Posts Tagged ‘Toronto’

Jeffery Straker Live at Revival, November 27th 2012

December 3, 2012

Calvin Fehr Photo    April 30 2012 455 crop 300DPI sm

I have seen Jeffery Straker before.  And I can show you what I saw, because I also filmed that show and made two little ‘tour vlogs’ out of the performance and backstage antics. (Part One, Part Two)  Needless to say, I love this guy as a performer and a songwriter, so the Toronto CD release party at Revival last week was a priority.

Here I must note that you can distinguish Jeffery now with the addition of a middle name: classic ‘Jeffery Straker’ and the new ‘Jeffery Michael Straker.’  Or JS and JMS for short.  The former, a piano-cabaret riot.  The latter, well…he’s still a riot, but there’s an alternative twist to his sound.  And you could see the difference in the performance when we switched between JS and JMS.

Both were amazing to watch.  I shouldn’t let what I just said confuse you.  Just it was like the difference between…and I’m sure he’ll kill me for this…’Mmmm Bop’ Hanson and the alt-rock trio Hanson which emerged a couple of years later.  Both are awesome…one is fun, the other is fun and refined.

Actually, better…the difference between Til Tuesday and Aimee Mann.

Starting off with the track Rosetta Stone from his new Danny Michel produced album ‘Vagabond‘ set the tone that this wasn’t going to be like last year’s Revival show, which came complete with Burlesque dancers.  Following this up with his first single from the album, Birchbark Canoe was only outshone by the fact that beloved children’s entertainer Fred Penner joined him on stage to play harmonica (his mimed performance of Jeffery choking him on the streets of Toronto brought me straight back to Fred Penner’s Place…for some reason…I don’t know why, Fred never got choked on that show!)

Slings and Arrows and Gone, two tracks from ‘Under the Soles of my Shoes‘ were spot on and showed the similarities between JS and JMS: the songwriting is still there though the underlying mood has changed.  You could tell this performance was honed from years of shows and this recent tour supporting ‘Vagabond.’

I must admit that the two songs that hit me the most were Burn the Boats with some extra help from some very talented vocalists, and the only cover of the night, Shiver Me Timbers originally by Tom Waits.  Really…the Tom Waits track was the one that settled JMS into my mind.  The sombre and pained tones of Waits’ piano from the album ‘The Heart of Saturday Night‘ (during his early blues piano days, like Ol’ 55 and Grapefruit Moon, not the Swordfishtrombonesiness of ‘Rain Dogs’…) was an interesting choice that would not have worked during the ‘…Soles of my Shoes‘ shows.  It would have been like Lady Gaga breaking into Cats in the Cradle.

But it worked last Tuesday at Revival.  Because I wasn’t watching JS…I was watching JMS…and it wasn’t jarring, or strange.  It was actually quiet awesome, and I can’t wait to see more.

You can find Jeffery Straker tweeting away @jefferystraker and on Facebook too.  For all things informative and musical, head to his website!

The Set List:

Rosetta Stone
Birchbark Canoe (feat. Fred Penner)
Slings & Arrows (from 2011 album)
Fallin (from earlier repertoire)
Gone (2011 album)
Burn the Boats (guest vocalists)
Botanic Gardens
Shiver me Timbers (Tom Waits)
Somewhere Between (earlier repertoire)
Sans Souci


Shock and Awe: The Allnighter Film Festival Of Great Schlock

July 26, 2012

The Poster for Shock and Awe!

On Saturday, June 23rd I attended one of the coolest events in the world ever!  A B-movie, Grindhouse, Exploitation…whatever you prefer…film festival, which ran from 11:30 pm to 10 am the following day, showcasing five films (and one mystery film) in a row.  It was called Shock and Awe (link to the Facebook page) The experience was…amazing.  Why?


Screened were The Groove Tube, What Waits Below, Horror Hospital, A ‘Mystery’ Film, Rappin’ and the classic Sleepaway Camp.

Every single one of these films were off-beat (for many reasons).  For instance:

  • The Groove Tube was the first spoof on television, complete with gross gags on advertising, a TV show about drug dealers that turns into a cautionary tale produced by the Catholic church, and spontaneous gratuitous nudity among many other great and strangely timeless takes on television in the 70s
  • What Waits Below, a movie that wasn’t sure what it wanted to be, moving unsmoothly from adventure film to explorer film to underground creature film to ‘Can’t We All Just Get Along’ film.  It has one of the best ‘Fade to picture within picture’ scenes I’ve ever seen
  • Horror Hospital, with some of the most blatantly bad but genius lines (I’m not going to rape you!, , and a plot involving automoton creation and a rock star trying to escape the relaxing weekend he had hoped to experience
  • ‘The Mystery Film’ …was amazing…one of the best of the night…and sorry, you had to be there, so I can’t tell you what it was.
  • Rappin’…a hip hop musical…so bad that the rap about the fat kid who loves food was probably the best of the bunch
  • Sleepaway Camp, often considered a Friday the 13th rip off, but a genius flick with guys in short shorts and halter tops, amazing synth pop soundtrack, and a twist that actually shocked me the first time I saw it

