At some point very early Sunday morning, the hotel decided it had humoured us enough, so they kicked us out of the hallways and told us to go to bed. But there was some kind service stairway that somebody had scoped out earlier, and we ended the night in a civilized fashion - over whiskey, with song.
I managed to get some great photos from the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals conference this past weekend, and I’ll post them soon, but here’s one of my favourites: 7:00am Sunday, after a night of friends, music, and jamming, James playing the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey as the sun rises over Niagara Falls.
A few years ago, in my second year as Director of the Peterborough Folk Festival, I booked Canadian Hip-Hop artist and all-round good guyShad K to play the festival’s main stage. In the months leading up to the festival, a lot of Folk music fans commented to me about it; none of them were impressed. ‘Rap at a Folk festival?!’ they’d say incredulously, ‘What are you thinking?’ …
Bukowski by Modest Mouse.
This is how I am about music: it’s my job to hear a lot of it, and a lot of new, unpolished, acts that neither I nor anyone else has ever heard of and god knows (god willing, sometimes), may never hear of again. A lot of it is garbage. I’m a filter; I filter out the crap and create a playlist that hopefully introduces people to their new favourite bands via our music festival.
Because of this, my relationship with music is difficult; there’ll be months when my ears are so tired that I don’t bother listening to music at all, or I just listen to my old comforts or one album over and over. It’s really, really wearing to listen to music you’ve never heard before, endlessly. That’s why it’s hard to get a toehold in the industry, as a new band. Well, that and also it’s a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where good men die like dogs and pimps and thieves run free.*
So I have no real patience for people recommending stuff to me (unless they’re cool about it, by which I mean, not acting cool but actually cool), or getting excited about bands at me, and Modest Mouse was one of those. If someone recommends a band to me too enthusiastically, I get a bit of a block about it. It’s a failing of mine, I know - for example, there’s this one band that was super-buzzy for a while, that everyone was on about, and I know two of the guys in the band in a more-than-passing way, and I still didn’t listen to a single track by the band until I was over at the one musician’s place, and he put the album on when he heard that I hadn’t listened to his band yet (aside from that being sort-of bad form on his part, akin to wearing your own band shirt, it’s a good example of how stubborn I am. Even since then, I have never managed to listen to that band again).
But sometimes a track hooks me, even when people have acted all irritatingly cool about a band, and that’s the door open, and Bukowski was the track by Modest Mouse that really appealed to me, and I can say yes, I like Modest Mouse because of this track.
There’s a lot of - hmm, for lack of a better term, peer pressure - around music to simultaneously like what everyone else likes and reject everything everyone else likes. Also to have heard everything, quite literally, and be so completely over everything anyone might recommend to you while loving something that whoever you’re talking to has never heard of or barely heard of. My music tastes are both embarrassingly populist (I like, for example, Justin Timberlake and Michael Buble) and embarrassingly underground (the whole ‘I listen to bands that don’t even exist yet’ thing) that no matter what scene I’m around, I feel at best only a little in touch with it.
It’s embarrassing to be a populist or a hipster/scenester or a fan, and those seem to be the only options and they all appear a little rabid, so I shy away from talking about music except in general terms.
I used to wonder why bookers/promoters/etc. were so often aloof, weird, and stand-offish about music; now I know. I’ve become one of those weird bookers who you never see out at shows, because it got to a point where I felt like I was being sandblasted; (almost) every band that you haven’t booked is either pissed off at you or kissing your ass, or both. Being less accessible is the only way to manage it. It’s a weird life, but I do enjoy it, or I am compelled to do it to satisfy some of my own creative impulses, and that’s almost the same as enjoying it.
*It’s attributed to Hunter S. Thompson, but like, who knows, right? It’s a good’er, anyway.