Sunday October 22, 2017

Family Band

I'm nowhere near qualified to eulogize Gord Downie. Thankfully the Canadian media, seemingly in its entirety, has produced an astonishing abundance of reflections on the life and influence of the Tragically Hip frontman, who died of brain cancer this past Tuesday, October 17.

The most significant tributes will be with us for a while, and you'll certainly have time to consume them once the news cycle has moved on. The acclaimed new documentary Long Time Running, which had it's network premiere this past Friday, will encore on Sunday, November 12 on CTV, and will soon after be streaming in perpetuity on Crave. George Stroumboulopoulos' Hip 30, a four-hour edition of his radio show featuring an array of Canadian artists turning out loving covers, is re-airing as I write this and is certain to surface again and again. If you're feeling charitable, there's both the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research and the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund for you to look into.

Personally, I've always felt uneasy discussing my relationship with the Hip. Phantom Power came out when I was in high school, was instantly unavoidable. It had a home in every classroom CD-ROM drive and rang out from every tinny computer speaker in the building. In 1998 I don't think was fully formed yet. My budding interest in punk rock validated my internal sense of teenage alienation, and from that standpoint any widely consumed pop product was, at best, treated with suspicion. Looking at the Hip and their popularity with anything more intelligent than stubborn disinterest felt like a betrayal of the counter-culture I'd signed on to. I had a genuine Bullshit Detector now. If it wasn't for this, then what the hell's it for?

Of course, the power of Gord's writing is wrapped up in his ability to speak to our common cultural experience. The funny thing is, you don't need to acknowledge that experience to be a part of it. It's subconscious. These songs got into my head and affected me whether I chose to wear the trappings of fandom or not. Eventually, I came around and figured that out.

What's amazed me in the past year is how common my experience was. It turns out there's a whole cohort of weird youth who took the difficult road to the Tragically Hip. Earlier in the year Damian Abraham of Fucked Up penned the widely shared piece for Vice titled How I Learned to Love the Tragically Hip and Still Be Punk. The adolescent line in the sand he draws is exactly how I'd felt. At around the same time, Ottawa writer Jennifer Whiteford (once of the band Sophomore Level Psychology) penned a piece for Razorcake titled One Canadian Punk’s Guide to the Tragically Hip that further echoed those feelings.

Of all the things that Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip could be lauded for, the ability to smash through dumb punk rock cynicism doesn't seem very important, but it was to me.

Watch: The Tragically Hip - "Family Band" live in Abbotsford 08/08/2009

...and damn if my teenage self could have read Daniel Romano's future statement on Gord Downie, he'd have had zero problems squaring the Hip with the Clash in those high school halls.

Of Note

This week Ian Campeau, one of the founding members of Ottawa's A Tribe Called Red announced his departure from the acclaimed electronic music group. Campeau, who performed as DJ NDN, cited the detrimental effect that life on the road was having on his own mental health. His full statement was posted to his social accounts on the 18th:

An article in the Ottawa Citizen states that the band's remaining members, Tim “2oolman” Hill and Ehren “Bear Witness” Thomas, have reworked their stage show as a duo for their next immediate tour dates. The band's official word on Campeau's departure confirmed that the project would continue:

"The artistic and political message of A Tribe Called Red remains unchanged and we’re looking forward to create more music, art and positive moments for the fans, and particularly for the indigenous youth.”

Montreal-based garage/noise duo The Famines have announced the reissue of their compiled 7" singles from 2008 through 2011. The material was previously collected on an LP through the now-defunct Mammoth Cave label and will now live on as a "paper album" through the group's Pentagon Black project. As much defiant artistic statements as they are release formats, Pentagon Black's paper albums pair some low-cost physical artifact with a download code. Most recently that was a postcard for the third volume in their underground Canadian compilation compilation series. In this case, the album will be a 20x30" double-sided newsprint poster, reproducing the art from the original singles. You can pick one up at Bandcamp. I've collected a few of the previous Pentagon Black releases in this format, and they're pretty cool. It really makes you consider the line between digital ephemera and physical collector culture.

The material on these records is from the era when the band, originally from Edmonton, featured guitarist/vocalist Raymond Biesinger with drummer Garrett Heath Kruger. Kruger went on to play in The Allovers when he and Biesinger parted ways.

Listen: The Famines - The Complete Collected Singles @ BandCamp

Ottawa's Jon Creeden and his band the Flying Hellfish have released an EP of demos in the lead up to their appearance at The Fest in Gainesville, Florida later this month. The set features a few live demos along with the finished version of the title track to the punk rock band's upcoming 2018 full-length Stall. The covers are a lot of fun, as they include both a spot-on version of Hot Water Music's "Jack of All Trades" and an aggressive take on the Propagandhi / Weakerthans staple "Anchorless."

Listen: Jon Creeden & The Flying Hellfish - Summer In October

Speaking of punk rock festivals, two high profile events were just confirmed for next year. First the long-running Vans Warped Tour, after skipping Canada for two consecutive years, will be back in Toronto on July 17, 2018. The Montreal-based Pouzza Fest will return for its eighth year from May 18 through the 21st. It's too soon for any line-up confirmations for either event at this point, so you've got ample time to have your belt re-studded.

Montreal's Laura Sauvage has released a video from her recently released Simone Records full-length "The Beautiful". The clip for "Alien (Anything Like It, Have You?)" was directed by Ariel Poupart. For the unaware, Sauvage is also known as Vivianne Roy and is one-third of the Moncton folk-country trio Les Hay Babies. Her solo act's full of quirky rock songs with a laid-back vibe like this one.

Watch: Laura Sauvage - "Alien (Anything Like It, Have You?)" @ YouTube

Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs have released a video for the song "Pressure" from their recent Dine Alone/Burger Records self-titled full length. The video was directed, edited, and produced by Nick Benidt, and was shot entirely on a Fischer Price PXL-2000. That's a toy camera from 1978 that records video to audio cassettes. For this shoot, they recorded over a cassette copy of the band's previous album Gates of Hell.

Watch: Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs - "Pressure" @ YouTube

Toronto indie-rock group Casper Skulls continue to preview their fast-approaching Buzz Records full-length Mercy Works with new media. This week they released a video for the song "Primeval," which looks at the rising cost of living in cities like Toronto. The video contrasts footage (shot by Shawn Kosmerly) of downtown Toronto with scenes in nature outside Sudbury at the River and Sky Festival. You can read more at the Consequence of Sound premiere.

Watch: Casper Skulls - "Primeval" @ YouTube

This month Some Party is sponsored by the new book The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern: A Complete History by David McPherson. The Shoe will mark its 70th birthday on December 6th, 2017. The Queen Street bar and venue, which opened as a country music club, has been an integral part of every era of the city's rock'n'roll history. You can read the introduction online for free along with an excerpt that explores the venue's punk history at NOW Toronto.

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