Tag Archives: Music

Happy Little Accidents

I used to question the theory that every moment in a person’s life has led them to the moment they are experiencing right now. I mean, how many throwaway moments have there been? Certainly a lot. We’re not living a fictitious life within the pages of a best-selling novel. Not everything that happens moves the plot forward or develops our character. Sometimes the tip of your pencil breaking is inconsequential, and then sometimes a sequence of events gets strung together over twenty-five years to culminate in an experience never to be forgotten.

Like this one.

Back in my first year of university, I met a few people that, even at that early stage, I knew were special. My buddy Riaz, my friend-girlfriend-not friend-friend-girlfriend-fiancee-wife, Jodi, and my friend-lab partner-roommate-colleague-boss-friend, Jason.

Riaz introduced me to Jodi. I met her properly in his room across the hall from mine. She was playing Sonic the Hedgehog on the Sega Genesis and he and I were listening to music, playing Ultima Underworld on his computer, and burning incense. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Jodi and Riaz introduced me to this band called The Watchmen. Jodi pushing their first album, Maclaren Furnace Room, and Riaz in love with their second one, In The Trees. Ri and I would take in as many of their shows as we could over the years and have more than a few stories to tell about those times.

Jay was a friend of some friends and lived on a rival floor in residence, and later became my lab partner and my go-to friend for a game or ten of pool, often played at the on-campus bar where this one album with the strange name, Shakespeare My Butt, by this obscure band called Lowest of the Low seemed to play on an endless loop.

Life was grand. Responsibilities were minimal. Parental supervision was non-existent. Our relationships were rooted in amazing Canadian music; the less mainstream stuff like Watchmen and Lowest of the Low, as well as the national heroes The Tragically Hip. Then, things started to change. Not overnight, though looking back it does feel like it was, but in slow motion over the span of years and decades.

Jodi and I married and a year later Jay married this wonderful woman, Tamara. Riaz moved back out West. Jay and Jodi stopped going to Watchmen concerts with me, but Tam was a big fan and stepped up and started being my “date” for shows. There was this one concert that all four of us went to one day. I think it was before kids were in the picture and we could all be out on a Friday night in Toronto (about an hour away from where we lived) without feeling guilty or tired. We saw Lowest of the Low open for Billy Bragg. Jodi’s a huge Billy Bragg fan and we were all in love with Lowest of the Low from our days hanging out in the on-campus bar.

For me, though, it was The Watchmen that held my attention. In the early days of me falling in love with Jodi, they were there. We’d argue over which of their first two albums was better. I could pull a lyric from any song and relate it to something about us. Strangely enough, on a couple occasions Danny, the lead singer from the band, would sing a Billy Bragg song as his signature a cappella song during their concerts.

In 2011 I decided I would do something special for my anniversary. I took some singing lessons and got a band together, with Jay on guitar, and I surprised her with an a cappella Billy Bragg song (sadly, not a romantic one but the one Danny sang at his shows) and a rendition of The Watchmen song, All Uncovered, the chords and lyrics for which were really hard to come by. Enter in Facebook and the super talented and one hell of a nice guy bassist for The Watchmen and solo artist, Ken Tizzard. I sent Ken a message asking for help with the song and he sent me back, within a couple hours I might add, some photos of their songbook that was no longer in print. It was an awesome gesture and was the reason the performance went off without a hitch (or well enough, all things considered).

While this was going on I was working on my writing and meeting a lot of really cool creative types on the internet. One of them was this fellow by the name of Alex Kimmell. He writes creepy, mind-bending horror now but he used to be a musician until MS decided to send him a swift kick to the nards and take that away. Back in the day, he was a drummer for this grunge outfit Out Vile Jelly.  Korn opened for them at one point. It was then, through a connection at a record label that he was introduced and got into the music of The Watchmen. Alas, when I met him the MS prohibited extended travel and they weren’t touring anymore, only playing gigs in Toronto and occasional other Canadian cities. That’s when I got the idea that whenever I would go to a show, I would record his favourite Watchmen song for him so he’d get to experience the experience a little bit.

In the middle of all of that, like a gut punch from out of nowhere, we lost Riaz. It was sudden, it hurt like a sonofabitch, and it left a big hole. In the intro to my video tribute to him, there was Watchmen playing in the background. Hearing their music would never be the same. Every song would be bittersweet and carry a deeper meaning than I ever thought possible (more on Riaz in this blog post).

You might be thinking that this is all fine and dandy but what does it have to do with my opening paragraph? Well, that’s where Friday night comes in. All of what I just described (though it happened in much greater detail in real life) came together to give me the greatest concert experience I will likely ever have.

It actually started Thursday night when I got the last-minute idea to message Ken once again asking for a favour. I thought it would be cool if, before they played Alex’s favourite song, they tossed out a dedication to him. So, I asked. Ken got back to me in rapid fashion again and had some bad news. They were swapping out that song for something else for this show. He did say he’d discuss it with the guys though. I thanked him for even considering it and wished them a good show.

Friday comes and Tam agrees to drive into the city and we arrive at the venue ten minutes before the opener hits the stage. Because we’re old we got seats up in the balcony this time and were able to sit down for the show. It felt weird at first, having never seen the band from a chair before, but my aching bones would thank me later. The opening act? A fella by the name of Ron Hawkins. No, not the one from Arkansas currently in the Canadian Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Someone better. The Ron Hawkins who happens to play guitar and sing for the Lowest of the Low.

Ron opened the night with a close-to-45-minute set that included some solo stuff, some Lowest of the Low, some Rusty Nails, and a few snippets of some cover tunes just for shits and giggles. He even brought the LotL guitarist, Steve, on stage to do a couple of their classic tunes. It was a lot of fun, and the place was already close to capacity. The mood was set for more good times, and oh boy, were they delivered – in spades.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOcSOB2JiYk]

Due to curfew rules for the venue, The Watchmen came on at 9:02. Early by concert standards but to come on stage so soon after such a good opener turned out to be a great idea. Everyone was excited and feeling good, including the band, and from the very first chord, it showed.

Now, because I wasn’t sure if they’d play Alex’s song or not, at the end of each song I’d get my phone ready to record. It wasn’t a big deal because I was sitting down. I just put my phone in my lap with my camera app open and clapped and cheered like everyone else while we waited for the next tune. Then, the band did something different. The bassist grabbed an acoustic guitar and the drummer grabbed some bongos. Sensing something special coming I started recording, and Danny gave a little intro and they kicked into a cover of a Tragically Hip song. It was emotional as hell.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPjAT_CUwSQ]

For those who don’t know, The Hip (as they are affectionately known) lost their lead singer, Gord Downie, a couple years ago (about a year after I lost Riaz). The nation mourned (I wrote about that, too), but Friday night when The Watchmen played one of their tunes, it was a celebration. I, along with every other person in the joint, was close to tears, but it was a celebration and a damn fine tribute.

