A nasty woman’s rant clinging to optimism and honesty 

​Sometimes I challenge myself to believe we silently elected Trump the same ways Harper remained in power for 10 years, by not speaking out, by accepting our cultural bias blindly even after becoming globally aware. Our maps are the story of this awareness shift. That our resistance must tell the story and allow it to evolve.

This challenge has been embodied by the nature of our culture within this geography. 

Our fear of self-care, of narcissism, of true honest love is what keeps us rebelling against our mother (earth, in this context). 

I understand narcissism, much of my anxiety is rooted is in attempt of being humbly mindful of all the insecurities that prevent acceptance of yourself within the world around you. 

I understand healing from the pain of awareness – ignorance is no longer bliss when the shield is ‘woke’. 

This past year I’ve been inspired by a call to action, sourcedby the generations evolution which has got us to this point. To experience creationism (if only a delusion, say some) is to allow a collective reason for hope. Surrounded by such a glorious world of rugged terrain and magnificent forms of life, I’d declare God too. 

But for the transformation of that obsessive attachment to that story to have magnified our ignorance to the power of our energy bill.. means North America needs an attitude adjustment, maybe elect a president who would make Sublime – What I Got as the first dance song, with a follow-up from Uptown Funk. Or something. America, I thought you were cool! Oh right, as a quick filter into the lens of racism we’ve realized there’s still something very tragic happening within our consumption culture that has elected a corrupt businessman to take away the freedoms within which he was raised to take for granted, and  somehow is getting away with it. 

As a relatively well-adjusted ‘woke’ Canadian also living within these freedoms only a border away, yes, I am concerned about the effect. I am concerned about the current state of environmental protection requiring improvements, not further pipeline risks and pollution at the cost of our dignity as a species. If there’s a god, she’s probably not too pleased about you not cleaning up your room regardless of how you pray in words of thanks between requests. 

And so, this idea of women’s inferiority told through generations of institutions has been magnified to pussygrabbing and abortion rights decided upon by men. If 2015 was Justin Trudeau electing a 50/50 cabinet, but Trump/Pence 2017 is blantently mysogenist and ignorant.. how can that dichotomy exists between neighbours, we wonder in silence. Afraid to ask America about another black eye or second ‘stay normal’ triple-triple in their hand (after we explain this is Tim’s slang for coffee, eh). 

That’s where I’m at with this, how can our altered perspectives exist simultaneously..? But, both that confusion and the question itself, are important to how this earth operates.

And so, we ask them. We MUST continue asking them. Why did you think you could get away with that? When have you checked your privelege next to those seemly worse-off? How did that feel, do you even understand what you are saying?? Yes, I’m a nasty woman. I bleed and can ‘by pure accident’ become pregnant yet forced to raise a child, but you say that’s my fault, that you or any other slimeball can grab my precious pussy because you’re a star, or a man, or assertive enough.

I’m a nasty queer, how do you like that? That, maybe you don’t do it for me. That I too, have trouble controlling my own sexuality at times but that does NOT mean it is okay. It means there is a lesson to learn. Consent, triggers, moral code, ethics, decency… I could go on, but I best stay focused. 

I have some other things to be afraid of, thanks for environmentally aggravated GMO/pesticide/processed exacerbated analphylactic relationships with food. So, my day to day consists of reading food labels, asking ingredient questions, and being hyper aware of what’s around me. ‘did he just walk by with a peanut butter sandwich?’ ‘those muffins looks great! There’s eggs in them, right?’ ‘cool, trail mix! Hey, is that a peanut?’ Whoops.

One hospital trip to stabilize anaphylaxis without healthcare and supportive family would have been an expensive local vacation. And, I can’t imagine if I wasn’t near my epi-pen.. but Canadian healthcare literally saved my life without a bill attached.

So, I appreciate that Obamacare has been revolutionary to the USA for the past 8 years. And for Pres.Drumpf to now be burning those documents without even catching a whiff of the wax seal melting, is -as our new demagogue puts it -‘Sad!’

It all infuriates my anger reconciling with those more dominant world events happening in real time. (Mind you, I’m still weeping over the loss of the Alexandria Library 2 millenia later..) 

To be able to also live within a community that has Race to the Bottom & Whistleblower as a soundtrack..reinforces that dichotomy of ignorance surrounding islands of awareness in our collective headspace. thoughts of ‘what do we do with this now?’ dominate.

