Holy Shit Weaves' New (ish) Single Is Great

We're been a bit slow to come out of our winter hibernation this year, which means we've been unforgivably slow to listen to the new song from Toronto's wonderful weirdos in Weaves. But holy shit. "One More", which premiered on NPR back at the beginning of March, is one of the best tunes the band has released to date. Which is saying something — the bar has been set high by the distorted squeaks and squeals of songs like "Motorcycle." Pretty much every track Weaves has released has been one of our favourite tracks in recent years.

So if you haven't checked it out yourself yet, it's about time you listen to "One More":



-----



Read more ...

Starting Over At 35 by Melissa Hughes

I can remember precisely when it hit me. I was staring out the window of my big, empty office, watching an even bigger home go up across the street. We were living in one of those up-and-coming neighbourhoods, selected not for its charm, but for its potential increase in value. The fact that houses were being torn down and replaced was a selling feature, my fiancée said.

In principle, I agreed, but the atmosphere of destruction depressed me. All winter, while I struggled to set down words that would mean something to someone, somewhere, I’d looked over at what had been on that lot. It was a small, pink house that sat awkwardly on the street, a sloped-roof affair in a land of bungalows and stone McMansions. Its upper windows were left open to the elements, frozen curtains flapping in the wind, as if in capitulation, though the spray-painted markers and safety tape had already gone up by that time: nothing and no one could save it.

On the outside, my life at 35 looked great — a promising career, a doting partner, an elegant home, things, vacations, a big engagement ring, money in the bank.

There was just one problem: I wasn’t happy. I was good at my work but I didn’t believe in some of the fundamental aspects of what I was doing. I was invested in the idea of a partner I could share my life with, and yet I felt deeply alone.

The lies crept in softly. First it was a kind of sublimation, in the shaky ‘trying my best’ of my 20s — well, that isn’t exactly what I wanted, but that’s probably close enough — and into my 30s it became a momentum of “alrightness,” of being okay. A sort of, ‘hey, this is like what other people I know are doing,’ without a real consideration of whether it was right for me, or what a happier life would even look like.

And here’s the secret: I got good at it. You get really, really good. And then you wake up one morning and you pad into your office, and something in your line of sight has changed, and you have no idea who the hell you are or how you got there.

That’s reductive, of course — in reality there were myriad tiny realizations. But the sum was this: if you aren’t honest with yourself — cuttingly, painfully honest — life can’t be honest with you. I could not attract the deep understanding, the tenderness in a partner that I wanted and still want more than anything. I could not use my talents and insights to help the people and causes I care about, to effect the change I want to see. Not unless I was honest about who I am and what I want.

Walking away wasn’t the hardest part, though it felt like it at the time. He followed me around the house as I threw my life into boxes.

You can’t leave me, he kept saying. Oh, but I could.

For the first time in my adult life, I was going to do what was right for me, without a complex inner negotiation, without a decimation of self. I did not want to marry this man — no part of me did — and if I couldn’t find someone that every fibre of my being did want, someone I could deeply love and respect, I would rather live the rest of my life alone, with my ideas and my sense of self intact.

What I didn’t realize at the time is that facing into our decisions is where the real work and the fear and the self-doubt begins. It’s everything after the dramatic exit, the door slam, the (justified and unjustified) self righteousness, the rolling down the street in a truck with nowhere to really go, realizing you’ve wasted time and there’s no way to get it back. That the reason you don’t have the things you wanted — a loving husband, a family, a career that actually makes a dent in the world and will leave something after you’re gone — is you, your own shortcomings and your fear. And maybe you’ve missed the boat, entirely.

What I’ve described here is the decision not to “settle”; my experience is in no way special. But what’s worrying, and worth pointing out, is that settling was like air; except for brief punches of grief and despair that seemed to come out of nowhere, it didn’t feel like anything at all. I had lied to myself so well — in so many areas of my life — it seemed natural, normal to just keep pressing forward until the memory of what I’d wanted was like a distant dream, faint and ridiculous. 

But our dreams aren’t ridiculous. In fact, they aren’t really “dreams” at all. They are who we are —  the most fundamental expression of ourselves as individuals, before the negotiations and the bullshit and the doubt pile up on us.

The specifics of why I veered so far from myself aren’t important, except for this: I believe it’s part of a pattern, one we can’t fully see until the end of our lives. Of course, if we look, it’s almost certain we’ll find what we seek: We’ll see our triumphs and our failures in the context of the hands we were dealt. Regardless, I’m certain of this: If you are honest with yourself, no experience — good or bad — is ever truly wasted.

