Thursday, January 25, 2007

Queens of the Hootenanny - Part II

The Auditorium - Nanton, AB
Nanton is one of my favourite places to play. I can't
put my finger on why exactly. Pretty sure it ain't the
taxidermy. Maybe because it's not about the money or
what the show can do for your career, it's about the
joy of playing the show for no other reason than the
joy of playing the show.
Maybe it's what I think I deserve.
We got to stay in the funky rooms upstairs and were
joined, in order of appearance, by Lance and Toby,
Diane, Pat the Drummer and Shawna from Lethbridge for
pre-show cocktail hour and watched a lurid nature show
about black widow spiders. At Jenny's suggestion we
were drinking Tijuana Rashes- Tequila and cranberry.
Anti-oxidize while you oxidize! Cure while you poison!
Like the negative calories of celery. In any event we
were feeling no pain while we played and it was quite
possibly the most cutting edge banter of the entire
tour. You see, earlier in the day, Diona had read us
an article in The Economist. (She didn't bat an eye
when I was reading Pamela Anderson's memoirs so I
don't judge) The article was a cheery affair about
rape laws in the U.K. and how it's pretty impossible
to be prosecuted for rape any more, especially if 'the
victim' was drunk or crazy etc. which, incidentally,
is a line of thinking I kind of live by-not the rape
part, but the daytime self is much more uptight and
therefore more accountable than the night time self.
The article also suggested that there were different
types of rapists like "The Predator" or "The
Opportunist". It was rather bleak but of course we
still found ways to joke about it in the car.
"You think you're worried, I rape easy" etc.
So that night on stage I introduced a song sighing,
"Well if this next number doesn't get me raped in the
parking lot after the show, I give up."
And Jenny who is so supportive, no matter the mission,
chimes in from behind the organ and says, "Oh I know.
I've been taking that date rape drug the last four
nights and... nothing!"
And then she suggested she sing a song she co-wrote
with her mother that starts with the unforgettable,
"Quit your friggin' jiggin'
you cock-sucking son of a whore!"
Based on a true story apparently. Quite touching. And
not a lot of people can pull off the word 'piss-flaps'
in a song and make it work.
Since we were in Nanton all the ladies in the bar were
grinning like wolves totally getting it and the big
dudes were nervously laughing 'Hehehe you guys sure
look like you were having fun up there hehehe."
begging us with their eyes to not give their women any
more big ideas. Or maybe it was pity. Who knows?
That's the best part about being drunk, when you're
surrounded by a golden glow, in love with yourself and
immune to reality.
A long time ago my friend Nathan told me that the
definition of A Lady is one who knows when she is
being vulgar. I was thinking about that when I went to
One for the memoirs for sure.

The Royal - Nelson, BC
Monday night. Hardly anyone there. Even less people
for the second set. Slept like motherfuckers back at
the hostel.

