City and Colour at Alderney Landing: A much-needed cure to the Juno blues was this April 3 early show in Alderney Landing’s theatre. After days full of drunken, chatty, schmoozy industry fucks---even Ron Sexsmith, at a private party in his honour, commented on the lack of respect---a rapt audience averaging at about 16 years old kept its mouth shut and its eyes pointed at the stage on this evening. Dallas Green, the only saving grace of Alexisonfire, gave a note-perfect performance of his surprise hit solo album Sometimes, inspiring lots of kids, boys and girls, to call out their love for him. His lyrics are banal and one-note---“Comin’ Home,” anyone?---but he’s got one of the best voices in the country, and it was a joy to witness it in a room with great acoustics and no booze. And it was over by 9:30! TT
Noodlehead: I spent most of 2006 complaining about the lack of cheap noodle and Thai take-out places in Halifax—Noodle Nook people on Blowers, quit your teasing already. That is, until I discovered that the rest of the world is happily noshing on burritos. I’m not talking about restaurants that carry nachos or prefab fast food crap; no, I want authentic take-out stands or taquerias where burritos are the menu. You walk in, pick a veggie, bean or meat filling, they cram a noggin-sized tortilla with other good stuff, wrap it up and then you pay. Easy-peasy. Bonus: Burritos stay intact like grandma’s stone cottage, which is both good for lunch and for soaking up that last shot of Jagermeister.
So all you enterprising restauranteurs, this tip’s free. But do it right and make them San Francisco-style, where steamers ensure that tortillas stretch without busting open (like they always do when I try this at home). Proper folding is essential, as is fresh guacamole and a selection of hot, hot salsas. SCF
Oh Don Piano!: The best part of Billy Bragg’s September show at the Cohn was not the music—although I’ve seen him perform four times and he never disappoints—it was when Bragg lost his marbles laughing about a video he watched earlier on YouTube. Mostly the video sharing website is a big lame community talent show, but occasionally there are moments of brilliance. Take the video that set Bragg into tears: “Oh Don Piano.”
If you haven’t seen Donny, it’s a laughtracked clip from America’s Funniest Home Video of cats that sound like they’re talking. Cute. Be patient. The last one, a black and white sweetie, is apparently possessed, ranting on about “Oh Don Piano. Why I eyes ya!” And why do we know what he’s saying? Because there are subtitles. Brilliant. My point, which Bragg so wonderfully expressed, is that the Internet best functions as a giant repository of feline hilarity. And if you don’t believe me, try www.stuffonmycat.com www.cuteoverload.com www.mycathatesyou.com and the locally run www.halicatslocals.com SCF
The Rolling Stones: Here’s a totally obvious thing to mention in a year in review: The Rolling Stones! I have to be honest, for a while I just wanted to ignore the whole thing in the listings, but was advised against it. It was just so annoying and obnoxious and in your face for the entire time leading up to it, especially if you lived in the north end. There was literally no escaping it even if you wanted to, and that’s the sort of thing I try to rally against (for example, I had this theory that I couldn’t go an entire day without some reference to Elvis, and that really bothered me). The thing about Halifax’s Big Concert was that I actually wanted to see Kanye West, but I couldn’t afford it. Instead I babysat some second cousins in Bedford and had some close encounters with some dirty diapers and watched a little Dora the Explorer. (PS. Do you say “Dora the Explora” or “Dorer the Explorer”? It doesn’t make much sense otherwise.) SJ
Graduation: When you’ve been attending university in one form or another for roughly 10 years, as I have, it’s really nice to know it will eventually be over. I can’t even describe how awesome it is when you realize you’re finally graduating. That’s why I consider this to be a highlight of the year, and worthy of a mention. This is the first Christmas in lord knows how long that I’ll have the best answer ever to the inevitable “When are you graduating?” and other like-minded questions that usually come flying at me all holiday long. “In May!” I’ll say. Then I’ll probably shotgun a beer and smash the empty can on my forehead. If I don’t do that in real life, you know I’ll at least I’ll be doing that in my mind. SJ
National Geographic Video Shorts: To be fair, National Geographic didn’t start podcasting in 2006—but they may have perfected it with their video shorts. It’s popular, it’s free, it’s pretty easy to find, and it’s fascinating. Without it, we would have been completely ignorant of Mohsin, the 17-year old Moroccan who works in a foul-smelling tannery, just one example from the ongoing series on the world’s toughest jobs. Mohsin gets two dollars a day to work in a waist-deep vat of water and excrement—often barefoot—and rub acidic pigeon droppings into the hides, which helps soften them…Or, if that repulses you, I’m sure you could find something on dolphins, instead. Either way, it’s worth seeking out. MF
Junos red carpet: At the time, I acted all way-cool about hanging out on the Junos red carpet, but really, I couldn’t wait for my first schmoozaramaganza. Unfortunately the day it arrives, I’m recovering from a piercing red wine headache, thanks to the previous night’s party for Ron Sexsmith, where I confessed undying love to him, told Dallas Green that he makes me cry and contemplated giving Jim Cuddy a bear hug. Totally professional.