After walking away from a life I didn’t want, I let go. I fell deeply and honestly in love for the first time in my life. It was short and brutal and he broke my heart — he actually crushed me completely, for months I felt like I couldn’t breathe — but I saw the curve of what an honest love could be like. It’s the most beautiful and breathtaking thing, to place yourself gently in the hands of another human that you respect and like, and ask for what you want: to be loved back, cherished, understood.

I see now that this is all part of my pattern, and so are the good things, too. I moved to a place I like. I deepened my friendships and made new ones. I embarked on a new career path, working with people who inspire me. I found the courage to start sharing my fiction — the deepest held parts of me that I’ve been pushing down all my life.

It occurs to me that starting over was letting go, and letting go is a bit like prayer: Involuntary and also deliberate. You will get what you ask for, what your energy moves undeniably toward, the most desperately whispered desires of your heart. It’s only that the answer might look like nothing you imagined.

-----

This post originally appeared on Medium.

Melissa Hughes is a Toronto-based writer whose freelance work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Ottawa Citizen, and on CBC radio. She has worked as a reporter for the London Free Press and the Barrie Examiner. You can read all of her posts here and follow her on Twitter @meliss_hughes.


Read more ...

The Toronto Historical Jukebox: "Tired Of Waking Up Tired" by The Diodes

The Diodes may very well be the most important punk band in the history of Toronto. They were formed in 1976 — playing together at the Ontario College of Art just as the Queen West punk scene was about to become one of the greatest punk scenes on Earth. And The Diodes played a founding role.

It was The Diodes and The Viletones who quickly became the giants of the scene: their infamous rivalry pitted the art school background of The Diodes against the working class thuggery of The Viletones. But it was still a tightly-knit community. In 1977, The Diodes turned their rehearsal space in the basement of a small office building (on Duncan just south of Queen) into a punk club called the Crash 'N' Burn. That summer, they invited all the best punk bands in the city to come play — The Viletones included. For a few, brief, glorious months, bands like The Curse, The Dishes and Teenage Head shook the building to its foundations. But it didn't last: The Liberal Party of Ontario had an office upstairs; by the end of the summer, their complaints about the noise and rowdiness forced the club to shut down.

By then, word had gotten around. That August, The Diodes became the very first Toronto punk band to sign a deal with a major label. The year after that, they started playing a brand new song. "Tired Of Waking Up Tired" would prove to be one of the most popular tracks to ever come out of the Queen West punk scene. Chart even put it at #17 on their list of the Top 50 Canadian Singles Of All Time.



-----

Listen to more Queen Street punk here.

You can find links to buy Didoes records here.

Special thanks to Ralph Alfonso (The Diodes "manager, designer, lighting guy, roadie, publicist" and co-founder of the Crash 'N' Burn)  for his help with this post.
You can listen to more songs from the Toronto Historical Jukebox here.

Posted by Adam Bunch, the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project and the Toronto Historical Jukebox. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at adam@littleredumbrella.com.



Read more ...

On José Bautista's Bat Flip & The Making of History in Toronto by Adam Bunch

The very first legendary home run ever hit in Toronto was hit in 1887. More than a century before Joe Carter's famous World Series walk-off at the SkyDome, Cannonball Crane hit a homer into the sky above the Don Valley to end a game at Sunlight Park. It was made all the more impressive by the fact that it came during extra innings in the second game of a double-header — and that Crane had pitched all 20 innings for the Toronto Baseball Club on that Saturday afternoon. Those two victories sparked a 16-game winning streak that brought Toronto our very first baseball championship.

Cannonball Crane fell apart soon after, spending his final days as a broke, unemployed, depressive alcoholic who met his end by drinking a bottle of a chloral at a seedy motel across the lake in Rochester. But thanks to that home run, he'd already written his name into the history of our city. He was a hero. For decades to come, his name would be mentioned with reverent awe on a regular basis in Toronto. And it still is from time to time. In fact, next summer Heritage Toronto will unveil a new plaque on the spot where Sunlight Park once stood — at Queen & Broadview — and it will include a mention and a photo of Crane. Nearly 130 years after his game-winning home run, the name of Cannonball Crane is still remembered.
 
Those opportunities for quasi-immortality don't come along very often. Extraordinary talent has to conspire with a strange amount of luck in front of an unusually large audience. Cannonball Crane was one of the greatest pitchers and sluggers of his time, brought to the plate at just the right moment in front of a record-setting crowd — about 10% of the entire population of Toronto was at Sunlight Park that day.

