Saturday, October 31, 2009

Big Day in the Big Hills— Doc Scores a Lincoln

All is quiet in the valley— mist or fog still hugging the foothills as Dave and I set out this morning. Dave has been out for an early morning walk already and has something he wants me to see.

Hmmm... it's a nice looking Lincoln Town Car with a "for sale" sign in the windshield. We knock on the door, but as there is no answer, we head into Enderby to the breakfast joint. I think it's called Hungry Jack's. Did I get that right? I hope so. It is definitely where to have breakfast in these parts. At breakfast, I reach the car owner on the phone and— recklessly— offer to meet him in 20 minutes to look at the car. The meeting is arranged— but we are in a hurry— we've got to get to Kamloops for an afternoon workshop at Long and McQuade, and we don't want to be late! Even crazier, we meet the guy, make him an offer, and buy the big Lincoln in all of about ten minutes. I count him out a deposit on the hood of the car and tell him I'll be back to pick it up in a month! He's not real happy about that, but money talks... So we have a deal. Moments later we are lead foot towards Kamloops and I'm realizing that I'm going to have to come all the way back here from the eventual Tour end in Winnipeg to pick up my new wheels. Heck, I shoulda waited and bought something closer to home. Dave, at least, is thrilled, so I challenge him to a street race in December... Lincoln against Caddy, boot to boot... All this crazy talk serves to take our minds off the witch's curse. (Yes, the Tour now has an evil witch following it along. OK, maybe not evil, but not real nice either— and we're thinking perhaps not well balanced. Pickett and I carried garlic in the truck last year, and we were fine... This year there is something black hovering in the air, somewhere, looking at us.)

But right now it's a pretty drive north to Kamloops— looks like this!

This is an unknown Long and McQuade store to us, so we are looking forward to meeting everyone and checking it out. Manager Ron Wilies and his staff are ready for us when we arrive. The store is up on Summit Drive, not far from the highway, and not far from the university. Nice layout, and some nice stock, too! It's an easy load in for the workshop, and we're ready to meet and greet in short order. A good little crowd amble about, not a big turnout here, but an interested one. Somehow they are too busy to take any photos with the Tour camera— as am I! Email me a couple of jpgs would somebody? I know there are at least two video recorders on the go and some stills being taken! Anyway, it is very pleasant and, as usual, there are some good questions from the Long and McQuade visitors. Dave and I buy harmonicas, picks, stuff, before heading out to grab some food for the road. Longs has always got STUFF! And we always end up buying some of it! A great little store here in Kamloops— see you next time.

We're going to head west and south to spend the night at Ashcroft, BC. It is, of course, Halloween, and traditionally it's been impossible to book this night anywhere. Tonight it is to be bands, dancing and DJs throughout the land. Party down people. We'll see if any of our pals are around Ashcroft. Perhaps we'll take in a house party and get a chance to do some playing. It is a real nice haul out of here to Ashcroft, at least on a real nice day. And today is nice, so we enjoy the ride... I think this area is correctly called "high desert." Whatever. I like it a lot. This is a great life.

Dave retires early to his room, but his cousin, Clem, turns out and we go for dinner at the local pizza joint. Ashcroft is sure quiet. We're just not connected tonight— so we will sleep. No internet in these hotel rooms.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Kamloops Television, Radio, Lorenzo's Cafe, Enderby, BC

It's going to be a very busy day for us. We've got to get up the valley to Kamloops in time to dress, soundcheck and perform a noon hour show for Midday Television, then we've got an afternoon appearance on "Buffalo Gals," a popular, local radio show. From there we dash back south to Enderby, to Lorenzo's Cafe, unload, soundcheck, dress, and roll into our evening show. Hopefully our little media blitz will help put bums in seats and we'll have a full house. But right now it's still dark, we've had our wake up calls, and we're cruising Kelowna, BC, looking for a Tim's. That's a Canadian coffee joint we can count on finding somewhere on the highway in or out of nearly every town. We find one. We get big, big coffees. I get bagels, plain. "You want them BULK, Sir?" No, I want only TWO, plain bagels. NOT toasted. NOT buttered. Just as they are, in a bag. "That's BULK, Sir." Can you sell me two plain bagels, or need I go elsewhere? Hey, Tim Horton's, don't make your servers follow such a stupid directive. We're good customers, and we're smart enough to know that "bulk" means quantity, perhaps at wholesale prices— not a couple of plain bagels in a bag.

