Al Lukas
“The music is honest and the delivery is dynamic. In My Soul deserves a listen” -THE BELLEVILLE INTELLIGENCER

GOOD FAITH TOUR (2009-10)

Good Faith Tour 2009-2010

SENSE OF ADVENTURE

 

I left home at 18, went to Cambrian College in Sudbury to study paramedicine with the hopes of landing that great job after I was done college.  I had been delayed for a year because of some age requirements but there was still a projected demand in this field when I was set to graduate.  Two years later, I moved to Windsor, ON after completing my four month preceptorship in my hometown.  Windsor-Essex county was said to be geared for a mass hiring due to the amalgamation of the different counties in the area.  This fell through when the bill went to vote.  All I knew at that point was that I was in a different city, with no career and a poor economy to look for other employment opportunities if I was going to wait until a position became available.

I started playing music in bars, pubs, and functions more frequently again, though I always played for myself at home.  I met a great community of musicians in the area down at Alibi’s , the blues spot for jams and musician collectivity.

James Anthony and I met through the agent at Alibi’s.  I had been writing some songs and thought it would be great if someone could record them, to have a demo for myself.  After a few studio sessions we decided to record an album.  Taking a month of recording to write more songs, I recorded my first album in Sound investment studios out of Burlington.   James is a great engineer with a long musical history that you can hear when he picks up a guitar to entertain.  He told me I should move from Windsor and into the GTA if I was going to be serious about this.  Making a living with music is a hard path to take, but  since their were more places to play in and around Toronto it seemed viable, and I was going to walk, hard!

I moved to Mississauga in the fall of 2006.  My long lost cousin Nadine had  a place in Meadowvale only 20 minutes away from the studio.  I knew this would be an interesting move since we only found out about each other a few years back and had only met a handful of times.  I would get to learn the area through her stories and the stories of others.  Living in the house was Nadine,  her daughter Lilly and her friend Tom, and then there were four.

I remember going for drives around Mississauga at night and seeing Toronto’s burning skyline through the haze and wanting to be a part of it.

Well I’ve been a part of it here for two years now, have loved every moment, every person that has come into my life.  I’ve enjoyed playing some of the venues the city has to offer.  I feel that something in me has been missing though, this sense of adventure that I’ve always had is lying restless within me.  I need an adventure!

I decided to call in sick to work a few weeks ago to figure out exactly what I need to do and their only seems to be one solution.  ROAD TRIP!

I grew up in Northern Ontario, I can camp, I can deal with the cold weather.  So I’m going to camp across Canada fall and winter.  I leave Windsor Ontario, Canada’s most southern point, on October 4th.   Much of this trip will be done by surprise, no time lines, no destinations,  no expectations.  I will be making some stops along the way to see some friends and family and will be playing surprise shows too so stay tuned to Facebook invites, if I’m in your area you’ll be getting one.

 

 

FREEDOM!

September 24, 2009

 

Today was my last day of work. I left at 7pm and managed to say goodbye to everyone, I believe.  If not, and if you’re reading this, goodbye and best of wishes in life until our next crossing!

I can’t help but feel happy knowing that my time no longer belongs to anyone but myself.  I’ve often wondered what I would end up doing if my days were mine… if I had a year off, what would I like to do?
Well it looks like the answer was pretty simple all along:  play music for people, do some camping, have a different day everyday, and finally share the story.

I should go back in time a little here and explain what happened on the week I decided I’d give up on social norms, leave my home, my job and drive out as slow as possible to the other side of Canada.

September 1st was a day of new beginnings.  I always associated this date with the end of summer, though it is not accurate, I guess I never got out of school habits.  I woke up in the morning and decided I needed a mental health day.  After calling in sick to work, I made myself a coffee, some breakfast, and proceeded to gaze aimlessly out the window for about an hour.  The summer was over, I had no girlfriend, a job I didn’t necessarily enjoy, music as a portable passion,  and an apartment full of things I don’t use or need on a daily basis.   I called my parents and told them I was to be off in a month.  I didn’t know how, why or for how long but, I needed a change.  I had originally planned to go somewhere warm for the winter, Cuba, Mexico, DR…then thought I wanted something a little less structured than an all inclusive resort stay.  Maybe a backpacking excursion through Europe…I’d rather not do that alone, Canada seems much more doable, no health care worries and I know the languages.

At first I figured I would just go camping and visit some friends along the way, I could go for a few months and decide what I wanted to do after.  Then I thought, since I’ll definitely be bringing my guitar for company, I should just bring my PA system and see how many gigs I can hook up along the way…Eureka!!!! A tour!!  But, I don’t want to have a schedule, a plan, destinations set with timelines… a surprise tour it is!!

No one but my parents knew of this so far.  I still had to tell work and give my notice if I was to leave.  I was going to Kitchener in the evening to meet with new friends and to hit up a local open mic night for kicks.  This would prove to be all the confirmation I needed for any doubt left in my mind.


Once I arrived in Kitchener we opened a bottle of wine and shared some life stories, I was meeting everyone for the first time save my friend which I‘d met a few weeks earlier in London.


Somehow…everyone found out I was a musician and asked me to perform a little in the living room for them…I was more than happy to share some of my songs and stories, and even shared a few new songs I’d been writing.  We went to the Northern Tai restaurant for some eats and walked down to the Boathouse afterwards for some music and drinks.


Waking up in a strange city seemed romantic, exciting, and refreshing.  I had found my sense of adventure again.  Although waking up in a different city is not uncommon for me, I liked waking up in a city where I’d never been.  I made my decision final as I opened my eyes and saw the shuffle on the street, I smiled to myself.  I called in sick that day as well and when I went back to work, I gave my notice.

 

 

NOWHERE MAN

September 25, 2009

 

So it’s Friday and I have two days to pack up my place.  I know it seems like a big task but really there were many boxes that I had never unpacked.  It was kind of like Christmas going through the boxes to see if there was anything I could bring.  I did find some valuables, like articles of clothing I used to wear to work as a medic during that cold winter in Kapuskasing.  I found some good turtle necks, gloves, my snowmobiling suit, which should serve me well for sleeping on the colder nights, and other random articles I’ll be able to use for camping.  It felt a little counterproductive to open boxes while trying to pack but oh well, it had to be done.

My mom and Larry showed up Friday night.  We didn’t really do much except sit around and talk about the plans for the next day and my journey ahead, we were all tired from our week and decided to attack the Lyon’s Den early in the morning instead.  My friend Tom was also over, helping with some computer issues I was having.  Tom has been my computer emergency tech of sorts since I  moved in to the Mississauga house with Nadine, Tom, and Lilly.  Having put together the website which has probably already directed you to this blog, but if not.. www.lukasproductions.com, he’s extremely savvy in the technical aspects that I terribly lack.  Tom has also put together and designed much of my promo and has done all the graphic design for both albums and everything in between.  As if that weren’t enough, he just released his first printed book, a contemporary spiritual writing titled “Be of One Mind” available off of his website at www.beofonemind.com.  I’d ordered two copies and needed a signature for myself and my mother before I departed, so we took care of that on Friday as well.

Saturday, September 26th,  was a day from packing hell.  We needed to do some running around between boxes and go get my van at United Auto.  I needed to make sure it was ready for the trip and was getting the finishing touches taken care of on the rear brakes.   We sat down and called it quits at 7:30 in the evening, it felt like midnight.  Most of it was done though, we just needed to wait for the moving truck in order to get the bulk out of the way.  Oliver, a great friend of mine since I moved to the GTA, was over and we chatted about old times for a while with Larry and my mother again.  Oliver also helped us with the move the next day.

Sunday, September 27th/moving day went really well.  I was a bit nostalgic when I woke up in the morning.  Larry had some coffee ready and I surfed the web a little before I got my day started.  I listened to the Beatles’ track Nowhere Man, getting me in the mood to finish up the task even though I was still tired from the night before.  We went out to Rexdale to get the moving truck and the trips from inside to outside began as soon as we got back, Oliver was already there and ready.


It took roughly two hours to load the truck.  We still had some odds and ends left to pack but since there was no rush we just took our time and made sure it was done properly to make it easier once we got to Windsor.  Some boxes were destined for storage, others for the house, and some for the van…and some to be decided..haha.


At six thirty we left the city after fueling at the service station near my apartment.  I gave one last glance to my soon to be old neighbourhood and drove off into the sun, heading west towards Windsor.  I always liked the look of Toronto at dusk.  The orange sky and clouds mixed with the hills and skyscrapers paint a postcard on the horizon every time if you catch the light at the right moment on the 401.

At that moment, riding into the sun, I smiled again, I had just become a nowhere man.

 

 

TOUR KICKOFF

 

“After spending a week in Windsor, my trip has begun.  My belongings have been stored, the new van is ready, the first show has been played, the tour has officially been kicked off!!”

We arrived in Windsor late on Sunday night after leaving Toronto at 6:30 in the evening.  Tired from the day and drive, we only had enough energy to unpack one of the vehicles, leaving my unpacked van for the next day.

The week was dedicated to retrofitting the van, visiting with family and friends, preparing for the first show and making sure I had all the gear ready for the trip.  This all went very smooth actually, with the help of Larry and John the van was ready after a day at the “John Wallace Shop.”  Mom helped with the curtain designs including the insulation of these using foam padding to keep the cold from the windows from radiating inwards.  I got some shopping done for cookware and clothing and other camping items, and saw everyone before the show on Saturday.

I spent some of the time during the week organizing the show.  It consists of two sets, 30 songs in total.  It’s been interesting to go through some of the older songs and remind myself why I had originally written them.  My songs tend to take on different meanings for me as time passes, changing with me as I change I suppose… but it’s fun to see where they came from.  ‘Tell My Mind’ really stuck out.  I wrote that song because of a girl I’d met and dated for a while.  The tag line for the song is “Girl you’ve got my heart don’t worry, I’ll just tell my mind exactly what to do.”  One of those situations where everything felt right at the time but we both knew it wasn’t going to last in the long run.  Nevertheless, I think we both needed to see it through in order to see it really wasn’t going to work.  I think many of these life lessons are meant to be learned through experience…  Funny how these songs have been on ongoing journal about my life within themselves.  Working the show made me realize that I’ve kind of been blogging all along…

 

October 3rd, 2009

 

It’s show night!  For the kick off show I decided to approach the Seminole Street Bar.  Judy and the gang have always been good to me there.  I played at the Seminole on weekends when I was in recording the album in Detroit to bring in live entertainment and to help with my traveling expenses.  It’s a nice neighborhood bar, just around the corner from my mother’s home so it’s convenient too.  I went in to set up some equipment and work out the room logistics for the night a little earlier in the evening.   I had to set up around some dart players playing a painfully long game of 301…these guys were feeling good and it doesn’t help that you have to double in and double out of this game, plus do the math!  I sat down had a pop and waited around until I decided to just go ahead and do some stuff around them…it took them over 45 minutes to finish that game, Jebus!

The show at night went off without a hitch, friends and family were there to support my adventure.  The written show went well, I shared some stories about the songs and about the trip to come.  Some good laughs were in order too with the van being set up the way it is.  Everyone was extremely generous as people bought CDs and had even bought Tim Horton’s gift cards for me for the road!  I have enough card money to last me for months!

After the show we went to Silvers, a bar next door, for a few drinks with some friends to celebrate the night and our friendships alike.  The tour is on!

 

 

LEAVING WINDSOR

October 4th, 2009

 

I woke up this morning in a hurry, I kind of slept in from the night before and we had to meet some friends at the Lumberjack Restaurant in Windsor for the finest breakfast in town.  I was to be seen off today but not before a lumberjack helping of omelette, home fries, toast, and coffee.We took some pictures of my mother, Larry and I, and some more with John and Sue who came out with us.

After brunch, we had a few things left to pack in the van.  My mom was emotional and whispered some words of inspiration as she hugged and kissed me goodbye.  Larry was there to see me off as well and wished me all the best on the road, and to remember to have the time of my life.  It was late afternoon by the time I reached the 401 headed east, around 4:30pm.

As I sped up on the off ramp to catch up to traffic, I had this weird feeling inside of my stomach.  Excitement!…which felt odd because I’ve taken this off ramp many times before, driven this highway many times in the past 3 and half years.  I realized shortly thereafter that I hadn’t taken this highway with this intent before.  Everything felt like the first time as a drove by familiar landmarks and sights along the way.

I headed to Sarnia.  My first stop would be at my first drummer’s house Matt, from the Relic Rockers.   We had a classic rock cover band together in 2002-04 along with my cousin Marc and a friend of ours, Dom, up in Kapuskasing.

The drive up to Sarnia was peaceful, as I moved through the open landscape above Chatham and crossed the Thames River.  I took advantage of some of the time spent driving to charge batteries through the inverter and to get some footage with my seat mounted video camera.  It didn’t take long before I got in to Sarnia, it only turned out to be about an hour and a half drive.  Matt and his friend Nikki were there waiting for me to arrive.  We had some dinner, recorded one of my new songs in “Studio M” as he dubbed it and called it a night pretty early after some drinks and catching up, we were all tired from the day and Matt had to work early the next morning.

I realized as I laid down on the couch to close my eyes that I would be sleeping on many different bed arrangements along the way including the sleeper in the van.  My freedom bed was very comfortable tonight though.

Thanks brother!

AL

 

 

OUR LAST BAND SHOW – EINSTEIN’S

October 5th – 10th , 2009

 

After leaving Sarnia I was on my way to London the next day.  I woke up early and made breakfast for Nikki and I who were both crashing at Matt’s house.  I showered, got ready, and realized that I needed a hair cut.  For those who don’t know me, I can be particular with people cutting my hair.  I realized that this would take a different turn on the road so we looked up the nearest location for a salon.  First Choice Haircutters it was.  I paid 13$ for my haircut and some small talk.  My haircut turned out fine and I was on my way, but not before making a stop at the Tim Horton’s across the street.  I decided to leave southern Ontario open for visiting friends and family as I’ve been playing in the area for the past few years and wanted to make sure I got to see everyone before the journey really begins west of Ontario, where I leave my stomping grounds.

I visited with friends in London, Kitchener, Guelph, Mississauga, and Toronto leading up to Saturday.   I had the pleasure of enjoying: wine, Indian cuisine, and some hot tubbing in London; brunch, second hand store shopping, and walking through the park in Kitchener; a walk along the river downtown and Vicki’s going away party in Guelph; and seeing all my GTA friends one last time for a round of debauchery on the weekend.

It’s been interesting so far living in the van. Though I haven’t slept in it yet, it is my refuge during the day.  I’ve been stopping at mall parking lots for some reading time and going grocery shopping for different non-perishables/slow perishing items to store in the cooler in the back.
Friday I made my way to Toronto after Vicki’s party.  She was leaving Saturday but I had to get back in order to discuss tomorrow’s events with Nano and Sindy, whom where coming into town that night.


We met at a music bar near his condo in Mississauga to discuss the angle of the project and what we would need to record the show on Saturday at Einstein’s.

Einstein’s has been a great bar for myself and the band.  We’ve been on the rotation there since November of last year and enjoy playing every time.  It’s usually only a two hour show, but tonight we‘re playing all night.  Located right in front of the engineering building at U of T, this downtown spot can get crammed pretty fast on Fridays and Saturdays because of the loyal engineering following and the bar’s regulars.  The staff at Einstein’s keep the atmosphere of a neighbourhood bar with their warm charm and wit.


We got there pretty early to set up on Saturday.  The stage needed to be cleared and much equipment had to fit on this already small stage which has a bench bolted to it to boot.  I almost forgot Nano was there while I was setting up, he was setting up to.  He came to me halfway through organizing the stage and gave me a collar mic to put on so he could record the night through my conversations.  It took me a while to forget the mic was there.  Once Mike and Wayne showed up we did a quick sound check and we were ready to go.  The bar was filling in slowly as we started to play and had a great night all the way through.  I opened the show on my own and invited the rest of the band later to help finish off the acoustic set.  This is the style we always played at Einstein’s, a broken down acoustic trio.  It made the show easy and more laid back.  After the acoustic set was over we put on our electric faces and bluesed it up a few notches.

It was interesting to hear the band dynamic tonight.  The band was playing well, tight and hard….no sexual innuendos intended.  We all knew this would be our last time to pump out the songs for a while.  It sounded like we’d been rehearsing for this show when in actuality, we hadn’t played in over a month.  What I liked the most about Wayne and Mike was that they were not only great players who could really bring it in rehearsals, they were always able to improvise well live.  I have a tendency to not play the songs the same way all the time so this was crucial in auditions for the band.  Wayne brought in a classical background to the music.  It was a different dynamic to incorporate at first but Wayne’s a bass monster with his orchestrated bass lines, it really added a lot of depth to the music.  Mike, like myself, is more of a self taught musician.  Having played in grunge/rock bands and later psychedelic jam music, he brought in an energy that was unsurpassed.  Very tasty drum fills and consistency were the first things I noticed when we started playing.  It’s been interesting to see the band grow over the last years with Mike coming in earlier this year.  I am sad to be leaving them at a time when everything’s been going well but I know we’ll be playing together again in the future, if they’ll have me back that is!  

We played until 2 and tore down while enjoying a last call pint, thanks Jill!!  We loaded my equipment back in the van and took the opportunity to show some of my friends my newly built home.  Everyone seemed to have a good laugh at what I’d be spending the next few months of my life in.

The comments seem to all be the same… “You’re crazy Al!” ….and my answer stays the same too… “  I know!”

 

 

THANKSGIVING SUNDAY

October 11th, 2009 (Thanksgiving Sunday)

 

Sunday turned out to be a busy day for me.  Visiting my good friend Jill in the afternoon and saying goodbye to Tom as well, later in the evening.  I was happy to see them because Sunday everyone was celebrating Thanksgiving. I, on the other hand, was not having a home cooked meal that day.  I decided I should treat myself to a good dinner though so I went to Chalker’s Pub near my old apartment.  This little bistro is a little overpriced but the food is always great and therefore worth the extra dough.
Tom and I had to be at the apartment for 9 PM to meet with Nano and Sindy for the interviews with the band.  Nano and I thought it would be the best place because it was bare, it was still mine, there was more room than in my minivan, and I had painted a bright red wall we wanted to use as a backdrop for the shoot.

We got there a little early though, and since I had no furniture, we sat on the floor while waiting for everyone.  We laughed about the good old days in the Mississauga house and the past few years while having a smoke.  There is a running joke between Tom and I; Because Tom has helped with song writing and graphic design over the years, he’s always maintained that if I “hit it big”, as he says, he will sue me for millions of dollars…then I say that I’ll counter sue him for 2 packs of cigarettes and a lighter because we used to bum off each other so much haha.

Nano and Sindy got there right for 9 and got to work right away.  Tom did the first interview, giving a little context on what has been going on over the past few years with a bit of an insider’s point of view into my life and the work we‘ve done.  Wayne showed up not long after in his famous knitted sweater, I wanted to applaud him because nothing was more appropriate.  That sweater defined Wayne to the fullest, it’s green and knitted by him and looks like a Banff ski sweater.  It used to be a surprise as to what he would wear when showing up for a gig.  The best was our first gig at Einstein’s as a Duo, he showed up wearing that sweater and cords tucked into his green rubber boots because of the slushy weather we were having outside.  It didn’t matter what he wore though because his music always spoke louder than his appearance.  After Wayne’s interview was done, he needed to get to a family function, and like clockwork Mike walked in the door with his girlfriend Nadine.  I did my interview before Mike since we were already set up.  We were done with everything at around 1030 PM and now it was time for some play after all the gear was packed up.  I won’t go to deep into detail with the goings on of what was said because I’m hoping we’ll all get to watch it later.  I did take a few moments to say goodbye to my place/bachelor pad/Lyon’s Den one last time.  Nano got it on camera and we walked down the hall to give my keys to my landlord, Laverna.  We said our final goodbyes as well and that was it, I pulled away from the apartment for the last time….for real this time.

Nano, Sindy, Josh (Sindy’s brother), and I went for some drinks afterwards to celebrate the weekend’s endeavours well done.  We retired later in the evening at his condo where I did some laundry since he had coinless facilities!  They were set to head back home the next day so I wouldn’t see them until Thursday where I would do a show and workshop on Manitoulin island, but I‘m getting a little ahead of myself.

 

 

SLICE OF NORTH BAY

October 13-14, 2009

 

I decided to stay in Toronto a few extra days to get a home cooked meal in after all.  My cousin Nadine was having a dinner for Oliver, Costa, Lilly and I at her home in Brampton.  We were hosted all the customary fixings and shared a few bottles of wine.  It was a nice taste of home and memories.  I’ve been really nostalgic lately without knowing what the future holds, the past is what I’ve been able to appreciate mixed in with all these new memories we’re all sharing.

I left Toronto on Tuesday morning, headed northbound to North Bay.  My cousin Shayne and his long time girlfriend Holly were waiting on me to arrive.  The drive up north was great.  I think some people were angry with me on the road because I wasn’t blatantly defying speed limits as usual.  I was in no hurry, instead I soaked up the sun through the windows and blared my music as I rolled in to town.
Shayne was working the afternoon bus run when I got in so I did a bit of rearranging in my van before I went up to see Holly.  We went outside on the balcony and talked about my adventure, and caught up since the last time we’d seen each other was last year.  The view was great, overlooking the North Bay hill painted in a plethora of fall colors.

Shayne got in at around 4 o’clock.  I needed him to direct me to the nearest Canadian Tire so I could buy a headlight bulb for my van.  The front left headlight had burned out on me somewhere along the way.  After we did a little shopping we went to Cecil’s to grab a couple beers.  I hadn’t been in the bar yet and thought I should introduce myself before the show tomorrow. Supper still needed to be had though.  We called Topper’s Pizza, my favourite.  I hadn’t had Topper’s pizza since college in Sudbury.  Back when I was an omnivore, I used to get the Canadian Classic pizza with tons of their garlic dipping sauce on the side.  I remember buying a full ketchup bottle size off them for 2 bucks cause its the dipping sauce of the gods.

Later that night, one of Shayne and Holly’s good friends Furry came by.  I don’t know his real name but I doubt many people do.  A guitar player himself, Furry, Shayne, and I played a bit and took turns swapping guitars.  By the end of the night though, my sinuses were full.  I had again forgotten about my feline allergies.  Some cat’s don’t affect me but I could feel the presence of their three cats even after they had gone to bed.  I needed to get some antihistamines stat.  I disguised my allergies to Shayne and Holly as seasonal ones, I didn’t want to offend them, I was grateful to have a place to stay for the next couple days.

The next day I woke up to a large double double from Timmies.  Shayne had gone to work early in the morning and had come back coffee in hand.  We got the day started early and went downtown to get some footage of North Bay.  We walked downtown for a while then went for a drive around lake Nippissing and back out to the apartment.  I was to meet with an old friend from Kapuskasing in the afternoon so we could work out a song for the night.  I dropped Shayne off at home and headed out to my friend Junior’s house out on Trout Lake which he shares with his girlfriend Danielle.  Junior is a natural talent from my hometown, a singer,/songwriter and guitarist, we have much in common.  We had went to high school together and played music when we could.  Since I was playing in North Bay, I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to jam with a good musical influence of mine.  Junior had shown me that new songs could be written and could be good, that I didn’t always have to play songs off the charts for people to be interested.  Though he probably doesn’t know he had that impact, those words carried through once I started writing my own material later.

The show at Cecil’s was booked for 1030ish.  Before we headed out to the bar though, we had some friends over at the apartment.  Ash and Ash were a musician couple so we had a few pops before heading to the bar and shared some licks.  I do like playing a bit before a show to get my hands warmed up, like stretching before a run I can only assume.   Once I got there I heard that it only really started at 1045.  An odd start time indeed but I didn’t question.  I could do three 45 minute sets with 2 half hour breaks which would bring me exactly to 2am.  I set up and waited for the sound man to arrive so we could do a quick sound check.  Cecil’s is one of North Bay’s oldest establishments.  It has the original story on the wall where the owner used to sell a pint of beer for 5 cents and provided nightly entertainment by wrestling live bears at the bar.  I wasn’t expecting a bear wrestling crowd though, it was Wednesday night and reading week in North Bay.  Many friends of my friends were away at home taking advantage of their time off, but we had a good night regardless.  Some old compadres from the GTA were living in the area now and came out with their friends, as well as some surprise faces from the past.  So far I must say, Ontario has been a slice, reuniting with people from everywhere and every time in my life.

 

 

SWEET GRASS

October 15th, 2009

 

I wasn’t feeling too well when I got up and started getting ready for my drive to Manitoulin Island, I think I caught a cold somewhere along the way.  I was scheduled to play at a pub in Mindemoya but instead  organized a show and singer/songwriter workshop in M’Chigeng.  The Weengushk (Sweet grass) film school had organized the event and sent out invitations.
I got to the island later in the afternoon at around 3:30.  I stopped at a corner store for some refreshments and made my way to Nano’s place.  No one was there, Nano was working and Sindy was at school until 5:00.  I parked the van in the driveway and started doing some blogging.  I just realized I’m talking about writing a blog while writing the blog that I’m referring to…. Anyhow, I needed to kill some time, sitting in the passenger seat or as I like to call it, the “lazy boy” in my house/van.

