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Thursday, July 26, 2007

McKiel’s date with the reel

Roche Uhntraal keeps the beat and keeps it strong.

Posted By on Thu, Jul 26, 2007 at 1:51 PM

A chance MySpace message to Halifax's Jon McKiel led to a deal with California-based label Wednesday Records and a recording date at Boston's famed Fort Apache studios. "They were really into some demos I did in Calgary with The Cape May," explains McKiel. "We started emailing back and forth about music and once they found out we didn't have any label support or distro and were ready to record another album they were interested in working with us."

McKiel is excited about recording at Fort Apache, home to some of the most critically acclaimed albums of the '90s, including Radiohead's The Bends, Weezer's Pinkerton and Sebadoh's Bakesale.

"They have a tonne of great gear and history," he says. McKiel, guitarist Mike D'Eon, bassist Josh Kogon, drummer Cory LeBlanc and synth specialist Colin Crowell plan to cut 10 to 12 tracks during their stay. Expect to hear a lot of new material.

"We've been playing a few at shows the past couple of months," he says. "They have never been released, except as snippets on MySpace or demos our friends have heard."

With a Canadian release date planned for September and a American campaign set to kick off in November, McKiel isn't slowing down any time soon. Compared to the soft release of his first album, it's a big change. "It's fairly weird to have the next year of my life planned out in terms of shows both here and in the States, but I'm liking the idea so far," he says. "By my standards, this is a fairly large campaign. Prior to this we've only ever sold CDs at shows and CDPlus on Barrington."

Over the Moon

Jenn Grant's critically lauded Orchestra for the Moon has been turning heads across the country, peaking at number 18 on the Canadian campus charts and receiving amazing press in the Globe and Mail, National Post and countless music publications. This hype was not lost on Toronto's Six Shooter Management, which recently signed the PEI-born, Halifax-based songwriter to a management deal. "We are simply captivated by her," says Six Shooter's Shauna de Cartier. "Her beautiful disc has us all swooning, and her stunning live performances reel us in hook, line and sinker."

"I am thrilled to be working with Six Shooter," says Grant. "I really support what they are doing and am so excited to be a part of their team. I am going to make them muffins with Six Shooter symbols on them."

Remove the Improve

Jon Epworth is sans Improvements for the time being. The band is on an indefinite hiatus while Epworth focuses on his solo material.

"I got a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts and am going to remain in an isolated setting for the next year," he says from his home in LaHave. "I want to challenge myself and become a become a better musician with this grant. I should treat it as a gift."

Bigelow shoes to fill

Wintersleep is almost ready to drop its third album—rumoured date September 4—but the band will be doing so without bassist Jud Haynes. Sources close to the band say that Haynes and Wintersleep parted ways earlier this summer and that Contrived bassist Mike Bigelow will take his place. Expect more Scene and Heard action on this story as details emerge.

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On Ice

Tara Thorne has a variety of screen-related news.

Posted By on Thu, Jul 26, 2007 at 8:41 AM

The National Screen Institute in Winnipeg funds a number of film and television projects and initiatives for Canadian artists every year, including an annual amateur short-film contest, the Drama Prize for a 13-minute dramatic short and a program for first features. It also runs Totally Television, "designed to help writer/producer teams fine-tune their TV series ideas and work towards landing a broadcast development deal."

This year, seven teams were chosen for the 10-month workshop, including local filmmaker Andy Pedersen, whose bridge documentary In the Cards aired on CTV this spring, and his wife, Mary, for their proposed series Ice Queens, about a girls' hockey team in New Glasgow in the 1920s. Andy will act as the producer, Mary as the writer.

"Andy's father is the executive producer on the Canadian Antiques Roadshow," says Mary of the idea's genesis. "He was at a meeting with some executives who said they were looking for a family show on Sunday night and it should have a dog in it." Add a book featuring a vintage picture of a girls' hockey team in New Glasgow and voila—a series. "The captain and the manager have children," says Mary, "and the children teach the dog to bark when the ref makes a bad call."