I didn’t yawn once.  I wouldn’t have had the opportunity.  Mainly thanks to:


Dion Conflict curated the night, and you could feel his love for the crowd and the movies in each introduction.  An avid film collector, a collector of the rarities and off-beat gems that  might otherwise be lost (apparently his copy of Horror Hospital was on the way to the trash heap when he rescued it!).  This man does exactly what I wish I could, so there’s loads of respect for him and what he does.


The Revue Cinema in Toronto was an amazing setting.  It reminded me of the Bookshelf in Guelph (and to a strange extent, the old 3 Star Cinemas in Guelph as well).  A small theatre, one screen, no long hallways or massive lobbies.  It felt like there was history there, a love of film, and a respect for the film goers.


When I watch these kinds of movies among friends I’m usually the one laughing loudest, commenting the most, and noticing the subtle quirks that everyone else ignores.

So being among like-minded movie goers was life-affirming.  Highlights included:

  • The laughing!  We all seemed to laugh at the same times, and they were times normal people wouldn’t laugh!  During What Waits Below, some RIDICULOUS moments transpire, and we all caught them
  • The clapping!  We applauded exceptionally bad lines that were delivered well.  We applauded exceptionally bad scenes that were crafted with (misplaced) care!
  • The interation!  During Rappin’ we regularly clapped with the rap…during the Mystery Film we had been assigned a series of reactions to specific triggers on film, and not only did we join in, we altered them to make them even more amusing…
  • The mutual love!  At the end of each movie…we applauded…because we appreciated the movie

How can you not be happy to be surrounded by people who are there for the same reason as you are, watching the movies you love to watch at home, but on the big screen!


I will never miss another Shock and Awe.  It was invigorating.  And I highly suggest that if you’re in Toronto, and love the beauty of low-budgetand off-mainstream film, you shouldn’t either.

Follow Dion Conflict on Twitter here: @dionconflict – And read his blog here!

You can follow me on Twitter here: @Potoroo

And a big thanks to @Doug_Tilley for first turning me on to this fest!

Do you have any favourite low-budget, b- or exploitation flicks?  What are they??

Saukrates and Redman and @ the Rockpile

November 1, 2011

I went to my first ‘real’ hip hop show this past Sunday night.  Well, that’s not fair…I’ve seen Shad twice, and I saw a guy open for RJD2 in 2006, though I can’t remember his name.  I say this particular show was ‘real’ because it was a set of hip hop legends, a crowd who was actually there to see them, and I felt out of place.

Now, I should be clear, I’ve been listening to hip hop music all my life (well, most of it) but I’ve never been a part of the culture.  Hip hop is more a culture than a music style, and that’s where I felt out of place.  I’m a gay, pink-mohawked geek.  ‘Nuff said!

On that note…the show was amazing!  Mainly due to the EmCee power of Redman.  As he said (paraphrased), “I’m not a rapper, I’m not up here with fifty other guys rapping…I’m an EmCee.”  And it’s true.  Though the ceremony was held in a bar, and the attendees were a collection of mostly guys in baggy clothes…Redman was the master.  He controlled the room.

From the second he took to the stage he was smiling, you could see he was enjoying himself.  It didn’t matter if there were 300 or 3000 people (another quote from the night), Redman brought it.  He was energetic, tight, personable…I’m gonna say it…he was perfect.

And I’d be a dork if I didn’t mention Saukrates, close friend to Redman and Method Man, and Toronto-raised hip hop legend.  Full disclosure: I know Saukrates, or Soxx…he knows me, Roo, or as he calls me, ‘Kanga-ROO.’  That’s how I ended up at the show…I was there to see Soxx.  And Soxx did an amazing job holding his own, because he was on stage in a BIG shadow, and I mean BIG…Redman isn’t a small-man.

Soxx and Red tore it up.  They aggressively reminisced about the old days, the old hip hop, the 90s hip hop.  I say aggressively because I’ve never seen someone walk down memory lane with a brash “Do you remember this OLD SHIT?”  They pulled out House of Pain and rapped along with it…they pulled out other classics and did the same.  They tested us – turning down the volume now and again to make sure we knew the lyrics – and when we did…they praised us for being real.

Although I stood at the back, near the sound board, I felt completely drawn in, like I was a part of the crowd even though I hadn’t earned my place there.

Hip hop shows are more like theatre than, say, a rock performance.  Granted, an arena act may feel like they’re doing theatre with pyro and visualizations…but that’s Broadway…Hip Hop is legitimate theatre.  They drew us through a story we didn’t even know we were watching.

