Friday, 18 August 2017

The Mercy Now album release tonight @ the Horseshoe

Announcing, this friday August 18, @ the Horseshoe Tavern....

A roots rock and heavy soul
double release show featuring

The Mercy Now
Rooftop Love Club

The Two Times
and The Electric Spoonful

“I should have brought my daughter!”
Russel Fernandes is waiting for me on Queen west at my
 weekly Mixtape party. I am 42 minutes late and have found a vcr along the way. For some reason i think of Nicole and our third date, slam dancing to the Mercy Now at the El Mocambo, just like my aunt Fiona would have done at the Ramones, except she would have knocked over a table. This is the buzz old timers told me reminded them of mescaline, that noise in the boxcar sized room of a bar formerly known as Not My Dog. These are the kind of hijinx we used to get up to, in the beginnings of the Signal. It was on the back patio that Russ insisted these were “the good old days”. He was married then, and his daughter barely toddling. His wife Tanya tended bar at NMD, and they`d run the scruffy little dive for a few years by the time i wandered in, chasing dreams in some shadow of downtown Weeniepeg, of HaMiltown, or Sault Ste Murray. Sometimes, when i see Russ play with the Mercy Now , i smash a tambourine against my hand until it hurts. I bounce around the floor saying  Hello Toronto, do u wanna dance?

Are u here tonight to rock some soul tunes and exhaust yourself in sweaty fumes of bliss and kicking off that stress to some angry rhythm and blues? 

“We're less angry now.” Russ assures me. 

Because of You is the fresh single by the band off their new, self titled album, the first release in six years. It features Russ` trademark vocals and visceral bass work, both of them raspy and relentless.  The textures are clear and crisp on this self produced LP,  with drummer Lee Rogers providing airy, swinging grooves and precision fills, and Dave Kirton deftly handling all guitar parts. 

27 hours later I find Russ near the bar at the TO Lounge, full of rage and hot to jam. What are the themes of this album? I ask him. “Rascism, death, and parenthood. We're all Dads now.”

The piano from Not My Dog can be found at the Skyline Restaurant where i work. Children come and touch it, a tactile relic of the history that their very prescence is overtaking. Parkdale is changing? Parkdale is change itself. 

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

This is Not She at Toronto Fringe Festival

Julia Haist is a playwright, performer and director based in Toronto. She made her creative debut at the Toronto Fringe Festival in 2013, writing, directing and performing in Slumgum & Quaqua’s Give Up the Ghost. She most recently directed Or Not to Be by Andrew Batten at Alumnae Theatre.

Hi Sam! 

Hi Julia,

So tell me a  little bit about this play. Your character, Maura, is an english teacher trying to teach Shakespeare while under various pressures. Where does this character come from?


I was inspired to write This is Not She by my mother, who taught high school English for over thirty years. I witnessed both the rewards and challenges, the struggle for teachers to attain adequate resources for their students, the prevalence of teacher strikes and work-to-rule campaigns, as well as the job itself, educating and connecting with people who don’t always want to engage. I realized this would provide the perfect environment for a character at the end of her rope, fighting to maintain control while her personal life is in a state of turmoil.


What kind of a breakdown does your character go through during the show?


So I'm not sure how much I can say about the "breakdown" without spoilers; A lot of her struggle comes from how the events that have happened to her recently affect the way she's seen by others, and this class in particular is a sort of stand she's making,  that she won't be defined by what's happened.

Whether or not she succeeds in maintaining her professionalism and identity is the main crux of the show, and on some level, that's for the audience to decide. 


Why did you pick this particular Shakespearean piece, Troillus and Cressida, to integrate into your script?


It's a strange, obscure play that no one seems quite sure how to categorize (comedy, drama, satire etc.) but happens to somewhat mirror the situation Maura is in and shares a ton of themes, like infidelity, war, love, morality and such. 

Originally I looked into Troilus and Cressida because I was looking for a play that audiences wouldn't know very intimately, so that I could teach the themes of the show and tie it in with the events of this class without the audience bringing their own defined ideas of what the play's about. Every time I bring up Troilus and Cressida, which I looked into because I knew basically nothing about it, practically everyone (including my English teacher Mum) says "oh yeah... I don't really know anything about that play."


As writer and performer, how do you manage the dynamics of interacting with the audience both as classroom and theatre-goers?


