Touring musicians have a bevy of road stories, Don Kunto shares a few of his juiciest
Years of performing under the spotlight, constantly surrounded by hoards of people looking to have a good time, will undoubtedly amass to a novel of stories.
Having spent years on stage both at home and on the road, Don Kunto has experienced his fair share of weird, wonderful and absolutely outrageous antics.
Playing extreme Northern Ontario — “like different times zones north” — is something musicians do out of love. During his road warrior days, Kunto spent so much time travelling and playing music it became hard to sleep at home.
“I was so used to pastel walls and bad paintings,” he said.
The extreme north presented its fair share of memorable nights.
It was years ago that Kunto experienced his first “moose tour.” The singer in his band had grown up in a remote community and warned the rest of the band about what to expect.
“Don't make any eye contact with dudes,” Kunto recalls his singer saying. “Girls are completely off limits.”
Young and dumb, Kunto took this advice with a grain of salt. Within minutes of setting up, however, the young artist learned just how serious the singer was.
A fellow walked into the bar, looking as rough as ever, and simply said the singer's name.
“Be right back,” the band's frontman said. “I have to go fight this guy.”
A short time later, the singer came back into the bar. It was evident he hadn't done too well in the fight — but that didn't stop him from getting straight back to work. He continued to prep for sound check like nothing had happened.
The rest of the night proceeded in a similar fashion — girls claimed they “knew the drummer” when they tried to sneak back into the bar after the show, much to the outrage of the guys they arrived with.
At one point, Kunto said each of the bar's doors were surrounded with angry groups of people — either women wanting to get back in, or men waiting for the band to leave to start a fight.
“It was a literal flight or fight situation,” Kunto said. “We chose flight.”
Music down under
When Kunto moved to Australia, he was going simply to take in a new culture. Music was never part of the plan. However, old habits die hard.
“I just went to go,” he said. “Playing was something I fell into.”
Before long, he was earning a bit of extra cash with his guitar.
“The further you get from North America, the more a North American accent was worth on stage,” he said.
After playing the small bar outside Melbourne, the venue owner invited Kunto and a group of others to an after-party. A girl Kunto had dated briefly was on the guest list.
“For the brief time I knew her, she had this habit of throwing things at me,” he said.
Even though their relationship had ended, her pitching arm was still well-practised. After a Red Bull can collided with his head, Kunto made the decision to call it a night.
As he was walking to the train station, a police cruiser got in his way. The officers repeatedly asked Kunto if he was OK and Kunto kept assuring them he was fine — he simply wanted to get home. The banter continued until the officer in the driver's seat turned his side-view mirror toward Kunto, letting him see his own face.
“Half my face was covered in blood,” Kunto said, laughing as he recalled the incident. “I felt really stupid when the guy showed me my head.”
Feeling a little sympathetic, the officers agreed to drive the bloody musician home.
Kunto was playing a place called The Stork, outside the core of Melbourne.
“That guy with 50 Canadian patches on him” was in the crowd. The musician hadn't had a taste of home in months, so decided to engage his fellow Canadian in conversation. It didn't take Kunto long to figure out the guy was bluffing.
The warning signs went off when the wearer of red-and-white looked blankly at Kunto after a Tragically Hip reference.
“You know right away the dude's not Canadian,” Kunto said.
So, he did the most logical thing he could think of — Kunto played along like he was none the wiser. Eventually, he asked the flagged traveller where he was from. When he claimed to be a northerner, from Toronto, Kunto couldn't keep it together anymore.
“I bribed him with two pitchers of beer for my friend's table to keep quiet about the fact he wasn't Canadian,” Kunto said with a laugh.