the smalls will play SONiC BOOM 2014

the_smalls_logo

My dad renovated our family’s basement when I was a teenager.  This meant my older brother and I got our own bathroom.  We felt like royalty.  Every young man should have his own space to shower and apply liberal amounts of Calvin Klein “Obsession”.  Our new “puberty chamber” was also another space my engineering brother could engineer in some music.

Upstairs, my parents controlled the CD player and Radio tuner.  (CD players; remember those?)  My Mom loved Patsy Cline and Stevie Nicks.  My Dad was into Jethro Tull and ZZ Top, and we got one radio station.  Let me be clear:  I consider myself fortunate to have had parents who were into good music during my young years.  But it still wasn’t “our” music.  Before an abundance of radio stations, mp3′s and on-demand music a kid had to WORK to hear his or her own music.  Thankfully my resourceful brother found a way to rig some small external speakers via his stereo onto the bathroom shelves  by dropping them through the ceiling tiles.  This was some next level stuff as far as I was concerned.

We listened to a lot of different music getting ready for school.  Pearl Jam’s “Ten” was a favourite as was Collective Soul’s “Hints Allegations and Things Left Unsaid.”  Then it happened.  At some point, my brother dropped in the smalls self titled debut.  The tape (Tapes; remember those?) was probably a dub, of a dub, of a dub.  Neither my brother or I were old enough to get into a bar to see the smalls and actually buy a tape.  I was impressed.  I was even more impressed when somebody told me that the smalls were a band from Edmonton.  WHAT?  You can DO that?!  I assumed that only bands with actual recordings were all rich rock stars who lived in Hollywood.

I can remember, like it was yesterday, those little speakers blasting out Dan-Diddle-A-Na.  I’d be pulling on a t-shirt, snugging on my Atlanta Braves ball-cap, and adding an extra dash of Obsession while my brother honked from his Honda CRX in the driveway.  I had to respect his timeline, he was my ride and he owned a leather jacked.

I can safely say that it was the smalls, not the Clash, The Ramones or The Sex Pistols that introduced me to “punk”.  It was Edmonton’s own the smalls.  Now for the first time in over a decade, the band is back together to play SONiC BOOM 2014.  I hope to see you at the show, and if you can’t find me, follow the strong scent of citrus notes with a musky undertone.

Free Agent IN/OF/P: Dave Sawchuk

**Reliable IN/OF/P on the #YEG Slo-Pitch Free Agent Market**

Scouting Report:

Dave Sawchuk is a strong defender with a good arm and high Baseball IQ.  In addition to being able to play every defensive position, he can also be counted on in a pinch to throw a few innings.  Don’t expect much on the hill though; just strikes.

His real strength is consistency.  “Sawchuk is the kind of ball player that shows up every week with a 6-pack”, says former teammate Len Wangen.  “He’s just slow.  Really slow.  I mean, how is a guy that tall so slow?” added Wangen, unprompted.  While Sawchuk has never been clocked in the 40 yard dash, many top scouts think he’d be average with a tail wind.

His consistency isn’t limited to showing up with beer.  Dave is a singles hitter from the right side with the ability to hit .500.  That is not a typo.  “He hits to all fields, albeit with the power of a 14 year-old”, says one former manager with ties to the free agent.  Think Wade Boggs, not Mike Trout.

His baseball IQ is strong.  He won’t throw behind the runner; but knows to hit behind one.  His Good Times IQ is also a strong point.  Dave Sawchuk isn’t a “Gary Go-Hard” or a “Sammy Serious” on the diamond or in the club house.

Teams interested can email davidcsawchuk@gmail.com

A Lesson On The Eve Of Canadian Olympic Hockey

In Canada, we talk about hockey all the time.  Those who can’t at least debate Gretzky vs. Lemieux or  traditional icing vs. no-touch icing are black-bagged and sent to Siberia.  In an Olympic year, we somehow over-turn the laws of physics and talk about it even more than a 24 hour day allows.  There are no shortage of story-lines to follow as Team Canada prepares to defend Gold in Sochi.  This is one story we can all learn from.  The story of team Canada forward Chris Kunitz.

