The Feminists: We Definitely Do Not Know Any Skynyrd

Our second show last night in Toronto was a little weird. We were on right after an acoustic jam, so people were pretty relaxed and there wasn’t much rock going on. We got to play our pretty songs, that was nice. We were very restrained, trying to be not too loud so the audience could talk over our background music. It makes me nervous to play so quietly. I always end up holding my breath and not realizing it until I start to see little flashing lights around the edge on my vision. When we have been ordered to play softly, it means that the people aren’t enjoying themselves and our songs are irritating them. So there’s this undercurrent of tension and confrontation between us, the bar staff, and the crowd. My question is, if you want quiet background music to talk over, why bother going out to see a live band? It’s never going to be as quiet as a cd player. My band isn’t a stereo…we don’t have a volume knob that can be adjusted at will. My band isn’t a human juke box either…we don’t take requests and no, we definitely do know any Skynyrd…we will never know any Skynyrd. Just because it’s not what was expected, or horror of horrors…out of one’s familliar comfort zone, why is the first instinct to reject it, make it smaller, more manageable, less obtrusive? You want famillar background music, stay at home and listen to a cd… you can adjust the volume to create a listening experience that is safe, predictable, and entirely under your control.
Mind you, I shouldn’t really blame the acoustic jam crowd for being skittish about electrified, amplified rock and roll. We were the wrong band to close the evening, although we probably would have had an easier time of it if we had just taken some requests. Maybe when Ralph Nader is president.
I did sell a couple of cd’s after the show, so there was at least one person there that didn’t hate us. If this keeps up, we may actually have enough money to get home.
Tonight we play in Hamilton at one of Canada’s most famous rock venues, The Underground. I hear the people of Hamilton like real rock and roll, so I hope we make a good impression. At least we’ll be able to turn our amps above a whisper. I hope.
Southern Ontario does have a hell of a lot of people, I’m noticing. We keep passing through towns that I’ve never heard of that have 100 000 people. This is clearly the most densely populated area of Canada. There’s no open green spaces. Everything is completely built up. Quebec and Ontario really do feel much older and more settled than anywhere else in this country. It’s amazing to me that Canada has managed to hang together as long as it has. There’s such a vast distance from west to east. And we’re not even talking about how far you can travel straight north.
I think that the geographical distance is big enough to create some pretty big cultural differences. British Columbia is basically a different country than Ontario. If we had traveled this far in Europe, we would have passed through 20 different countries all with their own languages and customs. Here the language is mostly the same, but the customs and cultures are noticeably different in each province.
If you were born in southern Ontario and never left it, you would think that all of Canada is concrete and glass and freeways. It amuses me that Canada has so few people spread over such a large territory that the Canadian people have managed to create a crowd in only one tiny part of the country. There just aren’t enough of us to make another crowd. Vancouver is the 3rd largest Canadian city, and it feels like a small town compared to Montreal and Toronto.
Wow. We’re getting closer to Hamilton. The humidity is increasing (I didn’t think that was possible) and visibility is decreasing. It’s hot, damp, and incredibly smoggy. Everything smells like sulfur. Vast areas of industrial complexity, big machines, dirty water, and everything is blurry and hazy. It looks like it’s getting darker, but it’s just the smog getting thicker. There is no way to know where the sun is…it’s just not visible. But it’s not obscured by normal clouds that move and have shape, it’s blocked by a thick, unmoving blanket of smog that looks white from a distance but as you move closer you can see it’s brown.
Now we’ve exited off the highway to look for a place to cook dinner. The streets are deserted and I can see rows of rough-looking brick houses.
The sidewalks are unkept and broken. There’s a lot of weeds. I am struck with an impression of grittiness, toughness, and grimness. There’s nothing aesthetically pleasing to look at, no decorative objects of any kind in sight. Everything is drab and sad.
We cooked another fine chicken dinner in a grocery store parking lot. I struck out to find a Tim Horton’s that I had seen earlier. The street I was walking down was a major thoroughfare but I didn’t meet any other walkers. I’ve never seen smog like this. It blocks the light of the sun, but not the heat. This is a miserable kind of weather. It’s so hot, but not sunny, so humid, and the air really stinks. The air is so thick and heavy that I feel like I’m swimming through a hot toxic cancerous soup. The people I have seen here look tough and grim. I wonder if they really are, or whether it’s just the environment they live in. We’re off to The Underground now to load in and get organized.