Friday, June 30, 2006

Jason Becker

I just found this out recently, even though it happened almost 16 years ago. Diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease at age 20, Jason Becker, one of the greatest guitarists on the planet lost his ability play his guitar, and just about everything else, including walking and speaking. This guy was soooooooooooooooo good. His technique was amazing. He had just landed a gig with David Lee Roth
in 1990 or so for his 'Little Ain't Enough' tour when he began to feel weakness in his hands and legs. Ussually this disease kills people within three to five years, but Jason is still alive today, his condition remaining stable since 1997. I just picked up his CD Rasberry Jams, which is a pile of his old demos and unreleased tunes. These days he's still composing using a computer and other musicians. The guy is trully inspiring.

Just in case you think you're having a bad day..

Check out this documentary.

'Air Tap' by Erik Mongrain on Youtube Man. I could spend all day there. I was looking for some Preston Reed video stuff (I'm slogging through a few tunes of his, like 'Slap Bass' and wanted to get a look at his left hand over the neck percussion technique) and I found this guy Erik Mongrain from Montreal, Quebec. He plays it like a Dobro, with the guitar on it's back, but man, his tapping and popping and penchant for persnickety yet tasty rhythms is superb. I'll have to check out his website later. Here is a song he calls Airtap.

As far as a composition, it sounds like an improv piece that's never played the same twice, and he's almost playing guitar harmonic bongos or something like that. It really strikes me better when I see him playing it, than if I was to just hear it. Still, very neat!

BTW I did find the odd Preston video, here's one of him doing 'Tribes'.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Black Sheep Inn July 29th 2006

After my run-in with the fake travelers from Orrilia, it was off to the Blacksheep Inn in beautiful Wakefield Quebec to see my friend Pat Ang, and three other performers I hadn't seen before, piano singer/songwriter Katie Sevigny and her guitar and vocal backup Miai Davies, and Arun Pal.

Man, everytime I hit the Blacksheep, I'm always surprised at how much I enjoy the music, even if I have no idea who's going to be playing that night. Gotta love that atmosphere!
I got there early and got to sit and chat with Pat and the girls from Montreal before they took the stage, Katie Sevingy reminds me a little bit of Chantal Kreviachuk and Sarah McLaughlin. And her accompanist Miai was a great addition. The world needs more girl guitar players. The Piano arrangements were tasty and there were some neat hooks with chords that you want to hear a resolve for but never get, and some funky tempo chorus changes.

Pat was great and did a few songs by the late great Matt Osbourne, who passed away about two years ago. What a great songwriter he was. I'd been hearing about him for ages but this was the first time I've encountered his material. Here is a link to a cool Matt song entitled "I want a Girl with Glasses". Check it out! Very Bare Naked Ladies. Pat did some of his own included a nice one about his sister, and even did Thin Air by Don Ross.

Arun, the feature guy was a good friend of Osborne and used to play in his band. Arun alternated between Guitar and Piano on the night, kinda cool. He said he was sick and but you really couldn't tell, and he has a great stage rapport. He had some good tunes as well and some acoustic chops.
At the end of the night they had a draw for an HMV certificate and wouldn't ya know it? The waitress picked my number!(wooHoo). But I forgot it there at the end of the night when I left after the show (until I was about 5 minutes out of Wakefield and remembered ACK!) I went back and got it. I see some $100 boxed DVD set in my near future! I also left with two Matt Osbourne CD's. Man, I wish I could have seen him play.

Some of the folks headed back to Ottawa to take in some night life but I opted to head home. Good thing too, my youngest had developed a flu bug and was doing the Linda Blair thing when I got home (this continued into the Canada Day Weekend).

I gotta get up on stage again. Every time I go see someone play I ask myself why I ever got out of it.. And then I remember, Oh yeah! It's hard on long-term relationships and the pay sucks! (and we won't get into drummers and vocalists) hehehehehe.. But I miss it sometimes. I'll continue to live through these folks and just keep doing the odd coffee house thing and music for my corny movies.

"We need to get our friend to CHEO, her child is being airlifted out of there in the next 20 minutes!"

Today after dinner at Boston Pizza (Jade's favorite place) I headed down to 100 Bronson to pick up a colleague for an evening of music at the Black Sheep Inn. We were going to see my guitar buddy Pat play a set. It was 7:20 pm and I was doing a 3 point turn in front of the Juliana building when this frantic couple flagged me down. They looked like lost tourists to me. So, I stopped kinda in the middle of the street and rolled down my window half-way. They asked me if I was lost, and I shook my head no, and told them I was just pulling in here to wait for someone. Then they both started blabbering at once, and I'm sitting there, checking out all the traffic I'm blocking in my rearview mirror and thinking "Did I hear that right? What the hell did they just say?".

I think the guy started with..

"Excuse me, I feel horrible to involve you in this but we're from Orillia and we're seven people traveling together staying at the Raddison and our friend's child is being airlifted out of CHEO, it's a terrible emergency we need to get her and her kids there in 20 minutes and we've lost our luggage and Blue line can send us a 7 passenger van but it costs $70 and all we have is $32 and these two bags of chips to our name.. Can you possibly help us?" He spoke calmly enough but had a rather frantic look about him. The woman kept saying:
"We're going to need two car seats! We're going to need two car seats!"

