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Tour Diary – Solana Beach and LA (June 14 – 17, 2014)

Friday, June 20th, 2014

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We spent the past three days of sand, sun and fun on Highway 101….Solana Beach bums. Solana Beach is a little community just up the beach from San Diego. As one spends more time down here one begins to see the attraction…it's definitely the weather, its perfect. Feeling a little chilly?…step in to the sunlight. Too hot?…duck underneath an umbrella and let the cool gentle sea breezes cool you down. Cloudless, sunny skies, the temperature peaking in the high seventies at mid-day and then cooling down in to the mid-sixties each evening…the perfect weather for us humans. This little town has all the makings of a vibrant community, lots of locally run bars and coffee shops and niche retail outlets, an amazing beach and an affluent citizenry, but it suffers from that which ails most of the communities in this part of the State, it has given itself over to the automobile. Highway 101 is basically the acting Main Street for the town and rather than it narrowing to a gentle stream as it passes through, it roars passed in all its four lane glory….and the energy of all that motion kind of sucks a lot of the towns energy along with it.

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On Saturday we did a private concert, it was a wedding anniversary. It was at a private home tucked away in the hills up from the beach. It was an excellent day, we were treated royally, fed well, and watched Italy take down England on an 80 inch high-def screen. We were hired by a true music lover, someone who has made a lot of money in his chosen field and isn't shy about spending some of it on stuff that makes him and those around him happy. As the music industry collapses, it is important that Patrons step in every now and then to fill the void left by the dollars draining from the working musicians various revenue streams. We are all in desperate need of some 21st century Medici's (just the patronage, not the murder, greed, incest and the other nasty stuff that the Medici's brought along with their florins). I know, it's not the only industry suffering these days, but I'm not in any other industry. Redundancy sucks!

We had a day off on Sunday, which allowed us to explore the town and the beach, drink beer and watch soccer. Jared, Rachel (Jared's sister) and I, watched Messi's Argentinian squad play their first game and post their first win against a feisty Bosnian squad. A beautiful goal by Messi is hopefully a portend of good things to come.

On Sunday night we played The Belly Up Tavern in Solana. This is a good listening room that has a proud music heritage dating back a quarter century. It's definitely a bar, but it's clean and the owners have put some money into it, so the production is decent and the place doesn't stink like its been around since 1974…its the little things that one appreciates. We had a great night…the show has been sold out for a while, so it was an excited and appreciative audience….the second set was definitely the highlight of our tour…so far.

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Los Angeles (June 17, 2014)

LA has been a bit of a black hole for us over the past fifteen years. We seem to have a strong following to the south of the city and down in to San Diego, but for some reason LA proper has been a bit of a puzzle. It use to be one of our strongest cities, but in the late 90's our audience in LA dissipated…maybe the hip-factor wasn't in our favour anymore. This time through, we decided to try and root out the hipsters and book ourselves in to one of their favourite nesting spots, Largo at the Coronet. It's not a bad room, and it has a long Hollywood history, but it seems to rely a bit too heavily on its hipster cred. Unfortunately there hasn't been a whole lot of energy put in to making it a good listening room. The PA stinks and there doesn't seem to be a lot of interest in improving it. We did two separate shows tonight which is always tough. I thought both shows were really good, despite the encroaching exhaustion (too much “soccer”). The second show was a lot looser and a little more fun, but both had some excellent moments. Great audiences for both shows…I'm not sure if we connected with any hipster crowd, but whoever they were, they were a lot of fun to play for.

We continue to absorb as much of the World Cup as we can digest. I got together with Jason on Sunday afternoon to watch the USA pull a few horseshoes out of their ass along with a victory. They beat their nemesis Ghana, who has booted the US out of the past two World Cups, a truly thrilling victory. Mexico is looking strong and looks to have the Patrick Roy of the soccer world in their net. His Herculean efforts allowed Mexico to tie host country, Brazil. The Germans look unstoppable, as usual, and the Portuguese look disinterested, as usual. The goals keep coming and no lead looks to be safe, which is a nice change from some past World Cups….the only thing that hasn't changed is the rolling around on the ground to try and draw a penalty….disgraceful conduct for someone brought up in a hockey culture.

