Attending the annual Stuart McLean and the Vinyl Cafe Christmas show tops our list of holiday traditions. Each year, we look forward to the always sold-out show from August (when tickets become available) until we finally sit down in our favourite seats.
Friday, November 30, 2012 was the show’s second and final night in Calgary. We left our home in west Calgary at 6:15 in order to arrive at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium in plenty of time to get a “good” parking spot and tour the current exhibit in the Alcove Gallery on the top floor before the scheduled start time of 7:30.
Fortune smiled on us. Traffic was heavy, but we managed to park in a spot well-situated for a quick departure after the show. Our good luck continued when we spotted the GeoKids’ cousin D and his grandpa. We had a good visit and then made our way up to the gallery to view prints by Susan Greenbank, a local Calgary artist. My favourite piece in the exhibit is titled “Winter Trees.”
We made our way into the concert hall about 7:15. By the time everyone in the crowd found their seats, it was about 7:35. The lights dimmed a 7:36 and Stuart walked onto the stage at 7:37 to resounding applause.
This is the first time I found myself really admiring the staging – in particular the lighting. Lucas Simonette (I hope I got that right) did a masterful job. I couldn’t figure out what the three large, white swirly balls hanging from the ceiling were supposed to represent, but once they lit up the reminded me of Christmas lights. They changed colours as the show progressed, one time conveying a snowy winter night and then changing to red, green and white – reminiscent of a candy cane. When special musical guest Reid Jamieson sang “All I Want for Christmas”, a single green gel created the impression of a Christmas tree, reflecting off the particles of dry ice fog. Well done!
As for the show, Stuart kicked things off with a recounting of “Dave Makes Snow”. Hard-core Vinyl Cafe fans will be chomping at the bit for the podcast release of two new Dave and Morley stories. We’ve been speculating on titles. Our best guesses are that one will be called “Namaste” and the other one “Tommy’s Parents”.
Reid Jamieson channelled Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and also did his own thing over the course of the evening. This recent article in the Rocky Mountain Outlook is mainly an interview with Reid Jamieson and provides some great information on his career as well as his long-time involvement with the Vinyl Cafe.
Here are some other tidbits from the show:
- The Vinylettes have their own CD.
- Stuart’s newest book is Revenge of the Vinyl Cafe.
- Wikipedia says the Vinyl Cafe began touring in 1998, but during the show Stuart said it was 1997 and that the first tour was exclusively in Manitoba.
- Reid Jamieson’s latest album is Songs For A Winter’s Night. In addition to 7 covers, the album song list includes three original tracks (2 co-written with his wife, Carolyn Mill).
- John Sheard has six albums of amazing piano music, including his recently re-released first album, Jerusalem.
- Stuart introduced a couple of high-profile Calgarians in the audience. Will Ferguson won the 2012 Giller Prize for his most recent book 419. Russell Bowers is the host of CBC Radio’s weekend morning show Daybreak Alberta.
- The audience hi-jacked the show after the intermission, chanting “Gerry! Gerry!” An 86-year old member of the audience, Gerry thought he had a shot at finally winning something for the first time in his life during the traditional giveaway portion of the show. Unfortunately, at the last-minute he was nudged aside by two 89 year-olds. The audience decided Gerry deserved something and took up his cause. Stuart took it all in good humour and awarded Gerry the biggest pile of loot of the night – subject to producer Jess Milton checking Gerry’s ID!
- Eleven year-old McKenzie Hutchison from Calgary charmed the audience with her vocal rendition of “Here Comes Santa Claus”, accompanied by John Sheard on piano and Dennis Pendrith on bass.
After joining the standing ovation at the end of the show, we made a quick exit from the auditorium and were at the head of the long line of traffic making its way home. Unfortunately, after driving just a few blocks, C patted down his pockets and discovered – to his horror – that he didn’t have his cell phone. To make a fairly short story even shorter, he and I jogged back to the auditorium, recovered the phone from under his seat, exhaled a sigh of relief and then jogged to the North Hill Sears parking lot where Mr. GeoK and K were patiently(?) waiting for us. As the saying goes…all’s well that ends well.
If you haven’t yet stumbled onto the quirky, small town stories of the Vinyl Cafe, there are several options for your listening pleasure. If you check it out and become Stuart’s newest fan, please leave a comment to let us know!
We’re already looking forward to next year’s Christmas tour and the newest (mis)adventures of Dave, Morley, Stephanie and Sam.