Category Archives: by Alex Magnussen

Entries by our now incarcerated Ryerson School of Journalism journalist and band biographer, Alex Magnussen.

New album & my phone conversation with Candy

It’s 11:11pm. I’ve got Dirty Penny’s latest work “Sage Against the Machine” playing as usual. I think it’s a work of genius or maybe higher. Humans cannot intentionally design a work this exquisite without the help of a higher power. It could be divinely inspired. I have listened to it just under three thousand times. It has replaced much of my psyche and I feel better for it, lighter.

If our psyches are a community of voices… there’s the one that helps us rise in the morning, another is for confronting injustice, another helps us walk away from evil. Some are dark. When we are ashamed there is the one that tells you “buddy, to call yourself dogshit is probably an insult to dogshit.” SATM does not have a song for that voice but it has the song that is the voice that follows that one. That song is “Magic Tricks”. It begins with the words sung by JC Penny accompanied by only drums: “I’ll tell you what happens when you die..” and then he does, and it makes sense. It’s not paradise or hell or weird. In Penny’s view, the afterlife is a review of your work (or tricks) and the judge is you. Death, the certainty of it, when presented gently as in this song so that we don’t feel the need to close our eyes, makes us strong. Eyes that wide see all shame as the same: about as big as a chihuahua abortion in a jam jar.

So SATM pretty much covers the human condition better than most art of any form that I know of. It is a community of diverse, fully realized songs. However, like life, it is a crazed bag of sounds.  Check the tracklist:

“Magic Tricks” = ART
“If I Wuz a Cat” = PUNK
“Dick Opportunity” = DISCO
“Sage Against the Machine” = GRUNGE
“Pretty Boy Floyd” = FOLK
“Declined” = SKA
“Hot Cocoa” = FUNK
“Lady Nurse None” = … I don’t know
“Atahualpa” = GOTH
“Just One Finger” = BALLAD
“Maximum Sherpa” = ROCK

And the last song “Maximum Sherpa” reverses the message of the first: fuck karma. If there’s a judge waiting for you at the end of the line fuck him or her, especially if they’re you. Ha ha.

But this is just essayism and this blog is supposed to be news about the great canadian rock band, Dirty Penny. The truth is there’s been little shaking since their gig at Clinton’s Tavern friday before last but I am feeling a need to make an entry here. Rehearsals have been cancelled and I am still a little exiled from the band since the Nidhan interview (see “Nidhan Interview” below). However, last night DP’s drummer, Scott “Candy” Fletcher phoned me up. I was nonplussed and still am. Read on and you’ll see what I mean..

Me: “Hello?”

Candy : “Alex? It’s Scott. The DP drummer.”

M: “Hey, Scott. Of course. How’s it going?”

C: “Good. Ya.”

M: “Ya me too.”

C: “Ya.”

M: “What’s going on?”

C: “Not much. How about you? How’s the DP biography coming along?”

M: “Great. I’m drowning in notes and I’m glad you asked because I was wondering if I could toss you a few questions, you know, by email or whatever?”

C: “What sort of questions?”

M: “The typical shit: background, influences, album work..”

C: “Ya. Okay. You got my email?”

M: “Uh, no. I think you gave it-”

C: “The earth is in a lava lamp this summer.”

M: “What?”

C: “The earth is in a lava lamp this summer.”

[awkward silence]

C: “Alex?”

M: “Ya.”

C: “Are you ‘Alex’?”

M: “Yes?”

C: “HAHAHA…” [sort of joker maniacal-esque]

M: “Ha ha. That was really… You got me going. What does the ‘birth of java lover’ mean?”

C: “Nevermind. Hey, I’m sorry. I’ve been smoking, you know…”

M: “Ah. Okay.”

C: “Listen, before I decay into more random, I just wanted to tell you that I appreciate the work you’re doing. It’s good. I’ve been reading your blog, too. It’s pretty good. You’re the real thing, you know. A real journalist.”

M: “Hey, thanks ten thousand. I should hope so since I went to school to be one.”

