Rollins, Dinosaur Jr., Deep Dark Woods, Wu Lyf, and Kyuss!

It’s been a busy month with me fighting some kind of super-cold/cough/flu thing and trying to get ready for Christmas. Here’s a rundown of the last shows this year:

Wu Lyf – Friday Nov 18 at The Electric Owl

This was  a band my friend Shannon is heavily into and I came out solely on his recommendation, having never heard them before. There’s not much out there about the band from Manchester, England since they don’t do interviews and don’t publish much about themselves. Their work is self-produced and self-released so their popularity is all word-of-mouth.

The opening band, Crystal Antlers, rocked it and featured the keyboardist from the Mars Volta. Shanman talked to him after, apparently he produced the Crystal Antlers album and has been doing his own solo stuff while Mars Volta is hanging out until Cedric and Omar gather everyone up for the next album.

Wu Lyf was an interesting band to watch. Not sure if I can describe their music. Part Joy Division, part early U2, but different than both those bands. They definitely have a rabid batch of fans in Vancouver. Seems all the college-age indie kids came out in force. A mosh pit started up right away. Strange, because it’s not the sort of music that warranted moshing. The singer made a comment about guys removing their shirts and the drunken college mosh crowd obliged turning the front section into a sweaty mess of male torsos. Ugh. Time to move to the back!

I enjoyed the show and also enjoyed finally checking out the Electric Owl, a new venue on the site of the old American Hotel which had been notorious as a drug-infested dive bar that was eventually raided by the police and shut down. The Electric Owl is a great place to see a band. Nice high stage, well-laid out, and very new and clean. I hope there’s more shows there in the new year.

 Kyuss Lives! – Wednesday, Nov 23 at The Commodore Ballroom

I finally got to see Kyuss, or most of the band, now billed as “Kyuss Lives!” since founding member Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures, Eagles of Death Metal) didn’t participate in the reunion of one of the best (and most underrated) stoner rock bands of the 90’s.

The band laid down a faithful rendition of their heavy, rumbling songs from all 3 albums. Brant Bjork’s drumming was the highlight for me. The guy just looks cool with his long black hair, bandanna, and thick moustache.

So happy I saw them. I never thought I’d ever see Kyuss and I’m excited to read that they’ve been working on a new album. Hopefully it lives up to the old stuff and doesn’t suck like new albums from recently-reunited 90’s bands (Jane’s Addiction – I’m looking at you here).

Opening band The Sword ripped into us with some intense metal. My high school self would have loved The Sword. I enjoyed their show, but I’m not so much of a metalhead anymore.

The Deep Dark Woods – Saturday, Nov 26 at The Biltmore

I’ve always enjoyed seeing The Deep Dark Woods, a small folksy jam band from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Their singer always growls about funny stuff during their shows, which he did at the Biltmore show. They turned some of my favorite songs into epic jam sessions and the show featured several appearances from local violin player Kendel Carson, who has been making a pretty big name for herself as a solo artist.

Another local band, The Sumner Brothers, opened the show and I would say they nearly stole it from the Deep Dark Woods. One guy has a raspy, Tom Waits style voice which I enjoyed. I’ll have to see them again. They’re from Vancouver so we likely won’t have to wait long.

Dinosaur Jr. – Sunday, Dec 18 at The Commodore Ballroom

I’d never really listened to Dinosaur Jr. before their show and I decided to go because a heap of my friends were going and Henry Rollins was going to interview the band before they played.

The interview was interesting. The band’s history is that they made 3 critically-acclaimed albums before Lou Barlow, the bassist, left the band and formed Sebadoh. During the interview Lou made a crack about being kicked out of the band.

Dinosaur Jr. killed it on stage. Lou flailed at his bass, J. Mascus, surrounded by 3 stacks of Marshall amplifiers, put up a wall of guitar noise, and Murph kept everything together on drums.

They played their 3rd album (and last album before Lou split), Bug, and I spent the whole show anticipating the song Don’t which is another wall of guitar noise punctuated by shrieking and screaming “Don’t you like me?!” I guess the band members are too old to destroy their voices on that song so they brought up a local guy named Devon to do the screaming for them.

Reilly ran into Devon the other night and asked him about the D Jr. show. Apparently Devon is in a local band called Beekeeper and hooked up the song through a friend of a friend connection. I thought he rocked it and I’m going to have to keep an eye out for them.

Get my ham glazed

Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears were outrageously good at the Rickshaw tonight. He’s like Eddie Murphy and James Brown rolled into one dude. 7 piece band with a horn section and everyone tight and high energy. Old blacksploitation films projected behind the band, bassist pulling off ridiculous dance moves.

Sheepdogs (from Saskatoon!) opened. Like a bunch of shaggy bears led by a viking doing authentic 70’s rock music. Glad to have seen them finally. Bought their album on vinyl too. One day I’ll have to pick up an amp to plug the record player into so I can play all this stuff.

Cold’s nearly gone and I made it back into swimming tonight too. Our swimming class is shrinking which is kinda nice when it’s smaller. Still learning lots and am excited about making swimming a part of my regular routine soon.

Now sleep.