So I ask "How many kids?" all the while contemplating how I could take two kids (I had two car seats installed) and maybe one of these frantic people and the parent or guardians of these kids, , call 911 on the way to relay details and man I hope the kid doesn't puke in my truck on the way to CHEO, and just catch up to my music evening when it was all over. I'd hate to be in a situation like this, man, I'll help any way I can...

- then something occurred to me.. Why did he ask if I was lost at first? Did he call 911? Why is he holding two half-eaten bag of chips if this is a big freakin emergency? Where are the 5 other people? Airlifted? So one kid is at the hopital already with no parent? What the Fuck? So I say to the guy. "Can you hold on a sec, I'm blocking traffic I'll help you but I'm just going to pull over here first.." And I thought about what questions I was going to ask him next in the 7 seconds it took to do that. It also occurred to me how close to the downtown core I was...

So they run over to the sidewalk where I pull over, and the guy is practically climbing into my truck, but the door is locked.. So I ask him through the halfway rolled down window.

"Can you start at the beginning?" And he goes "We need to get to the hospital right away, our friend's child is there, a Helicopter is waiting for her!" He is dead serious. I'm inclined to believe him right there and then.

"Did you call 911?"
"Yes they were already here, look we're running out of time! We need to get 7 people to CHEO NOW!" And the woman behind him starts wailing..

And I asked my question.
"What would you like me to do to help you out right this second?"

And waited for the answer. If it was "drive us!" then he might be telling the truth (or about to car-jack me) but instead, he says:

"Do you have any money you can lend us? We'll wire it right back to you!" Ok.. That's it.. Freakin' a-hole.. Wrong friggin answer!

I ask him, kinda cop-like (they way they say it when they ask me - hehehhe)
"Do you have any Identification? like a driver's license?"
"Yes, back at the hotel, the Raddison, just up the street here!"
"Good, go get it and if you show me some identification I will help you"
"There's no time for that!"
"I will be here for 10 minutes, if you come back with some ID, I'll gladly help you.."

And that did it. The woman stops crying and grabs the guy and blurts out, "No forget it, we just had a stupid bet just to see if we could get any money out of you, that's all..." and walks away, pulling the guy with her. The guy was mad at her then, because he was still going to try and work me some more, and who knows. That guy.. was not just good.. he was fucking INCREDIBLE! He didn't look like a drunk, he didn't look homeless, he did not look like a grifter (the good ones never do I guess). He Almost sucked me in. If she hadn't blown it for him just then, who knows what he would have done, magically produced a fake driver's license? "Ohh, it's in my pants after all!" We'd play 20 questions again, it could have been interesting, but no. It was over. I felt like telling him that. If he wanted this to work he should get a better accomplice that didn't bail on him like that. Thing is, I didn't pay attention to her at all. I was just focused on him, and he was the one who was good at it. I'll have to remember that for next time, to pay closer attention to the one who isn't doing the talking.

My first instinct is to help people, but I'm helpful, not stupid. The other thing I was kinda waiting for was for my work colleague show up and maybe identify the guy, to see if he was a street person who regularly worked this corner with that schtick, but he arrived a minute after she pulled him away. I had snapped a picture but they were pretty far away.

So as I'm parked there, telling him the story (we were waiting for his buddy to call him back on his cell to see if we were picking up another guy to see the Black Sheep show) the con man suddenly gets out of a cab in front of us ( I guess they flagged it up the block and rode it down here and asked it to pull over or something ) and walks up to my side of the truck and asks:

"So are you gonna help us or not?"

Is this guy incredible or what? So the first thing that came to my mind to say was:

"Are you outta your fucking tree?"

He turned and shook his head and went to get back in the cab in front, probably about to stiff the cabbie big-time later (I should have warned him) when I realized I needed a better picture for my Blog.

"Wait!" I said.. and pulled my camera back out of my bag..

He looked up

"Come back.. I need a picture of you for my blog!

He ducked into the cab.

"C'mon, I'll give you $10 bucks!" (hehehehe yeah, I'll wire it to ya buddy!"

He stuck his head out, I snapped the picture, looked at the LCD screen of my Nikkon Coolpix 5000 and it said "Warning - Remove lens cap..." Stupid camera..


Yngwie Malmsteen - Far Beyond the Sun

Fresh off my "Unleash the &?$%* Fury!!!!" post, I thought I'd post a vid of Yngwie playing my favorite tune of his. "Far Beyond the Sun", a tour-de force barn-burner that contains all the hallmarks of his incredible style and technique. This is not a song so much as a neo-classical composition. Great pic of him on his website (posted upper left). This is Yngwie how I remember him, all young and skinny. Nowadays he kinda looks like Steve Vai's fat crazy uncle (I speak only the similar experience of gaining 50 pounds in my late 20's early 30's. Yngwie, meet Atkins, it worked for me...)

And here's a nice where is he now video from VH1.

Ottawa Sun Geocaching article

Hey, I was slightly misquoted in a geocaching article in the Ottawa Sun today, woohoo! A photog came out to take pics of my Forrestal cache (around the corner from my place) about six weeks ago but the article ran the pic of the journalist instead.

