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?

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Human Nature

The other night when I was tucking Sullivan into bed, he stood up suddenly, on top of his covers and said, "Mom, there are two Sullys."

And I said, "Huh?" The doctor had thought he was twins at first because he was growing so quickly in utero, but there is only one of him. I would know. I'm the mom.

And he said, "There are two Sullys. A dark Sully and a light Sully."

I was not prepared for this discussion. I said, "Huh?"



"Which one is the real Sully? The dark Sully or the light Sully?"

I shook my head. "I uh...huh?" Was this a developmental milestone of some kind? I hadn't been keeping up with those milestone websites, so maybe. Age 2.5: develops philosophical streak, begins to ask questions about whether, fundamentally speaking, humans are inherently good or evil.

And then he pointed at the wall behind him, where his shadow stood. "Is that the real Sully, or is this the real Sully?" He pointed at his head.

"Good grief," I said.

"Charlie Brown says that," he said.

"That's true."

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Dancing On My Own

I went to a fancy party by myself a couple of nights ago. This is the third time in a month I've attended a social event solo - and you know, it's getting easier. Funner, even. Who is this person I am all of a sudden? I'm getting better at small talk (I think). I'd probably attribute this to the discovery of something all of you have most likely known for years already, something you figured out while I was home being a mommy blogger:

When you're a teenager, you go to a party and you make friends. You exchange phone numbers and email addresses and add each other on MSN and MySpace (or, you know, Snapchat, Twitter, whatever whatever). Then you're friends and you stay in touch.

When you're an adult, or, at least, someone who looks like one, you go to a party and you network. It's networking now. You approach a stranger and ask what they do and they ask what you do and they go, "Oh! We should talk down the road - I need someone like you." And then, instead of scrawling your phone number on their arm in black Sharpie marker, you ask for a business card. Networking is twenty times easier than socializing because you can stay at the businessy level as long as you want, but there's still the friendship option. I came home last night with clean arms and a pocket full of business cards - a few new friends too. Win.

Plus, it should be noted that the snacks - sorry, hors d'oeuvres - at a grown-up party are way better than teenage party snacks.

Being an adult: 10/10, would do it again.

Anyway, the party was a launch event for Hotel Saskatchewan, which has just completed a massive renovation, and it was unreal. Five star everything. The kind of party you need a map for. Actually...

...and I forgot to paint my fingernails.

The whole place was open to explore, with food and drinks and music in all of the main rooms - live jazz in the ball room, a barbershop quartet in the barbershop, etc. There was dancing and even a couple of actors walking around in character as mobsters.

At least, I'm assuming they were actors. They didn't say they were actors. But one of them was named Mickey and told me he wanted me to say hi to Vinnie for him because they weren't on-speakin-terms-if-you-know-what-I'm-sayin, and something about sleeping with fishes, so.

Right? (Hotel Sask: if you didn't hire actors for the party the other night, you might want to look into this.)

They were clearly going for a classic but modern theme in every aspect - decor, entertainment, etc... I loved it. I loved all of it. I'm moving in (if they don't want that, they shouldn't have fed me so well).

Speaking of food: Good grief. I came home afterward, feigned a dramatic faint on the couch and described the food to Barclay for about half an hour. Poor guy. I didn't think to sneak anything home for him in my purse. Not even a seafood push-up or a flambeed kiwi.

Entertainment and gluttony aside, the hotel itself is just a really beautiful place to hang out. It has a lot of character, and I'm glad they didn't lose that when they did all of their renovations.

(As I'm beginning to sound like a paid advertisement, I just want to note that I'm not. That never used to be a thing with blogging, and now it is, but I'm not into it. I just had a really great night. This is, at the very most, a thank-you note to Hotel Saskatchewan and Katie Bially for a very sweet evening.)

On my way home, I had to stop at the grocery store to buy diapers and rice and the flour I forgot to buy the day before. Walking into the store, I felt really fancy because my hair was done and I was in high heels - and on my way out I just looked a train wreck, curls in my eyes, trying to balance on my trippy shoes while carrying all that heavy stuff. It was cute, I'm sure. You can picture it, if you want.

#staytrue, indeed

Monday, October 03, 2016

The Bad Driver

I'm on my way home for supper and remember I need flour and paper towel and ground beef, so I pull into the Save On Foods parking lot. It's busy in here. It's raining. I'm cruising for a prime parking space when a car pulls out right in front of me without warning. I slam on my brakes and it floats past, unconcerned, like the queen of something or another. It could be almost regal, the way that thing moves, if it weren't for everything else about it. It's big and brown and old, a boat of a car, covered in rust. The driver, an older woman with short brown curly hair who looks generally disinterested in operating a motor vehicle, is staring blankly into space, presumably into a future with self-driving cars and obstacle-free parking lots the size of oceans. Just going along, oblivious, in slow motion but much too fast.

