Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Djembe Practice

March 7, 2014

A bit of a solo practice while in Ukraine.


New Website

June 7, 2011

Hello all!

Many thanks for all your support over the last year as I travel, work and write. It’s come time, however, to change things up a little. As a result, I’ve launched a new website:

I am still trying to figure out how to post pictures, but I hope to have that done shortly. I’ve tried to clean things up a little for easier navigation. Please let me know if I’ve been successful or if something needs to be changed.

If you have any suggestions, please contact me at stevensirski [at] gmail [dot] com. I’d be more than happy to talk/chat/email with you.

As for this site, I will keep it active for now, but will stop updating it shortly.

Many thanks for your continued support,


Polish Rock and Metal Muzyka

May 5, 2011

Alright boys and girls, it’s that time again. Following posts on Asian, Korean, Winnipeg, and country music, it’s time for another round of Steven’s Musical Selections. This time I’m covering the muzyka from Poland.

While in Krakow, I walked into the Empik store in Stare Miasto, Krakow and asked the info guy to guide me through Polish music: metal, electronica, reggae, rock, whatever. Give me Poland’s best, I said. He pointed out a few Cds, I ended up taking all but one. Now before you think I just splurged on a bunch of Cds without listening to them (which I am prone to do), Empik has this really cool listening station. Every CD in the store has already been digitized which means you can listen to the CD without opening the package. All you have to do is wave the barcode under the scanner and it pulls up the CD in the player. Neat.

So we go, some of the better rock and metal music I found while travelling through Poland. In the next post, I’ll cover pop/hip-hop, raggaemuffin, jazz, traditional and classical music.


Łąki Łan's latest album, Łąki Łanda.

Artist: Łąki Łan
Album: Łąki Łanda

Well, for us beginning Polish learners, hearing a band named Łąki Łan (pronounced Wanki Wan), you kinda wonder what you’re getting yourself into. But this is the disc the music man at Empik picked out when I asked for the craziest Polish music he could think of. Amazing disc right off the bat. Hard to classify, but this group has elements of rap, rock, funk and some elements of klezmer. Rapping vocals with groovy bass and poppin’ drum beats. It’s really hard to write very much about this band simply because you have to hear them. This CD played as a soundtrack to my Search for A Cemetery in Southeast Poland (forthcoming). My only complaint is that the first half of the CD is absolutely amazing but trails off in the last 2 or 3 songs. I hope this band continues releasing new material.

HEY Poland

HEY! from Poland.

Artist: HEY!
Albums: Fire and Re-Murphed!

This band has been around forever. Since they’re already releasing “best of” discs (actually, I don’t think those “best of” discs are authentic), I believe they’ve had quite a career. 1990-grunge music with female vox full of attitude and for that reason they reminded me of Alive in Chains, a little bit anyway. Their remixes, however, can go way out there. I was lucky to get both discs of their remix album Re-Murphed! Disc 1 was kinda too slow for my liking, but Disc 2 rocked my world.

Zepół Intercity

Zepół Intercity from Poland

Artist: Zespół Intercity

From Warsaw (I think). Although this band doesn’t have a CD yet, I was shown this band by one of the workers at the Oki Doki Hostel. The Sunday night performance brought out 50 or so people who appeared to thoroughly enjoy the onstage antics of the lead singer. Even though I didn’t understand what he was saying, his stage props (all carried in a briefcase) helped in interpreting what the songs were about. Don’t know how this band would fare in disc format, but live they were great. Think a mixture of Gogol Bordello and Winnipeg’s Trousermouth.

Lao Che's latest album.

Artist: Lao Che
Album: Prąd Stały / Prąd Zmienny

Probably one of the more bizarre discs I picked up. Elements of jazz, electornica, spoken word and rock, I’m not sure how to classify this disc. For those in the West, think elements of John Zorn with some of Marilyn Manson‘s Mechanical Animals and rock music. The whole disc is a mixture of good elements with some questionable choices. The chants in the song “Krzywousty” were pretty catchy while tracks like “Czas” had a weird 1980’s feel that didn’t work. Each track would stand on its own in a “shuffle”, but together on one disc doesn’t work.

KNZ from Poland.

Artist: Kazik Na Zywo
Album: Las Maquinas de la Muerte

Clocking in at over an hour, this disc’s great dynamics are broken up with annoying slurred and mumbled spoken word tracks. Of course, they’re in Polish so maybe they actually contribute to the overall theme of the disc. This is a funky disc, given to me by the same casting agent who brought me down to Łódż. Some of the music reminded me of Gwar, fast and heavy but not as abrasive, though the disc remained uniquely KNZ’s own style of rock. Lots of attitude in this disc, sounds like great party music.

Marcinera Awaria - Rebus

Marcinera Awaria' album titled Rebus

Artist: Marcinera Awaria
Album: Rebus

From Łódż, Poland! Good train listening music, maybe for saying goodbye or even on those days that you feel kinda displaced as a traveller. The disc I got had a laid back singer/songwriter style to it. Not sure I’d listen to this on a regular basis but I’d let it play through in a shuffled playlist. The album ends with an upbeat feel with the dance-beat fuelled track, “Road.”


