"Congratulations, you win!" That's basically what my roommate Brian said to me over the phone, though not in so many words. In this case, he was telling me that he was hiring the horn section for Down With Webster's performance at the Juno awards, and wanted me to join the fun. It's always nice to get a call like this, when an amazing opportunity drops from the sky and you feel like you've won the lottery. That's what's great about the music business - all you have to do is position yourself, and the universe provides.
Even better, my younger brother Nick was on the gig too. We realized that this was the first time we had ever been hired on a gig together, which seems amazing until you consider how different our educational backgrounds are - myself classical, Nick jazz. Of course we play together in Nick's band - but that's different, it's Nick's project and we both put a lot of work into putting it together; for this gig, though, we were both hired guns, which meant we had lots of time to hang out and enjoy the experience.
The Junos are pretty amazing. I of course got to experience the circus last year in St. John's and blogged extensively about it. This year I got to see it from behind the scenes. It's simply staggering how many people are involved, how much gear they have running all over the backstage area, how much money the whole thing must cost. (My favourite were these guys in the swooping camera cranes way above the floor. Do they get danger pay?)
I've played with Down With Webster before, too; as I mentioned the horn section for this band fulfils a mainly visual element. I'm ok with this - I have plenty of projects where my musical skills are appreciated - and to be honest it was fun to do some high energy horn choreography. Brian, the trumpet player who hired us, came up with all the dance moves. Here's a youtube video of our number (once again we are in masks. I am on the far left, and Nick is right beside me):
There is a higher-quality version available on CTV's website at this link; our bit starts at 3:45. I have to hand it to the boys from Down With Webster - they have a killer live show, high energy, and polished to a T. It was really fun to be a part of it. It's amazing what a difference lighting makes too - look how they timed the blast of white light with every "whoa", where the horn section freezes.
It was a nice treat to play such a professional gig, where you're taken care of (we shared a nice dressing room with the band, which was always well-stocked with food and drink, and had two people assigned to go get whatever we needed). A few of my friends were there, too - Saidah was performing in Johnny Reid's band, as usual, and my friend Alex - who also plays cello in Saidah's band - was playing with Arcade Fire. Nick and I watched the latter from the main floor of the ACC; we had nice "Artist" passes that gave us all access.
Check out the set, too, nice "Toronto" vibe with the echo of the City Hall building. That's Broken Social Scene on stage.
After the show, all 5 of us horns were on our way out when we saw Drake chatting with a small group of fans. We decided to try and grab a photo with him, and had just said hello, when a VIP swooped in to drag him off to some private photo op - but he promised to come back for a photo in a moment, and kept his word. Class act - and it didn't even occur to us that he might have been in a really foul mood after losing on all five Juno nominations.
All told it was really cool to be a part of the biggest event in Canada's music industry. When you walk around and famous people are everywhere, you start to realize they're just normal folks that have hustled and stuck it out, and that our country is big enough that there's room for everyone. Some day, I remember thinking, Nick and I will play this stage again - but from the front, not the back, and without masks.