Category Archives: Uncategorized

On Hiatus!

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Hey all you beautiful people!  I just wanted to let everyone know that Lipstik Indie is going on hiatus. I’m not sure how long or what format we will be, if we return.  I’m focusing on writing, performing and producing shows and felt it was time to let Lipstik Indie go on a vacation.

A great big hug to all the artists who have been part of the site, a bigger hug to the writers.

Cheers for now!

February 2013 Issue

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The Shoe’s fits of laughter @ Red Sandcastle Theatre
The Alice in Blunderland Panto Players Co-op is back this holiday season with more family-friendly panto fun at Red Sandcastle Theatre with their production of The Shoemaker and the Pant-O-Mimes!
http://lifewithmorecowbell.wordpress.com/2012/12/31/the-shoe-gives-fits-of-laughter-red-sandcastle-theatre/

Poets & songwriters & a holiday love-in
Last night was a double pleasure – for the art and for the company. First up was The Beautiful & The Damned (TB&TD) at Glad Day Bookshop, where a gang of my best pals (Liz, Lizzie, Kat, Janis and Kira) and I gathered to catch the first set before continuing our evening’s cultural festivities.
http://lifewithmorecowbell.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/poets-songwriters-a-holiday-love-in/

It’s A Wonderful Life delights onstage
A delightful, magical evening of holiday fun last night at Alexander Showcase Theatre’s (formerly the Alexander Players & Singers) encore production of It’s A Wonderful Life, remounted for a three-day run at the Papermill Theatre after a very successful run last season.
http://lifewithmorecowbell.wordpress.com/2012/12/08/its-a-wonderful-life-delights-onstage/

Fond farewell to The Drowning Girls
Alumnae Theatre Company’s production of The Drowning Girls closed on Saturday night to another packed house at the end of an incredible run – and I was lucky to be able to see it one last time before our closing night celebration at Betty’s and the inevitable set strike the following day.
http://lifewithmorecowbell.wordpress.com/2012/12/03/fond-farewell-to-the-drowning-girls/

tulip

reviewed by Viki Ackland

New hands are five young men from Hamilton, Ontario who are invested in a year long commitment to record an album without concessions. Over this term, they hope to take their songs in multiple directions, expanding on their previously released single, This I’ve Heard. Tulips, produced with Michael Keire (Apostle of Hustle, Wildlife, Dark Mean), is the first song in this new territory. All five met during our high school years with the exception of Gordy and Evan, who long before then had met due to the fact that they are brothers. Early on in high school, Ben, Pat and Spence met through a friend and through their mutual love of music quickly started a band. Within a year, they met Evan. After an initial mix-up had been settled he became the next member of the band. For one reason or another, Evan was misled to believe they were a Christian-rock band. For a while they practiced and played around town, fine-tuning our songwriting skills and our performances. After a year or so of collaboration and many generations of songs they invited Gordy. Finally they finished two songs and decided to have them professionally recorded.

First off I have to say they all look great half naked. Perhaps not a musical noteworthy observation but one that makes me happy.

I stumbled upon ‘Whichever Way You’ll Have It’ first while looking for Tulips, I immediately was taken with the singers strong voice, and the strong rock aspect of the song with its many twists and turns.

Tulips is a lovely song, eclectic and original, a song about love, betrayal, coping and living our lives while trying to find happiness.

“Take me to my first school dance, show me your apartment 
Shake your head and hold my hand, say I’m still important 
Make a name just as we land, all the papers calling 
This idea could have been, but we never focused”

For more information about New Hands follow the links below!
http://www.newhandsband.com
http://www.facebook.com/newhands
http://soundcloud.com/new-hands
http://www.youtube.com/user/newhandsband

lambs

reviewed by Viki Ackland

This St. Catherine’s based band Lambs Become welcomes their new  release, Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose.  When I researched the band more extensively I found the talent behind the band, drawn from Alexisonfire and Journey to Aspen, Lambs Become Lions have been around the music industry’s  so called block, and have embraced the artistic delight that can be found in doing something you love.

The lead song “When I open my eyes” is a love song, full of truth and believability, What surprised me was how I was pulled right into this song, the strength of not only the lead singer bur the thought provoking lyrics. A lovely original ballad. I listened three times.

“Someone Else’s Dream” is a song that speaks to many, the pressures of everyday life, walking a path that we did not foresee, not living up to our potential or being true to ourselves. Heavy stuff.
“Postcards” is a festive tale about escaping from the daily grind into the mysterious life on the road, endless gigs in an tough business.  A bit of kiss my ass humor also, great song all around.

The EP is a mixture of upbeat that is definitely mixed with the feeling that dreams are there for the taking and require fortitude and hard to work to achieve them, something that may be forgotten in a world where people often fall into a rut to survive. It is about doing what you love thereby living the life you dream of.

Looking forward to hearing more. Roar.

To find out more check out their FB  and website for information.

https://www.facebook.com/bahroar

October/November Lipstik Indie

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Reviewed by Carolina Smart

When I close my eyes and listen to certain songs or artists, I find myself being transported to a different place, world, time.  A temporary escape, if only for a few minutes.  My last trip lasted 47 minutes and during my journey I saw images of an old blues bar, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, The Devics, harmonica blues and a well travelled six string.

Beautiful, emotional, vivid lyrics  are accompanied by strong acoustics that dance in your ears. The songs of Down, Record are like a Sunday morning on a porch, drinking in wishes of the past, present and future. Mark Martyre is a true story teller, whose words flow on poetic river and a well rounded musician who masters the art of captivating an audience.

Anyone who is a fan of Leonard Cohen or Tom Waits will immediately fall in love with this album.  For those of you who aren’t, after listening to Mark Martyre you will have a new found appreciation for these artists.  Mark Martyre’s musical style is uncomplicated, allowing the listener to not only hear the messages in the songs, but the music that accompanies it.  So many top 40 artists have forgotten that aspect of music and Mark Martyre’s music brings it back to us.

For an even greater appreciation for this artist, see Mark live.  He plays regularly around Toronto and to stay up-to-date, join his Facebook page (www.facebook.com/markmartyre).

Bio
Toronto-area singer-songwriter, Mark Martyre, is excited to announce the release of his latest album Down, Record.

The artist, who’s lyrics draw comparisons to fellow-Canadian Leonard Cohen, has been hold-up inside Thirteenth Street Sound studios in Toronto, emerging only recently with his all-new 10-track, all original effort. Down, Record marks Martyre’s first studio album as a solo artist, and his most anticipated release thus-far. Down, Record is a follow-up to the six live albums that Mark released in 2011. The album will be available as a CD as well as on iTunes.

Mark Martyre has been a regular on the Toronto music scene for nearly a decade. Mark has become an accomplished songwriter in that time, even garnering praise from industry mainstays like Peter Katz who said that Mark has, “fantastic lyrics. He clearly has a really warm soul and a passion for writing and music.”

Mark is also a poet, and has produced two volumes of poetry entitled Wondering Down the Road (2008) and Drifting Magnetically (2009). “Brilliant songwriter. His songs just stick with you.” (Sandi Marie – singer-songwriter).  Fans should visit www.markmartyre.com for more information.

