Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Do You Remember Where You Were

April 5, 1994.

It was a Monday. I was over halfway through my first year of High School and I was loving it. From Kindergarten to Grade Nine, I went to the same small school, going from grade to grade with the same small group of about sixty kids. It was not a fun time for me and I ached to finish Grade Nine and then move on into High School.

High School was the largest of it's kind in Manitoba. It was a massive building where kids from all over the Red River Valley and Interlake descended. Starting High School was the beginning of something great for me - I really found myself. I made friends with a great group of people, I discovered literature and music and drugs...

Music and drugs - they seemed to go hand in hand back then for me. Many of my afternoons were spent skipping class and going with my friends to their house to smoke a joint and get lost in music. Even back then, I was still different from my friends - drawn to the old music I grew up listening to in the truck with my Dad. But my friends? They were into newer stuff. Our drug hazed afternoons were often spent listening to bands like Pearl Jam, Green Day (God, how I love Dookie back then), The Offspring, Stone Temple Pilots, The Tragically Hip, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana.


Everyone listened to Nirvana. They were a band that, at the time, seemed to defy High School Cliques. The Skaters, The Stoners, The Punks and The Preps all listened to Nirvana, whether they admitted it or not. 

I first heard Nirvana on the radio - Smells Like Teen Spirt hit our small city like a ton of bricks. The music was rough, raw and angry. It instantly called to all of us who felt like we didn't fit in, like we didn't belong. It was the perfect soundtrack for a generation of young degenerates. We lapped it up with spoons and begged for more and more and more. My friends and I would listen to Nevermind and In Utero over and over again. We would scream ourselves hoarse along to the lyrics. Kurt Cobain wasn't just a great musician, he knew us. He understood us.

Back then, it was all about the music for me. I didn't spend much of my time reading about and following what Nirvana was or wasn't doing. The internet wasn't as accessible then as it is today. I was fifteen at the time and working a part time job after school. I'm positive I read about Nirvana in Rolling Stone or Spin magazine back then but I couldn't say for sure. 

But I knew those songs. I got excited anytime one of their tracks came on the radio. We screamed the lyrics at the top of our lungs down the hall at school. We had found our sound. I didn't feel like I was quite so odd, so weird, so awkward. I felt like I belonged, like someone understood me. 

April 5, 1994 I was was skipping class, as usual. It was a Monday afternoon and I'm sure some of my friends convinced me that sitting in the school common area (accurately called The Pit due to the fact it was a big, well, pit in the middle of our school - three shallow steps deep covered with the most burlap like brown carpet) was better than learning anything that afternoon. We were sitting near the back of The Pit, in our spot close to the Graphic Arts class room. All of the cliques had their own areas - The Skaters had the best spot next to the handicap elevator, the Drama Nerds had the spot closest to the theatre entrance, the Rockers and Punks could also be found sweating in leather jackets in a section close to the front doors and us, The Stoners, in the back somewhere between the Graphic Arts room and the Photo Lab.

It started as murmur, really. I remember The Pit was pretty quiet and that the noise level started to escalate over by The Punks. Soon, it spread to the Drama Nerds and then onto The Skaters. By the time the news reached us at the back of The Pit, the murmur had crescendoed and was accented with sobs, crying and swearing.

Kurt Cobain was dead.

It all came in pieces to us. Was he killed? No, not killed. What happened? Someone on the radio said he was shot. Someone shot him? No, he shot himself.

Kurt Cobain shot himself.


I don't really remember what I did after hearing that - Kurt Cobain shot himself. I remember looking at my friends and them looking back at me. Did we say anything to each other in that moment? Probably not. What would you say? 

At home that evening, the story kept popping up on the news. There were few details, very few. I remember my mom asking me if I knew who Kurt Cobain was. I replied that I did.

There are things that help define a generation - whether they are good or bad. Both my parents remember exactly where they were and what they were doing whey they heard the news that John Lennon had been killed. I bet others remember with amazing clarity what they were doing when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, or when two airplanes smashed into the Twin Towers. We remember what we were doing when we heard the news that Kurt Cobain had killed himself. 

It's been 23 years since Kurt Cobain left us. A lot has changed since then, hasn't it? I'm no longer the confused Stoner I was in 1994. I've morphed over the years into whatever it is that I am. The music is still with me - I'm as crazy about music now as I was back then, exploring different genres and subgeneras. I'm more aware of the world around me and how things seem to wax and wane as the years go by. I've grown - I've loved and lost love, I've been happy and I've experienced terrible aches. 

We can speculate forever on why he did or even IF he did it. I don't think it's relevant in the grand scheme of things anymore. What is relevant are the things Kurt left us - an amazing body of music that one can get lost in over and over and an open door to talk about the pain and hurt of mental illness and depression, of drug use and addiction. We talked, we expressed, we felt and we did it together.

