Andrea Reynolds with Richard Pope, owner of Northwood, Toronto. Richard Ragany, godfather of rock. The two Richards don't know each other. But both Dicks operated in Toronto from, at least, 1997 to 2001, both Dicks danced to Britpop at El Mocambo, and there's even a good chance they were doing Jagermeister shots at the Bovine Sex Club at the same time, just opposite ends of the bar.
With UBC set to host the grating “Learneds,’—you can call it “congress,” too, if you prefer your pretension more modern—my mind returns to the last time UBC hosted, in 2008. I gave a paper on Morrissey. Call if what you will but congress is just a convention, a shitty convention with a sizeable percentage of all presentations given to empty room by hung-over career-intellectuals.
I ran into Richard Pope that year. We had attended grad school in Montreal, and got along well. Pope and I knew people in common from the imbricated Toronto Britpop/ Glam scenes. We went out indie-discoing together in Montreal for a couple of years. In Vancouver, back in 2008, we got away from UBC in a hurry and go ourselves to an izakaya, away from ugly professors and all conversations about the travails of the sessional lecturer. We talked about maybe releasing a series of Youtube videos explaining critical theory in a more accessible way, inject some life into a dying profession. That didn’t happen. What did happen is more common. Pope left the profession. Pope now runs the best bar in Toronto. Bars plural, I guess: he’s got a few, and they’ve all been hits. I haven’t been to Toronto in ten years, so I haven’t been to Pope’s places, but my favourite bar in the city is run by a guy who reminds me of Pope. You'll have better conversations any night, you'll learn more at Trans-Am, than you will at "congress" this year. Pope's place, too. The best and smartest Canadians of my generation generally are too good and too smart to stay in a post-secondary sector so obviously beyond repair. Down the road from Trans-Am, one building over, is The Princeton, an old hotel, with a pub downstairs. Great building. But past it. Bright lighting, warm beer, no character. It’s like that with the Canadian academy: those days are done. Most urban bars and restaurants are owned and staffed by the same sort of kids that should have become professors, but had too much dignity to do the things the profession now obliges you to do.
Richard Ragany, my old friend from Calgary, after successful spells in Toronto and NYC now resides in London, England where he has emerged as a sage godfather of rock. He started working at the 12 Bar on Denmark Street in 2008. He’s got a new record out now. The official record release party is on January 25 at London’s The Black Heart. If you really wanted to learn about the music industry, life in the city, or just how to live a good and successful life, find either one (maybe both, if you’re ambitious) of the Richards, buy them a drink, sit down and listen. You’ll save yourself thousands of dollars you might otherwise have thrown away on tuition to study with a bunch of past-it professors with not much to tell you at all.
The Princeton on Powell, Hastings-Sunrise, Vancouver. Same as the Canadian post-secondary sector. Nice architecture, lot of history. Totally fucking past it.