After catching up on some journaling I thought I’d go visit the school and see everyone after seeing Blake, Nano’s father, who gave me directions to Weengushk.  Sindy was there amongst her other classmates, they and Ed, their professor, greeted me with a warm welcome as I walked in.  After introductions and talking about the plans that were in order for the evening I waited for school to be over and went to Seasons, the restaurant on M’Chigeng to grab a quick bite to eat before everything got started.  Sindy and I went to her and Nano’s place first to drop off my luggage before dinner.  Ed was meeting us there in a bit for a coffee and to chat.  He has had many successes over the years in the film industry, overlooking projects with CBC as well as having an acting career.  We shared some war stories from Toronto and headed back to the film school before 7:00PM in order to get the equipment set up for the performance.
It was my first time giving a workshop on what it is that I do I guess.  The cameras and lights were set and people were coming in for the show scheduled for 7:30.

Everyone in the room was very attentive as I sang and spoke about my songs, an always welcome treat.  Sometimes in a bar setting it’s harder to achieve that level of intimacy, especially on a Saturday night when you just want to get the people moving for a good time.  This evening was different though, first off it was Thursday and because of the workshop to come, I could tell they were analyzing the songs as I went through my set list.  Many of the students had questions after the show.  I was happy to answer all of them to the best of my ability.  Some of the questions they asked made me think about my craft in ways I hadn’t before.  One student asked, “ Do you think talent is merely natural or can one rise above it?”  I thought this was an interesting question, especially coming from someone entering a field driven by passion, the film industry.  Coming from a musical family was definitely a plus when learning how to play and sing.  My father, along with his brothers and sister all played an instrument or sang, having been taught by their mother, my grandmother.

I was a late bloomer though, only picking it up in my teens.  Natural ability can only take you so far, making it easier to innately understand some concepts, but without practice and drive it would be like knowing the equation to use in a math problem but never being curious about the answer.  I told him that yes natural talent is one aspect of developing any talent, but hard work and the discipline of honing in on your inspiration, whatever it may be, must be in place too.  I used to play until my fingers didn’t let me anymore, sometimes up to 6 hours a day, before breakfast, on my lunch hour in high school, and again in the evening…I couldn’t get enough.  Whatever it is that you love, do it, follow your bliss, don’t give up.  It’s not about being the best at what you do, it’s about personal growth, wanting to be better than the you that YOU were yesterday.

Once the evening was done, my cold was in full force, leaving me tired and hoarse throated.  We went back to Nano’s and relaxed for the rest of the evening.  We talked about the project and came to some interesting conclusions….though I can’t tell you everything 😛

Sault-Ste-Marie bound tomorrow!

 

 

SAULT-STE-MARIE TO KAP

October 16th-17th, 2009

 

I arrived in Sault-Ste-Marie, Ontario early evening today as I needed to stay on the island to do some shooting and finish up the arrangements for the Kapuskasing show with Nano’s parents.  Shirley and Blake were coming up on the Saturday to shoot the home show at the Sunshine.

My old time buddy Mark has been living in the Sault for the past few years and we haven’t had the chance to catch up since our college days in Sudbury.  We went to a Chinese buffet to fill our guts before a night out in the city.  We went to an upstairs lounge to catch Mark’s friend perform his first show as a solo and had a couple of beers.  The arena in front of the bar had just let out after a Greyhound game and the streets were flooded with pedestrians downtown.  It was Friday and everyone was ready for action it seemed.  Girls walking down the sidewalk with skirts on in close to minus weather and the guys all decked out with their neck bling and confident strutting.  The markets were open, everyone was out.
I met some people outside who invited us out to the Docks bar after we were done at the lounge.  Mark knew the place, it was an interesting design inside, half dance bar and half live music bar.  The dance bar had sticky carpeted floors and a mash pit of dancers while the other side was geared up with a top 40s rock band playing hits to the hefty crowd of dancers, loungers and billiard players.  As for Mark and I, rock side it was.  We listened to the band for a while and I had some drinks again, Mark was driving so we stayed long enough to listen to a set and headed back home.  I had a 7 hour drive in front of me in the morning plus the show at night.  I set my alarm for 8:30 the next day but played the snooze game for an hour until I remembered that I had a 7 hour drive in front of me and a show at night…  My stay in the Sault was short but well appreciated as I left town at 10:30 and headed down highway 17.

I had never driven this highway but heard about it’s breathtaking rolling hills alongside lake Superior.  It was a great day for driving, 5degrees and sunny.  I set up the camera to take some footage.  It’s interesting because the road leads you up many hills and, at the peak of the many climbs, you know you’re about to get a great view as you descend onto the other side.  I thought I’d be able to see a moose, or a bear, or any kind of wildlife but no such luck that day.  I needed to drive out to White River past Wawa to catch the connecting highway from 17 up to 11.  Just before getting in to White River there was an accident.  Police and Fire were left at the scene as I was redirected around the wreckage.  Someone had veered off the highway and down into the gulley below.  This highway is known for many tragedies and is not a place to lose focus while driving.

After Hornepayne, I finally made the turn onto highway 11 and had about an hour and a half eastbound drive left to Kap.  I had been listening to mixed Cds all  afternoon.  My friends have burned me a number of them for the road.  Very greatly appreciated at that because some of these lonely highways up here don’t have reception for a while as you go through the radio dead zones.  I called my father to let him know I was getting closer and asked if Blake and Shirley had reached him yet.  They were still on the road and had about two hours to go so we were making decent time.  I drove through Hearst, Mattice, Opasatika, Val-Rita, all small villages apart from Hearst being the second biggest town up North with a population of about 6000 people.  Kapuskasing has close to 8500 residents now, about 4000 less then when I grew up here because of the layoffs in the surrounding areas.  I made the right turn onto the Bonnieview, or as people in Kap know it, the farm road.  The experimental farm in Kapuskasing is where they test various foods and farming products before they hit the market.  Originally, the land was all forest but was cleared by prisoners of war during WWII as it used to be a POW camp.
I’ve always known it as the place where I used to go hand feed the cows as a child.  Needless to say, this right turn on the farm road always floods me with memories when I go back home.  I pulled into the driveway, took my guitar and suitcase out of the van and walked in.

 

 

HOMETOWN HOEDOWN

October 17-29th, 2009

 

Both my dad and my grandmother greeted me immediately when I got in.  My father helped my grandmother bring over my old desktop computer to her place as I unloaded some stuff from the van.  She wanted a computer to be able to keep up with these blog posts of mine and to get connected to the rest of the family.  I set up her Favorites for her, to ease the transition.  I even signed her up for a Facebook  account, yes my grandma is now on Facebook!

Dad and I relaxed for a bit and had a caesar while waiting for Blake and Shirley to get in. I was tired from the drive and needed to put my feet up for a while.  Dad started dinner once they got in and we had our introductions over some coffee.
After dinner we sat around for a while and talked and shared some old photos of me and of the music history within the family.  My father had some old newspaper clippings from his band which my cousin and I helped revive in the new millennium.  We didn’t have too much time to spare though, I was scheduled to start at 10 at the Sunshine and we needed to set up the lights, camera, and audio equipment.

We arrived at the Sunshine House and Tavern at 9 pm, both friends and family were already there in order to get a seat and table.  It was nice to see everyone.  Mickey, the bar owner, has been booking my family at his bar since before I was born.  We had him sign the release form to get that out of the way before setting up.  My cousin Denis Jr. was there with his wife Jen and his father Denis Sr.  Denis had driven from Timmins with the kids to come and see the show, though the girls would only be able to catch the Sunday jam the next day.  My good friend Amelie was there too with her cousin and friend and a slight glow on already :P.   Am was very influential for my writing when I lived in Kap.  Though I didn’t get in to song writing seriously until I moved away, she always encouraged my original material and the little bits of writing I had started with.  She’s a good friend with a great heart and a great guitarist for a husband, my good friend Adam who unfortunately couldn’t make it that night.
I started setting up the stage after the drop screen for the hockey game was rolled back up to the ceiling.  Blake and Shirley set up around me.  I tried to stay out of their way as much as possible so they could do their thing.  Once everything was ready I started the show by explaining to everyone that they were in a public place which has allowed us to shoot for the night and that they should be on their worst behaviour to help make this documentary interesting!  I hadn’t played a solo show in Kap for a while, it was fun to bring some of my new songs to the bar and to have an intimate night with everyone who’s been there from the start.
The highlight of the night I think was the last set.  I had a personal air guitarist dancing on the dance floor in front of me for about half an hour.   I found out later his name was Al, an old North Bay citizen who’d moved up to Kap not too long ago with his girlfriend Candice.  He was really enjoying the music and wanted to show the bar, he bought me a shot to further show his appreciation.  As I sang to the crowd for the rest of the evening, he danced for them and accentuated my guitar styling.  My dad and I joined him and Candice later on in the week for some drinks and some music as he did in fact play guitar and Candice sings.

The next day, Sunday, we had planned a jam for the early afternoon.  I wanted to get some footage of my family and I, as well as some family friends jamming in the kitchen the way we used to.  Around the kitchen table was: my father, Pierre Gendron, John Arnold, and my cousin Marc.  We played some traditional music and even did some of my songs with a bluegrass arrangement of instruments.  While living in the city, I often craved a good kitchen table jam.  Stage playing or playing in bars is one aspect of music, but a good no stress kitchen table ensemble is the times I’ve enjoyed jamming the most.   There’s something about not having a crowd, only the musicians which you’ve learned off of.  You get to share ideas, explore them, make a bunch of mistakes, stop the song, start it over again cause  you want to try something else, butcher it again and finally make it into a moment that will stick with you forever.  You’re not playing for people, you’re playing only for music.

Dad and I took advantage of our time together to jam often throughout the week, especially since we both didn’t know how long it would be before I’d be back.  I went about the town during the week, seeing everyone I could.  My grandmother took me shopping for some winter tires.  I was going to get really good all seasons but I don’t think this thrilled her, having been out west herself and knowing what the mountains can be like.  She brought me to a local tire store and had them put on the best winter tires they had.  I couldn’t of afforded such a luxury for myself on the budget I have, but she told me it was her donation to the Good Faith Tour.  They’re the type of tires that stay really soft even in freezing temperatures in order to grip the road.  Cheaper tires freeze up and become like skis on icy surfaces.  Her generosity didn’t stop there, she made me a fleece sleeve to put inside my sleeping bag, some home made soup for the road and different desserts she knew I enjoyed.  I felt like a kid again!!  No life responsibilities and treats from grandma.

On Thursday my so far seamless trip hit a bump on the proverbial road.  Scandal on the Good Faith Tour.  I received a letter in the mail from the ministry of transportation.  The letter informed me that my driver’s license had been suspended until I paid my overdue fine and 150$ reinstatement fee.  I was completely caught off guard.  Earlier in the year I had received a small fine for a 16km/h over  speeding ticket in Toronto on Allen road where the local police department sometimes have speed traps set up.  I was sure I had paid the ticket online and had completely forgot about the infraction.  To get my license back I had to pay the fine and reinstatement fee then wait 3-5 business days for it to be reissued.  I was set to leave Kap on Saturday and it was Thursday afternoon.  On top of things, the service Ontario workers were all on strike.  I made some phone calls so I could get the ticket number and to find out the web address for the online service available for Toronto offences.  I paid my fine and had my dad drive me in to town to the licensing bureau.  I explained the whole story and that I was travelling.  Sue was great, she gave me her phone number so I could call in to see if they had reinstated my license either Friday or Monday.

As of Monday I was licensed again.  I must say it does bother me that no warning letters were sent and that I had just reinstated my plates for another two years about 3 weeks prior.  The letter they sent me saying my licence was suspended only arrived on the 21st of October and stated that my licence was under suspension as of the 13th.  I don’t understand how this could make sense to anyone….but anyhow…on with the story.

Being without a vehicle was very different for the days ahead.  My father lives in the country, about 5 kms out of town with nothing but an open field and highway leading in.  I decided one night that I’d go walking and kill some time.  I got dropped off at the Tim Hortons, grabbed a double double and started my trek.  I walked 15 kms that night.  I had nowhere to be and much time on my hands.  I did the traditional loop around town.  I even walked my old high school route for the fun of it.

My grandma on my dad’s side didn’t live too far from school and I’d often walk to her place for lunches.  As I passed in front of her old place I thought it’d be cool to retrace my steps and see the edifice which moulded my young mind.  I cut through the track and field area and snuck out behind the arena to continue the loop.  I walked back around to the golf course and stopped in at the Sunshine to see if anyone was out….they weren’t.  I had a drink regardless and talked to the bartender for a while until I decided to continue my walk.  I took off in the opposite direction from my previous trek and walked along the river this time, through the residential neighbourhood and past my elementary schools.  So many memories came flooding back, memories well stored but not forgotten I guess.  Seeing my old friends houses and remembering my formative child’s play like steeling crab apples and throwing them at each other or houses.  Walking down by the river and jumping the rocks across the shallow water rapids.  You forget these little things sometimes when life get’s in the way with responsibilities and a busy city schedule.
I continued behind the hospital and took a non-lit dirt road which would take me out again into a residential area.  That back road was so dark I couldn’t tell where I was placing my feet, by this time it was almost 11.  I could feel I was running a little low on energy and needed something to eat.  I hadn’t had much for dinner and felt my sugar dropping.  I stopped in at the corner store for some snacks and something to drink.  I continued the walk home which would be another 7 kms. Oddly enough, I’ve always had the creepy blessing of streetlights going out above me as I walk under them.  My friends in college called me Powder because it would happen on our walks through Sudbury too.  I counted 5 in Kap that night.
When I got home I was in need of a good lower body stretch.  My legs and ankles were a little sore but I thought it would be a good breaking in for the walking I’m planning to do throughout the communities along the way.  My dad was up and ready to jam so we played guitar and sang until 3 am and called it a night.

During the week my grandmother and I went for a ride in the bush.  She loaded up her truck with her rifles, some coffee and some lunch.  We didn’t see anything but spent the morning talking and catching up.  She made homemade pork and beans, minus the pork, for the hunt.  She’s an outdoors enthusiast: cottaging, hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, gardening.  A few years ago I was deeply impressed after she informed the family that she had shot her first bull moose with her hunting crew.  She has a picture of her holding the 60 inch rack with her nails done up, earrings on, and make up done.

One afternoon my father and I went to the Cedar Grove Retirement Home to see his aunt and uncle and play some songs for them.  It was really nice to see them and to share some stories since both my great uncle and my grandmother on my father’s side, which has passed, we’re both fiddlers.  On my lunch visits through high school my grandmother would take the time to teach me traditional fiddle songs on guitar which she had learned from her father and her uncles.  She wanted to pass them on to keep the tradition alive and asked me to do the same one day when I have children of my own.  Music is the family legacy on my father’s side and she expected me to do my part.  I played a few that day for old times sake and to share the musical memories with mon oncle Leon and ma tante Therese.

All and all I wanted to take advantage of my extended stay to catch up with everyone who had the time.  Dinner with great friends, music jamming with my cousins and musicians from around town, and quality time with my dad and grandmother.  I was in Kapuskasing for 12 days until I left for Thunder Bay, Thursday, October 29th, which was holding some new friends and experiences for me.

 

 

ROCKING NEXT TO THE SLEEPING GIANT

October 29th-31st, 2009

 

I left Kapuskasing on Thursday to keep making my way west to Thunder Bay.  It was mid-morning when I departed and my grandmother had made some homemade soup and goodies for the road.  I was also traveling with tasty peanut butter cookies, baked by my good friend Mel Boulianne.  Her grandmother had made these tasty treats for me before at the Sutton Bay Bluegrass Festival when I was a teenager as the band had attended and played when I was with Nothing In the Crib.  I had taken such a liking to them that my gluttony had been remembered.  I felt freedom set in again as I took the open road.  Listening to cds which had been made for me by Pierre.  He put together a 12 disc box set of new music for me to check out.  I haven’t gone through it all yet since I’m still hung up on the Steeldrivers, I like to think of them as a “bluesgrass” band, check them out!

I rolled past the many villages on the way to Hearst and took the time to appreciate civilization as I knew it would be a while after Hearst before I saw any sign of this on my way to T-Bay.  The day was overcast with some light drizzling.  It was surprisingly warm that day too, with temperatures having been close to or under the 0 mark throughout the last few weeks, it was 9 degrees that day.  I fuelled up in Hearst and drove the remaining 5 hours to my destination.  Matt and Sara, my hosts, had sent me their address so I could plug it in the GPS.  I found my way to their house at around 5pm.  Matt had lived at the Guelph house on McElderry which had been host to many a good get togethers for my friends and I in the GTA.  The last time I visited the Guelph house, my friend Marc informed me that Matt and his girlfriend Sara were now living in Thunder Bay and that he’d hook me up so I’d have a place to crash and shower.
Matt was making Dahl for dinner that night, a very tasty Indian lentil and spice dish.  I acquainted myself with my generous hosts over dinner and we shared some traveling stories.

Matt has visited the many parts of the world including India, Malaysia and Thailand, just to name a few during his time spent backpacking.  Sara had done the same method of travel through North America and were therefore both very understanding to the journey I am embarking on.  They shared an excitement for me as I told them that I hadn’t been much past Fort Frances, Ontario and was about to discover this vast country for the first time in this way.

Later that evening, I had made arrangements to meet with Frank Loffredo, a promoter in the area.  This contact had been given to me through my cousin Denis as he had gone to school in Thunder Bay and pulled a few favours for me from his friends still living in the area.

Sara had to work early in the morning so Matt accompanied me to show me the downtown core and to have a beer at Jack‘s where I was to meet Frank.  There was one thing I had forgotten about the aspect of booking a surprise show in Thunder Bay that weekend, my travels and adulthood had blinded me to the holiday, it was Halloween weekend.  It hit me, all venues in the area will have been booked for weeks if not months in advance for the fashion show that was about to hit the streets Saturday.  I spoke with Frank about trying to get me on the bill if someone was to call in sick but he was doubtful of this type of occurrence.  He did send me to the Definitely Superior Art Gallery the next day to better my chances of getting in.  They were the organizers of the three bar, multi-band line-ups which were going on during the weekend, the Halloween March.  They also informed me that they were booked solid and that they also doubted cancellations as it is one of the biggest downtown events of the year.  I walked around the gallery for a bit, looking at the world class art displayed.  I found a moment of hope as I stumbled upon two Robert Farmer pieces.  I was sure this was a sign.  Robert Farmer was an artist I’d met while cottaging in the Kawarthas this summer with my drummer Mike and his friends.  His art can best be described as the nightmares a 6 year old mixed with special appearances of popular junk foods.  Strange I know, but extremely well portrayed if you look him up later, after reading this blog.  🙂

I knew I had to find a way in to the scene.  As I exited the gallery, I saw a music store just up the road, The Music Place.  I walked in and made friends with the staff as I tried a few guitars around the store, May and Arley were working and informed me of a few open jams that were happening around the city as well as a few venues I might want to check out after this weekend.  I headed back to Matt and Sara’s and waited for them to get back home from work.  We went out for some Thai food downtown, delicious, and drove around town for a bit before retiring back to the homestead.

The next day was Halloween and Sara was on call at the hospital as one of the resident physicians here, so Matt and I decided we’d join the party downtown.  We paid a 10 dollar cover charge at the Black Pirate’s Pub which would cover us for the night as the stamp was good for Jack’s and Kilroy’s as well.  The costumes were interesting.  Paper bag Princesses, a giant jellyfish, a 7 foot tall gorilla holding a cage with the owner of the suit inside the cage….the list goes on, and well of course there were the many girls walking around in fishnets and short skirts too.

I was truly impressed with the music scene in Thunder Bay so far.  The BPP had a rock atmosphere as they went through the line-up.  One band that stood out was The Auditor General.  The singer looked like he was dressed up as Milton from Office Space, sporting a comb over with glasses and a moustache but denied this when questioned.  The band had great tone and chemistry.

I had brought the video camera downtown so Matt and I walked the streets for a while capturing all the costumes.  I unfortunately was not dressed up but no one seemed to notice since I was wearing my fedora andhad a camera, people were walking up to me asking if my costume was that of a camera man, to which I sheepishly agreed.  As we were getting ready to bring the camera back to the car, we met a group of friendly people.  One of them was dressed up as the“Stay Buff “ Marshmallow man.  We made friends with the group and joined them at Kilroy’s for a few.  It turns out some of them were art students and had made the costumes for the clan.  One of the girls was from Australia and just visiting for a few weeks, while others had jobs here in Thunder Bay or were going to school.  I questioned them about the city and informed them of my travel plans as well.  Kilroy’s was also a rock bar, on the heavier side of the rock spectrum though, which is not necessarily my cup of tea but I was impressed at the talent on stage nonetheless.

After Kilroy’s we decided to go and end the night at Jack’s.  The bar was so packed that people were crawling underneath or climbing overtop of tables to get around.  The band was on fire, a groovy, rootsy, bluesy, rock combination seemed to be the main influence of these players though I can’t recall the band name now.  It was more my type of scene and the rest of the group concurred, so we stayed till two.

I heard later during the week that a total of 600 musicians comprised the bands filling the bills on Halloween night in Thunder Bay.   I had just walked into a huge music scene with 50 active bands residing in the area.  I had my work cut out for me in the week lying ahead.

 

 

COLOSIMOUS ENCOUNTERS

November 1st -3rd, 2009

 

Sunday wasn’t filled with too much action. I did check out a used book store to get a few books for the road.  I bought Nineteen Eighty-four, a book recommended to me by Matt and a few other selections including the Alchemist.  I have much time for reading now that I don’t have a place to be during the day.  I spent some time reading at a scenic overview of the city at Memorial Park.  At this stop along High street, you can see most of Thunder Bay looking towards lake Superior.  The Sleeping Giant is at it’s best view including a light house and break wall in the distance.

After I closed my book I decided to go for a ride around the downtown area and see if I could get lost.  I did for a while but soon found myself on Memorial heading back towards the downtown core.  To my surprise I passed a music store named Colosimo’s Music.  I had been there before, 8 years prior when I bought my first guitar, which is still my stage guitar today, the Taylor.  I turned around and decided to go in and see what kind of instruments they were holding now.  Of course, hanging on the back wall are the new edition Taylors.  I tried my hands at a few of them, a 310 cutaway series, the newer version of my own and a 512ce which is a more expensive model that plays like butter.  One of the store clerks stopped and informed me that if I was looking to buy it that I should wait for the weekend since everything in the store would be sold at half off.  I informed him I was just passing through town and stopped in to check out the music store where I had bought my first guitar, he then told me he could make an exception and sell it to me now at half off….still, with the sale it would have brought the price down to 2200$.  I couldn’t afford it on tour but thought it was nice of them to offer the deal in advance to a traveler.  I kept playing some other axes for a while and saw a young lady walk in, about my age.  She was shopping and testing out guitars as well.  I made my way closer, I still hadn’t met any musicians in Thunder Bay and what better place than a music store.  I asked her what she was looking for and if she had in fact tried one of the back beauties I had just finished playing with.  Her name was Suzy, she was looking for an semi-hollow guitar but I swayed her into at least trying the guitars in the back so she could see the difference between what she was trying. 

We talked for a while and I informed her I was from out of town and what I was doing in Thunder Bay.  She herself had just gone across Canada this summer, playing at open mics and writing some material of her own after a long stay at a remote lodge in BC.  She told me that she would be performing at the University on Wednesday at the Study and that I should sign up as well.  I didn’t know where the University was in town, but since she was writing an exam at 1 o’clock, she offered to have me follow her and to show me to the lounge.  I signed up for 9:00PM on Wednesday.  Suzy was definitely the right person to meet.  We made arrangements to go for coffee that night so I could meet some of her musician friends from the area as well.

That evening we met at Caleco’s, a privately owned coffee shop.  We didn’t stay for long though, as some of the people I was intended to meet were waiting at the bar.  We walked in and sat down at a table with four others.  Suzy introduced us and told them I had a story to share.  Jamie, Denis, and Kris were all representing different sectors of the local media.  I told them what I was doing and received three business cards in order to set up an interview.  Later, Melody walked in, Suzy’s friend which Suzy was set to perform with on Wednesday.  We were going to her place to jam a few songs and meet more people again.  I did snicker when she told me her name was Melody and that she was a trained singer.  Her father loved music and between her and her brother, Melody was her father’s name pick.  I followed her up the hill and up to her place.  Her brother Lucas’ band was playing in the garage so we set up in the living room inside.  Jamie also came out as he’s a local musician, who, looked very familiar.  I realized it wasn’t Halloween anymore and he was out of character, he had been Milton, the lead singer for The Auditor General which I had seen at the Black Pirate Pub on the weekend.  We all jammed for a few hours that night and shared some drinks, some laughs, some song, and the beginnings of friendships.  Both Melody and Suzy have very soulful voices, powerful. They sang back-ups on some of my songs and shared a few of their own as well.  Jamie also showed his versatility and strength as both a singer/songwriter and interpreter of folk and other genre favorites.


