A Series of Failures

After smoking the first of my new guitar pedals that showed up today I began to reflect on failure and my propensity for jumping into things knowing it may well turn out badly.

For example, this past weekend I got dared to eat a heap of wasabi. I knew it was probably a bad idea, but I did it anyway. Now I know exactly why one shouldn’t eat a mound of wasabi. Your stomach will be tied up in knots for at least an hour and the only cure is to eat cupcakes. Now it’s easy to say, “well of course you shouldn’t eat heaps of wasabi you bonehead! What did you expect would happen.” But rather than speculate about the “bad things” that may or may not happen I decided to learn the consequences firsthand.

This has been a pattern I’ve followed most of my life and I feel that despite having done an incredible number of dumb things, I’ve mostly turned out alright. At the very least I have a string of entertaining stories from it all.

A few things I’ve learned the hard way:

  • Don’t disregard proper safety procedures when mixing up low-order explosives in your parents kitchen.
  • Don’t go camping with only cotton clothes and no rain gear. If you are, make sure you’re well-versed in the signs indicating the onset of hypothermia or are travelling with someone who is.
  • The minute you realize you’re lost in the outdoors, STOP and think through how to find your way back to familiar surroundings.
  • Don’t mouth off people who are big enough to beat the stuffing out of you with one hand.
  • Don’t live paycheck-to-paycheck. In addition, keep a well-stocked “rainy day” fund in a safe investment vehicle. The company you work for could very quickly find itself in financial trouble if sales take a dip.
  • Make sure you always have an open line of communication with your girlfriend.
  • Don’t, under any circumstances, drink shots of Cuervo Gold tequila.
  • In fact, if you’re drunk enough to think that ordering shots of anything is a good idea, then you should probably switch to drinking water.
  • With the exception of country, rockabilly, and Cookie Monster style death metal, I cannot sing in any other style and have it even sound remotely good.
  • Don’t jump into a new hobby/activity/sport by buying a pile of gear before you’ve tried it and are sure that it’s something you enjoy and want to commit to long-term.
  • Chevy Caveliers can drive through pools of water that reach the top of the tires  and they won’t stall out.
  • On a side note, if you find yourself stuck in a pool of water deep enough to kill the engine, you can still walk the car out with the starter if you’re quick enough to do it before the entire engine compartment floods.
  • Don’t put too much stock in people’s opinions of you — unless they’re paying you or having sex with you.
  • Don’t ever pass up the opportunity to see a band you really want to see. You never know when the band’s going to break up or a member is going to die or even if their next album (or tour) will suck terribly.
  • Don’t blatantly cut off a vehicle, you never know when it will be an undercover police car.
  • Speaking of police, make sure your vehicle always has a working muffler attached to it. If you do get pulled over for a missing muffler, don’t turn the wrong way onto a one-way street when you pull over. It’s also a good idea to make sure your driver’s side window will roll down otherwise you will have no choice but to hop out of the car when the officer pulls you over. This will likely cause the officer to place his hand on his gun and demand to know if you’ve been drinking.

I’m partly writing this to make me feel better about blowing up a moderately-expensive guitar pedal tonight. Mostly I wanted to share my realization that I would rather try something, even when I know it will likely end in a ball of flames, than be stuck wondering what would have happened because I was too chicken to risk failing.

If anyone wants to hear one of the stories that any of the above life lessons came out of I’d be happy to tell it to you over a beer sometime.

Precious

Sharon and I went to see the film Precious this afternoon and it’s been haunting me ever since. I’m not going to say anything that would spoil the film, but if you’re looking for an intense film with a social message then I recommend it. My mind’s dwelling on it now that I’m home alone with my thoughts.

Back to Friday night when Sharon and I wandered into Yuk Yuks comedy club to see Darryl Lennox. Dude was pretty damn funny! I need to get out to more comedy.

Saturday I was helping out with the Indie I Do event that our friends put on. It’s an alternative wedding show and has all kinds of cool things happening, most notably the burlesque performances and live DJs. Afterwards we hit up sushi where I foolishly chowed a bunch of wasabi on a dare and felt a little rough for the next hour.

Tomorrow night I’m going to see the Vancouver Canucks play the Sabres! Shan scored a couple of tickets from work and Josh wasn’t interested in the game so I get to go. Excited! Especially since the Alberta teams aren’t giving me much to root for these days.

Superstition Ain’t the Way

Earlier this evening I watched (for the umpteenth time) Stevie Wonder’s performance of Superstition on Sesame Street back in 1973. Whenever I listen to that performance I find myself bouncing around to it for the rest of the day.

Last night Sharon and I checked out Avatar. Cool film, especially the visual effects. It’s in this new 3D format and looks crazy good! The plot was somewhat predictable but it dealt with issues of imperialism and native displacement which I thought was brave of a Hollywood film.

