On The Road to the ECMA's
On Wednesday night Vince Lavers and I packed up his Pontiac 6000 and began our journey to an awards show. I hate awards shows. Not only do they trivialize the things they are trying to honour, but they are as boring as reruns of North of 60. But, after driving for five minutes, Vince told me an insane story that set the perfect tone for our weekend (I could probably get in trouble if I repeated the story in this article, and I don't want to upset any of the staff at Empire Theatres). We had to expect the unexpected, or unexpect the expected, because this trip was going to be anything but normal. We were on the road to the East Coast Music Awards in Sydney, Nova Scotia.
DAY 1 THURSDAY
Vince and I arrived in Sackville on Wednesday night and stayed with some friends at Mount Allison. I met a guy from the Mirimachi who claimed he lost his virginity in grade 7 with one of his teachers.
The ECMA's weekend begins today, but I'm kilometers away and having a good time. I didn't get to see the first night of showcases, and I think all the island bands I, m supposed to be covering for the paper are playing tonight. My mission has already failed, but I don't care. I can always see the Rude Mechanicals back in Charlottetown. I'm looking forward to discovering new artists that never play on PEI.
Even though I wasn't in Cape Breton, I did manage to catch some music at a Sackville bar called Baldies. There was a house DJ spinning records through a shitty sound system. A lot of good looking girls live in Sackville, but the only person who tried to pick me up was a guy at the bar who was impressed that I ordered a water. I didn't like Baldies very much. My friends and I spent most of the night passing around a little notebook and we wrote weird things like, "Jim Henson is dead" and "If you can't beat them, run like fuck." I think they'd make good t shirt slogans.
At three in the morning we drove to an Irving Big Stop where Vince bought a Harley Davidson t shirt.
DAY 2 FRIDAY
We slept in and drove to Antigonish to pick up my friend Brendan Gillis. His family is letting us stay at their place in Sydney. The backseat of the car is loaded with guitar cases and luggage, so the three of us snuggled in the front. Vince's car's service engine soon light started flashing, but after we pulled over, popped the trunk , and did absolutely nothing it went away. We drove into Sydney without any problems, except for the fact that we were practically sitting on each other's laps. The drive through Cape Breton was beautiful.
We stopped at the Day's Inn in Sydney to pick up media passes that Ryan O, Connor, the Cadre's A&E Editor, scored for us. I got my pass without any problems, but Vince's name wasn't on the list. Actually Vince's first name was on the list but his last name wasn't. After going through all the names they finally found a Vince Lewis from the Cadre. They corrected the last name to say Lavers and gave us all sorts of cool shit. Passes, coupons, press kits, magazines, porn (no wait, we didn't get porn), tote bags, buttons, prostitutes, etc.
We took our booty and crammed back in Vince's car. He turnedthe ignition. Nothing. After fifteen more tries the car finally started andwe were on our way.
Next stop was the Gillis residence to drop Brendan off. Then we headed for St Thresa's Parish Hall to set up for our show. We were playing a no case. It's kind of like a showcase, but different.
The No-Cases originated the last time the ECMA's were in Cape Breton by CAPR, the radio station at UCCB. Every year since then, artists that were denied official showcases played the No-Cases. It gives them a chance to be heard by record people, get some media attention, and most importantly play to music fans. This year was the first time that the ECMA committee decided to have no all-ages show. Thanks to CAPR and the No-Cases underage kids will get a chance to see some of the most cutting-edge bands in Atlantic Canada for five bucks (the showcases cost ten bucks).
When we arrived at St Theresa's, things were running smoothly. The show organizers said that the shows were getting really big responses. On Thursday night's show a local techno artist named Art Damage performed with a CD player, a television set, and a syringe. His set involved blood letting on the television. After I heard about his show, I was worried about my own performance. How could I top that?
We had to get name tags for the No-Cases because our ECMA passes were useless for these shows. For some reason the gave Vince a nametag that said JJ LaRosa.
After we dropped off our gear, Vince and I drove to Wendy's for some food. On the drive down Welton Street we practised rapping for our show. After we ate Vince tried to start the Pontiac. It didn't work. We spent at least a half an hour trying to get the car to work, and calling home for advice. We grabbed our luggage, called a taxi, and headed for the gig.
When we returned to the venue the show had already started. There was a hardcore band on stage playing loudly. Backstage we watched thenext band get ready. Their lead singer put on a straightjacket. At least he couldn't make himself bleed. He told Vince that for their last show he came out in a coffin. This guy was so Goth he was dead.
I went out to the merchandise table to drop off t-shirts, CD's, and some stickers. The girl at the table looked strange. She asked me if I liked heavy stuff. I told her I was rather fond of heavy things like couches, weights. She then asked me if I was always so fucking sarcastic. I said no. Luckily she didn't catch the sarcasm in my answer.
