Thursday, October 29, 2009


Dreams are good to have, but are they good to strive to attain?

There are two schools of thought on the matter, one that tells you you can do or become anything you want to, if you put your mind, effort and energy to it. Many philosophers and politicians came up with terrific quotes on the matter, like the one below (click ont he pic for the full thing):

Others, who tend to call themselves realists but are often more like negativists, or just plain bummers, will tell you to live your life setting realistic goals to achieve, such as getting through the day alive, and be satisfied with that.

But what of the greater picture?

Many people mistake 'dreams' with 'aspirations'. For those idiots, it's usually a 'lifelong dream' to appear on a TV show that has been in existence for less than five years, which, obviously, makes no sense at all.

Then there are those who are so focused on their goals that they do, in fact, dream about them at times. Those people are obsessed, and other people make pills to remedy the situation (those poeple are called scientists, pharmacists, thieves and general assholes - which doesn't make them entirely wrong, by the way).

Where do I stand?

Well, I have aspirations in my everyday life, and I have dreams when I sleep. And throughout my life, it has happened that I have dreamed about my aspirations once in a while, but never so that it would rule my life.

The problem with me is that I'm a tad too cerebral: I control my dreams - 100% of the time. I direct the action, create the dialogues, and when what I come up with doesn't make sense or is just downright stupid, I tell myself, in my dream, that it's stupid and that I had better come up with something better soon or risk having wasted my time all night.

That's not the best way to recuperate, but it's how I deal with sleep. I screenwrite and direct the whole damn thing, which, while it is my aspiration, isn't about it, which doesn't make me clinically insane, according to Dr. Myself.

However, of late, I've been going to bed forcing myself to dream about a situation I would rather never happen but nonetheless think about every day. And many times, not only does it make it seem more real, but it leads me to act towards that goal in real life - and many times Life answers back that it would, indeed, be possible for it to happen.

And every time it almost does, it creates a warm, fuzzy feeling inside me, quickly followed by shame and resentment. I guess that's how it feels to be religious, to some extent.

And that's when I know I'm fucked.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Daniel Johnston Live: A Nice Dose Of Humanity

I attended the Daniel Johnston concert at the Ukrainian Federation, basically a church, this weekend (Friday, October 16th, 2009, to be exact).

I did everything to see this show: I applied to be the opening act (and was declined because he didn't require a local opener, seeing as he's touring with his own openers who also work as his backing band for the second half of his set); then I purchased tickets - which I ended up giving away when, finally, I was hired to work security for the show.

They didn't know where to park me for this, though: they started by putting me out front to make sure the doors to the place were shut at all times, and to keep the conversation levels low for the people outside, so they don't disturb the neighbours of this residential area, who aren't used to having concerts be held at their local church.

But an acoustic/semi-rock show held in a church isn't the place where you require security in front of the stage to prevent moshing, body-surfing or injuries...

Eventually (and to my satisfaction), I was put in front of the backstage area, and my job was to make sure no one who shouldn't be allowed in to wander there. A really easy task that kept me in contact with everyone who was performing that night, from openers The Capitol Years to Mr. Johnston himself.

As a member of the staff, I was allowed free beer - and the show was co-organized my my 'arch-enemies' Pop Montreal, so - while I did remain in total control - I wasn't going to shy out on the free beverages. I likely ended up having a dozen Griffons - quality local microbrew.

Saving $80 on beer, though, I did spend cash on merchandise; I bought a vinyl from the opener, and a Daniel Johnston double-CD (one record a compilation of his songs, the second one the same songs, but by current idie musicians like the Flaming Lips, Beck and Eels), aDVD of The Devil And Daniel Johnston (a superb documentary), and was given a recyclable hand-made knit bag to stuff everything in it.

I really wanted Mr. Johnston's autograph, and two fellow fans wanted to have his picture taken with him after the show. But Johnston was just walking around everywhere, avoiding eye contact with anyone, turning around as soon as anyone would open their mouths in his direction. Like a shy child, you could say. Which, you know, fits with the character we've come to love from the documentary.