Unfortunately, there weren’t too many recommendations for Polish metal. I asked if there were any other notable metal bands but everyone told me Behemoth and Vader are all Poland has to offer. Most of the good metal comes from Norway, Finland or the USA. The two bands I did find have toured all over the world and are pretty well known. They are Behemoth and Vader.



Artist: Behemoth
Album: the apostasy

Who knew that Behemoth hailed from Poland? Apparently they’ve been banned from playing in Poland because of their Satanic image. The trio, though very scary looking, use a lot of symbols with their artwork ranging from pagan and satanic to images and references to ancient history. Musically the disc is amazing. Even with the constant battery of the double bass drum, their compositions are artfully put together while the vocals, though growly, complement the music. The only thing I hate about the disc is the fact that they put it in a cardboard outer sleeve, the CD case was right proper lodged inside. Once I got the disc out, however, I found it cool that they included a paragraph explaining the lyrics and inspiration behind each song, even if I don’t agree with much of their written content.

Vader - Necropolis

Vader's 2009 album, Necropolis

Artist: Vader
Album: Necropolis

More death metal from Poland, but these guys haven’t been banned from playing. Their vocals are a little easier to understand than Behemoth’s, but the music is just as assaulting. Would love to see these guys live as they can settle into a face-paced metal groove or hash out some blast beats. The track “The Seal” was a pretty cool chant piece breaking up the thrash of the album and the track “Anger” makes it clear that they are, well… angry. Interesting to hear their version of “Fire Fire with Fire” on the Necropolis album. For those looking to get into metal, this would be your disc.

Next up, I’ll bring ya some reggaemuffin, pop, hip hop, jazz, traditional and classical muzyka from PO-Land.

Winnipeg Music

January 26, 2011
Postered Telephone Pole

Winnipeg band posters on a telephone pole.

Since I’ve started a new journey towards my heritage homeland of Ukraine, I’ve stopped in Poland for the mean time. While here, I’ve had the chance to find some interesting music both from the store and also from those I’ve met in hostels. One Finnish dude gave me a list of 7 or 8 metal bands, while another Polish dude gave me some 15 Polish bands to listen to. In return, I supplied some music from my city and nation.

In this post, I’ll cover the musicians that I’ve been sharing abroad. Further, if I were to run my OWN hostel, these are the artists that I’d want in my music library open to the public. You’ll find rock and metal, folk rock, ethnic, funk, electronica, jazz, and even something for the kids. Be forewarned, some of these bands are no longer together so you may have to ask around for their discs.

Rock and Metal

The Guess Who

There’s an interesting history behind this band and its members. I’ll leave you to Wikipedia it. In any event, The Guess Who website takes you to the current line up of The Guess Who, but former members Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings have continued their careers through other musical ventures. Radio-friendly, classic rock, easy-on-the-ears and catchy melodies are the drive behind this tried-and-true Winnipeg rock group. A “best of” collection would probably sufficiently represent this band’s repetoire. Remember when Lenny Kravitz did “American Woman”? Yea, that was written by The Guess Who. How about “These Eyes”? Again, The Guess Who. But that catchy drum beat to “Takin Care of Business?” That’s Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Now that you know, stop guessing. 😛

The Watchmen

Though they claim to be on a “reunion tour,” a look through their past tour dates suggests that they haven’t really ever taken time off. Sure, they’ve taken some time to release albums, but isn’t that reminiscent of Metallica’s early days, releasing an album every 3 years? A local favourite, they started out way back in 1992 and are still releasing albums. They recently had a documentary done about them titled All Around Us. Some of the more popular albums include Silent Radar and Slow Motion, the last one being a combination of a studio album and a “best of” compilation. They’ve gone in two directions, both rock and electronic, I prefer the first type.


Trousermouth from Winnipeg.


Winnipeg’s Gwar, Sex Pistols or Rancid, hopefully you get the idea. Though not every show is a complete mess (physically), if they play the Albert, you can be sure that the band will bring the toilet paper for the women’s washroom… and soak it in beer before throwing it across the room. These guys have been around forever and probably will stay that way, or until someone thinks it’s not funny any more… which probably won’t happen. Hard to recommend a song, but good party music, ESPECIALLY if you’re not English. Listen to them here on CBC Radio 3. And if I’m correct, I think I contributed video to their DVD, available in their store.

Ciaira’s tears

My first rock band, because who wouldn’t promote a noble effort of being in a rock band that played the Royal Albert? Listen to them here.

Bif Naked

Full of attitude and tattoos, Bif found her bearings in Winnipeg before venturing out into the big wide world. I’m partial to her later stuff, such as “I love Myself Today”. I love the attitude she brings to the table.


Serrated Scalpel

If there were to exist a “Study Book of Winnipeg Metal”, the following three bands would be in it. Serrated Scalpel were as heavy as the name suggests. Unfortunately, the band’s website states that they are on a hiatus. Hard, heavy, unrepenting metal, English-learning might be at a minimum with this band, but the music lessons will be top notch. You can find them listed on the Encyclopedia Metallum.

