Ten Minute Tea: The Wintersong Edition, Part 2 (One more Lump of Sugar)

The 4th edition of Wintersong Music Festival took place in Stouffville, Ontario from January 20th-21st. The free annual festival draws thousands to the local area in the shoulder-season of winter, giving a much-needed boost to the local economy. Having generated over one million dollars in associated tourism revenue for the Town of Stouffville (Music City North), they were applauded as the single most impactful relief effort for small businesses coming out of the pandemic. Their stellar lineup is meticulously crafted with gender parity and diversity in mind, and hosts exclusively Canadian artists.

The first tea + soundtrack + visuals curated by Hungry Lake is a sad, stadium-psychedelic-folk-rock band fronted by Stouffville’s own Josef Thomas. They make brilliantly composed, gut-wrenching tunes that are inspired by everything from the writings of Stephen King. Their performance at Latcham Hall was on Friday, January 20th at 11:45pm.

My wife made this tea a while back during a heavy winter storm. I don’t think there are many things better than drinking hot beverages by candlelight watching snow whip across the sky and ground. The smell instantly brings me back to this moment any time I am in line at Starbucks or Tim Hortons. I could be having a terrible day, but one whiff of apple spiced tea can bring me back to a place of calm. 

Tea: Picking a tea was the most difficult part of this activity, as I don’t drink traditional hot or herbal tea. I might actually be slightly allergic. It gives me a mild headache. Joe from Hungry Lake suggested I choose Arizona ice tea instead, but I don’t care much for all that sugar. I settled on Arizona’s “Hard” version of their iced tea because at least it’s got alcohol in it. Having said that, I don’t like vodka. In summary, I’m choosing coffee (but you can go with Arizona green tea w/honey if you like).

Video: Everyone should check out the YouTube channel Soft White Underbelly:

It was created by a photographer named Mark Laita, who ditched his corporate career in order to bring exposure to the homeless population on L.A.’s Skid Row. His channel is a collection of black and white interviews with homeless folks and other social outcasts occupying a similar ecosystem. Mark has interviewed prostitutes, pimps, drug addicts of all kinds, criminals, sexual abusers, inbred families and more. I love his interview style because he interjects very little and otherwise allows these outsiders to tell their stories in full. The candidness he gleans from his subjects is inspiring, and helps to shed light on the type of people society would rather sweep under the rug. Having watched dozens of these interviews, a recurring issue amongst the homeless seems to be childhood trauma. What follows is then a “chicken or the egg” scenario in terms of addiction and mental health issues. Anyone like Mark who spends their time cultivating more compassion for vulnerable people is doing this human thing okay in my books. Highly recommended. 

Song: For my musical selection I’m going with the song “Loretta” from the recently released One day, Maybe… LP by my pal Sunray Minor. Juan and I share a mutual producer by the name of Jason Cabanaw. Jason originally showed me some of Juan’s music years ago and it was really impressive. I’ve yet to meet Juan in person, but he added harmonies and instrumentation to a solo song of mine a while back. This is his debut full length record and it blew me away. He’s a young guy based in Montreal that I hope more people will listen to. “Loretta” is his album opener and features a frenetic, meticulously crafted arrangement with more hooks and ideas than your average full-length album. I get Hawksley Workman and Rufus Wainwright vibes. Give him a listen!


Today’s second tea + soundtrack +visuals is curated by Casey Baker Neon Cowboy. Casey Baker Neon Cowboy is a singer songwriter from Niagara, Ontario whose band Neon Cowboy is a provider of atmosphere. Their performance was at Chucks Roadhouse on Saturday, January 21st at 7:00pm. Often described as Alternative Rock and Alt Country, the dark and moody noise generated by this five-piece rolls in like an urgent storm. Their low tunings and primitive percussion growl in contrast to the emotionally charged vocal harmonies and wailing delayed guitars. Casey Baker Neon Cowboy channels the frequency of the human condition.

Where the Cattle Cross

The Tea:
Ginger Cardamom Tea.

This tea will be well received by those who like the zippy flavour of ginger. Add honey if you like to balance things out with sweetness. The tea is comforting and soothing while it stimulates and activates your senses. There is a holistic quality to the taste that comes from the earth. It puts one’s mind at ease to consume a beverage that came from the ground and not a laboratory. I like to remember to breathe in through my nose and let the ginger tingle. I like to think this drink makes me feel calm, but alert. 

The Song:
“Let’s Rock N’ Roll Again” by Matt Paxton. Produced by Aaron Goldstein with backup vocals by Carleigh Aikins (Bahamas, Dwayne Gretzky).