Track List
Nowhere Else To Go, But Up
All This Time
Another Deja Vu
Lauren Bacall
Natalie
The Devil On Your Back
Flowers at Your Door
Only the Road
Like the Horizon
Commotion

Where to find Mark
www.markmartyre.com
www.facebook.com/markmartyre
www.twitter.com/markmartyre
www.youtube.com/markmartyre

The latest reviews from Life With More Cowbell (click on links to read the reviews!)

TB&TD: http://lifewithmorecowbell.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/the-beautiful-the-damned-the-day-of-the-dead-edition/

Artsy week off (music, movie, theatre): http://lifewithmorecowbell.wordpress.com/2012/10/07/my-big-fat-artsy-week-off/

Piece on Niagara on the Lake places: http://lifewithmorecowbell.wordpress.com/2012/10/10/niagara-on-the-lake-some-places-i-like/

Nuit Blanche: http://lifewithmorecowbell.wordpress.com/2012/09/30/wandering-the-night-in-toronto-nuit-blanche-2012/

Gay Play Day: http://lifewithmorecowbell.wordpress.com/2012/09/29/inaugural-gay-play-day-charming-witty-touching-lgbt-works/

Between the Sheets (theatre): http://lifewithmorecowbell.wordpress.com/2012/09/26/world-premiere-of-nightwood-production-of-jordi-mands-between-the-sheets-riveting-heart-wrenching/

February (theatre): http://lifewithmorecowbell.wordpress.com/2012/09/22/lisa-moores-february-transformed-for-the-stage-in-world-premiere-alumnae-theatre/

Frankenweenie:  http://lifewithmorecowbell.wordpress.com/2012/10/13/big-sweet-dark-comic-fun-with-frankenweenie/

Stories We Tell:  http://lifewithmorecowbell.wordpress.com/2012/10/15/beautiful-brave-touching-family-storytelling-in-stories-we-tell/

July Issue of Lipstik Indie

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Reviewed by Carolina Smart

By pure serendipity I came across this CD.  It was mixed in with another package sent to me for review.  Another reviewer was supposed to review this CD but once I started listening to it, I claimed it for my own.  A mix of Motown style 50’s rock and roll such as Stone Cold Man to a 1930’s blues twist with In My Time of Dying and Skinny Girl, Soul Stack is the kind of music you listed to in on a sweaty July night. 

I am thick in the indie music scene and am surprised I haven’t heard of this band till now.  With strong blues guitar riffs reminiscent of Eric Clapton and Howl’n Wolf, Soul Stack has a very smooth sound with tight production.  According to the bio on their website, this album was recorded over a two day period in the winter of 2011. Two day recordings would be reminiscent of artists of the 50’s/60’s due to production costs, I’m not sure if this was the reason here or they were just in the groove, but this is one of the best two day recordings I’ve heard in a very long time.

Band members Jonathan Knight (vocals/guitar) and Tom Bona (vocals/drums) with the addition of Mark Wessenger (vocals/keys) and Josh Knight (vocals/bass) are a group of amazing musicians, who have pulled off what has become one of my favourite album’s of the year.  The album can be purchased through their website http://www.soulstack.com or through CD Baby. 

If you are in the Toronto area, they have a show coming up at The Dominion on Queen (July 14).  More info can be found on their Reverb Nation page (www.soulstack.com).

Track list:
1. Intro
2. Stone Cold Man
3. In My Time of Dying
4. Desperate Times
5. Since You Came Around
6. Skinny Girl
7. In Your Mind
8. Just a Natural Thing
9. River of Love
10. Holy Roller
11. Your Only Man
12. Let Me Be Your Fool
13. Miss Me

Reviewed by Carolina Smart

Scarlet Jane is a collaboration of two well know Canadian Indie artists Andrea Ramolo and Cindy Doire.  Dark, edgy and beautiful, when their songs reverb out of your speakers you visualize these two raven haired beauties playing in equally beautiful and intimate venues.  I’ve seen Andrea play a few times at the famous Dakota Tavern in Toronto.  The duo would definitely fit in at any Nashville type setting.

Songs such as Aching Heart, Burning Up and We’ll Never Be Found are emotionally wrenching, the lyrics written by two amazing storytellers.  Each song on Stranger are poetic masterpieces, painting vivid descriptions of experiences that all listeners can relate to.

The albums title song Stranger and Can’t Come Back have a much more upbeat feel. Can’t Come Back has a strong Rockabilly sound, reminiscent of a 50’s country rock and a very danceable tune.  Though I hate choosing favourites from any album I review, Can’t Come Back is at the top of my list.

Smooth, tight production value places this album in list of some of my favourites of 2012.  I can’t wait to see these ladies perform live.  They are currently on a cross Canada tour, details are on their website, if they are in a city near you, they are a must see.

Two beautiful women, two powerful voices, one absolutely amazing album!

Track list:

Wild Fire
Aching Heart
We’ll Never be Found
Ride On
Stranger
Beautiful
Can’t Come Back
Oh Darling
I’m Gone
Burning up

Reviewed by Viki Ackland

Troy Western’s latest EP “Rocks In A Bucket” put him on the road from his home in St. Catharine’s, Ontario to Canada’s east coast with his “Rocks & Fields” tour. “Feel The Love”, the lead track, can be heard in a series of videos from Commonplace Eco-Village on environmentally-friendly lifestyles. You can often find Troy performing around southern Ontario ranging from solo acoustic shows to those with the full band, as well as with a variety of guest musicians. Festival highlights include the Niagara Food Festival, the S.C.E.N.E. Music Festival, the Fort Erie Friendship Festival, the Fort Erie Music Festival, the Highland Creek Heritage Festival, and the Sammy Sugar Day Festival. He helped organize and performed at the hugely successful fundraiser “ANDREW’S FIGHT” in support of a friend and paramedic fighting cancer. Troy was featured on Brock University’s radio station, CFBU 103.7 on the show “Inside The Rhythm Hive” and on television on “The Source”, a community news and entertainment program in the Niagara region, wherein he talked of his passion for music, family, and creative inspiration. Some past experiences found Troy opening for Canadian rock group Big Sugar with an exciting acoustic version of “Oh Canada” that was met with exuberant cheers from the 200+ crowd. The 2006 Toronto Independent Music Awards recognized Troy with a nomination for “Best Classic Rock” for his song Into The Sun. He also earned by popular vote, the coveted “Featured Artist” spot on BreakingLocals.com, a networking website for musicians and fans alike. 

Find out where Troy Western’s journey is taking him now at http://www.TroyWestern.com. Join the adventure on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, or ReverbNation, or get his e-newsletter by emailing troynews@troywestern.com with the words “ADD ME” in the subject heading.

This passionate acoustic based performer has a melodic lovely voice that will haunt you long after you have listened to him. The first track “Feel the Love” is an upbeat rocking song with strong instrumental and vocals telling a tale of love and finding ones way home. The second track “Til the sunrise comes near” is a bit calmer but not lacking in story telling. My favorite was the final track “Look Around.” I love the beginning and I found it quite lovely to listen to, from the acoustic guitar to the harmonies. All in all, an enjoyable experience.

Biography

Troy Western is a singer-songwriter putting the ‘thunk’ into his folk-rock grooves. His music seems to have a slightly different edge that likely comes from his eclectic music tastes. While some have compared Troy’s sound to the Dave Matthews Band or Neil Young, many say they just can’t quite put a finger on it.

