This hasn’t happened in so long, it was almost confusing to see it in the calendar. But we had a concert date on Friday night, then another one on Saturday might.
The first was a Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Pops concerts, Thorgy and the Thorchestra. Thorgy Thor is a classically trained musician who plays violin, viola, and cello (!). And she is also a drag queen who has been featured on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Despite knowing the drag queen part (and not the musician part, actually) before going, this was more of a gay pride kind of event than I was expecting. It was conducted by Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser, who is gay, and in between Thorgy’s comic antics and demonstrations of musicianship, we got the history of gay rights in Canada (to the tune of Oh, Canada) and a documentary featurette about the Brunswick Four, three of whom were arrested for performing a parody song, “I Enjoy Being a Dyke”. This was followed by a performance of said parody.
Thorgy was very funny, and is quite a talented musician, but she wasn’t the only guest performer. Keiko Larocque from Wilfrid Laurier provided vocals on some numbers, and the Eastwood Collegiate Dance Team performed some choreography on others, from ballet to Vogue-ing. Along with a rainbow of humanity, we got a range of musical styles, from Brahms, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky to Rogers & Hammerstein to Cyndi Lauper and Lady Gaga. It was a fun night!
Saturday we had to make the slightly longer drive to Stratford, Ontario to see the Art of Time Ensemble perform A Singer Must Die: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen. The Art of Time musicians are a sextet who play piano, saxophone, violin, cello, bass, and guitar. They seem to specialize in performing new and novel arrangements of popular songs. In this case, of course, it was all songs by Leonard Cohen.
The featured singers were Steven Page (formerly of Barenaked Ladies), Gregory Hoskins (of Gregory Hoskins and the Stickpeople), Tom Wilson (of commercials and Lee Harvey Osmond), Sarah Slean (of… Sarah Slean), and Tamara Lindeman (also known as Tamara Hope, apparently). Each singer brought their own style. Page could handle the serious and the light, as he does in all his work.
Sarah Slean flitted happily onto the stage, even though, as she then noted, some of the songs covered were a bit devastating. (“But that’s how the light gets in.”) She also apologized for a voice somewhat damaged by weeks of colds (not that I noticed), which even required one song substitution from the program (but I was happy to hear “Take This Waltz”).
Tamara Lindeman was a bit more earnest, and I believe she’s the one who handled “The Partisan”, the one song not written by Leonard Cohen, though famously covered by him. (Hadn’t actually realized til this that he didn’t write it…) Quite lovely.
Tom Wilson was pretty funny, and possessed the most Leonard Cohen-like voice of the bunch. He covered “Closing Time” and “Who by Fire”. Gregory Hoskins was very intense! His version of “Treaty” was particularly striking.
“Hallelujah” wasn’t on the program, but was performed as the encore, by Page and Hoskins.
I quite enjoyed the whole evening. Jean, as less of a Cohen fan, struggled with the first half but ended up enjoying the second.
(And both performances featured a pretty good amount of masking in the audience. In the case of the symphony, even the musicians were masked—except the singers and wind instrument players, of course.)
American Express “Front of the Line” offer: Elvis Costello and The Imposters, live at Massey Hall in Toronto in August. Sure, why not get tickets to that? Massey Hall is a great little theatre. And surely everything will be fine by summer.
Tickets now on sale for & Juliet…
Created by the Emmy®-winning writer from “Schitt’s Creek,” this hilarious new musical flips the script on the greatest love story ever told. & Juliet asks: what would happen next if Juliet didn’t end it all over Romeo? Get whisked away on a fabulous journey as she ditches her famous ending for a fresh beginning and a second chance at life and love—her way.
Juliet’s new story bursts to life through a playlist of pop anthems as iconic as her name, including Since U Been Gone‚ Roar, Baby One More Time, Larger Than Life‚ That’s The Way It Is, and Can’t Stop the Feeling—all from the genius songwriter/producer behind more #1 hits than any other artist this century. Break free of the balcony scene and get into this romantic comedy that proves there’s life after Romeo. The only thing tragic would be missing it.
