“Do you guys do ‘The C’mon’?” asks singer/songwriter Craig Schram, from the driver’s seat of the van. Mitch and I (squeezed in and sitting side by side) half look at each other, uncertain of what to say.
“Y’ know, ‘The C’mon!’ Where someone says no and you just say, ‘C’mon!’ You just keep saying ‘C’mon’ until they say yes. I think I almost had him there. Just a few more ‘C’mons.’”
Earlier, we had arrived at the first location to find that a security guard seemed to have arrived at precisely the same time—for the property across the road. “Security guard” may be a bit of an overstatement: he was wearing a hat thatsaid “security,” but he was also wearing a heather grey Georgetown Hoyas sweatshirt, and was old enough to have been anyone’s grandpa. He was a nice man. Craig, nearly immediately charming, did almost have him.
Even though we couldn’t shoot in that exact location, it wasn’t without its rewards. Picturing Ryan Podlubny’s upright bass going over a fourteen-foot high fence, fresh from the set of The Road Warrior, which was barricading a derelict wrecking yard, was well worth it. If it weren’t for that location, we wouldn’t have seen the underside of the James Street North Bridge, which is where the band performed their first song, Art Museums and Tourist Traps.
You could tell it was a place that some have called home, at one time or another. Patches of blackened concrete were dirty fingerprints of finger-saving fires gone by. As soon as they started playing, what was just a base of a bridge became a cathedral. Warm harmonies echoed pleasantly, coating the concrete columns, completely transforming the space. As they were playing, an employee from the building next door, on the other side of the fence, came out for a smoke break. He was transfixed on the band. I think it might have been the best smoke break of his life. Later, while talking with accordion player Nathan Burge, I overheard him say, “Really great sound.” I think we’ve all wished on certain workdays that we could take a break to find a band like The Provincial Archive playing so sweetly outside our door.
For the second performance, we moved to the parking garage at the corner of MacNab and York, a seven-storey structure with a palette of parking options; the Provincial Archive picked the purple backdrop of the seventh floor, for the aptly chosen song, Drive. It was eerily quiet during their performance. All you could hear was the band, and as soon as they finished, a cacophony of construction sounds —sawing and all manner of hammering—rushed in to fill the silence. Just as I imagine it did for the bystander on break, back at the bridge, the world seemed to stop just long enough for us to get away. How much of it was luck, and how much was the music of The Provincial Archive, I can’t decide.
Art Museums and Tourist Traps can be found on The Provincial Archive’s Maybe We Could Be Holy.
— John Acres
Photos by Jonathan Ely Cass