Santa Cruz Good Times

Friday
Apr 18th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

One Great City

Weakerthans indie-rock frontman John K. Samson is mad about Manitoba

I hate Winnipeg,” sings John K. Samson—lead singer of the Canadian indie rock band The Weakerthans—as he channels a fed-up dollar store clerk, a driver stuck in traffic, and The Golden Boy statue atop the Manitoba Legislative Building, on the sarcastically titled track “One Great City!” off the 2003 album, Reconstruction Site.
Samson’s hostility towards the capital city of Manitoba, Canada, is infectious—at least until the song ends with a final strum of guitar. After all, there must be a reason why Samson has chosen to live in the prairie town for his entire life.

“I definitely think about moving, but there’s lots of things that keep me here … it’s the place I write about the most,” he explains. According to Samson, “being incredibly familiar with a place can be good and bad”—the latter resulting in the aforementioned track, plus several others within The Weakerthans’ decade-long discography.

With Samson’s latest endeavor, Provincial, released this January, it is finally obvious how dear Winnipeg is to Samson, whom some know as the ex-bassist of popular punk outfit Propagandhi. Although the 12-track LP is unaffiliated with The Weakerthans, Samson’s solo album is just as raw and rock ’n’ roll as ever, allowing for an even more intimate invitation into his life, with the addition of string, brass and woodwind instruments.
“This project sort of started from me wanting an excuse to drive around the province I live in,” he admits. “I obsessed over this idea where if you wanted to, I could take you to the site of every song.”
Four major Manitoba highways wind through the album—a concept present within the lyrics and album artwork. Each song is represented by one of four symbols, except the final duet, entitled “Taps Reversed,” featuring Samson’s wife, Christine Fellows, on vocals and piano. The song is marked by a red “X” symbolizing “Home.”

Sitting shotgun for the journey that became Provincial, was his dog Lucy—sorry to disappoint fans who hoped he owned a housecat named Virtute—the narrator of many songs on Reconstruction Site and Reunion Tour (2007).  
“I always wanted to be a fiction writer growing up,” says Samson—co-founder of the  leftist propaganda and political literature-based publishing company, Arbeiter Ring Publishing—clearing up the Virtute/Lucy mix-up.
Though primarily a product of Samson’s imagination, the tracks on Provincial have some history. Samson conducted a great deal of research: “I went to the Manitoba archives in the local history room at the Winnipeg Library, [and] read about a lot of people at the Ninette Sanatorium.” This facility treated Manitobans infected with tuberculosis in the 1900s and now serves as a historical landmark for Samson’s album.

“There are definitely real people at the foundation of it all,” says Samson, even if they are portrayed as patients with X-ray-induced burn marks and “skinny ghosts dress[ed] like cowboys” during a Ninette Sanatorium Halloween party. This sixth track on the album (Samson’s personal favorite)—“Letter in Icelandic from the Ninette San”—is a chilling, folky four minutes of acoustic guitar, violin, and Samson’s typically twangy vocals.

His storytelling is showcased in the preceding song, also related to Highway 23: “When I Write My Master’s Thesis.” In this upbeat, guitar and drum-heavy lament of a listless grad student—a playful nod to Bob Dylan’s 1971 hit “When I Paint My Masterpiece”—Samson replaces Dylan’s lyrics of “Oh, the streets of Rome are filled with rubble,” with a more modern version: “Oh, the streets of Grand Theft Auto San Andreas fill with smoke.”

Back in town for the first time since his 2009 show at The Crepe Place, when he played alongside fellow Canadian Jason Collett of Broken Social Scene, Samson will hit The Catalyst Atrium on Sunday, April 8. And he is itching to show locals what he has up his sleeve. “It’ll be a mix of 20 years of my work as a songwriter,” he says.

John K. Samson plays at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, April 8, at The Catalyst Atrium, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $13/adv, $16/door. 423-1338.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Cardinal Grand Cross in the Sky

Following Holy Week (passion, death and burial of the Pisces World Teacher) and Easter Sunday (Resurrection Festival), from April 19 to the 23, the long-awaited and discussed Cardinal Cross of Change appears in the sky, composed of Cardinal signs Aries, Libra, Cancer, and Capricorn, with planets (13-14 degrees) Uranus (in Aries), Jupiter (in Cancer), Mars (in Libra) and Pluto (in Capricorn), an actual geometrical square or cross configuration. Cardinal signs mark the seasons of change, initiating new realities.

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of April 17

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >

 

Growing Hope

Campos Seguros combats sexual assault in the Watsonville farmworker community Farm work was a way of life for Rocio Camargo, who grew up in Watsonville as the daughter of Mexican immigrants. Her parents met while working the fields 30 years ago, and her father went on to run Fuentes Berry Farms.
Sign up for Tomorrow's Good Times Today
Upcoming arts & events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Foodie File: Red Apple Cafe

Breakfast takes center stage at Gracia Krakauer's Red Apple Cafe Before they moved to Aptos, Gracia and her husband Dan Krakauer would visit friends in Santa Cruz County and eat at the Red Apple Café all the time. Then they moved up here from Santa Monica five years ago, and bought the Aptos location (there’s a separate one in Watsonville) from the family who owned it for two decades.

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management

 

Trout Gulch Vineyards

Cinsault 2012—la grande plage diurne The most popular wines on store shelves are those most generally known and available—Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which are all superb for sure. But when you come across a more unusual varietal, like Trout Gulch Vineyards’ Cinsault ($18), it opens up a whole new world.

 

Waddell Creek, Al Fresco

Route One Summer Farm Dinner You’ve been buying their insanely fresh produce for years now at farmers’ markets. Right? So now why not become more familiar with the gorgeous Waddell Creek farmlands of Route One Farms?