Monday, August 27, 2012

Vinyl Record Storage!

 The last few weeks I kept staring at the records accumulating in front of my record shelves. That’s right… in front… When you buy as many records as I do storage is an issue that arises often. Every time I think I have the perfect amount of storage.. well… I buy a whole pile more records.. It’s a problem I have to admit that I enjoy having.


So record storage. To me the king of record shelves and a well known and loved solution for lots of vinyl enthusiasts is the ‘expedit’ shelving available from IKEA. They are the perfect size, they are great looking, they are sturdy.. and best of all.. they’re cheap!


The only problem is that the closest IKEA is in Montreal. Online shopping to the rescue! I bought my three 4x4 ‘expedit’ shelves online and when you buy more than one the shipping really isn’t that bad. I think I paid $50 to ship the three of them.


‘Expedit’ shelves come in many sizes but the only ones that can ship at a decent price is the 4x4. I like them! They look great side by side and the top is a great place for my turntable, amp and speakers.


But as records keep accumulating I needed some more shelf space. The next ‘expedit’ I want to add is much larger and will come when I do my next trip to Toronto or Montreal. But in the meantime I came across this great set of plans for a record bin on the audio karma message forums. It can be made using only one sheet of plywood! I had a bunch of plywood pieces in my shed so I modified the size a bit but this is what I turned out with.


I have to stress that I am pretty dangerous with a saw and hammer.. but even I have to admit this looks pretty decent! I love the rough look of it. Just do a google search for ‘record bin from one sheet of plywood’ and the message forum will come right up.


I will be making one more of these in the near future. Great spot to keep the vinyl that I am currently listening too.


As for my CD storage.. I was also planning on getting an IKEA shelf for them but again the shipping is killer on small orders. Luckily these shelves came on sale at Canadian Tire for only $14 each. They are a great little shelf to get me through until I get a larger one!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sarah Harmer!

The first big concert I ever went to as a teenager was the “Great Big Picnic” in Shediac in 1997. I was so pumped to see three bands at this show. Wide Mouth Mason; Big Sugar and Great Big Sea. As good as it was to see these three bands it was an unknown band (unknown by myself at least) that stole the show for me. Weeping Tile!

This is the last tour I saw Sarah perform on!

Weeping Tile was a band formed in 1993 in Kingston Ontario. Created by Sarah Harmer in 1993 Weeping Tile released an EP called “Eepee” in 1993. The band had a completely new lineup by the time they released their first full length LP called “Cold Snap” with Sarah Harmer being the only original member. This is the lineup I saw at the Great Big Picnic.

I loved this band ever since the first time I heard them that day. Weeping Tile was missing their drummer at this show but still pulled off an amazing set regardless. From here on out I was a Weeping Tile fan… Well more so than a Weeping Tile fan I guess you could say I was a Sarah Harmer fan. As great as this band was, it was Sarah’s singing and song writing that I loved so much.

So back in the 90’s I bought the three releases that Weeping Tile had put out. These were by far the most played CD’s and cassettes I owned in the 90’s. By dragging them everywhere with me in my truck and moving constantly to new apartments these CD were damaged beyond use (which they had plenty of!).

This album was recorded as a gift for Sarah's Dad. It is her playing her Father's favorite songs. Once she recorded it her friends encouraged her to release it as it was so good (which it is)!!

I had the CD’s ripped on my hard drive so I never missed the music over the years. But once I got into vinyl collecting, mp3’s just didn’t cut it for me anymore.

Some more of Sarah Harmer's solo albums.

Most of what I own from Sarah is all on CD except for her newest release called “Oh Little Fire”. I picked this up on Amazon as soon as it was released. One of my favorite albums by her! Everything else of hers I have is a CD copy. This is because these are the only copies I can find, I could never find vinyl copies.

Oh Little Fire - Her newest album!

But I do not have any of the Weeping Tile CD’s anymore. I’m working on replacing them but they are hard to find these days. My main focus is to find the Weeping Tile debut LP called “Cold Snap”. The reason this is my main focus is that I do not even have a rip of these songs. I bought the cassette tape when I saw them in 1997 but I never had the CD. I know I can buy it on iTunes but I try to buy nothing digital only. That’s the music hoarder in me! (plus they don’t sound near as good).