To retreat into the safety of melancholic depression, I find peace in the concept of these imaginary islands I’ve been creating. Representative topography. Emotional geography. Visualization of headspace. Favourite places refined to an ideal. Safe workshops of hope recycled from despair.

And that’s where I go when reality is too much to process. That anxiety I mentioned? It’s the gravity that keeps the water suspended next to land, that which creates flotation and peace. 

In each cyclical transition of my life, as they’ve come around again and again with deeper resonance, there’s a persistence in healing energy to be offered next to the pain. One blessing I’m grateful to be aware of. And so it goes. 

One year ago I visited Halifax in search of peace from the particular emotional storm I created this time. It was an extension of my definition of running away – a flight over Canada. And again, this weekend I was in Halifax, an afternoon drive from home this time. Perfectly timed gathering with the one who encouraged me to stay during that first visit. Those synchronicities have been dominant lately, fueled by accepting positive opportunity regardless of whatever negative must be endured. 

Apart from global events, I am optimistic about 2017. School has been a welcome change, and will offer great possibility for personal progress beyond past regrets. The mantra ‘i wanna get better’ echoes next to other anthems of enlightenment ca. 2014/15. (See: music journal.) 2016 being the death of so many inspired souls was a more dreary playlist, but hopeful + steadfast towards love just the same.

I’ve asked a lot of questions in 26 years, I think it’s time to start writing some answers:

Favourite Song: So Much for Everyone – Dan Mangan or Salem – Marin Patenaude (and the Follow Through, Revenge of the Trees – Into the Night II is also rad as fuck.

Favorite Cover song: Hang with Me – Dan Mangan (cover of Robyn), or Jolene – White Stripes (even though that one time I said I didn’t like it better than Dolly’s, sorry Pete)

Best road trip playlists/podcasts: well, ch-ch-changes 2016 Spotify one lately, both ‘Fo Twenny’ and 3:56 are neat random assortments based on length of songs (equal distribution in a playlist is somewhat strangely neat); podcasts – DTFH, Joe Rogan Experience, Alan Cross, CBC radio 3 interview series’, vinyl cafe..

Favourite Place to see a Show: this might be the hardest question for me, formerly the Artery ( ❤  rip) though Aviary is just as rad. Honestly, house concerts rule too. Riverhouse Cafe weekend jam sessions gave many lovely memories. But for, ever, no matter the band? Nancy Appleby Theatre in Athabasca, AB. (home)

When did you laugh the hardest: probably at a Cake Monday dancing to Uptown Funk on the counters wearing a banana costume. Or smashing a gingerbread house with my grandma. but also laughed out coffee on my computer monitor yesterday, sooo…

Patronus (formerly spirit animal): ‘flying buffalo’ aka moose (according to the highway signs in northern Albrrta)

Unmaking Fear, Remaking Happiness

Music is the key to happiness, as my life’s research continues to inform such a hypothesis, it continues to be more and more true. Live music as an audience or performer continues to bring community together in delightful ways. As a hobby musician I have always greatly enjoyed being present while others explore musical topographies of placemaking. This quest has taken me through hills and valleys of emotion, road trips, and friendships. I am so very grateful for all of it. In early years, this was led by live folk concerts in Athabasca, AB; in recent years it has been the independent music production of friends and/or well-known musicians across Canada as I continue to seek out joy in each place I visit. (Thanks to parents for keeping the Alberta-Maritime duality alive!)

For over two years, the 17th of each month has been a day of synthesis, of surprises, and of inspiring moments which have continued to merge into each other. This month, June 2016, has been no less than the same kind of surprising wonderful.

While in Montreal recently I bought a book entitled DIY Magic, and while flipping through the short chapters, I stopped at chapter 17, curious about what it held. Mystically perfect, it was about bringing this kind of serendipity into our lives by welcoming patterns and supporting the factors which help contribute to increased collaboration. I chuckled, at this very synthesis reinforcing itself.

In mentioning this to fellow enthusiasts of living while in Montreal, they supported my wondering: what would take place on this 17th?

The answer was indeed a beautiful surprise, and a synthesis of many of the unravelings I have experienced since February 2014. Another neat form of influence on this reality, and because I’ve been opened and broken to see beautiful patterns, I smiled and savoured that perhaps the 17th is not just important to my own psychology, but important on the cosmic level.

Cosmic patterns notwithstanding, I am quite pleased with Dan Mangan’s ‘surprise’ release Unmake EP as a reminder and distillation of the wisdom of Club Meds.

