The Feminists: Closing Credits

It was an amazing, unforgettable cd release show at the Media Club on Feb. 8. I knew it would be the last time we would be in the same room and play together. People who suddenly hate each other can’t stick together as a band for very long. So much work, so many sacrifices, and so much incredible music had been made and it all just disappeared, like it had never been.

The Feminists were:
Mike Zobac – drums, vocals, arrangements. He also managed our Factor grants. Mike took charge of all of the band’s projects still in progress when The Feminists broke up suddenly in February 2008 including a video for 21st Century Ghost and a live DVD of ‘Can’t Scream Loud Enough’.

Keith Grief – songwriter, lead vocals, guitar, arrangements. Keith did all the website design and maintenance and designed all of The Feminists album art and packaging. He designed our t-shirts, buttons, stickers, tour posters and postcards. He also organized and designed the live DVD show.

Ferdy Belland – bass, arrangements. Ferdy booked all of our local shows. He planned and booked most of our tours as well.

Alison Mara – keyboards, vocals, arrangements, blogs, bio.

The Feminists: Our Release Date Is Fast Approaching

The Feminists brand new album “Can’t Scream Loud Enough” Release Date Tuesday February 5/08

Look, here’s the deal. We made this smashing record that we’re all so very proud of. Well, I can’t speak for Keith – not much impresses him (which is good, to have at least one dark and mysterious artist to balance out the goofballs who are Ferdy, Mike, and myself) but I think he has recently said “I don’t hate it”, so that’s pretty high praise.
So. We made a record. We like it. We have been posting previews of each track on the new album, and you all have been very good at listening to them. But soon – very soon – you will not have to wait, anxiously wringing your hands each Monday morning as you wait for Zobac to post that week’s offering. Our release date is fast approaching. Tuesday February 5, 2008 is the magical day. “Can’t Scream Loud Enough” will be available at Scratch Records, and other fine local establishments such as Zulu and maybe even Red Cat. CSLE will also be available online at Zunior Records (www.zunior.com). Full digital release (Canada, U.S., U.K.) is happening through Scratch Recordings & Distribution. You can check their online store (www.scratchrecords.com) for more details.
But why settle for a crappy MP3 (unless you love MP3’s, that’s okay) when you can purchase the cd itself, with its trippy and wonderfully unusual packaging and artwork designed by our resident dark and mysterious artist? What you really should do is come down to our cd release show. Sat. Feb. 9 at The Media Club. We are thrilled to be sharing the stage with The Smears – if you’ve never seen them, you should be ashamed. Yeah, I said it. Shame on you. AND Portico. And embarrassment of riches, I know. AND Swan Vista. Swan Vista is some of the same people as Foster Kare (or are they Karen Foster again these days? I can’t keep up), specifically guitar god Chad McQuarrie, so that’s bound to be…ridiculous. Like ridiculous amazing, not ridiculous ridiculous.
I sort of got lost there, staring at all those ridiculous-es.
CD release show. I apologize for my lack of writer-ly focus. I’ve just walked in the door from teaching a seemingly endless stream of children how to not suck at playing the piano. This tends to suck the life out of me. I will bravely soldier on.
Come see us play our new record – live – we’re not just going to play the cd through the PA, although that would require far less rehearsals – at the Media Club on Feb. 9. And buy one afterwards, for the love of god. We’re out here in the wilderness, people. No record label to love us – and give us money – no management team (that would be me. And I need HELP, goddammit. A lackey to meekly carry out my bidding, or a high priced, high powered suit wearing group to rescue me from this DIY hell), just a rock band playing their catchy as hell rock songs with ferocious intensity. Bring your friends. Your cool friends. They’ll dig it too.

The Feminists: I Will Be Showing Off My New Muscles

My goodness, certainly I have been wearing out my itsy bitsy delicate piano player fingers with all the hours I have been spending lately at my computer, tapping out messages (that seem to strike an interesting balance between humble/hopeful/slightly arrogant) to the Powerful People out there who might, maybe, possibly, be interested in helping my lovely band up to The Next Level. Well, you see we have this new record and all and I’ve been thinking hey maybe it would be nice to find someone else (who has more than $400 to their name) who’s willing to help us get it out there. Plus right now we only have 5 copies of said record and methinks that’s not enough, even for an indie band. How awesome would it be to convince some sort of corporate entity to press a few thousand copies for us. And then book us some killer tours and local shows, get us a ton of press…you see where I’m going with this. Into my too-often visited fantasy world. That beautiful place where musicians – brace yourselves – make a living by playing music.
I can’t help but notice that the real world is not set up this way. We have a real problem in this culture that devalues art in all its forms. Well, I guess it’s mostly a problem for artists. Come to think of it, I don’t hear businessmen lamenting the fact that it sure would be great to be able to make a living doing business.
What the hell am I talking about? I sound like my dad, who starts out with one story that reminds him of another story and pretty soon both he and I have no idea about what he was driving at in the first place. And now I have no idea what I was driving at in the first place. Thanks dad, for the rambling conversationalist gene.
Oh yes. I wanted to tell you all that we are playing a show tomorrow.
Railway Club, Wed. Aug. 29, 11:30pm. As part of the International Pop Overthrow Festival. My favorite Vancouver bands are playing that night as well, The Parlor Steps and Pepper Sands. Can you imagine? It’s going to be very awesome. We are going to play a new song too. So there are ample reasons to bring yourself and all your friends to cover thyselves in the glory of rock.
See you all there. I will showing off my new muscles.

The Feminists: Prog Rock Spectacular!

Need I say more? Tonight we are playing at The Red Room, 398 Richards St. 9:15-9:45. With A Ghost To Kill Again and Karen Foster. I’m trying to decide if it would to be too uncool to wear my AGTKA t-shirt tonight. Probably yes.
In the meantime, I am quite delighted, as always, to keep you the people up to date about what the heck we are up to and of course, how I feel about it.
Right now I feel, tonight we are going to explode with a blast of rock and roll intensity that will overwhelm your senses (all of ’em) and leave you spent…but completely satisfied, hmmmm?
Hope to see you all there. Come for Ghost @ 8, stay and watch the rest of the prog rock unfold in all its proggy glory.

The Feminists: Relatively Obscure, But Incredibly Hip

Once again our kind friend Stokely has helped us out with our visual presentations. He has started a The Feminists youtube channel. Already it is the biggest collection of us on film on the entire internet! (That’s not as impressive as it sounds. We are, after all, a relatively obscure – but incredibly hip – indie rock band)

Anyway, there’s videos for Brand New Common Sense, Sudden Departure of T, our live television performance, and even some footage that somebody filmed and posted when we played in Red Deer during our last tour.

Anyone out there who has filmed us and would like to post it, please do so. Unless we’re playing badly and/or sound like crap. Then, just send it to us. Immediately.

The Feminists: Congratulations, It’s An Album!

On May 29, 2007 in the late afternoon, a small team of determined musicians, producers, mixers and masterers pushed a new rock and roll record out into the world. As yet unnamed, this little beauty contains ten new Fem-anthems of epic proportions.
The next step is to somehow get the music out to you, the people. We’re working on it. As of now, there are only a small handful of copies in existence. When we got ourselves a giant handful, you’ll be the first to know.
I listened to it the day it was born, mere hours after we mastered. To be honest, I don’t know what to say about it yet.
Speaking only for myself (because really, I am woefully unqualified to speak for anyone else since I sold my clairvoyant powers to the devil) I am thrilled to have had the chance to work with three fantastic professionals who really made this album sound great. Mike Southworth, Doug Fury, and Jamie Sitar. You guys are ridiculously skilled, have ears of steel, incredible musicality, intelligence, and a ferocious work ethic. It was an honor for me to work with all of you. It was easy and fun to work with all of you. I am very grateful to each of you for the hours and hours and hours you guys sunk into this project.
After my last session, I realized that the happiest hours of my life – ever – were spent in the studio these past few months recording my keyboard parts with our producer/engineer Mike Southworth. I didn’t expect this level of bliss and satisfaction during the recording process. All I know is, I want to do it again. That is the job for me. Get up, go to the studio, write and record keyboard parts all day and all night. I have no expectations about the four of us making another record. Although I will say, in writing, in public, that I’m sure looking forward to working on that new song again.

The Feminists: A Nice Dose Of Glory

A couple of weeks ago we played at The Cobalt (“Vancouver’s Hardcore Bar”). Goodness gracious, we were generously received. Remember I told y’all a awhile back that we were totally hardcore enough to rock your face off at The ‘Balt? Well, we are and we did. Every so often we play for a receptive crowd whose mouths open further and further towards the floor in slack jawed amazement as our set progresses. To my great satisfaction, this happened at The Cobalt.
The people seemed to be reserving their judgment somewhat as we began to play. Oh sure, they pointed their faces towards the stage but there was a coolness in the response as they evaluated our rock ability. I think the turning point was provided by (who else?) Mike Zobac during his drum solo on Kohotek, during which I screamed uncontrollably in admiration and delight. After that, all the hardcore kids embraced us with fist pumping, howls of approval and much arm waving. We finished and started tearing down, but they demanded an encore. At the Cobalt. Go figure.
It’s not that surprising, though. Punks and hardcore people are usually quite open-minded I find, and those are the best kind of people for us to play for. Plus, they really love their music and are more discerning than lots of your typical indie rock hipsters who are frequently more concerned with who else is at the club than what the bands sound like. Oh I’m sorry. Did that strike a painful nerve, ironic trucker hat wearers?
After the show, there was a nice dose of glory. Sometimes we get that, when lots of people come up afterward and express their gratefulness to us for having rocked them utterly and blown their minds to pieces. Kind of makes all the horrifically awful shows with terrible bands in empty rooms after an 1100km drive fade somewhat into our collective subconscious. I signed my first autograph. I mean, I’ve signed cd’s before, but this was…a bus transfer. I was embarrassed – was he serious? was he making fun of me? – but kinda flattered. Ah, the glamorous life of a rock star.
So, tomorrow we are going to play a show I am quite excited about. At The Media Club, with The Parlor Steps for their cd release show. I do love the Steps. They are pretty much my favorite Vancouver band these days, along with A Ghost To Kill Again but that’s another story.
Please come down if you can to see some really good music. That’s not something I’m confident enough to say very often, but the Parlor Steps are a special band. And so are we.

The Feminists: It Sounds So Lush And Thick

We’re recording. New record is coming along very well. Instrumental parts are done, and this month we will do vocals, mixing, and mastering. Gosh. It sounds good, I gotta be honest with you. This week we will all have access to rough mixes of the songs with all the parts for the first time, and I for one am pretty stoked. So far, only our fabulous producer Mike Southworth and myself have heard the songs with all the parts. I’m excited that the guys are finally going to hear all the new keyboard stuff. Their parts sound great, of course. The bass and drums lock in together like…like, uh…a key in a lock? I don’t know where I’m going with this, metaphors were never my forte. Anyway, the bass sounds gooooood. Especially the solos. The drums sound gooooood. Huge. Enormous. And in the fucking POCKET. Oh yes. There are lots of guitar parts and keyboard parts too. A LOT of keyboard parts, that I can personally attest to. For the first time, we have made an album that we will not be able to play live – I mean, we can play the songs fine and have been doing so for the last year or so. But there are so many parts on this new record, it sounds so lush and thick even without being mixed or adding the vocals that the song-paintings on the record will be an entirely different experience compared to the live performances. Neat.
Something that I’m rather tickled about regarding the new album is that I was able to play my parts on real instruments, not just my keyboards. So, my piano parts are on a real piano, with a beautiful warm tone ever-so-slightly out of tune, with all of those lovely overtones and sympathetic vibrations that can only come from wood, metal, natural materials. Ah. My rhodes parts on on a real rhodes, my wurly parts are on a real wurly. And best of all, my organ parts were played with a real leslie. I got to play draw-bars. I got to put exactly the right amount of spin on the leslie. I’m getting warm and fuzzy just remembering it…My synth parts were augmented by Southworth’s enormous banks of synth sounds. Instead of merely hundreds of sounds to choose from, I had thousands. Overall, I’m thrilled. With all the new keyboard parts I wrote, even with my solos. An unprecedented first for me, to be pleased with my work and how I sound. But why not? I practiced my ass off during the whole recording process. Who knows if we’re ever going to make another record…especially one with a $20 000 budget. I wanted to enjoy this opportunity to the fullest and capture the very edge of my skill, the maximum, best effort that I could possibly put forward. Even though it was a very deliberate plan, I am still joyously surprised with how very well this album is taking shape. I can hardly wait to hear how the vocal parts turn out.
Also we’ve got some sweet shows coming up here in Vancouver. This Friday we’re at the Cobalt. Come on down. I’m looking forward to showing off the band again. It feels like it’s been a long time since we’ve assembled ourselves to play some rock for the people. In fact, we haven’t been playing or rehearsing much since we started the recording process. So it will be good to get back into the performance saddle again.

The Feminists: Outdoors In The Snow

We were trapped in Ontario for three days due to a winter storm of historic proportions. I’m way behind on my writing…that’s why there haven’t been any posts for awhile…we’ve been sleeping outdoors in the snow.

The Feminists: Free Concerts All Year Round

Personally, I believe that “live music performance” is the invention of which humanity should be the most proud. Somehow along the way over the last few million years or so, which is the very recent past as far as the history of the planet goes, and maybe just a few minutes ago as far as the age of the universe goes, our species invented and developed the notion of a group of people producing sounds in a recognizably unified fashion.
The dividends that humanity has reaped from this invention cannot be overestimated. Being in the presence of people producing recognizably unified sounds mysteriously creates a sense of happiness that is all the sweeter for being shared with other music admirers. Happiness leads to things such as relaxation, forgiveness of past hurts, affection for loved ones (and sometimes even strangers), optimism for the future, and perhaps best of all, the realization that there is no better moment than this one happening right now.
You’d think the government would provide us all with free concerts all year round, if for no other reason than to keep the great unwashed masses content and docile. Wouldn’t that be a better world to live in? Music actually being utilized for its ability to make people feel happy? Musicians would able to ply their craft and not starve at the same time. Sigh. Imagine that.

The Feminists: My Ears Turned Pink With Pleasure

Sep 26 Toronto The Horseshoe
When I was a tender green sprout of a musician, I had a brief conversation with a teacher that still occasionally bubbles to the front of my mind. “How do you play when you’re really nervous?” I asked, right after I had played my jury for him and another adjudicator. I had managed to peel myself off the piano bench and stand, but my legs were still shaky and I wondered if I was visibly wobbling.
The great Brad Turner laughed a little, and said kindly “You know, I wish that I could feel nervous again before a gig once in awhile”. I was stabbed by a flash of resentment that it was so easy for him. I was exhausted from all the practicing and preparation for this stupid exam, and no matter how much I practiced, I was still terrified every single time I had to play in front of people. Or with people, for that matter. “It’s just time”, Brad said. “It will gradually get easier the more you do it”. I’m sure he would have no recollection of this this at all, but I have pondered his words many times since then. What he told me was absolutely true. I haven’t been nervous before a show for almost two years now. Playing music has become so much fun as a result that I have forgotten I was once a tortured little soul who would gasp piteously for breath whenever I was called upon to play my instrument in front of other people.
The Horseshoe show was one that I could not have played three years ago. I would have been seized with paralyzing fear and unable to lift my eyes from the keys. It’s an amazing thing that such profound fear and doubt eventually just faded away, gradually, without fanfare. My fear was easily eroded down to a flat harmless smoothness by the sheer number of shows that I’ve played with the Fems. So here we were at one of the most famous clubs in Canada for sure, where hundreds of famous bands have played memorably amazing sold out shows. Yay team.
There was no one here yet, but it was early. We had promptly arrived for load in and there was a highly serious sound guy there who quickly and decisively organized the sets, gear, and band order. It’s a relief to work with a sound guy who takes control of stage managing the show. All I have to do is relax, let him worry about everything, and do whatever he says. I was slightly intimidated by the Horseshoe, and the sound tech’s level of professionalism. Fortunately, this band functions as a well-oiled machine. We can set up in about 8 minutes onstage. We can tear down and have all of our gear offstage in about 3 minutes.
Next time you go to a show, check your watch at the beginning of the changeover between bands. Sometimes it can be be 45 minutes, an hour, or more. Fucking around during the changeover will shorten all the bands sets, especially the last band. Sometimes there may not even be any time for the last band to play at all if enough time is wasted during the changeovers from band to band. Then there can be trouble. Plus, I think it’s really disrespectful to the audience. People came to hear live music, not wait for a bunch of half drunk guys plug stuff in while being distracted by pretty girls and the ever present thought of “I should get another beer before we go on”. I hate slow lazy bands. It’s never worth the wait. A great band will set up efficiently, in one fluid casual motion. From the downbeat, everyone is captivated and the band owns the room for as long as they play. For the audience it seems like the whole set was only a few minutes long. I’ve been to shows like this, and I hope you all have too. If you haven’t, go see NoMeansNo.
Most of the time all of our brilliant efficiency is wasted. We stand around and wait for other bands to slowly set up their gear in between getting beers. We watch in agony as bands take one piece of drum hardware at a time off the stage while stopping to congratulate each other and get another beer. Why do bands do this? Why do they shorten their own time onstage and everybody elses’s as well? Don’t they like playing music? Don’t they care about the people? I want to get up there and play loud fast songs real bad. It boggles my mind why a so-called musician/entertainer would want to avoid that.
Suddenly it was our turn to play. At the stroke of 10:20, exactly when we were supposed to start our set, we were ready to go. “Everything set?” the sound guy asked us. “Yessir”, I said. “Right on. Points for punctuation”, he replied. My ears turned pink with pleasure, as they always do when I receive a meaningful compliment. Here we were at one of the most famous clubs in Canada and we had impressed the sound guy before playing a single note. There were about 70 people waiting expectantly at our feet for us to blow their minds. Is there any limit to what we can do all by our little selves?
We had carefully designed a set of our finest offerings. We had friends in the audience. I were dying to show this enormous self-important city what we sounded like, to see heads swivel towards the stage helpless in our thrall.
Song, song, song. No talking except “Hi we’re The Feminists” and “thanks a lot” in between songs. It sounded amazing onstage. Crisp, clear, balanced, not too loud. It was so easy to sing in tune, comp for the guitar and bass solos, and hear myself over the band during my solos. I could see people continually streaming into the room where we were playing, stop, watch, and then move closer to the stage. Grief and I were drenched in sweat by the beginning of the second song. Belland was stomping from the waist it seemed, taking huge Viking strides all around the stage, his bass raised high as he marched to and fro. I felt like I was in the middle of a tropical hurricane. It was hot, humid, and there were big cymbal crashes and distorted guitar screams flying everywhere. There were hot blinding lights that flashed at random intervals. After every song, there was a half breath of silence, then applause, whistling, cheering. It’s good to hear that half breath of silence. It means people were listening intently and were taken by surprise by the song ending. Considering that these people had never heard our songs before, that’s pretty good. When was the last time you went to a show and silently listened to unfamiliar songs played by a band you’ve never heard of from beginning to end, one after another?
We played for exactly 30 minutes (because we’re punctual, remember?), and had cleared our gear from the stage 5 minutes later. Our friends gathered round to express how much they enjoyed the show. I found the sound guy and thanked him for making it so easy for us to play well. He said we were good. My ears turned pink again. We sold a whack of merch, there were actually people waiting for us at our table when we got offstage to buy cd’s. There was a gal from Nanaimo who had seen us there and was happy to see us again. Dave Ulrich, who kindly peddles our wares at his online record store, came to see us and said good encouraging stuff to me. Grief was deep in conversation with a dark haired young woman who was interviewing him, it turned out. We got an e-mail from her a couple of days later with a link to her article.
We stuck around to hear the other bands. I couldn’t help but notice (because I’m sort of a competitive jerk) that the crowd response was bigger for us than any of the other bands. We came, we saw, we kicked ass. Take that, Toronto. You’re not so intimidating after all. I like it that my band can play a fantastic show in Canada’s biggest city to a sizable, appreciative audience.
Tomorrow we play our second Toronto show, at The Boat. We are staying at Keith Hamilton’s house. Keith is an awesome promoter/musician who we stayed with last year as well. Tomorrow’s show is one of his, so there’s nothing to worry about

The Feminists: The First Law Of Indie Rock

First Law of Indie Rock:
As the quantity of audience members decreases, the quality of music increases. The best music happens when there is no paying audience at all and the bands play for only each other.

The moment I remember feeling the most despair was when the irritating, incompetent promoter looked up at me while setting up my vocal mic.”Just bear with me, I don’t know much about doing sound”, he said, with what I’m sure he thought was a confident smile. It was 15 minutes before the show was supposed to start, we were first, and for some inexcusable reason, there was no sound tech. This lovely fellow also kicked the bands out, locked the doors, and taken off right after load in so we all had to wait outside in the cold for three hours, until he returned. 15 minutes before showtime. With no sound set up yet. Not that there was anyone clamoring to get into the club to see this show. Probably because everyone in Peterborough was downstairs clamoring to get into the sold out NoMeansNo show that was happening at the same time as our obviously doomed show. We were playing in a split level venue, one room above the other connected by three flights of winding staircases. It sure was fun to climb up and down 89 times and lift a bunch of heavy awkward objects around all those corners. And due to a genius bit of booking, courtesy of the promoter – I’m sorry, the promoter/booking agent/sound tech – there were a bunch of relatively unknown indie bands playing a show at exactly the same time that NoMeansNo would be playing a majestic, thundering, sold out show right underneath our feet. On a Sunday night. It was already shaping up to be a humiliating evening. No sound guy and the promoter trying to figure it out as he went along was icing on the cake of my despair. O, Cake Of My Despair. Why must you always taste so bitter?
Suddenly, there appeared a calm steady individual who fired up the PA and placed the mics. His name was Jason, and he was just a guy in one of the bands. But he cared enough about these bands who he had just met at this lame ass show to help everyone sound as good as possible. He ended up doing sound for all the bands, saying nice sincere things to everyone about their music, and generally gave the show some sense of much needed order.

Not one member of the general public accidentally stumbled (up three flights of winding stairs) in during our set. In fact, there was no paying audience until about halfway through the last band, when two people came in. At least we were done early. However, because there were only bands there, etiquette dictated that we were obliged to watch the rest of the show. When it’s only bands playing for each other, everyone has to stick around and watch everybody else. If you leave when there are is no paying audience, you have grievously insulted the honor of the band onstage. After all, they stuck around for your set.

However, due to the First Law Of Indie Rock it was a very good show, musically speaking. A private concert with an attentive respectful audience.Sometimes it’s nice to listen to good music without a bunch of people trying to yell over it while they get drunk. The First Law Of Indie Rock makes me a little crazy sometimes. It does seem a colossal shame that the best music happens in empty clubs. On the other hand, sometimes I feel downright honored that I have a chance to absorb some great music as it disappears, flies upwards and outwards, never to be experienced again. Sharing that with only a few other musicians often creates a bond that makes you feel like good friends after spending only a few hours together.

After us Wax On Radio played. They were a big heavy three-piece. Great players, tight band. Then North Atlantic played. Jason’s band. Good heavens. Mild mannered, bespectacled sound guy Jason had removed his spectacles, undone his ponytail, and was generating an ever cresting wave of sonic power, guitar in hand. Very, very heavy prog rock. What a beautiful sentence that is. Emotional writing, with thick crunching layers of double kick and keening cymbals. A wall of guitar noise a mile deep, and ridiculously intricate polyrhythm figures between bass, guitar and drums. But so much melody and so many catchy instrumental hooks that the ear wasn’t overwhelmed by all the distortion. And these guys could really play. I forgot that I was tired and sick and generally disgusted and disappointed.
In a sudden warm rush, I finally remembered what I love about music, thank god. I love being swept away by a current of song and sound, the delicious pleasure that starts in my ears and gradually overtakes me, feeling the connection between the players onstage and watching them make something unique and authentic. Live music is where it’s at for me. If it’s a really good show, I can get a little overwrought by the fleeting impermenance of every single moment. It’s humbling to stand in the middle of a great pool of art as it gushes forth from the stage, swirls around my feet and rises higher and higher, bursting out the windows and doors to disappear forever. See, overwrought.
After North Atlantic, You Say Party We Say Die took the stage. They are from Vancouver too, and it’s always nice to see people from home when you’re on the road. YSP’s star has been rising steadily. We’ve played with them a couple of times in Vancouver, but not for the last year or so as they have been constantly touring. And holy crap, they sounded good. I guess playing a million shows all over the world will do that for ya.
Mike, Ferdy, and I had a great time listening to YSP. We danced like fools, we laughed in delight, we cheered and clapped and whooped with unbridled, very uncool enthusiasm. They were completely entertaining, and they made us feel happy. I thanked them profusely after the show for giving me such a good time, like the uncool enthusiastic dancing dork that I am. After all, they and North Atlantic had reminded me that music can be thrilling and fantastic and not always stupid all of the time. For that I am grateful.

The whole time we could hear NoMeansNo through the floorboards. In fact, I could feel the kick drum and bass patterns press through the floor, pass through the soles of my feet and climb steadily upwards, exiting out the top of my head. They’re that loud and forceful. Sigh. After YSP there was still time to catch a little NMN. They had put us on the guestlist, so Ferdy and Mike and I walked in like rock stars (who had just played a dead show). They also introduced us to the promoter of their show, to give us a better shot of a more decent Peterborough show next time around. Anything will be better than the Seen Productions show we had the misfortune to be involved with.
The real action went down after the bands were done playing. The promoter broke YSP’s written contract and completely stiffed them, and they were seriously pissed. There was some pushing and shoving and yelling. We had loaded out and left the club, but the guys decided to turn the van around and go back to see if they would have a chance to watch an ass kicking. Great. Let’s not miss this priceless opportunity to watch some real life violence. Hopefully there will be pain and humiliation and blood because that’s so entertaining. I’ll never understand testosterone.
Alas. The bloodlust had to go unsatisfied because someone had called the cops and there they were, watching and waiting to see if there was anyone stupid enough to start a fight right in front of them.YSP had sort of calmed down. They’ll have a chance to get their money back through the musician’s union. But it would probably be a bit nerve-wracking for them to get to their next show, which was in NYC, with none of the money they were supposed to get in Peterborough. It’s a good thing there was no fight. It would have been one tiny, weasly rat-faced liar who was shorter than me against about 12 outraged man sized musicians. After a few more rounds of half-hearted insults with the gathering crowd, the crowd dispersed reluctantly.

The Feminists: A Rich Brine Of Rock and Roll

Recommended Listening To Keep Your Ears Guessing

Muse – Black Holes And Revelations
I used to think that there were no rock bands left alive in the 21st century who could make a great keyboard record. To be fair, first I had to get past the Radiohead-ness of the lead singer’s voice and melodic sense. I’m glad I did, though. This record is meticulously arranged and produced and miraculously does not stray beyond the boundaries of good taste. Somehow they knew when to stop and leave the finished product with just enough space to avoid clutter. There are a lot of parts, but you can trace each of them lovingly as they go by and simultaneously comprehend the complete, beautifully sad, whole. The combination of thick layers of synth, piano, real drums, fuzzy bass, distorted guitars, gloriously leaping poignant melodies, and angry often despairing writing is refreshing to say the least. I love albums that force me to listen to them again and again to wring out a little more understanding each time around. I also love it that Muse can play kick out the heaviest, thickest, head banging unison figures just as well as they can write a heartbreaking melody.