Managing the dynamic was actually a huge challenge; the character is going through a hard time and sometimes isn't the most friendly or attentive person; once I started doing this in front of people, we realized that that dynamic is troublesome because we are asking a lot of the audience.  That was a balance we had to find and that I continue figuring out. But the audiences we've had have been very generous and even if they don't start out totally enthusiastic about the participatory elements, they seem to quickly realize that they know how to do this; they've been in a classroom before, and they become excited to participate! 

This is Not She is an interactive solo show written and performed by Julia Haist that explores the relationship between teacher and student, taking dark and unexpected turns along the way. Audience members can expect to read from one of Shakespeare’s more obscure plays, Troilus and Cressida, share their own thoughts on love and war, and get to know their teacher far more intimately than anyone anticipated, including the teacher herself.

The Simian Assembly is comprised of Playwright/Performer Julia Haist and Director/Dramaturg Taylor Marie Graham for the purpose of bringing This is Not She to the stage. After directing Graham’s script Cottage Radio at the 2015 Fireworks Festival at Alumnae Theatre in Toronto, Haist brought her idea for a solo show centred around an English teacher to Graham, who is herself an English professor at Sheridan College in Toronto. The two continued developing This is Not She over the next year all the way to its world premiere at the 2017 Montreal Fringe festival.

Taylor Marie Graham (Director, Dramaturg) is a writer, director, producer, and educator living in Toronto. Taylor is the recipient of the George Ryga Award for Excellence in Playwriting from York University. In 2016, celebrated playwright Judith Thompson named Taylor as the up and coming playwright to watch in Playwrights Guild of Canada’s The Playwright Applause campaign. Her opera The Virgin Charlie was nominated in 2008 for a Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding Opera / Musical.

Sent from my iPad

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Wild, Wooly, and Wonderful: tales of “pre-gentrification” Parkdale

A was for ART PARTY.
We were likely a headache to the old staff at the Dog and the Sister. Scraps of paper from collaged flyers for ill-attended concerts were inevitably strewn about their establishment floors whenever more than a few of us were congregated. We called ourselves an artists collective but maybe we were just a confetti factory.

B was for BLOB
A social grouping including everyone to whom you are related, all those with whom you have played in a band, and anyone with whom you have swapped spit

C was for CULT
This was not an art-cult. Nobody was being coerced into abandoning their family or socio-financial potential in favour of bohemian splendour and seedy grandeur. There was no mayor of IMAGINATION TOWN

An obscure and inefficient method of street promotion that appropriates real estate news boxes and the like to create dusty, ephemeral, and mostly invisible public art, whose commercial ineffectiveness is both critique of and tribute to the culture of advertising it subverts

E is for ERIN
To whom the first half of the DILLA-PLATH album was demoed and whom the second half aimed to impress

F is for FUN IS BACK

An oft employed slogan of JOHNNY AWESOME, WE ARE FRENCH, and other blob affiliates, originally c. 2008

A band whose drum chair was once abandoned for Oh Henry $, denied me, granted upon DAWN LEWIS, and for whom I implemented the first “cargo-cult” style merch table at SNEAKY DEES

H is for HIGH PARK
Across from McKENZIES PUB, the saturday afternoon open mic of which marks the first meeting of myself and Mr “Mischeif” McGoey.

Who played blues on the steps of NOT MY DOG until he came of age, who stayed up all night before his drivers test listening to Milli Vanilli on the boombox. That guy.

One quiet night at the LABYRINTH open mic, I met this convivial and powerful man. I told him I needed backbeats and he said he likes the Band. He held the RETRO RADIO drum chair hence.

Who slept on my couch and dreamed up his set list for the only ever live show by GARLIC FLAVOUR. Who proclaimed “my best friend is white” and Yank the chain, flush the bullshit down the drain”

My cousin's cousin's old band, under whose influence i have attempted to dislocate both my shoulders, and there was that time at the CADILLAC when i stripped off my outer pants while grinding to their grooves.

M is for MIP
Notwithstanding my own sister, the blobber whom i have known the longest, currently on a west coast summer tour. Loud, proud, and powerful. Esp. stoked for u to play Lop Lops.

