Sunday, December 30, 2007

Tejano Style

Larry just joined a Yahoo group for accordion players, which led him to this video from the Tejano Music Awards.

(Larry has temporarily adopted the third person, cuz who wants to admit he joined an accordion Yahoo group?)

Check out this video. The accordion player must have listened to every Flaco Jimenez recording ever made. A good that style. Larry thinks the gloves with the swoosh are a bit much though. Maybe he was nervous about being on TV? Cold in the theatre?

Larry doesn't know what to make of the choreography. The audience seems to like it.

The performer's name is Eddie Gonzales, who Larry assumes is the singer. Accordion player unknown.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Black Day in Pakistan

I heard the news of Benazir Bhutto's assassination this morning with a heavy heart and a terrible sinking feeling. I don't suppose anyone was very surprised that this happened. And yet, it was quite a shock. I guess it demonstrates the difference between surprise and shock.

As far as I'm concerned, this should signal the end of Pervez Musharraf's regime. Was Musharraf directly responsible? We'll never know. The real truth of this will be buried in official bullshit. But everything that has occurred since Bhutto announced her decision to return to Pakistan points to his tacit approval, at the very least. His apparent inability to protect the nation's main opposition leader, a woman with a great deal of legitimate support, clearly demonstrates his incompetence. Or malice, whichever you prefer.

What's the point of marshal law, if it doesn't impose law and order? The fact that it was lawyers who first demonstrated against the government in this latest round of chaos in Pakistan is a telling point. Likewise Musharraf's dismissal and arrest of the Supreme Court judges. It shows that he is an outlaw. And if the leader of the country is a lawless scoundrel, how can you expect the citizens to behave any better?

It's time that the west, and the US in particular, stop coddling Musharraf. He has no control over his borders with Afghanistan. His efforts in the so-called war on terror have so far been ineffectual, and I'm not convinced that he doesn't prefer it that way. Ostensibly, his government's aid in the war on terror is the reason for the west's support of him. Once again we find ourselves supporting a miserable dictator because we think it's a better choice than the alternative. I wonder.

I suspect that Musharraf is actually thumbing his nose at the US. It was the Murricans who pressured him to come to some sort of agreement with Bhutto. It was the Murricans who pressured him to step down from his military position. I don't think he liked that too much, so he decided to show everybody who was boss. His condemnation of the assassination and appeal for calm ring hollow in our ears. No, not hollow...rather, brimful with hypocrisy.

As for Benazir Bhutto, I confess I have rather mixed feelings. In the last few months, especially, she skillfully positioned herself as the beacon of democracy in Pakistan. But let's not forget that she was ousted as Prime Minister...twice...for alleged corruption. Again, we'll never know the truth of that either. It's a sad comment on the state of Pakistan that such a person would be cast as the democratic alternative. This is it: her democracy would have been more legitimate than what is there now. And it's entirely possible that her handling of indigenous terrorists would have been more effective. This is what made her a target: she threatened the terrorists, and she threatened Musharraf's meal-ticket (sham-fighting terrorists...)

I am often perplexed by, or critical of, the US in this blog. I suppose I can be critical of the US now for propping up this jerkoff for so long. Another case of the US backing the wrong dictatorial horse. But I have to say, I believe the Bush administration really did try to set Musharraf on a more acceptable path this time around. And the jerkoff jerked them around.

I will say one more thing. I know the US has had its share of political assassinations, but the degree of domestic political terror has never reached the level seen in Pakistan. I'll be smug for a moment. In the western democracies we have learned, by and large, to share power, to transfer power, to distribute power, without the need to shoot people. (OK, relatively speaking...of course, we all know that the common people even in western countries are pretty much shut out of the real decision-making processes...) But we are also pretty much assured that George W. Bush will relinquish the presidency when the time comes without having to impose marshal law. Same for Canada. And Britain. And Germany. And France. Even the Ukraine!

