Category Archives: Music

Beach House Stirs

Another band discovered by watching a cover over at Youtube. Thanks Ani Lyn for your cover of “Myth”. The genre is described as “Dream Pop” and is strong medicine for those legitimately in need of an escape. If you’re like me and spend too much time enraptured by musicians dallying in minor keys, you will be delighted by this experienced group. Some youtube commenter has referred to the album “Bloom” and going from one great song to a better one.

Two young scholars came together in Baltimore’s Indie Rock scene and wrote music fervently  only to have a block on the defining of a band name. As you would expect with “Dream Pop”, we’re talking organs, synthesizers and slide guitar with an underlying soft mellow beat. Both Victoria LeGrand and Alex Scally are versatile musicians deploying various instruments. Can one draw a parallel between “Shoe Gaze” and “Dream Pop”? Well, Scally with Beach House employs D flat tuning as does Slowdive.

As I write this piece, I’m listening to “Wishes” from “Bloom”. I’m tellin’ ya…this group is spectacular.  LeGrand has a soothing voice and fans were avid enough in 2016 to suggest that Pitchfork make them the headliners in Chicago. If distant travel beckons, book your ticket to Beach House and a dream theatre by the water.     

Her Smell

The mere brashness of protagonist Becky in full flight fix is something to behold. This ‘90’s grunge band lead woman exposes the darkness of drug induced euporhia and the consequential effect on close relationships.  This movie’s scenes could have been done in one big take because of Director Alex Ross Perry’s apparent affinity for rawness on set. Fortunately, he found an ideal actress in Elisabeth Moss to play this unique role of a rocker gone bad.   

Backstage glam and drama is raucous . Recovery is a requisite for the real. Despite dysfunction, the bond of band mates is visceral with appeal. You’ll be left wondering about that. You’ll be perplexed by the acquiescent demeanour of a manager in quandary over a recording studio overtaken. Then there’s mom infusing support when she can digesting the chaos in context of her maternal past. 

Oh yes, there’s music but it’s secondary to the lifestyle plot and the preponderance of the prized backstage pass.  Consider the flick one ripe tomato.

Back In Black At The Jack

Once you get past the imagery of hard rock being played in an opera house (Jack Singer Calgary) and digest the signature rasp of Brian Johnson’s sound alike, you’ll be perplexed and comforted that Classic Albums Live has done their homework in covering ACDC’s Back in Black. Why an all black album cover? It’s was produced in memory of lead singer Bon Scott who died of an “alcohol misadventure”. If you’re fifty plus, you danced to the pulsating beat of “Shoot To Thrill” and “You Shook Me All Night Long”.

It’s worth repeating that finding the on key screech to sing machismo minded lyrics must have been no easy task at auditioning. This man performed with distinction in this difficult role.

The opening was obviously anticipated with the dongs of the bell and the signature opening riff to Hell’s Bells. They weren’t going to master the 1980 studio version considering the work ACDC went through in the Bahamas back in the day to acquire the perfect sound with a real bell and studio tricks at their disposal. However; credit is cast in the delivery of the complementing solo piece which requires precision in developing the riff with timely rests. 

“Shoot To Thrill” is perfectly positioned as the two track. Things really get rumbling with an accelerated tempo and knee quivering trill of this somewhat forgotten gem. 

Having settled in, the next big moment of intrigue was upcoming on track one of the flip side. “Back in Black” has the memorable guitar solo and all three six stringers on stage took their turn on their Gibson SGs –of course. It was evident by now that all three guitarists were versant in playing lead and there was one in particular who was a bit more familiar with particular lead lines throughout the song list.  As we all know, exuberant solos get the crowd going and this rendition of Back in Black had the audience shimmering.

The sound engineer was getting things figured out a few short chords into You Shook Me. He’d moderated the extreme frequencies certainly giving some relief to patrons like me who had forgotten ear filters at home.

“Have A Drink On Me” exemplified the general sharpness of the band and to keep it tight with three six strings competing for attention cannot be easy.

“Shake A Leg” was played with more vigour here than I can remember on the album.  I believe this cover band turned the studio version into something better – not by making changes to the score but by turning up the dynamics.