Escarpment blues DVD. This is a performances and a documentary of Sarah's activism against a quarry development on the Niagra Escarpment.

So I was searching around eBay for a copy of “Cold Snap” but thought I would check out Sarah Harmer’s website to see if there were any copies available on there. I saw that she had a twitter account so I messaged her asking if she knew of anywhere to buy a copy. Sure enough she got right back to me and said that she has no CD’s left but she has a few copies on vinyl. Hell yeah!

So I offered to send her the cash to ship it out but she insisted that she drops it off personally when she passes through Fredericton in a month on her way to PEI and Nova Scotia to do a few shows.

As you can imagine I was very excited about this. But part of me never saw it happening. But sure enough she contacted me prior to driving through and we met at the Big Stop Irving and she dropped off a copy of the album! I traded her a few albums for it (I gave her a Jim Croce; CCR and Beatles lp if you wanna know..;)

Me and Sarah Harmer!

So I went back to work and couldn’t wait for the end of the day to play this record.

Unfortunately Mother Nature had other plans. This event happened on one of the hottest days of the year and when it made its way from Ontario to my place the vinyl got so hot that it warped.. What a tragic ending!

Regardless! This is still my favorite album that I own even though I can never play it. But doesn’t it look great framed on the wall??
My favorite album! Regardless if I can't play it!

Thanks Sarah for being so cool and meeting me with this album! I will always be your biggest fan!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Polyvinyl Records order!

I placed an order with Polyvinyl Records last week and just got it in time for the weekend!!!

I was introduced to this record label after discovering “The Japandroids” a little while back on CBC radio 3. I had “Celebration Rock” on my wish list for a few months and finally got the urge to order it when I saw the great online garage sale that Polyvinyl Records had going on.

How the garage sale works is they have a bunch of records that may get a bend on the edge of the sleeve or some other minor imperfection. They can’t sell these at full price so they blow them out once a year. Most of the vinyl sells in between $4 and $6. I figured this was a great opportunity to try some new bands out.

I have to add that when I received these garage sale LP’s I saw no defects whatsoever. I don’t know why they thought there was something wrong with them. I was expecting the worst. What I got was a few crisp mint new albums. Nice score!

First album I listened to was “Celebration Rock” by “The Japandroids”. This LP had very nice packaging. It had a nice thick book that came with it including all of the lyrics and some great pictures. The vinyl was heavy 180g and white. Sexy!

For those of you who do not know who these guys are, here is a brief overview of “The Japandroids”. They are a two piece band from Vancouver British Columbia consisting of Brian King on guitars and vocals and David Prowse on drums and vocals.

These two guys achieve a seriously heavy and full sound for a two piece band. Brings me back to my reaction the first time I ever found out that RUSH was a three piece band. Such a full complete sound with minimal musicians! (FYI - These guys sound nothing like RUSH, just comparing the minimal amount of musicians and the ridiculous amount of sound that comes from them). They achieve this full heavy sound with David Prowse basically ignoring his hi-hats and ride cymbal but using his crash to get that heavy rhythm. I love it! Add to the drums the great fuzz distortion of the guitar and just a tint of distortion on his screaming vocals. This LP rocks!

It is hard to pick out a favorite song. Although I find they all sound similar I like them all just the same. I highly recommend checking them out. Trust me, by the middle of the second side you will be chanting along “oh oh oh oh oh oh OHH!” with the “The House that Heaven Built”.

The next album I picked up was the self-titled album from a band called “The M’s”. This was the first of the two garage sale LP’s I picked up. These were pure “let’s give it a shot” kind of albums. I never heard of these bands. Glad I took the chance.

The M’s are an Indie band from Chicago Illinois. The band consists of Josh Chicoine on vocals and guitar; Steve Versaw on drums; Joey King on vocals and bass; Robert Hicks on vocals and guitar and Glenn Rischke on keyboards and percussion. Their band bio says that basically this group of friends met up one day, started drinking beers together and writing songs, with no intentions on trying to make it as a band. Some of these songs were eventually released on this debut LP and I really enjoyed them. I have a hard time putting my finger on exactly what kind of band I would compare them too but two bands/artists came to mind. Stone Temple Pilots and David Bowie. Now I’m sure I’m going to get lots of bashing for that comparison but those are the first two artists I thought of when I listened to this album.

