Articles written for various community newspapers in the Lower Mainland, B.C. and special interest print and online magazines

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Move Over, Ronnie Burkett

Mention shadow puppets and most people think of making rabbit or cock shadows with their hands during an overhead presentation in primary school.

But sit through a magical genre-(and gender)-bending show put on by Vancouver lesbian shadow puppet duo Mind of a Snail and impressions change.

Jessica Gabriel and Chloe Ziner first started making puppets – and love – in 2003. When a friend asked them to put on a shadow puppet show for a birthday party, they hardly imagined the experience would magnify into something bigger. Combining Ziner's music and visual arts background with Gabriel's painting and collage background, they began creatively tinkering with Gabriel's dad's overhead projector. They then became known in niche circles for their innovative creations.
“People kept asking us to do stuff so we kept saying yes,” said Ziner.

Performing all over B.C., Mind of a Snail shows have gained a momentum that is surprising for their moniker. More surprising still is fact their almost exclusively word-of-mouth success has lead to curated gigs with the Vancouver Folk Festival, Shambhala, Parade of Lost Souls, In The House Festival, Under The Volcano, ArtsWells and the Dusty Flowerpot Cabaret. They've travelled south of the border on a West Coast tour as far as San Diego, staging pieces for theatre companies, forest raves and outdoor weddings.

In December, they'll be performing in Down the Rabbit Hole, an Alice In Wonderland dinner theatre collaboration put on by the In The House Festival at the Baldwin House near Burnaby's Deer Lake Park.

Watching a Mind of a Snail show is part early moving picture, part zany textile art, part masked performance. The audience is both hypnotized and tantalized by the impossibly-detailed miniature world they bring to life.
“Because we're hidden, we can only really hear 'oohs and ahs' from people. It's a little bit like a magic show. They want to know more. They're very curious to see the puppets and ask what's been happening behind the screen,” Gabriel said.

The puppets are cobbled together from street trash and odds-and-ends from their junk drawer. You might find either Gabriel or Ziner combing back alleys and picking up garbage like good Samaritans in their spare time. But in reality, they are moonlighting as art collectors.
“There is so much garbage around and garbage and plastic looks most beautiful on the overhead projector. When we're walking on the street and see a shiny piece of plastic on the ground we get into the habit of picking it up and holding it up to the sun and saying, 'I'll take that for later',” said Gabriel.

In Plasticity Now – a show entirely constructed from plastic, including the instruments created for the soundtrack – they embedded thumb tacks, candy wrappers and pocket lint in bubble wrap to depict ocean debris.

The jellyfish character was made from a Safeway grocery bag. “I couldn't find any other plastic bags that were that particular texture and weight that would move that way,” said Gabriel.

One of their queer-themed shows at Cafe deux Soleil featured a racy lesbian love scene involving a vagina puppet. Gabriel projected the puppet onto Ziner and, holding a pan of water over the projector, illuminated “the shadowy love side of cunnilingus. Kind of like a wet orgasmic scene but only using shadow hands to touch,” she said.

Their work isn't influenced by sexuality, aside from the seductive and fluid use of material and shapes hidden out of view. In fact, when it comes to sex, Gabriel and Ziner are like snails.
“Most species of snails are hermaphrodites so they can become either gender as they need to,” said Gabriel. “Usually our shows are not personified as a man or a woman, but centred around a creature. We try to avoid gender stereotypes in our shows unless it's part of the theme.”

To create more of an understanding of their work, Ziner and Gabriel host Shadow Jams, a monthly community puppet-making workshop held in their East Van home.

“People describe it as a shared dream. It's like a flow of consciouness that's made visual and sonic in a group,” said Ziner.

For more information about upcoming Mind of a Snail performances, visit

Thursday, November 3, 2011

One Woman's Battle with Parkinson's Disease on the Camino de Santiago

She felt the earth move under her feet. Her sky was coming tumbling down. But Hilary Whitmey continued to walk 25km daily with a 22-pound knapsack on her back and a walking stick in her hand that tapped the ground every few steps.

