Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Bonus Metric Anecdote

As a follow-up to yesterday's concert review, it was with no small measure of amusement that I noted "Dead Disco" as Metric's opening song.  It happened to the track that introduced me to Metric back in 2005, in a backhanded way.

In my university radio days, my pal Dave and I hosted a weekly morning show.  For the many, many, many of you who never listened to it, I can only describe it as the greatest radio show you've ever heard.  Imagine two guys who only kind of barely knew what they were doing, hosting a show with a virtually non-existent audience*, and playing wall-to-wall outstanding music. 

* = the station manager didn't enjoy it when we openly mentioned our small listenership on the air.  I wonder why!

So if you're working on any sort of radio broadcast, big or small, you still have to adhere to Canadian broadcasting regulations.  As per Canadian content (CanCon) laws, a certain number of minutes per hour had to be devoted to Canadian musicians and/or new music, as in music released within the last year.  Our station had a shelf of CDs in the studio devoted to both new music, Canadian music, and both, so we had easy access to picking stuff out over the course of our show that allowed us to meet our quota.

Picking music that was both new and Canadian killed two birds with one stone, so when Dave and I found a new/Canadian song we liked, we'd tend to make it part of our regular rotation.  Or, "liked."  One week, we more or less randomly grabbed Metric's first album off the new/Canadian shelf since we'd vaguely heard of them, and played Dead Disco simply because the name stood out.

After playing the song, our next step was to talk on the air about...how we didn't care for the song.  Frankly, I didn't think the song was all that bad, just kind of forgettable.  But it fit with the generally irreverent tone of our show to make fun of what we just played, and then to make fun of ourselves for playing it.  ("What kind of incompetents play a song without ever hearing it?  What if Emily Haines had randomly started dropped f-bombs?") 

We amused each other with our dialogue so much that we played Dead Disco again the next week, continuing the running joke.  "Why are we playing this song again?!  We don't even care for it!"  This seemed like a funnier idea for us than, you know, playing a different song off the album, or actually listening to the record in the first place to pick out a song we truly enjoyed.  Anyway, Dead Disco ended up being played every week until it no longer qualified as new, and was thus banished to the netherworld of the CD archive room.  Or, maybe it kept being played for a while after that, since Metric obviously became a pretty popular band.  I stopped doing the show, so I have no idea.

With all this in mind, it's funny that I didn't become a proper Metric fan since 2012, since I already had such clear awareness of them.  It's also funny that both Dave and I saw Metric in separate concerts in separate cities this past week, thus giving the band the last laugh after all.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Metric, Live

I guess I didn’t do any sort of formal “best music of 2018” post, but my favourite album was Metric’s Art Of Doubt.  Even without this latest surge in interest in Metric’s work, I was still likely going to see them on this current tour for the simple fact that I’d somehow never seen a proper Metric concert in my six-plus years of fandom.  As I recall, I really got into Synthetica literally days after they’d completed their 2012 tour dates, and I forget why I didn’t see them when they were touring the Pagans In Vegas record in 2015.  Pure apathy, which is the reason behind so many of my non-decisions, or was it just the fact that I found PIV somewhat underwhelming?  Gimme apathy.

The venue was none other than my hometown’s own Budweiser Gardens, an arena that I’ve visited shockingly few times.  I’ve been to a couple of Knights games, and as far as concerts go, Metric is only my third in 14 years — the other two were Pearl Jam and Elton John, in case you want to dominate your next Mark-themed pub trivia night.  The Gardens is pretty solid as far as venues go; it’s relatively intimate at a 9000-person capacity, and the acoustics seem decent.  Nothing Metric could’ve done during their concert, however, was going to top my all-time favourite music memory from the Gardens, which was my mother yelling “The Bitch Is Back” at the top of her lungs during Elton John’s show.