RIP Kurt.

Penny xx

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Why I March

It's kind of been a historical weekend, not just here in North America but world wide, too. On Friday January 20, 2017 Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States of America. And the day after, on Saturday January 21, 2017 the now historic Women's March on Washington took place.

Of course there is a direct correlation between these two events. After eight years of the Obama administration in the United States, the country is going from a leader who seemed to value and protect the rights of not just women, but other minority groups to one that, well, seems to encourage sexism and objectification of women. Don't believe me? Well, here are just a prime example of a few things President Trump has been quoted as saying:

"If Hilary Clinton can't satisfy her husband, what makes her think she can satisfy American?"
-Twitter, April 1, 2015

"Can you imagine that face next to our President? I mean, she's a women and I'm not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?"
-Remarks about Carly Fiorina, who was Trump's Republican Rival. According to Rolling Stone Magazine, he said 'Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?,' September , 2015

"I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know I'm automatically attracted to beautiful...I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything...Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything."
-2005 clip, released in 2016 featuring unaired footage ahead of President Trumps appearance on US soap opera Days of Our Lives

"26,000 unreported sexual assaults in the military - only 238 convictions. What did these genius expect when they put men & women together?"
-Twitter, May 7, 2013

"All the women on The Apprentice flirted with me - consciously or unconsciously. That's to be expected."
-2004, interview with the Daily News

I could go on but I think we've all heard it more than enough in the last year. And, sadly, I'm sure we are going to hear a lot more in the next four years. Now, one has to be fair. The democratic process was, as best we know, followed in the election and Trump won. I know we can argue this fact, and probably will, for centuries to come but as it stands, the man won. I may not agree with Trump - his policies, his thoughts or his platform but he was elected and sworn in. As someone who respects the democratic process, I will recognize him as the 45th President of the United States and give him a chance. 

I don't live in the United States. I was born and raised in Canada but even at a young age, I was very acutely aware of how much our neighbors to the south affect and influence our day to day lives up here. Don't kid yourselves - the political climate of the United States is like an overbearing parent to us here. While we are free to do and make our own choices, it often feels like our nation is looking up to and answering a little bit to 'mom and dad' down south. As we grow as a country, the influence seems less and less strong but trust me, it's always there.

I was very engrossed in this years Presidential election - more so than the previous. I'm sure that is due to a few things, but most strong among them are my age and my sex. Also, as a mother, I'm more aware of the world that I am raising my son in and I want to not only do right by him, but ensure the influences around him are positive and will build a strong foundation of acceptance. He is the future and it's my goal to show him there is no need to discriminate someone because they are different than you.  I want to raise a man that is compassionate, understanding, accepting and respectful. I'm also not naive enough to think that my influence is the only one that will matter in his life. His friends, his father with whom I am separated from, teachers, my friends, partners that many come and go in my life, the news media and even politicians - these will all have an influence in my son's life and its my responsibility to give him a strong enough base to know the difference between right and wrong.

I suppose it's been bubbling over for a long time - the struggle of the old ways verse the new ways. The old ways of patriarchy and white male privilege verse the new ways of equality. In my eyes, the Obama Administration not just respected women, but elevated them. There seemed to be this universal sense that men and women can stand together, side by side and, really, just get shit done. Barrack Obama not just spoke lovingly about his wife Michelle and their two daughters Malia Ann and Sasha but showed the utmost respect, admiration and an amazing desire to see them all succeed. He led by example, showing that amazing things can happen when we work together and treat everyone with the same respect - regardless of gender.

So, back to the Women's March on Washington this past Saturday...I suppose we all have our own reasons for taking to the streets. What started as a movement to 'send a bold message to our new government on their first day office, and to the world that women's rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending is all' has really really turned into so, so much more. Washington was crawling with people, in numbers greater than those who attended the swearing in of President Trump. But that's not all. Millions of people around the world got together to show their support of Women world wide and fuck me, it was a beautiful thing to see. Here in Winnipeg thousands of people flooded the downtown on a cold and damp January day to stand united in the understand that, yes indeed, women's rights are human rights. I was so proud and happy to see the outpouring of support that I shared a video on my Facebook wall Saturday of the march and stated the following in the post:

"This is one of the many, many reasons it rocks to be a women. We understand the need to build each other up and support each other in hard times. We may not always all get along, we may bitch and fight and scream but in the end we understand that you are nothing without your sisters."

What followed filled me with so much dread and hurt and frustration that I'm still trying to find the words to properly express it (I guess that's what I'm trying to do here). I had one white British male, I'm assuming near middle age state "yet all the ones interviewed have no idea why they are marching," and another white British male also chirp in with 'I wish they would have marched in support of women  in Muslim countries many years ago, that would have been an awesome use of gender politics.'

Say what?

