Archive for October, 2013

Tour Diary – Stoughton and Minneapolis (Oct 27 – 30, 2013)

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

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The day started bright and beautiful, and quickly turned a little gloomier on hearing that Lou Reed had died. He's the first of our rock god pantheon to die a “natural” death, the first of, no doubt, several to follow over the next decade. It's hard to process the death of someone that you don't have a personal connection with, but someone who nevertheless has had a significant effect on your life through their art. It's not like their absence will now affect your day to day life, but there is a definite sense of loss….mostly it makes one long for those days when so much was new and music, in particular, consistently and constantly changed the way you processed the world.

As I mentioned it was a beautiful Fall day in Stoughton, Wisconsin. We spent the day wandering around this sleepy little town, I gazed longingly at the river that ran through its middle. I made the decision to not bring my fishing gear on this tour, thinking that it would be too cold and the opportunities to fish, too thin. I kicked myself, it would have been worth the effort to have had a couple of hours standing on the banks, on this spectacular day.

It was a nice little venue tonight. One of those classic small town opera houses sitting on the second floor of the town hall. It was an odd show….we were a little tentative as was the audience. It wasn't a bad night, but it never seemed to take off, perhaps Uncle Lou was on our minds.

****

We've always enjoyed coming to Minneapolis, but it's an odd town. It has grown substantially in the two decades that we have been coming here, but it never seems to change. I think a large part of the reason for this stasis, is the 2nd Floor interior walkways that connect all of the main buildings in the downtown core. Everyone is inside and getting from place to place through these hamster tunnels which leaves the streets feeling very flat and lacking energy. It's a thriving downtown core but it doesn't have that feel, unless you venture into the buildings and experience the mad lunchtime scramble through the warren….it is all just a bit too low budget sci-fi for my tastes.

We had a day off on Monday which also happened to be Pete's birthday. We plied him with drinks and went to watch the Wild get dissected by the Blackhawks…Al bought him a Wild t-shirt to commemorate the day….a t-shirt of his favourite player, Clayton Stoner.

We had four shows over two nights at The Dakota Jazz Club. It's an odd room, with the stage facing the short wall and a PA that doesn't seem to be properly tuned, which makes it difficult to find a groove on-stage. We probably bit off more than we can chew with the four shows. Two shows would have been solidly sold out, but as it stood, both of the late shows were a little light. These weren't great shows from our point of view. We seem to be having difficulty finding our rhythm on this run. We're not playing badly but we seem to be lacking a bit of intensity. The audiences didn't help our woes, they seemed to be lacking the same intensity, it was like both sides of the stage were waiting for the other to single that it was ok to let loose a little, with neither wanting to make the first move. By the last of the four shows we kind of figured it out and realized that we just needed to play for ourselves and the audience will follow (a lesson learned and relearned dozens of times over the years) …which they eventually, grudgingly did. Maybe all of us Northerners are beginning to slip in to our winter hibernation phase. Time to slap ourselves around a bit and finish off this tour on a high note.

We crankily watched the Red Sox move toward their World Series victory during the break between our shows. Jared once again gets to celebrate and shove another Boston championship in our faces….bastard.


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Tour Diary – Buffalo, Saugatuck, Chicago (Oct 24 – 26, 2013)

Monday, October 28th, 2013

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We shuffled off to Buffalo, stumbled down the QEW… a morning departure, an intense but simple border crossing…and we were there. We've never really found a home in Buffalo. We've played various venues and sometimes miss the city entirely on any given tour, despite it being an easy two hour drive down the highway. Tonight we were in the smaller room at Buffalo's main concert hall. It seemed to fit well with the locals, as we had a full house…..it also helped that this was the one and only Trinity Session show on this leg. We fought the room during soundcheck, a large empty space with a lot of hard surfaces designed for acoustic instruments, not for electric guitars and a drum kit. But once the hall was full and we settled in and figure out the acoustics, the show slowly came together: in large part because the audience was excellent…enthusiastic and responsive. It was a perfect way to kick off this little road trip.

