Monday, January 07, 2008

what is tomorrow?

“Our beginnings never know our ends”, observed T.S. Eliot. Bob Dylan sings, “Let me forget about today until tomorrow.” And, less focused on the metaphysical, perhaps, Bob Seger (and, more recently, Ronan Keating) croons, “We’ve got tonight, who needs tomorrow?”

It was during Spring 1999 that I first heard of Allison Crowe. I was fully into the bands and barbeques, (and beers), at the South by Southwest Music (SXSW) music festival in Austin, Texas. There I met some fellow Canadians who happened to have with them a copy of a magazine called Cosmic Debris. This mag, mostly, featured musicians active in Canada’s Pacific Northwest region.

"Allison Crowe is a 17-year-old 'Jewel' in the making. She is sending shivers up the spine of almost every onlooker. I've never seen talent that has affected me like this before." This quote in an article came from Tina Ruotsalainen, a veteran booking agent on Vancouver Island, B.C., Allison’s home at the time. (And, only one boat-ride away from my own base of Salt Spring Island.)

While at SXSW, I carried on forgetting about today until tomorrow, enjoying performances by Lucinda Williams, Beth Orton, Chuck E. Weiss, the Donnas, Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart among others. When I returned to Canada, though, foremost in mind was checking out this young artist about whom I’d just read. I’d witnessed, fairly close-up, Jewel (Kilcher)’s evolution from San Diego coffee-house performer to multi-platinum recording artist and celebrity.

I wanted to know whether or not Tina R., in so praising Allison Crowe, had hit upon some truth. (She had, well, and that’s something to talk about another day.)

The first chance I had to experience Allison in concert came on the weekend of July 15 and 16, 1999. She and her band, Lucid, billed as “Celtic funk”, performed both nights at the Royal Room - in the Royal Hotel, located in Chilliwack, a rural community a couple of hours drive from the city of Vancouver, B.C.

Allison would return to the Royal in November 2001, headlining “A Night Without Borders” - a fundraiser for Face to Face, the Afghan Children’s Relief Fund. Helping women and children in war-savaged Afghanistan was not all that popularly embraced as an humanitarian act in late 2001. A bomb threat was called in to the Royal on concert week, but, the show went ahead, and thousands of dollars were raised from the concert and a related auction.

I’m reminded that Allison, as long as I’ve known her, is about people. (Not to be confused with Soylent Green - which IS people.) Allison makes music for, and about, people. And she is one of the people. (Cue return to the Planet of the Apes.) In her professional choices, she simply does what a decent person, or simian, would do under the circumstances. Politics don’t factor in the equation.

(In Spring 2003, Allison was being courted by record labels - and stationed in New York City. Witnessing Code Orange alerts and the hysteria, fear and war propaganda of the time - she penned “Whether I’m Wrong”. True to her empathic nature, this song is timeless. With Bob Dylan, who took aim at the masters of war in a previous generation, today hawking SUVs, the most honest expression is one that includes us all in the same boat - with or without wheels still in spin.)

By the Spring of 2000, I began to work with Allison full-time.

In August 2000, Allison, her bandmates and I were in Port Alberni, B.C. setting up for a concert that night in the town’s Capitol Theatre. Gerrit Meier, a photographer visiting from Germany, chanced upon us during load-in - and invited Alley and her bassist, Dave (Baird), to become part of his “what is tomorrow?” multimedia project.

Wondering what tomorrow had brought, I located Gerrit Meier online this weekend. Today, he emailed me to say:

“What a surprise! I do remember very well when we met. It was in the summer of 2000, august 12th. I was just starting with my project what is tomorrow? , and Allison was the 4th person who took part in the project (together with Dave Baird - who was number 3). Since this day I continue this project, and now there are more then 70 persons from 7 countries who have written a statement to the same question. You can see the results on the project website at:

Last year in january I did an exhibition in Hamburg with a selection of the photographs - actually Allison’s picture was one of them... And next week I will hold the first edition of the what-is-tomorrow book in my hands :)

You see, sometimes things need some time to develop...”

Kicking off 2008, with best wishes to you and yours, and all of us here, I quote the essence of Allison’s statement to Gerrit that very sunny afternoon:

“if you take hold of now and are not afraid to let go of the things that hold you down, tomorrow can be yours.”

Happy New Year!!!

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