Category Archives: Music

♥ Love Letter To Canada ♥

Happy Canada Day, all!  It’s our nation’s 146th birthday, and my 46th blog post (I’d like to claim I’d planned that).

When I was an elementary school student, one of my favourite assignments was geographic research.  I recall penning (penciling?) compositions on San Salvador, Florida and Rome, however the ones that gently squeezed my little Canuck heart were inevitably about Timmins, British Columbia and Toronto, among others.  I remember happily flipping through encyclopedias in the school library, eager to gaze upon grainy 1970s photographs like this one:

ontario-place-mr

Ontario Place, Toronto

or this…

St. John, New Brunswick

St. John, New Brunswick

or this…

Swartz Bay, Britisih Columbia

Swartz Bay, British Columbia

In the years since, I have travelled to the West Coast numerous times, and have spent time in Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.  Six out of ten ain’t bad, but I do palpably feel the absence of the midwestern provinces, and what I wouldn’t do to get to Nunavut, NWT and the Yukon.
One day, I whisper to myself, one day.

I have fundamentally Canadian images burned forever into my brain, that give me a little tingle every time they rise, unbidden.   A photograph of a grain elevator in Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan.  Nighttime pub crawling in Montreal with my friend Andy.  Sprinting down an eastern provincial park beach, tearing off my clothes (bathing suit conveniently underneath), and jumping into the salty Atlantic for the first time.  Strolling through Stanley Park in Vancouver, on a warm yet soggy March day, almost having the place to myself, and spotting an immature eagle, perched majestically in a tree, watching me.  Just missing my PEI friends as I arrived in Kensington, yet because of that, having the most beautiful night camping by the water.  Listening in awe as my cousin in Moore’s Mills, New Brunswich spoke fluent French and English to her children.  And, of course, years of memories from hometown Ontario, like watching the CN Tower being built (on my first visit I bought a pen, which had a picture of the tower and a little elevator that moved up and down as you tilted it).

Other memories from my Book Of Canadian Recollections include:

  • Getting all excited about traversing the then 5-year-old Confederation Bridge spanning NB and PEI, almost 13 kilometers long (that’s 8 miles for Americans, y’all).  Realizing immediately that they’ve built the barriers so that drivers can’t see over them and get distracted.
    Experience rating: meh.
  • Ordering a ‘Relic’ burger at Molly’s Reach restaurant in Gibson’s, British Columbia.  Bruno Gerussi, FTW.
  • Hearing Stan Rogers for the first time.  ‘Nuff said.
  • Buying a beautiful print of A.Y. Jackson’s Yellowknife, Northwest Territories from a woman who had originally purchased it because it brought to mind her days there as camp cook for a group of geologists. I sat contentedly for the next hour as she regaled me with stories.
  • Heading to the Canadian National Exhibition every year with my father, whose commitment to procuring a Shopsy’s corned beef sandwich each and every visit bordered on the religious.
  • Breaking down en route from Montreal to Lac-des-Seize-Îles in a torrential rainstorm, and proceeding to travel with the French CAA guy and his girlfriend, windows rolled up, them smoking cigarette after cigarette, as we communicated directions in Franglaise.  Good times.
  • Canada Vignettes.  ‘Nuff said.
  • Stepping into the narthex of Notre Dame cathedral in Montreal for the first time.  Words cannot express.
  • Living through ten (count ’em, ten) London, Ontario winters.
    Snow.  Oh God, the snow.
  • Meeting fascinating people:
    Gordie Tapp of Hee Haw fame in the waiting room of my optometrist’s office (circa 1978).
    Bill Lawrence, former host of Tiny Talent Time, who became the perpetually cheery weather guy at CBC.
    Guy Paul Morin (acquitted of murder in 1995), in a CBC elevator, where it took me about 30 seconds to connect the face to the name.  Suddenly overcome with the enormity of what he must have gone through, feeling  I had to say something, I turned and offered a simple ‘Congratulations,’ to which he humbly replied a quiet ‘Thank you.’
    Ken Bell, WWII photographer, at his home in Gibson’s Landing.  What an honour.
    There are more, but I don’t want to make you jealous.
  • Dating a Francophone separatist in the early 90s and realizing in my Ontarioan ignorance that we still have a long way to go in that department.
  • Each and every summer from time immemorial, having at least one opportunity to float on my back in one of our beautiful fresh water lakes, my heart filled to overflowing with gratitude.
  • Richard Condie.  ‘Nuff said.
  • 1992: The Tragically Hip releasing Looking For A Place To Happen, because any band that can somehow fit Jacques Cartier into a  tune is well, the coolest ever.
  • Having it slowly dawn on me that every other white clapboard Catholic church on the East Coast is named St. Peter’s.
  • Standing under two-hundred-foot trees in Capilano, British Columbia, and being reminded of my smallness in the world.

