Saturday, November 7, 2009

Naniamo: Long and McQuade, Caprice Theatre

It's an easy drive from Duncan, BC. First we pot around town looking for a good, bacon and eggs kind of breakfast joint. I don't think there is one— plenty of chain food around the edges, but that seems to be it. We stop off at the Garage again. The downstairs cafe is pretty good, but they always stop serving breakfast before we can get there.. so it's muffins and burritos, or something like that. We stop by a giant Thrift store and wade through rooms of stuff and more stuff. Nothing we can't live without, so we are gone.

Our first stop today will be Long and McQuade Music in Naniamo. Of course we are looking forward to this. With the help of the GPS we are in the L&M parking lot almost before we know it.

As always, Longs is friendly. It's still a little quiet, but we are early, so we have a relaxed set up, meet Larry and the staff, and check out the store. This is a really well designed place, with plenty of light coming in from outside, warm wood fixtures, and a nice display configuration.

Dave looks as though he'll probably be loud enough for the workshop! We're starting to have a few people come in, and it's nearly time to start. We've had a fair amount of advance press for tonight's show at the Caprice Theatre, so the Long and McQuade workshop has attracted more than a few blues fans— some equipped with shoe-phone video cameras to capture the event.

These workshops differ depending upon who comes out and what they'd like to learn, but generally we talk a bit about the history and construction of resophonic guitars, and then demo them in various fingerstyle blues traditions. Usually we discuss set-up, strings, slides, pick-ups, mic techniques as well.

Today we field more questions about the blues and its history, and demonstrate a couple of different tunings.

It's always kind of neat to remind people that they don't have to play their guitars in the key that they are tuned to! In other words, you can play in a variety of keys using each tuning. For variety, I accompany Dave on the washboard for a couple of selections. Longs could sell these, if they could get 'em. Lots of interest in the washboard today.

Eventually we need to wrap and be on our way to prepare for this evening's show. Thanks for the hospitality, Larry! Nice store! We'll look forward to dropping by on our next visit. After picking up some harmonicas, picks, and strings, we make our exit.

It's late afternoon, and we hope to get a little nap in at our digs before soundcheck. First we need to find the place...

This IS pretty nice. We could get used to this. All we need is a dock and a boat... and maybe Steve Cropper to lay down a few tracks with us...

The boats are actually pretty big— the ones that are moving by out there on this Bay. There is a BC Ferry terminal nearby, so we are seeing their ships come and go. We settle in to snooze for a couple of hours before heading down to soundcheck. Our host, Tom Dodge, has enough gear set up in his living room for a band. Great view. Nice couch. Warm. Very good.

By the time we get down to the venue it is more than dark. It is still early evening as we drive up and down, searching for the rear loading docks to the Caprice Theatre. This back street looks pretty rough, and I decide immediately that I will NOT be parking the truck here for longer than it takes to load in. While we are stopped, squinting at the buildings, there is a knock on the truck window. "Are you fellas looking for a good time? I can help ya— give ya a great deal tonight." This young hooker is all of, maybe, sixteen. Dave tells her that we are looking for the Caprice Theatre. "That's it, over there." She seems disappointed, but asks if we have any spare change, or drugs, to spare. For better or worse we give her all our spare change, and make a quick U-turn to the Theatre entry gate. It's an ugly little scene, on this little side street, with people lurking in every alcove and streetlight.

Tom and his co-producer, Manda Chelmac, are quick to rally their Sky High Productions crew. Plenty of hands help us load in and set up. I slip out and drive the truck several blocks away, where I park it in the more brightly lit club district.

Sky High Productions is part of the Sky High Performing Arts Academy. This is actually an alternative high school program— and all the young persons helping out here tonight are aspiring performers themselves. They get high school credit while they learn the business and the art. This seems like a wonderful program— I wish there were many more like it across the country.

Of course, the price to be paid for all this help is also a little bit of hurry up and wait. There is a little bit more fussing over set-up and soundcheck than we would like— but for a good cause, so we take it in stride. Dave explains our basic mic choices and acoustic mic technique, while I conduct a mini workshop in the lobby about merch, sales, percentages, spreadsheets, manufacturing costs... It just seemed right to talk to these kids as much as possible as we went about our work.

It's pretty clear to me that the hot meal specified in our agreement isn't going to happen here. There is no food, and the hall is starting to fill up. We haven't had lunch yet, so we'll be playing our show without dinner as well. No snacks in the green room. No wine, no beer— I think there is pop and popcorn in the lobby, but we're busy now, gotta get suited up and get at it!

And our lucky tour jacket winner! We had a good crowd of blues fans come out to this show. The theatre was quite cool— a big, high stage, plenty of depth, and a deco come 1950s kind of decor. A great vibe for a blues show, and a nice hall acoustic sound. Dave and I both had some old friends come out to the show— always great when that happens, but never enough time to properly talk to people as we are so busy before, during and after.

I went and got the truck, and we loaded out into the night. Down on the main drag the police were busy keeping an eye on the partying folks around the dance clubs. Our little side street was less busy, but still active. Now it is late and we are still looking for food. It seems like everything is closed now, but for some fast food places. We do a drive through and Dave orders some kinda mini-baby burger things. I don't order at all— I just can't face eating this kind of stuff. Dave is hungry! I'm beyond that point now.

Back at the digs we have the place to ourselves. It's time to do the books on the show. You can tell I'm tired, and Dave is, too. Soon we'll climb into our bunkbeds and bring this day to a close.


  1. Next time you want a bacon and eggs breakfast in Duncan, try the Doghouse Restaurant. Lots of classic meals, and they probably serve breakfast any time of the day.

  2. Thanks for the tip! I tell ya, a great breakfast is how I like to start my day on the road! I try to find the best, independent places in every community I go to. Sadly, some places have no indy diners left. So it's corporate coffee and muffins in those towns. I'll be back in Duncan on November 5, 2010, for a show at the Garage, so I'll look for the Doghouse in the morning. I appreciate the local information, and I'm sure others will as well.