Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thinking of you...

Touring Weakerthans' Landmarks wih the CBC

At CBC Studios

So, the morning after I got to Winnipeg the lovely Rosanna Deerchild from CBC Radio One took me on a tour of Weakerthans lyrical landmarks and recorded the entire escapade. It was so much fun! 
(At the time, my camera hijacked photos we took and I could not get them free until now!  
So, sorry for the late post.)

First of all Rosanna and I headed to "the underground" and Winnipeg Square. This is referenced in the song "One Great City."  Of course I wanted to see the place where there were "a thousand sharpened elbows."   The Underground is located underneath the corner of Portage and Main.  It's a series of halls which basically form an underground mall that attaches downtown buildings together so that you do not have to deal with the weather.  It is the counterpart to the Skywalk (which I call "Hamster Tubes").  So not only do you have these alternate ways of getting around but what is also strange is that you can not cross at Portage and Main streets on foot at street level. It is baracaded off - so you must go into the underground if you want to do anything other than turn right at any of the corners.

Also, if I understand this correctly, Winnipeg Square is actually underground.  Is that right?  If so, that would be strange - but beleivable. 

And per an adequate lyrical description - the floor was polished which cause people's shoes make a distinctive sound - and get this -- there was even a dollar store right there smack dab in the middle of the underground.  

Map of Portage and Main

Photo of Portage and Main (Above the Underground)

We walked around the underground, through the skywalks and over to the library where we picked up a bus over to Osborne Village to see "Confusion Corner".  This area reminds me of my neighborhood, Little Five Points, in Atlanta  and right in the middle is a place that made me very grateful that I was not driving.  

Confusion Corner is a reference in the song Civil Twlight and it is an actual place in Winnipeg. Before I started this blog I had no idea that this was an actual place I could visit.  This in fact is why I started the blog in the first place, to gather just that kind of information.  So Confusion Corner is like a street level version of what we call "Spegetti Junction" except for it is a huge hub for the buses as well which kind of makes it look even more... well, confusing.  It is where many commuters pick up the bus or transfer from bus to bus.  One wonderful thing that I discovered is that many of Winnipeg's inclosed bus stops have heated seats!  I can say from personal experience that this is a luxury when you are waiting for a bus at 10pm in 5F degree weather!  Good job, Winnipeg!

Next, we ventured back across the river towards the "Golden Business Boy."   Did you know that rivers can freeze?  I didn't.  This may make me sound completely niaeve but I thought that the definition of a river was that it was moving water!  Well, in Winnipeg, the river freezes.  In fact, it was mid-December and it was already half-frozen over.  Apparently by late-January this river becomes the longest ice skating river rink in the world... and on the other side of the river is the Golden Business Boy.

The Golden Business Boy is another reference from "One Great City" and is the golden male figure on top of the Legistlature Building who is holding a torch and wheat while wearing a loin cloth.  He has a nice toned body but in my opinion looks a little naked in a Winnipeg winter.  You would think they would at least give him a scarf when winter comes.  Indeed he does look towards the North End.  Leaving Osborne Village the view of his golden butt.   

On the way back I saw my first Winnipeg winter "stroller".  It is not a stroller at all, apparently in winter in Winnipeg people just pull their kids around in sleds.  I asked Roseanna how they got the kids to stay in the sled and then I took a second look.  This kid was wrapped up like that kid in A Christmas Story... there is no way she could have wiggled her way out.  It would have just taken too much energy and dexterity. 

Rosanna and I headed back to CBC headquarters where we finnished our interview.  She went to work editing our conversation.  I went home and took a nap.  Good job Rosanna.  You can hear the CBC piece below.

Listen to the final piece here:

Find more artists like The Yum Yum Tree at Myspace Music

One Great City Lyrics - The Weakerthans
Late afternoon, another day is nearly done. A darker gray is breaking through a lighter one. A thousand sharpened elbows in the underground. That hollow hurried sound of feet on polished floor, and in the Dollar Store the clerk is closing up, and counting Loonies, trying not to say, "I hate Winnipeg." The driver checks the mirror, seven minutes late. The crowded riders' restlessness enunciates that the Guess Who suck, the Jets were lousy anyway. The same route every day. And in the turning lane, someone's stalled again. He's talking to himself, and hears the price of gas repeat his phrase: "I hate Winnipeg." And up above us all, leaning into sky, our Golden Business Boy will watch the North End die, and sing "I love this town," then let his arcing wrecking ball proclaim, "I hate Winnipeg." 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

John K. Samson Apparently Makes Me Dizzy

There's something special about this performance.

This entire blog... the trip... the stories... were inspired by the music of the Weakerthans and the words of John K. Sampson.  They are just regular guys who happen to have created some really, really great music.

Before this trip, I had seen the Weakerthans play in several states across the US but I had always wanted to see them in their native Winnipeg which they write so much about.  In all those times of seeing them I had never really wanted to meet them.  I mean it's not that I didn't want to I guess, I just didn't "need" to.  I actually had kind of avoided it in the past.  Sometimes I like to just sit back and experience a performance, take it in and process it.  Usually meeting people who you have a lot of respect for just does not work out like you want it to in your head and sometimes it just works out wrong.

However on this trip, I figured because I was going all of this way to see them it would be just plain weird if I avoided meeting them this time.  So over the week, I did muster up enough initiative to meet all of the Weakerthans.  Of course, they were all good people.  

I did have a lot of apprehension about meeting John K. Samson.  I have had dinner with Peter Gabriel, hung out at a bar drinking with Robert Smith and neither made me nervous.  However, meeting John K. Sampson for the first time honestly made me really dizzy.  Maybe I should not admit that but it's just a fact. It happened.  I am not ashamed of it or anything.  It's kinda funny actually. After all, its just a body's reaction to, well...or fear!  I have not felt "star struck" in so many years I had forgotten what it felt like.  It's a really strange uncomfortable and pretty fabulous feeling.  In fact, it can make you walk out into Winnipeg weather without your coat - just for the record.