C: “Ya. And the last post about our Clinton’s gig where you were in disguise as a woman – that was hilarious!” [see previous post for why I was in disguise]

M: “Ya. I guess that was funny.”

C: “So you really did, eh?”

M: “What?”

C: “Go to the gig in drag.”

M: “Ya.”

C: “Wow. That must’ve been uncomfortable in more ways than one.”

M: “Ya! The worst part is talking. As soon as you talk, the person listening knows you’re a guy. Unless you’re a seasoned drag queen that’s been practicing for years..”

C: ” I didn’t notice anything at all. Did you stay the whole gig?”

M: “Ya.”

C: “Did you talk to anyone else?”

M: “No. Not really. After your set which was awesome by the way – did you guys take awesome pills just before going on?! Holy shit!”

C: “Hey thanks. So someone talked to you after the set?”

M: “Oh ya. A drunk middle ager. Computer salesman. He went on and on about Windows Vista. I left as soon-”

C: “That was my father.”

M: “What?”

C: “Were you in a black blouse and brownish hair? Sort of Bettie Page bangs?”

M: “Auburn.”

C: “What?”

M: “My wig was auburn.”

C: “Anyways so that WAS you.”

M: “Oh god, that was your father?”

C: “Ya.”

M: “Oh jeeze…”

C: “Don’t worry about it. It’s all good. I guess you gave him a phony number, eh?”

M: “Yes.”

C: “Of course, I would, too. Ha!”

M: “Ha ha! Ya.”

C: “HAHAHAHA!”

M: “HAHAHAHA!”

C: “HA HA..”

M: “Ha Ha..”

C: “WHOO..”

M: “Whoo..”

C: “Hey, Magnuson?”

M: “What?”

C: “The earth is in a lava lamp this summer.”

M: “‘The earth is in a lava lamp this summer’?”

C: “The earth is in a lava lamp this summer.”

M: “The earth is in a lava lamp this summer.”

C: “Yes.”

M: “Okay.”

C: “Alex?”

M: “Yes?”

C: “Whoa! Am I ever stoned! Sorry, buddy. Listen, I’m not gonna waste another sec of your time. Later, buddy.”

M: “Okay. Bye, Scott!”

C: “Bye.”

So I managed to scrape a little bit of background on Scott “Candy” Fletcher, mostly about his dad. Blech. I am really glad he has a sense of humour about that. This felt like it could have been a Nidhan interview disaster all over again but thankfully no. The lava lamp thing still troubles me. It’s something I’d expect from Penny but not Candy, even stoned.

Clinton’s Tavern – fri sept 5

The night threatened to pour but did not. Approximately 40 souls attended Dirty Penny’s performance last night at Clinton’s Tavern. Some were fans, others had come for the other bands sharing the stage with DP. It was a shame. It was a rare line-up of talent. Most of these shared band nights are mostly borefests of groups that play extremely well but have no sound and no ideas – proficient zombies – and there’s the one band that wows you. Last night, every group had a reason to be there. Tyranny of Love, Halfpast Four, Camel Joe, Jeff Burke w. Pat Kelly, and Dirty Penny.

Lead man JC Penny began by describing the dish for the evening. He announced that their performance would be accompanied by the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and was interrupted by a phone call. It was William Eddins, conductor of the ESO, Penny announced. Penny continued the pretend conversation. He counted down over the phone with the ESO in order to get both groups to start at the same time. It was funny and surreal. Half a dozen times during the performance Penny picked up his phone and carried on further pretend conversations with Bill.

Dirty Penny is in top shape these days. They’re practicing regularly. The room was mannequin still, as usual taking it all in. They’ve got SOUND, children. All the groups had something unmatchable actually. Camel Joe had power. Tyranny of Love had romance. Halfpast Four had wizardry ie. seriously tricky rock compositions. Jeff Burke and Pat Kelly had joy. DP had sound, sound, sound. (can you tell I’m a fan?) Their set for the evening:

big rock candy mountain
hot cocoa
hip hoperation
if i wuz a cat
sage against the machine
poutine
declined
space car date

It was a really high class show and given the number of bands, hundreds were probably invited. It’s sad and evidence of the downfall of the world or at least Toronto. 90% of the invites resorted to something safe last night instead of a live rock show. All swear up and down that they love music if cornered, I’m sure. Oh well. Friday nights have become thursday nights it seems, same level of risk spirit. I expect the news to hit the Star’s front page anytime: “The Spirit of Friday Night Murdered by Thursday Night but will keep name!”

