Archive for the ‘Tour Diary’ Category
Thursday, October 31st, 2013
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.
Monday, October 28th, 2013
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.
Thursday, September 12th, 2013
September 8, 2013
It's hard to describe what happened over the past three days. It will take us a while to process it and it will no doubt stay with us for a long, long time. This wasn't an easy journey, but the ends more than made up for the means. We had an 8:30am departure from Talkeetna this morning and a 3 hour ride through the rain to the entrance of Denali Park. At the park entrance we left our modern passenger buses and transferred on to two Denali Park buses. Two glorified school-buses with the same suspension, diesel fumes, and officious driver that you all remember from your childhoods. We settled in and resigned ourselves to the seven hour bus ride that stretched before us…not really knowing what lay ahead.
Most of the ride felt like we were on safari on another planet. The enormous sweep of the landscape, both smoothed and ripped by millions of years of glacial migration is, if nothing else, other-worldly. Covering most of the six million acres is tundra, which for me once invoked an image of brown, soggy, nondescript moss that Musk Ox trundled upon. Who knew that in the Fall all of the plant life that make up tundra, the lichens and mosses and small bushes, explode into a vibrant, rich, surreal patchwork of colour: reds, browns, ochres, purples, pinks, every shade of yellow and green that has yet to be imagined by all the painters to have ever picked up a brush. Surreal, other-worldly, alien, awe-inspiring…words fall flat and photographs even more so. Adding to the surreal vibe was the weather: the rain stopped as we ventured deeper into Denali and the cloud ceiling lifted to about 5000 feet but never broke up, so we were under a glowing greyish dome all day…it was the perfect weather and cloud coverage to really accentuate and intensify the fall colours that stretched for miles above us, below us and on into the distant horizon. An added accent to the landscape was the wildlife that we came upon; caribou, grizzly bears, mountain sheep, moose, ptarmigans, golden eagles. Remarkable…so utterly remarkable that the pain being inflicted upon ones body by the grinding engine, worn out shocks and pothole filled dirt road was completely bearable….it was a very christian ride, with so much pleasure there had to be a bit of pain. The only negative on the day was that the low ceiling blocked out the Alaskan Mountain range and along with it, Mount McKinley. We were told that Mckinley is only visible on four or five days a month during the tourist season…so we didn't feel so bad and its hard to miss something that you have no experience of.
The end of our journey was the Kantishna Road House located at the very end of the dirt road we'd been following all day. This is the sort of eco-tourist lodge you read about in the NY Times Travel Section: exclusive and, no doubt, expensive as hell. It's not a luxurious place, but comfortable and functional, it's allure is its location, right in the middle of six million acres of pristine wilderness.
The lodge offers all sorts of outdoor entertainment as part of its amenities and has several guides on staff to lead treks across the tundra and up onto the surrounding mountain ridges and anywhere else one chooses to explore. The cool thing about Denali is that they encourage hikers to walk anywhere in the park, unlike most National Parks that insist you stay on the trails. In Denali they haven't created any trails, their mission is to leave the park as natural as possible and avoid any unnecessary scarring. So instead of having a path that is tramped down and denuded of any life by the thousands of hikers that would follow it over the years, they allow hikers to scatter across the tundra and make their own way and thereby ensuring that the ground they cross has no traces of them an hour after they pass. Our group of 64 scattered for the day, some just relaxing around the lodge and others taking on the challenge of a day long tundra hike. In our group; Pete and Jared grabbed a couple of mountain bikes and went in search of Griz; Margo and Ed went on a hike to Wonder Lake that, on a clear day, reflects Mount Mckinley; Farns relaxed around the compound and panned for a little gold (with no luck); and Jeff and I grabbed a couple of fly rods and hip waders and waded in to the stream that ran by the foot of the lodges properties. Fish are one thing that are not plentiful in Denali, because most of the rivers are glacial and filled with silt making them uninhabitable to most fish. This stream was crystal clear and home to Arctic Grayling, a trout-like fish with a superhero dorsal fin. I was skunked in my grayling quest, Jeff caught two, and it was an amazing day. Clear blue skies, sparkling water, surrounded by hills covered in the patchwork quilt of the tundra colours, it doesn't get much better. Everyone in the extended group came back from their activities with their eyes sparkling and their heads shaking in wonder at what they had experienced. That night, after dinner, Margo, Jeff and I played an acoustic set made up of requests sent in from our fellow adventurers. It was a fun, relaxed set played for a bunch of people who had all had a very good day.
