Concert review – Suzanne Vega

31 01 2011

Suzanne Vega
Sunday, January 30
McPherson Playhouse, Victoria

Mention Suzanne Vega to anyone under 35 and you are likely to get a blank stare.  Now start humming to the tune of “Tom’s Diner” and you’ll catch the attention of young music lovers of almost any creed. Last night McPherson Playhouse hosted Suzanne Vega’s first ever appearance in Victoria and the only Canadian date on her retrospective Close-Up tour. She strolled on stage in a classy suit; lips painted a familiar bright red. With a graceful smile she was immediately in control of the audience, a strong contrast to the raw performances of the 2011 Victoria Idol finalists who opened for her.

Suzanne Vega by Keely J. Dakin

Launching into a couple of her love songs, Vega wryly recounted that one reporter didn’t agree that these were love songs, “‘Marlene On the Wall’ is not about love, it’s about angst,’” Vega grins, “and the difference is?”

Playing a combination of her best known works, (“Luka,” “The Queen and The Soldier,” “Tom’s Diner,”) with a few newer pieces, Vega was backed up on electrical guitar by Dublin-raised Gerry Leonard. Vega’s voice was strong and soothing, though occasionally the guitar overpowered her lyrics.

Best known for her musical storytelling, Vega has had a long relationship with theatre as well.  Near the end of the night she played a song from the play, Carson McCullers Sings About Love, which will premiere in April at New York City’s Rattlestick Theatre.

It wasn’t a full house, but the energy from the audience was strong, giving a warm, nostalgic feel to the night. She carried the audience through her often depressing songs, with laughter and humour as a welcome counterbalance.

—Keely J. Dakin

Keely J. Dakin is a student in Western Academy’s Written Image journalism program. You can see more of her work here.

Calendar: Food and Fundraisers

26 01 2011

Foodies and humanitarians rejoice this week. Fundraisers and food abound in Victoria this week, giving everyone an opportunity to to feed your belly and help the world.

If Cook Street Village’s Multicultural Food Fair leaves you longing for bellydancing and a smaller waistline, email (SUBJECT:BELLY FIT EARTH) and win Alice Bracegirdle’s dance workout DVD.

Save Mary Lake Live Web-a-thon – Join the Mary Lake Conservancy for this innovative live web broadcast! On air guests include Oliver Swain, Elizabeth May, Guy Dauncey, and Vicky Husband. Snacks, music, poetry, video and live “tweet bar.”  THURSDAY 4-8pm at Cabin 12 (607 Pandora). Free. 250-478-5858,

Robert Burns Dinner – The Sons of Scotland Benevolent Association invites the public to join them for a traditional Burns Dinner. Dress is Scottish or semi-formal. Registration required. SATURDAY 5pm at the Royal Oak Golf Club (1230 Government). $45. 250-478-0746, 250-480-9355.

Multicultural Food Fair – The Cook Street Village Activity Centre presents this fantasmagoria of delight featuring food from the Middle East, Mexico, India, China, Greece, Sweden and Japan. Live entertainment by Asmira’s School of Oriental Bellydance. SUNDAY 11am-2pm at 1-380 Cook. $15. 250-384-6542.

Night of Hearts: Artists for AIDS – Join AIDS Vancouver Island for an evening of music and art. Meet the artists and view the 2011 Artists for AIDS collection while enjoying appetizers and a cash bar. WEDNESDAY 5-8pm at the MacPherson Playhouse (3 Centennial Square). Free.

Salmon Kings Fundraiser Game – Come out and watch the Victoria Salmon Kings and help raise money for Together Against Poverty Society.  Almost half of the ticket price going to support TAPS legal advocacy projects for low-income Victorians. WEDNESDAY 7-10pm at the Save-On-Foods Arena. $20. 250-361-3521.

Calendar: Head Out To Help Out

19 01 2011

Find out what Transitions Victoria Food Group is doing to help make food local.

This week, helping hands abound! Watch figure skating dreams come true, lose yourself in a comic, or find one of the many groups that help keep Victoria a wonderful place to live.

If you’d rather stay home with a good book, email (SUBJECT:HEAVY TRAFFIC) and win an autographed copy of Ken Merkley’s latest book, Heavy Traffic. It’s got murder and mystery, all set on Vancouver Island’s tranquil shores.