Immortal Possession and Boldface Industry

Again, these two bands are no longer around, but I want to mention them anyway. Immortal Possession is unrepenting death metal in a similar vain to Serrated Scalpel, while Boldface Industry is more heavy metal/industrial. Drummer Rob Shallcross has since gone on to play and record with several different acts, many of them non-metal related. I single him out because he inspired me to play “blast beats”, extremely fast 16th notes played on the snare drum with one hand, while pounding out 16th notes on the double kick pedal. Amazing. Inspiring.

Electro Quarterstaff

I would share this band only with math and music geeks since hardly anyone outside that area in the greater world (and not on North American soil) would readily comprehend. That being the case, EQ derives inspiration from a slew of musical genres which ultimately show up in their final compositions. I remember talking to one of the guitar players and hearing him describe the work they put into their comps had me questioning if he did anything else in his life. I recall him saying that he liked music that could be reproduced both on stage and in the studio, time and again. If you don’t believe, see them live.

The Weakerthans

Again, never really got into them but they’ve been around forever that, if I were not to include them, the list would be incomplete. These boys have a good sense of humour, especially about Winnipeg, writing about it in “One Great City”. YouTube hosts a few videos of the song, just as funny when the audience joins in for the chorus.


Kayla Luky

Just finished recording her fourth album, this 21-year old from Grandview, Manitoba strikes a chord with me. I picked up a copy of her last album, The Story of My Life, and found it to be as depressing as country-folk is supposed to be. Revel in that depression, because the music’s damn fine. My personal favourite is Merry Go Round. She recently re-did her website too.

Voldis and the Melodicas

I will assume that any foreigners coming to Winnipeg have heard of the Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino. Well, think of the soundtrack to Resevoir Dogs, Voldis and the Melodicas would fit the bill. The grooves and compositions these guys come up with put them in a league above other acoustic rock bands. Apparently the band is actually made up of two other bands, but that don’t matter since the fusion works fine. Good travel music right here and good for learning some slang English as well. Unfortunately, they had sold out their first album and were printing more before I left for Poland.



An absolutely phenomenal, all-female acapella group that sings traditional folk songs from around the world, including Canada. I heard this group at the Winnipeg Jazz Festival, and they had me hooked. I still listen to both albums for percussion inspiration. You can still find their work on MySpace.


My first venture into Ukrainian polka music. Released one demo and one full length. You can still find the full length. If not, I’ll get you a copy.


Another one of my efforts as a drummer in Winnipeg. To see them live is an experience.

Bafana/Jay Stoller

A tribal percussion group in Winnipeg, the coldest city in the world? Yes, it’s true. Fronted by Jay Stoller, who also runs a djembe school in Winnipeg, this percussion ensemble plays both traditional African rhythms and some of their own creations. As far as I know they only have one disc out, but they do play at the annual Folklorama in August.

Fubuki Daiko

A pounding display of Japanese percussion. The core group I think is 4 or 5 people, but they run a school and swap students in and out of performances as they need. They have toured across the world and have released a few albums, but seeing them live is pretty neat because the drums really do reverberate in your chest.

Sonic Flow

I’m not sure how old this band is, and I couldn’t get their “official” website to work, but I recently picked up a copy of their CD. Combining the sounds of the didjeridoo, the washbucket bass (which you can also see in my movie, The Five Muses), table and the guitar, this band has an utterly incredible fusion of sound.

Hoosli from Winnipeg, Canada.


Hoosli is my favourite Ukrainian men’s choir. Yes, the music is often religious or based on old folk tunes, but hearing this choir perform live is truly a marvelous experience. I like their Christmas album, although all of their albums are pretty damn solid. I’ve always thought their singing would be great for a movie soundtrack. Maybe one day folks, maybe one day.


Moses Mayes

The masters of funk, Moses Mayes. These guys have been around for quite a while and have relased a few albums. Apparently they’ve just re-started, but you can still find their discs in some of the local music stores.

JFK & The Conspirators

A mixture of raggae and funk, these guys are easy listening, I bet they could find a market in Korea if they wanted it. I have their one disc, Mash Up the Dance. Not sure if they’re still playing out, but you can have a listen on CBC Radio 3.



Vav Jungle of Winnipeg.

Vav Jungle

A hairstylist and an electronic artist, Eve Rice makes a parade as Vav Jungle, an electronic music act both eclectic and catchy. I picked up her Pap Rock album and thought it was awesome.


Ron Paley Big Band

I prefer his acoustic big band work over his electric work, but this man has been around since the Winnipeg stone age. For me, the acoustic jazz has more of what I associate with the “big band” sound, but you can tell he’s pushing boundaries with his electric work. You can listen to his discography here.

Steve Kirby

And if you ever get a chance to see bassist Steve Kirby, do it. Originally from New York, he came to Winnipeg to set up a better jazz program at the University of Manitoba. He doesn’t play in any one band, but he has released one disc, Wicked Grin. Your best bet to catch him is at Winnipeg’s Jazz Festival.