20080706123845_single red maple leaf

The ties I have to this place are not the silken, tenuous kind; no, these are most surely comprised of diamond-encrusted titanium links. And though enormously strong, they are neither awkward nor heavy, and provide a centering and stability I can’t imagine getting from anything (or anywhere) else.

And with that, I will leave you with Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s The Log Driver’s Waltz, 1979, Canada Vignettes.

Happy Birthday, Canada.  I love you.

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Filed under Music, Nostalgia, Uncategorized, Wanderings

Dear Daniel, I’m Busted

GHP
Ma Lanois, how do you do?
Mon nom est Erin Lee, mon ami
I come from west of Toronto
Mon nom est Erin Lee, mon ami ♫

The first year I attended the Greenbelt Harvest Picnic, it was because our cousin Mandy called and said, “Ray Lamontagne is going to be in your area!  I’m driving the kids down for it!  Can we stay at your place?!”  Mandy lives in New Brunswick, and, as you can tell, is a HUGE Ray Lamontagne fan.  So she came on down, three kids in tow.  My buddy Holly (Buddy Holly?) drove in from London, and we all spent a glorious, sun-soaked day at beautiful Christie Lake Conservation Area, just northwest of Hamilton.

The GHP is the brainchild of Daniel Lanois (and put on by producer Jean-Paul Gauthier), who wanted to promote awareness of local farmers and farming.  Lanois was quoted in 2011, saying “I’m going public for my love of Ontario tomatoes in August.”  The event, held on September 1st, 2011, was a smashing success.  Twelve hours of live music, including performances by Gord Downie, Emmylou Harris, Sarah Harmer, Rocco Deluca, headliner Lamontagne and Lanois himself.  The park was overflowing with local farmers selling the fruits of their labors (yes, including vegetables), the food vendors were amazing (big slice of watermelon or a plate of udon noodles, anyone?), the artisans varied and original.  Over 6,000 people attended.

Year Two: I was chomping at the bit by Spring 2012 to get my tickets, this time attending with my friend Lesley.  We arrived in decent time,  got our camping chairs set up, slapped GHP temporary tattoos on our arms, grabbed a cold Steamwhistle each and happily settled in.  The lineup that year was equally impressive; regulars Lanois, Harris, Downie and Harmer were joined by guitarist Jesse Cook, powerhouse Brady L. Blade, Sr. and the Hallelujah Train, and headliner Feist.  Great music, great farmers, great food, great artisans.

Great price.

Tickets for the 3rd annual Greenbelt Harvest Picnic have now been on sale for a week.  This year’s lineup sees the return of Lanois protégé Rocco Deluca and includes veterans Lanois and Harris, with celebrated Canadian Neil Young to headline.

Ticket price for adults: $129.50 plus whatever fees the fee people put on it. Just so your brain doesn’t start to hurt, that is an 86.3% increase from years one and two.

Oh, but hold up…that $129.50 is just the Early Bird ticket price, to be applied only to the first 1,000 tickets sold.  As of June 8th, they’ve already surpassed that number, and so the rest of y’all will be paying $149.50 (plus whatever fees the fee people put on it).  That, my friends, is a whopping 115.1% increase since 2012.

