Archive for the ‘Tour Diary’ Category

Tour Diary – San Francisco, CA (May 2, 2013)

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.

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Tour Diary – Napa, CA (May 1, 2013)

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.


A much needed day off allowed for a lazy 466 mile drive down into Napa Valley. Mt. Shasta, dressed in snow and ice, stood as a beacon for several hours of the drive before we descended into the warmer California air. Exit signs for Redding and Chico flashed by stirring memories of tours past. The years start to run together with all these tours but there's always the music that brings it into focus. Once upon a time in Chico, the band ended a Northern Cali tour with a droning "Highway Kind" on a dimly lit stage that was as haunting as any performance they have ever delivered.
A night off in Napa meant some wandering around downtown and the first night of the NHL playoffs highlighted by Jonathan Quick's "what the hell was that?" moment in overtime. Oops. The Napa Valley Opera House has become a regular spot for Cowboy Junkies. It's a classy affair in an immaculate theater with sound that is more pristine than it is powerful. That shifted the focus a little more to Margo who delivered stirring takes on "I Cannot Sit Sadly By Your Side" and "See You Around" early in the night. Her phrasing on the latter captured the off kilter brilliance of Vic's songwriting. Unexpected turns with the set list ("Shining Moon" and "Ring On the Sill") gave tonight its own identity and the audience started to come alive towards the end. Some of us ended the evening on a rooftop bar overlooking downtown Napa as an endless array of IPA's were explored. Hard to top such moments out here on the road. Next stop, San Francisco. 

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Tour Diary – Bend, Oregon (April 29, 2013)

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

This town is like a little slice of heaven. Perfect climate, a brew pub on every other corner, a choice of excellent restaurants of all stripes and the Deschutes River winding lazily through the center of town with a beautiful lush park running along its banks. It is also contains the Tower Theatre, which is a beautiful little venue. It was another very good night….the audience didn't seem to come alive until the second set, but we had lots of fun.


Waking up in Spokane, I took the wheel from Chris and Stephen (two regulars on this west coast run for years) and pointed the car south towards Oregon. The winds of the high desert fought the car every inch of the 385 miles we had to cross before tonight's show. It was a long day, one of the tougher drives on a Junkies run, but a perfect small town was waiting when we pulled in. The weather was crisp, a gentle river wound it's way past the small shops, and everybody seemed genuinely happy wherever we went. Deschutes Brewery calls this town home and there was plenty on tap to pass an afternoon. The venue was another one of those lovingly restored theaters nestled on the main street between an actual record store and locally sourced restaurants. Apart from a Starbucks (which was competing with at least five local shops in a four block radius), corporate America seems to have spared this pleasant town.

Tonight was the type of evening that validates those 385 mile drives to reach the next show. The night didn't unfold flawlessly and the passion of the audience wasn't a continual source of electricity for the amps on stage but few would notice. The set list was arranged in such a way that every song triggered an emotional connection to a personal memory, some of joy, some of sorrow. Whatever it is you seek from Cowboy Junkies, it was there for you to tonight. As the band spread their wings on "Blue Guitar", the low tremble of Al's bass felt like the earth stirring with the spirits of Townes Van Zandt and Vic Chestnutt both of whom felt close by on this night.

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Tour Diary – Spokane, WA (April 28, 2013)

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

I really like this town. There is something unexpected about it. In the middle of seemingly nowhere is this very cool little oasis that the Spokanians have built up. The river that runs through Spokane is all the reason that one needs to put down roots here. And to the towns credit they have spent some money on a park along the river side and lots of money on pedestrian bridges spanning this raging monster. I think it would be very hard to become too complacent about ones place in the world if you had to walk across this torrent every day (and that's a good thing). I don't know if it rages like this year round, I kind of doubt it, but it still must be pretty impressive. It's beautiful.

We did a Trinity show tonight, the only one on this tour. I thought it went exceptionaly well….we are just beginning to learn how to play this album.

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 SPOKANE DIARY.Awoke to the slow Seattle rain. As the road climbed through the mountains, sheets of snow stretched in every direction before we descended to the high plains of Eastern Washington where fierce winds pushed us on to Spokane. Like the wind, the river cutting through these parts is wild and untamed. Raging through downtown, it gives an otherwise bland urban landscape some character.

