Thursday, April 02, 2009

Joe Bird Died

I've said that probably two dozen times today. Most of them it has been delivered with an incredulous tone that implies that the sentence begins with "I can't believe..."

I never hung out with Joe much. Some, on tour. But for the most part his company – Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie – ran with a different crowd than the Juanabees. There wasn't really any animosity between us (if one discounts the rumours that his main partner in crime had a small hate-on for me personally – allegedly over a girl, but none of that has ever been confirmed (EDIT: Debunked!!! See comments below.)) and the Juanabees even paid tribute to the Trolls in our third show by calling our show "Three Young Hitlers in a Baggie" – a title which melded the names of two of a previous seasons' top sellers.

The Trolls were top dog when we started touring, but they were in the process of transition so we only actually toured together once, before the torch was passed. We crossed paths numerous times though, and in a very real sense the Trolls were the Juanabees inspiration. Between the Trolls and the Flaming Idiots the Juanabees got the incorrect message that touring ALL the Fringe festivals was how it was done. It wasn't. But it would become that way after we did it.

My friend Brian – who was an original Juanabee – dragged me to the last Trolls show at their first visit to the Victoria Fringe. I had genuinely never seen anything like it. I'd seen and done sketch comedy, but the Trolls were pushing things to a new level. It was fast, funny, ridiculous and beyond just being funny had something very real to say. And the music... they were like a rock band that had gone wrong. It was great.

The next year Norm and I would see the Trolls again in Vancouver. It was IN LINE to the Trolls show that I had the conversation with Kevin from the Flaming Idiots that led me to the ill-met conclusion that touring all the festivals was the way to go. It was there that I first heard The Toronto Song. I STILL love the Toronto Song. According to today's Edmonton Journal Joe wrote it and it led directly to their short-lived CBC show. Note: Do NOT start your entire run with the announcement that you should 'lower your expectations.'

I do recall jamming with Joe... it must have been that first year on tour. I'm almost certain it was at one of the infamous 'Fuck Art' parties that became a Fringe staple for a few years. He was an outrageous partier. And part of his seemingly infinite capacity for glee seemed to be his bottomless stamina for being on the up-side of some form of high... though perhaps I mis-read him, but I doubt it.

Joe was always happy to see you, though he probably couldn't recall your name. One couldn't help but think that it was inevitable that he'd die young for that same capacity. I know... or rather, I've been told, that Joe's family was stricken with naturally short life spans. He himself expected to be dead before he was thirty. He was forty-one when he died yesterday. One can't help be struck by the irony – it was April Fool's day.

It's all just thought – random thought, but it's natural to reflect at a time like this. In the past week three acquaintances of mine have died. Joe is the most recent, so perhaps that's why I'm struck by pensiveness now... the dam has broken. But it may be affinity. Joe was born in the same hospital as I was. We have the obvious actor/musician & Fringe connection. It makes me project... both my grandfathers died young. Very different circumstances – I've already outlived the one who died by accident (as opposed to illness.) I suppose that the closer a person reflects ourselves, the more prone we are to consider our own mortality, whatever that results in.

Good journey, Joe. It was good to have travelled with you. Thanks for the inspiration.

More Trolls – that's Joe on guitar.


Anonymous said...

Gee, I don't remember being mad at you... maybe it was neil...

Jedi School Drop Out said...

Aye, indeed Wes (should you come back and read this), the rumours were about you. And when I say rumours I mean two people whose names I no longer recall - two of the Gordon's Big Bald Head guys - brought it up once. I'm guessing they thought it funny to start a rumour? I know I would have when I was the age they had been at the time. Once, years later, someone else said something which made me think of the earlier comment, so I brought it up, and that led to the "about a girl" connection.
Anyhow... I take your word for it, and never really made that much of it in the first place.

When I got the news about Joe I tried to find a contact for you - is there a functional one on the Trolls Website? - I felt like it was worth sending you a message of condolence, even though I haven't spoken to you in over a decade, and there was an alleged feud between us. ;-)

This is practically turning into it's own post...

The day after I wrote the post about Joe I was in an audition and the guy beside me asked the assistant how long it was going to be. He said that he really had to get on the road to Edmonton. After a moment of consideration I asked if he was heading to Joe's memorial. In fact he was. We talked for a while. It was pretty cool, if bittersweet.

Four different people sent me the info on when the memorial would be. It's a testament to who Joe was that I'd be told that many times, so many miles and years away from when I last saw him.

Anyhow, Wes, I hope life has has good plans thus far for you and that it continues that way for a long time to come. And should we cross paths again we should share a beer and try to figure out who exactly it was who attempted to turn us upon one another... and then go bash them senseless.

They wanted to see a comedy-troupe fight? We'll give 'em one!