In 2008 several Blobsters performed at the MnB Yummy Ethiopian restaurant, and held the first and only “Boxasaurus Parade”, led by person or persons wearing a paper mache dinosaur head and causing a lot of silly noise, even by NB standards

O is for OPEN MIC
A traditional gathering held by musicians, poets, and sometimes standup comediannes, a sort of musical potluck occuring usually at a local watering hole on an off night and featuring a wide range of performances, random collaborations, often birthing bands

Anna Mernieks (now with BEAMS) and Katie Plant (now married) started a two piece rock band in high school. Their dance crew was straight clowning, they killed it at Wawapalooza

Q is for QUINCEY JONES, who spoke at the memorial for Oscar Peterson at Roy Thompson hall almost ten years ago, which is a decent entryway into the whole Miles Davis sidebar...

Land of baby strollers and green grocers. Also a good place to run into Damon from the Muckabouts. Clearly above Parkdale on the social ranking because the name of the street is more easily mispronounced

One of many attempts to descibe and/or pidgeonhole the various and ferociously un-pidgeonhole-able musical offerings of Toronto's downtown westside

T is for TIA BRAZDA who, let's face it, got me as close to Drake as I'll ever get:

U is for the UNFAMOUS
The state of being well-known and easily identified only within one's own social sphere

Dan Burke`s club on Queen where one picturesquely rainy night RETRO RADIO played an all-boombox set and i burned a hole thru my cool shirt with a cigarette(the rain saved me)

W is for WAF and thereby also WARREN MCGOEY, who is an unprincipled genius and ought to be stopped, and who discovered the Garrison back before it was the Garrison.

X is for BLOB X, which, aside from the BLOBMAS XMAS 2009 offering, was the tenth and final compilation release by T. Babinski of underground Parkdale bands on compact disc

Y is for YARDWORK, a band inspired in the way of Sonic Youth and Deerhoof and featuring our pal Christine. Had a dream about you bud, where are you now?

Z is for ZE. It sounds just like he or she but denotes no specific gender and sidesteps the potential plurality of “they”. Dont be a stick in the mud. Be respectful and open-minded

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

150 degrees of pride (part one)

Fuck me canada, you dont look a day over 100

Fuck you Parkdale, you just lost the dog and mezzrows in less than a year

Fuck me Beardonce, u were amaze last wknd

Fuck you John Mayer, ur a dick and a white supremacist

Fuck me Drake, 25 simultaneous billboard hits?

Fuck you Dre, cowardly dr

Fuck me TO Loungers, u have called for the grimy rock, and we shall bring u weekly mixtapes, starting up again tuesdays in august

Fuck you Church. Unmarked children's graves in your yard are still unrepented

Fuck me Sweaterpants, nice work at TO Lounge, catch Mark Watts and the gang every Tuesday in July🍸🎶🎸🍻

Fuck you Cosby. Let's have a cypher, ill tear your weak words apart

Fuck me Trudy. U got some backbone now but still sound unsure in the house.

Fuck you Gomeshi. We won't forget.

Fuck me Brandon. Doctor Decters throwing down some solid modernist ish. B would prolly mention Malevich

Fuck you TTC. More security and worse service. “ride the rocket” i guess they never said “friendly skies”

Fuck me Pride, u sure do know how to party

Fuck you Oliver Stone, you`re not edgy, just self-centered and ignorant

Fuck me Toronto, u look beautiful this summer

Fuck u America. Choose healing, choose life. Stop clinging to an old fake copy of Time Magazine for dear life. Face truth.

Monday, 5 June 2017

The A B Cs of the Parkdale Underground

A is for Aurora Lavender, who can basically make anything and sings good too

B is for Meagan Ballantyne, who's in residency at TO Lounge with her project Authentic Imperfection, performing every Thursday night this June

C is for Chris Harrison, who may or may not be available for comment

D is for for DB Buxton, who's band rocks and will sit down for a talk on june 13

E was going to be for Everyone in Parkdale is famous (in Parkdale) but i think its better to be happy than famous

F is for Aaron Florendo, who's in for an interview on June 6th

G is for Mauve Grove, our house band June 20th, on tour through southern Ontario and Montreal this summer

H is for How can there be this much talent in one bar!?!?!

