. : : November 5th, 2011 : : .
I often start my blogs talking about how crazy early I arrive to shows, and all the hi-jinx I get up to at the venue early. My penchant for early arrival often means I’m the butt of playful jokes of friends and family, but every once and I while, I get a sobering reminder of just why I show up to shows so ridiculously early.
Let’s back up a little, shall we?
Long time readers of this blog may recognize the name Colleen Brown. Last summer, I was privileged enough to see Ms. Brown perform over a half dozen times in the span of only a couple of months. Her music was pop perfection and hauntingly beautiful, all at once. Songs would get stuck in my held, holding onto my brain as if with the talons of an eagle. But, as all good things must come to an end, Colleen was spirited back home to Edmonton, Alberta.
She quickly went to work on a new record — one a long time coming. Her sophomore album, Foot In Heart, was released four years prior and although re-released in 2010 with help from Outside Music and Emm Gryner‘s label, Dead Daisey Records, fans were clamoring for recorded renditions of the plethora of new songs she brought to the stage with each performance. In what seemed to be an exceptionally fast turn around, the album was recorded, mixed, mastered, produced and ready for distribution in under a full solar cycle.
With physical copies of Colleen Brown’s Dirt in-hand, the band headed east, touring the disc. When Colleen announced that she would be opening for Emm Gryner at the beautiful and intimate Dakota Tavern, I knew nothing would keep me away.
Or, so I thought.
It should take me about 45-minutes to get to the Dakota Tavern from my house if everything lines up nicely. An hour, roughly, if it doesn’t. With doors announced for 7 pm, I couldn’t imagine Colleen taking the stage much earlier than 7:30 pm. Granted, it was an early show, and the Dakota was double-booked (as is often the case) with a second unrelated show penned in for 10 pm. By my calculation, if Colleen started at 7:30, played for a generous 45-minutes, and allowing for 15-20 minute tear down and set-up for Emm Gryner’s set, plus an additional hour set from Emm, that would still leave 20-minutes to get us out and the next crowd in.
Seemed logical. So, I left my house at 6pm, giving myself plenty of leeway. I should arrive by 7pm, but if not, I should still have more than enough time to get in, get situated, and get set-up for taping. I checked the local transit schedule, and it seemed to indicate I should be there at 7:04pm. More than fine, I figured. But when I checked an app on my new Android phone that synchronized with GPS units in the city’s buses, I saw a wrench had already been thrust into my proverbial spokes. The first route I needed is usually served by two or three buses at a time; usually, one is headed northbound while the other is headed southbound. Why then did the GPS unit have them both traveling north bound, only minutes separated from each other?
Ugh. One was horribly behind schedule; I was stuck waiting for it to spin back around. Luckily, I had calculated for any such delay. I got to the subway station and was happy to see a train was already parked in the station, so I grabbed a seat and waited. And waited. And waited. The train must have sat in the station for ten minutes; admittedly, that doesn’t sound like a long time, but I’m on a schedule that has already been thrown off considerably. I started to get nervous. I could feel the anxiety creeping over me. I took a deep breath and reminded myself I’d left a half hour’s breadth of space for just such an occurrence.
Phew. I felt better. The subway raced downtown, but I still didn’t reach Ossington station until moments after 7pm. I figured, with the Dakota only a handful of blocks south, I should have more than enough time to make it. I wouldn’t need to take a taxi for the last stretch. In better conditions, it might even be a walkable distance. In hindsight, walking may have been faster. The bus took another twenty minutes to pick up myself and a couple dozen similarly impatiently looking passengers. I looked at my watch: I should still be able to make it to the Dakota for 7:30, and I had already put on my mics in the subway, so I had nothing to worry about, right?
I got off the bus across the street from the Dakota. Oh, of course I’d get stuck behind a red light, as I shifted my weight uncomfortably. It finally changed, and I raced into the Dakota. I had exact change to give the lady working the doors, but I hadn’t even outstretched my arm when I heard Colleen’s music seeping up from the basement venue. My heart raced as the knot in my stomach tightened. 7:28pm. God, I hoped they hadn’t changed it to Colleen’s SET started at 7pm — it could be wrapping up almost before I get into the room.
I was disappointed in myself, frustrated with the horrible transit and a bit resentful of the early start, but I took my spot in the venue, quickly pulled out my recorder, and pressed record. I didn’t even allow myself time to take off my bag and jacket, which turned out to be yet another mistake in a long line of errors this evening. My right microphone was pinned under my jacket collar, held down by the strap of my bag. The right channel in the recording, therefore, is a distorted, static-filled mess. At the time, of course, I didn’t know this, and let Colleen’s beautiful music wash over me.
I’m not sure exactly what time the set started, but I do know I missed three-and-a-half songs: the set started with older material I’ve heard previously at almost every prior show: Chasing Beautiful into Fantastic Voyage, and Boyfriend. I’d missed the first couple of minutes of Dirt-highlight (and there are many), Strangers Know Better, but I tried not to let my frustration colour the experience. After all, I’d been waiting a year to see Colleen again.
She looked phenomenal, and sounded even better. By the time I’d arrived, the set had started to become exclusively the newer material, and she’d brought along a new band to help deliver it. The only familiar face, other than the obvious, was the fantastic Peter Hendrickson on drums. With the new faces behind six-string and bass guitars, Colleen had also brought a completely new addition: a trumpet player. The trumpet was un’mic’ed — a wise idea in so small a venue, but sometimes got buried amongst the bevy of amplified instruments. When it was heard, however, it was a beautiful addition that added new colour to an already brilliant performance. The band played tightly, although perhaps a bit stiffly: an observation easily overlooked with the knowledge that this was only the band’s second public performance in this configuration! The new songs sounded great, and I’d only wished I’d been there for more of it.
The recording on the other hand? Ehhhh. Not only did I have to remove the right channel and double up the left one (making this a MONO recording), but in my mad dash to the venue, the MIC GAIN option on the recorder got accidentally turned on, making the levels SUPER hot. As such, at a few of the loudest points, this recording clips with a small burst of static. Yeah, I’m less than enthusiastic about it too, but barring another taper being there, I doubt we’re ever going to see a superior copy. The sound quality is otherwise very decent.
I’m still miffed that I missed a good chunk of Colleen’s set, but with Colleen (at least) temporarily making Toronto home, I’m confident that I’ll have another opportunity to see her again soon before long. Until then, we will both have to be satisfied with this recording.
xx. Chasing Beautiful
xx. Fantastic Voyage
01. Strangers Know Better [cut]
02. Nothing Compares 2 U [Prince] [tease]
03. 7 Hours and 15 Days
04. Good Girls
06. Ignorance Prayer
08. Really Just Need A Friend
09. Baby Blue Eyes
11. Fight! Fight! Fight!
Thanks to Colleen Brown, Peter Hendrickson, Emm Gryner and the Dakota Tavern. No thanks to the Toronto Transit Commission.