Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Sadies - Hot Licks and Cool Threads

We are in the thick of Festival season here in London, Ontario.  It started with Sunfest, followed by Home County Music and Art Festival, and still to come are Ribfest this weekend and Festa Italiana at the end of August.   The weather has been a crap shoot;  both Sunfest and Home County got rained on over the course of the weekend.  However, I managed to check off one of the things on my "Must Do" list, which was to see the band, The Sadies, perform live.  So many people I know are big fans of this Canadian Band, and every time they have played here in London, I've missed them.   Not this time!

The Sadies are brothers Travis and Dallas Good, who provide vocals and sizzling guitar, upright bassist Sean Dean, and drummer/vocalist Mike Belitsky.  Their repertoire includes alt-country, gospel, garage rock, surf instrumentals, bluegrass and rockabilly psychedelia.  They are Neko Case's favourite backing band and have recorded with Andre Williams, Jon Langford and John Doe, amongst others.

Brothers Travis (left) and Dallas Good are the band's frontmen. Both are demon guitar players, and Travis is also skilled on the violin.  

The band is also known for its unique sartorial style.  Dallas, in the photo above, rocks out in an ultra-cool grey suit with mushroom and rhinestone embellishments.  Dallas reminds me of Nick Cave, with his dark mop of hair, dark glasses, and solemn demeanor, and his voice has echoes of Johnny Cash.

Great style is all about the details - right down to the cufflinks

Upright Bassist Sean Dean, in pinstripes and flowers

Dean was also wearing bold blue shoes

Drummer/vocalist Mike Belisky

Travis Good, demonstrating killer guitar chops.  At one point in the show, the two brothers stand one in front of the other and one brother strummed the strings of his own guitar and fingered the chord changes on his brother's guitar.  They are great showmen, and the crowd loved them.

The brothers got their Mom up on stage to help out with vocals on one song.  Their father and two uncles are the Country Roots band, The Good Brothers, who were recently inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame, and also playing at Home County.

In an interview for Mote Magazine in 1999, five years after The Sadies began playing together, Dallas Good is quoted as saying "I think we're at our best doing old-time music to make little kids dance with their grandparents, while the parents get drunk".  At their Home County show there were kids, their parents, and their grandparents dancing and singing along, and there aren't many bands that can claim that kind of fan base. 

You can find videos of the Sadies here, as well as sample some of their most popular songs.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

My Shoes My Rules

So, remember these shoes?  Turns out they match my umbrella perfectly.  If I had a dress made out of the same fabric as my umbrella, that would be the most awesome, retina-burning outfit ever!  They don't match anything in my closet, which makes them the best shoes ever, because when you match nothing, you go with everything.  That's my new rule.

*these photos were taken in June, when it was cool enough to wear long sleeves, and real shoes*

When I've got the blues...

I just look down at my shoes!

flower patterned pants - From Mars (retail)
silk shirt - gift
shoes - Dr. Marten store Toronto
scarf - purchased from the Style Crone

I really love my 80's multi-coloured jacket, and have worn it way more often than I thought I would  when I bought it from The Sentimentalist last year.  It's another example of the "match nothing, go with everything" rule.  Of course, now that I look at this photo, I realize that the jacket kind of matches the shoes....

Jacket - The Sentimentalist
golf skirt (with built in shorts!) - thrifted
Dr. Marten brogues
owl necklace - Frilly Lizard (retail)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"Paying Yard Sale Prices for Each Golden Memory....."*

*"Yard Sale" - lyrics by Kathleen Wilhoite

Disclaimer - I am not a hard-core yard sale fan.   I look forward to sleeping in on the weekends, and have no desire to rise at the crack of dawn to root through piles of discarded children's toys, knick-knacks, old tools, and mismatched dishes.   Also, I have so much stuff crammed into my little apartment there's barely room for me and Fred.  However, that being said, when there's over a hundred yard sales taking place within a four block radius of your house, it seems silly not to have a bit of a browse....

This past weekend was the Old East Village Community Yard Sale (Old East Village is the name of my neighbourhood).   According to the map that was created for the event, there were 109 yard sales and I thought with that many households participating there might be something worth buying, and if not, it was a perfect excuse to explore the neighbourhood.  

 My first stop was one of my neighbourhood's best-known gardens - the owner of the house started it 11 years ago, and has put every square inch of his small front yard to good use.

Reid, shown above in his garden, has squash, strawberries, peas, tomatoes, and I'm not sure what else growing in his garden, which takes an lot of work to maintain, but pays off in the amount of food he is able to harvest.

A couple of blocks over, I met Ronnie, a very independent (and gorgeous) cat, and her people

A deity lounged in someone's front yard

local birds have a choice of traditional or modern design in housing

Depending on the number of yard sales on a particular street, some were hopping with folks looking for bargains, while others were extremely quiet.

