1998.08.27-09.01 Travelogue: Toronto By Divine Right - warm-up tour for Bless This Mess PRELUDE _______ Well, I haven't had a proper vacation in 10 years, and when I see that my friends bdr (http://www.bydivineright.com) are going on a 4 day mini-tour to road test material for the new album being released on March 16, 1999, I decide to book a flight up (since I have a 2 week buffer for reservations). I pull out my copy of Nerdstock (Vol. 1), Children's Help Phone Benefit released by Dave's Records of Guelph (http://www.drog.com), because there are two songs by bdr: Pilot to Bombadier and On the Rocks, and some liner notes. There is a contact # and I call asking for Jose or Mark, turns out that the # is Mark's brother and he tells me that he'll get a message to Mark. Mark calls back saying that they're recording in the Tragically Hip's Bathouse Studios. When he hears that my hotel is in Mississagua (next to the Toronto Internation Airport) he says screw that I can sleep at his brother's place. Cool, even if it's on the floor, that should save some expense. He's calls back and says screw that, his brother's place is a dump and I should make reservations at the Bond Place (65 E.Dundas) which is right in the heart of downtown TO and next to the theater district. Cool. 1998.08.27 Fly in an AirCan and get Dollar Rental Ford something or other, some fiberglass unibody on a Mustang frame, quite a pony. Drive east on Dundas until I cross over Yonge St. and check into the hotel at about 1700 hours. Get out on the street and walk around and find this bar Mick E. Finn's. While sitting there, ask the bartendresse where a good place to see some bands is; well she had been talking to a friend (girl) who then looks me over and says: "so you want to go some place where no one will judge you by the way you look or dress?" I say: "do I really look that bad?" "No, just comfortable." After a quick consultation, she gets up and grabs a copy of Eye magazine, one of the local free rags and opens it up to the Horseshoe (370 Queen W.) listing. Turns out one of the bands playing this night is also on the mini-tour with bdr, Transistor Sound & Lighting Co. from Winnipeg, Manitoba. So I ask them what direction that was and find that its about a mile or so walking, south and west from there. I hoof it over and catch some openning act. Some South African ex-patriot is trying to engage me in conversation at the bar, something about how they combatted pond mold by throwing bales of barley into the water and basically ended up with a big vat of beer. These three guys take the stage and with some simple screen savers projected overhead and some impressively complex samples start to rock in a sophisticated kind of way without being prog. Turns out it is Jon Crosby's VAST (Visual Audial Sensory Theater). I was quite impressed. The SouthAfPat begins to converse again when out comes Crosby through the crowd with a bevy of 5 to 10 rock boys all trying to yes man him and he's walking by and I say nice set. He stops and asks "Really? What did you like about it?" I start to launch into a tirade about totality and robustness of sound and concepts and when he says they're out on tour passing back through the states soon. I tell him to avoid DC because it just wouldn't go over right now without the right prepatory work, you know the whole DisChord scene and all the transients that have no musical love; but I'll get the disc around to people to listen to and try to get the right kids familiar with VAST. He starts to warm up to me and ask some more questions when tslc take the stage and I go: "excuse me, I'm going to be out on tour with these guys for the next 4 nights and I want to check them out, but let's talk later..." grabbing my beer and heading to the soundboard. I am completely enthralled; three guys on stage trading between bass, guitar and drums with the floor littered with trash 70s-80s keyboard/synths; every thing being used, even a tall red head girl gets on stage to play a second bass on a song where it sounds like a lilting cello but is bass feedback. I am blown away pay my tab and walk home. On the way back east on Queen St by the City Hall, I run into a same long haired squatter I had asked directions from on the way out, with a cigarette ask what is typically Canadian to eat. He says Lick's but it's not open at 2AM so I find a Pizza Pizza (24 hour, NY style 'za). 