Little Slocan Lodge - Slocan , BC
Only an hour and a half drive so we lurked in Nelson.
It was raining. Hit the good coffee place and
breakfast and then the health food store. Spent all
our money on milk thistle and ear candles. Got
Mandrew's glasses off Laoh from the June tour and put
them with Clay's jacket, thinking that by the end of
the tour we'd have enough stuff to make a whole man!
Speaking of which, our three transgendered friends in
Nelson are raising an accidental baby. Can you say
'Three Half Men and a Baby'?! Stick to hand jobs
people and this shit doesn't happen I'm telling you!
Got to the Lodge at sunset. God I love it here. We
were so grateful for the rest the night before and so
relieved that we weren't going to die anymore, to
celebrate fact that we weren't going to die anymore,
we had some drinks on the deck. Well, it started
innocently enough with throat tea but the conversation
was getting so good we turned to the wine. The
previous times I've played here I've always been
amazed at how the people just come out of the woodwork
at showtime and I guess I just thought it happened
every time so when Jenny asked if I figured she should
give herself a talking to or open the second bottle,
as her attorney, I advised her to continue full steam
ahead. Now, we'd been playing in bars as a trio so
perhaps to overcompensate for our sparseness, we'd
been getting pretty 'showbizzy' with the delivery of
the songs and banter. So picture us reeling down the
stairs after getting dressed in our spangles and
coming in to start the show in a Liza Minnelli 'thank
you all so much for coming' kind of way to discover
that 'the audience' is four people doing yoga
stretches on the floor.
And of course being a little stoned cause it's Harvest
Season and then having a total mind fuck argument with
yourself about how The Show Must Go On but then
becoming super shy because without an audience you
just feel like a big fake and then of course feeling
compelled to say all this out loud and then realizing
that you're kind of slurring and making no sense.
Rather sobering actually.
Think I'm getting the message that working together is
the cure for mental illness. The binding contract of
consensual reality. If we decided to be a band
together and play these songs then that is the
agreement no matter how weird it gets. This is the
wreckage to cling to when the storm hits. With nothing
to cling to it's all horrible and false and cold and
ludicrous. That night, the absurdity of performing
before four stretching people caused a door to open in
my brain. I've seen this door before. A couple of
times actually. I know if I chose to go through the
door it would be permanent. I would never come back.
The first time was years ago. We were playing at the
Town Pump. My first band. The Vinaigrettes. Kind of a
big deal show. After sound check there was an early
metal show and somehow I got locked out of the band
room and then thrown outside. The bouncers wouldn't
let me back in. It was February. I was wearing a mumu
and my coat was inside. They told me to go away. I
told them I was IN the band but they wouldn't believe
me and were unimpressed by my tears. Finally found a
back door four minutes before show time only to find
Brigette, the guitarist, had vanished without a word
and was AWOL. There was much yelling from management
to get the hell on stage and with one minute to spare
Brigette sauntered in with her girlfriend.
"Oh my god! Where were you?!"
"Oh we went out for Ethiopian food.." she says calmly.
CALMLY. That's what did it. How could she be so calm
when I was so upset? In retrospect, the whole having
money to go for dinner part might have been a deeper
thorn in my paw at the time too.
"Ethiopian food?" I say, a vein twitching on my neck.
At that moment, my friend J, who could sense the
tension, hell you could have cut it with a knife,
popped up in front of my face wearing a giant Russian
fur hat and said,"Ethiopian food? Such SMALL PORTIONS.
And the way the waiters hover over you asking 'Are you
going to eat that? Are you finished with that?"
That's when the door opened. I was laughing and crying
so hard that had I taken the door I would never have
stopped. From the comments of others I would wager
that I have a tenuous grasp of reality at best so this
would be akin to throwing the final sandbag out of the
hot air balloon and just drifting away from all
earthly troubles forever taking a permanent vacation
from tedious consciousness.
Of course I 'came back' and played the show but I
always remember the door and was reminded of it in
Slocan standing there tarted up in front of the four
yoga stretchers. I surveyed the room and I looked at
us and could feel the giggles coming on and I could
tell right away that these were gonna be the door kind
so I tamped them down but they wouldn't go away so I
just looked at Jenny and Diona and even though it was
ridiculous, they were still singing my song and so I
thought about them and how if I cracked up it would be
like breaking a promise and how being part of three
people makes you only a third and to make the whole
you gotta work together and the door went away. One
day I might take it but there are a few people I
really like down here like Jenny and Diona who make me
wanna stay. So, unlike Sartre, my theory is that other
people, as much as they make you crazy, keep you sane.
I don't want to be one with everyone but I'll make an
effort to be one with the people I like. If reality is
consensual it's necessary to have accomplices.
Jenny sang an a Capella song at the end of the night
that was so beautiful I was forced to bite her.