Of course I broke the first rule of dealing with Internet trolls and responded, citing the Women's March on Washington's mandate and explaining why standing up for the rights of all is important and I was told to 'stop miswomenstanding' the real reasons that he provided for me that proved the march was a 'joke.' I was also told that I am a 'successful international female DJ - how on earth have you been marginalized by this supposed patriarchy?"

Woah, excuse me?

Okay, I'll be the first to admit it. I lead a pretty damn good life. I was raised in a home where we never feared that we'd not have a roof over our head or food on our table. Both my parents are accepting people who raised two girls with the notion that with hard work, we can achieve our goals. We were made to believe that our gender did not define us and that being a women was not a curse or something to be ashamed of. I had a good education, I went to University. My parents got me a car when I was in my early twenties and helped me burden the cost of my University education so I would not graduate in debt. I moved into my first apartment alone in my mid twenties in a relatively safe and beautiful downtown neighborhood. I had heat, running water, electricity and was able to keep my fridge and cupboards stocked at all times. I was able to land a good unionized Government job that, by LAW could not discriminate me based on my gender. I make the same as my male counterparts and have the same opportunities presented to me as presented to them and my gender has never ONCE been an issue in my place of work. I live in a beautiful two-bedroom apartment on the 10th floor of a lovely high-rise in the heart of Downtown Winnipeg. I own my car. I am able to provide a safe, loving, warm home for my son and know he will never worry if there will be food on the table or if we will have a roof over our head. I am able, every week, to go on the airwaves at UMFM with my show Punks in Parkas and not just play what music I want, but like my other show hosts, we are able to speak freely and openly on the air about our thoughts and ideas - we are not censored. I am able to rant on any subject I want wish on Maximum Rhythm and Booze, and at times, hold my two white male co-hosts accountable. I have a soap box and a bull horn and I can use both without fear of harm to me or my loved ones.

Call me crazy, but I think everyone deserves all the opportunities I have had... and more.

So why do I march?
  • I march so my son can see that ones gender does not define what you can or cannot do
  • I march because even with all these wonderful opportunities and situations I have been presented with over my lifetime so far, I have experienced physical and verbal assaults on my person, I have been disrespected and treated as an inferior due to my gender. I have been raped, beaten and berated by men. I have been told that I can't do things, I will not be able to live on my own and that I will fail without a man in my life beside me. If I, the possible example of female white privilege have experienced all these things and more, then I weep thinking what others who are less fortunate than I may have experienced
  • I march because all women everywhere deserve the opportunity to say what they want, wear what they want and BE WHO THEY WANT without fear
  • I march because it is so fucking important to stand up when we feel our rights are being violated
  • I march because I am lucky enough to have a forum that reaches thousands and thousands of people and I believe that I should use that not just as a vessel to share great music, humor and news, but to hopefully draw a spotlight on plights that are REAL and PRESENT
  • I march because remaining silent makes one complacent 
  • I march to lead by example for my son
  • I march because I am a strong independent women and I will let NO ONE take that away from me
  • I march because solidarity builds a strong movement. Even though I am not an American and things like my reproductive rights are not currently in danger, it is important to show a united front and send a strong message that shows these issues extend beyond one country but are world wide. Just because currently I am able to safely seek out an abortion in my country, does not mean that would always be the case and I love knowing that I would have the support of my sisters world wide if anything happened to change that
  • I march because I love being a women and the fact that I wear dresses, make up and other 'girly things' should not devalue my input in any way. Change attitudes, not clothes

You know, I used to shy away from the word Feminist for many reasons. Mainly because I was not confident that others would believe me if I said 'I'm a feminist' due to how I dress and present myself. I wear pretty dresses, I do my make up, I like looking 'feminine.' Screw that, no more will I shy away from that word. 

I march because I am a feminist.

Penny xx

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Penny Lane's Top Albums of 2016

I think it's fair to say that most of us are more than ready to say good-bye to 2016. Society, on a whole, seemed to take a right good beating this year with a rash of celebrity deaths to the conflict in Aleppo to the Unites States electing reality TV star and all-around misogynist Donald Trump to the highest office in the country. Personally, 2016 was a difficult year for me. December gave me a right good beating and I went into 2016 with the hope that things would improve. Instead, the year made me it's bitch in more than one way, over and over again. To put it rather simply, 2016 sucked. 

But I suppose it's true that every grey cloud does have a silver lining. I'm trying this new thing, it's called 'being optimistic.' So far it's shit, but I'm working on it. So this new optimistic me needs to find the silver lining in 2016. There are a few. I forged some great new friendships, I discarded some dead weight that was dragging me down, I started writing again. I also went on a journey of musical discovery - the likes of which I have not done since I first started Punks in Parkas 11 odd years ago. I decided early into the year to dig deep into my own collection and expand my horizons beyond what one would expect to be blasting through my earbuds during the day. I dig deep, in various different ways and discovered something interesting about myself and my tastes in music. I've discovered that I have an appreciation of all music, as long as it's well crafted and not mass produced like a commodity. 

