Tag Archives: reviews
Many of you reading this are, like me, Canadian. And if you’re like me, you’ve often encountered things you want to watch or access that are blocked, simply because you are located in Canada. What a bunch of jerks!
Anyhow, I’ve recently been using this great program called TunnelBear (cute advertising ftw) to get around the ohh so annoying blocks that living in the great white north provides.
I know a few tech nerds who jump through hoops doing all kinds of complicated nerd tricks in order to access American Netflix. I once watched one of them do it and it nearly made my head explode. And that is why I love Tunnelbear. No more of that. Just download the program, turn it on, set it to USA and you are officially seen as an American – the internet walls come down! No more crappy Canadian Netflix!
As many of you are music fans, you’re probably as annoyed as I am that Spotify still isn’t available in Canada. It’s a shameful fact, but Tunnelbear can quickly and easily help you get around it.
The most annoying thing for me has always been with Hulu – so many great shows and clips are made available on Hulu – and if you read American websites, they post these videos ALL the time. It drives me insane. But now that I have Tunnelbear always turned on, I see the proper video every time without doing anything. It’s awesome.
The cool thing about this program is that it was created by Canadians! These people know what it’s like to be stuck here, so close, yet so far away from all that American content. That’s why they invented it back in 2011.
Currently, over 2.3 million people use it in 154 countries, so clearly they have tapped into a need people were desperately seeking.
Another great perk is that it increases your privacy big time, by acting as a middleman and encrypting your connection. Let me tell you, keeping your identity private in these creepy, hacker friendly, stalker-y internet times is very, VERY important.
The nice thing is that you automatically get 500MB of free tunneling each month, and if you want to increase that by an extra GB all you have to do is tweet at @TheTunnelBear and you’ll be bumped up.
What are you waiting for? Go tunnel your way into Spotify, now that you finally can!
Thanks to the lovely people at Matchstick and my favourite brand of whisky, Canadian Club, I was flown out to BC in July to shoot a video at Rock The Shores (see it below!). Yes, the wish I wrote on the contact section of my About page, half jokingly stating my dream of being sent around the world to cover music festivals, actually (briefly) came true.
They approached me a month earlier, with an option of going to either BC or PEI for the music festivals happening in these locations, and while I’d never been to either province (most of my travel time has been spent in the States) the lineup at Rock The Shores was stronger, and it’s much easier for me to get to PEI than to BC – so it was a fairly obvious choice.
It had literally been over 5 years since I’d last been on a plane, and that last time was my first flight ever, so I was nervous but excited to finally be flying again. If I wasn’t saddled with student loans, I would travel constantly. All I remembered about flying was how much I enjoyed being able to see the world from that height – to see the real life version of the map take shape right before my eyes, and see the clouds up close. And that, surprisingly enough, I didn’t find it scary at all. This time around, the view was even better because flying into BC is incredibly beautiful – the mountains and the ocean make for a scenic landing.
Unfortunately, it seems my sinuses have become an issue since that last time, because I endured something horribly hellish, called aerosinusitis, when the plane landed. Look it up. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Luckily it was only so painful that it brought me to tears on the way BACK to Toronto, so my stay in Victoria wasn’t ruined. I am slightly terrified of flying again because the pain was so crushing it hurt to even BLINK for a day after landing.
When I arrived in Victoria, we went straight to the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe Hotel. As you can imagine, it was the nicest hotel I’ve ever been to in my life. Canadian Club also had a package full of the mixed and ready drinks and beach necessities waiting for us. FYI, you can win one of these Canadian Club beach kits through their Facebook page. Upon arriving we also met fellow blogger Randa, of The Unprecedented. Hanging out with her, along with her friend Jordan, was a true highlight of the entire trip.
To get the chance to stay right on the ocean, and wake up to this sight every morning, is something I’ll never forget. I am a water person by nature (water signs ftw) so this is my paradise. I have to thank Tourism Victoria for upgrading me to one of the rooms with a view, and for providing me with attraction passes to experience the city. As we were only there for under 3 days we didn’t get to do too much, but the Zipline experience through the mountains and forest was one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life. I almost backed out after the test line, but there was an 8 year old boy doing it fearlessly, so the shame factor was too high. Now I want to try every ‘extreme’ activity I can. Just like with tattoos, the adrenaline rush is addicting.
Victoria itself feels like a rather small city, but it remains charming and interesting – something small-town Ontario just is not. It is so gorgeous there that you would be foolish to stay inside any more than necessary. It’s also the most walkable city I’ve ever been to. Walking around the harbor is quick and incredibly beautiful – but if you want to take a boat taxi to get somewhere super quick (or just to enjoy a boat for a few minutes) you can do that too for 5$.
The buildings are beautifully designed and carry the charm that comes from being one of the oldest cities in Canada. When comparing to other cities I’ve been to, it reminded me most of New Orleans in terms of architecture, size, and friendliness of the locals (they are quite different cities in most other ways, though, heh).