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Tour Diary – Los Angeles, CA (June 17, 2014)

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

Jason Lent will be following us and the World Cup over the next 10 days. We'll be mixing things up by posting his diary as well as Michael's diary (whenever he can pull himself away from watching futbol).

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by Jason Lent

As Joseph Conrad wrote, we penetrated deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness. Such is the feeling as you crawl along rivers of metal and concrete towards the center of Los Angeles. Our intended landing on this river was the Coronet Theater, a quirky old room that once housed experimental productions including the world premier of Marxist poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht's 1947 work Galileo Galilei. It straddles the line between Beverly Hills and West Hollywood with an imposing mall standing watch over the area and plenty of adult film clothiers lining the street.

The tiny theater's courtyard offered a respite from the onslaught of consumption that is Los Angeles. A DJ spun vinyl records outside as new friends made during this Southern California tour shared beers one last time. Inside, the room proved a somewhat difficult listening experience with the PA sitting on the sides of the stage offering no center fill for live bands. The music hit you from the sides almost like you were listening through headphones held away from your head. In such a room, the softer material worked best and the band offered plenty of highlights.

With two shows, the clock is always ticking and the first show maintained a brisk pace. The band seemed to dig in and stay focused throughout with Mike providing some of his best guitar work on this tour including a blistering solo on "Working On A Building". The second set felt more relaxed but the challenge of playing two shows back to back can be formidable. The band worked hard not to let the music slip and the audience helped them along. There is something about Cowboy Junkies in LA that seems to bring out a smart, appreciative audience and tonight was no exception. Choosing a highlight from two packed set lists would be difficult but a tender take on "Thousand Year Prayer" felt fitting in a city slowly paving every inch of this beautiful coast.

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Tour Diary – San Juan Capistrano (June 13, 2014)

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

Jason Lent will be following us and the World Cup over the next 10 days. We'll be mixing things up by posting his diary as well as Michael's diary (whenever he can pull himself away from watching futbol).

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by Jason Lent

A beautiful morning was spent near the pier in Huntington Beach watching the waves roll into shore before finding a television to watch the Dutch roll right over Spain. Heading down the Pacific Coast Highway, the mansions in the hills from Agoura Hills were replaced by spectacular cliff side homes all peeking over the next one's shoulder hoping to catch a glimpse of an indifferent ocean. 

The Coach House has posted many, many shows over its long history, all in the most unlikely of places. The venue sits unnoticed amongst office buildings in an industrial complex off an overflowing highway. Inside, the venue is wider than it is deep with picnic tables covering the entire floor. A vague seating system exists and doors open three hours before the show to serve dinner. The room hasn't been updated in many years but there is some charm to that if you get the right sightline with a good sound mix. Tonight, I was lucky to have both as the band's crew wrestled a pristine mix out of the worn PA. 

The first set felt a little disconnected at times but the second set took flight. The set list was abundant with rarities such as "Witches" and Dylan's "License To Kill". Tour regulars such as "Hunted" had a little extra bite and the audience was feeling it all evening. The band has played this room often stretching back to some of the earliest tours. The town seems to have stuck with them all along and knows the music well. Every song was met with recognition and appreciation. The second set could have lasted all night and nobody would have left.

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Where were you when The Kennedy Suite was staged? – part V

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

Another excerpt for The Kennedy Suite:

 

Charged with protecting the President, a Dallas police officer reflects on the tragedies that he has recently experienced as he rides directly beside Jackie Kennedy in the Presidential motorcade.

Includes Reid Jamieson's stage performance on 22/11/13 at Toronto's Elgin Winter Garden Theatre. Following is "26 Seconds", an audio collage by Scott Garbe and Doug Telfer based on the historic interview with Abraham Zapruder in the immediate aftermath of the assassination.