I offered Jamie a ride home since he was on foot.  He told me I should follow him in since his roommates owned a studio which they’d built inside the three story house he was communally sharing with 5 other roommates.  As I walked in, I met with Dave, the owner of the house.  He gave me the grand tour.  Our first stop was the recording room on the main level, then the control room in the basement.  I won’t go into too much detail as everything is still under construction but I will say, keep your ears open about Dining Room Studios in Thunder Bay. 
They are building the biggest studio set up between Winnipeg and Toronto.  I’ve seen quite a few recording spaces in the last few years but nothing to this degree.  We chatted about his plans for the house as showed me the blueprints of what everything will look like once completed.  Dave is a guy who after you meet him, you feel like you’ve known him your whole life, plus he looks like the Allan character from the movie the Hangover, for the movie enthusiasts.  He’s a do-er, not someone who likes to waste time or have his time wasted.  I hadn’t realized it was getting late, it was 5 am.  Dave offered me one of the couches in the living room, I was appreciative as I wasn’t going to walk in to Matt and Sara’s this early in the morning, I would of just slept in the van.  I asked him if he had some free time in the studio this week, since I was in town I thought it’d be awesome to lay down some tracks of my own stuff.  I had come into town on the perfect week, the swine flu had taken some of the musicians on the scene by storm and were some cancellations due to this.  He fit me in for the next day and offered to record one of my songs for free and to bring in another engineer for the project, Ian, one of the head engineers on their team.

I woke up the next day and ran out to do some errands.  Once I got back to Matt and Sara’s I did the shower and shave thing and changed the strings on my guitar.  I also needed to contact the guys who’d offered me their card from the night before in order to set something up.  We agreed on Wednesday, Jamie and I would meet up in the afternoon for an interview while Kris and I would take advantage of the Study show at night.

Later in the afternoon, I went back to Dave’s to get ready for some tracking.  He made dinner for us all first and then set up in the recording room.  I like the feeling of being live off the floor lately.  We set up the vocal mic and mic’d up the guitar.  I didn’t want a click track in order to just feel the song, so after a few line checks with Ian, he hit the record button and we did some takes until we found the performance we were looking for.  There’s a lot that goes into the production of a song after it’s been recorded.  Dave and Ian are great at this and showed me as they brought my song to life.  Mixing and mastering took a while and I had to leave before they were done.  I was to go practice a few songs for the show tomorrow with Melody and Suzy and their friend Kyle.  After practice, I received a text from Dave at 2 am saying it was almost done if I could come by and listen to it.  I drove back to the studio and walked in to the control room as they were playing my song.  It just sounded huge, everything accentuated nicely, I was really happy with the outcome.  I will be posting the song on the website shortly so please check in 🙂


Dave burned a cd and we tested it in various stereos and decided to go for a car ride to listen to it on that type of stereo as well.  I asked Dave if he minded me crashing on a couch again since it was again 5 am by the time we wrapped everything up.  He didn’t mind, but this time he set me up in the best couch of the house, the one in the recording room. A tear almost came about as I realized one of my musical dreams had come true…sleeping in a studio on the recording room couch!!  😛

 

 

Q&A & THE STUDY + GARGOYLES

November 4th – 6th, 2009

 

I woke up extremely refreshed that morning, the sweet smell of musical instruments and lingering inspiration was in the air as I moved the drum floor tom out of the way to get off the couch.  We were scheduled for breakfast at 10 am at Cousin’s restaurant just outside of town.  Dave claimed it was the best 4$ breakfast around so I couldn’t turn down that opportunity.   I did need to get back to the house afterwards though and take advantage of the laundry facilities before the night’s show at The Study.  I hadn’t done any since I’d left Kapuskasing and my selection was running thin.  I also had to meet with Jamie for the interview in the afternoon, try and find a place to play for the weekend and be at Lakehead U. for 8:30pm.  After the interview was over I rushed back to pick up Sara who was done working for the day and needed to do something human after a long night shift.  We went to Gargoyles downtown, I’d received a few leads during the week.  After a brief meeting with the owner, Doug, the gig was booked for Friday night.  I informed him of the nature of the tour and he said he would accommodate me accordingly.  I didn’t question as this is the intent of the Good Faith Tour.  All I knew was to be ready to start at 8:30pm Friday.

Sara and I went back to the house to get Matt and make plans for dinner.  We went down to the Hoito restaurant as we had been cooking all week and decided to treat ourselves to some good Finnish food, as a side note though…Sara had been cooking the best all week.  The Hoito is famous for it’s pancakes served all day long which Sara enjoyed while Matt had an 8oz burger and I had some poutine.

We went back home and I got ready to head out.  I had only been to the U. once to sign up but found my way back pretty quickly.  A good thing too, when I got there they informed me that someone had only played a 10 minute set and that they were running acts about 20 minutes ahead of time.  A local talent played a few songs before I went up in order to buy me some time since I wasn’t ready.  I had a belly full of grease and cold fingers from the weather outside which was below zero with an added wind chill factor.  Suzy and Melody showed up before I took the stage and informed me that Kyle was sick and couldn’t make it out but that Jamie would come up with us and do a few in the later set of the night.

I played a half hour set, I did a few staple songs like Flying and Living for Tomorrow and to my surprise an old high school friend walked in, Natalie.  We had gone to high school together and she had found out through her aunt Lucie that I was playing that night.  It was a pleasant surprise to see a familiar face on the road.  After my time was up, Kris was waiting for me to do the interview for the Chronicle Journal.  I greeted Natalie and her friend Jamie but told them I’d be right back after the interview.  I was eager to see what questions he wanted to ask as the article was to run in Monday’s paper.  We went to a back room and started discussing some of the logistics of the tour and the success of the project thus far.  He questioned me about my musical background and the reason for the tour.  He also wanted to know about the bartering I’d been able to pull off so far and the places I’d visited along the way to Thunder Bay.  The interview went well, Chris was prepared and professional.

After it was done I realized it was almost time for me to get back up on stage and finish the night off with Melody and Suzy.  We had some technical difficulties with Sue’s guitar though, the pick-up wasn’t working.  She had an XLR input which we also tried but to no avail.  We hunted for batteries as we thought it could be the problem, it wasn’t.  Then, the night’s host finally found us another microphone in order for us to simply mic the guitar.  I gave Suzy my Taylor so she could plug in and I played her guitar since I was a little more used to playing with a mic instead of direct line input.  After the technical difficulties were taken care of, the songs went off without a hitch.  We opened the set by sharing parts in Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason” song.  Suzy had all eyes forward on a folk song she’d prepared and Melody charmed the audience with a soul swaying version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.  Jamie came up and graced the stage with a few numbers as well, including one of his original songs.  I wish I had a CD of his to tell you which one it was….let me get back to you guys on that.

After the set, I went back to the table where my friend Matt was and invited him to meet the girls which had surprised me.  We sat, had a drink and re-acquainted ourselves, Natalie has been working as a midwife for the past few years and I informed her of all that happened since 2003 in the amount of time a beer would allow.  She invited us back to their place for a glass of wine and to catch up some more so we did indeed go, a glass of red was poured for all and we continued to share stories.  After my 5am recording stint from the night before though, I was getting sleepy and decided to call it a night pretty early.  Matt also had to work the next day so we headed up the road and back to the house.

I had a good night’s sleep again and spent the day doing some cleaning, some reading and some blogging.
Friday night I headed down to Gargoyles for 8pm.  I had informed the people I’d met during the week about the show and a group of them were set to come and watch.  Gargoyle’s is more of an upscale dining/lounge establishment.  Keeping true to it’s name, it has gargoyles perched all around the dining area as you look to the ceiling.  The staff cleared the upper tier dining area for me to set up the equipment and after a few minutes the stage was set.  I played from 8:30pm to midnight that night, for diners, people walking in for a drink and to my new found friends which came to see me perform.  Suzy was the first one to arrive with her friend Nicole.  After I finished my final set, my table of friends called me over so I could clarify a few things.  I realized that all my new found acquaintances were sitting together and did not know each other, the only binding thread had been I; and, I was up playing all night.  Dave was there with Chris and Ian, Natalie with Jamie, Matt with Sara, Suzie with Nicole all sitting in a booth at the end of the night.  It did make me smile because though I’ve been getting the opportunity to make new friends along the way, it was nice to see that other new friendships were also being formed.

After the show, Chris, Dave, and I crossed the street and went to Chris’ band’s jam space.  Some band mates and friends were there so we sat around and chatted for a while and then decided to jam some grooves.  We played for a bit and ended the night with a game of foosball.  Chris and Dave wished me good luck on my travels and gave me some pointers for crossing this country as they have done it before and faced winter’s sometimes harsh elements through the prairies and mountains.


I left the space, got back to the van and drove back to Matt and Sara’s for one last night on their welcoming couch.

 

 

ARRIVIN’ IN DRYDEN

November 7th -11th, 2009

 

I woke up a little sad this morning because it was with mixed feelings that I was leaving my friends Matt and Sara and everyone who had been great for me in Thunder Bay. It was a grand and sunny day outside the home which had been my first true stop outside of my comfort zone along the way to the wild wild west. Sara walked in to the living room and asked me what kind of morning it was….I was a little groggy and couldn’t muster up an answer fast enough before she said “It’s a Nina Simone kinda morning.” She pulled our her CD sleeve dropped in Nina’s work and the first song on the agenda, “Feeling Good”. I didn’t know if this was because it was sunny outside or if it was because I was leaving..I’ll let you be the judge!

We needed eggs for the pancakes she was making so her and I ran to the corner store to get some while Matt held the fort down in the kitchen. The weather outside was remarkably warm for a November morning. It was well above the freezing mark, around 12 degrees, I didn’t even wear a jacket to the store since the sun was shining down and the air was still. A perfect day for driving. I had about 3 and half hours of highway straddling ahead of me but because of the time change it would only look like 2 and a half.

I found out that today was also Matt’s birthday, I was giving him the best birthday present ever and one I could afford at that, an empty house for him and Sara! We had breakfast together, a nice assortment of pancake toppings were prepared and set on the table. Sara had made some warm apple spread, brought out a jar of home made jam, some brown sugar, whip cream, some melted butter and lime juice. It was a perfect start to November’s lucky seven and my trip to Dryden.

As I left we waved goodbye and I was off into the sunset like a cheesy western movie, it was a good feeling to be on the road again though. I was anxious to see what the Riverview Lodge in Dryden would bring that night. I was also going to be treated to a lodge room of my own. I heard of the RVL through a passer by at the Music Place earlier in the week and had contacted them to set it up.

There isn’t much between Thunder Bay and Dryden, unless you count the trees. There are a few villages along the way including Ignace where I stopped for gas. Again the drive did not bring forth any wildlife but was still scenic the whole way in. As I was driving in to town, around supper time, it was getting dark fast. I looked down at the clock on the console of my van, which I had set back properly, it was only 5pm. I couldn’t believe it was getting dark this fast, though we are headed quite quickly in time towards the winter solstice.

Dryden reminded me much of Kapuskasing, a mill town with about the same population of 8500 residents. The difference with Dryden was that it’s much more commercialized with fast food chains, grocery store chains, everything chains along the highway it seemed. In town, or downtown Dryden if you will, is host to more privately owned shops but I can imagine that in these times, one must feel it in their pockets as a private merchant, like any small community in northern Ontario. The story seems to be the same everywhere I go, about the mill towns in the north.

I found my way to the lodge and was greeted with the key to my room and a quick tour of where I’d be playing for the night. I brought in my belongings and headed straight for the room. I was feeling tired and wasn’t quite ready to meet everyone just yet, I needed a few moments to lay down. I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the door. The lodge rooms were extremely spacious with wood ceilings, a couch, a full size dinner table and chairs, a queen size bed, a few comfy chairs and internet access. It was nice to have my own private space for the night. Though I enjoy the company of my hosts it’s nice to walk out of the bathroom after having a shower and lazy around in my boxers and a 🙂 from time to time.

After I settled myself in to my quarters, I walked back to the lobby and into the dining area to have a bite to eat. I hurried through a plate of delicious nachos as I’d been craving this treat for a while. I than ran out to the van and brought in the equipment I’d need for the night. The staff at the lodge were very welcoming. Jordan, one of the owners, met me as I was eating to welcome me and to have a proper introduction as we had spoken on the phone. Christine, who was waiting on me, stayed the whole night to enjoy the music and so did Jamie, the funny chap behind the bar, who is the son of the other partners for the lodge. Jamie even called in some reinforcements for the show and invited me over to meet his friends later in the week. As I was setting up the equipment, I started up conversation with the table next to me, Zack and Andrea. When they found out through conversation that I was originally from Kapuskasing, they told me that their friend Danica and her fiance were living here now. Danica was an old friend/acquaintance from Kap that I hadn’t seen since I left. Andrea and Zack were to meet up with them that night so I asked them to tell Danica I was playing in town.

Danica and Brian showed up together a little later in the night. They invited me to stay the night tomorrow after my lodge invitation was to expire, though I would end up staying 4 nights in the end. I continued the show and unplugged the equipment for the last set. We were left with a table of comrades including Jamie, Richelle, Suzan, Christine and her husband, a chap who kept requesting the song “Fishing In the Dark” and Dr. Hough, from South Africa, who was in the area setting up forest fire detection camera systems. It was a great night and when the fun did have to end I packed up quickly and retired to my room where I immediately fell asleep.

The next day I met up with Brian and Danica at their place. We were going to cook supper but were invited to Andrea and Zack’s new place on Wabigoon lake. They had a house warming party the night before and were having a dinner tonight for everyone. We were greeted by Andrea’s family, the Rapindas, and enjoyed a feast. The rest of the week at Danica’s and Brian’s was great. They have a four bedroom home in the country with a barn, silo, and deer in the backyard. Both educators on First Nation settlements in the area, Danica teaches early childhood education while Brian does adult-ed. During the day, when they were at work, I played guitar for Savvy the dog and took the time to catch up on emails. At night, we listened to music, caught up on the years passed and enjoyed some red wine.

On Wednesday, Danica was off due to Remembrance Day. I wanted to go for a walk behind the house to the tree line and explore a little. We ended up crossing the field, the forest behind it, and walking along a lake. The road that led around the lake was decorated with immense homes and well kept yards. It was a nice day again, it feels like winter forgot to get started this year. I don’t want to jinx it but at the same time it doesn’t feel natural; but, while travelling across the country this fall, I’ll take it!

 

 

FEDORA IN KENORA

November 12th – 15th, 2009

 

Thursday morning came and it was time to leave. I woke up and did some laundry before hitting the road. I was to meet Jamie and Richelle at the Riverview Lodge for a last meal in Dryden before making the short trek to Kenora. I was only set to play tomorrow though, Friday, which is when my hotel room was booked for. I was heading a day early without a place to stay. The reason for my premature departure you ask? I had to meet with CJBN-TV. Shelley Bujold had reached me through my website, after reading the article in the Chronicle Journal from Thunder Bay, and wanted to do a segment on the Good Faith Tour for the show that she produces, Points North.

We met with her camera man at a local coffee shop in town on Main St. We did the interview and I played a song, Flying, for the camera. It was a great experience. By the time we wrapped up it was almost dinner time. It wasn’t too cold outside, around 5 degrees by late afternoon, but it had been raining all day and I was either stuck in the van or had to go in somewhere in order to stay dry. I decided I’d celebrate the interview by going to get a good meal. I walked into Hap’s Pub and had a veggie burger platter there. I asked around about the town to find out what I should see or do during my stay. There wasn’t much it seemed during the off season as the town itself really only thrives during the summer months for fishing and tourism. I spent the evening reading in my van for a while under a street light and decided I’d go out for a drink a little later to see if anyone was out. To my surprise, I met up with Mike Rapinda. He was out with some friends. Mike was Andrea’s brother from Dryden, we had dined at their place just earlier that week. We played a few games of pool with everyone and I headed off to find a place to sleep. It was still reasonably warm outside so I set up the back of the van and parked in a well lit area, next to a few other overnight cars which probably belonged to the overnight staff at the mall.

I had set my alarm for the morning, but Friday afternoon was when I opened my eyes to the day. The van bed is too comfortable and extremely dark. I never heard the alarm because I had forgotten to to turn the ringer back up on the phone. It was good to get a good night’s sleep again though. I would be rested for the show. I went to the bar in the afternoon hoping the room would be available and I could sneak in for a shower and to get ready. Pam had been ready for me. The reservation was made and with a quick phone call at 2pm she informed me I could go anytime. We finished our introductions and plans for the evening and I drove to the Days Inn to offload some luggage and to groom myself. I had internet connection, my own bed and room again. A pot of coffee was brewed and I got to work catching up on emails. It’s funny how even after only a few days, they really add up! Mix that in with texting, blogging, MSN, and Facebook and you’ve got yourself a virtual day planned in itself!

I showed up before the dinner rush at the Cornerstone Pub to set up the equipment. The staff was great and helped me with moving the tables and chairs out of the way and serving me a delicious meal. The opening act was a tomato basil soup with garlic bread. The main act was fresh walleye and dill roasted potatoes. Their performance left a soft spot in my stomach for them.

After dinner, just before the show, a young man walked in with a guitar on his back. He had seen the live entertainment sign outside and was asking about who was playing. I told him I’d be playing tonight. He didn’t stay long and as he walked out I saw he was wearing moccasins. The show went well with an early dinner crowd and a later party crowd which included much of the staff and their friends. I played from 8 till midnight that night and we arranged for me to play and stay again tomorrow.

On Saturday I went for a ride around town and around the Lake of the Woods. It was really scenic along the lake as the area hosts many hills and scenic overlooks of the town. I did notice one thing though. Walking around town, I was definitely the only person wearing a fedora in Kenora. In small towns, people can pick you out as an outsider almost immediately even without head attire. I went back to the hotel room for a while and got ready for the show.

When I got to the Cornerstone to set up again I noticed the staff was feeling a little rough from the night before, as I was, but were ready for another night. I played again to a more modest crowd but enjoyed the evening just the same. Halfway through the night, the moccasin man showed up again, guitar on his back as he was the night before. His name was Charlie and was a great musician himself which he demonstrated outside as he sang me and Buddy from the bar one of his songs. He was headed to Winnipeg the next day and asked me what my plans were. Since I was heading there too he asked if he could just jump in with me. We made plans to leave for 2pm in the afternoon. I had a feeling that it would lead to something interesting when we got to Winnipeg as he seemed to be informed of the scene there and wanted to hit up a blues jam when we got into town. He left shortly after and I finished off the evening and graciously thanked the Cornerstone for having me. Pam and her staff had been more than generous and accommodating. After the night was done. We said our goodbyes and arranged for another stop on my way back.

Sunday I woke up in time to shower and check out. I had an breakfast at the hotel and waited for Charlie’s phone call to find out where to pick him up. He was going to be staying in town at a friend’s house since he lived just outside of Kenora. I caught up on some reading again until my phone rang. It was 2 o’clock. He was waiting for me at the Cornerstone and was ready to leave. I drove by the pub and he hopped in. We stopped for gas and for some reserves for the road and said goodbye to Kenora as we passed the city limit sign. I was excited to leave Ontario headed west for the first time. Our initial conversations and introductions lead me to believe that Winnipeg was going to be interesting to say the least. As Joni Mitchell would say: “You just picked up a hitcher, a prisoner of the white lines on the free way.

 

 

MANITOBA FRONTIER

November 15th-20th, 2009

 

On our way to the border, I told Charlie what I was doing and asked him to help with some camera work from time to time. We stopped at the border. I wanted to celebrate a little with the Manitoba sign since it would be my first time west of Ontario. I walked up to the sign and felt only grateful that my first trip to the mountains would be because of music. It would allow to meet great people along the way, share some music and build long lasting friendships while seeing my country in all it’s respects.

Charlie’s an interesting character when you first meet him. He is well travelled, especially by way of the thumb. Playing music and gathering experiences wherever he goes, he’s based out of Minnaki and does construction work when he’s home. When away, you could find him out west or down in California enjoying the weather. Meeting musicians and eccentrics wherever he goes, stories are not what he lacks.

It was dinner time when we got in to Winnipeg. Charlie knew some family friends which he wanted to visit while we were in town so we stopped in to say hi. We were welcomed with a warm meal and a glass of delicious homemade wine. The view from the windows were amazing. Twenty-five storeys up, I could see most of Winnipeg. I looked at a map to situate myself and try and gain an understanding for the city from my crow’s view. I soon found out that Winnipeg consists of many one ways and does not operate on a grid system at all so my efforts were futile. I would be GPS-ing it that night as we found our way to the Times Change Cafe on main street.

This was the jam Charlie had talked about. The longest running blues jam in Winnipeg, hosted by Big Dave Maclean. It is a private club but after a once in a lifetime fee of 10$, your set. We walked in and I could see housecoats hung on the walls. People could just grab one if they wanted one and lounge out for the night. The bar was a true blues joint with low lights and dark walls with old posters of blues men past. As I was looking through the posters I stumbled upon a sign for the patrons, one which I promised to myself I’d share with you. It read: “This is a small bar. If you’re not comfortable with sitting next to someone you don’t know, you should leave.” It was the best thing I’d seen in a while. Everyone was there for one thing that night and one thing only, the music. Big Dave was out of town though on a crazy 100 booking tour so the house band was a little eclectic. The host of the night was Jay from the Winnipeg blues band “Jay and The Perpetrators.” I introduced myself to Jay and told him I had my gear so he set me up for a spot in the jam early in the night. I still had no idea where I was sleeping for the night thought I figured I could do another van night. I forgot though, Charlie was with me and I only had room for one. I put the thought off till later and enjoyed the sounds coming from the stage as other musicians went up too. Guitar players, mouth harpists, singers, drummers, bass players. The stage kept changing and the music too. It was a great way to spend a Sunday night, and my first evening across the border.

After the bar let out, we decided we’d go for a ride around the city and see what we could find or see. It was too late for Charlie to get a hold of his friends but he did have one staying at the University of Manitoba which is just on the outer edge of town. We made our way to the residence building and were let in to go knock on his door. No answer. Though when Charlie had stayed there before, he would crash on one of the communal couches in the living room and so we did. We went down the hall and rested up for few hours until early morning. My travelling buddy knew a few people in town to call the next day so we decided to separate for the morning and go do our own things with plans on catching up sometime in the afternoon. I was still tired and wanted to sleep so I parked the car facing East and soaked up the morning sun as I got a few more hours of sleep in me.

I woke up mid morning. Breakfast time it was. I started driving aimlessly hoping to find a breakfast place. I walked in to this coffee/theatre corner restaurant and ordered up the works. I was a little chilly from the morning sleep and needed a cup of coffee to warm myself. They informed me that the cafe had wireless internet as well so I brought in my laptop. After breakfast was done I knew I had laundry to take care of. I had done some last in Dryden at Brian and Danica’s but that was almost a week prior; and, since I had stayed at the hotel in Kenora, I didn’t have the opportunity to do any more since then. I stopped in at a laundromat nearby and read while my clothes were tumbling. Afterwards I went to the Forks down by the Red and Assinaboine rivers. I walked in to the market to grab a few things for my cooler. I stopped in at an insect jewelry shop out of curiosity. I realized I didn’t know much about Winnipeg so I asked the store clerk, Jess, what I should do while I was here. She told me about the exchange district and some bars in the area which could possibly host a night this week. I asked her if she could tour me around Winnipeg a little if she had the time since I didn’t know anyone. We agreed to meet in the next couple days. As I was leaving the market Charlie called me. He was at his friend Ivan’s place in St-James area. He told me to come and meet him, have a shower, and we could go from there.

As I walked up to Ivan’s home I noticed the fireplace in the backyard. I knocked on the door and Charlie welcomed me in. He had been doing dishes. Ivan walked in so we talked for a while. I found out they had known each other through tree planting and had stayed good friends since. Ivan told me I could stay for as long as I wanted while I was in town so I spent the rest of the week there. I jumped in the shower and felt brand new again. We went out for a walk to the grocery store to get a few things for the week. Charlie was along for the walk. He ran circles around us the whole way in his moccasins which I found out were an offering to him from the natives he’d met at a pow wow a week earlier. He’d taken off his shoes and had been wearing these comfortables since.  Everyone, meet Charlie.

The trash can wasn’t the only hurdle of the walk either. Park benches, flower beds, anything he thought he might be able to jump over he asked me to try and take pictures. Further along the walk we ended up in a park. He climbed a 25 to 30 foot tree. Ivan and I kinda laughed for a little bit because he realized coming down wouldn’t be as easy, though he did after a few cyclists and walking onlookers had passed us. We walked back to the house and made plans to go out and ended up at a karaoke bar in Osborne district. Before walking in though, Charlie spotted something up on the street light post which he was convinced he could climb. Some gang members had thrown shoes up there, which is known to be a sign for “drugs sold around here”. He decided he was going to scale it and so he did. He jumped up to the walking hand fixture and found his way up to the top of the street light in no time. Then he crawled towards the traffic light and released the shoes. Karaoke just didn’t seem as fun after we and the crowd smoking outside saw him do this.

We retired back at Ivan’s and built a fire outside in the fireplace. Once we salvaged some wood and had it going we took out the guitars and played for a while. It was around 1 in the morning and Ivan thought we should go get some beers. This didn’t compute since the LCBO in Ontario closes at the latest 10pm. He chuckled and said that around here they close at 2am. You can only buy beer at that time though as the Liquor Marts close at 10. We took a short drive to the beer store and enjoyed a late evening by the fire.

