Tour Blog #9: Montreal, Canada

We stayed with JTD’s family in Portland after the show, and woke up super early to head to Canada. I ended up sleeping in his dad’s photography studio, ironically enough. We got to Montreal quite a bit before we had to load in, but we built in a ton of extra time to go through customs. Apparently, last time the guys got caught in a lie (after receiving some bad advice) and it ended up taking about two hours.

 

This time, we were very prepared and up front about everything. We made it through in about five minutes, which was a huge relief. I’ve seen Cory at that level of happiness only one other time on this tour, and it was when we got cookie dough after standing outside for an hour. 

We arrived in Montreal and immediately got poutine at a restaurant the guys had been to last time before heading to a coffee shop to, you guessed it, get some work done.

 

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I always thought it was kind of a joke that I referred to this leg as an international tour, because Canada is hardly an exotic place to explore. It is my first time here, though, and it kind of does feel like a different world. 99% of the population there is bilingual, but not being able to understand everyone’s side conversations made me a little uncomfortable, even though I knew they weren’t speaking French to be intentionally rude.

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It was absolutely freezing, and I’m pretty sure it snowed nearly the whole time we were in Montreal. The trip up was fairly treacherous due to the lack of visibility, but we made it there in five pieces and without frostbite.

We wandered into a boutique looking for a warm hat for JTD, and the saleswoman actually remembered the guys and called them out by name—apparently she had met them when they were in the store last time, and followed them on social media. She wasn’t able to make it out to the show, but it was really cool to be recognized.

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The venue was a spunky little bar with a surprisingly large stage setup. We loaded in and played a game of hurry-up-and-wait to do our setup and sound check, which reportedly didn’t go all that well. Nevertheless, the guys remained positive.

Whenever I’m not shooting for the bands, I’m usually working merch. I was very nervous to try to make sales with Canadian dollars—I’d never really operated on any other currencies, and the prices for the merch were actually different as well. To add on to the laundry list, we found out the Square reader we have can’t accept foreign transactions. In the end, however, we ended up just keeping the US prices and no one asked to use credit cards—I guess spending money you don’t have is more of an American thing.

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We were treated to a performance by Liz Labelle before their set, which was bouncy, energetic, and a perfect way to start off the night. Liz was actually our hostess for the night, so it was great to see her in her element before we crashed on her floor.

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While I was shooting Liz’s set, the pink lights on the artists were very difficult to shoot. I figured I may as well try to pull a Richmond and see if they would mind using a different color. A lot of smaller clubs like Piranha Bar hire a sound guy to do both lights and sound, so they just pick something that looks good from the back of the room and have no real ties to their selection. This absolutely turned out to be the case, as when I asked, he just had me change the lights myself. Like I stood there and played with the levers until I was able to soften it. I assure you that’s never happened before. I’m not sure how much good I was able to do because I didn’t quite understand how they worked, but I was able to at least make the light brighter, which helped tremendously.

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Part of the reason I’ve loved this tour so much is because it’s forced me to become a better photographer. Each venue is completely different, and I’m given about fifteen minutes to prepare before I have to go in and do the best work I can. Because the band doesn’t tour with much production equipment, we just use what the venue has. Sometimes I can manipulate it to suit me better, but often times, I just have to figure out new and better ways to shoot. I have to be more adaptable, which makes me more valuable.

Weirdly enough, coming to Canada is a lot like the experience of going to NYC for me. It was something I’d always wanted to do, so going on business was a very cool way to approach it. I’m exhausted, I’m cold, and my hair is disgusting, but I’ve never been happier. Stay tuned for Day #2 of Canada!