Whitmey covered nearly 250km of the Camino de Santiago that crosses Spain. Known in English as The Way of St. James, the 780km pilgrimage has been trodden for 1000 years and attracts more than 100,000 people every year. She followed yellow arrows and scallop shells painted on rocks, fences and roadways to mark the path.

She had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2004 at the age of 47. Less than a year later, she was following in the footsteps of the famous Christian apostle who gives the camino its name, nightly staying in pilgrim hostels – called albergues – where she rubbed down her feet with bag balm to prevent them from blistering and hand-washing and drying the one change of clothes she carried with her.

Thousands of people walk the Camino each year. Some walk for the sheer physical pleasure or historic adventure. Others undertake it as a religious journey or spiritual quest. Still more are travellers or environmentalists.

For Hilary, walking was a way to find the strength to come to terms with a life-changing illness that would see her body physically deteriorate.

It was a strange decision, she said, because at the time, she hated walking. “It didn't go fast enough,” said the former crown attorney and single mother.

Meeting with a group of women from her church, they trekked a leisurely 5km for two months to train for the traditional route that begins in Saint Jean Pied-de-Port, France and ends on the west coast of Spain in Finisterre. The conditioning proved to be enough to get their muscles primed for the walk.

As the departure date drew nearer, she incrementally added boulders or books to her backpack to simulate the weight she would carry for the two-week voyage. One woman had to withdraw from the commitment due to a back injury and the other was in the advanced stages of cancer. Hilary ended up on a flight with one other woman she barely knew.

Going into the trip, Hilary wasn't afraid that the Camino would be too challenging, that her backpack would be too heavy, that she might injure herself or not get along with the talkative woman who would accompany her. What weighed most on her mind was how she would face her new life.

“I hadn't told anybody, not even my family. My biggest fear at that time was that it would define me and people would only know me as a person with Parkinson's so I didn't want anyone to know. I wanted to hang onto the last vestiges of Hilary,” she said.

It turned out that Parkinson's wouldn't be the only thing to change her.

On the Camino, Hilary encountered many people who were similarly searching and finding meaning for whatever difficulties they were going through.

“It affected the way I encounter people. I deal with them differently now. I learned on the Camino that everyone has something they're trying to overcome. One fellow didn't have an arm and he didn't say anything but I sensed maybe that was something. One fellow, a psychologist, told me about an illness he had where he couldn't speak for several months and he was told it was stress-related,” she said.

When the walk was physically challenging, they stopped short of their destination and found another albergue. The section of the trail that lead over the Pyrenees mountains was the most challenging and, since it was early in the trip and the trail slippery, they opted to take a bus.

The downfall was the weight of their backpacks which made upward hiking more difficult. Ideally, their packs should have been two pounds lighter, she said.

“The worst was the hills. Before O Cebreiro was the most challenging. I was sometimes hot and tired and cranky, especially on a hill.”

Coming home in peak physical and emotional shape, Hilary wondered whether she would be able to carry the experience into her day-to-day reality.

“I didn't expect to be healed, but I came away more at peace with the diagnosis,” she said.

What she now had was a new friend in her Camino partner and a meditative exercise to turn to as the illness advanced.

Hilary went from Astorga to Santiago de Compostela, a distance of 228 km in October 2005. In early 2006, she told her only son Adam the secret she silently wrestled with through the peaks and valleys of the Camino. In 2008, she returned with her Camino partner to complete the 264 km portion of the journey from St. Jean to Burgos. However, a lower leg injury prevented her from finishing and she took a bus for the last 10 km.

Looking back at pictures seven years later, she trembles with more than the tremors that have overtaken her body and reduced her to walking with a cane and with the help of someone's arm.

She would love to do it all again - all 780km of it - start to finish.

Courses for New Grandmothers

Perhaps you've been patiently waiting for what seems like forever to become a grandparent. Finally, it is happening. The due date is circled on the calendar and you're counting down the days.