Half way through Tyranny’s set, lead singer Nik Beat asked the audience if he could borrow somebody’s guitar. DP’s Louie went up and ponied his own Fender Strat, Lovely Louie (yes relation). The effect it had on the usually contemplative and aloof Louie was more than cute. He smiled and beamed at the stage. It was absolutely clear that Louie considers his guitar to be alive and a friend. He was pointing and talking animatedly to drummer Candy. I caught the transformative moment quite clearly from a few feet away. I was in disguise as a middle aged woman for the evening. It was the only way I could attend. My interview with Nidhan “Grimlock” Grewal, DPs new bassist, has apparently not yet graduated to the water under the bridge folder. I missed the performance 2 days ago at the Horseshoe for this reason. I could not get the red hair wig to look natural and had to trade in for auburn the next day.

Lastly, a couple of Nik Beat’s comments from the stage standout: “this guitar is 50 times better than mine” and “Cavener is the Rex Harrison of rock”. I will be looking into the last one. Perhaps it is just a reference to Penny’s tuxedo jacket he wore on stage.

Proceeds for the evening went in part to Amnesty International.

You should all be ashamed of yourselves.

Rehearsal – sun aug 31

Waiting outside Glenn’s factory rehearsal space, the sounds of derivative grind core bands fall out the second floor windows like sunlight, just as bland. 

First to arrive is drummer Scott “Candy” Fletcher.  He doesn’t see me as I hold open the doors for him and his gear.  He is concentrating.  He resembles that hard prayer you see in the photographs of Pope Jean-Paul II, leaning on his staff, willing kindness and mercy onto a world of 5 billion sinners.  It occurs to me that my notes are few regarding DP’s killer drummer.  He may be the best musician in the band.  He is tattooed on the forearms and wears exclusively black.  I will have to arrange a Q&A session with him soon.  I will let some time pass, though.  The memory of my disastrous interview with Nidhan (see previous post), the new bassist, has hopefully dissipated over the past couple of weeks.  My journalism training kicks in reflexively and I call back to him as he almost disappears around a hallway corner: “Hey, Candy!  How long you been kicking ass on the drums?” a simple flattering question designed to ease my way into a future interview.  “Down this hall, second door on the right,” he replies.  That’s the communal toilet he’s referring to.  Such concentration.  Oh well, next time.

Singer JC Penny arrives next.  He comes to me directly.

JC:  “Alex, wh-?”
AM (me):  “Good.  I’m fine.  How are you?  Oh, sorry, what?” 

Crap.  Also, I could tell right away that the events of my conniption interview with new DP bassist have not dissipated as much as I’d like.

JC:  “Listen, Alex, the thing that happened with you and Nidhan, I think that-”
AM:  “Jay, I am really sorry and embarrassed.  I had a condition when I was a kid.  I wasn’t a strong child and I used to hyperventilate all the time.  It’s never happened to me as an-”
JC:  “Alex, we need to change-”
NG:  “WHAT’S HE DOING HERE!?”

It was Nidhan, the new DP bassist.  He was standing 12 feet away from JC Penny and I, pointing at me with a deep fire in his eyes.  I could feel my lungs starting to seize.  I immediately bit my tongue for a first taste of blood and kept my eyes down.  It was working.  I could feel my childhood blanket again on my legs and began to relax.  Penny was talking to me now and I struggled to keep a controlled appearance.  I urinated a bit in my pants.

JC:  “..until we get comfortable again, okay?”  I had missed what Penny said but I was in no condition to ask for clarification.
AM:  “Okay, no problem.”

