Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Miss D and Bourbon St.

So Google failed us and here we are outside a motel on the 20. There’s nobody around except a half dressed, forty-nine year old stripper on break, having a smoke. Miss D. The same Miss D on the sign, no doubt. We’re trying to get directions to Smoke Meat Pete’s, and all we know is that it’s behind a Dairy Queen somewhere out here on the 20. Miss D is probably not the Dairy Queen we were to look behind, but we do anyway, and there’s a shoddy bar and some mirrors crowding an empty room. But Miss D speaks a little English, and is able to relate the location of Smoke Meat Pete’s to us. “Are you coming back?” she asks hopefully. “Maybe,” we lie. We’re looking for a cheap motel on the strip, but probably not this one.

Smoke Meat Pete is behind the counter as we walk in and he greets us warmly as does his staff. They are excited that we’ve dropped in. Smoked Meat and Blues seven nights a week. Very cool. Pete offers to feed us if we’ll play a couple of numbers with the band that is loading in. This seems like a fair deal, or maybe the smell of the smoked meat has just sucked us in. So we play a couple of numbers, get fed, and check into a local motel. We’ve got about an hour to rest before soundcheck in Pointe Claire, at Bourbon Street.

Bourbon Street is a big room with an impressive stage and great sightlines. It’s in a plaza in this mostly anglo western suburb of Montreal. Nice place. I’ve played here before. I have a feeling that they may have more DJ’s than bands these days, but I don’t know for sure. Anyway it’s unusual to have this combination of stage, sound, lights, sightlines, etc. in a live music club. The Montreal Blues Society does a series of Tuesday shows here every year, and we’re lucky enough to be included in this fall’s line-up. We’re met by our sound technician, Rob, and by series producer Brian Slack.

After a quick sound check and set up we retire to our dresing room. We have an opening act, a young player named Riot. He doesn’t mind drinking our beer, but he’s not too friendly. Maybe just shy of us. That’s probably it. Brian wants to get him out unplugged and see what he sounds like. This is fine by us- we’ll only be playing one set, which we find much easier anyway. Ninety minutes goes by like nothing when you’re out there in the middle of it.

About 40 people turn out for us, including quite a few from the Blues Society. They are a pretty good audience, making noise at the right times, taking pictures and movies, and buying cds and tour jackets at the end of the night. After load out we look for a place to eat. We find a deli way out there somewhere, and eat probably too much before heading back to our motel. Ottawa in the morning.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Witches in Quebec, Garlic Works

Back at Pub Limoilou in Quebec City. Richard Carr and Manuella are once again our hosts in this town. We arrived Sunday night after driving from St. Andrews, NB. Drive day. Rain day. It was cold and gloomy, but the with the trees showing off their fine fall splendor the day still managed to be interesting. The highway is largely completed now, and the drive itself was good.

Today I try to upload as many pictures and updates to the Blog as I can. The connection here is not as fast as I would like, but I do get a bunch of things done. (Note: if you’ve been following this Blog daily, you’ll find a whole bunch of new pics up for the last week’s postings.). Michael hangs in the kitchen and plays guitar. Richard’s got the best Yamaha guitar I’ve ever heard, and it gets played, too. I decide to go for a run. These hills are going to be easier than they were three weeks ago. The sun comes out for a while, so I have a perfect day running hills through a residential neighbourhood overlooking the river. Back at Richard’s we do laundry, inventory, and listen to some CDs from his new radio show. The truck has a flat tire. The slow leak is catching up to us. I drive down to a local garage and put some air in the tire. Need to get this fixed properly soon!

Sound check at the club is 4:PM, and a tired looking Mike Deway arrives with some gear to get us going. He’s been at a Quebec Blues awards event last night, as well as commuting between Montreal and Quebec City for his various band gigs. Mike is fun. He has almost no English, and I have almost no french, but every time we meet I come away with a little more common language, another choice phrase or two! Today I’m trying to tell him “too many cooks, spoil the soup,” but I’m not sure he gets it. I leave Mike and Michael to deal with the sound set up while I deal with the merch table, banners, and personal gear. Richard hangs in and translates for us as needed. He will open for us again tonight.

