New Year’s at the Hotel Vancouver

New Years at Hotel Vancouver New Years at the Hotel Vancouver

Recently launched a website for a New Year’s Party at the Hotel Vancouver.

Concert review of Pink’s Truth About Love Tour for the Georgia Straight

Pinks Truth About Love Tour Concert review of Pinks Truth About Love Tour for the Georgia Straight

Pink’s stage and catwalk were undeniably shaped like a flaccid penis and ball sack, but she certainly didn’t deliver a limp-dink performance. As far as female pop superstars go, Alecia Beth Moore isn’t the most provocative (Lady Gaga), catchy (Katy Perry), sweet (Taylor Swift), stupid (Rihanna), or geriatric (Madonna). But she has the most death-defying live show of the bunch.

The sold-out Rogers Arena was a proverbial henhouse. The hormonal scale tipped so overwhelmingly in estrogen’s favour that some of the men’s bathrooms were converted to women’s to accommodate the imbalance. It’s a good thing the concert’s organizers had the foresight to do this, as the long-in-the-tooth crowd was hopped up on Mike’s Hard Lemonade and had their urinary incontinence pushed to the brink by utter jubilation.

The Truth About Love Tour had a definite Cirque du Soleil feel, complete with a ringmaster named Rubix Von Füchenhürtz, who got everyone chortling by clowning around before the curtain rose. After a CoverGirl ad starring Pink, which received a rousing response, Rubix yammered on a bit more and the 34-year-old hitmaker took the stage in Vancouver for the first time since 2002 in spectacular fashion: she slingshotted 30 feet upwards from a trapdoor on the stage. Attached by bungee cords to an oscillating metal frame with three shirtless male acrobats on it, she sang “Raise Your Glass” while bouncing up and down, inverted for much of it. No longer airborne, she then performed “Walk of Shame”, “Just Like a Pill”, “U + Ur Hand”, and “Leave Me Alone (I’m Lonely)” and proved equally adept at keeping the faithful’s attention without risking her life (though it was a lot more ridiculous and awesome when she was). While whimsically dancing along the shaft of the catwalk towards its bulbous head, Pink greeted people, signed autographs, accepted fan art, and generally didn’t seem like an inhuman corporate entity despite being worth an estimated $70 million and having the flattest stomach in the building.

The evening’s Lilith Fair moment came after Pink regaled those in attendance with a tale about her two-year-old daughter, who describes the next song as “full of mom words”. Whether or not Pink used the mom word was tough to tell as the crowd was singing the chorus of “Fuckin’ Perfect” far too loudly to hear her. During those three-and-a-half minutes, our cycles synchronized and we were all goddesses.

The only real buzz-kill of the show was a paint-by-numbers cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”. The real estate of this hour-and-45-minute-long show, which made you want to drink a lot more Cheetah Power Surge, would have been better spent performing songs from her vast catalogue of hits—the most conspicuously absent one being “Get the Party Started”. Besides, the video for Isaak’s song really objectifies women.

For the encore, Pink, in a gold bodysuit, attached herself to cables and proceeded to do her best Cathy Rigby impersonation. While singing “So What”, she flew and flipped across the entire arena. At times, she was almost high enough to touch our nonexistent Stanley Cup banners. After detaching, she wasn’t on the ground long before she emulated her 2010 Grammy performance by hopping into aerial silks to do an incredibly dangerous-looking gymnastics routine above the stage while singing the touching, emotional ballad “Glitter in the Air”.

Pink survived this wickedly entertaining performance, and hopefully she won’t wait another 11 years before returning. As we filed out, everyone felt elated, empowered, and stoked about those ads in the concourse for an upcoming Dixie Chicks concert… Oh God, who knew that emasculating stage would turn out to be a prophetic warning?

photo by rebecca blissett
this article was originally published by the georgia straight in october 2013

Jay Z and Justin Timberlake’s Legends of Summer for The Georgia Straight

jay z and justin timberlake together at last Jay Z and Justin Timberlakes Legends of Summer for The Georgia Straight

It’s not everyday you get to watch a former Mouseketeer and a former crack dealer perform at the same time. On paper, The Legends of the Summer Stadium Tour that featured pop star Justin Timberlake and rapper Jay Z certainly seemed like an odd pairing. Yes, the two have been collaborating on tracks lately, but surely one can’t throw up the Roc-A-Fella diamond sign and bring sexy back at the same time.

