Saturday, December 22, 2007

Ani Kyd and Guests at The Cobalt, December 15, 2007 By: Christine Albrecht

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On December 15th, I was invited to the Cobalt Hotel to celebrate Rob Schindel’s birthday. Rob’s better half, Ani Kyd, had arranged Rob’s birthday festivities as well as the evening’s entertainment which included several of Vancouver’s celebrated underground musical artists.

The evening opened with Ani’s son, Michael Kyd, performing an acoustic set. Michael’s act is entertaining especially because of his self deprecating, witty lyrics. His songs are performed in a ‘confessional/ narrative’ style; serious, contemplative lines countered with amusing statements like, ‘…but I just beat a twelve year old girl… in swimming.

Next in the evening’s line up was Dirty (Derek) Swagger performing his songs with a Johnny Cash/ Kenny Rogers country flavor.

Mr. Plow was third on stage and hilarious from start to end. His tunes’ titles, alone, are amusing: ‘Let’s Get Fat Together’, ‘Biscuits and Gravy’, and ‘Fuck DOA’. Anyone who can work the lyric ‘Feel my girth’ into a song, deserves a listen. I also feel his songs are so quick with the one-liners and innuendos that one would have to listen to his act several times to catch all the inside jokes (and it helps if you’re over the age of thirty, or very well read, to catch the cultural jabs).

Understandably, I got a couple of ‘Are you for real?’ stares when I asked who performer number five was. “Cummings? Is that with a g?” I inquired. Then it clicked. The fellow crooning in his best Elvis voice was none other than Jim Cummings of I, Braineater. I apologize everyone, but I haven’t seen the fellow since the ‘80s, and believe me, we have all changed considerably since then. His voice is like a fine wine and has improved with time.

Gerri Jen Wilson of JP5, Spank Machine etc., took the stage for her first solo venture. She started her set with ‘These Boots are Made for Walking’ and ended with the Rezillos’ ‘Somebody’s Gonna Get their Head (Kicked in Tonight)’ . She sounded great and looked very comfortable without any bandmates to accompany her. Perhaps we will be seeing more of solo-Gerri in the future?

Then our gal of the moment, Ani Kyd, took the stage as the final act. Her acoustic set was definitely an interesting take on her usual hard-driven songs. Creepy Feeling, 13, and Rejoyce adapt very well to an acoustic venue, but I was very surprised (and pleased) with the softer offerings of My First Kill and Erase. The acoustic vibe allows the focus to fall on Ani’s vocal range, especially with Erase. I think Ani should record and release a disc of acoustic tunes (with a mixture of new and old) as she may find herself with a different, yet still homogeneous, fan base.

It was a fun evening full of musical surprises. Well done, Ani, and happy birthday, Rob.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Interview With Seether (Dec 11/07) Part TWO By: Shane Christensen

Interview With Seether (Dec 11/07): John Humphrey Drummer Part TWO

By: Shane Christensen

If Zeppelin goes on tour I’d give my right arm to play a show and open for them. John Humphrey

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Due to the length of my interview with John Humphreys, this is the second of two parts.

The first part can be found at Seether Part One

Seether is already famous for a few non-musical items that I won’t go into because it’s been written to death, but this band could rival Def Leppard for surviving personal pain and calamity amongst its members, and for this they have my admiration and respect.

A special Swanktrendz thank you goes out to Lisa Pieterse at WindUp Records Canada, for her efforts in organizing this phone interview with Seether.

Swanktrendz,ST-

ST- Would you say the band members share a similar taste in music, or is there a wide divergence of music that you’re into?

John Humphreys, JH- I think there’s a little bit of a divergence there. I appreciate the Seattle sound with bands like Soundgarden and Nirvana, but I was more of an ‘80s kid. By the time those bands were out, I was already with the Nixons and those guys were more like my peers as I was trying to do albums and records and compete with the quality of those bands, or along those lines. My influences go further back to bands like Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, or Motley Crue and I was into that style and flash which I hoped I’d bring to the band. I also appreciate the early ‘90s which was when Shaun actually picked up the guitar, and I had already been playing about 10 years by then.

ST- How did you find working with Howard Benson as a producer?

JH- Magnificent. He’s a great guy and he was about the quality of songs. Shaun wrote a lot of material - close to 60 songs - and everybody had their input. Then we helped narrow the 60 songs to 15, and 12 ended up on the CD. Howard really brought out a lot in us and helped us to trim the fat, shape the songs, and arrange the result. Some of the songs, arrangement wise, were recorded completely different and then changed in post production. He (Howard) also added keyboards and a lot of ‘colour’ to the CD. A song like Breakdown had Howard adding a keyboard line to; he also suggested Shaun play sitar on the song Don’t Believe. He brought an interesting dimension to the band and helped us grow a lot. I really appreciate his ability as a songsmith and I feel he brought the ability to our project.

ST- Do you have any personal favourites on the album?

JH- I do. It changes from day to day sometimes as I really like the whole album, but Walk Away From The Sun is one of my favourites as well as Eyes Of The Devil, which actually was one of the first songs written as the band was playing. Shaun started playing the riff and Dale and I just sort of jumped in, whereas with other songs Shaun would have a demo with a drum machine on it and give it to us. Then Dale and I put it through our ‘filter’ (along with Shaun) and ‘out comes’ the song with a Seether feel. Eyes Of The Devil was completely organic. It is an interesting song because it occurred during a natural process of literally playing/jamming and the music just evolved into a song - that same day.

ST- As a drummer in the studio, do you have a lot of musical input as far as the songwriting goes? I know Shaun writes the lyrics, but is it a band effort for the music?

JH- Musically, Shaun is very open-minded and I, as the drummer, can have carte blanc to do anything I want. I just keep it tasteful and, like earlier when I was talking about Dave Grohl, importantly - I try to support the song. The role of a drummer in rock music is laying back and supporting, and carrying the song to make it flow and provide the tempo and feel that is very important. But it’s not about flash or ‘pulling off your cool fill’ of the week. It’s about supporting your song and making it the best it can be. I’d like to think I’ve been a part of a lot of great songs during my career.

ST- I agree. When you can find the balance of drums, guitar, or any instrument - and someone like Jimi Page or...? Led Zeppelin did it well- that is the goal of any great band. Seetherdoes this well, and in listening to your last album, I hear a diversity that joins songs with a harder edge such as No Jesus Christ and Don’t Believe, with radio-friendly songs like Breakdown or Rise Above This and they’re all great songs.

JH- Believe it or not, it wasn’t premeditated. I mean it wasn’t like we needed so many singles or anything. Again, I have to credit Howard as it was just choosing the ‘best’ songs, regardless of whether they’re heavy or mid-tempo, just as long as they’re ‘great songs’. And I’m really proud that we do have some good songs here.

ST- Even though I’m not a big fan of reviews, while researching Seether I came across a Rolling Stone review… Are you aware of it?

JH- I am, I am.

ST- When you or the band sees or reads something like that, what is your reaction? Do you just kind of let it roll off your backs, or does it piss you off?

JH- I think it’s a bit of a thorn in your side, and it sucks. I mean, let’s be honest, we’re human and that kind of thing sucks, but it’s kind of weird ‘cause what other business
can you pour your heart and soul into a project to complete an album and have it critiqued by the world?
. I appreciate all the opinions, but there’s a million different people, with that many different views. I can’t hold too much faith in that magazine, sometimes.

ST- I question his actually listening to the CD as there’s no merit in what he’s saying. He was writing anything because your CD is a is a full album, with no filler tracks at all.

JH- I agree, not to sound arrogant, but I feel strongly about our CD, even though Rolling Stone begs to differ. I’ve written songs and I’m a big music fan myself. We’re hardest of all on ourselves; as musicians and artists. We will not turn out something that wasn’t the best work we felt we’d done at the time.I don’t sit around. listening to my Seether, patting myself on the back, but I am proud of this CD. I can go to bed at night saying we did a really good job.

ST- I totally agree . My final query, John,is a question that Swanktrendz asks all successful artists - such as yourself: ... Are there any lesser known bands that you enjoy and appreciate, bands you’d like to mention them so they may receive better audience awareness?

JH- Actually, there’s a brand new band that’s from Oklahoma, where I hail from, and I’m going to start producing them. They’re on my friends list on Myspace. They’re a great bunch of guys, called Stone Cold Sober. They’re an unsigned band with pretty good songs, and I’m going to try to help out with a little of my experience so that they don’t have to make the mistakes I did. I always like being able to help, and this is a band that I think is pretty cool.

ST- Excellent. We’ll provide a link to Stone Cold Sober.

Visit Stone Cold Sober

Also, I appreciate, and want to thank you for your time, John, as I know you’re a busy fellow. Enjoy the rest of the tour, and I look forward to seeing Seether in Oshawa in January.

(Shane's Note:) As a footnote to this piece, I’d just like to say that there’s a perception in certain circles that rock artists (especially hard rock) are lazy, not too intelligent, and often self medicated, while writers are the complete opposite of the work ethic spectrum. John Humphrey and the other members of Seether are reasons why such generalizations are unfair. Seether works harder than most ‘working people’ would ever dream of. On the other hand, Brian Hiatt’s Rolling Stone review of Seether’s recent album is an embarrassment to music reviewers, fans, and musicians. Yet the Seether article is not alone, too many times I have wondered the reasoning behind similar articles that were off the mark. I suppose The Rolling Stone is no longer a member of the school of responsible journalism, choosing self importance/promotion over musical inquiry and substance. A new affiliate for the grocery store tabloids.

