Rickys Random Articles

Show Review: San Bushmen, Somewhere in Botswana, Oct 9

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Day 7: Ghanzi

Sometimes you go to a concert, sometimes the concert comes to you.

Throughout my journey to Africa, I experienced many new and wondrous things. On this particular day, I found myself on the edge of the Kalahari desert in Botswana. The Kalahari desert is home of the San people, an indigenous group of people who have been living in this part of Africa long before it was colonized by Europeans. Ignoring all aspects of modernization that most of the world has experienced, the San people have chosen to keep it real, by eschewing modern technologies and relying on old tried and true methods of hunter-gathering. You can call them the originators of eating local, if you will.

On this particular day (and probably every other day), the San people came to our camp site to show us the ways of their culture and also, to perform traditional singing and dancing. It seemed somewhat exploitative for a group of mostly white people to sit around a circle and watch indigenous people perform, but if you don’t feel quite exploitative visiting Africa on vacation, then you probably are not getting the whole experience anyway (for better or for worse).

Since I review shows for a living (not really), it would be an injustice to not review the show I watched this particular night. Taking place immediately after dinner, the setup had a nice visual effect as two large fires were setup on the “stage”. As we were near a desert, the heat had left us quite early on and the warmth from the fire provided a nice element to the venue. The San people performing consisted of seven members, four elder female members and three younger male counter parts, kind of like S Club 7. The group wore traditional San Bushmen clothing, which amounted to not much (also, kind of like S Club 7). The three males wore additional items on their legs which they would use to generate percussive sounds during their dancing.

Sitting in a semi-circle by the fire, the four women provided much of the vocals throughout the set. The three males mostly provided the dancing and percussion via dancing and stomps, including some impressive stomps of bare feet into the fire for dramatic effects. With songs about Zebras, Orixes and other animals, it was refreshing to hear a group sing about topics other then love, lost and politics. I didn’t understand any of the lyrics, not having learned the local dialect but there was a translator on hand to explain each track before it was performed.

Despite the group’s enthusiasm throughout the set, I couldn’t help but feel most of the music sounded samey. The ladies gang vocal style was impressive at first, but it was a key component of every track and also, there was not much harmonizing and so it did sound mostly chaotic for much of the set. This might be because I don’t understand the language of it. The dancing, however was quite unique and the visual flare of the two fires combined with the stomping and the uniform made for a rather interesting experience.

All in all a unique show that most people don’t get to see, the group didn’t come out for an encore despite rapturous cheers from the crowd and promptly left in a pickup truck after.

Toronto Eulogy: Koolhaus/Guvernment (2015)

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koolhausEulogy

This past weekend saw the closing of one of the most divisive music venues in all of Toronto. The Guvernment/KoolHaus was a venue you either love, hate or tolerated. Whatever your feelings about it were, there was only one thing clear – you couldn’t really avoid it. Since we are quite a reflective group, I asked various members of the Panic Manual to share their feelings about it.

Initial Thoughts

Ricky I wasn’t in Toronto at the time it was known as the “Warehouse” but rather only after it rebranded itself as the “Kool Haus”. Right away, I knew it wasn’t that cool, because no truly cool places would call itself cool. Furthermore, no really cool places would call itself cool with a k. It’s not 1985.

Thierry I’ll always remember the general sense of dread I felt when an artist I wanted to see was scheduled at the Kool Haus/Guvenment—it was slightly smaller than the one I feel when a show is announced at Sound Academy, but only because at the Kool Haus there was a 10 sq. ft. space in front of the speakers where the sound was actually pretty good!

Melody- I’ve never hated the Kool Haus. Sure, I’ve had bad moments there, but I’m smart enough to know that it had nothing to do with the venue and more to do with my own dumb decisions: choosing bad shows (a free k-os show because why the fuck not), choosing to show up early like an idiot (any band I idolized as a teen) and getting shit-faced (that’s how I dealt with that k-os show, I have no recollection of how I got to/from the venue) were all things I did to myself. Poor Kool Haus just facilitated my madness. Kool Haus was so indicative of my *~youth~* (yes, I guess I’m still living out my youth), it was the place where I’d eagerly fork over my cash, line-up early for the chance of seeing an artist come out of their tour bus to greet fans and willingly listen to great music in a shitty venue. There’s a reason why I haven’t gone there in recent years and it’s because I want to believe I’m an adult now. Kool Haus was a fun teenage fling of sorts, but I’d rather spend my nights watching Netflix in a cool house. Okay, that was lame.

Brent: I can remember my first show at the Koolhaus (then the Warehouse). It was in 1997. A bunch of high school friends and I took the GO train from Port Credit to see Suede. We were a bunch of pretty excited teenagers but more of it had to do with being a suburban kid downtown on a school night. Badass.

The disappointment of the night was that they didn’t come out for an encore, however, I was able to grab a setlist from the stage.

