The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Colour Me Hip

by Tricia Dower

I feel both hip and retro after having spent approximately twenty-seven hours last weekend in a socially conscious coffee house reminiscent of the ‘60s, soaking up today’s versions of folk music and poetry with a much younger generation. It’s cool now, apparently, to snap your fingers quickly rather than clap when the performer says something ‘righteous’ or ‘real.’ Cool to wear any kind of clothing and hair of any length. This generation seems much more nonconformist in appearance than mine was, but I probably just can’t read the code.

Colin and I saw twenty-one performances over five days. Most of the music (and certainly the poetry) was original. The occasion was the first annual Solstice Festival for the Folk, a hastily put together event in response to Victoria’s cancellation of the international folk fest that had been a Canada Day weekend tradition for years. We went last year. Open air, grandstands and big crowds. The Solstice was intimate, the biggest turnout maybe eighty people on closing night, drawn by our favourite local band, Outlaw Social. There was a little-engine-that-could feel about this event. Some performers had given up other plans to make a showing. Others helped out behind the scenes. When café owner David Cardinal announced that the festival had ended up in the black, the audience cheered.

I enjoyed the music, but was just as impressed with the performance poetry. One man wore a beret and referred to himself as post-hipster. Listening with eyes closed as a base guitar accentuated his words, I traveled back to the time of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William S. Burroughs, minus the smoky rooms and sexism.

Hanging out in a coffee shop for twenty-seven hours, you start to blend in. We received a special door prize for loyal attendance. We learned that some of the performers work there, foaming milk for lattes and spreading cream cheese on bagels. We got especially friendly with festival organizer and poet Shayne avec i grec and sound technician and poet/singer RadaR. (No doubt their mothers dubbed them differently at birth.)

Shayne had memorized his pieces and spoke them with dramatic flair, looking at and connecting with the audience, allowing us to feel the energy and rhythm of his words: urban sprawl/draped over landscape/reclining/spread like early morning traffic jam and serial commuting. So much more engaging than the hallowed Reading.

RadaR performed the song poem What is Revolution? It doesn't want to leave my head. You can hear it here. Her s.o. and performance partner strong.cottonwoods (we’re not supposed to know his name is Scott) handled the boom-chick-a-boom-boom beatboxing accompaniment. Their work is more hip-hop than hipster in sound but the message brought back the idealistic, youth movement of the ‘60s.

Many of the performers sang or spoke of social injustice, environmental destruction and war. They are the new generation of idealists and artist activists. It's reassuring to know they're out there.

P.S. You’d think we’d be festival-ed out, but as you read this, Colin and I will be up island at the weekend-long Vancouver Island MusicFest in Comox, following Outlaw Social like groupies. There are 39 other performers, as well, but the only names I know are Joan Armatrading and Don McLean. Colour me way out of touch.

Photos: Shayne avec i grec (top) performing at the Solstice Festival for the Folk; strong.cottonwoods (left) and RadaR (right)


Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Jeez! I hope I have as much energy when I grow up! You guys are Awesome!

Sat Jul 07, 08:29:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger tamara said...

I know! It's amazing how active you are; I feel like a life-slug compared to you two sometimes. Looking forward to further Island accounts!

Sat Jul 07, 09:42:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger MelBell said...

Tricia, another amazing dispatch. You're an incredible audience waiting to happen at all times. Thank you, once again, for another wonderful piece - and for getting OUT THERE.

Sat Jul 07, 11:52:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Both your post and Tamara's make me feel like such a homebody!

I rarely go out and never travel.

The occasion of my daughter visiting for a birthday weekend got me to pick up a paper- there is such a lot of great stuff going on in Toronto and a lot of it is FREE!

We went to some of the plays at the Fringe Festival. It was quite fun. Next, I guess I better plan a holiday!

Mon Jul 09, 10:47:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks, guys. We're back, having clocked even more musical hours.

So glad you didn't say when you grow old, Tony, although that would be quite appropriate. It's us golden oldies who have the time to spend on pure fun, although we saw tons of families with small kids up island this weekend. A family friendly event.

Mon Jul 09, 06:44:00 pm GMT-4  
Anonymous Larry said...

I had no idea Don McClean was still performing!

Tricia, I resonated with your sentiment that it's reassuring to know there is a generation or significant group of people who are finding fire in social causes. It births hope, doesn't it?

How's the chard coming along?

Thu Jul 12, 10:44:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Hi Larry. We've eaten some of the chard already and it's delicious. Should be able to enjoy it for quite a while. The potatoes and carrots are growing well but the radishes failed.

Thu Jul 12, 03:30:00 pm GMT-4  

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