Monday, August 3, 2009

An Evening [or 3] with Faye Blais

It was my trip to LUVStock that I first heard the name Faye Blais.

The Refuge & LUVStock visionary, Boston Paul, announced rather ecstatically that the community's beloved Faye was returning from Australia for a weekend after nearly two years of absence. I then learned that Miss Blais once was an intricate part of the Taichung Music Community, but had left to tour Australia and New Zealand. Faye was now on her way home to Canada, and, Paul was happy to say, would be spending a weekend in Taichung.

Her tour schedule:
Friday: 89k
Saturday: Retro Coffee
Sunday: The Refuge

...likely my three favorite and most frequented music centers in the city. Checking my schedule, I decided that if this Faye was worth the hype Paul was putting into her, then I may as well fill my weekend at the three venues I otherwise enjoy.

As routine, I did my homework on the new artist and instantly liked what I heard -- only further solidifying my weekend plans. A smooth, soulful voice and intriguing acoustics came through my speakers as a refreshing change from many of the industry's regurgitated pop-sounds.

Upon arriving at 89k, I near immediately picked Faye out of the sparse crowd. What surprised me, though, was that her bright smile luminated in the crowd more than the signature locks I'd seen on her myspace photo.

Escaping the drone of an opening act, I moved my way to the balcony of 89k. After a minute or two, Faye navigated her conversation with her friend across the balcony to include me, as we were the only ones above the main floor. After the three of us made introductions, I listened and occasionally chimed in to the discussion already in motion.

"Our generation is at an age where we're bursting with creativity, and we're all beginning to sacrifice and collaborate to make life and dreams happen." Faye spoke with passion.

I knew instantly there was more to this girl than just another traveling rock star.

Just as I expected, her live show lived up to her recordings and even further alluded to the depth surrounding her music and persona.

89k was just the beginning, though. At Retro, Faye proved capable of the transition between commanding a packed-crowd barroom stage to the intimate setting of a cramped-yet-cozy coffee house. Retro seemed to transform into her living room, as she shared songs from her heart with old friends.

While her peers may write about the most recent melancholy heart break, Faye rejoices in the love of her closest family and friends. Evident is her intentional pursuit of community.

Her concerts reiterated this. Though it has been over a year and a half since her last Taichung appearance, Faye's shows were guaranteed to not only be full of familiar faces, but fellow musicians standing nearby ready to pick up their instrument and join Faye in on the fun. Spontaneity. The kind that comes only from cultivated and welcoming community.

This spilt over into post-show activities, like a song-share under the canopy of trees and a midnight sky. Faye passed round her guitar as I and another sat back and listened to two songstresses trade off tunes. Retiring at a modest 12:30, the 4 of us parted, promising to reconvene the following day.

And reconvene we did. All day Sunday was spent at the Refuge, a music-house inherently focused on birthing community. Boston Paul set up a full-day festival (FayeFest?) in honor of Faye's return.

Favorites of mine, Avery Day and the Deng Yi Xias (translated: "Wait a Minutes") and the Stackers, were there to make the festival ever-more complete. We ignored the heat (best we could), and focused on the people, music, and food around us.

I spent the afternoon in a puddle of my own sweat behind the soundboard with Paul, and Faye drifted between familiar face and new friends. Occasionally, in full Refuge-fashion, an organic jam session would break out during someone's set, and friends would grab microphones and fill the stage with their instruments. As I reveled in this new community I found, both Paul and Faye entered a state of near ecstasy while witnessing the fruit of their cultivation: a truly international community coming together in one purpose. Stylistic differences, musical pedigree, ethnicity, culture, gender and age all cast aside as people picked up instruments and began harmonizing in the same language.

All-in-all over 200 people came through the refuge to celebrate Faye's return. And once again, she proved her versatility during her set. Backed by a completely impromptu band, Faye serenaded the crowd in a mellow, down-tempo set that matched the mood of the sun-setting day.

My final evening with Faye ended much the same as the first began. As the last piece of equipment was torn down, I set out in search for the hammock I spied earlier, tucked away from lights and crowd. Not-at-all disappointed was I to discover it was already occupied by Faye. (OK, only slightly disappointed. I'll admit it looked better than the ground, but I'm certainly not complaining. And was glad she put it to use.) She, too, had once again sought refuge away from the crowd, and we once again ended up in the same place.

By this time, the last bus had long since past. I was beginning to realize my ride-options back into the city were limited, seeing as most had left the night's affair, but wasn't yet ready to give up the evening.

Faye and I began to chat, recapping the weekend's festivities and enjoying our new-formed friendship. We shared stories and dreams of the future; not surprisingly, neither revolved around money and fame but friends and community. There are some people you meet in life that, from the moment you meet them, you know you share a bond that goes beyond words of quick conversation.

Before we could blink, a couple hours passed, the Refuge cleared out, and as tthey were released from entertaining their guests, Boston Paul and his wife drifted over to me and Faye. The four of us recounted the day and I listened to the stories and history of the Refuge. Time slipped away as the birds and air began to awaken. The sky grew light as our faces began to shine once again. Morning broke, but our conversation hadn't.

Around 5, though, it was time to head home. Faye couldn't manage 2 guitars, a bag and a suitcase alone on her scooter, so I hitched a ride with her and carried my weight in a guitar case. We parted, reluctantly, at breakfast just before seven. An unexpected weekend spilt out to Monday morning.

As an artist, Faye's professionalism on stage, color-filled lyrics, enchanting voice and authentic melodies put her in a class of musicianship that I reserve for very few.

As a person, Faye lives what she sings. She embodies life-as-community and attracts and creates it wherever she goes. Undoubted are the lengths she would go for an old friend, but in my weekend around her, I never once saw Faye miss an opportunity to make a new friend, too. For that, I am grateful and blessed.

She brought her lyrics to life, in my time with her. And it's clear to me that she will do this for all who take the time to reach back towards her, whether it be in song or conversation; for an hour, a day, or a lifetime.

Life is a Journey, and it's the people we meet along the way that make it all worth while.


the people i meet are fantastic
they teach me things i never knew
some happy, some sad
each, a perspective to be had
they share with me while I'm on my way
-Faye Blais, "Canvas"

Photo Reel

Attention LA/OC Friends and Readers:
Faye will be playing two shows in Hollywood, and if we can pull together for her, a few more. If you're an artist with a show in the next two weeks that she could open for, that would be great. Otherwise, any leads to venues would be much appreciated. I'll post updates as I can.

Besides that, though, anyone in the area should check out her shows and tell her hi. You'll never know where one conversation will lead.
Aug 6, 2009 9:00 PM @ The Cat Club Hollywood, CA
Aug 11, 2009 9:00 PM @ Room 5 Hollywood, CA

More on Faye Blais:
Faye's Blog


Don said...



Chase said...

I hope that's a good wow?


Don said...

That was an awesomely good "Wow!"

When I think of stellar weekends that I've had... this would rank up in the top 25%. (But is was your weekend, not mine.)

I thoroughly enjoyed the post, and was blown away. All I could think of was, Wow. (I went and Googled Faye... spent 20 minutes or so... having fun... following your lead...)

(But "wow" is hard to understand without the facial expression, the intonation, and all the nodding and smiles leading up to it.)

Next time... I'll try italics?

Wow! (Couldn't add italics. I don't know html .)

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!