Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Western Adventures Begin- Big Tour Day

Up early. Need to do inventory, pack the flight bags, get the rental truck back to the dealer, get a taxi to the airport, check the bags, do security, catch our flight, meet Big Dave in Winnipeg, get to the downtown, pick up our next truck, go to Long and McQuade for a back-up PA, drive to Kenora, set up, sound check, and do a show. This is the most complicated day of the Tour, and if anything messes up there could be a nasty domino effect.

We roll into it. My house is so filled with stuff that we need to pack our bags on the front porch. We’ve got the merch packed into a big flight bag. It takes the two of us to carry it down to the truck. I hope we sell all these cds. I’m pretty sure we’ll sell out of jackets quickly. The fuckin’ truck has a near flat tire, and also requires fuel. I won’t be sorry to see the end of it when we turn it in. Crappy tires on two trucks in a row!!

Soon we are in a taxi, bound for the airport. We are exactly on time, so our driver drives very, very slowly. His cab is nearly full with all of our stuff. I mean really full. He looks amazed when I give him a tip at the airport. “Are you guys famous?” he asks us.

Long line at the WestJet counter. But it moves fast, and soon we are on our way to Oversized Bags to check the guitars in. We’ve locked down the cases, taped the latches. These guitars are good to go. We use Calton Cases, made in Alberta, Canada. These are fabulous cases, and do a great job of protecting our vintage Nationals, Gibson, and Stella, over hundreds of dates. Check ‘em out if you want great cases for your instruments. The guitars are sucked noisily up a conveyor belt, and we make our way to Security.

The usual take off your hat, shoes, computer, spare change, etc. I suggest that they should have a tip jar with all this change floating around, but the ladies with the security wands are not amused. One keeps pointing her wand at my zipper, saying “there’s something metal in there.” Michael is through the barrier first, and they are tearing apart his carry-on bags. “What’s this?” they keep asking. Guitar capos, slides, harmonica racks, fingerpicks… They really haven’t got a clue. They want to know where the guitars are. How come Michael is not carrying them, too? It’s like a music lesson gone bad. Michael points at me (ratting on his accomplice), and they descend upon me for baggage tags. Got ‘em. OK, we’re good to go. Michael is carrying a banana. I tell him not to point it or hold it in a threatening way…

We get right on board. Take off is amazing. There is a disaster simulation going on. Nobody has told us about this, but as soon as our plane is in the air I can see black smoke off to the side. Down below us there is what appears to be a passenger aircraft in flames, with fire and rescue machines all around it. We get a great view of this as the plane banks. Strange omen?? Weird way to start a flight? Our plane creaks and groans it’s way to cruise altitude. There are two crying children in the seats behind us. No sleep on this flight.

Big Dave McLean is waiting for us at the Winnipeg airport with his Caddy. It is great to see him. We all talk a mile a minute as he drives us downtown to the National rental lot. We get the identical van we’ve had, this one with Alberta plates. Dave and I make some quick plans to get together the next night in Winnipeg. Then he escorts us out of town in his Caddy. Points us in the right direction, and we’re bound for Kenora, ON. Long and McQuade will wait until tomorrow.

Kenora is about 30 minutes farther than I remember it being, but of course we drive this rental at a fairly slow, no ticket, kind of speed now. On the way we stop at a diner and have breakfast. It’s mid afternoon, but breakfast is what we want and get. Close encounter with a deer on the highway. Promoter Mort Goss is waiting for us at the venue with a team of volunteers getting up lights, PA, stage and tables. It’s to be an 8:00 show, and it’s now around 6:00 PM. Here's the sound tech and his stage crew:

Our 8:00 start turns into an 8:30 start as the sound crew are a little slower to set up than anticipated. It is decided that we should do one long set instead of two shows, so off we go! Hello Kenora!! It’s a good crowd with lots of familiar faces. A couple of people have driven in from Dryden for the show. Long drive. Thanks. We really, really, appreciate this kind of support. Others are familiar from the Trout Forrest Music Festival, which I have played a couple of times in recent years. Our set goes and goes. While Michael plays a solo piece, I roam the room and sell tickets on the tour jacket. Dryden takes it!! Nice. In the end our set runs to about 2 hours and 15 minutes. Everybody goes home happy.

We follow Mort and Em out into the dark night beyond Kenora. They’ve got a home way back in the woods. On arrival Mort cooks us an amazing dinner. Somehow we talk into the wee hours, before finding our way off to sleep. Day’s done. We did it! Thanks everybody!

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