As part of the application, which included a development budget, projected episode budget and series outline, "we had to write about why we thought we would work together," Mary says, laughing. "We said, "We're married and we're happy so maybe we can work well together.' We'll find out if that's right or not."

The pair will attend a TV boot camp in Toronto in late September, after which they'll have time to re-work their proposal. Then the teams get whittled down to three and they'll head to the annual Banff World Television Festival to pitch their series to the bigs next June. Watch this space for updates.

Shake on it

The Atlantic Film Festival will open on September 13 with Shake Hands with the Devil, the feature film version of Peter Raymont's 2004 documentary about general Romeo Dallaire's experiences during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. The new film is directed by Roger Spottiswoode (Tomorrow Never Dies), filmed in Rwanda and produced by Halifax's own Oscar winner, Michael "Bowling for Columbine" Donovan, who also makes his screenwriting debut. Tickets for the opening film and party go on sale at on August 2, with the rest of the program to follow at the end of the month.

Joy to Atlantic Canada

You know we love to tell you when you can get money for art, so here's some info on the Linda Joy Awards, which are handed out during the Atlantic Film Festival. Named for the late filmmaker Linda Joy Busby, the awards offer financial support in amounts up to $18,000 for "emerging filmmakers and video artists seeking to establish their careers and practice." Alumni include Andrea Dorfman, Mike Clattenburg and Shandi Mitchell.

Applications are available for the Broadcast Script Award, supporting development for a TV script; the Joy Award for production; the Joy Post Award for post-production and one each for New Brunswick and Newfoundland filmmakers. All apps are due August 24.

New to the line-up this year is the Helen Hill Animated Award for animation artists. Hill was a beloved member of the Halifax arts community, who was killed in a random act of violence at her home in New Orleans in January.

"It is no exaggeration to say the loss was felt across the continent and the outpouring of grief illustrated the deeply inspiring and lasting impact Helen had in all the communities of which she was a part during her life," reads the official statement announcing the award. "The celebration of remarkable individuals through memorials which continue, in some measure, to pass down the spirit and knowledge which they brought to us, and to continue to do so into the future, seems entirely appropriate. For this reason, the board, sponsors and staff of the Linda Joy Media Arts Society have established an ongoing award in Helen's name, to be presented each year to an artist in animation."

Applications for this award are due October 26. Download them all at:

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

A new director

Tara Thorne shows us that with Dope Show, more is more.

Posted By on Thu, Jul 19, 2007 at 8:09 AM

Sue Gibson Garvey, beloved director/curator of the Dalhousie Art Gallery, retired earlier this year after 17 years in the fold. This week, Dal announced her successor—local fave Peter Dykhuis, moving over from the Anna Leonowens Gallery, where he's been administrative director since 1996.

"Peter brings nearly 30 years of experience in the Canadian gallery system to Dalhousie," says lan Shaver, Dal's vice president academic and provost. "Susan Gibson Garvey, the outgoing director/curator, is a tough act to follow, but Peter really impressed the search committee with his creativity, energy and people skills. I'm sure he will be a great success and that the students and staff at Dalhousie, and members of the general public, will continue to find that the Dalhousie Art Gallery contributes greatly to their lives."

Dykhuis begins his stint in August with the support of his predecessor. "I am delighted that Peter has accepted this position," says Garvey. "We have worked together on projects in the past and I know he will do an excellent job."

TIFF twofers

There will be some strong Halifax representation at this year's Toronto International Film Festival, which announced its Canadian slate this week. As we speculated last week, the Halifax-shot Poor Boy's Game is in, and that film's local co-writer, Chaz "no relation" Thorne is on fire this year, with his directorial debut, Just Buried, being slotted as well.