Well, at least the rain had stopped when we got up to drive to London. The sun was shining and the temperature was rising steadily. Unfortunately, we were just as damp as we were the night before when it was pouring rain. We were also covered in at least two layers of sweat and dirt, one from the show last night, and another layer that had built up while we were trying to sleep. Nothing had dried out overnight, and all of the clothes and bedding were damp and limp.
After our morning round of coffee and arguing at Timmy’s we sogged back to the van for a hot damp drive. We made it to London and found the venue. Then we were off to an Internet cafe, as it had been a few days since we had made contact with the outside world. I swear the van gets smaller every day, and I do get desperate to just be somewhere else where I don’t have to look at those guys for a few minutes.
As we were busily checking e-mail, my phone rang. It was Adrian from the Nerve magazine, calling from Vancouver to do a phone interview. He called last night before the Hamilton show, but there was some confusion on my part as I didn’t know what day it was, what time it was, the date, and I couldn’t remember if PST was 3 hours ahead or behind Ontario time. It’s a miracle I remembered how to answer my phone.
“So, why do you think you guys don’t get any respect in Vancouver?”, he started off with. “Well, we played a great show at The Lamplighter for our tour-kickoff”, I said cautiously. “There were lots of nice people there who told us they loved our set”. Maybe Adrian knows something I don’t know. I thought the problem was that nobody was aware of this band, not that we were being deliberately slighted and ignored.(And if that’s the case, what’s up with that, you jerks?) “Maybe it’s the name”, I suggested with a giggle. Damn. Adrian’s velvety good humored phone voice was triggering my breathless giggle reflex. Steady, Maira.
Lots of people, especially dudes, recoil at our band name, at least they do when they’re talking to me. Here’s my most common post-show conversation:

“Wow, that was great”.
“Thanks a lot, dude.”
“What’s the name of your band?”
“The Feminists”. Awkward pause. Nervous eye-shifting.
“Really, that’s your name?”
“Yes, really. Now fuck off or buy a cd”. Okay, I don’t usually add that last part out loud.

I guess it’s like calling your band The Vomit Chunks or The Republicans. People have to see you and hear you in order to transform their negative assumptions about vomit chunks or republicans or feminists into awestruck admiration.
“You guys really seem like a family”, Adrian continued, “More so than a lot of other bands I’ve talked to”. Huh. For the record, I am NOT RELATED to any of the guys. Apparently we are maintaining a convincing facade of bonhomie. “Well, the relationships within the band are pretty solid”, I replied. “Mike, Ferdy and I knew each other for about 10 years before this band started, and I’ve known Keith for 5. The four of us have been playing together for almost 3 years”.
When we’re on tour, we become best friends, or so I’d like to believe. However, we rarely socialize as a group when we’re not working together. We also have to work consciously at getting along with each other. Well, I do at least. In the end it’s less effort to walk away or bite your tongue than it is to argue with every stupid thing that comes out of somebody’s mouth. Constant picking at each other takes the focus away from trying to sound good together.
I’m getting that kind of comment more and more. Wow, you guys get along so well, you must really like each other. It’s all an illusion! If we really let ourselves go, there’d be fistfights and screaming matches every night. But the music is more important than that. Of course we each have our things that we absolutely hate about the others. Well, I do at least. Luckily, we all like the songs so much that we’re able to put the music first. A little secret – if you get into the habit of behaving well to your bandmates, even if it’s just an act and what you really want to do is take that cigarette and smash it up Grief’s nose…I’m sorry, where was I? Oh yes, if you can make yourself behave in a civil fashion on a consistent basis, often the feeling that is supposed to accompany these kind gestures materializes and you find yourself just being genuinely pleasant most of the time. Which is a lot less taxing than being angry and in constant conflict with three other people all the the time.
I do love these guys ardently, and have an awesome relationship with each of them, inside and outside of the band. These are remarkable dudes. Each one of them is an original, eccentric, larger than life, hilarious fellow who is beloved and respected by all of their many many friends. I wish all women could have a chance to hang out with them and see how cute and funny they are. Today would be good. I could really use some time to myself.
After the interview we were on our way to an in-store performance at a local record shop. It’s been a long time since we’ve had to play 2 shows in one day, and a good long while since we’ve played a subdued acoustic set. We pulled up to Groove’s Records and unloaded our gear.
We all looked like hell – damp, hot, dirty, sweaty and kinda stinky. Picture the van as a sardine can that someone left out in the sun and the Fems as warm sardines soaking in a rich brine of rock and roll. I fished around for a less damp t-shirt and tried to rub off some of the mascara streaks from last night. I’ll know I’ve made it when the van is no longer my dressing room.
We played for half an hour, and it was pretty good. Nice to have a chance to play all the softer songs, and it’s good to play quietly sometimes and listen to how all the parts interlock. There were a few people there, and we managed to sell some cd’s afterward. Everyone was nice to us and we heard many encouraging words. We loaded out and parked behind the club we would be playing at later. Grief cooked up some tacos, and after dinner Ferdy and I went back to the internet cafe to more fully satisfy our electronic longings.
Then it was time for load in and set up. It was raining again, still hot. We snagged a couple of couches as far away from the stage as possible- we loves us some couches – and settled in for another long evening of rock and roll. Mike passed out and snored, openmouthed and oblivious. I knitted many rows, Ferdy read, and Grief played gameboy. The first band was unremarkable, except to say that they weren’t as bad as I thought they’d be. They took about half an hour to tear down. The drummer took apart his kit piece by piece, slowly and deliberately, in the middle of the stage. Or where the stage would be if there was one, in this case there was just a small area of floor. Mike finally started carrying the hardware over to the side, but Slowpoke McGee didn’t get the hint and remained firmly planted in the middle of everything. That kind of lazy drummer knows that someone else will move his gear from him if he waits long enough. Too bad the window was nailed shut.
We set up and rocked. Someone who had seen us at the instore earlier on came to the show, so that was great. He was a very nice guy from Pittsburgh, possibly our first American fan. Ferdy got notably plastered. He’s not a mean drunk, just a very loud enthusiastic one. Grief and I aren’t much for drunken enthusiasm, but it’s fun to watch Ferdy to make new friends in his state of hyper-sociability. Mike went out to the van to sleep until it was time to load out. Keith and I sold some merch, and then there was nothing to do except wait for the last band to be done. And follow the sound of Belland’s happy bellowing as he loped around the bar telling the other bands how amazing they were, how amazing everything was. Ah, happy Belland. We like him to get it all out of his system before we jam him back into the van to be quiet and meek so the rest of us can sleep.
The last band had two guitar players who played harmonized guitar solos standing back to back. More than once. I wonder if they do that in rehearsal too.”It’s tragic that Mike is missing this”, I whispered to Grief. Not every day does one get to travel back to 1987. They didn’t have the hair to toss around though, which kind of spoiled my suspension of disbelief.
Finally we loaded out. It was raining, windy, thundering and lightning. Still hot. We slept indoors, thanks to our kindhearted London friend Joey, who had also booked the show. On to Peterborough.

The Feminists: The Indie Rocker’s Prayer

Corrections
The drummer recommends the following corrections:
1. In Sault Ste Marie we had grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner, not hot dogs.
2. That band in Kingston was really more ska than reggae.

The Indie Rocker’s Prayer:
“Dear Lord,
Thank You for all Your fucking bullshit.”

“Another million dollar quote from Mike Zobac”, Belland observed as I nodded in agreement. I really felt that he had expressed a deep truth. Lately Zobac has taking to saying the prayer out loud, sort of like an old time country preacher.
“Dear Lord, thank You for all Your fucking bullshit”, Mike prayed recently “thank you for all the rain, and for making us stand in the rain while we eat” Amen brother, I thought silently. Sometimes he just looks at me and we say together “Dear Lord, thank you for all your fucking bullshit”. Somehow it makes our sometimes crappy reality seem merely amusing. Mike is sick now too. Now we are all sick, in varying degrees. We don’t really care though. Tonight we play the Underground in Hamilton, it’s a Friday night, and we’re going to open for NoMeansNo.
We like those guys a lot. Ferdy’s friends with ’em. I’m too shy to talk to them because I’m such a little fan. They are my favorite live band. I would rather see them play than pretty much anybody else. I’ve listened to their records, and that’s fun, but I didn’t really get it until I saw them play live. These guys have been playing together as a trio for over 25 years. Plus they are skilled, intelligent, intense musicians. I love their songs too. I think they have a compelling chemistry between them that exists only because they know each other so well.
I love seeing experienced bands (who still like each other) play together. To me it sounds like there’s an ease and comfort between the musicians that soaks into the music, and I find it very relaxing to listen to, even though the music might be very very loud and intricate and intense. There’s a lot of joy in watching NoMeansNo as they play, and there’s a lot of joy in their music. Speed, power, agility, catchy melodies with very clever writing.
We pulled up to the The Underground. It was hot and rainy. Hamilton is one tough town. Much tougher than Vancouver, although I guess that’s not saying much. Vancouver isn’t tough at all unless you go to the relatively confined area where all the action and tragedy goes down. Then it’s one of the toughest, most depressing places anywhere. You know you’re in a dangerous area when there are no Starbucks around.
A thunderous roar was dimly audible behind the 2 sets of double steel doors. We descended into the depths (The Underground is lives up -or down- to its name) and sure enough, NMN was just finishing up their sound check. All four of us stood around and grinned. It’s hard not to when you hear them play. They said hello to us (I hid behind Mike and stared at the floor), and we thanked them profusely for letting us play with them again, and tried not to be too uncool.
After sound check we had a bit of time to wander. We were first, and our set was exactly 30 minutes starting at 9:30. Belland met up with an old friend and disappeared. Grief, Zobac and I went to Timmy’s for our pre-show round of caffeine.
We headed back to The Underground around 9:00. Sometime later Mike asked me what time it was. 9:20, I said. I don’t see Ferdy anywhere, Mike told me. He’ll be here, I said. He’s never been late for a gig, and usually he’s stage managing everybody else telling them to get started so the show can run on time.
9:30 came and went and there was no denying that the three of us were officially frantic. I’ve been playing with Ferdy for three years, and he’s never even been close to late for a show. Mike had to talk to NMN and tell them that we weren’t ready to start because we were missing our bass player. That was hard. We really, really, didn’t want to look like unprofessional chumps in front of NMN.
Grief was stalking about outside the front doors looking out for Belland, muttering “I’m going to kill him” over and over. The sight of him clutched at my heart a little. Grief tells us every day how much he doesn’t care about playing shows, but it’s now obvious that he’s only trying to convince himself. Mike was pacing around in the green room asking God why Belland doesn’t get a cell phone. Or a watch, for that matter. Let us pray. Dear Lord, thank you for all Your fucking bullshit.
I was thinking, he’s hurt, he’s dead, he got mugged and hit on the head, and what am I going to tell Mrs. Ferdy? She’s one of the ladies I knit with, and I don’t think I could face her again having lost her husband on the mean streets of Hamilton. I know how important this show was to Ferdy, he has great respect for NMN. It was completely and totally out of character for him to not be there on time.
At 9:45 Grief came running down the stairs into the club “He’s coming”, he yelled and we leaped up onstage. Ferdy came running across the floor, taking his coat off as he picked up his bass.
Everything changed in that moment, and things started to move very quickly. The worry and concern was replaced by knee weakening relief and then white hot rage. He was okay. He was alive. He was just late because he was careless about the time. I wanted to hurt him. Never in the history of this band have we been responsible for holding up the show. We are mock and deride other bands who do so. And why this show…this one was really important…it wouldn’t have been such a big deal if it was in Owl’s Anus, Manitoba and there was just a bunch of random local bands there.
“DON’T TALK!” Mike spat at Belland, who was opening his mouth to say something. Mike has a very long,very slow fuse. It’s rare that he loses control of his anger, but if that happens, cover your head. Belland closed his mouth with a snap. Grief couldn’t look at him and turned away completely, tuning his guitar.
“I have a set list”, I snarled at him. “I’ll be calling the order of tunes”. We only make set lists when it’s critically important to play a kick ass show. My whole body was vibrating with emotion. I desperately tried to rein in my temper. Now it was time to play 21st Century Ghost, which I start by myself. Are we going to be able to do this? I wondered. There was so much anger and hate, contempt and disappointment flying around onstage. No time for resolution or explanations. Our songs require all of us to listen to each other and play as one. They also require a fair amount of concentration to navigate through the arrangements. Maybe we were just about to play a really shitty set in front of the great musicians of NMN, who had come back to the club about 3 hours before they had to so they could see us play.
I took a deep breath and let it out as I played the intro.
The band kicked in with utter precision and intensity.
I think it was the best show we’ve ever played. Grief was on fire. He nailed all of his vocal parts effortlessly and played beautiful, jagged, passionate guitar lines. Ferdy played excellently, I felt like I was hearing the absolute peak of his considerable talent. Mike was amazing, he had full charge of the rhythm section that night and he never faltered, not once. It was incredibly loud. The sound onstage was fabulous, and I knew our singing was strong and accurate.
We were all drenched in sweat after the first song. Belland’s bulging forearms were shining, and Grief’s curls were plastered against his head. Mike was still mad at Ferdy and dropped out during the first bass solo, leaving him adrift with no accompaniment. One of the nastiest things a drummer can do, but I guess it was more reasonable than jamming a drumstick down the bass player’s throat .
No talking, just song song song. People were nodding their heads and venturing closer to the stage, a good sign considering that everyone was there to see NMN, and we were just some unknown opening band. It was an incredible thing to feel how all the anger onstage was being continually transformed into a massive wall of thick melodic and rhythmic distortion, on top of which Grief etched his finely wrought, stripped down writing like a master engraver.
Too soon it was over. Half an hour goes by fast when you’re operating at maximum overdrive. We tore down and were off the stage within about 3 minutes, and the show went on just fine. All was forgiven. As Mike said, I’m sure NMN has seen worse from their opening bands than a bass player being 15 minutes late. How could anyone be angry after playing so well together…all that emotion had been spent onstage and there was nothing left except satisfaction and relief. We hadn’t embarrassed ourselves in front of NMN after all, and we couldn’t have played any better. I don’t know if I could handle it if every show started like that, though, no matter how good it felt afterwards.
We sold some cd’s afterwards, and then I jammed my ear plugs in as far as they would go and shook my tail feather as NMN proceeded to casually overwhelm me with their volume, complexity, sense of humor, and fantastic songs. They are one of the few bands that make me look forward to getting older, because maybe someday if I keep working really hard, I might sound something like that.
I was so pleased with the general state of the universe after the show that I hardly noticed that everything in the van was damp. And warm. Time for a few hours of fitful sleep in the jungle temperatures of southern Ont before the drive to London tomorrow

The Feminists: They Ordered Everyone To Dance

Recommended Listening For Mood Elevation
Young Gifted And Black – Aretha Franklin
The quality of her tone is iresistable to me. I forget everything except opening my ears fully to absorb the richness of it. And she sings some beautiful words with her beautiful voice. The band on this record is also very amazing. Classy, tasteful, but still sexy. The whole album glows with pure inspiration.

Hotter Than July – Stevie Wonder
This was the first record that I noticed could get me feeling happy within the first 30 seconds of the first song. Sometimes, when I’m really down it can take a whole minute to get happy. It’s astounding to think that all of this music was inside him waiting to come out, and he was able to express it and capture it. These are some of his best love songs, and I’m always comforted by the thought that someone can describe so clearly how good it feels to be in love.

We drove all day today. It was pretty nice, it got warmer as we went along and I think we traveled south all day. It’s nice and warm here at Queen’s University in Kingston, and it’s not raining. I’m feeling much better today and I’m looking forward to playing for a college crowd.
The Clarke Hall Pub was small, the booze was plentiful and cheap, and it had good lighting and a decent sized stage. There were already a lot of people settling in for a long night of drinking and socializing. Alas, there were 2 flights of stairs to climb and 3 sharp corners. And no monitors, some other band had blown them up.
I found a little coffee bar close by and soon enough we were sitting on two low comfy couches with a table of coffees and beer. Mike and Ferdy read, I knitted, and Grief played his gameboy. This is how we spend every evening. In a bar, waiting to play. Here is our the sum of our existence: Drive all day to venue. Load in, sit in bar for a few hours, listen to bands, set up, play, tear down, hopefully sell merch, load out, hopefully collect $50. Sleep in van at truck stop and repeat. Such is the glamor of rock and roll.I’m sure we must look a little weird to the locals at the bars. A table of outsiders who arrive together, and sit at the same table ignoring each other wrapped up in a deliberately solitary activity. We mostly drink coffee. A lot of coffee. And water. Ferdy drinks some beer. Sometimes Mike drinks beer too. Grief doesn’t drink beer and I don’t drink before playing. Usually we’re wearing earplugs as well.
I can explain. We’re permanently sleep deprived and dehydrated so we need to drink a lot of coffee and water. We have nothing to say to each other because we’ve been jammed together in a van all day. It’s bad enough to go deaf playing in the Fems, but even worse to go deaf listening to everybody else. And we’ve learned through countless bad experiences that it’s better to distract oneself from having to listen to a bad band than waste your life listening to bad music hacked out by hacks. It’s a good thing we each have our little Distractor Device. I know for myself that knitting has removed the overwhelming compulsion I felt so often while listening to a shitty band to leap on to the stage, grab the mic and scream “get off the stage, you pedantic little pissant! Stop torturing us with your sloppy out of tune melody-free rhythm-free steaming auditory turds”… or something along those lines. Occupational hazard, I guess. Now I don’t have to hide in the washroom as much. And I can make lovely scarves for everyone I know.
The opening band, however, nearly drove us all around the bend, overpowering our Distractor Devices effortlessly. They were part of an alarming trend I am currently observing in Canadian indie music, the white boy reggae band. One one hand, it was pretty funny to watch pale, soft, chubby university boys sing their songs about waking up in the morning and finding life too hard to bear. I think they thought that living in Kingston Ontario was the same thing as living in Kingston Jamaica. They also managed to stand completely still while performing, which gives you an idea of how awful their reggae feel was. The lead singer dedicated a song to beer, (“This one’s for beer! I love you, beer!”) thus reinforcing every stereotype I have ever absorbed about college frat boys. They ordered everyone to dance but no one obliged. That was funny too. Then they did a Sublime cover, during which they forgot the lyrics to and made up their own. I felt like I was being leveled with too many assaults at once. A bad band playing a bad song by a bad band badly. I glared at my knitting needles and concentrated fiercely. Knit, knit, purl, purl, I thought determinedly.
It was hopeless. They were unstoppable. I looked up reluctantly, like you look reluctantly at roadkill as you speed by it . Grief was whispering furiously into Belland’s ear and they both looked pained. Mike shook his head sadly and furrowed his brow as he forced himself to keep reading. I don’t know how long they really played for, probably about a hundred years. I was having a pretty good time tonight, I realized. The coffee was hot and strong, and at least I was being entertained.
The second band, who of course I thought would be terrible because I had been soured completely by the first band, was awesome. They were Junction, and they were a three piece that sounded as big as an orchestra. They played sincerely, passionately. The singer had a beautiful voice, and there were many melodies to be had. The crowd went nuts and spontaneously flooded the dance floor in a sudden rush. Ah.
Then it was us and it was a jumping bouncing stomping good time. Grief and I couldn’t hear one iota of our vocals, but I knew we were in tune and hitting everything at the same time. As long as we can see each other I can manage. I’m sure we’d sound like crap if we had to sing with no monitors in the dark. God forbid.
The crowd was generous, fun, energetic. Ah, university life. We played at just an absurdly high volume. I think probably we overwhelm some PA’s sometimes. It was a very small, square cube of a classroom full of people drinking and very bright, hot spotlights. It was viciously loud, blazingly bright, and gosh it was fun to play really fast songs. Grief and Ferdy looked as if they might melt.
Afterward we sold some cd..s and shirts and lots of people said very nice things. Nicely elevating for team morale, and coming up next was Hamilton and playing with NoMeansNo again.

The Feminists: The Color Of Sunbeams

Grief drove us to Sudbury. I found I was able to sort of sleep better with less coughing sitting up in the passengers seat, so I faded in and out of consciousness as the van rumbled along. At some point, I was aware of a strange heat beam of some sort on my face. I opened my eyes the tiniest little bit…perhaps Mike was shining his pen flashlight in my face, that’s one of his favorite pastimes when he’s bored. But it wasn’t Mike. It was the sun. The sun was shining. In the morning, during the day like it’s supposed to. I even had to take off my top two layers of clothing . Because it was warm in the van. It was warm in the van!
The light was overwhelming. I sat up blinking and cringing in the brightness. I felt like a wee mole who has spent the entire winter underground and now is venturing forth into springtime for the first time in months. My skin looked extra pale and pasty and the dark circles under my eyes stood out even more ghoulishly. Ah yes, the “I Look Like Crap Tour” was still rolling along. I looked out the window and saw lakes, trees, blue sky. The autumn leaves (drift by my window) really were red and gold, scarlet and vermillion, amber, burnt orange, soft butter yellow and stood out in such vivid contrast to the deep navy blue of the water and the evergreens at the shore. My favorite part of this beautiful morning was the sunshine glinting off the water. It was wonderful to see the color of sunbeams again, I thought as I drifted back to sleep.
By the time we got to Sudbury, I definitely had a fever. Thankfully, we were allowed to camp out in the band room at the Townehouse downstairs. This year there was no hot water for the shower. But I didn’t care, because there was a room with a bed that I could close the door to and sleep, which I did for most of the day. I was dimly aware of Grief and Zobac gleefully setting up for a long Magic battle. Poor guys. We’ve been so busy on this tour playing and driving they’ve hardly had time to play Magic.
By late afternoon, I felt well enough to make a pilgrimage to the internet cafe at the mall. Mike and I went together, wandered around Music World, had some coffee, and checked our e-mail. It was very good to be with just Mike. He’s the guy in the band I’ve known for the longest – since I was a teenager, long before this band was ever thought of – and it’s a rare blessing to grow up together with someone instead of growing apart. I even had a chance to catch up on world events. We’ve been very isolated on this tour so far, no time to read a newspaper of watch the news. Did you know there was a military coup in Thailand? News to me, my friends. Other than that, the same old Wars continue. I was kinda hoping that the American people would have overthrown their war-mongering non-elected murderous power drunk monkey of a president since I last checked in, but no dice.
Grief and I smuggled our stove downstairs to the band room after my epic journey to the mall and made soup. Zobac was busy doing a phone interview with FFWD in Calgary. The writer asked him for one of his road recipes which I think made him pretty happy, as he is the official band chef. I’ve been suggesting that he try and get his own cooking show that features his band chef duties. I can see it now: Zobac with a black apron with the Feminists logo in red and white. And a tall black chef’s hat, with Kiss The Cook embroidered in red thread in the same font as our band name. “Be sure to crack the middle of the egg directly against the van bumper”, he’d be saying, “and remind the bass player to slice the potatoes thinly”.
I slept more after soup…pretty much right up until it was time to play. I forced myself to get up, and the fever was back in full force along with sniffles and coughing and a general sense of disgust and irritation. I climbed wearily up the stairs and stopped short before opening the door that led to the bar. I put my hand on the knob, but didn’t, couldn’t turn it. I rested my head against the cool steel and thought, is there any way to avoid opening this door? Maybe it will be a fun show, I tried to reassure myself. Lots of people, good sound. I may not be able to play as well as normal, but I could probably hold it together okay.
I knew as soon as I walked through that door that my feeble hopes were dashed. This would not be a good show. The bar was empty, and we were playing on a Wed night, when they usually feature acoustic acts. In fact, our opener was a solo acoustic guitar playing songwriter. His small audience left with him, leaving us three people to play for. Plus the sound man and the bartender, of course.
The fever gave me a sense of floating and seemed to muffle most of the sounds in the room. The lights were too bright and hurt my eyes. I stood unsteadily behind my keyboards, eyes watering and squinting, sniffling pathetically. The good news continued to pour in. “I’ve only been doing sound for a couple of months”, the sound tech announced cheerfully upon meeting us. Perfect. Then he told us that at least we weren’t as stinky as DOA, who apparently don’t wash their asses, or Sloan, who have an $80 000 van and you’d think they’d have the means to take a shower. I guess it had been a jam-packed couple of months doing sound for huge established Canadian bands. I play in a rock band, that’s true, but I’m also a female and believe me, no girl wants to be told in so many words that she is stinky, even a little bit stinky. My mood became stinky, very very stinky. Oh, and we had to play for at least an hour, until a half hour before last call. For three people.
We played a massive set of an hour and twenty minutes, no breaks. My nose ran while I was singing and playing, and there was not a thing I could do about it, except hope that the lovely glistening effect was not visible to the audience. All my hands were occupied, and I didn’t have any sort of wiping material onstage anyway. At times I felt like I was floating up, up, up, away from my keyboards. For the first time I drew a blank when it was my turn to call tunes. I couldn’t remember the names of any of our songs.
Finally it was over. I felt like I’d aged 10 years, and I was bursting with resentment and bitterness. For this I had left my lovely teaching practice and driven halfway across the country. To be on public display with a runny nose, struggling to remain upright while playing rock and roll to an empty bar.
I must admit though, all three audience members stayed for the whole show and bought cds and t-shirts afterwards. And the bar gave us $50 and offered us another show on a weekend. I collapsed into bed for another night of coughing before the big drive to Kingston.

The Feminists: These Days I Stare Back

We drove all day to get to Sault-Ste-Marie. We have been trying to force ourselves to cook our own food outside in the rain and wind instead of buying restaurant food. I care less and less about spending money to sit indoors and eat. So what if my greatest daily pleasure is a few cups of hot coffee and perhaps a bracing bowl of oatmeal? I don’t feel that guilty, even though I can’t really afford it. If it keeps me from bursting into tears of frustration and smiting my rhythm section, so much the better.
When the weather has been fine (i.e. not raining very hard) we have been enjoying Belland’s Breakfast Hash. Whereupon we fry thinly sliced potatoes with butter, paprika, salt, pepper, onions, sausage, eggs, and sometimes cheese together in two frying pans on our coleman stove. It’s very tasty, and goes good with hot coffee. We’ve started putting the tarp up whenever we cook, because it usually starts raining soon after we start chopping. There’s just enough room for all of us to stand ramrod straight shoulder to shoulder and eat furtively while the rain pounds and the wind blows. Such is the glamor of rock and roll.
We parked outside the club and made soup and hot dogs. People walked by and stared at us, but I am long past caring about what strangers think of us. These days I stare back until they drop their eyes and hurry onwards. To their warm houses with indoor plumbing and electricity.
I am losing faith. This is the sentence that pops into my mind whenever I am undistracted. I am losing faith. Not just in this tour, or this band. I am losing faith in music, in being a musician. What is the point of all this work? All of the training (and subsequent massive student loan debt), the years of my life spent alone with a piano practicing until my fingers were bruised or until I fell asleep at the keys, putting together a band, rehearsing, arranging, producing, recording, hustling for gigs, playing shows, the endless heavy lifting, scrambling for interviews, agents, promotion, marketing the band, sending out hundreds of cds and packages that get thrown in the garbage and ignored. And now, driving in the rain and cold day after day, getting sick, sleeping on a piece of plywood to receive the princely sum of $12.50 after (some) shows. I’ve been working hard at playing music for 10 years, and what do I have to show for it? Can I support myself financially from it? Nope. Do I have a place of my own? Do we sell records? Do we get paid to play shows? Does anybody listen to the songs? No. No. No. No.
Trevor, the guy who owns the Downbeat Lounge where we were playing, took us back to his house after meeting us at the club to load in and set up. We had time for showers and there was even wireless internet. Ferdy went back to the club early to hang out, even though he had a fever. Like I said, that guy has stamina. Soon enough it time to go and sit in another bar and watch drunk people interact.
The Downbeat Lounge has a very, very tiny little stage. It’s tucked into a corner right by the front door. It’s so small that Ferdy has to rock vertically in place and Keith can’t flail his arms around without taking one of us out. We played really well. It was a concentrated dose of rock and roll because we were jammed in so close together. Felt sort of like being in the van. The people were really into it, and for the first time the crowd left after we played, instead of before. There was a photographer running around taking pictures and Dan, the documentary filmmaker we met last year at the Downbeat was there filming us again.
After the show, we sold a couple of cds and collected our $40. Then we went downstairs with Dan and did another interview for his documentary. The Downbeat is closing down, so now Dan has an ending for his film. Too bad to see another live music venue in Canada bite the dust. Possibly it’s as frustrating owning a small club as it is trying to be a musician. Probably club owners do not sleep outside as often though. After a few hours of coughing on Trevor’s couch as quietly as possible so as not to wake my band and the other band crashing at his house, it was time to get up and make the drive to Sudbury.

