This is day 2 of my family’s trip to Canada to attend the farewell concert of Debs and Errol, a geek band from Toronto. For day 1, click here.
So as I mentioned in my previous post, my family was staying in Errol’s guest room. It was a very generous offer, since we basically invaded their house for two full days. The room wasn’t big, but there was a bed for two, and a mattress on the floor large enough for the kids to sleep on. The door didn’t open all the way, because the mattress blocked it, but we fit comfortably inside.
The first morning there wasn’t the most pleasant it could have been though. Around 6:30 am, I woke up with a terrible headache. It might have been because of the overly warm room, though really, I don’t need a reason to wake up with a headache. It happens often. I knew it would be important to take some medicine, so I sat up. My movement was apparently enough to wake up everyone else in the room. Maybe being in an unfamiliar setting had them all sleeping more lightly than usually. Or maybe it was just the excitement of being where we were.
After I’d taken medicine, I lay back down to sleep and told the kids to do the same. When I woke up again a few hours later, I realized they hadn’t gone back to sleep at all. They’d been awake the whole time and playing on their mattress. Fortunately, they’d been pretty quiet, allowing my husband, Logan, and I to get more sleep.
We all got dressed and went downstairs. No one else was awake, or at least no one else was downstairs yet. It was only a few minutes before the rest of the house came alive. Logan had been talking about the four of us going out for breakfast. We were still discussing where, and looking at nearby restaurants online, when Errol’s wife, Keren, informed us that she was making enough breakfast for everyone, because she wasn’t sure who’d be eating there.
Logan still considered going out, but the more people started filling the kitchen, including ‘Manda from the basement apartment, and the more aromas from breakfast began wafting through the house, he wavered on his decision. In the end, we stayed and had breakfast with the Elumirs. The food was great (my family went nuts over the pancakes) and it was fun just talking with everyone too.
Errol’s sister, Lizette, called at one point, and he put her on speaker phone. The phone was then propped up on a carton in the center of the table and Errol and ‘Manda tried to talk to her amongst the din of breakfast. Lizette is pretty well-known amongst D&E fans as well, having been in Errol’s band-related webcomic in some form numerous times. It was pretty cool to talk to her, even if just a few words.
This is the form Lizette took in the D&E webcomic. A text message.
After breakfast, Logan and I were asked what we wanted to do that afternoon. If we had made plans or if we had anything specific we’d like to see or do. A few ideas were thrown around—the aquarium, museum, library (apparently Toronto’s library is worth a visit?), science centre. The natives filled us in on how some of these activities were located downtown, providing more difficult driving and parking situations. Keren quickly went to the local library branch, because she said on Saturday mornings they gave out tickets to local attractions. She thought it would be too late, but it was nearby and worth a try. They were indeed out of tickets, but we appreciated her taking the time to check.
We decided to go to the Ontario Science Centre, as it would hopefully provide sufficient entertainment for the range of ages of our kids, and wasn’t downtown. ‘Manda had offered to be our guide for the afternoon, and Keren asked if we minded having their eldest daughter Ekko along. She did have to drive Ekko over to the centre though, as we only had enough room in our car for ‘Manda.
We parked some distance away so we didn’t have to pay for parking, and then walked. Along the way, we saw a business called Lena’s Nails, which we had to point out to my daughter. And speaking of my daughter, she had attached herself to ‘Manda even more by this point, insisting she walk with ‘Manda along the sidewalk as we went.
At the Science Centre, there was so much to see, and many hands-on activities, that we spent longer there than we maybe should have. We were in the kids’ area for much of the time, which fortunately had some things that were interesting enough that the adults weren’t too bored. While we were in that kids’ area, ‘Manda got a text that some other people were on their way to join us.
Let me stop here to introduce the Laymans. They are a family from Ohio who have been fans of D&E for longer than I have. Brian has done webhosting for them for years now. In October, Logan and I went over to Ohio to meet Debs and Errol when they were at a filk festival. The Laymans were there too, so we got to meet them as well. There are six of them—Brian, Denise, and four children. It added to the excitement of the event being able to meet them too. And they had made the trip up to Toronto for the final concert too.