This time of year, most people are doing lists of their favorite releases of 2016. Instead, I'm going to do a list of my favorite albums I discovered/rediscovered in 2016. Some are new releases, some are old, but all have added to my personal soundtrack of 2016.

So long 2016 - don't let 2017 kick you in the ass on the way out.

1. Yer Favorites by The Tragically Hip (2005) - It's easy to call Summer 2016 the Summer of the Tragically Hip in Canada. In May lead singer and songwriter Gord Downie revealed that he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. It shocked the whole nation, and rightly so. The Tragically Hip are as Canadian as Maple Syrup, as Hockey and Tim Horton's. The band announced they would go on one last tour, with the last show on August 20th in their hometown of Kingston, Ontario televised for all to see on the CBC . It is reported that 11.7 MILLION Canadians tuned into that last concert - a testament to just how many people this Canadian rock back have touched. I was on a road trip with my son to Regina and sat with him in the car, listening to Gord scream 'COURAGE' to the crowd. Both my parents and my sister, whose favorite artist is, believe it or not, Bon Jovi, also tuned into the concert. It was such a national event that my Co-Host Warren Peace even sent me a text that evening to ask 'Penny, what's going on in Canada tonight?' My answer as simple; a whole country stopped what it was doing - stopped watching the Olympics on TV, stopped playing on the phones, just stopped and watched The Hip lay their hearts on that stage. It's rare we get to say goodbye to our idols. 2016 showed us this in spades as celebrity after celebrity passed this year. But Gord and The Hip gave us a chance to say thank you. The Hip was the soundtrack of my first awkward crushes, of those late nights drinking beers by the river with friends. They told tales of my life; of driving down corduroy roads, of living in the north, of hockey and small towns. They made it cool to be Canadian. Yer Favorites it a best of album, but with a twist. The band asked it's fans to vote on their favorite Tragically Hip songs, and those were then taken and put on this double CD. It's a great introduction to this iconic Canadian for those who have never heard The Hip before and it's also a collection of iconic Canadian tracks for those of us who grew up with The Hip. This album quickly became a staple during summer and fall car trips this year for me, with tracks like Bobcaygeon, 'It's a Good Life if You Don't Weaken,' Boots and Hearts and Long Time Running finding spots this year deep in my heart. Thank you Gord Downie, Rob Backer, Gord Sinclair, Paul Langlois and Johnny Fay....

2. Phrenology by The Roots (2002) - When I started Punks in Parkas on UMFM in 2005, my then music director (now our Station Manager) Jared McKetiak told me that in a few years I would be listening to and enjoying rap and hip-hop. I laughed at him. 'Mark my words Penny Lane, it will happen, you wait and see.' Well, it took longer than a few years, but damn him, he was right. 2016 was a year of discovery for me and I do have to give a lot of credit to the great Netflix series The Get Down for pushing me forward into somewhat uncharted musical territory. The Netflix series is a fictional account of the start of the Hip-Hop/DJ and MC scene in New York, something that has always fascinated me anyway. I discovered this album all because of the track The Seed (2.0). That song hooked me hard and I spent a good chunk of the start of 2016 listening to The Roots over and over again. 

 3. Choose Your Weapon by Hiatus Kaiyote (2015) - I think Spotify has been a blessing for me this year. Since embracing the streaming music service, I have not only learned to loving having all that music at my fingertips, but have also learned to get a tad frustrated with it as well. What happens when you give someone seemingly endless possibilities? They tend to stick to what they know and get stuck in a loop of listening to the same things day after day. It was that frustration in the Fall of 2016 that lead me to ask my Facebook followers for musical suggestions. As expected, I received the usual droll suggestions of The Jam, The Small Faces and The Who. But also tucked in there was this little gem by Hiatus Kaiyote. Based on cover art alone, I would have never given this record the time of day, but as it was the only different suggestion in a sea of familiarity, I went for it and found myself so drawn into the album, listening to it on repeat that entire day. It's a mix of so many amazing things that reminded me of the fantastic Janelle Monae mixed with cleaver beats and interesting musical arrangements and risky sound choices that really paid off. 

4. True Blue by Tina Brooks (1960) - This year was spent digging deeper into Jazz, exploring different artist, titles and albums. This classic by Tina Brooks (featuring Freddie Hubbard, Duke Jordan, Same Jones and Art Taylor) quickly found a spot in regular rotation at my house. After a rocky summer, a time when I was finding peace with myself and with the way the year was unfolding before me, this record took me into the fall season. I spent many evenings writing in my journal, with this record playing me into longer and colder days. It reeks of early 1960s - of smokey underground clubs, of Italian suits cleanly tailored, of happy hour drinks in Manhattan and coffee at Bar Italia in Soho. It's a classic that I wish I had discovered sooner.

