This Week

(Two months since Alex died.)

It’s been a week of seeing bands…

The Nymphets/The Captains – Barfly on Monday

Just so happened to be in the bar for this and was thoroughly entertained. I was worried when opening band The Captains took to the floor without a bassist – just a guitar and drums. I was already bitching a little to Ted the bartender about bands that don’t have a bass, but decided I would would take care of my ears by plugging them up a bit of toilet paper so the high-end wouldn’t get to me. Once they started, it was clearly going to be a treat. The singer, who I’ve met a few times at Barfly, was in a mood to entertain. Describing his band as “Stylish punks with weird hats”, the singer began by talking up the crowd and doing his best to get the Monday night crowd warmed up. He succeeded brilliantly. Every song was introduced with a title and a one liner to go along with it…..”This song’s called ‘Sex Injector’ – because I’ve been injecting sex ALL….DAY…LONG”, or “This is ‘Rubicon’ – it’s not very good, but it’s not very long”, and “This one’s digital – we play it with our fingers” on a song called “Computer”. Other song titles include “Pope John Paul” (chorus, whole crowd has to shout “Pope John Paul”), “Fecal Love”, and “Chicken Farm”. The Captains play great garage punk that had me rockin’ and laughing heartily. Looking forward to seeing these guys again, hopefully with a bassist.

The Nymphets were also pretty good. Decent punk rock, but I was so enthused with the Captains I couldn’t enjoy them as much. I’d see them again, though.

Blind – Barfly on Wednesday.

Blind have been playing Barfly for over 6 years now and I’ve been there since Day 1. They’re a long way from the days when it was just Colin on electric guitar and vocals and Peter M on piano. The addition a few years back of the legendary Stephen Barry on the upright bass has given them polish and legitimacy and turned this night into an event. It’s not unusual for them to have guest musicans, but it is unsual for them to have guest singers like they did this evening for one song – Katie Moore, Angela Desveaux, and Dara Weiss, a country/folk/bluegrass trio who all play guitar and have voices like angels. While regulars of Barfly’s “Bluegrass Night” are very familiar with these three, most of the Blind regulars had never heard or seen them before and were probably surprised to hear bluegrass break out in the middle of their blues. The crowd was wowed, though, and cheered them long and loud.

Neko Case – Club Soda on Friday.

This was my third time seeing Neko Case, and while better than her set at Metropolis opening for Wilco in 2003, it didn’t hold a candle to her set at Cabaret a couple of years ago. The Soda was packed but somewhat subdued for the size of the crowd. The set was short and there was no encore – is this becoming a trend? Good, glad I went, but nothing spectacular. I was sorry we missed the Sadies….

CPC Gangbangs/Starvin’ Hungry – L’Hemisphere Gauche on Saturday.

I’ve seen Starvin’ Hungry many times at Barfly, Sala Rosa, Sapphire, and now L’Hemisphere Gauche – a great venue with an actual pit and a 4 foot high stage. A great place to see a band but you have to be in or near the pit to really appreciate the sound. Needless to say, Starvin’ Hungry rocked. They’ve never sounded better and for my money they’re one of the great rock bands playing in this city. CPC Gangbangs are just insane! I could tell from the moment they hit the stage it was going to be old-fashioned punk rock with attitude. I found it hard to believe a band with this much attitude could come from Montreal – they felt more like some late 70’s New York punk band than a 2000s Montreal band. This wasn’t studs and leather punk, it wasn’t even thrash punk – the crowd seemed more into twitching and shaking than thrashing – it was fucked up on drugs punk. Kind of reminded me of the Deadboys and the Chromosomes, though at least one song reminded a friend of mine of the 13th Floor Elevators. Check these guys out at least once if if you’re into old school punk rock. It’s a scene, man.


In this installment of writing about Alex’s favourite covers……

PagliaroLovin’ You Ain’t Easy

This one always brought a smile on my face because it was the only Top 10 hit Alex ever played. OK, it was top 10 in 1971, but still. “Lovin’ You Ain’t Easy” is pop made in heaven. Pagliaro was always huge in Quebec but in Canada it was another matter. Growing up in Montreal in the 70s and 80s, it just wasn’t possible to go through life without hearing Pagliaro and being immediately hooked by this song. Shockingly, CBCs “50 track” show completely missed the boat and put Trooper on their list over Pagliaro. Go figure. Must be a Toronto thing. Here’s what one person had to say about this song from, placing it number 9 on his “Ten Canadian Records You Shouldn’t Live Without”.

