Friday, August 5, 2011

Another Summer (more or less)

After a cold and miserable spring (and a sparsely employed one, owing to the collapse of 1 guitar camp, 2 festivals, and a cd production gig), the good weather arrived more or less along with the Calgary Stampede Parade. I think it was nice on June 9 when I became a Canadian citizen (dual/US) but my mind was on other things. I played 4 shows at the Stampede grounds in the International Visitors Lounge of the Agriculture Building - lovely audiences of people actually from the ranching/farming global community, and turned my regular Tuesday ig at Mikey's Juke Joint into a debut performance of The Hackamores, a western swing band I've been rehearsing with for quite some time : Al Baekland on guitar and vocal, Charlie Veilleux on steel guitar, Gorb Bregg on bass and bgs, Johnathan Lewis on fiddle, Gary Gelhorne on traps, and me on guitar, vocals, mandolin and button accordion. A great night of fun music.

On the 15th Jo and I headed to Chase for a picnic with her holidaying sister and family, then the next morning we were off to Penticton for a night at The Dream Cafe. Possibly the best club/restaurant anywhere, hosts Debra and Pierre offer stellar food, drink and music in an absolutely charming space. Then 3 nights hanging in Kelowna, hanging with my on, Dr. Josh, and his wife (the newly minted Dr.) Heather. A great barbeque, an afternoon of touring wineries, and a lot of just chillin'. Next was a 2 night stand at The Blue Loon Grill in Clearwater BC, where weather forced the show indoors (and woke me up later absolutely pounding on the motel roof). Sun came out enough on day 2 for a picnic at Helmcken Fallis in Wells Grey park, with a stunning amount of water pouring through in this very wet year. Friday was a travel day, down Highway 5 through Kamloops, west over the Coquihala Pass through Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay, ferry to Nanaimo, drive to Duncan and get my schedule/passes for the Islands Folk Fest. A 10-minute drive later we were in beautiful Cowichan Bay, at the Wessex By The Sea Motel. Next day I played a concert in the acoustically stunning Chapel Room and said hello to countless friends. Sunday was the long shift...a morning blues workshop with old friends Ray Bonneville and Dave "Slim" Harris, plus Kat Danser; a noon mainstage with '70s running buddy Rick Van Krugel (brilliant mandolinist/multi-instrumentalist/luthier), then one more solo concert and a beer with Washboard Hank and Bruce Brackney (formerly of Utah Phillips' Rose Tattoo), get paid and discover I was almost sold out of cds only midway through the tour. Many thanks to pal Chris Hunt for getting more from my office and shipping them out.

Next came 2 days off in Courtenay, with side-trips to Coombs (another family picnic) and Qualicum Beach (for the insanely delicious Fanny Bay oysters served up by the Shady Rest pub), and a beer in Cumberland with dobro-playing pal Doug Cox. Over beers and catch-up (Doug plays with Slide To Freedom, Betty Soo and others, and is the Artistic Director of the Vancouver Island Music Festival) we decided to attend the blues jam at the Cumberland Hotel where we were joined by funny guy and guitar monster Todd Butler for a rousing set.

Then it was off to Gabriola Island for what has become an annual show at the Roxy Theatre, put on bby long-time friend Ken Stefansson of Gabriola Gourmet Garlic, and a night at ate beautiful Hummingbird B&B. Up early for a delicious breakfast, we caught the ferry back to Nanaimo (no time to stop at my favorite record store, Fascinatin' Rhythm, which probably saved me a bundle) and north up-island to the Filberg Festival in Comox. It's an arts & crafts event with 130 artisans, and Bobbie Blue programs a brilliant bunch of music on 2 stages. Catching the last few tunes of Blackie & The Rodeo Kings, while setting up for the blues panel after them, I had a chance to catch up with Jolene (Little Miss) Higgins and Foy Taylor, Lester Quitzau, Suzy Vinnick, and Eric Bibb (lots of hugs all around). Blues Panel was brilliant, 2 solo sets on the Garden Stage both went really well (a few drops of rain as I finished...I like to use up the good weather and then leave), grab the handfull of remaining cds and take off after long-overdue visits with Cindy Church and James Keelaghan. Dinner at the Old House (wonderful food and a great covered patio), a few hours sleep, and the 15 1/2 hour car/ferry trip home to Calgary, where our cat Beulah was quite happy to see us (I think that's what she was saying anyway). Big thanks to Trevor Reuger and Howard Chapman for feeding the old gal while we were gone. Next day I picked up another old friend, Smiling Jack Smith, at the airport to begin a handful of local gigs and be our house guest for the my mainstage set with Rick Van Krugel, hanging out and playing with Jack was the effortless resumption of a musical/personal conversation interrupted by decades.

Tomorrow I play my usual set and host at the Blues Can jam, and on Sunday I play a concert in South Calgary for the Parkland in Summer series. Monday I coach a student through his audition piece for the Berklee School of Music, Tuseday is my regular solo spot at Mikey's Juke Joint, Wednesday afternoon I'm at the Hillhurst Farmers Market, and Thursday (my birthday !) we fly to California where I play at "Just Strings...A Music Festival" in Napa Valley. First paying gig in my home state in 35 (?) years. Back in time for my Mikey's show, the Foothills Acoustic Music Academy camp, a private function, Friday night Aug. 26th at Mikey's with The Electro-Fires, the Blues Can jam next day, and the Last Chance Saloon in Wayne, Alberta (as seen on the TV show "Canadian Pickers" - Fred didn't sell them anything) from 3-6 on Sunday the 28th. Mikey's solo on August 30th closes out this delightfully busy month, and a new blog post will be up for September's gigs and some long-range news: one more western tour before year's end, at least one festival in Mexico in the coming winter, maybe a new cd, etc. I'll also be taking a limited number of students for this fall-spring, so if you're interested let me know !