Robbie Burns Night 2022

On Tuesday, January 25th, sometime before 7:00pm, a link will be posted here for the live stream on YouTube. Please check back for the live link, and then open that link in a new YouTube window so you can see and interact via chat with other participants. If there is any technical issues with the live stream (like what happened last year), updates will be posted here as soon as possible.

December 12th @ Free Times Café

There are no winners in the pandemic.  

Who am I kidding, of course there are winners in the pandemic.  And you know how I know this – I googled ‘winners in the pandemic’ and I got back 2,320,000,000 hits!  You might think that you get two billion hits for anything you google.  So I checked it out.  I googled ‘frog singing opera’ and I only got 6,530,000 hits – and pretty much all of them were clips of the loony tune frog singing ‘hello my baby’ – you know the one (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MsROL4Kf8QY) and which I hasten to add, is not a frog singing opera but rather vaudeville which is a whole different thing. 

But back to the matter of pandemic winners.  I’m not really interested in learning why company X has done so well during the pandemic.  I know it happens but profiting from worldwide misery is not something I want to celebrate.  On the other hand, there are ideas or concepts that flourished during the pandemic and I’m happy to see them as winners.  One of these things is the Greek alphabet. 

The World Health Organization or the WHO have taken to using the Greek alphabet to describe COVD variants.  Before I continue on this point, can I just say that Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, the last original surviving members of the real Who, the rock band who gave us My Generation and I Can See for Miles and Baba O’Reilly and lots of other great songs, have been really nice about letting this other WHO take their name.  No lawsuits no threatening letters; that is one classy rock band (even if they did one or two or seven too many farewell tours). 

Back to the Greek alphabet.  So that other WHO decided that for the general public they would give the COVID variants Greek letters.  Why Greek letters?  I don’t really know.  Fraternities and sororities use Greek letters in their names to make them sound intelligent and give them a veneer of history which covers up the fact that they are basically just party hubs.  And people often pick up diseases from parties at fraternities and sororities so maybe that’s why the WHO went to Greek letters (full disclosure, I was never invited to join a fraternity or ever attended a frat party so I’m just speculating here). 

On the COVID front we had original COVID which would have been alpha, and then the beta and gamma and delta variants.  Those are the first four letters of the Greek alphabet, and one might have expected that the next variant would have been the fifth letter of the alphabet – epsilon, but it wasn’t. And it wasn’t the sixth or the seventh or the eighth or the ninth or the tenth or the eleventh or the twelfth or the thirteenth or even the fourteenth.  No, for some reason they jumped right to the 15th letter of the alphabet – the ominously sounding omicron.   

This is odd..  Those other letters between delta and omicron seemed perfectly acceptable.  They’re just as Greek. And at least if they kept the variants in alphabetical order we could have learned the Greek alphabet as we cowered in fear from the ever-evolving variants.  Now we’ve lost that chance.  Thanks for nothing WHO. 

We, the fine folks at Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room (finally), would never confuse people like that.  Our shows – and we are having shows again – are always on the third Sunday of the month – except when they aren’t.  Like in December when we’re doing our monthly show on Sunday December 12th which is the second Sunday.   

But some things remain the same.  We are still at the Free Times Café (College just west of Spadina) and the show still starts at 8.  And for the second month in a row, we are offering a special dinner/show package where, if you make a dinner reservation before the show, you get a great reserved table near the stage and you get to see the show for free.  If you don’t make a reservation, you can still see the show for free – because there’s no cover – but you might not get a table.  

And I just want to say that it was so cool to see a full house having dinner when we arrived to setup last month.  The Free Times, like other restaurants, is fighting to get back on its feet so please do bring some friends and have dinner before the show. That way you will all have eaten before we play and so you won’t be singing along to our tunes with your mouth full which isn’t a good look. 

Hope to see you there. 

Jonathan 

P.S. Just a warning that our January show will be on Robbie Burns Day which this year is Tuesday January 25 and when there will be more bagpipe tunes that you can shake a stick at – and I can tell you from bitter experience that shaking a stick doesn’t make the bagpipes stop.