Then, the band played my favourite Watchmen tune acoustic-style. It’s the one I learned to play for my anniversary.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itWajwu7F-0]

That was followed up by Danny’s a cappella. It wasn’t Billy Bragg this time, but it sounded like gold. His voice was like butter and while no live performance will ever be executed perfectly, it was perfect.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLdcikOt3h8]

The whole show was fantastic. Every song was tight, the sound was clean, the audience was into it, and the band looked like they were having a blast. Toward the end of the show, they called out Ron to do a song: Billy Bragg’s A New England. It was off the charts fantastic and because I was at-the-ready with my phone I captured it.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afCjkdoyHEY]

I didn’t record every emotional moment I had, though. I started recording one of my favourite songs toward the end of the show but it was too much. It was one of Riaz’s favourite songs as well and he would often quote the opening lyric to me randomly on facebook or via email. As soon as they played it I put the phone down and just sat and watched, and listened, and immersed myself in the moment. Even now, the emotions are overwhelming.

With the show coming to a close and one encore set already done it was clear that I had just experienced something truly special. Then, the guys go and outdo themselves yet again. There was a bit of a discussion on stage amongst the band and then Danny informs us that they’re “calling an audible” and instead of only getting one more song to end the night that we’re going to get two. Camera at the ready, I started recording and then I heard the telltale opening drums of Alex’s favourite song, Say Something.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_4O8pOlSNk]

They played the last song after that, just Danny and the guitarist Joey, and the lights came up. Tam and I looked at each other and agreed that it was probably the best show of theirs we’d ever seen. We bypassed the main stairwell and headed down the side steps that led directly outside. Two paces to the right outside on the sidewalk I see a friend from high school that I interact with regularly on Facebook. I haven’t seen him face-to-face in probably twenty-five years. He hadn’t been at the show. He had been out with friends and was waiting for an Uber. He’s a hell of a guy and a wonderful blogger, and it was the perfect random encounter to cap off the perfect evening, all made possible by a quarter of a century of seemingly random and inconsequential events. Bob Ross would have called them happy little accidents, and after Friday night I’d be inclined to agree.

~ Andrew

The Kindness of Strangers

There is a lot of sadness, corruption, and hate in the world. Nations are committing genocide, North Korea has nukes and might actually be disturbed enough to use them, over a hundred First Nations communities in Canada don’t have clean drinking water, Flint Michigan, a city in the wealthiest country in the world, doesn’t have clean drinking water–and hasn’t for years–and the leader of that country is a complete and total dipshit. Terrible human, just terrible. Sad!
Fear not, my friends, for there is more to this than doom and gloom. There are good people everywhere. They may not solve the world’s problems, and they likely won’t do it on a newsworthy scale, but they will do good things and those good things will not go unnoticed. Those good things will mean the world to somebody. Somebody who needed something good to happen. Something to pick them up because they are down. Something to help them survive one more day. Something to remind them that the world is not all bad. Something that will make them smile. 
I witness, hear, or read about these occurrences on a regular basis, and occasionally I get to experience them. Two such deeds happened to bring smiles of pure joy to my children and I feel they are both worth sharing. One was planned and one was totally random, but both helped show my family that the community in which we live has some genuinely good people in it. They were small things in the grand scheme of things, but they were also big things because they showed my children that there are random good people everywhere. In both cases, I am certain these small deeds will help my children grow to be good people themselves. Better than they are now (which is pretty darned amazing.)
First up, Linda from the Temple Baptist Church. 
When my daughter started ninth grade I started driving her to a bus stop that was a little closer to her school to reduce her travel time roughly in half. Every day would take this one corner and pass the Temple Baptist Church and their sign on the corner. Every Monday the sign had a new message and over the course of the year, it became a “thing” for us. It was just a little father/daughter bonding moment that would not have seen like much to anyone else, but for us, it was a few seconds that we got to share.

As we approached her fifteenth birthday I got the idea to ask the church if they would change the sign and extend birthday greetings as a surprise to her. So, roughly a week before her birthday I found the church’s website and sent them an email.

In my message, I explained that we were not religious but every day we pass their sign and it often sparked discussion for the remainder of the drive and if they would be so kind as to change it for one day so that I could surprise my daughter for her birthday.

Linda replied to me in short order and said, of course, they would change the sign. Just like that. No questions asked (other than her name and what the message would be). I offered to make a donation to their church to thank them for their kindness and this was the response I received:

“No payment is expected. We care about you and Avery very much even though we have never met! Pleased to do this for you.”

Linda even sent me a warning email the afternoon before telling me that they had to change the sign that afternoon because the person who performs that task wasn’t going to be around early enough the next morning (we drive past it a few minutes after seven o’clock). So, I drove home from work and made up an excuse to pick up my daughter from school and I drove her home a different route instead of the route the bus would have taken, which would have seen her stopping on the corner right by the sign.

The next morning, I made up another excuse (so many lies!) about why I was recording video in the car so I could capture her reaction. Watch for yourself.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wk5UBDImYD0]

I think it all went about as well as it could have (except my voice in the video. In my defense, I was a little verklempt).


Next up, Mark, a music lover in Cambridge.

One week at my son’s drum lesson I asked his teacher, Vic, how far he should get in his book before I buy him a new snare. His existing one was a little worse for wear and was held together with duct tape, but I wanted him to have to work for it. Vic told me there was one for sale in the store, used, for something like $60 and was a great deal in his opinion. 
Well, I got mired in a financial snafu with my bank and didn’t get the chance to buy the drum (figuring I would eventually spring it on Dude at the appropriate time). The next week we get to class and Vic calls me in, which is weird because I never get called in. 
He sits us down and says that word got out to the guy who bought the drum that Dude was in the market to replace his duct tape special and this guy refurbished the snare (according to Vic he must have put over $100 into it) and asked Vic to give it to Dude. All he wanted in return was a picture of Dude with the drum. 
The generous music lover’s name is Mark Parnell (possibly spelled differently) and after I texted him this photo and thanked him I asked him if he was on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter so I could give him a proper shout-out. He wrote back that he was not and that the smile on Dude’s face was all the thanks he needed. 
Thank you, Mark. You made our day, and while Dude is no Neal Peartyethe’s going to practice with that snare and enjoy it a lot more than the old one. 

BONUS GOOD DEED!

My across-the-street neighbour, Mohammed. 
One morning, I awoke to the smell of gas in the house, so I got everyone outside and called the fire department. They came and shut the gas off and aired the house out and called the gas company. My wife took the kids to get McDonald’s breakfast and I waited outside across the street.

It was early morning in October and I was standing across the street on the sidewalk in my pajamas and bare feet freezing my little piggies off and my neighbour came out of his house. Now, Mohammed and I had spoken exactly two words to each other in the six years I had lived across the street from him (we’ve said “hello” twice). He’s quiet and keeps to himself. He has a nice lawn. He knows when it’s yard waste day. I’m not very sociable with the neighbours, which at the time was partially due to the fact I had the crappiest lawn on the block and was self-conscious that my neighbours were all annoyed by it.

Anyway, Mohammed walked over to me and asked me what was going on. I explained the situation and told him that we’d be allowed back in the house soon. Nothing to worry about, etc, etc. Then, he looked down at my feet and asked, “Do you want me to get you some shoes?” No one had ever offered me shoes before. I didn’t even get a chance to respond and he pointed to my feet. “You must be cold. Let me get you some shoes.”