It was the busiest I had seen my 'hood in a long time; parking on the street was at a premium

Most of the houses in Old East have small front years, and many folks have chosen to fill this space with wild flowers or perennials

I couldn't tell if this was someone's front yard or back yard

Another front yard-turned-garden

These enterprising folks had cold drinks, hot dogs, and muffins for sale

The neighbourhood is about 130 years old, and most of the houses in the area are brick with small front porches that are well-used by the residents.

I made it to about half the sales, and while the goods on offer were pretty standard yard sale fare, I did pick up a couple of things for a couple of bucks a piece.

Clockwise from top left - Italian made platter, clay figure made in Eastern Europe (judging by the language on the label inside), and "Angel Resonator Bells" which come in their own little case, but are missing the "balls on sticks" that you use to strike the keys, so I will have to improvise.

Despite my initial claim that I don't go out of my way to attend yard sales, this was in fact the second weekend in a row that I had come home with someone else's discards.  Two weeks ago my friend Heather and I came across a yard sale after our usual Saturday morning coffee get-together, and we were surprised by the quality and variety of things for sale.  I got....

Clockwise from left - woven basket purse from Thailand, 1960's plaster wall ornament, one of two decorative tea light holders (the other one needs the hanging chain replaced)

The purse matched what I was wearing, so it seemed it was meant to come home with me.  The woman having the sale gave me the black sun hat because she thought it completed the outfit.

Black and gold wrap skirt, gold bracelet, ceramic guard cat - thrifted from store in my 'hood
Thai woven bag, plaster wall ornament and hat - yard sale
necklace - gift from the lovely Curtise
gold slippers - thrifted
ceramic guard cat - thrifted

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mad Dogs and Englishmen*

We complain about the cold temperatures and lack of sunshine during the winter, and each year, around March, I promise myself that if it ever warms up I will NOT complain about the heat.  And yet here I am, complaining about the heat.  The daily forecast has been stuck at "high of 30 degrees celsius, humidex of 40, and chance of a thunderstorm" for about a week.  Perhaps Mother Nature is having hot flashes?   The intense heat wave that has enveloped Southwestern Ontario has sapped my energy and the high pollution level has left me with some respiratory problems.  I count myself one of the lucky ones in that I do have A/C at home, I'm not working (or living!) outside, and I don't have asthma.  A friend's partner who has severe asthma has not been able to go outside for the last week.

In addition to the health issues, there is the much less serious, but still aggravating, issue of what to wear to work.   If I was a lady of leisure, I'd be swanning about at home in a slip, or a camisole and men's boxers, but as I have to leave my house and serve the public, more coverage is required.   When it's this hot, I can't stand wearing anything snug-fitting under the arms or in the girl-parts area, which leaves loose-fitting dresses, or..... 

.... I remembered I had this batik print jumpsuit that I picked up at Lovesick last year in my closet, and it had yet to make an appearance this summer.  It's soooo comfy - just like wearing your jammies to work.  The pattern is also ideal for concealing sweat marks.

It's loose enough that I can do some fancy poses without feeling restricted.

 When I get tired, it is perfect for napping.  I think it would be an excellent idea to introduce the Siesta into the North American workplace.

Batik jumpsuit - Lovesick Vintage
sandals and leather cuff - Sunfest
necklace - University Hospital gift shop

Stay cool, and stay out of the mid-day sun! 
(*Noel Coward knew what he was talking about)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Let the Festing Begin....

Last weekend, the summer festival season here kicked off with Sunfest, our annual 4-day celebration of world music, food, and arts and crafts.  It is my favourite festival and I try not to schedule anything that keeps me from spending the entire weekend in Victoria Park, sitting on the grass and listening to a band from Chile, Ghana, Cuba or China.  This year, I had just got home from Montreal on Friday night, so I was already behind in my festing.  Most of Saturday was spent in the park, but then the on-and-off rain of Sunday kept me away until the evening.  With a few exceptions, the food and craft vendors tend to be the same from year to year, so it's the bands that I am most excited about.  While I saw fewer than usual this year, there were definitely ones that made an impression.

The first band I saw on Saturday was Long Shen Dao (which translates to "The Way of the Dragon God), who I had missed seeing perform at Luminato in Toronto.  The band, from Beijing, China, embody the spirit of what Sunfest is all about - a mixing of cultures that results in something that is greater than the sum of its parts.  The band's musical core is Reggae, and they incorporates some traditional chinese instruments like the guzheng (zither) into their music, which adds an interesting Asian vibe to the loping reggae rhythms.  Is what they play authentic Reggae?  I'm no expert in Reggae music so I can't say, but I'm sure the band inspires some heated discussions about the validity of Chinese musicians playing Reggae music, which is traditionally linked to its religious foundations in Rastafarianism.  The lead singer of the band, Guo Jian, has stated that although some band members wear dreadlocks, the members of the band are not Rastafarians, but they feel that Reggae music is a like a "warm breeze" and can be appreciated by people regardless of the culture they are from.  The crowd liked them and people were dancing, which is one of the best things about Sunfest, and one of the reasons I go every year.

