Monday, July 31, 2006

Story of the Year Followup interview with Ryan Phillips

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The Warner label efficiently set up an interview (thank you Charlotte) this time around so Ryan Phillips was waiting at the Croatian Cultural Centre for our interview. The first thing I noticed was that Ryan had lost weight since our last meeting in January, and the second thing I noticed was that Adam wasn’t present.


After pointing out his thinness, Ryan responded with a ‘good’ and said he wasn’t drinking beer or partying during the Canadian leg of the tour. In response to my second question, Ryan somberly told me that Adam had to leave the Canada last week as Adam’s father is seriously ill with pancreatic cancer. This information was an immediate downer, and it’s times like this that you feel as though you should leave one alone with his thoughts, etc., but Ryan is a professional and continued on.

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The interview opened with Swanktrendz asking how it was touring with Hawthorne Heights. How was it being second billing? Ryan felt it was different and great. Usually Story of the Year brings bands along, so it was nice to tour with someone else headlining for a change.

ST I noticed Hawthorne Heights is going on to Japan. Will you be heading there as well?

SOTY Yeah, we’re going to Japan tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow... (Yells to HH Hey, are you guys going to Japan? They respond yes, but they are playing a different venue; Summer Sonic whereas SOTY is at Fuji Fest). Yeah we’re going to Japan tomorrow and then Korea.

ST So, since I last saw you in January, have you been touring nonstop or have you had a break?

SOTY We went to Japan, and then... Australia... and New Zealand and England ...

ST Oh my god, all that in six months?

SOTY And then we did a couple of small shows in the States

ST And your following? Is it getting larger and larger?

SOTY Definitely overseas. This is the first time we’ve had a following overseas. With our first album it was just stuck in the States, but we played to 5,000 in Sydney, Australia. That was pretty nice. We’re bigger in Australia than anywhere else.

ST Well, that’s a great place to start because I often find music from Australia hits Germany (with the tourist connections) and from Germany to the UK and so on back to North America.

SOTY Yeah, I‘ve got no complaints, you know.

ST There’s some things that you and Adam said to me last time that I want to revisit. For example, the statement was made that male fans are loyal and (Adam said) what a male is listening to between 10 and 15 will largely influence his musical tastes. I’ve been testing out your theory just by asking a lot of men what they were listening to when they were younger, and indeed they are still loyal.

SOTY It’s the truth, man.

ST Yet with females it’s different

SOTY Every four months they have a new favourite.

ST Explain that male psyche to me

SOTY I have no idea, it’s like some weird phenomenon - when guys love a band they just keep going to see them.

ST I think females become more loyal to a band the older they become. I have a ten year old boy and guess what he listens to?

SOTY What?

ST Story of the Year. His favourite song is ‘Falling Down’.

SOTY Are you serious? That kid rules. ‘Falling Down’ is my favourite song off that record. It’s the heaviest. When I was 10 I was listening to Metallica, Megadeath, and Pantera.

ST I still like the song ‘Meathead” but for some reason I always refer to it as ‘Jarhead’. I can’t get the name ‘Meathead’ straight.

SOTY The working title was ‘Jarhead’ and I think it’s actually imbedded in the cd so it will come up saying ‘Jarhead’ even though the cd cover reads otherwise.

ST What genre did the label assign you? I realize that nobody likes to be categorized, but labels choose genres as soon as they sign a band - it is unavoidable. If I were to walk into a store where would I look?

SOTY Gee, I don’t know. Hopefully just rock or something else. Honestly, I couldn’t care less what people call my band. Call us bluegrass, rat band, country, screamo, or emo I don’t give a shit, I don’t care.

ST Just so long as you get heard

SOTY Yeah, that’s right. It’s nice to be heard.

ST I wanted to get your opinion on MP3 file sharing of music.

SOTY Here’s what I think, I think the internet, well you know how it started with Napster and all that... I think the internet can be an awesome tool for struggling new music, you know? I think if you find a band - it’s a great tool for finding a band - but if you find a band you really like, that you’re really passionate about, I think you should buy the cd. If you download the shit for free and you don’t like it - whatever. But if you like it, then buy it. You should support the band. I would say that for every cd we sell, maybe ten are pirated. And I think I am being generous.

