Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Westwood Creative Artists

Thomas King. Rohinton Mistry. Mordecai Richler. Timothy Findley. Michael Turner. Julian Barnes. Bret "The Hitman" Hart... and Sean McCallum? What the ?!?!

In one of the most inexplicable developments in recent memory, the good people at Westwood Creative Artists have decided that I am somehow worthy of their representation in all matters literary and pertaining to the world of publishing... To say that I am shocked and overjoyed would be an understatement of epic proportions.

As some of my loyal readers will know, I have been working on the manuscript for a novel for the better part of the past five years. Despite what some people say, trying to write a novel; particularly a first novel; is a ridiculous amount of work, and it wasn't until about six months ago that I decided that the manuscript was of the quality where I might actually let someone else read it. I kept my audience as limited as possible. My mom. My girlfriend. My sister... You know, the people who will tell you they like it even if it reads like a highschool writer's craft portfolio. Despite the fact that this particular work is about the most masculine story imaginable, all of these women in my life seemed to genuinely enjoy it.

The next step was to hand it to my one and only contact in the publishing world, a friend of mine by the name of Catherine. She agreed to look it over, but warned that she would pull no punches when telling me what she thought of it, which was perfect for me because a good dose of objective reality was precisely what I was looking for. A few weeks later, Cat got back to me saying that she was thoroughly impressed. She had some fantastic suggestions (the kinds of changes you would never think to make while writing the damn thing), and said that the next step was to try to procure the services of an agent. Coming from the publishing side, Cat informed me that most big publishing houses won't even look at an unsolicited manuscript (those that reside for eternity in the aptly christened slush pile). She said that she didn't want to get my hopes up because, in many ways, it is much more difficult to find an agent to represent you than it is to get something published.

So I wrote a letter describing who I was and what I had to offer; mainly, this novel that I'd been working on for the past five years. I sent the letter out to four agents, and heard back from two of them, both of whom said they were interested in taking a look at my manuscript.

To make a long-story-that-goes-down-much-better-over-a-few-pints short, I heard back from both agents on the same day, and both said that they were interested in trying to set something up. But to be honest, going with Westwood was an absolute no brainer. Not only are they an absolute powerhouse in the Canadian publishing world, but they have Bret "The Hitman" Hart under contract... I mean, what more could you want?

(It also didn't hurt that Hilary, my new agent {don't think I'll ever get used to that}, was hands down the most enthusiastic reader I've ever come across, to say nothing of her track record with the authors she represents {pristine}. But more than anything else, she seemed to unequivocally get me and what I was trying to convey in those pages I'd handed to her... And when you have someone going to bat for you with the publishers, that belief is the incalculable X-factor).

When I told Catherine that Westwood had offered to take me on, she really couldn't reiterate enough how rare this sort of thing is. A nothing writer with no publishing background and no established audience to speak of (save for the dotcomrades, of course) does NOT find representation with an agency like WCA. It just doesn't happen.

Well, apparently it does.

If I were Ron Burgundy, I might be inclined to say something like this.

And if I were Mikey hanging with Trent at the Bamboo Lounge, I would no longer need to worry about having to flounder like this.

But instead I'll hearken back to the greatest movie of all-time, Stand By Me, and more specifically to the scene where Chris and Gordie are walking along the train tracks, a hundred yards behind Teddy and Vern, who are in the midst of discussing whether or not a cartoon could beat up a real guy. When they cut back to Chris and Gordie, Chris says: "You could be a real writer someday, Gordie".

I wouldn't say that I'm that real writer quite yet, but I think we're starting to get somewhere.

If you want to read some excerpts from the manuscript, you can catch some of it here:

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 7

Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Guillermo in The Bourne Ultimatum

I think it's safe to say that Jimmy Kimmel Live! is the best show on late night network TV.

Thanks to Llibs for the heads-up.

Thursday, March 20, 2008



There are 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 ways to fill out your NCAA Men's basketball bracket. It's true. Look.

So if you were ever wondering how ESPN and CBSsportsline can offer those million dollar prizes to anyone who goes 64 for 64, the reason is because the odds against doing so are 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 to 1. Not exactly sure how that would show up as a Vegas line, but needless to say, the chances of you going perfect are not so good.

I'd give you my picks but I haven't completed my bracket yet. Also, as has been well documented in this forum, I am quite possibly the worst prognosticator in the history of sports, going 0 for 2 in my mortal locks picks in the history of this website (ie, taking the Rockies to beat the goggle-disporting Red Sox, and implying that it was out of the realm of possibility for Tom Brady to lose a football game), so you're probably better off allowing Maggie the Monkey to make your binary selections for you.