And then more pain to pay for our pleasure…departure from the lodge was at 6:30am. We needed to track back across those miles of dirt roads in order to catch a train at the entrance of the park to take us back to Anchorage. The prospect of having to endure that bus ride again, despite the views, was daunting. But we lucked out again with the weather and as the sun came up over Denali Park we were treated to Mount Mckinley and the Alaskan Range basking in the alpenglow. The weather was perfectly clear for our entire trip so we got an entirely new view of the park, the clean fresh weather also seemed to inspire the animals and we saw more moose, mountain sheep, birdlife and even a big Grizzly lumbering along the road. After five hours on the bus we unloaded at the Denali Park entrance and climbed on-board the Alaskan Railroad for the eight hour journey to Anchorage. This being a Roots On The Rail production, a rail journey was mandatory and they spared no expense: booking the GoldStar section of the train with complete panorama seating and fully stocked bar car. It was a fitting, relaxing, and (seemingly endless) end to an amazing journey.
We fly home tomorrow (another 14 hour journey) and will try and slide back in to our real life, causing as few ripples as possible. It's always difficult coming back from an experience like this one, you can talk about it and try and describe it, show a few pictures, but ultimately you had to be there to truly understand….that's why they call it an experience. We give great thanks to Charlie and Sarah and Gary and all those at Roots On The Rails that put this adventure together and we give special thanks to all of our fellow adventurers that put up the dough to make this trip happen and had the grace, the perseverance and the sense of humour to make it work. But most of all we thank Alaska, a place that will not disappoint, and all those slightly bent and wonderfully odd Alaskans who are unlike any of their fellow countrymen and help to make this part of the world such an interesting and unique place to visit.
Wednesday, September 11th, 2013
We left Anchorage early this morning on two buses, the Alaska adventure has begun. Many of our patrons/guests/fellow adventures also took part in the Over The Rhine trip so it was a quiet three hour drive to Talkeetna. I've been looking forward to this day of the trip for many weeks. It's the one day on the itinerary, where I have a few free hours and where we are within easy striking distance of some renown fishing spots. I figured I'd make the best use of my time and hire some local knowledge to put me on top of some rainbow trout. Skip Merkley was my man and he came through in spades, providing me with fishing gear and outfitting me head to foot in rain gear to keep me warm and dry. I was hoping to get to on one of the rivers that flow through the area, but there has been so much rain that all the rivers are blown out. Skip put Plan B in to action and pulled up at the hotel with canoe in tow and we headed off to a local lake. It was a slow day on the water but completely enjoyable. I had a half-dozen half-hearted strikes throughout the afternoon and finally, when we were heading in so that I could get back for soundcheck, I landed a rainbow…not big by Alaska standards but it made my day.
This is a very cool little town out in the middle of nowhere. Populated with those looking for a different way of life or simply a new beginning. I can see how it could get under one's skin. Come for a visit and stay for a lifetime. All those quirky personalities and personal histories have pulled together to form a true community. It's a rarity in these times to find a town which has been so fully formed by the attitudes and perspectives of the people who inhabit it. I talked to more people today that lived off-the-grid than on it. They wear their badge of non-conformity on their sleeves here and the result is a unique and vibrant little town.
True to form, the venue tonight was as funky as the town: located in an old aircraft hangar (rechristened an Arts Center) at the edge of the still active air-strip that runs right through the center of town. We had an amazing show. Inspired by the beauty of the surroundings, the friendliness of our hosts and the enthusiasm of the audience: it was loose and free-flowing, just like the town.
Tomorrow we head out on a mammoth travel day into the heart of Denali Park. We pray for this weather to break so that we can enjoy the spectacular views that everyone has been promising us since we got here.
Sunday, September 8th, 2013
It's the rainy season here in Alaska…who knew? It came down pretty much all day so I spent most of it in my room. I was in no mood to browse through the dozens of souvenir shops that line the main street, any object that you can imagine branded with “Alaska”. Around dinner time the skies cleared and a spectacular light flooded the city and the Chugach mountain range revealed itself. The souvenir shops disappeared and the magnificence of the setting exerted itself.
The gig tonight was at a nice sized theater on the University of Alaska campus. It was a co-bill with Over the Rhine and it was great to hear Karin and Lindford again. Unfortunately we didn't get a chance to hang with them very much. They were at the end of their Alaskan Adventure, were exhausted and had a 3am lobby call ahead of them. They did warn us to “stay off the sea”…..I don't need to be told twice, large bodies of water are not friendly places for me.
Our show was pretty good considering that we hadn't played since May. It was a little tentative, everyone waiting for the other to lead the way, no one feeling confident enough to do so. Pretty standard for a first gig after a long lay-off. But we had fun and its always good to be playing again. Tomorrow we edge further North.
