What irresistable force could ever dissuade me from the Geek Round Table? It's simple - Couple Stuff.
A few months back some long-time friends - another couple - invited us for a weekend away from the kids. They were taking our friendship to the next level by inviting us to a gourmet dinner and jazz concert in Niagara-On-The-Lake. The vein of Seinfeld plot material was rich. Hanging out with friends is one thing, but sharing a suite at the Kia-Ora B&B is asking for trouble. Added to that was the small detail that I had no understanding or particular interest in jazz. On the plus side: no kids, lots of wine, and lots of food.
So there we were at the Hillebrand Jazz Festival on July 11. Our friends are members of some kind of wine club, so our tickets for the day were decidedly VIP-ish. At shortly after Noon we were sampling wine in a posh Hillebrand back room. By 12:45pm we were sipping Welcome Champagne on the empty Festival stage. Shortly after 1pm we were seated with 50-ish other guests at a long table in an underground wine cellar - enjoying foods I cannot pronounce matched with various wines I cannot afford.
Between 4pm and 8pm, we were very buzzed and seated in cosy sling-chairs, front-row center of the stage. 4 hours, 4 acts - and I had a blast. It could have been the effects of more wine and snacks brought to our chairs, but the music (and musicianship) were a revelation under sunny Niagara skies.
The line-up had a few familiar names punctuated with the word 'Juno'. There were local favourites, Joe Sealy’s Jazzbirds. There was Canadian jazz star Carol Welsman. The finale was owned by the Shuffle Demons who, despite having recorded Spadina Bus so many years ago, rocked the joint big-time. Their presence on the stage drew many ladies who'd been revving their engines for hours using white wine as fuel. Now they were there to dance for the Demons - one or two even opting to flash the band for a free t-shirt.
And then there was Brandi.
Brandi Disterheft was the opening act - and easily the highlight of the Festival. She, too, has garnered a Juno for her debut CD. She's 20-something, she's cute, she can sing, and she plays her bass with a pained passion that is almost spiritual. I fell in love - as did a few other glassy-eyed males in my vicinity.
The rest of the weekend was just as glowing. There were long walks and long talks and lots of the local Niagara history towards which I've always felt a weird kinship. We even managed a meandering tour of a few more local vineyards - sampling the goods as we went. Seinfeld be damned, but I cannot remember ever having a more relaxing weekend.
But that Brandi... See if you don't agree.