Exclaim sent Sheldon Birnie and I to the Park Theatre to checkout Fred Eaglesmith. It was my first time seeing him perform, having never really listened to him I wasn't sure what to expect. Sheldon told me he was known for his humour and anti-establisment attitude. His between song banter was hilarious and obviously just as much a part of his performance as his music.
The polar vortex that chilled much of the Northern Hemisphere to the bone also had a psychological effect on many of us living in the more affected areas. My usual penchant for outdoor adventures and spontaneous photowalks were reduced to calculated supply missions to the corner store and brief reprieves to warm coffee shops.
This winter has been taxing on creative minds, as others can well attest. But we're all sick of hearing about it, as a friend remarks:
"If I hear anyone else say it's been a loooooong winter..."
So we try to keep ourselves occupied until we can roast in the burning sun again.
If you follow me on Instagram or Tumblr, you may already know what I'm getting at. In my restlessness I retreat to the afternoons of my youth, inspired by Mr. Dressup, Art Attack, the Big Book of Science Experiments, and the baby sitter who kept me occupied with afternoon crafting projects. I look to the objects around me. What entertainment can be had with the items at my disposal?
It was this mental state that lead me to create a series of images of liquid & colour, movement & stillness.
How they were made was supposed to be my secret, until my partner, Melissa spilled the beans.
Yes, that graceful ballet of colour is actually just food colouring in a toilet bowl.
But I'm not ashamed. I didn't plan on detailing the process of how the images were captures. I'm sometimes fascinated with the act of removing finished images from the context of their creation. But sometimes it's humourous to see peoples reaction to what is really going on.
Matt wrote a really nice review that you can checkout over at Stylus.
We arrived at the venue and waded through the crowd collecting in the lobby. Matt b-lined it for the front stage left, whereas I hung back sipping a beer I didn't even really want to drink trying to assess the lighting situation and work up my nerve to start shooting.
Shows at the West End always start/end early due to noise curfews in the neighbourhood, which means the first half of the show usually has a much smaller crowd. This was a sold out show, but until the headliner goes on there always seems to be a bubble between the stage and the crowd, who stand apprehensively at a safe distance. This part of the show fuels my trepidation, I fire off a few shots of the openers, getting confortable, slowly working up the nerve to get closer to the stage. It sometimes feels like walking through no man's land, cautiously aware of the crowd behind me.
I can see that Matt is enjoying the show. He comments to me that Cheap Girls performance warranted the purchase of a t-shirt. Their laid back college rock reminds me of Matt's former band Haunter, so it's no surprise that he's digging it.
Laura Stevenson and the Cans up the energy level a few notches with their accordion and xylophone accents on top of songs about death. Matt observes that the openening acts feel like the calm before the storm, I nod in agreement.
My comfort level increases as more people gather in front of the stage. I feel most at home when I can blend into the crowd with my camera. People's excitement for seeing Laura Jane Grace, the dynamic front woman of Against Me! and subject of recent articles in Rolling Stone, Elle, and even Cosmopolitan, is palpable. Feedback rolls through over the PA and the crowd grows restless.
Suddenly the band takes the stage and the place explodes as the first notes of FUCKMYLIFE666 echo out across the crowd.
I'm usually forced to shoot with split focus, my eyes on the stage through the viewfinder, but my arms braced, ready for the inevitable onslaught of a kettled crowd. However tonight is different. Sure the crowd is bursting with energy, but there's a noticeable lack of machismo.
Transgender Dysphoria Blues, the most recent release from Against Me! Deals with Laura Jane Grace's personal journey of self discovery and battle with gender dysphoria. The response from fans has been an outpouring of support, epecially amongst young people struggling with similar issues. This is reflected in the diverse demographic of the crowd. There are more women in attendance than I think I've ever seen at a punk show.
The joyful exuberance of so many of the girls standing right up front is mirrored by Grace's own expression. You can tell that she's cut out for the stage.
