Sunday, November 2, 2008

Prince George- Capacity Crowd, No Mapes, No Foolin'

It’s an early start for us today. We’ve got perhaps 5 hours of driving to get to Prince George, BC, for our 3:30 soundcheck and load-in. We cruise into downtown Ashcroft to find a cup of coffee, but everything is closed this morning. Looks like we’ll have to go to Cache Creek to get breakfast and gas up.

Sure enough. It’s a Huskey Truck Stop. Inside I see a clock on the wall. It’s REALLY early. The clocks all moved back an hour last night! No wonder Ashcroft was closed. I’ve been having time zone problems for a couple of weeks now anyway, so I just don’t care. You could tell me it was pretty much any hour, and I’d probably believe you. Or maybe that means I’m tired????

Michael and I have been looking forward to this drive for some time. It’s interesting from the get-go as we move out into this high dessert country and point the truck north on Route 97-C. We’ve got coffees to go and we’re taking snaps of the scenery.

We’re impressed by the range of gold, brown and yellow colours, and soon we find ourselves moving into higher country with scrubby pine or spruce trees. The dessert is left behind, and the transition to the North is becoming clear. This is pulp and mining, trucks and mills. Hydro lines. Winding highways. The little towns and hamlets along the way have names like 14 Mile House, 49 Mile House, 100 Mile House… well you get the idea. This was the route to the Gold Rush, and these were measured distances for transport.

We arrive in Prince George an hour ahead of schedule… wonder why we were not exactly on time??? But this is fine, as we poke around town looking for the venue. Eventually we find it. This is the Artspace. It’s above a good sized, indy bookstore/café. Not part of a chain. An indy. Full of books and low-bucks coffee. Nice. I can tell there’s a tough side to this town as well. We’ve driven past the mission, with a long line of people waiting for the evening doors to open. But on to the Venue.

The room has a low stage, great sight lines, appears to have great acoustics. It’s a warm, inviting room, really a small theatre/gallery space— and promises to be a good place to play. Down in the café we meet Earl, the town’s number one blues booster, and promoter of this show. We’ve met before at the Maples (Maple Blues Awards— Canada’s version of the BMAs/Handy Awards), and Earl had come out to say hello at one of our shows in Fredericton, NB, early in the Tour. Now he’s all energy on his own turf. We’ve had radio ads on two stations, a feature on the front page of the entertainment sectiion, email to the blues society lists, posters around town. We’ve had about 50 advance ticket sales. Nobody seems to know for sure if that is good or bad, but as there are no Maple Nominated Artists in this town tonight, I feel quite sure we’re going to do well here. They have not presented many acoustic shows, so there is a bit of a buzz in the air, and nobody seems sure what is going to happen.

Dave, the sound guy, arrives with his truck. There’s a good deal of carry in stuff, so the set up takes a while. I work the laptop. Michael noodles on his Gibson and smokes. Eventually we get some mics up. The room sounds as good as I thought it would. Michael soundchecks. I soundcheck. It’s OK up there. I can’t hear my guitar over Michael’s, and I’ll hit it too hard all night. But that’s kind of where it ends up. My vocal mic is, at least, as hot as I like it. Sound techs have had a bit of a challenge setting us up. We have different attacks on the same style of instrument, and different ways of using the workhorse SM58 vocal mics. You’d think it makes sense to set up the vocal mics the same way. Only Michael eats his, band style, and I like a lot of air around mine, so I can move on and off axis— old folkie style, I guess. Guitars look the same. Only they are played quite a bit differently. Without picks and full chord swipes, my guitar is quite a bit quieter. I know this, and fans at many shows tell me I’m not loud enough. Anyhow, we’ll be fine this night. The room sounds good, and we can work with it. Dave’s done everything he can do. It’s a go!

Back to Earl’s place to meet his family, have a wonderful, home-cooked meal, and a short snooze before show time. The room is busy when we return, and Earl is happy. Yup, this show is gonna be alright! Every seat is full by the time our set starts at 7:30 PM. These folks are attentive to say the least! And quiet! We are warmly welcomed and the first set is done before we know it.

It’s one of those nights where I’ve got to check my watch so we can end remotely on time. Michael and I can very easily do sets of one hour twenty minutes, one hour forty minutes. The songs in the round format seems to lend itself to this. Everybody’s relaxed, and it just goes and goes! So our fifty minute set is about an hour and five. Now I’ve got raffle tickets to sell!

We don’t lose anybody to the intermission, in fact the place seems more crowded now than before. We’ve got a great front row to play to, the lights are nice— not too hot and not too blinding. There was a lot of interest in the raffle for the jacket. One proud winner!

I’m afraid all the XLG and maybe even LG jackets are gone now. I know I’ve got a couple of M’s and maybe a SM left in the bag. We end the night with a standing ovation. And it really was a pleasure to play here. I wonder where the people from the folk festival are? If they came out, I haven’t met them. Pretty hard to play closer to the market area than this. I’ll be back next year.

Our merch table has been picked pretty much bare. For sure, a record sale of merch per capita. Michael’s not happy— he’s pretty much sold out of CDs and we’ve still got a few dates left to play. I tell him to lighten up— if he hadn’t sold so many cds tonight, he might have been taking some home at the end of the Tour! All in all this is very good. Back to Earl’s for a glass of wine. Decompress. Do the Tour books. Sleep. Tomorrow is a travel day, we’ll see where we end up. We’ll see.

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