Tag Archives: Rob Ford

Another Long Winter

Inauguration of Long Winter’s second year hints at a less Fucked Up forecast
Words and photos by Tom Beedham

Doomsquad performing in the Samuel J. Moore restaurant on the main floor of The Great Hall on Nov. 8. November 8 marked the first time Long Winter used the restaurant as a venue for its programming. Photo: Tom Beedham

Doomsquad performing in the Samuel J. Moore restaurant on the main floor of The Great Hall on Nov. 8. November 8 marked the first time Long Winter used the restaurant as a venue for its programming. Photo: Tom Beedham

When Long Winter returned to The Great Hall on Nov. 8, it came too with the suggestion that audiences would receive a different version of the monthly melting pot-facilitating evenings than they might have come to expect from it last year.

To wit, the one reliable feature Long Winter regulars have become familiar with is the dependable lack of predictability tied to each night of the season spanning (and extending) arts and culture community event, but the first night of this season came with a significant rebranding.

The cover of Long Winter's program for Nov. 8. Noticeably absent is mention of Fucked Up, the band slated as the presenters of last year's Long Winter events. Photo: Tom Beedham

The cover of Long Winter’s program for Nov. 8. Noticeably absent is mention of Fucked Up, the band slated as the presenters of last year’s Long Winter events. Photo: Tom Beedham

Ushered into fruition just one year ago by Mike Haliechuk and Josh Zucker of ever-enterprising Toronto punk outfit Fucked Up, the monthly night of music, art, food, film, poetry, photography, dance, speakers, and (eventually) video games began as something that would allow Haliechuk and Zucker to program a local event. Throwing each of the nights to impressively broadened masses as all-ages, pay-what-you-can affairs, Long Winter established itself as a beacon for fairly accessible multi-media entertainment programming (unfortunately the Great Hall is only accessible by stairs; there is no elevator service), and as the events snowballed in scope as well as popularity, its varied offerings came to tessellate more and more of the rooms and hallways that make up the building accordingly.

The events relied on the somewhat small community of connections their band had both established and immersed itself in, and Fucked Up headlined most of the five shows, appropriately cited on Long Winter programs, posters, and online event pages as the force that “presented” each of the series’ instalments.

But as it returned this year with the support of the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council, although Haliechuk and Zucker continue to run the show, Fucked Up’s name was nowhere to be found.

Speculation could go on forever as to why the band’s pedigree has been removed from the ephemera surrounding the series, but in terms of the void they left to be filled by another headliner – this time a slot arguably shared by psychedelic Guelph rock veterans King Cobb Steelie in the main hall and siblinged Toronto/Montréal darkwave trio Doomsquad in the newly Long Winter-dominated Samuel J. Moore restaurant on The Great Hall’s ground level – it’s worth noting that the series’ website includes a statement from Haliechuk boasting a commitment to diverse programming and calling for outside submissions.

“Everyone is welcome, and everyone who attended last year should feel as much a part of this event as we do. We aim to be a reflection of all the great things that people do in Toronto,” Haliechuk says – emphasis on the “all,” no doubt. It would be no great surprise if Fucked Up’s reduced identity were implemented in favour of that virtue.

The first of a series of split seven-inch records Scion Sessions is giving Long Winter audiences for free upon entry to the monthly event this season. Photo: Tom Beedham

The first of a series of split seven-inch records Scion Sessions is giving Long Winter audiences for free upon entry to the monthly event this season. Photo: Tom Beedham

The first 350 patrons entering November 8’s Long Winter would have immediately noticed one other big change as they passed through the doors, each of them granted a free split seven-inch featuring Doomsquad and Lido Pimienta, whom also performed that night. Contributed by the Hand Drawn Dracula-courting Scion Sessions, the record was the first of a series of Long Winter artist-featuring splits slated to be offered to guests for each of this year’s instalments.

From there on, though, it was mostly business as usual for one of Toronto’s most immersive entertainment programming series: there was music, there was art, there was food, there was theatre, there was comedy, there were video games, and there was music. Did I say there was music?

If guests ventured further upstairs to the hall’s balcony level and coat check, they would have approached and become a part of Steve Reaume’s art/light installation projecting some truly debilitating algorithmic patterns into a corner, and once they’d recovered from the dizzying effects of that, there was William Andrew Finlay Stewart’s “Fall” – a looping video project – waiting for them on the ground.