ST Really? So you find that to be the case? I like filesharing because when I hear about a band through word of mouth and I go on Limewire, I can see how popular the band is through the numbers. Then I buy the cds prior to reviewing a show.

SOTY Look at bands in the 80’s early 90’s that were big - they sold millions and millions of records. Now you don’t really see that too much. For the 20% who buy the cds, 80% download the music for free,

ST Wow, you think the numbers are that high? Another area I will have to look into.

SOTY Then they go to itunes after hearing a song on the radio and buy one song for 99 cents instead of buying the whole record. Coming from the artist’s side, it’s kind of hard. But then again we wouldn’t have gotten known in the early days if it weren’t for downloading.

ST I have to agree with that I would not have known about you except through word of mouth by a loyal fan; looking you up on Limewire, listening to a couple of songs and then buying your cds. So if it hadn’t have been for Limewire I may not have followed through.

SOTY Fair enough. That’s how it works these days. You know back in the days when people would go to Well. we set the world record as the number one for downloads.

ST Well, just go to Limewire - you’d be amazed at how many hits there are for your name

SOTY Really? Well I’m not joking - we broke the record for’s downloads. And like those people wouldn’t have known about us if it weren’t for those sites. So, I‘m not complaining about it, but...

ST Just buy the music

SOTY Yeah, support the artists. Go out and buy it. .

ST Which reminds me, when I attended your concert in January, there weren’t any cds available. Did you bring some this time around?

SOTY We’ve had weird problems with our label in the recent past. If we’re in a mall, or a small town we’ll look for our cd, and we’ll call people if the cds aren’t in a store. But we still don’t bring cds to concerts, So I don’t know if they will have anything tonight.

ST Well, we have the cds in stores in Vancouver.

SOTY That’s good to hear. If we’re in the States we’ll just call and say there aren’t any cds, but up here we can’t do that.

ST As well, you have great shirts and merchandising, but the cds are a big cash cow.


ST Last time we spoke, you talked about “saturation effect” with the crowd at your first big festival. Do you remember? Could you explain to me again, what you did? What advice would you give to a Vancouver band who has the same opportunity to be seen?

SOTY Oh yeah, we did a great self promotion. We did everything stupid you can think of. I’ve never heard of any other band doing this. We were psycho at the time. We had band practise every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. So every Tuesday we each had to put in 20 or 30 bucks to buy cds. We recorded our songs right onto the computer and then sat there and burned cd after cd. We made 5000 copies. We passed the cds out for free. 5 to 7 thousand off our laptops. We made pamphlets. Adam and I had software to make a home video. That video we made was what did it at the festival. We broke into all the tour buses and put our video in each band’s bus. Then the singer from Goldfinger, took it to Maverick, and we showcased for Maverick and were signed. If it wasn’t for that video and us being total psychopaths, well, I’d still be delivering pizza.

ST That’s really aggressive marketing.

SOTY While I think this business, no matter who you are, involves a little luck and knowing the right people. You can be the best band in the world, but I believe that without giving it everything you have, giving up everything, sacrificing everything, putting everything in the back seat for what you want - no amount of luck is going to help you. You know what I’m saying?

ST I know exactly what you are saying. You obviously have a strong work ethic.

SOTY You have to care, and do it long enough. New bands have to give it everything they’ve fucking got. Most people are just so lazy, people don’t want to do the work themselves.

ST Often bands expect to get discovered and signed in some bar. They want the labels to come to them.

SOTY People don't want to do the work themselves. Or they’ll get a record deal, sit back and expect the label to do all the work. What can the label do for us? Signing to a label - that’s just the first step. Do you know how many bands are signed, record a record, and their first cd is shelved because the band hasn’t done anything to promote themselves? We treat our band as though it’s independent. We are really serious about our music.

ST Well you guys are pretty tight - ousting the original singer and sticking to the lineup you have now was a good move.