Being a longtime Against Me! fan I can't help getting caught up in the excitement, mouthing words to some of my favourites, like Cliché Guevara, Walking is Still Honest, and Sink Florida Sink, as I scan the stage with my camera. But I can see these songs mean so much more to some people. Pulling on their heart strings. It must mean a lot having someone to look up to who is brave enough to publicly address deep personal issues so candidly.
I could probably go on and on about how amazing their performance was, instead I'll leave with you with the images I captured.
Big Fun! /
Last week I had the pleasure of shooting the Big Fun Music Festival. I got to shoot in three different venues around Winnipeg, including The Ballroom, which I didn't even know existed.
From Big Fun's website:
"Using Winnipeg’s prairie winter as the backdrop, the festival will showcase the best of Manitoba’s current and upcoming artists as well as some hand picked acts from across Canada. The Big Fun Festival wants to give the people of Winnipeg a reprieve to the brutal winter by organizing a unique and exciting weekend of events in the bitterly cold stretch of our darkest month."
I can definitely get behind their mission. It can be a daunting task to even think about leaving the comfort of your own home when it's 40 below. The cold and the wind and the cost and the energy weigh down on you, pulling you deeper into your couch cushions. But along comes a music festival in the dead of winter to coax you from hibernation.
Every show was well attended, so they must be doing something right.
My personal highlights were Warsaw follwed by Metz on Thursday night at Union Sound Hall. Even though I was being repeatedly shoved into the stage, holding my gear for dear life and fending off flailing throngs of testosterone, I had a blast. My plan was to get some shots from up near stage left, then wander to the opposite side and get some shots from behind the crowd. That's not how it went down though. As soon as Metz struck the first chord, the crowd erupted, I squeezed my way to the front and was then pinned against the stage until the house lights came up. Luckily it was the best shooting angle I could have been forced to stick with. On the musical side, I loved how Metz's entire set seemed like one long performance. I dont' remember their being even a moment of silence between songs as they were all weaved together with feedback and ringing notes and distortion. Props to sound guy Cam Loeppky for manning the board that night.
The other standout performance was B.A. Johnston, who brought his deep fried comedy rock to the Windsor Hotel. Johnston started and ended his performance in the bathroom, which he proclaimed made the Albert's urine soaked salle de bain seem like paradise.
Anyone who has spent time in Winnipeg will have noticed the vast area in South Winnipeg left vacant after the exodus of the Canadian Forces.
Glazed eyes may have noticed the empty houses during the daily commute, or noticed the hundreds of metres of barbed wire fence while enroute to IKEA.
It seems like such an unfortunate misuse of the many buildings and land that make up the complex. Local First Nations groups are seeking to acquire the land for residential and commercial developments. Media coverage of the First Nations plans predictably brought bigots out of the woodwork, spewing hate and vitrole on social media and the comment sections. The controversy and the mystery became an obsession to me.
I contact an uncle, a veteran who was once stationed in Winnipeg, to ask if he spent time in the place that now sits as a vacant space. He said he was stationed at Minto Armories, not Kapyong, but vaguely remembered the place. His vague recollections did little to satisfy my intrigue.
I decided to see grounds for myself, so one afternoon I walked the permiter of the barracks, through the snow, along the outside edge of the enclosed complex. Peeking over barbed wire and around warning signs from the Department of Defence. What mysteries remain locked away or forgotten in those many buildings? I felt like David Duchovny, looking over my shoulder for the lone security vehicle that patrols the grounds.
I came home with only these pictures and more questions.
When it was announced that Propagandhi would be playing an intimate New Years Eve show at the Windsor Hotel Winnipeg's aging anarchists, beer leaguers, punks frothed at the mouth at the idea of seeing Winnipeg's (and North America's) most outspoken progressive thrash bands at a venue usually reserved for blues bands and local indie acts.
I was tipped off a few days prior to the announcement, yet the original run of tickets still fell just beyond my reach. Disappointement set in for many who had hoped to ring in the new year with their favourite band.
Luckily many who missed out managed to make it in anyways, through luck or the kindness of others. The crowd composed primarily of old friends and local legends. All were in high spirits and grateful to be in attendance.
You can checkout my collection of photos from the evening here.