After three years, Jona Barr invites you back to his Old Cabin. You traipse across the northern hinterland to the cabin, knock, and enter. The small wooden shack is packed with familiar faces and buzzing amp stacks. Inside it’s warm and a welcome embrace from the cool October air – winter is coming. Barr greets you by murmuring, “I don’t know where we’ll all go. We’re all dying.”
It’s a startling greeting but a sentiment that is often swirling around in your head so you take your boots and coat off and stand beside the semi-circle of people hovering around a microphone. Driven by Barr’s greeting, the other guests become agitated, horns and strings cry out, the drummer is unconsolable, and Barr’s guitar gets rough and louder as he starts to shout out question after question and the cabin dives into complete chaos: “Where did you go? Where did you go? What did you see? Why did you follow me out?”
The cacophony halts as a new guest enters. Everyone calms down and turns a tender, worried eye to “Joe”. “Hold on, to the kindness in your heart,” a choir of quiet voices tell him. “And Annie” enters and the crowd’s concern for Joe turns to her. “All we know is its better when you’re in the show. Yes, it’s better when you’re not alone,” they chime in, boosting the room’s collective spirit.
The atmosphere becomes playful and Barr becomes sentimental and tries to shake off – “wouldn’t be the last time” – his broken heart. It’s dark out now and Saturn Return has just about fully come to fruition. You sit cross-legged along with the other guests and listen to a chilling history lesson unfold; “Like a shadow in the night, they will come for you. For a child, helpless and wild.” Everyone gets up and screams in horror and frustration, Barr’s guitar the loudest of all. Residential Schools are part of our history and their generational effects need to be known.
People are starting to go so you leave too. You put on your boots, grab your coat, and open the door of the Old Cabin. A light snow is starting to fall under the moonlight – winter came quicker than expected. You turn around to take another look at the Old Cabin and realize you are always welcome to return.
Old Cabin and Pony Girl are on tour together this month across Western Canada – check Facebook for more details.
Top Track: “Joe”; “Don’t Leave Me Behind”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)