Then the trouble starts. Your daughter-in-law thanks you for the disposable diapers but says she will be using cloth diapers. She appreciates your opinion, but won't vaccinate her newborn.

Or perhaps you were finally beginning to enjoy retirement and now you are called on to babysit three nights a week and your exotic plans to travel are dashed.

Raising kids was a handful. But having grandkids is supposed to be fun, isn't it? You thought you would be a natural at the role but things aren't turning out as you'd hoped.

Well, now there are crash courses in modern grandparenting. Enter the word into a search engine and you will find online forums, classes offered by hospitals, organizations that provide counselling and even granny blogs. There is a litany of information from modern car seats and strollers to the current trends in parenting.

Rosalyn Kaplan, director of The Seniors' Centre at Simon Fraser in Vancouver, has asked herself many questions about the issues of grandparenting, both as a seniors' workshop facilitator and as a soon-to-be grandmother.

“For many people, what they felt they were going to do and what the reality is, is totally different. They have no idea what to expect because they looked at it from what they perceived their parents or their grandparents did and their worlds' shift. ” she said.

The reality, as she sees it, is that the role of grandparents is changing. The median age of grandparents in Canada is 55. The majority are still in the workforce and will be staying in the workforce longer as the economy changes and life expectancy gets longer.

“Our expectations of what our roles are and what our children's expectations of our roles may in fact be a little bit different so communicating that is very critical.

Another factor is the huge variety of parenting styles that were taboo 30 years ago.

“Grandparents in today's age are facing so many different choices that their children make – it may be that their children aren't married, it may be same sex couples, interracial couples, so there's a whole variety of today's issues grandparents are facing that past generations had not faced,” said Kaplan.

“It's hard for these grandparents to really respect the space of their children and I think open communication might be very critical. We may not approve of their choices for ourselves but we have to work very hard to allow our children to make these important choices for their family because, in fact, it is their family.”

Rather than provide ongoing advice because you've been a parent yourself and so know better than your children who are doing it for the first time, the primary focus should be to provide assurance and love, and passing on values and family history to the children as they get older, Kaplan said.

Although she is expecting her first grandchild in January, Kaplan hasn't yet taken a grandparenting class. “I don't think I'm going to. I think I'm going to just see how things go, with my eyes wide open, of course.”

She sees the classes mainly as a refresher to reinforce things grandparents already know.

“As grandparents, we just want to be able to love that infant and the toddlers and the teenagers as much as we can and I'm not sure that the classes necessarily will teach us that.”

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Re-Leaf Gets No Relief

On June 21, District of North Vancouver councilors unanimously agreed to prohibit Re-Leaf to operate a non-profit dispensary for medical marijuana in the Deep Cove area.

Re-Leaf founder Ken Starr's attempted grand opening on June 11 was met by RCMP and district officials who let him know they would take further action if he kept his doors open.

The issue, many councillors agreed, is how the land - not the drug - should be used.

“We are not debating the benefits and merits of marijuana, we are debating land use and whether this business is appropriate for the district. I believe it isn't. The public clearly demonstrated that,” Counc. Robin Hicks said about the comments made at the June 14 public hearing by community members.

Counc. Lisa Muri said the debate about legality of dispensaries – often known as compassion clubs where they operate illegally in other locations around the Lower Mainland – is for senior levels of government. “Our powers lie in land use. We work with our community to determine how best to serve our neighbourhoods and we zone accordingly. This is not our fight.”

Several councilors welcomed a clear directive from the federal government on what to do about dispensaries and called for better access to the plant through the health system.

But Ken Starr said described this kind of reaction as a typical form of nimbyism.

“In my opinion, they've just passed the buck. They're not wanting to deal with it at all. They all said they are compassionate for it but not in my backyard,” he said.

However, many councilors acknowledged a clear need in the community for medical marijuana on the North Shore.

But Counc. Mike Little said there is a stigma in the community against those who seek it for pain relief.

“I want to do everything in our power to show that our community can be a compassionate community,” he said. “The way to get the broader community away from a stigma issue is through good regulation. If this was coming through a doctor's prescription or through a pharmacy, I don't think the community would have the same kind of response.”

