Posts Tagged ‘Tour Diary’
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.
Friday, January 25th, 2013
A late night last night and an early morning drive today. We all piled into the Sprinter and headed south to England. It was a beautiful drive through the north country, especially with the hills and valleys covered in snow. Jeff, Marg and I were dropped off at the BBC complex in the old Manchester docklands area, which is fittingly overseen by an enormous picture of Dr Who. The whole area has a distinct “futureworld” vibe about it: I kept expecting to see workers scurrying about in identical colour-coded jumpsuits. The radio show, The Verve, was hosted by a famous BBC personality, Ian McMillan (sp?), and was a refreshing twist on the usual radio performance/interview format. We were joined in the studio by a playwright, a poet and an author and a conversation about words ensued. Unfortunately, our brains were still back in Glasgow, in the bottom of a John Smith’s pint glass, so we just followed along, played our song and did a lot of staring in to space.
The gig tonight was just outside of Manchester in the suburb of Sale. We had no time to look around, but we did pass by the Manchester United stadium on the way to the venue, which is sort of like catching a glimpse of Yankee Stadium or Cowboy Stadium or the Duomo in Milan. It wasn’t exactly a beautiful looking room tonight, but it sure sounded great. We had a very good and very fun night of music….another sold out show and another great audience…all is good in our world.
Sunday, October 7th, 2012
Oct 4 and 5
We’ve been laying low in Junkieland for the past 6 weeks as we’ve all been busy with getting our kids settled into their various schools; figuring out what kind of teachers we’ll have to be dealing with this year and settling into afterschool programs: all of those little and large, mundane and important details that make up “real” life. This weekend is a quick two show sidestep into our alter-lives, a quick break with reality and then back into it just in time for Canadian Thanksgiving. It hasn’t been all family and kids for the past month. Pete has been hard at work finishing off our new studio (The Hangar) and I’ve been up to my elbows packing up The Clubhouse, our home for the past ten years. One accumulates a lot of crap in ten years: every dark corner and every top shelf piled high with pieces of odd shaped metal and molded plastic. I’d hold some unidentifiable piece up, turn it my hands for a minute or so trying to figure out what it belongs (or belonged) to and then pitch in the trash. My rule of thumb for moving is that if you come across something that hasn’t moved from the same spot for the past ten years then odds are you don’t need it…out it goes. So we said goodbye to The Clubhouse, the room where we recorded One Soul Now, At the End Of Paths Taken, all of the Nomad Series and many, many one-off songs and Latent projects. It has been a good room for us, but it’s time to move on….intimidating but exciting.
This weekend may be a bit of a relief from our “real” lives but there is a lot of work involved. We are doing two shows in Northern Californian, which means we don’t have the luxury of stepping onto our bus and waking up at the gig….flying is never fun and flying with stacks of gear is really never fun. A twelve hour journey including a 3 hour layover in Denver and a few hours trapped on one of United’s Prison Planes (the seating space was so small that you might as well have been in shackles and I swear that the flight attendants were taking time off from their regular jobs as prison guards at the local pen). The final turn of the screw was the 60 mile van ride at the end of the flight to our final destination, Grass Valley, a small town just north of Sacramento.
Grass Valley is a cool little town in a great part of the country filled with cool little towns. It is an old Western gold mining town and it still has that frontier feel as well as a healthy scattering of funky locally owned coffee shops, bookstores, used record stores and all those little homegrown business that make up a thriving community. We had an amazing audience tonight. The show has been sold out for quite a few weeks so there was a nice buzz of anticipation in the crowd and that fed us all night. We had a very good night. After the show we loaded up our vans and made the 150 mile trek to San Francisico; the allure of an empty late night highway, a free hotel at the other end, lots of late night radio, some strong coffee and a little bit of Red Bull, pulling us along.
The reason that we made the effort to come out here for the weekend was an invitation from the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. An amazing weekend of music set in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and it’s all free to the public. The festival is in its twelfth year and it has all been underwritten by one man, the late Warren Hellman, a man with large pockets, a love of music and a healthy philanthropic nature. It is an amazing festival and perhaps it could only work in a city as quirky and adventurous as San Francisco but I think if Mitt Romney wants to get elected and if he is really interested in doing something positive for this country he should use his billions to personally underwrite free music festivals in cities and towns all over the country….that should be his sole campaign promise…”If I’m elected I’ll pay for an annual free music festival in every town and city across the country with a population over 60,000. Thank you, good night and God Bless America.”
We had an amazing day. Golden Gate Park is an unbelievable public space filled with giant eucalyptis trees and giant pines, gardens and playing fields, lakes and museums, bike paths, walking trails, it is a spectacular example of visionary urban planning. The weather was perfect, we ran into a few old friends and made a few new ones and we had a very good show in front of a sea of people: all in all a perfect day and a very good weekend.
