Category Archives: Normal History

David Lester’s Self-Referential TOP 25 List

My Self-Referential TOP 25 List of 2018 (in random order)

1. Designing an anti-fascist poster for the Montreal International Anarchist Theatre Festival.

2. Mecca Normal’s “In January” used as a soundtrack for White Death (2:40), a film made by Amsterdam-based Jocelyne Moreau. White Death is about passion, tuberculosis as ‘consumption’ and ‘romantic disease’.

3. Surpassing 500 columns in the Mecca Normal collaboration for MAGNET Magazine online.

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4. My poster of Emma Goldman included in the “Remember | Resist | Redraw: A Radical History Poster Project” exhibit at the Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives (PAMA) (Brampton, ON).

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5. Collaborating with the Graphic History Collective to illustrate a 93 page comic, in 53 days, on the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919.

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6. Mecca Normal performing a set at my art exhibit at the Heart of the City Festival (Interurban Art Gallery, Vancouver).

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7. My illustration of The Battle of Ballantyne Pier used in promo for the musical version by Vancouver playwright Sherry MacDonald.

8. Mecca Normal’s “I Walk Alone” is slanted for use in next season’s feminist FX series Better Things.

9. Seeing my book cover for “1919: A Graphic History of the Winnipeg General Strike” on display at the Frankfurt Book Fair and on the cover of the Spring 2019 catalogue of publisher Between the Lines.

10. Another year of friendship and collaboration with Jean Smith. We worked on new Mecca Normal songs and we were asked by Patrick Maley to play YoYo a GoGo in 2019.

11. Completing a 5 x 3’ mural commission for an exhibit at Cumberland Museum and Archives.

Best Praxis rehearsing “Strong White Male” before the show (below)

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12. The thrill of hearing London-based UK band Best Praxis (“We are non-binary and female people of colour taking up space”) cover Mecca Normal’s Strong White Male.

13. Performing with Wendy Atkinson as Horde of Two, playing two poems by Bud Osborn at the Vancouver book launch of “Busted: An Illustrated History of Drug Prohibition in Canada” by Susan Boyd.

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14. Seeing the great cover art by Jean Smith for Calvin Johnson’s solo album, featured in articles and reviews in Rolling Stone, SPIN, Stereogum, and Pitchfork.

15. Being approached to illustrate a graphic biography on the life of radical anti-slavery activist Benjamin Lay.

16. Jean Smith’s excellent cover art for Lisa Marr and the Tranzmitors‘ benefit 7″ for the Girls Rock Camp Vancouver.

17. The great Seattle cellist Lori Goldston uses two of Jean Smith’s paintings as album covers.

18. Another year of the amazing paintings by Jean Smith and the fun of seeing the diverse range of people responding to her art. It gives me great hope for this world that people buy art.

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Jean Smith $100 USD paintings (11 x 14″) for sale on FaceBook

19. Putting together the insert art for the upcoming Mecca Normal live in Montreal album on Artoffact Records.

20. The challenging and profound 3-night sold-out stand of Tanya Tagaq/Laakkuluk curated by my partner Wendy Atkinson for her Beyond Words series at The Chan Centre for the Performing Arts at UBC. The 2018 season also included an evening with Laurie Anderson.

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21. South Korean publisher Book Sea releases an edition of “Celebrate People’s History: The Poster Book of Resistance and Revolution” which includes my poster of Paul Robeson.

22. UK-based artist Rita Isaac asks Jean Smith for a painting to be used in an art book series by Laurence King Publishing “that aim to shed a new light onto the contemporary practice of different art forms and use of materials.”

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Jean Smith, Rose Melberg, Jon Manning, Wendy Atkinson, David Lester

23. Celebrating 20 years with my partner Wendy Atkinson by cycling in Germany and Holland and travel to Shanghai, China.

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24. The fun of doing a Mecca Normal interview with Allison Wolfe for her podcast, I’m In The Band.

25. Another year of work on my graphic novel about Emma Goldman. I’m getting closer.

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Video: In Canada

“In Canada” is from “Who Shot Elvis?” (Matador, 1997). Jean Smith vocals. David Lester guitar. Charlie Quintana drums. Video by Jean Smith.

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Cover: Strong White Male

Late last year I got a FaceBook notification that someone had mentioned Mecca Normal. It was very early in the morning, and when I clicked on the link, I really did have a sense that I was still in dreamland. The video snippet (Instagram) showed London band Best Praxis rehearsing Strong White Male “a cover by the amazing Mecca Normal” for a fundraising show two days hence. The band description: “non-binary and female people of colour taking up space. We make DIY punk music.”