Team Canada is a team of NHL All-Stars littered with a few NHL Super-Stars: players drafted first overall into the NHL.   John Tavares, Rick Nash and Sidney Crosby were all picked first after accomplished and acclaimed junior careers.   In addition, there are eight men on the roster drafted in the top 10.  These are guys who were born and raised to play hockey.  Then there is Chris Kunitz.

Kunitz was not drafted.  Not one single NHL team thought he had the goods to play in the NHL.  Not.  One.  Did he quit?  No.  After a decent college career, he signed a contract to play in the American Hockey League in 2003.  He skated well enough for the Cincinnati Ducks to be called up to the Anaheim Ducks of the NHL.  He played in just 21 games recording six points.  What was his reward for decent play?  He was released.  Did he quit?  No.  He was signed by the Atlanta Thrashers, where he played 2 games and was -guess what?- Yep, released again.  “Your services are no longer needed, Mr. Kunitz.  We wish you all the best in your future endeavors…”  Did he quit?  No.

Anaheim gave him another chance in 2005-2006 and that year he won a Stanley Cup when the Ducks beat the Senators.  Eventually, he was traded to Pittsburgh where he currently plays along Sidney Crosby.  There is little doubt that it was Sidney who recommended Chris to be on Team Canada.  When the best player in the world asks for somebody on his wing: you listen.  That speaks volumes about Chris’ ability and work ethic.

I can only imagine how many times Chris wondered if all the hard work would be worth it.  If all the hours in the gym would pay off.  If all the long bus rides, sacrifices and bruises would get him anywhere at the profession he chose.  He’s gotten to the point where every NHL team would love to have him; just eleven years after they all passed him up.  And he’s been given the personal stamp of approval by Hockey Royalty.

Explaining the RHCP Super Bowl Fake

The Red Hot Chili Peppers admitted to not performing live Sunday at the Super Bowl in New Jersey.  Anthony Kiedis WAS singing (to a backing track of his own voice) but the band admitted to miming along to a track they had recorded specifically for the big half time show.  People are outraged.  Fans of the band are blaming the Super Bowl brass for “stripping” the band of their artistic right to perform live.  Others are using this as an opportunity to attack the band on the grounds that they couldn’t have performed well enough to entertain the masses in the stadium and at home live anyway.  Everybody is pointing a finger at everybody else like some sort of perverse Mexican Standoff.  All the while -in the shadows- the entity responsible for the controversy goes unnoticed, unchecked and unchallenged: The Media.

The Media have trained the average music consumer into accepting a performance myth.  The myth that a live performance should/can sound as sharp, pitch-perfect and as spot-on as the recorded performance they hear on the radio.  Consumers have been told to demand their cake (recorded songs that are well written and performed) and eat it too (be able to enjoy them in an unreasonable live setting; like at a Super Bowl).

If the band were actually allowed to plug-in and play live, the performance you would have seen and heard on the couch in your living room Sunday would have very different; and it certainly wouldn’t have been the same spectacle.  How much of Flea’s bass would have been drowned out by the sound of fireworks, explosions and general thrashing around?  And how entertaining would have it been -really- to watch Kiedis tone it down a little in order to focus on hitting as many of the notes in “Give it Away” as possible?  I say: not very.

The Media have done a masterful job over the last four or five decades training consumers to believe the unbelievable, and now that the curtain can no longer stay closed (thanks Internet!) John and Jane Doe don’t want to believe the truth.

My Top 10 of 2013 and a thought experiment

Here are my Top 10 albums of 2013 (in no particular order) complete with a key track from said album, and a lyric that goes with the song.  After putting the list together and spending some time reflecting on it, I began to wonder why I like specific songs at all.  Think about THAT for a second:  WHY do you like songs?

*mind blown*

What are the specific reasons?   Have you ever sat down and answered that question in an intelligent fashion for yourself?