December 12th Set List:
Set #1: Set #2:
Christmas Medley
Santa Claus Is Dead
3 Downs to Heaven
Pamela Brown
Gumboot Cloggeroo
You Only Live Twice
Famous Blue Raincoat
Different Drum
South Train
Glenora Ferry
Lost on the Bayou
Mr. Grinch
Spanish Pipe Dream
Lay Lady ay
Chemical Workers Song
I Really Don’t Want To Know
Linda Put the Coffee On
Brandy
Every Time That You…
Two of Us

November 21st @ Free Times Café

It’s been a while since I’ve written – March 2020 in fact.  To be precise, my last email about Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room (more about whom shortly) was sent on March 8, 2020 in advance of our gig on March 15.  It was a good little missive, If I do so say so myself – and I recall some folks commenting favourably on it as well.  The subject of the email was this COVID thing that was starting to rear its ugly head (and wow that was a very ugly head – and body too – full of spikes apparently).  In the blurb I joked that no one had to worry about catching COVID at our gig because the concern was large crowds and the Free Times Café (more about that too shortly) was hardly a large venue. 

So it was funny for about three or four days and then things got very real and we cancelled the show and we haven’t played since then, so it’s been a long while. 

But now we’re back – or at least we’re pretty sure we’re back – I mean all plans are tentative plans these days.  We’ll be playing our first show of 2021 on November 21 at the Free Times Café (and more about the show even more shortly – shortlierer?). 

I know folks might be wondering how I kept in shape during this long time away and the answer, of course, is practice.  You see, you can’t just write these things out of thin air, it requires discipline and focus and commitment – a willingness to give 125% (can you tell I’ve been watching a lot of sports recently) and again practice and more practice. 

I admit, the first few months of the pandemic I was pretty depressed.  I’d look at my computer on the second Sunday of the month and think ‘what’s the point – no one will read what I write because we’re not going to be playing.’  But then I shook off that lethargy, that dark fog, that crushing weight (admittedly the weight thing could have been the potato chips) and I started writing again.  The second Sunday of every month I fired up the desktop, sat myself down in front of the monitor and wrote a clever one page or so piece knitting together issues of the day, wry observations and a cutting remark or two about the bagpipes. I didn’t send these off because they were about shows that weren’t happening and no one needs to know about what’s not happening.  

Actually, that’s not really true.  The not sending the emails off part is true but the part about no one needing to know about something that isn’t happening isn’t true because most of the pandemic has been spent listening to the news about what isn’t happening and when what isn’t happening might be happening and then hoping it would be happening and waiting to see if it happened.   

And because you are reading this you know that Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room will be happening.  We’ll be back at the Free Times – College just west of Spadina, in case you forgot – on Sunday November 21 (in case you forgot this from the subject line and the earlier reference).  The show will start at 8 pm. There will, as always, be lots of music and fun.  And because it’s our first gig in over 18 moths there will be no cover. 

But… there are a few things that will be different.  For one thing, you will need to be double vaxxed and have your proof of vaccination with you to show the helpful and friendly staff (more about them soon).  And of course, you will have to be masked as you walk through the café to your table.  Once at the table you can remove your mask and consume food and beverages.  And if all goes well the room will be full so there will be people all around you and if that makes you uncomfortable I get it and you might want to wait a few more months before coming out. 

For those of you who are ready to come out and hear live music we would love to see you – and so would the staff at the Free Times.  As you can imagine, the past year plus has been really hard on restaurants and music venues.  So while we don’t have a cover it would be great if you made a reservation to have dinner before the show.  Priority seating will go to those with reservations.  And to make it even more attractive we’ve put together a dinner show package where with dinner, you get to see the band for free.  No cover is one thing, but free, that’s really special!

If you’ve missed us, or always wanted to see us, and you’re OK with sitting with folks in a room having a good time listening to great music, I really hope to see you there. 

Jonathan 

P.S. There is no truth to the rumour that hearing bagpipes keeps the virus away; it is a myth like the value of using Invermectin – unlike Invermectin though, which can be used as a horse tranquilizer, the sound of the bagpipes will never put anyone to sleep.

November 21st Set List:
Set #1: Set #2:
Mist Covered Mountains
Wagon Wheel
Lake Dore Waltz
Ghost…
One of Us Cannot Be Wrong
Hanging Around the House
Song for the Mira
Book of Love
Cry If You Want To
I Mean It When I Do Right…
Meditation
Run…
The Wanderer
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow
Nigel
Down Where The Drunkards Roll
Phone Company Rag
Hours…
Drifting Away
Wild and Blue
Galway Girl

Robbie Burns Night 2021

Robert Burns Night 2021: YouTube Link

On Monday, January 25th, sometime before 7:30pm, a link will be posted here for the live stream on YouTube. Please check back for the live link, and then open that link in a new YouTube window so you can see and interact via chat with other participants.