Tracks
Feel the Love
Til Sunrise Comes Near
Getting Home
Untitled
Look Around

Life With More Cowbell

Big rollicking fun & magic @ You Can’t Take It With You

I want to go live with the Sycamore family.

Some big magical fun at the Young Centre last night when I went to see Soulpepper’s production of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s You Can’t Take It With You, directed by Joseph Ziegler, where we spend a few days in the family’s living/dining room witnessing the comings and goings of various family members, friends and even prospective in-laws in this rollicking circus of a household.

Set in the late 30s, the living/dining area of the Sycamore home is surprisingly neat, considering all the various pursuits and work going on in the house. Mom Penny (Nancy Palk) has been turning her hand to playwriting of late – this after giving up painting – with several scripts in progress, moving from one to another when she gets writer’s block. Dad Paul (Derek Boyes) plays with Meccano erector sets in his spare time, and designs and creates fireworks in the basement with friend/colleague Mr. De Pinna (Michael Simpson), an child-like unmarried chap, formerly the ice man who came into the house eight years ago and never left. Daughter Essie (Patricia Fagan) works at home as a candy maker and is an aspiring ballet dancer, but not particularly good at it after eight years of studying with Mr. Kolenkhov (Diego Matamoros), while her husband Ed (Mike Ross) who delivers the candy, accompanies her dancing on the xylophone and enjoys printing things – everything from the family’s dinner menu to phrases that catch his fancy. Daughter Alice (Krystin Pellerin), the most conventional member of the family, works at an office, where she meets and falls in love with Tony (Gregory Prest), the boss’s son. Grandpa (Eric Peterson) decided to quit the rat race 35 years ago and has been having loads of fun ever since attending circuses and commencements, playing darts, collecting stamps and caring for his snakes. In addition to the family members are Rheba (Sabryn Rock), the Sycamores’ maid/cook, and her boyfriend Donald (Andre Sills), the handyman – who in their way are both family as well.

Tony and Alice want to get married, but Alice is worried that her unconventional family won’t fit in with prospective – wealthy and conservative – in-laws Mr. and Mrs. Kirby (John Jarvis and Brenda Robins). And her nightmare comes true when Tony brings the folks over a day early for dinner and, despite her family’s support of the match and wanting to make a good impression, all hell breaks loose.

Kaufman and Moss have written a highly entertaining piece about family, acceptance and finding your bliss. Do what you love even if you’re not particularly good at it – as long as you’re getting a kick out of it, it’s all good. Like Grandpa says of money and position: “You can’t take it with you,” so you may as well relax and enjoy yourself – a very forward-thinking notion for the time.

A thoroughly charming play, with lovely performances all around. I especially enjoyed Peterson, an audience favourite who gives us a brilliantly funny and real performance as Grandpa, commenting on the household goings-on and calling folks on their silliness, his pre-dinner grace more like a state-of-the-union chat with God. Additional cast include some fun turns from Raquel Duffy as a drunken actress who comes to read for Penny, Maria Vacratsis as a displaced Russian royal now working as a waitress, and Brian Bisson and Tim Ziegler as the G-men who raid the Sycamore’s dinner party (with Ziegler also playing Henderson, the IRS man who comes to see Grandpa about his unpaid income taxes).

http://lifewithmorecowbell.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/big-rollicking-fun-magic-you-cant-take-it-with-you/

Absurd family tragedy in The Goat

WARNING: This post contains adult language and content.

Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? (subtitled: Notes Towards A Definition of Tragedy) is one absurd, darkly funny, mind-fuck of a play. And if you hadn’t been aware of the play’s subject before arriving at the theatre, you sure as hell get the idea when you receive the program. The cover is a veritable Kama Sutra of man/goat lovin’ illustrations. I went to see Atic Productions’ run of The Goat, directed by Carter West, at the Tarragon Theatre Extra Space last night.

On entering the theatre space, you see a set composed of white pedestals, each with an empty plate frame – plates are set at the top of the show when the cast sets the stage, the family home – and a pair of white column/lintel entrances, the lintels askew atop uneven columns. Bringing to mind ancient Greek architecture. The pre-show music is a mix of love songs throughout the decades. Love and tragedy are coming.

Martin (Tim Walker) and Stevie (Rosemary Doyle) are a well-off, well-matched and happily married 40-something couple. Their sweet and handsome 17-year-old son Billy (Ben Hayward) has recently come out as gay, and they’re being pretty cool about it. Their domestic bliss is shattered when Martin reveals to his best friend Ross (Benjamin Blais) that he’s been having an affair – with a goat named Sylvia – a confidence that Ross proceeds to share with Stevie in a letter. You can imagine the family discussion that arises from this revelation.

What is interesting about this play is that Martin and Stevie, in addition to being very intelligent, open-minded people, have the sort of relationship in which they can actually have a discussion about Martin’s unusual infidelity – as painful and enraging as it is for Stevie. As the audience, we are presented with the notion and left to our own judgements – about bestiality and adultery, and even unintentional, spontaneous moments of incest and pederasty. Ross is the sole voice of conservative convention in the play, passing harsh judgement on anything beyond a well-hidden affair with another human, preferably of the opposite sex. And yet his hypocrisy shows as he coaxes the details of Martin’s affair with Sylvia – and despite his protestations and crying moral foul, he takes the taboo scenario in with a sense of scandalized glee.

The play is about 100 minutes long with no intermission and the actors – especially the family members – are taken on a physical and emotional roller coaster ride. Martin and Stevie are fun, affectionate and easy in their relationship – and love each other so big – and the hurt of Martin’s affair crashes so hard that every plate in the room lays broken in the end even as Stevie herself crumbles to the floor in agony. Even young Billy, who tries to intervene and is especially protective of his mother, is reduced to a balling mess after Ross returns to poke the wasp’s nest he’s already kicked at.

Walker is lovely as Martin, a good-humoured, gentle and loving man struggling with the onset of middle age and tormented by his desire for Sylvia. He has great chemistry with Doyle, who brings a funny, smart and sexy Stevie – loyal in love but fierce in betrayal. You really believe that Martin and Stevie have a big love for each other. You also believe that Martin really loves Sylvia too – an extremely painful truth for both Martin and Stevie. Hayward is adorably smart-ass as the teenager Billy, an intelligent and good-natured kid who is aware of just how cool his folks are – and he loves them both a lot. He brings a nice sense of Billy’s conflicted feelings  – torn between the child’s response of running away and the man’s response of stepping in to protect his mother. Blais gives us a nice combination of humour and cynicism as Ross, a character who’s really the outsider in this grouping, espousing a socially moralistic attitude towards fidelity and honour – but it’s all okay if you don’t get caught. Except one must stay within one’s own species with an age-appropriate partner and opposite sex is best. Really strong performances all around – you’re constantly wondering what will happen next. What will he/she do now?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, The Goat has a very short run at the Tarragon Extra Space – it closes tomorrow afternoon (Sunday, June 24). There are still a few chances left to see it, though, with matinées today and tomorrow at 2:30 p.m., and an evening show tonight at 8:00 p.m.

For more info, visit Atic Productions at: http://aticproductions.com/

http://lifewithmorecowbell.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/absurd-family-tragedy-in-the-goat/

Raw heart sounds – Tin Star Orphans @ the Horseshoe

Shortly after my friends, Kat, Lizzie, Lizzie’s friend Janis and I entered the back room of the Horseshoe last night, we met up with drummer Johnny Rowe, who was set to do double duty with two bands: Inlet Sound and Tin Star Orphans in back-to-back sets at the top of the evening – which is just fine by him because, stamina challenges aside, he loves to play.