The thing is JKS intimidates me.  I *think* I am good with words.  I *think* I am clever with music and lyrics but I feel like a kindergarten music teacher next to his shadow.  I am ER nurse and believe me, I know that people are just people.  I don't care if you are the bum that sleeps down the street from my house or Michael Jackson.  We are all people.  We all have talents and problems.  We all end up in the hands of a ER nurse at some point.  It's not like I think JKS is a superhero or anything like that.  Maybe it's that he is just an average guy, with amazing talent.  But apparently quite and humble makes this loud and mouthy girl intimidated.  Imagine that.  

I am proud that I tackled my apprehension and the star struck feeling was great, but I am glad it did dissipate and I got over it.  It's not something I want hanging around for too long.  I am generally the "funny girl" which is really hard to be if you stay star struck. As long as I can make someone laugh, I feel comfortable.  I feel like me.  After all, it's the only thing I know for certain that I am pretty good at.

Here are some other little gems from Youtube.  An interview about JKS's one guitar solo in Utilities, and a show where he plays that guitar solo.  It's a charming little solo.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Winnipeg Makes Me Reflect on Atlanta: The Death of Lenny's Bar

As I watch sideways flying snow swoop past my window I am looking at Atlanta differently.  Although I always say I love Atlanta, sometimes I do take it for granted.  Winnipeg gave me some perspective on this.  As I was over-joyed to take photos of where "Wellingtons" used to be on Albert Street in Winnipeg, Canada, I then come home to find out that one of our oldest rock dives will see it's last day on New Years.

Original Location on Memorial Drive
Have I taken this place for granted?  Lenny's (formerly and maybe more notoriously called Dottie's) has been a staple in the Atlanta music scene for longer than I have lived here.  I saw Bradford Cox's Deerhunter play one of their first shows there.  Cat Power and Janelle Monea have played this nasty "double wide" trailer turned music venue with the shittiest sound system in the South.  People think the Royal Albert Arms in scuzzy.  Lenny's looked like it was condemmed in the 70's.  I doubt anything was fixed or improved since then.  So, if I am romantisizing Wellington's and the Albert in Winnipeg, how do I feel about the death of Lenny's in Atlanta.

Lenny's changed names, locations and character a few years ago.  And honestly, it was hard to buy into the new look/feel.  However nasty the original location was, it's character was basically all it had holding it's walls together.  I could never feel the heartbeat of the new location... though they did transport the shitty sound somehow, even with a new sound system.

It's the cover story of our weekly magazine.  Many of the people interviewed I have known for years.  The ones that I don't know, I think to myself that I should.  I claim this town.  I am proud of it's music.  I exclaim this from the rooftops and say it on Canadian radio.  So, now with a new perspective, I feel like I took Lenny's for granted.  But Lenny (and Dottie) wouldn't likely give a shit either way.

I should let the storytellers of Lenny's tell the story.  They will do it better than I.   After all, I only played both locations a hand full of times combined.   Still, I am glad I did.

Sometimes you have to get away from your home to appreciate it.  Especially if when you get home part of it is gone.

The entrance was on the side.  I never actual noticed the front door.

Lenny's second location on On Boulevard @ Dekalb Ave.

From 2006

Quick Pick with the Plus, Hospital Vespers and Such

Snow in Atlanta, Winnipeg Music on my nightstand.

It's Sunday.  It's snowing in Atlanta.  Yes.  It is snowing in Atlanta.  Did I bring this home with me?  It's been snowing for 2 days.  It's interesting to watch from my window how the snow decides to land from hour to hour.  Right now it is dancing... bouncing around in no particular direction - down, then up, left and right.  It makes as much sense to me as having snow on the ground in Atlanta on Christmas.  It's kinda like a seeing a unicorn.

My bags are finally unpacked, dirty laundry cleaned, the apartment is "straightened" and I am importing a stack of CD's that were given to me by some beloved Winnipeggers.  Rare tracks, live tracks, Winnipeggers covering other Winnipeggers, some historic Winnipeg music.

Per Stu's recommendation, I picked up a "quick pick with the plus" before I left Winnipeg.  This of course is another Weakerthans reference from (Hospital Vespers) a lovely, lovely song that I saw performed for the first time ever last week at the West End Cultural Center.

This song is a surreal heartfelt look at some one's hospital stay.  The song is desperate, vulnerable and almost futile.  It's a treasure.  With being a nurse of course, all of the Weakerthans lyrics that refer to illness, death and hospitals are very near to my heart.  Seeing life-threatening illness and death are a daily part of my job.  And it's not a burden to me somehow.

This song has always been so special to me.  I am not sure who or what inspired all of the illness-related songs that ended up on Left and Leaving and Reconstruction site, but cherish them.  Illness and death is such a difficult subject to write about.  It so easily goes entirely wrong and you end up writing a song like "Every Rose has it's Thorn" by Poison.  That's usually what songs like this end up like: Terrible.  But JKS can do it of course without pretension, keeping the heart in every line.  It's something I strive to do and feel I have done on one or two occasional.

One of the songs on my second album is about a dear friend that died of complications of addiction and mental illness.  From the time we were young I always thought to myself that she never had a chance at life.  When she died, I really wanted to write a song for her.  She was also a musician.  My mother taught us both piano when we were young.  Even as she was dying, she was still playing my mother's songs.  Music was still her light.  But I am always so careful when broaching this subject in writing.    Her life had been such a tragedy that I did not want to write her a sad song.  That would just add insult to injury.  I wanted to write her a happy, pop song.  One she would really enjoy, that would make her smile.  With that intention in mind, I wrote a song for her called Februaries which starts out very poppy and ends in lullaby of sorts.  I suspect she'd like it.   I kinda feel weird sharing my music here as this is about Winnipeg and the Weakerthans - but I will place a link below in case you want to hear this song along with Hospital Vespers.

Gosh, that was a side bar.

So of course honor of Hospital Vespers I did pick up a "quick pick with the plus" and like the song - it was "futile."  The result: absolutely nothing.  Not one single number!  Stu, you owe me $6. ;)

You can listen to Hospital Vespers here:

Doctors play your dosage like a card trick
Scrabbled down the hallways yelling "Yatzee"
I brought books on Harper in the Arctic
Something called "The Politics of Lonely"
A toothbrush and Quick Pick with a plus
You tried not to roll your sunken eyes

And said "Hey can you help me? I can't reach it"
Pointed to the camera in the ceiling
I climbed up, blocked it so they couldn't see
Turned to find you out of bed and kneeling
Before the nurses came took you away
I stood there on a chair and watched you pray

Others Pilgrimage to the Weakerthans' Winnipeg

Yea!  Look what I just found: Check out someone else's blog about traveling from Seattle to Winnipeg to see the Weakerthans.  See they inspire this kinda stuff!  I am not the only one.  Yes dear, you were among "your people!"

I also met people from Houston, Austin, Athens and Levi from Minneapolis.   This was no singular event.  I was not the first person to make this pilgrimage and I surely won't be the last.   The Weakerthans inspire this kind of stuff.  In fact, I totally expect there to be a printable map someday.

Sidebar I keep forgetting to mention: 
Like the mother (Martha Pilmpton) in that show "Raising Hope," my mother is known for constantly making up her own words.  It's a pretty entertaining "flaw."  One of her most recent creations was "Pomegranian" as in from the Pomegranate fruit.  In the same vein, because of all this talk of Winnipeg weather, my mother keeps calling the Weakerthans - the Weatherthans.   She's really not that far off.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

One Man Committee: Welcome to Winnipeg: why on Earth are you here?

A blogger writing about my blog: It's interesting to see through someone else's eyes.

One Man Committee: Welcome to Winnipeg: why on Earth are you here?: "For a good many Winnipeggers, the December hometown concerts staged by The Weakerthans are as much a part of the holidays as a visit from Ol..."

The North End of Winnipeg to the Heart of Georgia

I sadly left Winnipeg on Monday... napped on tarmacs and in airports in Winnipeg; Fort Wayne, Indiana and Chicago before arriving home 24 hours later in Atlanta.  That night was my friends annual holiday party, followed by working three 12 hour shifts at the hospital... a jump start back to real life.

Then, we arrived at Christmas - A quite Christmas as my family is in Texas and Ohio.  But a WHITE CHRISTMAS!  This may sound strange to my Canadian counterparts but our last official "White Christmas" in Atlanta was in 1881 when a whole 1.6 inches fell (that's 4 cm).  Outside my window is at least 2 inches of snow that has fallen just this evening and there is more coming.  A true reason to celebrate... and stay off the roads.  We don't know how to drive in snow, much less ice here in Georgia.  Schools will close.  They have cancelled 300 flights out of the busiest airport in the US (ours).  With the fall of snow - life freezes here.  But in that frozen moment, you can reflect.  When life is still like this, it becomes reflective... and kinda glistens.  At least it does at my window sill.

This morning I only had one Christmas gift to open. You see, my family had already given me money to buy warm clothes for my trip and I had sacrificed my Christmas trip home to go to Canada.  But on the night of the last Weakerthans show at the Burton Cummings Theater, a dear friend I had made had given me a wrapped present.  What?  Really?  A Christmas present from a Winnipegger?  Knowing I would not have any gifts at home this year (other than the dog's gifts of course), I told her I would keep it wrapped until Christmas Day.  So, today I unwrapped a gift from Winnipeg, of Winnipeg:

I put on Reunion Tour and traveled through the North End through the pages of this book.  What a nice piece to take home with me and by which to remember such a momentous trip.  

I have traveled all over the world.  I have lived in the UK and San Francisco.... and I just don't understand how this happened but in one week I felt like I learned what Winnipeg was about more than any of these other places.  I can tell you about Georgia... our guilt... our sarcasm... the way we hide our inadequacies deeply in charm.  But I have lived here for 12 years.  This was learned over the experience of years of digging below the surface.  Winnipeg on the other hand wears it's history, inadequacies and love on it's sleeve.  Little digging was needed.  No one was hiding anything.  It was such a different, refreshing and unexpected experience.   Don't get me wrong.  I adore Georgia and the lengths it will go to look pretty and be charming when under the surface it is a mess.... a beautiful mess, but a mess nonetheless.  Likewise, I lived in San Francisco in 2008-2009 and it is the most beautiful place I have ever lived... but after a year there I left with one dear friend whom I will always be close to.  One. So, how is it that in one week in Winnipeg I met 10 people whom I want to know forever?  And we Georgians think we have charm.  

Thank you Jacquie for this gift.  It means the world to me... and surely you and everyone else is trying to plant seed to get me back to Winnipeg.   It bet you are gonna be successful.  In fact, I am considering foregoing SxSw this year for a trip to Folk Fest in Winnipeg.  No promises yet, but I kinda want to see the "summers" you say you have to see if they really exist.  

Sadly, I didn't really get to see the North End while there.  I think I was driven through the tail end of it once, but I did not get to really see it.  Too little time, too much to do.  I guess this is more reason for a return.

Here is the only reason that I originally knew that the North End existed:

I have been mulling over where my blog writing goes from here.  This is a travel blog and it's meant to have an end.  I have been honored that some of you have written me and asked me to keep writing -- that you are reading and listening. "Keep writing" and "Write about anything" -- How touching.  Wow.  I don't know if I have ever been told anything like that before.  What I am considering is perhaps doing a blog about Georgia, mostly Atlanta, and why I think we have such a big, beautiful and complicated heart.  So, let's just say it's under consideration.  You can keep in touch here or email me at andygish at gmail dot com if you want to be kept in the loop for that.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tom Brocaw's Love Letter to Canada and more.

Well, apparently I am not the first to write a love letter to our Canadian friends.

I really enjoyed watching this and it made me think that we (Americans) generally take our neighbors to the north totally for granted. In fact, I think for the most part we think the world ends at our borders and forget that a whole country lives right above us. I am not saying we are totally unaware... but it seems sometimes like we are more aware of what is going on in the rest of the world than in our own backyards. We remember the Brits are our "ancestors" and allies but we forget our Canadian brothers.  I've done this!  I have been to the UK and all over Europe several times and it is not until 2010 that I stepped foot into Canada.  That's kinda odd.