Jumped free from my aisle seat right before the intermission and headed home after a long day of doing tax work. The audience would anticipate a second half featuring various other hits.              

Backstage At Loverboy

Forty years ago in Kamloops, B.C. as a teenager when at home listening to Loverboy’s self titled album with my aunt and mother on what can now be described as a vintage cabinet record player enraptured by songs titled “The Kid is Hot Tonight” and “Turn Me Loose” in no way could I have imagined that last night I’d be back stage of a concert in Calgary shaking hands with the lead singer Mike Reno and guitarist Paul Dean.

As if intended through some unknown protagonist, upon taking up guitar and piano there’s been opportunity to circulate in music circles and attend performances which have proved to be sources of inspiration and everywhere I turn I discover fellow amateur guitar players where we share about the instrument’s intricacies. 

Don’t be shy if you’re a single male in the crowd with a backstage pass encircling your wrist. Work it with the ladies preferably in a fashion that at least gets you a date. You see Tom Cochrane was actually the closing act and he apparently offered leverage power to backstage pass holder.

The question I had for Mike Reno last night was, “have you ever had voice training”? His answer was “no”. He still carries the high pitch exemplary of his singing. It’s not falsetto but just a high range he’s obviously carried throughout his career.

It was thanks to a client with connections that made this night out extra special. It was also fun to wear a neck badge with photo of the band purchased for me by my client’s wife from the souvenir stand. In response to perplexed inquiries I represented the keepsake as my “premium backstage pass” much to their astonishment and my silent guffaw.   

No photo….didn’t turn out. 

Obama At The Grammys

I’ll reference the unspoken and unpopular because it’s what I do here sometimes on my own forum. Wives of ex-politicians, ex-politicians, and politicians have no business on the stage of the Grammy’s unless they’ve won a Grammy for their contributions to music. Music is an escape from the tedium of political drama and hence the preeminent event should not become theatre for those who possess a larger agenda outside of the realm of music. It’s one more reminder of why I’ve cut my cable chord.

There would have been individuals in the audience with a life-long commitment to their passion for music who had never gained a whiff of that stage having been overlooked by The Recording Academy despite much success and hard work toward their craft. Society has unfortunately been overrun by elitists with special entry back stage passes who need their ego stroked at every turn. Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against Michelle Obama. On the contrary, I find her to be articulate and warm with generosity in her heart. This was simply not her place.    

Shoegaze and Slowdive

Shoegaze music became a shadow or back seat genre of the grunge scene during the 90s. Typically played in the minor keys, the name came from lead guitarists’ fixation on their feet due to the operation of numerous effect pedals daisy chained on stage. Thanks to KEXP radio, I discovered Slowdive which may be the preeminent band associated with the genre. To the band’s surprise upon reuniting in 2014 after a long hiatus due partly to unflattering reviews, audiences hailed them dearly in London and Barcelona. Their return has been invigorated with a hot new album self titled “Slowdive”.

 My characterization of the music is “sombre mood”. If you’re willing to go into the darkness, you’ll shimmy in calm. Just make certain you come out while not over cooking your playlist with it. While the distinction of chord movement is oftentimes muddled given the heavy use of reverb, the unrushed melodies can be impactful and pointed.

Much of my attraction to Slowdive is the modest stage presence and obvious band cohesiveness lead by lead song writer and front man Neal Halstead. What his childhood chum Rachel Goswell lacks in vocal range – she makes up for in musicality on guitar and keyboard.  Her voice tonality is actually fitting to the eclectic ambience illuminating live performances. Critical to the sensitive nature of the genre, the rhythm section has a strong feel for dynamics with Simon Scott intuitively in sync with bassist Nick Chaplin. Christian Savill rounds out the troupe on rhythm guitar.                

Wynterland Band Review

With tickets sold out at the Blues Can last night, I headed over to Mikey’s Juke Joint on 12th Ave SW with a friend and enjoyed classic rock from Red Deer’s Wynterland.