In any event, today puts us smack-dab into the heart of the least productive week in North American history. With the entire Irish-American-Canadian population taking the afternoon off to get completely wasted on Green beer and Guiness on Monday afternoon and nursing the subsequent freight train hangover on Tuesday, the chances are pretty good that most of us spent Wednesday poring over sports websites and blogs in order to catch up on a year's worth of College Basketball so we can pretend to know what we're talking about while filling out our brackets, leading beautifully into today, which will see most of the civilized world spending 24 out of the next 36 hours watching the greatest sporting event on the planet to finish off the week while trying in vain to talk our significant others into the notion that Jesus died so we could watch Billy Packer and Gus Johnson... (cowering from impending lightning bolt...)

All you need to know for today is that Gus Johnson is in Denver. Judging by this set of clips, I think it's pretty safe to say that the best games in College Basketball seem to follow Gus around.

Enjoy the tourney.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

St. Patrick's Day

I won't lie to you: my memories of Monday afternoon/evening/early morning are extremely hazy. Judging by the photos I had sent to me, it looks like I managed to hang around until the bitter end, and I know that I somehow wound up naked on a couch in the morning with no explanation as to how I got there. Luckily for everyone involved, the couch was in my own living room.

Needless to say, it was quite a whirlwind marathon of booze and music, with a great deal more emphasis placed on the booze.

My cousin Little Buddy got to The Pour House at 10:30 in the morning because he clearly has a drinking problem. Aside from being awfully fond of the drink, Little Buddy also knew that the bar last year was a complete mad house, so he wanted to make sure he landed a sweet table for the festivities. Being the first person in the bar, he had his pick of the litter and managed to score the best table in the house (the same set of tables we had the year before, for the record). I think Sweet Nate and Jen got there around 1:20, with Dunner and Lemur getting there around 2. As for me, I had a lovely wee McCallan's at home by my lonesome, and then pulled a Matt Bonner and rode the rocket all the way to the bar.

I really don't know what else to say except that the next 9 hours were spent drinking mass quantities of Guiness and acting like a complete idiot, singing along to the Pogues and whatever else the band played, and hugging and bullshitting more people than you could possibly imagine.

I can tell you that we bought a pint for Bob and sat it up on the mantle as we have been wont to do of late (nobody dominated St. Patrick's Day like my Grandfather, and the "Pint for Bob" has become one of my favourite St. Patty's Day traditions - Lord love ya Nate). I can tell you that the Bomber's girlfriend, Susan, spent more money on green party accessories than Elliot Spitzer spends on seven diamond hookers, and that Ronnie somehow managed to sneak the Oakville contingent into the bar (bypassing the lineup, the holding area in the tent, and judging by the condition of Robbie Doon, all semblance of an "already overserved" screening process). I can also tell you that Little Buddy was cut off by 6:30pm, and praying to the subterrainean porcelain Goddess by 7 (photographic evidence has been mercifully witheld).

A few of the other foggy memories I have include tripping up the stairs on my way back from the bathroom, doing shots of Whiskey for Lorne, and Sully and I making a potentially ill-advised $100 bet on the outcome of the OTHL playoffs. Beyond that? I'm pretty much at a loss...

These pictures may or may not go a long way in explaining why I felt like I'd been hit by a mack truck Tuesday morning... Ugh...

Bonus Coverage: A Leprechaun sighting in Alabama!

I'm trying to decide what's better: the amateur sketch, or the lady postulating that it's probably just a crackhead up in the tree. Either way, this might just be the best newsclip to ever come across the www:

Saturday, March 15, 2008

St. Patty's Day Preview

The following email came from an unnamed source, but needless to say, I will be doing everything in my power to be in the general vicinity of the Supa Pilot at this point next year. I don't even know what a knee drop is but Supa, you can sign me up. You had me at "this Sunday is more important to me than the potential birth of my child".

The closing line of that email might possibly be the greatest thing I have ever read.


As Porter and Darci will further validate; this Sunday is more important to me than such days as Derby Day, New Years, Fourth of July, my future wedding, potential birth of my child, college graduation, Super Bowl XXXIX, Kevin Garnett trade, Zidane Head Butt, US 1-Columbia 0, George Mason Final Four, sink night, and the loss of my virginity; just to name a few.