By 9:30 the venue is more crowded than it was last time we were here at this hour. This is a good sign, and the people keep on coming. I’ve got a glass of red wine, and I’m looking forward to Richard’s set. As he settles in to play there is immediate feedback from the system, and then the levels seem remarkably low. Soundcheck was great. What’s this? After a couple of false starts Richard’s set stumbles to a close. He sounded pretty good out front, but was put well off his game trying to deal with the sound difficulties.

Our first set goes well, once we locate the compressors and turn them off. Sound is ok. But what can you do? It’s an appreciative crowd, happy and noisy at the right times. I think we’re playing really, really well this evening. Hi-lights for me were “Narrow House,” “Angola Prison Rodeo,” and Michael’s very cool take on “Fixin’ to Die.” Jay Sewall came down to the gig, and this time he brought harmonicas— so we had him sit in for a few tunes. Jay had picked up a Lifetime Achievement Award just the night before. Congrats!

Outside, we have garlic in the truck to ward off witches. Tonight it works. A quirky night. But fun. We're gonna put garlic over the soundboards from now on, too.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Drunks in St. Andrews, NB, Not Us— Them

Grey and gloomy this morning. I’ve heard the rain on the roof in the night, which was nice— but now we’re loading out into it. I missed breakfast as I was doing the email chores, and then I can’t find the café I want to eat at. I think it’s another couple of km down the road, but Michael’s not having any part of it. So what the heck, let’s just drive straight to St. Andrews. No sightseeing today in this rain anyway. We stop at the most expensive roadside diner in Atlantic Canada and have some greasy scallops and chips. I’m glad I ran yesterday, but the coffee puts me in a better frame of mind. Michael plays his mandolin. I drive. We’re into St. Andrews hours early.

It’s a real pretty tourist town o the sea. Clearly the main drag is jammed with galleries and gift shops, cafes, whale watch adventure operations, etc. The season is just past, but the stores are still buzzing with a few tourists. We make our way across town to our digs at the Salty Towers. This place has been made famous by the group Hot Toddy. It’s a very funky mansion come hotel, dating to perhaps 1870. It’s chaulk full of weird antiques, cool old couches, it has a great roofed over porch for hanging out on. We walk in and look for Jamie Steele, the operator of this great enterprise, and a real booster of roots music in the region. Jamie’s not around, so we wander through the town and back and then snooze in our rooms for the remainder of the afternoon. I use some of the time to work on this blog!

The Red Herring looks to be a fairly typical local watering hole. We’ve met the owner, Kevin, who assures us that there will be a big crowd out tonight. It’s a bar start- 10:PM, and will run late. We can tell it’s going to be a louder sort of place, but that’s alright we’ve both played enough loud places in our time.

Sound check goes ok. The little Yamaha system isn’t great, but seems to be working. We’ve had to bring our own mics and stands in from the truck. Dinner. The bar tender is on his laptop trying to download John Hammond tunes. The bar brings us bills on our dinner. It was supposed to be in our contract, but nobody seems to remember this. We let it go. It’s not the staff, and I sure don’t want to give them a hard time about a few bucks.

Showtime. We sit down and jump on the first tune. It sounds like we’re in a fishbowl or something. There’s no gain. I’m singing at PA volume without the PA. Michael is sitting next to the board, and he scrambles about between each song trying to find the problem, or at least make it sound a bit better. It was alright at sound check. What happened?