It turns out I didn’t need the shoes as we were let back into our house shortly thereafter, but the gesture stuck with me.


So there you have it. Three small deeds or gestures that, at a minimum, show there are at least three people where I live that are ready to do some good anytime they feel it’s needed. I, for one, couldn’t be happier because I know that in my city and the region that surrounds it, there are over half a million people and the good ones far outnumber any others.

Start looking for people performing good deeds and random acts of kindness in the places where you live, work, and play. I bet you dollars to doughnuts it won’t take you long to find them. When you do, tell me about it down in the comments so everyone can see that the good news can travel just as fast as the bad.

~ Andrew

More Music Mastery

Another one of those post-a-song-a-day things is circulating on Facebook and I thought I’d give it a go. This time the list of “challenges” looks like this:

I’ve tried to do a little write-up for each one but some days are better than others. Here are the first twelve days:

Day 1 – A song you like with a colour in the title
There are lots of songs with the colour red in them and I wanted something a little darker. Well, black is as dark as it gets! Plus, Led Zeppelin.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tlSx0jkuLM]


Day 2 – A song you like with a number in the title
21 Guns by Green Day – I like Green Day.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVaYkdG4k_I]


Day 3 – A song that reminds you of summertime
I considered this song for the upcoming Day 8 (A song about drugs or alcohol) but this song makes me think more about summer than it does about drugs. I’m not sure if it’s the imagery painted by Victoria’s lyrics or what, but this song makes me think about dry, dusty fields and hanging out on sweltering hot days with some friends

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpwupMVcLdk]


Day 4 – A song that reminds you of someone you’d rather forget 
I wrote a blog post (http://www.potatochipmath.com/2012/10/an-untitled-post-about-bullying.html) about some of the memories that got kicked up when I went a did a favour for an old high school acquaintance by playing a fighting street person for this video. Thankfully, I’m not a big follower of hip hop & rap (though do enjoy it on occasion) and I don’t come across this song too often

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yV6QHXulcaY]


Day 5 – A song that needs to be played loud 
Oh my god, so many choices. I don’t know where to begin. Obviously, AC/DC came to mind, then Van Halen and Metallica, and Guns N’ Roses… and we have a winner. I cannot listen to Paradise City by Guns N’ Roses without having to crank the sound to eleven.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rbm6GXllBiw]


Day 6 – A song that makes you want to dance
I am not known to be a dancer. I make Elaine from Seinfeld look like Paula Abdul. That said, there’s one song that makes me groove every time (in as much as I am capable of grooving). The thing is, I hate the lyrics to the original and have little respect for the original artist as a musician or even a human. Fortunately for me, Weird Al Yankovic did a parody with much better lyrics but with the same musical groove. Word Crimes by Weird Al Yankovic. Music by that dipshit Robin Thicke

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Gv0H-vPoDc]


Day 7 – A song to drive to
Are you kidding me?

“My uncle has a country place, that no one knows about. He says it used to be a farm, before the Motor Law.” 

This is a song about driving a well preserved red Barchetta sports car. It’s a fantastic song and perfect for driving fast on winding country roads.I love driving to this tune.

“Well-weathered leather / Hot metal and oil / The scented country air / Sunlight on chrome / The blur of the landscape / Every nerve aware” 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eULGEKncHvI]

Day 8 – A song about drugs or alcohol 
Hmmm. Let’s see… which one of the 37 million songs about drugs or alcohol should I choose? I’m going to go with Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35. Come on, this just comes right out and says it clear as day, 

“Everybody must get stoned.” 

It could not be more fitting that there’s a video of this song being sung by Bob Dylan playing with the Grateful Dead.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BI-H_27NptM]

Day 9 – A song that makes you happy 
Say what you want about Ed Sheeran, but I love this song. I can’t help but turn it up and sing along and smile. I like the album version better overall but watching Ed do this one with just an acoustic guitar and a loop machine is pretty damn cool. Plus, seeing a bunch of kids sing this at the KW Glee boot camp this summer was awesome too 
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DVLzHks8xs]

Day 10 – A song that makes you sad
There was a stretch where every time I found out about someone dying this song would play on the radio shortly thereafter. Plus, it’s a sad song. Even though it’s a song about hope and hanging on and knowing you’re not alone in your struggles, the fact is there are still so many struggling that there is, at best, one degree of separation between yourself and someone to whom this song applies. This song makes me sad, but I’ll be okay. If this song applies to you and you need someone to hold onto or just be present, give me a call. Send me a text or an email. 

“Take comfort in your friends. Everybody hurts.” 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLlOeGeVih4]

Day 11 – A song you never get tired of
I don’t know what it is about this song that sticks with me, but something does. I think it’s probably my favourite U2 song out of their whole catalog, and for a band that’s probably one of my all-time favourties with as many songs as they have that I like that’s saying something. The fact they played it on their recent Joshua Tree 30th anniversary tour this summer is even better. Like it or don’t like it, whatever your preference one thing you can say for sure it’s that it’s not a bad song #dadjoke #groan 
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zIW8qDPhos]

Day 12 – A song from your preteen years 
In 1985 I was eleven years old. That qualifies as preteen, yes? Well holy shit, would you take a look at the number one songs from that year?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Billboard_Hot_100_number-one_singles_of_1985

The list is insanely good. Easily a dozen of those songs popped into my head when I first read the category. How did I pick just one? Easy. I went with the love song from the movie that had Demi Moore in it, of course! I love the intro to this dong and even tried playing it at the piano at summer camp. I never did learn how to, but it’s a fun memory regardless. 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgW9SqP3YJc]

The 30-Day Song Challenge – Days 1-3

A friend of mine, writer and all-around great guy Gareth S. Young started doing this 30-Day song challenge and after seeing his posts day after day I decided I’d give it a shot. I haven’t blogged much in a while so I thought I’d do it here as a weekly Monday summary to get me in the habit of writing at least something every day. Plus, MUSIC! Who doesn’t love music?

This is the “challenge”:

June 3 – Day 1 of the 30-Day Song Challenge

My favourite song

I have lots of songs that I love. I have even more that I enjoy in specific situations. One song, however, stands above them all. I have yet to listen to a song that captures my attention more than this one. Originally written by the Magnetic Fields, The Book of Love was covered by the Airborne Toxic Event and I first heard it on their live album played with the Calder Quartet at the Walt Disney Concert Hall the week after the death of the lead singer’s grandma.

The lyrics, the emotion, the music… I love everything about this song.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQUZBi-P6Jw]


June 4 – Day 2 of the 30-Day Song Challenge

My least  favourite song

This wasn’t even a contest for the longest time. My least favourite song by a country mile was Paranoid Android by Radiohead. It’s odd because Radiohead isn’t even my least favourite artist. They’re nowhere near the top, but they’re also not at the bottom. That Paranoid Android song, though, grates my cheese like you wouldn’t believe. But it’s no matter because Gwen Stefani wrote the song Hollaback Girl and it instantaneously took over the top spot. Even after the ridiculous amount of airplay it got on the radio I have not warmed up to it. Not even a little.