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It is a self proclaimed artistic compilation of gratuitous play, as Dan wrote and refined his most recent full length album songs like Whistleblower came to be but didn’t have a place among the other songs. The internet seems to agree this EP release is a fine home for such gentle works.

I wholly enjoy the title ‘Unmake’ as it refers to the dissolution of what has been for 5+ years as his band formed around him and informed each new sound development. Loel (of Wintersleep) takes over on drums as Kenton Loewen focuses on more solo endeavours, though Gord Grdina remains as +Blacksmith is notably not a part of this new product. A stripped down solo structure for these songs is a continuation of the mini-tour Dan constructed in Fall 2015 through BC and Alberta. Hearing songs like ‘Vessel’ without the band or studio effects (or animated cartoons from the psychadelia-inspired video) was my first introduction to what this new sound might be like, patiently waiting for the next release.

Unmake also speaks to the subject matter of the poetry in Race to the Bottom – where the idea of destabilizing normal could actually be seen as progress in the eyes of individuals not benefitting from the corporate model of happiness. From his initial philosophy which helped get a Polaris Prize nod in 2010 “spent half my life in the customer service line” (Robots, NNVN) this angst and anxiety about the state of the world has only grown to be a deeper creative metaphor.

These songs can be understood as a snapshot of the realities of being a North American in 2016. We have an idealization of our lives dominating how we understand and interact with the world. The point of Kitsch, Forgetery (with Tegan), and these new additions ‘Whistleblower’ ‘Race to the Bottom’ + ‘Hang With Me’ (Robyn cover), are about embracing the alertness of vulnerability in daily interactions. To remember moments are both important and fleeting specks in time helps adjust our nostalgic tendencies.

During the performance with Nova Scotia Symphony in January 2016 Dan explained Kitsch to have a double meaning: both as the rustic style of craft and/or vintage home décor being ‘kitschy’ considered to be in poor taste but in an ironic or knowing way; but also the idealization of successful people to be heroes without seeing the human qualities of their living.

I am grateful for these opportunities I have seized to be witness to Dan’s live performances if only for these moments of wisdom. For, of all people to have kitschy idolation over, I have most commonly turned to Dan Mangan for his soothing tenor and conscious undoing of this mess of culture we’re in.

This EP has been received with mixed reviews, but those who get it are wholly appreciative. I had the opportunity to share ‘Race to the Bottom’ with my high school social studies teacher (a vegetarian social justice advocate, a guerrilla geographer and former soldier, presently taking great joy in retirement life in Northern Alberta forest and farms). He properly used the ‘sad face’ emoticon on Facebook to express how true this commentary is to the state of the world. It doesn’t offer many solutions but the perspective of the pale blue dot image for scale of our problems does capture the heart and purpose of living. It may not be a cheerful song, but a catchy hook with meaningful lyrics enables enjoyable reflection on these larger than life issues.

In the indie88 Facebook Live interview on the morning of June 17th, Dan reflects how they may not be happy songs but he is generally feeling pretty decent – these are not meant to be depressing. Merely reflective and encouragingly insightful. I hope to continue to use this music and other clever songwriting to enable conversation about interesting problems in the world. This is the ultimate way to find a solution, silence will never solve anything.

Regarding Robots – Dan is bringing it back to live shows without the expectation of making it bigger and better each time, but instead “playing it in the present rather than fulfill nostalgia.” It is a song of happy repetition, and of course one of his most famous works, but as mentioned in an interview in December 2015 “you go crazy doing the same kind of show over and over again.” I can only imagine.

In this vein, regarding both Redux-es, these ‘cover songs’ from Club Meds, a fascinating approach of: ‘can they survive a different treatment?’ is applied, and hearing Forgetery with Tegan Quin is a beautiful reminder of many possibilities within the same formula of music and lyrics. It was also key in this new project to engagingly empower strong women in the pop realm, which is a new trajectory from +Blacksmith being all males.

The way I understand it, fear is a crippling monster which will tell us not to say/think/do/believe something in the world but it will also limit our opportunity for joy. I have come to settle on this understanding in some part thanks to Dan’s own progression of life informing lyrics informing our audience’s reception. His song ‘Jude’ offers a meditation on maturation – ‘so much for fear’ being a focus of the lullaby to his son. It is also used as a score for Hector and the Search For Happiness, underscoring the importance to fight for a better world. We should not be afraid of our past, nor the uncertainties of the future. Race to the Bottom is a reminder of the trauma of daily life in the present which can be unsettling but we gain nothing by being afraid. We may not always be happy, but we are working to preserve the good in the world. This preservation of good maintains the memory of happiness, and ensures it is possible in the future, for prolonged generations to come.