Due to technical problems, the initial live stream stopped transmitting during Stephanie’s performance. It took a few minutes to realize what was happening and to come to the realization that we couldn’t simply restart the stream in the same location, so we started a new stream and continued on. Our apologies for those that may have missed some of the content. Both streams are linked above so you can catch up on what you may have missed.

March 15th @ Free Times Café

SHOW CANCELLED

Since 2004, Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room has done monthly shows at the Free Times Café (and an annual Robbie Burns show on top of that). That is over 200 shows at that one venue alone. In all that time we have only had to cancel one show – due to a snow storm. Until now.

Given the uncertainty that has arisen in recent days and as people digest the important directions and warnings from those who actually know something about communicable diseases, we think it best to cancel our show for Sunday, March 15th.

Music is important in all our lives – and live music has special powers. We very much hope to be back on and around the stage at the Free Times in April. In the meantime, if you miss us, watch our videos on YouTube – you can almost put a full show together.

Stay safe and be well.

Jonathan


For some reason I’ve been hearing lot about pandemics these days. Everywhere I turn someone is talking about pandemics, but no one seems really sure what pandemics are. And because I’m the sort of guy who likes to roll up his sleeves, wash his hands carefully, and then go to work on a problem, I thought I’d figure out what the word “pandemics” means.

To start, the word pandemics is made up of two words. The first “pan” obviously refers to the Greek god Pan. Pan was half man half goat. From the pictures mostly bottom part goat top part man but he has horns on his head so it’s not like it was a strict divide. Pan was the god of shepherds and flocks. He was also a bit of a musician, playing – naturally – the panpipes. (I suppose “pan” could also refer to a metal utensil used to cook food or look for gold but I think the Greek god thing is way more likely).

As for the “demics” part, that clearly refers to The Demics the legendary punk band from London Ontario. The Demics big hit (and I use that term advisedly), released in 1979, was “(I Wanna Go To) New York City” a song that, in 1996, was voted by readers of Chart Magazine (whatever that was) as the greatest Canadian song ever.

Even leaving aside Chart Magazine, “New York City” is a great tune. For those who have never heard it – or want to hear it again – you can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwfkpW63Nj8 – and turn it up. I last heard the song – other than just playing it now – a few months ago when a busker was singing it outside a liquor store on Spadina Avenue. I was very happy to join in on the chorus (and more about Spadina Avenue shortly).

So I think my research conclusively shows that pandemics refers to a half man half goat who really wants to go to New York City. And while that clears that up, I have to say that it doesn’t really explain to me why so many people are suddenly so fascinated in a Greek god with an interest in the Big Apple.

Perhaps out of fear of what might happen in the general population if they run into Pan as he tries to make it to NYC, in some parts of the world people are being advised to avoid large gatherings, where I guess Pan is likely to show up. And so major sporting events are being played in empty stadiums and some conferences have been cancelled.

This then, as it inevitably does, brings me to Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room, the band with whom I am honoured to be a part of. In these days of concerns about pandemics and attending things with lots of people, the Living Room provides a delightful alternative. You see, we play our monthly shows, this month it will be Sunday, March 15, at the Free Times Café – on College, just west of Spadina (see, I told you Spadina was coming back in this missive). There are a lot of nice things to say about the Free Times- it’s got great sight lines, good food, lots of drink choices – but one thing that you won’t say about it is that it’s big – because it isn’t.

Going to see a Living Room show at the Free Times does not, in any way, constitute attending a large gathering. So if you find that, for whatever reason, you don’t want to go to see the Raptors or the Leafs, or go a concert at the ACC or Roy Thompson Hall because there will be too many folks there – come see us Sunday at the Free Times. The show starts at 8, there is no cover, and you will hear lots of great music.

Hope to see you there.

Jonathan

P.S. If Pan had been named Bag then we would have an explanation for the term bagpipes, but then the shepherds would have had a really hard time watching over their flocks who would have fled at the sound of that instrument being played.

February 16th @ Free Times Café

Um, Jonathan is upside down right now, and can’t come to the phone.

But, don’t despair, there will be bagpipes (in honour of Jonathan’s trip to the Fire Country) Sunday, February 16th, at the Free Times Café, starting at 8pm as usual.

