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Monday, March 23, 2020

Six ways to broaden your mind wider than social distance requirements

Your body might be atrophying on the couch but your brain doesn't have to.

Posted By on Mon, Mar 23, 2020 at 4:50 PM

Roxanne Smith's The Mirror is one of many local artworks you can get up close and e-personal with by viewing Teichert Gallery's new, online-only showcase. - ROXANNE SMITH PHOTO
  • Roxanne Smith's The Mirror is one of many local artworks you can get up close and e-personal with by viewing Teichert Gallery's new, online-only showcase.
  • Roxanne Smith photo
So here you are, googling work-from-home hacks; making your own sourdough starter; generally trying to figure out what our new normal looks like as the province enters a state of emergency and COVID-19 continues to shake our world. You're bored or busy with remote work or maybe both. Time has never felt more like a construct.

How do you stop the days bleeding into each other as you self-isolate? How do you fill the time as your social calendar is scrubbed clean? What is left to do when you've swum so far into the depths of Netflix you need to come up for air?

You feed your brain. You engage with culture, even if it's through a screen because that's what life right now demands. You breathe deep, open a new browser tab, and enrich your self-quarantined life. Here are some ideas from 
learning to sing, to virtually  visiting a gallery  to get you started:

Learn to sing with Arsoniste
The Halifax-based alt-pop singer-songwriter has the sort of floaty voice that feels like gossamer on your eardrums. Now, she's helping you work your pipes, too, teaching online voice and piano lessons during COVID-19. Email or DM her on Instagram to start your own musical journey. Rates start at $45.

See the world thanks to the Google Arts & Culture app
A free way to see thousands of iconic artworks and landmarks from around the world, up close and personal thanks to the detail-enriching zoom feature. Swipe through New York's best street art, take a virtual tour of the Eiffel Tower, project famous paintings onto your wall to recreate the gallery experience and much more. Download it through the Apple App Store or Google Play.

Connect with local art thanks to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and Teichert Gallery
To give you a daily dose of creative excellence, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is treating COVID-19 as a chance to acquaint its social media following with works from its permanent collections. Follow the gallery on Facebook so you can see vital works ranging from Maud Lewis' country scenes to Leonard Paul's landscapes.

Teichert Gallery, meanwhile, has taken its most recent exhibit, Halifax Art Map: Art OFF The Map completely online so you can see piece by artists living in the city.

Check out something new from the library
As we reported Friday, Halifax Public Libraries has made it possible for you to apply for a library card electronically. This means a whole world of books, magazines and more has just opened up for you to download to your device of choice. There are also options to learn another language or pick up a new skill like photography or coding. Read more here.

Dive into the deeps with The Ocean School
The Ocean School has launched a free crop of daily online activities aimed at the Grade 7 to 9 set but, tbh, we think this e-learning course will help adult ocean lovers feel satiated with tidbits like a 360 degree video about why sharks are awesome and more. Get started here.

Learn a new language with Duolingo
The lil' green owl is back to help you learn French, Spanish or one of 30 other languages through a mix of quizzes, questions and the new stories feature, where you read and listen along to slice-of-life situations in your soon-to-be second language. The app reported last week a record-breaking uptick in users as COVID-19 continues, adding more new features are on the way. Download it for free through the Apple App Store or Google Play.

And, as always: Keep washing your hands. Wipe commonly used surfaces. Stay home if you feel sick. Check 811 to see if you qualify for testing—if you're sick but don't qualify, stay home anyways. If you feel sick, don't go to work—and be kind to those who have to. 
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Tuesday, March 17, 2020

East Coast Music Awards get COVID-cancelled

Twenty-eight Halifax-based acts were set to perform at the annual ECMA fest.

Posted By on Tue, Mar 17, 2020 at 5:16 PM

Adam Baldwin was set to play at the ECMAs as he celebrated last year's Dire Straits'y EP No Rest For The Wicked. - MATT WILLIAMS PHOTO
  • Adam Baldwin was set to play at the ECMAs as he celebrated last year's Dire Straits'y EP No Rest For The Wicked.
  • Matt Williams photo
Once the Junos called it curtains, we should've known this would be next: The East Coast Music Awards, a music festival, awards ceremony and local industry booster in equal measures, announced today it's cancelling its 2020 event in St. John's, Newfoundland as COVID-19 concerns continue.

