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I don’t have to tell anyone shopping for a hockey fan on their Christmas list that sports is big business these days. The National Hockey League, in particular, has gone from an incestuous six-team cocoon to a 30 franchise behemoth that just signed a $5 billion broadcasting deal. Any nostalgia and romanticism having to do with the good ol’ game so to speak have been replaced by salary cap constrictions and GameCenter apps of the ominous “New NHL.”
Not in Dave Bidini’s eyes, however. The author of the nonfiction tale Keon and Me may be as hardened a veteran as they come in terms of writing hockey-themed books, but still sees the winter sport he loves – and specifically one team and its star player – from an innocently refreshing childhood perspective. Mr. Bidini is someone I’ve admired for many years, first as a founding member of pioneering Canadian indie rock band Rheostatics, and now as a successful, multi-tome writer as well as witty newspaper columnist. A quick scan of the @hockeyesque Twitter timeline reveals a man with a variety of interests, although none are nearer and dearer to his heart than Toronto’s beloved Maple Leafs, even in the face of decades-long frustration and disappointment.
On the surface, which frequently glistens with ready-for-hockey ice, Keon and Me is a coming of age story of Bidini growing up as a typical suburban boy, hopelessly obsessed with all things blue and white. As the Leafs’ fortunes began to fade in 1975, an 11-year old Bidini finds himself the target of his grade school’s bully, almost paralleling the mistreatment suffered by team captain and multiple Stanley Cup winner Dave Keon at the hands of owner Harold Ballard. The narrative shifts chapter to chapter from the intimidated youth getting the courage to stand up for himself, to the kid-at-heart grownup who works every angle to ultimately gain an audience with his idol. At every proverbial stoppage in play, the protagonist learns a little more about who Dave Bidini really is.
Bidini is an artist in the truest sense of the word – He paints vivid landscapes through his writing that evoke genuine feelings for Keon and Me’s characters, even the mean ones. He is also unafraid to express unabashed enthusiasm, whether it is blind loyalty as a lad or comes out as an expletive deleted later in Bidini’s adult life. As readers we are effortlessly transported back in time when being idealistic towards Canada’s game of sticks, skates and a puck was more socially acceptable. That passion still exists today, albeit in smaller pockets, and has arguably been overtaken by greed and repackaged as cherished past memories. All you get from Bidini is sincerity, and that’s well worth the price of Keon and Me. So, back to that hockey fan on your Christmas list; you cannot go wrong with this book as a gift, no matter who their favourite players are or what era they’re from. Just don’t tell Mr. Bidini if they wear Philadelphia Flyers or Montreal Canadiens jerseys!
People from Nova Scotia have this almost legendary reputation around the world for friendliness – I don’t know if I trust the ragtag bunch of misfits known as The Stogies though, and not just because of their filthy smoking habit.
They claim to be from Halifax, but by the raspy, dirty blues rock riffs heard on songs like “Skeleton Crew,” off their 5-track EP No Couth No Class No Nothin’, you would swear they hailed from somewhere a lot more seedier, like LA’s Sunset Strip.
They love coming to Toronto too, especially in the company of fellow Nova Scotians like Gloryhound and The Stanfields. The last time they were in the appropriately-nicknamed “Big Smoke” was last fall, where they finished second in the Indie Week band competition. More kudos (and weezy coughing) are definitely in The Stogies’ future!
The Stogies – No Couth No Class No NothinWhy should folks come out to see you at Canadian Music Fest?
Much like your grandmother, we’ll pinch your cheeks, tug your ears and plant stubbled kisses on your face…except with more guitar. In all seriousness? We’re a loud rock ’n’ roll band on stage (tough to ignore) and off stage, we’ll be driving around in the sketchiest of vans with smoke, afros and bad jokes billowing out of our tinted windows.
What’s your favourite venue in Toronto and why?
Our favourite Toronto venue is the Tattoo Rock Parlour. Not because it’s an awesome venue, but last time we finished soundcheck there, Blake tripped and fell on his ass in front of everyone as we were walking out the door. Ha!
Canadian Music Fest is all about music discovery – apart from yourself(ves), who’s the ONE ACT you would most recommend people check out at CMF?
Just one? OK, we have to admit we’re not the ONLY rock ’n’ roll band from Halifax in Toronto for CMF. Billie Dre & The Poor Boys are hitting the Tiki stage at the Rivoli March 23rd. You really wanna check these guys out. Corey and Dylan will likely rub garlic fingers (it’s an East Coast thing) all over their shirtless bodies while playing some mean ‘doom-surf-rock-n-roll’ as they might describe it.
Come the end of the year, what’s the coolest thing you hope to say you’ve done?
Come out with a new record, tour the universe? But we’d be happy with simply cleaning out the van.
If you could play any festival in the world the rest of this year, which would it be and why?
Glastonbury, do we even need to tell you why?
Who in music has impressed you so far in 2013, and who do you feel still has something up their sleeve?
The Stanfields, they always impress us, and we do believe they’ve got an acoustic record up their sleeves.
If you had an unlimited marketing budget, what would be your ideal “piece of swag?”
The Stogies Airplanes – except you could smoke on these airplanes; in fact, the drop-down oxygen masks would double as bongs.
Please give me at least one pro and con as it relates to music and social media.
Pro – You can discover a shitload of new bands that you’ll care about for maybe a week. It’s also a good way to spam your shows out to existing and possible new fans.
Con – It’s actually time consuming, and while you’re spending time “connecting,” you’re not spending time getting drunk and going to shows with your real friends/other people!
We all know there will eventually be a zombie apocalypse – if you only had enough battery life left on your music player to enjoy ONE album in full before your brains get eaten, what would it be?
Blake: Keith Richards – Talk is Cheap
Sean: The Clash – London Calling
Dave L: Aerosmith – Permanent Vacation
Dave D: Radiohead – Hail to the Thief
Jason: Lamb Chop’s Play-Along – The Song that Never Ends (7-inch)
Let’s say you had access to a WABAC machine like Sherman and Mr. Peabody did in the old Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons; who’s the one person, band or event you wish you could go back in time to experience?
Hendrix, Robert Johnson…or Abraham Lincoln…let’s go with Lincoln.
Finally, let’s end on a positive note by you telling me the BEST thing about being an indie artist, and why fans should be hopeful for the future.
It’s in your hands (the artists and the fans)! You have complete creative control and can do whatever you want with your music. You can see where artists and fans start to agree on the best platforms for delivering and consuming music. The sad thing is most bands just imitate what the labels do anyway. There are, however, a few creators out there.
Sadly this week’s NewMusic Ten playlist starts on a sombre yet beautiful note. As many of you know and are still processing Paul Walker passed onto the next life on November 30. Man, I dig those Fast and Furious movies.
Paul’s friend, the talented RZA penned this soulful tune, Destiny Bends in immediate reaction to Paul’s death. It’s raw and visceral and real…it’s rare to encounter music like that anymore s’why I included it.
Mercifully after that the playlist picks up with all kinds of sonic delightfulness. Dance along to Australia’s Skipping Girl Vinegar and Carousel’s Into the Night. And is it me or does Heart Attack the hauntingly second track stand in a warm New Order shadow?
Here we go: NewMusic Ten Playlist #2!