Posts in Photography

The Milk Carton Kids & The Barefoot Movement

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I was introduced to The Milk Carton Kids only a few months ago and it all happened so fast after that. I was home from work and checked their tour dates, found out they were playing in Vancouver and was lucky enough to do a phone interview with Joey (on the left in the photo above). I then got a chance to see them perform live at The Media Clubon Friday night. Currently touring with The Barefoot Movement, which are an outrageously talented group of bluegrass, americana inspired folks.

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The venue was small, simple and really dark — which created a warm atmosphere for the music to take hold. I really appreciated the dialogue in between songs that was shared between both Joey Kenneth and this laughing lady. Their solemn take on music which combines simplicity with gracious undertones of careful execution, creates something really special. Something that you all should go check out if you get the chance — their music is bringing something back to the olden ways of performance and there’s something about that raw quality, that pureness which pushes their music into a new reality.

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Before I leave you to ponder, listen to both of these bands. I’d also like to let you all know that I was a bit courageous after I arrived at this venue. It was about an hour before the doors were to open and I snuck in and caught up with Joey Ryan, got a free PBR and went backstage for an off the cuff interview — so stay tuned for that, it’ll be in the next post.

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For more information on these two acts, click their names above — and discover some new talent. Both bands are making one last stop in New York on May 19th at The Bowery Ballroomand the Milk Carton Kids join up with Melody Pool for a spring tour of Australia which starts on June 4th.

In Focus: John Shiers

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We’re way overdue for another In Focus profile! We’ve featured several of John’s pictures for Focus Fridays, so it was only a matter of time before we took a closer look. His landscapes make us want to take more photos, and to see more of our valley.

John has been posting to our I Love the Okanagan group on Flickr for a while now. His shots of Vaseux Lake and McIntyre Bluff really jumped out — he obviously understands the land and light of the South Okanagan. Digging further into his photostream, you find great variety and fascinating abstracts.  John was kind enough to share his pictures with Awesome Okanagan, and answer a few questions about his photographic pursuits.

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How did you get started with photography?
Being born and raised in Penticton I started playing around with photography in the late 1980’s with an old Minolta XD11 35mm SLR I inherited from my father. In the early 1990’s I moved to Jasper AB, and learned that I really enjoyed landscape, nature and sport photography.

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How about more recently?
In the mid 90’s I moved back to Penticton and bought my first digital SLR a Nikon D70. Digital made learning photography much easier and cheaper for me and I was hooked.

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Continue Reading…

Milk Carton Kids

I was extremely privileged to call Joey Ryan of Milk Carton Kids and talk to him in Denver, Colorado. The band consists of both Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale. Both growing up in Eagle Rock, California this acoustic duet each keep true to their nature of playing with only their guitars and voices. Right now these songwriters are headed across North America with: Aoife O’Donovan, The Barefoot Movement and Molly Tuttle, keep reading to see how our conversation went.

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Hey Joey, how are you?
Can’t complain, it’s a nice day in Denver.

How’s the tour going?
It’s wonderful, better than expected. But we never have very high expectations… No, we showed up to an unlikely spring blizzard in the Rocky Mountains and it was nice to wake up this morning to blue skies. The tour has been really good, so far we’ve had larger audiences and we’re getting along with each other too which is nice.

Are either of you reading or listening to anything right now?
Not for inspiration directly, but we do read and listen. I’m sure it all gets in there, I’m on a Melville kick right now—for a long time I was in a battle with Moby Dick.

How was meeting Conan O’Brien?
I was so nervous when we were there, I almost didn’t have any fun. We actually had a show that night at Largo in Los Angeles, during the three hours of downtime we had to go to sound check. So it was kind of a crazy day, we only got to meet Conan for a few minutes after the show. He talked to Kenneth about his guitar a lot and I talked to Andy Richter, who is a really funny guy and I appreciated that.

Can you tell me what inspired the song “Michigan”?
We avoid saying what inspiration yielded this song. I don’t want to limit what it means to people, by saying what it means to us. A lot of it is personal and it cuts deep into some themes of loss and regret that resonates with people, in a really powerful way.

How was playing at Tiny Desk Concerts?
That was one of those things, that was like a landmark for both mine as well as Kenneth’s careers. It was something we had aspired to and was also a lot of fun. Those people are really appreciative of music and have a nice environment for performing, they engage with you and it’s really great.

