Sunday, October 10, 2010

Premature tour completion

We cancelled our last three shows in BC -- Kat had to tend to a family emergency.  So long until the next tour; it's been a blast :)

Friday, September 3, 2010


This kitty ran out of the woods while we were hiking near a camping spot.  It followed us around for a half-hour through the high reeds and up and down hills before we picked it up and took it back to our site for tuna fish and a bowl of water.  We later found the owners by driving up and down the road and knocking on doors.  It was definitely the best kitty in the world.

This is Bertha, the early-model Volvo that carried us around camping spots, and later, across BC to Vancouver on a curvy highway in the rainy, misty night.  Pierre the violinist is driving; Francois the guitarist is on the kayak.

This is our favorite campsite.  Left to right: Kat (cut off), Pierre (rolling a cigarette), Francois, and an awesome vegan baker / tea enthusiast named Sarah Louise, who hosted us in Calgary until her roommate started being bitchy.  In the background: the icy river where we would occasionally swim for a brief moment before running frantically back to the fire.  Alberta in August is still chilly.  Just upstream, the river runs through a deep gorge, which we splashed through to find a big waterfall.

I'm on Vancouver Island with Sarah Louise now.  I have a week to kill before a kayaking trip with my family, so I am exploring with her and her friends and helping her prepare for a potential business opportunity involving tea-infused organic vegan baked goods for a local chain of tea shops.  Kat is headed for Louisiana for a brief visit with her sister.  Our next show is Sept 18 in Vancouver.  More then...

The best venues, according to my tummy

Most of our shows are at bars, but we've played a string of concerts at other random venues.  Anywhere that will book us is usually selling food and drinks, and recently, they've all been giving us tasty samples.  Yum!  At the Oolong Tea House in Calgary, we sampled a Chai-Yerba Mate blend.  The Wild Flour Bakery in Banff gave us pesto focaccia, and a pulled-pork panini.  The Crushed Grape in Regina wins the prize, though: dinner (steak for Kat, morrocan-style catfish for me) plus a selection of fantastic red wines until they put the chairs on the tables.

Best non-comestible payment was from Music Trader, a record shop in Winnipeg, who gave us $40 in store credit.  We listened to albums for an hour or so with a few people that stayed after the show, and picked up CDs by the Duhks and Broken Bells for our hosts there, Frankih and Fi.  (Of course, we ripped them both after they opened the packages ;)

Gypsy Days

In Montreal, we made friends with a French Canadian named Francois.  We made plans to meet up down the road, and all through Manitoba and Saskatchewan we heard reports that he was just a week behind us, three days behind us.

Finally, in Calgary, Alberta, we met up with Francois in front of a closed-down pizza joint.  He had booked a rideshare: a 1980s-era Volvo with a canoe on the top, driven by a frenchman named Pierre.  Pierre and Francois are both musicians (guitar and violin, respectively) and we all went camping illicitly on an indian reservation.  We spent a few great days roasting vegetables on an open fire and rescuing a kitten (cute pictures coming, I promise).

Francois and Pierre had plans to beeline to Vancouver, but they changed course and played several shows with us, unplugged and smelling of woodsmoke.  They were awesome shows: the new instruments added so much to the music, and they're both very good-natured people, so there was so much more good energy on stage.  (One of the things I've learned about being a musician is how important energy is: it's partly distinct from the music you're playing, it's crucial to give it to the audience, and it's crucial that they give it back to you.)  These shows had the best energy of all the shows we've ever played: everyone in the room (including us) had a big smile on their face the whole time.  We made those rooms into big families.  I honestly can't believe that we had that effect.  It was pretty magical.  One girl told us "Everyone here is so cool and friendly and happy!"  I'm really happy we ran into those gypsies: these last few shows have been the highlight of the trip for sure :)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Northern Lights!

I had no idea this happened during the summertime, but apparently, it does!

The day before the northern lights, I saw a beaver for the first time.  They make awesome slapping noises on the water from time to time for some reason.  Then, the day after, a bunch of Canadian geese flew overhead in a v formation, honking.  This part of Canada (northern Ontario, around Lake Superior) is gorgeous.  There are more lakes than humans, in my estimation.  Tomorrow, we head out for the farmland in Manitoba.  I'm definitely sad to be leaving.

Helpless, helpless, helpless, helpless

After an awesome show at a kayaking lodge (the room was on a peninusla, with big windows on three sides looking out on lake Superior), we had an alarming task in front of us: hitchhike from Wawa to Thunder Bay.  Wawa is a famously bad hitchhiking spot; it's known as the worst place to hitchhike in North America.  Neil Young even wrote a song about it -- it's called "Helpless".  I had to shave my beard in preparation so that I would look less like an axe murderer.

(Before, during, and after the shaving.)

Everything turned out great in the end.  We waited about two hours, then got a ride from a friendly Quebecois photographer in a pop-top sleeper van with green polka-dots.  Turns out he's got a blog too! 