"We are admittedly devastated to cancel this event and our thoughts are with all of the hard working musicians and industry professionals who are facing a tremendous degree of uncertainty in the face of this unprecedented public health issue," reads a press release from the board of directors.

The ECMAs are a chance for musicians to connect with fans and wow new crowds, of course, but playing the Maritime Grammys is also a significant networking opportunity lost for invited artists. From Clayton Park's own triple-threat Zamani to Halifax music vet Leanne Hoffman to the Dire Straits-y rock 'n' roller Adam Baldwin, 28 Halifax-based sets of golden vocal chords would've been performing at the weekend-long event that was slated for April 29 to May 3.

Continue reading »

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Thursday, March 12, 2020

Junos cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns

At least we can still stream award host Alessia Cara's excellent album The Pains Of Growing while we self-quarantine.

Posted By on Thu, Mar 12, 2020 at 2:32 PM

Alessia Cara was slated to host and perform at the Juno Awards this weekend. - ALESSIACARA.COM SCREENSHOT
  • Alessia Cara was slated to host and perform at the Juno Awards this weekend.
  • screenshot
Saturday, March 15 was supposed to see Saskatoon overrun with some of the most luminous stars in Canadian music as the 49th Juno Awards doled out statuettes that look sorta like The Oscar dude doing a ribbon dance.

Instead, the doors of the SaskTel Centre will be closed, as CBC Music says the awards are being cancelled amidst growing concerns of COVID-19. The Canadian equivalent to The Grammys is not the first arts-related event to be shelved as public concern grows: earlier this week music festivals South By Southwest and Cochella were cancelled and postponed, respectively.

CBC quotes a press release from The Junos and the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, saying "We are devastated to cancel this national celebration of music, but at this time of global uncertainty, the health, safety and well-being of all Canadians must stand at the forefront of any decisions that impact our communities."

Continue reading »

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Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Listen to this: Laura Roy's "Halifax"

London's biggest R&B star-on-the-rise shouts out her hometown with a stripped-back new single.

Posted By on Tue, Mar 10, 2020 at 12:41 PM

"You cant just move back to a city and everything will be fine," says Roy. - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • "You cant just move back to a city and everything will be fine," says Roy.
  • Submitted photo
Laura Roy doesn’t miss home. The R&B superstar-on-the-rise has been too busy making London her city to think much about Halifax: This much is clear when she answers the phone to chat about her new single while simultaneously piling in the van for the next tour stop, supporting Anne-Marie (a sort of British Carly Rae Jepsen with over 25,090,000 monthly listeners on Spotify).

Singing backing for Anne-Marie is the sort of thing Roy dreamed of when she left Halifax (well, the waterfront campus of NSCC in Dartmouth if we want to be specific) for Toronto, the city everyone told her she needed to move to to make it. Her music, meanwhile, a slick unspooling of R&B-drenched pop, is synth-baked enough to make anywhere feel like a dance floor and feels decidedly more UK than TO—making her jump across the Atlantic make sense.

But, as she spends time recording a new EP, Roy—who grew up in Canning, Nova Scotia— is taking a break from her Lianne La Havas-influenced brand of lovelorn dance music to drop a “new, stripped back” single, called “Halifax.”

The song was recorded as “just a one-take in my living room, very intimate. It was about a relationship, but the idea of attaching to places or things when you have to let go to be able to move forward and grow. You cant just move back to a city and everything will be fine,” says Roy.

She’s excited for this rainy afternoon anthem, adding: “My last couple of releases were quite stripped back. I think people enjoy that because you can really hear my voice and music. People back home know me for that. There’s a focus on the actual song and putting something out that’s raw and personal.”

And while “Halifax” brings to mind the old adage that you can never go home again, Roy also hopes this song will prove to be more than just an ear worm: “I really want people to feel something, to listen to music and feel connected to it.”

See (er, listen) for yourself:

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Thursday, March 5, 2020

Ten questions with Villages

"A buddy of ours once described us as sounding like the Rankin Family if they were produced by Brian Eno," the Cape Breton four-piece shares.