In Game Five against the Rangers, one of the greatest sluggers of our time came to the plate at the SkyDome during one of the strangest innings in baseball history — and more than 10% of the entire population of Canada was watching.

Ned "Cannonball" Crane
No one ever expected José Bautista to become a superstar. He was drafted in the 20th round. He spent years as a forgettable utility infielder. In his rookie season, he got released and traded four times in just a few months — from one terrible team to another. Finally, Pittsburgh traded him to Toronto for a middling minor league catcher.
 
The Blue Jays didn't expect him to become a superstar either. But after making an adjustment to his swing — adding a higher leg kick to change his timing — that's exactly what he did become. In 2010, he hit 54 home runs — a dozen more than anybody else hit that year. And he hasn't looked back. Since Bautista became a slugger, no other slugger has hit more home runs than he has. On Thursday, Joe Posnanski of NBC Sports called Bautista's career "one of the most bizarre and inspiring stories in the history of baseball."
 
They say that thanks to his early struggles — along with facing the subtle and not-so-subtle racism of the old school baseball establishment — the Dominican Bautista has always played as if he has something to prove. And that, in part, is what makes him such a perfect fit for Toronto.

Torontonians, too, feel like we have something to prove. We always have. It's our infamous colonial mentality, stretching all the way back to our early days as a muddy outpost on a distant, snowy frontier. Our city was founded as a capital — but a tiny capital, thousands of kilometers away from the heart of the British Empire, dwarfed by the American juggernaut to the south. We've always been secretly ambitious (our founder, John Graves Simcoe, wanted Toronto to become a city so awesome that Americans would beg to be let back into the British fold), but we worry that if we're honest with ourselves we'll find that we're largely irrelevant. That inferiority complex was already in place long before Cannonball Crane stepped to the plate on that September afternoon in 1887. It was, I suspect, part of what drove the crowd's frenzied reaction when he crushed his game-winning home run.

As the fans lifted Crane onto their shoulders and paraded him out of Sunlight Park and onto Queen Street, the team's owner scrawled a triumphant message on the scoreboard: "CITIZENS, ARE YOU CONTENT? TORONTO LEADS THE LEAGUE."

The crowd went nuts. In Toronto, we're always looking for signs that we really do deserve our place as one of the most important cities on the continent — even if those signs come from something as random and trivial as the outcome of a baseball game. On that day, it must have felt like our city was finally coming into its own: a booming metropolis in a brand new nation... and now a famous baseball star to call our own and a fresh championship pennant to hang in our brand new stadium.
 
It felt like that again in the early 1990s, as Joe Carter wrote his own name into our city's history with his own game-winning home run. We were still a booming metropolis, even bigger now, playing on a bigger stage, proud of our country and our place in the world — of peacekeeping and of Heritage Minutes and of top spot on U.N. lists — with yet another fresh pennant hanging in yet another brand new baseball stadium. Those Blue Jays seemed like us, the way many in Toronto were beginning to see themselves back then: cosmopolitan, multicultural, professional, elite...
 
Joe Carter's walk-off
But since then, of course, our sports teams haven't exactly helped with the whole inferiority complex thing. At this point, no North American city with as many major sports franchises as we have in Toronto has gone this long without at least appearing in a championship final. And while sports are supposed to be a silly distraction that ultimately doesn't mean much, it does do something to a city — there is a civic toll that comes with being a city full of Leafs fans. Especially here, where sometimes it still feels like we live on a forgotten, snowy frontier, where blowing a 4-1 lead late in a hockey game seems to confirm our worst fears about ourselves and our place in the world. Even if that's really quite silly.

In Toronto, we're used to getting our hopes up only to have them immediately dashed in spectacular, heartbreaking fashion. We're used to feeling embarrassed by our sports teams, and that feeling spills over into other areas, too: we're embarrassed by our sports teams, by the new name of the SkyDome, by our transit system, by our racist Prime Minster, by our crack-smoking mayor...
 
For most of this last week, it felt like it was all happening again. As far as talent is concerned, the Blue Jays are a juggernaut — some say they're one of the greatest baseball teams ever assembled. But in a short playoff series bad luck can bring down even the greatest of baseball teams. And Toronto is used to bad luck.