Wandering into the small theater late in the afternoon, I was confronted by a gackle of nuns as a Catholic priest had just wrapped up an afternoon recital. One peak at the band's gear still unset on stage told me the venue was way behind in the day and the band and crew were in for a challenge to get the room ready before doors opened. I opted to bar hop downtown while they sorted out the cables and mics.

Tonight's performance was the lone Trinity Session performance on this run. Given the tight schedule, the band stuck with what works in the first set mirroring last night's Nomad playlist. After intermission, Margo stepped to the mic and delivered "Mining For Gold" to an appreciative room. Hearing an album in its entirety can be bumpy live. The song order on record rarely matches the flow of a live set. The band seems to have figured out Trinity with an acoustic "To Love Is To Bury" anchoring the set. Lovely night. 

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Tour Diary – Seattle, WA (April 27, 2013)

Monday, April 29th, 2013

We flew out of Victoria to Vancouver and, finally, hooked up with our bus. Those quiet stationary nights in hotel rooms are now finished, but so is the constant packing and unpacking and the daily uprooting. Our home is now on wheels. We were suppose to play Vancouver tonight, but for some reason we can't seem to sell a ticket in Vancouver so we ended up canceling the show a couple of weeks ago. Vancouver has been an ugly place for us over the past few years, we can't figure out why, it must have something to do with those Canucks. Whatever, the gig in Seattle has been sold out for weeks so we headed south to where we are wanted.

We have never spent any time in this part of Seattle, The University District. The streets here have a pretty well worn feel to them, the students have marked their territory….the houses in the area and the accompanying gardens make one want to pick up stakes and move here immediately: funky old bungalows overgrown with all sorts of semi-exotic plant life. We also played a new venue for us tonight, The Neptune. One of those old movie theaters turned concert venue. I'm not sure what I think of the room, it was definitely not an easy night on stage and Jared said he had a tough time out front, but these things are always relative. More importantly, the audience was over the top in their enthusiasm. We have just had an excellent run through Western Canada, and I thought the audiences had been generally enthusiastic, but one song in to the set and we remembered why we love playing in this part of the world, the audiences are insane…in a good way. Seattle has always been good to us and tonight was no exception.

Pete's ipad drawing of the Channel Islands:


When Seattle appeared under Tour Dates last year, I was navigating the end of a relationship and found myself with a round trip flight to Mississippi that needed to point in a new direction. A few clicks of the keyboard and a short weekend in Seattle was slated for April. Since my 2010 ramblings across North America chasing the Junkies tour bus ended at 14,000 miles, I felt content with a few shows here and there. However, as the dates approached, life felt like it was closing in around me. The end of the relationship gave way to a first home purchase and all the headaches that come with it and then, last week, I found myself typing 40 into the stairmaster when it asked for my age. Call it a perfect storm, or another mid-life crisis, but heading out across the country for more shows couldn't have come at a better time.
Seattle has long been a land of fascination to me. Growing up in South Florida (before the Heat and Panthers), I choose my favorite sports teams seemingly at random. Whatever the logic, the Seattle SuperSonics and Quebec Nordiques were my teams as a young boy. I've since watched both migrate elsewhere but I've always wanted to see the Emerald City. Arriving a day early, I wandered the downtown area and Pike's Place market. Despite the relaxed smoking laws the state has boldly passed, the busy downtown felt no less safe than most. The homeless population was abundant and aggressive to a point of distraction but never mean spirited. There's a sense that folks up here leave you to your own decisions.
The Seattle show was next to the University of Washington campus in a deceptively beautiful theater that was packed with a lively, sold-out audience. Worn and unassuming on the outside, the inside clung to it's history as an old movie theater with stained glass along it's hip. The band immediately sensed the energy of the audience and the show took off quickly. The first set walked through the Nomad Series material and the audience stayed with the band throughout. The poignant "Damaged From the Start" and a gentle "Fairytale" brought the first set to a close at such a high that a second set felt like an extended encore of gems from almost every record. Just like that, another Junkies show came to a close and us aging rockers walked out into a busy Saturday night on the main college drag. We caught more than a few curious glances as my traveling companions and I settled into one of the college bars for late night IPA. Little did they know, and who am I to tell them, that twenty years on, they'll be on the other side of the canyon that appears suddenly between your life and your youth.