A line from the film is inset into the cadence of lyrics in Race to the Bottom “nostalgia just isn’t what it used to be.” Upon rewatching the film I take great pleasure in seeing this crossover – clearly an artistic choice on Dan’s part, having been so involved in the production but also personally aligning with the sentimentality of the message of searching happiness in his work.

One lesson I take from a few days’ reflection is to Unmake the pillars of nostalgia in our memory banks, but keep the strength and joy and lessons. We are aware the colonial legacy of our ancestors is something which is now quite outdated. The world deserves our creativity to do the work of goodness.

This recurrence of serendipity will continue to guide my way through the world, but I have no way of knowing what it is I will discover as the 17th rolls around again. A philosophy which I began to be a peace with thanks to Dan’s assurance: serendipity is life.

In the wisdom of Hector’s journey seeking and studying happiness, we must learn (through whatever means necessary) to ‘take comfort in the rich, random patterns of life’ to reconcile our desire for happiness in the routine of the everyday.  Once we do, fear and sadness (under the code names anxiety and depression) continue to distance themselves from our daily reality.

 

Conversation with Dan Mangan [December ’15]

In followup to the 6Q interview, Dan offred some insight to a few more wonderings I’ve had about his career.

JK: which comes first: music or lyrics?

DM: my process has changed over the years. when i started i was better at playing guitar than i was at writing songs. now i’m basically the same level of a guitar player as i was then, but i’m better at writing songs, so sometimes the words and melodies hit first. i like writing on the piano too, or just messing around with noisy synths or midis and then seeing what comes from there. i’m trying to break away from the familiar places that my hands go on the guitar which influence the songs in similar ways.

JK: would you liken Mouthpiece (a song of statements) to Jeopardy (a song of questions), as a response? Or.  ending with New Skies, is the growth parallel stronger there?

DM: interesting connection. i suppose, to some extent, both songs are the opposite of what they are. jeopardy is full of questions, but feels rhetorical and manipulative, because there are answers implied (“what happens when all flags burn together? is that unity?). mouthpiece is chalk full of statements, but there’s a bit of a self awareness to the onslaught of self indulgent musings (even calling it mouthpiece), which opens up questions about where all those statements come from and how much should we be critical of their certainties? i guess what i’m saying is, questions or answers, it’s all a bit in the air, isn’t it

JK: similarly, how does set list writing compare to an album order, in flexibility and in permanence?
(How often does a uniquely political song like ‘starts with them, end with us’ end up in a show?)

DM: albums are totally self serving indulgences. it’s important to never ever think about what people might like because most of the time you’re wrong about what people like and you just need to trust your gut and try to imagine the rest of the world doesn’t exist. live shows are the opposite,.. you might not want to play particular songs but you have to check your ego a bit and realize that people are reserving an entire night of their all too short lives to be with you, and that some of them actually love your work (whether or not you think that work is worth loving) and they deserve some reciprocation.. so you play a mixture of what you want and what they want and hopefully there’s a lot of overlap.

– Aside from NNVN in its fifth year, are there any “career anniversaries” you celebrate? 

We played in Toronto on October 28th of 2010 and also October 28th of 2011. That level of consistency alone is worth adopting some OCD over.

– working with Dave Grohl.. what was the greatest takeaway? 

He likes microwave burritos

– who/what was one of your earliest connections to help you find your place, musically?

my first cassette was The Simpsons Sing The Blues. I’ve been trying to “Do The Bartman” ever since

– how do you navigate? google, tomtom, paper map.. 

phones and tomtom. mix of both. if anybody out there is younger than 50 and using a paper map, they’re trying too hard

– where do you still want to go/play that you’ve never been/played? 

Japan. Totally.

And, from the stage in a few capacities..first while reflecting on + Blacksmith during his solo tour, and again with the Nova Scotia Symphony behind him in Halifax:
– to any aspiring musicians out there, the best thing you can do to challenge yourself is to play with people better than you! (crediting + Blacksmith men, symphony partnerships, and variety of collaborations to continue pushing the limits of these simple guitar melodies)

Thanks again, Dan!!