1998.08.28 dest: Brandford - Cafe Luna Morning walk down to the waterfront and around the stadium and CN Tower. Pop onto the QE2 and drive about an hour or so to the western edge of Lake Ontario to an old steel/manufacturing town layed out in a grid. Find the nearest bar, a sports pub and go in to ask directions, well, after a pint. Its 4 blocks over and 3 down, so I walk over and cozy to the lounge portion of the bar and see the tslc kids have arrived and have their gear on the floor in front of the stage. For the first two nights, bdr will be first, then transistor. Order a pint and a tequila shot; it comes in what looks like a medicine cup, so I'm a little skeptical. Light up an American Spirit and toss the shot. It really catches me off my guard because it was Cuervo, and I am a Tequila drinker, but this just sends fire through my veins. The bartendresse asks if I'm smoking a cigar, I look around and say I don't see one anywhere, why? And turns out, because I trade one for a Canadian Player and try it, that their cigarettes are very light and in comparison with a Spirit, which is heavy even by US standards (the blue, full flavor). The band shows up and starts loading gear in and I sit there trying to catch Jose or Mark's or even Brendan's eye without looking like a total slobbering fool and start wondering if they'll even remember or recognize me when Jose looks over and smiles says Hey. I'm grinning from ear to ear and offer to help carry in and no they've got it in by now and like hey can't talk now 'cause got to set up and yeh, get rockin'. They lead off with the rocked up version of "ldsc" and move through new material including "5 Bucks", "Not the Only One", "Come for a Ride" and well geez it's been six years so I can't remember it all; besides, I'm getting hammered on shots, not even using the bev tickets that Jose did slip me before the show. They break and clear and I finally get to talk to Jose and the Champ because Mark is workin' the ladies. I ask Jose if he's heard of tslc and when he says no, I go you really ought to check them out 'cause they're really good; it's going to be a great tour. So he wants to know how I heard of them and I say they played the Horseshoe last night and he goes you were at the 'Shoe last night and I say yeh...and anyway I guess he's amused that I came all the way up north and have allready started finding my way around and having a good time. So we're all sitting around a table, me at one end and Jose, Mark, and Brendan at the other side and the cafe has brought out a veritable feast and they're chowing and say c'mon, have some. I'm just happy to be here, I don't think I can eat anything, I'm just too happy. I try some hummus, and it's really buttery smooth, good though different from the heavy garlic and tahini type I usually like. At some point after some mock discussion with each other, Jose looks over and says "we'd like to hire you, but you're overqualified for the job..." We all break up, actually he had to explain to me that it just seemed like such an interview kind of situation with me sitting off to one side and them trying to figure what the heck I'm doing there, then we laughed about it. Really, I'm too old to be following bands like a groupie and it probably seems alittle strange that this guy is following these young men around. Gosh, brotherly love, I'm sure you've heard of it. Mark asks me about that on the way home. They've decided I've had too much to drink to drive home after we've loaded up the station wagon with their gear and drive the 3 up 4 over blocks to where I left my car outside the sports bar when I drove into town. I tell him, "you know, a couple of years ago when y'all first came to Arlington, at the Iota (http://www.iotaclubandcafe.com), I had just gotten back from a job assignment where I was isolated from anyone I knew for 9 months, was not feeling well, and then I heard the 1995 Kinetic recording of the band and it really resonated with me and made me feel happy about things again because just reminded me that I was not alone. This probably sounded unintelligble to anyone listenning seeing as I'm too drunk to drive but really, that was what I was saying. So Mark decides to play what he calls Planet Rock, and just sets the radio to search, where it locks on to stations for long enough to get a partial phrase or musical motif and so this is pretty entertaining for some of the juxtapositions that randomly (or not?) occur. Into parking garage for last available spot and see a Vincent Black Shadow parked on the lowest level, it's gone when I'm up the next day for the car. 1998.08.29 dest: Hamilton - Sports Lounge Walk up northeast in what the kids call potato ville and back around Bloor St. The place is located in some little strip mall that is hidden from the road by a mound like trough, near the hospital. I find this out after having passed through town and stopping at a Waffle House kind of place, probably a more rural Tim Hortons, and asking for directions. Some boorish acoustic opener gets shut