Whole Lotta d’Amour

Finding the line between vandalism and art.

Why we love Quebec City: is it the cobblestone streets and old ornate buildings that make us feel like we are in Europe? Is it the sense of pride the people have of their vibrant history? Is it the beer and wine that you can buy in the corner stores? Or the cheese curds that sit in a basket on the counters? Well, it’s all of that!  But what really sealed the deal for our love of Quebec City is something else. Something that may not be above but it’s at least equal to all those good things.  Some may say this is silly – we were delivered a sign. Well, three signs. And the signs were music to our ears – literally!

On our first day wandering around this old city, an elderly man on his four wheel scooter passed by us with tunes cranked! It rivalled the volume of a Harley Davidson. Normally, excessive noise would get a head shake and eye roll, but when it’s Led Zeppelin, there’s an exception to be made! We continued on our walk  as “Ramble On” echoed down the street.

Day number two of exploring the city we come across graffiti. Every city has it’s share of spray painted public spaces that spark the debate of vandalism versus art. This piece we came across had nothing artistic about it. There was nothing really thought provoking. It was simply a name sprayed in silver on a utility box attached to a lamp post. “John Bonham” is all it said. If you’re going to deface public property it might as well be with the name of one of the greatest drummers of all time.

Day three. Walked into a hairdresser to get a much needed trim (gotta look pretty while on tour!) which usually means listening top 40 tunes. Not to stereotype the hair biz, but from the outside looking in there’s the usual decor and the usual scissor wielding folk – blondes with hair died black, the blue highlighted hair, Adidas or Converse or black boots, all sporting sleeve tattoos – it’s as expected as a folk duo with bearded guy playing an acoustic guitar. But right away, comes sign number 3  – “Your Time is Gonna Come” on the house speakers. Led Zeppelin is cranked in here. At that moment, it was like a slap in the face about stereotyping.

It’s music that connected these moments together. If it wasn’t for the music, these would be three individual incidents that would have disappeared into the ether and never thought of again. It’s music that can connect us, break down barriers and misconceptions. Seeing a frail old man wheel by us, seeing graffiti on the street, and just walking into a hairdresser’s, all to the tune of Led Zeppelin. The old man could easily be dismissed as someone of the age that wouldn’t care about music, especially not classic rock. Yet here he was, cruising by us, “rambling on” his way, with his own soundtrack. The graffiti, probably from a young punk that doesn’t know anything about anything, with too much energy and no direction or motivation. Probably vandalizing because he needs an outlet. Then again, maybe he (or she) is not young and probably knows more than we give him credit for – inspired and motivated enough by Bonham to go out and paint his name for everyone to read. The hairdressers, listening to Zeppelin, well more than listening, they were swaying and moving with Zeppelin. It wasn’t just background noise or a playlist made because it’s cool/trendy to listen to. It was on because they like it. During the hair cut, through the language barrier, beneath the anything skin deep, were friendly humans. Friendly folk that dressed the way they want and listen to what they want.

Farmer The Band gets to see Canada through sometimes rose coloured glasses. We see places and meet people under usually great circumstances – we are here as entertainers and “here” usually has drinks and food! But in Quebec City, we are here as short term residents – renting an apartment for a week, walking to the grocery stores, carrying our clothes to the laundromat, navigating the streets and the foreign language – we are not “here” as entertainers. We are outsiders. We are outsiders that have been warned about the snootiness of the French Canadians and their unwelcoming attitude. But the thing is, we’ve never felt like we were anything but welcome. We don’t know french. That could’ve been a problem but it wasn’t. Not even close. After clumsily saying “bonjour”, when we had the deer-in-the-headlights stare of ‘what next?’, anyone we came across, accommodated us with english. If they didn’t know english, they tried their best to help us with things like directions, or where to park and not get towed. There is nothing snooty or unwelcoming here, and that is said without the rose coloured glasses.

Quebec City has showed us, that this is not a place to judge or be judged. It’s buildings, though old and some quite tired looking, have life in them. They house live music, coffee shops, artist galleries, architects, doctors, lawyers, and of course the people. They house the young people that sit in benches reading, and the old that roller blade and jog the paved path along the river. These old buildings also house and welcome visitors, like us. This city is, everyday, proving that it’s not what’s on the outside that counts. It’s like a Led Zeppelin tune that you listen to and you move with. That is why we love Quebec City.

Beaucoup d’amour,

FarmerTheBand

“Chipper” by the Dozen

It’s only been 12 days on the road.

When we left home, we were hoping our 2nd tour across Canada would be as full of life as our first.  The innocence and enthusiasm of trying something for the first time can sometimes skew the reality of what really happened. History gets romanticized and edited, leaving only the “shiny’ moments. When it was our first time getting out and chasing our dream, we started believing we were going to catch it! When we started believing we were able to catch our dream, we started feeling like we were finally living. Every place was new. Every moment was a story that we couldn’t wait to share with our friends back home. There wasn’t a mundane event, ever, in the everyday – even sitting in a laundromat became inspirational. Our wide eyes and open hearts started finding inspiration everywhere. We were inspired by the kindness of fellow travellers camping in parking lots (FYI: sharing a fresh brewed cup of coffee is grounds – pun intended – for lifelong friendship). We were inspired by the hardware store employee that helped with a small repair on our van. We were even inspired filling up at a gas pump in the middle of nowhere. A random conversation with a total stranger led to her offering us a place to stay when we got to the next town. There was a story in every moment of everyday. Every day was shiny. That was our first tour.

Now we are out on our second tour. We’ve been on this highway before, filled up at that gas station, seen that statue, and bought groceries at that same store. Has touring already become less momentous? I can tell you, with all honesty – absolutely not! The familiarity of revisiting places brings us a comfort, almost a home away from home. Recognizing faces in those places makes it feel like we are among friends. In some cases, it can be like a reunion – and there’s always stories shared during and after a reunion! So this tour, like anytime one travels, with it’s share of familiar and new, has it’s stories.

Our first night on the road, we performed at Mama Sita’s in Winlaw, BC. A small diner in a small town, if you can call it a town, it’s more of a corner on a scenic highway. We were greeted with a warm welcome from Natasha and Gemma. Then we saw “Lacey” from the CBC show Corner Gas! I was actually starstruck. I  wish I got an autograph. But she gave us a smile as she made her way out and that’s still pretty cool.

We also met a guy named Elvis. He runs a mobile slaughtering company called “Killbillies” – cool name, right? It sounds like a terrible job but for a small local farmer, Elvis is worth his weight in gold. We sat down and, over a pint of beer, he explained what he does and how he does it. He does it humanely, which he is certified for, and he does it at an affordable price. What he really does is helps get local food onto local tables. Farmer The Band likes Elvis!

Then at the end of the night, we retired to our van and slept in the parking lot while the rain danced on the van roof. Well, “danced” is not really what it was, more like a bunch of raccoons in wrestling match, but less rhythmic – and that’s another story!

So that was our first day on the road. There’s so many memorable moments that happen to us on the road. I could write a book and the tour is just starting! But really, it’s not being on the road that  provides us with these experiences, it’s just being open to them. What’s labelled normal or humdrum is really only because that’s how we choose to see it. What you see is what you get! Not every minute of every day may be a magnificent tale to tell around the campfire for generations… or maybe they are. We just have to have our heads up, our eyes, ears, and hearts open to those experiences. I’d like to share more stories of our life on the road, which there are many, and I will, but now I’m lifting my head up to be ready for that next moment.

It’s only been 12 days on the road and we are looking forward to the next 12!