Anyway, here is Tom Brocaw's love letter to Canada:

In other news the Elmwood Curling Club gave me an extra pin for John, my Canadian friend back here in Atlanta. He has lived in the US for many decades after he retired from the Canadian Mounted Police. He volunteers at the hospital where I work and was overjoyed that I brought him back the pin. So, I bought a little bit of Canada back for him.

I proudly wore my curling jacket to the eggnog party here in Atlanta. It's an annual party which draws a bunch of the indie rock folk in Atlanta and is hosted by Mary-o each year. Of course I gushed about Winnipeg - the people, the band, my fabulous trip. I think it may have been the most fun I have ever had on a vacation ever... and that is saying a lot.

Still recovering from the trip and working a bunch of 12 hour days this week, but more to come...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Home Sweet Home

I am home, bathed and snuggling with my monsters!

Atlanta, I have to say you seem quite "hot" at 45F. Seriously, I opened all the windows and turned on the fan!

I had to trade from United to Delta but ole Atlanta's Delta got me home! It only took 24 hours to get from Winnipeg to Atlanta. Grrr. It snows in Chicago every year, I don't understand why it's so hard to get things straight there. It was a mess.

To my surprise my bag was even waiting there for me in Atlanta. It took a completely different (and much earlier) flight than I did. I almost hugged my bag right there in the Atlanta baggage claim. I could not believe it was there! But I was looking haggard - so I thought they might question my sanity to see a haggardly looking woman hugging a big red suitcase in the airport.

I can not thank Melodie enough for picking me up from the airport. I have had my personal space violated so much in the last 24 hours that I just think I would have gone looney on the subway.

Something I have noticed since coming back is that we could learn a lot from Manitoba when it comes to curtosey. Maybe it's because so many of us were stranded -- but I noticed so many people acting entitled, discourtesous and acting as if it was the end of the world and they were saccrificing each other to survive.

Come on people, we were stranded in an airport for 12 hours. We were sheltered. And we eventually all got on these things called "jets" that traveled through the air at 600mph to get us SAFELY to our destination. It was kinda shameful.

But regardless! I am safe home and happy about that. Tonight is our annual Eggnog Party. I am feeling a little sad today. I feel like I am in another world right now. I am sure I will adjust as soon as I get back to work tomorrow but for tonight, I miss you Manitoba.

I still have some odds and ends to update on the blog (photos mostly), for those of you who can't stop reading. But the end of even that is ending. What a whirlwind... but even those sputter out eventually....

Stuck in Chicago. Get me outta here!

Well I am one of those people you are seeing on TV. Stuck in an airport, haggard looking and exhausted. Trying not to be short tempered. After all, I am safe. My flight from Wpg was delayed which made us lose our spot at Chicago. We got there and circled the airport for an hour before we were deverted to Fort Wayne Indiana to re-fule and deice. 90 minutes later we were back in the air our our way back to Chicago. We got here 4 hours late at which point all flights were gone. I slept in a hotel for 3 hours and am back at el aeroporto. New flights only delayed 2 more hours. I am no expert but it seems to me Chicago get overwhelemed easily. There is snow on the ground but it actually has not snowed since yesterday afternoon. Wish me luck. i switched to Delta and am counting on them to get me home!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Well, I'm stuck in a plane on the Winnipeg Tarmac. Wpg, you don't want to let me go, huh? Looks like I might be spending the night here or in Chicago.

The Last, Last Day

I leave for Atlanta in a few hours.  It is getting cold here, a sign that your "balmy" stint is ending and it's probably best if this girl flies south.  It's 0 degrees F outside.  The temperature has really dropped over the last 24 hours.  It seems like Winnipeg warmed up just for the duration of my stay.  I appreciate that.  My body tells me that there is indeed a clear difference between 10F and 0F.

Yesterday I laid low to recoup.  I did venture down to Osborne Village to drop into Music Trader and then met up with Jen and Nick at the Toad in the Hole.

I am packing up now and will likely stop by the Wagon Wheel again for lunch, just to make sure to bookend my trip with a truly Winnipeg experience!  Plus, it's cheap.  And then I am going to catch the 15 to the airport.

If you would like to keep in touch, please feel free to pass on email addresses.  I would like to.  I have a few things to still post on the blog once I get home - my camera is holding a few photos hostage.

I decided to revisit my first post when starting this blog about my trip.  Wow.  I had no idea what I was in for!  I am gonna miss you guys.  I met so many people while here that are just lovely, sweet Winnipeggers.  You live up to the slogan on your license plates, that's for sure!

The little essay "A Love Letter to Winnipeg" is the #1 most viewed piece on the Winnipeg Free Press website.  I am glad so many people are reading and commenting, as it was written from the heart.

Thank you again for showing me a hell of a good time, folks!  I will be back someday.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Day Five: The Burton Cummings Weakerthan Marathon

I am tired today.  My thighs are sore, the bottoms of my feet feel like they have no skin.  But I sure have had a hell of a good time!  I have a little post-show blues.  Boy this last week has been like a whirlwind love affair.  And though I do want to get home to my monster (Boston terriers named Oscar and Oliver) and to see all my friends at our annual Eggnog party, I also don't exactly want to leave tomorrow.   I can't listen to Left and Leaving today.  I am pretty sure it would make me cry on a day like today. So, let's talk about yesterday!

Last night the Weakerthans took the stage at the historic and beautiful Burton Cumming's theater to play all four of their albums.  That's something like 48 songs - or over 3 hours of music.  It was amazing to say the least.  I doubt they will ever do this again and am so glad I was there to witness it and attest that yes, it did happen.

I had a ticket in the 3rd row and had told myself I would use that seat.  For all the other shows I had arrived early and spent the night right at the front.  Tonight, I was going to take it easy and sit back, relax and take in the show.  I did use my seat actually -- to hold my coat.  Somehow, I found myself up at the front again leaning against the stage under the beloved Stephen Carroll's microphone and I could not bring myself to leave.  So for over three hours I stood there dancing to all four albums, played from most recent to oldest.

