Vancouver Jazzfest for the non-Jazz Fan

Why would a non-Jazz fan be excited about, and show up to spend a bunch of cold hard cash at a Jazz Festival . . . or in my case Festivals . . .plural?  Simple – jazz festivals are rarely only about pure jazz  – or what I think of as pure – 3 or 4 guys working an endless jam with few vocals and definitely no dancing.  While I respect the tradition and the complexity, it’s not my style.  I like more fun, more vocals, more guitar and definitely more dancing.  I love the music that grew from jazz roots, which covers pretty much all music actually, but I’ll stick to some direct offshoots – blues, Americana and a whole lot of great music that doesn’t fit neatly into any category other than great (well at least on my playlists).

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Here’s my personal lineup for the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival, a ten day musical extravaganza crossing multiple genres and tastes at both ticketed venues and free outdoor events all across Vancouver.

Kicking things off right I was lucky enough to score some sweet free tickets to see the Dirty Projectors on Friday night.  This is a very different band for me, but since it’s free, I’m going to check out their weird and hopefully wonderful synth/indie pop.  Friday, June 23, 2018 at the Vogue Theatre.

I cannot wait to see the sublime guitarist Nels Cline, who performs with drummer extraordinaire Scott Amendola as Stretch Woven.  This is Nels Cline’s side gig from his day job as Wilco’s guitarist.  His guitar solo on Impossible Germany is maybe one of the best . . . ever.  If he plays this and I get to see it live, I can truly die a happy woman.   Saturday June 23, 2018 at The Ironworks Studios on Granville Island.  

You might be familiar with Morgan James from her work with Scott Bradlee’s Post Modern Jukebox.   Stunning vocal range and a delivery not to be missed.  Check out her cover of Prince’s Call My Name.   It’s not jazz, it’s not rock, it’s just fantastic.  Sunday, June 24, 2018 at Performance Works on Granville Island

Another talented female vocalist will be gracing the small, intimate stage at Capilano University as part of the North Shore Jazz SeriesEileen Jewell sings Americana, blues, North American folk/tradition.   I fell in love with her Alt-Southern, New Orleans blues style “It’s Your Voodoo Working” the first time I heard it.  Tuesday, June 26, 2018 at CapU

I don’t have enough words to describe how much I love St Paul and the Broken Bones.  Amazing musicians, amazing performance, amazing show.  I caught them at the Joy Theatre (a fabulous new venue on Canal St) during this year’s New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (another Jazzfest for people who don’t only love jazz – but that’s a whole other story!).   It was one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen and good enough that I almost missed the call for Day 1 of Jazzfest!  Check out this acoustic set from NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts and then image it electrified, on a big stage, late at night, with drinks.  Yah, you got that.  Don’t miss them.  Wednesday, June 27, 2018 at the Vogue Theatre.  Holy crap they will blow the dust outta those old bricks!

Robert Plant and the Sensational Shape Shifters are on my wish list.  Like I wish my musical fairy godmother magically gifted me one of the $200 tickets.  Coz that’s outta my price range.  I try to keep it around $25 and will stretch it to $50, but I’m not ponying up $200 clams, especially at the staid, sit down Queen Elizabeth Theatre.  Great acoustics, but boring as.  I saw Mr.  Plant and his Shape Shifters at the Forecastle Festival in Louisville, KY a few years ago. They were fantastic.  The performance was halted and the grounds evacuated for rain, hail and tornados (seriously, you can’t make that up) so I’ve always wanted to see the end of the set.  If this is your one show and you want to spend the whole budget on it, definitely worth seeing.  It’s not a nostalgia act, the music is new and relevant, his voice holds up and I love how he owns every line on his face.  He earned every single one!  Like I said, wishing for the fairy godmother of tickets to drop on by!!  Friday, June 29 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.  

Wrapping up my ticketed events is Jerry Douglas, Dobro master and multiple Grammy award winner.   I’m expecting a free wheeling show that covers everything from bluegrass through rock and jazz to blues and maybe some Celtic.  Yah, that’s what happens at Jazzfest’s, amazing musician’s that just don’t fit neatly into an FM radio category!  I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday night.  Saturday, June 30, 2018 at the Vogue Theatre. 

