Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Sights - Interview with Eddie Baranek, Bobby Emmett, and Keith Fox

Eddie Baranek - vocals/guitar (originator)
Bobby Emmett - keyboards/bass (Joined in 2003)
Keith Fox - Drums (Joined in 2005)

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While writing this article/interview, The Sights are just coming off an 8 city tour with Robert Plant. The interview is in two parts.The first part occurred at the Brickyard club, just prior to their September 23/05 gig. After speaking with the obviously exhausted and slightly inebriated group, I decided to follow up the interview with an Q&A email at a later date.

Background triviaI first met The Sights when I arrived for their gig at Richards on Richards with The Donnas and Riff Randalls, too late to see them live. I met Eddie and the band, explained I meant to review their set, but offered to purchase and review their cd. (See article here) When I heard through the grapevine that they were going to be playing the Brickyard on September 23rd, I made sure to mark it on my calendar.

Part 1 of the Interview

Eddie, Bobby and Keith were sitting by the entrance of the Brickyard and I needed to ask some basic questions. Due to the noise I slid a written note to them with the simple question, “You are big enough to be touring with Robert Plant, plus you’re an excellent band - why the Hell aren’t you more publicly promoted?”

Eddie was willing to explore the question further so we managed to secure a storage closet/furnace room where we could talk, albeit not in the most comfortable of fashion.

I mentioned our previous meeting in April, and they nodded in that polite, vague way so I gathered I didn’t make a huge impression upon them when I said I was planning to review their cd. In fact, this is a band who (in particular, Eddie) doesn’t impress easily. If anything, Eddie appears underwhelmed, almost jaded at the youthful age of 24.

I again asked why they weren’t better promoted, as I was lucky to have even heard about the gig at the Brickyard. Eddie assured me that things were going to be better since they had secured Sophie Smith at Big Hassle, and they now had a manager, Brendan Bourke (whom they hooked up with just after the gig with The Donnas.) Their record company is New Line Records. Prior to that, The Sights had not had a manager. Eddie also let me know that the band has actually played in Vancouver seven times in the past year.

I asked them how they got the gig with Robert Plant and Eddie noted that The Sights played with him on July 7 and 9/05 in Chicago, and Plant invited them to tour with him. Apparently Robert Plant likes to support local acts through venue exposure. When asked if there were any ‘big names’ that impressed any of them, they couldn’t come up with any, but Eddie stated he was ‘truly flattered’ when Plant invited them to tour.

Bobby stated that they were prepared for Plant to strut about as a big egotistical music star but the opposite happened. Plant made a point of introducing himself immediately to the band, sat and chatted with them prior to going on stage and was generally ‘an extremely nice, down to earth guy’. The band was prepared to dislike him and the whole rock star image, but Plant was so welcoming, friendly, and unassuming that they found it hard to find anything to dislike about him.

I asked what other bands The Sights have toured with to which they responded: The Kills, Guided by Voices, The Donnas, Sloan, and Billy Idol (just to name a few). They really enjoyed Sloan’s gig and have become good buddies with them since, often communicating via e-mail.

The conversation quickly digressed to Sloan’s lyrics and the band’s creative ability. That’s when I made the comparison that Sloan is big in Canada, yet (according to Eddie) draws few crowds in the Westcoast states and the US just doesn’t “get them”. I countered that The Sights can attract large crowds in the States, yet are still relatively unknown in Canada. As well, The Sights have been recognized by major music magazines, including the Rolling Stone and Spin magazine. Why they are not breaking into the Canadian market is inexplicable. That’s when I, again, brought up the publicity (or lack thereof) factor.

