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REVIEW: Watching Sabrina the Teenage Witch on YouTube

Posted on December 30, 2008 by

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It’s just about blizzarding outside. It’s just about blizzarding outside and I live in a charming but kinda dinky basement apartment. So it’s hella-snowing outside, I live underground, and as such there is little else in this world that I want to do more than curl up with my laptop and watch Sabrina the Teenage Witch on YouTube.

Second only to Josie and the Pussycats in terms of live-action adaptations of peripheral Archie comic characters, Sabrina succeeds at more than simply following the obligatory format of a family-friendly high school-centred sit-com, though it definitely does. What makes the show so magic – heh, you get it… do you get it? – is its complete irrationality, and the ability to explain away any potential plot holes with the fact that Sabrina and her aunts Hilda and Zelda are witches. Narrative gold!

Sabrina’s best friend from the show’s first season (Jenny, a pretty girl with curly hair and countercultural leanings) disappears without an explanation to be replaced by a far inferior pal (the neurotic and co-dependent Valerie) in the second season. But who cares? Look, a cameo by Davey Jones from the Monkees! Paul Feig (Sabrina’s cynical science teacher in season one)’s absence is never noted either, when yet another neurotic lady is brought in to fill the shoes of a well-liked character from season one. But, hey, here’s Penn and Teller! One of the most important lessons I have gleaned from this well-structure show is that there is virtually no problem that a surprise visit from Eric Estrada can’t solve. Though I already had a hunch about that one.

There are countless other nerd reasons why I genuinely love this show, even though it clearly jumped the shark when they made the grievous error of sending Sabrina to college (hey, Degrassi: The Next Generation, are you listening?). I mean, come on! Melissa Joan Hart’s Sabrina and her subsequent role as a teen starlet in such exceptional films as Drive Me Crazy and Can’t Hardly Wait totally cement that TGIF ideal of my early adolescence, when watching 20/20, which aired at 10 o’clock on ABC after Sabrina and its cohorts, made you so totally in the know with how the world really was. Not to mention the fact that Sabrina’s father in the show is the same actor who provided the voice for Prince Alexander in the stunning 1992 point-and-click adventure game King’s Quest VI, which also had a solid hand in the formation of the socially graceful, upright citizen I am today.

So, in conclusion… oh man, I don’t know. In conclusion, I will never find love because I spend my time watching sit-coms from when I was twelve on YouTube and can identify the voice actors of computer game characters that spent half of the game telling you, “I don’t want to pick that up.” Good grief.

Hits & Misses, Live, Old Stuff | | 19 Comments »

REVIEW: Tina Turner @ the ACC, 12/14/08

Posted on December 14, 2008 by

Simply the best.

Hits & Misses, Live | | 3 Comments »

REVIEW: Louis C.K. @ Diesel Playhouse, Toronto 12/06/08 (11:59 show)

Posted on December 7, 2008 by

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REVIEW: Girl Talk @ the Kool Haus, Toronto, 11/12/08

Posted on November 13, 2008 by

What do you get when you mash together every song ever and then mash together 2500 people?

I’ve honestly never been to that big a dance party in my whole life. Even in places where dancing happens! I’ve been circling ideas around in my head since last night, trying to suss out the best way to describe the festivities, and it’s really hard. I mean, sure, I could talk about the music, but Girl Talk is pretty much ultimate mash-ups on ADD. Some people can’t handle the fickle nature of the songs, and others… well, others just LOVE IT. But I digress.

Packed is probably the one word that I think best describes the show. The venue was packed with people to the point that I can now say that I’ve bathed in the sweat of friendly hipsters and douchebros alike. The mixes were packed (see what I’m doing?) with more songs and longer mixes. The stage was packed with so many people that more than once I thought to myself: ‘man, I want to be at THAT party!’ Also, there were inflatable basketballs (like beachballs!) and inflated backs (actually) that were probably… packed, and then unpacked and thrown around the crowd at the show.

