Friday, March 16, 2012

Down In Mexico

Just back from a four-week tour of Mexico, which included three weeks in Southern Baja and the Zihuatanejo International Guitar Festival. The two months before I left were a blur of gigs (including some very fun ones, like the annual "Hankover" concert (a tribute to Hank Williams)), and a pile of studio work. An excellent 2nd album for singer/songwriter Miss Quincy, the music for Vertigo Theatre's production of "When Girls Collide", and half of a new cd for songwriter/harmonica player Paul Saks.

Mexico remains very much a part of my soul ; really the only thing I miss living in Canada about my upbringing in Southern California is it's very "Mexican-ness" (Mexicanissimo in Spanish). I have never felt particularly at risk in Mexico (except in a few taxis) ; I've been hassled way more in Oakland and San Francisco. In a selfish way, I'm glad of the fear keeping tourists away because I don't have to listen to their casual racism and constant whining. The music, history and culture of the place continue to fascinate me : one gallery owner, in the course of a conversation in Spanish about the regional folk art she had on display, asked me if I lived in Mexico or was part Mexican, and when I replied no she said "Yes, part your soul".

I left at 6 a.m. Valentine's Day (sorry again, honey) and was in Los Cabos airport just after 10 to be picked up by the drummer I was touring with, in support of local charity La Semilla de la Vida (The Seed of Life), and driven to my digs at Tres Palapas in San Jose Del Cabo, a delightful home/guest house/recording studio on Gringo Hill, where my wonderful hosts Greg and Mary quickly transitioned from hosts to new friends. I played a private party at their place, the weekly Artwalk in San Jose del Cabo, two bars and a sunset cruise in Cabo San Lucas (try playing guitar standing up on a mid-sized catamaran with nothing to hold on to because both hands are busy, while singing into a microphone swaying with the motion of the boat as well...interesting), 5 shows at local restaurant/bar Deckmans, and road gigs to La Ventana (near La Paz) and Los Barriles (on the East Cape). Everything from solo gigs to 8-piece bands with 3 horns and my friend Robbie Laws co-starring on vocals and guitar.

March 4 I flew from Los Cabos to Mexico City (waving at Mazatlan out the window on the way by) where the pollution was so bad it infiltrated the air conditioning in the airport and on the plane as it sat on the runway, then to Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo airport where I was picked up and whisked directly to the artists' "meet-and-greet" dinner at El Pueblito, a delightful courtyard restaurant which would also be a venue through the week. Next day a press conference while watching the sunset on the beach; then opening show in Ixtapa, a funky old bar called the Black Bull downtown, two nights at Jose Luis Cobo's beautiful roof-top club El Canto de la Sirena, a finale at El Pueblito, and a pulic concert in the Zocalo (town square) also called La Gancha because it houses the municipal basketball courts. This festival is a gem with world-class players from (this year) Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Brazil and Turkey.

Coming home was brutal...only an hour to change planes in Houston, which entails : claiming and re-screening/rechecking your checked luggage with U.S. customs; riding an automated shuttle-train to my next terminal (3 terminals away from where I started); going through personal security again, with not enough metal detectors and moronic security people screaming their instructions to the crowd; finding the boarding gate not on my itinerary but available from flickering on-and-off screens; and arriving at the boarding gate as they were about to seal the airplane door. All good after that except my checked bag didn't make the flight and had to be delivered a day and a half later (mercifully relatively intact). The last 2 times I've broken my rule about not taking flights requiring plane changes in the U.S. they've delayed/lost one guitar and 3 suitcases...back to my former resolve.

I took my new Crafter hybrid electric-acoustic with me on this tour, and for the most part it performed admirably (once I began to get the string guages right). And it held up to the radical climate and humidity changes without an ounce of complaint...are you listening, Crafter ? I like your stuff - maybe an endorsement deal ?

The next night was my regular solo Tuesday at Mikey's Juke Joint, followed by 2 days of trying to catch up with banking, bills, missed sleep, and gigs/session work. I'll be in town now until late May, playing my house gigs at Mikey's and The Blues Can (Saturday Jam, 3-7), plus evening gigs at both of those venues, The Ironwood Stage and Grill, Carlsons On Macleod in High River, The Lethbridge Folk Club, Locals in Bragg Creek, and sessions to finish Paul Saks cd plus contributing slide guitar to 2 tracks on Jared Sowan's new cd. I'll be up-dating the website calendar in the next few days.

Spring and Summer will include some large and many small-ish festivals in BC and Alberta, a swing of club shows on Vancouver Island to make up for cancelled dates on the November "weather from Hell" tour, work on my own next cd, and a huge batch of Stampede gigs including 3 with The Hackamores - the Western Swing band I'v been rehearsing with for quite awhile now.

Thanks for checking in, and supporting live roots music, and I hope to see you at a show soon.