Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Pride Parade and PS Kensington

Sunday June 25th, what a day! Not only was it Toronto Pride, but also week 2 of PS Kensington, the best little street festival in the land. I had quite a choice before me but managed to have my cake and eat it too (and a large helping, I might add).

The reason I had to make a choice in the first place is that, although I would usually play Kensington Market on a PS Sunday, I was invited to play in the Pride Parade with the Kensington horns by the crazy Samba Elegua kidz who were marching as part of the UofT Gforce float. Samba Elegua and the Kensington Horns have been teaming up to play great, loose, funky free music together since the beginning of PS Kensington 3 years ago, and have performed on the streets of Kensington, in car free parades, anti war marches and just about any hip community gathering that needs some musical spice.

Usually I’m out of town playing Jazz festivals during Pride, but being quasi-gigless this year because of scheduling madness, I was actually in town. And, having never even seen the parade (for shame, straight boy) I really didn’t want to miss an opportunity to check it out. Raph from Samba Elegua put up a convincing argument that finally convinced me to miss part of PS Kensington…e.g., when do you ever get to perform for 1 million people!

On Sunday at 1:30ish, 5 valiant Kensington Horns arrived at Rosedale valley road equipped with horns and costumes. The theme of this year’s Pride Parade was Fearless and so most marchers sported dandy superhero costumes. As I didn’t have any Batman garb lying around the house, I cobbled together a costume based on what I had in the Halloween closet.

‘Superhero, hmmm, I’ll need a cape,’ I thought. Unfortunately, the only thing that I own that resembles a cape is a flag from the former Soviet Union that I acquired for some 2000 rubles while on tour with the Shuffle Demons in 1992. We were paid the outrageous sum of 100,000 rubles for 2 shows in Estonia. Even more outrageous was the fact that the money was paid in 5 and 10 ruble notes, meaning that we all strutted about with shopping bags literally full of money…quite a sight! And as the money was useless in the west, and as Estonia was changing over to their own currency the day we left, we went on a 1-week shopping spree, buying, well, whatever we could find. 20,000 cups of tea was an option that wouldn’t travel well, but Soviet paraphernalia seemed like a better bet. So I got my commie flag with a beautiful rendering of Lenin on one side and the coats of arms of former Soviet Republics on the other.

Combined with my Soviet Army captains hat, my Mickey Mao watch (Mao counts down the seconds by waving a stoic hand – it’s 20 minutes to the revolution, get cracking) and a t-shirt bought on my recent trip to China with a famous revolutionary leader marching large faced amongst a crowd of the people, I became…. ‘Captain Communist.’ I know what you’re thinking, a bit of a stretch at the Pride Parade. What the hell, it got me out of wearing pink, and if pressed for an explanation, I planned to deliver an eloquent speech about the intolerance towards gays in oppressive totalitarian regimes…Perfect.

Band assembled, we rehearsed a brief moment, adjusted our capes and then we were off up the hill towards Bloor and Church, playing a Samba version of Batman for no one in particular. The truck carrying the large drums made a sprint up the hill, so our first test was jogging and playing. We started to have second thoughts as we huffed and puffed up the road to the staging area at the top of the street. Finally the truck stopped, we caught our breath, got into formation and then we were off to the races.

We rounded the corner from Church to Bloor belting out our hit Samba version of Spiderman and Wham we were suddenly in the crowd. What a sight! It was packed!! Absolutely unbelievable, a sea of people, almost all of whom was packing cameras of all descriptions. ‘Captain Communist’s’ crappy costume was in at least 1000 photos that day and occupied miles of video footage both professional and amateur. Now that’s a digital footprint!

Suddenly the parade stopped and we were stuck right in the pack of ravenous Pride hounds playing for the longest time. It was fun but overwhelming, 100,000 people staring, cheering and taking snaps and video. Just crazy the amount of souls that were stolen that day!! And what fun, to be the star of a thousand videos. Better, of course, if everyone was participating and not just spectating (see PS Kensington), as it feels a lot better to actually be part of the action.

We finally rounded the corner onto Yonge and were slammed by a wall of water from a 1000 super soakers. Water was coming from rooftops, guys had hoses connected to their sinks, little kids had squirt bazooka of all shapes and sizes. A water warrior in the parade shielded us from the spray while his accomplish applied a thick coating of payback on the assembled multitudes. It was what I imagine the water festival to be like in Thailand. A water ejaculation festival is a more apt title.

It was fine actually, we needed to get wet, I didn’t mind at all, I was quite covered up from the blazing sun, and ‘Captain Communist’ can withstand greater challenges than a little water on his long march!

The onlookers on rooftops, who let out uproarious cheers as we marched by seemed really happy to see a live band mixed in with all the sterile commercial floats. And damn, it was corporate…Grrlz, make some noize for the TD Canada Trust dancers

Ummm, OK. Now that’s mainstream acceptance…if that’s what you want.
But then there was the South asian float...ahh who can resist a Lady Man?

or Elton John, superhero!

And where would we be without the heroics of Gimpus Maximus

Marching for Medieval Gays and Lesbians everywhere

The next hour flew by in a blur of water and colour, penis shaped freezies and bikinied men in their nylon disgustings dancing on rooftops, gimped out parade people, and camera after plastic bag covered camera.

Less than 2 hours after it began, it was over, and we were headed back to Kensington, getting ready for 3 hours of non commercial, sponsored by no one fun on the car(e)free streets of my beloved market…First set at 7pm with Aininke, a great Malinke drum group, next set at 8:20 with Samba Elegua and then a closing set around 9pm with the Alchemy Society… a beautiful day all round!