Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Cheap Trick Concert Review by Shane Christensen

Thursday July 26, 2007

Empire Theatre

Belleville, Ontario

2006 image from www.kweevak.com

Try to imagine one of your all-time favourite bands and add that you can go see them anywhere you want. A big concert festival perhaps? Maybe a nice, intimate club? Or how about an average sized parking lot that holds maybe a thousand or so people? I’ll take this last choice and that’s exactly where I got to view one of my favourite bands, Cheap Trick, on Thursday night. The Empire Theatre... parking lot.

I know what you’re thinking ‘cause I thought the same. Cheap Trick? In a Belleville parking lot? What’s up with that?

And you know what... I don’t know what’s up with that, and I definitely don’t care after seeing them rock their butts off for nearly an hour and a half of energetic and inspired playing.

There was even an impressive video screen (as if we needed it) so that you could see the lads up real close if you so desired, and they don’t really look any different from how I remembered them in the seventies (when I couldn’t admit to liking them for fear of being abused by my inner circle of Led Zep friends).

The stage was set up perfectly with black and white checkered amps and speakers, and even a box that I had no idea what it was there for until Rick Nielsen used it extensively to stand and preen all throughout the show.

Ah… Rick Nielsen. If ever there was a more unique and entertaining character in the world of rock, it is definitely this man. If I could sit down and have a few colds ones with any of my rock gods, it would now be Mr. Nielsen (my apologies Jimi Page, you’ve been temporarily relegated to number two).

I’ve always respected Nielsen as a great songwriter and guitarist, but I now know what a great performer he is. Talk about personality; this guy could have his own stand up act. His nonstop playing and singing were perfect. More importantly, he literally carried the show with his humour, banter, and genuine crowd interaction. With no slight intended to the others, they could very well be known as Rick Nielsen and Cheap Trick because of the energy and enthusiasm he displayed. Maybe it was the bugs?

The bugs!? Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the fact that Belleville must be the largest flying insect capital of Canada... er, Eastern Canada that is. I know you Westerners outdo us in that department, but the band was spending a lot of time frantically avoiding insect digestion. Sometimes it looked like they were dodging bullets they were so frenetic, but it made for an awesome performance.

The playing was fantastic for a band that has been touring for thirty odd years. Tom Petersen played well and stepped up for his moment singing an inspired “I Know What I Want”, but for the most part he did what a good bass player is supposed to do, keep it steady.

Bun E. Carlos, one of my all-time favourite drummers, did not disappoint. This guy is solid and I always felt he carries the torch for all of us drummers/musicians who might not look like the stereotypical rock star. He could be an accountant for all we know, but he plays better than the Tommy Lees of the world (who might be aesthetically more pleasing).

Robin Zander was a surprise to me because although he performed well and even played guitar much better than I ever thought he could, I felt he was almost embarrassed to be there. He just didn’t look comfortable. I don’t think he uttered a word all night, which is very rare for a lead singer. His crowd interaction was minimal. Maybe he’s been around Rick long enough to know that’s Rick's forte. However, it would have been nice to see him get involved in the performance.

Technically, Rick's singing was very, very impressive. When he sang the intro to one of their biggest hits, “The Flame”, you would swear he was pulling an Ashley Simpson it sounded so much like the recording.

And the list of hits they played was what you would want and expect. “Dream Police”, “ I Want You To Want Me”, “Auf Wiedersen” (my fave),“Hello There”, and even the theme from “That 70's Show” which was actually kinda strange because they could have played a dozen or so classics instead of playing that one.

But hey, this is Cheap Trick. They’re a bit goofy, still a bit cute, definitely a bit strange, but a damn good live rock act that I am definitely going to see again - even if I have to drive to a small town parking lot an hour and a half away.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Marianas Trench - Interview With Josh Ramsay and Mike Ayley By: Christine Albrecht

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Mike Ayley (vocals/bass) and Josh Ramsay (lead vocals/ guitar) from Marianas Trench were kind enough to set aside an evening interview at the 604 Records studio Monday evening. I immediately congratulated the band on their cd release of ‘Fix Me’ due in stores October 3rd. Go out and buy, now.

I have to say that the biggest compliment I could hand this band was the fact that they sound like themselves! To expand, I was listening to their tunes and I thought, ‘Oh yes, I’ve heard this before’... and as I scoured all of the songs on my desktop I found the ‘similar’ gem - yeah, it was a song by... Marianas Trench. So I guess they sound like themselves.

Swanktrendz - First some basic editing stuff - Marianas has no apostrophe - right?

Marianas Trench - That’s right.

ST - I know you’ve been asked this a zillion times, but is the name from the geographic feature or from a line in the Pixie’s ‘Wave of Mutilation’ song?

MT - Neither, but that’s a new one. I didn’t know there was a lyric like that and I like the Pixies. No one’s ever asked us if it was from the Pixies.

ST - So the name doesn’t come from some obscure lyric?

MT - It’s a long story involving bricklaying and parasailing and the accidents that happen when you try to combine the two. One day we just said, maybe we should call ourselves ‘Marianas Trench’ - that’s the short version of a long story.

ST - You’ve been around since 2001?

MT - Sort of. Josh and Matt (Webb) hooked up in high school (both were in choir).

ST - Josh, you’ve been around music all of your life, and your mom (Coralynn Hanney) is a vocal coach - did she train you?

MT - Yes, but when I was younger I tried to avoid taking lessons with my Mom and she wanted wanted to avoid it as well as that was a strange dynamic. For a year or two in high school, I took lessons from the person she took lessons from. And then eventually that guy couldn’t teach me what I needed so I did some research and it turned out that the only person that could teach me what I needed to learn, was my mom. She still helps me from time to time.

ST - Your music, the song ‘Say Anything’ has consistently sat in the top 5 for Canada. Did John Webster produce this cd?

MT - I worked with John Webster independently from the band - when I was 16 or 17. He and I worked together when I was a solo artist. John is the one who introduced me to Jonathan Simkin (co-owner of 604 Records studio). He mixed a couple on that venture and I mixed four.

ST - You mixed? Is that an area you would like to pursue?

MT - It’s not my main passion - I’d rather play the music than produce it. But it can be good because I understand more about music. Also, it helps to know the technical language when you go into the studio to listen to the tracks. I can be really specific about what I want, as opposed to being vague like, ‘I would like something more green’.

ST - What about you Mike - would you like to do mixing?

MT - I don’t think I could do it - there’s too much information. I could probably mix a mean bass track.

ST - Some the stuff I’ve been reading about you (Josh), and I don’t know if this is applicable, but the discussions on addictions and then reading your lyrics, well... did you used to smoke heroin?

MT - Yes I did. I’ve been in recovery now for a long time. That was a big problem for me as a teenager.

ST - You must have started young.

MT - I was also fortunate enough to get out young. It is something that still inspires me to write lyrics because you end up with so much baggage from that. I went to a treatment centre when I was 18 (or 17).

ST - That is young. Then again, being surrounded by music when you were a child, I suppose it made you grow up fast.

MT - On one side you do grow up fast because you are faced with these harsh realities, and that teenaged feeling of being invincible suddenly dies. You also learn some really dark things about yourself and life. At the same time, as long as you’re using, emotionally, you don’t age at all. That’s the same for all addicts or alcoholics that you meet at a treatment centre. You may have different ages, let’s say 45 years old and 17 years old, but they are all talking about the same thing because, emotionally, they are the same age. It stunts your emotional growth.

ST - As you said, it does give you a lot of fodder for lyrics.

MT - Yes, it does. And the stuff I took away from it certainly gave me patience for a lot of other things in life. The tools you use to stay away from (in my case) drugs are the same tools that help you in life, to be a healthier person.

ST - And you Mike, did/do you have any vices?

MT - (Mike) I am a hard core chocolate addict. Any chocolate, as long as it’s not unsweetened. I will rummage through trash, through closets for it. I would go to the grocery store, buy icing and hide it. I’m pretty good now. (Josh interjects) You wouldn’t want to catch Mike on the wrong end of a chocolate fix.

ST - You’ll be in the 12-step chocoholic program.

MT - Nah, I’m never stopping. (Josh adds) Admitting you have a problem and doing something about it are two different things.

ST - With Marianas Trench being from Vancouver, well give me some hot West Coast spots that you enjoy hanging out in, or clubs you enjoy going to.

MT - I love Vancouver. After touring the country, I think Vancouver is the best, and most beautiful, place to live. It’s also the most versatile, by far. Vancouver’s got the beach, a major metropolitan area, the forest, and skiing all within a stone’s throw of each other. It’s amazing. I’m certainly not the guy to talk to about clubbing because as a recovering addict I don’t go to the ‘bar’. Plus when you make your living playing in bars five nights a week you’re not going to say, on your day off, ‘Hey let’s go to a bar’.

ST - Turning to Mike - what about you - where do you like to go?

MT - I used to know where all the great places were until we started spending most of the time playing in bars. Now I say, ‘Let’s just stay home.’

ST - What about local restaurants? Do you each have a favourite restaurant?

MT - (Mike) There’s a place down the road (from the studio at Ontario and 3rd) called Bin 49. It has around 30 seats and it’s got wicked food. As well it’s got the local ‘feel’. (Josh) Hamburger Mary’s on Davie. I live about a block from there and they have great food.

ST - Favourite unsung - unsigned bands?

MT - Jellyfish, Ben Folds Five

ST - They’re kind of popular. What about bands you’ve liked but they aren’t known?