I also asked the group if there had been any difficult acts they toured with, and the name Billy Idol popped up. As Bobby noted, the South by Southwest Festival had four headliners sharing one trailer, but Idol’s camp decided to hijack the trailer as their personal home base, to the extreme of monopolizing the toilet paper (much to Bobby’s chagrin). ‘Do you know what it’s like to be next to go onstage and not even have fucking toilet paper? I had to send emergency text messages to Eddie to bail me out.” We continued by discussing Idol’s apparent plastic surgery as his face is a bit ‘off’. When mentioning Idol's crooked looking face I told them about the miracles (or lack thereof) of botox and how that may have contributed to Idol's appearance.

Asking a simple question about the experience touring in the UK turned into a food discussion - first the food was described as boring and bland, but then Bobby started remembering items such as beans on toast, the curry dishes, and then onward to Canada. We (Canada) apparently have great red licorice and white chocolate with almonds. This was the most animated (and hilarious) I saw Bobby get since the interview started. I made a mental note to get the boys’ addresses and send them a package of licorice and white chocolate.

Keith (drummer) was very quiet during the interview and then I learned that he pulled something in his back whilst on a water slide in Saskatoon. Out came Bobby’s caring side as he physically works out the “kink’ in Keith’s back. How caring? I’m not sure as Keith swore a lot and said “Stop it, what the hell...?’ while Bobby laughed and said, ‘No... serious, this will help.” After a minute or so of torture, Keith assured Bobby that he would just use his wrists more.

Speaking of drummers, I asked what happened to Mike (the former drummer) and Eddie said he left for Philly and Keith replaced him this spring. Mark (keyboards) had left The Sights in 2002 and is now married and presently fighting the war in Iraq. Bobby’s been with the band since 2003, So essentially, The Sights is Eddie. He originated the group in 1998 and has always been the core/ constant. Eddie and Bobby both stated that the band they have now is the one that’ll stay.

After some general chat about how much I’ve enjoyed their music, and hoped that their sound becomes better known in Canada, we drew the interview to a close. I left feeling that all three were very generous with their time, were humorous and generally likable. Considering I blind sided them by requesting an interview (when they just wanted to rest and have a couple of beers before playing) they were very accommodating.

Part Two - Finishing off With Some Email Questions

Swanktrendz: With the constant turnover of musicians, did Eddie ever feel like giving up?

The Sights:The constant turnover of musicians allows for fresh inspiration and a rejuvenation of some sorts. The changing of lineups almost makes it a different band, so there really is no feeling of giving up. The feeling of giving up comes when you are in bumfuck, nowhere and your girlfriend is back home in Detroit. Oh and I expect this lineup to last til I'm 53 years old.

ST - Why was Keith’s drum set so low to the ground - is that the way he prefers it, or was it simply gig logistics?

TS - I'll answer this for Keith since I (think) I know the answer. It is simply the way he taught himself. That is the only way he knows how to play.

ST - Eddie has a big voice, did he take vocal training? Did Bobby take piano training?

TS -The "big voice" came about because I have to compensate for my short stature (five foot six). Honestly though, the only way I know how to sing is to get up there and shout my brains out. You have to give it your all every time, you know? You can't just sit there and whisper into a microphone. People pay good money to see you, so you better give them some shouting; or prepare to get naked. The only training I've had is beer or whiskey before I go onstage. Bobby studied under Harold MacKinney, an old black jazz guy in Detroit. Keith, studying? Ha...

ST - How old are the members?

TS - 23,24

ST - Any married, girlfriends, or just single?

TS - Girlfriends, yeah we have three of them. One for each member..

ST - Are The Sights writing for a new album? Where do they write the best? On the road or while at home?

TS - It's funny, Bobby and I joke about this all the time: It is damn near impossible to write on the road. You just can't create when you are in that bonehead environment-- be it the smelly ass van, the cruddy "backstage" area (usually a leaky basement). I read in the van, and sometimes short spurts of inspiration will come to me. I usually write them down and then revisit them later when I get off tour.

ST - What will be done to promote The Sights in Canada? You are clearly an excellent band, with a bluesy rock feel - how are you going to market up North?