“Y’all ready to party?” the ex-’N Syncer asked after taking to the stage and singing the intro to “Holy Grail”, off of Shawn Carter’s latest, Magna Carta… Holy Grail. B.C. Place was indeed, with its stupidly expensive roof, which was open for once, and packed full of normals. (Presumably, the Honda Celebration of Light, which was happening at the same time as this show, and pricey tickets kept the dregs of Granville Street away.)

Thankfully, the pair didn’t linger too long on their latest musical offerings, which, let’s face it, blow. On the obligatory four-storey-high stage, which featured massive LED screens and 18 or so backup performers that you couldn’t care less about, JT and J-Hova treated those in attendance to a two-hour-and-15-minute-long hit parade.

After a medley that included “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)”, “Rock Your Body”, “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)”, the Jackson 5′s “I Want You Back”, and “Excuse Me Miss”, it quickly became clear how this show was going to work: Timberlake would sing the hooks on Jay Z songs and Jay Z would say “Uh-huh” and “Yeah” during Timberlake songs. It was also clear that these two have a fuck-tonne of stage presence and most would be content to watch Mr. Biel and Mr. Knowles spending the evening giving a lecture about how sweet the new Myspace is.

On their own, neither could pack B.C. Place—you need to be a Beatle or Taylor Swift to do that. But both proved more than capable of keeping the 40,000-plus in attendance satiated when they were on-stage performing solo.

The shrillest squeals of the evening came whenever JT, who seemed the more human of the two, busted out the dance moves. Yes, he was electric and can still get down. Hearing those shrieks definitely made it seem like the majority in attendance was there to see him. Apparently, an extended hiatus from music to take on plum acting roles in The Love Guru and Yogi Bear hasn’t hurt his stock in the slightest.

Though the show was unforgettable, it was not without cornball moments. One that sticks out is Timberlake crooning Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York”, which was, naturally, followed by “Empire State of Mind”. However, the biggest came just before the final song of the evening, “Young Forever”, when Jay Z, who barely acknowledged the faithful all evening, made a left-field, cheapo attempt to tug at their heartstrings by dedicating it to Trayvon Martin.

As Timberlake sang the chorus, an impressive chunk of the crowd lit up the stadium with their smartphones at Jigga’s insistence. You couldn’t help but think he had devised a diabolical new means of mining everyone’s personal data off of them. (You know, like he did with that NSA-esque Samsung app last month.)

Fighting your way out of B.C. Place, it wasn’t hard to overhear people uttering, “Best show ever”. When you’ve got two top-shelf showmen with tremendous bodies of work, chances are you’re in for a once-in-a-lifetime evening. The Legends of the Summer Tour lived up to its braggadocio name, regardless if your idea of a good time is watching Disney movies or smoking crack.

photo courtesy of the georgia straight
this article was originally published by the georgia straight in august 2013

Fei and Milton K Wong Family Foundation website

fei and miltion wong family foundation Fei and Milton K Wong Family Foundation website

Recently got a website up for the Fei and Milton K. Wong Family Foundation.

Pretty Lights interview for the Georgia Straight

pretty lights Pretty Lights interview for the Georgia Straight

Pretty Lights towers above most electronic music producers, and that’s not just because he’s 6-8. The reason the man born Derek Vincent Smith is better than most is because he makes music and puts on a show you’re not ashamed to like. No one will call you Christopher Hitchens for being skeptical about some of these uninspired laptop producers who think merely pressing the space bar on their MacBooks makes a great live experience. Pretty Lights simply isn’t one of them. This, however, has left a few ravers scratching their Fun Fur hats when he performs at EDM festivals.

“My music doesn’t fit into the category where I’m a DJ up on-stage spinning four-on-the-floor dubstep,” he tells the Straight from his home in Denver, Colorado, which he shares with his girlfriend and two kittens. “Half of the crowd is super hard-core and loving it. One quarter of the crowd is like, ‘This is cool, but I’m confused. When is David Guetta coming on?’ ”

The 31-year-old producer’s sound, early DJ Shadow– and Ninja Tune–inspired instrumental hip-hop, coupled with his melt-your-face-awesome visuals have made him a favourite at everything from hippy tribal gatherings to rap shows to megafestivals like Bonnaroo and Coachella.

“It’s hard to take a 90 bpm hip-hop beat and make it beautiful and soulful, but at the same time get 20,000 people at festivals to throw their hands up in the air,” he explains. “I try to take this really soulful, downtempo inspiration and add power and energy to it. That’s how my sound started with Pretty Lights.”