5. New Occupation by Duotang (2016) - Many people who stumble across Punks in Parkas find it hard to believe that in the frozen wasteland of Winnipeg, Canada that there could be a Mod scene. Truth be told, Winnipeg always seemed to have had a handful of Mods about - from the early 1960's to now, and with Winnipeg being the musical mecca of the northern prairies, this city has also produced its fair share of great bands, including a few of the Mod persuasion. Enter Duotang - a group made up of Sean Allum on drums and Rod Slaughter on bass who found themselves playing to Mods on this and the other side of the pond in the late 1990's. I had missed Duotangs rise to Mod fame before they split in early 2000s. All I had to go by was their handful of releases on the great Mint label. Over the years, I was lucky enough to develop friendships with both Sean and Rod based on our mutual love of music and mod culture. About 10 years back, the boys got together for a one-off Christmas reunion show and blew the roof of the place. That lead to a gig here, another show there, a few more reunion shows and then, before any of us knew what had happened, there was talk of a tour and a new album. The release, New Occupation has that same old Duotang sound that fans know and love, but also show a maturity and growth in their song writing and craft in general. It's Canadian Mod power pop at it's finest.

6. Kind of Blue by Miles Davis (1959) - It seems in difficult times, there are two albums I turn to, Abbey Road by the Beatles and Kind of Blue by Miles Davis. With the rocky start I had to 2016, it's no surprise that much of the early months of the year were spent with Kind of Blue. There's something about this album that is a tad uplifting, a bit sarcastic, a bit tongue-in-cheek. It never fails to put a slight smile on my face with the first few moments of So What. I'm not sure exactly what it is about this album that just does it for me, it's not something I can easily pin down but every time I feel alone or like the shit hand I've been delt is never going to get better, Kind of Blue comes in and takes me away for a moment to a place where I can sit back and smile, laugh at the way things have unfolded and forget about everything negative as the album takes over. 

7. Morning Phase by Beck (2014) - Remember in 2015 when Beck won the Grammy for Album of the Year for Morning Phase and everyone's favorite shit disturber Kanye West went on about how the Grammy's need to respect 'real artists' and that "Beck needs to respect artist and he should've given his aard to Beyonce." Remember that? Man, it made me laugh pretty hard. When I first started listening to Beck back in the 1990's, I was even then able to recognize artistry in what he did. Odelay was a fantastic album and one that to this day, I still go back too. Maybe Mr. West just has no respect for artistry apart from that which is created in his own 'clique' or maybe he didn't give Morning Phase a listen at all. I believe if he had, he would have seen it for what it is - a well crafted, beautiful album that deserved the honor of being called Album of the Year. It's soo good that I'm almost willing to forget the whole Scientology thing... 

8. Heavy Soul! by Billy Hawks (1968) - There is no better bliss for me, nothing better for my soul sometimes than to dig through records. It's such a personal thing that I sometimes have trouble taking people when me with I decided to go record shopping. I think it's because it's a raw version of me, and I'm afraid most people won't understand it or have the patience for it. To be honest, I could spend a long, long time pouring over records. I suppose it would take another music nerd like me to really understand it. Sure, I'll take friends and people who are interested in getting some vinyl to record stores and sales with me, but the moments I cherist the most are the ones I spend alone in a record store, breaking my nails as I flip slowly through the albums, sneezing from the dust and loving that musty smell. I found a reissue of this album by Billy Hawks at local record store Into The Music for $5, brand new. I wasn't familiar with it and wasn't sure if it was something I would love. Because, and let's be honest here, that cover artwork is kind of shit. My eight year old son Hunter could do a better job. But for $5, I was willing to take the risk. What I got was an album that is a perfect combination of Soul, Blues and Jazz and it instantly became a personal favorite.

9. Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley by Nancy Wilson and the Cannonball Adderley Quintet with Miles Davis (1962) - Whenever I travel, I try to make a point to check out a few record stores wherever I end up. This summer, I took my then seven year old son Hunter on an eight hour road trip to Regina, Saskatchewan. Being his first road trip and first stay in a real hotel, he was beyond excited. I was excited to see if there was any record stores worth my time there. A few people directed me to a place called Vintage Vinyl and Hemp Emporium. This place, which was half a head shop and half a record store, smelled 'funny' according to my son, but had a rather decent selection of records. I picked up a handful, including this great release by Nancy Wilson and the amazing Cannonball Adderley. Nancy's voice is sweet and beautiful and is a perfect match to Cannonball's saxaphone. It wasn't until recently that I discovered that my favorite Miles Davis is also present on this great record.

