by Noah Cain
It is 4/20 in Winnipeg. Outside the West End Cultural Centre, the people shuffle and hop along slushy sidewalks. A Colorado Low approaches the Dakotas. It’ll reach us by the weekend, a cruel conclusion to what’s felt like a cruel April, a cruel winter, a cruel couple years.
Enter Boy Golden, minister of the Church of Better Daze. Mulleted, moustachioed, and dressed in bedazzled red coveralls, his message of cheap living, self-love, and open communication balms millennial malaise. All that stuff you can’t afford? You don’t need it. Look around. Look within. Like a few hundred bucks and someone you love, that’s enough.
He and his band, the Church of Better Daze leadership team, make music under the Eye of 4/20, a light installation by Seth Woodward. Like a hazed-out, bizarro Eye of Mordor, it sees you there in the crowd, but instead of filling you with emptiness and fear, it loves and accepts you for who you are. It’s so glad you were able to make it out.
As the first set billows to a close, the band sinks into brown floral couches at the back of the stage. They lean their heads back, whisper to one another as they play. Boy Golden smiles as he sings in the spotlight, enjoying the closeness he feels with his bandmates, his old friends from Brandon, his housemates. It is good to bear witness to the intimacy, to be invited into the music and the love.
The house lights come on and you disperse. On the slushy sidewalks in front of the West End Cultural Centre someone tries to buy a Strathclair, Manitoba trucker hat off Amos the Kid for forty bucks (hard no). A farmer worries about seeding (mid-May at the earliest).
Back inside, the harmonies of Madeline Roger, Fontine, and Boy Golden wash through you, inviting you to surrender, to commune again. After a few songs, Roger departs and the rest of the band—Kris Ulrich and Austin Parachoniak on sometimes-duelling lead guitars, Roman Clarke on drums, and Corey Hykawy on bass—re-join Fontine and Boy Golden on stage.
Now dressed in blue jeans, a yellow western shirt, and a tasselled leather jacket, he notices someone left him a sticker emblazoned with a moustachioed, mulleted orange fish in tinted glasses and the words Koi Golden. He’s thrilled. A little bashful. He thanks whoever did it, unpeels the backing, and sticks it to his Wurlitzer.
The rest of the second set is a bit of a blur. He’s relaxed up there. Enjoying himself. Sometimes, during a breakdown or solo, he moves around the stage like a beloved little-league convener working the crowd on opening weekend. His bandmates take turns leading songs. You dance. You experience a lightness. A spirit of joyful showmanship and sincerity permeates the whole thing.
Outside the West End Cultural Centre, trying not to slip on the icy sidewalks, the human capacity for language gives shape to the night like some mystic sculptor.
That new song, whose name you can’t remember, was a compliment received with grace. “Smoke on the Breeze” was a twilight bike ride through elm-lined streets. “Church of Better Daze” was an origin story and an invitation. “KD and Lunch Meat” was your two-weeks notice.