Thursday, October 30, 2008

Blainletter #16

Here come blainblain

The big news is that my prodigal son Joel (aka, DJ Coi) is back – he's been out at the Cape all summer but he's back now and we both have a renewed desire to make music together (he's more on the electronica side of things but we are finding some common ground). We had a good run through last night. Come to Free Times next Friday and check it out!

October was fine despite the fact that it's the first October in 4 years that I haven't been on a European tour. Butch Coulter who was the key to these European adventures is a new dad and was less inclined to go out on the road this year, even though there was some interest in return engagements for the Kathi McDonald Band and even a couple of inquiries about getting Brian & Butch. Well, it's over to 09 I guess.

Going Home
I did have a "mini-tour" (tourette??) of Quebec and went back to my old stomping grounds, Sutton, Quebec, to play a gig at the Cafe Mocador, now the Mocador Pub, but in the same location on main street Sutton. Many old friends came out. I've passed through Sutton a few times since I left there almost 18 years ago, but never stayed around to hang out. This time, I took a leisurely walk after my sound check and ended up in the upscale Italian restaurant that occupies the building where I lived upstairs with wife & kid and had my studio on the main floor. I did not get any special consideration because I had lived there so many years ago. I had the most expensive plate of spaghetti I ever had…but it was worth it to sit in the old homestead and take in the vibes.

Out and About:
When I got back to town I had a chance to see Harry Manx playing at the Hamilton Place. He's got some great new material. While we were hanging out in the backstage area, he brought me to another part of the complex where Yes were rehearsing for their big gig in Hamilton the next day. Fascinating hearing the signature bass sound of Chris Squire coming through that door. Also got to Tressa Levasseur's CD launch. Michelle Josef plays on the album but is regrettably no longer in the band. I joked that it took two drummers to take the place of one Michelle Josef.

The OCFF Conference
As one of the pitiful few who was supposed to be there but wasn't, I've been following the post-mortem discussion on the maplepost listserve. I was to host the blues campfire again this year but regretfully I couldn't get to Ottawa because I had to attend to my (desktop)publishing empire (!). I'm seeing lots of comments from attendees that there were not enough opportunities to jam. In the past, the campfire room has not been sufficiently exploited to provide playing opportunities. Don't know how it went this year, but in past years it was a dozen or so players in a circle and I didn't think there was ever more than a dozen listeners. This has always been musicians playing for musicians – not much help in "career development," I've been reminded. Still it can provide a "walk-in" opportunity to join the circle and play a couple of tunes.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My Open Letter to Jack Layton

Dear Jack, Congratulations. I just listened to your victory speech and as
you listed all the things you will fight for, I was waiting to hear "arts
and culture"...particularly since it was Harper's marked disdain for arts
and culture that cost him a majority.

I voted for you (yes, I am a constituent) because I think you can be a real
champion for the arts - many of us expect that of you. The first thing you
should do is jump on the proposal to double the Canada Council funding. That
would send a good message - one that would serve you well down the line.
Yours truly.... Brian Blain

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

From Blainletter #15

Just in from the new "hotspot" in Toronto, The Dakota Tavern. I dropped in to see my old buddy Matt Masters - I thought it was his show but it turns out he was opening for another Alberta cowboy singer/songwriter - Tim Hus. I never heard of Tim but as I was watching his set, I overheard someone (his manager?) telling a buddy that they just heard Tim was nominated for Songwriter of the Year at the upcoming Canadian Folk Awards. How does somebody come out of nowhere like that (it was his first appearance in Toronto) and get on the ballot? It makes me think there could not have been too many people submitting to that category...or perhaps to the folk awards generally. Not to dis his songwriting but I could not really hear much of either Tim or Matt because the crowd was so noisy. I wondered what this guy was thinking, he drives all the way to Toronto (though he had a nice ride if that was his Sprinter van parked out front) to play the hip new bar and nobody is really listening. Anyway he had the upbeat tunes to play for that crowd but not a great showcase for a Songwriter of the Year. Our favourite publicist/scenester told me "Justin is here, Serena is here, only Luke Doucet is missing!" And I had a chance to catch up with young Liam Titcomb who is just back from a songwriting session in Nashville.

Many friends were launching CDs over the last couple of weeks, I didn't make it to either Suzie Vinnick's launch at Hugh's Room or Paula Shear's launch at the Gladstone because I just ran out of steam. I was cooked on Sunday from a late night and miles and miles of walking at the Nuit Blanche last Sunday. That was quite phenomenal - amazing installations, one by Byron Wong who filled a small park with microphones and speakers and created feedback loops that he processed through a bank of synthesizers (all electric, as he pointed out - nothing digital). In addition, there was another artist who created a video program that allowed the sound to be manipulated as you passed your hand in front of the screen. Up the road at the Ontario College of Art, one young man had a projector in the back of a pick-up truck and had somehow installed a wireless mouse and some kind of laser pointer into a spray can so that if you pointed at this 4 or 5 story wall you could "draw" by pressing down the button on the can. Hi-tech graffiti - and easy to erase!

I saw my Montreal buddy Michael Jerome Browne (and partner B. who made it to town for the occasion). He was releasing his new CD at the Gladstone – he had a great young organist with him – the name was Don Cummings, but when I asked Don about what other stuff he was doing it seemed he does not play a lot – he was subbing for Ken pearson, who played organ on Michael's CD. I also got to Carlos del Junco's CD launch at the Dollar and he was playing up a storm – with a new guitarist, Eric St-Laurent (I think…). This guy had some big shoes to fill following in the footsteps of Kevin Breit and Shawn Kellerman but he pulled it off. Not to forget Mark Sepic, who played a lot with Carlos and who composed one of the tunes they played. Dropped in a Mark's jam in the beaches the other day and did a couple of tunes with him. I must get out more often (to the jams, I mean).

The most amazing band I saw this month was a group from Turkey called Baba Zula – and it was the visual element that added to the impact. The band was a guy playing beats and loops with a percussionist and a guy playing something resembling a 3-string guitar which he ran through a bank of pedals and effects. What was most fascinating was an artisr off to the side doodling on a graphics tablet and creating real-time graphics on a rear screen projector. My eyes were glued to that screen – except for when the belly dancer came out… Also got to hear Vieux Farka TourĂ© as part of the Small World Festival and he was terrific, too. Not as versatile as his late dad, Ali Farka TourĂ©, but he had that African guitar groove that I love.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Randy Newman's two rules of show business

Never leave your wallet in the dressing room, and never tell the audience
that you¹re sick.