What’s In Your Fridge is where the Straight asks interesting Vancouverites about their life-changing concerts, favourite albums, and, most importantly, what’s sitting beside the Heinz Ketchup in their custom-made Big Chill Retropolitan 20.6 cubic-foot refrigerators.
Who are you
Six years ago (July 2011), after decades of accountancy, I yearned for a change. I could have chosen to be a lion tamer, but, no, I decided to get into something even more perilous: owning a live music venue in Vancouver. Perhaps I should have worked my way up by working in a bank first.
I am celebrating my six years at the Rickshaw (and the Rickshaw's 8th year as a music venue) on July 29 with some good pals: Seattle's Pickwick, along with Rich Hope and Cobra Ramone.
My first concert was at the Pacific Coliseum, I believe it was Dec 1974 (fact checkers please help me out here). It was Stevie Wonder, with Rufus and Chaka Khan as direct support. Because I was just a wee lad, I went to the concert with my older sister and her friends. I quickly ditched them once we got to the Coliseum (or was it the other way around?). I remember being hypnotized by the live performance. and obviously that experience has had a lasting impact.
Every concert I have been to subsequent to that Stevie Wonder concert has reaffirmed my love for music, and especially live music. However, there is one concert that particularly sticks out: Bruce Springsteen at QE Theatre in June of 1978. Bruuuuce was touring in support of Darkness at the Edge of Town, the follow-up to an album that I had played to death: Born to Run. Ironically, it wasn't too long after that concert that my interest in Springsteen waned as he became more mainstream. But I digress. All I can say, in retrospect, is how lucky I was seeing Springsteen in the relative cozy confines of the QET. (I believe my seats were in and around the 10th row.)
The concert featured two sets by Springsteen and the E Street band. The first half of the concert went well; Bruce and the band played hard and received appreciative applause from the Vancouver audience. But I could sense all was not well with Bruce. And sure enough, right after the intermission, and just before band started the second set, Bruce announced that the first half of the evening was merely okay. (I am paraphrasing as I am sure it probably didn't happen exactly the way I am describing it.) He said that he needed more from the crowd for an even better show. He refused to continue until everyone got up from their seats—and I don't think he was joking. And everyone stood up; there was not a single dissenter in amongst the audience. What proceeded was a mind-blowing set that went on for an eternity, or so it seemed. By the end of the night everyone—the performers and audience alike—were drenched in sweat. It was a moving and, dare I say it, an almost spiritual experience. There was a real reciprocity between artist and audience as both kept feeding the frenzy. This transference, this energy, made it feel like we were one massive interconnected organism—the performers and the audience became as one.
Top three records
Three records? Isn't this against the Geneva convention? Yikes! There have been so many great records over the years, it's impossible to distill it down to just three.
Okay, here goes.
Elvis Costello My Aim is True I first heard this album on LG99.3FM (or was it already CFOX by then?), when FM radio was good. Once a week, they featured a newly released album in its entirety. That night, Elvis Costello's debut album was being featured. Initially I was actually kind of disappointed because the advertised feature was to have been the new Sex Pistols LP. In any case, with the lights in the bedroom turned off and headphones on (it was a school night after all, and it was almost midnight) I tuned in to this Elvis Costello dude. My mind was irrevocably blown. I couldn't believe what I was listening to. Horrible disco and mindless pop permeated the airwaves during those days. But here was something fresh, exciting, full of energy, and with clever lyrics too! Hook, line, and sinker. I bit and have been an Elvis fan ever since. He was even partially responsible for me meeting the girl next door, who I ended up marrying—but that's another story altogether.
David Bowie Good lord, which one to choose?!!. Okay, I'm going with one not commonly picked: Station to Station. I'm not quite sure how Bowie even managed to craft this masterpiece given that this was, reportedly, at the height of his coke addled Thin White Duke persona, but masterpiece it is. From the train chugging sounds of the title track to the whimsical “TVC 15” to the explosive guitar treatment from Carlos Alomar on “Stay”, the album doesn't disappoint from start to end.
XTC—take your pick between Go 2 or Drums & Wires. Go 2 was the last album with keyboardist Barry Andrews in the band—his work gave XTC a bouncy, circus-y feel. Drums and Wires took the band to a whole other level as Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding flexed their music and lyrical prowess. Clear successors to Lennon and McCartney.
Cheating time. I'd be remiss if I quickly didn't mention a few other records.
Sugar Copper Blue Bob Mould's band after Hüsker Dü. Cooper Blue is a sonically blissful collection of fuzzy tunes. The fact that Bob Mould will be playing the Rickshaw on October 22 is beyond exciting.
Roxy Music Stranded Actually every Roxy Music album, starting with the self-titled debut album to Siren are classic. I remember watching these weird creatures in the form of Bryan Ferry, Brian Eno and the rest of the gang singing “Virginia Plain” on Top of the Pops on BBC1 in the early ’70s. They were my gateway to the world of underground music.
Joni Mitchell Hissing of Summer Lawns Speaking of gateways, this album really got me interested in jazz. The unique phrasings and song structure of this classic Joni Mitchell album gives a nod to the music of Mingus, Coltrane and Davis. I know a lot of people gravitate to Blue or Hejira as their favourite JM albums (and they are great albums). But for me, Hissing and Don Juan's Reckless Daughter are the ones that I often turn to.
All-time favourite video
Radiohead "Just" From their great album The Bends. I was already a fan of the song before the video came out. But after the video was released (and to this date) every time I hear the song, I cannot dissociate it from the video. It's a clever piece of filming that compels one to watch the whole video to its conclusion. While the band sings in an apartment building, below them a man decides to lay down on the sidewalk. What ensues is a crowd around the man asking him if he’s okay and why he’s lying down on the sidewalk. The dialogue between the crowd and the man is shown to us in a series of subtitles. The man refuses to tell them why he is lying on the ground, and pleads with them to leave him alone. Finally, he relents and tells them why, except this time there are no subtitles to let us know what he’s said, and so we the viewers aren't in on the conclusion to the mystery. As the song ends, everyone who was around the fallen man also ends up lying down on the sidewalk. There's been lots of conjecture as to what the man said, but Radiohead has remained steadfast in keeping their silence.
What’s in your fridge
Beer, ciders, and coolers. For research only—the assortment of beers, ciders, coolers, etc have been given to me by sales reps to sample in the hopes that I might carry their products at the Rickshaw.
Pico de Gallo Salsa. Along with cheddar cheese, eggs, chilies, potatoes (not in the fridge), and the most important ingredient, my wife (also not in the fridge) who miraculously conjures up a mexican omelette with said ingredients. It's better than anything I've yet to have at any restaurant.
Rico 'n Lalo Lime Popsicles. Try it—you’ll thank me. You're welcome.
*Editor's note. Think for a second what Mo Tarmohamed has done for a city where live music is usually seen as something either not even worth committing to, or for getting out of the way so the club night can start at 11 pm. Show your appreciation by showing up for the sixth year celebration with Pickwick. There's one big reason why he booked the band: he loves them.