If you skipped dinner to get there early or just wanted some late night munchies, the main hall hosted all-vegan food offerings from Windowshade Delicatessen, who’s reuben sandwich variant will certainly earn their west College street location a personal visit from myself and everyone else I successfully peddle it on.

At any given point throughout the night you could also fill your time by drawing on (and having your picture taken with) one of 1078 disposed coffee cups with “Disposable,” a consumption-considering interactive installation from Anrea Wrobel and Brian Cauley.

Wake Island's Philippe M at Long Winter in The Great Hall's main hall on Nov. 8. PhotoL Tom Beedham

Wake Island’s Philippe M at Long Winter in The Great Hall’s main hall on Nov. 8. PhotoL Tom Beedham

Things really got rolling with Wake Island, though. Opening up the multi-stationed concert portion of the night in the main hall, the Montreal rock foursome hammered things home with some expert delivery, cementing its set as something other performers should have worried about following with guitarist Nadim M’s final tooth-picked solo.

Nevertheless, performer Ben Kamino took the stage once they’d finished, instructing the main hall to slow-dance eyes shut in a herd, urging participants to touch each other – not just with their hands but with all parts of their bodies – and by extension, “everyone in the universe.” You can imagine how that went. It was awkward. Kamino repeated this experiment twice more following bands in the main hall.

 Esther Grey at Long Winter in The Great Hall's Conversation Room on Nov. 8. Photo: Tom Beedham

Esther Grey at Long Winter in The Great Hall’s Conversation Room on Nov. 8. Photo: Tom Beedham

Esther Grey. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 1 Esther Grey. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 2 Esther Grey. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 3 Esther Grey. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 4 Esther Grey. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 5 Esther Grey. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 6 Esther Grey. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 7 Esther Grey. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 8
Next was Guelph garage rock act Esther Grey, warming up the Conversation Room. Bringing sometimes-member and saxophonist Dan Paille in tow, guitarist Steph Yates and bassist Nathan Campagnero’s plodding progressions were juxtaposed with some extra texture that I didn’t get to hear when I last reviewed them for their Kazoo! Fest show back in April. Paille’s sax is presented pretty sparingly in comparison to the core group’s output, so it works with the group’s minimalist explorations of instrumental spacing.

From Ben Kamino and Matt Kelly's

From Ben Kamino and Matt Kelly’s “Conflict. Resolution. Conflict,” an absurdist Beckettian skit performed in front of the crowd dissipating after Esther Grey’s set in the Conversation Room at The Great Hall for Long Winter. Photo: Tom Beedham

Fixed with elongated cardboard masks, Ben Kamino and Matt Kelly ambushed the crowd remaining in the room at the end of Esther Grey’s set with a guerilla theatre performance called “Conflict. Resolution. Conflict.” Their characters mostly just argued over an onion, but eventually they made up with a sweet(?) embrace that saw them sharing bites out of the very real, very potent vegetable and then scuttled out of the room.

Recovering from Kamino and Kelly’s adventure in Beckettian theatre and wandering back into the main hall, Rheostatics founder Dave Bidini’s new group Bidiniband guided audience through a literary-minded tour of rock history, only playing four stream-of-conscience-y “long ones” to negotiate the restraints of their set time.

If you rushed from Bidini’s set to the conversation hall, you would have caught a very confrontational Abyss, whose frontman spent the majority of the group’s grindcore assaults sharing the mic with one listener’s face, whether he liked it or not.

Lido Pimienta performing in The Great Hall's main hall on Nov. 8 for Long Winter. Photo: Tom Beedham

Lido Pimienta performing in The Great Hall’s main hall on Nov. 8 for Long Winter. Photo: Tom Beedham

Next up in the main hall was Lido Pimienta, who should really get props for exacting some very hands-on parenting all while singing and dancing onstage.

“Single mothers in this city are gangster, y’all,” Pimienta said. She proved she wasn’t wrong with her highly danceable genre-benders.