The Feminists: Lots Of Fire And Brimstone

We arrived in Thunder Bay in late afternoon. It was pouring rain and very cold. Upon parking the van outside the club, we scattered to the four winds. Well, Grief and Zobac went to a comic book/magic card store. I wandered the rainy deserted streets and looked half-heartedly for an internet cafe. Every time I’ve been in Thunder Bay, the streets have been mostly deserted. Looks like a tough town, pretty dreary. Not a lot of trees. Or color, for that matter. I saw a some old men playing cards and spitting tobacco juice outside of a ramshackle strip of cheap hotels. A couple of teenage punk moms with babies in strollers rolled past me deep in a comparative discussion about their offsprings’ sleeping habits.
Might as well head back to the van until it was time to load in, I thought. What else was I going to do in Thunder Bay on a rainy Monday afternoon? At least in the van I could get baked and be okay with being bored. Frankly, I think that marijuana is the perfect recreational drug for the poor. For much less than the cost of a case of beer, you can buy yourself a few hours of relaxation and intense fascination with the mundane. All of a sudden it doesn’t matter that you don’t have enough money to go out. You can stare at your hands, or listen to music, or contemplate the universe. And no hangover afterward.
My carefully laid plans (load bong, smoke it, lie back and try to conjure up a positive thought) were shattered by the cheerful ring of my phone. “We’re doing a live radio interview at CILU right now”, barked Zobac,”where are you?” “Just heading back to the van”, I said, as I watched my plans for a lazy afternoon, well, go up in smoke. Grief and Zobac were in the van when I got there, Belland was nowhere to be found. There was nothing to be done about it, he’s the only one of us that doesn’t have a cellphone. We just happened to make contact with the radio station at the right moment, when they had some time for us.
Seeing as how I was the only one who wasn’t baked, (I guess the guys had the same plans for the afternoon as I did) I had to drive us to the radio station, which was right next to a graveyard. We oozed and dripped (because, of course, it was pouring rain, windy, and very cold) into a tiny house that in fact the college radio station. Within ten minutes, we were on the air discussing the band and the upcoming show with the afternoon DJ, who called himself Fabulous Dave.
We’re sort of getting better with interviews, but they’re still a novelty for us. I usually assume that every interview will be our last one and it will never happen again. Although to be fair, on this tour we have already had more media interviews than ever before. I always think of brilliant things to say after it’s all over. This time we were asked where do the songs come from – that’s a huge, mysterious, philosophical discussion right there. How do you respond that in 10 seconds or less? Answer, you don’t. In my case you sit, tongue-tied and speechless while Grief says several moderately absurd things. He doesn’t like that kind of question either. And god help anyone who asks him what the songs are about.
The show that night featured all B.C. bands, who happened to converge in Thunder Bay for one night only. There wasn’t much of a crowd as it was Monday night. We played very well. Lots of fire and brimstone, and the audience was attentive and appreciative, which of course helped us play better and better. It was good and loud. There were more screams of delight after every song, and the people demanded an encore. That’s fun. Doesn’t happen every time, but when it does it chirks us up immensely. We’ve always been the only band on the bill that gets asked for another song, and it puffs us up with a certain rock and roll arrogance to extend our set and show off, especially in front of local bands. In your face, other bands. The fucking Feminists are in your town, and your fans who have never heard us before would rather hear us play another song than listen to you. Meow. In this particular instance we played ‘Time’ by Pink Floyd, and although I butchered the intro completely, the people swayed, sang along, and actually waved their lighters. And begged for more afterward, naturally.
We sold cds afterwards and then it was bedtime. Thank god The Apollo has a band room so we got to sleep indoors. Ferdy went off to socialize with the other bands. That guy has some stamina, and he’s sick right now to boot.
Socializing after the show is an idea I like, but I find the reality too much to bear. 9 times out of 10 I’m the only gal in the room. Touring bands at this level don’t bring their girlfriends along. Most band guys get wasted afterwards, and then I feel sort of like a canary in room full of hungry cats…who are dipping heavily into the cat nip and becoming less inhibited by the second. If I don’t want to be ensnared in one drunken ‘hey baby’ conversation after another I have to stick close to my bandmates. And I’ve already spent quite enough time during the day sticking close to them in a van, and playing music with them.
This irritating situation is compounded by the fact that I’m not a drinker. I’m sure if I was I’d care a lot less about the leering and the slurring. But really, I don’t have the luxury of having a few drinks after the show… I’d be putting myself in a pretty vulnerable position. I’ve seen many drunk girls being led away giggling and staggering by some greasy band guy they just met. I often wonder how they feel the morning after, all sticky between the thighs, mascara smudged all over their face in some dirty bed that hundreds of drunken people have fucked in.
So for me it was another night of tucking myself away from everyone and hanging out quietly listening to music, knitting, and waiting to wind down enough to sleep. Of course, the evening wasn’t a total loss. I did earn $12.50 tonight from the show.

The Feminists: At Least It’s Warmer Rain Now

You know, I remember when we drove through the prairies last year. I was really amazed at how beautiful it was, oh gee, oh golly, etc etc. This time it just rained. So it was lot more boring because there was nothing to look at outside. At least it’s warmer rain now. Wow. I feel like I’m reaching to try and look at the bright side. Well, its raining again, but at least I’m not quite as cold and wet as yesterday.
Oh yes. I’m sick. I’m all hopped up on a variety of cold medicine goofballs. Getting sick while on tour has always been one of my greatest fears. What if I can’t sing? What if I collapse in a fevered delirium onto my keyboards during the intro for 21st Century Ghost? As soon as Grief got sick I knew we were done for. We’re jammed into a tiny, cold, kinda dirty metal capsule. Not enough room to avoid germs. Plus, we only brought one bong. Maybe next year we should have individual ones to prevent the spread of colds.
We got to the venue, which hadn’t changed its marquee since June 25. Not a good sign. No posters for any shows including ours anywhere. I think this is our third year of playing in Winnipeg to the sound guy and the bartender. Who were both appreciative and they gave us $50, and the sound guy gave us some of his birthday cake so I guess technically it could be worse. We were surprisingly cheerful onstage and played very well – relaxed, intense, focused, precise. The onstage sound was quite good and we called all the tunes we hadn’t played yet, which resulted in a pretty interesting set of wildly contrasting songs. Also there was a spontaneous shots section that happened during the bass breakdown in Brand New Common Sense which sounded pre-arranged, even though it had never happened before and never will again. It turned out to be one of our most effective rehearsals ever, and we got paid to do it. Still. Will we ever have a good show in Winnipeg? I keep hearing what an arts/music mecca it is, but we have yet to find the right venue to play at. Help me, people. Where should The Feminists play in Winnipeg? Why is Winnipeg unwilling to reveal herself to us? Did we do something to Winnipeg? If so, we’re sorry.
Before the show we went to a very nice little internet cafe. We live for internet cafes. It’s a wonderful thing to lose oneself in a world that is larger than a van sized tin can.
It was not raining – repeat, not raining – when we went to bed (or, in my case, went to blanket pile on plywood between two front seats) and so it was suggested that I leave the windows open a crack to reduce condensation and have fresh air. Around 4:30 am I jolted awake in utter confusion as it dawned on me that there had just been a massive amount of rain roar into the van through the drivers side open window and I was soaked, everything, all 50 layers of blankets and sleeping bags, from the knees down. I struggled to close the window and wondered what to do next. No dry blankets were available, and it was much colder in the van now that there were torrents of rain and howling winds. Resignedly, I wrung out, yes that’s right, I wrung out my bedding while sleeping outdoors during a rainstorm in the middle of the night in Winnipeg, rearranged what I could, and curled up in the tiniest ball possible in the least damp section of my bed. Why am I doing this, I thought. Why have I spent all my money to drive across three provinces to play for nobody, live in primitive conditions in horrible weather, and end up sick, soaked and freezing in the middle of the night?

The Feminists: Chock Full Of Burritos

I feel as if I ought to be trying to focus on the positive. Unfortunately right now I can’t think of what that might be. It’s pouring rain (again), freezing cold, and very windy. Today it was my turn to drive, and drive I did…I drove the van right out of gas and then we waited, in the pouring rain and freezing cold, for about an hour for BCAA to come and rescue us.
I had some time to do some thinking during that hour. The tremendous irony of the situation was breathtaking. No one is more terrified than me of running out of gas. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve said anxiously “Can we stop for gas?” “How’s the gas?” “Do we have enough gas?” and so on. Usually I am told to relax, sometimes I am ignored, often I have been mocked “Ooh, we only have half a tank left, I guess we’d better stop.” After several years of this, I tried to relax about it. Maybe I could wait until there was a quarter tank before pulling over.
So, I drove and drove and there really weren’t any gas stations. Then I passed a couple of tiny towns that were off the highway and sailed merrily past the exits. I honestly thought we were okay though, because the needle was sitting above the little picture of an empty gas tank. Imagine my surprise (horror, shock, humiliation) when the van glided gracefully to a stop about 20 km outside of North Battleford. In our van, when the needle is resting on the last marking ABOVE the empty gas tank picture, guess what, you are not almost out of gas. You are really and truly out of gas.
Now, I appreciate an opportunity to learn something as much as the next person. But why, WHY do my lessons have to be learned sitting on the side of the highway somewhere in Saskatchewan, shivering, freezing, and damp ? Mind you, I won’t ever forget what I’ve learned. Assume that you know nothing and ask questions to get the info you need. Understand that no matter how hard you try to prevent something from happening, sometimes it just happens anyway. Never critisise or judge anyone about their mistakes because someday, somehow, you will make the same mistake and will be needing compassion and forgiveness, not judgment. And finally, mistakes are inevitable when you’re dealing with human beings and most mistakes can be rectified.
Needless to say, I relinquished the drivers seat to Ferdy – I thought I’d wreaked enough havoc for one day – and after a few more hours of driving through a blinding rainstorm, we made it to the venue in Saskatoon. We were cranky, cold, damp, hungry, and tired. In fact, about the last thing I wanted to do was schlep around heavy objects in the freezing rain, lug them onto a stage, set them up, and play a rock and roll show.
We straggled into Amigos, not expecting much. As the door closed behind us, a wave of thick, heavy, beautiful warmth enveloped us…and the warmth smelled delicious…Amigos is a Mexican restaurant by day with live music at night. And we had arrived at in the middle of the dinner rush, with plenty of time to thaw out before we had to play. “I’m eating here”, Mike declared,” I don’t care about spending money”. “I’m with you”, I said and pretty soon all four of us were sitting at a table with our hands wrapped around hot mugs of coffee. It was at that moment that I felt a strange tingling sensation in my feet…what was happening…oh golly…my feet were warming up to the point where I could feel them again. I realized that I had spent the whole day with frozen feet. A rush of well-being flooded through me. I beamed lovingly at my bandmates. Everything was going to be okay! My feet were warm again! I had a moment of tender compassion for myself, for all of us. We were all good people after all. It’s just impossible to think positively with cold feet.
We stuffed ourselves to the gills with hot food and hot coffee. And then the waitress told us that bands get free food. Maybe everything didn’t totally suck after all.
We played okay, but it was kind of sluggish, not very fiery. We were all pretty exhausted (and chock full of burritos) and the audience was there to see the headliners, not us, so there was a general vibe of “when are you guys going to be done?” A few people were paying attention, more by the end of our set. I met several very nice people at the merch table afterward and we sold some cds. Then it was time to load out, in the freezing rain. We found a really classy truck stop – sorry, “travel plaza” – with showers and a Tim Hortons. I wonder if we should try and get an endorsement deal with Timmy’s. “Plucky indie rockers The Feminists have always got time for Tim Hortons” – cut to a shot of the four of us sitting bleary-eyed with sleep encrusted faces, in filthy stinking damp clothes with extra large double doubles arguing about which is better, Neil Young with Crazy Horse, or without?
Even though it was late, we all opted for showers. It would be nice to have my whole body be warm at least once that day. There would be no time in the morning, we had to get up early to make the drive to Winnipeg. We were all back at the van burrowing into nests of blankets (still raining, by the way) when Zobac clambered into the van wearing a most peculiar outfit. I looked at him with a raised eyebrow. “Well, I got out of the shower and put on my naked shorts,” he explained, (the shorts he wears when what he really wants to do is hang out in the nude, but is prevented from doing so because he is living within arms reach of three other people in a tin can. They are paper thin, long, baggy, and bright green)”and then I put on my shoes, but no socks and the laces undone because why bother, and then I put my jean jacket on with no shirt underneath”. All this coupled with his freshly shaven head apparently sparked some curious looks. “Then I had to stand in line for ten minutes to give the fucking shower key back”, he continued (by this time I was clutching my sides giggling helplessly) “with my gaunche for tomorrow resting on top of my bag of clothes for all the world to see.” Such is the glamor of rock and roll.Next stop, Winnipeg.

The Feminists: They Each Sported A Thick Plastic Breatplate

Upon rising this morning stiff and sore from “sleeping” in the van, I suggested we go to West Edmonton Mall and ride the roller coaster, after load in and sound check of course. The Feminists are responsible rockers, we always take care of business first.
We arrived in Edmonton in the early afternoon. It was pouring rain, very windy, and very cold. Perhaps I have not mentioned, it was been pouring rain, very windy, and freezing cold since Golden. I suppose this doesn’t matter too much when one lives indoors. However, when one is living in an uninsulated tin can, one notices the weather a lot more. And I’m here to tell ya: don’t go camping in a torrential downpour with gale force winds. Get a hotel room instead. That’s what I would do. I think the rain is following us. We’ve been heading east for 4 days, and it just gets colder and rainier as we go along.
So, we dutifully loaded in and I had a chance to freshen up in a lovely big empty washroom which improved my mood somewhat. I do hate performing all my cleansing rituals in public washrooms. I feel so self-conscious, even though I know no one is noticing me. At least, no one has said anything to me so far (“Do you live at this Tim Hortons?” “Not exactly, I just really love their bathroom decor”.) If I don’t cleanse, I’ll smell like the guys do and that we cannot have. I firmly believe every rock band should have at least one sweet-smelling member.
We actually had a sound check at the club in Edmonton. I guess that’s what happens when you show up at the club at 3:00 in the afternoon. I can hardly remember the last time we had a sound check. Usually we just haul our gear onstage, set it up, plug it in, and give’r. And you know what time it was after sound check, it was roller coaster time.
Upon arriving at the greatest monument to consumerism I could ever imagine, we squished and sloshed our way towards The Mindbender. I watched it go around once, and felt my bravery and resolve melt away. Then Belland strode purposefully towards the ticket counter and bought enough tokens for two people. “Who’s going with me?” he challenged. “I’ll fucking go with you on that fucking rollercoaster,” Grief growled. Sometimes his profanity button gets stuck when there’s something to prove. “Okay, okay, I’m going too”, I mumbled weakly as I forced myself to purchase a handful of tickets. Mike was very smart, he elected to stay safely on the ground. We went on the Mindbender together some years ago, and I guess once was enough for him.
As we creaked and groaned towards to top of the track, I closed my eyes and kept them closed for most of the ride. I squealed and shrieked like a greased piglet the whole time . By the way, I was the only screamer on board. Ferdy bought the picture of us whizzing across the finish line. All of us have our teeth clenched, hair blown straight back, and expressions of wild-eyed satisfaction. It’s quite a bold statement, really. I’m thinking album cover…but we’ll have to photoshop Mike in first.
I staggered about in an unsteady haze of relief – after all, I had just cheated death or so my adrenalin gland thought – when what to our wondering eyes should appear but a red neon sign hung over a looming black cave proclaiming ‘Lazer Tag’. We headed down a curving hallway that ended in a large plate glass window overlooking a maze of obstacles fashioned to resemble the jagged interior of a cave, barely illuminated under black light. Moody orchestral music swelled and crested over the loudspeakers. The guys were practically hopping with excitement. “Let’s go, let’s go” they gabbled to one another.
Never in my life have I witnessed anything as gut-splittingly hilarious as Grief, Zobac and Belland running around with laser guns in the dark stalking and shooting and yelling at each other, as happy and joyful as any pack of 12-year-olds. Usually I watch them play video games – this time they were the video game! They each sported a plastic breastplate with laser sensors and carried a big black plastic laser gun shaped like, I dunno, some sort of rifle or machine gun or similar instrument of destruction. Grief darted around swiftly, silently, his willowy form flashing across the floor as he ambushed Zobac and Belland over and over. Mike and Ferdy spent a lot of time shooting each other at point blank range repeatedly while gasping out profane insults between laughing fits. Through it all, the glorious music of battle pounded relentlessly.
Technically, they are grown men although frankly it often seems to me that only their physical bodies have achieved adulthood. But you know, it’s that spontoniety and lack of self-consciousness that I find most endearing about them. These very traits are essential in the making of great music. If these guys were square and boring the band wouldn’t sound very exciting. And it’s important for intense little worrywarts such as myself to hang out with this kind of nuttiness. It unkinks me somewhat and forces me to “relax and enjoy”. At least, that’s what I tell myself through gritted teeth when they’re cracking up at the same testicle joke for the millionth time.
On a whim, we dashed into an electronics store on our way out of the mall to see if we could acquire some floppy disks that I needed to download some keyboard resets onto. Fortunately they had one remaining box of disks. Then the sales guy said we could download our data there in the store which seemed like a good timesaving idea. Half an hour later we were still standing in front of a computer terminal trying to complete the download (a process that went a lot quicker after we decided to read the instructions) while Grief and Mike tried to ignore the salesman as he said helpful things like
“Wanna heat the most annoying sound in the world?”
A long awkward silence ensued while I thought of a dozen rude responses and then he showed us his cell phone ring. Not even the ring he usually uses, although that would have been bad enough. Just one of his favorite rings in his phone. It was a dog whistle, incidentally, tuned just low enough that human ears could discern it. It burned through my auditory canals while I silently asked myself how exactly did I end up here, in Edmonton, listening to squealing feedback from this hateful little man’s phone.
Thankfully it was time to head back to the venue. It was still pouring rain, windy, and very cold. An hour before the show was due to start the place was starting to fill up with people.
We played well, albeit somewhat cautiously, on a huge stage with crystal clear onstage sound. The audience was far away from the stage though, sitting at tables towards the back of the club so it felt like we were playing into a big energy-sucking vortex…but it was still pretty good and we debuted a new song. Afterwards we met some nice people at the merch table, and the manager told us he’d like to have us play there again. Yay team.
After the show we were supposed to crash at someone’s house from the band we opened for. But they stuck around in the bar afterward and got so hammered that we eventually just gave up and went to a truck stop for another van sleep. Still raining, windy, and cold. My throat is sore.

The Feminists: Road Noodles

Today we had our first meal of road noodles. Now Mike feels like he’s really on tour…something about making spaghetti on a 2 burner propane stove brings out the nomad in him. Our combined efforts produced a delightful meal of sauce and pasta, which we consumed in the parking lot behind The Vat, the venue we were playing at in Red Deer. And by the way, it was a fucking freezing picnic. The wind howled, the rain lashed. Grief and I took turns trying desperately to warm our hands before the (tiny) cheerful blue flame of the stove. Then it was time to do the dishes with (of course) freezing cold water. Nothing like dunking your hands in a pot of cold water on a freezing cold day, I always say. Builds character. I marched into the club past all the grizzled old men playing pool and filled our water flasks with hot water from the washroom so that Ferdy wouldn’t freeze off his bass playing fingers before the show. By the time we finished our fabulous al fresco dining experience, it was time to load in. Then it was time for me to hang out in the van and listen to Marvin Gaye for a couple of hours – which would have been pretty much an ideal way to while away an evening …probably an indoors experience would have been slightly LESS FREEZING, though.
Eventually it was time to head inside and get ready to play. Well, the guys headed inside while the bouncer insisted I go and get my i.d. “I’m playing tonight” I said, thinking that this would save me from making another trip back to the van. “Then you can just go and get your i.d. and I won’t bother you for the rest of the night” he replied smugly, bulging arms crossed across his chest, planted firmly in the doorway. Okay, fine. I think I forgot something in the van anyway.
Upon successfully gaining entry into the Vat, I looked around at the crowd and thought “is this an all ages show”? until I saw all the teenagers lined up at the bar buying booze, and then I was just confused. Until I remembered that the drinking age in Alberta is 18. And then I just felt old. Since when do 18-year-olds look like kids?
The Vat is a very cool venue. It was a long narrow room with a big stage at one end and the bar at the other, and it was packed with young passionate music fans. Monty at the soundboard was a total pro and the onstage sound for us was clear and balanced, which of course meant that we played pretty damn good. There was a crowd gathered right in front of the stage as we played, and the audience was very generous to us, considering they’d never heard of us before.
But I was wrong about that. After the show a lovely girl came up to us and told us she was from Vancouver and had heard us before. Definitely a first for us, to be playing hundreds of miles away from home and have someone in the audience who was previously aware of our existence. There was also a rather enthusiastic gentleman who told Grief and I that he’d like to take all four of us home, make sweet love to us all night long and feed us breakfast in the morning. If there could have been a way to get the breakfast without the lovemaking, we would have been saved from our first night of sleeping in the van.
The frontman of band that played after us had the misfortune to make a joke about feminists (“How many feminists does it take to change a light bulb? None, because feminists can’t change anything”.) To my great delight, there was a pack of teenage girls at the front of the stage who booed him continually and very loudly. To the point where he had to laugh nervously and say “Just kidding”. I love the ‘just kidding’ type of chauvinist. That’s the kind of guy who who expresses his insecurites about his own masculinity (maybe I’m not as smart and good-looking and skilled as all these women around me) passively through mean-spirited jokes. It’s a pretty safe way to say nasty things about women – unless the targeted females boo and hiss or otherwise demonstrate their disgust – then it’s, hey, just kidding, we’re all friends here aren’t we? I’d like to think that guy completely destroyed his chances of getting some action that night. Public humiliation is not a turn on for most gals. Too bad, fella. All those girls were really cute.
We slept in the van that night. It rained all night and everything was cold and damp the next morning. I changed into less damp clothes in a Tim Hortons washroom. Such is the glamor of rock and roll. Grief is sick with a cold. Soon we will all have it. Onwards to Edmonton.

The Feminists: A Higher Plane Of Existence

Flushed with a cautious triumph after the unexpectedly smashing show at the Lamplighter, we knew we had to be realistic about the Golden show. The venue had been changed at the last minute, it was a Monday night, and the 5th anniversary of Sept 11. The show was now going to be at a club where we had played four times before…to a completely empty bar, with a DIY soundboard and PA.
We arrived in Golden with plenty of time to load in and check into our rooms. The shows haven’t been great in Golden, but we have had the luxury of two free hotel rooms every time we’ve played there. This time we were playing with another band, a first for Golden for us. Usually we just play three hours of originals and covers for the bartender and waitresses and then go to bed.
The good news started as a trickle. Good news, we were going first before the local band so at least we would get to play for their crowd. Good news, we could play one long set and the other band would play until last call. Good news, I played my first games of fooz ball against Mike and Grief and managed to not humiliate myself.
Good news, the bar was filling up with people and it was time to play. We played a good solid hour of new songs and older ones we haven’t called in a long time and everything sounded pretty darn good. More people gathered while we played and screamed appreciatively after every song. It was very fun to watch how the increasing attention from the crowd ignited the guys. Ferdy had his teeth clenched for a lot of it. That’s how I can tell hes really getting into it. Grief did a lot of swiveling from the waist, generally a good sign. As usual Mike Zobac drove the band with a firm hand. Well, Ferdy didn’t give him much of a choice. His pulse was fierce and undeniable. Afterward we sold a lot of merch. Lots of people came up to talk to us and tell us how awesome we were. On off-duty waitress bought us a round of shots which we pounded back in unison. And we got paid from the bar. Enough to get us to the next show in Red Deer.
A lot of this good news was made possible by Disasterman, the local band we opened for. They brought out a good crowd of enthusiastic, good-looking people. They also saved the show by moving it when the original venue got shut down. All praise to Disasterman and the good people of Golden, easily one of the best crowds we’ve ever played for.
Ferdy and I were discussing this inexplicable change of fortune while we were busy doing brisk business at the merch table. We’ve played the exact same club four times before and it was equally sad and empty every other time. Perhaps we have increased our collective vibrations to attain a higher plane of existence and have broken into the next level of shows…the kind where we don’t have to worry about money and can just enjoy playing the songs, you know, focus on the music, like musicians are supposed to do. That’s sort of what I had in mind when I decided to do music full time. I was so innocent and naive, though. I thought that I would play music all the time as a musician. Little did I know that most of my time would be spent scrambling for gigs that paid enough to cover rent and groceries, and that being a musician would basically just suck all my time and money and passion into a deep black hole, never to return.
After two very fun, good sounding shows I can feel the icy bitterness that has enveloped my soul and thwarted my enjoyment of playing music for the past year or so start to soften and melt the tiniest little bit. I have no expectations for the the Red Deer show. I’m just looking forward to playing songs as loud as possible in front of people.

The Feminists: Reversal Of Fortune

This was a strange, action-packed day. Before it was time to play I taught some piano lessons, just like I normally do on Friday afternoons. Then after dinner it was off to load in at The Lamplighter. And then, I could return to the comfort of my own home for a couple of hours before it was time to rock. If only I could do that for all the other shows too. I suspect it would vastly improve my outlook.
We have played very few local shows this summer…the last one was a dead Wednesday night in July at The Cobalt, where all the other bands played loud heavy thick hardcore speed metal (and sounded great, I might add), and then we played our happy-sounding power pop which kinda sounded to me like The Muppets had crashed a Black Sabbath house party. During the third song of the set Ferdy accidentally yanked out the cable of my Korg with a particularly energetic Viking stomp and I was rendered mute until I finally managed to find the cable in question, crawling onstage picking through a massive nest of tangled patch cords, while the band played gaily on. That was a fun night. Then there was the Syd Barrett Tribute night also at The Lamplighter in August, but we only played three songs (three fucking fantastic Pink Floyd songs) so it didn’t really feel like a show. That was the night I got an emergency phone call at home breathlessly advising us that the order of performers had changed and we would be on within 30 minutes instead of two and a half hours. I dutifully rounded up Grief and Mike and we sped down to the club to meet Ferdy. Whereupon we found him playing solo bass and singing Sid Barrett songs. And then the order changed again, and we sat around for the next three and a half hours waiting to play. That was a fun night too.
Where was I? Oh yes, tour show at The Lamplighter. Morale was quite low after the Victoria debacle. We were expecting nothing except maybe a kick in the teeth. At least we were playing with some of my favorite Vancouver bands, Parlour Steps and Cinderpop.
I arrived just as the first opening band was starting, and there were people in the bar already, a hopeful sign. I thought that perhaps everyone would leave before we went on, but there were even more people when we went on around 11:30. We played a lot of the new songs that will be on the next album. We played a lot of old songs too. They all went well, and our drummer had a shiny new bass drum head. Thus the full glory of the Double Kick was restored and Zobac overwhelmed our senses with his Feet Of Thunder. It was so gratifying to look out over a sea of faces that were turned our way. People clapped and yelled and whooped and soon there was a little pool of dancers that had gathered in front of the stage. The crowd was just so energetic and appreciative – it makes such a difference to play for people who are actually listening. We got paid (!) more than enough to get to the next show in Golden. Lots of people came up to us and said nice things. It was a complete reversal of fortune compared to the night before.
And I got to sleep in my own bed.

