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CBC broadcaster brings his West Coast stories to Port Moody

Grant Lawrence honours the late Stuart McLean every time he steps on stage.

Grant Lawrence honours the late Stuart McLean every time he steps on stage.

He remembers how the veteran CBC broadcaster and author would spin a tale for his popular radio program The Vinyl Café, peppering truth and humour throughout.

He remembers how his stories about family, pets and monotonous daily adventures captured the audience as McLean travelled from coast to coast for his recordings.

Early in his career at CBC Radio, Lawrence had the chance to meet the legend.

“He was incredibly generous with his advice,” Lawrence said. “He did a great live show. When he passed on, I thought, ‘There is a hole now that needs to be filled.’”

Using stories from his own books — Adventures in Solitude: What Not to Wear to a Nude Police and Other Stories from Desolation Sound, The Lonely End of the Rink: Confessions from a Reluctant Goalie and Dirty Windshields: The Best and Worst of the Smugglers Tour Diaries — Lawrence shared nuggets about the West Coast in his productions in the style of The Vinyl Café, also with a dose of Canadian music.

On May 4, Lawrence kicks off a six-date tour in Port Moody with his well-known musician friends to continue the raconteur journey and to promote his new publication, Return to Solitude, which is up for a 2023 BC and Yukon Book Prize.

The North Shore native said his Port Moody show comes three years to the day after he had to cancel due to the provincial state of emergency from the pandemic.

Another musician friend, Craig Northey of the Odds, who grew up in Port Moody and whose father, John, was the mayor, recommended Lawrence swing by.

Craig Northey was even on the original bill on May 4, 2020, at the Inlet Theatre, but he had scheduling conflicts to be part of the upcoming event in his hometown.

Instead, Lawrence has lined up:

  • Jay Malinowski, vocalist and guitarist for the Bedouin Soundclash
  • Susie Ungerleider, formerly known as Oh Susanna
  • Said the Whale
  • Elise Tremblay, a music student at PoMoArts (show sponsor)

Lawrence said he likes to weave in music between his stories because, as an audience member, “I hate being bored. I want my mind to stay alert at all times.”

“There’s a magical alchemy when I tell a story, be it funny or sad or cathartic. I want the audience to let it sink in a little before I introduce the music. It provides such an amazing complement to the story. They just blend perfectly together. The audience gets a break from my voice and the music lifts our spirits up.”

Although his program may be the same, Lawrence never has the same show twice.

For his Port Moody performance, he’ll recount the greatest hit from his first book: A tale from his childhood when his family showed up at a potluck dinner at a neighbour’s cabin in Desolation Sound but were the only ones wearing clothes.

“It’s become my calling card story,” he laughed, adding, “I’m thankful people want to hear it over and over because it’s a classic West Coast story. Lots of hippies.”

He’ll also chronicle Bernard the German from Coquitlam, who spent time in Desolation Sound. Bernard, who worked at the ports, passed away in an accident.

Lawrence will show images of his late friend and pay tribute to his hardy wilderness zest for life; Bernard’s family has also been invited to attend the Port Moody show.

Tickets to see Grant Lawrence and Friends at Inlet Theatre (inside Port Moody City Hall, 100 Newport Dr.) at 7:30 p.m. are $35 via Doors open at 7 p.m.