A bonus that was added to this album was a 7” tucked inside. This 7” is probably the highlight for me. I love this song! It’s called “turn on, tune in, drop out”. This song is stretched out on both sides of the 7”.

I love finding stuff like this included with an lp!

Last but not least I picked up a copy of “AM/FM’s” album called “Mutilate Us”. Maybe I’m too easy to please when it comes to music (hope I am.. I keep a positive outlook at all these artists and I get tonnes of enjoyment!), but I am a big fan of this album too!

“AM/FM” is an Indie band from Philadelphia Pennsylvania consisting of Michael Parsall and Brian Sokel who both share duties on all of the following: Drums, guitar, Percussion and Keyboards. I have a hard time putting these guys under a certain category in music except saying that they are just pure indie! Really cool song arrangements and they did a great job putting everything together in the studio. They basically recorded bits and pieces of songs and did the majority of the song writing in the studio as they went. They have multiple layers of harmony vocals which is really appealing.

This album has been the main album on my iPod since I was given the download at the time of purchase.

On that note! This was another perk for shopping from Polyvinyll Records. As soon as you placed the order you were sent a code to get the digital download. This was great! Once I got the LP I already knew all of the songs and couldn’t wait to throw it on the turntable!

I’m really looking forward to buying more from these guys!

Hell, I can’t wait to order from Polyvinyl Records again! They even threw in this treat!


How do they know me so well??

*** all band information was taken from

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

SappyFest 7 - Notes and Remembrances (by Keltie Harding)

(Photo Courtesy of SappyFest & Karren Stentaford)

SappyFest 7 - Thoughts & Rememberances (by Keltie Harding) 

Well, another SappyFest has come and gone.  On all accounts it was a success.  I had a great time in SappyLand, as did roughly 2000 other folks.  But I'm paying for it now!  I'm still trying to catch up on my rest.  This boy isn't as young as he used to be and 3 days of music and warm temperatures takes its toll. LOL. Sleep is usually overrated but right now, sleep sounds like a great plan.  

Andre Ethier onstage at the Main Stage tent

Despite being a completely enjoyable time for me, there were a few snags that kinda irked me.  Firstly was the sound at the main stage tent.  All other years I have went, the sound mix was excellent.  This year, the engineers had a lot of trouble balancing out the vocals with the rest of the band. During the set by Yamantaka/Sonic Titan, the guitar was buried in the mix.  The other venues sounded fine but the main stage guys seem to have been struggling during some of the acts.  Oh well, its me being picky.  I'm sure others found the sound fine. 

 Yamantaka/Sonic Titan closing the night at the Main Stage Tent

Because of an event this size, there are so many acts I wanted to see,  and sometimes acts overlap and you have to decide on one or the other.  Oh the decisions!!!!  I think I saw pretty much everyone I wanted to see. But missed a few that I would have wanted to see.  For example I missed an excellent (so I was told) set by Halifax's Bad Vibrations to see the "Talking Exploding Diamond Talk Show".  The Bad Vibes are playing in Moncton next weekend so I'll catch them again.  But I felt bad, being friends and all, I like to be there to support my buds.

The festival held many highlights for me. Some of them were:

Man Forever - This barrage of 6 drummers, a bassist and keyboardist created a free-form 20 minute long drum solo jam from which there was just no letting up. Just when you thought it was gonna wind down, it just kept going.  

Mike O'Neill - Last time I saw him was about 10 years ago and his new material is really strong and catchy. Taking a break from the scene hasn't diminished his performance or songwriting.  And his backing band (featuring Laura Peek and Charles Austin) were the perfect accompaniment for Mike.  

Banded Stilts - They played their infectious folky country on the town bandstand and it was a great experience to hear such relaxing music in the middle of the sunny downtown.


John Cougar Bandcamp -  The next generation of SappyFest artists were showcased at this family friendly late morning event.  Sackville youth between the ages of 6 and 14 got up to play all original songs.  One song was about the City Mail project run by Alison Creba at the last 2 SappyFests.  It was fun.