Inlet Sound

First band up was Inlet Sound, a folk rock band from Hamilton with a great Celtic, violin-backed, east coast sound, bringing to mind great east coast bands like Great Big Sea and Rawlins Cross. Dream Awake, a lovely collection of lyric ballads, is their EP release – I picked up a copy at the venue last night – and their first full-length record The Romantics is nearing completion. Check them out and give them a listen here: http://www.inletsound.com/

I’d heard Tin Star Orphans once before, at the end of 2011 at the Rivoli, and was struck by the band’s raw, driving sounds – packing a big punch, but with a big heart – largely due to frontman Zachary Bennett’s lyrics and vocals, strong guitar arrangements (Bennett and Dean Marino) and Johnny Rowe’s percusssion. And I was very happy to purchase a copy of their recent recording The Days of Blinding Fear – lots of which we got to hear live last night.

Bennett’s vocals are alive and raw, going from soft and introspective on ballads like “Fire” to a ferocious growl in “Year of the Wave,” a prophesy of impending environmental disaster, warning of a Momma Nature losing patience, trigger finger twitching. Love the final line of that one: All fanatics may bow their heads and pray but I’m only hoping someone brings champagne.

Songs like “Fire” and “Jaw Wired Shut” – among my favourites – have a U2 sound, reminiscent of The Joshua Tree. Haunting and visceral. And “Three Cheers for the Coward” has an especially haunting sound, while “We Are Lions” is pure driving beat. Johnny Rowe was showing no signs of slowing down on the skins during that second set. If I were writing this about a classical concert, I’d characterize his playing as “robust.” The man can play – and he was still givin’ ‘er right to the end of Tin Star Orphans’ final chords.

Tin Star Orphans

Tins Star Orphans – Zachary Bennett

Tin Star Orphans – Dean Marino & Zachary Bennett

Tin Star Orphans – Johnny Rowe

You gotta give these guys a listen: http://www.tinstarorphans.com/

http://lifewithmorecowbell.wordpress.com/2012/06/24/raw-heart-sounds-tin-star-orphans-the-horseshoe/

June Edition – The Rock and Roll Poets issue

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Iconic imagery, delicious, lust filled words transcending us into another frame of mind.  This immediately comes to mind when I try to sum up what The Tyranny of Love is about. The problem is, there is no summing it up.  I have been left wanting more.

Unless you’ve met Nik or heard his radio show, HOWL on CIUT.FM, you won’t know what his voice sounds like. He has a very sexy, sensuous, seasoned rock and roll poets tone.  It was hard to read The Tyranny of Love without reading each piece with Nik’s voice attached to it, adding to the romance of each piece.

When I was first introduced to Nik’s writing, I fell instantaneously in love.  His writing captures the realities of life and love, taking the harshness of it all, crushing it into beautiful, strange colours, creating a paradox on written canvas.  There is a powerful ebb and flow, waves cresting with religious, iconic visions of God, steamy after moments of coital pleasure and pop culture.

There is a new wave of poets and writers that have emerged in the city of Toronto.  I personally call them The Rock and Roll poets.  They are reminiscent of the new wave of poets and writers of the 60’s and 70’s such as Jack Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson, or Truman Capote.  Nik Beat is one of these Rock and Roll poets, adding a new and powerful flavour to the literary scene.

Under normal circumstances, I would single out a few poems that were my favourites.  I can’t do that here.  It’s impossible.  Each piece standing out and speaking to me equally.     64 pages of an unending orgasmic, poetic experience. The Tyranny of Love has left me wanting more, needing more of Nik Beat’s words.

Rock and Roll Poet.

There is a new movement, a new style of Poet emerging in the city of Toronto.  A movement I hope goes viral.  Poets who are becoming the rockstars or our literary scene in every sense of the word.  Brandon Pitts is one of these Poets.  On the page and in performance, he fills the stage with a lyrical presence, oozing a sensual vibration of power in his chosen words.  His voice an instrument.  Pressure to Sing is Brandon Pitts songbook, his album, his concert.  His poetry images of his past, present and future.

Pressure to Sing is a structural masterpiece, with 11 chapters.  Each chapter’s poems defining a story, an emotion and a message. I won’t choose favourites amongst the poems in this book as they all stand out.  However, one particular poem in Pressure to Sing does deserve that little bit of extra attention and accolade.  Lot, a poem that affected me emotionally, leaving me in a breathless state, having me swing hard between anger, disgust and empathy for the state of human evolution. A modern expose mixed with religious icons, a society failing at making a better world.  The last line of the poem, a powerful statement, ‘We are defining our times’ rings honesty and truth.  Brandon has a video poem for Lot that is a must see.  (http://brandonpitts.com/Videos.html).  Lot is a powerful, moving piece, that should be read and heard by all.

As a poet and writer, Brandon Pitts is defining our times indeed.  He raises the bar to a level that we haven’t seen in decades. A bar that should inspire other poets and writers to reach for.

Coil is a thing of magic and passion, filled with spirituality, sensuality and intense, raw emotional words that can only come from experiencing life with eyes wide open.   The poems in Coil are a selection of 800 pieces written over the course of several months. Poems that feel as if they were channelled from another world, their vessel being Susan Munro.

I was first introduced to Susan Munro’s poetry at an open mic for The Beautiful and the Damned.  Open mic’s are magical and sometimes strange, never knowing what to expect from the performance.   After hearing Susan read, I knew this beautiful woman’s words were more than just a delicious treat, it felt as if I was put under a spell, her spell.

Thomas Scott’s quote on the back of Coil, sums it up perfectly. “This is a collection of poems that feels like a finely cut stone, with each poem a slightly different facet of the whole. You will find intensity and magic here, clarity and airiness — just on the other side of understanding.”

Coil is a flawless piece of work, as is each poem within the covers.  From the religious flavouring of Marks, to the sensual and sexy piece Love is a Car, Susan Munro’s Coil will leave you with a vibrant visual of words transcending to a higher level of divine.  A muse for our times, Susan Munro is a beautiful woman with a beautiful soul.

It has to be said up front, this will be the least objective review I have yet to write for Lipstik Indie as I am already a huge fan of Laura L’Rock in particular and her new album Law of Attraction. That being said, I have never seen her with her full band ticking out and this CD launch, at the famed Now Lounge on 189 Church Street in Toronto, provided the venue and the time to witness the aforementioned Laura L’Rock in action. But, I am not just reviewing her performance, rather the entire night. Again, I have to say all objectivity has to be scattered to the four winds, as I was not just a silent witness to the rock and roll proceeding but, I was also the MC of the eve. Leave out any hopes entirely behind you if you expect less that a biased view here. Now that I have cleared that up on to the review.

Opening proceedings was  Sarah Smith, formerly of the beloved rock outfit The Joys. Sarah immediately set the tone that this was a celebration for and of Laura L’Rock and combined a set of songs (mostly original)  with a knowing sexuality that lit up the room. Believe me, Laura L’Rock wrote a song about this girl, (they have been pals for  a year or so now) on the Law of Attraction CD called Ball of Fire and with just a drummer (Robin) and her steely smiling gaze, Sarah did what an opening act does: open the door to a high energy party NIGHT!! And she did.