MT - Total indie? There was a band that we played with in Hamilton. Mike, what was their name? (ST note - either The Flairs or Obsidian or Charlemagne...?) They sounded like ACDC, the drummer was the singer and they were awesome. I think Canada has a lot of good singers - like Matt in Tupelo Honey. Also, Vancouver’s Yuca - they won the Seeds Festival. Marble Rye are also good.

ST - That brings to mind another question. When a band has obvious talent, good vocals, good playing, what’s the difference between being unsigned and the ones who get signed?

MT - I think the difference is some bands spend most of their time on being great musicians, but they may not spend the time writing good songs. Or you’ll see great songwriters and none of them can play or sing. I think it takes a lot of work to build up both sides of the spectrum. It’s like playing baseball and having a really good pitcher who can’t bat. It’s a long process and I don’t think people have taken the time to work on all of the skills. There are bands out there that make you feel that they are the best musicians you’ve ever seen, but they can’t sing very well.

ST - (Jonathan Simkin co-owner of 604 Record Studio joined us at this stage.) What makes a band stand out to the degree that you would want to sign them?

Jonathan Simkin - Well in Marianas case, it would be the nude pictures they have of me... (now here is a funny guy) They dazzled me with their mediocrity. Seriously, Chad Kroeger and I are of the mind that the songs come first and the music comes second. Most bands, if they work hard enough and are willing to listen and improve, they can learn about playing and performance. But song writing is an innate ability - you can get better at performing. You can either write songs or not. I’d rather find a band that writes great songs than a band that can’t. You can always arrange for someone to have vocal lessons, etc. But you can’t teach someone to write great songs.

MT - - (Josh speaking) I have the opposite problem - I write too many songs, but that’s a good problem to have.

ST - What about bands who rest on their laurels after getting signed and don’t market themselves?

Jonathan Simkin I have no problem with bands who creatively want to make art for art’s sake, but stay in your garage and play. The minute you come into ‘our world’ (music business) you’re saying you want to do this for a living and the reality is you have to accept that marketing is part of the ‘job’. Music is a business. Some of the greatest bands in the world have subverted their own careers by being unwilling to be flexible with their music. Being signed only cuts your odds of becoming famous from one billion to one to one million to one. It doesn’t solve anything or automatically do anything. It just offers more resources.

MT - You have to have talent, luck and a hard work ethic. Talent doesn’t always enter into the equation. The days of being discovered while pumping gas are long over. You have to work hard. We work really hard promoting ourselves. (Mike interjects)The harder we work, and the more we get noticed, just makes us want to work even harder. And sometimes getting noticed turns out to be being at the right place at the right time. If you are working your ass off, it just gives you more opportunities to be seen.

ST - As well , it builds your reputation (within the music community) as being hard workers. I would also like to know about your upcoming tour with Lillix. That should be a nice line up and it will provide you with a different audience.

MT - We are looking forward to the tour. Now that we’ve had some success with our video on MuchMusic, this tour will bring us the younger demographic because we are performing all-ages shows. Most of our fan base is not old enough to get into a bar so this should be really fun.

ST - Josh, you write all the lyrics. Do you write the tune and then the lyrics or...?

MT - I do most of my writing before I fall sleep, or instead of sleeping. (Josh is an insomniac.) I’ll come up with an idea and I’ll go over and over it in my head while I’m falling asleep. Sometimes, if I am lucky, I will have the tune in my head and I will actually work through it while I’m sleeping. Most of the time it just causes me to have a fitful sleep.

ST - And the band comes in with the music? Does Josh come with the song ideas and then the band works through it?

MT - Yes. (Josh states) I will come in with an unfinished song and the band will flesh it out.

Jonathan Simkin (to Josh) Won’t the producer, after a couple of months decide that he has co-written a couple of the songs? (laughter)

MT - Nooo. Dave Genn did not cowrite anything on the record. He did help a lot with the arrangements because that is what he’s good at.

ST - So we’re not going to have a Sarah McLaughlin court case happening a year down the road?

MT - (loud laughter) Oooh - Jonathan Simkin was the lawyer on that case... (note - Swanktrendz did not know the link between Jonathan Simkin and the Sarah McLaughlin trial so it was not an intentional statement).

Jonathan Simkin If the case at been based on who cried the most tears, we would have won.

ST - That case made me aware that listeners don’t always know what is going on behind the scenes.

MT - If anything, Dave Genn will be suing us for emotional abuse. (laughter)

ST - Speaking of business, the band is very accessible for publicity. I guess all publicity is good publicity?

MT - Yeah, I get freaked out if I miss one opportunity to discuss the band.

ST - You’re good businessmen then - always looking for opportunity.

MT - Yeah, I don’t want to miss anything, ever. Even if it makes only ten new fans. That’s ten fans we didn’t have before.

ST - I have a Swiss friend visiting, the ‘Swiss contingent’ I called her, will be attending your concert. Hopefully she’ll go home in October and talk about Marianas Trench and garner some European exposure.

MT - That’s great.

ST - I did want to ask you a publicity question, Josh, because you were exposed to Tommy Lee and other rockers at a young age (through his dad’s studio). What do you make of Tommy Lee’s ‘Rockstar Supernova’ show? I thought it was a clever publicity ploy as Tommy’s turned on a whole new generation to his music.

MT - And he is also with 604 Records. It’s a smart business decision. Any of those shows are essentially karaoke. I do find it funny that no one has clued into the fact that they’re a televised karaoke show, but that being said, I think it’s proved to be a very smart way of marketing. But I wouldn’t say the show is marketing ‘artists’. As Jonathan was saying, song writing is very important. No one from those shows can actually write a song.

ST - Perhaps, but I do believe that Lukas Rossi (winner of Supernova) can write songs. He had his own band in Canada and wrote his own songs.

MT - I don’t know the artist you’re talking about, specifically, so I will not speak to his ability. Those shows, however, are marketed for entertainment not songwriting. The contestents are singers, and what a great way to get a career - even if it’s only for ten months. You might make some cash, you can have some fun, and you’ll get your 15 minutes of fame. The management can provide you with an army of songwriters who will sell you a hit song, and that’s cool. From a business perspective it makes a lot of sense, so I don’t have a problem with it. (Mike counters) - but it doesn’t nurture the ‘finding’ of a great band. It makes it too easy to ‘discover’ a favourite singer without helping the grassroots of the music business. (Josh) It’s a smoke and mirrors kind of marketing, like a star machine. These show contestants are not people who have paid their dues in the music industry. They’ve enough dumb luck to fall into that instant stardom, but they’re not going to be a healthy person when they receive too much attention, too soon. They’’ll get all this exposure overnight without having done any work. They’re not going to appreciate or respect the position they’re in. They’ll treat people badly because they don’t know any other way.

ST - So, because they’ve been thrown into this position of power so quickly, and don’t know what it’s like to be on the receiving end, they may behave badly?

MT - And I would probably be that way, too, if I were 16 years old, won some show and didn’t know my ass from a hole in the ground. I just look at the whole phenomena as pure business - those shows are pure business. I don’t think they are anything to do with good music. It actually doesn’t matter what the music’s like. That’s another thing - you could go on the show and win, or not even win, and you’ve built this huge fan base. All the power to them (the contestants). I don’t compare them to us as they didn’t spend years learning how to sing and learning how to play.

ST - Someone I was speaking with the other day said that music, nowadays, appears ‘cheapened.’

It is and it’s not just because of the fake reality shows. It’s also because the production of music does not rely on talent, anymore, or performance. It’s an industry that relies on computers. (Mike) The finished music is not a direct representation of what is happening in the live studio. (Josh to interviewer) I don’t know if you can sing or not...

ST - Laughing - definitely NO!

MTWell, I could get you into a studio and have you to sing for ...10 minutes and you’d be amazed at how good I can make you sound.

ST - That would definitely be a miracle. I recall hearing something you said about singing a cappella and if a vocalist cannot sing without accompaniment or studio help, then he/she can’t sing. I thought that was a good comment because how many singers can go onstage and sing well, live?

MT - We actually do sing a cappella during our gigs. I think that’s why music is becoming so soulless. You have reality television shows on one hand, and crafty studio engineering on the other and at the end of that, what you get is a product.

ST - And I suppose a fallout of that final product would be lip-synching during concerts?

MT - Yes. What are you going to get? Look at Ashlee Simpson. Here’s an example of a double-edged sword. What’s more embarrassing, getting caught lip-synching on Saturday Night Live or being booed off the stage at the Super Bowl because they don’t like your voice? I think the lesser of two evils would be doing a silly dance at SNL. And don’t tell me that it was acid reflux, or whatever. I’ve produced a lot of stuff and you are looking at a lot of work to get a backtrack together that only has a few things on it so you can play it during a live show. You can’t just ‘happen to have’ that track ready to go. It takes hours to put that tape together.

ST - That’s a good point.

MT - Well it’s ludicrous that anyone would think otherwise.

ST - But I think there are a lot of people who don’t know what is involved. They really believe this (having to lip synch at the last moment) is a real predicament. And these artists are selling a lot of records.

MT - We should all be that lucky. If I was some hack who couldn’t sing and I could get a career handed to me, I’d be saying, ‘Hell ya!’. I don’t begrudge Ashlee Simpson, but I don’t view her as competition either. We mght as well be jealous of Barney the Dinosaur because he’s popular.

