Parlour Steps, Ottawa ON

Awakened in the mansion with a tinge of regret that it was time to say goodbye – probably forever – to living in the lap of obscene luxury. But at least now I know Julie and I make excellent bedfellows. A little back-to-back action, some accidental snuggles, but overall a prim, respectable sleep with each of us careful to cling daintily to her side of the bed. I am starting to realize there are many wonderful aspects of being in a band that contains another gal. The sleeping arrangements were solved, effortlessly. No need to worry about sharing a bed with a dude. This is indie rock, may I remind you. We are lucky to sleep indoors.

Having your own bed every night is a major label rock star perk, I think. Not that cross-gender bed-sharing would have been a big deal, the Parlour Steps boys are completely kind and respectful and professional. But give me Julie any day of the week! And we got our own ‘girl bed’ and ‘girl room’ almost all the time.

After being in bands where I am the only female, this was a relaxing, refreshing change. The night before, when we had crawled into bed we shared the trashy girl magazine I had bought. In the past, I have had to be stealth about these purchases to avoid the relentless mocking that ensued when my male bandmates would spy a glossy cover, make a grab for it, and make fun of its entire contents. Yes, I know how silly the articles are. I am an ardent, educated feminist. Who happens to like make-up and fashion, is that so wrong? No one expects you to understand, band boy. So give me back my fucking magazine!
Goodness. I may have had a bit of a flashback there.

So I did some morning yoga, packed my stuff and we piled into the van. I asked if we could stop for coffee before we left the city. Which I soon learned was going to be easier said than done. We are very west coast here in the Parlour Steps. There is running, and yoga, vegetarianism, and frisbee tossing. And very high coffee standards – no, espresso standards – as well as very high sushi standards. Actually, food in general seems to be a bit of a thing with this group. Soon enough I started to think ‘holy cats, I think my palate is totally undeveloped and unrefined’ because I couldn’t tell the difference between acceptable/unacceptable coffee and food. I asked questions though, and learned a lot about what to look for. Er, taste for. And I certainly ate and drank better with Parlour Steps than I have with any other people I’ve ever toured with.

While I found the coffee and food standards to be funny and cute – but understandable; it’s a ‘quality of life issue’ , isn’t it Rob – it did necessitate several stops and long searches sometimes for everyone to be satisfied. I saw a nondescript little coffeshop called “CoffeeTime”. “Here is good,” I said, sort of expecting everyone to tumble out of the van and get some fricking coffee. We all drink it, and I think we all need it. At least, I definitely need it and I don’t give a good goddamn about where it comes from.

I ordered my medium coffee and turned around…to an empty room. The rest of the band had stayed resolutely in the van. I felt kind of silly for being the sole reason for this stop, (which I soon got over, because we made stops for everyone else many times on this tour) but I was also highly amused. It was worth it. Caffeine makes me happy to be Maira-in-the-morning: chipper, joyful, talkative.

We had an uneventful drive to Ottawa. It was a sunny windy day, and the miles flew by. We stopped at McDonald’s for lunch. The only time we did for the entire tour. The insult of having to eat there was compounded by the 25 minute wait in the line-up to order. I thought the PSteps were going to give up and starve until Ottawa, but they hung in there. Well, they’re right. I can’t defend McDonald’s. It was a fairly dreadful dining experience. It’s hard to believe that McD’s used to be a mainstay of touring food for me. The PSteps have opened my eyes!

We arrived in Ottawa with a raging hailstorm (the locals assured me this never happens) and had to take shelter in the van before venturing out to load in our gear. Then we were off to the train station to pick up Rob. Soon enough it was time to soundcheck and then play. Zaphod’s is a cool venue. I’m always impressed by the sound techs. They are totally professional, and everything always sounds great. We were there on a Sunday night, but there were still people there who watched and listened avidly. My friend Grant came to the show. We were going to crash at his house that night. Haven’t seen him since the last time I toured through Ottawa and it was good to listen to his stories of suburban stay-at-home dad life. You’d think such an existence might be pretty routine, but Grant held me spellbound with his casual description of mothers taking off to meet internet lovers, alcohol and spousal abuse, custody battles, unemployment, all sorts of unbelievable drama. And all within one small cul-de-sac. Someone should make a TV show, Desperate Househusbands or something.

So, the show. Our first show on the tour. Good sound onstage, and I enjoyed several fabulous moments with Rob. I think I am slowly falling in love with his drumming. Subtle but exciting. There’s always something different or interesting to listen for. The lights were blazing hot, and the crowd moved closer to the stage and cheered lustily for all our songs. Afterwards we sold some merch. Pretty good for a Sunday night in Ottawa for a band none of them had heard of.

The next day I ran through Grant’s extremely proper neighborhood. While I was gone, Caleb and Rob solved our space problem (how would we fit Rob and the drumkit in the van with the rest of us?) by obtaining a length of sturdy rope and tying the drumkit, which was contained in one compact hardshell road case, to the roof. Don’t worry Coll Audio, we’re taking good care of your wonderful gear…

Now we were all able to fit in the van. There were four captain’s chairs, very nice, and one fold-up miniature seat in the back, not nice at all. The keyboard case fit snugly down the length of the van, effectively splitting it down the middle and giving everyone a tiny individualized compartment. The drums, as you know, were tied to the roof. The guitars and amps were meticulously packed in next to the little back seat, and our bags on top of that. The person in the back seat could neither stretch out nor recline and was walled in by guitars and bags on the left and behind, window on the right and the next row of seats in front. Thusly we would spend the next two weeks all together. Ah, the glory of rock and roll.

And now, on to Cornwall to cross into the U.S. This was our biggest logistics hurdle to overcome. If we could just get across, it would be clear sailing from that point onwards.

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