Which makes me think that maybe Pakistan is nearly ripe for revolution. You know, no matter how loyal an army is to its ostensible political masters, it can be swayed by the determined opposition of citizens. Soldiers can think as well as anyone else. They have eyes to see. They know, ultimately, when they are being manipulated for evil purposes. And history shows that the army has been a powerful force in Pakistan. When it decides to vote for democracy, tinpots like Musharraf had better beware.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Bumper Stickers #1

The first of what I hope will be an ongoing series of bumper stickers from the citizens of Ontariario.

OK, technically this is not a bumper sticker, since it's on the window. But how can you resist this? Don't you just want to get on your knees and thank the driver profusely for being so thoughtful?

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Song of the Day

Led Zeppelin: Hots on for Nowhere
-- because I happened to be listening to it last night on Finetune.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Iran & World War Three? Pt.II

I hope the NY Times don't mind. I'm including this image of its front page from Nov. 15, 1969:

As you can see, on this day 38 years ago a quarter of a million people gathered in Washington to protest against the Vietnam war.

Oh, how times have changed!

Now, I ask myself, what's the difference between then and now.

I come up with really only one answer: fear.

The quarter-million Murricans (and many others) of 1969 feared neither the Vietnamese nor the Communists nor their own government. Such is not the case today. Murricans now fear Muslims (and that's a whole lot of the world's population these days) whether they live in Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia. They fear Mexicans. They fear their own government.

It's possible that this is not simply paranoia, I admit. Sometimes fear is the "rational" response. But if you allow the fear to rule you, then the logical consequences of that response become irrational.

There is some reason to fear the government. The Bush administration has made a concerted effort to feed that fear, to restrict the rights of US citizens (all in the name of security...and is there any as a result?...) I think most westerners (and that includes the Murricans) believe that they live in freedom. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Most, gazing off into the distance of the Middle East or Africa or China, don't recognize the repression in front of their noses.

Of course there is government repression in the US. In western Europe. In Canada. We may admit that it is relatively milder than so-called dictatorships in other regions, but it is repression nevertheless. Just ask those who do attempt to protest or demonstrate their opposition to unwarranted or unrepresentative government actions. Ask the people who protest against the Security and Prosperity Partnership right here in North America. (And some of these people are not even saying "Don't do it!" They're just saying, "Tell us what the hell's going on, tell us what your plans are!" Is this not anti-democratic? Is this not repression?)

The usual response to demonstrations and protests in the West is not so far different from what has outraged us recently in both Burma and Pakistan. The police (let's call them "security forces" as the media like to do for other countries) let it go on for a while (as long as it's not too rowdy) and then at some point determine that things must be shut down...for security. If anyone objects to being shut down, they are pepper-sprayed, tasered, arrested, beaten, charged and convicted. But of course, that's OK, because they're our police. They're not those brutal riot gangs in Rangoon.

A few years ago, former Premier Mike Harass of Ontariario put up barricades outside the Legislature. He didn't like the idea of people protesting there. At the figurative House of the People! He essentially instigated riots by trying to suppress the voice of the citizens of Ontariario. I had a hard time convincing some of my friends that the sight of police on horseback with riot sticks in front of our Legislature was something to be alarmed about...that the state was committing violence against its own citizens.

The people of 1969 may have been hippies and so-called radicals. But there is no doubt they had courage. They pushed back against a regime that did not seem to have their best interests at heart. Of course, many of those people are still around. But I wonder, have some of them become the people who need to be pushed back against?

As for the rest of us, I fear too. I fear that we have become hypnotized by technology, by media, by bland repetition of the Big Lie, by trivial pursuits, the latest iPod, the latest iPhone, the latest XBox, the latest celebrity scandal, the latest Hummer. And I lament. I lament that we have been cowed by fear. By complacency. By surveillance. By corporate power. By government power.

And I dread. That we have become sheeplike in our acceptance of authority.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Iran & World War Three?

OK, I'm a little behind here, but I see by the NY Times of Oct.17/07 that President Bush warned that a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to World War III. Of course, Mr. Bush referred to wild and threatening statements made by Iran's Prime Minister Ahmadinejad. As if the Resident of the Excited States of Murrica hasn't ever made wild and threatening statements.