F*cked Up -  Loud, aggressive, hardcore punk metal with strong melodies.  The singer was an energy bomb waiting to go off.  He took a beach ball and bit into it and wore it as a poncho.  It was great. He's a pretty big guy and was even crowd surfing.  what a blast.  And tight TIGHT musicianship.  Check them out.  


The Talking Exploding Diamond Talk Show -  A new event this year, it was a live talk show held at the Vogue Theatre.  The line up to get in was huge.  My friend Sonia and I managed to get in for the second hour.  There was a smackdown wrestling match between a Sasquatch and a cougar, Calvin Johnson entertained us with one of his quirky songs, Cat Pontoon interviewed herself instead of having the host ask the questions.  Pure fun.

The Pining - These gals from Toronto were really easy on the eyes and played a great groovy country feeling set at the town bandstand.  Talented musicians, soaring 4 part harmonies and the mid-day sunshine made this set very enjoyable.  I didn't get a chance to pick up their vinyl at the merch tent. Sucks to be me.


Julie Doiron - Canada's first lady of introspective song never ceases to amaze me.  Ex-Constantine & Wooly Leaves main man Will Kidman joined her on drums and guitar for "Borrowed Minivans"  When she performed "The Wrong Guy"/"No More", her energy is intense.  Pouring her heart out on stage for all to witness, and you can hear a pin drop in the theater.  Welcome home Julie.  Its nice to have you back in Sackville. New album in the fall.  I can't wait.  

 Julie & Will Kidman on drums

Dog Day -  2 piece guitar and drums from Halifax.  Last time I saw these guys, they were still a 4 piece, so its been a while for me.  Energetic power pop with grunge overtones.  Well worth seeing.

This Is Not For Everyone - A collage of film, music, poetry was a nice way to start off the Sunday events.  Writer/filmmaker Ian Roy showed a short, humorous film & Artist/filmmaker Jon Claytor showed his short film "The Animals".  Mike Feuerstack also played 3 of his newest songs for the attentive audience.  I even helped clean the Vogue theatre for the performance.  I was hanging around waiting for it to start, and I saw my friend Jon (Claytor, one of the directors &  founders of SappyFest) and asked if he needed help cleaning up after the live talk show the night before.  So I grabbed a broom and garbage can and did my part.  It was great.  A sappy Volunteer for a brief moment in time.

Bry Webb - The former Constantines frontman played a very mellow, countrified set in the Mount Alison University United Chapel.  The understated musical backing mixed with the church's acoustics gave it an eerie, yet comforting feeling. Bry's infant son was around and you could hear him say "Dada Dada Dada" and giggle & coo all the way through the set.  It was cute.  Highlights for me were Bry's composition "Rivers Of Gold" and an exquisite cover of "Summer Breeze" by Seals & Croft.  When he started that song, a nice beautiful warm breeze came through the venue.  Coincidence?  You tell me.  It was very calming.  I closed my eyes and just drifted away to the sound of his rich baritone.  If there IS a heaven, then seeing Bry Webb in this setting was a brief taste of it.

Mt. Silver Zion Memorial Orchestra - Intense, loud, experimental, guitars, bass, drums and violins.  My first time seeing these guys and I was speechless.  The music would gradually build up to a wall of sound and then explode like a mighty orgasm into frenzied musical chaos and beauty.  My favorite song of the set was "Psalm 99".  You MUST see them if they come through your town.  

Some acts didn't turn me on as much.  Others enjoyed them but they didn't do it for me.  "The Blow" was dance techno music and I am not into techno. I'm sorry.  1 girl dancing around an empty stage singing to a pre-recorded backing track just didn't seem to hold my attention.  "Timbre Timbre" may be the newest thing from Canada, but I didn't see the appeal.  I felt it was boring, slow and dreary.  But that's just my take.  you may feel differently, and that's cool, man.  But such is an event of this magnitude.  There's bound to be an act here or there that doesn't appeal to you.  And that is fine.  It gave me a chance to nip out to use the washroom, get a bite to eat or just a breath of air.