That was the easy way out and probably saved my gig with these rock and roll geniuses.  I quickly found out what it was that Penny said, however: as soon as all the members had arrived I was lead to a little wooden school chair outside the space in the hallway.  Louie said “just be cool from here on and Nidhan’ll get more settled into the band, then we’ll see about letting you back in.”  He handed me a beer and a smile and shut the door behind him.  I was expelled from the rehearsal space. 

Fury filled my head, and self-hate.  “I am a journalist, a graduate of the Ryerson school of Journalism.  No, I cannot accept this!  It’s bullshit!  I am a professional!” Was the self-respecting voice.  “A professional would not have hyperventillated during an interview.  A five year old would have given a better interview.  Fuck, fuck, fuck..” was the other.  This chewed on my insides for a while until Dirty Penny started and I recognised Hot Cocoa immediately through the concrete wall.  They haven’t played this one live in a long time.  Being acquainted with their practice patterns, this definitely means they’ll be playing it at the Horseshoe wednesday.  I tipped my seating position back and stuck my ear to the wall and listened, making the best of the situation, letting the music distract me from my professional disgrace. 

A bunch of rocker kids, obviously a metal band, lumbered by with nine thousand pounds of gear.  They we’re all smiling at me as they walked by.  “Hey, rock and roll, man,” one said.  This cheered me a little and l raised my beer and took a swig, smiling back.  A little comaraderie here in the lower intestine of rock and roll.. The swig went down and they were well passed me but still looking back curiously.  I was missing something.  Then it hit me.  The beer had an extra flavour.  I wiped my mouth with my hand and looked.  It was blood.  Rock and roll, indeed.  I went to the bathroom.  It was locked so I knocked.  Then I remembered: It’s always locked.  It’s like that here.  Each tenant has a key.  Glenn has a key.  I waited until I was sure the rocker kids had left the building and then began to cry. 

Interview with new Dirty Penny bassist, Nidhan Grewal

Sitting at a wooden table in a plumber’s bar covered in fake wood and the relaxing faint smell of a thousand mopped pukes all point to the jukebox. The waitress drops off our beers. Nidhan’s beer is an ale. His face is rough, gang related, but his eyes dart around in child like wonder. Standing at around 6’2″, Dirty Penny’s new bassist is sitting pretty. He has joined what may be Canada’s next The Guess Who, The Tragically Hip, The Barenaked Ladies.

Alex Magnuson (Me): Nidhan, how did you first-

Nidhan Grewal: It’s “Nidhan”

AM: “Nidhan”

NG: “NidON”

AM: “Need-ON”?

NG: “NidON”…”dON”

AM: “NuhDON”?

NG: Say “Don” like normal.

AM: “Don”

NG: Okay, now “Ni-DON”. Emphasis on second syllable.

AM: “Nidon” [I believe I was pronouncing it fine at this point but we were too far into awkward land to help me] “Nidon”…”Nidon”…”Nidon”

NG: That’s good. Enough.

AM: “Nidon”

NG: ..

AM: No, I really want to get it right. I’m planning on writing a book about you guys. What if I have to speak at a press conference and I say your name wrong? It looks bad on all of us.

NG: Ok.

AM: Ok. So, you’re the new bassist for Dirty Penny? For sure?

NG: I think so. They said the words ‘welcome to the band’ so..

AM: Wow. Like ‘WOW’. You’re in Dirty Penny.

NG: Ya.

AM: You must be pretty pumped.

NG: It’s good. They’re- excuse me, WE’RE not famous or anything. But the music’s got spirit and style. That’s the most important thing. I’ve been in cover bands and worse: original bands that have no sound. That just made me hate music which is terrible. I grew up with music.

AM: What do you mean you grew up with music?

NG: Classically trained in tabla and harmonium starting when I was 6. Got my first guitar in grade 10 and then gravitated toward the bass shortly after and still playing it. I just always liked playing music.

AM: So now that you’re in Dirty Penny you love music again?

NG: Uh, no, I got back in it with my other band, Fire Hydrant, who are also awesome.

AM: How long ago was this?

NG: 2005.

AM: So do you know anything about the former DP bassist? “Sugar Bear”?

