I hate to do this, but on which manner of ugliness should we begin?
The online Canadian music world blew up this past Wednesday following a widely shared Medium post titled Death From Above 1979, The Proud Boys and The Alt Right, which collected a number of connections between Death From Above's Jesse Keeler and the Proud Boys, an alt-right organization (there are less euphemistic names for it). These connections centred around Keeler's association with Gavin McInnes, the controversial co-founder of Vice (he left the organization in 2008) and a Rebel Media personality who founded the Proud Boys group. Vice released Death From Above's first record and championed the band early in their career. I'll not iterate through the evidence presented against Keeler here, as you can find recaps at the CBC, the AV Club, and a hundred other places at this point.
Outrage and denunciations boiled on social media for a few days, with Keeler eventually posting a statement via the band's Facebook page to put out the fire. In it, he emphatically states that he's not a white supremacist, and attempts to contextualize his interactions with McInnes (chalking up some of it to a "morbid curiosity"). The statement (which you should go read in full) was seemingly enough for the author of the original exposé to go back and revise his introduction, stating:
It’s an earnest and humble statement and I believe him. Kudos on responding in a timely manner. When the leader of The Proud Boys claim you as one of their own, you probably should denounce that shit. I, as the author of this piece, do not think Jesse Keeler is a Proud Boy or alt-right. He just seems like a giant dummy that hung out with some sketchy people and definitely said some sketchy shit on Gavin’s podcast
Whether that'll be enough to salvage the two-piece Toronto rock band's reputation among their fanbase remains to be seen. I'm not yet sure what I believe. I'd prefer to take people at their word, and I don't personally know the people involved, but in abstract the "morbid curiosity" defence is always going to feel a little thin.
That wasn't the only bit of ugliness in the Canadian music news this week. On Friday the Halifax Pop Explosion had to issue an apology for the actions of a volunteer, who interrupted a performance from Polaris Music Prize winner Lido Pimienta with what the festival has labelled overt racism.
A statement from Georgie Dudka, on behalf of the event's board of directors, said, in part:
On Thursday, October 19 at the Marquee Club, a white HPX volunteer along with several other white people in the audience reacted to Lido Pimienta inviting “brown girls to the front” of the venue with overt racism. This volunteer was removed by Lido herself. They have since received notification from the festival that they are no longer welcome to volunteer with us.
We will not accept this behaviour and neither should you. Be responsible for your friends - talk to them and support them as they move towards unpacking their racism. People of Colour deserve safe spaces and it is your responsibility to help. It is also ours.
It should be noted that Lido's made the same invitation, which is a callback to the riot grrrl movement, at other performances without incident. Steven Lambke, the creative director of SappyFest, posted a message in support of Pimienta and reflected on the respect shown at the Sackville event.
On a positive note
It's been a couple years since Steven Lambke's last full length. In October of 2015 the artist released Days of Heaven, his first major work under his own name. He'd performed and recorded for years prior as Baby Eagle and of course as a member of the beloved Guelph-bred rock band the Constantines. Of course the singer/songwriter's kept busy in the meantime, both as a co-owner of You've Changed Records and the creative director of SappyFest, but it's always nice to hear something new. Here it is.
"Fireworks" showed up online last week. The track was recorded in Toronto in August of 2016, but that fact and the lyrics are all Steven's revealed about it so far. It's a shade more uptempo than the understated love songs that comprised Days of Heaven. We'll just have it wait and see if it's destined for the follow up.
Steven's over in Europe touring as support for Daniel Romano's Jazz Police through November. After the You've Changed co-owners wrap that trip, the Cons will be back together for a pair of shows at the Horseshoe Tavern in December as part of the venue's 70th-anniversary celebrations.
A unique tour has come together under the name New Constellations, which will bring together a number of celebrated Indigenous and non-Indigenous musicians, writers, and poets for shows across Canada (and in several First Nations communities) in November and December. The project is the brainchild of the Basement Revue variety show and the music platform Revolutions Per Minute, with curation by the Revue's Jason Collett, Cree/Dene media maker Jarrett Martineau, and poet Damian Rogers. Along with the 13 stop tour, New Constellations will feature a mentorship program and workshop series for Indigenous youth, a digital curriculum, and a tour documentary to be filmed.