They played on our ADD, with high-energy, trimmed down versions of their songs…they cut out the boring lead in, the long bridges, the tail end…the song started, bashed us in the head, and ended with Redman releasing the rest of his energy in a primal scream on stage.  He knew he wasn’t on a CD, he was on a stage, and he had an audience…it was a performance.

Redman kept it all connected with some cool tricks: call and answer…repetition (“You all know, I love doing the ooooolllld shit”; “Is T.Dot in the house, one time”, etc.)…teasing a song before dropping it and returning to it later in the night…

I feel so…lame analyzing the show like this…but I can’t describe it in any other way.  It was an experience, not a concert.  And the experience was completely in Redman’s control.  Saukrates kept everything going himself playing several roles – hypeman, backup singer, and even solo act for three songs.  And Redman’s love of Saukrates was not lost…he told the crowd to give the local artists their due, and none more than Soxx.

For my first ‘real’ hip hop show I got a real treat…an amazing performance, and a hand shake from the man himself.  I highly recommend catching him when he comes back through town with Method Man in 2012.  Even if you just hang back by the soundboard, don’t worry…Redman’ll make sure you’re included.

Record Store, Need I Say More

June 8, 2011

…ok, it’s corny to use a lyric from a song I wrote in high school as a subject line…especially if that lyric is to a song that you could not possibly have heard.  Also…since the line is…badly written…but it suits the blog so I continue!!

I miss record stores.  ‘Record Store’ probably means something different to everyone.  To me, it’s the Used Record Stores of Guelph, Orillia, and the side streets of Toronto that I used to frequent in the early 90s.  I would flip through the vinyl (or cassettes, at the start, and later the CDs) and grab sometimes ten…twenty at a time!

I’d discover new (old) bands based on the album cover, or having heard of them before in passing (Pixies, FM, Hawkwind) or because it was next to an album by a band I liked and was only $3 so who cares!!

It was a very cool experience: flipping through albums and discovering treasures.  I found the Peter Hammill albums that a friend played for me when I was younger…the Jazz Butcher, Nash the Slash…

I found an album from the late 70s of electronic music that sounds like an early version of house, where no instruments were listed…just ‘Computors.’ (sic)

I found full length LPs with singles I heard on the radio, and then had a chance to hear the rest of the album. Sometimes I was lucky…other times…the album sucked.

It was, for lack of a less lame word, an adventure every time I walked into one.  I knew I’d be leaving with something, I just didn’t know what.

That whole experience is kinda gone now.  Ric’s Collectables on Main Street closed down right under my nose…I walked by it a thousand times but only went in twice.  The three stores I used to visit in Guelph are gone.  I’m not sure if Round Again Records in Orillia has survived.

Worse, the last record store I visited in Toronto, just yesterday…it ‘looked‘ like an old dingy used record store, but the prices certainly didn’t match. ($20 for a wrecked copy of XTC that I picked up a decade ago for $4?  Seriously?)

I’d love to find a way to bring that feeling to the modern age but…its hard to see how.  iTunes and online digital music retailers are boring.  Sure, I can flip through at a million miles a minute, find the album I’m curious about with a search, even preview it by pressing play…but the ability to discover the albums ‘around‘ it doesn’t exist anymore.

Google and Facebook don’t even really let me discover anything new anymore.  The algorithms are designed to help me find things based on what I’ve already found.  Over time, a search online will only point you in the directions you’ve taken before, never down a path you didn’t know you wanted to take.

Is that progress?!

I’m not pessimistic, though.  The pendulum always swings back and I’d be surprised if reaction to ‘personalized search’ doesn’t lead to a more randomized option.

And with record stores, they are pretty much fading, but something new and adventurous will be on the way.

When I spot the seeds of that new idea sprouting I’ll be sure to talk about it here!

Or…if you see it…please let me know!  I’d rather find out from a real person about a cool new twist on the record store than try to find it online!

The Music Industry Is(n’t) Dead!

May 18, 2011

A pop-piano artist played Hugh’s Room in Toronto last night…he has a new album out in June, an EP this Fall produced by a popular Canadian songwriter, and will be playing with an orchestra this summer during his cross-Canada tour.

A musician is trying to figure out which album she should release – her second solo album or the first album from her new side project – and has decided to film a video for each just to be sure.

A singer from a popular group in the 80s and 90s has a new album, is touring it through southern Ontario, and has revamped his entire social media world so it’s modern and consistent, along with new YouTube videos upcoming which he hopes will go viral.

A hip hop artist from Montreal is in Cuba shooting his second video, his first will be coming out in June and he hopes his catchy tune will make it to radio.

A new label is slowly germinating, already with over 12 artists signed including three well-known hip hop stars, a band from the 80s, and a prolific metal group.

