Friends, Enemies, and Internet Losers: I have returned.

The Loudmouth Bear Reviews (books, music, movies)

George Stroumboulopoulos: The Truth on TV

Since there’s been television sets to complain about, parents have been warning their children that they “can’t believe everything [they] see on TV!” I would agree that this is very often the case, but when it comes to George Stroumboulopoulos, I’ve decided he can be trusted.

*This next bit is going to read like a second introduction and I’m pretty sure it is.

It irritates me when people talk about hating people they have never met. You can hate Lady Gaga’s music all you want or hate Charlie Sheen’s lifestyle, but you really can’t hate a person you don’t know. So whenever I hear people talk that way about George Stroumboulopoulos (which is rare but it does happen), I feel the need to defend him, having met him three times now.

The first time I met Stroumboulopoulos was in April of 2007. I was in Toronto to visit my sister and do the usual Toronto stuff: The Hockey Hall of Fame, The CN Tower, and the Allied Beauty Association’s convention and trade show (Yes, there’s a whole different story there.).

 

 

 

 

 

I also made plans to go to a taping of The Hour. It was really my main reason for going, next to seeing my sister, of course.

It was Tuesday, April 3, 2007 and his in-studio guests were James Bartleman, then the 27th Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario and Neil Sedaka; if you don’t already know who he is (shame on you), I won’t bother having to explain. But it wasn’t his interview style or the the guests that got me. It was how he dealt with the audience. During one of the breaks he started talking with someone in the crowd about hockey goaltenders. The conversation lasted the whole break. The floor manager gave him the 30 second sign. Stroumboulopoulos acknowledged it and kept talking with the audience member. At the 20 second warning, he began walking backwards to his chair, never breaking eye contact or conversation with the audience member. At 10 seconds, he was sitting in his chair still conversing with the audience member until he put his finger up for a pause, said, “Just a second”, then turned to the camera, “My next guest…”

After the show he stayed to meet every person who stayed to meet him.

 

 

 

 

 

The second time I attended a taping was November 30, 2009. His guests that day were Patrick Trahan, a motorcyclist from the Dakar Rally (who almost killed my friends and I when he arrived on his bike at the CBC, bumped into a cab, then lurched up onto the sidewalk), and Shawn Ashmore, the actor. My sister, her boyfriend, my friend Lori, and I sat front row. It was cool. At the time, I was doing my own interview show online and had a picture of Stroumboulopoulos out of sight, down by my knee. If an interview was going a little awry, I’d look down and think, “What would George do?” He signed the picture for me that day.

 

 

 

 

 

I hate Metrotown. I hate everything about Metrotown. In fact, the last time I was there was for this, five or six years ago:

Now hanging around all day making snide remarks about Canadian Idol is a great way to spend your day in the mall. Standing in line? Not so much. This past Saturday, Metrotown played host to a CBC Live event. I went to check it out. One “Lucky Facebook Winner” was given 20 or so minutes to ask Stroumboulopoulos questions, interview him. One of the questions was “Why the CBC?” Stroumboulopoulos responded that he didn’t even return their call the first time. It wasn’t until it dawned on him that there were no investors, no bottom line, at the CBC that he wanted to go work there. The CBC existed to program for a nation, not make investors rich. I decided to stay afterward to see if I could get signed posters for a couple of friends.

 

 

 

 

 

After almost two hours, and tweets like, “If I don’t get a @strombo poster b/c the line was too long, next person to walk by with a Heartland poster is getting punched on her 14yr old tit!”, I finally got a chance to meet him again, shake his hand, and get a couple of personalized autographs for my friends. Standing in line makes you punchy, I know, but I really wasn’t worried. Just as I figured, he stayed. While the Dragon’s Den guy was long gone with the cast of The Republic of Doyle, Stroumboulopoulos, “George” as he always introduces himself, was still chatting wildly with the first two people in line.