TS - Are you asking the band? Um, gee, I don't know. We are simply the lemmings they've programmed to grind our once lovely lives into the ground via touring. So, I think they will market us the same way in the North that they do in the U.S., which is ...

ST - When is the Canadian release date for the Sights self-titled cd?

TS - Should be out now at your local store kids!!!! Canadian Purchase

ST - What’s playing in The Sights’ cd player while touring from city to city?

TS - The Sights don't own a cd player in our van. However, our extensive tape collection includes: Little Milton, Little Eva, Little Willie John, Little Richard, and Illinois Jacquet. I am being truthful here. Another favorite cassette is Stevie Wonder's Talking Book.

ST - How do The Sights feel about the current state/trend of music ie: Rap, Franz Ferdinand, etc.?

TS - Like you said, the current trend of music is rap and Franz Ferdinand. I don't really keep up on the current trends... I'm too busy trying to figure out Irving Berlin at the moment. But I do get a kick out of you!!!!

Thanks!, later, eddie

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Thank you, Mr. K.

Contributed by Christine

Friday morning, October 7, 2005, 7:00 a.m. saw a group of teachers gathering outside of their Langley school. There was an uncomfortable air about the group, with nervous chatter and laughter interspersed with the somber reason for the gathering. They were the first of three picket shifts to bring attention to the BC Teacher's Strike.

Discomfort and nervousness are appropriate emotions since walking a picket line is contrary to a teacher's core sense of beliefs. We are nurturers and lovers of children who have chosen careers in hopes of developing students into productive and unique citizens. Teachers firmly believe that children can attain anything they wish. As our school motto states: 'Attitude Determines Altitude'.

The story behind this picket line began when 90.5% of educators voted for immediate job action against an unjust working contract. Unjust for several reasons: the contract is neither negotiated nor collective, and is definitely not in agreement with teachers' wishes. Furthermore, this contract was imposed on us by a newly-elected 'slash and burn' government who ripped up the previous contract, after promising that they would do no such thing throughout their election campaign.

When that percentage of educators, especially in conservative Langley, vote for job action, one can be assured there are issues strong to educators' hearts at stake, specifically students' learning environments. At present, teachers put in very long hours (an average 10 hour day is the norm) attempting to overcome our limiting contract to ensure that all students' needs are met. An impossible goal, but one that is pursued nonetheless.

Which brings me back to the teachers on the picket line. There are many educators present who would definitely be considered non-radical (and to some extent union oblivious) yet here they are, strapping on picket signs because they believe they are doing the right thing for their students. This is a selfless act, no glory or personal reward.

As parents, strangers, or passers-by voice their support, it helps rally the picketers' morale. Even the administrators come out with beverages and food to show empathy and understanding. They understand the situation imposed on teachers.

Then it happened - the group of teachers who had been thrown together to oppose unfair learning conditions were quickly united due to one teacher making his own stand. This so-called colleague did not show up for picket duty, but rather to go to work. Mr. K arrived at 8:15 am, averting his eyes to avoid the stares of disbelief and entered the school. He emerged only once, at 3:15 to head to his car to return home.

As he was pulling out, I asked him what on earth was he doing. To which he replied vaguely, ‘everyone has their own reasons.’ I simply responded, fine, but when we negotiate a fair contract, be sure to turn down any progress we've made. Stay with the large classes, the lack of support and the lower pay. Mr. K. does not have to picket if he is against that - he'll simply not receive the paltry strike pay that the rest of us receive. There is no reason for this man to spend a full day in school. It's not like he's in the position to engage in a day's worth of planning, marking, or whatever, as his job does not entail that much paperwork.

Mr. K. showed up again the next ‘school’ morning, same time, same aversion of eyes.

Then it occurred to me that although we may feel like fish out of water doing such blatant job action, Mr. K. in his odd way, has brought us together in 100% agreement. He has created a common ground for a large staff that does not always have things in common. Mr. K., by insulting us (through his daily presence), has made us realize that we are a solid, unified collective of teachers. We are united in our disgust and disappointment with both the government's refusal to bargain, and our one teacher who puts his own needs above those of our students, their parents, and most importantly, his colleagues.

