trip itself tomorrow. I also have a shitload of email to wade through. For now, here’s a smattering of the news I’ve been missing out on while away:

Leroy Bach (keys, guitars, mult-instrumentalist) has left Wilco as of the completion of the new record, full details about which should be made available in the next few days. That band certainly has problems with multi-instrumentalists.

I go away for a few days and Largehearted Boy redesigns, complete with a LOGO. I need a logo. And he consolidates all the links to downloads I regularly steal into an easy-to-read format (Daily Downloads).

Luna’s new long-player is tenatively titled Rendezvous and should be out in late Spring or early Summer on JetSet.

NOW shoots the shit with Mark Kozelek, in town tomorrow night at the Horseshoe.

New Magnetic Fields album on May 4. Title is i.

Air at the Kool Haus April 17.

Sarah Harmer plays the Winter Garden Theatre April 26 and 27.

Bob Dylan plays the Ricoh Colliseum March 19. The man certainly is getting a lot of mileage out of Love And Theft.

God, I can’t help but feel totally out of the loop. So much to catch up on. Like did you know the Beatles broke up? Damn.

np – Metric / Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?

Wednesday, January 28th, 2004

The Gilded Palace Of Sin

So I’m here in the Las Vegas airport, waiting for my flight to Dallas and from there, back to Toronto. How’s the weather? This little terminal is kinda like a laptop, which is as hard to type on as the one yesterday. And don’t even get me started on the touchpad mouse.

Just saying hi. I’m ready to go home home now. Vegas was nice but home will be better. Unless it’s buried in snow.

But I did catch 24 last night. I don’t remember enough to offer commentary, but I realize I did just open myself up to scorn for watching television instead of gambling. Well bully for me.

Anyway, I’m going now. Bye.

Tuesday, January 27th, 2004

"Titanic Sinks Every Night"

The above is one of the ads that the Bally’s casino is running in their big pixelboard. I thought it was fascinating.

Okay, so I figured I should make at least ONE post from Sin City, so this is it. And it’ll be brief because internet access costs by the minute and this keyboard is kinda sticky. Yeah. Don’t ask.

I have been stuck on east coast time the whole while so don’t expect to hear crazy stories about being here – I’ve been wiped out by like 10:00 local time, so… yeah. LAME. But anyway, this place is fascinating. I’ll post a full writeup after I get home. Which should be late tomorrow. But sufficed to say I’ve at least had a good time and a relaxing time. And yes, I’ve lost money gambling like every good tourist should.

I am heading back out onto the Strip now, going to brave the gauntlet of guys handing out handbills and catalogs (yes, catalogs) of hookers. What a place.

Hey look, a blackjack table…

np – Vegas, baby.