Cold Weather, Métis Dancing and Problem Solving

For the past couple years in February my family and I have had the pleasure of providing music and dance instruction for the Flying Canoe / Canoë Volant Festival. You can see us briefly in this video at the 50 second mark.

That’s my dad Dave on mandolin, my sister Tahnis on violin, and myself on the guitar.You may notice that we’re playing in a tent, and you might guess from all the visible breath that it’s pretty darn cold out. If you look really close, you’ll see that I’m actually wearing a pair of those fingerless glove/mitten convertible dealies.

The cold itself is not really a problem, and in truth, we’ve got it easy up on stage. I’m right next to a little wood stove, there’s a propane heater that vents through the floor, and even in -20° it’s almost cozy. The problem is localized entirely at the ends of my fingertips. Edmonton is a dry cold in the winter, and in these conditions it’s basically impossible to grip a pick while playing raucous jigs and reels. The first year we played I dropped a lot of picks. Last year I improvised with some masking tape that happened to be on site.


When I said raucous, I meant raucous

This worked okay, but not perfectly. The wrinkles in the tape were uneven, and I had to redo them a couple times over the night. Still, a promising start.

This year I thought I’d try these adhesive grips from bike rack mounts, but they turned out to be too thick to easily manage. The grip is good, but they’re too clumsy.

The current winning design right now incorporates a classic of Canadian problem solving, hockey tape.

It’s not too bad, but I’d like to have a more rubbery grip.

Now, I know that there are some manufactured solutions to this problem, but I just think I can do better. Dava picks and those ones with the scratchy contact surface are good at room temperature, but I need something that will function in the complete absence of sweat. Any ideas?IMG_20150206_180726493_HDR


The Flying Canoe/ Canoë Volant festival is a considerable miracle of logistics, ingenuity and persistence. There’s a huge number of volunteers and employees hauling wood and sorting out electrical hook ups and building dance floors in the middle of a forest in snow and wind and cold. I feel like sorting an issue the size of a square inch is probably the least I can do.

If you happen to be in Edmonton on the 5th or 6th of February, come check it out. We’ll be down in Mill Creek Ravine with The Métis Cultural Dancers, having just a fantastic time.




About Jesse Conlang

Jesse Conlang lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he has trained squirrels to operate pens and pencils at his whim. You can probably tell that by the quality of the work.
This entry was posted in Stuff I made and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Cold Weather, Métis Dancing and Problem Solving

  1. Pingback: Flying Canoe Part 2: Aftermath | Blindfish Industries

  2. Antoine says:

    Glad to see that you found my video on Youtube. If you are interested in having videos of your performance, I can share some rushs with you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s