So why did you and Kenneth start Milk Carton Records?
We thought it would be cool to have our own label and well the whole thing has been self-funded for two years. We were doing all the work that a regular label would, we didn’t have employees, we hired a few people to promote our stuff for radio and oversaw the operation ourselves. I do think there’s something there and we’ve talked before about releasing other artists records in similar fashion to our own. At some point we might make Milk Carton Records into a label that exists beyond our own personal releases.

What are some of your guys biggest influences?
That’s a common question and I never have a good answer. There is a lot of music that has been important to us personally. None of it seems to rise to the surface on a conscious level, there isn’t a lot of thought put into how we should sound or what we should sound like. It all comes from how we set off together, with two guitars and two voices and to also write from as true and honest a place as possible.

Tell me your thoughts on genre designation and labels?
I think it’s a common experience when you’re deep into something, to feel a concise label in someway misses something about what you’re trying to do. At the same time, it’s a valuable short-hand to discuss something when you’re not trying to discuss it in depth. The labels do have their place, we would consider ourselves some type of folk or americana and we don’t shy away from those labels at all.

What’s your opinion of the “pay what you want” model on websites like BandCamp?
Well we did our own self-contained thing without the option to pay what you want.

What’s the main reason you released your albums for free?
The main reason we did that was to find an audience as quickly as possible. Philosophically, we wanted to have our music be non-transactional. Instead of having the choice to pay, giving it away for free allowed people to receive the music on a more pure basis. It was very important, because we made the music and expected the listeners to give their time and attention and engage with it on whatever level they wanted to. Removing any element of marketing or commercialization from us and the people receiving it, I think it’s a powerful statement.

What’s your favourite on the road food?
Oh there’s so many, we can stand the spectrum. I can get a Cracker Barrel craving and every now and then I’ll crave a chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and collard greens from there. That and we love tracking down a really nice cocktail bar and some gourmet tacos for after a show. We learned a lot of good places from the Punch Brothers. We don’t go lower than Cracker Barrel though, no fast food or anything like that.

If you’re going to be in Vancouver over the 17th of May, buy tickets to see this band play at the Media Club. An intimate venue and the show will be phenomenal. If you haven’t heard of this band yet, visit their website here to download their first two albums free! Definitely worth checking out, these guys are what true, honest music is all about.

Fashionate: Okanagan Thrifting

Thrift shopping can be a great way to shop on a budget. It can also your ticket to fabulous finds and high-end clothing that might be otherwise beyond our means.

Pop culture has proved to be very influential with our generation, and in recent years thrift shopping has gone from embarrassing to the hippest trend around. I have always been a fan; it feels like you’ve just won the lottery when you find something amazing.

You need to go into any thrift/second hand store with a purpose and you need to be prepared to search; search through the racks once, and then again and maybe a third time. There is that special something just waiting for you to take home.

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Scarves, Coats, Sweaters and vintage bags are among my favourite thrift store finds. I love searching for a vintage coat that you wouldn’t find in stores nowadays, or the perfect giant grandpa sweater—that a grandpa most likely dropped off.

The very best find are those great luxury items that snuck into the stores and somehow stayed on the hanger long enough for us to find! Burberry Coats, Prada purses or Chanel—well Chanel anything. That’s the moment of thrift shopping that makes all hours of digging and searching all worth it.

A few helpful hints before you hit the pavement: If you have something in mind you are looking for, scope out the stores in your area, some second hand stores are consignment, and you will generally find your higher end clothing here. The big stores tend to have more volume, lesser value, but none the less great finds! Always remember to hit the accessory/bag section, somebody’s trash will most defiantly be your treasure! Have fun and enjoy a resourceful and environmentally way of shopping!

Value Vs. Price: A Sort-of Love Story Involving Pizza

Mitch and Katy are a married couple. They are very close to our circle of friends. Theirs was the first wedding I attended where most of our closest friends were the wedding party, and if I remember correctly I was somehow convinced to be Katy’s bridesmaid (Mitch claimed Ryan as a groomsman, so looks like I got the short straw).

I remember specifically the first time they met, and how they fell in love, and also one time in January 2008 when Katy and I somehow locked ourselves in a small room for 10 minutes. We were in Kelowna in a room with four doors that were all locked from the outside for whatever reason. Mitch was in Vancouver (this part’s kind of important). We were both a little intoxicated and she called him of all people to rescue us. “Mitch, I need your beefcake arms to break us out of this room we’re locked in.” “I’d love to but I’m in Vancouver, Katy…” (I told you that part was important!) “Shut up! I love you!”

