I like the nightlife. I like to party. I’m kinda known for my insatiable craving for ALL the things, and have been alternately called a culture vulture, a cultural ambassador, and a nut.
When the jazz festival rolls around, there’s nothing I love more than taking in the late night shows at Ironworks and China Cloud both part of the Innovation Series. Or what some people might call “out there jazz.” I reckon that’s why I’ve been asked to write this blog post! But I must be straight from the start: I am, at best, a jazz neophyte – especially with the innovative stuff.
And real talk? It wasn’t love at first listen, either. In my early 20s, I was still very much informed by my suburban upbringing, and wasn’t yet ready to appreciate art I couldn’t “understand” – probably because I still thought one was supposed to “understand” art. Adorable! So even though I felt like I was cool and edgy because I listened to Nick Cave instead of the Spice Girls, non-traditional jazz was still a bit too weird for me. But one of my very first Vancouver friends just happened to be a pretty badass sax player, and I’d go to her concerts even though I couldn’t “understand” the music – because I’m an awesome friend like that.
And then, something shifted! A piece of my brain opened up, and the pop-cultured lens of my youth melted away. Or became much less opaque, anyway… And suddenly I loved the surreal art I’d previously scorned. I even got a half-sleeve tattoo of a Miró painting to commemorate the awakening, and to remind myself: Whenever I find myself thinking I don’t like something, maybe ease up on the criticism because I just might end up liking it some day!
Yes – I got a permanent tattoo to remind myself I could change. Ahhhh, to be young again – #noregrets
Anyway, to make a long story short (“too late, Kaen!”), I started to like the jazz too. I mean, this kind of music really is a kind of aural surrealism, isn’t it? Within a few years, I went from “uhhhh!??” to “meh” to “yeah, this is kind of cool” to “oh yeah, I’m really digging this” to being somewhat smitten! I’ve even bought some CDs and have been known to listen to them IN MY HOME!!! It’s getting pretty serious.
If you’re anything like most people I know, you might be thinking: “Wait… What? You kept going even when you weren’t feeling it!!?”
Incidentally, this might also be the face you make during an Innovation Series show. But in the best way.
Yeah, I did. For so many reasons! In addition to my already confessed insatiability (and being an awesome friend!), I really dig the culture. The people are so @#!% cool. And the venues? So very yes. The China Cloud feels like home. (Specifically, that time I lived in a warehouse/gallery/performance space in the 90s!) and The Ironworks, oh beloved Ironworks, with your red walls and naked ceilings – my love for you is supreme. And just generally, I voraciously welcome any opportunity to grow my brain and create new neural pathways. It’s how I roll.
You get a new neural pathway. And you get a new neural pathway. YOU ALLLLLLL GET NEW NEURAL PATHWAYS!!!
But, I’m still very much a newbie. Still checking it all out. And while I am starting to know some of the names (hey, did you know it’s pronounced “skyfe,” not “shiff!?”), I’m in no position to tell you which shows you absolutely must see. Other people are way more qualified to do that. No, I’m here to lure you to the dark side of the day. I’m here to encourage you to be just like me! And what am I going to do? I’m going to check out all the late shows. The musicians I know, the musicians I don’t know… I WANT IT ALLLLL!
Please sir, can I have some more jazz?
And you know what? I’m not saying you should go to these shows “even if” you don’t know the performers. I’m saying you should go BECAUSE you don’t know them. So you can create your own new neural pathways! So you can hang with some seriously cool cats, in seriously cool places! So you can get your mind blown wide open! So you can embrace the “weird,” and fall in love – like I did.
So, think you’re up for the challenge, but only newly nocturnal? Here are some of my survival tips:
Water! Really, whoever invented that stuff deserves an award, because it is THE BEST. I mean – if you like a tipple, by all means (I’m a red wino myself!). But party smart, friends: carry a reusable water bottle, and try to drink at least one pint of water per concert.
Drink water!! But maybe not like this.
Straight-backed chairs are your friends. Nothing makes those lids heavier than a cozy couch – and the Ironworks has an old beast of a couch that wants nothing more than to lull you into mmmm. DO NOT attempt the couch unless you are a PRO!!! Get yourself in a chair, sit upright, and get that blood flow-flow-flowing you into alertness!
If you enjoy adult beverages, why not try a shot of tequila? Ok, I appreciate the thought of tequila might evoke images of frat parties and vicious hangovers, but come on now, you are an adult, and you can drink like an adult. I cannot count the amount of times a quick shot has perked me right up! (For extra adult points, why not sip some top shelf tequila?) It’s not until about the 3rd or 4th shot that it starts to have. let’s say the opposite effect. Which is not without its own merits… But for the sake of alertness, one happy little shot should do the trick!
Apparently eating a banana is also a great way to get a boost of quick energy. Meh.
Speaking of adult beverages… If you find yourself making the kind of unwise choices on school nights I’m legendary for, give your morning a fighting chance by drinking a pint of water and taking two tablets of your favourite over-the-counter pain remedy just before climbing into bed. I don’t understand the science, but it works. My best friend also swears by vitamins, and dips into his medicine cabinet before bed. B, C, D… he’ll pop the whole damned alphabet.
But my number one trick for staying engaged until the witching hours? Talking to humans. Say hi to the people around you! The Ironworks has a fabulous backyard where the vibe is chill and the people are as friendly as they are cool. There’s also usually a very cordial gathering of souls around the bar and in the back room before and between sets. The vibe at the China Cloud is also sweet, and I’ve seen new friendships forge on many occasions. So before the show starts, or during intermission: come say Hi!
See? Just look at how engaged we are!!!
Check out the full lineup: Innovation Series
Kaen Valoise is a Box Office Assistant at Coastal Jazz and Blues Society who enjoys a late night hang.