Monday, January 25, 2010

tattoo rock parlour

last thursday, the U of T law students threw a huge party at Tattoo Rock Parlour for Haiti relief (what isn't for Haiti relief nowadays? that's how North Americans deal with any crisis, isn't it? by throwing a party and spending a lot of money on booze? why are we in a recession, anyway? i digress). i went mainly because it was Soo's birthday and Michelle had hooked us up with bottle service there. Tattoo Rock Parlour is a club that has a tattoo parlour attached to it. this combination of alcohol + permanent body mutilation strikes me as a very, very, very bad idea, but no one else seems to think so, least of all the people in there getting a tattoo. i tried to convince my friend to get a tattoo of my name on his butt and i'd get his name on my butt, but he wouldn't bite.

anyway it was really fun. they played a great selection of Motown, Stax records, and general 50's, 60's pop music. plus i had all sorts of ghosts from various phases of my life show up in that one place - my korean friends, my law school friends, my high school friends, my volunteer friends. in case you missed it, this is what is was like:

The In Crowd @ Tattoo Rock Parlour [21Jan10] from Al D on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hamilton Trading Company at the Smiling Buddha

I guess it's a little weird to review your own band, but since I took a leave of absence from the Hamilton Trading Company while I travelled around the world for eight months I think it's okay to describe how much I enjoyed the show.

The 18 piece choir band fronted by Keith Hamilton has certainly kept busy in the eight months. During this time they:

....was featured as New Music Track of the Day on CBC Radio 3...

....played at Bruce McDonalds' wedding (yes, the Bruce McDonald, Canadian director extraordinaire)

...made a music video directed by Bruce McDonald in an old church in the country...

....had an article in Exclaim...

....was interviewed and played on Amanda Putz's CBC Radio One show Bandwidth...

....and probably other stuff I haven't found out about. They've clearly been working on new songs, which sound heartwarming and haunting at the same time - which is kind of their style. Their performance at the Smiling Buddha last night was the first show I got to see as an audience member since I first moved to Toronto. It was a good show; lots of people coming out and sticking around, even though the band didn't come on till well after midnight. The band managed to captivate the entire bar's attention; despite being packed, there was total silence during the quiet songs and some dancing during the faster ones. It was probably the right crowd for the sort of experimental choir work the band does; there were so many young people barefoot in dreadlocks and long flowy skirts and drawings on their faces that I could have sworn I was on a Vancouver beach, not in Toronto's Little Italy in the dead of winter. this meant that the cover of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" went well, as did the use of speakerphone feedback as an instrument. That's the cool thing about hippie types. They're pretty open minded.

HTC still had a lot of exciting events planned, including a cross-Canada tour and a CD release party for their EP produces by Lowell Sostomi of the Great Bloomers. Members Keith and Duffield will also have their hands full as their other band, the Diableros, head for Austin, Texas for the epic music event SXSW. Most important in HTC news, however: long lost member Gloria will finally rejoin the group, hereby upping the band's nerd factor (rumoue has it she brings textbooks to gigs)...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Two last I love Ottawa things

I've moved back to Toronto now to finish my degree, but I wanted to mention two "I love Ottawa" things.

1. Disorganised. A monthly dance party that has by now become a famous tradition in Ottawa, held on a Friday every month at Babylon. In the past it has featured electronic artists such as Crystal Castles, MSTRKRFT, and Girl Talk. After six successful years of earning itself a place in Canadian pop history, the party is shutting down as the organizers are going abroad. I had the fortune of attending the final party. There was a film screening of a Nuit Blanche project involving lighting up the CN tower, while a live soundtrack was provided by featured DJs Jokers of the Scene. It was a fabulous party. I saw varios ghosts of my past (what inevitably happens when you return to your hometown). The dance floor was full. They handed out disposable cameras to the crowds to commemorate the event and create a special meta-memory.

2. We created another memory, commemorating another event (my 25th birthday). We celebrated my voyage further into adulthood by going sledding. It was one of the coldest nights of the year. The night sky was clear and you could see all the stars, which was partly why it was so cold (no clouds to block the wind). I felt the pain throbbing in my feet through three layers of socks and had to patiently wait until the pain gave in to the cold and my toes felt nothing but a resigned calm numbness.

We went to our usual toboggan hill, the Aboretum at the Experimental Farm. Every time I hike through the closed off paths away from the streetlights into the dark past the benign "No Sledding" sign, I hear my parents' questions about why my friends and I choose to sled down a slope that is known for its vast beautiful trees. You know, trees are pretty hard surfaces to slam your body into. It's not a death wish, you know, although I'm sure my friends do enjoy the added excitement that a potential concussion might bring. Maybe it's the memories that linger in this place. Not just all the other years we gathered here with our sleds. But also that time I biked all the way downtown to this place from kanata and had lunch on the hill after my high school boyfriend fell off his bike and scraped his elbow. All the picnics rob and I had there, sponsored by Di Rienzo's and their delicious sandwiches.