To be brief, the Southie Parade along Broadway Street is littered with parties, tons of green beer, organized chaos, roof deck parties, pong, babes, and anything a sweet a dude like me wants on a frieken Sunday, essentially just being Supa. Please note that Saturday St. Pats rage doesn’t compare to the main event on Sunday; it is simply a warm up.

I hope you gents are around, please join me on this adventure, it wont disappoint- I have like 6 parties lined up, yep, I am that sweet. Porter has a full lime green suit and is bringing passion back on his Red Eye from Vegas just so he could be Supa. I plan to meet a bunch of people at high noon Sunday at the Mariott Longwharf where we will grab a cab to get us as close to the parade that starts at 1pm. Maybe stop by the Sailoft if open and say hi to Dennis. Call me if you would like to be a Supa dude- 603 860 ####, I would suggest just bringing a backpack with cold beers etc for spontaneous knee drops. If you have a big Monday work day, no worries, I haven’t ever stayed out(made it) past 5pm, sheer day rage.

Babes are allowed, but last year someone threw up on my girl at Shenanigan’s Pub and she dumped me, but it was Supa.

-Supa Pilot

For more information on the South Boston Parade (but really, what more do you need?), click here.

If by any chance you're looking for me Monday afternoon, I'll be conducting impromptu Sustainable Roofing seminars at The Pour House (Bathurst and Dupont) from about 2pm onwards.

Bonus Coverage: The best known documentation of the Southie St. Patty's Day parade.

Parking Disaster

As far as spring-like days go, today was probably the closest we've come to having one this year in Toronto, so naturally I spent it following my girlfriend around on College Street as she shopped for shoes and clothes and cosmetics and a birthday present for her mom... Anyway, I was sitting on the steps of this shoe store, wanting to kill myself, when all of a sudden I see this lady pull off the most disasterous 30 seconds of driving I've ever had the pleasure of witnessing in my life.

We were at the corner of College and Beatrice and this lady was driving some silver little Honda. The space she was trying to parallel park in could have easily fit a Greyhound bus, but she still somehow managed to mangle everything in her path. She began by hitting the side of the car parked in front of her. I have no idea how she pulled this off because it wasn't like she just clipped the back end of the car; she actually hit this thing at the driver's side door. Not letting a minor detail like denting another vehicle deter her, she proceeded to back into the car behind her not once, but twice. It was as if she didn't take enough paint off the first time, so she decided to drill it even harder just for good measure the second.

By this point I was laughing hysterically, but this lady was clearly losing it. Instead of stopping where she was, she jerked the car forward, right into the middle of the streetcar tracks, and jumped out of her car, denying that she'd hit anything despite the fact that both cars were covered in silver paint and both owners of the cars she'd mangled were standing there in stunned disbelief, having watched the entire debacle unfold. It wasn't until one of the guys she'd hit asked for her insurance papers that she realized she'd locked her keys in the car... in the middle of the streetcar tracks!

Forty-five minutes later, with the streetcars backed up eight-deep and the traffic stopped for two miles in both directions, they finally managed to move this lady's car. If I'd had a camera, this could have easily been the YouTube clip of the year.

Obviously, this little episode was the hightlight of my day.

"I mean, who the hell doesn't like Bruce Springsteen, for God's sake?"

Australian woman kills husband in fight over Bruce Springsteen

BRISBANE, Australia - An Australian woman who stabbed her common law husband to death because she was tired of being bossed around says an argument over Bruce Springsteen was the last straw.

Karen Lee Cooper pleaded guilty to manslaughter Thursday and was sentenced to eight years in prison for killing partner Kevin Watson in a drunken argument at their home in northeastern Queensland state in July 2006.

Cooper, 50, called an ambulance after suffering what her lawyer Greg Maguire called a brain snap and stabbing Watson, 49, once in the chest with a kitchen knife.

He died at the scene.

Cooper told police she had become fed up with Watson telling her what to do during their two-year relationship.

On the night of the killing, she tried to play a Springsteen CD and he took if off the stereo, triggering a bitter argument.

"I mean, who the hell doesn't like Bruce Springsteen, for God's sake?" Cooper told police in a record of interview presented to the court.

"I just picked up a knife and I went 'boom'."

Cooper, who swallowed a handful of painkillers after calling the ambulance in a suicide bid, regretted stabbing Watson and believed he did not deserve to die, Maguire said.

In handing down the sentence, Justice John Byrne noted Cooper was a mother of three with no previous convictions and said he was taking her remorse and guilty plea into account.