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Dan Mangan weaves Baskets of Forgetery with enthusiastic subtlety & activist melodies

Philosophical wonderings have been Dan Mangan’s blessing and curse for the extent of his career. he’s redefined what we can or should expect from radio play by questioning our expectations of ourselves. Self-indulgent lyrics became self-aware serenades with longstanding teamwork alongside the men of his complete band (newly titled + Blacksmith). 

This fall he forged a solo version of newest compositions as offerings of growth next to old favourites and softened his setlist with proper introductions to songs not often given the spotlight. Focusing on admonishing others producing valuable music, the tour focused on returning to bard-with-a-lute songmanship. Dan reflected on the importance to leave the band behind for this quick low-key tour. “i like that people can hear all the lyrics. i think it’s important to have variety. you go crazy doing the same kind of show over and over again.” Balancing solo shows with monumental orchestrations (Halifax January 2016), this philosophy is given life.

Whether referring to leaving Robots to fight for their own love, or revisiting the humble power of a single guitar, these words are penultimate to the work Dan has created. His intention to contribute a voice with value to the maddening soundscape informed Club Meds, the 2014 touring break, and film scores for Hector and the Search for Happiness and The Valley Below. 

JK: how does set list writing compare to an album order, in flexibility and in permanence?

DM: albums are totally self serving indulgences. it’s important to never ever think about what people might like because most of the time you’re wrong about what people like and you just need to trust your gut and try to imagine the rest of the world doesn’t exist. live shows are the opposite,.. you might not want to play particular songs but you have to check your ego a bit and realize that people are reserving an entire night of their all too short lives to be with you, and that some of them actually love your work (whether or not you think that work is worth loving) and they deserve some reciprocation.. so you play a mixture of what you want and what they want and hopefully there’s a lot of overlap.

On stage between songs, Dan’s poignant storytelling recalls moments from early solo tours as being less forgiving. These boyish habits of sneaky-kind-of-selfish double-sided comments informed 2009’s Nice, Nice, Very Nice; but figured out honest success comes from giving it everything you’ve got. He’s not everyone’s favourite pop star. His “sweet summer jams” aren’t professing love or pretending to. Comfortable in uncertainty, his voice resonates from dark, vulnerable places of personal anxieties wry with clever wit. 

In present day, he supports as he was supported. By individuals who give a damn. Always making time for a chat and an autograph, it is with sincere gratitude and a moments of human connection he still sustains his fan base. An audience extending to digital connection thanks to insta-updates and quick twitter quips, fulfilling our need for internet chatter.   

JK: Does it get overwhelming? 

DM: “It can. Everyone loves receiving compliments. So I take it in, express thanks, savour that moment.. When I’m home I set the experience aside and savour the present, try to forget about the rest…”

A friend to melancholy lyrics and experimental sound, the emotion rising from Dan’s growing discography resonates with hope. And despair. But a despair offering comfort, in the humanity of it all. My curiosity and attachment to this soundscape was due to this vulnerability exposed and explored, resonating with my own insecurities.

I grow more curious about the intent of messaging in each fragment of lyrics I choose to digest. When I first began absorbing the complicating statements of this discography, they eroded such damning complacency of sociocultural patterns from adolescence. Existential, intelligent lyrics promised hope, beyond stifling rural simplicity and shrouded media messaging of the early 2000s.

I asked Dan about the particular lyricsm and context of his body of work relating to the dynamic changes involved in this newer album’s composite flair since adding + Blacksmith as an equalizing moniker. His response reaffirms a progressive songwriting style, as well as having independent value and meaning.

would you liken Mouthpiece (a song of statements) to Jeopardy (a song of questions), as a response? 

interesting connection. i suppose, to some extent, both songs are the opposite of what they are. jeopardy is full of questions, but feels rhetorical and manipulative, because there are answers implied (“what happens when all flags burn together? is that unity?). mouthpiece is chalk full of statements, but there’s a bit of a self awareness to the onslaught of self indulgent musings (even calling it mouthpiece), which opens up questions about where all those statements come from and how much should we be critical of their certainties? i guess what i’m saying is, questions or answers, it’s all a bit in the air, isn’t it

Club Meds’ casual genius reflects personal and professional growth in musicianship. It doesn’t sound recycled from anything else, yet is a simple culmination of influences. He cites Margaret Atwood as post-apocalyptic literary guidance for lines “books we tried to burn” and claims his spirit animal is a bookshelf. (link) His art remains smart, with a smattering of self-indulgent reflection… bringing clarity to those of us on the receiving end overwhelmed by conflicting biases of living.

