Saturday, January 17, 2009

My embarrassingly gushy tribute to Danny Keating and Planet Chaos

When I first moved into town back in 2003 (2004? I can't remember) I was spending a lot of time wandering around downtown late at night, most nights of the week. I was staying at my sister and her husband's tiny one bedroom apartment, rent free, sleeping on her futon in her living room. Staying out of the apartment as much as possible was the least I could do to not be a burden. Anyway, being an open mic whore I was looking for a proper good open mic figuring St. John's should be able to fill this need, and after a couple of weeks of trying out horrible places like O'Reilly's or the Breezeway I chanced upon a loud ruckus coming out of a seedy bar on Water Street. Inside the dark but strangely comfortable bar hidden above "The Spur" was a small, skinny, long haired man about my age playing an acoustic guitar so viciously warn down that a hole had been scratched through the front of it near the pick guard, all the mahogany varnish had been scrapped off by brutal, brutal strumming techniques over the years. It was the most awesome acoustic I had ever seen (it played like crap, as you would imagine) and the man playing it was even more striking.
I didn't know what to think of Danny Keating at first. He played in front of painting of a psychedelic gecko and had two microphones in front of him, one was normal and the other was loaded with delay effects and he'd switch from one to the other as the mood struck him. Danny was certainly the most intense open mic performer I had seen up to that point in time. He would hammer that guitar into oblivion and would alternate between a sweet tenor croon to the loudest primal howl I'd heard from a solo performer. He would turn away completely from the microphone and it would be twice as loud as the amplifiers. I swear, back in the day when Danny would be busking out on the laneway in front of The Ship I could here him all the way down to George street. The man was loud..
But it wasn't really until the fifth or so time going to "Planet Chaos" (that's the name of Danny's Open mic for those not in the know) that Danny's songs started to really hit me. When playing solo Danny streams all his songs together so that a collection of two minute power pop songs turn into epic suites that go on to a million different places and seem to never end. Danny doesn't make it easy for newcomers. At this point in time Danny has around 30 privately made albums of original material, and a lot of his best songs and live staples have never been recorded. Danny has forgotten more songs of his then most hardworking professional songwriters will write in the whole lives. It was at least five performance before I started recognizing songs, and it was at this point when I realized that I had Danny songs running through my head all day long. While not every one of Dannys hundreds of songs is a classic for the ages, almost everyone of them has a hook catchier then 95% of all pop songs written in the last 10 years. For my money Danny Keating writes the best pop songs out of anyone in Atlantic Canada, if pushed I'll go rest of Canada. Just listen to "full moon" posted down bellow and tell me that's not the best pop song you've heard all year.
The biggest tragedy is that Danny, for all his boundless inspiration when it comes to writing tunes, he has absolutely no patience for the recording process, none at all. Danny's recordings (I'm talking about his early stuff here, his most recent recordings with Catmanduah have actually been fairly Hi-Fi and well performed) are perfect pop songs immersed in the crustiest impenetrable lo-fi fog of tape hiss and half muttered readings with random noises throughout. I love his albums, but I love all sorts of freaky shit that most no one else would possibly want to listen to. I've always maintained that Danny is one Tony Visconti production away from superstardom, but Danny is cursed like some of us to be just too fundamentally weird at a base level to take any attempt at mainstream appeal seriously.
I went to Planet Chaos every week for about 4 years until it ended, it was the only open mic I've been to that valued originality and songwriting over anything else and the usual drunken requests for shitty covers of Dave Matthews or whatever were universally shunned. Many excellent talents came out of that weekly event, I know I never would have gotten as into songwriting if it weren't for The Planet Chaos venue giving me the weekly opportunity to try out new material (even if the audience can be brutally cynical sometimes). I've seen Danny play at least 200 times at least, and even when he's too drunk hold a guitar or remember any of the words to his songs he's still never boring. He was always the nicest guy in the bar, and (even if he did hog the stage a lot during the open mics) he was always a great host.
Anyway, Let's get to the videos. I was at The Ship last night where Catmanduah played a damn tight set of mostly new material (it had the standard four new songs for every show, that I've come to expect from Danny) I filmed a couple of songs. This "Steaming" of his last Ep he put out called "Steaming"

This is a new favorite of mine "Wayward Bird"

This is a Catmanduah show from the "Rock Can Roll" festival back in November at The Rose and Thistle Pub.

This is a nice video Rachel Jean Harding took of Danny Playing "Full Moon / Tough as Nails, Cute as Buttons" at the Spur

This is one of Danny's crazy videos from back in "The Origin of The Sound band" days. I miss the origin of the sound, that was a great band.

And here's another Danny Band I miss "The Peepholes" doin' a pretty sloppy version of "coatsleeve". This is back when Danny used to write looooong songs.

Danny seems to have abandoned all his myspace pages, so the best place to find out more about him is either his facebook profile or at his reverbnation profile which also might be abandoned.
Danny don't give a shit about the internet.