Archive for April, 2012
Saturday, April 28th, 2012
Kent, OH (Kent Theater)
Horrible weather, rainy and cold; Ate an excellent pulled pork sandwich from the Franklin Square Deli; Did some used book browsing; Did some used guitar browsing; Cookie Bob and Crazy Ed showed up with tithes of beer (Southern Tier IPA and Dogfish Head 60 Minute….very tasty); Chuck emerged unscathed from the Cincinnati show; Drank an awesome cup of coffee from Tree City Coffee; A beautiful old theater that could use a little TLC but sounds amazing; The Rangers and Devils moved on; A really enthusiastic and excited audience….it all adds up to a very fun night and enjoyable day.
Chicago, Ill (Old Town School Of Folk)
The expressway leading in to Chicago could give the Cross-Bronx Expressway a run for its money as the country’s worst highway to fall asleep on…if you know what I mean. It was a very early morning, coming after a very late night. Margo and I went off at noon to do some TV (WGN). Later, Jim Powers dropped by the bus. We have known Jim for over twenty years, ever since he first contacted us about a cassette tape called The Trinity Session that we had sent to him…he is the one that signed us to RCA and to Geffen. We owe much of our good fortune to him and over the years he has become a good friend. It was great catching up. We had two shows tonight (both of them sold out), a tough way to end a tour. We are truly beat and beaten. Show number one was a bit careful and searching, but not bad. Show number two was sloppy but in a good natural way…I thought it felt great despite the many mistakes. The audiences for both shows were excellent: enthusiastic and engaged.
This has been a very strange tour. We have travelled a lot of miles in a very short period of time. Some excellent shows, some mediocre shows, lots of hockey, only one miserable experience with a promoter or venue, pretty good weather. The attendance was a little soft in places and downright miniscule in a couple, but for the most part the audiences have been exceptional in their enthusiasm and appreciation, which helps so much on those rainy days, or in those half-filled houses or when your team has just been eliminated, once again, from contention. We will never take that appreciation for granted. It’s time to go home and rest up and get ready for the cross Canada marathon that starts up in June. See you then.
Friday, April 27th, 2012
Madison, WI (April 21 and 22)
Yesterday was a day off and we watched hockey. It was a beautiful early-spring day: chilly but lots of sunshine and lots of people in the streets enjoying the day. We sat in the bus and watched hockey, except for the couple of hours we went to dinner at the local pub…. and watched hockey. We watched the Penguins extend their life and the Bruins begin to totter. And then there were the late games from the West…but those games are pretty much a blur.
We started today with more hockey. We watched Pittsburgh go down with barely a whimper…a very pathetic showing for a team with so much talent. In the afternoon, Margo, Jeff and I did a short radio performance at Triple M 105.5 , which was fun and a much appreciated opportunity. After radio was more hockey, as Jared’s Bruins forced Game 7. The gig tonight was at The Majestic which is a well run venue, but the sound is a bit tricky, especially on stage, which made for a difficult night. The audience did a great job at pulling us through. After the show we watched as Al’s Canucks were eliminated by the Kings in 5 games, pathetic.
Cincinnati, OH (April 23 and 24)
Another day off. Another beautiful spring day. Another couple of hockey games. In preparation for the days viewing, Jared, Pete, Jeff, Al and I went to see Cabin In The Woods….if you are a fan of horror movies and the genre, I would definitely recommend it…it’s a very clever and funny movie. At night we watched the Rangers push the Senators to a Game 7 and the Coyotes eliminate the Blackhawks…..man, this has been an action packed few days.
Cincinnati is looking pretty good these days. Ten years ago its downtown core was a pretty bleak place to spend a day off. It has a bit of a sparkle these days, it’s not exactly bustling but at least there is some life. Perhaps all those new downtown stadiums have done the job. The gig tonight was a little out of town at the 20th Century Theater. It’s a nice venue but it has a terrible sounding stage which they could easily remedy by adding about six feet in width to it and by treating the rear brick wall. Despite our woes on stage, the audience was incredible and made what could have been a terrible show into a very fun night. We did another radio session today at WNKU and it looks like Jeff has been struck down by the bus plague. Karin Berquist our friend and collaborator from Over The Rhine stopped by to say hello….and there was more hockey…..
Nashville, TN (April 25)
A nice size audience tonight, but they seemed a little reserved…maybe we have been spoiled by the last few nights. Jeff is fully in the grip of his disease. I can’t even remember what hockey we watched; it’s all becoming a blur. We spent the day wandering around the community that surrounds the Belcourt Theater: a very active little area that services Vanderbilt University. Our old friend Dave Henry joined us for dinner. Nice weather, an excellent coffee shop, a very good book shop….an enjoyable day.