Photo from http://www.glam-metal.com/seetherint.html



Back to Seether Part One

Interview With Seether (Dec 11/07): Part I By Shane Christensen

Interview With Seether (Dec 11/07): John Humphrey Drummer Part One

By: Shane Christensen

Behind every great drummer is an awesome mom, and an awesome wife. John Humphrey

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This Article is written in two Parts, the second part can be found here Seether Part Two

I used to be a faithful reader of Rolling Stone back in the ‘70s because the magazine was cutting edge and very relevant at that time for those of us whose musical palette ran the entire spectrum, including fringe or obscure acts. But even then, I noticed there was an elitist and snobbish tendency in reviewing albums, especially if the band in question did not fall into their idea of the cool or politically appealing acts like Springsteen or U2. ( My idea of any fair review is to give the disc a day's worth of listening, even if it kills you.)

Image from www.glam-metal.com

So as I did my research for a Seether phoner interview with their drummer John Humphrey, I wasn’t surprised at what a terribly biting and unflattering review their new release, Finding Beauty In Negative Spaces, received from the rag/mag. And as an ongoing supporter of the underdog, I was truly hoping that I would (at the very least) like something about their new album. I have always felt bad reviews can be a result of ulterior prejudice/motives or even the jealousy of a fellow musician who just didn’t make it; who hates anybody who is on their way to fame and fortune.

I was pleasantly surprised upon the initial few listens, realizing this would be an album that wouldn’t kill me to listen to, which makes the whole process a lot more enjoyable.In fact, I like their music very much. I state this based entirely upon their most recent release, Finding Beauty In Negative Spaces, and the previous album Karma and Effect. I have only heard a couple of cuts from their first release Disclaimer, but something tells me it will be under the Christmas tree.

Seether is already famous for a few non-musical items that I won’t go into because it’s been written to death, but this band could rival Def Leppard for surviving personal pain and calamity amongst its members, and for this they have my admiration and respect.

Heading into the interview, I have to admit I was excited because I’m a drummer and I think John is incredible at his craft. I would compare his talents to those of one of his predecessors in Seether, Josh Freese, (one of my all time favourites in his work with A Perfect Circle.)

In speaking with John, it was evident that he is a true rock journeyman; dedicated member of the band, who enjoys the current ride Seether is on with the hit songFake It and album.

Due to the length of my interview with John Humphreys, this article will be read in two parts. As well, A special Swanktrendz thank you goes out to Lisa Pieterse at WindUp Records Canada, for her generosity and effort in organizing this phone interview.

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Swanktrendz,ST- Thanks for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to speak with Swanktrendz, John. It is appreciated. How is the tour going for you?

John Humphrey, JH- It’s going great. We started back in August, about 3 months prior to the release of the album in the States, supporting Breaking Benjamin and Three Days Grace. We had been off the road and away from touring for about a year and we just wanted to get out and play, and that support position seemed like a great opportunity to get in front of some people who are also our fan base, as well. Those bands were a great match with good crowds to play to. That tour ended November 19th, and now we’re headlining our own shows here in the States. We’ll break for the holidays, and then we’ll be up in Canada with Three Days Grace starting in January.

ST- Are you looking forward to a month off?

JH- Yeah, absolutely. We’ve been hitting it hard for five months and a three week break is a well deserved break and holiday which gives us the chance to go home and see our families.

ST- I had read on the internet that you toured with the Nixons (previous band) upwards of 300 shows a year?

JH- Yeah. That was kind of my foyer into the music industry, my baby years, you know? I really cut my teeth with that band. I joined the Nixons in ’92 and was with them 8 years through to 2000. They were similar to Seether as far as the music genre but we lived the work ethic of a road band who lived out of our suitcases, and who played 200 to 300 shows a year. It’s the same effort with Seether, you know? So I was used to the work ethic when I came to this band.

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ST- Was that one of the things that Seether was looking for when you came on? That commitment to the road?

JH- Absolutely. They want not only a qualified musician, but someone who was compatible with the mentality that Seether is a road beast that lives out of suitcases. We like being in the studio and making albums, but our thing is taking it to the people, living on the bus, and hitting the road. I think that’s a constant philosophy throughout my early life and background, and I think that attitude helped, along with my ‘around the block’ experiences. Having to speak a couple of times, kind of helped my position, too. Some musicians are a little green and haven’t done this type of questioning and really aren’t used to the rigours of it all.

ST- On a personal level, how does being in such a hard working band affect a marriage? Or do you have a very understanding woman?

JH- (Laughing) Yeah, absolutely, man. Behind every great drummer is an awesome mom, and an awesome wife. My mom put up with the ‘wood shed’ years with my rehearsals in the shed and the garage, and my wife is absolutely supportive. She knows that music is a big part of me as a person, and my kids are my biggest fans, and biggest fans of this band. They’re wonderful to have and are very supportive as well.

ST- Do you find during the shows now, because of the success of the single Fake It,there’s a reaction from the fans?

View Seether Video here courtesy of WindUp Records Canada

Watch' Seether's Fake It Video

JH- You mean an immediate reaction as we’re playing it live?

ST- Yes, exactly.

JH- Yeah, definitely. When we started in August, the song was obviously just starting in radio, so it’s been interesting to watch the evolution and familiarity of the song as it becomes a high point for the fans. Now when we kick off that bass line, it’s immediately recognized and there’s that instant crowd response. Back in August, the response was a little slower, but now it’s definitely the show stealer and it’s been great to really watch that song grow up.

ST- I guess it’s picking up steam the longer the song and video are charting?

JH- Yeah, absolutely. It’s done well and I’m really proud of it as I think we’ve done a video that fits the song really well. I think it’s the first time that a song and video have come together like that for us and where the interpretation for that song is put into the video. I think fans and people have really responded positively to both the song itself and the video that provides the perfect meshing. I think the song has triggered something.

ST- How has the band dynamic changed playing live, now that you’re a 3 piece? Is there a big difference?

JH- Yeah, it’s a lot of fun, and I think it sounds great. There’s not a lot of 3 piece bands out there, so I think it’s interesting. We go back and forth about bringing on a guitar player, but we’re having a lot of fun being a 3 piece so we’re not too sure if we’re going to do that or not.

ST- I had read recently that Shaun was considering adding a second guitarist for the live shows. Are there any concrete plans to do so right now?

JH- No, not concrete. But we’ve definitely kicked it around and there’s guys out there we’re considering. In fact, we’re going to be talking about it tomorrow at a band meeting, and figure out what we’re going to do.

ST- Is there a chance that Pat Callahan might return to the band?

JH- I don’t think so. I think he is much happier now.

ST- I’d like to talk about your drumming influences going back to when you first started playing. Who would you say were the guys that inspired you to drum?

JH- I was definitely influenced by the ‘80s era of music and concerts back then. I really dug the big shows and presentations that had the drummers that you could see visually all the way to the back of the arena. It’s drummers like Tommy Lee, and I love guys like Tommy Aldridge that I saw way back when with Whitesnake. *I really love Dave Grohl, but it took me to when he started playing with Queens of the Stone Age on the album Songs for the Deaf to really appreciate him as a drummer. I do understand that as a drummer he was supporting the music, playing great fills, driving the great melodies and songs that Cobain was writing. When he did the Queens of the Stone Age album, he kind of went off a little bit and showed his skills and abilities, and I became a fan of his.

ST- Along those lines, have you been following any of the Zeppelin clips that were on YouTube today?

JH- (laughing) I haven’t, but I’m a huge fan of Jason Bonham. In fact, back in the Nixon days I was fortunate enough to do a few shows with him as he had a band that was doing Zeppelin covers and stuff, so seeing him doing that, it’s really amazing. I hope they follow it up with a tour ‘cause somebody asked me the other day What would be your dream tour? and I never thought I’d have the chance to say it, but if Zeppelin goes on tour I’d give my right arm to play a show and open for them. Although I’m sure they have enough material that they could probably handle the whole night all by themselves.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucketthe second part can be found here Seether Part Two

Suedehead (In Memory of Andrew) By: Lezah WIlliamson

Yup, that's me. I'll answer to whatever you want to call me: Suedehead, Baldie, Chrome-domus, Stubby, Skinhead... The list goes on.

Probably the Christmas season is not the best time to take a razor to one's head; I have visions of Great Grandma having a massive coronary beside the Christmas tree when she finally sees me. But trust me, it was all for a good cause.

You see, someone I really, really liked and admired died in September of cancer. He was 20 years old. I really thought he was going to make it - in fact, this time last year we got the good news that, following six months of treatment, his MRI was clear and he was cured. I can remember being so happy last Christmas...

But come February, it was clear that Andrew's cancer was back, and he finally succumbed to it in September. So a group of friends from his old high school got together and bet the Vice Principal that if they could raise $10,000, the VP would have to shave his head. He agreed, and a week later, there was $10,059 in the coffers, and one administrator, three teachers, and about 50 students had parted with their locks.

