Archive for March, 2010

My Olympic Vacation video

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Well its taken me a while to edit this down, but its my first attempt at this sort of thing. Here is my three days of Olympic bliss edited down to ten minutes….

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Tour Diary – Cleveland OH (March 27, 2010)

Monday, March 29th, 2010

downtown Cleveland

(Jason Lent has forsaken the island paradise of Hawaii to follow us around for a few months. I have happily placed the tour diary in his capable hands. It should bring a new perspective to our ramblings.)

The end of the tour sat in Cleveland and I awoke in Chicago. I added some friends to the Honda Civic and speed limits were merely suggestions as we raced across the Midwest to make the final show. We arrived just in time to taste the infamous sausages at Skippy’s tailgate festival. Great food, new and old friends, and Margo in a pink Snuggie made for a memorable afternoon in a Cleveland alley.

The downtown area of Cleveland felt vacant and the economic downturn was evident everywhere you went. The new baseball and basketball stadiums loomed over the area but there were few signs of life for a city so large. A few blocks from the stadiums, the playhouse district housed at least five theaters and Cowboy Junkies were playing in one of the larger rooms. The restored theater was a stark contrast to the rock club from last night.

Finishing an eleven-show run in only ten nights, the band’s set stayed with the most reliable material from the tour. The sound was pristine and Al’s bass lines were especially noticeable throughout the night. Joining the tour for the final stop was Lee Harvey Osmond who played a dark and stormy collection of tunes to set the mood for the evening.

Morning in Cleveland brought cold and rainy weather as a small herd of fans headed for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Bruce Springsteen exhibit took up most of the visit and seeing the handwritten lyrics of some of the most important songs in music history felt like a religious moment.

A six-hour drive brought me back to Chicago and the end of the first leg of the 2010 tour. It covered over 3,000 miles but I was never more than eight hours from Chicago. The band played a new show every night and each venue had a unique personality that colored the experience. The end of these little tours is usually met with sadness as the real world drags me back under. This time, I’ll be remaining at sea until the band comes ashore in Buffalo, NY next month. I hope to see you there!


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Tour Diary – Madison, WI (March 26, 2010)

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

The capitol

(Jason Lent has forsaken the island paradise of Hawaii to follow us around for a few months. I have happily placed the tour diary in his capable hands. It should bring a new perspective to our ramblings.)

An easy day started with a hike to the highest point in Mukwonago, WI to clear the head and fill the lungs with the crisp air. Madison greeted me with bright blue skies and a warm sun. The venue sat a few blocks from the opulent state capitol building that anchors the center of town. The college lies nearby and the streets were alive with students going to and from class. The main drag had a cool record store, plenty of interesting shops, and several microbreweries. It was a great place to spend an afternoon.

The show tonight was at the Majestic, a typical rock club in a college town. The balcony was built crooked giving the entire room a slanted appearance. The bar sat a little too close to the stage and the P.A. speakers had probably seen their share of glam rock bands over the decades. It has been a few years since I caught Junkies in such a club and I forgot how much fun these places can be. The show was sold out and the line stretched down the block before the doors opened. There was a great energy in the crowd for another sold-out show on this romp through the midwest. 

 The band came to play and there was a ton of punch in the mix. Being free to roam, I caught a few songs from the balcony and Margo’s voice was soaring into the highest reaches of the club. The chatter from the bar was easily bested by the P.A. and “Bread & Wine” sliced open the evening. We emerged from the show and walked right into a wild Madison night full of drunken co-eds. It was time to heads toward Cleveland…


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Tour Diary – Milwaukee, WI (March 25, 2010)

Friday, March 26th, 2010

(Jason Lent has forsaken the island paradise of Hawaii to follow us around for a few months. I have happily placed the tour diary in his capable hands. It should bring a new perspective to our ramblings.)

I made the short ride up to Milwaukee and met up with a friend to explore the city. We started in an old Polish neighborhood where his family had first settled. The gentrification of the riverfront around Milwaukee was lapping at the edge of the neighborhood but the old homes stood their ground. We settled into a century old bar for a few pints to stay out of the blistering cold wind.

Not much had changed at Wolski’s during the last century. The bartender was the fourth generation of his family to pour beer and lend an ear to the community. The sense of place was strong in this area and where you’re from was measured not by city or even neighborhood. My friend and the bartender identified each other by house numbers and despite not being there in many years, the connection was strong. The bartender simply said, welcome home and bought a round of beers.

The wandering around downtown Milwaukee was the coldest hour of my life. The end.

The venue tonight was an old music hall that was restored only enough to pass city inspection. Nets were draped across the ceiling to catch falling chunks of plaster and the wood floor had been allowed to rise and fall giving the entire room a slightly uneven sway as you walked around. It felt like a ballroom for the apocalypse and it was magnificent.