SOTY Yeah, I think it’s ... well yeah, we’re all best friends which helps...

ST Anyhow, Charlotte’s looking at me, so I should get going. I had one more question, but now I’m not sure if it’s the right time to be asking it.

SOTY No, go ahead and ask it.

ST Back in January we discussed where and when songs/lyrics were written. Later, there was a discussion amongst some of my friends about good lyrics being born out of sadness or tragedy. Essentially, without those harsh emotions you can’t write. Do you believe you have to have a certain amount of tragedy or trauma in your life to be a good songwriter?

SOTY Well, I don’t write lyrics - Dan and Adam do that. I think their lyrics are awesome, but I am biased and in a band with them.

ST But you write excellent music

SOTY Well thank you. Yeah, and they write really, really good lyrics.

ST Yes, but in your world ... in “Ryan’s world” ... would you agree with that statement - that good lyrics are born out of tragedy, trauma, or sorrow?

SOTY I would agree to a certain point. I think human emotion sparks creativity whether it’s tragedy or ....

ST So if life is ‘golden’ from the get go, do you think a person could write good lyrics?

SOTY Hmmm...if you are ultra happy, poppy, maybe you can write like Hootie and the Blowfish... maybe ... Love, tragedy, heartbreak, good friends, good times, are necessary. Without emotion, what are you going to write about if you don’t experience it?

ST Thanks again and I am really sorry about Adam’s Dad. Send our regards.

SOTY Okay, thank you.

The Glim Project - Concert Review

Vancouver's Indie Focus July 14/06

By Christine Albrecht

The Glim Project
Picadilly Club July 14/06
Capacity Crowd

The Main reason I went to the Pic was to see The Glim Project. They were third in the line-up and, again, it was to be a drummer’s night for both bands (DnP and Glim) - they were definitely both hitting their stride. Watch out Danny Carey, Neil Peart, and Dave Grohl... the new generation is arriving.

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When Glim took the stage I was aware of two things: a) great getups such as: beanie hat, pink wig, Dracula shirt etc. I love a band that does not take itself too seriously in the presentation department; b) the crowd thinned out during their first song “Elitist”. If you know The Glim Project, this is a good song so I was becoming concerned that the Pic’s crowd was going to turn out to be an indifferent audience, outside smoking, waiting for the mainliners.

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As soon as they struck the first three chords of “Malcontent”, the audience gravitated to the stage and literally got hooked. The thinned crowd was soon packed and jumping,and grew exponentially.

With 40 gigs under their belt, the band was tight and focused. There were minor disruptions ie: the odd injury (those damn drummers), and out of tune guitars - the usual live issues.

As they played into their set I was absolutely mesmerized by the frenzied playing of the drummer (Marco) and bassist (E) (ala John Frusciante of the Chili Peppers - YES I know he’s not a bassist!). Then there was the fill-in guitarist, Caleb (for Geoff, whom had a prior engagement). Rumour has it that Caleb can fill in for almost any band without missing a beat - and this came from the audience rumour mill. From my observances - definitely. The singer’s (Lucanus’) pitch was off key on a couple of songs, but not enough for the crowd to care. After I spoke with him, it became more understandable, but his prior illness etc. will be in a later interview/article. Luke’s voice is reminiscent of Tim McIlrath’s of Rise Against, strong yet not too forced.

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My personal fave Glim Project song is ‘Coming Home’ and they did it well, although not as well as they in could in their opinion.

I find the band has interesting percussionist/bassist slowdowns in some mid songs - horrible analogy and I apologize up front, but I remember Elton John’s slow l... 2... 3...1... 2 ... piano/percussion beats during Benny and the Jets (not that Elton/Bernie Taupin and The Glim Project have much in common, other than some good lyrics).

The grand finale was eventful, fun, clanging and the audience ate it up! The Glim Project had DnP, Shiver, and who knows who else on stage playing their final song. The enthusiasm was contagious and the crowd was eating out of their hands - well done.