“There are two vividly distinct cultures, artistic AND social, living uncomfortably alongside one another in Canada: the largely French-speaking province of Quebec, and the entire REST of that gigantic nation! But even English Canada’s age-old suspicious aversion to their Quebec brethren would instantly melt whenever the triumphant voice of Michel Pagliaro appeared on the airwaves during the early Seventies. His absolute string of Top 40 masterpieces (many recorded at no less than the London studios of Apple Records …in and around Badfinger sessions!) remain defining moments in the History of Canadian Rock, and with them “Pag” made his mark as not only a Pure Pop Wonder, but a figure who all-too-briefly united Canada’s dual (and dueling) halves with nothing but a song.”


5 thoughts on “This Week

  1. 1. The Captains! That’s my friend Graham’s band, and judging from your repors of the banter, I imagine he’s the singer gent of which you speak. Shorter fellow, with the energy of a frisky little drunken elf?

    I should have gone to that show– it was even written down in my horaire to see the Numphets (didn’t know until the day after that it was Graham’s band opening, and I really enjoyed the Nymphets at Barfly this summer with Adversions from QC– have you heard them? Amazing! Like a cross between First Four Years-era Black Flag and Chuck-Berry-based garage rock, and energy, my lord!), but I’d been invited over to my pal Bartek’s, so it’s hard to pass up an evening among friends when your presence has been specifically requested.

    As for Neko, I was sadly unimpressed by the show. Her set was very short, and seemed almost kind of rehearsed. Now, that was, I think, the ninth time I’ve seen the Sadies ,and they’ve played the same (albeit awesome) set damned near every time (we were standing directly in front of Travis Good, the shaggier of the Good brothers, which gave me ample opportunity to watch his magic left hand and feel small), so maybe that was part of it. But I don’t really like Neko’s new album, shockingly enough, and she played a *tonne* off of it. Like, what, seven tracks? I love “Favourite”– though I loved it on “Canadian Amp”– but what’s with the covers she chose? Buffy Ste. Marie? Ech. By comparison, she played, I think, one song off of Blacklisted, or maybe two, one off of Canadian Amp (my fave, at least), and only one off of Furnace Room Lullabye, which is my favourite record of hers. Nothing from The Virginian, and too little from Furnace Roon. Plus where was the banter?

    I’ve been spoiled, I admit. I saw her play with Maow in the summer of 1996, and I’ve seen every tour she’s done for each album, plus the Wilco show. The only time I’ve ever missed her was when she and Carolyn Mark played as the Corn Sisters at the Blacksheep Inn in Wakefield– found out about the show the week after. I have some *amazing* memories of her shows. My favourite being watching her administer the most unrelenting brutal verbal beating to a heckler that I’ve ever seen in my life when she played at Jailhouse in Summer 2000, which climaxed with her inviting the heckler to get onstage and do a better job, then saying, when he refused, “if you don’t have the fucking guts to back your words up with some action, then you better learn to shut your fucking mouth.” DAMN! She placed the cherry on top by crooning that “I’ll Be Back In Your Arms” song directly at him. So I have a lot to compare it to, and I feel like I’m lucky for that. But I just felt like it lacked the spark of those other shows, like it was missing the verve, like it was all business, you know?

    Re: encore– I think she was trying to do an encore but lost part of her guitar (that amazing white SG tenor), which kept her from actually leaving the stage.

    I mean, it was still a great show, but it was just missing something. It felt like a big show, which not all big shows do, and that’s not a feeling I like.

    1. Shorter fellow, with the energy of a frisky little drunken elf?

      That’s the guy! I’ve met Graham a few times at the Barfly but I didn’t know he was in a band. I was surprised when I saw him on stage that night, and then doubly surprised to see the kind of presence he and his bandmate had on the floor. You’ll have to check them out – they’re pure entertainment.

      I’ve never seen the Adversions – I’ll definitely check them out when they play again. I like the possibilities of a cross between early Black Flag and “Chuck Berry based garage-rock”.

      Yeah, Neko Case was disappointing. The first time I saw her I had never even heard her before – I went on a recommendation from a friend of mine who insisted I would love her. That was the Cabaret show during the Pop Montreal festival a couple of years ago. I fell in love with her voice that night…she just filled the room with her voice and emotion. I liked her so much I bought “Blacklisted” right after the show, and even got it autographed. But the Club Soda set was flat, I thought. You’ve pretty much expressed how I felt about it. There was something missing and it was probably emotional intensity.

