Friday, October 16, 2009

Fools Rush In

So, it was Glorianna and I on our own tonight, as Audrey and Fenya are at the Cantilon Choir dessert auction. It's a strange event for me, emotionally speaking, because while I love the music and an elegant night at the Winspear with excellent company, I dropped, like, $80 on a tiramisu from the Italian Centre one year, and neither my wallet nor my scale need that kind of challenge at this point in time. Which is not to say it wasn't worth it; it totally was. It's just way too easy to justify that kind of behaviour when you can hang your guilt on the 'it's for a good cause' peg, so missing out this year was all right by me.

Regardless, I asked Glo-bug what she wanted to do after supper as we drove home, and she mused a bit before saying, "What about Rockband? We haven't done that in a while..."

"Capital idea!" I replied, and after I explained what that meant, we hit Wendy's and proceeded in a homeward direction, and got to the Rockbanding shortly thereafter.

I am finally at a point where I can play a brand new song in medium and not get booed off the stage every time, which may not seem like much, but it's huge to me. Glory's the drummer in our band, The Roofgoats, and we played for about an hour together tonight. Her favourite songs are Paramore's "That's What You Get" for singing and Beck's "E-Pro" for drumming (which I concur with wholeheartedly). I only recently made the transition from easy to medium on the guitar, so I couldn't pay her as much attention tonight as I would have liked, but she consistently gets 90% or so on most songs, and watching her freestyle stuff is hilarious. She did try medium, but the simultaneous hand and foot action is a little too much for her at this point, and at all of 7 years of age, I thought it was way cool of her to attempt it at all.

A major part of the game's appeal for both girls is the ability to customize your Rockband 'character', from the haircut to the shoes and everything in between, so we ended up having to play a few tour gigs in order to feed Glory's shopping monkey. A new hairstyle and dress devastated her evening's earnings, but I hardly think Rockband 2 is the tool for teaching your kids about fiscal responsibility and thoughtful purchases, and besides, wardrobe is really more of an investment for a musician, right?

Afterwards, we checked our gig options to see what had opened up and I spied one in Montreal spotlighting Canadian artists. Pulling up the details, I noted with glee that the closing number was Rush's "The Trees". Glory had no clue why I was so excited, so I found the song on YouTube and played it for her.

She enjoyed it greatly, as all right-thinking people do, even though she was initially concerned about the complete and total lack of drumming in the song until 44 seconds in. Once it started, she was suitably impressed, which pleased me greatly. I went on to explain that in addition to being a brilliant lyricist, Neil Peart is widely considered one of rock's best living* drummers. I didn't go too much into his increasingly bizarre and outlandish time signatures and the like, because, well, I don't really understand them, to be quite honest. But I did tell her about how I got to see him perform his signature drum solo "The Rhythm Method" live in concert back in 1990, on the "Presto" tour. My friend Jim Opp invited me to the show and we drove up from Augustana to Edmonton and got our socks knocked off. (Thanks again, Jim! I still have the pin from that show!)

I found "The Rhythm Method" on YouTube and played it for her, and needless to say, she was dazzled from pillar to post.

First of all there is the skill, which I feel speaks for itself and is considerable. Secondly, there is the stamina, because an 8 minute drum solo separates the sheep from the goats pretty swiftly, in my opinion. "How does he keep going?" Glory marvelled, "His arms must be really strong." Thirdly, there is the creativity: when I hear "8 minute drum solo", I am drawn against my will to Iron Butterfly's legendary "In a Gadda Da Vida", which, let's be honest, gets a little stale by about minute 5 of the drum solo. The piece is not without its merits, especially the way it is used in Michael Mann's film "Manhunter", but even its defenders have a hard time denying it is an indulgent work. There is not much room for boredom in "The Rhythm Method" (bow-chicka-wow-wow)(stop that!) as Peart works between what I believe are four different drum kits and a cornucopia of percussives. He even wraps up with a big band sound, which is simply fantastic. There are a lot of great drummers out there, but a real shortage of drum instrumentalists, I wager.

Lastly, there are the drums themselves, which my youngest daughter looked at longingly and sighed, "I wish I had a drum set like that." I laughed and explained that since Peart's setup used at least three full drum kits, a couple of synthesizers and enough cymbals for half-time at the Rose Bowl, there were several thousand dollars worth of skins at play there.

Now, when you are 7, 20 bucks is a lot of money, and you know a thousand is more, but you don't really know how much more, so I wasn't expecting her to be too impressed, which is good, because she wasn't, but it did get me to thinking about how she saw a set of drums in a flyer the other day, and suggested maybe she could learn the drums for real.

So having shown her Neil Peart directly on the heels of Rockband's ersatz drum participation, I wonder if maybe I have flipped open the lid on Pandora's box here a little bit. And now I may actually have to weigh the clutter and noise of a proper drum kit in the house against the incredible coolness factor of elementary-school-girl-rock-drummer. It's quite the conundrum.

One of my favourite musician jokes is "what do you call a drummer with no girlfriend?" The answer, of course, is "homeless", but maybe it could also be "my kid, Glory!" I can always get headphones for when she practices, I suppose.

* Hardly an exhaustive list, when you think about it.


  1. Ah, memories ... thanks for alerting me to this post, Steve. I honestly had forgotten we saw Rush in Edmonton (I had transposed it in my mind to the Saddledome ...but I think that was Peter Gabriel). Pretty sure Rob was there too.

    Funny though, I was just thinking about Rush the other day. Heard an interview with them recently on CBC, and somehow when the topic came up in our hockey pool, all of the grad students mentioned that there was a revival of Rush going on. Oh yeah, and thanks to the Yousuf Karsh exhibit I got to see a large framed photo of the band done for 'Grace Under Fire'.

    Oh yeah, and I can't lecture about post-war Canadian urban development without a few choice references to "subdivisions"!

  2. Tangentially related, on a Rush note, there's this cool series I've been watching on Rush HD called "Backstage Secrets". It follows the behind the scenes setup that goes on to setup and run Rush's Snakes and Arrows tour. If it comes to a station near you, check it out. One show for the lighting and pyro, one for the sound, one for the production manager, etc. Quite interesting.