Posted By on Thu, Mar 5, 2020 at 5:51 PM

The Villages lads mean muggin'. - DYLAN CHEW PHOTO
  • The Villages lads mean muggin'.
  • Dylan Chew photo
After recently signing to the same label as Matt Mays and Hey Rosetta! (that's Sonic Records, for those keeping track), it feels safe to say that world domination is next for Villages. The Cape Breton four-piece are folk, sure, but in a way that's more Fleet Foxes-y than jigs-and-reel: addictive and emotive but as fresh as a blast of sea air. Back in Halifax after an extensive western Canada tour, the band will open for Matthew Good at The Marquee Ballroom (2037 Gottingen Street) March 6 and 7.

We caught up with the crew in advance of the gigs to talk TV addictions and pre-show routines. 

1. What is the most non-negotiable part of your pre-show routine?

Jon: Our pre-show routine has changed a bit over the years but one thing that remains non-negotiable is that we hang out together before a show. Even if we are playing a hometown show, we make it a point to get together and chill as a group. Post-show, we usually hit the Dominos app.

2. Tell us about a TV show or movie you’re totally obsessed with right now?

Archie: Spoiler alert: I’ve recently put a good-sized dent in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel series. It’s about an upper-class housewife that kind of stumbles into doing stand-up comedy in New York City during the late 1950s and early 1960s. There are definitely similarities between comedians and musicians and the ups and downs they experience. So, it’s rad to watch this show about a performer starting from the bottom, to getting her first big opening slot and then her first big tour. Plus, it’s from the same creator as Gilmore Girls so it’s a no brainer.

3. What is the Instagram account you love seeing new posts from? (Bonus points if you link to a post from said account.)

Archie: @animalsdoingthings is exactly what it sounds like. Choice animal videos from the far reaches of the internet. Request to follow, pull up a seat, go down the rabbit hole. Pardon the pun.

View this post on Instagram

Ready set go (Via: @pritix3)

A post shared by Animals Doing Things (@animalsdoingthings) on

4. What was the first album you ever bought with your own money?

Jon: The first record I ever bought was Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill. It was an onslaught of hits and I listened to it incessantly. At 12 years old, I had never heard lyrics like that before. Holed up in my room in rural Cape Breton with my Discman and JLP - I thought I was quite punk.  

5. If you were a meme, what meme would you be?

We’re a dog band.

6. Tell us about the best live show you’ve ever been to.

Matt: I’d have to say seeing Andy Irvine at the Seanchai in 2019. The setting was intimate and Irvine was on fire. It was surreal to watch my musical hero tell stories and perform such intricate songs with ease. There were a few moments when he would attempt a song and stop midway through, telling the audience that he hasn’t played this song in a while so be patient with him - it was incredibly charming, honest and inspirational.

7. How would you describe your music/sound in a sentence?

Travis: A buddy of ours once described us as sounding like the Rankin Family if they were produced by Brian Eno. Such a flattering depiction. Shouts to Alex at Ametora Supply in Lunenburg!

8. What’s the best part of being in a band/being a musician?

Matt: The best part of being in a band is when we have a breakthrough on a song. We tirelessly mull over ideas either in our studio or in our heads trying to perfect them. There’s no better feeling than when it finally clicks.

9. Screenshot your Spotify heavy rotation—or tell us a couple of albums/artists you can’t stop listening to.

Travis: We recently toured Western Canada for the first time and had a few 12-plus hour treks through the prairies. We always have music on the go, so I created a playlist of new releases we’ve been listening to. Tame Impala is always a van staple, but records from Bonny Light Horseman, Soccer Mommy, Caribou and a live Richard Thompson are getting some serious spins.


Fill in the blank: if you weren’t making music, you’d be _____________.

Thinking about making music.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Buffy Sainte-Marie to play Halifax August 26

Catch the iconic singer-songwriter at Casino Nova Scotia.

Posted By on Tue, Feb 25, 2020 at 4:23 PM

Sainte-Marie will be one of the summer's hottest tickets. - TREVOR BRADY PHOTO
  • Sainte-Marie will be one of the summer's hottest tickets.
  • Trevor Brady photo
Without her there'd be no Jeremy Dutcher. Heck, there'd be no Joni Mitchell. Yep, long before the "Indigenous renaissance" that saw Dutcher win a JUNO and the Snotty Nose Rez Kids revolutionize Canadian hip hop, there was Buffy Sainte-Marie, pioneering the ’60s singer-songwriter genre with a catalogue of tunes as thematically weighty as they are sonically light. Now, as the icon finally reaches new levels of recognition (Pitchfork gave her 1969 breakthrough album Illuminations a long-overdue nine out of 10 review earlier this month), she's hitting Casino Nova Scotia's Schooner Room to baptize our ears and soothe our hearts.

