July 26, 2009
those lips i could spend a day with

Everything continues to accelerate, and the fun keeps piling up with barely a moment to stop and write. I'll do my best before we have to leave for the next concert(!).

On Friday I convened the first in what I hope will be an ongoing series: Drunken Knitting, B-ton. It was a small turnout, and three of us came in the same car, but it was more fun than I've had at a Toronto edition in a long time. As the place brews its own beer, we started with pitchers, and ended up drinking a good deal more than we might normally. This is evidenced by the fact that it took me all night to cast on for a baby hat, and Jessamyn forgot to pay her bill on her way out. Hee.

Next month my minister might be in attendance. I feel like I'm at the start of something very very good.

I felt less positive the next morning, though, when the alarm went off at 7. We were getting up to help Jess at her jewelry stall. The summer Arts Festival is held in the lovely downtown Rose Theatre, site of the beloved departed Indie Arts Festival. And though it was early, and we had nearly four hours to fill before the second shift arrived, who doesn't like playing store? Especially when you get to wear jewelry samples all morning and play dress up with potential customers. I found a still-life painter that could be commissioned to do a sage canvas (in honour of Sage, of course) and fell madly in love with a Calamity Co., pendant maker who used vintage images and rescued text to create satisfyingly heavy work. I was attracted to the Alice in Wonderland pieces, then I discovered that a large selection of the pieces were knitting-themed. I bought a Red Cross Knit Your Bit pendant with a pattern on the back, and I think I may have found another recruit for Drunken Knitting.

Two weeks ago when we came downtown for the Broken Social Scene concert, we came later than we should and had to be content to stand. Consequently, we had decided to get to yesterday's Amy Millan show as early as possible and then camp out. What we didn't count on was the rain. There was a lot of it. There was so much that there were no tourists at Harbourfront, and we were able to get a parking spot on the closest lot. There was so much rain that by the time we went from the car to the shops, and the shops to the stage, we were soaked to the skin. And I, of course, was still wearing my jewelry-hawking outfit, which was a sleeveless black dress and thigh-high stockings, with vespa boots & my small-brimmed couture hat for extra stylishness. Nice.

We washed up like drowned rats at the front of the stage, in an almost-completely deserted auditorium. "Plenty of good seats still available," I gasped to Mason. He nodded, wringing out his Tilley. We watched an equally-wet band set up, and Amy caught our eye.

"It's wet," she called out. "Uh huh," we breathed, too stunned by the rain to say anything else.

"You're here early," she continued.

"We were here last week and we couldn't get seats."

"Well." She smiled knowingly. "That was a different thing entirely."

This set the tone for the afternoon: Amy would set up, talk to her band, and in lulls, come down to the front and chat with us. (And yes, I'm going to reproduce as much of it as I can remember, because the woman is amazing and I'm still astounded that we had so long to talk, and that I didn't say anything weird to fuck it up as I'm wont to do with Kevin Drew or my new target, Gentleman Reg. I'll try not to rewrite my dialogue so that I sound like Oscar Wilde, which I certainly don't in real life.)

She even tossed us some water she'd brought in for the crew, which I referred to thereafter as 'Precious Amy Water.' We asked her to sign our book, which she seemed happy to do. She, like Kevin on Wednesday, wanted to know who had signed it already. "Just Kevin and…?"

"That's Remedios."

She smirked. "Oh, Jeffrey." It is a little weird to be collecting the record label boss as part of the signatures, so I gave an extremely abbreviated version of our colossal disappointment, my loud ranty jackassery online and Remedios' out-of-the-blue email that let us in on the second night of the NXNE showcases. "We were so grateful that we asked for his signature," I finished.

"Wait a minute." She looked me hard in the face. "Are you Rocketbride?"

Oh. Dear. God.

Just as I thought that I couldn't be further humbled, that I was finally able to live with the idea that the people at Arts & Crafts are way more classy and generous than even I could imagine or credit, I find out that the reason it all happened was because a woman who I have loved from afar for a year, who is easily my favourite of the Three Graces, read my stupid, stupid posts and got on the phone to her label boss.

"People think it's all so private, that we never go on it," she said. "The truth is that I was supposed to be there that night for the book launch, but I had some sort of attack and I couldn't get out of bed. Evan and I – we're together – woke up, and I couldn't go. So I was looking online to see how it went, and I read your posts. I got on the phone to Jeffrey and said, 'look, we've gotta do something for these people.'"

"Thank you so much," was all we could think to say.

"Did you like it?" she said, flipping through the book. We nodded. She looked sideways at us, wide-eyed. "They left a lot out. And I kind of wish Stuart had shown me some of the things that Emily said. I didn't know she was going to go there; I didn't go there and I wish I could have commented on it."

"I used to write for Stuart at the Varsity," I offered. "My strongest memory of him is this one day when my girlfriend, who had a crush on him, wanted to go down to the newspaper office and seduce him. And I knew him, because I did all these little articles for the Arts section. So they got dressed up in French maid outfits and blindfolds, and I came along, and they tried to feed him cheesecake. But he was all awkward about it, and he said he was full, so I ended up feeding the cheesecake to this writer who was hanging around the office. We started dating the next year, we got married, we had a baby, he left me last year and now we're divorced. But that's how I remember Stuart, from that day at the Varsity."

Her jaw dropped satisfyingly. "Wow. Drama. Have you told him that story?"

"Nope. I've seen him at a couple of concerts, but I'm way too shy. He won't remember me and it'll be all awkward."

"You need to do it," she encouraged. "Don't be afraid of people." Which is, I think, the moral of every musician encounter I've had this summer and the way I can stop screwing it up and saying something dumb. Of course, they can't all be as nice as Amy. But it's a start.

When she went back to soundcheck, I turned to Mason. "Amy knows me," I whispered. "She read my stupid posts. And you were right, she and Evan are together. Can I see that picture you took? I forgot to put my chin down and I'm probably all neck."

He looked up at Amy, singing into the mic. "Actually, I think you have the same neck."

"We do. That's why she looks good and I don't. Her chin is down."

amy millan & me

After that, the show couldn't help but be anticlimactic. I did love seeing Gentleman Reg walk out for his soundcheck and being comfortable enough to yell out, "where's your onesie?"

"It's not performance time yet," he admonished with a smile.

"Is it creepy that I know what you're going to wear?" I asked. He said it wasn't, but we all know better. This is what happens when it's been 10 days since the last time you saw someone perform: you get to know the stagecraft a little too well. It didn't matter in the long run; despite the creepy stalker factor, the onesie was put on and they did a rocking show that got a seated crowd to our feet and dancing in the aisles.

Amy's set was beautiful, just as we'd expected it. (And you can listen to the whole thing by clicking that link, courtesy Radio 3.) Her solo album was my February solace, my little fire to get me through the winter. Seeing it live was just about everything I wanted. We even got her to sing a song she wasn't sure she remembered, which involved a guitar part that would sometimes drop out when her hands got confused. The only thing missing was Evan on the trombone, but we got to hear the story of his sound check phone call, so that was ok. It's such a contrast from two weeks ago, when everyone was there sharing the stage, to Amy alone with only the stories and memories of her loved ones to keep her company.

"This little ditty I wrote with Kevin Drew. [audience cheers] Yeah, he's alright." - amy

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