Tuesday night we decided we were going to go to the University of Winnipeg and try and get on the radio show there. I asked Charlie if he could hold the camera and get us walking in and knocking on the door of the station. He had played on air a few months prior and thought they might let me do the same. We drove downtown after heading to the U of M by accident but made it there for 0845pm. We couldn’t find the station right away so we asked someone inside the University for some directions. After a few escalators and a flight of stairs I was standing in front of the station door. I knocked and out came Rockin’ Ronnie. He is one of the hosts of Blues Day Tuesday along with EB. I told Rockin` Ronnie what I was up to and thought it’d be great to get on the air and let people know about what I was doing and hopefully play a few songs for the listeners. We went over to the studio room and talked to EB as a song was playing. She agreed to have me on as a surprise guest so I took my guitar out of my case and sat down in the studio with her. The interview went great, finishing up the first hour and doing some more at the beginning of the second hour of the show. I played a few songs live and had “One True Friend” played on air, the song I had recorded in Thunder Bay with Dave. ( http://ckuw.ca/24/20091117.20.00-21.00.mp3 ), ( http://ckuw.ca/24/20091117.21.00-22.00.mp3 )  It was truly a great experience.

I was off to “Le Garage” with Charlie and meeting Jess there too. Another jam was happening with people I had already met at the Times Change a few days earlier. I stayed for a while but the jam ended early so Jess and I drove around the exchange district for a bit and stopped in at the Lyon’s Head hoping to get a gig for later that week. No avail, they were booked until the week’s end. Jess said she knew a place I might be able to play called Shannon’s pub. We went down there the next night and after talking to the owner Gerrard, he gave me a spot for Saturday night. Blind Mule was playing there at 10 so I was to open for them at 9. At last, I could rest at ease a little with the rest of the week. The gig was booked and I could sail until Sunday. The next few days were spent with the housemates Tina, Matt, Brock and Ivan. Ivan and I went busking with a Good Faith Tour cardboard sign we made as I entertained the walkers by. It was a little too early for downtown busking that day though so we went to the U of M and tried our luck there. With Ivan filming, I serenaded people again, not asking for money but really just trying to get a laugh or a smile out of them. I was walking around the campus singing and playing, I stopped in between two guys having a conversation and interrupted it for them with a song. One of them started dancing and snapping his fingers for the camera while the other just laughed and gave me a tap on the back as I walked away singing still.

We did the same the next day at the U of W and got much of the same response. I just wanted to see how people would react if you interrupted the hum drum of their day with a song and a smile. Most would smile or just keep going, but then I’d try and back step to keep up with them. If that didn’t work I tried dancing awkwardly for them until they cracked a smile at my horrible moves. Good ol’ candid moments for the camera!

 

 

Blinded by the Mule

November 20th – 22nd, 2009

 

It was Friday night and Ivan had been planning a birthday/going away party all week. A friend he had made from Australia, Louise, was getting ready to leave soon and it was her birthday. We set up my PA system for the party and Ivan and I cleaned up the place a little during the afternoon with Brandie, Ivan’s friend. Matt was leaving for Brandon that night so I asked him why he was missing the party. He said there was a must see show he wanted to catch there so he and Tina were driving there together. I asked him what band he was going to see, he said “Blind Mule”. I couldn’t believe he knew them since I had just booked a random gig opening up for them tomorrow at Shannon’s downtown. It was quite the coincidence. Even more of a coincidence was that they were going to be staying at the house after the show tomorrow too. The band was headed back east after doing a 37 day tour and we happened to cross paths exactly with the same accommodations and show in Winnipeg. The party went great and late on Friday. We all sang happy birthday for Louise and wished her love, luck, and happiness for her travels back home.

I woke up early afternoon Saturday and started my preparations for the show. I didn’t have a 45 minute set list so I drew one up quickly for the night and changed the strings on my guitar. I showed up early since a meal was included with the barter and set up my equipment. Everyone was meeting me there for 9 for the show. Shannon’s has an old pub feel. Sunk into the ground, you walk down two flights of stairs to get to the bar. Pretty big in size, it has a nice stage with all the equipment set up. All I needed was my microphone and my guitar. I ate some dinner and had a quick drink before going on. Ivan, Brandy, Matt and some new friends from the party showed up and Jess too. The band walked in just before I was going on. I met Hachey first, he was the drummer for the band though he wasn’t carrying a set of drums. He’s a beatboxer and the main percussion for the band as Laredo plays jimbe and some other percussion toys. Kirby played bass while Joey and Graham fronted on guitar. These guys were amazing with tons of energy and laughs for the crowd. I still don’t know how Hachey beatboxed all night without breaking time or a sweat. It was interesting to see them perform as they did many originals and sang some covers to the drunkards at the end of the night. For the readers and friends in southern Ontario, keep an eye out for this band. Blind Mule is based out of Hamilton and do shows around the GTA!!

The next morning came early, I woke up at 830, I couldn’t sleep anymore. I went to Tim Horton’s and got a double double with the remains of my first Tim’s card. Rest assured though, I’ve got another! I sat around with Matt for a while and he informed he had made arrangements for me to meet some people in Brandon, the same place the band had stayed the night before. The Stobbe’s were good friend’s of his and he knew it wouldn’t be a problem for me to stay there and book a show. I had to meet up with a friend I had made on Sunday night a week earlier at the Times Change. Shayna and I met and talked about my future travels to Saskatoon. She had some insight for me as it was her hometown and thought she could set me up with a few contacts. I had told her that night I was looking to get in touch with Tim Vaughn from there as well. She knew Tim as her sister and his sister are good friends. We met at a coffee shop Sunday afternoon before I left the city. We exchanged some info and some travelling stories. It was nice to have the chance to say goodbye to pretty much everyone I was able to meet in Winnipeg. Charlie was nowhere to be found though. He had left the house a few days prior and we hadn’t seen him since. He did call us on the night of the party to let us know he couldn’t make it but I knew Charlie would be fine wherever he was. A true trooper of the vagabond way of life.

 

 

BRANDON, MB

November 22nd – 24th, 2009

 

I left Winnipeg feeling good about Brandon. I was going to meet with Kaleigh Stobbe tomorrow but thought I’d go see a friend from Kap for the night who was staying in Brandon, Denis Dagenais. I got into town around dinner time and stopped in at a restaurant to get something in me. I went to Denis’ hotel after because I wasn’t able to get a hold of him on the phone. I knew which room he was staying in so I knocked on the door…no answer. I knocked a little more…no answer. I thought I’d just get in touch with him tomorrow instead. I drove around town a little and found a movie theatre. I hadn’t been to the movies in ages so I thought I’d treat myself and catch a flick. Vince Vaughn’s new movie was out, Couple’s Retreat, so I bought a ticket, some buttered popcorn and a pop and relaxed for the rest of the evening. The show started at 10 and I got there just as the previews were ending, perfect!

The Al Lukas review is with mixed feelings. It was an okay movie to my standard. I didn’t think he was as funny as his previous efforts and the movie seemed a little watered down, white bread comedy.

After the movie let out I still didn’t have a place to stay. I went back to Denis’ to knock on the door but again he wasn’t answering. I parked outside the hotel and slept there for the night, comfy in my bed and warm sleeping bag. I woke up at 11 the next morning, dark as night inside the van, but a warm sunny November day was waiting for me as I got out of the sleeping bag. I could feel the warmth already it was 7 degrees and the day was almost half done. I went to a Tim Hortons and grabbed a coffee again, taking the time to wash my face and brush my teeth. I headed over to The Lady of the Lake shop/coffee bar/pub to meet with Kaleigh.

As I walked in I soon noticed it was a fine establishment with everything from wedding gowns to furniture to outdoor sporting gear to restaurant and bar. I asked one of the servers if I could speak with Kaleigh so they called her down. After some introductions, we agreed on a Thursday night show just after supper and another set before the Good Vibe Tribe would take the stage on the “Assinabeats” night. Kaleigh offered me a place to stay at her home with her family. The Stobbes often host musicians as they come through town. Travellers themselves, they understand the need to stop and rest in a comfortable home from time to time on the road. Her and her mom, Bridget, would be there later in the afternoon so I killed a bit of time in town before heading to their place.

Located near downtown I arrived at the Stobbe residence for 430. Bridget and Kaleigh were just showing up so they showed me into their beautiful home, over 100 years old. I was led upstairs to my room where I could stay and was given the tour. The house itself has 6 bedrooms with a really organic and homy feel to it. As you walk in, you instantly feel at home. Snacks were put out on the table before dinner. I hopped in the shower and came back downstairs to help with prepping some of the vegetables for the salad and soup that was being made.

Something about the road, you meet a lot of people that you’ve never met before, yet sometimes you feel like you’ve known some of them all along. It’s hard to describe, but most conversations end up starting with these people. An instant familiarity comes over you with them. Sometimes they remind you of relatives or friends or sometimes it’s not like that and you just feel like maybe you were friends in a different life. Josh showed up from work just before dinner was to be served. Josh was a roommate in the house and is a freelance photographer who is also well travelled by way of the thumb. We had a good laugh after he told a story of being caught in a car with Jehovah Witnesses preaching to him for 12 hours en route out west. We all got acquainted and bid each other goodnight as the evening progressed. I went to bed and started making plans in my mind as to what I should do in the morning. It would only be Tuesday and I had till Thursday to play.

The next day I woke up well rested and ready to face the world, or at least Brandon. Josh and Kaleigh were downstairs making a pot of coffee and tea, and having some fresh organic toast for breakfast with almond butter and fresh honey. The coffee smelled delicious as it was being brewed in the bodum. I had a quick breakfast with them before they were off to work and then got ready to go out myself. I changed Bridget’s guitar strings for her as I saw she had left out a pack of new guitar strings and had mentioned the night before that the ones on her guitar were getting old. Bridget got home just before I was ready to head out. We jammed a bit of guitar and had a look at her new rhythm doctor machine which she had just purchased yesterday. Not being too familiar with the beat device, I could only offer a little help with figuring out some of the features. She drew me a map to find a few places that might cater to live music during the week.

The first stop was Clancy’s it was past lunch and I was hungry again so I ordered something light to hold me over while I waited for the manager to come and speak with me. Unfortunately they were booked for the weekend and the week was reserved for Christmas parties, no vacancy. A young man sitting next to me heard me talk business a bit so he came over after and introduced himself. Rob was his name and, having just been laid off that morning was his game. His day had just been freed up so he offered to walk me to a couple other locations to try my luck. Rob was 25, a truck driver by trade but had done hitch hiking travels earlier in life as well which led him around the globe before coming back to Brandon and settling down. He told me the same things many others have told me along this trip, and it seems to be a rule of the road. Once you’ve travelled in these ways, you always feel the need to offer someone passing through a hand or a place to stay. There is a tremendous sense of community binding all travellers, and I feel I will be doing the same once I’m back to a steady place of my own……whenever that will be. 🙂

We walked down to the Double Decker Bar and met Ashley upstairs. Turns out she was the one to talk to as far as entertainment went and she agreed to a paying show that night. This was great news, two gigs in one town! I knew Rob had to be a musician. I asked him what he played and he said: “I play the harmonica to blues and folk and such.” We had the same thought and went back to his place to jam out some music for the afternoon. We listened to some great blues off his Ipod and introduced me to a great blues singer/songwriter Grayson Caps which I’d never heard before. YouTube this dude!

I went back to the house later that afternoon and told everyone I was playing tonight. Bridget, Kaleigh, Josh, Pete and a few other friends came out to support the show. I started at 830 and played till 1230. It was a great night overall, sold some cds, made some new friends and played to a great crowd, especially for a Tuesday night, I was surprised people were out. Rob showed up towards the end of the night and I wanted to buy him a beer for his help in the afternoon. I got back to the Stobbes a little later in the evening and went straight to bed, I was tired from the performance and tomorrow was a new day….Wednesday.

 

 

THE LADY & I

November 25th – 27th, 2009

 

Wednesday was quite relaxed. I went out for lunch at the Double Decker. The waiter brought me the Brandon Sun to read and immediately I looked for a contact number. I wanted to promote the show for Thursday at The Lady. I spoke with the entertainment columnist briefly and told her about what it is I am doing and she agreed to put my name in the paper for the show. Afterwards I went to the Liquor Mart to buy a bottle of Rum for the Stobbes. I wanted to help with buying groceries since I was staying there for a few days but Bridget would not let me in on her shopping needs so I went shopping on my own agenda! I’d found out they enjoy rum from they’re time spent in South America where they vacation often.

After the Liquor Mart I headed to The Lady of the Lake to get a much raved about cup of coffee. It was truly warming and tasty I must say. A familiar face showed up at the restaurant while I was drinking my cup of goodness. I knew I recognized him but I didn’t know from where, apart from the obvious…Brandon. He re-introduced himself as Denis. I quickly remembered that he and his girlfriend Jenn had come out at the Decker the night before and so we got to chatting about my plans for the next little while. I told him I wanted to do some fall camping and asked where would be a good spot to do so. He made a few recommendations for my northern plans on the weekend. Moon Lake was his first suggestion in Riding Mountain National Park and so I made note of it as well as some simple directions of how to get there once in the park. The park had also been recommended to me by my good friend Cheri from Toronto as she was familiar with the area since her father lived in Dauphin. I was pretty sure I wanted to head up there for the weekend and see Dauphin afterwards because, well I don’t need a reason, it just seemed like a good idea!

It was pretty brisk outside but Denis and I made plans to go cycling around the city later that evening. He and Jenn were heading for a ride around town with some of their friends and so I was invited to join. Kaleigh had told me that I could borrow a bicycle so I jumped at the opportunity, having been missing my riding adventures in Toronto from the summer.

It was quite the brisk night. With the weather dipping down to -6 by the end of the evening, I made sure to dress warm before leaving with the crew. We cycled most of the town and took a break at the local golf club to catch our breaths and get a few drinks of wet stuff down. We decided to keep the ride going as we were getting a little chilly just standing around. Jenn invited us all back to her place for a warmer break so we pedalled our way to her heated house. A big friendly doberman was waiting eagerly inside for her and was pleased to see the house had company. We played guitar for a while and since I was trying some different beats, one of the crew started free styling lyrics over my licks. I had done this in Winnipeg too and thought it was cool to be able to rhyme like that on demand and, since we were all friends, we decided to pass the puck, so to speak, and take turns with it. I had never just free styled lyrics like that so I took it as a challenge. It was really fun, I took the opportunity to recount my tales from the road to them. Everyone seemed to have a good handle on it so we kept it going. All in all it was a great night shared with new great friends again but the ride home still remained.

Two of the group rode with me back to the house since I was too turned around from the ride. They warned me of the two hills we would have to scale. I remembered going down them and thinking they would be difficult to come back up on a wide wheeled one speed cruiser bike. We got to the first hill and i gave it my all. I made it ¾ of the way up before I had to jump off and walk the rest. The next hill wasn’t as steep but felt much longer. I made about the same distance again and walked the rest. After that it was pretty easy, only two small city blocks back home. I thanked the guys again and we bid farewell until the next day since everyone had agreed to come out to show.

I saw everyone at the show again the next day. It went well over the late dinner crowd/early party crowd. I really enjoyed the stage at the Lady. It was arranged to look like a living room with an area rug and lamps on stage though the bar side had around 30 foot ceilings with walls painted red and a lounge area where you could almost lay down and just enjoy the music. Tip jars were on every table and the crowd was very generous to me for my set. I had some dinner after the show which still makes my mouth water when I think about it. I had the asparagus ravioli. All homemade with organic ingredients and fresh bread toasted and garlicked. I thanked Kaleigh and the crew at The Lady for having me on short notice and went back home at around 1 after partying with the Good Vibe Tribe, who were in charge of disc jockeying the Assinabeats night on Thursdays. I was leaving the next day and wanted to get a early start on things because I wanted to get to my campsite before sundown at 4:30 when the dusk gets heavy.

Friday morning I woke up and walked to a greasy spoon for an omelet and some toast. I sat next to two midwives whom chatted me up over their lunch break. They asked me the normal stuff of where I was from and where I was going. They were so keen on the project that they bought my breakfast for me as their token of appreciation to the Good Faith Tour. I thanked them much and was on my way to Rob’s to exchange some music and say goodbye before I skipped town. Rob had an external hard drive full of albums of all genres and was kind enough to transfer some of his favourites over onto my computer. I stopped in at the Lady one more time to say goodbye to everyone and with a coffee in hand for the road, I was on my way. I didn’t meet my deadline of leaving on time. I had an hour and a half drive and it was already 4 o’clock when I left the city limits. I would arrive in Riding Mountain National park in complete darkness.

 

 

RIDING MOUNTAIN

November 27th – 29th, 2009

 

I pulled into Riding Mountain National Park at around 5:30PM. It was quite dark but the moon lit up some of the road as I made my way around the turns and hills. The park sits on the Canadian shield and hosts many lakes on either side of the highway. Usually a park pass is needed to visit but since the season is over, no one is there to collect the toll.

I was looking for Moon Lake. It felt like I was driving for a long time after Clear Lake. Denis had told me to keep my eyes peeled about 10 minutes past this point and I should find it there on the right. I rounded another corner and came upon two big moose on the left shoulder. I slowed almost to a stop as they looked ready to cross, of course, my camera was tucked away and can’t show you but I made sure to take a mental picture as the moment passed. A big bull moose and a cow, much bigger that any moose I’d seen in Ontario. I was told the animals in the area were huge because the park is immense and protected, though sometimes frequented by poachers. One of the biggest recorded black bears in the world was killed at this park only a few years ago simply for it’s gull bladder.

I drove a little further down the road but hadn’t seen the sign yet and was starting to wonder if, in my scenic distractions I could of missed the sign, then I saw it. Home for the night, I thought, and I drove down the untraveled snow kissed side road to an information booth. I parked the van and walked up to the booth. It was a self registration counter, and so I thought I’d keep up with the Good Faith Tour and self register for the nights. It was only 15 dollars a night and since I’d be taking advantage of the park for the next few days I slipped the money in the envelope and chose the best lot. As I got out of the van I noticed someone had left some firewood and even though I had brought some of my own, I saw it was oak and would burn a lot longer than the spruce wood I had with me. I started a fire and took out some cookware to prepare my dinner. I had gone to the bulk barn in Brandon to get some dry supplies like pasta and rice for the weekend. I cooked up a batch of shelled noodles with some pasta sauce for dinner and boiled water to make tea for my thermos. After dinner I thought I’d walk around the site a little and check out what animal tracks I could find with my flashlight. To my surprise I found black bear tracks, about a day old. This alarmed me a little as I thought they would be in their dens by now, but since our fall has been so warm they hadn’t gone into hibernation yet. I would have to make sure to clean up after my cooking and leave any garbage or leftovers in the van. I also saw some moose and deer tracks. Fox had also been around the site and I saw some bird tracks too along my walk. The park was very populated with animals it seemed and so I hoped to get some on camera the next day.

I got back to the fire and sat by it for a while, enjoying the dark and quiet night with the sounds of the wood crackling in the pit. I was instantly reminded of home, I use to spend some of my summer nights around a campfire playing guitar with friends or just camping out for the weekend.

I jumped back in the van and ran it for a little bit to get the chill and humidity out. I was tired and went to bed early that night, wanting to take advantage of daybreak to see what my serene surroundings looked like with the morning sun’s glow on the snow covered lake, just a short walk downhill away from the campsite. I slipped into my sleeping bag and closed my eyes, hearing but the wilderness as the trees spoke sometimes louder than the small animals’ scurry.

When I woke the next day I could feel the cold outside of the sleeping bag. Inside it I was warm with no desire to leave it. I could see my breath and when I did get up to start a fire I started the car, it was -9 Celsius, brisk but still not too cold. It was slightly overcast but I could see the lake and my surroundings much better now than the night before. I checked the site for any new tracks but no new bear or moose tracks had come in the night. Only a few squirrel and what looked like field mice tracks were new near the fire pit.

I lit the propane stove to boil water for coffee and to make breakfast. I stated another fire for radiant warmth at the snow covered picnic table. I had a piece of cardboard in the van and used it to scrape off the snow and to sit on at the picnic table while I was eating or sitting by the fire. I woke up slowly with my coffee but thought once I was done with cooking and cleaning I could go for a walk and fetch some water. I had brought fresh water with me but I didn’t want to use this for cleaning dishes or boiling pasta.

I went for a little drive as the lake was frozen over, I wanted to find a running creek with open water. I brought my hatchet which had been gifted to me in Brandon and a gallon jug. I drove to a hiking trail in the park and stationed the van. I walked for a while down the trail. It was a getting a little warmer and I was due for some exercise. I crossed many open streams along the way but thought I’d grab water on the way back so I could just carry it to the van. I decided to turn around about halfway through the trail, I was seeing fresh bear tracks, maybe even from morning. Again, these tracks were not small, I was only wielding a hatchet and was off the beaten path if I were to need help. Though black bears aren’t usually aggressive towards humans, I didn’t want to surprise one rounding a corner on the path.

I stopped at a stream on the way back and filled up my gallon. I went back to the Moon Lake site and walked around there for a little while. I saw new car tracks on the road leading down to the lake but no one had visited my site. I walked along the beach, along the road which led to other lots and then back to mine in time to cook dinner before dusk.

A little field mouse came by to visit me while I was eating but he didn’t stick around too long. Again, the night had fallen and I was sitting next to my roaring fire. Before I retired for the evening, I sat in the van and did some writing while charging my phone and laptop batteries. I listened to CBC radio blues show and then, with the van warm and dry, I slid into my sleeping bag for the night. I would be heading to Dauphin in the afternoon. Knowing fair well that it would be a challenge to find a gig on a Sunday in a small community or even midweek at that but I was curious to see what would come in the next week.

I woke up to a completely sunny day on Sunday, very appropriate, and after cleaning up around the campsite a little, I set off for the half hour drive to Dauphin. I was amazed to see what waited for me ahead as I reached the top of the prairie mountain and could see Dauphin in the distance.

 

 

SUN CAPITAL

November 29th – December 3rd , 2009

 

Pulling into Dauphin I realized that I wreaked from camping. First on the agenda was a Tim Hortons coffee, second on the agenda was a shower. I found a hotel that would allow me to use a room to get cleaned up. I took advantage of my time to check some emails using their wireless connection. It was a pretty long day on Sunday as no one was out since they’d had the big parade the day before and I didn’t feel like pretending I knew anything about the CFL. I did see a poster for a music act on a pharmacy window late afternoon though. A performer by the name of Matthew De Zoete was set to play at the Watson Art Centre on Wednesday. I had run into a hiker in the park who recommended I speak to the WAC once I got into town, but it was Sunday and they wouldn’t be open till 11am the next day. I retired to my van for a sleep at the local Wal-Mart later in the evening.

The next day I texted Cheri, my Toronto friend who’d guided me to this northern Manitoba destination. Her father Bill lives near Dauphin with his wife Donna and daughter Shelby. We made arrangements to meet up later in the day, and so we did at his property in Ochre River. Bill immediately invited me in and offered me a beer. We caught up on some things and had dinner. Shelby arrived a little later and then Donna. The family was home and offered me the stay for the rest of my time spent in Dauphin. It’s always nice to have a place to go back to, shower, eat and socialize as well as having a comfortable bed to sleep and wake up in. To the builders of the bed, I didn’t mean that last comment as a slight against it, just that a house bed stays warm all night and the room is warm in the morning!

I had a long day ahead of me the next day, before I had went to meet with Bill in Ochre River, I had already been about town on Monday to secure an opening act for Matthew De Zoete on Wednesday as well as a radio and newspaper interview for Tuesday. I had to be at CKDN730 radio station for 1030am the next morning. Bruce Leperre invited me on to talk about my journey and to play a song live after he’d granted my wish of playing before Matthew. Michelle at the Herald interviewed me after the show and then I broke for lunch.

Musician Has Faith In the Kindness of Strangers / Dauphin Herald Article

Bill had said he was headed back to the house in the afternoon so after a busy morning I figured I’d go back as well and try and get some writing done. I got to the house and no one was home. It was stormy outside and figured he might of just been running late. Then I remembered he’d said he’d be home at 2 o’clock and it was only 1230. I stayed in my van and read for a while. It didn’t cool off too much since it was snowing and the weather was just under the freezing mark. 2:30 had come around and I still hadn’t heard from Bill until my phone rang a text ring in my pocket. He would be running late as he had a dentist appointment to get to. He’d only be home for 5. I thought about going back to town but the weather was bad so I figured I’d let myself get snowed into the van. I had food, drink in the van and warmth by starting the car occasionally. I read some more, surfed the internet as I could reach the signal from outside the house. I relaxed for the rest of the afternoon as I watched the storm around me cover the ground which had previously been bare from the long fall.

Donna also called me as she’d made arrangements for me to play at a school north of town. She had come up with the idea the night before because of the nature of the tour, and I agreed to share some of my experiences with the children. She had organized a show for grade 5 to grade 12 students at the Ethelbert school in Ethelbert and I agreed to the gig set for 1 pm the next day.

I met up with Donna at 11am on Wednesday so we could grab a quick lunch in Ethelbert before heading to the school. The hamlet was about 30 minutes north of Dauphin, a remote community with a population of about 312. We thought it would be a great place for a show since Dauphin schools usually get the entertainment in the area when it does come through. After an introduction, I performed for about 40 minutes until I opened the session up for questions. The students were curious of many things. They asked me whether I liked playing guitar more or singing more, if I like writing more than playing, what I ate for lunch, if I was married and if not if I at least had a girlfriend. All welcome questions of course, it was neat to see what was on their mind. The school presented me with a gift after the questions were over. I became an honorary Ethelbert Eagle as I unwrapped my school t-shirt and have been using my very shiny pen for all my writings on the road since. I was also subsidized generously for my travels and felt the need to share one last song before this bluesman was done for the afternoon. I asked the kids if they wanted to hear a fast guitar song or a singing song. To my surprise they yelled out from the back: “Play She’s My Cadillac!!!!!” So I did! Ethelbert was not exempted from YouTube.

