CHAPTER 2 THE POSTER
As St. Leonard, our Canadian Bard might say:
Everybody knows being a Musician isn’t Easy;
Everybody knows being On the Road is Rough…
People who play music strictly for fun often enjoy it way more
than people who make their living from it, particularly those who
travel from city to town in order to do so, constantly repeating
the same songs over & over again in some bar. Long hours in the
van, lonely wives at home, restaurant food, Holiday Inns---these
are some of the drawbacks to ‘life on the road’.
Well known Smoky-Voiced Singer & Wild Youtube Keyboardist
Ron Casat, my old Calgary buddy, wrote a great song called Pack
It Up, which sums up the loneliness and perpetual motion of being
out on the road for weeks or months at a time. He also sings that
Jesse Winchester classic Nobody Told me About This Part, another
eye-opener capturing the disillusionment of the young musician
as s/he realizes the reality of being away from home for extended
While I was a graduate student at UofS, my quartet CONTINUUM
played mostly ‘3 nighter’ gigs, meaning Thurs/Fri/Sat, so we did
not travel as a rule, nor work with booking agents, but tried to
book ourselves into local clubs a month or two in advance. As
independent artists, we had to come up with our own advertising
techniques, working under a very limited budget.
Way back before Facebook, one of the chief forms of advertising
for a gig was by postering on billboards around the town. I usually
made my own posters on a typewriter and a Gestetner machine,
which is hard to describe to our digitized kids. (“Well you had this
drum-type rotor thing with a stencil on it, with a crank handle…”)
You came up with a basic design on the stencil, then printed it
onto coloured paper, which was your main expense. Once you got
your stencil cut & installed, you could crank out as many dozen
posters as you could afford paper for.
If you read Chapter 1, you know about The Bust and my strong
reaction of disgust towards the injustice which I felt John
Popowich had inflicted upon me by exploiting his role as a Police
Officer. He had searched me illegally on the pretense of having
smelled pot, had me charged & fined, and given me a lifelong
criminal record, which affects me to this day. I had a profound
grudge against Popowich that needed to be expressed, but I felt
powerless to do anything about it.
At the time of The Bust, I happened to have a 3-day gig coming up
at CONTINUUM’s usual venue, The Parktown Motor Hotel, a
couple of weeks later. It was time to make a new poster and
plaster it up all around the town, as usual. There were quite a lot
of wooden construction hoardings on the streets of downtown
Saskatoon & around the university campus in those days, & my
habit was to put up colourful eye-catching posters in diagonal
groups of 3, on as many hoardings as numbers would allow.
I used a bucket of wallpaper paste & brush to make sure the
posters were well adhered and couldn’t be ripped off. Pasting was
my specialty ---I wanted the whole world to see my gorgeous
posters. The simple designs looked good in threes, I thought, and
they were often still legible for months after the gig had passed.
For previous Parktown gigs I had used a hand-drawn logo for my
band, CONTINUUM, with my own name being simply typewritten
in at the top of the poster, using All Caps. I recycled that basic
design by changing the dates to the upcoming weekend. There
was still a bit of empty space at the bottom, and as I was
considering what information to include, it suddenly occurred to
me that here was a possible outlet, however futile, for My Desire
for Revenge against John Popowich. Why not use the bully pulpit
of the poster to trumpet my disdain to the entire city?!
Since it was a matter of John’s dishonesty & predatory behaviour,
I pondered that perhaps drawing a clear distinction between his
type of corrupt cop and the average ‘good cop’ might be
detrimental to John’s wellbeing in the long run. For one thing,
having his name up all over town would undoubtedly feed his
huge ego, perhaps to the point of causing serious over-reach or
Plus there was always a chance, I thought, that there could be a
corresponding negative reaction to him among those more
honourable cops who had to work with him. Could I even hope
that some among those might start seeing his name & ultra
macho reputation as something to kick around the locker room
or the police station coffee room? A puny hope, I knew, but I had
nothing to lose.
In a flash it came to me, and I typed in:
Featuring the New Hit Single: “Thank God Every Cop’s Not Like
Popowich!” (see Poster illustration)
Of course, the phrase ‘New Hit Single’ was tongue-in-cheek, as it
implied that the song had been played on the radio, which no
western Canadian indie musician could hope for at the time. It
was merely a ridiculous statement designed to make a point and
hopefully get a rise. Not only had I not written any such song, but
I had no intention of doing so. It was just a cheap toss-off.
As the Parktown gig approached, I did my usual job of saturating
the town with the new poster, on yellow paper, making sure to
expertly bond each poster to the billboard. It was finicky, messy
work but somebody had to do it. It was the price an indie
musician had to pay to get a good audience.
The gigs went well, as I recall, with full houses, except that we no
longer felt comfortable smoking our reefers in the Dodge out
front of the club, and had to improvise on that account.
Having done what I could to release my pique, I let the whole
concern with Popowich slide. I got involved with other things and
forgot all about him, as one would expect. I had received no Likes
or comments about my poster design, which was to be expected
in those days, and CONTINUUM went on to play many more gigs
with many more hand designed posters.
At that point I did not expect to hear John Popowich’s name ever
again. Certainly I could never have imagined the sorts of lurid
associations which came to be attached to his name a few years
later, with allegations of criminal, sexual and even ‘satanic’ acts.
Chapter 3 will reveal all the incredible details of what came to be
known as The Martensville Nightmare.
STAY TUNED to read all about how Heavy Karma caught up to
Constable John Popowich!