2011 BMO Canadian Figure Skating Championships – Watch as competitors duke it out for figure skating supremecy! FRIDAY-SUNDAY at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre (1925 Blanshard). $41.

Heritage Under Threat? – Are you concerned with protecting heritage gardens and urban woodland? Speakers, art, photos, maps, info, discussion and refreshments. FRIDAY 3:30pm at  the Oak Bay Public Library (1442 Monterey). Free.

A New Year for Haiti – Offering entertainment, refreshments and a silent auction ti rause funds for Haitian Earthquake Relief. SATURDAY 6pm at The Well (821 Fort). $20. 250 727-6454.

Victoria Comic Book Show – Come and experience the wide and varied universe of comic books. Come buy, sell, trade or just browse around. Free comics (while they last). Free admission. SUNDAY 11am-4pm at 3277 Douglas. Free. 250-361-6227.

Help Us Improve Oswald Park – The City of Victoria will upgrade Oswald Park this year and invites the community to a public meeting to describe their vision for the park. TUESDAY 6:30pm in the Community Room, Oaklands Community Centre  (1 – 2827 Belmont). 250-361-0600.

Transition Victoria Food Group Open House – Join them for slides, presentations on their current project and on permaculture, conversation, snacks, tea, learning and sharing. Find out how you can get involved with the Spring Ridge Commons Stewardship Project. Donations appreciated. TUESDAY 7-9pm at the Fernwood Community Association (1923 Fernwood). Free. 250-882-3551.

The Revolucionary Cyborg Wedding Band Mobile Unit (or, A Lesson in Extravagant Beauty in D#)

18 01 2011

In the Fall of 2010, I was fortunate enough to attend Farm Fest.  The rain and cold were unrelenting, but all of us who were lucky enough to be in attendance at the outdoor show that night had smiles plastered on our damp faces thanks to the wealth of local talent that took the stage.  We got to see The Pine Family, David P. Smith, Himalayan Bear, High Arctic, The Listening Party, Hearse, Carolyn Mark, Slam Dunk, and many others whose names now escape me, for a pittance (I think it was $10, or so).  It was on this night that I had the opportunity to see the Revolucionary Cyborg Wedding Band Mobile Unit for the first time.

The Revolucion may not be televised...but it will be filled with capes.

I must admit that my initial response to the Cyborgs came in the form of laughter.  I laughed at their name which, at first at least, I saw as absurd and misspelled.  I laughed gregariously as they set up their turntables (as I was, by then, more accustomed to seeing guitars, drums and amps on the Farm Fest stage) and costumes.  Finally, I laughed at the band’s unique, post modern varietal of hip hop: I was not used to hearing rappers reference the World Trade Organization, much less the town of Duncan.  I had never seen or heard anything remotely resembling the Revolucionary Cyborg Wedding Band Mobile Unit; I doubt I ever will.

Upon subsequent reflection, I have come to the conclusion that the default response to beauty, in its most distilled form, is often coupled with laughter.  Sarah laughed in God’s face when her wish was finally granted (Genesis 18:13): I still laugh when I spot a trembling peacock in one of Beacon Hill Park’s many splendid (and equally ridiculous) trees.  The Revolucionary Cyborg Wedding Band Mobile Unit is every bit extravagant as the peacock.  I will stop short of comparing the duo to Yahweh.

Since Farm Fest, I have had the opportunity to see the Cyborgs in a live setting on more than one occasion; their shows are consistently amazing, my only disappointment being the noticeable absence of a merchandise table from which to buy a CD.  I have found some solace in the fact that the Cyborgs have generously shared their music on Facebook.  By visiting their page, one can stream songs such as “Cyborg Farming” and “WTO Threw A Party” free of charge.  While danceable and thought-provoking, the recordings fail to live up to the immediacy and the spontaneity of the live performances.

Fortunately, the Cyborgs are well aware of their live shows’ raw power.  They hope to capture this power as they begin to record their first album in six years at Camus Books on Saturday, January 29th (with additional shows on February 25th and March 25th) .  The price of admission to what promises to be an amazing set is only half the cost of cover at Farm Fest (Five capitalist dollars) and if you cheer (or giggle) loud enough, you just might end up on the new Cyborg CD.  Be sure to get there early: there is only room for 60!

