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The War on Drugs’ live recording is a reminder of what a gig can be



A guitar screams and howls as a solo reaches the peak of its crescendo. The rest of the band respond by playing with even greater intensity. As the music soars and shimmers, the crowd respond with a roar. Hands are in the air, fists are pumping. At the front, there’s a surge of bodies. Lights blaze.

Live pop music in many parts of the world has been largely shut down since March. For those of us who are fans, it’s moments like this that we miss: immersive, electrifying, physical. There’s been no lack of recorded output during the pandemic, and some artists have streamed live performances; there have even been actual small-scale gigs. But nothing compares to the overwhelming, deafening experience of seeing a great band at the peak of their powers in a packed house.

Live albums seldom convey this experience. With a handful of exceptions — Van Morrison’s It’s Too Late to Stop Now, The Who’s Live at Leeds, Radiohead’s I Might Be Wrong, The Rolling Stones’ Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! — they tend to be contractual-obligation affairs.

But now here comes Live Drugs, a new album from Philadelphia six-piece The War on Drugs that serves as a reminder of what live albums can be, and of what live music can be. The band’s studio albums have tended to be fine and dandy, but Live Drugs captures the raw intensity of their shows. It’s a humdinger.

Album cover of ‘Live Drugs’ by The War on Drugs

The War on Drugs are a band whose music oscillates between indie and mainstream: at times, with their epic widescreen sound with splashes of piano and honking saxophone, they sound like Bruce Springsteen; at times, with their mesmeric, metronomic beats, they resemble a krautrock band. Though it is drawn from many hours of recordings from different shows, this album follows an “arc” shaped to mirror a compact set list of around 70 minutes.

The opening track, “An Ocean in Between the Waves”, sets out their template: a steady up-tempo beat comes from a drum machine, guitars wash and drift, singer, lead guitarist and frontman Adam Granduciel sings the Springsteen-esque opening lines: “Run away, I’m a travelling man, been working every day” (he’s not a great singer, but that doesn’t matter: it’s about the whole sound of the thing). It’s two and a half minutes before the drummer joins in and the track takes off, surging and urgent. The track is more than seven minutes long, and even then it seems to end too soon. It’s one of several songs that clock in at lengths that seem extravagant by today’s standards — “Thinking of a Place” (10.37), “Under the Pressure” (11.59) — but in the hypnotic sound-world created by The War on Drugs, it seems entirely natural. Granduciel solos fluently, but without being showy: emotional, rather than technical.

Live albums have a tendency to relegate crowd noise to a distant roar, but here the fans are allowed to play their part, hollering when “Buenos Aires Beach” starts to gain momentum, singing along to the guitar part on “Under the Pressure”. It’s terrific, and tantalising.


Live Drugs’ is released by Super High Quality Records

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Massive Stone Roses tribute gig at Spike Island will go ahead this summer, organisers say




A massive Stone Roses tribute concert is set to go ahead this summer, after being pushed back by the pandemic.

Taking place back on the hallowed ground at Spike Island, the gig will mark 30 years since Ian Brown, John Squire, Mani and Reni headlined the era-defining event.

The one-day festival in Widnes will be headlined by The Clone Roses, alongside other tribute acts of some of the world’s biggest bands.

Joining them on the stage this summer will be Oas-is, The Smiths Ltd, Happy Mondaze, The James Experience and True Order, plus DJ sets from Bez, Clint Boon, and Andy Barker from 808 State.

It will be the only live performance to take place at Spike Island since that iconic gig in 1990, and is set to be the world’s largest ever tribute-themed festival.

The Clone Roses

Spike Island – The Resurrection was supposed to take place in May 2020, but had to be postponed.

Organisers now say theu are ‘very confident’ that it will go ahead ‘as planned’ on Saturday July 24, shortly after England is supposed to reach the next stage of the roadmap out of lockdown.

A statement from the festival team and organisers Lightbulb Festivals says: “In light of the recent government announcement and their promise that 19th July will be the “terminus” date, we are delighted to confirm that we are proceeding with plans to hold the gig on Saturday 24th July 2021.

“This has been an incredibly difficult decision given the recent uncertainty, and the team have been doing a lot of hard work behind the scenes to try and make the event go ahead as planned.

“We are now very confident that our festival will be one of the first to take place in the UK after the re-opening.

“We are incredibly grateful for all the support we have had for the event, with a staggering number of people keeping hold of their tickets.”

It will be the first live event to take place here since 1990

Halton Borough Cllr Rob Polhill offered his support saying: “I am delighted that 30 years after the Stone Roses played at Spike Island a re-creation of that concert featuring tribute band The Clone Roses will take place on that site.

“That legendary gig is still talked about fondly all these years later and we know from the many enquiries that we have had over the years that many people have wanted to see it repeated.

“Our park at Spike Island is ideal for this kind of event and our officers will now be working closely with Lightbulb Festivals Ltd to ensure we have a successful and safe event for the fans to enjoy.”

85 per cent of tickets have already been sold, with final tickets on sale now through TicketWeb.

Spike Island – The Resurrection line up

The Clone Roses


The Smiths Ltd

Happy Mondaze

The James Experience


DJ sets from:

Clint Boon

Andy (808 State)


MC Tunes

Dave Sweetmore

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Canada’s growing pool of gig workers among the world’s highest paid, new data suggests




Canada’s casual work force has grown significantly in recent months, and new data suggests its gig workers are among the highest paid in the world.

Australia-based design platform Canva recently analyzed international data from 50 popular job categories across the online freelance platform Fiverr, looking specifically at those assignments that could be completed in three days or less. The study found that Canadians ranked 5th among the 37 member nations of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for average earnings on the platform. By comparison, Canada ranks 12th among OECD nations for average earnings in the traditional economy.