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Where were you when The Kennedy Suite was staged? – part 1

Sunday, May 18th, 2014

Over the next few weeks we'll present a series of 14 short videos inspired by the TKS stage show and album of songs composed by Scott Garbe and produced by Mike Timmins and Cowboy Junkies.

The first showcases Hawksley Workman & The Screwed's version of "Prologue:" Origami Peace Corps Mischief Makers", with video from The Kennedy Suite performance on 22/11/13 at Toronto's Elgin Winter Garden Theatre.

http://vimeo.com/95167785

I. "Prologue: Origami Peace Corps Mischief Makers" from The Kennedy Suite on Vimeo.

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Tour Diary – New York, NY (March 3 – 5, 2014)

Friday, March 7th, 2014

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It's not often that a tour routing lines up so that you have a day off in a place where you actually look forward to spending a day off. This time out the stars aligned. We arrived in NYC without too much push-back from the forecasted snowstorm. Bobby, our driver, had to deal with a bit of snow on our journey up I-95, but by the time we arrived in NYC, the skies had cleared and we had a bright but chilly day to wander around the city. I stayed fairly close to the hotel and meandered through the cobble-stoned streets of Soho. I love this part of the city. It has changed a lot over the past thirty years, as money has poured in to the area, the artist lofts, after hours clubs and alternative art galleries have been converted in to high-end art galleries, high fashion clothing stores and insanely expensive condos, but it still maintains that village feel when you are lost in its streets…and there is something entertaining about ogling all that wealth.

On Wednesday me, Margo, Jeff and Pete went to Ellis Island. It's one of the many tourist things that I have never done in this city. It was a beautiful clear day to be on the water. We said hello to Lady Liberty but didn't have enough time to run up her skirt. Ellis Island's true import really hits home when your boat pulls up at the pier and you are herded down the ramp and into the sorting hall: just like one of the 12 million who were once processed through these buildings and then stepped out the other side and in to a new life. The shores were opened, the people flooded in and this odd, unfocussed mob started to build this beautifully insane country.

This time through New York we had two shows at The City Winery. Both of them have been sold out for a couple of months: it's always a good feeling to know that there is still a place for us in NYC. The first set of the first night was a little loose on our end, we pulled it together for the second set. Wednesday night we had an excellent show and seemed to connect with the audience right off the top. It's always a good time at the City Winery, we appreciate the hospitality and are excited to hear that they are opening up new venues in Nashville and Napa with plans to expand further in the not too distant future.

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The Kennedy Suite – The Balm of Conspiracy

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

(You can order The Kennedy Suite album now. 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.)

The idea of conspiracy sprang to life the instant the third shot found its mark in Dealey Plaza with such dispassionate viciousness. “They killed him!” screamed Abraham Zapruder as the Presidential limousine was swallowed by the shadows of the triple underpass, his index finger finally slipping from the trigger of his Bell and Howell home movie camera. Bent over her broken husband, Jackie sobbed “He’s dead – they’ve killed him – oh, Jack, oh Jack, I love you.”

The enormity of the crime demanded the cold calculation of organized menace.

Evelyn Lincoln, Kennedy’s personal secretary, made a laundry list of suspects as she was riding on Air Force One back to Washington from Dallas: Lyndon, KKK, Dixiecrats, Hoffa, John Birch Society, Nixon, Diem, Rightists, CIA in Cuban fiasco, Dictators, Communists.  

The idea that the President could have been killed by a lone assassin working in isolation was just as incomprehensible as that fact that he had ceased to exist.

Bullet for You sets forth a list of would-be assassins representative of the myriad entities during the early 1960’s that would have greeted Kennedy’s death with relish. In so doing, the lyric of the song strives to convey the tangible animosity that hung heavy in the Dallas air and had many people surrounding Kennedy strongly urging him not to make the trip. It also reflects how the idea of conspiracy, perhaps even the psychological need for it, has persisted to the present day.