Vish Khanna (right) interviews 2013 Polaris Music Prize nominee Zaki Ibrahim as Exclaim! Editor-in-Chief James Keast (left) sits in for additional perspective during 'Late Night with Vish Khanna,' a new talk show-style addition to Long Winter's  monthly programming. Photo: Tom Beedham

Vish Khanna (right) interviews 2013 Polaris Music Prize nominee Zaki Ibrahim as Exclaim! Editor-in-Chief James Keast (left) sits in for additional perspective during ‘Late Night with Vish Khanna,’ a new talk show addition to Long Winter’s monthly programming. Photo: Tom Beedham

Meanwhile in the basement, the last really big new thing for Long Winter was in full sway with former Long Winter MC Vish Khanna hosting his own late night talk show Long Night with Vish Khanna in the BLK BOX theatre. Complete with the house band stylings of The Bicycles and Light Fires’ Regina Thegentlelady wandering onstage to the show featured talk show style interviews with guests including musicians Lou Barlow (Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh) and 2013 Polaris Music Prize-nominated Zaki Abraham, as well as author and The Grid Senior Editor Edward Keenan, and Exclaim! Editor-in-Chief James Keast. While I missed Barlow entirely and only just made it downstairs in time for the tail end of Keenan’s portion of the show discussing his new Toronto political history Some Great Idea and recent developments involving Mayor Rob Ford, I did get to sit through Zaki Ibrahim, who also offered insight on the mayor, but more interestingly, her take on Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s treatment of its Polaris prize win. (“I felt like I had egg on my face,” Ibrahim said, after commenting that GYBE’s treatment of the prize and the gala was “cool.” Ibrahim also related GYBE to the Grateful Dead, provoking some (not very successfully) suppressed laughter from Keast.)

Doomsquad performing in the Samuel J. Moore restaurant as part of Long Winter on Nov. 8. Photo: Tom Beedham

Doomsquad performing in the Samuel J. Moore restaurant as part of Long Winter on Nov. 8. Photo: Tom Beedham

Doomsquad. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 1 Doomsquad. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 2 Doomsquad. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 3 Doomsquad. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 4

Last for me were Doomsquad – giving the Samuel J. Moore restaurant its first Long Winter performance – playing their new age-evocative electronic music in some cavernous darkness (save for a salt lamp affixed to guitarist Trevor Blumas’ sampling table). The Blumas siblings challenged the physical resilience of the restaurant’s wall-to-wall window with crippling bass, offering only the soft textures of a pan flutes as a possible remedy.

From everything I was able to take in before calling it a night, The Great Hall seems properly primed for another season of Long Winter, even with the SJM restaurant added into the chaos (despite the potential for sonic disaster in the new venue, only some quickly resolved mixing issues that initially placed Trevor Blumas’ sampler way too low in the mix presented themselves over the course of the set). And from what I could make of the faces I saw on Friday, I think audiences are ready, too.

Sex, drugs, and Dwarves

Bay Area shock rockers The Dwarves talk about their 30-year habits

Album artwork from The Dwarves's 1997 LP 'The Dwarves Are Young and Good Looking,' set to be reissued by Recess Records this September as 'The Dwarves Are Younger and Even Better Looking.' The Dwarves are performing material from the album, as well as others from its catalogue and yet-to-be-recorded material at stops along its current North American tour, which stops at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern tonight.

Album artwork from The Dwarves’s 1997 LP ‘The Dwarves Are Young and Good Looking,’ set to be reissued by Recess Records this September as ‘The Dwarves Are Younger and Even Better Looking.’ The Dwarves are performing material from the album, as well as others from its catalogue and yet-to-be-recorded material at stops along its current North American tour, which stops at Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern tonight.

With a back catalogue consisting of 14 albums, two DVDs, a number of both EPs and seven-inch records, San Francisco Bay Area punks The Dwarves exhibit a career that is anything but dwarfish. And over thirty years as a band, the group has racked up quite some habits. They’re currently in the middle of quenching one of their less illicit ones.

Touring across Canada and the United States’s Midwest and Northeastern states, The Dwarves make a stop at Toronto’s Legendary Horseshoe Tavern tonight, but fans that only know the mythology around the Dwarves shouldn’t let those impressions inform their decisions to catch the band on its current tour, Dwarves vocalist Paul Cafaro (a.k.a. Blag Dahlia) says.

In their salad days, onstage antics involving self-mutilation and live sex acts often turned Dwarves sets into abbreviated 15-minute performances, earning the band enemies among their earlier audiences and concert promoters. But as his band’s van rolled into Lincoln en route to a Chicago, Ill. gig, Cafaro – who has been one of The Dwarves’s two solely consistent members since its formation – explained over the phone Aug. 23 that fans who come out to Dwarves concerts these days will get more show for their buck.