I learned that I like to live vicariously through the character presenting the lyrics.  When a specific lyric resonates strongly with me: I tend to like the song.  Every key lyric listed below is presented in the first person, so I figure I subconsciously imagine myself as the character in the song.  I also discovered that strong musical arrangements during a songs bridge tend to catch my ear.

It’s a fun exercise to sit down and list your favourite albums/songs of the year: it’s even more revealing to think about why you like the records you like.  The best part is: there’s no wrong answer! Think about and verbalize the answer.  You might surprise yourself.

1.Arctic Monkeys – AM

Key track: One for the Road - “We all go back to yours and you sit and talk to me on the floor.  There’s no need to show me around, Baby. I feel like I’ve been here before.”

2.Capital Cities – In a Tidal Wave of Mystery

Key track: Kangaroo Court – The Saxophone Solo on this track is an instant party.

3.Half Moon Run – Dark Eyes

Key track: Nerve – “I just don’t know what you’re doing wrong.  Man, you got a lot of nerve.”

4.Kings of Leon – Mechanical Bull

Key track: Wait For Me – The bridge.  Talk about a power piece of music.  Says so much by saying literally nothing.

5.Lorde – Pure Heroine

 Key Track: Team – “I’m kinda over gettin’ told to throw my hands up in the air: so there”

6.Chvrches – The Bones Of What You Believe

Key Track: Gun – “I’ll be a gun and it’s you I’ll come for”

7. The Neighbourhood – I Love You

Key Track: Sweater Weather  – “I don’t mind if there’s not much to say.  Sometimes the silence guides our minds.”

8. Queens of The Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

Key Track: I Sat By The Ocean – “I sat by the ocean and drank a potion, baby to erase you.”

9. Kanye – Yeezuz

Key track: Bound 2 – “I mean damn, what would Jaromey Romey Romey Rome think?”

10. Tegan and Sara – Heartthrob

Key Track: Now I’m All Messed Up – “Go, Go, Go if you want I can’t stop you.”

Rappers vs Rockers: pretending and performing.

Why are Rappers (generally) better actors than Rockers (generally)?   Both groups are made up of artistic, expressive and skilled communicators.  They take the stage and rock the mic.  They sling the axe down low and snarl.  Being a successful member of either of these groups requires an element of performance ability.  So why can Mick Jagger act like a rock star on stage but bomb as a thespian (Free Jack), while Ice Cube does the same on stage and was “this close” to a Oscar nod for Boyz in the Hood?

Laugh if you want, but DMX has a dozen films under his belt, including a role in the upcoming “Expendables 3″.  Cube was – at one point- a leading man in major studio action movies (xXx: state of the union).  Eminem’s “8 Mile”, in addition to making millions world wide,  holds a 76% on Rotten Tomatoes.   Eminem was both critically and commercially successful.  This isn’t a new trend either, its been happening for decades:  Rappers are successful actors.

Ice-T has been so successful as an actor, there’s a generation of people who have no idea he was once a Rapper (the same goes for Will “Fresh Prince” Smith).  Ice has been making movies, and been on TV, for over 30 years.  I can assure you that NBC would fire him if the ratings for Law & Order: SVU  tanked.  The guy is good as his job: and his job is to pretend.

To refresh your memory, here’s a short list of Rockers failing at acting:

-Tom Petty in “The Postman”

-Jon Bon Jovi in “U-571″

-Sting in “DUNE”

-David Bowie in about a dozen films you’ve never heard of

-Jack White in “Cold Mountain” (not a failure, but it didn’t exactly spawn more roles either…hold on, his “Elvis” was spot on in Walk Hard: the Dewey Cox Story)

What does this tell us about Rock and Rap music in the realm of authenticity?