But let me get this straight. Which nation's leader is talking World War III? Which nation actually has nuclear weapons? Which nation's leader has adopted a policy of pre-emptive war? Which nation's leader only took the "nuclear option" in Iran off the strategy table at the insistence of his own military advisors?

Quoting the NY Times: "Mr. Bush sought in the news conference to make clear that his pressure tactics, including economic sanctions, were aimed at persuading the Iranian people to find new leadership."

Does this not sound eerily familiar? Is this not déjà vu all over again?

Ordinary Murricans wouldn't fall for this again, would they?

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The Buddha On My Coffee Cup

pretends to be a hippo
"I have the body of a god" it says.

But Buddha is not a god.
He's something you kill
when you meet him on the road
                                                      to Damascus.

How would the world be now
if Saul had plucked out his eyes
in answer to that blinding flash
                                                      of insight?

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mingyur Rinpoche's Compassion Exercise

Chapter 13 of Mingyur Rinpoche's book The Joy of Living is called Compassion: Opening the Heart of the Mind. At the beginning of it he suggests a short exercise to demonstrate how a compassionate heart can be, not boring, but diligent and active.

He writes:
If you really want to see how active a compassionate mind can be, here's a very simple exercise that probably won't take more than five minutes of your time. Sit down with a pen and paper and make a list of ten problems that you'd like to see solved. It doesn't matter whether they're global problems or issues close to home. You don't have to come up with solutions. Just write the list.
So I did. Here's my list. For today.
  1. the fossil fuel/energy crisis
  2. poverty
  3. the enslavement/oppression of people by their governments
  4. war
  5. road rage
  6. my income tax bill
  7. my obsessive anger over situations that don't really matter much
  8. becoming a two-handed keyboard player
  9. clutter--both physical and mental
  10. my tendency to procrastinate
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MyBlogLog Stats

I'm sure other members of MyBlogLog have noticed this when they check their stats. Somebody does a Google search and Google calls up one of their blog posts as a relevant reference.

Sometimes the associations are weird. Today someone did this Google search: can body lice drown in the bathtub.

Google served up several sites, but also listed Mental Blog sixth with this entry: What's Bugging Me Now.

The words "lice" and "drown" are mentioned in the comments. Go figger.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Norman Mailer

January 31, 1923 - November 10, 2007

I've been reading Norman Mailer since I was a teenager. Since, according to my Blogger profile, I'm over 200 years old, that's a long time. The first book of his that I read was his first book, The Naked and the Dead. His war novel. Everybody needed a war novel in those days. I don't remember much about it, but it must have been good enough for me to want to read more.

When I heard that he died, I did a quick inventory of the books that I've read. Not all of them, by any means, nor even the majority of his output, but enough to get a good sense of what kind of writer he was. The Naked and the Dead. Armies of the Night. Of a Fire on the Moon (a curiously self-absorbed account of the moon landing). The Executioner's Song (a masterpiece of detailed journalism). Ancient Evenings. Tough Guys Don't Dance. Portrait of Picasso As A Young Man.

Mailer is probably better known for his non-fiction than his fiction. But one of the best books I ever read by anybody was Ancient Evenings, a long, rich story of ancient Egypt and a man who, through several reincarnations was general to Pharaohs and many other things. Fabulous writing.

I speak not about his private life -- much of which was public -- nor his persona, nor his image. His writing ranks with the best that the USA has produced.

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Song of the Day

Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes: I'm So Anxious

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Does Beckham have Buddha-Nature?

According to the monks at Pariwas temple in Bangkok, he most certainly does. They're all football (soccer) crazy there, and included an image of him in their altar statuary.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

HHDL Rocks Hawgtown

Security measures at the Yoni School are similar to those found at airports. They are porous and whimsical. It is, after all, not a maximum security reform school, but rather a halfway house of sorts. Halfway between po-tic anarchy and grammatical orthodoxy. The electronic arches at the Yoni school invariably let pass anyone carrying a fountain pen. A volume of Charles Bukowski, however, sends alarums through the system that register several points on the Richter scale as far away as Ottawar, that paragon of political connivance. Do you understand me? Probably not. I scarcely understand myself.