ST - Never mind, we are all jealous of Barney’s fame.

MT - Well Barney and Raffi are not the kind of competition you worry about in the business.

ST - I really enjoy your lyrics - they are very ... raw. I hope to review your upcoming gig, as well as have the Swiss gal take Marianas Trench’s music back to Europe and start a buzz.

MT - Great. Get that European fire started. Worldwide domination! (Mike solemnly adds) But all we really want is ... Latvia... (laughter)

On that note, I said good-bye to Mike, Josh and Jonathan and I am presently trying to think of anyone I may know in Latvia.

Thanks to 604 Record Studios, Julie (label PR) in Ontario and Marianas Trench for accomodating a last minute interview. They are an extremely personable, and talented group.

Interview with Eagles of Death Metal's lead singer Jesse Hughes By: Christine Albrecht

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One of the most interesting interviews I have had in years ends up ... on a recorder with dead batteries! Bad karma or what?

Jesse Hughes was kind enough to give me almost an hour of his time while we discussed everything from childhood happenings, to American politics to the 'great beast', Aleister Crowley. I know, I know, but hey - I am guilty of going off on a tangent as well.

First the facts: Jesse formed Eagles of Death Metal after his 1998 divorce. It was a defining moment in his life as he had a lot of pent up emotion to get out of his system, and the lyrics/music came easily to him. He feels the divorce contributed to a 180 degree change in his life. He went from being a '210 pound working stiff' to a slimmed down rock star whom the young gals go wild over. (Living well is always the best revenge, Jesse.)

Although people like to think of Eagles of Death Metal as Josh Homme's creation after Queens of the Stone Age, it is actually the reversal. Eagles of Death Metal appeared on Josh's Desert Sessions, Josh just happened to like Jesse's sound enough to offer up his drumming/producing abilities.

I mentioned to Jesse that I first saw EDM in the Fall of 2003 when they opened for Placebo. I remembered thinking that they were 'not bad at all' and I also remember looking at the drummer and thinking, gosh that looks like Josh Homme. This concert was before Jesse released his 'Peace Love Death Metal' in March of 2004. Jesse said that the event I saw was the beginning of his active touring schedule.


Jesse discussed a bit of his early life - he was 7 years old when his parents divorced; tough at the time, but fortunately he had an extended family for support.

My father was very spoiled and came from a Southern family. He was an only child and I think the time in which he was born, and the sort of mind he had, did not lend itself to longevity. He died in 1988, but my parents divorced when I was 7 and I actually had a happy childhood. My family is a tight family - four or five clans get together. The divorce was traumatic, but then I moved to Southern California and everything was cool.

Any issues Jesse needed to discuss were often presented to his Grandfather, who apparently had words of wisdom to share on every count.

I moved to California, but had had a hillbilly accent which wasn't cool. I didn't fit in immediately. I immediately did not know anyone, and I did not have any friends and I had to rely on my ability to be charming.

When Jesse mentioned school life, I immediately asked what he would say to any teens out there who feel as though high school is the be all and end all to life.

I would say, hell no! Everything for me happened at 30. I used to think school was the be all and end all, but my Grandfather said (when I was 9) ... well I am very emotional and wear my heart on my sleeve... and my Grandfather was picking my brain to figure out what was bothering me. I mentioned what kids thought of me and he said, 'You should never care what an asshole thinks'. I was one of those kids that listened to my grandparents - they were amazing people.

We then got on a roll discussing the differences between generations from the Second World War to present day.

I have almost disgust for my parents' generation because they were so spoiled. All my parents' generation - that 60's generation - wanted to do was fuck and take drugs. I think they hid behind the convenient duality of the English language of Make Love Not War, and their attitude was ... my parents suffered in the war so they spoiled the fuck out of me in the 40's and 50's and now I am a monster. I'm going to protest in the streets, and then in the 80's I will go into politics and make everything hell. When I saw everything my Grandparents went through I never understood why my parents took it all for granted. Everyone was so lost in the 60's - it was an explosive time.

Ronald Reagan's name came up in a further conversation, so I immediately jumped on the political bandwagon and threw out three names for Jesse to comment on: Reagan, Clinton, and Bush.

Ronald Reagan was one of the greatest Americans who ever lived - greatest president in my lifetime. He and Walt Disney single handedly brought about the hearings that would result in the McCarthy Hearings because of the legitimate Communist threat that existed in Hollywood. He has always been at the forefront. Walt Disney, James Stewart and Ronald Reagan filed the complaint that led to the McCarthy Hearings.

(And here I had assumed it was started by Senator McCarthy because of the U.S. Army's response to Roy M. Cohn's meddling in the drafting of G. David Schine.) This discussion then led to an examination of propaganda, and the best circles and the best format in which to release it.

Cinema is very influential. For example, the movie 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn' ...

To which I cut in saying, 'I loved that book as a child - I never saw the film, but the book was brilliant.'

Watch the film and you will see what an amazing piece of propaganda it is. It is technically considered to be one of the first purely Communist-made films in America. One of the first propaganda films. There's a lot of films like that - even now we have propagandists like Rob Reiner and Michael Moore.

To my dismay, I said nahhh... does the film (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) actually follow the book?

It follows the book, but it's the manner in which it can make abstract images with words and appear concrete.

I mentioned that one of the greatest propagandists, in my opinion, was Hitler's Goebbels.

There was also Leni Riefenstahl, the one who made all the movies for Hitler. That's what Hitler referred to as the darker and more mysterious aspect of human emotion. They tapped into that emotion using cinema. That's Hollywood as well, there's no better way to tell people how to live than to use an all-star cast.

At the mention of Hollywood and stars, I had to ask Jesse what he thought about Scientology.

I think Scientology makes perfect sense in Hollywood. It's no different than when some senior Hollywood stars belonged to the Church of Satan in the 60's.

Do you mean the era of Aleister Crowley and Jayne Mansfield?

Yes. Eventually Michael Aquino, Aleister's right hand man, started the Temple of Set. All the Church of Satan was ... was a pyramid scam for power hungry people. All you're doing is getting people to work for you, then they advance you, and on their backs you advance yourself and you get into networks where you can meet more people. Scientology is obviously the next step. It's a chain, a pyramid scam. It's all financial. And the absurdity of what they believe is interesting. All because Ron L. Hubbard said, I can get people to believe anything, watch this. If you believe all the bullshit in Scientology, you need to have your head examined. I know for a fact that those people don't believe all that shit. I'm in NA, Narcotics Anonymous, and I can tell you for a fact, that 40 per cent of the people in Hollywood - who attend those meetings - have never done a drug in their life. They're simply there to prey upon someone like me, someone who is in rehab and wounded, and they will say, "Oh, but I care..."

I remember Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers saying that to live in Hollywood, you had to belong to a group - be it music, modeling, acting, religious or whatever. Everyone had their clique. There's a defining theme that you have to belong to.

I don't think there's anything wrong with that, fundamentally.

But you know what - isn't that like going back to High School? Same thing. Everyone has their clique.

Yeah, and it sucked for me, but I am still friends with some of the people who were the most vicious to me. I have always been the kid... well, my emotions and I have always had a relationship that's intellectual and academic at times.

You are more unconditional in your relationships.

Yeh, I am unconditional. I don't take things personally. The time I got locked in a varsity locker after water polo, I didn't take it personal. It sucked being in there for three hours, but I didn't take it personal, and I hope they didn't take it personal with what I did to them in return.

We discussed some of Jesse's revenge scenarios, and I learned that he got his nickname 'Devil' from his advanced algebra teacher who (after a revenge situation) referred to Jesse as the damned devil. Then there were some other aspects in his life where the moniker 'Devil' was appropriate. We then went on to discuss Aesop's fables, computing grade transcripts, journalism, dealing with difficult people, etc.

I always have to deal with difficult people. To me it is an interesting challenge to get around people. My favourite politician, Disraeli,

(interviewer's note - Disraeli was the British Prime Minister in 1868 and from 1874-1880, who chose to write stories to explain his views to the average citizen)

My favourite Disraeli story was that on a rainy night, he was walking down the narrow sidewalk and the gutter was full of water, and his arch nemesis walked up to him and said, 'I never step aside for a scoundrel.' And Disraeli tipped his hat, stepped into the gutter and said, 'I always do' and kept on walking. And that is an important lesson that I use all the time.

So you are essentially taking the high road, while making a point?

Just because someone is being an asshole, doesn't mean you have to deal with it. And they shouldn't even know that you are bypassing them. You can be more clever than a person by talking things up, or be more clever in silence. Give them a little charity. That's the only true charity - the charity given anonymously. And the charity of not exposing them for the asshole they are, it the most awesome charity in the world.

Jesse then got into discussing Narcotics Anonymous but felt that he didn't buy all the 'bullshit' they say. He felt that we make choices in life and you can't exchange a drug dependency for a group of people telling you what to do. He doesn't buy the 'it's a disease' aspect. So that seguewayed into exploring the aspect of choice versus victim mentality. Using past issues as crutches instead of addressing them and moving on in life.

Yeh, I don't believe in that bullshit. I went to a place called 'Promises' which, granted, is a cappuccino resort, but I get sick of people trying to blame shit on other things, or who feel they are entitled to something. You aren't entitled to anything but death when you are born. Everything else, you have to earn. You know what sucked? The dependency was my problem, but I was making it everyone else's problem, including my son and my mother and the people who depended on me to do what we're doing for a living. I could never be one of those dudes who looks myself in the mirror every morning saying, 'I can't help that I have a problem'. I'm not going to go out and shoot a bunch of kids in my high school class to get attention. There's a great Onion quote - 'Who does a girl have to fuck around here to get closure with her father?'