  1. Disgruntled Cuban Exiles: The first would-be assassin in the song is a Cuban exile, positioned on a roof top over-looking the motorcade route. Criticism of the President was bitter amongst the exile community where it was viewed that his lack of adequate air support at the Bay of Pigs led to the failure of the CIA lead operation to over-throw Castro. The failed operation was an embarrassment for the young administration and left Kennedy famously vowing to “splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.” Reportedly, even Robert Kennedy harbored suspicions that the CIA had been involved in the murder of his brother. Click here if you are interested about learning more about the Bay of Pigs.
  2. The Mob: Means, expertise and motive converge on this popular choice amongst conspiracy theorists. It is alleged the Kennedys used mob contacts to have ballot boxes stuffed in Illinois to help secure the Presidency. The mob then grew incensed when Robert Kennedy pursued the organization aggressively as Attorney General once his brother was in the White House. In addition, it is not just conspiracy talk when historians such as Robert Dalleck confirm that Kennedy had an affair with Judith Campbell, mistress also to mobster Sam Giancana, introduced to Kennedy by Frank Sinatra.
  3. Right Wing Extremists/John Birch Society: When the President arrived in Dallas, he was greeted by a caustic full page advertisement in the Dallas Morning News sarcastically addressing him as Mr. Kennedy. The article was financed by John Birch Society member Joseph P Grinnan and accused President Kennedy of being soft on communism and a friend to Yugoslavian dictator Josip Broz Tito.  The name at the bottom of the ad was Bernard Weissman, a JBS sympathizer who had not formally joined the society because he found that many of its members were anti-Semitic. Ironically, the name at the bottom of the ad was a prime motivator for Jack Ruby to later kill Lee Oswald. Ruby, who was deeply sensitive to anti-Semitism throughout his life, was dismayed that the ad and the subsequent assassination of the President could add to the already strong anti-Semitic environment in Dallas that he faced on a daily basis. Besides saving Jackie Kennedy the pain of returning to Dallas to testify in Oswald’s trial, Ruby reportedly had said he killed Oswald to show the world that, “Jews had guts.” To view the original ad, click here:
  4. Fidel Castro: In the closing months of his Presidency, Kennedy was involved in secret, back-channel discussions with Castro which aimed to find a peaceful resolution to the tension between their two countries. Things had been going so well, according to Thurston Clarke’s JFKs Last Hundred Days, that Castro joked he would be happy to come out publically for Barry Goldwater if it meant keeping Kennedy in office. Despite these overtures, Kennedy had authorized Operation Mongoose, a covert CIA operation that aimed to over throw the Communist government in Cuba and assassinate its leader. Robert Kennedy was directly responsible for running the project. According to Evan Thomas’ Robert Kennedy: His Life, former CIA director, John McCone recalled Robert Kennedy asking him directly if the agency had killed his brother. Later, McCone wondered if RFK’s emotional devastation was caused by personal guilt created by the knowledge that in actively seeking the life of Castro, he may have brought about the death of his brother.
  5. Emasculated Lovers: Published conspiracy suspects range from the plausibly ominous to the scurrilously ridiculous – from well-trained assassins of the Soviet Union to a Secret Service agent who pulls a hand gun out of the limousine glove box and turns to murder the man he had sworn to protect in full view of the First Lady and Governor Connelly. The aggrieved husband whose wife has left him “for a look-a-like Kennedy working in a traveling show” is representative of the most implausible of those theories that themselves conspire to turn catastrophe into carnival.
  6. Lee Harvey Oswald – Killer or Patsy?: In the final verse of the song, two versions of Lee Oswald serenade the listener, vying for their sympathies. Is he the killer standing in the 6th floor window of the Texas Schoolbook Depository Building, coolly awaiting the President’s arrival? Or is he the down-on-his-luck patsy, innocently sipping a Coca-Cola in the break room as the leader of the free world passes by?  