After that and just on schedule at ten thirty, came Laura L’Rock’s band mates Owen Tennyson, on drums, Rob Laidlaw (of Platinum Blonde no less) on bass  and lead guitarist, Steve Saunders. Laura, with her long blonde locks and dark roots just enough to keep you rooted to your seat, looked hot,  hot, hot, in tight sprayed on jeans, flashy sable coloured jacket and a sexy velveteen bodice that did not hide any of the smouldering sexuality and charisma that she possesses on or off stage. She looked out at the multitude at first,  looking almost surprised at the packed to the rafters and enthused welcome — wisely chose to start the rock off with Light my Fuse, from her Law of Attraction album and promptly did. A bit slower than usual tempo than I am used too, but the crowd didn’t know and didn’t care and ate it up. In fact, from the moment Laura L’Rock hit the stage she had the audience in the palm of her hungry for rock little hands. If it is possible for a performer to get bigger star- wise, as the set drove on into the night, Laura showered the rock room — she became a bigger star tonight. Zipping through many of her best tracks on Law of Attraction, she didn’t stop the rock for the entire 35 minute set as she celebrated not only her night and CD release, but all the people she admired and wrote about in her songs too.

The Now Lounge is not a big room for a rock act, but it got bigger as if all the people that packed it were expanding and pushing back the walls themselves for elbow room. Truly a great night.

The closing act High Heels LoFi ended the night by not closing: they thanked Laura profusely and did not let down the torch that had been passed form Laura and played their party songs like Big Dumb Rock Song with an exuberance that matched if not equaled Laura. They were as caught up by the celebration for Laura as any one and planted their flag on Planet Laura L’Rock for the duration as well a s could be asked.

Much gratis for a band on rock night.

LIFE WITH MORE COWBELL

June’s The Beautiful & The Damned
http://lifewithmorecowbell.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/passionate-words-music-zeldas-the-beautiful-the-damned-pride-edition/

Art on the Danforth – Brandon Pitts
http://lifewithmorecowbell.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/brandon-pitts-reading-art-of-the-danforth/

May 2012 Issue. The Powerhouse women musicians feature!

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Leuty Station is like walking into a beautiful dream and not wanting to wake up from it.  Each song is a story of a life event that everyone can appreciate and associate a part of their own life with.  It’s hard to pick just one favourite song as the album is a mix of all the music genres I love.  As the sounds of Jazz, Latin and R&B flow out of my speakers, I find my self entranced with every single song.

How Long and Strawberry Girl are both powerfully touching songs.  One is about the fear of a cancer diagnosis and the emotions one goes through and the other about two people who have been married and madly in love with each other for over 50 years.  The listener will be gripped by the vivid power of the words and lyrics.

Last Train is a powerful rock ballad with a great Santanaesque riff in the middle of the song.  I’ve heard this song being compared to Tori Amos, but I personally think Heather Hill gives Tori a run for her money. The lyrics are so emotional and wrenching that I can feel what the protagonist of this song is going through as she is being chased.

Leuty Station, You Won’t Leave Me and Between the Leather and the Lining are biographically sensational.  The passion in these songs sends butterflies through me.  Though not a wife or mother myself, I as an artist and woman can appreciate the struggles one must go through when making life changing decisions.

Heather Hill is not only an incredibly talent musician, who weaves beautiful stories into music, she is an inspiration to her fellow artists.  Leaving the corporate world to pursue her dream as an artist is both brave and terrifying and you can feel the power of her love for her chosen profession in each and every song.

Leuty Station will be available online on May 12th and at the Drake Underground at 7:30pm for Heather’s CD release party. To book your advance copy, please email heather@heatherhill.ca.

Tracks
How Long
27
Leuty Station
Last Train
Second Chance
You Won’t Leave Me
Wading Through Normal
Between the Leather and Lining
Strawberry Girl
Never Grow Old

Do you ever listen to a CD and visualize the artist or band playing in a large stadium, to a massive crowd.  When I listen to Jessica Speziale, I see her on that stage.  This girl has rock star quality and if you’ve seen her live, you will agree that her amazing stage presence and powerful voice fills the room.

Right from the get go you are thrown into the world of rock with Brace Yourself and brace yourself you should.  The rest of this album is one amazing hit after another.  A perfect mix of rock and rock ballads and rock your socks off tunes, Jessica Speziale has the formula that hits the mark.

Though I loved each and every song on the album, Baby Face and Dear Reverie really stood out for me.  Baby Face should become every woman’s anthem for the type of man not to get involved with.  Dear Reverie is just an amazing rock song that makes you want to get up and dance your ass off.

The album itself is not only fun to listen to, Jessica Speziale herself is a tonne of fun to watch live.  A great musician, a talented song writer and a helluvah performer.  Get out to see her up close and personal, she will be kicking off her summer tour starting May 25 with tours all over Southern Ontario.

Tracks
Brace Yourself
Don’t Look Down
Turn Me On (Leave Me On)
Babyface
How To Be A Man
Dear Reverie

Upcoming Tour Dates:
May 25 – Mississauga
May 30 – Hamilton
June 2 – Bracebridge
June 8 – Ottawa
June 22 – Toronto
More to be confirmed!  Visit http://www.jessicaspeziale.com for up-to-date listings.
Website: http://www.jessicaspeziale.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jessicaspezialemusic
Reverbnation: http://www.reverbnation.com/jessicaspeziale
Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/jessicaspeziale
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/spezzie
EPK: http://www.sonicbids.com/2/EPK/?epk_id=329968
Online Store: http://www.jessicaspeziale.com/store
Dear Reverie on iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/dear-reverie-ep/id483294418

Arlene Paculan is one beautiful and talented artist, musician and woman.  The brainchild behind the amazing Wonder Women events and of the production company Lene Green Mean Productions, she is a force of nature with an incredible voice to back it up.

Listening to Arlene’s CD ‘I’m Worth It’ feels like I’m at a tea party with all my favourite people, sipping from beautiful tea cups.  Each and every song on the album is a lyrical trip down a petal covered road with inspiring lyrics and a velvet smooth voice.

When music pulls out emotions in you that you would ordinarily hide, it says something about the strength of the songwriter.  One More Day does exactly that for me.  The line ‘cherish me for one more day’ pulls hard at my heart strings.  The entire song is an emotional roller coaster for me.

I’m Worth It has a 90’s R&B nostalgic feel to it.  Some names that came into mind as I listened to it are artists such as  Karyn White and Jody Watley. Some of my favourite ballads have been from those artists and Arlene’s music brings me back to a time when I would be not only listening to, but singing along with many of those great R&B artists.

Without sounding corny, this album is Worth It and is in my collection of favourites.  Pick up a copy or download the album at iTunes and get out to see Arlene Paculan live, she preforms all over Toronto and Mississauga and another edition of Wonder Women will be happening this summer.

Tracks
I’m Worth It
Get Over Yourself
Closer To You
One More Day
Your Voice
Forgive Me

Finally, someone in the Canuck indie scene has forged through the smithy of their souls poppy.  Ophelia’s Syndrome is an infectious combination of Kate Bush with Coldplay and are out of the common bread of the everyday ho-hum scene that we all have to endure to some degree or other. These days the celebration of the mediocre has reached some kind of apotheosis, whether endless revels of TV shows digging out the innards of pawn shop owner travail to Desperate House Wives of Bel Air to light bulbs for midgets.