Dan’s hope carries political musings as rooted storytelling to various niche baskets of ‘wicker-enthusiasts’ around the world, and exposes vulnerability and acute awareness of our sedation. If it means spending the next 5 years with Club Meds underscoring our cultural understanding in an updated version of Nice Nice Very Nice pleading love for robots, I’ll buckle up for the ride.

“‘Cause when I taste it – just one moment of TRUTH – what I’m wishing would linger seems to leave me. And I fear that distraction ever near me. So I’m open and broken. Feels like teething. The sweet pain of the PROCESS. Forgetery. Forgetery alive and well.” – Forgetery, CLUB MEDS. (2015)

Recap: #allmyfavouritesingersareMadic roadtrip 2015

With an echoing beauty from turning vinyl and spinning memories in my basement den, It’s time to begin some reflection about this grandiose concerting adventure. It happened in two parts, of course… because of two shows. First, Red Deer. Second, Cranbrook. Like every good story..or impulsive parking strategy, let’s start in reverse.

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Nov. 25: post-Red Deer show. new hat!

In the few days between Red Deer’s Wednesday show, and Cranbrook’s Tuesday stop (though not even knowing it was on the agenda), I spent a couple of days in Edmonton, then returned home to Athabasca. It was important to centre myself in the events that had taken place by reflecting on them and telling the story to others. I also finally applied for a job, prepared for the Tuesday interview chat we had been anticipating for months, and packed up my things in a methodical, but last-minute manner. Not without yet another challenging spat with mom, but gave her a card of tanks n luv, and a hug on my way out the door.

The second part adventure to Cranbrook needed many stages – all of which took place in the correct sequence as an enabling feature of networking. First: “Anything Goes” reassured that I can get on the bus in Athabasca and buy a ticket on arrival to Edmonton. Then, staying the night with the folks who were driving to Calgary in the early AM, and going from bus to bus to get to their home in Riverdale. Our drive to Calgary was profound and encouraging to continue pursuing all that I find dear in my heart when it comes to culture, geography, and honest living. I was encouraged to consider the perspective of “only practice joy”, if it does not serve joy, remove it from your life. Items, activities, people..  Allow the placeholders to fall away to make room for the ones that matter, and contribute to your ongoing enjoyment, happiness, success, and productive nature.

Once arriving in Calgary, I looked at the options before me, the timeline available, and decided that prior to renting a car, I would go up in the Calgary Tower. If this is a trip of experiences, which it was, I was to make the most of it. And the easiest way to “go to everything” is to learn about it from 20 stories up. An interactive guide and empty survey floor led to morning yoga looking at the mountains. I began to build my plan and focus for the day by understanding the community I was to be leaving. It was important to me, more than ever in that moment, to have an experience, and not simply leave right away. [Albeit, if I had rented a car immediately, got on the road, I could have been at the mountains for the phone interview around noon..and to Cranbrook before dark. but, instead I savoured the morning in Calgary and got my bearings together.]

Though I asked for something the size of the white Sonic in the lot, they said they couldn’t find the keys for it, or something. That for what I needed, the Kia Forte would be the choice of car. Once I sat down and surveyed my road companion for the next couple of days, I was pleased with this upgrade. A mountain ready car. (It is important for the rental company to know where you plan to go! They can help!)

I chose to take the road I’d never been down before, as a metaphoric embodiment of everything about this second trip. I was challenging old-Judi so much by embracing the qualities of Jude I needed to do a road trip. Vulnerable strength.

I drove on the highway to a comfortable playlist of pre-show #Madic, taking in the sun and the clear highway, and the considerate drivers just going til they get there. Singing with the words written on my soul, Catharsis set in. 

However, my phone was not charging, and it was very important that I was able to use it for navigation, as well as communication etc. These are the times we live in.

So, I turned off at Nanton. The highway goes right through town but there was also something I remembered about my navigation path that indicated I needed to turn in the vicinity of Nanton. Their convenience store provided me with everything I was hoping to buy: a humble paper map, car charger, new phone cord, and a coffee. I was on my way again.

But, in this moment of being parked, a temporary moment of calm… I took a sprint into the field of this community park. Simply excited to feel the blood and air and ache in my leg be challenged by the opportunity to feel the benefits of a human body. I look down in the grass and notice a collection of well formed, character filled branches and twigs. “Mom needs a basket/nest built for this Sunday”, I remind myself. This was a good reason to have arrived in this park. I collected two handfuls and jaunted back to the car.