Well, that sounds fun. And hey look, it’s playing in August. We’re going to be in Toronto anyway. Why not get tickets for this the day before the Elvis Costello concert?
“What are we going to do with this?” Jean asked, about the Corsi-Rosenthal box that he’d agreed to build, to humor me. And which had turned out much larger than we’d expected.
Literally four MERV-13 furnace filter duct-taped to a floor fan, a Corsi-Rosenthal box is a kind of homemade HEPA filter. Viruses and other nasties get trapped in the filters, and the fan blows out clean air. Thus replacing bad room air with cleaner air.
I mumbled something about it being useful when we had people over, but had to concede we don’t really have much by way of visitors these days.
“It could also be useful if we ever have to isolate from one another,” I mumbled.
One week later
“Where did you put that Corsi-Paranoid box?” Jean asked, using his “affectionate” nickname for it.
“In the closet,” I said. “Why?”
“We might want to run it for a bit…”
We had a plan (of sorts) that we executed. Jean got the upstairs rooms, running the C-R box. I got the downstairs. Main floor was the masking zone. Windows open. Doors closed. Cats rather confused.
His symptoms started two days after exposure, and were confirmed by rapid test after three. Thanks to four vaccine doses, the worst of it was two days spent in bed, feeling achy and exhausted, and the only lingering symptom a bit of cough. With ongoing positive tests, though, the isolation had to continue quite a few days after he was on the road to recovery.
One week later (August 2021)
Jean gets a call from his sister, reporting that she’s not sure how much more time his mother has. (She had a stroke in February.) He reconsiders his plan to wait until Labour Day before visiting her again.
We’re both tired of the in-house Covid protocols, but having stuck with them this long, it seems important to continue. It would just suck to get infected at the very end, after making so much this effort to avoid it for so many days.
One week later
Finally his test is negative. I have never developed symptoms, and the tests I subsequently take are negative as well. Jean thinks he should visit his Mom.
I had a nice visit with Jean’s Mom in June. (Jean was there too, to be clear!) He’s OK with me not travelling with him this time. I’m OK with doing my Toronto activities with my sisters instead of with him. Brief first hug in two weeks, then we’re each off to different parts of Ontario.
Elvis & Juliet
I’m not one to drive myself to Toronto, so I have to research what transit options have survived the pandemic. It’s pretty sad, people! Via Rail has only a single train running on Sundays, and it won’t get me there in time. Go Bus is a possibility (Go Train does not run on Sundays, why would anyone want to go to Toronto on a weekend), though it’s a convoluted route. Then I find: Flixbus! It’s cheap, the stop is nearby and reachable by local transit, and it’s a direct route to Toronto that gets me there in time.
It’s the first time I have taken transit since early 2020. Except for a bit of trouble finding the actual Flixbus stop, everything went well. Local bus to Ion to and Flixbus, all stops were close to one another (and to my house)., and all were on time. And no big traffic tie-ups on the way to Toronto, either… We actually arrived early.
Despite the heat warning that is to persist all weekend, I do the half-hour walk to my hotel. So many people on the streets! So many people in the hotel lobby! It’s all a bit mind-bendy after two weeks of studiously avoiding everyone, even my husband.
The hotel room is fairly uninspiring, despite its high cost (cheapest decent hotel we could find; Toronto is not a cheap city normally, and it’s still not quite “normal” times), and slightly high in CO2. Can’t do anything about the price, but I am able to quickly improve the CO2 reading by opening the patio door for a bit, letting in all the steamy, humid air!
But then I have to be off. Juliet, and my sister, await.
I grab some lunch on the way. We mwet up at the Princess of Wales theatre (six air exchanges per hour, MERV14 filters, yes I asked). I soon forgot about all that, though, because we have excellent orchestra seats, and the show is so freakin’ fun!
