August 6, 2014 by vinylburns
Sometimes it comes for you, and against your better judgment, you open the door in a robe and wonder why it’s raining…
I’d been to Saskatoon before. Actually, I hadn’t… I was thinking of the following year when I would return for a second time, which technically, would make that my third visit, if you follow my actual English languistic logics… In any case, that time I had been to Saskatoon before, but not this first time. It was my first time. This time.
I was sharing a week, a stage, a hotel room, a car ride, and 19 hours of Pet Shop Boys songs with a bunch of the cleanest dirty clowns I’d hung with for a while. The Pet Shops are a good gang of musicians and all, but 19 hours is too much, even if you’re the ones singing the whole time. This proved powerfully true when the group elected to drop a heavy CA$4.90 on a gas station cassette tape which presented itself to be so awful that we shredded it and literally threw it out the 130km/h window at a cop, not 10 minutes later.
I’d like to say that happened in Nickelback’s home town, but I really don’t think anything happened there.
We whipped our way across the prairies of Alberta and Saskatchewan to the Saskatoon Fringe Festival… Festival of dreams… City of corn… Winter of ice.
Something like that… we were driving pretty fast, so I didn’t see the sign properly as we arrived.
The festival itself would bring us all the expected and anticipated fantasticisms of side-show life. Liquid hotdogs, Skateboard segregation, Police sanctioned jaywalking, greasy diner delights, and a couple of heavy hats.
It was a sublime couple of weeks… (I think it was two, I was on meds and red wine, and some other pills I found in my first aid kit).
We spent most of the evenings at our hotel.
The Senator: Wooden Castle to Kings and Rascals.
The hotel where dreams become legends, where stories of legends are told under bridges. Where psychedelic prairie flu seduces weary clowns, filthy and clean… and where clown captains and sideshow chiefs seduce lovely local girls, in the hot grey, communal darkness.
Silence silence silence… Kill
Usually the battle cry of festival sullied hacks, scrambling for focus in their weak, nervous circle, half organised, like an Austrian pizza restaurant… rabid, rushed and sweaty. Like a final night in Amsterdam.
Silence silence silence… Kill
The usual suspects.
The festival cast. Not necessarily THIS festival, but a fair, standard serve, generalised menu of greasy spoons you can expect at most mid-range festivals.
A Gypsy Peruvian Pan Flute Band, playing in front of their transit van. The Enya of South America, hawking “their” CDs. Generic, homogonised factory stamped from Venezuela’s “Osmonds”. All regurgitated, replicated and shipped out from Caracas, to every vaguely populated street corner event on the face of the planet. Latino flavoured Movenpic of music. Exotic and enchanting to every ear on earth, but empty sonic calories, grafted, like someone else’s flesh, onto the meat of their own brand. Vibrant and convincing at face value, but stay for a few numbers, and you’ll soon hear the acid sour whine of ethnic authenticity rejecting the weakly franchised CliffsNotes of South American folklore.
Then there are Break-dancers with knives, beating out their anger and Daddy’s rage all over the dusty oil-streets of Europe and Canada. All too happy to morph that discontent into personal warfare if their Public Address is threatened with a gentle, official hushing…
A couple of Aussies, all barred up and ready to ass-tarnish some locals with someone else’s ideas and everyone else’s delivery.
Somehow they all ended up back at The Senator, and it was ON.
We wrote poems across the underneath of the dining table, drank scotch from the chandelier in the hallway and took turns sliding down the un-slidable banisters. When they eventually cut the power, we started a fire and wired all the buskers amps together in a giant series circuit which produced enough power to watch 4 seconds of television, and to burn out all our sound systems and kill our profit margin for the week.
By the time post-festival Monday rolled around, we owed so much on the room, we had to rent a room across the street just to avoid the manager and the cops. That said, it’s incredible how far a funny hat and a change of clothes will get you in Saskatoon.
It’s easy to stay too long in a good place, and sometimes that’s The Move you need to make. It’s not always clear that you’re making that move though, and you’ll often wake up to find a couple of extra sets of clown shoes under your bed.