Between sets Michael tears down all the PA wires and reconfigures the system. Now it works very well. The house guy had messed up a couple of significant items. We should of known to do it all ourselves in the first place! The second set starts reasonably well, with just a couple of tweaks of the system to get it totally in gear. By song number three we are dealing with a loud, drunken couple who are interupting us constantly. As management seems to be nowhere in sight we have to stop the show altogether. Mid-song as it were. Words are exchanged. Michael’s on his feet. I follow, racking my National and standing in front of the stage. This guy must be out of his mind. Either of us could put him out. So, here we are, two guys in black standing in front of the stage. Bouncers this evening. The drunks leave noisily, and we take a five minute break before starting the set again. Jamie Steel, who set this thing up, has come down to the show with a number of people from Salty Towers. He doesn’t look too amused or entertained by the whole thing. Well, who would be. But what could we do? We don’t need to play through or ignore that kind of audience activity. That’s not what we’re here for. Sorry. We finish the set to a room suddenly crowded by college students. They are noisy, but digging the music, and a couple of girls are actually dancing. But our set never really recovers, and we are glad to reach the end of the night.

Back at the Salty Towers somebody pours me a rum and ginger, and I sit on the great wooden porch and drink it. There’s a big storm rolling in, so we’ll be on the road in the morning before it arrives. We’ve got maybe seven hours of driving.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Rothesay, NB

Forty-one dollars and fifty cents to ride the Confederation Bridge! That’s one smackin’ toll, eh? There’s no longer a railroad in PEI, but they do have the Bridge. On the road: “Potted Meat for Sale,” “NFD Salt Beef.” Sorry to leave the Island behind, but New Brunswick calls.

It’s a nice drive on near empty highways today. As we get into New Brunswick we see more flashes of colour in the trees. It’s getting to be fall. Pickup trucks parked here and there along the road. There’s a three day moose hunting season, and this is it.

Michael plays the mandolin as we roll along. It's "Honky Tonk Woman" today. He's not singing, and fortunately I can't remember the words. Yet.

We find the venue in Rothesay, NB, near Saint John, without too much difficulty. It’s an amazing old mansion house converted into a small hotel. Built in 1874 the house and grounds retain much of their period character. Pretty neat. There are huge, ornate dining rooms and a small bar on the first floor, along with a showcase lobby big enough for ballroom dancing… The main problem as I see it is that none of our tour posters can be seen anywhere. My name is written on a chalk board. Michael’s is not. Could you fix this, please? I get the feeling that promotion may be a problem here, and wonder if we are going to sell many tickets. I’ve got a pretty loose deal here, and the venue has not assumed as much risk as I like to see. Increased risk usually translates into increased promotion, and a much more successful venture all around. Potentially, this is a great room for music, and the young couple running it are working hard to make it happen. The food is masterful!

We are shown to our rooms. Very nice! As we are in early we set up, check, and retire to our rooms to relax for a couple of hours before dinner. Here's the sound check:

And my room:

I choose to run Rothesay. It’s a rolling community of big old houses, some with horses in the yard. Big trees, not too many cars out on the roads. I'm out for about 40 minutes and only encounter one other person on foot. And they were walking.

The show is as quiet as I had thought it might be. We have a good time with those who attend- more folks following us from Fredericton’s Harvest Festival. We seem to have connected with a huge number of people there. We’ve been having them show up at our gigs all over Atlantic Canada. We’ll be in a loud pub tomorrow night.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Red Dirt and Mount Stewart, PEI

Michael sleeps late this day. We’ve had fun with the woodstove in our cabin. It was pretty cold last night— down to around 3 degrees somebody said. We were fine by the bonfire, but our cabin needed a little warmth, so Michael stoked up the stove while I carried on with our new friends. By the time I got to the cabin it smelled of sweet woodsmoke and was wonderfully warm. Nothng like the warmth of wood heat! Of course, when I woke up later, the place was like a sauna! I slept on top of my blankets to wake up again, this time freezing cold. Like a real trooper, Michael got up and stoked up the stove again. By morning the place was baking hot and I escaped to the main house to hang with Hal and drink coffee.