I ended up asking a member of his entourage, who said it'd be easier if we got a girl to pose with us, because he ''loves the ladies'' (can't blame him, really!), so I did manage to find one, a very friendly Pop Montreal volunteer from Brazil, but it took so long to get the star close enough for a picture that she'd left by then. But we got it made anyhow, it's the one right below, and you can see how thrilled he was... (hint: he's the one who is not looking at the camera...)

As soon as the flash came on, he was ready to just up and leave - he made a 180-degree turn and was just going to walk into the wall right behind us when I asked him if he could sign my CD. He was gracious enough to say yes, grabbing a marker from the table right next to us, signing the inside jacket of the double-digipak I mentioned earlier, then proceeded to hand me the marker back as if it was mine.

- Uh, no, sir that's yours.
- Oh, it's mine?
- Yes.
- Huh.

Then he put it back on the table and left the scene quickly.

You probably can't tell from looking at the picture of seeing him in person, but that man is quick on his feet - I'm talking Olympian Speed Walker-type speed.

What a night. It was good, it was weird, it was short and definitely sweet. Everything I expected it to be, and I got souvenirs- and saw it for free from a terrific angle.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pearl Jam's Backspacer

It took me a month to digest it, to make sure I wasn't making a terrible judgment, a month of listening to it almost every day (and many times in a row each time).

It's a damn good record, probably their best one in a decade.

Pearl Jam usually start their records (and their live sets) with a slow song, but I guess they were in a hurry to get this one started, as Gonna See My Friend is a relatively fast-paced garage-rocker, smarter and groovier than Vitalogy's Spin The Black Circle, on par with Yield's Brain Of J. 7.5/10

Then they get into Get Some, a song they premiered on the Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien a few months ago. The album version (the mix between instruments, probably) sounds way better than the broadcast version; the guitars aren't always present and belong in the background, and NBC didn't seem to understand that, so they put them up front rather than give thema supporting role. The bass, drums and vocals should have top billing here, and they do on the CD. 8/10

The Fixer was the record's leading sigle and video (yes! they made an actual video, where they perform the song!) - not my choice as best track on the record, not even close, not even the rocking-est track on it either. But it follows the long line of PJ first singles that are made to make people not want to buy the record... but not a bad song in any way either. 7.5/10

Johnny Guitar just might be the best song on the record - the one that, years from now, will not have gotten on anyone's nerves and retain its listenability. Its premise is relatively easy - and only delivers half the story it tells, that of one girl hanging with Johnny Guitar Watson. It has (much appreciated) accents of new wave - think Elvis Costello, The Cars, The Knack... Original. And the lyrics really get to me - perfect for this summer. 9/10

Just Breathe seem staken straight from Eddie Vedder's Into The Wild soundtrack, a slow song with clear and pretty picking and no band members playing on it... 8/10

And now... Amongst The Waves. When I first saw the track list for the record, 6 months ago, way before the release of the album, I immediately thought to myself ''oh, fuck, no, not another song about the fucking ocean''. I'm all for preserving the waters, all for making music about it, but Vedder has a tendency to write his most boring songs when referring to his #1 passion - surfing. The worst of these 'water' songs has got to be Big Wave - what a waste of a riff. Well, I'm glad to say this one isn't a total failure, despite cheesy, uninspired lyrics that start the song (''what used to be a house of cards / has turned into a reservoir''). Not so bad, though, but amongst the two worst tracks of the record, despite Vedder's voice being in fine form. 6.5/10

Unthought Known sounds like a tribute to the Yield record: it starts off sounding like Wishlist and evolves into Given To Fly - improving on both at the same time. Maybe now we can have this one during live shows instead of the other two - and get an extra song to pump our fists to. 9/10

Supersonic brings me back to Mankind, the Stone Gossard-penned-and-sung track I didn't like from No Code. Except that now, I don't mind it so much. 7/10

Speed Of Sound is another one I was scared of by the title alone - would it be a cover of Coldplay's boring epic, or even just in the same vein? It starts off with keys, so that's not a good sign. At least it builds a bit to the first chorus, but then it lets you down again with a complete break before the verse starts again - and you're reminded that it isn't over yet. ''Waiting on a word that never comes'', Vedder sings. You know what? I'll wait for it in the next song. 5/10

Force Of Nature sounds like a 70s throwback, mixed with subdued new wave effects, but Vedder's delivery transcends it - despite ''one man stands at the edge of the ocean'' and other nature-and-water-inspired themes. 7/10

The End - not a cover of the Jim Morrison epic about incest and death. The third slow song on the record, the most original of all - with a strings section, a plaintive vocal melody, typical Vedder lyrics (without the water theme) - and it ends, fittingly, with the cryptic words ''I'm here, but not for much longer'', leaving you to wonder if it's the band's (long rumoured) farewell, or just a break before the next release. 8/10

I don't know if you're a math genius, that that makes a total of 11 songs, clocking in barly over a half hour, with an average rating of 7.5...