Later in the evening I met up with Matthew at the sound check. We introduced ourselves and had some dinner which was prepared for us and talked about life on the road while sitting at a table in the empty and immense upstairs hall of the arts centre. A tasty pasta casserole was prepared along with fresh salad, bread and dessert. Travelling solo for this tour as well, it was interesting to meet someone from Dundas Ontario in Dauphin Manitoba. Being on the road in circles as small as the musician one, it’s always interesting to hear the stories that happened in cities and towns waiting up ahead. Matt was on a shorter more realistic tour as I am on my pilgrimage. He had left the GTA after me and had made it all the way out west. He would also reach home before I even got to Alberta. I realized how long it had been since I’d seen my family, friends, the people dear in my life after hearing Matthew talk to his wife and daughter on the phone. We went for a walk downtown and made it back as some of the crowd was walking in and seating themselves.

It was an interesting venue to play. Set in an old fire hall, stage lights and candles were all the lighting needed in this extremely intimate concert setting. People buy year passes to the shows and go there to listen to the songwriters that pass through. I played a 25 minute set before Mr. De Zoete took the stage after which he graced the crowd for the rest of the night. Singing historical songs about his family and the events which make up the story of his well travelled and experience filled life, he’s also a great comedian who delivers his punchlines with a endearing and intentioned nervousness and angst. We exchanged albums at the end of the night and agreed to play more music once I returned to the Toronto area.

Among the crowd exiting at the end of the night were my hosts, the Davidsons. They waited up for me at home and I was greeted with some wine and snacks so we could talk more about the night before we would have goodbyes in the morning. It was a true pleasure to meet Bill, Donna, and Shelby and wish to thank them again for their great hospitality during my stay. Donna prepared a care package and left it in the fridge so I could take it with me the next day.

After our goodbyes the next day, and after some personal preparations before heading west again, I locked up behind me and started my drive into the prairie horizon towards Saskatchewan.

 

 

THE REGINA MONOLOGUE

December 3rd – 7th, 2009

 

I was taking highway 10 out to Regina that day. It was sunny, as most of my driving days have been, and the scenery, again, was great. I was starting to see the prairies really open up as I left the partially wooded fields of Manitoba. Either I didn’t see the Saskatchewan sign, or there wasn’t one, but all of a sudden, Saskatchewan plates were the norm.

Regina was foreign to me and it was getting cold. I was hoping to find a place to stay that night because it would be a cold sleep in the van. The weather had dropped down to -35 with the windchill and I wasn’t prepared to tackle that just yet, though I understoond if I had to I would have no choice.

As the sun hid behind the land ahead, snow and sleet were covering the roads and everything had become very slippery. An accident up ahead had slowed traffic on the highway. I was talking with Nano on the phone and actually had to tell him that I needed to hang up since traffic was picking up on the prairies. Someone had taken the ditch up ahead, it didn’t seem like too devastating of an accident but emergency services were at the scene and traffic was down to one lane on the westbound divided highway. I crept through, and once I traffic was a little lighter again, I searched the points of interest in my GPS to see where I could play on the weekend. First up was O’Hanlon’s Pub, which sound like a good place to meet a few people and have a quick bite to eat for dinner.

Located right downtown, it took a little while to find parking. I had to keep circling the block because of all the one way streets. I walked in and, immediately, I felt like I would be playing here over the weekend. The atmosphere was great, they had live bands regularly, it almost felt like I was at the Sunshine in Kapuskasing but bigger. It had the wooden/rustic feel but was built as a two story music venue. You could see the stage from the top floor and have your privacy, or, you could stand at the bar and talk to their friendly staff. Cat was serving me and the other hangers on at the bar. Scotty, the man standing next to me, immediately welcomed me to Regina and told me there was nothing to do here and that he didn’t enjoy the town. He was a little drunk and going through some new developments in his life from what I heard later. Nonetheless, he was very friendly and helpful with where to go. We talked for a while and I ordered some Regina renown O’Hanlon’s Pub pizza.

I was eating my delicious vegetarian pie when Scotty’s friends showed up. Nathan, a DJ from north of town who was spinning at Gabo’s for the night, and Jonathan, a restaurant manager on the East end. We all introduced ourselves and had a pint. I told them about what I was doing and Nathan offered to take me out, show me the sights and invited me to the DJ booth at Gabo’s later. He informed me he was couch surfing for the weekend and could probably help me out with a place to stay if I needed one! His friend Dane, which he would be staying with, was coming to meet him at the pub. After Dane arrived, Nathan confirmed it with him and they invited me to his downtown apartment after the night was done.

We went to the club to set up early before the crowd came in. I got the chance to play with the turntables for a bit. It was interesting. It’s definitely not as easy as one would think to keep the energy going all night like they do, it’s quite the feat. To some though, they might say I was in bed with the enemy, a musician hanging out with a disc jockey. Many musicians would say that DJs are what killed the once thriving music business in bars; but nonetheless, I had a place to stay and these guys were cool. Their knowledge of music was impeccable and they knew the scene in Regina really well with places to go see for gigs. Old stigmas must be lifted.

The next day I took off early afternoon to go get a coffee and find an internet signal. Later in the day I gravitated back to O’Hanlon’s. I managed to talk to Nile later in the evening after spending the late afternoon reading at the bar. There was a band playing tonight but they were only scheduled to start at 11. He thought an opening act would be good and after talking to the band later, the stage was set.

Scheduled to play that night was the Royal Red Brigade accompanied by Jump Off to start off the night.  Both bands were gearing up for a heavy rock show, I could tell since I was setting up next to Orange Stack guitar amps, synthesizers, bass amp pedal boards and drums. I had an acoustic guitar into the mixing board and a vocal mic.  I looked around the crowd, young hipsters and rockers were scattered about, mixed in with a bit more of a young mature crowd.

I started my set with my oldest song in the repertoire, a Son House gem called Death Letter Blues. I dove in, blues feet first. I played a bit of an edgier set, with songs like The Release of Me, Lyon’s Den and Room to Breathe. I didn’t want to slow the audience down too much, the evening was planned for two heavy rock bands. The crowd response was more than notable after my set, and the rest of the evening went strong as the bands jumped on and kept the crowd rocking hard and long.

Towards the end of my night, I walked back to the bar to thank Nile, and he informed me that the bill I had been running for the day was taken care of, and thanked me much in return. Some apprehension had been felt by the sound man Dave at the beginning of sound check since he had just walked into all of this, but we also shook hands in respect to the show I had put on and the sound he had given me.

Saturday was set to be a DJ night. Dane and Jonathan were spinning at a party put on by a couple entrepreneurs who were fund raising for a film they had just produced. They had rented a lounge hall and were charging 10$ at the door for admission with free beer hand-outs at the back. It was a private party, you need a liquor license to sell alcohol, but not to give it away. I had been there earlier to help with setting up the sound system they would be using for the night and so the admission fee was waved for the organizers and I. The bar did have a bit of a selection up for vending but it was being run by Selam staff. The walls wore art graffiti. Selam, House of Reggae, and a portrait of Bob Marley were watching as the hall beat with the heart of Saturday night.

Sunday we went for a late breakfast and then retired at Dane’s for the evening to wind down from the busy weekend that had passed. We watch some TV classics he had archived in his entertainment shelf and after a good night’s sleep, I was off Monday morning. Moose Jaw was about 45 minutes away and I thought it would be a good stall point before Saskatoon, where I was meeting Nano to shoot for the weekend.

 

 

WINTER ASSASSIN

December 7th-10th, 2009

 

Leaving Regina I stopped in at Robin’s Donuts for a coffee and a muffin. Tim Horton’s was a hard find and I hadn’t had a Robin’s coffee in a while. It was late morning on Monday and I hadn’t done any blogging over the weekend. I knew I’d have to catch up on that once I got in to Moose Jaw.

Since I don’t look up my destinations in advance, it was a surprise to find out that Moose Jaw was only a 45 minute drive away. I got to the friendly city driving into the sun. I had heard it was in interesting place to see because of the history there. Al “Scarface” Capone and his men use to work out of Moose Jaw while evading taxes in the late 1920s. Driving into the city you could see the preservation of the old buildings downtown, much of it still looked like the 1920s era.

I made my way to a coffee shop, Coffee Encounters, for a specialty tea and to do some writing. I thought Saskatchewan would challenge me in my hunting for wireless internet access; but, to my surprise, the province has a free wireless signal in most cities called SaskConnected which you can connect to.

I talked to the the barista serving that day about the live music scene in Moose Jaw. She said there wasn’t much of a scene but that Bobby’s Place down the road, an Irish pub, occasionally had live entertainment. I asked if Coffee Encounters did as well, but she informed me that they didn’t anymore. I left her a card for the manager to see if we could change that for this week.

After dinner, I walked over to Bobby’s Place and talked to the waiting staff. I was eager to find a place to play in hopes of finding a place to stay. It was -37 with the windchill that night, I had to try anything. No managers were there and not many patrons were either. It wasn’t looking good. I did get a business card to try and line something up for later that week but no luck for tonight. I would have to come back in the morning to speak with the owners.

I had a pint and sat down to think about what the plan would be for tonight. It was only 10 o’clock when I left the bar, the coffee shop had closed for the night like many other businesses in town and I didn’t want to spend a Monday night sitting on a bar stool… I needed to find shelter. I started the van and decided to go for a drive around the city to see what kind of rural camping sites there were and to warm up my home since it had been parked for 5 hours. Once the van warmed up I felt a little better. The cold had left my seats hard and my mind distracted, all I could think about was getting warm. I remembered I had a space heater in the back and an extension cord, if I could find a parking spot with an outlet I’d be okay.

Driving around town I couldn’t find public parking with an outlet. I didn’t want to park in a business lot and get a rude awakening in the morning from a tow truck driver or a store clerk who hadn’t had his coffee yet. I went to the mall to see what they had to offer but still no electric parking. I was getting discouraged, it was f***ing cold and I didn’t have a place to sleep. Under no circumstance was I allowed to get a room because this would break the rules I had set out for the trip. I could only sleep in a motel if it was arranged for me. I thought of ways to bend this rule, thinking if I used money I’d made on the road to rent a room then it would work out to the same. I thought it could be a fair argument. I realized though that I could of afforded it but it would leave me with not much cash and I still didn’t have a place to play in order to make more. After some more thought I knew that I was just making excuses to give up faster, I was getting tired.

The rules that had been set out should be kept. Winter survival was one of the main aspects of the tour and I wasn’t going to give up because it was the first really cold night where I didn’t have indoor heating. I stopped at Tim Horton’s to have a decaf coffee, I figured it would help warm me from the inside for a while and I could think more of how I was going to do this. I went back to the van and took off the cotton t-shirt I had on under my wool sweater and kept but the wool on. I stuck my thermal underwear under the floor vent on the passenger side along with my tuque. I also opened up the sleeping bag in the back to warm it up as I went for another drive. I was simply going to find an open parking spot and try it without a heater for tonight. If it got too cold then I’d wake up and find another alternative for tomorrow.

I found a place at the mall and shut the engine off. Walking around the van I could feel the wind coming through the wool I had on. I got ready for bed by slipping into my thermals. I slipped my tuque on, zipped up the sleeping bag, locked the car, and waited for the residual heat in the van to cool off. It took about 15 minutes to really start feeling any real cold. I wasn’t really tired because it was early for me, only 1230. I wanted to try and get a good night’s sleep and wake up in time to find a shower and get ready before having to go to Bobby’s Place for 11am.

I awoke before I opened my eyes. I was still warm inside my sleeping bag but I could feel the cold around me if I moved a little into a part of the sleeping bag that my body hadn’t been occupying. I stuck my head out to get a breath of fresh cold air and realized it was morning. I had slept through the night without interruption. I smiled and felt content at my success and unwillingness to give up on the gear and the winterizing we had done to the van. I looked at my phone for the time, it was 830 and the sun was shining. I didn’t feel like getting out of the sleeping bag though, I was cozy and I knew it wouldn’t be the case if I got up. I lied on my back with my nose out for a while and decided I’d call my parents. I told them I had slept in the van but that everything was okay. The sleeping bag had held up and the preparations we had taken had paid off. I wanted the team to be aware that the first real test was a complete success!

I found a hotel/campsite that had public showers for campers and groomed myself to go out on the town. It’s funny, I almost felt a little more confident knowing I was gig hunting after having slept outside in the first real cold snap of the season. No I didn’t have a fancy home, a queen size bed, or even a shower, but I had made due and unless I made them aware of last night’s predicament, they would not be able to tell. My first stop in town was Big Al’s, for breakfast. I thought it was an appropriate restaurant choice to celebrate with a victory breakfast, my misunderstood french toast with mayonnaise. Oh I can hear the sounds bewilderment you’re making already.

I headed to Bob’s Place to see what I could do for either tonight or tomorrow. After speaking with one of the owners, she informed me that the stage area is located near the dart boards and there was a dart night going on tonight. I didn’t feel like being targeted so I asked about tomorrow. The part owner’s sister was set to play a few songs….and well blood before water…

I headed back to the coffee shop. Jackie, the manager I’d left the card for was working. I ordered some coffee and talked to her as well. She was much for the idea but had to run it by the owner first. She would call me later in the day with an answer about a show for tomorrow night, Wednesday evening.

I did some sight seeing for the rest of the day and heard back from Jackie as I was having dinner. The owner had agreed to a show. They couldn’t pay me but I could set up and sell cds. The barter was a meal tomorrow before my show. It was another van sleep for me tonight and the weather had not changed. Same temperatures, but at least I had done it once and knew I’d be okay. I figured I’d go to the movie theatre to watch a new flick. I got there about 15 minutes into every movie that was playing. I didn’t want to pay for something that had already started so I sat and read for a couple hours until Ninja Assassin was set to start again. The renown Korean pop star Rain is the star of this action filled ninja flick. It was rated R and I was feeling like having an adult evening. I then realized it was only rated this way because of the gore and not the glory. A great movie at that, I won’t critique it because I think it should purely be experienced. I felt like I could relate to this movie. Rain is a pop star who acts like a ninja warrior for the camera, I’m a blues man of sorts who acts like a winter warrior for the camera. Abs and agility versus my movie pillow abdomen and ability to hibernate. I think we’d understand each other perfectly.

After the movie, I took the van out for another spin to warm her up. I was wrong about the weather, it was slightly colder, I heard someone say it was -39 tonight and after waking up a few times in the night to try and get warmer, I know for a fact that it was a little colder and would need to take different measures if the weather grew colder again. I must have been at the limits of my sleeping bag’s temperature rating.

I showered at the the Prairie Oasis again, they were even kind enough to provide me with a warm towel and latherers so I didn’t have to use my own supplies.

I spent the day with my camera, driving around town and then deep into the back roads. I felt completely free driving a dirt road to nowhere with nothing around me but the birds in the immense sky above, overlooking miles upon miles of landscape below.

Just before the show I stopped in at a laundromat. With a quirky shop keep in the back and retro laundry services signs posted all over every wall, my inspiration took me for a ride and I emerged out of the laundromat with clean clothes and a new song…next album maybe? I made my way to Coffee Encounters and set up for the show.

The place wasn’t too busy because of the cold, but many people who were walking in to get a coffee to go did end up staying for my performance. I played from 7 to 10 that night and mingled with the crowd between sets. There was a couple sitting in front of me who had walked in and seemed to really enjoy the songs and the stories from the road I was sharing. Their names were Rob and Gabriala. They introduced themselves after I was done for the night and asked where I was staying. I told them I had been camping here in Moose Jaw and was planning to do it again tonight but they wouldn’t have it. They invited me back to their home nearby for some snacks and conversation. Rob is a teacher at the University in Regina, specializing in the art of pottery, while his wife Gabriala specializes in the art of photography. It was a treat to relax indoors for the rest of the evening, sharing our life stories and love of the artistic community. We talked about my trip for a while and they prepared me a bed on the pull out couch in the living room. Both having to work early in the morning, I set my alarm to wake up in time to have a shower and breakfast before I hit the road. I thanked them dearly for their hospitality. It was a treat to wake up to a warm floor as I set my feet down and to have amenities to prepare for my drive to Saskatoon. With the morning frost upon the city, I headed even further north.

 

 

TUNE TOWN

  1. : Since you’re meeting different people all the time do you get tired of explaining the same story on the road?

A.: Many times I feel like I’m repeating my story on the road to the many people I’ve come across.  It’s always a pleasure to have meaningful conversations with strangers now friends. The topics are less biased since we don’t know each other and our points of reference in life can be very different, but conclusions often are the same. No matter where you’re from, where you’ve been and whom you’ve become, the storyline mostly stays the same. Everyone’s had their share of good times, bad times and struggles they’ve had to face to get them back to where they’ve wanted to be.

 

December 10th – 13th , 2009

 

I was driving due north to Saskatoon. I really enjoy the drives out of a city or a town I’ve been staying in. I know this might sound heartless, but for me it’s the joy of knowing there’s a new adventure up ahead, a new set of experiences waiting.

I did have a place to stay for tonight. My friend Shayna from Winnipeg had made some calls home for me. Her parents and sisters live in Saskatoon. She had cleared it with them to have me stay while I was in town.

The drive in was great again, I had to cross the Qu’Appelle Valley once more. I lost signal while talking on the phone. It’s a strange change of scenery after expecting only more flat land. It whisks your attention to it’s rippled valley edges as you enter the glacier carving. The nice part of driving the prairies, through all of it’s scenery, is the fact that most of the time you’re all alone on the road to experience it all. I sometimes feel like I’m the first person seeing this for the first time, though I know it doesn’t make sense, it’s still fun to pretend.

I didn’t turn the GPS on when driving into Saskatoon. Tim Vaughn had told me after a few discussions that Broadway Ave was the place to be so I drove in blind hoping to find it. After taking an exit off Circle Drive and turning left I drove straight for a while and voila, Broadway Ave. One block away from where we were due to play on Saturday afternoon. I stopped in at the Broadway Cafe for some borscht soup and some tea. I wanted to get something in me and drive around the city a little before contacting the Gershers, Shayna’s family.

I drove aimlessly for a while, enjoying the architecture downtown, the side roads towards the edge of town and the warm sun coming in through my windshield as I drove along the river back to where I had started. I texted Anna, mama Gersher, to let her know I was in town and she gave me the address to punch in to my GPS. Only a short drive from Broadway, it didn’t take me long to get there.

I knocked on the door and was guided in to the guest room where I could drop my belongings and some chai tea was brewed. We talked about my travels and how I’d met her daughter at the Times Change blues bar in Winnipeg. Being travellers themselves, the Gershers were all happy to hear about what I was doing. Anna’s eldest daughter of three, Malvina, joined us for supper. We had a traditional Russian dinner. I forget the name of the dish now but they were meat filled dumplings which you either dipped in sour cream or vinegar. With this, another traditional side was served, a larger red caviar served on buttered Russian bread. David, papa Gersher, arrived a little later after he was done work.

I did some work on the computer that night and decided I’d treat myself with a midnight ride through Saskatoon for some time to think about what was coming up. It was my first stop outside of Ontario that had some planning involved. Nano was arriving in the morning to shoot for the weekend. I was looking forward to a visit from the east and I would get to pretend I was in a band again. We were a trio. Nano was flying out of Toronto, Tim was flying home from New York and I am homeless on the road through Canada!

Sunday evening after Nano had gone and the last note had been played, I laid my head down at the Gershers again.  I wanted to be in Alberta by afternoon.

 

 

CONSORT CONCERT

December 14th – 15th, 2009

 

I was driving the back roads to Alberta because I needed a drive without the lines.  Just a big sky above me and the rest I’d have to find once I crossed that Alberta border line…

I set my GPS to “shortest route”. I knew it would take me off the beaten path. Not too long after leaving town I found myself in the midst of the prairies. Open fields, clear skies, and alone on the road to listen to The Road to Escondido album by J.J. Cale and Clapton.

I was driving to Consort. My friend Tom from Toronto had a friend that lived there, Louise Marchand and her family. They offered a room in their home for me to stay after they’d heard about the trip. Both her and her husband Ron work at the nursing home in town and we thought it would be a good idea to have a show there while I was visiting the village. On the sign coming into town it showed: “ Welcome to Consort”, the town slogan: “Really Rural!”

I had a stop to make once I got into town. I hadn’t had a haircut since Kapuskasing and my hat was getting a little tight. I needed the help of a professional. I drove down Main street and parked the van. I hadn’t seen a salon anywhere so I stopped into the supermarket to ask the clerk. I was directed to the only salon open on a Monday and got my hair trimmed.

It was pretty cold again that day, about minus 44 with the wind. I stopped into the restaurant and had a sub while I was waiting for Louise to call back with an address.

A little later in the afternoon she called and we met up at the gas station so she could lead me to their house. I had my own spot in the driveway and I carried my belongings into the house where I was shown to my room. We had coffee and got to know each other a bit. Having only talked a bit previously through Facebook, we had much to catch up on. Her daughter Jeanine was living at home for a while with her twin boys and Louise’s son, Jessie, had just moved out, which allowed me to have a room.

Louise prepared a great meal which we sat and enjoyed. We put a movie on downstairs after some more coffee. The feature presentation was Stop Loss, A film about American soldiers being drafted back to to Iraq after being home only a short time and having been promised not to have to serve again. It’s a backdoor draft that has been going on because of the lack of enrolment into American forces. A truth filled story that will make you think about what’s going on in case some have forgot that the longest war we’ve seen in hundreds of years is still happening. Oh yeah, and we just awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to the Commander in Chief of thousands of troops…..but back to the blog…..

The next day, Tuesday, Louise toured me around town. We stopped in at the local drug store which was built and used to be run by KD Lang’s father. We stopped in and said hi to some of Louise’s friends. Though the Langs are no longer in town, it is the hometown of the Canadian icon. We also stopped at the grocery store for a few things and went to The Lodge Nursing Home to say hello to Louise and Ron’s coworkers before I was set to play in the afternoon. Everyone was really nice and welcoming and offered me some coffee.

In the afternoon, I drove the house over to the lodge and unloaded the equipment in order to be ready for 2 o’clock. It was a true pleasure to play, everyone was enjoying it, save for one who was sleeping through the performance. I could see the staff moving and some were singing to a few songs they knew. I was greeted by many of the residents after the performance, to shake my hand and offer some words of encouragement for the tour.

The evening was quiet, a very welcome quiet as I was starting to feel the road months catch up with me. We had another great meal which had been slow-cooking all day and then I zombied out in front of the television. I forgot how it felt to do that, I haven’t had cable TV in over two years.

The Marchands were great. A place to stay, relax, have a home cooked meal, and have great conversation with newly found friends. I couldn’t have asked more from my time spent in Consort but my stay would be a short one. I was leaving tomorrow. I wanted to be in Edmonton by the end of the week but I had a date with a giant egg before then!

 

 

THE PYSANKA

December 16th – 17th, 2009

 

Leaving Consort I drove north towards Wainwright. My stepbrother, Doug, usually lives there on the army base but he was on leave for the holidays and was at his girlfriend’s in Vegreville. A town a little further than Wainwright but closer to Edmonton. I’d never met Doug before and was happy to have the chance to do so since he was the eldest of Larry’s sons. I’d met Jeff, Scott, and Bob in Windsor but Doug hadn’t been back while I was living there.

Driving into town I put in one of my favourite bluegrass albums into the stereo, New Grass Revival’s On the Boulevard album. The banjo rolls were having a Duke’s of Hazards effect on me, I was speeding a little until I remembered I was on vacation and could listen to bluegrass music without having to get anywhere fast.

I got to Vegreville with quite enough time to spare which was good, I needed to get some work done before I could start visiting again. I drove to a parking lot and set up office in the passenger seat and called Doug about an hour later to get directions. I found my way to their house and was met at the door by Doug and Kathleen. We talked quite a bit before dinner. Kathleen is an EMT in the area and was on call that night. We had a pasta dinner which chef Doug prepared as we shared stories from Doug’s tours and war stories from the rigs. Ashley, Kathleen’s daughter also joined us after school and we all had a little RockBand challenge. Doug had just brought home the new country game and well I was more than eager to test out my skills on the four buttoned axe! Ashley beat all of us in the end with her endless note streaks. She left both Doug and I looking like amateurs. I’ll be back for another go!

Later in the night I wanted to find some allergy medication for the cat of the household. I usually carry some with me for places where felines do reside but I had run out. Ashley had to go take care of a dog for a family and so she hopped in to give me directions to the store and I gave her a ride to the house. When we got back I played a little guitar for them in the living room and we called it a night shortly after. I had been tired in the past few days and wanted to get a good night’s sleep.

I woke up early the next day. Kathleen had just come back in from working nights and everyone was wide awake at the table at 8 am. We all looked at each other and decided it was a perfect time for another country star challenge on the PlayStation. I still think I had the disadvantage of the perfectly angled morning sun coming in through the window but I’ve been going over the motions in my mind, getting ready for the next go around. Maybe if they stop practicing and I find a way to practice more I could catch up somehow…

I did a Tim Horton’s coffee run that morning and later went to pick Ashley up for lunch from school with Doug.  I left town at around 2 o’clock in the afternoon. It was a short visit but a meaningful one indeed. It was a pleasure to meet everyone and share a few meals, laughs, and memories.