Tomorrow its back to TO. We’ll continue to set up The Hangar and look forward to a couple of shows near home at the beginning of November and then at the end of month we’ll set off on an adventure across Spain, Italy and Portugal. Stay tuned.
Monday, July 16th, 2012
….and that’s all she wrote. 14,000 kilometers by bus, 5,000 kilometers by air, 23 performances, a few hundred empty casts, 1 squaw fish, 5 smallmouth bass, 1 Euro Cup, a handful of baseball games, dozens of really bad movies, many bottles of crappy beer, too many moldy hotel rooms, 33 days and nights and it all ends in Oshawa. This tour could have been a nightmare. When we signed on we had no idea whether we would be treated like second class citizens by the Mellencamp crew or whether anyone would be in the arena when we played or if anyone would even care that we were playing. The road miles and some of the individual drives looked insane and we know the toll that can take on a body and mind. We also had no idea if our music would work in these arenas and whether we would get the necessary buzz off of the performances to keep us nourished and interested. In the end we couldn’t have imagined a better outcome. The Mellencamp crew and band went above and beyond to help us out and to make us feel comfortable, rather than feeling relief that it was all over we felt a little pang of regret at saying goodbye to some new road-friends that we may never see again. The performances themselves were actually very fun, we are going to miss having all of that PA wattage to blast through on a nightly basis (Jared will definitely miss it). And we were pleasantly surprised at the attention that the audience gave us and their overall response. Sure, some of the drives reduced us to babbling fools, but we travelled through some beautiful country and driver Ron was about as good a driver as we have ever had and made the getting-there as easy as it could possibly be. One of the biggest bonuses of the tour was getting to some corners of our country that we have never been and experiencing this land’s beauty from coast to coast up close and personal. What can I say….we had fun.
Two weeks off and then back on the bus…that will be hard, but at least we are heading to one of our favourite parts of the country…New England here we come…again.
Saturday, July 14th, 2012
July 11 and 12: Another successful fifteen hour journey, driver Ron comes through again. We had a brief stop at a highway rest area somewhere near Riviere-du-Loup in Quebec and Jeff wandered in to a nearby field and came back with a large cupful of the tastiest wild strawberries. It just goes to show how far we have come from real food: even that five-dollar-a-pint of organic strawberries that you can find rotting in your local supermarket doesn’t come close to tasting like the real thing, freshly picked and eaten.
We stumbled off the bus in Ottawa at around 3pm and we all went our separate ways. Ottawa is not the most dynamic city in the country, but it is very beautiful if you stay within the heart of the city, centered around the parliament buildings, especially in the Spring and Summer. It felt good to be back in a city of some size where there are options and choices…I chose; Indian food; a walk around ByWard Market; a Mill Street Tankhouse Ale; and a visit to the National Gallery where there was a Van Gogh exhibit. There was also an amazing presentation on Parliament Hill, put on by the Montreal based company Mosaika: the history of Canada told with the use of projections on the side of the Parliament Buildings. It was incredible. If you happen to be swinging by Ottawa this summer make sure that you check it out. It is so engaging and unique that if I were King of Canada I’d have it filmed and presented in every grade school in the country as an introduction to the history of Canada. It would be a lot more effective than, “open up your text books to chapter 1”.
Tonight we played the Ottawa Blues Festival. Which has grown into an enormous festival over the years, despite the size it is a beautifully run event. We had a rather frenetic show. A huge crowd, but we never really found each other…but we blasted away and Jared was able to crank it up to Festival volume. When in doubt, turn it up.
July 13: Another nine hour overnight drive and we woke up on the grounds of Sarnia Bay Fest: another outdoor festival which is not nearly as big as the Ottawa event and not nearly as well run. I hadn’t planned on going fishing today, but when I emerged from my bunk I was staring at water, so I grabbed my rod and Jeff’s bike and went in search of something that looked promising. I found a couple of decent looking spots but nary a nibble. While I was at one spot a very large Sea Bass came floating by, upside down….fishing in the shadow of an enormous petro-chemical plant (looking like it was pulled straight from the set of a 1950’s sci-fi movie) can be tricky.
It was hot as hell today. We were the first of three acts on stage, the audience was late arriving and once it did arrive it had the energy of a crowd of people who had been baking in the sun all day….despite the lack of enthusiasm and despite the sun blaring on us throughout our set, we had a good show. We head back to Toronto tonight where some of us get to sleep in our own beds. One more show to go, Sunday night in Oshawa.