And if you want to try a sampling of everything on offer,  but don’t have budget for multiple ticketed events, catch one of the free outdoor shows:  Downtown Jazz at the Art Gallery , or the Granville Island or North Shore series.  And of course, David Lam Park on Canada Day is a Vancouver tradition not to be missed.

Grab a friend, or just show up and make new ones; there is so much fabulous music to experience over the next 10 days, get out and enjoy it all, because . . .

Without music, life would be a mistake. - Friedrich Nietzsche

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Juno Awards Weekend – Vancouver

JunoFest, Juno Awards – a fabulous weekend celebrating all things Canadian music.  After a 9 year hiatus, the Juno Awards finally made a return appearance to Vancouver.   Hosted by CBC Music, it was a spectacular weekend the crossed genres, age and musical tastes.  Didn’t matter if you were into hip hop, funk, straight up rock and rock or some alt-country, there were shows for everyone.

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Kicking Friday night off was the free concerts at the VAG courtyard.  Caught The Boom Booms before heading on to other venues.  The only question is, how have I not seen them before?  And when do they play again!

Got swept up in a wave of neon-clad EDM lovers arriving for The Funk Hunters with their a high energy show and Typecast album release party.  Sad to miss that, I’ve seen them before and it’s a high energy dance party, but so many shows and only one weekend . . .

$30 bought you a wristband to all Junofest venues all weekend.  Seriously, what a fabulous deal.   Didn’t want to get caught in lineups outside of capacity venues, so put all my eggs in one basket and headed over to the Imperial for the Outlaws and Gunslingers show.  Good choice me.  So much good music, so much party.  Ok, maybe too much party but heck, it’s once every 9 years.

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There was a collection of instruments on stage that would make you cry, this kind of says it all for me.  And I’m a sucker for pedal steel.

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Harrow Fair were my “oh wow” moment from this show.  A little bit Civil Wars, a little bit Shovels and Rope, just damn good.

We jumped at a chance to be “seat fillers” at the Juno Awards show.  Why not – free tickets and a glamorous, dress up night out. Ever wonder what it’s like pre-show leading up to a huge broadcast event like the Juno’s?  Hurry up and wait.  Hurry up, then wait some more.  Then hurry up.  Then do whatever you want, because it’s chaos and no-one really gives a f*ck what you do anymore!  Walking the concourse was like being a kid in a candy store – just kept bumping into musicians all dressed up and looking fine! And kudos to Vancouver for putting in the effort to ditch jeans and lulu’s (for once!) and showing up all rock and roll glamour and finery.

The Red Carpet outside Rogers Arena.  We didn’t get to walk it .  so sad.  We were lined up at the back gate . . .of course.

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It feels a little bit like Cinderella after the ball sitting at home now in pyjamas, having peeled off the sparkly dress, high heels and false eyelashes (I said it was glam!).  I’m still winding down from an amazing event, hosted by Michael Buble with Diana Krall, a Barenaked Ladies / Steven Page reunion and a tribute to Gord Downie that got it just right.

We were originally “holding” in seats looking down on the stage and could see both backstage and front of house at the same time.  It looks like a composite shot, but it’s not.  We watched performers arrive, walk up the stairs at the bottom of the picture and emerge through the screens on stage.  Super cool to watch the transition and not something you get to see every day.

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Arcade Fire opened the show, followed by Vancouver native, Lights.  Everyone was on their feet for the Gord Downie tribute from Sarah Harmer, Kevin Hearn and a perfect acoustic version of Bobcaygeon from City and Colour. If you’re a Hip fan the video montage and simple vocals will give you goosebumps.

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You always hope for a stand out, bring the house down performance and we got ours.  Jesse Reyes had the musical who’s who of Canada on their feet and owned the night with Figures.    A tiny little gal with a huge voice and a bigger attitude.  You go girl.

And …..that’s a wrap because this Cinderella has an actual real job Monday morning; my little rock fantasy weekend is over.  And what a fabulous, festive, fun-filled music weekend it was.  Bucket list – check and check!

Earworms – 2015 Version

If you’re not a music fiend you probably don’t spend the day putting yourself through ridiculous mental contortions trying to remember THE SONG that is right at the edge of your conscious, but can’t quite grasp. That was my day yesterday trying to remember Rhye’s “Open”.