Our own Kate Watson predicted this set-up last December after a visit to the set of what was then called Pushing Up Daisies, a better title if you're asking us: "If all goes according to schedule it seems possible that Pushing Up Daisies will be sharing the screen at the 2007 Atlantic Film Festival with another feature film written by Thorne, with Clement VirgoPoor Boy's Game, which wrapped here in June and stars Danny Glover."

Starring Jay Baruchel (currently still on local screens as the guy with the weird hair in Knocked Up), Just Buried is a comedy about a dude who inherits a money pit of a funeral home. There's also an "enchanting mortician" (Rose Byrne) whose father is the chief of police, and a murder cover-up, and a love story.

Also pulling double duty will be Ellen Page, who appears in Bruce McDonald's The Tracey Fragments as well as Kari Skogland's The Stone Angel, with Ellen Burstyn.

No locals, unfortch, scored any of the 43 short slots. TIFF runs September 6 to 15.


The Atlantic Film Festival has announced a cool new program for this year's event. For the past couple years, LA director Norwood Cheek has come to town to lead the Attack of the 50 Foot Reels, a super-8 workshop in which participants shot, edited and screened a three-minute film in one weekend. (Last year's directors included Sue Leblanc-Crawford, Mitchell Wiebe, Veronique MacKenzie-Bourne and Jill Barber.) Cheek has directed more than 70 videos, including clips for Ben Folds Five, Superchunk, Velocity Girl and Archers of Loaf, as well as commercials for Converse and X-Large.

This year he has created 10x10, a program that will match up 10 directors with 10 bands to make 10 music videos. (No VideoFACT grants to fill out here!) So if you're a filmmaker who wants to make a video, or a band with at least one record who wants a video to be made, you should head over to and apply by July 30. It'll cost you $25, which is cheaper than that time you had to FedEx your Factor apps.

Pod boy

Mike Clattenburg has directed the pilot of jPod, a new Canadian series based on the Douglas Coupland novel of the same name, marking Clattenburg's first post-Trailer Park Boys project. Coupland's popular 2006 novel is an update of his masterful 1994 tome Microserfs and centres on a handful of video game programmers in Vancouver and is full of the technology wanks, mafia side stories and remarkable coincidences Coupland has been employing in his last few books, as well as a character named Douglas Coupland. Alan Thicke is one of the stars, but he's unfortunately not playing Douglas Coupland. Look for jPod in 2008.

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All apologies

Roche Uhntraal has three, with two tales of twos.

Posted By on Thu, Jul 19, 2007 at 7:51 AM

If you are looking for the current elder statesmen of the Halifax music scene, look no further than The Sorrys. Sure, the band has only been around since 2004, but with two professors, an ESL teacher and an ad writer in its line-up, no one is going to mistake the band for students.

Not that it's an issue with vocalist Trevor Millet. "I think the bigger issue in terms of our age is that it's more difficult to get out to see bands and become ensconced in the scene," he says. "Most of us have families and when we get our chance to head out it's almost always to get together, drink beer and write music or play shows. That's our party time."

The Sorrys' next big party takes place July 20 at Gus' Pub, when the band will celebrate the release of its debut album The Last Clear Thought Before You Fall Backwards, a 14-track smorgasborg of classic indie rock that the band recorded with fellow scene veteran Charles Austin.

To support the release the band will tour with some Maritimes dates, but Millet says he doesn't expect them to hit the road full-time in the near future. "There won't be any hopping in a van and heading out on the cliche. That's why no one will ever sign us, although a guy from some label in the States called Merge keeps calling. Have you ever heard of them? Probably some dog and pony show."

Duo part one

When it comes down to basic economics, touring as a duo makes a lot of sense. Fewer people to pay and more money for each member. You even get more room to sleep in the van. Just ask Shiloh Harrison, guitarist/vocalist of Cambridge, Ontario, duo HotKid.

"We tour in Goldie, our lovely "98 GMC Safari equipped with bed, curtains and room for a third," she says from the midst of the band's latest east coast tour. Harrison and her partner in crime Peter MacIntosh made their Halifax debut last summer (supporting the soon to be re-released Got it to Give), and are set for an all-ages barnburner July 20 at One World Cafe.