Speaking of film, there’s another invasion of my neighborhood by the Caprica crew who have set up for a few more days of filming on Gore Ave. It’s strange walking home through sidewalks filled with lighting gear and cast members in their full sci-fi outfits. It’ll be fun to watch the series to see if I can spot my local areas. I remember the pilot episode had a part where you could see a BC Ferry in the distant background.

I’m still sorting out my new schedule now that I’m back to full-time work and working out how I’m going to fit in everything I want to accomplish this year. The first thing on my list is to get back into my gym routine, which has been spotty over the last couple of months. The other thing I’m making an effort to do is to practice the drums every day. I have this philosophy that you can predict what goals you will accomplish by looking at how much time you spend on those things each day. So for me I want to whip my ass back into shape so I need to be doing something active each day and I want to be a half-decent drummer (like Janet Weiss!) so I’m trying to sit myself down behind the drum kit each day.

And on that note I’m going to move over to the drum kit…

So we went to the cinema

I have, quite unexpectedly, met a very cool girl and I feel as though the Art Brut song Good Weekend was written as a soundtrack for the past few days. I’d write more about it but I’m getting very, very sleepy and it’s well past my bedtime.

A quick recap of the weekend:

Friday I was out with Sharon (the cute girl mentioned above) to check out Stella’s on Cambie. This used to be the home of Dadeo’s, our favorite restaurant that had started in Edmonton. Sadly the Canada Line construction on Cambie Street killed their business and they closed down about a year ago. Stella’s is a great place, not the same as Dadeo, but quite good especially with their extensive selection of Belgian beers on tap. Tasty, tasty Belgian beers.

Saturday started with breakfast at Deacon’s where I ran into one of my new co-workers. Turns out he lives just down the street from me and was also in the mood for our favorite hipster breakfast place.

In the afternoon I hosted my second BBQ at my place. The party was billed as the “sausage party” since it was a guys night out and we were going to kick it off by grilling up some bison burgers (and veggie burgers for the less-carnivorous of us). After we ate ourselves silly and rocked out to Steel Panther videos we paraded through Gastown to the Cambie for beer and more good times. The Canucks destroyed Pittsburgh in the game and the whole bar was one big cheering section as puck after puck got dumped into the Penguin’s net.

With the game over we decided to check out this underground jazz venue off Granville. It’s not an official club and you have to find a backdoor in an alley with a hidden doorbell to get in. Once inside we found ourselves in a large room furnished with cast-off couches and easy chairs that faced the low stage in front. Some avant garde jazzer was noodling on a guitar while the room full of people watched him reverently. You couldn’t even hear anyone talking and I felt like I was in some sort of church! As we watched this dude play we noticed he got weirder and weirder with his guitar technique. At first he was playing in the traditional manner but soon began to slap his guitar, then he started to run his mouth across the strings (was he trying to make out with it? Not sure, maybe he just really loved that guitar) and finally began to scrape it across his legs and anything else that would make it squeal and screech like a bunch of farm animals whooping it up at a keg party.

Finally guitar lovemaking guy left the stage and a more traditional jazz ensemble set up their instruments. Chris turned to me and said the drummer was one of the best in the city and was often out touring with international jazz acts. He wasn’t kidding because when these guys began to perform you could quickly hear that they were incredibly talented musicians! Naturally, I was focused on the drummer and the outrageous speed and finesse with which he attacked his drumset. His body language indicated he was barely working but the sticks were flying so quickly that you could hardly see them!

Today I slept in, cleared up my place from Saturday’s shenanigans, and then met up with Sharon for a late brunch at the Alibi Room so she could try what I believe is the best french toast in the city. They do two slices of french toast with a layer of brie cheese sandwiched in the middle and a topping of whipped cream and strawberries. It is delicious! Despite the temptation of the french toast I went for a more traditional chorizo omelette.

After that I chilled out with Sharon for most of the day and then chatted with a few friends this evening. Now I’m overdue for some sleep and I wish I could magically rewind back to Friday and enjoy this spectacular weekend again!

The Last Weekend of Freedom

This is my last couple of days before I jump back into the world of full time work. It’s been a busy week as I’ve been socializing and trying to clean up a bunch of things before my time gets crunched again.

Thursday night was Orthodox Christmas Day and our friends Reilly and Miranda put on a traditional Ukrainian Christmas feast for a pile of friends. Normally the feast is supposed to happen on Christmas Eve but since Tegan and Sara were playing that night the feast was had on Christmas Day. Miranda went all out and prepared 12 meatless dishes in the traditional manner. There were homemade perogies, stuffed crepes, and all kinds of other deliciousable things. I rolled out of there feeling as though I’d eaten my weight in Ukrainian food.