There are so many celebrated artists on the lineup of this thing that it feels a like a disservice to not mention any of them, so go visit the website for full details. From the perspective of this newsletter, there's a number of familiar names on the bill including A Tribe Called Red, Weaves, John K. Samson of the Weakerthans, Joel Plaskett, Jim Bryson, the aforementioned Lido Pimienta, and Mo Kenney. The collaborators are different for each evening of the tour, so check the schedule for details. New Constellations kicks off on November 23 in Saskatoon.
Toronto bubblegum-punk group PONY has released a delightful new EP on Buzz Records titled Do You, which as produced by Greys' Shehzaad Jiwani. On their release date, they also shared a Shawn Kosmo directed video for the song "Small Things" spoke with Noisey about the clip and the background behind the song. This entire set is such an instant pick-me-up, it feels like its a lost relic from a more innocent past. If you're looking for some levity you've found it.
Speaking of levity, it was pretty surreal to see Kyle Krische, frontman of Kitchener rock band Wayfarer, profiled in CBC Sports. Krische has decided to channel his life-long hatred of the Toronto Maple Leafs into something positive through the launch of an initiative dubbed Run Over The Buds. Essentially, for every goal the Leafs score this season, Kyle's hoping to raise $5 and run 1 KM. The donations (and he's shooting to raise at least $2000) will go to You Can Play, an organization advocating for the safety and inclusion of all in sports, particularly LGBTQ athletes, coaches and fans. You can donate to Kyle's cause online and keep track of the project at @RunOverTheBuds.
Toronto's post-punk trio WHIMM have released their dark and discordant debut full-length A Stare Ajar on Pleasence Records. The label released a live cut this week, showing the band performing the song "Fifth Column." The performance features a few guests from the Toronto scene, including HSY / ANAMAI's Anna Mayberry on violin and Scott Harwood (Scott Hardware / Ken Park / Ostrich Tuning) on piano.
Ottawa's New Swears' haven't stopped touring since the release of and the Magic of Horses earlier this year on Dine Alone. The party-punk group's latest video, for the song "Walkin' to Rockin'" features members of the band as the world's worst valets. I'm pretty sure I drive some variant of the car they desecrate in this video.
Bilingual Montreal punk band Bolo Mojo have released their second EP, titled Happiness. The bouncy six-song set, which is heavy with glam rock influences, follows their 2015 debut Kicked Out of the Church. The four-piece is comprised of bassist and singer Johnny, guitarist Manu, proudly-one-armed keyboardist Cyrille, and drummer Julien -- all with the surname Bolo as far as anyone's concerned. Julien's the nephew of the late Dave Gregg of D.O.A. and The Real McKenzies.
The first bands playing the eleventh edition of Burly Calling have been announced. The Burlington, Ontario music festival will take place from November 30 through December 2 across multiple venues in the city's downtown. This first wave of bands includes Dead Tired (George Pettit's post- Alexisonfire hardcore act), the latest incarnation of Toronto punk vets Trigger Happy as An Almighty Trigger Happy, hometown up-and-comers The Penske File, Niagara-on-the-Lake post-hardcore/emo act Heavy Hearts, and a dozen more from a number of genres. You can find the full list at the event's website.
Every week it seems that there's some new content to share from Toronto noise-punk heroes METZ, and this week is no different. The band's posted a surreal video for "Drained Lake" from their recently released, Steve Albini recorded, full-length Strange Peace (Royal Mountain/Sub Pop). This one was directed by Shayne Ehman.
Chris Cresswell of Flatliners performed acoustic Black Coffee Session versions of the songs "Human Party Trick" and "Indoors." Both tracks are from the band's latest record Inviting Light from earlier in the year. Cresswell also posted the fourth episode of the band's Carry The Banner podcast, which focuses on the scene in Edmonton with a spotlight on Worst Days Down and promoter John Kennedy of ConcertWorks.
The Sadies have announced tour dates for the fall in support of their latest album Northern Passages. The Good brothers and company will perform in Montreal and Quebec City, along with a number of Ontario towns big and small, including Burnstown, Ottawa, St. Catharines, London, Waterloo, Hamilton, Sarnia, and Guelph. As is tradition, the band will play a New Years Eve show at the Horseshoe Tavern, capping off that venue's season of 70th-annversary shows. You can find all these dates at Exclaim.
On that note, one final thanks to the October sponsor of Some Party: the new book The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern: A Complete History by David McPherson. The book chronicles the storied history of the Queen Street bar and venue, which had a place of relevance in just about every era of Toronto's rock'n'roll history. You can read the introduction online now, along with an excerpt that explores the venue's punk history at NOW Toronto.