Basia Bulat @ Foster’s Inn [Stratford, Ontario] – January 20, 2011

Autographed!

The Canadian songstress Basia Bulat made the pilgrimage to Foster’s Inn in the middle of winter to brighten our night with songs that remind us of spring rains and summers nights. Firda and I first “discovered” Basia when she opened for Hayden at the Gig (Kitchener) on January 25, 2008. We had never heard of her before that night but ended up enjoying her set and pick up her first album at the merchandise stand.

Foster’s Inn has been holding the Dinner Concert Series for at least two years (since we were lucky to see Royal Wood last year at the same venue). This time around we decided to go for the Dinner as well – since it assure you a seat plus the food is very very good. I decided on the bacon-wrapped chicken breast (stuffed with mushrooms, caramelized leeks and with a side of risotto), and Firda went with the pasta with bacon and P.E.I. mussels. Desert for me was apple crisp while Firda went with the Crème Brûlée. In all the meal was delicious and we were stuffed by the end of dessert.

Basia was just as amazing as the food. Since she only has two albums out she was able to run through most of the songs we were hoping to hear. She also covered a Polish song that she was currently enamoured with and played us a new song she has been working on. The set lasted for about an hour or so with one encore. After the show she talked with fans at the merchandise area and we ended up buying a record of her new album. She was kind enough to sign it and when she screwed up Firda’s name took the time to correct it (she even offered to give us another album – which we declined). Out of all of the artists we have talked to after shows she was by far the most approachable and personable.

So go out now and buy her albums or check her music out on the CBC Radio 3 link provide here. You definitely won’t be disappointed.

Fallout: New Vegas

Fallout: New Vegas is my current addiction. For those of you not in the know Fallout: New Vegas is a video game set in a post-apocalyptic world that is recovering from a nuclear war in 2077. The game is set in 2281 where humanity is still stuggling to rebuilt civilization. As expect there are many factions involved: some working towards the betterment of humanity, some working to exploit humanity and other who are using humanity to their own ends. The player ultimately decides which path they want to take: do you want to be the wastelands messiah or the wastelands devil? The choices you make in the game decide your karmic level and ultimately the way you interact with the different factions.
Of course the game isn’t just about social interactions. It is first and foremost a first-person shooter. Many of the quests you pick up have you exploring desolate locations populated with irradiated creatures: including giant geckos, glowing radioactive ghouls, super mutants, nightkin and the like. Other quests have you collecting medicines, drugs or supplies to help the communities and outposts across the wastelands.
My addiction with this game comes from the amount of things that you can do in the game. There are around 200 locations that you can discover, around 100 quests with the multiple factions, and hundreds of items to collect.
The only problem I have with this game is the bugs that are part of it. I have at least one quest that I can’t finish because of a bug. Thankfully it isn’t an important mission.
Now how addicted to the game am I? I’ve likely but in about 40 hours over the past couple of months playing it. And with that I’m going to end this and get back to the game!

Operation Blog Revival 2011

My darling wife Firda has come up with a fantastic idea to revive dead (or semi-conscious) blogs. The idea is a 6-step plan to get yourself back into blogging on a regular basis. The 6-steps are:
Step 1: In January, start blogging once a week.
Step 2: In March, start blogging twice a week.
Step 3: In May, start blogging three times a week.
Step 4: In July, start blogging four times a week.
Step 5: In September, start blogging five times a week.
Step 6: In November, start blogging six times a week. Unless you join the NaBloPoMo, in which case, you may want to take it a step further and start blogging every day of the week.
It seems like a pretty simple idea and I’m going to try my best. Six days a week seems like a little too much to me but we shall see.
If you are a lapsed or lapsing blogger check out and join Firda’s Operation Blog Revival 2011 Facebook page! It’s like a support group for slackers!

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World!!!!

Attention all nerds (and people who love awesome movies filled with video game references and 8-bit sweetness)!!!!!!!!!!
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is out on DVD and BluRay today!!!! Run out and get it (I haven’t got it yet but I forgot it was Tuesday).
This movie is by far the best movie that I’ve seen all year! The nerd references, the battle scenes, the montages from the comic books. There was a smile on my face for the whole movie.
Do yourself a favour and grab this movie. Even if you saw it when it was out in theaters!

Royal Wood – September 24th, 2010 @ The Loft on Downie

Our fourth Royal Wood show and by far the most intimate so far.
We weren’t planning on going since the tickets had appeared to be sold out but CBC Radio 2 held a contest to win tickets to see Royal Wood at the location of your choosing. Firda entered and was one of three entries selected personnally by Royal to receive a pair of tickets to his show in Stratford.
The Loft on Downie was a new venue to us. We had heard of it before but tracking down the actual address on the web was impossible – I ended up having to call Stratford Tourism in order to get an address. We weren’t sure what to expect but we were excited to see Royal again.
The Loft is actually someone’s apartment who holds occasional concerts for a small audience. The audience was only about 40 to 50 – with people sitting on chairs, couches and standing at the back of the room. There were no bad seats since the back of the room was only a couple of meters from Royal Wood. There was even the “family” dog hanging out before the show – who barked with approval when the audience clapped.
As always the show was great. He played mostly from his newest album “The Waiting” but by this time we knew most of the songs since the album came out just before we saw him earlier this year (in May).
One more point of interest about the audience was the number of actors from the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. There were at least two leads in the audience which was really cool to see them outside of the festival just having a good time.
Now we wait for our next chance to see Royal. Can’t wait!

King of Thieves

On Friday night Firda, myself and our friend Joe went to see the play “King of Thieves” at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. We were looking forward to it since Sean Cullen (a comedian, actor from Toronto) was playing one of the main characters. He was basically the stories narrator and also the owner of the Speakeasy in the play.
Something awesomely interesting happened at the beginning of the play. There was a power failure. The lights didn’t die completely but went into “flashing” emergency mode. The actors, being professionals, went right along with the show – even with all the lights flashing. After the first musical number a stage hand came out and told us they had to pause the show for a couple of minutes while they tried to fix the problem. In most situations this would mean the audience would have to sit around and twiddle their thumbs for 20 to 30 minutes while they figured out what was wrong. Thankfully this play had Sean Cullen.
Sean kept us entertained for the whole 20 minutes before they could resume the play. He told stories, sang improvised songs, and most importantly had the audience laughing and clapping for the whole 20 minutes. This was pure magic. Sean was in his element. Improvising is his bread and butter. He has been doing it for his whole career starting with the comedy trio “Corky and the Juice Pigs” (which I had the pleasure of seeing about a half dozen times).
While the play was great and the other actors performed admirably the show was stolen by Sean’s quick witted 20 minute improvised comedy show.
P.S.: I would definitely recommend going to see the show if you are in Stratford. I believe tickets are readily available. Just be warned that it is part musical, so if you don’t enjoy musicals stay away! 🙂

Hawksley Workman – July 16, 2010 – Old Roxy Theater (Mount Forest)

Hawksley is one of the few Canadian artists who have been on our “must-see live” list for a while now but through either timing or expenses haven’t been able to see. This all changed when we found out her was playing in Mount Forest (a small town around an hour north of Stratford).
The venue was the Old Roxy Theater, which as it’s name suggests is an old movie theater converted to a concert venus. The theater only holds between 100 to 200 people which makes for a nice intimate evening. We ended up scoring front row right side seats which was cool but I don’t think there was a bad seat in the house.
I didn’t know what to expect out of a Hawksley Workman. I enjoy his music and I know he is a little eccentric, though I was afraid that he would be a little divaish and only play music with no connection/conversation with the audience. Boy was I wrong to worry. The music was phenomenal, even the new stuff that is not as known by the audience, and the stories were hillarious. He played off of the energy from the audience telling stories, telling jokes, occasionally making us scratch our heads trying to figure out what he was talking about. He would even break into stories in the middle of songs – while his buddy Todd Lumley (“Mr. Lonely”) played accompaniment on the keyboards. The funniest story was about fusing drum solos with potato salad making (click here to see this song with the story that I took at the concert).
He even made references to being called Hawksley WORKSman by one of the old Roxy staffers who introduced him to the audience. A little inside joke for the people who were at the show 🙂
Since there was no opener we were treated to two hours of just Hawksley and Mr. Lumley. With one encore in which he played three songs selected by the audience.
He ended up playing many of my favorites and many new favorites from his albums including “Jealous of Your Cigarette”, “You Me and the Weather”, “Warhol’s Portrait of Gretzsky”, “Your Beauty Must Be Rubbing Off”, “Tokyo Bicycle”, “We Will Still Need a Song”, “Autumn’s Here”, “Rain” just to name a few.
As an added surprise during “Autumn’s Here” an audience member started playing his harmonica and Hawksley called him up on stage where they jammed for a while. The harmonica playing worked well with the song and Hawksley was really loving it and the audience enjoyed it as well – giving both Hawksley and the harmonica player a standing ovation at the end of the show.
Another Canadian artist off of the list – but this definitely will not be the last time I see Hawksley. Can’t wait for the next time!

Heat Wave 2010

It’s weeks like this that make me wish I shelled out a couple more bucks for the central air unit when we did the furnace upgrade this past winter.
Thankfully my buddy SMooSH and his wife gave us their window rattler AC unit so we can at least cool down our sleeping area.
Don’t get me wrong – temperatures of 30 degrees is okay, as long as it cools down to the mid-teens at night. When it’s in the mid-twenties at night we aren’t given any time for things to cool down.
Oh well. It looks like either Friday or Saturday that things will cool down at night. Hopefully the humidity breaks soon.

Sarah Harmer – June 18, 2010 @ The Studio at Hamilton Place

This past Friday myself, Firda, my brother and sister-in-law, and three friends took in the music of Sarah Harmer in Hamilton, Ontario. For those unfamiliar with Ms. Harmer should know that she is a little folksy, a little rock, a little bluegrass but a lot of awesome! She recently started touring to promote her long awaited new album “Oh Little Fire” which comes out tomorrow.
As my long time readers may remember Firda and I saw Ms. Harmer in October of 2006 in Orillia, Ontario, which was a tour to promote her last album “I’m a Mountain”. Four years was a long time to wait but she didn’t disappoint. She played a lot of her new stuff while mixing in many of her more popular older songs, and we were very happy to have her play our favourite songs.
The venue was very nice as well. A small intimate setting with not a bad seat in the house. We ended up in the third row immediately in front of the talented keyboardist Julie Fader (whom I admit to having a little crush on – and have seen in concert with Sarah and the Great Lake Swimmers a total of four times now). The banter between the band members and the audience made the night even more magical. Plus the opening band “Colleen and Paul” were exceptionally apt at setting the mood for the main event.
My only peeve about the show is that the audience gave up after the first encore. I know the band were willing to come out for a second encore but the older population of the audience decided they needed to go home and sleep. Heck it took the venue a good 30 to 40 seconds to turn the lights on – which meant they weren’t planning on doing that. Though this was a minor issue and didn’t ruin the night for me.
Here’s hoping that the next album doesn’t take 5 years to emerge and the next time we get to see Ms. Harmer in concert is even sooner.

Five Years is a long time but it doesn’t seem like it

This past Friday Firda and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. We didn’t do a whole lot on Friday – we had a nice expensive dinner at Foster’s Inn in town and watched a movie together (The Invention of Lying). Foster’s Inn was really good – I had the 8 oz. steak (well-done) and Firda has the Salmon. It’s a pricey restaurant but not super pricey. The atmosphere was quite nice and the food was quick for a nice restaurant. The movie was okay as well – I still believe it was a romantic comedy, though not your typical romantic comedy.
Saturday my parents came up and took us out for dinner at a local Greek restaurant called Demetre’s. We’ve been to this particular restaurant before and enjoyed it. This time was no different.
Five years with more years to go!