Like so many well-intentioned former power chord punks before me, I take guitar lessons while planning to one day play and write music you can do more than mosh to. My teacher is the one who lured me to Swamp Music 3 on the 18th with the promise of Guns N’ Roses’ “Civil War” performed in Confederate war uniforms.
Everyone needs a little cheese in their diet, after all.
Swamp music is organizer John (sometimes know as Don)’s custom built genre – not in the Pitchfork-y sense of needing to make music history at least once a year but rather a genre catch-all enough to get lots of artists involved. The core of Swamp Music’s talent shares a day job at a call centre – “There’s white collar, there’s blue collar,” says John, “we’re no collar!” – and uses Swamp Music to break out of the rut. Friends and friends of friends fill the rest of the stage time. Press and promotions have been almost all word of mouth, except a little poster money.
The Tuesday night hockey game absorbed some of Swamp Music 3’s audience, but Logan’s Pub was by no means empty and the rock most definitely was not drowned out. John was practically sparking with energy all night long over how well things were going, even though the trooping of the G n’ R colors ultimately didn’t transpire. Think of the Swamp Music series less like a capital-C Concert and more like a slightly better organized open mic. Bands and lone musicians trickled in and out over the course of their night along with an arsenal of amplifiers and guitars. Swamp music’s not a tidy show – there’s the odd technical fart and sometimes a synth needs to fill in for an organ – but whether you get the atmosphere or not, six hours of music for ten dollars is a steal.
But who was playing? Glad you asked. Perhaps you’ve heard of – and until recently missed – Dayinthelife? For those not in the know, Dayinthelife was/is a local folk rock band. Think old country with just a little bit of the swagger of blues rock. They disbanded in 2007 until leaping back into things to open Swamp Music 3. Hilary Beckett has been part of the family ensemble since she was 14, so it’s no wonder she and the rest of Dayinthelife felt at home at Swamp Music. “It’s always about music” she says, glad to be mixing with other artists. “I’m actually glad we’re playing early” she says, “since we can get it over with and watch everyone else.”
After Dayinthelife came Roger Mayhem, a disciple of Neil Young with the roar of Steve Earle. The night’s improvisation streak started when an audience member slipped onstage to offer backup vocals for “I Ain’t Ever Satisfied” – pretty much flawlessly. After Rodge came the indecipherable blues prodigy Screechin’ Cleetus, a flesh and blood cartoon character who sang love songs to his volunteer drummer Aaron Bates, who would later close the night as part of Shipwreck Capital. The improv show culminated in Déjà Drew and his Déjà Crew, which featured a borrowed Korg synth and, later, Cleetus’ improvised beat poetry. If you can imagine a mixture of Bob Dylan and LCD Soundsystem you might hear a few bars of the results.
There’s still one more side to Swamp Music and it’s a bit unexpected. “It’s 49% escaping the cubicle, 50% charity, and 1% music,” says Déjà Drew. Tuesday night’s door charges were to the benefit of Ascoderu, a group doing really interesting work that deserves a little mention. Based in BC and the Congo, Ascoderu supplies and maintains internet servers in underdeveloped parts of the Congo. Nzola Swasisa, at the show on Ascoderu’s behalf, filled me in on how the servers work. Without the elaborate networks of the West, the servers instead periodically hail other servers in BC through cellular phone towers. While they can’t browse in real time, Ascoderu’s servers are cheap, portable, less electricity hungry and move data in ways phones can’t – qualities priceless for students and doctors alike. The seriousness of the work didn’t prevent Swasisa from dancing, however. Rainshadow even had some serendipitously Congolese rhythms to offer him – though I was personally more partial to their Santana-channeling solos.
“I always find something new,” said Paul Wainwright, Rainshadow’s saxophonist and keyboard player, before taking the stage. As part of the Musician’s Association of Victoria, he says he’s often surprised by how little-known Victoria artists are, despite what they accomplish outside the city. Things like Swamp Music, enthusiastic but still a little lonely in Logan’s Pub, get ignored. “It’s like Christ,” Wainwright chuckles, “Nobody’s a prophet in their hometown.”
In any case, Swamp Music 3 was one hell of a night. Everyone involved could have an article to themselves, but that’ll simply have to wait for the inevitable Swamp Music 4. The time and place has yet to be decided, but trust me, when I know you’ll know. For now, you can keep track of the super-cool cats of the Swamp Music Players at http://swampmusic.info/. If your moral sense lights up for Ascoderu, a site at www.ascoderu.ca will help you get involved. Until next time!
About Chris Felling…
I’ve liked Chris since the hour I met him for one reason and one reason only, his opinions are completely his own. He appears to view both art and life objectively, without influence, and communicates his observations in a nerdo-poetic way that just… works for me. He’s hilarious, very bright, and a great guy to have lunch with if you ever get the chance. Please click “Contact” above and let us know what you think of his work.