Matt Paxton

Matt Paxton is a singer/songwriter from Hamilton, ON. This particular song has such a wonderful blend of acoustic folk and crunchy analog rock. Matt’s voice and phrasing are gentle as he describes a scenic landscape overshadowed with his feelings of missing the days he spent in that place. He is nostalgic for the person with whom he built those memories and speaks as if he’s overdue to return to this place and that person’s company. He hangs on his pronunciation of words at times like Bob Dylan but he certainly has his own voice. He sings so gently atop a song that is bursting with emotion and a desire to put something back where it belongs. 

The Visual:
“Domestic Bliss #3” by Emily Andrews

This image is packed with messages open for interpretation. Personally, I like the image because it triggers me to zoom out and take a moment to consider time on a grand level. Outer space, dinosaurs, and gender roles are all a part of the vast history or earth. Things can change in an instant or be formed over millions of years like a diamond. It’s easy to get caught up in the challenges of day-to-day life and think that my perception of the world is absolute truth. In reality, I’m on a planet that has been hurtling through space for billions of years and though I want to use my energy for positive change, in some moments, I am merely a passenger in time.

Today’s third tea + soundtrack + visuals is curated by Heather Cook of Epidemic Music Group, the Festival Director and Talent Booker for the Wintersong Music Festival. In addition to the curation of multiple music festivals, Epidemic Music Group provides: artist development, concert production, album production, full-scale event planning, promotion and more. 

Today’s tea: 

Hot matcha tea, sweetened with maple syrup

To make: 

  • Select your favourite tea cup. Put it on the counter and smile because it brings you joy. Smile again because you are lucky enough to exist in a moment in time where something as simple as a tea cup can put a smile on your face.
  • Sift 1 tsp of matcha powder into your sweet little cup. What’s that? You don’t have a tiny sifting device? Neither do I. 
  • Grab a full-sized whisk from your chaotic kitchen utensil drawer. Look at your tiny cup. Question your logic.
  • Swap out the whisk in favour of a fork and at this point… just try your best.
  • Add 2oz of cold water and mix with a handheld frother 
  • Add 1 tsp of Canadian maple syrup 
  • Fill with 6oz hot water and enjoy

The Song: Sunset Rubdown – Dragon’s Lair

Sunset Rubdown is the epic side project of Wolf Parade’s Spencer Krug and “Dragon’s Lair” is a wonderfully grand, 10-minute musical quest that will have you feeling feelings you didn’t even know you had.

If you can listen to this song without repeating it 17 times in a row, we are not the same.

Dragon’s Lair

The Visual
Novel Cover Art drawn by Ryan Webb

Brunswick’s Big Adventure by Mark Jordan Manner 

I am fortunate to have a career that finds me surrounded by art. A great deal of this art comes in the form of music; some of which is made by my friends. This is one of my favourite parts of doing what I do, and it seemed only natural that I reach out to a friend for some visual inspo to guide me through this tea time.

I asked my friend Ryan Webb – talented artist + musician in the band Hungry Lake – to send me his favourite thing he’d ever drawn. After a short convo he sent over a piece that served as the cover art for the novel ‘Brunswick’s Big Adventure’ by Mark Jordan Manner. In Ryan’s words; “Brunswick’s Big Adventure is a ‘picturesque dark comedy, intended for adults but narrated by the wide eyed and mischief-making 10 year old, Brunswick Stuhlberg. Brunswick and his brother go in search of their missing parents in a Calvin and Hobbes-meets-Little Rascals-meets-Stand by Me-type adventure”.

Ryan’s cover art has me fascinated as I sip my matcha. Each character seems to possess the same subtle darkness of the imagery that ties the whole thing together. The more time I spend with the piece the more I need to know how everything is connected. I want to know the story. Brunswick appears in the center of the wild-looking bunch; triumphantly foisting a butter knife in the air while grinning ear-to-ear. But the longer I look at him the less happy he appears. His brow is hard and his smile doesn’t seem to reach his eyes. Is there sadness there? Or am I projecting? This same subtle complexity appears continuously as my eyes travel the page, leaving me feeling curious, intrigued + vaguely uneasy. I’m here for all of it. And I need to buy a copy of this book asap.

Isn’t it amazing the feels you can feel by simply spending a bit of time being present with art? I wonder what Ryan was thinking when he drew it, and if he notices these subtle complexities when observing people IRL. We’re all walking this Earth with elements of duality – light and dark, happiness and sadness, hope and fear. We take ourselves, and all our complexities, through life’s big adventures… just like our friend Brunswick. And sometimes, like this morning, we realize that the people in our lives might see us more than we realize. 

The functional nature of my job can be all-encompassing. I throw myself into things like scheduling, planning and logistics the way some might throw themselves into the making of a song, or the journey of new paint on a fresh canvas. This hyper-focus serves me well at deadline time but I often forget to simply be present and allow myself to be moved by the art around me. I think this tea time was just what I needed today. ❤️

This Post Sponsored by our Proud Partners Home Love Hamilton.

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