Feeling accomplished and refreshed, I ensured the paper map’s plan was similar to Google’s and continued on, through the snowy streets. I tested out the winter tire capabilities of the car. They were so-so with immediate stopping.. but it had also been a while since driving in full on winter. It’s been way too mild lately.

Knowing the capacity of my tires and brakes was an incidental but important activity for driving mountain roads. Just one moment of allowing the trip guide itself. I followed intuition and logical suggestions the whole trip, and with a car that was able and ready to help me along.. this trip had presence.

From Nanton, the road I took was a less major road, so the traffic was different. But I was facing the mountains, with the sun still shining – just barely holding onto the horizon like I was barely holding on to the aches of my past self. It felt all too perfect to be driving into this experience. I did however, allow my wandering brain the pleasure of demanding a I needed to publish something to declare to these men at the other end of the road trip that I wasn’t full of shit, that my intention has purpose and an ultimate end goal. So I did. I took an unscheduled half an hour stop, singing and writing. Figuring out the limits of what I could do with no wifi and only what was accessible by my phone… I published and tweeted out the first step of what I’d been hoping to produce.

Feeling satisfied in that moment, I continued on. With few turns, they often took me by surprise, but the Forte allowed some sympathy for my exploratory ways. i took a turn too quickly for the nature of the road, but luckily, the wheels hugged the road enough to bring me around the bend safely. I slowed, breathed, looked at the mess of things that were thrown from the front seat, and sighed in relief it was not any worse.

Unfortunately, as I continued on, the sun quickly faded away. Exactly was I was warned against – driving in the mountains in the dark – was about to happen. BUT I am very happy to have taken the Fernie route. As long as the sky remained light, I savoured the beauty-full open sky, and the humbly magnificent mountains. I still, though, was craving full and demandingly charismatic Rockies in Banff.. but that wasn’t part of today’s adventure. 

(I did get there though! See below:)

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During this time, I sang with the depth of my lungs because I had it in me, and no one else would hear it. I recorded some of the times I sang along to a particular song because it was going well.. but mostly, I just needed to find my voice. And I sure did. It’s there, hiding most of the time behind fear and a choked lumpy throat.. but I found it.

When I drove through Frank, AB and thought about the devastation that area felt for a moment in history, I was slammed by a feeling of regret for not being able to honor them by going to the interpretive centre, or being able to see the mountain, etc. But I did find “Frank Slide Liquor”… and of anything I could do, I felt I was supposed to have something from that store as a talisman for the adventure. So, I asked them what is the most ‘Frank Slide Liqour’ item they had, under $50. I seriously considered a bottle of gin from the Turner valley. But ultimately settled on the most hilarious bottle of bison grass vodka from Poland. With no idea what it might taste like, I was all in, for $28. (Update: Not ‘alf-bad, b’ys)

I continued, into the darkness, aiming for Fernie and then Cranbrook. I had no idea if or when there would be a time shift upon arriving in BC, so I prepared for it, but I was also cautious. The potential reality of a missed concert entered my consciousness, if I were to keep stopping. This meant the next leg was all at once or not at all.

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Arriving in Cranbrook with 7 minutes before the show time, there was little time to ask why the time didn’t change…just accept the synchronicity. I sought out parking near the venue, and nearly got stuck (when the odometer was reading 420.9). Adjusted my location and relied on my Organic Box winter driving training.. I boss-parked that car into a beauty of a spot just across the residential street, and grabbed the few things I would need to sit inside for Matt’s set.

There was a piece of paper at the front counter with my name on it. Matt’s offer of a guestlist ticket. I WAS the guestlist. 

A very helpful woman at the desk allowed me to choose my seat, “in case there was someone I wanted to sit beside”.. but no, it was just me. Rolling solo on this crazy adventure. I chose an open seat at the front of the room. No tickets had been requested for the wheelchair space, so I took one of the 4 available. A free front row seat feels great, by the way.

On the whole, the concert experience was perfect. There was a shift in Matt’s performance nature – he mentioned it began in Nelson, BC when he decided to embrace Dan’s between-song banter.

{Every artist needs a good stand up routine while they tune. This is something Heartwood Folk Club taught me. David Francey would do it while his guitar player tuned. John Wort Hannen also had funny quips. Any of the 100+ names I had the pleasure to witness as a teen encouraged that practice. It fills space by continuing the development of place in the room. Why did people buy a ticket? to be entertained.}

Matt joked about no one having heard the new songs because they hadn’t heard the old ones. I realized that perhaps I was the only one in the room who knew most of the songs, but after all I was the one who made contact and was at the second show in a week. 