Here's Tripper at Forrestal. I got an email from the communication department at Statcan today (where I work) and she sent me the article. It generated a hit on the Statcan media watch. I take comfort in knowing that perhaps the Chief Statistician of Canada will now be privy to my fondness for:

"UFO's, Bigfoot limbs, and severed heads"

At least the Batman stuff was kept under wraps(grin).

The Patterson-Gimlin Footage on YouTube

Man, see what I mean! Coolness! I'm chucking Trailerpark Geocachers Meet Bigfoot up there soon! René Dahinden is turning in his grave! (he owned the rights to the footage). Look for the torso swing head-turn where Patty's (that's her name, check out the hairy boobs) lower jaw runs into her chest and she has to swing her shoulders around to look back at Roger Patterson. Unlikely that a suited person would do that. The rambling gait is very non-human as well, the knocked kneed shuffle we see there. The pronounced line down the back so prominant in silverback gorillas can be seen, the footage is probably too bad to see the herniated thiegh buldge though. This freaked me out when I saw it in the 1970's and made me a firm believer in the possibility of a great hairy biped out there in the woods. Someone's gotta be makin all those prints. I have a casting copy from the very site you see there (Bluff Creek) hanging on my wall as I write this.. (grin).

Paul Gilbert on YouTube

So, has pretty much everything you can think of up there, copyright issues be damned! (woohoo). I was looking around and caught 2 minutes and 30 seconds of Paul Gilbert's Intense Rock I, a wild instructional tape that is one of my personal favorites that I know at least half the licks off of. I can't string them together as fast as he does but there's no excuse for that! I should go dust that tape off! If you watch him you'll notice the unnatural affection he has for using his ring finger in wide 3 note per string patterns. It's not natural!!! I use the middle! He's a *&$%#$ FREAK!! (and a guitar god). They love him in Japan like zee Germans love Hasselhoff and soccer Hooligans!

Press the play button to see why he is one of my favorite rock guitarists...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Niccola Paganini - Unleash the *&*^$% Fury

I'm not posting enough guitar stuff! I've gotten back into Paganini again, amazing 18th century composer and perhaps the first virtuoso solo violinist. I first heard of him when I discovered Ynqwie J. (don't for get the J!) Malmsteen back in the early 80's and he cited Paganini as his biggest influence. Being an impressionable young teenager at the time, and impressed by Malmsteen's near-perfect technique, I dug around and bought a vinyl copy of Paganini's 24th Caprice (Woohoo!, I found a link to the sheet music on the web).

I can't find a link to an audio violin performance of it, but I did find a link to an old guitarist I haven't spoken to in ages who used to play it on his classical guitar when he was 16 (he ripped on it!). His name is Andrew Mah, here, have a listen!

Anyhew... This piece is regarded as one of the most technically challenging, demanding, demonic, spanning all sorts of techniques, huge stretches, etc.. His masterpiece really. One thing I have read about Paganini is that it was quite obvious he wrote sections intended to demoralize other musicians. Gotta like that! Another thing is he apparently never practiced after age 30, but still had his chops at his fingertips whenever he wanted. Some of his technique may have stemmed from some sort of finger condition he had, where he was severely double-jointed, and capable of huge stretches, unheard of in those days.

Back in his day there were rumors he had sold his soul to the devil in order to play like that (maybe that's where Robert Johnson got the idea, seriously, can't we just be that good, do we always need fictional evil religious icons to make us better than other people?).

So.. I'm gonna dust off my old score, and slog through it and learn it on the electric guitar. I fitzed around with it ages ago as a teenager, but I never gave it a good go. It would be a nice piece to add to the repitoire, or just to accomplish somewhat. And quite a guitar workout! I'm surprised Ynqwie never put out a version.

And speaking of the Swedish virtuoso, just in case anyone missed Malmsteen's incident where he threatened to kill a fellow passenger on a flight to Tokyo Japan (where he is considered a god), his roadie recorded it on DAT. Check it out! He screams at her "Don't you know who I AM! You just unleashed the &%$*& FURY!" (he was having a bad day I guess, or maybe he's just an a-hole). Last time I saw him, he was getting pretty thick in the gut and slightly ridiculous in his leather pants and pirate shirt. But DAMN he can still PLAY!

More guitar blogs to come. It's what I do the most outside of work and kids and family these days!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Britany Spears looks like Alan Frew

I've always thought those two looked a little alike. Must be the beaks. Last Thursday I was cleaning up the kitchen and flicked on the TV. Dateline NBC or some such thing was on and they're sometimes good for an interesting murder investigation or something. Instead I got Britany Spears, looking like she just walk in from the cornfield where she was scaring away birds, crying about how people thinks she's a bad mother because she drives around with her kid on her lap, drops it sometimes, and married his loser "He's nothing but a sperm donor" of a father.
I guess she already fired her publicist because if "I" think she looked bad on that show, then she is in 'real' trouble..

When I was looking for photos of miss Spears, I came across this interesting flash animation entitled "The Mystery of Britany's Breasts".