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The band originally released “Illumination from a Candle” back in 2004/05 but feel their upcoming cd is more representative of their future direction. And speaking of direction, they were hard to classify so we just decided on indie heavy thrash rock. Let a label do the final decision. 9/10

DnP (Drunk ‘N Pretending) Concert Observation

Vancouver's Indie Focus July 14/06
By: Christine Albrecht

Picadilly Club,
Capacity Crowd

As usual, I feel the need for the superficial fashion observations. As Lezah and I have noted before, The Pic has some of the best looking/dressed people we’ve seen at concerts (and if you’ve followed our notes, you know of the disasters). Young uber-chic gals, showing the latest (retro) Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy mod dresses ala ‘60s. Neon geometric designs on white, tight, short dresses, with go-go boots - very interesting. Are the ‘60s making a return?

After surviving on 4 hours sleep in 48 hours, I stumbled into the Picadilly in time to see DnP’s last half hour. This band was second in a lineup of four bands, and I had no intention of reviewing them, but they hooked me upon entry.

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Their presence was commanding - eye candy to be sure, but talented with an avid following. The followers knew their lyrics and were rockin’ out to the point of heat exhaustion. I cannot tell you the band members’ names, or who played which instrument, but I can suggest you keep your eyes open for this indie act.

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They were actually foreshadowing what was to come during the next act (The Glim Project) excellent drumming, amazing guitar rifts, and hard driving bass. What was unusual about DnP was that the bassist did most of the interaction/chatting with the crowd (and very well). Yes, I know bassists can be spokesmen, but it isn’t the norm.

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When DnP did a fun/thrash cover of ... Corey Hart’s (gag) “Sunglasses at Night”, it actually made me want to buy the version. Yep - write this band’s name down and check out their next gig. 9/10

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

By: Christine Albrecht

Interview with The Sights

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

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 (bass) 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

Story of the Year Concert Review - Jan 8/06 Croatian Cultural Centre

Story Of The Year Jan 8/06
Croatian Cultural centre - Medium Capacity

By: Christine Albrecht

After numerous superficial fashion observations see here, we got down to reviewing the performances.

Story of the Year is presently on tour to promote their latest album, In the Wake of Determination, released in October of 2005; co-produced by Steve Evetts (Hatebreed, Cure, Saves the Day), and the band delivers an edgier, more thrash metal set - quite a separation from the emo-power rock of their last cd, produced by John Feldman.

Story of the year was supposed to be supported by two opening acts Every Time I Die and From First to Last. Singer Dan Marsala had to inform the crowd that Every Time I Die’s van flipped over and the band was unable to play for a few dates, but they would rejoin the tour shortly. In fact, Dan often stopped and made announcements, observations etc - he was very audience aware. ‘If you see someone fall down, be sure to help them back up’. You heard his lament about crossing the border, and you heard him reprimanding himself for saying, ‘ We have this little ditty’...

From First to Last had ... well ... they had great artwork on the merchandise they were selling. The lead singer, Sonny (whom for some reason had red paint down one side of his face), didn’t have a huge vocabulary when it came to addressing the crowd, unless of course, it had an ”F” sound resounding throughout the words. Nonetheless, the audience seemed to enjoy themselves - bodysurfing and dancing. The tunes were fine, just not great. However, hats off to Matthew and the other guitarist, Travis, as both were clearly talented and essentially carried the show.

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Contributed by Baba Brinkman on July 13, 2006

Responsible Citizens,

The British rail system carries me from destination to destination. At the moment I'm on a train whizzing through farmland and hayfields, past canals with houseboats and flocks of shorn sheep. Yesterday I visited Liverpool for the first time, and now The Beatles are playing on my headphones, admonishing us to come to together - sound advice.

Like the train I will pass lightly over the places I have been in the past month between revising my book, recording, and performing, and will present instead the crucial contrast between today and yesterday.

Yesterday I visited a school like many of the others, a unisex private school in Birkenhead near Liverpool, where I ran a series of rap workshops with groups of fifteen-year-old girls. For most of these well-bred young English ladies, this was about as close to hip-hop as you get without calling for help. They wrote lyrics like: "I just can't wait to finish school / So I can spend my whole summer by the swimming pool."

