Wednesday, April 29, 2009

No-nudity-Nancy and the bathtub boys.

When I was 15 I probably saw an average of three shows a week. Punk bands, ska bands, hardcore bands: all of my friends were in bands. And that made them very, very cool, or at least I thought it did. Back then, I couldn't get enough of my seeing my friends on stage. 

But a lot has changed since I cancelled my subscription to Alternative Press and stopped squishing my legs into ladies jeans. My friends moved on to indie rock, office jobs and other inevitabilities. As a consequence, I don't see many live bands. But there are certain shows I won't miss, like Friday's The Ghost is Dancing CD release. 

Watching The Ghost is Dancing play is like watching a house party run its course. The band starts earnest and unassuming, glancing towards the audience with their small-town smiles. Then the dancing begins. The party escalates. Suddenly everyone is dancing. Your drinking more than you had planned. You're dancing. You're drinking. Your dancing. You're drunk, and you don't care. 

Then, Odie takes his clothes off. 

Odie is the reason I am here. The friend, if you will. Odie Ouderkirk is tall and slim, but not gangly or awkward, curating a hard-to-hate mix of grunge and good looks. He plays the keyboard like a melodramatic madman, then gyrates around the stage to the music of his band mates. At this point we loose a t-shirt. If you've seen the show, you know how this goes. Odie ends up in his knickers, a pair of black briefs with ODIE printed in silver across the bottom--a gift from his girlfriend.  

On some nights, the entire band partakes in Odie's debauchery. Tonight though, they're a little more collected, a little more serious. The show is spot-on. There's a record to sell, an American tour to start. The band is on the cover of EYE weekly, the show is packed wall-to-wall, an MTV producer is even spotted in attendance. The band seems poised for success, or as much success as indie rock outfits and Canadian dancing darlings ever acquire (We'll try to end this without dropping the words Tokyo Police Clu...).

Collected, yes. But the party still rages on. Or Battles On, if you will. And when its over the stage is strewen with Odie's left-behinds, my plate has no more nachos, and I've consumed a few too many 50s. Before the cabs take off for their later-than-last-call destinations, I decline a gracious invite to an after-party.

After all, I'm not 15 anymore. I like my sleep.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Polar Bears will guide you home.

[Fat] Part II:

Someone call PETA, the fur is about to fly.

One of Fat's greatest triumphs is the seamless transition from fashion to art. It is Wednesday night at Toronto Alternative Fashion Week, and the show is closing with a polarizing performance art piece. Polar-bear-izing, that is.

Too Hot Too Wet Too Dangerous, is a performance piece conceptualized by Karey Shinn, another former Winnipeger-turned-Toronto-based artist, who is merging together her art work and environmental activism. To cap off Fat's "Planet" themed evening, (the other nights themes are as follows: Home, Gutter, Beyond) Shinn sends out a sultry blond dressed in a teeny-weeny-bullet-proof bikini.

It seems Shinn thinks that if we're going to make it through global warming, we're going to need to be well equipped. Well equipped, and stylish. On top of the yellow bikini is an aqua blue buoyancy bustler (read: life vest) extending up towards the model's platinum, then floating down, just north of her lady-bits, Gaga style.

Here come the polar bears. And, of course, Fat's bears can dance, bringing both hip-hop and modern dance down the runway. Combining art, dance, performance and fashion, the piece pulls together all of Fat's objectives. It also follows cues from earlier in the evening: the performance is theatrics over fashion, and form over function.

Wide eyed and mesmerized, the crowd seems to wonder if they've been slipped acid and are being treated to an impromptu Flaming Lips show. "Where am I?!" comes a shriek from across the runway. But the bizarreness the reactions die down. Fat crowds can only appear shocked for so long. Just before the piece looses its appeal the show stops and the dancers take their final bow.

Exhilarated and confused, the crowd takes the absurd, curious, and creative work it has seen in stride, leaving the fermenting cellar glowing red and empty, ready whatever the next evening has in store.

The hipsters and hanger-on-ers clear out to join their fashionable friends at an Earth day celebration, held at the Mill Street brewery, directly following the show. The drinks are cheap or free, depending on who is handing out the beer chips, and Vaneska keeps us dancing later than we had expected to be out on Wednesday evening. When the night finally ends, we're groggy, exhausted, and impressed.

Until the next Fat, or the environmental end, stay sartorial prepared.

Friday, April 24, 2009

All models should be FAT

[Fat] Part I:

In between shows, the runway edges are littered with extended feet, half-full glasses of wine and over-sized purses. Models, designers, photographers and well dressed plus-ones glide across the runway, moving backstage, drinks in hand, without so much as the flash off a media pass.

On the opposite end of the room, a rock band is playing covers in front of a small crowd of enthusiastic dancers; and when the shows start, models transcend the audience barrier, handing shots of booze to the front row.