Then we ventured back to the music scene and specifically I wanted to thank Jesse for making "Death by Sexy' as it has made my summer a lot of fun. It is nice to listen to 'feel good' music. I also informed Jesse that he was developing a huge following, to which he responded with a modest 'thank-you'. I don't think he truly realizes how much of an impact his cd is making. We went on to talk about the 70s influences in his music, and Lux Interior and Poison Ivy playing on the CD. This conversation led to the discussion of whom to trust in the music industry with Jesse citing Josh Homme, Dave Grohl, Jack Black, etc. to be the ones he trusts.

You are only as good as the people you surround yourself with. Loyalty and friendship is huge, and something that's uncommon in Hollywood. Most people in Hollywood want fame while they're there, but they want to pretend that they don't give a fuck about fame. I'm lucky that I don't have to be around that. I am one of the luckiest guys in the world that Joshua Homme is my best friend. Dave Grohl and Jack Black are the sort of men that they are - they are real men. Men of character, that keep their word. They are the only dudes I would think it is possible to do business with on a handshake. That's the kind of guys they are. When we were set to tour with The Foo Fighters, it was done on the phone and that's how it should be. The level of appreciation I have for being in this job is amazing, and to be able to do it in the way it should be done, and to have the support of people around you who want it to be done the way it should be done is like the roulette wheel coming up, winning. It's like a rock and roll lottery ticket. One day I was married square, the next day I have a couple of tattoos and I am making a record. I happened to be friends with some of the biggest rock and roll stars and now here I am in Vancouver, speaking with a lovely lady like you, and it doesn't get any better than that.

I mentioned that it was refreshing to hear Jesse appreciate his career choice because I find a lot of artists get tired of interviews, and dissecting their music to the point where they begin to withdraw. Jesse appreciates artists feeling that way, but he loves talking about his music and he loves talking about himself. We agreed that everyone needs a certain amount of vanity - not necessarily conceit - but vanity to be in the business. When we were discussing family life, he mentioned that he had a six year old.

What's your son's name?

Micah Edward Hughes. Like the last prophet in the Old Testament. On the 'B' side of our Canadian release, 'I Want you so Hard', he's playing drums on the cover of 'Addicted to Love'. He's overcome a lot of obstacles to be my son. He's definitely a mini me.'


Would you ever want to remarry?

Definitely - I want to remarry. My attitude and my experiences are the result of being burned by a girl, but I don't think there's anything better than being in a relationship. I don't fool myself that it really works, and I'm not necessarily in the right position to lead someone into believing that I would be in a relationship with them. I have girlfriends in a lot of places who I am friends with all the time - I guess I am in a weird spot because I am worried ... I love women and I really respect women, and I don't want to be the dude who's 40 years old and unable to be in a relationship because I don't have the skills anymore. I think I am designed for parenting and I think I made a great husband. I didn't choose my wife very well, and she had different motives.

We started discussing Bush and the charisma of Clinton, the tape recorder died, but I managed to wrap up the interview by asking Jesse which interview question he disliked the most.

It is always a baited question and it's always about Joshua Homme and it is designed to make me feel animosity towards him. He was a superstar first and I rode in on his coattails. Which is what I did - I rode in on his coattails.

How can you ride in on his coattails when you helped him with the Desert Sessions?

Yeah, but what is reality and what is not in the public eye? You may know that, but most fans of The Queens of the Stone Age don't know that. They think that the famous lead singer of The Queens of the Stone Age started up a side project called The Eagles of Death Metal. In fact, it was being promoted in your local paper as 'Peaches featuring Queens of the Stone Age side project, Eagles of Death Metal'. Let's just put it this way - the only way I'm ever going to get out of his shadow is if he gets out of my fucking sun. That's another one from my Grandpa. That's why I hate that question because it can put me in a situation of being misquoted - especially English journalists. It's tough because we're friends and I've never met anyone more genuinely wonderful than Josh Homme. The only reason he knew I was working on a record was when my Mother was worried about me (after the divorce) and he came around and checked in on me.

With that being said, and the rest of the interview left unsaid (due to the recorder) the interview wrapped up. Jesse was accommodating, talkative, and up front about most of the areas in his life. It was a treat to chat with him and get his 'take' on life in general. Afterwards, whilst watching his concert, I think it finally dawned on him just how popular his band was. It was nice to see him be validated in such a public forum.

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The Police Concert Review (Air Canada Centre) by Shane Christensen

Image from: images.eonline.com

I must admit that my first thought upon hearing of the Police launching a reunion tour was a big shrug and a feeling that they would join the list of “older” bands cashing in on the reunion big bucks lottery. But I would have a different reaction after catching the Police show at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Sunday July 22/07.

My expectations were somewhat low after reading initial reviews of the Vancouver show that opened the tour, but I’m old enough to know that one bad review means very little, especially in the case of a band that hadn’t toured for over twenty plus years.

But we are talking about one of the defining bands of my generation, those of us between 40 and 50, who grew up as kids listening to the Beatles, Stones, and Zeppelin, and then grew into adulthood listening to the Police and U2. And the Police were as influential and successful as any band would ever dream of becoming. And once they got to the absolute top of the rock summit, they quietly went away, never to appear as touring band until this year.

So as I sat down and gazed towards a beautifully illuminated stage and felt the electricity of a packed house excitingly awaiting their idols and heroes, I must admit I could feel that pump of anticipation building. By the time the first chords of Andy Summer’s guitar were ringing out “Message In A Bottle”, the whole house was on their feet. And most of us would stay that way for the duration of a very energetic and impeccably played performance that made me appreciate what a truly talented trio the Police are to this day.

It sounds corny and clichéd, but the crowd was taken back 20 years to the height of the band. They looked great and played with a chemistry that showed not only their individual talents, but they truly looked like they were having the time of their lives and that they were enjoying entertaining us. And they did entertain us.

The set list included all of the obvious hits they would absolutely have to play, but they also threw in a couple of surprises, most notably a solid performance of “Regatta de Blanc” that had the whole crowd singing along and dancing like teens in their seats. “Wrapped Around Your Finger” brought about a momentary pause in the energy level of the crowd, but Stewart Copeland’s “scientific” percussion playing was priceless.

So much of their music is the soundtrack of a generation’s life that it did feel surreal at times watching the show. It was true professionalism and musicianship that very few people ever attain, and every aspect of the show was top notch.

The sound was excellent, especially for the ACC which can have it’s moments. The stage was clean, very organized, and beautifully lighted all along it’s perimeter. The band looked amazing for their ages… yes Andy Summers is 62 but who cares, music is ageless which the very divergent crowd proved as it incorporated three generations for the most part.

Sting was of course everything you would expect…but happier. It was like he was having a really good day and he wanted to let the whole world know it. In fact they all looked that way throughout the evening, smiling and laughing and having a grand ol’ time. Sting even reminisced about the show they played at a Toronto landmark, the Horsehoe Tavern, during their first tour in which only a few people attended. It almost felt like one big love in instead of being just a rock show.

Because it wasn’t just a rock show. For many of us, this was our first opportunity to see a band that was the soundtrack of our young adult years. “Every Breath You Take” is the song that makes me remember the birth of my daughter a few months after its release because the words were so fitting, so even though I had heard it a thousand times before, I could feel goose bumps and the hair stand up on my neck because of the emotional connection which does not happen too often, especially today.

So the ambivalence and skepticism of my initial reaction to the Police tour has forever been changed. If they were doing this just for the money… who cares? They played one of the best shows I’ve ever been to, especially in a large venue, and they made all of us happy and almost giddy and feeling like we were about 20 years younger, even if only for a couple of hours.

I would say that that was money well spent and definitely well deserved. Thanks gentlemen for an amazing show. Hope to see you next time.

Moodswing: Review of an Eclectic Musician By: Lisa Brown

Moodwing's "Digging Up" available on Sound Therapy Records

As a music lover, I'm always on the lookout for new bands and musicians. I love the thrill of discovering, and getting the feel of, a new musical act before any of my friends. I love that moment when I get to share my new ‘find’, and watch the look on their faces as they respond to the music. So imagine how thrilled I was when I recently discovered a new musician who has some serious talent.

Moodswing is slotted into the ‘rap music’ category, but that's only a technicality. Moodswing is an artist who has experienced his share of life’s difficulties and who is now on a self evolutionary mission... fueled by therapeutic disclosure.

Different musical influences can be heard throughout his cd, Digging Up, (Sound Therapy Records). It's refreshing to hear a musician who doesn't believe in staying within one genre, but instead, uses whatever elements he feels he needs for a particular song to 'work'. With Digging Up, it becomes apparent that Moodswing’s songs go beyond simply "working".

There are many artists who earn a living with their music yet don't sound as professional as Moodswing. On his track, "Holiday", a female voice can be heard layered into the song, adding another dimension to the strong electronic elements. It has a ‘haunted’ quality to it, and the lyrics leave you feeling a bit hopeless.

