Clocked In: Canada Doesn’t Seem to Like Musicians Very Much

Brad Logan / Credit: John Gilhooley

[Editor’s Note: Welcome to a new monthly column from veteran punk Brad Logan of Leftover Crack, F Minus, Rats in the Wall and the Adolescents about surviving day to day between tours as a working musician. To read his past columns, click here]

10a.m. Shit. 10 a.m. and it was already 80 degrees. The van pulled up to C Squat with our pal Joey Spiel manning the wheel. Within an hour, we were piled in and on our way out of New York City. Our destination; Rainbow Bridge border crossing. Located at Niagara Falls in New York state, it was our chosen point of entry into Canada. The goal was a run of four shows: Toronto, Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa. Things were looking up. The ride upstate was to about six hours and change and a straight shot up Interstate 81 through the NY countryside.

Our relationship with Canada had been a convoluted one. Of the five or so attempts to cross as a band, we made it over together a total of once. There always seemed to be at least one of us (and at some points more than half of us) who had some past infraction or misdemeanor/felony that prevented all of us from showing up as a full band to Canadian booked shows.

As we crossed the bridge over Niagara Falls I wondered if I would get turned away this time. I had been issued temporary visas before but had also been deemed “Inadmissible” as many times. All in all, I had a feeling my luck was running out. Though my rap sheet didn’t look so hot, I hadn’t more than a traffic ticket in the past couple of decades.

We pulled up to the station and a Customs agent informed us “today is your lucky day”. Famous last words. We parked the van and went in the Passport Control building. Besides the Customs agents, we were the only ones in there. Normally this would mean we would be processed and on our way to Toronto in no time. That must have been what he meant by “our lucky day”. We sat and waited in the lobby while they ran our names through the database.

“Brad Logan” my name was called and I walked to the processing desk. “I’m going to have to deem you inadmissible unless you can give me a reason to let you into Canada. I can’t let you in with your record as it is” said Agent D. Simone. “Well,” I countered, anxiety welling up inside me.  “I’ve been clean for about a quarter century, and haven’t been arrested since, in fact, I’ve been to Canada several times and have never had so much as received a parking ticket”.

The agent’s face was wooden. “Unfortunately, that’s not reason enough for me to allow entry. I fail to see how that is going to benefit Canada directly, I’m sorry”.

I walked off and sat back down in the lobby, feeling like I had been punched in the stomach. They called our singer next and though I couldn’t hear the conversation I had a pretty good idea of how it was going.

The singer and I stood in front of our hotel in Buffalo waiting for my Uber to take me to the airport. The rest of the band had gone ahead into Canada to try and salvage the tour. We had our merch guy and Joey Spiel both covering the vocal duties. “When I get home, I guess I’ll contact the Canadian Consulate and figure out how to do this the right way,” I said. “Yeah, I guess I will too,” said the singer.

A minute later my ride was there.

This story is not an unusual one kids. Our tale was just one of the thousands of others like it in a typical day-in-the-life of a working band. The reality is this; we could have saved ourselves a lot of heartaches and some cash too by being fully aware of what we could have done beforehand to minimize our getting denied. Never trust that someone else has it figured out for you. Always do your homework. And research online at border control websites. Talk to people who have been through this kind of stuff first-hand and take control of your own tour before it takes control of you.

3 Replies to “Clocked In: Canada Doesn’t Seem to Like Musicians Very Much”

  1. Sucks for you for taking the time “off work” already, and for the fans who bought tickets, the venues who booked the shows. Canada should probably focus more on keeping out our incel community here in the USA, than artists with sordid pasts…

  2. Actually, Canadian bands (especially us non-corporate bands) have similar experiences attempting to gain entry to the US. Long gone are the days of touring the US with a simple cover story of “we’re going down there to record at a studio” (we even had actual letters from a friendly studio confirming same) and almost always being granted access. Heck, if you were turned away at, say Peace Arch Crossing, you would just turn around and drive about an hour east and try the next crossing. Hint: do not try this now. They’ve got computers that breathe!

    And, don’t get me started on the pervasive “have you ever smoked marijuana” themed questions asked in recent times by US border agents. Yes, even after several states decriminalized, Federal border agents seemed all to eager to use that as a reason to prevent your entry to the US.

    The “don’t ask, just do it cuz the answer is always no” approach we used to take throughout the 90’s doesn’t fly today (i.e. do not open up your4x12 Marshall cabs and fill with the band merch you plan to sell on your in your neighbours’ country!).

    I guess we are all illegal now.

    Good column. I just stumbled upon it. Thanks.

    J. – Vancouver, BC, Canada

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