Inspiring and enacting change generates hatred. Palpable hatred. This is a reality for those chipping at the mountain of social prejudice in anonymity and those moving effortlessly through the rarified air of privilege. Through the romantic haze of nostalgia, it is difficult to appreciate from a distance of 50 years just how much President Kennedy was reviled by a broad range of adversaries. He was despised as passionately as he was adored. As Mrs. Lincoln wrote on the back of her note: "There is no end to the list of suspected conspirators to Pres. Kennedy’s murder. Many factions had their reasons for wanting the young president dead. That fact alone illustrates how the world suffers from a congenital proclivity to violence".

Though the assassination provides the context for The Kennedy Suite, this song cycle is not a “Who Done It?” Bullet for You is expository in its treatment of the many conspiracies surrounding the murder of President Kennedy. It is not meant to elucidate or accuse. My belief in conspiracy died with my interest in it. My interest in conspiracy died in this realization:

The identity of the killer is of far less consequence than the consequence of the victim’s destruction. Amidst all the mystery and metaphysical wonderings, that is a truth which is deep, sad, and immovable whether the life taken belongs to the President or a child bent worriedly over his times tables.

Endowing catastrophe with meaning diminishes its power to a point where our survival of its cruelty seems possible. That is the balm conspiracy offers.

Its failure to soothe may be conclusive proof in and of itself that Lee Oswald acted alone.

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The Kennedy Suite – “The past is prologue…” by Scott Garbe

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

(You can order The Kennedy Suite album now. Please visit The Kennedy Suite website and Facebook page)

Once I had found my thread, I wrote three new songs in very short order.

The first would revolve around the life of the police officer riding in the motorcade directly beside Jacqueline Kennedy at the moment of the assassination. The next, from the perspective I imagined as the First Lady. It was upon finishing this second song that I realized slaying my Minotaur would involve the creation of an entire collection of narratives that, when strung together, would follow the chronology of that tragic weekend in Dallas. A suite of songs. The Kennedy Suite was a title that came almost immediately and involuntarily. That inspirational spark was closely followed by my first structural calculation.

Newton’s third law of motion states that “when one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to that of the first body.” The same is true for physics of storytelling. The profound loss I had felt when I discovered President Kennedy had been murdered found its power in the deep sense of awe that had been generated in me as I explored his life. If I was to help the reader appreciate that same experience to any degree, songs addressing the assassination and its aftermath would need to be preceded by a vivid depiction of the palpable excitement and tangible possibility for change his ideas generated.

And so I set to work on a prologue.

Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans…”

President Kennedy’s Inaugural Address was, and is, a thrilling listen. If you have never taken the time or had the opportunity to do so, you can treat yourself by clicking on this link: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/BqXIEM9F4024ntFl7SVAjA.aspx.. Look through the transcript. Stunning. It was clear very early that nothing I could create could match hearing the President speaking for himself, and so it would be that both the demo I would set down with my friend Doug Telfer and the final recording produced by Michael would begin and end with him doing so.

Freed from having a rhetorical toe to toe with my hero and avoiding a disastrous Dan Quayle moment (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWXRNySMW4s ), I began to play – an activity that is, for me, the essence of the writing process.

One of the games I like to play most is to turn a phrase, especially a cliché – something I learned to love in Elvis Costello’s writing (“Who’s making Lover’s Leap safe again for lovers?”) Needless to say, one of President Kennedy’s most famous phrases from that speech, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” immediately piqued my sense of linguistic mischief.

One of JFK’s great qualities was his ability to question the status quo with skepticism and intelligence. In the final days of his presidency he was looking to extract the country from Vietnam, he had beaten back the hawks encouraging him to use military force in Cuba and was quietly pursuing a back-channel dialogue with Castro. The unofficial overtures had gone so well that Castro had joked he would publically back Republican Presidential hopeful Barry Goldwater if it would help Kennedy get re-elected in 1964. Furthermore, the successful resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis had fostered a growing understanding with Nikita Khrushchev that, more than adversaries, they were partners in holding back forces within their militaries that were advocating for preemptive nuclear conflict and presenting that strategy as not only advantageous but reasonable. Kennedy’s challenge to instigate meaningful change and his ability to express that challenge with an eloquence and incisiveness that made change seem not only possible but inevitable was infectious. To put it another way, the new Commander in Chief was a shit disturber of the highest order, and his rhetoric, as audacious as it was erudite, was a clarion call for others to aspire to the same level of progressive insubordination.