And for the kids…

Fred Penner

Probably the most accessible and appropriate man to learn English from, he’s a children’s entertainer. But don’t let that deter you. Since this man is a must in a child’s development, Fred Penner has gathered legions of fans young and old. My favourites include Otto the Hippo (about a hippo who goes to the big city to be a rockstar) and Ghost Riders in the Sky, Mr. Penner also recorded one of my favourite Christmas albums.

And there are many more.

I think almost every city can lay claim that they “have the best local music scene.” Well no shit, cause the kids who got nothing to lose but everything to gain can try anything, the bigs can’t. And then there are other bands such as Jet Set Satellite, The Perms, The Barrymores, Kenmode, the Vagiants, Jerkwater, the list can go on. Best thing to do is pop into the local music store (such as Music Trader in Osborne Village or Into the Music in the Exchange) and ask the desk guys. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, just walk into one of the live music venues in Winnipeg.

If you think that Winnipeg is all ice, snow, and depression, you’re wrong. A vibrant music scene keeps this city rolling all year long.

Zrada Music Video: Black Sea Mania

December 3, 2010

Zrada logo.

Some folks will remember when the band originally posted this video. It was when we recorded the first Zrada album, Return of the Wagon, way back in 2006 (and now out of print). Recorded in one weekend, we rented the same camera that got busted during the Taran music video shoot. This song still stands as one of my favourite recordings.

Taking a cue from A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica, we assembled some footage from the recording session and put it together. You can watch the final product on Vimeo. Enjoy.

Reminiscences of a Winnipeg Musician Part 3: Ciaira’s tears

November 30, 2010

As I was writing up my posts about Winnipeg rock venues, it dawned on me that I’d done quite a bit of recording here in Winnipeg. By no means do I claim to be a great studio artist (my band mates would probably have more than a few stories to share), but I’ve been in Winnipeg studios for five recordings. The first true band I was a part of was called Ciaira’s tears.

This is the band with which I learned how to play on stage with, encouraging my “free-form” drumming style (metronome anyone?). This is the band in which I went from long hair to a shaved head. This is the band in which I learned about marketing and postering. This is the band with which I made my first studio and live recordings. This is the band that went through a band member change only to break up a couple of years later. This is the band that taught me tact with women, with moderate success. This was my first rock band.

Originally, the band was called Ciaira’s Problem, of which I was not a part. Then shortly before I came along the band was renamed to Ciaira’s tears. You’ll have to ask Mr. Baria for the story cause I’m still not clear about it. Something about a girl named Ciara not liking Steve.

There were three of us, three Steve’s. And yes, we heard all the lame-ass jokes you could muster: Are you The Three Steves? You could use Steve Cubed. Usually followed by some sort of dumb laugh. Suppressing the urge to say “Shut the fuck up,” the band went by Ciaira’s tears. The second “i” in Ciaira is courtesy of my guitarist who, for all his computer wizardry, doesn’t like using spell check. (Maybe this is why Ciara didn’t like him?)

Early photo of Steve and Steve.

We released two recordings. For those of you lucky enough to have a copy of the original Jellybean Single (released in January 2001), know that there were only something like 50 copies ever made. They’re rarities. 😀 I personally recorded those tapes from the master tape. And it all had to be done in real-time, no CD ripping here. The tape had 4 tracks total: Jellybean, two jam songs, and a crappy version of Alconol.

The firstest first recording was Jellybean, probably our catchiest song. We were lucky because my guitarist was taking a studio engineering course at Studio 11 at the time (guess who else was in the class, John Turner of Phoenix Sound). The class needed a guinea pig band, and so we volunteered. One cold Winnipeg evening, we trucked in all of our equipment, set it up, and let the students handle the mic placements and recording. It was also the first time I’d ever used a click track, and that took some getting used to!

Life After... EP. Released March 2002. Cover design by Steve Baria.

We decided to hit the studio again later that year and record some more tracks. The result was the Life After…, called such because the recording was supposed to represent the life of the band after Jellybean. You see, Jellybean was a fan favourite, but it was a rarity. Jellybean was catchy, the rest of our songs not so much (except maybe Mrs. Alexander).

We rehearsed like mad and recorded three more songs. Though I encourage you to listen to the songs for yourself, I think Jellybean was about an ex-gf, Stuckpig is about gutting pigs (it’s not really, but I don’t know exactly), Aconite is about vampires, and Pink Napkins is about… well, that’s a fun one to figure out. We also added two of my favourite songs from a live show, Alconol and Mrs. Alexander (the first song about tylenol and alcohol, the second about a wayward son).

We tried to make a music video for Aconite, but I don’t think that will ever see the light of day. I wrote and shot it for one of my university classes, casting my brother and his then-gf as vampires. The band makes an appearance (as vampires playing instruments), but only a short one since my instructor encouraged me to tell a story instead of just recording the band play their instruments. I shot it on 16mm black and white film, costing somewhere around $800. I’ll chalk that up to a learning process.

Early poster.

Early poster.

But Ciaira’s tears was on the wane. Band tensions increased and our desire to keep trying decreased, all of us looking for something different. So, after 6 years together, some 43 shows played in the gritty bars of Winnipeg, 2 two recordings, and one last show at the Collective Cabaret, we called it quits.

