Hometown Hero Andy Shauf Returns

When Andy Shauf came back onto the stage for an encore, it was to big applause. Foot stomping, shouting, the whole bit. He played “Hometown Hero”, the first track off his latest album, The Bearer of Bad News, on his own, and then quickly slid offstage.

There’s no doubt that he could’ve played a lot longer last night at Artesian on 13th, who co-presented the show with the Regina Folk Festival Concert Series. He played what felt like a normal-sized set, but the crowd was eating it up. Regina isn’t quite his hometown, but we’ve certainly taken him in as if it was.

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Piper Burns Talks Curling and Bands at the Tartan Club

Piper Burns, member of the Florals and Piper and the Gates of Dawn, is organizing Live at the Tartan, a concert series over at the Tartan Curling Club. Ten bucks get someone curling time, a beer and a couple of sets from a local band, the Slim City Pickers last time and Herb and the Humans tonight. OR you can pay $5 and just see the band.

Despite putting all this together, and having worked at the Tartan since Grade 11, Burns only started curling last year. How did he hold out so long?

“Because we hated curlers, kind of,” he tells me before a shift at the Tartan with a bunch of good nature in his voice. “Curlers, you can’t go home until they’re done.

“We kinda had a lot of animosity towards curlers, but then Marshall [Burns, Piper’s brother] suggested, ‘Man we should just start curling.’”

The Burns brothers have been playing in a league since then, on a team that features a good chunk of the membership of the Pickers plus some other guys. With all these musicians around, curling and bands just makes sense. Plus, they already had the P.A. system around.

“We had this P.A. from –– we used to do something called glow curling. We used to play Katy Perry and what not.”

Was glow curling what I’d expect it to be?

“Glow curling was what you would expect it to be.”

The first night was easy going, and Burns plans for the series to continue that way.

“Everyone’s a person with a mind. There’s no super-dictator or anything. It’s all loosey-goosey. You’re all there to have fun and curl. You can figure it out on your own for the most part.”

The appeal is clear. The Tartan provides “a different place to party”, says Burns, while getting “a small bit of exercise”. More at least then if you’d hadn’t curled and had just gone out drinking. Plus, curling and sad alt-country and rock music are well matched.

“Mostly curling’s just about being shamed by your teammates. Half of the sport is scowls from your teammates, no words spoken.”

Live at the Tartan is happening tonight, Friday, December 19 at the Tartan Curling Club. Herb and the Humans are playing. Go to the Facebook event for more details.

Comedian Todd Glass on What He Brings from His Podcast to the Stage

Artist-ToddGlassWhen I get on the phone with Todd Glass, he’s at the gym, ready to work out. He lets me in on the plan: he’s going to to talk with me and use the elliptical at the same time. If you’re skeptical that this could produce anything close to a listenable interview, you’re wrong. Not only is he present and engaged, but it doesn’t even sound like he’s working out. If he hadn’t told me, I wouldn’t have even known.

Glass says he’s often using elliptical time to get stuff done.

“For the first 45 minutes, it goes so fucking quickly,” he says.

He’s rarely at a loss for things to do, especially these days. He’s been in standup comedy for over 30 years, since he first took the stage at 16 years old. Since then, he’s navigated the shifting world of L.A. comedy and become a beloved name in standup.

More recently, he released The Todd Glass Situation, a memoir covering his time in comedy, growing up as a Jewish boy with ADD and dyslexia in Philadelphia, PA, a heart attack in 2010 and his decision to come out on WTF with Marc Maron in 2012. He also has a podcast, The Todd Glass Show, that’s been running for over three years at Nerdist.

As we’re talking, Glass is mentioning how much he can get done at the gym using his smart phone and voice activation. Todd Glass is performing tonight, Thursday, November 6 at the Conexus Arts Centre for the Just for Laughs Comedy Tour with Demetri Martin, Jon Dore, and Levi MacDougall.

Prairie Dog: When you were writing your book, were you using speech-recognition software?