I had decided that I was going to *try* to refrain from singing along tonight.  I had sang along for the past 4 nights and love that, but it sometimes takes away from taking it all in.  Knowing this would likely be the last time I would ever see some of these songs performed - I'd rather be quiet and take it all in, not missing a thing.  I did pretty well with this.  It also allowed me to hear how much of the crowd was singing along with the songs.  Hearing that always puts a smile on my face.  There were a few songs where I could not help but sing a bit here and there.  And when they started into Letter of Resignation, in which John forgot the first verse - I did pipe up and yelled "keeps a diary, invisibly."  What was I to do?  The poor guy was a little lost, and this got him back on track.  His appreciative smile was such a reward. 

So how what about the show?  My favorite thing is that they seemed to be enjoying themselves, despite the enormity of the task they had taken on.  John came out wearing a dress shirt and skinny tie.  He was relaxed and funny - and looked totally at peace in front of a thousand people.  What I thought was beautiful is that they were at the huge Burton Cummings Theater playing songs that had been written and played for 10 years just around the corner at The Albert and Wellington's. What gratification that must bring.  I also though it was funny that JKS was in the Burton Cumming's Theater singing "the Guess Who sucked." For the record lightening did not strike.  But Burton is still alive.  I am not sure I would try that if he wasn't still with the living.  

Map of The Royal Albert Arms, Wellington's (former local)
and the Burton Cummings Theater

My favorite things from the show was hearing tracks you knew you were likely not to hear again: Hospital Vespers, Slips and Tangles, The Last Last One, Without Mythologies, etc.  They did not change much in any of the songs, but what they did change and embellish was done with perfect taste and came across beautifully.  I really hope they record a new version of Without Mythologies - and if they do, someone please get in touch and tell me!  I want a copy.  Also JKS doing his one guitar solo,  on "Utilities" was very entertaining to watch of course.  I will always think of that childish and mischievous smile when I hear this song from now on.

Last night I met my first obnoxious Winnipegger.  Though she was drunk so I am not sure that really counts.  She talked really loud the whole time - adding her drunken commentary to everything.  Everyone around them was rolling their eyes but were too polite to say anything.  Had I been in the States, I would have likely sternly but kindly asked her to use their "inside voice" when having a conversation 5 feet from the stage but I am a guest in this city - so I refrained.  After all the girl was obviously a Weakerthans fan, she sang lots of the songs -- not in key or anything -- but she was enthusiastic.  I believe that if people want to sing, let them sing!  Even if they can't do it well.  And by the end of the show I was almost doubled over laughing.  The Weakerthans were playing a quite song and she belting out the song -- about a half second behind, out of key and slurring words that she was just making up.  I mean some of the words sounded like they could be real words, but they weren't and they definitely were not lyrics to the song.  At some point you just have to give in and laugh.

After the show I headed to the after party at Lo Pub just in time to see yet another great local act Novillero.  They have the energy of Hot Hot Heat but are more enjoyable musically.  Rusty (who also played with Imaginary Cities and the Weakerthans that night) got up and played some of the set with them.  How?  After playing for at least 4 hours at the Burton?  I don't know.   Rusty must have broken some kind of record last night.  I am gonna have to look up Novillero and get some of their music when I get back home.  It was entertaining stuff.

I drug myself back to my hotel, with aching feet and sore legs.  The temperature was dropping, I could feel it.  And now that the high of the 4 shows over 4 nights was over, Winnipeg did feel a little colder.

Day Five: North Kildonan and the Disraeli Bridge

As Karen (from the Elmwood Curling Club) and I passed over a bridge, I asked "What bridge is this?"  I just had a feeling.  I had not mapped it out, but I had the feeling we were on the Disraeli.  Sure enough we were!  And on our way back, she stopped to we could take a photo.  

We also went by North Kildonan... not to an "all night restaurant" and I did not drink any soapy coffee, but I was at least there and got to take this photo at the community center.  It's a little bit out of the way, so I was very happy that she wanted to drive me through the area.

These are places I did not think I was going to see because I am on foot in this city.  But somehow, it all worked out.  This is pretty much how this entire trip has worked out.  I appreciate the serendipity this city has offered me.

A love letter TO WINNIPEG - Winnipeg Free Press

From the Winnipeg Free Press's Sunday Paper - On7:

A love letter TO WINNNIPEG

My Dearest Winnipeg:
It is with sadness in my heart and a small lump in my throat that I must say that I will be leaving you tomorrow.
How is it that in such a short time, you have made me fall in love with you? That's just unfair on so many levels. It's going to break my heart, but I must go home.
I expected to curse the cold away and stay within the warmth and safety of my hotel room during my stay. But no, your people drew me out into the streets to show me everything that you're about -- the myths, half-truths and histories of a city that survives temperatures I feel are incapable for sustaining human life! Still your city lives... still breathes... and has warmed the heart of this Southern girl.
Your music brought me here and that I will take with me, to comfort me back home and keep you close to my heart. But it was the entire city that blanketed me, protected me and showed me a hell of a good time.
Winnipeg, you are about your people -- humble, creative and loving folk, who welcomed this stranger in as if she always belonged here. Never before have I made so many dear, dear friends in such a short time with such little effort.
Remember, my dear, to give yourself credit where it is due. You are the lively, worthy heartbeat of the entire country. I sometimes think you forget that. I want you to trust me in knowing you deserve this and wear it as your badge of honour.
I will always remember you and all you have given me in six short days.
In the coldest city in which I have ever laid foot, I found the warmest hearts.
Yours, sincerely yours,
Ms. Andy Gish
The Yum Yum Tree
Andy Gish is a singer/songwriter from Atlanta, Georgia who braved a Winnipeg winter to see her favourite band, the Weakerthans, play a series of shows and meet the city they call home. She writes about her adventures in a blog called Winnipeg Wanderings.
Do you have a favourite place in the city. Email your story to
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 19, 2010 A12

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Day Five: Andy Goes Curling

Yes, my friends back home will not believe me.  I went curling and did not fall or break anything.  In fact, I don't even think I have any bruises.  I know Molly is going to require proof, so I have photos, however unattractive they are.  