*****

One long overnight drive and the road fog descends. Day 2 and it feels like we've been on the road for a couple of weeks. A ten hour drive around Lake Erie, where the lake effect weather keeps the roads in a constant state of disrepair, it's like trying to sleep in a giant Yahtzee can. Saugatuck is a pretty little town on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, but it's quaint downtown strip has been overrun by kitchy tourist stores selling t-shirts and fudge. From the perfect repair and size of the houses and the boat slips it looks to be a town with an abundance of cash, probably a vacation spot for well-to-do Chicagoans. It was a pleasant spot to spend a day and to try and regather some strength. This is our second time at the Saugatuck Art Center, which is a functional room, not great sounding, not terrible sounding, but it was sold out which always helps to lift the spirits on stage. Last night we started playing Take Heart off of The Kennedy Suite. It's a delicate, tricky little number, which I think we did a good job of tonight. We also plan to add in Disintegrating to the set one of these nights. The audience was a bit tentative tonight, there may have been a few weekenders out for the evening who were a little puzzled as to what they were listening to….all-in-all a pretty good night.

*****

Chicago is always a favourite stop. It's without a doubt one of the countries great cities. Tonight we were in a new venue for us, The City Winery. We have played The City Winery in NYC a few times over the past few years and its always a relaxed and enjoyable gig, so when we go the invitation to try out their new location we jumped at the opportunity. The venue is in the old meat packing district which is just west of the downtown core. The area is filled with some beautiful century old brick warehouses that are being refurbished and retro-fitted for modern day uses. This is what Chicago and all great cities do best…incorporate their past in to their present, build on their strengths. It was a two show night, which is always tough. The first show was a little rough, the audience a little pre-occupied with their dinner. The second show we relaxed a bit and let the music take us for a bit of a spin. Rahm Emmanuel (current mayor of Chicago, ex-chief of staff for Obama, ex-Clinton advisor, etc..) was in the audience for the first show and he came backstage afterwards to stay hello. Apparently he and his wife have been fans for a long time and they have seen us at various locations over the years. It was a pleasure to meet him, his wife and his friends. It never gets old finding out whose listening to your music, musicians generally work in a vacuum and occasionally one gets a glimpse at how music has the ability to cross so many different types of boundaries. We started playing Disintegrating tonight…its a tricky little number and needs some time to mature.


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Lou Reed 1942 – 2013

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

Uncle Lou died today….gone but never, ever forgotten. My older brother John introduced me to his music. The year that Transformer came out I broke my leg and it was my brothers job to drive me to school. He had an 8 track copy of Transformer in his car and the album would play on a loop. He would yell out loud when Lou talked dirty on Walk On The Wild Side, just to frustrate me because I wanted to hear what he was saying. So I snuck in to his bedroom when he was out and would play his vinyl copy….I was thirteen years old, back when 13 was young, and I didn't understand what he was singing about, but it was enthralling. There was something childish and sinister about the songs on that album: they hinted at a world that wasn't as black and white as the one I was growing up in, his world was full of shadows and innumerable shades of grey (way more than 50). Alan and I latched on to every solo album that he released throughout the 70's and every one brought us somewhere new and unexpected, you never knew what you were going to get from a new Lou Reed album, you let the needle drop and you let him grab you by the arm, with the occasional smack across the mouth. Transformer was followed by Berlin, the most harrowing of listening experiences…there were no “hints” on this album, it was a full-on exploration of drug addiction and abuse, not for timid. Coney Island Baby was a big one for us, and its still one of my favourite albums of all time….there is just something concise and perfect about it. “The morning of the show….” and “I want to play football for the coach….” became, and still are, a part of our private lexicon. Metal Machine Music became the coolest “fuck you” of all time and I still own an extremely rare mint condition vinyl copy of it (rarely played because listening to it wasn't what it was all about). Street Hassle with its binaural sound recording technique completely changed the way we listened to records. It had this open, spooky vibe to it which pulled you inside the recording, it felt as though you could walk around inside it….no doubt a huge influence and precursor to the stereo ambisonic recordings that we would undertake ten years later. We lost touch with Lou's solo work throughout most of the 80's, partly due to the decline in their quality and partly due to our immersion in the punk scene that emerged in the late 70's….despite the fact that Lou was the godfather to this scene, in true punk fashion, the children ate their parents. We did have a cassette copy of The Blue Mask in our band apartment in NYC in the early 80's. This was our first band, Hunger Project, and we played it as our bedtime music as the four of us bunked out on the floor of our one room apartment/rehearsal space….”The image of the poets in the breeze/Canadian geese are flying above the trees”. In 1989, just as Cowboy Junkies was blowing up, Lou released New York, which trumpeted his return to the top of the heap…another simple, but beautifully drawn suite of songs, a love poem to the city that was his muse.