The one thing that always bugs me about those pop tarts is how they always get huffy about being portrayed as 'sex objects'. Well, I guess when you agree to photo shoots that portray you like this. Not to mention the fact that 8 year olds suddenly want to dress like prostitutes because she does.. The one thing I'll give her is that she was never too anorexic like most 'Eat your lunch and vomit' pop tarts. But you could kinda tell that if she ever stopped working out, or whatever, there was a pretty chunky trailer hag waiting to burst out..

Friday, June 23, 2006

When he's 64 - Paul McCartney's Birthday

It was McCartney's birthday last Sunday(June 18th). "When I'm 64 is one of the 100 of my favorite beatles songs or so. I still remember the movie "World According to Garp" using it and liking it way back then. So, he's 64, now what? He was and still is my favorite Beatle, and I like his tunes a tad more than Lennon's.

Too bad about his recent divorce (Billionaires like you should have had a pre-nup Paulie)...

His left-handed sounding basslines are still cool and I think he, more so than any other musical influence made me pick up an acoustic guitar later on in life, after being an electric only kinda guy for so long(BlackBird anyone?).

I'd still like to see him live one day. Maybe he'll pencil the Bank in on one of his tours some time.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Houseguest

She's gone.. On with her life, off to a more permanant solution. Good luck.. Man, kids these days..

At 6:42 PM, Anonymous said...

And the bike?


Oh yeah. The bike made it back. Apparently after some next-day cross examination she didn't even know the person she lent it to and had to call her BF who had to call his freind and identify the guy. Then track down where he lived, and go get the dang bike. Same old shit.

"Here take this thing that isn't mine and use it and then I dunno, keep it or just chuck it up in a tree after, I don't care, it's not like it's mine or anything.."

I assume the guy who took it was of the same mindset... They're like 16. What is an emergency to them? "Mom! We're out of Count Chocula!! Can I borrow your bike? And some money? screw it, can you drive me?"

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Houseguest and the re-disappearing Bike

I talked to her today. She thinks I don't like her. I don't dislike her, I told her it's just that I don't know her and I don't think she should be approaching my parental units to take her in like this when there are other more permanent options for her if she just "got with the program". It's kinda like she's choosing her own foster parents without checking to see if it's ok with the people she's choosing. They have enough troubles keeping the thumb on my youngest brother (who is in the "experimental stage") and she's kinda like him, and maybe worse according to the powers that be. She told me that she wasn't anything like my youngest brother and that he didn't know how good he had it here, the last part of which is true, gotta agree with her on that.

It's tough because I asked her, "What do you want?" and she says she wants to live in a 'family' environment. It's kinda sad.. Everyone should get a chance to do that and I can only hope that she had the opportunity at one time. I don't know the exact details but from what I can see, she probably starts off good at a new place, then the rules come into play, kids her age don't like them, then it's "Screw that!" off to a new place. She told me a bit about group homes and shelters and I have to agree, they don't sound great. But if you're gonna do your own thing at age 16 and tell your caregivers to stuff it.. That's where you end up.. That or on the street.. Or worse..
Thankfully I think the honeymoon period is still on at my parent's place and everyone is going to be all nice to each other for some time still while they decide what's going to happen... I hear my brother is starting to resent her hours on the Internet and hours on the phone though, it's starting to cramp his style.. I told him not to bring his semi-homeless friends home for a visit when they have their suitcases with them(grin)

Oh yeah the bike... She apparently borrowed my Dad's bike tonight to go somewhere and showed up sans bike afterwards. He asked where it was and she said something like.. She lent it to her friend who was having an anxiety attack and had to get home quick. Then she couldn't remember her friend's name or where she lived.. hehehehehe..
The funny part about this is that my youngest brother (who she says she's not like at all) did the EXACT same thing last month to my Dad's bike, riding it somewhere, giving it to a friend so he could get home for some emergency ( emergency? like what? He's gonna miss the voting on American Idol?) .. and then loosing track of it.. My dad eventually got it back after a lot of telephone work.

The other wierd part of my brother's bike story is that the reason he was using my Dad's bike in the first place is because he lent his to a friend (see a pattern here?) and the friend took the bike to school to give back to Kyle, parked it someplace (No one knows where) and then when Kyle got out of School his bike was up in a tree with the frame all bent. Pretty common eh? Lend your bike to someone, they take it to school to return it to you and uhh, I dunno, leave it leaned up against the wall or something with no lock and the next thing you know, it's in a tree.

Teenage kids these days.. No respect for property, their own or other people's.

I dunno what the hell happened to it. But the way to tell when these kids are lying to you is easy. Their mouths are open and words are coming out..

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Houseguest and Nacho Libre!!!!

Hmm. It's Tuesday and she is still there... I took my youngest brother to see Nacho Libre, the new Jack Black film (it's pretty funny if you like that director, and Black's talent for over-acting). I'm still seeing his nipples in my sleep (not a good thing).
I got a bit of the scoop on my parent's new houseguest. She is a CAS ward that doesn't have a place to live and she and my brother seem to think it's ok to crash at my parent's place for a few months(hehehehehe). Oh man, I remember when I was 16 or 17 and knew everything. Official-type people are getting involved and there is some meeting tonight.

