Category Archives: Music

Mostly music written and recorded by me.

Bloomistry Live at Zaphod’s (Solo Show)

Bloomistry Live at Zaphod's Solo Show

If you’ve spent any time in Ottawa, you know about Zaphod’s. For 25 years it hosted live performances by countless bands. In May, Zaphod’s closed. Recently while I was going through the Bloomistry archive, I found a recording of a solo show I did there in 2009. I’d forgotten all about it. So I dusted off the CD, did a bit of editing, and put together this post.

These recordings, made by Ottawa music veteran Tom Stewart, are from the soundboard.

Set list:

1. I Guess I’ll Need a Miracle
2. Wrecking Ball
3. Late Bloom
4. Bitter Sense of Melody
5. Four Leaf Clover
6. Higher Cloud
7. Come Down Easy
8. Unlucky at Luck

Bloomistry Live at Raw Sugar Cafe | 10.10.2009

Raw Sugar Cafe

Bloomistry live at the Raw Sugar Cafe, Ottawa, Canada. October 10, 2009

Audience recording. Dmitri Koev, bass; Simon Meilleur, drums; Terry Calder, guitar, b. vocal; Wayne K. Spear, guitar, vocal.

Bloomistry Raw Sugar 04

CBC radio’s Amanda Putz had just done a feature on our new album, To Be, so there was a bit of buzz in the air when we took to the stage in October of 2009. We were doing shows every week somewhere in town, which in retrospect was pushing things a bit into over-exposure.

This was a fun show. The audience was pretty low-key and sedate, but it was a good crowd and we were playing in a cafe, after all. This recording was made from the audience, and the quality is not great. Four of the songs we played were only partially recorded, and are not included. Yulia Teryaeva captured the evening in photos with her keen eye, as she did on many other occasions. I also asked a photographer named Jennifer Lapierre to come out to the show, which she did. It’s a funky and intimate venue, and we were really stoked to play this show. A lot of bands love Raw Sugar Cafe.

Set

1. The Wars
2. Trigger of Your Soul
3. A Crack in My Cup
4. Bitter Sense of Melody
5. Ragged Doll
6. River Wide Road
7. Late Bloom
8. Hook and Eye
9. I Guess I’ll Need A Miracle
10. North of Wasomee
11. Four Leaf Clover

Bloomistry, “To Be” (2015 Remaster)

To Be

For the 6th Bloomistry album I turned, as so often before and after, to the poets to get my ideas. To be or not to be, that was the question. And the answer was “Let’s be, and let’s make another album.”

But I didn’t want to make just another Bloomistry record. So I indulged every crazy idea, the crazier the better. I recorded twenty-minute songs, atonal compositions, and tunes with invented time signatures. I filled the studio with things that I banged together, in an attempt to make music without conventional instruments. Some of it was pretty interesting, at least to me, but other than Arrow of Time (which was my attempt to sound like the band Califone) the weirder stuff didn’t make it to the record.

Some of the songs, like Feet On the Mountain and Medley, were in fact ground-breaking for me. I don’t think there’s anything like it on the earlier records. And Never Gonna Nadia was the first Bloomistry song I could imagine hearing on the radio—and then one day, in Montreal, I did hear it on the radio. That and High Beam, a clearly Lennon-esque song—though I didn’t consciously intend that—were in college radio rotation for a time.

The 2008 recession was digging in, and To Be was a record about the rot of politics and rogue capitalism. The song Roses was dedicated to Anne Rogovin and its lyrics alluded to Rose Schneiderman as well as to the poem “Bread and Roses.” I was not very happy at this time, for a lot of reasons, most of them having to do with living in a staid bureaucratic city (as I saw it) where it seemed to be winter ten months a year. Maybe that’s why this record bogged down.

I’ve never been able to decide whether or not these songs are any good, or whether they work as a whole. The middle section—Wine and Women, On Top of the World, and To The Bottom—were taken from another project, Laketown. I call this section of the record the Tape Hiss Trio (listen and you’ll know what I mean) and it bothers me to this day that it’s there. Still, this is the most polished of my records, and I did a lot of interesting trickery in the studio to pull it off.

Simon Meilleur overdubbed the drums on Never Gonna Nadia and The Wars. I was never a strong drummer (I learned to play drums as I made these records!) so there was always timing issues. His contribution took things to a new level. And Edith Boucher’s artwork for this record was the first time I actually thought about such things in a serious way. So this is also my best-looking album.