Overall, Moodswing’s music is quite complex. There are several songs that lead you in one direction and just as you settle in, the song goes in a different direction. The melange of rap /electronic music is a welcome change for both genres. The track "Crash and Burn" brings a bit more funk, adding a ‘dirtier’ sound. As well, the song is both simple and complex. Although it sounds repetitive, the notes actually reverse upon themselves, making it sound as though it's being played backwards at times. This approach goes amazingly well with the lyrics, which speak of the problems of war and dangers of repeating past mistakes. While the message may suggest the path is simple and straightforward, the lyrics and music suggest the path is more complex, and requires re-evaluating our own past.

"Even Keels" leans toward the 'MC style' of rap. The music is quite basic, which is true to this style. I think that many listeners may initially view this as his weakest song, but I think that hesitancy comes from not being familiar with the genre. With 'MC style' rap, it's not as much about the music as it is about the artist’s rapping skills. As he reminds us, during this song, he doesn't have the professional, multimillion dollar studio to back him up. This song will succeed or fail depending upon the delivery of his words alone. Given this logic, it’s apparent that "Even Keels" is a success.

"The Gypsy" has some sick violins accompanying the vocals. When I refer to them as "sick", I mean it's a cool sound, but there's also something very disarming about it. If you've heard Nuttin' But Stringz, this is similar in the combination of hip hop and orchestral string instruments. But where Nuttin' But Strings has the violins carrying the tune, "The Gypsy" uses the strings to enhance his vocals. It's an interesting song because of the way the different elements are blended.

Moodswing is an apt name for an artist who can easily switch between electronic, funk, MC rap, violin/hip hop, and more. Because of this, I truly cannot pick a ‘favourite’ song. How do you compare the violins in "The Gypsy" with the funk of "Crash and Burn"? The songs all exorcize some inner demons, which are deeper than most due to the mainstream rap you hear. If you're on the west coast, make sure to check him out live, because you'll be in for a treat.

I'm a big believer in supporting artists such as Moodswing, because they are able to make whatever music they want without studio and commercial interference and/or limitations that keep them from sending their message. The result - music that is more pure, and has more heart than 99.9% of the dreck presently on our airwaves.

Image from: http://cdbaby.name/


Purchase/Listen to Moodswing

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Transformers Rolled Out By Sashi

image from : www.alleba.com

In The Beginning…

First came the announcement that Steven Spielberg’s Dreamworks were to be making the live-action movie. Fans rejoiced.

Then the news that the movie was to be directed by Michael Bay. Fans were split, some were happy, remembering movies like Bad Boys and The Rock, while other groaned, remembering The Island and Pearl Harbour.

Then the cast list was revealed, including the most in-demand young actor on the market Shia LeBeouf, the unknown but smokin’ hot Megan Fox, but the name that gave every Transformers fans goose-bumps was that of Peter Cullen, the man who voiced Optimus Prime in the original G1 cartoons and the 1986 animated movie.

Then the teasers, giving little indication of the movie’s storyline. The buzz was slow to build-up initially, being overshadowed by the other “summer blockbusters” Spider-Man 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.

But then those movies came and went, leaving fans underwhelmed. The focus shifted to

Transformers, at which time the final cinematic trailer was released - and what an awesomely cool, well-edited trailer that was…

The hype was now well and truly at its highest.

The Premiere

So finally, I found myself at The Curve’s Cineleisure Damansara yesterday with some friends, for the premiere of the movie.

The fanboys were out in force, wearing Autobots or Decepticons T-shirts, while a handful walked around with their Optimus Prime Voice Changer helmet. Seriously. One of them was a celebrity blogger dude too.

Before the patrons were to be ushered into their respective halls, everyone had to get in line and declare their electronic gadgets such as cellphones, MP3 players and cameras. It didn’t matter whether your cellphone was a basic cheap-ass phone (like mine) that does nothing more than make/receive calls and SMSes. They all still ended up getting tagged and bagged, and I’d have to return later after the movie to collect your stuff.

My friend couldn’t be arsed to do that, so he went and left his phone in his car parked in the basement before returning to the cinema.

After we cleared that hurdle, and after undergoing a quick electronic gadget sweep later (another friend of mine commented that he wouldn’t have been surprised if they subjected us to a cavity search too, the way things were going), we finally entered the hall (THX-enabled too! Woo hoo!) and waited for the movie to begin.

After all the obligatory trailers went by (including the one for Disturbia, starring Shia LeBeouf, which elicited a comment from somewhere behind me that he “already got the VCD last week” - only in Malaysia, people…), the movie we were all waiting for with bated breath finally began.

NOTE: Tread carefully from here onwards, for there be spoilers, arr!

We knew for sure that we were in a hall with some serious fans when they started cheering during all the iconic moments that would appear throughout the movie - the first time we hear Optimus Prime’s voice, the first transformation (including that famous transforming sound, which a friend refers to as “Krik krik kruk krack!”), the first kick-ass robot-on-robot action, the first time we see Megatron’s ugly mug.. ok, so maybe not during that last one.

The Story

Image from www.canmag.com

What story? Ok, if you must know… we start with what seems to be a standard (but rather entertaining and funny) teen flick story, where Shia plays young high-school kid Sam Witwicky looking to buy his first car (and who also has this crush on the smokin’ hot Megan Fox), at which point they come across this old dirty Camaro in a used-car dealership.. oh, you’ve seen the trailer, you know what I’m talking about.

But here’s the thing; Sam doesn’t know it yet, but he happens to possess a very important clue to the whereabouts of a mysterious energy source called the AllSpark, which is sought by both the Autobots and the Decepticons for wildly opposing reasons.

The Decepticons figure this out after hacking into the US Military Defense network (yes, the aliens hack us, instead of us hacking their network ala Independence Day) and soon they begin to zero in on our young reluctant hero.

But wait! The Autobots too have figured this out, and rush to protect Sam and his crush, the smokin’ hot Megan Fox. Therein begins the frantic hunt for the AllSpark, with the Decepticons also closing in on the whereabouts of the frozen Megatron, who was entombed in ice many centuries ago when he came to Earth looking for that energy source. All this culminates in a mega-battle in the city streets, with the outnumbered Autobots relying on teamwork (and some help from their human friends) to fight the all-out destructive power marshalled by the Decepticons.

But look, seriously, the plot is so thin that it’s practically aneroxic. It’s all an excuse to just bring on the metallic bling and the fancy special effects together with all the pyrotechnics and sun-soaked cinematography that Michael Bay just happens to be famous for, to create that unique cocktail known as the mindless summer-blockbuster popcorn flick.

The Cast

If Shia LeBeouf doesn’t win an acting Oscar in his movie career, I’m gonna go postal on the film industry. It’s easy to see why he’s so in demand these days (he’s also slated to appear in the next Indiana Jones movie); the dude’s such a natural on-camera. His whole demeanour and performance is so believable, you WILL forget that he’s supposed to be talking to giant robots that were not really there during filming. Ok, so his acting chops were not fully stretched in this movie, but I’m taking into account some of his past performances that I’ve caught.

Image from www.canmag.com

The smokin’ hot Megan Fox, on the other hand, is here as eye-candy. Sorry, ladies, but I’m not trying to sound like an MCP here; that’s just the truth. But as eye-candies tend to go, she’s certainly high on the list of the most smokin’ hot ones.

More Than Meets The Eye

Now, we all know that the real stars of this movie are the robots. While the fanboys are somewhat uncertain about the transformation undergone by these metallic heroes of yesteryear, one has to admit that sticking to the old-school style of transforming would be pretty silly by modern standards. (Then they’ll have to answer all the weird questions like where does Optimus Prime’s trailer disappear to when he transforms into a robot, or how does a giant robot like Megatron transform into something as small as a handgun??)

But where do I stand on this new makeover for the Transformers? Somewhere in the middle, actually. They look cool as they’re walking about and strutting their stuff. And the transformations are indeed awesome, if only a bit rushed in places. But when these metal giants are duking it out in the city streets, things get so blurry and confusing that I cannot make out which metal bits belong to which robot. The fight choreography is just so MTV, ya know?

And most of the Decepticons look so powerful and menacing - but there just was no personality in them. Starscream never got annoying, and Megatron, despite looking like the winner of the World’s Ugliest Contraption Award, never hit the megalomaniacal heights that is part-and-parcel of his character (although, that’s mostly due to the fact that he appears so late in the movie, thus severely limiting his screen-time). However, you do have Frenzy in there, being both the hacker and comic relief in the film.

But other than that, I found the movie rather enjoyable. Although if I started to think about stuff about the movie and it’s plot and characterizations, I’d find myself feeling a tinge of disappointment creeping in.

Of course, at this point I then realize that this is a mindless summer blockbuster popcorn flick, and hence thinking too deeply about things is strictly a no-no when it comes to watching movies like these.

So remember to check your high-horse at the door, come in with a child’s imagination and sense of wonder, and just maybe you too, like me, would feel goose-bumps all over your body when you hear Optimus Prime’s voice for the first time, and of course, THAT transforming sound: Krik krik kruk krack!

Autobots! Transform, and ROLL OUT!

My verdict: 4 out of 5.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Cary Brothers Band Concert Review Christine Albrecht

Richards on Richards July 16

Medium to Small Capacity

Prior to attending the three band line-up at Richards on Richards, the only things I knew about the headlining act, Cary Brothers Band were: a) Cary Brothers is from Nashville, b) he is good friends with Zach Braff (who gave him a career break by putting his song ‘Blue Eyes’ on ‘Garden State’s soundtrack, c) Cary Brothers is one person, not a band, and d) I love his song, All the Rage.