10. One and Two by Mal Waldron (1976) -  I won't give the nitty-gritty details of how this record came into my collection. Part of me almost wants to because the story behind it is almost as good as the album itself and Warren Peace is always telling me that the personal stories I share on Maximum Rhythm and Booze are really the best.. Alright then, here it goes... After breaking up with my boyfriend before Christmas in 2015, I spent the first half of 2016 by myself. I needed some time to come to terms with the shit show that was the end of last year and work on loving myself a bit more before I even considered getting involved in any sort of way. By the summer, I was feeling more myself and at the encouraging of a friend, created an OKCupid profile. I didn't take it too seriously, so when I received a message from a Jazz loving, poetry obsessed English professor in Fargo, North Dakota... well, I didn't think too much of it. After exchanging a few lengthy emails, I learned that he was only in Fargo for a limited amount of time to do research for a book he was working on about a local poet. It seemed spontaneous and almost crazy, but we both felt that we should take advantage of this situation and meet for a drink, for dinner, for whatever before he headed back home to LA. So plans were made. He was heading to Minneapolis for a few days and on his way back to Fargo, we would meet for dinner at a local pub. I worked, and then straight from my office, hopped in my car and drove three hours to Fargo. This poetry loving, Jazz obsessed professor and I met first for a drink where he instantly handed me a brown paper bag. I opened it to find this record inside. He told me that he was out digging at some of his favorite record stores in Minneapolis just yesterday and saw this record and thought I would enjoy it greatly if I didn't have it already. We spent hours laughing over dinner and drinks, finding we had way more in common that originally thought. We talked for hours about music, about life, about art. The next morning when I drove home, I did so wondering what was to come of this, if anything? We are worlds apart, separated by space and very busy lives. We shared a few more emails but as the school year started up again in the Fall, contact became less and less. But every so often I like to put on this record and I smile, knowing that I still have the ability to be spontaneous and surprise myself. It may not have the most happiest of endings, but I did get a pretty sweet record out of the whole thing, so I guess I can't complain, can I?

So there it is, a collection of some of my favorite albums of 2016!

Much love,
Penny xx

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Why I Love Vinyl...

It's inevitable. As soon as I meet someone new and start slowly sharing my world with them, sooner or later they always ask the question....

'Why vinyl?"

Some understand it instantly better than most, but those people are usually the ones who also have IKEA shelves full of records themselves. Others who I don't meet via the usual music related channels marvel at the novelty and eventually, while sitting with me at my place, watching me get up for the tenth time to flip a record over end up asking "so, why vinyl?"

I was thinking about this today while I was flipping through bin after bin of musty, old records at the Central Canada Record Sale - a small group of vendors selling their wares for a few hours on a cold, wet and snowy Sunday in Winnipeg. What is it about vinyl?

It's easy to tell you why NOT vinyl. It's inconvenient. Have you ever had to carry a milk crate full of records to and from a gig, a sale, a party or even just to a different room in your house? Records are fucking heavy. There are many a time I have come home at two or three in the morning from a gig, grunting and cursing under my breath as I lug a nights worth of vinyl back to my apartment. I have, hand over heart, stayed longer in a shitty apartment because the thought of moving all those records to a new place seemed like the most daunting task ever.

It's not cheap, either. The further you go down the vinyl rabbit hole, the more money you are willing to and find yourself spending on things. When your collection starts to expand and you can no longer find the records you are looking for in the one, two, or three dollar bins, the shit gets real. Soon you justify spending five dollars on a record. Next, ten dollar seems completely reasonable for that one record you've been itching to get. Before you know it, shelling out over $100 for an original Blue Note actually starts to sound like a logical thing to do (note: I to date have not done this yet, but I am starting to come around to that way of thinking, and it scares me).

Vinyl can be annoying. How frustrating is it to be sitting on your sofa with someone, sharing a glass of wine and have a great conversation, only to have to put that conversation on pause to get up and turn over the record when side A is over? Or worse yet, you have that person you have been lusting over a bit in your house, all night moving closer and closer to each other on the sofa when suddenly you are touching, smiling and you finally build up to courage to kiss them....and the record ends and all you can hear is the SCRATCH SCRATCH SCRATCH of the needle caught in the never ending out-groove loop? 

Maintenance? I'm sorry, but my ideal way to spend a Sunday afternoon is listening to records, not carefully cleaning and drying them. I hate the upkeep. You have to be careful how your store your records, and don't get me started on equipment. Buying turntables and cartridges can quickly snowball to the point where you are scraping and saving to get that new Techniques turntable and the best possible needles for it.

So, really, what is it about vinyl? 

I think I find this such a hard question as I really can't put it into words. Right now I'm sitting at my desk with warm tea, and I've got Let's Stay Together by Al Green on the turntable and it's just bloody brilliant. The sound isn't perfect - there is a grit and a depth to the grooves on this record that is so drenched in history. This isn't a new record. Someone bought this album back in 1972, took it home and put it on their turntable and listened to it from beginning to end. They played it multiple times after that. Then it got passed on to someone else, sold to another person, stolen by another, gifted to someone else, until I found it for $15 dollars in that bin, mixed between records by Aretha Franklin and Toto. Then I, like all those before me, took it home, put it on my turntable and got lost in the music.

