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Wendy Rose: Pondercast tour brings Laurie Brown back to St. John's

Broadcaster Laurie Brown speaks during the final stop in her national “Pondercast” tour at The Rocket Room in St. John’s. — Adam Hefferman photo
Broadcaster Laurie Brown speaks during the final stop in her national “Pondercast” tour at The Rocket Room in St. John’s. — Adam Hefferman photo - Contributed

How far do you have to go to see the sea?

In Newfoundland and Labrador, you’ll find water no matter which direction you head in.

This island is the perfect setting for Laurie Brown’s newest audio adventure, the “Pondercast” podcast.

Local podcast enthusiasts and longtime listeners of Brown, renowned more recently as the host of CBC’s “The Signal,” headed to Rocket Room in downtown St. John’s on Oct. 14, the final stop in the Pondercast tour.

Titled, “Darwin Was Wrong: We Come from the Sea,” this particular recording of Brown and ambient electronica musician Joshua Van Tassel’s podcast focuses on the idea that humans evolved from sea creatures instead of apes. It’s an intriguing and controversial scientific theory that made the cover of “National Geographic” magazine in 2004 and continues to make minds wander and ponder today.

The thought-provoking topic is a jumping-off point for Brown and Van Tassel, who use this theory in an exploration of our obsession for the sea, wading through personal stories, fond memories, and recounted tales from diverse outside sources.
“I’m going to hang myself out to dry on a bit of sketchy science,” Brown told the gathered crowd from a simple stage housing Van Tassel’s soundboard, Brown’s mike, and a large pothead whale skull.

While I was taking note of how magical it feels to see the moving lips of a voice Canadians know so well, Brown joked about no longer being a “disembodied voice,” commenting on the novelty of presenting this show in front of a live audience instead of recording “Pondercast” in her boyfriend’s daughter’s walk-in closet.

It is striking to think that two seasons of a deeply stimulating and interesting podcast could come from such an unlikely place. The setting for this live recording, just a couple hundred metres from the harbour, was much more fitting.

The show began with a Van Tassel soundscape, one of many peppered throughout the show. Each offered a unique aura to correlate with a previously discussed topic.
A memory of a boat ride was accompanied by a soundscape of ship horns and waves, with a story about spending time near the ocean incorporating boats creaking against a wharf and trickling water.

These sounds were layered with a touch of Van Tassel’s ambient electronica melodies, creating a rich body of celestial works, bringing the outdoors inside.

Discussing our pull to the ocean, the many reasons for our attraction to the deep blue, the power of a horizon line, the mystical wonder of fog, our semblances to creatures of the deep, the circumstances of how our ancestors arrived here, and much more, Brown waded out deep, but never pulled the audience in over their heads.

Brown presented a good case on why Darwin was wrong — “Why shouldn’t his theory evolve, like everything else?” she asked.

Our relationship with the ocean and its powerful pull is “beyond language,” Brown said, yet she somehow, unsurprisingly, managed to find the perfect words to describe the unspoken, incomprehensible love, fear, and mystery of the deep blue sea, and what lies below, above it, and beyond.

Listen to The  Pondercast here —

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