After a great week in France eating nothing but bread and cheese and drinking nothing but wine and two days in Belgium eating nothing but meat and drinking nothing but beer, we're off to Italia. It's only been one day and I've eaten ravioli with walnut sauce, a basil, tomato pizza, melon with prosciutto and drank a bunch of wine and a cappucino. La vita e bella. The food in europe is so amazing, especially here in Italy. Everyone is growing it everywhere, it is so localized and delicious and makes me sad for the state of our food in Canada. Can we figure it out? Summer's coming - support your local farmers markets!
FAI was wonderful, overwhelming and full of great people and amazing music. Good to see our long missed conspirators from across the continent. Everybody in one place at the same time. Dundas and Yonge. The highlight of the trip though was our show at Nipissing where we spent 2 days with Yan and Sherry and the goats and chickens at Piebird. We played to a packed house with Jenny Ritter and Dave Newberry (both of whom's songs choked me up) and spent a good chunk of time outside playing and waking around, visiting goats. It was nice to have a good mix of urban toronto excitement and rural ontario down/funtime. Can't wait to go back already!
Don and Shannon had us out for a third trip to The Happy Nun in Forget, Saskatchewan for a beautiful weekend. We were paired with Crooked Creek, from Big River SK... it was so nice to share a bill with such great musicians and songwriters. The best part of the weekend, in my opinion, was that we were able to stick around for saturday afternoon hanging out around the house and walking around Forget. There was mitt-size hoar frost, Darwin completed a 750 piece puzzle and Matt read science books in the bathtub. And the food... oh, the food.
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M, and The Crooked Brothers
We are happy to be back from tour settling into life in Manitoba. We had a great summer of touring east and west and have lots of fun stuff lined up later in the fall, stay tuned!
In the meantime, here's a video from a fun show we played at the Dakota Tavern in Toronto this summer:
Europe Tour Photos
It's been a while now, but I've had some time to process the trip to europe. We were so fortunate to tour in Poland and Czech on our first time to the continent. Eating the greatest perogies, sauerkraut, cabbage rolls and borscht... it felt like we were back in Manitoba again! The folks at Cafe Mlynek in Krakow may be the best in the world. What a town, what great people. What amazing food and love for life. I can't wait to come back. Perhaps I will even try to learn some of these ridiculous languages.
An olive oil grindstone and a small town in tuscany, Zoe at cafe singer in krakow, a street in Firenze.
Mural in Praha, Zoe at Cafˇ Singer, Matt's shake-face, masks in Firenze.
Darwin getting a speeding ticket in rural Poland, some polish buskers playing beatles tunes, flowers in italy and matt and zoe on a windowsill in Praha.
Grain Elevator in Punnichy, Saskatchewan, Margaret Laurence's House in Neepawa, Manitoba (days after returning from europe)- Felt good to be home!
I'm Sorry I Didn't Stay Longer, Switzerland - Next Time
The Willisau Spring Bluegrass Festival was one of the most wonderful festivals I've ever been to. In a mountain valley outside of the town of Willisau in an agricultural museum we play alongside 200 year old farming implements to some of the most fun loving, easy going people I've ever met. Over the hill from the festival, a cacophony of cowbells rings steadily like finely tuned singing bowls, flooding the valley. A sound I will never forget, a sound that fills the soul.
At the European World of Bluegrass we meet our sisters Oh My Darling from Winnipeg. Like seeing family.
In the south of Netherlands, a few great shows, one of which is in a historic a 70 year old jazz bar in Eindhoven.
At Marco's house, we try hagelslag for the first time. I don't think I could do it every day, but chocolate sprinkles on toast is a good thing to experience at least once.
At Albert's house in The Hague, a great room of world travellers who collaborate in one of the most nutritious potlucks I've ever eaten. Thanks for all the vegetables everybody- well needed.
In Trier, Germany, a fantastic wine bar where other Marco and other-other Marco shows us his incredible selection - I have never tasted a white wine I have loved so much. While I am sitting on the patio in front of the Brunnenhof Cafe, looking up at the Roman City Gate (the oldest building north of the Alps) drinking a 2010 Reisling from a winery who blew up the side of a hill to make room for a new vineyard, I think about how surreal this tour is. Every day we are overwhelmed with unusual, amazing happenings. It's been nice to sit back and let them happen.