With 19 new songs "about the environment, alternative conflict resolution, Indigenous realities, greed and racketeering," as a press release promises, the August 26 show will light a fire in your belly, too. Tickets are on sale as of Feb 28, starting at $64.99 plus fees. Get them at
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Monday, February 10, 2020

Alessia Cara to play Halifax Jazz Fest on July 9

Toronto's biggest musical export since Drake headlines the waterfront main stage.

Posted By on Mon, Feb 10, 2020 at 4:10 PM

NBD but Alessia Cara is label mates with the likes of Justin Bieber, BTS and Mariah Carey. - DEFJAM.COM SCREENSHOT
  • NBD but Alessia Cara is label mates with the likes of Justin Bieber, BTS and Mariah Carey.
  • screenshot
From recording acoustic covers in her basement to hitting the stage at Saturday Night Live to winning a Grammy for best new artist in 2018, it's safe to say Alessia Cara has spent her teen years in an ascent, a come-up, rising into popular conscious off the back of her totally-perfect (I will not entertain any detractors) coming-of-age opus The Pains of Growing the same way you hoped to raise to the middle of your high school's social order.  Not since Drake has Toronto had such a mainstream-acknowledged, R&B-tinged export. She's brought new life to your playlists and eardrums.

Now, she's bringing new life to your summer, too: Halifax Jazz Festival has announced its first run of names for the 2020 fest, which runs July 7 to 12.  Cara shares the announcement with the likes of indie darling Andy Shauf and drumming legend Larnell Lewis. Cara will be playing the waterfront main stage July 9 and advance tickets are on sale now for $58.40
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Friday, January 31, 2020

Flex through this Super Bowl weekend with these Sure Things

Posted By on Fri, Jan 31, 2020 at 2:53 PM

This Super Bowl weekend is a touchdown, with double-duty events aplenty like a dance night that doubles as a cultural enrichment, a beer bar that's also a pinballer's paradise and art shows that double as activism. Get ready to get inspired.

  • Submitted photo

FIN Fridays: Perfume War
The film fest has some off-season fun with these pop-up screenings, held the last Friday of each month at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. First up? This documentary that shows how two friends worked towards world peace with an unlikely weapon: perfume oils. more deets

Best of Constellate 2019

Inspired by the likes of The Moth in New York, the duo behind Constellate began the live storytelling night because they love it, but also "we're both community-oriented people," as organizer Greg Puncher told The Coast last summer. Here, a greatest hits of sorts sees group members sharing live, true tales from recent events at The Bus Stop Theatre—which, FYI, received conditional funding from Council this week, meaning the vital north end arts hub is making serious headway in saving its space. Read more in this week's Coast. more deets

  • Alejandro Rizzo Nervo artwork

The Sea Is In Her Blood
Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday
It's your last chance to see the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic's exhibit exploring the sea-sprayed stories of 17 women whose lives have been shaped by the ocean. more deets

Memorial: Work By Venezuelan Diaspora Artists
Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday

Seven emerging Venezuelan diaspora artists are bringing their art to Halifax. Their pieces touch on themes of loss and memory as a result of being displaced from their birthplace. The exhibition, curated by Camila Salcedo, features photography, video and virtual reality—among other mediums—to unpack topics like family lineage and history or news and grandparents. Read more about the show before you see it at The Khyber. more deets

Big Cats & A Crocodile
Thursday, Friday, Saturday

With this body of work, artist Natasha Verbeke pulls apart her complicated relationship with Baroque-era painter Peter Paul Rubens. Movement and composition are explored through layers of washes and mark-making in these large scale oil paintings. See them at the Anna Leonowens Gallery. more deets

Plate Portraits
Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday
An exhibit by artist Emily Lawrence explores food's connection to memory. Based on interviews with people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, Lawrence re-constructed memorable foods and photographed them "as a means of memory retrieval." Read more from our chat with Lawrence and see the works at Halifax Central Library's fifth-floor Sunroom. more deets

