Thursday, July 30, 2009

let loose the joy and bring the funk: day four of Calgary Folk Fest 09

I'm beginning to suspect that having all those gospel musicians gracing the main stage on Sunday evening really did provide us with a direct link to the divine, because the 90% chance of thunderstorms forecast for the day never did materialize.

The first of the day's two volunteer shifts did arrive brutally early, after having snatched what felt like only minutes of sleep following the volunteer after party. But the joy of making musical recommendations to customers, helping them track down that elusive cd containing that particular song they heard that one musician
play the other day at that workshop, I think it was the one with the hill, never loses its fun.

For the first time in my volunteer history, I survived a folk festival without benefit of my much anticipated falafel feed. I arrived at hospitality rather late in the lunch rush, to find that somebody had already eaten all the falafels. But folk fest volunteers are nothing if not resilient, so I sucked up my disappointment and took the marinated turkey leg offered instead. That turkey leg was awesome, by the way, and the generous assortment of four incredible salads offered daily had not yet been demolished by those hordes of hungry vegans. When I took my loaded plate back to catch the last half of a workshop with Jay Crocker, Akron/Family, Chad VanGaalen, and Ramblin' Ambassadors, I had several queries from passersby as to where I bought my lunch. So if the ranks of Calgary folk festival volunteers suddenly swell next year it could be because everyone wants a chance at one of those turkey legs.

As the between workshop migration began, the remainder of the zombie clan spotted me and invited me into their premium viewing location for the highly anticipated concert by The Acorn. I had fully anticipated the complex beats and intricate melodies of this band of indie electro-acoustic darlings, but I did not expect to be so utterly charmed by the witty and quirky banter of front man Rolf Klausener. When I had the chance to engage him briefly in conversation later in the Record Tent, I could certainly understand why he was so highly ranked on the fan-boy crush list compiled by my new best friend in the tent.

Partway through the next workshop with LeE HARVey OsMOND, Alejandro Escovedo, Chad VanGaalen, and Jolie Holland, I felt the effects of sleep deprivation start to conquer me. How one falls asleep at that high octane workshop, featuring crazy dueling guitars, is still a
mystery to me, but as we were perched at a precarious angle on a steep slope, I thought it best if I left in search of caffeine, rather than risk falling asleep and tumbling down that hill, taking countless innocent victims with me.

A jolt of iced coffee and the bootie-mobilizing scratch and funk of the day's final workshop restored my flagging energy, although I do have to admit that I was one of the few people simply chair-dancing to Dragon Fli Empire, Arrested Development, Kid Koala, and Mutabaruka, as
I knew that I had to put aside some reserves for Record Tent teardown duties that night. Almost everybody else at that packed side stage was hopping and jumping and just being their glorious funky selves.

I had a brief time window before starting my final volunteer shift, so I decided to make an honest woman of myself and partake of my final meal from hospitality. I was pretty proud of myself for not buying any meals this year, instead taking five of the six possible meals offered by hospitality. There was growing lineup when I arrived, which wasn't really moving anywhere, so when the ticket punchers announced that anyone wanting a vegetarian meal could step forward into the short line, I quickly followed Sarah Harmer's example, pretending I was a vegetarian, and followed her into the fast line. For all I know, Sarah could very well be vegetarian, and I've thought about it, so that counts.

I brought my food (lasagna - you don't need meat for that anyway) back to our tarp at main stage and was able to enjoy about half of the Sojourners' absolutely gorgeous gospel set. The charm and the genuine humanity that they had shown when I spoke to them by the river translated perfectly to the big stage and the jumbotrons and the trio brought such a sense of joy and good will to the festival that it was difficult to rip myself away to head to work.

But once there, the demands of sales to the final customers straggling through as we closed the record tent for the final time, as well as the pressures of counting, recounting, and repackaging any unsold cds for the musicians and managers who began filling the tent to get their final tally, left us too busy to pay anything but cursory attention to the sounds of Mavis Staples' big voice booming its way across the park or Loreena McKennitt's closing set wafting through the darkening sky.