If we move as water, through streets of stone, or through country soil
towards a canal, creek or river, or to the ocean, we see and feel the world
not as an outsider, but as a giver of life, in a complex network of beings.
If we move as air, through trees in rows, through windmills, or through burning wood,
in combustion, in heat, we light the world as a god, or spirit, as a friend of sight.
We are forever a part of this great conspiracy.
Au revoir France. From Paris we traveled to Southern France to stay in a country home outside of Bordeaux drinking the best wine in the world and rigolent with some of the funniest folks in the country. From there to Spijkerboor, Netherlands and some more of the most amazing people on the planet at Cafe 't Keerpunt. Oh, the bitters! Then Belgium. So kind and hospitable. Cowboy Up in Waardamme for so many reasons, the most of which being the amazing family who owns it, Nick, Anna, Jesse and Lane. The music and the food (!!!) And now to the land of sausage and beer - Deutschland! This is a trip.
I have been thinking about being away from Manitoba. Being on the road and in a new place every day. Turning every new place into my home. Settling in. Our time in Southern France was unique for that reason. We had an old country house to ourselves, with the greatest neighbours to laugh and drink wine with. And Belgium! The hospitality in Europe is without equal.
Outside blue shutters on the stone patio
Matt practices banjo runs in the sun
Below me through the wood floor,
Darwin practices finger style guitar in a white room
Somewhere in this old farmhouse,
Zoe practices upright bass which I can feel vibrate in the walls
I am struck by a guilty motivation
to practice my instrument - the mandolin.
Instead, i sit at a desk with the window open
practicing speaking to you, the reader I have not met
but with whom I wish to connect
in some truth, or humour
If I practice enough, perhaps you will hear the wind
in the tall swaying trees, swelling like the waves of the ocean,
blowing strong today.
Or perhaps you will see the hard shadow
of the afternoon sun on my paper
move with the strafe of my pen and hand.
If I practice enough, perhaps you will visit me
at my desk,
thinking about you.
Here is a clip from our show in Netherlands last week
European Tour Update #1- Paris!
Every morning, we wake up in an expensive french dream
The little room we've rented is seven stories up
The bathtub is a sink, the sink is a bowl
The toilet's in the closet, and it feels like the Ritz...
Photo by Harald Zängerle
We spend the days on the corner, or in the park
Singing and laughing and playing songs
dodging the rain and the police.
We'd planned on busking up our rent and food
but somewhere between our hearing Paris
was a warm welcome home for buskers
and our arrival... it's become illegal.
Everyone who isn't wearing a uniform
makes us feel so welcome and loved
but give it twenty minutes
and we're waltzing with the cops.
They're nice folks too to be honest,
but they make us feel like scum
for playing music in the streets.
So... thumbs down coppers!
Photo by Harald Zängerle
Cooking dinner on the cheap.
Watching the sunset over the city.
We sneak away into the night
With bottles of wine, come home for the sunrise.
Flying down all the crooked cobble streets on bicycles...
Through the colors and smells of markets in the morning.
It's a maze but somehow so easy to get around here.
Looking forward to the start of tour...
but loving this expensive séjour en Paris.
Photo by Harald Zängerle
Mississipi Delta, shining like a National Guitar... Oh, the music that came out of this town - dirty, mucky... It's hard to believe we stood in the same spot where Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay, Soulfinger, Shaft, Soul Man and Green Onions were recorded. We ate enough BBQ and crawfish to last the rest of the year or more.
It was an honour to meet some of the best music makers from across North America at Folk Alliance, what a five day gong show. Our first foray in to the United States was a good one, thanks Memphis!
Well... I made a music video. It came together despite my persistent doubts about improper 8mm exposures, the possibility of my ancient camera not working at all, my ineptitude with editing and post production, and my overall cinematographic inexperience. This being said, I am so happy with how it turned out... We have a music video! The song Bluebirds was written one november afternoon at falcon lake (in the most serious time of of year) and I hoped to capture the great goings on in the place I call home during that season. It really is a brilliant place, especially in the winter. I realized that so many good friends ended up in this video, aren't friends the best?
Western Tour Update #2
We played a wonder show at the Wunderbar last night in Edmonton! The Low Flying Planes joined us and the room was spilling over with good good people. The street howling with a humbling whipping cold wind, and we couldn't believe the tenacity of the folks who waited outside to get in when the bar reached capacity.