Now, it's too late for Andrew. A great guy who was looking forward to a great life; that was Andrew. He was a top academic student, and had just finished his first year of university in Ontario. He was a real humanitarian, and had raised funds for many different causes during his time as Students' Council Vice President. In short, Andrew was a great guy and I could go on and on and on about why the gods of cancer should have picked someone else, if they had to pick at all.

But we can't escape the fact that he's gone, and all we can do is keep his memory alive - and keep the money rolling in. Hopefully one day soon, cancer will be beaten.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A New Breed of Designer Shoppers By: Christine Albrecht

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I just received a crash course on Shopping For Stylish Young Women For the Year 2007/08. Gone are the days of ‘Let’s head out to Le Chateau or H & M for some deals’. Gone are the ‘Let’s cruise pricey Robson Street (Vancouver’s modest equivalent to Rodeo Drive) to score some clearance sales like that $2500.00 swing coat we saw a month ago.’

Even my online shopping for deals at (Designer Apparal.com) and my tunnel vision regarding buying only Catwalk Big Names is passé. (My downfall is the inability to deprogram myself from that hypnotic 50% clearance lure for items that are inflatedly marked up 600%).

This is not to say I will no longer shop these sites, but I want to share with readers that our upcoming trendsetters, movers and shakers with disposable cash are not buying into the ‘established designers are the best philosophy. They are scouring the world in search for their chosen designers to spotlight. And ‘quirky’ is in!

While On buzznet, I learned from mdktx1 that shopping for clothing involves searching sites around the world for that special or unique something. mdktx1 did not specifically corner me, stating, You need to learn this...! Rather, I learned from reading her posted Christmas Wish List.

Mdktx1 has a style I find fun, funky, eclectic, and interesting, and I was (acutely) aware that my idea of high-end shopping was archaic, and Versace is a word to be uttered by the beyond - thirty crowd, who have simply forgotten that other designers co-exist in our world. And as for our notion of leaving the house to shop? And in our own city...? Hardly! Let someone overseas discover Vancouver’s unique shops while we discover theirs.

(Of course the truly funky, unique and quirky independent Vancouver shops need to be marketed first and foremost.) I am sure that mdktx1 will love Vancouver’s offerings once I send her some original and fun boutique links. (And by all means, if you know some great local independent designers’ shops - send me the links to their sites so I may enlighten Europe, Australia, and South America! Suggestions for Unique Vancouver Shops

Most importantly, let me clarify something up front. Mdktx1 and other nouexveau shoppers like her are not arrogant or even foolish in their quest for unique, original clothing. The articles they gush over are a fraction of what we were willing to pay while visiting the established names such as Prada, Cavelli, or Versace.

The online economy generated by the purchasing power of these 16 to 30 year old fashionistas makes this generation the new movers and shakers of the fashion world. These are the young women we see strolling down the street and wonder, ‘Wow, what a great look! Where on earth did she get that?’ Once the aforementioned established designer shops catch wind of the new (and hot) trends, they will promptly release their variation of the trend, of course, with the unspoken impression that the style originated with them. After all, they have more marketing/ propaganda dollars to spend on advertising than those unique shops the fashionistas are frequenting.

And now ... I humbly pass on my recently acquired knowledge in the first of my “What’s New in Shopping” segments. You will be directed to these desireable online stores which will result in a friend/ sibling/ child etc. gushing, “Oh My Gawd! I can’t believe you’ve even heard of this shop!”

Here are some sites for you and interested friends to peruse at your leisure. These links will help introduce what will (no doubtedly) be the upcoming trends amongst our younger, similarly aged, or older and savvy worldy shoppers.

Read, memorize and pretend to have been aware of these companies for a long time... but no longer than six to eight months! (Trends have a short shelf life after all).

Fabulous one-of-a-kind homemade and vintage accessories at Etsy’s Site Just check out these 1960 vintage Mary Janes!

Cool Hunter has some mainstream designers, but they also have great ‘80s Space Invaders Hoodies - go to The Cool Hunter. Don’t forget, you can also buy music, books, gadgets, art and housewares at this shop.

Must have sunglasses from Cali Roots

A lovely message scarf from Lulette

Hoodies from Australia Indie Merchandise store

Jewelry from missbibi (Items in every language but English) Miss Bibi

More t-shirts from the Indie Merchandise store

As well as t-shirts from Glamour Kills

Some sweatshirt designs from Sweden’s Shobo shobo

It would be fabulous to scoop some more shoes from the U.K.’s Angeline Tournier Site.

More clothing from JC De Castelbajac.

Check out the clothing at Lonely Hearts Club in New Zealand, Australia and New York. As well, check out their Winter 2007 and Spring 2008 Collections.

Mr Dear John Letter by Shane Christensen

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John Lennon is without a doubt one of the most influential persons in my life, and quite possibly in the lives of an entire generation. I remember as a kid watching A Hard Days Night on TV and being utterly mesmerized by his humour and wit, as well as by his amazing musical talents and abilities as leader of the biggest musical phenomenon of the twentieth century.

Because the Beatles were Lennon’s show, especially in the pre Fab days when they played the raunchy stripper clubs in Hamburg; where they refined their musicianship to the level that would propel them to the type of fame, fortune, and influence that was previously unheard of, except maybe in the case of Elvis. The movie Backbeat is one of the finest biographies of any band or individual I’ve ever seen, and it shows a realistic and truthful account of just how driven John was to reach the heights he succeeded in reaching, in his too short existence.

As a lifelong fan of the Beatles, I was devastated when he was gunned down by a deranged individual at the young age of 40, although sadly at the time I thought he had lived a fairly long life. (I was 18 at the time). I couldn’t listen to his music for years, because it saddened me to think that he was gone, and taken in such a senseless way.

But as you get older and experience more of the up and down realities of this world, you come to realize that life can be tragically unfair to everybody, regardless of their stature or position of wealth and accomplishment. John Lennon did not deserve to die the way he did, but the sad reality is that the same can be said for a great number of public figures or regular Janes and Joes of the world.

So as time went by, I would occasionally listen to the old albums, and eventually the sense of enjoyment did return. When their catalogue was eventually released on CD, it didn’t take me long to buy everything they had produced, so I could hear it like new again, without the skipping and scratching that was on my overplayed and abused vinyl copies.

And while as a kid I loved his music simply for what it was (because it was so damn amazing) later, as a somewhat mature adult I discovered that the message found in many of those songs was equally extraordinary. It could be debated forever whether the Beatles led or followed the social and cultural movements of the time, but it can never be denied that they were more than just a profound musical influence.

And while in subsequent years, ‘tell-all’ books written by the likes of Albert Goldman would try to portray Lennon in the most unflattering or hypocritical ways, the true fans didn’t care either way. Anyone who’s lived long enough to observe human personality understands we are all capable of transgression and less than perfect behaviour. One of John’s rare traits was his willingness to publicly discuss his past indiscretions and errors, and freely admit that he could be a prick and a bastard at times.

And that’s what I loved the most about John Lennon, and I recognized it immediately as a young child watching a magical movie about the day in the life of the world’s biggest rock band. He could be the consummate joker and great entertainer, but he was also painfully honest and self-depreciating, sometimes to a fault. Although outwardly he could appear tough and brash, especially in the early days, just beneath the surface lay an intelligence, compassion, and vulnerability that defined who he was: one of most special human beings who ever walked the planet.

Thank you John for everything you gave us all during your too brief existence. You are still sorely missed by millions - for your music… and your message.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Aaron Nazrul – Butterfly Man CD Release (and CD Party at The Media Club Dec 9th)


Attend Aaron’s CD Release Party on December 9th at 10:00 p.m. at the Media Club in Vancouver, B.C.

Lit Fuse Records presents Butterfly Man , the debut folk album from Vancouver singer/songwriter Aaron Nazrul , produced by former “Doug and the Slugs” keyboardist and Genie Award-Winner Simon Kendall , with additional tracks produced by Lin Gardiner of Super G Music and Vancouver’s DJ Darren Woodhead .

Aaron Nazrul (real name Aaron Ross) was a hit at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, winning popular and critical acclaim: “The Golden Voice of the Festival…definitely a talent to watch for in the future.” Festival FM Radio

Aaron’s music combines the raw emotional intensity of Ben Harper and the cultural diversity of Manu Chao, an emerging talent with the voice of a future classic.  Tracks of note are As the Sun Goes Down, Take These Chains, Butterfly Man, and Delivered featuring guest vocals from Frazey Ford of The Be Good Tanyas.
 
The album was inspired by Aaron’s recent travels in South East Asia, and includes songs written during a motorcycle trip through Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and China.  Butterfly Man is a slang term in Asia for a restless traveler who never settles in one place, or with one person.
 
The album was Executive Produced by Lit Fuse Records founder Baba Brinkman, who has gained international recognition for his Rap Canterbury Tales performances. Butterfly Man is now available from the iTunes Music Store, with general release in retail stores December 4th.

Web: http://www.myspace.com/aaronnazrul

Saturday, December 01, 2007

My Luminaries’ Charitable Release ... Let The People Decide

Let The People Decide is a 7 track live album charting Reading band My Luminaries last year of touring across the UK and Europe. It is a download only release, which can be purchased via a donation of the buyers discretion. 50% of proceeds go straight back into the Reading branch of Billy Bragg's Jail Guitar Doors campaign, following on from this year's festival at the Fez Club, which raised £2000 to buy musical instruments for inmates at HMP Reading Young Offender's Institute.

