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In The Tent Of The Tea Party

Culture, Events, Music, Reviews

April 6, 2017

A spattering of Vancouver rain clatters against the concrete of Granville Street. A drumbeat without rhythm. Heavy. Is the dampness that pulls at you the rain? Or is there something else clawing at your soul? Something in the air tonight?

Trading on a legacy of sex, drugs, and black magic, The Tea Party crave a darker part of your soul. Especially Transmission (1997). Transmission is a gate, the music the path, and tonight? Tonight, The Tea Party will be our guide.

In 1997 three kids from Windsor resolved to produce “the darkest rock and roll album Canada had ever heard.” At the time, the Canadian charts were dominated by imports like the Spice Girls, No Doubt, The Backstreet Boys, and Pop Compilation Albums. For every the Tragically Hip or Our Lady Peace, there was a Sarah McLachlan or Celine Dion.

Often called “Moroccan Roll”, The Tea Party draw on sounds and instruments from across the globe, with a fixation on Middle-Eastern Mysticism and Music. Hearing live the music of my childhood, of my heroes, fulfills. Great musicians performing their greatest works out weighs the gimmicked nature of anniversary tours. Jeff Martin plays the guitar like an Olympic athlete. While a painting ages in his attic, he pulls out a bow and makes his strings sing. Jeff Burrows gives the drums an animalistic enthusiasm. Stuart Chatwood applies bass and keyboard, adding texture on texture, painting in sound.

This album offers a snapshot into the 90s that I never really knew personally. My older brother came of age during the heyday of Nirvana and the Wu-tang Clan while I was still playing Charlotte Diamond on repeat. That great musical revolution, heard through hollow walls as my brother learned long solos and discovered new sounds. I missed it. Too young. Too shy. It wasn’t until one hot summer in 1999, the world on pause, awaiting the new millennium, bored in the basement, I watched MTV countdown the top 20 videos of the week. Between undulating pop stars and incoherent rappers lay something beautiful: “Heaven Coming Down” from the album Triptych (1999) pulled me into The Tea Party’s world.

With the singular obsession of a pre-teen girl, I devoured their back catalogue as best I could. A copy of Splendor Solis (1993) from the back of an HMV. The Edges of Twilight (1995) borrowed from my brother. And, finally, Transmission, from a dusty corner of an A&B Sound. Looking for a way to understand the world, I stumbled into a different kind of understanding. That magic still lingered on the edges of the world. If only your eyes were open you could see it all.

If listening to Transmission is like finding a stack of Picasso sketches tucked in the back of the garage, hearing it live is a gallery exhibition. A sea of people, falling back on who they grew from. Aging rockers, former goth kids, angry angsty teens, and lost souls. “Army Ants”, pulsing, sends a wave across the crowd. “Psychopomp”, dragging the enraptured souls to the underworld and back again. “Babylon”, walking a tightrope between sex and violence until finally- “Release”…

“Release” resonates with me. Reminds me of why I’m here, of the journey the last few years have been. Of all I’ve lost and gained. Of missed chances and pain… I cry. There is a sincerity to it. A beauty. Even Martin takes a pause. To thank us, all of us, for creating such a moment. The moment passes – back into “Temptation” we go.

An intermission only to pull us back into Martin’s impossible world. Speaking openly of their heroes, the band slipped covers into the middle of their own work. U2’s classic “With or Without You” (1987) appeared in “Heaven Coming Down” (1999). Parts of “Under Pressure” (1982 Queen, David Bowie) kept appearing. The 20-minute version of “Sister Awake” included “Paint it Black” (1966, The Rolling Stones) as well as their encore.

So, here we are, 20 years later, do we still need an album like Transmission? What does an album mean in an age where Artists live and die download by download?

I think we’ve forgotten the importance of telling a good story.  The journey sacrificed on the altar of destination. Music is a product. Artists are commodities. Instead of autotuned perfection, give me skill. Give me the raw emotion and passion of a psychopomp.

The next city to host the Tea Party tent will be The Roxy in Los Angeles, CA on Saturday, April 8th.  After that they’re going to the Star Events Centre in Sydney, NSW, on Friday, April 21st. If you can’t make either of those dates, you can click here to see the rest of the tour, or click here to see their incredible selection of music

 

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Why I’m Dreading Star Wars

Culture, Opinion

December 16, 2015

A new hope. A new love. A new franchise. The Force was strong with this one.