It’s all music by producer / writer Max Martin, so that means songs by Britney and Katie and Backstreet Boys and Bon Jovi and Kelly Clarkson and even Adam Lambert...! Between that, and the Shakespearean premise, and the themes of girl power, and being your authentic self, and… I don’t know, I was just so entertained. I would see this musical again in a heartbeat.
Then it’s a nice family dinner with my sister, then a call with Jean back at the hotel. His trip is less entertaining than mine, but between naps (hers), his Mom is happy to see him.
After my hotel patio breakfast, with pigeon companion, I had planned to go to the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario). But I checked first, and learned that it’s only open on holiday Mondays, not regular Mondays like this one. It’s another steamy day. I decide to just amble up to the Yorkville area, and take in some of its nice shops, plentiful park seating, cafes, and gelato shops.
Meanwhile, my other sister and I are emailing, trying to figure out dinner plans. Rain was threatening later in the day. I came across a list of covered patios, and found that one was near Massey Hall: the Rabbit Hole, and make a reservation there.
Sis and I meet at the hotel, and walk over. I “convince” her that we want to sit outside, despite the steamy heat. After some water, and sitting, it’s not so bad. And hey, we’re in time for “happy hour” $5 glasses of wine! We both settle on fish dishes: mackerel for me, salmon for me. They are really good! And are their nice, light desserts: the lemon posset, and the strawberry rhubarb trifle.
Then over to Massey Hall for Elvis Costello and the Imposters, with special guest Nick Lowe. Rather good seats for this show as well! (And I’ve finally stopped thinking about air exchanges—mostly.) And it all starts quite promptly.
Though I’m not as familiar with Nick Lowe and his oeuvre, he and his band (who did a few familiar instrumentals) were very good. And he did conclude with “Cruel to Be Kind”!
And Elvis Costello was just fab, and far more chatty than he had been when I’d last seen him live, many moons ago. He praised Nick Lowe, reminisced about previous trips to Toronto, mentioned the El Mocambo, talked about his musician father… And he played plenty of old favorites along with some from the new album and few others he just felt like including (Set list). His voice was still good, his band terrific, and his stage presence compelling.
Tuesday I was on the early Flixbus back to Waterloo. And I had it all to myself! (Except the driver. Which is good, because I can’t drive a bus.)
Two days later
Jean back, me still testing negative, we go out with a couple friends to the local Babylon Sisters Wine Bar. It was great to meet with them, and we were very impressed with the venue, both with the interesting wine selections (very flexible on how you can make up a wine flight), and the delicious food (supplied by Little Mushroom Catering).
My timeline is stuffed full of doctors, epidemiologists, public health officials, and health journalists, and they are not an optimistic bunch of late. While Ontario / Canada seemed to have had a reasonable handle on Delta, the two-week’s worth of data on Omicron is not looking promising. Seemingly quite contagious, seemingly fairly evasive of both vaccination and prior infection, it looks poised to spread at exponential rates in the coming weeks and months, once again threatening to swamp Ontario hospitals whose already limited capacity is actually worse now when this happened last year.
Meanwhile, I had tickets to my first crowded indoor event of the pandemic: a sold-out Blue Rodeo concert at Centre in the Square.
Per tweet, people stand through the whole thing, from opening chord to closing greeting. Glad I wore comfy shoes.
There are far more people in the world than you’d think who know the words to every Carly Rae Jepsen song. The whole thing was a grand singalong. I myself found that I knew the lyrics better than I realized. [I mean, I do have a few of her albums. I didn’t just randomly show up at this performance.]
She does not end the show with “Call Me Maybe”. She just throws it in there as song five.
Nor does she end with “I Really Like You” (song 13). The honour goes to: “Cut to the Feeling”.
Per Jean, this was the greatest crowd to watch. He especially enjoyed as they evolved from the tentative, awkward standing to totally in-the-groove dancing along. The overwhelming feeling was warmth. The Carly Rae Jepsen fan base might be small, but it’s passionate.
