We will miss you and your formidable rant this month, but the show must go on. Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room: Sunday, June 19th, 8pm @ Free Times Café.
You know the place.
You know the band.
June 19th Set List:
Pipe Set And It Stoned Me Sugar Mountain Down In Belize If I Could Only Win Your Love Make You Feel My Love Gringo In Belize All My Tears Feel Like Hank Williams Tonight Pancho And Lefty Harvest Moon When Will I Be Loved
Pipe Set Diamond Girl Coast Of Carolina Miss The Mississippi Paradise Joan Of Arc Lucky Enough Wild About My Lovin’ Pussy Willows, Cat Tails The Girl In The Transparent Dress Little Bit Of Rain Lay Down Sally
You know, that could be the best opening sentence I’ve ever written. I mean it’s not “Call me Ishmael” or “It was a dark stormy night” but there’s a lot packed into it. There’s intrigue, there’s drama, pretty much any possibility is open. The only thing that’s not really possible is that my Che Guevara moment was being killed in the wilds of Bolivia while leading a revolution. Because since I’m writing this I clearly wasn’t killed.
But then again, through the magic of delayed email delivery, it’s possible that the counter revolutionaries were approaching as I was writing this and that while I was not dead when I wrote it (obviously) I could have chosen to send it later so that it arrived in your email box after I was killed. Although if death was imminent, why would I spend my last moments promoting another appearance of Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room? Shouldn’t I have spent my time writing a stirring manifesto or a poem… or something grander.
The other problem with that opening sentence is that I think it might promise too much. I mean you’re probably already wondering what my Che Guevara moment could be, and you may well be investing this moment with the mythology and the youthful revolutionary fervor that is often associated with Che. Can my experience, whatever it was, live up to that opening sentence?I’m not sure.
Anyway, without further ado, here is my Che Guevara moment. It’s April 29 at 4:30 in the morning and I’m in Whitehorse in the Yukon. Pretty good so far. Perhaps I’m in the mountains, maybe I’m canoeing down a river, or I could be checking traps.
What I was doing, was standing in the security line at the Whitehorse Airport getting ready to board a flight to Vancouver because the only flight out that will allow for a connection that gets me Toronto at a decent hour (which ends up being about 4.30 in the afternoon so right in the middle of rush hour traffic) is at 5 am.
And, while I’m in the security line, my glasses fall off and break on the floor. I now have no glasses and I can’t see. This immediately brings to mind the story of Che Guevara’s last days in the mountains of Bolivia when he broke his glasses and was rendered pretty much incapable of doing any reading or writing.
And the reason this was my Che Gevara moment was that pretty soon after my glasses broke someone with some manual dexterity helped tape the frames together so I could muddle through my flights. The next day I got a crappy pair of reader glasses from the pharmacy and by the next Friday I had a new set of glasses. So when I refer to what happened to me as a Che Guevara moment, I mean that almost literally – it was about a moment when I shared something with Che Guevara and then just as suddenly I didn’t.
This then takes me, of course, to Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room, who will be playing its next gig on Sunday, May 15th at the Free Times Café (still on College just west of Spadina). The show will start at 8 and there will be lots to eat and drink. And there will be no cover because the music belongs to the people!!!!
Hope to see you there.
P.S. If you were wondering, after the revolution there will be no need for bagpipes.
May 15th Set List:
Pipe Set Five Days In May Sugar Mountain I’ll Be Back Two Of Us Girl One Day I Walk Cotton Jenny Lucky Enough I Go To Pieces Running Back To Saskatoon Glenora Ferry
Rocket Man People Are Crazy Famous Blue Raincoat Mary Said… Beer And Chip Ball Hank Williams Tonight Lay Down Sally Bruised Orange Night Rider’s Lament Have I The Right Stronger Beer Brandy
In our family we have a word for the slice of bread found at either end of a loaf. Now when I say we have “a word,” I think that makes it clear that the word that we use is not the one in popular use to describe those particular slices of bread. For example, if someone says “When I was a kid we had a word for those things that you put on your feet when you left the house,” and then you heard that the word was “shoe,” you’d say “No, you didn’t have ‘a word’ you had ‘the word.’ A person cannot make a unique claim on a word that is already in the general parlance or the vernacular, if you will.
