Dave Duncan

"Eat Well, Stay Fit, Die Anyway"

Archive for the 'Music' Category


So Danielle wasn’t feeling so hot last night (thanks to a persistent bug that she claims I brought home), so I called up Marty who was more than glad to come check out the show with me.  He had a floor hockey game and showed up just in time for Cake to hit the stage.

Sadly, I went plenty early and arrived even before the opening band hit the stage.  The Paper Lions sound more like an East Coast pub band, but had a strong stage presence.  With just one album under their belt, I’m sure they have time to improve and will no doubt take their home province of New Brunswick by storm.  Having a Great-Big-Sea-esque band open for Cake was an interesting choice and I think a local rockabilly band might have had a better reception and gotten the crowd a little more frenzied.  Alas, they did a fine job.

speaking of the crowd… what a mix.  Old people, young people, scuzzy rock hippies and CEOs, this was the most diverse rock crowd I’ve ever seen, and everyone was friendly and chatty with one another.  They were just all glad to finally have a chance to see Cake in person, and here’s why…

Their first attempt was playing Edgefest in 2002, where their highbrow humour was lost on the huge crowd of Nickelback fans (did I just say that?) who pelted them with bottles until they had to leave the stage after only two songs.  Nickelback fans, you never cease to disappoint me.  Then, in the summer of 2004, Cake were slated to play Toronto Bluesfest (for some reason), but the entire festival was cancelled at the last minute thanks to poor ticket sales.  I wonder if booking headlining acts that have nothing to do with blues was a contributor.  Anyways, as the old saying goes, “the third time’s the charm”.

So, was the show good?  No.  It was not good.  It was so much more than good, I might have to invent a new word.  It was Cake-a-doodle-do.  Every song was musically very tight and engaged the crowd FULLY.  Banter between the crowd and band was lighthearted and witty and they even stopped the show before the first encore, had everyone hush in the venue and then people raised their hands to guess the type of tree the band had with them on stage.  The winner kept the sapling.  Apparently they’ve been doing this everywhere on their tour and it was hilarious.

I got to hear most of my favourite songs (setlist to follow) and learned that the lead guitarist plays the type of guitar I’ve been coveting for years, the Gretsch although, it’s a solid-body, not hollow like I want.

The band kept my attention through the entire show, kept long instrumental solos from albums to a minimum and even talked between songs to figure out what to play next.  One of their quirks is not having a setlist so that each show is truly unique.  We even got to hear a song off their next album which comes out next year.

Once I got home, I was comparing this show to all the others I’ve ever been to and I can easily say it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.  If you can, go check them out.  They play in Hamilton tonight and then they’re roaming the northern US for a while.

Alls I know is that I’m going to spend the next few weeks humming their songs and looking online for a decent b00tle9 of the show, so I can relive it time and time again.  Cake-a-doodle-do.

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Cake is Delicious… to Your Ears

Since my good ‘ol University days (1997-2001), I’ve been a big fan of the band Cake.  You would probably know them best for their rockin’ cover of Gloria Gaynor’s disco-era hit “I Will Survive“, or for the race-car themed love song “Going the Distance” (“he’s going for speed, she’s all alone [all alone] in her time of need”).

Their six albums of musical goodness (that reach back to 1994) have been my long-distance driving soundtrack since the days before my iPod was even a twinkle in Steve Jobs’ eye.  It’s the perfect driving music.  There are fast songs, slow ballads and everything is super easy to sing-along with, which is perfect when you’re trying to stay awake on Hwy. 28 north of Bancroft at midnight and there isn’t so much as a streetlight to keep you company.  Danielle and I spent so much time listening to Cake in the car, that we used the song “Love You Madly” as the background music when we danced our way into our wedding reception.

Cake is so enjoyable and so perfectly suited to any musical situation, that it’s my iPod default for anytime I want some music to listen to… as a distraction, to get me pumped, to calm me down or just to have playing in the background, they’re awesome.

So a month ago, I heard they were finally coming to Toronto, but the tickets here were sold out.  My heart sank.  Then I found out that they would be playing a show in Hamilton and my spirits rose, until I learned that the show was during our planned window for our fall vacation.  Again, my heart sank.  I was inconsolable.  Even listening to Cake didn’t help and Danielle was seeking out professional help.

All that changed yesterday.  Thanks to Torontoist, I learned that the Toronto show had tickets available, and I scooped up two of ’em for my lady and me.  So tonight we’ll be dancing and swaying to some of my favourite music while it’s played in person.  Freaking. Awesome.

Sadly, there’s one drawback to all of this.  The show is at the newly named ‘Sound Academy’, which is a bit of a misnomer.  SA used to just be called ‘The Docks’ and it’s probably one of the worst venues in the city for live music.  Entry and exit procedures are cumbersome at best and the sound quality inside is near abysmal.  We’re going to have to get pretty close to the stage in order to get a good mix. Still, it’ll be worth it.

Ah, the lengths I’ll go to for a nice piece of Cake.


Back from Osheaga in Montreal

We’re back from a whirlwind trip to Montreal.  We saw good friends, some great live music and spent time with family and now we’re back in muggy ol’ Toronto and it’s going to rain… again.  Still, it’s nice to be back home and sleeping in our own bed again.

