Over the weekend I flew to Edmonton to do a solo show. This was the first time I’d ever flown completely by myself to a city I was unfamiliar with, to play a show and generally do the whole thing that you do when you play shows without anyone I’d ever met before being around me at any time. SO, you could say I was a tad apprehensive. What if everyone was a bunch of dildos, for example? What if I got there and the show was in a dude’s house for his two friends and that’s where I was also supposed to stay? It could have been awful, but, in fact, it was awesome. The promoter was a class act, they put me in a nice hotel, the town was lovely, the fans were numerous, polite, fun and generally some of the most welcoming I’ve ever come across. Overall, I had a five-star experience. Not a bad moment. For those of you out there who do solo, one-off fly-ins, I can’t possibly recommend Ben Sir and the Buckingham as a promoter/bar combo highly enough. Thanks so much to everyone who worked, bartended, came out, partied, sang, danced, and partied some more with me. Edmonton, you are the best.
An interesting thing though, aboot going into Canada: They recently enacted this tax on foreign workers that makes it crazy cost prohibitive to get up there to play shows if you’re a smaller band. I’m not entirely sure what the whole deal is, but I know that for me to get across the border, I needed to pay a $275 tax on top of buying a $150 work permit. That’s just for me for one show. That’s pretty steep, especially if you factor in the plane tix and all that. Now, I’m not gonna sit here and complain about governments lamely gouging the shit out of the little people, because well…what the fuck, right? No one likes taxes, and sure, this one seems particularly capricious but whatever. It’s a shitty, expensive set of rules, but it’s the rules, and as a guest, what the fuck right do I have to tell em how to do shit, I guess. Besides, the whole idea here is just to get over and make the show.
Of all the borders I’ve ever crossed in my life, the Canadian one is far and away the most intense, and the one where I’ve had to jump through the most hoops. And sure, I get it. If I was Canada and my downstairs neighbors were a bunch of wackadoo fatties who couldn’t stop shooting each other, I’d probably be hesitant to let them into my house too. BUT, a funny think happened in the immigration line.
The woman looked at my papers. She stared me down. She told me to go wait in the second room so she could process my work permit. We met in room 2. She looked at my passport. She looked at me. She googled me. She looked at the computer screen. She looked at me. She asked me if I’d ever been “arrested, drugs? DUI? Ever been in handcuffs for any reason at all?” and I said no (which is true). She looked at my passport. Googled again. Looked at the screen. Looked at me. More scrutiny. I asked her some questions about something banal…the weather or the local wildlife or some bullshit, and she looked at me like I’d just barfed a turd onto her desk.
Now, meanwhile, at the desk right next to me, three large Americans are hooting and hollering with this other border guard. They too are getting permits. But they’re not musicians. Their cases didn’t have acoustic guitars in them like mine did. They were full of rifles. These dudes were up in Canada, toting rifles with the intention of killing some Canadian things. Now, I don’t want to belabor this point too much, but they had guns. They were there to kill. I was there to strum an acoustic guitar for one hour and then sleep in a Canadian hotel, eat a Canadian breakfast and leave. These three dudes were ALL fully processed and out the door in the time it took my lady to just glare at me before the paperwork process even really got underway. I should also mention that their permits cost $25 apiece, meaning that the total cost for three dudes to come into Canada with their guns and kill Canadian things was HALF THE COST of one guy coming in to play a guitar and sing some songs he wrote. And that’s not even counting the prohibitive tax! Pretty weird, right?
Anyway, there you have it. Priorities. I understand that hunting is part of the culture in Canada, and a lot of places, and that people love it and all that. I ALSO understand that, unfortunately, there’s a perception that people that make art are ALSO the kinds of people that occasionally are into stuff that’s a little weird and maybe even lightly criminal, but uh…THOSE GUYS HAVE GUNS IN THOSE CASES. Don’t you think just the TINIEST amount of scrutiny is in order? I mean, what’s the worst thing I’m gonna do, barf on someone? Those guys could, if they desired, just start shooting people right in the fucking airport. And of course I’m not suggesting that hunters are killers (though, there’s a pretty simple and logical argument that says they are), but uh…really, Canada? It’s the songs? The songs are the big watch out?
I dunno. I love Canada and I think it’s so right on in so many ways, and again, I understand that America in general makes having a more open and friendly border unappealing, but uh, those guys literally were big fat guys with guns. They were three America caricatures just walking in. They couldn’t have been more walking embodiments of the punchline of our country if they were on Rascals that were souped up to look like NAASCARs with those hats that hold beers, but instead of beers they were full of nachos and pictures of Sarah Palin.
Okay, whatever, it was a great time and ultimately the border stop was just an hour of my life. And the rest of my trip was 100% lovely.
Thank you Edmonton! You’re the best. I hope that my countrymen killed really nice stuff in your surrounding areas.