So despite the initial discomfort and awkwardness about standing in a strike zone, we now realize that our presence demonstrates solidarity against legislative bullying. And thanks to Mr. K. we have also realized how united, like-minded, and cohesive a staff we are, with exception of course, of one lone figure.

BOY: An Interview with Stephen Kozmeniuk

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Contributed by David Dedrick
I met Stephen Kozmeniuk in the odd confines of the Abbotsford Ag-Rec Centre – basically a gigantic barn built for agricultural fairs. While waiting for him, I was able to watch the road crew struggle with the sound mix, but I doubt they were able to do much with it in that huge, hangar-like structure with its corrugated metal walls. In fairness to the venue, it wasn’t built to house rock fans; it was built to house cattle (although that may be a distinction too subtle for some).

Boy’s debut album was essentially a solo album – Kozmeniuk wrote, produced and mostly played all the instruments himself (he plays guitar, keyboards, bass, drums and can fake it on a myriad of other instruments). It’s a delightful mélange of straight-ahead rock and baroque-pop – accent on the sixties. On the excellent Every Page You Turn, Boy’s newest record, Kozmeniuk has put together a band and stripped his sound down to rock’n’roll essentials, which is not to say it’s no longer eclectic – “People Come On” and “Same Old Song” harkens back to the jangle-pop sound of the Beatles or the Byrds; Dark Side/Wish You Were Here-era Pink Floyd can be heard in “A Line To Stand Behind” and “The New Number Two”; and no one could miss the Rolling Stones in “Diamonds”. Fortunately, Kozmeniuk isn’t a slave to his influences; while some of his favourite music may influence him, his own musical personality is strong enough to take his songs in new and surprising directions. My personal fave-rave track, “Black Cat”, a mellow country-rock/r&b strum-along, is lifted into the stratosphere by this great honky-tonk piano banging away in the background – that takes musical imagination.

When I talked to Kozmeniuk, he had just arrived after a ten-hour drive from Prince George. He was exhausted from the rigours of touring and battling a drawn-out cold; nevertheless, he was extremely gracious and kindly consented to this interview. We adjourned to a small anteroom to escape the AC/DC-blaring road crew where, wearing a toque and a slim-fitting coat to fight the chill of the arena, he answered the following questions.

Swanktrendz: So how’s the tour going so far?

Stephen Kozmeniuk: It’s definitely a different crowd than what we’re used to playing for – the Collective Soul crowd.

ST: Really? I’m not very familiar with them. Are they hard rock?

SK: They’re pretty pop - mainstream radio kind of band, adult contemporary. So, it’s a lot of older…adults. We’re used to clubs and younger people.

ST: Well, we’re big fans of your cds at ST.

SK: Oh, thanks.

ST: The first one was really eclectic and fun. Your new one’s still fun, but less eclectic – more straight-ahead rock and roll, definitely a West Coast sound.

SK: Yeah, that’s really where I was coming from. I mean, we did it out here; a lot of the guys in the band were from out here.

ST: Where was the first one made?

SK: It was done in Whitehorse and part of it was done in Edmonton. But I was seventeen then, I was pretty young.

ST: Well, that can be good: you don’t know any rules, there’s nothing to stop you from doing what you want.

SK: Yeah, but then we tried to tour the record and it proved to be really hard.

ST: Hard to perform on stage?

SK: Yeah, you really couldn’t do it when it all came down to it. You had to have a twelve-person orchestra and you had to be pulling in five or six thousand a night plus, and that’s hard for a new band.

ST: Sure.

SK: And it, really, honestly, just wasn’t that fun to play live. It was pretty boring.

ST: It’s more fun to play rock?

SK: Yeah, it is, it’s more fun to play rock and roll. It’s something you can perform and get into. I’d like to do something more experimental like that again. I think the next record will be-not like the first record, but not like this record.