In a final rock star encounter, I was able to gush to Miles Seaton of Akron/Family for a little while about the jawdropping experience of their Twilight stage concert the night before and
engage him in a little debate about the nature of the audience/musician boundary and what a sublime experience it is for musician and listener alike when that boundary gets broken down. Somehow, just knowing that these rare and shining moments are just as precious to the people who make the music as they are to those who receive it, felt like it would be enough to sustain me until next year's escape to the Island.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

kissing Carolyn Mark and giving Chad VanGaalen a cookie: day three of Calgary Folk Fest 09

Did this really all happen in the span of one single day? I remember reflecting back, when I finally rolled into bed on Saturday night for my 4 hours sleep, how the day had been so incredibly full and seemed impossibly long, but at the same time passed so quickly and was over in a heartbeat. To me, that is the sign of a perfect day, and if Saturday of the Calgary Folk Festival was not perfect, at least you could see it from there.

I had requested interviews with Carolyn Mark, the Sojourners, and Ferron for late morning on Saturday, so the day started at a civilized hour and I had time for breakfast and everything. Carolyn had already confirmed and I met her at the media tent, which at 11:00AM was already nauseatingly sweltering. She gave me a hearty handshake and when I suggested we park under a tree instead of the sweat lodge, she instead invited me into the artists' lounge, the inner sanctum. A lovely tree-shaded retreat, which you pass on your way to the hospitality area but which you cannot peak into past the fence, with round tables decked with tablecloths and flowers. "And ashtrays!" Carolyn pointed out triumphantly.

Although she had danced until 3:00AM to Bellowhead at the volunteer after party, Carolyn still looked great and was as sharp and sassy as one would expect from someone who was asked to
emcee not one, but two, nights of the Folk Fest. Dirty laugh intact, razor sharp ability to draw a laugh not dulled by the late night, she was a joy to chat to, and it felt more like a conversation between two BC Musician Magazine compadres than an "Interview". I even got some goodies and a kiss on the cheek when we parted.

Since it was evident that the interview with Ferron was not going to happen, I had a bit of time to catch some workshops and on my way to the one I planned to hear (Bell Orchestre, John Langford and Sally Timms from Mekons, Bellowhead, and Dick Gaughan), I heard the Sojourners and Umalali making some glorious noise, and stopped to hear the end of their workshop before making my way to my intended spot. That's one of the joys of workshops, the serendipity of stumbling across something quite sublime.

When I returned to the media tent, I found that the Sojourners had agreed to my interview request, so I set up four chairs in a shady spot by the river for our talk, as it was oppressively hot by this point. Marcus Mosely, Will Sanders, and Ron Small proved to be exceedingly gracious and lovely gentlemen and we spent a good twenty minutes or so discussing how a beautiful natural setting like Prince's Island Park brings out the true spirituality of gospel music. Even though I knew I had to start work on Sunday evening close to the time of their main stage performance, I left determined to see as much of it as I possibly could.

Even though the day was exceedingly hot and the sun blazed mercilessly, causing those workshops that offered the most shade to be absolutely jam-packed, I managed to squeeze into a sliver of shade to hear a couple of workshops before starting my volunteer shift. The Spousal Unit somehow spotted me as I arrived late to add to the crush of people at the
workshop with the Acorn, Pacifika, Apostle of Hustle, and Tarhana, and let me wedge myself into the meager shade of a tiny sapling with him. Amazingly, there were eventually six of us under those few branches.

We were then able to move down into deeper shade, which actually had a great view of the side stage, for the afternoon concert by Deep Dark Woods, which I had been really jonesing to see. Not a lot of chatter in those lads from Saskatoon, but they made up for it with a beautiful set of haunting and dreamy songs of murder and betrayal. Perfect foil to the sweltering day.

I then abused my volunteer status to gain access to the shady pathway along the river which looked out onto the workshop featuring Justin Rutledge, Stephen Page, Sarah Harmer, and the Good Lovelies. I would have gone into the workshop area with the civilians but there was not a spot to be had. I even noticed people in the neighbouring beer garden, reclining on a small hill about 4 feet from the back of a row of beer garden porti-potties (aka hell on earth), listening to the concert. That's hard core, man.

The shift at the Record Tent was lively and I convinced people to buy way too many cds. For
some reason, I find it really easy to convince people that their lives would be infinitely better if they also bought this one. I was asked to take over autograph table duties about halfway through my session, which happily coincided with the arrival of Chad VanGaalen to do a session.

I chatted with Ian Russell, head of Flemish Eye Records, while Chad overjoyed fans with his highly personalized autographs, and as they were getting ready to leave, I thanked them and then played my ace card. "I brought you a cookie, Chad," I offered and held out a fudgy chocolate chip cookie which I had liberated from the the hospitality tent. After Chad had a couple of bites, I went for the kill and asked for my own autograph. "I don't really do signatures," Chad told me, and instead drew a few of his incredible sketches. I was utterly gobsmacked by his generosity, and I positively floated back to the Record Tent where I bragged incessantly to absolutely everyone who would listen about my awesome score.