Friday, September 6th, 2013
Alaska is far, eh? I walked out our front door at 4:30am, Pete and I went to our studio, loaded our equipment, hooked up with brother John, drove to the airport, paid Air Canada $700 for our excess baggage, flew the five hours to Vancouver, ate a really average fish taco in the airport, flew another three hours to Anchorage and stumbled in to the hotel….a nifty little fourteen hour travel day. We were last in Alaska about seven years ago and as we wandered the streets of Anchorage, looking for food, memories of the city began to gurgle up. It's much like most cities in the far north, functional. But the one thing about Anchorage that puts it a cut above most northern cities is the abundance of brew pubs. I had a great IPA cask ale at dinner….all is good in the world once again. This short, week long tour is one of those welcome oddities on our tour schedule. We look upon this sort of thing more as an adventure than a tour. This particular one has been put together by our friends at Roots On The Rails, who also promoted the cross-Canada train trip that we did a few years ago. The way this one works is that about forty guests pay a lot of their hard earned dollars for an Alaska adventure and we and our music are a part of that adventure. It all starts in Anchorage tomorrow night with a show at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium (it's a shared bill with our friends Over The Rhine, who are at the end of their own Alaska adventure). On Saturday we all climb aboard a bus and drive 3 hours to Talkeetna which sits just South of Denali Park. During the day I will search for rainbow trout and at night we will do another show at a local venue. Then on Sunday the adventure really begins with a long journey in to Denali Park and a two night stay at a remote lodge in the middle of the park and an acoustic Junkies performance. We then catch a train back to Anchorage and start the long journey home. So stay tuned….hopefully I'll be posting lots of pics with me holding up big fish, Margo being chased by a bear, Pete riding a moose, Al sleeping among the Musk Ox and Jeff examining wolf poop. It should be fun.
Tuesday, May 7th, 2013
This is not a bad town in which to end a tour. I've always liked it here, there is a certain impermanence about it, a beach town with lots of hippies and surfers and vagrants and many, many entrepreneurs…its a good blend. The weather was distinctively cooler today, but that's ok, none of us had the energy to travel too far from the bus and venue. We had a fun night on stage, a perfect ending to a very good tour. There are encouraging signs out there, as with the February tour, attendance is up, merch sales are climbing and the band is playing great….all of this helps to get us back out here when the time comes. We have a couple of one-offs scattered throughout the next three months, but mainly we'll be staying close to home and beginning to ponder about our next project. We will also be finishing up a collaborative project that we have been working on for about five years, which we plan to release on November 22nd….but lots more on that to come over the next few months.
In the meantime, the Leafs came out skating and won game 2, so there is hope for at least a competitive series. We carry those dreams back with us to Canada. A huge “thank you” to all who have followed us by checking in on the diary and especially to those of you who spent your hard earned dollars on tickets. Please keep an eye on this space for all things Junkie related….have a great summer, be safe and have fun….we'll be back out there before you even know it.
JASON LENT FOLLOWED OUR TOUR BUS BACK IN 2011 AND SUPPLIED US WITH HIS TOUR DIARY. HE WILL BE DOING THE SAME FOR THE COMING WEEK. HERE IS JASON'S SARATOGA DIARY: We ditched sleepy Saratoga after breakfast and ran right into the million or so cars trying to get to the beach on a bright and sunny morning. By the time we pulled into Santa Cruz, the weather had turned grey and the temperature was falling fast. The Rio has been home to the Junkies on many occasions over the years. The converted movie theater is nothing glamorous as a rock club but the management has always treated us Junkies fans like royalty. Today was no exception and the good vibes always translate into an awesome show in Santa Cruz.
Tonight's show ended the tour on the highest of highs. The band continued to deliver exceptional takes on the Nomad series and an unexpected addition of "Ladle" to tonight's mix was razor sharp in its ferocity. Presenting the Nomad series as a separate set worked extremely well in the live setting and hearing "Damaged From the Start" each night was a moment to cherish. The second set brought out even more songs that we had not heard on the tour including "Crescent Moon" and the entire River Trilogy. The band let it rip on "Murder Tonight…" during the encore and then the amps were unplugged and the bags were packed to go home. Over eight shows in eight days, the band played consistently brilliant and the changing set lists made each night unique and special.
Monday, May 6th, 2013
We played the Montalvo Arts Centre a few years ago as part of a Summer tour with Son Volt. That gig took place in the outdoor venue, but this time we are a little early for the summer series so we are indoors in The Carriage House. Nevertheless the Art Centre is an incredible property to hang around for the day. It's centered around an Italian-Mediterranean style mansion built in the early 1900's and set on 175 acres. You can stroll through the beautifully manicured gardens or wander up the hillside through a red-wood forest. I went for a walk up the hill and spotted a Steller Jay (which we don't have back East), a handful of dark-eyed Junco's and a few warblers that I wasn't able to identify. I spent the rest of my pre-soundcheck day in a small garden with my new Ukulele….it was a good day. Unfortunately, back at the venue, John and Jared were not having as much luck. The venue crew, and more specifically, the production manager, were being prickly and difficult, which at the end of a long tour is the last thing one wants to deal with. Despite the unnecessary and unhelpful hostility we did our part and got the job done. It was a good audience tonight and I think it was a decent show, we are running on fumes at this point so its hard for me to gain any perspective. One more show to go.
