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I do my best to stay out of backstage green rooms for as long as possible. It’s usually dank, smelly and outfitted with torn-up couches and dismal lighting. The other night I arrived back at the venue three minutes before we played!
As a result, I always make an effort to go out and see the community I’m visiting, with key landmarks in mind that I’m persistently Googling in the hopes of meeting new people and finding local flavour.
In Europe, every city has a pedestrian-only town square and if it’s summer there’s usually street performers and plenty of shopping. In America, there’s a different local delicacy wherever you go. California offers amazing Mexican food. Texas has its barbecue. Nashville has hot chicken. The best Thai food I’ve ever eaten is at a tiny, unassuming spot in Seattle.
In Canada, I’ve made friends with many local entrepreneurs who run coffee shops and restaurants, but the one that sticks out the most to me is a hair salon called Weekly in Edmonton, Alberta. Getting a haircut is the best way to have a relaxed, long form conversation with a local. The person cutting your hair knows about the neighbourhood and because of the social nature of their job, are good talkers.
I met the owner of Weekly last winter while we were on tour. He’s a guy my age named Craig. He wears a hat when he cuts hair, which I’ve always liked in a hairdresser. He’s also very cool and laid back. The shop is in the basement of a century building called Mercer Warehouse that’s located in the heart of downtown Edmonton. There’s also a great coffee shop, Transcend, and pub, Mercer Tavern, inside the the building. Craig explained that the neighbourhood was somewhat rough around the edges, but with the city’s core beginning to gentrify and the the new Oilers arena, Rogers Place, around the corner, he opened shop just before the area exploded.
Weekly always plays cool music, looks hip as hell, employs lots of talented young kids and some of the Oilers even get haircuts there!
Craig and I have kept in touch since, and last time we were in Edmonton he picked me up from the festival site, gave me a haircut and then we went out for coffee. Even though we’ve only hung out twice, he’s the kind of guy who feels like an old friend.
While on tour with Arkells, Max is also the producer of the Mike on Much podcast, hosted by himself and Mike Veerman. Mike on Much has interviewed an impressive list of celebrities, including Lights, Will Butler, Josh Groban, Alessia Cara and more. Weekly episodes of Mike on Much are available here.
Hear the latest episode below: