I am finding a real like for this part of the world. I’m not sure if I can explain it properly, but It feels established, and I get a sense that there is a sort of pride and culture here that doesn’t need to be protected or promoted; it’s simply a neat place where people do stuff. It looks like people take care of themselves here. You Nova Scotians are an attractive bunch, please allow me to say so! I don’t know if it’s the sea air, or if life keeps you busy, but there is a certain joviality on the streets that paints a smile on most people’s faces. Perhaps I was in New York for too long, who knows, but Halifax has something going on.
Arising early this morning, I erased the curtains to a wet and grey vision of Halifax. It had snowed overnight, at least that’s what the new patches of white lead the viewer to believe. Dan and I went into work early this morning to lend a hand to Nicky, who had a lot of work cut out; the inner sanctums of a hockey rink as you might imagine are mostly drab changing rooms with hooks and nooks being the main decor themes. Dressing up the place with a little ‘pipe and drape’ makes the sacred spaces eye-friendly, but takes time and effort, so we mucked in as furniture movers and feng-shui assistants for a short time.
The trucks took time to unload — in fact, the load-in was generally slow; unloading one truck at a time usually is. Soundcheck was delayed slightly due to some last-minute configuration of the speakers. I hope I’m getting this right, but I think what happened was an upper level of seats close to the stage were in some sort of acoustic void, an anomoly of sound, and our speakers were just not projecting very well to those areas. So a jiggle and fiddle had to follow and we were back on track. There was no stress that I could see, as Jon and a team of local hands lowered and repositioned some speakers. Soundcheck was pretty quick; Leonard seemed in good form and was happy with the sound, which reminds me of a story I heard a couple of days ago.
Over a Turkish platter of veggie heaven the other night, Roscoe told me of a day during a 1979 tour where Leonard, Roscoe & co. were somewhere in Germany; it must have been November, because the American musicians were missing Thanksgiving. The German promoter said: we have something special planned for after soundcheck. Music to a musician’s ears. The soundcheck itself was something Roscoe called ‘toxic’. Whatever was happening, it just wasn’t happening, if you follow. The rehearsal ran long and I imagine people were getting frustrated. But it ended, as all things do, and those with a taste for surprise whetted their appetites for a special treat, and what should meet their expectant eyes but paper bags containing McDonald’s hamburgers. That was the something special — cold, shitty burgers. Roscoe went veggie for twenty years following that moment.
After today’s brief soundcheck, the veggie food provided by the local caterers was (I thought) magnificent. Veggie barley soup, and a stir fry of veggies and black bean cube-things; I thought of them as black tofu. The sauce was magnificent, garlicky, and perhaps a little spicy. I came for a salad, but the temptation for something great was itself too great.
The show began with an uproar of upstanding, upright maritime citizenry and Leonard rolled the show. We followed the Hamilton setlist again, and before long we found ourselves in the mid-show break. It’s at this point in a night where an unfortunate disappointment is most likely to occur if you’re a token-seeking fan. While checking a guitar and amp, a very polite woman asked if she could get a photo signed and I had no option really, other than to say, matching her politeness (albeit firmly) that I couldn’t get it signed for her. What tends to follow in such a situation is a blank look of disbelief from the autograph hunter; yes, I could go backstage and ask Leonard to sign something, and I could come back and see that the lady got her photograph, but that’s assuming I have no job to do. In the moment of refusal I haven’t the inclination to explain that for all I know Leonard might be in the middle of a talk with band members, audio team members, managers, crew, or who knows really. And of course signing a photo is the sort of thing he would gladly do, but as UHTC crew, we have to expect that the man is busy — as are we — and the mid-show break is just not a good time to play agent for token-seekers. I don’t want any of this to sound like an admonishment, because I genuinely believe the favour-askers are innocently unaware of the whyfors, ins and outs; but in short, there’s a time and place, and the best time and place, as far as I can tell, is before the show, not during. Of course it would follow to point out that ticket holders don’t have the luxury of such a moment, but what’s happening here in this very narrative is the two-sided conversation coin of me and someone who really wants something they can’t have; I am explaining things which I cannot change. Alternatively, what could happen is, I take the photo, go backstage, miss Leonard, and return the photo unsigned, to a crestfallen individual who suspects I didn’t even try. Frankly, I don’t need that kind of responsibility, facilitating a stranger’s desires, all the while not paying attention to my own responsibilities for which I am employed. Often times, like a parent telling a child, ‘I’m sorry no,’ it doesn’t seem to be enough.
Take for instance the woman after tonight’s show who appeared in guitar world as the show ended; yes this did actually happen. There she was, asking if she could get a CD to Leonard. The questions of who are you, and how did you get here went unanswered, and she simply repeated her request. The response ‘You can’t be here, please leave,’ took a while to sink in. The problem was of course whichever security team member allowed her through, but we can’t have fans in a work area, among expensive equipment and burly roadies. Not only is there a risk to our equipment (ie guitars) but when things start to come down and are disassembled, cables coiled, and boxes shifted about, if you’re not used to the environment, you can get hurt; I hate to be ‘the man’ but insurance is a reality in the music business, so stay away.
Before the second set begins, a circulating rumour speaks of a set-change: Heart With No Companion might be dropped in after Suzanne, and before Waiting for the Miracle. For my part, I need to know as and when the change is occurring, because Mitch uses two different guitars; a standard Telecaster for Heart, and a baritone guitar for Miracle.
Mitch and I huddle; ‘Okay,’ I say, clapping and rubbing my palms together. ‘If he calls Heart, you need to give me a sign.’
‘How about this?’ Mitch taps his chest lightly — a flutter, if you will.
‘That’s good,’ I reply, ‘but what about this?’ I open my mouth, widen my eyes until their red edges bulge, and flap my hands in affected terror at the panic of something new in the set. In the end we agree on Mitch’s way; the flutter came, the change was made, and the set continued as per Hamilton.
After Alexandra Leaving, an adaptation of Constantine P Cafavy’s poem The God Abandons Antony, the audience stood to attention and thanks, Sharon receiving the ‘O’ for her cool and perfect delivery. They’re up again in great appreciation for the ending of Hallelujah, drowning the opening notes of Take This Waltz with claps and whistles.
The Winning Team’s load-out was rather straightforward; as the carpets were placed upright beside the last two drum-hardware cases in the truck, I sped to the green room, helping in its disassembly with Dan close behind. We helped tear it down and return it to a dull, hockey-like state while Benni and Chris aided the audio team, finishing the rest of the truck. For teams Lighting, Audio, and Production it’s a fairly slow matter, and by around 3am they’re finally done. We left Halifax a memory in wing mirrors.