  • Submitted photo

Flava feat. DJ Tranzishen and DJ 5Rivers

Get spicy and sweaty as two of the hottest up-and-coming Halifax DJs and BFFs—that’s DJ 5RIVERS and DJ Tranzishen—mix a steady stream of Reggae, hip hop, dancehall, Punjabi, R&B and Afrobeats at Art Bar. more deets

Kristen Martell

Kristen Martell's sunshine-y, optimistic songs are like Vitamin D to your ears. Read more about the Sarah Harmer-influenced singer-songwriter here—and see her live at The Carleton, too. more deets

MichaelMichael w/Lvbor Cvmp, Tawnie Lucas, High October, Rootabagga
Tawnie Lucas, pictured, delivers a Lana Del Ray affectation over slick-as-syrup EDM, making the singer-songwriter's music perfect for your party playlist and your morning-after tunes, too. more deets
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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Sloan comes back home with Navy Blues tour

The legendary record will be performed front-to-back.

Posted By on Wed, Jan 29, 2020 at 4:55 PM

Chris, Andrew, Patrick and Jay. - LISA MARK
  • Chris, Andrew, Patrick and Jay.
When Sloan dropped Navy Blues in 1998, it was after a few tumultuous years of attempted solo side projects and the hard work of cracking the U.S. market. Perhaps the reason why people went so nuts for the record was because it was proof their favourite band had weathered the storm—and still had its same sense of irreverent rock 'n' roll in a post–One Chord To Another world.

Or perhaps the band that made everyone believe we were the Seattle of the North needed no redemption arc. Perhaps the fact that the entire album slaps, even today, is enough.

Regardless of which camp you fall in, Sloan fans will be psyched to hear the four-piece is coming to Halifax to play the record in its entirety followed by a set of classic hits on May 2 at 9pm at The Marquee Ballroom. Tickets go on sale Jan 31 at for $38.49, so warm up that credit card.

In the meantime, fuel your excitement/nostalgia with this definitive ranking of all Sloan songs, from worst to best—and the time Halifax voted Sloan's turmoil—"from them breaking up to them not breaking up, with lots of bitterness about the band moving to Toronto"—the worst thing in the live music scene in 1998 in that year's Best of Halifax Readers' Choice Awards.
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Monday, January 27, 2020

The Black Keys are coming to Halifax

The rock royalty continues its reign as it hits Halifax May 5.

Posted By on Mon, Jan 27, 2020 at 11:40 AM

After dropping an album that proved the duo still has lots to say—and still knows how cut a deep groove—in 2019's Let's Rock, the Black Keys are coming to Halifax. Hitting the Scotiabank Centre May 5 at 7:30pm, the six-time-Grammy-winning blues rock duo will share the stage with The Sheepdogs and Early James, kicking off the Canadian leg of its tour. Tickets go on sale Jan 31 and will be available at and but price is TBA as of yet. 
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Thursday, January 23, 2020

Ten questions with Braden Lam

The Driftwood People's front person dishes about Stanning Tim Baker and his NSYNC phase.

Posted By on Thu, Jan 23, 2020 at 3:37 PM

Braden Lam, pictured in the white shirt with his band Driftwood People, has been selling out shows since late 2018. His brand of positive indie folk is a favourite with other students, but he's working to make sure he and his band don't remain a campus band. - SUBMITTED
  • Braden Lam, pictured in the white shirt with his band Driftwood People, has been selling out shows since late 2018. His brand of positive indie folk is a favourite with other students, but he's working to make sure he and his band don't remain a campus band.
  • Submitted
He's been, it feels, a star poised to shoot from the start: Selling out spaces like The Carleton to fellow students to see their favourite indie-folkster sing about love and growing up. Winning prizes like the Best of Halifax Readers' Choice Award for Best New Band and the SOCAN Award For Young Canadian Songwriters. Earning (and ultimately outgrowing) comparisons to a young Justin Bieber for his clean-cut look and sound. 

Yep, for Braden Lam and his band Driftwood People, success has proven to not be a question but an assertion. "It’s easy to be a student band and keep playing in the bubble of campus but we’ve done a good job of pulling students off-campus and pulling other people into our fanbase," he told The Coast when notified of his Best of Halifax win last November.

