Some weird stuff has been going on around here.
First of all, right at the beginning of the festival, my billetmate Harvey forgot about the third lane when he was crossing Portage Ave. and very nearly got hit by a car driven by a teenager who apparently didn't ask himself why the cars in the other two lanes might be stopping. Harvey is from New York and considers himself an expert street-crosser, so this was a shock. Every city has a different driver culture. Apparently lots of people get hit around here, even on the sidestreets. Winnipeg's philosophy is that the east-west streets above and below Portage are actually alternative main streets. So every time I have to cross the one street just south of John and Naomi's house I have to remind myself that the cars are going to shoot through the intersection at about 50 - double that at night. Consider that late at night my reasoning ability is halved, and we are in for trouble.
Ragpickers is haunted. I always suspected this. Venue 13 (I'm not making this up) is the Bring-Your-Own-Venue where I performed Old Growth in 2008. It's a charming place, but wacky beyond belief. The wooden stairs are rickety, there are inexplicably two side-by-side doors into the theatre, the theatre itself is an irregular heptahedron, and the stage is apparently part of the remains of the deck of a Spanish galleon thrown onto the shores of Lake Manitoba in a storm. Including a trapdoor. It was oddly perfect for Old Growth (playing a big forest in a small room actually works well), but for Tired Cliches I knew I had to go somewhere else where I wouldn't get splinters, shards, or entire young trees stuck in my foot.
So I was at Ragpickers on Monday night for Paul Hutcheson's show "Third Time Lucky". Paul is a comic storyteller whose stories can be intense, lewd, or touching, generally all at once. He opens this show with a story about a dinner party, after which he is violently ill... before he has time to get home. He ends up vomiting very loudly behind an elementary school where has has been supply teaching. I won't say more, you should see the show, but anyway... Paul is doing this impression of loud, intense, seemingly projectile vomiting, and at the climax of the story this really loud, almost painfully loud sound comes over the speakers. It didn't sound like any thing identifiable, except a very distorted bell or something. It definitely wasn't a bad cable connection, or a radio signal (those are much fainter). We all assumed it was an intentional sound effect played accidentally too loud. Paul incorporated it smoothly: "Am I the devil?" He had just mentioned in the story that he had just noticed the cross high on the wall - this was a Catholic elementary school. And then, the sound. About a minute later when the first story was over, Paul stopped for a second to say he had no idea what the heck that was. The technician shrugged. Paul kept going. And about a minute later, one of the two doors going into the theatre, which had been open very slightly, gently closed as though someone was pushing it. I checked with the volunteers afterward - no one had been hanging around in the hallway.
I've told this story to a few people, including my friend Anne Wyman. Apparently in 2008 she was performing "Porn Star" (yes, the Chris Craddock show) at Venue 4 (Onstage at the Playhouse), an undoubtedly spooky place where I coincidentally performed The Fugue Code in 2007, when another weird sonic thing happened. In Venue 4 the audience sits at the back of the stage, the performers perform on the front of the stage facing the back with a black flat behind them, and behind that you can see part of the actual hall where the audience sits for full productions during the year: plush seats and balconies with ornate plaster mouldings. In The Fugue Code we actually used the lights pointed at the balconies to achieve an effect of depth. It's a very cool space... and it means that Anne Wyman and I have performed on the same stage as Louis Armstrong and even earlier stars than that.
So, Anne's show began with a bit of music. It faded out, and she began the show. But for the first FIVE minutes of the show one night, some other music, music she describes as "crackly old French music" came drifting in from the hall behind her. The technician heard it too, and after the show he assured here that there was NO way music could be coming from out there. No speakers. Locked doors. All that.
So all of this (and more! My friend Chris Bange of the excellent "The Excursionists" has been regaling me with spooky stories) - all of this was on my mind when my own Tired Cliches sound went haywire last night about halfway into the show. The speakers sputtered. And then they went BUZZZZZZZZZ. Turned out someone had accidentally kicked the cable at a connection point and it was loose. I thought of stopping the show and saying "ok, everyone on the left side of the room please look down...". It could have been funny, but the sound was LOUD and needed to be ended immediately. And I was already losing momentum in the F-You monologue. So I made an executive decision and turned off the amp, which is conveniently located in a lovely old cabinet on the right side of the stage. And I did the rest of the show without sound. We fixed it in time for "Psycho Bitch".
The Free Press is just going to have to dock me another star for my rickety sound setup! Jeez Louise, when I die I'm going to haunt their library.
Anyway, I sold out again last night! Things are going gangbusters. Let's see if I can fill four more shows. Lets see if I don't collapse in a pile of my own flyers first.