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Posts Tagged ‘Nas’

Ignored 119: Kool Haus was pretty Kool

In Graphic on November 10, 2016 at 2:30 am

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Ignored 72: The long game

In Uncategorized on December 8, 2015 at 4:27 am

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Ignored 34: CMW 2014 by bike

In Uncategorized on May 6, 2014 at 6:42 pm

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A few quickie reviews of four shows I took in last night at Canadian Music Week 2014 and the bike rides that got me there.

The route

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Ghetts (8:30pm at Baltic Avenue)

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A fairly brief review of Ghetts because he was around a half hour late so I only caught a small handful of songs. Can’t really blame him since 8:30pm Thursday is a pretty brutal timeslot. Unless you’re Family Ties, I guess. In terms of tangibles, I hadn’t been to Baltic Avenue before but it seemed like a solid enough venue considering it was on the second floor. Kinda lounge-y, kinda wood-y. Also, the person working the door was nice and sad hi, while the DJ spun some Nas remixes to keep people entertained. So there was hat. When Ghetts finally reached the stage, he invited the crowd to nudge forward in an attempt to make the room slightly less stilted. I only caught about 4-5 songs but the delivery was as advertised with Ghetts’ rapid-fire ammo compounded (and sometimes confounded, in a good way) by his accent. Lots of energy to start although the best moments came when he cut himself some slack on mid-tempo fare like “Artillery” , an engagingly-paranoid tune that seems like his best bet for a Transatlantic breakthrough if he were to ever re-release it. Ghetts wore some great camouflage pants too. Cool artist. Wish I could’ve seen more.

Bike ride (Bloor W-College)

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Slates (9:00pm at Sneaky Dee’s)

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I gave the upstairs at Sneaky Dee’s a visit for the first time since Jay Reatard died (or more specifically, this gig) and was greeted kindly by Edmonton’s Slates, who provided several strands of Sunny Day Real Estate-ish indie rock with chops and heart. There was something inherently likeable about this band and they played with a certain urgency that was hard to pinpoint. Weeks on the road have clearly brought a strong cohesion to this outfit and pretty much everything about their stage show was seamless, from the musicianship from a technical standpoint to the delivery from a engagement standpoint. All told, they were extremely poised, polished and grateful, tipping the hat to the late Jason Molina on, yes, “Molina Blues” before wrapping with a torrid take on “Prairie Fire”, complete with some appropriate lurching about the stage. Points for the shirtless drummer as well, which is a pretty good sign that they’re into it. The solid-sized crowd for a 9:00pm slot was also a good sign that others were into it. I need to hear more of these guys.

Bike ride (College-Dundas W)

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Wordburglar (10:00pm at Hard Luck Bar)

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Playfully-poised MC Wordburglar didn’t let a small-ish crowd and tech issues cramp his (considerable) “steez”. With a lyrical focus on food, sports and sci-fi, “Burg” spat flow, struck poses and churned out a handful of good-natured rap tunes with plenty of between-song “crowd work” to vet the audience a bit.  At this point, “Burg” is a veteran of the stage and his flow, freestyle, humour and presence are all airtight so even the bum timeslot didn’t damper his enthusiasm as he snaked through material new and old. Highlight? Probably “Your Friend’s Brother” which gives a ponder to…. um, the whereabouts of some kid’s brother and cette brother’s various tendencies. Scarborough’s More or Les spun and the duo did a little head-to-head action to wrap the set. Less food talk in that one. The F-word was said at least once.

Bike ride (Dundas W-Queen W)

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Teenage Head and friends (11:00pm at The Great Hall)

What was ostensibly a book release party for Geoff Pevere’s Gods of the Hammer, a new Teenage Head biography, (read my Q+A with Geoff about the book here and then buy the book here) became something of a group hug for various Canadian punk and indie icons of the past three decades. The pics below will detail who showed and sang along with Hamilton’s long-running punk heroes. The more notable/unusual attendees were ex-Dead Boys shouter Cheetah Chrome (who visited from wherever USA for the gig) and Don Draper’s wife/John Kastner’s girlfriend (who did not hop on-stage to sing with the boys, as she had done previously with the Jesus and Mary Chain in Toronto). Teenage Head were their typical rock solid selves with bassist Steve Marshall looking lovingly aloof and Gordie Lewis galvanizing the stage with tons of focused hot licks. The gig did have a bit of a karaoke feel, which was a lot of fun as it allows the boys to dive deeper into their back catalogue than they typically would; namely, a few cuts (“Can’t Stop Shakin'”, “Full Time Fool”) from 1988’s out-of-print Electric Guitar–seldom trotted out for whatever reason. Again, Gordie Lewis has been the longtime glue of this band and his guitar playing deserves broader notice, as does his use of a fan to give his considerable locks a consistent windblown look.

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Teenage Head with their semi-new singer Pete MacAulay

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Teenage Head with that guy from Men Without Hats

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Teenage Head with that guy from the Doughboys

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Teenage Head with that non-Canadian guy from the Dead Boys

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Teenage Head with that guy from Change of Heart

Ignored 19: Bored to cheers

In Uncategorized on November 16, 2013 at 4:04 am

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Aside from the complementary ear plugs and requisite volume, the recent My Bloody Valentine show in Toronto was notable in that it featured two of the most seemingly-bored musicians on the planet.

