Archive for October, 2009
Monday, October 26th, 2009
Barbara Lynch will be performing a rare show this week at The Dakota Tavern at 249 Ossington St in downtown Toronto. The show is this Thursday, October 29 and it starts at 9pm. Our brother John will be performing with her and it should be a great night of music. If you haven’t had a chance to check out her album, please do so…I think you’ll like it… then make a date to come on down. I hope to see you there.
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Saturday, October 17th, 2009
A cold, rainy day in Virginia, spent on the grounds of Wolftrap. The rain kept us inside.
A beautiful venue tonight (The Barns at Wolftrap) with a completely wood beam interior and a top of the line sound system. It was also a sold out venue. Unfortunately we didn’t have a very good night on-stage. Sometimes even the most beautiful sounding venues (and this was a very nice sounding room) have sound issues on stage. We just couldn’t find each other. It may have come off ok in the venue (Jared said that it sounded great out front) but it was a tough night on stage. The audience was also a little reticent: whether it was due to our own reticence on stage or an audience that wasn’t getting what they expected, or didn’t even know what to expect when they bought the tickets…who knows. The odd thing is that I’ve noticed that the audiences at The Birchmere, which is very close to here, have a similar standoffishness (almost as reserved as a roomful of Canadians). I always thought it was that venue, but maybe it’s a DC audience thang. I’ll have to investigate further. In any case it was a disappointing night for us.
Another rainy day. We seemed to have used up all of our good weather karma. This was our first time in Blacksburg and it would have been nice to explore a little bit, but I didn’t have the energy to fight the cold and the rain. I did manage a brief walk through the Virginia Tech campus in between rain showers. It’s a spectacularly large campus. Right in the middle of the campus is the enormous Commons area, which was built around (or near) Drapers Meadow the site of a particularly nasty mid 1700s slaughter of early settlers at the hands of some locals. One of the settlers was decapitated and his head was delivered to the neighboring settlement as a warning. Sometimes it’s hard to not believe that demons, evil spirits, inhabit a particular place and are waiting to let their presence be known.
Another sold out show and a great sounding theater. The audience tonight was amazing, definitely the best one on this tour: lots of give and take, we had a great show. It was certainly the most fun that we have had on stage in the past couple of weeks. We will definitely be back.
After the show the streets of this town were filled with young sorority girls and their fraternity pals selling pancakes, drunk out of their collective skulls.
The final day of the tour and we find ourselves on a mountainside in North Carolina at the LEAF festival. A full on pitch-the-tent- break-out-the-tie-die-time-to-sell-the-jewelry-that-I’ve-been-making-in- my-basement- lets- pray-for-lots-of-mud-how-many-types-of-massages-can-I-get-in-a-day-where’s-my-hoola-hoop hippie fest. It’s a beautiful location for a festival and its definitely fulfilling a need in these parts, because the weekend is sold out. Unfortunately the weather is probably a little colder than the norm for this time of year, but that didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of the campers. The festival has the feel of a very large extended family reunion. It’s obvious that this is an annual ritual for many. Overall a very laid back vibe
Wednesday, October 14th, 2009
I don’t know exactly where we were today, somewhere on or near the Jersey shore. We could have been in any small town in America except we were apparently only about 15 minutes from Manhattan….you could have fooled me.
An odd venue tonight. Not a bad little room, very utilitarian, but with decent sound. It was a very slight audience, but the promoter was relatively pleased because it was the largest crowd they have had this season. We have been hearing this all over the country. It’s been a tough year for the live music biz (as it has been for most biz’zs). Hopefully these little community theaters are able to ride out these tough economic times….hopefully these little indy bands are able to ride out these tough economic times.
We had a really good night on stage. Jeff rejoined us and inserted another level of weird into the sound. It’s a shame that Jeff wasn’t with us from the start of the tour, it would have been interesting to hear the variations that he, Aaron and I could have created….maybe next time.
It was a bad day for our crew. Jared, Dave and Mike are all from Boston and today their Red Sox were swept from the playoffs by the Los Angeles Anheim Angels of Californialand (or something like that)and their Patriots suffered a surprising loss at the hands of the Denver Broncos.
We had a day off yesterday in Easton, Maryland. It also happened to be Columbus Day and Canadian Thanksgiving….so we gave thanks and then went about spreading our disease. Easton isn’t a bad town to relax in for a day. A few square blocks of the downtown has been given enough of a facelift to entice tourists driving through to stop for lunch or to check out one of the many galleries in town. It’s not exactly a town bursting with energy but as a place for a day off it worked just fine.
The Avalon Theater is one of our favorite venues these days. This was our third time here in the last few years. It’s a beautifully reconditioned vaudeville theater that has warm sound and a great relationship between the stage and the audience.