But we had, and have, a word for the slice of bread at the end of the loaf and that word is “bumble-end.” And now that I see it written down, because I’ve never actually seen the word written down before, I realize that it could be seen as two words “bumble” and “end” or it could be seen as one word “bumbleend” or “bumblend” or as I prefer to write it, as a hyphenated word – bumble-end. And since it seems like my family made it up, I get to choose how it’s spelled.
The thing is, though, when I was growing up, I didn’t know we had “a word” for the slices of bread at either end of the loaf. I didn’t think “bumble-end” was “a word.” I thought it was “the word.” You might think “How could anyone believe that a word as odd as ‘bumble-end’ could possibly be ‘the word’ to describe the slices of bread at the end of a loaf.” But why not “bumble-end?” The “end” part of the word is a precise and exact description of where the slices are located and as for the “bumble,” it makes as much sense at the start of this word as it does at the start of “bumblebee” which is clearly “the word” for a striped stingy insect or “bumbleberry pie” which is just a berry pie with the word “bumble” at the front.
The other reason I thought “bumble-end” was “the word” was because I had no reason to believe that other people didn’t regularly use that term as well. How often does it come up in conversation that you refer to a slice of bread that is either at the front or the back end of a loaf?
Now I don’t know when it was, I could have been 7, 12, or 25, but one day I was at someone’s place, and I saw the first or the last slice of a loaf of bread and I said, “Who wants the bumble end?” And then, immediately and instantaneously, it was made clear to me that “bumble-end” wasn’t “the word” it was “a word.” And, to the untutored ears of those hearing it for the first time, it was not just “a word” it was a very strange word indeed.
And this brings me, as these missives inevitably do, to Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room, the band that I am proud to be part of. You see, when people learn that I’m in a band they often say “What kind of music do you play?” and I say, “You know, folk, rock, celtic, country, original tunes, covers and bit of jazz and blues and a smidge of bluegrass” and then when I’m asked about the instruments and musicians I say “The usual, eight lead singers, drums, bass, guitars (electric, acoustic and pedal steel), mandolin, fiddle, bodhran, tin whistle, flute, saxophone, and, oh yeah, bagpipes.” And then I realize that this isn’t most people’s idea of a band, it’s more of a word salad with a musical theme.
But we are a band and we do play all of those instruments and those genres of music and many of us do sing. While you can sample our wares on YouTube, we are best understood and enjoyed live. And I am pleased to report that we are back live at the Free Times Café (still on College just west of Spadina) on Sunday, April 10 (and I know that we usually play the third Sunday of the month but this year that falls on Easter Sunday and the third night of Passover – which admittedly isn’t one of the bigger nights – and in the middle of Ramadan, so we figured let’s do our gig before all that – and for those you in a family that is trying to balance all three of those holidays at the same time, good luck to you).
The show starts at 8 and there is no cover. But we encourage you to support the venues that still showcase live music and make a dinner reservation. That way you not only get to enjoy good food and drink, but you can get a reserved table near the band (or further away from the band if that’s your preference) and you will then be assured of a great seat.
We will be back to the third Sunday of the month for May. Hope to see you soon.
P.S. For those who are musically curious, the term “bumble-end” when used in the context of bagpipes describes the person who is playing them.
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 are any technical issues with the live stream (like what happened last year), updates will be posted here as soon as possible.
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.
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:
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
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.
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:
Mist Covered Mountains
Lake Dore Waltz
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
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow
Down Where The Drunkards Roll
Phone Company Rag
Wild and Blue
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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