Somewhere, early in our introduction to his music, Alan and I dug up a Velvet Underground album. I remember not quite getting it at first. The sound was just too raw and nasty, there was no attempt at drawing in the listener, even the gentle pretty songs were all about the raw energy, which probably scared me off initially. I remember the exact moment that I “got it”. I had a copy of White Light/White Heat” on a cassette and I was driving downtown in my brothers car to meet up with some friends at a bar (yes, in Montreal in those days, we were openly going to bars in our early and mid teens). Sister Ray came on and I suddenly “heard it”….the noise and the pulse, the feedback ,the cacophony all made sense. I found a parking spot and sat there and listened over and over to Sister Ray, and the world of The Velvet Underground opened up to me……”awww just like Sister Ray said…”

When we recorded The Trinity Session we included a version of Sweet Jane that was inspired by the version on 1969, which was, at that time, an obscure live Velvet Underground album. It was our way of tipping our hat to Lou as one of the great American songwriters/folk singers, in the tradition of Hank Williams, Rogers and Hart, The Carter Family all of whose songs we included on that album. An enterprising record company exec got our version to Lou and he gave the equivalent of two thumbs up…we could have stopped right there and, for Al and I, our foray in to music would have been a success. About a year later the band was introduced to Lou at a bistro in Paris after we had each finished our respective gigs. He was kind and gracious to us. He told us the story of how the bridge in Sweet Jane (“heavenly wine and roses”) was cut out of the studio version. The song was on the last true VU studio album and half way through the recording he left the band. There had always been a bit of disagreement inside the band about the bridge, so when he left, the remaining band cut the bridge out of the final mix, and it had bothered him ever since, until our version came along. His sage words of advice that night, from someone who had been through it all to a young band just starting out, were “fire your manager and hire a good lawyer”. He invited us to his show the following night at The Olympia and half way through the show he started up Sweet Jane. When he got to the bridge section, he vamped for a moment and then said, “this is for the Cowboy Junkies who put the bridge back in this song” and he continued on in to the bridge. It doesn't get a whole lot better than that ….a shout out (before the term existed) from the stage by an idol who is not known for being gratuitous with his praise.

Good bye Lou…thanks for transforming my life…for the inspiration….for showing us all how it should be done….we miss you already….

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The Kennedy Suite – The Truth About Us: Trading Perry Mason for Lewis and Clark by Scott Garbe

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

(We will be releasing The Kennedy Suite on Latent Recordings on November 12th. You can pre-order the CD and Deluxe Package now. The debut performance of The Kennedy Suite will be on November 22nd and 23rd at The Winter Garden Theater in Toronto. Please visit The Kennedy Suite website and Facebook page)

Scott Garbe is the writer of The Kennedy Suite. He will be posting a series of blogs about the writing of the Suite, it is a fascinating journey and definitely worth following along…make sure that you check back in every now and then.

****

Sandy was my Yearbook Sales Representative.  Gleaming nails, a clatter of silver bracelets & bangles, and foundation make-up that shimmered on her face like condensation on a window pain. But her humour was every bit as sincere as her appearance was superficial. Hair of platinum, heart of gold. And when I told her that there was one place I was compelled to visit while I was in the city, she generously agreed to take me.

