2010 in Review: The BackstageRider UnList

Year-end lists are for chumps. Really long un-Web-friendly blogs are where it’s at. :-/

BackstageRider Bulletin BoardBesides the fact that I rarely remember when albums were released, it’s not my job to rate music. Music belongs to you. That’s why you won’t read a lot of typical record reviews on this website. My goal is to just spin the bottle towards some cool stuff and if you like where it lands, feel free to make out with it.

BackstageRider is meant to be about the experience of music: gigs, great nights out, crazy stories and fresh downloads spun through awesome headphones. Sure, it’s also about booze, inside jokes, pointless criticism and unfeasibly long text, but that’s just because…uh, yeah.

So rather than employ the tired editorial device of listing out things numerically that correspond to music in 2010 – I’m going to employ the drowsy editorial device of doing a month-by-month ramble o’er the fields of the BackstageRider’s first year. And like in Episode 9 of every season of America’s Next Top Model, there’ll be some links to old stuff you may have missed, but I’ll also try to throw in some new highlights as well. This ain’t everything but it’s a good lookee at the year. You know, in review. Click on all the links…there’s some great galleries and funny stories attached in places.


BSR launched officially and to absolutely no fanfare on January 18, 2010, with my own imaginary rider. My designer Dan (who also happens to have done a fab remix of Yeasayer) and I debated about the magenta. Looks good with black.

But the rockhand/devil’s horns was all me.

Despite the fact that BSR is not a heavy metal website, and I’m a real alt-kid, I love me some rockhands. So much so I have a gallery of ’em. When I asked Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips if he’d do the horns for me, he laughed. “Yeah, that’s your thing, isn’t it?” “Well, everyone needs a schtick, don’t they?”, I said. “Oh FOR SURE,” he replied. If anyone knows anything about schtick, it’s the dude who rolls around in a giant space-bubble. Here’s a serious rockhands pic of Wayne. There’s a smiley one also on the story itself.

The site also launched well and with thanks  to a few of my musician friends. Brian Karscig from San Diego’s LouisXIV had just started his new band Nervous Wreckords so I was all up in his business (they’ve got a great full-lengther called Valuminum that’s out now); the musical love of my life Mike Doughty contributed a Top 11 List (our lists go right to 11! Clever, no?) of fake new year’s resolutions; and I dug up an old letter from my eternal boyfriend Lou Barlow from Dinosaur Jr./Sebadoh. There’s a lotta Lou on BackstageRider – I even stole my tagline “Just Gimme Indie Rock” from the 1991 Sebadoh song whose lyrics I absolutely adore. It’s always kinda cool when Lou pops in on the BackstageRider Facebook page, or when Sebadoh’s Jason Loewenstein drops by to comment one of my posts. But you know what’s coolest? Five of my photos (including the one here) are gonna be used in Sebadoh’s Bakesale album reissue, out in Feb 2011.

January also brought a joint gig of awesome – Joel Plaskett and Steve Earle. Was my first time seeing the former Thrush Hermit Joel P. play live as a solo act and only the second time seeing Earle in 20 years. I’d forgotten how much I dug Earle, so I wrote a piece about the time I first met him in 1990 in Toronto. I sat outside of a venue in Toronto awaiting his arrival for soundcheck and simply asked him if we could chat, when he arrived. He agreed. I was 17. This is the kind of stories BackstageRider is made of.


Tom Smith, Editors, photo by Brit Kwasney, brightphoto.comThe 2010 Olympic Winter Games arrived in Vancouver, and brought with it a massive hangover that I received at the hands of Canadian East Coast re-formed rockers Sloan. Hadn’t seen them since the ’90s and so I queued up for FOUR hours in the cold to get into a venue that held a handful of people. That night didn’t make it to the pages of BSR, but suffice it to say that we drank several bottles of white wine and pitchers of beer. It was quite amazing to hear “Coax Me” and I do believe that I got my former boyfriend (no, not really) Patrick Pentland to throw me the rockhands.

In a very odd twist, I also found myself hanging out with the backing band of Burton Cummings (The Guess Who) one night during the Games, because my friend Tim plays guitar with him. The evening became more entertaining when I realized two Farriss brothers from INXS were standing next to me at the hotel bar, and we were sitting two tables away from Russian hockey players Sergei Federov and Alexander Ovechkin. Oh and then I met my own hockey hero Brendan Shanahan, totally randomly, as I was leaving the hotel. We had a nice chat. He didn’t know what hit him.

The UK’s Editors also came back to town and I was stoked to interview singer Tom and drummer Ed. Ed was really sweet; Tom, not so much. He reminded me of how unappealing I find band members who wear boredom on their faces. The live show was stellar, though, so we’ll let him live. THIS TIME.


March was insane for the BSR. Prime gig season, made of pure crystalline amazeballs. Some highlights:

Top of the MonthBlack Rebel Motorcycle Club challenged my previous belief that they were simply Jesus and
Mary Chain-lite
charisma vaccuums, with a really-quite-good live gig. The after-show mumbling conversation with Robert was also surreal. Particularly as he hopped offstage and came over…to us without much – if any – prompting.

