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 you're 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










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.

Paypal Donation to Swanktrendz

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.

Paypal Donation to Swanktrendz

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

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Rodeo and Allegro Brillante By: Lezah Williamson

Ballet BC, Surrey Arts Centre, Nov. 1/07

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When my friend Jude first asked me to go with her to see Ballet BC dance Rodeo, I kind have thought, hmm - Rodeo and ballet in the same sentence? A sure sign of the apocalypse, perhaps?

Of course, as it turns out, I was just showing off (once again) my cultural ignorance. It turns out that Agnes de Mille’s Rodeo is a very well-known, very established piece; in fact, it premiered in New York way back in 1942. Not only that, but I was already familiar with Aaron Copland's score (and I bet you are, as well, especially if you grew up watching The Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom on TV - but there I go, dating myself again...).

The dance itself is very character-driven, and that's no surprise, considering that De Mille is best known for her musical theatre pieces like Brigadoon, Oklahoma!, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Paint Your Wagon. In fact, it felt like, at any moment Lee Marvin was going to ride out on the stage on an invisible horse. I don't think I've ever smiled through a whole ballet before. It was great.

And what about the actual dance, you ask? Well, I think it was masterfully done. Makaila Wallace did a fantastic job conveying all the emotions of the lonely, awkward, love-lorn cowgirl, while the whole cast had me absolutely convinced that they were riding horses (I especially liked it when they got their horses to Whoa!). The bucking broncos were good, too, while the square dance added an element you don't usually see up on the stage at a ballet.

The other piece that was danced last night was Allegro, originally choreographed by George Balanchine and set to music by Tchaikovsky. It was a much more difficult piece for the dancers - the sweat was streaming down one poor guy's face the whole performance. Fortunately for the dancers, that piece only lasted about 25 minutes, and it left me wanting more. Likewise, Rodeo was short, approximately 40 minutes in length.

Both pieces are considered mid-Century modern, with Allegro being an urban piece and Rodeo celebrating the heartland. Both conjured up images of the forties and fifties for me, but in very different ways.

Following the show, there was a Q & A with the dancers; the audience was a little slow to start up, but once they started with the questions, they didn't want to quit. The dancers did a very good job explaining about their company of 18. I found it very interesting to see how much they put into retaining the authenticity of their piece; apparently they flew in an 80 year old man from New York who had worked closely with Agnes De Mille on this ballet way back in the '40s.

It's attention to detail like that that makes Ballet BC stand out for me. They are a small, local company, but they have the ability to do great things - and they work hard to make it happen.

Image from balletbc.com

Visit Ballet BC

Daniel Isn't Talking by Marti Leimbach By: Lezah Williamson

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Dave always tells this self-deprecating story about when he was in Grade 6 and he read a Stephen King short story book, thinking he was reading a novel, and puzzling for about half the book about how the writer was going to pull all these disparate storylines and characters together...

Anyway, I had kind of the same experience when reading Marti Leimbach's latest novel, Daniel Isn't Talking. It wasn't quite as embarrassing or confusing an experience, though: I was just under the impression at first that I was reading a non-fiction book as opposed to fiction.

Once I got that sorted out, though, I was off to the races.

Anyway, the book deals with American Melanie Marsh, who is living in London in what sounds like a beautiful place with her British husband and their two children. The book chronicles the culture clash that is her marriage, and outlines the struggles Melanie has in getting anyone to first acknowledge her son's problems, and then come to a diagnosis. When Daniel is pronounced autistic, it's more than her husband can handle; he flees the family home, straight into the arms of the woman who, his own family feels, he should have married in the first place.

Melanie is left on her own, selling off the bits and pieces of their life in order to finance the expensive therapies that will return Daniel to something closer to his pre-autistic self.

When Melanie meets play therapist Andy O'Connor, the resulting changes in her life are more than she had anticipated.

Mexican Power Authority, Climax Gold Twins By:Lezah Williamson,

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Black Mountain

with Climax Gold Twins and Mexican Power Authority

Saturday, Nov. 3 at Richard's, 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 Kev Smith (formerly of the NEOS) was in his element. A progressive hardcore band, they claim to have first coined and developed strang, which has since gone international. Smith is funny - funny, funny, funny - and Mexican Power Authority is known as much for its short (sometimes 20 second long) songs as it is for its humour. Smith 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 many others 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 an act now. The entire audience was practically 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 - and to get 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!

Image from wikipedia.org

Visit Black Mountain

Response from Readers

amber at painfullyhip.com said... Hey! I heart Black Mountain too, but that photo is actually of Blood Meridian, which also boasts Matt and Josh of black mountain.
10:52 AM

Anonymous said...

