Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hillside Review I

Saturday July 26, 3pm-7pm

I couldn't get out of the big city for the Friday, July 25, start of the Hillside Festival near Guelph, ON. I arrived on Saturday just as Kelly Joe Phelps took the main stage. Phelps wailed the acoustic blues in his solo set, drawing from blues standards as well as original material. The godfathers of Canadian bluegrass, The Good Brothers, followed. The Good Brothers have been performing and recording since the early 1970s. Larry (banjo), Brian (guitar), and Bruce (autoharp) entertained the very bluegrass-knowledgeable crowd with classic originals such as "Fox on the Run" and a bluegrass cover of "Come a Little Bit Closer" originally by Jay and the Americans.

I next wandered over to the Lake Stage, the second of four music stages at the festival. On the way there, I stopped by the Sun Stage and listened to Harry Manx perform during the workshop "Mother Earth." Manx and the other musicians were playing Hindustati classical harmonies mixed with traditional American blues. Very interesting music. At the Lake Stage I caught the Brothers Creeggan, two brothers who used to be the rhythm section for the Barenaked Ladies in their early years. Brothers Andy (upright bass) and Jim (keyboards) and their band played an enjoyable set that had a very-Ben Folds-ish vibe.

Next I hit the Sun Stage for the workshop "Guitar Dreams." This workshop featured performer/producer Danny Michel, local musician Liz Powell (sorry, can't find her web site), blues guitarist Sue Foley, and multi-instrumentalist David Woodhead. I had not heard of any of these musicians before (yeah, I'm slightly ignorant), and all four of them blew me away. Michel started out with electric guitar doing a very stripped-down version of Peter Gabriel's "Games Without Frontiers" and got the crowd to whistle along. He followed that with a slow version of "I Will Love You For Miles," off of his 2007 release Valhalla. Liz Powell did two lovely originals on acoustic guitar. Sue Foley, an accomplished blues guitarist, gave a demonstration on the Piedmont style of blues, then showed some of her recent interest in Flamenco-style guitar. Finally, David Woodhead blew everyone away with his fretless bass. The other musicians on stage had the "wow!" look on their faces too. Truly a magical session of music!

Since I am not that familiar with most these artists, I have no MP3s to share. The last few days I have been running up my credit card bill by purchasing CDs from their web sites. Most of them have tracks on iTunes and eMusic too. Check them all out.

Photos from the weekend.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Lucky 14

(Note: I meant to post this yesterday, but I was so wiped out from an amazing weekend at the Hillside Festival. Stayed tuned for multiple reviews and comments from the festival.)

Fourteen years ago today I was in an operating room at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago receiving a life-saving kidney transplant selflessly donated to me by my mother.

It started early in Jan. 1994, when I was a 21-year-old college student. I was having severe breathing problems when my friend took me to the student health center on campus. My blood pressure was so high that the nurse could not get a proper reading, so I got a police escort to the hospital. After several tests and long hospital visits, it was determined that I had kidney failure of unknown origin (25% of all kidney failure is of unknown etiology). No one in my family had any history of kidney problems. My left kidney was a stub (completely atrophied), and my right kidney was functioning at only 20%. By the end of 1994 I would be on dialysis. I was put on a very restrictive diet to help slow the kidney failure (low sodium, low protein, low potassium, low phosphorus, low taste). I lost a ton of weight, and I was sleeping 14-16 hours a day.

Thanks to a very proactive nephrologist named Dr. Norm (can’t remember his last name), we decided to look for a family member who may be compatible as a kidney donor so I could be transplanted and avoid dialysis all together. My brother was ruled out as at the time he was too young. My dad really wanted to do it, but he had the wrong blood type. My mom turned out to be a perfect match. You can imagine my dad’s stress when both his wife and daughter were undergoing surgery. Fortunately, my aunt (my mom’s sister) took my dad out for beer and pizza between the two surgeries. When I came out of the anesthesia, other than the nurses, he is the first one I remember seeing, with tears in his eyes.

The surgery went off without a hitch, and other than a few bumps in the road here and there, I have had excellent filtration ever since.

None of this would have been possible had it not been for the generosity of my mother. She literally gave birth to me twice! I do a lot of advocacy work to promote organ and tissue donation in the US and Canada. I have a friend here in Toronto who has been waiting for a kidney for 7 years. He has completely lost the ability to urinate and has to undergo about 20 hours of dialysis a week. He can’t work and is extremely limited in what he can eat and drink. Unfortunately, he is not alone. As of today, there are over 100,000 people in the US and over 5000 people in Canada waiting for organ transplants, the vast majority of them kidneys.

What got me through this terrible period in my life (asides from my friends and family)? Music, of course. I just dug out this tape I made in 1994 called “Hospital Music.” You can imagine that as a student I had no money to buy music, and Napster didn’t yet exist. My insurance company would make me pay for a lot of things up front, and then reimburse me 6-8 weeks later. I bummed a lot of CDs off of a few friends who were really into classic rock. According to this tape (which I can’t believe that I found!), I was really into Elton John, Bob Dylan, and Crosby, Stills and Nash. The only CDs I purchased during this period were the Counting Crows August and Everything After, which will always remain one of my favorites mainly due to the timing, Peter Gabriel Us, and my brother gave me Soul Asylum Grave Dancers Union.

Organ donation is truly one of the major success stories of modern medicine. If you haven’t already, please discuss organ donation with your family!

Here is a short mix of what I was listening to in the summer of 1994, from the "Hospital Music" tape and a few other tapes that friends made for me.

1. Einstein on the Beach - Counting Crows
2. You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet - Bachman-Turner Overdrive
3. Runaway Train - Soul Asylum

4. Southern Cross - Crosby, Stills & Nash
5. Plush - Stone Temple Pilots
6. Up On Cripple Creek - The Band

7. Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town - Pearl Jam

8. Secret World - Peter Gabriel

9. Going to California - Led Zeppelin
10. Mr. Jones - Counting Crows
11. Like a Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan

12. Lithium - Nirvana

13. Mad About You - Sting
14. Leaving Las Vegas - Sheryl Crow

Zip-ity do dah!

Saturday, July 26, 2008


I will be in the thriving metropolis of Geulph, Ontario, this weekend to get in touch with my inner hippie while attending the Hillside Festival. Hillside is a festival of music and community, featuring Canadian and international artists, up-and-coming artists, and local talent. There are also activities for children and families, aboriginal arts, workshops, and craft vendors. The festival takes environmentalism so seriously that you have to bring your own bottle if you want water, you have to purchase a souvenir mug if you want beer, and all of the food is served on dishes that are washed and reused.

The musical lineup looks amazing. Here are some tracks from a few of the many artists that I am looking forward to seeing.

Joseph Arthur: Honey And The Moon.mp3
Buy: Redemption's Son (2002)

Broken Social Scene: Stars and Sons.mp3
Buy: You Forgot It In People (2003)

Hayden: Message from London.wma
Buy: Folk Music for the End of the World (2007)

Kelly Joe Phelps: Beggar's Oil.wma
Buy: Sky Like a Broken Clock (2001)

The Sadies: Anna Leigh.mp3
Buy: New Seasons (2007)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

My First, My Last, My Hotel Yorba

This dude I know runs a blog called Photocrap. I saw this today and nearly peed my pants. I think Jack White may frown on this. Too bad!

Hotel Yorba.wma

Buy: White Blood Cells (2001)

You're the First, the Last, My Everything.mp3

Originally released in 1974 on Can't Get Enough, but available on just about every "best of" out there. Barrence Eugene Carter, aka "Barry White," 1944-2003. RIP lover boy.

Sorry about the WMA format, but I ripped White Blood Cells years ago when I was ignorant in the ways of digital music, and I don't feel like re-ripping it. Just buy the album! In my opinion it is that best of the Stripes six albums. Plus, they have a nice photo of a megakaryocyte on the inside cover.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Alone Again Or

I heard this track during setup before the Stephen Malkmus show last week, and I couldn't place the artist. I finally figured it out today. This psychedelic rock gem is by the group Love from their 1967 release Forever Changes. Formed in Los Angeles in the early 1960s, Love leader Arthur Lee modeled the group in the style of the Byrds and the Rolling Stones, but added an orchestra to create their own sound. They were wildly popular in the LA area, and were an early influence on Jim Morrison and the Doors, but they did not see much commercial success in the rest of the US. However, despite little touring, they were quite popular in the UK. "Alone Again Or" is the lead track off of Forever Changes, and reached #99 on the Billboard pop charts in 1968.

Alone Again Or.mp3

Buy: Forever Changes (Collector's Edition, 2008)

Murder in my Heart

The Fox Hunt is a wonderful country/bluegrass combo out of Martinsburg, West Virginia. They put out a fantastic album in 2007 called Nowhere Bound. CD Baby has a wonderful write up of the band and their album. Also available on iTunes and Skull City Records. You can listen to a bunch of their tracks and see some video of their live performances on their MySpace site. Trust me, don't miss this one.

Murder in my Heart.mp3

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Didn't It Rain

Its a crappy rainy day in southern Ontario and I could post hundreds of songs about rain. But the pelting of the rain makes me melancholy and puts me in the mood to listen to something by Jason Molina (Songs: Ohia, and currently Magnolia Electric Co.).

Didn't It Rain.mp3

Buy:Songs: Ohia - Didn't It Rain (2002)

Friday, July 18, 2008

King of Slack

Concert Review: Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks
Wednesday, July 16
The Phoenix Concert Theatre

The more things change the more they stay the same with our indie rock hero Steve. At age 42 he is still an awkward geek, he still has hair that flops in his face when he is rocking out, and he still wails on the guitar. He and his band The Jicks took the stage while Steve remarked, "This is nice that its not a festival. At least there is air conditioning here." Then they blasted into "Gardenia," one of the more poppy tracks off of their newest album Real Emotional Trash.

The highly entertaining show drew heavily off of Real Emotional Trash, performing all but two tracks. Several songs featured extended guitar jams and improvs, channeling Malkmus's inner stoner-rocker. The musicians really enjoyed themselves, with lots of funny banter between songs. Drummer Janet Weiss, formerly of Sleater-Kinney, was completely focused during the tunes, with her head down, a fan blowing her hair up, pounding out the beats. Mike Clark switched between keyboards and guitar, and at one point was rocking out on top of the speakers. Malkmus also said that they were traveling without guitar techs, and spent a few seconds between each song retuning his instrument. Although I don't play guitar, I have read that Malkmus uses unusual tunings, especially with the new album.

Malkmus dedicated, "We Can't Help You," to Jose Calderon of the Toronto Raptors, and then commented that he is worried about the Jermaine O'Neal trade. It is well known that Malkmus is an avid sports fan. He even did a fantasy baseball preview for eMusic. But I've never heard sports talk during a rock concert before. Awesome.

For their last track, Malkmus became the right reverend of indie rock, preaching, "I would like to quote from Leviticus 74. Thou shalt not fuck with the American dollar." And then lamented the fall of Mike Myers and his crappy new movie Love Guru, before blasting into his classic, "Church on White." Amen brother.

Set List:
1. Gardenia - Real Emotional Trash (2008)
2. It Kills - Face the Truth (2005)
3. Phantasies - Stephen Malkmus (2001)
4. Dragonfly Pie - Real Emotional Trash
5. Elmo Delmo - Real Emotional Trash
extended jam (I noticed some people blatantly blazing up during this song)
6. Out of Reaches - Real Emotional Trash
7. Baltimore - Real Emotional Trash
extended jam
8. The "World Debut" of a new track - missed the name
9. (Do Not Feed The) Oysters - Pig Lib (2003) "that last track was a rough cut, and this one is the Criterion Collection," Jicks mutli-instrumentalist Mike Clark
10. We Can't Help You - Real Emotional Trash
11. Real Emotional Trash - Real Emotional Trash
extended jam
12. Cold Son - Real Emotional Trash
13. Jo Jo's Jacket - Stephen Malkmus

14. missed it :(
15. Alright, Alright, Alright (Mungo Jerry cover)
16. Church on White - Stephen Malkmus

When I was walking from the streetcar stop to the venue, I noticed all kinds of young people going in the opposite direction. Where were all of these people headed? I found out when I got to the Phoenix that Fleet Foxes were no-shows. Lots of people were demanding their money back and being downright surly about it. I was sort of stunned by this reaction. Yeah, Fleet Foxes are a good band. In fact, their song "White Winter Hymnal" is among the most gorgeous songs of the year. But please, these guys barely have enough original music to round out an opening set, and people were going to skip a show by a man who has two decades of rock and probably 200+ original tracks under his belt? WTF?

A local band called Still Life Still filled in at the last minute. I know nothing about them, but according to the box office at the Phoenix, they are project of Kevin Drew's of Broken Social Scene. They looked so young! I was wondering if the two singers/guitarists were even old enough to shave. They said that they were asked that afternoon if they could perform (for Stephen Malkmus? Hells yeah!), and they got a very short sound check. And, it was by far the largest venue they had ever played. The Phoenix has a capacity of 1100, while their gig the following night at Clinton's Tavern has a capacity of 200. Although they had some sound issues and seemed nervous as hell, they gave it their all, and what more can you ask for?

Everyone assumed that the Fleet Foxes got held up at the border, which unfortunately happens to a lot of bands coming from the US to Canada. However, they played the night before in Montreal, so the border was obviously not the problem. Jicks' bassist Joanna Bolme said, "they just didn't show," claiming that they had a long drive from "Alberta," which, I am assuming, is code for Quebec. "We have NEVER had a long drive before," she and other members of the Jicks sarcastically piped in. Then she said, "PLEASE, the king of slack is in our band." Malkmus publicly thanked Still Life Still and their "Canadian work ethic" and said that he enjoyed their set. And then he ripped on Montreal. After a few more quips by the Jicks, Malkmus busted into the refrain from Toto's Africa. Long live the geek king of slack.

White Winter Hymnal.mp3

Buy: Fleet Foxes

I also want to give a plug to J. Tillman, the current drummer for Fleet Foxes who has done some amazing solo work. You can download tracks and purchase his latest album Cancer and Delirium from Yer Bird Records.