Wild Flag

When news broke out that Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss of Sleater Kinney were in a new band with Mary Timony of Helium, you couldn’t look at an indie-rock website without a headline about Wild Flag splashed across it. That was over a year ago and I’ve been waiting to see this band play ever since.

Their new album is good. Really good in fact. The kind of album that doesn’t grab you at first with a catchy, but quickly tiresome song, rather the kind off music that rewards repeated listens. You start to dig into one song and then another song opens up for you and then you discover that gem at the end of the album and wonder how you ever overlooked it in the first place.

I finally got to see the band at the Biltmore on Saturday night. I was still reeling from a cold that kicked in during the week but was determined not to miss Wild Flag. And what a show it was! Easily one of the best shows this year, if not in my lifetime. Musically it’s like a rollercoaster, it builds up and then roars ahead before slowing into a feedback-soaked jam.

Carrie really let go with the vocals and was much less restrained than she was on the album. There were a couple of new songs and some extended jams in the album tracks.

I’m glad I got to see them. The music is fantastic and seeing new songs makes me hopeful they’ll be back in a year or two after dropping a new album.

How long can this blizzard of shame go on?

I’ve been looking forward to the Rum Diary film which is based of the book by Hunter S. Thompson. It was well done and I won’t say anything to spoil it other than to say I enjoyed it immensely.

After the show we wandered into the Legion on Commercial since it was just down the road from the Rio Theater. Interesting place with a spectrum of characters starting at young hipsters through to old veterans. Tall cans of Pilsner were on for $4.50, a hell of a deal these days, and we got an entry into a draw for a Pilsner longboard (skateboard) with every can we bought.

On the way home I got into a bit of a confrontation with some metalhead who was being arrogant about his taste in music. Apparently those guys don’t take it too well when you tell them that Gordon Lightfoot’s lyrics were heavier than any metal they could dish out. I also said something about Nickleback being a superior band which didn’t help things.

Looks like there’s a breakfast plan being put together. Haven’t done breakfast out in a long long time. My Mom flies into town this afternoon too so I’ll be hanging out with her when she arrives.


I forgot it was Halloween tonight. This would explain why there are roman candles blowing off throughout downtown. Kids in East Van don’t trick or treat in our neighborhood. I was joking to Sharon that we’d have to hand out beers if any came to the door.

My schedule is crammed full again. I’ve begun a swimming program through Seahiker, a local company who teaches swimming. What I like about the program so far is they break everything down into simple steps which makes it really easy to learn. So my Tuesday and Thursday nights are swim nights now.

My Mom’s in town next week and I’ve got a whole bunch of shows happening in November.

In music news I’ve been listening to the new Stephen Malkmus album. It was a bit slow to get into it but now that I’ve spun it a few times I’m becoming my usual obsessive self with his music. Pitchfork filmed them performing a few new songs on a rooftop if you want to see the band in action.

New Blitzen Trapper album is fantastic as is Justice’s second album which seems as though it’s been a long time coming. Wild Flag’s been in rotation too, naturally. Show is only a couple weeks away!

Ocean Shores

I’ve been on blogging hiatus. I’m starting to write again. Think I just needed a break. Anyhow, I wanted to share some adventures from June when Sharon and I camped out in Ocean Shores for her birthday. We try and make a birthday trip every year. First year was Saltspring Island and this past year was Ocean Shores. Not sure what we’ll do for 2012 but there’s lots of time to figure that out.

Ocean Shores is a little place on a peninsula in Washington, just west of Olympia and Aberdeen. I’ve always wanted to check that area out since Aberdeen is where Kurt Cobain grew up and Olympia was a hotbed of indie music in the 1990’s. We swung into Evergreen State College on the way home and wandered around. Sleater-Kinney, one of my favorite bands, was founded while Carrie and Corin went there.

Aberdeen is a ragged little industry town. I can imagine someone like Kurt Cobain building up some angst in a town like that. Sharon and I hit up a movie theater and did a little clothes shopping in a mall. We also hit a grocery store where I discovered 3 liter cans of chocolate syrup! Ugh. Makes me queasy thinking about it.

Welcome to Aberdeen

It took all day to drive down. We stopped at Trader Joe’s in Olympia to stock up (especially for their incredibly delicious Hefeweisen beer) and made the campsite at around 10pm, just in time to grab a spot before they closed the gates. I set up the tent using the car’s headlights and we settled in for the night.

The next day we wheeled down to the town of Ocean Shores and a scan of the radio dial unearthed a public access radio station with some old hippie doing jazz music. We were in stitches listening to this guy! He would ramble on, lose his train of thought, and then jump into a rant about something entirely unrelated. I managed to grab a recording of him talking about spiking his coffee. After some of his jazz music we heard him ranting about something, but it really didn’t make any sense until we realized that he had the booth mic on while he was talking on the phone, unaware that his end of the conversation was being broadcast!

The beaches around there are so much fun. Everybody rips around on them in their vehicles and when we went to Ocean Shores we got to see the main area where people would fly kites and hang out. As Sharon pointed out, the roar of the open ocean is much different than the sheltered beaches we have in Vancouver.