But Steve! I want to listen to your music! I’m eager! Tell me more! For those of you interested in hearing my early drum work with my first rock band, you can find many of our songs on the CBC Radio 3 website. In addition to the Life After… EP, you’ll find a couple more recordings. One is titled Make Me Happy, recorded live after a lineup change, and the Changing String Jam Pt. 1, which was one of the two jam songs included on the Jellybean Single.

The next logical step for me, of course, was to join a polka band, but that story will have to wait for another time.

Reminiscences of a Winnipeg Musician Part 2: Venues Not Operational

November 18, 2010

In this post I continue my jog down memory lane visiting the venues that were once testaments to the vibrant Winnipeg music scene. If you want to see more photos, you’ll have to check out my other Flickr page here.

Blue Note Cafe. The only venue ever to black list us. Wow. The bookie was kind of a douche anyway and I didn’t like dealing with him (and I’m sure he didn’t like dealing with me). We were even stopped early. Eeeps. But this venue (now defunct) lays claim to hosting my first show ever as a drummer. I didn’t want my parents in attendance because I though it’d be too crazy for them to handle. Oh, how crazy it was, 12 people showed up, 6 to support the band. Found on Portage Ave near Arlington, the venue was pretty small and had an even smaller stage. It may have fit 50 people. I think it’s a restaurant now or a record store, or both.

Wise Guys Downtown. The venue at which we recorded probably one of our best live shows, has now been converted into some dance bar. Oh well. Those were the days when it was a sports bar and grill on the weekend but local bands hailed the stage on Wednesday nights. For every ticket turned in, the band made $1. I think we made $78 that night, one of our highest grossing shows. We also played one show at Wise Guys On Campus (which I’m told was recently shut down). It was a cover show, the only of its kinda.

Haunted Masonic Temple

Masonic Temple, formerly a music venue called the Blue Agave. Careful, it's haunted.

Most notably not operational is the now boarded-up Masonic Temple. That building was a brothel of ideas that didn’t work out, everything from restaurants to music venues to the original purpose of being a temple. We played this venue as part of The Evolution of the Scene, an attempt to connect bands and music industry folk. At that time, the venue was called the Blue Agave. 10 bands in 5 hours, it was absolute mayhem, but it fucking rocked. Lugging our equipment up three flights of stairs we only played one thirty-minute set. But that’s not all. The place is said to be haunted. When we played there, we were always careful to leave one seat open for the ghost of the house, in case the ghost wanted to watch the show. Tales of blood streaming down the wall, falling beams, footsteps, etc. all freaked the hell out the building’s workers. Finally, it shut down and hasn’t been used since. It’s for sale, if you’re interested.

The Former Collective Cabaret

The Former Collective Cabaret, now an American Apparel. 😥

Collective Cabaret. As much as I love globalization for the fact that I can buy Starbucks in South Korea or Burger King when in doubt in Bangkok, it really struck a chord when one of my favourite venues was turned into an American Apparel. Host to the last ever Ciaira’s tears show, the Collective Cabaret embraced mostly rock, punk and metal music. It had a great sound system, it was spacious, and it even had a video screen so I could try my “Rock’n’Film” show idea. It was run by the same generous, we’ve-dealt-with-worse managers of the Albert, the Cabaret was a bright spot in the Winnipeg music scene just down the street from the Zoo and, more recently, The Cavern.


Could not find the entrance to the venue called Wellington's, a formerly popular goth hang.

Wellingtons. I don’t think this place is still operational. Well, I think it’s more one of those places that you have to be invited to. As in, “Pssst, there’s something going on at Wellingtons, wanna go?” To which you’d respond “sure” cause you’d neither know where it is or what was going on. Think raves for goths. I remember they had dirty white tiles for floors.

Rogue’s Gallery. Oh the Rogue’s. My bandmates spent more time here than I did, mostly because they were older and a part of the “coffee shop hang out” group. Bands played upstairs, which meant lugging the equipment up the winding stairs (fun stuff). Laid back atmosphere, paintings on the walls, books to flip through, and some games to play while sippin’ coffee. Though I’m not clear on why the place shut down, I do know that they often got noise complaints. Or maybe it was only when we played.

The Stone. Another venue attached to a hotel, but this one is found in St. Boniface. I don’t know what it is now, but it’s sure as hell not The Stone. I can’t remember if there was a strip club next door or if the place was a strip club, but I remember there being strippers around.

Killarney, Manitoba. My rock band’s first, and last, national tour was to this small city about 3 hours west of Winnipeg. Playing to an all-ages group, it was set up by one of the girls living there who had heard us online. The kids went off hard that day, complete with most-pit, devil horns, and all the black they could find in their wardrobe. Fantastic energy and a highlight in my career as a drummer.

I would be remiss not to mention the fact that Ciaira’s tears only ever played one house party, at my future sis-in-law’s parents’ place. Thanks to our melodic sound and amps set to 11, we cleared the room within a few minutes, though some of our better friends toughed it out. She even paid us $60, which I’m sure we spent on booze. Zrada and Taran, on the other hand, played some house parties which were renowned to get out of hand, often with people juggling (shirtless) with empty wine bottles and patio furniture being moved onto the roof.

