Tour Diary – Grass Valley and San Francisco (October 5 and 6, 2012)

Oct 4 and 5

We’ve been laying low in Junkieland for the past 6 weeks as we’ve all been busy with getting our kids settled into their various schools; figuring out what kind of teachers we’ll have to be dealing with this year and settling into afterschool programs: all of those little and large, mundane and important details that make up “real” life. This weekend is a quick two show sidestep into our alter-lives, a quick break with reality and then back into it just in time for Canadian Thanksgiving. It hasn’t been all family and kids for the past month. Pete has been hard at work finishing off our new studio (The Hangar) and I’ve been up to my elbows packing up The Clubhouse, our home for the past ten years. One accumulates a lot of crap in ten years: every dark corner and every top shelf piled high with pieces of odd shaped metal and molded plastic. I’d hold some unidentifiable piece up, turn it my hands for a minute or so trying to figure out what it belongs (or belonged) to and then pitch in the trash. My rule of thumb for moving is that if you come across something that hasn’t moved from the same spot for the past ten years then odds are you don’t need it…out it goes. So we said goodbye to The Clubhouse, the room where we recorded One Soul Now, At the End Of Paths Taken, all of the Nomad Series and many, many one-off songs and Latent projects. It has been a good room for us, but it’s time to move on….intimidating but exciting.

This weekend may be a bit of a relief from our “real” lives but there is a lot of work involved. We are doing two shows in Northern Californian, which means we don’t have the luxury of stepping onto our bus and waking up at the gig….flying is never fun and flying with stacks of gear is really never fun. A twelve hour journey including a 3 hour layover in Denver and a few hours trapped on one of United’s Prison Planes (the seating space was so small that you might as well have been in shackles and I swear that the flight attendants were taking time off from their regular jobs as prison guards at the local pen). The final turn of the screw was the 60 mile van ride at the end of the flight to our final destination, Grass Valley, a small town just north of Sacramento.
Grass Valley is a cool little town in a great part of the country filled with cool little towns. It is an old Western gold mining town and it still has that frontier feel as well as a healthy scattering of funky locally owned coffee shops, bookstores, used record stores and all those little homegrown business that make up a thriving community. We had an amazing audience tonight. The show has been sold out for quite a few weeks so there was a nice buzz of anticipation in the crowd and that fed us all night. We had a very good night. After the show we loaded up our vans and made the 150 mile trek to San Francisico; the allure of an empty late night highway, a free hotel at the other end, lots of late night radio, some strong coffee and a little bit of Red Bull, pulling us along.

Oct 6
The reason that we made the effort to come out here for the weekend was an invitation from the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. An amazing weekend of music set in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and it’s all free to the public. The festival is in its twelfth year and it has all been underwritten by one man, the late Warren Hellman, a man with large pockets, a love of music and a healthy philanthropic nature. It is an amazing festival and perhaps it could only work in a city as quirky and adventurous as San Francisco but I think if Mitt Romney wants to get elected and if he is really interested in doing something positive for this country he should use his billions to personally underwrite free music festivals in cities and towns all over the country….that should be his sole campaign promise…”If I’m elected I’ll pay for an annual free music festival in every town and city across the country with a population over 60,000. Thank you, good night and God Bless America.”

We had an amazing day. Golden Gate Park is an unbelievable public space filled with giant eucalyptis trees and giant pines, gardens and playing fields, lakes and museums, bike paths, walking trails, it is a spectacular example of visionary urban planning. The weather was perfect, we ran into a few old friends and made a few new ones and we had a very good show in front of a sea of people: all in all a perfect day and a very good weekend.

Tomorrow its back to TO. We’ll continue to set up The Hangar and look forward to a couple of shows near home at the beginning of November and then at the end of month we’ll set off on an adventure across Spain, Italy and Portugal. Stay tuned.


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This entry was posted on Sunday, October 7th, 2012 at 9:06 am and is filed under Tour Diary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

3 Responses to “Tour Diary – Grass Valley and San Francisco (October 5 and 6, 2012)”

  1. Julie Tan Says:

    October 14th, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    MICHAEL!!! So bummed that your recent trip to California did not include a stop in Southern Cal. As you stated, life gets busy and real with little kids and traveling to be a CBJ groupie is not an option. Please come back to play in LA soon!!!

  2. SSteve Says:

    October 15th, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    Thanks a ton for playing in Grass Valley. I got my tickets the day they went on sale back in July and had been eagerly anticipating the show ever since. It was every bit as wonderful as I hoped. I bought the Nomad Series signed box set even though I already have three of the discs. I figured thirty bucks for Sing in My Meadow plus the bonus disc was a decent deal. Plus I got my Trinity Session album signed! I’m so happy to hear that you had a good time. Please be sure to stop by every time you’re playing SF from now on. Hopefully you can have a day to hang out and enjoy some of the wonderful things the foothills have to offer.

  3. Mark Hover Says:

    October 15th, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    Hey Mike
    After the traveling experience with the airlines and layover, and riding in the van, we were blessed to have gotten a wonderful show. I always anticipate a good show, but knowing how moment to moment experiences leading up to a gig can diminish or enhance the odds of a weak or good show….it is nice to know you had a good show.
    I was personally touched by your performance, as were others. This 300 seat “Performing Arts Center” had great acoustics from an audience standpoint. I was actually in the last row, next to the soundboard and the sound was exceptional. By “last row”, I mean, row 10. I believe there were about 10 rows with 30 people in each row, average. Just being in a room of this nature was satisfying in itself. Most of time being in a busy bar room environment, it does not appeal to an avid listener. In this room, you could hear a pin drop during the quietest of passages. This is the way the Cowboy Junkies should be heard… IMO.

    Not going to the show the following day (Hardly Strictly), but reading different comments, it must have been like night and day, as far as atmosphere and surroundings. I would think BOTH shows were invigorating and equally satisfying. Being at such extremes of the spectrum, I can’t but wonder which type of performance the band prefers. BUT, it really doesn’t matter because you are admired by this listener, just by performing. Again, I thank you and the rest of the band for your personal touch.

    I am sure The Hangar will provide the space and time for more beautiful Cowboy Junkies music to be created….and more. Good luck in the new room. Oh….give me a call next time you move, I would be glad to help out….lol. Love you all. mark