My guess was that Sandy would have been 10-12 years old at the time of Kennedy’s assassination, yet she didn’t speak about her experience. In fact, though a Dallas native, her visit to Dealey Plaza with me would be her first. When the President and the First Lady had rolled through town that bright November morning, some students made welcome signs and lined the motorcade route to enthusiastically wave hello, others had teachers who steadfastly refused to release them and at least one, as described in William Manchester’s book Death of a President, did nothing to quell the rousing cheers that filled her classroom when the death of the President was announced. What was Sandy’s experience? She wasn’t volunteering, and I wasn’t about to intrude. I was a tourist, both in a physical and emotional sense. I had been impacted by an event that I had to wrestle with through my imagination. She had lived the moment, and it contained no poetry. It had come and gone without epiphany.

But as I said in my previous entry, after visiting the Sixth Floor Museum and walking the grounds of Dealey Plaza, Lee Oswald had imposed himself as a presence.

He tagged along during the remainder of my yearbook training. He carefully unfolded the wax paper around his sandwich as Sandy and I ate lunch in the publishing company’s cafeteria. After Sandy and I had parted ways, he sat tight-lipped beside me on the plane back to Monterrey. He lounged in the back of the taxi that took me to my apartment from the airport. And he calmly sipped a soda, inscrutable, as I finally had time to take a long, inquiring look into his eyes.

Did he or didn’t he?

Lee wasn’t saying. His brother Robert had tried to discern an answer in the same manner when he visited with him in the Dallas County Jail after his arrest. Noting his probing stare Lee responded glibly, “Brother, you won’t find anything there.”

Meeting that silence forced me to turn a corner. Instead of waiting for an answer, I would explore the question, and that question was not one of culpability, but one of construction. Through his 24 years, Lee Harvey Oswald was a composite, a collage of aliases, fragmented story lines and false starts.

What conditions created him? What materials were grafted layer by layer in his manufacture? What was his path? If traced it back, where would it lead? If extrapolated into the future, what would be its trajectory?

The Truth About Us (The Ballad of Lee and Marina) is a document of that expedition. When I began writing, Lee had been looking over my shoulder. By the time I put down my pen, he was gone.

I haven’t seen him since.

****

(Here is The Truth About Us off of The Kennedy Suite sung by Andy Maize of Skydiggers)

 

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The Kennedy Suite – pre-order

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

The pre-order for The Kennedy Suite is now officially on. The album won't be in stores in Canada until November 12th and as of right now we don't have a release date for the album anywhere outside of Canada, we are still wrestling with what to do with it…so jump on-board and order from us directly.

As of now it is only available as a CD and in multi-digital formats. We also have a limited edition deluxe package, that we are only offering through the website, which includes 14 collages created by brother Pete each inspired by the lyrical content of The Kennedy Suite, printed on high quality 100lb, Lynx gloss paper, suitable for framing.

Also, if you place an order through our website before November 12th you will immediately get a digital download of Scott Garbe's demo for The Kennedy Suite which played a vital part in the making of The Kennedy Suite.

And don't forget the premier of The Kennedy Suite stage show on November 22 and 23 at The Winter Garden Theater in Toronto…we hope you can make it.

Enjoy the new music and thanks again for listening.

Bullet For You

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The Kennedy Suite – Lee Arrives Unannounced in Mexico by Scott Garbe

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

(We will be releasing The Kennedy Suite on Latent Recordings on November 12th. Pre-orders will start on October 15th. The debut performance of The Kennedy Suite will be on November 22nd and 23rd at The Winter Garden Theater in Toronto. Please visit The Kennedy Suite website and Facebook page)

Scott Garbe is the writer of The Kennedy Suite. He will be posting a series of blogs about the writing of the Suite, it is a fascinating journey and definitely worth following along…make sure that you check back in every now and then.

********

Barging in” was a common method of arrival for Lee Oswald throughout his brief life. Whether it was confronting U.S officials in Moscow on Halloween 1959 with his wish to renounce his citizenship and remain in Russia or the fatal imposition of his will from the sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository in November of 1963, you never saw him coming; he simply appeared at your elbow.

My experience was no different.