Not sure why it popped into my head half way through the morning, but it did and there was nothing to do but submit to the inevitable as the images and words ran on an endless loop but no name would shake out. Remembered I’d first seen it in an article on Elephant Journal, resulting in a significant amount of billable time spent riffling through old articles. Nada.  Had a vague recollection that the song had been featured on Grey’s Anatomy, had to hide my screen so no-one could see that I was spending the afternoon listening to multiple seasons of the soundtrack – all music cred instantly out the window.

If you love the super chill sound of Rhye, here’s a bit more about the Canadian – Danish male duo from NPR Music.  (that’s right, they are guys).  I’ll be listening to this today instead of Grey’s Anatomy.

What other singers grabbed my attention this year?  Top of the list has to be Jason Isbell, the current king of Americana and Drive-By Truckers alumnus.  This is a 2-for-1 deal for me, love DBT and Jason solo as well is a bonus. Astonishing songwriting and that Alabama twang – bring it on.

And here’s a treat – Ryan Adams and Jason live together from the Herbst in San Francisco.  They do need to do a record together – the song writing would be out of this world.

Who else has been getting too much airplay at my house this year?  Well there’s a bunch more, but one I’ve played over and over and over is Don Henley’s new record, Cass County.  As NPR puts it, “the Garths, Keiths and Kennys of the world stole country-rock, and now Don Henley’s stealing it back”. My love affair with the Eagles continues unabated and unashamed!

Talking about the record  being a return to his roots in Texas and the musical influences of his family and early years, Don quotes T.S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding” 

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

That’s some of the great music that made my days brighter in 2015, can’t wait to see what 2016 brings.

 

A Moveable Feast

With all due deference to Mr. Hemingway, although it’s not Paris, I’ve been lucky enough to unexpectedly have this summer in Vancouver when I thought I would be long gone to Virginia. And wherever I go after this it will stay with me, for (it’s) been a moveable feast. Maybe it’s the poignancy of knowing I may leave this autumn, or maybe it’s just a karmic gift after last summer, but for whatever reason it has been superlative. I’ve spent some time away, work and vacation has taken me regularly to the US South, but it’s the times at home that stand out.

I have, in many ways, already taken leave of my past life here; said goodbyes and given up regular activities, so I’ve had to, of necessity, redefine my lifestyle this summer. And, much to my surprise, I’ve found that home still has a lot to offer. I’ve ended up asking myself whether the lifestyle I want is right here in my own city? Granted Vancouver has put on a show and given us a truly spectacular summer (would I be writing this when the rains of November seem to never end!) but it seems that through the lens of immanent departure I have fallen in love with the West Coast all over again. And I haven’t really even been that far from the city; no island paradise kayak or camping trips (yet!) but I’ve just been getting out and playing tourist in my own town, appreciating everything the city has to offer.

One of the things I love doing on Saturday morning is spending time browsing at one of the many local farmer’s market. On a recent Saturday I went with a friend to explore Trout Lake Market, one of the original and oldest farmer’s markets. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day and we got to walk all around Trout Lake on our way to the market (well actually we were yakking, missed a turn and got on the wrong pathway . . . .a fortuitous wrong turn!)

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And it truly was a moveable feast at the market. As well as bushels of fresh, heirloom, organic vegetables, we bought delicious goats milk cheeses, creamy blues and delicate fetas, a duck breast sausage marinated in King Heffy beer, (so delicious!!), wild mushrooms and warm breads.  A glorious profusion of humble beets and carrots.

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After all that walking and gathering, it seemed time for a repast and what better idea than brunch at Timbre on Commercial Drive. We did eat as well, but debated if it was necessary after these Bloodys. Truly awesome.

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Many a good idea (and quite a few bad ones . . .oh wait, in my life there are no bad ideas!) have been hatched over a drink, today was no exception. Casually mentioned that Trombone Shorty was playing in Whistler that night at some slightly strange event/festival/yoga/hippy/love in called Wanderlust. For the life of me I still can’t figure out how a rockin’ trombone player from New Orleans ended up playing at a yoga festival in Whistler, BC, for FREE, but he was and he did. Driving to Whistler to see the show, then driving back that night seemed like the Best Idea Ever. And since we had a bounty of deliciousness, a picnic at Lost Lake was the ideal start to our Whistler adventure. A couple of hours later we were headed up the Sea to Sky highway, picnic basket in hand. A feast was had, but in the unpredictable way of mountain weather, it sure was moveable, Here’s the spread we had set up by Lost Lake.

