Concert Review: The Breeders, May 6, The Phoenix

Posted on by Paul in Concerts | Leave a comment

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’90s nostaglia proved to be a powerful draw on Sunday night, bringing out a fairly large crowd for The Breeders’ show at The Phoenix in support of their latest, All Nerve.

Of course the evening wasn’t all about looking to the past. While openers Melkbelly acted as a good link between the past and present as a new band whose sound certainly seems indebted in some ways to the ’90s alt rock sound of the headliners, The Breeders themselves played a decent amount of tracks from the new album that sounded great and were generally well received by the crowd.

Overall, The Breeders put on an entertaining show, running the gamut from early classics like “Divine Hammer” and “Cannonball” to newer numbers “Wait In The Car” and “MetaGoth” (the latter featuring Josephine Wiggs on lead vocal) to covers of The Beatles (“Happiness Is A Warm Gun”) and even a tune from that other band that Kim Deal used to play in (The Pixies’ “Gigantic”).

While many in the crowd were plenty hyped up for the band – several of them bopped along as the band played and there were certainly a few whoops to be heard – the band had a bit of trouble keeping the momentum going at times, with a couple of moments between songs when Kim Deal had to take some time to deal with technical difficulties. The band handled it well though, demonstrating a good sense of humour about everything, such as when Kelly Deal leaned in to the mic to offer up some commentary on her sister’s sound issues.

“Someone’s annoyed. Let’s watch,” she joked as Kim worked on the issue, sounding as if she were the narrator in some sort of rock n’ roll based nature documentary. To be honest, that’s a show I would absolutely watch. Can someone fund this idea and get it into production ASAP? Thanks in advance.

Hot Docs Review: Pick of the Litter [Don Hardy Jr., Dana Nachman, 2018]

Posted on by Gary in Hot Docs | Leave a comment

Pick of the Litter

Put down your smartphone, and spend an hour outdoors. You’ll likely start to notice how modern Homo sapiens are increasingly useless without a plethora of gadgetry to keep track of the minutiae of daily life. What happens if those gadgets now have minds of their own? Do you keep running try-outs until you find the match-made-in-heaven? Will yours be called “Jarvis” like millions other?

Of course I may be talking about artificial intelligence … but not just yet. Man’s best friend is our most ancient, living breathing smart gadget. Pick of the Litter follows 5 puppies born in the same litter as they move up through our world, blissfully unaware of their destiny as faithful companions lounging on a sofa all day, working dogs in many other duties, or guide dogs. The non-profit organization Guide Dogs for the Blind breeds, selects and ultimately pairs vision-impaired folks with trained dogs to give them some semblance of normality and mobility. Keeping themselves and their handlers alive being of the utmost importance, guide dogs need to display a certain aptitude, and hence genetic disposition, proper upbringing, and focused training are all necessary components that must be put together properly.

This is a straightforward and delightful documentary. The dogs are the stars here, of course. Details of their training are bizarre yet irresistible. For example, running a sedan directly into the trainer/dog at crosswalks would not have been my idea of experiential exposure – but that is exactly the type of behind the scenes info one wants. And of course, watching the dogs grow and their personalities blossom is immensely interesting. Those faces the dogs make as they (pretend to) ignore cookies placed in front of their snout are quite hilarious to witness. Having never had any pets, however, I don’t think I can fully understand how volunteers could be excited about the prospect of raising/socializing a puppy to train-able age, only to cut loose months later. It sounds more than anything like a recipe for heartbreak. It is also baffling to see that, like parents of pre-med students, some volunteers even attach a level of pride and self-worth to whether the puppy they helped raise becomes guide dog. Puerile egotism aside, Pick of the Litter is an easy film to recommend to kids of all ages – and all for a noble cause.

Screenings:
Fri, May 4, 1:00 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre
Sun, May 6, 3:15 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

Hot Docs Review: Mr SOUL! (2018, Sam Pollard, Melissa Haizlip)

Posted on by Paul in Hot Docs, Movies | Leave a comment

ELLIS HAIZLIP, the Producer of the WNET/PBS weekly television show, "SOUL."  Set interview with Toni Morrison. 1972

Opening up with some archival footage of ads heralding the arrival of colour TV, Mr. SOUL! quickly makes the point that, while everything on TV could now be presented in full glorious colour, the programming itself was still overwhelmingly pretty white. The answer to this: SOUL!

Mr. SOUL! tells the story of the first black arts and culture program to be aired on American television. SOUL! was the brainchild of Ellis Haizlip, his singular vision being to provide a platform for black voices, voices that had not really been given much space on the airwaves up until that time. Originating from New York public broadcaster WNET and airing from 1968 – 1973, SOUL! seemed to consistently challenge itself and its audience from the get-go. Determined not to be just like any other TV show, Haizlip and his team at SOUL! tooled with the formula for awhile before ultimately deciding to just let Haizlip himself host the show.

Airing live much of the time, SOUL! presented many impressive musical performances – everyone from The Lost Poets to Ashford & Simpson to Stevie Wonder to Al Green. Along with many established big name performers, so many musicians were given their first chance on this show, many of them also being acts who wouldn’t have had a chance of being booked on a more mainstream program. One of my favourite stories from the film is Haizlip’s apparent answer upon being asked why he had booked avant-garde jazz saxophonist Rahsaan Roland Kirk on the show: “Because he’s crazy.” It’s true – dude played like three saxes at once. Impressive.

In addition to music, poetry and dance were given equal footing on the show as well as political and cultural discussions – one episode, impressively enough, was just an hour of conversation between James Baldwin and poet Nikki Giovanni filmed in London, England since Baldwin had no interest in returning to America to do an interview. Oh, and also the show featured a 13 year old Arsenio Hall. Was he funny? Who knows – they didn’t really show any footage of him. Still, kinda cool.

Mr. SOUL! presents a loving portrait of a show that was gone all too soon. SOUL! may have been around for only a few years, but in that time, it certainly made an impact.

Screenings:
Sat, May 5, 6:00 PM @ Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema

Song Of The Day: Munich Machine – A Whiter Shade Of Pale

Posted on by Paul in Song of the Day | Leave a comment


Happy birthday Giorgio Moroder!