Jay Reatard in Toronto

June 30, 2009 at 10:25 pm (Uncategorized)

A month or so back, I learned TV Smith from the Adverts was playing in Toronto, opening for Jay Reatard. The Adverts were one of my favourite punk bands, and I’ve got most of TV’s solo stuff. Needless to say, I was pretty excited. I didn’t really have much of a sense of Jay Reatard, but it was only a $15 ticket. Got the new TV Smith record and Reatard’s Matador Singles 08 collection, and was ready to go.

Then came the hitch.  TV had immigration problems and wasn’t able to join the tour until July 2, but too late for Toronto. Ah, what the hell? What else is there to do on a Monday night? 

It was the first time I had gone to  the Mod Club  – nice club. Half way in size between the the Rivoli and Lee’s Palace. Nice vibe.

The opening act Pacific Trash Vortex went on about 9:15 and played a twenty minute set. They didn’t have much  of a stage presence, but they made a lovely sonic sound. Punky but melodically noisy. Apparently they once had cassettes, but were sold out. A CD is forthcoming.  

The second band came on 15 minutes later.  DCT (apparently Dirty Chinese Thieves is the full name) are a take-no-prisoners punk band. Hardcore with very rock star cliche in the book – they grew on me. Youtube clips abound, and there’s also an EP available.

Jay Reatard took the stage at about 10:45. Boom! I liked the Matador collection, but they seemed to have speeded everything up for the evening.: Barely a pause between songs, just to mention the title. ‘Do they have somewhere else to be?’ I wondered.  At one point, Jay muttered to the crowd,  ‘ You guys seem bored. Good. I’m bored too.’  At the thirty minute mark, the band finished their song, put down their instruments and left the stage. Hmm. Second set upcoming?

The crowd started to applaud, when suddenly the Stooges’  Fun House came over the PA  (it had been playing earlier in the evening). Odd. Then the house lights came on and that was it. No goodbye, no encore, nothing. End of show.

I can’t actually recall the last time I was at a show where the band seemed so indifferent to the audience.  Maybe memories of their last Toronto show still haunted them. Maybe the half empty venue made them think it wasn’t worth the effort. 

So, one band to watch, one to consider and one to wonder what they were thinking. I can’t help but feel things would have been a lot better with TV Smith.

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Music Notes June 2009

June 29, 2009 at 12:14 pm (Uncategorized)

June’s notes on the world of music.

1. Michael Jackson

Of course, Michael Jackson. What can I say that hasn’t been written elsewhere? Most of the commentaries on his death have neatly drawn a line between his phenomenal talents as a musician and performer, and his increasingly bizarre public and unfortunately not-so-private life. I’m certainly not a fan of Jackson, not even Off the Wall, but listen to those Jackson 5 hits like ABC, and they are amazing.

And if shows like So You Think You Can Dance have taught us anything, [pause for brief reflection here], it’s that not everyone can dance. Look at Jackson’s moves. Now, try to copy them. Not so easy is it? 

But yes, the train wreck that was his off-stage life is unfortunately the one that destroyed him and overshadowed his accomplishments. Bill Wyman’s piece in Salon says it better than I could.

 2. The Horrors – Primary Colours

I was really excited about the Horrors opening for the Kills last month. Unfortunately, the sound mix was like mud. Everything was at the same level, and the vocals were completely inaudible. Happily, the new record Primary Colours is a swirling masterpiece of sound. Hey, sign up for their mailing list and get ‘Sea within a Sea’ for free.

 3. Fairuz

My Arabic is non-existent. I don’t know what Fairuz is singing or even the song titles mean, but it doesn’t matter. The voice is gold. Do yourself a favour and get some.

4. Hunters and Collectors  – Throw your Arms Around me

Ooh, eighties nostalgia. Stop and listen to this record. It is perfectly romantic.  Hunters and Collectors leader Mark Seymour recently recorded an acoustic version of the song. Doesn’t quite have the same kick, but still lovely.

 5. Sky Saxon.

The former lead singer with the Seeds, the band that recorded ‘Can’t Seem to Make you Mine’ and ‘Pushin’ too Hard’,  died June 25.  After the Seeds broke up, Saxon was  part of a religious commune, but later reformed the Seeds several times, though often with different members. He worked with Billy Corrigan of Smashing Pumpkins and appears in their video Superchrist.

6. UK Subs – Crash Course

Came across this gem in a used CD store last week, and had to have it. I bought this record when it came out almost thirty years ago. 20 tracks (plus a bonus 4-song 12 inch on blue vinyl) and everything’s wrapped up in 45 minutes. A great account of a Subs live show. Charlie Harper played Toronto about a month back (I only heard about it after the show); still playing those old tunes. Old punks never die…

7. The Raveonettes

Clicked on their web page to see what was happening with them. Web site is under re-construction while they record a new album, but if you journey to Vice Records , you can download demos from the record.

