042599 Philip Glass Ensemble, Toronto, ON

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Well this was quite a night.  

I suppose it’s safe to say that Philip Glass had been my favourite living ‘serious’ composer ever since I had embarked on a scholastically-induced trek through his epic(ly long) masterpiece Einstein On The Beach midway through my university career.  His musical mathiness sat simply in my ears and I could listen to the stuff for hours (good thing; the dude’s songs are looong).  Now that I think about it, I’m sure that my Glassian conditioning helped usher in my love affair with Bach, a man who could weave math into the most utterly beautiful sound forms, like a sculptor punching perfect snowflakes out of philosophy.

But I digress.

April 25th, 1999 was my first time seeing Philip Glass and I was giddy to make the drive to Toronto specifically for the show.  I can’t tell you what ‘Monsters Of Grace’ refers to but I can report that Philip Glass and his Philip Glass Ensemble played along to a very slow moving 3D abstract video that was projected on an enormous screen in Roy Thompson Hall.  I mean the film was positively glacial.  I remember a huge house going by so very, very slowly, it must have taken four minutes to pass from one side of the screen to the other.  Overall, the video was pretty comforting, and though I’ll admit I didn’t really get how the images worked with the music it was an excellent visual foil to the slow, swirling density of the music.

But aside from all that, from start-to-finish my night was positively rife with small encounters with underground Canadian celebrities.  First, as I was waiting in line to pick up my will-call tickets I heard someone behind me calling my name.  I turned around to find one of my favourite performers in the world, Bob Wiseman.  I had booked a couple of Ottawa dates for him in the recent past and my friend Nick and I joined Bob and his girlfriend (Serena?) for a pre-show drink in the lounge.

After the show Nick and I were loitering in front of the venue when a tall, coifed man approached us, still wearing his 3D glasses.  Of course I struck up a conversation with him; I remember him telling me the movie had moved him to tears.  After a brief interaction he walked off.  I turned to Nick – who hadn’t said a word to the guy – and saw his jaw was agape.  “Do you know who that was?” he asked me, his eyes following the stranger as he walked away.  “No,” I replied, “what do you…”

“That was Satan…” he interrupted, a hushed awe in his voice.  When he pulled himself together Nick asked if I had seen the Bruce McDonald film Highway 61.  I hadn’t yet, but when I soon did I immediately recognized the guy in the 3D glasses as the excellent actor who played the decidedly evil Bingo-cheating Horned One.  It’s a good movie (as are all of Bruce McDonald’s movies), you should check it out.

I think we re-ran into Bob Wiseman right around then and I further surmise that it was he that suggested we go to some bar – I believe it was above The Horseshoe? – to see a band.  Either way, that’s where we went…gosh I wish I could remember who was playing…it was someone pretty impressive.  I recall a couple of guys from the Shuffle Demons sat in.  And it was at this bar that I ran into Dale Martindale, a friend of a friend and former lead singer from Images In Vogue and he took us to a party afterwards where we watched the lead singer of National Velvet jam for an hour.

I’ve got a nagging feeling that I’ve gotten some of the details about this night pretty mixed up but at the same time I also feel like I’ve left a few things out.  But as I age that’s becoming par for the course.  Regardless, I had a great time.  Also par for the course.

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