The Feminists: Dispatches From The Trenches Of Indie Rock

Sweet Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. How did it come to this so soon? I remember so well the days of idly pondering tour season, and thinking very abstractedly about being on the road again. And now, a month later, here we are. The first show of a six week national tour (that’s 42 days in the van) with about 30 shows stretching from Victoria to Montreal and back.
I must say, this particular tour seems more fraught with peril than the last one. We are treading a very thin financial line this time around. The van cost us thousands of dollars to repair (nothing cosmetic, just what needed to be done so we wouldn’t die in a flaming wreck on the trans-canada), resulting in the sobering reality that none of us have any cash reserves to take with us. This sorrowful fact, combined with the anxiety of not knowing if we are going to get paid for any of the upcoming shows, or if we will sell any merch, has actually caused me to awaken in the middle of the night sitting bolt upright in bed with clammy palms more than once over the past month.
What brand of craziness is this? I mean really, what kind of people take an unpaid leave from their jobs, spend all of their money just before they depart on a six week driving tour of Canada with no idea if there will be any money for gas, food, or shelter for the duration of their entire journey? And also, they will have to work at a somewhat demanding job almost every night, possibly for free. Crazy people, that’s who. Nutty little nutcases.
We played the first show of the tour in Victoria. While driving to the ferry, it was discovered that the Magic cards had been forgotten. Or rather, Someone was supposed to put them in with the gear but No One ended up doing it. A grumpy pall settled over the van. Then Grief and I had to stuff ourselves into the bunk and get buried under eighty pounds of blankets on a sweltering afternoon so we could save ourselves a few bucks and pay for two passengers on the ferry instead of four. We always get ordered to hide because we’re skinny and can be easily stashed. Mike and Ferdy are way bigger than us…if they tell us to hide, goddammit, we hide.
Soon enough I am settled into a nice aisle seat to begin contemplating the ocean whilst I knit a fuzzy scarf. Alarmingly domestic, no? Grief and Mike are hanging around at loose ends…usually they ignore me on the ferry, as they are busy playing Magic. But this time, it looks like they might be desperate enough to stick around and make conversation. Just as Mike is about to start complaining about how bored he is, I offer to let him watch a South Park DVD on my laptop. Crisis averted; conversation avoided. Grief reluctantly takes out his gameboy and starts playing. Ferdy sits calmly and reads from the bag of old newspapers he has brought along to catch up on.
We get to the venue about 4 hours early. I knit and knit until my scarf can be wrapped around my whole body at least three times. There’s no place to go, either sit in the van or sit in the bar where as usual the horrible house music is cranked up to an obscenely loud intensity for no apparent reason. There’s nobody in the bar yet, and the people that are here are trying to have dinner in the pub, taking bites in between screaming at each other trying to make themselves heard over the “music”. How can the staff stand it? I wonder. Do they just tune it out after awhile? I think it’s really terrible to have music blaring at an overwhelming level (i.e. drowning out conversation) unless everyone is willing and able to focus on it exclusively. Why do people think they’re having a good time when they have to yell blue-faced at someone right in front of them to communicate?
The hours crawl by until finally it’s time to play. Unfortunately, there’s still no one in the bar. Oh wait, there were two people (plus the other band) but they were on the guestlist. We haven’t played a totally dead show for a long time, but the sting of humiliation was as powerful as it was familiar.
The first song was okay. About bar 3 of the second song Because Why, the kick drum part disappeared. Very problematic, as it’s just Mike and I for the intro. Then the kick sort of came back but it was seriously fucked up. I lose beat one, and now it’s Ferdy’s turn to come in and he really needs to know where beat one is. He guesses where it is, but then Mike plays something completely incomprehensible and we all lose beat one again and now we have three different versions of where it might be. Now it’s Grief’s turn to come in with the vocals, after loping in with his guitar part that laid down the fourth and final version of beat one. I’m wondering when or if he’ll come in – I certainly don’t envy him, everything will be even more fucked if we don’t follow him but the question is, does he have enough nerve to lay it down confidently and lead the way?
Ah, sort of. Now were sort of gallumph-ing along like a wounded elephant and I am just livid, absolutely furious with Mike for fucking everything up so badly almost beyond repair. The closest we’ve come to a genuine train wreck in a very long time. We limp to the finish line and I’m thinking about how much I want to just go home and forget this stupid tour. Right after I throttle the drummer.
“My bass drum head broke”, Mike tells us as soon as the song is over. What? “I can only play bass drum with my left foot tonight”, he adds. Huh. The right beater of his double kick pedal smashed through the bass drum head at the beginning of the second song. He had to play the left beater of the double kick against the remainder of the drum head. And he’s not left-footed. The left foot usually plays the high hats. So everything was screwed up. I felt quite sheepish for being so mad, but I’m really not very capable of rational thought during the heat of battle. I want everyone to play as perfectly as possible and sound amazingly good onstage and I get really (irrationally) mad when it doesn’t happen. We were able to play eight songs before Mike’s leg began to spasm. You can’t really blame him, it would have been like me having to play all my solos with just my left hand…possible, but not very pretty.
Actually, Ferdy and Grief and I were very impressed the Mike pulled it off as well as he did. He only started rehearsing with us with the double kick maybe three weeks ago. And it was only because he had his double kick with him that we were able to play the show at all.
Needless to say, we did not get paid. We loaded our gear into the van and went to crash at Cory’s house. Cory is a very generous friend of Ferdy’s. The other band was staying there too. As usual, I was the only gal in a room full of rock and testosterone. After a half hour of observing a gaggle of drunken human males in their natural habitat, I went to bed. Where I could follow along with the conversation just fine as the volume continued to rise while the beer continued to flow.
The next morning, we filled the gas tank and took the ferry back to Vancouver. Overall it cost us $70 to play in an empty bar in Victoria. Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be musicians. Let them be doctors and lawyers and such, but break their fingers if they pick up a guitar.

The Feminists: Tour Season

Well, I guess there’s lots of stuff going on these days with the band. As you can see, we have a few shows coming up. You may also notice that these shows are scattered across several provinces…which can only mean one thing – it’s tour season!

Ever since Ferdy explained to me that indie rock follows a seasonal pattern, much like seafaring or farming I have looked forward to tour season. And so it approaches. Soon we will all be crammed into a van for seven full weeks. Hm. I’d like to retract what I said earlier about looking forward to tour season. I think I meant, here it comes; I wonder if it will kill me or make me stronger?

I don’t mean to complain…I am truly looking forward to playing the shows and watching how the songs tighten up and arrange themselves as we play the crap out of them to the exclusion of practically all other things. It is really fun to be in the rock and roll laboratory and experiment for weeks on end. And this time around, I have my laptop. My sweet, beautiful laptop. She will save me from ever having to listen to another series of monologues about guitars and all their accessories ever again. Also, I learned how to knit. I have found that this is by far the best way to wait patiently for a sound check. Well, I can’t get wasted before I play (believe me) so it’s knitting or bitching. And frankly, I think the knitting will get me into less trouble.

So, yes. We’re going on tour. For the love of God and all that is decent and pure, please come out to see us play when we come to your town. We’re taking a very long unpaid break from our day jobs to do this and we are throwing our fortunes into the wind…will we get paid for any of the shows? Will we sell any merch? Will the price of gas shoot up to $5.00 a litre, stranding us forever in Wawa, Ont.? Will we be able to afford to eat every single day? Who are the people we know well enough to ask for emergency cash infusions?

That’s all part of the fun, though. Not knowing what will become of us – will it be an exciting adventure or an unmitigated disaster?

We’ve got a new video for your viewing pleasure. Our pal Stokely threw a little something together for Hello Toronto. Go to the video section on our website and click on “what is spacey cat?” to view. Also, there is a movie called Sweet Easy that will be broadcast on CMT on Aug 18 (so they tell me).

Apparently this short film uses songs from our record Anything You Can Do. I’m kind of curious about this. No idea what the film is about, haven’t seen it. Hope it isn’t pornographic (probably not, if it’s on CMT) or woman hating. That would be awkward, wouldn’t it?

And, we have been in to studio recording new songs. Two of the new songs from our upcoming third (or fourth, depending on who you talk to) full length record are posted on our website. After we get back from tour, we’ll be hustling into the studio to bring forth a menacing, loud, distorted collection of thoughtfully reflective songs. Hopefully you will feel as angry listening to the new songs as I do when I’m playing them. And I mean that in the best possible way.

The Feminists: Could Be A Coincidence

A few weeks ago Beland and Grief picked me up for rehearsal and were bursting at the seams to divulge “important Femcorp business” that they refused to elaborate on. They were mumbling about vengeance and outrage and generally it was all very mysterious and my curiosity was completely piqued.
“What’s going on?” I asked innocently as we bumped along in the gray mare en route to retrieve Mike from work. “Why won’t you guys tell me?” My imagination was already overheating. Were we finally being rescued from the indignity of day jobs? Was there a wealthy investor who had finally realized all they wanted to do with their millions was finance a scrappy little rock band but still leave us with 100% creative control? Perhaps we would be featured as Band Of The Year in Time magazine?
“Look, we’ll just show you”, was all they would say. Grief pressed something flat and square into my hand. I looked down. It was a cd.
“Why-” I started to say and then realized. Staring back at me was…our album cover for “She Could Be”. Except it wasn’t our cd. It was another band’s cd, released six months after ours, with the same photo on the front cover. The same photo that Grief and I had so painstakingly hunted for and researched so thoroughly…the one that was deeply buried in the U.S. National Archives, the one we looked through about 10 000 photos to find. Mind you, the background had been removed and the colors changed. But there was no mistaking it.
“How did this happen”, I finally managed to sputter. Well. How indeed.
This is how. Well, this is our theory anyway.
We sent three copies of our record to Maplemusic. You know, Maplemusic. Big Canadian ‘indie’ record label, Toronto office, lotsa big names, etc., etc. After a short volley of e-mails and conversations, Maplemusic told us to go away. Not interested in our music, apparently.
But quite interested in our graphic design and packaging. Here was a brand new release, from Maplemusic, with a cover that looked suspiciously similar to our own. And looky here, the same A&R guy that blew off The Fems is listed in their thank-yous. Could be a coincidence. Or maybe when it came time to design the packaging for this other band, our A&R friend at Maplemusic sifted through a box of rejected cd’s, held “She Could Be” aloft and said “this cover is great, let’s just use this. Who the fuck are The Feminists?”
And then Maplemusic, because they care about promoting their artists, sent out this new release to music writers across the country to review. These writers included one Ferdy Belland, who writes for the Nerve magazine. So this album that ripped off our record cover was sent in the mail right to Ferdy, who showed it to Grief, who showed it to me.
On one hand, it was strangely gratifying to know that some of our ideas are good enough to be stolen. On the other hand, it was depressing to think that it was our graphic design that was good enough and not the music.
We picked up Mike. “Here”, I said and handed him the cd. “What am I looking at- MOTHERFUCKER!” he yelled. “Where did this come from?” We brought him up to speed.
It’s not like this is a great tragedy or anything. It’s just kind of demoralizing. We take great collective pride in being a DIY band. We like to do everything we can ourselves. We’re control freaks and we like making stuff with no one looking over our shoulders. This self-sufficiency has evolved as we have gradually woken up to the fact that no one is going to help our band do anything. So we work, very fucking hard, with very little resources, to push the band forward as best we can. And it’s irritating in the extreme to watch some very big record label with an embarrassment of resources casually swoop down and snatch one of our good ideas (in this case a labor-intensive research project), slap it on somebody elses’s record and promote the bejezus out of it.
We thought long and hard about our record cover and we deliberately chose something that expressed the mood of the album and included a fricking essay about the history of the picture and its taker. Maybe the picture had some sort of resonance for this other band too. Anything’s possible. You’d think if it was incredibly meaningful they would have included a photo credit. Or an essay. And that irritates me further…the fact that it was probably just a quick, casual decision that meant nothing.
Ah well. We’re back in the studio recording the next record. We may send the template for the new cover to Maplemusic and ask them if they’d like first dibs.

The Feminists: Wood Shrapnel Flying Everywhere

I am lounging in a hard-backed chair with my feet propped up on a dirty windowsill facing the late afternoon sun. A cool breeze drifts across my neck, and sleeping Mike Zobac sighs and turns over on his hostel bunk. Almost nothing brings that boy more pleasure than a solid afternoon nap. I am reading Ferdy’s newly purchased Time magazine and soaking in the peace and quiet before it’s time to go get rowdy for the people. Grief has disappeared into the washroom. He takes an awful long time to lock the door, endlessly jiggling the knob around to the point where my reading is interrupted and I glance up in irritation.
“Huh,” I think to myself. “There’s no knob on this side of the bathroom door”. I slide back into the absorbing world of literary delights. I am almost focused once more on the page at hand when I hear “oh, that’s funny”. Not really clear, mind. It was a little muffled from behind the bathroom door.
Click, rattle, shake shake went the doorknob.
“Oh, that’s funny”, I heard, a little louder. I got up and approached cautiously. “Are you stuck?”, I asked. “Oh, that’s funny”, Grief said again, even louder, with increased activity at the doorknob. Shake-shake-shake, rattle rattle. ” I’ll go downstairs and get the the key from the bar”, I said.
“Stand back!”
“What? Are you going to break down the door?” I asked, impressed with his estimation of his own strength and wishing there were more people in the room to be entertained like this.
“Stand back!”, more urgently. As in, ‘stand back, little lady’, I thought with amusement as I took a couple of steps backwards.
“CRASH!” there was a huge sound and splintering of wood. Mikes eyes flew wide open. He groped for his glasses.
“CRACK!” an even louder sound, wood shrapnel flying everywhere, and Grief traveling with great momentum towards me.
I stepped neatly out of the way and he staggered around a little and slid to a stop. “Wow”, I said. “That was an action movie moment for me”.
He nodded modestly and rubbed his shoulder.
Boys are very strange sometimes, I think. I would have just waited the extra five minutes for someone to come and take apart the door so I could stroll out casually and make some wisecrack and we would all calmly go on with our lives. But perhaps your average male is more likely to think he should just bust through the door like Rambo. It’s funny to me.
Mike sat up on his bunk. “Game ‘o’ cards, Grief?” he asked sleepily. “Sure” said Grief as he picked his way through the wood splinters on the floor to get his cards and set them up.
Thus time passes in the glamorous life of rock and roll. This is what it’s like to spend a lot of time in small spaces with the same people. Moments of complete absurdity that cannot be experienced if one has the same unvarying routine every day. When there is no daily pattern and every moment is freshly unfamiliar…that’s when the conditions are right for absurdly surreal moments that make everyday life a lot more fun.
This is what I say at my better moments, when I’m not sitting in the van and quietly seething as I contemplate how very much I hate them all. One of my favorite episodes of South Park is the civil war one where Cartman’s always saying “I hate you guys…so very very much” and it’s my favorite line in that episode, I love hearing the poisonous, maniacal way Cartman says it because it strikes a chord of deep recognition in me.
“That’s exactly how I feel when we’re on tour” I always think, on matter how many times I’ve seen it. So, there are good days and bad days I guess is the point of that whole meandering ramble.
What I do like about the short weekend rock missions is that there’s enough time to have a lot of fun and not quite enough time to get outraged. It was okay to go back to work the next day, and nice to know we have a few of these weekend side trips coming up.

The Feminists: Railway Club, Post Show Analysis

It’s awfully late. 2:35 am as I start this entry. We played a show tonight at the Railway. It always takes me many hours to wind down after playing a show no matter how tired I am. I’m too restless for tv, and so here I sit tappity-tapping.
I’m in a total daze of post-show afterglow. It’s probably a good thing that every show isn’t like this one. I don’t think I’d get much done. I feel a little weird comparing playing rock and roll to sex, but it’s the only thing that comes close. A lot of the symptoms are the same. I get to do it with people I love, that helps.
I’m at the point now where I can’t really play music casually with people anymore. I guess I’ve grown up a little. I want meaning, connection, chemistry, trust. Not just a one night stand.
The exhibitionary aspect of performing live is so exciting. I would never have sex in front of people…but I fucking love playing in this band in front of people. We can feel it when people start paying attention to us, when the conversations start to die down and it stays a bit quiet between songs. At that point, some kind of excitement takes hold of the four of us together and it’s like we all kind of burst into flames. This prompts the audience to pay more attention, which spirals it up to another level for us, and the whole beautiful reciprocal cycle just builds and builds. The thing that makes me so happy is that we don’t lose control and play sloppy when we’re vibrating off the energy of the audience…we play more effortlessly, we listen to each other more intently.
The last few days have been hard for me and K and Ferdy. Mike never seems to have a bad day and is always funny and relaxed and calm. But last night even he was in a bad mood because he had forgotten his drum sticks and had to go back to our office (jam space) to get them, thereby interrupting another band’s recording session – extremely bad musician etiquette. Upon returning to the club, he realized that he didn’t have his cymbal bag, and had to go to the van parked miles away to see if they were in there. They weren’t . No Mike Zobac cymbals tonight. So he was in a bad mood like the rest of us. It’s very rare that all four of us are in bad moods before a show.
This past week life seemed to be evolving at a breakneck pace that I could hardly hardly keep up with. It was like that for Ferdy and Grief too. All this uncertainty is where the best art, the best playing, the best connection between the four of us comes from. I didn’t particularly want to play tonight, I wanted to stay home and contemplate the abyss. I know K. wasn’t too excited either to play, but Ferdy, who has had without question the most difficult time of us all this week, was raring to go. He realized that playing together would be just the thing to remind us that there’s some contentment left in the world – not just cruel, random, gut-wrenchingly painful events that turn one’s life instantly into something unrecognizable.
After a long taxi down the runway for the first two songs, we took off gracefully and climbed steadily. From the first note of my first solo, I grinned helplessly, relaxed utterly.
When everything clicks and I can just sit back and enjoy the show, I have the best seat in the house. As I cannot attach the keyboards to my body with a strap and cavort merrily about the stage while playing, I am in a perfect position to observe Ferdy and Grief run around and it doth bring me great joy. Mike is also fun to watch behind the drums, especially when the sweat runs burning into his eyes and he grimaces fearsomely.
It is an amazing thing to push the band to the nth degree of intensity during my solos. I throw out a spark, they catch it, and off we go. K can do this too with his guitar solos, and it’s equally satisfying to be pulled along on the ride as it is to be in the drivers seat.
And the sound of it all… I would imagine it’s sort of like standing in a hurricane. Except it sounds better (usually). I’ve played in orchestras, and it’s pretty awesome to be in the middle of 165 people making organized noise at the same time. But it can’t compare to the intensity of creating an enormous wave of distortion and power with these particular musicians. I love rock and roll so much. I love how loud and dirty it is, I love how it gets people off, I love to hear and feel the drums pounding out the pulse of the song, I love to hear and feel the low throb of the bass, I love to hear Grief’s guitar cut through everything like a diamond scratching on stone, with sparks flying everywhere. Sparks are a big thing for me when I play music. I see them, I hear them.
Fortunately for me, all the guys in this band are completely compelling to watch while they rock out onstage. Ferdy Belland stomps around the stage like a viking. I often tease him about his Viking Stomp. If you’ve ever talked to Ferdy in person you know he has extremely piecing, very intense eyes. Also he has a strong physical presence. He wields his bass like a viking sword and stomps around for every song while he pounds out groovy lines and fills and runs and glares at Mike behind the drum kit with great determination. A thousand years ago under different cultural expectations, I’m totally convinced that Ferdy would be navigating some huge viking ship on a mission to circumnavigate the globe and pillage along the way. He embodies a very wonderful combination a man equal parts rock and roll, and viking. A Rock-Viking Hybrid, if you will.
Mike Zobac on the drums is easily one of the best rock drummers in the city, which naturally follows then he’s among the best in Canada, because Vancouver is Canada’s third biggest city after all. He is essentially the band’s musical director because he has so much power over us all and can change the sound of a song so drastically depending on what he alone plays. That’s why it was a big deal to know we wouldn’t be hearing his cymbals during the set. Everything was going to sound completely different than what were used to, which is always a fascinating element of risk in a live performance
However, Mike played very excellently. It’s a rare show that he doesn’t. He had some great moments of technical wizardry. It’s so impressive to watch a good drummer execute a flurry of tricks with all of their limbs at the same time, and each limb is doing something totally different. At a high rate of speed, while keeping the beat steady, and with a sense of melody and musicality, not just a soulless display of military exercises. He can do all of that at the same time! It’s really quite ridiculous. I challenge you to do ANYTHING where you operate all four limbs independently of one another. Now put it to music and see how that is for you.
Grief was in fine form tonight. I forgot how it is to play in the summer and how much fun it is to watch the rock sweat fly off him as he flails around. He had a good night vocally. When he’s on, it’s a beautiful thing to hear how exactly he wanted those melodies to sound. His voice is so versatile. He can go from Ben Folds to punk scream of evil in one breath. He appears to listen to the perfect blend of influences that have created a completely unique melodic sense that is completely familiar to you the very first time you hear it.
You know what people say to us all the time? Great songs! Wow, those songs are great. Your guy’s songs are awesome, etc., etc. That’s all K. He writes the songs. We just play ’em. I used to be jealous that people didn’t say, ‘wow great keyboard parts’ (I used to be self centered and petty) or ‘hey, you guys sound awesome’, or even ‘that’s good music’. But now I’m just happy that K. is getting the recognition for his writing abilities that he so richly deserves, and I say this sincerely. You would be hard pressed to find many writers of a similar caliber as young as K. He’s been singlemindedly devoted to his craft for many years. Unwavering perseverance is in my opinion an essential element of being a great artist.
He also plays a wickedly cool-looking guitar that sounds incredible and provides the entire top end of the band. He’s basically in charge of the treble register and is always cranking out clear and piercing rhythm parts. And he can compose and improvise some very evil solos. But I think it’s the artistic qualities of his writing that are his most impressive gift.
Grief was the first person to help me see a clear dividing line between poetry and songwriting. I guess he was the one who showed me that songwriting is a completely unique kind of writing, like Haiku. It has nothing to do with poetry, although the two styles share many of the same elements. It also has nothing to do with music, which surprised me at first but now makes sense. K. will be continually producing better and better writing for the rest of his life in a personal style that is unique to him. What a cool thing it is to work all the time with a young, healthy, blossoming artist who is actively engaged in his craft night and day.
Okay, now I’m tired. It’s after 4 now and I’m off to collapse. Hopefully our next show will be crappier so I won’t have anything to write about and can get to bed earlier.

The Feminists: Our First Modeling Gig

About three weeks ago, Belland forwarded us a little e-mail that indicated that The Feminists would be participating in our first magazine photo shoot. Surprisingly, this shoot had nothing to do with music, it was about fashion. Supposedly rock and roll fashion, but fashion nonetheless.
The next day, as I was blissfully ensconced in a calm bubble of serenity, reading a fresh new book and halfway through a cup of coffee the size of my head, “my” stylist called me to discuss the upcoming shoot. Of all the sentences that I never thought I would write, eh? Well, she just wanted to know my size and “what kind of look” I had in mind.
I consider myself to be a relatively well-rounded individual with thoughtful opinions on a lot of topics. It was at this moment that I realized that my expertise is non-existent in certain areas. For starters, I don’t know what size I am. “Uh, I don’t really know what you mean,” I whispered, trying not to disturb the other coffee drinkers. I guess I’m not tremendously confident in my looks or my body so I kind of avoid thinking about that stuff.
If you, like me, have a small frame and a flat tummy you also have straight hips, (no curve), and a tiny little booty (no curve) and tiny little breasts (no curve). I’m just saying, skinny gals in their natural state don’t really have the womanly attributes that are considered desirable and attractive. The skinny women that get breast implants, they’re the ones that make problems for everyone. Their bodies are unnatural, as in not found in nature. I believe this type of disclaimer should be included in any and all instances where these unnatural bodies are displayed, like the warnings on cigarettes. Warning: This body is surgically and digitally altered. Prolonged gazing will destroy your self-esteem. Do not attempt this body at home.
I think most men understand that women’s bodies are often not presented to them in their natural state. Apparently this fact matters very little to many of them, and a lot of women take this indifference as approval and encouragement to keep dieting, exercising, grooming, maintaining. You gotta maintain. Maintenance is the key, and that’s where the exhaustion comes in. But really, women could get away with doing a lot less to themselves in the name of beauty guys frequently don’t notice most of the stuff we do anyway. Only other women masterfully ensnared by the fashion and beauty industry are checking to see if all the “rules” are being followed.
I also think there are a lot of decent guys who prefer a woman’s natural beauty but don’t know how say this without getting into serious trouble. Many women are irrationally oversensitive about comments regarding their appearance, and with good reason. Appearance is still a woman’s main social currency, even after a hundred years of feminism. It’s hard to explain to a guy how much appearance matters because it’s not an issue for him. You can see beautifully put-together women hand in hand with scruffy guys in sweatpants all the time. Men can be overweight, balding, have bad skin, gray hair, wear unflattering clothes and can still command respect, make lots of money, and rise like a phoenix in practically any career field AND they don’t have to invest any time/effort/money into looking good. Can you imagine in your wildest dreams a fat woman with bad skin, coke-bottle glasses, and unflattering clothes who wears no make-up being the CEO of a Fortune 500 company? Or Prime Minister?
Consider how physically attractive our last two Prime Ministers were. Obviously, men are valued for what they DO, not how they LOOK. And just as obviously, women are required to maintain a much higher standard of physical appearance to have even a chance at respect and career advancement. Sadly, there are no rules, fashion or otherwise, that women can follow to ensure they will receive fair treatment on the job. Discrimination is based on emotion, not logic. Women will never be able to conquer workplace discrimination by working hard and looking good. At the end of the day, they’re still women and that’s the only thing that sexist decision-makers notice when it comes time to promote or give raises.
It is pretty amazing how productive and professional so many women are – working full time jobs, organizing social calendars, raising children, managing relationships, the work of nurturing a whole civilization, essentially – all this while spending thousands of hours and dollars to maintain their appearance. Maybe we haven’t come such a long way, baby. It seems extra cruel that women are encouraged and expected to look perfectly (unnaturally) beautiful while keeping society functioning. And for what? Equal pay? Half of the seats in all levels of government? Oh right, we don’t have those things yet. But at least we’re damn good looking second class citizens. And maybe all that shopping will distract us from wanting the things that really matter.
I was kind of thinking that it might be difficult for me to have fun at this photo shoot, and I was starting to get nervous that I might launch into a feminist tirade in front of the wrong people. Look out, boys. Steer clear of the stick-like figure glowering in the corner.
So we all gamefully trooped into this photographer’s Yaletown studio where another band was finishing up their session. Someone from the magazine greeted us and offered us some wine. There was loud music playing. It was a live/work sort of space with like a loading dock back window that was opened, facing in the alley. There was a makeup artist and a hairstylist, a photographers assistant, and the fashion stylist I had spoken to earlier.
I was hustled into makeup right away. It was a wonderful experience to have someone else do my makeup. To have someone else make all those decisions, and know they’re getting paid to make me look good…sheer luxury. I was in the mood for anything (Ha! Just wash it off later! Why not!). I was hoping to be unrecognizable to myself at the end of it.
It took a really long time (it felt like) for me to look presentable enough to photograph, which kind of made me think “oh, gosh. I must have been hideous when I walked in here.” But I’ll tell ya something. All of the flaws that I can’t stop myself from focusing on every day were gone. It was pretty weird to see a vastly more perfect-looking version of me in the mirror wearing the most trendy, outlandish clothes.
Upon being positioned under the lights, I immediately broke out into a sweat. It was so bright that I had a really hard time keeping my eyes open. Lord, it was hot. Like being in a dry sauna. Mike and I were photographed together. I was ungraceful and awkward. Everything about it just seemed so unnatural. Try to keep absolutely still under hot, blinding lights sometime. And look relaxed. Keep your face blank. I could feel the thick layer of makeup on my face start to melt and slide around.
I couldn’t see anything beyond the lights. I wondered if there was anything beyond the lights anymore, or if I was being punished indefinitely for all of my past fashion transgressions under the harsh light of interrogation . Everyone was telling me to relax. I am always stunned when people say that to me. If I could relax, I would. But I’m a sensitive little flower. Sometimes I become tense in response to being placed in a tense environment. I like quiet, solitude, reality. I knew I was a fish out of water the second I walked into the studio.
Then Ferdy and Keith had their shots together, and finally the group shots. I had to stand on a chair, crouch down sideways on one leg, and look relaxed. The guys looked smashing, and I hope there will be some usable pictures of us. But we won’t know until next month, when the June/July issue of Ion magazine comes out.
It took a long hot shower to get my hair and face back to their naked normal state. I emerged with a newfound respect for fashion models. Their job is really a lot harder than it looks. I thought it was very strange to be someones canvas, a three dimensional coat hanger for some opulently expensive clothing. I had never before experienced the emptiness of being a mere object – to be dressed and painted and covered with various materials, posed and bent and moved into something that a photographer wanted to capture. To me it looked like a still life photography project that used some very inexperienced (quivering) mannequins to get the job done.
At least the whole experience was worth it just to watch the guys squirm through getting their makeup and hair done. I’ve been giggling about that for days.