Thursday, April 26th, 2012
Our Tiny Desks concert is now up on the NPR website. Check it out if you have the time: http://www.npr.org/event/music/151219111/cowboy-junkies-tiny-desk-concert
Sunday, April 22nd, 2012
We spent the day in a parking lot in the rain. It was a nice parking lot, and at least there was a cafe that we could run to throughout the day, but we saw nothing of Omaha. The complex where the club is located, is part of a relatively new development on the outskirts of Omaha that has at its centerpiece a beautiful Triple A baseball stadium that is the annual home to the NCAA World Series. It wasn’t a bad place to spend a day. The club (The Slowdown) was clean and well run and comfortable. They even had a washer/dryer that they let us use and the staff was helpful and friendly. It doesn’t take much to keep a band on the road happy, just a smidge of TLC….It was another very light audience, but once again they were mighty in their appreciation and enthusiasm and did their best to keep us propped up and rocking forward.
It’s one of those gigs that you look at on the tour itinerary and say to yourself, “…Salina, Kansas..??…”. You have no idea what you’ll find when you show up. What we found was another classic mid-western town with wide -streets, three story buildings with those 100 year old brick facades and not a whole lot happening on the downtown strip. While walking the wide empty sidewalks one keeps checking to see if ones six-shooter is easily accessible….no telling when Black Bart will emerge from the saloon looking for a fight. But what we also found was a beautiful venue (the Steifel Theater) and an enthusiastic, decent sized audience. We were again treated royally by the promoter and the theater staff. We had a really good show.
Friday, April 20th, 2012
I’ve always liked St Louis, there is something epic about this city. A lot of its architecture reflects the cities place in the history, as the gateway to The West. It must have been quite a high rolling town in the 19th century when the expansion into the west was in full swing and St Louis was the last stop before jumping of the edge of the civilized world. Today it’s a lot quieter and like most cities and towns in the Midwest it has its ongoing problems, but there is still something vibrating here…..and they like their hockey.
One of the most amazing buildings is the New Masonic Temple which is right around the corner from tonights venue. The building is as massive as it is imposing…Sauron would feel right at home. Just around the corner is the Third Baptist church which is equally as massive and imposing….Gandalf might feel at home in the Baptists lair. In between it all is our venue, The SheldonTheater, which is inside the old Ethical Culture Society building, designed by the same guy who designed the Ethical Culture building in NYC which is a regular haunt of ours. This is a beautiful little theater. Unfortunately we had a very small turnout for the show, fortunately those that did show up were in fine form and provided all the energy that we needed to put across a really excellent show.
Thursday, April 19th, 2012
Today was a very trippy day in Davenport, Iowa. About an hour after we parked behind the gig we noticed the street in front of us beginning to fill up with cop cars and fire trucks and EMT units. We followed the gaze of all the first responders and there, about 100 feet away, sitting on the ledge of a parking garage with nothing but pavement below was a young man with no shoes: just sitting there, casually, as if he was simply reveling in the beautiful spring weather, enjoying the view of the Mississippi. He sat there for a couple hours, just like that and we sat in our bus and passed the time. Every now and then someone would come back to the bus and say, “is he still there?” and someone else would twist around and look out the window and say, “yup”. But then he started to move around a little bit and get a bit agitated and the uniforms in the street started to get edgy, stretchers were prepared, gloves were put on, yellow tape was strung. He slowly squirmed his way closer to the edge and then he put his whole lower torso over the side and dangle like that for a few seconds. And then he got back on the ledge and turned around so that his back was facing the drop and he started to lean further and further back into open space. And then it all seemed so inevitable and I had to stop watching. But then, just like that, he stopped and got off the ledge and went away with the police…..leaving his shoes on the pavement below.
And then things got really weird….the gig was in The Red Stone Room, a small performance space housed in a beautifully renovated old department store that is the hub of The River Music Experience: a fantastic non-profit organization that is dedicated to bringing music and music education to this area. It’s a great idea and a beautiful building but the actual performance space (the Red Stone Room) seems almost like an afterthought. It’s an awkward space tucked away in the corner of the top floor with a tiny little dressing room located three floors down in the basement among the fruit fly infested beer bottle empties, with lots of your classic rock’n’roll dressing room graffiti on the walls (cocks, bums and boobs) and, for good measure, a little bit of sewage from the clean-out pipe, dry and splattered in the corner. Set ups like this don’t exactly scream “respect”. Which is odd considering this whole operation is all about elevating music (and one would assume musicians) to a more respected and important place in the communities consciousness. At any rate, Margo dissed the dressing rooms from stage, which pissed off the club manager, who took it out on Jared which almost lead to blows….the upshot of it all is that we have been banned from the Redstone Room forever. My advice to those in charge….clean your fucking dressing room, or even better, move it to out of the skanky basement and at least pretend that you give a shit about where the band has to change and hang out…it’s the little things that can really make a show work. We had an ok show…considering….