NG: Sounds good on the recordings.

AM: What do you think about the circumstances around his departure?

NG: I don’t know much about it.

AM: Really?

NG: Ya. Why? Is there something I should know?

AM: You said you didn’t know “much” about it. Then what do you know?

NG: Uh..

AM: It’s alright. You can tell me. I’m the band biographer. I’m YOUR band’s biographer.

NG: This is weird. You’re weird.

AM: FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!

NG: Whoa, dude, reel it in…

AM: [I'm hyper-ventilating here. I used to get attacks as a kid but they went away when i hit my teens. Haven't had one in 30 years. Thankfully my old trick of biting my tongue until the first faint taste of blood still works and I was able to calm down in a minute. The contractor men at the table next to us were all looking at me. The bartender was looking at me. What I thought was "Satisfaction" by the Stones was really a Kate Bush song playing over the house system. This was impossible. They would never play Kate Bush here. This was a man's bar. There was sports on the overhead TVs. All the interior was faux log cabin. I became paranoid. After my attack the endorphins allowed me to keep a calm appearance. I knew I was outta the hyper-ventialtion woods but my mind was closing in. All eyes were still on me and Nidhan looked horrified. It was too much. I needed to know for sure what was playing on the stereo. If I could be sure of that I knew I could pull myself together. I began to sing along with what I was hearing. Hopefully Nidhan's face would tip me off quickly on whether I was on the right track]

AM: ‘The hounds of love are haunting me?’

NG: [his hand is suddenly up holding a 20 dollar bill for the waitress who was now coming over, ready to assist in 7 different ways, no more, no less] Keep the change and no worries. My friend here has been without sleep for too long.

waitress: That and something else if you ask me.

Dirty Penny’s new bassist is a compassionate, thoughtful man with strong hands. I lead the way down the stairs to the street while he gripped both my arms from behind all the way. I felt a little like a shopping cart.

This interview hadn’t gone well. I considered not publishing but knew that I would not get another chance so here it is, warts and all. Shit.

Bassist Jay “Sugar Bear” Larson OUT! (99% sure)

So it’s true. Bassist Sugar Bear has quit Dirty Penny. Yours truly discovered this while at JC Penny’s home sitting across the table yesterday evening while he and his daughter ate fettucini. I was hungry as well and luckily there was a walnut bowl near the flower piece on the table. He and is daughter we’re discussing the flowers – daisies dyed with colouring of pink, violet, etc.. They were wilting. Penny asked his daughter:

“So those flowers we’re nice a longtime weren’t they?”
“ya, they just need some sun.”
“just some sun and they’ll be okay?”

A pause from JC Penny here. The small talk of wilting flowers has sprung the issue of death with a loud SPROING! You can see it on JC Penny’s face. Will he give her a small picture of the terrible truth as parents must do from time to time?

“ya, just some sun and they’ll be okay.”

Not today.

I crack a nut trying to be quiet but the nut screams “rape!” despite my efforts. Both Penny and is daughter look at me revolted for a moment then continue to work on the fettucini. It seems even his daughter is aware of my position as long term journalist/documenter of Canada’s most brilliant rock band. I am allowed everywhere except bedrooms. Being treated like an insect was not in the deal but it’s a small price for exclusive ‘backstage’ seats to such talented musical minds.

A few moments pass, chewing with my lips fully sealed, when Penny splutters “Ha! Toodles, boyfriend. That’s your postal code now,” and I’ll bet dollars to bran flakes he means Sugar Bear. Penny is a compulsive free association mumbler. It was disquieting at first. There’s violent imagery sometimes. He might be a high-functioning Turrets case. However, I think I have alligned my antennae to the purpose.

I still am overwhelmed by anger sometimes that they haven’t told me yet. I AM YOUR DOCUMENTER! I ruined my fridge door last night slamming it over and over again. I lost 2 bags of milk. The milk surrounded my feet and calmed me. I thought of DP’s song BubbleJuice from TaDa! and put it on. I went back to standing in the milk and listened. How can anybody make a song about mocassins, tutus, melons, spin class, Nanalan (a CBC kids show i think), tigers, pigs, milk, and bubblejuice (whatever that is) and somehow make it all feel contemporary? Really, you could put this song between Madonna and Springsteen on top 40 and soccer moms and truck drivers wouldn’t even blink!