As soon as Cary Brothers Band took the stage, it was obvious that he was no longer a one man show. Surprisingly, there were two extra guitarists, a keyboardist, and a drummer. Cary made a point (his first of many) of explaining that this was his first time playing with a band in Canada.

Cary Brothers Band began their set and the sound was pleasant, vocals on pitch, quite soothing. At times it was difficult to hear his lyrics as his words were never crisp or clear, more mumbled. The band appeared redundant as Cary’s opener and following songs did not require, or fully utilize the band. The audience instantly recognized the lyrics to ‘Ride’ and you could see a few of the faithful singing along.

I found more gals were lingering in front of the stage than males; the fellows having drifted off towards the back of the dance floor. Unfortunately, I was also made aware of some gals in front/centre of the stage, hell bent on getting any band member’s attention. This was done through hair flicking, nuzzling/ kissing one another if a band member glanced in their direction, taking pictures of themselves with their cells to ‘share’, leaning forward against the stage speakers, flashing wide smiles and laughing uproariously at some private joke one had whispered in another’s ear - all while the band was in mid-song! I wondered what on earth they came for - the music, or a Cary Brothers’ band member? Despite my lengthy history of concert attendance, this trio stumped me.

Cary Brothers Band third song was introduced with a story about a girl Cary dated who turned out to be ‘crazy’; started stealing ‘shit’ from him and ‘got crazier’. (Midway, he threw out a ‘let’s face it, all women are pretty crazy’ generalization, searching the spattering of male faces for confirmation). He finished with, so I wrote this song about her called, ‘Something’. Along with his girlfriend woe stories, I found Cary Brothers’ frat boy, ‘Let’s get drunk and party’ attitude to be at odds with his articulate and sensitive music.

I was growing tired of the slow, moody set and became restless, standing, sitting, wandering, and seriously questioning if some interesting tunes would kick in. There was absolutely no interaction between Cary and his band and I would venture to guess that they didn’t even know each other (and perhaps that is why he failed to introduce or even acknowledge them to the crowd?)

Voilá, the band launched into a rocking, solid song ‘Supposed to be’‘ with full band accompaniment and I finally got a glimpse of the talent that everyone else has been talking about. Brilliant performance. As well, when Cary launched into ‘Waiting For Your Letter‘, the percussion was great, the band started interacting with each other, and the rhythm of the guitars was stirring. The full band complement sounded great in all the right places and I finally got excited about this band.

He proceeded into his next song by announcing ‘This is for all of you motherfuckers in Canada. I was dating a gal in L.A. and things were crazy, but when we travelled to Canada everything was great. But as soon as we got back to L.A...” she was miserable again and...’ Hmm, I’m seeing a pattern in Cary’s romantic relationships, and I doubt that it is always the girl who turns out to be the loose cannon. After the rousing intro (‘Yeah and this is for you too, you fucker, watching Leno on T.V..’ - directed to the DJ squirrelled away in his back booth and apparently with a T.V.. on.) The song had a slow start but a good bridge, yet again the lyrics were indistinguishable.

As Cary chatted up the next tune I kept my fingers crossed for another up tempo tune to maintain the crowd’s momentum. (I play for Jack Daniels he joked, so feel free to get me a couple.) But it wasn’t to happen. When he started to explain that he was a ‘child of the ‘80s’ and the next song may have an ‘80s vibe, I (once again) became intrigued only to be left disappointed as he mumbled his way through yet another lovely, boring ballad. The Last One I had had enough. Too many times I had been prepared for something with meat, only to sit through another ‘pretty’ song.

Why does Cary Brothers need a band? While singing his ballads (the majority of his set) only his guitar is really needed, and any accompanying music was not distinguishable or set apart either through lights or physical positioning. Cary’s singing was very nice, but his proximity to the mic made for a lot of muffled words and sounds.

Cary once said in an interview (on Zach Braff’s site, I believe) that a singer needs to be fearless and willing to fall on his ass. ’... The people I respect the most as artists are the ones who fell and got back up again. I don’t think you can really succeed until you stumble...’Given that Cary ascribes to this train of thought, I hope he will view his Richards on Richards performance as a ‘stumble’, return with a more polished audience banter, reconfigure his song sequence, and thoroughly engage and utilize his band.


Stars of Track and Field Concert Review By: Christine Albrecht

Richards on Richards, Small to Medium Capacity

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Swank's Superficial observations. As usual, we feel it's our duty to make general, superficial and completely biased observations. (And we certainly aren't changing tradition this late into the game.)

The Richards on Richards crowd was small, with the top count at approximately 100. The male to female ratio was 50:50. Audience response to the bands had the males preferring Stars of Track and Field, whereas the females appeared more enamoured with The Cary Brothers. (Over the years we have noted that male interest in a band appears to be a good indicator of a band's public duration). The crowd was young, averaging 23 years of age (if even). The overall appearance of the crowd gave the impression of a college/university fan base. Definitely not trend-setters (nor followers) with jeans and sneakers being the uniform of choice.

The Stars of Track and Field were the second act in a three band lineup, with The Cary Brothers headlining. Mother Mother opened the show with SoTaF following. I have noted that the following words (lush, dreamy, atmospheric, rich, textured, layered) are often overused by the Media when describing SoTaF's music so I will attempt to avoid the list.

SoTaF is comprised of Kevin Calaba (vox, guitar), Jason Bell (vox, guitar) and Daniel Orvik (drums). The band's presentation is minimalistic, the sparse set allows focus on the music rather than a bells & whistles distraction. SoTaF bring to mind the art-house movie vibe - a tad pretentious, yet undeniably talented.

'Melodic precision', I had written repeatedly in my notebook. Kevin Cabala's vocals are achingly beautiful. He emits every emotion possible and his clear, fluid enunciation allowed me to recognize... how obscure the lyrics are! This is one area I had trouble with. I found it hard to fully appreciate the band's musical direction because of the obtuse lyrical content. Then again, it could be me who is obtuse, and the lyric's meaning/intent is very obvious to others. I also found that towards the end of the set, I was wishing for more diversity in the overall tone and tempo.

Kevin and Jason were good at engaging the crowd while staging the songs. Not having a bass player wasn't a detriment to this act, and perhaps even helped to push them more into the media spotlight (media jumped on their decision not to replace their bassist a couple of years ago). Their use, and manipulation of samplers, programmed fillers, and drum machine question the need for a bassist and provide a good marriage to their incredible vocals. Two songs were prefaced with, 'We haven't played these songs before', making the crowd feel as though we were privy to a secret preview. Sometimes I found the herky-jerky moves, jumps from the drum platform, and leg kicks were contrary to the songs' tempos. Jason's enthusiastic playing, and stage antics did not seem to correspond to the songs they were performing. In hindsight, I suppose they can't simply stand and harmonize a la balladeers, as the audience would eventually lose visual interest.

Also, Jason was intriguing to the point where I wish I had a mute switch. At times, his physical contortions and hand sweeps/flutters are so expressive I wanted to watch him perform (on mute) to try and determine which gestures went with which songs.

Superficially, the band's appearance left me with a couple of questions. Why is 'I miss you' written on Jason's guitar? Why do they wear neck kerchiefs/ scarves in every media photo (and apparently during gigs as well)? Why is there a cd taped into the Jason's guitar's soundhole, and how does that affect the overall guitar sound?

Stars of Track and Field are definitely an act to follow. Their sound is reminiscent of Doves, Coldplay, Starsailor, yet is not. I only give these comparisons as a nudge in a potential direction for those newbies ready to take in their concert. If you are expecting a jangly, jarring, ear vibrating rock act, this is not the band for you. If you are looking for a melodic alternative rock act, with an art-house aesthetic, then you're in the right place.


Set List

Centuries,Arithmatik, Say Hello, In Bright Fire, Dying of Light, Movies of Antarctica, Exit the Recital, With You, This Could Break Your Heart

Upcoming Tour Dates

With The Cary Brothers

7/18/07 Bourbon Street @ Big Easy, Boise, ID

7/19/07 Burt's Tiki Lounge, Salt Lake City, UT

7/21/07 Soiled Dove, Denver, CO

7/23/07 The Waiting Room, Omaha, NE

7/24/07 Varsity Theater, Minneapolis, MN

7/26/07 Schubas Tavern, Chicago, IL

With Smashing Pumpkins

7/27/07 The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA

7/28/07 The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA

With The Cary Brothers

7/29/07 El Mocambo, Toronto, ON

7/30/07 Petit Campus, Montreal

7/31/07 Higher Ground, Burlington, VT

8/1/07 Iron Horse Music Hall, Northampton, MA

8/3/07 Paradise Lounge, Boston, MA

8/4/07 Belleayre Music Festival, Highmount, NY

8/6/07 Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY

8/7/07 Dante Hall Theater of the Arts, Atlantic City, NJ

8/8/07 World Café Live, Philadelphia, PA

8/9/07 Jammin' Java, Vienna, VA

8/10/07 Local 506, Chapel Hill, NC

8/11/07 Smith's Olde Bar, Atlanta, GA

8/12/07 Zydeco, Birmingham, AL

8/14/07 Exit Inn, Nashville, TN

8/15/07 Blueberry Hill St. Louis, MO

8/17/07 House of Blues, Dallas, TX

8/18/07 Stubb's Bar-B-Que, Austin, TX

8/20/07 Rhythm Room, Phoenix, AZ

8/21/07 Belly Up Tavern, Solana Beach, CA

8/22/07 Troubadour, Los Angeles, CA

Bumbershoot 2007

9/2/07 Bumber Shoot, Seattle, WA

View a hilarious video interviewing SoTaF at

Stars of Track and Field

Stars of Track and Field Myspace

Windup Records

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Polyphonic Spree Concert Review Christine Albrecht

An Extremely Verbose Review
July 13, 2007
Commodore Ballroom Full Capacity

Overhead at various points in the evening (by more than one!): Is this your first ‘Spree experience’?... Oh? Yes, it’s my 3rd... I felt is was a... euphoric... freeing experience. I don't think I've ever felt so happy...A lot of adjectives were being bandied about after Polyphonic Spree’s Commodore gig, but the one that kept surfacing was joyous. What the hell? Pause. Well now... okay... right then. Who am I to devalue their experience?

