Thursday, December 20, 2012

The End (and a New Beginning)

It's been about two-and-a-half years since I wrote anything music-related on this blog. When I stopped, it wasn't all of a sudden, but more a realization that I wasn't having as much fun with the blog as I once did. That, and the knowledge that if I was ever going to finish my PhD, I needed to get serious. I was serious about this blog, and serious meant time and energy, which took away from my dissertation writing. And dissertation writing is HARD.


But I finished it, defended it, and graduated just this past June! Awesome! I've continued to go to shows but much, much less so. In fact, the last time I was really out was in late September. Weird/not weird.

Here's the thing: I don't listen to much music at home. I LOVED going out to see live music, but that wasn't because I was obsessed with hearing it. I was never that kid who listened to records on repeat in her bedroom during her angsty teen years. Nope. The closest I got was watching MuchMusic during the 90s, when my younger siblings tuned into Nirvana and then the Seattle alt rock bands.

I started going to shows when I was 27 years old. I'd only been to a handful before that---Shaggy, Christina Aguilera, whoever played that Ottawa U frosh concert in 1997 (?)---and when I jumped in, I committed to it. I was excited to share my experiences with others, hence starting to blog about them, and my weekly listings came out of that same desire. My thinking was, "These shows are awesome! Other people should know about them. I will tell them!" So I did.

Over the years that this blog was active as an archive and chronicle of sorts of the local music scene, my life was pretty good. I wasn't super keen on my dissertation, but the scene was my salvation. Ok, maybe not quite that, but my life changed loads, and for the better. There was so much excitement, so many supportive people, new things to discover, and plain ol' fun to be had and dancing to be done. For that, I say, "Thank you!" Thank you very much, everyone.

Post-PhD Historyjen---Jennifer Polk, IRL---can now be found at, my new blog. Join me! Let's keep life awesome.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

To Ontario Premier McGuinty.

[Another non-music post, but this here's my only truly public forum.]

To: Dalton McGuinty, Premier, Government of Ontario
CC: MPP Rosario Marchese, MP Olivia Chow, Councillor Adam Vaughan

Dear Premier McGuinty,

You and your government must not weasel out of your duty to the citizens of this city and this province. I am astonished, appalled, and frankly disgusted by your position on the calling of an independent public inquiry into what happened outside the fence last weekend.

Police officers broke the laws of this country on numerous occasions. It is impossible to escape this fact unless one deliberately overlooks overwhelming supporting evidence. It is abundantly clear to me that police officers did so, with impunity, occasional sadism, and often with a complete disregard for basic human rights. Gross violations occurred even on the lawn of your very own legislature.

Your government must take action so that we, the citizens of Ontario, can know the truth about what happened and why. I fully support the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s and Amnesty International’s calls for a public inquiry. All three levels of government---federal, provincial, and municipal---have much to account for. I had held out hope earlier this week that you respected the laws of our land, and would take swift action. Your words and deeds since then make it clear to me that you have chosen to blatantly ignore the facts of the situation. I cannot understand why you would do so, except that you must be shockingly misinformed. Please inform yourself, Premier, and work with Prime Minister Harper to open a full, independent, public inquiry. Doing so is plainly necessary, and the first step to healing the wounds that this past weekend and all the decisions taken up to it left on my city.

I firmly believe that Toronto, for all its flaws, is the best city in the world, and that Canada, for all its problems, is the best country in the world. This past weekend left me and so many other proud citizens feeling sadness and anger. Mid-Saturday afternoon the latter feeling was focused on rioters; very quickly thereafter the police earned my disdain. I am just as disappointed and enraged even now, a week later. My dismay, frustration, and anger at the governments who allowed the G20 summit to take place in my city are not gone. But what actually happened demands an inquiry, and soon. I implore you to reconsider your stated position on a public inquiry dealing with the security measures and police actions.