JASON LENT FOLLOWED OUR TOUR BUS BACK IN 2011 AND SUPPLIED US WITH HIS TOUR DIARY. HE WILL BE DOING THE SAME FOR THE COMING WEEK. HERE IS JASON'S SARATOGA DIARY.
Saturday, May 4th, 2013
We arrived in San Fran this morning and everyone scattered, taking advantage of the few hours that we had in this great city tocontribute to its economy. Al bought some vinyl, Pete bought a hat, Jeff bought an origami book, Margo got her hair done and I bought a beautiful mahogany, Hawaiian made ukulele…a birthday present from my parents. It was hot in the city today, but its always a pleasure to be here even if it is only for a few hours. We did two shows tonight at Yoshi's. We have played its sister club in Oakland, but this one is fairly new. They've done a good job at creating a very unique performance space and have put in some good production as well, but it has a bit of a corporate, sterile feel, maybe over time it will develop it's own character. It was a hard night, we are tired and two shows is always difficult. Despite that I think we played fairly well, the second show was a little wacky with a few train-wrecks as our brains slowly shut down.
Pete's ipad sketch of the Bay:
JASON LENT FOLLOWED OUR TOUR BUS BACK IN 2011 AND SUPPLIED US WITH HIS TOUR DIARY. HE WILL BE DOING THE SAME FOR THE COMING WEEK. HERE IS JASON'S SAN FRANCISCO DIARY Crossing the bridge to San Francisco, I was again swallowed by this mysterious city. I’ve been coming to Junkies shows here for years but I still haven’t fully grasped the lay of the land. A crowded bus ride to Ameoba Records gave me another glimpse at the Haight-Ashbury district but the 60’s vibes of peace and love are felt only in the occasional mural on a wall.
The show tonight was a doubleheader at a jazz supper club. Would you like a spicy tuna roll with “Square Room”? The first show was being streamed online which meant the stage was swathed in light. It felt like watching a TV show about Cowboy Junkies starring Cowboy Junkies. Surreal in a way but it didn’t hamper a very tight performance highlighted by even more special songs pulled from albums past. Every breath of Margo or the slide of fingers down a string fluttered in the air. The venue staff were attentive without disrupting the live music experience, as good as any I’ve seen from an audience perspective.
The second set was as fun and lighthearted as any Junkies show can be. The band was laughing, the crowd was having a blast, and the set list built off the first set perfectly. We headed out into the San Fran night and ended up in a non-descript bar, literally a hole in the side of a building, where two bartenders recently arrived from Korea tossed dice with us for shots of tequila. We closed down the bar as Townes Van Zandt’s “To Live Is To Fly” blasted through the jukebox. I still haven’t figured out this city but that might be the charm of San Francisco. Anything can happen.
Friday, May 3rd, 2013
Pete's ipad sketch of the Montreal Forum
…and all of a sudden it's summer. We arrived in Napa yesterday morning, stepped off the bus and melted….less than a week ago we were freezing up in Whitehorse, now we are longing for the shorts and sandles that we left back home. But if it's 85 degrees outside it must be hockey playoff time. For the first time in nine pathetic years the Toronto Maple Leafs have made the playoffs and they just happened to be taking on Jared's Bruins. Last night we watched a few of the Western conference matches and realized that our home team couldn't come close to matching the intensity and skill level of those teams….then, tonight, we watched the Bruins dismantle the Leafs and all of our wishful thinking about a sustained playoff run went up in smoke…oh well, they are a young team and with a little tinkering they could be good for a few more years to come. We are just hoping for an over-all better showing than tonights game.
Napa is a strange little town. It's the center of the wine-tourist trade and there is obviously a lot of money flowing through the area. The town looks like it gave itself up to a ski-resort developer, some of the beautiful old stone and brick buildings have been completely overshadowed by a string of faux-period buildings that line main street. Despite that, the Napa Opera House is a beautiful sounding little theatre. We had another very good night.
JASON LENT FOLLOWED OUR TOUR BUS BACK IN 2011 AND SUPPLIED US WITH HIS TOUR DIARY. HE WILL BE DOING THE SAME FOR THE COMING WEEK. HERE IS JASON'S NAPA DIARY