And so we played the stages of the Winnipeg rock music scene, sharing them with the likes of Burnbox, Fuller, Needlefish, XengineX, Jerkwater, Dreadnaut, Serrated Scalpel (watch the first video, insane!), Faust, The Product, HCE, Lowball, The Velvet Pill, Trousermouth and a whole list of other like-minded future-rockstars. Yep, those were the days.

As a concluding note, I think I will add one more part to this series, part 3: Ciaira’s tears.

Reminiscences of a Winnipeg Musician Part 1: Venues Still Operational

November 16, 2010

Recently, over a few beers with a high school friend, he mentioned that his younger brothers were going into the studio to record their first album. They would be recording with a man named John Turner at his new studio. Now, more than likely none of you know John Turner, but I’ve known him for years. He was part of a band called Burnbox with whom we shared the stage so many years ago in our younger, more ambitious days as rockstars.

That got me thinking about all those years I spent slumming around in nothing but the classiest places of the Winnipeg music scene. So, one fine gloomy and overcast November day, heading out toward my new favourite hang, the Millennium Library, I decide to take a wander past some old venues. I even took pictures of some of them which I will post shortly.

Wow. I hadn’t realized how many different venues we played at. As a result, I’ve separated this post into two parts: those that are still operational, and those that, well, are retired like an aging, washed-up rockstar. In this part, I’ll cover those venues that are still operational.

West End Cultural Centre. Still operational and recently renovated, this is the last of the small-venues in Winnipeg before you step up to the Burton Cummings Theatre. When my rock band, Ciaira’s tears, played there for a band battle, it had a great sound system and competent sound engineers. I convinced my cousin, then at university, and five of her friends to climb into my Chevette and watch my band. One of the easiest venues to load into, and much cleaner than some of the other venues on this list. This venue often hosts touring acts and helps support both the Winnipeg Jazz Festival and the hippie-joint-fest that is the Winnipeg Folk Festival.

King's Head Pub & Restaurant Full View

Catering to music of all kinds, the King's Head Pub remains a staple in the Winnipeg music scene.

The King’s Head. Though Ciaira’s tears never played here, Zrada did. It was the last venue I played in Winnipeg with Zrada back in 2008. Still operational, the venue is hospitable to bands of all types, encouraging Irish, Ukrainian, and jazz music acts. They also play host to a series of shows during the Winnipeg Jazz Fest. Though they’ve had the same bar staff for ages, they still employ smart and beautiful waitresses. 😀 And not far from the King’s Head is…

Rear View of the Royal Albert Arms Hotel

The rear entrance to the long-standing Royal Albert Arms venue.

Royal Albert: Stickered Wall

One of the stickered walls in the Royal Albert venue.

The Royal Albert. *Tear* Great place. What a fucking dive. I’m not sure how many other bands experienced the same plight our band did, but every time we played a show there the bar owner would tell us that someone or some thing got broke that afternoon. Maybe it was just coincidence. But this bar is iconic and legendary in the Winnipeg music scene. One time it even payed host to a Winnipeg Fringe Festival show, Henry and The Angry Inch. Everything my parents encouraged me not to be was on display at this bar: rock, metal, and punk, the same words used to describe the audience are also applied to the music. Piercings, tattooes, knives, drums, beer, blood (and, during Trousermouth shows, toilet paper) harmoniously meld with the band stickers plastered on the wall and the unsafe pillar on the side of the stage. If you haven’t played the Albert, you haven’t paid your dues. Oh, we were warned about the Albert curse: play the Albert more than once a month and your band is doomed to fail.

The Zoo: Rear View

Rear view of The Zoo rock venue.

The Zoo. The bar, not the lovely sight-seeing animal park for families. No no, it used to be biker bar #1, The Zoo is the Village’s quintessential rock palace. Loud, proud, and fucking dirty, this venue is attached to the Osborne Village Inn and has a beer vendor out back. Attracting both local and touring acts, this venue is part 2 of 3 in the essential Winnipeg scene. It has one of the loudest sound systems on the scene, and a competent sound guy to work it (a rare combination). Pick a famous Canadian rock band, and they probably played at The Zoo at some point during their formative years.

Pyramid Cabaret

The Pyramid Cabaret

The Pyramid Cabaret. Part 3 of 3 for the mandatory Winnipeg small-venue scene. We played there once or twice, most notably when my first band, Ciaira’s tears, released its first (and only) EP, Life After…. Who would’ve figured it could snow so much in March? Well, cheers to you folks who made it out to that show because I think that was the most people we ever played to, somewhere around 90-100. Sold damn near every copy of our CD, too! Thank goodness because my gtar player lost the rest of the CD inserts and stickers. But this venue isn’t just for local acts, touring acts also stop by. From what I can remember of the night, the most notable band to pass through here was GWAR. Insane, blood-spattered, and politically-aware space-jockeys smash about the stage chopping off the heads of presidents and terrorists while spraying the crowd with blood and alien semen. And then I had to explain to my bookstore boss why I had green and blue dye on my face the next day. Wonderful show. Full of excitement.