Gary: Ahhh The Guvernment. Even though I had a single, all-too-fleeting encounter with the Guv, I’ll always remember it fondly as the only time in memory when I was checked for guns going to a concert in Toronto. A fitting act for the big-brother. Although why one would check for weapons at the XX’s concert full of moody instrumental indie gothipster is anyone’s guess.

A Fondness?

Ricky While most people seem to dislike the KoolHaus, I thought it was okay. I’ll tell you why

1) Options – Kool Haus is a larger size venue. Up until the Danforth Music Hall opened, it was mainly the Kool Haus or the Sound Academy. I would rather stab you in the face then go to the Sound Academy.

2) Location – For most people, the Kool Haus was a trek. It is queen’s quay and in the middle of nowhere. Guess where I work? On Queen’s Quay. For me, a show at the Kool Haus just meant I go for drinks after work in the St. Lawrence area and then pop on by to the Kool Haus. Since I really liked C’est What, it was pretty easy for me to go to a Kool Haus show. Unless it was a weekend.

3) Sightlines – For most part, the stage at the Kool Haus was not high enough. However, there is a certain sneaky spot way on the other side of the stage that is almost always empty. If you look at all my Kool Haus pictures, you will see that I am always in that spot.

Lasting Memories

Melody: Best shows off the top of my mind: Broken Social Scene, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Foals, The Kills, Haim.

Jack: I realized a dream when I saw My Bloody Valentine there back in the fall of 2013. Truthfully, I did feel like I was walking into the Cantina at Mos Eisley, and found myself worried I’d get an arm chopped off by a laser weapon at any moment. The band was not on good form, the Canadian roadies not having learned how to deal with the maelstrom of Kevin Shields; the crowd was eerily quiet, with a lot of awkward silence between songs; and one loud fan redefined obnoxiousness by shouting out that MBV was “THE BEST BAND IN THE UNIVERSE!” at every possible chance. Apart from these things, the Kool Haus provided me with an opportunity I would not have otherwise had. The blissful incapacitating of my ear drums by set’s end was all I needed to look back now and realize I have a fond memory of the place.

Thierry: I did see three great shows at these venues: the Decemberists (2006) and Ben Folds Five (2012) at the Kool Haus, and Miguel (2012) at the Guvernment. That last one also featured a typically mystifying Toronto audience that started leaving in droves when Miguel kicked into his set closing “Adorn”, perhaps to be able to get out of the parking lot before daybreak.

Paul Some friends and I drove all the way to the venue once to see some metal band (not sure who, no one that great) before finding out it was sold out and then hanging out in the parking lot for a bit while we decided what to do. I think we just went for coffee like a bunch of un-metal losers. Lesson learned. Then there was the time I went on a date to a Sonic Youth show in 2004. It didn’t really work out, perhaps foreshadowing what would happen with Kim and Thurston or maybe because life isn’t actually like the “Dirty Boots” video. Still, Hair Police and Sunburned Hand Of The Man opened that show and I remember thinking they were both pretty rad at the time.

Brent: My highlight though was seeing Pavement for the first time at the Guvernment. Otherwise, I hated that place. It was difficult to get to by public transit, there was always a line that was usually freezing, and when you got inside it was always moist and sweaty. Keep the condo-hipsters down by the lake where they belong is what I say!

Gary: My only regret is that the Guvernment didn’t live long enough to see Ricky cement its reputation in a venue review along with an Etch A Sketch worth remembering. Perhaps we could do that for an epitaph.

Ricky: Kool Haus was home to some ridiculously good shows – Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Doves, Kasabian, My Bloody Valentine and LCD Soundsystem all come to mind. I think I will end up missing the Kool Haus, because it now means I’ll have to go to the Sound Academy more often.

RIP Kool Haus, you were never that kool, but neither was I.

A Panic Manual: Stuck in an Elevator, May 7th, Toronto

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It only takes a second to materialize, but that second in time seems to take forever.

It’s the moment upon which you realize that the elevator you have entered, is malfunctioning. You are stuck.

If you are claustrophobic, it’s probably your worst nightmare.

If you have diarrhea, it is probably a picky dilemma.

Luckily for me, I suffered from neither of those conditions. I was however, stuck in the elevator for twenty six minutes yesterday and as you would expect, ran through a gamut of emotions and thoughts.

For those who have never experienced such an event, this will prepare you for the inevitable. For those of you who have been stuck in an elevator before.. well, we can hold hands and face the past together. I’ll bring donuts to the next survivors meeting.

Let me take you through the steps.

Step 1: Denial
As with all problems, denial is the first emotion you have to get past. I tried pressing all the floors, tried using my security card. Tried different combinations. Tried to pry the door open. All failed. It always fails. You have to accept the fact that of all the people the elevator has properly transported today, it has chosen you to be it’s passing victim. It’s a breach of trust, and you’ll never fully recover.