A new hope. A new love. A new franchise. The Force was strong with this one.

I can’t remember a time when Star Wars wasn’t a part of my life. Snowball fights where the big kids were AT-ATs. Light saber duels with wrapping paper tubes. My brother making Darth Vader jokes while being hooked up to breathing machines. Star Wars ran like a river through my childhood – an abstract knowledge, bits and pieces acquired like overheard conversation.

Then it happened. A cold spring day in 1997, my dad took me to see the Special Edition release of Star Wars: A New Hope. A red velvet rope attempting to class up an aging cinema, my dad, reassuring, as we wove our way through the crowd, down stairs coated in aging purple carpet, past bored teenagers popping corn, into the theatre. The lights dimmed and those first words scrawled past; “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away…”

I was hooked. Books, comics, games, I devoured it all. From the Junior Jedi Knights to the Old Republic, I consumed it all. Looking back on my childhood, most of it was spent with a Timothy Zahn novel. Other girls were spending their allowance on mascara or miniskirts: I obsessed over the release dates of new X-wing novels. Being a huge nerd and a Star Wars fan quickly became integral to my identity, especially as the internet grew. From my computer in Smalltown, Canada, I could connect with other fans across the globe. We chatted and gamed, spending years in a SW MMB RPG.

I’d found my tribe.

Although, yeah, we all did a Dark Side run, didn't we?

Although, yeah, we all did a Dark Side run, didn’t we?

Being “That Girl Who Likes Star Wars” in high school was isolating, and yet it gave me a world to escape into. A place where I could dream. In the Star Wars universe, no one ever tells Jaina Solo she can’t do something. Mara Jade overcomes the influence and manipulations of the Emperor. Corran Horn explores the complicated relationship between Law, Justice, and doing Right. Through these characters, I learned to understand a world much larger than the one I lived in.

When George Lucas announced the prequels, I bought in hard. Opening day tickets with my dad, prepared to relive that first magic moment – and nope. Instead of the world I’d known, I got two hours on a trade dispute featuring more plot holes than CGI. Even the supreme hotness of Ewen Mcgregor could not save it. My soul was crushed. Still, I could not give up on Star Wars; too much of myself had I given it.

Maybe, I thought, I could just restrict myself to the post expanded universe, write off all that prequel nonsense, and focus on the characters I love: Anakin Solo, Wedge Antilles, Kyp Durron… they were safe. So I built my knowledge, showing off to nerds and smiting casual fans. Was I kind of a brat about it? Totally. Was I a little overly emotionally invested? Definitely. I loved Star Wars, but Star Wars never loved me back.

Remember these things?

Remember these things?

Sometime in high school, the Yuuzhan Vong invaded. A major event that wiped out several key characters, including Chewbacca and Anakin Solo, just for dramatic effect. I cried. I raged. I stopped reading. Slowly, the books were packed away. The RPG died off as players grew up and I started to find other ways to define myself… but in my heart, I couldn’t let go. I’d catch myself glancing over titles at the book store, making sure my favorite characters were still okay.

When Disney bought Star Wars, I knew it was the end. They removed the pre-existing books from canon, marking my childhood “Invalid.” They turned R2-D2 into a humidifier. They started selling Star Wars branded oranges. I watched as they took this esoteric thing I loved and gave it to everyone. Don’t get me wrong, Star Wars has always been a marketing machine. It’s a fantastic vehicle to sell toys and I get that. It’s just hard to watch. The fact is, for better or for worse, now that Disney has Star Wars they’re going to keep making movies, tv shows, comics, and toys until the end of time. We’re going to have new Star Wars forever… and there’s something terrifying in that.

The Force might be strong with this one, too.

The Force might be strong with this one, too.

Suddenly, everyone is a Star Wars fan, and I just want to scream, “No! That’s not true – that’s impossible! You’re not a REAL fan! You’ve come late to the party and are claiming it was yours the whole time. You didn’t live through it like we did – you don’t even know who anyone is!”

And yet I don’t. Who am I to deny someone the chance to love something I love? Even if it hurts to hear people mispronounce names or places, I don’t correct them like I would have 15 years ago. If you truly love something you need to let it go. So, I’m trying. I’m trying to accept that the thing I love has changed, and maybe? Maybe it’ll be okay… and if I’m lucky? Maybe better.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from Star Wars, it’s that good is stronger than evil.

Unless they change the underlying themes… but then, I guess I’ll have to wait to find out.

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