The Academy

The new location of the Academy Coffee Co.

The Academy Coffee Co. (No website!) Before the ACC moved into Osborne Village, it had a location near yuppied-up River Heights. The River Heights location closed down as the owner devoted all his energy to the new place in the Village. Owned and operated by the same dude who ran the Noiseworks music stores, Brian, this place was phenomenal. I really liked the place when it was both a CD store and a coffee shop. But, when it was a coffee shop, he couldn’t sell alcomahol. So, he changed that. Catering primarily to acoustic, jazz, and blues artists, Brian always went to great lengths to ensure the sound was gorgeous before resuming his duty at the cash register.

Having covered the places that are still opened, in my next post I’ll cover those that have been shut down and mention what those places have now become. Careful, one is even haunted.

Country Music Radio

November 2, 2010

While driving my tractor, complete with auto-steer, GPS and A/C, I turned on the good ol’ AM/FM radio and turned the dial for a bit. Being out in the boonies, I knew what I’d find. I wasn’t looking for any Kpop, block rockin beats or Asian metal. No siree, I knew what I was in for: country.

And did I ever find it!

They say that country music is the music of pain. Yes. Had you driven by my tractor while I was listening to Steve Fox’ “Don’t Grow Today” or Ruttan Derric’s “That’s How I Want to go Out,” you would’ve seen me in a heap of tears. “Why is it so beautiful?”

Drying my tears on my coveralls, I managed to scratch down a few song names that really impressed me. Some are old, some are new, but in any event, they make for some good listening.

Artist: Sugarland

Song: Stuck Like Glue


Apparently Sugarland has been around for a while and the album that this comes off of is a drastic change from their past (they’re even on Oct 9th’s issue of Billboard magazine). I listened to the samples of this album and wasn’t impressed by any other song than this one. That being the case, love the vocal work and the guitar picking on this one! There’s a part where she does a rap/raggae verse which my cousin didn’t like, but I thoroughly enjoyed. The video’s kinda funny, and the green station wagon accents the bizaar-ness of the song. I think Sugarland’s onto something there.

Artist: Steve Fox

Song: Don’t Grow Today


Not to be confused with the Tekken fighter, Steve Fox is a country musician. This song reminds me of my nieces and how much I miss of their growing up by travelling around the world. Great song. This one had me bawlin’ in the tractor. That being said, listening to…

Artist: Derric Ruttan

Song: That’s How I Wanna Go Out


…reminds me why I have taken up doing so much travelling. From Ruttan’s 2010 album Sunshine comes this song recounting the life of an old man, just about to turn 88, and the conversation he has with the doctor about how he wants to spend the last few days of his life. The doctor suggests some meds, the old man pretty much says fuck that, I’m goin golfin and banging my wife one more time. Adda’ boy, old man! Well, maybe the feeling is expressed a little differently than that, but listen to the lyrics for yourself, or watch the video.

Artist: Trace Adkins

Song: Honky Tonk Badonkakonk



This goes back a few years already but it’s still a good one! I think it’s about women’s bums. It’s got that mean grunge guitar crunch, the pulse of the electronica beat, and the southern accent characteristic of country music. Dance tune at the Towers in Dauphin or Tijuana Yacht Club in Winnipeg!

Artist: Billy Currington

Song: Pretty Good At Drinking Beer


My uncle didn’t laugh when I made reference to this song but this song pretty sums up my life at the farm. I may not harrow straight, I may have run into an augur, and I don’t like tightening shanks, but I’m pretty good at drinking beer. He’s running a promotion where people can make their own videos for the song. Maybe I should’ve done one at the farm??

Artist: Big & Rich

Song: Save a horse [Ride a cowboy]


Another “oldie” since the song is from the 2004 album Horse of a Different Color. For some reason country girls laugh when you say it, but don’t follow up. Must be my approach.

Artist: Dixie Chicks

Song: Goodbye Earl


Country’s answer to GN’R’s Used to Love Her, this song is about how a man is off-ed by his wife. Admittedly, he was kind of a jerk. I’ve never really given the Dixie Chicks much thought, except when they denounced Bush (applause), but I kinda like their vocal work on this track.

Artist: Toby Keith

Song: She’s A Hottie


Is it me, or does country music typically revolve around good looking women men can’t get, men that have pissed off their wives/gfs/exs, drinking and/or combing? Here’s another catchy song that is about, surprise surprise, a good looking woman. What really got me was the vocal work with the lines “kaya diggy diggy hey hey hey!”

Artist: Luke Bryan

Song: Rain is a Good Thing


Oh how my uncle was not impressed after I broke out into this song… while raiding his whiskey stash. And after such a crappy harvest, he especially didn’t appreciate me singing the virtues of rain! Rain makes corn, corn makes whiskEYYYYY, whiskey makes my baby, BUM BUM BUM, get a little frisKEYYYYY! 🙂

Artist: Little Big Town

Song: Take Me Down to the Little White Church


Not sure what to make of the cover art for their album The Reason Why, it’s kinda dark and mysterious, but the shiny-ness reminds me of Christmas albums. This is a catchy song that talks about a man not gettin no more action til he takes his girl down to the little white Church, which I presume is to get married. Listening to the samples, I might just get this album.

