He’s our man

Most people believe Leonard Cohen authored the playbook for late-night conversation, drinking wine, making out and then feeling vaguely depressed about it all. But a closer reading of his poetry reveals a much more indelible sense of hope. Indeed, when the “Bard of the Boudoir” dreamed up the oft-quoted “There is crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in” he was conveying the persistence of hope, however hazily sourced.

It is this irrepressible sense of hope that spurred a local fan to organize a 75th birthday party for Cohen right here in Winnipeg, with full expectation that the poet himself would show up. Indeed, Beautiful Loser : L. Cohen 75th Birthday Bash Festival might represent a culmination of life-long obsession for co-organizer and Cohen superfan Drek Daa.

“It’s been a great adventure planning this with [Drek]. He’s a very passionate fan of Leonard, and this event is ambitious, but really only a fraction of what he originally had in mind,” his co-organizer John Scoles says with a chuckle. “We were going to gather a million pennies or something to bring Leonard Cohen [to Winnipeg]. There was going to be a video with a patchwork quilt with all sorts of people all over the country singing bits of ‘Hallelujah'[ . . . ] It was magical.”

Daa ultimately ended up inviting Cohen to Winnipeg for his birthday by sending him a song with lyrics including “Everybody knows you’re getting old/everybody knows one day you’ll die/everybody knows you won’t live forever/that’s why everybody knows you should stop by.”

“I wrote the song from pieces of Cohen’s songs [ . . . ] and a few friends took it upon themselves to deliver this song to Cohen’s manager.” Daa recalled, “Cohen himself heard the song and personally commented on it [saying], ‘Drek Daa’s audio file is brilliant, funny and stunningly skillful. I was greatly entertained and impressed. Please thank him. He’s really good.’”

Unfortunately, persistence has yet to pay off, as Draa explained, “Cohen said that he cannot visit because his tour ‘runs on sleep and solitude’ [ . . . ] his manager also responded with a very kind ‘no’ twice.”

Regardless, Beautiful Loser : L. Cohen 75th Birthday Bash Festival is set to run this weekend at the CYRK and Times Change(d). One act lined-up is local scatter-pop outfit Flying Fox and the Hunter Gatherers. The group’s bass player, Lindsey Collins, is quick to offer sentiments typical of those occupying the fevered heights of Cohen idolatry.

“Leonard Cohen is a legend. He and I share the two greatest initials for any human being. I betcha our signatures probably look the same.” Collins said, “Who else can do an extensive tour in his ‘70s and play 3 hour sets every night? B.D. [Bob Dylan] should take some hints from the great L.C..”

Collins said the band jumped at the chance to be a part of the madcap event.

“Flying Fox was already covering “Everybody Knows” before we were asked to do this event, and it was one of the most well-received covers we have played so far.” Collins said, “This event is a fun opportunity for us to play a few more Cohen songs [ . . . ] this is quite an honour to be a part of such an awesome event at such an awesome venue.”

Collins’ band will be joining a number of other esteemed local acts, including the F-holes, Patrick Keenan and Keri Latimer. Beautiful Loser, however, ultimately promises much more than just music.

“We’re doing music at the Times Change(d), with an extra act each night, and the CYRK is doing poetry, films, and whatnot,” said Scoles. “There’s a huge variety of material [ . . . ] As always, I just think we’re so lucky in Winnipeg to have all these artists.”

Leonard Cohen, despite Drek Daa’s highest hopes, is currently scheduled to celebrate his 75th birthday between tour stops in Spain. But, on the off-chance that the legendary “Grocer of Despair” does show up to his birthday party, Flying Fox’s Lindsay Collins is ready to welcome him with an elaborately-orchestrated series of ritualized open-palm strikes.

“I would give L.C. a high-five for Beautiful Losers, a high-ten for Favorite Game, and then I’d say ‘on the side’ for Book of Mercy, his collection of poems.” he said, “(But) I might also try and pull away with a ‘too slow’ to see if he’s lost some speed in his seven-and-a-half decades of existence.”

Beautiful Loser: L. Cohen 75th Birthday Bash Festival takes place September 18 and 19 at The CYRK and Times Change(d). For a complete line-up of performers visit www.thecyrk.ca/CohenFest.