After a pleasant half-day hanging out in the “Dunk,” we head off to our next destination. (You thought we’d never leave, right Hal?!). It’s an easy drive cross country, through red-dirt PEI, up and down the rolling hills, finally along the river, and over to Mount Stewart where we are to play the Trailside Café.

This one had been a hard one to book. The owners were pretty much convinced that no one would show up for a blues show. We’re rolling in very early to set up and get moved into our quarters. I’m pleased to learn that there are already 40 reservations for the evening show. This place maybe holds 65 or 70. That's as big as it gets in these parts. It’s gonna be a good night.

The room sounds great. We’ve been pretty lucky with good sounding rooms so far. This one has a small PA, but again, we could play it acousticly if we needed to. I consider this option briefly, but Michael (wisely, as it turns out) wants the PA and I’m happy to roll with this. A brief check and we’re up. The place is still closed and we’ve got a few hours to fill before show time.
I decide to go for a run. I was going to take today as a rest day, but I’m looking at these little, red dirt roads— and I want to put some miles in on them. I don’t normally run in the afternoon, or this close to show time. But, what the heck, I’m going to take it easy… right? Michael holes up in our room with his mandolin and a book. I get my shoes and head out.

It’s a beautiful day out here, and I’m delighted to find the Confederation Trail only a few hundred metres from the Inn. The trail is built, I believe, on the old railway right of way. A red dirt trail stretching away invitingly into the countryside. Off I go, and this is indeed a fine run! The ground is near perfect for running. The sun is out. It’s not too hot and not too cold. It’s not windy. There are no hills in this area! I take it from the sign posts along the trail and the maps in my road atlas, that there must be several hundred km of trail across the Island. Very neat. Run the Island! I end up going maybe 10 or 12 km, reluctantly turning for home as I do have a show to play this evening. There’s red dirt on my shoes. Cool.

Dinner at the Trailside is clearly an art. I have their seafood chowder. I could move in and eat this until bursting. Wow. Some good here! By show time the place is packed. I meet people from Vancouver, Kamloops, Winnipeg, Bahamas, as well as many local born and bred Islanders. People are so polite and friendly. This is great. A bunch of my fans come up from Charlottetown, and Michael has his, too. The CBC show has helped to get the word out, for sure.

Another fine night for Michael and I. We both play really well. We are having fun, and so is our crowd. They are a listening bunch, and even when we dig in very deep, they seem to stay with us for the ride. At half time we raffle a tour jacket. Here are the lucky winners!

Michael plays a great guitar piece, and we end the evening with a gospel number done off-mic in the audience. People are shaking our hands and buying cd’s, and then saying good nights and see you next times. Later we stand outside on the deck and take in the night sky. We like this life, and we’re lucky to be out on this big blues highway. We packed this place tonight, and we'll be back to do it again.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Dunk, Breadalbane, PEI

We’ve got a noon hour check out here. Very civilized as we don’t have far to go today. I wake up far too early and decide to run Charlottetown. It’s a town-sized city which can be pretty quiet in the off-season, which this is getting to be. I run the downtown blocks, weaving back and forth to see as much as possible. Down University Ave. to the marina, back past the Confederation Centre. Hey, this town is pretty flat. The sun is out, and it’s not windy. An easy run. Michael sleeps while I go to a nearby coffee joint to do some wifi email and read the paper.

We’ve got a 1:45 appointment at CBC Radio to perform a couple of tunes and do an interview for the afternoon drive show. Hopefully this will help our next couple of dates on the Island! The interview sets up quickly, and we have a good time recording the show.

Now the road to Breadalbane, which is NOT pronounced the way it looks.

This used to be a railroad town, but no more. Now it’s just an outpost in potato country. Our show, however, is to be on the outside of town, over on the Dixon road.
This is home to a wonderful arts/artist/green/progressive community. The land here is more marginal, so I guess some very interesting people have scooped it up to establish homes and businesses.