Very timely with the Man Thinks Woman / Strong White Male / I Walk Alone medley on Mecca Normal’s new album: Live in Montreal, 1996!

Best Praxis rehearsing Strong White Male before the show (below)

The show!

Mecca Normal opening for The Julie Ruin in Portland, 2016

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LP insert for the live album in the CBC Brave New Waves series.

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$100 USD paintings (11 x 14″ acrylic on canvas panel) by Jean Smith. For sale online.

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Winnipeg General Strike 1919

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David Lester’s drawing for a graphic novel history of the Winnipeg General Strike, 1919.

 

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Video: Now is the Time of the Older Woman

“Now is the time of the older woman.” – Gina Birch of the Raincoats in a BBC documentary about women in punk

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“Rose” and “Days”

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“Rose” and “Days” (K Records, IPU-032) cover art by Jean Smith

“This beauty spreads. Feel it. Two concise song sketches, “Rose” and “Days”, in the inimitable Mecca Normal style that celebrate life in all of its sublime, melancholy and emotional power.” – K Records

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Amazon Reviews of “Jarred Up”

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Amazon reviews Jarred Up

5.0 out of 5 stars
Thanks for looking it up. NOW BUY IT !
Bymonkeypapaon December 4, 1999
Format: Audio CD
If you have heard Mecca Normal then briefly this is my favorite, a compilation of early singles (in other words no drums). Includes Strong White Male (the greatest song ever IMHO). Generally follows a Heavy – Mellow – Heavy – Mellow pattern as far as song selection.
If you have never heard Mecca Normal, the closest approximation would be an 80’s era MaryAnne Faithful vocals cackling ultra-feminist lyrics over a hyperactive Billy Braggish rhythmic electric guitar backing. And I mean this in the best possible way. If you truly like your music independent and sort of difficult, this is a good purchase.
5.0 out of 5 stars
One of the best post-punk albums of all time
ByScience Experimentson
April 13, 2011
Highly, highly recommend this album. If you like Billy Bragg at his best, this album is guaranteed to blow you away. If you like the Clash/Stummer, Bob Dylan or any guitar intensive punk/rock, give this a try.
I gave a friend this album and he spent an afternoon walking around NYC with the album in his ears — he still talks about. There’s a performance assignment for all you Amazonians.
Give this wonderful little gem a try!

Video: This is Different

Turns out Gina Birch of the Raincoats loves this song! As a huge fan of the Raincoats, this is really exciting! She asked me what the music was (on FaceBook) in a video of my currently available paintings, so I listed all five songs and she said she hadn’t gotten past the first one, that she’d been playing it over and over. I got her email address and sent her the mp3. In our brief email exchange, she said she loves my paintings — says she’s gonna buy one! I’m not gonna try and hide my excitement here! The Raincoats are hugely important to the formation of Mecca Normal. It’s hard to imagine what we’d be doing if the Raincoats’ records weren’t around in 1984 or so, and much earlier for Dave who lived in London in the very early 80s and knew of them then.

It’s an added thrill that I play cymbal on this song. This is the recording session that Kathleen and Billy (of Bikini Kill) dropped by. We were in the basement of the ABC house in Olympia, recording with Pat Maley. Kathleen and I sang something together, but it didn’t go that well. I was in the bathroom as an isolation booth and I didn’t have any lyrics. There was a bottle of Gold Bond powder on the window ledge so I started singing about “the final days of the gold bond” and for at least a few minutes the “band” was gonna be called Mandarin Atomizer until someone mentioned it sounded like an atom bomb in an Asiatic country, and that was that.

Also, I’m not sure which is weirder. Either I mention that Mecca Normal were total rock stars at this time, and that Kathleen and Billy arrived as fans (and friends) or I don’t mention it. Too late.

“This is Different” from a 3-song 7″ on K Records, Vol. XXVII in the International Pop Underground Series, and Jarred Up, an LP compilation of 7″ records (K Records, 1993).

Jean Smith’s $100 USD paintings (11 x 14″ acrylic on canvas panel) from October 19th back to the beginning of the series (January 7, 2016).

“First, oh my word I love these portraits {acrylic on canvas panel} so, so, so much. Second, Canadian rocker turned painter Jean Smith sells these paintings on Facebook for $100 a pop. WHAT? Yes, true story. Are you wondering what you’re still doing here and why you’re not over there buying a whole bunch of these 11×14 beauties? Me too. Here you go… Jean’s Facebook page. You’re welcome.” – The Jealous Curator review 09/17

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Pat Maley, Kathleen and Billy at the Mecca Normal recording session that included “This is Different”

 

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