down by the soundman when he starts extemporaning about everything he sees in the bar, as a song, wow...Mr. Obvious. Cue "American Prayer": "...is everybody in?". Jose, Mark, and the Champ kick off; some aging biker chick/barfly gets up and dances until she figures out this isn't the Rolling Stones. bdr puts up a good set; I'm starting to get a feel for the new material. Bartender says it's nice to hear people making real rock. I take it he's not keen on the arty tslc, which is impressing me even more night after night. Mark drives again after calling ahead to the Barcode to set us up some last call pints, which we'll just make it back in time for. Met the Captain. We all go to Little China on Spadina, near Little Italy and get Compote and Drunken Noodles and I pay saying, with the exchange rate like this, I can't not pass up the chance to treat my friends. Mark says he'll meet me at the Barcode in the afternoon and get me in at load in for the Cracker show 'cause the things been sold out since before I even got up there. 1998.08.30 TO Bloor St. Lee's Palace Morning walk north and west, College St. shopping in Little Italy, pick up lace doilies and lace and silk sleeping gown for my little angel. Hang out the afternoon at the Barcode, chatting with the bartender, she's cute, lighter runs out of fluid, I end up leaving in the gap between the slate panels of the bar top. Mark shows up to escort me in, get stamped, he's riding his bike, I meet himthere after driving over and parking in a lot behind the Palace. Cracker: now their roles flip; tslc opens, bdr second. Dave is incredibly starting each song with little snippets and motifs of both of the opening bands. Back to the Barcode, some guy is chatting up the bartender with the lighter I left before. 1998.08.31 dest: London - Call the Office Embassy - The InPatients: Day Pass Morning walk in south east quadrant, mostly tracks, QE2,.... Seems like the drive is all day, getting into little races with my pony and some black caddy, cigar smoker. Pull into town and park about a block from where I should go, but with enough time I start wondering around, looking at the town, ask some local on the street where the Office is and get some undecipherable patois and arm waving for directions. End up down the street at the Embassy which has a small bar at the entrance where some band is setting up. I walk around to the bigger game room with a stage proper and some young kids playing metal. Missing Bionic, which turns out to be another favorite band of mine. At the bar with a local ____ whose money is no good there. Claims it's his walk. I get tossed from the bar (asked to leave) after yelling along to Priest's Breaking the Law. Cross the street and sit on a bench outside a 7-11 like store until my head clears, talk to ____ who says he wasn't sure about me. Walk back and by construction site, seems the city is changing around me when I'm not looking. Find the office as Jose and Brendan and Mark are crossing to parking lot with a falafel stand. Jose says: "remember children, drink plenty of water" Mark drives, again, and sets the radio on random search, what they call tuning the planet. (I think there's also a station that is nicknamed the Planet...) 1998.09.01 day off Walk back down to the water front near the stadium to look around and back at the city for a last time. In the early evening have dinner with friends of a friend of mom's that live near. The meet me in the Dundas Square, and once again I pay because the exchange rate is really making me happy. We leave and watch some street performers, in particular a juggler on an extended unicycle. Because he is using sabres, the conversationturns to the then recent proposal in Canadian senate for a certain Muslim sect requesting to be allowed to carry swords, as is their religion....I comment that where I wouldn't trust them, I would trust this guy. Briefly run across the South African ex-pat. Call it a night. 1998.09.02 check out Drive rental to Missisagua Tim Horton's just outside the airport. Rebuked by pilot when attempting conversation. Check in the car and the agent keeps trying to ignore me and finally get a ride to the airport with the maintenance man showing me charges that I insist are covered by the rental, tire wear, car wash...etc. Last time I ever use Dollar Rent-a-car. Dressed down with my black canvas backpack, pulled aside by Security Guard to flag out my pockets. We're going to bring the dog out on you. Nice little pug, smiling, don't touch the dog, it's all: I don't know what he's doing but I want to hang with him. How long you here? As long as you are. When's your flight, get on it. International Times pencil pix zombify all. Little kid uncontained.