Monday, May 23, 2011

Not Quite the Jackpot

Whenever Susan and I attend Nanaimo Clippers or Nanaimo Timbermen (Snr. A) games, we like to do our little bit to financially support our local teams beyond paying to get in. We usually do this by purchasing 50/50 tickets, where 50% of the cost goes to the club and the other half to the prize pot. It's possible to win a few hundred bucks in this way, so it's worth a pop. 

Last night we went to the Timbermen's opening home game of the season, versus the fearsome New Westminster Salmonbellies. It was a great game, ending in a 14-14 tie after overtime. As usual there were plenty of distractions in the form of prize draws and whatnot, both during play (which deeply irritates me) and in the two intervals. One promotion was the Domino's Cheesy Bread Toss, whereby boxes of hot cheesy bread from the local Domino's Pizza parlour were thrown into the crowd for no apparent reason other than to make them fat. It's reported that each slice of this stuff weighs in at 120 calories and a total of six grams of fat, so I'm amused at the paradox of this occurring at a sporting event featuring such incredibly fit athletes as professional lacrosse players.

But I digress. Despite the bucks we've thrown at 50/50 tickets at the games we've been to, Susan and I have never won a bean. Until last night! On the way in we'd bought a programme, each one of which bears a unique number on the cover. Ours was 110. When the lucky programme numbers were read out, we had won a prize, but the PA in Frank Crane Arena is so muffled that we didn't catch what it was.

Susan excitedly scurried off to the lobby to claim our booty, returning a few minutes later with a less than thrilled expression. We had won the awesome third prize of a $10 off voucher for Dog 'n' Suds U-Wash & Professional Pet Grooming, an establishment bang opposite Susan's workplace.

Fantastic, then, except for the fact that we do not own a dog. But a closer look reveals that the discount voucher could save against a "Self-serve Cat Wash" - and we do own a cat! Wait a minute, though...who reading has ever tried to wash a cat? I have. Once. A very long time ago. And not since. If you, too, have attempted this, how many stitches did it take to put your face back together? And how long did it take the surgeons to reattach your arms?

So, no, we will not be using this fabulous prize to take our cat for a wash, even if I would save ten dollars in the process. If I tried, he would rip out my heart, which isn't really how I'd wish to celebrate the first time we've won something. So then, essentially, unless we can offload it, all we have actually won is a useless, coloured piece of cardboard with some words on it. In this respect it's very nice, but as much use to us as a chocolate teapot.

Does anyone want it? Ten bucks and it's yours.    

Lost in Translation

Down the many years I've worked in music retail I've had my fair share of chucklesome customer enquiries. One of my favourites was from a sweet old lady, presumably sent on an errand by a younger person. "Do you have any records by George Thoroughbred & the Disasters?" she asked, to my eternal amusement.

Such funny little episodes help the days go by.

In the Nanaimo music store I work part-time at we have quite a parade of oddball regulars coming in, some of whom I will undoubtedly blog about as and when. One of the more normal customers who pops in from time to time is a pleasant Mexican chap who usually arrives with a cassette containing a snippet of something he's recorded off the radio. As our listening station is a combined CD and cassette player we are able to listen to his excerpts, more often than not identifying the song, all well and good then digging out a corresponding CD to sell him.

A couple of days ago he was in again, but without a tape this time. Instead, he said simply, "Bruce Springsteen," and handed me a small piece of paper. Written on it, in a rather stylish hand, was this:

Come on me

Needless to say, at the very moment I read those three small, innocently delivered words, volcanic juvenile hilarity welled up in me. All I wanted to do was explode with laughter, and keeping it in really hurt. Until he'd left the store I of course had to control myself, somehow managing to serve him with the utmost professionalism, only to regularly dissolve into titters throughout the rest of the day, and many times since.

Although my knowledge of Springsteen's back catalogue is such that I was immediately able to correctly interpret his spectacularly misheard lyric - being "cover me" from the song of the same title on his Born in the U.S.A. album - I was hoping for dear life that it wasn't in fact an entirely separate request. That would not have been an ideal situation, especially as he wasn't really my type. Besides which, I'm not sure my wife would have been too enamoured to learn, when asking how my day at work went, that one transaction involved me emptying my scrotum over an unknown Mexican trucker.

Still, it would have helped the day go by.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Larry and His Flask: They Came, They Rocked, They Conquered

You go to a gig with feverish anticipation for the headliners, unaware of who is opening the show. Or else you might know, but the name means nothing. Then the band takes to the stage and from the very first note your jaw drops. As a result, the course of your life changes.

This happens very rarely, or at least to me. I've attended thousands of gigs but can count on one hand how many times I've experienced this. It happened at the Biltmore in Vancouver in 2009 when an amazing set from Local Natives made Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, themselves a fearsome live proposition, look like shoddy amateurs. And it happened at the old Concorde in Brighton in 1998, when Neutral Milk Hotel turned my world upside down in support of Sparklehorse. I could claim it also happened at the Buzzcocks show at Birmingham Odeon on October 24th, 1979, when I saw Joy Division, but the truth is I knew of them and their "thing" already. Nevertheless, they still blew the doors off in a manner that no band on earth could follow.

Last Saturday, it happened again. In a packed Media Club in Vancouver an up-for-it crowd convened to see the brilliant bluegrass band, Trampled by Turtles. But the opening band...oh my god! Ladies and gentlemen, meet Larry and His Flask:

This image, taken at the show, merely hints and the energy, power and intensity of the set delivered that night by this Portland, Oregon, 6-piece. From the opening few seconds they played with such ferocity and unbridled joy that they sucked the crowd right in, and kept them there. A hi-octane mix of bluegrass, punk rock, New Orleans R&B (resplendent with horns), glorious four-part harmonies and original songs that all sounded like instant classics to these ears, Larry and His Flask absolutely tore the roof off. They also did a couple of covers, their version of Marvin Gaye's What's Going On nearly killing me. The entire band threw themselves individually or collectively into the crowd at various points, especially double bass player and co-founder, Jesse Marshall:

I'm not sure what else to say, really. It was simply astonishing. In an interview with the band's drummer - Jesse's brother, Jamin - AMP Magazine opened their article by saying: There are just some bands that you have to see to believe. Larry and His Flask is one of those bands. I'd say that just about sums it up. If these guys come to play anywhere near you, drop all your plans and go see 'em for one of the most exciting live music experiences of your life.

Oh yeah, Trampled by Turtles were quite good too.