Anyway, the show was effing wicked. If you can handle dancing crowds – and to be fair, not everyone can – you should definitely take the next opportunity to see this guy.

Hits & Misses, Live | | 2 Comments »

REVIEW: The Hold Steady @ the Phoenix, Toronto 11/11/08

Posted on November 12, 2008 by

I forgive you for the harpsichord song.

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REVIEW: The Fest

Posted on November 10, 2008 by

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Last weekend I went to the Fest. Now I’m going home. Slowly. The time spent in a van with six other dudes has given me plenty of time to think about my life and the sad, directionless way I live it. Jokes. Everything rules. I wrote about this simple truth twice this week. And in the interest of spreading more of my never ending joy with people who read stuff on the internet, I present my complete minimal-sentence reviews of every single band I saw at the Fest this weekend. All 47 of them. Because I don’t have more important things to do and get stoked about.

But since I know not everyone is way into my opinion of Teenage Cool Kids (you should be, because my opinion is that they’re great), you can check ‘em out after the jump. You should. I spent all afternoon in a van writing this (and making this video). If not, cool. There’s other great stuff on this site to read. Haters. More… »

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REVIEW: NKOTB – Live in Toronto, Sept. 18, 2008

Posted on September 23, 2008 by

Dear haters,

Step off.

The rest of you can carry on.

I guess you could say that part of me has been waiting 20 years for what happened Thursday night.

Without a trace of irony, myself and 8,999 of my closest friends packed the Air Canada Centre for the first stop on the New Kids on the Block North American reunion tour. As a wee lass growing up in rural Nova Scotia I never got a chance to see my first favourite group in concert during their early 90s peak. The closest I came was when they were rumoured to be playing Halifax, and while my dad called the venue to check, my sister and I did the Dance of Joy like Larry and Balki from Perfect Strangers. Turned out of course to be a dream-crushing lie, and we didn’t get to see them. So, I went last week. And I had the most fun I’ve had at a show in a while. My cousin, who I brought along, said it was the best night she’s had since her wedding earlier this summer, and probably better than any night before that for a long time. Magic.

As mentioned, I left the irony at home, but there was no way I wasn’t showing up drunk on nostalgia. It was actually exciting to be there. I know, shut up. But it was. I’ve never heard an audience as loud (NKOTB was my first and only foray into any sort of pop-phenom territory, so I don’t know, I’m sure the Jonas Brothers get it all the time), and seriously, if I was going to be there, why bother being a jerk? That means I cheered obnoxiously with everyone else, and it means I checked in with my other co-attendee via eye contact whenever we thought something especially funny (code for swoonworthy), and I generally had an insane amount of fun. I even did the “Hangin’ Tough” arm sway thing. You know the one. Do you guys still want to be my friends?

What can I say about the group? Yes, they’ve aged. Some of the notes were a bit… strained. And I can’t help but think that the extended costume changes were actually just a time-buyer for breath-catching and maybe some snacks. I bet when they disbanded 15 years ago they never pictured themselves on a sold-out arena tour again, but they handled it graciously, and were even a little surprised at the reaction. Donnie Wahlberg did most of the talking, at one point very creepily pointing out that we the audience were indeed old enough to party now. Jordan and Joey were their fan-favorite solo-singing selves, and Jon and Danny pretty much awkwardly hid in the back. Just like the old days! They danced, they sang, they’re the New Kids on the Block, what else are they supposed to do? It really wasn’t even about them. It was all us. Audience observation highlights include Joey “Victim” McIntyre being hit in the face with a bra, and the extremely vulgar comments the ladies behind us were screaming all night, also directed to Joey. Seriously, they were filthy. I was blushing.