It was the first time she said the ‘L’ word in their relationship and I knew then they were total suckers for each other and we’d be stuck with them forever.

And ever and ever and ever...

And ever and ever and ever…

It wasn’t long after they moved in together that they found it hard to make enough money to live in Kelowna so they made the move to Van. This was 2009/10 and the blue-sky was that all of our friends would have moved to Vancouver and retired by now at the ripe old age of our mid-to-late twenties. It was sad to see them go, but they were building a life together and Vancouver’s really not that far away. There were more than a few times we would head down to visit them and could be there by brunch. Plus at our age we’re really in the ‘say so long for now’ phase; friends went to school or traveled across the country and abroad, moved away, came back and visited, we were all pretty scattered.

But I don't care where you are in the world: when Florence Welch performs, you show up.

But I don’t care where you are in the world: when Florence Welch performs, you show up.

We had built the trust and friendship that didn’t require proximity. We learned that even if we couldn’t see or speak to each other for months or years at a time, the next time we saw each other it was like no time had passed at all. This has become a pretty common theme lately as we’ve supported our friends on ambitious efforts or projects; the kind of choices that meant we’d see them less but would bring them joy and success and everything else they wanted out of life.

"Everything else," of course, meaning Butter Chicken pizza.

“Everything else,” of course, meaning Butter Chicken pizza.

They were making better money, they had a mortgage and two dogs, lived in a pretty great location about 35 minutes from our friend Ryan’s Beach House Haus in Pt. Roberts, life was ‘good.’ But really, life was starting to get a little lonely.

Our lives are pretty well documented. Our friends are all comfortable with Instagram and I have a tendency to make summer videos. 2012 was one of the best summers of all of our lives, we made a bunch of new friends who we spent a lot of time with and Katy and Mitch could see that all from the outside. They didn’t tell us too much at first, but we could sense it. Every time we’d head to Vancouver or they’d come here you’d start to hear the inflection in their voices, “We never have fun like this anymore!” “We miss you guys!” But they were paying bills and had responsibilities.

Pictured: "Responsibilities"

Pictured: “Responsibilities”

Over the winter at Katy’s place of work a mature woman lost her husband. Katy is a very loving person and was consoling the woman, but found in the end that the woman consoled her nearly as much. There is so much to learn from fully-lived lives. After 70, 80 or 90 years there’s a level of wisdom, and in some cases regret, that we can learn from to avoid some of the bigger pitfalls in life. These are the experiences that teach us the value of life rather than the cost or price. The woman explained to Katy, “You know dear, you will spend the rest of your life trying to make money, but in the end what really matters is the time you spend with the people you love.”

That’s all it took. They called a couple of us in secret at first mentioning they missed our lives together and they missed living in the same city. Katy and Mitch listed their house in April and it sold in a week and a half. They were so excited that they had to call all of us! Naturally, the one week they had this great news, Kayla and Ryan were in LA, I was in Cancun, and Jason was in Saskatoon. No one was available to hear the good news.

Pictured: "Good News"

Pictured: “Good News”

Eventually we got the texts. There were a couple days of them begging us to let them couch-hop for a month or so while they found a new place, but only a couple days later they found an apartment. An apartment that is around the corner from me. No joke, they went from living 380 km away from me, to less than 380 m away. It was an interesting week as another good friend I made over the year, Kris, moved back to Langley and we basically traded him for our dear friend Erik when he came back from UBC for the summer. Three days after Erik arrived, Katy and Mitch moved back. The four us live within the same 2 km zone in the Mission. We practically have our own beach access nearby.

Balance is restored.

Our first order of business was a pizza party last night. We grabbed a ton of veggies and got a lot of awesome suggestions:

 

 

So the point is this: Live your life for what makes you happy. Money may always be a problem (though I’m sure I’ll be able to retire at my updated date of 35-ish…), but problems never seem quite as big when the people you love — and who love you — are near.

And Beach Haus, Baby!

And Beach Haus, Baby!

Beautiful, Fresh Spring

Every spring farms come alive with little animals. Why do they have to be so cute?