However, what I am trying to convey here is that under certain circumstances, one may leave the environs of the Yoni School, with a pass authorized by Nurse Ratchet and various under-secretaries of literary health, and partake of the doings of society at large. Therefore, I was permitted to go and pay homage to the modern-day Chenresig, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama yesterday in Hawgtown.

He started off by saying that altho he's visited Canada several times, this is the first time he has come to this country as an honourary citizen. That drew an appreciative round of applause.

Here are a few of the themes on which he spoke:

We must realize that the world is not composed of isolated, more or less self-sufficient villages anymore. Everyone is dependent on everyone else now...for food, for energy, for clothing, for shelter. Therefore, we must begin to develop a concern for the welfare of people all around the world. The kind of concern we must develop is like the feeling of love and affection that a mother feels for her child.

If we think of the 20th century as an age of violence and bloodshed, we should work to make the 21st a century of dialogue.

NATO should move its headquarters to Moscow to help bring Russia into the community of European nations, in a unified force.

We treat our animals little better than vegetables. So, in addition to developing concern for the 6 billion humans on our planet, we must begin to change our attitudes towards the animals.

It is time to begin teaching our children in a way that develops not only their brain power, but the power of warm-heartedness.

He praised the US as a beacon of democracy, but strongly suggested that the billions spent in Iraq would have been more useful educating, training, and feeding Iraqis. The money spent on armaments, he said, was a complete waste.

When all is said, His Holiness is an optimistic kind of guy. Where I, for example, often see the world going to hell in a handbasket, he sees progress being made. In fact, he said that the 21st century, so far, has been less violent than the previous spite of Iraq, in spite of Darfur, in spite of terrorism.

And when he uses the word "dialogue" you can be sure he is thinking of China.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Playin' in a Travellin' Band - Part 2

HWSRN has certainly learned the Airport Security Drill. Flying out of Lunchbucket International bound for Cowtown Alberta where the cows bathe in oil and the execs stampede from one sludgepot to another. The band was headed for Edmountain, of course, but they had a two-hour layover in Cowtown.

Security in Lunchbucket is thorough and not too quick. They swabbed one of HWSRN's flight cases...the one that has the electronic accordion generator in it. Too many wires. Too many obvious circuit boards. That's OK. The world is an increasingly paranoid place. Life is constrained now. You do have a choice. You can stay at home. Save the ozone.

Nevertheless, the band passed through the electronic arches in relative comfort, minus Voin's needle nose pliers.

Then Cowtown.

Not only is paranoia the order of the day. The nation has become positively unfriendly to those poor slobs who still smoke the demon tobacco. Even the flight attendants make fun at their expense. (Ladies and gentlemen, you will find our smoking section off on the right wing. The in-flight movie is Gone With the Wind...ha ha!) HWSRN is unrepentant...a dirty filthy smelly barbarian of a smoker. He must have his smoke.

The Cowtown airport is long. Long and narrow under conditions of addictive compulsion. Long, narrow and nearly endless. There are no exits but the one. That one at the other end of the airport. About half-way, HWSRN waylaid a couple of WestJet employees and was told that if one must smoke, the only place was at the far end, out past the TimHo's, out past the security gates, out past the Departures entrance, across the road, next to the parking garage. Another postal code away, as they said so cheerfully. And there, next to the driveway and the traffic calming and the stacked floors of parked cars, you may fire up your foul weed and inhale to your heart's detriment the delightful mixture of tobacco and exhaust fumes.

Fine. HWSRN puts up with all this, all these little inconveniences and demeaning gestures, cuz he smokes, he flies, and this is a weird planet and he certainly lives on it most of the time.

But you noticed that I said that the smoking ghetto is outside, right? Past the security gates. Which means that one must pass thru security again to get back on de plane. A two-hour layover is long enough to go for two smokes. So HWSRN passed thru security at Cowtown International Aeroport two times. He knows how to do it now. The first time they took away his water bottle cuz he forgot it was even in his bag. He'd taken it off the plane to drink it. They would be travelling to Edmountain on a different plane. So he gave up his water. Other than that there was no problem.

