Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Festival Madness

With August nearing the half-way mark, and 3 festivals yet to go by Labor Day, finally there's time to write a new post (the fire trucks and police cars attending a near-by fire in the middle of the night woke me up anyway).  Just before Canada Day I appeared at The Blues Can here in Calgary, with a band of friends and colleagues under the name The Blues Can All-Stars : Bill Dowey, leader of The Blues Devils and The Hoodoo Sons, former host of The King Eddy Hotel's legendary Saturday jams; Donald Ray Johnson, singer/writer/drummer extraordinaire (Taste of Honey, Maurice John Vaughan, Phillip Walker, Freddie King, and more); Greg "Jr." Demchuk, from the DuRite Aces, formerly from the Rockin' Highliners; Mike Clark, sax player with everybody from Albert Collins to Ian Tyson; Tommy Knowles, bassist for Rita Chiarelli, Kathi MacDonald, Long John Baldry; and me.  Smoking sets Friday/Saturday nights, plus I hosted the Saturday Afternoon Jam...then got up Sunday (Canada Day) to play a set with the house band from The National Music Centre at Fort Calgary.  A rehearsal for a Stampede show, my regular Tuesday night solo gig at Mikey's Juke Joint, and starting on the Thursday, two shows a day at the Stampede grounds playing banjo on a medicine wagon for 11 days.  Add to that a wedding gig with The Electro-Fires (my long-time electric roots & blues outfit) plus 3 club gigs with The Hackamores (the Western Swing band I've been a part of for the last 2 years) and you begin to understand how badly my ass was dragging by the end of the rodeo.  The Monday immediately following, I sat in with Steve Pineo's trio at Mikey's, augmented by Mike Clark on Sax and Greg Haugesag on trumpet/fluglehorn, while visiting with Greg and Mary Hubbard...the 2 of them were my hosts for 3 weeks while I toured Baja California del Sur this past winter.

The next night was my Tuesday solo gig at Mikey's, then Friday with the Hackamores at High River's excellent club, Carlson's On Macleod.  Next day was the Blues Can Saturday jam, which I've been absent from ever since (thanks, Vernon Wills, for subbing) and won't get back to until Labor Day week-end.  After my Tuesday gig it was The Calgary Folk Music Festival with The Hackamores (and a solo roots workshop which ended with Betty Lavette singing "Every Day I Have The Blues" while sitting on my lap).  Shows by Chris Isaak and Junior Brown were highlights, plus workshops with Pokey Lafarge and Chatham County Line.

After a day off, Jo and I hit the highway for Kelowna, BC, for a gig at The Minstrel Cafe and a visit with son Josh, daughter-in-law Heather, and newest grandson Charlie.  Next was a goodly drive and a ferry ride to Vancouver Island where I performed in concert in Spirit Square in Campbell River, then next day we drove to Nanaimo, caught the short little ferry to Gabriola Island, and I performed at Feedlot Studio.  After a lovely night at Hummingbird b&b (wish we could have stayed longer) we were up early for a marathon...ferry back to Nanaimo, ferry from Nanaimo to Vancouver, then a drive up Fraser Canyon to Wells, B.C. for ArtsWells fest.  15 hours including ferry rides.  Tons of deer from twilight on, a virtual wall of moths and dragonflies hitting the grill and windshield, and a cow moose with calf ambling across the highway.  3 sets in one day, get paid and packed and spend a day in Barkerville.  Jo had never been, so we looked over the town (a restored ghost town which, at the height of the Cariboo gold rush, was said to be the biggest town west of Chicago and north of San Francisco), Jo panned for gold, we ate Chinese for lunch in the restored Chinatown, then we were off to Quesnel and 100 Mile House for days off.

Driving down the Cariboo Highway I was able to show Jo the ranches I had worked on in the area, and we joined friends Rick and Liz Jones for a lovely dinner which was cut short by a phone call telling Rick his saddle horse was down with colic.  We took the makings for a drench (basically a way to fill the horse's intestine with vegetable oil so they can pass whatever's making them colic) but the horse was back up on her feet (albeit in a bit of shock) when we got there.  Next a drive across Highway 24 to Clearwater (between Jasper and Kamloops) for 2 nights at pal Doug Fenwick's Blue Loon Grill, then the drive home last Friday.  On Saturday (my birthday) I played with The Hackamores at Mountain View Music Fest in Carstairs, then
Sunday at the Okotoks Olde Towne Show & Shine vintage car show.  Tonight and Friday Happy Hour are both at Mikey's Juke Joint, Saturday is the Central Alberta Music Festival (with old buddy Morgan Davis), and Sunday is the wrap up of the Spaghetti Western Festival here in Calgary, where the Hackamores close it off at The Ironwood Stage & Grill.  Next week it's Mikey's, The Sunnyside Farmers' Market, and The Edmonton International Blues Festival with Big Dave MacLean, Greg Demchuk, and the five-piece version of the Electro-Fires.  September's schedule is a little easier, largely taken up with composing/recording music for Alberta Theatre Projects production of the play, Intimate Apparel .

I turned 64 (!!) last Saturday...I just want to say that I'm truly grateful for the birthday wishes, for my wife and family, and to still make my living from music at an age when most players have either given up, or been given up on.  From mid-November until early December I'm doing a Home Routes house concert tour in Southern Ontario (plus a return to the Greenbank Folk Club), then the Lethbridge Folk Club with The Hackamores, and from December 11-20 I'm doing gigs in Madrid and The Canary Islands for blues societies there...plus arrangements have been concluded for a new cd, on Lowden Proud, due out hopefully this Fall.  Hope to see you at one of the shows !