He is the real deal, Truth on TV. If you don’t like his show, fine. But if you’re going to slam him, shake his hand and look him in the eye before you do. It’s not being star struck either. Stroumboulopoulos is no star; he’s Canada’s boyfriend.


UNISON Music Fest – Night #2

After the way Gonch Messiah polished off Friday night, I knew Saturday would be insane.

The room filled quicker; the familiar faces were everywhere; it was insane.

The evening started with Mark & John (from The Get Down) playing a wonderful set that too many people didn’t see. This is why you come early to shows people.

Next up, JP & The Black Sheep got the room spinning with a high energy set.

Filling the middle slot for the evening was I’m Not Frank. At this point, I officially lost count how many bands Jon Fredriksen and Hamish Thomson play in together.

As Upper Levels took the stage, you could feel the room buzz. I’d spoken with all of them earlier and they were nervous. Nervous that they should have rehearsed more. Nervous that they just couldn’t cut it any more. Nervous. My response? “Fuck you. You’re Upper Levels.”

Ian Fergusen, sound man from The Sandy Cove introduced them. And then it started, the audio mindfuck that was, is, and always will be Upper Levels… all cranked to 11, of course. I snapped some hurried pics of the first bar of the first song because I wasn’t going to spend this set snapping pics. No sir. The time machine had cranked up to full power. Stephen Hawking says you can’t go back. I’m sorry sir, but you’re wrong. Almost two decades disappeared in an instant. Gone. Washed away by music that hasn’t aged a day. They just opened the bottle and it poured out from where they had left it.

Hamish Thomson has never made a bad decision about music. Until now. Whatever possessed him to ask a reeling, long-winded drunk to introduce them is beyond me. However, I was flattered by the request and graciously accepted.

In my introduction, I said that even with all the years I’d known them and all the years I’d been writing, I was still at a loss to describe Big Tall Garden. I still am.

They simply are the best. Even that isn’t good enough for them.


UNISON Music Fest – Night #1

Last night (Friday, November 26), the North Shore Music faithful packed themselves into the Eagle’s Hall @ 170 W.3rd, North Vancouver.

It is all “Hall”, the kind of place you’d have a wedding reception for 100 people or so, but Hamish and his set-decorator/guitar impressario Duane Murrin, had the place looking awesome by showtime.

Laura Smith takes the stage around 8:30, her elfin frame barely filling the stage, but her voice certainly filling the room. It’s a great set of well-played toe tappers, all ending with an endearing smile and a quiet, “Thank you.”

Black Powder Toys power their way through a heartfelt accoustic set. They finish their set with a tip of their hat to The Sandy Cove, the West Vancouver beer hall where most of the people in the room tonight met in one way or another, and “Alive” by Pearl Jam. More than a few grey-haired heads crack a wistful smile.

Nearly two decades ago, I hung a straight jacket-clad Joe Hoskins upside down under a bridge. It wasn’t a fetish phase; it was a video shoot for Dead Head Miles’ track, “Suffocate”. So, when I heard Joe would be drumming tonight for Baked Potato, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Five minutes later, Twitter told the tale: Baked Potato: C- name. A+++ band. They are KILLING it. And they’re having fun too!

It was an absolutely amazing set that could have gone all night. I also wondered if the bass player’s moustache was a regular feature or a Movember thing because that piece of facial awesomeness could have single-handedly cured prostate cancer.

Ten Suns are, from what I could glean from Hamish, moving forward from where The Hermit left off because he wants to take The Hermit back to its origins and continue down the path it was on with Ten Suns. Yeah, I’m confused too. Anyway, none of that mattered when they play. It is melodic and high energy (Lead singer, Red, could get a rave going in an old folks home). In short: Kick ass.

*photographer’s gripe: fucking mic stands

Gonch Messiah… It was so good to see these guys back on stage again. About midway through their set, I think I finally got (after 18 or so years) what Gonch Messiah means as a band name: once they cut into the funk that is their living legacy, a lot of underwear was being led to the promised land on the dance floor. Love.