We had a pretty good night. This was Aaron’s last show with us. He has added a really nice dimension to the sound. Hopefully we’ll be able to get him back out here with us soon.
Tuesday, October 13th, 2009
Lee Harvey Osmond took time during the day off yesterday to make an appearance on XM radio’s The Loft. Check it out:
Sunday, October 11th, 2009
We had a very welcome day off in Chapel Hill and then two shows over two nights in neighbouring Carrboro, so we had the luxury of staying in the same place for three full days. We also happened to be booked in to a very comfortable hotel (The Franklin), sometimes the stars align. Chapel Hill is home to the University of North Carolina, which in turn, is home to those ass-kicking-basketball Tar Heels. It’s a very easy place to spend a few days, a classic University town with lots of used book stores, music stores, coffee shops, restaurants and co-eds strolling the strip. It’s hard to believe that these young people are college age; it’s hard to believe that I was that young when I was in University…. I am so old.
The two shows were at the Arts Center which could use a major retro-fit, at the very least they could spend a bit of cash and put a decent sound system in to the place. Despite that we had two very good nights, with two very good audiences.
David Wiffen, who wrote Lost My Driving Wheel and a whole mitt full of other great songs and who had one of the great baritones in folk music suffered a serious heart attack this weekend. We sent positive vibes his way with a closing version of Driving Wheel, as did Lee Harvey Osmond with their cover of Wiffen’s “Lucifer Blues”. We wish him a speedy recovery.
We used up all of our good hotel karma in Chapel Hill. We pulled in to our hotel (more like a motel) early this morning, the only things awake were Bobby our bus driver and the cockroaches running up and down the stairwells.
Never mind those West Virginia jokes, Lewisburg is located in a stunningly beautiful part of the world. It was one of those perfect Fall days, when simply inhaling is a pleasure. Stepping off the bus into the streets of this town (actually we stepped off the bus into a hundred and fifty year old graveyard) was like stepping in to another era. The church across the street from where we were parked was built in the late 1700’s. Even though the main street has been fully occupied by local retailers (coffee shops, art galleries, bakeries, antique shops, etc..) they have somehow figured out how too not swamp the street in cliché and overkill. Perhaps that day is somewhere down the line, but for now it’s a beautiful little town that has preserved much of its heritage. There was some kind of fund raising Fall festival on the main street today so the town had a special vibe.
Sitting above the town is a Civil War graveyard where the bodies of 95 unknown Confederate Soldiers where re-interned years after the end of the war. They were originally buried in an unmarked mass grave on the orders of an obviously, nasty Union general. The current site is also a mass grave laid out in the shape of a giant cross…very eerie…a very good location for the start of a Confederate soldier zombie movie. There must be so many ghosts wandering around this town: it was the site of a notable battle in the Civil War as well as the site of a major Shawnee Indian raid on the original settlement, which saw dozens of settler’s families slaughtered along with a subsequent slaughter of dozens of Shawnee families. There has been lots of blood spilt in these hills.
Tonight we played Carnegie Hall. There are three Carnegie Halls in the USA, and we have now played them all (ok, there might be four, but who’s counting). We played a very cool set of music: very low revving, simmering grooves. Aaron seems to be settling in to the music.
This is why one tours… even after 25 years on the road….for nights like this on stage and for occasionally running into special little towns like this one. A very good day.
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Saturday, October 10th, 2009
In case you haven’t noticed, we have added Cookie Bob’s latest edition of Cookie Crumbs to the Exclusive page. It’s a very cool collection of some of Bob’s first tapings of the band starting in 1996. There are some songs in this collection that I had forgotten that we had once played live. If you have some time you can stream the collection for free or, better still, throw your eight bucks into our hat and download the collection. In any case…enjoy.
Thursday, October 8th, 2009
Ann Arbor is a very familiar stomping ground for us. Over the years we have performed dozens of times at various venues around this active little college town. These days we seemed to have settled into The Ark, which is one of the country’s more storied performance spaces. They could definitely do a bit of an upgrade on the back stage area and the in-house sound system could use an overhaul, but all of that can be overlooked, because the audience that turns out for these shows are always knowledgeable and enthusiastic. These shows are always fun and dynamic and tonight’s was no different. Our performance may have been a bit sloppy and loose but that isn’t always a bad thing, I thought it had an energetic edge.
