Hill & The Sky Heroes Make My Monday
Readers take note: when someone tells you that they’re playing in an alien surf rock band and that you should come check out the band’s album release party, drop what you’re doing and run in the direction of the venue as if the zombie apocalypse has arrived and The Drake Hotel is the only place for thousands of miles that can offer you sanctuary from having your brain eaten by the walking dead.
I just got back from watching one of the best shows I’ve seen so far this year at the recommendation of my guitar teacher who, coincidently, is a member of the band.
Hill & The Sky Heroes, fronted by the insanely talented Hill Kourkoutis, is somewhat indescribable. 1 part surf rock, 1 part creepy Halloween vibe, a dash of sousaphone, a sprinkling of kazoo, and an assortment of super skilled (and might I add, super attractive) rockers and you get this:
Put that in your earholes and smoke it.
April was an atrocious month for me, reading wise. From a quantity perspective, I only managed to make it through 1 book, and on the quality front, I wasn’t overly impressed with the bulk of what I read. Nevertheless, in the spirit of keeping up with my monthly, literary documentation, here’s the skinny on what April had to offer.
The Road - Cormac McCarthy
In general, I’m not a huge fan of science fiction or anything overly post-apocolyptic. With that in mind, I’m not sure why I thought it would be a good idea to celebrate the arrival of Spring by reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Maybe it was because people are constantly telling me how much they loved it. Maybe I was blinded by my amorous feelings towards No Country for Old Men. Or, maybe I finally gave in because I was tired of the Oprah’s Book Club sticker on the cover staring me down from my bookshelf like some kind of judgemental cyclops. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that I read it, and though the book only took me two days to get through, I sincerely want both of those days back.
The Coolest Motherfucker
Last night I saw what was arguably one of, if not the, best concerts ever. Held at The Great Hall in Toronto, a few hundred people were treated to the awesomeness that is Lee Fields and The Expressions. If heaven exists, I assume that when I die I will end right back up at that show (or if I’m really lucky, in Mr. Fields’s dressing room…bow chicka….never mind).
Described on his website as “the coolest motherfucker to ever sing words into a microphone,” Fields’s career kicked off over 43 years ago in North Carolina. By my estimation, that makes him close to 70 years old (imagine an older, taller, not-dead Gary Coleman). The pure fact that the man is still alive based on the people and bands he’s toured with over the years is intense, but to still be getting down with his bad self as he did last night is nothing short of amazing.
I’ve been to a lot of shows, but I don’t think I have ever seen an artist capture the audience’s attention quite like I did last night. He asked a ton of the crowd, and the crowd gave it to him in spades. Case in point - I have no voice today. I went to see a senior citizen perform last night and I have no voice today. That has to mean something, right?
Also worth a mention is Maylee Todd, who was last night’s opening act. I only caught the last half of her performance, but I will definitely be making the effort to see her again, hopefully in a headlining position. She and her band pulled out a freeze frame like none I have ever seen, and the fact that Sesame Street’s “1, 2, 3, 4, 5…” song made it into the mix was just the icing on the cake.
If you haven’t seen either of these acts, make the effort to check them out when they come to town. You most definitely will not be disappointed.
Resolution Check-in 1 of 3
It’s just about a third of the way through 2012, and as such I thought it might not be a bad idea to check in on my New Years resolutions and see how well I’m doing. As a quick recap, the promises I made to myself on January 1st this year included:
1. Read more
2. Take more pictures
4. Make music, lots of it
5. Write, often
6. Pilates, daily
7. Get dressed up for no reason
I can say with great confidence that I am owning resolution #1. I have read more in the past four months than I did in all of 2011, and for the most part, they’ve been pretty good reads. As an added bonus, I’ve been capturing my thoughts on all that I’ve read in a series of monthly blog posts that, oddly enough, get more views on my blog than anything else I write about. Apparently books - or at least my opinion on books - are where it’s at.
Resolution #2 is a tricky one. I’ve been taking more pictures, but the subject matter has been anything but diverse. I decided to start a 365 photo project by taking a picture of myself every day for a year, and so far I’ve only missed a handful of days. However, all this really amounts to is a ton of pictures of my face, creating a permanent record of the adult acne that has, unfortunately, come along with 2012. I’m in too deep to give up on the project now, but whether or not these photos ever see the light of day is debatable.