Two nights later, Midlake blew my bonce with three flutes and four guitars on a tiny venue stage. Their mournul, beautiful album The Courage of Others came out at the beginning of ’10 and I adore it.

Middle of the month: So, yeah, I interviewed UK’s Gomez, hit it off (again) with the gorgeous Tom Gray, and got him, singer Ian Ball and drummer OllyPeacock on the guest list for Danish sonic lovelies Efterklang, who were playing later the same night. I hopped in a cab from Gomez and headed straight for the Danes, ended up getting ridiculously drunk, talking serious music stuff with Olly, teasing Ian about his rubbish facial hair and flirting with Tom, as I did about 11 years ago, the last time I saw him. I do believe I got a friendly peck on the lips at the end of the night from him, but I might just be making that up. (Nope.)

And the next night? None other than the one of my favest gigs of the year: Mike Doughty and his Question Jar. See if you can guess which one three questions were mine and lemme know here).

End of the Month: BSR went a bit dancey with back-to-back Pendulum (Aussie drum n’ bassterds) and UK’s DJ John Digweed. Diggers was disappointing but Pendulum’s DJ/MC set was, as the kids say, “off the hook”:. Plus, they did the horns for me. I do love me some ironic rockhands.


Jonsi, backstagerider.com photoSigur Rós-ling Jónsi kicked off his 9-month-long world tour in Vancouver with a mind-boggling amazing performance that was both aurally and eyeball-y beautiful. Achingly so, actually. Check out the Jónsi review; it was possibly the best show of 2010. I’ve also got a spare copy of  Jónsi & Alex’s Rain Down My Favourite Songs to go to the first person who emails (mikala@backstagerider.com) me a rockhands pic of themseleves for the gallery and says they want the disc.

April also brought the flame-haired belter Florence and her Machine to me, and fuck me, was that a gig. Another Top 3 contender. Yeasayer were another first for me, though I had enormously cloud-high expectations for that show and the Brooklyn boys were Becky Black and Maya Miller, The Pack a.d., backstagerider.com photoexhibiting a bit of tour-tiredness. Still brill show, though. And do you want a free Yeasayer live CD? Yes you do.

Major love also goes to Vancouver locals: the Sex With Strangers/Pack AD double bill in April was about 87 shades of rocktacular. Highly recommend both these bands (the former is robot rock, the latter is kick-ass blues punk) if you’re willing to go Canuck. I’d like to also introduce you to Guilty about Girls, Japandroids and Humans – all from Van, BC as well.

Also checked out The XX (cheer up, kids!), Spoon (at which I pondered a great chicken and egg type question) and that shrill one-trick pony La Roux. Want a great La Roux song? This is Lou Barlow’s cover of “Bulletproof”.


Turin Brakes photo by backstagerider.comThe month of my birth. I got a present in the form of a visit from the very sexy Londoners, Olly and Gale from Turin Brakes. I am a massive fan of TB’s sorta-edgy folk and whilst they played to a criminally empty venue (they haven’t toured NorthAm in a decade), we had a great ol’ catch-up and interview. I recommend you discover them if you’ve not already. This song, “Underdog (Save Me)“, remains one of my faves…ever.
3D, Massive Attack, backstagerider.com photo

Meanwhile, San Fran’s Girls bored me during their gig. Then I got bored waiting to chat to JR afterwards, so I started to leave, but he followed me to apologize and say he didn’t mean to make me think he was blanking me. Aww, sweet. He also apologized for the “uneven” performance. Girls are one of 80-billion sun-kissed 60s-ish stoner bands that came out this year…can’t say it’s my favest trend. But I still dig some of their sockhop.

But Massive Attack on my birthday? OH YES PLEASE! Even in the cold misery of the outdoors, the lights and sound of 3D, Daddy G and Horace Andy made that gig another contender for 2010 awesomeosity.


June really belonged to Lou Boyfriend, I mean Lou Barlow. Lou (from Dinosaur Jr/Sebadoh/Sentridoh/Folk Implosion/BackstageRider tageline fame) and I have been friends for an absurd amount of years. So my road trip to see him and the Missingmen (Tom and Raul who normally play with Mike Watt) in Seattle was by far the best of the month. We hung out, had dinner at his friends’ place, talked a lot and I drank a reeeee-dic amount of local lagers. Pictoral and storytelling proof of said monthly highlight here.


Am bundling these together because for the first part of July, I landed in hospital where I did a lot of Tweeting whilst on a morphine drip, did a hospital rockhand and compiled this Sick of Being Sick Playlist. Then I was off in Denmark, Kevin and Tom, Grapes of Wrath, backstagerider.com photohanging out with another group of musicians – namely all of Copenhagen’s best jazz players, and celebrating my cousin’s 50th. She’s a singer in a big-deal jazz band called VerdensOrkestret and lives across the street from KPH’s awesome Christania commune.