The Laymans had driven in that morning and found out we were at the Science Centre, so they decided to join us. Once we met up with them, we found our group difficult to get moving and keep moving. We moved on to the next room, which was another kids’ area, and after spending some time there, it took several attempts to gather everyone up so we could move on.
The time came when we had to leave, though, and it took some help to calm Lena down. She had such a blast at that place. ‘Manda contacted Keren so she could come pick up Ekko, and then after Ekko was off, we walked back to the car. We stopped for a quick lunch on the way back to the Elumirs’ house. We went by the house and saw a spot right outside was open. Logan wanted to go around the block to park from the right direction though. We joked that someone would probably take it during that time, and sure enough, right when we pulled onto the street, someone was parking there. It was the Laymans! They had come to get their t-shirts—Logan had designed a t-shirt with the D&E banner on the front and “Farewell Concert,” the date, and “We’ll miss you!” on the back, and we’d offered to add anyone else who wanted one into the batch we were ordering.
We had to get ready to leave quickly, as the trip to the venue for the concert was about an hour away, via public transportation. They were unable to buy the required pass for our family nearby, so we couldn’t take the bus to the subway station; we had to walk maybe fifteen minutes. Logan and I were frustrated and a little embarrassed we hadn’t had much chance to get our money changed over yet, so ‘Manda kindly bought our day pass. Then it was time for an first-time experience for my whole family.
We rode on the subway, and while it caused a little anxiety for me, it was not nearly as overwhelming as I had expected. Still, it was a nice new experience. Lena insisted on sitting with ‘Manda and often asked if it was time to get off yet. She wanted to know what was going on the whole time. After the subway, we took a streetcar, which was interesting too.
On the streetcar, we came across two other people who were going to the concert too. They were sitting right in front of Logan and me. ‘Manda knew them, so it’s not like we were stalking other D&E fans or something. After they talked to her some, I introduced myself and Logan, and they did likewise–the Kesslers. I did know who they were, and I whispered to Logan that they do that podcast he knows about (it’s called Geekually Yoked). I didn’t mention that I was pretty sure he was the man behind “Ask Lovecraft,” partly because I wasn’t 100% sure (more like 90%) and partly because I wasn’t sure if Logan knew what that was (and yes, I was right about Leeman Kessler being “Ask Lovecraft”). I haven’t even mentioned that to him still to this day. Maybe he’ll learn about it for the first time upon reading this post. (Hi, honey!)
We had to walk a few more blocks from the streetcar, but then we found our destination: the ROUND venue. We went up a narrow stairway and into the dark room that would hold the concert. It was already crowded. I know both Keren and ‘Manda would have liked to have been there a bit earlier, but everything took longer having out-of-towners to take care of. There were many times over the weekend I felt like we were inconveniencing them. They were very generous with their time, space, food, and forgiveness.
Back on topic, I couldn’t see much when we got there, because my glasses fogged up. I was told that the Laymans had some space reserved in a back corner and that Brian was waving to us. Let me just stop right here to say how awesome it was that they’d saved extra space with us in mind. It really helped a lot that we didn’t have to find a place for all four of us, when it was already pretty crowded, and I was feeling so out-of-sorts by the entire adventure of just getting there.
We dropped off our coats and stuff on the table. Our twelve-year-old son, Brenden, wanted to stay at the table by the entrance with Ekko, who was selling items made out of perler beads. We told him it was fine, as long as he came to the table when the music started. He would have liked to stay there during the whole concert, I know, but we wanted him near us.
I took some time before the concert started to seek out a couple of people who I wanted to introduce myself to. People I knew online but had never met in person. Kari Maaren, who is a musician and would be performing that night as well, I know mostly because of two webcomics she does. West of Bathurst was one she did for seven years, though I didn’t read it until it had ended. She did a Kickstarter campaign last year to fund the printing of the comic in a massive book. I pitched in on that campaign. As this trip was approaching, she mentioned that they were almost done with the book. I mentioned a few times that if it was done when I came, maybe I could get my copy, instead of having it shipped. It wasn’t done, but that’s okay. I met Kari and later told her (probably not for the first time) how I’d read the whole thing in a week or so, how I was excited about the book, and how I was looking forward to the second read-through of the comic, but I was waiting until I had the book in my hands. I kind of gushed a little.