As far as resolution #3 goes, I think I’m doing pretty well. I started the year off with a much needed, solo trip to NYC which I’ve decided I’m going to turn into a ritual. That trip was followed by a fabulous week in the Bahamas in early March, and next up are trips to Newfoundland and British Columbia towards the end of the summer. I’ll also likely have to fly to every major Canadian city this summer for work, but that’s not really the kind of travel I was thinking of when I made the resolution. Oh, and I have to go pick up 4 used pianos in Burlington this Friday, but I don’t think 2 hours round trip in a cube van counts for much…
Speaking of pianos, my resolution to make more music - #4 on the list - is going great! I’m back to taking regular guitar lessons, and am currently shopping for a new acoustic/electric (thank you, tax return!) I seem to have gotten the hang of singing while strumming, so I guess the natural next step is to start writing some of my own lyrics, obviously followed in relatively short order by becoming a rock star. Not only am I making more music, but I’m also going to a lot more concerts. The result is a lot more weekday hangovers, but it’s definitely been worth it so far. Case in point - the fabulously redneck, Johnny Corndawg, who I stumbled across a few weeks ago. Just try and tell me this song doesn’t make you smile.
I think this blog in and of itself is proof that resolution #5 is turning out to be a success. I’m taking any and every opportunity possible to write, even if it’s just a random thought or observation. As a good (and extremely successful) writer friend of mine has pointed out on a number of occasions, writers don’t talk about writing, they just write. So that’s what I’m doing, be it via pen and paper, fingers and keyboard, or blood and scroll (only one of those is a lie). Maybe next year I’ll step up the resolution to include “get published,” or, “have someone other than your Mum read your work.” Baby steps.
There’s no use lying about resolution #6. I was quite good with the daily pilates up until March when I left to go to the Bahamas. Since then, I’ve lost the motivation to work on my bikini body. I’ve got another two months before my pasty white stomach gets a chance to see the sun again, so I figure that’s plenty of time to get back on the bandwagon. Starting tomorrow. Maybe. In the interim, I’ve biked to and from work every day for the past month, so that’s got to count for something, no?
It’s hard to comment on resolution #7 while I sit here in a pair of large men’s sweatpants and a t-shirt with a Mack truck on it (as well as that godawful adult acne I mentioned earlier), but I truly have been making an effort to get dressed up more often. I’m employing the look good feel good mentality in hopes of tricking myself into a positive frame of mind on days when my natural tendency is to lean more towards the abyss of negativity. So, basically I’m trying to look nice-ish 6 out of 7 days of the week. Not everyone can be a glass half full type of person, but at least I can look half decent while taking the glass from half to just plain empty.
Gin, a clear alcoholic spirit distilled from grain or malt and flavoured with Juniper Berries and other botanicals.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted about a liquor added to my cabinet via the build-a-bar challenge, but with good reason. I recently finished up my bar tending course, and have been spending a lot of my spare time studying for the exam by playing kitchen mixologist and memorizing boozy flashcards.
That said, while drinking a homemade French 75 tonight, I decided it was time to get back on the boozy blog train, and what better liquor to talk about than the liquor that turns your average Champagne Cocktail into a French 75 - Gin!
A few weeks ago I picked up a 750ml bottle of Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin for $27.75. Although it came in under my $30 target, I wasn’t being a terribly price conscious shopper at the time, as I was spending my way through a $100 liquor store gift card. (Side note - I should quit jobs more often. Parting gifts are excellent). Anyway, what drew me to the Bombay Sapphire was purely aesthetics; the bottle is a lovely colour of blue and I thought it would look nice in my liquor cabinet. Seriously. Prior to learning that gin + champagne = a party in my mouth, I rarely if ever drank the stuff, and certainly never bought it. Oh how times have changed.
Bombay Sapphire’s claim to fame is that the 10 botanicals that give the gin its distinct flavour - almonds, lemon peel, liquorice, juniper berries, orris root, angelica, coriander, cassia bark, cubeb berries and grains of paradise - are held in a separate perforated copper basket from the spirit until such time as the spirit vapour is deemed pure enough to be passed up through the basket where it is delicately infused with the aromatic flavours of the 10 botanicals. This process is known as vapour infusion, and a Carterhead Still is required to pull it off. Many other gins boil their botanicals directly into the spirit, but Bombay Sapphire is able to use vapour infusion as 3 of the last few remaining Carterhead Stills are exclusive to the brand. Fancy.
The first of the 10 botanicals that I listed above is almonds, and I have been warned that you shouldn’t feed someone with a nut allergy Bombay Sapphire precisely for that reason. Based on that fact, it probably wasn’t the smartest thing for my to have bought as my anaphylactic sister would drop dead if there was a nut under her mattress (princess and the pea style). However, she’s pretty much a vodka water kinda girl and doesn’t tend to trust anything that’s made in my kitchen, so I think she’ll survive.
Gin is never something that I’m going to drink straight, no matter how vapour infused it is, so my first taste test of the Bombay was in a Gin Sour a few weeks ago, complete with homemade sweet and sour mix. Overall, I enjoyed it - like summer in a glass - but then my cat knocked most of it into the bathtub, giving new meaning to the concept of bathtub gin.