The Feminists: Daily Blog, Pah

Now, I put an update on our website last week in which I foolishly mentioned the words “daily blog” . That was a little too ambitious. Maybe if I could get rid of my day job it might be more feasible. Mike, our erstwhile drummer, has reminded me every day since that I have not lived up to the promise of a “daily blog”. Oh well. I don’t see him picking up the slack.
Let me offer “a change of course”, just like the Bush administration does all the time. (“Weapons of mass destruction”! I mean, “promotion of democracy”! I mean, “controlling vital economic resources”!) I really meant “I’ll think about a blog entry every day, and write them whenever possible”…surely that was clear right from the very beginning, no? Is that better, Mike?
So basically this is a small bit of writing to say, whoa. Gotta go, no time to write. However, I will tantalize you all by mentioning that The Feminists recently participated in our first magazine photo shoot…a fashion shoot, nothing to do with music. Yes, we were models. I have a newfound respect for models that I never dreamed possible. As a genuine ardent feminist, I was moderately traumatized by the whole experience. Frankly, I’m still processing it. I will describe to you in breathless detail the whole utterly bizarre experience. But not now. Duty calls. Impersonating a grown-up really sucks most of the time.

The Feminists: So, What’s With The Name?

We get asked about our band name. A lot. Something that is very shocking to people is the inescapable reality that there are three non-female members in a band called The Feminists. But Mike, Ferdy and Keith shouldn’t be made to feel inadequate because of their regrettable non-female status. I have accepted the fact that they possess XY chromosomes. There’s nothing they can do to change their chromosomes, poor little lambs. And they insist on identifying themselves as feminists, so what’s a girl to do?
I guess we could all try to wrap our brains around the mind-blowing concept that some XY chromosome humans have noticed that most XX chromosome humans do not have access to same economic, social, and political status that they themselves enjoy. Many XY chromosome humans are thoroughly decent people who were raised by strong, independent mothers. They aren’t stupid and blind to reality and they can see that the XX humans are getting the shaft. An enormous, painful, razor-bladed, jalapeno pepper coated shaft of prejudice, discrimination, unfairness, and injustice. But that’s patriarchy for ya. Affirmative action for racist, capitalist, straight white men.
Where was I? Oh yes.These smarter-than-your-average-bear XY chromosome humans feel empathy for the XX humans that are so grievously abused by the culture of patriarchy. They come into frequent contact with XX humans, and sometimes they even fall in love with them. They notice that the XX human experience is often more painful, unfair, unjust, and terrifying ONLY BECAUSE of that one teeny-tiny extra X chromosome. It hurts to see someone you love have to endure any kind of hardship or pain if you have reached a reasonable level of emotional maturity. The only logical conclusion one can reach in these circumstances is that something must be done so that the one you love can live free of fear, injustice, and unfairness.

In some cases, XY humans speak up to draw attention to their mother’s, sister’s, daughter’s, and lover’s plight. They stand up and say “our current system is unbalanced, and unfair, and unjust to XX humans!”. There are many ways to do this. Some of them write about it, some go to protests, some give money, some don’t let other XY’s get away with being sexist.

Some of them form a rock band and work with XX ‘s on the highest professional level. They let all that shit go about treating XX humans differently or worse than their XY friends. They have a very special ability to drop that whole ridiculous lens of gender that we all see each other through and just get on with the RAWK!

These are my favorite kind of XY humans.

We’re called The Feminists because we’re feminists. It’s very simple. Any XY human with an ounce of compassion and the ability to feel love in their hearts should be a feminist. All XX humans who desire fairness, justice, equality, a life free from fear, and the ability to make ALL of their own decisions should be feminists. Anything less is lazy, ignorant, and selfish.

The Feminsts: Grow That Mustache!

Upcoming shows for May 2006:
May 6 Brockwood Secondary School, Langley
May 13 The Morrisey, Vancouver
May 18 Ocean Beach Hotel, White Rock
May 19 Railway Club, Vancouver
Other items that may be remotely interesting:
New songs have been written, and our shows will feature lots of new material from our next full length album. It’s good that we have enough stuff for another record, but it’s frustrating that we won’t be able to record anything unless we take on a couple of sugar daddies. Or sugar mamas, we are an equal opportunity band. If you know anyone who’s willing to invest a lot of money in a band in return for no creative control or input whatsoever, please send them our way. We’ll exploit them gently and lovingly. Ooh, that sounds a little bit kinky, doesn’t it.
In the meantime I guess we’ll try and convince the federal government that we deserve another grant of taxpayer’s money to help us record. I wonder if the Conservatives will be down with subsidizing rock and roll like the Liberals were. I mean, Stephen Harper is definitely younger than Paul Martin, and he obviously cares more about his hair than either Martin or Layton (you need only regard Jack’s massive soup strainer to know he is oblivious to voters under 35) which could mean that he might have an awareness of rock and roll and youth and style and all that good stuff. Somehow I doubt it. Even when he’s dressed down he still looks hopelessly formal and I have a bad feeling that Fleetwood Mac is about as rock as it gets for him.
And I must confess that I admire Jack Layton for defiantly putting that mustache out there for all to regard. Imagine how many stylists, political consultants, publicists, and colleagues have suggested over the years that the hairy face catapillar must go. Yet he defies them all. Why? Possibly his wife likes it and he keeps it to please her. In which case, that is love and a beautiful thing. Maybe he has a bet with another friend with a mustache about who can keep theirs for the longest. Or maybe he just enjoys the warmth and coziness it provides to his upper lip. Whatever his mysterious reasons are for keeping that mustache, I applaud him for his willingness to be a little bit different. I guess the moral of the story is, grow that mustache! Cultivate a little bit of personal uniqueness and just put it out there for everyone else to deal with.
Grow that mustache! Embrace equally the admiring glances and the snickering whispers. Life is too short to avoid doing the things that make you happy.

The Feminists: Popcorn Girls And Rockumentary Filmmakers

We finally left the pollution, industry and concrete behind us and have seen many pretty sights on the drive to the Sault. All day long I gazed at lakes, trees, islands, and a riotous array of flame colored leaves. The season is definitely turning now, and I’m glad we’re on our way home because winter has suggested itself politely as a possibility. And I’d like to be safely back in Vancouver by the time winter decides to make herself at home.
Morale is still decently high. We realized with surprise that we are on the home stretch now. I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop, but we only have a week and a half left and it looks like (I say this very cautiously and quietly in case the karma gods mistake it for pride or boastfulness) everything is fine and we will make it back in one piece.
We’ve sold merch at every show since Saskatoon, and we’ve been getting paid since Montreal. Right now the band is paying for itself, we have food and gas money, and the van is functioning reliably. I wouldn’t call it a vacation, but I would say it’s my favorite kind of job to have.
Pulled into Sault Ste. Marie around 7 pm. Trevor, the owner of The Downbeat Lounge met us at his venue, we loaded in and did a sound check. Then we had dinner with him and got the lowdown on the local scene and bands. After which he very generously installed us at his home so we could relax until the show. I had a chance to do laundry! And play on the internet and watch tv. I find tv to be moderately terrifying when one stops the dosage for awhile and then restarts. I find there’s a readjustment period that is needed to achieve a high enough level of passivity, numbness and denial so I can start enjoying those Ashlee Simpson videos again instead of disdainfully avoiding them. See, that woman is a poet. I have just to watch the video enough times so that the little voice inside that says “go outside! Read a book! Call your mom! Practice!” eventually goes away. It’s a daunting challenge, but I always prevail over my better self.
At Trevor’s house, I was sleeping in his son’s room. All of his kids were gone for the weekend. This particular kid was probably aged 10-12. Immediately I noticed that the proudly displayed toys and posters were eerily similar – or exactly the same – as those which my bandmates, strapping young lads in their late twenties and early thirties, so profusely enjoy. Lord of the Rings, South Park, Playstation2, The Simpsons, Family Guy, Star Wars. This kid had it all, even a foozeball game.
I had previously suspected that the guys weren’t, how shall I delicately put this, fully formed adults. This 12-year-old boy’s bedroom seemed to reinforce my suspicion.
And you know, that’s really quite fine with me. I’ve considered growing up once or twice, ( in a fleeting moment of madness or uncertainty) but have come to the conclusion that I’d rather enjoy life. I think no one needs to put their childhood joys and pursuits behind them just because some imaginary egg timer goes off (okay! You’ve graduated from high school! Now it’s time to grow up!). If you’re smart about it, you can keep pursuing that childhood hobby, pay some people a lot of money to teach you more about it, and then call it a “career” to set your mother’s heart at ease. Sorry, ma. My secret’s out.
The incredibly wise and mature (but charmingly boyish) Mike Zobac said to me recently “In this culture, it’s considered a mark of growing up to turn your back on the things that you’re good at”. To which I would add “and the things you enjoy”. Musicians and other insane artists refuse to grow up in this way. We just keep doing what we’re good at, and what we enjoy, and one by one the people that one studied with or played with acquire full-time, non-art-related jobs that provide benefits, promotions, and security. And houses with mortgages.
I fault no one for looking for safety and security. One does not experience either as an artist/musician. However, I find the deep mystery of music to be so fascinating that I can’t stop myself from exploring, listening, writing, playing, practicing, teaching, studying, and spending money on it. It’s a whole other world I can dive into, and my compensation for an insecure, unstable, financially terrifying existence.
And in this supremely satisfying world of music, we rocked the fuck out of Sault-Ste. Marie. We played two powerful sets on a tiny postage stamp sized stage jammed in a corner by the front door. It sucks to play by the door because I can see people leaving during our set and it hurts my feelings. I always want to yell “Hey! Why are you leaving in the middle of a song? Are we that boring?”
A lot of people did leave after the first set, which was irritating and humiliating. But during the second set, they were replaced by even more (and better) people and there was a large influx of suitably respectful listeners. We sold merch, and a friendly intelligent guy named Dan filmed our show and interviewed us for a documentary he’s making. So we played for a large appreciative audience AND got to feel like rock stars as Dan swooped around with his camera.
As I was packing up my keyboards, a blond waifish woman attired in many flowing dresses intercepted me to ask me if I’d like some popcorn. Okay, I said cautiously. Immediately she reached her hand somewhere inside her voluminous layers and fished out a handful of popcorn from a kangaroo like pouch (of fabric, not skin). It was cold. I was disappointed, but gratified that the gods of popcorn had deemed me worthy of this token. The filmmaker Dan recognized the popcorn goddess as a girl he had a crush in high school years ago and promptly asked for (and received – way to go, dude) her phone number. Isn’t it nice how popcorn girls and rockumentary filmmakers manage to find each other. I’m a sucker for romance. I wonder if she brought popcorn along on their date. Maybe they went to the movies so she would be in familiar surroundings.
Onwards to Thunder Bay!

The Feminists: Intense Vancouver Indie Rock

The Townhouse is a very interesting venue. Steeped in history (Stompin’ Tom played here), it enjoys a strong reputation as one of the most desirable places to play in Canada. They like music at the Townhouse, and it appears that they even like indie bands, so hopefully they will like us. I sure liked the poster they made for our show. Our somewhat goofy/ironic latest publicity shot with a huge tagline in boldest black across the top : INTENSE VANCOUVER INDIE ROCK. Finally. Somebody gets it.
The band room at the Townehouse is like a dungeon. It’s in the basement directly under the stage, windowless and dark. All of the furniture looks like what you would find at your typical summer cottage…the cast-off stuff that everyone in the family drops off when they upgrade to more attractive or functional items. There’s 2 mismatched sagging couches, a wobbly scratched dining room table with random chairs of different heights, lamps whose lampshades are long gone and now hold naked bulbs of various wattages, and a bathroom that assumed that no female would ever require its services.
Every available wall surface is covered in band stickers, band graffitti, and stern warnings from management threatening grievous harm to any band member who is caught stickering or carving on non-designated walls. There’s an old tv that can be persuaded to receive about 10 channels if you stand in the right spot as a human antenna. No remote included, strangely.
This year I noticed a couple of additions to the decor. My favorites were the half of an old barber’s chair (back and arms had been forcibly removed) that one could perch upon whilst awkwardly pumping the chair up and down with one’s foot, resulting in hours of childish amusement. Next to the half a barber’s chair was an old exercise bike frozen permanently on the most intense setting, which meant that I could barely move one pedal at a time. That game grew old fast. Not like the barber’s chair. I need to get me one of those.
The best thing about the band room was that it had 4 real beds, with bedding and pillows. No sleeping in a tin can tonight, which was a very good thing as a cold front had swept into southern Ontario. We noticed this when we woke up at a truck stop in Windsor and it was 12 degrees colder than it was when we went to bed. It’s windy, gray, dark and freezing here. And rainy. Not the nice kind of rain that makes you think, “ah, it’s so nice that all the plants and trees and flowers are getting a good drink”. I’m talking about nasty winter rain. Sharp, cold, needle-like drops that bounced angrily off my poor unprotected head as I made my way bravely to the Internet cafe.
I arrived back at the band room to find Belland reading while Grief and Zobac…altogether now…played Magic: the Gathering. With Barry the bouncer. Ah, Magic. It brings together all kinds of people.
Later on we played, and the sound onstage was great. We played 2 long, powerful sets. There appeared to be no audience and we thought it was a dead gig, but to our surprise afterwards lots of people came up to talk to us and buy cd’s. They were playing pool the whole time in a totally different area of the bar, but apparently still enjoyed the show. And we got paid by the bar owner who apologized for having us play the day before a busy long weekend, hence low turnout, and gave us some extra money because he just liked us that much. Well, I guess INTENSE VANCOUVER INDIE ROCK is pretty iresistable. I was stunned by his generosity and the warm reaction of the audience that materialized out of the deep shadows of the pool tables. And grateful to have enough money to get us to our next show in Sault-Ste.Marie.

The Feminists: I Took One Last Look At Detroit

There were several fun experiences in Windsor for me. Gazing across the Detroit River to the skyline of Detroit was definitely one of them. Mike and I were walking along a path at Windsor’s riverside park and he leaned down to me and whispered “pretty impressive for a small-town girl from Salmon Arm BC to be looking at Detroit while on tour with her rock band, eh?” Huh. Maybe. I would be more impressed with myself if we had actually played a show in Detroit, but I was grateful for my first glimpse of Motor City.
I watched as the dusk gathered and the skyscrapers darkened and rose black and stark against the night sky. The light in the windows gradually spilled onto the river and reflected softly off the constantly moving surface of the water. I could see the GM tower with its tiny faraway elevator outlined in lights zooming up and down the side of the building. I’m sure the Detroit River is hopelessly polluted, and I’ve heard that Detroit is one of the toughest, most violent cities in the world.
But as I stood quietly waiting, to absorb that sweet fleeting moment when the edge of the last beam of sunlight disappears and darkness rushes in like a dark watery wave, the skyline seemed to wait with me and we sighed together, relieved, as the last shadow was suddenly extinguished by blackness. I studied the reflection of the city’s skyline on the water and marveled at how all was softly illuminated, peaceful, and silent.
I thought about how I was too far away to see any of the millions of people who were surely there, rushing about and preoccupied by a million details of everyday life. I guess that’s the key to avoiding the ugly slap in the face of reality…stand back far enough so that the noise, fear, desperation, and pollution fade away and all that’s left is the illusion of peace and quiet. Works good for the few who have the option of standing back, not so good for the many who don’t.
As I looked around for one of my bandmates to share my shatteringly deep insights with, I noticed that they had started walking back towards the club, a clear indication that the window of opportunity for contemplation had slammed firmly shut and there were urgent matters of rock and roll to attend to. I took one last look at Detroit, was suddenly overwhelmed that I was standing next to the place where most of my favorite music in the world had been created, and ran to catch up to the guys.
We played at a little club called The Phog Lounge. The owner Tom was generous enough to feed and water us. He was a talkative friendly guy who really likes his job and really likes music so we all got along just fine. There was a good sized crowd gathered by the time the opening band started. I, Crime was a trio from Detroit that contained…a woman. Our first sighting of that rare creature, the female rock musician, so far on this tour. She was fully dressed, played guitar, was a good singer, and co-wrote their material.
It hurts me that it’s totally remarkable for me to see a competent female rock musician who doesn’t casually expose tits, belly, legs and ass, but that is a subject that warrants more time and space than I currently have. I will say that I am a big fan of female beauty and sexuality…but it seems to me that the stunning impact of a mostly naked woman’s body is somewhat cheapened when it’s used as a promotional tool.
The thing that was so nice about the Windsor show was the music-loving audience. Somehow on this tour we are playing at venues where the owners actually care about providing high quality live music. Guys like Tom carefully choose bands that they think will put on a good show that will please a discerning crowd, who thus proceed to do Tom’s advertising for him, spreading the word and bringing their friends to the next show.
And so it came to pass that we played in a very small room that was packed with people who were open, curious, and accepting of a band that they had never heard of. They sat in rapt attention and it sure was fun to see one person after another let their mouths fall open in amazement during each song. The screams of appreciation and enthusiastic applause between songs didn’t hurt either.
Naturally, having such an engaged audience, we played great. We were all electrified by the growing energy and attention of the crowd. It’s like we each have these little antennae that are designed to pick up and feed off of the intensity of the listeners. Too many times, our antennae cautiously poke themselves out and then retreat, humiliated, in the face of another cold dose of soul-killing apathy. But sometimes we’re in the right venue on the right night and we get a tantalizing glimpse of what it’s like to really be heard. I think this may be a big part our motivation, and we play each show with the hope that maybe we will unfold our song-paintings for a few someones who will hear and understand us.
There was a beautiful, wild, slightly crazy blond woman that stopped our show to announce that she had to go, but she wanted to give us money. We suggested she wait until the end of the set, and then she could exchange her money for one of our cd’s but she was having none of it. She matched up to the stage waving some cash while I dug through the merch bag for some stickers and buttons. I handed her some stuff, and she raised her eyes to mine and whispered “I can’t over the person playing the keyboards.”
Okaaaaay. She pulled me close and clasped me tenderly, wordlessly. Abruptly, she released me, turned on her heel and strode purposefully through the silently watchful audience and out the door. Being a musician is really weird for me sometimes.
We slept at a truck stop and broke camp this morning for the long drive to Sudbury. We’re dirty and stinky and kind of slimy. It’s nice to finally leave the crowded smelliness of southern Ontario. Tomorrow it’ll be showers, Internet, and playing a show at The Townehouse, another of Canada’s most respected rock venues.

The Feminists: A Plague Of Sonic Locusts

Highlight of the Hamilton show: Loading up our gear and getting the fuck out of there.
It wasn’t a bad show because of us, we played quite well. The Underground was highly organized, which thrilled my wee logistical heart, with set times posted on the wall of the green room and a very calm, fast-moving, and professional sound technician. Sets were 25 minutes long, and we were ready with a killer show and all of our gear set up onstage perfectly on time.
Gentle readers, it was a terrible show because there were too many bad bands. They overran the stage like a plague of sonic locusts, if you will. It pains me to recollect the depth of the bad-ness. I hate to sound mean and nasty, so I won’t name any names. But I must purge the dreadful memory from my psyche and try and move on with my life.
Now, I’ve seen more terrible bands than a lot of you ever will. This isn’t a point of pride for me, in fact I’d give anything to have those years of my life back. The amount of bad music that I am exposed to as part of my job has basically resulted in me hardly ever going out to see live music as a civilian. Why bother? Usually I’m disappointed. Most singers have little concept of pitch, most drummers can’t keep a steady beat, most guitarists and bass players don’t know basic harmony or how chord progressions work. I don’t see a lot of keyboardists, but the ones I do see rely on the trippy swooshy sounds that their keyboards can make to cover up their lack of technique and ignorance of music harmony and structure. I believe that musicianship is fast becoming a lost art due to the computer technology that allows engineers and producers to fix bad musicianship in the recording studio before the music is ever released to the public. That’s all well and good unless you’re performing live without a net and then all of a sudden it becomes quite obvious that not being able to sing the melody of a song you wrote yourself IS A PROBLEM when you’re onstage in front of a glaring, bitchy, judgmental, critic such as myself. When you couple this reliance on technology with an almost complete dearth of high quality musical influences, (case in point: Whitney Houston grew up listening to Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey grew up listening to Whitney Houston, Kelly Clarkson grew up listening to Mariah Carey…and who cares about Kelly Clarkson? She makes her money as a singer just like Aretha…but I think that’s about all they have in common. Do you think we’ll ever see Kelly accompanying herself on piano like Aretha can, or writing and arranging her own albums like Aretha did? Methinks not. Without a great original source, every subsequent generation loses a little something when you’re making copies from a bad copy. You end up with music that is devoid of artistry and skill. Ewwww.
Anyway, I don’t normally complain about bad bands – except privately, to my bandmates – but I feel last night’s show was special.
For one thing, on a bill with 5 bands there were two horrible bands and one okay band with a shitty attitude, which is the same thing as being a bad band in my opinion. So basically, there was a 60% shit factor for the evening. 20% shit factor, fine. I can ignore one bad band. But I felt overwhelmed and outgunned by 3 bad bands. I jammed my ear plugs in as far as possible, but there was no escape from the awful, un-melodic, out-of-tune singing, the pathetic drummer that dragged …his …..band ……down……with……… him, the truly god-awful meandering guitar solos, the complete absence of a recognizable song form (Verse? Chorus? Hello?)
The thing that really ground my gears is that the two worst bands played covers during their set. The Underground posted 25 minute sets, remember. We played 8 songs with no talking in between. With stage banter, you could probably get away with 6 songs. One bad band played at least 2 covers, the other played 3. From this I can extrapolate that both bad bands are lacking at least 2 more original songs to complete a short set of 25 minutes. I can also assume that these two bad bands took the stage at one of Canada’s best known rock venues having 3 original songs “ready”. That’s kind of like doing half of the project that was assigned to you, presenting it anyway, and hoping no one will notice the other missing half.
I thought that The Underground was a proud original rock venue. I felt so ripped off, listening to weak, tentative, bullshit covers that were riddled with wrong chords, wrong melody notes, wrong lyrics, and wrong forms. Summer of ’69 has THREE verses, numbnuts. If you’re going to pick a such a well-known song, people are going to notice if you sing the first verse three times.
The band before us sounded pretty good, though until I overheard my bandmates complimenting them on a fine performance right after their set. “Oh god,” the bass player sighed, “that was awful. It didn’t sound good at all, blah blah blah.” When a listener pays a compliment to a performer and the performer disagrees with the compliment, the performer is basically telling the listener that 1.) they are quite stupid to have enjoyed what they heard and 2.) their musical taste is unsophisticated. And good luck with that long term music career, buddy, while you keep telling your audience that they are stupid and unsophisticated.
Ah, I feel a little lighter now.
We drove to Windsor through 3 and a half hours of smog and freeway traffic for our show tonight. It’s really, really hot here and very humid. We’re at a park lolling about until load in. I spent a good portion of the afternoon slowly baking in the sun and contemplating a fountain. This is a lovely park, the oasis we needed after the grayness of Hamilton.

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.

The Feminists: Zobac’s Piercing China Crash

The good people at the Grassroots Cafe in Peterborough had no idea who we were or why we were there. Turns out the promoter never bothered to email our booking agent after he changed his mind about having us play.
Thanks to Belland’s cold Viking stare, we still got to play. It was a coffeeshop that held all ages punk shows. It was tiny closed space and the PA was terrible. Keith sounded like he was singing at the bottom of a well. We were crammed onto a miniscule platform ambitiously referred to as “the stage”. There wasn’t even room for all of us. I think Grief and Belland had to stand on the floor. As for me, my left ear was snuggled up against Zobac’s piercing china crash cymbal so even though we were playing as quietly as possible to avoid overwhelming the pathetic PA, it was plenty loud for me. Especially on my left side.
The audience liked us, though, which is always a good thing. They bought lots of merch from me and many people said nice things about us. There was one young rocker girl that ran right up to me afterward and “Oh! Oh! I love you!” while waving a $20 bill around, which she used to buy both albums without blinking. That was neat.
We’re staying at Keith Hamilton’s house in Scarborough. Keith booked and promoted our Toronto shows. (we have another O’Grady’s show tonight). It was great to sleep indoors, but that didn’t stop me from marching all the way out to the van where Grief was sleeping (he likes to guard the gear) and wake him up to scream at him about what I thought was his terrible performance at the Peterborough show. I fired him then changed my mind and quit the band, and yelled that I would be leaving in the morning and flying back to Vancouver, alone. And I better not hear from any of you losers ever again.
Thank you, Flo. What a great visit we’ve had this month!
K. was very kind and patient and gently guided me back into the house (what, he didn’t want to hang out in the van with me anymore?) whereupon he put me to bed whilst I spluttered at him feebly. The power surge of self-righteous rage that I had been riding high on was starting to dissipate and the horrible realization was beginning to dawn on me that Flo had bested me yet again. Soon I would be riding low and ashamedly on a skulking wave of regret and remorse. But in the meantime maybe I could relax enough to go to sleep. GRRRRRRR.

The Feminists: Hurtling Toward Peterborough

We did laundry at Martin’s house which precluded any possibility of exploring Toronto. Very unfortunate, but not as unfortunate as the state of my stinking, damp, filthy clothes. We were ready to roll by late afternoon and I even had a chance to clean out the van.
Getting out of Toronto proved to be challenging as the expressway we wanted was closed. Maybe we should start turning on the radio when we’re driving through enormous cities with overwhelming networks of freeways. That would interfere with listening to music and insulting each other, though.
Now we are hurtling toward Peterborough and hoping to add a few dollars to our gas money and play a kick ass all ages show.

