Sunday, November 9, 2008

Saltspring Island- NSBT Wraps! Last Show!

There’s nowhere we can find in downtown Duncan to get breakfast. Not the breakfast we want anyway. Sunday morning, and all the cool places are closed up. We end up back at the Duncan Garage Café for coffee and muffins to go. This is not bad, just not the diner we want. And it is cool. Thanks!

It’s a short drive north to catch the ferry to Salt Spring Island. A short boat ride, maybe thirty minutes— and we’re here. The sun is working hard today. Very nice. We’ve had days of rain now. Days. So this is nice.

The NSBT, National Steel Blues Tour, is coming to an end soon. Michael has maintained the sign on the Tour Van...

We drive into the village and call our hosts, Ron and Oni. Hello! We’re here!!

It’s to be a house concert toight at the “Whale House,” a beautiful home on top of a small mountain. Both Michael and I have been here before, but not together. This seems like an amazing spot to end the Tour.

Yes, this is the Last Show. Wow. Hard to believe. We’re in early, but the house is already a hive of activity as Ron and Oni and Dave and other friends prep for the show. It’s to be a pot luck supper, and there are good things cooking here already. Smells great, can’t wait! Michael retires to his room to nap and chill away from the commotion. I’m to stay in a little alcove off the main room, so I’m pretty much in the middle of the set up. We’ve got most of the afternoon in front of us, so I decide— what the heck— I’m going to run Salt Spring Island.

It’s a long, steep run down the hill from this house. I know coming up will be very, very special. A real climb. I zig zag down the hill as I find it easier on my legs to do hills this way. Down to the Concession road, and I’m off on the rolling terrain. Most of the trees and bushes are still green, and loom up over the road. Occasionally there is an opening for a field. Blackberries are still on bushes along the ditches. It’s a grey sky, and the ground is wet, the road shoulders soft and splashy. Here and there I pick up a little mud. Another great Canadian run. Out about an hour. Pushing up the hill for home is just as tough as I thought it would be. But I’ve been training all across this great land. I’m pushing, pushing. This is the steepest, longest hill in over two months of travel. There are wet leaves on it. I must be careful not to slip. I will not stop running. I will not walk. I will make this last climb on this last run of the Tour. Finally I crest the hill. My lungs are bursting. I’m soaking. My heart is pounding. Wow. I hit the steam shower (yes, absolutely amazing) with the windows looking out over the hills. I’m blessed to be sharing this special place.

Night comes quickly. We’re to use a small PA this night, and local musician Shovelhead Dave helps us to set up and get the whole thing in gear. I remember Dave from last year when he sat around jamming with Big Dave McLean and I after our show.

People and food are arriving, so Michael and I get plates and explore some of the fare around the room. Nuts, oysters, red wine, salads, blackened chicken, salads, Salt Spring cheeses. This is good! Here's the girls collecting at the door, talking girl talk, and having a few laughs at my expense!

Showtime. We’re a little cramped here, but not bad. We limbo in and out behind our cage of mics and mic stands. We’ve got about 35 people here tonight. Fifty would have been better. But this is nice. Michael kicks off the show tonight. We’ve been trading off the opening from show to show. Tonight it’s “I’ve Been Fooled Again,” an old Sonny and Brownie tune. I get to play harp on this one. I do a second line, try to have fun, pump along, and stay out of Michael’s way. Every harmonica player in every town seems to come out to see us— well, to hear Michael anyway— so I’ve been a little self-conscious throughout the Tour. Here I am playing harp for Michael Pickett. How strange it that?? After all these shows I’m still knocked out by his playing every night. I get to play on two other songs, “Hitch Hikin’ Woman” and “Louise.” These are more down my Mississippi alley.

Tonight we are working hard, and soaking in this last show of the Tour. I think we are playing really well— individually and together. Last shows are like this sometimes. It’s kind of a warm glow, maybe a little sadness that we’ve reached the end of this adventure. It has been another great journey, both artisticlly and personally. Between sets we sell raffle tickets on the LAST tour jacket, sign CDs and posters. Here's the lucky winner of the jacket!!

My pal Bruce Everett has come to the show tonight. You might know him as “Ken Hamm’s harp player.” Ken and Bruce hung out with us last year in Alberta, and did some playing. We chat, and it turns out Bruce now lives on a boat, anchored in the village harbour here at Salt Spring Island. Very cool! Where's his pic? We took some. They'll turn up.

Our second set goes by all too quickly. I enjoy every moment. Michael plays “Tryin’ to Find My Way Home,” and I lead into Pearly Brown’s “Good-Bye” which has become kind of a closing theme for us. We sing a bunch of choruses to a standing ovation, and the night, and the Tour, is done. Michael and I end this night standing in front of the stage together for one last bow.

Later, we sit outside on deck chairs and marvel at the whole thing. We are lucky guys to live this life— but it has taken us the better part of 40 years to get to this Tour, this show, this deck on this mountain with a big moon smiling down on us.

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