Still on a rock star encounter high, I finished my shift and followed my curiosity across the road to the Twilight stage from whence I had been hearing some highly infectious sounds drifting into the Record Tent. There I found indie oddities Akron/Family holding the audience in a hypnotic rhythmic trance. It's hard to put your finger on the type of music you can expect to hear from Akron/Family. Just as you think oh, they're sort of electronic experimental, all of a sudden they will floor you with a lovely three-part harmony old country feeling song.

I have never before experienced such a melting of the boundary between band and audience as I did at that Akron/Family set. The audience was completely engaged in the music, undulating as a single entity to the pounding drums and the droning rhythms. But it wasn't simply a matter of the audience responding to the music, it was an actual synergy among all the elements at play. In a truly organic moment during an long extended drone, a complex clap arose from the audience and grew into an integral part of the song itself, such that the music from the stage ultimately morphed into an entirely new form to encompass the music that the audience was making.

It was an utterly amazing moment.

Afterward, I dashed back to the main stage where I caught most of Bellowhead's insanely lively set. Sure, they play English folk songs, but you have never heard them played like this before. Bellowhead is a huge band, complete with horns and fiddles, and they dance jigs and just wail away in the most glorious mult-instrumental multi-age mashup you can imagine. Knowing that Bellowhead had played at the volunteer after party the night before, I then understood why so many of my fellow volunteers had looked bagged that morning, and I no longer doubted the word of my new little best friend in the Record Tent who claimed to have danced Irish jigs until 3:00AM.

The Spousal Unit was completely done in by the time Bellowhead finished playing to uproarious applause, and since the Resident Offspring and I fully intended to take advantage of the fact that we were staying overnight at the Sheraton, mere steps away from the festival, by heading to the volunteer after party at midnight, we all decided that Sarah Harmer, who was closing the night, would have to get by without our presence.

We had already packed up and started walking away when Bellowhead came back for a spirited encore. We knew there would be hell to pay from some members of our party if we suggested going back to the concert, so instead the remaining members of our party dance-walked our way off the island and into the night, ready to get down and boogie a bit at the after party.

And everyody knows what happens at the after party stays at the after party.

Monday, July 27, 2009

rock opera under the stars: day two of Calgary Folk Fest 09

I firmly believe that the addition of the Twilight stage (as an early evening alternative to the main stage) that the Calgary Folk Festival has offered the last couple of years on Friday and Saturday nights is brilliant. Generally the artists performing on the Twilight stage offer an alternative type of music that greatly appeals to me, in the past showcasing Final Fantasy, Jon-Rae and the River, Bill Callahan, and Great Lake Swimmers, among others.

Friday night's Twilight stage lineup proved to be just as inspired - Chad Van Gaalen, Esthero, and Apostle of Hustle. This particular location, which is the only side stage that can be brutally sunny during afternoon workshops turns into a blessed place in the evenings, away
from the general crush of the main stage, and at a time of day where long shadows ease the heat of the day into a fading memory. Over the hedge of tall trees that isolate us from the heart of downtown Calgary, the glass towers can be seen rising over our green oasis, and the choice of music feels like a perfect homage to both the freedom of the island and the realities of the city.

Chad's set was well received by an enthusiastic shoulder to sweaty shoulder crowd, and I was pleased to hear him play a number of new ones, as new Chad Van Gaalen music is always cause for celebration. At one point, I spotted Jeff and Susan, the cutest BLIP couple of all time, across the field from us, and then was startled a short while later to see their dopplergangers park themselves not far from us. Will the real Jeff and Susan please stand up?

Heading back to zombie central, embedded amongst the five thousand other blue tarps at
main stage, we managed to hear the tail end of Belle Orchestre's set, but not enough to really convey any informed impressions. As British indie rockers, Gomez, launched into their lively and solid set, the Spousal Unit convinced me that I really needed to accompany him on a short pilgrimage to the beer garden.

It is actually in a lovely well-treed location, just at the back of the main viewing area, with lots of decent visuals of the stage and certainly no problem with hearing the musicians. But it is a beer garden, after all, and although we managed to share a table with someone who had volunteered with the folk boot camp this year and who shared some great stories of John Langford from Mekons, a beer garden is not where I want to spend the folk fest, so we were quick about washing the heat and dust away with a Big Rock.