You know what’s B-A-N-A-N-A-S, Gwen? That hearing your song makes me want to throw my radio across the room.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kgjkth6BRRY]


June 5 – Day 3 of the 30-Day Song Challenge 

A song that makes me happy

There is so much about music to be happy about. Whether it’s seeing my wife pour through music on Spotify and see the look on her face when she hears a new song that that she likes, or hearing my daughter singing the same song over and over again because she absolutely loves it and must know how to sing it and play it on the guitar, or watching my son destroy the dashboard of my car because we are on our way to or from drum lessons and the Beastie Boys are playing and he. Must. Play. Along.  For the longest time all I had was the radio and a few cassette tapes and CDs so when I first heard Rush’s Spirit of Radio my mind was blown. Considering when that song first came out I think it was about as meta as you could get at the time. The song is about the companionship and freedom that music brings but how ultimately it’s controlled by commercialization.

“For the words of the profits were written on the studio wall, concert hall… and echoes with the sounds, of salesmen, of salesmen, of salesmen”

When they play it live and hit that “concert hall” line all the house lights go up and the crowd goes crazy. I’ve seen them play that song live at least half a dozen times and it gives me goosebumps every time.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QuL_euRslTc]


What would your songs be for these categories? Put ’em in the comments and tune in next week for days four to ten!
~ Andrew

Grace, too

In December 1991, Canadian rock legends RUSH started their Presto tour in Hamilton, Ontario with Jeff Healey as the opening act. It was thought that a couple nights later in Toronto, that Healey would open as well. Ticket sales were slow, or so the story goes. A friend of mine scored us a pair of tickets in the sixth row, just off center, and on the day of the concert my high school walls were buzzing. At least, the dozen RUSH fans in the two thousand student body were buzzing. A rumor was circulating that Jeff Healey wasn’t going to open, instead, it was going to be The Tragically Hip.

I was a counselor in training back in the summer of 1990 when The Hip’s first full album, Up To Here, was making waves on the shores of Sparrow Lake – and Lake Ontario, and pretty much any other lake, small town, city, or metropolis in The Great White North. At the time it was one of my favourite albums. The album that outdid it, though, was their next one. The 1991 gem, Road Apples. So, by the time December of that year rolled around The Tragically Hip had become Canada’s band, and I was going to get a front row seat (okay, it was the sixth row, but who’s counting) to see them open for the band that previously held the title.

That concert was everything it promised to be, and then some. I watched Gord Downie belt out hit after hit of hard hitting, good old fashioned rock-n-roll married with lyrics that were pure genius. When he lay down with half his body hanging over the stage and screamed the lyrics to New Orleans Is Sinking while pretending to do the front crawl I knew I was witnessing something truly unique. Part man, part machine, part poem, Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip were rewriting the national anthem.

Twenty-five years later an entire country was collectively winded from the gut-punch news that Gord was suffering from an inoperable brain tumor. Doing what I can imagine only a few people in the world could do, Gord and the band decided they would go out the way they came in. That is, with a bang, and they set out do play a series of gigs – exclusively in Canada – with their magnum opus to come in a six-thousand-seat venue in their band’s birth city of Kingston, Ontario.

The Hip could have sold a hundred thousand tickets to that show. Hell, they could have filled Downsview Park in Toronto and close to a million people would have shown up. Interest was so high in tickets for these concerts that, after the debacle with getting seats (tickets going up on Stub Hub for thousands of dollars within seconds of going on sale), the national broadcaster, CBC, committed to airing the concert free of editing and commercials as well as streaming it live on their website, YouTube, and Facebook. Over four million people watched the entire broadcast and almost twelve million tuned into it at some point.

Let that sink in.

A rock band from Kingston, Ontario, population roughly 120,000, had one-third of the entire population of Canada tune in to watch a portion of their final concert.

Several politicians from several levels of government and all party affiliations were in attendance but the one that stood out the most was none other than Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who in addition to clapping and cheering in a concert t-shirt, showed his love and appreciation for Gord and the band in a series of tweets:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Praise, well wishes, prayers, and thoughts came from all over the world but I think former Saturday Night Live cast member and king of late night television, Jimmy Fallon, said it best:

And Pearl Jam took a moment out of their concert at Wrigley Field to say a few words:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J10F17ed9mo]

Articles much better than this one were written and I have got to tell you, the list of news outlets covering this event blew my mind. A partial list (each linking to the article):

Personal stories were in abundance. So what is mine? Aside from the above introduction, I don’t really have one except to say that The Hip went from being the best-kept secret in Ontario to having throngs of loyal fans. I described it to a coworker today as having this feeling that in 1990 they were this obscure band that had a few good songs I liked and in 1991 it was as if they had always been playing on the soundtrack of my life.

After that night in Toronto, I only managed to see them a few more times but their music was everywhere to be found. My good friend and former physics lab partner is a big fan and when we shared an apartment not many hours would pass without a Hip song being played, or strummed on the guitar, or sang poorly over Kraft Dinner being eaten straight out of the pot. I remember listening to their album Phantom Power on the radio in the car on the way up to the cottage with my then girlfriend now wife. There’s a lyric in the song Fireworks that goes, “She said she didn’t give a fuck about hockey and I never saw someone say that before,” and that pretty much summed up our relationship right there. She always sings that part loud and proud when we’re together and we hear that song.

The stories, they go on and on and on and on. Throw a rock at a group of Canadians and you’ll hit someone with a story about the Tragically Hip. So what is it about them that brings together millions of people to say goodbye?

For starters, the lyrics are masterfully woven from the threads of Canadiana, set to guitar, drums, and bass that make you want to sing along and move, and delivered with the rawest of emotions. For a good number of Canadians, the band speaks directly to them using tools and talent a rarified few possess.

The online Canadian encyclopedia gives us a glimpse into the poetic genius of Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip with an exhibit outlining the stories behind of a handful of the band’s most popular songs. For people who have never heard of the Tragically Hip to people that have committed every lyric to memory, this is a must see. They lifted the name of the exhibit from a song off the album Fully Completely.

What sums it up most aptly for me is lifted from two lyrics from one of my favourite Hip songs off the album Day For Night (which, in a sick and twisted bit of coincidence features the song titled Inevitability of Death):

“Armed with will and determination, and grace, too.”

“Armed with skill and its frustration, and grace, too.” 

Gord Downie did it all. He did it with will and determination and even with all his skill, he showed us his frustration. And he did it with grace, too.

~ Andrew

The Sound of Music – Part 5

Welcome to the fifth and final installment of the Sound of Music – My Top Five Albums Of All Time. 

My “deserted island” list of albums I’d want to have with me if I were stranded is almost complete. Thus far I’ve presented the following (in no particular order): 

As a reminder, I present my main decision-making criteria:

  • Number of songs I like on the album (the fewer songs I skip over, the better)
  • Composition of the album (are the songs arranged in an order I find pleasing)
  • Memories invoked when I hear a song from the album
  • Emotional impact of the album (how does listening to it make me feel?)

Today, we complete the list with an album that literally helped define a generation. By many it is not viewed in the same regard as, say, Nevermind by Nirvana, but in my opinion, this album was more complex, richer experience that touched a much broader audience. 