Todd Glass: No, I actually had a ghostwriter, and what he would do is get me into certain areas. “Expand on when you were in second grade and you went and did a special class”, and when I was home, I’d record my thoughts and e-mail it to him, and he’d get it down on paper. I’d read it and send it back to him, saying, “I wouldn’t use that word”, or whatever it was and we went back forth like that.

Did that help you get to a first draft without being self-conscious of the subject matter?

It was a great. I couldn’t have done it without the ghostwriter. It’s all in my words, but it was still someone else pulling it out of me. I’m not embarrassed. Some people hide that they were using a ghostwriter. But anyone who reads the book knows that it’s in my voice, and I couldn’t have done it without him, without Jonathan Grotenstein. It’s in my words, but to get it out of my head and onto paper? I couldn’t have done it without him. Most of the time, I would send him a voice memo, he’d put it on paper and I’d e-mail him back and say, “I fucking love it because you get it out of my head so good.”

Both the book and your podcast are collaborative projects to some degree. What’s it like going from that to going back on the stage when it’s just you and the audience?

After a while in your career, everything becomes one. The book helped my standup, my standup helped the book and the podcast definitely helps my standup. The best thing about standup comedy can be the worst thing, if you let it. The best thing about standup is the audience, the instant gratification of a great audience. Most audiences are overwhelming the best. They’re why you do it. If you didn’t want to perform in front of people, you’d write books or you’d make pamphlets. The audiences are overwhelming great, especially at good comedy clubs. The danger is a group of people in the audience can sway your comedy in the wrong direction. But in a podcast, there is no audience. Sometimes, it forces you to trust your own comedic instincts. That can make you be better. You take some of that and apply it to your shows.

In a podcast, you’re not looking to hear them laugh. You can’t hear them not laughing.

You can’t hear them not laughing, and you can’t hear them laughing, either. In print, it always sounds like I’m complaining about these things, but I’m not. It’s all my bad-doing when I let it happen, when you let a few audience members or a few chatty people mess with the show. The podcast gives you the confidence. It’s like when I used to listen to Howard Stern and I would be in the car punching the door because they were just in there, trusting their instincts. If they wanted to beat a bit to death, they would just do it and do it and do it. That’s because there’s no audience in there, in that studio. They’re doing it because it’s making them laugh. Taking that back to the stage has definitely helped me. My podcast has definitely made me a better performer.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Next Time You Get the Chance, You Really, Really Need to See Bahamas Live

“Please Forgive My Heart” path to Bahamas live staple is unlikely. The Bobby Womack track came out in 2012, and I swear Afie Jurvanen, the man behind the Toronto, ON-based Bahamas, has been covering it live ever since, even going on to record it for his iTunes Sessions EP. The song is great at showing off what’s amazing about Bahamas, on stage or not. The song’s slow build could turn into monotony in the hands of lesser artists. But in the band’s current touring lineup, Jurvanen and Christine Bougie take small moments to let their guitar work shine, the backing vocals from Felicity Williams and Tamara Lindeman of the Weather Station perfectly underpin the action and Jason Tait is still the perfect mix of power and restraint on the drums.

Bahamas are a completely killer live act, as they proved in Saskatoon on Wednesday, October 22.

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Ranking the Films of Talkies

film-posterAs Gregory “G-Beat” Beatty mentioned earlier on the Dog Blog, Talkies is here again. Tonight, Tuesday, July 29, Jayden Pfeifer and guest Credence McFadzean will be talking over, making fun of and generally trying to explain M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender at the Regina Public Library Film Theatre. From having seen this movie in theatres, I can say for sure –– this movie isn’t good. Not at all.

But now that we’ve at the point where Talkies has covered two Shyamalan movies, I think it’s worth looking back at what the series has covered, both at the RPL Film Theatre and its previous home, the Creative City Centre.