My kids sure like her. My 5 year old said "She's from London daddy, but now she moved here to Canada!".. That's London Ontario.. Cute eh? She is nice enough but man... That's kind of a big responsibility, taking in one of your son's new friends. So far it's been pretty un-eventful although the houseguest is making themselves quite comfortable(grin).

I remember when I had been living in my own house for a few years, I brought some neighbors to my parent's place to help me dump some dirt on the NCC property in back of my parent's house. It was hard to get them to help, what with the basketball net, Swimming pool, air-conditioning, Big Screen TV, surround-sound, fridge full of food, High Speed wireless Internet etc.. One of them asked me.. "Geez man, why did you ever leave?" I told him to ask my younger brother that. He stayed there into his uhh, early 30's.. Besides, they got all that cool stuff when my youngest brother arrived (My other brother and I got gyped! -- hehehehehe, Just kidding!!!!!! They were plenty nice to us!).

More on the new house guest later. Kinda reminds me of a young Kato Kealin.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Fathers day & The Weekend

Well. Decided to brick my front walkway this weekend in 30C weather. Jack is not a smart boy sometimes. I got the skinny on the fact that Builder's Warehouse (right down the road from me) will give you a trailer for like one cent (must be a contract thing) and then fill it with crushed stone for you with a Bobcat. You have 2 hours to shovel it out, sweep up and bring it back, so Whammo! Off I went. My old neighbor used to go there, buy a piece of wood, claim he needed a trailer, and then go off and get the crushed stone from some quarry where it's cheaper(grin), but I couldn't be bothered. Two bucketfulls was enough.

I shoveled the gravel out of the trailer and realized that I was gonna need a Wheelbarrow. I don't own one because I have several neighbors who do, and the only one who was home that had one had it in their backyard. He had also just filled his garage to the ceiling with 'stuff' so he had to throw it to me over the back fence(grin). That was fun!

I excavated it a bit Friday night, then filled it and tamped it Saturday after hitting the Museum of Science & Tech that morning, then stone dust leveled and brushed and swept it in by Sunday. Then it was off to my parent's house for a swim. The pool was 89F(I don't know exactly what that is, but it's like a bathtub).

Happy father's day to me. I ache all over. But at least it's finished!
When I got to my parent's house my brother had a friend over for a swim. She had brought a few suitcases. You know what that means? My parents have a new houseguest(grin).

Ubie gets a new Blog - Stinky meat & the Fat Project

Ubie has come over to the dark side. Not only has he recently gotten marred (Oops, I mean 'Married') he also switched over to Blogspot from Bloglines. I don't know how long it will take him to amass a similar number of meat pictures on the new site, but we'll monitor the situation.

incidentally, since I'm on Atkins again for the next two weeks, I need to look at pictures of meat like a frickin hole in the head. Which reminds me of an oldie but a goody, The Stinky Meat Project! (Ubie is not responsible for it, although I assume he gained some insight into his own meat pictures)

And, the guy's other project of note (and relatable to meat, and Atkins) The Fat project. (and the epilogue with the cute girl).

Incidentally, The Spark took the Fat Project offline when it turned into Barnes and Nobel and it's only findable now by the Internet Archive or "Wayback Machine".- Thanks to Jeff Shiller for the detective work in his blog posting.

And hey, here is my get-skinny Blog-entry for Project Ketosis!

Don Ross slowdown of Michael 3x and Robot Monster

We asked Don to show us what the bejeezus he's doing in the intro chord hammer-on pull-off thing at the start of Michael 3x. Everyone I know (including me) fudges it. Here it is slowed down.

After that is the Intro to Robot Monster played on a regular acoustic (cool) and then slowed down. It would make a great slow song.

Check out the clip by right clicking here and then selecting "Save link as" or "Save target as" And then save it locally to watch it. It is a Windows Media Player .WMV file, not a streaming feed and clicking on the link just downloads the binary guts to your browser(best not to do that).

It is 7.7MB in size and 4 minutes long.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Trailerpark Boys on Google Video - "Conky"

Hey! My favorite episode of TPB is on Google video, along with a slew of other eps. Probably breaking a few copyright restrictions here and there, but hey. For you US folks or other people who don't get it on showcase (in Canada), check it out!

The Conky episode

Home dentistry at it's finest! Fun with animal tranquilizers! Never let Cats run amuck at the Bake sale!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Don Ross Cannington Guitar Weekend Summer 2006 - Day 3 Sunday June 11th

Aww, it's the last day... We started kinda late today as the ridiculous stories over breakfast were too fun to stop. I kinda forgot to mention that one of the other guys from Ottawa here this weekend, Ron Weiss, and I met under funny circumstances (click on the link to take a guess how - great domain name by the way).
Suffice it to say that back in September 2005 I had enlisted his services with a procedure he is specially qualified to undertake and was in the middle of having it done when he happened to notice my gel finger nails and asked..