When the Jays lost the first two games at home, there was a familiar sinking feeling. And as they clawed their way back into the series over the next two games, hitting thrilling home runs in the distant heat of Texas, we were reluctant to get our hopes up again, a city full of Charlie Browns sick of trying to kick that football.

For most of Wednesday night, in the sudden death of Game Five, it seemed like we were right to be suspicious. For the first six-and-a-half innings, disaster loomed: the Jays quickly went down by two runs, fought their way back to tie the game with a mammoth home run from another lovable Dominican slugger — Edwin Encarnación, walker of the parrot, bringer of hat tricks — and then, almost immediately, there was that bizarre fluke throw by Canadian catcher Russell Martin, the ball clanking off Shin-Soo Choo's bat and sputtering down the line as the go-ahead run dashed home from third base. This was how we were going to end our season? This confusing mess of a run?
 
The aftermath of the Martin-Choo play
The pathetic, childish, dangerous rain of beer cans that followed wasn't just about that specific moment in the game, it was about 20 years without a Blue Jays playoff appearance, about half a century without a Stanley Cup, about Vince Carter and Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani. It was disgust not just with the umpires or the rules, but with all of sports in general, with the whole concept of random chance, with the very nature of the universe itself...
 
But luck is a funny thing.
 
Baseball — like life — is at its best when it feels like magic. It's a long, unfathomably complicated thing, a baseball season. It's impossible for a mind to wrap itself around all the pieces and interactions involved: the hundreds of players, the thousands of games, the hundreds of thousands of individual plays that can be broken down into millions of distinct elements. It can be an awe-inspiring experience, watching it all unfold. The almost quantum-like fluctuations of individual pitches gradually build themselves into larger structures over the course of the summer, into the baseball equivalent of planets and stars: games, seasons and careers. At times, luck and human agency come together in a sequence of events that seems to defy the laws of reason and logic and chance — producing moments that seem nearly miraculous. Cannonball Crane hits a walk-off home run on a day he pitches 20 innings. Joe Carter becomes the only player in the history of the sport to hit a come-from-behind home run to win the World Series. We are reminded that amazing, wonderful, stupid, lucky things can happen. Even to us.

No one has ever seen anything like that seventh inning. Posnanski called it, "The craziest, silliest, weirdest, wildest, angriest, dumbest and funniest inning in the history of baseball... There has never been an inning like it." That thought has been echoed over and over again in the hours since it happened — not just by people in Toronto, but by baseball fans everywhere. On her CBS Sports Radio show, Amy Lawrence promised, "We will never forget what happened in that seventh inning." It was, without a doubt, one of the most memorable 53 minutes in the entire history of a sport that has kept records since before the American Civil War... since before Canadian Confederation... since before Toronto's first skyscraper was so much as a glint in an architect's eye... Talent and good luck conspired on an international stage in a way that no one has ever seen before. And it happened in Toronto. To Toronto.

Russell Martin tries to throw the ball back to the pitcher and it hits Choo's bat. The Rangers make three straight errors. José Bautista comes to the plate...

No current Blue Jay has been a Blue Jay as long as José Bautista has. No Blue Jay has waited longer for the team to make the playoffs. For years, Jays fans have worried that bad luck and the lack of talent around him would conspire to waste his years here. That he might be doomed to share the fate of Carlos Delgado and Roy Halladay: superstars who never played a playoff game with a blue bird on their chest, who will always be remembered fondly in Toronto, beloved, but never had a chance to write their name into the history of our city in one instant, with the indelible ink of a miracle in the postseason or during the final days of a pennant race. They never had the chance to do something extraordinary with our whole city watching, our whole country, our whole continent... the kind of moment that turns you into more than just a baseball player, that makes you, in some very small way, immortal.

Historica bait
You could see it all in that bat flip. The years of struggle. The years spent playing for Toronto teams that were never quite as good as he was. The years of being ignored in favour of the Red Sox and the Yankees. The years without a playoff berth. Gone. In an instant. In one blazing miracle of a home run.
 
Gone for Bautista and gone for Toronto, too. We're happy to have that bat flip speak for all of us — which is part of why I think we fell so deeply and instantaneously in love with it. It's the swagger Toronto is learning to have. The swagger we want to have. The Toronto of Drake and of #The6ix. Of a giant TORONTO sign in Nathan Phillips Square. Of one of the world's great music scenes. Of Nuit Blanche and First Thursdays and Friday nights at the ROM. Of a city that is slowly realizing — despite all the real and serious problems we still have to solve — that we really are pretty great, y'know.