Lam and the Driftwood People have kept busy, touring and working on new tracks while they waited for you to notice them. But now, the band is back in Halifax—ready to hit the stage Friday Jan 24 at The Seahorse Tavern, opening for The Town Heroes. Before he does, though, Lam takes five to fill in an updated version of The Coast's questionnaire:

1 What is the most non-negotiable part of your pre-show routine?
We share a bag of goldfish. Non-negotiable. Well, actually, Nick eats most of the bag and the rest of us get a couple. Legend has it that if one of us doesn’t eat any goldfish pre-show, then something will go wrong on stage (broken string, out of tune bass, cables unplugged). I don’t believe it, but the majority are convinced.

2Tell us about a TV show or movie you’re totally obsessed with right now?
I’m currently binging Suits on Netflix. I never thought a show about lawyers could be so interesting, but all of the tension and witty-ness of the storyline make it SO good.

3 What is the best Instagram account you follow?
My friend @emmett_sparling from Vancouver does amazing travel photography all around the world. I’ve got mad respect for him being completely self-taught.

  4 What was the first album you ever bought with your own money?
Backstreet Boys' Millennium (1999) on cassette. Probably got it at the thrift store in my hometown called Chances Are. I distinctly remember playing this album and some NSYNC in my bedroom as a kid—I’m only 22 years old now, so I grew up with a lot of the early 2000s music. I wouldn’t say it was very formative for my own music though, haha.

5 If you were a meme, what meme would you be?

6 Tell us about the best live show you’ve ever been to.
Front-row seeing Tim Baker play at the 2019 ECMAs in Charlottetown. This was the first time a performance actually brought me to tears. I’ve seen Tim play in Hey Rosetta! before as they were such a big influence for me in high school. But something about Tim’s new songs and the timing of when the album came into my life, it was a really overwhelming moment for me in a really special way.

7 How would you describe your music/sound in a sentence?
I’m driving in a car with the windows down as the rolling fog brings a refreshing sense of peace mixed with the smell of the ocean.

8 What’s the best part of being in a band/being a musician?
When folks come to our shows and feel like they can be themselves, catch up with friends, and have a good time. It’s definitely a huge privilege to be able to facilitate events that bring community together. Witnessing that happen and knowing you created a memorable experience is the best part.

9 Screenshot your Spotify heavy rotation—or tell us a couple of albums/artists you can’t stop listening to.
I Need to Start a Garden - Haley Heynderickx

Stranger in the Alps - Phoebe Bridgers

Earthtones - Bahamas

Forever Overhead - Tim Baker

Heard it in a Past Life - Maggie Rogers

10 Fill in the blank: if you weren’t making music, you’d be _____________.
Running a cute coffee shop that doubles as a bar and music venue at night in downtown Halifax.
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Monday, January 13, 2020

ZZ Top announces Halifax show May 20

See the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer alongside Cheap Trick at the Scotiabank Centre.

Posted By on Mon, Jan 13, 2020 at 6:15 PM

  • screenshot
It calls itself "the little ol' band from Texas," but ZZ Top has gone on to prove it's an act with legs (which, naturally, knows how to use them), outlasting many of its glam-rock peers and riding a red-hot rod into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Now, it's bringing hits like "Sharp Dressed Man" and "La Grange" to the on Scotiabank Centre on May 20, bringing Cheap Trick along for the trip. Tickets go on sale Friday, Jan 17 and are $66 to $111, including taxes and fees.  
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Thursday, January 9, 2020

OBEY Convention becomes EVERYSEEKER

The music festival all about discovery and creativity rebrands.

Posted By on Thu, Jan 9, 2020 at 6:01 PM

View this post on Instagram


A post shared by chippy (@chippyxnonstop) on

[Above: Chippy Nonstop, Toronto DJ du jour, will come to Halifax as part of the fest's expanded off-season programming.]
OBEY Convention has long helped Halifax keep it weird, bringing artists and free thinkers of all types—from punk icon Debbie Friday to Portuguese Kudro legend Nída to NYC underground queen Pharmakon—to make wild, wonderful noise in our seaside city. Last Valentine's Day, the fest received a cease-and-desist letter from the clothing line OBEY and has heeded the call, changing its name to EVERYSEEKER—which, according to a press release, is lifted from a poem the fest founder heard while programming new parts of the event.

Another new thing? EVERYSEEKER plans to expand its off-season offerings, doing a monthly series of shows and workshops all winter long. Get amped for names like Afro-futurist punk Moor Mother, Brooklyn-based astral flute player Ka Baird, Toronto club queen Chippy Nonstop (shown above) and more.