Step 2: Reaching Out for Help
I’m one of those stubborn people who hate asking for directions when on vacation and hate to ask for help from strangers. It might take awhile to realize that this is an issue you cannot solve on your own, and you just have to suck it up and press the little red alarm on the elevator door. From that point forth, your only contact with the outside world will be this anonymous voice. He’s your only hope. For me, I started thinking about the movie SAW. I also realized Dennis Hopper was dead. So I was safe from any Speed like shenanigans. I probably watch too many movies.

Step 3: Survival
While some might think it’s over preparing, you never know how long you will be stuck in such a situation. The anonymous voice on the other end might not have been your saviour, rather some random passerby having their kicks speaking to you. What if something were to happen to this man before he called the elevator technicans? What if he had a heart attack? Then you would be stuck a lot longer then you think. Preparing for the worse, I checked my man purse for any sort of provisions. Much to be my dismay, I was ill prepared for this sort of scenario. As record shows, this was all I had:

Which led to this

Desperate times calls for desperate measures, I was hoping I wouldn’t have to resort to this:

Lesson learned: Always keep food on you.

Step 4: All Hope is Lost?
Once all the logistical items are figured out (what you have to eat, which corner of the elevator to shit/piss in, etc), you will then have some time to reflect. You start to wonder..what if a nuclear war erupted when you were stuck? What about an alien invasion? I distinctly thought of the scene from the end of Terminator 3 when John Connor was stuck in some random place and the world ended.

In this time along, you may have many dark thoughts. Embrace it, you might learn something about yourself.

Step 5: Rescue/Salvation
Just when all hope is lost and you have just about given up, the technicians arrive and free you from your metallic prison. A wise man once told me “The night is darkest before the dawn”. I’m not sure if that’s true, but when those doors get pried open and you see the wide eyed faces of the technicians, you finally realize what freedom truly is. You are no longer bounded by those four walls. The sweet air will never smell so good. Food will never taste fresher. Cherish this moment forever.

I was one of the lucky ones. I was only stuck for twenty six minutes, but in that time, I learned a lot about life, myself and how I would handle future crisis. I also played a few games of Draw Something. Either way, I hope this article will help you deal the next time something unimaginable happens.

Travel Review: Peru

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What an exhausting two weeks. Most of my vacations consist of traveling to some world class city, gorging on their gastronomical delights and taking in the various shops and clubs that the place has to offer.

Not this trip.

As I wrote in my preview, this vacation was more of an outdoor adventure kind of trip. Having survived two weeks, here are some thoughts about my trip.

Firsts:

- First time sleeping in a mosquito net. Sleeping in a bed that was surrounded by a mosquito net, I felt a bit like a prisoner. It only takes one stroll through the Amazon at night to realize that the alternative is a lot worse.

- First time not taking a swimming opportunity. If you know me, you will know that I love to swim. The guides in the Amazon said we would be able to swim in a designated area in Lake Sandoval if we wanted but had to sign a waiver because of the poisonous sting rays, piranhas and caiman that inhabit the same lake. No thanks.

- First time I wore a sun hat or bandana. The sun was so intense sometimes in the Andes that I got a sunburn on a cloudy, rainy day

- First time I ever hitch hiked: while in the Cordillera Blanca (aka the home of the highest tropical peaks on Earth), we had to hitch hike from locals to various drop off points for hiking.. which led to:

- First time I sat in the trunk of a hatchback. After a particularly exhausting hike to Lake 69 (altitude 4600m, picture above) we were desperate to hitch a ride back to the area our lodge was. Fortunately, these Dutch teachers had extra spots in their taxi for us. Sadly, it was in the trunk part of the hatchback. A 40 minute ride on a gravel road going down a mountain is not pleasant when folded up like accordion. I took a pretty average video of the experience:

- First time in an overnight bus. Peru has overnight buses covered. They are amazing. Super comfortable, goes back all the way to 170 degrees, foot rest and a server on the bus who gives you food and coffee. All for 30 bucks or something. Why don’t they have these to New York city?

Machu Picchu: What can you say? It’s an astonishing sight to see this ancient Incan city at the Sun Gate after a grueling four day hike that involved some crazy up and downhill hikes. Doing it any other way would be cheating, in my mind. Pretty good weight loss program too. No picture can really describe it’s magnificence, which I guess is why I hiked there in the first place.

Amazon Rainforest: Amazing. five minutes into our hike to reach our lodge, we encountered one of many monkeys living in the area. Tarantulas were everywhere, as were all kinds of birds (including parrots) and various other animals. Even the flora in the Amazon were interesting. it’s a shame it’s all getting destroyed.

All in all, Peru is an amazing place that I would highly recommend to anyone. The natural diversity the country has to offered is unparalleled for the countries’ size and I honestly felt two weeks isn’t enough.


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