Aside from being a great listen, his latest album, A Color Map of the Sun, is a production nerd’s wet dream. Rather than digging through records to find samples, he made his own. Over the span of a year, Pretty Lights led 43 musicians—performing everything from classical to funk to jazz to soul—and pressed the sessions onto vinyl. He then grabbed the platters and ran it through a pile of analogue gear to create his fourth full-length.

“It became the norm that musicians came in with some level of skepticism,” he says of asking virtuoso players to perform the same riffs endlessly without improvisation. But, “you do that consistently for the right amount of time and I’m going to be able to catch the four seconds of a recording that is pure magic. That’s what I was searching for.”

If all this sounds somewhat intriguing, but you’re unwilling to drop $9.99 on iTunes, the album is also available for free on his website. The philosophy behind this is simple—he “realized there was a loophole: word of mouth spreads about the quality of music faster than it spreads about the nature of how you get the music.”

This big, friendly giant might be onto something here, as A Color Map of the Sun has sold well, peaking at number two on Billboard’s dance-music chart, even though it clocked over 100,000 downloads on his site.

Pretty Lights points out that there’ll be “no play button involved” with his set at the Squamish Valley Music Festival; all 10 of his fingers will be used as he recreates the new one live. However, if you don’t care about any of that stuff and just want to have fun, know that it’s going to look and sound really fucking cool when he shuts the place down on Saturday night. Best of all, you won’t hate yourself in the morning.

photo courtesy of the georgia straight
this article was originally published by the georgia straight in august 2013

One Direction is Great Art for the Georgia Straight

one direction is great art One Direction is Great Art for the Georgia Straight

In order of most to least fuckable, One Direction consists of five men who are over the age of consent named Harry, Zayn, Liam, Niall, and Louis. If you live in a naive bubble where commercial dance-pop simply isn’t on your radar despite the millions of albums they’ve sold and the billions of YouTube plays they’ve accrued, here’s what else you need to know: 1D is a ridiculously popular boy band from London, England, who perform catchy, tightly produced songs that somehow manage to be saccharine and nonthreatening as they taunt you with lyrics about how they’re going to plow your daughter. Yes, this impeccably marketed and well-choreographed song-and-dance machine probably sounds all too familiar to you. But here’s the thing: One Direction is actually quite incredible.

Oh, sure, along with its music, there are apps, clothing lines, fragrances, and board games with the members’ handsome faces plastered all over them. But crass commercialism is part and parcel of any decent pop project. Andy Warhol once said: “Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”

Let’s hope these lads have another 15 minutes of fame left in them, because the empire they’ve built up in three years is awe-inspiring. Hell, I’m positive Warhol would even love their cover that mashes up Blondie’s “One Way or Another” and the Undertones’ “Teenage Kicks”. “Gee, that’s great,” he’d say.

That pop music is vapid and lacking substance is an ignorant notion. Pop is the most interesting and culturally relevant music out there. Rock, EDM, and their multitude of indie subgenres are what’s moribund these days. I’ll happily give the latest One Direction album a play over some Bearhunter side project that was anointed a nine-point-whatever on a sycophantic music blog last week.

Boy bands—from Hanson to NKOTB to the Rolling Stones—have always had a difficult time being taken seriously. That’s a damn shame, because they’re tackling real issues with their music, and it speaks on a global scale to young women dealing with their hormones. Most bands I catch are bar window-dressing who interrupt my important conversations. Have you ever seen the blissed-out expression on a Directioner’s face when they hear “What Makes You Beautiful” performed live? It stimulates a spiritual experience that’s more powerful than ayahuasca could ever give them.

Appealing largely to women is a sure-fire way to never get the critical recognition you deserve. Plain and simple, it’s snobbishness that’s rooted in sexism. You see, music writing is overpopulated with annoying white dudes. (I’d know. I’m one of them and still curse my parents to this day because of it. Inconsiderate assholes.)

At present, think tanks made up of our country’s biggest music nerds are busy heaping praise, awards, and novelty-size cheques on Arcade Fire, Feist, and Metric—basically the aural equivalent of a dogs-playing-poker poster. (And people wonder why the music and publishing industries are in the shitter.)

