Feral Cats, Selling Out, Poetry, Acting Cool, and Conversations with Frank.
The MGM Restaurant is located at 240 Nicol Street in Nanaimo. South of here is a neighbourhood called Harwood that leads East to the water and West up to the hills towards the centre of the Island. From MGM you see the creeky houses of the old town. Driving south from here is a series of traffic-light small towns and eventually the South Coast of the Island 110 kilometres later. It is a tedious drive but one of the most scenic that I have experienced. This evening, I am working on a half dozen cups of coffee looking up and down at the pattern of the carpet and the dinted ceiling tiles at the MGM. Here is a list of upcoming events at the Restaurant according the to mgmrestaurant.com:
- 50s Rock n Roll night with ‘The Doctors of Rock n Roll’
- Chess night
- Spanish lessons
- Dance Night
Today is my first visit to MGM. From my table I see a disco ball hanging at the far end of the large dining room. My best guess at the length of the room is 120 feet. The website boasts "Air Conditioning and enough seats for 175 people." The dance floor is hardwood with two lighting rigs hung for prime time. Just beyond the disco ball is a television playing a curling match. It is 5:49pm local time.
April and May will be quiet here in Nanaimo. We have settled well. The weather is getting warmer and I am looking forward to doing some work and to summer nights in our new neighbourhood. I have a solo show in Nanaimo on April 21st at the Queens and will be working on upcoming tours, planning for a couple summer festivals and working on some writing projects. This past week I registered for courses in Modern Canadian Literature and Social Psychology in continuation towards a post secondary degree. Over the past few years I have been taking correspondence college courses in between everything else. Soon it will be ten years since I dropped out of college the first time to get the in the van with my friends to travel and play music. I am still very much enjoying touring and working on music, but lately I have been trying to loosen my grip. I get obsessed and it starts to have adverse effects. I wake up thinking about new songs. I think about new ideas over the first coffee of the day. I think about songs when we have friends over for dinner. There is a point when it becomes more neurotic than natural. Over the coming months I am hoping to deepen other creative pools. More exercise, volunteering, some manual labour and the college courses. I am hoping this will be good medicine alongside my next work for Northcote.
The following Journal is a series of quick stories from the last block of touring and from our first couple months of time living in Nanaimo.
PS - If you are in the area, contact me and we can meet at MGM.
I was behind the stage in the kitchen area, at the club just off Water Street downtown Kelowna. From blocks away you can see the club; it identifies itself with a giant F. The sign features painted stripes and lightbulbs that hug the letter. I was telling stories about old friends who are still coming out to the shows many years in to my journey-slash-career. First the hardcore, now the singer songwriter. I was asking Frank Turner if he had any insecurities about living up to the expectations of friends and loved ones. The conversation began timidly and ended with backbone.
We spoke about how the story is more communal than stand alone. Think less monologue. Even though Frank is only four or five years my senior, I look up to him immensely. He reminded me of the groups of people who have gone before us. Singers, storytellers, entertainers. They were the ones who maintained the community for us to join. The more I think of the communal story we share in music the more that any cynicism I may be carrying melts away. It is the type of pride that doesn't come from your own efforts but from being part of a tradition and a community to be proud of.
…All the things I've seen behind these tattered seams
…All the upturned faces with the lamplight in their eyes
And each imperfect turn flickers as it burns
Only lasts a moment but for me they'll never die
In July of 2013 I had the opportunity to open for Frank and The Sleeping Souls at Lee’s Palace as part of the Toronto Urban Roots Festival. I was in the city opening a couple shows for the festival and snuck on to the show with Frank last minute thanks to some crushing indie rock prayer time. I remember a feeling of guilt hanging over me that week as I had to miss a friends wedding to make the show, but it was an opportunity I couldn't miss. I didn't set the world on fire that night but looking back it was a very important show for me. I met Frank's agent and the owner of Xtra Mile, the label to which I would sign shortly after. It was Dave Hause and Xtra Mile that opened up the doors to touring outside of Canada. When I arrived to Lee’s that night I was nervous to see Frank. In 2010, near the beginning of Northcote, I had opened for Frank at the Media Club in Vancouver while he was touring Poetry of the Deed. Frank was one of the artists that I had emulated early on, and still do in many ways to this day. I went into the night at Lee’s trying to play it cool - give some pace. Act like you've been there before - which I really had not.
Frank was immediately gracious and complimented the self-titled record that I had put out earlier in the year. I couldn't believe that he had heard it and to my embarrassment I shrugged off the compliment. I stood beside him like a rounded fencepost while we watched his crew set up the stage. Then he told me how psyched he was that he got to see one of his favourite bands for the first time the previous night. In describing the show he was animated and full of energy. He got to introduce the band, sing with them and how he watched the entire show from the front row. He showed me his tattoos with the bands lyrics. He stayed up all night flying around Toronto at house parties to let the buzz of the night wear off. I didn't really ask him about his favourite record by the band, or if he had a favourite song. I was playing it cool. I was chill. The truth is that particular band is one of my favourites and I had listened to them for about two years straight cruising around Regina, Saskatchewan from 2008-10. I didn't mention that the record that got me into them was Boys and Girls… and that I was obsessed with bands with a Minneapolis sound.