8. Pete Molinari

Good news: Pete is recording a new EP.

Bad news: It won’t be released until August.

Check his web site and join the mailing list.

9. The Stone Roses – Blood on the Turntables

Wow! It’s been 20 years since the Stone Roses debut, and time dulls the memory. Dig it out. Enjoy again. Happened across this documentary on You tube

10 You Should Have Been There!

Story from Saturday’s Toronto Globe and Mail on cool gigs. You’ve got until July 11 to read it for Free, then the Globe charges. (but contact me and I’ll get it to you…)

 Here’s a sample…

Concerts survive in part because they can’t be copied and leaked on the Internet. But that’s just the seller’s reasoning. It doesn’t explain why we still want to line up and buy pricey tickets, and get fleeced for parking, and pay too much for watery beer, and spend the whole evening on our feet because no one else will sit down. We do all that because concerts give us things that no recording can. They restore actual presence to an experience that has become more and more dematerialized.

There’s something magically immediate about witnessing a musical event, as compared with letting your iPod shuffle through your stored playlists. Part of the thrill of being present at a great concert is knowing that it’s happening in this place and time, among these people, and can never be experienced the same way again. It’s both a celebration of singularity and a reminder that life is finite and lived in one direction only.

Jay Reatard review on Tuesday.

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TV Smith Toronto Show – Update

June 25, 2009 at 7:04 pm (Uncategorized)

I was about to post on the TV Smith show with Jay Readtard at the Mod Club next week, when I came across this piece of bad news from TV’s web site .

Very disappointing. But what can you do?

Jun 09 USA tour in doubt
Visa delays mean that it now seems certain that TV will be unable to appear on the first dates of the US tour with Jay Reatard due to start Friday. Despite TV’s visa being approved, current backlogs in the embassy in London mean that final ratification has not yet taken place and without it he will be unable to travel. TV says: “I am extremely disappointed about this as I was very much looking forward to touring with Jay Reatard and getting the chance to play for my fans in the US. The visa application process started in early March to make sure that the everything was ready in time but new security procedures brought in recently have led to huge delays at the embassy. I’m doing everything possible to secure a meeting with them and still hope to be able to join the tour at a later point.” Watch this space. 

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Long Hot Summer

June 24, 2009 at 6:30 pm (Uncategorized)

Summer officially arrived on Sunday, and for the first three days, it’s been hot and muggy in Toronto.

On Monday, members of CUPE 416 and 79 (inside and outside city workers) went on strike.  So no garbage pick up. Already the complaints about lazy workers are flooding the letters pages and talk radio lines: CUPE’s demand? They want to be able to keep unused sick days. You’d think the corporate scandals of the last year never happened. Suddenly it’s greedy workers and belt tightening again.

Another panic was caused when it was announced that workers at the Liquor Store may strike tonight (As a hold over from its puritan days, it’s still diffiuclt to buy liquor outise of the government-run stores). The women in the store I spoke to this morning as I filled my fridge said the lines were out the door yesterday.  

Next week, workers at the Globe and Mail may walk.

As the great TV Smith once noted,  ‘some day my string will snap, and the balance will swing back.’

With garbage mounting, no liquor and nothing to read, it’s going to be an interesting summer.  

Here’s Tom Robinson’s take:

Long Hot Summer

Hey Joe, get up and go
Wouldn’t like to tell you twice
Hey mac, get off my back
Didn’t ask your advice
There’s all this heat
Out in the street
Telling us to move along

It’s gonna be a long hot summer
From now on

Hey man, I don’t understand
We ain’t hardly bothering you
Say fag, you’re just a drag
We ain’t nearly finished with you
There’s all this heat
Out on the beat
Telling us we don’t belong

It’s gonna be a long hot summer
From now on

Hey Dan, give us a hand
We won’t make it alone
But we can all make a stand
Next time the whistle’s blown
So get your feet
Out on the street
When you hear the heat is on

It’s gonna be a long hot summer
From now on Look out sisters
Look out brothers
We won’t be fooled again

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The Materialist Theory of History Proven Again…sort of

June 23, 2009 at 11:37 am (Uncategorized)

Blogs are funny things. I read a report in the New York Timesrecently that suggested most people start their blogs high in anticipation of readers, influence or money. Within a very short time they lose interest.  One blog survey reported that the vast majority of registered blogs haven’t been updated in the past six months.