It's really tough to find fault with Karen Lee Cooper on this one. Because don't get me wrong: I love bossing my girlfriend around as much as the next guy. But if you're willing to take someone's Springsteen CD off the stereo, you'd better be prepared to face the consequences. And in this case, the consequences involved suffering multiple stab wounds and being left to bleed to death on the carpet while your girlfriend swallows a handful of painkillers and listens to The River in its entirety. Tit for tat. You just have to know these things going in.

Unlike Karen Lee Cooper, however, I believe her boyfriend did deserve to die.

"I mean, who the hell doesn't like Bruce Springsteen, for God's sake?"

Case closed.

Thanks to Rosco for the heads-up.

Steak and BJ Day

From steakandbj.com:

You know the drill. Every 14th of February you get the chance to display your fondness for a significant other by showering her with gifts, flowers, dinner, shows and any other baubles that women find romantic. Every Valentines day you rack your brains for that one special, unique gift that will show your wife or girlfriend that you really do care for them more than any other. Now ladies, I'll let you in on a little secret; guys really don't enjoy this that much. Sure seeing that smile on your face when we get it right is priceless, but that smile is the result of weeks of blood, sweat and consideration. Another secret; guys feel left out. That's right, there's no special holiday for the ladies to show their appreciation for the men in their life. Men as a whole are either too proud or too embarrassed to admit it.

Which is why a new holiday has been created.

March 14th is now officially "Steak and Blowjob Day". Simple, effective and self explanatory, this holiday has been created so you ladies finally have a day to show your man how much you care for him.

No cards, no flowers, no special nights on the town; the name of the holiday explains it all, just a steak and a BJ. Thats it. Finally, this twin pair of Valentine's Day and Steak and Blowjob Day will usher in a new age of love as men everywhere try THAT much harder in February to ensure a memorable March 14th!

I can't believe I missed out on this again. Really, my girlfriend should be ashamed. I slaved to make sure that this past Valentine's Day was everything she could ever dream: the roses, the ridiculously expensive dinner, the romantic moonlit walk... Hell, I was even accused of "going soft" by one of my loyal readers for suggesting that Tougher Than The Rest was the perfect V.D. song... And then she goes and forgets all about Steak and BJ day? What kind of a society do we live in where such glaring disparities can be allowed to continuously exist between the sexes?

Granted, I was out all day playing hockey and getting uproariously drunk with the OTHL alumni in the annual Friday-before-St.-Patrick's-Day-Game and didn't see her until I stumbled through the door and immediately passed out on the couch, but still... I would have gladly settled for a burger and some heavy petting.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Opposite Day

In the past few weeks, I've had an alarmingly high number of friends and relations find themselves on the wrong ends of various mergers and corporate restructurings. Although not always the most enjoyable thing to have to go through, I'm just here to assure them that these things seem to always work out for the best.

Take me for example. When my previous employer wouldn't grant me the time off I'd requested in order to go to South America and live like an 18-year old bum for a third of a year, I thought I'd never be able to recover. How would I ever live without a job? Who would pay my bar tabs at The Cloak and Dagger for Move On Up night with DJ Anousheh? And how could I ever be expected to land another gig with my history of packing up and darting for foreign continents with little discernible motivation beyond an inexplicable wanderlust? Things seemed pretty hopeless, to say the least.

But less than two years later, look where I am today: a multi-national smut-peddlar with a web-based audience approaching the hundreds...

Let's just hope that things will work out better for you.

In any event, when all else fails, we can always look to George Costanza for inspiration. When circumstances lead us down the path of despair, the man is like a beacon of hope in the cold, dark night.

By the way, if you think I'm not adopting "We're gonna take it outside and I'm gonna SHOW YOU WHAT IT'S LIKE!" as my new catchphrase, you're sadly mistaken.

Bonus Coverage: Jerry and Larry talking about the episode, and how Larry became George (the other George).

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Anchor Owns Reporter

glumbert - Anchor vs Reporter

I really have no idea what kind of history exists between these two, but I think it's pretty safe to say that poor Ollie must have been giving Jim's wife a bit of the old in & out at some point back in the day. In any event, it appears as though Ollie's day of reckoning finally came, because this is a savage beatdown the likes of which we haven't seen since the last time a naked guy ran onto the cricket oval.

By the way: would it be possible to care any less about a news story? I've watched this clip five times and still have no idea why the hell the anchor would ever want to hear another word about the current state of the elevator repairs in some insignificant rental apartment. Just cut to the WNBA highlights and let's get on with it already.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Your Toronto Tax Dollars at Work

I won't lie to you: it takes a lot to get me riled up.