In addition, your government must provide a full, clear explanation of the handling of the Public Works Protection Act fiasco. You yourself, sir, must accept responsibility for misleading the people of this province. This was, at the very least, a breach of public trust. You should be ashamed of yourself. I hope you will apologize and explain yourself. It is the only honourable thing to do in this matter.

Thank you,

Jennifer Polk
Toronto, ON

Want to write your own letter?

You can contact the premier at

My MPP for Trinity Spadina is Rosario Marchese (; my MP is Olivia Chow (, and my city councillor is Adam Vaughan (

Monday, June 28, 2010

To the Toronto police.

[This has nothing to do with music, but I'm reeling and need to get this out there.]

This weekend was arguably the worst in Toronto’s history.

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper invited the G20 to Toronto, he essentially welcomed black bloc terrorists to come here, too. And come they did, as I saw myself in the many photos, videos, and reports from the scene. (I stayed in my apartment just north of downtown the entire weekend.) With the weekend over, but with my mind still reeling, I have a few words for the Toronto police and the other officers who came from all over the country to “serve and protect.”

Where were you, police, when your cars were set on fire and you let them burn? (You left them unattended on purpose, didn’t you?) Where were you when vandals smashed windows downtown, terrifying customers, salespeople, shop owners, and on-lookers? A friend of mine was on Yonge that afternoon, and saw the aftermath: shocking damage and terrified employees at American Apparel and elsewhere. There were no cops in sight, until he rounded a corner, and there you were, seemingly doing nothing. While you stood around, innocent people were left without protection.

Meanwhile, your offices—trained, armed, and in formation—were marching on peaceful demonstrators in Queen’s Park, right near the official “protest zone.” You were doing the same elsewhere, too, on Saturday. I’m sure some of the protesters were being jerks, but what can you expect? You threateningly surround people, stop them from walking in their own city, and keep so many others away.

Later, Steve Paikin's reporting on the evening happenings on the Esplanade grabbed my (and everyone else's) attention. What on earth was going on with you, police?

And yet Saturday night my main thought was of the terrorists who wreaked havoc on downtown streets. Come morning, and the news that more than 500 people had been arrested and detained, my feelings started to shift. As the hours went by and I watched videos, saw photos, and read tweets and news reports of your “tactics,” I changed my mind about you. It became clear to me that the police, as a group, had become the terrorists. There was no violence anywhere that I heard about. Except, that is, for violent acts you perpetrated yourselves. You amassed in force on demonstrators and “riot tourists” in the east end, the west end, and the heart of downtown. Trained officers were ordered to scare innocent people in ways I never thought I’d see in Canada. For shame.

This week you have a lot to answer for. And no doubt you’ll face legal proceedings, brought upon you by some of the hundreds of people whose civil liberties you took away and the dozens you beat with your batons and wrestled to the ground with inordinate force. People in Canada are allowed to assemble, walk the streets, talk to each other, ride their bikes, and to feel safe and secure while doing so. This weekend, you—by not stopping black bloc violence and by your own horrifying movements—made this city unsafe for the people who live, work, and play in it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Break time.

I'm taking a wee break from this blog while I concentrate on the lots of actual work I have to do. You can still find me occasionally over at Sticky Magazine. I like that project a lot, and feel I can contribute something worthwhile to it once in a while. I wish I had more time and energy, but oh well. Until later!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Review: Horse Feathers w/ The Wilderness of Manitoba @ The Drake Hotel, 28 April.

This was one of those rare seated shows---as in, butts-on-floor---at the Drake Hotel's basement music venue, and, my, was it ever lovely. I'd heard of and sampled Portland, OR's Horse Feathers in the past few weeks and was seriously considering hitting up the show, but the announcement that the Wilderness of Manitoba would open sealed the deal for me.

