February 18, 2007
a good reason to stay in this one-fest town

Blake broke my heart twice today - a new record, since he hardly ever breaks my heart. I was trying to get something written up in time for church when he ran at me with his baseball bat, yelling something unintelligible.

Me: What are you doing?
Him: I'm shooting things.
Me: What are you shooting?
Him: Bad guys. I'm shooting them with fire.
Me: Where did you learn this game? (My voice begins to rise. Insert a highly unsuccessful interrogation that fails utterly to determine where he heard this. Tactics are changed.) How do you know they're bad guys?
Him: Because I'm shooting them.
Me: That's right! You don't know if they're bad! What makes you think that you're good and they're bad? (At this point I dissolve into tears. Blake comes to comfort me.)

All of the tiny battles of infancy fade into insignificance before this moment. Despite my most unrealistic expectations and most firmly held opinions, my child has been exposed to and infected by military culture.

I pulled myself together for church, just in time to supervise Blake and an older boy in the nursery. I soon noticed that this older boy was playing a shooting, soldier game, giving me at least one possibility of origin. How ironic. But then, when this boy's older sister collected him for Sunday School, Blake broke my heart again.

"No, Malachi, don't go! Malachi, I love you! Don't go to Sunday School! Don't go Malachi, I love you!" All without looking up. Seriously, my nerves can't take this kind of treadmill.

The last four days of our lives have centred around the BIAF, and have been almost as intense as a stint at Stanfest (except: warmer, drier, cleaner and with a measly 15-minute commute to our own bed at the end of every night.) We've seen a number of bands that have rocked our socks, walked out on a number of avante-guard improvisational acts that make me question why I'm not performing for money, and generally chatted & played & knit as much as possible.

Rotundus Maximus Series:

Borje Salming did not perform the Swedish national anthem on the sousaphone Wednesday night, clad only in Salming underwear and a Jofa helmet. (But his mysterious fraudulent proxy allowed us to chat at length with Geoff Berner, about whom more later.) The Boy was quite disappointed, and we left soon after.

Despite this letdown, we felt much better when Jeff Burke delivered a blistering bassoon rendition of Side 1 of "Master of Puppets" on Friday. The audience was absolutely rapt, with many spontaneous exhibitions of air guitar, air bass and two air drummers. The Boy's favourite part was the beginning of the title track, which was greeted with wide smiles and a smattering of polite applause. I don't think I've ever thrown the horns so many times at a solo bassoon show. We also confirmed that he was the bassoonist of Cosimo Cat fame, but in the middle of the conversation we were shushed in favour of a performance artist hitting different parts of her body.

Secondary Space: Wednesday

Ultramagnus = hot Afrobeat rhythms that make the dishes get up & dance. Raised By Swans caused me to totally rock out while knitting the border of a new hat (they do gorgeous Cure-influenced soundscapes and I think I was the most moved of the whole audience.)

Geoff Berner did all new stuff from his latest CD, with a Carmaig song right at the end for fun. I always love the Geoff, even if I can't sing along, and there was some great stuff about "the agony of childbirth" and what you have to do to shut your husband up. We talked to him later at the merch table, after we bought one album and Nic bought the other. (Yeah, Nic stayed for the whole set too, and was doubled over at many points. I'm always surprised when he likes what I like.)

Main Stage: Wednesday

Dr. Steve Mann didn't really play in the main space, but in the frigid patio outside the theatre. Holy Ghost, it was cold out there, and I can't imagine how cold it was to play an instrument that uses continually running water as its main sound generator. There was a fairly respectable crowd watching, and I'm told that after I gave up and went inside, both the Boy and Mayor Susan Fennell took turns on the hydraulophone. Me, I joined the Parade of Noises and went to the theatre. I kind of had to; the recorder player was wearing the Boy's finger-less gloves so that her hands wouldn't fall off. As it was, the gloves almost went to Guelph before they were rescued by a helpful member of the Futuristic Art Research Team. I therefore forgive her for gutting a plush Larry the Cucumber in search of his voice box.

The Diableros were quite good, and reminded me of both Joy Division and Sonic Youth. I used the time to cast on for a new hat, and enjoyed every second of their set.

Secondary Space: Friday

I really wanted to like Kids on TV (especially since they released a single with Maggie M.), but frankly they scared the crap out of me when they dressed up in wolf suits and crawled around on the floor. The next act, Laura Barrett, was a vision. When I walked in the door, the audience was all sitting crosslegged on the floor like an obedient kindergarten class. Halfway through the first song, I turned to the Boy and said, "I love her. I'm leaving you for her." I was utterly ensorcelled. Don't take my word for it, go to her page and lose your heart too.

Main Stage: Friday

Ohbijou were as cute as their bio: "laying in bed, in a fit of unbridled happiness, hitting me like an unexpected sneeze, I looked at you and said…ohbijou." Like Belle & Sebastian, only sweet and soft and lovely, they knew the power of a good crescendo.

Most of the rest of Friday was spent swooning over Laura Barrett and knitting in the lobby. I did manage to catch the beginning of Trevor Dunn & Shelley Burgon, but five seconds into the first piece I realized that I was too tired and possibly too close-minded to enjoy experimental improvisational duets created by mallets and strings. So we went home.

Secondary Space: Saturday

Giant Killer Shark! The Musical was viewed from behind Nic's book display. I'm a total sucker for ironic comedy musicals, and this one had the added bonus of cheap ass props, improvisation to cover mistakes and a mustache that refused to stay on and was replaced halfway through with a double line of electrical tape. "I'm going to go fix my fucking mustache." The three of us laughed and laughed. After the shark blew up and the final song finished and the lights came up, I was so completely content that I could have gone home right then.

Main Stage: Saturday

Three words that changed my life (or at least, my night): Nihilist Spasm Band. So loud, so wild, so much sound that I was utterly transported. Like having the flu, like what I dimly remember of being high. And their lead singer had exactly the right voice for declaiming spoken word pieces, a clear sign that he should do so.

The only other act I caught was Elliot Brood, a self-described "death folk" trio that would have fit into StanFest like a (finger-less) glove. Unfortunately, I was completely spent from the week of music, from laughing my lungs out at "Giant Killer Shark," from real estate negotiations, and from the sonic assault of the NSB. To conclude, I folded like a tent before the Friendly Rich Show at midnight. I still regret missing his act, but I guess I'm not a kid anymore. Boo. But yay on Friendly Rich (who is quite friendly, even when my toddler is running around willy nilly during the set-up on the first day of a 4-day festival), and yay on his excellent festival. I'm a convert.

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Don't make me send out the Blake. He doesn't listen to *anyone.*