Hal Mills moved down from Yellowknife and pretty much built “The Dunk” to facilitate concerts. He may not of known it at the time, but his building designs produced excellent acoustics and sight lines. And the grounds are perfect for small outdoor shows. The property is named for the small river which passes through it.

Welcoming us to the “Dunk” Hal is the kind of guy you feel like you’ve known for years. We feel at home right awy, and he gives us the tour of our “cabin” (spacious little house with a woodstove), the stage, firepit areas, and the indoor space we’ll be playing in tonight. Being in early we take advantage of the time to set up. We could do this one with no mics, but a small house system is in place, so we put it up and soon have it sounding very nice. Meanwhile food is cooking in the kitchen. It’s a serious kitchen, and clearly Hal’s a serious cook! We will be well fed and cared for here!

It’s an early start tonight— between 7:30 and 8:PM. Catherine MacLellan drops by with apple tarts to have dinner with us. She’s been out earlier this year doing some shows with some other friends of mine, Bruce Cockburn and Colin Linden. We chat about this and that, and I get her to play me some tracks from her latest True North recording.

Soon the place is filled with people, and it’s time to play!

The show goes very, very well. Michael and I are getting quite relaxed on stage, and tonight’s show is warm, casual, and connects. After the last set we go outside where a huge bon fire has been lit. It’s a nice conclusion to a great day. Around the fire we become better aquainted with the community, and come away with a whole bunch of new friends.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Charlottetown, PEI

Great day early in the morning! I’m up early taking in the view, waiting for low tide. It’s going to be about 10:30 AM, an it’s my intention to go for a run on the tidal flats. It’s pretty cool, so I dress against the wind and scramble after Andy and his dog, finding our way down the step cliffs to the beach.

You can just make out Prince Edward Island across the Straight. The sky is blue. The wind is howling. I head north-east with the wind at my back. What a great run. The air is pure and I suck it up in great, beautiful gasps. The hard packed sand appears to be a near perfect surface, and I just fly a long over it. After a while I get to a section which is rippled, and I start to feel this in my knees right away. Running home into the wind is big work, and I want to take it easy as we have a show to play tonight.

Out with Andy for lobster and cheese sandwiches. Never had those before! We drive past Ann Murray’s house. And then off to find the bridge and make our way into Charlottetown, PEI, for tonight’s show. Here we are sharing the driving—

We had a bicycle escort into town—

Brennan’s is an antique— or should I say heritage pub— in the heart of the old town. Strolling in to the club I note that there are no posters up, and no one seems to be expecting us.

Calls are made. We're OK. It's gona be what it is. The PA goes up, sound check, dinner. It’s going to be an early show, and clearly attendance is going to be questionable. We’ve done some press releases, hit our mailing lists, and our friends in the Blueprints (PEI’s blues band) have gratiously plugged us to their lists, too. We’ll see what happens.

Immedietly we notice how friendly this place is. Everybody talks to one and other. People are interesting. Stories and jokes fly. Here's Michael comparing hairdos with the owner!

The night unfolds this way. Not a huge crowd, but enough to be great fun to play to. Tuning was a bit of an issue this night. All four guitars. Some days are like that. But everyone’s relaxed, it’s like a living room show. We sell a bunch of cd’s and load out into the night feeling like we have a whole bunch of new friends! This was a great night. You just never know.

Out for Chinese food. Probably a mistake involving food colouring nd MSG. Anyway we survived that and headed on to our hotel for our next adventure of the day. Walking into our room we found two old people sleeping in our beds! We’d walked right in, turned on all the lights and dropped our gear down. I hought at first the beds hadn’t been made up, but then these people sat up with their arms stretched out in front of them and their mouths open like they were going to scream or something. Their faces were all contorted. I swear it was like a scene from Night of the Living Dead. We got out of there in a hurry, and made our way to the front desk to ask for another room. Good Morning! Keep Room 160, please.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Pugwash, NS

A nice day for a run, so I’m up early and on the Dartmouth streets. We’re not doing a show tonight, so I can do some distance and it won’t matter if I’m tired later. Dartmouth is a pretty town for running, and I cover a whole lot of distnce going around a couple of small lakes in the town. Pretty, frame houses, big trees. Nice.