So a wonderful night was had by all. AND they’re doing it all again tonight (Saturday, November 27).

If this was the opening, I cannot wait for the close.

Tonight’s line-up:

Big Tall Garden w/ Upper Levels, I’m Not Frank, JP & The Black Sheep, and Mark & James

North Vancouver Eagles Hall, 170 West 3rd, North Vancouver. Doors @8. Music @ 8:30


Baron S. Cameron, thy name is vanity [and unemployed]

Dear Friends, It has come to my attention that having money and a legal source of income is somewhat of a necessity these days. To that end I have decided to promote and sell action figures. Please browse the catalogue below.

University Grad

BA Literature and History, UBC 2001 Model shown.
Advanced Professional Communications, Capilano University 2007 Model also available
Construction Worker
Rivendell Dreamworks, Courtenay, BC, Model
Wakefield Millworks, North Vancouver, BC, Model available
Gardener / Landscaper
Home Model shown.
Documentary Filmmaker
The Poetic Voice (1999) Model shown here.
Video and Sound Editing Models not shown but also available.
Writer
Short Story Model shown.
Screenwriter, Research, and Editing Models also available.
Culture Warrior and Social Commentator
Radio BSC/BSCTV (Interviews) Model shown.
Hey, Dumbass! (Social Commentary) and The Aging Rockstar Reviews (Local Music) Models also available.
Photographer
Musician
Other models include:
Home Depot Hardware Dept.
Safeway Meat and Fish Depts.
Karaoke Host and DJ
and Just All Around Swell Guy.
So, if you or someone you know is interested in purchasing one of the above action figures (more of a rental actually, 9-5, Monday to Friday… that sort of thing) please feel free to contact me.
If you have a sense of humour and don’t mind helping a guy out, please repost this blog.
Cheers,
BSC

A Fond Farewell

Last Friday at The Anza Club was a fitting send off for Vancouver’s SWANK! and the second of three of the Sound Lounge Presents Concert Series.

Let me start by saying this: Jonathan Todd is why I go to shows. When SWANK! played their first show ever, this troubadour was yet to be conceived, let alone born. I wouldn’t be surprised if told his frame is as big as it is to hold the heart that beats within. If you can imagine Gary Farmer with Bob Dylan’s hands and Rufus Wainwright’s voice, you’d be getting close. He plays a mix of originals and covers, covers which include a show stopping rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” that I have no problem telling you actually brought me to tears.

Listening to Jonathan Todd progress through the opening set was like finding a $20 bill in the pocket of a pair of jeans and then realizing it’s actually a cheque from Lotto BC for a couple million dollars.

Next to take the stage that evening was The Jardines. The Jardines are a country/folk outfit made up of the mother/daughter duo of Cherelle and Ajaye. Cherelle Jardine, along with Kirk Douglas, is one of the organizers of the concert series.

This is the first time I have seen The Jardines with the full 8-piece band. I had previously seen them perform as a duo at West Vancouver’s Harmony Arts Festival this past summer. My two favourite songs that day, “Addicted to the Burn” and “Neptune’s Daughter”, transform seamlessly into ballads adapted for the full band and are easily my favourites again. There was perhaps a bit too much chatter about the songs between the songs (I always prefer to let the song act as stories in and of themselves without added preamble), but the banter between Cherelle and Ajaye is also largely due to Cherelle and her daughter being able to share moments [on stage] that very few mothers/daughters can.

Finishing the evening (literally), Swank took the stage for their last show. After 18 years they’ve decided to go out on a high note. When not every heart beats in unison, it can only throw the music off, eventually. Swank are too good of musicians, too good of friends to ever let that happen. Thankfully Swank has left us with a lot to remember them by. In fact, the song, “Donkey Cart” off Campfire Psalms is on my shortlist of Best Songs of All Time, sharing shelf space with The Who, Judy Garland, and Kermit the Frog.