Counc. Alan Nixon expressed his concern that a business owner wouldn't first establish approval from the district in the form of a business license and a building inspection before opening up shop saying Starr went “around the rules”.

But Starr said that wasn't true. In August 2010, he said he was told by the District office zoning department that if he could find a location on the North Shore that would lease their building to him, he could go ahead.

“Every time I called and asked about a location - they told me they knew what I was and I explained what I was, they were very clear on that - and they told me if I found a commercial retail zoning spot they would be extremely happy and that is what I found,” Starr said.

Starr believes it is a good place for it, despite council arguments that it is in the wrong one from a planning perspective.

“I researched how many people on the North Shore how many people had a need for it and it seemed to be between Deep Cove and Lonsdale where the majority of the people were,” he said.

But Counc. Nixon said that for many living in the District it would be faster to go to a downtown dispensary than to Deep Cove.

At deadline, Starr was unsure whether he would further pursue his goal to open a dispensary.

A Living Canvas: Jordan Bent Takes His Brush to the Street

Heading down the hall to Jordan Bent's live/work space in the ARC building at the bottom of Vancouver's Commercial Drive, I hedge my bets that his studio is the open door at the end of the hallway. There is rakishly thin Bent in rolled up jeans, a cardigan and standing on cold tiles in his bare feet in January, his face as wide open as the threshold to the studio. He was preparing to make tea. Not just any tea, tea he ventured down to Chinatown to procure from Daniel, his supplier who sourced this particular block of 12-year-old Pu-er from the Yunnan province.

It's his way of inviting ritual into his life, he says softly, handing me a tiny clay cup and calmly watching my face as I tasted the first flavours of what will become many ceremonial pours throughout the afternoon.

We sit at the East-facing window perched on stools and looking out at the reflection the sunset makes on the snow-capped mountains. On Bent's walls are pieces from his last show False Teeth: Real Bite and a mural with the word IGNORANCE in block letters and filled in with his signature figurative drawings.

The show was what several hundred people viewed on Vancouver's famous East Side Cultural Crawl, an art walk that draws crowds - and his art - out of obscurity.

In watching people wander into and out of his studio, he said he gained “a statistical access” to people which sharpens his ability to produce public art that jumps off a wall and really speaks to people.

Bent made the transition from doing exclusively gallery and commissioned work to painting on brick and concrete canvases in 2007 when the city approved a two mural proposals for Charles and Graveley streets off Commercial Drive. Though he describes the early stages of choosing what to put on the wall and as daunting, he has since became enchanted and humbled by doing work that is transient, so much so that it has become the thrust of his artistic vision.

“There is something beautiful about doing something that is non-consumable: you can't take it home, you can't buy it, you can just observe it and let it impact you. It is by nature just an idea.”

His impassioned speech borders on political commentary. As he talks about his work in the context of social reform, he takes on the air of a young revolutionary.

“It's a beautiful confidence to feel that the world is changeable, that it's no longer as it seems and that we can continue to alter it. That is a huge feeling because we get so daunted by systems and oppressions around what we should be and where we should be and so it's great that graffiti as a nature can really change that view on just a very visceral level – something that wasn't there before is now there.”

Looking at his murals, you feel like he first dips his paintbrush in a mythical dream before setting to work. His Pirandello-like characters that have stepped out of another dimension. His work is powerful enough to catch the preoccupied eye of the busy daily commuter, almost forcing them to look up from their iPhone and pause to ponder. He is someone you can picture sitting by the glow of a kerosene lantern, smoking a pipe and typing out a Once-Upon-A-Time story on an ancient Smith Corona he fixed after lovingly rescuing it from the back alley.

It wouldn't be the first thing he rescued from the back alley, having restored the well known wall of Aisle 45 in the Downtown Eastside - popularly referred to as Canada's poorest and most drug-addicted neighbourhood with a mural.