The Feminists: I Don’t Mean To Sound Like A Realtor

Well, I’m having my “woman-time”. I don’t mean to offend your any of your delicate sensibilities and in fact I hate to even mention it, but I have to because unfortunately I become a nasty, incoherent bundle of hormones and frayed nerves every time little Flo sets a spell and unpacks her things. And you may be wondering why all of a sudden I am spewing forth vile hatred and rage and I just wanted to let you know that it’s a (thankfully) temporary state of affairs.
I have spent most of the day curled up on the bunk under a blanket drifting in and out of consciousness doubled up with cramps thinking about breathing in, breathing out, and why isn’t that fucking advil kicking in yet.
This morning, I gave a brief, terse warning to the guys explaining through clenched teeth that it would be best to not speak to me today unless spoken to. And even then, I told them, you should probably ignore the insults and my transparent attempts to pick a fight.
When I regained full consciousness we were at Ferdy’s friend Martin’s apartment in Toronto. I love how many friends Ferdy has. They have saved us innumerable times from sleeping outdoors. And they’re all very nice people too. The advil had finally delivered me from the temptation to punch each of my bandmates in the mouth to stop their incessant chattering. I felt refreshed, renewed and like I might even be able to control my emotions.
Martin is a intelligent, artistic, articulate guy with quite a bit of flash to him. It was very amusing to watch him and Ferdy have intense conversations about every possible subject while the decibel level continued to rise and Rise and RISE!!! WOOOOOO HOOOOOO!!! as they attempted to express themselves simultaneously. While they were reminiscing about Ferdy’s unspeakably gargantuan goatee (I was FLABBERGASTED by the pictures of this goatee. I feel like no one could ever show me a more mammoth goatee, that I have gazed upon the Goatee Of All Goatees and will forever find all subsequent goatees sadly lacking) and other fond Cranbrook memories, Mike and I walked to a grocery store to procure nachos ingredients.
We were in a very cool neighborhood on Queen St. Old funky brick apartment buildings and brick houses lined both sides of the sidewalk. Frequently a street car would pass by us. Streetcars! There’s nothing like that in Vancouver.
There was lots of lush, deep ivy clinging to the bricks that were everywhere. I saw so many lovely ivy covered duplexes and apartments. Martin’s was one of them – a huge three bedroom apartment with large bay windows facing Lake Erie in all its late afternoon sparkling splendor.Or maybe it was Lake Huron. I guess I could look at a map before I write these things. Hardwood floors, and the bathroom was like a sweet desert oasis. I don’t mean to sound like a realtor, it’s just that houses fascinate me in all their myriad forms after a few days of sleeping outdoors in a van.
We feasted on a thick bowl of tasty nachos. Then we drove to O’Grady’s, promisingly located across the street from the University of Toronto. We had to drive down Queen St. and Spadina Ave so I got a chance for a quick glimpse of a couple of Toronto’s most famous streets. It was dusk, there were lots of people out, and lots of neon.
We loaded in and while the bar staff was preparing the “stage”, i.e. clearing away some tables and chairs, Grief and I went to coffee up. Then it was a looooong 3 hour wait until it was time to play. Zobac napped in the van – he enjoys a good solid nap quite frequently – and Grief and Belland and I stood around and questioned our motives for playing music. More specifically, we were trying to reassure ourselves that having fun playing our songs together is enough to justify the massive outlay of personal cash, time, and effort that it takes to be in this band. Very possibly, we’re really big idiots for continuing with this…most of the people I went to music school with have smartened up and moved on to more lucrative endeavors.
Self indulgent whining aside, we played a great set at O’Grady’s. Dave from zunior.com was there to catch the show. He’s picked up both of our records and one of our side projects for his internet record label. I was pleasantly surprised that he came out to the show and delighted that he was such a cool guy. A crowd of people gathered as we played and there was a lot of satisfied whooping and some very crazy dancing.
The other band was called The New Signals. At the end of their last song, the drummer ripped off his shirt and shot past the guitar player, who stood transfixed and open-mouthed, to wrap his extremely sweaty self around a laughing woman, who I assume was well acquainted with him. I thought that was a good ending for a show.

The Feminists: Rubens a la Zobac

Our show in Cambridge was canceled due to circumstances beyond someone’s control. Now we have today and tomorrow off before our next show in Toronto. We made another visit back to the friendly librarians at the Oshawa Public Library to check email, pay some bills (I hate it when real life interferes with my rock and roll experience) and send out some more cds to some more clubs. After all of that it was only 3 pm, so we piled back into the van to re-visit Lakeview Park and get in some more lolling about under trees.
You want to look out for Zobac when he’s understimulated and feeling at loose ends. He has an intense rebellious, defiant streak that shows itself under these circumstances. So today he announced that he intended to have Ruben sandwiches for dinner and he was off to the concession stand to steal a goodly amount of saurkraut for the facilitation of said rubens. Sure enough, he returned some time later with his trophy safely sealed in a sizeable ziploc container. I didn’t ask whether he had actually confronted the kid behind the counter. “Stealing food is very rock and roll”, he explained to me. “But it’s not very rock and roll to make ruben sandwiches for dinner”. Our indie street cred may suffer as a result of our burgeoning culinary imaginitivness, but we sure have been having some tasty dinners.

The Feminists Indie Rock Cookbook
Rubens a la Zobac
First, in a stealth-like fashion liberate at least 2 cups of saurkraut from an unsuspecting park concession stand employee. If eye contact is made, bare teeth and growl menacingly.
Light Coleman stove, slather pieces of rye bread with Djon mustard, corned beef, and Swiss cheese. Add stolen saurkraut to taste. When greased skillet is hot, place sandwiches therein, flip when bread is brown and crunchy and cheese is melted. Remove from heat. With a cry of triumph, raise sandwich high into the night sky for consecration by the approving gods of rock.
Enjoy!

Just as we were finishing the dishes after our rubenesque feast, the wind started to pick up. We quickly battened down the hatches and clambered into the van. Tonight’s feature was “Pirates of the Caribbean”. “I just want to see some cutlasses and the clash of steel on steel,” Belland explained.
The rising wind was soon accompanied by thunder and lighting and lots of rain, blowing in horizontal sheets with a smack against the windows. It was a little weird to be practically out in the elements for such a storm, protected only by a thin sheet of metal.
I was kept awake by the thunder, rain, and lightning. I realized I haven’t watched a night storm since I was about 7 years old, scared and small, hiding under quilts. Plenty of time time for reflection when one is watching a night storm. Unfortunately due to lack of sleep I had no deep thoughts to think and could only watch and listen to the endless tapestry of water, wind, and flashes of light.
We awoke the next morning to a world scrubbed clean. The wind was still blowing, and clouds were skittering across a sunny sky. Didn’t improve our collective mood at all which was irritable, exhausted, damp, and dirty.

The Feminists: Anti-Social Philosophical Angst

If we had the cash, we’d drive to Toronto, go shopping and experience the world of entertainment that is promised to all good consumers. Instead, in a fit of desperate boredom we went and hung out at the mall in Oshawa.
I was deliriously happy to get away from the van and walked the mall for hours while Ferdy doggedly plowed his way through Lord Of The Rings. Grief and Zobs…say it with me now…played Magic the Gathering. They had found a card shop earlier and added some new cards to their collection so the excitement of Magic was renewed and restored. I spent most of the day in Chapters, geeking out with all the lovely books.
I’ve noticed it’s rather a shock to my system to insert myself into a commercial environment after a few days of isolation from society. At first I feel a wave of nervousness from being in close proximity to strangers, noise, and neon. Then I feel like my unease would be completely alleviated if only I bought something, anything. The more expensive, the better. But soon enough all of that anti-social philosophical angst fades away and I forget to be anything other than your average gal at the mall, gaily tripping about while hunting for the perfect pair of kicky new shoes.
It is amazing, that powerful spend-lust that washes over my brain as the mall doors swoosh shut behind me. It’s even more amazing to think of all the people who work so hard, exerting all of their intellect and creativity, to create that exact sensation in all of us…someday I’d love to meet a market psychologist and have a nice, probing chat.
I finally gave in to the siren call of consumerism and bought a couple of books and a movie ticket. I saw the Corpse Bride, which was such a letdown that I felt like I needed to spend more money to convince myself that the day wasn’t a total waste.

The Feminists: Gazebo!

It was sunny and warm. We broke camp and headed to Lakeview Park on the shores of a Great Lake – I think Erie. Or maybe Huron. There’s never anybody to ask when I need to know about major bodies of water or other impressive natural phenomena.
We have been spending a lot of time outdoors as of late. Not because we’re hippies or anything…heaven forbid…but what else are we going to do with hours to spend in a random town where we don’t know anyone or where anything is with no money and no place to go except the van? It really sucks when the weather is shitty. Then we’re either all crammed in the van trying to ignore each other. At least when it’s nice out we can scatter off in all directions.
Generally we’ve been lolling about under trees, lying on blankets reading, writing, playing cards (not me, I’m not that geeky yet) or napping. The big excursion is usually to find a grocery store and/or Internet cafe and then we busy ourselves with meal preparation, eating, and clean-up. At night we rock.
This is a lovely park. Very thoughtfully designed. I’ve become a bit of a park critic/appreciater on this tour. A little bit of everything here. Rocky beaches, winding paths by the water, abundant benches angled in pairs facing the water. Lots of trees, flowers and a couple of gazebos.
Gazebo. A funny word to think, say, or write. Oh. And we’ve all lost our minds. This time it happened swiftly, to all of us on the same day. We suddenly had spent enough time with just each other that we have a huge stockpile of private jokes, and the mention of any one of them will send us all of into hysterics. This is all well and good when we’re not in public. It’s getting harder to attempt to act somewhat normal in front of strangers.
We have a whole language unto ourselves now. Actually, we care a lot less about acting somewhat normal this time around. We’re never going to see these people again. Who cares if they think we’re eccentric fools who giggle incessantly at incomprehensible gibberish? We’re harmless…unless somebody insults our music. Or the van.
Today at the park the water was really stunning. I sat on the shores of this gigantic inland sea and said a heartfelt thank you to the citizens of Oshawa for maintaining a small part of a most beautiful shoreline. The sky was a deep, honest blue with nothing to hide and reflected quite fabulously off of the sparkling waves. When I looked out to the horizon, I was surrounded by blue and could see nothing but water and sky merging together…I hardly knew which way was up.
To my speechless delight, there was a bevy of swans bobbing about in a wee sheltered cove at the furthest edge of the park. I crept curiously towards them, moving slower and softer as I got closer.
I was able to come within six feet the ones perched on rocks by the shore. Close enough to think “Wow. These are very sizeable birds. Looks like they might be able to damage me or at least scare the crap out of me if they choose to.” Along with the swans were Canada geese (piddly by comparison), ducks, and seagulls. It looked like a big avian love-in and I thought how nice it was to see everyone peacefully co-existing. Maybe I am a hippy.
The cove that the birds were occupying had a short sandy beach that rose abruptly into a steep bluff that ended in a small plateau. On this plateau there was a swing set. See what I mean about thoughtful design? I swung high and fast looking out over the water while listening to a cd and thought this is definitely the best job I’ve ever had.
When it got cold, we packed up and went to the club for load in and sound check. We were all desperate to check our email, so the owner of Catch 22, also named Mike, was kind enough to let us into his office to use his computer.
It was at this moment that the serendipitous discovery was made that Mike the bar owner was basically a professional Magic the Gathering player. Little Grief and Zobac’s eyes lit up with joy and comeraderie and soon all 3 of them were happily gabbling in their strange Magic language and were slapping cards down on the floor with gusto as they sat cross-legged together and played an impromptu game.
After sound check we had a snack and then it was time to play. There were a few people when we started, and more gathered steadily during our set. We sold lots of cd’s and merch afterwards and had lots of nice people say nice things to us. It was a fun show with a sassy, appreciative audience.
Also on the bill was a band called Mahogany Frog. They played
instrumental prog rock extremely well. Belland was so taken with them. He stood right up front as close as he could to them and bellowed “YOU GUYS ARE MIND BLOWING” into at least one moment of silence. He ended up taking off with them after the show so Grief, Zobac and I set up camp. Ferdy showed up around 5 am, drunken, shambling, trying desperately to be quiet. He openedthe back door, took one look at the sleeping Grief sprawled across the back seat (the very same back seat the bed dwellers must launch themselves off to slither into their sleeping drawer) and went to go crash in the trucker’s lounge inside. Thus ended another night of rock and roll.

The Feminists: My New Puddle-Like State

Last night there was a wicked storm. Suddenly there was darkness, sheets of rain, a powerful wind, lightning and thunder, the works. The temperature never dropped from the cloying heat of mid-afternoon. So it was very warm, with a hot wind and pouring rain. And pitch black dark. Imagine someone throwing a hot, wet, heavy blanket over you and then telling you to relax and go to sleep.
We were hunkered down in the van, and instantaneously all of our bedding and clothes were warm and damp. Mike and I were up…well, awake, sort of, by 6:45 am. Even my clean clothes were damp and slimy. After a few desperate cups of coffee in the Kingston Husky restaurant, Ferdy and I headed into town to get an Internet fix. Mike and Grief stayed behind to dry our sleeping bags, blankets, and jackets. They took over the laundry room and set up a table and chairs and enjoyed a thrilling game of Magic The Gathering while everything dried out. It poured rain all day and the temperature climbed mercilessly. By midafternoon I had resigned myself to my new puddle-like state. It was too hot to wear a jacket. There was nowhere to dry out.
We drove to a truck stop outside of Oshawa, where our next show is. The lovely green bedroom at Grant and Kathryns is now a distant memory.

The Feminists: Maybe We Should Have Offered Him Some Spaghetti

After a round of showers and breakfast, we made our way to Kingston. It is a lovely city. Hey, I just realized that the apostrophe key does not work on this computer, so this will be a contraction-free experience for us all. Keep in mind I do not usually sound this dorky in real life .
Anyway, Kingston. Lots of picturesque old 18th and 19th century brick buildings and a very attractive downtown core free of big box and chain retailers. I slept most of the day – hey, road life can wear you down – and then cooked some spaghetti sauce for yet another spaghetti dinner. While we were busily chopping and simmering in a large, busy parking lot a police officer pulled up and asked us why we were cooking in said parking lot. It was then we realized that the Kingston police station was right across the street, perhaps something we should have taken into consideration before rocking the ganj.
Huh. No quotation marks either on this keyboard.
Because we have nowhere else to go, Mike explained innocently, his pleading brown eyes fastened imploringly on Officer Friendly. Maybe we should have offered him some spaghetti. At any rate, we were allowed to continue cooking, and we beat a hasty retreat after the dishes were washed.
Now we are camped at a Husky truck stop just outside of Kingston. Tonights movie feature is Being John Malkovich. We are crammed into such a small space that although it is cold outside, we are pleasantly warm – but I would not say comfortable as everyone is basically forced to remain in the same position until tomorrow morning. Sometimes it is the little things I miss, like having the freedom to roll over in bed.

The Feminists: We Stopped To Stare, Goggle-Eyed

Well. After a gross and sticky start to the day, everything got better when we found a Tim Horton’s at McGill. After a change of clean clothes and a furtive sponge bath and of course, an extra large double double I felt almost restored to my naturally charming self.
Ferdy, Mike and I spent the whole day together wandering around. Grief stayed in the van to feed the meter. He doesn’t like exploring and deplores enthusiasm and childlike wonder in all creatures. All he really needs are some video games and his laptop to amuse himself. So the childlike wonderers struck out determined to find adventure. We started with a delicious breakfast at Cafe Imagination, whereupon we drank more coffee, munched on baguettes and croissants, and conversed amicably about what went wrong and right at last night’s show, improvements to song arrangements, and future plans. I am amazed that I can spend so much time with these guys and still enjoy talking to them. And they make me laugh…all the time. Anyone who says that men and women can’t enjoy deep meaningful platonic friendships has obviously never been in a co-ed rock band.
It was sunny and warm with a light breeze. Once again the streets were packed with people as were the hundreds of restaurant patios. I was slowly being overwhelmed by a feeling of relaxed pleasure…everybody around me was eating, drinking, smoking and chatting as the rest of the world hurried by. French and English mingled casually, often within one conversation.
We walked for hours down Rue St. Denis, St. Catherine, and Saint Laurent. There was so much to look at. On every block we stopped to stare, goggle-eyed at some beautiful apartments, or gallery, or restaurant, or record store…into which Belland periodically disappeared to feed his addiction.
In the late afternoon as the shadows were beginning to lengthen, we stopped in a tiny, dark wood panelled, thickly carpeted narrow pub and had a drink. As I was sipping my glass of red wine and the boys socked away their pints, I thought “I want to remember this”. It had been a good day.
Montreal is a beautiful, romantic city with a forceful presence, personality and character. I have never before experienced such a vibrant, exciting place. Of all the Canadian cities I have seen, Montreal is the most beguiling and seductive. I wonder if my impression of the city was so favorable because of the film festival, or the nice weather or if it’s always like that. At any rate, I am sufficiently intruiged to find out and look forward to my next visit.
Eventually, we made our way back to the van and met up with Grief. We were exhausted but grinning uncontrollably. In my perfect world, I would rent a second floor apartment in one of those old brownstones atop a flight of spiraling iron stairs with a delicately wrought railing tangled with trailing ivy, a window box overflowing with geraniums, and narrow french doors flung open onto a tiny balcony. There I would sit, drinking double lattes, and watch an endless stream of laughing beautiful people rush by. Hopefully I would be able to eavesdrop enough to improve my French.
I can’t wait to come back. I feel like the high point of the tour has
happened for me and I’ll accept whatever comes next with nothing but gratefulness that I had the chance to absorb the smallest, sweetest taste of Montreal.
We had a fun short drive to Cornwall and camped there. Tomorrow it’s onward to Kingston.

The Feminists: Gobsmacked By The Beauty Of Montreal

We left Grant and Kathryn’s at noon and headed downtown to retrieve the Belland, who had been out rocking all night long. Onwards to Montreal…just in time for rush hour. We crawled through miles and miles of construction and terrible traffic jams.
We arrived in the city around 5 pm. This was the first time I’d seen it in daylight. We found Rue St. Denis, the street where the club was located, and had the pleasure of driving down one of the busiest, most vibrant streets in Montreal for hundreds of blocks.
The architecture and stunning heritage buildings knocked me right out. It looks like Montreal citizens take preservation of old buildings very seriously. First there was block after block of old, charming brownstone apartments and duplexes. Each building had a spiraling staircase of delicately wrought iron up to the second floor suite. Ground floor and second story apartments had window boxes stuffed with flowers and trailing ivy and narrow french doors opening onto tiny balconies.
The street was very narrow, curvy, and wound up and down many steep hills. Trees lined both sides, planted close together to create a canopy of windy, wavy green shot through with coy blushes of red. The sidewalks were jammed with beautiful stylish people of all colors conversing enthusiastically in French and English and many other languages. I swear everyone seemed to be holding hands and laughing. Cars, trucks, scooters, and motorbikes raced bumper to bumper around blind corners and sharp hills. Most drivers seemed intimately connected with their horns, which seemed to function as a substitute for signaling a desired lane change. It was a hot, humid afternoon and the sun was sinking. The blessed relief of the weekend was upon us and as it grew darker the street seemed to come alive even more.
Those charming brownstones eventually gave way to hip boutiques, restaurants and clubs. Everything was crammed cheek to jowl in 1 or 2 story old brick buildings. There was no towering downtown skyline where we were, and we saw very few corporate chain stores. Character, personality and a strong sense of joie de vivre issued forth from every direction – the stores, the clubs, the people, even the traffic. There’s something wonderful about being in a city that has deliberately preserved thousands of beautiful old buildings. I understood immediately that the citizens of Montreal value beauty, uniqueness, and respected the city’s past. I think, of all the Canadian cities I’ve seen, Montreal has the strongest presence and character. It was obvious to me that Montrealers take pride in their gorgeous city. I certainly would if I lived there.
We pulled up to the Cafe Chaos (still on Rue St. Denis) around 5:30. The street outside the club was pulsing with people and music. I heard at least 2 different jazz clubs on the block where we were. We loaded in the gear and met the promoter and sound tech. After sound check we had about 2 hours before the show started and I was delighted to have the chance to explore.
About 3 blocks further down St. Denis was the Montreal International Film Festival. I saw an honest-to-god red carpet. Periodically a limo disgorged a couple of very well-dressed people who sniffed haughtily in my direction as security escorted them past the barriers designed to keep people like me from breaching the have/have not illusion.
I saw a wide, low gray stone building complete with Grecian pillars and gargoyles. I think it was an art gallery. My French isn’t that great. It had tall, narrow stained glass windows that were illuminated with black lights mounted on the ground below. So, this enormous structure was cloaked in darkness except for detailed stained glass paintings that glowed brightly and were visible for some distance. Across the street was a Gothic cathedral with an intricately carved bell tower. The narrow wooden doors
were thrown open and inside banks of colored votive candles flickered at the feet of statues.
Everywhere I looked, the city was so vibrant…and everywhere, it seemed, my eye landed on a beautiful woman. Big thumbs up to the many colors, styles, and shapes of beautiful women striding the streets of Montreal. I saw many stunning women with glasses…being a self-conscious girl with glasses myself, it was good for me to see confident bespectacled females sashaying hither and yon.
I headed back to the club around 10:30 and it was full of people! Before the first band started! Cafe Chaos was packed with young shiny Montrealers yelling in French and English to each other over the pounding house music, a beer in one hand, a smoke in the other.
Moki Moki played and captures the crowd’s attention completely. Everyone crowded close to the stage and danced wildly in a sweaty, jumping mass. Then it was our turn. We played 14 songs. Keith and I managed to speak to the audience in French, probably to their great amusement as Montreal is completely bilingual, and there’s really no need to struggle in French. The sound onstage was really great. The instruments were well balanced, and we each had a monitor (!) that pumped out the vocals crystal clear.
The crowd stuck around for our whole set. They yelled after every song, and clapped for solos and transitions. That’s a total first for us. Even though they had never heard the songs before, they were knowledegable listeners who were right there with us for every note. They seemed like the most open-minded, accepting, enthusiastic we’ve ever played for. Maybe they were, or maybe I was still intoxicated by the sights, sounds, and aliveness of the city.
We sold some cd’s AND got paid. Enough to get us to our next show in Oshawa. The sound tech Rene said he couldn’t describe how we sounded, in a good way. Possibly the best compliment I’ve received about the band. It was a Good Show.
Just to make absolutely sure that any elation or satisfaction I was feeling about Montreal was kept firmly in perspective, after our kick-ass rock show we had a very uncomfortable sleep in a gas station parking lot whereupon we were awakened by the blazing sun, baking in our own sweat. Oh, rock and roll – why do you kick us in the nuts again and again and again, even after a moment of triumph? Why must you toy with us so? Why?
My clothes from the night before – not lookin so hot now, I might add – were stuck to me. I was stewing in a most unpleasant miasma of morning after rock and roll. With no prospect of a shower, or even a private washroom (or COFFEE)(Aiiiiiiiigh!) I was hoping against hope that the day we were about to spend exploring Montreal would make up for this dreadful morning. Maybe if we could find a Tim Horton’s things would start to look up.

The Feminists: Our Terrible Secret Is Revealed

Last day of rest for quite awhile. I was getting a little bummed out with the last 4 days of no gigs, but then I looked at our schedule and pretty much from this point in (barring bad luck) we’re playing every day for the next 2 weeks. So today was a quiet day of writing, reading, napping, hanging out, and chatting with the baby. I wish I could say I got up at the crack of dawn for a full day of sightseeing. But we’ve been hemoraging money for the last 4 days and as a result are confined to whatever is free and within walking distance. And here in the suburbs that means a 20 minute walk to a Tim Horton’s in a strip mall. No offense to Timmy, I just want to put some distance between me and him when I have the chance.
Today Grant took the boys to go and look at comic books and Magic cards. There – our terrible secret is thus revealed – we’re geeks. (well, they are at least…I certainly didn’t go to any comic book store. My geekiness is expressed through other avenues) Really big geeks. AND we rock. Deal with it. Grant, Grief, and Zobac have been playing a lot of Magic (hey, it’s free and within walking distance) and as the hours pass they descend deeper and deeper into geekdom. It’s been quite hilarious to listen to the shrieks of despair and triumph and profanity-laced threats issuing forth from their basement dungeon.
Tomorrow we depart for Montreal. We’re going to hang out there for a few hours before we play. I’m stoked. We didn’t get a chance to see it last year. Hopefully there are lots of free, amusing, and entertaining things to do that one can walk to.
Grant somehow procured The Family Guy movie – I don’t think it’s out yet. We watched it last night, and I’ll need to see it at least 2 more times. It was very awesome. Everything you’d expect from a two hour, uncensored, Family Guy experience.
I’m ready to play some shows and do some work. But this little green bedroom in this lovely house is so nice. And right across the hall from the washroom. I can’t believe we’re going to be sleeping in the van tomorrow. I hope this year’s Montreal experience is better than last year’s.

The Feminists: Last Year He Was Only A Small Bump

Nothing remarkable between Sudbury and Ottawa. Freeways, noise, pollution, pulp mills, mining, lots of concrete. I was so happy to see Grant and Kathryn’s house. Grant is an high school friend of Keith’s. We were introduced to him and his family last year and I guess we didn’t horrify them too much because they offered us shelter and sanctuary this time around as well.
This year Grant and Kathryn hatched a beautiful youngling named Mateo. Last year he was only a small bump, but now he’s 7 months old. He has bright, snappy dark eyes and an enormous, face-splitting, drool covered grin for anyone who makes eye contact. Pretty much everything blows his little mind and he is bursting with curiousity and friendliness. I have had several satisfying conversations with him. He’s a fabulous listener and has restored my faith in the male of our species.
Looks like we may secure a couple of extra shows on our way back through Ontario, thank you Jesus. We’ve all been busy on the Internet (thanks, Grant and Kathryn) wheeling and dealing, especially Belland who stalks gigs mercilessly. It’s amazing what that guy can accomplish as he slaves over a hot computer. As he told me the other day, if this band was called the Spice Girls, he’d be Business Spice. All business all the time.
Except when there’s beer tickets. Hey, everyone needs to balance work and pleasure, even Business Spice. I think I’d like to be Organizer Spice. Or maybe Logistics and Strategy Spice.
At any rate, I’m off to have a looooong hot shower. It’s been 4 days and 3 nights in the van.

The Feminists Indie Rock Roadside Cookbook

Spaghetti With Meat Sauce
Enlist your drummer to light the 2 burner Coleman stove. Remaining
band members should fashion an A-frame lean-to with your trusty tarp and 2 tent poles. This will greatly increase your chance of having a hot meal
during gale force winds and lashing rain. Upon lighting stove, make sure
everyone has a chance to warm their frozen chapped hands by the tiny blue flame.
Remove 1 lb ground beef from cooler, brown the meat in a skillet over
high heat. Chop 1 onion and 2 gloves of garlic, add to meat. Don’t drain
the meat. This is rock and roll. Transfer to larger pot.
Fill a large pot with water and place on the other burner over high
heat. Add salt and a dollop of margarine. When it boils, add 2 woman-sized fistfuls of spaghetti. Drain when pasta is al dente. To the meat, garlic, and onions add 1 can of tomato sauce, 1 can of mushrooms, and plenty of parmesan cheese. Simmer over medium heat until pasta is done.
In the absence of pot-holders, when pasta is done feebly wrap 2
dishcloths around the edges of burning hot pot and stagger a few steps away from the lean-to to drain. Retreat to van so hands unthaw sufficiently to wield miniature picnic cutlery. Enjoy!

The Feminists: What An Hour Really Feels Like

What shall we do today guys? How about another day of driving across Ontario? Sounds good! So here we are, bombing along the highway at 120km/h. Well, that’s a guess. The spedometer conked out around day 3. Yup, lotsa trees in northern Ontario. We drove along the coast of Lake Superior for awhile. That was nice. It’s a really big blue lake, for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of driving beside it hour after hour after hour.
It occurs to me that my world has been reduced to 2 duffel bags, my keyboards, and this van. I can hold in my mind the sum of my worldly possessions. I won’t be stumbling across extra stuff and saying “Hey! I forgot I owned that!”
We drive, we stop and make food when we’re hungry. We’ve had some tasty meals in gorgeous surroundings. We listen to music, read, write, and talk. Sometimes we watch a movie, or Grief and Zobac will play video games. This is broken up periodically by playing rock and roll and sleeping in the van. This is Canada, people. There’s a lot more driving than playing because there’s a lot of unpopulated (by humans) wilderness to drive through. Without a connection to the outside world of mass media, time pressure, consumer pressure, and the stress of a job the days begin to lengthen. It’s amazing to remember what an hour really feels like when you aren’t rushing against the clock.