We have a nice drive up to Pugwash, NS, where we are to meet with our friend Andy Wainwright. He’s offered to put us up in his summer home for the evening. It’s close to the Confederation Bridge to PEI, so we’ll be well positioned to make our Tuesday show in an easy drive.

Andy’s house is amazing to these blues guys! Built on a cliff looking out over the ocean, it’s all air and sea. Eagles are overhead, foxes trot through the yard, deer amble by. We play a few tunes for Andy in his living room, and then settle in to watch— what else?— some great film footage of Bob Dylan in the early 1960’s. Great conversation. Great food. And a deep sleep with the wind roaring and the sea crashing outside.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Atlantic Blues: Part Three

Up early to catch up on email. Then down to the kitchen and in the back door of the café to get a cup of coffee. We’ve got an early afternoon house concert in Fall River, a little community north of Dartmouth. We’ll need to get in, get set up, and get out on schedule to make our concert slot at the Great Atlantic Blues and Beyond Festival in Dartmouth.

On route we stop off in Wolfville and visit with the folks at the Deep Roots Festival there. That festival will be happening next weekend, and it looks like a real good one! Before long we’ve motored down into Fall River, Nova Scotia and got instructions to the house. We’ve had a slow leak in our rear right tire, so we’ve stopped a couple of times for air, but we’re on time.

Here we are at the house concert. These are great social and musical events. We really enjoy playing these, and a good time is had by all. In this instance we are really sorry that we have to rush away. Again, it’s a matter of the changing festival schedule. Originally we weren’t scheduled for a Sunday show. Our thanks to Dale and Eva and Andy for their hospitality. Here's Andy with his new tour jacket.

Here's what the porch looked like.

Other guests give us an escort down to the festival site, so that we will get there as quickly and directly as possible.

Again no pics, but a large crowd is waiting for us today. Joe Murphy walks up to say hello. He looks great! We are so pleased by his recovery from last year’s health crisis. The audio tech remembers us and our set-up from yesterday. We do the world’s quickest sound check. This will be good. It sounds great. Thanks, Gary, for making this happen. The act that was scheduled to appear before us has apparently been cancelled, so we again begin on the early side. Michael kicks off the show this day and asks me to play harmonica. This would be fine if I played anymore, or practised, or wasn’t sitting next to Michael Pickett! No, seriously, great fun to lay in some tonic notes and try to stay out of the way. I secretly hope that there aren’t any harmonica players out there listening. But, what the heck, we have fun and roll into the next song. I think we’re playing really well this day. We both cut in pretty deep. There’s a crowd listening intently to some very, deep, heavy blues that we are laying down. Very inspiring to know that they are with us and don’t need to be converted. Our set is relaxed, like a big living room with a couple hundred people in it. When I see that we are running out of time, I look over to the audio desk and ask Gary, “are we good for a couple more?” I know he’s got to tear down. His real hard work starts after the show. There’s nobody clapping when the bins are being moved and the cables wrapped… Gary waves us on, so we play a few more numbers. After we finish up Samuel James, a young player from Maine, strolls up onto the stage and starts to set up. I’m amazed. He was supposed to be on before us, and had apparently been cancelled. The last I was told WE were the last show on this stage. Another change of plan! I approach Samuel and offer our apologies for eating into his set time. We would not of run over if we had known there was another artist to follow.

