I suffer from an abhorrence of outdoor concerts in the sunlight. Everything seems off. The music seems puny. Motivations for attendance are too mixed: people like the sunshine, they want to commune with nature on their picnic blankets, stroll through the carnival atmosphere past the kiosks and the food trucks. The music seems almost incidental and even when the band is trying it’s still hard not to notice that: there’s a traffic jam outside the port-a-potties; goddammit those waffles smell good; have I now seen six different women wearing the same Ramones shirt or is this cup of warm lager stronger than I realized?
Alvvays, who I went to see recently, struggled to interest the audience at Deer Lake Park in Burnaby. They had a hundred die-hard fans up front; from the blankets beyond they received polite applause in respectful ripples. The audience was there to see The National. The National were touring their latest record I Am Easy to Find. Lead singer and lyricist Matt Berninger has a history with littering his songs with pop culture references. Bona Drag, Nevermind, Let It Be. On the new record, it's R.E.M.'s turn. The song “Not in Kansas" contains the lyric, “I’m listening to R.E.M. again/ ‘Begin the Begin’ over and over.” “Begin the Begin,” is a song from the 1986 album Life’s Rich Pageant, which itself references 'Begin the Beguine” a 1938 song by Cole Porter.
Berninger doubled down on his R.E.M. backing the night I saw him. During The National's five-song encore, he paid tribute to them as one of the great rock bands of all time, as well as crediting them with teaching The National how to be a rock band. In 2008, it was The National stuck slogging its way through all the unsatisfying daylight opening slots on a tour with R.E.M. The National had first played Deer Lake on that tour and hadn’t been back since then. R.E.M. was touring Accelerate, their penultimate studio recording, but the last one for which they toured. It was the last time they played Vancouver.
According to established precedent, therefore, I forecast that Alvvays will be headlining Deer Lake in 2029. It will be the last time Alvvays plays Vancouver so, yes, of course I will be there: dead or alive, I’m coming.
Millar is the husband of Canadian mystery writer Margaret Millar, who I’ve written about previously. Millar (Kenneth) is also Canadian but he started writing as Ross Macdonald to differentiate himself from his more successful wife. Later, Ross became more successful than Margaret so problem solved. Except John D. MacDonald, a contemporary mystery writer, was even more famous than he was and so, for a good long while, the top two mystery writers in the world were named Macdonald or MacDonald so great job on the new name and everything, Kenneth.
Kenneth Millar does not, to my knowledge, have anything to do with the band R.E.M. Kenneth Millar died in 1983. R.E.M. formed in 1980, so I just can’t see it, but there is some temporal overlap, plus the paranormal, so who can say? "What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?" a so-so song not at all about Kenneth Millar, was the first single off Monster, REM’s 9th studio album from 1994. It reached #1 in Canada. The Three Roads (1948) is the last of four novels Milllar published using his own name. It’s as good a hard-boiled novel as you’re likely to read. A movie adaption of The Three Roads was released as Deadly Companion. The year? 1980. THE SAME YEAR R.E.M. WAS FORMED. Coincidence? I just don't see it. No way.