ST: But that’s good, you’re supposed to change and progress. Would you say your influences changed between your first record and this record? Did you change what you’re listening to?

SK: No, not really. It was pretty much the same: old Beatles and Stones, Pink Floyd and The Who and whoever else. I find that the records I like to listen to are kind of all over the place, but it seems that, nowadays, people’s attention spans are just shot. I think the media is the number one reason why people are idiots now.

ST: You blame the media.

SK: Well, sure. I mean, look at the TV, look at the Press – how they sensationalize things in crazy ways.

ST: And simplify things in other ways.

SK: Exactly. What do they tell a newspaper reporter? To write to a twelve year old’s reading level. And they definitely shoot for that. They want people to easily understand things and not really give a lot of insight. And TV, man, I can’t even handle watching TV. I don’t know. Have you seen TV lately?

ST: So what you’re telling me is there’s going to be no Boy: The Band reality show?

SK: We have this great idea to do this mockumentary – not quite like Spinal Tap, more like The Office.

ST: Ah yes, great show. Was this album different because you were working with a band and not by yourself?

SK: There was another guy in on the other record, as well.

ST: I just noticed from the credits that you are one of those people that play lots of instruments.

SK: Yeah, I can’t really. I just pick it up and figure it out.

ST: That’s a skill not everyone has.

SK: It is [different] because the band came along. I would have had a band sooner, but growing up in the Yukon it’s kind of hard…it’s tough to find a band.

ST: Let’s talk about that a bit because you must have been a little…different than the people you grew up with.

SK: Oh, definitely.

ST: One of things musicians face, I mean, all musicians face this, is the reason you’re a good musician is because you spent a lot of time in your bedroom strumming your guitar or whatever.

SK: Oh yeah, girlfriends hated it; parents were like, “Do your schoolwork.” My girlfriend’s like, “What are you doing? Spend time with me.” And my friends are like, “Dude, let’s go out for some beers. Let’s go get high.” I wasn’t really into that; I spent a lot of time in my room playing music. I was totally different. People don’t understand why you like to do it. It’s something that’s truly amazing and probably kept me out of a lot of trouble growing up.

ST: The ability to write a song – to have a song pop into your head – is something beyond my ken.

SK: I think it’s an extremely exciting process. It can be the most frustrating thing that you can ever go through and the most intense. That’s how I find it. You’re kind of going blind for so long and then, just all of a sudden, after all that darkness, that all of sudden something just pops in there, you know. And that’s why you do it. That’s why you put yourself through this whole struggle.

ST: That’s why that whole birth metaphor to art is pretty common, I guess.

SK: Yeah, exactly, exactly.

ST: How did you end up on Maple Music?

SK: I released the first record under a different label [Bumstead Records], and then I played some stuff to the A&R guy there – he’s just a friend – and he really liked it. He said he wanted to put it out, wanted to show it to the label. He was just a friend, you know.

ST: Networking – so important.

SK: It is. I never think of it as networking. But it is.

ST: How did you hook up with Brenndan Macguire - through the label?

SK: No, he’s a friend.

ST: He’s worked with Sloan, I know. Didn’t he produce the American Flag?

SK: Yeah, he’s done some stuff for them. I think they were working on some new stuff. I heard it and it sounded really good – better than anything else they’ve done.

ST: I love their first album. That’s why I brought it up. They kind of disappeared.

SK: I think Brenndan went to Toronto and worked on some stuff recently. Brenndan’s an interesting dude too.

ST: It’s the story with so many Canadian indie bands. They do some great stuff, but you’ve got to work or work at it or just disappear…

SK: Yeah, it’s a tough go, man.

ST: Sorry if I’m being depressing.

