Monday, September 29, 2008

Word and Music

So, I went to Word on the Street yesterday and had a great time. I saw David Bezmozgis give a great talk on starting out as a writer. I even got to chat with him for a minute afterward and told him how much I loved his book and how much I loved reading a book about an oft-ignored neighbourhood I passed through quite often when I lived up in North York. In his talk, he also mentioned being taught by and greatly respecting the work of Leonard Michaels. I've had Michael's collected stories for a while now but could never really get into it. I think I'll give it another shot.

I maintained some semblance of discipline and didn't turn the day into a book buying orgy like I normally do. Instead, I picked up two books of poetry I'd been meaning to pick up for a long time - Christian Bok's Eunoia and Lynn Crosbie's Liar. Eunoia is a book of poetry where each chapter contains words that contain only one of the five vowels. It's strange and daunting but also surprisingly readable. It's also strangely enough the closest Coach House books has come to publishing a bestseller. Lynn Crosbie's book is a far different affair. It is a book-long dissection of a failed relationship. Reading this book is an act of voyeurism tempered by the fact that Lynn Crosbie is a great writer, a writer you want to read and read even when the subject matter is so intensely personal.

Where my discipline deserted me, though, was when it came to music. Eye Weekly had a tent with a bunch of local musicians playing. I went over on a whim and wound up being floored by the Forest City Lovers. With guitar, bass and violin, the band plays wonderfully rootsy music that I could have spent all afternoon listening to.

The next act was pretty much equally incredible. Laura Barrett plays the kalimba - those African thumb pianos one sometimes sees buskers playing. She also plays piano and other things, but the kalimba is her thing. She plays these strange, sci-fi tinged songs that are really fun.

So I wound up with two cds, as well (FCL's Haunting Moon Sinking and Barrett's Victory Garden). Both discs are quite good and are competing with Chad VanGaalen for play on my ipod.

In the end, I left Word on the Street with two books and two cds. And a good deal of inspiration, thanks to Mr. Bezmozgis.

[if I mention buying another cd before the end of the decade, please confiscate my wallet]

Last night, I went with a friend to see Martin Tielli play at Hugh's Room. He's got a new band and has only just started playing again for the first time since the Rheostatics disbanded in the spring of 2007 (their last two shows - at the Horseshoe and Massey Hall - are near the top of my top 10 favourite concerts of all time).

Playing Hugh's Room, a venue that normally caters to more folky, acoustic acts, Martin gave a performance that was ideosyncratic in all the best ways - there is no one out there playing and performing the way Martin does. And there are few that seem to take so much enjoyment out of playing. That's what I always loved about watching the Rheos play - the sense of fun, the toying with convention and expectation. Dave Bidini and Michael Phillip-Wojewoda (the Rheo's rhythm guitarist and drummer, respectively) were in the audience and Dave came up to play Saskatchewan (a personal fave from the Rheos canon).

All told, it was a great show and worth the late night - I was in bed at 1am and up at 5am to head to work. Better living through strong coffee.

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