Every summer growing up my family would attend something called “Strawberry Jam”, it was more or less a private music festival. Organized by a mix of musicians – country, folk, jazz. Held on a farm owned and occupied by the original visionaries of the festival are a couple named Lee and Wendy. This annual gathering was formative for me on various levels. Daytime was adults sitting around, talking. A swelling crop of children climbing hay bails, catching frogs in the big mud/water pit they called the “pool”, daring each other to grab the electric fences that wrapped around the border of the property. Night time had the adults gathering in the barn to perform songs together. All being pros, this was a full production with lighting, sound and rotating players. They would sit in on each others originals and interpretations of classics.
Each morning we would all eat strawberry shortcake prepared and doled out in an assembly line. This would go on for 3 – 4 days. The memory of my feet dangling off the hay loft is prominent, looking down on the adults singing perfect harmonies and trading solos. It was the early 90’s, these were people who’d been brought up through the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. A certain fashion and demeanor would arise by day 3; former flower children coming to life in their temporary musical commune.
The last time we went my older brother brought a friend, they were 14 or so. The 3 of us and a group of girls stole some beers, then all huddled in a tent. The beer was passed around and I nervously sipped a dribble but passed it on and tucked myself into the corner as tight as I could. I remember one the girls saying I was cute, like a scared puppy kind of cute. The older kids started kissing, drinking more and laughing more sporadically. It was all very terrifying and confusing for me, I just wanted to be in the barn or maybe in the mud hole. The next morning I remember walking through the barn and really noticing how many empty bottles there were laying around, piled up on every surface. I found one bottle that had a worm in it shriveled up in in the bottom layer of liquid. A man who had been packing up gear was suddenly over my shoulder and said something along the lines of “Damn they left the best part” picked up the bottle and gulped down the worm + lingering liquid.
The older I get, the longer I’ve been in creative circles and the more I understand what was going on adjacent to the music. Lots of booze, definitely more drugs than my parents would care to admit. A bunch of adults and out of work musicians slipping back into old ways for a weekend on a farm. Strawberry Jam went away after that year. There was a big scandal, an affair among some core members of the community. The whole thing became tainted for the adults I guess, it all caught up with them. For me though, it ended at the perfect time. It was music being created right in front of me. Perfect, amazing sounding music. I was still a kid and my innocence was still relatively intact. I knew that composed sounds resonated with me. Music brought some sort of calm I had been chasing ever since. I also realized I’m not the biggest fan of strawberry shortcake. I find it a bit tart.
Favorite Record Store
There’s a shop called Invisible City in Toronto that often has DJs set up playing some nice deep cuts. They have an amazing selection of disco/Brazilian jazz/techno/house/funk/soul. Its the sort of place you go if you want to build a collection that will impress the heads.
Favorite Concert Venue
There was a place on Bloor St in Toronto called The Holy Oak. It closed about a year ago, but was a vital space for the west end LGBTQ2+ community. I would often pop in while walking home, entering either a hushed room gathered around Marker Starling and a keyboard, a conversational set by Thom Gill, or often on the weekends a real proper house/techno show with a sweaty room of people letting their flags fly. The place had a strong political community at its core, and I think places like that allow creative communities to grow while keeping everyone mindful of why their doing what they’re doing and for who. Its a real shame to see those places go.
Soundtrack Of Your Life
With the viral success of their EPs Chat and Cue, the Toronto 5-piece has carved out their own particular niche in the DIY music scene. The distinctive songwriting of frontman Tom Helliwell in combination with an unconventional five-way production process has earned Jaunt cosigns from collaborators Charlotte Day Wilson and BADBADNOTGOOD.