      As for the lack of an encore, I knew she had experienced technical difficulties but thought they had been overcome. I was upstairs on the balcony (where I could smoke with impunity), so I missed the little things.

      You’re lucky to have seen her as much as you have. I’ve heard a few stories from that Jailhouse show, but the heckler story is one I’ve been told by a couple of people who attended that night. I think everyone who was there remembers that heckler and her tirade.

      I’ve haven’t had much luck seeing bands at the Soda. The best show I’ve seen there was probably the Buzzcocks, but they were so loud I think my hearing is still suffering. The Damned weren’t very good there, and the Stranglers were worse. I’m waiting to see a show at the new Club Soda that blows my socks off and it hasn’t happened yet. I had hoped Neko Case would change that but not even close.

  2. a toronto thing

    Trooper over Pagliaro? A gross misjustice. But calling it “a toronto thing” is silly. Å CBC thing okay, A Ghomeshi thing maybe. Expecting this 50 Tracks thing to reflect your own taste is as silly as expecting the Grammys to do the same. Or the Oscars.
    I enjoyed your story about Alex Soria but then there’s that business about Jack Rabid being the first Nils fan outside Montreal. Maybe the first one with a magazine but I assure you there were fans in Toronto of all places.
    And then there’s that paragraph you quote about English Canada’s suspicious aversion blah blah. English Canadian radio didn’t play French music. It’s as simple as that. Nobody gave a fuck where Pagliaro was from. As long as the song was in English.
    I enjoy your blog but this Montreal chauvinism is a bit old.

    1. Re: a toronto thing

      Hey look, I am a Montreal chauvinist, but I know it’s silly and it’s more or less in fun. Many Montreal Chauvinists have lots of Toronto friends and we just like to poke fun.

      That said, the panelists on 50 tracks are definitely Toronto centric. It’s inevitable given that Ghomeshi is from Toronto and has chosen a lot of his friends for his panels. If the host of the show was from Montreal, I’d expect the show to be Montreal centric.

      Please, I don’t expect 50 tracks to reflect my interests, just venting is all. I’ve enjoyed most of the show, except the second 80’s panel. It’s great to hear the debates on the merits of songs. I listen to it everyday. I was glad that Scratches was nominated, didn’t expect it to be on the list, and in a way I’m glad it wasn’t. It was just great to hear the song being talked about.

      And then there’s that paragraph you quote about English Canada’s suspicious aversion blah blah

      I didn’t write that, I was simply quoting from the article I linked to.

      I enjoyed your story about Alex Soria but then there’s that business about Jack Rabid being the first Nils fan outside Montreal. Maybe the first one with a magazine but I assure you there were fans in Toronto of all places.

      In 1982, nobody outside of Montreal had heard of the Nils. Simple. They were an underage band that had played about 5 or 6 shows in Montreal and had never toured. “Now” came out in 1983 and was sent out to a number of college radio stations and various fanzines. Only a very few were in stores in Toronto. Steve S., the guy mainly responsible for putting that tape together, had setup a Nils post office box and we used to go there and excitedly check out the mail. Of all the mail we read, no one showed more enthusiasm for the Nils than Jack Rabid. He hadn’t even seen them, and just from that tape immediately understood what they were about. We all referred to him as the Nils number 1 fan outside Montreal. You couldn’t call the Big Takeover a magazine at the time – it was the very essence of a fanzine. It was a small but very dense xerox copied fanzine that you couldn’t even get in Montreal. Some of it was typed, and some was even handwritten. Jack Rabid’s BT was a completely obscure fanzine that for all we knew at the time would be dead in a couple of years. BT wasn’t Flipside or Maximum R’n’R. It was one guy’s fanzine, he had the same tastes in music as we did, and he loved the Nils.

      I enjoy your blog but this Montreal chauvinism is a bit old.

      Glad you enjoy reading my blog, sorry to have offended you with my Montreal chauvinism but don’t take it too seriously, and I’m glad you posted this comment. I’d be happy to hear from you via email so I can get a sense of who you are. Try me at


  3. thanks john!

    hey john, i just did a searcha nd found the page… thanks a lot for the gushing tribute! a reminder: friday march 18, missy bar… bass player included.


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