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Minutes later a thunder and lightning storm rolled over the lake and onto our picnic.

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We took temporary refuge under the trees, but to no avail.  Our picnic was getting wet and, even worse crime, the wine was being diluted! We could see that the storm was localized to the lake – blue skies and sunshine shone down less than a mile away – so we hastily threw everything back in the basket and headed down the road to Alta Lake where it was sunny, Yeah, picnic was back on!! Got everything set up a second time when . . .drop, drop, drop . . .the thunderstorm had rolled on over our way. Moveable feast indeed. This shower was short-lived so we toughed it out till it passed and enjoyed every morsel.

With all the too-ing and fro-ing we were seriously behind schedule getting to the free concert venue in Olympic Plaza.

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But instead of being at the back of a huge crowd, much to our surprise the plaza was basically empty. Wet, but empty. Those yogis are lightweights! We were able to wander right up to the front of the barrier, centre stage and enjoy a stunning sunset as the skies cleared, the plaza dried and we waited for Shorty,

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The show was everything I had hoped for, my companion hadn’t seen Shorty before, but I was pretty sure I knew exactly what sort of kick ass night we were in for, Anywhere in the US Shorty draws large crowds of devoted fans; when he took the stage in Whistler there were maybe 20 people milling around and I was the only one showing of my “Who Dat” shirt. Some musicians might have decided it was a waste of time and put on a lackluster, bare minimum and I’m outta here set. Not Shorty, He decided to win over some fans and put on a show to remember, Two hours later the plaza was overflowing with hand clapping, foot stomping, dancing and singing new-born Trombone Shorty fans, The man is amazing (ok, so the picnic wasn’t the only deliciousness around!!)

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The entire day was truly a Moveable Feast for all the senses. Great food, great wine, gorgeous scenery, incredible music and great company, Thanks for a spectacular day, Here’s Shorty, getting funky y’all and killing American Woman at the Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival. If you get a chance to see him live, do it!

Head Over Heels with Blue Rodeo

I’m heading out tonight to see one of my favourite bands of all time, Blue Rodeo, the Canadian alt-country/alt-blues/alt-rock band that have been playing the sound track of my life for, well, most of my life.  From university days at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, through the saloons of Alberta,  rowdy parties at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver and those wonderful, intimate shows at tiny venues in California, I’ve loved every single show.   I’m working on another longer post that is challenging me a lot, so I thought I’d entertain myself (and hopefully some of you) with a round-up of my Top 10 Blue Rodeo songs.   What an awesome way to spend a rainy Saturday morning, going through their songbook and picking my favourites.   Loved it!  And I’m really excited to hear them in the amazing Orpheum Theatre – row 6 for me!  Last time I was at the Orpheum was in June for the Avett Brothers, now THAT was a show!!

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So here, in no particular order, are my Top 10 Blue Rodeo songs!

1.  Bad Timing  (5 Days In July).   Ok, this is my all time favourite, and it better be, I had some of the notes incorporated into my ink work    I still remember Jim Cuddy walking out with his mandolin to the front of the stage at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and singing this like his heart was broken.  He stole mine that night!  And one of the coolest things about the video is that the beautiful woman is Jim’s wife, Rena.  They are still married and he says often and proudly that she is the love of his life and he couldn’t have done it without her.  It’s no wonder we adore him.

2.  After the Rain (Casino) Ok, this one might be tied for all time favourite and it has a history.  Way back when,  before Jim played piano in concert,he played this one on guitar.  Then one show he had a piano on stage, sat down and played this and brought the house down.  He’s played at least a couple of songs on piano every show since.   It also has a sad story that he still tells;  he was singing this at Malkin Bowl one night, went for the falsetto and  . . nothing.  It took two years and surgery to fix his vocal chords, but I’m so thrilled that he once again belts out those high notes with such confidence.   And it has one of my very favourite lyrics  “Tonight as I’m losing control, I will drink to the queen of my soul”.  Don’t we all wish we were the queen of someone’s soul?