Swank’s stage persona always feels relatively light; they are all accomplished and serious musicians but Swank shows are/were always an equal mix of sheer talent and sheer joy to perform. That night was no different. Except for one thing… when it’s the last song, everyone dances just that little bit harder. During Swank’s set, Douglas Liddle and Dave Badanic carved into their guitars with no mercy. On the faster, “rockier” songs, I was transported to all the indie, all ages, church basement shows of my youth, when at 17 years old, I’d watched many a beaten, second-hand guitar hammer out the West Coast Garage sound with the fury of an avalanche.

Swank are just damn good and there’s no two ways about it or super-poetic way to put it otherwise.

Spencer McKinnon (vocals/harmonica) led the band through the set like a Southern Minister possessed by fire and brimstone, his pulpit a stage, his sermon a rock and roll revival meeting that had us all speaking in tongues. You can’t have fury without the thunder, supplied in abundant surplus by Phil Addington (bass) and Kirk Douglas (drums).

After the show, I grab the couch in the Sound Lounge’s control room for a quick nap. Douglas takes a moment to sit down before heading back next door to finish packing up the gear and Swank.

“That was a hard show to play,” he says, a wistful smile creeping up on his tired face.

I bet it was at that. It’s sad to see you go but it was indeed my pleasure to watch you leave.


SWAN[K!] Song

When I was 15, I went to Europe with my parents. We took the “Grand Tour” and I found myself face to face with the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I also found myself in another of my bell-ringing arguments with my father. At the end of it all, stubborn and moody, I refused to climb the tower with the other tourists. A couple of years later, the tower was closed to the public for safety reasons and I had missed an opportunity that was truly once in a life time.

Twenty years later, I was at a sold out show at the Commodore. The Town Pants were having their first Boozapalooza to celebrate their 10 year anniversary as a band. I didn’t miss SWANK! that night; I kind of got so drunk that I forgot them. Unlike Pisa’s stone banana, however, it was an omission I could rectify.

Boozapalooza

The release party for Campfire Pslams remains the best album release party I have ever attended. The Railway club was filled with well wishing friends and partiers who got exactly what they came for. SWANK! played an acoustic set, followed by their friends singing karaoke versions of the songs from the new album (the karaoke disc came as an extra with the actual CD). The evening was capped off with SWANK! blowing the doors off the club in all their amplified glory.

SWANK! circa 1996

Why the nostalgia?

This Friday (Oct 1, 2010), SWANK! will play their final show. After 18 years of wearing out dancing shoes the world round, SWANK! are powering down the amps for the last time. They’ll be closing the second of the Sound Lounge Presents Concert Series with The Jardines and Jonathan Todd.

The Jardines will be playing with the full 8-person compliment on stage and Jonathan Todd, a stranger to me, who managed to wow the socks of Kirk Douglas recording at the Sound Lounge; not an easy task to be sure. It is destined to be an evening of Vancouver music legend.

In Ireland 2006

I lost my only chance to see Pisa from her leaning tower. I’ll be damned if I miss my last chance to see SWANK! perform as a band. For those of you who find this the first, last, and only chance to see SWANK!, do yourself a favour and head down to the Anza Club this Friday and write yourself into legend.

The Sound Lounge Presents

SWANK! w/

The Jardines & Jonathan Todd

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Anza Club

3 W 8th Ave
Vancouver, BC
(604) 876-7128

Tickets: $10


A Chat With The Jardines

Here’s a clip of the highlights from an interview I did with Cherelle and Ajaye Jardine, along with Michael Flunkert and Kirk Douglas at Sound Lounge Productions in Vancouver.

You can find out more about The Jardines HERE

Visit Sound Lounge Productions HERE

Come and see The Jardines play live with SWANK! (it’s their last show, their SWAN[K] Song I suppose) and Jonathan Todd at The Anza Club on October 1, 2010,