Thursday, August 5, 2010


We played a show in a town of 1400 at a venue called The Auld Kirk.  Tome, the proprietor, is the kind of guy that we love to do shows with: a patron of the arts, an enthusiast for the kind of music that isn't just background noise, and a very hospitable host.  (He took a lot of time out of his schedule to show us around the area, and introduce us to the menagerie of small animals on his farm.)  He records all the shows he runs, just because he's awesome.  I've got a cd of the full show, but here is a video and two tracks that you can gobble up right this second:

Friday, July 23, 2010

Help me pick a band name!

Which is better: "the acorn thieves" or "following pan"?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Camping in style

When we're hitchhiking, sometimes we'll get stuck in the middle of nowhere at dusk.  We packed a lot of camping stuff to make that sort of thing manageable: when you have a camp stove and a small grocery store in your bags, it starts to sound like fun to hike into the woods, find a clearing, and put up camp for the night.  This trip, we've packed a bunch more stuff, and we're really camping in style.  We'll cook up some lentils and sausage (with onions and garlic), fire up the hookah, and watch a movie under the stars.  In cities, we're always crashing on someone's couch, and we don't want to be rude or messy, so we can't really relax too much.  In the forest, we'll make as much noise as we want, as late as we want, and sleep in til whenever we want, and it feels more like home than some houses that we stay in.  :)

Of course, those pleasures wear thin after three nights (we just hitched across the worst stretch of Canada) and you just want to take a shower and be free of the godforsaken mosquitos.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Awesome hitchhiking ride

The other day, we got a ride from a dude that took us to Niagara falls and gave me a ride in the sidecar of his '65 BMW motorcycle.

Thanks, Bill!

We also drove through Ontario's wine country, and passed Wayne Gretzky's vineyard.  I hear he makes... (puts on sunglasses)... ice wine.

Small-time celebrity

On Wednesday we played a show at an awesome little bar called Moonshine out in Oakville, an hour out of Toronto.  Everyone said such nice things about us, and was so friendly, and bought us so many beers.  A really good guitarist said my style reminded him of Johnny Buckland from Coldplay.  Someone else said one song was "so fucking Jefferson Airplane".  A table of people told Kat that she sounded like someone famous, then asked who she sounded like.  We named some random vocalists and they shouted yes! to each one.  It's so much fun when people like your music :)

I also have to write a little blurb about how awesome that bar is.  It's run by this guy named John, who is a songwriter himself.  He runs the bar because he loves to hear people come in and play the songs they poured their heart into, and he brings in performers and a crowd 7 nights a week.  The bartenders are also wicked musicians, and the jam session after the show was awesome.  John, the crew, and all the patrons are all friendly as hell, too.  And they built this community in what seems to be a suburb city, which has gotta be tough.  Plus, they organize all these cool events like camping trip/concert hybrids.  Can't say enough nice things about those guys.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Canada sucks for beer

Beware, those of you that are considering going to Canada one day: there are arcane nanny laws about alcohol, and it's a big problem.  You can't buy beer from grocery stores; you can't buy a six-pack at all after 10; and you can't buy beer on sale, ever.  Yes, that's right; it's illegal to sell beer cheap.  The cops will bust you for it.

(Things are somewhat less ridiculous in Quebec.  Not much less.  I pay $10 under the counter to an arabic man for a 6-pack of PBR at 12:30 one night.  I felt like I was buying heroin.)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Canadian Tour Begins

We're back!  Kat and I just started our third new-bard-style tour, crossing most of Canada.  It's summer, the weather is great, and we're looking forward to three and a half months of playing shows, hitching, couchsurfing, and general exploration.

We met up in Montreal two weeks ago at my aunt Marcia's house.  She and her cats (Ten Carrots, Prettyface McTavish, Tony Baloney, Mickey Wickey Wishbone Pushpins, Whispers, Max, and a few guest stars) made us feel very welcome as we spent several days practicing the songs (it had been seven months since I had played them) and booking more shows (we were only 2/3 booked when we arrived).

We played two shows in Montreal, and both were a good time.  We did an atypically great job of promoting them: we brought people through radio spots (we did two interviews before the shows), internet promotions, a post on, and through word of mouth (thanks for bringing friends, Marcia!).  However, we made an atypically tiny amount of money: neither venue paid us much, and we were competing against huge free shows on both nights (jazz fest and others).

The couchsurfing post actually brought more people than any other source.  Does everyone already know how much I love couchsurfing?  I hope so.  In addition to being a huge database of hospitable hosts, it's also a guaranteed way to meet friendly people in any city that will join in on any fun events/concerts/city explorations.

Our Montreal couchsurfing friends included Joanne, a feisty redheaded Polish girl that loves to dance, and Francois, an easygoing French-Canadian guy that introduced us to our host in Ottawa (where we arrived today).  We spent several evenings with these guys and others, going to Jazz Festival events, drinking in bars, and relaxing in various Montreal locales.

Like I said, we arrived in Ottawa today, and there's some big hullabaloo brewing about Canada's national holiday, which is tomorrow.  Apparently Bare Naked Ladies is playing a free show tomorrow.  Also, Queen Elizabeth II is here (she's the queen of Canada too, eh?) so I'm going to ask our host if she has her phone number.  Stay tuned to see if we manage to line up a private concert.