Christmas With Greg MacPherson

Greg Mac

I’m a big fan of Winnipeg’s Greg MacPherson. His new record Fireball is awesome. You really should check it out.

Last month, I came up with the bright idea to ask a bunch of Canadian musicians about their favourite memories of holidays past as well as their  hopes for the future. While that feature didn’t quite pan out the way that I had hoped, Greg did happily participate and sent me his answer which I have featured below:

Universal Rule #1- Never play a solo set on New Years Eve. Nobody wants to watch some tortured singer-songwriter play an acoustic guitar and sing about his grand father or some weird relationship gone bad on the biggest party night of the year. Holiday crowds just want to make out with a stranger and get drunk enough to dance in public.

I played a few solo New Years Eve shows back in the 90s before I learned this lesson and swore them off for good.

The lynchpin performance took place on December 31st, 1997 at Winnipeg’s West End Cultural Centre. I went on around 10:45 p.m.. This was an hour before the headliner, a half hour after the free champagne was obliterated and at least three hours after the white bread, kielbasa and ham slice buffet was eaten. Even before I walked out onto the stage I was fully aware of the mistake I was making, mingling in the audience twenty minutes prior, it seemed like a lot of people were telling stories that ended in things like: “…I should have slapped him!” or “…mark my words, they’ll pay for that!”

The usual New Years Eve “lust for midnight” was running off the rails, probably because 1997 was a particularly bad year for Manitoba. We had experienced the Flood of the Century but it was also the first full year without the Jets in town. People were intense, drunk and desperate for 1998.

I started in and the audience was immediately divided: Half of them ignored me, talked loudly and drank bad Canadian beer out of red plastic cups. The other half grew increasingly hostile, some heckled, some went to the DJ booth and demanded “Life is a Highway”.

Back in those days I played acoustic guitar, though I use the term ‘play’ loosely. My songs ranged from angry to depressing, not ideal ingredients for the biggest party night of 1997. Eventually, with my guitar buzzing horribly and my mic feeding back, a red plastic cup of something arced slowly through the room and exploded on the stage, far enough from me not to have been a technical problem but close enough that I stopped playing and everything went silent.

Universal Rule #2 – Canadians love an underdog. The mood changed completely, from “shut this guy up!” to “give the poor bastard a chance!”

I was allowed to finish my set without further incident.

My wish list for Christmas this year:

Joel R.L. Phelps and the Downer Trio – Gala
A new mayor for Winnipeg
Guaranteed living-income for all

Greg MacPherson