This is an energetic cover band that does remarkably well at capturing popular riffs of yesteryear. I stayed for their first two sets and enjoyed classics such from Fleetwood Mac , Boston, April Wine, Pat Benatar, Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, Toto, and Journey among others less familiar. It’s a fun stage presence hosted by vocalist / guitarist Wynette Johnson. The biggest take away of the evening was song selection. I don’t know if they had kicked in all of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams, “Rhiannon”, and “Go Your Own Way” because of the news of FM’s concert postponement but if so, that was intuitive. Patrons obviously took to the rhythm section filling the dance floor from the outset. “Sign of the Gypsy Queen” from April Wine definitely had me reeling in Nostalgia as these guys delivered on this track pretty much note for note. 

When coming away from such an occasion, I reflect on the hard work that local musicians put into recreating popular songs for our enjoyment and the breadth of commitment required for band members to operate cohesively in this part time endeavour while maintaining full time careers. Although reduced …thankfully, Calgary has venues still available for these gigs. Go out and show your support. These bands need us.                

Nazareth in Calgary Aug 18, 2018

The only member left from the original member is bassist Pete Agnew but this group plays cohesively led by front man Carl Sentance. In fact it was remarkable to hear how easily Carl hits the high pitches typical of Nazareth’s hit tracks from the seventies. Original vocalist Dan McCafferty’s voice was raspier but I actually prefer the tonality of Sentance.

The band surprisingly brought “This Flight Tonight” and “Razamanaz” early in the set. Lead guitarist Jimmy Murrison made good use of his slide in “This flight” and Sentance got the place hummin’ with the quick tempo of “Raz”. The vast experience of Agnew on bass in concert with son Lee kept exquisite rhythm throughout the evening.

Although, never a big fan of classic “Hair of The Dog”, its signature guitar riff was unmistakable and had the audience standing at attention. “Love Hurts” was beautifully played and coloured the evening with a melancholy calm. 

“Shanghai’d in Shanghai” was one of my favourites of the evening along with an unidentifiable transcending rock rhythm piece.

Sentance donned an acoustic electric guitar for one song titled “Sunshine”. It was probably the one pronounced track of the evening which would have been better presented in studio.  Ironically it was this part of the evening where stage lighting encountered technical difficulty.

My sense was that Murrison may not have been at his best on this night having missed a particular guitar piece but it’s hard to criticize his chops. 

Certainly, many throughout the Grey Eagle Resort’s event centre were ill prepared with no ear protection. Smaller venues with big bands mean big sounds and the requisite for ear protection in lieu of no apparent decibel regulations. Thankfully, I was equipped and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.       

 

Chris Stapleton On A Whim

I’d never heard of this guy but then I saw facebook friend GB post that he was going to see Chris Stapleton at the Saddledome. GB and I have never met in person.  A couple of years back we became acquainted because he noticed my review of Fleetwood Mac live and we connected.  Hence; a spirit of spontaneity came over me upon knocking off work an hour and a half prior to show time when I saw that he was going to see this guy Chris Stapleton whom I’ve never heard of.  True to the wonder of joy manifestation through simple compelling instinct, I discovered a master craft musician.  Someday we’ll meet GB.

Although country is not my genre, this man with his supporting cast including his wife on supporting vocals lead out with a beat atypical of Nashville’s melancholy two stepping simplicity.  Instead, his up tempo power chord shredding delivery accompanied with a wide ranging diaphragmatic voice left me transfixed in his modest brilliance.  He’d hit the high octave while rolling along between chords….and these articulate slow moving chord progressions during intros were captivating. He’d capo the guitar down to suit his vocal key and when Mrs. Stapleton chimed in, it was with well timed emphasis and poignant contextually to lyrics.

The omnipotent stage presence of Chris absolutely touched the audience especially when he reached into the vocal stratosphere during a well positioned bar.  The drummer and bassist obviously carried the back drop but will have come to understand (on bass for 20 years) that in this production when the lead man plays rhythm, lead and sings, they’ll be a subtext in the Chris Stapleton story.

Mid show I’m thinking to myself that it’s like I came from another planet having never having heard of this guy while witnessing the crowd sing and stir upon sensing the opening to one of their favourites from his old LP “The Traveler”.  Definitely part of my thrill for the evening was the discovery amidst naivety.