Just Another Crazy Day in the Life of a Music Promoter

Article by Steve Edge in the May 2013 issue of Celtic Connection

The day began at the end of last night's show, which was a rollicking evening of old time fiddle music with the Foghorn Stringband from Portland. They had generated such energy! The audience - many more than we expected - had been in rambunctious mood and were hootin' and hollerin' respectlessly. Then they had started a Square Dance off to the side. They kept roaring their approval and the band had had no choice but to continue playing. It is important to stress here that Saturday morning was just a snapshot in time. It could have been any day in the past 3 months or so, a continuous stream of music and production that ran from early February to the beginning of May - and shows no signs of slowing down. So at just after midnight I set about creating a 4 hour radio show for broadcast at 8am. I should add here that I'm just selecting songs at first. Searching for themes; threads to weave the music together into a semblance of flow if anyone is likely to listen to all 4 hours in one sitting, but also offering little and larger segments that the casual or accidental listener might stumble upon. I choose the music from my iTunes library - currently just over 31,000 songs. In just about every genre that could loosely be called "Roots" or be seen to have its roots in one or more traditions. Then again, some of it that's not even remotely roots. So I start the search by looking for music by artists that are coming to town in the next week or two. Then I add a search for an increasingly depressing class of musicians: ones who have just passed away. We've lost some really good people lately: Richie Havens, Rita MacNeil, Bob Brozman, Stompin' Tom Connors, George Jones, to name a few. Then I'll look at the most recent additions to the library - new releases for the most part. Don't forget to add the theme tune - Music For A Found Harmonium by Irish supergroup Patrick Street - and then an hour's worth of music from Africa and India and Latin America or wherever. The first pass reveals I have around 68 songs. Not bad. I have to whittle it down to around 50 for a four hour show. It's now about 1:15am. Time to cull those extra 18 songs. Tricky. I always seem to think of a few new ones while I'm doing this! More culling. Then sort the list into the regular format: an hour of world music, and hour of blues and Cajun; an hour of singer/songwriters; and an hour of Celtic music. Sometimes the formula varies considerably, but the show is definitely recognizable now. Plug in the iPad and add the playlist and the whole show is ready. 2am. Sometimes later. Set the alarm for 7. The gentle sound of crickets under my pillow (an iPhone this time!) Up at 7, put on the coffee, grab a quick shower, fill the flask, pack a small breakfast of home made muffins and a banana, and zoom off in the chariot to UBC. Arrive at CiTR at 7:58am. Plug in the iPad and load up the playlist into the funky App - Djay - and we're underway. Log in to Facebook and start to cajole people (Friends) to join me. Great feedback online and on the phone. I'm in my element now. My little "cave" at CiTR. Broadcasting a legal signal to all points of the globe via streaming audio, and over the fm airwaves - and Telus TV channel 3717! - to the locals. Four hours have flown by, and there's always a mad dash at the end to squeeze in as many songs as possible - I never quite get to play them all, and I usually add one or two on the fly - from CDs or occasionally Youtube (today I forgot to bring a Judy Collins track, so thank you Youtube. Everything you need is available on Youtube. But I digress.)

Now, what else has to be done today? Oh yes, get some liquor licenses for future shows, go to the bank to get a float for the next show? No. Plenty of change left over from last night. Only a Contra Dance tonight; not much float needed. Some weekends there are two or three concerts in a row. Lots of bank visits! Today it's not so bad. Pop into the office and find Linda Bull, our new publicist, is working there. So I end up being detained for an hour or so as she reminds me of all the work that I haven't completed. I still have to rent a costume to play King Arthur in the play for Beltane tomorrow, and then there's this column for the Celtic Connection someone has asked me to write. NOW!

Well, that was THEN. This is NOW, and I'm at the dance, having set up the furniture and I'm sitting behind the bar, typing away.

