Monday, October 17, 2016


Sunday morning, as my son's sticky bare feet danced across my face and I subsequently pried my eyelids open with a nail file at 6 something AM, I told myself a magical fairy tale. It went like this:

"Once upon a time, I was 21.

I often stayed out all night and was never tired.

If I got tired, though, I could just take a nap or sleep in until noon.

And I never, ever, ever got bags under my eyes.

The end."

BreakOut West was in Regina this weekend - it's a yearly music conference celebrating the thriving music scene in western Canada, featuring workshops and networking opportunities for musicians, as well as a three-day music festival for me.

I mean, for everyone.

As you should know, I take live music very seriously. I prep. I study. I plan.

These are things I was not good at in high school. Actually, these are things that I'm still not good at in any area of life except for live music. Give me a biology test, I'll lay with my head on the binder on my bed and fall asleep, hoping that the Garfield comic about learning by osmosis is legit. Give me a music festival, I'll get out my coffee and highlighters and do this:

Don't look at me like that.

There were more than 65 bands in town this weekend, and I had more than a few that I absolutely needed to see. But also, there were 13 venues all going simultaneously. Which means that unless you're super organized (see: ME) you will waste your entire evening scrolling through the app like, "Oh crap, I can't see JP Hoe and Slow Leaves at the same time! I should've gone to Slow Leaves last night at Crave at 8PM so that I could sit here and enjoy JP Hoe at the Exchange..." 

So I went through and highlighted all of my must sees and then cross-checked to make sure they didn't interfere with each other and a few of them did but most were playing more than once, so I juggled and rearranged and whittled it all down to a concise little schedule which I mostly stuck with.  I wanted to support the local talent, but I also wanted to see some out-of-towners, and there was also the matter of seeing a band perform in a venue well-suited to them - I mean, if you have a choice between seeing Mike Edel playing the Artful Dodger or Bobby's Place, you should pick the Artful Dodger show because it suits the style of music better. It's a science.

...and you're giving me sympathetic You're Crazy Eyes right now aren't you? Yeah, well.

Anyway. I got a media pass through Tourism Regina which gave me access to both awards ceremonies and all of the venues. I was little nuts about it and went to everything possible. Today, the edges of my vision are fuzzy and when I try to smile at people I think I just snarl a little instead. Well worth it.

A brief overview for my personal records, followed by a playlist for your listening pleasure:

Thursday: Western Canadian Music Awards and afterparties
My +1: Kate (and Robyn joined us later)
Highlight: #jaredthepublicist
Favourite musical performances: William Prince, Colin James, and Michael Bernard Fitzgerald

After the show, we went to Colin James' CD release/afterparty. There was a big table in the middle of the room, and it was just full of deep-fried chips. So we ate those and then we did the obligatory group picture, immediately after which Colin James literally - literally - ran out the door. Sprinted, even. It was weird. (But if you look at the picture, you can totally tell he's about to run. His smile says it.)

So then we went to the other afterparty at the Artful Dodger. Colin James was there too. 

I hope he didn't think we'd followed him.

Friday: BreakOut West Music Festival, Night 1
My +1: Ashley 
Bands: Bears in Hazenmore, Youngblood, Rah Rah, Mariachi Ghost, The Matinee
Venues: University Multipurpose Room, Durty Nelly's, The Owl
Favorite: Bears in Hazenmore

These pictures are all out of order. What a mess.

Saturday morning: Canadian Music Industry Awards Brunch @ The Doubletree
My +1: Erin
Bands: Megan Nash, Arlo Maverick, Nadia Gaudet & Jason Burnstick
Eats: pancakes and stuff
Highlight: the return of #jaredthepublicist

Saturday Afternoon: Mini BreakOut West @ The Royal Saskatchewan Museum
My +1s: Sullivan, Julia & Myles, Kate & Eldon

They had a free afternoon music festival for kids at the Museum, and I took Sully to that. What a great idea! I definitely take every opportunity to expose Sullivan to live music. My parents did the same to me - I've heard tales about me and my brother sleeping in our car seats at the back of rock concerts as babies. 

This explains a lot, actually.

Saturday Night: BreakOut West Music Festival, Night 2
My +1: Robyn
Bands: Mike Edel, Ryan McNally, Jesse and the Dandelions, Sam Weber, 36?, JP Hoe, Slow Leaves
Venues: Artful Dodger, The Exchange, The Club, Durty Nelly's
Worth Noting: I almost got hit by a taxi crossing the street this night. I had a full on Kevin-from-Home-Alone moment (when the van with the robbers stops just inches from his face?) and a guy, from the safety of the sidewalk, yelled "YOU ALMOST DIED!" 
Favourite performance: JP Hoe. Because I have a big emotional attachment to his song Save You and he played it and it was amazing.

(I first heard it a few months ago on the CBC as I was driving, but the radio DJ didn't say who it was. I tried to remember the lyrics so I could look it up when I got home but...did not. The next time I heard it, I actually pulled over to Shazam it so I could find it later on Spotify, but the last note died away just as I hit the Shazam button. Rats. It became this uncanny Thing, that every time I got into my car, it was just ending, or every time I tried to Shazam it, I wouldn't be able to pull over in time, or whatever. It took me a crazy long time, but finally one sunny afternoon in August, Rich Terfry said the magic words: "And that was Winnipeg's own JP Hoe with Save You..." 

I was very polite about it, I said, "Thank you, Rich," right out loud in my car. And then I went home and listened to that song on Spotify, and then something went weird with my app and it was stuck on his album, Hideaway, for two weeks. Not a terrible thing; that album is pretty dang good.)

Anyway, I was super excited when I saw he was going to be at Breakout West, and he didn't disappoint me. 

His was the second-last show I saw, and it started at 12:15. By that point in the "evening," Robyn had gone home and I was alone - but if you know me at all you know that I really don't hate being at concerts all by myself. I just enjoy them in a different way than I do when I'm with someone. Like anything, I guess. Besides, the thing about live music is that you're never really alone, not in a lonely way, because there's all this connecting going on between the musician and the audience and between all of the people and the actual music and between the members of the audience and between the members of the band... Like, we're all here to have fun and we all have at least this one thing in common, and now we'll all share this really sweet memory. It's cool. 

Another point worth making: the music scene has some loyal regulars. Some of them I've never spoken to, but it's getting more and more common to strike up a conversation with one or two of them between songs. There's a girl who's at every Rah Rah show who wears a mushroom backpack. There's a really tall girl and a guy who always looks bored but never misses a show so I don't think he's actually bored. There's Paul (hi, Paul). There're a few people I recognize from the coffee shops I frequent. Etcetera. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. If you feel dumb going to shows alone, just come stand by me. It's not weird - everyone's standing by everyone. It's basically the least exclusive social club ever - all you have to do is show up. You don't even have to say anything. 

So that was that. It's a lot less strenuous in writing, but it does lack some of the excitement and panache. The whole thing was marvellous; I left the weekend feeling really proud of our half of Canada, and of Regina specifically. The music scene and the people. 

One last thing: I've put together a playlist, with one song each from most of the musicians I saw this weekend (I couldn't find McNally on Spotify! Sad, because their set was incredible). There were so many musicians I didn't get to see who would be lovely additions to this playlist. Next year, I suppose?