This year the Sappyfest subtitle/ theme was "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere", the title song of Neil Young's classic second album.  In the past 2 years, there was a "Secret" show at SappyFest that this year rumors were flying again.  Various names that were batted around were Neil Young (of course), Gordon Lightfoot and The Constantines.  I could possibly see a min-Constantines reunion as 3 of the 5 members were in town to play, but nothing materialized.  As the weekend drew on, rumors of a secret show quietly subsided.  Maybe next year there will be another coup for the Sappyfest organizers, maybe not. Who knows.  As with all things Sappy, surprises are bound to happen. 

  "Nowhere Tent" picture courtesy of Sonia Noel

The event was (and is) always so well organized.  So much work goes on to put this event on.  Thanks to Paul and Jon for doing so much for the scene.  Thanks goes to all the people who volunteered their time to work the merch tables, the box office and general helping out. 

And the merch.  THE MERCH.  There was so many records, CD's T-shirts, and cassettes (yes, cassettes are making a BIG comeback in the indie world) that I needed at least $1000 to buy one of everything.  I wasn't able to, unfortunately, but I did get a great "You've Changed Records" T-shirt, the newest Marine Dreams and Baby Eagle vinyls (both from You've Changed Records.)

Ian Kehoe & Tamara Lindeman of Marine Dreams

Marine Dreams - Marine Dreams (You've Changed Records) 

 Baby Eagle & The Proud Mothers

Baby Eagle & The Proud Mothers - Bone Soldiers (You've Changed Records)

I also got newcomer Eamon McGrath's "Young Canadians" album on vinyl, Fred Squire 's "Sings Shenendoah & Other Popular Hits" from Toronto based Blue Fog Records.  I also had a special delivery of the second "The Memories Attack" CD.  I knew Ron Bates (of TMA) was coming this way and asked him to bring a copy if he had one kicking around.  Lucky for me he did.  Bless ya Ron.  You're a great friend and I LOVE the CD.  My friend Sonia bought more merch than me and I'll get her opinions on some of her purchases.  But there is never lack of merch (and fairly priced too) at SappyFest.  I'd rather buy from the artist themselves and that way they see more of the profits.  

 Eamon McGrath - Young Canadians (White Whale Records)

L-R: Mark Gaudet, Eamon McGrath & Julie Doiron

Frederick Squire - Sings Shenandoah & Other Popular Hits (Blue Fog Records)

So, all in all, SappyFest 7 (Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere) was a success.  I had tons of fun, listened to so much music, got turned on to some new bands, met old friends, made new friends, and got away from life as I knew it for a few days.  Now that I am back in my usual life, I am going through Sappy withdrawal.  I miss the feelings that the event gives me.  Well I have to wait. 363 days left till next year.  I have all this time to catch up on the bands that played, get turned on to some bands that will play next year, and save more money to blow on merch and goodies!

Toronto grunge rockers METZ

I strongly STRONGLY urge anyone who loves good music, to check out the festival when it returns (hopefully) next year. Open your ears, your eyes and your hearts.  Your life will be enriched & forever changed for the good.

(Sappy Times Newsletters by Sean Michaels - I'm missing the Monday (looking back on Sunday) edition.)

Keltie & Peter Rowan,

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Questions about Indie!

After writing my post about Canadian Indie artists I was again sitting in my office listening to CBC radio 3.

Now I still stand by what I said that a lot of the good music out there is Indie music. I still however have to point out that there is a lot of junk out there as well. This is where the Indie scene gets tricky for me. I lose my attention very quickly when I get bored! At least mainstream they are filtered through and (most of the time) the best prevail. This doesn’t happen in Indie. The junk stays and there is LOTS of it!

This is where I struggle with indie music. Luckily I have enough friends who are interested in it and can give me some direction on artists they think I like.

I have some hefty playlists made on my CBC account which is mostly what I stick to. I listen to the artists I know and like, then get recommendations from other people and build on these playlists.

Today however I put it on the main station and suffered a bit for it. I added maybe 5 songs to my playlists out of 30+.

The part that gets me a lot of the time is the quality of the recording. I am not an audiophile by any means but I can’t get into lo-fi. If it sounds like shit, It’s not a selling point for me. I’ll pass.