SK: No, I think it’s something totally worthy of talking about: the state of Canadian music. I think it’s fantastic. There’s tons of great music coming out of Canada – tons of hype coming, but then, you know, actual results coming too. I think something people don’t understand is when they think they see a band that’s doing really awesome, chances are they probably aren’t doing that awesome. It’s weird. It seems to actually really make it in Canada, you have to…I don’t think there’s any point in releasing a record in Canada before you’ve released a record somewhere else – especially an indie band. Look at Sam Roberts, he can’t do anything in another country – he can hardly get a release in another country. And if it does, it’s selling 800 copies. But then you look at The Dears, they can’t sell anything in Canada, but then you look at them in the UK and the States and they’re doing way better. The Stills; it’s the exact same thing. I mean, they’re selling out huge places in the States, but in Canada, they’re doing small clubs. It’s a weird, “eat your young” mentality in Canada. I mean, Canada’s an awesome place, but we have a weird attitude towards art.

ST: It’s a perverted modesty – we can’t seem to proclaim ourselves or our own.

SK: That’s totally it.

ST: It’s a double-edged sword though, isn’t it? You want an audience at your shows – you want your fans there, you want your smart fans that will understand what you’re singing to them, but you also want to sell your records. So then you get the guys who are there to be seen…

SK: To get drunk. You know, one thing I thought was amazing: we just got back from Japan a little while ago and no one gets drunk at shows. It is amazing. It’s so different from Canada. You know, in Canada, it’s about selling beer at a concert, not selling a band at a concert. The whole experience of just going to a concert, it’s just about getting hammered.

ST: And yelling.

SK: And yelling. In Japan, the only guy yelling in the crowd – you know, yelling stupid stuff - kept shouting he was from Brampton, Ontario – the only Canadian in there. I thought it was funny. It doesn’t matter who you are. I saw a million bands in Japan…

(Another band member walking by shouts out: “It’s art, man!”)

SK: The whole crowd, they almost hang on every word you say. You get crazy applause right after you play, and then the whole crowd is dead quiet. They hang on every word. I saw that happen to Oasis; I saw that happen at The Black Crows; even bands like Slipknot, you know…Duran Duran.

ST: The fans are waiting outside already [It was 4:30 – three and half hours from showtime].

SK: Yeah, these Collective Soul gigs have been packed. It’s insane. Every show’s been sold out.

ST: This is a weird venue [basically a cattle barn].

SK: They’ve been doing secondary markets. I think they’ve been touring Canada, hitting all the main markets. And now they’re doing things like Prince George, Grand Prairie, which don’t usually get shows. Which is kind of cool because they’ve been some of the best shows, I think. It’s weird being the opening band. It’s awesome though; it’s a really cool tour and everybody’s having a pretty good time. I lost my voice at the beginning of the tour. First day, I got a cold and I’m still getting over it. My top range is gone right now. I’ve been doing this for a really long time now – day after day. It starts to wreck you after a while.

ST: When you get back, do you recharge or do you have to kick yourself in the butt and get back to work?

SK: You need to recharge, but you never really get to. As soon as you get back you’ve got a million things to do you let go. Usually there’s a good week of work that you have to do and then maybe try to get some sleep again, as much as you can, which is definitely a good thing.

ST: All right. Well, thanks for your time.

SK: Thank you.

Congratulations to Swanktrendz Readership Giveaway

No Gimmicks, Just Gifts

By: Christine

The following people will be receiving their gifties this week. Thank you for participating. Next year the readershpi prizes will be bigger and better, so keep your eyes open, starting September 1, 2006.

Marc Pennsylvania $100.00 Amazon gift certificate
Melonie Kamloops Signed Sue Coleman Print
Catherine Wales U.K Signed Sue Coleman Print
Joyce Albert Signed Sue Coleman Print
April Ontario Signed Sue Colemen Print
Margot Aldergrove Designer Chocolates
Charmaine Mississauga Designer Chocolates
Marna Toronto Ball Cap
Fiona Coquitlam Ball Cap
Barbara Brampton Ball cap

Congratuations and keeping reading for sporadic giveaways.