We were among the oldest people there. Although… Guess that wasn’t really a surprise.
So this was a September 18 concert at Centre in the Square, and it was a hoot. The opening act was Ralph, whom I hadn’t heard of before, but she was also rather fun. Cameras were allowed, but we didn’t bring one, so I’ll feature a photo from Centre in the Square:
It was hard not to compare The Who show at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto with the Queen + Adam Lambert one, since that was only a few weeks ago. I wasn’t a Very Important Person at The Who show, which made it cheaper. So I didn’t get any merchandise. I considered a T-shirt, but they didn’t seem to carry any women’s styles. (I need a waist in my clothes, damn it!) I was in the 35th row on the floor, not the 13th, and there was no catwalk. The Who were playing each show with a symphony orchestra, and likely in part due to the expense of that, the staging and lights were really pretty simple for a big arena rock show. Not in the Queen style at all.
On their last tour, celebrating 50 years of the band, The Who presented a crowd-pleasing set list of greatest hits. In this one, they really challenged themselves. And the audience. That, too, was unlike Queen.
I’ve already written about how the stress of fast-moving Queen + Adam Lambert tickets led me to invest (sure, let’s call it that) in VIP tickets this time around. It was mainly for the better seats, but Jean wondered what else was included.
Not sure, I responded. Some kind of separate entry. Maybe a keychain or something.
As I kept telling people, Cheap Trick was not a band I’d go out of my way to see in concert.
But Kitchener’s Centre in the Square is only a 15-minute drive away. So when I heard that Cheap Trick was playing there, on a night I didn’t have anything else booked, I figured, why not?
I was somewhat into Cheap Trick back in the day. I owned the At Budokan and Dream Police albums. I knew all the words to “The Flame”. I thought that Robin Zander and Tom Petersson were babes and hung their pictures on my wall.
But it wasn’t a band I’d particularly kept up with lo these many years. Still, when it’s easy, and I could score 4th row centre seats at a reasonable price, why not go?
Initially Jean thought that he couldn’t join me, but his work schedule changed such that he could. I was pleased to have company, and he ended up pleased to be at the show.
My goodness, they were entertaining! 30 seconds in, and Robin Zander made it clear that he had lost none of his vocal power.
Back in December, I wrote about going through one of life great stressors: buy tickets to a hot concert on TicketMaster. (And yes, I am mocking myself by calling that a great life stressor.) I said in that post that my experience of rather easily acquiring floor seats for Who concert was likely at once-in-lifetime thing.
Well, not so. Because apparently the key to having a less stressful ticket-buying experience is to get tickets to see The Who (vs Queen + Adam Lambert who, thanks to Bohemian Rhapsody, are one of the hottest touring acts this year).
I wasn’t even going to make an effort to get pre-sale tickets for The Who concert, but then I stumbled upon a code. I tried it, it worked, and there were only two (2) people in the “Waiting room” ahead of me (vs. 2000 for Queen + Adam Lambert). I found seats that were OK, not wonderful, but acceptable, so got those.
But then came the general sale and I thought, well, what the heck, let’s see what’s available. In the Waiting room, there were two (2) people ahead of me. Then when I got in, I was able to calmly peruse and see that there were far better seats available than I had already purchased. At not much more than I paid for those.
Then I did get slightly stressed, but soon figured, what the heck. Surely I can sell the first two?
And I ended up with floor seats again.
I fairly promptly put the first two seats on sale, not trying to make a profit, but just priced to get my money back. Ticketmaster adds their own charge, though, so they would have been more expensive than the originals.
Then I waited. The show was on June 1.
May 1 rolled around, and no interest. I decided to drop the price. Ticketmaster limits how much you can drop it by, but I went for that. But still no nibbles.
And then I got this message:
And you know what that meant? That meant I could get a full refund on the two tickets I didn’t need.
(Reason for the reschedule? Possible Raptors playoff game. Go Raptors! I guess.)