Tire Tracks on the Beach

Later that day we checked out the Flag Day parade in Ocean Shores then packed up and wheeled down to Grayland Beach. That’s another beautiful area with a huge beach. Really nice campground too.

Darren and beer while camping in June

Finally it was time to come home. It’s nearly a full day’s drive to get back from Grayland and we took time to stop in Olympia for another Trader Joe’s visit as well as REI in Seattle. I find MEC lacking now that I’ve been to REI. So much more stuff! Especially for bikes. It really doesn’t compare.

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Sugar Foot

For someone who swore off shows I’ve got a whole pile lined up:

Thursday, Nov 10 – Yukon Blonde at the Biltmore
Saturday, Nov 12 – Wild Flag at the Biltmore
Thursday, Nov 17 – Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears with The Sheepdogs at the Rickshaw
Friday, Nov 18 – Wu Lyf at the Electric Owl
Wednesday, Nov 23 – Kyuss Lives! at the Commodore
Saturday, Nov 26 – The Deep Dark Woods at the Biltmore
Saturday, Dec 18 – Dinosaur Jr. with Henry Rollins (he’s interviewing the band before they play onstage — should be interesting) at the Commodore

I’m most excited about the Black Joe Lewis show. Dude’s like the second coming of James Brown and with The Sheepdogs opening it’s going to be a wild night of music.

If you haven’t listened to Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears then do your earholes a favor and go check out their video for Sugarfoot. Then ask yourself why you can’t get it together to come see this rocking ass show!

Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears – Sugarfoot

Now hit up the Sheepdogs, an awesome band from Saskatoon who won the contest to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

The Sheepdogs – I Don’t Know

Also, tickets are on sale tomorrow (Wed, Oct 26) at 10am for the Nov 14 screening of Tegan and Sara’s film.






So I fell out of the bed last night…

Some nights when I’m sleeping I have vivid dreams and I’ll wake with a start, shouting and sometimes flailing at an imaginary snake or other menace. When Sharon moved in she brought her recently-purchased bed to replace the aging one that I had inherited from friends of mine. I’ve taken to sleeping right at the edge as though my body was trying to reject the comfortable middle. Maybe it’s because the new bed doesn’t sag and it feels strange for my body to be horizontal when I move closer to the center.

Last night I had another intense dream. This time I was in my Mom’s house, in the spare room, and the side door was open where I was sure there was some sort of creature or dangerous criminal at the threshold. I jumped up and lunged towards the door only to wake up yelling “ahhhhhh” as I fell right off the bed onto my floor.

After making sure I was ok, Sharon demanded that I try and sleep closer to the middle. It felt awkward and unnatural and I wasn’t really able to get back to sleep. It was 5am and nearly time to get up anyway.

There’s been much change in my life over the past few months. Sharon moving in is the most recent event and it’s going to take some time for me to adjust to things like sleeping in the middle of a new bed. It’s likely going to take her some time to discover all my quirks and strange ways that come from being a bachelor who’s never understood the point of spending money on comfort.

Pearl Jam 20

Last night we wheeled up to the Esplanade 6 theater in North Vancouver to see the Pearl Jam 20 film. The film was only played on Sept 20 at 7pm and anyone who missed it will have to wait for the DVD release on October 24. It covers Pearl Jam’s 20 year history with a heap of archival footage and interviews.

They would have been a wild band to see when the got started out. Their shows were high-energy and Eddie would climb onto lighting racks and speaker towers, often to jump into the crowd below. Check out this clip from their first Pink Pop Festival appearance in 1992. There was some good footage of them yelling at MTV execs at the Singles release party and many of their early shows. Everyone there was happy to see a clip from Pearl Jam’s first show at the Town Pump in Vancouver where Eddie was getting worked up about the bouncers roughing up some kid in the crowd.

The theater even brought in a young, likely local, band to do a few PJ covers before the film. Neat band. Drummer played like Animal off The Muppets.

Beyond the Wheel

That was the title of my favorite song from tonight’s amazing Soundgarden show. Those guys came out and thundered! They haven’t put out the new album yet so it was a set full of their early stuff like Gun, Beyond the Wheel, Slaves and Bulldozers, and many, many other great songs.

Chris Cornell was sporting a new beard and long hair that made him look a little like “The Dude” from Big Lebowski. Kim Thayil was all mysterious looking and was also rocking the beard but with much more grey than he had back in the 90’s.

Meat Puppets, who you might know from having written a couple of songs that Nirvana covered on their Unplugged performance, put on an inspired set to start things out. Those dudes are getting old, but they still rock out. The bassist looks a bit like Relic from the Beachcombers. They had a short show but managed to stuff it full of the Nirvana unplugged material and their big 90’s hit, Backwater. I’m glad I finally got to see them.

Then Queens of the Stone Age came out and delivered an avalanche of rock. Josh and his band are tight and blew through their time. It seemed like they’d just gotten started and then they had to leave. In hindsight they performed a bunch of songs but it all went by too quickly.

Now I’m home, starting to wind down, and have to pack for my cycle trip (my first real one!) to Nanaimo tomorrow to hang out with Dave for the weekend.