By light we're making our way up the valley. It's quite a retirement destination, and it's one little town after another, vineyards, golf courses, and great lake and mountain scenery in between the sprawl.

You wouldn't know it to see these pics, but these roads are pretty busy at times. It does seem that there is a morning and evening rush hour. I wonder what keeps it all going here in the valley. I guess it must be a diverse economy... Not such a great day. Snow blowing down some of the peaks, clouds hugging some of the valley walls... Still, the sun is trying hard, so perhaps the day will unfold well for us.

Ooops, forgot to check the brakes... No, seriously, we're fine. But those those 18 wheeler truck drivers sure earn their money on these routes. Not something I'd want to try.

Here we are looking out over Kamloops. We're here right on schedule. Time to load in, change, check and do our thing.

The station covers a pretty big swath of the British Columbia interior, and is usually a lot of fun to play. Today we will be sharing the show with some Zombi Girls!

It's a nice little studio. Host Tracy Pellazarri is always fun to hang out with, and brings a trendy, big city feel to the show. The only thing lacking is coffee and cookies in the Green Room. Next time, eh? Or maybe we don't really need 'em. We need to keep trim!

Looking good, boys, if I may say so myself.

I should never travel with a guy as handsome as Big Dave McLean. Nice tie. It must be the tie that does it...

The Zombie Girls moan and crawl around the studio eating into our time. We get to play just a couple of numbers, and quickly plug our regional shows before the credits roll. Thanks, Tracy! Always a blast.

We scurry down the mountain to look for a proper breakfast joint downtown. As luck would have it, we find just such a spot close to a couple of huge thrift stores! Dave ends up with a new pair of winter boots, but I resist the call of the wild and keep my money in my pocket.

"Buffalo Gals" is the eclectic, mostly acoustic radio show hosted by Nancy Lougheed on CFBX-FM. It's in a nice, late afternoon, Friday spot, and so is an excellent opportunity to touch the "drive" crowd in the region. Crowding into the studio, we are first met by station director Brant Zwicker. I've left the tour camera in the truck, so there will be no photos of this gathering. I wish I had some to share. Brant is a great supporter of blues music, blues artists, and the Canadian music scene in general and really helps to keep it happening in central British Columbia. I gotta say that both Dave and I are very grateful indeed for all the airplay his station has given us both over the last few years. Every bit helps, and blues guys like us fill our gigs one seat at a time— regional airplay remains very important to us, even as we see the evolution of international, digital broadcasting. Thanks, Brant, much appreciated.

Brant takes us upstairs and introduces us to Nancy, after which we gab and play for a pleasant couple of hours on air. I get to read "Entertainment Beat" or some such segment about where local shows are playing. Everybody makes fun of the way I say "Kamloops." I guess I'll need to get lessons before I hit these parts again. Bidding good-bye and thank you to Nancy and Brant, we grab our truck, grab some coffee, and ride out!

We are now headed back down the valley to Enderby, and we have just enough time to make the show. Lorne won't be happy, as he likes to have his shows in and soundchecked before the dinner hour. But anyway, we're a fast load in, and a quicker sound check usually. I know Lorne has some good gear, so I'm not too worried. And this time I'm going to take the backroads way that the locals take, and I'm going to save about an hour on the trip! We are fairly hopeful that the show will be a sell out tonight, so we pop on the stereo and relax to Fred McDowell and Johnny Woods as we drive.

But where the hell are we??? It sure is dark out there, and these mountain roads are twisting around and there do not seem to be any signs at all out here. Damn!! I pull over and try out the new GPS unit. It takes a few tries to find a place with a good signal, but it seems we are not actually lost anymore— just a long, long way from where we want to be. Crow!

We roll into Lorenzo's with just minutes to spare. The place is pretty busy, and I think Lorne looks relieved to see us. He doesn't give us a hard time for cutting it tight. We're set up very quickly, and I grab a glass of red wine for the stage! The kitchen will actually save us some food for us to have, post-show. We're on!

