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Sorry Jian, There's no Such Thing as "Acoustic Rock"

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After 11 days of red carpets, concerts, parties, celeb spotting and, of course, films, time off the road, however precious, is usually spent catching up with life. It's largely frittered away in my car, driving across town to pick up this, or drop off that. I'm a morning person (fallout from years of living with permanent jet lag) and by the time everybody's starting their day, I'm thinking about what to have for lunch.

By the time Q With Jian Ghomeshi hits the airwaves, I've exhausted all my in-car CDs and tune into his show. I'm a genuine fan. I've grown to really enjoy Jian. I enjoy his monologued introductions and his interview style. His signature "Well, Hi There" is Canada's answer to Howard Stern's "Hey Now." His adept handling of spoiled Hollywood actor, Billy Bob Thornton, made him look like a kung-fu master and he instantly endeared himself to me and the rest of the nation.

But I don't think it's any secret that, when it comes to music, Jian skews his tastes very far away from what I deem as Rock. It's not readily detected by the general public but most bands "Q-Approved" fall on the soft side of the fence. So when Jian came on the air last week to announce that Mumford & Sons (think Rankin Family meets The Corrs except nobody is related), were stopping by in a few days to play in-studio, he described them as "Acoustic Rock Sensations."

I rolled my eyes and shook my head. To me, the word "Rock" has always meant "heavy." Even though I describe our band as "Hard Rock," I've always found even that term somewhat redundant. Flippantly pairing the word "Rock" with words like "acoustic" or "folk" or "soft" undermines and strips it of all its deserving weight. I took to Twitter and we exchanged a few tweets which culminated into next day's Q show (September 13, 2012) where he brought up our little tweet tiff accompanied by a couple of thinly veiled jabs that referenced Extreme's More Than Words. You could almost hear his smug grin.

I'm not mad at Jian at all. I say touché. He made me laugh at myself too. I think his opinion is valid but he toes the party line in Canada. Much like Canada's public image worldwide, when it comes to music, most Canadians like their music polite. Hell, even Jian's jabs at me were polite. Music that's loud, heavy or obnoxious is largely viewed by Canadians as lowbrow and uncultured. With movies like Anvil! The Story Of Anvil doing little to dispel the myth of the heavy metal lunkhead, it's hard to blame people for their perceptions. In other words, in this country, Rock is seen as your drunk uncle. Well, for someone who doesn't drink, due more to Ian Mackaye than any 12-step program, I've always found this stigma, glommed on by soft music fanatics everywhere, tiresome.

These Ghomeshi-esque jabs have been happening to me my entire music career and I'm used to it. Actually, it's been happening to me since I was in high school. I was a card-carrying Rocker then as I am now and suffered dearly for it. When a classmate ransacked my bag when I was in grade 10 and stole my cassette copy of Slayer's Reign In Blood only to return it to me the next day scared shitless, I knew then it was going to be a long hard road of misjudgement. I also cursed the Joy Division Unknown Pleasures pin he wore on his coat as he handed my tape back to me. Because of that moment, it took me until I was in my mid-20s to start appreciating Joy Division.

And it was this on-air ribbing from Jian that brought back these memories of adolescence and interestingly enough has coincided with the release of his new book titled 1982, which chronicles the year he was a self-described eyeliner-wearing New Wave teenager. Maybe it was unresolved residual digs leftover from our high school days that had us jabbing back and forth. OK, so if Jian and I went to the same high-school we wouldn't be sitting together in the cafeteria. I get it. Yes, I do concede Rock has been assimilated into pop culture to such a degree it's been rendered impotent and thus its general snub amongst self-appointed music pundits. But I've managed a 180 turn over the years and my original distaste for New Wave has turned into all-out worship for bands like Gang Of Four, Devo and The Cars. I guess I'm a little disappointed that I don't see it reciprocated back.

Still, sitting in my car listening to Jian defend the term "Acoustic Rock" brought a wistful smile to my face. It was good fun indulging in those adolescent dividing lines, reviving long-forgotten high school cliquish dramas on a public stage, if only for a minute or two. Of course, when my cellphone rings and zaps me out of my reminiscence, I remember it's 2012 and I have to start packing 'cause somewhere, a plane ride away, is a Rock stage with my name on it.

 
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