The other main person I sought out to say hi to was Ja-Mez. Those of you who are into the D&E universe at all probably know who that is. For those who don’t, he used to do a podcast with Errol and ‘Manda, and was in charge of livestreaming the concert that night. He was sitting near the front with a computer in front of him, and looked like he was pretty busy. I didn’t want to risk not having a chance later, though, so I stepped over and told him I didn’t want to take much of his time, but that I wanted to introduce myself. Then I left him alone.
Shortly before the concert was going to start, I took a quick trip to the bathroom. While washing my hands, someone said, “Nice shirt! I was going to get one of those, but I didn’t order it in time.” It was Debbie Ohi! I had met her at the filk festival in Ohio, asking her to sign a copy of her Naked! book for me, otherwise I would have probably gone and introduced myself to her that night too. Still, when I got back to the table, I asked Logan if it was weird that I was all excited that I had just been in the bathroom at the same time as Debbie Ohi and Kari Maaren (she’d gone in while I was in there too).
So then the concert started. There were several bands there to play before D&E went on, and it was lots of fun. Kraken Not Stirred did a fun Dr. Seuss-oriented song called “Oh the Places I’ve Been.” Logan really liked “I Don’t Need You (I’ve Got Netflix)” by Rock/Paper/Cynic. Copy Red Leader has a great song in “Crossing the Streams.” We’d seen that one live before, as they were at the filk festival we went to; we also bought their CD at that event. Kari Maaren was next, and we got to be part of her next album! They set up microphones to record the audience and we yelled “CanLit!” at the appropriate times in her song. That was awesome! The last warm-up band was Nerds With Guitars. I’ve heard of them a lot but hadn’t listened to any of their music. I really loved their sound, and Logan and I both thoroughly enjoyed a song of theirs called “Hero.”
There was an intermission as they set up for Debs and Errol. Brenden went back over to join Ekko selling her wares during that time. Logan went to get us some water from the bar. Then the show started.
I had brought my camera, but we forgot the second battery. Taking lots of video tends to drain the battery, so I wasn’t sure how long it would last. The best part of seeing D&E live is that no show is the same. There’s a lot of talking to the audience or to each other that is definitely spontaneous. They have some banter built into some of the songs, but even that doesn’t often come out the same as it’s planned. I have all of the videos on YouTube, so I won’t embed them here individually. I took videos from beginning to end, stopping now and then when I thought it wouldn’t be as worth taking. The original plan was to not record some of the songs that don’t change a lot from one performance to the next, focusing instead on the talking in between and the songs that varied a lot. I wish I could have recorded the whole thing. As I mentioned, the concert was livestreamed, and that video is still available to watch. The audio quality isn’t great, but at least it’s all there (including the opening bands). Here are the relevant links:
Playlist of my videos from the concert
Livestream of the whole concert
D&E on Bandcamp – The studio versions of their songs are all on this site, if anyone wants to check them out.
There are some things I want to specifically mention from the concert. At one point, Errol mentioned Lena, but he said, “What’s that little girl’s name again?”
She didn’t miss a beat, yelling, “Lena!” back. He “Leeloo” a few times, and she kept yelling it back. That interaction can be found here (queued up for convenience): https://youtu.be/oUEvCI7LVWc?t=56s
He did that one or two more times throughout the concert, and by the last time, half the audience was yelling, “Lena!” back at him along with her.
For two of the songs, “Tie After Tie” and “Undead Crawler,” members from some of the other bands went onto the stage to play and in some cases sing with them. “Undead Crawler” is one of my absolute favorites, so it’s worth checking out. Debs totally nailed “Make It So,” a parody of Frozen’s “Let It Go.” Another favorite is the “Happy Emo Fun Sad Song,” which is a live-only song that perfectly illustrates their unique personalities. (Wow, suddenly I’m getting emotional about them being broken up again.)