My ranking of the movies of Talkies, from best to worst, is after the jump. Talkies is happening tonight, Tuesday, July 29 at the RPL Film Theatre. Admission is free with a donation to the Regina Food Bank.

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“Thing Game” By Wax Mannequin Is Still Great 10 Year On

Wax Mannequin’s music has changed over the years, moving away from conceptual work on records like And GunThe Price and Orchard and Ire to more explicitly personal and folky songs on Saxon and his most recent, 2012’s No Safe Home.

That might sound like code for “He used to make interesting music for dull robots”. Not so –– one of the songs from that early period “Thing Game”, shreds me inside to this day, and I can’t quite tell why. Part of it’s how much conviction Wax brings to the whole spare affair. Part of it’s definitely the meow break in the middle. (A “meow break”? That’s where he meows in the song, like an emotional cat would.) He meows a bunch on 2004’s The Price, but nowhere else on the album does it make me want to go someplace quiet and sob like it does on “Thing Game”.

Every time I’ve seen him perform it live –– with accompaniment or on his own during one of his many great Regina solo shows — it proves again that Wax Mannequin has all my emotional buttons mapped out better than I do myself.

Wax Mannequin is playing in O’Hanlon’s tonight, Tuesday, July 29 with Shimmering Stars.

Four Albums We Could’ve Reviewed Without Using the Word “Jangly”

We knew early on that the word “jangly” would be showing up a lot in the most recent review section for Prairie Dog. I’m assuming Whitworth was mostly playing along by putting “jangle” in his Jenny Lewis review, giving us this:

Could we have reviewed these albums without using the words “jangly” or “jangle”? Sure. But listening to Monomyth’s Saturnalia Regalia!, goddamn if there wasn’t some jangle to those guitars. And if Eden and Matthew and Whitworth say there’s jangle happening on their respective records — even if one of them might just be a good sport about the whole jangle-thing — who am I to argue? I guess I’m a contributing editor, a position that would allow me to argue with word choice, but I’m sure I was really tired the day I was reading all these.

So I’m not going to say the problem is the word “jangly”. I’m going to say we needed to review at least one album that didn’t need that word tied to it. Heck, we could’ve done a whole review section sans “jangly”. Here are four albums from around the time of this issue we could’ve run with instead of all these jangly records.

Shabazz Palaces, Lese Majesty You’ve got a short time to go over to NPR and stream this album. I’d recommend it, even though I haven’t yet had the time to dive into this. Shabazz Palaces are Seattle’s greatest hip-hop act whose last album, 2011’s Black Up, earned high marks from me when I reviewed it. (I can’t find that review on line, so you’ll just have to trust me on that one.)

The Muffs, Whoop Dee Doo There’s nothing jangly about the new album from this band, their first all-new collection in a decade. As you can hear on “Up and Down Around”, the Muffs play like the best kinds of grunge relics. (What about the worst kind of grunge relics? Trust me, you don’t want to hear them play anything.)

Woman’s Hour, Conversations I’m a little surprised when a new album from Secretly Canadian comes out and we don’t review, since this label is entirely my jam almost all the time. I’d mostly put this London band into that category after having watched the video for their title track. Their super-light electro-pop works well, and is a nice counterbalance if you’ve been hearing that one Sylvan Esso song everywhere and it’s just too hard hitting for you.

York Factory Complaint, Lost in the Spectacle NPR called their sound a “dystopian cocktail of Tim Hecker and Perfect Pussy”. So, no chance of jangly here.

The 2014 Polaris Prize Short List

As far as I’m concerned, the Polaris Prize people could’ve skipped straight from announcing their short list this morning to saying, “And Shad wins it. We just remembered Flying Colours is the best and nothing in the last year beats it.” I think Prairie Dog reviewer Matthew Blackwell might agree with me on that point.

But a lot of artists deserve some recognition, I guess. Ugh. Fine. Have your big fun party in September with the charming Jay Baruchel as a host, and then announce that Shad wins it.