You can puke in my car and I'll probably laugh it off. If you want to drunkenly piss off my front porch, chances are I'll be willing to look the other way. Hell, you can even wear your collar popped and spill your beer all over me at a club with a $20 cover while the DJ spins a dance remix of My Heart Will Go On and I'll try to let it go. But when I spend 45 minutes sorting through my recycling and come home to find this on my driveway, that's where I draw the line.

I think this little letter I passed on to the City of Toronto pretty well explains my position:

Hi Stacey,

I spoke with one of your employees this afternoon, and was not given a satisfactory explanation as to why I came home to find the contents of my bi-weekly recycling scattered across my driveway.

I should begin by explaining that I live in a house with three separate apartments. Seeing as each tenant has been forced to go out and buy their own recycling bin, only two of us have gotten around to making this superfluous purchase (the third was using a large green plastic bin that the collectors decided to throw into the truck along with the recycling one week). As there are three families living in the one house, and recycling is collected only once every two weeks, we naturally have more recycling than can fit into two bins. As a result, occasionally some recycling is placed in a cardboard box along side the blue boxes. I didn't believe this to be an issue, seeing as cardboard gets recycled anyway, and your website clearly states:

Paper recyclables may be mixed with cans and bottles as the recycling material is sorted at the processing facility."

Furthermore, nowhere on the City of Toronto website (that I can discern) does it state that recycling is NOT to be placed in a cardboard box... And the website actually proclaims: "
There is no item limit for recyclables".

The person I spoke to today said that the guidelines explaining the collection of recyclable materials are described in the collection calendar, but funnily enough, I didn't receive one of those either. As a result, I came home today to find what you see in the photographs included. There was no note provided, and no explanation for why this recyclable material was left behind; only a pile of recycling strewn across my driveway.

Needless to say, I am borderline infuriated. As a former garbage collector myself (for the Town of Oakville), I can't even fathom leaving this kind of a mess behind for fear of the repercussions. It is nothing short of a complete and utter embarrassment. For a City which claims to have won the Gold Award at the Recycling Council of Ontario's 2007 Ontario Waste Minimization Awards, believe me when I say that this is a black eye on the entire recycling program.

I live at 58 Churchill Ave. (near the corner of Dovercourt and College), and there is a 0% chance of my picking this mess up myself. Please feel free to call me and discuss how such a debacle can be avoided in the future. You can reach me at: (416) 845-####.

I trust this situation will be rectified accordingly.


Sean McCallum

10 to 1 odds says I'm out at the end of my driveway picking that shit up by the end of the day. I hate my life.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Stuff White People Like


My buddy DVZ brought this site to my attention last week, and I really haven't been able to get enough of it since.

Not only is it absolutely hilarious, but it's absolutely true. I mean, I am a white person, and this is pretty much a list of things I like (with the exception of Soccer, which I don't even like the idea of). The Wire? Check. T-Shirts? My wardrobe consists of them almost exclusively. Threatening to move to Canada? Hell, I already did that! (Actually, I was born here, but whatever:

Sue: Hey man, you're not from here, alright. You don't know how it is. I grew up in L.A.
Trent: Anaheim.
Sue: Whatever, man.

- Hey, when are they adding Swingers to the list of Stuff White People Like, anyway?).

I have no idea who is responsible for this site, or which race/nationality/religion they claim to be (I'm pretty sure they're white and just goofing on us), but I find this to be a totally fascinating sociological look into American culture. So much of it is so true, and so funny, and so sad...

Anyway, if you were NOT a white person and wanted to learn how to fit in with white people, www.stuffwhitepeoplelike.com would pretty well be your Bible.

Some classic stuff that white people like:

Wrigley Field

Breakfast Places

Indie Music

Barack Obama

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Steve Earle at Massey Hall

My first memories of Steve Earle's music come in the form of my travelling with my dad, late at night, in an old motorhome we used to have. For some reason it always seemed like we were the last two awake, cruising down some lonesome highway with the rest of the family sleeping in the back. With me riding shotgun, he'd always let me go through the briefcase full of casette tapes he had, and invariably I'd always wind up picking that Copperhead Road album. There was just something inexplicably right about listeneing to the Hardcore Troubadour as the miles rushed past late at night as we drove deep into the American South.

Fifteen, sixteen, seventeen years later, and that fourth album of Steve Earle's; now remarkably twenty years old but as timeless and relevant today as it was back in '88; is still one of my all-time favourite albums, easily landing in a top-10 list that has yet to be fully compiled.

