From funk bands to uncomfortable moments |

From funk bands to uncomfortable moments

Editor’s note: “Irrelativity” is on the road as Barry Smith tours his solo shows through the U.S. and Canada this summer. This dispatch is from Ottawa, Canada. Read more about Barry’s tour adventures at

OTTAWA, CANADA ” Tired. Way too tired for Ottawa. I was thinking I would be this tired around, say, Vancouver, some time in September. But no. I’m that tired now.

But it’s a good, honest, doing-what-you-love tired. I’m not complaining, just reporting.

As I write this, I have one last show left at the Ottawa Fringe Festival in about two hours. The first five shows went as follows:

Show 1, Sunday, 11 p.m.: No, that’s not a misprint. Sunday night at 11, I had my opening performance of “Jesus In Montana” in Ottawa. I had just done “American Squatter” the night before in Montreal, slept very little, driven to Ottawa, about three hours away, parked my van and soon there I was on stage, in front of about 16 brave and hearty theater-goers. This was about five times the number of people I was expecting. They seemed to like it well enough, and most of them stayed awake. As did I.

Show 2, Monday, 7:30 p.m.: The way the festival works is that times are assigned to me, I don’t pick them. I thought this would be a good time slot, though. I was wrong. About 15 people. They kinda stared at me for an hour. Woo hoo.

Show 3, Wednesday, 6 p.m.: I really got my hopes up for this one. The press has ignored me, but I was hoping maybe word-of-mouth might lead people to my show, maybe attract the people who need an hour nap in a darkened room. About 20 people showed. They seemed to like it well enough.

At the end of the show the technician played the wrong song. As you may know from the hundred or so columns I have written about it, I used to be an audio visual guy and for a moment there, I reverted. I was suddenly the “AV” guy, trying to diagnose and treat an AV glitch.

Except for the small detail that I was not the “AV” guy, but the guy that AV is supposed to be done for by the actual “AV” Guy.

The small crowd applauded for a bit ” generous applause, but 20 people can only sustain so much. They clapped, then they were done clapping. But I was still on stage, staring intently at the back of the room, trying to telekinetically advance the CD player to the next track.

And then, in an instant, as if I’d just woken up from one of those full nights of sleep that I used to have, I looked up and saw a group of people staring silently at me. They didn’t know the wrong song was playing, they didn’t know what I was trying to accomplish with all of my strange AV Guy facial gestures. They just wanted to leave and go see another show. I had completely forgotten that I was on stage.


This will not exactly help my future ticket sales, right? I bowed again and ran off stage, hiding there until everyone had gone.

Show 4, Thursday, 7:30 p.m.: Sold Out! What the hell? 65 people ” 65 strangers ” jammed in to the little black box theatre to see my show. Why the sudden interest? I don’t know. But I liked it. Great show, no uncomfortable moments to report. Sorry.

Show 5, Saturday 9:30 p.m.: Sold Out! People sitting on the floor! This also happened to be the night of the Fringe Fiesta party, which basically meant a funk band playing right outside of my theater. My not-all-that-soundproof-theater. It was like someone coming in with a small radio and playing it during my entire show. It gave the sensitive, quiet moments of my show a very different feel. People were unconsciously nodding their heads to the beat. I managed to make two separate jokes about it during the show, making me seem all witty and spontaneous, so I guess it all worked out.

Show 6, Sunday, 4 p.m.: That’s two hours from now. I have no idea what will happen. Is Sunday at 4 way too early? Has everyone who wants to see my show seen it already? Will a marching band come by?

If there was a formula for making all this work ” that perfect combo of show type, time, location and day, then all of us performing here at this festival would probably have discovered it by now, because it certainly is one of the main topics of discussion among the performers at the beer tent. But so far unpredictability is the only thing we seem to be able to count on. And really, hooray for that. Predictability would take the fun out of it.

OK, time to start my pre-show routine now. Off to the coffee shop…

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