Not me. I published a small circulation newsletter for eight years. I wasn’t expecting readers, fame or money.

Still, of late, I haven’t updated too much. Why?

Busy with work. But today is summer. Two months to read, write, think, relax, do all that stuff that’s been piling up.

Which is pretty much a materialist theory of history: when you’re consumed with finding food, you don’t have much time to create art.

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Pyeongtaek Strike Continues in South Korea

June 21, 2009 at 10:21 pm (Uncategorized)

A strike now completing its fourth week at Ssangyong Motors in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, remains a standoff as of this writing. The strike echoes in many ways the dynamic seen in the recent Visteon struggle in the UK and in battles over auto industry restructuring around the world. Involving, on the other hand, an outright factory seizure and occupation, and preparation for violent defense of the plant if necessary, it is the first struggle of its kind in South Korea for years.

The company was taken over three years ago by China’s Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation, which holds 51% ownership. At the time, the Pyeongtaek plant had 8700 employees; it now has 7000. In February the company filed for bankruptcy, proposing a restructuring and offering the Pyeongtaek plant as collateral for further loans to re-emerge from bankruptcy. The court approved the bankruptcy plan, pending adequate layoffs to make the company profitable again.

The management strategy seems to have been a long-term whittling down of personnel combined with acquisition of technology for operations in China. Since the Shanghai Automotive takeover, there has been no new investment at Ssangyong Motors, and no new car model launched. (Korean prosecutors have raised questions over the legality of the technology transfer to China, since the technology in question was developed with Korean government subsidies, but to date no legal action has been taken.)

Workers at the plant responded with strikes against pending layoffs in April which accelerated into a full strike and plant takeover and occupation by 1700 workers on May 27 when the list of workers to be laid off was announced. The strike focused on three main demands: 1) no layoffs 2) job security for all and 3) no outsourcing. The company wants to force 1700 workers into early retirement and has fired 300 casuals.

The Ssangyong workers are organized in the Korean Metal Workers Union (KMWU) and have worked an average of 15-20 years in the factory. A regular worker earns a base pay of approximately 30,000,000 won (currently ca. $25,000) per year; a casual earns about 15,000,000 for the same work. (In Korea, the base pay is only part of the salary, which includes benefits –for regular workers—as well as significant overtime paid at a higher rate, often 10 hours a week and accepted, or even desired, by most workers as a necessary income supplement.)

As of mid-June, about 1000 workers were continuing the occupation, with wives and families providing food. About 500 workers not slated for layoff are staying at home, and about 1000 supervisory staff are scabbing, mainly maintaining machines, while no cars have been produced since the occupation began.

There has been to date little mass police presence in Pyeongtaek. This is due at least in part to to the current political crisis in South Korea following the recent suicide of ex-president No Mu Hyeon and subsequent large-scale demonstrations expressing growing outrage against the current right-wing government of Lee Myong Bak, demonstrations that are expected to gain momentum into July. The Lee government, elected in December 2007 on a program of high economic growth and now discredited by the world crisis, has been taken aback by the depth of outrage revealed in demonstrations mobilizing up to 1 million people. After the unleashing of riot police provoked further outrage and brought more people to the streets, the government is unwilling to risk further disenchantment by an assault on the Pyeongtaek factory.

On June 16, a large anti-strike rally of more than 1500 people was held outside the factory gates. The rally was attended by the 1000 supervisory scabs, 200 hired thugs and 300 workers not on the layoff list and not supporting the strike. 400 riot police stood by, doing nothing, and finally declared the scab assembly illegal.

During the scab rally, about 700-800 workers from nearby factories, such as the Kia Motor company, came to defend the Ssangyang plant, in part in response to a text message tree of the KMWU.

The occupying workers have made plans for armed defense against any police attempt to recapture the plant, stocking iron pipes and Molotov cocktails. As a further fallback plan, they intend to concentrate in the paint department, where the flammable materials (in their estimate) will dissuade the police from firing tear gas canisters and setting off a conflagration.

According to one activist critical of the role of the union, the KMWU seems to remain in control of the strike. In contrast to role of the unions in the Visteon struggle in the UK and in the dismantling of the US auto industry, the KMWU has thus far supported the illegal actions of seizing the plant and preparing for its armed defense. On the other hand, it has been concentrating on the demand for no layoffs and soft-pedaling the demands for job security for all and against out-sourcing.

The core occupation of the plant is powered by 50 or 60 rank-and-file groups of 10 workers each, who in turn elect a delegate (chojang) for coordinated action. According to the same critical activist, these chojang are the most combative and class-conscious workers.