This morning I ventured into entirely new territory and spent the day running the same workshops with groups of nineteen to twenty-one-year-old inmates at a high-security Lancaster youth prison. They wrote lyrics like: "I gun your punk ass down with a Mack-10 / And don't give a fuck if they send me back to the pen."

When I first walked in the young offenders were pure hostility and skepticism in both expression and body language. This was partly because one of the prison officials had prepped them the day before by saying that a nice white Canadian guy was going to be rapping Shakespeare for them, and it would be the coolest thing ever. It was more of a trial by fire than a workshop.

The girls the day before had been so sparkly-eyed and enthusiastic that I felt within five minutes that I could do and say nothing wrong, and the day flowed by easily. Imagine going from that to the scarred and scowling visages in the prison this morning.

It was one of the most intimidating gigs I've had yet, but there is no horror story to tell I'm happy to say. The Pardoner's Tale had them rapt (a story of violent crime and retribution well-suited to a pack of incarcerated rioters), and once I got them to start writing rhymes of their own things lightened up considerably. There may be no greater leveler of stubborn tough-guy resistance than simple stage fright. They wrote raps, some better and some worse, and practiced delivering them in a pass-the-mic cipher,
occasionally venting about their situation with real poignancy.

The most intelligent and lyrically gifted of the young offenders was Imran, who was serving a life sentence for attempted murder along with his twin brother (who was absent because they were being kept forcibly separated). I heard from the guard later that their case was in the national papers just yesterday, and that the brothers had both stabbed a man who tried to confront them during an armed robbery; luckily for them the man lived. I didn't know any of these details when I was running the workshop, but I do remember some of his rhymes: "I haven't seen freedom in so long, / But in my mind I've done nothing wrong / They say it's a crime / When you're just trying to survive."

I asked if he wanted to keep rapping, but Imran had no delusions of grandeur. He said his goal was to keep his head down and make a good impression at his first parole hearing in 2009, but he was keen enough to come back for the second workshop, so I must have made some impression. I have a feeling today won't be my last prison assignment, since it was more challenging and ultimately more rewarding than many of my cushier gigs. As long as I balance things out with a posh boarding school every now and then I should be able to survive.

I walked out of the prison with a new perspective on my rambling freedom, and now I'm looking ahead to my final week of this tour, and my return to Canada. I fly home in seven days, but a lot can happen in a week at this rate. There are more stories to tell, but I'll save them for later. Keep your noses clean in the meantime,


Weird Music ...and other stuff I listen to

By Lezah Williamson

Inevitably, when I give someone a ride in my vehicle, said person will make some comment about the music I listen to. A couple of my favourites include, "This sounds like a cult!" and "What is this garbage?" (okay, so I don't actually like that one so much...). Most commonly, however, it'll be something a little more generic, like, "You listen to weird music." To which I usually want to give some snappy (and oh, so mature) comeback like, "Yeah, and you smell bad, but I'm not so rude to tell you that" - but somehow, I never do return the big insult.

Too polite? Too jaded? Too wimpy? Who knows.

The fact is, it's not really me who is responsible for the so-called weird music that is played in my car. That honour goes to Dave, who not only owns a huge collection of music spanning many different decades and genres, but who also enjoys spending all his spare time making mixed tapes or cds. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. The one I am listening now is actually one of my favourites, so I'm going to share with you.

He's entitled it 'Superstars of the 1890s' and has even created a cover that's somewhat reminiscent of an old K-Tel album from the '70s. On it he has put 15 different artists - some I like, and some I could live without.

1. Stereolab's 'Kybernetcika Babicka Pt. 1' - I love Stereolab, having seen them live quite a few year ago now. This song is light on lyrics and is a great way to start the cd.

2. The Constantine's 'On to You' - very Bruce Springsteen-ish - but in a good way.

3. Judee Sills' 'I'm Over' - I've read in a few places where the late Ms. Sills has been compared as the female version of Nick Drake. This folk songstress has a strikingly beautiful voice, but the between you and me, the whole folk thing is really not my cup of tea...