I’ll give a full review of the Osheaga festival later on this week, but suffice it to say that I was really impressed with the lineup, the crowd and the organization.  Even in mildly crap weather, it was a great time, although there were times when acrid, foul-smelling smoke wafted over the crowd and obscured our view of the stage.

I scored some sweet merch in concert tees, so my wardrobe has increased (and improved) quite a bit.  That’s always a plus about these kinds of shows… you get a wide variety of concert tees to chose from with so many bands.  Now if only I could’ve done something about the traffic… oh well.

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J’aime la Musique Rock. C’est Beaucoup de Fun.

Prepare to be really jealous if you like being outdoors and listening to awesome live music whilst you are in the aforementioned outdoors, because I’m about to hit you with the jealousy stick so hard it’s going to knock your socks off.  In commemoration of the August Civic Long Weekend, we’re heading out to Montreal and on Sunday, we’ll be heading to Jean Drapeau Park to enjoy the Osheaga Festival.

That means that we’ll be rocking out to The Killers AND Iggy Pop all in the same day, although I’m secretly hoping that Iggy leaves his shirt on for once.  I mean, he’s like 90 now, isn’t he?  Still, even for an old dude who has been ravaged by drug use, he can still bring the rock.  Cat Power and N.E.R.D. will likely also put on awesome shows, so it’s going to be an entire day’s worth of musical goodness.

The rules for the venue don’t seem too ridiculous either.  No cameras with removable lenses (pros with credentials only), no booze, one clear water bottle each (which you might be asked to empty at the gate, but there are water refill stations inside that appear to be free) and you can even bring a modestly sized lawnchair.  Oddly enough, disposable cameras are forbidden, but I can’t seem to reason why that would be the case.  Anyone?  A little help here?

We’re only attending the Sunday concerts, but Monday’s lineup looks pretty awesome too.  I hear there are still tickets available, so why not take the drive out to Montreal for the long weekend?  Aside from the gas costing you a few hundred dollars, it’s well worth it.  Even better, it’s not a long weekend in Quebec, so you won’t hit traffic coming home until Trenton, at which point you could crawl back to Toronto faster than you’ll make it by car.  Here’s hoping for a sketchy weather report that keeps people at home, but in the end is completely wrong.


Blue. Grass. Rocks.

Yeah, I know Earth Day was a few days ago, but this is not an environmental post.  First, let me say that I am indeed in favour of blue water, green grass and … rocky rocks(?) and will continue to be so in the future, unless David Suzuki’s head busts through my kitchen wall and he starts lecturing me about caulking.  Weirdo.

Last night, a few of us cool cats (Danielle, Jared, Andy, Kiernan, Wendy and Danielle P.) hit up the Renaissance Cafe at Woodbine and Danforth for an intimate little musical event.  The venue is certainly one-of-a-kind, and it reminds me of a cross between a small town donut shop, your childhood friend’s basement that was renovated in 1972 and the youth room at a church filled mostly with old people.  In other words, it’s AWESOME.

First up was M.Mucci, a one-man act who started with an electric guitar and moved to an acoustic.  His first two songs were very soundtrack-like and anthemic.  Although they were sombre and had very little ebb and flow, they were beautifully played.  His last song was far more upbeat and every foot in the joint was tapping.

The second act was our very own Silver Speakers (aka Tyrone, aka the other guitarist in Slow Like Big Hams) who donned a bandana and proceeded to rock the house, as usual.  After seeing a few of his shows, I can safely say that last night was the most comfortable I’ve seen Tyrone on-stage, and the best I’ve seen him play guitar.  He had a really “on” night.  Good job, man.

The closing set was by a bluegrass band called William & Polly, and they were fantastic (caution: that link is a MySpace page).  I might be biased because they had all my favourite instruments lined up on stage, which from left to right were: ukelele, mandolin, guitar, banjo, harmonica and a concertina (like a small and more awesome accordian).  Still, if you listen to a couple of their tunes, I’m sure you’ll agree.  They played a mix of their own tunes and some bluegrass standards, some religious and some not.  Their voices were amazing, especially “Polly’s”, and they are both amazing musicians.  I picked up their EP for $5 and I’m hoping to have them come and play at our church sometime.

So, in summary… I must get a mandolin and a ukelele and I really should get off my ass, write some songs and play a room sometime.

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Stomp ‘n Rock ‘n Roll

A big thanks to everyone who showed up at The Bow and Arrow on Saturday night to wish me a safe passage into my thirties. Some of you traveled from as far away as downtown Toronto (to North York) and I appreciate all the well-wishing and “old man” jokes.

This year’s birthday was a bit of a boon for my electric guitars and anyone who plays them (namely me). Years ago, when I first started playing guitar, I bought a cheap multi-effects pedal system that makes a lot of pedal sounds, but it doesn’t make any of them particularly well. It was great for a novice (which I still am), but I quickly began to feel the limitations and ached to start my own pedal collection. Back in the fall, I started it by buying a Behringer Digital Delay.

