June 20, 2009
squeaky wheel

or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Label

My fandom for the BSS family/Arts & Crafts stable is becoming something of an in-joke among my non-afflicted friends. They no longer comment on how many times Mason or I will wear a band shirt instead of a real shirt, or that my living room art is band posters (which will change soon thanks to a wicked linen Book of Kells dishtowel I picked up last Saturday at the Brickworks. Looks so good with my old, clunky, dark, hand-me-down 70's furniture! But I digress.), or that I have a calendar in my study that I made for Mason's Christmas present that features band pictures for each month (June is K Drew). Although the "golden age" of the scene has long-since passed, this is still a good time to be a fan. Fandom has encouraged us to sample solo projects and enjoy a wide range of musical offerings from related bands like the Happiness Project or Apostle of Hustle. It's like going to a year-long music festival where every act is different and good but I get to use my own toilet.

Being older fans (as these things go) we also tend to take some things for granted. We're used to showing up at these things and being blessed beyond measure: not only really liking the performance but taking home a balloon or dancing with the band. So when we bought 5-day passes for NXNE to get into the launch party for This Book Is Broken, we expected to get into the launch party. We also expected all kinds of little bonuses. After all, we are the ones who show up to knit night at Lettuce and walk into book launches a half-dozen times a year. We come to craft and get free cupcakes and wine, or sushi and beer, or yarn door-prizes and lemon squares.

This is not the world in which I toiled when I was a teenager: bands were remote and suicidal, not mixing in the crowd. Authors sat in state at the end of 2-3 hour line-ups; you skipped school to spend the day at the World's Biggest Bookstore, dodged your grandparents who were there to get you a birthday present, and the author would graciously spend almost 4 words on your overwhelmed carcass. Free cupcakes were exclusively the province of birthday parties for younger siblings. Wine was gross. Free yarn was useless.

Like I said, Mason and I have been extraordinarily blessed, first to have so much access to art and then to have all of the unexpected access to the artists. It's a lovely thing to have given up on new music for almost 10 years, only to be so undeservedly rewarded when we plunged back into the fray. And we fully expected that when we pulled into Terroni's at 6:30 for a much-needed dinner after two-hours of terrible rainy driving, and saw at least four members of BSS at the front table, that we would be seeing them later that night. We had to give up on the free Apostle of Hustle show at MTV, due to a late doctor's appointment and the rain that made all the drivers angry and slow. But we were psyched to see everyone that night. It was going to be like the old days, the early days when all the family played together, one band bleeding into another.

Need I tell you that it didn't happen? That by the time we got out of the restaurant, the people in charge were no longer letting in 5-day pass holders?

Well. It didn't. We were left standing in the drizzle, our hopes of seeing the bands evaporating like our body heat. To make it even better, the woman in charge of telling us to go away whispered that the special secret guest was, in fact, Broken Social Scene. Mason was livid; so angry he couldn't talk. I felt like I had been punched. It had been so cold and rainy and such a crappy night to come down. My dinner had been expensive and disappointing. We had bought the 5-day passes just to see the acts that night. It was overwhelmingly disappointing. We went home and I spent the night in a freaked out state of anxiety; every time I woke up (which was every hour) I looked at the clock and told myself which band I was missing. I couldn't stop the Apostle song playing on an infinite loop in my head, gnawing at me when I tried to relax. I was certain that we were missing the best night ever, an unexpected return to an earlier time when everybody played all night and the final set blew everyone away.

We over-reacted. I see that now.

The next day, my disappointment had translated into anger. I got onto the message boards and vented. I made liberal use of swears. Then I tried to mark exams. The day passed: I would mark for an hour, then get up and checked the boards. If I'd had any sense, I would have avoided the new information and tried to calm down. But I didn't. I found out that not only had the special secret guest been BSS, but Feist had come out to play as well. Beautiful. I went back to marking. I listened to a band that wasn't in the family. I marked. And I made plans to show up again for the second night.