We’re quickly broken down, packed, and loaded. I run into the AD in the parking lot, and he pays me cash on the spot. They’ve had big losses this weekend, but I’m not in a position to offer a deal. Michael and I go back to Billy’s Wings and sample the Digby Scallops before taking our gear back to the hotel. Later I return to the festival site to catch Edgar Winter and cash out my merch. Sorry, Edgar’s not my kind of show. In fact, I wonder wht he’s doing at a blues festival. Of course it is blues and Beyond, so I guess it must be OK. Clearly he’s got a lot of fans, but I don’t know if there is much overlap between his and mine. Backstage I eat strawberries with one of the sound guys. “Aren’t you supposed to be doing sound for Edgar?” I ask. “I am.” he replied, “it’s just too loud in there.” I say my good-byes to the festival volunteers, and it’s hotel time at last. Another long day.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

More Atlantic Blues

Big sleep. We asked the front desk where we could go for breakfast, a good breakfast. Not a chain store. “Try Tim Horton’s around the corner,” she said. We end up at Celtic Corner for brunch. We’re not scheduled at the festival until late afternoon, so we eat and then go to get organized for the day. It will be a long day as we will play our afternoon concert, rush off stage, and drive a couple of hours north to play an evening show in Berwick, Nova Scotia.

The Festival schedule has been changing again. There’s a new time slot for us, making our late afternoon run across the province all the more interesting. Less time to get there. I email the venue and ask them to have the mics up, so we’ll be able to line check and go right on stage when we get there this evening. Meanwhile the buzz is all about cancelled shows at the festival. Some major acts are not arriving. Some acts are simply not performing. There is discomfort and speculation about money. Yes, there is stress in the air. But it is a nice day, and maybe, maybe, the ticket gods will shine on this festival today.

Arriving at Alderney Landing it is way too easy to park. We park next to the door and load in. There’s a good size stage in the middle of the complex, and a small tech crew is busy doing this and that. There’s not much crowd yet, but we are pretty early, and all the shows in front of us have been cancelled. Our sound tech, Gary, get’s us up and running in near record time. The sound on stage is great, and the mains seem to be great as well. It’s so nice to be working with a professional! I brought the Tour camera in with us, but we are too busy to use it. (If anybody has some pics of this concert, I'd love to get a couple up. Thanks!)

A crowd has begun to collect in the concert area, but people have three different schedules for us! I tell ‘em we’re just going with our instructions for the day. Later I tease that we’ll take a vote as to start time. Eventually we start our show a few minutes early. When was the last time you went to a blues show that started early? There were a lot of people waiting, so we thought we’d just get it going!

The show launches well, despite being back to back with our old friend, John Hammond. (We’d like to be catching his show, too.) John’s upstairs in the Theatre, starting at exactly the same time we are. This definitely bites into our demographic. But John’s show is completely full. And we’ve got a couple hundred people, which is enough to make this hall comfortable. Here’s what the Halifax Chronicle Herald had to say…

“Those unfortunates who couldn’t get in to Hammond’s performance were treated to the dual action of Doc MacLean and Michael Pickett (as) the pair traded licks and quips for an appreciative crowd.

MacLean, sporting his trademark chest-length goatee, also paid tribute to doomed music legend Robert Johnson with a self-penned tale of spending $300 on a mint 78 r.p.m. shellac platter of Terraplane Blues and then melting it down to get high off the alcohol.

It may be a horror story for record collectors, but it was hard not to smile at MacLean’s method for getting the music into your bloodstream.

Pickett also had something of a horror story in Wicked Grin, a tale of another Saturday night in the life of your everyday razor wielding psychopath. Slashing away at his vintage 1932 National Steel with abandon filled his blues version of Sweeny Todd with voracious gusto… For those who missed out— Pickett and MacLean return this evening at 6:30…”

Big crush after the show. We’ve only got a window of about 30 minutes to get out of here! But people are lined up to buy cd’s, posters, tour jackets. The store is open! And there’s another act coming on and we need to clear the stage fast! Remarkably we get broken down, packed, and out of the hall right on time! We’ve done this a few times before, and our experience shows in moments like these. There’s a line up at Billy’s Wings, and we can’t wait even 10 minutes— so we hit the road without dinner. We’ll try and get something pre-show in Berwick.

