So I went over and then up a little and then over some more and then up and up and up and then over and then up some more and then over the other way and then down, down, down, slowly down, and around, and down again (lakes: what are they good for?) and finally I arrived at the Canadian Guitar Festival this last weekend. Many a folk did same. It was just great, eh?
Seriously fine event. Del Vezeau started the thing up last year, paired it up with a guitar competition and some superb players, many of them Canadian, but some of them not. And that's how it done begun. I missed last year, but was very happy to have come up for the show this year. I'll tell you a little more about it (I'm kinda beat), but first, a few words about Canada.
Personally, I believe the time to stop blaming Canada has arrived. We've all done it. Sure, it was fun, and none too convenient, for a while. Gas prices skyrocket: blame Canada. Social security evaporates: blame Canada. Healthcare impossible to finance: blame Canada. Idiot in our White House: blame Canada. Too much yeast in the bread: blame Canada. Trey and Matt taught us well. Take your problems, all of them, load them up on the catapult, and aim for the Great White North. Preferably wherever Celine is hanging out.
But those days are over, say I. Yes. I will champion the cause to Stop Blaming Canada. Having spent a weekend there (and a week several years ago in British Columbia), I can assure you, Canada is really quite cool. We Yanks should at this point take our displaced anger and frustration and direct it elsewhere (like, say, D.C.?). Now, I'll say that I think some of Canada's coolness has to do, frankly, with the NHL being recently ressurrected from the dead. I gotta imagine this was a big pick-me-up for Canada. (Wanna make the game more attractive and sell more tickets? A big board across the net, just like Jack Nicholson told Gretsky on SNL years ago.) People, and when I say say people I mean Canadians, seemed just completely aglow this last weekend, like they'd had some exceptional lovin' or eaten a wonderful pot roast. Beauty, eh?
Growing up in the dusty flatlands of Kansas and Oklahoma, I was probably something of an oddity. Somehow, I just didn't fit. Anywhere. It's only these many years later that I've come to suspect that I may be, in fact, Canadian.
I was essentially raised by television, and I distinctly remember watching thousands of hours of SCTV and Kids in the Hall. The influence of Canada on SNL is obvious and well documented - and I've seen nearly every show in its history. I was a devout student of the music of Rush for nearly a decade (Neil Peart was a god to me), and I confess an affinity for April Wine and Triumph, as well as, yes, I'll say it: Chilliwack. I do apologize. But they rock. You can't stop the rock. Don't even try.
Perhaps the most profound influence Canada has had on my life concerns skates, sticks, a small slab of rubber, and ice. I am a lifelong (as long as I can recall) Montreal Canadiens fan (sorry Leafs fans). Though I followed the teams in the 70s, 80s and 90s most closely, I studied les Habs' history back to Maurice Richard - and I've read back even earlier. It's true: I know who Toe Blake is. Heck, I even know for whom the Vezina trophy was named (Georges). I desperately, for years, wanted to see a game played at The Forum before it was gone, but I missed the opportunity (and I still haven't had the chance to stop in and see the city). I went into a deep funk when Patrick Roy had his terrible season (I would say it was defense in general) and was traded to Colorado (where he won a bunch more Cups). When I was in my upper-single to low-double digits age-wise, no one was cooler to me than Guy LaFleur. I had read a book in grade school library class called Right Wing, which was actually not about the politically nuttered and offensive, but about a kid who grew up to play right wing for the Canadiens. I wanted to be that kid. Teachers would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up. "I want to be Guy LaFleur," I would say. "You'll need to learn French," they would say. "Oui," I would say, undeterred, and then I would go and cook back bacon and sip ginger ale, pretending it was LaBatt's, or Moosehead if I was feeling precocious. This was a bit off for a nine year old in Tulsa, I assure you.
So anyway. I'm still odd. But I'm evidently also, at heart at least, part Canadian. So this is all starting to make sense. I have also had brief, at times embarrasing fascinations with the U.K. and France. Again, clearly, utterly Canadian.
Back to the festival. It was groovy. I had a very nice time hanging out with the talented luthiers Mike Greenfield
and Andy White. Mike's guitars in particular blew me and just about everyone else away. (Thinking archtop, Mike... thinking archtop...) I was exposed to a bunch of great artists, some of whom I'd heard before, many of whom I hadn't, all of whom I enjoyed. I hate doing this kind of thing because I always leave someone out and I assure you each and every performer was top notch (see the performer list for info and artist sites), but I will briefly say that my personal standouts included singer/songwriters Brooke Miller and Greg Hoskins. In the "mostly guitar but sometimes also vocal" category I thought Jason Fowler, Terry Tufts, Dan Crary and especially Andrew White were all tragically hip. Del Vezeau's music was new to me and I thoroughly dug it, both on stage and back at Mike Greenfield's booth. In the "otherworldly, as always" category I have to mention Peter Finger, Pierre Bensusan, and one of the nicest and most gifted guys in the solar system, Don Ross.
Here's a shot of Terry, Jason, Don and Dan at a workshop on Saturday.
It was great meeting all of you and being there to hear your music. I'll most certainly be back next year.