I couldn’t help but think of how I would have been reacting at that very moment if it was eight year old Nicole in attendance (assuming those women would have been my age and not saying those terrible things):

Current Day Nicole: This is hilarious! I wonder what they’ll open with.
Eight Year Old Nicole: AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Current Day Nicole: Cool, these new songs actually sound like pretty decent Top 40 stuff (turns out they worked with Timbaland, DUH).
Eight Year Old Nicole: I WONDER IF JORDAN CAN SEE ME.

Current Day Nicole: Wow this is so loud! My ears sure are going to hurt tomorrow!
Eight Year Old Nicole: AHHHHHHHHDHGDGDK STEP BY STEP OOH BABY GONNA GET TO YOU GIIIIIRRRRLLLLL

Whether or not those could both have applied on Thursday night is not up for discussion.

MORAL: Trips down memory lane are fun! Just like the shoddy, graphic-heavy slideshow projected above the stage said: They’re BACK. I never thought I would see Jordan Knight’s wispy button-down shirt blowing all around him as he danced on an air vent (a visual made famous by this video), but I did. I saw it. And now I am complete.

Hits & Misses, Live, Music | | 3 Comments »

REVIEW: Fan Expo 2008, Metro Toronto Convention Center

Posted on August 29, 2008 by

So this past weekend was Fan Expo, the biggest annual convention Toronto sees for all things relating to comic books, science fiction, anime, horror, and gaming. Basically a lot of geek in one place.

What follows is a report of the few (there were just so many!) events I was able to attend over the course of the weekend when I wasn’t haggling for discount comics.

BUZZ ALDRIN
Every year, Fan Expo tries to outdo the previous year’s slam dunk of guests. This year, many thought the organizers “dropped the ball,” as it were. Those people are idiots for one reason and one reason alone:

Dr. Buzz Fucking Aldrin!

Ever hear of the moon? Yeah, the moon. Buzz Aldrin’s been there. He and Neil Armstrong were the first two astronauts to walk on our planetary satellite’s surface! And 40 years later he is still awesome. Why?

Because he was on the moon!

There are actors who pretend to go to the moon. There are dorks who write about spandex-wearing, mommy-issue-laden douchebags (note: I love comics) who go to the moon. Then, there’s this guy. Went to the moon. Still not impressed? What is wrong with you?

BRENT SPINER
Another of the panels I went to was the Brent Spiner Q&A. For you geeks who don’t know, Brent Spiner played Data, the infamous android of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame. Unfortunately, the talk wasn’t overly impressive. Spiner, while very comical and great at talking, spent most of the hour not answering the questions or avoiding them by saying things like, “You know that I’m not really an android, right?” No, Mr. Spiner. I did not know that.

However, so as not to be a big downer on one of my favourite science fiction characters, the panel started on a great note. As fans were filing into the packed room, Spiner spent about 5-6 full minutes plugging Burrito Boyz, a Toronto institution that makes the best Burritos. Everyone who has ever had one agrees. Including Brent Spiner. Hearing an android talk about Burritos for 6 minutes made the experience totally worth it.

More… »

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REVIEW: Ribfest, Etobicoke, June 30, 2008

Posted on July 7, 2008 by

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“I think I am going to find my husband here tonight,” Claire Richardson said as we walked up to Ribfest. Claire always says what everyone is thinking but is too scared to say. The 9th annual Toronto Ribfest was held from June 27th-July 1st at Centennial Park in Etobicoke. It’s got everything one could ever dream of: ribs, music, candy, freakshows, pizza ears (?!), cornbread, and husband material. Ribbers come from all parts of the world to showcase their award winning ribs and Etobians come from Lakeshore to Rexdale to eat them. One thing I learned when rib-feasting is you first have to scope out your options before you commit. If you get too excited and pick some unknown ribs without doing your research, your weekend is ruined. All the rib tents are set up with signs repping their name (i.e – Bone Daddy’s) and their accomplishments (i.e – Best Ribs in the South 2006). Their trophies are also on display. I think that’s how you’re supposed to pick where to eat… the more pigs on top of the trophies means the better the ribs. Thus, I chose Rib King from Spartanburg, South Carolina for their impressive track record. AND for only $10, you get ribs, beans, slaw and cornbread. To say I had died and gone to rib heaven is an understatement. But there is much more to Ribfest than ribs and pizza ears. Everyone’s favourite rides are there: Berry Go Round, The Cobra, and G-force. Ribfest can also be a home away from home for deep thinkers. In between discussions of Darwin’s theory of evolution and Einstein’s theory of relativity (over a Baby King Combo), I heard the question “Hey wait, do you think there is one pizza ear for each person in the world?” At the end of the night, I think I had found my husband, and his name is Ribfest. I LOVE RIBFEST.