The dear folks at the Elmwood Curling Club (who are about to celebrate their centennial) invited me out for a curling lesson.  They outfitted me in gear: shoes (with a gripper and slider), a broom and even my very own Curling jacket to take home with me!  Can you believe this hospitality?  I simply can't.

I showed up when the kids were having their lessons.  This made feel more comfortable because if I was going to fall on my butt, I don't mind a bunch of kids laughing at me.  In fact, I told everyone that if I did, they would be required to laugh.  I got to speak to the guy who maintains the ice (a very complicated and skilled trade).  And then I hesitantly made it out onto the ice.

The President of the Curling Club, Karen was the sweetest host.  She and her husband were very patient with my akwardness on the ice.  Surprisingly, with the special shoes, the ice was not very slippery.  Though getting up after "throwing a stone" was probably not my most graceful moment in life.  Still, I was amongst good company and they did not seem to mind my "gracesslessness" on the ice.  Yeah, I just made that word up.  I threw some stones and then learned how to sweep.  Sweeping was fun and a lot more suited to me.  

Tournament of Hearts

I asked what "throwing hack way" was, which of course is a reference from the song "Tournament of Hearts".  For those not familiar with curling - the hack way is the black rubbery thing you put your foot in before you push off to throw the stone down the lane.  In the photo at the top, my right foot is in the "hack way."  If you throw hack way, you are throwing the stone so that it hits the rubbery foot rest on the other end of the lane.  There.  I tried to describe it.  I am sure I did a horrible job, but you can't say I did not try!   Describing it.... and more importantly curling.
This stone weighs 40+ lbs.

Oh yes, and then we drank Eggnog with spiced rum.  I don't they they will let you leave the curling club without having at least one "beverage".  Even if it is only 2 in the afternoon.  Aren't those the rules?

On the way back to the hotel, Karen took me to a few other spots that show up in Weakerthans "literature"  but I will post about those gems later.

I thank the Elmwood Curling Club and especially the Karen for welcoming me into her club and trusting me enough to let me on the ice.  Some people in Georgia understand the risk she was taking with that one!

I am gearing up for the last of the 4 shows tonight:  an epic of them playing all 4 albums.  I suspect I am going to have some serious post show blues in the morning.

My First Curling Jacket.

Day Four: Experimental Dance, Murder on Albert Street and other Mythologies

I started out the day with an Arts for All event called Transient Exposition which was a experimental dance piece that moved through the underground and skywalk.  I worked at a performance art space in Houston for many years with the likes of Annie Sprinkle, Karen Finley and Lydia Lunch.  (Yeah,  that was a long time ago!)  and honestly,  I saw so many performance pieces and naked people in those days that something has to really be interesting to keep my attention.... and I have to say Transient Exposition  met that criteria.  The artists consisted of 2 professionally trained dancers and a man with various percussive instruments creating a soundtrack as they moved through the busy hallways.  What was interesting to me is that they took the art out of the theater and put it in the underground at noon -- where all the office folk are traveling from place to place during the lunch hour.  I also liked that as an audience member, you had to follow them, which created an entourage of sorts.  My favorite thing was watching peoples reactions.  For once, I actually saw scowels on Winnipeggers faces.  Like "how dare you expose me to art while I am trying to just get my Subway sandwich and get back to my desk!"  I like it when art approaches you -- and your initial unrehearsed reaction to it tells a lot about you.  Kudos to them!

I went home, wrote a little bit and fell into a deep, deep, sleep.  So much so that I missed part of the CBC's little piece that we recorded.  My parents were streaming it though from Houston and my lovely, sweet dad set it up so he could record it and sent me an mp3.  With the exception of me calling Confusion Corner, Confusion Circle (I know better!) I thought it went over well.  You can listen below. Thanks to the CBC and especially Roseanna for playing tour guide.

Loaded from: The Yum Yum Tree 

I then met up with Sam and Rob for drinks at the Albert.  I had invited them both, knowing they probably knew each other and was surprised to learn they used to actually be roommates.  Who knew?  We chatted about the Albert and I asked if a guy was really cut up into pieces upstairs in the hotel.

You see, I have discovered that there are a lot of Winnipeg myths that are grounded in truth but find there way into becoming epics, so I did not exactly believe the butcher story.  Sam said "You wanna see the..." and before he finished his sentence, I was standing up and said "Hell yea!"  I have seen a lot of 'spirits' in my time.  When I was about 5 I started negotiating with them.  I would make a deal with them that they could exists in my space and I would not screw with them if they did not try to scare me. So, I am all in for seeing the butcher's bathroom.  I actually have no idea what this murderer's nick name is, so forgive me. I just made one up.

Here is my own personal photo I took to prove I went into the bloody bathroom, where once a man was disemboweled and placed with jewelry stolen from Susan Sarandon.  You can't make this shit up. Read more.

So then it was off to the Pyramid! Today is my fourth day in Winnipeg, and the third show in the series of Weakerthans 4&more.  The played songs from Reconstruction Site. Of course it was another great show.  What would you expect, they are professionals.  

Again, "Without Mythologies" stuck out like some amazing summit.  I think I have taken that song for granted before.  Not that I don't like it, but their new rendition of it is just f---ing moving.  I seriously hope that they recorded it at one of the performances and will somehow release this version.  It is something that all Weakerthans connoisseurs should hear.  It's one song where they really just let go, and as an audience member, it is a song that you really "feel" the heart of.  They played (Hospital Vespers) again which is a feat.  In fact, before I heard it last night I was kinda worried about how they were going to pull that one off.  Also, they played a true rarity "Prescience of Dawn" which I consider the closest thing to a Weakerthans "80's rock song" as your gonna get (sorry guys, if that's offensive). I have a love/dislike relationship with this song.  There is an edginess to it that makes me uncomfortable.  To me, it has an underlying defeated angry feeling.  Sad and surrender are feelings I am comfortable with.  But defeated makes me edgy. Yet, the song also has some of my favorite lyrics in it: "four words fumble for the microphone.  You should have known."  Still it was a treat to hear live, a rare moment.  Another gem in the night was seeing Christine Fellows sing on Benediction.  I love the imagery in that song of the "x" and it was nice to see Christine help John out a bit when he forgot a line or two.