This isn't you're average fashion week. Decidedly different, Toronto Alternative Arts and Fashion Week [FAT] is Toronto's direct alternative to the higher-minded, slightly snootier, and admittedly glitzier LG Fashion Week. In the face of LG's corporate culture and conservative fashion, [FAT] has become a stage for designers without the cash flow to pay the high price tag of showing at LG. It's also been celebrated by by advocates of grassroots and artisan design, who push for fashion to break outside of retail and couture boundaries.

But mostly, it's a party. In fact, half of the room's space is saved for socializing. The crowd is more dreadlocked than double-kissing, but that's not to say the glitterati aren't present. The usual fashion suspects are here: actors, djs, promoters and the occasional Project Runway castaway or winner. Its the type of crowd where you recognize faces, but can't place them.

It's not the A-list, but FAT wants to write its own list, anyway. With tickets at only $55 for the four-day event, FAT has succeeded in making Toronto's fashion scene accessible. LG Fashion Week does have tickets for sale, but buyers are usually directed to the standing room only section, right behind the attendees who are pretty, special or savvy enough to be handed a pass.

This is the second evening and the first shows are less alternative than I had been expecting, but dull streetwear gives way to showmanship and theatrics as the night progresses. Re-construction seems to be the unannounced theme: clothing is made of records, cell phones, teddy bears and plastic bags. Models look like, and in most cases actually are, "real" people. Some are short, others fat, all pretty. Tattoos are not covered up and there is no debate about black models, all races are represented.

The whole thing would actually be a too little PC, if it weren't for the spirit of the event. The crowd cheers for its friends and favourites, and loud, rude remarks are met with almost unacceptable amounts of laughter. I realize my standardized under-the-breath commentary is entirely unnecessary when I hear "Awful!" and "Disaster!" bellowing across the catwalk. I can't help but laugh, a little too loud, and the accuser hears me. Pointing at an adjacent model he mouths "They can't hear me," and laughs even harder. "Write that down!" he shouts at me, his finger drawing a line towards my notebook.

Much of what's shown on stage is a disaster. Some collections are too much, others not enough. Some designers need to edit their work, others need to run a lint brush over it. But every show entertains. The theatrics are fascinating when beautiful and embarrassing when brutal.

And the crowd, critics included, is into it. They are laughing, smiling and eyeing the looks with awe. A Beth Ditto-sized model elicits the night's loudest cheers, proving that even alts enjoy the perfect trend. And our cute and cacophonous commentator does have some encouraging words. "Work it bitch!" he shouts, just a little too loud, causing the modeling agent beside me to turn beat red with laughter.

She leans over to me and says, "This is why I come to FAT. Because it's fun."

The fun isn't over, yet, but this blog post is. The evening ends with a performance piece and an earth day after-party. Expect to see polar bears and the fashion forward life vests we'll be needing to stay stylish straight through global warming, in part II.

Until then, enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

At the bottom of the cup: the end of the semester

It's over. No longer will my tweets read: I am going to make it through this year, if it kills me. I made it. Marks aren't in, and I'm making few promises my GPA is on the rise, but at least for now, it's over.

The last exam was essay-form, which was easily filled with Obama-speech references and Aerosmith lyrics. Then, joined by some of my closest classmates, we made our way to a pub decorated like a library, if only for irony. We put down our pens and raised our pints in celebration, hoping we could drink away at least some of what we'd learned.

Until autumn ends our summer bliss, I'll have only books borrowed from friends filling my head. Critical analysis and academic rhetoric will warp into beach paperbacks and cottage prose. I will still be up late reading, but the biline will not read Gloria Steinem, Susan Sontag or Naomi Klein.

Until the first day of September, it just me.
Me, and Bukowski.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Friday Night Lights

Like an abandoned puppy, the city follows him. And with each move, moving seems more implausible. The growing stack of long-distance phone bills collects dust in the drawer next to hand-written birthday cards he refuses to throw out.

His mind never leaves the drawer. Even and especially when he drinks, the space inside his skull is trapped between two thin panes of glass, holding a picture in its frame. The piles of photographs, books and magazines grow like the moldy plates of leftovers his parents found months after he vacated the room in their basement.

Click. Capture. Repeat. The website reads: take more photographs. Another night, another stack. But even as new faces glow off the screen of his digital camera, the same framed city watches him fall asleep each night, like the puppy he can't stop loving.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Paradise Lost

On another rainy Monday morning, with wet hair slicked to my face and a soaked, borrowed trench dripping off my office hanger, I decide to live in the memory of a warm Friday afternoon:

We swore we had no tests to study for, no work to finish, no calls to make. We had nothing to do and even less on our minds, and we took to the park.

When we saw the street-punks, skateboarders, and hemp-clad hippies congregating in their separate circles, laying on the grass and lounged up against the chain-link fence, we realized during the first few days of sun, the park is bound to be busy.

We left that crowd, and joined another, finding a street-side patio crawling with eager twenty-somethings, rejuvenated by the sun. We drank draft beer and grazed over bland plates, and by the time we got back home, buzz on our brains, the party was at my place and the couch was on the balcony.

No one had too much to drink that night, but we did wake with Saturday morning stomach aches, swearing, that we'd had too much sun.

Friday, April 17, 2009

If Jay-Z wears the pants in the relationship, Beyonce wears the jacket

Alright Beyonce, you win this one. Tucked into a sparkling, military commander inspired Balmain jacket, Beyonce has finally made a sartorial statement I approve of.

The drumline, circus conductor, military commander look has been an omnipresence over the past few months. Dsquared created one from Britney's circus tour, Kanye repped the look in his fashion show front seats this season, and even in the conservative great white north I spotted fashion-savvy
Fritz Helder sporting a navy military commander coat at Michael Mercanti's launch party during the last LG fashion week in Toronto.

The look maybe too costumey to be knocked off for the racks at Forver 21, H&M or TopShop, but I'm hoping to find a similar vintage piece.

Anyone want to join my army?

Balmain RTW Spring 2009
A very sparkly Mr. Jackson. Inspiration perhaps?
Just like a circus
Two takes on the look
the style gods are in the details
Even Nina agrees

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Flowers and florals

When your native clan lives on the other side of the great lakes, things can get a little lonely. Holidays are the worst. As all the college kids pile into caravans and hop onto buses, migrating back to their suburban homesteads, I'm usually stuck in my concrete tower, complaining loudly to no one about outdated traditions.

Not this Easter. I awoke to a phone call Saturday morning, and on the other line Genna invited--no, demanded--that I schedule a trip to Chez Winnipeg, at Bathurst and Bloor, where three lovely ladies would be cooking me a holiday dinner.

Then on Sunday morning I pulled on my best Passover pants (there would be two Jews at the table, after all) and rounded up a bag of buns and a bouquet of flowers, eager to join my fellow family-less friends.

I was met with a full-scale Easter dinner, complete with three courses and the remnants of a morning egg hunt. The conversation was as good as the food, and just as we were ending a heated philosophical debate on whether full-grown men can deliver the same excitement as Josh Harnett in the Virgin Suicides, I excused myself to take a call.

It was my mother on the other line, calling to wish me a happy Easter. I may have no family in this city, but standing in the kitchen that night, it felt like I did.

And, I do.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

*Photocred: The lovely Laurence.
A brief re-cap of the weekend that was

One of my favourite ex-Winnipegers* and fellow bloggers dropped in this weekend for yet another rendition of what we call Montreal vs. Toronto: a competition of who can get into the most trouble in aa single weekend. Luckily for us, Christianity offered an extra day of of debauchery. Bless the long weekend.

On Thursday we checked out Decadence, which proved some perhaps-obvious statements I was hoping wouldn't ring true:

-The new MSTRKRFT album isn't holding anyone's attention
-Steve Aoki should consider applying for day job in the near future
-Never, under any circumstances, should you step into the high security sweat-pit that is the Guvernment nightclub complex.

But by Friday things were looking up. We had beer in our bellies by the time we made it to an over populated two-bedroom house party that spilled out the back fire escape. Until, of course, the cops were called. What is this, the Valley?

After enjoying a ring-side seat for a heated screaming match between a resident and the night's resident DJ, we resisted arrest and hopped a cab to the west end, where a most hospitable host made sure red-bull-and-vodka filled my mug to its brim until an expensive cab-ride brought us back to the city's core.

Saturday afternoon was for movie-watching, book shopping, gallery hopping, and admitting to ourselves that we maybe aren't quite as much fun as we used to be.

By the time the sun set, we were perched on my couch, watching yet another movie, sipping our drinks (slowly this time) and promising to have airplane-induced adventures by the end of summer.

Who won? We're not sure.
It was either two losses, or a tie.

*Alex Chinien is a student, freelance journalist and good friend living in Montreal. He writes a blog called Heart Attack Club, which you should check out.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Superheroes are just like everyone else: they think Nick Jonas is dreamy.

In the same way Alan Moore makes humans into superheroes, Ian Pool makes superheroes into humans. In his glossy set of fantasty-photographs, the Hulk walks the dog, Batman grabs a late-night coffee, Spiderman whizzes in a back alley, and Darth Vader shows us, yes, everybody poops.

Today the rain keeps me indoors, but Pool lets me dive into the fantasy of everyday life. Super-life. 

Take that, Watchmen.