Four years ago, I wrote a post about how much I love listening to The Vinyl Cafe on CBC Radio. In that post, I mentioned that I'd never been lucky enough to see a live concert. Well, this past Sunday afternoon, I finally got to be in the audience for a live show here in Winnipeg!!
Before I tell you about the concert, let me tell you how I came to be there.
The Vinyl Cafe has a large and loyal fan base - not just on the radio but also on Facebook! Stuart McLean, the host and brilliant writer/humourist/storyteller along with producer Jess Milton make regular posts to the fan page. They fill us in on what Stuart is up to on the show, on the road or anything else they think we may be interested in knowing!
A few weeks ago, Stuart posted this message: "Okay ... Stuart here .... it's Tuesday night ... I feel like giving stuff away." Two hours and well over 400 posts later he had given away some books, CD's and tickets to upcoming concerts to a few lucky fans. Some people offered to trade things for free stuff and Stuart was happy to accept a number of new treasures! He promised to be back the next week for more fun!
The following Tuesday evening, he was there and had over 400 posts in a little over an hour! I commented that I’d been a longtime fan, but had never been able to afford tickets to a concert when he was in Winnipeg or a book. I offered to trade some of my homemade chocolates for tickets! I offered some “Peanut Butter Bars in Dark Chocolate”; “Truffles” (with a hint of cherry brandy) and my newest creation called “To Sin With Love” - a dark chocolate fudge, with dried cherries, orange zest and roasted almonds! I'd also add some of my "Double Chocolate and Roasted Almond Shortbread"!" A few minutes later, he posted; "HEY DN ... we are coming to Winnipeg in a couple of weeks. You can come as my guest. send me your email address." YES!!!
So, Sunday afternoon, one of my gal pals and I headed for the Concert Hall. We picked up our tickets and to be perfectly honest, I was a bit disappointed that our seats were in the front of the second balcony. Then again, they were free and I had neglected to add that I was legally blind when I had sent in my contact info. Oh well, I was still excited and thankful to be at a live show no matter where I sat! We made our way to the merchandise table so I could give Jess the chocolates for Stuart. Besides the promised goodies, I had also included a bag of my "Black Forrest Cookies"! I mentioned that I'd hoped to be a little closer to the stage as I wasn't sure how much I'd see from that far back. Jess offered to see if there was anything better available. A few minutes later she returned with tickets on the main floor - Row 13 center! Still a bit far for my eyes but WAY better than balcony! Thank you Jess! You are awesome!!
From the moment the lights dimmed at 2:30 and the hilarious, tongue twisting T's of the intro, to the final bows at about 5:15, the packed house was thoroughly entertained with stories, banter and music!
Stuart told three stories. The first was an old favourite - "The Waterslide". One of the new ones, involved Dave making a trip to a car wash with Mary Turlington's car! There were a couple of spots where some of us in the audience got a little ahead of him in the story as we anticipated what dilemma's Dave was getting himself into. But as usual, Stuart never disappoints in finding ways to keep us visualizing and laughing so hard there were tears in our eyes as we listened to Dave's latest adventure!
The second new story was from Dave's childhood and filled with drama! A few weeks ago, Stuart had posted this tease to the story: "In those days they would always set something on the ice out in front of the Breakwater Hotel. An old car, an outhouse. Maybe a tractor or some sort of rig. They would place it there on New year's day and then take bets on when it would go through the ice ..." Let's just say that this one had us all on the edge of our seats!
Before intermission, Stuart announced that he would attempt to do 7 stories in 11 minutes in the second half. He asked the audience to write down a VC story they'd like to hear and he would do an abbreviated version of whichever ones he pulled out of a bucket! John Sheard (masterful pianist) and Dennis Pendrith (stand up bass player extraordinaire) were at the ready to provide appropriate musical accompaniment to whatever the story was! Now, I don't know whether these guys have worked out a selection of songs ahead of time for the multitude of stories that could be requested or whether it is all off the cuff. I won't spoil the fun of what songs were played, but John and Dennis's choices were truly priceless!! It took a little over the attempted 11 minutes but no one was complaining as we were all enjoying the stories, background music and the banter between Stuart, John and Dennis!.
The special musical guest was the multitalented musician/singer/songwriter Harry Manx. His music is a perfectly seasoned blend of blues and folk with an infusion of the sounds of an instrument from India called a mohan veena. In truth, I am not a fan of the music of the East, however Harry has a way of bringing just enough of its influence into his music to touch the soul and keep me listening! I thoroughly enjoyed all of his pieces on Sunday! In particular: "Bring That Thing" and "Make Way For The Living". Harry did a couple of songs on his own but was also accompanied by John and Dennis for several selections. You can hear some of his music on his site, MySpace or YouTube. He has recorded 11 CD's since 2001 and any or all would be a welcome addition to any musical library!
As well as musical bridges between segments and backup for Harry, John Sheard also did a beautiful piece from his newest CD.
An audience participation section saw several young people on stage helping Stuart display CD's and books to be given away to lucky audience members - including the youngest (a 5 year old) and the oldest (a lady of 92!). The audience was a great representation of the wide appeal of this talented group of performers - and a very appreciative audience as well!
Though I didn't get the opportunity to meet Stuart, it was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon! Thank you Stuart, John, Dennis, Harry and everyone else involved with the Vinyl Cafe and this tour! Your enthusiasm, talent, interactions with each other and the audience speak volumes for your dedication to your art! It was a true pleasure to be a part of the audience!
To purchase books and CD's from The Vinyl Cafe, check out the Store page on the VC site or Zunior. Music from Harry Manx can be purchased through sites such as Amazon or ITunes. As Stuart likes to say - books and CD's can also be purchased at sensible book and music stores everywhere!