Anyhow, here’s the short list:

Arcade Fire – Reflektor
Basia Bulat – Tall Tall Shadow
Mac DeMarco – Salad Days
Drake – Nothing Was The Same
Jessy Lanza – Pull My Hair Back
Owen Pallett – In Conflict
Shad – Flying Colours
Tanya Tagaq – Animism
Timber Timbre – Hot Dreams
YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN – UZU

And here’s a video of Jay Baruchel noises from The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, which I consider an overlooked Nic Cage gem.

Bazan With Strings Attached

Maybe you didn’t notice, but today is the day the new Prairie Dog hits stands. There’s a bunch of material you can read online, including our annual First Nations Report and a cover story by Dave Margoshes. Rad! It’s all rad!

What won’t be online is a Top 6 I did about David Bazan, the solo artist and former head guy for Pedro the Lion. That’s in the print edition only. In case you’re a netizen afraid of the printed word in print — Oh God, I hope no one identifies as a “netizen” anymore — I’ll give the man a brief shoutout on here: David Bazan, a great and engaging musician, is doing a living room show in Regina on Saturday, June 21.

It’s going to be great. I saw one of Bazan’s living room shows in Saskatoon. He was fantastic, and I got to see someone hand him a coffee mug full of Bear Flag white wine, a sight that I haven’t shut up about since for whatever reason. People probably get coffee cups of Bear Flag handed to them every day, but this is the one time I remember it.

Tickets are still on sale and, as I write this, there are still 15 left. It will practically be a crime if this doesn’t sell out, so get on it.

In the meantime, you can stream Bazan’s new album, David Bazan + Passenger String Quartet, Volume 1, right now. The record’s coming out in September. Bazan reimagines songs from his solo catalogue and from his work with his old act, Pedro the Lion, to be played by him and a string quartet. The songs are still great, and the new versions are worth listening to whether or not you’ve following the man all along.

Today’s Best Stolen Bases

I looked around for videos of these two stolen bases and couldn’t find any. Luckily, it’s the fact that these happened at all that’s so wonderful. From You Can’t Predict Baseball’s Twitter feed:

You Can’t Predict Baseball hits on something great in the sport. While analytics become more and more precise in breaking down every aspect of baseball, the seemingly random and unexpected still happens.

Why would these be unexpected? For Martinez, it’s because the 35 year old former catcher has been almost exclusively a designated hitter since missing the entire 2012 season. A friend said of today’s steal, “How did Victor Martinez do that without any knees? Ya gotta have knees!” Which is true of base stealing.

For Ibanez, it’s because logic says a 41 year old man shouldn’t be stealing bases. Logic also says that of a man who’s on-field performance earned him a dedicated section at Lookout Landing for fuck-up .gifs Logic is neutral when it comes to the fact his surprising success at hitting home runs last year may have been due to a magic practice bat.

New Music Stinks Anyhow, Right?

I’ll let you in on a secret: I don’t actually believe that most music put out within the last year is awful claptrap. But if I did, I’d probably be OK, given how many vinyl reissues labels are constantly churning out.

The big ones in Canada over the past week have been the Acorn and the Constantines. The former is part of Kelp Records 20th anniversary. They’re doing a double-LP release of The Pink Ghosts and the Blankets EP. Those CDs weren’t even sold with jewel cases when I bought them.

The Cons had already announced their reunion for the tenth anniversary of their landmark record, Shine a Light. Now, there’s a vinyl reissue coming from You’ve Changed Records. It’s nothing crazy; they’re promising a remastered version, gatefold packaging, and a seven-inch of b-sides from the period. But if you don’t already own this one, it’ll be a nice piece of Canadian music to have around. Plus, you’ll have something to toss into the streets and burn should their reunion plans not take them through Regina.

How Much Fun Would a Hugely Volatile Currency Be If It Were Regulated?