The only downer for me occurred much later, or earlier, depending on how you're tracking time. I was only around for the two performace days and had to skip the competition day due to a long, 9-10-hour drive back home. Just about everyone at the festival was a bundle of nerves, and I don't think too many folks got much sleep. I know I didn't, but not for lack of trying.
I can tell you this. After a full day of listening to guitar, the last thing you want to hear after that full day of listening to guitar is: more guitar. I don't care how great said guitar has been. After that day: no more guitar. It's just a bit much.
If you've read my little installments for a while you may recall my experiences with The Spiked One. He was this kid who used to live in my old apartment building in Virginia, and he used to play his guitar at all hours, very loudly, and it used to drive me insane. I hear a lot of guitar. It's fine when I want to hear it. It's not when I don't.
At 2:48am on Sunday morning, two days after hearing non-stop guitar at the festival, back at the Ambassador Hotel in Kingston, Ontario, I did not want to hear guitar. But somebody, who happened to be in the room next to me, wanted me to. Very loudly, very drunkenly, with very stupid improvised lyrics (about a 'stupid guitar song' as I recall, and would concur).
This person had actually played a bit around midnight the night before. I was completely exhausted, only woke up briefly, the playing wasn't that bad or, more importantly, that loud, and they stopped after a few moments. Fair enough. Almost three a.m. the night/morning after? Loud and stupid? Not cool.
I'm a pretty non-confrontational fellow. It's the Canadian in me, and possibly part of the Swiss in me (I'm still researching, but I'm sure of this last bit, what with my fascination with time and asparagus and all). But I was also, at three a.m. in the morning, not a happy man. So I got up and beat the holy hell out of the wall with my hands, hard enough, actually, to hurt them a bit. They don't see much action in this fashion. I hear a "Sorry" through the wall (but not "Soore-ry," so I'm not sure if the person was actually Canadian). I return the apology with "Expletiving moron."
I get back in bed. Now, the problem with these little interruptions of slumber is that, well, you've been awakened, which sucks enough right there. But now you've beat on the wall or done a little yelling or whatever, and more than likely now you're really awake. And I was.
So you can imagine, possibly, what happened next, when I heard the crappy, loud, stupid chunka-thunka strumming come in again, with stupid, drunken lyrics sung over the top.
Yes, I threw on some shorts and a t-shirt, stomped out into the hall and banged on the door like a crazed, out-of-work steelworker. Sadly, I do not have the complementary physique, which can actually come in quite handy in these circumstances. No matter.
The door opens and I am face-to-face with a kid who has grown a soul patch and who is holding a cheap Takamine dread. And a pick.
And the exchange went as follows:
-"What the expletive do I need to do here?" [to get you to understand that this is unacceptable]
-[Some thoughtful silence, then] "Dude, you need to relax." (Which was actually quite a good comeback, I will give the guy credit.)
-[Probably far too amped up for my own good] "It's three in the expletiving morning - shut the expletive up...
-[Shock, possibly some awe, but I doubt it...]
And then the kid attempted to shut the door in my face. Which was a mistake. Because I decided to continue the conversation by opposing the force of the closing door with my hand. Which was also, I realize, a mistake. I felt the full force of a body behind the door, thought better of this nonsense, lawsuits and such, and stomped back to my room. As I open my door (I had been careful, even in my tiny rage, to swing out the little metal dealy on the frame to keep the door from shutting and locking me out, which would have made me look like even more of a stupid, little freak), Soul Patch's friend Naked Guy comes out, wearing very little, wondering loudly what's going on. I tell him I don't need this expletive and that I'm calling security (who likely would have hauled me away). He apologizes profusely, at the top of his nearly-naked lungs, and begs me to be cool. I slam my door.
I'm sure we woke up the whole floor. Sorry.
They shut up. I got out of my t-shirt and shorts and jumped back into bed, where I managed to get in about 15 minutes of sleep that night. As Soul Patch left his friend's room I heard him hurl a certain epithet at my door and walk on down the hall to the elevators.
It's not the first time in my life that I've been called a word that is defined as "a bundle of sticks," or, when used in its shortened form, is a word the Brits use to refer to a cigarette. I happen to think it's a pretty dumb word to call someone. Anyone. There are better words to use in the heat of battle that are far more insulting. At any rate, I'd like to submit the following.
It seems to me that:
a guy sitting up half naked and drunk in a hotel room with his half naked and drunk guy friend at 3am following a Saturday night on the town in Kingston, watching pay-per-view hotel porn (is your mother paying for the room, by the way? I don't think titles show up on the bill, so you may be safe...) and playing really bad guitar and stupidly singing to impress his half naked and drunk friend
really more closely fits the "other" definition of the word you deposited at my closed hotel room door that very early morning. As the great Frank Zappa said: you are what you is. And not that there's anything wrong with that.
Please understand: we're talking maybe four hours of sleep in two days and 20+ hours of driving. These kinds of things have a terrible effect on even the most Ghandi among us. I am a nice guy.
In other news, my second record Across the Bridge has been mixed and it's headed for mastering. Things are going well, live dates are starting to be booked, and I'm quite looking forward to playing this music for you very soon.
Okay then. A big thanks to all of my friends up North for the great time. The rest of yas go to the Canadian Guitar Festival next year, you hosers.
Do take off.
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