MBV frontman Kevin Shields looked completely disengaged during the performance. Fellow cooer/guitarist Bilinda Butcher looked even bored-er. Speakers blared. Visuals were set to “seizure“. But reactions, energy, pulse? Nope. Just another day at the office for these two.

That’s OK.

Why do we necessarily need our musicians to look “into it”? IMHO, effort is a nice-to-have in a live setting but it’s perhaps even more impressive to see somebody create epic art with a degree of nonchalance. As was the case with MBV in Toronto. And the entire history of J Mascis playing guitar.

Aside: seeing a band look awesomely bored on-stage while making an incredible racket is another example of how contrast is an underappreciated aspect in music. For more on this genius theory, read this.

Many outfits get tagged with the “they’re awesome live” label. This can help in terms of selling tickets and moving merchandise. However, it can also act as a distraction from the actual music (i.e. art) being created. Thusly, there are some “awesome live” acts who may not get the full artistic credit they deserve based on their on-stage antics (Fucked Up, the Jesus Lizard). The end game is they may get pigeonholed by some observers alongside other acts who exist primarily as a “spectacle” rather than “recording artist” (Gwar, Monotonix) in the traditional sense.

Google nets 18,000+ results for the expression “they’re boring live” so clearly, boredom is a concern for many, many music fans. But really, it should come down to a question of expectations. It’s not really fair to the artist to expect any random concert to provide the same brand of entertainment across the board (bored?). In the case of a band like My Bloody Valentine who took a two decade break between albums, I’d be really surprised if they did appear into it. Why would anybody think otherwise? If they really wanted to play these concerts, they wouldn’t have sat out 1993-2007.

I’d argue that the only problematically “boring” concerts are when a young-ish band get massive in a hurry (i.e. the Strokes, MGMT), focus on the substances or other distractions and start mailing in performances while they’re still in the ascension phase. This seriously is the worst but these outfits are pretty easy to spot via YouTube or Reddit or countless other outlets. Do your research and buyer beware, I guess.

So My Bloody Valentine looked half asleep. I thought the concert was beyond fantastic. Fucked Up insight CONSIDERABLE moshing while their singer strangles himself with the mic cord. It’s delightful; I’ve seen them maybe 4-5 times. Again, it’s all a matter of expectations and with a slew of online resources available to give your concert going experience an anticipatory litmus test, it’s now easier that ever to vet your “entertainment” options in advance. If you have concerns…

Bonus! 10 photos of artists who are/were really good at looking bored and being awesome.

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1. Bernard Sumner, New Order
2. Charlie Watts, Rolling Stones
3. Doug Martsch, Built to Spill
4. Jamie xx, the xx
5. John Entwistle, the Who

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6. John Hassall, the Libertines
7. Mark Smith, Explosions in the Sky (accepting on behalf of his band’s unjust “they’re boring live” stigma)
8. Nas
9. Nate Dogg
10. Neil Tennant, Pet Shot Boys (mildly related, the track “Being Boring” is completely underrated)

Ignored 14: What diss?

In Uncategorized on August 13, 2013 at 8:47 pm

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Twitter kinda freaked today with the release of “Control”. This choppy, droning Big Sean original is most notable for its Kendrick Lamar check-in that calls out 11 of hip-hop’s top “young lions” with K-Dot suggesting that he’d REALLY like to murder them. Metaphorically speaking.

Time will tell but “Control” may very well have fuelled the largest reaction to a(n alleged) diss track since Nas’ “Ether” and yet when examined more carefully, is “Control” REALLY a diss track at all?

It doesn’t appear so.

Kendrick’s words are HEAVILY quantified in the following manner…

1. After he spews out his bulleted list of targets (and with all due respect… Meek Mill?… really?!?), he quickly states that “I’ve got love for you all…”. It’s a nice moment.

2. A few verses earlier, he namedrops Jay-Z and some other older dudes, essentially stating that he identifies more with the “old school” than the “new school”. We kind of already knew this. I mean, “Compton”?? This was not new information.

3. He finishes by commenting that he is “tryna raise the bar high” and then goes into a difficult airplane analogy that wraps with the suggestion of using a latex condom as a parachute, which I doubt would work so not sure what he’s getting it here. It’s wordplay of some sort.

So to paraphrase…

1. “Hello. I have much respect for all my recent contemporaries in hip-hop circles.”

2. “In general, I tend to identify more with some of the artists that came before me.”

3. “I am always trying to improve and please be advised, this is one of my primary ambitions in the music business. A key goal would be to set a new performance standard for my fellow (ahem) ‘ballers’.”

No doubt, “Control” is full of swagger and is fairly ballsy but to suggest it belongs in the same breathe as “Ether”, “No Vaseline” or even “Range Life” is wrong and maybe ridiculous.

What “Control” is is a marketing tool. Big Sean’s Hall of Fame full-length drops on August 27th. K.Dot may very well be the biggest MC in the game by year’s end. ETC.

Good timing. But yeah. We’ve seen this “hey, let’s start a fake fight” approach used a million times before. Why do consumers keep falling for this and more importantly, why do we even WANT our favourite rappers feuding? Seriously. Did “We’re All in the Same Gang” not teach us a damn thing?!?

At most, “Control” is a good-natured tickle on the tummy to K.Dot’s contemporaries and essentially a call-toiarms to collectively raise the bar.

It’s a lyrical reality check.

It’s a pep rally.

Just don’t try to position this as a warning shot. It’s clearly not.