On February 16, 2009, I started recording The Gutter and the Gut, as it was called. Phil Bova mixed the album on August 12–13 and we mastered on September 22, two weeks after I had mixed Laketown with Dave Draves. I took three songs off that record and substituted them on To Be. The rest is history.

Tracks.

1. High Beam
2. A Crack in my Cup
3. Four Leaf Clover
4. Wine and Women
5. On Top of the World
6. To the Bottom
7. Never Gonna Nadia
8. Feet on the Mountain
9. Broken (Medley)
10. Arrow of Time
11. Roses
12. The Wars

Bloomistry Live at Kaffé | 23.10.2009

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Bloomistry live at Kaffé 1870, Wakefield, Quebec. October 23, 2009

Audience recording. Dmitri Koev, bass; Simon Meilleur, drums; Terry Calder, guitar, b. vocal; Wayne K. Spear, guitar, vocal.

We did a bunch of shows at Kaffé 1870, a bar in the postcard-perfect, riverside village of Wakefield, Quebec, run by members of The Fiftymen. It was a great venue, and I remembered this being one of those beautiful, clear fall nights when the autumn leaves are at their peak and the air is crisp in a good way that makes you feel alive. But then I listened to the recording this week for the very first time, and in one of the songs I mention it’s raining outside! So either I was remembering the show I did a week earlier with Chris Page, or my brain is just making this all up.

The crowd that night was rowdy and ready. We were never a dance band, and I wasn’t prepared for a crowded dance floor—but when it happened, I loved it. My friend Flecton Big Sky shared the bill, joined by his band The Dreamcatchers, featuring Scott Terry on guitar and Tom Werbowetski on drums. Scott was my first drummer, and you’ll hear him heckling in good fun. As for The Dreamcatchers, I think this may have been the last time they performed together, but like my recollection of the weather I could be wrong.

We did a photo shoot with Yulia Teryaeva before this show in Mackenzie King Park and spent the day in and around the village. I don’t remember when we took the stage, but it was a long night. I went home exhausted but happy.

This recording is rough, but it gives you an idea of the night. The set list doesn’t exactly match the recording, but it wasn’t unusual for us to change things up on the fly. Or maybe I just didn’t read the set list properly. We played three songs that we didn’t often perform—What Might Have Been, The Wars, and Fountain of Light. I’ve always thought Fountain of Light was among my better songs, maybe because of how it happened. I was struggling with something in the studio, so I just took a break and went off to the side with my guitar to decompress. And in one uninterrupted go, out came this song, exactly like it is on the record. I recorded it right then and there. Creepy. That had never happened to me before, and it’s never happened to me since.

Set List

2009-10-23_Kaffe

Flecton Big Sky

Flecton Big Sky and The Dreamcatchers | Kaffé 1870 23.10.2009

 

Bloomistry Live at Westfest | 12.06.2010

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Bloomistry live at Westfest, Ottawa, Canada. June 12, 2010

Soundboard recording, MP3 (320 kbps). Dmitri Koev, bass; Simon Meilleur, drums; Terry Calder, guitar, b. vocal; Wayne K. Spear, guitar, vocal.

Westfest is a yearly Ottawa music festival started by Elaina Martin. In 2010, I had the privilege of being invited by Elaina to play on the Saturday night slot, with Sloan headlining. The weather was perfect and the sound was great, although with this recording (taken from the soundboard) the instruments are a bit unbalanced and you can’t hear the audience. We didn’t get a sound check, so on the first song the engineer is figuring out the levels. Hang in, it gets better. For what it’s worth, on stage the sound was a great, big stadium sound.

By this point To Be had been out for around 8 months and we had a well-established set list drawn from 6 albums and a bunch of other, unreleased material. We rotated songs in and out to keep it fresh. I think we had about 30 songs in total that were stage-ready, plus a few rarities that we threw in on special nights like this. For Westfest we played Hook & Eye, a song we hardly ever played. I think we may have even rehearsed it specifically for this show.

It was a great day, and one of the Bloomistry highlights of 2010. Enjoy.

Playlist

Introduction: Amanda Putz, CBC Bandwidth

1. Trigger of Your Soul
2. As Far As Wheels Go
3. Wrecking Ball
4. Late Bloom
5. The All About A Girl
6. Four Leaf Clover
7. Feet On The Mountain
8. Hook & Eye
9. Come Down Easy
10. Unlucky at Luck


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Bloomistry, “Late Bloom” (2015 Remaster)

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The third Bloomistry album, Late Bloom, was recorded from January 4 to March 31, 2007 and released on August 28—14 months after its predecessor, Ca Marche. In the coming 14 months, there would be three more albums worth of new Bloomistry material. This was the “bloom” to which the title referred.