Hits & Misses, Live | | 3 Comments »

North By Northeast East (East)

Posted on June 19, 2008 by

Most have already forgotten, but this past weekend saw the 14th annual NXNE music/film festival and conference shove into Toronto, bringing with it hordes of industry geeks, regular people, and oh yeah, bands. I scored two wristbands and though I wasn’t stoked on too much this year, I do enjoy scouring data and making lists, and I definitely enjoy wandering into venues with the freedom of the above mentioned wristband.

It makes perfect sense, then, that I would be out of the city (out of the province!) for the festival. Months prior, I’d taken advantage of a cheap seat sale to fly east and visit the family for a week, not realizing the overlap. NXNE apparently didn’t care about my absence and carried on anyway. Jerks:

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CBC Radio 3 Showcase

Not wanting the wristbands to go to waste, I conducted a rigorous audition process to select the worthy recipient, one Shaun Axani of Toronto, to be my personal roving North By Northeast East East (I was on the east coast, get it?!) reporter.

THURSDAY JUNE 12
I’m pretty sure I sat on my ass at my Dad’s and re-read some Douglas Coupland and watched Whose Line Is It Anyway? Meanwhile, Shaun caught seven showcases! Good work, Shaun. The night’s winner seemed to be Halifax’s Mardeen (who snagged a great spot playing to a packed Rivoli for Two Hours Traffic fans). I listened to them afterwards and dig those meandering pop hooks. More… »

Hits & Misses, Live | | 2 Comments »

REVIEW: ANGO w/ DJ Cosmo – Live in Halifax, June 12, 2008

Posted on June 17, 2008 by

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Photo by Robin Hart-Hiltz

ANGO is a stand-up guy. Sure, he just came off a tour highlighted by an opening set for Megasoid (Wolf Parade, anyone?) at one of Montreal’s renowned Turbocrunk parties. And yea, he is the top rated major label artist in each of his Myspace genres, without even being officially signed to any label. But what really sets ANGO apart, if you can forgive my bias, is the futon he gave my roommate and I before the show to replace the busted-ass one in our living room. Stand up!

DJ Cosmo opened the show. By this point not a single soul had arrived at Hell’s Kitchen. Cosmo mixed and scratched a solid set of old school tracks on the 1’s and 2’s, like Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message” and “Everyday I’m Hustlin'” by our favorite bearded pimp, Rick Ross. Easily one of the most hype DJs in Halifax, and he has the DMC DJ finalist spot to prove it.

ANGO tore into his set of wild mixes, with thick beats punctuated by ‘lazer bass’. What really makes this guy unique is his fluidity. He blends elements prepared in advance with live loops of many instruments. So with his party intuition and musical/production skills, he is able to adapt to the ebb and flow of the crowd. And thankfully, a small crowd had gathered in the bar. He peered through the stage lights, using his hand to extend the beak of his Expos hat. “Shit,” he laughed. “I think I personally know every one of you here.” The whole city bailed on the show, but so what? ANGO and DJ Cosmo party with or without you.