The fest itself returns June 18-21, 2020.
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Thursday, December 12, 2019

Behind the setlist with Matt Mays

The prince of the City Of Lakes dives into why treating a concert like a musical made the best concert of 2019.

Posted By on Thu, Dec 12, 2019 at 1:18 PM

Mays capped off a tour ambitious in both breadth and form with two back-to-back hometown dates. - LINDSAY DUNCAN PHOTO
  • Mays capped off a tour ambitious in both breadth and form with two back-to-back hometown dates.
  • Lindsay Duncan photo
When Matt Mays takes the stage on November 16 for the final show of his Howl At The Night Tour—which saw his eight-piece band play 19 Canadian dates in less than a month—he spends a second that isn’t long, but is very deep, in silence. With his back to the audience, ensconced in a cone of yellow light on an otherwise blacked-out stage, he takes a breath.

Then, the show begins.

If the moment feels particularly theatrical, that’s at least a little by design. The day prior, perched on a staircase outside the Rebecca Cohn auditorium, Mays explains his aims for the tour: “I’m looking at it more like a musical. So, I made the setlist up a month before our first rehearsal. It’s also worked because we kind of like, looking at it like a musical, it’s nice to play the same thing every night: We get better at the set, a lot faster. And the transitions and things. It’s not just a bonehead rock show with a thrown-together setlist: We’re sticking to this one, it’s been working,” he says, resting his chin on his knee as he speaks.

The concept for Howl At The Night could’ve felt like a gimmick if it hadn’t been pulled off so expertly. In a press release sent out in advance of the tour, fans were promised a live show that came together like a puzzle, walking through Mays’ recent releases Once Upon a Hell of a Time… and its acoustic reboot, Twice Upon a Hell of a Time…with each layer of sound added before their eyes.

“There’s eight people in the band and I wanted to be really careful about that because a lot of people, they’re like: ‘Eight people in the band? Are you crazy?’,” Mays begins of the show setup. “I think if they see the show they’ll understand. I start the show solo, and for the first eight songs we add a musician every song—so we’re all onstage so halfway through the set. It’s been really effective, it’s a proper way to introduce all these players I’m so lucky to play with. And all of a sudden, we’re eight songs into the set and there’s still change happening—so it’s not some eight-piece band going up there and playing over everything.” 

“So we kind of build all the parts into the crowd, so by the end of the show, you know what people are doing; by the end of the show people’s ears can decipher the big sound a little more because they were introduced to these sounds gradually.”

Back at the concert, he tears open the beginning lines of “Howl At The Night” like he’s unfolding a letter. His audience—who’s used to seeing him in bars and arenas—punctuate each refrain of “howl at the night” with actual howls.

They’re all-in, waiting with palatable excitement for their rock star—the one who walks and talks like them, but cooler; the one who tells stories like theirs through the sort of songs they wish they could write—to continue. So continue he does. The song tiptoes towards a climactic close. The sold-out house thunders.

Soon, Mays would tell the audience “Hey, it’s ok, it’s Saturday night make some noise”—a permission slip for the denim-clad crowd to get up and get loose. They take it with both hands.

Not to rip Adam Baldwin off, but it’s a mutual friend of ours, a song guru of ours, who taught us a good setlist is just a setlist that has a beginning a middle and an end. It sounds kinda bonehead, but it really is that simple. Most times I usually do a setlist right before we play, because I like to read the crowd and the room. Just going in and standing in the room with the crowd really helps with the selection process of what you should play. Playing for 20 years, you kinda know what’s gonna work and what’s not gonna work based on the vibe of the place,” Mays says.

But this show isn’t most times. It’s quite probably the best live show of 2019. Here, Mays breaks down the script-in-spirit, setlist-in-action that drove the performance:

1. Intro song: “Howl At The Night”:

“That song means a lot to me—it’s a very personal sort of trip. So it’s sort of therapeutic to sing it every night. And we have these beautiful grand pianos that we’re playing every night because we’ve been playing these theatres. I just love playing it on piano, and I feel like a lot of people don’t know that song and I wanted to start out with something that maybe people didn’t know that worked well and set the tone. It’s just a three chord song of my own on piano, but it’s still a heavy song for me—and I thought it’d be a good name for a tour, too.”

