It takes a lot to haul oneself up Signal Hill when the fog is so thick that you can’t even enjoy the view, but a visit from Grant Lawrence and the CBC – complete with a performance by one of the city’s standout young bands – is enough to make it happen.
Lawrence and his crew, along with local band Green and Gold, took over the barracks just below Cabot Tower on June 16 for a filming and live performance to kick off the CBC Beetle Road Trip for 2014. The trip hits all ten provinces and features local landmarks and live performances from some of Canada’s best musicians.
The visit was Lawrence’s first to St. John’s since 1998. He was happy to see many local landmarks still going strong, but enjoyed newer spots like Fixed Coffee & Baking and Fogtown as well. “I recognized what I remember from last time,” he said. “It’s good to see places like The Ship and Fred’s and Duke of Duckworth – they’re still here.”
Green and Gold, chosen in part for their strong showing in the CBC’s recent Searchlight contest, was recommended to Lawrence by local music fans and CBC staffers like Tom Power and Ted Blades.
“That Time I Was Smoking A Cigarette On The Sidewalk In Front Of My House And You Stopped To Say Hello” by Green & Gold
Last year was the first for the Beetle Road Trip, though the endeavour was less ambitious then: the crew travelled between Toronto and Vancouver but didn’t hit the rest of Canada. There was a small backlash about that, Lawrence said, with many pointing out that the country is a lot wider than British Columbia to Ontario – rightly, he acknowledged.
The videos from that first trip won a Canadian Screen Award, which led to more funding for the next trip, and the decision to truly make it cross country this year. “If we’re going to do it, let’s do it right,” Lawrence said of the expanded itinerary.
After St. John’s, the crew drove to Gros Morne National Park to check out the fjords with Sherman Downey, 2013’s Searchlight winner with his band the Ambiguous Case. Lawrence already had that earlier St. John’s visit under his belt, but this trip marks his first time seeing the rest of the island. “Once we’re out of St. John’s, it’s all new to me.”
The trip will spend two weeks getting to Toronto, then take a break for a couple of weeks before continuing all the way to the country’s west coast, with the finale held in Vancouver.
Lawrence is known as a booster of Canada and its musicians in general, but he’s also a strong supporter of his hometown of Vancouver. He sees some similarities between Canada’s east and west coasts. “The weather is just as unpredictable as home,” he said of St. John’s. Indeed, the crew arrived on a foggy day that came after a sunny weekend, but also got to enjoy a clear view, for about 30 minutes, that revealed the huge iceberg sitting within view of Signal Hill.
But a bit of fog isn’t going to throw off someone who spent last year’s road trip doing things like jumping naked into Lake Louise and falling off a raft. “I hope that we can match those adventures,” Lawrence said. Follow along at CBCmusic.ca, CBC television, #CBCbeetle and @GrantLawrence on Twitter and Instagram to find out.
Images of Green & Gold by Terri Coles: