Skip to content

Roger Steffens Interview and Wailers at the Commodore Review

Two days later and I’ve finally got the haze out of my brain… I’ve gotta say that Vancouver and it’s habits make for a great atmosphere to see the Wailers.

Historian Roger Steffens opened the show with a lecture and video presentation about the history of the album Survival.  As is known to happen in a sold out bar, the people who were drinking and chatting were very distracting and it didn’t make for the best lecture conditions…  luckily I spoke with Roger before the show and he gave some insights into his personal recordings , his life history, some truths about the Marley movie and said some very interesting things about Bunny.

A lot of the crowd really enjoyed the speech and I think it would be a great idea for him to come back, only this time in a proper lecture type atmosphere.

The Wailers were solid as always:  Drummie Zeb attacked his kit, Keith Sterling shone, guitarist Audley Chisholm wailed (I watched “Chizzy” during soundcheck, went up to him and said “You listen to a lot of Van Halen, don’t you?”   He replied with a huge smile) and Aston “Family Man” Barrett did what he does best:  school the world on how to play bass.   Fams’ son is a full member of the band now, playing keys and switching instruments with his dad for Exodus/ Punky Reggae Party.  I have a strong feeling that Fams is planning on retiring soon and he is grooming Family Man Junior to fill his shoes.  He is fit for the job.  I reviewed the show on CKNW the next morning… I was a little groggy

I finally found the great reggae promoters in Vancouver, Melo Productions sold out the venue and provided a great DJ and solid opening act.  Definitely going to be catching as many of their events as possible in the future, this city is finally starting to feel like home.

facebook.com/mikemetalbabins

metalfile.wordpress.com

Advertisements

April Wine at the Commodore Ballroom

I’ve heard a lot about the Commode so I was really looking forward to checking it out, plus seeing a bunch of West Islanders playing chomrock was a very good idea after 6 weeks away.   It started raining in the morning, I took great pride in calling the locals pussies until i noticed how this little drizzle completely soaked me.  Doesn’t matter, from what I’ve heard it doesn’t rain often in Vancouver and shouldn’t last very long.

Met up with my buddy who works at the local classic rock station and sings for a pretty heavy band.  He kindly took me for my first burger at Vera’s Burger Shack.  Their shockingly familiar motto is “You Can’t Beat Vera’s Meat”.  Nice big ass burgers with a great Granville Island Honey Draught was very satisfying, but they claimed it was a homemade veggie burger – I’m pretty sure it was Yves.  We went back to his place as he told me he had the new KISS record.  I’m gonna give it three full listens before I review it, but already I can say it’s full of ripoffs and cliché’s.   The only saving grace is Tommy playing more like Bruce Kulick than Ace. 

Moving right along, he had something awesome at his place:

I don’t know if I should somehow be collecting royalties, but it’s an actual space monkey action figure!  Complete with wind up movement.  I tried to steal it but he noticed… 

After a Maudite, we headed off for the Commowhore…  very interesting place.  They made me check my water bottle which but when I asked for a water they gave me a nice glass with ice and fresh water.  Very civilised…  It looks like a huge version of the Telus Theater in Montreal, only way nicer.  After seeing pictures of the 100-year-old place I was very disappointed to see they got rid of the beautiful hardwood dance floor.  Apparently the new floor bounces but to me it just felt like a typical concrete floor.  The wood was way nicer.  The bars are fully stocked, great selection of drinks – I ordered a pint of Murphy’s stout and was quite happy not to be drinking a Molson Ex poured into a plastic cup.   While we’re on it, I finally sampled BC’s finest and it truly lives up to its reputation.  This is truly the sweetest I’ve ever tasted.  Almost like eating a piece of moist, rich cake but you can still have a conversation after.

April Wine sucked – it was awesome!!!  The crowd was like a rock n roll version of what I encountered at the Olivia Newton John show.  Their vocals were really weak, and they kind of played like they were at Clyde’s.  April Wine really are Canada`s bar band, they just draw a lot more at home than on the road.  I must say that Myles Goodwyn is a sick guitar player – highly underrated…  his solo’s were Clapton-esque.   As I chanted my “Vive le Quebec Libre” and “Parle Francais, toi!”  in between songs I was very happy to see everyone else yelling at them as well.  Apparently, the fun Canadian rock thing to do is yell at April Wine on a Friday night.  Truly my kind of people. 

It was definitely lacking without Gerry Mercer on drums, and I noticed a very different set order than they would have done in Montreal.  “Could Have Been A Lady” was second instead of the encore, and I was really tempted to run onstage and help out with the falsetto harmonies… they could have used the help.  I made it through a bunch of the hits and bathroom break songs – my buddy just wanted to hear “I like to Rock”  Or “I like the cock” or whatever it’s called but halfway through was the extended drum solo and we bailed.

The best part of the night happened as he had to tie his shoe and yelled “Hold on a minute Babins”.  Everyone has been calling me Mike for two months, it felt really good for someone to finally call me by my real name.

facebook.com/mikemetalbabins

metalfile.wordpress.com

Anthrax and Testament at the Vogue

My first real metal show on the Waste Coast!   Things are definitely different here, let’s start with the venue…

Although I was assured by the staff that it holds 2100, the place is definitely smaller than Metropolis or Club Soda.  It is very nice, recently renovated, great sound and a “theater” atmosphere.  It was kind of like a cross between Le National, the Rialto and the Olympia.  Great air circulation too, which is really pleasant. The crowd is young, it’s kind of where metal was about 20 years ago in Montreal:  I was the only “old fart”, and it was a total sausage fest…  Remember what I said about the crowd at Olivia Newton John?  I was shocked to see that it’s like that everywhere – even metal shows.  It was a great, high energy, super metal crowd – and everyone was really polite.  I had a good spot up close yet no one was pressed against me, no one was banging into me, and when someone stepped on a cable and thought it was my toe he apologized and checked to make sure I was ok until I explained to him that he hadn’t even touched me.  Security were all smiles and it was a genuine good atmosphere…  maybe it’s true what they say about smoking all that pot.  Speaking of which, I went out back to have a puff and the security guy told me I was better off on the dance floor.  I didn’t believe him and enjoyed the fresh air, so I stayed outside but he was bang-on.  Absolutely no cigarettes but tons of smoke, Alex Skolnick confirmed that this is the only city where it’s still like this.  It’s really like being at an early 90’s show except not as sweaty.  

Testament were awesome, I found it hard to watch them because I couldn’t take my eyes off Gene Hoglan.  It’s ridiculously amazing to hear him playing Testament songs.  Truly a great match for the band after Paul Bostaph’s bizarre gardening accident.  Great setlist,  lot’s of focus on the new album and a great choice of classics.  I think they are finally past the point of   “must play songs” which made for a very nice blend.

I gotta say, it’s really nice hearing frontmen praise Canada.  Again, maybe it was all the pot smoke, but  it was still a pleasant change.  I’m not joking, I heard some dudes talking beside me chatting and they totally pronounced it “aboot”.

Anthrax killed it!   Jason Bittner from Shadows Fall did a great job filling in for Charlie Benante.  Even though he doesn’t have Charlie’s groove, he played the songs perfectly and gave the band what they needed to lock in.  Good energy, and again great choice of songs.  I don’t do spoilers, but the Montreal metalheads are really going to enjoy the selection from Persistence of Time.   I stood on Scott’s side and just watched him chug away, Frank Bello kept hinting for spliffs and Joey had a great bond with the crowd – it’s almost as if they’ve done this before.

The part of downtown with all the clubs is about as far away from my place as my old apartment was from Foufs and Metropolis so I enjoyed the same walk home that I’m used to post-show.  Only instead of walking down St Catherine, I took a bridge over the ocean.  Way more pleasant walk… until I started thinking about stopping in Al-Taib and noticed that nothing is open past 11 on a Thursday night. Some things are gonna take getting used to…

Tonight is Accept and Kreator at the Rickshaw theater – stay tuned…

www.facebook.com/mikemetalbabins

Olivia Newton John at the PNE

It’s quite fitting that my first show as a waste-coaster show be Olivia.  One of the few “must see’s” left on my list and she does an outdoor festival set within one week of my arrival – if that isn’t a good sign, I don’t know what is.

This was my first time going to a “fair” like the ones I’ve seen on tv and in the movies, I was amazed.  They even had deep-fried mars bars – no joke.  One thing I’ve noticed since I’ve been here is that everywhere advertises poutine for sale.  Way more than in la belle province, makes no sense but it’s the truth.  Anyhoo this fair is apparently the “big deal” that comes every summer and they have a big stage with shows day and night.  I saw an advertisement that lambchop performed Saturday afternoon which is kind of creepy since Shari Lewis died 14 years ago. 