My Luminaries Myspace

Funds raised from this album are essential to putting the campaign's previous results into action through in-prison tuition, workshops, prisoner led concerts and much more. For information on its proven benefits towards increasing self esteem and decreasing re-offending please see the JGD Reading myspace site or Billy Bragg's nationwide Jail Guitar Doors site (link below).

Billy Bragg’s Jail Guitar Doors

TRACKLISTING

1. A Little Declaration

2. Welcome

3. An Order From The Chaos

4. The Outsider Steps Inside

5. Waiting On A Revelation

6. Petrol Station Union Jacks

7. My Idiot Fix

TO DONATE

LTPD can be purchased November 30, 2007 onwards, from both the My Luminaries myspace site and the JGDR myspace site and using the paypal donation link below.

After donating, paypal will redirect to the download site, where the album can be downloaded as a .ZIP file.

My Luminaries Paypal Link

Strata Releases Stay Young Video

Strata is a four-piece rock band from California. Although I can’t give them kudos for a great name, I can give them kudos for a great video release, Stay Young.

They have experienced previous success with their songs, Piece by Piece and Never There (She Stabs) (featured on the soundtracks for the movies The Punisher and Elektra, and on the video game, Madden NFL 2005).

Check out their latest video here:

Visit Strata’s Video Stay Young

Or here:

Visit Strata’s Video Stay Young



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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Rap and Politics Make Strange Bedfellows

Vancouver hip-hop artist Baba Brinkman vents his frustration with the current Conservative government by remixing Stephen Harper’s recent speech into a scathing rap song. The result is “Power Trip”, a rap editorial on the authoritarian management style and environmental recklessness of Canada’s current Prime Minister.

Following the Throne Speech and its subsequent passage in the House, Stephen Harper delivered a speech in Parliament filled with all of the arrogance, bluster, and misinformation that Canadians have wearily come to expect. Taking excerpts from Harper’s speech and reworking them over a sinister instrumental, Baba Brinkman creates a lyrical dialogue with his head of state, a political duet that gives “strange bedfellows” a whole new meaning.

The song can be downloaded for free from Baba’s MySpace link:

Few rap artists in Canada have turned their craft towards politics with more insight and impact than Baba Brinkman. Back in 2004 he gained national media attention when his song “Trade War” ruffled some American diplomatic feathers at a fundraiser for his mother, Joyce Murray, the former BC Minister of Management Services. Read the full story on CBC:

Then in 2006 Baba released “The Fellowship of Dion”, a song commenting on the Liberal Leadership race, which played nationally on CBC Radio One and was prominently featured in the Montreal Gazette’s coverage of the Leadership Convention.

Baba Brinkman’s political raps are now so notorious that the BC political watch website, Public Eye Online, recently announced his mother’s nomination as Vancouver Quadra’s Candidate for the Liberal Party of Canada with the headline: “Coming Soon, a New Baba Brinkman Rap?”

Loathe to leave his fans disappointed, Baba raises the bar yet again with “Power Trip”, delivering his trademark combination of sharp lyricism, fearless truth-telling, and astute political savvy. In a music industry increasingly defined by safe pre-packaged images and appeals to the lowest common denominator, Baba Brinkman is a recording artist with a difference.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

From Metaphysics to Turning Fifty A Conversation with Johnette Napolitano 2007 Christine Albrecht

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November 2007: Johnette Napolitano was in Vancouver promoting the release of her solo album, Scarred (Released May 28, 2007 on Hybrid Recordings.) The album has been released to critical acclaim and her gigs have remained consistently outstanding. I had arranged for a telephone interview the day after her Vancouver gig during her stopover in Seattle.

After a quick introduction, we launched right into a metaphysical exploration. Johnette recently turned fifty on September 22, and I fixate on numerology and delve into what 2008 holds for her. She’s entering into a ‘five’ year which is going to be a nice, more active and fun change from her hard working and focused 2007. I also brought up the topic of writing as in... has she ever though about writing a book? (I have February marked off as a good month for this.) Johnette confirms that while in New Orleans she was informed of an apartment becoming available for January and February. She was planning to hole herself up and see what creativity transpires.

I brought up three selections I have read of hers that I really enjoyed - one has to do with Marc Moreland, one to do with her Grandfather’s death and the last one centers around a fellow she gives a ride in Mexico. (I believe it was called Are you Okay?) Of all of Johnette’s writings these three pieces have stayed with me as among her strongest, and we talk about authors doing well when they write what they know.

Speaking of ‘what you know’, I began asking about men who may have been influential in Johnette’s life, and wouldn’t you know it, she’s quite the man’s woman. She has worked with, crossed paths with, been involved with so many amazing artists, musicians, creative males that it is hard to start narrowing down the list. When I mentioned her father, whom she’s always had a good relationship with, she informed me that he had remarried (5th time) on July 7th. So how was it? I didn’t go. It turned out I had another obligation that day, and although my Aunt kept saying, Oh you’ll come, I knew I wouldn’t. It’s not like I have not ever seen him get married.

In fact, Johnette is in such a good ‘space’ that it appears turning fifty is the best thing that’s happened to her. She laughingly recalls, I think I celebrated my birthday for the entire month of September, maybe even a bit longer. I am now in the official club. It’s an honour to be fifty. If you are forty-seven and whining, I don’t want to hear it. When you’re fifty, then you can talk to me and complain. Until then, forget it. I start laughing and ask Johnette if she’s starting to embrace the wearing purple with lots of rouge stage of life. That’s right. I make the connection between turning fifty and the realization that Johnette doesn’t have to go to her Dad’s wedding. Turning fifty gives one official permission to stop behaving as a responsible child, and start focusing on living one’s own life.

That could very well be she concurs. I haven’t even been in touch with my siblings compared to years past. Johnette is the oldest of four, two sisters and the youngest, her brother, John. She also had an adopted younger brother who sadly passed away last year. His death was extremely hard on Johnette as she was close to him, even bringing him on the road during her Pretty & Twisted tour. And now he was gone; he didn’t even get to see thirty. As we discuss loss and, God knows, Johnette has experienced enough of it in her life, we touch upon a mini lesson in life. Lesson being that her adopted brother was somehow meant to be in her life. If he was only meant to be in the world for a short amount of time, then he certainly had lived it to the fullest and experienced travels that many of us will never see in our lifetimes. He was meant to live in Johnette’s lifetime. And she was meant to be in his.

I ask Johnette if it is true that she was a child prodigy. Yes, she said. I did all those enrichment programs throughout school, but after grade twelve that was it. My Mom’s attitude was: you graduate, find a husband and start your family. How confusing it must have felt to be brimming with so much potential and ability only to be met with - All right, that’s it! You’ve reached the end of public school. I also confirmed that Johnette married her high school sweetheart (from the age of fourteen) right out of high school. She was eighteen years old. He was in the Navy and by the time she turned twenty it was over. That’s a lot of living in twenty years.

After much talk of family expectations, the satisfaction of being in love, and freedom from family ties, I brought up her performance from the night before. I have to get her take on some crowd behaviours that drove me nuts. First I ask if she ever notices when people talk through her performance or when cell phones go off. Oh, you’re talking about those four that were on the side? Yes! The one fellow talked nonstop throughout the performance - I had to walk away. Either that or slap him. I acknowledged that I appreciated her humour regarding taking her picture. Okay, everyone. Get it over with - take my picture. Yeah, yeah, I’m singing Joey. Like anyone can tell the difference? So, I inquire, what should I do when I see someone clearly videotaping you, after requests not to, while you are singing Joey? Well, did you notice how I covered my face with my hair? Yes, I noticed. That’s why. There’s always someone who’s going to do that. It’ll go on Youtube and I’ll have it taken down. If you are in the audience and see that, just tell the doormen. They know what do do and they are pretty good about it. She talks of a performer she knows who has a mirror on his mic stand so that every time a flash goes off, the picture is only flash.

When I realized how aware Johnette is of the audience, I feel it must be even more disruptive to hear cell phones and audience chatter. Well, add to that a manager afraid people are going to wonder if I drank just because I am thrown off in mid song by someone answering their phone. (Hey Johnette’s partied with the best of them, but I don’t understand this ‘management concern’ because... well, I’m Canadian.) Oh, you’d wouldn’t believe some of the reactions if you forget a line or briefly stop. Is she drunk? What’s wrong with her? I had to laugh when I realized this was really a concern and invited her to stay on in Canada because if a musician is not on the stage with a drink and some green in her hand, Canadians wonder what the hell’s wrong with her? We expect our musicians to imbibe. And speaking of imbibing, I asked how she stays in such great shape and she shared that she works out religiously, and goes vegan when touring because she just feels better.

I commented on her set selection, and how pleased I was with the song choices. I also add that there is degree of sadness when I hear her perform ‘Joey’ and ‘Souvenir’ as these songs remind me of Marc Moreland, and how much his talent is missed. Yes, she agrees. There was a time when it bothered me to think of those people who are gone, but now I have reached that stage where I feel I’ve lost so many I have to live life for them. I have to sing for them, and celebrate them. I asked what prompted her to sing Chaplin’s ‘Smile’. She just laughed and said, That’s so that people realize I know more than the chords C & G on the guitar. I have been playing guitar since I was twelve, but sometimes people might wonder.