I will be quick to note that I think Ontario is a beautiful province. We have all kinds of natural beauty here, including one of the wonders of the world, but BC wins overall, because – look at that park. It was like a mini paradise within the city. Add in the ocean, mountains, and the insane variety of trees – and our lakes and maples just don’t quite reach this level.
Now for the reason I was sent there in the first place, to attend their big music festival, Rock The Shores, and finally, FINALLY, see Weezer live.
As someone who’s been to festivals in Toronto, Tennessee and Montreal, I was curious to see how they treat media out there. The nice thing about this festival was that they treated media (almost) the same as anyone working the festival + the performers. We got to hang out backstage and drink – which is unlike ANY media experience I’ve had at any other festival. HUGE points, to say the least. And it wasn’t even just shitty beers – they had my beloved Canadian Club Rye & Coke/Gingers, as well as a variety of cider, wine and beers! Um, as someone who’s been paying up to ELEVEN dollars to have a drink at a festival (looking at you, Edgefest……) this was joyous.
Sadly though, they didn’t treat media so great when it came time to see the actual bands. Having just come from TURF where media were given VIP access and could therefore stay in the pit the entire day to really experience the show, it was fucking shitty to only be allowed in the pit for 3 songs. I know this is industry standard – fair enough – but their rules were very, very unclear and it made the festival look incredibly unprofessional.
Randa had attended the first day (we skipped out to spend a day seeing the city) and she was allowed to sit in the pit divide for the whole show – so we went there expecting that again, but instead when we tried to come back in they sent us out of the entire backstage/pit area and made us walk all the way around the ENTIRE over-packed RTS grounds in order to get backstage again. Sometimes security guards are just bullies. One, upon looking at my Ontario ID, even said “Onterrible.” I know Ontario and BC have a NYC/LA style rivalry, but I wasn’t expecting that.
So basically we caught the first 3 songs of each band and then had to sit backstage and listen, unable to see anything, if we wanted to keep drinking without waiting in line for hours and paying 11$.
We got there just in time for Awolnation, a band I had been curious about because “Sail” is such a fantastic song, but didn’t know what to expect beyond that. It’s fair to say I was shocked when a long haired skinny blonde California surfer dude type came out onstage. I was definitely expecting someone more like Cee Lo Green. It’s also fair to say “Sail” itself is a misleading song, definitely not representative of the rest of their work. After seeing this show and listening to the album, it stands alone as the only song I care to listen to.
This was also my first time seeing Mother Mother, and while the lead singer’s goofy look was enough to turn me off at first, the sheer talent they possess as a group, and the insane love the crowd had for them, easily pulled me in. This is a local band that has had national success, so they go crazy for them out there. Seeing them here in Toronto at Edgefest was disappointing by comparison, not because they weren’t giving it their all, but because the crowd was so different/boring.
I’ve seen Sam Roberts a handful of times now, and he always gives a great, high energy, entertaining show. There’s really not much more I can say about him. I think he is a definitive CanRock artist, and it was interesting to see an Aussie we were hanging with watch him perform, because it gave me such a reminder about how specific this sound is to Canadians. It’s rare a sound like Sam’s will ever break out of Canada, because it is so authentically Canadian.
Last but not least, was the main reason I was excited for this trip. Like probably all of you, I’ve been a Weezer fan since I was a little kid hearing my friends older brothers obsessively play the Blue Album. Along with Green Day’s Dookie, it was my first favourite album. This helps wipe away the shame that, just years later, I became a preteen, and therefore became obsessed with the Backstreet Boys and every other boy band except N’sync. At least I started with relatively good taste, right?
Anyhow, the ongoing joke that Weezer shit the bed after Pinkerton is one I embraced fully, because, give or take an album’s worth of songs, it’s kinda true. That meant I stopped paying attention to them in high school, and have never made the effort to see them live, for fear of hearing a full set of songs from Raditude or Hurley. So, when I got this chance to see them, I was happy to embrace the childhood nostalgia and finally see how they are live, headlining a festival. Especially when I heard that they would be playing the Blue Album in full in Toronto the night before. They had to be doing it in Victoria too, right?!
Well, not quite. But, they certainly did play a ton of Blue songs, and surprisingly, Rivers was in a great mood, and it was the perfect way to end the night. At this point we were happy to give up our free drink access to be able to see the entire set.
Finally, the real reason I was there, was to shoot a video of my experience, so check it out!
Lower Ossington Theatre recently took on the heavy task of re-staging the award winning Broadway musical Avenue Q here in Toronto. When a company takes on such a beloved treasure outside of Broadway, it’s hard to know if they will be able to maintain the level of talent required to pull off such a show. Lucky (and rare) for Toronto, they most certainly did.
With that, I give you five solid reasons why you need to see Avenue Q before it ends on October 6th:
- Puppets having sex. Yup. Puppet boobs and everything. It’s weird, hilarious, and awesome.
- Two incredible lead performers doing double duty, with two roles each. Graham Scott Fleming and Jacqueline Martin absolutely blew me away with their sheer talent and skills. It’s incredible to think this was Graham’s first time handling puppets. They both have unbelievable, powerful voices, and carry their two big parts each with so much grace that you can barely notice them switching between roles. They are seamless, talented performers with big careers ahead of them. Casting agents, take note. And to the actors – hold out for a good agency – you will be in demand soon enough, don’t settle.