Without further ado, I present …

Source: Wikipedia
Released 1991
Track Listing: 
  1. “Once”  (9/10)
  2. “Even Flow” (9/10)
  3. “Alive” (10/10)
  4. “Why Go” (9/10)
  5. “Black” (9/10)
  6. “Jeremy”  (10/10)
  7. “Oceans”  (8/10)
  8. “Porch” (8/10)
  9. “Garden”  (8/10)
  10. “Deep” (9/10)
  11. “Release” (10/10)

I like every song on this album. In fact, I’ve liked every song on this album since the moment it was released. If I were to rank each song from one to eleven the songs at the bottom, Oceans, Porch, and Garden end up bouncing around in my head for hours after hearing them.

I completely understand why the producer decided to open with the song “Once”. It’s a powerful song and within the first minute of the song the lyrics, “Once upon a time I could control myself / Once upon a time I could lose myself” tell us that we’re about to embark on a fairytale journey like none other. Followed by “Even Flow” these two tracks make you feel like all you’ve been doing is climbing, then, without warning like the first big drop on a roller coaster we hear “Alive”, a song just as powerful as any of the others but slightly down tempo. Not to have us get lulled into a false sense of security the album hits back with a 1-2 punch with “Why Go” and then “Black” only to follow up with probably the most iconic opening bass line in the band’s catalog on “Jeremy”. The album continues with songs that alternate between laying low a little and jumping right up in your face until we get to the last song on the track. As far as album endings go “Release” is a formidable choice for the end of this wild ride, though I have to admit that it’s just as fitting to have it as a live show opener. All in all, the songs on Ten are perfectly arranged and are a pleasure to listen to on their own, in order as they are on the album, or randomized on an iPod with a thousand other songs. 

This album makes me feel like jumping around and yelling. Occassionally, a song will come on that’s one of the slower ones and instead of jumping around and yelling it will just magnify whatever feeling I am having in that moment. The themes of the album are dark and uncomfortable and complex, and the feelings it invokes are the same. But most of all, it makes me feel like jumping around and yelling. 

There are too many memories involving this album to list them all here. I remember one of my longest standing childhood friends driving us to a party and saying, “I’m feeling kind of grunge tonight” and putting PJ on in the car. I remember countless days and nights “studying” with Riaz; half written physics equations haphazardly scribbled on scrap paper and Riaz with his guitar in hand and Pearl Jam on the CD player. They are the go-to concert for another friend of mine and I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them a couple times with him. I should have seen PJ in New Orleans with him back in 1995 but this girl I worked with wouldn’t switch shifts with me (which was a total jerk move, if you ask me). 

Probably the coolest memory I have involves the pop/ska band The English Beat. I was in Ottawa, Ontario, standing a few rows from the stage with my Pearl Jam tour buddy and Pearl Jam launched into their hit song “Betterman”. They extended the ending and out of nowhere started singing the English Beat’s “Save It For Later”. Fast forward five years and I’m in Waterloo, Ontario (a solid six-hour drive from Ottawa) and I’m in a small club watching the English Beat with my wife when right in the middle of their song “Save It For Later” they start playing a few bars of Pearl Jam’s “Betterman”. I figure I was the only person there who had that experience and every time either of those songs come on my iPod I think of those two concert moments. Also, if you’ve never experienced the crowd participation at a Pearl Jam concert, you are truly missing out. I only need to speak two words on this topic: Baba O’Riley. Look it up on YouTube

So there you have it, my top five albums of all time. Next time, I’ll put the songs in order and give you a list of great albums that didn’t quite make the top five cut but are worth checking out nonetheless. 

~ Andrew

The Sound of Music – Part 4

Welcome to the fourth installment of the Sound of Music – My Top Five Albums Of All Time. 

Think of this as a “deserted island” list of albums I’d want to have with me if I were stranded and these were the only albums I had on my iPod at the time (assume a solar charger and necessary waterproofing).

As a reminder, I present my main decision-making criteria:

  • Number of songs I like on the album (the fewer songs I skip over, the better)
  • Composition of the album (are the songs arranged in an order I find pleasing?)
  • Memories invoked when I hear a song from the album
  • Emotional impact of the album (how does listening to it make me feel?)

In no particular order thus far we have:

Today we will add a fourth album to the list:

Source: Wikipedia

Released 1973
Track Listing:

  1. “Speak to Me” – (Intro-Instrumental)
  2. Breathe” (8/10)
  3. “On the Run” (Instrumental, 8/10)
  4. “Time” (8/10)
  5. “The Great Gig in the Sky” (“Instrumental”, 9/10)
  6. “Money” (8/10)
  7. “Us and Them” (8/10)
  8. “Any Colour You Like” (Instrumental, 8/10)
  9. “Brain Damage” (9/10)
  10. “Eclipse” (9/10)

While the sixties were a time of peace, love, music, and marijuana (and acid, and whatever else those crazy kids could get their hands on). If they were giving out awards for whose fans were the highest it’s no secret that Pink Floyd was likely the first band to hold the title across the Atlantic. With the Grateful Dead having formed around the same time they were leading the way by a country mile in the United States.

The only track I’ll skip on this album is the opening instrumental intro. Quite frankly, the composition is nothing short of perfection. Opening with a psychedelic instrumental reminiscent of something Monty Python would have written, the album sets the tone with “Breathe” and then moves seamlessly into an instrumental that finishes with a resounding “boom” before we get a jolt of surprise with the sounding of dozens of alarm clocks in “Time”, one of many instances where Floyd makes use of samples to augment their musical stylings. “The Great Gig in the Sky” was the first song where I noticed and really began to understand that a person’s voice was an instrument. The woman singing on this track doesn’t use a single word from the dictionary as she winds her voice up and down with “ooooohhhhhhh” and “ahhhhhhhhh” and “ooooooooooo” and it’s positively hypnotic. “Money” brings more distinctive sound bites and “Us and Them” sits in a natural spot as track seven, leading into another instrumental. The final two tracks, especially when played back to back without interruption, might be the greatest ending of all the albums in my library.

This album cover is probably one of the most iconic pieces of musical artwork ever created. Every kid who has heard of this album has tried to recreate this effect the first time they got their hands on a prism in science class.

For years growing up in Thornhill, I would drive past the “Becker’s” convenience store on Aileen Road and there was this big green electrical box with the Dark Side of the Moon album cover spray painted in white on the side. The box has long since been replaced and is now obscured by a collection of overgrown trees but thanks to the fine folks at Google Maps and Microsoft Paint I’ve been able to recreate the image forever burned into my memory (that graffiti stayed on the side of that electrical box for years):

Aileen Road Electrical Box with Modified Graffiti Courtesy of Andrew


In 1994, I was fortunate enough to see Pink Floyd play at Exhibition Place with a lifelong friend, Jon, as well as a newly formed friend, Riaz (and a bunch of his buddies). As part of their Division Bell tour, Floyd played the entire Dark Side of the Moon album and to this day that remains one of my most memorable live concert performances. 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OR-iZXNjlSo]


How does hearing this album make me feel? Nostalgic, calm, peaceful, relaxed, poetic, introspective, and blissful. Which, I suspect, is just what Pink Floyd was going for. 