Er…whatthefuck, Daniel?!

I know that these events cost some serious coin to put on, I do.  But let’s just look at the reason this whole thing began:  to boost recognition of local, non-GMO farmers.  Who’s your demographic?  If the answer is: people who can  afford, without checking their bank balances, to shop for everything on their grocery list at Goodness Me, then I guess the GHP is on the right track.  But seriously, folks – if we take an attendance of 6,000 (which is a low guess, based on 2011 numbers), with a thousand tickets at $129.50 (let’s say, 145.00, including fees) is $145,000.00.  Add another 5,000 at $149.50 (let’s say 169.00, including fees), and you have $845,000.

That’s $990,000 in ticket prices alone, never mind $10 parking for all vehicles (and there are a LOT of vehicles, one does not simply saunter over to Christie Lake), plus all the musician merch, GBP swag, beer, food, impulse art & jewellery purchases and veggie hoarding.

What am I missing, Daniel?

I want to be there, I do.  From the first, I had dedicated myself to seeing the show each and every year.  But this as-yet unexplained hike is insane. I would love to hear the justification for it.  Do you want this kind of event to be available solely to those with disposable income?  Or do you sincerely want to turn everyone’s attention to the issue at hand?

Humbly, I await your reply.

GHPErin

The author, in happier times.

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Filed under Music, Rants

Elegy for a Love Song

Sweethearts

Heading out to meet a friend at the pub last eve, I flipped through radio stations looking for something decent to warble.  Paused when I heard the words

There she was just a-walkin’ down the street/
Singin’ do-wah diddy-diddy dum diddy-do

I don’t know why I didn’t hit the scan button immediately; classic rock tends to suck.  Not that it doesn’t have its gems, but I’ve heard the songs so many frakking times I’m sick of them…and I don’t care how many of my high school friends on Facebook know it.

Then it got to the lines

We walked on, walked on/To my door, my door
We walked on to my door/Then we kissed a little more
I knew we were falling in love
Yes I did, and so I told her all the things I’d been dreamin’ of

So, let me get this straight…they met, they walked, they talked, they kissed a bit, they fell in love. Hm.

Cut to 48 years later: modern-day R&B.  Rhianna, the Stockholm Syndrome poster girl bringing back the sexy of domestic abuse, sings “Nobody’s Business” with Chris Brown, the same boy who painted her face purple with his dashboard in 2009:

I’ma give you all my affection/Every touch becomes infectious
Let’s make out in this Lexus

C-l-a-s-s-y!

Now, I don’t deny there have always been songs intimating, er…intimacy.  Hanky-panky in verse has been alive and kicking since forever.  But the presentation used to be different…

Wake Up Little Susie, Everly Brothers:
We’ve both been sound asleep, wake up, little Susie, and weep
The movie’s over, it’s four o’clock, and we’re in trouble deep


Afternoon Delight, Starland Vocal Band:
Thinkin’ of you’s workin’ up my appetite
looking forward to a little afternoon delight
Rubbin’ sticks and stones together makes the sparks ignite
and the thought of rubbin’ you is getting so exciting

A Little Bit More, Dr. Hook:
When your body’s had enough of me/And I’m layin’ flat out on the floor
When you think I’ve loved you all I can/I’m gonna love you a little bit more

and my personal fave,

I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl, Nina Simone:
I want a little sugar in my bowl/I want a little sweetness down in my soul
I could stand some lovin’/Oh so bad/feel so lonely and I feel so sad

But do you see the difference between those, and Ray J singing:

Then we take it to the bed, then we take it to the floor
Then we chill for a second, then I hit that a** some more

…?

As I continued to think about it, I found myself lamenting the formerly clever and creative depiction of romance in music.  I know the desire for it still exists, otherwise Etta James’ At Last wouldn’t have remained a number-one wedding dance song fifty-two years after its first recording.  But since that time, what happened to the writers? I mean, Taylor Swift and all of her clones aside? (I’ma not talking about rainbow-hued teen crushes here, I’ma talking about da grown-ups.)

