It seems that every time we are in Montana, no matter what the season, the scenery is stunning. This time was no exception. The weather was surprisingly warm in the daytime with the temperature rising every afternoon to the 70’s, cooling down to freezing at night for crisp, starry nights. On this swing through the state, we played in Missoula, the Paws Up Resort, Chico Hot Springs, Billings, Bozeman and the one and only Historic Uptown Butte. The shows were really fun and it felt good to connect with old and new friends. Given that we will be playing far fewer shows in the coming year to spend more time at home, a lot of people took the time to tell us how much our music has meant to them over the years. In fact, there were a lot of tears as people expressed memories of particular shows in particular places. Maybe someone was following us around peeling onions every time we got out of the van. At any rate, it was nice to hear all the kind things everyone had to say. We played the weekend at John’s Alley in Moscow Idaho on the way home. Always a good time too.
It was pretty exciting to walk over to 706 Union Avenue from downtown Memphis on Saturday afternoon to Sun Studios. So much amazing and iconic music was recorded there by so many amazing and iconic musicians in the mid-fifties: Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins to name a few. There are so many songs to choose from but “That’s Allright Mama” and “I Walk the Line” would be in my top ten for sure!
We had played this weekly summer concert series at the amazing Boulevard Park once before in the year 2000. We must have made quite an impression~ They only waited ten years to have us back! The sweet organizer Amanda remembered us back in 2000 as carrying on before the show like Van Halen or Aerosmith in their heyday. We think that she may have been thinking about a different band. We party more like the Osmonds! Ok, more like members of a Slo Pitch League living it up after a victory…
It was a spectacular summers evening. A few thousand people showed up to enjoy the scenery and the music. Chris and I had our little ones there too so that was pretty special. Great night. We’ll be back in 2020.
The San Juan County Fair is another event that we played a long time ago. It reminds me of various fairs that we’ve played over the years. There was an amusement park, a livestock area and a stage set up for music. We had a little time so we did the following:
-Went on the Zipper
-Went on the Tilt-O’-Whirl (Amazing as usual. If I ever win the lottery I am buying one for my backyard)
-Watched a 4H animal auction. (The sheep command a much higher price per pound than the cattle it seems)
-Ate fair food and drank lemonade
-Petted farm animals
-Played a rock and roll show
-Caught the last ferry home
It was another whirlwind weekend down to Washington State. Friday night we were back at the Watertown Pub in downtown Anacortes. I think it’s been nine or ten years since we played there last. We worked our way through three long sets to an appreciative crowd, said our goodbyes and it was off to sleep at the cozy Anacortes Inn.
In the morning we checked out and had breakfast at a really cool diner/bowling alley. I guess the theory is that after you eat a stick to your ribs breakfast, you then burn it off bowling. After the diner, we headed on down to the Anacortes Arts Festival. There sure was a lot of art there, tent after tent after tent…Lots of interesting and quirky stuff. Unfortunately it was raining and a little cold so after five or six hours of wandering around I think we were all looking forward to playing.
A local band called Spoonshine played before us on the main stage. We’ve known the mandolin/guitar/singer Jacob for quite a few years. They were really rockin’ out with lots of awesome solos. Seeing as how Jacob had his stuff already set up, we invited him to sit in on mandolin. It was really nice to hear the banjo, the fiddle and the mandolin playing together at the same time. It rained a little but everyone had a good time. Thanks to Tim Carey for filling in on bass and my two intrepid roadtrippers Amanda and Levi for making the trip extra fun!
It’s been really fun and relaxing recording ten new tunes I’ve been working on. Tyler and I have been squeezing in a few days here and there over the last couple of months and we are now about a day or two away from finishing off the vocals and a couple of other musical parts.
Having such a portable studio set up has made it easy to record in different places. We’ve done most of it at my parents’ place and over at my friend Rob’s house as the noise/music would have been a bit much for my neighbours here in the city.
Now that the music is safely secured in two separate hard drives, it feels really good to have the songs exist in some place other than just the inside of my head.
Shows close to home rock. That’s for sure. So much better than waking up at 4 a.m. to drive a thousand miles to the next show in Lincoln, Nebraska or some other faraway place.
The only problem I find is that it’s sometimes hard to go from the guy that just unloaded the dishwasher, changed a diaper, watered the plants…etc… to that other person that has made it his occupation to strum a guitar, shriek into a microphone, invent a weird dance while trying to sing from the heart at the same time. I generally find it easier when I’m removed from my normal life. The ten week tours we used to do sucked in many ways, but at least my focus was on the next gig.
But seeing so many old friends and family and enthusiastic strangers all gathered together in one place ensured I could wave goodbye to the pre-gig jitters and slip into the moment. It was effortless. Tonight, like most nights it was smooth and natural and it felt good to be a part of the awesome spectacle that is the Vancouver Olympics.