The Feminists: I Think We’re Having A Good Time

I think we’re having a good time. I guess that’s what you call it when everything is going well and people are laughing frequently.
This morning, upon fueling up in Winnipeg to depart that fair city, the van refused to start. Sort of confusing, as we had driven it up to the pump about 5 minutes ago. A couple in a van with BC plates gave us a jump, but it didn’t work. So Mike called BCAA. Good thing he renewed our membership before we left. Then there was nothing to do except wait and worry about how much time and money this was going to cost us.
Within an hour, we were rescued! The CAA guy showed up. peered under the hood, asked a few questions, then calmly cleaned off the battery terminals which were covered in corrosion. The Gray Mare obediently roared to life and we were off. Didn’t cost us a dime. Seeing as how all we had to do today was drive, it didn’t even really mess up our schedule.
We pulled into Thunder Bay about 9 hours later, Northern Ontario is very beautiful country. Not so much in the way of clouds, but lots of green and trees and lakes. For hours we wound our way through the Canadian Shield. Moss covered rocks, small and medium sized sparkling lakes surrounded by forest. There were also very many tiny islands in these lakes – just a bit of rock rising out of the water covered in trees. The sky was a deeply reassuring blue, reflected superbly in all that water.
It’s late summer here. All day I started at trees, lakes, moss, rocks, islands, and winding empty highway. Lots of greens and blues interspersed with the most fleeting flashes of yellow and deep burnt orange. No reds yet.
In Thunder Bay we paid a business call to a huge club called Warp 9. Ferdy chatted up the resident authority figure, we left them a cd, and we might have a chance for a gig on the way back…as part of a metal bill. Metal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner so far on this tour. Perhaps metal is taking over this great country. Maybe The Time Of Metal is upon the Canadian people.
Speaking of dinner, in the Safeway parking lot of Thunder Bay we had roast chicken, rice, gravy, and stuffing prepared by resident wizard/chef Michael A. Zobac. It was a damn good meal.
So far on this tour I have learned that with homemade food, warm feet, and adequate bedding nothing is really that terrible. Laughing also helps. Not a problem with these nutty dudes.
Tonight we tucked ourselves into the van behind a Husky and rocked the ganja hard and mightily. We watched a little Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas on Grief’s laptop. Grief and Zobac are occupying the top bunk. They put on a very entertaining show every night as each of them wedges himself into his sleeping bag and then slithers and thrashes about like a dying salmon as first one, then the other, inches their way into the narrow drawer-like sleeping spot. There’s about 11 inches of clearance between the tip of one’s nose and the roof of the van, and once they’re in, there they must stay until morning.
Or until Belland wake up. He sleeps on the back seat that Mike and Keith launch themselves off of during their nightly salmon dance. The seat is also a serviceable bunk, though a little short. My boudoir consists of a piece of plywood resting across the two front seats. This year I have the luxury of many blankets, a yoga mat, and a thinsulate mattress (thanks,Mrs. Quimby!). I just have to be careful to avoid kicking the van into gear as I slumber.

The Feminists: Thick Beams Of Light

The drive from Saskatoon to Winnipeg was really beautiful. It was sunny and warm with huge rolling banks of white fluffy clouds. I meant to write, read, and sleep – a packed agenda, I know – but I didn’t get around to it. Instead I gazed for hours out the window and watched the interplay of clouds, sunshine, gentle slopes and occasionally, like an unexpected $20 bill in a pair of old jeans, a blue sparkling tiny lake surrounded by marsh grasses and delicate willows bent gracefully into the wind.
I totally get why people live on the prairies.
I love the mountains in BC, but the prairie sky overwhelms me; satiates me completely with beauty and calms my eye, heart, and soul. The clouds change color as they recede into the distance. First white, then tinged with the barest hint of azure blue. The blue darkens into indigo, and then the curvature of the earth cuts short any further observation. Sunlight bursts through in random spots – thick beams of light slice through and illuminate more clouds above and below. And the whole spectacle is rolling and tumbling along as we zoom underneath it. I was driving when the sun set, but I stole several satisfying glimpses in the rearview mirror. Red, purple, and a color halfway in between that I don’t know the name for.
So we raced into Winnipeg, after a tasty lunch of soup and hot dogs prepared somewhere along the highway in a very tiny farming town. We loaded our gear swiftly and surely into the club to play for…nobody.
Okay, technically we played for the other band, the bartender, the door guy, and one (1) paying customer. Apparently there was a big metal show happening elsewhere in town. And since the Collective is now a metal venue – it certainly wasn’t last year when we played there – we were quite out of luck.
The word metal has come up quite a lot lately. We are playing with a lot of metal bands on this tour so far, and now we’re getting booked into metal venues. I can’t believe that anyone would consider us a metal band. The very idea is quite sobering and yet absurd. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence.
The one paying customer did, however, buy a t-shirt and cd. So we could say that 100% of all audience members bought merch after the show.
Today we’re camping out at a Husky truck stop doing laundry. We made tacos for breakfast. Mmmm so tasty. So greasy. Coming up next – a four day drive to Montreal. We did have a show in Thunder Bay that would have broken up the mind numbing distance, but the club went under. Awesome. When I left Vancouver I was looking forward to these 4 days of traveling. Now after a few days in the van I’m not so sure. Let us hope for sunshine, and plentiful hot coffee.

The Feminists: Drugs, Alcohol, And Rebellion

Highlight of the show in Saskatoon:
Actually, there were a few. The venue was cool – “The Basement”. They apparently mostly have jazz there. On the walls of this narrow underground cavern there were big, backlit Impressionistic paintings of people playing jazz. Classy joint, really. Except for tonight, when the Basement contained scores of passionate teenage music fans (an all ages show, good sign) 4 heavy bands (emo, prog, metal, and us).
Saskatchewan booze laws allow all ages shows to sell alcohol, but you
have to show ID at the bar. Now THAT’S an all ages show…make the beer accessible and let the rock and roll games begin!
Like it or not, rock, drugs, alcohol, and rebellion are inextricably entwined. I think rock and roll sounds most authentic when it’s played in a rebellious environment such as a bar, stadium, or outdoor festival where people have the option of getting fucked up. Somehow, there’s a dirty, nasty edge to the show when drugs/alcohol/excess are present, whether one chooses to indulge or not. And that illicit, dangerous vibe always enhances the rock in my humble opinion.
Now, it’s not necessary to get fucked up to enjoy rock and roll. Personally, I can’t play music unless I am stone cold sober. So every show we’ve ever played I have enjoyed and attended without consciousness-altering substances of any kind. But even when I’m sober, I like that desperate edge that’s always there when there’s booze and drugs and people on the edge of reason milling about.
The Saskatoon show was very cool. I didn’t see any bad rebellious underage kids drinking beer. They were probably all outside smoking weed. I did see a lot of excited music fans riding wave after wave of blisteringly loud and fast emo, screamo, prog, and metal.
The metal bands really liked us, by the way. Even bought a CD. I think I’m encouraged by this. Maybe we’re not as wimpy as I thought. We did see an amazing metal band called Nikola Tesla…Belland literally took his hair down when they started to play and rocked hard for their whole set.
Our set went very well…we elicited many screams of delight and appreciation from the good kids of Saskatoon. Afterwards we sold lotsa cds and merch, enough to finance the drive to Winnipeg.
Huh. So far, so good. More from Winnipeg.

The Feminists: Glowing Clouds

Highlight of the Edmonton show:
1. Hearing more applause after every song.
2. A full stage Viking stomp by Ferdy Belland.

During the last triumphant chorus of “Gravity Pulls”, Ferdy Belland did a full Viking stomp across the stage – at least 3 gigantic strides with his bass held aloft like Thor’s thunderbolt.
Belland mostly strides the stage at will. When he lifts his bass high he gets a look of murderous intensity that would make anyone get out of his way IMMEDIATELY. Unless, of course, Grief is flailing around like a leaf in a hurricane. That’s almost more dangerous because he keeps his head down as he flails, so unless you want to get hit, watch out.
I can’t participate in all that whirling dervish/rampaging Viking fun. I’m trapped behind (protected?) by my keyboard stack. I just get the best seat in the house for every show.
Drummers really get the shaft onstage, I think. At least I can stand up when I play and the audience can sort of see what I’m doing. Mike is sitting behind a forest of drums, cymbals, and hardware. He is very fascinating to watch as he plays, and I’m the only one who can see it because I set up beside him. If you’re watching from the front, all you can see is a bunch of cymbals and drums and glimpses of his head whenever Ferdy and Keith aren’t tango-ing by.
We haven’t had any moments of dramatic chaos onstage yet. Occasionally Grief and Belland are stomping and flailing simultaneously, drumsticks are splintering and wooden shrapnel is bouncing off my keyboards (and me). My keyboard stack teeters ominously as Ferdy’s Viking stomps shake the stage. Sometimes I see Grief barreling towards me, head down and eyes closed. He rushes by, sweat flying as he narrowly avoids head-butting my keyboard stack directly into the drumset.
Imagine all of this taking place in a swirling vortex of overwhelming volume. I think the physical chaos is merely an expression of the sonic chaos that is issuing forth in all its splendid fury. Or maybe it’s vice versa. I’m not sure it matters. At any rate, Belland provided a classic Viking stomp moment last night and I for one am grateful.
We’re almost in Saskatoon. I had the pleasure of drinking in the beauty of the prairies today. Intermittent clumps of trees, very gentle rolling hills tinged with green…quite pretty, but really just a backdrop for the main show – the sky, the sky, the sky.
It’s just so big and open and perfectly hemispheric. Today it was full of banks of the fluffiest cumulus clouds, back lit by the fading late afternoon sun. Between the glowing clouds, the sky is palest, barely blue tinged with indigo and lavender as the sun continues to sink.
Good grief. That’s what I get for writing in the van. Overwrought cloud paragraphs. Well, I’ve got the time for it and there’s something delicious about reading, writing, driving on an empty highway, and staring blankly out a window at sky and clouds and hills while the majority of people are working hard, crossing swords with the same jerks that exist in every workplace, forcing themselves to do some job that they hate. I used to do that every day, and I’ve concluded that I prefer my present job of daydreaming, reading, playing rock and roll, and spending Friday afternoons like this one trying to describe glowing clouds.
I wonder what’s for dinner tonight. We’re hoping to have time to cook before we play.

The Feminists: At Least We Were Sleeping Indoors

Woke up in Golden after 4 hours sleep – but at least we were sleeping indoors. Packed up the gear from last night’s show. I hate packing up the
morning after. It reminds me of clearing away the debris in one’s bedroom after a night of passion. Without the excitement and adrenalin and immediate payoff of playing rock and roll, gear hauling is just impossibly irritating – just a lot of heavy awkward objects to wrestle with before my First Cup.
The only thing I usually do before my First Cup is get up, shuffle confusedly and resentfully into the kitchen and make coffee. Then I stand there and wait for the First Cup to dribble oh so teasingly into the pot. Then I snatch the pot off the burner, pour my First Cup, and say a thankful prayer to the coffee goddess for her elixir of life. Then I apologize to my sweetheart for all the nasty things I said before the First Cup. Sometimes, if I’ve been good, he gets up and makes the coffee and brings it to me.
No use pining for home comforts. Today I had coffee with the boys at the A&W in Golden and it was just fine. We came up with a great video concept involving Jesus, some grateful party dudes, and turning water into wine.
Today we are driving to Edmonton to open for the mighty Choke. We successfully cooked our first roadside meal. Stopped for lunch somewhere on the highway between Calgary and Edmonton. It was rainy, and windy and very chilly. Within 20 minutes,
FemCentral had constructed a hardy A-frame lean-to with a tarp and tent
poles (thanks dad…it worked great), a warm, dry and cozy environment where Mike and I made spaghetti sauce and pasta on our new camping stove. Keith and Ferdy washed the dishes. We ate in the van, with a couple of candles burning cheerily. Warm, dry, and pleasantly satiated, Grief mused ” now this is the good life…I wonder what the poor folk are doing.”
We pulled up to the Sidetrack cafe in Edmonton, loaded in, set up, and
played. The sound was great. I had fun. Ghosts of Modern Man and Choke were both very awesome and very heavy. Might have been the heaviest show we’ve been added to so far. And now I’m here at Ferdy’s friend Matt’s house…who saved us from sleeping in the van…thanks Matt… and we are readying for cast-off. Tonight we play in Saskatoon. And I’m pretty sure we’re going to have to sleep in the van.

The Feminists: A Full Day’s Adventure

It took us 3 hours to get out of the city today. Because we kept forgetting stuff at our various houses. Mike was the only one who didn’t forget anything. But Ferdy forgot his bass head in his carport…in Port Moody…Keith forgot the Playstation at his house, and I win the bonehead prize because I forgot my wallet and all my money. Guess I should have put that on one of the lists.
At 12:30 pm, after we had met at Mike’s house for a 9am departure, we were sitting in a Wendy’s at 12th and Boundary. Hey, we were hungry. “Well”, Ferdy said brightly, “It already feels like we’ve had a full day’s adventure, and we haven’t even left Vancouver.”
We made it to Golden about 9 hours later, with 45 minutes to go before
it was time to play. There’s no sound tech at Packer’s , so we had to set
up the PA as well as our own gear, check into our rooms, and make some set lists. No problem. Our operation runs pretty tightly these days, sort of like a military campaign.
45 minutes later, we were ready to rock. Stokley was there so the
evening immediately became more exciting. Stokley shows up periodically to our shows and films us playing.Sometimes he makes a video of one of our songs and posts it on the Internet. We are very amazed that he does this – he’s a professional videographer who’s worked with lots of bands more famous than us (mind you, we’re not hard to beat as far as fame goes).
The last time we saw Stokley he showed up at a Calgary show, filmed us, and then snuck us into his hotel room afterwards, thus saving us from sleeping in the van. Never will I forget the sight of Zobac waddling through the graciously appointed lobby with 5 blankets wrapped around his waist underneath his trench coat, smuggling in bedding for the rest of theband. He looked like Santa Claus on Christmas morning…grizzly beard, exhausted, quite irritable. The night clerk saw us coming, and I swear he just deliberately averted his eyes and pretended to read his newspaper.
So anyway, Stokley was in Golden calmly setting up his camera as we
hustled in, slightly wild eyed as our set-up plan rolled into action.
We played 30 songs. I had fun. The sound onstage was great. I think
Mike and and Keith should always do our sound. There were 2 guys there that were really into it. Otherwise, there was a handful of people huddled in the smoker’s room and a couple that never moved form the VLT’s the whole night. They gambled next to each other while holding hands, eyes fixed straight ahead, absorbed in the soft blue computer screen glow.
After the show, we stumbled exhausted upstairs to our rooms. Except
Ferdy, who drank beer with Stokley until four in the morning. I don’t know how he does it, and I admire his stamina. After 4 hours sleep, 12 and a half hours of driving, and 3 hours of playing rock and roll, I was tuckered.

The Feminists: No Use Pining For Home Comforts

The day before departure. I had a full day of teaching and prep. Then
I zoomed from my last lesson straight down to the Media Club to see Dawn sing with her band the No Shit Shirleys. They were wonderful, a much needed dose of estrogen before my impending testosterone exposure. I was supposed to stay and see As the Crow Flies…and I love that band so very much and have been looking forward to this show for so long. But I left after Dawn’s band because my mental “To Do For Tour” list had grown out of control.
So, anyway. I stayed up real late packing and crossing off items on my
COLLECTION of to do lists…this is the first time I’ve tackled a project of
such magnitude that it generated huge, dense, thick “Don’t Forget” lists. I
had a lot of lists, and I had to stop myself from writing a master list to
organize all the other lists. Because of our experience last year, we are
much better prepared (thanks to the lists) and have a better idea of what
to expect. The pre-launch sequence was in motion, and soon we would cast off from Vancouver and begin our voyage of rock and roll adventure.
In the meantime, however, it was 2:30 in the morning, I had finished my
packing- actually, I had just sort of given up on it – and was longing on
the couch watching tv, waiting for my sweetheart to get one last email fix
before bed. Everything was so comfortable and familiar (and warm and dry), and I thought “I don’t think I want to go”.
“I don’t think I want to go”, I said sadly to Mr. Sweetheart.
He smiled at me. His warm, soft eyes peered gently into mine and made me a little light-headed. Beautiful eyes, always brimming with mischief and fun and silliness. Ah. I digress.
“Well, babe,” he said, “you don’t have to WANT to go, but you do HAVE to go”. True enough.

The Feminists: Not Until We Get A Bus

Back in BC! We are in Cranbrook, twiddling our collective thumbs while Ferdy shags his way back into married life. It’s been 6 weeks since Ferdy and Erin last saw each other, so we are stopped here for a couple of days for some relationship maintenance until our last show in Golden later tonight. I say, whatever makes Erin happy, Erin gets. Because I really, really, would like her to come with us on the road at some point. The sooner, the better. She’s just so good at maintaining Ferdy…sigh…and she’s fun and smart and it would be nice to not be so drastically overwhelmed and outnumbered. But she says, not until we get a bus. So now I have to figure out how we can get a tour bus happening for next time.
We played in Calgary, and it was quite good. Not many people, but there was some other ginormous event happening the same night. We get that a lot. For some reason, a Feminists show isn’t the biggest event in town yet. But we were paid handsomely and the people who were there danced and yelled and drank and bought cd’s. The Feminists: conquering the Canadian rock scene 3 people at a time. Coming soon, furtively, secretly, to a bar you’ve never heard of on the same night as something really impressive playing songs you don’t know at jet engine volume level. I just don’t understand why this tour hasn’t been BIGGER!
Sarcasm doesn’t come across very well via the computer.
Neither does wry resignedness.
But, before you start feeling sorry for the poor little Feminists, whose tour has been plagued with bad luck, dead gigs, expensive (bad) surprises, and a shortage of, what do you call that, you know, when you get paid for doing your job, you know, when they give you that paper stuff you can use to buy things with, I will tell you about the show in Cranbrook.
The bar was packed. We played 2 hour long sets. The endings of our songs were drowned out by screaming. We sold more cd’s. There was a table full of people right in front of my keyboards who collectively closed their eyes and grinned during the entire second set, opening their eyes at the end of each song to scream with delight before closing them again when the next song began. Many people came up to us to talk. And they had intelligent things to say, about the songs and the music and the “energy flow” onstage. The next day, someone approached us at the Denny’s when we were having breakfast to talk about the show, and then again at the Safeway. The first time strangers have approached us to talk about a show. Of course, we were all too embarrassed to savor it. The Grief has been lamenting the lack of recognition and respect he’s been getting on this tour, but when it happened, he was just as tongue tied as the rest of us.
I wish that the Cranbrook show was the last one, as it’s going to be pretty anticlimactic to drive to Golden and play an empty, unpromoted show on a Sunday night. But oh well. Soon we’ll be home….if the van can make it to Vancouver.

The Feminists: Enough With The Poetry

Now we are in Calgary. It’s been a long time since I had a chance to be alone with a computer. I’ve already been typing madly responding to various teaching inquiries so I better bang this out fast or Ferdy will wrestle me for the electronic hearth. And he’ll win, he’s much bigger than me.
I got to drive a lot today, which was fine with me as we are in the prairies, the most beautiful part of Canada in my opinion. I am the only Fem to think thusly – my video game playing compatriots denounce the prairies as the most boring landscape in Canada. Where are their eyes, I wonder to myself. This is the only part of Canada where you can really dig the sky and admire its vastness. It’s so calming and relaxing to let one’s eyes travel over the spaciousness of it all. Everything is so stark and clean. Every object stands out against the flatness. The eye is drawn automatically to anything that rises the slightest bit above the earth. It’s like driving through a painting, everything is so vivid and there are so many subtleties to appreciate.
Enough with the poetry though. It’s Aug 10 or 11 or somewhere around there and we have but 3 shows left. Next week I’ll be teaching piano lessons, driving from house to house in my dear little Honda Civic and launching the next round of Fems projects.
There remains much to contemplate. I have learned more in the last 6 weeks than I expected, but the lessons have come at a high cost. We can see clearly what we need to improve on to make the next tour better. Thankfully, nothing much on the artistic front but a whole lot on the business side of things. The people who told us before we left that a Canadian tour was not really a good idea were right. Canada is a mind blowingly big country and there remains a lot of empty space here. That makes for a lot of driving and less playing.
However. I’m also glad we didn’t listen to those people and went out and did this anyway. We have survived with our collective friendship intact and strengthened. We have had a great many unique experiences together and that has created a deeper bond that can’t help but be reflected in our work. It was fascinating to witness the building of a new social unit, and I have started musing quietly that there is maybe a master’s thesis in here somewhere waiting to be written. I didn’t expect us to become as familial as we have – I observed with some surprise that all of the guys had a nurturing streak that became more obvious the longer we have been isolated from society. (Of course they are all very scary, bad to the bone, intimidating rock and rollers as well.) The fact that their best human qualities of caring, consideration, and kindness became more obvious the longer we were away from normal society I think says more about what society expects of men than it does about them as individuals. And they are all lovely individuals.
But I miss women. I’m not a very girly gal, but there are some key differences in the socialization of males and females that create a steep divide along the lines of gender that I was somewhat unprepared for. I feel like I’ve been living in a foreign country where I can observe many of the social rituals, but don’t understand how to participate in them, and in fact probably am not equipped to participate in them even though I’ve been invited by the locals, who are very nice people. We speak the same language, but the inflections and body language are unfamiliar. I’ve gotten a lot more fluent over the past few weeks, but I am looking forward to going home to my girl house with my best-girl-friend roommate where everything is comfortable and easy. And clean. And sweet smelling.
We had a decent show in Saskatoon. We are continuing to play well. I am mostly encouraged. The album is on at least 1 more indie chart, a welcome sign of progress. There will be a flurry of activity upon our arrival back in Vancouver as we are all determined to build on the momentum that we have accrued during this tour. There will also be a flurry of day jobs as we dig ourselves out of the financial crater that we find ourselves in. At the bottom. Where no light reaches.
Off I go to read my book. I would definitely be much crazier than I am if I didn’t have books to read on this tour. Nobody bothers you when you’re reading a book. Or at least, that’s what I’d like the other Fems to finally fucking realize…

The Feminists: Thunder Bay Is Where We Are Now

Thunder Bay is where we are now, the first town that we will play in twice on this tour. We are on our way back, with 9 days to go. There has lately been much horror and heartbreak – mostly involving dead gigs and a shocking, utter, and complete lack of money.
It seems like we have been in Ontario forever. We had a show in St. Catherines last week at a festival showcase. Sounds impressive, no? And it was – there were 12 bands on the bill and everything was meticulously organized. Unfortunately, we played in broad daylight with the sun blazing merrily outside the bar, which was in, can you guess, a mini mall. (And here I thought Calgary was the only time I’d get to play in a mini mall on this tour.) Next door to a beer store. Miles removed from the rest of St. Catherines. The name of the bar was The Boob Tube. We played very well, and as usual we stunned the 8 people from the other bands that half listened to us as they packed up their gear.
Actually, there were a couchful of kids that really liked us as well. They made a lot of noise, and that made us feel special. We HAD to be really good, because Mayor MCa was right before us, and he is a force to be reckoned with. He sings, tap dances, make arm pit noises, and has a 1 man band that he operates while singing his songs that are mostly funny and always good. We have played with him before, and I hope we will again.
As we were done playing by about 7:30 and had to stick around to see if we would get any money form the door, we had some time to kill. Like about 6 and a half hours, as the last band played until 2am. So, at the behest of the Grief, we went to Niagara Falls, which is about 15 minutes away.
Whew. I have never been to Las Vegas, but I think Niagara Falls must be pretty close to that. It’s one thing to say “there’s going to be so many tourists there”, but it’s really quite awesome to see just how many there are. I was overwhelmed as we threaded our way towards the distant, less than $25 parking. The falls were incredible, but almost as incredible were the sheer number of people packed into every available space. We walked 6 km from our van to the falls, by the way. There was something kind of tawdry though, about waiting for a space against the guardrail to open up so I could press myself in between 2 strangers and look at that massive, neverending wall of water. It was breathtaking – but I wish I could have seen it 500 years ago when it must have been a little less crowded.
The prices for everything were of course outrageous. I paid almost $7 for a coffee. A one time error, already paid for handsomely with the amount of teasing that I got for it. That was my food money for the whole day. There was neon and people and amusements everywhere. After being confined in a van with the same 4 people for some weeks, the crush of the crowd, the blaring loudspeakers of cheesy music, the garish neon signs that blotted out the stars – it was mildly terrifying. So much commerce! So many things to buy, so many ways to spend so much money.
After we collected our $50 from The Boob Tube, we got lost in Toronto in the middle of the night. We ended up crawling down Yonge St through the worst traffic I think I have ever had the misfortune to be involved with. We asked a cop for directions to get back to the hwy and he actually laughed as he described how to get to the freeway and gently suggested that we might want to get off Yonge St, to help further our goal of LEAVING TORONTO. Thanks. You mean we should try to get onto another street where perhaps we could travel farther than 6 blocks in an hour and a half?Sigh. It seems like we’ve been in Ontario for a very long time.

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!

The Feminists: Hopping and Swearing

Holy Crap. Here we are in London, Ont. We are at Joey’s house. Joey is our agent. It is very nice to finally meet the man who has sent us on this epic quest.
What has happened since I last wrote? I’m having a hard time remembering, and my brain seems fuzzy, like it could use a scrub. I guess that’s because we’ve been driving for the last 2 days. As in, driving. Not doing anything but driving. We had a show in Moncton, NB and then we had a day off and tonight we have a show in London. It is about 1100 km from Moncton to London. In fact, it is quite an endeavor to drive form Moncton to London, even though it is easy to write “We drove form Moncton to London”. Because you know what’s in between Moncton and London? This little obstacle we like to call Quebec. Quebec is Canada’s largest province. Quebec is also home to Montreal, a city 3 times the size of Vancouver. We passed through Montreal in the middle of the night. Rather, we passed through it from about 12:30 am to about 2:00 am. There was miles of construction and the biggest, longest traffic jam I’ve ever seen. I’m not that wordly, but I have been stuck in really bad Vancouver traffic for enough hours of my life to not be completely naive about rush hours and the like. And here we were, crawling through Montreal in the wee hours of the morning bumper to bumper for miles and miles. We hit evening rush hour the first time we were driving through Montreal; I shudder to think what morning rush hour was going to be like along those vast stretches of freeway so densely populated with all those big boy toys and piles of dirt and concrete and pipes and serious things of that nature.
After 14 hours of barreling down the highway with a 100km/h wind rushing through the van, (which seriously affected my reading pleasure as I spent seemingly endless hours desperately trying to hold down my wee page so that I could read all the lovely words contained therein) we pulled in to a noisy, busy truck stop in Cornwall, Ont. We slept, badly, for a few hours until the van heated up to a disturbing intensity. After another full day of driving in which we ran out of band money again and Keith ran out of cigarettes – I could write a separate novel about what an unpleasant combination these two things really are – here we are in London. I have had a shower and am in clean clothes, so my life is not the perfect graveyard of buried hopes that it was 3 hours ago. I yearn to do laundry. Finding a suitcase stuffed haphazardly with unmarked hundred dollar bills is another powerful craving that seizes my entire being.
I’ve been reading Virginia Wolfe and George Eliot this week. Also a little L.M. Montgomery.
Most recent shows have been Fredericton and Moncton. Oh yes. Fredericton. Very pretty town. Lots of beautiful old stone architecture. Compact and tidy downtown core with lots of cool stores and benches everywhere to sit upon. City Hall gave us a parking pass which enabled us to park for free all day downtown. I thought this was most impressive, as shopping and eating are not possible for us due to the fact that theft is generally frowned upon. So at least we had a place to camp out in for free all day. The bar we played at was cool, but there was…wait for it… NO ONE THERE…This wasn’t as distressing as you might think, as we had a $200 guarantee. So it was actually a really good paid rehearsal. Naturally, we blew the minds of the bartender and the 3 guys slumped over the bar drinking slowly and steadily. And we met a lovely fellow named Grant who let us stay in his house and made us breakfast the next morning. It was like a very nice, platonic (group) one night stand.
The Moncton show was quite fun. We played with our new friends The Ride Theory, who we met in Montreal. They are still really good. They rocked my socks a good distance. Then we played. It wasn’t good for me. My keyboards kept cutting out due to a crappy power source, my mic kept falling onto my keyboard, I couldn’t really hear my keyboards, I couldn’t really sing my parts that well (mostly because I was unwilling to rest my face on my top keyboard to do so). Ferdy’s bass amp cut out again – not his fault though, but so annoying. Mike and Keith were outstandingly brilliant. And people seemed to like us. (Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as an audience.) Sometimes we get to play in front of a group of people who listen to our music. That is a great way to spend an evening. We sold another cd. Reaching the masses, one hipster at a time. In another 10 000 years, the planet will be ours!!!! MOO HOO AH HA HA!!!
My documentary is coming along fine, thanks for asking. I”ve got some pretty compelling stuff. So far, my favorite moment captured on tape is when Mike drops the “man jack”(so christened becasue it is so very large and manly, fairly oozing with testosterone) on his foot. Ferdy wanted nothing to do with the jack that came with the van, dismissing it instantly as not worthy of the Gray Mare. He went out and returned with the man jack, probably after hunting down and slaying it with his bare Viking hands. And that’s what happens when you give a man jack to some Feminists. Somebody gets hurt. But it sure makes for good comedy, especially all the hopping about and swearing bits.
They spelled our name “The Femenists” in Moncton. But it was up in lights.
Time to go to the show. More later!