This has to be the most banal cultural time in the Western Society. We have reached a kind of backwater awards show for the great unwashed, the philistines of the boondocks the bedrock of trash and detritus that should have been buried in some landfill but is instead dredged up and elevated to the light of day and then put a giant spotlight on it just in case you missed the point.

Fortunately we have groups like this Hamilton, Ontario wunderkind’s who, realizing this, explore this affect of Late Civilization, make fun of it and then dispose of it and move on especially in songs like, Passing Time, Heroes and Villains and As Long as There’s a Fight and Don’t Care. There is a kind of Cabaret element embedded in these tracks that adds irony to the lyrical refrains.

The band consists of Adrian McFarlane: drums, percussion Trina Nadeau: cello, percussion Deanna Wells: vocals, piano, B3, Rhodes, Wurlitzer, bells, percussion Josh Kohler: bass, vocals, percussion Andrew Barbisan: guitar, lap steel, vocals, percussion, siren Leon Furs – vocals, percussion, synthesizer, programming Loretta Hale: trumpet — all excellent musicians if somewhat lacking in imagination regarding arrangements but this is a small criticism  for this entertaining group’s  newest CD, released in April of this year. There are eleven tracks of which Passing Time and  Long Wait and How to Say Goodbye are the best pop tunes. Recorded at Catherine North Studios in Hamilton and produced by moon and 6 and Ophelia’s Syndrome. This CD has the listener friendly vibes of a winner for this group. Thumbs up!!

Tracks
Passing Time
Heroes and Villains
Today
Fight interlude
As Long as There’s a Fight
Don’t Care
Glue
Fire and Sea
Long Wait
Feet on Ground
How to Say Goodbye

MIP Power Trio’s Haggard & Bedraggled feels like a fun house party on a summers night.  I don’t remember the last time I had this much fun listening to a CD.  I found myself, on a few occasions, wanting to break out into dance while listening to Haggard & Badraggled on my iPod.  A little over a year ago I saw them for the first time at The Hard Luck Cafe.  That night, they not only stood out amongst the other bands they were on the bill with, the name Mip Power Trio has stuck in my craw since.

Growing up on Punk Rock music, I always appreciate when I can hear the influence in other musicians songs.  Mip’s quirky rock ballad’s such as Stone Wall not only have a punk influence, but there is some definite Rockabilly creeping out, making it one of my favourite tracks on the CD.

This album is a great mix of punk, folk, and country. Haggard & Dedraggled is a good time and a whole heap of fun.  An album that every type of music lover can appreciate and should have in their collection.

Band members
Mip (Guitar, vocals, songwriting)
Greg Kowalczyk (Bass)
Shane MacPherson (Drums)

Tracks
Bedraggled
Hometown
Grand Marquis
Whiskey Ain’t Cheap
Beowulf
Sweaters
Danger Ranger
Stone Wall
Northern Lights
Hidden

Life With More Cowbell’s Theatre Reviews

   

A history of hurt – Gruesome Playground Injuries @ Theatre Centre

When we were kids, my brothers had this friend, Stephen MacDonald, who was always getting into accidents and seriously injured. Like the time they were playing leap-frog over those large chunky wooden stakes that acted as a kind of fence/vehicle barrier around the park near our house. Stephen slipped and his leg came down on the stake, tearing open the inside of his thigh. Then there was the time when he fell on his elbow and dislocated it so it was bending the wrong way. My mum was a nurse, so the kids invariably came running for her. Surprisingly, Stephen survived his childhood of freak injuries, and he and my brothers lost touch over the years as childhood friends often do. Hopefully, he’s still with us.

Seeing BirdLand Theatre’s production of Rajiv Joseph’s Gruesome Playground Injuries yesterday afternoon reminded me of that kid – and I’m sure everyone knows, or may have even been, a Stephen MacDonald – although, unlike the play’s character “Doug,” I don’t know that Stephen had a “Kayleen” as  a close friend and intimate witness to the his history of scars.

Kayleen and Doug first meet in the school nurse’s office when they’re eight years old. Doug – pretending to be Evel Knievel, complete with cape – rode his bike off the school roof and cut his head open, while Kayleen has ongoing stomach problems. And thus begins a history of Doug being injured and Kayleen being there to witness, always asking “Does it hurt?” – and Doug believing that Kayleen has some magical touch that makes him feel better. The action of the play takes place out of time and space – the actors entering from a door upstage left, dressed only in their underwear. They emerge, back-lit, through fog and a cacophony of indiscernible sounds (design by Christopher Stanton) – like the garbled voices of memory, alien and distant, almost like they’re onboard an alien spacecraft. The stage (set design by Joseph Pagnan, who also did costumes, and lighting by Gareth Crew) is set with a variety of macabre and medical pieces: bubble wrap bodies, in various states of dismemberment, hanging on chains and sometimes lit red from inside; a bike chained up on the stage right wall; a jungle gym-like structure of scaffolding pipes up left contains one of the twisted plastic corpses; and the hospital items – IV bags, a wheelchair, crutches. Projected photos and scene titles (designed by Jordan Tannahill) guide the audience through the shifts in timing and events, the actors changing costume onstage.

It’s not all nasty and pain, though. Gruesome Playground Injuries has great beauty in the relationship between the two characters – both living with physical and emotional pain, but unable to connect in the long term. Doug and Kayleen’s reunions occur around dire and painful events. It’s like their relationship is too painful to maintain, but too intimate to dissolve entirely. What was especially intimate and tender were the moments when the actors applied make-up injuries to each other, then wiped them off each other after each scene, reinforcing the love and support between these two characters. Powerful, moving and darkly funny performances from Peter Mooney and Janet Porter.

Gruesome Playground Injuries continues at the Theatre Centre until May 13. For more info, visit the BirdLand Theatre website: http://www.birdlandtheatre.com/

Brilliant crazy fun @ Alumnae Theatre’s Così

“Asylums are the most inefficient places on this earth.”

But they can be a very effective place to produce an Italian opera by Mozart.

Alumnae Theatre’s production of Così opened on the main stage last night. Written by Louis Nowra and directed for Alumnae by Jane Carnwath, assisted by Seema Lakhani, Così takes us on a crazy dream of a journey as we follow Lewis on his first job out of university: directing patients in a play at a mental hospital. The rag-tag assortment of patients, all with various conditions, is led by Roy, who conceived the project and is hell-bent on performing Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte. Only thing is, no one can sing opera. Or speak Italian.

The play takes place in early 1970s Melbourne, in a burnt-out, graffiti-riddled theatre. Ed Rosing’s set (built by Lionel Boodlal, Doug Specht & Michael Vitorovitch) and lighting design gives just the right atmosphere of grimy, charred destruction and darkness, gradually evolving as the play progresses to the opera performance – exploding into circus-like colour, lights and disco ball stars. Costumes by Margaret “The Costumator” Spence follow the same trajectory, going from somewhat shabby, worn 70s street wear to fantastical period costumes, as envisioned by the hospital’s occupational therapy group. Rick Jones’s sound design complements the physical design, bringing popular music of the time, as well as selections from the opera. Lighting and music combine beautifully – both at the beginning and the end of the play – to accompany the magic that Roy experiences as he dreams of becoming a part of the music of the spheres, book-ending a lovely lyrical fantasy.