A fast run across Nova Scotia. We arrive earlier than anticipated, which is very good as we will be able to eat before show time. The Union Street Café in Berwick has great food, so we were actually glad we hadn’t eaten food to go from Halifax.

A thinner crowd than we might of hoped for tonight. But enough to make it lively, and they are (for the most part) a good, listening audience. We raffle a tour jacket at half time, but the lucky winner works for a radio station, and needs to wear his own colours. Remarkably he trades the jacket for cd’s!

Living quarters at the Café have suffered since my visit here last year, but we’ll manage tonight. My room has no windows, but it does have wifi, so the Blog will continue. It’s been a long day, and we’ve got an early show in Halifax on Sunday.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Great Atlantic Blues & Beyond

We made it. And so did the festival. I don't have time this morning to talk much about the opening night, but here's a few pics below to act as a placeholder! The local paper, the Halifax Metro, reports in a headline that there is "chaos prior to Blues and Beyond fest opening." Rick Derringer is no longer attending, the show has been moved indoors... Our Friday night show is now a Sunday night show, and the Theatre Stage shows have been moved to a giant, open mall area under the Theatre. The outdoor big stage shows now will play the Theatre. There is great ticket value here to see some major acts in the rather intimate Theatre Hall. A great room with good sightlines and a low stage. You could stand maybe 12 feet away from Johnny Winter or Charlie Musselwhite... or John Hammond. John is scheduled to play at exactly the same time as Michael and I on Saturday. This is a double whammy as we'd like to go see him ourselves, and it will unfortunately divide the acoustic blues demographic...

Today is Michael Pickett's birthday. Happy Birthday, Michael. I'm sorry I didn't get you a cake or something, but you know, Happy Birthday. The next twenty are going to be very good.

OK, so here's Halifax from the gig site.

One of the bridges connecting Halifax and Dartmouth. There's a cool ferry service as well. Our hotel is not far from here, and since we've had our Friday night show rescheduled to Sunday night, we are free to socialize and catch some music this evening.

I didn't have any festival ID for food, so I went outside and hung out a bit with Billy the Wing Guy. I had scallops and they were GOOD. No ID required.

John Campbelljohn got things moving with his trio, and we chatted for a while backstage. Brian Slack came in from Montreal for the festival, and I was surprised to see him out of context as he popped into the dressing room! Should not have been. Brian's a major booster of the blues in Canada, and he was here to lend his support to both the organizers and the artists. I noticed at least one other festival AD in the crowd. Ticket sales were not as high as anticipated, and everyone is hoping for the best. A festival like this is a massive undertaking, and we'd all like to see it continue, and we all hope that no one takes a personal loss. It's easy to be an armchair critic, but it takes a lot of guts to put everything on the line and go for it. The weather is good! Maybe a big whack of people will buy last minute tickets?

Fathead arrived for their show, and it was old home week in the hotel lobby. Later, they were joined by Lance Anderson for this gig, and it was very cool to hear the band with him. They were great. Here's Michael and Al after the show.

Some of us went across to Halifax after the last concert. Here's what was going on at Bearly's House of Blues. MonkeyJunk with Steve Mariner and Tony D. A fun show with huge promise. Very interesting format for a blues trio. We chat for a while between sets and hang with blues pals Andy, Dale and Shirley. I discover that several local shows have been dropped from the bill. That's unfortunate, as a festival like this could really help their profiles and give them a boost.

Michael and I back to our hotel at a reasonable hour. We'll have a slow start to our Friday, but then things will get interesting.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bicentennial Theatre, Middle Musquodoboit, NS

This was a really nice night for us. Great sound, lights, nice people! The theatre was actually built in the 1920's and is quite wonderful. Ed and Cathrine (sorry if I didn't spell that right, there are so many ways) took us back to their farm after the show and kept us well entertained until the wee hours. I'll tell you more about the show and the farm, and the theatre later. I'm running short on time here today, so I'm just going to lay in some pics to give you an idea of how cool this show was for us.