Last night I was out at the Frog with Reilly for a bit and when I got home a couple of friends, soon to be co-workers again, texted me saying they were at the Alibi Room. So I invited them up and we had some beers and talked about my new company, Monty Python, and Casablanca (which I want to see now).

Oh, I also got an iPhone! My old cell phone finally died and was unable to make a decent phone connection anymore so it was time to jump on the iPhone wagon. I’ve ditched my home phone now so I’m down to just the single cell number and my phone bill is actually going to be a hair less than it was when I had the two phones.

P.S. If you’re wondering about my usage of the word “deliciousable” then you’ve got to watch this ridiculous video for Jones’ Good Ass BBQ and Foot Massage.

Astronautalis Is the Surprise Hit of the Evening

I’m back from the Tegan and Sara show. Man they rocked! I’m still not totally sold on everything in the new album but there are some songs that really caught me during the performance. So tomorrow it will be time to give Sainthood a proper spin.

It was my third time seeing An Horse, the openers this evening, and I think this was the best An Horse show yet! I like them more and more each time I see them.

The first act to go on was Astronautalis who’s a dude with a theater degree that put a laptop on stage with his backing songs and then blew us away with these crazy songs about stealing and blackmail and drug dealing in the 1800’s (strange but true). The highlight for me was when some girl in the front row flipped him off and he went off on a highly entertaining rant at her expense. When he sings he sounds like a mix of Tom Waits with a rapper and an auctioneer.

So I’m totally wiped out and heading to bed. First show of 2010 was awesome and may be the best show of the year.

Don’t Rush

Don’t Rush is the title of the second track off Tegan and Sara‘s new album, Sainthood. Tomorrow night we’re seeing Tegan and Sara for the first time since the record came out and I’m quite excited about the show.

It’s taken me a good long while to get into Sainthood and it’s finally starting to click with me. I expect that after tomorrow night’s show it’ll be the only thing I listen to during the next week. For some reason it’s always taken me a length of time to get into any of Tegan and Sara’s albums.

Back when their third album, If It Was You, came out I bought it on a whim at A&B Sound. The band was already familiar to me and I’d been meaning to check them out ever since they had toured with Neil Young following their signing with his Vapor Records label in the late 90’s. Tegan and Sara would do shows in Edmonton and I kept missing them despite having a show flyer taped up on the fridge for quite some time. When I finally listened to If It Was You I found I liked the “hit” songs but didn’t get into the rest of the album.

Shortly after I’d shelved If It Was You I caught Tegan and Sara on a local TV show doing a couple of their songs and was quite impressed with how good they were live. Ever since then I kept thinking I should go see them, especially since they were playing smaller, more intimate venues like Richards on Richards.

I still didn’t go see a Tegan and Sara show despite everything in the universe pointing me towards them. When The Con came out in 2007 I kept hearing it on Australia’s Triple J radio and again swore that I would get off my ass and see them play live since their music was obviously awesome. I went down to the Sasquatch music festival in the summer 0f 2008 and discovered that as I thought, Tegan and Sara were fantastic on stage! I kicked myself for not going to see them sooner when I had so many chances. After that show I was introduced to the So Jealous album by Amanda, who is also a big Tegan and Sara fan. This has since become one of my favorite albums.

So now I find myself again listening to their new album and it’s slowly growing on me. On first listen I didn’t like it at all, probably because it sounded so much different than their So Jealous-era sound. But with a few more listens I’m starting to warm up to it and like I said earlier, after tomorrow night’s show I’m probably going to be telling everyone who will listen that this is the best album to come out in 2009. The song title, Don’t Rush, seems to exemplify how I approach this band and their music.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs For the Win!

I keep thinking about getting a record player again. I have a small collection of vinyl records, many of which you can’t find in other formats. There’s an aesthetic to vinyl that can’t be captured by downloading a bunch of music. Now that I own a house I feel like I should have a proper hifi audio system to listen to music on. It’ll give me far more joy than any television ever could. Buying vinyl will make me feel like I’m properly purchasing music again too.

Anyway, there’s a bunch of money between me and an awesome stereo with a Technics 1200 turntable, phono preamp, and fancy speakers. So in the meantime I think I’m slowly going to start picking up records in anticipation of the day when I get a shiny new turntable.

So what does this have to do with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs? Nothing, except I just discovered their first EP can be purchased on vinyl for $9.95 USD. I’ve queued it up on the computer and it’s bringing back memories of the first time I saw them.

They were opening for the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (one of my all time favorite bands) at the Commodore Ballroom in Sept of 2002 and I’d heard they were the new buzz band so I got in early to check them out. Needless to say the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were pretty wild, especially Karen O. She’s a little unglued on stage and the most fun part was when some girl from the audience jumped up and did a dance routine  for an entire song. Karen was all, “that chick was hawt!” when the girl hopped back into the crowd at the end of the song. I’ve been a big fan of the band ever since, especially their live show, which is always awesome.