Dude that's not black mountain, that's blood meridian!
7:04 PM

Christine (admin) replied:

My Bad for attaching the incorrect image to Lezah's article. It has been revoved. If you have a good photograph from this concert, pass it on to swanktrendz.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Tragically Hip - Concert review by Shane Christensen

Burlington Vermont October 30, 2007

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As someone who has been a serious music fan for 35 years, the number of concerts I’ve attended is surprisingly small, numbering about 30 or so. There are many reasons for this, but primarily it’s because I don’t enjoy large arena shows; watching the concert on the jumbo screen and listening to bad acoustics.

But getting into small venues can be very difficult, especially in Toronto where thousands of other people are also vying for the opportunity. Mind you, I have been lucky a few times and caught acts such as Tom Cochrane, the Tragically Hip, the Tea Party, and Cheap Trick playing small shows where I found the experience so much more enjoyable that I pass on a lot of concerts simply because of where they’re playing.

I have been a big Tragically Hip fan since hearing Road Apples in ’91, and they are one band that I’ll actually travel a fair distance to go and see, especially if it’s at a small venue. I was at the Syracuse, New York show at the Landmark Theatre in ’98 and I count that as the best concert I’ve ever attended in my entire life. So a month ago when I noticed on the Hip’s website that they were playing a small show in Burlington, Vermont on October 30, the wife and I decided we’d make a mini-holiday of it and easily purchased the tickets online.

I’m still surprised how easy it is to get tickets to their American shows, especially the ones that are a few hours from the border. I guess most Canadian fans are not as adventurous or perhaps they have cost concerns, but with the strong Canadian dollar, travelling in the U.S. is a real bargain right now. I also find ticket prices drastically cheaper down there as I paid half the price of the last show (Fort York) I attended in Toronto last summer.

And for some reason, I find I like the Hip shows better in the States than I do at home because they seem to play a bit differently; specifically Gord Downie and his vocal delivery and mannerisms. He’s still the same silly guy who bends and breaks mic stands in two to the delight of the slightly tipsy audience (newsflash - Hip fans like beer) and breaks into rants about stuff that you really have no idea what he’s talking about. But it’s the way he actually sings - truer to the original recordings - that I like, and he does this more down south than for the home crowd, maybe in part because of the intimate settings they play there.

The Tragically Hip are definitely a band effort, but Downie mesmerizes his audience with his frantic and sometimes comical behaviour, so that many times the rest of the band seems like they are back in the distance watching and enjoying the spectacle as much as the rest of us, while they meticulously and methodically play through an energetic and varied 20 song set. 

They proved that they can still rock with the best of them on songs like Fully Completely and Fire in the Hole that feature Rob Baker at his hard rocking best, but then they can turn the energy level down considerably for the acoustic gems like Wheat Kings, Scared, and Bobcaygeon, and still keep the audience entranced. Even the four tunes off the new album World Container received an enthusiastic reception from a very diverse crowd that included a lot of college students, but also a lot of moms and dads. 

But there’s no doubt that the songs they played from the albums Fully Completely, Trouble at the Henhouse, and Phantom Power were the crowd favourites, and they made up the bulk of the performance. For me personally, I was disappointed that there weren’t more tunes from Road Apples and In Violet Light since they’ve both been two of my favourites. Judging from other set lists, they really do mix it up from show to show and you can’t fit the entire catalogue into two hours.

And what a two hours it was. The Hip are by far my favourite live band because they put on a fantastic show that is very musically diverse, but never lacking in any way. Their set list weaves in and out between all out rockers like Fully Completely and Fire in the Hole, with campfire classics such as Bobcaygeon or Wheat Kings. And the beauty is that the intensity remains just as high for the acoustic numbers because they are THE ‘classics’ for a lot of Hip fans, just as Fifty Mission Cap or Little Bones are for others. In nearly twenty years, the band has amassed a catalogue that would be the envy of any band in history, and to me personally, only Led Zeppelin compares to them live for the ability to mix the hard and soft, and make it work perfectly.

At the beginning of Bobcaygeon, Gord Downie invited the audience to unveil the flag. To the overwhelming American crowd, I think the comment went over their heads. But as a Canadian who loves the band and is truly proud of everything they’ve done and accomplished through the years, I felt like I was standing a bit taller and my chest was sticking out a bit farther as I watched Gord perform his magic on a crowd that would be a fraction of any concert back home.