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Tour Diary – Victoria, BC (April 25, 20130

Friday, April 26th, 2013

Upon setting foot in Victoria we were overwhelmed with the colours, the verdant green, the freakin' flaming tulips. A week of traversing a land locked in the dull gray of late winter made us forget that there are parts of the country where Spring has actually arrived. This large island off the west coast may be the only region where the season has changed, but at least we've found it and, man, does it feel and smell good. We had two perfect Spring days wandering around the streets of Victoria, which is probably the best time to visit this city. It gets a bit too overrun by the tourist trade in the summer and in winter the weather can get pretty miserable, but in springtime it is one of the more beautiful cities in the country: with the Island Mountain Range as a backdrop to the inner harbour and the tulips and cherry blossoms erupting on the Legislature and Empress Hotel lawns…..pure postcard material.

It was a beautiful venue tonight, a least it was beautiful to look at….not so beautiful if you are trying to perform with electric instruments and a drum kit. Another church. If there are any budding concert promoters out there, please heed a word of advice from someone who has been doing this for a long time…as a rule, churches suck as concert venues. Yes, we made a very famous album in a church, but the big difference is that we weren't trying to project the sound through a PA to 800 paying patrons. Stained glass, wooden pews, plaster and stone walls, an enormous metal pipe organ behind the stage, may all look spectacular, but they are really lousy surfaces to throw sound against, it all comes slapping back in your face and bounces unpredictably around the venue. According to reports from those in the audience, Jared did an excellent job at making the room sound as good as possible. On stage, we had a workmanlike show. In this type of room its very difficult on stage to hear the dynamics of the band so there is a lot of thinking, instead of feeling, going on. But I think we did a good job at making the night work. We all dug in and didn't let the show get away from us….and it appeared that most of the audience went home happy.

Pete's ipad sketch of the DC3 in Whitehorse.

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Tour Diary – Whitehorse, Yukon (April 23, 2013)

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

It was a long journey, but well worth it. The air alone is worth the trip. Whitehorse is much like any northern town in any northern country that we have had the pleasure of visiting. Canada, Norway, Sweden, Alaska…these towns are spare, built to take on the elements, low, squat buildings without a whole lot of ornamentation. These towns usually have their fair share of hippies and other counter-culture elements, people who don't want to deal with the goings on of the crazy world to the south or have found themselves anchored here for a myriad of reasons. It's these displaced souls, that spice these communities with brew pubs, cafe's and independent book stores, locally owned businesses that certain types of communities can grow up around. But ultimately, its all about the wilderness….it gets into your blood and you stay….or it drives you crazy and chases you away. I think I could put in some time up here, alone, without the pressure to compete….maybe in my next life.

We had the night off last night and spent it exploring the various bars that Whitehorse has to offer. Unfortunately Monday night is an off night in Whitehorse and most restaurants and bars were closed, but the few that were open did the trick. Eventually Jared, John and Jeff ended up in a game of “name that pelt” with the locals…it's a long story, but Jared won a pin and Jeff fondled a Beaver.

The show tonight was at the Yukon Arts Center and has been sold out for many many weeks. It's always fun to play places like this, where we have never performed not even within several hundred miles and the chances are that the show is a first for most of the audience. We had a pretty good show tonight, it wasn't completely locked in, but it was the type of show that probably came off ok out front. We had a tough time interpreting the audience, they seemed to be enjoying themselves but it was hard for us to figure out their trigger and we never felt like we truly had them. We head back south tomorrow, to Victoria, in search of warm weathe

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Tour Diary – Banff, Alberta (April 21, 2013)

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Another early morning call and another 4 hour drive down that f@c#ing highway. If life is a highway, I'd hate to be the poor sucker who happens to pick up Highway 2. I think I hear a new song coming on. Through the snow squalls and freezing rain we drove until, finally, coming around a bend, the prairie disappeared and the mountains reared above. Banff… doesn't get much more impressive: set in a valley with the Bow River snaking through it, ringed by truly awesome, snow packed peaks and ridges. The healing power of nature. It was cold today, but clear and bright and the mountain air was what one would call “bracing”. I walked half way up Tunnel Mountain, and called home. I got caught up on the madness that is home, while watching the river tracing its route through the valley below and the snow sweeping off the peaks above.

We have a personal attachment to this town. In the summer of 1971 my dad was working out of Calgary so he rented a house on the side of Tunnel Mountain a few blocks from Banff's Main street. The whole family along with our grandmother decamped for the summer to Banff, Alberta. It was a magical summer. For half the time we were feral and had the town and the mountain as our open play ground. For the other half we went on family adventures to one unbelievable natural environment after the other. We saw bears and elk and mountain goats and meeses and scores of beautiful white tail deer. It was a summer that burned itself in to our memories. So its always a great feeling to return and stare at those mountain peaks: Rundle, Norquay, Cascade, Sulpher Mountain haven't changed a smidge over these past thirty years even if the town is almost unrecognizable.