Clearly, goodness is not a required fuel in art’s furnace.

“Sage Against the Machine” at the Horseshoe Tavern, July 8

WHERE’S SUGAR BEAR?  DP bassist Jay “Sugar Bear” Larson was not present last night.  I am a little pissed.  I endure countless ignominies following this band around, documenting.  In exchange I was promised complete disclosure, except for bedrooms.  I would write the book and then make enough money to go back to grad school.  I’ve been in the hospital for 4 weeks after a speaker tower fell on me at a DP Rehearsal.  It was a little bit my fault.  I was dancing to HipHoperation and that song makes me lose it a little.  I stumbled and next thing I knew i was in front of my building, propped against the glass window next to the buzz-in door.  It was nice that they left me close to home, and I believe them about my wallet falling out while I was being carried to the van.  I never expected a visit in the hospital but I had email!  They could have sent me a note!…

So last night, instead of Sugar Bear there was a very, very happy little mustached man playing bass.  He looked like he’d just won the lottery and I would agree.  If he’s not a temporary replacement, congratulations,  sir.  You’ve joined what is probably the most awesome band in Canada.  And I didn’t think it was possible, but you’ve managed to make DP look even more ridiculous as a line-up of men.

My gut says Sugar Bear is gone.  There had always been tension in the band between Sugar Bear and JC Penny but I was saving all that for my book.  It’s not fair.  Pardon my writing, dear readers.  I am upset.  I am a little pissed.  I’m a trained journalist, a Ryerson graduate!

Okay.

About 100 people crowded the back room of the Horseshoe Tavern last night.  The freak violent storm that swept Toronto just an hour before surely brought down potential attendance, but in a way it made those there a little more alive for the evening.  Lead Vox JC Penny was like a retarded Steve Tyler, pardon the slur but no other term fits what this man did to himself and to those looking at him last night.  It’s a little bit perverse, dirty, childlike.  The fluorescent green bike helmet didn’t help.

They made mistakes.  Lead guit Lovely Louie nearly assaulted rhythm/keys Yoko during Bomb Ardier.  There was a bad oops and Louie bolted across the stage at Yoko which was terrifying.  Louie is a big man.  Yoko is a tiny man.  But Yoko is a “head-down” musician and didn’t notice so Louie had time to diffuse.

Drummer Candy made everyone’s heart fibrulate with his kick and most of it was thrilling.  The mysterious bassist backed everything up just fine.  He looked like he was at the best smurf party ever.

The set ended and some brave people approached JC Penny and stammered praise.  A mob surrounded the merch table.  Ghandi would have been pleased.

Then it was all over but the summer is young and it belongs to Sage Against the Machine.  The most important record of the new millenium made by brilliant men who are nonetheless assholes.

Statement#17 from JC Penny

I get asked a lot why I spend so much time covering the evolution of Dirty Penny. “Don’t you have better things to do?” friends and my mother say to me. The truth is I spend a lot of time. I basically am allowed to be around them anytime I want except their bedrooms. I was hanging around Lovely Louis and JC Penny last night. They we’re drinking and smoking at JC’s place on the front porch on a sofa exposed to the elements. I offered commentary and I GOT A GIGGLE from them ONCE. These guys are the most conceited assholes on the planet. But they’re brilliant.

The following note by JC was handed to me on a napkin with bits of chewed bacon on it.

BEGIN

people of the night. you know who you are when i say that to you. you find unusual pleasures. you stay up late. you talk to yourself under your breath.

your car was never meant for space. you roll up your windows with a panicked look on your face. dont forget that you can dream even when awake. dont forget to fight when you need to.

the young girl and boy. barely 19. he’s driving the car. she’s super clean.

people of the day. you know who you are when i say that to you. you have normal pleasures. you don’t stay up late. you smile as a habit.

