La Scéne de la Scéne
by Stephan MacLeod
For ten days I was held captive by various Island bands as they took their shows on the road and invaded Toronto the week of North By North East (NXNE). The following is a collection of antecdotes and observations made during the journey.
The Show Must Go On
It was barely two days into Port Citizen's Eastern Canadian tour when lead singer Brodie Read came down with an illness. "I feel sick as a dog," he mumbled from his bed at the Prospect Inn in Fredericton. The night before Brodie got sick, Port Citizen played to an unreceptive crowd at The Upper Deck, a local sports/pick-up/dance bar not unlike Myron's. The sound kept cutting out during the band's first set, and a couple fights broke out between security guards and guys from a nearby military base after the show was over. Nobody in Port Citizen was looking forward to playing a second night there, and with Brodie's sudden illness, it did not seem likely that they would be able to anyway.
Two hours before showtime, they had to decide whether or not they were going to play. Although playing the Upper Deck was not the most pleasant experience, the band needed these gigs to make enough money to pay for the rest of the tour - over twenty days on the road with very few paying gigs in between. After being fed some over-the-counter medication from Shoppers Drug Mart, Brodie made the decision to brave his illness and play after a short nap. About an hour before the band was supposed to play, Brodie was dragged into the van where he curled up in the back and slept until the moment he went on stage. Despite having to take shots of Pepto Bismol after every song and short naps between each set, Brodie gave a surprisingly energetic performance, and the band managed to attract a few dancers beside the tiny stage.
Al Tuck Sighted
Dan Currie of Eyes For Telescopes spotted Al Tuck, the Dylanesque troubadour from Summerside, one afternoon in Toronto. "I was hanging out in front of the tattoo place and I saw Al Tuck walking up the street," says Currie, who got an impressive dragon tattooed on his shoulder the night of his band's showcase at NXNE. "You run into Al Tuck no matter where you go," observed Currie."I talked to him for about two minutes and then he just stood there and stared at me. It freaked me out. I guess that was my highlight.".Tuck reportedly made an unscheduled appearance at Little Miss Moffat's NXNE showcase where he played an out-of-key harmonica with her.
On the first night of NXNE, Port Citizen, Peter Forbes of The Rude Mechanicals and I went to an after-hours party we were told of by an assistant to the festival organizer. The party was located at Pandora's Box, but this was not the type of place that had a sign, or an address. We eventually stumbled into a dark alleyway where we were greeted by a guy in a tuxedo who asked us for ten bucks. We were eventually led through someone's apartment and out onto the roof of another building, then through a door beneath a fire escape. The party was straight out of a poser's guide to Andy Warhol. There were glam-rock wannabes that looked like rejects from Robin Black's band, transvestites, guys in suits, a topless girl with an outfit painted on her body, hipsters, cokeheads, important record people, and us. We were wearing t-shirts carrying backpacks, and feeling a little out of place.
Pete MacDonald, who is a lobster fisherman when he's not playing bass in Port Citizen, almost got into a fight with a glam rocker in the line up to use the bathroom. Pete insisted to the guy that he needed the washroom to piss, not to do drugs in, but the glam rocker didn't believe him and threatened to kick his ass if he cut in front of him. Pete laughed and repeated the threat as if to clarify what the guy wearing nail polish and a glittery shirt said. "Wait a minute. You're going to kick my ass?" After Pete used the washroom, we decided to ditch the ten-dollar party because it was definitely not our scene. On our way out the door, Brodie heard one of the security guards' walkie talkies announce, "De La Soul is at the front door and wants to come in." We decided to stay a bit longer. Trugoy from De La Soul arrived with a small entourage. I got my photo taken with him, and Port Citizen gave the head A&R guy from Sony, or as they called it "Snowy," a CD.
A Conversation Between Craig MacPherson of Eyes For Telescopes and Mike Dirnt of Greenday
Craig: Hey, you're that guy from Greenday. Mike smiles and shakes Craig's hand. craig: Your last album sucked.
Mike MacDougall Brings Joy To Toronto With Humorous Shirt "I was walking around Toronto in my 'I F------ Stink" t-shirt, and I got so many comments on it. People were yelling from across the street, 'Hey, f------ awesome shirt!' "I was in a subway with Dennis [Ellsworth]'s girlfriend Marie, and some older ladies sitting in a group of seats in front of where we were standing. And they were talking back and forth to each other over the seats, and one woman happened to look up and see my shirt. One of the women had asked her a question, but she was laughing too hard to answer the question. And finally I realized what she was laughing at, then I started laughing.
"And she was like, 'I really like your shirt.' "It was funny, because most people don't really smile [in Toronto], but by wearing that shirt I'd see people smile and laugh."
Belinda Doyle's Toronto Experience
One night we were sitting outside the Horseshoe and this streetguy had a magic marker and he was drawing on a clothing store window. He was drying peace signs and flowers and I wanted to draw a flower or something. And I asked if I could draw something with him, but he told me he didn't have enough ink. Then he said you could only use it to draw peace signs, so I told him I'd draw a peace sign. But he said, 'No, I don't have enough ink.' It was the first pretentious bum I ever met...well not the first, but it was interesting. It was Toronto."