Also, what is it about all of the two piece bands out there now? Now I’m a fan of the White Stripes, and I don’t mind the Black Keys and Japandroids. But part of me wonders what it would sound like with the addition of the bass. Bass is so important to good sound in my opinion and I think it would only improve the sound. Sure it’s cool that it can be done with two but still. I find it way more impressive with the full band. If you want to impress, play all the instruments like the best! You can do anything in the studio! Add more tracks! Do it!

Now back to the lo-fi. Maybe it will click with me someday and I’ll realize what it is about it that attracts people. But it still puzzles me why people love it so much.

Even some of my best friends like Keltie have favorite bands that record lo-fi. You won’t find a bigger Eric’s Trip or Elevator to Hell fan than Keltie (hell ask Mark, Julie and Rick themselves.. they all know who their biggest fan is). I loved being dragged to these concerts with Keltie when I was younger and to this day am still a fan. But it still baffles me that somebody so obsessed with sound quality as Keltie is so impressed with the lo-fi.

And I’m not attacking Keltie, I’m actually asking the question as I know he will love to set me straight with a response to this post! I love the responses Keltie! You’re my teacher and the one that got me hooked on this music hoarding in the first place!

So aside from all the junk out there I still think the indie scene currently has more great music than mainstream as of late. The best thing about it is that it introduces me to some very interesting music. Besides being annoyed by the lack of bass and the lo-fi recording.. at the same time something intrigues me about it and keeps drawing me back.. I just have to figure out what it is.

Keltie's response:

AHHH Brad, I KNEW i was a bad influence on you, haha!! :-)

Ok, I should be packing for Sappyfest but need to take a break.  Yes I can be picky when it comes to sound & recording quality.  But what drew me to the love of the lo-fi sound?  Hell I don't really know but I can explore some options.

I guess the whole idea of doing it yourself, at home (or wherever) appealed to me.  Bucking the trend of renting a studio, and having someone else's ears dictate your sound.  While being an engineer & producer myself, I always ask my artist "what are you aiming for in terms of sound". And having a love of all music, hi-fi & lo-fi certainly helps.  But sometimes stuff captured in a studio doesn't match stuff recorded on a 4-track at home, in terms of feel, ambience or performance.  The studio take may be perfect in sound & execution, but if the FEEL isn't there, then that particular piece of music may seem totally limp. 

Knowing that an artist has recorded lo-fi gives that song or record a particular intimacy, a very personal connection.  And again, going back to artistic control.  Some of Eric's Trip's recorded output would drive some folks away.  But I look beyond the tape hiss, the sometimes very primitive recording techniques, and see each song as a piece of art.  Musical art.  When an artist has the urge to create, sometimes just setting up a single mic and getting the ideas down on tape while its fresh matter more than trying to get it sounding "right".  So, the sound on a particular song may sound lousy to the common person but its "right" for the artist, the song & the artist's vision. And an artist's finances too. Recording on a 4-track at home is definitely cheaper than the cost of going to a studio. 
Its about being real.  And knowing that something is real makes it all the more special. 
The Black Keys (whose last 2 records I can't stand) recorded their EXCELLENT first albums using home-based Tascam 1/4 inch 8 track tape machines.  They wanted a certain sound, a raw-ness, and whenever I listen to their debut "The Big Come-Up", I get excited.  This is real.  Raw, unpolished, totally unpretentious.

Another reason why I think the lo-fi esthetic as prevailed is that many alternative artists and punk artists are influenced by garage rock & early proto-punk & early punk itself.  For example, if it wasn't for the groundbreaking (and poorly recorded) album "The Velvet Underground & Nico" many now influential artists would have never been inspired to try to replicate the sound & feel of that classic album.  Artists are influenced by what they hear, and cutting your teeth on classic raw slabs by The Sonics (60's heavy garage from Washington) or Sonic Youth really can make an impact.
Now with the ease of recording at home with a computer & a few good mics, at-home recording has come a long way.  So the aesthetic of DIY & following your own vision is still alive.  Yes there are bands that still use old cassette 4-tracks, and that's cool.  Whatever works for you, your band and your vision.

If that makes sense, then I'm happy to have shared my thoughts.  If I was just rambling, well, that's OK too.  I'm writing by the seat of my pants here.