The band played one of the best shows of the tour and the crowd’s reserved response could probably be attributed to the fact that we were glued to our seats.. The biting winds were sneaking through the aging edifice but the warm sound of the room more than compensated for the world outside. Songs like “Thousand Year Pray” and the final waltz through dystopia on “Lay It Down” reminded me of why some of us feel the need to follow the band from show to show. 


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May & June Tour Dates

Friday, March 26th, 2010

We’ve added a bunch of new tour dates. In May, we’ll be in Troy and Bethel, NY; Bellows Falls and Burlington, VT; Providence, RI; Old Saybrook and Ridgefield, CT; and Great Barrington, MA. In June, we’re headed south and west, to Memphis, TN; Baton Rouge, LA; Dallas and Austin, TX; Albuquerque, NM; Phoenix, AZ; Salt Lake City, UT; and Arvada, CO, with more to come.

More info on the tour dates here.

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Tour Diary – Davenport, IA (March 24, 2010)

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

The Old Man

(Jason Lent has forsaken the island paradise of Hawaii to follow us around for a few months. I have happily placed the tour diary in his capable hands. It should bring a new perspective to our ramblings.)

The open fields and empty highways between Chicago and Davenport were a welcome change as I cruised past Ronald Reagan’s birthplace somewhere in western Illinois. The skies were consistently grey and a slow, steady rain hovered over the entire trip. Pulling into Davenport, the Mississippi was lapping at the banks and looked ready to breach the walls of the Quad Cities. When it does, perhaps it will carry away the riverboat casino that has sunk its teeth into the Davenport river front district.Tonight’s show took place in a performance room at the River Music Experience, an interactive music building that housed a small museum (Charlie Daniels’ bow!), practice rooms, a coffee shop, and even small music labs for aspiring producers looking to master Auto Tune and create the next pop starlet. It made for an easy way to pass a rainy afternoon. After that, I met a wonderful family from Sicily serving authentic pizza in the heart of Davenport, IA. Antonella welcomed me like a lost son. I tried to help her daughter with Spanish homework and even took a tour of the kitchen. Meeting such open and kind people on these travels lifts the weight of the miles instantly.Walking back to the venue, I watched a marching band of clowns emerge from the venue and assumed Margo had nixed Pete’s idea for an opening act. A barrage of flash photography and pockets of geese hampered the show tonight for those who wanted to listen closely. The downstairs performance space occasionally bled into the venue giving the entire show an underlining din that the band had to work to stay above. The transcendent moments when music, performer, and crowd become one were hard to spot on this rainy night.
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Evanston, Ill (March 23, 2010)

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

(Jason Lent has forsaken the island paradise of Hawaii to follow us around for a few months. I have happily placed the tour diary in his capable hands. It should bring a new perspective to our ramblings.)

Tonight’s show was in Evanston, one of the northern towns that make up the small country known as Chicagoland. Coming from an island, the immensity of Chicagoland is hard to comprehend at times. It’s like a spider monkey hopped up on Red Bull was set loose in a game of Sim City. Highways and concrete stretch to the horizon everywhere you look and the highways intermingle and change names randomly. I missed a few exits today.

Evanston sits on Lake Michigan and I made a point to find a beach and set foot in the sand, albeit quite briefly. The venue was an aging hipster art space attached to a trendy restaurant with a fantastic beer menu. The venue was the sort of place that drives sound engineers nuts with exposed brick walls that deflect sound in unintended directions and a small stage that put the musicians in a tight cluster. The vibe and the lighting of the room helped to compensate for the sound and it felt like a groovy place to catch a show.

The band and crowd spent the first few songs getting to know each other before the energy started to crackle with a rocking version of “Stranger Here” from the upcoming album. Two rarely played (and greatly loved) selections from The Caution Horses album sounded exquisite. “Shining Moon” leaves the same station every night but the destination often changes. Tonight, Jeff’s harmonica catapulted the jam through a haze of blue.

With no back stage or side stage to retreat to, Margo sought shelter at a table of fans while the boys took “Working On a Building” for a walk. When the show ended, the lack of space forced a violation of Rock School 101 and the band simply stayed on stage for the encore. Someone requested “Lost My Driving Wheel” and the band was kind enough to oblige. Another comfortable night of music wrapped up and the tour bus set its sights on Iowa. In a few hours, I’ll do the same with my borrowed Honda Civic…


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Tour Diary – Minneapolis, MN (March 21, 2010)

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

(Jason Lent has forsaken the island paradise of Hawaii to follow us around for a few months. I have happily placed the tour diary in his capable hands. It should bring a new perspective to our ramblings.)

A picture perfect afternoon in Minneapolis gave way to a relaxed and fun doubleheader.  The club was equal parts jazz club and restaurant in the heart of downtown Target (the retail giant appears to own the entire downtown district). There’s something a little disconcerting about scampi noodles being eaten just feet from Mike’s amp but the club’s staff was magnificent at remaining inconspicuous throughout the performance. In fact, everything about the club appeared to be top notch and focused on making it easy for both band and fans.