CBC taping of The Vinyl Cafe-Behind the Music
Community Hall/High School/Theatre - Mission, BC
We arrive in the rain at dusk and find the theatre but
can't figure out how to get in. All the doors are
locked. Someone is called and we are led through some
back hallways and then greeted by The Producer and
introduced to the band and shown to the dressing room
where the producer wants to screen my material for
anything too risque for the blue-haired demographic.
Before I begin, she asks if I've ever been on the CBC
before. I nod and tell her that if she's trying to
find out if I'm house broken, I am. Of course she
vetoes the whore song which would have been so perfect
for the occasion given that they were giving us $900
to play two songs.
Funny to come from Nanton where we played for three
hours for $200 to this. I don't know. I'm funny that
We are then led to the stage where two silver-haired
dudes are playing a grand piano and a stand-up bass. I
suggest they stick around and join us and they do and
they're awesome. Jenny knows everyone from being on
the show so many times and through her family.
We go for Greek food in honour of Diona's birthday and
when we come back it's time to start the show.
They set us up three chairs so we can watch from the
darkened wings and Stewart McLean stands in front of a
podium and then that voice every good Canadian knows
comes out but what's surprising is the accompanying
gestures. He waves his arms around a great deal and
bounces up and down on the balls of his feet to
emphasize words. I had always pictured him sitting at
a desk in a cardigan. The audience love him. He is the
Canadian version of The Oprah Oracle in tasselled
loafers and wide wale corduroy. When he hits a
particularly pithy turn of phrase he pauses to let
them appreciate him. The CBC is all about bowing. The
stories are good and heart warming and the other
musical guest is Murray McLaughlin who sings a song
about getting older called The Second Half of Life and
then Stewie and the piano player rip into a
semi-rehearsed song about how their bodies are falling
apart now that they're getting old. And like I said,
it was Diona's birthday and we were pretty exhausted
and in that heightened
nap zone when the night's theme appeared unavoidably
before us: Ageing.
In the break, us dames slip outside for a smoke and
some sips of Lucky. There is, evidently, a high school
Hallowe'en dance going on in the adjoining gymnasium.
These two dudes come out of the trees, stumbling a
little and not doing a very good job of hiding a half
twenty-sixer of rum. I think that they probably want a
smoke or something but as they approach and see us up
close in the light, the one fellow's face falls and he
says, "Oh... You guys are a lot older than I
"Honey I think that every time I look in a mirror."
It's more than a little awkward but the kid is a born
charmer so to cheer us up he says, "Well you guys are
hot from far away!"
"I mean, you guys must be like 25!", the other one
"Just turned," we say in unison.
"So are you here for that theatre thing?" he asks
We start to answer and he adds, "My mom's in there!"
Yup. We're rolling with yer Mom tonight.
Oh my god. When they reeled off into the night we
laughed, holding our faces Macaulay Culkin style for
about twenty minutes.
Then back inside the blackened theatre for the second
half and the gospel finale. Jenny said I sounded very
soulful on my verse. I told her it was because I was
so scared of screwing it up I was ACTUALLY praying.
Packed up the car which was reeking of garlic from all
the Greek food and air-kissed all our new boyfriends
goodbye. Murray McLaughlin, rosy from scotch, turned
to Diona as we were leaving and said, "I haven't met a
nicer musician since Margo Davis!"
We left not knowing who that is but vowing to look her
up sometime. Navigated the dark and rain slicked
highway 7 into Vancouver down Main Street to the Honey
Hut where Baby Honey and Mandrew awaited us with
kitchen table drinkies a mere two steps away from the
World Famous Honey Hide-a-bed.

St James Hall - Vancouver, BC
Woke up feeling like ass. Finally broke myself for
real this time. Like when you feel so ridiculously bad
you have to laugh? Yeah. That bad. Had to drink
fluids and watch White Oleander on VHS to recover. The
problem is indoor smoking. Since it's so rarely
allowed anymore anywhere in the world, now when I'm
able, I go to town. It's horrible. You can't tell me
not to do something. It just makes me want to do it
Oh fuck. The car. Had to move it to avoid getting a
ticket. All of Main Street's under construction. I
asked Amy if she had any Armour All and a Dustbuster
and she eyed me suspiciously as if aliens had taken
over my body.
I suspect I am not known as someone respectful of
things. I am hard on my toys I guess. People too
I wanted to clean up the car to my mother's standards
because I respect her and was grateful that she'd lent
it to us and of course there was the whole
not-so-noble motivation that if it worked out this
time she might be persuaded again at a later date.
But the Dustbuster sucked because it didn't suck hard
enough so mostly used my fingers to pick up the
disturbing amount of hay (?!)we had acquired in the
wheel wells and under the floor matts. Having a chore
in the outside air proved most restorative. I'll be a
farmer's daughter til I die.
Met my mum outside the hall. She came bearing cookies,
chatted with Amy and Jenny for a while and rolled on
home in her dirty car on half a tank. Where did the
day go?
Sometimes it occurs to me that if I didn't stay up so
late, the next day might not be a total write-off, but
then it's dusk again and too late to care.
Nothing was happening at the hall yet so we went for a
stroll. Sure it was to the liquor store but it did the
trick. In the parking lot I saw the guy that tried to
kill me in an airplane when I was 19 walking with a
woman and pushing a stroller and thought, "Oh good. He
And the show. Oh the show!
The hall is a former church with an apse and great
heavy curtains. My friend Nancy puts on our hall shows
in Vancouver and she went all out. There was dinner
for fifty before the show with all manner of things
drizzled and encrusted which was fabulous except I ate
in the dark and kept thinking I was eating the smoked
salmon lasagna but instead getting the black bean
tortilla pie which was an odd sensation.
The Pauls joined us. Paul Rigby and Paul Pigat. Best
guitar players ever. Got to sort of lead them through
the arrangements of Jenny's songs on The Wurlitzer
which made me kind of feel like Paul Shaffer. The
Minimalist Jug Band, Kent McAllister, Ridley Bent, Amy
Honey and The Weathered Pines rounded out the bill and
the whole night felt very old timey and sweet.
Funny Story:
Jenny had stashed a bottle of white wine in the
kitchen fridge in the basement and she went to get it
when we finished the first set and on her way there
people were congratulating her and she was saying
thank-you thank you as she whipped open the door and
was greeted by the sombre silence of an A.A. meeting.
She realized there was no way she could ever walk to
the fridge, get out a bottle of wine and walk back
across the room with everyone's ears all pricked up
licking their lips and of course just then there was
the unmistakable sound of someone dropping a beer
bottle down the stairs behind her in the hallway and
she bolted back upstairs while the clanging died down
thinking maybe she didn't need that wine so badly
after all. I mean it's not like any of us has a
PROBLEM or anything. I mean it's only a PROBLEM if you
want to stop.
I figured they must have been the advanced level
practicum group.
Ah the hilarity of multi-purpose buildings.

