Review by Adam Cantor
Photos courtesy of Jake Sherman Photography
If you were on the scene, you probably knew Vic in one capacity or another. Whether it was dipping in and out from kitchen doors in the Mint, or Cenote, or wherever else Vic worked to make bucks. Vic sometimes played gigs at the back of restaurants, Gibson plugged into an amp, drenched with reverb, conjuring up a soft, but elemental form of roots rock and roll that edged through noisy customers to where I’d be sitting, trying to catch the notes.
Vic toured. Vic recorded. I recorded Vic twice at Uvic. Apparently those sessions caught some of the songs that weren’t recorded anywhere else. It’s a nice feeling to have contributed in some small way to what we now must call the canon or work, Since Vic is deceased.
Vic and I had talked a few times about collaborating on a project. The first time we met, at what was then the Cornerstone Café, Vic brought a spiral notebook and wrote down all the shared ideas, however minuscule. The notes were accompanied by somehow related doodles. We ultimately put the project down for “later…soon”; because, after all, there is always more time to get back to things…until suddenly there isn’t.
This said, I didn’t know Vic well. I knew people who knew Vic well, but this particular death, among all the deaths that happen, has been as much a philosophical matter as it has been a personal matter. How do I fit the death of another musician an artist, into the context of the small Victoria scene where we live? What can I learn about living from somebody else dying?
I went back to Ontario in the summertime to visit my family. In the course of that visit, my father took ill and died. He died a terrible death at the hospital, with his family about his bedside, watching him grow sickeningly frail. In the aftermath of this, I hung around Toronto, attending to matters of estate, living that space of emptiness that follows a significant death. I was already consumed with death; with the sight and significance of death, when I heard.
I was sitting in my mother’s kitchen, drinking coffee. Katie Sage called through WhatsApp, from Ireland, and said: “Adam, something terrible has happened…” Then the phone cut off. Not knowing the context of this bizarre message from a friend overseas, and unable to reconnect, I decided I would call the Canadian Consulate and initiate a search.
This was some hoop jumping affair. At the point where the overseas office was advising me that I had to contact Interpol, and the Irish police, so that they could in turn contact the Victoria police to initiate a missing person’s search, the phone rang again.
“Sorry, the battery went. Something terrible happened. Vic died of an epileptic seizure.” Katie, being out of the country, took the news hard. It’s not easy when people close to you die at such a great distance. I added this all to my state of numbness. I kept going forward on empty.
The fourteen acts at the memorial, and the MCs, too, were a big bag of everything. Some of the tributes were incredibly touching. Some were filled with raw artistic power. Some were clearly opportunities for the person on stage to make the affair about themselves, rather than Vic. This is how it goes when the articles that comprised a now departed life are scattered among the still living. The people sitting on either side of me wept openly as Vic’s songs were played. The family was there, but spoke little. They left it to the artists, I suppose.
I’ve been going back and forth between making this jumble of words a review of the show, or at least a document of it, rather than some things I want to say about Vic, and about death. Some of the acts were so strong that I think they bear mentioning:
Fraea the Banshee, both a cappella, and backed up by Party on High Street was a highlight for me. The variation on St. James Infirmary, sung without back-up hit home, especially, because it was the same music my father requested at his memorial. There is something about that assemblage of notes that captures the human sense of lachrymosity as a body is marched to its grave, and lowered down into the mud. Why Fraea, and Fraea’s banjo, aren’t better loved and appreciated by the citizens of the world is a mystery to me… but there is still time to heal your ignorance, if you haven’t already, dear reader.
I’d say similar things about the performance of Francesca, who can clearly sing her ass off, and is a surprisingly competent banjo player, beside. I’d never seen Francesca play before, so that was an odd and interesting surprise. Hush Hush Noise, another band I’d never seen, was solidly dedicated to making fucked up music. They get a place in my heart now, too. Rad Juli is an elemental force on the drums. What else?
Kaitlin, who forms half of Button and String, alongside Kate Romain, is a fearsome banjo player. I feel like I could just sit here and type out one sentence superlatives all night. I wonder the extent to which Goldtone, who released the cc-50 and cc-100 banjos, and Deering, who released the “goodtime” realize the extent to which their budget models have changed the map of folk music? Now-a-days, every crust punk out there, every person who loves banjo really, but doesn’t feel like dealing with all the stick-up-their-ass bluegrass and oldtime players, can buy an affordable model and play it in any style they like. It’s the best thing that has happened to the banjo in nearly 70 years.
BEL was great. I’ve been watching that group make music under various names and in different formations since I came to Victoria. It is important to highlight them, along with some of the other acts I mentioned, because they all share Vic’s love for DIY recording, and stripped down songs that express the most through simplicity. They all support performing whatever they thing sounds good, as opposed to chasing after an idea of popularity.
The show was like that. If I miss names, it isn’t because their sincerity was lost on me. I just want to talk more generally about things. Plus, there were fourteen acts. It would be like rewriting the catalogue of ships if I went on like this.
If you are on the scene in Victoria, you already know who played at the show. You might have even played in the show yourself. I was at a birthday party with half the people in half the bands only the night before. In Victoria, fringe artists, outsider musicians, people doing sincerely creative and weird stuff are wonderful islands of coloured fluff floating too often in a big sea of cliquey mediocrity. Vic was loved and appreciated because they saw the talent and wonder in the obscure, giving love to those odd souls, encouraging them to grow. At least one person was listening. What a nice feeling that can be.
I lost a friend this year. Vic was the most generous, open-hearted and open-spirited person I’ve ever know. They took their art seriously but was unendingly playful. I remember many things about Vic but the things that stands out is the laughter. They had an infectious love of life and we always had fun together.
There is a hole in my life now that I can never fill. However, I feel truly fortunate to have known Vic and I am glad that their music remains for everyone to enjoy.
Love you forever, Vic.
The artists performing were:
Pictured above (Jake Sherman Photography):
Button & String