The place is loud tonight— some tables are talking loudly, and some are trying to listen to the show. Words are exchanged. Lorne roams the floor trying to smooth ruffled feathers. A bunch of young children are encouraged by their mothers to dance in front of the stage. This is cute for the first song, annoying by the second song, and plain disruptive by the third. They were quite friendly, but we are glad when they leave. I'm also glad when the night is over. This is usually a great listening room for music, and a ball to play— but tonight... was work. I totally forget to take pictures during the show, I only locate the camera at the end of the night. We do have a great time chatting with fans after the show, signing CDs and so on. Dave takes an early leave for a well-earned sleep and a little privacy. I drink red wine and hang out with Lorne and his staff. I always enjoy hanging out here, so I stay up late in spite of being very tired.

Lorne is talking about selling the place and moving on. I hope he takes his time doing this. Lorenzo's Cafe, even on a night like tonight, is an amazing, mysterious, unique bit of Canada. Thanks, Lorne. And best wishes for whatever wild dreams you may follow next. I stumble late to my bed, as often is the case here.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Tour Goes Well— Too Well!!

OK, so the Tour has been off the Blog for quite some time now!!! I'm really sorry for the gap. We've really been doing fabulously well out here. But, as you can guess, there has been almost no down time at all. Just enough time to travel, set up, play, break down, and do it again. Where we have had a few hours, we've often been in locations without internet or cellular access, so the Blog is way, way behind. I've got lots of pictures— the Tour Camera is in use daily. I'll get this caught up over time.

Meanwhile, to bring you up to date— south western Ontario was very good. We played some amazing places to sold out crowds. The flight to Winnipeg on Thanksgiving was a bit spoiled by ENTERPRISE CAR RENTALS which not only charged us $1100 more than their initial quote, but also refused to shuttle us to our flight until we signed a "accident report" form for a defective hinge mechanism on the back gate. No accident occurred. Just a cash grab by a company that won't be used again by the Tour. Accident claims are now chasing us for an additional 275.00 for a gate support which is clearly a defective, warranty problem, and entirely unrelated to our use of the van. See you in small claims court. I hate it when companies feel they can just screw you over.

Winnipeg for dinner with Dave's family, then off to Saskatoon the next morning. Great, sold out show put on by the Saskatoon Blues Society. I love playing that town! A couple of fun dates across rural Sask, and then into Vermilion, Alberta, for a truly magic night put on by the Vermilion Folk Club. Edmonton was a bit of a let down. We had a great time doing CKUA and CBC radio shows there, but the gig— at the Haven Social Club— was not promoted or advertised in any way. That's just a waste of our time and the venue's. Next day things picked up again. Up before dawn to drive to Calgary, where we caught a flight to Yellowknife, NT. Capacity show there in a really great hall. CBC North co-produced and recorded this one— so you will eventually be able to hear it on Canada Live, Concert on Demand, and Saturday Night Blues. We had exactly one hour at the hotel after the show before catching a cab back to the airport. Early flight to Calgary, changing planes for Whitehorse. Our new pal Brian picked us up at the Whitehorse Airport, and we drove snow covered roads for five hours to make our show that night in Dawson City! Nice to be in Dawson for two days. We did a guitar masterclass, a school, a youth centre, and then a sold out show at a beautiful, heritage hall. We'll get lots of pics up for this one. The people we met were great, and we felt like we belonged to the town. I can't wait to go back.

Flyout to Whitehorse where we played the Old Firehall. These northern folks were amazing as well. It's pretty special up in the Yukon. They made us feel special. We really enjoyed playing this one! I had a couple of hours (with no internet) so I went for a run along the Yukon River, up to the dam and back. Wow. I had to wait for the sun to come up to do the run— days are a little shorter than I am used to! I hope to see Whitehorse again, sooner than later.

Calgary, for a sell out show at the Ironwood Grill. A great Calgary club, and all the blues people came out to see us. Long and McQuade the next day for a really well attended workshop, and then a fast drive to Lethbridge, AB for sound check. A couple of days of low key shows around southern Alberta, and then into the mountains for the current leg. It's a little snowy up on the passes, but nothing too bad yet.

So here we are, alive and well in Revelstoke, BC this morning, getting ready to leave for Kelowna and points west. Dave and I are feeling good, and looking sharp. Say tuned! Thanks for following the Tour!

Kelowna, Revisited: The Minstrel Cafe

We get to sleep in a little bit this morning. Not too much, just a little. Breakfast at the hotel. Bank. Post office. Our standard drive around town looking for thrift stores and pawn shops. Revelstoke is pretty upscale, so we don't run across anything that captures our curiosity. The day is improving, and we get out on the road for the south run to Kelowna.