Calendar: An Evening At Harpo’s

12 01 2011

Watch a fashion show, pick up some second hand goodies, bust out your inner villain and wassail your way through Sea Cider’s orchards. There’s always something to do in Monday’s Calendar!

Enjoy two tickets to An Evening At Harpo’s: CD Release and Send-off party for The Bill Johnson Blues Band, courtesy or your friendly neighbourhood calendar. Email (SUBJECT:HARPO’S) to win.

Some Like It Hot – (See MUSIC). Local boutiques come together to represent unique fashion trends. Bliss Boutique, Charlie & Lee, and Citizen Clothing will play host to a night of fashion and music. THURSDAY 9pm at the Upstairs Cabaret (127 Wharf). $20. 250-715-7781.

GVPL Book Sale – Books need a good home too. SATURDAY 5-8pm ($3) and SUNDAY 9am-3pm at the GVPL, Nellie McClung Branch (3950 Cedar Hill). Free.

Sometimes it just feels good to be the bad guy.

Villains and Victims party – Join us for an adventurous evening. SATURDAY 8pm at the Victoria Event Centre (1415 Broad). $25/$20 for Sagacity associates.

Sunday Swap ‘n Shop – Featuring traders, urban farmers, artisans, musicians, entertainers, radical recyclers and connoisseurs of gently used goods. SUNDAYS 8am-2pm at the Fernwood Community Centre (1240 Gladstone). Free.

3rd Annual Winter Wassail – An old English practice held in cider-making regions to awaken the orchard from slumber and ensure an abundant harvest. Join Sea Cider and celebrate with music, cider and food. SUNDAY 11am-6pm at 2487 Mt. St. Michael. Free. 250-544-4824 ext 2.

Mayor’s Breakfast – Mayor Larry Cross, Mayor Alice Finall and Mayor Jack Mar will provide a forecast for their respective districts for the coming year. Registration required. WEDNESDAY 7:30am at the Institute of Ocean Sciences (9865 West Saanich). $35/$25 for chamber members. 250-656-3616.

Starting Out In Victoria: A Musical Odyssey Featuring Slam Dunk and a Host of Others

9 01 2011

On Saturday night, Victorian music lovers faced an all-too common problem.  There were three excellent shows at various venues in our fair town: we were forced to choose which one to attend.  While I was tempted to hunker down at one of the shows for the night, my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to attend all three.  In hindsight, I am very glad I did.

My evening started out at the Fort Street Café, a gem of a venue located just below the model shop between Douglas and Blanshard.  Featuring an amazing and healthy menu (there is no deep fryer there) the Fort Street Café provided the perfect setting for Saturday evening’s musical feast.  Dylan Stone opened the show for Clay George and Carolyn Mark, both of whom I sadly had to miss as I needed to get to Logan’s by 9:30.

At 24, Dylan Stone has already developed into a mature and reflective songwriter reminiscent of Jay Farrar, or a young Ryan Adams.  While Stone plays in a number of different bands which range from Blue Grass to Psychadelic Rock, on this evening, we saw his more stripped down side.  Flanked by a violin player and a lap guitarist alone, Stone played a short but sweet set to the large audience who arrived early to catch his rising star.  If you want to read more about Dylan Stone, check out the current issue of Monday Magazine.

Slam Dunk

I was reluctant to leave the Fort Street Café as I would have loved to have seen Clay George and Carolyn Mark, but I was already running late; I jogged to Logan’s in stiff hiking boots.  Luckily, I managed to make it there in time to see The Poor Choices’ entire set.  It was the five piece garage-rock band’s second show ever and I found myself to be delightfully surprised by the strength of their eight songs (all originals).  With their straight ahead brand of rawk, The Poor Choices brought me back to Calgary for a moment.  While Victoria’s music scene is incredibly diverse, I have often thought to myself that it could use some more unapologetic rock and roll: in The Poor Choices, I have finally found some.  I am looking forward to seeing this band become more comfortable on stage as, at times, they seemed to be a bit reticent though overall the strength of their songs overcame their stage fright.

