Yesterday was spent in a bit of an odd haze. We didn’t get much sleep on Wednesday night, because we had to be up early to get to the airport. We then waited at the airport for three hours, before sitting on a plane for eleven hours. When we got to the hotel in Vancouver we were starving, so we went out for something to eat. We’d arranged to meet up with a friend based in Vancouver. The three of us were so tired that we were worried we were just going to fall asleep in the restaurant, which I think would make us come across a tad anti-social. So we ordered some beers in the hope that it might chemically alter our brains enough to get through the next couple of hours. This sort of worked and we managed to stay awake. Eventually bedtime came, and as soon as my head hit the pillow I was asleep.
The next thing I was aware of was an almighty explosion of noise. It sounded like bombs were going off, there were what sounded like gun shots, the sound of cars screeching to a halt, and strange voices shouting unintelligibly. Three of the voices shouting belonged to Sean, Michael and me, but there were other shouts, screams, gun shots and explosions. We jumped out of bed. I then heard another crash and a shout. It was Michael, who had crashed into the wall, in the act of desperately trying to locate the light. My brain was now in a much more alert state, and I was beginning to grasp what the voices were shouting. “Gangsters! Gangsters!” Where were the gangsters? Should we run? Should we hide?
I remember being warned at school in English lessons and creative writing classes, that the most pathetic way to end any story is by saying something along the lines of, “and then I woke up,” or, “and it was all a dream.” But there was still a part of my brain that assumed that this was all a crazy dream that I was having. I was jet lagged, I’d had a bit to drink, so weird dreams were to be expected. Except I was pretty convinced this wasn’t a dream. My brain began to become more and more alert.
Further clarity was gained when Michael managed to get the light swithched on, making our eyes hurt to match the pain in our ears and our throbbing heads from being woken up from a drunken jet lagged state by such an arresting and confusing series of sounds.
“Gangsters! Gangsters!” Gun shots, explosions, shouting, screaming.
We forced our eyes open in spite of the pain, which revealed the source of all the commotion. It was a radio alarm clock. As we reached for the switch to turn it off, we heard a voice shouting, “hip hop! Hip hop!” and then a beat kicked in, and then kicked out as the off switch was activated. And the room fell quiet. The threat of gangsters was gone.
We checked the time. It was 330 in the morning. I wonder whether someone had set the alarm to go off at this time the day before, maybe to catch an early flight, not realising that they’d set the alarm to recur at the same time the next day, thus nearly giving heart attacks to three folk singers from England. Or was this deliberate? Had someone done it as a joke, although this was a joke that they wouldn’t see the punchline to, which makes it a bit weird. Maybe they just take satisfaction in the prospect of what might happen, rather than needing to see the effects for themselves. Unless they’ve bugged our rooms with cameras. Fortunately we were all too tired to have sex that particular night, so at least they didn’t get that on their camera.
If you were going to deliberately do this as some kind of weird prank, then 330 is surely the perfect time. It’s late enough to mean that most people will definitely be in bed asleep, even if they were staying out late, but it’s unlikely that anyone will be getting up and leaving that early. So it’s an optimum time for the prank. Then there’s the fact that the radio’s volume was set as high as it would go. Surely if you were setting the alarm for the more conventional reason of waking yourself up, you wouldn’t want to put the radio as loud as that, as it would risk causing you a heart attack. Then there’s the choice of radio station. The person had chosen the loudest, most abrasive and most terrifying soundscape to be woken up to. No classical music or soothing bird song, but guns, bombs, shouts and screams.
Our brains were too confused and alert to be able to relax again, and it was hours before we eventually got back to sleep. I hope every night in Canada isn’t going to be this terrifying, but it has been a rather confusing trip for us so far.
One enjoyable factor of Canadian festivals, as with Australian festivals, is that we get to do what they call workshops, where a number of performers share the stage, go down the line and take turns at doing a song. This also leads to lots of interesting collaborative moments with everyone just chipping in on each other’s songs.
This morning we did a workshop with Geoff Berner, a political comedy songwriter. His songs had quite a lot of swearing in them, and it seemed strange to be on an outdoor stage at 10in the morning with children around, while a man periodically swore, and then got people to join in with the sweary choruses, which everyone happily did, including the children. This wouldn’t really happen at a British folk festival. Now that we know that Vancouver folk audiences are a lot less sensitive and genteel than British folk audiences, we’ll come prepared for our return visit to Canada. I’m thinking we could do some great unaccompanied harmony versions of some hiphop classics; I reccon we could do a great version of NWA’s Fuck The Police. If the daily Hive website thought we were genre-bending before, just imagine their reaction when we break into our harmony hiphop set. I think NWA’s first album came out in 1989, which was obviously when we first started. It was a really exciting year for music.