– by Brendan McLeod/photos by Ailsa Dyson
The Ontario/Quebec leg of The Fugitives tour consisted of: Thunder Bay, Sault St Marie, Peterborough, Toronto, London, Guelph, Wakefield, and Montreal. This section of the country is particularly good to tour not just because of the great venues or the plethora of good people we know in these areas, but for the humaneness of it all. The cities are so close together! When we tour Europe, people regard it as classless, uncouth, and completely abnormal to drive more than 4 hours in one day. In Canada, you drive 4 hours, the highway might turn on you and you might hit three gas stations.
I’ve lamented the driving distances between Canadian cities in other blogs so I’ll stop there. I just want to underline the bliss you feel when you hit Peterborough and all the cities are separated by 200 kilometres. 200 kilometres! After driving upwards of eight hours a day for a week, it’s unfathomable. You step into the car and you feel like you’re just settling in when you have to get out all over again. What? No holding your bladder for 45 minutes while your bandmates make waterfall sounds? No eating out of truck stops with pay phones in the food booths? No being so bored out of your mind that you start playing a game the banjo player invented called “Name Any Animal you Can Think of That Starts with ‘A’ until you Run out of Animals and Then Continue on Down the Letters in the Alphabet Ad Nauseum Except you’re all so Brain Dead Nobody Can Think of Any – Any! – Animals that Start with ‘B'”’. Like, for instance, a bee.
I’m too longwinded to recount all of the stories from that week of tour. I can’t pack all the awesomeness in so I’m going to go with a few highlights:
There was a freaking marriage proposal at our Toronto show! Lord almighty! Are you kidding me? And I’m not talking about the off to the side at the end of the night drunk couple that annuls it in the morning because they don’t even know each other’s names. I’m talking about the good old-fashioned “I want to spend the rest of my life with you and I wrote that shit down in song and I’m going to perform that song in the middle of The Fugitives set and then I’m going to KILL the song and then go offstage and get down on one knee in the middle of the dance floor and ask you to be my partner for LIFE and you said YES!”
Congrats, kids! The band feels blessed and honoured to have shared the moment with you. A lifetime of fulfillment is headed your way in the mail.Express.
In Montreal, we had a bit of an ex-Fugitives reunion with a hang out with original member CR Avery and a show with the other original member Mark Berube, now playing with the jaw-dropping Patriotic Few. It was an incredible show and so lovely to play with him again. If you have been dead for the past two years and haven’t seen Mark and his band making people’s faces contort into positions of wonder and inspiration, check markberube.com for a good time, and stay tuned for his new album with Howard Bilerman. Arcade Fire, yo. Nuff said!
I’m going to end this tour blog in serious fashion. I have some amazing friends in Wakefield, Quebec named Brad and Magda. When Adrian met them on our last tour this fall he’d known them all of a day before pronouncing, “I want to be best friends with these people! They’re amazing!” This opinion is universal.
The newest member of their family, Maya, arrived into the world with health complications. Days after we saw Brad after our Wakefield show, Maya peacefully passed away at the age of four-and-a-half months.
This is unequivocally sad. I can’t do justice to that emotion. What I can attempt – however erringly – is to put into words what bravery, compassion, and insight I saw in Brad that day. He spoke openly, to a room full of strangers, about how lucky he felt. Lucky for all of the blessings in his life, to have the intellectual and emotional capacity and support to deal with his predicament, for whatever brief time he might spend with his new daughter.
To anyone reading this. Please. This is serious stuff. Life puts up this veil and we walk around all day rarely giving thanks for the act of walking around. Or for the ability to digest food. Or for a nice couch to sit down on or the beauty in a painting or the fact that James Brown wrote some really amazing dance tunes. It’s fitting that I started this blog with fiddly complaints about driving. You just can’t see past your own shit.
But for the love of God, it doesn’t matter. Please, if you’re freaking reading this, go hug your kid. If you don’t have a kid, go find a random one on the street and hug that one. Just kidding, that would be weird. But hold somebody close, wipe your lover’s hair away, text your Mom, give your bandmate or your officemate or your hairdresser a high five. Kiss a bartender on the nose.
I know, I know, I know it’s cliché to talk about the necessity of showing love and appreciation in the face of death, but it’s so true! And I know this feeling of mortality is necessarily ephemeral, but it can come back to us at strange times. A day after hanging with Brad I was back to complaining about traffic, but one week later I’d dive into the ocean near Charlottetown and it would hit me that out there in the dark water somewhere there was a corral reef. Even the rocks on this planet are alive. I’d go back to my room and I’d shake and I’d cry. I’m shaking and I’m crying now. I shook and I cried when Brad sent me this, a few days before Maya’s passing:
“Running out the door to visit wee Maya. She teaches us all so much. Sing for her tonight. Loudly, passionately, absurdly… It means so much to us that she inspires life in all its idiosyncratic expressions.”
Are you kidding me? I passed it on to the band that night and we screamed our hearts out. And now, from Brad to us, I’m passing it onwards to you:
Sing. Loudly. Passionately. Absurdly.
And again: hug your freaking loved ones.
Maya’s obituary can be found at the link below. The link following that can be used to donate to Roger’s House, where she underwent palliative care. If you did not know her or her family, or any of the families that must go through a process like this, I think it would make the gesture all the more beautiful.