The outcome of this strike remains up in the air. It benefits from a momentarily favorable political climate, which has put the Korean government on the back foot, but it is up against the deep crisis of the world auto industry and the world economic crisis generally. The nearby Kia Motor Company plant is itself in the middle of critical negotiations for crisis measures, and GM-Daewoo is being hit with the world reorganization of GM. The company strategy, as in the case of Visteon, seems to be at best slow attrition (already underway since 2006) or even an outright closing of the plant. The Ssangyong Motor struggle may light a fire in the Korean auto industry and beyond, or, more likely, be strangled, slowly or not so slowly, in its current isolation.

Loren Goldner

June 19

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Celine Dion and Cool

June 13, 2009 at 2:42 pm (Uncategorized)

So what is cool exactly? I read somewhere, but am now unable to remember where, the word derives from an African word meaning ‘in the know.’  However, the concept has been recorded as far back as Aristotle’s time. 

Today the word tends to mean any vague sense of approval:

“Hey, I’m going to the mall.”


But coolness is a bit more than that. If you think you’re cool, you’re probably not. Coolness doesn’t have to seek approval, it simply announces itself. Is it elitism? Sure. Is it desirable? Absolutely.

We all have our own stories of cool: Oh, I saw the Violent Femmes in Hamilton in 1983 at their first Canadian show. Oh, I heard of M.I.A. before all my Sri Lankan friends who now claim her. Yeah, I saw Wilco in a little club in Calgary before they hit it big. Oh, I used to like that band (before you heard of them that is…)

We’ve all experienced the feeling of when ‘our’ band makes it big.  That break-out hit when the masses catch on. There’s a pang of loss, as we realize our little secret crush is going to be loved by millions, who won’t really appreciate them like we do. Only one thing to do, denounce their new stuff and move on. The true tragedy of being a hipster is never being able to really appreciate a band because you always have to be ahead of the curve.

So yeah, I was a big fan of Celine Dion until she sold out and began to sing in English. OK, maybe that’s not true, but it does raise the a question about whether someone who is as popular as Dion can be cool. (Hey, early Elvis rules, OK?)

Like a lot of wanna-be hipsters, I sneer at Celine Dion: The schmaltz of her stuff, the weirdness of the Vegas Shtick, just how painfully skinny she is, the whole marrying her manager who’s older that her dad thing (it’s not the age difference, it’s the Stockholm Syndrome aspect that troubles me). And yet, millions disagree.  She’s unstoppable.

Anyone troubled by Dion might find solace in Carl Wilson’s book Let’s Talk about Love: A Journey to the End of Taste,  a part of the 33third series. Carl Wilson writes for the Toronto Globe and Mail and publishes the Zoilus blog. (And no, I wasn’t cool when I discovered the book – I decided to read it after I saw actor James Franco mention it on the Oscar red carpet.)

 Wilson doesn’t like Dion. It’s clear from the first chapter where he describes the Oscar edition which pitted Dion against Elliot Smith for best song. Yet, he’s clearly fascinated by her (I have a similar feeling about Martha Stewart.)

In the book, Wilson explores Dion’s history. Her rise from small time singer, to the conqueror of Quebec, Canada and finally the globe. Consider the following:

  • When Sheila Copps visited China in 2000, Chinese officials asked her if she could arranged for Dion to tour China.  
  • When you visit Jamaica and you hear Dion blasting through the neighbourhood, run! Apparently, the badder the gangster, the more they love Dion.
  • When you travel to Afghanistan, bring some Dion merchandise for sale. Dion is number 1, and anything associated with her finds a buyer.

But within the book, there are fascinating discussions of culture, taste and what is cool. along with Wilson’s own appreciation of Dion.

 Near the end, Wilson writes:

It is probably totally subjective whether you prefer Celine Dion or the White Stripes, and a case of social prejudice that Celine is less cool than that band’s Jack White. But it seems fair to guess that neither of them can rival the Beatles or Louis Armstrong – based, for example, on how broadly (one might say democratically) those artists appeal to people across taste divides. When we do make judgements, though, the trick would be to remember that they are contingent, hailing from one small point in time and in society. It’s only a rough draft of art history: it always could be otherwise, and usually will be. The thrill is that as a rough draft, it is always up for revision, so we are constantly at risk of our minds being changed – the promise that lured us all to art in the first place.  

Agreed, but as a final snide aside, I’ll leave you with Dion’s version of AC/CD’s You shook me All Night Long. Any comments by me are entirely unnecessary 🙂

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Hamilton Anarchist Bookfair 2009

June 4, 2009 at 2:40 am (Uncategorized)

This Saturday, June 6, from 10 to 4.

Come by, say hi.

Magazines, books, pamphlets. all reasonably priced

More details


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