I love the East Coast. I love the West Coast too (I live here…), but there is definitely an old world charm and hospitality about the East that doesn’t really exist in the West. We are too ‘new’ and clean, hyper-eco-friendly and hip out here. East Coasters have a ‘what you see is what you get’ style, and there is little in the way of pretense or hang ups about stuff.
July 1990, we were making a stop on the Bodyrock tour in Shediac, New Brunswick. Shediac, if you aren’t already aware, is the ‘Lobster Capital of the World.’ A claim the locals don’t take lightly. Lobster business is serious business in this town.
We had endured a long overnight haul on the bus from a gig in Nova Scotia, and upon arriving I was told that the Mayor would be honoured if I would help out with the opening ceremonies for ‘Lobster fest.’ How could I possibly refuse? “Cool…” I think I said.
I wasn’t really given any clear info on when – or what – I would be doing for ‘Lobster fest,’ but there was a lot of chit chat and lip smacking from my band and crew in anticipation of the feast that was to follow.
It was all pretty casual, so I figured I’d get the scoop over dinner.
I climbed back onto the bus to catch a couple hours of much needed, immobile sleep.
The bus driver would often park as close to the stage door as possible, so we could use the tour bus as a dressing room at smaller venues. I was in a deep sleep when someone yelled “Queenie, you’re up!” I was so tired, I almost wiped out on the bus steps, making an impressive entrance into the club. Nice.
I picked up the mic, and a 500k rumble nearly shook the lobster traps off the walls. An audio-challenged venue, it was going to be an ear plugs night for sure. I sort of sniped at my stage tech to please get me a coffee, and instantly felt bad. Then suddenly, some guy ran in the side door and said “We need her now – right now!” Huh? I was still in my track pants.
Stepping outside, I now saw the small stage set up in front of the biggest-ass lobster sculpture you can possibly imagine. Only bigger. The Mayor and Minister of Fisheries were there in suits and ties. Off to the side, a pair of enthusiastic young ladies were outfitted in head-to-toe lobster body suits. Complete with lobster claw oven mitts and bouncy red antennae.
And there, in the centre of the stage, was a lonely microphone. Obviously, set up for me. I could hear my road crew sniggering in the background.
“How can I possibly get out of this?” was a fleeting thought, until the Mayor smiled at me – a huge east coast smile – and held out a pair of scissors as I was being pushed onto the stage. I hadn’t even noticed the red ribbon.
Now, normally I can fake my way through almost anything.
I was clueless.
I walked up to the mic and said “Hey, Shediac. I love Lobster!” and went to cut the ribbon.
I am such a loser.
The Mayor leaned over and whispered in my ear “No. ‘Oh, Canada.’”
For a second, I thought he was implying that I was a national disgrace. Then it dawned on me that they wanted me to sing the National Anthem.
So there I stood, in my track pants, nervous as a school girl, because I hadn’t actually sung the national anthem since grade school and was sure I would screw it up.
My band and road crew took blackmail photos and hooted with the locals. Shaky, and hanging on every word sung by the crowd, I keenly watched for lyric cues. I messed up the “far and wide” part. I felt like a bad Canadian. Especially when everybody cheered as I cut the ribbon. Then I stepped aside, embarrassed, unprepared and underdressed, while the Mayor and the Minister expounded on lobster trapping and small town pride and stuff.
I know it’s goofy, but I walked off stage kind of rattled by the whole thing. Someone put a beer in my hand. I don’t even like beer but I was grateful, and downed it. People were drinking in the street anyway. Even the Mayor.
For years, I’ve remembered this experience with humour and latent anxiety. Seriously. I figured Shediac was just this unorganized, fly by the seat of their pants, lobster crazy, party town. Yet, it occurs to me now, as I write this, that I was probably pranked by my crew. Duh. A lobster-size light bulb just went off. Geez.
I am so stupid.