Fear Not The Sneer
One of the truly wonderful things about living in T-Dot is the abundance of festivals during the summer months. Go away for a weekend and you're sure to miss something incredible. The last week of June (June 20th-29th) was the ever increasingly amazing TD Jazz Fest. Major headliners like Smokey Robinson paired with Martha and the Vandellas (FREE CONCERT!), to Willie Nelson,Steve Martin and Nikki Yanovsky, fabulous well known local talent such as Ori Dagen , Mike Murley, Danny Marks, Norman Marshall Villeneuve along with amazing out of towners and up and coming locals made for a fabulous run. Montreal, I have incredible memories of The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal but look out- you may be de-throned as King of the Canadian Jazz Festivals in the near future!
I have been somewhat obsessed with Chet Baker and Stan Getz lately, so Handsome Man got us tix to see Harry Allen with the Canadian Jazz Quartet at Homesmith Bar (Old Mill INN). I love Homesmith Bar, and just like Hugh's Room I have a particular stool at the bar that I consider mine. No one ever sits in it at either venue and it has the best view (maybe I shouldn't give that secret away!). Last year Handsome Man and I had gone to Homesmith Bar during Jazz Fest to see Jackie Richardson and despite being there 45 minutes before show time the only seats available were behind a corner, no view at all, at a table with strangers. We felt uncomfortable intruding on the couple's meal, and ended up leaving and going to Timothy's in Etobicoke (another story). So this year I was intent on making sure we got MY seat. After all, tickets were $40 each, plus our meal. No way I wanted to be stuck around a corner! When I had popped in the previous week to catch some live jazz I had asked my favourite waiter about timing for the Harry Allen show (scheduled start 7:30- but NO musician starts on time!!). My buddy told me if we got there for 6:30 we'd be fine as it seemed to start filling up around 6:45. And no one grabs MY seat first. Its where they go when they can't get a table. Sounded right to me.
On the day of the show, Handsome Man bbm-ed me and suggested we meet early. He could go straight from work and we could have dinner before the show- no distractions. Not only is he Handsome, but he's brilliant as well! I arrived slightly before him, at 6:10. Walked in and low and behold, my spot was TAKEN! I must have looked dumb-founded because one of our regular bartenders smiled a knowing smile at me and teasingly said ' Now what are you going to do' Worse than that, there were only 2 tables available. Both had great sight lines, but one was sandwiched between 2 large groups of people, and the other was not suitable for eating a meal (appetizers yes, but not a meal), so I chose the first. As I sat down, the bartender who had teased me walked over with my glass of Cave Spring Reisling (she knows me too well!).
Now, unfortunately at jazz events there seems to be an issue with age-ism. If you are (or look) younger than 40 but older than 20-something (and therefore not a musician), it is assumed you are there by accident, that you will be disruptive, that you can't possibly know or like jazz, etc. This night that came out in spades! To my left was a table of 4 women, in their 50s or so. They reminded me so much of my sisters and I. They were pleasant, and were there to enjoy themselves, but wouldn't be bothersome. In fact, they'd probably be quite a lot of fun, and they were. To my right was a table consisting of an older married couple ( he must have been in his late 70s, henceforth named 'Husband', she was probably early 70s, henceforth named 'Wife') and another man (late 60s-early 70s). As I had come in, and was trying to figure out which table to sit at, I was acutely aware of the older couple's stares, but as I said, age-ism is not uncommon, so I ignored them. When I sat at my table I whipped out my phone to bbm Handsome Man and let him know where we were sitting. Husband piped up, quite loudly, to his table how he'd 'taken the subway today and was the only one who didn't have his face buried in his phone, how rude and ignorant people are these days'. Oh, it was going to be a fun night. Wife glared at everyone who entered. Remember, we are more than an hour and a quarter from showtime. The fun group of women beside me were laughing, glare. A young couple came in, glare. Waiter brought food to a table, who had ordered long before Wife, glare. On and On. Husband spoke loudly, non-stop. Anything and anyone possible was complained about, and every other sentence was about how important he was. I prayed they'd behave when the show started. When handsome Man arrived, he couldn't get into his seat because Husband's chair was pressed right up against his. Luckily the fun ladies noticed, piped up that Handsome Man could just climb over, and with a harumph, Husband moved, SLIGHTLY. Poor Handsome Man had to squeeze through and ended up just slightly bumping our table, causing my wine to spill everywhere. As he went to the dry off, Wife sneered and told me you should NEVER spill wine. I tried to joke about it, but she was having none of it.
Finally Handsome Man was able to sit down and we were able to have a wonderful dinner, glare of course, and be done in time for Harry Allen, who was extraordinary. If you ever get a chance to see him live- do so! Worth every penny. But he wasn't worth my toes. You see, although Husband had transformed his behaviour the moment the show started, Wife had become worse. The seats at Homesmith bar are upholstered arm chairs of various sizes. Wife turned her chair so that it was directly in front of me. I had to move my seat in order to see around her. She spent the entire first half of the first set shuffling this big arm chair back and forth, every few seconds, and further back into me each time. I had to move so many times that my chair was wedged up against the window sill and yet still she pushed back, all the while harumphing and glaring at everyone in turn. She worked hard to make up things to be upset with, because, you see, when people pay $40 per person they are generally INTERESTED in the show they bought tickets for. Finally I leaned forward, tapped her on the shoulder and said 'if you move back again you'll be sitting in my lap' The look of disdain that flashed over her face was so incredible that I wished I had a picture! Handsome Man, the fun ladies, and several other patrons and staff all gave me thankful smiles, reveling in Wife's embarrassment at being called out on her own behaviour. She spent the entire second half of the first set pouting like a petulant child. Stormed out during the break in sets and tried to get Husband to leave. He refused then said 'I'll sit in her lap if you don't want to' (HA! He was annoyed by her as well!) She then convinced another patron to switch seats with her! This gentleman sat down, asked if I could see, and the rest of the evening was fine. Wife continued to pout, and she continued to shuffle her chair, this time into her table mate, who scolded her in turn.
Handsome Man and I had a wonderful time, but the evening was sorely tainted by Husband, and in particular, Wife. I've seen this couple, or a version of them at pretty well every Jazz event I've attended. It is that behaviour that has the younger generations (mine included) thinking Jazz is a stodgy, waspy, Old Boys thing, when that is as far from the truth as you can get. Nothing survives if younger generations don't pick up the torch and that includes music genres. If Jazz is to survive not only do we need more of wonderful programs like JazzFMs Jazz 4 kids and Youth Big Band ,we also need Husband, Wife and their ilk to smarten up.
And Wife, if you didn't want to see the show, why'd you come?