2. Songs two through six, "Drive On,” “Dark Promises,” “Ola Volo,” “Ain't That The Truth” and “The Past”:

“The first half of this set is all acoustic and sing-song-y and I don’t get to do that much. It’s nice to be in a sort of pin-drop atmosphere for those songs, because I really worked hard on them and I really mean the lyrics, so it’s nice to not be singing over a loud crowd at a bar. It’s nice to be heard, I guess?”

3. Song seven, “Spoonful of Sugar”:

The song that turns the concert from soft ballad to full-on rock show, Mays says this is his favourite song to play live: “We play it almost every night and it was one of those songs that just kind of like came out—it was so fast, I wrote it in like, 10 minutes. So I sort of feel like I didn’t write it, so it feels like playing a cover every night.”

4. Song 12, “City of Lakes” [which Mays ended up playing earlier in the set in reply to the audience chanting for it]:

“It’s almost always on the setlist—people seem to like it even if they’re hearing it for the first time. They connect to it.”

5. Third song of the encore, “Cocaine Cowgirl”:

When talking about playing vintage items from his catalogue—including Cowgirl, his first mainstream hit from 2005—Mays says: “Somehow, luckily, I was aware even from a young age that I didn’t want to release anything on an album that didn’t mean a lot to me. So, it allows me to play old songs that I’ve played a million times and they still mean a lot to me and I still enjoy playing them—because I went through that process of writing a bunch of shit songs that didn’t mean anything to me, y’know, so anything that made a record meant a lot to me. So playing a lot of these older songs, even though they’re 20 years old, it’s sort of like, more of a nostalgia thing now—I really like them now because it sort of feels like I didn’t even write them, because I’m so distant from that person who initially wrote them.”

And for songs like the brand-new single “Let There Be Love,” which proceeds “Cocaine Cowgirl” by two songs in the setlist, he adds: “And then the newer stuff is exciting because ah, I have to remember the lyrics for these, y’know, so they’re very different. It makes the set fun. It keeps me on my toes.”

6. Encore closing song, “On The Hood”:

“That one is sort of, the crowd decides that sometimes. I could put that song first but it wouldn’t work as well. There’s something about that song that’s sort of celebratory so, I mean, I like change and I don’t want to have the same set my whole life, but I also believe in tradition— and I think that people who come out to my shows really look forward to celebrating together at the end of the night and that song really does that so I don’t fuck with that. I trust it.”
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Monday, December 9, 2019

Five questions I wish I could ask Geddy Lee

Rush's bassist slash Can-rock icon is coming to town Saturday to sign (not sing) copies of his book at the Halifax Shopping Centre.

Posted By on Mon, Dec 9, 2019 at 2:05 PM

Canada's most famous soul-patch-wearer and bassist comes to the Halifax Shopping Centre on Dec 14. - RICHARD SIBBALD PHOTO
  • Canada's most famous soul-patch-wearer and bassist comes to the Halifax Shopping Centre on Dec 14.
  • Richard Sibbald photo
Geddy Lee—best known for making Canada cool in the 1970s as he melted faces in the prog-rock band Rush—spent most of 2019 *not* behind the bass but behind a desk, writing The Big Beautiful Book of Bass.  The hardcover Globe & Mail bestseller—which'll set you back $103.04 for a signed copy—is billed as a mix of lush photographs of Lee's extensive bass collection and interviews he conducted with other famous bassists, like Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin).

Finally, the most underrated instrument ever is getting its own coffee-table tome.

Lee recently announced Halifax will be on his book tour for the effort, signing copies IRL at Coles in the Halifax Shopping Centre this Saturday, Dec 14 at 4pm. Superfans, take note: tickets are only available online and cover cost of entry and a signed book. Here are the questions I'd wanna ask when it was my turn at the signature table:

1. What was it like finding a second wave of micro-fame through That '70s Show? Surely the amount that Eric and the crew referenced you, you shoulda gotten a guest appearance, IMO.

2. You famously say you became the bassist in Rush out of necessity, because your original bassist quit. Did this make bass playing feel like a chore, and if so, how'd you overcome that?

3. How did you write a book about famous bassists and not interview Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers?

4. Or Kim Gordon??

5. Which Rush song would you love to retire from the catalogue?

K thanks byeeee.
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In Print This Week

Vol 27, No 43
March 19, 2020

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