Here I sit in the Air Canada lounge at Halifax airport, which has become my home away from home in the last little while.
Monday night I flew through here to Cape Breton, “Baddeck” to be specific, to do a show at the “Face-to-Face conference sponsored by Progress Magazine. A lot of Atlantic Canada’s leading entrepreneurs were in attendance and it’s an event I’ve performed at before so I sort of knew what to expect.
And what DOES one expect at a Maritime corporate conference? Well, first of all the surroundings are going to be beautiful. The Inverary resort is across from one of Canada’s best golf courses, is surrounded by beautiful water and, even through rainy weather, is a helluva lot nicer to be looking out at than the typical corporate conference environment.
But even more so than the natural surroundings it’s the PEOPLE of the Maritimes, and Face-to-Face in particular that make the difference. It doesn’t feel like a conference, it feels like a family reunion. Even though some in the room are in direct competition with each other there is a great supportive environment that “if one of us succeeds it’s good for the whole region”. It’s personified perfectly by Progress leader Neville Gilfoy whose tireless enthusiasm for business is only outweighed by his sense of humour. The man can take a joke as well as he can give it and consequently this conference, while being a serious business opportunity is never too serious. To put it in context, rarely do I get to do a performance with 5 minutes of material poking fun at the man who paid me to be there. Neville is such a man and I do thank him and all the fine folks from the Face-to-Face team for being such gracious hosts and allow me to join in on spontaneous guitar sing-along’s lead by conference attendees who also happened to be great musicians (another distinguishing trait of a Maritime “corporate” gig.
I flew back to Toronto on Tuesday to sober up from the “Face-to-Face” after parties and re-introduce myself to my wife, and then a couple of days later I was off to Fredericton New Brunswick to perform at my second consecutive “Red Tie Affair” fundraiser for AIDS New Brunswick. Again, this group is far from a typical fundraiser with volunteers of varying ages coming together for an important cause that directly supports their area residents. Organizer Nick Scott and his team have done amazing work on a truly grassroots level (to be honest I think they started at the core of the Earth) and have brought together their community in an amazing way.
For those who haven’t been to Fredericton (and there are quite a few of you) do yourself a favour and include it on your next trip to the Maritimes. It’s a thriving artistic community with great festivals going on all summer including the Harvest Summer Blues festival, which brings in some of the best musicians in the world.
My Red Tie affair appearance happened to coincide with “countryfest” this time around and the square in the middle of town was rocking every night. Even though I have never professed to be a country fan if you walk by a country band in full flight and your toe doesn’t start tapping to the music, I’ve got bad news for you. Your toes are paralyzed.
Anyway, the crowd was decked out in their best red-accented formal wear for the event including a couple of ladies who had drawn on some very convincing beards and my sound man John who had one of those thick beards any Toronto Maple Leaf would envy greatly. The decorating committee dig a great job of setting up the gala atmosphere but again, just because some of the collars are stiff doesn’t mean the personalities are. When the people of Fredericton are in to something, they are ALL in and I respect the explanation of some of the non-reactions to current events I brought up when one man and his wife both told me, separately, after the show “It’s not that we don’t know the news. We just don’t give a shit.” Fair enough.
The after party of the Red Tie Affair is always an event onto itself and this time around we gathered in a hospitality suite at the Crowne Plaza downtown and all assembled enjoyed the refreshments at a pace which indicated that maybe the Mayans were right and the world is ending very soon.
Then it was on to the “Capitol House” (I might be spelling this wrong, my vision is usually blurry when I’m there) where mild mannered Andrew of Ginger Design quickly produced a tray of Jager bombs which always simultaneously brings me back to my youth and marvel at how I survived through it.
This morning I awoke and the ever classy Nick took me to brunch with his beautiful wife Jen and their equally beautiful little guy Asher and then it was off to the Fredericton airport, which in Toronto would be considered a semi-detached home, and I made the short flight here in a small plane where you can look out the windshield with the pilots. I wondered, not for the first time “why are the dashboards so high he can’t even see out the window?”
Now, I’m here in the lounge and Ireland is about to play in their first Euro Cup game against Croatia. But of course, my flight is in a few minutes, perfectly timed to miss pretty much every second of this game. I know, poor me.
Actually, when I get to perform for great people like Face-to-Face and the Red Tie Affair in the magnificient Maritimes, doing what I love to do, I realize I’m a lucky sunuvabitch.
So, thanks to all involved in my shows this past week, especially Nick and Neville who treat everyone they do business with like they are family. I think it’s a great way to do business…