When I saw the stage setup I realized that this must be BC’s version of Festival D’été, although it is tiny in comparison.  They had a grassy area in front and a fenced off “Beer Garden’s” at the back.  It’s a little oppressive and odd to not be able to drink during the show, but when in Rome…   They only allow a certain number of people into each area so you need a stamp to get around.  We went up front, got a stamp, went into the beer gardens and got our drink on for “Jewbilee in September”.  I was very happy with choice of Molson or Okanogan Valley Pale Ale on tap, quite a tasty microbrew.  Had a few ales and left the beer gardens to find the smoking section at the back of the fair.   There were four people there – I am a long way from Quebec.  We took a few quick discreet puffs and went back to the grassy area to see Olivia Neutron Bomb.

Lucky we had stamps because it was at complete capacity, which was funny because we had tons of room.  If this had been a  show at club soda it would have felt undersold.  They could easily have let twice as many people in.  The entire concert zone including the beer area had about 2500 people tops. Huge festival.  The lady and I definitely stood out.  We were being very polite and respectful but noticeably louder than everyone else who were talking under their breath and really sober.  I tried my traditional pre-show “WE WANT KISS” chant and got nothing back from the crowd except a few giggles.  My lady suggested pushing our way up front but the area was so small we didn’t need to.  We were at the back of the grass and it was like being at the stage right bar of Metropolis. It wasn’t even dark yet when she came onstage to pure silence.  I had to start a “wooo’ and clap a lot to get an applause going.  I kid you not, the crowd was more aggressive at L’Opera De Montreal than they were at this fest.   Not like I was expecting a metal show crowd but this was really lightweight. 

 The band sucked and the backup singers were god-awful, but Olivia’s voice was ridiculous.  She blows away Christina Aguilera.   Seriously strong, didn’t miss a note and just owned the place.  I wouldn’t say it was a Vegas show, more like  Atlantic City or some casino in Northern Ontario.  She did a lot of country,some love songs and all the necessary Grease hits.  But we all know what songs I wanted to hear.  About three songs in she did Xanadu, Suddenly and Magic. Later in the set she threw in Suspended in Time.  This was definitely not a music crowd.  They sat quietly when songs started and waited until the familiar chorus to clap politely and sort of sing along.   No one erupted during the first few notes of Magic,  and I heard someone behind me say “oh, I didn’t know that was her song.. what movie was she referring to?” during the chorus.  The fact that I could hear the person talking tells you the volume level.  It was still pretty amazing to hear – and the show was great… one of the true diva’s singing in top form.  Noticable awesomeness was how much greater she was when the backups couldn’t quite get her harmonies, there was definitely no click track or backing tape.  During the mediocre guitar solo, she harmonized the high notes.  I don’t think the guitarist could hit them, a legend like that deserves a stronger band.  During “You’re The One That I Want” she did the “Hoo-hoo-hoo” by herself and sounded fuller than had she been using a tape.

After her set we went to the washroom, which again was more polite and organized than the Opera in Montreal.   I walked into an arena that reminded me of a very clean Verdun Auditorium… the show should have been in there, it has the makings of a great venue.  Unfortunately it was being used for a horse show.  I’m not in Kansas anymore. 

The more I ask about events in this city, the more i realize that there is major potential to up the ante here.  Apparently the biggest event of the summer is the fireworks.  There’s a reason the F’estival D’été gets Elton John, while the PNE gets Olivia Newton John.  I’m gonna destroy this town.

facebook.com/mikemetalbabins

So Long Suckers!

Ok, the ironic foreshadowing is done and the secret is out… at age 36 I am spreading my wings and leaving La Belle Province Tuesday.  To answer the most asked question:  No, I will not miss smoked meat and poutine.  However, I have compiled a list of things I actually will miss about Quebec – let’s see if the list grows once I’m actually living in “Canada”

stuff I’ll miss (aside from friends and family and all that hokey stuff)