We had a day off yesterday here in Davenport. This town was once a major player in this region, sitting strategically on the Mississippi. It’s a classic mid-west town with enormous five lane streets running through it; some beautiful 19th century buildings; a lot of empty retail space; a scattering of local entrepreneurs trying to make something happen; but mainly lots and lots of empty sidewalks with plenty of room to stretch out and do nothing. It was a relaxing day in a beautiful downtown hotel (the Blackhawk) with not a lot of distractions except, of course, hockey. We also did a gig at the daytrotter.com studios across the river in Rock Island Ill, which was a lot of fun and will be posted on their site soon.
Wednesday, April 18th, 2012
We didn’t come across any tornados on our drive last night, but the rain was of biblical proportions. It was an odd day today. The sky above the city swirled with clouds heading in all directions at once and the temperature plummeted. Jeff had to leave the tour for the day to attend to some matters at home and Margo’s illness got worse. The Penguins and Flyers series devolved into a WWE meets AHL event, sort of like a No-Holds-Barred cage-match on ice. There was weird juju in the air.
We had two shows tonight and the first one was as peculiar as the day. We struggled a little bit with the hole left in our sound by Jeff’s absence. Margo’s illness reared up and she had to leave the stage in the middle of Miles From Our Home, so Pete, Al and I played on (Jeff’s words of advice spurring us on, “never stop!”). A verse or two in to our instrumental version of Walking After Midnight and Margo returned and soldiered on. For the second show we reassessed and refocused and played with and around the empty space created by Jeff’s absence rather than trying to fill it and the result was a very different and magical show. We need a day off.
Monday, April 16th, 2012
We are in Davenport, Iowa and we are doing a daytrotter.com live session today (Tuesday April 17th). The session is being recorded for later use, but you can listen in to rehearsal and soundcheck today at around noon (Iowa time)…. Click on the link on the right side of the daytrotter.com page. Meanwhile, if you live in the midwest make sure that you check our tour dates….
Monday, April 16th, 2012
Day Two. NHL playoffs are in full swing with three or four games a day and our satellite gets them all. We even have a PVR to capture what we miss while we are on stage. Heaven. Jared convinced me and Al to experience our first Five Guys Burger. Very tasty. Another excellent show in front of an excellent audience…funny how those two things often go together. The Space in Evanston isn’t the best sounding room, but they have made a lot of upgrades since the last time we played here in 2010. It’s another very intimate performance space, great for the audience and fun for the band. The backstage area is about as comfortable as they come and the staff, owners and promoters treat us royally. We couldn’t ask for much more. A very, very fun night. Meanwhile, the Senators and Rangers are settling into what could be a really nasty series; Vancouver is heading towards a catastrophic collapse; the Penguins defence and goaltending seem to have vanished; and the other series are just warming up…..and, according to the weather channel, we are heading into a whole mess of tornados and severe thunder storms…woo-hoo, game-on!
Saturday, April 14th, 2012
This was a great way to start a tour: welcomed and stuffed by Skippy’s Sausage Stand Deluxe. It’s always a pleasure coming to Ann Arbor. This was one of the first towns in the US that showed a real interest in our music. We have many fond memories of playing sold out shows at The Blind Pig in the very early days when the only album that we had on our merch table was Whites Off Earth Now!! (we sold both the vinyl and cassette version!!). The Ark is our home in town these days, it’s a great room to see a band, very fun to play and they have Bells Two Hearted Ale on tap. We probably should have done two shows, but we’ll settle for a jammed packed, enthusiastic first night house. We had a great night, despite the fact that Margo isn’t feeling great…the energy and enthusiasm of the audience lifted her up….but….. back to that sausage stand….
Margo, Jeff and I did an early afternoon recording for the radio show Acoustic Cafe, which is always an enjoyable experience and by the time that we arrived at the venue, Skippy and his crew of Chef Rob and sous-chef Major Mike were already cooking up a storm. We were treated to a lunch of that Sausage Stand classic; sausage sautéed in peppers and onions (with a splash of bourbon) and a bowl of tasty, spicy gumbo. When we returned, after soundcheck, for dinner, Skippy and his crew had raised the bar to new heights. In honour of the completion of our ambitious Nomad Series, Skippy had designed a menu inspired by the four albums: glazed scallop over miso noodles; grilled salmon; strips of beef; peach cobbler; and several other tasty sides and sauces. It was pretty spectacular and darn tasty too. Skippy is pulling up stakes in these parts and heading west to settle in Des Moines to be near his daughters and grandkids. So it looks like we’ll have to start planning more regular trips through the heartland. A great beginning to the tour…let’s just hope that Margo recovers quickly.