Friday, 28 October 2011

Shaping young minds and exploring Lake Ontario

During our time in St. Catharines at Brock University, we had performed our show Friday night to a receptive crowd and taught a masterclass on Saturday and Sunday. Our character rhythms workshops could not have gone better. The students were like sponges and they took the work to a level that was impressive for us to observe. Seeing the groups create scenes using sound effects they had just learned has been a definite highlight.

We finished our three days with a talk to the first year students about working as a performer. Vid unleashed proverb after proverb blowing their minds with revelation and I made them laugh telling them about all the lessons I have learned while creating work.

We managed to fit in some downtime between working. After leaving the university we head over to the beautiful nature that surrounds the Niagara peninsula. We juggled at the falls and were offered money within two minutes of juggling even though we weren't busking. We'll have to fit in a trip back to busk at the falls. We also made a visit to Lake Ontario to have a jam on the pebble beach with an old friend and to watch the sunset.

Toronto was next. We spent most of the time jamming at a friend's place, with all his fun instruments and our mouths (that sounds kind of wrong but remember we are beatboxers). Inspired, we made a spontaneous decision to perform at an open mic. It didn't seem that full when we got there but little did we know it was to be hijacked by a band of god-awful brothers, one of which being the night's host. Don't get me wrong, I think that open mic nights should not have any pressure or 'minimum standard' for performance and the first few songs, though not our cup of tea, we had no problem. It was a gradual wearing of our souls brought on by wave after wave of the same substance-lacking and rainbow-sucking lyrics, orgasmically contorted sex-faces and three-chord-seven-minute-song after three-chord-seven-minute-song, peppered with self-righteous pap about how much they forgive everybody else because they've found their own nirvana 'flow'. After three hours of enduring the painful family showcase, including noticing the brothers eerily massaging each other whilst off-stage, we decided that it was time to go. Still, there was plenty of good stuff between the brothers' sets. Next time, maybe we'll plan our spontaneity a little better and turn up in time to get a decent set time.

On to Owen Sound! Bob and Caroline were our hosts for this stop. Staying in Caroline's costume shop, Bob offered us 'the real experience' rather than a cold 'turn up and perform' gig. That's exactly what we got and it really was fantastic to go for breakfast with both of them, have a natter about politics and music and to make a difference to a community.

Bob had come up with a masterplan, we would teach a workshop at a local school, perform a short clip of the show between two volleyball matches and the combination of these two would act as an effective promotion for the full show that night in the school cafeteria. This didn't work. The workshop went very well and the kids loved the short clip; we had kids asking us for autographs and high praise from their teachers. Despite this, not a single kid from the school came to the show. We put it down to a mixture of reasons, not least that there was a school dance the night after our show and expecting their parents to fork out for two events in two nights may have been a bit optimistic. Nonetheless, we performed with our originally planned line-up: Justin Burgess playing bluesy guitar, Jake Chegahno on guitar and FX and our host Bob doing spoken word.

The next day we took a slightly different approach to the same idea. This time we performed first, making an announcement over the school PA (including a short beatbox) we then began beatboxing in the common area and gathered a captive crowd. The unorthodox, confident and surprise elements here made the performance feel much more like we were taking the school by siege, which satisfied the 'stick it to the man', rebellious nature of the teenagers watching (as well as our own). Bob then circulated flyers and we went on to lead a beatbox workshop for the vocal/music class. This sparked more interest for the show that night in the local farmers' market and, sure enough, they actually showed up to this one. We spent the next few hours warming up our juggling in a rehearsal space that was kindly lent to us in return for two tickets to the show. Then, Bam! What a fantastic show! We were joined again by Jake and Bob but also shared the bill with the brilliant Richard Knechtel playing his own upbeat songs and then performing a magic act in the second half. Finishing off the night, our show was very well received and we were buzzing from the laughter that kept going throughout. After the show Tom Pink, the market's owner gave us a bottle of award winning olive oil and a bag of popcorn, which was much appreciated, and we then set off on our three-hour night-time drive back to Toronto. All in all a wonderful experience.

A short stopover in Toronto to a five hour drive to Montreal. We'll keep you posted with how it goes here.

As the tour goes on, I get to see Canada in a new light as Vid sees it for the first time. Yes, you can turn right on a red light while driving and that is pretty convenient. You can get amazing all-you-can-eat sushi for 20 bucks and if it is raining really hard and you are caught in it a man might just roll down his window and give you an umbrella.

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