Foufs
french canadian re-recordings of popular american songs
hearing people complain about road closures and not caring since I don’t drive
the small group of people who think it’s funny when I say “Heidi Whitt”
seeing someone I know everywhere I go
mitsumi
smashing the chairs at the big owe “tic tac tabarnak, estie-calisse… Let’s go!”
hobo’s who just wave good morning to me instead of asking for money
saying I need to buy some piments verts and everyone knows what I mean
not having to explain who “The Great Antonio” was
the rocket, the flower, the roadrunner and the kid
knowing the door guys, bar staff, soundboard guys and security guards at every venue
humidity
hip events in run down old factories
Pops
fast food doesn’t come in a bun with ketchup, it comes in a pita with hommus
dollar cinema
bringing my stick when I go skating in the park because i know there will be a game of pickup within 15 minutes
wondering how Jack’s is still open every time I walk into Steve’s
using a fake address to scam a westmount library card
knowing the main is cooler than crescent even though I haven’t been to a club in 15 years
not going to a place for years then when it goes out of business complaining that no one supports stuff in this town
grownups who get really excited about Halloween
Plume, Gerry and The Pag
NDG
street names that start with “Saint”
knowing what happens if you order fries with mustard at the orange julep
La Guere des Tuques, Parlez-Moi, La Force G, Albator, Goldorak
Slim Goodbody, Bodyworks, Read All About It
If they aren’t answering their phones and I need to speak with the members of Voivod or any former staff member of the Hour, i can just go the Bifteck and find them
wondering if Georges is really le roi de sous marin, but never finding out

add your own comments, and stay in touch!  www.facebook.com/mikemetalbabins

Tracii Guns is making a vinyl record!

Tracii Guns has a new group and is planning on releasing their new album on vinyl.  He’s using the kickstarter project to help raise funds, it’s a great way to know that your money is going straight to the project and not into a record exec’s pockets….  but you don’t need me to do the ol’ public television pledge drive:  Tracii called in to this week’s metal file to talk all about it!


To hear the songs go here.

To get involved and pre-order the record go here.

And make sure to like my facebook page!, I’ve got a big move coming up and I wouldn’t want to lose touch!

Canoe Camping is nothing like “Deliverence”

My buddy Jimbo and I have been attempting a canoe camping trip together for a few years and it finally happened last week. 4 days in La Mauricie National Park.  Day 1 and I notice he has brought a lot more stuff than me,  as he packs the canoe I notice it’s things like a comforter and pillow which causes my first homosexual joke of the trip.  I was going to keep count of how many inappropriate sayings are muttered over the four days but I just don’t have enough paper.  We count 34 beers between us, so we shouldn’t have to worry about being stranded in the wilderness.

This is the t-shirt I plan on destroying this week.  I don’t even know what “Gore Bay!” means or why a racoon would toast to it.  Notice the filth that has already begun.  I have a cut on my finger which just won’t heal – it opened up as we packed the canoe and the shirt was way easier to find than the first aid kit.

It looked like a calm day on the lake but we kept getting caught in the current, went in a  few circles and back-paddled a lot but we eventually made it to our first campsite.  Jimmy was really into having a beer in the canoe but with the constant circles it was less than satisfying.  Stoner Jim was here last year and was convinced the best site was lot 6, we got here and realised he meant lot 7.  We’ll spend the night here and move to number 8 tomorrow and stay there for the rest of the trip.

A great part of camping in deep woods is people leave behind the best sticks, this one had a spike carved into it.  Post dinner I cracked a sleemans, followed by a PBR.  After the unsatisfying Heineken on the canoe, these really felt like the first beers of the trip.  Some early comparisons between here and oka:  the insects are huge but the park is amazing, we’re in between 2 mountains on a lake, camping on the side of one of the mountains.  Just having the firewood included makes it worth the extra five dollars a day.  Jim is not happy with my random and constant nudity.

Jimmybojangles brought his ukulele and after a few songs I pointed out how many love songs are in his repertoire, just a little awkward.   Shortly before bed we took the canoe to the middle of the lake.  Perfectly still water with a huge July moon above, a gazillion stars to look at… this is already a pretty sweet vacation.

Day2

First one up, followed by my first outhouse experience.  Shockingly way more pleasant than a port-o-let.  The odd part is not hearing the splash after the drop.  That’s all I’m gonna say about that.

Started a fire, took the food down from the pole, made coffee and drank it by the lake… bliss.  This is the best camping trip I’ve ever done, too bad there isn’t any nature to enjoy in BC.  My morning show habits have totally paid off as I enjoyed a morning skinny dip with no one else around, very satisfying.