Then came that excruciating moment that you know will happen many times at any folk
festival, choosing which act to miss. I had been quite keen to see both Apostle of Hustle and Mekons, but unlike the Resident Offspring, I didn't feel like shuffling back and forth between stages to hear bits of both, so I opted to relax under the trees which felt slightly less aphidy than the previous night. Perhaps we had already ingested most of the aphids in our food.

As was a problem a few times at main stage over the weekend, and particularly with solo performers, we really could have used some additional volume to hear the set properly. Maybe not all the way to 11, but we did have a lot of trouble hearing the between song chats, although I noticed that this was not a problem at many other areas of the park, so perhaps we were just located in some kind of dead zone.

Mekons' set put me in mind somewhat of the one that fellow British rebels, Chumbawamba, played a couple of years ago. Heartfelt and rousing songs of protest, proving once again that the revolutionary spark does not need to disappear as your youth fades.

But that quiet folksy ferocity rapidly disappeared when Arrested Development stormed the stage. Arrested Development are every bit as socially conscious as Mekons, but they purvey their message with serious bootie-shaking grooves. Funky and exuberant, with hip-hop rhythms and Sly Stone covers, gospelly numbers and soulful rapping, they left nary a bum in a festival chair during their highly charged set. I remember wondering how the hell the Decemberists, who were closing the night, could possibly follow that spirited set.

But, oh silly me to have worried so needlessly.

For the first time in my history of attending the Calgary folk festival, I made my way up to one of the dancing/standing areas located in front of the stage, but off to the sides. I figured
if I couldn't see anything I would head back to zombie central and watch on one of the jumbotrons, but as luck would have it, I was about four (not overly tall) people away from the front and had a better view than I have had at many a concert.

There was a palpable buzz in the standing crowd as we watched the stage crew set up the instruments and saw the stage lights dim. And then, without benefit of any introduction from emcee Carolyn Mark, the Decemberists silently took their positions and we heard the first organ notes of the prelude to their new album, The Hazards of Love. They played it in its entirety, the way it is meant to be played. And they played it without song breaks, but with costumes and lighting and plenty of drama. It was glorious, it was a spectacle, it was an honest to god rock opera! And it was the Decemberists!

People were pretty polite too, it was still a folk festival, after all. Even the guy behind me resting his long-lens camera on my head, stopped when he realized what he was doing. People did give ample room (presumably to avoid the fumes) to the one really drunk guy who
didn't appear to know where he was, since he kept calling out for Thurston Moore. But then he fell down and after someone helped him up, he was quiet.

Naturally, we all went nuts at the conclusion of the performance, and, as hoped, the Decemberists came back for an encore of Sons and Daughters, which was an inspired choice for a folk festival, being a singalong round, as it is. Of course, before launching into the song, Colin Meloy absolutely charmed the hell out of each and every one of us with his little tale of flying from Calgary to Dusseldorf on a $200 flight while attempting to get from Montana to Paris for an ill-fated romantic encounter.

Upon Colin's instructions to "the denizens of this island", we all sang loudly and lustily and long to the final chorus, with Colin conducting, in addition to jumping up and down and shredding and finally ending with a dramatic rock star leap off the speaker. My mind was suitably blown.

Then with hear all the bombs, they fade away still echoing in our ears and pounding in our chests, as our new best friend Colin promised they would if we sang loudly enough, we shuffled en masse off the island of which we had all been denizens of Decemberists' mythology.

Friday, July 24, 2009

easing into island life: day one of Calgary Folk Fest 09

Despite the aphids that have infested Prince's Island this year, the first night of the Calgary Folk Festival was the sort of night where you lean back in your regulation height festival chair and contemplate life while soulful, heartfelt sounds waft from the mainstage. After a while you become used to the sap dropping on you from the trees, and since everybody else is also scratching their heads to dispel the aphids, it feels rather like communal grooming.

For me, though, in my third year volunteering in the Record Tent (this year a combined record and merchandise tent), the day got off to a decidedly more active start. Working setup allowed me to log a few of my volunteer hours before the music even thought about starting, but it also meant a fair bit of sweat equity invested in lugging boxes of cds around. I will never be able to forgive Loreena McKennitt for sending 57,000,000 boxes of cds and dvds, which I had to find space for underneath the tables at the back. So, if you are looking for Loreena McKennitt merch, we've probably got it.

Actually there are some really great artist t-shirts available in the record tent this year as well, and I noticed that many of them are now available in considerably larger sizes than used to be offered in past years. Evidently not just skinny little indie kids listen to music anymore.