It's sorta overcast and damp, but no snow yet— thank goodness! A nice drive down the valley to Kelowna over now familiar highways. We arrive at the Minstrel Cafe fairly early and get set up quickly. The room sounds good. Dave and I hunt down our hotel for a couple hours of rest before showtime.

We pretty much sold out this venue two years ago, so we are hopeful the fans will be back again tonight. Kelowna seems difficult to promote for some reason, but it always seems to work out in the end. Tonight is no different, and we are greeted at the door by owner/manager Clare, who has customers seated at most of the tables already. The Tour camera has been misplaced. I hope it is at the hotel, because I can't find it in the truck. So, no pics tonight, sorry!

It is a pleasant evening, although not as crowded as last year. It is a sort of "between the season" kind of time in this resort town. Perhaps I'll get back here to play in the good weather some day! Anyway, we end early tonight. Uneventful. Good food. Good drink. Good company. We've got a long day tomorrow, with a very early start. So it is back to the hotel and straight to bed!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Revelstoke BC: Slow Dancing

It's a pretty nice day as we set out from Invermere, BC. We've got only about four or five hours of driving ahead of us— and it should be quite relaxing and scenic if the weather holds. We've spent the morning— or rather I've spent the morning— in a little cafe bakery that has WiFi. There's somebody, or something, stalking this tour. Like a little black cloud hiding just out of our vision. I can't quite figure it out, but the Tour council, Paul Sanderson, is working on it, as is publicist Richard Flohil. Thank goodness for the team. As it is, it swallows the morning and leaves me feeling drained.

Dave was out shopping while I did the laptop and cell phone shuffle. He managed to pick up some scarfy blues collection cds, so we've got some interesting stuff to listen to as the weather sweeps in and out around us. It's an odd compilation from Japan, I think. A young Johnny Winter, Muddy, John Lee Hooker... The miles go by easy.

It's a good mountain run from Invermere to Golden, BC, where we stop off to buy gas and visit my pals Caleb and Niki at Bacchus Books and Cafe. We chat for a bit and grab a bite to eat as well. I'm sorry we are not playing Golden this time around. We were going to play here if the Cultural Centre could not secure the Downchild Blues Band. But they did. Well, I can't blame them— it's going to be a great show. Forty year anniversary tour! Wow. These are all great guys, and great musicians. Congrats, Donnie. I hope you all travel safe and have many more years of success. My old partner and friend, Colin Linden is opening for the band— and probably playing with them, too. So... this time around Dave and I are booked to Revelstoke and, as it is a new stop for the Tour, we are looking forward to it.

The Downchild folks are somewhere out on this highway, too, but our paths are not going to bring us together this day. Big Road.

Some serious looking mountains around here, but the weather holds for us, and soon we are exiting the TransCanada for Revelstoke. Nice to be rolling in early.

The Regent Inn looks pretty nice from the outside as we do the drive-by and scope out parking and load in arrangements.

As it happens, there is plenty of parking, and the place is very nice inside as well. A very friendly and efficient staff get us checked in, fed, and set up in fairly short order.

The room itself is a big, bright bar. Not like this pic above— best I could grab for some reason! It has a huge DJ set up, masses of lights, dance floor, sub-woofers. More of a band room— it has that loud quality already in the late afternoon. Two guys at a table jump up as we come in. They demand autographs. They want to buy t-shirts. They say I look just like my picture on "the album cover," and they would recognize me "anywhere." Clearly, they haven't got a clue who I am— or they are pulling a bad joke for reasons I can't imagine.

An early start for tonight's show. It's a thin crowd of business guests and travellers. A few young people— dressed for clubbing. Everyone talks or shouts loudly through our first show. During the break they tell us how wonderful we are. I talk to a couple of twenty-something girls at one of the front tables. They tell me they are going to "get their tits done" before an upcoming Mexican holiday. They slow dance together during our second set, but I'm pretty sure that they are waiting for the DJ. The club is quite crowded by the end of or second show, but we're done. Really. I never do get to meet the manager, or the local radio personality that helped me book this show. And I think this is the only gig on the Tour where we haven't drawn fans. Next time the Tour comes through Revelstoke we'll need to change that.

