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a tribe called red

March 24, 2014

while it seems like just this weekend i went to go see a tribe called red at the hoxton, it was more than two weeks ago. just as it seems like new year’s day was only yesterday. somehow, the year is flying by – as it always does.


ATCR was fascinating on many levels. a girlfriend who went to the show talked about it being a multimedia performance, a sort of genre-bending experience. the hoxton was set up with four huge screens (by my count) and while ATCR played, they looped footage of aboriginal characters portrayed in different films (old westerns, disney cartoons, etc.). they had also warped the footage a little – changing temperature or colour tints. furthermore, they mixed aural media – when electric pow wow drum started (and the crowd went even more insane than we all had been before, thrusting fists in the air and howling [that’s the only word for it, these deep, feral howls that could barely be heard over top of all the music]) they overlaid louis c.k.’s “indian” comedy routine, so people around me were both mouthing the words to louis’s bit and bobbing their heads in time to the music. and finally, they had a (very handsome) hoop dancer come out throughout the night, eventually dancing with probably around 12 or more hoops (but keep in mind i was at the back of the room and didn’t bring my glasses [old fart alert]). in the midst of all of this – words, images, dance – were the three djs, so subtly integrated that, at times, i almost forgot they were there.



it was important to me to see ATCR – and why this post relates to writing, because it would be strange for me to just write about music – because i had just discovered the nation II nation album right before i hopped on a plane to banff (‘bread & cheese’ got me through bad nights in the summer newsroom, specifically) and so while i wrote and wrote and wrote the 40,000 words i added to my project while huddled up in the mountains, i was listening to music that brought me, at times, back to northern ontario. on repeat. all day. for weeks on end, sometimes. (i often have to write while listening to music – i never though it was weird until people told me it was weird, but i think it loosens up a part of my brain that needs to be unhinged in order to let fly.) seeing and hearing this music played live




there’s also something about dancing like a madwoman that gets the creative forces moving again. it’s like moving your body to shake up the lymph that’s settled through ages of sitting sedentary. i’ve been struggling with writing lately. i have this project to finish – and it feels like i’ve been talking about it for ages, because in a way i have – and i can feel myself paralyzed with fear. i can actually feel the razor-edge that i can’t seem to push myself over. it’s like when indiana jones, in the last crusade, needed to put his faith in ‘god’ to walk across the invisible bridge to get to the holy grail. that’s what i’m doing. except instead of taking that first step, i’m clinging to the dirty, rocky ledge, weeping like an idiot and refusing to even put one foot out, to have any faith in my writing whatsoever.

we don’t hear about this enough – i’ve talked about how writers will often gloss right over the bad shit that goes on in their processes or in their brains – but i’m talking about it now. at the moment, my writing has me hostage. dancing to ATCR helped that: it reminded me of the triumph i felt when i was sitting in my room at banff and staring at the trees and the hearing the trains wail by on the railway, and when i was writing like a maniac and not caring about the roughness of the words.



ATCR’s music helps me to focus on writing because much of it mimics a heartbeat, as does a good deal of other aboriginal music, including the drum circles i’ve been able to witness. music that mimics a heartbeat reminds you: i am here. i am alive, it says, making the cavity of your chest thump along with the increasing in and out of your breath. looking around me at the concert, i saw people of every age and ilk: haudenosaunee women debating the orenda with boyden, all hands gesturing (this was the night of canada reads, i think); grey-haired sixtysomething men with trendy wire-framed glasses leaning against the walls; a bearded fifty year old dancing like a wild man with someone who could have only been his twentysomething son, as equally beardy; twenty-year-old women in tight bandage dresses and spike heels smoking weed on the dance floor; gord downie (apparently?); a photographer stomping up and down the bar top; a  cbc radio host standing unmoving with his date; and then us, two young women right at the very back (where there was actually room to dance), dancing and reeling and bumping into people and jigging and twirling and shaking up the lymph.

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