I should have guessed that the folk fest was off to a more leisurely start this year, when on my way onto the island at just before noon, I stopped to ask the first person in line for the 4:30 running of the tarps what time she had started lining up. Not till 5:00 that same morning, apparently. Generally people will line up overnight, but then again, the weekend is still young.

After my shift, I did a reconnaissance of the cds and tees on offer and then darted over the media tent, where I was studiously ignored for what seemed like a very long time. I finally realised that they must have taken me for a simpleton who just liked to stand there with my mouth open looking at the pretty people or something, so I interrupted one person's rapt attention to a piece of paper to ask how I sign up for interview sessions. Pretty straight forward really, and on Saturday I expect to be talking to BC musicians Ferron, Carolyn Mark, and the Sojourners for my coverage of Calgary festivals for, you guessed it, BC Musician Magazine.

I wolfed down a quick supper in the newly located hospitality tent, now beautifully situated among the trees along the river. Evidently those hospitality people are determined to ensure that I stay healthy this weekend, as I sat down to a plate piled higher with raw veggies than I thought would have thought possible without the benefit of earth moving equipment. I chose the tofu with broccoli option over the chicken, as I figured I didn't have quite enough veggies on my plate yet. Gotta counteract that gelato that you know you are going to have, right?

Carolyn Mark emceed the night and she was resplendent in that red dress she wore on the cover of BC Musician Magazine a few months ago, the one where she is kissing Geoff Berner. She was typically sassy and irreverent and Chad VanGaalen goosed her when he came onstage to play his mini set.

Justin Rutledge came on after the opening set by Los Misioneros del Norte, just after we ran into Ruh who was enthusiastically telling us that his album Man Descending was her second favourite from last year, right after Elliott Brood's Mountain Meadows. Now that's a pretty solid endorsement, so I gave Mr. Rutledge my undivided attention, and he did not disappoint. Beautiful heartfelt songs with melodies that pull you in and stories that keep you there.

I then dashed off for a previously arranged meeting with a couple of fellow music lovers from BLIP, Jeff and Susan. Since I could not notch this up on my blogger meetup belt, I have unilaterally declared the existence of a BLIP meetup belt as well. They were absolutely adorable and I'm so glad we had the chance to meet and talk about how our lives would have been so much better if we had the internet when we were growing up and how kids today don't even know how lucky they are.

We talked during most of Umalali, but they sounded pretty great as our background music - infectious rhythms, and one of the singers had the cutest nun glasses.

Chad VanGaalen then played an odd little mini set, after which he just disappeared from the stage without even saying goodbye. I think he was trying to plug something in, as we could see him messing about with something and then the jumbotrons went black. When they came back up, he was gone. You know he'll more than make up for it at the Twilight Stage concert the next night; besides even when he is faily, he is great.

Scheduled headliner Michael Franti came down with a nasty case of ruptured appendix and was obviously unable to perform, so the Woodchoppers Association stepped in to play the next set - a hard to pigeonhole melange of collaborative rhythms and improvisational jazz, leaving Iron and Wine to move into the headline spot.

The singer/songwriter from Texas again mellowed the feel of the festival back down to a gentle buzz, as he charmed the already appreciative crowd with his intimate songs, songs that sounded strangely familiar although I am sure I had only heard a few of them before. He seemed to enjoy himself, gently chiding the audience for being so laid back, while complementing them on being so polite. Oh, perhaps it was one of those backhanded compliments you hear so much about these days.

Regardless of his motives, Samuel Beam (aka Iron and Wine) established a gentle connection with the folks on the island, and left us to drift out of the park in a contemplative mood, fulfilled by the evening's offerings, hungry for what the next day would bring.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

footnotes from a wedding

1. take the advice of your wise friend who coaches you on how to mesmerize a crowd; he knows what he's talking about.
2. never trust a DJ who has only one ABBA song.
3. if that shower curtain in the hotel room keeps blowing in and wrapping itself around you, every shower will be like showering inside a sleeping bag.
4. when you dance with your brother in law to the only Weakerthans' song the DJ has and it's One Great City and your brother in law used to be a high school English teacher, you just know you will end up lamenting to each other that people just don't understand irony.
5. people with mullets can be really nice, even if they do only like country music.
6. the right outfit, preferably one with a swingy skirt that snaps when you move, can help you
overcome your white girl tendencies and dance like you're alone in the kitchen.

