Category Archives: Music

Life is a Cabaret…

I’m going to rant a bit now.  Fair warning.

I love living in the community I live in.  It has such great things about it, especially such great people.  It’s fairly good at supporting artists and there is a wonderful group of artists and artisans that live here.  They’re very supportive of each other and produce some amazing work.  There’s also a thriving musical community here, as well as an excellent theater group.  There’s a hockey team and large junior-hockey association.  That part is all good.

Here’s the rub, though.  This community, for whatever reason, is reluctant to attend things.  Now before everyone starts sending me hate-mail, listen for a bit.

Over the last 20 years I have been very involved in both the theater group and the musical community.  More recently I’ve become involved in the artist and artisan community.  I’ve gone to a lot of events.  I’ve organized a lot of events.  In general…and yes, I know there are exceptions…..most entertainment events in this town are drastically under-attended.  And I’m at a loss to explain why.

We had a summer music festival.  It’s gone now, as far as I know.  I’ll be stunned if it isn’t.  Organizers can only put on events for so long without breaking even before they stop spending their own money on them.

The local theater group is packed with talented actors, directors, costumers, set-builders and writers.  The quality of their productions is very high for a community theater and yet they struggle to fill the seats unless they put on musicals involving large casts and tons of kids to ensure a built-in audience of family members.

I was talking to one of the hockey organizers at New Year’s and she said that when they go to other communities there’s at least 1000 people in the seats.  They don’t come even close to that many attendees here.

It’s not that there isn’t advance promotion for these events.  There is…lots of it.  It’s not that the costs are too high…ticket prices remain modest.  It’s certainly not that audiences don’t get value for their hard-earned dollars.  They get lots of bang for their buck.

One of the groups here that is trying valiantly to keep live entertainment happening is the Sasquatch Arts and Music Society.  They have taken on the management of the Snoring Sasquatch and are doing their best to keep the venue alive for our community.  They are a volunteer, non-profit society that is over-worked, under-funded, and stretched to their limit, but still they soldier on.

So for those of you who read this and live in our community, consider coming out on January 29 to their Cabaret fund-raiser.  It’s $15, a licensed event with a cash bar, and if past shows are any indicator it’s bound to be an evening of fun, high-quality entertainment.  There’s even going to be yummy appetizers to munch on.

So be a part of the change.  I’m going to keep writing about this periodically in the hopes that each one of us can find our way back to going out to watch quality entertainment that is produced locally.  After all, TV is over-rated and we can all stand to go out a bit more.  Aren’t our computer-butts big enough as it is?  I know mine is.

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Pink Guitars & Lime Green Cars

I simply could not have asked for a better last day of work before the holidays.  To be able to make a living doing something one loves is always a blessing.  For me, it’s also a ton of fun.  I worked in health-care for years, and while it had its rewards, teaching music to kids…..assisting my husband, actually…..is satisfying in a much deeper way.

My little girls were my first class today.  I have to be careful calling them that, because the oldest is 13 now and the youngest is only a couple years behind her.  They love to sing and rock out and work so incredibly hard at their craft.  I say craft, because it’s definitely not a passing whim for these girls.  They’re dead serious about what they’re doing here.  There’s more tears with this group than with the older kids, but it’s clear that they’re tears of frustration.  They want so badly to do well.  When their fingers don’t do what they’re telling them to or when that stubborn rhythm just refuses to stick there’s often some waterworks.  Thing is….they cry a bit, but they don’t stop working on it.  They don’t throw down their instrument and stomp away; these girls dig in, dig DEEP, and find a way to make it happen.  That’s not something we taught them, it’s who they are.  They make me so damn proud.

They came in today wanting to write a song.  They’ve been working so hard, they’ve earned the right to take some time and see what we could come up with.  Songwriting has not happened a lot in our classes because it’s so time-consuming and, quite frankly, older kids second-guess every word, every phrase, every idea.  They’re so afraid someone might think something is dumb, or, *gasp*, that THEY’RE dumb.  We try and work through it but it’s so easy to get bogged down it often just doesn’t happen.  Not today though.  These girls were popping out ideas and lyrics all over they place like pink, fluffy popcorn.

These girls blow me away.  They get things on a really fundamental level that we as adults know on an intellectual level but often drift away from.  Things that we know are really important.