This couple had their Sunfest groove on

Lead singer and bass player, Jian Guo

 Sunfest seems to inspire Londoners to loosen up and have more fun with their wardrobe, as I always see much more colour over this weekend than than when there is not a festival going on.  I really liked the dress worn by the woman in the photo above. 

This young woman was rocking the pretty candy colours, but whenever I glanced over at her, she was paying more attention to her phone than the band.

Tats and dreads on the keyboard player

I see this guy at Sunfest every year, wearing a similar version of this outfit

Another Sunfest regular is the inimitable Teresa, reigning Queen of all things Cool, at City Lights Bookshop

It's always interesting to take a stroll through the craft booths at the Festival, as you never know what you might find...

apparently tie-dye never dies, nor does it fade away; it just finds a new generation of fans

I discovered a booth that had a Steampunk theme going on, with some awesome pocket watches and cool goggles, like those worn by this guy, who was standing outside the booth with his "pet".  He told me the name of his talon-ed and fuzzy friend, but of course, I can't remember it.  However, what was most cool about the critter was that it came alive with a touch of a hidden remote.  I should have got the name of the person that designed the creature as apparently he does custom work.  The "information collection" part of my brain was on vacation that weekend.

My friend Heather discovered a booth that in addition to sculpture and carvings, also had some small animal skulls for sale .  She took a monkey skull home (which her husband named Pistachio) and I fell in love with these metal insects (they are about 5" from antenna to tail) made from recycled pop cans that were $6 each.  Of course, I forgot to get a business card from the vendor.

The other band that had me on my feet was Anthony Joseph and the Spasm Band, from the UK.  The man in blue is Anthony Joseph  - Trinidad born, UK-based, poet, novelist, academic and musician. The music is a down and dirty mix of funk, jazz, rock and calypso and is relentlessly danceable.  Mr. Joseph was the smoothest, sexiest man on stage at Sunfest this year.  I welcome anyone who saw him perform to disagree.

It was difficult to get an in-focus shot of him without using a flash because he didn't stop moving.

I thought my band groupie days were behind me, but for him, I could make an exception.

Get out and supporty your summer festivals  - it's a short season, and we need all the fun in the sun we can get!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Random Happy Stuff

I've been dragging my arse since I got back from Montreal - a combination of not sleeping well, and my usual post-travel blues which hit me every time I realize that my life can't be just one fabulous trip after another.  At some point, I have to go back to work to make money for my next adventure.  Ah well, these are "first world problems", as the saying goes, and I'm sure I'll snap out of my funk soon.  In the meantime, these are some of the things that inspired some smiles this week in between the high humidity, torrential downpours, and restless nights.

I had been missing my morning chipmunk sightings at the bus stop this year as I had been carpooling with a colleague.  My ride is currently on vacation, so I'm back to taking the bus, and yesterday morning, there was this little guy/girl peeking out from behind a rock in the flower bed.  I'm always that person who will stand there for ages staring at little critters and making weird noises hoping to lure them closer, while everyone else strides quickly past, eyes glued to their phones.  I did once manage to get a baby chipmunk on my foot by doing this, which was most certainly the high point of my day.

Today's arm party, which matched my flowered pants
red beaded bracelet - Sunfest
Green beaded bracelet - Clothing Swap
red leather cuff - Home County Festival 

Coming home to the sight of my "guard cat" by the front door - I found her at a junk shop in my neighbourhood and talked the owner down to a few bucks for her because she had a chip on one ear.  Then I proceeded to bang her other ear on the sidewalk carrying her home in a bag, so she's evenly matched.   Her colour matches the cushions on my porch chairs and she's hypo-allergenic!

I am devouring this book I purchased at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts bookshop.  They had an excellent selection of books on fashion and design, in a wide range of prices.  This hardcover book, packed with gorgeous photos of the collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute, is eye-candy at its finest, and was priced at under $20.

This geisha-print, kimono-sleeved robe was a gift from the lovely Ariane (who has also been having a challenging week), and it is destined for my bedroom wall as soon as I get something to hang it on.  It will play quite nicely with the Chinese robe that is already hanging on one wall.