The early show had to compete with the oatmeal encrusted mahi and other dinner selections. For $11, you could even try a Cause Cheap Is How I Feel martini, which raised the question of how you’d feel if you bought the can of PBR for $5. The music prevailed and the band’s set was tight and energetic. Jeff’s melodica on “Renmin Park” and Margo’s emotional reading of “Dreaming My Dreams With You” were memorable.

For the second show, I found myself at the table next to Mike’s amp, quite literally. I could have rested my drink on it. Being inside the sound mix changed the way I heard the music with Mike’s amp overpowering the mix. It was a really cool way to hear the instruments interact. The second setlist was anchored by a moment of acoustic beauty with “Something More Besides You.” The music occasionally wanted to do its own thing but the band kept reeling it back in and finished five shows in three days with a lengthy 16 song set of music.

Sure, the rumored cover of a Prince song (I was betting on “Take Me With You”) didn’t happen but the Twins resigned Joe Mauer and Hope won a big game in Washington D.C. 219-212. It’s hard to not smile on days like this. 


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Tour Diary – St Cloud, MN (March 20, 2010)

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

(Jason Lent has forsaken the island paradise of Hawaii to follow us around for a few months. I have happily placed the tour diary in his capable hands. It should bring a new perspective to our ramblings.)

The band came through St. Cloud back in 2003 and so did I. It was the first night I ever had a conversation with Jaro, which is something you remember, kind of like the first time you drink kava and feel the world go numb. It’s cosmic, dude. Not much has changed in St. Cloud since the last visit. Downtown is very nice and the people were pleasant but it had an odd vibe pecking at its corners. As I walked down the street, I watched two old guys stumble out of a bar and yell drunkenly at each other for two city blocks (and they were walking in different directions).

            A café opened next door to the theater since the last visit with free WiFi, local art adorning the walls, a nice selection of beer, and some fantastic food. I spent the afternoon in the cozy confines catching up on the world (basketball scores) and reading Margo’s tweets (twitters?). After the show, they had fresh baked cookies and the owner came in with the CD’s she bought at the show. Everybody settled into some wine and Whites Off Earth Now provided the soundtrack to conversation.

            The theater tonight was an immaculately restored landmark in a barely breathing downtown (see also: Redding, CA). Seven years ago, it was a small but mighty crowd in St. Cloud. Tonight, the crowd was bigger and just as supportive. The entire Chicago venue from last night could have fit on the Paramount’s massive stage so the dynamics of the show were quite different. The band and sound crew adjusted accordingly and the songs were exploding from the stage. The power in Margo’s voice could be felt throughout the theater on every song. Pete propelled “A Common Disaster” from a wicked tight pocket and went Bonzo at the end of “Murder, Tonight.” During the last song, Mike and Jeff allowed the tide of feedback to recede leaving Al and Pete pulsating under Margo’s verse to great effect. It’s only rock and roll, but I like it….


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Tour Diary – Chicago, Ill (March 19, 2010)

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

(Jason Lent has forsaken the island paradise of Hawaii to follow us around for a few months. I have happily placed the tour diary in his capable hands. It should bring a new perspective to our ramblings.)

Tonight’s doubleheader was north of Wrigleyville in the Lincoln Square area. The locals I met told me the area had originally been a German neighborhood and signs of the influence were prevalent along the streets. I set out to find deep-dish pizza and ended up with a delicious thin crust pie. I guess some of my New York soul remains intact.

The Old Town School of Folk is exactly that, with students and classes happening all around me as I meandered the halls. I caught an impromptu performance by a 10 year old on the violin with her teacher on guitar that garnered a standing ovation from her family. Good vibes in this place. The concert hall was built with folk performances in mind and the sound was warm and the acoustics perfect. Despite the close proximity of every seat to the stage, the high ceilings let the sound ebb and flow throughout the night. For the more delicate material, it was as good a performance hall can sound.

The shows were completely unique tonight. In the early show, the connection between music, band, and crowd never felt completely in sync. Knowing there is an entire second show gives the night a weird vibe as someone has to always be aware of the clock. When the second show started a little past 11pm, the lights were brought down darker than I’ve ever seen at a Junkies show. Margo’s reading light was the brightest spot in the room and Jeff and Pete worked in shadows. Every song flowed into the next
creating a singular musical focus so narrow that it could rest on the head of a pin but with such depth that each new song took the listener deeper into a sonic jungle. It was a chill inducing night of music.

Opening both shows tonight was Grant Lee Phillips formerly of Grant Lee Buffalo. His voice had a Jeff Buckley tone and his new material sounds very focused. During all this wonderful music, the temperature dropped about 30 degrees and snow is forecasted for tomorrow’s drive to Minnesota. Onward.


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