3.  Trust Yourself (Casino)  Oh my, they are sooo young in this video!  And so rock star (well at least as much as BR ever gets).    When they play this one live the guitar work is always a long blistering jam where they get to show their mad skills.   Talented musicians doing their thing – really, really well.

3.  Hasn’t Hit Me Yet (Five Days in July)  Here is a big piece of the Blue Rodeo magic, what’s made it work for so many years – the collaboration between Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor.   They have known each other and have been playing in bands together since high school.  Good years, really bad years, addictions, artistic differences, the whole gamut. It must be like another marriage.  Their enduring partnership and mutual respect is so unusual in the industry, it’s a testament to the type of people they are.

4.  Sad Nights (The Days in Between).  Jim wrote this song about their time in New York and his wife-to-be leaving after the summer.   He didn’t perform it live for a very long time then back in about 2009 they were playing an acoustic concert on the tiny backstage at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica and I got to hear it again.  It was magic.  In fact that whole tour was magic, they were trying out a new keyboard player and played their entire songbook at a whole bunch of tiny,  iconic venues up and down the West Coast – The Mint in LA, the Independent in SFO, McCabe’s in Santa Monica.  It was so much fun travelling up the coast seeing them every night.   And if you’ve ever said goodbye to someone you care a lot about, knowing it’s going to be months till you see them again . . .well you will get this one.

5.  Til I Gain Control Again (5 Days In July) Although this is not an original BR song (it was written by Rodney Crowell)  I still love their version and the lyrics are amazing.

You know I love to spend my mornings

Like sunlight dancing on your skin (ok if anyone ever sings that for me, I’m done for!!)

I’ve never gone so wrong

As for telling lies to you

What you see is what I am

There is nothing I could hide from you

You see me better than I can

6.   Head Over Heels ( 5 Days in July )  Makes me want to put on my dancing shoes, jump up and dance around the living room – always!   “It’s the little things that get you through, like the same sun rising on me as over you” .   What a great song about life on the road, waiting to go home to your lover.  I think (?) Jim wrote this one when they were in Australia representing for Canada at the Olympics.    And yes, there are way better videos but we were at this show at the Mint in LA, that over enthusiastic “woo hoo” at the beginning is yours truly (but only that one, not the subsequent!!) and the head bobbing in and out of frame is my partner in crime for the road trip.  There was a fair bit of tequila involved that night, just saying 🙂  It was waaaay too much fun.

7.   House of Dreams (Diamond Mine)  Wow, going way back into the distant past!!   A great song, is a great song, is a great song.  They just don’t get old.  And there is that gorgeous, haunting guitar from Greg.

8.  Walk Like You Don’t Mind (Palace of Gold  ) Palace of Gold came out after a 3 year hiatus – we were starting to wonder if BR would ever tour again.  Thankfully they resolved their differences, put out a new record and went back on the road – with a horn section.   If they play this tonight, everyone will be out of their seats (or at least I will be – yup, I’m always that girl at these shows!!)

9.  One More Night (The Things We Left Behind). From their most recent album, recorded at their own studio in Toronto, The Woodshed.  It’s a great story.

10.  Lost Together (Lost Together).   The only song to close the post with, because Greg’s been closing shows with this song forever.   It’s the BR lovefest.   And I found this video with Steve Earle sitting in!

And the other reason I love these guys,  not only are they talented musicians  but they are also great supporters of the entire music community in Canada.  Sarah McLachlan got her start as their back up singer, Kathleen Edwards has opened for them many times over the years and the incredible Anne Lindsay (another friend from high school) comes out often to work her particular brand of fiddle magic with them.  And they have nurtured so many great (and some not so great!) young bands, taking them on the road to open for them.

Hope you enjoyed my trip through the BR archives as much as I did – I can’t wait for the show tonight.