Hits & Misses, Live | | 2 Comments »

REVIEW: Monotonix – Live in Toronto, June 14, 2008

Posted on June 17, 2008 by

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Photo by Jade Maravillas

The honest truth is that I heard Body Language, the debut EP from these Israeli monsters/rockers, way before I actually had any idea who they were. It showed up on my desk with about a blagillion other records, I listened to it, and I thought it was really good. Kind of Sabbath-meets-Fugazi-meets-twenty-fuzzboxes. Good jams for the kids. As it turns out, this isn’t how most people first hear Monotonix. If I read blogs, apparently I would know this: Monotonix are basically the most insane live band since Iggy and the Stooges. Or at least, they really want to you to think that, and for most of their set, you almost do.

Hailing from Tel Aviv, these guys were in town for NXNE and played something like five shows. Which, after you’ve seen one, seems completely insane. At this, their final Toronto show of the weekend, the band packed Sneaky Dee’s, set up on the floor, and started their set by ripping the video projector off the ceiling. Legend has it these guys are banned from every venue in their hometown, which is why they’re here all the time now, and it kind of makes sense. Vocalist Ami Shalev pushed through the crowd, stole people’s beers, spit them back at confused de-beered dudes, took all the garbage from the bathroom, threw it in the air, and then ended up on top of the crowd for the set’s entire second half. The drummer also concluded the set held aloft by the crowd, and I think I was also holding up a guitar player at one point, but I didn’t have my glasses on, so who really knows. Musically, the band is a mess, but who cares? Monotonix are basically all hype and schtick, but the hype is mostly well-desereved and the schtick kicks ass. It’s not Iggy and it’s not GG, but it’s a fine fucking way to get kicked around on a Saturday night.

Hits & Misses, Live | | 1 Comment »

REVIEW: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Dir. Tim Supple)

Posted on June 7, 2008 by

Luminato, a nine day festival of the arts and things that might be art, is taking over Toronto right now. Seriously, look outside. Anyway, one of the flagship performances associated with this madness is Tim Supple’s rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Canon Theatre.

Basically the play is interpreted through an east Indian lens, with a cast of 23 Indian and Sri Lanken actors, dancers, musicians and acrobats. While about half the play is spoken in English, the other half is a combination of seven different Indian languages, including Hindi, Tamil and Sanskrit.

Everything I’ve just told you is more or less what I remember from the Toronto Star’s glowing review of the play, and after having been lucky enough to see it, I must say that the reviewer painted an accurate picture of what you get, but there are a few things you don’t really realize before getting there.

While seven different Indian languages is cool and all, unfortunately I don’t understand any of them. Still, with the play expertly weaving its way from English to [pick an Indian language] and back again, often within the same line of dialogue (seriously, it was cool), you realize how much of the play you don’t really need to read to get the full gist of things.

Granted, seven Indian languages all sound sort of the same to someone who speaks none of them (read: me), and more than once I felt a bit left out when I would hear outbursts of laughter during a line I didn’t understand, but I had the benefit of seeing the world through the eyes of Charlie Brown (remember how the teachers sound like trombones? Yeah. Puck = Trombone), and you realize not only how big the world is, but how fucking cool it is.

The set design evolves through the performance and really takes on a life of its own as the play progresses. More than just the East Indian garb or the Indian wedding ceremony, you really get a feeling for how the forest is brought to life, not only with moving greenery, but with bright reds and oranges and purples.

And have you ever watched a Bollywood movie? At last, Shakespeare with awesome choreographed dance sequences!

If the idea of Charlie Brown loving Bollywood (and fucking, the play is all about intercourse) piques your interest, then you should definitely check this play out before it finishes its run this Sunday (June 15, 2008.)

Hits & Misses, Live | | 11 Comments »

REVIEW: Kanye West – Live in Toronto, May 21, 2008

Posted on May 23, 2008 by

kanyelive.jpgPlaying the part of space cowboy, Kanye West hauled his Glow In the Dark circus into the Molson Amphitheatre Wednesday night. And in true Kanye fashion, the futuristic theme of his set was hinged on him being needed to save the planet as, naturally, the best and brightest star in the galaxy. These are actual lines that his talking spaceship said to him. Yes, a talking spaceship. Not unlike KITT from Knightrider.