As the preceeding suggests, this would be the most autobiographical of the early Bloomistry records. The opening track, Late Bloom, rehearses the project’s background: “It started years ago, in a basement in our town.” It was the 1980s, the town was St. Catharines, and I was in a band called The Shade, hauling a Fender Dual Showman amp head that my cousin Al had integrated into a customized maple cabinet. (The song mentions a Fender Twin, but my Showman was just as back-breaking all the same). The next track, When Time Was on Fire, recalls the same period. Come Down Easy takes an ironic and self-deprecating look at the musical aspirations of those days: “Your face/Never on a magazine/You never made the hipster scene.” This is rock and roll seen from my 42-year-old perspective.

I asked my friend Ken McClelland to do the piano overdubs. We were in The Shade together, and it meant a lot to me that this nostalgia album of mine would have him on it. I felt like I was doing with Bloomistry what I’d been unable to do with The Shade: find my voice and my own writing style. “Oh well—better late than never” was the basic philosophy of this record.

(Ken’s parts were recorded on Sunday, March 4, 2007. That’s him playing the organ and piano on the songs Late Bloom, When Time Was on Fire, and Walk On. I especially love the piano at the end of When Time Was on Fire: so, so simple, and yet I can’t imagine the song without it.)

All of the Bloomistry albums were recorded in my basement home studio, often between midnight and 3 am, at very low cost, with me playing all the instruments, unless otherwise noted. Bloomistry albums are all lo-fi (I actually consider them demos and hope to re-record the better songs one day with a professional studio band) but with Late Bloom the production took a step forward.

It was also at this time that I performed the songs live for the first time, in a pub called The Manx. It would be over a year before I formed a band, with Ottawa musicians Dmitri Koev, Terry Calder and Scott Terry (on drums, later replaced by Simon Meilleur). But the band never recorded, even though that was my eventual plan: all the albums were solo projects, made in the same Hull, Quebec basement studio.

Late Bloom was mixed on April 14–15, 2007 by engineer Dave Draves (who also overdubbed, while mixing, the Vox organ on Hook and Eye and the Mellotron vibraphone on Interstate) and released on August 28.

Tracks.

1. Late Bloom
2. When Time Was On Fire
3. Come Down Easy
4. Walk On
5. Left Behind
6. Sault Ste Marie
7. Hook and Eye
8. Bone Club
9. Interstate

Bloomistry, “Laketown” (2015 Remaster)

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In theory, Laketown was the 7th Bloomistry album. It quickly followed To Be, with recording taking place on August 21–23, 2009. But with To Be absorbing most of my attention, and getting all the promotional focus, Laketown remained in the background. It was lost in the flurry. In fact, I raided it for three songs to put on To Be: Wine and Women, On Top of the World, and To The Bottom.

The sessions for To Be—from February 16 to August 9—were long, drawn-out, and frustrating. Enough material was recorded for three or four albums, but much of it was unreleasable. Many of the songs simply didn’t work, for one reason or another. The irony is that I was being really ambitious on To Be, writing songs with key changes and odd time signatures  and movements. It was my prog-rock album! But the songs that were making me crazy were the three-minute, conventional pop tunes. Some I abandoned, others I re-recorded from the ground up, two or three or more times. One of those songs was Fallen Leaves, picked up once again for the Laketown session. The version on this album is one of many, and while this song never quite came together, the idea never lost its interest. I am still wondering how to get that one right. It’ll be amazing when I do.

This album was a return to the approach of All I Know Is The Skin Of The Earth—making a record in a marathon weekend session. After the exhausting mess of To Be, the appeal of the recording studio had somewhat diminished. I didn’t want ten months of pain—a weekend was enough. The record was also in a sense a return to the first Bloomistry album, Galetta Street Wharf, which has always had a soft spot in my heart. Both were based on a fictional town, and both were made without any concern for conforming to an overall album style or genre. As a result, Laketown ranges in style from rock to country. At 18 seconds in length, the final song “In Summary….” is a musical jest as well as a Reader’s Digest take on pop music: “I love her, but she don’t love me.”

Laketown is uneven and rough, and some of it makes me cringe, but it features three gems in Port Aurora, Fear, and Another Day. It was mixed by Dave Draves on September 8, 2009, two weeks before the mastering of To Be on September 22, at Bova Sound studio.

Tracks.

1. Beautiful Posers
2. Over and Under
3. Fallen Leaves
4. Fear
5. Another Day
6. Port Aurora
7. Deep As a River
8. Wake Up
9. In Summary….