Monday, May 21, 2007

Lynn Miles and the Two Benefits

Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to attend two benefit concerts with Lynn Miles. The first was on Wednesday, May 9th in the Glebe. The Glebe Community Association had another of their "Underground Sound" concerts from which they hope to raise money to help bury the wires on Bank Street.
The President of the Community Association is passionate about this. "If Charlottetown and Lethbridge can bury their wires, surely Ottawa, the nation's capital can do the same!" (I am probably misquoting the actual cities he mentioned, but they were cities on that scale. You've got to like that for once someone is asking for Ottawa to be like a town you might want to live in, rather than somewhere you go to see expensive shows and pay a lot for restaurant meals.)

Again I was happy to be at a benefit for a cause that did not make me feel guilty, but it was Lynn who pointed out something I had not realized. "If the wires are buried, they won't need the poles, and if there are no phone poles, where will we performers put our posters?" she asked. "They've promised me there will be a place, and that's why I agreed to play."
Later in the evening, Sneezy Waters performed with Vince Halfhide, Ann Downey and Peter Von Althen. Vince sang a couple of songs (really well, in fact. I've been seeing Vince play guitar for people for about 20 years and this was the first time I've heard him sing. It was a treat.) Before one of the songs Vince mused, "if the wires are buried, the Community Association won't need to raise any more money, so they won't need to have these concerts, so they won't need to advertise them with posters, so it will be okay that there are no phone poles."
This was when it hit me that I wasn't at a benefit for a cause I don't care about. I was at a benefit for a cause I oppose. I love phone poles and I love the posters on them. (Do any of you remember Phone Pole, the TV show and series of segments I produced for Rogers?)
I enjoyed the music, but I felt a little queasy afterwards.
Several nights later I was at an evening put on by Oxfam. I saw that there were to be a bunch of performers including Lynn Miles and someone from Zimbabwe. I almost always love musicians from southern Africa.
Oxfam is fighting AIDS in Africa. It turned out that the woman from Zimbabwe was a speaker. She spoke at length about how the oppression of women in Africa is exacerbating the spread of AIDS and causing women to be victims of the disease in disproportionate numbers.
Then a woman from Canada spoke at greater length on the same topic.
I don't remember much about the statistics they gave but by the end of their speeches, I felt like it was all quite hopeless. They both said at that it's not hopeless, but it was about as effective as when someone puts a :) after an insult in an email.
Then Lynn Miles sang and she was sweet and lovely and made us laugh in between her songs by talking about the invention she hopes to patent for full-figured performers like herself who find harmonica holders uncomfortable: the bra-monica.
A while later, I scanned the program and saw that we were about to have two more speakers and then a drumming group. My concertmate agreed that it would be wise to slip out during the applause. Outside in the lobby, we came upon Lynn and Lonesome Paul.
I told Lynn it had been a treat to see her at two benefits in one week, and was struck by the difference in the causes. She allowed that she had actually been paid for her appearance in the Glebe. I asked if she felt confident that there would be a place for the posters if they bury the wires and she said she wasn't so sure.
That's when Lonesome spoke up, "I say we form a counter group - Save the Poles!" He has some interesting ideas and if he has a benefit, I'll be there.


Anonymous said...

More reasons to save the poles:

Where will the urban birds sit and sing, if they don't have poles and wires?
Poles are a visible reminder of the infrastructure that allows urban life as we know it. Without poles, we will take even more for granted.
I like thinking that Ottawa is a small city. Poles help me think that.
The visual contrast of wires against the sky is beautiful, in my eyes.

Last year at Irene's pub, my neighbour Dave and a bar friend of his and I also discussed starting a Save the Poles group. But conversations started at Irene's have a habit of ending at Irene's, and the movement failed to progress. But we didn't have Lonesome Paul on our side.

Bob said...

I am pole-agnostic, but I did want to say that we had the privilege of hosting Lynn at our last house concert. She was amazing, and Lonesome Paul joined her for the encore, which was spellbinding.

Soon to come, the first "BobCat Podcast" interview with Lynn, and our last show of the spring, with Wendell Ferguson and Katherine Wheatley.