The Wilderness of Manitoba---always Scott Bouwmeester, Will Whitwham, Stefan Banjevic, and Melissa Dalton---took to the stage just after 9pm, with their drummer, Sean Lancaric. The band doesn't always bring Sean along for gigs, and it was a nice treat for me to see them in full force in such a nice-sounding room. They started off with a couple songs from their 2009 debut EP, Hymns of Love and Spirits, namely, "The Great Hall" and "Bluebirds." The crowd was quiet and respectful to the point of being completely silent during many of the songs and little breaks between them. The first few rows were made up of people sitting on the hard floor. It made for a nice setting, with the Drake's good lighting and stage dressing. "Hermit," the first single from the WOM's first album, coming in June, was next.

The first two highlights of the set for me were "Dreamcatchers" and "Orono Park," performed next. The tribal, driving drum beat and harmonies were great on the former; the latter's banjo / guitar / ukele arrangement was beautiful, as were the Will and Melissa's harmonies and call-and-response vocal tradeoffs. And I gotta say: If audience members weren't completely sold on this band by this point, they have no souls. "Evening," a song originally penned and recorded by Will's mother, Wendy Blackburn, in the 1960s, was next, following by the newer "St. Petersburg." Both are gorgeous, and fan favourites. A couple more new songs ended the performance---"November" and "Summer Fires." The buildup at the beginning of "Summer Fires" was stunning. Just great.

Catch the WOM opening for Matthew Barber at the Mod Club on 12 May, and for Basia Bulat (and Julie Doiron) at the Phoenix on 4 June.

Download: The Wilderness of Manitoba, "Hermit" (When You Left the Fire, 2010).
Watch (below): The Wilderness of Manitoba, "Orono Park" (Southern Souls live performance, 2009).

Photo credit: WOM by Zuzana Hudackova.

After a healthy break to get things properly set up, during which we were treated to Owen Pallett's Heartland over the house system, Horse Feathers performed in the headlining spot. (Timber Timbre's self-titled album was the soundtrack before WOM's set.)

I'm not nearly as familiar with this band's output---and, indeed, it was their first time performing in Toronto---but others in the audience clearly were, showing keen appreciation during and after songs. Like Toronto's WOM, this band trades in lush 4-part harmonies and country- and folk-inspired arrangements. But there are classical elements in their ballads, too.

The band played a lovely 12-song set, plus an encore. To me, many of the songs sounded alike, but to my mind that was just fine. "Curs In the Weeds," performed two-thirds of the way through the set, seemed like their hit number; it was warmly received by those around me.

Horse Feathers will be back around this part of the world in July for the Hillside Festival in Guelph.

Download: Horse Feathers, "Belly of June" (Thistled Spring, 2010).
Download: Horse Feathers, "Curs in the Weeds" (House With No Home, 2008).

Monday, May 03, 2010

A few things: Woodhands, Delhi 2 Dublin, The Acorn, Shawn Clarke.

My favourite live band has a new remix EP out this week. Who's that, you ask? Woodhands! (D'uh.) Download the EP for free from the band's label, Paper Bag Records. Here's what you can look forward to:

Track Listing:

1. Pockets (Diamond Rings Mix)
2. Dissembler (Mathemagic Mix)
3. Dissembler (French Husband Mix)
4. CP24 (Teen Mix)
5. Pockets (Jeremy Glenn’s Stay Real Dub)
6. Dissembler (Dan’s Piano Version)

Catch Woodhands on the road this summer:

May 25 @ Habourfront Centre, Toronto (Inside The Musician’s Studio)
July 1-2 @ Sled Island, Calgary
July 3 @ Pride Festival Outdoor Main Stage, Toronto
July 12 @ Le National, Montréal (with Passion Pit)
July 15 @ Blues Fest, Ottawa (with Champion)
July 24 @ Evolve Festival, Antigonish


There's a weird "world music"-type Vancouver band you may have heard of called Delhi 2 Dublin. Their mix of, let's see [checking press release], "Bhangra, Celtic, Dub Reggae and Electronica" is creative. They've landed high-profile gigs like Canada Day on Parliament Hill and a free Yonge-Dundas Square performance last summer, and while I doubt indie music tastemakers like Pitchfork would approve, interesting, fun music is interesting, fun music. Their second album is out on Tuesday. It's called Planet Electric.