February 16th Set List:
Set #1: Set #2:
Lady Bridget / Jig Of Slurs
Man Of Constant Sorrow
Give Me One Reason
Wagon Wheel
Black Velvet Band
[Elham Song 1]
Linda Put The Coffee On
Fast Freight
Runaway
The Book Of Love
Histoire Sans Parôles
Ti Na Ni Na Nu
I Am Weary
Lean On Me
I’ll Fly Away
The Wanderer
Hanging ‘Round The House
Say That You Love Me
Lake Dore Waltz
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow
[Elham Song 2]
Comes Love
Heart Full Of Soul
Evangeline
I Wonder
Dirty Old Town
Come Back To Us Barbara Lewis
Angel From Montgomery

Robbie Burns Night @ Free Times Café

Please join us for another evening of kid friendly fun:
Some Burns. Some Scottish music. Some dance.
Lottsa whisky and/or ice cream. Greet your neighbours.
….and …of course, the Haggis!

Note: The Bar Celebration will be at:
The Free Times Café – 320 College St., at Major
8:00 pm till closing

January 19th @ Free Times Café

I don’t like to assume that just because I do something that other folks do it too, but I’m pretty sure most people reading this missive, and most people generally, have a list of their favourite lawsuits – it can’t just be me, can it? And so I assume that while most folks have a top 50, their favourite lawsuits change over time. And that goes for me too – see we have so much in common! And while I don’t have one special favourite, the lawsuit between the World Wildlife Fund and the World Wrestling Federation is always in my top 3.

You don’t remember that one – it’s real, and I mean it’s really real, it’s not like some of the things I write about and say are real but maybe aren’t actually real, this was a really real lawsuit. And what makes it even more fun is that the World Wildlife Fund won. Yes, a bunch of people dedicated to saving cute animals (well all animals and the planet generally but their logo is a panda so you know they are going cute) triumphed over a huge conglomerate whose posters feature The Hulk, The Rock, The Undertaker etc. That’s why the World Wrestling Federation is now World Wrestling Entertainment – yes the World Wildlife Fund forced the World Wrestling Federation to turn their F into an E – which kind of sounds like a weird but painful wrestling move.

Despite this loss, and it was without a doubt a loss, the (now) WWE has continued to prosper. One way they have done that is that they know that folks are motivated not only to cheer for their heroes but also to cheer against villains. That’s why every WWE bout features a good guy or guys or gal or gals against a bad guy or guys or gal or gals. And the good guys don’t always win, no, because the WWE is there to teach us valuable life lessons. Life lessons like, when things are looking rough and all hope seems lost, it is always a good idea to hit someone over the head with a chair. I can’t tell you how often that has come in handy for me.

And the creative use of chairs is not the only thing I have taken from the WWE. I have used some of those other lessons to help fuel the meteoric rise of the band that I am proudly part of – Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room – to the pinnacle of musical success and stardom (that is if you assume the pinnacle of musical success is playing once a month at a little bar in downtown Toronto for over 15 years in a row – and I certainly can’t think of a better measure of success than that).

Getting back to the life lessons from the WWWE, I have taken the heroes and villains idea and modified it just a bit. In our case it’s bagpipes. Regular readers of these musings will know that sooner or later I always get around to insulting, rubbishing, and mocking the bagpipes. Some people love this and some people hate it, but it gets folks fired up, it gets them thinking about the band. Like a villain in the WWE, you may hate me for my bagpipe disses but you keep coming back. And the WWE analogy doesn’t end there. At the end of the night, after the ring goes dark, everyone in the WWE gets together because they don’t really hate each other. Same thing for me, I don’t really hate the bagpipes, but, for the sake of band I keep on with it because it works.

This month you have two, yes two, chances to see the Living Room in action at the Free Times Café (College just west of Spadina). We have our regular third Sunday of the month gig on January 19 at 8 pm and then our annual Robbie Burns Show (all bagpipes all the time) on, when else, Robbie Burns Day, Saturday January 25. On the 25th the music will also start at 8 but the bagpipes won’t make their appearance until around 9 (but you’ll probably want to get there early for this one). And as a further incentive (?) there will be haggis. And in honour of our playing two gigs in a month there will also be no cover at either show.

Hope to see you once or twice this month.

Jonathan

P.S. All that stuff about me not hating the bagpipes, it’s all a lie.

January 19th Set List:
Set #1: Set #2:
Calypso Piper
One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong
I Only Want To Be With You
Mary
Mary Said…
Roddy McCorley
Put Another Log
Lowlands Away
Gringo In Belize
Breaking Up Is Hard To Do
Dead Skunk
Drifting Away
Alcohol And Pills
Friends In Low Places
Losing You…
I Shall Be Released
Dirty Old Town
Cold Water
Cry If You Want To
Someone I Used To Know
Stronger Beer
Walls

December 22nd @ Free Times Café

Technology gets blamed for a lot of things these days and it’s not always fair. We can’t put all of our failings at the door of Apple and Google and Facebook, much as we’d like to. Still, that doesn’t take Big Tech off the hook completely. For example, I think we can all agree that technology is at least partially to blame for a decline in the level of politeness in today’s society.