It all happened so fast though... it was over before I knew it had started. Tour's like that sometimes. A different town every day. It does something incredible to my sense of time. You spend all day driving, thinking about all the beautiful friends and family you love and haven't seen for the better of a year. Then all of a sudden - you're out the car, you're loading gear, you're sound checking, you're eating something QUICK before the show starts, you're in the crowd, you're on the stage, you're off the stage, you're loading gear. And the night's over, and you've hardly had a chance to really have a good solid conversation with those people you day dreamed of seeing all afternoon. We're already on the road, halfway to Turner Valley, Alberta. See you next time Edmonton... you've got something special going on..
Western Tour Update #1
It might seem crazy to hit the highway in this deep freeze, but getting in the van and driving to Saskatoon was a great way to spend the day. On the stereo: Rodriguez, Bill Callahan and Gil Scott Heron. It's day one of our winter tour and we're all in good spirits - laughing and smiling hard into the cold wind.
Jesse and I are bent over and wheezing laughing exhausted. We've just invented a new tour sport somehow involving a bouncy ball and the arm rest of a futon. Making diving catches and working on our short game. Brilliant saves. The rallies are getting phenomenal. Breaking out in sweats and fits of laughter. It's so good to be on the road again.
Sunday, January 15
All day free music festival at the Falcon Ridge Ski Chalet
As you may or may not know, when not playing music we spend our time out on Falcon Lake in the Whiteshell Provincial Park (Manitoba) running a small ski hill. Random as it may seem, the ski hill (Falcon Ridge Ski and Recreation Area) is the perfect job for touring musicians; seasonal, intermittent and fun. Matt runs the kitchen and is a whiz over the grill, making delicious food and delivering comedy over the intercom when orders are up. Darwin runs around doing odd jobs, helping the small mechanic team fix the t-bar, rope tows, snow machines and groomers, occasionally clearing x-country trails. I (Jesse) tend to keep in my hole (the rental shop) fitting boots, skis, snowboards and fixing whatever comes my way. I can usually manage to McGyver just about any old thing back into working order so someone can get back on the slopes. And I get to choose the music that plays in the chalet.
In fact, the better part of the staff at Falcon Ridge are musicians. There is Ben Hadaller of Bog River working the lifts and teaching snowboarding, Taylor Ashton of Fish & Bird selling hot chocolates and Matt's "Cheese Benson's", all three members of Red Moon Road working in the kitchen, in the rental shop and on the lifts, and other budding young musicians can be found scattered around the slopes and in the ski chalet. Music is a big part of the Falcon Ridge experience.
One thing about running a ski hill is that you are tied to the weather much like a farmer growing crops is. This has not been a great winter so far for snow, and the hill has suffered for it, however thanks to the glory of snow making technology we have managed to produce a good stock of the white stuff, and the slopes are looking pretty good. Now all we needed was to get people out on the slopes, and perhaps do a little sacrifical snow dancing to appease the snow gods, and so began the concept of Snow Dance! On Sunday, January 15 we are going to be hosting an all day music festival in the ski chalet featuring the familar faces of Falcon Ridge: Bog River, Oh My Darling, Red Moon Road, Virgil's Auntie and the Vigilanties, and of course, yours truly.
Come on down and check out this great little Manitoba ski hill, and take in some great live music and atmosphere while you are at it! Click for more info!
Prairie City Sound Video
We were happy to spend the day last week with the folks from Prairie City Sound, a couple guys who are doing a pretty cool video blog series with local and touring artists performing in unique locations around the city. Here's the finsihed product:
A Fall full of Touring, Album releases, and Showcases
We've been on the road for over two months now. It seems like long ago since our CD release party in Winnipeg (a concert that a warmth of feeling that no words could express). We've just returned to Manitoba from BC. Hiking to hot springs, swimming in rivers and seeing good friends and from southern Ontario, where we met up with so many beautiful musicians, sharing music in hallways, stairwells, lobbies, and hotel rooms until sunrise for several days straight. As fun as the road has been, it feels good to be back in our home province. The yellow leaves are still clinging to the birch and poplar and they tamaracks followed suit with their needles. We're getting ready for a winter of holing up, writing and filming a video or two. That being said, we'll be playing shows around Winnipeg while we get to know the prairies again, this time with a new album!