The band looks forward to its triumphant return. "Last summer the response we got here was great," says Harrison. "And we were both impressed by the size of the rats in your fine city."

Duo part deux

It's been a week since The White Stripes whipped out a secret six-song set at Locas, and the bar is still abuzz with excitement. "I don't know why they picked the place, but when they came in they said it was a great space," says Mike Cann of Locas.

And the bar has seen a spike in drop-ins since. Staff and patrons are getting ready a display to commemorate the event. "We actually put an X on the floor where Meg's drum set was set up," says Cann. "Right between tables five and six." Fans have been donating everything from a guitar pick, used by Jack at the show, to merch t-shirts. Many of the items donated are being framed. "We expect them to be on display in a couple of weeks."

Only 140 fans out of the estimated 1,000-plus who arrived at the bar were allowed inside, but those who made it enjoyed an intimate, ear-bleedingly good time. "Jack started saying it wasn't loud enough, so they turned up and started playing again and stuff started falling out behind the bar," says Cann. "The feeling in the room was incredible, everyone had ear-to-ear smiles on their faces."

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Just another reason for fall to come quicker

Tara Thorne fills your boots with arts news.

Posted By on Thu, Jul 12, 2007 at 2:57 PM

Announcements are starting to come down from the Atlantic Film Festival, beginning with this year's crop of Inspired Script participants. The program has gone through a change from previous years: It "goes forward by moving back—to the feature film outline," says AFF programming manager Andrew Murphy. "Six talented Atlantic Canadian writers have been chosen to take their inspiring stories from an outline to the treatment stage and then pitch them to industry professionals for the chance at receiving further financial and professional development from our sponsors."

This year's line-up of scribes is an experienced roster of local filmmakers. Drea Hagen and Chris Cuthbertson are the team behind last year's AFF-screened feature A Bug and a Bag of Weed, Warren Jefferies directed the Halifax hip-hop doc The 902, Iain MacLeod was a staff writer on Trailer Park Boys while his co-writer Deanne Foley wrote and directed short fave Trombone Trouble, Meredith Ralson has produced documentaries in association with the National Film Board and coming in from New Brunswick is Saint John's Brent Shepard, who's got some irons in the TV fire.

The participants will work with Canadian industry legend Al Magee to get their outlines into a pitchable treatment shape. The winner, to be chosen during this year's AFF (September 13-22), will get development money from Telefilm and have their script read at a live reading during the 2008 of the festival.

In other AFF news they've announced that Peter Greenaway will be the special guest at this year's Academy Luncheon, on September 16. Tickets will be available through

Flim Halifax

Although the strong dollar and the winter's ACTRA strike built a speed bump for local film and television production in 2007 (but Tom Selleck is back in town for the latest Stone Cold and that Lifetime MOW, which didn't have a star last time we heard, is gearing up as well) the Nova Scotia Film Development Corporation is reporting that 2006 was great, with revenues up 12 percent to $136 million.

You can thank 14 series, 15 specials and terrible TV movies Wedding Wars (Stamos! McSteamy!), Candles on Bay Street (oh, Alicia) and the post-Buffy Charisma Carpenter-starrer Relative Chaos for the boost. Also don't forget about this fall's space Viking odyssey Outlander, produced by a Weinstein and starring Jesus (Jim Caviezel).

But seriously—we're going to be positive here, for reals—much credit must go to Poor Boy's Game, the Clement Virgo-directed feature co-written by local Chaz Thorne (no relation). Starring Danny Glover, Tonya Lee Williams and Wes "Maestro" Williams, the Nova Scotia-shot and <0x2013>set film premiered to acclaim at Berlinale earlier this year, and we wouldn't be surprised to see it in the list of Canadian features that will be announced by the Toronto International Film Festival on July 17.