July also saw the first reunion show of Vancouver’s well-respected popsters The Grapes of Wrath, which put me squarely back in the early 90s. If you wanna see pics of what the BSR looked like at 17 or so, that’d be the link.

In August I managed to piss off a herd of really overly earnest Joanna Newsom fans with this review and also managed to piss off myself, mainly because I’d fallen into a trap of calling her something every TERRIBLEHORRIBLE reviewer does: a faerie princess. I’m mostly pissed that I wasn’t original, though I still like the review, and I enjoyed Newsom and the show. Read the comments to see the vast SENSE OF HUMOUR FAILURE regarding the fact that fans – of a girl with flowing blond hair, who wears sun dresses and plays a harp – DON’T LIKE FAIRIES. Or something.

Then headed off to London, England and managed to catch up with the gorgeous musician/alchemists The McCarricks and sneak in a gig with a mate of mine, Ian Button from Death in Vegas/Thrashing Doves (who now happens to be recording some new DIV stuff as we speak, SQUEE!!!) and see some of the bands he plays with. Also got guestlisted by The Klaxons for their Surfing the Void live show debut. Score! Great to see some gigs in my old former hometown of Londinium.


The best month of the BackstageRider’s year, and probably existence. Here’s why:Mikala and Bob from Pavement

Yeah, you know, just your average month. :-O


Deerhunter, Caribou, (hunter! Caribou! Hee hee!), plus Superchunk (I talked to Mac about Lou Barlow, actually), Klaxons again and Grapes of Wrath again.

But high on the super-insane-wicked scale? Seeing Die Antwoord finally and pissing myself laughing at the redonkulousness and genius of the band in general.

  • Oh and having two of my fave artists (like, drawer types, not band types) do me bespoke rockhands for the gallery, was also cool.
  • Oh and The Foals. Fuck me, what an amazing show INCLUDING ADDED STAGE INVASION and a chat afterwards with the verysuper-sweet bassist. And really…their latest album Total Life Forever is a stunning piece of platter. Go buy it.
  • Oh and seeing Scotland’s Teenage Fanclub after how many years? after I’d interviewed them when I was a wee nipper. I managed to
    Mumford & Sons, backstagerider.com photo befriend the Fannies’ Norman Blake, who invited us to come drinking with them after the show but it was taking so bloody long for them to pack for their Asia tour off the side of the stage, that eventually I gave up and went  home. Probably a good thing considering I’d had bronchitis for 3 weeks.
  • Oh and pissing off Mumford & Sons fans simply by sitting on the fence. My reprinted review in the local weekly irked a few folks. Heh.
  • Oh and then taking the piss out of She & Him. That was a fun review. Though it will probably give you a headache to read, I love it.


Gorillaz, backstagerider.com photoMy friend Dean Wareham from Luna/Galaxie 500 breezed back through town with wife Britta Phillips and played a Galaxie 500 set, which was cool. Despite the fact that we’ve known each other for, uh, like 17 years, we always just chitchat. His BLUE EYES MAKE ME WEAK. Then there was the holy fuck gorgeousness and fun of our photoshoot with if-ever-there-was-an-up-and-comer-it’d-be-JohnO Diamond Rings. Me and KK followed him into the bathroom as he put on his face. He’s stunning. LOVE.

And I sorta fell in love with Michael Angelakos of Passion Pit, when he totally forgot the words to his own song, and had to read the lyrics off an audience member’s phone. The audience guy whose phone it was sent me the link to the whole affair. Check out the review and comments, for that fun night. They also sounded, well, genius live.

But really, November was stolen by the Gorillaz Here’s why. For a person who detests enormo-dome shows, this one was magic. A feast.

Plus, I also went deaf at Grinderman and channeled the spirit of rock crit Lester Bangs (poorly) in my review of Black Angels (whose album Phosphene Dream rocks enormously). Photos from KK made both of those pieces gorgeousness.


A quiet month for me…I went into hospital mid-December for some planned surgery but managed to bid adieu to the live gig world ofRoger and John Taylor, Duran Duran2010 by being 21st row for the man, the myth, the legend, Leonard Cohen. Kind of an emotional and wonderful experience I wasn’t expecting. So I wrote a love letter to him.

Oh and from the sublime to the ridiculous…ly also awesome….Duran Duran released their 13th studio album. AND IT’S ACTUALLY GOOD. Some people said this was a “review with balls”. I think I nailed it. Not bad for a girl on Tylenol3s just out of surgery, hey?

And in between all that, there were interviews, giveaways, and all sorts of cool shit involving cool stories from cool people.

I kind of dig the BackstageRider. I hope you do too. So most of all, I thank YOU for reading, for leaving comments, for shooting the shit with me on Facebook and Twitter and for supporting the first year of this site. Here’s to 2011. Tell your friends. *hic* \m/

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