Hey, since you’ve read this far if you’re looking to learn how to play guitar like one of the greats, I came across this website that gives you some free tips and tricks. They happen to have a section on none other than David Gilmour. Check it out over at Beginner Guitar HQ.

~ Andrew


Coming Soon: 
The fifth addition to round out the list and then a post where I put them in order, explain why, and list a bunch of honourable mentions.

Proud Papa

I’m going to take this opportunity to write about how awesome my kids are.

I realize that most parents say this about their kids and many of them are right. All of them should be blogging about it. Kids who are awesome and do awesome things deserve to be praised from the highest mountains. So here’s my story about a weekend that my kids turned from ordinary to extraordinary in a span of less than twenty-four hours.

For those who don’t know, I have two children with my wife of sixteen years: a 13-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy. Through some weird nickname wormhole, these two fine little humans are affectionately referred to as “Pants” and “Dude”, which are actually short for “Princess Pants” and “Doodle”, which were actually short for “Princess Paloney Baloney” and “Mister Doodle” (he was 10 lb 9 oz when he was born and when you’re that big they call you Mister).

Anyhow, they’re great kids, but unlike a lot of other kids I know neither of them are crazy interested in competitively doing things. Pants stopped figure skating right before it got really serious (phew!) and Dude had shown only mild interest in such things – until bowling, that is (the funny thing is that we were calling him Dude before he started bowling).

Now we’re calling him The Dude.

This is his third year of 5-pin bowling. For the uninitiated, 5-pin bowling is done with a smaller ball (with no holes in it) and there are, appropriately, five pins which are arranged in a wide “V” shape. Unlike 10-bin bowling where each pin is worth one, in 5-pin the head pin is worth 5, the two beside it are each worth 3, and the two end pins are each worth 2. You get to bowl three balls per frame (instead of two), with the same strike and spare rules as in 10-pin (i.e. your strike counts all pins plus the next two balls with your spare counting all pins plus your next ball). A perfect game is 450.

Dude’s best score is 221 but his average is sitting around 127, which is pretty good for a 9-year-old playing with kids a year older than he is (Bantam age bracket is 7-10). This past weekend Dude went to his regular bowling league game on Saturday while Pants and I were hanging with a friend of mine (more on that later). Turns out he qualified to compete in the Zone Championships the next day at some lanes one city over (20 minutes or so by car). So, Sunday morning my wife packed him up and got him registered. Before he left he said to me, “I feel like I’m going to have a good day.” 

Understatement of the year, kid.

With nine frames done in his first game he was below average by enough that it wasn’t looking too good. Then, in the tenth frame he bowled three strikes in a row for his first ever turkey (that’s what you call three strikes in a row in bowling) for a 160. His second game was a 171, followed by a 147 and a consistent 148. After four games he was 92 pins up on the next boy but fatigue started to set in and he rounded out his first five-game set with the only one below his average, carding a 124. His average over the five games was 150.

Even with the sub-par last game, his lead held up and he was crowed the Bantam Boys (Singles) Zone Champion earning him a spot at the Provincial Championships on March 6. We couldn’t be more thrilled. He keeps asking when he can watch the movie The Big Lebowski. If he wins provincials I just might let him.

“The medal doesn’t say first place, but I won, and it’s gold, so that’s okay.” – The Dude

The Dude Abides


Remember how I mentioned Pants and I were hanging with a friend of mine on Saturday while Dude was bowling? Well, this friend is a super rad guy named Jim. Aside from being an all ’round good guy, Jim is also musically inclined. He plays guitar, bass, a little keyboard, and taught himself to play the harmonica the other day – just because. Jim and I played in a little coffee shop trio called Argyle Speedo with our friend Steph a while back. It was fun. I like writing lyrics to stuff Jim creates, though they tend to be on the depressing side, whereas Jim’s wheelhouse tends toward happy fun stuff.

Anyway, Jim was taking an art sabbatical and spending all his non-sleeping time at Kwartzlab and wanted me to hang with him and create stuff one day. I asked if Pants could join us because she recently picked up her guitar for the first time in well over a year (with only 8 months of lessons under her belt) and I thought it would be cool for her to experience the creation of art for no other reason than to create art. Jim being Jim thought this was a top shelf idea and on Saturday around 10:30 in the morning Pants and I met him at the lab. He was upstairs shooting footage for a vlog and had an array of recording equipment and instruments lying around.

We just fiddled with instruments for a bit, with Jim and Avery randomly strumming stuff and me trying to figure out the cajon drum box. After a couple hours of playing some John Lennon, Vance Joy, Axis of Awesome and other random stuff we grabbed a sandwich.

After lunch, we got out the trusty “How to Write a Hit Song” cheat sheets and Avery picked a major key and a chord progression and just started strumming, Jim got the harmonica out and started playing his brand new mouth organ, and I started banging on the cajon. A couple minutes later it sounded like a song.

I was mentioning that I only wrote sad lyrics and this song needed words. Avery, rather shyly, mumbled something. I went to write it down and she was hesitant to repeat it. After some coaxing I got her to give me the line.

“I’d walk backwards to the moon if it meant I could see you smile”

I encouraged her to get more out and Jim reminded us that it didn’t have to rhyme. We played off the action “walk”. What else can you do? Run, jump, leap…

“I’d somersault into outer space if you’d talk to me for a while” 

There was discussion on how to properly spell “somersault”, which distracted Jim from the rhyming. And so it went until we had two short verses of four lines each.

I’d walk backward to the moon
If it meant I could see you smile
I’d somersault into outer space
If you’d talk to me for a while

I’d hang upside down from the clouds
To see your sparkling eyes
I’d hold onto you for some amount of time
If we didn’t have to say goodbye

Against the music it was starting to sound even more like a song. It was a song! It was a song that needed a chorus, so back to the cheat sheet we went. Once we had chords we liked for it Jim played around with it a bit and we got working on the lyrics for the chorus.

We tried a few things and scratched out most of them, and with Jim singing them out loud while tinkering with strum patterns we landed on the following:

Backwards somersaults upside down
Holding onto you
Wishing time would come around
So I can stay with you 

Ink will fade
But memories last
Memories last
Ink will fade
But memories last
Forever

We gave it a run through and decided to play around with the order of things, stitching it together thusly:

Verse 1
Chorus
Verse 2
Harmonica Solo
Chorus
Last Half of Chorus

With Avery and I singing, me on the cajone, and Jim on his guitar we gave it a spin and it sounded pretty good. Did I mention that there were other people in the lab working on various things? This made me feel a bit self-conscious and I thought it would make Pants clam up for sure, but it wasn’t a problem. She was so focused on this song that the room may as well have been empty.

Jim then did a track just with guitar and then the harmonica solo and then Pants was up for the first vocal track. Jim said it would be weird listening with the headphones and singing into a mic but Pants, who hasn’t had a single voice lesson, wasn’t properly warmed up, and had only sung the lyrics a few times stepped up and gave it a whirl. A little off key and a little screw up on the second verse, she plowed through and got the job done!