We're a city coming to the realization that more than 200 years after Simcoe founded our muddy town, we actually have lived up to our original promise. And if we still doubt it, Bautista's home run gives us another chance to get the external validation we want so badly. For this moment at least, we can forget about them flying our flag upside-down and about whatever that moron Harold Reynolds thinks. Toronto, the scribes of NBC Sports remind us as they marvel at that miraculous inning, is "one of the world’s great cities." 

Now, whatever happens, we'll always remember these Blue Jays. These Jays who feel in so many ways like a reflection of our own city. Of the Toronto of 2015. A cast of characters drawn together from all over the world. Truly multicultural. The young, social media savvy pitcher from Long Island. The rookie closer, the youngest player in baseball, who quit school as a kid to work in the fields of Mexico. The oldest player in baseball, who loves the members of his fan club so much that he goes to their weddings. The quiet Dominican slugger who bought an entire block of his poor, corrupt-sugar-company-run hometown so the residents can still keep living there. The nerdy veteran pitcher from Nashville who has battled depression and struggled with childhood sexual abuse, who mastered the mysterious art of the knuckleball when it seemed like his career was over. The Australian reliever. The Japanese goofball. The Italian-American who spent years playing in the independent leagues before finally getting his big break. The catcher from Montreal who gives press conferences in both official languages. The rookie from Mississauga who runs like the wind. The whiz-kid Canadian General Manager, who got his start with the Expos, who is usually reserved but who parties, gets drunk, and curses with his team on the night they clinch the pennant.

Even if the season ends next week, even if the Jays don't win another game, people in Toronto — people all over Canada — will remember Donaldson and Tulo and Price and Sanchez and Papa Buehrle and Pillar's crazy catches and the beaming smile of Ben Revere...

But most of all we'll remember José Bautista. And that bat flip. And the night it felt like Toronto really could live up to our spot on the big stage. Just like we did in 1993. And in '92. And in 1887.

-----

A version of this post originally appeared on The Toronto Dreams Project Historical Ephemera Blog.

Rob Ford was there, by the way, somewhere at the Dome as Bautista's home run soared into the seats. But we weren't embarrassed — we were too busy celebrating, we didn't even care. 

You can ready my full, illustrated history of baseball in Toronto here. I've also written more about the tragic tale of Cannonball Crane here, the 1887 Toronto Baseball Club here, plus the greatest second baseman in Toronto (who isn't who you think it is) here, Babe Ruth's first home run here, and Joe Carter's World Series-winning dream here.


Read more ...

Who Was This St. Patrick Guy, Anyway? by Rebekah Hakkenberg

Originally posted March 17, 2011

You're probably too drunk on green beer or Guinness to even read this right now, so why don't you come back tomorrow when you're sober- no wait, better give yourself a day off tomorrow and come back the next day, you know, when you're feeling more like yourself again...

Hey, you're back! Did you have fun? Good. Now, where was I? Oh yeah, St. Patrick! What was his deal? He was Irish, that much I know. Wasn't he the guy who led all the children out of town with his flute? Oh, no, that was some other guy... okay, I have no idea then. Maybe it was snakes? To Wikipedia, I go!

Let's see now, so it turns out that Saint Patrick wasn't Irish! I know, right? It's not known exactly where he was born, but it was definitely either Scotland, Britain or Wales. He was actually captured by Irish marauders when he was 16 and sold into slavery, the poor little guy. He was sold to some Druid dude named Milchu, and little Paddy (oh yeah, his name wasn't actually Patrick, it was Maewyn Succat, but for our purposes, we'll refer to him as Pat) was his slave for 6 years, until finally being told by an angel to run away, he escaped (on literally, a wing and a prayer) and headed on a boat back to Britain.

Now, during his time with the Druids, Pat got really into God. He prayed a lot. I mean, it's not like he had much else to do while he was out in the fields all day tending his master's flock (let's just hope all he did all day was pray...). He also learned the language and traditions of the people of Ireland, and decided it was about time those barbarians got some God in them. So, when he got home he went immediately into the priesthood, and then started gunning for a posting in Ireland, so that he could return to convert the pagans. He eventually did get sent back, and the first thing on his list of people to see and things to do was to find Milchu and give him a piece of his mind. Apparently, though, he didn't want revenge, he just wanted to save the guy's soul. Milchu got wind that his slave boy had returned and was looking for him, so he just went ahead and killed himself. Seriously. Seems a bit extreme, doesn't it? He was either really scared that Pat actually wanted revenge (and so, I imagine this Milchu character must have been a pretty cruel guy) or, he just really didn't want to have to listen to any of Pat's proselytizing (and I mean really, who could blame him?).