This is my theory:  Rockers are bad actors because they are unable to “act” or “pretend”, in a convincing manner, to be anything more than a hyper version of themselves.  Josh Homme is charming, quirky, handsome and enchanting.  But, he can only ever be JOSH HOMME when he is performing on stage, in studio or on tv during an interview.  In all other instances, he’s just Josh Homme (emphasis on the CAPS).  Inherently, this makes what Rockers sing, scream and swing about more genuine.  And by the same token: Rappers have the opposite issue.

Because Ice Cube seems just at home rapping about stomping the LAPD on “The Predator” as he does yucking it up on screen in the family-friendly, slap-stick “Are We There Yet?” tells me that Cube isn’t really “anything” at all.  How can I take the messages of social injustice in his lyrics seriously when I KNOW he’s an ace at pretending?  I get suspicious.  On the other hand, because  Jack White’s emotions are not convincingly malleable (when it’s not a 10 second cameo as Elvis), I’m more to believe and identify with the reality I see on stage and hear on the radio.

Is rock music more authentic, more real and more genuine because its performers are less likely to be able to convince me of anything else besides the reality they depict in their music?  This essay says “yes”.

Full Disclosure.  While writing this piece, I came up with a decent list of Rockers who have strong acting chops: 

Jared Leto- this guy is a great actor and an overated rocker.

Hugh Dillon – this guy is both an great actor and rocker.

Dave Grohl – he’s the Devil in “Tenacious D and the pick of Destiny”.  Nuff said.

Zack Kassian owes Taylor Hall an apology.

Oilers center Sam Gagner was whacked in the face by Canuck Zack Kassian Saturday night (in a PRESEASON game) and will need surgery to repair his broken jaw. Gagner is out indefinitely.  Zack is really sorry.  Who are we kidding; Kassian a repeat offender and likely won’t lose a wink of sleep.  This heaps more bad news onto a team so thin at center; Oiler fans wish Shawn Horcoff was still on the roster. But that wasn’t all the bad news  from Saturday.  

In the same game, Vancouver forward Dale Weise (who?  EXACTLY!) missed decapitating Taylor Hall with the kind of elbow that would have made the Macho Man proud.  I believe both Weise and Kassian will be disciplined by the league.  The trickle down from these 2 events, by these 2 knuckle heads, should be noted.  But before we do that, let’s look at the financial ramifications:

Weise + Kassian = $1,56M in salary.

Hall + Gagner = $10.8M in salary.

This is the equivalent of Chevy Cavalier rear-ending a Ferrari while texting-and-driving. Think about that for a second.

Back to the point:

With Gagner out until who-knows-when, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the shelf until at least November recovering from shoulder surgery, the Taylor Hall at Center Experiment is all but assured.  Taylor will be challenged play and excel at a new position out of necessity.  To add personal insult to the team pain, Hall’s chances of making Team Canada are all but squashed.

As an Oiler fan, I can admit it.  Taylor Hall was a bit of a long-shot to make Team Canada on left-wing.  Now he can forget about it.  Even if he only plays 15 games at center he will then only have 15-25 games to prove he’s got what it takes to represent Canada on the wing.  If playing at an elite level in multiple positions was “easy”, players would do it all the time.  But they don’t ’cause it ain’t.

Clearly, I’m an Oiler fan.  Obviously, I’m upset.  Yes, my opinion may be a little slanted.  But what if a repeat offender (Kassian), and a career minor leaguer (Weise) put your team’s already-slim-playoff-hopes on the brink and came 5 inches away from killing one of your best players and an Olympic hopeful?   I think you’d be hot under the collar too.  What dumps gas on this fire is the fact that it’s PRESEASON.

The league needs to send out a memo to owners and General Managers.  The gist of it needs to be this:  It’s bad for the league to have yahoos running around trying to “play intense” or “show that they have edge”, etc. in the preseason.  If your player does something that warrants a suspension in the preseason, the franchise will be penalized with draft picks.  I’m not saying do this in the regular season (although I might say that a few years from now) but it’s just down-right ridiculous in the preseason to have this level of injury and violence.  How GM’s and Coaches deliver this message to their franchise is up to them.