Social media managers stand to earn the highest wages for casual work, averaging $788 per assignment, followed by video editors, who earned an average of $680 per job, and website designers, who earned an average of $580. The most popular freelance jobs within Canada, according to the study, are proofreading and editing, followed by video editing and translation.

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“Canada’s bilingual status means that a greater proportion of the population will, statistically, be more likely to offer these type of services in both English and French, which would naturally attract more potential clients,” says Canva spokesperson Maddi Howell. “From our analysis, we can see that 17 per cent of [Canadian] freelancers that offer proofreading and editing are French speakers, 72 per cent are English speakers, and the remaining 11 per cent of sellers are speakers of minority languages.”

Another recent study conducted by SMB accounting software provider Intuit QuickBooks Canada found that the country’s casual work force has rapidly expanded during the pandemic. It found that nearly two million entrepreneurs launched a business in Canada in the past 12 months, 72 per cent of whom did so on a part-time basis, separate from their primary career – often referred to as a “side hustle” – since the pandemic began.

“The fact that people had more spare time, and the fact that people had to find sources of income as a direct result of the pandemic, prompted many to take the leap and to start their businesses, either full-time or part-time as a side hustle,” explains David Marquis, the vice-president and country manager of Intuit Canada.

According to the Intuit study, 39 per cent of Canada’s new entrepreneurs said they started their business because they had more spare time, while 23 per cent were motivated by financial pressure. An additional 15 per cent launched their business after identifying an unmet need in the market.

While some side hustlers provide their services locally, many are competing in a global digital marketplace. There, Mr. Marquis argues, Canadians have certain natural advantages over international competitors, which may be driving the higher-than-average rates.

“We’re diverse, educated, and digitally savvy; we are more internet-connected than many of the other nations,” he says. “We’re cheaper; if you look at us relative to the U.S. and other markets, our labour pool market, especially in tech, is cheaper, and that’s a draw. Time zones, we’re sitting next to the biggest market in the world, and that time zone, especially in a virtual environment, creates some synergies that make us an attractive market.”

Mr. Marquis adds that many of Canada’s newest entrepreneurs are part of its youngest working-age demographic, suggesting that the casual economy will continue to grow in the coming years. According to the study, 44 per cent of those who launched a business this year are members of Gen Z or millennials, an age range that broadly encompasses those under the age of 40 today. Only 25 per cent of new entrepreneurs are members of Gen X, who are currently in their 40s and 50s, and only 7 per cent are Baby Boomers, the generation that is currently in its late-50s to mid-70s.

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“Those [younger] generations, as they emerge, more people that will take a step toward entrepreneurial activities, which means we’ll have more entrepreneurs in Canada starting new businesses,” says Mr. Marquis.

While Canada’s growing casual work force is likely a significant contributor to the nation’s economy, there remains some hesitancy to track and include data about this community in official economic reports.

“We get these monthly jobs reports in Canada, the U.S. and elsewhere, and they really only answer the question, ‘Do you have a job or not?’ and that’s really not the relevant question right now,” says Danielle Goldfarb, the head of global research for RIWI Corp., a global trend-tracking and prediction platform. “The relevant question is, ‘How are you earning your money?’”

Ms. Goldfarb explains that casual work has long been considered too small and statistically insignificant to include in official economic data, but argues that the activity seen in the last 12 months warrants further study.

The Bank of Canada did put out an analysis of Canada’s informal work force in 2019, which Ms. Goldfarb says is an acknowledgment that this community is a significant economic driver, but believes it is yet to receive the attention it deserves. (The Bank of Canada declined to be interviewed for this story.)

“It just raises a lot of really important questions for us to think about at this particular juncture,” she says. “It’s really important for us to understand the phenomenon; it’s more important than traditional official data would suggest it is; that we know, and our data supports that.”

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Music picks: Online gig by Hong Kong singer Judas Law; new works by Taiwanese singer Ma Nien-hsien, K-pop group Twice, Life News & Top Stories




Judas Law Online Performance

Hong Kong singer-busker Judas Law will be holding an in-person concert on June 27 at Ocean Park’s Applause Pavilion.

In preparation for the show, she did an online performance on June 13, which lasted more than 1½ hours.

Accompanied by musician Janet Yung on keyboards, Law sang covers of Cantonese numbers such as Leslie Cheung’s A Man Of Intention and Sammi Cheng’s We Grew This Way.

Info: Watch the concert on Facebook.



Mama Jeans And Daddy Shoes
Ma Nien-hsien
4 stars

The former frontman of the defunct Taiwanese musical group Sticky Rice is known for his funky style and off-the-wall humour, which shine through in his latest album Mama Jeans And Daddy Shoes.

Ma’s versatility is on full display – from the casual vibes of Mr Afternoon to the cabaret-style swag of Mr And Mrs Hello to the retro mix of strings and guitar rhythms in No More Monday Blues.

1989 Afternoons bursts with 1980s nostalgia, with references to American boy band New Kids On The Block, large shoulder pads and high-waisted jeans.



Taste Of Love
4 stars

South Korean girl group Twice, known for their cute and cheery personas, have taken a more adult approach in their 10th mini album Taste Of Love.

Scandal is the most interesting track, exploring a type of love that is dangerous and alluring at the same time. The sultry Conversation, filled with catchy hooks and riffs, also explores a more mature form of attraction.

Get high, but not drunk, on lead single Alcohol-Free, which is closer to the style that the nine-member group is known for. It blends hip-hop and bossa nova into a sweet cocktail about the magical feeling of falling in love.

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