The Art of Authenticity with Desirée Dawson and Jody Okabe


If you’re a regular listener of the CBC, chances are you know Desirée Dawson as the 2016 Searchlight winner who soared to the top of the competition with her inspirational single “Hide.” You may be less likely to recognize the name Jody Okabe, but trust me, you’ll be hearing plenty about her someday very soon! Both women currently hail from Vancouver and boast melodically commanding voices along with a knack for embracing positivity and fostering personal connectedness (not to mention mad uke skills!).

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of welcoming both of them to Kamloops via an intimate event booked by Side Door Access. After the success of our first experience with the micro-gig company, hosting Tim Baker of Hey Rosetta!, my wife Brittany and I had decided to explore having additional concerts in our home. While perusing a list of artists looking to play in our area, I came across Jody Okabe, then unknown to me but I followed a corresponding link to a video online. There she was sitting on a set of stairs with a Boston terrier in the background, performing a captivating ukulele cover of Fever Ray’s “When I Grow Up.”

Immediately I emailed Brittany, saying “This gal has an amazing voice and great taste in dogs. Let’s invite her to our house!” So once again we offered our living room as a venue, and weeks later we were notified of a potential match, with the addition of Desirée Dawson who we were absolutely thrilled to learn was interested as well. A little bit of back and forth among the various parties involved, and soon the show was set.
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Doors at 6

A voice above resounded
Preaching from the PA
The sea of bodies parted with the whirl of a hand
And came crashing back in waves
As chords poured forth from the stage
Sonic sanctuary

Hey, God
I found a religion
For everyone to share
This is my prayer
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Use the Side Door


Back in July I heard musician Dan Mangan on my local CBC radio speaking of a brand-new project he had started, called Side Door Access. This would be a platform for connecting musicians with people who are willing to host them in their homes, small businesses, etc., with the idea of fostering intimate performances in communities across the land. What a cool concept!

A few months later, I read online that Side Door was seeking living room venues for an undisclosed A-list artist’s tour in British Columbia and Alberta, with the prerequisite that an acoustic piano must be available on site. As homeowners in Kamloops with a well-kept antique piano, my wife Brittany and I registered our home on a whim under the moniker “McArthur Castle.” Skip ahead to February of this year, and frontman Tim Baker of the widely acclaimed Hey Rosetta! is in the upstairs of our house, treating an up-close and enthralled audience to a set of piano-, guitar- and banjo-based ballads, as well as engaging stories and banter (not to mention some skillful improvised scatting).
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Let’s Talk a Shade of Glum: Dialogues of Mental Health

Stumpf_lets_talkToday I am blue.  I’m referring to both the colour of my clothes and my current state of mood (as reflected by a button pinned upon my chest emblazoned with the word “SAD”).

Sometimes I get overcome with gloominess.  More often (nearly every waking minute of my life, in fact), I feel on edge like every set of eyes is casting judgment toward me, as though each decision right down to the most minute is overwhelmingly critical to my existence and every choice I make is probably wrong, with a sensation of the world about to cave on me in any second.  Regrets of the past and worries of the future are constantly slamming against the inside of my skull, and both together almost always win out over any efforts toward calm acceptance of the moment.  Combined with intermittent physical sensations like a racing heart, flushed face, and quivering appendages, this is a condensed description of what my doctor long ago diagnosed as generalized anxiety disorder, concurrent with possible mild depression.  It’s something I have struggled with since I was a kid, before I had any idea of the commonness of such feelings, and with which I continue to explore effective ways of dealing.
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Vegas the 5th—The (missed) Misfits/NYE edition

It just occurred to me that I never did blog about the fourth time in Las Vegas. To briefly summarize:

Celebrated the 30th birthday of my dear friend and sometimes roommate Craig, was properly introduced to his super cool friend Lyndsay who made me aware of the supremely awesome Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes, ordered one of every appy at Treasures during $1 happy hour and shared a first couples lap dance with my wife, ate middle-of-the-night White Castle and ATM cupcakes, was thoroughly amused and awed by Penn & Teller, drank a lot of Pabst, smoked a lot of Primetimes, walked a bunch, missed our cat and dog, this is our cat and dog:


Anyways, onto the fifth…
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Thirtying in Mexico


“But wait!” say the two or three people who actually ever read my blog. “Didn’t you post earlier this year about turning 30 in Cuba?” Why yes Cathy, Robin and sometimes Melissa. I did. This one, however, is about my wife Brittany, who just joined me in the tricenarian club. And as we did for my birthday, we fled again from the chill of a Northern winter to someplace hot: this time it was Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
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Haida Gwaii: Return to Radio Road


When I was a child too young to keep a lasting memory, I lived on what was then the Queen Charlotte Islands, more recently reassigned its true name of Haida Gwaii as part of reconciliation with a native people largely decimated during the colonial period of the 1700s. Throughout my life I have learned much about the place’s history, culture, and natural beauty, but all of that has been secondhand despite my former residence there (and not being of Haida descent myself I was in a sense an outsider to start with). I longed to revisit its remote location as an adult old enough to experience and recall it fully, but time and accessibility restraints had thus far postponed my doing so. As summer reached its final days this year, my wife and I finally made that trip.

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Shambhala the 20th: Can’t Burn Our Spirit!

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It was a decade ago when, while hotboxing the car of a high school acquaintance, that I was told of a magical place filled with music and love, where every stranger is your friend and you can spend the days in costumes climbing tree forts or lounging in hammocks, and the glowing nights engaged in perpetual dance. The sliver of an image conjured in my mind of such a place intrigued me, but became forgotten as days and weeks and months passed and I never saw that person again.

20170812_001119The notion remained latent within me, however, and re-emerged years later when a close friend of mine returned from an adventure in the Kootenays, extolling the beauty and harmony of Shambhala music festival. For him, the journey to the electronic festival became a recurring pilgrimage, and he continuously urged me to join him.

“That’s not really my scene,” I would foolishly say (being at that time a chronic patron of any punk or metal show I could afford to attend), though I did in fact feel quite enticed.

“It’s everyone’s scene,” he assured me.

20170811_202318So finally I went there for a single day, partly thinking if I just went once he’d stop harassing me to go, but also excited at the prospect of attaching personal sensation to what thus far seemed to me a space belonging to a dream. Without getting into detail about that first time (it’s already been written in my past blog post: “Happy Shambs!”), I found the experience to be wondrous, and I went back on another day pass the following year. The next, the same thing, with my wife now coming with me. And this summer, for the festival’s 20th year, she and I scored our first set of tickets for the entire weekend. Having progressed from charmed but tentative newbie into Shambhala enthusiast, I could not wait to properly experience the place that now endlessly calls out to my soul.

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Thirtying in Cuba

When I left for Cuba I was 29, and now I’m in my 30s. Really, I don’t feel very old. The milestone is no big deal to me, and I would have been content enough to mark it at a pub in Kamloops. But Brittany (my wife) thought fit to arrange a much grander celebration, and I sure am glad she did. With much help from my brother-in-law, she gathered a 15-person group of family and friends for a week of tropical weather, breathtaking sights, and a vibrant culture steeped in centuries of momentous history.dscn13252

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