While this is going on, timeless classics by Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepsen, which have the grandness and beauty of Jeff Koons sculptures, get ignored. A hundred years from now, I guarantee “Baby” and “Call Me Maybe” will still be around and making us smile. The mere mention of boring Cancon acts will get you banished to the Forbidden Zone where you’ll have to deal with cannibals.

So have fun stroking your chins, making snide remarks, and being too cool to look like you’re having a good time in half-empty concert venues this weekend, fuckers. I’ll be at the One Direction show in a stadium full of people who are having the time of their lives. Hopefully, Harry notices me, but failing that, I’d settle for Louis.

photo courtesy of the georgia straight
this article was originally published by the georgia straight in july 2013

The Fox Theatre Before The Renovation

balcony The Fox Theatre Before The Renovation
A shot from the balcony of the Fox Porno Theatre. (Note the toilet paper dispenser.)

As you may be aware, the Arrival Agency and David Duprey have begun renovations at the Fox Theatre on Main Street. For posterity’s sake, here are some photos of the inside of the last porn theatre in Vancouver. This is not safe for work or the faint of heart. You’ve been warned…

photos by michael mann unless otherwise noted


Everything you wanted to know about those Mohinder tags for the Georgia Straight

Mohinder tag in vancouver Everything you wanted to know about those Mohinder tags for the Georgia Straight

Property crime is no laughing matter unless Mohinder spray-paints a building, and then it’s kind of hilarious. I first saw this oddly endearing tag—his name crudely drawn in all caps—pop up back in April. Since then, it’s been impossible not to notice these audaciously placed chicken scratches on overpasses, awnings, walls, and the odd cube van. The scourge of East Vancouver has delighted Instagram users, accumulated an impressive pile of press clippings, and inspired a series of bootleg T-shirts. What hath this vandal wrought?

“Mohinder is the king right now,” proclaims Rhek, a graphic designer, a reformed tagger, and somewhat of a local graffiti historian. “I like people who run around and mix things up and make the world more interesting. It confuses people, gets people talking, and gets the discussions going about ‘What is art?’ and ‘What is public space versus private space?’ It’s one kid getting his name up and making himself famous. It’s a DIY, self-made, ego-driven occupation that’s pointless, and I really enjoy that sort of thing.”

Part of the charm of Mohinder tags is their, well, shittiness. “It’s basically outsider art within an outsider art,” Rhek explains. “Whether or not he knows this, Mohinder is in a legacy of Vancouver writers whose prolificness is more important than their aesthetic.”

This noble order of janky property defilers includes Oaph, with his crummy anthropomorphized snakes; Alex G, whose tag looked like it was written by someone with Tourette’s; and Mr. 8, whose goofy name can still be seen scrawled around town.

Despite the sometimes dubious talent showcased in our alleyways, Rhek believes that “tagging is definitely an art form. The thing about it is there are all these knucklehead idiots who get into graffiti who have now grown up and become successful, creative individuals. I don’t think they would have found that route if it wasn’t for actually spending time drawing like a bunch of dorks.”

Notable dorks include Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Kaws, Barry McGee, and Dash Snow, who all got their start tagging walls before their lionization in the art world. Hell, Tony Shafrazi, a gallerist who did shows with Basquiat and Haring in the ’80s, first made a name for himself by tagging Pablo Picasso’s Guernica with “Kill Lies All” when it was on display at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art in 1974.

Though obviously not as revered as the aforementioned, a hometown example is The Dark, who has been decorating walls in Vancouver for the past 12 years and has shown work in galleries locally and abroad.

A Mohinder cynic, The Dark believes the tags are probably hipster bullshit. “Any jackass with a spray can can be a graffiti writer these days. Anyone can get drunk, wander home from work, and hit every wall they see till they run out of paint,” he says petulantly, but concedes: “I’ve done it, so I guess I can’t be super-critical.”

For The Dark’s approval, placement is key. “Context with the environment is important. Are you just randomly hitting walls or are you hitting cool spots?”

As ridiculous as it may seem, there are graffiti rules. Basically, you’re not supposed to hit churches, heritage buildings, or independent businesses. While The Dark believes that graffiti ethics are “full of shit”, they exist, and Mohinder is bombing spots that others wouldn’t.

So who is this rule breaker amongst rule breakers? Well, I tracked him down and it wasn’t difficult. Despite repeated interview requests, I got stonewalled. However, I was able to glean a fair bit of information by creeping him online. Especially amusing is his blog, where he’s documented a lot of his tags—East Van businesses aren’t up against a Professor Moriarty–type supervillain here. (Judging from the blog’s content, he’s likely responsible for those ubiquitous drawings of the whiskery man in the Panama hat, too.)