"Oh do you play the guitar?"
And I said "Why yes" as a puff of smoke rose up between us.
And he said "What style of music?" And I replied
"The Heavy Wood kind, you know, Don Ross, fingerstyle, alternate tunings.."
And he said something like "I love Don Ross, Robot Monster, great album!"
At which point I said.. "I just spent the weekend at his house.." (The last Cannington weekend, with Tony Macmanus)

At which point he carefully finished up what he was doing, uhh, retracted his instrument (not a guitar) and said in an excited voice..
"Get OUTTA here! Really?" And I explained the weekend seminars and he signed up on the website about 10 minutes later after checking his schedule. hehehehee. I love introducing people to the existance of these things.

Pretty funny. And for the record the procedure was totally painless and did what it was supposed to do! Thanks Ron! Great to see you again! I Highly recommend him!


Here's a pic of Andy and his signature guitar with the Converse running shoe fret indicators at 12 and 15. It's like "Ok, on measure 15, strum the harmonic at the red running shoe!". Don took the morning session and we did "Elevation", a great tune that really snuck up on me when I learned it 2 years ago. By the end of the first session everybody was playing it in unison (almost). Very cool. It has lots of interesting little bits to it and it is a piece you can actually master and feel good about when you do.

Then in the Q & A we did some really cool stuff. Someone asked about Robot Monster and Don played it at 1/4 speed on a regular acoustic (it can be DONE people! Although Frank L said as much, hehehehe, I figured it would only sound good on a Baritone, Look out!). Another neat bit I remember was the Michael 3x rolling Hammer-on pull-off chord intro. I got some footage of him doing that slow and I'm definitely gonna check that out later (I'll post a link to those bits of footage later). Andy went over his beautiful tune Rylynn (do yourself a favour and click on that link for a listen) whose melody is still in my noggin, as well as his tune Art of Motion . Pretty slick slapping and popping there. As well as Andy's version of Don's Tight Trite night tune.

This is probably the best of the three I've been too. Maybe because it was a small gathering (the first time he's done two in one year) and we got to monopolize them, like, A LOT! Jeez, it was just fun to sit around and hear them PLAY! I have a friend, Tripper, who doesn't really play the guitar a lot but I was thinking that he's love this, just the music in your living room aspect of it. Another thing is, I dunno how Andy plays like that with no fingernails. He has like, a big thumbnail, but the rest is all pads of the right hand fingers. I know one other Gobyfisher, Pat, who plays like that, man. I wish I could do that. The fake nails are a pain but it just doesn't sound right to me without them(I'll give it a try without again though).

Another funny thing was that Andy said a year ago he was considering coming up to Cannington like us, as a student dude and sit there right along with us and soak in the whole Don Ross thing. Then Don called him to get him down as a guest guitarist. WooHoo! He's a fan. I think he got a kick out of playing with Don up there.

And darn it, I didn't coax Brooke enough to play for us(grin). Man, you have to take advantage opf the great two for one talent deal you have with Brooke and Don. I would be quite happy if they played double bills with each other all the time but I think they want to keep that to a minimum for some reason. Man, anyone who would have a problem with that should have their head examined. I've only seen them play on the same bill twice... When's the Brooke Miller guitar weekend? A funny thing I heard she did the last time they shared a stage was to tell the audience when she was up that there was a special deal that night. Buy a Brooke Miller's CD, get a Don Ross one for free!!(grin - Don didn't like that because some people didn't quite 'get' that it was a joke- hehehe)

And, I owe her two bucks.. Oops!! I'll pay her back next time I see her play, which is hopefully soon!

And then it was over.... (sniff).

The trip back home was exciting. I managed to do the new Geocache in Cannington, on this little Island nature trail about 900 meters from Don's front door. Two hours later I almost got a speeding ticket doing 29k over the posted 80 limit (I stupidly thought I was in a highway 100km zone even though I'd been staring at 80's signs the whole way.). I had come down a hill and there was this huge dead Turkey Vulture or something lifelessly flapping in the middle of the road and I was trying to figure out the best way to traverse it without getting it's guts on my car(I ended up straddling it, and not that it mattered, swampy sock smell and all) when I saw the trooper out of the corner of my eye waving his arm like an NHL Ref signaling a penalty shot. I pulled over and reversed back to where he was. As I did that I flipped my GPS over to the trip screen and saw my max speed had hit 109. Since I thought I was in a 100 zone I was kinda puzzled why he would have pulled me over like that, but dang, down the road right in front of me is this 80 sign.. CRAP!!! TURN THAT SCREEN OFF!!!!! (Maybe his radar gun clocked me slower).

It didn't. The radar gun agreed. So I told him basically that I should know better and I wasn't paying enough attention. I showed him the GPS screen and how I thought I was just like 9 over in a 100 zone. Maybe it was the fact that the Max speed on my GPS and the speed he clocked me at was the fastest I had gone until that point, but he LET ME OFF WITH A WARNING THANK GOD! I was 29k over, but at 30k, it's like $300 (ouch). I drove a bit more carefully the rest of the way home, which probably helped me avoid that deer that ran in front of me an hour later.

At some point I turned off the road to do one last geocache and got the final surprise of the evening. An old mine full of water. It's frickn HUGE!!!! Check it OUT! Here's a Pano I took in autostitch.

A few hours from home I noticed this guy pulled over to the side of the road taking a picture of the sunset. So, I did the same.