So, after that little setback, Patrick continued his mission to convert the Irish to Christianity. For someone who ended up becoming their patron saint, he sure wasn't treated too well while he was there, often getting beaten, robbed, and probably nearly executed! Not to mention that nasty little detail about the kidnapping and slavery... which is probably why Patrick believed that owning another human being was, you know, like, wrong? And that actually caused a bit of tension between him and the church, which took another 1000 years to get around to condemning slavery. Anyways, judging by Ireland today, Patrick was pretty successful. It is pretty ironic (maybe more like in an Alanis Morisette kinda way, though) how he's celebrated around the world today, though. I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have been totally cool with the drunken belligerence and public urination that one usually encounters on March 17th. My worst experience with St. Paddy's Day was taking a vomit-smeared bus home at 2am. Literally, the floors, seats, and poles were covered in vomit. Where was my luck o' the Irish then, huh?

Oh yeah, the thing about single-handedly banishing snakes from Ireland? Probably never happened. Seems there weren't any snakes up there in the first place. So, maybe the snakes are a symbol for the Druids? Or maybe he just made it up. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to banish all the giraffes from Ecuador (sainthood, here I come...)

-----

Photo: St. Patrick

Rebekah Hakkenberg is a curator/writer/photographer living in Toronto. She is also the co-creator of Once Again, To Zelda, which is where an earlier incarnation of this post originally appeared.




Read more ...

The Toronto Historical Jukebox: "Charlena" by Richie Knights & The Mid-Knights

This catchy tune from Richie Knight & The Mid-Knights was the very first #1 single in Canadian history. The band had been around since the late 1950s (originally formed with a different name and a different line-up), but as "Charlena" hit the airwaves during the spring of 1963, the group was launched into a whole new level of stardom. Now, they were one of the most famous bands in Canada. They were in high demand at high schools dances, got invited to play dance halls all over Southern Ontario, and even landed a couple of gigs at Maple Leafs Gardens — one of them opening for The Rolling Stones. Not only that, the fact that "Charlena" had climbed all the way up to the top of the CHUM Chart proved that Canadian bands could get air play too; the song marked the beginning of a whole new era for Canadian music.

And they didn't stop there. Richie Knight & The Mid-Knights were far from one hit wonders. After the success of "Charlena", they released a whole slew of excellent songs — from the rowdy rocker "That's Alright" to the slow burning ballad "You Hurt Me" to the bluesy chain-gang tune "Work Song."



-----

Listen to more songs from the Yonge Street strip here.

Photo via Garage Hangover. 

Special thanks to Richie Knight & The Mid-Knights bassist Doug Chappell for his help with this post.

You can listen to more songs from the Toronto Historical Jukebox here.

Posted by Adam Bunch, the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project and the Toronto Historical Jukebox. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at adam@littleredumbrella.com.



Read more ...

We Love RENDERS and You Should Too

Little Red Pal of ours Kelly McMichael is back and better than ever!

You know how much we loved her work in the tragically short-lived and underrated Rouge and we've been following her for many years now in various other bands. With RENDERS, Kelly is doing something different and showing her sensitivity. 'I Am Gone' bursts with heart and that 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore' attitude - and let's not forget that beat!

Take a listen below and follow her on Twitter and like her on Facebook!

-----

Photo taken from Twitter (at least we can admit it..)

Cody McGraw is a lot of things, but the thing we would call him his face is the Managing Editor of The Little Red Umbrella. A semi-retired music journalist, he will write about bands that are important to him in between articles he writes for us making fun of things. If you want to see what we put up with then follow him on twitter @Cody_McGraw.
Read more ...

Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2015: The Interior Review

Forest settings have been mined for horror material so often that it’s a cliche. Nearly every mainstream slasher series has a scene with a ‘final girl’ running barefoot through the woods from a monster, with an unrealistically bright moon casting mood lighting over the whole affair. Doing something interesting with this setting is tough after 30-plus years of horrors, but The Interior brings something new to the table with strong characters (in particular the lead), and a script that always turns left when you expect it to turn right.