Hailing from Dallas, Texas The Polyphonic Spree have found their niche in the indie market thanks to the hard work, self promotion and thorough dedication of founder, Tim DeLaughter.

Images from www.petenema.com/concert

The core members in The Polyphonic Spree are Tim DeLaughter, Mark Pirro, and Brian Wakeland joined by a continuous revolving influx of 7-20 musicians. For those in the ‘music know’ the three main members of TPS are also the former members of Tripping Daisy, a popular 90’s act which disbanded after drummer, Wes Berggren’s, unexpected death.

With a firm nod to Electric Light Orchestra as an acknowledged influence, DeLaughter has transformed his musical vision into a concrete choral rock show slightly similar to Arcade Fire, and definitely sharing AF’s leading fan, David Bowie. And who are we to argue given Bowie’s musical track record?

On to the show.

The Commodore was packed - not sold out to-the-rafters packed, but legally full. The material stretched across the front of the stage (serving as both stage curtain and screen for various video montages) was a classic TPS prop. One that already had the crowd clapping in frenzied anticipation. The dance floor was already 15 rows deep with expectant, sweat sheened bodies staring at the stage, as if willing some thing, some one to appear and begin the show.

Images from www.petenema.com/concert

It worked. Starting off as some acapella, karaoke-tinged sing along came the chant, “... No short-haired, yellow-bellied, son of tricky dicky Is gonna mother hubbard soft soap me. With just a pocketful of hope. Money for dope. Money for rope...” then swelling to the familiar refrain, “All I want is the truth. Just gimme some truth now” Voilá, DeLaughter had the audience singing John Lennon’s Give Me Some Truth like a fully rostered church choir. Alongside the floor, launcher cannons were intermittently shooting confetti and streamers overhead.

TPS is very dramatic with their melodies, instruments, random objects, physical presence, and use of space. Every single thing available is utilized, every space occupied to ensure their message/music is heard. The 20+ entourage of musicians included a 6 member back ground choir, a string section, a full-sized harp, four horns, a flutist, two drummers, and a pair of keyboards/typewriter (perhaps a prop with sound sampler?). Even the arguably, over the top actions of DeLaughter’s, like his grand entrance using scissors to cut through the material/screen, I deemed fabulous. (Hey! I was caught up in the moment.)

Images from www.petenema.com/concert

With being a somewhat cheesy, drama queen, I was eating this up. Frankly, if I was to shell out a chunk of change to see a relatively uncharted act (TPS was voted 2nd worst act of 2004, just behind William Hung) I would demand my money’s worth. And yes, a band can deliver on talent alone, but sometimes one needs some ‘shtick’ or ‘oomph’ to feel monetarily vindicated. With such a strong opening, I was starting to think that TPS could do no wrong.

And here’s where my minor, morning-after-regrets/ complaints kick in. The sound level was too much, especially given that many musicians/singers on stage. It isn’t necessary to have all decibels pushing into the red and thus beyond the limits of the average ear. I wonder how many fans’ ears were still ringing two days after the fact?

As well, for a lyric-phile such as myself, there’s not enough meat in TPS’s song repertoire for me to chew on. ... You don’t see me fly into the red one more. You’re nuts. Just follow the day. Follow the day and reach for the SUN!!... or ... Hail to the sky. Time to watch the show. Trees wanna grow, grow, grow, grow. Still a man. It seems the time has gone away but all at once you knew your mission well... just do not ‘speak’ to me. Yes, I know there are a few songs with sentences thrown in that appear to have more substance, but I shouldn’t have to search.

DeLaughter’s talented back up singers brought attention to his limited vocals. Rather than playing on, adding to, or filling out his vocals, the singers’ (and audiences’) voices actually amplified and drowned out the lead singer’s weaker efforts. That’s not to say that TPS has weak vocals. The frontman’s vocals just weren’t housed and presented properly.

As personable as DeLaughter’s audience interaction was, at times it appeared forced and unnecessary. He was trying to whip the already hyped and appreciative audience into further frenzy. (Come on, this is Canada. We don’t readily subscribe to frenzy as easily as our Southern counterparts.) He also did his ‘Apology on behalf of Americans for Bush being President’. A standard that is so familiar to Canadians it would only capture our attention if an American band didn’t apologize for its leader.

Images from www.petenema.com/concert

Now, after having said all of that, I still feel the concert was excellent. The sheer amount of effort put forth, both musically and physically, allows DeLaughter to be forgiven any weaknesses. The show’s encore found the band discarding the army uniforms (with red crosses) in favour of TPS’s familiar long robes. Band members wove in and out of the audience while singing the encore songs, including some covers (one being Nirvana’s ‘Lithium’; very appropriate given the audience’s mood altered appearance after attending a TPS concert).

Although I enjoy TPS’s cds, it’s their live act that peddles the goods. A cold cd with ‘good’ music cannot capture and contain the band’s personality, atmosphere and ambience in the way their live show does. If you are already a big fan of The Polyphonic Spree’s music, than it is imperative that you attend a show to fully appreciate the band’s offerings. Attending a TPS show is similar to attending a church revival. I am positive some fans were ‘healed’ of some unknown ailment/malady while in the audience tonight. Never before have I seen a more elated group of people as I did tonight.



The Polyphonic Spree is currently touring North America to promote the June, 2007, release of The Fragile Army.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

It's Because of all the Horror Movies I Watch By: Rob Williams

It's because of all the horror movies I watch that I received thefollowing results results...

I have a 44% chance of surviving a Zombie Apocalypse!

See what your chances are...

Mingle2 Quiz

Visit Rob’s Blog

Visit Swank’s Home Site

Image from www.irishblogs.ie

Change in status...on becoming a dad (Introducing Theodore): Mark Thristan

Announcing Master Theodore Thristan

Visit Mark’s Site

I haven't had the opportunity yet to write up my thoughts on KCUK, as my wife and I have been busy with our new son, Theodore, who chose the auspicious date of 07/07/07 to mark his entry into the world.

There are very few ‘Thristan’ (surnames) in the world (obviously not including the Christian names), so I think Theodore may take us up to a count of about 15 worldwide.

I will blog on KCUK and other things soon, but in the meantime, may try to catch up on some sleep!

Image from auntiestreasures.com

(Editors postscript: The Swanktrendz community extends its warmest congratulations to the Thristan family - CA)

70 years of Bill By: Mike Gillis

In honour of Bill Cosby's seventieth birthday (which was yesterday - I was busy) I’ve compiled a modest list of his ten greatest accomplishments. Let's all bask in the warm, hilarious glory that is ‘The Cos’.

Disclaimer: 'Ghost Dad' will not appear on this list.

- The Cosby Show. You simply cannot fuck with The Cosby Show. The first few seasons anyway.

- Picture Pages episode "Animals". You. Will. Laugh. And no one will learn anything. Which is awesome, because this is purportedly an "educational kid's show". Enjoy this one with some drugs; Bill did.

- Leonard Part 6. A movie where Bill tries to stop an evil vegetarian from controlling the world. I hear he accomplishes this using some kind of Magic Meat. Please, please, please, someone help me find this movie.

- Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. You love this.

- Silver Throat: Bill Cosby Sings. Actually contains a song called 'Don'cha Know'. Also, in the running for Best Album Cover Ever.

- Phylicia Rashad. Goddamn.

- Picture Pages episode "Shapes and Colors". Holy wow, he's done it again.

- becoming the first black actor to have a starring role in a dramatic television series with I Spy. Helped pave the way for a crappy Owen Wilson/Eddie Murphy movie.

- when Theo wanted that designer shirt to impress that girl at school but it was too expensive, and Bill, sorry "Cliff", refused to give him the cash to purchase it. Then Cliff made a copy of the shirt for Theo, but it didn't fit properly and Theo was hilariously flustered. No, wait. Denise made the shirt. Nevermind.

- His years spent toiling in the underground Omega Sector of the Jell-O laboratories, developing a new gelatin sensation codenamed "Jell-O Jigglers". Which is just regular Jell-O. In different shapes. Good on ya, Bill.

Visit Mike’s Blog

Image from fencer.wordpress.com

Burning Brides - No Show at Richards on Richards By: Christine Albrecht

Yours truly has just returned from downtown Vancouver with an empty notebook.

I was to review the Burning Brides tonight, only to be told there was 'trouble at the border' so the band is MIA.

I am trying to find out what really happened, but I am reminded that this is not the first time I have missed out a performance due to Canadian border issues.

Either we have zealous border guards, or...?