- A song called “The Internet Is For Porn” sung by a masturbating monster.
- Lots of relevant childhood (and Toronto) references. My generation is always happy to hear the Sesame Street and Reading Rainbow theme songs. So much glorious nostalgia. I wasn’t sure how they were going to make it less New York and more Toronto, but they definitely pulled it off with ease.
- You will leave feeling so happy you will want to go again. I do. It’s easily the most I’ve laughed at a show in ages, and probably my favourite theatre production I’ve seen in Toronto – even stronger than any of the Mirvish musicals I’ve been to. Every character will remind you of someone in your real life. It’s incredibly funny while maintaining relatablity – like a dirty puppet version of Girls. The best way to get over that crushing sense of post-college purposelessness is to commiserate about it with a bunch of puppets.
Another album review written by my helpful intern Sebastian L’Arrivée.
CocoRosie’s latest release, Tales of a GrassWidow, is somewhat different from the bands past efforts, in that there is a strong, if dark, story flowing throughout. The songs follow an overt structure and there’s significantly less reliance upon shocking the audience in the way that they have on previous albums.
The album draws influence from an impressive variety of genres, from hip hop to pop and electronica. The tenth track on the album, “Villain,” even seems to incorporate elements of lounge music. This diversity of genre is coupled with a variety of instrumentation to create a sound that is entirely unique.
Tales of a GrassWidow combines synthesizers, beat-boxing samples, and CocoRosie’s distinctive vocal stylings with pianos, accordions and a number of traditional instruments. A few songs, such as “Broken Chariot” and “Roots of My Hair” for example, even feature a native flute and a string instrument – possibly a sitar.
It’s a very interesting album that undoubtedly displays CocoRosie’s growing musical ability – unfortunately, it may have been somewhat overambitious. All these different sonic elements, combined with an ethereal, ambient production style, make for the kind of record that you zone out to, rather than actively engage with.
The album only really picks up around the sixth track, “Gravedigress,” at which point it becomes captivating and doesn’t let up until the final track.
A big highlight of the record is the secret hidden track, “Poison.” The song blends a noisy, fast beat and dissonant synth lines with bells and atmospheric vocals. The combination of the dissonant and consonant really represents the album as whole, and ties its overarching themes together perfectly.
While not perfect, Tales of a GrassWidow represents a new direction for CocoRosie – a direction that could turn out quite positively as they continue to develop this sound. It is an album worth picking up if you get the chance.
Last week I had the extreme pleasure of attending a screening of West Side Story at Roy Thomson Hall, where the TSO was playing the soundtrack live in sync with a hi-def remastered version of the film, original vocals and dialogue intact.
I was absolutely obsessed with West Side Story and wanted to be Natalie Wood (minus the horrible dying via your worst fear part) when I was in high school. It ignited my obsession with NYC and big cities early into my teen years, so it’s no surprise that this was a memorable night for me.
I have attended the TSO once before, but it didn’t captivate me in the same way this performance did. At a normal TSO night everything is very quiet, the definition of a “grown up” show (aka a situation that makes my brain likely to tune out because I’m not a huge classical music fan, and I feel slightly uncomfortable in musical situations that forbid interaction and participation).
This time around there was popcorn and we were allowed to bring booze into the Hall, which immediately made it more relaxed. There were still a few TSO regulars in the audience who were horrified by the crumpling of popcorn bags and general feelgoodery and fun of the night, but they weren’t able to rain on anyone’s parade.
The charm of watching the Symphony play along with a film you love, is that you get to actively experience the true magic and brilliance of the music, and witness just how much work goes into creating a truly powerful soundtrack. This goes even moreso for a musical like West Side Story - which relies so heavily on Leonard Bernstein’s incredible score.
It was fascinating to watch this massive collection of musicians come in perfectly, right at the exact moment they all needed to, so that it matched up with Maria and Tony’s vocals.
Normally I am one of those clueless fools who doesn’t really understand the true power and necessity of a great conductor, but this show completely changed that for me. It is 100 percent on the conductor to make sure the entire orchestra is coming in at the exact time they need to, or everything is thrown off and you have a horrified audience. That kind of pressure seems unbearably overwhelming, but Steven Reineke did a flawless job. I noticed he had a screen in front of him playing a special version of the film that had blocked colour bars scrolling across, which must have helped with the timing. I am still curious about what each colour meant!
The performance ended with a huge, much deserved standing ovation, and the audience clapped for each person listed in the credits as though it were TIFF, which always fills me with joy.
Overall, this show turned on a light bulb for me when thinking about classical music. I highly suggest that, even if you’re not particularly a Symphony kind of person, if you ever get a chance to see a film with a full orchestra playing the score live, you jump on it.
This is exactly how the TSO can bring in a newer, younger audience.
It was a perfect evening. I am praying they will continue this series and play live to Singin’ In The Rain, Breakfast At Tiffany’s or Taxi Driver (highly unlikely, but it is my most favourite score and film) next.