Artist: The Arrogant Worms

Song: Last Saskatchewan Pirate


From their album Semi-Conducted, I think this should be one of the first songs immigrants and travellers to Canada should listen to. Though not really country, it’s about country life. This song is about a Saskatchewan farmer who has a bad year, the government takes everything he owns, and so he becomes a pirate on the River Saskatchewan. It’s a long river, and it kinda makes sense to rule over it, but it kinda freezes over… and that’s when you move to New Mexico to plunder during the winter. This song is popular at weddings and socials, so my polka band played it a lot. I never did suggest to my uncle that if harvest failed he could always become a pirate. Brilliant.

Artist: Laura Bell Bundy

Song: Giddy On Up


Love this lady’s voice! And again, I think this song is about a man who’s cheating on his woman. Bad boy, cuz she knows she don’t “wear bath and body works” (really, can you tell?) The lines “giddy on up, giddy on out” caught my attention and have me hooked on this song. The video is kinda funny too, especially when she uses a gun to shoot off the man’s shirt and pants… without taking anything else off. The video also made me wonder, how accurate do country singers and videos represent true country folks?

Now my life on the farm also reminded me of a soundtrack that I really enjoyed. Yes, the movie may have received some criticism for its content, but at least of the soundtrack, I think, was brilliant. Gustavo Santaolalla’s steel guitar interludes, Steve Earl’s The Devil’s Right Hand, and Willie Nelson’s He Was a Friend of Mine made this soundtrack stand out. If you haven’t guessed the movie already, it’s Brokeback Mountain.

And with that, I’ve loaded up my iPod with some new country tunes to get me by the onset of another Winnipeg winter. Country music truly is the music of pain.

Korean Traditional, Pop, and Jazz Music

September 27, 2010

Ok, so here is my second post on Korean music. Here I’ll cover some traditional, pop, and jazz music. Admittedly, this post is incomplete since Korea, especially Seoul, is teeming with a vibrant music culture.


2-CD collection of Kim Duk Su's traditional music.

The Grand Poobah of Korean traditional music is Kim Duk Soo, the man who leads his own samul nori ensemble. The core ensemble consists of four instrument, the janggu (the hour-glass-shaped drum), buk (a regular big tub of a drum), jing (a large, dull sounding gong) and the Kwaenggwari (a small cymbal used to solo and lead the group), but in many cases the ensemble is expanded. Some find this music annoying, especially because of the kwaenggwari, but to see it live is simply amazing. These muthfuckas can wail! Not only that, take a look at performance in which they do the twirly-head-thingy, gives metal-loving headbangers a run for their money, eh? Luckily I had the chance to study the janggu under the tutelage of my school’s music teacher, but without the head spinning. If you’re interested, Mr. Kim runs a daily show in Seoul at the Gwangwhamun Arts Hall. I missed it, but I have a couple of his discs, “Pan” and his 2-disc “Samulnori”. I like the second one best but “Pan” would probably give a better overall glimpse at traditional Korean music.

There is another traditional performing arts show that’s not all percussion. It’s also a regular show at the Korea House in Seoul. It is here you can hear the traditional flute played, see the fan-dance, and also see the all-female drum quintet that, I think, inspired Drumcat.


KPop all-stars, 2NE1 from South Korea.

If there is one country that has PERFECTED pop music, it’s Korea. It’s catchy, it cute, it’s fake, it’s in Korean AND English! I’ll admit that I’m sadly out of touch with the current Kpop trends, but I did spend some time studying Kpop since it would often get my students to pay attention… and make ladies laugh at the bar. Recently, Super Junior, 2NE1, Brown Eyed Girls, 2PM and SNSD were tearing up the charts with their catchy singles (I’d post links but they’d just get deleted because of copyright infringement). A friend sent me this link to a couple of wayguks (foreigners) giving heir top 2009 Kpop hit singles. I think it’s a pretty good summation.


Autographed jazz CD by Se Yun's trio. Translation: "Steve! Thank you. Se Yun. 12.12"

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see as much jazz as I would’ve liked while in SoKo. But, from what I can tell, Seoul is the city to catch some live jazz. While in one jazz bar the band, Se Yun’s Trio, was phenomenal live so I picked up the disc (see above). The disc is equally impressive. Busan has one bar that’s dedicated to jazz, but the “jam” on Mondays always seemed empty. I was part of one band that played a lot of jazz in Busan, you can see some vidz HERE. Lastly, there are several jazz festivals that take place. The two I had heard about were the Seoul Jazz Festival and the Jarasum International Jazz Festival.

And that’ll just about do it for my knowledge on South Korean music. Looking back at my posts I’ve realized my knowledge is paltry compared to what’s really out there. To those in SoKo, there’s lots of stuff going on and I’d love to hear about it. To those outside of SoKo, don’t write Asia off for it’s music!

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