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.

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