But for the Tragically Hip, size doesn’t matter. There can be 50 or 20,000 fans in front of them, and you are going to get the same show regardless because the Hip are a truly great band of professionals who love what they do, and they prove it every time I have the pleasure and privilege to enjoy one of their shows. 

I can’t wait to see them again in a small venue in small town America, and hopefully our dollar will still be kicking it so the fringe benefits are there as well, although my back is still stiff from a full day of shopping with the wife in Burlington, the most beautiful and friendly city I’ve been to in the U.S.A. Vermont Rocks!

Set List for The Tragically Hip - Tuesday, October 30 - Burlington, Vermont

Yer Not The Ocean       Fireworks

New Orleans              Hundredth Meridian

Fully Completely               Scared

Escape Is At Hand              The Drop Off

Family Band                         Poets

Ahead By A Century            Locked In The Trunk

Gift Shop                              Fire In The Hole

In View                                 *The Lonely End Of The Rink

Courage                               *Bobcaygeon

Wheat Kings                         *Grace, Too   


Saturday, November 03, 2007

Fashion - Five Pieces to Have by L. Brown

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Visit L. Brown

Everyone has their list of fashion must-have items. For some people, it may be jeans and a t-shirt. For others, nothing short of the latest runway fashions will do. But I believe there are a few items which should be in every woman's closet. These articles of clothing will ensure you are well prepared for a variety of occasions, as well as suit a wide range of body types.

Cashmere Sweater: There's a reason cashmere has gained its luxurious reputation. Cashmere has a heavenly feel that just can't be replicated. But the real benefit to cashmere is that its ‘nature’ is highly adaptable. During the spring, it is a great lightweight sweater, and during the fall, it actually keeps you warmer. I suggest a light color, such as an off-white, because it is so classic.

Black Tailored Pants: A pair of black tailored pants is one of the most versatile pieces in any wardrobe. Pairing dress pants with a sweater is perfect for a fall night; pairing them with a jacket is perfect for the office, and pairing pants with a silk shirt is perfect for a date. My suggestion is to keep it simple though. Don't go for a fancy waistline or a complicated cut. Make sure to choose a cut that suits you and remember, the straighter the leg line, the better. Other cuts will go in and out of style, but straight-cut dress pants will be an article that lasts from season to season.

A Great Pair of Jeans: Every woman has a perfect pair of jeans. Despite the other pieces on this list being a little dressier, there's no reason to ignore the impact of denim. They look perfect with a t-shirt, make a suited jacket look more casual, and look great on almost every woman. My suggestion is to check out a brand called, Not Your Daughter's Jeans. These jeans are called the Tummy Tuck Jeans because they slim your waist, but beyond that, they look great and feel comfortable.

Two-Piece Suit: This item is on the list because it has the combined power of a jacket and skirt, thereby giving you more choices throughout the rest of your wardrobe. While you can wear both pieces together, its real power comes from combining the pieces with the rest of your wardrobe. Lose the jacket and you're ready to go from the office to a date. Switch the skirt for black tailored pants, and you have a different look for the office. Throw the jacket over jeans, and you have a cool, casual weekend attire. My suggestion is to keep the suit simple. You don't necessarily have to do black, but sticking to a dark color and a simple cut will give you the greatest variety. Besides, you can always personalize it with the shirt underneath or an interesting scarf.

Wrap Dress: A wrap dress is the hottest, most versatile item since the little black dress. Whether you go for a pattern or a solid color, the style is very flattering to a very wide range of body types. My suggestion is to try a print. Most of the other pieces are so plain that your wardrobe will need a little something to express your personality. The latest fashion trend has women putting a wrap dress over skinny jeans. Try this for a bold new look.

Whatever your fashion favorites, these five pieces will help you bridge the gaps looming in your wardrobe. Every piece allows you several options/looks to choose from when you are seeking something to wear. From casual to dressy, these are the staples which should form the foundation for every woman’s wardrobe.

Finger Eleven - Only Canadian Release, Eh? Christine Albrecht

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Attention all Canadian Fans! Finger Eleven will be releasing their first DVD / CD package Us Vs. Then Vs. Now on December 4th. The 2 disc set contains a DVD with 2.5 hours of video footage spanning the band's career. The DVD includes never-before-seen live performances, and rare concert footage. It also features some yet to be published interviews, as well as Finger Eleven's music videos, and a behind the scenes video journal from the band's 2007 Them Vs. You Vs. Me tour.

The package’s audio CD contains 14 previously unreleased tracks, including original demos of some of the band's biggest hits such as Paralyzer and One Thing in addition to 7 new songs... all taken from the band's personal archives.

Watch Finger Eleven’s newest video I'll Keep Your Memory Vague

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