Now, I should note that I did technically see Metric live just last year, as the opening act for the Smashing Pumpkins.  It was fine, they sounded good, and they played most of those same songs in their full-length concert.  Yet it’s certainly different seeing a band in their own show than as an opening act, since I can’t help but feel that they’re simply more into it when they’re the headliner.  Playing to a half-empty arena that is mostly interested in the main act can’t be too rewarding an experience, unless maybe you’re opening for a very big band in a stadium or something, and it’s a kick to be playing in an enormous venue that you’d never get to play on your own. 

Tonight’s opening acts were some random singer-songwriter guy whose set I entirely skipped, and then July Talk, whose set I mostly skipped.  I was too busy taking advantage of a concession stand deal that promised “bottomless popcorn” for just $7.  Two and a half bags later, I feel I did indeed hit rock bottom.  Since I could hear the gravelly/tuneless voice of July Talk’s singer from the concourse, I just stayed out there to eat popcorn and watch hockey.  The Avalanche beat the Sharks, fyi.

Metric themselves, however, got my full attention.  It was a good show!  I’m not sure if a ton of the songs were necessarily much better live than on the albums, and in fact I felt a few of them could’ve used some extra instrumentation.  The only people on stage were the four band members and no backing musicians, which left some songs sounding a little thin.  An extra rhythm guitarist could’ve worked, or maybe a full-time keyboardist so Emily Haines (who did part-time keyboard and guitar duty) had free reign to just jump around and sing.  Not that she wasn’t full of energy all night, jumping and dancing and getting the notoriously lethargic London audience into the show.

The setlist!  It was a heavy dose of new songs off Art Of Doubt, except for the unusual omission of new single “Love You Back.”  Apparently Metric has been playing basically this exact setlist for the entire tour, so I’m glad I didn’t spoil myself on the running order prior to the show.

1. Dead Disco
2. Twilight Galaxy
3. Synthetica
4. Risk
5. Breathing Underwater
6. Art Of Doubt
7. No Lights On The Horizon
8. Cascades
9. Dressed to Suppress
10. Love Is A Place
11. Underline The Black
12. Gimme Sympathy
13. Sick Muse
14. Gold Guns Girls
***encore break***
15. Dark Saturday
16. Monster Hospital
17. Black Sheep
18. Help I’m Alive
19. Now Or Never Now

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Playoff Beard

So, my Stanley Cup picks aren't looking too hot, as I sit a cool 1-for-8 after the first round.  In fairness, I don't think anyone could've predicted the incredible number of upsets in this postseason.  On the down side, the only series I predicted correctly was Boston over Toronto, which was the one I absolutely wanted to get wrong.  The Maple Leafs lost in seven games again, though with two added twists of the knife for their fans ---- a) the Leafs won the first, third, and fifth games, so they always seemed on the verge of really taking control before their inevitable defeat, and b) even in the most upset-filled playoffs in history, Toronto still couldn't beat the Bruins.

But that's not the biggest story of this postseason.  The big story is my playoff beard.

Heading into Game One, I hadn't shaved in six or seven days, for no other reason than just simple laziness.  Just before going out with friends to the pub to watch the game, I was planning to shave, only to realize that I didn't have any razors.  So I showed up pretty rugged to the pub, and it was there that the idea was hatched that I shouldn't shave for the remainder of the Maple Leafs' playoff run.

It was a combination of two interesting concepts.  For one, the playoff beard is a distinguished hockey tradition that I'd never been a part of because...well, mostly because I've never played hockey before.  (Ice hockey, that is, since I was player/coach of a championship-winning intramural floor hockey team back in eighth grade.  But, that legendary triumph is another story for another time.)  Secondly, I've been shaving my head for almost 16 years, and I was kind of curious to see what would happen if I just decided to let things grow.  Would I get any growth at all on the top of my bald head?  Would I end up with just the Ed Harris-style cul-de-sac of hair that almost every man on my dad's side of the family eventually ends up with?  How bushy would this beard get?