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Monday, October 10, 2005

Think of Your Beautiful Breasts - Rose Pink Marbled Meringues:

Swank Home

Beck’s Home

A Contribution to "In the Pink" for Breast Cancer Awareness

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Rose Pink Marbled Meringues:

The whites of 4 eggs.
1 cup of caster sugar.
2 teaspoons corn flour
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon rose essence
Pink Food Colouring

Preheat oven to 300F
Whisk egg whites until they form soft peaks.
Continue to beat as you gradually add the sugar.

Sieve corn flour onto meringue mix.
Add vinegar and essence.
Carefully fold ingredients together.
Swirl in a little pink food colouring.
Do not mix too well if you want a marbled effect.

Form meringue shapes on a lined baking sheet.
Put in the oven and turn temperature down to 250F
After half an hour turn oven off.
Leave in the oven to cool completely.
Result: Cute little pale pink rose-scented soft-centred chewy meringues with a crispy outer shell made for La Dolce Vita's In the Pink Breast Cancer Awareness event.

If you like, sandwich pairs of the meringue together with a little creme fraiche and decorate with dried rose petals.

Google Reader and importing Bloglines subscriptions

You’ve probably heard of this by now - Google’s newest tool: The RSS feed reader. This tool isn’t really a surprise, seeing how Google’s been actively cornering the web publishing market (Blogger, Blog Search).

Like many of Google’s recent free products, this one is in beta stage too, although one wonders if any of Google’s products will ever actually advance past beta (think Gmail).

Anyways, I thought I’d give Google Reader a quick spin round the block, and see how it works.

Logging into Google Reader is the same as logging into Gmail, and indeed, if you have a Google account (e.g. for Gmail or other Google Account service) you can use the same username and password for this too.

Once you’re logged in, you’re presented with the classic Google interface (i.e. sparse, and efficient). If you’ve just logged in for the first time, you get a little intro, like so:

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You have now the option of adding feed URLs one by one or importing an existing feed subscription list. Since I already use Bloglines for all my feed-reading needs, I decided to import my Bloglines subscriptions into Google Reader.

To do this, I logged into my Bloglines account as usual, went to My Feeds, and clicked on Edit. Then I clicked on the Export Subscriptions link under the heading Extras. This results in a page listing the XML source code of my feeds (different browsers will display this differently).

I then saved this page on my computer as an XML file (e.g. feeds.xml).

Next, I went back to my Google Reader, clicked on the Your Subscriptions tab, and from the pull down menu (the one saying More Actions.. next to the Add a feed link), I selected the Import option.

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Clicking on Browse, I selected the XML file I’d saved earlier and clicked Upload.

Google Reader took a minute to upload my file (I subscribe to a lot of feeds) and then displayed them all.

Its default presentation of feeds isn’t quite to my taste. It just orders the feeds according to the most recently updated. It looks like a jumble and basically, somewhat messy.

However, you can view them in categorical format by clicking on the Your subscriptions tab which will present your feeds like so:

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Overall, I kinda prefer Bloglines’ features and user interface, but that’s just because I’m so used to it. However, Google Reader seems to be a little bit faster than Bloglines in indexing those feeds, and maybe in time I might get comfortable enough with the user interface to make it my primary feed reader.

Nevertheless, as first impressions go, Google Reader does seem to do what it sets out to do - index feeds and present them in an easy-to-read form. No fuss, no special, extra features.

That’s the Google way, I guess.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Antithesis of a Good Concert Venue

Swank Home

Boycott Abbotsford AG Rec Center for Further Concerts

By Christine

Despite being ill, I was determined that Lezah and I were going to attend Boy’s Abbotsford show (they were one of the opening acts for Collective Soul). We had missed them once already when the singer, Stephen Kezmeniuk, was too ill to play so there was no way we were going to miss them twice. Therefore, I dragged my sickly butt out of bed; forcing aforesaid companion to share breathing space with me as we headed out to the Abbotsford AG Recreational Centre.