The wall was badly dilapidated – chunks of brick would break off – and the mural would, at most, last for two years. Showing up some days, he would often find people sleeping in the doorway he was supposed to paint. But for Bent, the experience is what makes it the most rewarding journey of discovering how to refract a very intense but beautiful culture, he said.

“This is a place where street culture lives, where they do their drugs, where they sleep, where they throw up, where they fuck. This is where they lose themselves or maybe gain themselves.”

But in creating temporary wallpaper for the homeless' collective outdoor home, Bent's face troubles with concern as he talks about the darker forces at work behind the project. He acknowledges that his presence there could be just another wave of gentrification that is quickly spreading throughout the city.

“The small gesture we're doing is part of that change that might even push them out of there or alienating them. Making that first aesthetic difference, saying, “Actually, you know what, you guys should probably move on. There's a hint of that too.”

Speaking about his own home as we moved onto eating dates and Lindt chocolates, Bent said he will have to pull out of his space at the ARC - known as a hub for artists – simply because it is too expensive for him to maintain.

It has been a hard slog to foster imagination in a city that seems to pride itself on leaving concrete walls bare as a sign of its safety and cleanliness, and by extension muzzling the smattering of artists that have managed to survive the post-Olympic cost of living here.

However, Bent seems to buoy above the burden of obstacles. There is simply no room for them in his idealistic personality. The process of overcoming bureaucratic red tape looks like this: he creates the dream, sits through a bunch of meetings with the municipality and then, somehow, the technicalities are sorted out and it happens.

He is currently waiting on securing financial backing for his next project called Whispers, a multi-media piece that will record the voices of those living in the Downtown Eastside and post their comments throughout the city on different alleyways. The quotes will have little icon tags with them so that people's phones will register them and then feedback to a website where the longer stories are posted. The cyber version of a down-the-rabbit-hole art walk.

What he loves about the medium are all the unanswered questions that live in him afterward as he produces new material. He sees the artform as a highly visceral public process that engages people in discussions about how their neighbourhoods are defined.

But while pushing the envelope, he is still respectful of the fact that there are still some tensions around what he does, despite galleries legitimizing it and graffiti artist Banksy's popularity. He is highly sympathetic of building owners who have to pay a pretty penny to remove bullshit from their walls and might be hesitant about a mural going up, but that is all part of what makes the work so vital, he says.

“You have people with negativity. Some people slam me just because they can, because they're aggressive by nature and they'll sort of lash out, but that's kind of interesting too. I need to associate with it and not ignore it and say, 'Yeah, I hear your concerns. I'm doing a specific thing here'.”

On top of the maelstrom of dissent, his work is sometimes defaced. His Aisle 45 mural was tagged already. But Bent doesn't seem to be affected by this. In fact, he is almost the happier for it.

“It's an alley. That's going to happen. That's the nature of it. That's the nature of people - no matter what, they want to be seen. They want to be heard. The scribbles on the wall, they look stupid, they are stupid, but they're a voice, They're a necessity for people to get out of that place where they don't feel any power. We're dominated by remarkable forces around us that sustain our comfortability.”

His big blue eyes bulge with a vision: the possibility of a world bursting with legalized public expression.

Full of ethereal delight and refreshingly na├»ve curiosity, he asks me “Would people burst past apathy and do it? Would it actually explode and there could be something quite different appearing each day instead of all of these images that keep us trapped and only associating with advertisements?” He looks at me like I have the answer.

The conversation rolls into guerrilla initiatives of removable wheat puppets and laser graffiti, New York City's Swoon and a whole host of other artists who create brief monuments that are built on principals of freedom that get people thinking without pissing them off.

We have digressed, but in the spirit of a true artist, Bent trusts the creative flow of ideas and seems to relish in the company of people who drop into and out of his day to deliver messages of inspiration, essential ingredients to grow his mind for his next project Mapping: City of Dreams a multi-media performance piece for the PuSH festival.

When I am on my way out the door, young neighbour enters with a teacup and saucer. Bent warmly invites her in and she is absorbed into his ever-changing, living canvas. One more colourful character to set the tone in his evolving fairytale. It is time, again, for tea.