I shared with Johnette that I had purchased her Scarred CD and was really enjoying the tracks, but I felt she seems like a split personality. I know you write your songs, but they’re so different from one another, especially in their wording. Often it is easy to pick out an artist’s songs because there is a familiarity, but I don’t know what the hell you’re going to come out with next. Are you sure your not channeling someone? She started laughing and replied, Well, I wouldn’t be surprised because I was told, years ago, by a psychic that I had two men (from the Sunset Boulevard/ Gershwin style era) who were on either side of me and they were using me for their work. Johnette even agreed that she has written some songs and wondered ‘where did that come from?’ because she’s using vocabulary that she would never use. After hearing that I added, Oh Great! Now you have all the more reason for attitude - fifty year old triplets in one body! All the better if that’s the case because between the three of you, we should get another thirty years of tunes.

Johnette was gracious and generous with information as we explored American politics; President Bush; Heidi Fleiss’ theory that a bill will be passed allowing a foreign born President to preside over the U.S. (thus paving the way for a certain California governor); the present situation of deploying both parents during a war when there’s a bill in place that does not allow that, and The Universal Service Act being presented once more to the House for consideration. Without a doubt, Johnette has an informed opinion on everything.

As we were heading toward the second hour, I allowed Johnette to extricate herself from my phone clutch and thanked her for her generosity with both her time and of herself.

Death of an Immigrant: The Tragic Death of Robert Dziekanski - By Shane Christensen

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I am a very patriotic Canadian, and have been so my entire life. From my earliest childhood memories, I always felt a deep sense of pride living in this country that is the envy of most of the world.

My affection for this nation stems predominantly from what Canada represents and embodies; certain fundamental principles that, coincidentally, make up my own personal moral code. We are perceived globally as being a peaceful, civilized, decent, caring, and compassionate country. We have created a society that strives for national equity and fairness, a society regarded as a model for the rest of the world. And that is why so much of the world moves to Canada - for a chance at a better life.

But in reality, our country and its citizens are clearly not perfect. We do have stains in our history, just as every other nation or civilization has. And our institutions, which strive to live up to our Canadian expectations, can sometimes find themselves in predicaments that are both tragic and shameful.

Robert Dziekanski came to Canada to join his mother in the hopes of a better life in Kamloops, and instead died a horrible and unnecessary death due to fundamental flaws in a number of our institutions and their processes. We’re all aware of how the tragedy unfolded thanks to the video that is being shown here and around the world, sparking outrage and shock that this would happen in a country like Canada.

As a Canadian, I am shocked, saddened, and ashamed that this incident was allowed to unfold the way it did, ultimately playing out as a horror show of mistakes that cost an innocent man his life. We all have the right to demand that processes change to ensure that this never happens to anyone, ever again.

All police services in Canada (and elsewhere) will have to re-evaluate their use of a device (the taser) that has proven itself to be lethal, even if rarely. It is no secret that police forces universally find the taser a very useful tool in dealing with non-compliant or threatening individuals, and the use of tasers are governed by law (which consider force options and level of risk to officers and others).

I will not rush to judgment as to whether the officers involved in this incident acted appropriately, as I am not qualified to do so. But as a Canadian, I am concerned when our principles of care and compassion seem to go by the wayside and are replaced by haste and a willingness to confront a clearly agitated and vulnerable man, then engaging in a physical altercation.

I was saddened and deeply moved when I attended the funeral of a fine and decent young mountie who was recently killed in a senseless act of violence in Nunavut. I am experiencing the same emotions (along with shame) because so many things went terribly wrong in Vancouver, resulting in the harrowing death of a man who died unnecessarily. And with both cases, it is my sincerest hope that it never happens again.

Because events such as these are not the kinds of things I want happening in my Canada…or happening in any country in the world.

Private and Confidential? Not Likely. Privacy and the Internet - By: Christine Albrecht

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According to an article in the UK’s The Independent there are increasingly more internet cruisers and users demanding a say in how their personal information is marketed online.

I say, ‘It’s about time!’ Every time I join a website (ie: Facebook - the user-friendly popular site for exchanging recent photos and communicating news) I cringe at having to give any (creatively invented or otherwise) personal information. Unfortunately, in order to use these applications, you have to provide something that they can track, respond or send information to. As soon as I’ve joined an online community, my Reserved for Websites email account is overflowing with spam urging me to buy online drugs or, better yet, meet Mindy, Cindy, Candy, Dandy or whomever the gal of the moment is.

I get furious with this blatant disregard for subscribers’ online privacy, yet I also realize the internet is the largest unregulated property in the world. No one owns it, no law governs it (although there are attempts.) The internet is a logistical nightmare as it is in a constant state of dynamic change. Even the US Treasury had to inform the American public of a mishap involving the Treasury’s loss of twenty-five million people’s banking and personal data. And these are the breeches of confidentiality that we know of.

image from blogs.zdnet.com

The article notes that the US-based internet watchdog community, MoveOn, is petitioning for removal of Facebook’s website advertising program Facebook Beacon which tracks sites where Facebook users browse and spend money. Brilliant marketing idea - saves a lot of survey attempts and/or guessing. However, would you let strangers get into your car and follow you around, keeping notes, while you did your Christmas shopping? (Hmm, she briefly looked at a lawn mower, model 5340, in Canadian Tire. Send note to Canadian Tire and Honda to spam Christine with lawn mower sales.)

The worst part of this privacy sharing trend is that for every honest retailer who would like your personal information to ensure their shelves are stocked with your favourite items, there are those who simply want your information for criminal use. Identity theft and fraud is up, and the popular target is the aged 14 - 21 demographic. The age where being cautious with one’s personal information is not even considered ‘a threat’.

As we are being pressed to utilize the internet more(from banking to shopping to get more information from the 6:00 news) alarms are being raised about lack of guarantees to users with regard to personal security and confidentiality. If the US government cannot guarantee a citizen’s financial and personal privacy, who can?

Internet users need to monitor their own behaviour, read the small print before clicking the “I Agree” tab that so readily jumps out at you. Perhaps ONLY subscribe to those sites who guarantee and endorse a ‘we don’t share your information’ option.

image from cartoonstock.com

In rebuttal to MoveOn’s claims, Facebook is implying that the company chooses the businesses with which they are sharing a ‘small selection’ of the consenting Facebook users’ shopping habits and networks’ of friends information. (This is the part that alarms me. It is one thing if I mistakenly give out my personal information, but to automatically access and share my friends’ information, simply because they’re stored in my Facebook address book is unacceptable.)

Facebook feels that MoveOn is implying that the Facebook Beacon operates randomly, publicly and with all sites available on the internet. Facebook may indeed be acting honourably but I don’t think the second or third company to buy their list of client information is really going to be that selective about with whom they, in turn, share the information.

I would like to quote ’The Independent’ with this valuable warning: David Smith, deputy commissioner at the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said: "Many young people are posting content online without thinking about the electronic footprint they leave behind. The cost to a person's future can be very high if something undesirable is found by the increasing number of education institutions and employers using the internet as a tool to vet potential students or employees."

Lastly, I’d like to remind you, dear reader, that Swanktrendz.com has built into our website a sign-in feature that does NOT automatically save your email to a database. It is a feature that guarantees no automatic tracking, reader receipt of spam, etc. just because you would like to submit a comment. The editors have to physically read every text content in hopes of retrieving an address Remember to thank site designer, Terry Lowe, for this deliberate consideration of our readers.

Great Movies by: Shane Christensen

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We all watch movies to be entertained and, on rare occasions, we’re lucky enough to be moved in a way, so profoundly, our life can change (if ever so subtly). I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen two such movies in the last couple of months.

The first one, Fast Food Nation, is similar to the movie Crash in how it uses multiple stories and settings that are intertwined by a common thread resulting in a singular climatic statement about humanity, compassion, exploitation, and survival. It is an ensemble piece with a cast that is absolutely magnificent, starting with Greg Kinnear’s bang on portrayal of an idealist that wants to do the right thing while still keeping his job and home.

Image from outside.away.com

Bruce Willis has a small but pivotal role in which his character embodies all that is wrong with today’s free enterprise machination, but is brutally honest at the same time. Yes, the truth does hurt and it isn’t always pretty, and Bruce does an outstanding job with this role which is paramount in making the movie’s defining statement.

The rest of the cast are actors you’ll recognize from movies or television, but might not know their names. Regardless, they all do an outstanding job to make Fast Food Nation both an incredible movie and statement of humanity in today’s era with its economic realities.

The second movie is the German masterpiece The Lives of Others. This movie touched me on so many levels with its statement of humanity and the impact of oppression, exploitation, and blackmail by the State and its officials. It paints a picture that is so complete that I would suggest that if a ‘being’ from another planet landed on earth and wanted to know about human beings as quickly as possible, I would show ‘it’ this cinematic gem.

Image from www.boston.com

Truly great films possess scenes that are so beautifully done that they resonate in your soul long after you’ve finished watching the film. Stanley Kubrick’s final scene in Spartacus shows the title character crucified and dying as his fugitive wife stops to show him his newborn son, and then leaves with the hope of life; the chance to raise their child. As one life ends, another begins.

In Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, there is a scene that is remarkably similar in its statement as William Wallace is slowly tortured to death while being simultaneously taunted/implored to admit his ‘guilt’ so that he can be killed swiftly and mercifully. His response was to look his executioner in the eye and muster up all the strength his dying body possessed to scream out ‘FREEDOM!

In both movies, the main characters stayed true to their convictions, defying a system of oppression that cost them their lives, in hopes of attaining freedom and liberty for future generations.

In The Lives of Others, there are a NUMBER of scenes that convey the same sentiment,and although its setting is in a specific country (East Germany), its theme is universal - a portrayal of humanity and its struggle against oppression.

Many of the great films I have watched over the years deal with this human struggle and the reality that life is both hard and beautiful. It can be filled with contradictory realities such as pain and pleasure; heartbreak and deep, undying love.

And ultimately what the films portray is that the human struggle for freedom and opportunity is universal, regardless of when or where we live. And this struggle is painted beautifully in both Fast Food Nation and The Lives of Others.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

And the Winners Are... By: Christine Albrecht

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Congratulations to the following Winners for the Seether Giveaway contest:

WINNERS: Please forward your mailing address to swanktrendz.com

Winner of a Seether T-shirt

Alex Mertyl

Brenda Knight

Jim Taunton

Winner of a runner up CD Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces

Nancy Vacon

Chris MacDonald

Grand Winner of the signed Boxed Seether CD Library

Lisa-Marie from the UK

Congratulation to all of our entrants - well done and keep swanktrendz bookmarked for upcoming giveaways!

Feenie Loses Feenie's By: Lezah WIlliamson

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Turns out the Iron Chef's luck just sank lower than the bottom of the bay at Kits Beach.

Rob Feenie, who has been riding high on the crest of the culinary wave that's been sweeping Vancouver over the last ten years, has officially severed relations with his West Broadway restaurants Feenie's and Lumiere.

Lumiere, which won the prestigious Relais Gourmand award in 2000, and Feenie's, which won the Qualitie Awards in 2003, are both Rob Feenie's babies. He started Lumiere twelve years ago; Feenie's has been around for four. Plans were in the works for a chain of Feenie's restaurants to open, riding partly on the reputation of the restaurants themselves, and partly on the reputation of Feenie himself, winner of the 2005 Iron Chef TV challenge.

Unfortunately, as Feenie himself points out, he's a chef, not an accountant. He ended up losing control of the two restaurants two years ago following a $1.2 million upgrade to the kitchen. Turns out that when the dust settled, he was $350,000 in the red and on the verge of declaring bankruptcy; original partner Ken Lei needed to be paid off as well. So investment banker David Sidhoo and wife Manjy stepped in to save the day - or so it appeared...

Fast forward two years, and the Sidhoo's have hired 28 year old Canadian David McKay away from Gordon Ramsey's NYC restaurant to be Executive Chef at Feenie's and Lumiere; Rob Feenie, meanwhile, complains of his diminished role in the the marketing, operations and food selection of 'his' restaurant.

Consequently, as of the beginning of November, Feenie parted company with Feenie's (and Lumiere).

Now, to further complicate matters, the chef at Feenie's has just stepped down.

Sounds like a case of too many chefs spoiling the broth...

Hottest Tickets?... it's Hannah Montana!! By: Lezah Williamson

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Who has the most sought after concerts? If you guess, you'll probably be wrong, because I doubt (if you're reading this) you're a 10 year old girl.

Because if you were a 10 year old girl, you'd know the right answer: Hannah Montana. Turns out you're not smarter than a fifth grader after all!

Yup, all over the United States parents of preteens have been lining up and hovering at the computer, phone in hand and credit card at the ready, all to procure Hannah Montana tickets for their kids. With tickets in the $26 to $56 range, that doesn't seem so unreasonable. The problem that arose for many, however, is that the concerts were selling out in minutes. In Arkansas, complaints were lodged with the Attorney General when it was found that out of state online companies had scooped up close to half of the tickets and were then offering them back to desperate fans at outrageously jacked up prices - from $230 to $938. In other states, tickets were scalping for even more: $2600 was one price I heard. And elsewhere, members have filed a class action suit again a Hannah Montana fan club, which promised members first crack at tickets and then didn't come through.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

European Eats by Lezah Williamson

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French, Italian and Swiss Food, Canadian Style

Recently I've had a hankering for Continental European cuisine. Maybe it's because my all time favourite restaurant, the Spanish eatery La Masia, recently changed its format; or maybe it's because we're looking at our next big holiday taking place in Europe. Who knows? Whatever the case, here are a few good places to try:

Cafe de Paris Bistro Francais (751 Denman, 604-687-1418)

We dropped in on this unique little taste of France recently, sans reservation, I might add. We were lucky to arrive late one rainy Friday night, otherwise we likely wouldn't have found a table. I was expecting something else altogether, but what we got was authentic fine French cuisine. I had the steak and pomme frites, which was fantastic, with creme brulee for dessert - very delectable. Dave tried the steak tartare, to mixed reviews. Nothing wrong with steak tartare, unless you don't like raw meat, but in that case, I guess you shouldn't order steak tartare! Apparently the speciality of the house is liver - but again, that's a little outside of my palate's comfort zone. But the service (and server!) was authentically French, and decor French-like. We enjoyed the experience, which was a little pricey but hey - it's cheaper than a trip to France.

The Italian Cultural Centre (3075 Slocan)

is where I was on Wednesday night. They have a large banquet hall there (I was attending the Good Neighbour Awards night, hosted by the Association of Neighbourhood Houses). We had a buffet dinner, which was similar to many buffet dinners I've had in my time. The big news was the dessert: authentic Italian pastries, with coffee. I've been telling anyone who will listen ever since that those pastries were the absolute best I've ever had - and I usually dislike pastries! The coffee was fantastic, as well - not your usual perked-in-a-big-metal-container-at-a-banquet fare.

Located at the Italian Cultural Centre is Dario's Italian restaurant

which comes to me highly recommended by my brother and his foodie girlfriend. They've enjoyed a couple of great meals there, and apparently the restaurant has a fantastic wine selection.

William Tell (765 Beatty Street, 604-688-3504)

has a Swiss Speciality menu. Dave and I ate there last spring and were quite impressed. Again, pricey.

Pastis Bistro (2153 W. 4th, 604-731-5020)

is another little French bistro I've frequently within the last couple of years. Again, I had the steak and pomme frites and they were wonderful. Here I tried the molten lava cakes, which were truly delectable. This 15 table eatery is located along funky W. 4th, and is a little less pricey (but not much).

Lamb photo from William Tell’s Menu Image from beyondrobson.com

Pastis Image from WCities.com

Death of a Mountie by: Shane christensen

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The distant howl of a lone wolf on a cold winter's night has always inspired goosebumps and also a feeling of serenity within me. There is something quintessentially Canadian about the sound, especially if it’s in the isolated regions of the north.

Due to his impressive howling ability, RCMP Constable Douglas Scott earned the nickname ‘Wolf’ from his colleagues at his remote Nunavut detachment. This talent could have been attributed to his age, as the occasional howl is a necessary ingredient of youthful swagger for a twenty year old coming into his own.

Perhaps it was a result of his fearlessness and perserverence? Unless you have gone through the battery of academic, physical, and psychological testing, as well as the months of intensive training that is required of police officers, it’s impossible to appreciate how brave and driven this young man was, or comprehend how much he accomplished at such at a young age.

The day of his funeral, countless officers could be overheard offering their impressions on how remarkable this young constable would have to have been to be given the responsibility of policing such a remote locale. A daunting task at any age.

Friends and colleagues painted a picture of a man who was respectful, considerate, compassionate, and who also had a great sense of humour and love of life. A very mature young man who cared a great deal for his community and was determined to make a difference through his actions and deeds, both as a public servant and human being.Maybe those who tagged ‘Wolf’ felt his howl was a reflection of an extraordinary spirit that embodied all of the above characteristics. A spirit that will live on amongst family, friends, colleagues, and all who were touched by a man whose life contained great accomplishments and successes, yet was tragically cut short. Now, whenever I hear a distant howl on a cold winter's night, I will forever remember a remarkable young police constable and his incredible spirit.A spirit that epitomizes everything he lived and died for.

RCMP Constable Douglas Scott - December 21/86 to November 5/07

(Editors Note: Constable Scott was shot while responding to a drunk driving call on Nov. 5)

For details of the funeral go to Final Stop

Christine Albrecht: KROME Headlines Tonight at @ The Festival Of Guns Headline christine Albrecht

Visit Swank’s Home SiteKROME is proud to announce they are headlining tonight, November 17th for the Jagermeister and CFOX presentation of the 6th Annual Shaftebury Festival of Guns 2007 (A Rock 'N' Roll Experience) at The Bourbon- 50 West Cordova, Vancouver, BC.

Krome will be playing with
Nikki Hurst & The Turn.

The Show Starts at 8:30, KROME hits the stage at 10:30. Hope to see you there!

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Photo by: Paul Hammill at www.almostfamousphotography.ca/

Festival of Guns

Krome Home

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Black Mountain by lezah williamson

with Climax Gold Twins and Mexican Power Authority

Photo removed - Apparently it was of the wrong band - editor's bad!