Total kilometers = 779
Moving time = 11hrs 52 mins
Moving Ave 65.6kmph
Stopped 1:56 Min
Overal Ave 56.4kmph
Max speed 124kmph

Like everyone there at this kind of Groovy Guitar Disneyland, I think we all momentarily forget what we all do in real life and dream about playing the guitar to the extent these three do. And quitting the day job. If any of us were good enough. Some are!

But not me!

Woohoo! Until the next one!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Don Ross Cannington Guitar Weekend Summer 2006 - Day 2 Saturday June 10th

I'm staying in a really cool place in Cannington, this neat old house(it's around the corner from Don's). It's chocked full of some of the same stuff I have in my house, Halloween masks, Gargoyle statues and nakid barbies riding Harley's. Throw in a few 4 foot long Braveheart swords (that I don't have) and a Viking helmet or two and you'll get the idea. It's great fun to be able to stay there.

Every day starts off with a yummy breakfast. We sit and shoot the breeze, talking guitars and music and funny stories until the 10:00am workshop. Sometimes it feels like you could do that all day and skip the guitar workshops(grin), but that's not going to happen. On Saturday we went acros the street to this nice legion hall and Don went through Drac and freinds, Thin air, and open and alterned tunings. After a yummy lunch Andy came in and he demonstrated a pile of techniques found in his tunes like over the neck playing, and percuissive slaps on the face and side of the guitar. He deconstructed his arrangement of "Africa" in great detail. It's one thing to hear that tune on his CD and quite another to watch him do it live. I gotta get his tab for that one, it looks like a blast to play(and challanging as hell)!

We had some free time that aft and most of us headed off to the "Interesting Music Shoppe" down the road a few klicks (a term which people from the US are not sure about.. "How much is a klick? Is that Metric for Mile?" They'd ask. I had no idea that was a Canadian thing). After a yummy supper, we hung out until the show started at 8. and then got there early for seats up front. It's too bad Brooke wasn't playing as well, that would have been awsome. Speaking of Brooke, we got to listen to her new CD that's going on the SOny label. Don is mixing it with some guy in the US and he says they spend 8 hours just trying to get the tamborine to sound right. Wow.. It's like, they worry about everythig and getting it to sound as perfect as it can, 110%.. Can't wait to hear it in my CD player. And she's getting a new Greenfield guitar really soon. Mmmmm. It helps when you're pals with the builder and you;ve just signed a new record deal. Mortals like me (if they could afford one, hehehe, ) have to wait 3 years.
The show was awsome, Don even did a vocal tune. Andy was great. The over the top of the neck fingering and the knocking on the guitar really work well on stage. Not only does it look cool, it sounds cool too! He's very melodic, playing some of the coolest passages only once so your ear remembers them and you're itching to hear it again(and then you don't, 'cause they're special and get only one pass). He has a great melodic intracacy about his playing. He uses a thumbnail but his right hand fingers have short natural nails. I have to try that again. The gel nail are a pain in the ass when going from acoustic to electric. They were using a rented BOSE PA with mains that looked like thin sidewashes. They had bases like those Basketball nets you fill with water or sand. Excellent sound though

After the show we headed back to Casa del Ross and played guitar until about 1:30am. At some point Don played us a clip of StrongBad, a character on, an Internet cartoon. It's a guitar themed one. Pretty funny.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Don Ross Cannington Guitar Weekend Summer 2006 - Day 1 Friday June 9th.

The quaint little burg of Cannington Ontario, home to one of Canada's most famous Fingerstyle guitarists, Don Ross, is 360km and 5 hours away from my house(close by most standards). I took the day off and left around 10:00am and geocached on the way up (that weird thing I do with the GPS sats and the tupperware in the woods eh?).
Trouble was, it was raining, and the woods were wet, and my jeans and t-shirt and hiking shoes did not cut it. I was soaked on the first attempt, a small 1.4km round tripper down an abandoned wheel-rut road with wet hip-high grass. After that it was like, "Who cares., I can't get any more soaked than this!". I set the GPSMap to an 800m radius around the car so if I saw a geocache on the display, I'd know it was close and just turn off the highway and have a look. I must have done about 10 or 12, most in the pouring rain (found them all though, including a few tricky ones with previous no finds right before me).
I stopped for a Quizno Black Angus in some small town off highway seven and was cogniscant of the sound my wet socks were making in my shoes and the swamp trail I was leaving behind, so when I got back in the car, I went barefoot and tried to dry them out.

It's liberating to drive barefoot! But how was I going to dry my socks? Something came to mind and I hung both of them out of the car and slammed the door on them so they could billow out behind me outside on the drivers side and get dried by the 100km per hour winds! But then it started pouring rain and they just got wetter so I pulled them back in and laid them over the car vents (which stunk a bit). Good thing I brought three pairs. The next few geocaches I pulled the still wet socks back on for the hike and off again for the car. When I made it to Cannington, I walked in with bare feet and no one noticed.