I went backstage and got ready for the show. After I got in costume and moved some equipment on stage, Windom Earle was ready to bring the flavour. My hand went numb in the middle of our set and it made it difficult to play guitar, but I wasn't going to let that stop me. If Def Leopard's drummer can play drums with one hand, I shouldn't worry. We went through our set and when it was time for the hip hop finale, I totally choked. I couldn't remember half my rhymes. It was time to freestyle. Since we were doing a rap tribute to Chinese food, it wasn't difficult. "Windom Earle is ready to bring the pain, Everybody in the house say Beefchowmein!"
The show went well and we had a ton of fun. A woman from a record label approached Vince to find out what we were rapping about. She thought we were chanting "Pete Townsend" when we were saying "Beefchowmein." Vince told her and her blood sucking record label to take a flying fuck. No he didn't. But it would have been cool.
After our set, Halifax DJ/MC whiz kid, Six Too, took the stage. He was really original and his hip hop poetry put us to shame. Unfortunately the crowd was not really receptive to him.
We left after Six Too finished and dropped off our gear at Brendan's. After that we ended up in a shit hole called the City Lodge. Brendan's friends from St. FX were staying there so we went to visit. We found a hotel room full of hippies. They were really nice guys. We talked about Ween and then left for Chandler's, the licensed venue for the No-Cases. I was a bit sceptical of a bar named after the sassy character from the hit TV show Friends, but when we got there the place was bumping. We waited in line for fifteen minutes and then Vince used his JJ LaRosa name tag to get in for free.
The place was packed tight. I made my way to the bar and ordered an orange juice. They gave me Tang. I should have expected it in a place called Chandlers.
I saw a guy who told me he liked our show. He was about to go on stage, so I was curious to see what kind of music a Windom Earle fan plays. I pictured an organ grinder and a monkey for some reason. His band, Slowcoaster, started with super cool rendition of "I Saw the Light" then ripped right into their first tune. They were unbelievable. Mixing funk and reggae, Slowcoaster did not take long to become my new favourite band. I was exhausted after their energetic set so I headed back to Brendan's with Vince.
DAY 3 SATURDAY
Brendan's mom cooked us breakfast at around eleven in the morning. Brendan stayed out at the bars until four in the morning (someone must have bribed the liquor inspector) and slept for two hours. His sleeping patterns frighten me.
All day and all night the 72 Hour Jam Session was televised on Cable 10 in Sydney. Saturday morning we watched some the acts. That frightened me too.
We had to push Vince's car across a parking lot to Canadian Tire. We spent most of the afternoon there reading tabloids. The car didn't get fixed, but we were told that it had to be filled with gas in order for it to start. Not that an empty gas tank was the main problem, but who cares? We were able to start the car.
The Media Center at the Delta Hotel was our next destination.We missed all the seminars, but I was able to use a computer and check my email.
We had dinner at Brendan's with some hippies. After eating we went to St Theresa's to see Julie Doiron. She played very quietly, but her soft voice had a lot of emotion. Her set was the most beautiful I'd seen all weekend. Half the crowd was mesmerized by her, the other half sounded like they were at a basketball game.
After the No-Cases, I thought it would be a good idea if Vince and I took advantage of our ECMA passes and see some showcases for free. The atmosphere of the showcases was very different from the No-Cases. The audience had no energy, there were too many tables in the way for people to dance, and the audience was made up of old people. When we arrived we caught the end of Fly Jimmy Swift's performance and they were smoking, but the crowd didn't seem to notice.
When the next artist was being announced, the introduction made me think he was going to suck. The MC listed his accomplishments of doing music for Due South and Black Harbour, playing with Hall and Oates, and his recurring character on Treehouse, the children, s network. After the intro, the three most unhip, white guys came out and started playing jazz music. When I told Vince how much I hated these guys, a large, black man in sharp suit took the stage. He was Dutch Robinson and he was my new heroe. He sang and scat with stlyle and charisma. The whole place went ape shit over his performance, and I was left speechless.
Chris Colpaugh and the Cosmic Crew and Fur Packed Action both played energetic shows but the showcase audience was not into them. During Fur Packed's show everyone started to leave.
After the show we went to Bunkers Peanut Bar for an all night jam session. While waiting in line to get in, the guy in front of us told a joke about a twenty three year old hillbilly in elementry school. The small bar was packed when we got inside. Aaron MacDonald, a friend of Brendan's, played some really cool acoustic music. Fly Jimmy Swift arrived next and they brought a truck load of funk. Bunkers, crowd was a lot more receptive to Swift than the showcase crowd was earlier. Cape Breton alt rock veterans, Mastadon Ridge, took a half hour to set up and they left the crowd wanting more after only three songs. And then Slowcoaster finished the night off at 4:30 in the morning. I couldn't get enough of that band.
DAY 4 SUNDAY
It was a long drive from Sydney to Charlottetown. We didn't stay for the big awards show because Vince had to work on Monday. We listened to some of it on the radio and it didn't seem very exciting. I needed to sleep.