In the unlikeliest of moves, The Interior’s first half contains nothing whatsoever to indicate that you’re watching a horror film. The first act is a sharply-written comedy in the vein of Office Space, where our sarcastic but indifferent protagonist, James (Patrick McFadden) becomes increasingly frustrated with his thankless desk job, his complete idiot of a boss (Andrew Hayes), and his mundane life in his generic Toronto condo. All of this is brought to a boiling point when James is diagnosed with an unspecified but presumably terminal disease. In a moments notice, James decides to quit his job, cash out, and move to the BC wilderness with almost nothing. 

At this point, the horror part of this horror movie actually starts. James arrives in the woods and  quickly indicates to the audience that he's in over his head. When an extremely creepy and menacing presence begins to set its sights on James, director Trevor Juras really begins to show his capacity to instill a slowly-creeping dread rather than going for the cheap jump scare. Lit with nothing but flashlights during the night-time scenes, there is nothing legitimately and affectingly scarier than taking on James's point of view as he's stalked by a disturbed man in a bright red coat, a ghastly personification of the disease that's gradually killing him.  Director Trevor Juras brilliantly uses misdirection  to always keep you wondering where the camera, or the plot, might go next in order to maintain a sense of disorientation.  


You don't need much to make the wilderness of BC look beautiful, and it's on full display here. What's tricky is making such a giant, expansive setting seem like a tight space that's slowly closing in on James, and that's where the skill in The Interior's aesthetic lies.  It's as claustrophobic as a horror like The Descent. Coupled with the film's eerie, non-traditional classical music score, there's a David Lynchian feeling that there's something 'off' (in a calculated way) in even the most innocuous frame in The Interior's bizarre second half.


While it certainly isn't what you'd call commercial horror and doesn't provide a scare-a-minute jolts that such films often lean on, there's a lot to love about this twisted little wilderness advenure. If you're in the mood to work a little harder for your scares in exchange for something that'll sit with you a little longer, I'd have no reservations recommending an escape into The Interior.

 -----

Check out Toronto After Dark's schedule, ticket info, and more here. You can find all of our coverage as it's released throughout the week here.

This piece was written by Sachin Hingoo, a freelance writer when he is not working at an office job that is purpose-built for paying the bills while he works as a freelance writer. His writing has appeared on Mcsweeneys.net, the CBC Street Level Blog, Ohmpage.ca, and The Midnight Madness Blog for the Toronto International Film Festival. He has also been featured at Toronto lecture series Trampoline Hall (which is rumored to be excellent). His mutant power is 'feigning interest'. You can read all of his posts here.



Read more ...

Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2015: Gridlocked Review

There's a certain kind of action movie that's a bit like comfort food. No matter where you get it, it's always familiar, welcoming, and that comes with a degree of predictability. And that's ok! Not everything has to push boundaries too much, as long as what's there is well-crafted, as I'd say Gridlocked certainly is.

Everyone wants mostly the same things from a movie like Gridocked. A few laughs, a lot of punches to the face, whatever is happening here:

Dominic Purcell does the 'got your nose' move a couple of times in Gridlocked

and maybe some of this

Pop pop! It's Stephen Lang.

 without too much standing in the way. Where a lot of straight-to-VOD actioners go wrong is when they think they're smarter than they are, and fill the far-too-long spaces between the action sequences with faux art-school nonsense or overwritten rants that no one wants to see. Not so with Gridlocked! It's dumb (though charming) as hell but it gets to the fireworks factory right away.

Gridlocked might as well be a remake of the 1991 Michael J. Fox/James Woods action movie The Hard Way, lifting wholesale not only the storyline of a cocky actor being paired with a rough-edged cop as hijinks ensue, but the villain from that movie (Stephen Lang), who’s somehow even more over-the-top and unhinged here here than he was in the 1991 film. 

Danny Glover is assuredly too old for this line of work!
The Hard Way isn’t the only 90’s action film that Gridlocked pays homage to. The entire film is a love letter to those mindless actioners, many of them straight-to-video affairs, that I grew up with. Lethal Weapon, so heavily ‘honoured’ here that Danny Glover plays the police captain (and of course utters his iconic line), is probably the most high profile of these, but the tropes and formulas are so familiar that if you've seen practically any movie starring Steven Seagal, Dolph Lundgren, or Bruce Willis when he was cool, you'll feel right at home here. 

The one thing people will, and I daresay should, want most from Gridlocked is the action sequences, and I'd say they're better than expected, and at times approaching great.  The fights are done in a surprisingly realistic way (in a lot of these movies they seem a lot more cartoonish or generally more choreographed, like a Van Damme vehicle), all things considered, and there's a variety of creative setups to be used as backdrops. Gridlocked mostly seems to be trading on the fact that it's pretty violent, even for this sort of fare, and the R-rating is well-earned.