An hour later he repeated the same process. This time no water. But he had his bag pulled aside by the same security woman who had taken his water earlier. There was some suspicious electronic device in this nondescript Labatt's Blue duffel bag. HWSRN's iPod. Which had been there in exactly the same place an hour earlier. Which simply goes to show. Airport security is an ass.

I asked HWSRN why he didn't just leave his bag with someone in the band, take off his pants and shirt and go out like that. Nothin' but a lighter and a pack of smokes. He was aghast. He is under the impression that it's a federal offence to leave your carry-on luggage with anyone but the person who so lovingly packed it. And he may be right. Aeroport security is as likely to blow up any unobtrusive package as look at you.

There you have it. Terrorists are everywhere. Cowtown especially. Oil. Money. Get it? HWSRN is convinced he encountered one in the airport men's room. He was bearded and his flow was rather erratic.

On to Edmountain and the Westin Hotel. Everything there is plush. And for sale. The bathrobe hanging on the inside of the bathroom door is plush. Pure white. Don't touch it. It could cost you $150. There is a hydra-headed shower apparatus. You may avoid one, but the other will get you for sure. If you want bathroom fixtures just like the ones in the hotel, you can order them from the catalogue. The bed is plush. You could die in that bed and never know it. They could just take that mattress, stuff it into a box and you could lie in plush eternity, blushing at the luxury. The pillows are plush. The duvet is plush. But heavy. HWSRN calls it the X-ray blanket. You spread it over yourself and you are suddenly immobile. The hospital corners are plush. Also immovable. Voin says you could wake up with a sprained ankle. The coffee is Starbuck's and actually good. The breakfast buffet is $20. Which is a deal cuz if you order à la carte, the orange juice alone is five bucks. (But it's fabulous OJ.) You need a key to make the elevator go to the guest floors. (This is the hotel equivalent of aeroport security.) The doorman opens the door even if you're wearing track pants. If you want to smoke, you must go 60 metres away from the door. To another postal code.

Oh, and there was a gig. At the Shaw Conference Centre. The Edmountaineers love this party. It sells out every year. They come to drink beer, eat German style, polka and waltz, chicken dance and hokey pokey for the first part of the night, then mosh up to the front of the stage for whatever classic rock band has been hired that year.

Which leads me to the perennial problem with that gig. The sound company and their employees. BFB has played that gig for somewhere around 15 years. Each year with a different rock band. Some of those bands are coming around for their second time. But BFB returns every year. Somehow the sound techs have not figured out that BFB is the staple and the other guys are just passing through. Therefore, they sometimes treat BFB disrespectfully. As if the band is there for them, and not the other way around. Part of the problem comes from the fact that BFB always starts the night off, so they seem like the warmup band. Which they are not. Since they are a complete show in themselves. And the boss knows it.

I won't name this sound company, but it starts with an A, ends with an E, and HWSRN says they should have a big X through the middle of them. In fact, if it was up to him, they'd be AXEd before sundown. Some years are better than others, but in fact, they have never once gotten everything right. And this year, the techs were arrogant and rude, and decided that eating their lunch was more important than making sure Sonja had a working mic to yodel into. Disgraceful.

From all this, you might conclude that the travellin' part and the gig part are more trouble than they're worth. But you'd be wrong. If you ask HWSRN he'll tell you they had a good time. Way more fun than an enema.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Playin' in a Travellin' Band

Oh yes, BFB travels when the stars are in alignment.

This past weekend the band played the two casinos in Winterpeg. Where it is not yet winter. A little cool, a little rainy, but not yet winter.

The band was housed at Club Regent Hotel, next door to Club Regent Casino. In Kildonan, not far from Transcona.

It's a pretty ordinary hotel, but after all, the guests don't really come there for the luxury of the beds.

