In late October, I went up to Vancouver, BC to feature at VanSlam’s Youth Slam. The crowd was incredible, packing out Cafe Deux Soleils, and showing lots of enthusiastic love throughout my set. I sold out of books. It was a great night!
Our host was the hilarious R.C. Weslowski. R.C. is one of the funniest poets in the slam scene and also a fantastic host. It’s not surprising that Vancouver has such a consistently well-attended slam.
In Vancouver I stayed with my good friend and former touring partner, C.R. Avery. (Please check out his website. It is gorgeous!) C.R. has always been one of my favorite poet/musicians and he continues to improve at breakneck pace. I met C.R. early in my spoken word exploration and, in some ways, I feel like I’ve grown up with him as an artist. In 2002, I went on tour as part of C.R.’s hip hop opera, “Shotgun Wedding.”
Here’s video of one of my favorite C.R. pieces, “Birdcage.”
During my visit, C.R., his clothing-designer girlfriend Toni and I had a little breakfast jam session to share new work. I walked away with C.R.’s new album, “The Great Canadian Novel.” Each track on the album has a chapter title, and the album follows the story telling logic of a Haruki Murakami book. It is interesting that C.R. went on tour opening for Billy Bragg, because in some ways the album reminded me of my favorite Billy Bragg & Wilco album, “Mermaid Avenue.”
The songs on the album toggle from roots to blues to spoken word to rock ‘n roll to string arrangements. It’s like being in the middle an elevator full of musicians from different genres and they are all pushing you around. My favorite tracks are “chapter twelve, pierre elliott trudeau” and “chapter thirteen, channeling frustrated energy.” The production values on this album are high and show C.R.’s continuing development as an artist moving successfully in ten directions at once. The tracks are filled with the usual raw power that spills over C.R.’s artistic cup.
C.R. is planning his slow takeover of America by winning a fan base out of regular, monthly shows. He’s waiting on a work visa and then he intends to start up monthly sets in Seattle featuring Canadian and US musicians and poets. Plan now to be a regular.