END

Rehearsal – tues may 20

This rock reporter is waiting outside Glenn’s rehearsal studio, located in an old sock factory turned run down loft/studio spaces for almost exlusively young filthy white musician men. Young women sometimes enter but are ephemeral. The toilets are revolting and shared. The twinkle they get from their rock and roll boyfriend singing a G’nR love song into their eyes on an old sofa is snuffed upon their first need to take a pee.

It’s 5:30 and storm clouds gather. This reporter is bicycle only so an early arrival, organise notes, and a cigarette….

JC Penny arrives first, also on Bicycle. He is wearing a purple moomoo and a neon green helmet. He looks like a child. Crossing the street his face twitches 5 times, probably from internal dialogue that is completely independent from the moment. It’s a wonder this man can cross the street. He asks if the others are here and i reply negative. He takes off his helmet slow and deliberate. Gloves and sunglasses methodically wrapped and curled into helmet’s bowl. This is a biker thing. JC Penny is a consumate biker. He has several bikes and is an amateur mechanic. Helmet held under arm and ritual completed, he suddenly attacks his hair with his other hand as if infested by bugs. He makes a sound like “ng-a-ng-a-ng-ng”, then is fine. There were no bugs. His head was itchy. JC is naturally histrionic.

Inside the space, drummer Candy is setting up, lead guit Lovely Louis and key/rhyth Yoko doing the same. JC is on a stool in front of mic staring at the floor, leg bouncing. Yoko walks over and looks behind JC. “What?” JC says. “Checking if you were 2 dimensional, if you had a back,” replies Yoko.

Bass Sugar Bear arrives 30 minutes late. No one cares. They are already playing music. Five minutes later a bass sound joins the sound.

DP is writing a new song today. LL mostly arranging between takes by conversation with members, “..second chorus, can you drop out.. ..next album is story songs so we need room for..” Candy takes on directing, too. Yoko, Sugar Bear, and JC follow along. It’s an alt-rock song. It sounds great because I’m a DP fan. DP’s got SOUND. New listeners always poo-poo DP because they’re not technical pros. Too bad for them.

LL asks JC what the song is called. JC owns the naming of songs. “Uh, Space Car Date,” he says. “It’s about a date and they’re in a car and they drive to the ocean and it’s so beautiful as they approach it and they get so happy they give the car wings and they take off over the ocean and into space but then they start to panic and roll up windows and try to turn back because cars aren’t meant for space, I dunno I’m writing it as we go…”

Reheasal ends with an actual rehearsal of Pretty Boy Floyd. There is conflict. JC wants it slower so he has time to deliver the lyrics. “It’s a freaking story,” he argues. The band wants faster so they can rock out. They find a middle which makes them all smile. They pack it up and go home without saying goodbye to yours truly. I lick my wings and wash my hands without soap or water.

The Drake – May 12

DP started off the evening with lead vox JC Penny promising “we’re gonna play some ACDC for ya!” to a cheering desperate-for-something-unpretentiously-entertaining Drake crowd.  It was a lie.  ‘Cigarettes, Whisky, and Wild Wild Women’ (TaDa! 2007) began with lead guitar Lovely Louis’ fingers beginning to blur and they were off.

The band just gets better and better.  This is not a huge compliment.  They’ve been playing for years and while ‘tight’ isn’t the first word you think sitting with a cocktail 30 feet away and 5 minutes into a DP show – ‘sound’ is.  They’ve got sound.  And that sound is… 

(It’s wrong to say a band has a sound and then compare them to another band.  Remember that, music slaves.)

DP’s sound is like a garbage truck moving across a neighborhood: slow power, you can’t stop it and you don’t want to.  You’ll lose.

DP served a hard rock course with no towelettes for 30 minutes.  JC Penny, full of autism and suave, provided the usual David Byrne marginal monkey visuals.  One wonders about this man’s brain.  It is either not there or too much so.  Bassist “Sugar Bear” did his trademark pogo sticking on the songs where you could tell he likes his parts best.  Lovely Louis lead user of the guitar as just a tool for sound was in a surgical mood, providing contrast to JC Penny’s quasi-wrong singing style.  Was Louis operating on JC on purpose?  We like to think so.  But prolly not.  People who play rock are moody. 