I read by the lake while SlimJim woke up, then we tore down and moved on to lot 8.  As we packed the canoe a family of ducks came and hung out.   We don’t seem to be a good paddling team, either it’s the wind or my arms are too long and his are too short.  Our strokes are never on time and we go in a lot of circles.  We both realize very quickly that there’s no point stressing out, just do the best we can with the wind.

Our new site is sick!  We’re on the other side of the lake, up the mountain with a  lot of tree cover.  It sucks to carry the equipment up the hill but at least we’re here for two nights.  Lots more paths for me to run around naked in and we’re a lot farther away from the other two tents (our last site was right next door to our neighbours, this one we’re above them).  Lunch is sleemans, baked beans, cheese and raw veggies, followed by a grilled pita stuffed with hommus and cheese… and another sleemans.  Once we finish, it’s time to put up the tent, gather firewood and start getting high!

As I put up my tent I hear a lot of swearing from the woods.  Jimbo must be attempting to hang rope for our food later… or he’s being raped.  I’m sweating like a fort street employee at the end of August so I go for a swim and explore our new area before setting up the inside of my tent.  It’s funny, I don’t even think of wearing my bathing suit unless we’re going in the canoe.  Jim isn’t very happy about this situation but there isn’t a lot he can do about it.  While swimming I discover that we are actually camping on a peninsula.  I’ve always wanted to say that.

Jimmeroonie has learnt not to buy dollar store lighters, after holding one while sweating his hands have turned purple.  After dinner and my millionth swim, Jim played ukulele while I danced naked by the fire.  It could have easily turned into one of those tribal moments, but it turns out he was playing “Peggy Sue”.  We keep hearing thunder far away, I bet there’s a storm happening in Montreal now.  We got a short drizzle then went out for the late night canoe session, because of the rain there were no animals and without any wind it as pure silence.  I have never heard that in my life before, it was amazing.  The insects are insane back by the fire.  We both resort to wearing headnets and completely covering up.  I get tired and go to sleep. I’m pretty filthy and may have to resort to washing with soap tomorrow.

Day3

It poured last night, luckily I love the sound of rain on my tent so I slept fine.  From the sound of snoring on the other side of the fire it appears Jimmers wasn’t disturbed either.  We’re in such deep forest that even when it rains hard we don’t get the full storm.  It feels like a steady drizzle but when I look at the lake I can see it’s really coming down.  Hopefully it won’t be a full day in the tents, just in case Jim brought rummy cube: now that’s camping!

It’s really cool how the rain stops.  The fire suddenly gets bigger and we hear all the animals come out at once.  After my short workout I caved and brought some soap to my swim and scrubbed the filth out of me.  I’m thinking the dirty feeling is more from the layers of bug spray and sunscreen more than the natural dirt.  As I walk back to camp I still haven’t decided if I should put “the shirt” back on or give up on it.  After a brief discussion we conclude that changing shirts would change the spirit of the trip so I modify it yet again.

GORE BAY!

The third day of camping is great because you really have nothing to do.  Because of the on again, off again rain our main priority is tending to the fire.  There is absolutely no humidity, it’s nice and cool yet sunny and warm.  I’m really loving the four-day trip.

Jimbo has decided to become a forest ranger.  He claims he is only “looking into it”.  Our soundtrack for this trip has been the reggae on my ipod and Jimmy’s ukulele.  As he plays “House Of The Rising Sun” I have the revelation that a great part of camping is not having to use your fly.  That is a burden that men have put up with for way too long.  We’re both getting pretty brain dead after three days, I have the great idea to use my t-shirt as oven mitts and pour boiling hot soup on my legs.  Making stupid mistakes means we’re totally relaxed: mission accomplished.

Day4

Our last morning, I wake up first and make coffee with the end of the water rations.  Note: an 18 litre jug is just enough for two guys on a  4 day trip.  Last night’s canoe ride was killer:  very foggy and cloudy, the sky went on for miles in total silence.  We both almost fell asleep drifting on the lake, it was that peaceful.  I have my coffee and read in the hammock, eat some oatmeal and go for a swim.  The lake is perfectly still so it should be an easy ride back to civilisation.  I have a wedding tonight, it’s like going from Deliverance to a Mordechai Richler novel.  I saw some kind of mammal in the water but it swam away and I truly have no clue what it was.  As we pack the canoe I point out that the only sound of human technology we’ve heard all week is zippers.   One last thing to do before we go, time to send the shirt back from whence it came.

facebook.com/mikemetalbabins