Has anyone else experienced this annoyance? For that matter, are there any bands here in cyberworld who have had troubles trying to enter Canada for a gig? I'd love the hear your stories re: what happens at the border. How detailed is the paperwork (required to cross)? Do Canadian bands have the same amount of trouble getting into the US for shows? Let me know.

Image from obscuresound.com

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Dress For Success by Christine Albrecht

Wow. Being a longtime, avid lover of dresses, imagine my surprise at coming across a site devoted to dresses, strictly dresses. Finally, someone has designed a site after my own heart.

Windsorstore.com has dresses for the casual, club, or girly girl. If you don’t feel like shopping by lifestyle, try specific dress requests like ‘polka-dotted’ or ‘gold’ dresses. The site also has a ‘most popular search’ feature which allows you to see what others are considering ‘trendy’ and ‘hot’ at the moment.

Finally, the prices are shopper friendly (even moreso for those of us with Canadian dollars clanking about in our pockets). And even more shopper friendly considering known designer names like, Nick Verreos (made popular through Project Runway) are featured at great prices. Nick’s popular dress, Addison, is on sale for $49.00 from $110.00, and his Justina dress is on sale for $29.00. Imagine, the perfect little black dress for under $30.00? Unheard of. There’s nothing I like better than a good dress scoop.

I think I will be spending a lot of my July hours racking up my Visa with windsorstore.com dresses. Check it out.

Windsor Store

Images from windsorstore.com

Warner’s New Releases as of July 11, 2007 By: Christine Albrecht


Against Me! New Wave

Laurie Anderson Big Science (Reissue / Enhanced)

Image from img278.imageshack.us

Avenged Sevenfold All Excess

Blue Collar Comedy TourThe Truckload Sale

The Cribs Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever

OST Talk To Me

Queensryche Mindcrime At The Moore

Strata Presents The End Of The World

Various The Gift – A Tribute To Ian Tyson


The Doors Live in Boston

Silverchair Young Modern

Image from 991.com/newGallery/


Slayer Unholy Alliance


Boyz N Da Hood Back Up N Da Chevy

Flaming Lips U.F.O.s At The Zoo…Concert in Oklahoma City (MVI)

Image from bumpershine.com

The Honory Title Untouched and Intact (EP)

Operator Soulcrusher

Plies The Real Testament


Eisley Combinations (Sp. Ed.)

Federation It’s Whateva

Kids In The Hall The Pilot Episode

Lori McKenna Unglamorous

Various Diana: An Intimate Portrait

Various Entourage


Hey Rosetta Plan Your Escape (EP)

(Image from www.freds.nf.ca/)

Idiot Pilot Wolves

Talib Kwell Ear Drum


Collective Soul Afterwards

The Honorary Title Scream And Light Up The Sky

The Spill Canvas TBD

Yung Joc Hustlenomics


Bloodsimple Red Harvest

Belinda Brady Naked

Peter Cincotti East of Angel Town

Jordan McCoy Just Watch Me

Jonathan Rice Further North

Image from www.answers.com


Naruto The Movie: Ninja Clash In The Land Of Snow

Naruto Vol. 15 The Evil Hand Revealed


Genesis Turn It On Again (Tour Edition)

Faith Hill The Hits

Hot Hot Heat Happiness Ltd

Mick Jagger The Very Best Of

Image from www.rollingstone.com

Various Inside Hockey (NHL Unauthorized)


B5 I Don’t Talk, Just Listen

Bee Gees Greatest Hits (Spec. Ed.)

James Blunt All The Lost Souls

H.I.M. Venus Doom (Vinyl, too!)

Kevin Michael Kevin Michael

Randy Travis TBD

Twista Adrenaline Rush 2007


Cowboy Junkies Trinity Session Revisited

Iron & Wine The Shepards Dog

Image from artistdirect.com

Kid Rock TBD


Naruto Vol. 16 Ultimate Defense

Seal System

Randy Travis Around The Bend


Josh Groban TBD

Rilo Kiley Under The Black Light

Madonna Best Of Remixes


Cassie TBD

Deemi Soundtrack Of My Life

Matchbox Twenty Greatest Hits

Ashley Tisdale Trilogy

Image from www.aceshowbiz.com/

Trey Songz Trey Day


Armor for Sleep Smile For Them

Michael Buble Let It Snow (EP re-release)

Eric Clapton Complete Clapton


Lupe Fiasco TBD


Larry the Cable Guy TBD – Xmas

Madonna TBD

R.E.M. Live

Various Artists Live Earth


Elephant Man Let’s Get Physical

Image from www.mtv.com/


Sean Paul TBD


Larry the Cable Guy TBD – Live

Ashley Tisdale Life & Times Of Ashley Tisdale

*All Dates are Tentative

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Die Mannequin opens for The Deftones at The Commodore Ballroom by Christine Albrecht

Don't miss this one!

You know that song you’ve kept hearing thess last two weeks - yeah, that ‘Cannibal something or something...” song?

The band (Die Mannequin) behind "Autumn Cannibalist" is opening for The Deftones Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (July 10, 11, & 12) this week at The Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver.

That’s right, Die Mannequin (formerly The Bloody Mannequins - not as friendly a name) , the Toronto based alternative rock band has had a few great gigs this last year having opened for everyone from Buckcherry to Guns N’ Roses.

Fronted by talented Care Failure, the band has hit the ground, running since spring, 2006.

Check them out tonight, tomorrow and Thursday at the Commodore Ballroom. Oh, and you might want to stick around for The Deftones as well.

Image from Wikipedia

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

VooDoo Dolls By Lezah Williamson

Visit Swanktrendz

One of the hottest crazes to hit the toy market recently are VooDoo Dolls. VooDoo Dolls are cute little dolls that are made out of a single piece of string; they are used primarily as backpack and cell phone ornaments, and are big hits with Asian celebrities.

With prices between $10 and $20 (Cdn), the recently opened VooDoo Palace in Aberdeen Mall, Richmond has seen the dools flying off the shelves. No wonder, since VooDoo Palace is the only Canadian retailer of these hot, hot items. Only 200 locations world wide stock the dolls, which come in 70 different types.

Image from grandworldinc.en.alibaba.com

Life on Mars by Lezah Williamson

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Lately I've been actually falling asleep as I drive home from work. Why, you ask? Too many late nights is the answer. And just what is it that I'm doing up, so late at night, you ask? Watching 'Life on Mars' is the answer!

Yup, 'Life on Mars' now heads the top of my list as my all-time favourite TV show. It starts off in modern-day Manchester: a CDI is investigating a serial killer. He removes a female detective from the case, amidst her protests. Getting back to the station, he receives a call from her: she has defied his orders, has tailed the suspect to his home, and she now has him in her... (insert screaming here).

Cut to next shot: the police have cordoned off the area from which their colleague has been kidnapped. The inspector leaves - but wait: he's crying! Yes, the female officer was his girlfriend. He's so distraught, he almost causes a car accident, but, being a conscientious policeman, he stops his car, gets out... only to get run over by passing vehicle. We see his body bouncing down the road...

The next thing we know, it's 1973. The soundtrack is awesome, the clothes are hilarious, and the attitudes and ethics of the cops of the time leave a lot to be desired.

Our hero, you see, has woken up in 1973. He's still on the force, but has all his 2007 knowledge without the technology. He's new to the area, and was found lying in the road, having been hit by a car, so everyone thinks his odd behaviour is due to the accident.

Together with his old-school boss, he's got his first case - which is eerily similar to the one he just left way back in 2007.

A crazy concept, but it works. I am sooo hooked.

Image from www.020.com/webs

Prevention by Lezah Williamson

Visit Swanktrendz

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure - I'm sure the old quote goes something like that.

Anyway, that is certainly in keeping with the philosophy of Prevention magazine, which has been around for years now offering great advice on diet, fitness and general good health.

So, in keeping with my new trend towards a healthier lifestyle, I recently picked up a copy of Prevention magazine (www.prevention.com). My mom subscribed to Prevention for years, and it has not changed much: it is still packed full of sound nutritional advice, good fitness tips, as well as the occasional uplifting and inspirational story. I find that it can be a little heavy on the naturopathic supplements, sometimes; I used to find, as well, that it recommended walking as practically a cure-all for everything (although this in this recent issue I picked up, the trend has changed a bit there).

But overall, it is a good little magazine for the health conscious. I've noticed it's frequently on the pile of magazines that collects at doctor's offices, and you know what they say - 9 out of 10 doctors can't be wrong.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail By Bill Bryson

Contributed by Lezah Williamson

I recently read Bill Bryson's 'A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail' (1998), and was immediately struck by the desire to walk our own West Coast Trail. Of course, every time I read a book or article or travel guide that outlines one of these long trek-type journeys, I get the itch. The big difference is, Bryson tells his story with such self-effacing humour that even his pain is a joy to read about.

Bryson outlines his struggles finding someone to accompany him on his quest, and then further regales us with his struggles coping with his new-found trailmate. Along the way we learn a lot: about the history of the trail, the numbers and types of songbirds that used to inhabit the East Coast, the vagaries of the climate of each particular region he passes through, the death of many of the native trees, deaths and murders on the trail, and so on. It is a fun, fact-filled book that made me want to read more Bryson.

And read I can - I currently am part way through a copy of 'The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got that Way' (1990), but Bryson is even better known for the following works: 'Notes from a Big Country' (1998); 'Notes from a Small Island' (1995), and'A Short History of Nearly Everything' (2003).

I predict there will lots to read in my near future...

image from riannanworld.typepad.com/