That is, addicted to the power-pop of The New Pornographers Electric Version. It even managed to bump “A Ghost is Born” from top spot on my top 10. This stuff is just infectious. A friend burned me a copy of it at Christmas and added 3 more songs from Mass Romantic. Unfortunately, it doesn’t play on my CD player reliably which means I’ll gladly fork out the money for the actual CD. There’s 13 songs on this CD and I don’t think there’s a dud in the bunch, though I like some more than others. The vocals are pure pop, the guitars just heavy enough. I hope they visit Montreal soon….
My friends’ annual Robert Burns party has come and gone and a great time was had by all. Met up with friend Nils at Barfly and got a lift with Allan and Gail down to Old Montreal. Nils is a talented professional singer and guitarist who has a passion for old Scottish music, so bringing him to the party was a no-brainer. This party, which has been going on for over 10 years now, is a real treat. There’s always a large selection of single malt whiskies on hand, great food, and a sing-along led by Johnny Graham and co. Song highlights include “Loch Lomond”, “Flower of Scotland”, and Stan Rogers’ “Barrett’s Privateers”. Best single malt scotch of the night: Balvenie 12 year old.
Nils played a short but fantastic set of some of these old songs he has from an historic Scottish Music collection he has and stunned the guests with the quality of his voice. Gail, Allan, and I have had the pleasure of hearing him sing at Barfly, but the rest of the crowd had never heard him. Hell, they never even met him before. He’s a professional operatic singer, so his voice filled the room. Definitely not sing-along material, but a treat nonetheless. Hopefully he’ll put in a set at Barfly soon.
My personal highlight of the night was Will’s Scottish dumpling made from his granny’s recipe. It was almost as good as my Glasgow granny’s was. Now I’ve got to fry it up and have it with eggs and bacon, just like we used to when we were kids.
Traditional Scottish Dumpling (Clootie) – the only dessert vegetarians can’t eat.
So naturally, Nils and I got dropped off at Barfly and lo and behold Rick’s there with Carlos. Rick Klucinskas and I go way back with the Soria brothers and have probably seen Alex play more shows than anyone. Alex and I met Rick in our first year in CEGEP back in 1983 through mutual friend Dwight Faithful and have been best of friends ever since. In our way, we all felt like we were brothers.
We reminisced – a lot. Talked a lot about Alex, the music we used to listen to back in the day, how great our combined record collections were, remembering the early Nils shows. It was funny remembering that from the moment I saw Alex and Carlos’ collection, I was competitive – I had to have a collection at least as good as theirs. I never managed it, but I know Alex and Carlos always appreciated my tastes and my collection. When my father died suddenly in 1986, I had to bury him on the isle of Eriskay in Scotland where he was born. Because I was going to be gone for a month, I left my stereo and entire record collection at the Soria house on Gilbert Street. That house was the official Nils HQ at the time, and this was just 3 months before they would be forced to move out because their Dad was going away to California. Anyway, I left my records there and my collection was thoroughly raided – in a good way. Many mixed tapes were made from records in our combined collections. It was the only time my records were mixed in with theirs, and it was the ultimate compliment to know that they rated my bunch of LPs, EPs, and singles. Combined, we probably had the best collection of early punk and hardcore I’ve ever seen in one place. It would probably cost thousands to get those records in a single place today.
At Barfly last night – again. Anyone who knows me knows this is practically the only place I go out for a pint, and so it was last night.
The bands were a mixed bag, but not terrible. The first round was two guys with guitars making a lot of noise, with the most memorable part being their version of Sonny and Cher’s “The Beat Goes On”. Other than that, most of the regulars were glad to see the set end. The second round was one guy playing an acoustic set which was OK. Nothing really outstanding, but after the noise of the previous set, he was pretty easy on the ears. The Caines were the night’s first proper band, a four piece who seem midway between the garage and CHOM’s L’Esprit contest. Their set consisted of some pretty good rock songs that lacked a little punch. I’d like to see this band get heavier with the same material. The Jason Dagg Band were by far the best band of the night. Mr. Dagg, who can’t be much more then 21 years young, is quite a talent. He plays keyboards, lead guitar, and sings. Not only that, but the songs are actually very good. At least one song reminded of The Meatpuppets. I’d check them out again. The last band was fronted by a guy named William Rockwell, who was ostensibly the evening’s host. They were probably the heaviest band of the night, but by this time I was more interested in the pool table and the conversation I was having with a lovely young woman who is on her way to the States and discovering very quickly how tough things can get at the border these days. After that, I’m afraid, I was bound for last call. Got home about 3:30 and listened to Wilco, the New Pornographers, Neil Young, and X until at least 4:30.
Tonight it’s a friend’s annual Robert Burns Day party. Lots of fine scotch, song, food, and great company. I hear they might even have a haggis this year…..this probably means I’ll be at my usual haunt come last call. Oh no, not again……
Beginning in 2003, I kept a little blog called Idle Thoughts From an Idler on The Main which was initially supposed to be about life in this great neighbourhood I live in here in Montreal, but with the daily insanity of the Bush administration it became more of a way for me to vent and write about the insanity of the Bush Administration. There’s other stuff there, but it definitely leaned more on the politics.
I haven’t written in that blog since December 5, 2004. Eight days later, my longtime friend Alex Soria tragically died in front of a train on the tracks in Montreal’s St. Henri. It came as a terrible shock not only to his family and friends, but to all those who knew him through the music he wrote and played with The Nils and Chino. He was a huge unsung talent. The headline for his obituary in one Ottawa paper was Best Canadian Band…. Never. Those of us who have seen Alex play in various incarnations of The Nils and the late-great Chino know that he was one of the greats in Canadian rock, never mind Canadian Punk. Just listen to World’s Apart or When You’re Not Around from Mala Leche to get a taste of how great. It’s sad to think that Wilco’s The Late Greats comes to mind when I think of Alex, the Nils, and Chino.
The best song will never get sung
The best life never leaves your lungs
So good, you won’t ever know
I never hear it on the radio
Can’t hear it on the radio
– Jeff Tweedy from The Late Greats in a A Ghost is Born
Alex Soria playing with the Nils, trademark mic to the nose. Date currently unknown. Photo by Eric Kearns.
To read more on Alex, check out the archived Alex Soria RIP thread .
For the last couple of weeks I’ve been trying to write something like my own obituary for Alex, but I just can’t do it. Not in a single entry, anyway. And not even in a finite number of entries. I keep saying that I’ll probably never got over his death, but I’ll get on with it. I am getting on with it, but my life will never be the same without him. So I have to write, but writing in my old blog feels like writing on another life. So here I am, writing in livejournal, brought here by xquerenciax’s blog entry on Alex’s death and seing Chino at Barfly. I don’t know what I’ll write about, though I know there will be quite a few entries on Alex over the next few months as I try to assemble a history of the Nils and write about my many years with Alex. I also want to write regularly about the live music I see, because I actually see a lot of live music, mainly at Barfly and through a working arranangement I have with a local promoter.