We break down the PA and load out immediately after our set. It's now cool outside, and I notice that my suit is steaming in the parking lot air. Our little Long and McQuade PA worked great in this big room. I love these modern sound systems. There was a time when bins for a gig like this would of required another truck! As it is, a couple of carries and we are loaded. I throw a blackout tarp over the gear. It is insured, and the parking lot is bright and highly visible. I don't like loading out this way, but we should be fine. Guitars, of course, sleep with me in my room. Dave is early to bed, while I have a scotch with a table of golf course designers. I follow after but one wee dram— eager to find some silence and some sleep.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

High Road to Invermere, BC

It's a glorious day! Rick drops Big Dave off at Hoogie and Suzanne's, in Black Diamond, AB, where I am staying. It is not often I meet folks I like as much as these! And I like their dogs, too. I feel humbled by their genuine western hospitality and manners. After yet another cup of cowboy coffee, we say our good-byes and get on the road. We're going to zig south out of Black Diamond and pick up one of my favourite secondary highways— by-passing Calgary to link to the TransCanada just outside Banff, AB. This road runs north through the mountains, and we have to drive past Ian Tyson's place on today's route. I doubt that we'll see more than a couple of trucks for the next couple of hours. Just us and the open (I hope!) road. They shut this one down in the winter months and we're getting close to that time.

Nice drive, don't you think?

Invermere is a pretty little resort town. In season it must really jump. At the moment, the streets are pretty quiet. My pal Leslie Alexander turned me on to this place. Big Dave used to play at a big dance hall down by the lake, but apparently that was back in The Day. Before the place burnt down, that is. Anyway, we see a roadside sign with our names on it as we are coming into town, so we are hoping for the best.

A classic sedan delivery outside the venue flags it for us. We wander in and meet Tony, the owner/chef/guy who makes it happen. He's a foodie, for sure, and I have no doubt that we will be well fed! We've got a bit of a carry to the stage door with our PA. I don't mind, and Dave doesn't complain, but I think he's probably hurting. I wish he would just let me lug all the gear! As usual, our Long and McQuade PA sets up fast and easily, and sounds great with just a couple of SM57 and 58 mics. Strands is a good sounding little room, well suited for acoustic shows. The staff are all very nice to us, and we are very much looking forward to this evening's show! Meanwhile Tony directs us to our lodgings— a well appointed guest house just a couple of blocks away.

With time to kill, we make a grocery run, a vitamin stop, and head back to the house to relax for a while before suiting up. Nice beds, gas fireplace, deer running in the front yard...

All dressed we make our way in the front doors. Strands is upscale without being pretentious. Comfortable. We are seated and fed like kings. Dave and I really appreciate the care the staff take to see to our comfort and needs. A large tip is left in thanks. Showtime, and it is a mixed crowd here tonight. Birthdays and business dinners, and a "girls night out" group. People who have heard us recently on the CBC and on CKUA. Honeymooners. Some listen hard. Some talk through the show. But all in all, they are a pretty good bunch, and we are able to deliver a good show to them. At the end of the evening we wander through the tables shaking hands, signing CDs, getting our pictures taken, chatting like old friends.

Dave takes it upon himself to break the PA down while I am taking care of the business end of the evening. This is one of the great things about working with Dave— we both know what to do, we don't need to ask or delegate. All the jobs big and small seem to get done both well and on time, and quite cheerfully. We love what we do, and we've each been at this nearly 40 years. Still, tonight I'm worried about Dave's hernia condition. I'd be just as cheerful if he'd waited for me to lift the bins down. I KNOW you can do it, Dave!

Back at the house we put on the gas fireplace, change into sleep clothes, and relax with a late snack. I get out the new mandolin and figure out how to tune it. This is not a fine instrument, although it does look cool. It should be suitable for me to fool around on and perfect my Yank Rachel chops! Now an amazing thing happens. The doorbell rings. Who can it be? It's late. There's a car in the drive with its lights on and its motor running... Opening the door we are surprised to see Tony from the venue. What could be wrong? Did either of us lose anything at the restaurant, asks Tony. Perhaps some money? Sure enough, I'm missing my cash float of about $300 from my jacket pocket! Calmly, Tony hands me the money. "The girls found this when they were cleaning up," he said. Wow. Tony and his staff are a class act all the way down to the end. How often would a wad of small bills find its way back to its owner?? I feel stupid at somehow having lost this, but very grateful and humbled by its return to me. Tony bids us good-bye and good night. I marvel at the goodness of the world, and hope I can live up to the same standards myself.