Thursday, July 12th, 2012
The Rock did not want to let us go. Due to the extreme and expensive logistics of getting a bus to St John’s we decided to fly and park the bus in Halifax/Dartmouth to wait on our return. The plan made perfect sense in the outside world but Newfoundland has a way of turning the outside world upside down. We arrived this morning at the airport for our 11am departure to Halifax, check in went smoothly, no problem at security, boarding the airplane was a breeze, but take off was another story. The pilot informed us in a patronizing tone that there was something wrong with the onboard computer system so they needed to re-boot them (“…just like you computer at home….”). The re-boot didn’t work, so we all shuffled off the airplane and were told that there would be a thirty minute delay. When that delay turned into a 5pm departure, we made our way to the bar to watch a really lame Wimbledon final. There was a slight upturn in our humour when we found out that the bar had Yellow Belly pale ale on tap. Eventually the 5pm departure turned in to a 7pm departure so we all hopped in to cabs and went to see Ted at the nearest mall. It was vulgar, crude, in bad taste, exploitive, obscene, immature and funny as hell. I haven’t laughed so hard at a movie in a long, long time. Margo opted out of Ted and went to see Spiderman, because she has some long outstanding, unresolved issues with her childhood teddy bear. The plane finally left at 8pm, only a nine hour delay, and we said goodbye to Newfoundland and goodbye to our day off.
I wasn’t planning on going fishing in Dartmouth, but once I heard that they call themselves “The City of Lakes” (or something like that) I figured I should look in to it. I found a decent sized lake a short bike ride from the hotel and spent a couple of hours walking its shore. It wasn’t an ideal setting, sitting next to a highway and I couldn’t escape the smell of dog poo. At least, I told myself that it was dog poo, but I figured it was a lot better than sitting in my crappy hotel room where I also couldn’t escape the smell of something that also smelled liked dog poo, but probably wasn’t. I also caught a couple of small smallmouth bass, had a couple more on the line that surfaced and spit out the hook and also had a couple more strikes from what felt like pretty decent size fish. So it was a positive urban fishing experience.
Dartmouth is now part of the greater city of Halifax that sits gleaming across the harbour. There was a time when Dartmouth was its own city and a nasty place it was. These days it is basically a suburb of Halifax, and looked upon in that light, it’s not a bad place; hilly and treed with a lot of parks and lakes and some funky old wooden houses. There is not much happening in its downtown area, but it has developed its docklands into a people friendly place with a great view of Halifax. If you want to find a groovy little cafe or brewpub or are in the need of a little bit of culture then Halifax is a simple trip across the bridge or a ferry ride away. I decided to try my hand at some mackerel fishing off of the pier. I didn’t last too long…the locals told me that “they’re runnin’ or they ain’t”…and it appeared that they weren’t running.
We had two really good shows. We are finally getting a handle on this and it helps that the audiences both nights were right there with us. We leave the Maritimes tonight for a marathon 1400km trek to Ottawa. It has been a great couple of weeks spent in a part of the country that we rarely get to. The folks down here have been batted around for many decades. This region once had a thriving resource based economy where anyone that wasn’t afraid to put their back in to it could make a decent living, not so anymore. The towns may be a little frayed around the edges and there may not be a whole lot to do on a Friday night for someone just passing through, but the countryside is still strikingly beautiful and the people are about as down-home and friendly as you’ll find anywhere. Come for a visit, you’ll not be disappointed.
Wednesday, July 11th, 2012
You can choose to visit the dramatic mountains of BC and Alberta; or the majestic plains of Saskatchewan and Manitoba; the pristine lakes of Ontario; the unique culture of Quebec; or the quaint beauty of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI; or you can decide to really blow your mind and visit a large rock sitting in the North Atlantic called Newfoundland. This place is like no other on Earth, a mixture of Scot and Irish and English and French and Viking and aboriginal with a touch of Danish and Portuguese and Spanish mixed in just for fun. The tourist brochures may say that English is the main language spoken here, but it really isn’t. The true natives speak a dialect that is a language unto itself. Island life moves at its own pace (they even have their own time zone). It is the sort of place that you can never really know. Its mysteries are only revealed to those who spring from the Rock itself; if you are not born here you will never be from here. Visit here if you can and plan to rent a car and explore the inlets and fishing villages and mountains and forests and be prepared to be charmed and prepare yourself for that urge to throw away the life you’ve built back home and start afresh….it’s that kind of place, with those ancient witchy-poo vibes.
We had three days here, some of us were able to get out of St John’s and explore a little bit. Margo and Jeff went whale watching and actually saw whales. Pete hooked up with his wife and daughter and explored a bit of the Avalon Peninsula by car. I walked the hills of St John’s in search of a lobster role (which I never found), sampled some of the local ale (I highly recommend the pale ale at the Yellow Belly Brew Pub), ate three excellent bowls of seafood chowder, sat in a few of the many very groovy little cafes and eavesdropped on the locals talking about the hip and happening goings-on around St John. It’s a great little town, wedged in the side of a cliff, haloed by fog, under siege by the weather, drowned in history…..visit here.