The Habitat is Where it’s At: The Dudes

There’s no better place to be on a Wednesday night other than The Habitat, drenched in its black lights and swallowed up in a swarm of excited, energetic party people looking to unwind at the weeks midway. The venue had been drastically improved from what I remembered just two months back with incredibly flashy stage lighting, new bar counters, and what it sounded like to me – better sound.

The aesthetically appealing but vision impairing and divisive curtains that once hung between the tables were removed, which I was thankful for, and instead a curtain was erected between the stage area and sitting area that was pulled completely back when the show began. The place had a fancy new vibe to it, but the only change that I didn’t welcome was the merchandise table being moved to a dark corner by the stage instead of where it used to be, a well-lit counter on the way out that was converted to a second bar instead. When I went to peruse the table I had to fight my way through the entire mob of people on the dance floor, and when I finally arrived it was too dark for me to see anything they were selling. But I digress. This was one of the best shows I’ve been to at The Habitat, the energy and excitement of the crowd was amazing.

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The show opened up with Vancouver indie rock band The Zolas. In a way this show brought a segment of my life full circle, because when I first came to The Habitat as a teenager in 2009 before they acquired their full liquor license I remembered seeing their name up in lights with the likes of Hey Ocean and Said the Whale. I missed that show, but always had a curious desire to see them since. I figured this night was my chance. Add the two extra hours it took for the show to finally start, and it was all still worth it. I’ve seen bands break the barriers between them and the crowds many times before, but none were so daring or memorable as when lead vocalist/guitarist and original founding member Zachary Gray climbed off the stage carried his mic stand and guitar through the crowd to stand and perform amongst the people.

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Like me, most people had come to the see The Zolas, and had no idea what to expect when The Dudes were to come on stage. Suffice to say, they did not disappoint and ruled over everyone as the headliners of this show. These guys rocked hard (of course they did, they’re from Calgary, the Rock Central of Western Canada) and it was clear they were enjoying themselves and had a genuine compassion for Kelowna and its residents. Much respect in return to you, The Dudes.

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Lead man Dan Vacon, with his killer beard, was fun to watch perform as he was very articulate and expressive with his gestures and had phenomenal control over his music as he interacted and took risks with it. I haven’t seen someone perform with such confidence in a long time. From filling in spaces in the music with crowd participation to improvising solos and lyrics, one was always wondering what to expect next. These guys were legitimate and skipped all the nonsense. No phony encores here, folks.  Just straight up entertainment and fun until it was time to pack it in and call it a night.

On a side note: I thought I recognized the bassist’s illustrious chops. Turns out he was in fact Brock Geiger, frontman for Raleigh, another Calgary band, whom I saw perform at the Streaming Café here in Kelowna last winter.

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If you’re like me and hadn’t heard of The Dudes before, make sure to check them out on their BandCamp. Or better yet, go to one of their shows and check them out live. They will blow you away.

And while you’re at it, check out the talented Vancouver act The Zolas as well.

Drunk Punk

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Let’s start with a song from The Ramones, “Bop Till You Drop” which describes last night quite well… So put that song on and let’s get started. I was on my way to a punk show at Kelowna’s downtown venue, The Habitat. The bands playing this night were: The Wild, Shithawk, Dayglo Abortions and The Casualties.

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The only band worth mentioning to check out would be Dayglo Abortions who I sadly missed play. This band has been around for ages, so if you’re a diehard punk fanatic, they’re a good place to start for a Canadian born band. Mind you, if I was going that route, I’d start with D.O.A, who played months ago at Doc Willoughby’s Pub. But anyways, Dayglo Abortions formed in Victoria, Canada in 1979 and released their first album by 1981. For more information on them, visit this link: http://thedaygloabortions.com/bio.html

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Taking photos is difficult because the lighting in this venue is tantamount to a dark alley lit by a distance streetlight. That being said, I went back later in the evening and snapped a few shots, witnessed the intense stage dives, rioting, headbanger fans and allover chaos — the epitome of punk as I shot through waving arms, spilled liquor and a raging mosh-pit. The evolution of punk hasn’t changed much and  seemed really stale to me.

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For me, punk music has always been about expression which is something I felt was lacking from last night’s bands because their styles felt too generic for my taste. That being said it was nice to be around like-minded people even if they were: stoned, drunk and pissed off. Which is usually how I like them anyways.

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All in all, it was another run of the mill punk showdown, in a nice venue. If you had “better” things to do I guess there’s always next time so until then, keep listening to this dying genre and support your local artists!