Having been introduced to Steve Earle and the Dukes by my dad (as I was introduced to most of the music that has stayed with me over the years), it was only fitting that I was taking him along with me to see the Hardcore Troubadour at what, for all intents and purposes, is the finest musical venue in Canada.

We arrived at Massey Hall at eight o'clock on the button after a few Steam Whistles and a run through of Guitar Town on the turntable at my place, the result of which may or may not have been responsible for my forgetting the tickets (as we stood waiting for the College streetcar I realized, in a rush of panic, that they were still on my bureau). My buddy Browner had gotten us the tickets, so it came as no surprise that the seats were phenomenal: second deck, dead centre. Massey Hall is such an intimate venue that it felt like you could reach out and touch Allison Moorer,the surprise opening act, and Steve's ridiculously attractive and talented wife (his sixth, for the record; as he put it this time around: "I know, I'm hopelessly overmarried"). In any event, Moorer acquitted herself well, playing a number of tunes from her new disc Mockingbird, including Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now, much to the crowd's delight.

During the intermission (of which I'm a huge fan, for the record. I think all shows should have an intermission), my dad and I met up with Browner and his buddy for a bevvy in the second level "Steve Earle Lounge" (a quasi-jab at the somewhat pretentious notion of having an "E Street Lounge" at the Springsteen show... not quite backstage passes because you're not hanging out with the band, but still sufficiently semi-exclusive... ugh) before venturing back inside for the show.

This was my first time catching Steve Earle live, and I have to admit that I was completely blown away by how good a guitar player he is. You expect the guy to be good, but this was nothing short of a finger-picking clinic. It always boggles my mind, being as musically illiterate as I am, how one man can make a single guitar sound like that... And when that unmistakable voice of his; the embodiment of all things country, rock, folk, soul, roots, and blues; filled that grand old Hall with the opening to lines to Steve's Last Ramble, you knew that we were in for something special.

The best way to describe the Troubadour onstage is to say that he picks up where Springsteen has left off, doing all of those things Springsteen used to do, and providing the audience with a level of intimacy and interaction that seems to have escaped the Boss in recent years.

Perhaps nothing signifies this notion more than the fact that he dedicated the show "to the memory of Jeff Healey", and then played a heartbreaking version of "My Old Friend The Blues". We were eating out of his hand from that point on.

Before playing Now She's Gone, Steve dedicated the song "to what's her name, wherever she is", making an obvious allusion to his well-documented failures in marriage (he's been married seven times, to six women... yep, married one of them twice). As soon as he finished that track, he switched harmonicas and flatly stated: "Same girl... Different harmonica..." to uproarious laughter. Some girls just scar you, I guess. The version of Goodbye he played in the aftermath was one of the saddest songs I've ever heard, and you could have literally heard a pin drop in that place. It was the epitome of heartache, and it was perfect.

One of the great things about Massey Hall is that it's so intimate and acoustically sound that you can hear everything, meaning that people are basically having ad hoc conversations with the performer on stage between songs. This led to one of my favourite moments of the night, as Earle said: “Y’know, you grow up and get a guitar ‘cause you want the girls to scream at you, but at my shows it’s always the guys who scream.” As if on cue, as soon as the laughter subsided, some dude in the audience with the deepest baritone voice you can imagine boomed: "WE LOVE YOU STEVE!!!" Too funny.

On his new album, Washington Square Serenade, Steve got to experimenting with some electro beats, and to complement these tracks on this tour, he regularly brings out Neil MacDonald to provide the beats on the wheels of steel about halfway through the show. I think that working the turntables could probably work for a couple of the tracks (most notably City of Imigrants, which is an aboslutely killer tune that Steve introduced by talking about the U.S.'s obsession with trying to keep immigrants out {Earle sees the gov't using this issue as a form of distraction from the real issues plaguing his homeland}, even though every great city and civilization was created by and for immigrants); but on the whole, I think that the overpowering beats took away from what Steve was doing on stage. They had the affect of alienating the audience to a large degree, drowning out not only Earle's ridiculously good guitar playing, but also much of the message he was delivering in each song. I'm not saying the beats should be taken out of the show entirely (they complemented Way Down In The Hole beautifully, giving it that Waitsian effect{Earle plays the song for the opening credits of The Wire in Season 5 - he also stars as Waylon, the recovering Herion addict in a number of episodes}), but that they should probably be scaled back a little.

