I have to be honest, I had low expectations of Edmonton, a sprawling, million-plus city in oil-rich Alberta, Canada. But a week there was full of surprises, from great record shops, a fantastic gallery, incisive improv-comedy, tasty vegetarian restaurants, an introduction to ice-hockey, and guitar rental, all the way through to ultra-friendly people. I almost don’t mind not seeing the promised Northern Lights. Here follows the markontour guide to Edmonton.
Peter Von Tiesenhausen is an ecologically-minded artist, who salvages to create. His extraordinary ‘Relief’ – a mountain-scape sculpted from the clapperboards of an abandoned community hall – conveys beauty and sadness in equal quantities and is going to stay in my mind for a long time. As will the Art Gallery of Alberta’s retrospective exhibition ‘Undaunted: Canadian Women Painters of the 19th Century”. Who knew there was such a great gallery in Edmonton!
I’ve seen a LOT of brilliant British Sea Power gigs, but last at Koko was one of the very best. Amidst the anthemic tunes, hymns to libraries and protest, odes to nature, and celebration of bicycles, there was also a birthday cake launched into the crowd, and two bears dancing in the middle of the most-pit, along with the usual foliage adorned stage. The night ended with the band variously stage diving and leading the moves to Kelis’ ‘Milkshake’. Heaven.
Tredegar House in Newport is where the National Trust are experimenting with allowing visitors to touch and feel history, rather than pointing from behind a rope. As it stands, I would wager that Tredegar House is the only place in Britain where in a single morning one can be tutored in the art of brushing up a top-hat, put on a shadow puppet show, study Elizabethan art, dress up as 1920’s housemaid, enjoy Elizabethan portraiture and sit down to dinner with a Russian princess.
A week after enjoying To Kill A King’s end of tour blow-out at Islington Assembly Hall, I finally have some time to properly get to know their new album. It’s dark and snowing in Paris and climate change has helped swell the Seine to nearly bank-bursting proportions, so Welcome To The Spiritual Dark Age’s twelve tracks all feel appropriate. Yet the band’s live performance of the record was full of life and joy. Maybe they are just the kind of band who get pleasure out of singing about melancholy – not unlike my eternal favourites, Elbow.
From Poetry Please this week comes an absolute must-listen – Johnny Cash reading ‘The Cremation of Sam McGee’, by Robert Service.
I do love a good dictionary and Dr Johnson remains the master of the genre, three hundred years after he compiled his first such tome. This is why markontour and friends took a short detour to Lichfield on our long drive back to London from the English Lake District, for it was in this little Staffordshire city that Samuel Johnson was born in 1709 and his childhood home has be turned into a lovely museum and bookshop.