Her name was Jane (aww!) and throughout the 90-minute set, her job was to motivate Kanye to keep fighting the good fight in the face of haters, gold diggers, and a general assortment of negative influences who want to keep him down, or, in this case, lost in space. Did I mention that the stage looked like rough outer space planet terrain? With an IMAX screen showing fire, stars, and desert skies? And giant, descending glowing orbs? Oh, and an elevated stage? How it didn’t seem bloated or obnoxious, I don’t know. Must have been the magic.

Despite being the only person running around the set, Kanye filled the stage. When he’s up there, he’s working. He’s focused and serious… but I guess he was trying to save the planet. That’s pretty important stuff.

Lupe Fiasco was probably awesome, but I didn’t get there in time to see him. Apparently he only played four songs, though he did close the show with Kanye, coming out for his part in “Touch the Sky,” so I saw all I needed to see. Ladies Love Cool Pharrell and the rest of N.E.R.D. pretty much broke the stage both with their bass rattle, and with their awesomeness. And as much as I was excited to see Rhianna, she cheaped out and did a typical medley of hits, both hers and others (notably snippets from Lauryn Hill and M.I.A., the latter of which got maybe the biggest applause of RhiRhi’s entire set). More magic ensued when she sang “Umbrella” and everyone had umbrellas, because it was raining! You can’t make that stuff up.

It wouldn’t be a true Kanye experience unless he went on a crazy rant, which he did before leaving the stage for the night. He talked about how people don’t often like him because they’re afraid of his realness. He encouraged us all to be all we can be and to stand tall in the face of our very own haters. And when leaving the show, we were all handed Kanye-made books called “Thank You and You’re Welcome,” which were full of inspirational quotes like, “Believe in your flyness, conquer your shyness.” It was pure, Kanye West-ified magic.

Hits & Misses, Live | | 1 Comment »

REVIEW: Foo Fighters / Against Me! / HiFi Handgrenades – Live in Toronto, March 22, 2008

Posted on March 30, 2008 by

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Despite having a perfect 1:1 ratio of good albums to totally shit albums, Foo Fighters are still one of the most entertaining bands in rock ‘n’ roll. I mean, they seriously haven’t put out a listenable record since 1999. So it’s beyond my realm of understanding how Dave Grohl and co. managed to play for two-plus hours and keep me (and about a blagillion other people) enthralled without making me doubt their sincerity (or ability to run full-speed down a catwalk while playing guitar) for even a second.

After getting to this monster show to interview opening openers HiFi Handgrenades (ex-Suicide Machines, the Fags), and then being denied an actual pass to said show, we just bombed around the concourse level of the Air Canada Centre for a while before strolling purposefully past an usher to some seats that didn’t belong to us. Like kings. The HiFi’s were solid, but kind of lost in the massive, mostly-empty arena. They still faired better than Against Me!, who followed with a set of soulless, rote “punk rock” and succeeded in proving how signing to a major label and continuing to sing songs about your D.I.Y. ethics is really kind of boring when everyone knows you’re just in it for the money now. Whoops, you suck.

Then you’ve got the Foo Fighters, who have never pretended to be anything but a bombastic rock band for the entirety of their career. Sure, they’re a shitty bombastic rock band now, but they got fucking Rush to jam on stage with them at this show. I don’t even like Rush! But seriously! Anyway, there was a huge catwalk, stages at both ends of the arena, and duck-walking. It was huge and it made you feel like everyone in the world, including people who listen to shitty music, are ultimately good people, and maybe, in another life, you could all be friends. Except they paid $80 to see a band that hasn’t been good for nine years, so probably not. But good jams!

Hits & Misses, Live | | 1 Comment »