The casino is the main attraction and it actually features a bit more than the drone and blink of VLTs and slots. To quote the website: Our Caribbean Resort experience includes the treasures of Neptune's Cave and an awe-inspiring undersea world featuring the largest, walk-through saltwater aquarium in the entire Midwest. Hundreds of tropical fish from around the world to guard the wreck of Galleon Reef. And it's true, the aquarium is quite a sight.

The first gig was in a downstairs lounge called Jaguars Dance Club. A lot of ballroom dancer types. Liked the latin stuff. Salsa. Calypso. Mambo. But of course, BFB played the Oktoberfest schtick. That's what they were hired to do. Yodelay ee hoo.

The next night was McPhillips Street Station at the other end of town.

This was a different kind of gig. BFB played the main stage, a concert, which is a strange kind of situation for what is normally a dance/party band. 90 minutes of show here. What to do? Can't get the people up doing the Bird Dance or the Hokey Pokey...

But in fact the show went very well. Good pacing, the band played hot, the people clapped, the people hollered, the people sang along to some of the old standards. BFB has this new chant kind of thing that worked well that night: "Who are we? BFB! Who are we? BFB! Who are you? Family! Who are you? Family!"

Ah, the glamour and the glory.


The band loves it when a gig goes well, when the people have enjoyed themselves, when the management is happy. But there are other considerations.

Travel is hard, really. And can be complicated. No tubas in BFB (cuz it's not repeat not an oompah band) but there is some heavy equipment and fragile instruments. Airlines are notorious for their carelessness and their indifference to the needs of musicians. In fact, the American Federation of Musicians imposed a boycott of Delta Airlines in the US for quite some time because they refused to make any concessions whatsoever to the special handling needs of AFM members. WestJet, on this flight out, wanted to charge $40 for three pounds overweight on one case. Gone are the days of pre-9/11, when airline
s were flush with profits from their monopoly routes (or, alternatively, competing hard for your business...Wardair vs. Air Canada, Canadian Airlines vs. Air those days, they competed by offering perks, now they compete by price alone, the cheaper the better and service be damned...just make sure your liquids are properly bagged and shoved up the first available orifice...But don't get the wrong impression, HWSRN is not particularly complaining about WestJet, cuz, if anything, they're more pleasant than the Air Canadians.)

The flight cases HWSRN currently uses to transport his equipment cost in the neighbourhood of $1500. His accordion case is made of corrugated aluminum, welded, custom-made for the accordion. Thanks to WestJet it now has a not-very-aesthetic crunch in one corner. Air Canada put a nice dent in one side the very first time it was used. (
"I'm sorry sir, but see, like it says here on the paper we keep handy for situations exactly like yours because they occur every day all day, airlines don't cover dents and scratches...we only cover our asses.") Fortunately, the manufacturer of the case, Engineered Case Mfg. in Mistersauga, took more care than airlines ever do, and the accordion has suffered no damage since HWSRN started using it.

The recalcitrance of airlines is one reason why BFB and all other bands struggle to keep their equipment load to a minimum. And that means renting at the other end. Certain things are easily rented...drum kits, mics, PA systems. Other instruments are more iffy.

For Winterpeg, BFB rented a bass guitar, which turned out just fine. Voin requested an electric guitar and an acoustic. Voin, however, is left-handed, so that complicates things. On arrival, he found a Fender Telecaster, which is what he uses at h
ome. And a Takamine acoustic. Within seconds, testing the Telecaster, he had broken a string. Old strings. By the time sound check was finished, he had discovered that the Telecaster simply would not stay in tune because it had not been set up properly. He picked up the acoustic and it died within minutes because the battery was dead. Voin, being himself, went ballistic, and after a period of ranting and hollering at the music store guy, it was determined that the store would deliver another guitar. Which they did, about an hour into the gig. This one was a Stratocaster, a nice guitar, which Voin liked, but later in the evening, it too broke a string, so he was back to the Tele.