"Nova Scotia's production community is an impressive mix of creativity, talent, experience and business skills," says the NSFDC's CEO Ann MacKenzie. "Aside from the superior film, television and new-media projects being produced locally, the province's depth of actors, crew and stunning locations have created an environment where guest productions want to film."

Out and about, onscreen

Thom Fitzgerald's Reel Out Film Festival returns to the Pride festivities after a successful first year in 2006 with Queens!, a Spanish film featuring five mothers dealing with their sons in the days leading up to the country's first gay wedding. The film screens July 14 at Park Lane at 7pm. The $15 ticket (available at gets you into the post-movie art reception at Fitzgerald's gallery eMotion, where he'll launch Art: The Disposable Show featuring photographs taken with disposable cameras by the likes of Gus Van Sant, Harvey Fierstein and Alan Cumming. Reel Out runs through July 19.

Sculpture vulture

We encourage north-end dwellers and visitors to take a stroll by the Halifax North Memorial Library, at 2285 Gottingen, to check out the truly fab new sculpture that was erected out front at the end of June. Designed by NSCAD's Doug Bamford and Stephen Brathwaite and featuring George Elliot Clarke's poem "North is Freedom," it's a vibrant addition to the neighbourhood. We like!

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Thursday, July 5, 2007

History lesson

Roche Uhntraal knows who isn’t playing the Common.

Posted By on Thu, Jul 5, 2007 at 1:01 PM

Post-hardcore act A History Of kick off their upcoming eastern Canadian tour at Reflections Cabaret on Wednesday, July 11. They're supporting their debut EP, Victory Atlas (Noyes Records). Made up of Noel MacDonald, Jeffrey Parker, Lance Purcell and Andrew Gordon Macpherson, A History Of brings "frantic energy built on angular rhythms and fiery guitar attacks." Victory Atlas is described as a "melodic cross section of DC punk and Chicago math rock." Comprised of members from The Plan, Intercity Runner and Tomcat Combat, you know these guys are serious about their mathematics. Tickets for the show are $3 (awesome!) and available at the door. The show will start at 10pm and feature performances from Ontario's Sleep the Season, Dead Pinkertons and Skullet.

Ire alarm

Wax Mannequin's new album, Orchard and Ire (out now on Infinite Heat Records), already has my vote for the best of 2007. It focuses on many of the same themes as 2004's The Price: animals, heavy riffs, robots, doctors and, you know, the price. Wax Mannequin (AKA Chris Adeney) performances are strange and beautiful; he delivers his intense roars and meows with more conviction than most singers deliver lines about broken hearts. And then there are the roses.

"I have a condition now—a disease where there are roses from my blood. I have to get rid of them each night," he says. "I have to throw them at you and quite often they are covered in things like sweat and blood."

Between the flowers, the varied odes to animals and the rawness of Adeney's voice, there is an undeniably wild quality to the music. "I am a wild-nature man. Mostly on the inside. I do think about that stuff all the time," says Adeney. "Mostly about battles where all of the animals join together like a giant robot to destroy us or make us better."

A Wax Mannequin show usually contends with devoted fans who like to sing along at top volume. But Adeney deals. "I usually have several layers of vocals and harmonies on most of my loud songs, so the audience can help sing those parts," he says. "I'm trying to write more where I give the people specific things to do and say." Wax Mannequin performs Saturday, July 7, at Gus' Pub.

Seventh nation army

On Saturday, July 7, local Iron Maiden cover band 2 Minutes to Maiden will be performing one of Iron Maiden's great epics, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (plus other favourites). The show will also be a farewell to longtime band member and friend Lee Perrin.

Tegan & Sara & Billy

Canadian indie-darlings Tegan and Sara have decided to give you all a break. Due to popular demand, a second show has been added on Wednesday, October 17, at 8pm in addition to the already scheduled performance on Tuesday, October 16, at 8pm at St. Matthew's United Church.