Apparently it's my four year blogoversary. Did you even bring a present? I'm keeping track, you know.


Tomorrow marks the beginning of the High Holy Days of the year. Calgary Folk Festival. In fact, I was down at Prince's Island tonight, paying pilgrimage and cleansing my soul in preparation. Actually it was the Record Tent meeting.

The buzz is palpable around the place, stages are set up, tents are erected, vendors are moving in, porta potties are being lined up and having their little soap dispensers filled.

Although there appear to be a lot of new people working the Record Tent this year, I was thrilled to see quite a few of the regulars returning. Even though we only see each other for four days a year, it's always a joy to see one another again. Big hugs and back slaps break out all over the place. I love working with these people, because we all really want to be there and we love what we do.

Tomorrow at noon, I start my volunteer duties. So once again, I am going to be negligent in visiting you, but I will return and I will bring curry or music or something. Also detailed daily reports from the Island.

Be nice to each other. You know I'll find out if you're not.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

not even a punchup at this wedding (no no no no no no no no)

We slept in our own beds last night, thoroughly obliterated from the 2,400 kms in 5 days round trip, but utterly satisfied with the glorious onslaught of family and old friends.

We arrived home with a surprising dearth of photos, but there will be more forthcoming once we start doing the family swap. We were far too busy visiting to be snapping photos all the time. Besides, my cousin's husband, both of them making the trek from Germany, took what I can only assume are some highly impressive photos with that big-assed camera of his.

First, of course, we had to check on the progress of the cottage that's being built. I was so pleased with how all the elements are fitting together so well, even though I had to pick them out piecemeal from websites. I mean, look at those cabinets and that hardware! Am I some kind of decorating guru or what?

I can't believe that we have no photos from the ceremony, as evidently our camera was in my purse. Here is the Little General, as her new spousal unit so fondly calls her, leading us through our paces at the rehearsal.

Fortunately, my sister-in-law, who was right on the aisle, took lots of photos, including those taken on a camera that was passed down the row to her, which she assumed belongs to the Spousal Unit. So she gleefully kept snapping photos of me officiating my heart out, until suddenly the camera stopped, and the film (yes film!) rewound. We are still not sure whose camera it was, but they now have a whole roll of pictures of the polka dotted wonder.

evidence that the Zombie family can clean up when they need to:

wedding debauchery snaps:

post nuptial barbeque, complete with the wedding dog, Habby:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

weird scenes inside the gold mine

Hotel room are strange, aren't they? Regardless of how increasingly ubiquitous the big hotel chains make the room designs, there are oddities to every hotel room in which I have ever stayed, that makes it memorable. Not necessarily good memorable,but sometimes it can be quite sublime.

Our hotel room on this trip smells like bacon. Maple bacon, I think. And later in the day it smells like pancakes, but I am the only person who can smell it. I dunno, maybe I am having an extended stroke or something. I am simultaneously continually hungry and repulsed.

The coffee maker brews one cup of clear water, leaving the rest in the basket at the top. When I asked for a new coffee maker, I was given "a brand new one, right out of the box" which acted in exactly the same manner. Fortunately, the spousal unit, more mechanically minded than I, figured out you have to press the coffee pot up against the bottom of the brewing mechanism the entire time it's brewing, to keep the ball mechanism open.

And really what hotel these days doesn't have free coffee in the lobby anyway? This one, apparently.

Yesterday, the light in the bathroom died. We are still waiting for someone to replace it, and in the meantime have dragged a floor lamp into the bathroom where it is wedged between the toilet and the sink. One would think that house keeping would have noticed this when they were doing up the room and reminded maintenance, but evidently not. It's kind of romantic having a floor lamp in the bathroom, I guess.

But what's great about our room is the location - right in the corner looking into the pool area. We quickly commandeered the tables outside our patio door and parked ourselves there after the rehearsal party on Friday night. And of course most of the wedding guests are staying at this hotel and most of them pass through the pool area on the way to their rooms, so we had a continual come and go tea (only with beer and wine) happening as people straggled in. Some folks I have not seen in decades.

It was like staying at a cut-rate resort or something. Everybody ends up in the pool.

We'll do a bit more visiting with family and friends this afternoon and evening, then it's back on the road, on the reverse trip over the prairies tomorrow.

It was a great trip, a fabulous wedding (with details and photos to follow), but it's time. Besides, I have had enough of sharing a room with these people.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

so we'll link our arms and we'll bloody our hands

I know I have been a bit neglectful in the blogosphere lately, but fear not, I am about to become even more so. We're making the big trek across the prairies in the morning, Manitoba bound, to attend the wedding of the century.

