Friday, June 22, 2012

The Road

The tour is over. Half an hour ago we arrived home from our last show which was at the Fort Café in Victoria – an evening shared with our good friends, Steve, Leon and Kevin of The Steve Brockley Band, and the very talented James Lamb, who I finally had the pleasure of meeting, and his band.  I enjoyed listening to these people’s fantastic music very much. It was an honour to share the stage with all of them.

I find myself well adjusted to the road, after a fairly short stint on it. It is amazing how this happened. When we first set out on our annual or biannual tours, I often find myself nervous or just a little anxious heading into a gig. Whether it is the introduction to the venue manager, or the audience, or a lack of clarity or planning about where we will crash after the show, I am usually feeling a little uneasy heading off to the first few shows of the season. But right now, I’m feeling like a bit of a veteran. I’ve done it enough times now that I’m used to it.

For the whole of this tour, aside from the night we slept deep in the bush where the Grizzly bears live, I slept quite comfortably. (Although not long enough at times.) The spare rooms of friends, random campsites in city RV parks, the spare rooms of strangers (who all became friends) were all home to me. I even said to Oliver, “let’s go home” on several occasions, referring to whatever home we were lucky enough to occupy that night.

Getting in the car and heading off to the next town or city became an easy, relaxed journey (as long as both Oliver and my blood-sugar levels were in check) and walking in to a venue to say hello to the staff was not the chore is once seemed to be. I guess it’s gone well so many times now, I don’t expect it to go otherwise.

Oliver and I set up our sound system systematically. I set up the mics and stands, plug the cables in to the instruments and the mics, get them all set up while Oli puts the PA together and plugs the cables in on that end. I begin playing “You Were Always Mine” so Oli can check the sound, and then he joins in to check bass and harmony volumes. We take turns walking into the audience area while strumming or plucking our strings to form opinions about the levels. Then we hang up our guitars, put the system on stand by and go have some tea or maybe a beer for Oliver and a cider for myself.

It would benefit from some self-restraint in the eating area. I should not eat before a show, but often enough the venue provides a meal, or at least a discount, or if not that, a display case full or irresistible goodies, and I can’t help myself. I too often leave less than the desirable about of space in my stomach for my diaphragm to fully expand while singing. This is poor practice. But food is so good – especially when other people make it, and especially when they are trained to do so.

Since I last wrote we played a benefit concert in Vernon, a show in Kamloops, and shows on Denman and Victoria with the SB band. All of these went quite well. “Tunes For Teeth” in Vernon was held at The Powerhouse Theatre. It was a beautiful venue, very exciting to play on a great big stage with great big sound. The event, which I sort of helped plan and became part of in a funny way that can only really be explained in person, went very well as a fundraiser for Vernon’s Community Dental Access Centre, and was a fun opportunity to hear some music by some of Vernon’s local acts and make some connections.

In Kamloops we stayed with friends of Oliver’s family, Bruce and Ronalee, who were extremely sweet and pampered us as if we were royalty. We were very well cared for, and I think we have definitely found our number one fan of all time in Bruce, who has memorized the titles, most lyrics and the story behind almost every one of my tunes, and who has emailed every radio station in the district to recommend they play our music and has apparently begun emailing even higher powers than this. He set us up to play at the Kamloops Farmers Market the morning before our show, got the materials together to make us a temporary sandwich board to advertise the evening show, and talked us up to pretty much anyone within earshot as we performed our little street show.  We need more Bruces around – I bet we’d get a lot further a lot faster if we had a Bruce in every province.  Thank you Bruce and Ronalee!

On Denman and in Victoria we played for small but very attentive audiences. I felt pretty darn comfy on stage on my own island, performing for some of the greater Denman family. The best part about the show in Victoria was hanging out with the other performers. The crowd was small and sweet and we all left a little broker than when we arrived, but I’m glad we went.

At the start of our tour I was feeling like giving it all up. I was feeling pretty sad and frustrated.  Now at the end, I’m feeling scarily broke, but also determined to continue aiming for the dream after a lot of great feedback and encouragement. What is the dream? Well, that’s a question I keep asking myself. At the moment, the dream for me is to be able to keep touring part time and to figure out how we can get home from our tour at least a little bit in the green. The next tour needs to cover its own costs, including the advertising costs, the cost of eating on the road, and at least a bit of an hourly wage for our performances. I think it will be a huge challenge to achieve this, and I don’t think it is a reality for very many independent bands on the road, but it needs to happen. I will have to strategize and figure out a formula. Until I do, we will stay close and play as much as possible in the Comox Valley – which we have barely broken into at all.

Since leaving Vancouver Island for the Kootenays, we have covered the cost of our transportation with the money made from shows. All of our food costs and a couple nights of camping have put us in a bit of debt which we’ll have to pay off through other work here at home.

We do have a few shows on Vancouver Island over the course of the summer and I know they will be good ones already, so I am pretty worry free from here on out. In October we are on for another musical Via Rail expedition to Toronto. Some recordings are in the works and hopefully we’ll pick up the pace on that now that I’ll be spending less time organizing a tour.
I am so grateful to the CBC for playing our tunes, as well as Kootenay Coop Radio, mainly Bonnie Baker for interviewing us on her show and putting our tunes out there. It is exciting and encouraging to get support from media. It makes me feel like it is worth the energy to keep going.  Also CHLY who interviewed and promoted us before our Vancouver Island gigs.  I’m looking forward to a review that will soon come out at DNM online magazine, written by Charlotte who came to see us in Kamloops and asked some great interview questions.  Thanks thanks thanks!

Pictures to come. I’m so tired.

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