Archive for the ‘Alternative’ Category

I remember a time when the MuchMusic Video Awards (aka MMVAs) were everything. They were surrounded by so much hype, and because they shut down Queen St. and performed in parking lots, it made this awards show young, cool, and quirky. Over the years though, the intensity of the frenzy diminished, mostly because MuchMusic stopped really being about music. The MMVAs – now called iHeartRadio MMVAs – are coming up this weekend, so I thought I’d take a look at some of my favourite MuchMusic memories.

5 Intimate & Interactive

A few hours dedicated to interviewing a particular musician, and also having them perform live, while surrounded by their fans in the MuchMusic studio. VJs would take on hosting duties, and find out things like which members of the Backstreet Boys wore boxers, and which ones wore briefs. Or what was Avril Lavigne’s deal with skater boys? The performances were often more stripped-down, cozier versions of original tracks, making the musicians more accessible to fans, who also had the opportunity to engage with their idols.

 

4 Big Shiny Tunes

The be-all and end-all of compilation albums. If you didn’t own either BST1 (released in 1996) or BST2, we definitely were not friends. They had all the best rock/alternative tracks of the year. It wasn’t always the big names either; they also included the likes of Poe, Wide Mouth Mason and Placebo. I tapped out after the 2nd volume, but apparently they went all the way up to 14 (2009.) If you want to impress anyone with 90s music knowledge, check them out.

 

3 The VJs

I used to watch hours and hours of MM after school, so I felt like I personally knew all the VJs. I’m not talking about the ones that are still on TV like, Devon Soltendieck, Rick (the “temp”) Campanelli, or even Geroge Stroumboulopoulos. I’m talking about the ones that truly defined the classic MM VJ.  Like Bill Welychka. He had 90s Eddie Vedder hair (that he eventually cut, making him unrecognizable,) and wore plaid shirts. Master T: the dreadlocked rap connoisseur. Sook-Yin Lee, aka the Asian hipster, before Asian hipster was even a thing. Being a MuchMusic VJ was my dream job for a very long time. Too bad it never worked out.

 

2 Speaker’s Corner

This was such a staple of the downtown Toronto community. A video booth where you could rant and rave about whatever you wanted. You could talk, sing, scream, complain, support, encourage, whatever came to your mind, no matter your mood. It was such a Toronto thing, and the chosen ones’ videos would get broadcast on TV. More often than not, at strange hours of the day, but sometimes, in those strange hours, Speaker’s Corner was exactly what was needed.

 

1 Electric Circus

Doesn’t matter what music you were into, everyone wanted to be on Electric Circus. A full out dance party/rave in the MM studios, hosted by none other than the Monika Deol. There were so many theatrics going on, because everything was being broadcast on TV. Fluorescent make up, arms flailing with glow sticks in hand; 10″ heels, so much pleather, tube tops, and shiny silver pants. And of course the gyrations, bare midriffs, and indoor sunglasses. My favourite though, were all the fame chasers who dance so hard when the camera came near them, as though they were about to be discovered. What an iconic show.

 

Oh MuchMusic, I miss you.

 

Chris Cornell first invaded my ears back in the early 90s as frontman of Soundgarden – a Seattle band front and centre in the grunge music scene. Those formative years wouldn’t have been the same without that distinctive voice, his voice. Cornell’s vocals were what set them apart from the plethora of grunge bands trying to make it big at the time. His ability to hit such high octaves with perfect control, but also be raw and loud, gave him such versatility, and a sound that will always truly be his own (start video at 0:19) 

In Soundgarden’s early days, even before they “made it big” with 1994’s Superunknown, Cornell lived with musician Andrew Wood, of the band Mother Love Bone. After Wood died of a heroin overdose in 1990, Cornell got together with Wood’s bandmates, and wrote and produced a tribute album, under the name Temple of the Dog. It also featured backing vocals of newcomer Eddie (of yet-to-be-formed Pearl Jam.) The whole idea behind this entire project was friendship, so it’s no surprise I’ve made long-lasting friendships based on a mutual love for this powerful, anthemic track.

Soundgarden inevitably broke up in 1997, like the rest of the grunge bands. Cornell decided to kick off a solo career with 1999’s Euphoria Morning, which fared pretty well. As a solo artist, he also performed covers, appeared on soundtracks, and even had one of his albums produced by Timbaland (which did not fare well with his fans.) Point is, he was always experimenting, always making music, always in our ears. This track appeared in the movie Great Expectations – the one with Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow. It was the best part of the movie, and revealed a much softer Cornell, reaffirming that he really was capable of anything.

If Cornell didn’t have enough going on already, in 2001 he joined ex-members of rock-metal band Rage Against the Machine, to form Audioslave. A hard rock band, similar in many ways to Soundgarden, just less grunge and more aggression. They were loud, but also musical. By this time, I was in University, a completely different phase in my life. But there he was – still ringing in my ears. This track is so incredibly haunting and proof that no matter how much noise was going on, Cornell’s voice could always rise above, and take the whole thing to another level.

I had the privilege of seeing Cornell play live 3 three times. Once as a solo act at a small venue in Hamilton. I drove through a snowstorm, in pitch black just to get there, and it was worth every second. The 2nd time was with Soundgarden on their reunion tour at an outdoor venue; when the sky turned gray, and they went into “Fell on Black Days,” the rain didn’t even matter. Lastly, a solo acoustic show at Massey Hall: just him, his guitar and a lot of incredible music. I went to this show all by myself, because I couldn’t miss this opportunity. I had goosebumps the entire time, and never felt I was there alone – Cornell, as usual, was right there.

There was never a time in my musical life that Cornell wasn’t doing something, or part of something. Everything he got involved with, somehow became a part of my life. A memory, a mood, a phase. It was comforting to know, no matter what he was doing, it would always resonate with me. When he performed live as a solo artist, the most remarkable thing was not only did fans get to see Cornell, but also Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog and Audioslave. So when Chris Cornell passed away on May 17th, not only was he gone, but he also took Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, and Audioslave with him. As a music fan, that’s a whole lot of music to mourn.

Maybe it’s because spring is around the corner, bringing its sense of new beginnings. Or maybe it’s a renewed sense of zen after taking a step back from reality for a little while. Whatever the case, I’ve decided it’s high time to just let things go. Grudges don’t help anyone out, don’t do anyone any favours. They really only affect you, occupying your every thought, impacting your every emotion. So if someone’s throwing shade your way, let it slide. Move on. Cut your losses. Because this can be a lot harder than it seems, here are a few tracks to help you rid yourself of all that drama.

“Shine” by Mondo Cozmo

This song from Philly-bred, LA-based artist Josh Ostrander, is about figuring out the right path to take, and finding one’s way through it. The music is hopeful and more than anything, it reminds us there’s nothing wrong with asking for a little help.

“Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac

A track from 1975, that remains relevant to this day. The sadness in Stevie Knicks’ voice, and the lyrics full of reflection, can’t help but make us think that no matter what happens to us, life moves forward. Sometimes, you just have to leave the past behind, be the bigger person, and focus on the future; as hard as it may be.

“Don’t Look Back in Anger” by Oasis

Wise words from these Britpop royals.

“Walk Away” by Ben Harper

Ben Harper has this magical way of using his voice, music and lyrics to convey the deepest of emotions, completely effortlessly. The track says it all.

 

“Let it Go” by James Bay

Typically, I don’t lean towards overplayed Top 40 pop music, but there’s just something about this one. Bay masterfully controls his voice, making you feel everything he does. The lyrics, though simplistic at times, are also real which helps the listener relate to Bay’s woes.