In a certain sense, a guitar is a guitar, and a guitar player can play any guitar and perform adequately. Not so with electronic keyboards. Rent an electronic accordion? Forget it. So HWSRN always has to bring his accordion rig with him. And the other keyboards, well...except for basic organ, piano, string and horn sounds, one keyboard
cannot replace another. HWSRN's main keyboard is a Korg Triton LE, a model which is a few years old. It's been replaced by a newer model called the TR, which is pretty much the same, except for its data storage system. The two are not compatible, but the sounds are transferable. So with some computer finagling, HWSRN was able to use the TR88 that was supplied, loaded with his customized sound patches. The TR88 performed flawlessly, mainly because that keyboard was right off the store shelf and still had the price tag on it.

His second keyboard, however (third, if you count the accordion) is an ancient instrument called a Yamaha DX7. The DX7 was the first wildly popular digital synthesizer. HWSRN's is probably 25 years old and still in pretty good shape. But 25 years...have you any idea how old that is in dog years? They are starting to get rare. He was told that they had one for him out in Winterpeg. In fact they had two. The first, and best-looki
ng one was a DX7II-FD, a later model of the DX7. Not compatible. Again, different data storage systems. The second was just like his. The only problem with that one was that it did not work. At all. Nothing but static could be coaxed out of that box.

So he did without. But as the evening wore on, he realized more and more how much he actually used his DX7. Primarily for specific sounds he'd never heard on any other keyboard. (Which leaves him now with the dilemma of what to do when his own DX7 finally fails. Look for other sounds, I guess. He's researching a newer Yamaha keyboard which, it's said, can replicate the old DX sounds...) So HWSRN spent the weekend short one keyboard. Ah, but the show must go on.

And it did too. The next night was the triumphant show a
t McPhillips Street. Great show. Everybody in the band analysing and concluding that it was great. The stage manager effusive. The techies all very friendly. Comes the end of the night, the band wants to hang out in the green room and dig into the deli platter placed in the rider of the contract. HWSRN skipped supper in the expectation of food at the end of the gig. However, no food to be found. (Did I mention the casino has a McDonalds?....) The stage manager apologetic but foodless. Then it turns out also that the paycheque is locked in the lockbox and no one has the key. The stage manager apologetic and chequeless. He gave the band fancy folding pens with the casino logo on them. (The paycheque is not a major problem. It will come, only late. It's not likely that a government-run casino will welch on a legit contract. But it calls to mind the old joke: "What do you call a guitar player without a girlfriend?" Homeless.)

So, as you can see, when it comes to essential elements of a perfect road gig, this one is not stacking up so well.

And the finale.

When BFB travels, they get a limousine service. This is not as fancy as it sounds. Not the shiny white stretch limo. More like a big cargo van. Sometimes with seats. Sometimes not. It's for carrying both people and equipment to the venue or the hotel. So in Winterpeg, the band had a driver pick them up, a little late. He took them to the hotel along with their gear. And he picked them up early Saturday morning after the gig at Jagu
ars Dance Club to take them over to McPhillips because, in the weird logic of the road, it made more sense to set up and do sound check at 2:30am, immediately after the previous gig, than to do it at the usual time for McPhillips sound checks, that is, 5:30am. (5:30am, you ask? Who does sound checks at 5:30am? The casino, because they're closed then, that's why. Besides, what a treat that is for the musicians...) Anyway, this way the band could sleep the day away, if necessary, before the gig.

Saturday, a different driver picked them up at the hotel and drove them to McPhillips Street Station for the show. And he picked them up after it was over. The band had an early flight out of Winterpeg, and the driver was scheduled to pick them up at the hotel at 4:20am. The band left their gear in the van, because it was only about thr
ee hours before pickup time.

Except the driver never showed up.

Thirty minutes after the scheduled time, the band was in 3 Prius taxis racing across town in $30 trips to the airport. Without the equipment. They made their flight all right. But the gear didn't. BFB never saw the driver, but he must have arrived at the airport some time later and dumped the gear off, which WestJet obligingly flew to Hawgtown later in the day. And HWSRN, since he's a courier during the day, picked it up and charged $125 (which he has yet to collect from whoever is going to pay the bill...the agent, the limousine company, the casino...)

