Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock’n’Roll – N is for Noel – Christmas Wrapping 2013

CamWell is looks like a wrap for another year here at DBAWIS. Nothing gets me more in the mood for the holidays more than my all-time favourite Christmas song from The Waitresses.

stompin' tomToronto danced a pretty mean two-step last week as two new country bars opened on the same night! Of course there is a long history of kicker bars in the city from the days when Stompin’ Tom broke the boards at The Horseshoe, Scarborough locals let loose at The Birchmount Tavern and new found fans crowded into The Cameron House and The Dakota. Back in the eighties, at the height of the “Urban Cowboy” era theme bars such as The Cactus Club entertained tequila shootin’, Tony Lamas wearin’ local cowpoke.

The timing of the openings worked out perfectly. I headed to the Rock ‘n Horse Saloon first as it is downtown (250 Adelaide Street West – At Duncan) and the party was kicking off at 6 PM. The plan would be to check it out for an hour or so and then rockin' horse saloonhead back east towards Boots & Bourbon (725 Queen Street East). As I was walking towards the Rock ‘n Horse I ran into legendary publicist and manager Richard Flohill and we then met equally legendary publicist Jane Harbury. We had our names checked off the guest list and immediately ran into publicist Samantha Pickard whose company was responsible for the opening night gala. One of the first rock’n’roll party rules is to immediately suss out the situation at the bar; are drinks free, do you need tickets, who has the tickets and what are the tickets good for? So many questions. When you don’t receive one or two tickets at the guest list check-in this can be either a good sign or a very bad sign.  Before the embarrassment of ordering something and finding out it mechanical bullcosts a fortune it is better to find a veteran industry party-goer and discreetly pose the question “bar”? Spotting country label owner Mike Denney (MDM Recordings) I asked the question and was thrilled to hear his response “totally open, anything you want”. Sweet. I saw publicist Diane Foy (yes the room was crawling with publicists as any good publicist knows to invite other publicists to their events as we usually will spread the good word) and spotting her Margarita glass (it was big enough to breed seals) I decided just to have a pint and mingle. The vibe and décor were fun.  Fellow DBAWIS columnist Nadia Elkharadly and I chatted as we watched the mechanical bull get a workout in the corner.  In quieter times it would be nice to try out the barstools which are actual saddles rockin' horse barsaddlesbut those puppies were packed as people crowded the bar rail. The space is the one that used to occupy the London Tap House and therefore the Rock ‘n Horse will be the owners of the fantastic rooftop patio one flight of stairs above. Lots of industry folks, some good southern inspired food samplers and decent rock’n’country tunes. I missed the line dancing lessons and there was no band one stage when I departed but I can see the club having a good run in the Entertainment District. A couple of lanes of bowling around the corner at The Ballroom and then a few monster margaritas and some line dancing could be a plan for some weekend 905 er’s.

boots and bourbonNow part of a group being led by the Queen of NXNE Yvonne Matsell we headed over to Boots & Bourbon at Queen and Broadview. As both the Beach and Leslieville slowly creep west most of Queen Street East is being re-invented.  Lots of cool little bars and clubs are opening (I love Hitch at Leslie and Queen) Boots sits on the site of the old Riverside but you would never know it. The new space is a collaboration between Matt Dean Petti and Matt Coulter from Rock Lobster, Mike Homewood from Kee to Bala and Nav Sangha from The Wrongbar and The Great Hall. The horseshoe bar at the front is a great gathering spot and then booths take over as you head south. At the very far end of the saloon is a decent sized stage with a good PA. I missed the set by Warner Music artist Brett Kissel but did catch a couple tunes from Gord Bamford which sounded great.  It seems like Boots will be multi-functional with a lunch crowd, after works drink crowd, dinner set and then late night revellers. I like the set-up and the folks that are behind this place. Maybe a Sunday brunch is in order.

It’s that time of year for best and worst of lists. Being generally positive I will stay away from any negatives. I also know that as soon as I press send on this column I will remember other records and shows that should have been noted but, as always, will be kicking myself afterwards.

midgeI saw some great shows this year but three stood out for me (and I know I am going to be accused of being old, out of touch and living in the past but so what). The Midge Ure solo acoustic show at Hugh’s Room was fantastic. Great songs, great mael brothersperformance and a total charmer on stage. After over 30 years it was great to see Sparks again as the brothers Mael performed at Lee’s Palace. Much like Midge’s show is was stripped down to the bare minimum (keyboards patti smithand voice) but thinking I might never see the band perform live again it was a treat. I caught Patti Smith up close and acoustic at The AGO but her fully-fueled Lenny Kaye driven show at Massey Hall takes honours for the show of the year. Pure magic.

On the radio front it is great to have Indie 88.1 on the air. A very welcome addition to a strong Toronto radio landscape. They had a respectable initial ratings book and I hope they keep their love of music in the foreground.

bowieEven though the album as an art form and listening experience is quickly fading in the age of one hit YouTube wonders, there were a few that I enjoyed listening to in their entirety. The biggest surprise was the return of David Bowie and the remarkable “Next Day” album. Given up for dead Bowie proved he is still a songwriter worthy of our attention. I am still kicking myself for missing his exhibit at the AGO. Another great album was “Trouble Will Find Me” by The National. They hands down win the “lyric of the year” award for the line “if you want to see my cry play ‘Let It Be’ or ‘Nevermind’” from the song “Don’t Swallow The Cap”.  On the local front The Fast Romantics raised the bar a couple of feet with their album “Afterlife Blues”. Songs such as “Friends” and “Funeral Song” prove they can write great pop songs.

Individual songs that touched an aural nerve include “Do I Wanna Know?” from Arctic Monkeys.

“A Ton Of Love” by The Editors

“The Hedonist” from Papermaps

Arcade Fire’s “Reflektor”

the now overplayed “Royals” from newcomer Lorde

“End Of Faith” from locals Autumn Stones (No Video)

“Dangerous Times” by Wildlife

Indigo Joseph and the painfully catchy “Others”

Primal Scream’s “It’s Alright, It’s Ok”

the Gggarth produced “Black Chandelier” from Biffy Clyro

…and the best sing-a-long of the year with Said The Whale’s “I Love You”.

Thanks as always to you the readers, family and friends for their support over the last year. It is also with a very heavy heart I remember many great friends who we lost this year.

Happy holidays one and all.

Follow Cam on Twitter @CC59

Cam’s column appears every Thursday

The ABC’s Of Rock’n’Roll are proud to be presented by The Bovine Tiki Bar and Bovine. To quote Gary Numan from “Are ‘Friends’ Electric” – “It’s cold outside. And the paint’s peeling off of my walls. There’s a man outside. In a long coat, grey hat, smoking a cigarette”. Look closely as it might be me on the heated patio of the Bovine Tiki Bar. It was such a hit this year that the patio will be open at 10 PM Thursday through Saturday even as the snow flies. Great bands downstairs, killer food next door at Rock Lobster and an all-around good time from our friends at The Bovine. Thanks for looking after the DBAWIS crew once again in 2013.

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DBAWIS_ButtonCameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener,  The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY, New Canadian Music, NXNE Magazine and Don’t Believe A Word I Say.

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