Then, it was my turn. Jim was right about singing with headphones on into a mic. I found it really weird and after one verse immediately needed a do over. Second time through, a little off key and with the same screw up (not on purpose) on the second verse we were done.

Pants gave the second verse another shot and improved it a little, then Jim put the bass line on it (or maybe he did that earlier, I can’t remember) and crammed it all into his magic music making app and there was a real life MP3 to show for the day’s efforts. Time had run out and Pants and I had to get going, so there wasn’t the opportunity to do any of the vocal tracks over again. This concerned Pants at first but Jim and I explained that most songs she listens to have had hours and hours of recording and editing. She spent probably 8 minutes, as a first timer no less, laying this track down.

Jim has a great saying: Perfect is the enemy of done.

We got into the car and Pants looked over at me with a big smile on her face.

“That was the most fun I’ve ever had. I can’t believe I just wrote and recorded a song!”

Jim did a bit of editing on the song and asked if I’d ask Pants if she was okay with the song being put out into the world. She said yes, and I could not have been more proud. I made sure she knew it, too. It takes some serious intestinal fortitude to put anything that you know isn’t perfect out into the world, let alone to do that and have all the additional pressures of being a teenage girl and wanting to fit in and be cool. Plus, the internet can be a cruel place.

After she agreed, she looked at me with a smidgen of doubt. I told her that no, it wasn’t perfect and we all made mistakes, but it was a first cut of something wonderful and if anyone wants to give her grief over it that she can tell them to stuff it.

Expect a version done by Woot Suit Riot soon, as well as improved vocal tracks from Avery and I at some point, but for now here it is…

Ink Will Fade by Princess Pants, Andrew and Jim:

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/236335741″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

~ Andrew

The Sound of Music – Part 3

My wife has got a wide range of musical tastes and only occasionally will I hear something playing in her car that I don’t enjoy. Certainly, without her extensive pallat of auditory awesomeness  I would not have been exposed to this song by the Magnetic Fields:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jf_l3EGQvL8]

Or this cover of a Magnetic Fields song – and one of my favourite covers of all time – by The Airborne Toxic Event (whom we also saw play live in Toronto a few years ago):

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQUZBi-P6Jw]

Or even this:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QeTPNjPiyJM]

So, whenever she and I enter into a discussion about which album from a band is better than one of their others, it’s common for me to disagree and then after some listening, acquiesce to my wife’s better judgement. Case and point, The Tragically Hip’s Up To Here versus Road Apples. I was always on the side of Up To Here and her on the side of Road Apples, but after a couple listens in the car on the way to work I have flipped sides.

Such is not the case for The Watchmen and their first two albums. McLaren Furnace Room is their first album and is Jodi’s favourite from the band and for a long time I was in agreement with her on it. It’s a killer album and to this day I’m left to wonder why it didn’t vault the band into more rarified air. However, after many, many, many listens of McLaren and their second album, In The Trees, I’ve changed my tune.

Welcome to the third installment of the Sound of Music – My Top Five Albums Of All Time:

In The Trees by The Watchmen

Released 1994

Track Listing:
  1. “34 Dead St.” (9/10)
  2. “Boneyard Tree” (8/10)
  3. “Lusitana” (9/10)
  4. “Wiser” (9/10)
  5. “Calm” (9/10)
  6. “All Uncovered” (10/10)
  7. “In My Mind” (9/10)
  8. “Laugher” (8/10)
  9. “The South” (8/10)
  10. “Born Afire” (8/10)
  11. “Vovo Diva” (7/10)
  12. “Middle East” (9/10)
As a reminder here is the main criteria that went into making my choices:

  • Number of songs I like on the album (i.e. the fewer songs I skip over, the better)
  • Composition of the album (i.e. are the songs arranged in an order I find pleasing?)
  • Memories invoked when I hear a song from the album
  • Emotional impact of the album (i.e. how does listening to it make me feel?)

Looking at my album evaluation criteria seeing this album in my top five shouldn’t come as a surprise. I might occasionally skip over Boneyard Tree and Vovo Diva but even as my least favourite songs on the album I’ll find myself singing along. When listened to end-to-end I find the arrangement of the album to be just about perfect, from the first chords of the hard and heavy 34 Dead St. to the perfect solo bass note played by Ken Tizzard that echoes in your head to end the album, In The Trees, takes me on a journey I never want to end. 

The memories invoked when I hear any song off this album vary, but all begin in first-year university, where in 1993 my friend Riaz introduced me to the band. Naturally, I have oodles and oodles of memories ranging from listening in Riaz’s room to seeing the band play at various clubs and bars around town. Probably the best one, though, is the time Riaz drove me into Toronto to go see them play at The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern.

Legen… wait for it… dary.

If you’ve never been to The Horseshoe, you’re truly missing out on a piece of Toronto history. Renowned for being a bit of a dive, it has been home to some of the most amazing musical talents ever known and their walls are adorned with posters, news articles and ticket stubs from all the acts.

The stage at The Horseshoe all decked out for their 60th-anniversary celebrations

This one particular night Ri and I were there early, he liked to make sure he had a spot right up front by the guitarist, Joey Serlin, but after enjoying a few beverages waiting for the show to start we found ourself in need of relieving ourselves. Downstairs to the basement washroom we went. Now if you’ve never been to The Horseshoe you’re missing out, but if you’ve never been to the men’s room at The Horseshoe you’re not missing a thing.

Washroom wall wisdom Probably the nicest part of the washroom

We walked into the john and who would we find zipping up just as we were heading in? Danny. Thinking the pisser wasn’t the best place to drum up a conversation we did our business and then wandered out into the hallway, peering into a stairwell on the off chance we could sneak up backstage. Danny was sitting in the stairwell having a smoke. A smoke! (Sorry if I’m exposing a dark secret, Danny). Riaz asked if it was cool if we joined him for a cig, and he said he didn’t mind, so we spent the next cigarette’s worth of time shooting the shit and just enjoying a subdued moment. Three guys having a smoke in a stairwell.

The stairwell. No Danny this time. 

Butting out and stomping on what remained of his Du Maurier, Danny said, “Sorry guys but I gotta get into the moment here before I head out.” Riaz and I nodded and thanked him for the chat and wished him a good show. “Thanks guys. Nice meeting you,” he said as Ri and I headed back upstairs to a now packed floor with a couple hundred folks unaware that we had just had the coolest and most surreal experience of our brief music-loving lives.

The emotional impact of this album is probably stronger than any other. I met my wife sitting in Riaz’s room back in 1993 and even took voice lessons and put a band together to play a Watchmen tune for her for our anniversary a few years ago. I feel so much joy when I hear one of their songs on my iPod (which is often because I have a TON of WM music). On the other end of the spectum, Riaz introduced me to both my wife and The Watchmen’s music and he’s gone now, so hearing many of their songs, even the happy ones, makes me sad. If you listen carefully you can hear In My Mind playing in the background at the beginning of my memorial speech and reading.