Does the fact we have a dearth of songs about adult relationships that don’t use f*** or a** or references to tapping, banging, boning or booty indicate that culturally, the Love Song is dead, or, at the very least relegated solely to the sphere of insipid, candy-coated, nausea-inducing Top 40 songs for tweens and Twilight Moms?

What do YOU think?  Has the Intelligent Romantic Lyric gone the way of the dodo?

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Filed under Music, Rants

The Question Is, What Is A Mahna Mahna?

Heard this in the car today:

Now, am I the only one that hears the chorus, and can only think of:

Honestly.  Tell me.

Whatever the case, I bet you’ll always think of it now.

STATLER: Boo!
WALDORF: Boooo!
S: That was the worst thing I’ve ever heard!
W: It was terrible!
S: Horrendous!
W: Well it wasn’t that bad.
S: Oh, yeah?
W: Well, there were parts of it I liked!
S: Well, I liked a lot of it.
W: Yeah, it was GOOD actually.
S: It was great!
W: It was wonderful!
S: Yeah, bravo!
W: More!
S: More!
W: More!
S: More!

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Filed under Music, Nostalgia, Uncategorized

Hey Now, Hey Now

Yes.  This is a picture of a diminutive woman praying at the side of her bed.

Her name is Mother Abigail Freemantle.

She’s 106 years old, and still makes her own bread.

Driving in the car yesterday and Crowded House comes on with “Don’t Dream It’s Over.”

Normally, classic-slash-retro rock (generally anything dating from 1960-1987) is an anathema to me.  My nightmare is getting stuck in bumper to bumper traffic in the summertime beside some yahoo playing Q107 with the windows down.  When this happens – and it does, I tellya, far more often than you’d imagine – I always visually scan my car in hopes of finding something I can throw through their window that would both punish them and render their stereo useless in one fell swoop.  I never actually throw anything, it’s the catharsis the fantasy brings that’s important.  Thinking about throwing something prevents me from throwing, you see?

(Aside: Further, I’m a horrible station-switcher.  I’m awful, especially so while driving. I need to have a song to sing to.  I don’t care about the news, I don’t care about the weather, I just need to sing a singable song.  The only exception to this rule would be whilst listening to The Vinyl Cafe with Stuart McLean on CBC, in which case everybody just better shut the hell up.)

Back to Crowded House.

In 1994, a four-part mini-series was televised which was based on Stephen King’s novel, The Stand.  Appropriately, it was titled The Stand (I know, right?)  I still have the four VHS tapes my then-boyfriend used to record it for me, Acura commercials and all.  Now, there are several cringe-worthy moments in the show, most of them parts intended to be frightening, like Jamey Sheridan turning into the mullet-sporting, jean-jacketed Devil (Randall Flagg) himself, and being forced to engage in dialogues such as:

Randall Flagg: Oh! I never even introduced myself, did I? Pleased to meet you, Lloyd. Hope you guess my name.
Lloyd Henreid: Huh?
Randall Flagg: Oh, uh… nothing. Just a little classical reference.

Shudder.  Is that bad, or is that bad?

However, there are some remarkably brilliant and poignant moments as well.

One of the best of these occurs when two young people, Harold Lauder and Frannie Goldsmith, who have lost their families to a mysterious plague, sit together one evening listening to an old, portable record player.  In the mini-series, it’s Frannie (a still young, but maturing Molly Ringwald) who brings out the player, however it’s Harold (Corin Nemec of Parker Lewis Can’t Lose fame) who brings it over to Fran’s house in the novel.  Here’s the paragraph:

“Music of a dead world.”  Doesn’t that take your breath away?  And here’s the scene.  Click on the link.  I’m serious.  Do it now.  Sometimes, just sometimes, the classics can bring back more than just embarrassing memories of high school dances.  Just close your eyes and listen…

There is freedom within, there is freedom without
Try to catch the deluge in a paper cup

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Filed under Film, Music