Upon arrival, we were forced to step over discarded beer bottles and pools of vomit in order to reach the lengthy line-up that snaked back into the darkened bowels of the parking lot. Luckily, we were able to bypass this line and head right into the venue. Security was very ‘present’ but for what, I was unsure as I do not recall Collective Soul ever reaching superstar status. The security also had antiquated rules, eg: no cameras. In an age of camera phones I found this rule to be unenforceable. Besides, I couldn’t do a concert review without a visual.

Entrance into the barn-like building immediately presented a ‘70s old time concert-at-the-hockey-arena feel. A poorly placed beer garden ensured that a line of thirsty folk snaked across the front of the stage making it inaccessible to fans who wanted to be front and centre. The crowd was a real mix, with close to 50% aged 40+ preferring blue jeans, and for some odd reason, the colour brown. The tables selling band merchandise were set up at the back of the arena with the sole light source centred on Collective Soul’s offerings. The other band’s, Kazzer, items could be dimly made out, and Boy’s merchandise was literally in the dark. The background music was an odd assortment of bands from Violent Femmes to Ozzy Osborne, with the bulk of the music being that of '70s arena rock bands. Hello, high school dance!  I'd like you to meet the year 2005!  I mean really, it's time to realize we're in a new millenium here!

Perhaps because I was ill, or perhaps in spite of being ill, I found myself in an annoying venue, with annoying beer drinkers, and listening to annoying programmed music. Not a good space to be in prior to the gig even starting.

Before Boy was due, a band called Kazzer played their set. This group had an eclectic sound, neither great nor bad, yet the band presented themselves with an over inflated sense of self.  But who were they, really? Their sound was a fusion of rock, metal, rap, and scratch hip hop. Their look was not homogenous either. The lead singer had the Vanilla Ice appearance, while the guitarist had very long dred locks, and the keyboard/record scratch fellow looked like the local country boy with his ball cap. Definitely an urban meets country look. The tunes ended up leaning more towards the hip hop genre due to the melodic bridges and choruses after the rapping. The crowd listened, tended to be young and somewhat uncertain looking. They were polite with applause, but appeared underwhelmed (with exception to two skinheads who were fist pumping and lurching about).

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Boy made an appearance onstage at 9:05 only to disappear quickly after. After a lengthy passage of time (or what seemed to be lengthy as I was becoming impatient with the people around me) Boy took to the stage. By now a throng of people had pushed toward the stage, again, more of the ‘younger’ fans.

As soon as Boy began their set, I could immediately see the growth in the band’s performance since last year, when they were literally becoming acquainted with each other (as Stephen was previously a solo act). As they played, you could see they were seasoned, comfortable and arranging the songs more personally, rather than putting out the tunes in the order of the tracks on the cd. Unfortunately, I doubt if the audience would have appreciated any of these subtle nuances as the sound was appalling. Stephen’s mic was not working properly from the start, and Rolla’s guitar riffs were barely audible. Maurie (Tank) was hidden in the back with his presence known only because the drums were the main instrument heard.

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As well, the band did not seem themselves. Rolla didn’t have his usual bombastic enthusiasm, and Stephen could have been bantering with the audience - who would know when you couldn’t hear any vocals? If anyone in the audience at the front of the stage knew the band’s music, I’d be surprised as there wasn’t the usual excitement shown for the songs such as ‘Diamonds’ and ‘You gave it All’. Surely someone in the central control section noticed the poor quality of sound, and why wasn’t it corrected immediately!? If I were a manager, I would have been livid.

It was extremely disappointing to watch a band that has great talent, and has come so far as a collective unit, to have a potentially excellent set sabotaged by poor sound engineering. We couldn’t even stick around for Boy’s full set, and had no interest in seeing Collective Soul, so we were off.

The Abbotsford AG Recreational Centre left a horrible impression upon me, and I left feeling worse than when I had arrived.