I is for I think the alcohol helps mediate all their egos

J is for Jenna Strautman, here to hype Rotary Dial`s upcoming album release at the Garrison June 9th

K is for Kylie Precepa, a cool northern breeze of song blowing our way June 13

L is for Lennox, joining us on June 20th

M is for Max, international artist and Insta feed-pleaser

N is for Nia, who will be my co-host in futurist coinage June 27

O is for not yer Open mic, every Wednesday night at the TO Lounge

P is for Peter J Ramsay, also known as the Dread Pirate Laserbeard. He has invented an alcohol and hypnosis based form of regression therapy I like to call “the butterfly effect”

Q is for June 6 DJ Q-Na (pronounced “quick sodium”)
a multimedia selection of queen west and east coast underground music

R is for Robert, our gracious host and bartender.

S is for Shelly, who is also our gracious host and bartender

T is for Teddy Syrette, a poet whom Parkdale can chew on for years

U is for will i CU there?

V is for Very fun summer nights

W is for Wait theres always more! Roslyn Dennet! Half of the Skyline brunch crew! Pamela White! MIP? Luis from Unit 102! Mercy Now (childcare schedule permitting)

X is for Xenophobia, whose cure is our goal

Y? Because they're letting us.

Z is for the Zappaesque riffery Marks gonna drop on y'all June 27

Friday, 19 May 2017

Farewell, Cornell

When i was 12,“ fell on black days” was my least favourite soundgarden single. It was too mellow for me (for a grunge song),and was in heavy rotation on muchmusic

. I was
Burned out on it over 20 yrs ago.
Now, its playing just after midnight on the day Chris Cornell took his own life, and i am quite moved,compelled to write.

The purpose of this post is threefold:


to celebrate a band i like


to comment on recent reactions to celebrity death


to voice my concerns on the ability of contemporary society to wrap its head around the real struggles of depression and suicidal ideation.


Down on the upside came out when i was 15. It was summertime and i was doing all i could to master musical technology, lugging a bass amp to family cabins, plugging vcrs into tape decks, saving up for my first cd burner. Pretty noose rocked my world just as much as bullet with butterfly wings did the year before,i taped it off much asap, i loved every video for the singles off that album,picjed up any guitar magazine that offering transcriptions of the songs. I never saw them play live,but soundgarden still provided me with many real experiences.

When i was young, first exposed to music, videos and other forms of popular culture, i lacked or rather did not apply the critical eye, the perspective with which i now see the 90s.

Of course not. Every riff i heard,every image i saw was simply absorbed into the sponge of my mimetic mind. Impressions of youth.



The primary reason why today there is an emerging culture of celebrity mourning: We currently have more names and facts about fampus people rattling around in our heads tjan at any previous point in time.

Nevermind the saints,royals,ancestors, protective spirits and local cults of old. Ignore the so called constellations of hollywoods old star system.

It is now, wired up and inspired to pursue each and every celeb obsession we can,after decades of north american cinema and literature and discography, that all previous canons of canonification are being buried beneath a deluge of information pertinant to the latest and ever quickly replaced engenues, hype acts,rock clowns, bad girls and boys whose units they wish we would shift. More celebrities equals more public deaths and more outpourings of grief sadness and other emoticons.

But when someone takes their own life,nobody knows what to say. RIP. Thanks for the tunes, the shows, the lyrics, the “backdrop to my adolescence”. What u will...

What shocked me about both cornells and robin williams’ suicides was that it seemed as though they had overcome their mental illness and strove thru depression to great accomplishment and success, established a comfortable,profitable career and reached a healthy and empowered middle age. I can only hope to do and share and work and travel so much by that pount in life. Im a little behind on the rock and movie-star trajectories of my life.

And yet... 

Chilling reminders that depression is a lifelong affliction, one with which i and many others will only ever learn to live in balance,not without and never completely free of. 

Maybe my life of simple culinary and cultural contribution is what saves me. Imagine having the legacy of a decades-long acting career, or the extra gravity of the superunknown weighing on your head along with  inevitable feelings of worthlessness and self-annihilation?


Our countrys current overdose crisis is being compared to the aids crises, really only a crisis and not simply a public health issue because it is one experienced by marginalised groups whose experience of life lies outside of and is terrifying for the mainstream conciousness to behold. I cant count on one hand the number of people i know even close friends to whom i would really feel comfortable describing my suicidal feelings.

It is a terrible burden to place on anyone,outside of artistic grounds,a poem, video, or piece of music that does more than parents and guidance counsellors to assure the traumatised, the neurotic, the anxious, the depressed and the psychotic that their frame of mind is not unique, that others feel the same way. A great track.on Superunknown is called “like suicide” ffs.