Last week was worse. We had the Taj Mahal extravaganza at The Chan Centre on the Thursday. The bigger the name, the more pampering is needed, it seems. Hotel rooms - 14 of them, with parking space for a 45 foot tour bus and a 15 passenger van posed a few problems. Then there were two drum kits, and two bass rigs, and a variety of amps. Set up and delivery and back. Better hire someone else to do that. Meals for 14, snacks and drinks for 14, plus food for volunteers. Looks like 1,000 people are coming to the show. Wow! Hope we get the ticket money from Ticketmaster and The Chan Centre soon ... Will we get everyone into the hall in time? Uh-oh, they've left their CDs at the hotel. Someone will have to go and get them. I thought parking was free. Not so. It was $10. Weird. It had been free the last few times I'd been. The sound isn't quite right for Shemekia Copeland. Diplomacy required backstage. We get it sorted. The word is that if Taj sees anyone with a camera he'll walk off the stage. So I go out to introduce and ask everyone to refrain from photography and recording. Everyone except me, that is. I have special dispensation to take photos during the first three songs. The ushers didn't hear that bit, apparently! Finally I can relax and sit back and listen and watch. Great concert! Afterwards everyone wants to speak to Taj. He's back stage with old friends from Vancouver. We arrange for someone to take souvenirs back for him to sign. This works, but we have to get them all out of there or we'll be charged overtime at the venue. We move them into their tour bus. One of our volunteers invites us home for a wind-down party. Good idea, but some cars have been locked into the parkade. Ours was blocked in by the tour bus behind the stage entrance. Sneaky, eh? So a 3am end to the party and the next day is for recovery. Then it's time to prepare a radio show; this time with a Sunday concert to work on.

Every week is like this, with variations. Between February 8th and May 4th we've had 23 concerts and three contra dances. We've pulled off a 3-day festival of gypsy jazz and a huge show at The Chan. I've hosted 12 radio shows, guested on CBC, written 3 columns for the Celtic Connection, made posters and sent website updates for all these shows. Attended a big music conference in Toronto. And seen a few shows around town too.

Looming ahead is festival season: Folklife in Seattle at the end of May, Jazz Festival at Capilano University and elsewhere in June, Canada Day, Island Musicfest in Courtenay (July 12 - 14; I've been asked to do some MC-ing again), Vancouver Folk Music Festival (July 19 - 21: a festival info booth to run there - plus a live outside broadcast of the radio show from the site,) Mission Folk Festival July 26 - 28 (more MC-ing), Edmonton Folk Festival August 8 -11. Plus Shorefest, with The Rogue Stage at English Bay on July 27 and 31 and August 3. We await with bated breath news of which performers are coming to the festivals. Dick Gaughan from Scotland at Vancouver perhaps, The Alan Kelly Gang with Eddi Reader for Edmonton, but nothing confirmed yet. Plus we have family coming from New Zealand and Nova Scotia for my birthday in early August.

When I get home I'll probably unwind by surfing the net for a while, see if there are any new releases. A new Tony McManus CD is coming soon, apparently. Then up at 8 for the match, then off to Beltane. Maybe we'll have some ticket money to bank next week. Work on a grant application. Do some bookkeeping. Oh yes, I almost forgot: there's a Rogue Folk Review to get out on Monday. No rest for the wicked! Thank the goddess for music to keep me sane (or am I dreaming?)

There's a great concert of Celtic fiddle music on Friday May 10th with White Rock fiddle prodigy Kierah Raymond who has just released a new CD of tunes inspired by her studies and travels in Eire last year. Stonemason's Daughter contains 15 of her own compositions alongside trad and contemporary tunes from Canada and Scotland and Ireland. She worked with Adrian Dolan and Adam Dobres on the recording, and Adam will accompany her in the concert at St. James Hall to mark the Rogue's 26th anniversary. The following night Richard Thompson, legendary guitarist and songwriter from London plays The Rio with his trio. Have to see him! The best!! On Sunday we have the remarkable mid-western singer Eilen Jewell at St. James Hall, and the next Friday it;s an evening of Country Blues with Washington's Orville Johnson, John Miller & Grant Dermody (plus Toronto's Juno-winning blues diva Suzie Vinnick opening.) On May 30th Michael Averill - local folk / guitarist - launches his new CD, I'd Rather Walk, with a concert at The Rogue, and on June 2nd American fiddler / singer Laura Cortese brings her quartet for a double bill with BC's Fish & Bird. Full details on www.roguefolk.bc.ca

It's a great life. See you at The Rogue.