Lou Reed 1942 – 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….

Tags:
Posted in news | 9 Comments »

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

(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)

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

The Kennedy Suite – pre-order

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

Tags: ,
Posted in news | 1 Comment »

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

(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.

Tags: ,
Posted in news | Comments Off

The Kennedy Suite – Origins by Scott Garbe

(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

Tags: ,
Posted in news | Comments Off

The Kennedy Suite performance – 2nd show added

We are excited to announce that a second show at the Winter Garden Theater in Toronto has been added on November 23rd (the first show is on November 22nd). We will be performing two sets each night, with the first set dedicated to a complete performance of The Kennedy Suite which will have a stage production created and designed by  Benedict Hilliard (Associate Designer for Cats, Les Miserables, Miss Saigon), Stephen Pollard (Lighting Designer for U2, Adele, Simple Minds) and Geoff Burpee. Joining the band for both performances will be Skydiggers, Sarah Harmer, Jason Collett, Lee Harvey Osmond, The Good Family, Harlan Pepper, Jessy Bell Smith, Reid Jameison, The Screwed, The Potion Kings and Ivy Mairi. In the second set we will pull songs from the more familiar corners of our catalogue and hopefully we can convince a few of our guests to join us on stage.

We will be starting pre-sales on the Kennedy Suite album on October 15th and along with the album we will be offering some limited edition prints of 14 collages that brother Pete created for The Kennedy Suite artwork.

Also, we continue our Nomad Tour on October 24th and are heading to some of our favourite haunts in the mid-west. Please check out the tour page to see if we are coming close to your front door.

disintegrating

Tags: ,
Posted in news | Comments Off

The Kennedy Suite: An Introduction

(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)

When I was eleven years old my older brother John arrived home with the album Jesus Christ Superstar under his arms. I still have a memory of him walking in to the kitchen and pulling it out of the bag and announcing it's arrival. I must have listened to that album a hundred times and to this day I can still sing every song (which is saying something because I can't even remember the words to my own songs).

Ours was a Roman Catholic household and although we weren't very strict Catholics we still attended Mass on Sundays and had been thoroughly indoctrinated into the church at an early age by the nuns that were our grade school teachers. At first I was shocked by the album title, the idea that someone could meld the words Jesus Christ and Superstar was outrageous, approaching blasphemy, was tempting the wrath of God and his mighty lightning bolt (I got God and Zeus mixed up a lot back then). And then I was hooked in by the songs, the word play and melodies. But ultimately I kept delving deeper into the album because I was intrigued by how this piece of music took the iconic event of our civilization (the crucifixion) and the main players (Jesus, Mary Magdalene, the Apostles) and humanized them. Jesus became a young man fueled by a cause, but also blinded by ego and filled with doubt; Mary, who had been marginalized in the Bible teachings, became a confidant, a source of comfort and an important part of Jesus' inner circle; Judas, who had personified the word “treachery”, became another young man conflicted by doubt and driven by confusion; Herod was shown to be the psychotic sociopath that he probably was; and even the ultimate evil-doer, Pontius Pilate, had a slightly more humane and shaded light shone upon him. In other words all of the people in this great passion play became human, they were not the good vs evil, black vs white cardboard cutouts that I had been taught. This may not seem to be that revolutionary in 2013, but in 1971, inside the mind of an eleven year old, in a Roman Catholic household in Montreal, Quebec it was pretty mind expanding. I was hooked….and by the way, the band on the album was rockin'. 

When I was first handed the demo for Scott Garbe's The Kennedy Suite, I had some of the same reactions. At first I was intrigued by the title and premise: the idea that someone would attempt to write a song cycle around one of the most iconic events of the 20th century. And once I began to listen I was struck by the intelligence of the lyrics, the way they blend and blur history and fiction, the way they play upon some of the mysteries and controversies surrounding the event, the way they easily bounce from the macabre to the enlightened, from black humour to empathy and pathos. And eventually what kept me hooked was the humanity of the whole thing. The way the songs took this catastrophe, an event that has been twisted and poked and prodded and until it has lost all sense of the actual horror and suffering that it entailed and scaled it back down to a simple human tragedy. The assassination and subsequent funeral may have been played out in front of the entire world, but ultimately it is about loss and grief and the horrible randomness of colliding worlds.

The Kennedy Suite is filled with acute insights into the human condition, black humour, profanity, moments of pure empathy, historical details, cultural references and self-referential asides.  Each song is written from the perspective of someone, real or imagined, that had a connection to the events of Dealey Plaza on Nov 22, 1963. JFK, RFK, Jackie, Ruby and Oswald are all represented as are; three sisters giddy with anticipation for the Kennedys’ arrival at Love Field; a motorcycle cop riding in the motorcade determined to protect the Presidential couple to make up for his own failure to save his own family; a police detective assigned to escort the suspect Oswald but caught up in a delusional reverie about his Senior Prom and many other assorted characters. In order to do justice to Scott's vision we decided to call on a number of our friends and collaborators in the Canadian music scene. The Junkies along with Andy Maize and Josh Finlayson (Skydiggers) took Scott's demos and recorded our own versions. We then invited more friends to join us and to add their voices and talents. Margo took on the role of Jackie Kennedy on board Air Force One returning from Dallas with her husbands body; Jason Collett is JFK singing from the horse drawn caisson making its way through the streets of DC to Arlington cemetery; Bruce Good does his turn as a profane and nasty Jack Ruby sitting in his club and contemplating killing Oswald; and Sarah Harmer performs a delicate, yet searing epilogue to the Suite. Many others joined us as well, including Hawksley Workman, Doug Paisley, Martin Tielli, Jessy Bell Smith, The Screwed, Harlan Pepper, Lee Harvey Osmond, The Potion Kings and Ivy Mairi.

The Kennedy Suite is an examination of a world changing event and the human toll that the assassination exacted. It is also a cutting look at our present day culture and times: it holds up a mirror to the circumstances, people and events of November 22, 1963 and reflects back a strikingly recognizable image, half a century later.

*****

Here is a taste….Jackie Kennedy (as imagined by the writer) sitting on Air Force One, heading back to Washington with the body of her husband, still wearing her blood-splattered clothes so that the world could see “what they have done to Jack”, wracked with survivors guilt and suddenly struck by the horrible realization that maybe the bullet wasn't meant for him, but for her.

 

 

Tags: ,
Posted in news | 1 Comment »

October & November Shows

The tour schedule is now complete for October and November in the midwest U.S. We will be starting in Buffalo on 10/24 and will be stopping in Saugatuck, MI; Chicago, IL; Stoughton, WI; Minneapolis, MN; Iowa City, IA; Evanston, IL; and Ann Arbor, MI. All of the details are here.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Tour Dates | Comments Off

Tour Diary – Denali National Park (Sept 8, 9 and 10)

P1010094

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.

P1010026

September 9

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.

P1010006

September 10

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.


Created with flickr slideshow.

Tags:
Posted in Tour Diary | 3 Comments »

Tour Diary – Talkeetna, AK (Sept 7, 2013)

P1000906

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.


Created with flickr slideshow.

Tags:
Posted in Tour Diary | Comments Off