4. Gene Clark's 'With Tomorrow' - co-founder of the Byrds, Gene Clark has the most wonderful, melodic voice: soft, smooth, soothing. And yet everything I hear of his leaves me tinged with sadness. I thought this song was just him on acoustic guitar, but not so - there's percussion as well, but it's just laid down with such a fine touch it complements Clark's voice wonderfully without distracting the listener.

5. Iron Maiden's 'Killers' - Iron Maiden was the first concert Dave ever went to. That's the only explanation I can think of for this being on the cd.

6. Joanna Newsom's 'Sprout and the Bean' - avant garde would be how I would have to describe this one, a harp tune accompanied by Newsom's arresting baby voice. Definitely the least accessible song as far as the general public would be concerned.

7. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti 5's 'Every Night I Die at Miyagi's' - this is one of my favourites. Kind of the Cure meets a salsa band. Mojo rated this one a 4/5.

8. The Beta Band's 'Inner Meet Me' - the first time I saw the Beta Band (my all time favourite live act), they started the show with this song. It just builds and builds and builds. And I love a song with so many layers. It slays me.

9. The Cure's 'The Lovecats' - I never listened to The Cure much, but this song is making me want to go back and dig out some old cds to see what else I missed.

10. The Shins' 'Turn a Square' - Elyse, from the first (and best) cycle of America's Top Model was seeing the keyboard player of this band during the show's taping. We almost went to see the band the first time they were in town, but missed them. And I am sad - very, very sad. The lyrics are so me - take a look at just a couple of examples from this song: "... Just a glimpse of ankle/and I/react like it's 1805", and "and I left my home/just to whine in this microphone." I'm all about the self-deprecation and introspection, so this band is one I'm all over.

11. Destroyer's 'School, and the Girls Who Go There' - this one hasn't caught my ear quite as much as some of the others, but I certainly, if I had a magic wand, wouldn't take it off the cd either. I'm a bit ashamed I don't like it more, as Dan Bejar is a friend of a friend and I feel that I should be loyal to the hometown boy. He's well-known for his complex lyrics and is currently getting a lot of positive reviews for his songs from all over. Yeah, Dan! Yeah, Vancouver!

12. Belle and Sebastian's 'Act of the Apostle' - not my most favourite Belle and Sebastian song, but I still like it. See The Shins above (#9) for my views on self deprecation and other assorted qualities.

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13. Terry Callier's 'Ordinary Joe' - here's a guy who managed to catch the train the second time around. A childhood friend of Curtis Mayfield, this Chicago native had some regional hits during the '60s and '70s before giving up music to become a computer programmer at the University of Chicago. Then the '90s came around and some British djs got a hold of his stuff and the rest, as they say, is history. Gigs in Europe, winning the United Nation's Time for Peace Award for Outstanding Artistic Achievement Contributing to World Peace - how could life get any better? He's really big on the UK soul scene, but when I first heard him, I thought it was Tom Jones! Sacrilege! But I love it. Love, love, love it.

14. Outkast's 'Hey Ya' - love this song, love the video. Don't think I've ever heard anything else by Outkast (or the Andre 1/2 of the band, anyway) - but this song is enough. It's so big. Big enough to live on.

15. Sufjan Stevens' 'The Transfiguration' - this one is Mary's current obsession, actually. Pitchfork gave Illinoise, the album this song is from, a 9.2. Stevens has stated that he as plans to write an album for all 50 states - he's got 48 to go. Busy, busy, busy is my prediction for this guy's next few years. His folk/indie pop/electronica sound might not be for everyone, but I love the celebration of spirit (both lower case and upper case 's' work). Even more than this song, I like another song of his called 'John Wayne Gacy, Jr.' - look it up if you haven't heard it already.

The ‘Passion’ of Music By Christine Albrecht

A girlfriend and I were discussing the ol’ days of music and passion. I’m not talking sex here - I am talking pure passion. The kind where you are up against a wall and kissing a fellow as though you will never live to do that again. The groping, the lust, the everything... but sex. We decided that going without sex was okay (a tad frustrating) but the passion was undeniably fantastic.