We played Harvie Hall at the Banff Art Center. This center is an amazing resource, a place for artists of all stripes to go and extend their studies or workshop an idea or just escape to the mountains to be inspired and refreshed. It's an amazing place and full of positive energy. We had a great audience tonight. Big and boisterous. We played a pretty decent set. It wasn't perfect and it we seemed to lose each other at the end of the second set…but we channeled the positive vibes and delivered a very good show.

These last five nights in Alberta have been fantastic. The audience has shown up and contributed to the show every night in a positive way. The days have been long and grinding but the nights, thanks to the good folks of Alberta have been rejuvenating and fun. We've had a bunch of great shows, sold a ton of music (always a good sign), and experienced firsthand what makes Albertan's…Albertan, their land. Tough and gnarly and unrelenting. Tomorrow we have another early morning, a 90 minute drive to the Calgary airport, and a three hour flight to Whitehorse….and all the other stuff that involves flying with seven people and twenty pieces of checked baggage. This has been fun…hopefully we can make it a regular run, so that we can check out some more of this hard tack land. North to the Yukon we go.

Pete's ipad sketch of the Cowboy Trail:

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Tour Diary – St. Albert, Alberta (April 19 and 20, 2013)

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

Pete's ipad sketch of the Alberta landscape (part 2):

The drive between Calgary and Edmonton has always been one that I dread. It always feels much longer that it should. It's kind of like the middle part of the drive along the 401 between Toronto and Montreal, it just goes on and on….Gasoline Alley, the oasis of gas stations and fast-food joints that sits on the outskirts of Red Deer, is almost a welcome respite, a break in the bleak sameness of the landscape.

We did the drive early this morning in order to get to a live radio interview with CKUA in Edmonton. CKUA is a small gem. It is a publicly funded and listener supported radio station that broadcasts throughout Alberta and its prime focus is arts and culture. They have been big supporters of the Canadian independent music scene for many, many years. If every province had a CKUA, life would be just a wee bit fuller.

We had two shows over two nights at The Arden Theater in St Albert, which is a small mall encased community just north of Edmonton. These are the two shows that this entire tour has been built around. They have been on our books for about two years and thankfully, with all of that lead time, they were both very sold-out. We had two extremely satisfying shows. The first night was excellent and the second night was very, very good (maybe a wee bit less intense than the first night). A great sounding theater and stage and two very engaged audiences. Sometimes all those highway miles pay off in a very nice way.

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Tour Diary – Medicine Hat, Alberta (April 17, 2013)

Friday, April 19th, 2013

This is going to be a weird one. Planes, trains and automobiles…except there won't be any trains. We flew to Calgary yesterday, picked up a cargo and passenger van and headed East. Three hours later we found Medicine Hat and a hotel with an indoor water-slide.

On our flight from Toronto I sat behind the former captain of the Montreal Canadiens, current hall-of-famer, ten time Stanley Cup Champion, Yvan Cournoyer….numero douze….”the roadrunner”. Jeff sat beside him and endured his elbows….lucky dog. He was sitting in the middle seat of the economy section of a budget airline…If he had played 20 years later he could have owned the airline. Timing is everything.

The drive across the Prairie was stupefying in its intensity, ferocious in its sameness, unrelenting, inexorable, grim, numbingly static. Miles and miles of power lines and pavement, a scattering of pumpers, a few collapsing homesteads and an unreachable horizon. God this country is huge. We skirted the edges of the badlands. This is very unforgiving land…in any season.

I don't have much of an opinion on Medicine Hat. It must be quite spectacular when everything is blooming and the river can be fished. But its economic heart has been ripped out by the malls on the outskirts. It's clean and tidy and slowly disappearing into the suburbs, which look much like any suburbs, outside of any town, in any corner of this continent. There is not much to recommend it to the tourist.

We played a beautiful hall tonight: The Esplanade Arts Centre. It wasn't a huge crowd but not bad considering we are truly outside of our normal touring territory. There seemed to be an appreciation and an understanding for the Nomad set and a buzz for the second. It was a great sounding stage and I think we played really well, especially in the second set which had a nice controlled groove about it. Day 1 done and gone.

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