Sunday night, mid feb…Jose Gonzales streaming and vibrating through my rather large acoustic monitor speakers. His simple yet profound songs always evoke a kind of melancholy feeling in me, a spiritual kind of melancholy, as if he is here to spread the message to not let the darkness eat us up. He is a messenger, the kind I wish I could be had I been more confident, more aware, more compassionate with myself.
Outside, it’s dark, cold, and blistering. The little speeding sidewalk Snow daaliks (as my wife calls them) are buzzing around the huge Mammoth snow removal trucks as they enact an age-old well-choreographed dance on our street. The little-uns sweep the snow off the sidewalks onto the streets, the Giants then One sweeps the big chunks of snow on the road into a big mountain and surely enough, right behind this impressive syncopated performance, the roar of the show-stopping snow blowing ballerina, moving in total unison with the obedient, mule like container trucks. The used-up second-hand grey matter that used to be pristine, white and powdery snow only a day before fills up the big slow trucks. It doesn’t take long until that truck is completely full, and then it quickly leaves the scene, like a waltz where partners get switched up in a 3/3 measure to keep the flow constant, it is replaced by a new empty vessel, waiting, nay, dying to step up and take the place of the old. Its high art, and it makes me feel…low.
It’s mid February, it feels like everyone is tired, worn is more of an accurate word. Valentines has come and gone, the beacon, the event of feb so to speak. Although it was fun for me, my heart and mind has remained in Panama where I and my wife have spent the last 16 days soaking up rays, hiking through coffee mountains, visiting lost-like Caribbean islands and learning to surf on the beaches of Playa Venao. It is so hard to come back to Montreal, and ever since I have returned, going back to my old work, old plans and festival/music etc., has been a daunting task.
Panama is an interesting country they have this massive 80km canal that cuts the country in two and two oceans flank them. We had the wonderful opportunity of staying with a totally awesome and lovely chap named Marko who lives in Panama City. Marco showed us the city and Casco Viejo which is like a very historical neighbourhood full of crumbling convents and bars, it’s a special place. Lisa and I spent time in the mountains after that where a cool sprinkly breeze always welcomed us. It was peace it was really a wonderful experience to immerse ourselves with the local culture. We also had a chance to do some horseback riding and tubing down the Santa Maria River, not to mention a visit to an organic farm. The countryside is quite beautiful in Panama; you can pick wild oranges just about anywhere in the mountains. And they are so delicious. This trip was also about wild waterfalls, you take the time to climb, to sift through jungle to follow slightly treaded paths to find these gems, these gifts of emerald-green waters. It was always a spiritual experience to immerse myself in these amazing mountain waterfalls, and these stick with me much more than the beaches because we always had to work hard to get to them so they were well-earned.
We spent much of the trip learning to surf at some of the better pacific spots like the beautiful Playa Venao where I learned to surf the gnarly waves. In the last 5 days of our trip, we went visiting another mountain town called El Valle which reminded me a lot of Banff or one of those mountain towns like Revelstoke or Nelson. The town of Ell Valle was extremely windy though and the howl kept us up at night, we visited some natural hot springs there and moved on to what was to be our last destination before heading back, Isla Grande, the ride from El Valle to Isla grande was to say the least, on of the scariest I ever have had.Our bus driver thought he was Steve McQueen, he was doing 140 on highly traffic roads with windy curves and high peaks. A cop did eventually stop him and his other bus driver friend; bit the copes just laughed with them and let them go!! We were shocked! The ride culminated in us ending up in what was likely the sketchiest place in Panama the town of Sabanitas, which was a scary experience. A brutal fight broke out in front of us in the ten minutes we were there waiting for the bus, to get the hell out. Same with the way back. It was a better option than visiting the city of Colon, which Im glad we didn’t.
Isla Grande was a weird Panamanian weekender frat [arty-take your top off kind of placer but when we were ether there was no one, so we had a cabin by a very loud and powerful beach. It was a strangely built town along the edge of the water, with weird spots like a door that led nowhere, a bunker by the beach and an old abandoned lighthouse, which gave fantastic views. The best part of Isla Grande was the pool by the Caribbean ocean. We felt like one of those high-Rollin drug lords with the massive villa that goes everywhere by helicopter. We ended the trip with a trip to the Panama Canal to watch mega tankers go through the massive locks and get drained down into the other side of the coast. A true marvel of engineering and a testament to a project that cost 22000 lives and billions upon billions. Word has it that China wants to build one going through Nicaragua as ell, which should be even trigger and an event bigger disaster as it will likely go through.
We felt deeply sad to leave Panama. It is such a beautiful place. We loved the hospitable hosts we had, the hot hot sun and surf and we loved the abundant nature and adventures we went on (though the food left much to be desired, Panama was another winner! Coming back to Montreal though was pretty depressing.
I think the hardest has been really feeling motivated, feeling like there is a purpose. Winter in Canada tends to do that to us all, to block out the inner sun, to make us feel powerless, to bring us back down to our humblest selves. Maybe that is why Canadians stereotypically have a much more humble attitude towards life than say Americans. We have winter to contend with. We have winter to abide by, to put us back in our place.
The light at the end of the tunnel is foreseeable now, and with a big festival event coming up in May, the launch of a fantastic artist program in early march which we have worked quite hard and are quite proud of is here for The One Man Band Festival that is from May 15 to the 18th) I have my work cut out for me. I spend my free time trying to form the pieces of the puzzle to see what it's going to look like this year, One thing I can say, it will be worth the effort! so chin up winterites! The end of this winter of our discontent is almost nie!!
We are finishing up the applications for artists this week (Friday to be precise). I'm kind of looking forward to submissions closing because it means we can begin programming and that is always the best part of this festival, when the picture becomes clear, when the choreographic dance begins, this is our street-cleaner moment, our time to shine! This is my chance to create another event which will build community, will bring exceptional artists together and which will celebrate our collective spirit of perseverance, not only as solo artists but as Canadians and people living in this great big massive land of ours. We are all polar bears! Although the quote keeps popping up in my mind lately, sometimes I wonder if I'm not just being cheeky spewing out 80s Hollywood movie wisdom when I quote Rocky…” The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place, and I don't care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward;”
With that bit of Stallone Wisdom, I wish you all a happy end of winter, light at the end of the tunnel. Im looking forward to all the amazing things spring has up its sleeve. and you?
Artist submissions end this Friday Feb 21st). We've gotten an INSANE amount of submissions this year, we are pleased but it is a daunting task to have to accommodate so few with so many applicants. We will have programming details for you all by march 1st.
The Festival hits Montreal May 15th to the 18th, I wanna see everyone there cause I worked too hard on this. ;)
As for the JCEX, I’ve got a new EP coming out this summer 5 songs and a new show, that is a new type of show I’ve ben working with lately, it's still one man band style but much more acoustic, and a whole new slew of songs to come.