Santa Cruz Good Times

Sunday
Dec 21st
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

 

Is This a Dream?

A beginner’s guide to understanding and exploring the uncanny world of lucid dreams

 

Giving and Giving, Then Giving Some More

2014 is almost over. Wednesday, Dec. 17, the Jewish Festival of Light, Hanukkah, begins. We are in our last week of Sag and last two weeks of December. Sunday, Dec. 21 is winter Solstice, as the sun enters Capricorn (3:30 p.m. for the west coast). Soon after, the Capricorn new moon occurs (5:36 p.m. for the west coast)—the last new moon of 2014. Sunday morning Uranus in Aries (revolution, revelation) is stationary direct (retro since July 22). Uranus/Aries create things new and needed to anchor the new culture and civilization (Aquarius). We will see revolutionary change in 2015. Capricorn new moon, building-the-personality seed thought, is, “Let ambition rule and let the door to initiation and freedom stand wide (open).” Capricorn is a gate—where matter returns to spirit. But the gate is unseen until the Ajna Center (third eye), Diamond Light of Direction, opens. Winter solstice is the longest day of darkness of the year. The sun’s rays resting at the Tropic of Capricorn (southern hemisphere) symbolize the Christ (soul’s) light piercing the heart of the Earth, remaining there for three days, till Holy Night (midnight Thursday morning). Then the sun’s light begins to rise. It is the birth of the new light (holy child) for the world. A deep calm and stillness pervades the world.The entire planet is revivified, re-spiritualized. All hearts beating reflect this Light. And so throughout the Earth there’s a radiant “impress” (impressions, pictures) given to humanity of the World Mother and her Child. The star Sirius (love/direction) and the constellation Virgo the mother shines above. For gift giving, give to those in need. Give and give and then give some more. This creates the new template of giving and sharing for the new world.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Stocking Stuffers

The men behind the women of the Kinsey Sicks Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet explain their own special brand of ‘dragtivism,’ and their holiday show at the Rio
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Tramonti Pizza

Why there’s no such thing as too much Italian food in Seabright

 

Guitar or surfboard?

Guitar. The closest thing I ever came to surfing was sliding down a rock hill. Charlie Tweddle, Santa Cruz, Hats and Music

 

Fortino Winery’s Intriguing Charbono

At the opening celebration of the new Santa Clara Wine Trail in August, one of the wineries we visited was Fortino. This is where I first tasted their intriguing estate-grown Charbono—a varietal that is one of the rarest in California, with only 80 acres grown statewide.

 

Beyond the Jar

How Tabitha Stroup has built her rapidly expanding jam empire