The Waverly - Cumberland, BC
All aboard the 12:30 ferry in the Po'Girl van with
Diona at the wheel with minutes to spare!
"Oh my god you're magic!"
"Experience darling."
Took the scenic route to show our Ontarian hostage the
majesty of the west coast. Thought about stopping for
fresh oysters but only the bars where all the people
who work with oysters drink at were open so they don't
keep 'em on the menu. Shucks.
Stopped in Coombs at the store with the goats on the
roof and bought crazy groceries. Didn't see the goats.
Maybe they went out.
So tired.
We were expecting to play The Abbey which is a
gorgeous venue where the walls basically sing for you
however there has of late been Issues with The
Capacity so the promoters figured we'd make more money
if they moved the show to the working man bar across
the street plus they'd give us rooms upstairs for
free. It was Hallowe'en Saturday.
Last year we had come through town with the giant 14
person Hootenanny tour and then I got the impression
that we were too big and too wild for The Abbey and
now I worried that our new stripped down formation of
just three ladies singing pretty with only organ,
guitar and violin for accompaniment would be too
mellow for the wild night the whole town had come for.
Can I get more irony in my monitor? Thanks. Ah there's
no place like the right time.
I knew a bunch of our hometown gang were planning to
join us and I was happy to see them but (I'm sure the
Germans have a word for this) there's nothing like the
imminent threat of your best friends who really know
you showing up to make you nervous about performing
when you're tired. I was really proud of the music
we'd been making, the arrangements and the singing,
and wanted to show it off.
The sound was un peu brutal. The kind of sound where
you can't tell where the decay ends and the distortion
begins. Like, is that muffled boomy unsustained sound
coming from the monitors or could that be what my
voice actually sounds like or have I blown my own
speakers and have simply gone deaf? But press on. It's
only one night. There'll be other shows etc and we
still had the fresh memories of all the good shows
we'd just had to console ourselves with right? Right?
At least we weren't air traffic controllers or open
heart surgeons (Oh aren't we?) Just playing some songs
on a Saturday night right? It made me think about a
certain moment driving back into B.C.
I think Jenny, after spending 8 days with us, just
thought that Diona and I didn't like to listen to
music in the car which isn't true. I had even made The
Perfect Road Tape (and left it at home of course in
the early morning packing while still drunk state).
So somewhere on the long trip back while riding
shotgun, Jenny turned on the radio and was fiddling
with the knobs to make it sound good for quite a while
before I turned to her and said "I think the solution
here is that you must turn down the expectation knob".
See I'd had the whole trip out to figure out that the
speakers in my mother's car are blown out and that the
sound cannot be improved for all the knob-twisting in
the world.
I don't like thinking like this. It makes me feel old.
But sometimes it's the only way to combat
throat-slitting despair. The Weathered Pines came over
from Vancouver to join us and Hank Pine and The Pine
Family (total fluke with the two Pine bands I swear!)
and J. and Sarah and Emilie and the whole town came
out to see us and it's fine. Just tired that's all.
Hank got us to be in his band and Jenny playing the
drums in high heels is one of the hottest things I've
ever seen!
Afterwards we all played guitar upstairs on one of the
beds in a giant kitten ball trying not to notice any
underlying lyrical themes in the selection of
This tour was one of the best I've ever been on. I
felt like we were real lady musicians and Jenny and
Diona are fabulous tour mates. We're all pretty
different people but maybe that's why it was so easy.
Structural integrity.
And thanks Ma, for the car!
Carolyn Mark
Nov 2006
Barlassina, Italy


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