When Matt brought his set to a close, I dashed out to the car to get a few things, now that the atmosphere was relaxed and I had some time. Retrieving my DM+B hat, a purse to contain the bottle of vodka, and the art I had specifically remembered to be signed. One by me for Dan, one by me for me, but oddly nothing by Dan for me this time.

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The gift was a doodly art I’d brought and created as a journal of the show. It became a template for specific quotes and moments from the evening, with possibility to be completely packed with words.. but there was an interesting quality to leaving empty space. Words dancing with artistic notation and reminiscient of a forest reflecting in the water. Balancing lyrics were written on opposite sides of this soundwave, and challenging voices to the status quo were given a great opportunity to embody larger open spaces. My psychogeographical roots seep out, more often than sometimes. 

I was a chaotic mess of listening, photographing, and documenting moments that mattered. I hoped I wasn’t making too much noise or distracting.. but there was an element of ‘do it anyway’.

There was no need to mention my connection to the happenstance of the evening from the stage. I seized a few opportunities to participate with song requests (Journal of a Narcoleptic “sorry, no..” and Jasper “if only we could just bring Aidan Knight on stage”.. settling for someone behind me to suggest both Jeopardy and Vessel. perfect) .. and cute one liners “all my favourite singers are Madic”… They took charge of this show with gentle deliberation, delivering each line with conviction, care, cheer, and a sense of closure for a tour well done. That much came through with each word.

An opportunity to put my vocal chords to work on Sold, and So Much for Everyone, was a beautiful time. I had never felt more able to contribute to the sing along as I did after 4 hours of playing with these sounds coming from ME.

The show ended, a Cranbrook-ian got the setlist, and Dan makes his way to the lobby via the stairs off the stage. An old friend stops to say “hey remember me” and he does. They catch up in laughter and joy.

Earlier that day (ca. 7:30AM) and taking place somewhere around Red Deer on HWY2 south, a conversation about lifestyle shifts brought up the idea of “only maintain things that bring you joy” as a way forward. A thought which became a mantra of the adventure. One I must selfishly entitle “Jude in the Mountains” because of the power, and sweetness, of this song in particular: 

Much of what went undocumented in many ways until now, is all the ways this trip felt like an embodiment of this song ‘Jude’, written & named for his son. Chances collide, planets align, forces combine. it all had meaning. Everything happens for a reason is such a common phrase to fall back on, when we are feeling swept up in the world’s cadence it’s impossible to know what will happen next. But the most important part is to lean into the opportunity and leave what you feel safe in. Serendipity is life, Dan and I agreed, after briefly discussing Jude as a name, and my decision to make contact because of it.

Music, from stage to ear, brings me joy. Unending gratitude for those who dedicate so much deliberation to its creation, production, and legacy.

[Jude’s 6Q] feat. Astral Swans > “what calms you down freaks me out” <

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Astral Swans from the stage in Cranbrook. December 1, 2015

 

“I once saw a dead bird on the sidewalk, so being a sensitive guy easily affected by death.. I wrote a song about it.” Matt Swann offers some lighthearted stage banter in Cranbrook, BC, at the end of a season of touring small venues and humble stage shows throughout Canada. This time, sharing a stage with his Madic Records manager, Dan Mangan.

From the initial press release of the label announcement, Dan has been forthright about the experimental nature of this personal project:

“I’d had this longstanding pipe dream of having a boutique label. For years, it seemed a fulfilling hobby; to help spread the word about music I believed in that wasn’t getting enough attention. It was never quite the right time, and I figured if it ever were to be, that it would happen fairly organically, and because a particular album or project fell in my hands. It took about one listen through Astral Swans’ rough mixes to light a proverbial fire.” (http://danmanganmusic.com/dan-mangan-launches-madic-records/)

Speaking to Dan about working with Matt and developing this toned-down touring style, he confirmed this experiment was a mutual decision, as, “Matt has zero intentions of world domination. If he could play to 80 people every night he would be so happy.”

Lyrics are meant to be the focus of Astral Swans’ performance, with lines arising around sensitivity in the wake of death, compromising social situations, or simply having a conscience in a world that doesn’t seem to value it. Matt’s sensitive existential musings are summarized by the line: Continue reading