Ask not what your country can do, ask what it’s done.”

I had turned the phrase, and in so doing, had found a probing disposition that I felt was not only representative of the times and of the Kennedy presidency, but would also weave its way through the writing of the entire project.

The prologue of The Kennedy Suite would be entitled Origami Peace Corps Mischief Makers. Its first and more succinct title was Make Us! My friend Adam Faux had encouraged me to trade it for interest’s sake with a line I had created for the chorus. Though the title changed, that spirit of “progressive insubordination” would remain integral to the song.

It was at this moment that the development of the lyric, as it began to take on a life of its own, took a funny turn.

I could think no greater example of steadfast courage, dignified resolve and unflinching defiance than in the stories of hundreds of ordinary Americans who participated in the Civil Rights Movement. The song began to head full stream in that direction. While there were references to Kennedy’s call to land a man on the moon and his almost subversive use of diplomacy to resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis, references to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Freedom Riders and the murder of Emmett Till (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxK8u58PqTE) began to take over the page. What was interesting for me was that a song celebrating Kennedy’s zeal for societal change was running into an area where Kennedy was roundly criticized for his lack of action – the area of Civil Rights. For conservatives who were safely removed from the crippling degradation of racism, he was moving too fast – for those suffering the hourly indignities and horror of state sponsored brutality, he was inching reluctantly at a pace which was only exacerbating the suffering.

A confluence of events would push President Kennedy to conclude that the struggle for Civil Rights was, in fact, a moral issue that would need to be addressed, whatever the political consequences. He would lay his convictions before the American people on June 11, 1963, five months before his death. Two of those ordinary heroes, Vivian Malone and James A. Hood, were attempting to enroll in the University of Alabama and the state’s Governor, George Wallace, was blocking their way. Kennedy would be forced to send Federal troops to resolve the issue. In his speech explaining his actions he would say in part that, “…this nation, for all its hopes, and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free.” (the full speech can be seen at: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/LH8F_0Mzv0e6Ro1yEm74Ng.aspx )

When the song had found its feet, it had aggressively turned the tables. The man who boldly challenged others would himself be boldly challenged. And sometimes political pragmatism would mean that he would not rise to meet that challenge until the actions of those less powerful, even powerless, forced his hand.

Was President Kennedy all I had imagined him to be?

The ode to the penetrating skepticism of a man I had admired since I was a young boy was now poking its thick finger in my chest, looking into my eyes, wondering if I was willing to go where it may lead me.

Its probing disposition had me wondering the same thing.

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The Kennedy Suite on The National

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

The National is Canada's premier national news broadcast. We were very honoured that they took an interest our little corner of the world and created a very substantial news item about The Kennedy Suite, which aired last Friday night. They came in to our studio during rehearsal for the Winter garden shows and went out to Scott's school and filmed him at work as well as doing extensive interviews with me, Scott and Andy. It's a terrific piece…, please give it a listen, if you have a few minutes in your day.

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The Winter Garden Theatre – November 22 and 23, 2013

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

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It was an amazing weekend of music. We thank all of you that put your faith in us and bought a ticket. We hope you weren't disappointed. And we thank all of the musicians and crew that came together to create a weekend of inspired music. It was one of the more satisfying and uplifting events that I have had the pleasure in being a part of. Here are some pictures from backstage….I was a little busy so I didn't have much time to properly document the event. I'm expecting to receive some more pics over the next few days so I'll post them when I receive them. Check out the Cowboy Junkies and The Kennedy Suite facebook pages for more coverage and photos.


Created with flickr slideshow.

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