As she rounds the corner, she looks back at me for a brief moment - maybe not at me, but by me. It's in this time space that a man decides to cross in front of her and she almost mows him down, slow and steady. I see him jump and gesture wildly, his face red. She doesn't seem to notice, but continues on her way. Almost five whole seconds later, a short, notably pregnant woman is also sent scurrying to safety, her friend screeching from the sidewalk what we're all thinking: "Hey! Watch where you're going!"

I park and go into the store.

This particular grocery store has little green carts for kids to push. Sullivan thinks it's the best thing ever, and struts around with his cart like he owns the place. It's a win/win situation, really, because I don't have to carry or push anything, I just drop it all into his cart and direct him around. We only ever have trouble when we pass the cereal aisle, because he has an affinity for breakfast sugar and kind of loses his brains over it.

We get some ground beef for supper and I throw a bag of chips in there too, and then I look up in time to see Sullivan, the carefree King of the World, rounding the corner without checking to see what's there and crashing his mini-sized cart right into the regular-sized cart of a woman who's half inside the egg fridge trying to find a carton without a smashed one. The carts make your standard cacophonous crashing noise and the woman in the egg freezer jolts upright, her brown, curly hair fluffed up around her face, which I recognize. It's the one from the big old brown car.

She doesn't seem mad but her laugh is short and she speaks to me in a thick, Russian accent: "Your little boy. He is not so good at driving, uh?"

Culture Days 2016

Beginning on the last Friday of September, every year since 2009, Canada has a three day nation-wide celebration of culture and arts called Culture DaysRegina had all sorts of stuff going on and I got out to as much of it as I could - I'm one of those people who feels a little frantic when there's more than one thing happening at a time. It's hard being only one person. Radio surfing, for example, killlllls me - what if I pause on CBC 1 to listen to Because News and meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, my favourite song is playing on CBC 2? And what if I turn the channel just in time to hear the last note of that song and it's just enough to know exactly what I missed?

I always groan super loud when this happens, and Sully yells from the back seat, "What's wrong, Mom? You ok?"


This weekend felt a little like radio surfing. I just had to make my choices and hope that something cooler wasn't happening where I wasn't, that I wouldn't arrive somewhere just in time to see a crowd of people walking away going, "That was absolutely the best thing that's ever happened in this city or ever will. No point in even living here anymore. Let's all move to Saskatoon."

That would suck.

Fortunately, I think I made some good choices. I experienced some music, I saw some art, I heard some poetry, and I got to make something too. The whole shebang. I also saw what I was missing on other peoples' Instagram and Twitter feeds, so that helped me to feel a little better about being only one person. Having social media is a little bit like being a thousand people at all once, isn't it?

Highlights & Pictures:

Articulate Ink is an artist-run printmaking centre here in Regina (they have a space up above The Capitol, on Hamilton Street). Their stuff is amazing, and they came out to Vic Park on Sunday with a merch tent, a DIY printmaking tent, and a steamroller (duh).

Articulate Ink worked together with some kids from Regina Open Door to design the artwork on a 4x8 woodblock, which they then pressed onto linen with a steamroller. In the words of I don't know who: Go big or go home. It was really fun to watch, especially since they didn't do a test run. They just went for it, and it worked out.

The steamroller wasn't the only unconventional printing tool there: The other bit of equipment, used in the DIY tent, was an old hand clothes wringer. Barclay's parents showed up just in time to have a little in-law craft time.

I made a sloppy little TV and it's now hanging in my office, like so:

Across the park, there was a graffiti competition going on. The canvas: Saran Wrap - which sounds strange but it was actually awesome, because when the sun started to set, the light shone through the spray paint and the park became this weird, magical graffiti forest. 

(We went ahead and got our family pictures taken in the weird, magical graffiti forest while a DJ played Iron and Wine in the background. Life is beautiful.)

Other things...

We watched a giant guitar jam session on the plaza, a lady showed Sullivan how to make guitar picks, I went on a little historical walking tour of downtown Regina, and I took Sullivan on a date to the RCMP Heritage Centre, where we walked through the museum and watched a pipes and drums band (I really love bagpipes. Like, more than I feel I should). 

Next year, you should come. We should go together. Deal? Deal.