“It’s generally like 45 minutes – the usual kind of thing,” Cafaro said.

Without any new material recorded since their 2011 10-inch record Fake ID, Bitch, the band is using its more lengthy sets to showcase material spanning its entire career.

“There’s songs from everything – from the Blood, Guts, & Pussy stuff and Sugarfix, [The Dwarves] Come Clean… then stuff from the last couple of records – [The Dwarves] Must Die, [The Dwarves Are] Born Again, even some brand new stuff – so new it hasn’t even been named yet,” said Cafaro.

The singer didn’t divulge much about the new material, but framed it and its contribution to the band’s sizeable (and ever-growing) discography as something that displays the band’s virtue when held up in comparison to those of other bands.

“Most bands suck. They make one good record and then they just flog it to death after that,” said Cafaro. “The Dwarves is just an embarrassment of amazing records. 30 years now. Mayhem.”

Also in celebration of The Dwarves’s career, the band recently announced a Recess Records reissue of its 1997 Epitaph LP The Dwarves Are Young and Good Looking, from which fans can also expect to hear songs at the band’s upcoming shows. Rebranded as The Dwarves Are Younger and Even Better Looking, Cafaro explained the Recess reissue will come complete with 40 minutes – or 22 tracks – of bonus material, all recorded during the “same time period” as the album proper:

Ten of them are from the solo EP that I did and the outtakes from that, which came right before Young and Good Looking, and then a bunch of it is a radio show that was never released. It’s The Dwarves live on the radio, Stanford. And then there’s like b-sides and stuff from the Young and Good Looking period.

Marking the band’s exit from Seattle, Wash. independent record label Sub Pop following a hoax the band propagated claiming the band’s guitarist (and only other consistent member) HeWhoCannotBeNamed (a.k.a. Pete Vietnamcheque) had been stabbed to death in a Philadelphia, Penn. bar fight, the original Young and Good Looking served as somewhat of a vehicle for a kiss-off to The Dwarves’s former label, containing a “modified” version of Sub Pop’s press release detailing the band’s departure in the liner notes. No word on whether that will also be collected in the reissue, but if Cafaro’s dismissal of even the mention of the group’s former label is any indication, don’t count on it:

I don’t get the fascination with those guys. No one’s cared about them since the ’90s. They’ve got nothing to do with me or anything. So I don’t know about them. Whatever they do is what they do. I have this band called The Dwarves. Not affiliated with whoever those guys are or whatever they’re doing.

The group’s website does promise the collection will come with “more classic photos of the naked skater chicks,” though: images consistent with the cover art for albums like Blood, Guts, & Pussy, The Dwarves Must Die, and The Dwarves Are Young And Good Looking itself, which all feature naked women covered in blood, wearing ski masks, or surrounding a dwarf pinned to a cross.

Such artwork has been known to bring The Dwarves condemnation from feminists and other critics in the past, but when asked about such controversy, Cafaro didn’t address how the band has been identified as exploitive and objectifying in its promotion of its material, but instead insisted, “these are classic shots,” and identified himself and his band as sex-positive, feminist crusaders, going on to discuss the reflections his artwork has received as “slut-shaming” type arguments that fail to see the album covers as glorifications of the female form.

“I consider myself to be a feminist, you know?” Cafaro said. “And I think one of the best things about femininity is nudity, so you know, we’re a great feminist band with all our naked album covers.”

“Lots of wonderful naked women. Lots of drug abuse and sex from The Dwarves. That’s what we’re about,” said Cafaro. “We’re very socially conscious and we’re on dope.”

Ah, yes. Dope.

That’s another thing The Dwarves have a thing for, and Cafaro says it’s something that excites him for the band’s Toronto visit.

“There’s nothing like Toronto drugs,” Cafaro meditated. “By the time cocaine gets to Toronto it’s been stepped on many, many times.”

Specifically Cafaro favours the idea of being in the same town as embattled Mayor Rob Ford, who admitted today that he has “smoked a lot of” marijuana and whom news media such as the Toronto Star alleged smoked crack earlier in the year.

“Don’t you guys have that mayor that smokes crack? That excites me. The idea of going to Toronto and smoking crack with a public official,” Cafaro said. “If he wants to come to the show, we’ll get him in free, and if he brings a prostitute, she can get in half price.”

The Dwarves play The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto tonight with The Queers.