Saturday, Nov. 3 at Richard's Sold Out

Vancouver: Scratch Records
kicked off their 20th anniversary celebrations with a sold out Black Mountain show. Opening for Black Mountain was Mexican Power Authority from Victoria and Seattle's Climax Gold Twins.

I really enjoyed Mexican Power Authority. Playing their first show in ten years, lead singer Jason Flower was in his element. A progressive hardcore band, they claim to have first coined and developed strang, which has since gone international. Flower is funny - funny, funny, funny - and Mexican Power Authority is known as much for its short (sometimes 20 secondd long) songs as it is for the bandmates’ humour. Flower sounds a lot like a singer from another popular Victoria band, No Means No. They finished their set with a 1972 song from another Victoria band; it was a fantastic song, but I missed the name of both the song and the long-defunct band who originally did it.

Next up was Climax Gold Twins from Seattle. They did a largely instrumental (and experimental) set; I don't think they even sang until somewhere near the end of their set when they did a Bonzo's song.

Finally Black Mountain was up. Of course, Black Mountain is Scratch's darling: their 2005 self-titled album is still Scratch's biggest seller. They were named in Amazon.com's Editor's top 100 for 2005, and their song Stay Free was used in Spiderman 3. Singer Amber Webber and brains behind the operation (as well as the brains behind many other bands like Pink Mountaintops) Stephen McBean played a psychedelic set heavily influenced by Sabbath, Zeppelin, Hendrix and the like. I had seen Black Mountain about three years ago and they are much more polished and professional as an act now.

During Black Mountain’s set, the entire audience was thoroughly packed onto the dance floor at Richards - I know, because near the beginning of the set I had to make my way from the front, where we were at the stage, to the back of the club - and that was no easy feat. People were packed so tightly it was practically a gridlock. I almost didn't get through - as for getting back to the front again? Forget it! If I learned one thing, it's this: you don't give up prime real estate at a Black Mountain show and then expect to get it back. Ain't gonna happen, baby!

Images from Myspace.com

Johnette Napolitano and David J. Nov 13 Concert Review by: Christine Albrecht

Big Sound From a Sparse Set. Richards on Richards, nov 13/07

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To purchase the CD Scarred go to Hybrid

Image from S X SW.com

David J.'s Site

One of the first things I asked Johnette Napolitano when given the opportunity was, ’Tell me truthfully - did you use a programmed track, taped background, vocal enhancement, or... during your set?

Laughingly she answered, ‘No. I swear... it’s just me and my acoustic. Why do you ask?’

‘My God, you have an amazingly big, huge sound - both with your voice and your guitar! I was so impressed with what I heard, I had to ask.’

I share this exchange because I was so impressed with, and not expecting, the wall of sound that came from the stage Tuesday night (at Richards on Richards of all places) that I risked the wrath of Johnette to ask that question. The David J./ Johnette Napolitano concert is going down as my all time favourite, bar none.

Not only did I get to witness two fabulous performers, David J.( of Love & Rockets, Bauhaus) and Johnette Napolitano (of Concrete Blonde, Pretty & Twisted); I got to enjoy their performances in an intimate, small venue. Pure bliss.

David J. opened his set with a recital of The Clash’s Straight to Hell. It’s a great song when sung, but it is a powerful song when spoken. I recall reading one of David’s memories re: a conversation he had with Joe Strummer and I wondered if this was his way of paying tribute to a great artist and friend?

It was interesting to watch David perform as he is quite animated when singing - his hands often fluttering a performance of their own. This David was far from the extremely cool, aloof and serious David J. of Bauhaus and L & R fame. As he meandered vocally from song to song in an art-house coffee club style, he casually provided intros and blurbs for each tune ie: Pat Fish and I wrote this song. Oh yeah Pat’s also known as the Jazz Butcher,well we wrote this ‘tune’ and then he launches into an amazing Walk with the Devil. Similar anecdotes were give for Tell me Henry Kissinger, and some needed no byline at all like Who Killed Mr. Moonlight (always loved that one!) and No New Tales to Tell.

David’s set left me with a different appreciation of his talent. I see him as the artistic and obviously intellectual (who happens to be a fabulous storyteller) performer he is. I would like to see more of this entertainer - be it live or via the written/spoken word.

The mainly 40+ aged audience members were extremely polite (in the beginning).No cellphones, no annoying flashbulbs, no ... uhh... people on the dance floor? (With exception to four ‘younger’ members of the audience, but more about them later during my Johnette interview.) A few people inched toward the peripheral of the dance floor, yet it was apparent that the crowd was still appreciative of and responsive to David’s performance. For some reason they chose to ‘engage’ in his music from afar. Fine by me - better view, no annoyances.

As David was finishing his set, thanking Johnette for the touring suggestion; who should walk out for a duet, but the woman of the moment - Johnette. And not only did she walk out, she strutted out, she traipsed out, she swaggered and showed some leg and very fine form. Then commanded our attention when she sang using her rawest and sexiest vocal -the likes of which Richard’s walls haven’t heard in awhile. No surprise at the audience rush to the stage and the feverish look in a few fans’ eyes. It was pure camp and it was great.

Funny what pops through our minds at any given moment, and mine upon seeing David J. being joined by Johnette onstage was, ’God, I hope Tracy ‘gets’ why I admire this singer so much’. (Tracy being the pal I dragged along to the concert because a) she is NOT a fan of Johnette’s and thus would provide me with an objective counterpoint for any biased review and b) I wanted Tracy to experience first hand the sound that she apparently wasn’t ‘getting’ from the copious Johnette CDs I was buying for her.)

As soon as the staged pair launched into Leonard Cohen’sTower of Song I forgot all about my dear old pal and settled in for an amazing night (if the duet was any indicator).

After jokes about the two performers being a virtual Gothorama artifact, David exited... stage left... and Johnette proceeded to keep us both laughing yet socially prodded us now and again throughout her (20+?) song set. Like David, she bantered with the audience and set up each song; she was clearly in top form - physically, mentally, and musically. Johnette is extremely quick witted with quick comebacks (yet also self deprecating) and her sense of humour brings to mind Canadian singer, Jann Arden, another gregarious entertainer. I think the two of them wouldn’t be able to complete a sentence because of laughter.

The dance floor was now so full, and the venue showing fans spilling from every available space; caused Johnette to crack, ...I am humbled by your turnout... Then looking up, Shit, you are everywhere! You’re even packed in the upstairs. Hell, if I had known that, I’d have done my roots.

- In this photo Johnette is jokingly telling everyone to hurry and take her picture so she won’t be distractedmid-song by flashes.

There was also the emergence of younger fans - always a welcomed sight in my view. Younger equals music staying relevent. However, this concert made me aware of a generational divide. You know, that wonderful behavioural divide of nonstop talking, picture flashes/ videotaping after polite requests not to, cell phones ringing AND being answered mid song, as well as shout-outs while the artist is singing to request yet a different song! My crowd observance has now become my official WTF? moment of 2007.

Because Johnette’s concert had attracted two clearly defined age demographics - I felt I was witnessing a sociological phenomena. That instant gratification phenomena that anyone born pre 1975 doesn’t fully understand.

Oi Vey - I knew this review was going to be a long one. (Heh - wait until you read my phone interview with Johnette - potential novelette half way typed.) What can I say? The woman’s bigger-than-life personality and talent (as well as my inane observations) demand a thorough article.

Johnette’s song list was a ‘certain’ ahem... narcissist's dream come true. I felt that ... with me (Christine) being her Number 1 - most important fan ... Johnette clearly understood my worth and tailored her set list to accomodate all of my fave tunes. With this one gesture, Johnette confirmed the vastness of my importance in her life.

Okay, Johnette doesn’t have a clue who I am; her song choices were simply a logistical coincidence (songs that sound best when played acoustically) and I am not completely delusional. But she did actually play my imagined set list including that Chaplin song - How did she know!? So leave me be... with my fantasy.

Johnette opens every set with a modified cover of Dead Hearts’ Dear Jane Letter (which she started performing during the Gulf War). She intends to keep this song in her set until her Homeland stops engaging/ joinging into Middle Eastern (or any?) wars. She resignedly noted that she does not foresee an end to the ‘Dear Jane’ intro any time soon.

Then Johnette proceeded to acoustically play and sing songs from her Concrete Blonde, Pretty & Twisted, and solo collections.. Her songs were interesting, old fan/ new fan friendly, showcased her amazing vocal power and range, as well as highlighted her guitar mastery. Songs that would have needed more ‘oomph’ (due to the lack of an accompanying band) were played using her guitar to provide a variety of sound depth.Using the Palo Seco technique (using the guitar as percussion) as well as her positioning both of the guitar and herself, vocally by the mic, provided a mesmerizing result. The sound was huge, big enough for me to ask the opening question in this review.

Songs such as Take Me Home, I Don’t Need a Hero, Joey, Like a Wave, Little Conversations, Amazing, Just Like Time, Suicide Note, Souvenir, and the covers Tower of Song, The Scientist, Ghost Riders in the Sky, and most importantly, Chaplin’s Smile (that’s when I came up with ‘this set is tailored for me’ theory).

Johnette’s set flowed effortlessly and passed by far too quickly, despite her deliverance of 20+ songs. Her finale, Tomorrow, Wendy (reworking the lyrics to accommodate current senseless war deaths) left the crowd wanting more but being cognizant enough to be aware that she had already given generously of herself.