Oh yeah, I did meet the egg.   I payed it a visit just before I left town that day.  A vain weather vane indeed!

 

 

EDMONTON, ON

December, 17 – January 3rd, 2009

 

Leaving Doug’s, I was headed to another Klingbile residence in Alberta. Larry’s son Jeff had offered me a place to stay for the holidays and his brother Bob also lived in Edmonton. I would be able to enjoy another room to myself and not live out of a suitcase for a couple weeks while relaxing over Christmas and New Year’s, it would be a treat. I knew Jeff would be working during the day Thursday but I drove in anyways, I wanted to go shopping for a car starter at the Best Buy, a Xmas gift from Mom and Larry, and check out my surroundings a little. I was quite disappointed at the Best Buy when they informed me that if I bought a remote starter for the van, they wouldn’t be able to install it until February because of all the holiday bookings. I informed him of my situation but there was nothing to do. The bookings were full and tight.

I thought I’d get an oil change that afternoon too. I was due since leaving Toronto. Turns out my right break light was burnt out. I joked with the attendant, saying that it was okay since my left turning signal was burnt out too so I was pumping the breaks to alert traffic when making a turn. She didn’t get it….

I punched in Whyte Ave into the GPS. I remembered the fuss over this famed street during the Stanley Cup playoffs a few years back and wanted to see it. I parked the car on the street and walked much of it, stopping in at shops along the way and sitting down for dinner at a Mexican restaurant.

Jeff called me a little later since I’d left a message on his phone to inform him I was in town. He told me he was done work for the evening and was at the Boston Pizza near his place having a pint and watching the game. I joined him. It turned out that Jeff would be on vacation until after Xmas. His boss was expecting his family over the holidays and once they arrived into town, the construction sites were put on hold in order to spend the holidays with them.

When we got back to his place, he showed me to where I’d be staying. I’d have a bed, a night table, dresser, everything I’d need for a few weeks. I was very grateful for these simple pleasures since these are not always a given on the road.

Jeff had just bought a Wii game console that day so we proceeded to drink some beers and play sports all night. Much of my time spent in Edmonton was just doing human things that one can do when you have a place to go back to. When you’re not actively looking for places to play or stay, you can relax a bit. I caught up on reading, writing, and practicing some new songs of mine. I even caught up with some pop culture, watching TV at night.

On the first Sunday I was there, we both went out to Bob and Lindsay’s place in the North East end of town. It was completely across the city from where Jeff lived, the South West end near the West Edmonton Mall!  We did visit.

Bob and Lindsay had us over for dinner and we stayed till late that evening, having brought the Wii and all. It was our pre-Xmas celebration. Bob had to work the night of, and would be out in BC the following day to be with Lindsay’s family. He invited me to come to work with him before he headed west. A constable for the local police force in Edmonton, it’d be great to maximize on visiting time and to see the city from a cruiser’s point of view.

Wednesday night I followed them into work. It was a slower evening so we took the opportunity to catch up some more. I met other members of the force; Jay, Bob’s partner, and others who met us for dinner.

On Christmas day, Jeff and I got ready to go out to his friend Dave’s place. Dave had family visiting from Ontario and, to my surprise, from Northern Ontario. He himself was originally from Engleheart while his dad’s girlfriend, Murielle, had lived in Moonbeam for many years. Her son Jeremy Dagg was also there with his Kapuskasing girlfriend Cindy. I had found a Kapuskasing/all Ontario house for Xmas by complete luck of knowing Jeff from Windsor who took me to his friend’s place. If that’s not a Xmas miracle, I don’t know what is!

Murielle and Dave Sr. were busy cooking all day. Tourtiere, turkey, mashed potatoes, salads, devilled eggs, it smelled like I was at home for the holidays. I sang the Xmas song Jeff and I had put together for the occasion, as a way to give back for my meal and invitation. We would also end up spending New Year’s Eve there a week later. The holidays were great to take a few days off the road and recharge.

The Saturday before I left, I had arranged a show for one of the soup kitchens in town, The Marian Centre. I was spending Christmas in a different fashion this year and wanted to share it with some whom might be sharing the same thought. I met with the volunteers before lunch and was introduced to everyone with food and stories. Roberto and Krista were kind enough to show me around the kitchen as I poured myself some stew. Patrick also greeted me and introduced me to some of the other Marian Centre residents like Gerard and Sushi. I was happy to meet them as they had arranged for my performance; and, I was eager for a tour of the facilities as their organization operates solely on donations. It was interesting to compare stories since donations have been the propeller for the Good Faith Tour as well.

With one last night in Edmonton I gathered the things in my room, which I had been growing comfortable in. I was heading out early afternoon the next day to say goodbye to Bob and Lindsay. Jeff had to work and couldn’t come along, I thanked him for his generous hospitality.

It was at 2:30 pm that I tackled the on-ramp to the QE2 highway towards Red Deer. I knew nothing about the city and knew no one there; but, right away as I started down the highway, I was overcome by the pleasant sensation of being on the road again and keeping the journey moving forward.

 

 

THE VAT

January 3rd – 7th, 2010

 

Taylor Drive took me to downtown Red Deer at around 4:00pm Sunday. I had to find the scene. I drove around a little bit and stopped in at an O’Malley’s, an Irish pub, for a coffee and a quick bite to eat before the night got started. After ordering, I asked the bartender about the goings on in Red Deer on a Sunday night. She said, “If you like live music, there’s a great jam at The Vat.”

I drove over after I finished my dinner to find out at what time everything started. When I walked in the sound guys were there setting up. Youdai, the main sound man, informed me it started at 9 but to show up early if I wanted to get up on stage. He said the jam gets packed and they don’t always have time to fit everyone in. It kind of came as a shock for a Sunday night but, by 9 pm, the bar was full. The stage set-up was: drums, bass, guitar, and keys. The Vat has quite a charm, two billiard tables at the back that give a bit of a tavern feel with tables and a big screen but as you walk towards the stage, the ceiling gets higher and it feels as though you entered a warehouse party. Brian and Amanda were behind the bar, doing a great job at both serving the floor and bar tending. The night was standing room only for many.

I signed up for the Jam and was set to go on third. I went to the stage to meet the guitarist of the house band, Tyler. I asked him about what the scene was like and what to expect and decided to bring in the acoustic guitar to change it up a little. It turned out to be a truly eclectic jam: rock, funk, blues, 80s hairband, singer/songwriter. Everyone’s welcome and the band is great for delivering everything being thrown their way. It was the perfect place to meet new people. I heard that Friday night isn’t as busy as their Sunday, yet people were partying like it was Friday on a Sunday.

After playing Love Me and a cover of Copperhead Road, I was befriended by a freelance photographer and two of his models who were posing around the bar for him all night. My hat was even confiscated for one of the in prompt-to shoots. We talked for a while about the project and he was able to send out the story to a few of his contacts for me the next day. Later on in the night though, Youdai asked me if I wanted to go back up. I told him I could but would have to borrow an electric guitar since I had already brought my other one back to the van and it would be cold by now. Tyler was kind enough to offer me his stratocaster and amp so I could play one last set. The band was playing hot as we ripped up a few heavy hitting blues numbers like Death Letter Blues and Blue on Black.

I didn’t barter a place to stay for the night so the trusty van it was at -16. It turns out that sleeping conditions are ideal in that temperature range for the sleeping bag. I woke up well rested the next day and had breakfast in town. Later in the afternoon I went to the Vat again since I was told Terry, the owner, would be in. We booked a gig for the Tuesday at 9:00pm. I thanked him and walked back to my car. I drove around a little bit to get my bearings for Red Deer and found an internet signal to check my emails. I spent much of the rest of the day sightseeing; but, unfortunately my still camera was now out of order. I would have to take mental pictures until I could get it to work again, and actually, I didn’t mind this.

Later that day, after cooking some dinner, I went for coffee which was given to me since I would have to wait for the roast to be brewed, score! I sat and read at Chapters for the rest of the evening. I was near the end of Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk To Freedom. The story has kept me enthralled throguh my travels. I don’t always have the time to pick it up but it’s always familiar when I do get a chance. With a few chapters left, I closed my book and retired to my bed for the night again.

The next day I went to the Flying J in town to get ready for my show that night. For 15$ you can rent a shower room with full facilities to shower and shave. Many people have horror stories of truck stop shower facilities but this one was pristine. Everything was spotless and fresh smelling. I felt quite posh in my showering suite.

I arrived at the vat for 8:30, just in time to see Canada lose against the States. Some of the patrons were disappointed and left for home. I was able to convince a few to stick around for a consolation beer though and to see the show. It wasn’t very full at all when I started my show at 9 but everyone was very attentive. I even had my own personal heckler for the night who bought me a few drinks later on. Some of the people there did buy cds which helped a great deal. One of the bartenders from Sunday, Brian, was there and bought 4 for himself. Terry bartered generously with me, offering gas, a tab, and a place to stay at the band house. The bar has a house for bands coming through town, only steps away from their parking lot. It is operated by a tenant, Theresa, who looks after the place, cleans it, and makes sure the beds are made and that the house is kept smelling fresh with odours of potpourri.  It was well decorated with bamboo area rugs, paper lamps and candles everywehere. I walked in at around 2:30am after the show and found my way downstairs to a room fitted with two double beds. When I woke up the next day, Theresa was up and about and we introduced each other over coffee.  Terry did let her know that I’d be coming over and so I wasn’t a complete surprise.

I was able to stay for the remainder of the week as well since there were no other bands coming through until Friday. It was great, I was able to catch the singer/songwriter night on Wednesday and play a little diddy that night too. Thursday I caught up with some laundry and finished my book, a must read for everyone! I was leaving for Calgary Friday morning and was pretty much all set to go after doing a video tour of the band house with Theresa as the host which you’ll be able to see in the documentary!

Thanks again to everyone in Red Deer and at the Vat for the great times. Until next time, I must be moving on!

 

 

JUKE JAMS

January 8th – 13th, 2010

 

I left for Calgary at around noon on Friday, enjoying the distant view of the Rockies as I got closer to town. Tori would be back from Toronto later in the evening but I wanted to see if anyone could install my car starter in Calgary. I ran a few errands after getting into town at around 2 o’clock. I had some lunch and went to the Best Buy there to see if I could book an appointment; but, again they were booked up there until February. I could get someone else to install a Canadian Tire starter for me but it would cost over 300$ installation anywhere I went. It was a little out of this musician’s budget. I think my car starter dream would have to die. My mom and Larry were a little disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to get one but they opted to buy me a new camera for my Xmas present instead, since the last one had died. I got a FujiFilm Finepix S1500. It has 10X optical zoom and 10 megapixels. I’ve been enjoying it tremendously and was extremely grateful since I wanted a camera to get through the Rockies! Thank you very much again!!! 🙂

Later in the day I got to Tori’s and Kay’s in the NW section of town. We had some pizza and after dinner, I went down to Mikey’s Juke Joint in the SW. Being that it was a known blues bar in town, I wanted to see who was featured for the night. It would be the Matt Blais Band, a young local blues/rock band who are just getting their feet wet in the scene. Playing a mix of their own songs and some classics, they were really doing a great job as a four piece who were breaking in a drummer that night. The lead singer, Matt, was playing harmonica and was accompanied by guitar, bass, and drums. I stayed for a while but was tired and felt like I might be coming down with something. I went back to the house and laid down for the night not too long after. By next morning, I could feel I had a bit of a cold. Tori, Kay, and I went to the farmer’s market in the morning to get a few things. Though I wasn’t feeling the greatest, I was stubborn and wanted to go catch the jam at Mikey’s later, which happens every Saturday afternoon at 3pm. A gentleman at the bar had told me about it the night before.

I showed up for 3 o’clock and could tell from the jazz passes I was hearing from outside that the player’s on stage were heavy hitters. Mike, the owner of the bar, opens the jam with his house band. He plays saxophone, guitar, and sings while his players accompany him on guitar, bass, and drums and occasionally relieve him of his singing duties. They were playing a mix of original and cover blues, jazz, rockabilly country, and soul. The place was packed. I had shown up as everything was getting started but would still have to stand for the 4 hours I was there.

Once the band got off stage after the first set, I introduced myself to Mike and asked if I could go up and play a few songs. He agreed and told me I could run my guitar through his amp. Mike runs no effects on his amp so I would deal with a straight guitar sound through his fender amp, which was fine. I don’t usually use too many effects myself anyhow. I was introduced as a Mikey’s Juke Joint virgin and the crowd was informed I would be “popping my cherry” that afternoon. I was teamed up with another guitar player and we were off with Bill Wither’s Ain’t No Sunshine. I played two originals afterwards and ended my set with a demanded encore. I played Van Morrison’s Crazy Love to bring it back down a notch after our funk Rock version of Love Me. The crowd was great, clapping and cheering after each song. Mike shook my hand after I walked off the stage and told me to get a hold of him on my way back through town for a booking. They book music there seven nights a week plus the occasional daily shows. I thanked him much for having me up. Many of the patrons introduced themselves during the rest of the afternoon and into the early evening. Many of them were surprised that I was able to get up without knowing Mike. I found out that it was a bit of an exclusive jam, reserved for recognized musician’s in the area, ones that Mike had entrusted. I met so many people that even the band member’s names escape me now. I’m finding as the trip goes on that I’m having a hard time remembering names because of the dozens of people I meet everyday, though I’m usually pretty good at remembering faces.

On Sunday Tori invited me to go snowshoeing with her friends Shelley and Troy. They were going out for the afternoon and had invited her along. Not having been snowshoeing in over 12 years, I thought it’d be great to try it out again, especially in the foothills. I was able to rent them for pretty cheap at the University outdoor supplies shop, costing me a total of ten dollars and fifty cents for the day. We grabbed some sandwiches for the hike and set out to meet them at their house before heading west. I am not allowed to head west and return East until I reach Victoria, but we compromised by using Tori’s vehicle and were able to wave the rule since I wasn’t the one driving. It was a beautiful afternoon, Calgary was enjoying a Chinook over the past few days. Temperatures climbed to 7 degrees in the afternoon all throughout the week. We trekked through the snow in our sweaters for about two hours. We climbed a hill which was part of a loop system and at the top, there was a scenic lookout point. We even saw a moose about 100 yards away, the cow was supposedly accompanied by her calf, another climber had said, but we didn’t see the young one on our way through.

After our hike was over, we had a quick lunch in the parking lot and headed back towards town, stopping only for a hot chocolate and a sports drink for the ride. Tori showed me the site of the Olympic ski jump and a scenic point where I could see most of the city since I had the video camera with me. She knew I’d appreciate a good shot! We headed back home for dinner where she cooked us all some pasta for dinner. I was headed to another jam that night. I didn’t know where yet but I knew some were happening from the listings I had viewed in the FastForward magazine. It was nice to be able to do my own thing. I could come and go from the house when I needed to. Both Tori and Kay were occupied with their own schedule so I was able to write my own as well. I headed to the Pig and Whistle later to catch a blues jam hosted by the Sideshow Bob Band.

I walked in with a bit of a tight budget. I told myself I would have a pop and maybe a coffee while watching the bands and waiting for my set. I walked in and sat at the bar. I didn’t know who was hosting the night as some jammers were already up by the time I got there. I looked around the room for a bit to scope out the situation. I noticed a woman sitting at the bar talking to her friend about blues and musicians she knew so I figured she’d know who I should talk to. I asked her who I should inquire about playing to. She directed me to Bob. I introduced myself and he agreed to have me up. Because I had gotten there a little later, I would have to wait till the end of the night. I met some of the other musicians playing that night who also recommended a Tuesday jam at the Rusty Cage. It seemed like most of the people in the bar were musicians. A few people were playing pool or having a bite to eat but it seemed to be more of a musician hangout. Bob set me up with a great band and we closed off the night. I was happy to make an impression again as they had made on me. It’s been great to visit the country’s various music scenes. Everywhere I’ve gone has a different one to offer, but each have been equally as talented and inspiring. Driving home that night, I told myself I would go gig hunting the next day, I had done a couple jams but wanted to book something to help with the trip and hopefully sell a few more cds.

Visiting bars and coffee shops, no one seemed interested in the project. I know I was a little off my game that week though, still struggling with my cold which hit it’s peak on Monday, I was getting tired fast driving around and trying to plan an evening. I don’t want to generalize, but the people and places I did walk into weren’t interested and seemed too occupied with their own schedule to really pay attention to what I had to say. It would turn out that Calgary wouldn’t have a gig for me this time around. Mike from the Juke Joint had told me he would hire me on the way back, but the city was booked well in advance as most major centres are. I decided I would satisfy my musical hunger with the various jams hosted around town and simply take the opportunity to shake the rust off my electric guitar chops since I’ve mainly been playing acoustic guitar along the way.

Wednesday, after doing some laundry and after doing a quick clean up in the back of my van, I decided to head west into the Rockies. I thanked Tori for the hospitality, it was early afternoon and without knowing what the roads were like, I wanted to take advantage of the daylight. I was extremely eager to see the mountains up close and felt I’d have a better chance to book a gig on the weekend in Golden, B.C. if I showed up a bit earlier in the week.

 

 

GOLDEN TAPS

January 13th -18th, 2009

 

When leaving Calgary I was immediately attentive to the mountains in the distance. I wanted to see Banff and Lake Louise while driving through in the afternoon, it was a perfect day with few clouds.

I had tried to imagine the mountains many times before I got here, but none of my mental manifestations compared to the giants now standing in front of me. I had to remind myself to pay attention to the road too so I compromised by slowing down and letting people pass me who were familiar with the view and were in more of a hurry. I wanted to soak it in which resulted in getting to Banff a little later than expected. I spent a few hours walking around downtown with the camera and a coffee.

I was enjoying the warm pine winter air at 4 degrees that day but I had to keep going west if I was going to make it to Golden with some light. I stopped at Lake Louise though, I had driven all this way with wanting to have the lake’s view in my mind and out of picture books.

Leaving Lake Louise I realized that I’d have to drive about 30 kms in the dark. Not too far of a drive but an uncertain one indeed. It was a little foggy that night which made it harder to anticipate the road. I took my time and got to Golden in the early evening.

I went to the grocery store and bought some supplies to make dinner on the Coleman stove. I wanted to do a little reading before bed, waiting until morning to see the view I’d missed on my way in. It was pitch black because of the fog and clouds but I could see headlights driving by on the ridge that runs above the town.

I stopped a group of friends walking by. They were headed somewhere with their folders in hands, an energy meeting the town was holding. I thought it peculiar for all these young adults around my age to attend this. Many of the young twenty year olds I know wouldn’t be bothered by a gathering of this type. I asked them where the music was in town and was told to check out the Golden Taps near the 7-Eleven. Everything in Golden seems to be situated near the 7-Eleven as it seems to be the reference point to many directions. I didn’t go for long, I wanted to rest up and try my luck in the afternoon when management would be in. I talked to the bartender there that night, just asking if they had any live music booked for the weekend, which they did.

I drove to a level parking spot and retired at around 11pm. I couldn’t wait to open my eyes to the day and see what surrounded me. All I could see that night was a dark town of about 4500 people and the darkness above it.

When I woke up I peaked outside my window and saw it was a clear and sunny day. I got dressed and stepped outside. To my surprise I was surrounded with mountains. All around town the snowy summits were gathered around like guardians of the ski paradise. I must of stood in that same place for 5 minutes looking all around, trying to extract every detail, every resting place if one were to climb to the top or I tried to plan untamed ski runs from top to bottom.

I put myself together and drove to the 7-Eleven for coffee. I hadn’t seen a Tim Hortons in town anywhere and so after obtaining my morning energy drink, I drove to a spot where I could park the van again and gaze at the Rockies while sipping my coffee. I had never seen anything like this in my life, and to the many who have visited, you must remember your first experience most vividly. I drove away from my vantage point aimlessly, still taking in the scenery until I saw a pedestrian holding out his thumb. We were in town and I was a little confused. I turned around and drove back to him to ask him where he needed a ride to.

“I’m headed up to Kicking Horse for the day” he said.

I told him to hop in, asking him for directions as to where we were headed.

“You’re already headed there. The only way this road goes is up or down from the resort.”

“Perfect”, I could go take some pictures and have the rest of my coffee up there while doing some writing.

He hopped in and before we had a chance to introduce ourselves, about 500 meters down the road, another thumb went out. I told this self-proclaimed ski bum that I could give her a ride too but she would have to sit on the floor in the back because of my gear. This was of course no problem and then we were three. Kayla was from Ottawa while John was from New-Zealand. Both had been here for the last year or more but were headed back home to continue with their studies once the season ended.

After dropping them off and hearing about the open jam that was going on that night at the Golden Taps, I caught up on some work and decided to go have a bite to eat at the bar near the day lodge.

I was still on a little bit of a budget but like the old saying goes, you have to spend money to make money. If I only eat groceries then I’m not in the bar talking to people. And it was a good idea because I was told about the Rockwater bar in town which hosted live music as well. Ashley, one of the servers had informed me to go talk to Ryan, the manager there.

I finished my order of yam fries and headed back to town. The Golden Taps and the Rockwater were only steps away from each other. I went to the Rockwater first. Ryan was in and he kindly accepted to do a show for Sunday as he had a DJ booked for the weekend. I could stay in one of the rooms upstairs on Sunday, one part of our negotiations for the barter. I thanked him and walked out on to the street towards the Taps. I saw the same bartender from the night before and asked her if the owner was in. “Yes he’s just over there, his name’s Adam.” she said.

She walked me over to him, he was adding another LCD television next to the billiards table. He too was keen on a performance and offered me a dinner show on Friday with tab and money for the road. We couldn’t do an evening gig as they had music booked on the weekend as well. This was perfect though, Friday and Sunday night shows with a place to stay Sunday before I left town. I have never booked two gigs in ten minutes before!

Later that evening, when I showed up for the jam, it was to my surprise that the bar was filling up quite fast. I moved in on the last bar stool left and ordered a pint. The two guys hosting the night were just setting up. Both long haired musicians, one with a moustache and the other with a bandanna. They played a mix of bluegrass/Americana/folk and originals to open up the night. They were Ben and Eric, a music duo from town now, but, Ben originated from New Zealand while Eric was from the Toronto area. Ben told me I could use his acoustic if I wanted to get up, which was great since mine was still a little cold. I played alone for the first song, but by the end of the set drums had been set up and Eric was playing electric riffs through some of the blues songs we played. The bar had filled up completely and was standing room only.

Towards the end of the night Eric asked me to go up again; and, by this time, there was a full band setup with a bassist added to the mix. What a night!

Both Ben and Eric invited me back to there house after I’d met the other roommates Emily and Ben’s sister Joy which was in town for a visit. They didn’t have an extra place for me to sleep but I could park in their driveway and use their amenities in the morning and have some breakfast.

The next day I showed up for 5 o’clock again at the Taps to have dinner before playing. While I was having my wrap salad and fries the bar was dealt an entertainment blow. The much anticipated Kevin & Devon duo were snowed in at Revelstoke and couldn’t make the drive to town to play. Many people were set to come in that night to see them as they’re a favourite in Golden when they come to town. Adam called me and said he’d come in from 6:30 to 7:30 to see me play and said only to do one hour since he would probably hire me for the evening to cover for them if I “Didn’t suck”, he said.

At 9:45 I started the evening show. There was another musician in the bar travelling through from Victoria, and he offered to play between sets. Adam agreed and so we would share the night as Mr. Jet, and his travelling companion needed accommodations while in town which they were keen on playing for.

While playing my first set, a man came up to the stage and asked if he could come up and jam. He said he used to host the jam night there. I didn’t have an opposition to it but I only had my guitar and told him he’d have to ask Mr. Jet if he could use his. This wasn’t an issue and so he sang a few songs and jammed a few songs and had a grand ole time. We talked a bit after our set was done. His name was Aaron, and was a banker in town. He and his wife Debbie had also owned a candy store which they had just recently sold. He told me he was going to a birthday party the next day to play music for his friend’s 40th birthday and wanted me to come. I didn’t have anything planned and so I agreed. He was willing to pay me to play but I didn’t say much as I wasn’t planning on accepting a personal payment, I would have just played and left it at that. I sat with him and his group of friends. Four of them were in from Calgary to ski for the weekend. Aaron invited me back to the house after the bar and after hearing of my barter tour. It was very generous since they already had their company from out of town and their family all under the same roof. If my count is right, their was two babies, 3 kids, and 7 adults. A good thing their house was immense, we all slept in beds!

I was treated to the same hospitality as everyone, meals, comforts of home. Aaron told me they often have travellers come and stay as they love meeting new people and helping them on their way. I was surprised when I found out that Ben and Eric had also been boarders with them when they first arrived to Golden, working in the candy store and playing music at night. I knew I was with the right people and we went to the party on Saturday as planned. We jammed all through the evening, playing everything we knew. It was quite the birthday party, Hawaiian themed with hollowed out coconut glasses and many in beach uniform gathered around the feast set out on the table. I met so many great people, friends of the birthday man and of Aaron’s.

Later in the night Aaron presented me with a fist full of cash. He said they’d had a collection for me at the party. I was extremely grateful but had no idea it was going on. I ended the night with some of my originals as a thank you to everyone. Their generosity could not go unnoticed or unrewarded. Thank you again to everyone if you’re reading this, you put the good in “Good Faith Tour”, though maybe I should change it to the “Great Faith Tour”.

