Every year I escort my mother to the Kitchener Blues Festival. I love good music but I have a certain impatience with Michael Bolton and his descendants: easy cover songs, slick delivery, the session musicians who have "done it" so many times that they sound like Automated Soundtrack Mannequins Who Have Eaten Too Many Ribs. The Blues Festival can be a bit like that.
This year we had just escaped the off-key moaning of Miss Angel and were making our way down the line: from the "A" stage, to the "B" stage, past the people selling terrible confectionery and beads and patchouli....
...and then I heard the most wonderful noise, coming from a tent that had been placed in the Kitchener Blues Festival equivalent of Dead Man's Valley. An exuberant, distorted, joyous noise. It was...Catl.
(Picture by Patrick!)
My mother stoically endured Catl long enough for me to solidify my fandom: a guitarist, a drummer, and keyboard/percussionist, playing some form of music that I cannot really identify. Blues? Rockabilly? The darkest muck of the Mississippi river from a forgotten island that Huck Finn never visited...hell, Mark Twain could never have conceived the beautiful sound that was Catl, let alone invent a funny accent for it.
I bought the CD, I loved it, I joined their Facebook group, and I had NO EXCUSE for avoiding their surprise show at The Boathouse tonight.
It was an amazing show. Watch this YouTube clip...
...and then imagine yourself sitting there, watching them, a tight-knit trio just SLAMMING that music out, electrifying, sounding like the aural equivalent of knob and tube wiring. A real estate agent would run SCREAMING from a house designed by Catl, but I want to live in one despite the fire hazard. Throaty hollering. Overdriven organ keys. Soulful drums. A virtuoso guitarist who seems to always be on the verge of losing control for sheer passion. A drummer who really DOES wear sunglasses at night. Wow!
Is it obvious? Catl was great, and you should see them at your first opportunity...but the night wasn't over!
Ginger St. James was next, and she was a super-charged belter. I have immense respect for singers whose lungs are made of nitroglycerin and roses, who can produce a beautiful and powerful noise without ever breaking a sweat...perhaps slightly easier tonight because the stage looked pretty cold. She and her guitarist are apparently monthly features at The Boathouse and I look forward to seeing them again; the two of them had a sweetly personal stage presence reminiscent of a rehearsal in your parent's rumpus room, after a game of Spin The Bottle, except she can sing and DAMN can Mr. Slim play his guitar!
Finally: Von Crippon. Words fail me again. Super-tight surf rock with heart, soul, and funk. Two guys driving a non-stop steamroller of music; no pretensions, no illusions. And that was the fantastic thing about all three bands: there were no sly winks or ironic subtext, just a string of songs that they loved and delivered with verve and honesty.
Why can't we hear more of this sort of thing, everyday, in our heads?
PS: End of night, last few songs by Von Crippon, I decide to dance. I am still trying to find a "non-drag" presentation, and it's only when I'm slightly drunk that I can stop worrying about how I'm being perceived and just let loose. So I'm up there enjoying myself, slowly shedding the Muffy-husk and simply enjoying myself...
...when the nice guy walks up to me and asks "Have you ever seen Breakfast on Pluto?"
"No," I say. "Why?"
"It's about a gender-confused person, it's a great movie, you'd love it!" And I'm like, HOLY COW! Is this the legacy of fifteen years of drag? Even when my eyebrows have fully grown out will I still be perceived as "gender-confused?" I feel like a chubby girl who's always being asked when her baby's due, with the added bonus of not being either chubby OR a girl.
Don't get me wrong, the guy was being nice, and I have no illusions that I'm macho or anything. Heck, most guys dance like manic-depressive kangaroos anyway. But it was a bit disheartening that my simple expression -- and perhaps my whole demeanor during the night -- boiled down to a single comment about gender confusion. Like it's a massive punctuation point in my life. A tad alienating to say the least.
Conclusion, after that last little thing: You should see Catl, Ginger St. James, and Von Crippon. And you should dance the way you like. And you should enjoy the wonderful things that are out there for you to enjoy. And try to put some money in their coffers.