Photo by Pete Nema from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.
It’s hard to believe it’s already been over six months since the Rheostatics played their final show at Massey Hall.
You may be wondering what each of the members have been doing since, and in Dave Bidini‘s case the answer is easy: he has already found the time to travel the world, write about his journeys, and get his book published by McClelland & Stewart.
Bidini will launch the book, Around the World in 57 1/2 Gigs, with a unique reading event on Saturday afternoon. From noon to 5 p.m. he will be sitting in the front window of Pages Books (256 Queen Street West) reading the book in its entirety. He’ll also have mysteriously anonymous musician friends stopping by to perform with him.
Even when the Rheos were a going concern, Bidini was carving out a very successful second career as a globetrotter and chronicler of cultural quirks. Tropic of Hockey, in which he found out that Transylvanians love hockey as much as we do, spawned both a documentary film and a second hockey tome, The Best Game You Can Name.
If anything, 57 1/2 Gigs is a spiritual sequel to 1998’s On a Cold Road, which should be on the shelf of any self-respecting CanCon fan. On a Cold Road juxtaposes the Rheos’ tour opening for the Tragically Hip with tales of wild rock ‘n’ roll exploits by pioneers of Canadian rock, including members of Goddo and Max Webster. For most of us, it will be as close as we come to travelling across the country in a beat-up van or playing on stage at Maple Leaf Gardens.
Similarly, this new book follows Bidini as he sets out travelling, guitar in hand, with pal Alun Piggins, and concurrently allows him to reflect a bit on the history and legacy of his band. With the Rheos having wrapped things up, Bidini starts the book feeling, rather understandably, a bit lost. When he sets out on his solo world tour he does so with little more than a guitar and a clean slate.
Soon, however, he’s hanging with the “Finnish Elvis” and seeing if his well-honed rock moves can win over crowds from Moscow to the Shanghai suburbs.
Whether he’s tracking down hockey players in Mongolia, baseball players in rural Italy, or would-be rappers in Sierra Leone, Bidini has a wonderful ability to capture the essence of a place. It would be easy to be some gawky, dilettante tourist, focussing on just how WEIRD things are out there, but Bidini clearly has an affection for his subjects and wants to let us see a bit of their world. He genuinely wants to connect with them, not hold them up for our entertainment or mockery.
Halfway through, almost out of nowhere, he slips into a Kerouac-esque, two-page sentence about the wonders of rock that dazzles. It starts with the “amphetamine snare shots of Let Me Stand Next to You Fire” and culminates with the Rheostatics passed out on a Caribbean beach, having missed their plane—no matter who your favourite band is, no matter where no earth you live, it brings it all home.
As for the reading on Saturday, hopefully it will be enough to sate the cravings of suffering Rheos fans for something new (and if that’s not enough you can still download your own copy of the final show..).