Sunday I got ready to hit the town before the show and stopped at Tim Hortons to get a coffee after hearing the night before that there indeed was one in town, it was up on the highway. Aaron gave me a few books for the road and told me to pass them on after I’d read them, which I will!

I had dinner at the Rockwater and prepared for the show. It was a quiet night which resulted in playing for a few patrons and Ryan behind the bar. I wish for the bar that it could have been a busier night but it had been a busy weekend from what I heard and well, for me, it was a chance to practice my songs, some of which I hadn’t tried in a while.

Ryan and I got acquainted since it was quiet. A great guy, originally from St-Catherines, we got talking about the GTA and places we knew and why he’d made the move. It’s like heaven out here. I had been doing my best all weekend not to get sucked in as I knew I would never want to leave myself. Ryan said to let him know when I’d be back as he’d book me in again. I thanked him again for the show before retiring to my room. I had played four nights in a row and my bed in the room couldn’t have felt more comfortable that night. I think I fell asleep as soon as I hit the pillow. Tomorrow, was a new day, a new town, new people, and… laundry day.

 

 

REVELSTOKE! part I

January 18th – 22th, 2010

 

Driving to Revelstoke through Roger’s Pass was quite the view again, though it was snowing that day and visibility was cut down quite a bit. I couldn’t stop along the way since most of the road between Golden and Revi is designated a high risk avalanche area.

When I arrived early that afternoon I had just crossed the new time zone. I was tired and didn’t feel like doing anything but resting or doing a bit of reading. I did manage to get myself to do some much needed laundry though. I had played music four nights in a row and because of my cold mixed in with all the singing, my voice was a little raw. I decided not to go out anywhere or meet too many people. I needed at least a day to myself to recharge and to gather my bartering strengths.

I started reading the first book I’ve ever bought, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I had bought it in Thunder Bay when I was there a few months ago but hadn’t gotten around to reading it yet. The story is about a young shepherd, Santiago, who decides to sell his sheep and follow his life’s legend, his destiny. I devoured the book, sitting down only twice with it and it was done. It is a short read but very meaningful in all it’s passages. It had been recommended to me by my good friend, Sarah, from Guelph. She herself is a traveller and had found it a great read in her time spent in South America.

I’ve been reading at night with a neat contraption. When I was in Dauphin, Shelby had come home from school with a bit of a gift basket. One of the items were plastic glasses with no lenses; but, at either side lies a light which is powered by a watch battery it would seem. She didn’t have any use for these but for me, they were gold! I had been relying on sunlight until that point to get any reading done, now I could lie down in bed and read if I wanted. Thanks again Shelb!

On Tuesday, I woke up late morning and grabbed a coffee. I had slept in my van just on the outskirt of town at a rest stop where transport trucks and travellers with campers park overnight.

Driving down main street I saw two hitchhikers. It was like deja-vu from Golden. They needed a ride up the mountain and, well, I hadn’t been up yet. I told them to hop in. They were both cool guys from Utah, here for the season as they fight forest fires at home in the Summer. I pumped them for information on our drive up, asking them where they had seen live music in town. They gave me a few suggestions to try and before we knew it, we were at the day lodge. I drove back into town and went to the first one they’d talked about, The Village Idiot. I talked to the waitress but I had to go back a little later that evening to talk to the manager, Eric. He was interested in a gig but thought it’d be better for Thursday. I thanked him and posted my success on Facebook. As it turns out, my friend Kirk from Windsor saw this and happened to know the owner as well as some of the staff since they were all from Windsor originally. I had no idea about this until Thursday when I went in for the gig. Meanwhile, Kirk had sent me a message to let me know of this and contacted them for me as well. I had noticed that the pizza did look suspiciously familiar when I went in a little later to see the act booked in that Tuesday. To my surprise it was Devon, from the Kevin and Devon duo, that couldn’t make the gig at the Golden Taps a few days prior. He was a great show to watch, utilizing many effects to create a very full sound for a single act. He had mic’d the floor for the bass drum sound, and had looping pedals along with delay, distortion, and wah pedal effects. He was singing really great original songs though I couldn’t get a CD from him that night since he’d forgotten them. I did get his contact information to keep in touch.

The next day I visited another bar, The Regent. I was to speak with Brady but when I did I could tell he wasn’t into the whole project. He did say he’d call me back but it would be of no surprise to me when he didn’t. I didn’t appreciate that he tried to get information as to what the Village Idiot was going to pay me, like he wanted to outdo them or not outdo himself. Because these deals are made with a handshake, I told him only that I was getting a great tab and money for the road, which doesn’t really mean anything. He was purely looking out for his own interest.

The hitchhikers had also told me of a music jam that happened on Wednesdays at The Last Drop. I wanted to catch this for sure as jams tend to do me good in booking gigs, giving people a chance to hear me before hiring me.

Most of my day was spent sight seeing and cleaning the van before I made it out to the jam that night. The host was Steve Smith and the Maritime Kitchen Band. Playing an assortment of well portrayed classics, the crowd was pumping right away. The bar was packed at 9 o’clock and stayed that way for the rest of the night. I was set to go on last. I asked the band to stay on stage and I would call out the songs to them. We played a great set, opening with Copperhead Road. Since the guys play this song in another band of theirs, Shannon did the intro on bass and Trevor was right on with the drums keeping the energy high. They were quite the rhythm section, well seasoned, and you could tell they had been playing together for a long time. It’s always nice to meet musicians such as them because you don’t have to worry. They’re the type whom you could call the night before a show because your band is sick; and, though never having played with them before, you’d hire them for the gig because they’re experienced enough to walk up on stage and get the job done.

I met quite a few people that night including a young singer/songwriter from Australia, Jess. She and her housemates were out for the night to play a few songs and to have a few pints. I wanted to get her information to do something for the documentary but when I turned around they were gone. I asked Richard behind the bar if he knew them. He said he did and would let her know to give me a call if he saw her around.

Thursday I walked around town for a while, stopping in at different stores that make up the downtown core. I had to be at the Village Idiot for 7pm to set up and have dinner before the show started. I met the owner Joel. He was from Windsor and had owned Spicoli’s there as well as having a hand into some other bars. He even knew my brother Jean-Paul who’d worked downtown Windsor a few years earlier. It was a bit of a reunion from Windsor because even after the show, Eric Stokes, his girlfriend Ali, his sister Joy, and I went to the Last Drop which also staffed Windsorites. One of them was Johnny Price. He was a good friend of Eric’s who in turn hired me for Friday after hearing about the show I’d just played a few blocks over. I was stoked because they would offer me a room for tomorrow night and some money for the road as well.

That night though, Eric had offered me a place to crash at his home. We walked there after last call. It was appreciated to sleep indoors for the night and the girls walked me back to the van the next day on their way into work. I received a phone call from Johnny early in the afternoon saying that the gig was confirmed and that I could check into my room at Powder Springs anytime I wanted. It was the hotel attached to the bar. I went there right away to relax in my own space for the afternoon. I brewed some coffee and watched television for a while. It was a treat again to have a room of my own to simply relax and groom myself for the show that night. I played a bit of guitar before setting up for the show. They too offered me a tab and so I had some dinner again. I started at 8 that night and ended at 12:15am. Little to my knowledge, the extra 15 minutes after midnight posed a problem for the bar. The liquor inspector had been in and because of their food primary license, they were warned that in the future, live music could not play past midnight. Had I of known I would of stopped after one encore…

I retired to my room and had a great night’s sleep, checking out at exactly 11am the next day.

 

 

REVELSTOKE! part II

January 23rd – 28th, 2010

 

After checking out that day I went over to a breakfast restaurant a few blocks away from the hotel. It was quite crowded and the only table available was a table for four. They did seat me there but then another lonely traveller walked in, Pablo. He was from Spain, a long way’s away from home and had little English to communicate with. I told him to sit at my table since there were three extra seats. We talked about his trip as he’d landed in Vancouver and was travelling most of BC. It’s actually quite amazing how much conversation you can have with someone who doesn’t speak the same language. Expressions, hand gestures, and similar sounding words give off the same effect in the end, telling me about the bull races back home and his experience with the mountains so far.

After breakfast I went about reading for the better part of the afternoon. There was a band in that night and I wanted to catch a bit of it. I didn’t stay too long since Jess had gotten a hold of me and wanted to jam a few songs.

I found my way to her and her roommates’ house on the north side of town. It turns out Jess was playing at the Last Drop on Monday afternoon, as part of the Australia Day celebrations, and she asked me to play the show with her.  I learned a few songs which she intended to do and we quickly went over her set list: Waltzing Matilda, the national anthem, I Come From A Land Down Under….it was a good jam, I’d brought the video camera.  Jess Cullen has a breathy and sultry tone to her voice but also has the power to shout above the comfortable swagger she naturally soaks the room with. I’ve taken it upon myself to try and showcase the unique musicians I’ve come across since I’ve been so lucky to see the various artists Canada hosts, heard of or unheard of. We called it a night early enough for me to head back to the bar just as the night was ending there.

Johnny P. and his roommate Brittany, who also works at the bar, invited me back to their place for a couple drinks after they “shut ‘er down”. We cabbed it there and listened to some music in their party palace into the early hours of the morning, a schedule I remember keeping when working at the Reactor Night Club in Windsor. A bar in the living room with a palm tree and party decorations, this place was the place to be after hours. Brittany also had two big and loving German shepherds that were extremely happy to have company as well. Johnny and Brittany were great and told me to make myself at home for my time in Revelstoke, should I need a place to crash. Their home was my home, I was told.

Sunday morning I walked back to the van. I needed some fresh air, but more importantly, I needed a coffee and got some for my temporary roommates too. I also needed to catch up on some things in the afternoon, such as blogging and updating my contact book.

In the evening, Johnny invited me to catch a hockey game that his team was playing in. Eric played in his team too, and because of the bar collaboration, they were the “The Dropout Idiots”. It was quite the game, sporting only 7 players, the Dropouts had only one spare on the bench for this full 3 period hockey game. Their opponents had more than a line’s worth of spares but were being out-skated. Eric and and Johnny P. are definitely the strongest on their team, setting up plays every time they rushed their adversary’s net. Some great passes were made but sometimes there was just no one there. This didn’t stop them from winning though, they won 6-5. I couldn’t believe they managed to keep the energy up to skate, score, and conquer. I was sitting upstairs after the game and got a text saying to come down for the celebration in the dressing room, and like any hockey arena, all I had to do was follow the ripe smell of victory and keep walking past the stale smell from games past.

Monday I woke up early enough to shower and to go meet Jess at the bar. Set to start at 2, we were still waiting on the sound system to arrive. Turns out that because she was playing there in the afternoon, and at the Idiot that night, the rental service went to the wrong bar. I told her not to worry about it, I brought in my equipment instead. All her 10 roommates were out in full fury with white t-shirts on to be able to write on each other with felt pens. Jess was wearing a bikini bottom over her jeans while others wore short cut-offs over tights. They like to get a little crazy! Though I didn’t have a white t-shirt, they branded my skin with their felts and made me an honorary Aussie for the day with various sayings and drawings covering my arms. Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!, Oi! Oi! Oi!!

It was fun to do the show since it gave me a chance to sit back and play along instead of singing. It was her first 3 set show, and being a bit new to the game, she told me later it was nice to have me there for musical and PA support. I was invited to do the show at the Idiot that night at 8 as well. She had arranged for a room for me at the Drop again that night so I would have accommodations for my sets. I told her it was an honour to be a part of the festivities, though it wasn’t Australia day in Canada on the Monday, it was in Oz because of the time difference. They would celebrate two days in a row. On the second day I rested, sort of…

Tuesday morning I drove over to the north end to bring Jess’ guitar back which she’d left in my van; but, was told by her roommates that she hadn’t been home yet, a true rock star. I was faced with a dilemma. I wanted to go up to the mountain to sing a song on the summit but needed a camera man/woman. Turns out the guy for the job would be Cam. Cam the camera man was another musician in the house who agreed to partake in the activities of the Good Faith Tour.

We drove up to the day lodge and walked to the gandala, which doesn’t require a day pass to ride when not in ski gear. This only takes you half way up the mountain though. There’s a rest area there with washrooms and a deck that overlooks the valley and town below. Some skiers on break saw us coming with my guitar and offered us a drink for a song. I took them up on their offer and played a few songs for them with the sky oasis as the backdrop. Our new buddies were still celebrating that day from the night before and were taking turns jumping off the deck and into soft powder on the slope below.

Knowing I had to be back to town in the early evening, I found ski patrol and asked about getting to the chair lift, which would take us up closer to the summit. We were told we’d have to speak with management to have sleds take us their as it’s too dangerous to walk while skiers and snowboarders are making their way down the hill and to the lift. We would also have to sign an insurance waver to exempt the resort from responsibility should we choose to ignore our own. This didn’t upset me since now I knew that it could be done and knew what I’d have to ask for once I got to the office.

We went back down to the lodge and spoke with Ashley. I told her of my intentions with her mountain peaks and she agreed to have arrangements ready for the morning. We were warned to dress warm as it is much colder at the summit because of wind vulnerability. We would have at least a 30 minute climb to the summit once let off the chair lift. I drove Cam back home and went to the Drop to see my friends.

I was getting ready that evening for an event I’d been dodging, keeping just in front of on my journey. The Olympic torch relay was stopping in Revelstoke that night and I wanted to be there to see the celebration. Waiting around for the runner to pass by I still had quite some time and was befriended by a few Vancouverites. They invited me to the bar for a drink and to warm up until the torch came by. To my surprise when we got in the bar there must have been 20 full glasses of beer on the table, it was twoonie glass night and they’d ordered a bunch! I helped them a little but told them I couldn’t miss the torch or my editor would shoot me!

When I left the bar, I turned the camera back on, it was getting close to that time but tragedy hit!! The camera wouldn’t turn on. Since I’d been in relative warmth in the bar and went back outside, it caused condensation within the mechanism; and, for it’s own safety, the camera wouldn’t let me film. I was in a bit of a panic. I ran into a restaurant and asked if they had a vent I could use to try and dry out the camera quickly, but the air strength wasn’t strong enough, it would of taken forever. Eureka!! I’d seen a hair salon near by and so I ran to it. When I walked in I told them I had a bit of an emergency and needed to borrow a hair dryer. Without question or hesitation I was handed one and proceeded to explain myself while desperately trying to get the camera to kick off it’s safety feature. Finally after at least 10 minutes of drying, the hair dryer itself kicked off because of it’s own safety mechanism. I tried the camera for the last time and……… it was working!!! I ran back hoping that the flame hadn’t already reached the podium, it hadn’t.

The celebrations were great, thousands of people from the town flooded the main street and I managed to get close enough to the line to get a good shot. Once the ceremonies were done and all the vendors were packed up, I went back to the drop to see the band Cornstar.

The band was setting up and was due to start at 9. Trevor and Shannon were playing that night with another front man but Steve Smith was there to enjoy the show so we got to talking. I had heard he was a radio personality in town. I told him about what I was doing and he graciously invited me on air for tomorrow’s morning show. I had a busy day ahead of me because Tyler from the bar worked at the town’s night club, Outabounds, and booked me in for that day to spearhead the comedy night that was to happen. My Wednesday would include a radio show at 9:30am, climbing Mount Mackenzie and singing a song to the skies at 11am, and a show at 9pm.

That night I didn’t have a place to stay and was going to simply settle in to the van for the night as I wanted to get to bed before Johnny and Brittany would get home from the bar. Turns out that Fly, the awesome ski guide for Powder Springs, must of telepathically figured out my plan and offered me a place to crash in his suite at the hotel. He had two double beds and we had become good friends throughout the course of the week. A New-Zealand native, Fly works in Revelstoke for the ski season every year. They put him up at the hotel and take great care of him. Skiing every day and taking part of the night life every night with the tourists, he’s a legend around town. I took him up on his offer and had a great night’s sleep with accommodations in the morning to get ready for the day. Thanks again bud!! I’ll be back on the way back!

The next day started early and ended late as it would be my last night in town. Cam and I went up again and met with ski patrol for our ride up. We hopped on the chair lift and made it as close to the top as it would take us. I had dropped a glove with the confusion of carrying the guitar, a chair, the camera case, and the tripod but someone had picked it up and brought it up to us. Cam and I started the climb. It was interesting to see people’s faces as we walked around the slopes with our equipment. It took at least 30 to 40 minutes to scale this giant. The air is much thinner and the hill so steep that it felt more like climbing a ladder in the footprints left for us to follow. We took breaks to catch our breath and rest up. Once we made it up though, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was all worth it. It was an overcast day in town but we were well above the cloud line. It looked as though there was a river of clouds flowing through the mountain peaks, indescribable with words alone…

We got our filming done and took some pictures of both of us at this famous summit. There are two peaks to Mount Mackenzie but the other would have been too dangerous to access.

Coming back down was much trickier though. We couldn’t come down the way we’d come up because of the incline and lack of foot support. The foot holes only allowed for half of your foot. We decided to blaze a new trail, I was wearing jeans. Cam led the way for the most part so I didn’t have to get too soaked. Zig zagging to the near bottom was getting tiresome and I gave up my march once we got near the ski trail. I decided I’d slide down on my butt to save some effort. Holding my guitar case like I was playing it, I could see the skiers at the bottom stopping to see what was coming down the hill. There was a bit of a lip at the bottom which caused a bit of a jump, landing on my feet in front of them.

“I’m sorry we stopped to stare” they said. “ We’ve just never seen a musician sliding down the peak of a mountain on his ass with a guitar in hand before..”

Setting up for the show that night was easy. Outabounds had hired a sound tech to come and set the stage for myself and the comedians. I played to a near empty room but was well compensated and complimented from the staff and the patrons that did attend. The comedy part of the night was canceled because there wouldn’t have been enough people for audience participation. The place to be on Wednesday in Revelstoke, which I’d learned the week before, was the open mic jam at the Drop. Once I finished my set, I headed back to see my friends one last time. I was leaving the next day. I was just standing at the bar when I felt a tap on my shoulder, it was Fly. He handed me a key to his room again and said “Stay here tonight, and if you’re here again tomorrow…stay here again tomorrow, and if you’re here again the day after that…stay here again, and if you’re here again the day after that…..”well he kept going for about 2 minutes. It was nice to sit down and talk with Fly, sharing his skiing experiences over the years and my musical ones with him. He has a family back home; and, well I think it was good for the both of us to be able to chat and think of what was waiting for us once our journey was over, at least until the next one began.

 

 

ON HOLD

 

Hello again everyone. I know I’m a little late on the posts to come but since I was nearing my destination, I decided I’d take a little break and live the rest of my experiences without the blogging for a bit. I’ll be keeping you up to date more regularly within the next few weeks! Thanks again for keeping up with me and the serendipitous happenings along the way, there are MANY more ahead!

 

January 28th – January 31st, 2010

 

After leaving Revelstoke I was soon reminded that I was a travelling musician, driving to another unknown town with unknown outcomes. After hanging out with my new friends for the past 11 days I was starting to get used to my surroundings.

I realized I was tired from my time in Revi. I’d spent a week and a half doing 5 shows, a radio interview, and two trips up Mount Mackenzie for shooting. I needed a few days rest and was not in the mood for meetings or music when I drove to Vernon. I didn’t even feel like being in a city and drove up Turtle mountain, stopping at a scenic outlook to make a snack and to spend some time on my own. The city glowing below, I was failing in convincing myself to try and get a show here. I was kindly reminded by my family that a break might be good for the mind and soul.

I reached into my pockets to see how much money I had on me, I found the Boston Pizza gift card that was gifted to me from my cousins, the Gagnons. I remember Denis Jr. saying something along the lines of: “ We thought we’d get you this if you get tired of cooking or in case you want a night out and a good sit down meal” and that ‘s exactly what I needed. I descended into Vernon and punched in the restaurant into my GPS. I sat at the bar and ordered a pint and a heaping plate of nachos, my favourite. I used to make nachos all the time in high school. I had even developed a sensitivity to Volcano sauce because I was eating it so often, despite it’s extreme heat…..I haven’t seen it on the shelf since. Come to think of it, it was Denis Sr. who had given me the suggestion of Volcano sauce when I was around 14. I love it when nacho stories come full circle.

Sitting at the bar, I watched a bit of hockey on tv. After my meal and some lounging around, I went back to the van to do more of exactly that. I read for the better part of the evening before retiring to my home, my rolling residence. I found a place to park and shut my body down for the night.

Morning came late for me on Friday. I knew I should of gotten up earlier but I wanted to sleep in to the point of oversleeping. I made a quick lunch of soup and sandwiches and went about town to find a laundromat. I only had a few garments left and thought I’d do some writing as the load tumbled. I soon realized that Revelstoke had been such a big part of the journey that I’d need two blogs to describe it.

Later that evening I decided I’d go to one of the local bars and try my luck, I felt more rested now and decided it was the right thing to do. I drove up to the establishment and into their parking lot. After 20 minutes of sitting in the van and having an argument with myself over whether or not to go in, I realized that I needed to do something other than music that weekend and opted to go see the much famed Avatar.

I won’t bore you with how much I loved the film as I’m sure many of you have already seen it but I will comment on the storyline as I found myself wishing over and over for life to be that simple again: natural medicine, sense of community, taking only what we need, and sharing what we have with everything. As a species we have become arrogant of our intelligence and ability to manipulate the world around us. Though I understand that change is good and necessary, it still must be balanced out.

Much of the symbolism in the movie referred to our ignorance of the interconnectedness we share with everything. Sure it was an imaginary planet with an imaginary civilization; but, the resources found on this planet and our willingness to exploit them couldn’t be closer to our own wants and wars. What’s the difference between blue men and yellow, red, or black men. Just like bullies who need lunch money, we don’t care about the other side of the argument, we know our weight can push us through the situation, and that’s all that matters even if we were wrong in the first place. And, come to think of it, the civilization portrayed isn’t that imaginary, especially for us in North America if we think back a few hundred years.

After the movie I called it a night again. The next day would involve a good breakfast and a trip to Kelowna.

Driving down the highway, I was mesmerized by the Kalamalka Lake. There were mountains on either side of it with homesteads at the base of them. The sky was blue and the water still, which made for a picture perfect mirror of the already breathtaking landscape. It didn’t take me too long to drive there, only 40 minutes, maybe.

After getting into town I went for dinner and gathered some information as to what there was to take advantage of in Kelowna on a Saturday night. The bartender told me of a few places to visit but I wasn’t really in the mood for a club or live music. I decided on just parking somewhere near downtown and going for a walk. I found a boardwalk along the lake and walked it for quite some time. It was peaceful and the sky was bright with the moon above me. I found my way back to the downtown core a little later. I walked past a few pubs that had live bands which one could hear from the street and, though I did walk in for a drink, I really wasn’t in the mood to listen to covers. I know this might sound bitter but, as a musician, it’s hard to listen to music objectively. I guess I could compare it to watching Judge Judy as a lay person for the entertainment and watching it as lawyer. Somehow it wouldn’t have the same effect after a day’s work.

That’s precisely how I felt, I left the bar and just kept walking around for the rest of the night. A little exercise is always what the doctor orders and I wanted to be in Penticton the next day to visit family and to try and book something for the tour.

 

 

FAMILY IN THE VALLEY

January 31st – February 4th, 2010

 

I left for Penticton Sunday morning. I was excited to meet some of my family which I hadn’t seen in quite a while. So long in fact, that I couldn’t remember when they’d come to Kapuskasing last, or even meeting them for that matter. I was a young child and there would have been much family to visit during their stay. My father’s god mother, Claudette, and her family live in the Okanagan Valley. Claudette was my grandmother Alice’s niece. Her and her family had left Kapuskasing almost 40 years ago. I had called them a few days prior, from Vernon, to let them know I was closer, as they had been awaiting my arrival since I left Kapuskasing.

Driving along the Okanagan lake was as beautiful as the drive a few days earlier. It turns out that Penticton was created after a massive mudslide came down from the mountains, filling the lake in one spot where the town now resides. If you look at a map, you can tell that the shores align perfectly on either side of the town.

The valley, for those who haven’t visited, is a Canadian desert. Many different type of cacti live there and anything can be grown, apart from citrus fruit and bananas. The summer offers lush vegetation but very dry conditions and therefore requires much irrigation. If it wouldn’t have been winter, I would have seen the cliche tumbleweed rolling around, I was told.

When I got in to town, I had a few errands to run but soon found myself at what would become another home away from home. Claudette was waiting for me at the door when I got in and I was introduced to her husband, Steve, and one of their daughters, cousin Stephanie. Cousin Sharol was at work and would end up joining us for dinner with her two children Paige and Kyle. Steve had whipped up a Hungarian dish which was a very tasty, mouthwatering, and welcomed homemade meal. The whole family made meals while I was there, a nice change when you’re on the road and eating healthy usually means getting a salad and garlic bread at the bar you’re playing at.

We visited most of the night, reminiscing about living in Kap, about my grandmother, and how she used to keep the kids entertained with her music and crafts. We also made plans for the next day since I’d be in town until Thursday. I wanted to try and book some shows but I also wanted to see the sights. Luckily, both Sharol and Stephanie were off and were kind enough to show me around the area. Stephanie offered to drive and we decided to leave late morning, drive down to Osoyoos and stop at scenic outlooks and landmarks along the way.

When I got up coffee had already been brewed and after a cup we hit the road. Taking the scenic route to see some wildlife, I finally got to see some mule deer, Steph spots them from a mile away, how, I don’t know. I know they’re like pests in the valley, but being from Ontario I didn’t want to miss them.