(That was them at Hillside Inside.) Oh, and if you like what you hear, you can "like" it on Facebook, too. If the band gets itself 7,000 fans by the end of 4 May, it'll offer up the EP version of its new album as a free download to everyone who wants it.

Delhi 2 Dublin celebrate the release of their album at the Drake Hotel on 11 May. Tickets are $15 at the door.


One of my favourite bands, The Acorn, whose album is due out on 1 June, have released the first single off it for free download. Head over to Paper Bag Records to preorder No Ghost. The band is in Toronto on 11 June for a show at Lee's Palace. For full Canadian tour dates, check here.

Download: "No Ghost" (No Ghost, 2010).


I got a CD in the mail recently from a guy named Shawn Clarke. I've met Shawn a few times at shows, and have seen him play saxophone with Olenka & the Autumn Lovers and Timber Timbre. He's also got a nice arts & culture blog that I read. Shawn's got a musical project of his own and performs around town in singer-songwriter-type evenings. And it's his own album, Like Birds Too Tired To Fly, that came for me. Why am I telling you this? Because I finally today tore off the cellophane wrapping and popped the disc into my stereo, and I loved what I heard! Seemingly simple, yet meaningful songs with strong vocals and good arrangements. I need to listen more. Right now.

Ticket/CD Giveaway: Brett Caswell @ Supermarket, 12 May.

Ontario roots rocker and piano pop crooner Brett Caswell and his band the Marquee Rose are releasing a debut album on 18 May called A New Balance. This will be Caswell's first offering since 2007's Love Waiting EP. Ahead of the release, the band is celebrating with a few Ontario shows, including 12 May's at Toronto's Supermarket.

Here's a taste of the new disc:

Download: "A New Balance" (A New Balance, 2010).
Download: "Needle In the Groove" (A New Balance, 2010).

Nice, eh?

Thanks to Audio Blood Media, I've got a pair of passes and a copy of the new disc to giveaway to one lucky reader! For you chance to win, email me by 11:59pm on 10 May, and put "Brett Caswell" in the subject line of your message. (I'll let you know the next day if you're a winner.) The CD release show also features Bass Lions, so should be a lovely event. Please don't enter unless you can actually attend the event, which is 19+; your CD will be at the merch table for you. And if you don't win, you can still go. Tickets, available at the door, will go for the inexpensive price of pay-what-you-can.

Fine Print: Brett Caswell & the Marquee Rose w/Half Full, Bass Lions, and Colin Moore @ Supermarket, Wednesday, 12 May, 9pm, pwyc.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Ticket/CD Giveaway: Ketch Harbour Wolves @ The Horseshoe, 8 May.

Ketch Harbour Wolves, crafter's of the no. 1 Canadian EP of 2008, are celebrating the release of a new album, Anachronisms, at the Horseshoe on Saturday, 8 May. Well, sort of: The album won't be released for real until June, but you can hear the new songs and pick up an advance copy of the new disc at this show.

Here's a track from their last EP, and you can head over to the band's website to download the whole thing for free (until 2 June). And one from the new album.

Download: Ketch Harbour Wolves, "Animals" (Dead Calm Horizon, 2008).
Download: Ketch Harbour Wolves, "Damascus" ( Anachronisms, 2010).

Thanks to the band, I've got a pair of tickets and a copy of their new CD to give away to one of you! For a chance at them, email me by 11:59pm on Thursday, 6 May. (I'll let you know the next day if you're a winner.) Please put "Ketch Harbour Wolves" in the subject line so I'm sure not to miss your entry. The only restrictions are that you must be 19+ to get into the show, and you must actually go to the show to pick up your CD!

Watch a video recorded in Kingston for the song "Body Without Organs":

Fine Print: Ketch Harbour Wolves (CD pre-release) w/ Clothes Make the Man, Sandman Viper Command, and Drink Up Buttercup @ The Horseshoe Tavern, Saturday, 8 May, 9pm, $7.