Onto the connection with music. 1982 - The Ghost in You by Richard Butler. 1984 - The Killing Moon by Echo and the Bunnymen. 1986 - 1989 Don Henley - The End of Innocence, Stranglers - There’s always the Sun, Bruce Cochran - The Untouchable One, - Blue Rodeo -Try, INXS - I Need you Tonight. Crowded House - You’d Better Be Home Soon. 1990 - Everyone’s a Winner by Bootsauce. 1990’s - Anything by Concrete Blonde, Offspring. 2000’s - Queens of the Stone Age, Killers, Arctic Monkeys etc. I am missing a ton of songs but I have too many friends to record them all so I think I have some main ones.

What is it about being in a club, hearing a live (or recorded) rockin’ song, and then suddenly needing to connect with the opposite sex? Where’s that brick wall, and let’s get to it! As Luke Doucet sings, “It’s not the liquor I miss, it’s just the days are so long,”. I hear you Luke, it’s not the liquor I miss, and yes my days are long, but every so often my friends and I can reminisce back to brick walls, cement floors, beaches, occasional golf courses, football fields - (hey, my friends are interesting!) Luke, it annoys me that I can never go back to that passionate lust after a great song. Such is age... such is marriage... such are children... such is life. But hell, been there, done that, and lived to not regret a single moment.

Story of the Year & Hawthorne Heights Concert Review

A Fan’s Band Croatian Cultural Centre, July 25/06, Medium capacity

By: Christine Albrecht

Story of the Year was to be third in a lineup of four bands. Apparently, the bands like to switch it up every other night, so I had to sit through Hawthorne Heights’ set. When I say sit through, I do mean that literally. HH has a following, but I can’t help but think they must be a studio band. Four guitars, one drum, and weak vocals does not, a band, make. I went into the lobby and sat out their set three songs into the gig. The drummer was the only one able to carry a beat and it was painful to listen to the singer as well as watch the apathetic crowd. Even the band attempted to cajole the listless crowd into moving, but as soon as the singer stopped pleading - the crowd stopped moving. Grant you, there will always be a few diehard fans moshing about at the front, even for Hawthorne Heights.

You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone That Joni Mitchell tune was running through my head after the Story of the Year gig. Adam is a great bassist, but I didn’t realize how much he gave to the band by way of vocals and energy until I saw them live again.

First of all, Phil (Biff) Steele promptly stood in for Adam who went home to spend time with his ailing father. Phil had to learn SOTY’s songs in a matter of days and still didn’t have them all down. As well, he doesn’t lend his vocals to the group - and actually stays out of the spotlight unless Ryan forces him out. Due to Adam’s absence, some songs (and especially their covers of old radio hits) were not performed

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Despite this, SOTY still remains an outstanding live act. They are truly a fan’s band. Totally accessible, gregarious, and patient when it comes to the multitude of teens screaming out their names. Being the last show for their Canadian leg of the tour, the band was relaxed and more into bantering with the crowd. They invited two teenaged boys up onto the stage explaining that the boys had followed the band across Canada, attending all of their gigs. So they invited them onstage and let them sing along and ‘hang out’. Ryan pulled off a Pied Piper by going into the audience and allowing a group of girls follow him back onstage.

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The songs they did perform were well done and Phillip (guitar) stepped up vocally in Adam’s absence. Phil usually does the harmonizing etc., but I found he was more in the forefront than last concert. Ryan and Dan were all over the stage par usual and taking photos of them is nearly impossible, between the smoke onstage and the flurry of motion.

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The grand finale had Ryan insisting the band take off their shirts. Dan actually wrung his shirt in front of the crowd, and there had to have been two cups of sweat in it. Truly disgusting, but admirable in a - don’t get too close to me- way. I noticed Ryan hanging a silver chain and pendant off of his mic and then passing it on for Josh to wear and wondered to myself if the necklace had any relevance to Adam’s absence. For now, I will just make a mental note for the next time they come through. That’s right, I’d probably go for a third time just because they are that entertaining. 9/10

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