If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise

The first half of my solo sojourn in New Orleans is almost over, it’s been an amazing 10 days.   When I first got here I was having some trouble explaining exactly what a Canadian girl was doing living alone in the French Quarter for 3 weeks over Christmas and New Year, it’s not a story you hear all the time.   Then someone said to me “oh, you ran away from home” and the penny dropped.  Yup, that’s exactly what I did, I ran away from home.   After a tumultuous year I was desperately in need of some down time and  some mental space to reflect on what had happened and, hopefully, gain some perspective.  And I needed somewhere that I would feel comfortable on my own and would be interesting enough to keep me entertained.  I guess I could have headed for a beach somewhere, but I’ve fallen completely under the spell of this magical city so New Orleans seemed like the ideal choice.  It was surprisingly easy to rent an apartment in the Quarter from Historic Rentals and it has, so far, been an amazing adventure.   Here is my morning spot for reading, writing and enjoying coffee.  I have to open the 10 foot wooden shutters every morning and close them at night.  I love it.

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And here is my historic apartment.

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When was the last time any of us made the time and space in our life to spend 3 entire weeks alone, fending for yourself, entertaining yourself and cutting the ties to all those everyday responsibilities that just keep piling up, day after day, week after week, year after year.  I guess they are just the necessities that come with living a responsible life, but I gotta say, letting them all go for a while is an incredibly liberating experience.   In my 20’s I was very much a vagabond gypsy, traveling overseas for long periods of time on my own and living for more than a few years the peripatetic lifestyle of a ski bum, bouncing back and forth between winters in Canada and the Southern Hemisphere.  But life has a way of incrementally creeping up on you until it sometimes feels like it’s all just about getting up at 5am, walking the dog, going to work, maintaining that house you wanted such and all the other everyday ephemera.  Not that those things are bad, just sometimes . . .well I don’t know about y’all but I need a break.   Hello NOLA.

So what have I been doing to keep busy?  Walking, lots of walking.  Unlike when I was here in May when it felt like being hit in the face with a wet towel every time I stepped out of the air-conditioned hotel, it’s a balmy 70 degrees (oops, been here too long, that’s about 18C) most days.  Perfect exploring weather.  There is, of course, the French Quarter itself, which is surprisingly big.  And every single street is packed with historic sites and buildings, incredible record stores, antiquarian bookstores, vintage clothing stores, voodoo spiritualist centres and purveyors of all things witchcraft.  Spending time poking around there is pretty much my idea of heaven.  The Voodoo Centre is only 3 doors down from The Clothes Spin, my wash and fold service  It was formerly the site of J & M Recording Studio from 1947 – 1956, where pioneers of rock and roll like Fats Domino, Little Richard and Professor Longhair recorded.  It’s pretty interesting to contemplate while I’m watching the spin cycle, and only in NOLA.

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And of course should you require some refreshment during these sojourns, well there is friendly bar or cafe on almost every corner.   From fancy white linen to dive, it’s all there in the Quarter.  One of the tasks I’ve set myself is an exhaustive review of all the dive bars  (trust me I need 3 weeks for that) so I’ve used this list of the 15 Most Iconic Dive Bars in NOLA as a starting point   My favourite to date, The Chart Room.  $3 beers and a jukebox with, finally, a great music selection heavily weighted to Marvin Gaye and George Benson.  Je adore.

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And what about those damn jukeboxes?  They are the curse of many a decent drinking establishment here.  In a city that is famous for it’s absolutely incredible live music scene, how can so many bars have jukeboxes filled with such really, really bad music?  It’s one of the great mysteries of the universe. And a secondary quest that has a surprising amount of crossover with the Dive Bar review is hunting down the bar with the best beer selection.  So far the hands down winner is The Avenue Pub, a completely nondescript, 24 hour locals spot with an incredible craft and Belgium beer selection.   At 7:00am you might meet the med students getting of shift from the local hospitals and for happy hour oyster fisherman and construction guys who came to rebuild after Katrina and never left.  I spent one afternoon helping the gal tending bar that day write-up a chalkboard sign explaining CLEARLY that they don’t have table service, you have to come to the bar.  Someone complained on Yelp . . .had those cretins never been in a bar before?    Some of the samplings from a few days ago.

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Then there are the surrounding areas: the Warehouse District, Magazine Street, the Garden District, St Charles Ave, the Fauberg Marigny and Bywater, all to be subjects of some further posts.