Pittsburgh is the constant butt of those downtrodden-American-City jokes, but I have always had a soft spot for the place. For one thing it is one of the few American cities that really makes use of its waterfront. The rivers that cut through this town are a large part of its’ downtown life and profile. There is also a sense that no one is giving up on the place, there seems to be some optimism here, reflected in the ongoing downtown renewal projects. It’s also got a fascinating place in American history; it was home to some of the great builders that this country has produced; it is the birthplace of one of the country’s most revolutionary artists and is currently tops in the sporting world with the Penguins and Steelers the reigning champions in their sports. Even the lowly baseball Pirates have a place in my heart: growing up in Montreal I would tune in one of those megawatt radio stations which broadcast out of this area and I’d listen to the Pirate games as I fell asleep. I can still conjure images of Willie Stargell slowly sauntering to the plate; of Steve Blass commanding the game from his perch on the mound; and of Roberto Clemente picking them off at home plate from right field. Despite all that we have never really done that well, from an attendance point of view, in this town and tonight was no different. We were in a beautiful theater but attendance was a little light, but what they lacked in numbers they definitely made up for in enthusiasm and they did their best to spur us on. I think we were all a little tired tonight, I was particularly exhausted and so the show lacked a bit of focus. The four shows in three nights plus the flight to and from Vancouver have taken a bit of a toll. Tomorrow is a much needed day off.
Tuesday, October 6th, 2009
I guess tonight was the “real” opening night…..in-stores and cocktail parties don’t really count.
We arrived back in Toronto around ten o’clock on Friday night and had to be at our studio at 6:45am the next day to load our gear out for an 8:30am departure: a four hour drive to Lexington (with a border crossing), two new crew guys to show the ropes, and two shows. It was a very long day. To add a little bit of extra stress, Jeff is not with us because of a family emergency (we hope that he’ll join us in a few days). Luckily Aaron Goldstein, who is playing pedal steel with Lee Harvey Osmond, was planning to sit in with us, so soundcheck was dedicated to getting Aaron integrated into the sound of the band.
This is, not surprisingly, our first time in Lexington. A very quaint little town located on the shore of Lake Huron (my favourite of the Great Lakes). A nicely renovated, quirky little theater (The Lexington Music Theater) and a well engaged audience for both shows. The only hic-up in the night was an over worked promoter who failed to understand that, yes, we like our dinner hot and serving it before we go on stage for the first show so that we can eat it 90 minutes later, just doesn’t work. Sometimes you can role with that type of thing, but when you have had the type of schedule that we have had for the past few days, all you really want is a semi-decent, relatively hot meal….a congealed quiche and stone cold grilled sandwich just doesn’t cut it. But, most importantly we had a pretty decent opening night on stage.
Another new town tonight, Three Oaks. I’m not quite sure where we are in the state, but I know it is very close to the Indiana border and Lake Michigan: a very weird little town with an obvious critical mass of like-minded residents, who have carved out this little artsy haven in the middle of nowhere Michigan. Some interesting shops on Main Street and the venue was in the old featherbone factory that is slowly finding a new life through creative renovations. By the way, if you are wondering what a feather bone is, it has something to do with the spine of a turkey feather used to make corsets back at the turn of the last century. It was a revolutionary design that apparently made the family that owned the factory, the richest family in Michigan at that time. In any case it is a beautiful old building and a very unique venue. We were treated royally tonight. A home cooked meal of barbeque steak, fresh vegetables, various pies….amazing.
We had a very good night. It’s a lot of fun playing with a pedal steel again. It’s been over fifteen years since we had one on stage with us.
Sunday, October 4th, 2009
This was definitely a weird way to start a tour, but a welcome one. This gig dropped in our laps a few weeks ago along with a big bag of change. Today the Hudson Bay Company (which is a large Canadian retail chain) unveiled their line of Olympic wear for the upcoming 2010 Winter Games which are taking place here in Vancouver. They also held a party to celebrate the opening of their Olympic superstore in which all of their Olympic swag will be sold. We were part of the celebration and played a sixty minute set in the store along with a couple of other Canadian acts; Dan Mangan and Sam Roberts. It was a standard in-store performance under bright fluorescent lights with a hundred or so people milling about. Later that evening we were shuttled over to the cocktail party soiree where the company was schmoozing all of the sponsors. We played a fifteen minute set that was listened to by no one. There was polite applause after the first song, the DJ politely applauded after the second song (he was feeling sorry for us) and by the third song we might as well have gone home: of all the species of geese in the world the Canada goose is the most hardy and vocal. In any case this was your classic “crank and bank”, not the most satisfying type of gig to play but they help to fill in the financial gaps. We fly home tomorrow, get in around the kids bedtime and leave the next day on the bus before sun up. It’s a lot of hassle and travelling but, as I said, it’s well worth it, from a bottom line point of view.
These last two months have been off for the band. August was dedicated to family vacations and enjoying the final few weeks of Summer (which is a real necessity up here in the North). September was focused on outside projects and everyone getting their kids settled back in to school. I did a bit of writing and did some studio work with Mary Gauthier. It’s always hard to start up again…but always exciting and fun once you get back at it.