Patrick Swann, Slam Poet

If you've never been initiated into the world of slam poetry, your reaction to being dragged to a show might be - “A poetry show. Huh?”

That's what Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan native Patrick Swan overcomes when he tries to break the stigma of the stuffy, academic side of poetry. Swan lives in a world where cunning words aren't housed in mouldy, leather-bound, 5th editions of Oxford Companions and Norton Anthologies. Rather, he takes to the stage to get political - and often controversial - about pop culture icons like Michael Jackson.

He isn't the least worried about being heckled by a crowd of boisterous ball cap wearing drinkers whose last encounter with a poem could easily have been Grade 12 English.

Swan is used to people not understanding what he does which is why when he opened for a band in Regina one of the members said:

“'Yo, dude, I'm not going to lie, when we came in and they told us a poet was going to open for us we were like, 'Ah...that's really fucking weird,” he said.

His poems live off the page, infecting those watching enough to give up their loud boozy chats to simply listen.

“When I first started doing it, it was all about making the world a better place and all that crap that everybody was talking about. But now I'm more jaded and I write about being hungover and heartbreak and pop culture,” he said.

Swan first started slamming in Vancouver in 2003 when he made it to that year's semi-finals, nearly earning the winning title. He then found his way back to Regina where he was recruited by a friend's band to go on a Canadian tour.

“At the beginning of shows I'd jump up and do one or two poems and go back to selling t-shirts for them,” Swan said.

Touring gave him a taste of what people want to see and hear and he then set about separating the wheat – his good poems –from the chaff – everything else. Then he headed back out West to give the Vancouver slam scene a run for its money, performing in more slam competitions. He later found he began to outgrow the competition aspect of it and started headlining as the feature poet at shows.

“When I was slamming I found myself at that point where I was just like writing three-minute poems that sounded good but I wasn't necessarily completely satisfied with. I wanted to try writing different styles so I started moving away from it,” he said.

Swan claims he isn't really a book man, so not surprising that he doesn't make it his aim to appear in literary journals or get a masters degree in creative writing. Instead, he produces his own books. His first, Texas Hot Talk, was a collection of poems he had printed at Staples and his second, Aesthetically Absurd Young Drunk Monuments was a collaboration with a friend who is both fan and graphic designer.

He also isn't one to fill pages and pages of notebooks on a constant basis but instead takes his creative cue like a Saskatchewan farmer reads the weather – working with what you've got and realizing you can't do much about it when it works against you.

“I don't write a lot. I don't force myself to write. I take notes here and there and then write when I've got something. I write when I'm happy and when I'm bummed out. But most of my better stuff comes out when I'm angry or feeling shitty. That's where the funny stuff comes from,” he said.

The funny – and often tragic – stuff also comes from Swan's Tourette Syndrome, a neurological condition which is typically misrepresented in mainstream culture by television shows that parody the symptom of uncontrollable swearing.

Diagnosed when he was 18 – he is now 28 – Swan said he didn't really develop a complex about it and as a result, isn't hindered by the psychological label.

“I didn't have a clue what was going on until way later. After I first got diagnosed it was a little bit of,“Oh, this sucks” and then I got over it pretty quick and now it's just something I live with. When I'm on stage I'm very focused so it never really interferes. Sometimes, just before I start I feel like I'm going to twitch a bunch but then as soon as I focus on what I'm doing I'm good to go,” he said.

It has certainly provided food for creative fodder. He has written a piece called Tourettes that, if you are the sensitive type, will make you weep harder than a late 80's Bell Long Distance commercial.

What results from his maelstrom artistic process varies. He hit a creative drought and didn't write or perform for a year, brought on by the fact his latest material was not well-received and everyone wanted to hear popular favourites that he was tired of doing.

“I was presenting some of my new ones that I thought were some of my best work that I've written and people were saying, 'Let's hear Michael Jackson' (a humourous poem he wrote about the icon) and I thought, 'F#$% this',” he said.

It was a friend who pulled him out of his slump.