Again, I am amazed by the people of Winnipeg.  I arrived at the Pyramid Cabaret and within 5 minutes someone came up to me and said "Are you Andy from Atlanta?"  This is not what is amazing.  What is, is that this kind Winnipegger had made me a CD of Winnipeg music (some out of print) and had also brought me 2 Weakerthan pins and a concert stub from the show at the same venue in 2003. What?  Wow!  What a treasure.  And how very thoughtful.  I asked to make sure these were not item he would regret passing on later.  He assured me not.  All I can say is I am overwhelmed by this city's kindness.

Also thanks to Nick for also making me a CD of music from Manitoba.  I am going to be thinking of (and listening to) Winnipeg long after I leave.

Read more about this series of shows in Paul Tough's amazing essay.

My favorite W Artwork.  

I also continually am delighted to hear that so many people are keeping up with the blog.  I am no professional writer by any means.  I am just a musician who really likes a band and where they come from.  I started this just for myself and my friends and family.  But it has turned into so much more than that.

PS: If anyone has set lists from the shows this, I would love to post them here - just get in touch.

One more show guys -- I am thinking that Sunday I am gonna have some serious "post-show blues" and when I leave Monday I might just be leaving a little part of my heart here.

Friday, December 17, 2010

CBC Radio One - Airs Today!

So, I have been told that between 445pm and 530pm (Central time) the radio piece CBC Radio recorded of us going around town visiting geographical spots from Weakerthans "literature"will air.

GO HERE and then click Listen live on CBC Radio One  89.3 on the middle right hand side of the page.

I have not heard the piece yet and hope it came out well. Would love to know your thoughts.

Day Three: Could This Get Any Better?

Thursday was spent catching up on sleep and trying desperately to write, but the words just weren't coming.  So I headed over to The Wagon Wheel per one of the blog reader's suggestions.  I was pleasantly surprised that this tiny diner tucked away in the folds of Portage Ave. had such local character. It's been around for at least 50 years and I doubt the decor has changed much in those 5 decades.  Recently the owner had passed away, but the place was still bustling, an homage to it's late owner.

I sat at the counter next to a man who said he had been coming there for 40 years and that his favorite dish (a hot Roast Beef Sandwich covered in gravy) had not changed in all that time.  We had a long chat about Winnipeg and what it meant to him.  He detested the downtown area and again warned me of walking around at night alone.  He much preferred Vancouver or Las Vegas, but he has spent his whole life here,  cursing every winter.

The main waitress reminded me of my Aunt Peggy who worked in truck stop diners during most of my childhood.  She fit in perfectly with her quick wit and her ability to talk to anyone about anything.  I got a simple grilled cheese and potato soup.  

Thanks for the suggestion.  I am going back before I leave.

For the record, downtown does not seem scary whatsoever at night.  I have never felt unsafe here and I have been on foot every night on these streets.  Perhaps, I have just been lucky.  Or I am just used to it.  I have lived in the middle of big cities all my life and finding drunk people peeing in your front yard, or passed in your bushes is kinda a regular thing living in Little Five Points in Atlanta.  But thanks for the warning folks.  As a city girl, my guards are usually up, paying attention.  I think that is half the battle.

For dinner I met with Jen Zoratti and Nick Friesen, who are both delightful people and talented journalist.  We chatted about the Canadian indie rock scene.  Who's cool, who is full of themselves.  It's interesting from my perspective because I only get to see these bands if they do extensive US tours or play festivals.  So, getting an insiders perspective of where all these bands originally came from is interesting.  There definitely seems to be a theme of moving to Toronto and forgetting where you came from.  This happens in the US as well.  Pretty much most bands that say they are from Austin, TX actually came from some un-sexy town or far away suburb.

We then headed to the West End Cultural Center to watch what turned out to be my favorite Weakerthans show ever.  We got there right before the opening band started and again I noticed that no one was standing at the front of the stage.  There were plenty of people there but they were either sitting in the balcony or mulling around the back of the room.  Is it not cool to wander up close to the stage and steak your place? Would that say that you were too egar?  The only people hanging out at the front were a group of middle or highschoolers.  But I was not ashamed (obviously), so I dragged Jen up to the front with me.  I could tell by her slight reluctance that we were kinda breaking some unspoken rule.  But I flew 1,600 miles to see this band.  Screw the rules!  Jen was a sport of course.

Out of respect for JKS's proposal of concert etiquette,  I have been refraining from taking photos at shows.  Do you know hard that is?  It is really amazingly difficult.  Last night was especially a struggle because it was such a special show to me.  So, what I am being forced to do is explain with words, what I saw with my eyes.  The thing is - it does make you pay more attention.  It makes you be more present in the moment.  So, with words I will try to describe what was so special about this night through my eyes.

The first thing I noticed is that they seemed to be enjoying themselves much more than the night before.  They were playful, relaxed and just seemed to enjoy playing.  But the reason why this show will always sick out my head is that there were some really inventive renditions of album tracks that I doubt they have ever played before live.

(Hospital Vespers) in particular was so unique and so special.  They did an amazing job at turning that into a live song.  I can't wait to see it again on Saturday.  Without Mythologies was another treat.  To see JKS put down his guitar and and grasp the microphone.  There was a modesty in his hands with a little dash of confidence.  I can say that as a musician who is also a lead singer, there is a huge difference in singing behind the safety of a guitar.  Putting down that instrument and grabbing the mic makes you so much more vulnerable, naked.   Also, Slips and Tangles has never been my favorite song.  I mean, I really do love every Weakerthans song, but its just not one I ever seek out to listen to.  But tonight, I got to see it through different eyes somehow.  It was quite and gentle and so loving.  All a sudden it grew on me.