When they had one song left, Debs took a moment to express her feelings about this final concert, about how many people came out for it, and about how awesome their fans are. There may have been some tears, and not just from Debs. Then they ended on the song that was normally the one they opened with, “Geek Love Song.” It’s definitely a classic.
Of course, the crowd couldn’t let it stop there, as the standing ovation turned into a chant for “one more song!” They obliged with “Double Rainbow/More Than That.” And then it was over.
Afterwards, we wanted to make sure to talk to Debs and give her a hug, not knowing if we’d see her anymore that weekend. Plans for the next day were still a little nebulous. We made our way to the front of the venue, stopping along the way to talk to Alex James of Nerds With Guitars. He was impressed that we’d come as far as we had for the concert, and also said he was really glad people were willing to do that, because Debs and Errol were worth it. (We obviously agree.)
Also while we were on our way to the front, Ja-Mez came to me and apologized for what he felt was an abrupt conversation before the concert when I approached him to introduce myself. I can see how he felt he’d done me a disservice, but I could tell he was busy, so it hadn’t bothered me. Still, he was very kind to try to make amends for what he felt was a bad meet. I then asked him about the podcast, as I didn’t recall ever hearing a reason for why they had stopped, or an explanation on whether or not they planned to pick it back up again someday. If I remember correctly, he said it could still happen, but his schedule was busy, so that was why it was on hiatus.
After that, we became part of the crowd and waited for our turn to talk to Debs. It actually took a long while for us to have a chance, because so many people wanted to meet them, talk to them, get their autographs in the webcomic book they were selling that night, etc. We were sort of in an unstructured line, but it often seemed to shift to our detriment. The only thing about the situation that was really very bad was that Lena got so bored just waiting around. Well, that and I was paranoid that everyone that could help us get back to Errol’s house would leave and we’d have to find our own way.
Fortunately, we got our chance, gave Debs hugs, and said we didn’t know if we’d see her again. She said if there were any plans for the next day, she wanted to be kept in the loop. There had been some talk of doing an escape room the next day, and I was excited that she might be involved in that too.
It was getting late, and someone from the venue informed Logan that we couldn’t be there with Lena anymore. We were ready to leave anyway, so we met up with ‘Manda and a friend of hers who was going back to the house too, and left for the streetcar. ‘Manda was excited that the streetcar was a new one. We stood on the junction between the two segments, which moved under our feet a lot as the car turned. I very nearly fell into the accordion bellows behind me on the first turn.
‘Manda had informed us that if we were quick enough, we could make an earlier bus, but if we weren’t, we’d have to wait a while for the next (20-30 minutes). When we got off the streetcar, we had to go down some stairs to the subway station. Lena isn’t terribly fast on stairs, and we’d gotten behind some other people anyway. I didn’t think to pick her up until we were on the stairs, and by then, it probably would have been too late. The train was at the station when we were going down the stairs, but left before we got there. ‘Manda was worried we’d miss the bus after that, but fortunately the next train was only a few minutes later. When we got off the train, we ran up more than one escalator, with me carrying Lena this time, to make the bus. We ended up having a few minutes to spare, which was nice.
Back at the house, my family had a few snacks, as we hadn’t had a proper supper, and then went to bed. While we were eating, Keren left saying Errol had asked her to come get him at the bus station. He’d missed the bus and didn’t want to wait for the next one. He wasn’t doing too well after the concert. He’d already been sick for over a week, lost his voice by the end of the concert, and was just tired. I don’t blame him. He puts out a lot of energy on a regular basis, but especially while performing.
Farewell, Debs & Errol!
So the main event of the weekend was over, but we still had a full day in Toronto and lots to do. That will be the subject for another post though. I will just close by saying that Debs and Errol will definitely be missed. They entertained a lot of people, and will continue to do so. If anyone reading this does not know about them, or hasn’t listened to their music before, I strongly suggest you do so. The band may be over, but their music won’t be going anywhere.