The only downside to this stellar concert was the unavailability of CDs, t-shirts, and other band merchandise. Not sure of the reasons, but I do know its absence saved me some money. I suppose I should offer up a hesitant thank-you?

And what about my completely objective pal, Tracy? She emerged from Richards having said nothing the whole evening. Finally I asked, Well, what did you think of Johnette - truth please,

Tracy looked at me and said simply, I honestly had no idea she is that amazing. Her CDs didn’t translate fully that kind of power in her voice! I want you to give me back all the cds I returned to you.

But what were the downsides - what glitches, if any, did you notice?

Too late - Tracy was ignoring me as she jotted down the CDs she wanted returned, pronto.

You can find here: Information on Johnette

Johnette began her Scarred tour on October 4, 2007 to promote her solo effort.

Upcoming Tour Dates

Nov 17 - CAFE DU NORD - SAN FRANCISCO W/DAVID J

Nov 18 - KUUMBWA JAZZ CENTER- SANTA CRUZ W/DAVID J

Nov 24 - THE COACH HOUSE - SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO W/DAVID J

Nov 25 - BELLY UP TAVERN - SOLANA BEACH W/DAVID J

Nov 27 - THE ROXY - LOS ANGELES W/DAVID J

Nov 29 - CLUB CONGRESS - TUCSON W/DAVID J

Nov 30 - MARTINI RANCH - SCOTTSDALE W/DAVID J

Dec 1 - SANTA FE BREWING CO. - SANTA FE W/DAVID J

Dec 2 - WALNUT ROOM - DENVER W/DAVID J

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Well It’s That Time Again By Christine Albrecht

Paypal Donation to Swanktrendz

Paypal Donation to Swanktrendz

To be honest - we’ve only done a fund raising/beg for donations article once in the history of Swanktrendz. However, after reviewing our financial records (or lack thereof) we realized that swanktrendz.com is hanging by a precarious monetary thread.

What had begun as a rebellious response to Canwest’s (Canada’s media conglomerate) omission of great independent (and local) fine and performing arts, Lezah and I went on to write and post in-depth articles that would only warrant a line in any other magazine or newspaper, or be disregarded completely.

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As a result, Swanktrendz has steadily grown into a weekly ezine whose readers have suggested a litany of potential articles, and who have gone on to submit articles on topics close to their own heart. Swanktrendz is, indeed, an ezine for the readers rather than for the advertisers.

The mention of Advertisers (or lack thereof) is a wonderful sequeway into Swanktrendz’s present dilemma. After four years of paying hosting sites, web programming prices, office and sundry costs, the cost of this wonderful online hobby is adding up. It has become the large elephant in the room that no one wishes to address when meeting as a staff.

So readers, I am asking you to please help keep swanktrendz online for another year. The general cost of keeping swanktrendz afloat for one year is only $1500.00 (of course, assuming that our wonderful contributors are still going to contribute their articles ‘pro bono’ - free.)

So, any and all readers out there in cyberworld, please contribute to the Keep Swank Alive fund by donating $1.00, $2.00, $5.00 or more to our Paypal account. I will send you a receipt, however, you will not be able to claim the donation for taxation purposes as we are not a charitable organization. (Then again, maybe you have a creative accountant who knows what heading we may ‘fall under’ in taxation laws?)

To donate any and everything - Heck we’d even be grateful for $0.25! Follow the enclosed link and indicate whether you would like a receipt.

Thanks again to all those readers that have added their thoughts, suggested articles, or just made themselves available to read a few articles. Without our readers (YOU), we’d be another 404 Page Not Found in the internet world.

Thank you in advance for any and all contributions!

Christine, Lezah, et al.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Win a Seether Boxed Cd Library... or CDs... or T-Shirts!

Win a Seether Boxed Cd Library... or CDs... or T-Shirts!

Courtesy of Jared from Wind Up records!

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Enter your info and answer here.

Jared Golberg from Wind Up Records has decided to ‘share the love’ with Swanktrendz readers by offering merchandise from Seether’s recently released Cd, Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces. (Seether’s song, Fake It has been hovering at number one in the last couple of weeks in Vancouver.

Thanks to Jared and Seether, Swanktrendz is offering some great giveaways for our Where are they From? Seether contest.

The rules are extremely easy (also known as Christine-friendly).

If you would like the opportunity to win one of six prizes, simply do the following:

Follow the enclosed link and send Swanktrendz an email stating

a) Where the band, Seether, originates and then

b) email your email address so that we may contact you if you are a winner.

Please do not worry about submitting your email, as Swanktrendz’s site is programmed NOT to keep and/or sell any information EVER! Now, how easy is that? I am looking forward to next Friday when I will announce the winners and send off some fabulous Seether merchandise.

The names submitted will be drawn randomly to select the winners who have answered the contest question correctly.

Prizes include:

1) t-shirts

2) CD giveaways for Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces and

3) the complete Seether boxed CD library, autographed by the band.

Well... what are you waiting for? Get your name and email submitted asap.

Good luck to all of our readers.

Enter your info and answer here.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Marianas Trench Concert Review By: Christine Albrecht

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Croatian Cultural Centre, November 5 2007

Marianas Trench delivered a solid final performance in Vancouver, Sunday night at the Croatian Cultural Centre to a large all-ages crowd. I say final performance as singer, Josh Ramsay, made it clear that Sunday’s performance would be the band’s final outing after one and a half years of touring and promoting their Fix Me CD release.

Fans definitely received their money’s worth as MT had three bands opening for them at this all ages venue. 16 MM started the night off, followed by Lotus Child with the third musical offering from Vancouver band, The Sessions.

Here’s a band (The Sessions) that is worthy of a larger following. The Croatian Cultural Centre is not the most acoustically pleasant of venues and a reviewer would be foolhardy to believe the vocals/ chords played in this venue actually represented a band’s talent. However, The Sessions actually sounded amazing in the CCC. That had me wondering what their studio sound was like as every lyric and note was crystal clear during Sunday’s gig. Their sound was upbeat, radio friendly, and singer, Josh Abel, had a genuine rapport with the crowd. I believe MT has introduced a new fan base to this Vancouver (and still unsigned!) indie act.

I am not sure if an award is given to a band for best fan acknowledgement, but if there was such an award, Marianas Trench would deserve it - hands down. They made themselves available for fan interaction as early as 6:00 p.m. at the CCC with MT drummer Ian Cassleman still manning the merchandise table 30 minutes prior to taking the stage. They still answer emails, pose for pictures and generally keep an upbeat public appearance despite their exhaustive touring schedule.

MT opened the set with Say Anything and kept up the energy through to their last song. At times, singer Josh Ramsay appeared to be wondering aloud why the crowd was quieter than usual (although they seemed loud enough to me). In retrospect, by the time MT took the stage their faithful following had been waiting patiently for four hours. Combine that fact with the audience fan age being sixteen plus - I would say that the crowd appreciation was still at an all time high.

Overall, MT’s performance was strong, although Josh’s vocals needed a few songs before warming up to his usual standard. Josh appears to be ready for this upcoming break from touring and I wondered how he’s managed to protect his vocals given such a demanding tour schedule. Josh stills maintains that friendly banter with the audience between songs; sharing personal information as if we were visiting informally. He noted the presence of his parents (and shared the tidbit that the person who ‘nails’ him in the head with an apple in the Shake Tramp video is actually his father, Miles Ramsay). Josh kibitzed a lot with Mike Ayley on stage but didn’t seem to engage as much with Matt Webb. Perhaps tonight was an exception, but it appeared they barely acknowledged one another - pretty difficult given the stage proximity.

Marianas Trench is planning to hit the studio for work on their second CD which will hopefully result in more exposure (especially American) for this popular Canadian band. They have paid their dues and it is time for some universal recognition.

I do have one complaint regarding the concert, and this complaint actually extends to the majority of band gigs I have attended of late. I do not like being held captive/coerced into chanting and applauding for an encore. Given that Marianas Trench’s Shake Tramp is one of the more popular songs from their CD Fix Me, to imply the band would perform a gig without singing Shake Tramp is absurd. So when the band ‘ended’ its set, I was slightly perturbed as I knew MT would return onstage to perform the song, but I am not sure if fans were aware that this was a ‘given’. I did not like being manipulated into cheering and clapping for a song that should have been included in their regular set.

Please note that MT is not alone in doing this staged encore routine - it seems to be the standard. A band plays the majority of songs from an album and then retires knowing the audience will make enough noise to encourage a return to the stage to perform their more popular songs.

What ever happened to genuine encores? Once upon a time, bands would perform all of their hits; only returning to the stage after an extended noisy plea/encouragement from an audience responding to an excellent performance. It used to be an audience’s ultimate compliment and in return, the band would pull out an obscure album track, perhaps a cover tune or an equally rare musical nugget which made the performance furthermore unique or special. Rarely did a band hold out their popular tunes in exchange for crowd adoration via an encore.

Obviously, I do not like this current ‘encore’ trend and I hope MT does not continue with this superficial formula. It merely reduces an encore to a ‘given’ part of the set, which in turn devalues any impact an encore would have had originally.

Visit The Sessions

Visit Marianas Trench