The Feminists: A State Of Wild-Eyed Wonder

Still in London. Last night Keith and Ferdy subbed in an aboriginal blues band on the shores of Lake Huron on the Stoney Creek reserve deep deep in the wilds of Ontario. It was the middle of the night. There was a full moon. It was bright enough to see the lake stretching endlessly to the horizon. The sand was soft and thick. There were no boats, no highways, and very few lights. I can’t remember the last time I have been enveloped by such velvety, hushed darkness. Maybe I never been anywhere that dark and quiet and beautiful.
As I contemplated the improbable good fortune of my situation, eyes dreamily following the gentle lapping of the waves on that desolate moonlit shore, a voice barked into the night “CHECK 1 2! 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 ! CHECK CHECK CHECK! HOW’S THAT? TOO DRY? OKAY, LEMME THROW SOME VERB ON THAT! BETTER? GOOD! The band was setting up on the brilliantly spotlit stage not 20 metres behind me. Little Grief was gamely tuning his guitar, a look of confusion and trepidation replacing his usual wary, scowling countenance. Well, he doesn’t look irritated ALL the time. He’s actually quite peachy once you give him enough caffeine, nicotine, and sugar. Ferdy Belland looked a little less confused and a lot more delighted at what was about to transpire.
What transpired was half of The Feminists jammed onstage with a trio of very very talented, middle aged, tough looking, large and solidly built blues/soul musicians. They aquitted themselves most honorably, too. I sat on a picnic table with about 30 men, women and children surrounding me, all of enjoying a free concert of blues under the warm summer sky in the middle of the night. The Fems did end up playing 3 songs as well, and we were warmly received.
Who knew that this was possible? I was so proud of my friends, I thought I might weep. I felt like a proud mama must feel when her child performs in a challenging situation far better that you would ever expect. To the extent where you think “you know, I didn’t know he was that ridiculously talented. I’m extra lucky to work with him”.
Ferdy and Keith played many songs they’d never heard before with people they’d never met before. For like 3 hours. And these guys were very good. The real deal as far as authentic blues/soul guys go. I felt like it was the first time I had ever heard the blues done the way they were supposed to be. Passionate, painful, weary, but with the smallest spark of hope (or desperation?) that life must, has to, get better.
All for the good of the team! They did it for the $200 they raked in from their hired gun services. A benefit concert for The Feminists, by The Feminists. Sometimes you just happen to get offered a gig playing out on a reserve 5000 km away form home, and your band needs the money so you say “sure”.
And if you think, I just can’t imagine the spastic rock fury of Keith Grief playing nice crisp groovy rhythm guitar parts and taking tasty little bluesy solos, then you will have to see my video road diary as Mike and I captured this unprecedented moment via digital technology.
Mike and I were generally in a state of wide eyed wonder the whole night, as the strange and outaegeous nature of our unfolding experience kept washing across us in waves. We’d be saying, again, let’s just go and crash in the van until they’re done, and then we’d hear something compelling issue forth from the stage and we’d grin and shake our heads and walk back over to the picnic table and drink in some more gritty, gutsy, groovy, soul quenching music.
We packed up the gear around 4 am. In bed by 6. Fuzzy and giddy today. Morale is good, but we are so tired. It seems that we are getting less and less sleep every night. I like to sleep.
By the way, we found out yesterday that our album is .6 on the CITR charts in Vancouver (college radio, people. The UBC station. ). It’s the highest ranked independent album on their chart. We beat Belle and Sebastian and The Organ. (Not that it’s all about competition, of course. Just a little bit about competition. Hey, if we kick other band’s asses, that’s just the way it goes.) It wasn’t on there last week, either. We’re competing with bands that are signed and have many promotion dollars behind them. That makes feel a little bit hopeful, like perhaps it wasn’t an utter waste of time to make a record and go on tour.
On to Hamilton!