It had been years since an encounter with a series of JFK assassination photos had left me with a palpable sense of vulnerability as a young boy. I was now a teacher, immersed in my first assignment teaching English at a dynamic international school in Monterrey, Mexico. In the interim, books, films and documentaries exploring innumerable JFK conspiracy theories had flooded the market, assailing the credibility of the Warren Report until its single bullet theory became the Magic Bullet Theory – a cultural/historical punch line.

In between lesson plans and theatrical productions I consumed what I could, but the notion of giving artistic expression to that initial loss of innocence and the layers of information acquired since would only begin to formulate itself when an additional assignment arrived on my desk. I was asked to take on the publication of our school’s yearbook, and my training would require me to travel to Dallas, Texas.

It was an incredible experience to find myself in the physical location that had occupied such a profoundly formative place in my imagination. Standing on the infamous grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza, moving quietly behind its picket fence, walking the wooden floor of the warehouse where Lee Oswald had methodically constructed his nest of cardboard boxes in preparation for the President’s arrival, and finally looking down from the sixth floor window with my own eyes – the compact geography and humanity that had been missing in my experience of the event settled on me.

I had understood that the historic ramifications of President Kennedy’s assassination were epic in their sweep, but I had not appreciated the intimacy of the violence that had taken place, the intrusive cruelty that occurred as one human being reached for the life of another – and took it. In that moment, I also came to understand how the power of that violation, caught second-hand in a photograph, could lay hold of a young boy’s sense of security – and break it.

And there at my elbow, unannounced, was Lee Oswald.

He had barged in, and the journey that was to become The Kennedy Suite had begun.

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The Kennedy Suite – Origins by Scott Garbe

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

(We will be releasing The Kennedy Suite on Latent Recordings on November 12th. Pre-orders will start on October 15th. The debut performance of The Kennedy Suite will be on November 22nd and 23rd at The Winter Garden Theater in Toronto. Please visit The Kennedy Suite website and Facebook page)

Scott Garbe is the writer of The Kennedy Suite. He will be posting a series of blogs about the writing of the Suite, it is a fascinating journey and definitely worth following along…make sure that you check back in every now and then.

 
**********
Whatever became of the moment when one first knew about death? There must have been one. A moment. In childhood. When it first occurred to you that you don’t go on forever. It must have been shattering, stamped into one’s memory. And yet, I can’t remember it.”
  • Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

When I think about the origins of The Kennedy Suite it really began when I was in the third grade. I didn’t start writing the songs at that time, of course, I had a formative experience that was to change my perception of the world.

President Kennedy was a hero in our home. The image attached here is of a vinyl record of his most famous speeches that used to lean against our family’s old cabinet stereo in perpetual view. Maybe your family had the same record.

Even at a young age, I was struck by JFK’s beautiful family and the ideas he had left for the world to consider, the stories of his courage during the Second World War (PT 109), of his longing to reach the moon, of his love for poetry. In a sense, I had all the romantic notions of President Kennedy as a young boy that many citizens of the world must have had in the early sixties, that of a man of great dreams and grace – almost invincible.

In the fall of that third-grade year, I was digging through my parents' bookshelf when I came across a commemorative book published by the Associated Press entitled The Torch Has Passed… Unsuspecting, I flipped through to a sequence of pictures of the assassination in Dallas. I hadn’t known the President had been murdered. In a double page fold of stark, black and white photos I saw for the first time that the world was not what I thought it was. It was a dangerous, frightening place where no one was safe, not even Presidents.

Especially striking was an image taken shortly after the shooting. Kennedy had fallen forward, unconscious, onto the floor of his limousine. The life of the bold leader of the New Frontier had been ruthlessly taken before my eyes – Secret Service Agent Clint Hill’s foot dangling hopelessly over the rear side of the car in a desperate attempt to steady himself as the Presidential party rushed in a violent blur to Parkland Hospital.

That’s when I realized, for the first time, that I wouldn’t go on forever.

And that’s why I had to write these songs.

Talk to you soon,

Scott

jfk-death-2

Kennedy LP Photo

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