As we close in on three weeks without shaving, the results are still pretty inconclusive.  I definitely have a visible amount of beard, though it's not really as thick as I'd hoped.  I wasn't expecting Santa Claus after three weeks, but even still, I think I can do better.  There's also the fact that there seems to be some grey hairs in the beard, which is just yikes.  Even stranger, it's unnerving having Walt Frazier and Keith Hernandez following me around at all times, telling me that my beard is weird and that my stache is trash.

So, while the Leafs may be finished, the beard is not.  I've decided that it's unfair to penalize this beard by tying its fate to the Leafs' inevitable doom.  Ergo, I will now keep the beard through the entirety of the Raptors' playoff run, which always stood to be much more promising than the Maple Leafs' postseason.  As I noted in my NBA predictions, it isn't out of the question for the Raptors to reach the NBA Finals, though they'll have a tough go in the second round against the 76ers to deal with first and foremost.  If you think about it, a playoff beard is more fitting for the Raptors than the Maple Leafs anyway.  After all, you think of a beard, you think of a caveman.  You think cavemen, you think dinosaurs.  And raptors, as that sci-fi classic Timmy and the Cloneosaurus taught us, are dinosaurs.  Plus, Walt Frazier was a Knicks legend, not a Rangers legend.

Will I end up shaving this beard in a week or so anyway, or could I potentially get another month...six weeks...TWO months' worth of growth out of this thing?  Could I ironically end up with a James Harden-style beard while the Raptors are actually facing Harden's Rockets in the NBA Finals?

Sunday, April 21, 2019

A Song Of Vanilla Ice & Fire

This has been on the internet for almost two years, but I'm only discovering it now??  What's wrong with me?!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Baby Elephant Mock

My plans to be the next great children's entertainer may have hit a snag.

My little niece Olivia (not a real niece, but the daughter of a friend) is 18 months, and diligently learning her animals.  She's got his little picture collage with several different animals portrayed, and she can unfailingly identify many of them --- if you say the animal's name, she'll point to it.  She can easily find a starfish, an octopus, and a shark, so clearly she's destined to be a George Costanza-style marine biologist.

One animal she was having trouble with was the elephant.  So, being a great uncle, I decided to help her identification process by miming what an elephant looks like.  I stuck my arm across my face like it was a big trunk, and let loose a mighty bellow.  Olivia found this totally delightful, and our animal-ID game was somewhat delayed while she insisted that I do it over and over.  It eventually got to the point where she herself was putting her arm over his nose, imitating a trunk!  Oh, it was ever so adorable.

At first, I assumed I was the world's greatest educator since every time I said "elephant," she didn't only just find the elephant on the page, she immediately put her arm up to her nose.  Even more impressively, the only time she didn't do this was to point behind us to the shelf.  Sitting on that shelf was, you guessed it, her Snuffleupagus toy.  Well, okay, I guess you might've first guessed an actual elephant, but still, Snuffy is pretty darn close.

As I was just on the verge of creating a LinkedIn page for myself as a freelance tutor for pre-K children, however, I suddenly realized a flaw in my system.  By repeating the elephant/nose thing so often, Olivia hadn't just begun to associate the arm/nose gesture with an elephant...she associated it with me, full stop.  So now every time she sees me, she automatically makes the elephant nose.

Now, I'm as willing as the next man to poke fun at my own obesity.  But now I've created a situation where a child may or may not consider me to be an actual human/elephant hybrid.  God forbid we're ever out in public sometime, and I happen to be wearing a grey shirt, or maybe my ears are looking slightly larger than usual.  One stray gesture from Olivia will surely lead to some random passerby yelling "hey look at this guy!  He's a human elephant!" and thus drawing a crowd that will start tossing peanuts at me.  Just as I begin to loudly protest, I'll randomly see a mouse on the ground and be startled, which won't help my case even though it's something any HUMAN would do while reacting to vermin.