Carnwath’s incredible cast includes some familiar faces from previous Alum productions, and the actors playing the patients did some especially nice work committing to their respective characters and their conditions: Joanne Sarazen (Lewis’s girlfriend Lucy), Jamieson Child (Lewis, previously seen in You Are Here), Ryan Kotack (Lewis’s friend Nick), Michael Vitorovitch (the unpredictable and likely bipolar Roy, GuineaPigging & You Are Here), Sean Speake (social worker Justin), Matt Brioux (pyromaniac Doug, stage debut – and he’s a natural), Christopher Kelk (the silent former lawyer Henry, Palace of the End), Patricia Hammond (impulse control-impaired Cherry, A Delicate Balance & The Queens), Tina McCulloch (Ruth, who has OCD, After Mrs. Rochester), Laura Vincent (heroin addict Julie, GuineaPigging, Palace of the End & Closer) and James Warner (pill-popping musician Zac).

Lovely work from this cast, who displayed commitment, passion and respect for characters who refuse to be defined by their conditions and are driven by a desire to rise above the chaos of their lives to create something beautiful. Just a few of the stand-out moments include: Ruth counting her steps as she sorts out her blocking; Cherry’s constant force-feeding of Lewis (her crush) and scary adeptness with a flick knife; Zac in lederhosen, playing Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries on accordion; and the various hilarious and astute pronouncements (like “Humility can limit you.”) issued by Roy throughout.

Holding all this together are co-producers Natalya Demberg (who, along with Sandy Schneider, put on a tasty opening night reception spread), Ellen Green and Barbara Larose. And presiding over the run from the booth is SM Margot “Mom” Devlin, who also operates lights, assisted on deck by intrepid ASMs Barbara Blonska, Sandra Burley and Pona Tran, and in the booth by sound op Emily Macnaughton.

Alumnae Theatre’s production of Così runs until April 28, with a talkback with cast and production team after the matinée on Sunday, April 22. Please visit their website for details and reservations: http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/1112cosi.html

p.s. – As promised, I added a few pics from The Beautiful and the Damned to yesterday’s post. Tonight, I’m off to George Brown Theatre School to see the third year class’s production of Orpheus Descending, featuring Tennille Read (who Alumnae Theatre folks/audience will remember from Lady Windermere’s Fan & Pride and Prejudice).

April 2012 New Issue!

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Check out our new Theatre Section, brought to you by Life With More Cowbell!  http://lifewithmorecowbell.wordpress.com/

Below are just snippets, for the full reviews click on the see more link.

Alumnae Theatre’s New Ideas Festival – Week three program

Week three was the strongest program of the festival – with sold-out houses for the end of the week and weekend. My pal Kerri MacDonald (one of the NIF co-founders) and I went to the Saturday matinée and had a blast.  see more.

Nightwood Theatre’s FemCab 2012 – strong, proud women inspire & entertain

I had not been to Nightwood Theatre’s annual FemCab (Feminist Cabaret) for many years – and I was so glad I went last night. see more

Alumnae Theatre’s New Ideas Festival – Week Two program

Good morning!

What do Auste-esque intruigue with puppets, magic realism in a life or death situation, an emotionally tortured biologist and a Brit romance novelist visiting Bali have in common? They’re the plays in Alumnae Theatre’s NIF Week Two program! see more

New Ideas – Week One reading & program

So now that we’re all recovering from St. Patrick’s Day festivities, here’s a run-down of Alumnae Theatre’s New Ideas Festival Week One reading and program from yesterday afternoon. see more

Reviewed by Anne. F. Walker

The QWERTY Institute of Cosmetic Typographical Enhancements
Author: Angela Szczepaniak
Publisher:  BookThug 2012
Cost: $25 CDN
Where to buy: http://www.bookthug.ca/proddetail.php?prod=201106&cat=95

The Apothecary
Author: Lisa Robertson
Publisher:  BookThug 2007
Cost: $12 CDN
Where to buy: http://www.bookthug.ca/proddetail.php?prod=361

FIELDNOTES, a forensic
Author: Kate Eichhorn
Publisher:  BookThug 2010
Cost: $18 CDN
Where to buy: http://www.bookthug.ca/proddetail.php?prod=201017

Recently Laura Moriarty, Deputy Director of Small Press Distribution in Berkeley, California, noted that Canadian poets seem to demonstrate an internalized idea that everyday people might read their work, and that this is different from Americans.  I like this idea.  It compliments my sense that Canadian poets as a whole are interested in avant-garde form, and yet remain invested in something tangible, sensual and/or concrete.  Canadian work seems located to me.  Three books which each maintain some of this particular aesthetic are FIELDNOTES, a forensic by Kate Eichhorn (BookThug 2010), The Apothecary by Lisa Robertson (BookThug 2007), and The QWERTY Institute of Cosmetic Typographical Enhancements by Angela Szczepaniak (BookThug 2012).

bpNichol was my first poetry teacher.  I studied with him at York University, and he mentored my poetry before his passing. Once I had asked him what a concrete poem (pond/frog) on his office door meant.  He had me figured out I think.  He said that when one writes in perfect syntax, with correct punctuation, one is working with the established power norms.  He said “fucking with language IS fucking with power.”  I understood.  I began to appreciate why we fuck with language, particularly in ways that invite readers to experience story and song differently.  It is part of a strong Canadian literary tradition, shifting things, exploring shifts.  All of these books work innovatively with form. Two of them open the alphabet into poetry sequences.

In FIELDNOTES, a forensic Kate Eichhorn’s film-script/poetry appears printed inside the cover in gray and black.  The title page on page three of the book is crowded by the prose poetry script that concludes with the lines: “SMASH TO END OF TEASER, ROLL TITLE CREDITS.”  Inside the pages are lyric poems in traditional left-justified form (“skin slippage / gloving / remains in a holding pattern” (16),) prose poems, bits of script. There are words and lines lined out.  A sense of the body and of place, of pattern, seem key.  The decomposition and re-composition we read in the structure appears over and over in the images: “Therapy can include drink.  Complete isolation. Knotted strings around necks. Blood boiled for steam.  Childbirth.  Thrashing.  Counteragents.  Coins” (51). Lists often indicate abundance, overage, too much to examine individually, thus the list.  This known use of the convention of lists in poetry makes heavier this collection’s specific content. FIELDNOTES, a forensic concludes on the inside of the back cover with a transforming list:

DOE, JANE you point and nod
DOE, JANE using a crowbar
DOE, JANE another coroner
DOE, JANE a set of bones
DOE, JANE the examining table
DOE, JANE forensics
label side of DOE, JANE
formalin-fixed DOE, JANE
no traces of Ecstasy DOE, JANE
chloral hydrate DOE, JANE
morphology DOE, JANE
toe tag on table dials skeletal remains
JANE DOE’S RECORDED VOICE
CUE SONG

Lisa Robertson starts out The Apothecary with:

Tersely I find myself beginning with the letters gl instead of grass undeniably to found a presumption of intimacy and station upon myself which would seem to speak not of that scission but of the really normal beauty still floundering between my teeth just as within the wilder dominion urges entertain and puddle seeming to offer proof that weekends once so drowsily couched and now algebraically supplied attach tenderness to symmetrical and embroiled vocabularies.