And other than that, I’ve been listening to music, music and more music.  From the ever-present street musicians on Royal, through all the clubs on Frenchman’s Street in the Marigny to House of Blues and, of course Preservation Hall.  So much music, if I went out every single night I would still not catch it all.   I made a really good start on visiting every single bar on Frenchman’s Street my first weekend, it was so much fun.   When I landed on that Friday night I dropped my bags at the apartment and headed straight to one of my favourite dive bars, Coop’s, for a couple of Abita’s and some fried chicken and jambalaya.  Pretty much my favourite meal in NOLA.   When the guy sitting next to me offered to buy me another Abita, I had no way of knowing it would lead to one of the more hilarious weekends of my life.   E, R and J were a threesome (well not actually, more like a couple + one) from Atlanta who adopted me for the weekend.   They had also arrived in town that afternoon and J had already fallen victim to the Purple Voodoo juice at Lafite’s Blacksmith Shop – she was going down for the count by the time I happened on the scene. So I offered to be a musical tour guide over to Frenchman’s street for the lone man left standing.  If there was a bar we didn’t get to that night, we covered it off on Saturday because we didn’t get in before 4am either of those mornings.  So awesome.  Went to the outdoor market about 1am and I was torn between buying feather earrings and a leather bustier – who wouldn’t be.  Loved the female fire-eater show too.  Ended up spending a ridiculously long time in the Apple Barrel, a tiny place well off the tourist parade which won the “award” of having the worst bathroom in NOLA, but also great music.   It’s important to have strict criteria by which to judge your dive bars.  It’s not often you meet a complete stranger and then end up spending an entire weekend having more fun than you ever imagined.  It was, I think, a gift and a truly great way to kick off my time here.   Thank you so much.

I’ve also managed to catch Kermit Ruffin’s annual birthday bash, sing Christmas carols by candlelight in Jackson Square with 8,000 people, see the oldest Jazz singer in New Orleans (Lionel’s 102) sing “Saints” and “Keep on Smiling” in the Cathedral and then last night I saw Trombone Short at HOB.  I’ve seen Shorty before, he never fails to simply blow me away.  Shorty is from the Treme and it was, as he put it “tremazing”!  I jusst love that feeling of slipping out of you ordinary life and into the magic of a truly great performance.   Shorty nailed it, again.

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An important musical geek question that would probably never come up anywhere else but in NOLA, but was the subject of considerable discussion all weekend,was the difference between a Tuba and a Souzaphone. I thought I had that nailed, but I shouldn’t argue music with a pro!  Nonetheless, to solve the vexing questions once and for all, this short video is most illuminating.  And if any of you are thinking of coming to NOLA – you can dazzle people with this piece of local musical trivia.

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And if you are wondering about how the city is doing, here is a link to If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise , Spike Lee’s follow-up documentary on post-Katrina New Orleans.  It’s an expression that seems to perfectly capture so much of the spirit of this town.  That and Laissez Le Bon Temps Roullez, which I have most certainly been doing.

So I guess the only music to close out with has to be Shorty taking it old school with Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On”. Not the best quality because it’s live, but I’m a sucker for live performances.

Wearing Your Insides on the Outside

My lovely daughter and I have been catching up on some movie watching.  She had her wisdom teeth out a week ago so we have had a lot of bonding time.  That’s a polite way of saying she’s been lying on the couch while I cater to her every whim and invent new and exciting ways to blend food into something edible by a person who most closely resembles Fat Bastard.

As I scanned through the online movie listings for the fifth day in a row, I realized why the movie business is in trouble – most of the movies out there truly suck.   And I don’t mean that they are just not to my somewhat eclectic taste, I mean they are really and truly bad.   They can introduce VIP movie theatres and fancier seating all they want, it won’t get me past paying $12 bucks for crap.  The only thing that might help is the recently approved sale of drinkies at movie theatres (a new and wondrous concept in Canada)  – a few bevvies might make some of it bearable.  But then again . . .drinking bad beer and worse wine while watching the latest schlocktacular – nah, I’m just going to vote with my dollars and skip the whole process.