A YouTube star, with nearly 10 Million views on her various cover songs, is recording a solo album of original work and she hopes she can cross over from cover-song sensation to serious and popular artist.

A pop-punk band just finished their third tour, has a video closing in on 10,000 views on YouTube, has a dedicated fan base, and a local radio station has said they think the song is a hit…they are taking a rest at home before going back on the road.

A musician just moved and has plans to get back into songwriting once his home studio is rebuilt and up and running.

Every day, bands and artists are playing in Toronto to crowds from 10 to 1,000, many of which you’ve never heard of and may never know.

And all this is happening virtually under the radar…and is just a fraction of what’s going on right now around one city in North America.

Hell…all of this is happening within ear shot of one person in one city in North America.

If the music industry is dead…no one got around to telling it.

How do you get people out to your show?

April 6, 2011

Last Saturday I went to see one of my favourite Aussie bands, Miami Horror, play the Mod Club here in Toronto.  Despite delays (the band was late…which is fine since their previous show was in New York) and in the end I attended by myself (emo pony tear), the show was phenomenal.  I felt like I was in a throwback to the 80s, but the good 80s…the new wave 80s…the intelligent but still fun 80s.

Oh…something else…the place was packed.  Like, shoulder to shoulder…people dancing through the whole show…singing along.

You’ve known Miami Horror for years right? o/~Sometimes when all that’s lost remains, drink from the fountain of youth and never age again o/~ …right?

Of course you haven’t!  You may have heard about them through Triple J, or maybe a friend, or a random Google Search, but they are an Aussie neo new wave band…unless you’re an Aussie you’re more than forgiven for never having heard them.  You had no reason to know they existed!

This got me thinking about my last year in shows.  I have eclectic tastes and only got back into show-going last year:

  • Tunng at the Rivoli
  • Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes at the Phoenix
  • The Middle East at the Horseshoe (I wrote about after the show)
  • Mumford and Sons at the Sound Academy

That last show was big, of course.  The must-have ticket for music lovers in 2010.  Keep in mind, though…had you heard of them in March of 2010?  The buzz was built through summer, and by November they were massive.

All these shows had one thing in common…they were packed.  With fans.  Shoulder to shoulder. But…why??

Radio?  Not even Mumford and Sons had much radio play except on The Edge here in Toronto, and the other three had NO radio play aside from college.  I would love to hear Tunng’s ‘Hustle’ played on the radio when I wake up in the morn, but that’s pretty unlikely. So radio didn’t draw people.

Videos?  Miami Horror has awesome videos, and Tunng’s Bullets is one of the best videos I’ve ever seen.  But I don’t think they had much broadcast time here in Canada…and I’d be surprised if they had any in the States.  All YouTube…but how did people know to look for them?

CD Sales? I don’t think Tunng, Middle East or Miami Horror had their CDs for sale here, and regardless most people teefed ’em from the net …so record sales didn’t drive the band to the city, and the fans to the show.

…Tunng?  The Middle East?  Filling bars in Toronto? *I* never filled a bar in Toronto!!

There’s only one thing left, then.  One last thing these shows had in common…good music!  The songs written by these artists are amazing.  Their live performances are honed and skilled.  There was nothing really fancy going on aside from some lights and smoke.  It was the music that drew people.

So…you want to get people to your show?  I have three easy steps:

  1. Write good music
  2. Make the music available to people in such a way that it can spread and friends can pass songs on to their friends
  3. Play a lot of live shows so you get your chops…so you won’t disappoint fans when you play live

Oh…also, make sure the word gets out through your networks.  I found out about these shows in a variety of different ways:

  • Middle East: I’m a fan, they mentioned tour dates on their blog, which I found through their Facebook…there were no Toronto dates set so I contacted them and begged them to hit T. Dot¹…within a week, I had a Facebook reply mentioning their Horseshoe date had been added
  • Tunng: A friend…a friend noticed they were playing, knew I was a fan because I introduced him, and he let me know
  • Edward Sharpe & Mumford and Sons: Friends again…this time they bought me tix…luv my friends!
  • Miami Horror:, a site that lets you build a list of your favourite bands, and notifies you when they play in your city. …literally, on Wednesday I discovered Songkick, found out they were playing in town Saturday, bought tickets Thursday, and showed up Saturday night!

So in the end it’s all about the music…it always has been.  The rest is icing, helps get the word out, but you don’t need it.  You just need a good song, a decent guitar, and a bar.

¹ T Dot…as in Toronto (dot) Ontario…short for T.O., or ‘Tee Oh.’  It replaces the usual way of referring to the city, ‘Chiranah’ which is the proper pronunciation of ‘Toronto.’ T Dot is a way to make all of us in Toronto feel cool, as though we have a distinct culture…which we really don’t.  It also makes us feel big, not that having a giant erection downtown doesn’t do that already.


Ignore Me! TWKH8FW3S6KP