Playing at Canadian Music Week will get you places: Tour Diaries

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Saskatoon’s The Pistolwhips takes CMW by storm

Editor’s Note – Once upon a time Zachary Davies of The Pistolwhips promised us a story about going to Osheaga in Montreal. But for whatever reason that never happened. Instead, he totally stepped up and gave us a tour diary about playing at CMW in Toronto. Good stuff. Check out The Pistolwhips HERE.

The flight is scheduled to leave at 6 pm. Rylan and I barely make it. A string of last minute odds and ends takes longer than expected. For some reason the airline sits us all separately with Paul sitting furthest away at the rear of the plane. I am next to a very nice lady who enjoys our music almost as much as she enjoys talking. She is an avid fan and I could tell that music was a major part of her life. Hearing her stories of the Police Picnic in Toronto 1983 makes me think of when I attended Rogers Picnic in 2007 and how I probably had a lot in common with her. We chat for most of the flight and I introduce her to the band before parting ways before luggage pickup.

Our major concern is money. We were fortunate enough to do a big show right before we left, and Saskmusic was generous enough to help us out with some major funding for the trip. But plane tickets + hotel + three meals a day + liquor x four guys = tight budget. We vow to eat cheap and take subways.

But as soon as we walk out of the airport the frugality of our trip quickly fades.

We each have a large suitcase, a carry-on bag and guitars. Out of the corner of my eye I notice an older gentlemen waving us over. He is standing next to an unmarked mini van and offers us a ride.

“How much to downtown?” I ask.

“$80,” he replies in a thick accent.

“Forget it.” I immediately collect my gear. This was a negotiating technique I had learned from Uncle Mark in Toronto. “Grab your gear boys, this is a rip off.”

The guys hesitate and slowly pick up their gear.

“Ok,” I say to the driver “we’ll do it for $60.”

“No no, $70,” says Rylan.

Rylan is now negotiating against me. I step away shaking my head – instead of paying $80 we now only had to pay $70.

We arrive at our hotel and go for a quick bite at a 24 hour café. The café is supposed to serve alcohol till 2am and we have arrived at 1:50am. We ask for drinks and the waiter puts us off until it is after 2 and he doesn’t have to serve us liquor anymore. You can imagine how happy we are about this. Instead we get Pepsis and mix our own drinks out of the flask Christian had brought from home. Night number one is a success.

The next morning Paul and I find a place for hot Yoga. We have a busy day. First we have to organize business cards, register for Canadian Music Week, eat supper, go to The Rehearsal Factory for a practice before the show, and then get to the venue by 9 to play at 10.

We decide to split up. We would meet at our 7pm appointment at the Rehearsal Factory afterwards. Because they had all played Canadian Music Week in years prior, we assumed the registration was at the Royal York Hotel. And in keeping with our frugal mentality Christian and Paul take the subway instead of a 10 dollar cab ride. Unfortunately they take a wrong subway and ended up travelling in the wrong direction about 45 minutes. They get off and take a cab.

As soon as we start practicing it’s apparent that we are going to have a great show. Everything is clicking, our timing is great, our energy building with every song. If you haven’t been to the Rehearsal Factory it’s a great concept that unfortunately could never work in Saskatoon. But it seems to work with the high population of touring bands in Toronto. You pay $15 an hour and they provide a soundproof room, drums, two guitar amps, a bass amp, and a PA system with 2 mics. Show up with your guitars and you’re good to go.

After our practice we are all feeling a lot better but still have to get our badges from registration. We take another taxi to The Royal York Hotel and dash across the lobby, guitars in hand, trying to find any sign of CMW registration. Nothing. No signs, no musicians, no registration, nothing. Checking the email again, we realize that CMW’s have been moved to the Marriot Downtown and again are in the wrong place with little time left and a long way to go. We hop in a cab. Again. We get there just before registration closes, get back in a taxi and head to our venue. Which is five blocks from The Rehearsal Factory.

Cherry Colas doesn’t have a sign. It’s just a dark building with steps leading up to a black door. The place is quiet. The patrons are sitting quietly listening to music and chatting amongst themselves. The bar has a very red boudoir gothic theme. Lots of red antique furniture, red wall paper and gold chandeliers. The stage is small. An acoustic act starts the night and keeps the crowd interested but not to the level we want. We are going to have to bring lots of energy.

By 10 the place is packed. I get the most nervous out of the other band mates. I’m infamous for throwing up before a show. My nerves rattle, my stomach turns and whammo there goes supper. As soon as I get on stage I’m fine but the build up is hard on me. We are well practiced, ready for the show and there isn’t a person there who knows who we are. That helps.

After our first three songs back to back, the whole place is crammed in front of the stage. We finish strong and get a great applause with a minor Pistolwhips chant faintly heard in the background.

At the end of our set, just like out of the movies, a guy in a suit comes up to Rylan and says “You kids are going places,” and hands us his card.

We mingle with a few more people including a really great band called 20 Amp Soundchild out of Ontario. After 20 Amp there was a super heavy metal band playing whom I’ll leave nameless. Apparently at the end of the night they get into a huge bar fight.

Any touring band should take in consideration the price of this trip. There are no guarantees you will have any record execs watching your show. There are no guarantees ANYONE will be watching your show. And hotels, meals, airfare, and transportation are super expensive.

However we met a ton of other really cool bands who, if we go through their hometown, will point us in the right direction and support our shows if we play there. We get to put Canadian Music Week on our band “resume” – this might sound strange but where you’ve played can be more important than what your music is like when it comes to booking shows. Racking up the checklist of festivals, showcases and venues helps book gigs in the future. Also, we got our name outside of Saskatoon.

The next day we Googled the guy who handed us the card and it turns out he specializes in sending musical equipment overseas. I guess what he meant by “you guys are going places” is he could help us get there by sending our gear.

CMW was definitely a success!