But Pearl Jam being Pearl Jam, that's nowhere close to the grade I give this record: 8.5. All the songs fit with one another, they mesh into each other so well, and the overall result is greater than the sum of its parts.

Backspacer fits right up there in the band's Top 5 records:

1. No Code
2. Vs
3. Yield
4. Ten (Redux)
5. Backspacer

Monday, October 5, 2009

I Hate Moving

I hate fucking moving. Everything about it. Yet I can't escape it, it's been with me all my life. By the time I was a year old, ONE, I had already moved, probably more than once. By the time I was three, I'd moved again. Five? Moved. Six was fine, but seven? Moved. Twice.

That was the beginning of a sequence where we'd move either six times in five years or five in six, I'm not sure, but always in the same neighbourhood - all within a few blocks.

And then... all through high school... just one house. The house of my dreams, as it were, with a basement, a main floor that housed a living room (with a fireplace), a dining room, a kitchen, a toilet and a large vestibule (in addition to front and back porches), and a second floor that had three rooms, a front porch and a back veranda. Old, natural wood - everywhere.

But as soon as high school was over, more moving. A year across from NDG park where, younger, I'd spent most of my days playing hockey in the winter and baseball in the summer - and hanging with my dope-dealing friends. Then a year back on Melrose - across the street from my dream house - a tease, as it were.

Then my apartment in the Plateau - the one that good flooded when the Ice Storm hit, in January of '98.

Then came, more or less, a series of more-or-less crashing at people's places and couch-surfing that led me everywhere from Île Perrot to NYC to Pointe-Aux-Trembles to the Plateau again (with many a night in Ste-Julie), before settling in in the neighbourhood I am in now, just in time for New Year's 2000...

But, of course, staying in the same 'hood doesn't mean I didn't change apartments... De Rouen, Logan, Fullum, Joliette, Ontario...5 places in a little over 9 years. And unless something drastic and dramatic happens in the relatively near future, it looks like I'll have to move again in the next 6 months or so.

And moving's such a bitch on some many levels. Packing and unpacking (for a while, I just left most of my stuff in boxes 'cause I knew I'd be out of there before long), either getting people to help out or finding movers, who always happen to cost close to the same as the first month's rent.

And now, after years of alternating living on my own, with roommates, with girlfriends - I have more furniture than my cats and I need, and a whole floor of things I care more about than furniture packed in boxes because I have no room for them on the main floor. And, ironically, that's the stuff I'm trying to get rid of, to sell - everything I have that has some value and that doesn't fit as decoration on my walls and desks. And they're in boxes already, yeah, but I'm no longer sure if all the good stuff's in its own box or if it's mixed with the more common useless stuff, and the only way to find out is to open and empty the boxes...

A few years back, I tried to clear my head and be able to get rid of most of my material possessions. I had over 3000 CDs and 4 guitars, and was so proud of them; I couldn't imagine myself leaving them behind. Now, with the advent of 1TB hard drives, who needs CDs when a backsack of hard drives can house even more music than that? But then, what do I do with the CDs themselves, with the thousands of dollars I put in them?

But I can slip a few hard drives in a bag, and carry an electric and an acoustic guitar and be on my merry way, with little attachments, should the need arise. All I need to do, if I can, is get rid of my other electric and my bass - and my keyboard. That used to bother me, but no longer.

If I could sell my superfluous stuff, maybe I'd buy a laptop and move back to NYC, or couch-surf for a few months. Or head to Gaspésie and shack up for winter. But with a protable computer, portable music, and a couple of guitars, I think I could be happy and make do with anything that would arise.

I think.

I hope.