After the Last Day of a Heatwave

Brilliant song from the massively underrated singer/songwriter Matthew Ryan. This track can be found on two albums, Dissent from the Living Room (2000) and Happiness (2002). Dissent from the Living Room was recorded in his home and self released. I can't find it for sale anywhere, but if you ask someone nicely they might be able to set you up with it. Happiness, which he also recoded in his home, appears to be only available for sale in the UK on the label One Little Indian, or as an import on Amazon.

After The Last Day Of A Heat Wave.mp3

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Launch Party!

This marks the official launch of "My Aimz is True!" Thanks to Nacho in SoCal for naming the blog, and to Mark "Lean G" for techie advice.

Stay tuned for a review of the Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks show. Much to the dismay of hipsters all over the GTA, Fleet Foxes were no-shows.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tree Huggin' Hippies Like Me

This song by Todd Snider has been stuck in my head for about the last two weeks. Given the current political landscape, I think its pretty appropriate.

Conservative Christian, Right-Wing Republican, Straight, White, American Males.mp3
Buy:East Nashville Skyline (2004)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Stevie Nix

One of the few bands that had me at their first note is The Hold Steady. I first heard them on a "song of the day" podcast from KEXP, a wonderful listener-supported radio station out of Seattle. The song they played that day back in mid-2006 was "Stevie Nix," off of 2005's Separation Sunday. Love at first listen.

You can sort of describe The Hold Steady as Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band meets Thin Lizzy. Only they are originally from Minneapolis, and often reference the land of 10,000 lakes in their music. Their music also tells stories about addiction, recovery, and reconciling sinful behavior with a Christian upbringing. Some have described their music as "literate;" indeed, lead singer Craig Finn looks like the nerd that was the teaching assistant for your third year comparative literature class. But you can actually hear literary references in their songwriting. For example, the first track off of their superb 2006 release, "Stuck Between Stations:"

There are nights when I think that Sal Paradise is right.
Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together.

The second line is directly out of the classic "On the Road," by Jack Keroac. Awesome.

And their live shows rock harder than most metal shows that I have been to. If you can go to only one show this year, make sure that it is a Hold Steady show. I just looked at their web site and their current tour has no Canadian stops. Grrrrrr!

I bring up The Hold Steady because their new release Stay Positive is officially out today, and will hopefully be in stores in Toronto by tomorrow. I know this album leaked months ago, but this is one album that I know I want to buy, so I stayed away from leaked copies. I have heard one track, "One for the Cutters," and it is fantastic. Ben Nichols of Lucero, another band that rocks the house, lends backup vocal on several tracks. You can hear some of the new tracks on The Hold Steady's MySpace page. Their other three albums are also available on iTunes and eMusic. I highly recommend you get them all.

Stevie Nix.mp3

Buy:Separation Sunday (2005)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Gold Soundz

Stephen Malkmus is arguably the alpha male of indie rock. He formed the seminal lo-fi indie band Pavement with some of his Northern California buddies in 1989. Their demo recordings bounced around a few years before they were picked up by Matador to record their first official release. Slanted and Enchanted was released in 1992, and while sales weren't exactly brisk, the music was hugely influential on a new generation of rock musicians. In 2005 Spin magazine name Slanted and Enchanted #4 in its list of top 100 albums of the last 20 years, while Rolling Stone ranked its #134 of the top 500 greatest albums of all time. Even after its deluxe reissue in 2002, the album has only sold around 150,000 copies (2003 estimate from Rolling Stone). Compare that with another influential album that came out in the early 90s, Nevermind, which sold 7.6 millions copies (2003 numbers, probably up to 9 million by now).

Pavement's next album, 1994's Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, nearly got them to the mainstream with their minor radio hit "Cut Your Hair." Although this album contained a lot more pop-sounding songs than its predecessor, it still sold poorly. After three more full length releases, the band spit up in 1999.

Since then Malkmus has gone on to record four solo albums, although all four of these "solo" releases have been backed the Malkmus's band, The Jicks. The solo releases have all been generally well received, and have continued and grown on Pavement's style of literate but sometimes goofy lyrics, jangly guitar solos, and rock/pop sensibilities. In 2008 Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks released Real Emotional Trash, which, in addition to having some great pop licks, is also kind of trippy and weird (in a good way) with lots of guitar and a bit of a jam-band vibe. It is currently in my rotation as the soundtrack to my summer.

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks are playing at the Phoenix in Toronto on Wed., July 16, with current indie darlings, Fleet Foxes, supporting.

Gold Soundz.mp3
BUY: Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (1994, reissued 2004)

Jenny And The Ess Dog.mp3
BUY: Stephen Malkmus (2001)

Dragonfly Pie.mp3
Real Emotional Trash (2008)