I’ll stop short of naming him, because that’s ethically dicey territory. Oh, screw it. If Mohinder’s tags teach us anything, it’s that there are no rules. Mohinder’s real name is Zachary, which, if tagged on a wall, probably wouldn’t yield many likes on Instagram.

photo courtesy of the georgia straight
this article was originally published by the georgia straight in june 2013

Food Cart Fest Website

food cart fest Food Cart Fest Website

Recently got a website up for Food Cart Fest.

Arrival Agency Website

Arrival Website Arrival Agency Website

Recently launched a new website for the Arrival Agency.

Juicy J review for the Georgia Straight

Juicy J by Rebecca Blissett Juicy J review for the Georgia Straight

It was Saturday night and the curious suburban mating ritual of getting done up, hopping a SkyTrain to Granville Street, then drinking so much you vomit all over yourself was in full effect. In a sold-out Commodore Ballroom, Jägerbombs were lined up, joints were rolled, and ass cheeks were poised to clap in anticipation of Juicy J hitting the stage.

Born Jordan Houston, the 38-year-old rapper from Memphis, Tennessee is famous for being a member of the legendary Dirty South group Three 6 Mafia. However, his solo career is currently turnt up in its own right and he’s established himself as a larger-than-life elder statesmen of drug-taking and tail-chasing from the South—basically rap’s Bill Clinton.

Featuring huge bass lines, rolling snares, and infectious lyrics—which have spawned countless annotations on Rap Genius—Juicy J makes the best party music around, and his forthcoming album Stay Trippy is one of the year’s most eagerly anticipated hip-hop releases. This likely explains why the Commodore wisely elected to lock up its glassware for the evening and serve everything out of plastic cups.

Sporting a red toque, shades, gold chains, and a Stay Trippy Tour T-shirt, Juicy J opened with “Show Out”. Initially the crowd seemed more interested in Instagramming the rap icon while sparking joints than in the performance. But the man from the city our beloved NBA franchise absconded to really hit his stride a few songs in with “Get Higher”. Produced by wunderkind Lex Luger, the crowd immediately got caught up in singing the chorus: “Take the blunt, dip it in the lean, then light it/Pop a molly, drink some orange juice, get higher.”

The party chants continued with four consecutive Luger-produced bangers “Who Da Neighbors”, “Riley”, “Bombay Gin Dance”, and “A Zip and a Double Cup”. At this point, the dance floor was billowing marijuana smoke and it was a certainty that the owner of the buck-a-slice closest to the venue would be able to pay for his kid’s braces. (Attempts by security to curb the pot smoking were an exercise in Sisyphusean futility.)

While performing tracks he did with the Weeknd, Wiz Khalifa, or Triple 6, Juicy J’s powerful voice and commanding stage presence kept the cotton-mouthed faithful attentive. No one even seemed to mind that he didn’t perform his Oscar-winning song, “It’s Hard out Here for a Pimp”, from the Hustle & Flow soundtrack.

“There’s a lot of sexy ladies in Vancouver,” he proclaimed after inviting a group of young women on-stage to make out with each other and then twerk to “She Dancin’” and the strip-club anthem “Bandz a Make Her Dance”. Fret not, Juicy J also took the time to validate the quality of our city’s drugs on numerous occasions as well—a huge relief for everyone in attendance given his well-documented connoisseurship of narcotics and “ratchet pussy”.

“Who wants to get high with me? Who wants to go to a strip club with me? Who wants to share their girlfriend with me?” he asked at one point. And everyone in attendance was thinking “Pick me, Juicy. Oh, please, pick me.” But hold the phone. Drugs, strip clubs, and partner swapping? Maybe the mating rituals of these loogans from the suburbs aren’t such a bad thing after all.

photo by rebecca blissett
this article was originally published by the georgia straight in june 2013

Friends Forever performed by Dragon Sound from Miami Connection

Nuba Website

Nuba Website Nuba Website

I recently help launch a brand new website for Nuba. It’s one of my favourite restaurants in the city and the people that operate the Nuba group are some of the most standup folks I know. Currently, I’m helping them with web and marketing on an ongoing basis so be sure to check them out.

