I came across a tweet the other day that read, “If you do one good thing today, how about thanking a songwriter for what they do?” This got me thinking …
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The Yarmouth Exhibition – a celebration of rurality complete with livestock barns, ox-pulls and marching bands. My Grampie used to run the Kiddie Farm there when I was little. The week before the Exhibition’s opening, my entire family would work long into the night getting Mother Goose-inspired displays ready for kids big and small to enjoy.
When I was nine, I went to The Exhibition dressed like a dairy farmer – head to toe in white. I was competing against other kids who were in 4-H Calf clubs across Yarmouth County. We had to train our calves to walk on a lead. We had to judge adult dairy cows for their capacity to produce milk and other things I can’t remember anymore. Long story short, Patsy the calf and I won the blue ribbon for the Prince Charles 4-H Calf Club.
Fast-forward five or six years later and there I was, at The Exhibition again, but this time dressed all in black wearing coal-black eye shadow, an orange lipstick smear, and impressively teased-up hair. No dairy calves for me this time. I was there to be a teenager, I suppose.
What happened between those five or six summers? In a word – music.
Music sparked my imagination in ways that watching The Dukes of Hazzard, The A-Team and Star Wars never could have. Music showed me that I could be different; that there were other places out there; much, much bigger places than the little corner of the world that I grew up in. Come to think of it, listening to music probably inspired me to write, too.
My first ‘favourite’ band was Men at Work; my love for them had me entertaining fantasies of moving to Melbourne, Australia when I was old enough to do so. Duran Duran (yes – I was a ‘Durannie’) inspired me to trade my girl mullet and plaid shirts for the ‘New Romantic look’ going into tenth grade. I had the first ‘rat tail’ – remember those? – in Yarmouth and almost got beaten up for it too.
It was my mom who gave me my big loves – Mom was the catalyst for my life long romance with Harrison Ford and she introduced me to Duran Duran on my 15th birthday. I can still see me, Kristin and Tina listening to the band’s self-titled offering (on cassette) for the first time in our bedroom.
Christmas 2011 (almost 30 years later) Mom put Sam Roberts’ We Were Born in a Flame under the tree with my name on it.
We had learned that she was sick earlier that year –just before Labour Day weekend. There were many trips home to Yarmouth over the eight short months before she passed. Most times Steve and I would go home together, but once in awhile I’d do the drive on my own. When I did, I took full advantage of being alone in the car.
A couple of times, I listened to Duran Duran the entire three and a half hour drive to Yarmouth and back. I rolled the windows down, turned the volume up and sang my little heart out. Maybe it was a bit of a regression, but Duran Duran’s songs are jam packed with memories from an idyllic childhood – the very thing I needed to wrap around myself at the time.
Eventually, I moved on to listening to other tunes. I remember exactly where I was when I ‘caught’ my first Sam Roberts Band song. I had just turned off Highway 103, and Hard Road was playing. It was the lyric about the importance of being good to your friends that caught me. The sentiment that no one in this life is spared hard knocks resonated too and by the end of the song, I was hooked.
I had no idea at the time but on that drive home, Sam Roberts Band – like Tofino, the west coast and writing my novel – became a huge part of my healing journey after losing my mom. SRB songs and live shows – above all others – have been a great source of comfort and good medicine for me over the past four or so years. For that, my gratitude to the band runs deep.
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Labour Day weekend 2016.
Steve and I decided to go ‘all out’ this year. We planned a weeklong wedding anniversary/early birthday celebration that started in Bala, Ontario. After Bala was a night in Toronto, and then a train trip to Montreal where we spent a few glorious days eating, drinking and walking through the city before we flew home. We started in Bala because every year for the past 14 years, the SRB has had a standing date with the Bala Kee and I wanted to make the pilgrimage.
Bala was easily the highlight of our trip – and not only because of the idyllic, picturesque little town wrapped around one end of Lake Muskoka and two nights of SRB shows.
Earlier in the year, I connected with a group of SRB fans on FaceBook. Those of us who were going to Bala made plans to meet up for drinks before the Sunday night show. I have to admit – I was nervous. Sitting around the table with people I knew only ‘virtually’ through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram was a little daunting. My tummy was in a knot just before Steve and I left our hotel room to join everyone. Any worries I had were instantly put at ease when I rounded the corner to a chorus of “It’s Marni!” and warm hugs all ‘round.
And so, here is another thing I have to thank Sam Roberts Band for – bringing this beautiful group of wacky, wonderful people together and into my life – actually into our lives, because Steve was welcomed into the fold as well.
This (and so much more) is what I wanted to say at 1:30 or so in the morning, after the Sunday night show, when Shannon and Carolyn called my name and Sam Roberts looked at me and asked “You’re Marni? … Amirault?” and said it was nice to meet me. My brilliant response was to repeat, “I can’t believe you know my name,” over and over like a mantra until I managed to pull it together enough to all but shove the card for my blog post in his hand and sputter, “I write blog posts. I’ve written some about you. And some of your friends. Don’t worry. They’re good!”
I honestly remember very little after that, and sadly, I cannot blame my lack of memory or my stunning performance on booze. I was stone cold sober.
If you want a play-by-play account of the SRB Bala shows (complete with our SRB Superfans meet n’ greet and a recipe for Sunny Lemon Tinas), you have to check out my friend Annie’s brilliant post: http://www.thebootlegsaint.com/sam-roberts-band-kee-to-bala-2016/ You will regret it if you don’t!
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“If you do one good thing today, how about thanking a songwriter for what they do.” I’d like to make an amendment to that tweet and extend the thanks from songwriters to musicians and the teams that support them too.
We need our musicians, our songwriters and our storytellers – you are our visionaries. You bring us together – remind us of the importance of connecting with each other, with our imagination, with our heart and spirit. You remind us that life is an adventure if only you’re brave enough to take that first leap of faith. In this day and age, these reminders are golden.
For me, the list of ‘thank yous’ is long, long, long and eclectic – but so deeply heartfelt. I hope that this post is a start …
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P.S: Sam, if you’re reading this, I would like to invoke what I am now calling the ‘Terraform Clause’ and start over. If we meet again, I promise I will be less of a spazz!