Here are some Flickr pics from the weekend (most of which appear in these blog entries)

First night is Pizza night (home-made gourmet style this time! Yummy!), get to know ya and song circle! This years Musical Guest is Andy Mckee from Kansas, USA, an amazing fingerstyle guy who plays a Harp guitar sometimes (see attached pic of Don playing it). We passed it around, it's a weird instrument. It has a regular 6 string neck and an additional 6 'low' strings (although the last harp string is higher than the low E on a guitar in standard tuning). People played a ton of great tunes, mostly originals and we stayed up til about midnight (went to bed early for a change) so we could get a fresh start on the day. There's people here from the US( New York, Minnesota) and then the rest from Southern Ontario. Everyone swapped guitar stories and we all jammed a bit (which is hard in a room full of guitarists who all for the most part favour open or alternate tuning..
"Hey, what are you in?"
"Oh, I'm in CGCF#AD, just a sec" (finds tuner)
(sound of string being de-tuned) **** POINK!!!! **** "Oww! my eye!"
"Anyone got a spare G string?" (some of these guys have string endorsements eh?).

I brought my Mini-DV video cam and when Don and Andy played some requests, I rolled tape. It was pretty low light but it should turn out fine. Andy played a great tune by some friend of his in Japan. I have to learn it! Andy was a big reason I came to this shin-dig (but hey, that Don guy is pretty good too, along with that Brooke girl that lives there for some reason too, so, it's all good!). Don played Robot Monster (I'm gonna link to the song samples where I can) on his baritone, which is always cool to see from 2 feet away, and he explained some stuff about the tune afterwards. I wanted to hear Andy play "Africa", his absolutely masterful arrangement of the 80's Toto tune on his Dreamcatcher CD and it was funny because Don had handed him the baritone after he finished(Andy wanted to see it I guess, and he was kind of plunking on it while Don talked) and Don said to him "Why don't you try it on the baritone?"
And so..
He did.. That baritone is like playing with barbed wire strings (without the pointy bits of course). It has 5 wound strings. It's like trying to jog with dumb-bells on your feet. But he did it! After the first 8 measures he kinda laughed and said "This is hard!" but he did the whole thing! (that is another tune I have to get under my belt, he has tab for it). That was hillarious! He does a lot of one-handed stuff as he knocks the side of the guitar to keep the synchopated drum beat going. It's pretty hard to duplicate. He's gonna show us how to play it tomorrow.

At midnight it was off to my accommodations in the nearby Adam's Family Mansion, where I stayed up talking to the fascinating home owner until 2:00am or so about everything from Paganism, and the Davinci code, to what it's like to coat yourself in Woad. (hehehehehe - gotta love this town!)..

I'm already looking forward to the yummy food... More details tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

KT Tunstall

KT Tunstall. Cool guitar singer songwriter. I caught a clip of her on tv and she was doing a fantastic pedal dance on what looks like a Boss digital delay and a line 6 Echo/Loop Sampler pedal (Update, it's actually an AKAI E2 headrush loop pedal). Check out the video here. She's doing her song "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" which I first heard in Montreal when I went to see Eric Johnson. They played it though the PA just before he came on and I remember jotting down some lyrics so I could do a search on the net to find out the name & artist (I thought it was called "You're not the one for me" - but I like the actual less-obvious title better!).
So she starts off by knocking the guitar body and looping that, followed by a muted scratch pattern, followed by a tamborine and some vocal "Hoo Hoo's" and she does the whole song straight through working off the layered loop she's built up. Pretty ballsy! One screw up and the whole thing is toast! I have two loop samplers, the Boss RC-20 and the Line 6 Echo Pro and I haven't used either live to that extent except for a single repeating chord strum.
But man, if she can do it, I gotta give that a try!

She rocks! What a wicked low voice she has! Can't wait for more!

I picked up her CD, the other cool song I like is "Suddenly I see". (and check out a live, loop-crazy version here!)

Go buy it! (note to self, check out the AKAI E2 headrush loop pedal)

Birthday surprise

We went out to Boston Pizza tonight (my daughter's favorite place to eat due to the kewl kids menu) to celebrate my birthday. It was great! We generally don't do the singing waiter bit, where they pull the staff together and sing at your table and make a big fuss. We were finished and waiting for the cheque and the kids were restless so I told my wife I'd take them outside while she waited for the bill. As I took them out my eldest daughter ran up to the waitress and was talking to her (it was cute because the girl bent down to her level and they had this little conversation, I was far away and didn't know what it was about), but then she was right out the door of the place, eager to do a few laps around the building. We did two and then she immediately wanted to go back inside again, which I said no to, because I figured my wife would be out any second and we could keep the craziness to a minimum by staying outside.
She, uhh, didn't hear me (er...) and went right back in the restaurant so I ran in after her, carrying our youngest and I ran smack into a gaggle of serving staff, and the lead one was carrying this ice-cream birthday chocolate brownie thing. And as I'm standing there, sort of close to the table we had, they start singing... And they get halfway into it and ask "What's your name?" and I said, "I don't think this is for me". And they stopped and look puzzled.
"Is it your birthday today?"
"Yes" I said
"Well this is for you, your daughter told us it was your birthday today"
Da-dah de dah de dah.. So they restarted and I got the full spiel! and an excellent free dessert (that I shared with my daughter). She's a smart cookie, my kid.. My wife didn't know what was happening, she was still waiting for the bill, neither of us knew that our daughter had done that. It was a great surprise(grin)...