Popular Canadians Billy Talent are touring the east coast to support their new album, II. Special guests are illScarlett and The Saint Alvia Cartel. It's an all-ages bonanza September 8 at Alderney Landing. Tickets are $39.50 in advance and $44.50 day of show (taxes included) and go on sale this Friday, July 6 at 10am. Tickets are available at all Ticketpro outlets, by calling 1-888-311-9090, or online at

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Twenty times a Lady

Tara Thorne hates the heat but loves summer theatre.

Posted By on Thu, Jul 5, 2007 at 7:59 AM

Summer theatre is off on its merry way these days, and jumping into the pool this week is Festival Antigonish, celebrating its 20th frakkin' season. (That's for all you Battlestar fans whose Emmy hopes were dashed by an inside source this week.) It's kicking off musical-style, the best kind, with No Way to Treat a Lady, written by one of our favourite book writers whose films rarely interest us, William Goldman.

True story: we were once seated on a couch kitty-corner to Mr. Goldman, he of All the President's Men and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid fame, and he was just reading the paper, right there, a knee away, but we didn't recognize him until he got up to leave. Read his book, Which Lie Did I Tell?

But before you do that, head down to the 'Nish and check out this play, which stars two of our favourites, Marty Burt and Shelley Thompson, plus people we'd probably love once we checked them out: Carson Nattrass, Margot Sampson and Bridget Bezanson. Burt's Kit Gill is an actor with the most mommy issues this side of Norman Bates who charms his way into a middle-aged woman's life and plans to kill her while a detective pursues him. It's directed by Cliff LeJeune, who is stoked to be back at the festival. "There's such a great feeling of "company' here," he says. "It really is a beautiful and well-oiled machine."

No Way to Treat a Lady opens Friday, July 5 and runs through August 16. Hit or call 867-3333 for schedules and ticket reservations.

Kick, push

We don't have a sports column but we're happy to remind you that the official opening of the Halifax Skatepark—originally skedded during monsoon season, you know, late June—goes on Thursday, July 5. The Jimmy Swift Band will play, but more importantly you'll get to see demos from the raddest local riders, be able to pick up a free helmet and bug the mayor about the Common shows while he serves you a hot dog. (Madonna, dude!)

There will also be art and face painting and the unveiling of the new mural on the side of the Pavilion. The fun starts at 5:30pm, weather, but of course, permitting.

For the love of Mike

Mike MacDonald, the only comedian ever to perform at every single Just for Laughs festival in Montreal—this year makes 25!— drops by the Halifax Yuk Yuks for three days this week. He stops here on his "Back to My Roots" tour, which hits this year's JFL as part of a gala hosted by George Lopez.

MacDonald's official bio is pretty persuasive: "He's Canada's equivalent of a fine wine that just keeps getting better and better and is guaranteed to make you feel good." What more do you want? The shows are from July 5 to 7, with tickets starting at $12. See for deets or call 429-9857.

The Players, the thing

Looking ahead to fall, Dartmouth Players has announced its 2007-2008 line-up with dates to be finalized. The community theatre will begin with the play-within-a-play Jitters, written by David French, which follows a washed-up actor as she "tries to impress a Broadway producer only to be foiled by an actor who is worried that if the play goes to New York he will be exposed as a hack. In the play within the play, of course, they are lovers."

That will be followed by the English romcom Good Things, about a woman nearing 50 trying to decide if she should try to love again. The Clean House is "an unpredictable drama in which the act of cleaning house transforms the lives of two unlikely sisters." (Are there any other kind of siblings than unlikely?)

And the Players will wrap up their twenty-first season with The Spitfire Grill, based on the underseen 1996 film by Lee David Zlotoff: "A feisty parolee follows her dreams, based on a page from an old travel book, to a small town in Wisconsin and finds a place for herself working at Hannah's Spitfire Grill."

The Players will also remount their production of Nunsense, which had a mad crazy sellout run last November, from August 16 to18 and 22-25. We recommend calling them up and getting your tix now: 465-7529.

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