All that to say: playing it cool and being chill is boring. Some advise to myself: When you are psyched, be psyched! Let it show. Pursue the energy.
For me, being out on the road can get tiring and will numb your brain. Once you are far into your work don't forget those aspects of it that you love. Keep inventing. Keep the conversation going. Stay at the heart. If you are psyched, try not to play it cool.
I was half dead then I got born again
I got lost in all the lights but it was okay in the end
And when we hit the twin cities, I didn't know that much about it
I knew Mary Tyler Moore and I knew Profane Existence
Late last year we supported one of Canada’s hottest rock bands on their National tour. They were wrapping up a successful record with a long tour and I know there were tons of groups who would have killed for the job. It was an honour to be asked to do it.
The tour included a number of back to back nights in cities, that were added after advance tickets for the first night had sold out. One of those back-to-backs was in Red Deer.
After night two in Red Deer I was sharing stories behind the club with a gentlemen I had met at the end of the night. I was enjoying being educated on local points like the oil patch, the job landscape, and what it was like to live in Sylvan Lake. We quickly found out that we had some acquaintances in common. This type of conversation is not uncommon on a Canadian tour, or anywhere for that matter.
The night was well over, the club was closing down and gear was being loaded out around us. During our conversation a few people would stop in to say hi and talk about the show or anything else. ‘Why didn't you guys play Battle?’ (a song I despise and have never played live). At this point in my journey-slash-career, I really enjoy these little talks.
While the next group was walking by a gentleman yelled to me, “Matt, a friend of mine wanted to tell you that you sold out”. I gave a thank you wave and the group walked away laughing.
I don’t really take personally what the gentlemen had to say, I know it was good humoured. It remind me however, I am now thirty and in many ways just begun, but jesus the road can make you feel old fast.
Two Feral Cats.
Two feral cats are circling our house these days. At the moment I am making plans to start feeding them. What do I buy? We had a cat growing up when we lived in town. He was called Glitter and we found him in the back alley near the greenhouse. Glitter was king. When we moved out of town there were groups of cats that lived out in and around the Barn and Quonset. Those types of places come with cats.
There is one on our street now that intimidates the dogs. I found one of our dogs shaking and crying watching that cat out of the front window. A short time later the dog was face down on the hardwood sleeping. Must have forgot the imminent threat. The other cat that is around is approximately horse-sized with a mystical white coat. She reminds me of the giant flying dog from the children stories growing up. It wouldn't surprise me if I saw this cat flying. Another legend of the Island.
I tried playing Squash.
It sounds like it does when you are swimming in a hotel pool. The tiny ball smacks the wall, the shoes shriek, the racket whacks, and the fans fan. You should not make small talk on the squash court. At the club there is a thirty-day trial membership offered to the unwashed; I have signed up. If you choose to join you receive a hotel key card which grants twenty-four hour access through the side door. You can visit the gym, watch hockey at the bar television or play squash then wash up. It reminds me of a Curling Club but its more cult-ish The entrance is a steel door that disappears into a sidewall of a grey office building. The parking lot is on a bizarre forty-five degree embankment. I am learning that much of the downtown is on the side of a hill. To the east there is a cliff that looks over to Vancouver, westward is Benson and the cabins, mansions and suburbs in it’s shadow. Downtown Nanaimo is like a V. I have attached a diagram rendering of the club in the photo section. 10 days and counting.
Reading List (with brief comment).
"Status Anxiety" by Alain De Botton
"How Proust Can Change Your Life" by Alain De Botton
I discovered this writer on a podcast recommended to me by my brother Eric the Awful.
“We always lack more than we have….
there are always more people who don't invite us than people who do.”
What could be salvation from status anxiety?…
"Aimless Love" - Billy Collins
There were about five years where I wanted more James Brown - something ready in the blood and in the body. “happiness is good for the body, grief strengthens the mind”.
Early into this year I am turning back to poetry. I love reading the words for the first time. I love the new songs in that familiar style. The details can give you five hundred things to think about, or just one. Collins is a good one to get back in. A little bit posh and a little bit grunge, I can quickly see the pictures.
Other poets I read recently: Anne Sexton (Nov/Dec), Fernando Pessoa (Jan)
I like to carry one around with me just in case. It’s like carrying around wine in a 7-Up bottle.
Songs recommended to me / recently discovered:
- The Hold Steady - Stevie Nix
- Frank Turner - Balthazar Impressario
I will keep these journals until I need to focus on other work.
This is really embarrassing and mostly dumb - but I thought it was fun for a minute: Three Final Notes
Why I have retweeted a negative review:
- Thankful for the mention
- I need someone to not like the stuff
- A bad review reminds me of an ongoing debate I am having with my brother regarding AirB&B
- Looking for a reason to smash a guitar or more likely a harmonica. Is smashing a harmonica exciting? I don't think so.
- My chance to be a wise-ass
- The real answer is: I don't know
There is an Australian band called Northlane - the song ‘Rot’ is really heavy and aggressive. The music video is a slow motion city where everything is connected by a yellow thread.
Northlane and Northcote supporting Matthew Good at the MGM on Nicol in Nanaimo. The Doctors of Rock n Roll.
I am wishing you the very best.