It’s a train ride that shifts tracks and doubles back.  What first caught me was that Robertson locates herself in language first, finding herself beginning with letters. She assigns emotion to this process, and negotiates how these letters are an “instead of” the very tangible “grass.”    Most of the prose poems use this technique of no periods in the stanza, or poem.  Aligned with bpNichol’s sense of disturbing syntactic norms, this practice pushes my expectation of closure at any given point.  Instead I find a turn replaces a stop. On page thirteen she begins an articulation of “the shimmying throat of an alphabet.”  For nine pages alphabetized titles and short prose poems roam. One italicized lyric poem pulls pages thirty-one and thirty-two, after that poem the prose poems do contain periods internally.  These poems work with the invisible rhythmic turns and twists of the (almost) period-less often-squared double-justified.

The QWERTY Institute of Cosmetic Typographical Enhancements by Angela Szczepaniak invites us into a contextual tone, ironic against the backdrop of this collection, in  “Normal”:

The QWERTY Institute recently put out a citywide call for characters who describe themselves—quite comfortably and without irony—as “normal.” The overwhelming number of candidates who met The Institute’s rigorous normalcy background check were asked a series of identical questions on topics ranging from current events, to art and politics, to the weather. Participants were urged to give their absolutely honest first responses—“the more naked the better” was, in fact, their only instruction. The results of this landmark study remain inconclusive, though its significance can hardly be disputed. The following represents a sampling of the compelling responses that colour the spectrum of “Normal.” The full study may be obtained from The QWERTY Institute for a small processing fee.

This tone is reminiscent to me of the film-script opening of FIELDNOTES, a forensic.  Not in a derivative sense, but in the sense that it instructs the reader on a manner with which to engage with the text.  This is poetry.  It is visual on-the-page.  It is slides, script fragments, large letters, small letters, letters replacing currency and buying bread, “trivia will take the place of paper currency—a loaf of bread will cost roughly 2 scientific facts & an obscure literary quotation” (10), imagined historic journals, comedy sequences, “This is a font comedian. Look at him. Observe him in his natural habitat, the deserted airport bar…” (16), security and passport documents, and and and…

The first eight-six pages are alphabetic concrete and “found” poems.  This pattern resonates with The Apothecary’s nine pages alphabetized prose poems.  It takes the idea in a completely different manner.  The sense, though, of exploring the alphabet through a series of intricately considered parts, is a common element. There is a section “Normal,” that starts on page eight, another on page 28, and on pages 87, 92, 155 and 225.  This is some playful, insane, off the map, narrative-infused, concrete, language poetry.  It forms surprising bridges, between ideas phrased in unexpected forms.  It messes with language in a quite bpNichol-esk tradition.

Already terrified of clowns and big yellow birds, Jeff Cottrill has now added weird green people who live in garbage can’s to my growing list of those to avoid on my journey into the ether-world.  Jeff Cottrill’s one man play, Grouch on a Couch has proven my theory about Sesame Street’s Oscar the Grouch that one should never judge a Grouch until they have heard their tales of woe.

Revealing life lessons with the help of a Bob Newhartesque therapist, the real Grouch surfaces, putting an end to Hollywood myths about his real image, history and resolve.  Grouch on a Couch reminds us that even when covered with the filth of the world, there is always a deeper, underlying story to be heard.

Written in the edgy, biting, realistic humour of Jeff Cottrill, Grouch on the Couch is a dark, gripping satire that should be both read and seen on a stage. After seeing Jeff perform live many times in the last few years, it’s hard not to love Grouch on a Couch and regain sympathy for the stinky man in the garbage can.

Pick up a copy and when the play is back on a stage near you, check it out.

You can also see Jeff at these upcoming shows:

Upcoming shows are listed on Jeff’s site, http://jeffcottrill.com/
In a nutshell:

Storytelling at Caplansky’s
April 22, 8:00
Caplansky’s, 356 College

Jammin’ on the One
May 11, 7:30
Arts and Letter Club, 14 Elm

Also doing Plasticine again in August.

First introduced to  Andrea Machett’s music at an open mic, and most recently hearing her play during the weekly songwriters series called Tumultuous Tuesdays, I’m familiar with this song writers storytelling lyrical stylings.  The sounds of a tasty acoustic guitar and the smooth tones of a beautiful voice make Words and Letters a delight to listen to.

Indie with a dash of Jann Arden, a pinch of Sarah Slean and good helping of acoustic vibrations, Andrea Matchett brings a light touch to a heavy world with gritty lyrics and vibrant riffs. The five song album is filled with great storytelling and a beautiful voice. If the listener can visualize a music video to accompany the music, the songwriter has done their job. Andrea Matchett’s music is a music video being played on a continuous loop.

As mentioned in the review, Tumultuous Tuesdays (https://www.facebook.com/groups/49857668943/) is a weekly songwriters series held at Graffiti’s in Kensington Market.  To see other outstanding performers such as Andrea, you should go check it out.

I look forward to hearing more from this amazing artist.

Andrea’s other links:
RN: http://www.reverbnation.com/andreamatchett
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/andreamatchettmusic
MySpace: www.myspace.com/andreamatchett
Twitter: www.twitter.com/andreamatchett
Facebook Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Andrea-Matchett/352499104241
Bandcamp: http://andreamatchett.bandcamp.com/

Tracks:
One Day
Mirror
Right Where I Began
A Series of Unfortunate Events
The Electric Man

Upcoming shows:
Kincardine on April 12th at the Walker House at 7 pm

April 28th at Kincardine Arts Center at 9 pm

July 14th somewhere on mainstreet Kincardine at 11:30 am (it’s for the Lighthouse Blues Festival)

CJ Sleez’s music is nostalgic of a crazy 90’s house party. Music cranked to eleven, speakers vibrating off the wall, neighbours pounding on the walls.

I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect when I loaded Valley of the Shadow into iTunes.  The album cover art is of a sexy blonde wearing corsets and stilettos.  I truly wasn’t expecting to hear high energy metal blasting out of my speakers when I hit play.  A proven case of don’t judge a book by it’s cover, as what is inside the jewel case is a helluvah good time.

Produced by well known Toronto music producer Rob Sanzo, this album has a powerful heavy metal edge.  A band like CJ Sleez would be a fanatically fun, rock your ass off, sweaty night in a live music venue.  I am very curious to hear them live and hope they book an upcoming show soon.  According to their website they play quite regular at The Bovine, hoping to catch them there soon.

Valley of the Shadow is CJ Sleez’s third album and they are about to release a special edition CD with the Italian Indie label Lunatic Asylum, that will be for sale in Italy, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.  If music isn’t keeping her busy enough, she is also working on my second book.

My only complaint is the CD is only 7 songs long.  With the heavy cost of production, I fully understand independent musicians limitations, but I was left wanting to hear more.

In the meantime, check out their website for bios on the band and merchandise.

CJ SLEEZ IS
CJ Sleez – vocals
Errol H – guitar
Stacy Stray – guitar
Norelle – bass
Danni Action – drums

Track List:
Back to Nowhere
Between Our Hate
In The Flesh
Burn Out
Cut & Pasted
Dirty Looks
Lowest Low

Upcoming shows:
Friday May 18th @ The Bovine.