I decided that we had over-reacted, and that our disappointment was way, way out of proportion. I decided to redeem the purchase of a festival pass by seeing the new bands. Maybe I'd have a good time. I'd be going alone, as Mason had cut off his band the night before (at the same time as declaring his fervent desire to avoid BSS, Arts & Crafts or indeed, music itself, forever). That didn't necessarily bother me; I could knit through the boring and go home when I got tired. Being alone doesn't faze me, although this would be the first time I had been alone at a concert. Besides, maybe the other secret special guest would be cool. There were a lot of bands I liked on the label who didn't show up on Wednesday. Maybe I'd see one.

Mason came home, and though not happy, he didn't have much to say about me going out without him. He had, after all, decided never to like music ever again. I continued to putter around until I got an email from Remedios, the head of the record label. He had seen my vitriolic posts and offered to put me on the guest list with a +1, an overwhelmingly generous offer. I was both ashamed of my anger and sort of glad that I had complained so brattily. The entitlement train continues to roll, and I'm not 100% sure if that's a good thing. But it was enough to get Mason reconciled to the previous night's disappointment, and it was enough to return our band/label crush to previous levels. It was another unexpected blessing, another undeserved moment of grace. I just wish I didn't feel that our temper tantrums sullied the whole exercise. It's embarrassing to be shown up as less deserving, less faithful than we'd always assumed we were.

We went for a cheap, satisfying dinner at Burrito Boys, and then to C'est What for a beer so that Mason could wait for the line to build up. Someone was excited about front of line privileges. Turns out that there was no line. We were happy anyway. We bought some hard-to-find BSS vinyl and stowed it until later, then walked in and listened to Zeus. The Courthouse is a tiny, tiny venue and I can see why it filled up so fast the night before. The place was about half-full and we could still barely see Zeus through the press of bodies. We could see their mustaches, however. And we could hear, "That's All," their swampy, dirty Genesis cover, which turned a guilty pleasure into something one could blast from the car with pride. As they played, K Drew came in and greeted the people next to us. I tried to be cool and not eavesdrop. Stupid band crush! I'm too old for this crap!

Timber Timbre is a quiet, experimental act that was hard to hear over the chattery venue. It was a no-win situation for us: if we were close enough to hear, we would be jammed in with a hundred strangers and still unable to see the band because they were all sitting down; if we stayed in the back, we couldn't hear anything over people talking loudly to their neighbours. Eventually, Kevin came down to shush the crowd. They looked at him bovinely, then swung around and resumed talking at high volume. I felt my dormant work skills twitch, so I went over and offered to help. "I'm a highschool teacher. I can get them to be quiet."

He grinned. "No. They'll hate you. They already hate me."

"I'm a highschool teacher," I repeated. "I'm used to being hated."

I walked back to Mason. "What were you guys talking about?"

"I offered my skills to shut these guys up, but it didn't work out. And he gave my arm a scrunchy pat."


Band crush, you run my life. So much for never listening to music ever again.

Kevin made a reappearance to introduce Still Life Still, the buzz band of the scene, and to chuck cameras at us so we could record it all. I got hit in the arm while shielding my (better) camera and didn't care. It was an indie rock wedding, and we were all invited to send them off. And, despite the fact that the band could have been writing exams for me this week and their fans were even younger, it was the most fun I've had in weeks. Bouncy, loud, fun rock, from kids who weren't all old enough to drink at the bar. We felt both ancient and elated.

We left after this, stopping outside to buttonhole Remedios and thank him for the passes. He was devilishly charming, and I felt even more remorseful for our ranting of the night before. He renewed our faith in the label, in the system, in the whole concert-going exercise. It was undeserved, but then all of our blessings are equally so.

"I was with a radio guy from Calgary, and I guess you're supposed to suck up to them? But I had to say, 'dude! Shut the fuck up! They're playing!'"
- remedios commiserating on the difficulties of hearing timber timbre.

Labels: , ,

Powered by Blogger

The contents of this site, unless otherwise noted, are copyright Rocketbride 1997-2009.
Don't make me send out the Blake. He doesn't listen to *anyone.*