“This is a hospital for sick music parts,” I said to my daughter, as we squatted on the curb outside Vancouver’s Backline music repairs. Musicians running in and out with wounded instruments tucked up under their arms like pet rabbits: Can you save it? How much?”
“Yeah,” joked a guy behind me. “That’s exactly what it is. But it’s an American hospital – no coverage – so it’s all out of your pocket.”
He was perfectly dressed as a musician: shoulder length dark hair, a white t-shirt with sleeveless jean jacket, sunglass and cigarettes. Maybe tattoos? But gentle ones.
He was a nice guy. Even complimented our coats. I feel sorry for musicians. All the ego and the clothes and the competition and the shit money.
Not so long ago I heard BC band Yukon Blonde being interviewed on CBC Radio and after the host had pumped them full of compliments on how well they’re doing – breakthrough band, Juno nomination etc - he then went on to focus on how little they’re paid to do it. Grinding it in like rock salt. “Yes,” they confirmed. The pay is shit. The pay is shit. At this point in the interview they seemed to lose steam and admitted they held down other jobs to get by.
Recently a friend played in a line-up with Yukon Blonde and an extended member of my friend’s band went up to one of their players. “I know you!” she said. “You don’t know me,” he replied. So the conversation ended there. Until later in the evening when she remembered how she knew him. “I do know you!” she said. "You’re the busser at the Foundation!” Vegan nachos etc.
“All the people buying groceries at Buy Low, are going to hear your shit,” said my local barrister, wearing the other Vancouver band uniform - pro cyclist. Tight, rolled shorts, t-shirt, peak cap and that jangle of keys or whatever it is that they clip onto their waistbands. Something to fix a tire maybe, or get into their apartments?
“This guy is curating a show for two nights of experimental music,” he went on. Referring to a community event being organized at Vancouver’s low-cost Kingsgate Mall: $2 shops; budget groceries; functional work ware etc. “There’s a lot of room for me to do whatever I want. I can’t wait,” he added.