Trish Stratus does a really great job here and might have been a better lead.
The cast of Gridlocked, while none of them could carry this alone, make for a fun ensemble that always seems genuinely into the movie and nothing is phoned-in.  Dominic Purcell is fine as the lead, but it's the scene-chewing Cody Hackman, Trish Stratus, and the performances of both Lang and Danny Glover that make this one great. Stratus, in particular, does some great work here and shows way more personality than Purcell. A movie where these two roles were switched would be pretty outstanding.

If you're down for some silliness,  a titanic amount of spilled ammunition, blood squibs galore, and you thought 'hey, these Fast and Furious movies would be so much better without any cars in them', Gridlocked might just be your new jam. It's got all the right elements in mostly the right places, and frankly, that's a lot better than we normally get.


-----

Check out Toronto After Dark's schedule, ticket info, and more here. You can find all of our coverage as it's released throughout the week here.

This piece was written by Sachin Hingoo, a freelance writer when he is not working at an office job that is purpose-built for paying the bills while he works as a freelance writer. His writing has appeared on Mcsweeneys.net, the CBC Street Level Blog, Ohmpage.ca, and The Midnight Madness Blog for the Toronto International Film Festival. He has also been featured at Toronto lecture series Trampoline Hall (which is rumored to be excellent). His mutant power is 'feigning interest'. You can read all of his posts here.



Read more ...

Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2015: Shut In Review

There’s always one. One film in each year’s After Dark lineup that leaves me stunned as the credits roll up the screen. I felt that way about Resolution, about Let The Right One In, and about The Battery in the past, and I feel the same about Shut In. This awesome twist on the home invasion thriller is definitely going to be one to keep an eye on, for so many reasons.

Three thieves, including a dark and villainous Martin Starr (Freaks and Geeks, Dead Snow 2, Silicon Valley), break into the home of grieving Anna (Beth Riesgraf), an agoraphobic who hasn’t so much as stepped off her front porch in ten years. When Starr’s character points this out, we are treated to what I’m almost positive is the first time a home invasion thriller of this type features an assailant throwing the victim out of the front door. It's certainly the first time I've seen such an act be a truly, affectingly disturbing one.

It’s a low bar set by bad reality television like Hoarders, but never has a hermit's abode looked so lush and beautiful. Shut In is consistently shot with care, attention, and style for days and nearly any still you take from the film is as well-composed as a painting, a massive credit to director Adam Schindler and cinematographer Eric Leach. It’s an easy choice to use a drab or washed-out palette like many films such as Panic Room have employed to great effect, but Shut In bucks that trend with the use of rich colours and vibrant patterns throughout. Like in Housebound, the setting of the mansion is the real star here, with each room in the sprawling, labyrinthine house displaying a distinct personality. As the film wears on and we see what lies beneath the surface of the beautiful home, it mirrors the tension being experienced by every character. 

Every scene in Shut In is meticulously composed to wring as much tension as possible.
Beyond the setting, Shut In manages to overturn conventions by introducing the idea of agoraphobia into a home invasion thriller, which asks an intriguing question - what if opening the door and running outside is a scarier prospect than dealing with the invaders on your own turf? Riesgraf plays the agoraphobia and the general paralyzing tension so well throughout, and often without any dialogue at all. Martin Starr, known almost exclusively for comedic work, is truly frightening and unhinged here as well and I can't wait to see him break out into more serious fare after his deft handling of the role here.
With a tight script with several unpredictable left turns, writers TJ Cimfel and David White have crafted a story that fully immerses the viewer in the closed-off, internally tense world of Anna while presenting some legitimately new ideas in a subgenre of horror that has seen it all. With so many talented people at work on Shut In, this is one not to miss.
The pretty cool poster for SHUT IN!

-----

Check out Toronto After Dark's schedule, ticket info, and more here. You can find all of our coverage as it's released throughout the week here.

This piece was written by Sachin Hingoo, a freelance writer when he is not working at an office job that is purpose-built for paying the bills while he works as a freelance writer. His writing has appeared on Mcsweeneys.net, the CBC Street Level Blog, Ohmpage.ca, and The Midnight Madness Blog for the Toronto International Film Festival. He has also been featured at Toronto lecture series Trampoline Hall (which is rumored to be excellent). His mutant power is 'feigning interest'. You can read all of his posts here.



Read more ...