So there you have it, the third (in no particular order, yet) of my Top Five Albums of All Time along with some of the reasons why. A dozen great tracks invoking myriad emotions and half a lifetime of memories.

You can find The Watchmen music for sale on iTunes here along with some live show downloads here and some FREE tracks / shows for download here.

~ Andrew

In Defence of the Dark Arts

Nothing brings out the goodwill and joy like suggesting people keep their Christmas lights off until December 1st. If you want to enrage the neighbours all you have to do is go into the Facebook group someone set up for your neighbourhood and put up a post about it. Granted, I was a bit smarmy, but I have perfectly good and reasonable reasons. None of that matters because apparently I’m a Scrooge McGrinch Level 100 troll who has no right to tell people what to do.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frNRluzraJU]

The first response to my post was, “Why?” Well, I didn’t want to get all in-your-face and ranty about it, so I gave a watered-down response. There was already enough, especially when you factor in the extreme over-commercialization of the holiday that’s happened over the last couple decades. So why not give everyone a break? A bit of a reprieve, if you will.

That just made things worse.

FOR THE RECORD:
I’m a fan of the December joy, I really am. For the month of December, I always strive to be the jolliest asshole this side of the nuthouse(1). I love the snow and the lights and the whole general idea of giving more and not being a total ass to one another. I think it sets a good tone for the rest of the year.

But seriously, it’s getting a bit out of hand.

After Back to School and then Canadian Thanksgiving and then Halloween (stores are even putting up Christmas stuff before Halloween!) and then Remembrance Day (Canada) / Veterans Day (U.S.) and then U.S. Thanksgiving AND THEN December proper and 26 days of Christmas madness we take a (quick) breath and go straight back for more with New Year’s and just when you think you’re done the Orthodox folks jump in with their Christmas celebration on January 7. Oh, and let’s not forget there’s a bunch of other non-Christian holidays in there trying to get air time as well (more on that later).

Did you know that there are governments and military prisons that have used the persistent playing of music as a deterrent as well as torture? Well, welcome to certain radio stations and virtually every store in every mall in North America in December. Listen as they crank out Christmas music until you want to stuff an elf backwards into jolly old Santa’s milk and cookie piehole.

Starting November 25th!

Here’s a pro tip:
There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to be bombarded with Christmas 24/7/365. I am not a Scrooge or Grinch or Troll for having a lower tolerance for all things mistletoe. There’s the song 12 Days of Christmas and turning on the lights December 1st more than doubles the recommended serving of joy. That’s pretty good, no?

I think I brought the craziness to a close on that Facebook thread (at least I haven’s seen many comments since) with the following:

“Wow. I never said I wanted to make it a law. Amazing how quickly cheer turns into hate. Want to see people’s true colours? Challenge them on the internet.” 

Someone on my side (or at least not against me) replied to that with something about not messing with a woman and her Christmas decorations, and I replied with, “WAR ON CHRISTMAS!” It was a joke meant to play on the usage of the phrase, particularly with Tea Party Republicans in the U.S.

I shouldn’t have used the phrase because it’s not a war. It’s not a battle. It’s not a confrontation. It’s not even a heated argument. Hell, it barely meets the definition of a disagreement. Barely. So, to call it a war would be incredibly disrespectful to those who fight in actual wars. Which brings me to another thing: the November 12th People (N12P).

Now, I don’t know what veterans and service people think of the N12P, but I imagine members of the N12P taking in the Veterans Day parade waiting for the float with the replica of the tomb of the unknown soldier pass so they can push a button and have their Christmas lights turn on. That might be an extreme case and I’m certain that’s not what goes down for the majority of the N12P, but the simple fact that they wait until the 12th instead of, say, the 15th or 25th or the 2nd Sunday in November does give me the impression that they’re just waiting to get November 11 out of the way so they can get on with celebrating. Anyhow, that’s just an aside. I’ll let you think about it.

[…]

One argument I hear in favour of an early lighting is, “My kids get so excited!” Sure, Christmas is a wonderful time for kids. You know what, though? My kids used to get excited about having dessert after dinner. Now, for whatever reason they have it every night, and I couldn’t tell you the last time they were over-the-moon excited about 25g of sugar and chocolate.

I’ll tell you one thing, if you want to get someone really excited about something, tell them how awesome it is, and then tell them can’t have it until a certain date. I’m not suggesting we treat the turning on of the Christmas lights like the new Star Wars movie, but there is something to be said for absence making the heart grow fonder. I say make the kids wait as long as you possibly can and then watch as their heads explode with joy when they finally get to experience it.

(Hmm, I think the 40-year-old virgin may have been onto something.)

As an after December 1st argument, I’d also like to bring up cultural insensitivity. Maybe that’s not the right phrase. Cultural Christmaswashing? Think cultural whitewashing but with red and green candy canes and nativity scenes. I don’t know what you’d call it, but hasn’t the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture machine saturated the West enough over the last few hundred years? Do we really need to be standing on the rooftops for months at a time screaming, “CHRISTMAS! LOOK AT ME, I CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS! WOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOO! CHRISTMAS MOTHER*****ERS!”

I’m no social justice warrior but I have to wonder what all this feels like to the new immigrant or someone trying to celebrate their own holiday – or no holiday at all for that matter. I’d love to see some Diwali lights displayed in my neighbourhood but it’s awfully hard to pick them out over all the Christmas stuff. Then again, maybe it just looks like a party’s about to break out at any minute and everyone thinks it’s just fantastic (judging by the number of “likes” on my comment and the number of other people who are in line with my post-November light turny onie decision I’m guessing not).

Also on my new favourite Facebook thread was the comment that I can’t tell people what to do. To be precise:

“You can close your eyes you have no right to tell people when then can and can not [sic] decorate”. 

First, I don’t recall telling anyone to do anything. I posted a smarmy, “How about…? Mkay, thanks.”

But it did get me thinking… What about an individual’s rights? I have every right to question your judgement if you put up your Christmas stuff in the middle of August just as you have every right to put it up whenever the hell you want. But unwritten agreements exist all the time and work just fine without being formalised into law. I simply want people to come to an arrangement. A reasonable compromise that takes everything I’ve just written about into account.

I can imagine the person from the above quote sitting on the porch in their rocking chair with an armful of flashing LEDs, or walking around WalMart with a giant battery in a backpack powering Christmas lights strung all around their shopping cart. When approached and asked about why they’re doing what they’re doing they reply with:

“The 87th amendment to the Constitution clearly states that ‘A well regulated Neighbourhood Community being necessary to the celebration of Christmas, the right of the people to keep and display Christmas lights shall not be infringed’,” and then every argument from then on that even remotely appears to contradict the 87th amendment is met with, “CHRISTMAS MOTHER****ER!”

So there you have it. Do with this information what you will. I’ll be lighting my house and Christmas tree up like a Christmas tree on December 1st and shutting the lights off when I go to bed on December 31st, happy as a clam the whole time and trying not to be an ass to people the other eleven months of the year after that.

As for peace on earth, goodwill to men? All I have to say to that is it’s not gonna happen so long as there is an Internet – and a comments section.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mk74WprmZxY]
(1) My all-time favourite Christmas movie.

~ Andrew