This phrase pretty much sums up last Saturday night in Idaho. Boise was the town we were playing, the Bellboys opened up the show and a bean burrito was what I had for lunch earlier on in the day. The Knitting Factory is a top-notch venue we’ve been playing for the last few years. A big stage, killer sound and lights make it a full-on rock and roll experience for sure. That being said, some of our longtime supporters miss seeing us at smaller venues around town where it can be easier to establish eye contact and thereby have more of an intimate connection with the audience. I like both situations. In my opinion, we generally do a pretty good job of connecting with the audience with whatever situation we are presented with, but there are always exceptions. Tonight wasn’t one of them.
When there is a lack of connection with the audience, sometimes it’s something as simple as having the lights shining bright in your eyes. It’s kind of like having a tractor trailer truck with its high beams in your face for a couple of hours. Poor sound can also really quash one’s mojo. Or maybe you’ve been up early and drove all day through a snowstorm and your last remaining nerve is pretty frayed before you even get started. Or maybe you are feeling homesick, or just plain old sick, or your new pants are too tight, too much wine with dinner, or you’ve got a cramp in your calf…but generally speaking, all of these things are put aside once we fire up the clumsy engine.
When playing a larger venue, there is the need to have lots of people come through the doors. The doors opened and lots of people came in. We played long and loud, threw in some spontaneous things and before we knew it, it was time for the doors to open and let everyone out into the street to resume their lives. Ten years later we are blessed to still feel the Boise love.
Grand Ronde, Oregon
After a month off, it felt good to be back in the van heading south. Getting up at 5 didn’t feel quite so good but as we all know, the traveling lifestyle involves a lot of late nights. And early mornings…
It was a slow wet drive to Oregon along the I-5, but we arrived at the venue mid-afternoon and set up for the show. We’ve played a lot of different situations on New Years Eve over the years: Clubs, theatres, and various events but never a casino so we weren’t quite sure what to expect. After partaking in the massive buffet, we loosened our belts, strapped on our axes and were ready to ring in the New Year Clumsy style.
The band was in good spirits and it was fun to play again. We’ve been trying to make the shows more interesting and ever-evolving by adding new music and medleys as well as digging way back into the Clumsy catalogue to dust off a few crowd favourites from yesteryear. By and large, things are coming along and sounding pretty good. We knew some folks in the crowd but it was mainly everyday people living it up Las Vegas style on the last day of the decade. We did a countdown at midnight, busted into Auld Lang Syne for a while then finished up the evening with a long medley. There it was: New Years Eve 2009! That decade sure flew by.
2009 has been a very exciting year. Having a self-imposed lighter schedule has allowed us to slowly re-integrate back into civilized society. We still played 150 or so shows all the way to Kentucky and back, but we also had plenty of time at home to see family and friends, get married, have children, exercise, practice, pursue other interests and projects…things that have been lacking in the past. More of a balanced life for sure. Deepak Chopra and Dr.Phil would both approve.
Hope everyone has an awesome and inspired 2010!
With all the time we’ve had off lately I’ve been trying to focus on the baby and the love I’ve always had for the guitar. Almost every day I give Levi a twenty minute private concert and I play a lot in the evenings when he’s sleeping. He’s literally a captive audience in his crib! He’s only cried once. That was the time I broke into “Positively 4th Street” by Bob Dylan. I played a verse. He cried so I stopped. Just to see if it was a fluke I played it again. He cried. Tried it one more time. He cried once more. So I switched to something else and he was all smiles. There’s either something about that song, or my version of the song that he really doesn’t like. Maybe it’s the C# minor that kind of comes out of nowhere after the C major. He does love “Don’t Think Twice” though so if I ever meet Bob Dylan I’ll mention that, not the other.
But getting back to practice, it’s supposed to be fun and it has been lately. Wayne Gretzky apparently loved practicing. It shouldn’t feel like work. If it does maybe it’s time to develop a new pastime. It’s fun to play music with and without an audience. My older brother showed me a simple blues progression when i was 10 or so, and my awesome camp counsellor Ed (who I’ve recently found on Facebook) introduced me to Rocky Racoon at summer camp on Vancouver Island when I was 11. I played it over and over and over….And it went from there. I’ve always had a guitar nearby or in my hands. Never really got great, but good enough to express myself. There’s still much, much, much more to learn. Plenty of room left for improvement that’s for sure. Lots of songs left to play. Songs to write. Songs to finish…
Years ago I remember an old English prof telling our class that it was a sad day the day he realized he won’t be on the planet long enough to read all the books he would like to read. It’s kind of the same with music.