Digital Delay

It’s a very U2-sounding effect, and I’ve had a lot of fun with it. It was also a foray into the world of Behringer pedals, which are are surprisingly inexpensive for how high quality they seem.

Despite suffering while I struggle to learn new guitar riffs by playing them over and over and over, Danielle ventured into Steve’s music all alone last week, but emerged triumphant with two perfect pedals to add to my growing collection; a Tuner (which will rarely leave my side) and an Overdrive (which makes my non-tube amp sounds very warm and inviting).

Overdrive Tuner

Since I needed some short patch cables to daisy chain all my pretty new friends, I wandered back down to Steve’s myself on my birthday. I took the opportunity to jam on a few guitars that I would love to buy, but will never own and to admire from afar the guitar that will someday be mine (a Gretsch Country Club). I couldn’t bring myself to play it for fear that I would covet it that much more.

After picking up the cables, my eyes were drawn to the shelf of Behringer pedals and I couldn’t pass up a deal for one more at nearly half price. So I picked up a Distortion X. The X is for ‘xtreme’… I assume.

Distortion X

So now that I’m old and well-outfitted, it’s time for a little pre-mid-life crisis rocking, wouldn’t you say? It’s time to get the band back together and write some songs that will rock the Asian continent.

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The Three Band Review

Given that this weekend was my ‘relaxation weekend’ after three straight weekends on the road, I did an obscene amount of running around. In the midst of all that, I heard three bands that I figured I’d review for your review-reading pleasure.

Smoosh – Ah, never underestimate the power of the so-called ‘indie gimmick band’. Smoosh is a two-piece (sometimes three piece) featuring two teenaged sisters (15 and 17 years old). Given their age, they’re really popular right now, but I was pretty unimpressed aside from the drum work. The singer/keyboard player reminded me of going to high school talent shows.  Scary.  Anyways, they were just the openers for…

The Pipettes – Long-time readers may recall The Pipettes from last spring when I wrote briefly about how addictive their 60’s style girl pop is. Their live show didn’t disappoint. The music is happy and boppy, and their stage banter (while hard to hear, thanks to a crappy sound guy) was great. They interacted quite a bit with the crowd, and were well choreographed.

The crowd was great too. It was a cross-section of ages and styles, but almost everyone seemed to know the band and their songs, so the participation rate was really high. It was a great show.

King Sunshine – On Saturday night, Danielle and I headed to The Reverb for a friend’s birthday party, and the club was being headlined by a “disco rooted dance, funk band”. After hearing that description, we had no idea what we were in for, so our expectations were pretty low. Then, when King Sunshine took the stage, we were blown away. The band was energetic, fun and VERY tight musically. Even better, the music was so great and dance-able, that the whole place was hopping. I’d easily see these guys in concert again, and since they’re apparently playing the Ottawa Blues Festival in July, that’s a very real possibility.

In less musical news, my home PC remains comatose, the wedding plans continue unabated (next up, bridesmaid dresses and invitation designs), and soccer has moved to Thursday. Canada Day weekend continues to approach at light speed (only four weeks to go), the weather is crazy and I’ll have a list of stuff I’m selling to post here this week (before it all goes up on Craigslist for the vultures to pick apart).


Tom & Jerry and Friends

I feel pretty justified in my skepticism of ‘classical’ orchestral composers who have written their works in the 20th century. [Warning: Blanket generalization] Most orchestral music from the last century is lacking the melody and emotion of the classics, and I’m not just a fan of the canon because it’s familiar. I promise.

Last night, Shari and I attended the TSO with some awesome seats (courtesy of my parents, who didn’t dare leave the quietude of the country for the insanity of the city) for a performance of pieces from Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony. For the most part, the music reminded me of the Tom and Jerry episode where they’re on a space station chasing each other around. You know the episode. Anyways, aside from some really stand-out parts, I wasn’t a huge fan… but the violinist was AMAZING! I didn’t care about what he was playing… it was how he was playing it. He had energy, passion and a lot of talent. Maxim Vengerov is now on my list of musicians to learn more about.

We didn’t stick around for the second violinst, a Dutch woman named Janine Jansen, but by the looks of this photo, music is her second passion… after romance novel cover modelling. Mind you, that’s a good looking cover. (In Germany, they call those ‘schlafzimmeraugen‘)

When I go to the symphony, I usually find myself distracted from the music by two things. First, the conductor. This guy gets more excercise than anyone else on stage. They tend to be VERY animated, and they have a lot of body-language conversations with the musicians throughout a performance. Second, the percussionist(s). Honestly, can there be a more boring job in the music industry than that of orchestra percussionist? You count out 95 bars, then hit a triangle once. Still, when the timpani’s come out, all bets are off… these guys are the rock stars of the band.

If I ever went to the trouble of becoming a conductor, I’d likely abuse my new title of ‘Maestro’. First, I’d legally change my name to ‘Fresh Wes’. Then, I would demand that friends and family call me by my full title and name. Lastly, I would screen Tom and Jerry cartoons (and select Looney Tunes… like the one where Bugs becomes a conductor) at all my performances. It would take some pressure off the percussionists.


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