In short, I've created a scenario that will undoubtedly lead to eventual humiliation.  I may need to summon my inner John Hurt and start yelling "Do I amuse you?" at Olivia, while she blinks uncomprehendingly.  Never too early for babies to learn about David Lynch. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Old-Timey Conan

Conan O'Brien has often described his visit to an old-timey 1800's baseball league as perhaps his all-time favourite remote bit.  Thanks to the beauty of his "Conan 25" project, most/all of his old remote bits are now being officially uploaded in all their restored glory, so here it is.  WHAT IS THAT DEMONRY?!

Friday, April 12, 2019

NBA Playoffs Predictions

I'd still be quite surprised if anyone besides the Warriors won the championship.  But, it's a testament to this NBA season that I'm at least up to "quite surprised" rather than "shocked."  Besides Golden State as the obvious favourites, I'd say Houston, Milwaukee and (deep breath) Toronto all have legitimate shots to win the title.  You could maybe make a case for Utah, Boston, or Philadelphia if you really stretched but I don't think it's happening.

* Warriors over Clippers in five
* Rockets over Jazz in seven (this will be the battle of the first round, as Utah has quietly been one of the best teams in the league since January)
* Nuggets over Spurs in seven
* Thunder over Trail Blazers in six
* Bucks over Pistons in four
* Celtics over Pacers in six
* 76ers over Nets in seven (if Joel Embiid is actually badly hurt, all bets are off for this one)
* Raptors over Magic in five

* Warriors over Rockets in seven
* Nuggets over Thunder in six
* Bucks over Celtics in six
* Raptors over 76ers in six

* Warriors over Nuggets in six
* Raptors over Bucks in seven

* Warriors over Raptors in six
I feel like this is only kind of a homer pick, as the Raptors are probably the deeper team than Milwaukee, though obviously the Bucks have the best player (perhaps in the entire league) in Giannis.  What's ultimately stopping me from predicting the Raptors or Bucks from actually upsetting Golden State is that the Western Conference was once again way better than the East, so I feel the Warriors might be more than a couple of streets ahead of even the other conference's top dogs.  It'll nonetheless be a huge accomplishment for the Raptors to even make the NBA Finals for the first time in team history, and they'll certainly put up more of a fight than Cleveland did last season.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Stanley Cup Predictions

The bracket is set, and the heartbreak is already set in for Leafs Nation.  Let's get to my always-accurate picks.

* Bruins over Maple Leafs in six
There is zero doubt in my mind that Boston is going to win this series.  The Leafs have been playing like junk for a month.  The Bruins own the Leafs even in the best of times.  The feeling of impending doom has been setting in for weeks ever since it became apparent that another Boston/Toronto matchup was happening, and I honestly think this has factored into the Leafs' recent poor play.  I'll reiterate my usual stance that the NHL's playoff structure is silly, though the Leafs have slumped to such an extent that their matchup against Boston is no longer 2nd vs. 3rd.  It's actually now 2nd vs. 5th, so in a normal points-based bracket, the Maple Leafs would be facing the Islanders in the first round.  Given how the Isles have owned the Leafs basically all year, that wouldn't have been any better an opponent for Toronto.  Whatever, the Leafs are toast, let's move on.

* Lightning over Blue Jackets in six
* Capitals over Hurricanes in five
* Penguins over Islanders in six
* Flames over Avalanche in six
* Golden Knights over Sharks in seven
* Predators over Stars in five
* Jets over Blues in seven

* Lightning over Bruins in seven
* Capitals over Penguins in six
* Jets over Predators in seven
* Flames over Golden Knights in seven

* Lightning over Capitals in six
* Jets over Flames in seven

* Lightning over Jets in six
It's interesting to note that several of the teams with the highest single-season points totals in NHL history didn't actually go on to win the Stanley Cup, as the playoffs are a much different beast than the regular season.  So this won't be a cakewalk for Tampa Bay by any stretch.  But, this team is just so damn good, it might be a...I dunno, decent-sized mealwalk at most?  The Cup is going back to the Bay.

Friday, April 05, 2019

Kate McKinnon, On Business

Would I watch Kate McKinnon improvise about anything for eight minutes?  The answer is yes.