The New York Times:

When scandal engulfs traditional financial institutions like Citigroup, there are investigations and calls for greater oversight –– human oversight. Bitcoin, though, was born of mistrust of humans and their institutions. It rests on the belief that financial safety emerges from the integrity of the technology, a computer code that controls a payment system, rather than the trustworthiness of the humans who participate in it.

To save their nascent currency, Bitcoin’s backers may be forced to alter their philosophy and embrace the same messy humans — auditors, insurers and even regulators — that the currency’s most ardent supporters have long abhorred.

My knee-jerk reaction to a Farhad Manjoo byline is to run and hide –– he’s put too much frustrating contrarianism into the world — but this piece explores an interesting paradox in the future of Bitcoin. Read on.

While we’re chatting internet currencies that aren’t Warcraft gold or something, there’s going to be a Bitcoin symposium at Queen City Hub on Tuesday, March 11. Details over here. You can ask them whether the headline “Winklevoss twins use bitcoins to book space trip” is for real or was just generated by a randomized news engine.

Sled Island 2014 Waves a Bunch of Cool Names in Your Face

unnamedNeko Case is definitely making up for forgetting about us Saskatchewan folk for a long while. I can’t remember the last time she toured through here, though that might be my dumb memory. No longer! She was probably the best act to play the 2013 Regina Folk Festival, and she’ll be playing O’Brian’s in Saskatoon on May 18 with the Dodos. Luckily, you can never see her too much live, so it’s still exciting news that she’s one of the artists announced for the 2014 Sled Island Festival in Calgary.

Last year’s Alberta floods in june nearly kiboshed the festival for 2013 and forever, from the sounds of it. The future of Sled Island seemed entirely in jeopardy, so it’s a relief that they’re back again in 2014 and with what’s shaping up to be an exciting lineup. You can see some of the big names they’ve got down so far at their website.

Right now, there are plenty of great acts in addition to Case. Timeless beardo rockers like Rocket from the Crypt and Bob Mould will be around, as will constant Canadian gem the Joel Plaskett Emergency. The guest curator of the festival this year, Kathleen Hanna, is bringing her latest group, the Julie Ruin, to the fest. And St. Vincent will be performing, news that’s surely making some music fans spin in a circle and cry from excitement.

Sled Island is hugely fun. Personally, I was under the impression that all Calgary was just a nightmare network of roads and malls based on my tiny bit of experience with the city. Sled proved me so wrong. I’m glad it’s back.

Group That Owns Baltimore’s Daily Buys Baltimore’s Alt-Weekly

Baltimore’s City Paper has been purchased by the group that owns the city’s daily, the Baltimore Sun. Going forward, all City Paper employees will be fired, some to be eventually rehired by the new ownership.

Erik Wemple of the Washington Post has all the details, including at least one crushing quote from a current-for-the-moment employee:

“This is the only thing I’ve ever done,” says Smith. “I have sources and a body of knowledge built over a period of time that doesn’t go anywhere else very easily. If I’m out of a job, I guess I’ll have to find another career.”

I’ve only dipped into City Paper once, when I was visiting Baltimore this past September. From what I saw, it was a great and vital publication. It hardly needs to be said that Baltimore is a city with some great culture in addition to some real issues to address. I’m hoping much of the staff gets to return, and that the potential for editorial independence mentioned in Wempel’s post is for real.

Solids vs. Spoils

429AFBBF-191D-45C9-A173-D6B0DCDF81FFWhen I talked with Louis Guillemette of Montreal guitar-and-drums duo Solids in late January, it was mostly about their debut, Blame Confusion, and their big upcoming tour that’s bringing them to O’Hanlon’s on Feb. 26. While we were on the phone, though, I thought maybe I could get some trash-talking on the record, too.

Prairie Dog: In Regina, we’ve got a duo named Spoils. I was wondering if you’d be interested in starting a rivalry.

Louis Guillemette: We could. I could say, ‘Fuck those guys.’

You could? Do you want to go ahead?

[Laughs] No, not at all. Actually, wait a sec, I’ll check them out. What’s the name? Spoils?