Lugging my jug of water and tape recorder, I secure a place alongside inappropriately dressed local journalists, pretending I work for People, pushing for space behind a metal gate as nail-chewing publicists parade talent around. I keep warm by dodging t-shirts blown out of a gun by CTV’s Liz Rigney and ignoring the woman who keeps screaming at me to get her Kalan Porter’s autograph.
“Hey there, how are you doing?” Shit. Ron Sexsmith knows who I am now, and he’s still a nice guy. Maybe he’s drunk. Cuddy doesn’t flinch when I tell him about my plan to assault him. Kardinal Offishall is so hot, as are Kathleen Edwards, Martha Wainwright and Corb Lund. Jacob Hoggard acts like a little pig. Feist really is awesome: her crappy purse is held together with duct tape. Pam Anderson looks bored as she snorts then rolls her eyes at a stupid question posed by a cheesy Toronto tabloid writer. I can’t stop looking at her breasts. Chad Kroeger gives me the willies but Michael Bublé is lovely. Who knew? SCF
Shoreline benefit: Torrential rains and crap walk-up sales spurred the organizers of the annual Shoreline Festival in Rollo Bay, PEI to cancel the last of its three days, a line-up that consisted almost solely of Halifax bands. Thanks to the internet and good old-fashioned phone-working, a ridiculous roster of artists lined up for an emergency show on Sunday, July 23 at the Marquee. The Remains of Brian Borcherdt, The Novaks, In-Flight Safety and Wintersleep all played 40-minute sets that did not reveal the fatigue of dudes who had driven to PEI and back that day. Matt Mays, with a new haircut and in a suit—patrons guessed it was a look he was unveiling for his solo record, which turned out to be the case—and El Torpedo closed out the night. The short notice meant a half-full bar of people there for the music, since there was no time to drink, and no university students to market to—such comfort and camraderie has not been experienced at a Marquee show since. And it only cost 10 bucks. TT
Showtime: Though in Canada we receive Showtime’s cousin, Showcase, and all its shows about six months after they originally air, through the magic of DVR and BitTorrent it was easy to keep up with this network’s great year. The L Word has been in an alarming decline since the first season---this one in particular lifeless, angry and half-assed---but thanks to top-drawer actors like Leisha Hailey, Jennifer Beals and Mia Kirshner it still remains watchable. (Even if Daniela Sea, as the transitioning Moira/Max, does not.) The Rhode Island-set Brotherhood, about a pair of brothers comprised of a state rep and a gangster, was a dozen crackling episodes about the ties that bind us within our families, and in this case, within the US government and organized crime. More than a *Sopranos* rip-off, it’s sharp, violent, thoughtful and vulgar and boasts a great ensemble with Annabeth Gish, as the rep’s cheating, drugging wife, finally in a role she can play the shit out of. Showtime’s crowning achievement is Weeds, the heartbreaking and viciously hilarious serial about a suburban Mom (Mary-Louise Parker) selling pot for a living. Parker’s Nancy Botwin is a terrible mother in way over her head, and the show never lets her forget it. Bonus points for a different artist singing the cutesy theme song every week, including Elvis Costello, Death Cab for Cutie and Jenny Lewis. And for the Nancy and Conrad kiss, yay! TT