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  • Ian Mattey

Winnipeg, You Done Good!

Like many a good tale, this one begins at the end and even has a happy ending.

At 5:05 AM this morning my day got off to a grumpy start as our aging cat, Tom, decided it was time I got up to feed him, then let him out to patrol our backyard. He wakes me by guise of cuddling up under my chin and purring loudly. Cute the first time or two but not so much when it's a daily occurrence. If that doesn't work, he repeatedly walks across my head. That said, it's hard to stay mad at him when you see his expectant, excited face staring back at you (from a safe distance - because he's no dummy).


A few hours later Wits End erupted with life as the young musicians staying with us arose and made advances on the unsuspecting coffee pot. Coffee and bagels led to the lot of us sitting around in the sunshine and warm breeze sharing music. Before long my father's 60 year old Emperador classical guitar was being plucked and strummed like it hasn't in a long, long time, all the while accompanied by one or more of the four angelic voices around us. There are many heart-warming rewards for what we do at Wits End but this morning was truly something special that will live with us forever. Thank you ever so much Lauren, Avery, Savannah, and Ray. Safe travels on your journeys West and by all means stop in or stay on your way back.



But that is the culmination of the tale. What came before is equally as endearing and proof that cold places make for warm hearts.


Ray and Lauren, one half of the folk/rock quartet Burs, from Toronto, arrived ahead of schedule on Friday afternoon, for their backyard concert at Wits End on Sunday afternoon. They were to stay with us anyway, so no problem for them to stay an extra night, even thought they offered to sleep in their van. Turns out they are very lovely, respectful human beans, so bonus!



Friday night they walked from our place up to Osborne Village to get a bite to eat. We mentioned that Chaeban Ice Cream was on the way and told them of our connection to Joseph and Zainab, the owners. When they returned later that evening, in their own words they declared it "the best ice cream we've ever had!"


Saturday, I drove Lauren and Ray around on a mini-tour of central Winnipeg - Osborne Village, the Ledge, the Beer Can, Blue Note Park, the Forks, the Exchange District, and Old Market Square before dropping them at the Forks so they could grab lunch. As fate would have it, they chose Habanero Sombrero - yet another owner, Mark, that we happen to know. They thoroughly enjoyed the nachos and tacos. After that they walked their way back to the Cube at Old Market Square to catch some free live music - 'experimental' Ray called it. Saturday evening, after returning to Wits End for a bite to eat, the three of us headed to the Beer Can to see Boy Golden (with Chopper on guitar) - part of the Sherbrook Street festival. They caught up with an old friend, Karissa, from their days at Humber College who know lives in Winnipeg. Took us a while to get through the long line up at the Beer Can but we caught the last half of Boy Golden's set and the Alanis Morrissette tribute band that closed the night.



Sunday afternoon Lauren and Ray treated about 30 music lovers to a delightful afternoon of music. Their set was 50/50 originals and covers of Canadian artists, with the latter including Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. Their cover of Heart of Gold (dedicated to Trudy and I) was one of the best versions we've ever heard and I also thought that Lauren did a fantastic job vocally with the two Joni Mitchell songs they performed.


A special shoutout here to Stu Reid. He took the time to listen to their music, play it on his radio program Twang Trust, then promote and attend their show with us. We shilled his 2022 Gig Poster calendar and he gave $5 from every one sold to Ray and Lauren. We will have the calendar at Wits End for our last two shows of the season if you want one - all proceeds to Stu.


There was also a surprise in store for Ray and Lauren when two of their friends from the Toronto music scene, Savanah Shea and Avery Florence, arrived after the first song. Savanah and Avery had texted me the day before from Thunder Bay to say they were going to try to make it in time for the show.



After the show, we offered Avery and Savannah a place to stay and they took us up on the offer. They ended up sleeping in our gazebo (I should mention that for the most part all of them are camping their way across the West) due to cat allergies.


After the show, the four of them headed off to nearby Leopold's for food, which they said was delicious and plentiful. To their very pleasant surprise, someone paid their food bill for them. We assume it was someone who attended the show but you never know.... Who ever it was, know that they were very grateful and wowed by your gesture.



And that's how we ended up at this morning. The four have left us now and Wits End feels a lot emptier at this moment but we'll fill it up again soon. As for the four of them, they headed out in their two cars for a bit of thrift store shopping and a stop at Chaeban for ice cream before heading West again.


Safe travels new young friends, do come back again!


Here's a link to a YouTube video shot by Stu Reid during the show.


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She is a lady of many personalities. Playground for many; workplace for some; wind-whipped demon for the unfortunate. She is Lake Winnipeg. Underestimate her short-fuse temper and wrath at your own