Nobody left the room.  Everybody stared at the rock spectacle frozen, in fear perhaps that the unpredictable zero self-conscious lead singer’s attention is drawn. 

Ex-drummer Sarah “The Glue” Quinn was invited up to sub for ‘Big Rock Candy Mountain’.  Good to hear her simple, rock steady sticks again.  Current drummer Candy is so full of tricks it’s a completely different Penny.

“I hate ACDC. Why the fuck did you say that?” started Louis on JC outside the Drake post-show.  “Cuz it’s the Drake and I’m mister contrast.  I could have said Boston or Foreigner…” (the 2 bandsmen obviously falling into a comfortable R2D2/3P0-esque nagging) “…would you have preferred Boston or Foreigner?”

LL – “No, I would have preferred an introduction to the first song of our set to a crowd of people, many of whom have never seen us before, several of which will now never see us again because ACDC sucks.”
JC – “ACDC doesn’t fucking suck.  You’re ACDC.”
LL – “Don’t ever say that to me. I stopped calling you Peter Gabriel when you asked me.”
JC – “I sound nothing like Peter Gabriel.”
LL – “You sound a little like Peter Gabriel, except without the hitting the right notes part.”
JC – “Peter Gabriel sucks.”
LL – “You suck.”
JC – “You suck me.”

LL – “I would have preferred Foreigner.”
JC – “Do you even like rock?”
LL – “I like good rock.”
JC – “You like gay rock.”
LL – “Bauhaus isn’t gay rock.”
JC – “It’s as gay as they come.’
LL – “I pity you.”
JC – “You’re mustache is crooked.”
LL – “Thanks for not pulling down your pants this show.”
JC – “I left my sexy underwear at your mom’s.”
LL – “Oh!  Who-da-man!  Who-da-MAN!”
JC – “You da man.”

The 2 “friends” disappeared back into the Drake for more beer presumably.

On a final note, Elvis Mondays still rocks after a million years going as a place for live indie music on any Monday night.  The sound, space, and bands are all the right size and taste.  This reporter feels he has rediscovered Elvis Mondays and has already entered “BORED?  Elvis Monday” as a recurring weekly 9pm alert in his blackberry.

Preparing for the Drake #3

Tomorrow evening DP does the Drake’s downstairs at 9:30pm.  1150 Queen W.  Good luck.

Saturday noon saw DP rehearsing at Glenn’s again.  Glenn wasn’t iimpressed with the early booking and commented passive aggressively “I feel pretty good considering I went to bed at 6am.”  It was clear that Glenn accepted the booking to make up for the Melissa Manchester incident 2 weeks prior.

Drummer Scott “Candy” Fletcher arrived 40 minutes late with “traffic” as his explanation.

DP mangled a couple of songs for their upcoming set and began to worry when Candy, the veteran who has been in dozens of bands since his teens, evaporated the sour mood envelloping the band in an instant: “Bad rehearsal, good gig,” said Candy, to which the rest of the band nodded and mumbled “ya” and “hmm..”

Keys/rhythm guitar Richard “Yoko” Lachman brought a six of beer for the morning.

Lead guitar Louis and Yoko discussed at length the correct mix of their dueling guitar parts in ‘Sage against the Machine’ from their upcoming full length release of the same name.  Since Yoko bought his effects box it’s been like a Yugioh battle between the 2  but one that is between evenly tempered canadian men.  Finely crafted missiles of emotional sensitivity set the tiny rehearsal space on fire: “I’m hearing you about the distortion but..” and “I like that flange a lot for a lot of parts but I’m not sure..” Meanwhile, the other bandsmen drifted into an improvisational cover of ‘Girl from Ipanema’ setting the whole scene into a masterful absurdist light.  Imagine Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ with propeller hats on the soldiers.

After rehearsal, JC Penny, Yoko, and Louis went to see Iron Man and that’s the last anybody’s seen of them.