Yeah, Spoils.

OK, I’ll check them out for sure. I don’t know. What could we say to start a rivalry? We could say we’re louder than them.

That’s good. That’s something you could measure, even.

Hopefully they’re not bigger than us.

Since I talked with Louis, Spoils have actually been added to the date, so come Feb. 26, we’ll be able to hear who’s louder.

Remembering Phillip Seymour Hoffman

Let’s all wallow in some grief and celebrate a great actor, shall we? Here’s what some people are saying online.

The Atlantic‘s Derek Thompson calls him “the greatest actor of his generation”:

An actor this good at talking should not be so good at silence. An actor so good at silence shouldn’t be this good at talking. In the delicate art of negotiating rest stops, commanding crescendos, and unleashing fortes, there wasn’t a more precise conductor of performances than Hoffman.

Bilge Ebiri talks about some of his best performances at New York‘s the Vulture:

Maybe that’s why this bewildering, tragic death hurts so much: because he feels like someone we knew, even if we only knew him from a movie screen. And because he felt like someone who understood us at our weakest, most fragile moments.

David Thompson considers some of his roles at the New Republic, including Moneyball:

The film is too smug, and too cut and dried. But Hoffman seemed to know and convey how far Beane simply didn’t understand baseball—which was and is an archaic, stupid game. If I’d been Art Howe I would have looked at Moneyball and just marveled at where such genius and understanding had come from.

Josh Levin of Slate points to a favourite scene on the Brow Beat blog:

In this scene from Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous, Hoffman calls on his vast reserves of empathy to offer wise counsel to Patrick Fugit’s William Miller. The most important lesson: “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we’re uncool.”

R.I.P. Phillip Seymour Hoffman

Phillip Seymour Hoffman has died at the age of 46. He was the victim of an apparent drug overdose, reports say. Fuck.

Hoffman gave us so much great work, so much I still need to get familiar with. I’m a Paul Thomas Anderson dummy, so I haven’t seen Hoffman in Magnolia, Boogie Nights or The Master.

Even beyond that, there’s a filmography of big and small roles, in dramas and comedies and thrillers. In most all of them, he never played a “Phillip Seymour Hoffman type”, instead making interesting and individual choices in all of them, including movies like Happiness, Capote and The Big Lebowski.

I’m going to dip into State and Main soon. I think it’s an overlooked movie, and Hoffman’s role is more of a heartwarming one. I could use some of that right now.

Little Known Song Knocked Off Oscar Ballot

Few had heard of “Alone Yet Not Alone”, or the movie of the same name, before it was nominated for Best Original Song in this year’s Academy Awards. Matt Singer at The Dissolve even went so far as to ask “what the heck is it?” And he’s a guy who knows his movies.

The short version is that it’s from a faith-based movie with a tiny release. For a while, how it became widely known enough to be nominated was a mystery. Now that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has decided to take it off the ballot, we know a bit more.

In what the Hollywood Reporter is calling “a move with few precedents”, the song was knocked out of the running because the composer may have misused contacts as a former governor and current executive council member for the academy. In other words, he sent out a mass e-mail.

Some of the governors involved in this decision must’ve been arguing to let this pass. Unsurprisingly, I’m not versed in Academy Award rules, but for an infraction like this, looking the other way for a song that has a slim, slim chance of winning seems favourable to what’s surely an inevitable bout of controversy for “targeting” a religious movie. Times like these make me glad I stopped going to Big Hollywood out of grim curiosity.

Buy the Book Is Closing?

Seems to be the case:

I was in there not too long ago, picking up tickets for Band Swap. I browsed a bit, coming across a bunch of cool books including an interesting-looking volume of Graham Greene non-fiction. I didn’t buy it because I felt it was bad form to buy something for myself so close to Christmas. I take full responsibility for this news.

In all seriousness, this is sad. Buy the Book is a great store run by great folks and will be missed.