I found it much easier to leave Logan’s as I have spent way too much time there over the past week.  Again, I found myself jogging back to Fort Street to catch a bus to the University in hopes of seeing Slam Dunk play Felicita’s.  I think God intervened; I got to the bus stop just as a University-bound double Decker pulled up.  I paid my fair and ascended the stairs only to bump my head on the low ceiling; luckily, I didn’t bleed.

Several things occurred to me as I entered Felicita’s.  I realized that not only am I very old, but I am also quite fat.  Also, my pants are much too baggy for me to be taken seriously by University students.  I was delighted to find, however, that Felicita’s has the cheapest beer in town: for a mere $3.25, one can enjoy a frosty pint of Big Rock Traditional Ale, which compensates for bus fair.  Felicita’s is also a great venue for music as there is plenty of room for dancin’.

Miraculously, I made it there in time to see the last half of the Loose Cannons’ set.  Sadly, I had never heard of the Loose Cannons before and was blown away by their Surf Rock sounds, which immediately brought the Pixies’ “Cecilia Anne” to mind (and indeed, the band closed with that very song).  The duo got even the most ironic of moustaches dancin’ and smilin’.  We all rejoiced.

Soon after the Loose Cannons left the stage, the Dyeing Merchants took over; it was the first time I have ever seen or heard a “Guitorgan” (see picture), which gave the band a full, unique sound.  By this point, I had oversaturated myself with music and ran to a fenced off area to have a smoke.

By the time I got back inside, Slam Dunk was setting up.  I had been warned by the band’s bass player that their drummer was stranded in Mexico and though they had managed to find a replacement, they weren’t quite sure how the show would turn out.  All fears were quelled the instant the band started into their first song.

I can’t possibly begin to describe how good Slam Dunk is.  I am not one to enter a mosh pit, especially when wearing big scary boots, but I had no choice, summoned by the raw power and energy of the music.  Slam Dunk is a band who commands us listeners to lose all sense of control: they command us to jump, whoop, scream and dance.  And so we did, sweating and contorting right through to their final, frenzied song.

Upon arriving home, I looked Slam Dunk up on Facebook to find that they have generously given their first record to us all for free.  You can download it here.  Please do.  You will not regret it and you will shed all those Christmas pounds in the most beatific of ways.  You will dance and dance and dance, in your own living room and/or shower (be careful!).  Please download this album and share with your friends.

Nick Lyons writes music reviews and other stuff for Monday Magazine.  Check out his blog here.

Calendar: New Years Recovery

5 01 2011

With the celebrations of Christmas and New Year’s behind us, perhaps the hard partying has left you lacking. Recover from last years festivities with some relaxing events and supportive groups.

This week, win tickets to Ingrid Gatin’s show at the Solstice Cafe this FRIDAY. Ingrid shares the stage with NikTex and Mateo Tomlinson. Email (SUBJECT INGRID GATIN) to win!

Anxiety Management Support Group – Support group for phobias, generalized anxiety, panic attacks and OCD. With Dr. Tom Lipinski, registered psychologist. FRIDAY 7-8:30pm at the Bridge Centre (125 Skinner). $TBA. 250-389-1211.

Intro to Hypnotherapy – Learn self-hypnosis for stress and pain with a female Certified Hypnotherapist. Registration required. SATURDAY 11am-1pm at 1105 Pandora. $30.

Victoria Flea Market – Offering over 50 vendors with a huge assortment of interesting things. SUNDAYS 9am-2pm at the DaVinci Centre. $2. 250-381-5033.

African Marimba Workshop -Learn how to play those big wooden xylophones that people are playing downtown! Registration required. SUNDAY 10:30am-noon at Bopoma (1333 Gladstone). $20. 250-737-1331,

Victoria Fibromyalgia Networking Group – Bring whatever you would like to drink and goodies to share with all. MONDAY 1pm at the First Metropolitan United Church (932 Balmoral). $2 minimum donation. 250-381-5202.

BCSEA – BC Sustainable Energy Association, Victoria Chapter Meeting. CRD Sewage with Stephen Salter and a short presentation by Sarah Webb on transportation. MONDAY 7-9pm at the Burnside Community Centre (471 Cecelia). Free.

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