Above & Beyond for the Georgia Straight

above and beyond Above & Beyond for the Georgia Straight

If you put a lot of stock in popularity contests, as one should, Above & Beyond might be EDM’s prom king. Since the London-based group—consisting of Jono Grant, Tony McGuinness, and Paavo Siljamäki—formed in late 1999 they’ve been a perennial top 10 finisher on DJ Mag’s Top 100 list, been two-time winners of BBC Radio 1’s Essential Mix of the Year, and incited crowds of one million strong to sing along to their histrionic vocal-trance productions. Their successful label, Anjunabeats, has released hundreds of tracks since its inception, a remix they did of Madonna’s “What It Feels Like for a Girl” was used for a Guy Ritchie–directed video, and then there’s that radio show, Group Therapy, they host every Friday that a few people tune into.

“It’s in the region of 20 or 25 million,” says Siljamäki of Group Therapy’s weekly audience. The producer is talking to the Georgia Straight on his cellphone while on tour in Australia. “It’s really weird for us. We sit in a small room, we go through a load of tracks, and we put together the best radio show we can. The waves that it’s made is really incredible.”

Group Therapy, the 500th episode of which will be broadcast this summer, has a listenership comparable to the population of the country Above & Beyond is currently touring.

“We’re suffering from the terrible, terrible weather down here [in Perth]—it’s 30 degrees and sunny and we’ve been on the beach,” says the 35-year-old, Finnish-born Siljamäki, his current trials and tribulations a testament to the hardship of being an in-demand touring DJ.

He’s on the road with McGuinness, while Grant, who presumably lost a coin toss, handles hosting duties for the radio show and works on new material at their studio back home. After Australia, it’s on to Hawaii for the two, and then the Pacific Northwest, where they’ll be headlining the upcoming Get Together event at the Pacific Coliseum. The show is taking place during our province’s inaugural long weekend for You’re a Colossal Disappointment Day (or Family Day, as some are calling it) and is likely your last chance to find someone to spend You Will Die Alone Day with on February 14th.

“In terms of doing a show where we just press ‘play’, that wouldn’t be interesting to us,” says Siljamäki. He promises a DJ set of the latest big-room-friendly Above & Beyond remixes and tracks off the forthcoming Anjunabeats Volume 10 compilation that will include a new A&B single named after television’s favourite meth chef, Walter White.

Just don’t expect them to be hitting you with cakes, crowd-surfing in an inflatable life raft, or yelling, “Make some noise if you’re high” over the tracks. A unique element at Above & Beyond shows is the projection of visuals that feature messages written in real time to the crowd.

“You’re trying to help people connect with the songs and understand what they’re listening to and get them involved and to hype things,” he says. “Even if we get words a bit wrong sometimes, or whatever, it’s given us this really powerful tool. We don’t just have to take the microphone and start talking. A lot of the tracks we play have vocals anyways and we wouldn’t want to be talking over vocals on a track.”

He adds with a laugh, “We’ll try our best not to misspell your city’s name.”

Having been around since the start of the millennium and predating the eye-roll-inducing term EDM, Above & Beyond is old guard. Over the years, the landscape of the scene has clearly changed a lot, especially since the much-hyped dance-music explosion that people won’t shut up about. Your computer is now the best place to hear new tracks, as opposed to a weekly club night, and massives have long since moved from illegal warehouses into more traditional venues.

“I actually think it’s been really interesting,” says the trance lord. “I’ve always been interested in the theatrical aspects of shows and nowadays there’s lots of really cool stuff to see. There’s also many more shows to see than there used to be. One of the things that’s maybe lacking a little bit is the sense of community and that vibe where everybody knows each other. I suppose it’s still there and maybe it’s good that there’s always a bit more new blood in the party.“

While Above & Beyond’s prolific output and connection with fans is certainly responsible for its fame, this didn’t happen in a vacuum. Everything EDM-related is selling these days. With the number of shows and ticket prices always increasing, you’ve got to wonder if the dance dance revolution is just a bubble waiting to burst?

“There’s a bit of a bubble. EDM is definitely fashionable in North America at the moment,” suggests the man who once performed an acoustic set in a hot-air balloon. “But I also think there’s a lot of great music in that scene that is timeless and in 20 years time we’ll be listening to it. It remains to be seen how much more commercially successful EDM can become. I sort of see us as slightly above that kind of scene. We’ve been into this since before EDM had its explosion.”