The road snacks have been bought,
the delicates laundered, and the road tunes are soon to be organized. The cat has been spending the day outside, so has not yet noticed the suitcases being hauled out of the closets. She is going to be pissed when she realizes what's going on, and no doubt will be really bitchy to the cat sitter. She generally is.

I have decided on a polka dot dress as a stand-in for the Xena Warrior Princess outfit in which to perform the wedding ceremony. It's not the Hutterite-chic type of polka dot, though, more the Betty Boop type, with large white dots on a black dress. This way I figure if a Yatzhee game breaks out, I will be ready.

And when we return on Monday, it will be right into preparation for the Calgary Folk Festival. I was given my volunteer schedule the other day and it is really pretty sweet. Working the setup on Thursday allows me to get 4 hours done before the music even begins.

And naturally I would be remiss if I didn't at least leave you with some shameless self-promotion, so please feel free to download my latest BC Musician Magazine article, SK8R MUZK: Not Just for Mall Punks. It'll be like I never left.

See you soon, my darlings! I'll miss you, make sure you miss me back.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

our little cups of grace

I love:

- the aroma of the first cup of coffee on a weekend morning, when you are standing by the open kitchen window and the fresh breeze wafts in

- when the cat is in a sunny patch washing herself, and she forgets, the entire time that you are talking to her, that she has her hind leg stretched up in the air

- that two of my favourite people are meeting each other today, even if I can't join them.

- the way the rains of this past week have made everything so intensely green and lush so that it now actually looks like summer. The leaves have stopped turning yellow and falling off the trees.

- that I get to spend lots of time with the Resident Offspring this summer.

- how my weekly to-do list has at least 575,965 things crossed off it.

What's making you glad to be alive today?

Thursday, July 09, 2009

open your ears: new music from Kid Mud - Now They Shut Us Down

Comfort will come in the movies.

The opening lyrics of Guidelines For Style, one of the thirteen diverse but somehow unified tracks on Now They Shut Us Down, pretty much sum up the slightly mournful but ultimately hopeful yearning for release that you are left with after listening to the new release from San Francisco's Kid Mud. This first full-length album from the multi-instrumentalist is a bit of a surprising affair. At first listen, it is an appealing blend of clear-voiced singer/songwriter and nicely fuzzed guitar, but it takes a few listens to really start to appreciate the subtleties of the music.

Now They Shut Us Down is a
somewhat introspective album that manages to retain an accessibility which draws you in and sets you up for the almost imperceptible chord progressions from breezy electro-pop to ethereal layers of lush shoegazer goodness. The rich and lush sound evokes a dreaminess without losing the clarity of radio friendly pop. It's a dreaminess that alternates effortlessly between a breezy summer evening and a gloriously building fuzzy guitar anthem.

There are moments of acoustic folk offerings that evolve into bittersweet but satisfying campfire singalongs. There are lush choruses of aaaaahhh-aaahhh alternating with the matter-of-factness of
"it all seems so simple to leave the gun lying around". There are dark periods of loneliness in a basement apartment that culminate in a building refrain of "sticking the knife in my own back".

Now They Shut Us Down is the sort of album
that makes you take a step back and realize that there are a more than a few layers here, waiting to be uncovered. And although it's almost scary to contemplate what you are going to reveal as you peel those layers back, you know you want to anyway.

Kid Mud is the latest artist to join Will Benham's feisty upstart San Francisco-based record label, New and Used Records.
N&UR has built up an impressive posse of talent over a relatively short period of time, signing musicians such as the Passionistas, Tigers Can Bite You, Shiloe, and now Kid Mud.

Do yourself a favour and check out Kid Mud's new album at New and Used Records. I have a feeling you'll want to keep going back for more listens, to see what the next layer reveals.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

top three miscalculations of the day

1. eyeballing the Visine bottle and deciding that yes, there is definitely one more dose left in there, only to end up with an eyeball full of foam

2. deciding that there is no way that this will take more than an hour

peeing in that little cup at the lab place

Speaking of the lab place, you are not going to believe what new indignities they subject you to there once you turn 50. I don't even want to tell you about it. Why can't they just let us old people die with some dignity intact?

Sunday, July 05, 2009

set our watches forward like we're just arriving here

The countdown begins.