And this rather makes up for having to wait longer, and having the show be on a Tuesday instead of a Saturday, which is less convenient. But I also heard that the shows–The Who playing with a full symphony–are good, but do need some kinks worked out. They should be in fine form by September.
Trying to write a longer, coherent blog post on one topic was not working, so here’s a series of short takes, instead.
What I’m watching
All of the time I’ve not been spending writing has really opened up time to watch TV. Nothing is at the level of Travelers, but here are the current favorites, per source.
Will not include Game of Thrones, because I have yet to see a single episode of that.
Network TV: The Orville
Seth McFarlane’s take on Star Trek. I’ve always liked this show more than I would have expected, and it’s become kind of serious this year, making me like it even more. Hope it gets renewed!
Netflix: Santa Clarita Diet
Back for season 3, and I’m still loving it. You have to admire Joel and Sheila’s ability to make a marriage work despite her being undead and thus having to eat people.
I know, finally, right? I always thought I would like this show, but it wasn’t until my free 3-month trial of Crave that I finally put it to the test. Tatiana Manslany is just amazing in playing all these different clones (and clones pretending to be other clones). And the story has so much twisty goodness! We’re nearly done Season 2.
Amazon Prime: Catastrophe
The humour is a bit much for Jean, but I’m going to see it through! After all, it’s only six episodes per season, and I only have two left (episodes, not seasons). A very unsentimental look at marriage, but I think I love it for the sentimental reason that these two really love each other.
Also because they’re really funny.
How is Zoë doing?
Very well, thanks. She’s adapting to life as an only cat, and getting way more attention than she used to seems to suit her. She’ll never be cuddly, exactly, but she does like to be pet, tolerates being picked up, and will even lie down on us, as long as we put a blanket barrier between her and us. (Bit of an odd duck, Zoë.) She’s also been pretty chatty, and occasionally even purry.
Reading about Brexit has almost been a relief. Of course, that’s also a story about irresponsible leadership, from so many sides, causing harm—and you have to feel bad for those who voted to Remain. But the degrees and varieties of incompetency have just been so interesting! (Though with yet another extension, the drama might start to wear thin.)
And, if you haven’t already read the comparison of Brexit to building a submarine out of cheese (an oldie but a goodie), do yourself a favor and do that. Here’s the first tweet:
I’ve been listening to more George Michael lately, after watching the George Michael: Freedom documentary on Crave. It was so good! Assuming you have some fondness for George Michael, of course. It made me realize that I really needed to check out his oeuvre beyond the Faith album and the “Freedom ’90” song. He made good music long beyond that.
Heard some good live music, too. Like The Beatles One show last night, a good reminder that this band could really put together a tune, and that a shit-ton of them went to number one. We also enjoyed hearing a subset of the KW Symphony perform Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” (subset because that piece doesn’t require a whole orchestra), led by guest violinist Nikki Chooi. It was just riveting. The whole 40 minutes of it.
Also exceeding expectations was Drayton Theatre’s performance of the musical Priscilla: Queen of the Desert. A terrific cast, creative staging, enormously fun song list. And really something to see the usual Drayton crowd of grandparents, kids, parents all totally there for this celebration of gay pride.
I was on vacation in Seattle, and awake before Jean was, for some reason, when I got an email about a pre-sale for a Who concert in Toronto nearly a year later. Buying a concert ticket on a tablet while on vacation isn’t the ideal scenario, but I had the time, so I figured I might as well see what I could get.
As anyone who’s tried it knows, buying tickets from Ticketmaster is a roll of the dice. Who knows what seats it will cough up for your consideration, and at what price, at any given time?
But this time the dice landed landed on: Floor seats! In the front centre section! And at the normal price, no VIP / resale nonsense!
Stunned, I started the checkout process…
Only to lose the connection partway as the flaky hotel wifi conked out.
Cue the swearing. (Quiet swearing, as Jean was still sleeping.)