On show-day there was a bit of drama, one of the trucks on the drive across the island hit a moose. Luckily the driver was fine, but both the moose and the truck were totaled. They had to scramble to find another truck to pick up the gear, but despite arriving hours late they still got the show off on time: a bunch of pros. We had two excellent shows. I think I can confidently say that the second show was our best show of the tour. Our hotel was across the street from the venue so I was able to watch all of the Mellencamp Bands first night. They rocked, one of my favourite shows of the tour. Oh ya…..I forgot to mention the people on this rock….so weird, so wonderfully strange…..visit.
Saturday, July 7th, 2012
July 3rd: Two days rest was just what the doctor ordered. We had a great show tonight in Moncton, we had lots of energy and focus and a very supportive audience: a fun night and an odd, surreal day. When we arrived at the venue our bus was directed inside a huge empty hangar beside the arena and there we sat all day with tens of thousands of square feet of polished cement floors with which to amuse ourselves. So we set up the badminton net, took out the tennis racquets, got out the bikes for a little slalom between the pillars, we banged a few things and had fun with reverb tails. For a break I followed Al on his mountain bike to an enormous park across the street from the venue and watched him take on some spine-busting structures. We also watched Mick and Keef cavort about in “Ladies and Gentlemen the Rolling Stones”…what a groovin’ little band they have.
July 4th: Sydney is another scrubby little maritime town located in amongst some of the most beautiful country on the continent. I woke up early and sat beside driver Ron as the sun came up over the Cape Breton highlands and chased away the fog. If you’re looking for an exotic vacation and you don’t want to leave the continent, head in this direction. A slow drive circumnavigating Cape Breton may be just the ticket for your mental health, an inspired break from your daily grind….remember to bring your English/Gaelic dictionary. Unfortunately, after passing through such beauty, we had to spend the day in Sydney which is a patched together town of ugly 1970’s style government buildings and crumbling infrastructure, with not much excitement to recommend it: keep away and stay on the highlands. We had a pretty good gig tonight, not as focussed as last night, but it had good energy and the audience was, once again, very supportive.
Wednesday, July 4th, 2012
July 1: We spent our two days off watching the Saint John River empty in and empty out, empty in and empty out of the Bay of Fundy…the water against the pier, rising and falling, rising and falling. What an amazing force of nature it all is: this huge and powerful tidal river that was central in the building of Canada, being pulled back and forth. Before Canada was Canada, St John was the center of the British Empires shipbuilding industry. When Canada was officially formed in 1867, a third of the ships sailing in the British Fleet were built in St John’s (I may have made that figure up). The river that bears the town’s name runs straight through the heart of the province providing easy access to the enormous forests that were felled to create the giant wooden sailing ships of the 18th century. This city was one of the financial engines for the new country and it has a rich and long history….in any case, Happy Canada Day!
We celebrated the day by watching the final game of the Euro Cup; the tournament favourite Spain versus the upstart Italy. The first fifty or sixty minutes of the game were very exciting. And even though Spain was up 2 –0 by the end of the half, one felt that, if not for the brilliant play of Spain’s goalie Casillas, it could have easily been a tie game. Italy kept up the attack at the start of the second half but then Spain subbed in Fernando Torres and his fresh legs were no match for the tired Italian defenders (who were also down a man due to injuries). Torres quickly made it 3-0 and then set up the crushing fourth and final, goal. All four goals were feats of unbelievable athleticism and skill: “The Beautiful Game” indeed. All in all it was a very good tournament, with a handful of upsets, many contested games, lots of scream inducing plays and in the end, the best team one. We’re already looking forward to the World Cup in two years.
July 2: I watched the fireworks from my room last night and today I did nothing…the town was shut down for the Canada Day long-weekend and so I just lay in my bed and watched the river flow. A much needed day of recovery.
Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012
We were thoroughly beat up by the time we reached Summerside: another 11 hour overnight drive. We were shared the town and the grounds surrounding the arena with Atlanticade (or something like that), a large motorcycle rally. Man those things are loud (and annoying). I made the effort to get off the bus and walk along the beach boardwalk and stick my feet in the red clay sand. Then it was back to the bus and a lot of waiting around. It was a nice venue with very good catering (including some very tasty PEI new potatoes). Just as showtime was approaching there was an area wide power failure. We waited for two anxious hours for the power to come back on. We were beginning to worry that the show might be postponed to the next night, robbing us of one of our much-needed two days off (just one more turn of the screw). Finally, the lights popped on and we were given our 30-minutes-to-showtime cue. It wasn’t a great performance. Half of the lights in the auditorium needed to stay on as they were still seating people because of the power outage. As a result there seemed to be more than the usual milling about during our set. We did our best, but this was our tenth show in ten nights, starting in Calgary and ending in Prince Edward Island…quite an epic run, time to shut down for a couple of days.