Archive for May, 2009


Watershed moment

May 16, 2009

This week I did something for the first time in 23 years: I actually paid for jazz festival tickets. Shock, horror! What’s the world coming to?

In all of those years I received a media pass from the Coastal Jazz & Blues Society for the festival. Not this year. I’m not requesting a pass for one simple reason: I’m not currently writing about music for a newspaper. I was a contributing writer to the Vancouver Courier from 1996-2008 and the Georgia Straight from 1986-2000. I covered the festival many times for those papers, especially for the Courier, which published my annual best bets for the 10-day event along with articles on specific artists. But the Courier told me that they’ve had to clamp down on their freelance budget, so they can’t take any articles from me this year.

I’ve been expecting this for a few years – it’s a sign of the times with newspapers, which have become an endangered species. But now that it’s really happening, I’m feeling somewhat sad. I don’t really care that I’m not getting free tickets anymore. (Well, maybe I care a bit.) What’s more on my mind is how this represents a personal watershed moment – closure to an important part of my life.

The last media pass:

Jazz Fest Media Pass

My first article about music, headlined “The Future of Music?” (about punk rock), was published on November 12, 1980 in my high school newspaper. From that point on, all I wanted to be was a writer, and specifically one that wrote about music. I went on to do that exactly that, and had a good run. My last article, published on November 5, 2008, was about Vancouver musician Steve Dawson.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so final about it; I could pursue other writing gigs. But I doubt there are many opportunities out there, and I’ve moved on to other pursuits. Plus in many ways, I now feel closer to music. I listen to music and write about it in this blog for pure pleasure, not because I’m getting paid to write about it.

I’ve kept clippings of all my articles. There are hundreds of them, some starting to yellow. Some day I’ll sit down with my grandchildren and show them my work. Maybe they’ll be surprised to see I wrote about not just jazz and rock, but punk, hip hop, country, Afrobeat, Eastern European music and much more. I’m proud of my oeuvre (if you can call it that), but it’s time to move on.

In case you’re wondering, these are the jazz fest concerts I bought tickets for: Hiromi’s Sonicbloom (Performance Works), José González/Ndidi Onukwulu (Commodore), Joyce (Performance Works) and Kenny Werner Quintet/Fred Hersch Trio (The Centre). I bought the “Jazz Stimulus 4-Pack” – at $88 + services charges, an excellent deal!

A sampling of articles I wrote, mainly for the Courier


Music for running

May 3, 2009

Every year I run two half marathons, including the Vancouver Half Marathon, and every year my iPod Nano keeps me company. I used to think you shouldn’t run races with an iPod, but a number of years ago it occurred to me that listening to music could help me get through the 21.1 kilometers. According to my theory, the tunes can distract me from aches and pains and mounting fatigue, and if properly programmed, they can also help me run faster.

For this year’s half, which I ran today, I spent more time than usual putting together a playlist. I carefully looked for upbeat, dynamic songs that would keep me moving. That meant no Nick Drake, Great Lake Swimmers or any of the other morose stuff I listen to. So here’s the 2009 Vancouver Half Marathon Playlist:

  • “Alone Again Or” – Calexico (cover of song by Love)
  • “Athene” – Hercules and Love Affair (side project of Antony from Antony & the Johnsons)
  • “Boogie Wonderland” – Earth Wind & Fire
  • “Cath…” – Death Cab For Cutie
  • “Cold In California” – Allison Moorer
  • “Could You Be Loved” – Bob Marley & The Wailers
  • “Don’t Think Of Me” – Dido (Heard this song on Gregory Charles’ CBC Radio show, and fell in love with it)
  • “Enjoy The Silence” – Depeche Mode
  • “Fake Empire” – The National
  • “First We Take Manhattan” – Jennifer Warnes (cover of song by Leonard Cohen)
  • “Fix It” – Ryan Adams & The Cardinals
  • “Frederick” – Patti Smith
  • “From Now On” – Ron Sexsmith
  • “Golden Lady” – Stevie Wonder
  • “Goodbye Caroline” – Aimee Mann
  • “A Historia Da Morena Nua Que Abal” – Max De Castro
  • “I Know Him Too” – Tift Merritt
  • “Inspiration Information” Shuggie Otis (A great, soulful song by a little-known artist. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings recently covered the song for the Dark Was the Night compilation.
  • “Karma Police” – Radiohead
  • “Long Train Runnin’ (Remix)” – Doobie Brothers
  • “Move for Me” – Kaskade
  • “Nights On Broadway” – Bee Gees
  • “No Backbone” – The Lemonheads
  • “Radio Nowhere” – Bruce Springsteen
  • “Ramblin’ Man” – The Allman Brothers Band (I’m obsessed with this song right now – all hail southern rock!)
  • “Rock Me Now” – Metric
  • “Shadowplay” – The Killers (cover of song by Joy Division)
  • “Sing Me Spanish Techno” – The New Pornographers
  • “So Sei Viver No Samba” – Cibelle
  • “Spy In The House Of Love” – Was (Not Was)
  • “Suedehead” – Morrissey
  • “Summer Soft” – Stevie Wonder
  • “This Time Tomorrow” – The Kinks
  • “This Tornado Loves You” – Neko Case
  • “To Love You More” – Rapport feat. Rochelle (cover of song made famous by – get ready for this – Céline Dion)
  • “Wall Of Death” – R.E.M. (cover of song by Richard Thompson)
  • “Working My Way Back to You” – The Spinners
  • “Wouldn’t Mama Be Proud” – Elliott Smith

The playlist worked well. Certain songs really picked me up when I needed it (especially during the torturous, never-ending hill in Stanley Park). Only Radiohead’s “Karma Police” was a bust – too slow!

I always pop out the earbuds with 1 km left in a race; I like to soak in the scene near the finish line, and hear the announcer call my name. So I only got as far as Morrissey’s “Suedehead” in the playlist. Damn – I really wanted to hear that Céline Dion classic!

Now for the key question: did the music help me run faster? My time was 2:09:57, not my personal best, but one minute and 38 seconds faster than what I did at last year’s Van Half. That doesn’t seem like a big difference, but it’s harder than one would think to shave off even a small amount of time. So I’m happy with the result, and by the way, I enjoyed the run (yeah I know – why someone would enjoy running 21.1 km is a mystery). I’m already thinking ahead to the next race – more disco!

After the race with my friend Debbie, who ran an impressive 2:08:17. I’m not bitter that she beat me, really I’m not.

After the Half