You might think that this is a reach, but you’re wrong – just like you’re wrong about everything else, you dummy!!! Sorry about that – not sure where that came from. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, the lack of politeness in today’s society and why technology is to blame.

Think about how we ask our artificially intelligent voice activated devices to help us out. In order to get their attention we have to say “Hey Siri” or “OK Google” or just “Alexa” – that’s all a bit abrupt and pretty informal. But we don’t really have a choice.

If you want to know what song has the lyrics “cat’s foot, iron claw, neuro-surgeons scream for more” you can’t go “Excuse me Siri, I don’t want to bother you but I’m curious about some lyrics that I can’t seem to get out my head.” Siri can’t help you unless you start your sentence with “Hey Siri.” You may feel that you don’t really know Siri well enough to start a conversation with a causal “Hey” but too bad, that’s the only way she’ll talk to you.

And once you get their attention you have to get right to the point. There is no room for small talk. You can’t start by idly commenting on the weather before asking what you really want to know, which is who won the Oscar for best song in 2003, because Alexa will annoyingly interrupt you tell you what the weather is when all you are looking for is a polite “yeah, that snow is a drag isn’t it” before getting to the real question.

And as for Google, much as you would like to start the conversation with “Would it be OK if you stopped listening in to everything I said and then cluttering up my inbox with offers for restaurants after I asked someone else, not you, what do you want for dinner” and then asked for a recipe that used artichokes, quinoa, and tuna – that won’t work because Google’s attention span is way too short.

Is it any wonder then that this informality, this abruptness, this immediately direct questioning has seeped from our digital interactions to our dealings with real people. No. it isn’t.

At this point in this missive you are probably doing two things. First you are nodding your head and quietly admiring the insights and wisdom conveyed so far and maybe even thinking “That Jonathan brings such a welcome perspective to the burning issues of today – I guess I’m pretty lucky to be reading this” (hey, a guy can dream can’t he?) and second, “When is he going to get around to Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room.” And to the second point – I am going to do that right now.

On December 22 (the fourth Sunday in December) Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room will be holding our annual, and much beloved, all-request show. Yes, it’s back again as it is every December – because we need holiday traditions we can rely on.

And just as not everyone can be home for holidays, not everyone will be able to be at the Free Times Café (on College just west of Spadina) at 8 pm for the show, but even if you can’t make it, you can still be part of the show by voting for the tunes you would like us to play. It’s easy – just click on this link http://www.galr.ca/vote/ and you will be magically transported to our site where you can pick from over 350 songs – and that is not a typo, there are over 350 songs on the site.

So please, peruse the site and vote. And for those of you who do attend, in honour of the holidays there will be no cover.

Hope to see you there.

Jonathan

PS. You know what else is abrupt, direct and just all in your face – of course you do – bagpipes.

December 22nd Set List:
Set #1: Set #2:
Christmas Pipe Tunes
I Believe In Father Christmas
Wagon Wheel
What Was I Thinking
People Are Crazy
Dream A Little Dream Of Me
A Prayer
Famous Blue Raincoat
Unchained Melody
Breathe In, Breathe Out
Buffalo Plaid
First We Take Manhattan
Come Together
Glenora Ferry
Fairy Tale Of New York
Christmas Island
Across The Border
Tracks Of My Tears
500 Miles
Stand By Me
Wichita Lineman
I Can See Clearly Now
Galway Girl
Pussy Willows Cat Tails
Lodestar
Saskatchewan Sky
Bang Bang
When The Night Hears My Song

November 17th @ Free Times Café

I’ve always been a bit of a sports fan, but until recently, as in last year’s magical playoff run by the Toronto Raptors (pause to think back how exciting that was), I never really paid much attention to the NBA – the National Basketball Association.

I am giving it a bit more attention now that the Raptors are the defending champions (that does sound good, doesn’t it?), but I’m not a huge fan. For example I don’t think I could name all the teams in the league. I do know that the team in Utah is called the Jazz which has to be stupidest name in professional sports. Admit it, when you think “jazz” pretty much the last place you think of is Utah. The most famous musical group from Utah is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir – and whatever you think of them, they ain’t jazz.

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