They love their friends so deeply.  If you really want to see waterworks, just let one of their friends say something thoughtless to them.  You’d think all the puppies in the world had just gone *poof* and disappeared, never to return.  It made me realize that I love MY friends very deeply.  The people in my life who have lent me their support, their patience, their laughter, their tears, their understanding and their love.  You know who you are.  I can’t even begin to know how to express my gratitude for my life being graced by your friendship.

It was very humbling to be reminded of what’s important by these dynamite young women.  They’re so smart….and brave…..and they’re already stars.

© Pink Steel/JanMac 2010

Now for Something Completely Different

Something that has been taking up some of my creative time and energy these days is music.  Good ol’ Rock & Roll music.  Music to get your heart beating and your feet moving.  Music that makes you want to dance your …..er…..you know, off.

I hear all the time from the parents of my students that they wish they had the opportunity to be in a band when they were a kid.  That they regretted not learning an instrument.  After all, who didn’t, at one point or another, dance around their bedroom when they were a kid, singing into their hairbrush, wishing they were Pat Benatar or Robert Plant?  I know…I’m dating  myself.  Could be worse.  I could have been forced to write Britney Spears and Eminem there instead.  Yikes.

The thing that usually follows is these parents saying “But it’s way too late now.”   One word……WRONGO!

This is my bass.  The one I started learning to play when I was 42 years old.  Yes…..42.  Other than some piano lessons when I was a kid, I’d never played an instrument.  Thought I was incapable of playing an instrument.  Hah!  I was wrong!!

So now I play bass in a Rock & Roll band with my husband, Scott Irvine, and Erich Schmidt.  We’re called Nightshade.  It’s seriously the most fun you can have.  Nothing, and I do mean nothing, feels like playing music for other people.  I think I understand now why so many famous musicians become addicted to drugs and alcohol.  I think on some levels they’re looking for that feeling you get when you’re playing music for other people.  It’s amazingly fun on the small scale I’ve done it….I can’t begin to imagine what it must feel like to play to massive stadiums full of people.  It must be truly intoxicating.

Something we’ve noticed lately is that there’s not many places that play live music and have a dance floor.  Bars have pool tables and clubs play canned hip-hop.  We grew up going to clubs and bars where there was ALWAYS a band.   If the music was canned, it was always a disappointment.  We miss that.  We’ve chosen our songs with an eye, or ear, to what is danceable.  Songs that make you want to move.  Beats that make you want to boogie.

So even though this is a busy season, cut yourself a break.  Take some time for yourself.  Put aside all the office-party politics and the family dinners.  Come on out on December 11th to the Snoring Sasquatch.   Do it cause it’ll be a ton of fun and you wanna…..you know you really wanna……Dance til you Drop!

Singin’ in the Buff

In the midst of all of the other projects that were ongoing this week, I had to squeeze in just one more.  My friend Michele owns Buffalo Trails Coffee House here in town and has been hosting a jam night on selected Fridays.  Jams are fairly common in this community, with sort of the same bunch of people coming out and playing.  They often sing as well, but we’ve found at Buffalo Trails that the audience is often singing along.

It usually happens that you start to hear someone humming away under their breath, afraid of intruding but unable to stop themselves.  Pretty soon someone will pass your table on the way to the Buffa-loo singing quietly to themselves, blissfully unaware that anyone is noticing.  Then one of the performers will start a song that most people know the chorus to and are suddenly surprised to find themselves  to be in possession of numerous back-up singers, whether they want them or not.  At this point, people walking along the street have started peeking in the door with little smiles on their faces.  This is what we consider Ignition Point.  The laptop comes out, song lyrics are being searched, and the poor, hapless guitar players are being ordered to “Play Halleleujah!!”, whether they know the song or not.

We noticed this phenomenon and got to talking, Michele and I.  She thought that maybe the way to go was a full-on sing-a-long….it’s what people seemed to be enjoying.  There are lots of other jams people can go to, after all.  We acknowledged that lots of people like to sing, but there’s no way they’d ever get up and sing into a microphone…certainly not in FRONT OF OTHER PEOPLE!! *gasp of horror*  But they seemed to be okay singing in a group…hmmmm……

As we sat discussing this, I was looking at her brightly decorated chalkboard that talked about the “Jam in the Buff”.  The smart-a** in me thought it was an idea that could work, especially with the right slogan, sooooooo……

And so it begins.  We’ve got binders with songs and charts, the gourmet hot-dogs and all the fixin’s are cooking, all we need now is your company.  Come on out.  Sing along.  It’s fun…and it just might make karaoke a little less scary.