The Jon Spencer show that night was the best I’ve seen him too. In fact it’s one of my all-time show highlights. I was talking to some random people before the Yeah Yeah Yeahs came on and they had decided to come up from Seattle after seeing Jon Spencer the previous night at the Showbox. They were also huge fans of the band and said that the Showbox show was the best JSBX show they’d ever seen and they had to make it up to Vancouver to see him again. They weren’t kidding – Jon Spencer owned the Commodore that night. I’ve seen him three times in total and that was by far the best show of the lot.

Also of note was this being my last show I attended without earplugs. I stood right up front the whole time with Judah Bauer’s amp facing me and the ringing in my ears went on for a couple of days. I wouldn’t be surprised if I suffered some hearing damage from that concert and I’ve been religious about earplugs ever since, especially since it hasn’t been uncommon for me to see 20+ shows a year.

Check out the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion doing some French TV thing. It starts out pretty mellow but halfway through it gets out of control. Well worth watching!

Janet Weiss Makes Me Modest

A friend mentioned that she was “…incredibly charmed by your @myfriendlisa-related modesty.” There are people who can bang away on drums and then there are talented drummers like Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney. First, my history with Sleater-Kinney and how it ties into my drumming:

When I first moved to Vancouver I fell in with a group of friends who were all big Sleater-Kinney fans. My roommate, Shannon, had picked up their then-new record, All Hands on the Bad One, and we went to the Commodore shortly after to see them perform. I had given Shannon’s records a few spins but Sleater Kinney’s recorded music didn’t grab me. What I didn’t realize when I walked into the Commodore was that I was about to see the best band I’ve ever seen in my life! They blew me away! The next day we were in Seattle and I discovered that SK and Ani Difranco were both playing the Bumbershoot Festival that day so I ditched my friends and went to see two amazing shows. Sleater-Kinney was fantastic and the Ani show was one of the best Ani shows ever!

That was in 2000 and since then I’ve seen SK nearly a dozen times, most of which I’ve traveled to the States to see since they didn’t make the trip up north that often. In 2006 they announced they were splitting up and I scooped up my girlfriend and went down to Portland that summer to watch their last ever performance. Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam showed up onstage beforehand to play a few songs and tell us that SK were one of his favorite bands as well.

So what the does this have to do with drumming and modesty?

Sleater-Kinney’s drummer was a girl named Janet Weiss and I firmly believe she’s been the best drummer in rock since John Bonham played for Led Zeppelin. One time when I was at the Showbox in Seattle I found myself captivated by Janet’s assault on the kit and I said to myself that if I ever got back into music I’d become a drummer just like Janet. Fast forward to 2008 when Reilly and I decided to form a band and I jumped into drums like I said I would at that Sleater-Kinney show.

With roughly a year of playing behind me (it’s been more like 2 years but I haven’t been playing consistently during that time) I can hold down a basic beat and throw in a few cymbal splashes here and there for color. Fortunately the music we make with My Friend Lisa isn’t as technically demanding as the last few Sleater-Kinney records and I’ve been able to keep pace with Reilly and Shan, who keep getting better and better each time I hear them. There are some percussive things I want to add to some of our songs but I don’t have the talent or speed to pull them off yet which is part of the reason that I don’t blow my own horn as a drummer.

The main reason I don’t say much about my drumming is that whenever I listen to a Sleater-Kinney record I realize just how far I have to go to be able to play like Janet Weiss. She is seriously amazing on that drum kit and I’ve added “learn 3 Sleater-Kinney songs by year end” to my list of goals for 2010. Once I can play some of the songs that Janet plays then I’ll feel like I can call myself a real drummer.

Here’s a video off their last album for one of my favorite songs – Entertain. They kept playing this song at shows before the album came out and I couldn’t wait for it to get released.

New Years Eve and My Friend Lisa’s First Show

Had a great time at the New Years Eve party last night! Heaps of people came out, the entire small keg of Granville Island Pale Ale was consumed, and our band did our first show in front of a crowd of very supportive friends.

John Beihler took some excellent photos of our performance and also took some video footage which we hope to make available in the next couple of months. Reilly and I are both gearheads so with my new microphones and Reilly’s recently-purchased Mackie mixer we’ve captured a multi-track audio recording of the show.

Speaking of new microphones, I finally went out and picked up an AKG D112 kick drum mic and another Rode M3 small diaphragm condenser mic to complete my drum overheads. Now I’ve got everything I need to properly record a drum kit and we’re hoping to get more recordings of our band in 2010. Today I moved the drum kit and microphones back up to my apartment. Next week I’m planning on laying down more drums before I start work on Jan 11.

Hope you all had a great New Years! Thanks to everyone who came out to see us and had many kind words to say about our band! I’m fortunate to be in a band with talents like Reilly and Shan.