Because where Steve Earle is at his absolute best is when he is up on stage with his guitar and his harmonica, singing his beautifully crafted songs like the hardened troubadour he is. Nowhere was this more evident than in his rendition of Billy Austin, a huanting and touching ballad about a young man on death row. The song is brilliantly written, and when performed before a silenced crowd, it is a chilling indictment of the institution of the death penalty. As my buddy Browner astutely observed: "Steve Earle has to be the most well informed Texan with an eighth grade education alive". Undoubtedly.

Other highlights from the show included a phenonmenally raucous one-man version of The Galway Girl, with Steve Earle showing his Irish lineage by completely rocking out on the mandolin. I had never heard The Galway Girl before, but that version has to be right up there with Johnny Come Lately (done with The Pogues on Copperhead Road) as an instant St. Patrick's Day classic. The duets with his wife Allison were a nice touch, and you really get the feeling that this is a marriage that has a chance (you know what they say: 7th time is the charm!).

Finally, one of the last songs Earle did was Little Rock and Roller, a song he wrote for his son more than twenty years ago. He introduced the song by talking at length about how hard it was being away from his kids when he was on the road all of those years, and how maybe he wasn't the best dad in the world for those reasons and for a whole bunch of other reasons (Earle's problems with substance abuse have been well documented)... And then he wrapped it all up by talking about his own dad, and how, unlike himself, his dad was always there; for him, for his kids, for everyone... Unfortunately, Earle's dad passed away just after Christmas this year, and you could really tell that the family has had a tough time trying to deal with it... Steve then went on to dedicate the song to his sons, his brothers and sisters, and to his dad: Jack Dublin Earle.

It was one of the most touching concert moments I've ever had the pleasure of being a part of. And it made me thankful that I was able to share it with my own dad.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band in The Hammer

I have seen the sunset over Darwin Bay in the Galapagos Islands. I have drank cool, frothy beer from Lord Stanley's Mug. I have seen the Cubbies clinch the Pennant from the bleachers at Wrigley. I have vomitted violently all over the ancient ruins at Machu Picchu. I have seen Eva Longoria's husband hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy...

And I have seen the E Street Band perform Kitty's Back on a rainy night in Hamilton, ON.

In all honesty, I didn't think I'd ever live to see "the heart stopping, pants dropping, earth shattering, hard rocking, hips shaking, earth quaking, nerve breaking, Viagra taking, history making, legendary E-Street Band" take it to those heretofore unfrequented heights of funkification, and certainly not with Phantam Dan at home recovering from treatments for melanoma. I'm telling you, the mighty Max looked like the reincarnation of Vinnie Lopez with 30 years of practice, and you would have sworn that the boys from E Street were back at the Hammersmith Odeon, or at least at Conan's place... It was the unequivocal highlight of the show for me, and one of the all-time Springsteen highlights in my life. Had there been more room in my 8th row seat, I would have surely done the "Shake a Tail" like it was Saturday night at Clinton's.

Well you better learn to move fast when you're young or you're not long around
Cat somehow lost his Kitty down in the city pound
So get right, get tight, get down...

Let me tell you, there was a whole hell of a lot of getting down in my section...

It's hard to say that a single groove is worth the price of admission alone, but I'll go ahead and say it right here: I would have gladly forked over $120, taken my seat, witnessed the band laying down that one, near-perfect track, and gone home a happy man. It really was that good.

As for the rest of the show, there was obviously some carry-over from the Toronto show back in October (to read a rollicking revue of that tour-de-force performance, click HERE), but the songs he switched up made it all worth while.

In attendance for this show were my parents (who dutifully made the trek last minute without tickets, only to score a pair of great seats for $100 each), and my buddy Dunner, along with his sister and their old man. Truly a family function worth attending.

I was kind of hoping Bruce would pay tribute to Jeff Healey (Toronto guitar legend who passed away Sunday) the way he did for Warren Zevon at the Toronto show back in September of 2003 (when he opened beneath a shimmering full moon with a beautiful, acoustic rendition of My Ride's Here... chilling), but instead the band opened with a rocking version of No Surrender, one of my favourite tracks (especially the eye-sweat inducing acoustic version); it would have been great to hear Bruce do "Angel Eyes" for Jeff, but this was a pretty decent consolation. There are few lines in music more true to life than: "We learned more from a three-minute record than we ever learned in school".