I love how every time I put on this record, every time I play it, that it will sound different. The pops and hisses will morph. In that regard, vinyl can be this living and breathing thing that grows and ages as we do. This record by Al Green, while still at its core is the same record that was first played in 1972 sounds so different today then it back then. 

I don't care how hip it now is to collect vinyl. I don't give two shits that Urban Outfitters have made buying turntables and records the cool thing. What you can't commercialize is this moment I'm having right now with Al Green. I hear years of love in those grooves. I don't want perfect, crystal clear sound. I am in love with the history, the tangibility of it all. I do Punks in Parkas because I love to share the music - I want people to be exposed to all these wonderful sounds. I collect vinyl because I, quite simply, love it. I love how I buy a record for one song and suddenly, I discover three other tracks that I never knew existed that have quickly become my favorites. I love the community and the fact that there is a group of people who share this passion for music - of all kinds. I love the shared knowledge, the discovery and the fact that, as silly as it may sound, the guys in this community have never ever once made me feel less than them because I a female and, by nature, a minority in this crazy, underground world. 

Somethings we just are drawn to and love for reasons we can't completely explain to those who don't share the same passion. We can try as hard as we can to put it into words, but just fall short. I'll laugh through the pain of carting records around, of spending afternoons over my kitchen sink cleaning dust out of grooves and I'll smile inwardly as I get up again to flip the record over, because now I have another 20 or so minutes to build up the courage to kiss that person on my sofa again...

Viva la Vinyl...

Penny xx

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Millennial Whoop Makes Me Want to Weep

Millennials - they kind of rule the word these days, don't they? It's not easy to see why. The fact is they make up a very large part of our population right now. It is said that by 2025, Millennials will account for about 75% of the work force. That's staggering when you think about it. There has never been a generation since the baby boomers that due to mass volume alone have the power to influence the world around them and dictate popular culture as much as the Millennials do...

It's just too bad they have such shit taste in music.

Alright, I digress a bit. Not all Millennials have shit taste in music. And honestly, people in positions of power have realized the mass amount of money Millennials have to spend in our economy and have been trying to tap into that income - including those in the music business.

Okay, I can see you giving me the stink eye. 'Penny,' your thinking, 'what does the economy and marketing towards Millennials have to do with music?'

May I present exhibit A - the Millennial Whoop:

Writer Adam Epstein posted a great article on the website Quartz about the Millennial Whoop, a simple musical phrase that is all over popular music today. In the article by Epstein, musician Patrick Metzger described the mechanics behind the phenomena:
"It's a sequence of notes that alternates between the fifth and third notes of a major scale, typically starting on the fifth. The rhythm is usually straight 8th notes, but it may start on the downbeat or on the upbeat in different song. A singer usually belts these notes with an 'Oh' phoneme, often in a 'wa-oh-wa-oh' pattern."

So, for those of you who can read music, this is what the Millennial Whoop looks like on paper. Take that simple three, 8th note pattern, mix and repeat.

I know, I'm starting to get a bit technical but bear with me. Music is a medium based on patterns and the combination of notes in specific patters make music. Simple, right? Think of Hot Cross Buns - that simple song every grade school kid learned how to play on a recorder in music class. The song is a simple pattern of three different notes, repeated over in different intervals. This creates a piece of music with, albeit simple, but reoccurring patterns that are, when not being blasted through a recorder by an eight year old, pleasant to the ears of the listener.

I've said it over and over again - music is no longer an Industry, but more of a Business and the goal of any business is to make money. 

There is an episode of Mad Men, which one exactly it is escaping me now, where Don Draper's agency is trying to market a product to teenagers and in trying to do so, creates a very whimsical jingle for the client. The client makes mention to Don that the song seems to have elements of nostalgia, which he doesn't believe would work as young people are unable to feel nostalgia. To this, Don laughs and says 'teenagers can be nostalgic - have you listened to their music?'

As much as the 'me first' generation is always on the lookout for the latest and greatest, deep down inside we all tap into the known, the familiar. We look for something that strikes a chord with us, that triggers familiar paths in our brains. Now, the Millennial Whoop is nothing new - this is a musical phrase that has been used for as long as people have been making music. The difference now is that pop music 'Mad Men' have tapped into this sound, this phrasing and are using it as a way to trigger feelings of familiarity and comfort in something new in order to make a profit. It is, in a way, creating a fake sense of nostalgia that those with money to spend on music are lapping up like crazy right now. 