We stopped along a lake where Swans were wintering. Sitting on the edge of the ice, some of them were sleeping. Sharol manned the still cam while I did some videotaping. I couldn’t believe it was February and I was looking at swans in Canada.

Spotted Lake was also interesting. The water looks polka-dotted because of the minerals which settle withing the lake’s bed.

When we got back to town later that afternoon, we stopped at a local pub to have a drink and some appetizers before going around town to see where I could play. I tried my luck at the bar we were at but the owner didn’t have the time of day for us as he sat at the bar and told the waitress to let us know he wasn’t interested. It didn’t matter much since the Copper Mug Pub was more than willing to have me and take part in the Good Faith Tour.

Ron was sitting at the bar when I walked in. I told him what I was doing in town and after a short walk to the back, he returned to the front of the bar and said he was interested. He also had some contacts for me on my way to Vancouver should I need them. I thanked him for his time and set the date for Wednesday.

On my down time I got to know my family more and built a bit of a bond with the family dog, Daisy. A young border collie, Daisy has a lot of energy. We went for a couple night walks which helped seal the bond, I was walking Ms. Daisy.

I truly felt at home. With the go ahead to raid the kitchen when I wanted and a room of my own, it was more than I could of asked for after being on the road for so long. I didn’t have to worry about a place to sleep, eat, work, or relax, thanks so much again! I’ll definitely be back, hopefully in the summer so I can enjoy the valley to it’s fullest.

While reading my emails one night, I saw that Canadian Music Week had responded to a press kit I’d sent out earlier last year. To my surprise, they were interested in having the band for a showcase downtown during the festival. I’d wanted to attend with my band since it is Canada’s music Mecca for the year. People in the industry from all over the world come to Toronto to talk business and scope out talent from all over the country. Bands from everywhere come to play in Toronto during the festival, for exposure and to expand their fan base. The catch…it takes place in March. How was I to get back to Toronto in time to play the show without making the tour suffer? I’d fly! I’d leave my van in Calgary which seemed like a reasonable place to be by March, and fly back to it after the show to finish off the tour. I would get to see my friends and family, and play with the band again after being on the road for 5 months. I was totally thrilled at the opportunity but I was a little stressed out as I had to make this all happen and make sure I was back in time for the flight. I still hadn’t reached Vancouver or the island and I had no booked gigs ahead of me.

I played the show on Wednesday and it went well. The bar doesn’t usually have live music but the patrons seemed to enjoy it as I sold cds to some and received compliments from others. Sharol and Stephanie were out to see me play too!

I have to share the barter of the bar, even though I don’t usually discuss business publicly, it was one of the most interesting barters yet.

– Money for the road

– 1 six pack of beer for the road

– 1 candy cane

– 1 diet coke

– 1 chocolate parfait

I don’t know what inspired the last three but I couldn’t stop laughing inside while remaining appreciative. I thanked them again for their help and participation and called it a night.

I was headed to Nelson the next day for an interview and hopefully a few shows. Aaron from Golden, had made a few phone calls after I’d left and arranged for me to meet Bob Keeting, CBC’s Kootenay rep, for an interview. I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity and was looking for a reason to see Nelson as it’s famed for being one of Canada’s laid back hippie settlements!!

 

 

THE ROYAL TREATMENT

February 5th – 8th, 2010

 

I left late morning after breakfast and luck-filled goodbyes from my family. It was going to be a 4 hour drive to Nelson on the Crow’s Nest highway. A two lane highway, the Crow’s Nest is famed for being very steep through it’s mountain pass. I was in no hurry and took my time since the day was still young.

I had called Bob Keating a few days before leaving for Nelson. He told me to call him once I got in or was closer, and so I did. I also managed to book two gigs on Thursday when I got there. The first would be at Finley’s Irish Pub, on Friday, and a matinee on Saturday at the Royal Hotel. Both venues regularly have music but Finley’s has accommodations, a band suite.

A plain old fashion aimless walk around town led me to Finley’s. I had seen on a sign that they had a blues jam during the week and naturally thought I should walk in. Mindy greeted me right away and we got to talking but Brent was the person I would need to speak with for bookings. I gave her my information and left, hoping he’d be back a little later.

I continued my walk and arrived upon the Royal Hotel, a woman named Summer was working away on her computer. She was a distant person to speak with, especially since I hadn’t even talked business yet, in her eyes, I was still only a customer. She pretty much told me that the bar and the stool she was sitting on was her office and that if she was in a real office people wouldn’t be able to bother her while she worked. I smiled since customer service is the key factor in running a bar and until she did have her office she would probably have to deal with her patrons enquiries with a smile in order to sell the image of fun, especially since it just changed ownership. I knew she was the one to talk to about music after overhearing her speak about bookings but, because of her holier than though attitude, I decided to go above her head and speak directly with the new owner about having the CBC interview at his bar and about getting some camera work done.

Alex was very happy to have me play but this week was booked solid, we would have to settle on a matinee. This was fine since the barter was the same and I could do something else on a Saturday night instead of playing music. He did send me back to Summer in order to book it; and ,with a bit of a smirk I must admit, I walked over to her to discuss the agreement we’d come to. Alex let her know to her to take care of me since I was playing tomorrow.

I walked back to Finley’s afterwards and Brent was in. Mindy had already mentioned what I was doing but I reiterated the project for him again to make sure there were no misunderstandings. A big and tall type, Brent is easily mistaken for a bouncer but has the professional skills of someone who’s been working with bands for a long time. He was a pleasure to deal with and offered me the show on Friday. It would be a collaboration between the Good Faith Tour and a fundraiser that was being put on by students from Selkirk college in order to be able to go volunteer and aid underdeveloped communities in South America.

Brent asked me where I was staying for the night. When I told him about the van he ordered Rob to go make sure the band suite was ready. I could stay there for the night and after the show the next day. We shook hands, I ordered a drink, and after the room was ready, I went down to check out the situation. It was spacious for one: three bunk beds, a pull out couch, a coffee maker, lockers, a washroom with shower and it was right next door to Rob’s apartment. I could hear the video games blaring the sounds of rally race car driving. This didn’t matter since I had a space of my own for a few days to practice guitar, or to just be by myself and relax.

Friday night was just beginning to pour into the bar atmosphere as I walked in to set up. Some of the volunteers were already there doing the same as I put my guitar up on stage and wandered over to the soundboard.

After a quick sound check I introduced myself to the cash table at the door and asked if I could interview one of them to talk a bit about the program they were raising money for. Grace would be the one to grace the interview. A student from Selkirk herself, she was excited about the trip coming up because it would be a lifetime opportunity. An opportunity to help make a difference and travel at the same time.

I met quite a few people from the program that night and since the event was done early, we decided to go out after my last so they could show me around town.

The next morning I woke up in the band suite and rushed out of bed. I had to shower and get ready for the matinee. I drove over and unloaded my gear and was smart enough to order breakfast before sound check. After doing a few adjustments, breakfast was served and a coffee too. It wasn’t very busy that afternoon but it allowed Bob to do the interview. He asked me questions and I answered into his microphone which was plugged into a mini recorder. I sang a few songs onstage while he was there so he could add music to the background of the interview.

After the show I went back to the band suite and played some more music. I wanted to work on a few new songs I’d been toying with and between gigs is the only time I can do that.

I went back up to the bar later in the evening, to give Brent the key. He told me to keep it if I wanted to stick around since he wanted an act after the football game Sunday night. I took him up on it.

I called up some friends from the night before and we found ourselves jamming that evening in a living room with an acoustic guitar, a fiddle, a clarinet, a keyboard/synthesizer, and shakers.

Nelson was full of good wholesome hippie moments while drinking macha tea, walking on a rocky beach at sunset, or finding a way into a boat yard to take pictures. Life seems very relaxed there. The mountains humbling you, a river nourishing the community. Skiing, biking, any outdoor sports really is what living in the Kootenays seems to be about.

I was told the area can chew you up and spit you out if you’re not ready. Only the people who are meant to stay, do.

 

 

REPAIR & HOPE

February 8th – 11th, 2010

 

It actually felt quite different when I left Nelson because never before on my trip did I have to do such a long a stretch of highway twice like that. I had a 3 hour drive back to Osoyoos where I’d made my eastbound turn a few days earlier. From there I would be travelling west again.

There was no particular reason to leave that morning other than I felt like it was time. The Olympics were kicking off in Vancouver on Friday and I wanted to make one more stop before getting there. Ron from the Copper Mug Pub had a friend in Princeton who owned a bar which had live entertainment.

I thought I’d take a few days to myself and go visit Princeton and the surrounding area. It turns out it was a perfect halfway point for the drive from Nelson to Vancouver. I didn’t realize how small the town would be though. Keeping in the spirit of the tour, I hadn’t looked it up previous to arriving. There were a few recognizable chain stores but the town only had a few thousand people. I did notice that there were many mining trucks parked at the motels lining the highway, which I was hoping meant a lot of visitors looking for nightly entertainment.

When I booked the show for Wednesday, the owner of the Brown Bridge Pub couldn’t find accommodations right away because there was no vacancy in town that night. I didn’t mind another camp out as I wanted to take a night or two off to catch up on some reading and some Al time. Also, I wasn’t expecting him to put me up for two nights since I was only playing the one. We shook hands and I was off to do some sightseeing.

Princeton is divided quite interestingly as a town. The “downtown” is located on a ridge where the highway rolls through the village; but, there are three distinct residential areas. Two of them were developed in the valleys which are located north and south of downtown. The third was built a bit higher on the ridge and hosts bigger and more expensive homes… natural segregation I suppose.

Later that night after doing some laundry I decided I’d go for a walk. Taking the time to look at window displays from different businesses in town and breathing in the mountain air, I didn’t realize how long I’d been out walking. I saw it was 11 when I reached for my phone and thought maybe I should turn around and start walking back to the van. I was walking at a steady pace in order to ignore the cold wind which was cutting through my spring jacket. I soon came to a dead stop in my tracks. Three white tailed deer were on the other side of the street, on the corner in front of my van. I didn’t move in too close since there was three of them and they seemed to be unfazed by my presence. It was like they knew I was the visitor. I just stood there, about 30 to 40 feet away, camera-less, staring at them, and they did the same…they also did not have cameras. They must have let me stand there for a good 10 minutes with them, with no car or human traffic around, it was quite peaceful. One of the deer seemed to signal the others that he wished to go on and so they did, the three of them walking together like friends going on a midnight stroll through town.

The next night I checked in to the hotel and, after a shower and coffee, I walked over to the bar to set up. I noticed right away that the people in for “wing night” weren’t accustomed to having live entertainment. The bar staff seemed happy to have music coming in but everyone else seemed only but curious about the new face in town. This became even more apparent once I started playing. I did a set of originals and covers but no one seemed to jump on board the blues train. I took a break and walked over to the bartenders which had been dancing away and I asked them what type of music they usually have. I was informed that it was more of a country western town. Go figure, a town out west in the country likes to listen to those types of songs…. I felt like the Blues Brothers when they had to play Rawhide after being booked in a country/western bar by a their agent.

The only thing left to do was to pull out some more country styled music or play my music in a country way, and pluck a few bluegrass songs. Playing a show isn’t always an exact science, you always have to be conscious of the crowd in front of you, I’m just happy they weren’t into gangsta rap!

One man really stood out in the crowd though. He had been listening to all my songs attentively and seemed like he was going to walk over and talk to me once I was done. He did in fact. Rick had heard my interview on CBC earlier on in the week and kept an eye out for me since I’d said in the interview that I could be heading through Princeton. He helped me bring my stuff back to the van after the show and invited me back to his and his wife’s home for an after show drink. Most times I decline invites when I’m just getting done since I like to stay at the bar and mingle. This time was different, given what had happened with the show. I had to go back to the hotel room first to change and grab a few things so Rick told me he was at the appliance repair store in town and to knock on the front window if I was coming by.

I decided I’d go for a beer and walk back whenever I wanted to, depending what the situation was like. I wasn’t worried. I walked the two blocks to the appliance store and Rick greeted me like an old friend. We walked through the shop and into the back room where we listened to CBC radio for a while. Turns out he had a fridge full of beer and some time to spend. I was looking around his shop and noticed washer and dryer parts, different tools spread out, some cds, but even more remarkably, darts in a can. I picked them up to look at them and Rick saw me. He asked me if I knew how to play. My dad always had a dart board at home and I occasionally took part in the neighbourhood dart league. I told him that yes I did know how to play. Rick closed the door behind me and I saw the distance line on the floor, he opened up the dartboard cupboard and we we’re off.

He was much more seasoned than I was and kept me in line by reminding me to count all my darts. I hadn’t played in so long that I was forgetting how to keep score properly. At the end of it all I ended up losing but it was a great time. We ended up sharing some stories and some laughs. He showed me his collection of cds he’d obtained from bands passing through over the years and told me that they all knew him as “Rick The Maytag Man From Princeton”. He also said that his title had gotten him in to a few sold out shows in the past by telling bouncers to go tell the artists that “Rick The Maytag Man From Princeton” was there. I told him that if I ever heard those words he’d be welcome in as well.

The whole experience of the evening really left me with the impression of having been home momentarily, reminding me of my early teens when I used to hang out in my dad’s garage and play darts or when we played at my parent’s friends’ garages.

Thursday morning I dropped off some cds at the store before I left town and continued west towards Vancouver. I was informed the night before that Hope would be the last small town before the metropolis. I figured it would be a good place to stop before heading in. The people I was scheduled to meet in Van were only expecting me on Friday; and, well I didn’t want to spend a minivan night in the not so mini city when I could just wait and meet my new friends the next day.

I pulled into Hope that afternoon and drove around until I spotted a river. It was the Fraser River. There was a lead in onto the rock field which the Fraser flowed straight through. It was very picturesque though I must admit the documentary holds that footage. I set up camp for the night after having some dinner near the river. I went to bed thinking about what Vancouver would bring in the morning. I was finally going to reach the Pacific ocean as I’d orginally hoped for, given that the trip went according to plan and was a success. It almost felt cliche, I must say, that Hope is where I decided to stay.

 

 

THE EMBASSY

February 12th -16th , 2010

 

I left Hope late morning on Friday. I was overwhelmed with the fact that I would get to reach the Pacific ocean, the destination in mind since early October. I had been on the road for 4 months, 1 week, and a day. My friend Matt who rode his bicycle from Guelph, ON all the way to Vancouver had actually done it in less time, which made me chuckle as I was exiting the mountain ranges of the interior.

I didn’t even bother powering up the GPS as I drove into the heart of Vancouver, I just wanted to get to the ocean. Downtown was getting ready to start the opening ceremonies for the Olympics but it wasn’t my objective to take part of it just yet, this day was about more than that for me.

I looked up at the compass in the van and pointed myself west. I figured that if I drove west long enough, I would happen upon the ocean and I did. It was like seeing the mountains for the first time, the immense feelings of accomplishment, relief, and humility were too much to handle as I made my decent towards the untamed beach. I thought I’d go dip my toes in the water, but realized that it wasn’t enough to just get my feet wet, as it never is, and decided to submerge myself in the cold February waters because I would only be here, for the first time, once.

I must say it was cold; but, what kept me warm momentarily was the flood of memories going through my mind: sitting in my grandmother’s living room and learning how to play the guitar I had been carrying with me this entire journey; nights spent with my uncle as he taught me how to sing and be more than a hobbyist with my music; writing the songs with my friends in Toronto which fuelled my vehicle, my body, and my passion while bartering my way through the country. I felt like a reborn musician. I sat on the beach for a while, looking out to the city from a distance and with Olympic security helicopters flying overhead, patrolling the coast, I made a quick sandwich lunch and enjoyed the moment.

I managed to get a hold of Carson a little later, after walking back up the hill to the van. He had gotten a hold of me a few weeks prior after receiving an email from a friend saying I was in town. This is an interesting story I must say….here goes.

After meeting Suzie in Thunder Bay, back in October, at Colissimo’s music store where I’d bought my guitar 9 years previous, she was kind enough to take it upon herself to contact some of her good friends in the Vancouver area and let them know about the Good Faith Tour. Her good friends then took it upon themselves to contact the band Jackie Treehorn to let them know I would be coming to town. Carson, drummer and extraordinary human being, took it upon himself to look up my myspace and listen to my music. He then sent me an email through my website saying that I was welcome to come and jam with him and the band during the Olympics. They had a few gigs lined up and if I needed a place to stay, I’d be welcome in their home. I quickly responded to this random act of kindness and informed him of my approximated date of arrival.

I called him that afternoon after my swim. I drove through downtown to see some of the excitement of the opening day and then drove over to “The Embassy” where I could have a quick shower and some dinner.

The Embassy is the name given to the house which used to have Thunder Bay tenants. That night I met his awesome girlfriend Lindsay/lead singer/artist, and roomates Kyle/last of T-Bay tenants and Lindsay K., or simply Zee. I met some more band mates that night too: Chelsea/vocals, and Loric/saxomophonist. Bass, keys, and guitar couldn’t make it out until the next day for the gig but we still jammed, ears wide open.

The next day we were getting geared up for a house party, Jackie Treehorn was one of the bands set to play that night. I found out through the guys that the city has quite the house culture. People get together at each others’ homes instead of meeting at the bar all the time. An old idea but a great one at that, I found it made for a huge circle of friends as they round robin each others’ places for hosting.

I met the rest of the band, Kirby/Keys, K-man/guitar, and Geoff/bass. All the guys were really great players and equally great people. We had a blast jamming some more all the while inviting musicians up to play. I soon realized that everyone was invited to the party, from hipsters to punkers, point dexters to lawyers, programmers and seniors. Nobody cared about the walk of life you’re from or how you look while you’re there, they’re just happy you’re there! The night’s event was called the “Bro-lympics” and some were dressed in athlete attire for a little satire regarding the protest that revolved around the games.

I wasn’t able to go see sporting events during the games because they were a little out of this barterer’s budget; but, we went downtown quite a few times during the week. The sky trains and streets were always full but this only meant the party was still going on downtown.

The first night we went down was for one of the many free concerts being offered. By the time we got in line and stepped on to the grounds we caught the Vancouver act Mother Mother, a pop rock band which has been acquiring some fame in the area in the past few years. Still wanting to walk around the festivities, we decided to keep doing so after their set. The energy buzzing through the downtown core was inexplicable. Everyone was in their best of moods. We met so many people that night just walking around. Strangers making friends as friends met strangers. In a way it was bittersweet because, though you hoped this would never end, the Olympic spirit would probably leave with the games for most, unfortunately.

One evening, Carson and I decided to go do some busking on the streets to pass the time and hopefully make a bit of money. Busking passes had been issued for the events but since we knew we didn’t suck, we thought we’d try our luck anyways. No one came to shut us down, even the cops were stopping to enjoy some of our songs. I think the passes were a way to evict unwanted pests who might be bothering the city’s guests if this were the case. We, on the other hand, ended up making enough to cover our expenses for a few more days but it wasn’t the best of busking scenarios as people were mainly walking by to get somewhere specific, not having enough time to stop and listen like on a leisurely Sunday stroll. We needed a different strategy, so we set another busking day with hopes of trying a better spot.

For any musician reading this who hasn’t tried the street side of their art, I highly recommend it. Imagine playing in a bar where the crowd is changing every 5 seconds. You only have five seconds of your music to engage them and sell them on your craft. It makes showmanship and performance depth much more pertinent, though we would catch a bit of a break on this end of things later on that week.

 

 

THE EMBASSY part II

February 16th – 22nd, 2010

 

Wednesday morning Lindsay, Carson, and I woke up early enough to go see a free Davinci exhibit going on downtown at the VAG / Vancouver Art Gallery. Being as Lindsay is a terrific artist herself, she was excited to take us there and show us around the museum. Knowing personally some of the artist which had exhibits on display, I knew she would also be a great guide and would be able to offer insight on what it was exactly that I was looking at.

We made our way as close to downtown as we could, before entering the pay-park areas, and took the skytrain to the heart of Vancity. As we emerged out of the earth and onto the streets, we still had a bit of a walk. Carson and I were carrying: guitar, djembe, mic stand, mic, patch chords, and a mini battery powered amp to maximize on sound. I didn’t want to kill my voice while singing since it takes a bit more vocal projection to get on top of the street noise, and also because we had a show that night at Nyala’s. We arrived at the art gallery only to find we’d have to stand in line for quite some time to get in but we had anticipated this.

As we were waiting I noticed I’d received a text message. My good friend Jay had sent out a generalized text to some of our friends stating he’d arrived in Vancouver and was enjoying the Olympics so far. In his message he mentioned he’d been taking in the sights of the city as well as the pavilions set up for the Olympics. He ended his text by saying he was currently in line at the Vancouver Art Gallery to see the free Davinci exhibit. I called him up and told him I was in line for it too! He didn’t believe me at first so I asked where he was so I could go find him. Thankfully, he and his friend were further ahead in line than us so we could cut in!! We both couldn’t believe we’d ended up in the same place downtown, 4 provinces away, at the same time of day. I went back to get Carson and Lindsay and then we were five.

Walking in to the gallery we had to check our instruments and backpacks as part of visiting protocol. The curator saw this and asked us what it was we were doing this afternoon after visiting the art display. We told him we had simply planned on doing some busking around the city. He was happy to hear this since the Davinci exhibit had been attracting such a crowd that there was a line outside the gallery all day long. I guess they had talked about hiring a busker to accommodate their patrons. He told us he’d watch for us once we came back to claim our instruments to see if we were interested and that he would talk to his manager in the meantime.

Jay and I caught up a bit as we hadn’t hung out since I left Toronto on October 10th. Lindsay did a great job of showing us around and pointing out the subtleties in the displays we would have missed otherwise. Some of my favourites included the life size whale skeleton made entirely out of white plastic lawn chairs; and, the staged pictures in which an artists uses leaves, water, trash, anything natural to the environment of his picture to make it look natural, even though it was put together to look this way.

We claimed our instruments and gear as we walked out and, as promised, he offered us the busking spot outside. He also informed us that someone would come by to see us play and make sure everything was okay, but I never did see this person if they did in fact come. Jay said he was going to get some lunch but he’d text me later for directions to the show at Nyala’s. Carson and I played for about 3 hours to the slow moving crowd. The circumstances were much better than a few days ago because we were amplified and people had a chance to listen to the songs. We made a killing that day! After tearing down later in the afternoon, we went inside to thank the staff for having us. They thanked us in return as they’d heard good things from the people walking in, they invited us back if we wanted the spot again during the games. We accepted his offer and did in fact go back again.

The three of us went walking to a music store downtown in order to return a defective patch cord. I grabbed something to drink out of the vending machine as I had enough change. Singing for most of the three hours had left my voice pretty dry and raw. Carson and Lindsay came walking back out and to our surprise again we spotted Jay and his friend stepping out of a city bus right in front of the store. Twice in one day, it was little too weird we all admitted. We separated again before the show that night in order to get ready. The guys from the band would be at the Embassy a little later to pick up the equipment and we still had to get some food in us.

We arrived at Nyala’s at around 8pm. An Ethiopian restaurant/bar with great food and great staff! We were invited to feast on the buffet which is spread out every Wednesday before their show. A tad spicy it was but I ate it all regardless, one of those hurt so good situations. I was set to open up the evening and play a few songs with the band before they went on to rock the roof off the bar and socks off their faithful fans and friends.

It was a pleasure to share the stage with a band of their calibre. Playing groovy funk beats and fat pocket grooves were what we both liked to do, and they did a great job with my songs even without much practice. The band themselves entertained us all with their eclectic array of originals and covers ranging from Fleetwood Mac to Stevie Ray Vaughn and Sade’s Smooth Operator.

We played another show on Friday night at the Bottle Tipper. This time their were two opening acts, myself and Shirley Gnome as well as a planned after party back at the Embassy after the show. It was Jay’s last night in town. He had tickets for the events in Whistler and had to leave at 5 in the morning to catch the bus up to the grounds; so, the plan was not to fall asleep that night.

On Thursday night we’d spent some time catching up and wandering around the city. Carson had brought us down to Commercial Drive, a hipster hot spot in the city, to check out the stores and enjoy some great food and different beers the drive had to offer. Ends up we were sitting next to the lead singer of the band Mother Mother which we’d watched perform downtown a few nights ago.

Friday night, Shirley Gnome opened up the evening. Her music is quite special because her voice is the prettiest but her lyrics are the raunchiest! Writing songs like “Masturbation Over Breakfast” and “Old Man” a song about “loving” the elderly, Shirley had us in tears, making us laugh so hard I sometimes wanted people to stop laughing so I could hear all the lyrics, but I was as guilty as anyone! Shirley is actually traveling to Ontario with her music this summer. I’ll keep you posted as soon as I know when and where to direct you!

We had an amazing night, the venue had filled up and the last song of the night was the address to the after party! Everyone who had attended the night was welcome back, in true Embassy fashion! I know this sounds like a disaster plan if someone were to try this in Ontario, but everything worked out. When we woke up the next morning the house was not a mess, everyone had been respectful and used the garbage, they had avoided trashing the place, and there was not one fight or altercation at the party either. I woke up early to go see the damage but there wasn’t much to do apart from sweep and move the furniture back into place.

This was the last massive hippie party I would attend in Van before my final destination, Victoria. The date had been set and I’d have a partner in crime, B.B., the King of the blues djembe!

 

Copyright © AL LUKAS 2015