Fernie, British Columbia is one of those places where you walk outside (or look out the window, for that matter) and say, “Wow.” The mountains are all around us and beautiful; the town is very cozy and nestled right in the middle of them. We arrived to much fanfare (parades, the presentation of the key to the city, a champagne reception. You know, the usual) and without too much Bessie trouble. We have forsaken the air conditioning completely and we’re not loosing too much coolant. We filled up what we had lost, including the reservoir, which Jiffy-Lube filled with washer fluid instead of anti-freeze, by the way. Perhaps we should have been watching them instead of getting our hippie on with the hacky-sack…
We crossed the border with a swiftness, owing to our having all the proper paper work. One of the border officials asked what kind of music we play. Actually, all of them have asked it, but he asked it in a particularly interesting way,””You guys aren’t a grunge rock band are you? I hate grunge music.” We told him, that, no, we played “party music,” realized that could be misinterpreted and corrected to “pop-funk.” He was bummed that he would have to miss the show to work a twelve hour shift at the border. We listened to Temple of the Dog and Pearl Jam all the way to Fernie in tribute.
The show was pretty happening for Wednesday, and everyone there bemoaned the fact that we weren’t playing a weekend night, but when you’re trying to play seven nights a week, some of them are bound to be weeknights. As long as it feels like Saturday night from the opening snare roll of “Call the Shots,” to the last synth blast of “It’s Your World,” then we’re doing alright. Last night, I can safely say, felt like Saturday night. It works out well, too, because that makes every morning Sunday morning, and on Sunday morning we listen to Michael McDonald and Larry Graham.
People loved our music, though, and we played really well. One of the fun parts of playing a bunch of clubs (let alone cities) that we’ve never played before is that we never know what the stage or sound system will be like. When we have a really little stage, like we did in Montreal, we don’t have the option of moving so much, which can be inhibiting. On the other hand, a small stage puts us so close to each other that we can really hear and listen to each other, which can help us play better. And then we’ll find a large stage (like Ottawa) and feel so free to move that it’s liberating. Columbus was a tiny stage, but more importantly, a quiet room, so we could tone it down and get into something more intimate. Last night’s venue left Sam, Wrall and myself on the dance floor, which was perfect for interacting with our audience.
People at the Royal Hotel in Fernie seem to have fondness for Jagrmeister (or as our host called it Gangstah Meister) as well as a fondness for buying drinks for the band. I myself enjoyed watching the bartenders and patrons shower affection (in the form of Canadian whisky and the above) on my bandmates, even while I was getting smoked on the pool table by Trick Johnson (hustling me like that, he must have drank a case of Hunid Racks yesterday).
Here’s where it gets interesting:
When we finished the show, we shot the breeze with the crowd and Daddy Wrall worked out the hard sell. (I’m talking about the record, by the way.) While we were packing up our gear, the bartenders asked if we could leave, so the loitering bar patrons would take the hint. The bar was completely shut down and locked up so we weren’t even allowed to go outside. Fortunately, we were staying upstairs above the bar that night, so they asked that we just go to the common area up there for ten minutes while they shoo-ed everyone out. Then we could come back down for a beer with the staff.
We went upstairs and Patrick went to his room. He closed his door, but it opened all by itself. Then, when he came out to join us, he turned the light off, but even before he could leave the room, the light came on again. He was unsurprised when Rhett, one of the owners, came up and told us a story about the Royal Hotel being haunted. Ten minutes had passed and we were ready to go back down and hang, but Rhett asked for more time. “Yeah, we’re cleaning and stuff still, just give us ten minutes.” So, we waited another ten minutes and finally went down to the bar. There were a few people sitting on bar stools and others counting receipts. Quickly, one bartender who looked Tony Kanal from No Doubt, asked our host Kyle to get us some beers and send us upstairs. “Hey guys. Why don’t you take this case of assorted Canadian beers and go back up for ten minutes. Just ten minutes. Then you can come back down and hang.”
Ten minutes? What is with this ten minutes thing?
We went back up. Daddy Wrall and Trick Johnson went to the end of the hall, near their rooms. They stood facing the part of the hallway between the bathroom and stairs. While they watched, one of the staff walked out of one of a bathroom/office and down the stairs. Right behind him, a woman followed. Dubs and Tricky J walked down the hall toward the stairs to follow behind them. Within less than a minute, the same woman came out of the bathroom again, following them down the stairs. Daddy Wrall, scared out of his wits, turned, looked directly into her expressionless eyes, and exclaimed “Woah! Deja Vu, huh?” She didn’t speak, to him, but lifted both arms into a dramatic karate chop, grunting in the style of the kung-fu movie sound effects. (!)
So here’s the theory: 1. These people are impressive in how much they can drink. They drink more than functional people can usually drink. More than living people can usually drink. 2. They fastidiously lock the doors to the bar, keeping anyone who’s in in, anyone who’s out out (including their own staff and hotel patrons). 3. They can be in two places at once, turn lights on and open doors without being seen. They are extremely nice and friendly, yet, at times, need to keep a certain distance. I know what you are thinking. And you are completely correct. They are all ghosts.
Maybe they aren’t ghosts all the time. Each ten minute period was an opportunity to stall us while they underwent their transformation. Before they had locked us up inside the hotel, even before we had played, Trick was able to check out the streets of Fernie, and he reports that they were completely deserted. We had been asked to play at midnight exactly and funny enough, people (ghosts) appeared at that exact moment, out of nowhere. Later, the doors were locked to keep us in and who out, exactly? Ghosts, I tell you. Ghosts.
It’s the best theory we’ve found. Based on their interest in The Rocket, it’s almost certain that he was targeted as some kind of new blood. We’ve emerged with him in tow and we’re fairly certain he’s still alive. Time will tell, but when you see us, look for the signs in him. We certainly will be. Presently, he’s defending these ghosts and trying to imply that they are some kind of bizarre, previously undiscovered undead. He’s a notch paler, can no longer see himself in the mirror and has an unhealthy craving for deer’s blood in the form of Jagrmeister. He’s making strange coughing sounds and his eyes are rolling into the back of his head. Case closed.
Fortunately for everyone involved, we do like ghosts! So, we can’t wait to come back.
Right now we’re driving east again, having already reached our westernmost point. We’re headed home! Homeward bound! (Ish.) I’m not driving and writing at the same, though. That didn’t work out so well two days ago. (Kidding. It worked out just fine.) Patrick is driving. He offers, “I think all of my sailing experience pays off driving this thing in the wind.” This landscape is incredible.
Big shouts to Kyle, Rhett, Tony Kanal, and Dirty Jesus for all of your help and hospitality. You are welcome at our haunted hotel any day. (Speaking of Tony Kanal, how does he have time to tend bar in Fernie when he’s supposed to be prepping for the new No Doubt record?)
Ten minutes is a thing.
Ghost towns is a thing.
Tony Kanal is a thing.
Daddy Wrall’s hard sell is a thing.