Of course, Left and Leaving being my favorite song is always so special to see live and to hear everyone singing it is so comforting.  This song always puts my head a place of reflection.  Last night, it made me think of Atlanta:  My home.  My streets.  My bars.  My friends.  It made me wish that Molly, Susan and John were here with me, seeing all this beside me.  And though Winnipeg has been courting me like I have never been courted, this song made me miss my home.

After the set on this upcoming Saturday, I doubt that I will ever get a chance to see many of these songs performed like this again and feel so amazingly lucky to have been here to experience it.  If you are going on Saturday at the Burton Cummings, make sure you see these particular songs and maybe you will understand what I am trying to describe with words.

I was in kinda a daze after the show, so much so that I almost wandered out into this Winnipeg winter without my coat.  Seriously.  This week has all been a lot to take in at once.  Luckily, Jen stopped me and gave me this look like I was a crazy lady about to wander out coat less, falling into a snow bank and just lay there melting the ice.  Thanks for having my back, girl.

I can't wait to see Reconstruction Site performed tonight.  That's a really fun album.  I can't believe the shows are half over already!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Day Two Overview: Winnipeg Wins Me Over...and Over Again

I have woken from the dead after sleeping off what was a 48 hours Winnipeg whirlwind.  So much so, that I baciscally have done nothing today but sleep!

This is what I feel like this morning:

Doing shots with folks at the Albert didn't help.  But how can you say no when a Winnipegger offers.  Sorry Ma.  I cleaned up and didn't get into any trouble.

Oh my gosh, where do I start?

This is just going to be an overview because I am not cohearant enough to give a detailed description of the last 24 hours.  That may come later.

The morning started by meeting Rosanna Deerchild from CBC Radio One in the lobby of my hotel.  She had been sent as the CBC's Winnipeger to show around some of the city's landmarks that had made their way into Weakerthans literature.  (Really?  As I type this I still can't believe they sent someone to show me around the city.  I know it happened, I just can't believe it.)

I am going to write a longer post about this with photos, but my camera is holding some of those photos hostage right now.  Plus, I am so tired at the moment I think that if I wrote about it I would not do it justice.  The piece airs on CBC Radio One Friday, but I am not sure of the time yet.  I am really excited to hear it though!

See now, I don't even remember what I did next.  It's been a busy 2 days.  Oh yes, I tried to take a disco nap before Stu's show.  That didn't work.  Took a Taxi to the radio station because it was cold (ha!) and I thought it would be faster (double ha!).  It was not.  Traffic downtown is pretty much like any other city -- but I got there ontime and had a great time with Stu.  He is a guy that is just cool to hang out with.  

I made it to the Albert show and was so happy to be in this little old very historic club to see the Weakrthans play music from their first album.  What a treat!  People keep saying the the Albert is dirty and scuzzy but I thought it was a lot cleaner than most of the club I have played.  What does this say?

So, I met up with my new friend Nick who reviewed the show for Uptown Magazine.  I will let him to the formal review which you can read HERE.  We were right up front under JKS's mic.  I did not mean to stand there exactly.  I kinda hate that spot at concerts because I feel like I am staring the singer down.  I prefer to be to one side a bit.  Anyway, I loved the opening band Cannon Bros. and they are totally worth checking out.  They are a poppy, jangley boy/girl duo who switch between guitar and drums.  Delightful stuff.

The show was great, of course.  It was amazing to hear The Last Last One - my favorite from Fallow.  They went through the entire album of Fallow, in order and then played some songs off the other albums.  What I found interesting is that once they finnished the Fallow songs, they seemed to take a deep breath of relief, sighed and then let loose.  Kinda like "ok, we did that.  That's over with, now lets rock!"  Maybe it was just my observation but I felt like they enjoyed playing the rest of the set more.
Set List from the Albert Dec-14-2010

I will say to be among a room full of Winnipeggers singing "I hate Winnipeg" is an expereince.  I mean I have been among Pittsburgers and Clevelanders, etc singing it - but it feels different hearing people singing it who live Winnipeg.  I was really surprised that a mosh pit did not develop when they broke into Futon Revolutionist... that's what American crowds do.... and we were at a historic punk club after all.  Perhaps the Winnipeggers are too mild mannered for such.

After the show, I felt like a celebrity or professional greeter.  People kept approaching me saying they had read the paper or be keeping up with the blog.  Now, celebrity is not a feeling I am comfortable with whatsoever.  I like talking to people,  I really do.  And I rarely am at a loss for words -- but to have people come up to you and be excited to talk to you ~ Wow, that is a different feeling.  It's not a bad feeling, it's lovely ~ and unexpected.  But I have loved meeting all of these people.  I will say I really enjoy the fact that these folks are happy that I am enjoying their city so much.  There is a proudness in their smiles and in the tone of their voices.  This I believe is a rare thing in Winnipeg.  Like the "guilt" of the South, there is a theme of self-loathing in Winnipeg that is prevalent in everything.  It's not an ugly self-loathing - it's earnest and humble, and kinda adorable.  So to see pride in their kind voices means a lot to me.

The newest Weakerthan Randy did kind start showing me off like I was his new pet.  It was very endearing.  He was very sweet and enthusiastic.  His band Imaginary Cities is opening the show on Saturday and is definitley worth a listen - good stuff.  I like his addition to the Weakerthans.  Good guy and a great musician.

I had some drinks, hung out with some more kinda and welcoming Winnipeggers at the bar at the Albert, bought my poster and headed home with a pretty big smile on my face.

I will say that after seeing them the for the first show in this series I too kinda relaxed a little bit.  I mean there has been a huge lead up to these shows.... and I kinda started to feel anxious about them and I am not sure why.  I guess sometimes when you put so much planning into an event that expectations arise,  you work it through in your head before you even get there.  Sometimes what you plan does not measure up to your own theatrical production.  That has not been the case whatsoever.  At every turn the Weakerthans, Winnipeg and everyone within this city has far exceeded any expectation I could have imagined.

Good job, guys and gals.