Solutions exist for people living in a world where a successful artist is still able to feel their life is worthless. But such solutions come at the price of bravery,great discomfort, and seemingly tireless persistance. If youre not ready to face your demons just yet, have no fear. Soon enough even the president wont have any other choice.

To quote mr Cornell

Sitting here like uninvited company
Wallowing in my own obscenity
Share a cigarette with negativity
Firing the pistol that shoots my holy pride
Leaning on the pedastal that holds my self denial
Standing here like wet ashes with exes in my eyes
Drawing flies

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Alicia Kathrine Hunt: Home

Tell me about the installation process. Was the hanging of Home conceived of specifically for the AGA gallery space?

I enjoy hanging installation work because the space the pieces occupy and the space around them is vital. Instead of allowing a clean amount of wallspace around each two-dimensional work for example, every part of the room is important to installation work, both the positive and negative space. My hanging process was rather fun. I had been working on a large number of new pieces in my attic studio space. I brought these pieces into the gallery space and played with different configurations on the floor before beginning to test things out by hanging. It really was a layered process, adding and taking away. One large piece from the beginning felt right at home off to the left, and so the rest of the pieces ended up answering the question... how did they all work together to create one alive space. 

Do the forms in Home relate to topographical maps, patchwork spaces, and the view of agricultural fields from a plane?

There is certainly a topographical element to this work. The mark making, dying, sewing all suggest topography, whether physical or pertaining to our internal landscapes. When this suggestion of mapmaking first appeared, it was not intentional, but it's certainly something that furthers the themes I am exploring. I had not thought of my work before as suggesting agricultural fields, but I like that! 

How does working with dirt and cloth engage your sense memory, and/or your instincts in a way painting doesn't?

Though I have always enjoyed the smoothness of paint and think I will continue to return to it from time to time, the mediums I used in Home feel more real in their physicality and tactility. Instead of using a brush to move paint, I interact with the fabric much more closely. The materials each carry their own weight and history. I like that my interaction with these mediums is perhaps more of continuing a story versus creating something entirely new.

What are some future goals, in your career/ life as an artist?
To encourage others to think critically, but perhaps more than that to dwell in experience a little more, to see more vividly through another language by the experience that art can give, and to encourage community building.  I would like to continue to have exhibitions from time to time as a means to share my work. I'd also like to pursue more collaborations with other visual artists, and other art forms. I am currently looking into artist residencies and masters of fine art programs.


What are some wishes for the Soo, things you'd like to see happening around here?

I've been delighted by the sense of community that is growing in this city, more focus on local food, I'd love to see this continue to grow.

Artist's statement prepared for the Exhibition:

This body of work surrounds themes of home, belonging, and displacement. Many of the pieces have a map-like, patchwork quality. The use of predominantly natural and salvaged materials represents concepts of place and community.

I start by gathering old pieces of fabric, cast off clothing, and other components like twine, and partially used spools of thread. This gleaning is part of the early process. I then interact with these gathered materials through applying beeswax, ink, graphite and colour. A phase of dying as well as tearing, reassembling, and stitching follows. The salvaged fabric has its own history, allowing the garments to speak of both human construction and presence.

Exploring place is significant to these pieces and informs the already topographical quality of my work. I have gathered rubbings in the Algoma region which imprints an element of the history, narrative, and presence that is within the earth onto the fabric. The times that I feel nearest to the earth consist of more than meeting a place strictly through my vision, but greatly through the tactility, sound, and presence within a place. There is a great oneness in the concepts of place and being.

There is tactility and malleability to both beeswax and hand stitching. Beeswax is a raw, alive substance, and has long been a sign of healing. The purpose of beeswax in the hive is to create a shelter for un-hatched eggs and for food. This beeswax has nurtured life and gives its own narrative of place to the work. The use of beeswax in encaustic painting is an ancient technique used to create early religious icons. The repeated marks found in the icons, hand stitching, and maps connect individuals to the land, other people and history.
The twine creates visual lines of connection as they cross one another and also speak of community. The strings encourage furthering these now permeable boundaries of the pieces.

These fabric works, that appear to breathe, seem vulnerable and fragile but in reality are quite sturdy. In this, there are elements of unity and strength that impart a comfort which is needed to develop a sense of home.
Throughout this series, it has been fascinating to hear stories of many people’s experiences and interpretation of what homeis. For some, it is very place based, and for others solely relationship based. It can be a current reality, and for others something longed for.