But if you are prepared to put in some time looking there are some real gems that are intelligent, quirky and interesting.   There are no car chases, no-one gets blown to bits and if you can catch them at a theatre it definitely won’t have stadium seating an massive screens.   But the reward will be a story that stays with you for a long time.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World:  Steve Carell and Kiera Knightley.   An asteroid named “Matilda” is going to destroy the Earth in three weeks.  What would you do?  Take a road trip with a perfect stranger?  Or a stranger who is perfect?  As people stop going to their jobs and indulge in “take no prisoners” lifestyle choices, law and the social order breaks down in predictable,  violent and often pathetic ways.  The smallness of people’s imagination when faced with their last days never ceases to surprise me.  Out of that comes the friendship between two strangers who go on a roadtrip to find his long lost high school sweetheart.   Great music, to be expected from director Lorene Scafaria who wrote the screen adaptation for Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist, adds to the treat.   With the looming end of the world (according to the Mayan calender) in December, I am most heartily glad I will be putting my time to excellent use in New Orleans!  I can’t think of a better place to be for the (putative) end of the world.

Safety Not Guaranteed:  Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass.   The world is not coming to an end in this inspired original set in Oregon, but time travel just might be involved.   A jaded magazine writer takes two interns along with him when he is assigned to investigate a classified ad placed by someone looking for a companion to join him in a time travel experiment.   Various skills are required, but “safety is not guaranteed”.  Sci-fi, comedy, romance all rolled up together into a funny, touching and beautifully nuanced movie.  Multiple threads push the story forward while the characters develop into people you can completely identify with.  And you can never quite figure out if the time travel storyline is sci-fi or just plain gonzo-ness.   Another delicious piece of quirky entertainment from the producers of Little Miss Sunshine.

Hysteria: Maggie Gyllenhall and Hugh Dancy.  I’m outing my predilection for English movies, they have a sense of humour that most American movies just can’t touch.   Have you ever wondered how the vibrator was invented?  Yes, that vibrator!  In Victorian England, the male medical establishment believed that women (at least those of proper birth) could not “experience pleasure”.  Not surprisingly, they also suffered from a proliferation of nervous complaints grouped under the misnomer “hysteria”, which was believed to be caused by “a wandering uterus”.  Dr. Dalrymple the owner of the best women’s clinic in London, develops a manual “pelvic massage” treatment complete with stirrups, red velvet draping and scented oils that relieves their symptoms.  When he takes on the young and handsome Dr. Granville as his partner, there is soon a line up out the door for “treatment”.  The unfortunate Dr. Granville develops carpel tunnel syndrome from the “treatments”.  Faced with patient complaints about his waning abilities, with the help of a friend he converts an electronic feather duster in the first vibrator.   A hilariously funny and  relevant movie about women taking control of their own bodies and pleasure.    Premiered at  TIFF 2012.

Silver Lining Playbook:  Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence.  Set in Baltimore and Philadelphia, the film opens with Pat Solitano’s release from a mental institution where he has been sentenced for an act of violence and treated for bipolar disorder.  Pat’s release might have been a bit premature, especially as he has to live with his parents and his father, played faultlessly by Robert De Niro, suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  It’s not a smooth homecoming.  Pat is trying to reconcile with his wife, but it’s tricky given the restraining order.  He meets Tiffany, the troubled daughter of neighbourhood friends and she offers to help him but only on the condition that he helps her with her dream.   A brilliant story that includes the family obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles and gambling, a hilarious tail gate party and a “silver lining” ending.  I loved this complicated, warm, uplifting story from beginning to end.  And another fantastic soundtrack featuring the Alabama Shakes and a gem from Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash.  Gala presentation at TIFF 2012. 

Girl from the North Country  – Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash.  I included the lyric because I loved it so much.

Well, if you’re travelin’ in the north country fair,
Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline,
Remember me to one who lives there.
She once was a true love of mine.

Well, if you go when the snowflakes storm,
When the rivers freeze and summer ends,
Please see if she’s wearing a coat so warm,
To keep her from the howlin’ winds.

Please see for me if her hair hangs long,
If it rolls and flows all down her breast.
Please see for me if her hair hangs long,
That’s the way I remember her best.

I’m a-wonderin’ if she remembers me at all.
Many times I’ve often prayed
In the darkness of my night,
In the brightness of my day.

So if you’re travelin’ in the north country fair,
Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline,
Remember me to one who lives there.
She once was a true love of mine.