Sandwich tasting at the ECMAs
A la Scène de la Scène
by Stephan MacLeod
Music journalists suck. They lack the creativity and imagination of musicians. Luckily for music journalists in Atlantic Canada, the East Coast Music Awards presents them with a wide assortment of uncreative and unimaginative bands to write about. After spending fifteen minutes listening to media from throughout the region ask shitty bands stupid questions in the media room during the ECMA's, I took some complimentary bottled water and sandwiches and went home to watch The Simpsons. Don't worry, I'm pretty sure I know the hard hitting questions all those entertainment reporters asked in my absence:
"What does it feel like to win this award?" "It feels good." "Comme ce qu'il se sent pour gagner cette récompense?" "Il sent bon foutu."
And I don't think anybody asked the questions that were on my mind:
"Great Big Sea, could you guys suck any less?" "Crush, why do you guys suck so much?" "Human, do you want to fight me?"
I saw a few horrible bands. There is no actual quality control for the ECMA's selection of bands to play showcases, rock stages, and all ages shows. I was on the jury for their all-ages show. They gave me a Sobeys bag full of CDs from bands stupid enough to pay for memberships into the organization. Among the artists who submitted for the all ages show were "alternative" rock groups, Celtic cover bands, and pop groups. The other members of the jury all had good taste in music and could have easily assembled the ultimate all-ages shows if we had a broader selection of bands. But hardly any good bands are dumb enough to pay $150 for a membership, so we were stuck with picking the bands that sucked less than the other bands. I imagine this is why an event like the Rock Stage felt padded with untalented acts playing the same show as actual bands like Joel Plaskett and Rock Ranger. Fortunately, I avoided most of the ECMA sanctioned events and stuck with the no-cases.
No-cases originated in Sydney when Rod Gale and the campus radio station at UCCB put on their own unofficial event during the ECMAs. Rod's show featured artists like Buck 65 (known then as Stinkin Rich) years before they were recognized by major record labels and the east coast music industry. The term no-case, however, has been bastardized by bar owners trying cash in on ECMA weekend and even the ECMA's itself have co-opted it. The spirit of Rod's no-cases found its way to The Seahorse this year. Sydney's House of Rock organized an event featuring the most entertaining bands (myself included) in Atlantic Canada in what ended up being a rowdy beer bash. My band, Windom Earle, kicked things off with a surprise rock set featuring Lending Jane's Brad MacDougal on drums. We were followed by fellow Islanders Eyes For Telescopes. Colleen Power, Mark Bragg, and The Liz Band represented Newfoundland. And Slowcoaster and Rock Ranger rocked out Cape Breton style. Not only did this show bring out the craziest bands from these regions, but accompanying the bands were the craziest fans from Newfoundland, Cape Breton, and PEI. In the middle of Rock Ranger's set, it looked like Baba's Lounge was transported to Halifax to dance on a rickety table while the Capers and Newfies were spilling beer and smashing bottles everywhere else.
What happens when you take the energy and mayhem of the House of Rock show and take it to a big industry party on the eighth floor of the Delta? You get asked to leave.
I arrived when Craig MacPherson of Eyes For Telescopes was in a shouting match with a man who was upset with him for trying to put a plant on the elevator and send it to the bottom floor. He argued that the plant would be better off with the other plants he already sent to the lobby. When the man accused him of ruining the party Craig was stunned. "I'm ruining the party? You're the one that's ruining the party."
While Craig debated with the guy about the poor plant, Jimmy Swift Band played a brief set. The party had a stage set up with all sorts of expensive wireless gear for musicians to jam on. After Jimmy Swift finished, Matt Mayes, Jay Smith of Rock Ranger, and members of Eyes planned a big blues jam. But before they reached the stage some guys had already grabbed the instruments. Dan Currie from Eyes took the guitar away from some guy, and Jay Smith took control of the electric drum kit. Dan started playing some Merle Haggard songs and the guys who were already on stage attempted to play along. The band's sloppiness didn't deter Dan from rocking out. For ten minutes he was the star of the show while drunken chaos could be heard in the noises coming from his mismatched back up band. After Dan left the stage, the musicians deteriorated into covers of "Me and Bobby Mcgee" and Tragically Hip songs.
To escape the noise I followed Eyes into a door behind the bar. Once Pat Deighan saw a keg of draft, he immediately grabbed a punch bowl and started filling it up. Dale Murray from The Guthries took some peanuts, and I filled my backpack with snacks. Everyone ran out of the room when a bartender came in through another door. Pat took the draft and some cups and they gathered around a table by the elevator where Craig was liberating plants earlier. By now the noise level of the group was exceeding the horrible music coming from the party and the woman who organized the party politely asked them to leave. Once again an argument over who was actually ruining the party broke out, but we all found our way onto the elevator after the punch bowl was taken away. The group tried to get back into the party by taking different elevators, but the party was over by now and everyone was getting tired.
I stumbled through the Scotia Square Mall at five in the morning and found myself at the 72 Hour Jam. I didn't want to call it a night just yet. I watched Andrea Currie from Sydney play as a drunk girl did interpretive dance. Then a bunch of kids came on playing bad rock songs. The problem with bad bands is not necessarily their lack of talent, it's the fact that they take themselves too seriously. I saw several singers this weekend who looked like they had dreams of becoming the next Edwin. Meanwhile the real musicians are backstage stealing their complimentary sandwiches. The media suffers from the same problem. Everyone in the media room during the broadcast of the awards was so serious. They treated the awards as if they actually signified something. Music reporters are as dumb as sports writers. Because they don't realize that it's all just a pointless game, they ignore the really interesting stories happening right under their noses. The result is a bunch of boring stories about boring bands. Meanwhile the creative and fun people get accused of ruining the party when they are the only ones really celebrating.