I once asked my mother to get me a vasectomy for Christmas.
I got a gift certificate for cheese instead.
While the mechanics of reproduction are familiar terrain, I am completely baffled as to how anyone decides that it is a good idea to bring children into this world for an 18 years plus commitment.
I can’t even bring myself to sign a yearlong lease on an apartment.
So it is wholly amusing that I find myself on a road trip to play the Regina Folk Festival with a bandmate and his two very young children.
I like Paul – he is an amazing guitar player and I genuinely like his new album. But he is a father and I don’t understand how he does that.
On our way to the Regina Folk Festival we stop at a gas station for snacks. He tells his kids over and over that there are certain things they can’t get. I am uber sensitive towards this – I get trail mix, thinking I should probably not get something that a child would envy. I hide the fact there are Smarties scattered with the almonds and raisins.
Folk festivals are amazing in that they treat performers incredibly well – we are cooked for, someone pours our coffee for us and the staff even cart our instruments around for us. We are musicians and, as such, are essentially children. We need someone to tell us where to go and when to play. And someone needs to clean our messes.
We arrive at the Regina Folk Festival in time for Dan Mangan. Halfway through his set the sky erupts in a downpour of rain. But instead of doing the reasonable thing – scores of adults are already scrambling for cover – he strolls to the middle of the stage and plays his guitar even harder. I applaud his stage show and am happy he doesn’t electrocute himself.
Mr. Mangan is not wholly a child however – backstage I see a slight twinge of regret in his eye as he attempts to dry himself.
Thankfully the rain relents, clearing the way for weirdo gypsy core band Marco Calliari, who are wholly impressive and have a metal-esque stage presence.
Hanging out backstage, sipping on beers and eating anything proffered to me, I stumble across more bandmates: Quentin and Kristine are wandering around with their tot Lionel, who is, of course, a cute, tiny version of the best parts of his parents. They are adorable and Lionel appears to be having the time of his life. I smile at him and immediately feel like a creep. I shouldn’t be allowed to leer at children.
Up next is Shakura S’Aida, a woman with a voice that sounds like a pack of rumbling pumas. Her music, however, sounded like what 45-year-olds bump beards to. Too adult for me, man.
During Taj Mahal’s set, Paul’s children come up to me, covered in poster paint, tears in their eyes. They ask if I have seen their dad – I have not. They wander off sniveling and, instead of my usual annoyance, paternal instincts kick in and I follow them at a distance, making sure they don’t wander into traffic or fall off a cliff.
Would I make a good father? I ponder this, drunkenly.
KD Lang takes the stage next and, feeling weirdly emotional, I feel like crying at the sound of her amazing voice. It leaves me trembling and touches me in some weird way that I haven’t felt in some time.
Then she starts to dance and all blubbering is immediately replaced by a series of guffaws.
But busting out a questionable version of the sprinkler notwithstanding, KD Lang puts on a mind-blowing show – would def go see again.
The show is over for the evening and we continue to get more fucked up. I take a cue from Paul’s kids and begin slathering paint on my face. The illusion is complete – I feel ridiculous but weirdly powerful. Immediately, my interactions with other adults change. People start talking down to me. They treat me like I am unintelligent and devoid of rational thought. I remember what it’s like to be a kid again. It’s kind of fun.
The afterparty is a blur at this point. Hey Ocean and Marcos Calliari put on a great show but, after having woken up that morning at 5am to get to my adult job, I am near pass out.
Dana offers me a ride with a bunch of cute girls and we speed back to the hotel. I suspect they are not thrilled about painty Chris in shotgun but I also don’t really care – “whatever” said the toddler.
* * * * *
The next morning I jump on the hotel bed, eliciting a scream from a sleepy Jeanette. It’s morning – this is totally going to be awesome! We head to the hotel lobby for breakfast. This would prove to be the worst part of my day. I order huevos rancheros – I am served what are essentially nachos with an egg dropped on top. I giggle madly. Then I get angry. Then confused. Not even a child would eat this. And no parent would ever permit their seed anywhere near this meal.
Then something amazing happens – back at the festival I meet Fred Penner.
I remember interviewing him a couple of months ago, but I mostly remember him like a family member, or even a wayward father. For the majority of my childhood, the man was present during my summer mornings on TV. He preached a message of tolerance, respect and love.
I want to hug him and thank him for being there for me when life seemed daunting and confusingly hard. And I want to praise him for being the exceptional human being he is.
Instead I do the grown-up thing – I shake his hand and quietly introduce myself. We part ways until – I can’t help myself – I ask for a photo. He smiles and so do I.
Slow Down Molasses plays semi-competently and I am completely blinded from having to stand in the sun for the entirety of the set. Immediatley afterwards I run to the CBC building to record a spoken word set of my tour diaries with Kelley Jo Burke – a radio personality who does not take shit. But we can talk about that later, closer to January, when it actually makes broadcast.
Library Voices are some very dear friends of mine who have managed to make some huge strides in the indie rock world. Sunday night belonged to them. Dressed to the nines, the multi-member band bang ‘n’ blister their way through some very precious dance-kitsch-pop. They are amazing and I am wholly proud of them – this is one of my favourite times I have ever seen them.
Backstage, they scatter, each looking individually befuddled as to what just happened. Here’s what happened dudes: you took that massive Folk Festival stage and totally gangbanged it in front of your hometown crowd and everyone loved you for it. You’ve grown up immensely – happy wedding wishes Brennan – and you have the brightest of futures to follow. Kudos all of you.
Oh yeah, some guy named Hawksley Workman played. We didn’t stay. Instead I curled up in Tyson’s backseat and snored like a baby all the way back to Saskatoon.