With my volunteer shirt and badge now safely in my grasp, I can start planning my strategy for the Calgary Folk Festival, which is a mere two and a half weeks away. Barely enough time to pour over the reconnaissance maps of Prince's Island, plan out the must-see workshops and perfect the precision timing needed to get the festival chair folded at one shady glen and unfolded in the perfect spot at the next without missing one note. Nobody ever said it was easy being a folk festival ninja, but that's what all those years
of training were for. If anyone cares to join me on the island this year, I will be happy to share my vast festival ninja knowledge with you. I know all the secrets to the ways of the curry stand and the gelato place.

As you can imagine, I was completely chuffed to realize that the Decemberists are playing the mainstage on Friday night after the Record Tent closes for the evening, so regardless of my shift schedule, I will not miss them. I may have to do some scurrying back and forth between the mainstage and the twilight stage that night, in order to catch Apostle of Hustle, but I can be a good scurryer when called upon to be.

The workshops look pretty inspired. I am aiming my sights on Saturday's Another World workshop with Pacifika, the Acorn, Tarhana, and Apostle of Hustle, followed at the same location by a Deep Dark Woods concert. At the Sunday sessions, I am kinda drooling over the Rock, Stocks, and Two Smoking Carols session with Jay Crocker, Akron/Family, Chad VanGaalen, and the Rambin' Ambassadors, followed by another great concert at the same site - the Acorn.

So much great music and great musical matchups absolutely crammed into four days, it's crazy. It always is. Yet, at the same time, the atmosphere at the folk festival is so relaxed and so easy, it truly is a holiday that refreshes the mind and rejuvinates the soul. The body will just have to look after itself.

There is a slightly surreal aspect to the folk festival for me this year, in that I will also be working as a reporter for BC Musician Magazine. I have media accreditation and everything, so will be able to go to the media area and sign up to interview artists. Better make sure I have fresh batteries in my Barbie Cub Reporter digital recorder.

Friday, July 03, 2009

they'll hang flags from cranes

Me: Hey, Mike Holmes is going to be parade marshal for the Calgary Stampede this year.

Spousal Unit: We should get him over for a barbeque!

It's his response to everything. But it's actually not such a bad idea, provided Mike brings his tool belt, as we have loads of stuff to keep him from getting bored while the steaks grill.

Personally I am steering clear of the Stampede grounds. There is nothing for me there, except skin cancer, heat stroke, and loads of
sweaty, drunk, and possibly barfing people. Even the Super Dogs show can't drag me down there, as I just cannot handle that annoying MC any longer, regardless of how cute and talented the dogs are. He wasn't funny when he told those same jokes on the Ark and he isn't funny now.

Besides, I will be far too busy preparing for my niece's wedding. I am actually going to be performing the ceremony and I have my Manitoba Marriage Commissioner certificate and everything. It seems wasteful to only use it once, so if you were thinking of getting hitched to your honey-bun, you should swing by and I will get the job done for you. It's only good for one day though, so act quickly.

But I have a dilemma. Such a momentous occasion requires suitable attire, for which I am going shopping today. Should I go for the white Elvis suit or the Xena Warrior Princess gear? I'm sort of partial to the metal breastplates, but maybe they are too much?

I desperately need your fashion advice, dear readers.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

standing in front of the kitchen sink, in bare feet, eating watermelon

That's really what Dominion Day Canada Day is all about, innit? You can keep your grandstand concerts, even if they've got a hot ticket headliner like Kim Mitchell or Glass Tiger. I don't need any red and white balloons, and although I wouldn't turn down a piece of that slab cake with the little Canadian flags on it, I don't really need any of that either.

The cat, in a rare but not unheard of burst of daring, has already been up on the garage roof, ensuring that the marauding hordes are not yet visible coming over the border. It's a party trick she pulls out when she is feeling particularly patriotic.

As my final tally in the Canadian Book Challenge will attest, I am not a particularly well-read Canadian, having only completed five Canadian books this year. But I did get the review for the last one written just under the wire for the deadline, so I am rather patting myself on the back for that final burst of productivity. You can read my review of Jonathan Goldstein's Ladies and Gentlemen: the Bible here.

If you are enjoying a day off today, enjoy it fully. Tomorrow you can always phone in sick, on account of being overly patriotic. If your big national holiday falls this weekend, start
practicing up for it now.

I leave you with the traditional Wilhelm Bruederlin Extra Old Stock salute. He would have turned 87 today. Papa would have gotten such a kick out of the fact that all his kids and all their kids put beer caps in their eyes in his honour every July 1. For him it was the height of humour.