I have no outfit photos to show you as nothing I wore this week seemed worth documenting.  Perhaps I'll be inspired on the weekend.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Blown Away - The Art of Dale Chihuly

I first saw American glass sculptor Dale Chihuly's art several years ago in Las Vegas.  I was wandering through the Bellagio Hotel (I was staying at a much less expensive hotel off the strip).  When I came to the lobby, I was stopped dead by the sight of what appeared to be an undersea world of glowing colour on the ceiling.  It was the glass sculpture Fiori Di Como, created by Dale Chihuly, comprised of 2,000 hand blown glass blossoms.  I wanted to lie on the floor, and stare at it for hours.  When I learned that the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts was hosting an exhibit of his work, the first major Chihuly show in Canada, it was worth a 7 hour train trip to see it.  The exhibit consists of 8 immersive environments, 4 of which were designed specifically for the museum. 

In front of the building that houses the exhibit is the Chihuly piece, The Sun, which is over 4 metres in diameter.  I was not able to get to the museum after dark when the sculpture is lit up.  If you scroll down to the Photos/Videos section of this page, you can watch a cool time lapse video of the sculpture being assembled.

The view from opposite the staircase that takes you into the Chihuly exhibit.  You are immediately plunged into a world where darkness and light create a fantastic world of breathtaking beauty.  The exhibit is not called "Utterly Breathtaking" for nothing.  Flowers from The Persian Colonnade flank you as you climb the stairs.

At the top of the stairs is the installation Turquoise Reeds, which consists of 199 spear-shaped "reeds" of glass rising from the trunks of old growth western red cedar, which were salvaged in Washington, near the Pacific Ocean.  To create the reeds, molten glass is blown from a mechanical lift in Chihuly's high-ceilinged studio, and gravity is allowed to form and shape the glass into the reed-like shapes. Even though they are made of glass, they are very strong and can be displayed inside or outside in a variety of environments.

 Information accompanying the exhibit states that the artist has always been preoccupied with colour throughout his career, and attributes this passion to memories of his mother's flower gardens and the sunsets of his childhood.  He began working on the Macchia series in 1981, and it allowed him to work with all 300 colours of glass produced by the German glass company, Kugler.  Chihuly was able to incorporate so many colours through the process of applying layers of colour onto the glass.

An example of the stunning array of colours used in the installation.  The glass bowls that comprise The Macchia Forest are a metre in height and width, and are mounted on steel poles.

The installation The Boats, is a room with two rowboats on reflective platforms, one filled with blown glass balls, the other with twisted, plant-like shapes.  Chihuly has used old boats filled with glass shapes, floating in bodies of water, in many of his installations world wide.  I remember reading that the spherical shapes in this installation are the most difficult shapes to create because of the large scale.

Fantastical tendrils made of glass fill the second boat

Glass Forest #6 is made of blown white glass, filled with argon gas and neon, which produces the shades of pink.  It is the only piece in the show that produces its own light.

One of my favourite installations in the show is Mille Fiori.  Chihuly began his Fiori series in 2003   ( Fiori is the Italian word for flower), inspired by his love of nature and flowers, and passion for all things Italian.  Clusters of the glass plant-like structures are displayed in groups to look like fantastical gardens and are called Mille Fiori, a play on the Italian word millefiori (one thousand flowers)

I was fascinated by these striped snake-like stalks

The installation incorporates Chihuly's favourite shapes - tentacles, spheres, flowers and reeds

As I entered the next room of the gallery, I was faced with this glowing glass structure, part of the Chandeliers and Towers installation.  You can tell the size of the tower against the people standing nearby.  The pieces in this room combine blown glass with steel armatures, and each weigh several hundred kilograms.

Detail of a blue hanging "chandelier" that resembled an ornate Stalactite.  Chihuly's pieces have an incredible energy about them and one expects that any minute the glass tentacles with begin to writhe.

If I won an obscene amount of money, I would have this piece installed in the foyer of my new house.  I love everything about it, and stood under it for a long time, trying to fix its beauty in my brain.

The last installation is the Persian Ceiling, one of Chihuly's most popular works. Brightly coloured, circular pieces of glass are layered above a transparent glass ceiling, and lit from above.  The room is small, and the glow from the coloured glass above created the sensation of stepping into a magical cave.  The room had padded mats on the floor, inviting viewers to lie on their backs to get a better view of the splendor above without having to strain your neck.

The kaleidoscope of colour overhead was awe-inspiring

Scattered throughout the installation were glass sea creatures, including this stingray.  It became a game to find them all.

One of the pieces had been broken, and the pieces had been left in the ceiling.  A mother and her three children were lying on the floor, looking up, and one of the children asked their mother why the museum would leave a broken piece in the installation.  Her answer was perfect:  "Maybe it's to remind us of the fragility of the glass."

The Chihuly Exhibit continues at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts until October 20, 2013