As for the driver, falling asleep on the job is not a good thing. It usually means that you have much more time on your hands to sleep just about any time you want. Because in this case, whoever is paying has a $100 taxi bill, a $125 courier bill, and possibly the freight charges for the WestJet flight. An expensive nap.

That's just one story about playing in a travelling band. I never did get around to blogging about the comedy of errors that accompanied BFB's gig in Edmonton a year ago. Or about the road trip to Fort Wayne when the water pump blew out in the middle of the night somewhere in the wilds of Ohio and two scary-looking tattooed punks accompanied one of their number to an all-night auto parts store! Or driving through the Shield of northern Ontariario (again in the middle of the night) in a snowstorm in a van where the choice was be
tween headlights or heater, listening to the apocalyptic sounds of Yes playing Close to the Edge. And they were. Close to the edge.

But speaking of Edmonton. It's that time of year again. This Saturday night BFB will again be playing the Shaw Conference Centre:

As far as road gigs are concerned, this one is primo. The band gets treated very well, the crowd is always good, and big, and responsive. Which doesn't mean that everything can't go south in a heartbeat. Stay tuned.

Here are details for the gig. If you are in Edmonton, or close by, or feel like travelling yourself, check it out.

Name:Oktoberfest to Rocktoberfest 2007
Start Date:10/27/2007
End Date:10/27/2007
Hours:Doors open at 6:30 pm
Location:Shaw Conference Centre
Address:9797 Jasper Avenue
Cost:$28.25 plus GST
Contact:Shaw Conference Centre

It’s time for the biggest Oktoberfest celebration in Western Canada – Saturday, October 27th the Shaw Conference Centre presents Oktoberfest to Rocktoberfest 2007. This year’s annual party classic features a German feast, good old oom-pah-pah favorites and polkas. The Black Forest Band is charged with the traditional music festivities followed by Canada’s own rock ‘n’ roller David Wilcox at midnight. Tickets are $28.25 plus GST, available only at the Shaw Conference Centre Administration Office or charge by phone at (780) 421-9797. The ticket includes a Bavarian feast, a commemorative Oktoberfest 2007 beer mug at the door and the chance to win great prizes, including a trip for two to Germany. It’s an annual sell out, so act fast! TICKETS GO ON SALE FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 14th.

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Tower of Power in Lunchbucket

The Oakland band Tower of Power funked into Lunchbucket last night and played the Square Circle. It was, by all accounts, a fabulous show. There are fewer tighter bands on the whole planet. And Tower of Power is possibly the best soul band there is. Now that James Brown has passed on. The TOP horns are legendary and showed why. Roger Smith, the keyboardist, gave a master class in the course of several burning solos. And David Garibaldi, the drummer, was just rock solid and funky all night.

Here's a video of TOP, doing their first and maybe best-known hit, "What Is Hip?" To give you an idea what the band's like. No, it's not from the Lunchbucket show. There are some additions to the band in this video. Carlos Santana was not with the band in Lunchbucket.

And one other piece of not-so-trivia. There is a very brief view of Michael Bogart, the lead trumpet, in this video. His house burned down yesterday in the California fires. Can you imagine having that happen? While you're on the road? And he still played the show last night, and blew all the horn players (of which there were quite a few) in the audience away.

Update 10/23/07: I had to change the video because the one I originally put in here suddenly became no longer available. (Actually, I think it's the same show, but I didn't pay close enough attention to be sure...)

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Monday, October 22, 2007

BFB Impersonates Oktoberfest Band

Here are a few photos of BFB during Oktoberfest.

Phil In, Drummerguy, who replaced Helmet admirably for the 9 days, Helmet being temporarily unavailable cuz he was impersonating the president of the Lunchbucket Oktoberfest Committee.

Dozey (trumpet), HWSRN (accordion & keyboards) & Sonja (Jodelette)

BFB with Canada's Polka King, Uncle Wally Ostanek

Audience members perform the Polka Head Salute during the world-famous BFB Hokey Pokey

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Mental Blog Repair 1

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