Because The Night is another great song that they inserted into the set this time around, but it seemed to me that, on this night, the band was taking a little while to warm up. Having grown up on those bootlegs from the '70's, I couldn't help but notice that most of these uptempo songs are done a little slower than they were 30 years ago; as if the band is running through them in three-quarters time. The songs just don't seem to sizzle and scream the way they did back in the day. Maybe it was because they were missing Danny (home sick) and Patti (home taking care of the kids, or as Bruce put it: "We have three teenagers; someone has to make sure they don't burn the place down..."). Maybe it's because the band is getting older, or because they've done those songs so many times in the past that the energy just isn't there any more... or maybe it's because the fans are all 30 years older and just can't keep up. Whatever the reason, the songs; and particularly Because The Night; just don't come off the way they did on the Darkness tour (think: September 10, 1978, Cincinnatti - if you don't have a bootleg from one of those legendary shows on the Darkness tour, do yourself a favour and grab a couple... they are nothing short of awe inspiring). My dad says that the Rolling Stones started slowing their songs down in their old age... Needless to say, we are not fans of the "Stones-ifying" of uptempo Springsteen tracks.

Darkness on the Edge of Town was a great, classic rendition. The only problem with this tune was that my entire section sat down. Maybe it was because it was a Monday night and it was impossible to get a beer (four beer stands for 19,000 people just doesn't cut it), but I thought the crowd was lacking a little energy. I have read revues which state otherwise, but when an entire section (with the exception of myself and another dude in a Stone Pony T) sits down for one of the ten best songs the man has ever written, I call that a lame crowd. Case closed.

They followed Darkness with a note-perfect version of The River. For me, this was one of the supreme highlights of the show; just a stellar version.

Of course, any conversation about The River would be incomplete without mentioning the story he tells before the song on the '75-85 Live album. For me, it's the kind of thing that brings a song to a level that it could never otherwise reach. To me, there's nothing more powerful than context. As in: a song might be pretty good, but when you know the story behind it; what the author was thinking and feeling when he wrote it, what the song it really about; it makes that song that much more powerful. And I understand why Springsteen doesn't talk on stage about his older songs - we've seen all of the shows, we have all of the bootlegs, and we already know what those songs are all about - but I really wish he would give a little more context to his newer material. Maybe that's why his stuff off of the Magic album seems to be lacking a little, and why it doesn't move me as much as the older stuff: because I don't really know what those songs are about.. at least not in the way you're supposed to feel Springsteen's music.

I'm not looking for an entire story like he used to give in the middle of Growing Up; just a little old fashioned context. Like this. See? Not too much to ask.

The boys played Thunder Road in the encore, and no matter how many times you hear that song, you really can't beat belting out at the top of your lungs:

So you're scared and you're thinking
That maybe we ain't that young anymore
Show a little faith, there's magic in the night
You ain't a beauty, but hey you're alright
Oh and that's alright with me

Some other highlights from the show included some big lug getting up on stage and trying to do the funky chicken during Girls in Their Summer Clothes (I could have sworn it was my cousin, Little Buddy), and Silvio Dante chiming in with some vocals towards the end of Long Walk Home... Honestly, Miami Steve has one of the greatest rock and roll voices I've ever heard, and the guy just exudes cool. And I have to say that Nils Lofgren and the Mighty Max are quietly stealing the show with their ridiculously excellent playing. Those two have simply never been better.

And then the band played the greatest song ever written about street-savvy felines, and another thing on my "to-do before I die" list was quickly crossed off.

Next up on said list: "Steve Earle at Massey Hall"... show starts in about three hours.

Bonus Coverage: If you ever needed a little something extra to get yourself jacked for a Springsteen show, check out Buccigross and Everett dropping dimes before the Hartford show:

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Great Sign Showdown





As an advocate of the written word, there are few things I like better than a well-crafted bit of locution, particularly when it appears in public and is intended to either disparage or offend. I think it's safe to say that all of the above qualify.

The "Chelios, You're Uglier Than Ricci" is obviously a classic, and the fact that the esteemed photographer actually caught Chelios laughing at it is too funny.

I actually laughed out loud at the "Free Cat" sign, even though there's nothing funny about a dead cat on the road... I just thought it was hilarious that someone would take the time to make up a sign and put it at the side of the road, but that no one could find the time to scrape Fluffy off the tarmac.

The Sofa King ad is pure genius, and the ode to Scott Kelly's Irish heritage just goes to show the vindictiveness that women can be capable of (bonus points for the utterly public humiliation).

But I think you have to give the nod to the Maryland fans on this one. Changing the "J.J. is Redickulous" (totally lame) into "J.J. is Redickulously Gay" (nothing short of brilliant) might be the greatest achievement in all of University athletics. So inspired. So devious. Yet so simple... It's the perfect sign.