It's simple, really. In business, when you find something that your target demographic is going ape shit over and throwing money hand over fist at, you would be a complete idiot to not make your business successful and tap into that. That is what's happening with new music - creativity is being replaced with a manufacture Whoop that is funneling money into the business again. Music is being created with a sort of manufactured nostalgia that is giving the me-first generation something to grasp a hold of and give them a feeling of depth, of understanding, of shit man, I've LIVED.

In the long run, it is easy to pay someone to write a piece of music that contains the Millennial Whoop than it is to invest time and money into artist development and produce a piece of music that is in reality, a timeless work of art.

I know, I'm being hard on Millennials. Probably much the same way that Generation X's were hard on my peer group growing up. I was at a concert this week put on by the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, in which the closing piece was a number by Vivaldi. There was no Millennial Whoop here, there was nothing manufactured about this piece of music. Yes, it contains elements that make it recognizable and comparable to music created at the same time, but it also contained something more... It had heart and soul. 

I wonder, in 1000 years, if songs like California Gurls by Katy Perry or Live While We're Young by One Direction or Sing it by Rebecca Black will stand the test of time, or be seen for what they are - products manufactured to a specific demographic and produced to make a lot of people a lot of money...

Pass me The Beatles, please...


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Maximum Rhythm and Booze...Quadrophenia special with Mark Wingett!

MR&B is back with actor Mark Wignett (aka 'Dave' from Quardrophenia/The Bill), giving us the inside scoop on his days filming the seminal youth cult classic film and his thoughts on the soon-to-be sequel, 'To Be Someone!'

Plus, we get the exclusive first listen to tracks from pop modernist sensations French Boutik's debut album, 'Front Pop,' heard for the first time anywhere!

As if that isn't enough, we bring you the usual barely sober banter and tunes you can expect from MR&B!!

1. The Skids - Into the Vally
2. Richard Anthony and the Blue Notes - The Boston Monkey
3. French Boutik - Je Regard les Tigers
4. The Sound of Pop Art - Freedom
5. French Boutik - The Rent
6. The English Beat - Tears of a Clown
7. The Soul Brothers - Train to Skaville
8. Wheedle's Groove & Broham - Everything Good is Bad
9. Le Casse - French Boutik

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Beatles: Eight Days A Week Reviewed

Let me start by saying the following is not a debate. I rarely say this but I’m not interested in your views on The Beatles. I don’t care if you prefer the Stones. If you’re not a fan…I get it. It’s subjective. Just please, this time, "scroll and troll" elsewhere :)
To me The Beatles have shaped who I am. Religion doesn’t cover it. They are in my DNA. I just saw the new Ron Howard documentary ‘The Beatles: Eight Days a Week.’
As a music fan I can tell you it’s up there with the best of the best. As a Beatles fan, I was floored. Not to sound conceited but when it comes to the Fabs, I kind of know it all (the DNA thing, remember). No huge revelations in this film but here were my 5 take-aways to share with other like-minded Beatle people out there in Facebook land:
1. The world was going crazy. We were simply using Beatlemania as our vessel to act out and release whatever pent up angst, frustration, latent repressed sexual energy had built up inside of us as a society, world-wide.
2. The reason they survived that said insanity was because, unlike Elvis in his singularity, they had each other. A band of brothers, sitting alone in the back of a dimly lit Brinks-Mat van post-concert. Sweating in their cold steel cage as it whisked them back to their hotel and wondering WTF was unfolding around them. Nothing like it existed as a reference point before, nothing like it has happened since.
3. I knew their concerts were madness, but the film reminded me of the absolute hurricane of insanity that surrounded every move they made. For four small, pale, working class lads to have moved people with their music, image and entire being the way The Beatles did, I am convinced it was pre-ordained by a higher power and divinely motivated/inspired/guided. Call it God, call it ‘the Force’—The Universe was indeed at play.
4. In their hotel room in 1964 pre-Ed Sullivan appearance, John Lennon is toying with a riff on a Melodica which three years later, became ‘Strawberry Fields.’ I had heard this on an old bootleg clip and spotted it years ago. Very faint. It was brilliant to finally see the video footage.
5. The film reminded me how truly close and soul-connected these four men are. The post-break up bullshit aside, I remember McCartney telling a story of his final visit to George’s hospital bed where, during their conversation, he looked down to see he was holding and gently stroking his friend’s hand the whole time they had been talking. This was real love. The film reminded me of that indelible bond that ran deeper than blood or family. To the spirit.

Music fans, go see it. Beatle fans… a night of bliss awaits you. The enhanced 4K High-Def footage of Shea Stadium with re-mixed audio by Giles Martin is simply beyond words. So too is the fact their harmonies are spot on despite the fact they couldn't hear a thing.The amount of young people at the cinema was as inspirational as it was incredible. A new generation is listening. After the bomb drops, cockroaches and The Beatles— mark my words 

Peace out... xxx