Pussycat Pussycat, Where Have I Been? (Pt. 2)

When we left off last night the hideous dragon had carried the maid to his cave by moonlight
He gnashed his teeth, and breathed his fire – the heath quaked, and we trembled in fear

I LOVED that song in high school – my musical theatre phase, or at least the height of it. I sing it still – it was often a lullaby for my babe – and anytime I think “where were we?” the lyrics are instantly on the tip of my tongue.

And where were we? When we left off last week, Cris and I were on tour in Ontario…

The reason Cris and I decided to do a wee tour in Ontario at this time was to coincide with OCFF (the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals – aka a giant yearly conference that takes over whatever hotel it inhabits for a weekend of music, panels, performances, schmoozing, discussions, drinking, remembering, connecting, meeting, schlepping). I’d never been – such conferences are usually so full of desperation and competition that I do my best to avoid them. But Cris had a great experience last year and convinced me to give it a try. “Things are much friendlier with two” as Piglet says.

So I signed up and wrangled some “guerilla” showcases – while there are a number of “official” showcases that take place, the bulk of performances, the nicknamed geurilla variety, and the ones I liked best, run from 11pm to 3am and happen over two floors of crammed hotel rooms. Closer to the time, Cris had to bail on OCFF in favour of a remarkable gig – recording the score she composed for the CBC mini-series 8th Fire – so in the end I flew solo.

Which worried me at first – at this point in my life I’m still a little shakey legged in returning to work (how long can I use THAT excuse for?! But it’s true!) so I collected encouraging and informative tales from friends and colleagues who had been to OCFF before and did my best to head their advice – “have fun, play to your strengths, stay positive, and take names” as Micheal-Owen Liston put it. Kate Reid also armed me with plenty of good advice – like “it’s a mad dash but don’t get too worried about it” and “make up a cool flyer to slather all over the conference tables”.

This is the front of the postcard I designed (and slathered):

Recipe card – adorable, right? But OMG can you believe the misspelling of Ms. Mitchell’s name made it to print?! Talk about FOLK PAS. Hopefully, the truest and deepest folk hearts of the OCFF didn’t notice (because they were so enthralled with the dashing photo of moi on the back), or at least let it slide. #fingerscrossed

Armed with the postcards and a dash (ahem) of whiskey in my belly, I went downstairs on the first night to check out the first of the showcases. Thank goodness I did. I caught a certain Dave Gunning‘s performance and was utterly charmed, moved and captivated. He was delightful. I loved his songs and performance and was reminded of why I was surrounded by the crowd of hundreds in the first place – music! Music music music! I was also reminded – first at that performance and repeatedly over the weekend – how the folk community is so much more of that – community – than any other I’ve found elsewhere.

Music makes you walk on air. At least it can. And it did for me that night. I’m so grateful for that. It set the tone for the weekend for me, always putting my love for music over my need to talk to or impress the “right” person. And it’s been my experience at these things that the connections with other artists are far more fruitful – opportunity wise – than any “industry” connection. Maybe just because they’re so much more of those connections possible – of the approximately 800 people at OCFF, 600ish are performers.

Here’s Dave Gunning (I went to 2 more of his showcases over the weekend, each as fantastic as the last – I’m kind of a huge fan now):

One of the familiar faces I was especially happy to see was Ian Sherwoodhe and I toured with Coco Love Alcorn in 2008. We drove my van into the ground that tour and had a great time sharing the stage. Ian is a remarkable songwriter. He also plays a mean sax. Here he is jamming with Samantha Martin in one of the geurilla showcases:

Other musical highlights were Amy Campbell, Lindy (amazing to be one of ten people in a small room for one of his performances), Peter Katz and  Jadea Kelly. 

And while I only left the hotel for 2 minutes once in 3 days, I did enjoy the stunning view of Niagara Falls every time I waited for the elevator. Holy shit it’s gorgeous.

I left the conference hungover, exhausted and in love with it all. I’m so glad I went. I’ll surely be back next year – The Living Record in hand by then.

From there I returned to Toronto. Some of my dearest friends in the world live there and I was glad to have a week in which to have more than just one date with each of them. I stayed with my darling Lindsay Zier-Vogel. We were brushing our teeth together by the end of the week, such fast and easy roomates we were. I got a tattoo while I was in town – she came and held my hand – and she was the first to hear one of my brand new songs Parasite* (*title subject to change!). Here I am in her living room at that very moment of debut:

Note the Neko Case lyric-artwork on the wall.

I also took in much of imagineNATIVE for my other gig, RPM, while I was in town. The Friday of the festival was especially concentrated – first the discussion with Buffy Sainte-Marie  (read all about it in the article I wrote for RPM here) which left me inspired, lifted. I wanted to leave the theatre to find an instrument and sing, to find some paper and write – I was filled with words and feelings. But I stayed to watch the feature film Samson & Delilah. Film festivals are generally not the place for feel good rom-coms. They’re the home for independent films that tell difficult stories. Samson & Delilah is a beautiful film that rips your heart out. “It’s hurtful” as the director, Warwick Thorton, put it when he introduced the film and it was such a switch to go from the uplifted inspired post-Buffy space to the aching space of seeing this film. The film has remarkably little dialogue and I left feeling entirely wordless myself, so much so that when I answered my cell on the streetcar home an hour later, I was surprised to hear my own voice. It was an incredible film.

I had wanted to write about that night on that night – I sat down to do it in fact, which was Part One of this tale (clearly my speechlessness didn’t last) but I became too tired before I could finish it. So here we are now, and here I am back home in Vancouver as I recall the rest of those days away.

This week I head to Aboroginal Music Week in Manitoba – sure to be another inspired and full few days of music and people. Hoka!

& bisous*

1 Comment

  1. haha! great story. glad you made the most of it and love the postcard design! i made a similar gaff at one such conference in Alberta, at my first (and perhaps last?) *official* (seriously?) showcase. I thought I would do something special for the Albertans and play “Four Strong Winds”… but somebody didn’t do their research and I announced it as being written by Neil Young, since that was the only version I’d ever heard, instead of Ian Tyson, the actual Albertan who wrote it. Holy crap, one guy totally railed on me afterwards… Whoops! Never make that mistake again. Oh well, all in a day’s work! What doesn’t kill us makes us better performers, ya? ;)

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