Optimistically, Siljamäki points out that if this bubble does burst, “Something a lot more real will continue.”

But, just in case it doesn’t, inhale all the nitrous oxide out of that balloon while you can, and have a good laugh.

In + out
Paavo Siljamäki sounds off on the things enquiring minds want to know.

On the DJ Mag accolades:
“It’s been interesting to see how the whole scene has evolved. The DJ Mag Top 100 was very important at the beginning of our career. It feels like I’ve moved on from it.…Every year I’ve seen guys like Eric Prydz, who I really rate, and Skrillex, who’s enormously popular, and we’ve been higher than them in polls. I’ve always felt like ‘C’mon, that’s a bit weird.’”

On using CDJs versus a laptop:
“Using CDJs is simple, it’s easy, and it works. It doesn’t take too much focus from what we’re doing on-stage. We’re there with a lot of people and having a great time listening to music with them. I’m such a nerd, if I get in front of a computer screen and start fiddling away it takes away the focus from the show.”

On what your grandparents might be up to:
“I’ve seen people clearly in their mid 70s absolutely having the time of their life at our shows.”

this article was originally published in the georgia straight in february 2013

Lady Gaga reviewed at Rogers Arena for the Georgia Straight

Lady Gaga Lady Gaga reviewed at Rogers Arena for the Georgia Straight

Without question, Lady Gaga is the best pop star of our time. Twenty-six-year-old Stefani Germanotta’s songs are wonderfully infectious, her videos are mesmerizingly artful, and her outlandish style is unfuckwithable. The world’s most popular tweeter is panache perfect and it’s impossible to avert your eyes. Simply calling her a “young Madonna” needs to end, as she’s equal parts Damien Hirst and Alexander McQueen as well. My God, even her signature scent, Fame, which they were handing out samples of at Rogers Arena, smells good and doesn’t induce hives.

Walking through the crowd at the first of two Vancouver stops for the Born This Way Ball on Friday was to observe a sweded retrospective of every outfit the Queen of Pop has ever donned. From the moment the curtain dropped and unveiled the show’s ridiculously awesome set—a three-storey castle—till the very last song, this city’s most flamboyantly gay men and most “misunderstood” young women were elated. Her monsters were not disappointed.

Gaga took the stage in spectacular fashion: riding a mechanical unicorn while singing “Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)”. However, a metallic helmet hid her face until the third song. The reveal was, of course, outrageous. Lady Gaga’s head appeared at the top of a giant inflatable body in the lithotomy position. Shortly thereafter, she emerged from the body’s zipper-vagina to perform the LGBT mantra “Born This Way”. From here on out, it was clear that the Vancouver Pride Society will need to work overtime this year if they want the parade to compete with this grandiose pop affair.

The Ball is a pop-rock opera. The story goes Lady Gaga escaped to Vancouver from an interstellar Government Owned Alien Territory (G.O.A.T.) to train for an invasion of Earth. Periodically, Mother G.O.A.T., a giant animatronic re-creation of the Fame Monster’s face encased in a glowing diamond, would lower from the rafters and spew some gibberish about Operation: Kill the Bitch. It even sang part of “Paparazzi” then bled to death out of its eyes, mouth, and nose. Confused? It’s okay, that’s part and parcel of the Lady Gaga experience.

Megahits like “Bad Romance”, “Just Dance”, and “Telephone” were almost always accompanied by a costume change into an Italian-fashion-house–designed outfit. There were even a few throwbacks to classics like an assault-rifle bra, which she wore during “Alejandro”, and a meat dress, which was trotted out for “Americano” and “Poker Face”. (The latter was performed while in a meat grinder.) The Kermit the Frog doll top appeared on-stage but, sadly, was never worn.

Pop concerts tend to be as spontaneous as evolution. Thankfully, there were a few moments when our visitor from G.O.A.T. veered from the script and almost seemed human. At one point she sang “Happy Birthday” to a tearful devotee who had just turned 18. Following that, Gaga relayed what her dad told her when she hit the same age: “Don’t get too excited. It just means you don’t get a fucking allowance.”

Then, after performing “The Edge of Glory” during the encore, Lady Gaga invited five lucky little monsters on-stage with her during the final number, “Marry the Night”. Jubilant tears ensued as they danced with their hero, then descended through a trap door to hang out backstage. Damn it, Gaga! You’re making everyone else look bad, again. How many more Twitter followers do you need?

this article was originally published by the georgia straight in january 2013