The Feminists: No Free Lunch

Warm and weary greetings, my friends.
And here we are in Fredericton, NB. The show in Saint John surpassed our expectations. We played with a very popular band called Slowcoaster, to our great advantage as we made enough money from the door to get to Sydney and now back to Fredericton. There were quite a few people in Saint John, and we got to play for an hour. We performed very well. It was loud and melodic and exciting and we scared some hippies. The club asked us for a cd to put into their juke box, so I guess they didn’t hate us.
From Saint John we went to Halifax. I really liked Halifax, even though I was only there for about 4 hours. A very happening city, vibrant night life and lots of people out having fun. We got to play in a neat club that was right across the street from a lineup of people waiting to go and hear somebody else’s band. Lovely. Then it was on to Sydney, on Cape Breton. Pretty much the farthest east you can go on the mainland of Canada. We played in a little lounge that lacked a.) a stage b.) customers c.) food. They did put a poster up, though. And, the one person that did wander in to listen was a promoter who was sufficiently impressed to buy a cd, give us some contact info for the Maritimes, and suggested we play the Halifax Pop Explosion festival and he would line up some extra shows in the area for us to make it worth our while. Right.
Tonight we rock Fredericton. We have walked past the club already, and there are strong indications that this club often hosts live bands, a good sign. Also, they have put a poster up. And we have a $200 guarantee for this show, which means we may be able to make it to Toronto, our next show and only 1100km away. Oh yes. That’s right. 1100km.
There has been many days of sleeping in the van. We are tired. We are disheartened. We have played a string of shows for empty rooms and no money. It’s just like playing in Vancouver, except that it was a longer drive to the gig. Nobody knows who we are, and the clubs don’t do any promotion because they’ve never heard of us, so nobody comes to the shows. And afterward, the club people (and the 2 or 3 people that wander in off the street) say wow, you guys were really good, too bad nobody came out tonight, please come back and play again and we’ll make sure the word gets out. Sure. We’ll just work and slave for another 6 months to save up enough money to drive 6000 km and come out here again to play for an empty room and sleep in the van afterward. I’m not bitter, I know I’m very lucky to do doing this blah blah blah…just tired. Lord, I’m tired. Now it feels like tired is our new normal. A constant haze of tired that even a vat of coffee can’t banish completely. May I never have a baby. I hear those little suckers make you tired for years at a time. I’m getting better at functioning while tired, but I’m not enjoying the functioning. And it would make a difference if we had a good show worked in betwixt all the empty ones, instead of one empty one after another.
I do hate people who complain about the rock and roll life. I’m sure there’s a lot of very noble aspects to our magical adventure, but I’m too tired to think of any right now.
On the plus side, we have sold cd’s at every single show that we’ve played. What else… we haven’t run out of pot, that’s a definite plus. Um…we did laundry last night, that was pretty exciting.
cd’s sold: 41
bowls smoked: not enough
sighs of hopelessness and futility: at least 3 just while I was typing this email

Oh well. At least I don’t work in retail anymore. Although I would be making more money right now if I did. Soon we will all be back home, working to pay off this mighty quest and yearning to go out and do it again.
I think I’m going to track down some more coffee and count my blessings. Fredericton is very pretty after all, and I am supposed to be on vacation. Perhaps I can go to one of those free hotels and do some free sightseeing activites and then perhaps on to a free restaurant to have a nice free lunch. Thank the goddess for free Internet access at the free public library in Fredericton.

The Feminists: Schedule Correction

Well, I was in error yesterday. Our next gig is in Moncton, not Toronto. THEN, we have the 1100km drive to T.O. Still in Fredericton. Time is of the essence. Must go. No chance for idle chitchat. Mike informs me that I’m still wrong, we play a lot of gigs in southern Ont. before we hit Toronto. Hmmmmm.
Until the next Internet cafe then.

The Feminists: Mike’s First Pickled Egg

Well, here we are in New Brunswick. It’s very surreal. We have driven over 6000 km to get here. We are on the other side of Canada. And, I’d just like to confirm for all of you who have not driven across Canada, it’s a very large country. The distances that we have covered are unbelievable. For example, 672 km form Fort Frances to Sault Ste Marie, and that was just to get across Ontario. Now, there was no gig in the Soo because the club didn’t have a PA and also wasn’t aware that we were supposed to play there. So we loaded the gear back in the van, went to Wendy’s, dropped off a promo package at a better club there and drove on to Sudbury. Didn’t make it that night, though. Camped out on the van in Thessalon, Ont. The Grief was quite cranky the next morning. The nice thing about Grief though is that if you ignore him, he will ignore you at least until he’s had his first 20 cups of coffee to get himself going.
Sudbury was a good show. Also our first rock star-like experience as we did our first group interview for the college radio station there. We were playing at a college bar in the summer, so there wasn’t much of a crowd, but we did meet The Smacks, the band that was playing with us there and most delightful they were. Mike had his first pickled egg, which I caught on video. Sold a couple more cd’s, and they had a band room downstairs which meant that I got to sleep in a room with a door, 4 walls, and a bed. I have informed all that when the opportunity arises for me to have my own room , that is what is going to happen. As long as I can get away from them at every possible opportunity, I’m fine. Not that they’re bad, far from it. I’d just rather be happy to see them instead of imagining how I could torture each of them into a quivering broken mass on a concrete floor…you can see why it’s good for me to follow my instinct and be solitary and quiet where I will harm no one.
On to Montreal. What a beautiful city. I could have stayed for weeks in Montreal. So far I have loved Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal, and now Saint John. Montreal was so hip and happening and exciting and lovely. The streets were packed with people, and where we were playing there were tons of bars, restaurants, all with live music. We played at a club called the Jupiter Room. The bathrooms were filthy, the ashtrays were overflowing, there was no clientele. There was also not one single poster promoting our show. There was no indication of any kind that this place had bands, ever. This did not bode well.
We played with a band called The Ride Theory, and they were great. 1966 Beatles flavor all the way, killer harmonies and all. Very nice guys too. We took the stage after them to play one long set. A few people had drifted in off the street at this point, and we played very well.
During our third-to-last song, Ferdy’s bass cut out, most annoying and disastrous. Keith leaped over his guitar amp to try and fix Ferdy’s rig. In the process, he knocked the amp over. It crashed off the drum riser face down on the floor. The house microphones also went flying, their flight of fancy of course amplified and quite loud. I could feel chaos start to descend upon us, which was also the moment that my organ solo was supposed to happen. All I knew was that K. was messing around during my solo. Rage filled my normally calm and friendly being. I never feel this rage unless I perceive that someone is interfering with my solo. Usually I am quite well mannered, but I demand that I get the chance to play my goddamn solo and my bandmates will not take this moment to draw attention to themselves. I went to music school for 7 years. I get to play my solos with the band supporting me, not competing with me. I don’t expect that audience to drop what they’re doing and listen – that’s pretty unlikely in a bar setting – but I do expect my band to listen and accompany.
As my field of vision became tinged with scarlet, I gave up on the solo and signaled the cue to end it. But K. missed my cue, which enraged me further. “PAY ATTENTION!” I screamed at him, unable to hear myself over the chaotic roar of the drums and organ He saw me yelling, though and as soon as he realized I was very, very angry he became angry too. He glared at me, face red and purpling, as he savagely yanked screaming dissonance out of his guitar. “YEAH, FUCK YOU” I roared, inches away from him. He definitely heard that one, and then we experienced what we like to call a train wreck. He’s supposed to sing by himself, but he didn’t. He’s also supposed to play his guitar, but that didn’t happen either. After a few seconds of painful silence, in which all of wondered what was going to happen next, he started singing. The band limped in. He threw his guitar on the stage and stormed off. End of show.
Although I was quite confused as to what was going on, I smiled to myself quietly. How great was that, I thought. Our first true rock and roll moment. I wonder if we can do that more often. What a cathartic experience. The audience gazed at us with wonder and awe. A (small) line formed at my feet of people wanting to buy cd’s.
As I packed up my gear, K. came up to me. We realized it had all been a big misunderstanding – he wasn’t trying to deliberately sabotage my solo, as I had assumed. Hugs and kisses were exchanged all around, apologies offered to all band members. We quickly slipped back into our soft-core attitudes. The most dramatic, intense conflict that he and I have ever had (and we’ve had a few), but also the quickest, cleanest resolution. For a moment, it seemed like we were turning into grownups.
That wasn’t the end of the excitement though. They tried to make us pay for the soundman because there wasn’t enough money from the door. Ferdy told the owner to go fuck himself. It was quite rewarding. We lost $20 playing in Montreal. I don’t care if we ever play there again.
From there it was on to Ottawa. Another non-paying show, and our show afterward in Toronto got canceled. But I did get to see the Parliament buildings. We sold some more cd’s and filmed our show, which was exciting as we have never seen what we look like playing a show before. Quite frankly, not as cool as I thought.
And now we are in Saint John. We play tonight, and may get an interview and a review from a local music mag. Our lost tour diary has been found, we have some paying gigs this week, and we heard a radio ad for the show tonight. All is well in Femland, there have been no more onstage or otherwise screaming matches. New Brunswick is beautiful. The sun has come out, and I can see the mist rising off the Bay of Fundy. Only 3 more days until my next shower.
cd’s sold:37
km traveled: 6000
lost articles: toothbrush, pjs, towel, shampoo, facial cleanser, sunglasses, playstation controller, Mike’s book. We thought the Game Boy got lost, but Keith found it so our hearts could start beating again.
finances: don’t get me started.

The Feminists: Unified in Disgust

Here we are in Montreal, a beautiful city with the worst venue that we have played so far. A disastrous show, but explosive none the less. On we go to Ottawa, where I will describe our Montreal experience with as much pathos as I can muster. But first I have to pack up my laundry. We are all in 1 piece and are unified in our disgust of the stupid bar we played at.

The Feminists: Everything Must Have Its Place

In Fort Frances Ont., we played at a place called The Rainy Lake Hotel. There were ashtrays in the rooms, paths worn on the “carpets”, and the tv had a broken converter but also a pair of broken rabbit ears. Our audience, when they weren’t ignoring us, got up and line danced to Shaggy tunes in between sets. Mike leaned over and whispered to me “did you ever think that you would see something like this?” as 8 drunken middle aged humans gyrated rather uncertainly in questionable unison carefully turning left, then right, then unsteadily raising one foot off the ground to begin the cycle over again.
The sound guy was a total pro, and told us that he used to work for Larry Gowan in the 80’s. This was very exciting to me as I well remember the joyful pleasure I felt bellowing along to Strange Animal and Criminal Mind on Video Hits, which I raced home to watch after school all during grade 1. Whatever ever happened to Video Hits, anyway?
So we played our show, managed to sell a couple of cd’s, and even got an encore at the end of the night. But not because they really liked us, I don’t think. More because some crowds just like to tell a band what and when to play. This was one of those times. We were finished our sets and wanted to get off the stage and the crowd sensed this so they hollered for us to play 1 more so we would know who was boss. The sound guy mentioned that he would in in Thunder Bay the same day that we were going there.
On we went to Thunder Bay, another lovely drive. Very humid in Thunder Bay. The club was nice, and we played a very good show. There was a small group of hipsters there, and they immediately recognized that their leader had come to them at last in the form of Keith Grief. Their collective hipster vibe caused his hipster antenna to tremble, slowly at first then with ever increasing throbbing intensity until his whole countenance shone, a beacon of hope and harmony for all the hipsters everywhere. They were helpless under his thrall, wanting to please him as he wanted to please them. So he leapt up on the monitors and played a guitar solo behind his head. There was a roar of approval as both sides recognized the solemn beauty of the meeting ritual.
We sold a couple of cds and had our first groupie encounter – well, it was directed at K. only. I guess we better get used to that as his raw animal magnetism starts the girlie’s hearts a-throbbin from coast to coast. The next morning, we were in our rooms (above the club where we played, only accessible by an unmarked door on the street which we had left open a crack so Ferdy might find his way back form getting the van fixed. It was 9:30 am, we had stayed up very late the night before. I was folding laundry, and little Michael was sleeping oh so peacefully on the bed. A quiet scene of calm domesticity, except I was folding underwear for 3 different men. I don’t know how this happens, but I do find myself in some alarmingly traditional female role every once in a while in this band, which is always disturbing to me as I worry that I’ll have to turn in my Feminists club card if anyone finds out that sometimes I have folded the band’s laundry.
Into this calm oasis of tranquility burst the sound guy from Fort Frances. He had come up stairs into our rooms. He hung out until it was time to go – about 3 hours later. The Feminists are not anti social. We are nice and kind and polite. But moments of calm and quiet are so precious these days that we tend to withdraw from bustling busyness whenever possible. And somehow, call me crazy, I think that when you’re in your room sleeping and folding laundry at 9:30am after yet another night of not enough sleep in another strange bed – at least there was a bed – that is a clear signal that you do not wish to socialize. Ah well. At least he bought a cd.
We lost our tour book/diary in Thunder Bay, very unfortunate. It wasn’t put back in its place, so I had to start a new one and now I have to keep it in my bag, guarding it jealously from the boys who are starting to realize that everything must have its place.
Must go. We played in Ottawa last night, and are off to Toronto. It was a good show, more about The Soo, Sudbury, Montreal, and Ottawa next time. Check out our new video of Sudden Departure of T on the blog, beautiful footage lovingly captured by our great friend Stokely who came to our show in Nelson.

bowls smoked: still sticking to the 2 a day limit
cds sold: because I lost my tour book with the inventory, I’ll have to say about 35 so far.
vehicular malfunctions: 3 with another one to deal with on our next day off
finances: bleak. Due to continued vehicular malfunctions we are paying for travel expenses with our own money. We may be able to get out of the hole once we play the shows where we actually get paid. Right now we are playing shows where we don’t get paid. Yea. All for the glory of rock and roll.

The Feminists: My Brush With Death In Winnipeg

So much has happened since the last time I had time to email. After Calgary, we headed to Winnipeg. We all really liked Winnipeg. Even The Grief said he could live in Winnipeg. Lots of big bugs, though. But hot, and sunny, and a very pretty, exciting city. We had a great show at a club called The Collective. There were quite a few people there, very young and all dressed so very hip. A club full of young scenesters, and to my great shock, The Grief was in his element. Far from his usual hermetic self, he cheerfully made friends with the other bands and even helped sell their merch. We had several record label reps there to watch us, but as of yet no bidding war has ensued.
My brush with death occurred when I was running to the van to look for an errant power cable. I launched myself from the curb across a very busy 6 lane street, my carefully honed city traffic reflexes in action as I assumed all would go according my plan, which was: run across this street very quickly and grab that cord and run back. There were cars coming, but there was a median and I had plenty of time.
However. As I leapt off the curb, I found I had enough time to think “why am I still flying through the air?” As the pavement rushed forward to greet me, and the lights from both directions turned green and six lanes of traffic closed in from both directions, I (finally) fell hard on the pavement, breaking the fall with my pathetically outstretched hands, and then skittered along like a flat stone on calm water on the left side of my body. I had overshot the median considerably. I frantically attempted to get my feet underneath me and stagger to safety, wondering if I would be visible to the approaching cars which I could hear accelerating towards me. The headlights were close enough to illuminate the pavement around me.
Just as my hand brushed against the side of the van, Keith came running up to me, having witnessed the entire spectacle from my launch point. Cars whooshed past mere inches from me, a rumbling river of lights flowing unstoppedly to the next traffic light. K. and I raced back to the club and we played a great show. Turned out the curb from wherefore I launched myself was at least 12 inches high, unknowable in the hazy twilight of the heavy, sultry Winnipeg evening. Although it was the first time I have flown through the air long enough to think about it, which was quite fascinating, I curse the abnormally high curbs of Winnipeg. And I may be less likely to jay walk in heavy traffic, but I doubt it. Why stop now? Clearly I am being saved for a higher purpose, or at least my luck hasn’t run out yet. Plus it’s not very rock and roll to cross meekly at a crosswalk.
In Winnipeg we met a great band called THE CAMAROMANCE, and I highly recommend that you all check out their website. We stayed with them at the promoter’s house after the show and it was very fun to meet another like minded group of musicians.
After Winnipeg, it was on to Fort Frances Ont. Ontario is a very beautiful province. The show was pretty good, we got an encore at the end. Next time I will tell you about the sound guy there. The hotel we played (and stayed) at was very funky. Then on to Thunder Bay, and now we are in Sudbury. Yesterday I drove along the coast of Lake Superior for about 7 hours. It was incredibly awesome.
My time is running out, more news to come soon!

The Feminists: Eastern Standard Time

No time to be long and poetic. We have made it to Thunder Bay, Ont. We are on a stint now of 9 shows in a row and soon we will be sleeping in the van for 11 days straight unless we happen to find someone to take us in wherever we happen to be. This is what happened in Winnipeg, so I got to sleep on a couch, next to a bathroom (luxury, my friends).
We played our show in Winnipeg, and then drove on to Fort Frances, Ont. We played there last night and the sound guy worked with Gowan in the 80’s, very exciting. Today we are very tired and sick of being in the van. We had some time to kill in Thunder Bay and we all scattered to the 4 winds and separated as soon as possible. I’m trying to think of something funny that’s happened, but the only thing that comes to mind is my brush with death in Winnipeg, which was funny after the death part was avoided.
And there I shall have to leave it. I’ll write again later this week. We’re all fine and in 1 piece.

The Feminists: Blood and Confusion

Thanks to all of you who informed me in an affirmative fashion that they wish to be kept abreast of The Feminists Third Wave Crashing Tour 2004 as we bicker our way across this great country of ours.
We are now in Winnipeg. Yesterday we drove across Saskatchewan. This may seem like an innocent and innocuous sentence, but let me assure you, it takes a lot longer to drive it than to say it. So we have traversed BC, AB, SASK, and are now in central Canada. I haven’t been able to find out what time it is for the last 3 days, but I think we’re 2 hours ahead of BC here.
Our show in Cranbrook was our best one yet, lots of people came out to see “Ferdy Belland and The Feminists”, as we were billed, but because Ferdy is from Cranbrook and knows the whole town, it was much to our advantage that his name was on the bill. But also kind of funny, as K. kept introducing all of us as Ferdy Belland, except Ferdy, who he introduced as “The Feminists”. We played 3 powerful sets, and had a lot of fun. We actually made a few fans, including one of Ferdy’s friends who volunteered to head up The Feminist Army and spread the word of how brilliant we are. This was very nice for us, much preferable to our usual “play-for-the-bartender” shows.
We sold 17 cd’s and at one point there was a line of people (a short line, honest compels me to admit) waiting for us to sign them. Very rock star. Over and over we heard “that was great, you guys are awesome” and there was lots of musicians in the crowd who were impressed with our arrangements and the stupendous freight train of rock power that is The Feminists. Probably the most gratifying show we have ever played, definitely the most appreciative and enthusiastic audience we have ever played for.
We had a day off in Cranbrook so Ferdy could cuddle with his lovely wife Erin, and we used this time to further the evolution of our tour van, The Gray Mare. We added a tv so the boys can play video games as well as the library (cardboard box of books), multilmedia bag (playstation games and cd’s) and added storage compartments. The van I would say now is almost liveable.
The glory of Cranbrook was followed by the strangeness of our Calgary show the next night. The Wild Rose Pub was in a mini-mall on the TCH. We had never played in a mini-mall before, but our name was illuminated proudly on the mini-mall sign high above our heads. As we unloaded our gear and ate dinner, all hell broke loose (keep in mind it was also the first day of Stampede).
A fight over a pool game moved out into the parking lot, one of the men still having a pool cue in his hand. As an innocent bystander tried to intervene, he was hit from behind with a pint glass on the back of his head. When he fell down, he hit his head again on the concrete curb. There was lots of blood and confusion. Many people leapt into action, and soon the police and ambulance were there. Then we had to go in and play. We hit our first chord and there was no bottom end to the band, as Ferdy’s bass amp had stopped working at this precise moment. Very sad, completely shook our confidence, and we were all mildly traumatized by the previous bloodshed. After the first set we ran his bass through the PA, which boosted his volume and our spirits considerably. There was also no stage at the Wild Rose, so we were playing in a corner by the door. It’s quite a bit harder to rock on a carpeted floor with nothing to launch yourself off of. We played ok, there was no mistakes, but there was no FIRE, baby.
Then the real fun began, after the gig as we were all trying to get to our various accommodations. While dropping Ferdy off, Mike drove over what felt like a 12 inch curb, vastly irritating Ferdy and terrifying K. and myself. Then we set off to find our place, but the friend that Mike had brought to navigate our way there was drunk and wasn’t paying attention to where we were, and had only been to said place twice. So we drove around in the dark in Calgary for quite some time as I slipped into a fitful sleep in the van bed. We finally got there, slept for a few hours, and then set off to collect Ferdy and get his amp repaired. I performed my morning toiletry ritual at an A&W in one of the many enormous big box complexes in Calgary. My first day with no shower – little did I know what was to come…
We got the amp fixed and pressed onward to Medicine Hat where we ended up camping in the parking lot of the Shell station on Hwy 1. This was because the van got flooded and wouldn’t start after we gassed it up, so we had to wait until the next morning for it to start. Our first night sleeping in the van. Also, we witnessed a young BMX dude wipe out right across the street from us and break his knee cap. Ferdy and Mike provided ice, advil, first aid and reassurance until his buddy came to pick him up. My days are gradually becoming more and more unpredictable. Now I have no idea what can possibly come about when I start my day, and this is quite exciting. And nerve wracking.
Awakened by the gentle light of the morn, and the tender melodies of engine brakes careening past our heads, The Feminists greeted each other with a surly “what time is it?” “6:30” “fuck that shit” and were on the road by 6:50 am. My first prairie driving experience. We made it to Regina, stopped for a couple of hours and made further improvements to the Gray Mare, adding an electric kettle so we can make soup and coffee and tea, and well, so many things really. Also, a backseat organizer and more storage compartments. It’s all about the storage and making sure everything has its place (right guys, am I right guys??) to prevent the forces of entropy from completing their awful work.
We were unable to find an Internet cafe in Regina, a city of 200 000 people. Also, the downtown was completely closed, so I have no idea what it’s like. So far, we usually end up going to some faceless gigantic mall to set up HQ while we take a break. And Wal-Mart is the same wherever you go. Yesterday, I had a latte at the Regina Starbucks/Chapters and it was great. I felt a little stupid that Starbucks has ensnared me in this way, but it was so nice to have a good coffee…is that so wrong? I know it’s not very punk rock, but I was dirty and dusty when I had it (day 2 and 3 no shower) and I tried to be obnoxious when I ordered it.
Then we drove to Brandon, MB. and camped in the parking lot of the Husky truck stop. We love the Husky. You can park there for the night, there’s washrooms and showers and laundry, so many ways to be clean. Another night in the van, and it poured rain all night but we were (very) snug and dry in our little tin can home.
So now, Winnipeg. We play tomorrow night and have many errands to run today. Laundry is high on the list. Well, my list anyway. And I’m the only one who makes lists, so let’s just say I’ll be washing my clothes today. We have now completed our longest dead stretch with no shows – 3 days – and will now be playing almost every day for the rest of the tour. And we didn’t kill each other, so I have high hopes. It’s usually the down time that causes all the interpersonal drama.

Thefts: 1
Vehicular malfuctions: 2 (minor tune up in Cranbrook)
number of times someone has said “well fuck you guys”: this is too annoying to keep track of
shows played: 6
provinces traversed: 3
bowls smoked: we have instituted a 2-bowl-per-day allowance to conserve our precious resources
cd’s sold: 25

The Feminists: How Mean Is A Junkyard Dog?

The Feminists are in Cranbrook, our last BC show before bravely heading westward to Calgary. We have had an eventful week so far. On day 1, three hours out of Vancouver, our van broke down in Merritt and a one hour job turned into 3 hours of baking in the desert sun in the picturesque surroundings of a junk yard complete with 2 junkyard dogs. Ferdy got yelled at for wanting to pet them – the shop owner didn’t want them to become friendly. Keith started smoking , even though he had just started on the patch. Nicotine overdoses make people really, really moody you know. Did you know that? Well, they do. So just shut up and deal with it.
Of course, I’m forgetting about out very first stop which was a show at Pat’s Pub in Vancouver the night before. Mike had a cymbal and cymbal stand stolen (his big, beautiful crash cymbal that provided us with a wash of white noise at pivotal moments in our rock and roll experience), and Keith’s amp got wrecked (sabatoged?) and was unusable. Also the show was running late, so we got to play for about 30 minutes, much to the disgust of our road manager Ferdy. Ferdy likes a tight ship, so this was completely unacceptable…
From our collective band journal:

Fri July 2 Pat’s Pub:
…” Evil is abound. Malignant forces working against me. Amp cable torn in half, missing patch cords…it shouldn’t be illegal to stab people.” (Keith)
Sun Jul 4 en route:
Mike: “Nice socks, Keith. Very loose. Reminds me of Pied Piper booties”
…” Merritt, 1pm. Logging town. Backbone of BC. Needs spinal realignment.” (K.)
…”How mean is a junkyard dog? This junkyard has 2 of them, and they both look pretty complacent” (Mike)

Ferdy: “You know what never goes out of style?”
Mike: “What’s that?”
Ferdy: “Motorhead”.

Mike: “I’ll be chipper if I want, and fuck you guys”

So, we played in Golden, and were a little late due to the van mishap, but it didn’t really matter because there was literally no one there – except the bar staff, we do play for a lot of bar staffs, and they generally really like us, but we did impress the Australian DJ who was working there, but then again usually people who aren’t from North America really like us as well. I wonder what Packer’s looks like with people in it. We’ve played there at least twice to an empty room – and lest you think I’m complaining and bitter, I am certainly not. We played great, and it was nice to have a chance to get more comfortable with all our songs. Plus they gave us a free room.
Sirdar was next, a very funky place (pop. 8. Really.) Then Nelson, last night. Must cut this short, poor Mike is sitting next to me with a glazed look in his eye probably wondering if he’s ever going to get a chance to eat today. And it’s our first day off and we’re going to see Spiderman 2, so we must stick to our itinerary. Everywhere we go, Spiderman 2 is playing. Hmmmm. Coincidence? I think not.
So far –
vehicular malfuctions: 1
cd’s sold – 6
times told to “turn it down” by bar staff: 3
bowls smoked: 6 (M. says more like 10, but he’s baked most of the time…)
shows played: 4
times the words “well, fuck you guys” have been uttered: 77
Hurtling across this great country at alarming rates of speed lurching from one rock and roll extravaganza to the next with 3 adorable, stinky, foul-mouthed, talented, hunks of raw testosterone: Priceless.