I've become familiar with the trees there as well. There's the one that looks like the cover of the U2 album The Joshua Tree. There are the trees whose branches were damaged in the devastating ice storm of '98. There's one tree whose trunk is bent at a near impossible 90 degree angle, leaning as though beckoning to it's neighbour tree. They've all got personality, kind of like this place does in general.

It's quite the view from the arboretum. Just across the river there's the Carleton Campus, and you can see Dunton Tower shining its lights like a beacon, the only.
tower in this area for miles around. You can see the city lights off in the distance.

But the best view, I swear, is at this time of the year, on this kind of night. There are no street lights here, only a full moon which casts a subtle purple glow on the snowy plains - just light enough to make out the shape of your friends' bodies, but just dark enough that you can't tell which one if them pelted you with the snowball. also, dark enough that you can't see the jumps coming while you race down the hill full speed. But that's kind of part of the moment too. You know you're going to wake up tomorrow with bruised ribs and whiplash, feeling like you were hit by a truck, wondering how you endured sledding as a kid, but tonight you are that kid, and you surrender to it, you embrace it, you let gravity drag you down and hurl you from your sled and slam you into the trees, the trees you grew up with.


Friday, January 1, 2010

new years eve in clayton

a while back i decided that i would spend New Years Eve in a different city each year. last year i spent it in Lakefield, Ontario, about a stone's throw from Peterborough (you know you're in rural Ontario when Peterborough is the nearest big city to drive to), hanging out with some special friends at Eccles' cottage Shady Acres.

this year, rob and i headed down to Clayton (guess i love rural Ontario), where a bunch of his buddies were hosting a party at the Clayton Community Centre. here's an interesting fact: Clayton is so small that it doesn't have a wikipedia page. the Clayton Community Centre doesn't show up on google maps. it's a little eerie...and old fashioned. i mean, let's be fair, i always thought that until the age of eight, i grew up in small town USA, but as it turns out, my childhood stomping grounds Highland, Ulster County, was not actually big enough to qualify as a "town", or even a "village" was a hamlet (although apparently big enough to have a Wikipedia page).

well, Clayton is a part of the larger Mississippi Mills, which altogether *is* big enough to qualify as a town. we actually have spent a lot of time here over the years, especially rob, who hangs out with the surprisingly thriving community of musicians here. the area is home to the recording studio of Ken Friesen who has worked with Canadian artists over the years such as the Tragically Hip, the Sadies, and Hawksley Workman. it's also where the Concert on the Clyde takes place every year, the summer festival which seems to always catch acts just before they become huge (like Tokyo Police Club, Land of Talk, Kate Maki). it's also the home of Tracy Brown and Randall Prescott, of the juno award winning country group Family Brown fame.

anyway, enough raving about Mississippie Mills, which has a name that sounds like it should be deep in the South where it's so hot all you have the energy to do is sit on your porch and lazily pluck at your half-strung banjo, as opposed to being knee deep in wintery snow in vast farmfields lit only by the full moon casting a strange purple glow on the blizzard. the Community Centre attracted all sorts of folks, the whole family - not my family, mind you, who would not be caught dead in town without a Chinatown - but other people's entire families.

the party featured acts Adam Puddington, Tracy Brown and Randall Prescott, their children's band Prescott (how often do your parents open for you?), and the Brother Chaffey. most importantly, for me, the party also featured a proper lunch, as in the practice held by some parts of rural Canada (like Manitoba) where they serve an extra meal in the middle of the night. i whole-heartedly approve of this custom.

the country music set the right mood for the party. people were filling the place up, dancing with everyone else's daddies, and there were more men's plaid shirts than you could shake a stick at. beer was served too, although my choice of Coors, Molson Canadian, and Budweiser at four bucks each made me really miss Holland, where you could get delicious Grolsch, Heineken, and Amstel beer on tap for one euro apiece, and also you could hop the train to the nearby Belgium where you could get EVERY AMAZING BEER YOU DARED TO DREAM OF. sadly, as much as i've always proclaimed my loyalty to Canadian beer (which is at least better than American beer), my New Years Eve sobriety was not due to any religious convictions about temperance, or a renewal of the straight edge teatoler movement, but simply because i couldn't stomach downing more than two beers.

midnight hit with balloons popping everywhere and my discovery that you can't kiss your loved ones and blow noisemakers at the same time, and Tracy Brown's dismayed disapproval that this generation doesn't know the words to Auld Lang Syne (although interestingly enough, the Korean national anthem used to be set to the melody of Auld Lang Syne). afterwards, folks headed off to an after-party at a farm owned by rob's friend, but i was too pooped to continue (Curley's comment: "rednecks don't fall asleep in cars on the way to a hoedown afterparty") so rob and i took the slow, long journey through the blizzard home. by the way, for my non-ottawa readers: IT'S STILL SNOWING IN OTTAWA.

it was a fun way to ring in the new year, and the new decade, and quite different from where i was, ten years ago in 1999: stuck at a church service with my parents, wondering what was going to happen when Y2K hit and all the machines in the whole world shut down, secretly hoping Thom Yorke would show up at the church and kiss me at midnight.