“My friend Owen said, 'Okay, so you're going to start writing again and we're going to book you some shows' and I said, 'Okay, I guess that's what we're going to do'.”

It doesn't come as a surprise to Swan that reactions to his work have been run the gamut from positive to negative.

“I got every little thing from people telling me they liked what I was doing to dudes throwing ice cubes at me,” he said.

At any moment, Swan has 16-or-so poems memorized with a lot of new stuff waiting to be committed to memory. He gauges what the crowd will like like a meteorologist assesses the weather patterns during Mother Nature's climate change-induced hot flashes.

“I'm at a weird point in my life where I actually have to select the poems instead of doing all the poems I have,” he said.

He goes with his gut and just rolls with it, depending on how he's feeling on the day. He hopes to eventually carve out a niche for himself outside of North America. But for now, he is content to march the untrodden ground of the modern poet across Canada and the U.S. The good thing is that he doesn't have to contend with getting stopped at border crossings like many other artists on tour.

“They'll ask, 'What are you doing?' and I'll say, 'I'm going to a poetry show in Seattle' and they don't really ask a lot of questions. They just say, 'Okay. Poetry show. How harmless is that?'” he said.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Jon & Roy on the Up & Up

The surefire ticket to every great Canadian musician's success is securing grants and getting backed by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. This was the way with folk-reggae-rock band Jon and Roy who have risen to musical recognition to be the season openers for the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts yearly Live Sessions program September 23. CBC Radio 2 is co-sponsoring the event and recording the performance for its Canada Live Series.

They will be playing songs from their album Homes released April 2010 which they promoted over their summer festival tour, with stops at all the major Central and Western Canadian folk festivals.

The Centre is also where Vizer played at his high school graduation over ten years ago before leaving for the University of Victoria where he would meet his musical match in band mate Jon Middleton.

“I think Homes is kind of like a natural revolution of our music the first two albums were pretty sparse in terms of what we would add to our songs from performing them live so we were somewhat hesitant to add a bunch of stuff and on this album we felt a little more freer and got some really great musicians to play some solos and just sort of layer it more,” Vizer said about the recording, which they took much longer to produce than their previous albums Sitting Back and Another Noon. They also added more instrumentation and collaborated with guest artists who added fiddle, keys and mandolin to the mix.

“CBC has been incredibly supportive since about two years ago so it's been really great. This is about the third or fourth CBC-sponsored show that we've had and they always have a very high level of production and they've really got good people working on the sound,” said Roy Vizer, the drummer and percussionist who makes up the latter half of the band's simple, unpretentious moniker.

But this year the Victoria-based band completed their tour without the help of sponsors, getting by instead on the strength of their reputation and their booking agent. Rounding out their exposure with lots of radio time in Vancouver and Victoria and being chosen by Starbucks for their Pick of The Week download card featuring new artists gave them the added leg up. Between these marketing avenues, publicity has taken care of itself, allowing Vizer to sit back and enjoy the scenery of the changing terrain of the Canadian landscape from the window of the car as they travel between gigs.

Throughout his journey as a musician, Vizer said he owes a debt to the Vancouver Jewish community for their support and expects to play to a sold out crowd.

“Early on, we've had good support from the Jewish community. I have a good network of friends in Vancouver and the Jewish community is pretty strong there so in that sense it has been good. A lot of our Vancouver shows have ended up being Jewish reunions almost,” Vizer said.

Although Vizer's current musical tastes are not Jewish, he said his drumming is definitely influenced by Middle Eastern style. However, he said he open to the possibility of getting into new types of music beyond the scope of what he is creating with Middleton.

“I always thought of doing a Klezmer reggae mash-up at one point but I really don't really know where I'm going to go with it yet,” he said.

For now, the musical fusion he experiences with Middleton is where he is setting his sights.

“When I met Jon it worked really well in a musical sense so we just kind of started playing music together and it felt pretty natural so we just kept it going,” he said.

Tickets are available through Ticketmaster. Jon and Roy perform at 7pm in the Telus Studio Theatre.